Friday, February 28, 2014

Ubiquitous surveillance imposes a state of slavery

Edward Snowden’s Moral Courage
By Chris Hedges
Posted on February 23, 2014

An omnipresent surveillance state — and I covered the East German Stasi state — creates a climate of paranoia and fear. It makes democratic dissent impossible. Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state. It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today; it will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control. The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote, is not, in the end, to discover crimes, “but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.” The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.

Just yesterday, we learned (from the information provided by Edward Snowden) that the Britain's spy agency,
GCHQ (the equivalent of the NSA in the UK) collected webcam images of 1.8 million internet users (not restricted to British citizens) who were under no suspicion of any wrongdoing. These were interceptions of private communications between individuals who were doing nothing illegal. 

Yes, the government is spying on you through that webcam.  And that is yet another "crazy conspiracy theory" proven true.

Of course, I see nothing wrong with the collection of harmless metadata, do you?  I mean, it's not like they're spying on us in our bedrooms.  We'd object strongly to that, wouldn't we?

Oh, never mind.

GCHQ Intercepted Webcam Images of Millions of Yahoo Users Worldwide
By Spencer Ackerman and James Ball, Guardian UK
27 February 2014
  • Optic Nerve program collected Yahoo webcam images in bulk
  • 1.8 million users targeted by UK agency in six-month period alone
  • Yahoo: 'A whole new level of violation of our users' privacy'
  • Material included a large quantity of sexually explicit images

A story of courage: Alyssa Peterson (1976–2003)

In the past several years, I have related these stories of 20 otherwise ordinary people whose lives exhibited a special kind of courage: moral courage.  Moral courage is defined as "the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences." In other words, moral courage is the courage that is required to do what one knows or believes is right when that choice involves personal risk, or when it will result in personal vilification or actual danger. if you took no personal risk; you didn't exhibit moral courage.

Here are some some points I've tried to make about courage; specifically about moral courage, the type exhibited by the people I've profiled:

  • Courage is not reserved for extraordinary people only. 
  • Courage is always individual. 
  • Courage is something we are all capable of.
  • Courage is something we should exhibit every day. 

In September 2003, a 27-year-old female soldier, a Mormon, US Army Specialist Alyssa Peterson, an Arabic linguist with the 101st Airborne Division at Tal Afar base, refused to apply the interrogation techniques that had been authorized for use on Iraqi prisoners.

Alyssa Peterson refused to take part in interrogations in the "cage" where Iraqis were stripped naked in front of female soldiers who mocked them and were burned with cigarettes, among other things that don't need to be mentioned.  Do you blame her for refusing to participate in actions like these?

Three days after her refusal to be involved in torture, on September 15, 2003, Peterson was found dead of a gunshot wound at Tal Afar base. Keep in mind, her suicide occurred 7 months before the Abu Ghraib tortures were exposed to the world.  Seven months before millions of people saw what she saw.  Seven months before we learned about the horrendous actions that she steadfastly refused to be part of. 

The Army’s official cause of her death, which is all that her family was told, was death from a "non-hostile weapons discharge." The suicide and the report of the Army's internal investigation was uncovered by KNAU (Flagstaff, AZ) public radio reporter Kevin Elston.  The public didn't find out the truth until Elston's broadcast in November 2005, three years after Alyssa Peterson's suicide.  Without Elston's tenacious pursuit of the truth; it is likely no one would ever have found out what really happened.  You can read a transcript of Elston's broadcast here

The Army, after having first tried to cover up the truth, has since classified her death as suicide. 

From the investigation of her death:

"We told her that you have to be able to turn on and off the interrogation mode -- that you act differently towards the people we meet with outside of the detainee facility," one fellow soldier stated. She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire."

Sometimes being a hero or heroine is a simple act of refusing to abandon one's humanity when all around have forsaken their own.   Most Americans silently hope they're never forced to make that choice because I believe, deep down, they know they won't make the right one.

I'm not saying that suicide was the right choice for Alyssa Peterson; but when she was faced with a choice between loyalty to a country and loyalty to her own principles, I do think she absolutely made the correct choice, and the courageous choice.  She chose her own death rather than abandoning her humanity.  I think she should've chosen, instead, to desert from the military or even to defect from her country, and to go public with her knowledge.  And she may have done that, if more of us (in the summer of 2003) had been ready to listen, and to support her in that decision.   Maybe she would have if her family and friends hadn't been urging her to risk her life in a senseless war that they weren't willing, able, or courageous enough to fight in themselves. Maybe she would have if most of the nation hadn't been such shameless cheerleaders for a war based on a framework of outrageous lies.  Maybe she would have, if more of us had been stronger and more courageous.

It's up to us now to act bravely.  It's up to us to demand that our government tell us the truth.

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Army Specialist Alyssa R. Peterson, age 27

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Yet another "crazy conspiracy theory" turns out to be truth

For at least ten years now, there have been persistent rumors that the government pays people to participate in online communities and post online comments to articles in widely read news websites.  I have myself identified at least two people who I am convinced are paid by someone (probably a private concern) to promote a certain political worldview.  They keep regular hours and I've little doubt they are paid to "work from home."  And they love a little character assassination.  That's crazy right?

It's easy enough to dismiss as "conspiracy theory" claims that the government is actively engaged in social media, not only to influence the opinions others, but more often, to discredit opposing views, often resorting to tactics like the following to discredit individuals who offer opinions that are at odds with the official State or Party line. 

  1. use  "honey traps" (usually sex) to lure the target into compromising situations where they can be blackmailed
  2. plant destructive viruses on the target's computer
  3. change the target's photos on social network sites
  4. write blog postings that appear to have been written by the target
  5. send email to the target's colleagues, spouse, neighbors, friends

The more vocal, the more influential that person is, the more vicious the attacks. Think of the worst people you know, the very few people you know who'd resort to this sort of thing.  Such people are utterly contemptible, right?  No character, right?

On Monday, secret documents, obtained by Edward Snowden, were released by Glenn Greenwald on his new website, which prove that it is no conspiracy theory that the government is paying people to do these things and probably worse.

Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in "false flag operations" to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories.  Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know, now, that it this not "wild, crazy conspiracy theory" and never was. 

According to Greenwald, "these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself."

Keep in mind, these documents say nothing about the NSA, but few people are in doubt, now, that the NSA is the real leader in these actions, or consider it unlikely that the NSA is not also taking these actions.  

And that's what Edward Snowden has changed, right?  The belief that "our government would never do something like that?"

Thank you, Edward Snowden.  And may God bless you, Sir!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bitcoin is just one attempt to restore "free trade"

Bitcoin is like any "fiat currency" ... it has no intrinsic value.  Just like the US dollar, it is not backed by any substance of real value. The main thing that makes Bitcoin different from the US dollar is that Bitcoin is not recognized as "legal tender," that is, no one is required by law to take Bitcoin in settlement of a debt.  No one forces anyone else to use Bitcoin. A Bitcoin transaction is agreed upon by both parties and that is what makes the transaction.  Seal it with a handshake.  Neither party is accepting the promise of a government that the currency exchanged is "legal tender."  It represents business back-to-the-basics.
As my young friend, Kris, observed, "I feel like days of trading are going to come back."

It's a return to the forms of trading that built civilizations ... and a departure from the destructive path down which we're being taken, to a world in which the producers of wealth (goods and services) are enslaved to those who simply control the trading exchanges, financial lending institutions, and banks..
And many people fear that.
But commerce, trade, has historically been exciting, adventurous and, yes, even dangerous.

Bitcoin is nothing just another attempt by human beings to restore some of the humanity that's being sucked out of the world by the insatiably greedy.

A few words about Bitcoin

I've read a lot about yesterday's collapse of Mt. Gox ... most of what the mainstream media is reporting is pretty accurate.  There's a few things they don't really emphasize, though, and I think are important facts to keep in mind:
  1. Mt. Gox was a trading exchange.  It was a currency exchange.  People went there to buy Bitcoins (with other currencies) and to sell Bitcoins (for other currencies).  It wasn't Bitcoin users who lost money in this; it was Bitcoin traders.  And, for the most part, these were currency exchange speculators.  Not Bitcoin users.  The Bitcoins that were removed from Mt. Gox's digital vault were held as deposits; in other words, Mt. Gox was acting as a bank.  Here's the thing:  if you are a Bitcoin user; you don't put your money in someone else's vault.  You don't deposit your money into a bank.  That's the very reason Bitcoin exists; so that we can all be our own banks.  And there are very safe ways to keep Bitcoins.  Trading exchanges and banks are more likely to kill Bitcoin than anything else.  Screw them.  If you decide to use Bitcoin; don't even THINK in traditional banking terms. 
  2. There was no failure of Bitcoin; there was no inherent weakness or flaw in the system; the security protocols are sound. Surprisingly (to me) most of the news media has reported it just that way. The blame all belongs to Mt. Gox and what happened cannot be blamed on inherent weaknesses in Bitcoin.  This was essentially a bank heist and an inside job.  If anything, I believe it points out the inherent risk of the banking system.  Thefts of this scale (there were 745,000 Bitcoins involved, about US$357 Million) are certainly not unheard of with traditional currencies; the fact that governments back up deposits and cover for the banks with TAXPAYER money changes nothing.
  3. This incident has been used by some to claim that Bitcoin is a huge Ponzi scheme. I think that's ridiculous.  If that's true, the entire federal reserve system is a Ponzi scheme. And that may well be the case.
  4. The value of Bitcoin is holding steady today at about US$567=1btc.  That's a huge fall from the $1000 it shot up to in December, but keep in in mind, a Bitcoin was worth only $200 as recently as November 2013.  So it's still some 250% above that.  This is only a partial adjustment of a speculation driven (artificial) spike in the demand for Bitcoin, and the correction needed to be made. 
If anything, I believe this theft will only demonstrate the robustness of Bitcoin and the weakness of the banking system.

Again, if you own Bitcoins, keep them in your possession and guard them.  Don't know how?  Google it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hunan's new Aizhai Bridge

Two years ago, the world's highest and longest tunnel-to-tunnel bridge opened to vehicle traffic in Hunan province, central China.

The Aizhai suspension bridge links two tunnels that are 1,176 meters (3,860 feet) apart, and at its highest point is 355 meters (1,165 feet) above the floor of Dehang Canyon. Construction of the bridge started in October 2007 and its main sections were completed in December 2011.  It was officially opened to traffic in March 2012.

The total construction cost of the Aizhai Bridge was about $610 million. [Source: Roads&Bridges]

The United States of America has paid an average of $10.5 million every single hour since 2001 to maintain a military occupation of Afghanistan.

So the Aizhai Bridge costs approximately what the US spends to occupy Afghanistan for 58 hours.  Less than 2 and a half days!

Two lousy days.

Or, put it another way:  for the $700 billion that has been spent to occupy Afghanistan, the US could have completed 1,150 Aizhai Bridges (100 every year since the war began), or projects on a commensurate scale.  Every US state could have had 23 such projects; and the jobs that go with them

Wars don't inspire young men and women to do and build great things. That's a myth. Wars are not strengthening and enriching Americans today.

Americans have a serious problem with their value system.

End the wars.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Amazing video footage from Kiev

Protesters in Ukraine seized the country's capital Saturday, and took full control over central Kiev’s government buildings and President Viktor Yanukovych’s mansion which is outside the city.  Reports indicated that Yanukovych flew late Friday to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Thanks the Internet, it was possible to watch the events in Ukraine almost as they happened. Some of the videos that were posted from the scene are absolutely amazing.  This one, especially.

I watched that video in astonishment.  What are those insurgents trying to do?  What could they hope to accomplish?

But one thing was clear to me; they weren't in retreat. At about the 28m mark, you see them advancing behind barricades, in large numbers.  Unarmed and advancing into deadly sniper fire.

It's absolutely incomprehensible to me that their first concern was not getting themselves the hell out of there.

But that's basically how every insurgency on the planet is being fought, and won, against overwhelming odds.

They didn't win the battle of Kiev with paving stones.  They won with the most timeless; the most effective; weapons of all:  courage, patience, and determination.  Particularly, note how they placed their own lives at great personal risk to remove their wounded.  Courage.

Like the insurgent populations everywhere, and those yet to come.  It is greatly inspiring.  Share that video with others.

This one is a lot more gory; and I don't encourage you to watch it if that bothers you:   It is the unedited reality, though, and I think that makes it worth looking at, even if it is uncomfortable. It's what replaced field journalism a few years ago.

Yanukovych may have lost his political power when Ukraine's Parliament voted unanimously for his removal, but this revolution was won when the Ukranian army stood down.  Last week, after the first bloody day in Kiev, Yanukovych fired  the army chief of staff because he refused to send troops to put down the protests. Even after that firing, though, the troops stayed in their barracks.  Yanukovych used the police, especially his supporters’ militias, to attack the protesters.

What kind of men were the last to defend Yanukovych?  What type of men shot civilians from a safe distance with rifles?

I'm surprised little has been said about those snipers.  Look, killing unarmed people from a safe distance is fucking gutless.  It's murder.  And it disgusts me when I hear that the victims "brought it on themselves" (either by their own actions or by being where they weren't supposed to be).  That very statement is cowardly. Never excuse your own actions by pointing to someone else and saying "they made me do it."

And it doesn't matter if it's a rifle, a missile, or an unmanned aerial drone; the act is the same; and it can't be made honorable by the sanction of the State.  I remember a guy telling me once, years ago, "I was trained as an Army sniper."  I looked at him in disbelief that he would say that to a decent human being ... he was a paid coward, and proud of it?  Did his mother know what he'd become?

The types of people who choose to become gutless killers like that need to be rendered helpless.  Those snipers need to be dealt with.  So do the pilots of America's drones; their identities revealed. It won't happen of course, that that's a real problem.  Americans are undergoing a crisis of courage, and of character. And, I might add, although I don't intend to exclude women, manhood.

For what it's worth (and that's very little) the Obama Administration has opened an "internal investigation" into a drone strike which took place in Yemen on December 12 of last year.  Supposedly it targeted an Al-Qaeda militant, but locals claim it killed 12 people and injured 14 others in a wedding party, none of who mere "turrists."  The investigation, of course, is a whitewash like all the others.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Propaganda: not welcome in Canada

information, expecially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote 
a particular political cause or point of view.

I was talking to Jennifer, a young co-worker recently.  Jennifer turned 30 last year.  I mentioned something I'd heard on CBC Radio One that morning.  She surprised me by saying, "Yeh, I heard that on the way to work."

"You listen to CBC Radio?" I said.  "Public radio?"

"Sure," she replied, "I love CBC."

I was surprised because she is so young compared to me ... I guess I figured I liked CBC because of my age.  Not so.

Canadians like facts.  Canadians tell me often (and, by and large, I think they mostly agree) that Americans are a good and decent people who are simply badly propagandized. And when Canadians speak of propaganda, they always mention one US network, and one only.

Ten years ago, Fox News won the right, in a Florida federal court, to lie to its viewers. That court decision found that the federal FCC policy against falsification in news reporting was not a "law, rule, or regulation" and lying was not, therefore, prohibited by law, even if it was a violation of FCC policy. When Fox lies; it does so legally.

Whenever you hear the phrase "Some people say ..." on Fox News, you can bet, you're about to hear a lie.  Oops, sorry ... not a lie but, rather, an "unsourced opinion." Listen carefully, because you are about to be fed a new "talking point."

It's called "propaganda," and that's what "news" is all about in the United States today.

But not in Canada.  Three years ago when the government, through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), tried to rescind the ban on "fake" news sites that broadcast lies, they were forced to back down because of an outcry from a Canadian public who "feared such a move would open the door to Fox TV-style news and reduce their ability to determine what is true and what is false."  [ source ]

Having won a legal right to lie in the United States, Fox should stay there; Most Canadians who want to watch Fox News can do so; most Canadian cable networks carry broadcasts from Fox affiliate stations near the border.  My own cable network carries WUTV, a Fox-affiliate from Buffalo NY.  I sometimes watch Big Bang Theory on that channel.

Fox News isn't in Canada because it is prohibited; Fox News isn't in Canada because Canadians don't want it here.

Or anything that smells like it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

UAW loses vote at Chattanooga VW Plant

Union Suffers Big Loss at Tennessee VW Plant
Volkswagen workers rejected the UAW by a vote of 712 to 626.

The United Auto Workers union suffered a crushing defeat Friday (February 14), falling short in an election in which it seemed to have a clear path to organizing workers at Volkswagen AG's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The setback is a bitter defeat because the union had the cooperation of Volkswagen management and the aid of Germany's powerful IG Metall union, yet it failed to win a majority among the plants' 1,550 hourly workers.

VW America was opposing unionization at the Chattanooga plant but was overruled by the corporate office, which wants to see a German-style "works council" in the plant.  In other words, VW corporate wants a way to work, cooperatively, with their employees, feeling that they share the same goal: a happier more-productive workforce building a better quality product.

Who can argue?  German auto workers are much better-compensated, yet more productive – far more productive – than in the US.  Germany remains the most competitive manufacturer of cars in the world (on a per worker basis).  Yet, the average worker pay in German auto plants is $67 per hour. In the US, auto worker pay is half that at just over $33 per hour total compensation.

At Chattanooga's VW plant, pay tops out at about $22 per hour.
There are plenty of reasons why Tennessee ranks 47th in the US in terms of income ... unions and high wages aren't among those reasons.


In 2010, over 5.5 million cars were produced in Germany, twice the 2.7 million built in the United States. Average compensation (a figure including wages and employer-paid benefits) for autoworkers in Germany was 48.97 Euros per hour ($67.14 US), while compensation for auto work in the United States averaged $33.77 per hour, or about half as much as in Germany, all according to 2007 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For Germany-based auto producers, the U.S. is a low-wage country.

At that Chattanooga plant, according to a company spokesperson, new employees earn $14.50 an hour, with wages gradually rising to $19.50 after 3 years on the job.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Welcome to the new "normal"

For years, now, Americans have yearned for a return to "normal." They had a few bad breaks, one or two traumatic experiences, these have been hard times, indeed, for most Americans. They'll get through it, like they always have, and things will return to "normal."

Just wait.  And see.

And wait.

But what Americans remember as normal, never was. Americans have been living in abnormal times since the1970's, and didn't even know it.  Americans are wishing now for a return to very abnormal conditions.  For conditions that are unlikely ever to exist again.

For decades, it seemed perfectly normal to most Americans that they consumed, voraciously and insatiably, while foreigners produced … and that they could spend everything they owned, and more, while foreigners saved all they could. Central banks encouraged the masses to consume; and the more they consumed, the poorer they got, but as long as they had someone else's money to spend, they didn't complain. The youth of the American Empire studied gender sensitivity at school; foreign kids studied engineering and science.

It wasn't long before competitors had more factories and those factories more modern, they had more savings, better-trained workers, they were building new energy systems and transportation systems ... their nations' infrastructures.  Then, the American Empire turned to a colossal conceit; that it could make its way in the world by financing things, rather than actually making them. Everyone could participate, making money off of money, instead of actually producing anything, anything at all, of value.  Gradually, the Anglo-Americans developed a value-subtracting society – financing, brokering, collateralizing, borrowing, flipping, consuming – all at the expense of real production.  Hey, America's traditional rivals, the Russians, recognized the symptoms: America's leadership was largely delusional, industrial capacity was largely archaic and dysfunctional, and the working class was largely broke ... the nation involved itself in two expensive foreign wars, and the neocons have been practically drooling over a third (Iran), maybe even a fourth (Syria).  Looked familiar to the Russians ... real familiar.  They've already been there; already done that.

By 2006, practically every transaction was tainted with swindle.  Fraud and deceit were part of the economy. Banks sold each other packages of bad debt, both the buyer and seller knew it was bad ... but if the buyer thought he could sell it at a profit, even if it was inherently worthless, he wanted in on the fraud.  They all knew that those CDO's were composed of mortgage contracts on houses sold to people who couldn't afford them, fraudulently rated Triple-A by the rating agencies, based on bogus formulas invented by Nobel-prizing winning economists. This all took place in a drunken frat party atmosphere created by central bankers, they were part of it.  After the collapse, the ruins are liquidated, picked over, and parceled out to the politically well-connected ... that is how the next collapse will end too; a consolidation of wealth in the hands of the corporatists, who will walk away from the damage they caused, and fewer Americans will have good-paying jobs; few Americans will have jobs of any kind.

What was the major result of the 2008 subprime mortgage market collapse?  The President of the United States gave them a parting gift before he left office, an enormous bank "bailout plan" in which large sums of money went to the perpetrators of the biggest (and most successful) scam of all time; that money being borrowed in the names of all American citizens.

Was any that "normal"?  Was that  the normal behavior of a healthy society?  Of course not.

Was it all planned to go down like this?  Sure it was.  Who pocketed the profits?  They laughed all the way to the bank.  At your expense, and mine.

Maybe you're one of them?  If so, congratulations ... you got away with it.  I wish I could afford a bottle of what you drink to celebrate.

And you'll probably get away with the next one, too, but don't count on it.  It worked once, fabulously, and it will probably work a second time. But it does not produce a stable system.  It is unsustainable.

Unsustainable, yes, but it is the new "normal" for Americans.  A society in which nearly all power and wealth (two sides of the same coin) are concentrated in the hands of an elite few; who decide things for all, who control through fear, an often-irrational fear, that makes Americans willing to trade every freedom, including the freedom to act independently, without government surveillance in their private lives, loves, and businesses.

That's the new "normal."  And Americans who are hoping for a return to a time they remember as better than all of this?  They're hoping for something that will never come their way again.

Since the 1970's, American productivity (the amount each worker contributed to the nation's GDP) has increased almost 100% (the increase was measured at 99% between 1971 and the beginning of the recession in 2007), but the average worker's salary went up just four percent; after taking inflation into consideration, there was no real increase in income for the average American worker during that entire time (35 years!).  Virtually all of the profits from the increase in American workers' productivity wasn't put back into the economy in the form of higher wages and salaries, or even capital investments. Most of it went into the pockets of corporatists/shareholders.  And much of it was put straight into non-productive artificially-contrived investment "instruments" ... stocks, derivatives, CDO's, risk swaps.  And it is happening again today.

And while Americans wait for a change that's never coming without a fight; those who are willing to fight for freedom, for justice and for a more equitable society are increasingly living in other countries.  Americans are acquiring a reputation for passivity, for weakness.  There's a cost associated with that.

In their defense, though,  I would like to say the options available in the US for the corporatists to invest are severely limited. They are essentially forced to invest that money in non-productive ways, which is causing the markets for those speculative instruments to soar.  And take a look, the market for derivative securities is booming again.  So, don't blame these market investors, ok, for the next bubble burst  Even though they will be the only ones to profit from it, even though it will further concentrate America's wealth in the hands of a tiny elite plutocracy, it's just the way things are ... in the new "normal."

And if you work for a living, that's your problem. No one in a position of power is on your side.

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The New "Normal"

Friday, February 14, 2014

A story of courage: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo in the former republic of Transkei in South Africa. While a young man, Mandela became a political activist, a protestor against injustice in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  In 1942, then young man in his twenties, he joined the African National Congress.  For 20 years, he was a leader of the ANC, directing a campaign of peaceful, non-violent defiance of the white-minority ruled South African government and its openly racist policies (apartheid).

Mandela was arrested (at the age of 42) on August 5, 1962 on charges of inciting workers to strike and leaving the country without valid travel documents. On November 7, 1962 a South African court sentenced him to five years in prison at hard labor.

Two years later, along with four "co-conspirators", Mandela was convicted of four counts of sabotage (an attempt to overthrow the government) and his sentence was extended to life. The goal of the government of South Africa was to break the man.  His years in prison were characterized by mistreatment, he was forced to perform hard labor, denied access to the outside world (he was allowed to receive one letter from outside the prison every six months, and allowed to write one other). Nelson Mandela refused to be defeated.  In fact, he became the spiritual leader of the anti-apartheid movement and an image of defiance of unjust authority to the entire world; he became "the world's most famous political prisoner."

The authorities tried for years to break Mandela's spirit.  To isolate him, silence him, destroy his will to resist authority.  They failed.  Even in prison, rendered powerless, he resisted, and through that resistance, and public awareness of conditions in those prisons, officials were force to make concessions to basic human rights.

In 1985, Mandela was offered a deal for his freedom by President P.W. Botha.  On one conditio: he had to publicly renounce his militancy.  To publicly admit defeat.  In pure defiance, Mandela rejected the offer.  He told Botha (essentially) to go pound sand.

Four years later, in 1989, Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk, who became South Africa's last apartheid-era President. In 1990, one year after taking office, F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid groups and announced that he would free Nelson Mandela. The entire world rejoiced.

On April 29, 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president of the Republic of South Africa, in the first free open election held in that country's history.  Nelson Mandela voted, for the first time in his life, in that election ... at the age of 75.

Nelson Mandela was a huge part of the revolution against apartheid rule in his country.

The most frequent comment I hear about protestors is that "they cannot win. They are opposing massive amounts of power and wealth.  They are wasting their time."

Really?  That's sufficient reason to stand down in a principled fight?  When we realize we can't possibly win; the most acceptable choice is to give up?

I'm sure that reason was given to Nelson Mandela; a man who stood firm against "unconquerable" power.  He stood firm anyway.

The issues at question aside, no one of us who aspires to demonstrate courage in upholding our principles should be influenced by the argument that we can't win. Find something that matters strongly to you, and make a principled stand.  You won't regret it; I promise you.

Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees, right?

Nelson Mandela died on
December 5, 2013, at the age of 95.  Mandela remains a global symbol of courage and freedom; and a man who steadfastly refused to compromise his principles.

I regard Nelson Mandela as the greatest human being who lived during my lifetime.  Mandela exhibited every trait of moral courage and leadership, every day of his life, and he will always be a personal hero of mine.

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Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Heck yes, I'm a "9/11 Truther"

Many people are reluctant to be seen as "conspiracy theorists". Tin-foil hat wearers.  I'm one of those people; reluctant to doubt the "official" propaganda.

Do I believe 9/11 was an "inside job"?  No, I do not.  No one knows for sure, though.  I'm open to the possibility.

Do I believe that there are many unanswered questions about what actually happened that day?  Oh absolutely.

Do I believe there was a cover-up of evidence that suggested that the "official version" of events was incomplete or inaccurate? I certainly do.

Hell, yes, I'm a 9/11 "Truther."   And I'm no longer embarrassed to say so.

Especially given what we know now .... what was once squarely in the realm of conspiracy theory must now be considered in the light of what we know the US government is capable of. Simply calling something a "crazy conspiracy theory" is not enough anymore to discredit it. The incredible cannot be discounted.  Edward Snowen was a game-changer.

We know, now, that the US government will stop at nothing. And they will tell lies without hesitation.

Which is why I think it's worth revisiting the whole 9/11 WTC tower strike story.  There were many variations of the 9/11 plot, and the facts keep changing, but the official story is so full of holes, it's not easily believable. In fact, that official story sounds a lot like any other "conspiracy theory" to me. It is utterly preposterous.

And when I look hard, as hard as I'm able, for the truth about what happened that day ... I am absolutely convinced that the official story is a lie and a cover up.

Hell, yes, I'm a 9/11 "Truther."

Hands-down the best documentary I've seen on 9/11 is the three-DVD film September 11 - The New Pearl Harbor made by filmmaker Massimo Mazzucco.  It's long, five hours long, but if you have any doubts about the official story., you should watch at least that part of this documentary.

The video asks 50 questions of those who defend the official account.  50 questions that haven't been answered.
This video is the result of 12 years of research. Granted, five hours is a lot of material to watch.  If you only watch part of it, you should watch the discussion of the collapse of 7 World Trade Center in the third DVD (~17 minutes).  WTC 7 is the keystone of 9/11 skeptics demand for a new investigation of what happened on September 11, 2001.  If you can buy the official explanation for the collapse of WTC 7; you can certainly swallow the rest of the official story.

WTC 7 is especially important in light of the discovery last year that the investigation of the collapse conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology deliberately omitted critical structural reinforcement features from it computer models. (Attorney Dr. William Pepper's letter on behalf of 2100 skeptical engineers and architects).

What follows is an index of the material that is on each of the three DVD's in the set, with YouTube links to each of the parts.  Full info about the DVD set can be found at
Charles Aulds

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DVD 1     (1m55s)


0.01:02 - 12 parallels between Pearl
Harbor and September 11
0.14:10 - The debate: main issues


0.14:55 - Where are the interceptors?
0.16:12 - The "incompetence theory"
(radars, transponders)
0.22:00 - The military drills
0.29:40 - Specific warnings
0.33:08 - The chain of command
0.38:10 - Promotions, not punishments
0.39:50 - The Mineta case
0.47:38 - Debunkers: "Mineta was mistaken"
0.53:18 - The Mineta case - A summary


0.57:15 - "Piss-poor student pilots"
0.59:38 - Marwan al-Sheikki (UA175)
1.01:52 - Ziad Jarrah (UA93)
1.03:06 - Hani Hanjour (AA77)
1.04:00 - The debunkers' positions
1.06:00 -  2 simulations of the Pentagon attack
1.13:10 - Someone knew?
1.16:40 - Airport security cameras
1.20.15 - The missing black boxes


1.26:50 - Passenger planes or military drones?
1.28:20 - Impossible speeds
1.37:30 - What happened to the passengers?
1.38:35 - The cellphone calls
1.48:30 - The debunkers' position
1.50:38 - If not from the planes, from where?

DVD 2     (1m30s)


0.02:35 - Downed light poles
0.03:30 - The missing plane
0.04:30 - The official version
0.05:24 - Problems with the official version
               (wing, ailerons, tail, engines)
0.13:09 - The mystery hole
0.14:10 - The debunkers' explanations
0.16:20 - Conclusions on damage analysis
0.17:00 - The missing tapes
0.18:30 - Security video analysis
0.23.40 - Pentagon summary


0.24.15 - The empty hole
0.28.00 - The debunkers' explanations
0.33:00 - Plane crash or bomb explosion?
0.34:50 - The debris field
0.37.20 - The shootdown hypothesis
0.38:50 - The small white plane
0.41:40 - "Let's roll"
0.44:25 - Summary of Flight 93


0.45:10 - Introduction
0.47:45 - The Towers' small dirty secret
0.53:10 - Larry Silverstein
0.56:15 - NIST vs. Architects & Engineers
0.58:00 - Robust or fragile buildings?
1.04:45 - The initial collapse - Explanation #1
1.05:45 - The initial collapse - Explanation #2
1.07:35 - Problems with the official explanation
1.18:00 - The full collapse - No official explanation
1.18:50 - Law of physics violated
1.20:50 - The Twin Towers and freefall
1.27:50 - Debunkers' response to A&E

DVD 3     (1m28s)


0.00:20 - The hypothesis of controlled demolitions
0.01:08 - Debunkers: "Impossible to place explosives"
0.07:34 - Explosions in the Twin Towers (witnesses)
0.15:00 - "Fuel in elevators shafts" theory
0.23:25 - Debunkers: "Explosions not recorded by tv cameras"
0.30:26 - Squibs
0.33:00 - Explosive force (montage)
0.35:00 - Ejecta
0.38:00 - Diagonal cuts
0.40:15 - What happened to the hat trusses?
0.42:20 - Extreme temperatures
0.45:30 - Debunkers' explanations
0.46:45 - Twisted and mangled beams
0.47:40 - Molten steel
0.51:05 - Molten concrete
0.53:50 - Pulverization
0.57:40 - Victims vaporized
1.02:20 - Conclusion on the Twin Towers


1.05:10 - Introduction
1.06:35 - Official version by NIST
1.09:36 - Collapse computer simulation
1.11:00 - Fire computer simulation
1.12:20 - Debunkers: "Building 7 weaker"
1.14:25 - Preknowledge
1.19:00 - Symmetry
1.20:00 - Freefall


1.22:30 - John McCain
1.24:35 - The last word

Thursday, February 6, 2014

That's crazy! They'd never do something like that!

The documents that were exposed to the public by Edward Snowden showed that the NSA has been pouring a huge amount of money into creating a metadata repository capable of collecting and storing 20 billion new "record events" every day and making them available to NSA "security analysts" within 60 minutes.

And what many already suspected, was no longer confined to the realm of "conspiracy theory."  The government's intent, to architect a secret surveillance system that would watch everyone, everywhere, and all the time, became public knowledge.

But the United States wasn't hurt because it lost its secret surveillance program; the United States was hurt because it lost credibility.  Because it was exposed, yet again, as a liar.  And that cuts deep, and leaves a wound that doesn't heal quickly.

What totally got destroyed was the defense that "That's crazy! they would never do something like that!"  That defense of the US government has fallen apart.  What was once squarely in the realm of conspiracy theory must now be considered in the light of what we know "they" are capable of. Simply calling something a "crazy conspiracy theory" is not enough anymore to discredit it. The incredible cannot be discounted.  Edward Snowen was a game-changer.

We know, now, that they'll stop at nothing.

Which is why I think it's worth revisiting the whole 9/11 WTC tower strike story. 
There were many variations of the 9/11 plot, and the facts keep changing, but the official story is so full of holes, it's not easily believable. In fact, that official story sound a lot like "conspiracy theory" to me. It is actually pretty preposterous.

Let's see ... in the official account of what happened, a sizeable number of terrorists (officially, 19, I believe) were able to come to the United States, where they trained themselves to fly large passenger airliners very skillfully, except they only trained using small single engine planes.  A few of them did this while actively being watched by the FBI or other agencies. They were suspects under surveillance, yet they were able to keep this major operation a secret for months.

So, on the day of the "attack", they hijacked not one
, but 4 planes, in a very close span of time. Despite the fact that the planes deviated from their courses, and were known to have been hijacked, and were flying through the most heavily defended area of the country; the US military apparently felt no need to send up fighter jets. One of the 4 hijacked planes was flown, In fact, into the freakin' Pentagon, only the most important and heavily defended military location on this planet.  Then they flew two of the planes into steel frame skyscrapers on Manhattan, two of which collapsed from the damage ... no, wait, three collapsed, one of which (WTC 7) was not struck by a plane.  The two planes that flew into WTC Towers 1 and 2 disappeared, vaporized apparently; the black boxes were destroyed, just like the one on American Flight 77 which hit the Pentagon. The black boxes were destroyed, yet the passports of at least some of the terrorists were found only slightly scorched ... one, in fact, was very conveniently found several blocks from the tower strikes, even before the towers fell.

And how, in 2001, were passengers on those airliners able to make cell phone calls from planes at high altitude? Have you ever tried that?

It's a pretty outrageous scenario.  Very difficult to believe.  But this incredible story is the one that was provided to the public.

In fact, if the possibility that they contrived the whole thing exists, I think that alone makes it more likely than not. The scenario they sold the public, I believe, is preposterous.

They had the resources, and they had the motivation.

And they certainly got exactly what they wanted.  And it wasn't a coincidence that it led to the current American security/surveillance state.  it was the most critical part of the plan.  It had to be done to justify all that followed.

So, are you willing to tell me, "They'd never do something like that!"

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