I’ve worked in journalism for 35 years. I did graduate study in journalism, I’ve worked as a daily newspaper reporter and I’ve freelanced magazine articles and newspaper op-eds. Now I blog.
I’ve learned that certain ideas are not permitted in the mainstream press. Well-paid gatekeepers might say these ideas are misguided, wrong or irresponsible, but that’s not really the reason. It’s because certain ideas are not in alignment with the middle-brow assumptions our mainstream press operates within. It also has to do with a commercial inclination for celebrity journalism and a fetish for scorekeeping over analysis.
Here’s a personal example. For three weeks, since the Times Square bombing attempt, I’ve been in a back-and-forth exchange with the op-ed editor of a major city newspaper over a 900-word piece focused on the motivations of would-be bomber Faisal Shahzad.
The Pentagon Channel is not the Military Channel. The Military Channel is Hitler plus top ten lists. You wanna know about the failed plot to assassinate the Fuehrer in 1944 and then learn the ten best attack submarines of all time–the Military Channel is your meat. It’s the NFL Network with a drill sergeant instead of a coach yelling at an audience of men so bored with their lives that trench warfare is an attractive alternative.
The Pentagon Channel is not the History Channel. The History Channel looks at many tyrants in addition to Hitler, plus UFOs and Biblical prophecies and ghosts. The Pentagon Channel is also not the the History Channel International, which is indistinguishable from the History Channel.
The Pentagon Channel has been broadcasting since 2004 without many people noticing. It’s on most of the basic cable systems in the United States, probably nestled in the high numbers with the other obscure reality channels. It seems to discuss Hitler less often than its competitors. Every few hours on a program called “Battleground,” they show a vintage propaganda film where he may be given passing mention. One of the best is called “Why Vietnam?” which must have been made around 1967. It shows a clip of Neville Chamberlin promising “peace in our time,” and then Hitler starts gobbling Europe. If Hitler had been stopped at the first mouthful, catastrophe would have been averted. And that is why we must fight in Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara are shown begging—not too strong a word— the American people to continue supporting the war, lest the “terrorists” win and gobble up the rest of Southeast Asia, just like Hitler.
Even as BP’s blown well a mile beneath the surface in the Gulf of Mexico continues to gush forth an estimated 70,000 barrels of oil a day into the sea, and the fragile wetlands along the Gulf begin to get coated with crude, which is also headed into the Gulf Stream for a trip past the Everglades and on up the East Coast, the company is demanding that Canada lift its tight rules for drilling in the icy Beaufort Sea portion of the Arctic Ocean.
On the second anniversary of their winning a historic $10-million verdict – the largest ever for a discrimination lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department – three men staged a protest outside the city’s federal court house criticizing an unusual roadblock keeping them from receiving the fruits of their justice.
The three protestors, all former policemen, had sued the City of Philadelphia for savage, career-ending retaliation they received from Police Department personnel, including top officials, for their reporting of racism, corruption and other misconduct in the department.
In an unusual twist for such a discrimination suit, all three men are white.
In Spanish, the word honduras means depth. The example often used is meterse en honduras – to go beyond one’s depth. It comes from the adjective hondo – deep or low.
I’ve often wondered what the Spanish conquistador or priest was thinking when he decided circa 1500 to call the place The Depths– or with some liberties, The Gulch.
When I was in Honduras, I recall the capital Tegucigalpa as a series of hills and deep gulches, with the hillsides noted for poor communities of thousands of slapped-together shanties. The Tegucigalpa airport is considered one of the most dangerous in the world; it’s a bit like dropping down and circling inside a teacup before landing.
So maybe that old Spaniard was onto something. If Afghanistan is the “graveyard of empires,” maybe Honduras is the gulch where they just get mired in muck.
In the spring of 1994, I went to the Socialist Scholars Conference in New York where I encountered a large red-faced man with white hair. He had the look and manner of Santa Claus, minus the beard, and he was standing behind a table from which he was selling audio and video cassettes of lectures by Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and other prominent anarchists, socialists, communists and even some vaguely progressive Democrats. He was also selling photocopies of an interview I had done with Noam for Rolling Stone.
“Hey,” I said, “that’s my interview with Noam Chomsky!”
“Cool,” said the large, red-faced man. “Would you mind if I crash on your couch tonight? I came all the way from Maine and I don’t have a place to stay.”
Let me make a postulate: In a democracy, if there is a legislative proposal that would significantly benefit 80 percent of the population and cost them nothing, and that would be paid for by a insignificant tax on the richest 20 percent of the population, who themselves would receive some benefit from the added tax, that proposal would be overwhelmingly approved.
If you accept that postulate, you would have to conclude that the US is no longer a functioning democracy.
President Obama claims to have learned a lesson from the disastrous blowout of British Petroleum drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico: a “cozy relationship” between the agency that regulates oil drilling, the Minerals Management Service, and the oil industry, he charges, allowed companies to drill in vulnerable offshore areas without properly assessing the risks to the ocean and its ecology.
He’s only just figuring this out?
Philadelphia loves to brag about it’s ‘Firsts,’ citing such notable things as the nation’s first capital (1774), America’s first zoo (1874) and the birthplace of the world’s first digital computer ENIAC (1946).
There is one ‘First’ that will never appear in slick tourist handouts from the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau though, and that’s the city’s first air raid on May 13, 1985, when the city deliberately bombed an occupied house containing children, sparking a deadly firestorm.
A bomb dropped on an American city by that city’s own police force?
Mister Obama’s War has hit a speed bump in Times Square. The question is will the President and members of Congress pay any attention to it and slow down, or will they floor the accelerator and race into Pakistan?
The speed bump is a nobody named Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old, westernized Pakistani, highly educated, and a naturalized American citizen with a wife and two kids. A casualty of the US financial meltdown, a career in the finance industry fizzled and his $285,000 home went underwater and was foreclosed.
Shahzad then trekked to North Waziristan in Pakistan along the Afghan border, where someone allegedly taught him how to make a car bomb. Fortunately, that training was either inadequate or he was a lousy student.
Following on the bloody Fort Hood shooting and the failed underpants bomber, Shahzad’s action has become leverage for greater US military intervention into the rugged Pashtun areas of northwest Pakistan.