Good Night, Good Luck: Thoughts on Murrow, Journalism and Responsibility

murrow

Good Afternoon

Thursday night I watched the film Good Night and Good Luck, with David Strathairn and George Clooney. I am sure that many of you saw this film when it came out eight years ago. (Yes, that is 8 years…)

I saw it too back then, but I had not seen it in years…and I never saw the short featurette interviews with the real people portrayed in the film.  Joe and Shirley Wershba, Milo Radulovich, Ed Murrow’s son and Fred Friendly’s son discuss Murrow and give some thoughts on the use of television media during the time of the McCarthy hearings. I say television because Ed Murrow was concerned about how viewing the image or picture being broadcast on the screen would change the news story he was telling.

It is fortunate that I found this featurette on the web, it is only 15 minutes but if you can, watch it before you read the rest of my post.

Good Night, And Good Luck – Featurette | SPIKE

Fred Friendly’s widow states that Ed Murrow was, “dubious” about the change from his radio show, “Hear It Now” to the television version “See It Now.”  It was Murrow’s belief that the camera changed the story, that people processed visual information and news differently than they did when just listening to the words being said.  According to Murrow’s son, the camera invaded the news story, especially in those early days of news broadcast, with the lights and large equipment needed to air the programs, it changed the dynamics of the story in a real big way.

It was during this time the news took on an editorial flavor; there aren’t always two sides to a story. McCarthyism was destroying the country. Murrow got this message out to his viewers, knowing what was at stake.  It was personal and it was risky…

The Murrow team had been collecting film on Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy where ever he went…and used it when they got the evidence they needed. Murrow got to the truth of the story by taking McCarthy’s own words and actions and putting them on the air.

Joe Wershba says that Murrow knew the tremendous power of television media…he describes the agonizing question of whether Murrow had the right to use this power against McCarthy. Think about it…Here you have McCarthy, trampling the rights and civil liberties given by the Constitution, and yet McCarthy got all this power because of the very rights he was running over.

This is where Milo Radulovich comes in. Radulovich,

…was an American citizen (born in Detroit) of Serbian descent and former reserve Air Force lieutenant who was accused of being a security risk for maintaining a “close and continuing relationship”[1] with his father and sister, in violation of Air Force regulation 35-62.[2] His case was publicized nationally by Edward Murrow on October 20, 1953, on Murrow’s program, See It Now:

That [Air Force regulation 35-62] is a regulation which states that ‘A man may be regarded as a security risk if he has close and continuing associations with communists or people believed to have communist sympathies.’ Lieutenant Radulovich was asked to resign in August. He declined. A board was called and heard his case. At the end, it was recommended that he be severed from the Air Force. Although it was also stated that there was no question whatever as to the Lieutenant’s loyalty.—Edward R. Murrow[3][4]

Murrow used Radulovich’s personal story to get the point across. And when the Air Force finally reinstated Radulovich, people realized just how powerful television journalism was, and Murrow felt the consequences would be great.

On the featurette, Fred Friendly’s son says that “overall climate of television news” today is frightening…and that his father would be horrified by it.

Well, this horrifying evolution of television news can be primarily shouldered by the corporations…specifically the advertising money these corporations brought in…the airwaves were originally thought of as the people’s airways…that the news had to be given to the public straight. But then the news programs became a money-maker, news stories became entertainment. And with this entertainment, the trust people had in broadcasters like Murrow disappeared.

Friendly’s son says in the interview up top, television was making more money doing its worst…than it did doing its best. (Ain’t that the truth!)

Shirley Wershba states how important it was to get the truth to the stories, they used McCarthy own words in their reports, pointing out the hypocrisies and the craziness of McCarthyism. They researched and were very careful with what they reported on the news. It is not like that today. We have seen too many times the mistakes, blatant ones at that, made by the press…they are careless with the facts.

Responsibility. It is something that both MSM broadcast news and the people watching it must take seriously.  Responsibility is vitally necessary to get the facts down right. George Clooney says at the end of the featurette he hopes the film Good Night and Good Luck will bring the issue of responsibility to the discussion and I agree with him; we need to talk about responsibility.

I guess my point with all this is just how important it is to question things.

Maybe that is why people like Jon Stewart, sites like Wikileaks, and those who blog and pick apart news reports are popular with folks who look for the big picture, the ones who don’t accept the cropped version as the final word. It is our responsibility to dig deeper than what we see, hear and read in news broadcast…and in journalism media today. I think too many people are not doing their homework. They take whatever bits and pieces they get from MSM and leave it at that. It is a shame, because this lack of attention is causing present day extremist the likes of McCarthy to flourish in our government and politics.

It is ironic, the very rights these extremist are out to destroy… are the ones that allow them to carry out their agenda. The difference between now and Murrow’s time comes down to this…us.

We…the public.

Were our standards were higher? Eh, I don’t know, but I do feel however that responsibility is key.

It seems that there are less Murrows and Friendlys out there who feel responsible to the people, and more importantly…it seems to me the public has become full of people who don’t feel responsible to truth. We get fed the news and opinions the corporations and sponsors want us to eat…but few question it.

I wish news outlets weren’t controlled by the money companies pay to advertise on their shows, websites or blogs. It makes me think about Murrow’s anxiety about the power of television. Think about how the internet has changed the news narrative. The internet is just another powerful technology…like television was in its day….only the web is instantaneous. It is distracting and full of things that manipulate our opinions.  But…the internet is also a tool we can use to be responsible to the truth, if we use it responsibly.

I wish people would question, research and look for truth behind every news report being told. I worry that there is no longer a responsible collective voice standing up for what is right or true….unlike the era of McCarthy, we do not have that voice…the sense of duty or obligation to stand up to the money men behind the corporations, politicians and the advertising and lobbying dollars they use to get what they want.  And, they have the ambitious McCarthys of today, to do the job for them.

The batshit crazy. It’s been going on for so many years…and my fear is it will keep on going.

Will it ever stop?

Keeping all this in mind, take a look at a few of these links:

Last week Glenn Greenwald had an article about Bob Woodward…you can read it here: Bob Woodward embodies US political culture in a single outburst

I want to bring this part of Greenwald’s post to your attention…where he mentions an essay written by Lewis Lapham back in 2008:

Bob Woodward fulfills an important function. Just as Tim Russert was long held up as the scary bulldog questioner who proved the existence of an adversarial TV press while the reality was that, as Harper’s [sic] Lewis Lapham famously put it, he maintained “the on-air persona of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter”, the decades-old Woodward lore plays a critical role in maintaining the fiction of a watchdog press corps even though he is one of the most faithful servants of the war machine and the national security and surveillance states. Every once and awhile, the mask falls, and it’s a good thing when it does.

This last paragraph stuck with me, and when I watched Good Night, and Good Luck last night…particularly the featurette, I went back to the Greenwald post and dug a little bit deeper.

Greenwald links to this Gawker post from Aug. 2008, A Careful Evisceration Of Tim Russert. Which I will highlight this statement:

…Lapham, sometimes slammed as insufferable bore, has spun a compelling essay out of his rough initial pronouncement that “1,000 people came to [Russert’s] memorial service because essentially he was a shill for the government.”

This is little nugget from New York Magazine in July of 2008, again in reference to Lapham’s essay: Lewis Lapham Unhappy With Political Journalism, Including Tim Russert

Lewis Lapham isn’t happy with political journalism today. “There was a time in America when the press and the government were on opposite sides of the field,” he said at a premiere party for Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson on June 25. “The press was supposed to speak on behalf of the people. The new tradition is that the press speaks on behalf of the government.” An example? “Tim Russert was a spokesman for power, wealth, and privilege,” Lapham said. “That’s why 1,000 people came to his memorial service. Because essentially he was a shill for the government. It didn’t matter whether it was Democratic or Republican. It was for the status quo.” What about Russert’s rep for catching pols in lies? “That was bullshit,” he said. “Thompson and Russert were two opposite poles.”

Well, here is the actual essay Greenwald is refering to: [Notebook] | Elegy for a Rubber Stamp, by Lewis Lapham | Harper’s Magazine

Please read the entire essay, but I just want to point out a few paragraphs to look out for:

Many people loved Russert, and I don’t doubt that they had reason to do so. I’m sure that most of what was said about him on camera was true: that he was a devoted father, a devout Catholic, and a faithful friend, generous in spirit and a joyful noise unto the Lord. I mean no disrespect to his widow or to his son, but if I have no reason to doubt his virtues as a man, neither do I have any reason to credit the miracle of Russert as a journalist eager to speak truth to power. In his professional as opposed to his personal character, his on-air persona was that of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter, as helpless as Charlie Rose in his infatuation with A-list celebrity, his modus operandi the same one that pointed Rameau’s obliging nephew to the roast pheasant and the coupe aux marrons in eighteenth-century Paris: “Butter people up, good God, butter them up.”

With the butter Russert was a master craftsman, his specialty the mixing of it with just the right drizzle of salt. The weekend videotapes, presumably intended to display Russert at the top of his game, deconstructed the recipe. To an important personage Russert asked one or two faintly impertinent questions, usually about a subject of little or no concern to anybody outside the rope lines around official Washington; sometimes he discovered a contradiction between a recently issued press release and one that was distributed by the same politician some months or years previously. No matter with which spoon Rus sert stirred the butter, the reply was of no interest to him, not worth his notice or further comment. He had sprinkled his trademark salt, his work was done. The important personage was free to choose from a menu offering three forms of response—silence, spin, rancid lie. If silence, Russert moved on to another topic; if spin, he nodded wisely; if rancid lie, he swallowed it.

A couple more:

The attitude doesn’t lead to the digging up of much news that might be of interest to the American people, but it endeared Russert to his patrons and clients. Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton Administration, expressed her gratitude to Olbermann: “Tim was amazing because I can tell you that, as a public official, it was really, first of all, a treat to get on the show.” Two days later, over at NBC, Mary Matalin (former CBS and CNN talk-show host, former counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney) seconded the motion, attributing Russert’s profound knowledge of national politics to his superb qualities as a rubber stamp. “He respected politicians,” Matalin said. “He knew that they got blamed for everything, got credit for nothing. He knew how much they meant. He never treated them with the cynicism that attends some of these interviews. So they had a place to be loved.” Remembering Russert on ABC, Sam Donaldson explained why too much salt in the butter makes it harder to spread: “He [Russert] understood as well as anyone, maybe better than almost anyone, that the reason political reporters are there is not to speak truth to power . . . but to make those who say we have the truth—politicians—explain it.”

Speaking truth to power doesn’t make successful Sunday-morning television, leads to “jealousy, upsets, persecution,” doesn’t draw a salary of $5 million a year. The notion that journalists were once in the habit of doing so we borrow from the medium of print, from writers in the tradition of Mark Twain, Upton Sinclair,

H. L. Mencken, I. F. Stone, Hunter Thompson, and Walter Karp, who assumed that what was once known as “the press” received its accreditation as a fourth estate on the theory that it represented the interests of the citizenry as opposed to those of the government. Long ago in the days before journalists became celebrities, their enterprise was reviled and poorly paid, and it was understood by working newspapermen that the presence of more than two people at their funeral could be taken as a sign that they had disgraced the profession.

On television the voices of dissent can’t be counted upon to match the studio drapes or serve as tasteful lead-ins to the advertisements for Pantene Pro-V and the U.S. Marine Corps. What we now know as the “news media” serve at the pleasure of the corporate sponsor, their purpose not to tell truth to the powerful but to transmit lies to the powerless. Like Russert, who served his apprenticeship as an aide-de-camp to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, most of the prominent figures in the Washington press corps (among them George Stephanopoulos, Bob Woodward, and Karl Rove) began their careers as bagmen in the employ of a dissembling politician or a corrupt legislature. Regarding themselves as de facto members of government, enabling and codependent, their point of view is that of the country’s landlords, their practice equivalent to what is known among Wall Street stock-market touts as “securitizing the junk.” When requesting explanations from secretaries of defense or congressional committee chairmen, they do so with the understanding that any explanation will do. Explain to us, my captain, why the United States must go to war in Iraq, and we will relay the message to the American people in words of one or two syllables. Instruct us, Mr. Chairman, in the reasons why K-Street lobbyists produce the paper that Congress passes into law, and we will show that the reasons are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Do not be frightened by our pretending to be suspicious or scornful. Together with the television camera that sees but doesn’t think, we’re here to watch, to fall in with your whims and approve your injustices. Give us this day our daily bread, and we will hide your vices in the rosebushes of salacious gossip and clothe your crimes in the aura of inspirational anecdote.

Indeed, it all comes down to the idea of truth in journalism according to the corporate sponsors…batshit crazy is now becoming symbolic of the myth that there is a “free press” in this country….when the obvious conclusion seems to me centered on one thing…the lack of responsibility from both the media journalist…and their viewing and reading public.

Batshit crazy…Will it ever stop?

In all honesty, the answer to my question above is simple.

No, it will never stop as long as we, the people, fail to hold our “free press” accountable to the responsibility of journalism.

It’s a very sorry sad situation…and it’s a damn shame.


Zombies and Vultures and Pipelines, Oh My

The zombies seem to be winning the war against the living.  We have zombie banks, zombie politicians [think Rick Perry], zombie policy—free market fundamentalism preached as an untried economic theory.

And now zombie pipelines.

Just when you thought the Keystone XL controversy had been put to rest [at least temporarily], its zombie presence lunges forward, reanimated for all to see.  Although I suspect supporters of this very bad idea are hoping the American public is not watching or if they are watching they will buy the swill on the non-existent benefits of a 1700-mile tar sands pipeline.

What am I talking about?

I found a disturbing inquiry [hattip to OEN] by Representative Henry Waxman to a Deborah Hohlt, who received $50,500 from the Great State of Indiana [that would be paid in state taxpayer monies] to lobby in DC on behalf of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.  Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniels provided the rebuttal to the President’s SOTU address, in which he referred to the Administration’s decision to ‘postpone’ the pipeline’s construction as an ‘extremist’ policy.

As you might remember the Republican chorus on this subject has been jobs, jobs, jobs.  House Speaker Boehner has quoted 100,000 jobs at stake.  TransCanada has been all over the map with job estimates, the last, most creative quote coming in at 250,000 jobs.  Unfortunately, the numbers are at odds with the single independent analysis from Cornell Global Labor Institute, estimating the number at between 4000-6000 temporary jobs.  The steel for the pipeline?  Would be coming from India.  The cry that the pipeline would reduce our reliance on foreign oil?  The refined tar sands oil is contracted for export [80%] to South America and Europe.

The upsides are slim to none, considering the toxic, corrosive nature of tar sand oil, the sludge-like quality that requires pressure and heat to make a pipeline flow possible.  That also increases the risk of a leak and an environmental disaster.  Anyone who may question the heightened risk should check out the total mess in Michigan when over 800,000 gallons of tar sand oil spilled and contaminated 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River and surrounding properties.

And the reclamation?  These corporations should hang their heads in utter shame. If you want to be thoroughly disgusted check out the You Tube clip I provided in an earlier post.

But here’s the really curious thing.  The pipeline won’t be running through Indiana.  The pipeline will not be running close to Indiana’s borders. No Indiana facilitities will have access to the pipeline. In fact, it appears that Indiana does not stand to be impacted in anyway by the Keystone pipeline and yet Governor Daniels felt compelled to call President Obama an extremist for postponing the pipeline’s construction.  He was also willing to pay a $50,000+ [in state taxpayer money] to lobby for the Great State of Indiana in defense of the pipeline.

More curious still?  TransCanada has stated that the pipeline will ‘increase’ oil prices for Indiana and other Midwestern residents because the area is ‘oversupplied.’  Keystone’s successful construction [this is stated in TransCanada’s application] will ensure higher prices for Canadian crude.  By independent analysis costs will increase $6.55 per barrel in the Midwest and $3 per barrel everywhere else.   The Indiana Petroleum Council thinks this is a swell idea.

Which begs the question: Who does Governor Daniels work for?  His constituents or the oil companies?

So, it should not be any great surprise that a Senate group–laughably-called bi-partisan because it includes 1 Democrat, Joe Manchin from W. Va.–is reintroducing the Keystone proposal, pushing for immediate construction with or without the Administration’s approval.  The Senate committee is invoking the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which says Congress should have the power:

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.

I love it when the Republicans start waving the Constitution. It’s a clear signal they’re up to no good. Did I mention that Koch Industries stands to make a killing on this project?

While reading Representative Waxman’s letter, I recalled something I’d read in Greg Palast’s book Vultures’ Picnic and found an accompanying and equally disturbing text online here and here.  To quote Palast:

Reserves are the measure of oil recoverable at a certain price. Raise the price, raise the reserve. Cut the price and the amount of oil in the ground drops. In other words, it’s a fool’s errand to measure the “amount of oil we have left.” It depends on the price.

Specifically, oil companies and oil-related financiers are not interested in expanding oil supplies to the world, particularly cheap oil supplies [because the days of cheap oil are over]. They’re interested in feeding the hunger for oil and controlling the price around the world with an iron fist.  The higher, the better.  The environment—air, water, soil–is not the concern.  Our health or that of our children is not the concern.  The bottom line—profit and power—is all that matters.  If nations collapse?  The Vultures are waiting to feast on the bones.

Sound harsh?  It shouldn’t.  Zombies and vultures are kissing cousins.  They’re coming ‘round for a friendly visit.  Again.


Late Evening News Reads: Iran…Israel…US…Timing is everything.

Good Evening

Today was a busy news day, as far as the number of unread feeds in my reader…However, for tonight’s evening reads I am going to stick with Iran, Israel and the US.

Quixote sent me this link earlier this evening.

Iran explosions prompt speculation of secret attacks | McClatchy

Unexplained attacks in Iran

View larger image

JERUSALEM — A series of mishaps at Iranian nuclear facilities and weapons sites may be part of a covert organized attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, according to Western intelligence officials.

An explosion last week outside Iran’s third largest city, Isfahan, is thought to be the most recent strike, though details on the intended target are still unclear. A sprawling military base and nuclear facilities are outside Isfahan, and intelligence officials across the Middle East said there was strong evidence that the explosion had done some “significant structural damage.”

“We have seen enough evidence to know something has happened, but we are unclear on what at this point,” said one Western diplomat whose work includes the region, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “There are a number of parties interested in sabotaging and weakening the Iranian regime.”

This is where the article takes an expected turn, as Dakinikat has speculated early last week, there are suggestions that Israel is behind these explosions.

The second such incident in as many weeks cast doubt on Iranian claims that these were “accidents” and “coincidences,” and it set off speculation of a coordinated attack by Israel, whose officials long have threatened a strike against Iran’s nuclear program. Israeli officials denied direct involvement, but the growing number of mysterious or unexplained blasts and deaths has many suspecting an official program of sabotage.

Israeli newspapers declared last week that Israel’s war with Iran already had begun, but that the Jewish state, rather than launch massive airstrikes, had decided on a method of covert action in cooperation with other groups. Statements by current and former Israeli officials were being parsed for clues but did little to clarify the issue.

Tell me if these responses don’t give you pause…

“There aren’t many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it’s the hand of God,” said Israel’s former head of internal security, Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: “We are not happy to see the Iranians move ahead on this (program), so any delay, be it divine intervention or otherwise, is welcome.”

Divine intervention…or did the dog do it?

It just seems like relations in the area have gone from bad to worse. This possible coordinated attacks from Israel may explain Panetta’s harsh language a few days ago:

Panetta to Israel: ‘Get to the Damn Table’ for Peace Talks « VOA Breaking News

The top U.S. defense official is warning Israel it cannot afford to further isolate itself from Arab neighbors in the Middle East.

During a forum in Washington late Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Israel needs to start by getting back “to the damn table” and negotiating peace with the Palestinians. He also called on Israel to mend its fraying relationships with traditional partners like Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

Some Israeli leaders have viewed the Arab Spring, and uprisings like the one that toppled long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, as a threat to regional stability as well as to Israel’s security. But Panetta urged Israeli officials to reject that way of thinking.

Panetta said Israel has no choice but to take some risks to ensure a safer future, starting with resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, a process that Panetta said has “effectively been put on hold.”

In this Reuters India link, they published a bit more of Panetta’s comment to Israel:

Panetta: Israel must get to damn peace table | Reuters

Panetta, addressing a forum in Washington, also made one of his most extensive arguments to date against any imminent military action against Iran over its nuclear program, saying he was convinced that sanctions and diplomatic pressure were working.

“You always have the last resort … of military action. But it must be the last resort, not the first,” Panetta said.

[…]

He said Israel needed to take risks, including by breathing new life into moribund peace talks with Palestinians. When asked by a moderator what steps Israel needed to take to pursue peace, Panetta said: “Just get to the damn table.”

“The problem right now is we can’t get ’em to the damn table, to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences,” Panetta said.

Panetta said the United States would safeguard Israel’s security, ensure regional stability and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — a goal Tehran denies having.

“Israel, too, has a responsibility to pursue these shared goals — to build regional support for Israeli and United States’ security objectives,” Panetta said.

“I believe security is dependent on a strong military but it is also dependent on strong diplomacy. And unfortunately, over the past year, we’ve seen Israel’s isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow.”

Also heating up the already tense situation, is the recent US drone spy plane that was “brought” down by Iran…not by shooting it down, it looks like Iran was able to “hack” the drone. Reports are that Iran is in possession of the super secret spy plane.

Military sources confirmed that the Iranians have the RQ-170 drone, which is so advanced that the U.S. Air Force has not distributed even a photo of it. However, they did not say that the Iranians shot down the spy plane, as was reported by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

I realize that link goes to Fox, but JPost.com and Reuters are reporting this news as well.

Iran is still sticking with the “shot down” story for now, there is also a warning from the Iran military, from FARS News Agency: Fars News Agency :: Iran Warns of Wider Response to US Spy Missions

“Given the flagrant violation of our country’s borders, the electronic and operational actions of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces against the enemy planes will not be limited to the country’s borders,” an Iranian official told FNA.

The official had also informed FNA on Sunday afternoon that the country’s forces had downed a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone over the Eastern parts of the country.

“An advanced RQ-170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran’s armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran’s Armed Forces,” a military official told FNA on Sunday.

In similar remarks, military sources told Iran’s Arabic language Al Alam television that Tehran will intensify its response to the United States’ spying operations.

“The Iranian military’s response to the American spy drone’s violation of our airspace will not be limited to Iran’s borders any more,” a military source told Al Alam, without giving details.

After a day of silence, both Pentagon and NATO officials acknowledged the shooting down of their Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in eastern Iran, alleging that the aircraft with a mission to fly over western Afghanistan had gone astray.

The drone had been downed with help from the Iranian military’s electronic warfare unit.

The military official warned of a strong and crushing response to any violations of the country’s airspace by American drone aircraft.

Then there is this bit of news from The Telegraph: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards prepare for war – Telegraph

An order from Gen Mohammed Ali Jaafari, the commander of the guards, raised the operational readiness status of the country’s forces, initiating preparations for potential external strikes and covert attacks.

Western intelligence officials said the Islamic Republic had initiated plans to disperse long-range missiles, high explosives, artillery and guards units to key defensive positions.

The order was given in response to the mounting international pressure over Iran’s nuclear programme. Preparation for a confrontation has gathered pace following last month’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna that produced evidence that Iran was actively working to produce nuclear weapons.

The Iranian leadership fears the country is being subjected to a carefully co-ordinated attack by Western intelligence and security agencies to destroy key elements of its nuclear infrastructure.

Recent explosions have added to the growing sense of paranoia within Iran, with the regime fearing it will be the target of a surprise military strike by Israel or the US.

Now, I realize the Telegraph and Fox News have their particular bias…but the story from FARS shows that relations between Israel, Iran and the US are getting more heated.

Of course, I have not mentioned the recent attack on the British Embassy in Iran.  It all just makes me very uncomfortable…and also at the heart of all this mess…is oil.  Iran, Facing New Sanctions, Warns of Oil at $250 a Barrel – NYTimes.com

Alarmed by the possibility of new Western penalties that could abruptly reduce or even halt its oil exports, Iran issued a warning on Monday that crude oil prices could more than double to $250 a barrel if such sanctions were given serious consideration.

The warning, issued by the Foreign Ministry, appeared to be part of an attempt by Iran to intimidate its adversaries as tensions grow. Western nations stepped up their efforts to isolate Iran diplomatically after mobs stormed and vandalized Britain’s diplomatic facilities in Tehran less than a week ago, evoking stark images of the United States Embassy takeover after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The assault was widely criticized, even by some of Iran’s friends.

The price of oil today did not “jump” because of this threat…there was little change in trading today.

Iran is the third-largest exporter of oil, after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Its biggest customers —China, the European Union, India, Japan, and South Korea — together account for two-thirds of total Iranian oil exports, according to an analysis published by the Energy Information Administration in the United States. Reduced orders from just one of those customers could be disruptive for Iran, where the economy is already suffering from the accumulated effects of other sanctions.

After the assault on the British Embassy, European Union ministers said they would give serious consideration to an oil embargo at a meeting in January, and the United States Senate voted 100 to 0 for legislation that would penalize any foreign bank that does business with Iran’s central bank.

The Senate measure, meant to use access to the United States market as leverage in isolating Iran, is not yet law and could be modified. But analysts said that such a measure, if enforced, could wreak havoc on Iran’s oil industry, because the central bank is the main conduit for receipts from oil sales.

“At some point, sanctions become an act of war,” said Vali Nasr, a professor at Tufts University and an expert on Iranian affairs. “If you cut Iran out of the oil market, this is no longer economic pressure.”

What do you all think? It is making me a little nervous. With tensions escalating in Pakistan, and the Afghani president talking about resurgence of the Taliban…

The United States is vacating an air base in Pakistan at Islamabad’s request following a NATO attack that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told Pakistan’s Waqt TV on Monday that the United States is leaving Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan Province southwest of Quetta. U.S. drones have taken off from the base and refueled there for operations against Islamic militants, according to sources familiar with U.S. drone operations in Pakistan.

The order to clear out of the base comes in the aftermath of a November 26 incident in which a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani troops.

The Taliban could make a comeback and take over Afghanistan again, Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned on Monday at the Bonn Conference. “If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before Sept 11, 2001,” Karzai said.

There has been progress in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in the wake of the hijacked plane attacks on the United States, he said. But, he warned: “Our shared goal of a stable, self-reliant Afghanistan is far from being achieved”.

Seems like all the “alert” messages are being sent.

And what does the US Main Stream Media have to say about all this drone business…Don’t worry…the drone fell to earth from such a high altitude…it must be in little, tiny pieces…so Iran can’t get much insight or information from that. Experts: Iran capture of stealth drone no worry – CBS News

“This is a high-flying unmanned aircraft that malfunctioned and then fell to earth. It’s likely to be broken up into hundreds of pieces.”

[…]

“Are we going to stop flying them? No. Was it a secret we were flying them? No,” said Pike. “Did Iran shoot it down? Probably not. Because Iranian air defenses are not very good, and it is a good stealth vehicle. And did Iranian hackers hack into it and bring it down? No. It’s just too hard to do.”

So say the “experts.”

This is a serious situation, and I worry it will be just another reason to step up the US military presence in the region, especially now that we are winding down in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2012 election is also in the back of my mind…the timing seems to be one of the key coincidences in all this. We also have the triggered spending cuts that should be cutting into the military budget, so again my thoughts go back to the timing.

Timing is everything.

The European Union and its growing money troubles, austerity and cut backs…the US Economy and the corruption of  back room secret deals…people are going to need something to make them forget the elected (and not elected) people and corporations that got us into this mess.

But what do I know, I am just someone who lives in a small town in the American South.  I see all the things going on in the world from my laptop…things that I know are wrong or corrupt or manipulated to get the planned responses. Whether it be a rise in fear, so that more military spending is accepted, or the planned trillion dollars in bailouts, both public and secret, that “pay off” all those fat cat campaign contributors….or the possible terrorist attacks that bring about the acceptance of security measures so that more 85-year-old grandmothers can be striped search. (Yes, that now brings the total to three old women getting stripped searched at the same JFK terminal.)

Every day I feel more and more dejected and despondent and depressed. What makes it even worse is the feeling of abandonment from politicians and elected  officials that are supposed to act in our best interest…like sheep being led to slaughter, we are just wandering down the turnstiles and being directed which ever way the controlling class and media want us to move.

I wish I could have a better post for you tonight, that link Quixote sent was a good one, and I fear that I did not do it justice.

I’m just a silent sheep in Banjoland, no expert in foreign policy or military matters…and Iran and Israel are half a world away…but from the screen of my laptop, I see the problem growing…and I see all the ways it can be manipulated and used for other people’s advantage, and that makes me a little more concerned for what is coming…and my fear is that it will be something big.


Saturday Reads: Is that a Giant Weta in your pocket, or are you just pretending to be Herman Cain…

Good Morning!

Minx here with you today and tomorrow…so let’s get the party started.

Well, it is an exciting day…this afternoon at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, LSU and UGA meet to decide who gets the championship of the SEC. This isn’t the only show in town…also happening today in Atlanta…Herman Cain’s big press announcement.

I am just going to go ahead and get some of the Cain stuff out-of-the-way. Here are a couple of links Boston Boomer sent me last night:  Cain launches website smearing accusers as ‘pathetic husbandless women’ | The Raw Story

Herman Cain’s struggling presidential campaign has created a new website that they say is a “fellowship of women dedicated to helping elect Herman Cain” — but the real purpose seems to be to destroy the reputation of his accusers.

While the website “Women for Cain” is chaired by Cain’s wife, Gloria Cain, it does not offer a single statement by her. Instead, it asks other women to share “thoughts and encouragement for Mr. Cain.”

The candidate has described the accusations of sexual impropriety as “character assassination on me,” but it may be the alleged victims whose characters are being assassinated with the comments his campaign has chosen to publish.

He is really trying extra hard to earn the women vote isn’t he?

Featuring a stock photo of women giving thumbs up — a photo that’s been used by numerous other websites — it quotes a woman named Barbara Dayan.

“Dear Mrs. Cain Don’t pay attention to these pathetic husbandless women who are jealous of women like you in happy long-term marriages,” Dayan wrote. “These vindictive women can’t find a husband or keep one. They are like stalkers who try to latch on to any man who shows a bit of kindness or attention to them.”

[…]

“[A]s a REAL woman I do not believe for one second any of these ‘women’ that have crawled out from under a rock somewhere to defame you and bring pain to you and your family,” Cheryl Vaglienti remarked. “They are pitiful creatures at the very least, and evil at the most. Isn’t it convenient that they have suddenly become offended by supposed advances by you now after all these years, my goodness, poor babies, how have they been able to bare up under the pain for all these oh so many years… LIARS, LIARS, LIARS…GO GET THEM HERMAN AND PLEASE DO NOT QUIT!!!!”

You can read some more comments “chosen” or should I say, “allowed” by Cain’s campaign. I don’t know, but my guess is Herman is writing his own material…if he isn’t then he must be friends with all these women, and giving them some “financial assistance,” you know…cause he is such a great guy.

In the next link, Herman Cain’s Marriage Shaken by Infidelity Charges – The Daily Beast

A close friend of one Cain’s two children explained that Herman and Gloria Cain’s marriage has seen its share of trouble over the years and his attraction to other women always played a huge role in the friction.

People Goria Cain

In this May 21, 2011 photo, Gloria Cain, left, accompanies her husband Herman Cain as he announces his run for Republican candidate for president in Atlanta. , David Goldman / AP Photo

“It never felt like a real marriage when I was around them,’’ says the friend. “Mostly he was always gone and his wife seemed to be OK with it. Not being together seemed the norm for their marriage, and Gloria didn’t seem to mind. His kids didn’t seem to mind either. ’’

The friend noted that when Cain was around, he seemed completely in his own world.

“He was king of his castle and no one questioned him,’’ says the friend. “It was an uncomfortable set-up for an outsider like me to be around. He was so indifferent to everyone. But I liked Gloria. She was warm and kind.”

Several people who know the Cain family say Gloria and Herman have even lived in separate residences over the years. “They stayed together for good face. They’re old school where you stay just because. Herman likes to give the appearance of living this holier-than-thou life. But it’s anything but,” says someone close to the family.

Well, there is a bright note to all this…it seems they have lived separate lives…for a long, long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cain backs out of the race, and Gloria finally files for divorce.

Hey, BTW, did you see the 1986 Human Resources video from Godfather’s Pizza? Herman Cain’s 1986 Sexual Harassment Training

In this 1986 sexual harassment training video for Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain explains the dos and don’ts of sex in the workplace.

Ha Ha Ha…got ya didn’t I?

More after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »


How to Buy the US Congress

Lots of political earthquakes and eruptions going on recently, so many that I missed 60 Minutes this past Sunday evening.  But fortunately, I picked up the CBS clip of an extraordinary interview that Lesley Stahl conducted with the infamous Bush-era lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.  If you haven’t seen it, gird your loins.  If you saw the original program, watch again because this 14-minute video explains in good measure exactly how the ‘train’ [the US government] went off the rails.

In one word: corruption.  But let’s use two words: systemic corruption.

Some will insist that Abramoff is an unreliable narrator, considering he spent 4 years in a medium security prison for conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion.

But who better to describe the underbelly of a wrecked, thoroughly compromised system than the best lobbyist that money could buy?  Btw, before Abramoff was nailed, he claims he ‘owned’ 100 US Congress people.  He considered that number woefully low. See 60 minutes link here.  It’s mind boggling.

That Indian Reservation scandal mentioned in the interview?  It should be noted that no other than Grover Norquist [No Taxes Ever] and Ralph Reed [Moral Majority’s darling] were involved as well.  Somehow they escaped prosecution.  The vein of corruption that infects and compromises the very heart and soul of this country runs deep.  Abramoff may be a despicable character but he’s actually doing a service [redemption?] by pulling the curtains back, letting in the light.  As Bostonboomer has said a number of times: sunlight is always the best disinfectant.

Herman Cain has been fending off accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct left and right.  I certainly don’t wish to minimize those charges.  If proven credible in the court of public opinion, those accusations will end Cain’s Presidential bid.  But Abramoff and his crew of buddies?  They’re the real professionals in the art of the screw, subversive actions raping and robbing an entire Nation.

The question is: will the American public demand a return to the Rule of Law and rout out the corruption that’s killing us.  Because as my mama always said: there’s never only one cockroach in the pantry.