by Gilles d'Aymery
"To appreciate nonsense requires a serious interest in life."
—Gelett Burgess (1866-1951)
(Swans - September 11, 2006) THAT THIS ISSUE falls on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 is purely coincidental and with the knowledge that all the media are running stories for another news cycle and the US administration has taken its bullhorn on the road with eyes set firmly on November 2, we have consciously bypassed the story altogether. This said, there's a small snippet of news that won't show up or will possibly be buried in the 17th paragraph of a New York Times article. That little snippet? We've managed to surpass the 9/11 total number of dead in Afghanistan and Iraq. On 9/11, 2,973 people were killed in NYC, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania (not counting the 19 highjackers), of which total 2,902 were Americans. As of Tuesday, September 8, 2006, the official tally of US casualties in both Afghanistan and Iraq is 2,991 dead and 20,846 wounded (The US Department of Defense updates the tally each Tuesday, so at this writing the number of dead may well have reached 3,000, and the tally does not account for the number of US "civilian" deaths -- mercenaries, journalists, etc.). If just about 71 non-Americans died on 9/11, 231 members of the nations of the willing lost their lives in Iraq only (I do not have the tally of the wounded). Of course, no one knows for certain how many Afghans and Iraqis have been killed or wounded but the total must run into the hundreds of thousands. Three towers and four planes destroyed, the Pentagon damaged, and 2,973 dead versus two countries downright destroyed, over 3,200 dead US and allied soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi casualties with no end in sight. Happy anniversary! Enough of 9/11.
HOW SURPRISING, the US Open went by and Israel did not start another war, Lebanon III (or is it IV, V, VI?) to "finish" the job. I hear a couple of hospitals, roads, and bridges were missed during the recent friendly and oh-so-limited retaliatory incursion. Lebanon was only set back 19 years, not the 20 that had been heralded by the humane IDF chief of staff. Perhaps they wanted their patrons to take it easy for this late-summer celebration of dudes and bimbos moving their asses and boobs back and forth. One would not have wanted to engage in renewed hostilities -- Agassi was playing -- we all love André, bien sûr. Then there are the coming US midterm elections and the Bush administration, which must give its accord before the Israelis rampage their neighbors, is distracted; it must focus on keeping Congress in god's hands. So for the time being the "only democracy" in the Middle East spends a few introspective weeks raging about what went wrong with the little escapade; going through much self-flogging (that's so un-American); debating what to do next with all the genocidal threats to the existence of the little country, all the while goading the U.S. into attacking Iran, nuking the Persian state if need be; discussing the pros and cons of taking care of the "Islamo fascists" itself; and, let it not be forgotten, much rambunctious recriminating, a healthy trait of Israeli society which should be heeded in the U.S., about the fate of the two captured soldiers. You may recall that their freedom from the devilish grip of Hezbollah was one of the two "official" reasons given to launch the devastating rampage (the other one was the full destruction of Hezbollah and its ability to launch rockets at Israel -- neither goal having been accomplished). But here, in the U.S., with the exception of the neocon press (Weekly Standard, etc.) and the right-wing blogosphere, and contrary to Israel, this is no longer news -- the elections, ya' know. We tend to be afflicted with attention deficit disorder, neatly weaved by our corporate media (more on this later).
I AM GLAD, though, that a couple of snippets transpired last week. Apparently, the Israeli government took the decision to end the air and naval blockade of Lebanon, just about one month after the beginning of the ceasefire, in spite of strong objections from the military establishment. You'd think that such a blockade, especially after the end of the hostilities, would be contrary to international laws, or at least, the laws of decency if they exist, but not in the case of Israel. The IDF could not be clearer about the motives for the blockade and the opposition to its lifting. The brass saw the blockade as a means to pressure the Lebanese to free the two Israeli prisoners (collective punishment). It was also a means to pressure the famed international community (blackmail) to also put pressure on the Lebanese government toward the same end (eh, maybe the Europeans, even the much-despised French, may achieve what Israel could not). It was also a leverage for the implementation of U.N. SCR 1701, the disarming of Hezbollah (again, let the Europeans, even the much-despised French, do what Israel could not achieve, and let the EU soldiers get killed in the exercise), and an enforcement of an arms embargo -- The U.S. is replenishing Israel's deadly arsenal but Hezbollah has no right to re-arm because, as the entire world knows, Israel is a force of good, a beacon of democracy, but Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, a state within a state, a member of the "axis of evil" by association with the Hitler-like genocidal Iranians and the corrupt and dictatorial Syrian regime (Hitler-like too?). The height of the irony: the much-despised French have dispatched their navy off the coast of Lebanon to help maintain the arms embargo!
ANYWAY, if you are a resident of the indispensable nation -- which by the way has once again outsmarted everybody (they let the Israelis do the dirty work in Lebanon and make the Europeans clean the mess, without putting one US soldier in harm's way!) -- you'd be hard-pressed to know about the current developments in the region, for instance that Resolution 1701 calls on Israel to stop reconnaissance and other intelligence-gathering over-flights of Lebanese airspace -- an obligation that Israel is flouting continually in total impunity. Or you'd have a tough time finding out that while in the midst of introspection Israel pursues its horrendous blockade of Gaza, that, in the words of the Israeli columnist Gideo Levy, the IDF "has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately" (see Gaza is Dying," by Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch, September 7, 2006); or again, that the Israeli government has authorized the construction of another 690 apartments and houses in the West Bank. Here in the U.S. the blockade is as potent, but it's a news blockade. Hard news and facts that help an informed citizenry to make up its mind meaningfully are nowhere to be found in the corporate media, particularly on TV. As a graffiti, found during the 2006 French revolt, encapsulated: Médias partout, info nulle part. ("Media everywhere, information nowhere.").
LET'S SEE: Just before the Israeli rampage in Lebanon, the Latino immigration issue was a hot and spicy potato. Have you heard of it lately? The sounds of Lebanon muffled that issue to a whisper. Then, with the Israelis placed between the rock and the hard place and forced to make new painful concessions, like a ceasefire and the much-despised French having a leading role in its outcome, the news cycle moved to Jon Benet, the little poster girl killed in 1996. A man was arrested in Thailand and confessed to the murder. Brought back to the U.S., the media circus played the story to subsonic effects for a week till it was found that the guy's DNA did not match the DNA found on the little girl's body; and it turns out that he was not even near the scene of the crime on that fateful 1996 day. No worries, it was time to get a few photo-ops of New Orleans on the occasion of the first anniversary of Katrina. You did not hear much about the 1,400 deaths in N.O. but you saw Mr. Bush on TV taking full responsibility for the reconstruction. The government is here for N.O., you can be assured of it. Everything is going dandy -- a heck of a job. But the week went by and we got into a little bit of polygamy fever after having arrested a dude somewhere in Utah, but the story had little leg due to the beginning of the latest round of declamations by the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush. They had their talking points at the ready. They were all about the "Islamo fascists," the new Hitler, the dangers of appeasing the enemies, Chamberlain-like, by daring criticizing the policies of the Bush administration, a sprinkling of 9/11 here and there, the security of the nation faced with such horrifying and determined terrorists, etc., etc., etc. Then we got a little reprieve with the telegenic Katie Couric, the anchorwoman of the new and improved "CBS NEWS with Katie Couric," nicely dressed in black and white (talk about the subtle nuances of the colorful attire), her elegantly-molded-and-tanned legs in full display, launching her maiden infotainment show for which she'll receive a paltry financial compensation of $15 million a year. She was quickly displaced by the Resident in Chief who announced that 12 prisoners that were kept in secret CIA prisons around the world that he had consistently denied existed had been transferred to the five-star resort in Guantánamo Bay (that news was a bit too hot and did not last more than a day or two) and by the first sprouts of the fall campaign with the White House PR strategy that once again will be about fear and security on a 9/11 backdrop. "Just imagine a world with a state that sponsors terrorism armed with nuclear weapons...just imagine..." oye, oye, oye, I'm chilled to death and it's not yet winter, But wait, first we have to endure the fifth anniversary of 9/11. That should take a week of news cycle.
THEN WE'LL be in full blooming campaign with slogans galore: dangers on the horizon, terrorism, new fascism, friends and enemies, security, safety, perhaps a red alert just in case, TNT versus DND -- Tax and Terrorism vs. Do Nothing Democrats -- and all the same old malarkey. It works, does it not? The pwogs will call once more, to their eternal idiocy, to vote for the lesser evil, till November 3 when a new day will dawn in America, a day much alike today. Yawn.
HERE IS A CONSERVATIVE T-SHIRT you can purchase from the skunking Horowitz at frontpagemag.com -- and, I suppose, its variant at pajamasmedia.com, or again, I guess, at WorldNetdaily, the site of the insufferable Christian fundamentalist and arch-reactionary Joe Farah. It reads: "Iran wants nukes? Give them to 'em!" written on a friendly and colorful background of a mushroom cloud. Right on Bushco's message.
THE WELL-BEING OF THE ECONOMY, and the price of energy, will also sprinkle the campaign trail. Bushco and its revelers will trumpet the soundness of the US business environment, and they will be right, of course. Business profits are booming, and a few people are doing extremely well, as the rest of us faithfully (or is it "faithdully"?) await the 30-year-old promise of trickling down from the top yachts. Take Katie Couric, whom I mentioned supra. Fifteen million a year for a twenty-minute daily show five days a week, for say 48 weeks (the modest, hard-working woman is entitled to some vacations), translates into $3,125 per each minute of her show, or $62,500 for the twenty minutes her nightly performance lasts (30 min. minus 10 min. for commercials). That's just about $187,500 an hour in prime time, which to be fair, since she must have to prepare the broadcast, and, say, she works 8 hours a day, five days a week, for 48 weeks, should be reduced to only $78,125 an hour. Whatever the computation, it's still a trifling amount, $1,250,000 a month. Good people, for comparison only, Swans to date has been earning the grand total of $1,125.00 since January 1, 2006 -- and I thank Erik and Michele Kvam, as well as Mark and Marilyn Ann McCormack, for having added a few bucks to our modest bounty. (Remember, what you read on Swans is not supported by ads and the powers-that-be. All our work is original -- we do not multipost. Just keep this in mind and consider helping us.)
KATIE COURIC is not the only individual to prove Bushco correct. In their tenth anniversary World Wealth Report, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini (a global consulting company) report that the number of people with assets over $1 million (beyond and above the value of their primary residence) has grown 6.5% in 2005. Global millionaires had a combined $33.3 trillion in wealth, compared to $16.6 trillion in 1996. The super rich ($30 million and above) -- those 85,400 people (one hundredth of one percent of the world's adult population) that Merrill Lynch and Capgemini call "ultra high net worth individuals" -- saw their ranks jump by over 10% last year and hold 24 percent of the world's financial wealth. Here is a short table of the Combined Wealth of World's High Net-Worth Individuals (individuals with at least $1 million in assets above home value)
1996 16.6 trillion (in US dollars)
1997 19.1 trillion
1998 21.6 trillion
1999 25.5 trillion
2000 27 trillion
2001 26.2 trillion
2002 26.7 trillion
2003 28.5 trillion
2004 30.7 trillion
2005 33.3 trillion
INDEED, DO NOT WORRY about the economy. According to the Wall Street Journal, top executives' pay jumped almost 16 percent. The average weakly earnings for full-time US workers went up 2 percent, less than the rate of inflation. When will people revolt?
(Source for these stats: "The World's Richest 1 Percent," June 26, 2006, Too Much the publication of the published by the Council on International and Public Affairs, edited ever since its inception in 1995, by labor journalist Sam Pizzigati.)
IN TOO MUCH, you can find that according to the Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C., "between 1962 and 2004, after adjusting for inflation, the average wealth of top 1 percent households in the United States increased 162 percent, to $14.8 million. The wealth of middle class households, in those same years, increased 79 percent, to $81,800, with over half that increase coming before 1983." Last February, Sam Pizzigati wrote a brilliant analysis that deserves being read in full, "Taxing the Rich, 1957-Style." In it he shows what would happen today if the super predators were taxed as they were under a former Republican administration, that of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Simply put, applying the tax rate then to today's top 0.1 percent of US incomes would yield $420.5 billion, $203 billion more than what is currently being paid by the obscenely rich class. $203 billion, says Pizzigati, is "nearly three times what the Bush administration is proposing to spend in 2007 on education and the environment. Or well over half the $354 billion federal budget deficit the Bush administration now predicts for 2007."
AND HERE IS THE KILLER: Pizzigati adds:
[In 2007] the federal government will fill that $354 billion deficit hole in the fiscal 2007 budget by borrowing. The government "borrows" by selling Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. The people who buy these Treasury securities, naturally, eventually get paid back -- with interest.
And who buys these Treasury securities? Average American families don't buy Treasury securities. High-income people do.
Fifty years ago, in other words, Eisenhower-era America taxed the very rich. Today we borrow from them.
IN 1957 we taxed the predators, leeches of all ages. Today they suck our blood, and we get Prozac to ease the pain. How long will this perdure before we rise up and cut off a few heads? Indeed, the Washingtonian policies from both parties are quite clear. Look at William Clay Ford Jr., the great-grandson of the founder of the Ford Motor Company, another member of the filthy wealthy terrorists who destroy us all. He picks a new CEO to get in the trenches and turn around an essentially bankrupt company: Alan R. Mulally, a top executive of Boeing. No worries, Bill Ford will remain, in full democratic clothing, chairman of the company. Ford's latest turn-around program was called The Way Forward. The Way Forward entailed closing 14 plants and cutting 30,000 jobs at Ford. Still, it's not working. Mulally was hired to get dirtier. The only people who count her are the Ford family and millionaire leeches.
FOR THE GENETICALLY MIND-DEFORMED PWOGS, what other proof do they need regarding the bicephalous system? Could they check the spectacle in Connecticut? The entire Republican establishment has been pouring money into Joe Lieberman's campaign, a Republican Democrat turned Independent once he lost the Democratic primary. Talk about a democracy coffin and a systemic corruption of the body politic. When will the Pwogs get it that we must throw the bastards away? Don't understand not only the political and financial corruption, but the intellectual one? See how Bushco and the Republican apparatus are circling the wagons around Lincoln Chaffee, the most anti-Bush Republican Senator, because if he looses the primary to a Republican Loonie, closer to Bush, mind you, it would open the door to a Democrat victory in Rhode Island. This country has been highjacked by unprincipled cliques for ages. Can't the Pwogs act principally? Will they act principally? No. They'll continue to support the bicephalous system. Pwogs are worse opponents than most fundamentalist Christians. The latter stand on their beliefs, how idiotic and dangerous they are. The former stand for their own little selves, their careers that are much dependent on that system, and their ever-more hypocritical rhetoric. You can fight the fundies straight on. The Pwogs keep knifing you in the back. They make a living out of their treasonous and weak intellect.
AH, FREEDOM OF CHOICE: DirecTV offers a service that allows you to watch eight NFL games on your TV screen, all at once...for a monthly fee, of course. I wonder, how would that play on my 13-inch TV? I guess this is yet another reason we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and let our proxy do a good job on the Palestinian Occupied Territories (POT) and Lebanon. It's all about the defense of our "civilized way of life" -- one that is not negotiable, said poppy Bush once upon a time. Why not a DirecTV offering of eight fields of actions by our wonderful killing machine and that of our proxy? Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, POT, Lebanon, Syria, Iran... Missing two theaters? No problem, add Cuba and Venezuela, or a couple of other -stans. Viewers will rejoice at the marvelous achievements. Commercials could be run advertising conservative T-shirts, miraculous diet programs, Viagra for dick machismo, Prozac for mind control, Wal*Mart for joyfulness of consumerism, and ads for the different services of the US military. Success assured. Wonder why "they" hate us?
EIGHT NFL IDIOCIES all at once on a big screen. How can one watch eight games at once? Maybe idiots can. Then, decidedly, success is assured!
MORAL EQUIVALENCE, ANYONE? Israelis figured out that Hezbollah had devilishly used rockets filled with steel balls and other lethal shrapnel to cause maximum damages to the Israeli population and infrastructure, when they, humanitarianly speaking, had only used US-made cluster bombs to defeat the evil and -- sorry, collateral damage -- killed a few civilians here and there. As usual, one cannot compare, especially morally, the deeds of both sides. One is a force of evil, the other of light. In the tenebrous darkness of the usual narrative, where black and white dominate, where gray does not exist, and nuances are absent of one's rationalizations, everything goes. Cluster bombs are a force of love, only defensive; the steel balls a force of destruction, only offensive. Funny though that the respective destructive results are not analyzed jointly, in combination and parallel, not just in the numbers of civilian deaths, but in the long-term consequences. What future dangers will steel balls cause to the Israeli population of Northern Israel? I suspect one might inadvertently walk over a ball, slip, fall, and break an arm or a leg. What's the probability of this happening? Don't know...I'm not a statistician. How many Israelis have been dying from the steel balls left on the ground since the ceasefire? Zero. But what about the estimated 100,000 bomblets left unexploded all over Southern Lebanon, transforming that region into a giant mine field? What future dangers will they cause to the Lebanese people? Since the ceasefire scores of Lebanese men, women, and children have already been killed or maimed by these bomblets. No, no, no: There is absolutely no moral equivalency here, because, see, the terrorists were "directly targeting" civilians and "cowardly blending" among the Lebanese people. And, beware of the name-calling... If you do not swallow this narrative hook, line, and sinker, David Horowitz will call you a "reflexive Israel basher"; the charge of anti-Semitism will be thrown at you by Alan Dershowitz; you'll become an "ally of the barbarians," a "supporter of the genocidists," a "propagandist for the terrorists," and an "appeaser of Islamic fascism," no less. Keep in mind that Hamas is also a terrorist organization, a bunch of barbarians, genocidists, and Islamic fascists and thus Gaza deserves to be asphyxiated in retaliation. That, friends, is the extent of the debate in the U.S.
CITATION FOR THE AGES: "Whoever becomes the ruler of a city that is accustomed to freedom and does not destroy it can expect to be destroyed by it, for it can always find a pretext for rebellion in the name of its former freedom and age-old customs, which are never forgotten despite the passage of time or any benefits it has received. No matter what the ruler does or what precautions he takes, the inhabitants will never forget that freedom or those customs - unless they are separated or dispersed . . ."
--Machiavelli, The Prince
SHORT ANNOUNCEMENT: Ken Knabb of the Bureau of Public Secrets ("Making petrified conditions dance by singing them their own tune.") and the translator of Guy Debord's "The Society of the Spectacle" and many other texts from the French Situationist International, has recently posted in toto The Joy of Revolution, which was initially published in 1997 in Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb.
BOONVILLE NEWS: None of interest. We are beginning to winterize the place... Finish summer projects as best as we can, bring a couple of yards of wood for the wood stove, preparing for the rainy season...The not-so-untertaining usual. Instead, let me share a snippet from our local rag, the Anderson Valley Advertiser. A picture shows a huge extended cab built on a Ford Expedition, having at least six windows on each side.
This gas-guzzling wine monstrosity was parked in front of Boont Berry Store in Boonville last Sunday afternoon. According to their website you can take a 35-minute ride in it with up to 12 others getting as drunk as you can get in 35 minutes visiting almost every tasting room in Anderson Valley and chugging down as much as you can inside your Wine Limo for only $150 each, complete with your wine chauffeur. If you're really into getting your lover drunk on expensive pinot you can pay $500 each for an exclusive rise. Inside the Stretch Winemobile -- operated by Wine Country Tours out of Mendocino (of course) -- is a fully stocked Booze Bar complete with the hard stuff if you're in a big hurry to get loaded. Thanks to the wine industry, Anderson Valley has been turned into a cheesy amusement park for the decadent rich.
Mark "Caramello" Scaramella, the little Kapo at the AVA, is not known for his sense of humor or for being a careful fact-checker. It takes close to half an hour to just drive through the Anderson Valley and there must be over twenty wineries and tasting rooms (I've never counted, and find new ones all the times). To stop by most of them would take most of a day trip. Actually, had he checked their Website, he would have found out that the 35 minutes relate to the time it takes to ride from Mendocino to the beginning of the wine country in the Valley. The daily tour starts at 10:00 am and ends at 4:00 pm. The decadent rich do not ride the Winemobile. Idiotic white middle-class weekenders do, dreaming of having the lifestyle of the decadent rich who own the vineyards and laugh at us all as they suck our blood. But, aside from the little inconsistencies in Mark's story, it's a fair picture of what Anderson Valley is becoming, at least since I've turned into a hill muffin here.
Do they hunt deer with AK47s in the Valley? The other day, I heard like over 10 shots in a rat-a-tat-tat. I ran for cover, shouting to the dogs, the terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming! What's next, Katyusha rockets?
Ç'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.