Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the Express Train to Dis, with Transfers at Beltwayistan and Oslo; Can the Power of the Word Turn Us Around?

On the Express Train to Dis, with Transfers at Beltwayistan and Oslo; Can the Power of the Word Turn Us Around?

By Richard Power

From whatever angle you view it, the Climate Crisis, the Antropocene Age, the Sixth Great Extinction, we are on an express train to Dis, this last week it made stops in Beltwayistan and Oslo.

Here are some of my own reflections, and those of a few others whose voices should not be lost in the cacophony.


There has been no leadership from POTUS on the Zombie Cult's hostage-taking of the nation's economic future. None.
  • Why is Obama not using the bully pulpit? Perhaps he’s too embroiled in the tactical maneuvers that pass for policy making in Washington, or too intent on preserving political capital for the next skirmish ... A more disturbing explanation is that he simply lacks the courage to tell the truth. He wants most of all to be seen as a responsible adult rather than a fighter. As such, he allows himself to be trapped by situations — the debt-ceiling imbroglio most recently — within which he tries to offer reasonable responses, rather than be the leader who shapes the circumstances from the start. Obama cannot mobilize America around the truth, in other words, because he is continuously adapting to the prevailing view. This is not leadership. Robert Reich, American Prospect, 7-27-11
Instead of making hostage-taking the issue, from the beginning, POTUS has pushed for his "Grand Bargain" and embraced the false memes on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as "entitlements" and "austerity" as the medicine for what ails us. Therefore, he is, in effect, attempting to negotiate a ransom, which in his view the hostage-takers are partly owed.

POTUS says we are all supposed to be debt and deficit hawks now. In his Tuesday night address to the nation, he urged us all to call Congress and plea for some version of this "Grand Bargain."

Sorry, POTUS, I am not calling Congress to tell them I want a deal predicated on lies and advancing a corporatist agenda that has gutted the economic base, left the infrastructure to rot, crushed the middle class, and written a death sentence for the poor. I do not know what will happen now, but whatever happens, we must continue to insist that two plus two still equals four.
  • Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion. So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship. The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Paul Krugman, Cult of Centrism, New York Times, 7-26-11
Of course, POTUS could prove us wrong and exercise the 14th Amendment before next Tuesday, to avoid making some deal that places the burden of all of this madness on the backs of the middle class and the poor. Stiff the Zombie Cult, POTUS, push them into a corner, then shove SCOTUS on to the hot seat, and there would be a multitude behind you overnight. You could, but you won't will you?

Now Europe has its Timothy McVeigh.

For me this particular horror, like 9/11, was personal. 9/11 was personal for me, because even though I have lived in California for most of my life, I will always be a New Yorker. Oslo is personal for me because of several beautiful threads woven into life's tapestry.

In 2000, I was flown to Oslo as a guest of OKOKRIM, Norway's special police unit for economic and environment crime to keynote at an international cyber crime conference they were hosting. It was a particularly poignant journey for me.

Odin, the Wayfarer, is my Sky-God.

Norwegian is the only significant strain of blood other than Irish that flows in my veins. One of my paternal great grandfathers (my father's mother's father) was a Norwegian whaler. His rusty whaling knife was one of the treasures of my childhood.

Walking around Oslo, in the twilight. at 3 a.m., was a beautiful experience.

In the aftermath of the atrocity, Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) twitted some meaningful perspective: Proportionate to population, Norway massacre nearly twice as big as 9/11 was in US.

Likewise Yoko Ono (@yokoono) tweeted some profound advice: Write down everything you fear in life. Burn it. Pour herbal oil with a sweet scent on the ashes.

And, of course, madmen flinched, and squirmed, but could not control their vileness.

Glenn Beck remarked that the Labor Party Youth Camp were Breivik slaughtered most of his victims "sounds a little like the Hitler Youth." (Media Matters, 7-25-11) Patrick Buchanan wrote that Breivik's vision of a grand conflict between European Muslims and Christians "may be right." Media Matters, 7-26-11.

BTW, as of this post, Beck still has a radio show, and Buchanan stills warms a commentator's seat at MSNBC.

Meanwhile, in another compelling illustration of how much Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! do with so little, in contrast to how little CNN does with so much, the Democracy Now! coverage included an interview with Eva Gabrielsson, author of a recently published memoir, There Are Things I Want You to Know about Stieg Larsson and Me. She is the partner of the late Stieg Larsson, author of the international bestselling Millennium Trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.
  • AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the work that you and your partner, Stieg Larsson ... Talk about what spurred Stieg to begin his research into the right wing. You talk about it in your book, the wave of racist violence in Sweden in the ’80s, after which the extreme right became increasingly active in Sweden. EVA GABRIELSSON: Well, he started being more openly active already in 1983, when he started to write for the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, which is based in London, and just because they needed somebody who could cover Scandinavia at the time ... His last article in Searchlight was published the same month as he died. That was November 2004. So he never gave up, and he continuously tried to explain that these groups aren’t deluded youth. You can’t say its their psychology or their social background which make them do these things. You have to understand that they do have a message and they do have a goal. And you have to regard their politics and take it seriously and see where they are going.
Gabrielsson also offered a glimpse into the price that writers and their loved ones pay for the power of the word.
  • AMY GOODMAN: There is—you’re involved in an ongoing legal dispute with Stieg’s father and brother over the estate, which really—you know, it was after he died that these books became such massive blockbusters. But one of the issues you’ve raised and talked about was the reason that you, together with Stieg, for what, some three decades, didn’t get married, and it had to do with registering your location. Can you talk about that? EVA GABRIELSSON: Well, we wanted to marry. I even—we even got the rings in 1983, and I still wear them. But we had to keep Stieg safe, and he wanted to keep me safe, by making sure that he was registered as unmarried in the Swedish public records, because we knew that they then, and still do, use the public records to make up lists of enemies of all kinds. These enemies are journalists. They are political activists. They are policemen. They are lawyers. They are politicians and so on. And Stieg was on that list from 1990 to '93, when the first list was revealed in a court case. And they continued to build on that list. So by not marrying—it was, of course, possible to find his address in the public records, but it wasn't possible to find behind which door he was living, because his name wasn’t on the door. He never paid any electricity bills. He never paid any gas bills. He never paid any insurance, anything like that. It was all in my name. So, that’s why we did not marry. And it worked. It worked fine. Amy Goodman Interviews Eva Gabrielsson, Democracy Now, 7-27-11 (See embedded video below.)


Gabrielsson's remarkable tale of her life with Larsen and their dedication to investigative journalism on the re-emergence of Fascism in the West leads to further reflection on the power of the word.

Two more recent stories nudged me to be included in this post, one is sad, the other encouraging.
  • Writing in the New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Hemingway's death, AE Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway and Hemingway and His World, said he believed that the FBI's surveillance "substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide", adding that he had "regretfully misjudged" his friend's fear of the organisation. [Hemingway's FBI file released in the 1980s through FOIA] demonstrated a keen interest in Hemingway, including his wartime attempts to set up an anti-fascist spy network called the Crook Factory, and the interest persisted until he entered the Mayo Clinic in 1960 ... That file, running to more than 120 pages, 15 of them largely blacked out for national security reasons, also demonstrates quite how close an interest Hoover and his organisation took in Hemingway. Fresh claim over role the FBI played in suicide of Ernest Hemingway, Guardian, 7-3-11
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke to a forum at the Splendour in the Grass music festival in Queensland Friday, saying that the current generation was “burning the mass media to the ground.” “We are becoming the agents of perspective,” he said. “This generation is burning the mass media to the ground.” Assange continued: “We are reclaiming our rights to world history. We are ripping open secret archives from Washington to Cairo. We don’t know yet exactly where we are. But we can see where we are going. The change in perspective that has happened over the last year is what this generation is going to use to find our lighthouse. And when we get there, we’ll turn the fucking spotlight on.” Assange speaks about ‘burning mass media to the ground’ Raw Story, 7-29-11 (See embedded video below.)

Democracy Now: Before Death, Acclaimed "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Author Stieg Larsson Lamented Right-Wing Extremism, 7-27-11

Julian Assange Splendour Forum Address 2011

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