Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dissent? Not in the Land of Free Speech

NOTE -- I've written a lot over the years about the illegal wars in Central America during the Ray-gun years. But our Latin America experience predates that: The Frank Church commission that found USA complicit in murdering Salvadore Allende, democratically elected in Chile. Before that, Vallejo, Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the United Fruit Company. Major US corporations sending blood into the streets of Central American countries, and South America. I did plenty of work covering the fake War on Drugs while reporting on the border in Arizona, Texas and the other side, Mexico.

It's easy to see how my brethern faculty have caved in. My media cronies, they've been rooted out and legit journalism is all but gone -- FROM the so-called MAIN Stream. From many camps' points of view, that stream in mainstream represents a lot of elephant "you know what." Yellow journalism has turned into Corporate Sound Bytes.

And here's the sad news this morning: I've been asked by a friend to scrub a pretty mild interview of him from my column in the Spokesman Review's Down to Earth North West. Because he fears retaliation as an artist, fears coming from an agent who says state funding and grants and sponsors in the private sector might blackball him for some pretty tame words tied to the British Petroleum debacle in his southern sphere. He fears not being able to photograph and fund his art.

Brave New World. Complicit consumers to the corporate lies. What do we give young people now to protest injustice, environmental terrorism and their own bankrupt society that places CEOs' profits over their futures -- affordable education is now on the chopping block and being bled empty.

You don't treat abused dogs like we treat our youth. They will either rebel, zone out, or flip out. Why not concentrate on education for all, not for some rich elite?

We shall see how the techies, the IT gurus, the Google and Amazon lovers and the rest of that skewed part of our class-stratified society will do when their lives are put to shame because they failed to protect their society, their cities, their world. People have to do the work of civilization in a warming climate globe. It's not about IT and Facebook and all the next line of bells and whistles. It's about builders, educators, biologists, thinkers, planners, crafts people, and all the other folk working seriously on sustainability.


Here's Chris Hedges, and you all should read some of his books, listen to his talks on the Internet, find him, his articles.

Hedges: We're Losing Our Intelligence -- How the Purge of True Dissent Has Starved Our Discourse

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig

Posted on November 15, 2010, Printed on November 21, 2010

The blacklisted mathematics instructor Chandler Davis, after serving six months in the Danbury federal penitentiary for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), warned the universities that ousted him and thousands of other professors that the purges would decimate the country’s intellectual life.

“You must welcome dissent; you must welcome serious, systematic, proselytizing dissent—not only the playful, the fitful, or the eclectic; you must value it enough, not merely to refrain from expelling it yourselves, but to refuse to have it torn from you by outsiders,” he wrote in his 1959 essay “...From an Exile.” “You must welcome dissent not in a whisper when alone, but publicly so potential dissenters can hear you. What potential dissenters see now is that you accept an academic world from which we are excluded for our thoughts. This is a manifest signpost over all your arches, telling them: Think at your peril. You must not let it stand. You must (defying outside power; gritting your teeth as we grit ours) take us back.”

But they did not take Davis back. Davis, whom I met a few days ago in Toronto, could not find a job after his prison sentence and left for Canada. He has spent his career teaching mathematics at the University of Toronto. He was one of the lucky ones. Most of the professors ousted from universities never taught again. Radical and left-wing ideas were effectively stamped out. The purges, most carried out internally and away from public view, announced to everyone inside the universities that dissent was not protected. The confrontation of ideas was killed.

“Political discourse has been impoverished since then,” Davis said. “In the 1930s it was understood by anyone who thought about it that sales taxes were regressive. They collected more proportionately from the poor than from the rich. Regressive taxation was bad for the economy. If only the rich had money, that decreased economic activity. The poor had to spend what they had and the rich could sit on it. Justice demands that we take more from the rich so as to reduce inequality. This philosophy was not refuted in the 1950s and it was not the target of the purge of the 1950s. But this idea, along with most ideas concerning economic justice and people’s control over the economy, was cleansed from the debate. Certain ideas have since become unthinkable, which is in the interest of corporations such as Goldman Sachs. The power to exclude certain ideas serves the power of corporations. It is unfortunate that there is no political party in the United States to run against Goldman Sachs. I am in favor of elections, but there is no way I can vote against Goldman Sachs.”

The silencing of radicals such as Davis, who had been a member of the Communist Party, although he had left it by the time he was investigated by HUAC, has left academics and intellectuals without the language, vocabulary of class war and analysis to critique the ideology of globalism, the savagery of unfettered capitalism and the ascendancy of the corporate state. And while the turmoil of the 1960s saw discontent sweep through student bodies with some occasional support from faculty, the focus was largely limited to issues of identity politics—feminism, anti-racism—and the anti-war movements.

The broader calls for socialism, the detailed Marxist critique of capitalism, the open rejection of the sanctity of markets, remained muted or unheard. Davis argues that not only did socialism and communism become outlaw terms, but once these were tagged as heresies, the right wing tried to make liberal, secular and pluralist outlaw terms as well. The result is an impoverishment of ideas and analysis at a moment when we desperately need radical voices to make sense of the corporate destruction of the global economy and the ecosystem. The “centrist” liberals manage to retain a voice in mainstream society because they pay homage to the marvels of corporate capitalism even as it disembowels the nation and the planet.

“Repression does not target original thought,” Davis noted. “It targets already established heretical movements, which are not experimental but codified. If it succeeds very well in punishing heresies, it may in the next stage punish originality. And in the population, fear of uttering such a taboo word as communism may in the next stage become general paralysis of social thought.”

It is this paralysis he watches from Toronto. It is a paralysis he predicted. Opinions and questions regarded as possible in the 1930s are, he mourns, now forgotten and no longer part of intellectual and political debate. And perhaps even more egregiously the fight and struggle of radical communists, socialists and anarchists in the 1930s against lynching, discrimination, segregation and sexism were largely purged from the history books. It was as if the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had no antecedents in the battles of the Wobblies as well as the socialist and communist movements.

“Even the protests that were organized entirely by Trotskyists were written out of history,” Davis noted acidly.

Those who remained in charge of American intellectual thought went on to establish the wider “heresy of leftism” in the name of academic objectivity. And they have succeeded. Universities stand as cowardly, mute and silent accomplices of the corporate state, taking corporate money and doing corporate bidding. And those with a conscience inside the walls of the university understand that tenure and promotion require them to remain silent.

“Not only were a number of us driven out of the American academic scene, our questions were driven out,” said Davis, who at 84 continues to work as emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto. “Ideas which were on the agenda a hundred years ago and sixty years ago have dropped out of memory because they are too far from the new center of discourse.”

Davis has published science fiction stories, is the editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer and is an innovator in the theory of operators and matrices. He is a director of Science for Peace. He also writes poetry. His nimble mind ranges swiftly in our conversation over numerous disciplines and he speaks with the enthusiasm and passion of a new undergraduate. His commitment to radical politics remains fierce and undiminished. And he believes that the loss of his voice and the voices of thousands like him, many of whom were never members of the Communist Party but had the courage to challenge the orthodoxy of the Cold War and corporate capitalism, deadened intellectual and political discourse in the United States.

During World War II Davis joined the Navy and worked on the minesweeping research program. But by the end of the war, with the saturation bombings of Dresden and Tokyo, as well as the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he came to regret his service in the military. He has spent most of his life working in a variety of anti-war and anti-nuclear movements.

“In retrospect I am sorry I didn’t declare myself as a conscientious objector,” he said. “Not at the beginning of the war, because if you are ever going to use military force for anything, that was a situation in which I would be happy to do it. I was wholehearted about that. But once I knew about the destruction of Dresden and the other massacres of civilian populations by the Allies, I think the ethical thing to do would have been to declare myself a CO.”

He was a “Red diaper baby.” His father was a professor, union agitator and member of the old Communist Party who was hauled in front of HUAC shortly before his son. Davis grew up reading New Masses and moved from one city to the next because of his father’s frequent firings.

“I was raised in the movement,” he said. “It wasn’t a cinch I would be in the Communist Party, but in fact I was, starting in 1943 and then resigning soon after on instructions from the party because I was in the military service. This was part of the coexistence of the Communist Party with Roosevelt and the military. It would not disrupt things during the war. When I got out of the Navy I rejoined the Communist Party, but that lapsed in June of 1953. I never got back in touch with them. At the time I was subpoenaed I was technically an ex-Communist, but I did not feel I had left the movement and in some sense I never did.”

Davis got his doctorate from Harvard in mathematics and seemed in the 1950s destined for a life as a professor. But the witch hunts directed against “Reds” swiftly ended his career on the University of Michigan faculty. He mounted a challenge to the Committee on Un-American Activities that went to the Supreme Court. The court, ruling in 1960, three years after Joseph McCarthy was dead, denied Davis’ assertion that the committee had violated the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. He was sent to prison. Davis, while incarcerated, authored a research paper that had an acknowledgement reading: “Research supported in part by the Federal Prison System. Opinions expressed in this paper are the author’s and are not necessarily those of the Bureau of Prisons.”

Davis, who has lived in Canada longer than he lived in the United States, said that his experience of marginalization was “good for the soul and better for the intellect.”

“Though you see the remnants of the former academic left still, though some of us were never fired, though I return to the United States from my exile frequently, we are gone,” he said. “We did not survive as we were. Some of us saved our skins without betraying others or ourselves. But almost all of the targets either did crumble or were fired and blacklisted. David Bohm and Moses Finley and Jules Dassin and many less celebrated people were forced into exile. Most of the rest had to leave the academic world. A few suffered suicide or other premature death. There weren’t the sort of wholesale casualties you saw in Argentina or El Salvador, but the Red-hunt did succeed in axing a lot of those it went after, and cowing most of the rest. We were out, and we were kept out.”

“I was a scientist four years past my Ph.D. and the regents’ decision was to extinguish, it seemed, my professional career,” he said. “What could they do now to restore to me 35 years of that life? If it could be done, I would refuse. The life I had is my life. It’s not that I’m all that pleased with what I’ve made of my life, yet I sincerely rejoice that I lived it, that I don’t have to be Professor X who rode out the 1950s and 1960s in his academic tenure and his virtuously anti-Communist centrism.”

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is a senior fellow at the Nation Institute. He writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday. His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Derrick Jensen on Democracy Now

The critique Derrick gives on Democracy Now is what I have been also facilitating through years of writing, radio broadcasts and education, as well as activism. This is an important look at environmentalism and resistance. We need a voice like Derrick Jensen here, in Spokane, and elsewhere. So, how does that happen in a world where up is down, science is belief, ghosts are real and ocean acidification is a fairy tale?

Is civilization sustainable? Or is the Stone Age the only age that is sustainable?

Check out the interview, but still, read his stuff that make up a pantheon of great philosophy tied to the environmental movement. Also, Matt Taibbi has a great new book out,

Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America," published by Random House, 2010.

Here's his piece that ties into that stupidity --

"Taibbi: the Tea Party Moron Complex

By rallying behind dingbats and morons like Palin and Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party has made anti-intellectualism its rallying cry"

from Democracy Now:

Author and Activist Derrick Jensen: "The Dominant Culture is Killing the Planet...It’s Very Important for Us to Start to Build a Culture of Resistance"

Derrick Jensen has been called the poet-philosopher of the ecological movement. He has written some 15 books critiquing contemporary society and the destruction of the environment. His many books include A Language Older than Words, Endgame, What We Left Behind, Resistance against Empire, and Deep Green Resistance. We play Part I of our conversation with him. "I think a lot of us are increasingly recognizing that the dominant culture is killing the planet," Jensen says. "I think it’s very important for us to start to build a culture of resistance, because what we’re doing isn’t working, clearly."

Nov. 15, 2010 show

"Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change"

by Derrick Jensen

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tea baggers are having a Mad Hatter Tea Party at the expense of Sanity?

Here's the driving force of why PacifiCAD, I believe, has created a sustainability blog, allowing for better and thoughtful ways to explain science, technology, planning, climate change, and the general attack upon science. Here's one of a thousand negatives generated from these mid-term elections:

"Another recent phenomenon? Half of new Congressmen don’t believe in the reality of global warming. It’s not that they don’t just disagree on the source or the severity of the problem. They flat out don’t think the world is getting warmer--despite the evidence outside their windows."

Read this below, from

Just as the election season began heating up earlier this year, Newsweek published a list of “Dumb Things Americans Believe.” While some of them are garden-variety lunacy, a surprising number are lies that were fed to Americans by our leaders on the far-Right. This demonstrates that media-fed lies can easily become ingrained in the collective memory if they’re not countered quickly and surely. Newsweek’s list included the following 12 statistics taken from recent and semi-recent polls and surveys. The first half are directly related to right-wing rumormongering.

•Nearly one-fifth of Americans think Obama is a Muslim. Thanks, Fox news, for acting like this was a matter of opinion, not fact.

•25 percent of Americans don’t believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution while less than 40 percent do. Consider the fact that several of our newly elected officials, specifically newly elected Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, share that belief.

•Earlier this year, nearly 40 percent of Americans still believed the Sarah Palin-supported lie about "death panels" being included in health care reform.

•As of just a few years ago, about half of Americans still suspected a connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11, a lie that was reinforced by none other than Dick Cheney.

•While a hefty amount of this demonstrable cluelessness gets better as the respondents get younger, all is not well in the below-30 demographic. A majority of “young Americans” cannot identify Iraq or Afghanistan--the places their peers are fighting and dying--on a map.

•Two out of five Americans, despite the whole separation of church and state being a foundation of our democracy thing, think teachers should be able to lead prayer in classrooms. So it seems those right-wingers clamoring to tear down the wall between church and state aren’t the only ones who don’t know their constitutional principles.

•Many Americans still believe in witchcraft, ESP and other supernatural phenomena. Does that explain why Christine O’Donnell was so quick to deny her “dabbling”?

•Speaking of antiquated religious beliefs, about a decade ago, 20 percent of Americans still believed that the sun revolves around the earth. That's just sad, considering that even the Vatican has let Galileo off the hook for being right.

•Only about half of Americans realize that Judaism is the oldest of the three monotheistic religions. Other examples of wild misunderstanding about religion and the separation of church and state can be found in this fall’s Pew survey on Americans’ religious knowledge.

•This one made a huge splash when it appeared. In 2006 more Americans were able to name two of the “seven dwarves” than two of the Supreme Court justices. And that was before Kagan and Sotomayor showed up. To be fair, Happy and Sleepy are easy to remember.

•More Americans can identify the Three Stooges than the three branches of government--you know, the ones who are jockeying over our welfare.

So what to do in a political and cultural landscape in which well-told lies have more validity than fact-based truth? Perlstein explained how this environment gets created by explaining what happened on Election Day this year:

“ a two-to-one margin likely voters thought their taxes had gone up, when, for almost all of them, they had actually gone down. Republican politicians, and conservative commentators, told them Barack Obama was a tax-mad lunatic. They lied. The mainstream media did not do their job and correct them. The White House was too polite—"civil," just like Obama promised—to say much. So people believed the lie.”

We’ve entered a bizzarro world in which calling out lies is considered rude, says Perlstein, so liars are allowed to sit tight and dominate the discourse. This gels with Bill Maher’s critique of the Rally for Sanity, that calling for “balance for balance’s sake” ignores two important aspects of news reporting: facts and evidence.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Some anniversaries should be left well alone

Six-month mark of BP oil mess throws shaky science, systems thinking out the window

*Note -- This is one of several stories working toward some sanity on what went wrong with this country's oil industry, the government, the politicians, and the media tied to the worst environmental disaster thus far this country has experienced.

**Second Note -- The mid-term elections and the current state of fear in this country will make for a few more pieces or blogs on this spot.

***Third Note -- Photos from Matthew White, photographer,

By Paul K. Haeder

The magic in Eduardo Galeano’s “Memory of Fire” is tied to his poor performance as a history student. He felt the classes were like visits to the waxworks or “Region of the Dead.”

“The past was lifeless, hollow, dumb,” he writes in the first of the trilogies, “Genesis.” “They taught us about the past so that we should resign ourselves with drained consciences to the present: not to make history, which was already made, but to accept it.”

The history in the making now, especially tied to the current drawing-down of the decade, is tied to the spasms of collective ignorance and media myopia tied to why the world is tipping: food security is shattered because of climate; up is down in the world of tea party thinking; Haiti represents the loss of collective planning; oil ooze has now ended up in the most important part of life on earth.

Ninety percent of all marine species live at least part of their life associated with the bottom, called the benthic zone. Of course, the benthic mode of life includes species found in the intertidal, shelf, bathyal, abyssal, and hadal zones.

We barely are understanding the species living under the surface of the bottom of the ocean (called infauna). BP and ExxonMobil and the other oil barons know little about the work geologists and marine scientists are carrying out on bottom of the ocean, a major area of decomposition where organic material is are recycled.

In fact, early in the BP mess back in May, it came to light that British Petroleum’s so deemed marine science expert had been deceased for several years. No replacement chief scientist, no memorandum of agreement with any of the dozens of doctoral-level universities in the Gulf region studying geology and oceans.

“No one knows what effects this unprecedented chemistry experiment might have on the region’s living things, but many scientists fear the worst,” Susan Casey, the editor-in-chief of “O,” writes in the September edition. “The ocean’s senior denizens, its magnificent predators, the toothed and the finned, the small and the humble, the ancient corals, the exquisitely adapted: At best they will suffer. At worst, they’ll be gone.”

The history of the Gulf is one of exploration, interesting indigenous patterns, cultural diversity, conquest, greed and corporate and political exploitation. Now, as we go into the next decade, all North Americans can proudly say we are a part of the mess emanating from the Gulf.

The story has played out elsewhere – the Heart of Darkness in the Congo when King Leopold helped to fuel several million deaths in that exploitation for resources; or the French helping push into a death cycle several million in Indochina during the past century’s rubber frenzy.

Galeano writes about the Americas – all three – in his award-winning book, “Memory of Fire.” In those passages, we see the exploitation played out throughout our collective history. What’s happened in the Gulf just in six months has opened wounds of exploitation and disharmony.

“Through out the centuries,” Galeano writes, “Latin America has been despoiled of gold and silver, nitrates and rubber, copper and oil: its memory has been usurped. From the outset it has been condemned to amnesia by those who have prevented it from being.”

The Gulf could be a region of sustainable energy, fishing, aqua-farmed oysters. Instead, it’s a ravaged set of ecosystems and cultural designs, centered largely on gas, oil, toxic by-products of the age of plastic and obsolescence.

The amnesia he talks about played out a just few weeks ago in the Gulf.

It’s almost surreal, how thousands packed into the Cajun Dome in Lafayette recently to hang and burn effigies of President Barack Obama as tea bagging nihilists blamed him for the troubles in the Gulf.

“You have to wonder what they were thinking,” said New Orleans-based photographer and college instructor Matthew White in a recent interview on KYRS.

There weren’t insults to British Petroleum, Transocean, or Halliburton. No cutouts fashioned after Tony Hayward, the former boss of BP. No petition drive to sue Nalco Holding Company, the producer of Corexit. No bulls-eyes painted on the faces of corporate heads of ExxonMobil.

“It’s absolutely bizarre that David Vitter and all the other politicians were in the Cajun Dome blaming Obama for the oil spill,” White said.

Vitter is the Republican U.S. senator who admitted to visiting a madame or two while in Congress in 2008 and who also pleaded guilty to assault charges against a girlfriend.

Six months later, we have a Voltaire drama unfolding, but thank goodness for
Mother Jones magazine. ProPublica, Democracy Now, Terry Tempest Williams, Jerry Cope and Ian McDonald, as well as countless other scientists bucking the BP spin machine and oil industry thuggery and intellectual dishonesty.

Journalists and editors who didn’t pull up stakes in the Gulf region have given voice to those scientists and researchers who keep talking about a plume of hydrocarbons more than 24 miles long and 500 fathoms below the surface. They’ve given the rest of America a chance to see the human cost of this gash in the skin of the ocean bottom.

The latest news since the well was supposedly capped Aug. 5, as reported by mainstream media, is the cost to BP — $40 billion in a probable payout. Plus, the fact that BP’s quarterly profits topped $2 billion.

There was the headline proclaiming how Hayward demanded an apology from Obama, and blames the U.S. administration for all of the stress and vagaries in his poor life.

Another story chronicled Halliburton admitting it failed to properly test the cement used to seal the well before it blew out. Then the recriminations leveled at the Obama administration for lifting the moratorium on deep-ocean drilling.

The entire mess has been one misstep after another, reaching this apotheosis of the company which screwed up the construction and application of the blowout preventer – the one that failed and allowed 400 million of gallons to bleed into the Gulf – being put in charge of testing their own device. No questions asked.

Do you hear the tea party galloping up in the rear? No oversight, no scientific inquiries launched by joint academic-government panels, no fines, taxes, fees or limits put on the polluters and economic hit men.

Six months after the disaster, and we are seeing a narrative skewed by mid-term election follies, the most expensive political B-movie ever, topping $3 billion for all those crummy races.

Six months after the spill and we still see the liability directed at oil companies capped to an absurd level; no climate change bill has been passed; no national oil response legislation has even been voted on.

Then there are all the lies and scientific distortions, having produced a terrible toxic brew of a country – an industry, too – which can’t get the story right, can’t prepare for another blowout, and can’t mitigate and stop the bleed when it will happen.

Another well will blow out, that is guaranteed, especially at depths of 6,000 feet under water. Relief wells are still being drilled, at 15,800 and 17,900 feet down.

Mainstream media have their panties in a bunch about the tea baggers who want the Environmental Protection Agency to be disbanded, and any government oversight to be dismembered and put into the hands of Walmart, Exxon, Monsanto, Blackwater, DuPont and Rupert Murdoch.

You get the picture: Science and independent investigation get trumped by PR spin and industry self-policing.

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