Sunday, May 25, 2008



Following the end of the Civil War, many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. ..These observances eventually coalesced around Decoration Day, honoring the Union dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days..”

According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first memorial day was observed in 1865 by liberated slaves at the historic race track in Charleston. The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic.


What is a Prout?
Bobby Kennedy Remembered
The Campaigns To Smear Obama

When I walked into the opening session of the PROUT conference in Radford Va, a fellow New Yorker, the now disbarred defense lawyer Lynne Stewart was telling stories (she started her career as a children’s librarian) was talking about visiting Harpers Ferry, the place where the abolitionist John Brown declared war on slavery and paid the ultimate price.

That was the memory she was celebrating on this Memorial Day Weekend.

After 30 years as a defense lawyer, as you may recall, she represented the blind Sheikh and others accused of terrorism. The Justice Department, then under the command of the singing Attorney General, John Ashcroft, was spying on her meetings with men who no doubt saw themselves as John Browns of their cause.

Wiretaps found that Lynne was helping her clients out more than just defending them. To her surprise, she was arrested as an accomplice/co-conspirator and convicted in a high profile case. The government sought to put her away for 30 years; she was sentenced to just 2.8, perhaps a sign of the dubiousness of the case.

Ashcroft came to New York to celebrate her conviction as a victory for the war on terror. She sees herself as a victim of that “war,” and is on appeal. (I asked her if she suspected that she would be prosecuted. She told me she was surprised, if not shocked. Naive or is that just how the surveillance state has grown?)

Anyway, Lynne and I joined a larger cast of characters, crusaders, artists, analysts, scholars, Journalists, media makers, trouble makers, activists, 911 conspiratologists, animal rights crusaders, and what’s left of the left in panels and events to seed the next and unlikely revolution.

I was pleased to be asked and did my duty and gave three back to back talks/appeals/polemics. I got a good response, but didn’t feel as if it will lead anywhere. It seems like everyone is trapped in their own niche or issue and isn’t open to a unified effort.

I am getting burned out on the conference circuit although I so have one more. Off Saturday to Malaysia for the Asia Media Forum.

I was in Virginia, along with some folks who I admired, and at least one who saw me as a relic of an earlier age for urging media reform. Give it away, he shouted, get into peer to peer technologies and learn to text. Learn from the kids. The media is over. Get over it.

And so I learned again that no good deed ever goes unpunished. Smile.

As I mentioned this event was organized by the followers of PROUT. And what is that? I wanted to know too.

Prout is the socio-economics of all-round liberation. Formulated in 1959 by Indian socio-spiritual activist thinker P.R. Sarkar, it advocates economic liberation for all, not economic liberalism. As a socio-economic theory, Prout is not concerned solely with economics but encompasses the whole of human individual and collective existence - physical, educational, social, political, mental, cultural and spiritual - within the paradigm of integrated growth. The cardinal values of Prout are those of neo-humanism, which takes into consideration the good and happiness of all living beings; plants, animals and humans.”

Why not? Sounds good. See for more.

The actual content of the talks were more grounded. David Swanson was writing it up on

This combines remarks made on two panels on May 23, 2008, in Radford, Va., at the Building a New World Conference: h

Key to enforcement of US economic exploitation of people outside the US is the use and threat of military force. The dominance of the military in US public life and the US economy is also key to the economic exploitation of Americans. Our largest export is weapons, and our largest and longest public investment is in killing. With corporations no longer paying significant taxes, and progressivity stripped out of the tax code, the use of half of every tax dollar for death and destruction is a direct drain on working people. So is major borrowing of money for imperial adventures.

In Washington D.C. it is virtually forbidden to acknowledge that the military costs money. A couple of weeks ago, the rightwing blue dog Democrats blocked a procedural vote to bring three measures up for a vote because one of them included funding for veterans’ care without providing new revenue to pay for it. Once the leadership had fixed that reckless error by creating new taxes, the blue dogs were happy to proceed and to vote for both that measure and another to spend over 10 times as much money on occupying Iraq. Nobody even requested so much as a hint at where that money will come from, because war money isn’t money. We can spend any amount creating new injured veterans as long as we don’t put any care for veterans on our Chinese credit card. This is also why the biggest spenders in US government are able to consistently accuse their less war-mad rivals of spending too much. War spending doesn’t count as spending.

Investing in war could not stimulate the economy in the way that other public spending could, even if war spending were honest and efficient. Weapons makers do not have to produce anything that is of any use to a community. They just have to reach into our pockets (or our grandchildren’s pockets) and take our money. And, of course, war spending never is honest or efficient. Much of it goes no further than the already stuffed pockets of a pack of cold-blooded cronies. It’s not reinvested in an economy.

Fellow journalists Mike Whitney and Gary Porter were there. And I met Ellen Hodgson Brown, a lawyer and fellow anti-debt crusader. She wrote a fascinating book, The Web Of Debt. Look it up.


There were a few Obama pins, among the many bumpers tickers I saw. A Green Party candidate was there. Clearly the activists represented at this event, are and feel like a sideshow. They are not in the main tent of our political circus. If they were, they would be debating the whole process as Lydia Sargent does in a Z Magazine Conversation with Michael Albert

In the last session you established that presidential elections are mostly a PR campaign and that, sincere or not, the campaign has little to do with truth or with fundamental changes in existing institutions and a lot to do with getting elected, with the help of elite funding and false promises to voters. Let’s turn to a few specific issues, starting with foreign policy. How would the left or a left candidate go about exposing U.S. foreign policy?

ALBERT: I don’t think what the candidates say about foreign policy means much at all. They seek to appeal to funders, media, and various constituencies. They say what their pollsters tell them to say. At times they say what they believe while at other times they say what they don’t believe. They sell themselves in the same way Proctor and Gamble sells toothpaste—by saying whatever needs to be said to find a way to get support.

To find out about candidates, the way to go about it is not by looking at what they say, but by looking at the history of American foreign policy. Since the logic of it changes barely at all, there’s no reason to suspect it’s going to change now—unless, of course, large constituencies force it to change.

As to what their foreign policy is it’s relatively simple: U.S. foreign policy is elites in the United States— the Pentagon, the White House, the corporations—pursuing policies designed to enhance their own power, their own options, and their own wealth. So the policies are designed to extract wealth from other places in the world, whether by actual coercive behavior or, more often, just the power of threats. …

Among the folks at the conference were people like Jim Fetzer, who was a leading skeptic of the Kennedy Assassination as he is today of 911. Funny, that another assassination, or at least a comment on it would create a thunderstorm. Hillary Clinton’s reference to the murder of Bobby Kennedy and her subsequent disclaimer brought his memory back for this memorial day.

BAG NEWS noted:

Besides the leadoff use of the word “hope” — the Obama tag line, what ties Obama to Kennedy in ‘68 is Bobby’s decision, as a first-term Senator, to challenge the incumbent power in his own party primarily through his opposition to an unpopular war.

Hillary’s reference to Kennedy’s assassination as justification for her staying in the race is not just because Kennedy died so late in the calendar. The youthful radiance of this portrait — as it resonates with Hillary’s various comments about Obama’s rhetoric and charisma — suggests that Clinton sees Obama more as a phenomenon. Painting that kind of picture, she seems to indulge the HOPE — fed by a little racial tension, and the kind of enmity she and Bill can harbor — that something, anything, could still kill the electricity.

Speaking of Bobby, historian/author Gore Vidal called Bobby, “the biggest son of a bitch in politics” in an interview with England’s Spectator.

John McCain is to meet with the shadowy Council on National Policy. What is it?
The Council for National Policy?

CNP is an umbrella organization of influential social and religious conservative groups.

The council was founded in 1981, just as the modern conservative movement began its ascendance. The Rev. Tim LaHaye, an early Christian conservative organizer and the best-selling author of the ‘’Left Behind'’ novels about an apocalyptic Second Coming, was a founder. His partners included Paul Weyrich, another Christian conservative political organizer who also helped found the Heritage Foundation.

They said at the time that they were seeking to create a Christian conservative alternative to what they believed was the liberalism of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Back when it first formed, the CNP was linked to the Iran-Contra scandal though, most recently, it generated media attention after many of its members threatened to bolt the GOP if Rudy Giuliani won the nomination. Despite the organization’s penchant for secrecy, they are perhaps best known as being the organization George W. Bush addressed back in 1999 where he reportedly promised to appoint only anti-abortion-rights judges to the Supreme Court and then both he and the CNP refused to release the audio tape of his remarks.

We are all watching the campaign on Cable, and according to Cox News, Fox is in the lead and not necessarily because it is more right wing:

Though CNN has made some prime-time ratings headway recently, Fox News Channel is still No. 1 in terms of overall viewers, and the gap between them is no more apparent than in the morning.

Fox & Friends has twice the number of viewers than CNN’s American Morning
nationally and in several key cities — including CNN’s home turf of Atlanta,
according to data from Nielsen Media Research and the two cable channels.

The big three broadcast networks still rule early morning TV across the country.
But Fox & Friends recently finished third for 72 consecutive months in metro
Atlanta, Miami, San Diego and several other major markets.

American Morning was No. 4 and CBS’ The Early Show was No. 5 in those markets.

What is Fox News’ secret? A more stable cast and faster pace, experts say.

“Fox is a new kind of television,” said Paul Levinson, the chairman of Fordham University’s communication and media-studies department. “It’s a program that’s more in tune with YouTube, with the Web and with the way television has been evolving in the 21st century.”

Levinson said that Fox’s success in the morning has to do with its rapid-fire pace.

In short, the dumber they make it, the more they get people to watch.

A view from Maine on

After that bizarre rejection last week by the U.S. House of Representatives of occupation funding with Republicans staging a childish yet effective protest, the U.S. Senate has replied by passing a Christmas tree absolutely loaded with lavish financing of imperial operations, said to be good for six months into the next administration.

The sad thing is that it’s actually slightly difficult even to find the news. Stories on this senate passage do not come up on the front page of Google news. The San Francisco Chronicle story I linked above ran on page A6. Coverage in the Bangor Daily News also ran on page A6, topped by a head shot of General Petraeus and a lead AP story about his suggestions in Congressional testimony that it “may” be “likely” he could recommend “further troop reductions in Iraq,” but he “won’t promise more details until fall.” At least that article correctly suggests this timing is aimed at the “heart of this year’s presidential elections,” as Bush hollered “victory” in a speech in North Carolina at the same time.

Below that in the BDN is another AP story about the war funding with this curious headline: “Senate deals Bush a defeat on Iraq war spending.” Defeat? Well, that’s because the Senate added GI Bill and Democratic domestic spending priorities to the bill that Bush didn’t want. A bunch of Republicans peeled off from Bush, making the vote “stunning” and a demonstration of Bush’s “diminished standing.” Democrats for their part seem to think they are too clever: pass through the massive war budget without restrictions that few of them really oppose anyway (34 Democratic senators half-heartedly voted in a failed amendment requiring a “timetable”) in order to show how much they care about the human costs of the war to our veterans while getting hundreds of millions of dollars for roads, food safety, police, and the space shuttle. Certainly any defeat of Bush here had nothing to do with genuine anti-war sentiment.





Home sales slip, stock of unsold homes rises

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline will be $3.83 on Memorial Day weekend…




Writes Digby:

I must admit that even with my dark and unrelenting cynicism toward the media that I’m a little bit shocked to see op-ed pieces appear in quick succession in two of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers calling Barack Obama a “Muslim Apostate.” They don’t make the assertion that Obama is a Muslim, which he certainly isn’t, only that Osama bin Laden and other Islamic fundamentalists consider him one since his father was “born a Muslim.” This apparently means that bin Laden will be able to rally the Muslim world against America because Obama has abandoned the true faith.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain how silly this is. The last I heard bin Laden wasn’t exactly enamored of any of us Murkins, so I find it hard to believe that this news will make him even more hostile than he already is. It’s absurd on its face. So why are the Christian Science Monitor and the NY Times printing similar op-eds on the topic? I don’t know.

The problem, of course, is that this feeds directly into the most jaw droppingly audacious smear campaigns I’ve ever seen in American politics:

The main obstacle standing between Barack Obama and the White House was distilled into five words by a local television correspondent in South Charleston, W.Va., earlier this month.

Prefacing a question about the challenges of winning over white, blue-collar voters, the reporter offered this observation: “They think you are un-American,” he said.


Someone named Etts writes:

When is the media and the people that own and control the media going to stop the “FIX OBAMA” CAMPAIGN that CNN started and all the media seems to be mimicking ? WHO’S GOING TO FIX HIS BOO BOOs when he is pretend president? (Obviously it is not the people who are electing him for nominee it’s the rich and powerful that need a puppet in the White House, just as Carl Rove and cronies needed GB. Democracy dictates that the People of the United States of America PICK THE NOMINEE NOT A BUNCH OF SELF-INTERESTED MANIPULATING POWER-MEN” (AND THEIR “WOMEN)” WHO’s “ego’s” are so small that the thought of a powerful WOMAN makes them shrivvvvval at the thought/


Newsweek reports: Even as he closes in on the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Sen. Barack Obama is facing lingering problems winning the support of white voters–including some in his own party. In a new NEWSWEEK Poll of registered voters, Obama trails presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain 40 percent to 52 percent among whites. Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, also trails McCain among white voters but by a smaller margin, 44 percent to 48 percent.

4. post a link on your web site and mention it when you do PR/talk to young folks.

Richard Trevors writes:

I want to share with you the following Letter to the Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle I wrote and sent earlier today. I remember reading months ago some of your writings when you mentioned how Bernanke’s lowering of the interest rates would raise the cost of a barrel of oil. At the time the cost of a barrel of oil was about $70 and you predicted it would go to $120. You were so right and he kept on lowering interest rates. It is strange to me how seldom is mentioned the connection of he lower interest rates with the higher oil. Almost everything else or nothing is mentioned as the cause.

Editor, The Chronicle:

I have been watching and reading the news for weeks for a report or an acknowlegement about what is causing the price of a barrel of oil to rise to record highs.

The U.S. Senators were blaming the oil executives for raising the costs of oil. The presidential candidates say nothing about why oil is high. The President in Saudi Arabia meekly asks the oil lord to release more oil from his pumps, and he refuses to do so as if that matters anyway.

The deception is almost complete again like it was with the Greenspan Federal Reserve lowering of interest rates to 1% to fuel the subprime mortgage swindle to create the housing bubble.

Now it is the Bernanke Federal Reserve swindle of lowering interest rates continually since the Fall of 2007 to the present 2% that is creating the new bubble of escalating oil prices. The Wall Street investors are making untold billions of dollars in speculating on the misery they created in the oil price bubble. It is causing food and gasoline prices to soar.

All of our leaders are blaming others like the oil executives to cover up the real cause which is the relentless lowering of interest rates to lower the value of the U.S. dollar and thus bring up the cost of oil which is tied to the dollar.

Are our esteemed politicians and economists and journalists invincibly ignorant or are they covering up again for the economic devastation being unleashed by the Federal Reserve? Raise interest rates and the cost of oil and food will fall and the value of the dollar will increase.


Sometimes you hear things that are so unbelievable that you wonder whether it was all in your imagination. That is precisely the way that i felt in listening to comments by the Bush administration on the disastrous cyclone that hit the south Asian nation of Myanmar (Burma) (Burma).

Don’t get me wrong. I am no fan of the military junta that runs Myanmar (Burma) and has both repressed its people and served the multinational corporations. I am sickened by their anemic approach in responding to the disaster, one in which it is now estimated that at least 127,000 people may be dead. Yet in listening to the Bush administration and their rants against the Myanmar (Burma) junta’s approach to the disaster, one could get the impression that there had never been something called the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Consider, for just a moment, the Bush rhetoric; in fact, just consider one piece of it. President Bush criticizes the Myanmar (Burma) junta for its failure to allow into the country foreign aid workers to help with disaster recovery. While this criticism appears to be absolutely correct, it ignores an interesting fact: in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster the governments of both Cuba and Venezuela offered badly needed assistance. The Bush administration, under those circumstances, either ignored the offers or turned them down. In fact, the Cuban government had experienced personnel on standby prepared to fly to the Gulf Coast (note: Cuba has a great deal of experience with hurricanes).


One Last Note: The Mediachannel sends its deepest condolences to our friend, the historian Howard Zinn, on the recent loss of his wonderful wife (and also my friend), the artist Roz Zinn, to cancer. Her maiden name as I recently learned was Schechter. Imagine that?

Thanks for being with us. I return from Asia at week’s end. The flight should be restful. It’s only 20 hours. Oy.

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