Monday, July 21, 2008

Left I on New Yorker Obama Cartoons: Willful Demagoguery

Ever read something you wish you'd thought of yourself? Once blogger Left I explained it, it was so clear. Satire is when there's a difference between the reality and the "satire." When the New Yorker reproduces exactly what the most ruthless and vicious elements of our society believe and attempt to propagate, it's like trying to get away with a calumny by saying (as Left I points out), "Some people say, Senator, that you beat your wife..."

Before I read Left I's two blogs which are worth quoting entire, I was confused. As a long time New Yorker subscriber I guess I didn't want to believe what my eyes were telling me (despite Jeffrey Goldberg and so much else). I was also reminded of the incident of the Dutch cartoons where right wing forces tried (and succeeded) in raising tensions between the communities.

Apropos, the New York Times in its regular Sunday (7.20.08) political cartoons section, featured one from the Los Angeles Daily News replicating the New Yorker cartoon. Patrick O'Conner's version has Bush in the Oval Office toting Michelle's Ak-47 and fist bumping Cheney dressed in Taliban garb (complete with sandals) while the Constitution burns in the fireplace underneath a painting of Richard Nixon flashing V for Vendetta.
My question naturally about the Daily News cartoon is: Is it satire?
Racism as "satire"
by Left I on the News
You've probably all seen or heard about the latest New Yorker cover (at left) which the magazine defends as "satire." No, anti-black racism (Michelle Obama as an armed black militant) and anti-Arab racism (Barack Obama depicted as a Muslim burning the American flag and honoring Osama bin Laden) is not "satire," and it's not just "tasteless and offensive" as the Obama camp labels it. McCain won't even go that far, apparently doesn't think it's offensive himself, he just would "understand if Senator Obama and his supporters would find it offensive".

The whole cartoon is kind of like the scurrilous "some people say" mode of reporting which has overrun the national media. They never make accusations themselves, you understand. "Some people say, Senator, that you beat your wife. How do you respond?"

Some people say :-) (no, really, I heard someone on TV say it) that the cartoon is just "politically incorrect," and people who don't like it are just insensitive. But criticism of "political correctness" almost always disguises the real message behind it. If someone is fat, making a joke about them being fat could be described as "politically incorrect" (not to mention tasteless, offensive, insensitive, and downright bad manners). But if someone isn't fat, making a joke about them being fat not only isn't funny, but it reveals the joke-teller's prejudice against fat people.

I can't speak for the actual prejudices of the artist or the editors of this magazine. But for reinforcing existing prejudices, they've managed to do a heck of a job. The same "defender" of the cartoon I heard on TV made the argument that people who read the New Yorker won't believe the cartoon represents anything real, and anyone who does wouldn't have voted for Obama anyway. Maybe, maybe not, but wherever they stand, their subconscious prejudices have been enhanced. Maybe they won't ever make a public statement about Muslims, but deep down inside they might well be a little more inclined to think of all Muslims as bin Laden-loving, America-hating terrorists, and support legislation or vote for candidates who reinforce those ideas. Not to mention the effect the cover and its attendant publicity will have on the millions of non-New Yorker readers who see it and have their prejudices reinforced.

How about a cover making fun of Obama for talking out of both sides of his mouth on Iraq, or a host of other issues? How about a cover showing Obama saying "let's withdraw troops from Iraq" and then saying "let's send more troops to Afghanistan" labeled "man of peace?"? But this cover? To me, it's blatant racism, and I'll have none of it.

Update: I should have commented on the New Yorker's defense: the cover "combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are." Really? How does it show them for "obvious distortions"? Maybe Michelle Obama really was an armed Black Panther when she was young. How would this cover show such an idea as an "obvious distortion"? Maybe Barack Obama really is a closet Muslim. Plenty of people believe it (of course, plenty of people still believe that there were WMD in Iraq and even that they were found after the invasion). How would this cover demonstrate that that idea was an "obvious distortion"? It does nothing of the sort.

Second update: CNN (I think) did a feature where they interviewed people in front of a newsstand, asking if this cover made them feel positive or negative about Obama. It was of course an edited piece, but everyone they showed thought it was negative. And the figures they gave on, e.g., how many people believe Obama is a Muslim, emphasized all the more that encouraging that belief with this cover is a gross disservice to the truth. There are lots of reasons not to vote for Obama (from my point of view). The "fact" that he's a Muslim, which he isn't, certainly isn't one of them, and it shouldn't be for anyone on the right (i.e., in the wrong) either. The New Yorker's reinforcing of that belief is truly despicable.

--posted @ 7/14/2008

Once again on satire

I've been thinking some more about the New Yorker cover and the question of satire. Long-time readers may recall that we've had disagreements here over Stephen Colbert, whose "satire" I have claimed is often not (although I feel that less so recently than I did a year or two ago).

Expanding on things I've written before, here's my working definition, which applies to Colbert and the New Yorker: if the only thing that distinguishes alleged "satire" from an original is the source, it isn't satire, it's "imitation." It may or may not be funny, but it isn't satire.

If you could take a transcript of a Colbert interview, hand it to Bill O'Reilly, and have him read it without batting an eye, then it wasn't satire - it was imitation.

Likewise, imagine if the Obama cover had appeared not in the New Yorker but in "Ku Klux Klan Monthly." Would it be satire then? Hardly. People would immediately brand it as scurrilous racist trash. How about a more "respectable" (and actually existing) magazine like National Review? Same deal. I doubt people would just be talking about how it was "tasteless." Nor would they be claiming with a straight face it was "satire."

Satire has to be distinguishable in some way, if only with a wink (but preferably with a lot more), from the original or the imagined original or it isn't satire. Take the New Yorker cover. Most people will be familiar with the famous "a New Yorker's view of the world" which shows an utterly distorted view of the country from the point of view of a New York-centric person. It's obviously exaggerated, and funny (well, it was the first time). The Obama cover could have been done as "a right wingers view of Obama" as both a parody of the "New Yorker's view of the world" and a satire on ludicrous right-wing views of Obama, with a cover making it clear that the object of the satire wasn't Obama, but the ridiculous rumor-mongers. It didn't do that, though.

Real satire is both over the top and, and the same time...not. Stephen Colbert's talk at the White House Correspondent's dinner in 2006 was one of the best examples ever, a nuclear bomb of satire, so powerful that, to mix metaphors a bit, it went over like a lead balloon with the crowd and the corporate media because it hit too close to home. The New Yorker cover, as is, could never be that, because something that corresponds too closely to something actually believed by far too many people couldn't possibly be over the top.

--posted @ 7/15/2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

APM's Marketplace: Enron Loophole Drives High Oil Prices

If former regulator Michael Greenberger is correct in this mid-June Marketplace interview, then the Cheney Bush administration could if it wished, reduce oil prices to reflect real world supply and demand simply by closing the Enron loophole that allows/encourages speculators to manipulate oil prices for their gain. Greenberger says we could have "normal" oil prices in a month if the administration was on board.

Once again, if Greenberger is correct, that would add fuel to my theory of Cheney-Bush as extremist nihilists, whose agenda is permanent war, chaos, tension and the destruction of civilization. In this scenario, impossibly high oil prices, destroying the US and the world economy would make sense.

Below is the complete text of Marketplace interview and a selected comment with more information posted on the Marketplace website.


American Public Media (APM)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Deflating the oil bubble

Congress is calling regulators to task for runaway oil prices. Host Kai Ryssdal talks with former commodity regulator Michael Greenberger about ways to keep tabs on speculation.

More on The Economy

Kai Ryssdal: Alright, so let's see.... Yesterday, we had Saudi Arabia saying it's going to boost production by 2 percent. Next week, the Saudis are hosting a meeting aimed at bringing some sanity to crude prices. And yet at one point today, oil was trading within 11 cents of $140 a barrel.

That's probably why tomorrow morning will find the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Capitol Hill.

The CFTC's in charge of regulating oil markets in this country and Congress has been after the agency to do something -- to do anything -- about oil and gas prices, what lawmakers perceive to be speculation, in particular.

Michael Greenberger used to run the Trading division of the CFTC.

Mr. Greenberger, good to have you here.

Michael Greenberger: Nice to be here.

Ryssdal: Why is it so hard to figure out what's going on in commodities markets -- oil specifically?

Greenberger: Well, the reason it's hard to figure out is about 30 percent of our crude oil energy futures are traded in what is called a dark market -- that is a market that was deregulated in December of 2000 at the behest of Enron. Prior to that legislation being passed, all energy futures traded in the United States or affecting the United States in a significant fashion were regulated by United States regulators under a very careful regime that had been perfected over about 78 years and many observers believe that because those markets are not being policed, malpractices are being committed and traders are able to boost the price virtually at their will.

Ryssdal: You're not really telling me that seven years on, we're still paying the price for Enron, are you?

Greenberger: Well, this has been called the "Enron Loophole" and there are many legislators working very hard to close that loophole. There is tremendous concern about this on Capitol Hill and on a bipartisan basis, people are drafting legislation to try and get a handle on this and not eliminate speculation, but bring the speculation under the kind of time-tested controls that were used until Enron had its way and amended the law to escape traditional tested regulation on speculative activities.

Ryssdal: So what's Congress going to do? Congress is going to get together, they're going to pass a law and it's going to say, "CFTC, fix this?"

Greenberger: Well, there are several proposals suggesting or proposing that light shine on these dark markets and some of the legislation goes further than others, but the bottom line is the speculators will, in the end, be policed. We will know who they are, what they're doing, what their controls are, what effect they're having on the market. Maybe we'll find out that there's nothing there.

Ryssdal: So just to be clear, you do think that we're in a bubble, then?

Greenberger: I believe it and I'm certainly not alone in my belief. If you talk to anybody who trades in these markets on a regular basis, they will tell you that the markets are completely dysfunctional and out of control because of speculative activity.

Ryssdal: How long is it going to take then if we are, as you say, in a bubble, for it to work its way through and us to get back to something more realistic for the price of a barrel of oil, whether its 50 bucks or 80 bucks?

Greenberger: From my own experience as a commodity regulator, I believe that if the Bush Administration were serious about its regulation, we could begin seeing prices drop within a month. If we don't get the kind of regulation that has been done for decades and the market proceeds along the pace its proceeding, we will have to go through a very, very serious recession. The question is do you want to deflate the bubble by that kind of suffering or do you want to deflate the bubble by applying tight U.S. regulatory controls?

Ryssdal: Michael Greenberger used to run the Division of Trading and Markets for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. He teaches law at the University of Maryland now. Mr. Greenberger, thanks a lot for your time.

Greenberger: You're welcome.


Comment by Richard Pendergrass

From Danbury, CT, 06/20/2008

The "Enron Loophole" allows oil traders to set their own prices in advance of delivery of product. Mr. Greenberger made the point in Senate testimony that the largest owner of of heating oil in Mew England is Morgan Stanley. That should be one large clue that speculation is a very large factor. Yes, demand is increasing; yes, supply is diminishing. But not at the rates that would justify these price gains without rampant speculation. Countdown with Keith Olberman had a piece on 06/18/08 on this very subject. (It is still available on I suspect it was spurred by the Observer piece mentioned in these comments. Everyone should be writing or calling their Senators and Congressmen to complain about this "loophole".

Sunday, July 13, 2008

911 Feature Film: The Reflecting Pool: Trailer, Synopsis; NYC Schedule July 2008

The NYT trashed it, so maybe it's struck a nerve. --RB

An open letter by the writer/director to Nathan Lee, the NY Times movie critic of “The Reflecting Pool.” (includes a link to the Times review and to several comments about

Here's the trailer. Looks interesting.

An investigation of the 9/11 events by a Russian-American journalist and a father of a 9/11 victim implicates the US government in the attacks.

ALEX PROKOP (Jarek Kupsc), a successful journalist, receives a rare 9/11 video tape revealing new information about the attack. The footage was sent by PAUL COOPER (Joseph Culp), a driven researcher, whose daughter died on 9/11. Sensing a good story, Prokop travels with Cooper to New York and Washington, DC, where they uncover suppressed information implicating the US Government in the attacks. As Cooper introduces Prokop to key eye-witnesses, the fa├žade of the "official story" begins to crumble. Prokop hears accounts of underground explosions in the Twin Towers moments before their collapse and discovers that the firm providing WTC security was run by the President's brother.

We follow Alex and Cooper as they investigate the inexplicable collapse of the 47-story WTC Building Seven, disprove the implausible airliner "attack" on the Pentagon, and uncover the illegal destruction of physical evidence from Ground Zero.

The pressure builds as the FBI intimidates Alex's editor, McGUIRE, (Lisa Black) to reveal key sources – while the magazine's corporate investors threaten to kill the entire story. Plagued by the ghosts of his Communist childhood and trying to uphold the independence of American journalism, Alex's search for the truth leads to a dangerous and shocking realization!

THE REFLECTING POOL is an intense, sobering investigation into the most controversial tragedy of our time. Drawn from established sources and based on verifiable facts, THE REFLECTING POOL is a thought-provoking study of a search for truth and the profound consequences of not looking for it any further than the nightly news.
JULY 11-16 & 18 (7pm & 9pm)

Pioneer Theater
155 East 3rd St
New York, NY
(212) 591-0434

No shows on Thursday July 17. Filmmakers will attend for Q & A! For more information:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Left I and Paul Watson on Terror and Massacre in Afghanistan

Can't help quoting Left I on the News's very good, always on target blog. (Although I'm not quite as disillusioned with Obama as he is, but I'm getting there. This weekend I cut out the NYT reprint of a cartoon showing Obama running for Bush's first term as opposed to McCain for B's 3rd term.)
Left I's blog is on the latest US massacre in Afghanistan which was mentioned on Democracy Now's headlines.
The quibble I have with Left I is that he doesn't seem to acknowledge that the US is purposefully behind virtually all the major violence, either themselves or through their support of the Taliban through the Pakistani ISI.

Unlike Left I, Paul Joseph Watson, from Prison Planet, in the 2nd blog I'm highlighting today, cites the terrible bombing in Kabul this week and indicates that the signs point to the hand of the US via the ISI via the Taliban in another false flag attack. It was David Ray Griffin, the guru of the 911 Truth movement, in the still very important The New Pearl Harbor, who clued me into the US/ISI/Taliban connection.
Now why would the Cheney Bush administration want more chaos, anarchy, war in Afghanistan where their own soldiers are dying (and killing Afghanis)? Here's Paul Watson's theory.

Paul Watson wrote:
Could the Kabul bombing be a joint ISI-CIA false flag for the purposes of creating a pretext for the continued presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, control of the booming opium drugs trade and the construction of permanent military bases?


Afghanistan: Another day, another 23 dead
by Left I on the News.

Left I wrote:
This one another wedding party (this report says 27 dead). There are rather conflicting reports of the incident, to put it mildly.

From the U.S. military:
"We have had no reports of any non-combatants killed or injured in this incident," said 1st Lt. Nathan Perry. "This may just be normal, typical militant propaganda."

The U.S. military issued a statement, saying "intelligence revealed a large group of militants operating in Deh Bala district. Coalition forces identified the militants in a mountainous region and used precision air strikes to kill them."

And from the local governor:
Haji Amishah Gul, governor of Deh Bala, told the Times just two of the dead were men. The rest, he said, were women and children.
"The bride is among the dead," he said.

Gosh, who to believe? Other than relying on decades of lies from the U.S. military to guide you as to their credibility, it's unlikely you'll be able to decide by reading the U.S. corporate press, since after tomorrow, your chances of reading about the story, beyond yet another story about Afghan President Karzai "ordering an investigation" into the incident, are slim to none. Partly that's because the chance that the Democrats will seek to turn it into a political issue are also slim to none, since their own criticism of U.S. policy in Afghanistan is that we should have been doing it sooner.

Paul Joseph Watson

Afghanistan Accuses “Foreign Intelligence Agency” Of Deadly Embassy Bombing
Prison Planet | July 7, 2008

Paul Watson wrote:
Afghanistan’s interior ministry has accused a “foreign intelligence agency” of being behind today’s deadly suicide bombing that ripped apart the country’s Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 41 people. Could the event represent another “false flag” run by American intelligence as a means of maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan and control of the country’s lucrative opium trade?
A further 141 were injured when the bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into two diplomatic vehicles entering the embassy and the blast also devastated nearby shops and buildings.
“The interior ministry believes this attack was carried out in coordination and consultation with an active intelligence service in the region,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Afghanistan has previously accused Pakistani agents of being behind a number of attacks on its soil,” according to a London Guardian report, referring to the notorious Pakistani ISI intelligence agency.
As Jane’s Information Group notes, “The CIA has well-established links with the ISI, having trained it in the 1980s to ‘run’ Afghan mujahideen (holy Muslim warriors), Islamic fundamentalists from Pakistan as well as Arab volunteers by providing them with arms and logistic support to evict the Soviet occupation of Kabul.”
“Opium cultivation and heroin production in Pakistan’s northern tribal belt and neighbouring Afghanistan was also a vital offshoot of the ISI-CIA co-operation. It succeeded not only in turning Soviet troops into addicts, but also in boosting heroin sales in Europe and the US through an elaborate web of well-documented deceptions, transport networks, couriers and payoffs. This, in turn, offset the cost of the decade-long anti-Soviet ‘unholy war’ in Afghanistan.”
Could the Kabul bombing be a joint ISI-CIA false flag for the purposes of creating a pretext for the continued presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, control of the booming opium drugs trade and the construction of permanent military bases?
As we reported last month, Middle East sources indicated that U.S. forces gave the green light for the Taliban to attack a government prison in Kandahar on June 13th, and stood idly by while Taliban fighters violently freed more than 1000 inmates.
According to some observers, the recent apparent resurgence of the Taliban has been encouraged by NATO and the U.S. as a bulwark against political pressure and calls for troops to leave the country.
Without an enemy to fight, there would be no justification for a continued U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan. There would be no more weapons sales contracts and no more rebuilding contracts for Halliburton. Opium cultivation would fall back into the hands of warlords and the Taliban, who banned production before the U.S. invasion in 2001, after which heroin flooded the streets of the U.S. and UK in record numbers as cultivation soared 50 per cent year on year. Afghanistan now exports upwards of 92 per cent of the world’s supply of opium, which is used to make heroin.
As Professor Michel Chossudovsky writes, “U.S. military presence has served to restore rather than eradicate the drug trade.”
“Implemented in 2000-2001, the Taliban’s drug eradication program led to a 94 percent decline in opium cultivation. In 2001, according to UN figures, opium production had fallen to 185 tons. Immediately following the October 2001 US led invasion, production increased dramatically, regaining its historical levels.”
“Based on wholesale and retail prices in Western markets, the earnings generated by the Afghan drug trade are colossal. In July 2006, street prices in Britain for heroin were of the order of Pound Sterling 54, or $102 a gram,” Chossudovsky notes.
The necessity for continued violence in Afghanistan exists just like it does in Iraq, for the pretext of justifying an endless military occupation and the opportunity to build military bases that will be used as launch pads for future wars, as is now being discussed for Iraq.
As we have highlighted in the past, links between Taliban leadership and the U.S. military-industrial complex are documented.
As Seymour Hersh reported in January 2002, at the height of the war in Afghanistan, hundreds of Taliban fighters “accidentally” ended up on U.S. organized special safety corridor airlifts right before the fall of Kunduz.
The Taliban itself was a creation of the CIA having been set up and bankrolled by the U.S. in tandem with Pakistan’s ISI.
“In the 1980s, the CIA provided some $5 billion in military aid for Islamic fundamentalist rebels fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, but scaled down operations after Moscow pulled out in 1989. However, Selig Harrison of the DC-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars recently told a conference in London that the CIA created the Taliban “monster” by providing some $3 billion for the ultra-fundamentalist militia in their 1994-6 drive to power,” reported the Times of India.