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The Hedonists of Power

Posted on Jun 23, 2008
AP photo / Charles Dharapak, file

Tim Russert is shown speaking last year at the 60th anniversary celebration of NBC’s “Meet the Press” in Washington. Russert, 58, collapsed and died this month while at work at NBC’s Washington bureau.

By Chris Hedges

Washington has become Versailles. We are ruled, entertained and informed by courtiers. The popular media are courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are courtiers. Our pundits and experts are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games. We are being had.

The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year and who gave a platform to the powerful and the famous so they could spin, equivocate and lie to the nation. We were repeatedly told by these television courtiers, people like Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer, that this talk show host was one of our nation’s greatest journalists, as if sitting in a studio, putting on makeup and chatting with Dick Cheney or George W. Bush have much to do with journalism.

No journalist makes $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists. Ask Seymour Hersh and Amy Goodman how often Bush or Cheney has invited them to dinner at the White House or offered them an interview.

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, and it is the job of the journalist to do the hard, tedious reporting to shine a light on these lies. It is the job of courtiers, those on television playing the role of journalists, to feed off the scraps tossed to them by the powerful and never question the system. In the slang of the profession, these television courtiers are “throats.” These courtiers, including the late Tim Russert, never gave a voice to credible critics in the buildup to the war against Iraq. They were too busy playing their roles as red-blooded American patriots. They never fought back in their public forums against the steady erosion of our civil liberties and the trashing of our Constitution. These courtiers blindly accept the administration’s current propaganda to justify an attack on Iran. They parrot this propaganda. They dare not defy the corporate state. The corporations that employ them make them famous and rich. It is their Faustian pact. No class of courtiers, from the eunuchs behind Manchus in the 19th century to the Baghdad caliphs of the Abbasid caliphate, has ever transformed itself into a responsible elite. Courtiers are hedonists of power.

Our Versailles was busy this past week. The Democrats passed the FISA bill, which provides immunity for the telecoms that cooperated with the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance over the past six years. This bill, which when signed means we will never know the extent of the Bush White House’s violation of our civil liberties, is expected to be adopted by the Senate. Barack Obama has promised to sign it in the name of national security. The bill gives the U.S. government a license to eavesdrop on our phone calls and e-mails. It demolishes our right to privacy. It endangers the work of journalists, human rights workers, crusading lawyers and whistle-blowers who attempt to expose abuses the government seeks to hide. These private communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments as well. The bill, once signed into law, will make it possible for those in power to identify and silence anyone who dares to make public information that defies the official narrative.


Square, Site wide
Being a courtier, and Obama is one of the best, requires agility and eloquence. The most talented of them can be lauded as persuasive actors. They entertain us. They make us feel good. They convince us they are our friends. We would like to have dinner with them. They are the smiley faces of a corporate state that has hijacked the government and is raping the nation. When the corporations make their iron demands, these courtiers drop to their knees, whether to placate the telecommunications companies that fund their campaigns and want to be protected from lawsuits, or to permit oil and gas companies to rake in obscene profits and keep in place the vast subsidies of corporate welfare doled out by the state.

We cannot differentiate between illusion and reality. We trust courtiers wearing face powder who deceive us in the name of journalism. We trust courtiers in our political parties who promise to fight for our interests and then pass bill after bill to further corporate fraud and abuse. We confuse how we feel about courtiers like Obama and Russert with real information, facts and knowledge. We chant in unison with Obama that we want change, we yell “yes we can,” and then stand dumbly by as he coldly votes away our civil liberties. The Democratic Party, including Obama, continues to fund the war. It refuses to impeach Bush and Cheney. It allows the government to spy on us without warrants or cause. And then it tells us it is our salvation. This is a form of collective domestic abuse. And, as so often happens in the weird pathology of victim and victimizer, we keep coming back for more. 

Chris Hedges, who was a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The New York Times, says he will vote for Ralph Nader for president.

Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, By Chris Hedges, Truthdig Columnist and Winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- Get Your Autographed Copy Today Also Available! Truthdig Exclusive DVD of Chris Hedges' Wages of Rebellion Lecture The World As It Is: 
Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress: A collection of Truthdig Columns, by Chris Hedges -- Get Your Autographed Copy Today

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By cyrena, June 30, 2008 at 4:33 pm Link to this comment


Thanks for the response. In reality, Max was being a wise ass because he knows perfectly well that I’d read parts of the AIPAC speech. I did NOT watch it myself, and it was probably at least 2 days after the fact, before I read the cherry-pick portions of it that were posted here on truthdig by the likes of Max and other Obama haters.

That said, once I DID read those parts, I TOO had some similar reactions, and specifically to the Jerusalem comments. I couldn’t understand why Obama would say anything like that, because he’s a smart guy, and had to know better. I was ALMOST as disturbed by his comments on Iran being a threat, and that he would eliminate the threat, because I know that he knows that Iran is NOT a threat.

On that however, I cut him some slack, presuming it to be necessary political speak. In other words, yeah, yeah, Israel, don’t worry about Iran, because I’ll make sure they don’t bother you. (since Iran has never bothered them ANYWAY, that should be simple enough).

ALL of that said, I understand the reaction to the AIPAC speech. I was annoyed myself, and I’ve pondered on some of those things for a while, because something just didn’t ‘feel right’ about it.

I didn’t get myself all worked up about the promise for aid to Israel, because it’s no different than what they’ve been getting from us for decades.

I *did* remark on the fact that Obama mentioned in his speech that Israel had a right to exist and a right to defend itself. I don’t have any particular problem with Israel existing either, other than the fact that they’ve refused to ever commit to the boundaries of such an existence, which is why they don’t have a Constitution that would hold them to such geographical boundaries.

Still, Obama also state that the Palestinians had a right to their own state as well, and that their borders should be CONTIGUOUS! When I remarked on that, the Obama mob accused me of ‘decoding’ what he said. (some people obviously need to have things decoded for them).

At the end of the day, (and by the time I read those parts of the speech) I was also dismayed and very much annoyed at what struck me as pandering far beyond the need to pander.

Since then, and after reading an excellent article for which I’ve already provided a link, (but will again), I still have that ‘funny feeling’ about the substance of that speech, and how much of it was really constructed by Obama himself.

No, I am not attempting to excuse him for *delivering* the speech, (he did explain his mistake on the Jerusalem issue the next day, but I missed that as well) but there’s more to this than meets the eyes and ears.

That said, I’m likely to blow off the majority of Max Shields stuff by now, because his motivations are highly suspect. Constructive criticism is one thing, and it should be obvious that I’ve engaged in that. I can also tell the difference between constructive criticism and smear propaganda or simple hate mongering.

Indeed, the next president of the US will have to deal with Israel. At the same time, I’m not interested in considering Israel as the basis for the ENTIRE selection and evaluation process for a US President. So when I said that Obama didn’t create the issues with Israel, (because Israel has been a problem for at least 40 years) I meant that he shouldn’t be responsible for fixing it all either. That’s what the UN is supposed to do, and I think they still should pick up the slack. I don’t see why the US has to have some extraordinary power above and beyond all others, in making sure that little Israel gets to run roughshod over the entire Middle East.

Anyway, the link below is an interesting article. At least it helped me figure out a little bit of why/how Obama could come up with stuff that is totally contrary to everything he’s ever said before.

The url address of this article is:

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By Tony Wicher, June 30, 2008 at 11:37 am Link to this comment

Re By WorkingMan, June 29 at 8:25 pm #

“As much as we would all like to see the country move in a completely different direction—and fast—maybe just stopping our current course will have to do for now.”

Quite right. We have been in free-fall to absolute fascism since 2000. Even if Obama does represent Corporate America, it is not monolithic. There are relatively liberal parts of the spectrum - people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and George Soros. Politicians like Clinton and Obama represent this end of the spectrum. The extreme right wing of corporate America - oil companies and defense contractors - have been in the saddle for the last eight years, but by driving up oil prices, they have hurt the overall economy and the rest of corporate America does not like it. At this point we should join with them to get the fascists out.

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By Tony Wicher, June 30, 2008 at 2:54 am Link to this comment


We just seem to be on the same wavelength. The acrimony toward Obama we hear so much from the left is not constructive criticism; it doesn’t help the cause of progress; in fact, it hurts the progressive movement and helps the reactionaries. There is a place for progressives in the Obama campaign. How much of an influence they have depends on their energy and their ability to persuade and convince their fellow Obama supporters, and not on their propensity to engage in angry tirades that will produce nothing but a few cheers from other alienated leftists and smiles on the faces of Republican operatives who are happy to see mud flung at Obama from any angle.

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is absolutely essential. A lot of Obama people don’t want to hear it right now because they are focused on winning in November, but I myself think this is a mistake. Obama needs our guidance. If he is going to represent the people he needs to hear from the people, and the people am us. All of us in the campaign have to agree on only one thing, that we support Obama for President. We don’t have to agree on anything else. We can and should feel free to disagree with anythng that Obama says or does, to express those views and to try to persuade our comrades. Only in this way will we really have a revolutionary movement of free people instead of a parade of Obama clones walking in lockstep, hewing to the party line.

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By WorkingMan, June 29, 2008 at 9:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Hedges has a habit of articulating hard truths. When Mr. Russert died, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem, because he seemed like a genuinely “good guy.” Plus, I heard Ralph Nader (Chris’ choice for President this year)praise Russert for actually having him on his show. Nader pointed out that Stephanopoulos said it was probably Nader’s last chance to get on a major network. (Or something like that.) And I heard that on Amy Goodman’s show.

  So I guess we can conclude that the remaining courtiers are EVEN WORSE. And probably with fewer ties to the working class, since Russert’s father was (famously) a sanitation worker.

  However, I’ve seen Chris’ other columns that mention Obama and I can’t fully endorse his analysis. Yes, there are problems with Obama’s positions in some areas, and he keeps within the pro-corporate, pro-Likud boundaries prescribed by the courtiers. But if you think he’s just the same as McCain, you’re taking the courtier analogy too far.

  The grassroots aspect of this campaign is inspiring, regardless of the perceived flaws of the candidate. He was against the war before it started, and is happy to point it out. He spoke out against the fatuous gas tax break that would be no break at all. At the ABC debate, he called out the courtiers for creating “silly season” by not focusing on the issues that are important.

  As much as we would all like to see the country move in a completely different direction—and fast—maybe just stopping our current course will have to do for now.

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By Sodium, June 28, 2008 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To:cyrena June 27 at 10:33 pm


Just curious…which post from Max to me re his 100%
gold political position on Obama and AIPAC? I mean,he’s voiced that particular position 5 jillion.”

Well,cyrena,just move the thread down roughly 8 to 10
posts and you will find Max’s post addressed to you on June 27 at 7:05 am,in which he commented:

“Holy Crap!! Did you hear what the man said to AIPAC?

That was exactly how I felt as I listened to his lousy and most demeaning speech to AIPAC’s crowd.And
you certainly know what kind of crowd was that.Max was honest and blunt and spoke my mind.Therefore,my
“thank you” post was in order to him.If I could find
even a better way to thank Max,I would have done so.
The whole episode was off-the-cuff,based on my listening experience to Obama’s speech at AIPAC.To be honest with you,I cussed him with four lettered words
which I very rarely would do,out of frustration with his speech,especially about Jerusalem.He has no idea,
at all,how profoundly Arabs and Muslims feel about their holy shrines in East Jerusalem,the old city of
Jerusalem.No Arab leader,in his right mind,will dare
to sign a final peace treaty with Israel without the 40 years occupied East Jerusalem returned to the Palestinian and Arab control.No way.Obama has really goofed on this issue very badly.

I hope that this has cleared the matter and satisfied
your curiosity.If you need further clarification,pls
feel free to request it.Shall be pleased to oblige.

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By Sodium, June 28, 2008 at 8:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To:Tony Wicher June 28

Thank you for the link you have graciously provided:

After reading the link,I must say that the author,
Joel Mowbrey,has done a balanced job in his piece,“What Obama Meant By ‘Undivided’ Jerusalem”.It is reasonable,but it does not really alter the fact of what had taken place at AIPAC’s convention.

Tony,it is obvious to me that you are doing an outstanding job to get Obama Elected.That is fine.I
do hope that his policies,actions or inactions will
not disappoint you,if he is elected.

Although my heart goes for Ralph Nader,because he is so clean and transparent,but my mind and common sense
tell me to throw my lot behind Obama,because the main alternative is totally unacceptable to me.To be honest with you,I really do not know how I am going to vote in November.Obama has just made it too difficult for me,as I listened to his f***ing speech
at AIPAC.I was all for him after I was fully convinced that the Right Wingers wanted to destroy him because he would be an impediment to some of their ominous and hawkish agenda against Iran and their dirty schemes for Iraq:permanent military bases,controlling the oil or rather controlling the flow of the Iraqi oil,more war machine while the vast
majority of Americans suffer,etc…
Well,there are more than four months till the election in November.I shall see how the dynamics of the various campaigns develop and will make my decision accordingly.

Again,Tony,thank you for the link.I enjoyed reading.

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By cyrena, June 28, 2008 at 11:20 am Link to this comment


You said it here:

•  “Interesting I still feel the differences between the two parties is minimal and the elite and special interests call the shots, for our republic is a plutocracy.  Realizing this helps me understand why we see what we see.  Hope I am wrong.”

I don’t think you’re wrong, because I believe that this HAS been the case for quite some time now. (minimal difference between the two parties). And yes, the elite and the special interests have been calling the shots for a very long time now as well. At least that’s my own general take on it, and I suspect that most of us who bother to look, (and surprisingly, I know many, many, many people who DON’T) see it as well. The difference is only between ‘them’ (the 1% ers) and the rest of us. And, it doesn’t make any difference what ‘party’ the rest of us have belonged to. The red neck repugs in Alabama are just as broke as my liberal democrat ass is here in California. HOWEVER, if I have to be broke, I’d much prefer to be broke here, than there. That’s the only difference, and it is very minor, I agree.

THAT is exactly why I’m as hopeful as I think I can reasonably be. Because prior to the actual Coup that finally ‘took us over’, (and that’s not to let the corporatists of the 4 decades before off the hook) we were pretty much still ‘classes’, and that maintained some measure of balance, as long as there weren’t these extraordinarily huge gaps between us. In other words, I don’t have a problem with a doctor or a plumber earning more than I do, and our rights as citizens and humans are equally guaranteed. But, that has all broken down, so that the classes have become the masses, and we are now all ‘subjects’ of the tiny majority in charge. That step – that breaks the classes down into the masses, is one of the first in a fascist or other totalitarian set-up. And, that’s what we’ve come to under this cabal. I’m not saying things were perfect before. But there’s no getting around where we are now, and we can’t possibly survive it any longer. (I mean seriously, even Hitler and his regime didn’t last this long.)

So, I agree with you that we’ll have to wait until the rubber hits the road. No question there. On the other hand, there is at least the chance that – when it does – that it will ‘work’, at least to the point of beginning to dig us out of the ditch. And, I don’t see that even being a possibility, with anyone other than Obama, at least at this point. Are there others who are capable of pulling us back together and helping us out of the ditch? Yeah. I’m sure there are. But, none who are willing to SERVE THE PEOPLE, as opposed to serving themselves and their own same 1%’ers. NONE of the others currently willing to take on the ‘title’ are actually willing to do the job. They don’t have the judgment required to make the right decisions, or to pick the correct people, and the job wasn’t intended as a one-person job. An administrator is only as good as their judgment dictates in choosing the right help.

So. We’ll see what we can do. I admittedly have a great deal of faith, (and yeah…hope) in the younger generations. They know that they deserve a chance, and that the system hasn’t left them much of a birthright at all. So, they know that if they’re going to have ANYTHING, they have to get out there and do it for themselves, with whatever help and guidance they can get. So, we’ll let them do the heavy lifting, (because they have stronger backs) and we’ll make sure they know which things to lift, and how to carry them. wink

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By Leefeller, June 28, 2008 at 7:08 am Link to this comment


Apprieceat your synopsis on the whole mess as it crawls along. My skeptic feelings and comments on Obama may steam from the abnormal length of this horse race, Coupled with the disgusting presence in the White House and inaction by Congress, one can only have a sinking feeling.

If we have finally hit bottom and hope means the worm will turn, plus if your level approach to the mess is correct we may see some movement toward positive reforms and get our Constitution back Then those of us who do not have a crystal ball will just have to wait and see what happens when Obama takes office.

As I said before when the rubber hits the road.

Interesting I still feel the differences between the two parties is minimal and the elite and special interests call the shots,  for our republic is a plutocracy.  Realizing this helps me understand why we see what we see.  Hope I am wrong.

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By cyrena, June 28, 2008 at 1:14 am Link to this comment

Reply to Tony part 1 of 2

•  “My objective is always to make as much political progress as possible under the actual circumstances. We got Obama nominated because we see him as the most progressive real alternative, and now we must take advantage of our victory by pressing our progressive agenda…Let us defend him against attacks from the right, while at the same time pulling to the left. Obama is very strong now, and healthy, strong, constructive criticism from the left will not hurt his chances.”

Tony, I know that after all of this time, this might sound blasé or mechanical, but I actually do STILL agree with you! I agree even more about the healthy criticism, than I worry about the attacks from the right, because I believe that Obama can handle those attacks perfectly well on his own. I say that because reasonable people aren’t likely to be blinded by the attacks from the right, if ONLY because there just isn’t much value to anything they can come up with.
Seriously…how long can they recycle the Muslim thing, or the Rev. Wright thing, or any of the other bullshit they’ve tried to create? The problem for the right in managing their standard techniques is that Obama just really doesn’t have any DIRT on him. Not necessarily because he’s some perfect angel, but because he’s relatively young, and hasn’t been in the political trenches long enough to become completely corrupted by the whole filthy mess.

That is NOT to say that it wasn’t always a concern of mine, long before he even made the commitment to run. Politics is a dirty business, and no matter how many people will claim that his race doesn’t affect them, it does. It affects those people who are…as EJ Dionne pointed out in one of his pieces..envious and resentful. NOBODY is EVER going to come out and say that. It simply will not happen. So, they come up with every single other thing they possibly can, which in the end, does NOBODY any good, because it is NOT constructive or healthy criticism. When that happens, (a bombardment of the bullshit) it has a tendency to distract from what are LEGITIMATE CRITICISMS. After a while, people start blowing everything off, even though there ARE some things that should certainly be ‘checked’ immediately, BEFORE they can become problematic, and before that very thing that I’ve worried about from the beginning…can possibly happen. The corrupting nature of politics.

The irony here is that I have probably been more vocal than anyone else on this thread, in what I consider to be legitimate criticisms of Obama. I’ve ALSO directed some of them to his campaign, and I’ve actually received numerous responses; all of them appreciative. Because my criticisms are not stupid stuff. And I wouldn’t bother, if I did NOT believe him to be ‘talented’ as you say he is, but also extremely sincere in his efforts and very much a man of integrity. Those are important things to the country at this time, because if we were not in the condition that we are in, Barack Obama, -as any other standard politician- would NOT be running, because we wouldn’t NEED him to run, at least not NOW.

Many folks don’t get my pragmatism in that thinking, but I look at it this way, because I believe it to be an honest assessment, and because I am an honest person. Ideally, Barack Obama could only become that much BETTER, if he waited another 4 or even 8 years, (hoping that a dem will in fact gain the office). He’s young. He could wait 8 years, and still be only what…54 years old going into the office. He’d be 8 years smarter, (via experience) the kids would be closer to grown, and he’d be at the peak of his life. In other words, he could be an overwhelmingly popular politician and statesman, and build one hell of a personal and presidential legacy, IF this was about HIM! But, it’s not. It’s about us, and what both MLK and Obama have recognized as “the urgency of the moment’.

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By cyrena, June 28, 2008 at 1:12 am Link to this comment

Part 2 of 2 reply to Tony

That said, I’m not worried about attacks from the right. I’m more worried about him not taking on more than he can chew, but that’s almost an instinctive sort of motherly type feeling, just as so many other people, (even older than I) worry about him being the victim of an assassination. The fear is real, and it takes only reading these blogs to be reminded of it.

I’m also not particularly worried about his ‘seeming’ slide to the center. I know that he is even keeled, and not prone to ego tripping, and therefore is OPEN to criticism. Consequently, constructive criticism *should* be on tap. But again, it needs to be separated out from the bullshit, or it’s ineffective.

The AIPAC speech was a major blunder, and I didn’t even hear what he came up with the next day. I saw a mention from Louise a few weeks ago not long after the speech, and she wasn’t too impressed with whatever he said. According to her, he just made it worse. I generally trust her assessment on things, so I didn’t try to look for it. (I don’t watch MSM at all).

But in all honesty, I have to be careful myself, to look carefully for these things at this point, (blunders) because I’m beginning to blow off what might be legitimate concerns, after being barraged with bullshit from the likes of people like Max. I mean, he complains about everything from the way Obama ties his shoes, to crystal ball predictions that Obama will UNDOUBTABLY begin a full scale world war. Anything legitimate gets lost in the BS. And if I question some of the more ridiculous of these predictions, I’m accused of ‘defending Obama’, when in reality, I’m actually asking Max or any of the rest of them, to defend some of their own ridiculous statements, just to give them a chance to think about how stupid they sound.

For instance, the latest (from Max, as usual, since I’m sure this is his full time job) is that CLEARLY, both McCain AND Obama will ‘advance the imperial bloodbath” that the US has been engaged in for decades in…LATIN AMERICA!!  WTF??? Where did THAT come from? I mean, there’s Latin America over there, seemingly enjoying a brief period of not being harassed by Dick Bush, and Hugo is actually paying attention to what the people of Venezuela want or don’t want. And out of the blue, Max decides that both McCain and Obama are CLEARLY going to ‘advance’ this imperial blood bath in Latin America, and feels compelled to put it on this forum. By tomorrow, he could be complaining that Obama doesn’t use environmentally correct toilet paper.

Earlier in the week, they already had Obama SIGNED OFF on the FISA thing. He may eventually do that, but what he SAID, was that he didn’t like the immunity provision to the thing, and that he would WORK TO REMOVE IT. Meantime, today is Friday, and the Senate isn’t even going to take the thing up again, until they return from recess. THAT’S the kind of stuff that annoys the hell of me. The unnecessary hype. Like, DON’T HOLLER FIRE in a crowed theater, when there is *not* a fire. I hate histrionics and manufactured drama. But then, in my former career, that kind of stuff was truly forbidden. We don’t joke or lie about serious stuff. So I admit that I’m extra sensitive to it, especially since we’ve had nothing but that from the thugs in DC, for nearly 8 years. So many lies, and so many destroyed lives because of it.

But YES! We’ll keep and eye on Barack. Lucky for us, he’s already pretty well trained. And, he’s smart. wink

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By cyrena, June 27, 2008 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment


Just curious…which post from Max to me re his 100% pure gold political position on Obama and AIPAC? I mean, he’s voiced that particular position about 5 jillion times.

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By Tony Wicher, June 27, 2008 at 11:20 pm Link to this comment


I read your article about Olberman and I find myself in agreement with it and you. Olberman is not objective. Really, I don’t worship Obama as a demigod. He is just a very talented young politician with what I hope are progressive instincts. But where he is wrong he should be criticized. For example, I am a member of the ACLU, and as such I vigorously protest Obama’s stance on the FISA bill. This is election time, and I understand that Obama is going to do and say whatever it takes to assure victory in November - which does indeed make him the same as Clinton or McCain any other politician. I’m just waiting to see what he actually does when he’s president. I wonder what will happen if the Democrats do get a veto-proof majority in Congress in November?

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By Tony Wicher, June 27, 2008 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment


If Obama is POTUS and invades Iran, I will be out there on the barricades with you, or possibly renouncing my citizenship and fleeing to another country. However, I believe that is considerably smaller that the possibility that McCain will invade Iran if ne is POTUS, wouldn’t you agree? And I say that the best way we can decrease the likelihood of Obama doing it is if we join the campaign and advocate loudly for peace and international law, which Obama is at least supposed to stand for.

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By Max Shields, June 27, 2008 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

Tony Wicher

“But hell, all those Zionists were glad to be told what they wanted to hear at the time, but they knew even then it had to be a huge pander, and they all said “I knew it” when Obama took it back the next day. Such is politics.”

And if Obama is POTUS and invades Iran, what will you spin then? No doubt you’re in rehearsal now. Here’s a little something you, Keith Olbermann, Jonathan Alter seem to suffer from: demigod worshipping; same as the Bush crowd who still think there are WMDs in Iraq. As Greenwald states it, its a condition far worse than any of the politicians because it enables the worst possible outcomes.

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By Tony Wicher, June 27, 2008 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment


I was taken aback by that speech to AIPAC. Wow, I don’t think George W. Bush or Ariel Sharon ever sounded so hawkish. But hell, all those Zionists were glad to be told what they wanted to hear at the time, but they knew even then it had to be a huge pander, and they all said “I knew it” when Obama took it back the next day. Such is politics. Now my theory is that after that speech there was enough of an uproar from the progressive side of the campaign that he took it back. I was certainly firing off harsh emails to all and sundry and I was not the only one. That is why I believe we belong inside his campaign, pushing for our agenda.

The following is from Real Clear Politics, 

“What Obama Meant By ‘Undivided’ Jerusalem”

“... Then there was Obama’s headline-making proclamation that Jerusalem “must” remain the “undivided” capital of the Jewish state. No such reference from the secretary of state.

As people spilled out of the packed hall, Obama had gained many newfound admirers, and he had reassured plenty of others. Merely a day later, though, he undid much of the goodwill he had accumulated.

Most damaging was the rather curious explanation about what he had actually meant by “undivided.” Anyone who follows Israeli politics understands “undivided” to mean that the eastern half of Jerusalem will remain under Israeli control and not serve as the Palestinian capital.

Apparently not Obama, however. An unnamed Obama advisor told the Agence France Press that Obama’s definition of “undivided” was strictly literal, that the holy city is “not going to be divided by barbed wire.”

If that was what the candidate had intended to convey, he failed miserably. In dozens of conversations immediately afterward either overheard by or involving this columnist, not one discussed Obama’s desire to avoid barbed wire fencing from running through Jerusalem.

Of all the knocks against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, lack of clarity in carefully crafted speeches is not one of them. No wonder many cynics believe that Obama was pulling the equivalent of the old newspaper stunt of running the allegation on the front page, but burying the correction on page 32 the next day…”

The rest of this article is at

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By Sodium, June 27, 2008 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To:Max Shield

Your post addressed to cyrena,on June 27 had(and has)
convinced me that you were(and are)as pure as 100 percent gold in your political positions.Thank you for being so honest and blunt about Obama’s homage to the Israeli lobby.known as AIPAC.

Senators Obama,McCain,Clinton and the rest of the politicians who gave passionate speeches of loyalty to Israel at the recent AIPAC’s convention in
Washington DC,they would serve themselves and the
American people well if they all read the following
book and repent of the political sins they committed
to appease the Israeli lobby and what so called AIPAC

The Passionate Attachment
George W. Ball and Douglas B. Ball

The George W. Ball was Undersecretary of State in the
President Lyndon Jonson’s Administrations.He certanly
knew what he was talking about.Douglas B. Ball is his son.

The following is a quote from pages 10-11 of the book
referred to above:

“A passionate attachment to foreign interests even more intense than those that worried(President)George
Washington is now distorting our nation’s authority
and preventing it from effective action.Only by heeding George Washington’s sage advice will America be able to prevent further episode in a seemingly
endless war between Israel and the Arabs that might
culminate in irrevocable catastraphe for both Arabs

What was President George Washington’s advice tot the

In his farewell speech to the nation,the first President of the U.S. warned the American people against any passionate attachment to any foreign
nation.George Ball/Douglas Ball remind all of us that passionate attachment to Israel will not serve our
interest,nor will serve peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab World.I must
add that sixty years of passionate attachment to Israel have proven the warnings of George Ball/Douglas Ball and President George Washington to
be clearly correct.Enough is enough.

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By Tony Wicher, June 27, 2008 at 9:06 am Link to this comment


My objective is always to make as much political progress as possible under the actual circumstances. We got Obama nominated because we see him as the most progressive real alternative, and now we must take advantage of our victory by pressing our progressive agenda. Now that we have a relatively progessive candidate, let’s try our best to make sure he really represents our views by being as loud and active as possible within the campaign. After all these years, this is our chance to do something other than cry in the wilderness. Let us defend him against attacks from the right, while at the same time pulling to the left. Obama is very strong now, and healthy, strong, constructive criticism from the left will not hurt his chances.

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By Max Shields, June 27, 2008 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

“SPECIFICALLY, (at some point) Obama needs to refine his message on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and attempt to undo what damage his AIPAC message may have done. I agree with that, but I also don’t know how fair it is to demand a ‘solution’ to such an enormous problem that he had no parts in the creation of.”

Holly Crap!! Did you hear what the man said to AIPAC?

And he has basically indicated he will do everything in his power as POTUS to protect and defends Israel (where the f*ck is that in the Constitution???? Show me!).

He has joined the forces of THE PROBLEM and taken it a step further.

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By cyrena, June 27, 2008 at 2:35 am Link to this comment

Ok Tony. I know how much work you’ve put into this..and I’ve done a fair share of my own in the same efforts.
So..I understand what you’re trying to do now, and I support it…to a point.

SPECIFICALLY, (at some point) Obama needs to refine his message on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and attempt to undo what damage his AIPAC message may have done. I agree with that, but I also don’t know how fair it is to demand a ‘solution’ to such an enormous problem that he had no parts in the creation of. I mean seriously…NOBODY else has been able to deal with the terrorists of Israel, and I personally don’t believe that the US should continue to be the SOLE foreign power involved in the correction. It’s time for the World Community to step up to the plate, and that’s the bottom line. To THAT end, Obama can be helpful by taking a 180 degree position away from that of the current regime, and provide a cooperative presence in the international community, (and with the UN) as opposed to the controlling presence that the bush regime has had, in what amounts to the neutering or de-legitimization of that entity.

As for FISA, I don’t know how much more he can do about that…NOW. He’s already said that he doesn’t agree with the retroactive immunity for the telecoms,  and that he’ll work to prevent that provision in the final senate version of the bill. So far, (from what I understand) Feingold has been willing and able to do the work on the filibuster, though if Obama is going to do his fair share, he should be on the floor with him. (I honestly don’t know how that’s I guess I need to check).

As for the farm bill..I may be ignorant to this. Are you talking about the corn growers for ethanol and food? I’m not sure. I’ll check it out, but if you have time, let us know what seems to be objectionable there.

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By vandrop, June 26, 2008 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Listen, I’m frequently swayed by the appeal of Nader, too, but voting for him because he supports impeachment is, well, silly.  The next president will have no Bush to impeach.  Bush and Chaney will be long gone, probably living on abutting ranches in Honduras.

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By Tony Wicher, June 26, 2008 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

Having helped to get Obama nominated, what I am trying to do now is push his campaign as far to the left as possible. Consider this interview in the Huffington Post with David Plouffe

“The whole presentation was so relentlessly optimistic, several reporters wondered aloud what Plouffe saw as the major dangers for the campaign going forward. In response to a question about dissatisfaction on the left regarding some of Obama’s recent positions—such as the recent FISA compromise—Plouffe said he had not really been aware of any major discord on that front.”

This is the point where we on the Left need to put the pressure. We should be all over David Plouffe and the Obama for America blog protesting about AIPAC, FISA, the farm bill and every statement or action made by Obama or his surrogates that we find objectionable. Let’s make damn sure that Plouffe and Obama hear us. We should organize a progressive movement within the Obama campaign and fight for our views there. To me this is much more likely to be effective than supporting a third-party candidate.

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By Reubenesque, June 26, 2008 at 9:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Helen Thomas, not a courtier, forced to sit in afar chair.

Too old and crotchity to give a shit what anyone thinks of her asks the tough questions and takes the hits.

I’m surprised that hardly no one has mentioned the WH tool of limiting access to manipulate tone and content of reporters questions.

If a reporter is shut out or passed over at press conferences their jobs can be on the line and their networks or agencies lose out.

Press conferences, at least once a month, and lasting at least two hours should be mandatory for presidents.  Seating arrangements and questioning order should be randomly choosen.

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By Purple Girl, June 26, 2008 at 6:10 am Link to this comment

I never expected Nor wanted Tim Russert to think for Me. I wanted the BS’ers on record answering questions- even when they stuck to their talking points.Has Cheney or Bush given an interview to Olbermann. although Keith provides insight - he does not provide well documented evidence- confessions. Ever Notice How clips from Meet the Press are used to ‘Remind’ Politicians what they had said during their interviews with Tim to refute their current flip flop claims.
This is about the 3rd article I have read that seems to be begging for a Media Brain so they need not work so hard by thinking for themselves.
I watched Meet The Press and admit Tim did not ask all the question I wanted to hear- but I already knew the people were going to Lie anyway. Just because he’d ask a question did not guarantee an honest response.
I also can not stand listening to the likes of Matthews -who also can’t get the ‘big interviews’- scream and talk over the people he is supposed to be allowing to answer questions.
Meet the Press is designed and targeted towards those who are already Politically engaged, who already know the BS and are just watching to reaffirm their own intellectual knowledge. We want to see them squirm -but Know they will revert to pat talking points and BS regardless how many times you ask them. If you can’t get them on your Show, Ya got nothing more than Pundits giving their opinions. I want documented Lies. and I appreciated a Moderator who knew we were smart enough to know BS when we saw it and heard it.
I knew they were up to no good as Soon as ‘They hate US for Our Freedoms’ came out of their mouths. I didn’t need Tim Russert to figure that out for me.

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By CJ, June 26, 2008 at 3:23 am Link to this comment

Hedges, as usual has got it right, thought he doesn’t go far enough. “Courtiers” are messengers on behalf of power, delivering up reality as defined by power—more or less unconsciously. It’s a given.

Russert was primo messenger. Beyond pay, was and is ardent belief on part of courtiers in reality they serve up on behalf of power, which also can’t tell human from inhuman. (Marx was also sympathetic toward captains of industry who are also victims of dispossession—of soul, however defined.)

Freud got at pathology Hedges notes at the end of his piece—about pathology of victims returning for more victimization. Except that’s not quite right per Freud. Freud, in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” points directly to the fact of civilizing as central problem. Okay, so far, so good. But then, and mercifully, not to mention rather more optimistically, Marcuse made an advance on Freud with his notion of repressive de-sublimation in his, “One-Dimensional Man,” which is masterpiece hardly anyone has read, or if they have, didn’t or don’t get. Next came “Eros and Civilization,” wherein Marcuse presents a picture of what human freedom might look like sans frame.

Hedges last words are central and should not be dismissed as inexplicable pathology. Pathology IS explicable, well known. Marcuse was most brilliant thinker of the 20th Century. As a result, he’s dismissed. (Which is what happens when a person gets to the point.) Including by so-called “New” Left, which got it all from him. Don’t by now look to old New Left for mention of Herbert Marcuse. Old New Left has become hopelessly old New Left behind, what with having gotten bogged down long ago in mire that is identity politics.

Pathology is social construct, a la Marx and of course Engels. And Freud and those guys and gals we’ve all forgotten in rush to Post-Modernism, which is excuse for bad behavior. “Take [le difference], please.” (H. Youngman) Give me collective interest.

Courtiers are laborers well compensated: water carriers, mixers, loaders and framers. Whoops, did you write, “framers,” CJ? Ah, yes I did, Prof. Lakoff, consultant to DLC headed up by erstwhile Howard Dean.  It’s about how issues are “framed.” Ah, not really. Be very afraid—of framers. (Caught Lakoff on Masters’ program going on about how good Obama is at framing. No argument from me.) Talk of framing is meta-manipulation.

Pending knowing pathology for social construct it really is, zero in the way of prospects.

Courtiers on behalf of power aren’t nobodies, to the extent they are paid big bucks to put over message with extreme affect, all the more affectively to the degree they also eagerly believe in message. Truly an asylum run by inmates, except more so, insofar as inmates are directed by power that owns asylum. They know not what they do, in the sense Marx noted man makes history without knowing he does so.

It’s damn hard to avoid Marx just here. He, along with his pard, Fred, had a serious point: No framing. No construction. No manufacturing of reality. Thanks anyway. Just consciousness, a smidgen of introspection if ya’ll please! A little here, a little there, maybe finally to add up to recognizing that Reagans, Bushes, Clintons, Obamas and McCains in collusion with corporate bosses are also laborers who know not at what they labor, and so therefore were and remain all the more dangerously hell-bent on occupying—Oval Office, and everywhere else, most especially hearts and minds, possessors of which have no choice but to learn of fact that pathology is social construct so as to refuse, resist. Contra “courtiers,” who so willingly to do dirty work when knowledge is just right about…there. Right there. Pending discovery, they are not excused, what with being so damn smart, doncha know.

R.I.P. George Carlin, who got it and who did his best to deconstruct scene—not a la Derrida and ilk, but seriously folks. Great man, like Chris Hedges.

(Obama more conservative than Supreme Court? Ouch.)

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By cyrena, June 26, 2008 at 2:35 am Link to this comment


You are so right, that I had to grin (albeit wryly) at this:

•  “…It’s the reason why many of us keep saying to ourselves or nobody in particular, “But that’s not what he said.”…

Yep…that’s what I keep doing/saying, and generally to ‘nobody in particular’ since it doesn’t seem to sink in anyway. I should probably know better by now.

But, from time to time, I still do it. I utter…”But, but, but..that’s not what he said.” And then there’s either silence, (or a change in subject) or occasionally someone will goof and let it be known that they really don’t have a CLUE to what he actually said. Or, better yet, that it isn’t IMPORTANT what he actually said. What he actually says has no importance other than how it can be spun.

That’s why it’s always so exciting to meet others who are still ‘around’ and in the same century, and still speak the same language. (In other words, those who haven’t fallen into the rabbit hole). Sometimes I feel like I’m living in one of Stephen King’s old novels. I can’t remember the name of the one that is most appropriate to this phenomenon. It’ll come to me eventually. Then again, maybe not. wink

Anyway, glad there are still some of us left.

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By Tony Wicher, June 25, 2008 at 10:55 pm Link to this comment

Re By Sodium, June 25 at 8:26 pm

I have often found Hedges quite inspiring too. But supporting Nader for President is an exercise in sheer futility. If he wanted to, Nader could perform worthwhile work as a consumer advocate within the Obama administration, as he used to do before he got this bug of running for President. At this point he is just sitting off in a phone booth with Hedges and some other purists voting for themselves. This isn’t how politics works.

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By Tony Wicher, June 25, 2008 at 10:11 pm Link to this comment

Re By Leefeller, June 25 at 4:36 pm #

Tony Witcher,

Sounds like Nader is trying to attract the KKK vote. Very bigoted he should ask Ferriao(spelling) to join his campaign.
It’s odd, but when Nader says that “the only difference between Obama and any other candidate is that he is 50% black”, he does sound racist. It’s like, is that all he can see, his skin color? But he sounds more like a black racist than a white one. His problem is that Obama avoids identity politics of the Rev. Wright “I’m black and I’m proud” variety. Personally, I have always been willing to tolerate such as an understandable reaction to racism, but I am glad Obama has gotten away from it. Obama’s approach to race is the right one from the progressive standpoint. Of course, I would say the same of any other kind of identity politics.

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By Sodium, June 25, 2008 at 9:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Subject:From the Hedonism Crowd to Al-Jazeera and BBC.

Chris Hedges has five abstract powers he utilizes efficiently and boldly in expressing his beliefs/view

(1)Power of Eloquence.
2)Power of Honesty.
(3)Power of Human Morality.
(4)Power of Knowledge.
(5)Power of the Mind.

His eloquence shines clearly in the way he chooses the right words in the right places;in the way he
structures his articles sentences,paragraph and finally the article as a whole.

His honesty and human morality can be detected by reading between the lines.I personally could feel both of them as I read slowly his articles.His clear
tenacity in insisting on voting for Ralph Nader tells
me volumes about his strength of character,for he
knows very well that the odds for Nader to win are one billion to one,and yet he insists on adhering to
what he believes the cleanest and most transparent
presidential candidate of them all.Amazing but surely

His knowledge is absolutely broad as he casually
mentions the Abbasid Caliphate.Here,I ask:excluding
historians,how many journalists really know anything about the Abbasid Caliphate;how it was a great civilization and how it became at the end,because of
so many hedonists and courtiers competing to serve
the whims of the Caliph/Ruler for his gold/dinars??
I doubt,if there are many.Because of the indulgence of the Caliphs and their “yes men” in hedonism,the
barbarian Gangiz Khan succeeded in conquering Baghdad
and burning it and finishing the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad.After Gangiz Khan’s death,his son,Helaqo,
finished what remained of the Abbasid Caliphate by
conquering Egypt and burning its great library in
Alexanderia.I have mentioned all of this to prove that Hedges’ statement that “courtiers are hedonists of power” which is manifested by a historical event,
the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad,Iraq and
the rest of the Middle East and North Africa.Yes,
indeed,it had collapsed because of too many courtiers
and too many hedonists.History may repeat itself.This
time may be in the new world.

Finally,Chris Hedges uses the power of his beautiful mind to connect the dots of eloquence,honesty,human
morality and knowledge;all netted together,to form
his excellent article as an integrated whole,so much
brilliantly structured.

That is why he is so effective in drawing large crowds for reading what he writes,usually followed by
large numbers of comments.

I may disagree with some of his views,but I always,
always,always have held his marvelous talent in high esteem for the reasons I outlined above.

As he segregates mercilessly,and I must say correctly,between courtiers/hedonist on one hand,and true and honest journalists on the other hand,I could not help not to remember how naive and gullible I was as I used to follow the main stream media everyday and believed what they forecasted.My naiveness and gullibility ended as I started listening to BBC and start reading Al-jazeera( the internet.At once I realized that my American main stream media’s function was(and is) not to keep me well informed but to serve certain segments of the American social structure for political reasons or to keep squeezing more money from the populace;and at the same time to keep the populace fully entertained through all kind of games and gimmicks,lest the populace would wake up and realize that they really were squeezed and kept brain washed by the MSM of big corporations

However,I do watch every night “Countdown”,anchored
by Keith Olbermann and some programs on C-Span.I do try not to miss Bill Moyers as he appears on Public
Television,with his excellent and thoughtful and insightful programs.

But,Al-Jazeera and BBC remain the backbone of my
news-gathering apparatus.

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By iwanttruthiwanttruthiwanttruth, June 25, 2008 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment

Oh alright fine (sheesh)
want more? Hit the issues button.
See, not too many have stood up for impeachment as of yet.
Ralph has.
Racist?? Go ahead, play the R card. ALL of the candidates have made RE-Re comments that have been either spun as or actually have been blatantly racist.
Sure, what he said was dumb. Who cares, get over it.
You will find that there are other things to devote your energies towards, not some Nader soundbite that yes, is an obvious and kinda lame attempt at garnering attention.
But he wants to actually hunt down these Neocons, and THAT is a-okay in my book.
Wathcha got then, huh??
Impeachment dialogue will make sweet Barry unelectable?
He’s simply doing what he’s GOT to do??
Oh, gimmie a break.

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By Max Shields, June 25, 2008 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment


“Sounds like Nader is trying to attract the KKK vote.”

Tell me you didn’t actually think before you keyed these words in. Explain the process you went through as you approached this notion. Please.

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By cyrena, June 25, 2008 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

Tony Wincher on Nader:

•  “..Today he said that Obama is popular among whites because he is an “African-American” who does not threaten the white power structure. How many people are there that such a statement wouldn’t piss off?..”

My answer, NOT MANY! (that this would NOT piss off!)

I agree with you here as well…

•  “..The fact is that I in common with a lot of other progressives of every color posting here worry not that Obama will threaten the power structure but that he will not threaten the power structure…”

Bingo! That is the larger concern. That Obama might not threaten the power structure enough. I’m personally giving him some patience on this part of it, (threatening the power structure), ONLY because I know that threatening or applying *pressure* to ANYTHING, has to be accomplished very carefully. Otherwise, the entire thing is destroyed in the process.

And that leads me to my own standard question about the Naderites. Is that their only purpose? To simply destroy the current system? In all of the posturing, I don’t hear or read any alternatives. All it is, (and all it’s ever been) is a platform based on what is wrong with everything or everyone else, but never includes any concrete alternatives, or anything with any substance. It’s all just rhetoric. At least that’s all I get from these comments from his supporters, including the ‘salient points’ that moineau and jersey girl posted. So, is there more? I’ve never checked into a Nader campaign website, figuring that since this is his 5th time running for the office, I probably already knew what his positions were. (or weren’t). But, maybe I should check it out. Maybe something has changed. I mean, after this many times, it would seem like he (or any candidate) would figure out that one can’t run a campaign platform based ENTIRELY on what is wrong with the other candidates, and actually expect to win. Gotta take it a tad bit further, and actually come up with something of substance to counter whatever it is that one is claiming to be ‘wrong’ with the other candidates. I haven’t seen Nader or any of his supporters come up with anything close. But, just for the hell of it, I’ll see if I can do their work for them. Maybe there is something out there that I’ve missed.

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By Leefeller, June 25, 2008 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment

Tony Witcher,

Sounds like Nader is trying to attract the KKK vote. Very bigoted he should ask Ferriao(spelling) to join his campaign.

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By Tony Wicher, June 25, 2008 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment

Re Jim, June 25 at 11:17 am #

I’m with you about 9-11. At this distance in time from the event, it is glaringly obvious that 9-11 was engineered. Anyone with eyes can see those buildings came down in a controlled demolition. Anyone with a brain can undersand that it was done as a pretext for a full-scale military invasion of the Middle East. There will be democracy in name only in this country unless this truth becomes public. The 9-11 Commission was a coverup. No investigation that took place under the auspicies of the criminal Bush administration can possibly be trusted to have any validity. We shall know how to judge the Obama administration by whether it supports or blocks another investigation into 9-11, or supports or blocks other investigations that can lead to the punishment of Bush administration members for war crimes.

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By Tony Wicher, June 25, 2008 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment

I think Nader is getting more and more cranky and mean-spirited. Today he said that Obama is popular among whites because he is an “African-American” who does not threaten the white power structure. How many people are there that such a statement wouldn’t piss off? I’m a white liberal myself who has been devoted to civil rights issues since the sixties, and I sure do regard the election of an African-American as a great token of social progress against racism against which I have always fought. I am however grossly insulted by the suggestion that I only like Obama because he does not “threaten the white power structure”. The fact is that I in common with a lot of other progressives of every color posting here worry not that Obama will threaten the power structure but that he will not threaten the power structure. What does Nader think we are, a bunch of closet white supremacists?

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By iwanttruthiwanttruthiwanttruth, June 25, 2008 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

Dave in Northridge, please don’t scapegoat us Nader Voters. Incidentally I am in Northridge too… And I am in full support of equal rights for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

I am so proud that my first instance of voting, once I became of age in 2000, was to give a long lean middle finger to each of our present ruling parties.
Yes, I am for Nader.
Subsequently I found such a startlingly wide-held view all around me, that I basically flushed my vote down the toilet and handed the presidency over to Bush. If anyone handed that presidency to Bush I say it was Gore, the media, and the Supreme Court. Not Nader. This is no longer a democracy I feel. 

To insist that this Duopoly should continue in it’s present state roils my blood. Unfortunately my girlfriend, and so many others it seems, currently agree with you, that Nader ruined, “spoiled”  everything. I am rather angered at this narrow-minded view set….
I will likely vote for Nader again later this year.

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By Jim, June 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, a fine article by Hedges…but until Amy Goodman, Seymour Hersch and even Hedges himself have the guts to take a REAL look at 9/11, they too are courtiers.  The biggest question to all so-called “real” journalists is why this subject is never explored, why the “official story” is accepted, and why anyone asking any questions about it (let’s start with Building 7) are discredited and marginalized.  As a huge fan of the great I. F. Stone, would he have explored all the basic unanswered questions of 9/11?  I think he would have, and more.

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By Conservative Yankee, June 25, 2008 at 11:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By Dave in Northridge, June 25 at 7:04 am #

“...then go right ahead and vote for Nader, never mind the fact that the last eight years have been brought to us by Nader voters. “

How could I have been so mistaken… I’ve been blaming Bush voters… Now I owe them all an apology.. My bad, it was Nader’s fault!

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By Tony Wicher, June 25, 2008 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

I have done my best to get Obama nominated. At this Now my feeling is that he will not have much trouble getting elected. This is winning time, and he is pulling out all the stops, doing and saying whatever it takes to win. I can forgive him for all this, given that the only real alternative is McCain. The question is what will he do as President. I am hoping for the best, but I’m also feeling highly sceptical. To quote the late, great George Carlin,

“Fuck ‘m! I don’t vote. Two reasons: First of all, it’s meaningless. This country was bought and sold and payed for a long time ago. The shit they shovel around every four years? (mimics masturbation) Doesn’t mean a fucking thing. And secondly I don’t vote because I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain. People like to twist that around, I know. “If you don’t vote you have no right to complain”, but where’s the logic in that? If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people, they get into office and screw everything up, well, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem, you voted them in. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote? Who, in fact, did not even leave the house on election day, am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you people created and that I have nothing to do with. I know that later on this year you’re gonna have another one of those really swell elections that you like so much. You enjoy yourselves, it’ll be a lot of fun, and I’m sure as soon as the election is over your country will improve immediately.

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By NYT9237723, June 25, 2008 at 9:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Someone say “amen.” Good column.

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By ernie algorri, June 25, 2008 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You cynical and heartless knave.  Don’t you get it?  You have arrogated to yourself the same thing you accuse others of—unilaterally determining who or what should be spoken to or investigated. (and what is up with your gratuitous slap at Tim Russert’s salary?—is that wrong or something?)

The marketplace of ideas is alive and well, regardless of what you might think. You need some medical marijuana to go with your sandals.

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By Dave in Northridge, June 25, 2008 at 8:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

then go right ahead and vote for Nader, never mind the fact that the last eight years have been brought to us by Nader voters.  In my case, there’s a CLEAR difference between Obama and McCain, even if both are courtiers, and that’s that Obama is likely to replace Justices Stevens and Ginsberg with judges who aren’t their polar opposites in position.  The United States Supreme Court, as much as I hate the idea, is the one institution that might prevent my marriage getting annulled if the voters of California pass a constitutional amendment that disallows gay marriage, and a court with members appointed by McCain is likely to think DOMA supersedes the full faith and credit clause in Article IV of the Constitution.

Beside, what other effect will a feeble protest have, beside getting your public to hate you if indeed it makes any difference?

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By felicity, June 25, 2008 at 7:10 am Link to this comment

CYRENA - I see you’ve picked up on the plethora of ‘straw-men’ dotting our political landscape these days.  Interpret an opponent’s stand on a particular issue; knock down your interpretation and voila you’ve successfully, or so you hope, ‘knocked down’ your opponent’s stand.

It’s the reason why many of us keep saying to ourselves or nobody in particular, “But that’s not what he said.”  Unfortunately, too many of us are still unable to spot the difference between a ‘man’ and a ‘straw-man.’

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By ioni, June 25, 2008 at 7:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The great thing about the TV is that there is an off switch, or craigslist if you want to get rid of the thing.  And why would you pay for cable news if you are just going to bash on Blitzer and Brokaw?  You are clearly smart enough to form your own opinions without having to listen to those pandering courtiers.

As for Obama: I wish Dennis Kucinich was a viable candidate but he’s not, so we get Obama.  I think American’s are ready to shed their corporate rulers soon and we will see mass demonstrations, especially if gas prices stay the same.  What you are suggesting is equivalent to an overthrow of the Washington DC institution (replacing true democracy with the lobbying system we have now).  This will happen (I’m afraid) through violent confrontation.  Not that I’m advocating for it at all, it will happen non-violent as well, but do you really think the lobbying interests will go down without a fight?  Be sure they will be the one’s to fire the first shot.

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By Victor Chaves, June 25, 2008 at 5:55 am Link to this comment

I want to forward this article to many others - but there is so much embedded (and justified) ANGER I know they will dismiss your insight

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By stufa, June 25, 2008 at 4:22 am Link to this comment

Thank ‘god’ for Chris Hedges, one of the few still able to think.

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By bsgroup, June 25, 2008 at 12:04 am Link to this comment
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Was not Tim Russert one of the key figures in outing Valerie Plame?  Why has this not been mentioned in any post or media coverage of his death?  He covered up for Cheney time and again.  As an aside, why did Patrick Fitzgerald the federal prosecutor appointed by Bush,/Gonzalez/Cheney,  give a major press conference to explain why he would take Cheney “off the table” for prosecution?  It would seem that there was a deal made with Bush to prosecute Libby and hand him a quick pardon.  It is all so dirty. Russert was a pretty boy who enjoyed the benes of his relationship with power.  Someone should go after Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate his relationship with these criminals.  Thanks for this post which speaks truth to power.

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By J. Mezure Carter, June 24, 2008 at 10:06 pm Link to this comment
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Who are these arbiters to which we pay such homage?  Is Chris Hedges saying that we should trade our abilities to think for our self and assign it to some journalist?  What type of irresponsible statement is he making about television courtiers, as if the other forms of public discourse can be relied upon for truthfulness.  All the little minions running around after the candidates making silly remarks about every formal and informal statement made by the candidates. Then they write reactionary columns in newspapers, on blogs or any other outlet that allows them public access.  Why are we paying homage to such people?  Is not Hedges just as much a courtier (14c word) as Tim Russert, who by the way was a lawyer, need I say more?  Just ask your self how many television talking heads are lawyers.  They’re everywhere, proliferating like roaches.  They’re politicians, journalists, physicians, businessmen, artists, musicians.  Lawyers are the arbiters that tell us what is legal, what is right, what is criminal.  They make the laws and defend and prosecute those of us who don’t make the laws.  They determine what’s good for us or what we should not do or know or understand.  I put them in the league of priests or ministers or any such person who seeks to determine our taste, our behavior by stating their position as one of an expert.  They have us constantly babbling about them, seeking information from them.  They’ve made us into sycophants, defending them and not questioning their supposed expertise.  When will we as a people stop this reactionary genuflection to people who are unworthy of our respect?

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By Viscero, June 24, 2008 at 8:31 pm Link to this comment
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All controlled by the same powers at the very top.

Bill Clinton’s mentor, Carroll Quigley, stated it quite well:

“The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can “throw the rascals out” at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.” (Tragedy and Hope, p. 1247)

A vote for either major party furthers the goals of the power elites, and hastens their implementation of additional neo-totalitarian controls that shall facilitate the total enslavement of the masses.  Tick, tick, tick…

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By Paolo, June 24, 2008 at 7:09 pm Link to this comment

In a just society, we would spend days mourning the loss of Cyd Charisse, a dancer of stunning ability and grace. The death of Tim Russert, a ho-hum, establishment cheerleader, would warrant a line or two in section B.

In a just society, George Carlin would have been the one asking tough, irreverent, even foul-mouthed questions of Dick Cheney in his run-up to a ginned-up war. Tim Russert would have lived out his life as a third-string radio reporter on the city council beat in Buffalo, NY.

In a just society, Carlin would have been mourned for his great and world-saving role in preventing a pointless and stupid war. Russert would have been fired for failing to ask obvious questions that any high school journalism student would have had the guts to ask.

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By Leefeller, June 24, 2008 at 5:33 pm Link to this comment

philip rappa,

A just testimonial to George Carlen well done.

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By troublesum, June 24, 2008 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment

Obama is not going to change a thing.  “As a courtier, he’s one of the best.”

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By BruSays, June 24, 2008 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment

Hey People…Reality Check Time.

Reality: Our nation’s current policies are NOT strongly influenced by or its bloggers.

Frankly, we can bandy back and forth until the cows come home about what Paine or Jefferson or Stalin or Olbermann would or should do. But nothing will change….nothing.

How often have you watched “news coverage” of the oil crisis, followed soon after by a Chevron or Exxon/Mobil commercial?

How often have you seen a “news item” on a potential “breakthrough” cancer treatment…followed by a pharmaceutical advertizement?

How often have you seen a controversial “news piece” on our nation’s health care issues….sponsored, in part, by Kaiser Permanente or Blue Shield or Healthnet?

How can we expect the electorate of our democracy to receive the information they need to make informed decisions when that very information they need is subject to corporate pressure or censorship?

BBC and simlilar news outlets are not perfect but they’re a whole lot better than the pap that passes as news from our Corporate Media. (Just look at any survey which compares Americans’ knowledge of world events compared to other industrialized nations.)

Until very recently, a majority of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was largely responsible for orchestrating 9/11. That Bush, Cheney, Rice or Rove would have you believe there was a connection is not their fault; they were hell bent to draw that connection. That most Americans swallowed the lie is purely the fault of the Corporate Media.

Sure, there are other factors in play: complacency, selfishness, our insatiable need for entertainment, our declining economy, our always-desperate-for-money schools. But until we find a better system of delivering news to our electorate, it’ll just be more of the same: clueless Americans bumbling along with knee-jerk reactions to sensationalized pap.

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By cyrena, June 24, 2008 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment

•  “…Censorship is an important characteristic of a totalitarian state.  It appears in many guises, is seldom as overt as practised by Hitler, yet may be more dangerous when covert - which seems to be where America has been drifting of late…”

You’ve hit the nail on the head here. I think that because the ‘thought censorship’ is so covert, is what makes it so dangerous. Add the ‘thought police’ state to the ministry of propaganda, (the media) and we’re in deep doo-doo.

A large part of the ‘thought policing’ is practiced by way of framing the ‘intent’ of someone’s thoughts/words/actions, or otherwise interpreting something/anything to be different than what it actually is. It really doesn’t get much more dangerous than that in my view. It creates and maintains social chaos, because there are no standards/rules for understanding anything. Nobody knows what’s going on from one minute to the next, or who is actually ‘in charge’. The chaos and instability create a state of terror.

Speaking of which: this may seem unrelated, but it’s actually directly related. I needed to spend a few hours at our local courthouse today, filling what have become sort of routine papers for a few clients. I’d not done that in quite a long time, but I’m trying to do some volunteer work where I can help out. Now we’re actually very fortunate here in this particular community, because it’s small enough, and yet still old enough, that the system actually works (for the most part) the way it was intended, and the people involved in the system actually know what they’re doing, and CARE about the integrity of the process and the people involved in it. Besides that, our courthouse is a gorgeous work of art/architecture.

So, I said that to say that there was actually something ‘comforting’ to going through those motions again. There’s stability to it. It’s a process, and it remains the SAME process. But again, because I know this is NOT the case all over the country, (because some states have long ago made up their own laws and change them as they go) I had enough presence of mind to realize that –for now- at least, there is still that stability of ‘the process’. Who would have ever thought I’d take ‘comfort’ from the bureaucracy?

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By molly cruz, June 24, 2008 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
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Yes, the Court and its adherents. Thank God for the Jesters; msrs. Colbert and Stewart et al, like the one who just folded his hand for the last time, mr. Carlin. We have learned to listen to their oblique logic and humanist underpinnings and intuit all of it and laugh at the same time. Laughter is the best medicine.

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By Juanjo, June 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment
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Thank you for verbalizing a fact so obvious that it escapes the simplest minds.

I fear the day when even words like yours are not longer available to an ever dumber and brain dead population.

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By ocjim, June 24, 2008 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

Hedges’ “courtier” views are proven out in media stories and issues that are not addressed.

Many of the vital issues we all face find little or no analysis and thus no solutions through our media.

  The global warming story has been suppressed by the Bush administration from the very beginning without any monitoring, analysis, or enlightenment from the media. For this issue the media hardly noticed that there was a problem and certainly did not bother to check the false information coming out of Bush administration news releases.

  For two decades, the sparse, at times denigrated, reports that have finally come out involve potentially cataclysmic scientific community predictions: as we pour more heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the planet will heat up, some areas will experience excessive rainfall and others droughts. This is what scientists have been predicting.

  Even now while floodwaters are rising, swamping cities and breaching levees, the media are overflowing with televised images of the destruction. TV meteorologists document “extreme weather” with increasingly sophisticated technology of Doppler radar and 3-D animated maps, but fail to mention its cause: global warming.

  One especially humorous scene comes to mind: as the CNN reporter is standing hip-deep in Missouri flood waters, he pulls out packages of cereal bars and other food products, exclaiming that the floods will affect food prices Americans pay at the store. The narcissistic and the banal are still the emphasis, the media not wanting to overwhelm our short-term concerns with long-term problems.

  Another problem without an immediate solution is represented by George W. Bush. While these reporters are wading in hip-high water in the flooded downtowns of major American cities, Bush basks in the sunlight in Washington, D.C, urging Congress to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling and open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. This sardonic twist in images will never be cited by a corporate media.

Currently very little coverage is provided for the FISA bill, which provides immunity for the telecoms that cooperated with the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance over the past six years. There is also little commentary on Obama’s or McCain’s intention to sign it. It’s as though the dismantling of our freedoms has little importance in our corporate world.

The “courtier” evidence is all around us.

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By Will Blalock, June 24, 2008 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You had my attention until you mentioned
Ralph Nader.
Your article should have ended with a
vote for Ron Paul.
How is Nader any different than Obama
except for who they curtsy to?

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By felicity, June 24, 2008 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

The discussion here on fascism - corporatism, authoritarianism, nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism, anti-liberalism (according to Wiki) didn’t mention what I call the establishment by the state of a ‘thought police’ sometimes lumped under anti-intellectualism.

Censorship under Hitler included the works/art of Mendelssohn, Mahler, Jack London, Hemingway, Einstein, Freud, Ernst, Kandinsky, Klee, homosexual art and jazz.

Censorship is an important characteristic of a totalitarian state.  It appears in many guises, is seldom as overt as practised by Hitler, yet may be more dangerous when covert - which seems to be where America has been drifting of late.

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By Dan, June 24, 2008 at 8:25 am Link to this comment
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Great article, Chris, as usual. What a deep thinker.  This is the first time I’ve commented on anything on truthdig, which I read almost every day. I enjoy Chris’s essays and always print them out, except if they’re too religious-oriented.

There’s a new biography out on I.F. Stone:  All Governments Lie: the life and times of rebel journalist I.F. Stone, by Myra MacPherson (Scribner, 2006).  Excellently written.  MacPherson is very good.  Very relevant to today, but also great 20th century history.

Chris has a new book out: Collateral Damage. He is right on top of most of the issues important to me.

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By JMCSwan, June 24, 2008 at 7:56 am Link to this comment

Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, (response to: June 23 at 8:51)

“When these ducks keep walking and talking and looking like ducks for the last several decades, then we would all do ourselves quality service by not fighting them anymore and simply accept that, they are in fact, ducks, evolved ducks, but still ducks. 

Not ducks we can like or nuzzle up to or even make good-tasting duck soup with but ducks, just the same.”

Duck soup for Wounded Knee West Point souls, with edible aeroganim flower petals as garnish?

Jefferson had the choice to make, since he had both sufficient economic resources and his fellow confederate partisans, whom he could rely on. Difficult to say what his decision would have been in 2000. Unless…

PS: Have you seen that bit on Russia Today, on the movie “Absurdistan”, the one part of it reminds me of that Hillbilly movie?

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By Carl, June 24, 2008 at 6:17 am Link to this comment
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A typically excellent article by Chris Hedges, and an example of what Hedges is talking about regarding journalists as opposed to courtiers.

One more point: Russert is known for the “Russert Test,” meaning, his game on Meet the Press of asking “tough questions” of political power brokers.

It was a game rather than a real test because all Tim was really doing was providing an occasion for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc., to tell some huge lie or other in response. Russert never ever followed up and challenged the response in any serious way.

By giving the illusion of asking “tough questions,” Russert only lent credibility to Cheney that he would otherwise lack, if he had said the same thing on (for example) Fox News.

That is the real meaning of the “Russert Test.”

Its function was to provide a framework for what passes for “debate” in American political culture, by defining the kind of questions that are acceptable and those that are not. It’s OK to challenge a Bush official on how the Iraq war is being managed, but not OK to challenge the basic premises of the war itself.

In this sense, Russert’s kind of “journalism” is actually more pernicious in effect than the outright propaganda conveyed by Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity.

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By samosamo, June 24, 2008 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

Damn russert, let him die and begone and elvis too. This has become a republican trick to cause wasted time, aggrevation and discord among the masses looking for real information.

“By P. T., June 23 at 11:21 pm #

It will quickly become a ‘who cares’ mind set about Iraq with the big boy’s media deciding to give only marginal information about that country and Afganistan. Of course both are horrible places for anyone to live there, visit there or fight there thanks to the corporate world that believes that it just might be able to become the sole power on this planet through hegemony. And for all intent and purposes this may be or come to be.
What gets me it is that this has been so well thought out by the groups(bilderbergs, neocon’s think tanks, and corporate designs) that what is in process could be almost impossible to stop. It will take a drastic switch in the dug in pigs in congress by voting the majority of them out, and I mean 90% or more of the seats up for relection.
But whatever these ‘elites’ have thought out and proceeded to put into play it is only by being informed that the veggies would even remotely become aware of how much they have lost and then these veggies would have accept that their views have been totally wrong and that can lead to very serious mental disturbances that could futher weaken but could possibly strengthen a will to really change, either by votes or physical disruption.

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By Paolo, June 24, 2008 at 5:48 am Link to this comment

Read Raimondo’s article on Russert at
I remember many a Sunday morning when I would wake up, learn the guest was going to be some craven warmonger, and tune in, hoping Russert would be a bulldog. He was always a lapdog, instead.

But he turned combative when any guest challenged the Washington orthodoxy.

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By Louis Proyect, June 24, 2008 at 5:31 am Link to this comment

Interesting to see Chris’s stance today. Back in the late 1980s, when I was involved with Central America issues, he seemed not nearly as bad as Shirley Christian but not so nearly as good as Raymond Bonner. I wonder if he had the same politics back then that he has today? If so, he did a good job covering them up.

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By Paolo, June 24, 2008 at 5:27 am Link to this comment

My mistake. It wasn’t Chris Hedges who called Russert a “court stenographer.” I think it was Justin Raimondo at (a column well worth reading).

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By Conservative Yankee, June 24, 2008 at 5:10 am Link to this comment
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By tehpistolpete, June 23 at 9:25 pm

“Specifically criticizing Russert is pointless;”

..especially since he is dead… I think that is what I said.

The above piece reminds me of those Kansas anti-gay nuts who attend the funerals of gay soldiers with placards saying they are now on their way to hell.. Real classy.

The man’s dead, his family and friends will miss him… I will not… BUT I do not intend to spend much time on the dead guys

What about that simpleton Lou Dobbs?  How about the enabler Wolf Blitzer? and about the once “independent” PBS now to scared to air any story more than mildly controversial. 

I’d like to know more about this Rezco thing… I’d like to know more about John McCain’s alleged displays of temper. For what qualities are these “vice presidential search groups searching? Does Obama /McCain have a plan for the folks at the beginning (not bottom) of the economic ladder?  How are either of these men going to pay for what they promise?

I hear little from the “alternative” press and less from main-line media.

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By absolutesynec3, June 24, 2008 at 3:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Several poster sang the praise for BBC as an alternative to our corporate controlled Media.
To those posters I say not too fast. In my humble
opinion, BBC is worse.  Because they have an international audience , BBC bull-shitting is much
more cleverer and not easy to detect. They put their
poison in pieces of chocolate situated in a plate
full of sweet candy. In the end of the day,
they are just as biased as our corporate media.

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By P. T., June 24, 2008 at 12:21 am Link to this comment

Professor Juan Cole, who teaches modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan, made a good point on his blog.  He asked if things are really getting better in Iraq, then why are so few refugees going home?  The refugee problem is getting worse.

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By Marc Schlee, June 23, 2008 at 11:47 pm Link to this comment
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“The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” 

Frank Zappa (1977)

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By tehpistolpete, June 23, 2008 at 10:25 pm Link to this comment

“seems the liberals can’t get it together to attack people capable of rebuttal.”

Chris Hedges and “the liberals” have been criticizing big media for awhile.  Specifically criticizing Russert is pointless; he was just one of the typical big media personalities.  Hedges is simply pointing out that these personalities aren’t anything special; and they live much more comfortable and easier than other less-heard-of journalists who risk their lives for next to nothing.  So this article is a rebuttal to the current praise Russert is getting now that he’s past.

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By J. Mezure Carter, June 23, 2008 at 10:18 pm Link to this comment
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I am having problems with this posting and the reactionary commentary to it.  Not once did Mr. Hedges address the true meaning of a democracy.  It is not the responsibility of journalists to be the arbiter of what we should or should not know.  At no time in US history have journalists carried forward the legacy of the Federalist, nor have they tapped into the expressed ideas of Thomas Paine.  Journalism emerged during the nineteenth-century, a watershed period of entrenched sycophancy that led us to extended periods of “yellow journalism.”  This twenty-first century finds journalists like Mr. Hedges pleading their case knowing full well that very few newspapers seek out information that would really inform the public. 

What is even more distressing is all the money that has been spent teaching US citizens to read and yet we spend hours looking at one-dimensional television programs with talking heads that are totally immature and childlike.  They parody entertainment television. 

Journalism schools have served to change muckraking into a profession, but television mines the landscape for people who look a certain way.  Are they photogenic?  What type of speaking voice do they have?  The superficial reigns.  We’re caught in the cult of the individual. 

But alas, what is our responsibility as citizens?  I hate to drag up the constitution but no document can possibly contain all the necessary rights and duties that are needed to “form a more perfect union,” especially one written by landowners and merchants.  At some point in our precious lives, we have to step away from the babbling public arena and assess our place in the world of our own making.  We are required as mature adults, living in a supposed democracy, to stand-up and demand from ourselves the right to govern ourselves.  This means not waiting for some journalist to tell us what is right or wrong.  Being an autodidactic citizen, by learning what is necessary for us to know as that citizen, is not a luxury, it is a responsibility.

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By Neil, June 23, 2008 at 9:36 pm Link to this comment
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Your writing is very elegant and eloquent.  Your cynicism surpasses mine which is not inconsiderable.  Perhaps it is a function of your profession when properly applied.  The Versailles metaphor seems very apt, we’re only missing the wigs and powder.  I keep getting e-mails from the ultraconservative press.  I don’t stop them because they’re so entertaining and useful in my blog.  One book, and in this case I use the term loosely, likens the current liberals to Hitler and Mussolini.  A mind gone rotten is liable to say anything.

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By cyrena, June 23, 2008 at 9:20 pm Link to this comment


•  “I normally don’t say unkind things about the recently-deceased. But the mawkish worship of Tim Russert over the past week has been more than anyone should have to bear. This guy was little more than (as Hedges put it aptly) a court stenographer…”

This made me laugh, even though I normally don’t say unkind things about the recently-deceased either. (depending on who they are of course). But, you’re right. These are times that require reality.

Still, the ‘little more than a court stenographer, (I missed that in the piece..reading too fast I think), made me laugh out loud. But, it gives me the opportunity to actually, maybe, sort of, come to his defense, (but not really) which isn’t something I normally do either.

So I thought I should throw in that he did actually attend Law School. (I have no idea if he ever practiced it) so that might be where the court stenographer part came in. Then again, regardless of where it was, (I’ll have to go back and re-read) I’m still laughing. I bet Tim is rolling over at that.

Right again about the essense of mediocrity. I hate that, because it really does destroy everything when the bar is that low.

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By cyrena, June 23, 2008 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

Jackpine Savage writes:

“..Those were two excellent posts on this thread, particularly the dissection of American “fascism”. Inverted totalitarianism has been tossed around as a phrase for what’s happening in America here at Truthdig…”

I just wanted to say that I agree. (with JPS and writeon, and someone else that weighed in on this). But then, it’s been like a favorite topic for me these past couple of years….trying to figure out what to call this, because I agree that it isn’t really the standard Fascism, and IS a form of totalitarianism. But, I don’t completely grasp the ‘inverted’ part of it. I DID get Wolsin’s book, because I wanted to get a better idea of how he was hooking this all up to come up with ‘inverted’. For me, what we have going here, (or what the Cabal has going) is far closer to Hannah Arndt’s very evolving work on The origins of Totalitarianism. I’ve been able to make some really serious comparisons, and like Bobz said, it ain’t pretty.

I’m inclined to agree about Stalin’s USSR being a closer comparison, and specifically because of shadowy enemy. There’s a term for them that temporarily escapes me, even though it shouldn’t. (a senior moment). Carl Schmitt’s ‘The Concept of the Political’ deals with it (though not as well as Arndt). But, the point is ‘the enemy’. One must always be created in a totalitarian operation. And, there’s usually a ‘real’ one as well. One is the shadowy al-Qaeda. Then there is the one made real or ostensible, by setting them up to be ‘the enemy’ even if they aren’t. In this case, first Saddam, and now the Iranian regime. By setting up the Iranian regime as the enemy, and insulting them, and badgering them, and accusing them of all sorts of things, it becomes ‘accepted’ (or at least no surprise) when that created enemy is attacked.

Stalin’s USSR was also similar to US (and different from the European version) in reference to the concentration camps/gulags and extermination ‘experiments’ of the time. The Nazis underwent extraordinary means to actually kill masses of people, (which was NOT particularly ‘efficient’) while Stalin basically killed them by neglect…assigned to gulags to do hard work in conditions where one simply could not survive.

So, that is another less significant distinction, but that whole ‘enemy’ issue right up there in all forms of totalitarianism.

Then there’s Pinochet’s Chile, (Fascist Militarism?)  and so many other societies that have fallen under Authoritarian Rule. A book that find I continue to come back to frequently, (in trying to work this out in my own understanding) is Lawrence Weschler’s “A Miracle, A Universe”. In addition to so much more, he explains how Uruguay (as well as Brazil) came under such forms of Authoritarianism, When I have more time and space, I’ll post a few paragraphs from that book, which mark an eerie similarity to the situation leading up to Uruguay’s military dictatorship, (from a previously open civil society) and the situation here in the US. 

Anyway…my thanks too, for those excellent posts.

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By Thirteen Curses, June 23, 2008 at 7:58 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges - you make my heart happy.  Thank you so much for your intelligent commentary.

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By Paolo, June 23, 2008 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

I normally don’t say unkind things about the recently-deceased. But the mawkish worship of Tim Russert over the past week has been more than anyone should have to bear. This guy was little more than (as Hedges put it aptly) a court stenographer.

I recall his “interview” with Dick Cheney before the start of the war, in which he HELPED CHENEY OUT in building the phony case for war. Here was the one chance to lay it on the line, to challenge the sheer idiocy of the claim that Iraq posed a threat. Russert just obediently knelt and kissed Cheney’s butt.

Of course, when the time came to “interview” Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, the only genuinely anti-war candidates, Russert was an attack dog. But he didn’t attack the EVIDENCE, he attacked the messengers!!! He droned on endlessly with Kucinich about the stupid UFO thing. With Ron Paul, he went on and on about Civil War revisionist history—hardly an important topic when the real issue is THE CURRENT WAR, not a war that was fought over a hundred years ago.

If you praise mediocrity to the skies, you destroy the truly great. Russert was the essence of mediocrity in journalism.

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By seanowicz, June 23, 2008 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment
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This article was buried in the “police beat” section of my local paper’s website amidst domestic violence and DUI arrests. A little surprised; I had heard of him through the local grapevine but not in the local newspapers. But after all, Bush stopped here last week and it was a lovefest, so why am I surprised. The comments are the strangest part, 90% of them are diehard republicans.

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By jackpine savage, June 23, 2008 at 6:41 pm Link to this comment

Those were two excellent posts on this thread, particularly the dissection of American “fascism”. Inverted totalitarianism has been tossed around as a phrase for what’s happening in America here at Truthdig.

Personally, i’ve always seen more comparison between America and Stalin’s USSR than with European fascism…and i would add that’s it’s a white-glove type of Stalinism.  I say this partly based on enemies. 

Fascism riled the people against their mythological enemies on a path to greatness; moreover, those enemies were concrete and “defeatable”.  Stalinism focused on enemies that were out to destroy the utopia of Soviet society.  They were shadowy and perpetual.

Along the lines of your argument concerning charisma, Stalin didn’t really have it.  Some people loved him, irrationally.  The rest were dead afraid of him only…the projection of his power and what he was capable of doing with it.

In any case, please, write on…

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By Kashilinus, June 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment
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How we got here stems from a remarkable event in U.S. history that occurred in 1933. The election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the eyes of Wall Street a populist president, scared the hell out of an oligarchy used to having things their own way with a weak government in Washington. Stupidly, they cooked up a plot to overthrow the government and enlisted Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler to lead an attack on the White House. He didn’t much like the idea and reported it to Congress. The investigation that followed petered out, with no one charged. But the oligarchs didn’t give up. They just changed tactics. They would BUY the government. And that is exactly what occurred over the last half of the twentieth century. Sadly, the journalists, all but a few, allowed themselves to be bought too.

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By Conservative Yankee, June 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment
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HOWEVER, I would have had more respect for Hedges if he had the guts to pen this missive when Tim Russert was still alive… seems the liberals can’t get it together to attack people capable of rebuttal.

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By BruSays, June 23, 2008 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment

The Corporate News Media IS NOT in the business of providing news. They’re in the business of selling us toothpaste, pain relievers and cars. It’s all about market share, demographics and viewership.

We’re naive to expect news commentators - much less news anchorpersons, to be “journalists” in the true sense of the word. Bill O’Reilly remains on the air not because he’s accurate, responsible, fair or decent (he’s none of those things, of course) but because he makes money for FOX. Similarly, but sadly, Keith Olbermann (who’s everything O’Reilly isn’t) is supported by MSNBC soley because he makes them money.

Until we extract ourselves from a corporate-sponsored media system, BBC and others like them will continue to be one of the most respected news sources…and the average American will continue to be largely clueless.

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By absolutesynec3, June 23, 2008 at 2:02 pm Link to this comment
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Tim Russert represented what is the worst of our “Media”. He was nothing but a mouth-piece
and a water-carrier for the power-that-be.
And occasionally when he did ask a strong question,
it was nothing but a ploy to accept and agree to
the expected canned answer which was nothing but
obvious bull-shitting by the answerer.
I guess he adored the money and company of and access
to the powerful.

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By David, June 23, 2008 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment
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Obama is a fraud.  McCain is a madman.  Barr is a lunatic.  Nader is an egomaniac.  We have no choice at all.  Each one leads to the destruction of this country.  I guess the American experiment had to end sometime.  I was just hoping that it could last until I died.

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By felicity, June 23, 2008 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

FRED. S. Until you become part of the one percent of the global population which has unlimited economic power - in the US and a large part of he second and third worlds that amounts to also having almost unlimited political power - your dream of economic freedom is just that, a dream because you will continue to be part of the powerless.

Whether it’s the government elite and/or the economic elite, your needs are and will continue to be subservient to their’s.  It’s actually a toss-up.  Take your choice, at the mercy of government or at the mercy of the economically powerful - not going to make any difference when it comes to you.

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By oddlyamerican, June 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment


I feel exactly the same way.

i) The Farm Bill
iii) Refusing public funds

He has eviscerated his whole campaign platform.

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By btb, June 23, 2008 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Like many others you do not dare to think about what painful steps and sacrifices really need to made to save your country. Yes I am talking about violence and the risks it takes to pursue that road that might be inevitable seeing how no other methods are helping to keep your country from gliding into the abyss.

It’s one thing to be critical but the important question is “What are you going to do to save your country?” other than creating half articles that are critical of your government.

I think that the real reason that nothing happens to stop what is going on is that all people from the US are afraid of another civil war, but I really think that will be the outcome of all what is happening today on the various battlegrounds of public USA.

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By Tim Kelly, June 23, 2008 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment
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Because a vote for Nader is a vote for democracy.

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By BobZ, June 23, 2008 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

We’ve been down this road before and it ain’t pretty. Voting for Ralph Nader won’t do a thing for this country. Obama is not perfect but he is far better than Nader whose best days are way behind him. Obama is not just rhetoric and he knows what it takes to become president, which is to be very very pragmatic when needed. It he can avoid the mistakes of John Kerry and Al Gore, he will become president and we can truly begin our long slow climb as a country back to respectibility. Hedges is a great journalist and I respect his point of view regarding the MSM and Cable Networks. Only Bill Moyers and Keith Olbermann make any attempt to get to any core truths about what is going on in this country. Other than those two, we are exposed to a daily treatment of superficiality catered to the lowest common denominator. Russert’s death while sad was not a tragedy as portrayed by the media. They went way overboard in their coverage of his life and impact on this country, especially his love of sports and the Buffalo Bills. I never quite got why that was important. We also love to pour accolades on those who somehow came from blue collar backgrounds and never forgot their roots. Yet the country votes for rich aristocrats who pretend to be “just folks”, and have pretend ranches in Texas. If you do come from a blue collar background like the Obama’s (both of them), but happen to be black, you are suspect, and God forbid, went to a church where the pastor had the temerity not to fawn over some of the less savory parts of our U.S. history. I guess if you constantly bring up your blue collar roots, you can’t be labeled an “elitist”. Our country is run by elitists who pretend to be otherwise, and I guess they think they are fooling us, and maybe they are and we really can’t distinguish between illusion and reality.

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By writeon, June 23, 2008 at 11:47 am Link to this comment
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It’s tempting to define the dangers we face as ‘Fascism’ only I’m not sure this is an accurate or helpful description of present circumstances. It’s arguably a distracting and obscure use of terminology.

What’s certain is we don’t live in a classic Fascist society or even a real corporate state. What we have and see emerging is something different and new, something that is probably far more dangerous and deep-seated then classic Fascism.

Bush, for all his faults, is no charismatic, articulate, strong, Fascist leader, in the style of Mussolini or Hitler. There is no grass-roots, militerized, visible Fascist movement in the United State, at the moment. The media is not under total state control either. There is room for dissent and opposition and criticism, at least for the present. I could go on and on…

What will the future bring? That is difficult to say. It all depends. Will the US economy go belly up? Will some puny terrorist group launch a new 9/11 attack or explode a nuclear device in Chicago or New York? If that happens anything may follow such an outrage and Fascism may be the least of our worries!

We seem to be moving towards a new, anti-democratic, form of totalitarianism, were the state and the corporations are merging into a new whole. So we have the results and effects of ‘Fascism’ but without most of its visible characteristics, policies and points of identification. We have state/corporate control, but without the obvious brutality and destruction of the remnants of our democratic institutions. They are all still here, yet undermined and ritualized. Elections still happen, we have political parties, yet they are impotent to initiate change. We have sucked the life and content out of the concept of citizenship and democratic accountability. The people do not rule, they watch the rulers ruling in their name, but in name only.

Somehow I don’t see Fascist legions in uniform marching through American streets led by a moving forrest of flags and banners. It isn’t necessary to manage and control society. The sophistication and power of the marketplace see to that without the need of the overt trappings of classic Fascism. And whilst this is positive, one can also see it in from another perspective. That control is so ingrained in our culture and in ‘market democracy’ that change will not and never come by just changing the regime or the president. That change will require something deeper, change to the very economic structure of society.

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By Lou, June 23, 2008 at 11:42 am Link to this comment
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Chris Hedges is a great guy and everything he says is true to me, but still, good enough for us if we continue allow this to continue -which we will.
This fat lazy country gets what it deserves.
Pretty tired of hearing about the terrible Saudis and their oil. Imagine if Bush and Cheney had all that oil right under them here in the ole USA ? $500 a barrel?
“Don’t do what we say? No oil for you a-hole!” - Dick Cheney.
America is a greedy country, yet whines when it cannot have plenty of cheap oil to drive their huge expensive cars almost always seating one person with the windows up and the ac blasting away.
Tim Russert was a fat buffoon. Only idiots miss him.

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By FLC, June 23, 2008 at 11:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ron Paul is the only representative I trust…
I read somewhere that he is going to be the new “Meet the Press” anchor.

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By Fred S., June 23, 2008 at 11:26 am Link to this comment
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While I share in large measure the sentiments expressed by Chris Hedges it nonetheless seems to me that he shares a fundamental belief with those he roundly criticizes, and that is the idea that government has the absolute right to any portion of the wealth of its citizens and corporations it deems necessary. In Chris’s world, private ownership of property and the right to reap the rewards of one’s work effort are subservient to the needs of the State as it seeks to reallocate wealth according to the wishes of the majority of the electorate. In my ideal world, government is subservient, not to the corporations, but to individual liberties, including the right to keep what I earn, whether through passive investment or active employment. I fully appreciate there are functions of government which require funding, but the behemoth of a government we have today cries out for severe downsizing.

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By felicity, June 23, 2008 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

To add more substance to DICK’s comment, Mr. Moonves, CEO of CBS corporation is paid $40-70 million/year - which obviously makes him a member in good standing of the power elite.  On the other hand, it costs CBS news $7 million/year to run its entire Baghdad bureau, which if nothing else indicates how unimportant real news gathering is to corporate CBS whose sole function would seem therefore to be as courtier to its fellow elite.

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By cyrena, June 23, 2008 at 9:51 am Link to this comment


•  ..I don’t understand the ‘obama said he would sign it’ part when it appears little w will have that dubious honor to add to his list of subversions before he leaves if he leaves at all…”

So, you noticed this as well? It’s become standard for Chris and so many others…hysteria. In reality, Obama didn’t say he’d ‘sign’ anything. What he *did* say, was that he didn’t like the provision that allowed retroactive immunity to the telecoms for handing over the information without a warrant, and that he would work to remove that portion of the legislation from the Senate version. And yes, once THAT is said and done, it would be the little prick bush that would sign it. (or not) Now of course even if the Senate were to approve such a revision, the little prick shrub would likely veto it.

And no, voting for Nader isn’t an option. Now if Nader, (as an Arab-American) wasn’t able to get anywhere in the first 4 runs for the office, why would we expect any improvement now that we’re in the Era of ‘hate anything Arab”?

As for the crooks having their cake and eating it too. Check on the deal on Dubai, and that conversion to a new get away paradise for all of them. It’s really something to behold. They probably are converting their money to the Euro and many other forms of currency. I don’t think the USD will ever be the world currency again, or hold any of the old value it once did on the world market.

For the little prick, the get-away place is Paraguay. He’s purchased several thousand acres of land there. One of his daughters set the deal up a few years back.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, June 23, 2008 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

I think we expect too much from MSM, like we expect too much from our government.  When these ducks keep walking and talking and looking like ducks for the last several decades, then we would all do ourselves quality service by not fighting them anymore and simply accept that, they are in fact, ducks, evolved ducks, but still ducks. 

Not ducks we can like or nuzzle up to or even make good-tasting duck soup with but ducks, just the same.

I wonder what choice Jefferson might make between gov. and newspapers in 2000?  Some smart slave-owner he was!  I’m so glad I’ve recovered from my stint in the 5th grade, just as I’ve recovered from other religions.

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By writeon, June 23, 2008 at 9:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It seems that the role of modern journalism is to function pretty much like the priesthood in the middle ages in Europe. They produce and spread the ruling ideology and attitudes of a society ruled from above. They also justify and protect with words and ideas. They frame the outlines of debate and reality. Is one inside or outside the acceptable agenda or not?

Probably, unfortunately, at some point in the future, pitchforks and torches will become our main means of communicating with our masters. This isn’t something I particularly look forward to, only the invitable consequence of political exclusion and deep-seated frustration on behalf of the peasantry. The ruling and isolated aristocracy, lulled by luxury and decadence in their global Versaille are perhaps more vulnerable then they imagine.

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By iska, June 23, 2008 at 9:38 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges you are the veritable Savonarola of our times

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By dick, June 23, 2008 at 9:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Russert, like all media reps and moguls, is a member of the power elite, along with all official Washington. There are no real partys here, but factions- two. One is the power elite, and the other is the masses. The elite run the country, profit greatly from wars, and control the powerless masses by means of their media.

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By philip rappa, June 23, 2008 at 9:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Hedonists of Power; by Chris Hedges
This is tame, heres part of my take from 2002 article; Requiem to the Silliness I Learned in Civics’Class

Philip J. Rappa

Sadly, what’s left of the fourth estate and its stepchild, the visual news media, resembles a time-share co-op. Our brethren in the media and the press are continuously monitored. Their livelihood rests in the hands of multinational conglomerates, which have the arbitrary ability to make them stewards of truth in the eyes of the viewing public. If any one of them waffle on that allegiance to the corporate line, that individual shall feel its wrath with no reprieve, certain to be reprimanded, censored and as certain as death to expect reprisals.

What becomes of our legacy, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, the written words that have made us a nation like none other? With no investigative reporters, no one to check the facts, no one to look over the books, ask the questions needed to be asked, what is the consequence of these tactics perpetuated on the American public? Accountability and responsibility get no airtime, we are left abandoned with no one to stand up and demand more from our public servants.

What’s left when we turn on the idiot box or listen to talk radio? We have been duped by a deliberate duplicitousness, watching like voyeurs a staged reality where ambiguity is now acclaimed as a high art form.

The life of a democracy demands debate, decent, protest and the right to ask questions. Instead, we have consensually allowed these well-tailored and coifed new improved agents of intoxication to deliver their pretentiously scripted spoken words. Leaving us to be entertained by their contrived images and symbols that are nothing more than a brazen hypocrisy and total antithesis to who and what we are.

These so called reporters are liken to the endman in a minstrel show. Teasingly they speak of our heritage and birthright as if it were antique gossip. Rather than a purposeful dialogue at a town hall meeting or a round table discussion of issues, we get some kind of operatic shamanism’s, with itencs high priests of arrogance akin to the likes of Allie (North) and Rush (Limbaugh) acting as mediums allowing their good and evil spirits to sing song from their bully pulpits.

But forgive me I digress. Back to present day reality. Politicians’ attitudes towards the public at large are a fusion of indifference and contempt. Their creed of behavior toward the average American citizen was chiseled from a quip made by Lyndon Johnson. Who once said, “If you’re going to tell someone to go to hell, make sure you can make him go.” At this moment in time, Washington, DC, epitomizes the ultimate apocalyptic Machiavellian nightmare. Dorothy we’re not in Kansas anymore and this isn’t a place where Mr. Smith should ever go. Washington is a kind of Faustian Club Med for the rich and powerful.

Once one gets possession of that platinum plated brass ring known to us as appointive office, this new inductee takes a long, heady, sagacious breath, intoxicated with the knowledge that he/she has achieved what mere mortals could never perceive: Nirvana here on earth. Exhaling with a gentle sigh of utter contentment, safe and toasty in the glow of perpetual self-aggrandizement their only remaining task is to strip away and shed any remaining semblance of honesty and integrity. Then, effortlessly they will slip into their new second skin: that of fraternity. So tight a fit it makes the Shroud of Turrin seem simply a Band-Aid.

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