Category: hypocrisy

Commenting without reading: An April Fools experiment by NPR

| April 5, 2014 | Reply
Commenting without reading: An April Fools experiment by NPR

NPR played a clever April Fools trick this year. It posted a link on FB with the following headline: “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?.”

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The Polar Express: A Skeptical Review

| December 23, 2013 | Reply

PolarExpressI’d idly heard of the movie “The Polar Express” since it came out in 2004. This year, in a fit of holiday spirit, I queued it up on Netflix and played it through my Roku. I don’t know exactly what I expected from what was clearly a children’s Christmas movie, but it had moderately good reviews from a variety of sources.

Let me say up front that the animation was impressive; they managed to clear the edge of the Uncanny Valley on the almost believably human side. I enjoyed the attention to detail in the vintage buildings and the train itself. The many voices of Tom Hanks were also enjoyable, with clear jibes at famous phrases from some of his other movie appearances.

But the story was quite disturbing. It begins with a boy who is clearly climbing out of the pit of magical thinking and beginning to apply reason to observation, vis-a-vis Santa. But then he has a dream in which he is wooed by a stranger to get into a big dark vehicle to go somewhere unknown; a good message for any child? In this train, he meets a Disney cross section of humanity: Many white kids, a pale black girl, an ostracized poor kid, and a stereotypical Bronx Jewish know-it-all. Let’s ignore what this clearly Semitic character is doing on a train bound for Santa’s workshop.

The unnamed central character of the story is given several opportunities to show that he has superior morality, which I appreciate given his clearly agnostic bent. The other kids of deeper faith are mostly lacking empathy.

Anyway, after many improbable and long sequences of cartoon adrenaline action, they pass the Arctic Circle (accurately described as 66° North Latitude or about 2/3 of the way from the equator to the pole) and can see the North Pole itself (a few train lengths or 2,000 miles, depending on what you believe).

Once there, the agnostic protagonist, the poor kid, the dark girl, and the greedy Bronx kid get lost and only can find their way by following blind faith. In the end, our hero learns that he must ignore his intelligence and embrace total faith in the magical Mr. C. in order to function properly in society. The symbol of true faith in this story is being able to hear the sleigh bells. He could feel and see them all the time. But without faith, he was deaf to their mob-inspiring siren call. Yeah, the frenzy of the adoring mob when the bells rang was truly scary. Does anyone else notice the architectural similarities between the town square and the Vatican?

Anyway, when the lad of reinvigorated faith wakes from his epiphany, he notices that his parents, people of regularly declared faith, cannot actually hear the bells. They are just playing along, presumably for the safety of blending in. Our hero, in his adult voice-over condescension, claims to still hear the bells despite his near brush with rationality at the start of the story.

Anyway, the message of the film is clear: To be happy you must believe. To survive, at least pretend.

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What we know, thanks to Private Chelsea (Bradley) Manning

| November 29, 2013 | Reply

At The Nation, Greg Mitchell has compiled a long list of things that we know, thanks to the efforts of Bradley Manning, nka Chelsea Manning. It’s a long and important list for which Manning sacrificed many years of liberty and suffered torture at the hands of the United States government. As someone who hates being lied to, I am thankful for the efforts of Manning. Here is a small excerpt from the list:

• Yemeni president lied to his own people, claiming his military carried out air strikes on militants actually done by the US. All part of giving US full rein in country against terrorists.

• Details on Vatican hiding big sex abuse cases in Ireland.

• US tried to get Spain to curb its probes of Gitmo torture and rendition.

• Egyptian torturers trained by FBI—although allegedly to teach the human rights issues.

• State Dept. memo: US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras was “illegal and unconstitutional.”

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Elizabeth Warren’s war on opacity

| November 7, 2013 | Reply
Elizabeth Warren’s war on opacity

I am in Washington DC for the national conference of the National Consumer Law Center. Our special guest today was Senator Elizabeth Warren. In a blistering plain-language talk, delivered to an audience of approximately 900 consumer lawyers, Warren took aim at lobbyists, courts and the campaign finance system. [more . . . ]

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Epitaph for the tomb of modern journalism

| October 14, 2013 | Reply

Glenn Greenwald takes issue with a recent comment by U.K. “journalist” Chris Blackhurst: “Edwared Snowden’s secrets may be dangerous. I would not have published them.” This leaves Greenwald in a state somewhere between seething and despondent:

What Blackhurst is revealing here is indeed a predominant mindset among many in the media class. Journalists should not disobey the dictates of those in power. Once national security state officials decree that what they are doing should be kept concealed from the public – once they pound their mighty “SECRET” stamp onto their behavior – it is the supreme duty of all citizens, including journalists, to honor that and never utter in public what they have done. Indeed, it is not only morally wrong, but criminal, to defy these dictates. After all, “who am I to disbelieve them?”

That this mentality condemns – and would render outlawed – most of the worthwhile investigative journalism over the last several decades never seems to occur to good journalistic servants like Blackhurst. National security state officials also decreed that it would “not be in the public interest” to report on the Pentagon Papers, or the My Lai massacre, or the network of CIA black sites in which detainees were tortured, or the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, or the documents negating claims of Iraqi WMDs, or a whole litany of waste, corruption and illegality that once bore the “top secret” label.

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About Democrats

| October 4, 2013 | Reply

Glenn Greenwald highlights a question he was recently asked on Reddit, and his response:

Glenn Greenwald: “I was also asked: “Do you see the US Democratic Party as hopelessly corrupt in terms of orchestrating progressive change? If so, what can we to do roll back abuses of surveillance state and take back system from the rich?” My reply:

“I never see any political questions as hopeless or unchangeable, but consider this:

“When I first began writing in 2005, I was focused primarily on the Bush NSA program, and I was able to build a large readership quickly because so many Democrats, progressives, liberal bloggers, etc, were so supportive of the work I was doing. That continued to be true through 2008.

“Now, a mere four [years] later, Democrats have become the most vehement defenders of the NSA and the most vicious attackers of my work on the NSA – often, some of the very same people cheering so loudly in 2006 and 2007 are the ones protesting most loudly and viciously now.

“Gee, I wonder what changed? In the answer lies all you need to know about the Democratic Party.”

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The moral burden on the United States

| September 14, 2013 | Reply

Barack Obama:

“For nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements; it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world’s a better place because we have borne them.”

Matthew Rothschild responds at Common Dreams:

Was the U.S. an anchor of global security and an enforcer of international agreements when it overthrew the Mossadegh government in Iran in 1953, or the Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954?

Is the world a better place because the U.S. helped overthrow Salvador Allende’s democratically elected government in Chile almost exactly 40 years ago?

Is the world a better place because the United States killed 3 million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and because we dropped 20 million gallons of napalm (waging our own version of chemical warfare) on those countries?

Is the world a better place because the United States supported brutal governments in El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s, which killed tens of thousands of their own people?

Is the world a better place because George Bush waged an illegal war against Iraq and killed between 100,000 and a million civilians?

And what international agreements was the United States enforcing when it tortured people after 9/11?

Bill Maher:

Forget the Syria debate, we need to debate on why we’re always debating whether to bomb someone because we’re starting to look, not so much like the world’s policeman, but more like George Zimmerman — itching to use force and then pretending it’s because we had no choice.

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Represent.US attacks legalized bribery by lobbyists

| July 25, 2013 | Reply

Represent us has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, including the launch of the American Anti-Corruption Act with bipartisan support, including Lawrence Lessig and Trevor Potter. 400,000 Americans have signed up to support the Act.

Here is an effort to illustrate how laws are made in Washington D.C.:

If you want to be part of this effort to expose the electoral process and fix it, visit www.represent.us or “like” its Facebook page.

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Teach the children of America about America’s secret courts

| July 19, 2013 | Reply

I wonder if American children in civics classes are taught about the secret courts of America?

Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now.

That might be the most amazing thing about all of this, is that we have a secret court that meets in complete secrecy, with only the government present, and this court is issuing rulings that define what our constitutional rights are. How can you have a democracy in which your rights are determined in total secrecy by a secret court issuing 80-page rulings about what rights you have as a citizen? It is Orwellian and absurd. And I think one of the reforms that will come and is coming from our reporting is that a lot more light is going to be shined on the shenanigans that have been taking place within that court.

And after we teach them about our secret courts, we are just getting warmed up. Civics classes should also include lessons that our phone companies are happy accomplices to spying on their customers:

We’ve known for a long time that the telecoms—AT&T, Sprint, Verizon—are completely in bed with the United States government. Remember, the scandal of the NSA in the Bush years was that—not just that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on the calls of Americans without the warrants required by law, but also that the telecoms were vigorously cooperating in that program and turning over full and unfettered access to the telephone calls and records of millions of their customers even though there was no legal basis for doing so. And, in fact, the telecoms were on the verge of losing in court and being sued successfully by millions of their customers that they had violated their civil rights and also that they had violated their privacy rights and broken the law, criminally and civilly. And it was only because the Congress stepped in, with the leadership of both political parties, and retroactively immunized the telecoms. But the telecom industry makes massive profits on their extreme cooperation with these—with the NSA to allow all kinds of unfettered access to the communications of their customers. And so, the telecoms are the last people that want transparency brought to their cooperation with the NSA, because that would really shock people to learn just how untrustworthy those companies are when it comes to protecting the privacy of their customers’ communications.

What else is our government up to?

That Snowden has created some sort of “dead man’s switch” – whereby documents get released in the event that he is killed by the US government – was previously reported weeks ago, and Snowden himself has strongly implied much the same thing. That doesn’t mean he thinks the US government is attempting to kill him – he doesn’t – just that he’s taken precautions against all eventualities, including that one (just incidentally, the notion that a government that has spent the last decade invading, bombing, torturing, rendering, kidnapping, imprisoning without charges, droning, partnering with the worst dictators and murderers, and targeting its own citizens for assassination would be above such conduct is charmingly quaint).

Teach the children the truth. If you dare.

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