Saturday, April 1, 2023

Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, And Rachel Maddow, of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, In Talks About Merging Their Broadcasts

Amy Goodman left, Rachel Maddow right

It’s not like `continental drift’ although there is a `drift’ to be gotten, . . . and it is drift on a truly monumental scale.  People talk about `watching grass grow’ or ‘watching paint dry’ when they talk about things happening slowly so as to go unnoticed.  `A watched pot doesn’t boil,’ but when your tea kettle starts whistling, you know that something’s happened.
These are the words of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman letting the cat out of the bag about her talks with Rachel Maddow about merging their shows based on the things they increasingly have more in common.  Goodman seems very happy to be the one giving the exclusive `cat out of the bag’- or is it `trial balloon’?- interview.

“Look,” says Goodman, “change is part of life.”  Goodman seems more relaxed than usual, as though allowing herself to wax philosophically this way is allowing her to speak her thoughts more truthfully in a liberating way.  She continues:
Yes, change is part of life.  It was when Rachel was doing Air America radio with Al Franken as a “left–wing,” albeit poorly funded, counter to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, that people got to know who she is.  That was then. [2004] Now she, like us, has regular headlines that track well with the lead you can get from the New York Times.  Rachel, us, and also pretty dependably the New York Times, we’re true blue behind the powerful narratives of the Democratic Party. When I say that those narratives are powerful, I don’t mean that they are inspiring or attuned to the populace, or to the directions for leadership our populace may yearn and hunger for, what I mean is the power of Democratic party coming from the corporations that the party aligns with and, of course, coming from Wall Street.  It’s those alignments that give the selective narratives of the party extraordinary force as they are deployed and can be insisted on.  And I am very happy about the whole identity politics thing.
If, with some migration of platforms, Democracy Now and the Maddow show are going to merge, the reason for their discussion of the possibility is the growing commonality of themes.

Goodman points out that the nation’s had an era where the awfulness of Donald Trump made it easy to find common ground, “I mean Donald Trump’s awfulness was so important, that you didn’t need to pay attention to really anything else.”  And, she points out there have been a lot of things tying into Donald Trump’s awfulness that were consequently easy to agree on: Russiagate and the way that Russians are nefariously interfering to make this country worse and make Trump more dangerous, January 6th and the way we have to stop insurrectionists from taking away our democracy, which we are realizing really needs to be revered (“January 6th sort of taught me that word `insurrectionist’ and got me thinking about it, before then I doubt I’d thought to know what it meant– did you know it’s right out of the constitution?- Though no law under it yet”- interjects Goodman parenthetically), the way we have to censor hate speech (including anything an insurrectionist or any of those election deniers might have to say, and then there’s need to regulate speech in our social media Town Squares so that people don’t get depressed by conversational downers.

Goodman sips her green tea and goes on: “Rachel is very much against hate speech,” she says, “she’s a firm counter the bad kind of hate speech we both deplore.”  Blowing on her tea, she continues:
We are also aligned by being both on the right side of those divisive cultural issues that the Trump presidency made even easier to checklist for future segment coverage.  Thank God Trump changed his position on abortion, thankfully 180 degrees, before taking on his role as a supremely obnoxious president, otherwise it could have been confusing!

We were also both perfectly aligned on the Covid narrative thing: "Wear a mask, wear two masks," we told our Democracy Now audience, "it’s an act of love.'  (We didn’t get to adding the eye visor thing, but thought about it.- Oh maybe we did)  While Rachel was beautifully firm and emphatic: "Now we know that the vaccines work well enough that the virus stops with every vaccinated person."!

The whole Covid thing, the crazy need for lock-downs meant there were a lot of fearful things, numbers and statistics to tumble out before the public in a stream; for a while Democracy Now even changed its mantra slogan from "the war and peace report? to the "quarantine report."  When it comes to history and wars waged, history, when it doesn’t repeat itself, at least rhymes.

But that Covid fear and what to do about it, that’s another thing where we both agreed about how important it was to be saying the right thing and make sure that people were not allowed to say the wrong thing– That Joe Rogan! Talk about people who need to be stopped in their tracks with a dose of good old healthy censorship and centrally managed social opprobrium- Imagine saying good things about the `horse paste’ Ivermectin,

 Mentioning Rogan and Ivermectin Goodman wrinkles her nose in disgust.

“We still have significant differences, Rachel’s show and mine”
says Goodman, “so I don’t know where that takes us.”

She mulls:
Rachel is more provincial, addressing herself more specifically to what riles Americans living locally in this country, more specifically, her kind of Americans.  Democracy Now has an increasingly worldwide audience and worldwide sensibility, for instance, Rachel hasn’t caught up to match me with things like my guttural pronunciations, like when I say“Afghanistan,” or introduce my co-host Nermeen Shaikh.  It just isn’t her style, and we can’t expect it.

But Democracy Now can’t leave its worldwide audience behind it.  If this thing is going to happen, we have to take that worldwide audience along with us in the merger.  We at Democracy Now, also spend more time feeling for the victims in this world, which is not exactly the way Rachel likes to keep the energy up, especially when those victims come from far-flung places in the world that Americans have rarely heard of.  When the time comes, we at Democracy Now are better positioned to do truly convincing ‘worthy victim’ stories.

Some things are going to be very problematic.  Democracy Now was originated out of, was incubated out of WBAI, out of the Pacific network of station.  We are still carried on that family of stations, still with a reasonably hefty listenership.  We’ve established ourselves and Pacifica has cast its lot reporting, with a fair amount of honesty, about the Israeli state’s vile and horrendous treatment of Palestinians.  That honesty, on our part and many other Pacifica carried programs, has been determinative in the loss of a certain appreciable amount of funding for Pacifica.  Unlike perhaps some other things, that’s something where we can’t now leave our audience behind by backtracking or denying our core DNA. . .

    . .  But you can imagine what a problem this would be for Rachel.  Even if our meld is only accomplished by doing back-to-back shows that could be a toxic proximity for her.  The solution, if the time comes, may be to take our cue from her.  She deep-sixes those kinds of stories and that kind of reporting.  So you also don’t hear anything about our U.S. Saudi Yemen war from her.— Out of sight is out of mind.  What we could do, and might do, is just move all of out Israel/Palestine reporting and coverage to our web edition special section.  There it would be invisible to the kind of audience that never looks for that kind of thing and justifiably still there for the kind of audience that still does.  You know we are all in our individual bubbles these days.  So you always have to remember to think in those terms.
It causes Goodman to sigh.
But merging these shows is meant to take us counter to that bubble thing.  Instead of isolating bubble thinking, we’ll have more people thinking the same things when we get our shows together.  But we can’t move too fast.  Our audience has to move with us.  We do polling and focus groups to make sure we don’t get too far out in front of them.  We are alert for feedback.  And, for instance, at Democracy Now we’ve recently had to go back and do some stories to illustrate that we are still anti-war and ant-US imperialism, like what’s expected of us from our past.   Like, for instance, with that particular segment of the audience that still listens to us on Pacifica stations, those we haven’t yet pulled away to listen to us just through the disintermediation of our multiple internet platforms, it can a bit jarring right now if our content is too different from other Pacifica shows.

We want to be on the same page with Rachel and crew about things like the Ukraine war
, [Goodman catches herself and doubles back]. .  The `Russian provoked’ Ukraine war, [she emphasizes], but our audience can get a little unnerved by the idea we are on the brink of possible nuclear annihilation of the world and wonder if we really are still sincerely for peace enough if we are to expect them to keep following us where we go. An easy way to offer reassurance, like we just did, is to use the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war, ahem, U.S. invasion of Iraq, and reiterate where we stood on that twenty years ago.  The past is a place where you can anchor the trust you hope to keep getting  in the future.  So people will keep following into whatever Heraclitian storms may toss us on the waves in that future.

Look, I believe that `in solidarity there is strength.’  For progressivism to win, we have to be rowing in the same direction.  When we marched into wars, the Democrats were once thought of as the anti-war party.  Now we have two war parties, but it’s clear that the Democrats are now taking the lead.  The Republicans have a few isolationists who are against our bringing democracy-enhancing regime change to other countries. . .  The name of our show is Democracy Now, something to remember, when we try to keep our bearings.
The interview can’t end without posing one obvious question: Why not PBS or NPR instead?  Goodman smiles, shaking her head as if disappointed with the quality or lack of perspicacity of such a question, even if it might be obligatory and expected as inevitable.  Goodman speaks slowly and deliberately:
Merging our audience with PBS or NPR wouldn’t be any kind of achievement.  PBS and NPR are already where Rachel and her show are, which is to say, aligned with The Washington Post and New York Times, but PBS and NPR are selling the audience the idea that they are the thinking man’s version and the cultured man’s of media consumption.  That pose already successfully siphons audience, say from Pacifica, when the audience is looking for better production values along not so obvious and time-consuming commercials that you get with `commercial’ broadcasts.  But sliding over there wouldn’t be an achievement.  Because it’s sort of contrary to their brand, PBS and NPR don’t fish for audience indignation, including the Red Team, Blue Team variety of indignation, the way that Rachel and I do,– not so overtly–  Rachel does it with her raised-to-the-sky eyebrow and cocked neck, while I put it in my voice.  I can do it with slight variations in my tone and I also pick words to drawl out more slowly.  Moreover, we at Democracy Now do subtle, not quite subliminal, editorializing with our interspersed music segments, something Rachel doesn’t do.  Bringing our audience to MSNBC with skillful drifting would be a much more real achievement.      
One last question to Goodman (but is it too rude?): And the true “achievement” to be aspired to might also be inextricably associated with handsome recompense?— Doesn’t Rachel Maddow get paid something like $30 million a year counting salary and regular bonuses?  Goodman simply smiles.

Democracy Now and The Rachel Maddow Show are not merging broadcasts just yet.  This April 1st interview with Goodman was just to preview how it’s being talked about.  Goodman was specific that if it happens it could be a year from now, say next April 1st, or two years from now on the April 1st after that.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Attaining A New Level of Global Nuclear Weapons Security, Weapons Will Be Purchased For Transfer Away From Belligerent Countries To New Private Peace Keeping Consortium

The Four Bien Guys Peace Project: Bezos, Zukerberg, Gates and Musk

“Blessed are the peacemakers”
is what the Bible’s New Testament tells us Jesus told his assembled flock in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:9): “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  Blessed once were also the “Peacekeepers,” missiles made by Martin Marietta, the LGM-118 being the most modern ICBM in the United States Air Force  inventory (designed primarily for nuclear weapons delivery- one or more thermonuclear warheads, third-generation) for almost 20 years before it was retired in 2005 as a result of arms reduction treaties.

Once we had nuclear weapons called “Peacekeepers”; Now its time for all the nuclear weapons on our earth to all to be called the “Peacemakers,” because that’s what their new owners have decided they will all be renamed upon transfer of title.  And this will signify the purpose of a new plan being executed to attain a new maximum level of procured global nuclear weapons security.  Heretofore, nuclear weapons have all been very undependably held by various belligerent countries, holding those devices out of fear and hostility towards one another.  But this is an inherently dangerous situation and, as recent years have made clear, few things are as unstable as the governments of all the countries across the world, basically each and every one of them: Any madman can be elected to head almost any one of them.  (Let’s leave out the word “almost.”)

Moreover, there is another problem: Nuclear weapons like ICBMs fly through outer space.  As everyone knows, the space race and space exploration has been taken over by the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, and their private companies who, for their purposes of being in outer space in the first place, want serenity and order in our starry skies.  Who wants a belligerent nation’s ICBM whizzing past their telecommunications satellite?  Or zooming within impact zones of their lower altitude hovering (LEO- “Low Earth Orbit”) “internet of all things” 5G tracking monitors?  

And things have gotten dangerously worse: The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 set outer space aside for peaceful purposes. For decades, it precluded any nation from deploying weapons in space or waging war there.  But, much to the consternation of other nations, including China and Russia, the United States walked away from the treaty even as Trump launched Space Force, a new branch of the U.S. military specifically to fight in outer space.

To people like Bezos and Musk, and to their friends who think like them, Bill Gates and Mark Zukerberg most specifically, the answer for the world was simple, basically more of the same that came with privatizing space flight: “Why share?”  If the heavens are to be privately theirs for all other purposes of regular space frontier dominance, why share any last lick of the heavens for the potential destructive interference of weapons flying through the stratosphere and beyond, maybe catastrophically even leaving behind the clutter of exploded debris that would be impossible to deal with?  “If the orbit of our planet is filled with a debris field,” says Musk, “it will be impenetrable and we will never be able to leave earth to go elsewhere as should be humanity’s destiny.”

The answer was not to put the nuclear arms industry out of business (potentially unending the world’s economies), but to expand and bring the weapons under private ownership.  For this purpose a new peace keeping or peace making consortium has been formed by a small group of four Big tech colossuses, Musk, Bezos, Gates and Zuckerberg. Into this private consortium will be conveyed all the world’s nuclear weapons.  These four men are four of the ten wealthiest men who just doubled their wealth during Covids’ two years.  As these four are taking the lead for the public’s benefit here, they are naming the consortium the Four-Bien Guys Project.  (“Bien” is French, a not too foreign word for “good.”)

“It’s a natural next step for private ownership,” says Bill Gates who has been privatizing the worldwide health delivery schema along with worldwide thought patterns about it, while buying up farmland to become the biggest owner of it in the United States.  Gates amplified:

Since governments are  increasingly less dependable, corporations are increasingly taking things into their own hands in other areas, privatization of intelligence agency work, private military forces, schools, etc.

    Nuclear weapons are just another subset of science, which, as you see with medicine, pharma, the private ownership of the internet and most of the electronic technology that serves us, plus all the patent joint-venturing investments of our universities, has all been privatized already.– The arc of history is long, but it bends toward privatization.  It bends toward neoliberalism.  It bends toward `liberalism’ actually-- I don’t know why we have to put that “neo” in before the word, except to assure conservatives that what we are talking about is actually compatible with, and essentially what they also believe in.
The four guys said that they will be calling in their chits with other oligarches around the world to make sure the plan happens with the necessary responsiveness from– not naming any names-  all their respective countries.  

Bezos and Zukerberg both say that they feel at ease with their assumption, via the consortium, of responsibilities that, before transfer, once had a military flavor.  Bezos pointed out that he built up the gigantism of his entire Amazon empire based on skillful and knowledgeable use of the internet and that his maternal grandfather and mentor, Lawrence Preston Gise was one of those who, at DARPA launched and set the internet in motion, plus, he said, he was now doing a lot of work with the CIA and also acquired and owns a newspaper that is one of the most important in the country for telling American what to think about USA’s military conflicts. Zukerberg noted that the nuclear weapons sharing under NATO was certainly a foremost means by which such weapons were deployed throughout the world and that he had a lot of experience and was very comfortable working with NATO’s Atlantic Council think tank to regulate Facebook sharing and news popularity and permissions on the platform.

The weapons will be paid for.  Title to the weapons will transfer to the consortium at the very outset, whereupon their renaming as “Peacemakers” will take place, but payments will be made over an extended period, which may or may not be keyed to the time frame during which the weapon’s incorporated isotopes are expected to remain radioactive.  A loan will be provided to the Four-Bien Project Consortium by the Fed.

The U.S. Space Force and all its employees will also be simultaneously transferred to the consortium.  Gates said, “we need them to feel secure in space and these days we can only depend on ourselves to make sure they get paid.”  Commanding the Space Force after transfer will be Comdr. Newt Rippley who has expressed assurance that experiences resulting from the privatizations will be good.

The various governments of the world have agreed to pay (or as the case may be, will be required to pay) to the consortium a caretaking fee. But, while the agreed upon and the to-be-specified amounts are more than enough to pay the loan, Gates is not sure that payments can always be expected to come in on time: “If governments were that dependable, we wouldn’t have to step into so many situations continually to take over.”  He says that taking care of nuclear materials is also very expensive and could take thousands of years.

Because humans lack longevity and are not exactly so perfect for the job, keeping the weapons will be turned over to robots and there is fanfare about this as an opportunity to unroll the most start-of-the-art AI, that will also apply to clear algorithms about how and when and what would apply if there is ever a question of whether any weapons needed to be used.  This is one reason Gates was solicited as a principal to participated in the consortium.  “This is really most desirable” says Bezos of the robots, “because, after all, who would want just a few oligarchs deciding what is best when it comes to matters that concern the fate of the entire world.– No, says Gates, we will be keeping ourselves out of these decisions.”

So “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the divine children of our gods.”  A memorandum of understanding to effect the plan is being signed today, April 1st, with a consummation date for full transfer specified as one year from today, also April 1st.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Government Covid Policies Are Doing A Great Job of Dividing The “Progressive” Left, Making It The “Anti-vaxers” vs. The “Faithful Pfizerite Fauci Followers.”

Maybe you’ve been noticing this too?: How vaccination mandates and government Covid policy, accompanied by barbs all over the place about “misinformation,” is doing a great job of dividing what we’ve considered the progressive left.  Now what we get is the so-called “Anti-vaxers” vs. the “Faithful Pfizerite Fauci Followers,” even though most who are “anti-mandate” or even who have questions about these particular (EUA- “Emergency Use Authorization”) vaccines aren’t exactly always 100% “anti-vax,” and even though the “Fauci Followers” of the left, however faithful they are at the moment, usually distrust Big Pharma and official government information.  Whew!

Why is the left always so good at getting divided and conquered?  Or maybe it’s just that there are people out there who are more intent on seeing that kind of division get done to the left than to any other group!  Basically, if you’re paying attention, dividing and conquering the public is a long-standing tradition in this country.  Those who have an interest in doing so can best be described as the power elite.  Oh yes, and if you want to know where the power is, money is pretty measure of where it resides.

The potent presence of this new fracturing force (is there no end to Covid’s ills?) really hit home for me when I heard about how government policy over mandates is probably going to break up New York State’s Green Party this year, perhaps pretty much wipe it out of existence- We’ll see. Will that “third” party fade so entirely in New York so as to become just a ghostly relic of an alternative to the corporate duopoly that people once held significant hope for?  

But then, after thinking about the Green Party, I realized that we are seeing this fracturing in various ways all over what has been traditionally been considered the progressive left.  Did you think that the way that people were holing up and sequestering during Covid was anti-social enough?; well now people are walking away from age-old relationships over this.  In some cases, it’s like they don’t even recognize the very basic principles that once steadfastly connected them.

What, no possibility for a united middle ground here if the two sides were dialoguing?

Maybe not.  If not, the issues of government handling of Covid and the corporate media blasting those polices non-stop into the culture are doing a truly superb job of weakening and annihilating coalitions that were already comparatively weak, poorly populated, and ineffective in trying to deal with the pervasive corporatism dominating society.

I could observe that between these two sides, one side might be a little more open minded and have a better, more tolerant understanding of the other’s point of view and its origins, while saying, conversely, that other side may be more prone to shutting down dialogue and information exchange, and it may be a side much more prone to argue for or to demand censorship and to advocate for a totalitarian treatment of others.  One side in this debate is anti-authoritarian, the other is not. . .  With the split, both sides are going to try to claim the mantel of “true left,” “true progressive” thinking.–

– One of the sides in this split will claim that mantel by saying that it is anti-social for those on the other side to “downplay” the menace of Covid by questioning whether the public’s fear is proportional to the illness's actual threat, and anti-social if those on the other side “gullibly” wonder if, in fact, there might be measures and treatments going unadvertised and unpromoted that could ward off illness, fortify healthy resistance and that could treat Covid in ways that diminish the terribleness of what we've been worrying about 24/7 non-stop– (Shouldn't we rest assured that the health industry has always acted in the best interests of the public?)  That side will think that those who make arguments for personal freedoms or who venture to explore ideas that might diminish the perceived peril of Covid and the prescribed vigilance it certainly requires are selfish violators of the Star Trek principle of needed self-sacrifice we heard enunciated in that once climactic exchange between Kirk and Spock: “It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, . . . or the one.”

While the left further fractures into the splintered shards of increasingly small, self-contained, self- referential bubbles (as is the problem with the country in general). . .  (Sorry that’s not an internally consistent metaphor) . . . . Something else interesting is happening. . .

Anti-authoritarian sentiment and a belief in personal freedoms is uniting one side of this split left with people on the right, with libertarians, with independents, definitely with lots of varieties of anti-corporatists, even with people across the spectrum who may consider themselves to have no basic political philosophy, only perhaps to have pragmatic instincts about things they feel are askew.  Maybe, like Occupy Wall Street and The Tea Party, who concurred on this, they are against what they view as the corruption and crony capitalism that occurs when corporations capture the government.

Is the broad spectrum uniting of all these elements in what may be termed the “Medical Freedom Movement” frightening to those in power?  It’s suggested that it is and that an example of the growth of these new alliances that could be troubling to them was the recent anti-mandate rally in January in Washington D.C..  The anti-mandate event in D.C. was just days after another rally by the D.C. mall’s monuments.  The earlier event was a “March for Life” anti-abortion rally, greatly diminished in attendance from prior years.  That rally from several days before, made the front page of the New York Times above the fold.  The anti-mandate event at the Lincoln Memorial did not get such conspicuous coverage by the Times.

Time Magazine, not downplaying or disparaging the anti-mandate rally the same way the Times did, choose to admonish and forebodingly scold that this coming together of folk of different political stripes under an anti-mandate banner represented something in the nature of Svengali-like hypnotism.  Their January 26 headline was: How the Anti-Vax Movement Is Taking Over the Right.”  I don’t know what the photo they used to underscore their headline was actually intended to illustrate: Right-wingers being taken over, or the “anti-vaxxers” who are taking over the right. . .

.. .  I feel that it is usually destructive to pigeonhole people, but, for the sake of de-pigeonholing those featured in the photo Time chose, I can assure you that the group depicted, including the woman putting her hands together in a prayer clasp, were a group of non-corporatist, left-of-democratic-party-mainstream Democrats (or at least recent Democrats), including, if you look, one who wore a big “Black Lives Matters” button.  If you know what I look like, you’ll know why I can speak with authority on that subject.

This coming together of people from different walks of political life could have long-range significance; not just on this single issue, but only multiple issues of utmost concern.  As I have written about before, there is a long list issues of foremost concern to Americans that supermajorities merging both left and right agree on, more than a score.  While those are things the vast majority of Americans want and that we, as a country, could easily have, the political establishment is not willing to provide them. Collusively, the corporate media downplays them all and does its best to instead divide us with Red Team/Blue Team squabbles about things that are generally far less important.

I’ve also written about how we have to get away from the “Red Team/Blue Team” divisions, since both the Republican and the Democrat parties are controlled by corporatist money and interests; viewed with the slightest bit of perspective, the two parties can be seen to work more like a tag team pursuing the same goals than anything else. 

I wrote about how we need a new political “color.”  Unfortunately, “purple” has already been grabbed by the “Purple Project,” which while purporting to be a populist styled erasure of Red/Blue differences, is actually just more top-down corporatism for those realizing that the “Red Team/Blue Team” stuff is total mishegoss.  I wrote then that “green” with its connotations of environmentalism wasn’t the best choice because it was already taken by the Green Party. Now if the Green Party is one more of those groups going to further fracture its pursuit of principles in the face of the Covid policies coming from government and Big Pharma, that just confirms the need for a new color for new emerging alliances.

PS: Here is the Monday, December 13, 2021 statement of the National Black Caucus of the Green Party, We Say No To Mandates,” that explains the political stance and direction they are taking.  I am unaware that the Greens in New York State on the other side of this split have articulated their position or the ways in which they disagree and can’t go along with what the Black Caucus expressed here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Upward Transfer of Wealth Alert! Upward Transfer of Power Alert! Look What Just Doubled! Enough To Make Everyone Sick!

Stories from The Guardian and Grayzone

There are different variations to the story, but almost everyone has heard one version of it or another.  A king or raja offers a reward to someone who has done him a favor, or won a bet, or game of chess.  Maybe the king offers anything that they might ask, even up to half his realm.  The offer is declined, seemingly modestly, with a request for just a grain of rice (or a grain of wheat) placed on the square of a chess board, two grains on the next, four on the next, etc.  Or the doubling of the amount is to occur daily for 30 days.  The point is the same: With a simple doubling the promise of the doubled grains far exceeds everything the king of raja has to give.

Look what just doubled!– The wealth of the world’s richest 10 men doubled since the start of the 2-year pandemic (as 160 million more people were pushed into poverty). That’s according to Oxfam in a just released report “Inequality Kills.”

The ten wealthiest men in the world have collectively singed a letter of thanks to the Corona Covid-19 virus— Just kidding, but I leave it to others to figure out exactly how the response to the pandemic around the world has helped bulk up the wealth of the wealthiest. One of the men, heavily invested in pharmaceuticals, is a poster boy for recommended virus response: Bill Gates.  It’s also obvious why Jeff Bezos made money on the pandemic.  And Mark Zuckerberg’s role in what information flows about our tactics responding to the virus is obvious.

The ten wealthiest men in the world are:

    1.    Elon Musk
    2.    Jeff Bezos
    3.    Bernard Arnault & family
    4.    Bill Gates
    5.    Larry Ellison
    6.    Larry Page
    7.    Sergey Brin
    8.    Mark Zuckerberg
    9.    Steve Ballmer
    10.    Warren Buffett

Use the link if you want to get specifics about their windfalls.

Important to recognize that, along with that upward transfer of wealth goes a more or less equivalent upward transfer of power.  Wealth is power.  The question is often asked, beyond a certain point where wealth takes care of your every need, why want or pursue more?  What good does it do you?  One answer is that what is being pursued is really just more power.

It’s a lot of power.  Remember that doubling the grains of rice exercise?

Monday, January 17, 2022

Reuters and AP, Associated Press, Issue Simultaneous Fact Checks: “Mass Formation Psychosis” or “Mass Psychosis” Does Not Exist As a Legitimate, Academically Recognized Theory

Two of these three above caused Reuters and AP to issue fact check articles that there is no such thing as "Mass Formation Psychosis"

More or less simultaneously, a day apart, Reuters and AP, the Associated Press, issued fact check articles announcing that “Mass Formation Psychosis” or “Mass Psychosis” is an “unfounded,” “discredited” theory; that the “concept has no academic credibility,” is “not officially recognized” “is not supported by evidence, and is similar to theories that have long been discredited” and that the term does not appear as a classification in medical reference dictionaries.  See: Fact Check-No evidence of pandemic ‘mass formation psychosis’, say experts speaking to Reuters, By Reuters Fact Check January 7, 2022, and (AP) FACT FOCUS: Unfounded theory used to dismiss COVID measures
By Angelo Fichera and Josh Kelety, January 8, 2022.

According to professor John Drury quoted by both articles the theory is a “notion” that “has been discredited by decades of research.” He says that “no respectable psychologist” now “agrees with these ideas.”

Reporting this delivery of the verdict of “psychology experts,” Reuters and AP both say that they talked with “numerous psychologists” and “multiple experts.”

Both Reuters and AP quote some of those experts, between them a total of six.  Both Reuters and AP quote:
    •    John Drury, Professor of Social Psychology and Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Sussex
    •    Jay Van Bavel, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University, who says “I’ve been studying group identity and collective behavior for nearly two decades
    •    Steven Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews, who has studied crowd psychology for more than 40 years. (and important update 2/14/'22)
In addition, Reuters quotes:
    •    Chris Cocking, Principal Lecturer at the School of Humanities and Applied Social Sciences at the University of Brighton
And AP additionally quotes two other experts:
    •    Steven Jay Lynn, a psychology professor at Binghamton University in New York
    •    Richard McNally, a professor of clinical psychology at Harvard University- He is not quoted as saying the theory does not exist, only as offering the opinion that the way that public is responding to Covid is a rational response “to the arguments and evidence adduced by the relevant scientific experts.”
As one can tell from the above, there are theories of “crowd psychology,” “group identity and collective behavior” that these experts, who were tapped to offer these opinions, believe exist.  But as Professor Drury explains, he distinguishes and dismisses concepts, such as “mob mentality” and “group mind,” where “when people form part of a psychological crowd they lose their identities and their self-control” and where “they become suggestible, and primitive instinctive impulses predominate.”

The fact checks were, of course, picked up and republished elsewhere.   ABC affiliate- FACT FOCUS: Unfounded theory used to dismiss COVID measures, NBC affiliate-  Fact Check: Doctor uses unfounded theory to dismiss COVID measures on Rogan podcast, by Angelo Fichera and Josh Kelety Associated Press, Tuesday, January 11th 2022, CBS affiliate-  FACT FOCUS: Unfounded theory used to dismiss COVID measures, Jan 8, 2022, Yahoo News- ‘No academic credibility’: Experts debunk mass psychosis Covid theory floated by doctor on Joe Rogan podcast, Gino Spocchia, January 9, 2022.

All the other publications don’t matter so much since Google’s algorithms ensure that these fact check articles, and/or the points they make, Google high.

The fact check articles both identify themselves as being a quick response to Dr. Robert Malone speaking about the theory on the Joe Rogan Show about a week before:

The term gained attention after it was floated by Dr. Robert Malone on “The Joe Rogan Experience” Dec. 31 podcast. Malone is a scientist who once researched mRNA technology but is now a vocal skeptic of the COVID-19 vaccines that use it.
Dr Robert Malone . .  told The Joe Rogan Experience that “mass formation psychosis” is a phenomenon that occurred in 1920s and 30s Germany when a highly educated population “went barking mad”.

“And that is what’s happened here,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic (here).

According to Malone, the condition occurs when a society “becomes decoupled from each other and has a free-floating anxiety in a sense that things don’t make sense… And then their attention gets focused by a leader or series of events on one small point, just like hypnosis.”

. . . . . They will follow that person – it doesn’t matter whether they lie to them or whatever, the data are irrelevant.”
Aside from the fact checks saying that the theory does not exist, Big Tech media responded to Malone’s speaking about this notion by immediately taking down the Joe Rogan YouTube clip of Malone talking to Rogan about this idea.  See:  NY Post- YouTube scraps Joe Rogan podcast episode over Nazi Germany comparison By Ben Cost, January 4, 2022   and NY Daily NewsJoe Rogan video taken down by YouTube for anti-vax content, By Brian Niemietz, January 03, 2022.

The same week Twitter cancelled Dr. Malone’s account banning him from Twitter’s platform, the reasons for which are analyzed here.  Likewise, LinkedIn cancelled Dr. Malone’s LinkedIn account.

Meanwhile, somebody mustered a group that includes professors, some health professionals, some scientists, some doctors, etc. to sign a letter demanding that the top-rated Joe Rogan Show be cancelled from Spotify because Joe Rogan interviewed vaccine expert Dr. Malone about Covid.

The unfounded “Mass Formation Psychosis” theory is more or less a variation, with the overlay of certain extra manifestations that take it in a more extreme direction, of what has been described as Groupthink.”  “Groupthink” hales back to a seminal article written by William H. (Holly) Whyte published in Fortune magazine in 1952.  The “Groupthink” theory was built upon and further developed, by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University in ensuing years.  Features of the Groupthink theory involve a dysfunctional deterioration of critical, independent, and quality thinking and decision making as people within an “ingroup” are pressured to think similar things.  There is an intolerance of other ideas and the “ingroup” is likely to get an inflated sense of the correctness of their own decisions that goes along with “illusions of invulnerability.”  This is likely to go along with denigration of anyone in an “outgroup” and that can often cause members of the “outgroup” to be treated in a dehumanized way.  The theory includes the observation that “groupthink” often arises or is more likely in situations where there is a high level of stress or anxiety from external threats.

As for the “Mass Formation Psychosis” theory itself, one good expression of what it is Reuters and AP were able to fact check as being unfounded is this cartoon illustrated After Skool/Academy of Ideas presentation: Mass Psychosis - How an Entire Population Becomes Mentally Ill, August 3, 2021.  Cartooning ideas can be extremely influential: it could easily be argued that Whyte’s Fortune Groupthink article would never have been as influential without the accompanying illustrations by Robert Osborn.  This After Skool/Academy of Ideas presentation is incredibly similar in approach to the recent “Your Debt Is Someone Else’s Asset,” a cancel debt with a jubilee advocacy video up at the Intercept (December 9 2021) by Kim Boekbinder, Jim Batt, illustrations by Molly Crabapple, except that the illustrator is somebody different from Molly Crabapple.

If you want something more talky and academic, less streamlined, to review this (talking, for instance, about breaking down human bonds), there is an interview available here with Professor Matthias Desmet, Professor of Clinical Psychology Ghent University, Belgium, a psychoanalyst and who also has a degree in statistics: Why Do So Many Still Buy into the Narrative?  Professor Matthias Desmet, September 21st, 2021.

Human brains and human thinking are strange.  For instance, there is the famous story of Tolstoy’s challenge (originally from his older brother?) to stand facing a corner and not think of a white bear.  It’s almost impossible.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Looking For Clarity On The Situation In Lebanon? You Won’t Get It From Democracy Now Where Its Question Is: “Can you respond to the World Bank saying Lebanon is in one of the worst economic collapses in the last 150 years?”

Democracy Now pitches the question: "respond to the World Bank saying Lebanon is in one of the worst economic collapses in the last 150 years"

Want to get clarity about what might possibly be happening now in Lebanon?  You are not going to get it from the reporting of Democracy Now, or as we might better call it these days, Democracy Not Now What It Once Was (“DNNWIOW” or #DNNWIOW).  What you’ll get from DNNWIOW is that the situation in Lebanon is confused, awful, pretty much impossible to explain and just about anything that happens next will probably be alright, maybe perhaps better, or at least acceptable.  Like it might be acceptable if Lebanon was one more country subjected to the kind of externally provoked regime operations we conduct?  OK if its government is  replaced by a puppet subservient to our interests?  Or maybe, not really so bad if, like Lybia or a number of other countries where were we have meddled, Lebanon was just kept in perpetual chaos?

In other words, DNNWIOW’s `there is terribly confusing awfulness in Lebanon you’ll never understand’ reporting is very much the same thing that you get from mainstream corporately owned media all the time about Israel and Palestine; it’s the kind of befuddlement building that then allows Israel, without significant protest from the American populace, to continue carrying out its persecution and removal of Palestinians from what was their country.

In other words, I make the case that DNNWIOW’s reporting on Lebanon, similar to the New York Times reporting on Lebanon, is just a useful conduit of the narrative that the United States Government wants put out there.  Or to cut through the crap: It’s pure propaganda.

We are talking right now about DNNWIOW’s first segment, its opening segment, on Thursday, October 14, 2021, an interview of more than 20 minutes of Lara Bitar, the editor-in-chief of The Public Source, what DNNWIOW described as “a Beirut-based independent media organization.”

Probably the interview question that most quintessentially captures the flavor and content of the interview is when DNNWIOW host Amy Goodman asks Bitar: “Can you respond to the World Bank saying Lebanon is in one of the worst economic collapses in the last 150 years, a bit further explain?”  (Much of the interview was conducted by co-host Nermeen Shaikh, but Amy Goodman chose to step in to ask this question herself.)

Gee, Lebanon is suffering `an economic crisis’?  That’s what’s going on?  The World Bank says so?  The World Bank’s assessments and characterizations of what are going on are referred to a half a dozen times in the interview and any offered understanding of Lebanon’s plight basically stops there.  

To read or watch the interview:  Snipers Fatally Attack Protesters in Beirut as Lebanon Reels from Devastating Economic Collapse, October 14, 2021.

Amy Goodman on left, Lara Bitar on right

The DNNWIOW propaganda is basically the subtle kind of propaganda that relies on misdirection and what is tactfully, or, as a matter of tactics, left out of the picture rather than being an attempt mounted to sell unadulterated and obviously false misinformation.  The best way to recognize what DNNWIOW was providing as the propaganda, is to hold it up against some actually good, context-setting reporting that will give you a very clear view of the situation in Lebanon.  I recommend that, for that contrast, you go to another interview about what is happening now in Lebanon– Again it is two women. Again it’s a female show host doing the interview, and again, the interviewee is a woman residing in Lebanon.  I’ll make the case, that in this instance, the dialogue between these two women and their ability to analytically present relevant facts does a much better job to qualify each of them as competent and sincere journalists.

The interview is conducted by Mnar Muhawesh, founder and editor-in-chief of MintPress News, interviewing Rania Khalek an American journalist living in Lebanon.  Ms. Khalek, writing under her Breakthrough News brand, was on my National Notice list of the many alternative media female journalists well worth paying attention to these days.  Ms. Muhawesh should have been on my list also; sorry I missed her.

Mnar Muhawesh on left, Rania Khalek on right

Here is the interview via Twitter, MintPress News' Facebook post, and via PSCP TV: Lebanon economic crisis, US Sanctions wars & Israeli resource exploitation in the Middle East region with @mnarMuh & RaniaKhalek

What do we learn from this interview that explains and puts Lebanon’s crisis into perspective?- We learn the following:

    •    Lebanon, a small country of about six million people, is mostly bordered by Syria a country that’s now war-torn nation in the throws of a regime change violence and destruction largely set in motion by the U.S. government.  Syria is naturally an important trading partner for Lebanon (Syria supplied about 10-15% of all of Lebanon’s power- now lack of power is another critical shortage Lebanon deals with), and because of US sanctions against Syria, Lebanon, locked in, cannot now trade across this crucial border.
    •    The other country bordering Lebanon is Israel on Lebanon’s southern border.  But Lebanon is on a continuing war footing with Israel so it cannot trade across that other border either, and instead must deal with continued threats by Israel, a country which previously invaded it.
    •    The only other access to Lebanon is the Mediterranean Sea, but a year ago last August there was a huge destruction in the port of Lebanon from a truly extraordinarily massive explosion.  Khalek does not assert she exactly knows the explanation for the explosion that involved stored fertilizer, but can give important background about it and she can expertly recite what she refers as the many politicized theories offered to explain what actually happened.
    •    The structure of the Lebanon government (set up in compromise when its civil war ended in 1991 and with the intention that the government be “intentionally weak”) carefully divides and shares power between different factions, different sects.  A substantial portion of the government, part of its majority coalition, is allied with Hezbollah and for that reason that portion of the government is the subject of US sanctions. The sanctions have the effect of hamstringing the entire country in its dealings with the rest of the world.  Plus the US backed and Saudi financed sect has worked in an adversarial fashion to make the harmful US sanctions apply more and cause more harm than they have to.
    •    Lebanon desperately needs fuel and power, it affects just about everything. Iran was willing to supply oil to Lebanon, but that help was blocked by other US sanctions, the US sanctions against Iran.
    •    The US also got involved to block help to Lebanon from China, Russia, and from Qatar.    At the same time the West is generally pulling back and refusing to help.  One excuse is that they want Lebanon to change the structure of its government, which is not about to happen. 
    •    The US and its banks and financial institutions are allied with Lebanese elites and with the International Monetary Fund and they, through this alliance, set up the Lebanese financial systems institutions that are now failing.
    •    The US and Western powers are also interfering with local Lebanese politics by providing support for both fascist and failing parties and factions in Lebanon. The many factions in the country provide ripe opportunities for co-optation, which the US takes advantage of and tries to weaponize.
    •    The US, and Israel along with it, wants, dominance and hegemonic power in the region.  The US, and Israel along with it, is therefore directing much of its energy toward trying to quash Hezbollah in Lebanon, but Hezbollah is immensely popular particularly in certain parts of the Lebanon because, ‘as a force of protection’ for the country, Hezbollah defeated and evicted Israel when Israel invaded, plus Hezbollah was critical in repelling ISIS and Al-Qaeda when they came into the country, with Hezbollah then pushing ISIS back even into Syria because of its threat.
    •    Continued chaos is probably what the US and its allies want in Lebanon, because the probably emerging alternative would be Hezbollah running the country.
    •    The formerly praised structure of the now collapsing Lebanese financial system that was set up with US banks involved was always something of a Ponzi scheme. Hezbollah was shut out of participation in and creation of that now collapsing defective financial system.    
    •    Not that it is high on the list of causes for the current crises and power shortage, but Israel repeatedly bombed Lebanon’s power stations in the past decade.
    •    Lebanon is also dealing with climate change and wild fires.
    •    Toward the end of the discussion, all this was related to how have an overall strategy of promoting sectarianism, balkanization and division in the entire region to the extent the US and Israel actually promote and fund right-wing religious fundamentalism.  (Reminder: Israel was the first sectarian state in the region.) Without this regional debilitation, Lebanon might, through its relationships with its neighbors might have a much stronger and resilient economy.
Much of what is important above is pure fact.  Some of it ventures into characterizations with a point of view.  It is not necessary to agree with all of the characterizations above- some might choose to dispute a few (but everything said seems pretty on target to me)-- Still these points all go a long way in explaining a lot and to provide much needed clarity.

By contrast, the 20-minute Democracy Now report (pardon, that's the "DNNWIOW report") mentions absolutely none of the facts set forth above.  Its only allusion to Lebanon’s long border with war-torn Syria is to note passingly that for some reason there is a bad situation with destitute Syrian refugees (as well as Palestinian and "other" refugees) who for some reason now live in Lebanon.  Nowhere is Israel mentioned nor the threat posed by it at the southern boarder.  There is no mention of any of the sanctions imposed by the US or their effect, not the sanctions against trade involving neighboring Syria, not the sanctions blocking aid from Iran, not the sanctions against Hezbollah nor their effect on the rest of the country.  Hezbollah does get mentioned, but only to describe the political party that's part of the government as trouble making and a source of problems being faced.

When it comes to trouble making in Lebanon, there is no mention of any covert involvement of the US to manipulate things or how, when there is mysterious trouble making, it is hard to know whom to pin the blame on.

Simply put, coming to it with some understanding, the DNNWIOW report is so inadequate it’s virtually the most laughable of jokes.  Unfortunately, this is not a laughing matter.  The people at whatever this new Democracy Now is cannot be unaware of the deceptive nature of their Lebanon reporting.  This certainly includes chief show host, executive producer, and long term figurehead for the program, Amy Goodman herself.  They must obviously be aware of the deceptive nature of their reporting because Democracy Now for decades, since its early origins out of WBAI 99.5 FM New York, has a long and distinguished history of covering Israel and its occupation of Palestine in a way that was a meaningful counter on that subject to exactly that kind of reporting about that situation emanating from the US corporate media.

What is the thinking of those working at DNNWIOW when they work to put out this kind of misleading reporting?  Is the thought that by acquiescently conduiting mainstream US State Department narrative one day, they'll get an improved chance at doing something good in the world the next? Is the thought that they will please their big money foundation funders by going along to promulgate these narratives so that they can later go on later, with good, glitzy production values, to accurately cover other more important controversial, undercovered, stories they want to deliver to a big audience on later occasions?  . . Maybe?

Maybe, but if that is the case, DNNWIOW is getting to be an insidiously dangerous program to watch.  That’s because you’ll never know when you are getting reliable reporting on an important story and when you are getting a spiel of establishment propaganda.  Moreover, as DNNWIOW keeps promoting itself as “independent global news” and “the war and peace report,” and has a fabled and reputable history, and as DNNWIOW wears its social justice “heart” on its sleeve, unsuspecting members of the public are all the more likely to be confused when these ruses in reporting are subtle enough.

Confused?. . .  Here, as just that sort of example-  the next story DNNWIOW was reporting that day on October 14, 2021 (about our withdrawal from a senseless 20-year war) was this- see if you find any of its slant identifiable and suspicious:

Afghan Interpreter Who Rescued Biden in 2008 Is Evacuated from Afghanistan with His Family- After weeks of pleading for help, an Afghan interpreter, who helped rescue then-Senator Joe Biden when he was stranded 13 years ago in Afghanistan, has finally escaped Afghanistan. Aman Khalili describes his journey out of the country, and we speak with the reporter who broke the story. “I was in the safehouse for 15 days,” Khalili tells Democracy Now! Khalili is “representative of a group of people that are still appealing for help from America.