The Pursuit of Happiness

The phrase means something different to every person. The Declaration of Independence states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Please feel free to comment on any of the posts or browse the topic links on the left hand side below.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bush's Response to 9/11

“Bush’s Response to 9/11” – amateur, but expertly-assembled movie that juxtaposes the New York City-based events of 9/11 with Bush’s Florida-based “response.” Devestating.

The Secret Government - Bill Moyers 1987

Moyers was the host of PBS NOW with Bill Moyers for three years. Over the past three decades he has become an icon of American journalism. He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards and is the author of three best-selling books. His latest is called Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times

Watch this documentary piece hosted by Bill Moyers. A must see. It aired on PBS in 1987. In this edit, Bill Moyers looks at the CIA overthrow of the Prime Minister of Iran in 1953. It is still relevant today, especially in light of the emerging conflicts with Iran.

Are you interested in why your finances are being squeezed more and more these days? Are you interested in learning what's behind the government lying and corrupt corporate media? Then you need to purchase two important books that have been recently published and are currently on sale (in hardcover). The first is Screwed! The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class. The second, is Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back.

In Screwed! The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class by Thom Hartmann, the American middle class is on its deathbed. Ordinary folks who put in a solid day’s work can no longer afford to buy a house, send their kids to college, or even get sick. If you’re not a CEO, you’re probably screwed.

In his latest book, Air America host Thom Hartmann shows how the American middle class that was so carefully constructed by our country’s founding fathers has been systematically dismantled over the past quarter-century, and, under the guise of “freeing” the market, replaced by a system designed to line the pockets of the super-rich and corporations.

Hartmann shows that it’s not too late to return to the America our founders envisioned. Democracy requires a fair playing field. It will survive only if We the People stand up, speak out, and reclaim our democratic birthright.
Listen to Thom read an excerpt from the book

In Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back, the sister-brother team of Amy Goodman, journalist and host of the popular international TV and radio news show Democracy Now!, and investigative journalist David Goodman once again take on government liars, corporate profiteers, and the media that has acted as their megaphone. They expose how the Bush administration has manipulated and fabricated news and how the corporate media has worked hand in glove with the powerful to deceive the public. They report on the many people who have taken a stand and are fighting back, but whose stories go too often untold.

From Publishers Weekly: Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and her author brother, David Goodman, follow up their bestseller The Exception to the Rulers by again synthesizing radio interviews and commentary with secondary sources on charged issues that the corporate media too often overlook. 'The Bush administration is obsessed with controlling the flow of information,' the authors declare, citing examples from Iraq to Katrina. One glaring hypocrisy is the president's claim that 'we do not render to countries that torture'; the authors find mounds of evidence to the contrary. They also remind us of the unseemly ties between Republican Party supporters and Pentagon contracts in Iraq. In one hilarious episode — lightly reported in the U.S. media — a British activist group, the Yes Men, hoaxed the BBC regarding Dow Chemical's apparent willingness to apologize for the Bhopal disaster. On Goodman's show, a former U.S. Army interrogator acknowledged that 98% of those picked up in Iraq 'had not done anything.' A brief final section highlights those who fight back, including antiwar mom Cindy Sheehan, and a former British ambassador in Uzbekistan who blew the whistle on that regime's human rights abuses.

You can purchase Screwed! here and Static here.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann first compiled, almost a year ago on his "Countdown" program on MSNBC, a list of ten "coincidences" wherein bad news for the Bush administration (or, during the election, good news for John Kerry) was immediately followed by terror alerts that grabbed the headlines and diverted the attention, Teflon-like, away from Republicans and into a media frenzy.

Olbermann's list is now up to 13 of these odd "coincidences." An administration that would out a CIA agent and bring down an entire counterterrorism operation just to punish a former ambassador who dared to speak out about administration lies may well be easily capable of cooking up news-grabbing "coincidences." An interesting read.

The Nexus of Politics and Terror | October 12, 2005

Secaucus - Last Thursday on Countdown, I referred to the latest terror threat - the reported bomb plot against the New York City subway system - in terms of its timing. President Bush’s speech about the war on terror had come earlier the same day, as had the breaking news of the possible indictment of Karl Rove in the CIA leak investigation.

I suggested that in the last three years there had been about 13 similar coincidences - a political downturn for the administration, followed by a “terror event” - a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning.

We figured we’d better put that list of coincidences on the public record. We did so this evening on the television program, with ten of these examples. The other three are listed at the end of the main list, out of chronological order. The contraction was made purely for the sake of television timing considerations, and permitted us to get the live reaction of the former Undersecretary of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson.

We bring you these coincidences, reminding you, and ourselves here, that perhaps the simplest piece of wisdom in the world is called “the logical fallacy.” Just because Event “A” occurs, and then Event “B” occurs, that does not automatically mean that Event “A” caused Event “B.”

But one set of comments from an informed observer seems particularly relevant as we examine these coincidences.

On May 10th of this year, after his resignation, former Secretary of Homeland Security Ridge looked back on the terror alert level changes, issued on his watch.

Mr. Ridge said: “More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it. Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don’t necessarily put the country on (alert)… there were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said ‘for that?’”

Please, judge for yourself.

Number One:

May 18th, 2002. The first details of the President’s Daily Briefing of August 6th, 2001, are revealed, including its title - “Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S.” The same day another memo is discovered - revealing the FBI knew of men with links to Al Qaeda training at an Arizona flight school. The memo was never acted upon. Questions about 9/11 Intelligence failures are swirling.

May 20th, 2002. Two days later, FBI Director Mueller declares another terrorist attack “inevitable.” The next day, the Department of Homeland Security issues warnings of attacks against railroads nationwide, and against New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

Number Two:

June 6th, 2002. Colleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to alert her superiors to the specialized flight training taken by Zacarias Moussaoui, whose information suggests the government missed a chance to break up the 9/11 plot, testifies before Congress. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Graham says Rowley’s testimony has inspired similar pre-9/11 whistle-blowers.

June 10th, 2002. Four days later, speaking from Russia, Attorney General John Ashcroft reveals that an American named Jose Padilla is under arrest, accused of plotting a radiation bomb attack in this country. Padilla had, by this time, already been detained for more than a month.

Number Three:

February 5th, 2003. Secretary of State Powell tells the United Nations Security Council of Iraq’s concealment of weapons, including 18 mobile biological weapons laboratories, justifying a U.N. or U.S. first strike. Many in the UN are doubtful. Months later, much of the information proves untrue.

February 7th, 2003. Two days later, as anti-war demonstrations continue to take place around the globe, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge cites “credible threats” by Al Qaeda, and raises the terror alert level to orange. Three days after that, Fire Administrator David Paulison - who would become the acting head of FEMA after the Hurricane Katrina disaster - advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack.

Number Four:

July 23rd, 2003: The White House admits the CIA -- months before the President's State of the Union Address -- expressed "strong doubts" about the claim that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger. On the 24th, the Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks is issued; it criticizes government at all levels; it reveals an FBI informant had been living with two of the future hijackers; and it concludes that Iraq had no link to Al-Qaeda. 28 pages of the report are redacted. On the 26th, American troops are accused of beating Iraqi prisoners.

July 29th, 2003. Three days later, amid all of those negative headlines, Homeland Security issues warnings of further terrorist attempts to use airplanes for suicide attacks.

Number Five:

December 17th, 2003. 9/11 Commission Co-Chair Thomas Kean says the attacks were preventable. The next day, a Federal Appeals Court says the government cannot detain suspected radiation-bomber Jose Padilla indefinitely without charges, and the chief U.S. Weapons inspector in Iraq, Dr. David Kay, who has previously announced he has found no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, announces he will resign his post.

December 21st, 2003. Three days later, just before Christmas, Homeland Security again raises the threat level to Orange, claiming “credible intelligence” of further plots to crash airliners into U.S. cities. Subsequently, six international flights into this country are cancelled after some passenger names purportedly produce matches on government no-fly lists. The French later identify those matched names: one belongs to an insurance salesman from Wales, another to an elderly Chinese woman, a third to a five-year old boy.

Number Six:

March 30th, 2004. The new chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer tells Congress we have still not found any WMD there. And, after weeks of refusing to appear before the 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice finally relents and agrees to testify. On the 31st: Four Blackwater-USA contractors working in Iraq are murdered, their mutilated bodies dragged through the streets and left on public display in Fallujah. The role of civilian contractors in Iraq is widely questioned.

April 2nd, 2004. Homeland Security issues a bulletin warning that terrorists may try to blow up buses and trains, using fertilizer and fuel bombs - like the one detonated in Oklahoma City - stuffed into satchels or duffel bags.

Number Seven:

May 16th, 2004. Secretary of State Powell appears on “Meet The Press.” Moderator Tim Russert closes by asking him about the “enormous personal credibility” Powell had placed before the U.N. in laying out a case against Saddam Hussein. An aide to Powell interrupts the question, saying the interview is over. Powell finishes his answer, admitting that much of the information he had been given about Weapons of Mass Destruction was “inaccurate and wrong, and, in some cases, deliberately misleading.”

May 21st, 2004, new photos showing mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison are released. On the 24th - Associated Press video from Iraq confirms U.S. forces mistakenly bombed a wedding party - killing more than 40.

Wednesday the 26th. Two days later, Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller warn that intelligence from multiple sources, in Ashcroft’s words, “indicates Al-Qaeda’s specific intention to hit the United States hard,” and that “90 percent of the arrangements for an attack on the United States were complete.” The color-coded warning system is not raised, and Homeland Security Secretary Ridge does not attend the announcement.

Number Eight:

July 6th, 2004. Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry selects Senator John Edwards as his vice presidential running mate, producing a small bump in the election opinion polls, and a huge swing in media attention towards the Democratic campaign.

July 8th, 2004. Two days later, Homeland Secretary Ridge warns of information about Al-Qaeda attacks during the summer or autumn. Four days after that, the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, DeForest B. Soaries, Junior, confirms he has written to Ridge about the prospect of postponing the upcoming Presidential election in the event it is interrupted by terrorist acts.

Number Nine:

July 29th, 2004. At their party convention in Boston, the Democrats formally nominate John Kerry as their candidate for President. As in the wake of any convention, the Democrats dominate the media attention over the ensuing weekend.

Monday, August 1st, 2004. The Department of Homeland Security raises the alert status for financial centers in New York, New Jersey, and Washington to orange. The evidence supporting the warning - reconnaissance data, left in a home in Iraq - later proves to be roughly four years old and largely out-of-date.

Number Ten:

Last Thursday. At 10 AM Eastern Time, the President addresses the National Endowment for Democracy, once again emphasizing the importance of the war on terror and insisting his government has broken up at least 10 terrorist plots since 9/11.

At 3 PM Eastern Time, five hours after the President’s speech has begun, the Associated Press reports that Karl Rove will testify again to the CIA Leak Grand Jury, and that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has told Rove he cannot guarantee that he will not be indicted.

At 5:17 PM Eastern Time, seven hours after the President’s speech has begun, New York officials disclose a bomb threat to the city’s subway system - based on information supplied by the Federal Government. A Homeland Security spokesman says the intelligence upon which the disclosure is based is “of doubtful credibility.” And it later proves that New York City had known of the threat for at least three days, and had increased police presence in the subways long before making the announcement at that particular time. Local New York television station, WNBC, reports it had the story of the threat days in advance, but was asked by "high ranking federal officials" in New York and Washington to hold off its story.

Less than four days after revealing the threat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says "Since the period of the threat now seems to be passing, I think over the immediate future, we'll slowly be winding down the enhanced security."

While news organizations ranging from the New York Post to NBC News quote sources who say there was reason to believe that informant who triggered the warning simply ‘made it up’, a Senior U.S. Counter-terrorism official tells the New York Times: "There was no there, there."

The list of three additional examples follows.

Number Eleven:

October 22nd, 2004. After weeks of Administration insistence that there are terrorist plans to disrupt the elections, FBI, Law Enforcement, and other U.S. Intelligence agencies report they have found no direct evidence of any plot. More over, they say, a key CIA source who had claimed knowledge of the plot, has been discredited.

October 29, 2004. Seven days later - four days before the Presidential election - the first supposedly new, datable tape of Osama Bin Laden since December 2001 is aired on the Al-Jazeera Network. A Bush-Cheney campaign official anonymously tells the New York Daily News that from his campaign’s point of view, the tape is quote “a little gift.”

Number Twelve:

May 5th, 2005. 88 members of the United States House of Representatives send a letter to President Bush demanding an investigation of the so-called “Downing Street Memo” - a British document which describes purported American desire dating to 2002 to "fix" the evidence to fit the charges against Iraq. In Iraq over the following weekend, car bombings escalate. On the 11th, more than 75 Iraqis are killed in one day.

May 11th, 2005. Later that day, an instructor and student pilot violate restricted airspace in Washington D.C. It is an event that happens hundreds of times a year, but this time the plane gets to within three miles of the White House. The Capitol is evacuated; Vice President Cheney, the First Lady, and Nancy Reagan are all rushed to secure locations. The President, biking through woods, is not immediately notified.

Number Thirteen:

June 26th, 2005. A Gallup poll suggests that 61 percent of the American public believes the President does not have a plan in Iraq. On the 28th, Mr. Bush speaks to the nation from Fort Bragg: "We fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won."

June 29th 2005. The next day, another private pilot veers into restricted airspace, the Capitol is again evacuated, and this time, so is the President.

To summarize, coincidences are coincidences.

We could probably construct a similar time line of terror events and warnings, and their relationship to - the opening of new Walmarts around the country.

Are these coincidences signs that the government’s approach has worked because none of the announced threats ever materialized? Are they signs that the government has not yet mastered how and when to inform the public?

Is there, in addition to the "fog of war" a simple, benign, "fog of intelligence”?

But, if merely a reasonable case can be made that any of these juxtapositions of events are more than just coincidences, it underscores the need for questions to be asked in this country - questions about what is prudence, and what is fear-mongering; questions about which is the threat of death by terror, and which is the terror of threat.

9/11 in a Movie-Made World

The Nation | September 25, 2006 | by Tom Engelhardt

We knew it was coming. Not, as conspiracy theorists imagine, just a few top officials among us, but all of us--and not for weeks or months, but for more than half a century before September 11, 2001.

That's why, for all the shock, it was, in a sense, so familiar. Americans were already imagining versions of September 11 soon after the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. That event set the American imagination boiling. Within weeks of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as scholar Paul Boyer has shown, all the familiar signs of nuclear fear were already in place--newspapers were drawing concentric circles of atomic destruction outward from fantasy Ground Zeroes in American cities, and magazines were offering visions of our country as a vaporized wasteland, while imagining millions of American dead.

And then, suddenly, one clear morning it seemed to arrive--by air, complete with images of the destruction of the mightiest monuments to our power, and (just as previously experienced) as an onscreen spectacle. At one point that day, it could be viewed on more than thirty channels, including some never previously involved with breaking news, and most of the country was watching.

Only relatively small numbers of New Yorkers actually experienced 9/11: those at the tip of Manhattan or close enough to watch the two planes smash into the World Trade Center towers, to watch (as some schoolchildren did) people leaping or falling from the upper floors of those buildings, to be enveloped in the vast cloud of smoke and ash, in the tens of thousands of pulverized computers and copying machines, the asbestos and flesh and plane, the shredded remains of millions of sheets of paper, of financial and office life as we know it. For most Americans, even those like me who were living in Manhattan, 9/11 arrived on the television screen. This is why what leapt to mind--and instantaneously filled our papers and TV reporting--was previous screen life, the movies.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the news was peppered with comments about, thoughts about and references to films. Reporters, as Caryn James wrote in the New York Times that first day, "compared the events to Hollywood action movies"; as did op-ed writers ("The scenes exceeded the worst of Hollywood's disaster movies"); columnists ("On TV, two national landmarks...look like the aftermath in the film Independence Day"); and eyewitnesses ("It was like one of them Godzilla movies"; "And then I saw an explosion straight out of The Towering Inferno"). Meanwhile, in an irony of the moment, Hollywood scrambled to excise from upcoming big- and small-screen life anything that might bring to mind thoughts of 9/11, including, in the case of Fox, promotion for the premiere episode of 24, in which "a terrorist blows up an airplane." (Talk about missing the point!)

In our guts, we had always known it was coming. Like any errant offspring, Little Boy and Fat Man, those two atomic packages with which we had paid them back for Pearl Harbor, were destined to return home someday. No wonder the single, omnipresent historical reference in the media in the wake of the attacks was Pearl Harbor or, as screaming headlines had it, Infamy, or A New Day of Infamy. We had just experienced "the Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century," or, as R. James Woolsey, former CIA director (and neocon), said in the Washington Post that first day, "It is clear now, as it was on December 7, 1941, that the United States is at war.... The question is: with whom?"

The Day After

No wonder that what came instantly to mind was a nuclear event. No wonder, according to a New York Times piece, Tom Brokaw, then chairing NBC's nonstop news coverage, "may have captured it best when he looked at videotape of people on a street, everything and everyone so covered with ash... [and said] it looked 'like a nuclear winter in lower Manhattan.'" No wonder the Tennessean and the Topeka Capital-Journal both used the headline The Day After, lifted from a famous 1983 TV movie about nuclear Armageddon.

No wonder the area where the two towers fell was quickly dubbed "Ground Zero," a term previously reserved for the spot where an atomic explosion had occurred. On September 12, for example, the Los Angeles Times published a full-page series of illustrations of the attacks on the towers headlined: Ground Zero. By week's end, it had become the only name for "the collapse site," as in a September 18 New York Times headline, Many Come to Bear Witness at Ground Zero.

No wonder the events seemed so strangely familiar. We had been living with the possible return of our most powerful weaponry via TV and the movies, novels and our own dream-life, in the past, the future and even--thanks to a John F. Kennedy TV appearance on October 22, 1962, during the Cuban Missile crisis to tell us that our world might end tomorrow--in something like the almost-present.

So many streams of popular culture had fed into this. So many "previews" had been offered. Everywhere in those decades, you could see yourself or your compatriots or the enemy "Hiroshimated" (as Variety termed it back in 1947). Even when Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn't kissing Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies as an atomic explosion went off somewhere in the Florida Keys or a playground filled with American kids wasn't being atomically blistered in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, even when it wasn't literally nuclear, that apocalyptic sense of destruction lingered as the train, bus, blimp, explosively armed, headed for us in our unknowing innocence; as the towering inferno, airport, city, White House was blasted away, as we were offered Pompeii-scapes of futuristic destruction in what would, post-9/11, come to be known as "the homeland."

Sometimes it came from outer space armed with strange city-blasting rays; other times irradiated monsters rose from the depths to stomp our cities (in the 1998 remake of Godzilla, New York City, no less). After Star Wars' Darth Vader used his Death Star to pulverize a whole planet in 1977, planets were regularly nuclearized in Saturday-morning TV cartoons. In our imaginations, post-1945, we were always at planetary Ground Zero.