Sunday, July 31, 2005

Makin' (Radio) Waves

Seems that alternative news site Signs of the Times has started up a weekly PodCast, in which they summarise world news and events of import from their unique perspective. It would be great if other alternative news aggregators provided a similar service. The concept is pretty interesting - a bunch of independent researchers chatting around the kitchen table and presenting their ideas and analysis of things verbally via the 'net. Very few of the the "alternative media" seem to have anything beyond a plain website, although I'm sure this reflects the scarcity of resources most of them have to work with. Good on the Signs' team for trying something different!

The latest edition is somewhat controversial though. They are claiming the murder of Charles De Menezes (the Brazilian man shot in the head by the British police) was most likely a psychological operation done in cold blood by the agents of the Military-Industrial complex.

Now, like a lot of people I know, I formed the opinion that Mr. De Menezes' killing was a tragic accident causing by rampant adrenalin on both sides. With the recent bombings, it is entirely understandable why police would have reacted in an overly aggressive way to someone they thought about to run onto a train and detonate bombs hidden under his jacket. The problem is, what seems to be a fairly straightforward - though tragic - tale, is now becoming more and more questionable due to the lies being told by the authorities.

Media reports initially made much of the fact that he was wearing a bulky jacket and jumped the turnstiles at the train station. This has been discovered to be a lie. Despite the extensive CCTV networks, no pictures have yet been released which corroborate the police story, however recent news states that the footage will feature in the indepedent inquiry into the shooting. The fact that no CCTV footage has been released makes this quite suspicious IMO.

Whether or not this footage corroborates or refutes the details given by police, an innocent man has died. In situations like this there is an ethical obligation on the part of the authorities to dispense with political "PR strategies", "damage control" or "finger-pointing", and present the TRUTH of the matter. Witholding evidence, lies and secretive behaviour on their part does nothing to either bolster their story or convince the public of their intentions to investigate in an honest and accountable way.

After all, as we (the general public) are so often reminded, "If there is nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear", right?

Rupert discovered?



Douglas Adams fans will no doubt get the reference; I'm talking about the discovery of a tenth planet in the solar system. The delightfully hospitable planet is thought to be a frozen ball of methane approximately the same size as Pluto.

And in other space news, the lightsaber owned by Luke Skywalker (or rather, the prop that was used by Mark Hamil during the filming of the first three "Star Wars" movies), was auctioned for an impressive $263,852. Darth Vader's lightsaber (or rather, the prop that was.. yada yada yada) only brought in $155,673.

Considering the tendency of humanity towards fiction at the moment, I wouldn't be surprised if we soon hear about the two guys who bought these things challenging each other to fake-lightsaber battles and selling the footage on the Internet.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Apocalypse Now-ish?

I must admit I enjoy reading the work of John Kaminski. I don't agree with everything he has to say, but he writes passionately, logically, and pulls no punches or makes any apologies for his work. Here's a snippet from his latest essay:
Here’s a variation on the initial question. What would you do if you got information that you really believed and trusted that World War Three was about to start in a few months? What steps would you take to prepare yourself?

How would I know I could trust the information?

Well, you’d hear it from the sources you always trusted. Your newspapers, your TV, maybe even from some particularly reliable Internet site.

But would I believe it? Would I be willing to give up everything I’ve worked for all my life, and just bolt into the wild blue yonder because I read something some journalist, no matter how well connected, might have just dreamed up?

Well, let’s say you had an inside source in the secret government, and he told you about the plan. Let’s say you regarded it as having the authenticity of all those insider stock tips he’d given you over the years that had made you a bundle. Someone who could discourse effortlessly on Masonic kingpin Albert Pike’s 1871 prediction that there would be THREE World Wars and final one would begin in the Middle East and erase both Zionized Christendom and Islamic world in one mighty stroke. And someone who had scary connections with alphabet intelligence agencies.

Yes, I see. What would I do? Hmmm.

Would you run, or would you try to alert others?

Oh dogbiscuits! You know what it’s like to tell people that you really know what’s going on, and that they don’t. They think you’ve got marbles rattling around in your brain, and they just ignore you, at best. At worst, they call Homeland Security and the men in the little white coats with the large guns show up at your door. At least, you become socially ostracized for not going along with what everybody else believes.

So which would you do?

Well, I guess I’d try to find out if the tip was real or not, and if I determined it WAS real, I’d try to alert the most important people I know to see if they could do something about it.

What would make you decide if the tip was real or not?

Well, our best sources are on TV, I think. At least that’s what everybody believes. Most people don’t believe something is really real unless they see it on television.

So you’re saying that what you see on TV is actually real?

No, I’m not that naive. I know stuff that appears on the news is often shaded by those who own the TV networks to inflict the spin they want to put on most world events. Hell, that’s how we got in all those wars.

So what if someone on TV, highly reputable, came on and predicted all-out nuclear war? Would you act on that?

Probably not. I wouldn’t believe him.

OK, say you were certain of the tip you received being real. Then what would you do?

I’d call the police, then my congressperson.

And what would you do if they all said you were nuts? And then they said they knew who the bad guys really were, because they had this evidence that they couldn’t really tell you about because of National Security, but they were going to nuke them all to smithereens.

I don’t know. Cry? Or run into the street screaming.
This hypothetical conversation that Kaminski describes is a very good example of cognitive dissonance at work; or rather, it's an idealized example because in plenty of cases the person engaging in the hypothetical would simply get angry or frustrated and exclaim that they've had enough and don't want to continue further. I doubt many people would admit to being capable of going to pieces and running screaming into the street. And of course, some people just refuse to engage in hypotheticals. "World War III? Don't waste my time with such nonsense!"

It seems that some people are taking the possibility of WWIII less theoretically than others.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Mind Boggles

Hatemonger Bill O'Reilly has just upped the ante again in his war on rational thought. Get a load of this.
Bill O'Reilly announced tonight that he will be exposing and naming all the people and organizations he considers to be helping the terrorists on his show each night. He then offered all the accused a chance to come on to defend themselves because he realizes that it's a serious charge. O'Reilly appeared to be sincere in his belief that he is entitled to make these accusations.

The first installment of BOR finger pointing included the ACLU for their belief that the Geneva Conventions should be respected. Also their concern about Abu Ghraib and request for the release of more incriminating pictures,makes them helpers of terrorism.

Then the first individual, Bob Herbert, recieved the O'Reilly branding. According to O'Reilly, Herbert's writing enables the terrorists but the real problem is his refusal to condemn the ACLU . O'Reilly gave Herbert a slight pass claiming that he is blinded by his hatred of President Bush.

That was not enough for Bill who brought on Stephen Hayes and Robert Pollack, Wall Street Journal, to point their fingers at people. Hayes chose Michael Moore, Al Jazeera, Cynthia McKinney, and Jim McDermott for his list of "terrorist helpers". Robert Pollack chose Dick Durbin, BBC,and the UN for his list. O'Reilly accepted these choices respectfully as if it was a perfectly sane thing to do.
Respect the Geneva conventions?! Those liberal bastards! How dare they!

It seems that fascists like O'Reilly feel they have the right to torture and abuse whomever they deem necessary, and viciously slander anyone who disagrees. But does FOX take any editorial responsibility, step in and drop O'Reilly's show like a rancid potato? Of course not. Of course, if you've seen OutFOXed then that's probably no surprise to you. Moving along, there's also this beauty from the UK's right-wing Daily Express:



With stuff like this in everyone's face, it's no surprise that religious hate-crime is up in the UK. Media is supposed to hold government, business and people accountable. Who holds the media accountable when they push rhetoric and propaganda under the guise of "news"?

I suppose that would be you and me. After all, who else is going to do it?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Oh Really?

Geez, there's been so much stuff going on lately that I've neglected my blog. But I felt like commenting on this little gem regarding our PM John Howard:
Prime Minister John Howard has denied that Australia could at greater risk of terrorist attacks because of its close ties with the United States.

A report released in Britain by the Royal Institute of International Affairs said the invasion of Iraq and ongoing occupation by allied troops had been a boon for al-Qaeda, the terrorist group believed to be behind this month's deadly London bombings.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has rejected the report's claims.

Mr Howard also downplayed the report's findings during a joint press conference with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington.

"Australia was a terrorist target well before the Iraq operation," Mr Howard told reporters.

"We were a terrorist target before the September 11, 2001.

"The first transgression in the eyes of al-Qaeda and [leader Osama] Bin Laden that Australia committed was to go to the assistance of the people of East Timor, an act by the Australian Government that had the overwhelming support of the Australian people."
OK, I'm not following something here. JH reckons that we are at no greater risk of a terrorist attack now than we were before 9-11. So:

"Liberation" of East Timor = Transgression = Certain level of risk to Australia of Terrorist retribution.

Invasion of Afghanistan = 2nd Transgression = Same level of risk of retribution.

Invasion of Iraq = 3rd Transgression = Same level of risk of retribution.

Does this mean we get 3 for the price of 1?

Or is John Howard just maybe, possibly, theoretically, hypothetically LYING THROUGH HIS TEETH?

Perhaps.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Democrafascism

You know, I'm starting to get real sick of hearing the "word" Islamofascism being used more and more in political discussions. The most recent observation was when I was reading one of the latest articles in the SMH WebDiary, and I came across the first comment made about the incisive and well-written piece:
There were hundreds of thousands of people murdered by Saddam but you don't seem concerned about this at all. That is very disturbing for someone who is concerned with the death of even one baby.

Its seems that the only ones who are aiming their weapons intentionally at babies are Iraqi Baathist insurgents and Islamofascist terrorists. [...] you seem to forget that the liberation of Europe from Nazism also cost many many lives but did leave Europe free from murderous totalitarianism. If only the UN wasn't so corrupt and dishonest, maybe there could be more peaceful ways to achieve the democratisation that the world needs.
What a prime piece of ad hominem demagoguery this comment is. To get the proper context, you should read the article and comments first, but this kind of debating tactic is par for the course from right-wing armchair generals and chickenhawk apologists.

Ouch - was I just engaging in a bit of emotionally-driven rhetoric there myself? Looks like it, but who says I can't occasionally fight fire with fire, just for the hell of it?

So, for a bit of fun, I've "invented" a new word with I think reflects the reality of certain nation-states today in the world, which I can throw into useless political argumentation with as much vim and vigour as the most frothing-mouthed neocon pundit.
DEMOCRAFACISM - pron. dem'ok.ra - fa'shiz.um.

n: A state or system of governance that operates with and promotes fascist ideology (in whole, or part) while maintaining the public image of spreading democracy and freedom.

n. singular: democrafascist - A person who subscribes to, promotes or defends democrafascism.

So, now that we've got this term defined, who out there wants to suggest examples of democrafascist regimes? Yes sir - you at the front. What's that?

America you say? Specifically, the United States of America?

By Jove, I think he's got it!

Seriously though, whether it's Democrafascism or Islamofascism (if it even exists?), it's all just nihilism at the root. It all stems from the cold hearts of those who wish for nothing but destruction and control because they are incapable of creating any kind of real life or meaning in the Universe for themselves. Sounds like the work of Psychopaths, no?

Friday, July 15, 2005

"Papers Please"

Time for a crack at another National ID card scheme, eh Johnny? I wonder if the Australian public would embrace the scheme this time, given the media-fuelled frenzy about terrorists attacking Western "freedoms" and way of life?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Say What? (Encounters with Street Hawkers I)

A couple of days ago I went down to the bank during lunchtime and bumped into a Street Hawker. For some reason, my encounters with the various peddlers, activists, charity workers and advertisers one finds on street corners during the day will 90% of the time provide an experience for me to reflect over for the remainder of the day. This time was no exception. I was walking back from the bank while pondering the endless forms and applications that seem to accompany any kind of activity these days when two semi-gothic activist type girls zeroed in on me.

"Hi - Would you like to help stop animal cruelty?"

Of course, between the lines this was: "Hi - Would you like to make a donation (and/or register with our mailinglist) to help stop animal cruelty?"

A dozen things flashed through my mind in an instant. Global warming. Bush's mad drive for World Domination(tm). The coming global economic recession. Massacres in Dafur. We can't even treat our own species with respect. How the hell are animals (especially the delicious ones) ever going to get such treatment?

Stop cruelty to animals? Sure, right after I shut down all coal burning factories, drop Bush in a cell in Brussells and convince every major banker on Wall Street of the evils of neoliberal economics. Oh, and lead a black-clad ninja army to victory against the Janjaweed.

NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

Not being adverse to a friendly chat, I will sometimes take the opportunity to discuss the various issues/products that are being presented. On this occasion however, I was in a bit of a hurry and had a whole bunch of paperwork on my mind that I needed to get sorted out before getting back to the office. So I kept walking, shrugged and said "Sorry, no thanks".

"I like your jacket", she calls out.

Fzzzt! A spanner immediately jams down into the gears of the machine. My jacket? What the hell is she talking about?
I turn around, to view a semi-sarcastic smile on her face. Her eyes are darting somewhere between mischevious and coldly aloof. My mind is still trying to catch up, snapping into place from what seems like light-years away. Unfortunately my mouth doesn't wait for it to properly engage before taking the initiative.

"My jacket? Yeah, it's leather."

They freeze. Seconds begin to tick by. Lacking any further external shock, the machine grinds back into action again and I briskly turn around and stride off back up the street. Then my mind catches up.

Mind: "Excuse me... what the hell was that?"
Body: "I don't know. I'm just trying to get you from place to place."
Mind: "But what you said didn't really make sense!"
Body: "So? I was just responding to close the conversation down. Thinking isn't what I'm here for".
Mind: "You realise you just made a trite observation about your leather jacket to an animal rights activist?"
Body: "Hey... that's a good point!"
Mind: "She might possibly have been offended by this."
Body: "Well, she brought it up."
Mind: "True. Perhaps she was offended just by me wearing the jacket?"
Body: "Like I said, thinking isn't what I'm here for. How about you do the thinking, and I'll get you back to the car? Deal?"
Mind: "Ok, but I'm going to need to review all the perceptual data from this."
Body: "Fair enough. Make sure you get the Heart's input too."
Mind: "Ok, fine... but those blasted emotions tend to skew up my analysis."
Body: "I'm sure you'll work it out."

So, there I am walking back up the road with my head spinning. Mostly, it was spinning because I couldn't place the initial comment. Was she being sarcastic? Having a jab at some insensitive cowhide-wearing male because I had brushed off "the cause" with no thought whatsoever? Was she trying to raise my awareness? Make me see that my jacket came at the cost of an animal's life? Or did she just "like my jacket"? But since when do Street Hawkers pay any further attention to you once you're already walking away? I don't think I was being rude when I said "Sorry, no thanks". Was there something in my voice? Something that gave away that I felt their cause to be an utter waste of time given the precarious state this planet is in right now?

One shouldn't express this kind of thing - after all, they weren't asking for my opinion. I had tried not to, and thought I had succeeded. I wonder, how did I look through their eyes?

These thoughts, and more, circled and cycled through my mind for the next couple of hours. No conclusions were reached. But how is it possible to come to a conclusion when I don't understand my own reactions, let alone hers?

"Know Thyself", the saying goes. It's a lot trickier than one might first expect.

Climbing the Ladder?

One of the common Aussie attitudes is that with enough hard work, you can do anything. From the outback to the pub to the office, the saying goes that anyone is capable of making it in the "lucky country" if they put their nose to the grindstone. It's quite similar to the notion of the American Dream which has encouraged the world (at least in years past) to consider America as the "Promised Land" where anything is possible.

With this concept impressed somewhere in my personality, I found a very interesting article which suggests that having such an attitude in present-day America may be nothing more than a comfortable urban legend. Scary thing is - I can see it applying equally well to Australia.
[...] The myth, or belief, that people are solely what they make of themselves is useful to keep in mind while reading two ongoing series: the New York Times' on class and the Wall Street Journal's on social mobility. Both focus attention on a truth about American society that runs counter to most people's deep-seated beliefs: There is less social mobility in the United States now than in the '80s (and less then than in the '70s) and less mobility than in many other industrial countries, including Canada, Finland, Sweden and Germany. Yet 40 percent of respondents to a Times poll said that there was a greater chance to move up from one class to another now than 30 years ago, and 46 percent said it was easier to do so in the United States than in Europe.

Although the news about social mobility has not been widely reported, it is generally recognized that inequality has grown over the past thirty years. The Times series highlights how much the super-rich have made out like, well, bandits. While the real income of the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell from 1980 to 2002, the income of the top 0.1 percent--making $1.6 million or more--went up two and a half times in real terms before taxes. With the help of the Bush tax cuts, the gap between the super-rich and everyone else grew even larger.

The American people accept this, it is argued, because they think not only that there's more social mobility than there is, but also that they'll personally get rich. Indeed, a poll in 2000 indicated that 39 percent of Americans thought they were either in the wealthiest one percent or would be "soon." The Times poll was slightly less exuberant: 11 percent thought it was very likely they would become wealthy, another 34 percent somewhat likely.
This seems to highlight the gap between belief and reality, doesn't it? It would be interesting to know similar statistics for Australia; perhaps they will be available soon once the University of Queensland's study on Neoliberalism, Inequality and Politics is completed. I'm guessing that it will only reinforce the observations stated in the article above.

It is certainly a romantic notion that "anyone can make it if they try hard enough", but when one observes the state of many third world nations it seems a bit juvenile to suggest that every impoverished farmer could one day be taking an annual skiing holiday in the Swiss Alps via their Lear Jet.