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Saturday, March 31, 2012

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, plus c'est la même chose.

    
   We begin with an excerpt from the opening paragraph of an article published in the March 11, 2012 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Moving from house to house, a U.S. Army sergeant opened fire Sunday on Afghan villagers as they slept, killing 16 people — mostly women and children — in an attack that reignited fury at the U.S. presence following a wave of deadly protests over Americans burning Qurans."
    Eight days later an article appeared in Slate that began: "Lynndie England, the former U.S. solider made infamous in 2004 for a photo of her giving two thumbs-up at Abu Ghraib, isn't sorry for how she and her fellow soldiers abused prisoners there. 'Their lives are better,' she [said] in an interview for a story published Monday. 'They got the better end of the deal. They weren't innocent. They're trying to kill us, and you want me to apologize to them?'"
    In February 1971, 125 Vietnam Veterans came to a Howard Johnsons in Detroit to give testimony about the atrocities they had either witnessed or participated in while stationed in Vietnam. 
    It was called the Winter Soldier Project and this filmed documentary of the event will give you nightmares, just as the events described gave the soldiers involved nightmares for years. Unlike the despicable, sanctimonious and rationalizing Ms. England, these men were not proud of their behavior. On the contrary, while not attempting to justify themselves, these men ravage our hearts with stories of how their leaders conditioned and brainwashed them into becoming professional torturers, rapists and mass murderers. The movie is the farthest thing from dispassionate and yet its only commentary comes by way of the occasional gasps, moans and tears from the members of the press and public who had gathered to hear the testimony. To quote from the website for the film: "Though the event was attended by press and television news crews, almost nothing was reported to the American public. Yet, this unprecedented forum marked a turning point in the anti-war movement. It was a pivotal moment in the lives of young vets from around the country who participated, including the young John Kerry. The Winter Soldier Investigation changed him and his comrades forever. Their courage in testifying, their desire to prevent further atrocities and to regain their own humanity, provide a dramatic intensity that makes seeing Winter Soldier (1972) an unforgettable experience." 
    The beauty--and that is the proper word--of this film radiates in the balance the filmmakers establish between the self-loathing and sudden liberation of the men testifying against themselves and the actual victims of these horrors. The men are shown in black and white. The victims in living color. This balance does not exist today, of course. Today the accused killer of the sixteen Afghans receives media coverage while his alleged victims remain nameless entities, simply today's version of gooks, slopes, krauts, japs and coloreds. 
    My father served in World War II. He was in what was at the time called the Army-Air Force. Until his dying day he could not quite understand what was supposedly different about the Vietnam experience. My dad spent most of the war in the Pacific and saw more than his share of brutality, most of it random and anonymous. But because he did not undergo conditioning geared to brutalize himself and dehumanize the enemies, he could not conceive that such a thing had happened to a younger generation. And yet it did happen. My father joined up after the attack at Pearl Harbor. That attack was all the motivation he needed--well, that and the fear that he would get drafted into the infantry--to leave the home he had not strayed more than fifty miles from in his life to that point in order to defeat the curse of fascism. But in Vietnam, the closest thing to a provocation had been the nonsense of the Gulf of Tonkin incident which, even at the time, most people didn't believe and which, it turned out, never actually happened. So brutality and dehumanization became essential in a war that was about (a) enriching Brown & Root (later absorbed by Halliburton), Bell Helicopter and General Dynamics, and (b) body counts. Body counts? Sir, yes, sir. The Vietnamese government estimated in 1995 that four million civilians died in that twenty-year war. The Hanoi government revealed on April 3 of that year that the true civilian casualties of the Vietnam War were 2,000,000 in the north, 2,000,000 in the south. Military casualties were 1.1 million killed and 600,000 wounded in 21 years of war. 58,212 Americans died. 
    I cannot recommend Winter Soldier too highly. It will rip you apart. It will also help you make sense of our second film, The Weather Underground. Directed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel, two men who give the movie an aroma/perfume of PBS, TWU tries very hard to establish the context in which Bernadine Dohrn, Mark Rudd, Bill Ayers and others struggled to bring the war home to America through the use of provocation and violence. That context, of course, was the war being waged against a people ten thousand miles away, one which good and solid American people may have felt was getting just a little too damned much media coverage, the kind of stuff that, you know, radicalized the youth of the day. 
    The young Dohrn comes across quite bloodthirsty in the early footage and a teenage Rudd appears just as obnoxious as his reputation suggested. The thirty to one hundred members of what was originally called The Weathermen--the result of a 1969 split within Students for a Democratic Society--broke windows, robbed banks and placed bombs. Mostly, however, they drew the attention of the FBI, an organization prone to violating the law in the name of upholding it. The Weather Underground also did a good job of getting itself killed, as when on March 6, 1970, Terry Robbins, Diana Oughton and Teddy Gold died when a bomb the group had been constructing in a Greenwich Village townhouse blew them to kingdom come. Kathy Boudin, one of two survivors in the group, went on to participate in the Brinks robbery. She was finally released from prison in 2003. There is absolutely no mention whatsoever of Boudin in this documentary. 
    I will say that without the context of Winter Soldier, or at least a memory of and emotional connection to the atrocities of the war in Vietnam, it is hard to develop much sympathies for this group of people who, in all sincerity, were trying to show Americans what it felt or at least looked like to have combat in the streets. What the film does not admit--and what ultimately dooms it to artistic failure--is the youthful exuberance and downright energy of being a kid in Sixties America. These were smart, mostly college-educated young folks to whom the old days of the bridge over the river Kwai may have been an abstraction but to whom the contemporary sight of their brothers coming home in boxes was a reality, as was the nightly news reports of villages strafed, civilians slaughtered, and senselessness shared. 
    We still do not see that these days. We do not see the news reports of coffins beneath draped flags. We do not see the cemeteries. We do see stupid video games that glorify murder in combat. 
    Vietnam did not have "embedded" reporters. Iraq did. Afghanistan does. And yet chances are we know less about what has happened there than the average sixteen-year-old knew about Vietnam a generation or two ago. Maybe that is why there has yet to be a Weather Underground II. 

By Phil Mershon

ANTS AT A PICNIC

    The Last Confession of Jimmy Hoffa
Jack Nicholson
Stars: Four of five.
    They tell me I'll be one hundred next February. Hey, who am I to say how old I am? It's only my life, right? Bitter? You wanna know if I'm bitter? They wanna know, huh? Hell no, I'm not bitter. I'm talking here about the movie. Maybe you saw it. This little big guy directed it, whatever that means. Calls himself DeVito. That's okay with me. You know why? Why is because the name of the movie is Hoffa. That's right. Just like me.
    You're saying, I'll bet, that I took my own sweet time getting around to talking about a movie that came out almost twenty years back. Wrong, my friend. Where I am, we get everything at least twenty years behind the times, so the fact that this came to me only a little over nineteen years later is the same as me seeing it on opening night. Walk it off, you don't like it, see?
    Is there any truth to it? I gotta say no. Now, do not get me wrong. The writer guy, David Mamet, he's one hell of a scribe, boy, let me tell you. Hey, I laughed out loud when that Bobby Cairo character shoved that piece up against the wop's head and marched into the gangster's VIP room. That's right. I damned near pissed myself when that fucker highway cop dickhead pulled Cairo over for doing ninety on the expressway. Funny? Fuck right, it was funny. Did either thing ever happen? Shit, no. Does it matter? Not a goddamned bit. Why not? I'll tell you, sugar plum. The thing is, you see, it could have happened. Here's what I know about the truth and I think that you should write this down, buddy, because the guy who played me in that movie, that Nicholson character, he was in another movie about the same time where he was yelling that some young punk couldn't handle the truth. You know what I say? I say the truth ain't something that gets handled. The truth is just something that kind of just is. See, by the time I was growing up, we had that World War II thing, so I'll use that as a for instance. Supposing some writer guy says that he was at Pearl Harbor with the Americans when the Japs bombed the shit out of everybody and, hey, he says it didn't bother him much. Even if the facts of that story turned out to be right, it still ain't true because it's something nobody could connect with, like on an emotional level, you see what I'm saying? Other hand, some other writer, he wasn't in Poland during the war, but that don't stop him. He says he was there when they rolled back the walls and peeled them poor Jews out of the boxes and this writer says it changed the way he felt about humanity forever. Even if the guy was making it up, it's still true because a decent guy can understand what he's talking about. Well, that's a long way around the point of saying why I liked the movie about me: it told the truth even if they did fudge some of the details. 
    One thing nobody ever said to my face--I'm giving you an example here--was nobody ever called me short. Okay, look, I stood five feet five inches and unless you're some naked bow and arrow boy in the outback of Australia, that's usually taken as kind of small. But by God I stood with giants in real life and I stand with them in this here movie. This DeVito guy, kind of short himself, he loaded the picture with all these impressive overhead shots of fights and bombs and shit, most of which I can't say I remember happening quite that way but it don't matter because what we're really talking about is the spirit of the labor movement. Nothing I've ever seen gets any bigger than that, my friend.
    It's ants at a picnic is what it is. You got this great big meal being served by the black tie bastards who stole the food right out of some old lady's kitchen. When the ants come around marching up to get their share, what do the black tie people do? They scream about how unfair it is that what they stole gets eaten by those ants. Fuck them black tie sons of bitches. They ain't got no right to that food and they damned well know it.
    the only real problem I had with the movie is how it didn't quite speak to the point of how that cocksucker Chuck Colson fucked over the labor movement. See, these gangster politicians--I ain't naming names, but you know who I'm talking about--they don't mind somebody asking real nice and polite for a share of the pie. But when my men and boys and I slam our fists on the table and say we're taking that pie because that old lady the black ties stole it from is our mother--well, hey, that gets people killed, my friend. And the labor movement today doesn't want to get its hands dirty. The damned thing just makes me want to cry to watch it. You got people asking for written permission to go on a march. Fuck that shit. You need a note, you ain't striking for anything. You're defeated before you line up. Hoffa, this movie, it just kind of pays no attention to the big changes that happened after the fucking Kennedys and Nixon locked me up. But, hey, my mother, God bless her, she always said, you lay down in mud, you wake up with pigs. That's the biggest regret I have. Sure, I entangled myself with criminals. Shit, it's no secret that's why what happened to me July 30, 1975 actually happened. I screwed around with the wrong crowd. But I did what I thought I had to do. Maybe it was wrong. I don't think so, but maybe it was. All I know is I never shirked my responsibilities to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. If it meant taking a glass bottle up against my head, that's what I done. If it meant pulling a gun on a cop, I was there. If it meant getting control back of my union--of our union--well, my friend, nobody lives forever, am I right?
    So now I can sleep a little easier. I'd seen the shit movie with Robert Blake playing me like I was some fucking Kennedy-killer back in the seventies. Like shit I was. I seen people saying I linked up with Trafficante and Giancana and them boys and it was all a load of dung. All the same, I did know some bad guys and some of those bad guys was thought of as very good guys by the American people when it was in the interests of the American people to think so. Like I say, truth has to connect on an emotional level, am I right?
    So go see this thing. I hear you all got computers or something these days. Shit, you don't know who makes half of what you buy. Time was, my friend, when your computer would have traveled to a store on a union truck. Nowadays it comes from fucking China.

By Phil Mershon

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A WORD TO THE WISE

    
Beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, March 28, 2012, I will begin a series of wild adventures, some of which I will be writing about in this blog. I cannot go into any detail today. Tomorrow evening, however, the defecation will be hitting the oscillator, so expect to be amused. I can say no more, except I guarantee you will enjoy it.
    Til then,
     See ya.
     Philro

Saturday, March 24, 2012

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING

     On this day in 1832, a young Joseph Smith was sleeping in a bed in the small village of Kirtland, Ohio, when, according to biographer Richard Bushman, he "was dragged from his bedroom in the dead of night. His attackers strangled him until he blacked out, tore off his shirt and drawers, beat and scratched him, and jammed a vial of poison against his teeth until it broke. After tarring and feathering his body, they left him for dead. . . Through the night, his friends scraped off the tar until his flesh was raw." The same biographer claims that several among the townspeople feared Smith was going to appropriate their property for religious purposes and aimed to head off this action. Joseph's wife Emma was forced outside to listen to her husband's screams. Their eldest child died of exposure five days later.  In case you were wondering, this was the same Joseph Smith who, back in 1820, had decided to ask God which church he should join. According to Smith himself, the answer came in the form of a visit from God and Jesus Christ, the two personages advising him to form his own church. Three years later he stated that another angel, this one named Moroni (no relation to Bonie), paid him a visit and hipped him to the existence of golden plates which would explain God's interactions with the earlier inhabitants of the American continent. Smith's translation of these plates were published in 1830 as The Book of Mormon
    In June 1844, as the result of a split in the church, Joseph and his brother Hyrum were jailed for treason in the city of Carthage, Illinois. On the twenty-seventh day of that month, a crowd of men with faces blackened by burnt cork crashed into the jail, first killing Hyrum and, though he shot back at them, finally providing Joseph with the martyrdom he had long desired. The five men charged with his murder were ultimately acquitted. 

By Phil Mershon



Friday, March 23, 2012

WHO SPEAKS FOR WIKILEAKS?

    One question an archaeologist in the future would no doubt have is "What was this thing called WikiLeaks?" Fair enough. Here is what that wonderful group of dedicated information dissemination folks have to say about themselves. 


    One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth. We are a young organisation that has grown very quickly, relying on a network of dedicated volunteers around the globe. Since 2007, when the organisation was officially launched, WikiLeaks has worked to report on and publish important information. We also develop and adapt technologies to support these activities. We assess all news stories and test their veracity. We send a submitted document through a very detailed examination a procedure. Is it real? What elements prove it is real? Who would have the motive to fake such a document and why? We use traditional investigative journalism techniques as well as more modern rtechnology-based methods. Typically we will do a forensic analysis of the document, determine the cost of forgery, means, motive, opportunity, the claims of the apparent authoring organisation, and answer a set of other detailed questions about the document. We may also seek external verification of the document For example, for our release of the Collateral Murder video, we sent a team of journalists to Iraq to interview the victims and observers of the helicopter attack. The team obtained copies of hospital records, death certificates, eye witness statements and other corroborating evidence supporting the truth of the story. Our verification process does not mean we will never make a mistake, but so far our method has meant that WikiLeaks has correctly identified the veracity of every document it has published.

Kristinn Hrafnsson is the official WikiLeaks representative. He can be contacted for interviews or comment on:
Phone: +35 4821 7121


Julian Assange is a journalist and activist best known as the founder and public face of WikiLeaks. He has spoken at international events on WikiLeaks, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and internet activism. To enquire about having Julian Assange speak please contact his speaker agency Leigh Bureau on:
Email: international@leighbureau.com
Phone: +35 312 302 32

    One of the things we get taught in journalism blogging school (Ha! If only!) is that one should not commit the fallacy of appealing to authority. What that means is that just because so-and-so attended Harvard Law School or because a certain mad scientist is credited with cloning Lindsay Lohan, we should not necessarily imbue that person with more or less credibility than anyone else. In one way, that is correct. For instance, just because Rick Perry is the governor of Texas, I would not want to assume that he is an intelligent man. Nevertheless, I think it is fair to know that he is the governor of Texas so that I can use that information to methodically evaluate his collateral credentials, particularly if he were quoted saying something about the petroleum industry. That said and with no appeal to authority in mind, here are some of the folks who support WikiLeaks through word and deed. Full disclosure: These are some mighty cool people.

Frank LaRue 

WikiLeaks

UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
freedex@ohchr.org, libert.expresion@gmail.com, +41 22 9117 9738 (Geneva), +502 23 680-021 (Guatemala), Fax: +41 22 917 9006

Organization of American States
Catalina Botero Marino
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression 
1889 F Street, N.W. Washington, D.C., 20006 U.S.A. Tel: 202-458-6014 Fax: 202-458-6215, cidhexpresion@oas.org

Glenn Greenwald (salon.com) 
WikiLeaks
Columnist/Blogger/Constitutional lawyer. He has a very strong understanding of WikiLeaks issues and the Manning case.
GGreenwald@salon.com

Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School.
WikiLeaks
He has written a paper on the banking blockade against WikiLeaks.
ybenkler@law.harvard.edu / yochai_benkler@harvard.edu +1 617/496-3022

John Pilger
WikiLeaks
Journalist/Writer/Documentary Filmmaker. He has a great film called The War You Don't See which often runs on Link TV. He has helped raise bail for Assange.
jpilger2003@yahoo.co.uk

Gavin MacFadyen 
WikiLeaks
Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London. Supporter of WikiLeaks and personal friend of Julian Assange. +44 (0) 20 7040 8526, gavin@tcij.org.

Daniel Ellsberg
WikiLeaks
The famous Pentagon Papers leaker/Retired military analyst/Political activist). He is a friend and supporter of both Julian and WikiLeaks. He is a personal hero of this blog.
ellsbergpress@gmail.com

Stefania Maurizi
Italian journalist at L’Espresso. She has worked with WikiLeaks on many releases and is a big free speech and transparency advocate.

Alan Dersowitz
Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, interested in press inquiries related to litigation/Trials/Criminal Process and freedom of speech.
dersh@law.harvard.edu

Mwali Mati 
Director of Mars Group Kenya, Ltd. a Leadership, Governance and Accountability Organization that is dedicated to ending dictatorial impunity and re-establishing democratic accountability in Kenya.
mmati@marsgroupkenya.org

Ben Wizner 
WikiLeaks
Ben is the Litigation Director at ACLU’s National Security Project. He has litigated numerous cases involving post-9/11 civil liberties violations, including lawsuits challenging the CIA’s "extraordinary rendition" program and the government’s authority to use lethal force against U.S. citizens without due process. He has travelled several times to Guantanamo Bay to monitor military commission trials. You may have seen him recently on "Countdown."
+1 (212) 519 7860, bwizner@aclu.org

Greg Mitchell 
Writer for The Nation. He writes a lot on WikiLeaks and wrote the first book to be published on WikiLeaks.
+1 212-209-5400, epic1934@aol.com

Trevor Timm 
WikiLeaks
Activist and blogger for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He is also a legal analyst who runs the @WLLegal Twitter account that reports on legal issues surrounding WikiLeaks and the First Amendment.
trevor.timm@gmail.com

Tim Wu 
WikiLeaks
Professor at Columbia Law School, chair of media reform organization Free Press, and writes for Slate magazine. Wrote “Drop the case against Assange” in Foreign Policy.
www.timwu.org; go@timwu.org.

Jemima Goldsmith
Political activist, campaigner and journalist. Believes it is the citizen’s right to be told the truth.

Ray McGovern 
WikiLeaks
Retired CIA officer/Political activist. Can comment on attacks by the US administration against Assange and WikiLeaks
+1 (707) 629-3683, rmcgovern@slschool.org, vips@counterpunch.org.

Rick Falkvinge 
WikiLeaks
Rick Falkvinge is the founder of the Swedish and Pirate Party, which has representation in the European parliament.
rick.falkvinge@piratpartiet.se

Paul Alan Levy 
WikiLeaks
Lawyer, Public Citizen Litigation Group. He acted in the Bank Julius Baer case and is also a strong free speech laywer for Ralf Nader’s Citizen.org
Public Citizen, 1600 - 20th Street, NW, Washington DC 20009.

Ann Brick
WikiLeaks
Representative/American Civil Liberties Union. Believes in the public’s right to know and spoke out in favour of WikiLeaks in the Julius Baer case.
+1 (415) 621-2493

Julie Turner 
WikiLeaks
She is a lawyer who has been representing both plaintiffs and defendants in intellectual property and commercial litigation matters. She has litigated numerous patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret cases. She can be contacted to discuss freedom of speech and technology.
jturner@julieturnerlaw.com, +1 650-494-1530

Bianca Jagger 
WikiLeaks
Ms. Jagger is known for her dedicated commitment and campaigning for human rights, social justice and environmental protection. She has said she is "very concerned this case has been politicized."

Andrew Wilkie MP 
WikiLeaks
A well-known campaigner for truth in politics. He has published a best-selling book – Axis of Deceit – about the dishonesty behind the Iraq war and undertaken numerous speaking engagements in Australia, the UK, the US and New Zealand. He defended Julian Assange and said "Whistleblowers like WikiLeaks need protection"
andrew.wilkie.mp@aph.gov.au, www.greenleft.org.au

Louise Connor 
WikiLeaks
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. Secretary of the Victoria Branch of the union, the main body representing Australian journalists and Julian’s journalist union, who has publicly campaigned for him.
+61 1300 656 512

Michael Moore 
WikiLeaks
Filmmaker. He believes WikiLeaks performs an important public service. He is correct.
+1 (310) 248-2000 (Ari Emanuel, Endeavor Agency), mike@michaelmoore.com

Oliver Spencer 
Global Campaign for Free Expression
+44 (0)20 7324 2517, info@article19.org

Richard Renner
National Whistleblower Legal Defense & Education Fund. He can comment on whistle-blowers.
+1 (202) 342-1903, rr@whistleblowers.org

Clay Shirky 
WikiLeaks
Writer/Consultant/Lecture
+1 (718) 928-6567, clay@shirky.com, info@shirky.com

International Freedom of Expression eXchange
+1 416 515 9622, ifex@ifex.org

Maximilian C. Forte
Associate Professor in Anthropology, Concordia University. Follows WikiLeaks and Assange issues closely.
+1 (514) 848-2424 ext. 5567, mforte@alcor.concordia.ca, max.forte@openanthropology.org

Larry Flynt
American publisher and the president of Larry Flynt Publications (LFP). Free Speech Activist. He comments on freedom of speech issues. He pledged $50k to defend Julian.
+1 (212)-586-2711

Antony Loewenstein
Political activist, freelance journalist, author and blogger based in Sydney, Australia. He comments on how the Australian government should support Australian citizens, free speech issues globally and censorship in democratic and repressive states,
antloew@gmail.com

Brett Solomon
Spokesperson for Get up
+61 415 182 402, media@getup.org.au

Christian Christensen
Associate Professor, Uppsala Universitet/Author. Current research includes studies on social media and conflict. He can comment on WikiLeaks
+46 18-471 7113, christian.christensen@im.uu.se

Dave Winer
Visiting scholar at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Pioneered the development of weblogs; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine and comments on WikiLeaks
+1 (212)-998-7980, scriptingnews1mail@gmail.com

We print this information regarding those who support the idea of fact of WikiLeaks because these seem to us to be good people. Indeed, they are good people who are doing good things.



By Phil Mershon