#22 A Brief Note on Politics; Free Speech Pt. IV

mine siberia

This image is of the Mir Mine, an inactive diamond mine in Siberia.  It’s about 3900′ in diameter.  The air space above is closed to helicopters, which can be sucked into the pit by the downward flow of air, according to Amusing Planet.  Per Amusing Planet, operating the mine was no walk in the park.  The winter weather is so cold that car tires would burst, oil would freeze, and the workers at the mine would use jet engines to burn through the permafrost.

 

 

Mir mine, siberia

My favorite quote regarding this subject is on a reddit page about the inactive mine:

The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dûm…

 

MAKING LIFE HARD FOR RT

Bearing in mind the Bana Alabed RT Redacted Tonight  video on youtube I urged you to click on– which I believe is a valuable piece of reporting (albeit presented in an infotainment-style format)– let’s briefly discuss RT / Russia Today’s governmental status.  When it was launched in 2005, Svetlana Mironyuk, the director-general of RIA Novosti (the Russian news agency which was subsequently closed around the end of 2013), said that the purpose of RT is to give an alternative to the gloomy image Westerners have of life in Russia.  In her words, “[u]nfortunately, at the level of mass consciousness in the West, Russia is associated with three words: communism, snow and poverty,” she says. “We would like to present a more complete picture of life in our country.”

That seems fair enough.  As far as I know, the evidence that RT is “state controlled” or “government run” or “Russian Propaganda” versus merely “publicly financed” (the way the BBC is publicly financed) is not conclusive, despite what the MSM and our government wants you to believe.

Of course, I do suspect that RT is indeed slow to publish pieces critical of President Putin.  But then again, our own mainstream media isn’t exactly critical of our “bosses.” In America– and I think most of us realize this even if we don’t like to admit it– our bosses are the permanent political class (including the intelligence community and corporate lobbyists) and the very, very rich people who pay for political campaigns and who own media and arms companies.  As usual, no one can beat Caitlin Johnstone’s succinct description of the situation– see this article.  Again– CNN, WaPo, MSNBC, et al. are not very critical of our neocon/neoliberal globalist plutocrat overlords.

Moreover, in this 2011 bit RT points out that other countries like the UK, France, Germany, and U.S. all have their own foreign broadcasting services that receive at least partial funding from their respective governments.

In the U.S. it is the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which according to wikipedia “is an independent agency of the United States government.”  I decided to take the initiative and look at the BBG webpage.  I think the following mission statements are highly topical:

radio free asia etc

Source:  BBG

I really had to wonder how welcome the above programs are in the countries they target, so I looked up Radio y Televisión Martí.  The following is straight off wikipedia— not the best source, but a source:

Radio y Televisión Martí is an American radio and television international broadcaster based in Miami, Florida, financed by the Federal government of the United States through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which transmits political propaganda in Spanish to Cuba. Its broadcasts can also be heard and viewed worldwide through their website and on shortwave radio frequencies.

Also:

Today, Radio Marti broadcasts a 24-hour radio program over short-wave transmitters in Delano, California, and Greenville, North Carolina, and a medium-wave transmitter in Marathon, Florida (GC: 24°41′58″N 81°5′19″W). Its studios are located in Miami, Florida. Cuba jams both the medium-wave and shortwave signals, but the shortwave program is heard in Canada and throughout Central America and South America. On occasion, the medium-wave transmitter at 1180 kHz can be heard as far north as Washington, D.C.

This, to me, is hilarious– the U.S. taxpayers pay to broadcast a propaganda radio show to Cuba– the signal is promptly jammed– but you can listen to it in Washington D.C.  Look, it creates jobs, okay?

Of course, like a lot of things, the truth turns out to be slightly more complicated on closer inspection.  According to the Miami Herald, the Obama Administration “began making a series of changes designed to bring their [Radio Marti and TV Marti] coverage in line with the journalism standards of the Voice of America, another U.S. government broadcaster.”  That in turn enraged anti-Castro Cubans and exiles:

But the shift of funds from the TV broadcasts — seldom seen on the island because the Cuban government blocks them — to the digital content and the decision to move away from propaganda and toward a more balanced journalism have been criticized by some Cuban exiles as well as opposition activists on the island.

Source:  Miami Herald

Moral:  You can please none of the people all of the time, or you can please some of the people some of the time.

In the general context of the above facts, and regarding its own status as “state-funded” or “state-run”, everybody’s favorite bogeyman RT concludes:

So call RT “state-funded” if you must, but if you want to “call a duck a duck,” as NPR’s host so eloquently put it, you might want to consider the pond we’re all swimming in.

Source:  RT

In isolation, the argument in the last quote is technically invalid from a strictly logical standpoint; it’s a Tu Quoque argument (“you do it too” / “two wrongs make a right”).  See this link for a pretty decent list of fallacious arguments and biases compiled by the University of Texas at El Paso. However…

In the broader (real world) context, dismissing the RT argument as Tu Quoque argument is itself just throwing out a red herring (another fallacious rhetorical technique) or a fallacious either/or argument (EITHER RT IS STATE-RUN OR NOT!).  Why?  Because the entire American focus on alleged Russian propaganda is a red herring (read:  DISTRACTION)– one created by our politicians and IC and promulgated by our media in order to keep Americans from focusing on their real problems.  If you still doubt this in October 2017, please give some attention to these two links:

The Big Fat Compendium of Russiagate Debunkery

Russia-Gate’s Shaky Foundation

In this larger context, the meaningful question is not “who produces the most propaganda?”, but whether alternative news sources have a value irrespective of who pays for them.

McAdams -- RG -- guns

The underlying issues that I am interested in are a) access to information, and b) our own government propaganda and countering it.  These days, the MSM and U.S. government are essentially saying that because some of RT’s programming is presumably biased in favor of Putin, all of its programming is “Russian propaganda.”  That is an over-generalization (another logical fallacy).  Lots of RT’s programming has no possible political angle at all– like a lot of factual reporting.  Moreover, not all Russian programming that is critical of the West is necessarily generated for the purpose of stroking Putin’s ego or bolstering his base or destroying democracy.  In the “free marketplace of ideas” that America supposedly touts, I believe that hearing a perspective that is not controlled by the Not-a-conspiracy-theory-but-something-that-exists-by-definition-Deepstate is valuable.

daou rg

No claim about actual Russian election hacking has come close to being proven, and most such claims have been debunked.  Even if Russia did hack something, the answer to cyberwarfare is cybersecurity– not to, say, unilaterally invade Iran or to bomb Syria more.  Completely outside of the Russiagate issue, we should get rid of electronic voting machines that don’t leave a (literal) paper trail.  Period.

 

I’m not sure that Trump won’t get himself impeached because of shady business dealings.  But besides for the matter of patching some cyber vulnerabilities, the current Red Scare is a joke, and the average American is the butt of the joke:

pokemon russiagate

 

But with the Russiagate hacking & collusion narrative crumbling (this post & video is so great), the Russiagaters have resorted to the idea that Russia is somehow “influencing” our people with “ads” and… (cover your ears kids)… IDEAS!

Andrew Korybko, in the same article I linked to earlier, makes the following point:

One of the more popular fake news claims going around about Sputnik and RT is that the two outlets were heavily biased in favor of Trump during the 2016 election, but that’s frankly not true, as anyone would know by listening to Sputnik’s radio programs from that time, watching RT’s shows, or reading both of their websites’ archives. Both platforms lean closer to the liberal-progressive side of things as opposed to the conservative one. Simply reporting on the many unfavorable stories surrounding Hillary Clinton and not blindly fawning over her candidacy doesn’t qualify as “institutional bias”, though in largely controlled systems such as the American one where most of the media openly back the Democrats, then the Overton window concept would suggest that Sputnik and RT’s balanced reporting and analyses would understandably stand out as attention-grabbing and exemplary.

Just for the record, I am in favor of putting the language of “Left” and “Right” on sabbatical, in exchange for recognition of a new political axis– the “Tops” (1%) and “Bottoms” (99%)– at least until we can grasp with a steady hand the holy grail of getting Big Money out of politics (one can always dream).  Nonetheless, this hilarious tweet response is one of my favorite of the year:

troll farm coastal libs

On the flipside, Korybko points out:

In addition, it should never be forgotten that it was the on-the-fence population of the Rust Belt who surprisingly turned the election in Trump’s favor. One would presume that the liberal-progressive masses in the solidly Democratic states on each coast would be Sputnik and RT’s core audiences given how these two outlets’ more leftist-leaning stance on many matters overlap with the prevailing preferences there, so it’s ridiculous to believe that these Russian companies somehow convinced voters to want to “Make America Great Again” in the more stereotypically nationalistic heartland with their liberal-progressive messaging. In fact, it’s uncertain how many people in that part of the US listen to, watch, or read Sputnik and RT in the first place when Fox News, CNN, and Rush Limbaugh dominate those media markets, and whether these Russian companies are even capable of making any difference at all in those swing states.

That. ^^

 

But NOOOOO

Instead of chilling out, the U.S. government has decided to make RT and Sputnik register as “foreign agents.”

The government is not making war-mongering thinktanks funded by oil companies, defense contractors, and foreign countries register as foreign agents.  Weird.  Even the NYT has given coverage to the idea.

The government is not making the BBC register as a foreign agent.  But the BBC carries just as much fake news as the usual MSM suspects in the U.S. (i.e. MSNBC, CNN, Fox, et al).

Russiagate motives

 

Washington Post again

Predictably, the Washington Post loved the idea of making RT register as a Foreign Agent (this is a “perspective piece” from someone from the Brookings Institution– a thinktank that accepted $13 million from Haim “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel” Saban).

Here is a choice cut from WaPo:  “Just as Americans have a right to know how corporations attempt to affect legislation, they should also be informed of the ways in which other countries try to influence our political process.”

Ahh yes, let’s think about that for a second.  How I would love to see our mainstream media spend every day of the year discussing nothing except which multinational companies and arms dealers and PACs are paying for which pieces of American legislation and foreign policy– instead of spending every day talking about how $100,000 in Facebook ads with possible connections to someone in Russia– 55% of which ads didn’t appear until after the election– somehow impacted our election.

Going back to WaPo, their perspective concludes with a broad claim that “RT is not a ‘news service’ in any meaningful sense of the term.”

Great!  Then why does an American need to go to RT to watch a well-produced segment about a very reasonable theory about Bana Alabed?

Also from WaPo:  “Critics of the move to register RT and Sputnik as foreign agents generally make two arguments: that doing so would chill free speech and provoke retaliatory measures against American journalists working in Russia.”

Okay, correct.  How about this one too:   doing so would provoke retaliatory measures against Russian and American journalists working in America.

As reported in many news outlets, RT employees in America now fear for their safety:

The editor-in-chief of Russia Today, [the publicly financed Russian news program], said on Thursday that American members of its staff are quitting in their “masses” because of security concerns, appearing to suggest they were at threat of U.S. law enforcement action.

Margarita Simonyan, the head of the news site, told a parliamentary hearing on Thursday that its staff on American soil “fear for their security.”

It has become so tough for the news site to operate in the U.S. that “it’s hard for us now even to find a stringer in the USA,” Simonyan said.

Source:  Newsweek

(A “stringer” in this industry is a guy or gal who works by the individual photo or article– a freelancer.)

Of course, the ridiculously mainstream Newsweek goes on to mock RT, but the idea that American journalists– and Russian journalists– and anyone else who works at RT America– are being intimidated by U.S. law enforcement and/or other citizens is a terrible statement about the status of free speech in America.

olbermann hockey tweet crop

For the love of all that is good, free speech is free people!  It really is.  There is no cost to letting people think for themselves.  It literally is a 100% abstract, non-material thing.  It consumes no energy other than what it takes to run your own brain.

And if you tell me “well then boy, you are lucky you live in the Land of the Free and not Communist Russia,” I will quote Run The Jewels: “run backwards in a field of dicks.”  The point is that right now, we are imposing sanctions on a television show.  It’s not like they are producing snuff films.  Imposing this kind of political pressure on a news show is a ludicrous low!  If they lie, sue them for libel!!  That’s what our court system is for.

But what do we expect.  At least we’re not jamming radio signals (yet).

I already mentioned Google’s new algorithms for suppressing “fake news.”  I can’t say it better than this guy’s comment:

comment on libel laws vs algorithms

That comment was posted under an April 25, 2017 article about Google’s new algorithms.

It is sad that Alternet, a left-wing website, says it is getting hammered by Google’s algorithms (claiming search traffic has plummeted 40% since the algorithm was introduced).  Unfortunately, Alternet seems to have become a bastion of the #McResistance.  The executive editor of Alternet can’t even say that Russiagate is the real cause of his website’s catastrophic drop in readership, because that would enrage his Trump-hating audience.  Instead he chants the jingo “Our goal is to stay strong, keep our great staff and fight Donald Trump and his cult of core supporters.”

He won’t even name the true enemy staring him in the face.

You seriously need to look at his request for donations, and see how he completely fails to call out the Red Scare that is propelling the censors into power.  I didn’t include the full article below, but you can go to the page to see for yourself that I am not exaggerating when I say he doesn’t even mention Russiagate as a possible source of his problems.  No, it must be the alt-right or something.  He knows the rank-and-file Democratic voters who read his site (again, in full disclosure, I would have been one of them a year ago) would LOSE THEIR MINDS if he suggested we tamp down the anti-Russia rhetoric and the local censorship it is ushering in.  I am sorry to bash Alternet but I have to.  PLEASE READ:

alternet censorship

altneret2

alternet 3

Now.  I ask you.  Who has done the brainwashing?

 

Conclusion

My point here is not that The Motherland is great and the U.S.A. is bad.  I’ve never been to Russia, I am not a Russian government shill, and I am not Russian by ancestry, though I am 50% Polish.  I write for free.  Beyond my own catharsis, I can only hope that anyone who happens to read this and doesn’t already know this stuff will take a second to lay off the kool-aid and compare and contrast the value of uncritically absorbing the narrative offered by our mainstream media, compared to the cost of welcoming in censorship and McCarthyism.

Oh, and escalating tensions with a nuclear superpower while simultaneously making it politically impossible for our tender president to back down from any potential conflict that could otherwise be resolved diplomatically–  sad.

fake netanyahu

The above tweet is a parody account, by the way– and the account doesn’t hide that fact if you check its profile.  “Parody” is not fake news– unless we want to censor The Onion now.

I leave you with a post from my favorite independent (i.e. non-mass media) journalist:
What’s Behind the Man Behind the Curtain

 

Don’t give up my friends.

Pantera with Russian police 1991

Metal band Pantera hanging with Russian police, circa 1991 appearance at Monsters of Rock, the first Western outdoor rock festival to be held in the former Soviet Union

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#21 A Brief Note on Politics; Free Speech Pt. III

bana WWIII

Bellingcat & Co., fake news, and fake “fake news”

The agenda Bana is pushing is clear: Middle East regime change (oh and yeah, maybe WWIII too).  But just in time for Christmas last year, the Washington Post published a searing indictment of Bana-doubters, which is beyond hilarious because it cites Bellingcat as its fact checker.  The article concludes with this absolutely jaw-dropping piece of Orwellian double speak from a Bellingcat associate:

“I don’t think it will change the minds of the trolls posting the horrendous comments about Bana,” Waters said. “But I think that we can influence those who know about Bana but are unsure about her veracity. Information warfare of the sort practiced by Russia doesn’t require the imposition of a coherent narrative, but rather the undermining and delegitimization of all other narratives. We hope that by exposing the truth as openly as possible, we can put it beyond doubt.”

Let’s pretend we have a truth serum and translate that into the Honest tongue:

I don’t think it will change the minds of the “awake” people who have lost faith in our mainstream media.  But I think that we can influence those who know about Bana but are unsure about her veracity. Information warfare of the sort practiced by the Deep State doesn’t require the undermining and delegitimization of all other narratives, but rather the imposition of a mono-narrative through repetition, repetition, repetition, thereby drowning out all other voices. We hope that by repeating the same falsehoods enough times, we can put them beyond doubt.

Eliot Higgins is the founder of the supposed “fact-checking site” Bellingcat.  Of course, Eliot Higgins is also a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and Future Europe Initiative.  The Atlantic Council is an American thinktank, if by American you mean funded by approximately 24 foreign governments and 102 foreign corporations as of 2013, and growing.  Its raison d’être is to argue for globalization and to dream up justifications for more NATO and American-led regime change in the Middle East (and East).  For a more detailed exposition, see WSWS.

Oh, don’t let the name of that last website scare you, all you centrists, it’s almost Halloween, you need to be brave.  The distinguished Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, former Princeton professor, best-selling author) says in a great interview with WSWS: “I’m not a Marxist. I’m not a Trotskyist. But I like the site. You report on important issues seriously and in a way a lot of other sites don’t.”  (Nonetheless, WSWS has come under attack by Google’s new censorship algorithms, and claims it has lost 70% of its web traffic since those algorithms were introduced.  Learn more and sign the petition to stop internet censorship.)

But back to our hero of the story.  Here is “praise” for Eliot Higgins– embarrassing really– from The Guardian:

Eliot Higgins has no need for a flak jacket, nor does he carry himself with the bravado of a war reporter. As an unemployed finance and admin worker his expertise lies in compiling spreadsheets, not dodging bullets. He has never been near a war zone. But all that hasn’t stopped him from breaking some of the most important stories on the Syrian conflict in the last year.

Source:  The Guardian

Eliot Higgins does not have experience covering events on the ground in Ukraine– or Syria– or anywhere.  I almost feel guilty betraying a fellow gamer and inveterate nerd (“As a video gamer, Higgins pressed well past casual bouts of ‘World of Warcraft,’ staying up late to lead teams of 40 players in complex online raids… Before getting married, he was known to game for 36 hours at a stretch.” –Huffington Post).  But the guy is a tool in multiple senses of the word.  I’m pretty sure that in the public consciousness, the concept “nerd” is no longer immediately connected to the concept of “nice, soft-spoken guy who couldn’t possibly be a psy-op.”  And I can tell you from 27 trips to GenCon that a lot of role-playing gamers and war gamers love military history and could easily be convinced to participate in writing some modern military history.  Nice try propagandists.

Oops, I went full-nerd.  That’s too deep; hang on while I take a step back.  Okay, on second thought, you will not read a mainstream article about Higgins that does not “glorify” his recent under-employed status and love of video games.  The idea of “guy who plays video games” is basically a description of the common man in the 21st century, and the “Eliot Higgins” propaganda project contains elements of “plain folks” appeal– in addition to a play on our conscious and subconscious wishes to make a difference in the world.  Unless I am just projecting here.

propaganda common man

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/prufrock6731/propaganda-and-george-orwells-animal-farm

In case you don’t read any of the links in the next paragraph, I will summarize the methodology that makes Higgins such an “unlikely nemesis” to Vladimir Putin– he searches through photos and videos on social media like Facebook, Snapchat, and Youtube– and finds “connections” between foreign military units, weapon systems, and footage of actual conflicts. Eliot Higgins has as much experience on the ground in Syria as I do.  Frankly his word about Bana Alabed should not be given more weight than that of his fellow nerd– me– especially when he is associated with an entity that could and should be made to register as a Foreign Agent under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, as even the frickin’ New York Times gently proposes.

Here is a more or less comprehensive takedown of Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat, written by a journalist named Graham Phillips, who has covered events on the ground in Ukraine and elsewhere (he is also under threat of being banned from youtube for his intense video footage from Donbass that doesn’t support Establishment narratives).  Please look at the actual evidence he provides, then look at what other people have brought forward.  This post is a year old, and speculates whether Bana is going to be “written out” of the narrative– of course we know the ending; she doesn’t get written out but instead the 8 year old who doesn’t speak English gets a highly-publicized book deal promoted by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter).  Here is another piece, which ends with the classic line,

“At the end of the day, Bana, who mainstream media outlets, never missing a chance to pimp the holocaust, have named the ‘Anne Frank of Syria,’ is just one more in a long line of propaganda figures produced by the U.S. State Department, Western-backed White Helmets, and the corporate media.”

Look at the evidence Graham Phillips and others present, then, like Phillips says,

make your own mind up.

The Atlantic Council would probably like to tell you that the multicultural rebels in last year’s Rogue One are like Syrian rebels fighting the Assad government.  In furtherance of that fantastical take on reality, Bana Alabed now has a book deal and is being paraded in front of the U.N.  Look at the U.N. tweet below.  Also, you must feast your eyes on the comments, which are almost universal in decrying this blatant bullshit, and comprise a flickering light of hope for our world.  There is also some photographic evidence used in support of the proposition that Bana’s father is a member of the al Safwa Islamic Battalion, an anti-Assad rebel group.

bana UN tweet.jpg

We have seen this too many times before, folks.  For me, the memory of Iraq’s “WMD” is still fresh.  I hope and pray that the internet will enable citizens to think for themselves, and more quickly debunk war propaganda.  Then again, the military and its sort-of-stewards in government might just roll into Iran or North Korea whether we have enjoyed the attendant propaganda effort or not.  But knowing is half the battle, as GI Joe would say.

gi joe

At this point I would like to thank Caitlin Johnstone, the independent (i.e. not Big Media) journalist whose concise, honest, and entertaining articles were my best medicine this last year.  As I try my hand at broaching some political topics, I keep hearing this voice saying, “Caitlin is so much better at this– I should just link to her articles and say goodnight.”  In that spirit, I highly recommend this piece on Syria.  (Watch this Redacted Tonight piece too.)  Caitlin was on top of this Syria business when it was happening live.  My part here is just to remind people about Deep State propaganda and to get focused for the next wave.

Next– an examination of some current threats to journalistic freedom and a free internet.

# 20 A Brief Note on Politics– Free Speech Pt. II

Case Study:  The Folk Who Run the Media in America  

The Washington Post was purchased by billionaire, drone aficionado, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2013.  The purchase surprised people at the time, considering the newspaper’s circulation, like ALL PRINT, was floundering.  Here are some bullet points  from a 2016 Business Insider piece:

“I didn’t know anything about the newspaper business … But I did know something about the internet,” Bezos told Business Insider in a 2014 interview.

In fact, Bezos liked the opportunity so much that he didn’t do any due diligence and just signed the first $250 million offer sheet that came from [Don] Graham.

Its [the Post now under Bezos] content-distribution strategy also involved a lot of social media, like Facebook and Twitter. It also offered discounts to Amazon Prime members, while making The Washington Post app pre-installed on Amazon’s Fire tablets.

Bezos continues to be very involved with The Post’s operations. He holds one-hour conference calls with executives every two weeks, and brings them into Seattle twice a year for longer meetings.

Source:  Business Insider

It’s also the case that Bezos was voted the “World’s Worst Boss” in relation to Amazon, the company he runs.  Good to know.  Doesn’t that say something about how Bezos views the world?  Oh, and I’m assuming the unions were voting on the worst boss in the world, but they could have been voting for worst boss of the world, considering Bezos’ planetary influence.

The union organization, the International Trade Union Confederation, met in Berlin in 2014, with over 1500 delegates from 161 countries.  The ITUC is the world’s largest trade union federation and says it represents 180 million workers.

As far as how ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow views the world:

“Corporate power is out of control, it is cowering governments with threats of capital flight. The greed of the 1% is of more interest to our governments than the 99%.  We decided we would start exposing some of the elements of the worst boss phenomena – undermining democracy, undermining workers’ rights.”

Burrow spoke of Amazon specifically:

“Amazon operating in Germany treats its workers as if they are robots. The company makes no secret that within just a few years they will replace workers with robots. A rich American corporation operating globally with disdain for dignity, for rights for working people. Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the American corporate model.”

Burrow continued to summarize workers’ complaints (I am not sure if this is in relation to Amazon’s operations in Germany or elsewhere):

“Workers at Amazon distribution centres are required to wear digital arm mounted terminals that monitor their every move. There are no agreed protocols about breaks and speed, and a culture of bullying and harassment is rife. Staff are reprimanded just for speaking to one another or even pausing to catch their breath.”

Source:  ituc-csi.org

bezos quote

Even though I love to buy my C.D.s and other shit from Amazon, man, I feel a little guilty about it now.  Bezos appears to be a psychopath and/or sociopath, which I suppose is the tried and true genetic and psychological rig if your soul’s destiny is a position of power in our society.

UNI Global Union, which claims to represent 20 million workers, weighed in by way of General Secretary Philip Jennings:

Against tough opposition Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has today been voted worst boss in the world, beating off rivals from other serial workers rights offenders, including Walmart.

Commenting on Bezos’s accolade as the worst boss in the world, the General Secretary of UNI Global Union, Philip Jennings said, “We don’t accept the Amazon model of the new economy. Their model is unsustainable and is based on treating its workforce – permanent, part-time and temporary, as inhuman robots.”

“Bezos is seen as a great innovator but Amazon owes its success to a vision of the future which treats its staff as if they were 19th century factory workers. The Amazon model is a scam which takes public funds while mistreating that same public, siphons profits out of the countries to avoid paying tax and creates a culture of precarious jobs. There is nothing fulfilling about working at Amazon’s so-called ‘fulfilment’ distribution centres.”

“He represents the image of the new economy in the worst possible way and that is why this large public vote called him out as the worst boss on the planet. Who knows how many of Amazon’s 15,000 work force in Germany added their voice against him! Bezos won because if we, the people, do not stand up to the Amazon vision of the new economy no one else will, not governments and certainly not businesses themselves.”

Source:  uniglobalunion.org  For a brutal account of Amazon’s sweatshop practices, see too:  Salon

Amazon got called out in America too.  According to a 2015 New York Times article, the conditions are terrible for Amazon’s white collar workers too.  Think of the times you have had to deal with a psychotic, back-stabbing co-worker– and then imagine a company culture that does everything it can to foster such behavior:

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.

Even as the company tests delivery by drone and ways to restock toilet paper at the push of a bathroom button, it is conducting a little-known experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable. The company, founded and still run by Jeff Bezos, rejects many of the popular management bromides that other corporations at least pay lip service to and has instead designed what many workers call an intricate machine propelling them to achieve Mr. Bezos’ ever-expanding ambitions.

[One worker] lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

Source:  New York Times

(As I conceded in my last post, just because a news source is a mouthpiece for the Establishment doesn’t discredit everything it says.  There are reports from a variety of sources that Bezos treats his employees like Medieval serfs.  The NYT is one of the usual suspects when it comes to Fake News, but that doesn’t mean the NYT is incapable of writing a true story.)  That NYT article went on to recount (and link to) a graduation speech Bezos gave:

He wanted his grandmother to stop smoking, he recalled in a 2010 graduation speech at Princeton. He didn’t beg or appeal to sentiment. He just did the math, calculating that every puff cost her a few minutes. “You’ve taken nine years off your life!” he told her. She burst into tears.

Bezos mistreats his newspaper employees also, according to a WaPo writer who was given a 9/1/2017 op-ed in the Huffington Post:

Two years ago… Bezos slashed retirement benefits… Bezos’ decision on retirement benefits had nothing to do with the balance sheet and, arguably, everything to do with ideology.

Only by making sacrifices was the Post’s union able to maintain health insurance for part-timers — whose cost of coverage was about what the Post spent to send its publisher to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

He seems to be enjoying his newfound acclaim as the Post’s savior while displaying a laissez faire attitude to the financial well-being of its employees — especially those who do not have a famous byline but who make its journalism possible by copy-editing stories, driving circulation trucks, mining social media or selling ads.

Source:  Huffington Post

Of course, the WaPo employee who wrote the Huffington Post op-ed, Fredrick Kunkle, was disciplined by WaPo.

Finally, it is interesting to note that Bezos’ Amazon secured a $600 million contract from the CIA to build a “computing cloud… allowing agencies to share information and services much more easily.”

I don’t know the details about why Amazon got the job instead of the other bidders like IBM; most of the process was “secret” anyway and I’m not sure it matters.  But there is no denying that Bezos (now) has a connection to the CIA.  Many people have voiced concern about the “tips” and “leaks” from the intelligence community that are routinely fed to Bezos’ newspaper, and which the Post dutifully publishes (usually as “fact”).

There may be those of you who think this sounds like a conspiracy theory.  All I am doing here is pointing out the obvious– that really rich, greedy plutocrats run our newspapers and other MSM sources, and they have no interest in the regular Joe’s plight (or worse, they have an actual ideological bias in favor of social Darwinism, which tends to mean “might makes right”).

wapo missile

Do I think Jeff Bezos bought a newspaper because newspapers are having a huge resurgence in circulation?  Hell no.  Well actually, yes and no.  It appears that Bezos was able to “update” the paper and build its online presence tremendously.  The Post still carries a lot of cachet with coastal elites.  But more to the point, I agree with the hordes of unwashed masses who suspect Bezos was actually more interested in having a convenient way to dictate our reality.

chaos ad image

Regardless of Bezos’ schemes, the WaPo’s relationship with the CIA goes back to the 50s or earlier.  See this great summary from December 2016 in Zero Hedge.

Next:  A return to the Bana Alabed discussion.

# 19 A Brief Note on Politics– Free Speech Pt. I

Roadmap

This particular blog began as a hard rock and metal discussion.  In my opening statement I parodied standard corporate articles of incorporation and their drab invocation of being “organized under this [Corporations] Act for any lawful purpose.”  In like manner, this blog is organized for any lawful speech. Like the dystopian urban wasteland of Blade Runner, this post is going to sprawl out over everything– but you can expect the built-up area to be ground zero for the battle over free speech.  The heavy metal community has traditionally opposed and battled censorship, but the discussion is relevant to anyone who cares about ideas and their free dissemination.

 

RT

This is already a few months old, but pieces like the one in the youtube video I’m featuring further below– from the “Russian Propaganda” news outlet RT (Russia Today)– are why our government is pushing to limit our access to RT.  Go ahead.  Watch it.  It’s just youtube.  It’s not going to electrocute you; you’re not a hacker with a neural link jacked into a cyberdeck, right?  We may be in the Matrix, but we aren’t running the Neuromancer or Shadowrun simulation yet.  It’s okay.  Go ahead, DO IT.  Everyone’s doing it.  Didn’t you hear there is a global information war going on? Scroll down and click the link.  Push the button!  It’s not going to put you on a government blacklist.

Oh, wait.  STOP!

 

neuromancer__brazilian_edition_smaller

f1x-2’s cover art for a recent print of Neuromancer published by Aleph (Brazil)

 

Actually, I can’t promise that last thing: you are probably using Google right now, and Google owns youtube.  I don’t know the extent of Google’s possible collusion with the U.S. government, intelligence community (IC), and/or military in the design of its algorithms to suppress what is allegedly “fake news”– nor do I know what kind of information the ICs are collecting on us with or without Google’s collusion.  I don’t think they are going to start rounding up dissidents yet, but if you don’t hear from me in a while, it may just be that I sometimes take up to six months between blog posts.  What I do know is that neoconservative/neoliberal thinktanks make their own software to sniff out dissenting opinions, and that software is currently in a state of being pathetic:

 

stars and stripes twitter

To be fair, the software is only “pathetic” if you don’t like the idea of the thought police casting an insanely wide net.   Go ahead and look at the bizarrely-named program Hamilton 68— and tell me it doesn’t give you the creeps.  Named after Federalist Paper #68 for either asinine or obfuscatory reasons (see the Hamilton Electors who opposed Trump), it was put together by the “bipartisan” Alliance for Securing Democracy.  Note that “bipartisan,” when translated from the Military-Industrial Guild thieves’ cant, is usually rendered “neocon-neoliberal marriage made in hell,” i.e. pro-war players from both the Red Team and the Blue Team.

 

Foreign Meddling Case Study:  The German Marshall Fund of the United States

The Alliance for Securing Democracy is a creation of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF)– which is itself funded by a number of arms dealers, transnational oil corporations, AIPAC affiliates, and other countries (specifically NATO countries).  Go ahead– take a look at the entities that fund it (examples:  Lockheed Martin {arms dealer}, American Israel Education Foundation {AIPAC affiliate}, Chevron {transnational oil corporation}, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia {foreign country}).  So before you indict me for tossing around terms like “neoliberal” and “Jabba the Hutt”, bear in mind that we are talking about a policy group that is not exactly American as apple pie.

 

Jabba_the_hutt

Speaking of portly gangsters, the Iraq War “WMD” co-conspirator Kristol is still beating the drum for the Iraq War.  The following tweet is less than a year old:

Kristol

 

Uh, Mr. Kristol, 2002 called, they want their propaganda back.

In league with Satan, oops, I mean Billy Kristol (who is on the GMF advisory council), Hamilton 68 targets literally anything that might be deemed remotely critical of regime change and foreign interventionism– as you can see from this analysis by the Ron Paul Institute:

the dashboard more often targets hugely popular independent news sites like Robert Parry’s Consortium News, The Federalist, Breitbart, and WikiLeaks. As The New York Times mentions, “Of 80 news stories promoted last week by those accounts, more than 25 percent ‘had a primary theme of anti-Americanism.'” It is impossible to know what, according to the site’s designers, “anti-Americanism” means, but it no doubt involves articles which are critical of US foreign policy. This means that if a Washington Post or Reuters article, for example,highlights “staggering” Iraqi civilian deaths under US coalition bombings, that article would likely register as “anti-American” by the platform and its creators. By such methods, the Washington Post, Reuters, and numerous independent sites are brought under suspicion alongside RT News and Sputnik. But “anti-American” could also simply mean any article produced by a site that Hamilton 68’s creators don’t like. Again, the data is meaningless.
Indeed, on Thursday both The Intercept and Antiwar.com were top trending sites on the Hamilton’s 68 dashboard. Ironically, The Intercept has take [sic] various editorial positions concerning Russian hacking allegations, and last June published a rather sensational headline, Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election, which ended up making only a small splash, but landed NSA leaker Reality Winner in jail.
Thursday’s (9/28) list of Top Trending Domains advanced by what Hamilton 68 identifies as Russian backed social media accounts [sic]. Antiwar News and The Intercept were trending.
Antiwar.com was founded as far back as 1995 for the purpose of opposing American militarism and interventionism. It was one of the early and consistent few news and activist sites which opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Starting in 2011 it came under FBI investigation after what the FBI admitted was a “mistake”. The site’s founders, who were also personally under FBI monitoring for their “anti-war views”, estimate that they had lost at least $75,000 per year after donors pulled their support while citing fears that the FBI might monitor them too.

Source: Ron Paul Institute For Peace and Prosperity

Like a bungload of probe droids ripped in the general direction of every planet potentially harboring a rebel base, Hamilton 68’s wide-net approach doesn’t mean it isn’t good at alerting its Imperial masters to possible rebel scum.

imperial probe droid

The Last Jedi comes out in America on December 15, by the way– just thought I would save you the time of looking that up.  That means it’s almost Holiday season, but it is too early to get sweaty palms over Christmas shopping and whether Disney’s annual reliably-good installment in the franchise is going to pass muster.  Let’s stay focused.

You are a unique human being.  A valuable node of information.  An interesting person– but not a “person of interest.”  So I urge you to live a little, and take a chance watching an alternative news source that, by the way, is completely legal–

 

WikiLeaks Is Legal to Read

–Just like reading WikiLeaks is legal, by the way– notwithstanding what Chris Cuomo of CNN tried to trick you into believing.  And we are not talking about something that is “legal” in a highly (no pun intended) conditional way, like how “you can smoke weed in California, but a Fed agent might still bust you” kind of way.  Rather, it’s LEGAL in an unconditional way.  Once a document is in the public domain, claims to legal privilege and confidentiality evaporate (DISCLAIMER:  kids, if you want to play it safe, you might want to resist the temptation to reproduce droves of such documents yourself.  Also– steal less music).  WikiLeaks publishes leaked documents (that’s risky, obviously), putting them in the public domain– once it’s out there, it’s fair game for anyone to read.  Of course, in S. 1761 Congress may make its opinion on WikiLeaks “official”:

S congress better

 

Status of that bill here.  One perspective is here.

Again, WikiLeaks documents are no more illegal to read than a newspaper left on the counter in a greasy diner.  In fact, the legality is even more concrete in the case of WikiLeaks.  In the case of the newspaper, someone could theoretically walk out of the bathroom and claim you converted his property or committed a theft– and as we all know, even being wrongly accused of a crime can generate a resultant legal status.  But regardless of your opinion on leakers and publishers like Julian Assange, reading WikiLeaks is not illegal.  Here anyway.  The law may be different in Myanmar for all I know; I’m talking about AMERICA here.  The First Amendment in this country is not dead yet.

 

BANA

So without further ado, I urge you to watch this short clip from RT about Bana Alabed.  It’s fun:

 

 

For more about RT’s Redacted Tonight, see here.

As the great rogue journalist Caitlin Johnstone puts it, in her usual honest, concise, and passionate way:

Bana Alabed is undeniably a deceitful war psy-op which has been advanced by the highest levels of the mainstream media. There is a mountain of irrefutable evidence for this fact, including hard proof that CNN knowingly staged a fake, scripted interview with a little girl who can’t speak English for the purpose of selling an anti-Assad, pro-interventionist narrative against Syria to the American people. They presented that fake interview to their audience as real, and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota necessarily had the other half of the script they used.

(Above quote from “Oh You’ve Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me” by Caitlin Johnstone)

The Bana Alabed psy-op is an example of the “Save the Children” Fallacy.

save the children fallacy

The above text is excerpted from a University of Texas El Paso course taught by Owen Williamson.

Exploiting children to tug at your heart strings is patronizing, isn’t it?  That’s why anyone who wants an alternative to insulting propaganda should be thankful for the freedom of the press.  Sure, your government and MSM are going to get mad when those alternative outlets don’t support their narrative, and the current craze is to discredit those alternative sources by labeling them “Russian Propaganda.”  That’s another logical/rhetorical foul, by the way– it’s called Poisoning the Well.

Some RT content is going to be pro- Russian Federation.  That doesn’t discredit everything RT says.  Likewise, the fact that CNN is pro-Wall Street, pro-MIC, pro-IC, and pro-Washington Establishment does not mean that CNN is incapable of reporting a true story about wildfires in California.

 

kid rock

 

Next, a look at the kind of culture created by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

#18 The Only Band That Matters Pt. III

reinventing-the-steel

Pantera released five major label albums.  Slipknot has released its fifth album and Avenged Sevenfold has recently released their sixth major label album– but for the most part let’s pretend that never happened.  Incidentally I’m not counting the former’s Mate.Feed.Kill.Repeat or the latter’s Sounding the Seventh Trumpet; indeed, any more than metalheads generally count Pantera’s Power Metal as part of the canon.

 

Slipknot-5-The-Grey-Chapter-2014.jpg

 

For reference, Metallica’s fifth album was the Black Album of 1991.  As much as I love A7X and Slipknot– and for that matter, as much as I love Load— I think it is fairly safe to say both A7X and Slipknot are past their prime.  Both bands have, however, survived tragedy and line-up changes and have shown that they are probably here to stick around (knock on wood).  I expect great things to come from both bands.

 

avenged-sevenfold-hail-to-the-king-new-single-art

As for the other big metal bands of the past, I think things are rough.  But I haven’t fully explored the revival of the bay area Big Four / Five, so I have that to look forward to.

You can search through early Mastodon’s vestigial sludge organs in vain to find a faint resemblance of something ejected by the great Neurosis.  No, I think what people found in the band’s heavy early era and proggy mid era was merely a premonition of the surreal and subconscious depths that would be explored by other bands in the coming psychedelic and occult rock of the 10s.  Generally I tend to call B$ on the history of off-the-charts Mastodon hype.  But they have drastically improved, in my opinion, by going into more straight-forward hard rock territory.  Obviously that is not the majority position.  Maybe I just don’t like “prog”.  Maybe I am just mad that Matt Pike didn’t get recognized by the masses at Rolling Stone until, what, 2015?– while the mainstream was beating Mastodon’s drum for a long time.  And while Brann Dailor may be a heavy metal Ginger Baker, guess what?  Not everyone likes Ginger Baker’s overdrumming on everything.  It depends on my mood.  But I never have qualms about High on Fire’s thunderous beatdowns.

homepage_header-d8add87f

 

I don’t care much for the material Meshuggah released after The True Human Design EP. My God this sounds like the grumblings of an old crotchety man.  Then there is Lamb of God.  To be honest, the metalheads I hang out with are divided on the subject.  When Ashes of the Wake was released we thought it might be the new Pantera.  Nope.  Some still love the band.  Some suggest that LOG are well past prime, and having released seven albums under their current moniker, the band is starting to look like they are going for quantity over quality at this point.

I’ll take a “new” band, like Huntress or Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, over LOG any day.  Why?  Easy.  Huntress builds on the Metallica blueprint better than Lamb of God ever built on the Pantera blueprint.  Ditto for Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, who make brilliant new songs ranging from psychedelic to folk to doom all on a 70s rock foundation.  They are arguably better than any “doom” band from the original era besides Black Sabbath.  They’re close to the missing link between The Beatles and Black Sabbath, or perhaps more precisely, the missing link between The Beatles and Electric Wizard.  Hahahaha.  Screw it, there is really no easy way to describe Uncle Acid.

I’m not into economics as a science.  I loathe unfettered capitalism, so I reluctantly use this metaphor, but:  the value of a band like Huntress is related to supply & demand.  We all adore gritty death metal and thrash with monstrous, sneering vocals. And lo, we are blessed, for there is much of the same to feast upon (albeit mostly from older decades).  It has no emotion, or its only emotion is anger, but it looks awesome in the stoner’s third eye.  In contrast, are there barrels full of good classic-style metal / thrash with powerful, emotive, diamond-sharp Valkyrie vocals?  No.  Truckloads of music with energy and euphoria that is not of either the electronic or hipster-drivel category?  Impossible.  Finding a new band of that nature is close to impossible.

***

I’ve previously cited not one but TWO dichotomies from the mostly blighted 00s:

1) In the rock realm, the garage rock “revolution” (e.g. White Stripes and The Strokes and their superior brethren in At The Drive In, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, The Black Keys, and Modest Mouse) versus hard rock / metal (Avenged Sevenfold) on the one hand, and–

2) In the metal realm, brutal metal (Slipknot, Lamb of God, Warbringer at al, Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, All Shall Perish et al) versus hard rock / metal (Avenged Sevenfold) on the other hand.

The ’10s don’t seem so much like a synthesis of the past decade’s various musical experiments so much as a further deterioration in the quantity of memorable guitar-based bands. I think brutal metal is treading water right now.  I am sure it will bounce back, but in my opinion this is not a great time to be a death metal, deathcore, “groove metal”, or black metal fan.  But then again, maybe I am just out of touch.  The lack of journalistic integrity at the major metal blogs– the absurdist year-end lists, etc– makes it really hard separating the wheat from the chaff.  Those blogs like MetalSucks are close to useless in terms of promoting what I would regard as good music, and I guess I haven’t felt motivated to do the work myself.  Lazy.

I know the underground metal folk are going to groan.  They can send me a death threat or a band recommendation and I will listen to it.  Give me the next Gorgoroth or Mayhem or Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse or Suicide Silence or Whitechapel– that also doesn’t sound anything like those bands.  Preferably nothing that exceeds Cryptopsy-levels of technicality, and nothing that has an anonymous vocalist.  Picky.  Spoiled.  Yeah.

 

The rock of the ‘10s is metal

We are left with some bands that straddle the hard rock / metal divide.  So we ask yet again, is Black Sabbath metal?  Yeah it’s a rhetorical question but the answer is not an automatic “yes”.  In the historical sense the answer is yes; obviously many people credit Sabbath with the invention of metal.  In the functional definition of metal, the answer depends on the context.  It depends on you.  What are you using the music for?  Are you drinking, or are you smoking?  In the former context Black Sabbath is as rock & roll as AC/DC or Guns-n-Roses.  In the latter context– or if you are just going to sleep, or waking up, or meditating, or doing anything else that heightens or alters your perception– you probably came in looking for shapely metal constructs.  Complex sonic sculptures. For the desensitized modern metaller, older Black Sabbath albums are less capable of scratching that itch.

Sometimes a name is a badge of honor.  As a great band that can play effortlessly in a number of genres (blues, rock, speed metal, prog– even indelible instrumental melodies like “Fluff”), not only is Black Sabbath capable of playing metal songs, but at an earlier time in history Black Sabbath arguably invented metal.  Like many other bands that pushed the boundaries of an older era, Black Sabbath will forever carry the title “metal” as a badge of honor.

But functionally, I am more prone to listen to Black Sabbath– and Ghost, Blood Ceremony, and Ruby the Hatchet– when I am drinking and getting sentimental (=ROCK), whereas I will listen to Huntress when I am flying down the open road, or grilling beast and slamming beer at a summer revel (=METAL).  Uncle Acid and Electric Wizard I find best serve as catharsis when I am depressed.  I never got the “stoner doom” tag– when I am stoned I like fast music like death metal and thrash.  “Narco-doom” makes sense to me though (or “Norco-doom,” lulz).  The mass media has made much of the fact that religion is no longer the opium of the people.  Uncle Acid and Electric Wizard are best after a nip of dope and a beer or two (the laudanum affect)– but I quit the milk of the poppy not too long ago, so that experience is no longer available to me.  (By the way, I strongly discourage anyone from drinking if they are consuming the milk of the poppy– it’s dangerous.  In the past I would only imbibe very small amounts for the laudanum effect.  And speaking frankly, it seems like a shameful waste of a good pill to mix in alcohol– but that’s just me.)  Finally, besides for having really good songs, the allure of bands like The Devil’s Blood (RIP Selim “SL” Lemouchi) and Jess & The Ancient Ones is hard to describe.  Occult dance-rock for full moon rituals– I’m not even going to get into the formulas fatal to the flesh that are optimal for those rites.

Is every single one of these bands “metal” by the hyper-desensitized modern standard?  Not all of them, no.  But it doesn’t matter.  They all bear the alchemical potentiality of the metal spirit,  and each transcends genre classification to deliver unforgettable songs and emotions.  Anyone who has looked at my blog knows my favorite of the current crop, and I have tried to argue for why that band is criminally underrated.  But really, for the discerning “metal and hard rock” fan, the ’10s have actually been inordinately generous in terms of bestowing not one but several genuinely great bands.  If you just can’t do indie rock (and I know I can’t for the most part)– depending on your unique proclivities, I think any or all of the following bands could be the “only band that matters” for you this decade.  Finally, these are bands that are on album number three (or four in the case of Blood Ceremony).  These trailblazers have glory ahead of them.

GHOST

ghost mel

 

 

HUNTRESS

huntress-static-album-cover

 

UNCLE ACID

Uncle-Acid-The-Night-Creeper-01

 

BLOOD CEREMONY

blood ceremony