Thursday, August 31, 2006


Who makes up this shit?

The manipulation of language for propaganda is obviously not a new concept, it's been relied on by totalitarian governments like those of the USSR, China and Nazi Germany throughout the 20th century as a useful tool to confuse and demoralize an ignorant populace. But rarely have we seen a more concerted, organized effort from a government of a "free society" to urge its people away from using facts or history as a guide for drawing conclusions about world events and foreign policy.

This administration has redefined terrorism as simply an "us vs. them" or "good vs. evil" equation and is now beginning a new effort to redefine fascism in similar terms. Obviously terrorists and fascists are threats to any free society. But the devil is in the details and by simplifying the common meaning of these words to fit a specific geo-political agenda the powers that be are engaging in a short sighted manipulation which can only erode the true horror these concepts depict. It's a lot like crying wolf. When we claim that a rude waiter is acting like a Nazi we don't truly elevate him to the status of a monster, instead we degrade the details of Hitler's agenda to the status of inconvenience.

The fact is we don't need scary new words like Islamofascism to describe Islamic extremism, we have a description that works just fine -- it's called religious fundamentalism, and it is already scary. I will stand first in line to denounce fundamentalism in all its unsavory and anti-democratic detail but with the debt this Administration owes to Christian Fundamentalism I'm fairly sure this President will not.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sardegna: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PROPAGANDA 2: Conspiracy Theory No More

Propaganda 2, or P2, is a Masonic lodge that acted as a shadow government in Italy from 1974 to 1981. Based on the principal that ideologies and values can be easily manipulated by commercial TV and a complacent press, P2 managed to seamlessly place its members in all spheres of Italian life and secretly shaped Italy's political and economic landscape with the backing of a select group of political and Industrial elite, the Sicilian Mafia and the American CIA.

Rumors of a Masonic lodge that involved Italy's highest powers had been spreading since the mid-1970, but still Italian citizens were in shock when a list of P2 members was revealed to the public on May 20th, 1981. The list contained about 900 illustrious names; among them were four ministers or ex-ministers, 44 members of Parliament, all the chief positions of the secret services, the head of the Revenue Guard Corps (Guardia di Finanza), high officials of the state police (Carabinieri), army officers, prefects, magistrates, bankers, entrepreneurs, newspapers’ directors, journalists, and so on. A week after the list was published, the ruling government was forced to resign.

The Manifesto of P2, titled Plan for Democratic Rebirth, was impounded on July 4th 1981, shortly after the discovery of the list of members, in the double-bottomed suitcase of Maria Grazia Gelli (daughter of the well known fascist Licio Gelli). The plan explained how P2 intended to “make use of financial aids” to enter the most diverse places of power: political parties, the press, labor unions, and the three branches of government. The plan explains in detail how to buy a considerable influence within the governing party of the time, the Christian Democrats. The part that concerned the press is particularly terrifying. P2’s plan was to position trusted journalists in the major national newspapers, so that they always presented a favorable image of P2 politicians and the P2 agenda. National, regional, and local activist press had to be infiltrated as well. TV would be controlled to manipulate public opinion and to lull the population into a submissive chorus of approval. Infiltration was organized among judges and magistrates, as well as among bankers and police officials of every rank. The aim was to set up an authoritarian government of privileges, anti-democratic, falsely populist, and reactionary.

To understand the history of P2, one should examine the biography of his leader, fascist freemason Licio Gelli. Gelli served with fascists in the War in Spain and had always been close to extreme fascist movements. His strong anti-communist stand and his ability to bond with the highest ranks of power led him to work for a few years for the United States’ CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps) and with the British secret services. Gelli’s most notable collaboration was with Gladio, the secret service agency heavily financed by CIA and NATO to counter Communist influence after World War II in Italy. Gladio’s methods were far from orthodox, and acted through the so-called "strategy of tension." The strategy of tension consisted in setting up terrorist attacks to be blamed on extreme left groups. Between 1964 and 1984, Gladio, whose existence and responsibilities were ascertained only in 1990, killed 149 people in 8 terrorist attacks.

When Licio Gelli founded P2 in 1974, he brought in Gladio’s techniques, principles, and influential friendships within the new organization. Some modifications were needed, though. Direct confrontations and attempted coups were replaced by a more subtle and deliberate occupation of the positions of power. For ten years, P2 was directly involved in all levels of Italian mysteries and scandals. These include numerous banking scandals (Banco Ambrosiano, the Vatican banking scandal), the kidnap and murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, the assassination of activist journalist Mino Pecorelli, terrorist attacks like the bombing on the train “Italicus,” the Iran-Contra affair, the assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, and many more illegal economic maneuvers.

Although freemasonry was banned in 1981 and Licio Gelli is confined to house arrest, many fear that today P2 is as strong as ever. Many of the P2 members have kept their positions of power, and one notable member, businessman Silvio Berlusconi, has been prime minister twice in the past 12 years. Silvio Berlusconi’s amazing career bears all the marks of P2. From his humble beginnings as a singer on cruise boats, Berlusconi entered P2 and received all means of economic and political support from the organization. It is not by chance that Berlusconi built an economic empire in a handful of years without any proof of legal transactions. The right friends and a benevolent disposition for money laundering go a long way. Today Berlusconi is Italy's richest man and despite almost constant investigations into his shady business practices and his relationships with Mafia figures he managed to hold power longer than any other Prime Minister since World War II.

One mark of P2 lies in the way Berlusconi gained and held onto power: owner of publishing companies, radio stations, and three of the six major TV networks of the country, Berlusconi had all means of information on his side. In his 5-year government, the ex-P2-member managed to annul most of the laws, and thus most of the charges against him, for corruption and collaboration with the Mafia, as he advanced the cause of his own businesses over his competitors. In 1996, commenting of the program of Silvio Berlusconi's improvised political party, Fortza Italia, Licio Gelli affirmed that Berlusconi “took our plan for rebirth and copied almost all of it.”

Many historians believe that despite it's outing P2 has already carried out a slow-motion but successful coup d’etat. The tragedy is that the story of P2 is not the stuff of conspiracy theory. P2 is a fact of Italian (and American) history with names, dates and an agenda which can all be verified. The Plan for Democratic Rebirth has cost the lives of hundreds of people, destroyed Italy's economic competitiveness, tramped over justice and legality and disenfranchised Italy's voting population. Propaganda and corruption has slowly brought Italy down to the ranks of the "semi-free", according to Freedom House , a non-profit, non-partisan organization that publishes a yearly survey on freedom around the world (for freedom of speech Italy ranks no. 77). Hopefully Italy's experience can serve as a cautionary tale for countries that also see the rise of strong economic and political powers with shared ideologies and the consolidation of media power, all of which render the press, the people and thus democracy, weaker by the day.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bake a Cake!

If the choice between The Gap and Old Navy seems like no choice at all then start your own store!

Leann and Danni did...

Meeps is having their grand re-opening at their new localtion on lower 18th street in Adams Morgan this weekend. If you are not familiar, Meeps carries tons of great vintage clothes as well as new fashions from Local DIY designers. So, instead of complaining about the Coke vs. Pepsi nature of the world put your money where your mouth is and support DIY business in Washington DC!


When We Fear Fear , Who Wins?

TERRORISM: The systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Terrorism has been practiced by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and religious groups, by revolutionaries, and even by state institutions such as armies, intelligence services, and police. -Encylopedia Britannica

- 2,973 deaths caused by the Sept. 11 hijackings.

- 3,646 deaths caused by terrorist bombings and shootings around the world in 2004, including 35 Americas.

- 2597 American soldiers killed in Iraq.

- 40-45,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the 2003 Invasion.

- 49,693 deaths caused by homicide on the streets of the USA in 2003.

- 43,005 deaths in the USA in 2002 caused in the by motor vehicles.

-400,000 deaths caused EVERY YEAR in the USA from smoking tobacco.

If we take these numbers to be fairly consistent then we can say in 2001 there were approximately 10 times more people murdered by their fellow citizens than were murdered on 9-11. There were 100 times more people killed by cigarette smoke. You are 10 times more likely to be killed driving to work than you are to be murdered in a terrorist attack.

I understand that it is easy to play games with numbers however, the point I am trying to make is that our attention has been so consumed with the random nature of the terrorist threat that we seem to have lost our sense of perspective. Isn't that the goal of terrorism? The very nature of terrorism is that it feeds off of an unreasonable fear. And when governments amplify that fear who are they serving?

Who was served here in Washington DC when huge budget cuts were made in after school programs, community policing and neighborhood youth programs to make way for homeland security? We are only 10 years removed from the loss of almost an entire generation of young black men to the murder wave which swept through this city in the late 80s and early 90s. After years of investment in community crime prevention and a methodical recovery we find ourselves once again in the midst of a "crime emergency" which many community activists blame directly on the diversion of funds and focus from these programs since 9-11.

Who was served when Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans and the federal government was nowhere to be found? We have the National Guard stretched to the bone fighting foreign wars instead of taking care of their actual mandate which is to protect the "homeland" during wartime or disaster. What did the billions of dollars diverted to homeland security do for the people of New Orleans during their time of need?

I am not saying that terrorism is a fabrication or that due diligence should not be used in an effort to thwart terrorist attacks. I am saying however that we should examine why we divert so many resources to a threat which is so remote when we have more imminent threats to our everyday existence that are begging for our attention; and why we are so willing to abdicate the very freedom we say we are defending to government officials who time and again prove their willingness to abuse whatever power is granted them. If the terrorist agenda is to strike unreasonable fear and alter our economy and the government's agenda is to consolidate power then there are two obvious winners in the global war on terror and neither one of them is us. The way I see it, one hand washes the other.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Joseph Lieberman: Next!

On October 10, 2002 Congress passed H. J. RES. 114 , a Joint Resolution "To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq."

It's time to put an end to the myth that White House "lies" or "faulty intelligence" is an acceptable explanation for Senators who voted in favor of the war resolution. Democrats who voted for this resolution did so because like Joseph Lieberman they were either on the same page as the White House, or because they were simply too afraid they would find themselves on other side of what many thought would be a speedy military victory to vote their conscience.

I am not a member of Congress, I do not have their tools of research at my disposal, I do not have their subpoena powers or the ability to haul members of the Administration in front of me to answer my questions under oath. Yet by simply reading newspapers articles, journals and other publicly available material it was absolutely clear to me at the time that the Administration's context for going to war in Iraq was a complete falsehood. The subsequent parade of current and former government officials, from Richard Clarke to Joe Wilson to paul Bremer, speaking out to anyone who will listen as to the dangerous nature of the White House policy on Iraq bears this out. In fact Bob Woodward has Donald Rumsfeld quoted in his 2002 book Bush at War as seeing an "opportunity" to invade Iraq days after 9-11 even though no one in the White House or anywhere in the intelligence community believed Iraq had anything to do with 9-11 in particular or terrorism in general.

It is true that the Administration lied, it is also true that the Administration cherry picked intelligence reports that pointed them in the right direction and ignored or suppressed reports that did not. These are obvious and transparent facts. Why did the United States go to war in Iraq? Thanks to the Senators listed below that question remains unanswered 4 years and tens of thousands of lives later. Some of these folks are no longer in office and I think it's time to make sure the same goes for the rest in the coming election season.

Senators in support of H. J. RES. 114:

Allard (R-CO), Allen (R-VA), Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Bennett (R-UT), Biden (D-DE), Bond (R-MO), Breaux (D-LA), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burns (R-MT), Campbell (R-CO), Cantwell (D-WA), Carnahan (D-MO), Carper (D-DE), Cleland (D-GA), Clinton (D-NY), Cochran (R-MS), Collins (R-ME), Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), Daschle (D-SD), DeWine (R-OH), Dodd (D-CT), Domenici (R-NM), Dorgan (D-ND), Edwards (D-NC), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Feinstein (D-CA), Fitzgerald (R-IL), Frist (R-TN), Gramm (R-TX), Grassley (R-IA), Gregg (R-NH), Hagel (R-NE), Harkin (D-IA), Hatch (R-UT), Helms (R-NC), Hollings (D-SC), Hutchinson (R-AR), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Johnson (D-SD), Kerry (D-MA), Kohl (D-WI), Kyl (R-AZ), Landrieu (D-LA), Lieberman (D-CT). Lincoln (D-AR), Lott (R-MS), Lugar (R-IN), McCain (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Miller (D-GA), Murkowski (R-AK), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Nickles (R-OK), Reid (D-NV), Roberts (R-KS), Rockefeller (D-WV), Santorum (R-PA), Schumer (D-NY), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Smith (R-NH), Smith (R-OR), Snowe (R-ME), Specter (R-PA), Stevens (R-AK), Thomas (R-WY), Thompson (R-TN), Thurmond (R-SC), Torricelli (D-NJ), Voinovich (R-OH), Warner (R-VA)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fighting Fire with Fire

I am so outraged and offended by Israel's bombing campaign in Lebanon that I can barely sleep at night. But I am also outraged that people will use the "opportunity" these horrible events offer to further their own agendas of hateful bigotry. We in the US are well acquainted with the tenor of Mel Gibson's recent anti semitic outburst. Our recent history is one of reckoning with our own institutional bigotry and Gibson's remarks take us directly to that ugly but familiar place. There has been little debate here as to whether or not Gibson was entering into a meaningful debate on his way to the drunk tank. However, the fact that so many people in Europe and elsewhere seem eager to defend his ranting as some kind of brave attempt to "keep it real", rather than to bully, demean and dehumanize, is alarming.

I agree that one need not be an anti-semite to speak out against Israel's brutality, in fact, one need not even be non-Jewish. So let's all agree to speak out against hateful speech and hateful violence no matter it's vessel. And while we are pondering balance let's ponder the fact that a common denominator between Israel, Hammas, Al Queda, Hezbolla and the United States is their collective willingness to use murder as a means to an end. At some point we are going to need to go in another direction because fighting fire with fire is simply burning us out.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Beppe Grillo: Comedy isn't Pretty

One of the main inspirations I had for creating this site came from the the blog of the Italian comedian Beppe Grillo. Italy has a long tradition of social critique being delivered by comedians. Unlike their American late night equivalents these comedians dive headfirst into real issues and use their bond with the common man and their insight to the absurd to mobilize Italians to speak out against political abuse and cynical party and religious rhetoric.

However, Italy also has a well documented history of revolving alliances between government officials, the Catholic Church, mafia and anti-communist secret societies. Once Silvio Berlusconi (who has been linked to all of the above) came to power in the mid-90s these comedians, while hugely popular, were effectively banned from the public airwaves. Berlusconi is not only the founder of the right wing political party Forza Italia, he is Italy's richest man and owns a media empire that controls 3 of the 6 major Italian television networks.

Once banned Grillo and his fellow comedians began taking their shows directly to the public. They tour the country in local theaters and began using the internet as a means to stay in touch with a wider public. Today Beppe Grillo's shows are almost universally sold out and his blog is not only the most visited website in Italy, with 1500-2000 comments a day, it is one one the most visited blogs in the world! His is an important voice and the fact that his site has become THE place to go for both political insight and humor is a true inspiration for us all.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Follow the Money


For some reason we need words like murder to remind us that the wholesale slaughter of innocent people is immoral. Words like killing no longer hold meaning and words and phrases like casualties and collateral damage are cynical wordplay at best. It seems impossible from our quiet streets to comprehend the mayhem and human suffering that is now a daily occurrence on the streets of Bagdad, Beirut, the villages of Lebanon and elsewhere. And this is no mistake. Political agendas and military euphemism are not just convenient but necessary to keep a relatively comfortable population at arms length from the horror on the ground so we can debate murder as a matter of policy rather than morality. And who does this benefit?

If there is ever to be a reckoning with this slaughter the concept we must face is that our comfortable lifestyles are being sold to us as a direct product of these struggles. We are taught that to live in comfort we need two things, cheap labor and cheap energy. We marvel at the prices at Target, IKEA, Wall-Mart, etc., but would be horrified if we saw the true cost of such bargains. Look at the tags on the back of almost any inexpensive product and you'll find it was likely made in a county that doesn't support anything close to what you would find acceptable in terms of basic wages or human rights. Look at the governments behind the top oil producing nations and you'll be far more likely find a despot than a democracy. The question I have is whether this is all really necessary or whether we are being sold not an inconvenient truth, but a convenient lie.

When slavery was abolished in America many in the south claimed their economy, their lifestyles, would never recover. History claims otherwise. But isn't the relationship between our current lifestyles and the abject poverty of those who make it possible another form of slavery? And wouldn't we be just as able to recover if we altered course? We live in a world of unprecedented advances in technology and yet few of these ideas make it to the market place in any form other than consumer gadgets (which make giant corporations rich) and smart bombs (which make those same corporations even richer). It's time to look at these relationships and ask ourselves what it is that we are defending. Was slavery a net-plus for average Americans? Or was it a net plus for a handful of southern landowners. How about today? Is the middle class growing? Is the working class flourishing? Is the environment healthy?

Vegetarians often say that if most meat-eaters spent a day at the slaughterhouse they would likely never eat meat again. The Meat Industry goes to great lengths to make sure the consumer never has to consider that the main by-product of their product is the slaughter of farm animals. And isn't this the whole point? If the basic agenda of the Meat Industry is to sanitize slaughter what should we expect from the Defense Industry? I've always carried around a certain amount of guilt because I eat meat, not because I'm so moved by the animal rights movement, but because I realize that I contribute to a process that doesn't simply enable my dinner but sanitizes global suffering as its by-product.

However, as flawed as I am, I refuse to be paralyzed by guilt. Far too many well meaning souls are silenced by their inability to speak up for their well meaning values without experiencing some form of guilt. Another by-product of our comfortable existence is malaise. Guilt is an acknowledgment that one can do better (and who among us can't?), but it does not absolve us from our responsibility to speak out. One need not be a saint to express moral outrage. One also need not be a scholar to see beyond the complicated maze of economic, political and military policy and insist that all public policy reflect the most basic of our shared values. And if you believe that the men and women in the power suits will never have your best interests in mind then get to work. Apathy is not just a by-product of the status quo, it is its most powerful tool so let's take a minute to collect or thoughts ... then get going.

keep Asking Questions

Why do we go to war? An open question that will not be answered here:

Any person who has read the painfully ironic "Patriot Act" understands that freedom is not something that the current American Administration values, much less goes to war for. On that note, it seems that freedom is no longer something even the American people are willing to fight for. We live in the strongest military and economic state the world has ever seen but somehow we have been conditioned to live in near constant fear. We fear pornographers, child snatchers, computer hackers, red light runners, the stock market and the boogey man - not to mention terrorists, Islamic fundamentalists, and any threat whatsoever to our comfort, complacency and total belief that everything we own we've earned, and everything we do we do for the better good, simply because we are Americans.

Every time someone expresses their freedom by doing something nobel (or stupid), or voicing opinions (or facts) that make other people uncomfortable Americans run to the polling booths in support of regresive laws that weaken their own rights while tranfering more power and authority to a more secretive government which is less likely to respect what individual rights remain. If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance then it seems the price is just too high. What a shame! Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness sounded SO GOOD.

So, what to do? Anything. Bake a cake, start a band, open a store, live your life with your eyes open and according to whatever values actually make sense to you and hold up to some kind of scrutiny. Apathy is the enemy so don't allow your alienation to the mainstream culture or politics keep you from living. Live your life with honesty and conscience as your guide and you'll be doing more than you'll ever know. The world doesn't need any more depressed and depressing former activists. It needs ideas and role models-- people who are happy with who they are and what they are doing no matter who the latest pretender to the throne may be.

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