March 3rd, 2011
On the ninth anniversary of 9-11 all the talk was about the huge row over the planned Muslim community Center around the corner from Ground Zero. The issue, as with just about every area of politics, whether it be health care, taxation, immigration or how to deal with the deficit, has riven this country in two. Anger, rage, irrationality, violence and vitriol abound, consensus and common ground are nowhere to be seen.
But at least there is a debate to be had on all of these issues, however acrimonious it may become. And yet, there is one notable exception, namely the question of who was responsible for the 9-11 attacks. How extraordinary it is that ostensibly well-educated, rational, discourse-loving people totally shut down when the question as to whether 9-11 was an inside job is raised. ‘This conversation has to end now’ or ‘you are a conspiracy theory freak’ are common refrains.
Even more inexplicable is the fact that those who have vented their spleen most vocally at the so-called conspiracy theorists are Leftists. They hate Bush and firmly believe that the Iraq war was predicated on the lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But they cannot bring themselves to entertain the possibility that the same regime that started a war that has caused anything from half a million to a million deaths could have been evil enough to kill three thousand of its’ own people.
Bear in mind that, a week after 9-11, the Bush administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that the air in Manhattan was ‘safe to breathe’ and did not contain ‘excessive levels of asbestos.’ Thousands of World Trade Center (WTC) responders have been diagnosed with acute respiratory illness and hundreds have already died. Experts predict that many more people will die from these illnesses than died on 9-11.
Of course, the reasons for their state of denial are complex and require careful psychological analysis. A powerful explanation, in my opinion, is the motivational drive to avoid ‘cognitive dissonance’, the uncomfortable feelings brought on by addressing ideas or propositions that conflict with our long held preconceptions and hypotheses. In other words, no amount of evidence, however good it may be, is ever going to convince the true-believer, the person who is wedded to a certain mindset, to change his/her position.
I arrived in Tucson, Arizona, from London, four years ago and quickly discovered the 9-11 truth movement. I have studied the subject ad infinitum and am convinced that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al were entirely complicit in the atrocities that took place on September 11th 2001. There is a cornucopia of compelling evidence – here is a link to my previous blog post on this issue:
- but the nub of the matter is that three buildings at the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers and (several hours later) Building 7 (47 stories tall) collapsed at free fall speed, in the manner of controlled demolitions, on their own footprints. In 2009, nine internationally renowned Scientists published a paper in The Open Chemical Physics Journal
which provided proof that remnants of the explosive, Thermite, were present in the dust produced by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
On September 11th 2010, I and some fifteen other 9-11 Truthers gathered on the corner of Speedway Boulevard and Park Avenue in Tucson, Arizona. In the sweltering heat, we held up our banners declaring that 9-11 was an inside job and handed out literature to passers-by. As expected, the full gamut of responses were on show, obscenities and middle fingers juxtaposed with car horns expressing approval. A few aggressive pedestrians and others in cars shouted at us from the other side of the road. None felt inclined to cross over and engage in intelligent conversation.
Putting one’s head above the parapet is not all that easy in today’s United States but it is comforting to know that the 9-11 Truth Movement is broad based and growing both in terms of numbers and exposure. It contains many mainstream, heavyweight individuals, not least Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth which has over a thousand members. Opinion polls have found that between 30% and 40% of Americans consider it either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ likely that that the Government either carried out the 9-11 attacks themselves or allowed them to be carried out. That means that millions of people find it just as hard as I do to believe the official line that nineteen Saudi Arabians were able to highjack and fly four planes for almost two hours, unchallenged, through the most heavily protected airspace of the most powerful military force in the world. The U.S government’s conspiracy theory is the most outlandish one in existence.
So-called ‘false-flag’ operations are covert operations carried out by a government against its’ own interests but made to appear as though they are perpetrated by foreign entities, in order to create a false pretext for aggressive action against an enemy. Historically, there are many examples, three of which are: The Reichstag Fire
Operation Northwoods: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20010430/
and The Gulf of Tonkin incident: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin_Incident
If you are interested in investigating 9-11, I recommend a movie called “September 11 Revisited” which you can find at http://www.metacafe.com/watch/yt-PWgSaBT9hNU/9_11_revisited_were_explosives_used/ and a book called “Debunking 9-11 Debunking http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_23?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=debunking+911+debunking&sprefix=debunking+911+debunking
It is so easy for skeptics who have not done their homework to denigrate 9-11 Truthers as whackos and to offer up the usual glib objections such as ‘there would have been a whistleblower by now’ or ‘it was a just a case of incompetence and cock-up’. The few people that are willing to discuss 9-11 always bombard you with ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and if your reply does not immediately satisfy them they summarily write you off. The fact is that the 9-11 Truth Movement does not need to have an overriding or unifying theory to justify its’ opinions. Massive events like 9-11 will always leave many questions unanswered.
Doubtless we will all continue to lose friends over 9-11 – I am sure that some of the people who receive this piece will respond angrily and wish to be removed from my mailing list- but the fight to expose the egregious crimes of Bush and the neo-cons will continue unabated, as will the struggle to persuade enlightened elements in the media to stop being so dishonest in their treatment of this subject.
April 24th, 2010
Tags: us politics
As a bleeding heart liberal living in Arizona’s wild-west, I am really struggling at the moment. The euphoria of Barak Obama’s election seems a dim and distant memory. The right wing backlash to both his election and healthcare reform has been fierce and not a little frightening.We have seen Democrat congressmen and women being spat at, racially abused and subjected to harassment, hate mail and death threats.
The insufferable Sarah Palin has placed a map on her Facebook site on which 20 Democrats are ‘targeted’ in rifle scope crosshairs and urged opponents of the healthcare legislation to ‘reload’ rather than retreat. Given the tinderbox atmosphere in this country and the fact that she allegedly has 1.4 million followers on Facebook, the use of military metaphors and imagery are decidedly incendiary.
And then there is the Tea Party movement, that rag-tag collection of myopic, irrational, bile-ridden, small-government extremists. The likes of Palin, Ron Paul (the right-wing libertarian who ran for President) and the shock-jocks, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are its’ champions. These rabble rousers are responsible for a whole slew of anti-Obama and anti-government falsehoods : Obama is a Muslim, he was not born in the USA, he is a Socialist (if only!), he is un-patriotic, he consorts with terrorists and his government is planning to introduce martial law and detain dissidents in internment camps. Some of the banners that have been on show at Tea Party rallies are sickening. For example, there was one that had a picture of Obama dressed as a Nazi with a Hitler moustache which read: ‘Barak Hussein Obama…The new face of Hitler’ and another which read: ‘The American taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s ovens.’
Furthermore, hundreds of hate-crimes have been reported as immigrants and minorities are targeted by newly galvanized, armed, ultra-nationalist and white supremacist groups. Repellant symbols of the pre-civil rights era, such as burning effigies of Obama hanging from nooses and Ku Klux Klan cross burnings, have re-appeared.
As far as Arizona is concerned, it is run by a bunch of benighted Republican lawmakers who are hell bent on dragging the State as far to the right as it is possible to go in American politics. It has just passed a law making it legal to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Essentially, they have rejected all forms of gun control. And their motivation? Pure ideology; the right to bear arms as outlined in the second amendment of the constitution. Only two other States, Alaska and Vermont, have an equivalent law.
Equally as jaw-dropping is the Arizona Legislature’s passing of what is commonly accepted as being the toughest anti-immigrant measure in the United States. It directs local police to be pro-active in determining the immigration status of someone they believe might be an illegal immigrant. In other words, it is carte blanche for aggressive racial profiling. In addition, it creates a new crime of trespass for those who are found to be undocumented and introduces criminal sanctions for day laborers and anyone that hires them.
There is also strong support for sending National Guard troops to the border and it has even been suggested that they adopt a shoot-to-kill policy.
In the pipeline is a package of tax-cuts, despite a $2 billion State deficit, and a raft of socially puritanical measures. These include requiring adolescents to obtain parental consent to use birth-control medication and to have treatment for STD’s, increasing the amount of time it takes to secure a divorce from 2 to 6 months and jailing minors for sending sexually explicit images of themselves to each other, on their mobile phones.
Moreover, along with 15 other States, Arizona has signed up to the politically motivated constitutional challenge to the healthcare law. Their principal argument is that it is unconstitutional to mandate individuals to take out health insurance against their will. However, the consensus amongst legal experts is that Congress has long had the constitutional authority both to regulate commerce within and between States and to tax and spend for the general welfare. The obvious comparison to make is that of car insurance which is, of course, obligatory.
Arizona has also become the first State in the country to abolish SCHIP, the children’s health insurance program, thereby leaving thousands of kids without cover. It will now be obligated to re-instate it along with other voter-approved health insurance programs it had previously cut.
This quote from the Arizona Daily Star encapsulates the dogmatic and propagandized nature of so many Americans:
‘He’s moving the country into a socialized country, Jim Fall of Wrightwood, California, said of the President. He worries that Obama is “too radical left-wing” and that government has grown too big, saying: ‘He is constantly in our lives more and more and more and more.’
Healthcare is a perfect illustration of the paranoia surrounding the federal government. The economist, Paul Krugman, has pointed out that the government actually pays 47% of medical bills whereas the private insurance industry only pays 35%. He finds the fear-mongering over “socialized medicine” to be both amazing and depressing.
There is an out-of-touch-with-reality aspect to American society, in which a “don’t confuse me with the facts, let me believe what I want to believe” mindset is prevalent. There is an old-line about an American being someone who eats his (government inspected) breakfast, drives on the (government provided) highway, goes to his (government subsidized) defense-related job, is glad his parents are receiving (government provided) social security and Medicare, puts his paycheck into his (government insured) bank account and then calls a talk radio station to complain about excessive government.
According to the National Priorities Project, Americans have collectively spent more than a trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. That is an average of over $7000 per person. And yet the gargantuan military-industrial-prison complex is somehow airbrushed out of the equation by the very same people who claim to be furious that those who fail to take out health insurance under the new act will have their tax increased by $95 in 2014, $450 in 2015 and $750 in 2016.
However, interminable war does not seem to concern mainstream America which believes that it is the sine qua non of maintaining liberty at home. Maybe they should heed the words of James Madison, one of their founding fathers, who wrote in 1795: “Of all the enemies of public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”
The European concept of the social contract between government and the people, whereby you pay tax and receive welfare and services from the State, surrender some individual sovereignty in return for social order and have both rights and responsibilities as citizens, appears to be alien to millions of Americans. Here, the poor do not get rescued as a right of citizenship but through charity.
The huge irony is that the Marxist concept of false consciousness, which means that the masses believe that they are acting freely and rationally in their own self interest, whereas the reality is that they are unwittingly subscribing to a system which is antithetical to their best interests, is alive and kicking in the USA.
March 12th, 2010
Tags: us politics
On January 21st 2010, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in the case of Citizens United v . Federal Elections Commission. In a 5 – 4 vote, it ruled that there should no longer be any restrictions on the amount of money corporations and unions can spend on electioneering, technically defined in American law as speech that is an “electioneering communication” and “expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate”.
In so doing the Court overturned a century of legal precedent and, in the words of President Obama in his state of the union speech, “opened the floodgates for special interests -including foreign corporations- to spend without limit in our elections.’
The Tillman Act of 1907 was the first legislation in the US to ban corporations from making financial donations in national political campaigns. Ever since then, the principle has been sacrosanct. Legislators have always been mindful of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech, when tackling the campaign finance issue. Until now, restrictions upon corporate and union “speech” within the political domain have never been considered a violation of the First Amendment.
The conduit through which corporations and unions have traditionally been able to influence political parties and candidates is the Political Action Committee (PAC), a private group which is formed in order to either elect candidates or affect political issues or legislation. PAC’s are strictly regulated and have to report all of their financial activities to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). They are only permitted to fund individual candidates to the tune of $5,000 per election and political parties to a maximum of $15,000 per year.
Citizens United is a PAC which released a documentary critical of the then Senator Hillary Clinton, in January 2008. Concerned that it may fall foul of the law, Citizens United took legal action, arguing that the law on campaign finance was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court found in its favor, arguing that political speech is “indispensible to decision making in a democracy, and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation” and they went on to talk about protecting “the open marketplace” of ideas.
In his 90-page dissenting opinion, Justice Stevens points out that “corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires” and that whilst corporations make huge contributions to our society, they are not actually members of it and they cannot vote or run for office. But that may now change. In no time at all, one corporation, Murray Hill Inc., has already filed for a Maryland Congressional Seat.
I believe that the Supreme Court’s judgment in Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission is deeply flawed, both ethically and philosophically. In terms of the latter, it runs counter to both logic and intuition that corporations and human beings can be found to be ontologically comparable.
In respect of the former, it is concerning that the judgment enhances still further the already malign influence of the corporation in US society. As Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who has been at the forefront of the campaign finance issue for two decades, says: “…corporations or unions can just open their treasuries (and) just completely buy up all the television time, and drown out everyone else’s voices.”
The Supreme Court decision feels very much like one taken by a group of partisan political activists. In so doing, the highest court in the land is tarnishing its’ already damaged reputation.
Justice Stevens asserts that the court has willfully turned this issue into one of constitutionality instead of addressing narrower issues which might easily have settled the matter without controversy. For example, he says that it would have been perfectly acceptable for the court to rule that a feature length film, distributed through video-on-demand, did not constitute “an electioneering communication.”
January 22nd, 2010
I have just seen a movie called the Messenger which stars Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster and Samantha Morton. In my humble view, Harrelson is building up a decidedly impressive ouevre. His sheer physicality and screen presence is immense, certainly Brando or James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano)’esque. He inhabits his characters at a deep level, in keeping with the best traditions of method acting. And his versatility is also commendable. Just think of the range of characters he plays in the movies Indecent Proposal, Natural Born Killers, The People vs.Larry Flint and No Country For Old Men. A legend in the making I say. Hyperbole? Moi?
Avaaz is a simply magnificent campaigning organization and one which has reached an unprecedented size. They proudly refer to themselves as: ‘The largest global, on-line, citizens movement in history,’ which has nearly 4 million members and has taken 15 million actions. It has donated millions of dollars to campaigns, democracy movements and humanitarian relief. It organizes high profile protests and days of action, such as the March 31st 2008 events at Chinese Embassies and Consulates around the world, which called on the Chinese government to respect human rights with regard to Tibet. I know that I certainly feel good to be a part of it and always feel empowered when contributing a few dollars, signing a letter or petition and inviting friends to do likewise.
I have just enjoyed a very nice chocolate moment. The one when you think you are out of chocolate late in the evening and you are in no fit state to drive to the shops. You suddenly find a bar in the fridge (where I prefer to keep my chocolate) which you had forgotten about. Oh, the ecstasy, the unrefined joy!! Fellow chocoholics will know exactly what I am talking about.
December 27th, 2009
Tags: world politics
Just wanted to express my solidarity with all those brave souls in Iran who are laying down their lives in the cause of freedom, in the face of a most brutal Fascist state.