Saturday, January 24, 2004

Re-examining September 11, 2001

The attacks on September 11, 2001 clearly is the defining moment shaping the world events that followed, and shaped the lives we followed after that day. This is just like previous attacks such as December 7, 1941 that shaped the events of those years.

Since this attack was clearly so significant an event, and provided justification for the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, it is worth re-examining that day.

In summary, it's clear from the following discussion that the publicly told story about this attack is not what really happened. We may never know what really happened because the truth is buried behind Top Secret classifications and Oaths of Secrecy by U.S. government personnell. Clearly the attacks of that day have greatly affected the following events and are being used as justification for even more acts. The acts taken with September 11 justification are not, apparently, in the best interest of the U.S. citizens, so in whose interest are they?

In the vacuum of not knowing, the mind wants to substitute many possibilities. Browsing through the Internet for related information, you see any number of theories proposed. The truth is that we don't know the truth, and that the Administration is actively lying to us. We can't leap to conclusions because we have limited knowledge, but the knowledge we do have shows the lie is happening every day. The lie is being allowed to continue through the apathy of the American citizenry in not demanding the truth.

By way of example, it's clear the publicly told story of President Kennedy's assassination is a fairy tale (lone gunman, lone bullet, my ass), and the truth is suppressed behind Top Secret classifications. And what of the broad range of theories have been concocted to explain what really happened on that day? The same is happening now as we try to unravel the truth of September 11, 2001.

See books & videos below

Timeline of events (FTW article)

The party line: Mohammed Atta and crew

We all know the official story of that day, because we lived through it and have been subjected to tellings and retellings of the official versions of events. The outline is something like this:

  • Terrorist cells were actively pursuing flight training for several years.
  • These cells ultimately included the 19 hijackers on the four aircraft, with Mohammed Atta being anointed with the role of leadership in this plan.
  • They lived for a time in Hamburg Germany, and for other times in Florida.
  • They were associated with al Qaeda, an organization led by Osama bin Laden and being hosted in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
  • Both organizations had been part of the effort to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan during the 1980's.
  • These organizations follow a fundamentalist and violent form of Islam.
  • The named hijackers are largely from Saudi Arabia.
  • The airplanes used in the attacks were Boeing 767 and 757's, commercial passenger airliners.
  • The airplanes were flown into their targets (the World Trade Center and the Pentagon) by the hijackers. The flight training they had sought presumably was meant to give them skills necessary to fly airliners into buildings.
  • Numerous cell-phone calls are attributed to passengers aboard these aircraft.
  • In one aircraft the passengers staged a revolt and managed to prevent the airplane from reaching an unknown target in Washington DC (presumably the White House?), and instead crashing in rural Pennsylvania.
  • The September 11, 2001 attack was part of a series of attacks that included the World Trade Center bombing conducted in the early 1990's, attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa, and the attack on the S.S. Cole.

Political fallout & resulting wars

The events since that day have been most alarming. They include

  • Launching a war in Afghanistan, supposedly with the main purpose to find Osama bin Laden.
  • The toppling of the Taliban and al Qaeda regime in Afghanistan.
  • Mysterious anthrax attacks that have never been publicly solved and are no longer mentioned.
  • A foisting upon the people of a so-called PATRIOT Act, whose provisions were approved in a closed door meeting, and which Congress did not know the details at the time they voted on the bill. This bill contains provisions which greatly erodes personal freedoms.
  • A declaration by Congress which effectively gave the President a blank check to do anything he desired for as long as he wanted to do it. One of the costs is an $87 billion requisition to pay for the war in Iraq.
  • Former Governor Ridge becoming the Secretary of Homeland Defense, a new department put into place by a President who promised to trim government but instead has overseen a huge increase in government size.
  • Nationalizing the airport security industry, by a President who promised to trim government.
  • Several mysterious security warnings and raised terror alert levels.
  • A year of building up Iraq as a serious threat, leading to a war to topple the Iraq government. This despite Iraq having nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks.
  • A national forgetting of the status of Afghanistan, and the apparent resurgence of Taliban effective control over Afghanistan, due in part to being distracted by Iraq.
  • A huge number of lies put forth to justify the Iraq threat and therefore justify the war.
  • The Iraq war was the first unilateral act of war the U.S. has ever perpetrated. Why?

Clearly, given these events, this is a time of great importance. The attack on September 11, 2001 proved to be great grounds of justification for the Administration to take a number of acts on the minds of neo-conservatives for over a decade. Acts which the typical person on the street would not have found agreeable but for the threat of danger as demonstrated by the September 11, 2001 attack.

This danger is purported to be from "terrorists". Given the lies which the Administration is known to have said, how can anything they say be trusted. These mysterious terrorist warnings which occur from time to time, can we trust that the government is telling us the truth? By raising the terror alert level they interrupt our lives, but for what? Is it more lies, or is it credible warnings of imminent danger?

The word "terrorist" is used to broadly label a certain class of activists, but not used to label the same type of activities when its done by others. One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter, yes? Terrorism is merely an act of war, because all acts of war involve creating terror in the being of your opponent. Are the IRA or the Palestinians terrorists or freedom fighters? Depends on who you ask, doesn't it? And what about the times the CIA has used car bombs against civilian targets? Doesn't that make the U.S. a terrorist state?

Did the attack really happen as we've been told?

It may seem ludicrous to ask this question. After all, some kind of attacks did happen on the day of September 11, 2001. I, myself, witnessed the results of that attack when I visited New York City during October 2001. And there are the millions of eyewitnesses who watched the events live, either in person, or on television, as they took place on that highly eventful day.

On that day I arose and, as is usual, turned on the morning NPR news (Morning Edition; broadcast over KQED). It took quite awhile for the words to sink in, since it was so strange to hear the reporters talking of the World Trade Center having collapsed, and other buildings being in danger of collapsing. Collapse? Say what? This comes from entering a story halfway through (the attacks having occurred while I was still asleep at 6:00 AM pacific time). Needless to say, once it sank in there was a definite sinking feeling in my stomach as I realized the importance.

It cannot, therefore, be questioned whether the attacks occurred. It was live on television, and the World Trade Center is definitely missing in action.

It turns out, though, that the actual story has some holes. The holes then raise doubts as to the truth of the official story. And, in the vaccuum of lacking a reasonable explanation, all sorts of theories crop up as to what could possibly have happened. This is analagous to the abundance of theories about what really happened when President Kennedy was assassinated, another case where the official party line is false (lone gunman my ass).

What are the holes?

Cell phone calls from hijacked airplanes: We were told that many passengers on the hijacked airplanes made cell phone calls. For example, a stewardess who called into the office giving an accounting of the hijacking, ending with screams of "OHMYGOD" as she realized they were flying in low over New York City. Others called home and left messages on answering machines. The most example is the passengers of the jet which crashed in Pennsylvania, that they called home, learned of the other attacks which had already happened on the World Trade Center, realized their airplane was going to be used in another attack, and decided to take matters into their own hands apparently diverting the airplane into the ground.

The problem is that cell phones can't connect to the cell phone system from the altitude airliners fly at.

Consider a few facts of physics. Cell phone towers broadcast for a 5 mile diameter (or thereabouts). You don't notice this in the city because there are so many of the towers, and they overlap pretty well to create the illusion of seamless service. But get outside of the built-up areas and coverage drops off pretty quick, doesn't it? This happens in the upward direction just as rapidly as it does in the horizontal direction. That is, an airplane cruising at 35,000 feet is at a 6-7 mile altitude, yes? Cell phone tower transmissions don't reach that far, which means the cell phones could not have been used from the hijacked airplanes.

For experimental proof, look here:

I'll point out in passing one flaw in the reasoning those researchers follow. Most airplanes nowadays have telephone service built into most seatbacks. Not that it gets used very often, but it's there. Those telephones work from airliner altitude, presumably via some other means than cell phone towers (sattelites?). It is very possible that those telephones are the ones used to make the telephone calls, and the press is just being confused when they call it "cell phone calls".

The damage to the Pentagon too small for a 757 airplane: Basically, the hole in the Pentagon was not large enough to fit a 757 aircraft. Yet, there was no debris lying around outside the Pentagon, so if a 757 did hit the building then the debris must have somehow went fully into the building. But if the hole isn't large enough to fit the airplane, then how could the debris have gone fully into the building? Further, only one engine was found inside the building, while a 757 carries two engines, and that one engine is smaller than 757 engines.

Hmmm, you say? These two articles go over the details

"It is alleged that on Sept 11, 2001 a hijacked Boeing 757, American Airlines Flight 77, hit the Pentagon. It is not in dispute that something hit the Pentagon wall and damaged it. Neither is it in dispute that AA 77 is missing. But was AA 77 involved in the Pentagon incident? This article presents an analysis of the physical aspects of the incident, and concludes with a brief examination of the issue of eyewitnesses."

A 757 aircraft has a 125 foot wingspan. However the hole in the Pentagon was about 65 feet wide. And that 65 foot hole was after collapse of a section of the Pentagon. As seen clearly in the photo's, the initial hole was much smaller, and the fire caused collapse widening the hole.

Therefore, what happened to the wings? Why weren't there many solid pieces found? The above two pages refer to many pictures of airliner crashes, most of which have relatively intact debris. Airplanes generally do not vaporise when they crash, instead there are lots of debris strewn about. One would expect the Pentagon crash, then, to also have a lot of debris, but it isn't to be found.

Strange pattern of debris in the Pennsylvania crash site: Normally when airplanes crash, the debris are localized to the crash site pretty well. However, the Pennsylvania crash site had debris, including human remains, scattered over many miles.


My take of the details presented is that it was shot down by the air force, but the government doesn't want to admit having done so.

Where were the Washington DC air defenses: Washington DC is (or should definitely be) one of the most heavily guarded pieces of airspace in the country. How could an airplane be, after two were already used against the World Trade Center, allowed to fly into that airspace and be used to attack the Pentagon? Further, why wasn't the squadron at Andrews Air Force base scrambled? Why was the squadron scrambled located in southern Virginia?


How could they identify the hijackers so quickly: Within a couple days we were told lists of names. How was this found? Simply by going through boarding manifests and listing anybody with an arabic name? Were the hijackers stupid enough to go by their real names? Wouldn't they have the means to have an alias name to go by? How is it that Mohammed Atta's passport was found in the World Trade Center wreckage, when it would have been in one of the airplanes, hence in the core of a fire which was hot enough (supposedly) to melt the support girders causing the buildings to collapse.


As noted, many of the people named by the FBI were still alive and living in Saudi Arabia. In one case, the named person had died in Florida a year before in a small airplane accident.

So much is being made over Moussaoui being potentially the "20th hijacker" when, according to the details referenced above, even the FBI Director Meuller has admitted doubt over the accuracy of the hijacker list.

How could they pin the blame on Osama bin Laden so quickly: Ditto. Especially interesting is that Osama bin Laden and his group had previously been in the employ of the CIA, during the Mujahedin war to oust Russia from Afghanistan.

Consider this press release from the U.S. Senate Republican Committee: (cached)

Under the heading "Three Key Issues for Examination" we see this statement:

2. The Militant Islamic Network (page 5): Along with the weapons, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and VEVAK intelligence operatives entered Bosnia in large numbers, along with thousands of mujahedin ("holy warriors") from across the Muslim world. Also engaged in the effort were several other Muslim countries (including Brunei, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Turkey) and a number of radical Muslim organizations. For example, the role of one Sudan-based "humanitarian organization," called the Third World Relief Agency, has been well-documented. The Clinton Administration's "hands-on" involvement with the Islamic network's arms pipeline included inspections of missiles from Iran by U.S. government officials.

The Third World Relief Agency in question is an earlier name for Osama bin Laden's operations. As late as 1995 the mujahedin, including Osama bin Laden, was heavily involved with U.S. secret services. Note the countries said to be involved are the same ones which, today, the U.S. is actively hunting the evil terrorist threat. Could it be that the U.S. knows where to hunt because we, the U.S., previously created these groups?

Some thoughts on war tax resistance

In early 2003 when the U.S. was being railroaded into fighting another war in Iraq, I was seriously looking at how I might protest this war. I did not agree with the war, because it was a distraction from the real problem (Al Qaeda) and didn't have good, to my eyes, justification. Since it was also tax season that's where my thoughts went. Could I protest the war by withdrawing my monetary support for the government? Could I become a tax resister, by engaging in tax resistance to protest the war?

Going to the local bookstore I did find a few books on the subject, and brought one home.

War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military

War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military

This book gives a very good history of tax protests over various taxes, and the legal successes and nightmares of those who attempted to do so. It sure gave me pause for reflection about the legitimacy of war tax protesting, the utility of doing so, and gave me a different route to my war protest.

First, you will run afoul of U.S. law if you neglect to pay your taxes. Consider the actual action you will have to take. If you simply do not pay your taxes, how is this to be an effective protest? Isn't effective protest when it draws peoples attention? The act of not paying your taxes isn't very visible, unless you make a big splash of it. But the more of a splash you make, the more likely you will gain the attention of law officials who will arrest and prosecute you for failure to pay taxes. Speaking for myself, my purpose does not involve being in jail.

There might be a moral high ground to take to refuse to pay taxes to support a war you find disagreeable, but if the result is jail time and nobody knowing you've taken your stand or the cost you're paying, then what's the use of taking the stand? Aren't there more effective ways to protest stupid illegal wars?

The next point of consideration is, what are taxes about? What's the purpose of taxes? For me taxes do lots more than fund the military. I wouldn't be doing this as an excuse to not pay taxes. The purpose would have been to protest the war. I agree with most of the functions of government. In agreeing with the functions of government, should I not also pay for them? Hence, should I agree to being taxed? Well, yes. Taxation is a common and relatively effective way to pay for government.

The book does cover this distinction. Many war tax protesters calculate how much of their taxes go to supporting war, and deduct that portion from their taxes. They still end up liable for paying the taxes, and there is still the question of whether it's an effective protest. The protest act of not paying taxes is private between non-tax-payer and the IRS, unless they make it public.

What I chose, in the end, is more direct. I participated in peace marches, and I began writing this web site.

I also increased my charitable donation schedule. The reasoning is that I would rather directly determine what my money is going to support, over giving it to the government, and charitable donations are a way to do this. Giving money to charity withholds it from the government, funneling it to causes I care about. Unfortunately this is an inefficient route because only around 30% (depending on your tax rate) of the money you donate to charity is returned to you in tax reduction. To totally erase your tax bill through charitable donation would bankrupt anybody.

Other resources

War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund: [] War tax resisters in the United States have a long history of witness against war. Just as conscientious objectors have resisted military service, war tax resisters have refused to pay for war as far back as colonial times. Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail for refusing to pay taxes for the Mexican-American War. More recently, thousands of American taxpayers have refused to pay part or all of their income taxes to protest the military priorities of our government.

War Resisters League

Tax Resistance: Whiskey Rebellion, Rate-Capping Rebellion, Tax Protester Statutory Arguments, Tax Protester Constitutional Arguments: Chapters: Whiskey Rebellion, Rate-capping rebellion, Tax protester statutory arguments, Tea Party movement, Tax protester constitutional arguments, History of tax resistance, Tax avoidance and tax evasion, Edward and Elaine Brown, Tax protester history, Farmers' movements in India, Bath School disaster, Salt Satyagraha, Boston Tea Party, Render unto Caesar..., Tax protester Sixteenth Amendment arguments, 1669 Jat uprising, Sricity, War of the Regulation, We the People Foundation

Tax Resistance: High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! Tax resistance is the refusal to willingly pay a tax because of opposition to the institution that is imposing the tax, or to some of that institution's policies. Tax resistance can be a form of conscientious objection (for example, some pacifists refuse to pay taxes that pay for war). Tax resistance can also be a variety of protest, or a technique of nonviolent resistance (for example, in India's campaign for independence led by Mahatma Gandhi)

American Quaker War Tax Resistance --and-- American Quaker War Tax Resistance

The 2000 US Presidential Election

The U.S. presidential election results were unprecidented, not just in U.S. history but likely world history. Let me give this capsule summary as follows:

  • The former president, Bill Clinton, was term-limited and unable to run for election. He had been impeached but not removed from power, over a somewhat "small" issue (lying about who he had sex with and where). There was a concerted effort by the "conservatives" (now called neo-conservatives) to "get" him, and especially to elect a Republican to replace him.
  • The chosen Republican, George W Bush, is the son of the president prior to Clinton (George H.W. Bush). His selection as the party candidate was a shoe-in before the primary season got underway, and was largely determined by the huge campaign donations and not the will of the voters.
  • On election night the race was too close to call, with several states reporting extremely close results between Bush and the then-current Vice President, Al Gore.
  • Though close in many states, only in Florida was the results close enough to be an issue. Hence, for the following month tense events happened in Florida to determine who the winner was.
  • The governor of Florida is George W. Bush's brother Jeb Bush.
  • George W. Bush's campaign secretary in Florida was also the Florida Secretary of State, the official in charge of ensuring a fair counting of the vote.
  • There was a questionable purging in the voter rolls of convicted felons who, under Florida law, are not allowed to vote. The purging, though, was done in a slipshod manner which appears to have disenfranchised people who had never been convicted of anything.
  • Convicted felons have a high probability of being Negro, and Negro's have a high probability of voting with the Democratic party, therefore a case can be made that being overly broad in purging felons from voter rolls you are unfairly impinging Democrats from voting. Indeed, of those purged, most were in counties which vote heavily for the Democratic party.
  • A lot of the angst about the close election fell on the punch card ballots and their hanging chads. Indeed, in trying to determine the actual vote the election officials had to look at those punch card ballots very closely. HOWEVER, the number of felons purged from the rolls dwarfed the number of ballots having hanging chad problems, so therefore any reasonable error rate in the purged felons also would dwarf the number of ballots with hanging chad problems.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Michael Moore and his work

Michael Moore (, the guy who conceived of and did Roger and Me, has gone on to become a liberal political commentator, actor, author, activist, and standup comic. His trademark tactic is intrusive butting into the affairs of the rich and mighty, in the guise of a normal guy with normal guy concerns.

Will they ever trust us again? Is a book reprinting the letters Michael Moore has received from thousands of U.S. soldiers and their families. They talk of rage and disgust, betrayal, hating the job they're doing, and more. The question Michael Moore asks through this book is, after this betrayal by the government, who will trust us?

Fahrenheit 9/11: The most controversial movie you could imagine being unveiled during a Presidential campaign. It recounts the fiasco of the last Presidential election, including discussing the highly probable outright fraud that disenfranchised tens of thousands of black Floridians in a flawed purging of "felons" from the voter rolls. It shows gutwrenching footage of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and then later more gutwrenching footage of our soldiers fighting in Iraq. He lays the case very well that the war in Iraq is a fallacy, that it is a huge distraction from the real "enemy" and more. See this movie!

Bowling For Columbine: Set in the time shortly after the Columbine "massacre" (in case you've forgotten, two high school kids went a little gun-nutty and shot up their high school killing a bunch of students), he uses the movie to explore the culture of gun violence in America.

For example, Littleton Colorado is also the home of a Lockheed Martin plant which makes guidance systems for nuclear missiles. Interesting contrast that is, to put side by side high school kids massacring each other next to the construction of nuclear missiles.

Most of the movie is spent considering why Americans kill each other at a higher rate than any other democracy in the world. Other countries have the same level of gun ownership, but not the same murder rate. Why?

Awful Truth-Complete Seasons 1 and 2: This is a TV series which Michael called The Peoples Republic Of Television. Through the TV show he covered various current events in his signature guerrilla video style, always staying close to humanity all the way. The result is hilarious and at the same time thought provoking.

In the beginning there was a free press. Well, not really, but it sounded good. By the end of the millennium five men who controlled the worlds media, and we ate their crap up with a spoon. Yet there was one man who operated outside their control. He and his crew were known as the Peoples Democratic Republic of Television (PDRTV). Their mission: to bring the people The Awful Truth.

For example, during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, he hired a bunch of actors to dress up in Puritan costume and lead fake witch trials on the streets of Washington DC. In another show he interviewed a young man who was being denied a life-saving operation (pancreas transplant) by Humana, and otherwise he was at risk of dieing every day. In covering the interview he gave a brief overview of Humana's financial and profit status, executive compensation, bonus plans for employees that deny health coverage, and then proceeded to stage a fake funeral outside Humana's headquarters in Louisville, KY.

To honor the murder of Matthew Shepard, he got a Winnebego, painted it pink, called it the Sodomomobile, and with a crew of gay and lesbian cohorts took a road trip through states where "sodomy" is against the law aiming to break as many laws as they could in every one of the states.

Roger and Me: Michael Moore's seminal movie released in 1989, during the height of the Reaganomics disaster. The movie covers Michael's attempts to get an interview with Roger Smith, the Chairman of General Motors, to explain why they chose to close 11 assembly plants in the Flint Michigan area.

Stupid White Men Michael Moore's screed against "Thief-in-Chief" George Bush's power elite, hit No. 1 at within days of publication. Why? It's as fulminating and crammed with infuriating facts as any right-wing bestseller, as irreverent as The Onion, and as noisily entertaining as a wrestling smackdown. Moore offers a more interesting critique of the 2000 election than Ralph Nader's Crashing the Party (he argued with Nader, his old boss, who sacked him), and he's serious when he advocates ousting Bush. But Moore's rage is outrageous, couched in shameless gags and madcap comedy: "Old white men wielding martinis and wearing dickies have occupied our nation's capital.... Launch the SCUD missiles! Bring us the head of Antonin Scalia!... We are no longer [able] to hold free and fair elections. We need U.N. observers, U.N. troops." Moore's ideas range from on-the-money (Arafat should beat Sharon with Gandhi's nonviolent shame tactics) to over-the-top: blacks should put inflatable white dolls in their cars so racist cops will think they're chauffeurs; the ever-more-Republicanesque Democratic Party should be sued for fraud; "no contributions toward advancing our civilization ever came out of the South [except Faulkner, Hellman, and R.J. Reynolds]," because it's too hot to think straight there; Korean dictator Kim Jong-il "has got to broaden himself beyond porn and John Wayne" by watching better movies, like Dude, Where's My Car? (which contains "all you need to know about America"). Whatever your politics, Stupid White Men should make you blow your stack. --Tim Appelo

Dude, Where's My Country? The people of the United States, according to author and filmmaker Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Stupid White Men), have been hoodwinked. Tricked, he says, by Republican lawmakers and their wealthy corporate pals who use a combination of concocted bogeymen and lies to stay rich and in control. But while plenty of liberal scholars, entertainers, and pundits have made similar arguments in book form, Moore's Dude, Where's My Country? stands out for its thoroughly positive perspective. Granted, Moore is angry and has harsh words for George W. Bush and his fellow conservatives concerning the reasoning behind going to war in Iraq, the collapse of Enron and other companies, and the relationship between the Bushes, the Saudi Arabian government, and Osama bin Laden. But his book is intended to serve as a handbook for how people with liberal opinions (which is most of America, Moore contends, whether they call themselves "liberals" or not) can take back their country from the conservative forces in power. Moore uses his trademark brand of confrontational, exasperated humor skillfully as he offers a primer on how to change the worldview of one's annoying conservative blowhard brother-in-law, and he crafts a surprisingly thorough "Draft Oprah for President" movement. Refreshingly, Dude, Where's My Country? avoids being completely one-sided, offering up areas where Moore believes Republicans get it right as well as some cutting criticisms of his fellow lefties. Such allowances, brief though they may be, make one long for a political climate where the shouting polemicists on both sides would see a few more shades of gray. Dude, Where's My Country? is a little bit scattered, as Moore tries to cram opinions on Iraq, tax cuts, corporate welfare, Wesley Clark, and the Patriot Act into one slim volume--and the penchant to go for a laugh sometimes gets in the way of clear arguments. But such variety also gives the reader more Moore, providing a broader range of his bewildered, enraged, yet stalwartly upbeat point of view. --John Moe

Downsize This! Who says the left wing doesn't have a sense of humor? Maybe it doesn't, but documentarian Michael Moore sure does--Exhibit A was Roger & Me; B was the ill-fated TV Nation; and C is 1997's print skirmish Downsize This! Moore's politics are rabidly liberal, populist, and anti-big business--about what you'd expect from the former editor of Mother Jones. While this restricts his audience to Americans on the left side of the aisle, for them Downsize This! will be a chance to point and laugh hysterically (if ruefully) at the clique of rich white guys who run everything. Moore is at his best as a prankster, whether it's trying to see if Pat Buchanan will take a campaign donation from the John Wayne Gacy Fan Club (yes) or whether he can have Bob Dornan committed to an insane asylum based on his bizarre behavior (no, but it was close). Moore is one of our sharpest satirists, and Downsize This! makes one wish he would write a "Sorry State of the Union" every year. But only if it doesn't cut into his moviemaking--that's too big a price to pay. --Michael Gerber

Moore M-Michael Moore Collectors Set 3pk

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Noam Chomsky and his work

In my college years I had a thought, for awhile, to take a Minor in Linguistics, but changed my mind over how far into the future graduation would have been delayed. Still, I took some Linguistics classes, some of whom which centered on Linguistic theories by a controversal researcher by the name of Noam Chomsky. Imagine my surprise several years later to learn that he's also a controversial politics researcher, making a profession of saying the King has no clothes (or in this case, those who typically hold power in the U.S. government).

Noam Chomsky: Distorted Morality - America's War on Terror?

Any time you hear anything said very confidently, the first thing you should as is 'Wait a minute, is that true?'

This is a lecture given at Harvard University in the context of early 2002. The September 11, 2001 attack had occurred, the war in Afghanistan had occurred, but the main justifications leading the world to agree to attack Iraq had not yet begun in earnest. The two part thesis is:

  1. We are all total hypocrites around the war on terror. Note the meaning of hypocrite, namely those who apply standards to others which they refuse to apply to themselves.
  2. The first thesis is so obvious, it takes effort to miss it.

The first question to answer is, "what is terrorism". Rather than go into an hour long lecture on defining terrorism, he turns to a definitive source, the U.S. government (in the guise of a 1984 U.S. Army training manual)

Terrorism is the calculated use of violence, or the threat of violence, to produce goals that are political or ideological in nature.

A reasonable definition, yes? But, wait, there's more.

Most of the lecture he spends describing actions by the U.S., Israeli, British and a few other governments which certainly fill the definition of Terrorism. Generally these events are not reported in the press, hence do not enter the public record of generally known events, and thus get sidelined as historical events. In other words, this is the model that history is written by the winners of the battle. In this case it is the U.S. government (and related governments) which is the Master and controlling the outcome of the world politics game, and it is the U.S. government (and related governments) who are writing history and controlling what is reported which will become the written history.

For example he outlines a series of events in 1985, a year that was a high point in terrorist activities:

  1. A car bombing in Beirut, outside of a mosque. Timed to happen just as people were leaving prayers, so that it would cause the most damage. Target? A Muslim Sheik. Perpetrators? The CIA, approved by William Casey.
  2. The Iron Fist operations in southern Lebanon carried out by the Shimon Peres government. This was an illegal act, because of a U.N. resolution ordering Israel to leave southern Lebanon. There was widespread kidnapping, torture, and murder of Lebanese there, clearly fitting the definition of terrorism.
  3. A few days before Shimon Peres came to Washington DC to declare, with President Reagan, denouncements of terrorism, Israel launched an attack against Tunisia. They bombed and killed many civilians. So that the U.S. military wouldn't have to notify Tunisia of the attack, the 7th fleet was withdrawn from the area.

These events didn't receive much coverage in the press, and are not discussed in the public eye as terrorist events. Instead what's given as examples of terrorism in 1985 is the hijacking of a TWA flight, and the hijacking of the Achilles Lauro (in which attack Leon Klinghoffer was killed).

In the war against Afghanistan, October 2001, he quotes President Bush as an example of this kind of terrorist act. Namely, "We will keep bombing you until you hand over Osama bin Laden". In other words, we (the U.S.) will keep terrorizing you (Afghanistan) until you do as we say. Later we saw this repeated again in the attack on Iraq, spun as "Shock and Awe", which is simply a niceified phrase for Causing Terror.

Is it at all rational to, as he points out, make a war on terror? War, by its very nature, causes terror. Thus, by making war actions such as invading countries and engaging in battle, you are using Terror to "defeat" Terrorism. Doesn't this strike you as insane?

Instead of the official definition of terror given above, he offers this:

Terrorism is acts of Terror that 'they' do to 'us'

If you think about it, this is the way Terrorism is presented in the mainstream press, and by the public statements of government officials and others in places of power. But, is this really terrorism? Isn't the above definition closer to what terrorism is? Why is the honest definition of terrorism not what is being addressed by governments?

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Manufacturing Consent

The video serves as a great introduction to Noam Chomsky, his work, and the controversies. Set in the context of the release of the original version of his book, Manufacturing Consent, it shows excerpts of interviews of him from all periods of his life and work. The video presents not just the message he has been speaking and writing for decades, but also a capsule portrait of what life is like for a controversial intellectual who has human frailties. Finally, the video gives a good introduction to the political result which Chomsky would wish for the world, namely collectivist work on small scale institutions (e.g. the Kibbutz model).

Much of the material presented circles around how the Media is used to channel the interests of the Masses, diverting them from meddling in the affairs of the Elite who are governing Society.

He gives the example of England in the 1600's. The printing press had just been developed, and was being used to create the popular media. One result was a great turmoil in beliefs and ideas, the spawning of political movements, and more. In the midst of the turmoil, in 1660, he quotes an historian as saying:

They have made the people thereby so curious and so arrogant that they will never find humility enough to submit to a civil rule.

They, the ideas being pushed through the nascent popular press of the day, was being printed by unchecked media outlets and, in other words, making it so that the elite could no longer rule their people. His claim is that in the centuries since, the media outlets are more and more controlled, so that the message reaching the masses is more and more controlled, so that the masses are ruled by the elite.

Is Democracy just a game for the elite? Is it proper and correct for the masses to be marginilized and controlled?

"Propoganda is to a democracy what violence is to a dictatorship" - Noam Chomsky

Propoganda is the old word for the manufacturing of consent. In other words, the dissemination of ideas and stories that are purposely constructed to control the resulting beliefs held by the masses who watch and consume those stories.

Public Opinion by Walter Lipman: This book, written in the 1920s, is referred to as a seminal work in democratic theory and the role of media in shaping opinions. In the book it is said "the manufacture of consent is a revolution in the practice of democracy".

The major decisions of life are controlled and in the hands of a very small and narrowly focused group of individuals. They may not act in a formal cabal that fits a conspiracist model, but they have common interests nonetheless. Namely, profit and the commonly held idea of how to create that profit.

The propoganda model he presents is the result of studying the structure of the media in how it operates. It has these roles in society:

  • The selection of topics in the political debate both in the world and the U.S.
  • The distribution of concerns or channeling whatever is the current topic of concern that's supposed to be in the public eye right now.
  • Forming the emphasis on one story over another.
  • The framing of issues as they are presented to the public, so that the public always receives events predigested for them by experts.
  • The filtering of information through choosing what to publish.
  • And the bounding of debate.

In other words, the media acts to determine, select, shape, control and restrict the public debate of the masses. It may appear there is a healthy debate going on between the news media and the political class, but where is the public in that debate? How can the public make their views known and addressed when it is the media that is presenting the questions? And not just presenting the questions, but writing the description of the answers.

By way of example the video goes over the history of East Timor, and to contrast it with the events in Cambodia at the same time. The East Timorese were a former Portuguese colony that was let go by Portugal during the 1970's. Rather than being allowed to govern themselves, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia, the invasion funded by the United States, arms and armor provided by the United States, a big massacre conducted using the U.S. provided arms, and why?

In Cambodia, by contrast, there were two periods of death and destruction. Before 1975, while the U.S. was still active in Vietnam, Cambodia was being "secretly" bombed by the U.S. causing a great deal of death. After the U.S. "withdrew" from Vietnam, Cambodia fell into a cycle of violence led by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, resulting in the deaths of several hundred thousand people. In the first phase of Cambodia's violence, that perpetrated by the U.S., very little coverage (next to zero) of the events appeared in the mainstream media such as the NY Times. After the Khmer Rouge took over to conduct their violence, there was massive coverage.

At the same time, both happened in 1975, East Timor was being subjugated by Indonesia using U.S. provided arms and assistance. Very little coverage of the East Timor events appeared in mainstream media such as the NY Times. What is the difference in coverage? Well, Pol Pot's Cambodia received 1170 column inches in the NY Times, while East Timor received 70. Yet both countries suffered a similar amount of massacring of its citizens at the exact same time.