Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is turn about fair play at sweatshops?

With all the discussion about various news stories that have been going on many people may not have noticed what is going on in China.

A factory owner is complaining about inhumanity. It's not because the factory workers are being abused though; it's because they're holding him hostage.

He says, "I think it's inhumane what is going on right now. I have been in this area for 10 years and created a lot of jobs and I would never have thought in my wildest imagination something like this would happen."

There appear to be conflicting views of what has been going on according to the following two articles. The first seems to indicate it is about the demand for a severance package; the second also mentions unpaid wages for two months.

I may not agree with these tactics but I'm not in any rush to shed any crocodile tears for this executive.

US factory boss held hostage by workers in Beijing By LOUISE WATT — Jun. 24 2013

quoted from AP

BEIJING (AP) — An American executive said he has been held hostage for four days at his medical supply plant in Beijing by scores of workers demanding severance packages like those given to 30 co-workers in a phased-out department.

Chip Starnes, 42, a co-owner of Coral Springs, Florida-based Specialty Medical Supplies, said local officials had visited the 10-year-old plant on the capital's outskirts and coerced him into signing agreements Saturday to meet the workers' demands even though he sought to make clear that the remaining 100 workers weren't being laid off.

The workers were expecting wire transfers by Tuesday, he said, adding that about 80 of them had been blocking every exit around the clock and depriving him of sleep by shining bright lights and banging on windows of his office. He declined to clarify the amount, saying he wanted to keep it confidential.

"I feel like a trapped animal," Starnes told The Associated Press on Monday from his first-floor office window, while holding onto the window's bars. "I think it's inhumane what is going on right now. I have been in this area for 10 years and created a lot of jobs and I would never have thought in my wildest imagination something like this would happen."

Workers inside the compound, a pair of two-story buildings behind gates and hedges in the Huairou district of the northeastern Beijing suburbs, repeatedly declined requests for comment, saying they did not want to talk to foreign media.

It is not rare in China for managers to be held by workers demanding back pay or other benefits, often from their Chinese owners, though occasionally also involving foreign bosses.

The labor action reflects growing uneasiness among workers about their jobs amid China's slowing economic growth and the sense that growing labor costs make the country less attractive for some foreign-owned factories. The account about local officials coercing Starnes to meet workers' demands — if true — reflects how officials typically consider stifling unrest to be a priority.

Huairou district and Qiaozi township governments declined to comment.

A local police spokesman said police were at the scene to maintain order. Four uniformed police and about a dozen other men who declined to identify themselves were standing across the road from the plant.

"As far as I know, there was a labor dispute between the workers and the company management and the dispute is being solved," said spokesman Zhao Lu of the Huairou Public Security Bureau. " I am not sure about the details of the solution, but I can guarantee the personal safety of the manager."

Representatives from the U.S. Embassy stood outside the gate much of the day, and eventually were let in. U.S. Embassy spokesman Nolan Barkhouse said the two sides were on the verge of an agreement and that Starnes would have access to his attorneys. It was unclear what agreement might be reached, and subsequent attempts to contact Starnes were not immediately successful.

Starnes said the company had gradually been winding down its plastics division, planning to move it to Mumbai, India. He arrived in Beijing last Tuesday to lay off the last 30 people. Some had been working there for up to nine years, so their compensation packages were "pretty nice," he said.

Some of the workers in the other divisions got wind of this, and, coupled with rumors that the whole plant was moving to India, started demanding similar severance packages on Friday.

Christian Murck, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said he wasn't familiar with Starnes' case, but that such hostage-taking was "not a major problem" for the foreign business community.

"It happened more often say 15 years ago than today, but it still happens from time to time," he said. "It rarely leads to personal harm to the managers involved, but there are cases when it has in years past."

Chinese workers holding US boss say wages unpaid June 25 2013

Quoted from Associated Press

Chinese workers keeping an American executive confined to his Beijing medical supply factory said Tuesday that they had not been paid in two months in a compensation dispute that highlights tensions in China's labor market.

The executive, Chip Starnes of Specialty Medical Supplies, denied the workers' allegations of two months of unpaid wages, as he endured a fifth day of captivity at the plant in the capital's northeastern suburbs, peering out from behind the bars of his office window.

About 100 workers are demanding back pay and severance packages identical to those offered 30 workers being laid off from the Coral Springs, Florida-based company's plastics division. The demands followed rumors that the entire plant was being closed, despite Starnes' assertion that the company doesn't plan to fire the others.

The dispute highlights general tensions in China's labor market as bosses worry about rising wages and workers are on edge about the impact of slowing growth on the future of their jobs.

Inside one of the plant's buildings, about 30 mostly women hung around, their arms crossed. One worker, Gao Ping, told reporters inside an administrative office that she wanted to quit because she hadn't been paid for two months.

Dressed in blue overalls and sitting down at a desk, Gao said her division _ which makes alcohol prep pads, used for cleaning skin before injections _ had not been doing well and that she wanted her salary and compensation.

Workers in other divisions saw her division doing badly, thought the whole company was faring poorly and also wanted to quit and get compensation, said Gao, who had been working for the company for six years.

Starnes, 42, denied that they were owed unpaid salary.

"They are demanding full severance pay, but they still have a job. That's the problem," he said, still in the clothes he wore when he went to work Friday morning.

Chu Lixiang, a local union official representing the workers in talks with Starnes, said the workers were demanding the portion of their salaries yet to be paid and a "reasonable" level of compensation before leaving their jobs. Neither gave details on the amounts demanded.

Chu said workers believed the plant was closing and that Starnes would run away without paying severance. Starnes' attorney arrived Tuesday afternoon. Chu later told reporters that there would be no negotiations for the rest of the day.

Starnes said that since Saturday morning, about 80 workers had been blocking every exit around the clock and depriving him of sleep by shining bright lights and banging on windows of his office.

The standoff points to long-ingrained habits among Chinese workers who are sometimes left unprotected when factories close without severance or wages owed. Such incidents have been rarer as labor protections improve, although disputes still occur and local governments have at times barred foreign executives from leaving until they are resolved.

Starnes said the company had gradually been winding down its plastics division, planning to move it to Mumbai, India. He arrived in Beijing a week ago to lay off the last 30 people. Some had been working there for up to nine years, so their compensation packages were "pretty nice," he said. Then workers in other divisions started demanding similar severance packages on Friday, he said.

Kevin Jones, who advises U.S. companies on Chinese labor and employment law, said it is better if American executives stay at home and let their local managers lay off workers.

In a case last week, Jones said the chief financial officer of a U.S. telecommunications equipment maker wanted to come to Beijing to explain the situation and give 41 white-collar workers their termination notices.

"We told him to stay in America," said Jones, who chairs the Shanghai-based Faegre Baker Daniels labor and employment practice. The company's lawyers met with six employee representatives in a hotel. "We had two bodyguards but that was just in case things got out of control," Jones said.

In the first article it says that this type of thing happened more often fifteen years ago but it still happens from time to time now. I hardly remember them reporting on this ever either fifteen years ago or recently.

Why hasn't this been reported more often if it is a semi-regular occurrence?

There hasn't been much reporting about the sweat shop conditions in the third world in the traditional press unless there is a major disaster like the recent large fires and building collapses but they report much more on this in some alternative outlets. The oppression of workers around the world has been standard operating procedure for a long time and it costs a lot of money and results in lower quality merchandise. This means that the savings for cheap merchandise hasn't actually been passed on to consumers at all; instead it has just been used to increase the profits for those that call the shots that lead to this oppression.

One of the things that they fail to mention is that when they save money by taking advantage of cheap labor abroad it comes with additional expenses, including shipping and distribution as well as the money they have to pay for armed guards to oppress the workers and protect the executives when they visit their factories. If they diverted all these bureaucratic expenses back to production and treated their workers better they could take advantage of factory direct savings and many other things to avoid passing the costs on to consumers and the quality would be better.

If consumers knew that a portion of the money they pay for their goods are being used to oppress the workers that build them and that the workers that provide actual value to the products were only receiving a minimal fraction of the money consumers pay would they approve?

If voters knew that the trade secrecy laws that are passed by there elected officials are being used to make it harder for most people to understand how the economic system works would they approve?

This is essentially what was happening thirty years ago before the globalization movement dramatically expanded along with a large number of mergers and acquisitions. I haven't been able to look into specific examples anymore than most other people but this seems to follow a common pattern except for the fact that they took matters into their own hands and it was actually reported. In this case it seems to have led to a settlement according to an article, U.S. exec Chip Starnes freed from China factory. The article states, "Its resolution offers further proof that, in China, taking the law into one's own hands may achieve the best results." Some sources seem to think that things have been resolved but problems with the system seem to continue to be overlooked. The reason this seems to have happened in the first place is that workers don't have any other alternatives that actually work. They supposedly have protections under the law and channels that they can go through to have their grievances addressed but in practice they don't work at all and the workers know it more than we do here in the US.

Most of us don't think that this is the appropriate way to go about things but when the appropriate way to go about things doesn't work then, at minimum this should be considered reasonable mitigating circumstances. Before he was released he managed to do an interview, U.S. executive does live TV interview from through the window of a Chinese factory where he's been held hostage by workers for FIVE days. this also appeared on CNBC; he didn't appear to be nearly as oppressed or subject to inhumane treatment as many of the other sweatshop workers that have had to live with this all their lives and for him it ended fairly quickly.

For what it's worth another report on this provides additional information, US boss held in China leaves plant after payout. This article is notable for a different reason related to reporting trends that might raise confusion. It was the link that I provided for the second article a couple of days ago but when I looked at it today the story had changed and since I had saved a copy I was able to locate another article to cite for it. This is far more common than most people realize although a more common problem is that many news stories are simply deleted. When citing some articles I have noticed that there are some that are more reliable than others but it is difficult to tell which is which.

Regardless of how this came out it seems to me that much more needs to be done to protect workers and consumers as well as the environment and to cut down on the bureaucratic expenses that are designed to benefit only those who control the system at the expense of the rest of us.

One of the most import things that needs to be done is to do away with corporate secrecy laws that enable them to cover up their human rights abuses.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Will Wal-Mart's desperate advertising campaign save them?

Late last year Wal-Mart was involved in a growing number of scandals that included the fact that they were implicated in the fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh and that their workers were striking in unprecedented numbers and there were many other problems including additional Black Friday riots that seem to be an annual occurrence. This was months after Adam Hartung claimed that WalMart's Mexican Bribery Scandal Will Sink It Like an Iceberg Sank the Titanic. Of course that was a year ago and Wal-Mart hasn't sunk yet; but something with as big a presence as Wal-Mart doesn't disappear overnight.

However I suspect Wal-Mart is almost certainly in much more trouble than they would lead most people to believe. During the first few years of the century the increase in same store sales was declining each year. In 2011 there were several reports about Wal-Mart same store sales being down for seven straight quarters, which may have been unprecedented. It has been hard to get a clear look at exactly how much sales they have been getting but in February there was a big uproar about a leaked E-Mail that claimed that they had the worst sales in seven years. This was quickly followed by a retraction that claimed it was taken out of context, but the retraction didn't seem to have any credibility.

More recently another factory in Bangladesh collapsed and initially they claimed that none of the merchandise was authorized to be produced there but after the commercial press began to forget it the alternative media reported that some of there merchandise almost certainly was produced there through a contractor that didn't work directly for Wal-Mart, which seems to be the new normal for plausible deniability purposes; and they have had additional protests and strikes in California, Florida and Massachusetts. I could easily go on much more about the enormous amount of problems they have and have in past posts under the author tag Wal-Mart Watch, and so have many other people.

Now Wal-Mart has come up with a larger advertising campaign that they call “The Real Walmart,” and judging by the way Dale Buss is covering it in a Forbes article, "It's About Time Walmart Waged An Ad Campaign Like This One," some people might get the impression that their advertising campaign might include the coverage that is given to it in the business press although some of the other articles about it aren't quite as flattering they often save the criticism for the end and present it in a manner that seems in doubt. the same might go for statements from many politicians and celebrities including many that have collected campaign contributions from Wal-Mart or sponsored them in other ways. It is hard to imagine a rational person taking Tom Cruise's and Hugh Jackman's performance at the recent shareholders meeting seriously.

There is just one problem with this advertising campaign; the closer you check the facts with sources that aren't receiving incentives from Wal-Mart the more obvious it will be that these ads are mostly if not entirely exaggerations, selective claims, hype or out right lies.And these lies cost an enormous amount of money that can't be going into the quality of their merchandise.

If they continue to send their advertising and lobbying expenses through the roof while cutting manufacturing expenses to the bone their merchandise will continue getting even crappier and people will notice, no matter how much hype they buy!

One of their spots is about a young worker that says "when people look at me I hope they see someone working their way" p along with a lot of claims about how they're providing him with educational opportunities and many other things; but if you check with the Wal-Mart employees that have been striking or look at the enormous amount of complaints that have been circulating on many forums including "Complaints from Wal-Mart Employees" at Consumer Affairs. Another spot shows people that claim they're "an American success story;" there are just as many complaints about how low the quality of the merchandise is and an enormous amount of it falls apart in a fraction of the time that many products used to last. They don't save money if the customer has to replace basic times like jeans, sneakers, toasters etc. at least three or four times as often as we used to.

An additional ad is about their "super-efficiencies," as Dale Buss refers to it; this claim has been repeated over and over again but it is very selective and quickly falls apart when considering a few relatively simple facts. They have created an efficient system to transport and distribute things all over the world but the system we had thirty years ago included a lot more factory direct and it produced much better quality merchandise. what they have done "efficiently" is learn how to ship an enormous amount of low quality and often defective merchandise half way around the world instead of shipping a smaller amount of high quality merchandise a much shorter distance. Another major problem with their "super-efficiencies," is the fact that we now have much more retail space per person than we ever had before and that has to be maintained. In addition to that there is an enormous amount of retail space that has been abandoned which is dragging down many communities. None of these inconvenient facts are considered when describing their "super-efficiencies," which are basically a myth based primarily on propaganda and selective use of facts. They may do some thing efficient but they're mostly things that should have to be done at all.

The list of things that they misrepresent go on and on, including their claims to protect the environment by reducing packaging on things like deodorant or putting solar panels on their roofs. These actually are steps in the right direction but for every one step in the right direction they take many more in the wrong direction. It is hard to claim that they're environmentally friendly when they have led the way in shutting down local manufacturing of items that last much longer and replacing it with factories half way around the world where they don't have to worry about environmental damage and they have to ship much farther dramatically increasing the amount of oil used to produce and transport things and then they fall apart so they have to be replaced much more often. And this doesn't include past settlements about disposing of toxic waste and many other things.

Another claim is that their produce is as fresh as the local farmers market or that their steaks are as fresh as a steak house in Tennessee.

This claim was thoroughly reviewed by "Food and Water Watch" in Why Walmart Can’t Fix the Food System. They have indicated many problems one of the biggest is the fact they have centralized control of everything in Arkansas and local people have little or nor authority to correct things when they see problems. Everything is done on a massive scale so when mistakes are made they're repeated over and over again.

The New York Times first reported about their plans to buy local in 2010, Wal-Mart to Buy More Local Produce, this claim involved plans to doubt their local produce to 9% which is still a small amount and it doesn't seem to take into consideration the season. At least when it comes to produce people who buy from local farmers markets can get much more fresh produce in season and they can find out more about where it comes from. Wal-Mart can never match this dispute their adverting to the contrary. This was clearly indicated in April of this year, three years after their claims that they will dramatically improve their system, when The United Food and Commercial Workers reported on "Walmart Falling Flat with Not-so-Fresh Foods." This is just one of many reports including Walmart Fruit Still Rotten in Spite of Commercial Plug and New Freshness Campaign. The more people spot these problems while they're running these deceptive ads the less people will trust Wal-Mart ads. They don't even mention the enormous amount of pressure many of the farm workers are under to produce their products as fast and cheap as possible which leads to lower quality just like any other product.

This type of propaganda, which is what their ads should be considered since they use the same tactics as propaganda, isn't limited to Wal-Mart of course; it appears to be dominating the entire commercial media system which is essentially a system that practically sells the right to tell the "truth" to the public but most of their versions of the "truth" rarely if ever hold up to scrutiny.

Wal-Mart probably isn't even the worst offender, although if you exclude the energy companies they might be, and they do a lot to indirectly increase the enormous amount of energy we use for the same products that were made locally thirty years ago.

The oil companies have spent an enormous amount of money providing propaganda that is still even more than the amount of advertising that Wal-Mart has been putting out even after the recent increase in Wal-Mart's presence on TV. One of the biggest advertisers is of course BP which has spent a lot of money to tell us about how their "commitment has never been stronger;" this includes a career story of Jon Parker, who is one of their safety advisers. He has apparently been with BP for twenty five years. It shouldn't take much thinking to realize that if he was as good as they lead us to believe at advising on safety then the BP oil spill never would have happened.

Other sources that receive far less coverage in the commercial media provide much better reporting on the oil companies as well including "Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power," which isn't always as extensive as it could be but it does cover some of BP's poor record on safety before the oil spill. In it Steve Coll describes how Exxon also had a poor record before the Exxon Valdez but then they clamped down on safety after that for a long time but even that seem to have deteriorated. in the past ten years they have had an increasing amount of oil spills including in Jacksonville Maryland, Montana, Arkansas, a big one in Nigeria and many more that haven't been reported as widely either because they might not be as big if they're in the US or because they simply don't cover them as well if they're in other countries that have little or no political power.

Prior to this spill BP's record was even worse. you don't hear this mentioned over and over again in the commercial media so you might not get the impression that it happened at all although if you watched Rachel Maddow in 2010 you might have caught it when she reported "Maddow uncovers BP Gulf recovery propaganda"

However if you didn't make a point to remember it then you might have forgotten it assuming you even caught it in the first place, which I didn't. After the spill passed from the headlines they stopped mentioning it but the propaganda is being repeated over and over again. the same will almost certainly go for the recent and brief disclosure that Alberta has had an enormous amount of oil spills over the past 37 years including an average of two spills every day and an exceptionally large one recently that drew attention to it. she failed to mention that this is typical of many areas without many people with political power and that there are many, many more of these all over the world. If past is prologue then they will quickly drop this while the oil company propaganda is repeated over and over again. One thing they fail to mention is that although they're spending an enormous amount of money on this propaganda they have also been doing what they can to cut their damages as much as possible according to several stories including BP Says Spill Settlement Terms Are too Generous.

The more they run these propaganda ads the more many of us might wonder why they don't use the money for reparations or improved safety.

Clearly many corporations, including Wal-Mart and BP, are much more concerned about convincing us that they're benevolent than actually being benevolent.

One of the Complaints from Wal-Mart Employees listed on Consumer Affairs may indicate one of the problems that may have led many people to dislike Wal-Mart and find them offensive. Someone claimed that Wal-Mart was trying to find an excuse to fire his mother and they claimed that she "chased a customer down in the parking lot to see their receipt." He goes on to say that she doesn't do this because "The store manager made her stop checking the receipts over a year ago when they purged most of the door greeters so there is no way she would now be chasing customers for theirs." This practice is one that I rarely ever saw with the possible exception of when they had reason to suspect that someone was shoplifting, with one exception. In 2010 after receiving a gift card I made several trips to Wal-Mart over the winter and on one of those occasions after leaving the register and heading the relatively short distance to the door someone lurched from one side towards me and said something which at first I didn't understand. Then he muttered something about seeing my receipt and said it's OK you have it in your hand. As he did this he had his eyes averted and didn't look me directly in the eye, nor did he take the time to look closely at the receipt, and then as soon as he was done he lurched away just as fast and asked someone else for there receipt.

He was checking everyone's receipts as if all their customers were potential shoplifters without reason to suspect anyone. By avoiding eye contact it was clear that he seemed like he was little embarrassed to be doing this and he almost certainly got a lot of complaints about it. The only reason that I didn't complain about it is because it happened so fast that I was too surprised to complain and by the time I realized what he was doing he was off so I just moved on. The only time I had ever seen something like this before was when I bought a small appliance once and as I went through the door there was a beep which I wondered about briefly before moving on only to be followed by three employees, running, who asked to see my receipt; apparently the sensor they were supposed to remove from the appliance wasn't removed properly. One of them was the cashier who knew I paid for it and they were all as bashful as this guy seemed, presumably because they almost certainly had numerous problems with false accusations as a result of this corporate policy that is insulting to paying customers; and the employees that are supposed to follow orders probably don't like it either.

I didn't think about it for a while but recently I received another gift card and went there at about the same time of day and week. If they had someone checking receipts now he wouldn't have had to lurch back and forth to check them because there weren't nearly as many customers there and I probably wouldn't have even remembered it if I didn't notice how fast he had to run back and forth to check receipts.

They are almost certainly losing a lot more business due to their bad reputation; another sign that this might be true is that they rarely if ever use their smiley face logo anymore. On most occasions when I see a smiley face logo in relation to Wal-Mart it is almost never complimentary and it is being presented by their critics.

In order for all this propaganda to have an impact it would be much better if it was at least somewhat close to the truth which it isn't and only the most mindless or complacent people might not recognize this.

Also successful propaganda has to avoid scrutiny and prevent others from getting their views across. Wal-Mart may have succeeded in keeping most of the criticism out of the press and the political discussion by pundits; but they haven't kept it out of alternative outlets and the grass roots levels which most people almost certainly trust much more.

If they have to spend too much of their money on propaganda political contributions and what must be a surprising amount of amount of money for "consultants" that seem to be doing a lot of work for Wal-Mart and often get caught only to have Wal-Mart claim that they did this or that on their own, not to mention the enormous amount of money they have to spend on shipping since they no longer get much if anything nearby then they won't have much money to spend on their actual merchandise and it will continue to be crappy and their reputation for selling crap will only get worse.

The number of people who shop at Wal-Mart because they don't have many if any other options is high and many of them don't like it. If they have better options they're much more likely to take them; if they don't and enough people are outraged by them then they're much more likely to act on it and Wal-Mart is going to pay the price for this sooner or later and it is almost certainly going to be sooner considering how many scandals have been reported on them and how much opposition they have already received. Adam Hartung's claim that WalMart's Mexican Bribery Scandal Will Sink It Like an Iceberg Sank the Titanic hasn't come true yet but with an institution that has as many stores as Wal-Mart it can't disappear overnight. Adam Hartung attempts to claim that Wal-mart's problems aren't grass roots organizing efforts, instead they're their business model; but he is a writer for Forbes magazine and might be inclined to defend the business status quo even though he is one of the rare business writers that criticizes Wal-Mart.

This is almost certainly false and if the grass roots organizations recognize this they can do their part to make sure that the business' that follow Wal-Mart don't resume many of the same practices as soon as the public is complacent again.

The following are some related articles that raise more doubts about their advertising campaign or other related material.

Walmart Fires Back At Best Buy, Toys R Us, Defends Ad Campaign

Wal-Mart Ads Tout 'American Success Story' (WSJ)

Walmart's New 'Real' Ad Campaign Hopes to Highlight Chain's Goodwill (Hype)

Ct Consumer Claims WalMart Advertising Falsely

Shoppers accuse Walmart of false advertising (Black Friday hours)

China accuses Wal-Mart of 'deceptive prices'

Wal-Mart Beats False Ad Suit Over Joint Health Supplement

Support The Local Produce Grower: Walmart false advertising on fruits and vegi's

Why is Michelle Obama praising Wal-Mart in Springfield, Mo.?

Rivals: Walmart Plays Loose With the Truth

Walmart Advertising Report

Is Walmart Finished in New York? Greg David Seems to Think So, and That’s Bad for Walmart

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lost city around Angkor Temples found

Archeologists have made a new discovery in Angkor; although I;m not convinced it is being put in the proper perspective by the commercial media.

Laser technology reveals lost city around Angkor Wat
Researchers find vast cityscape hidden under deep vegetation linking the Cambodian temples complex

Airborne laser technology has uncovered a network of roads and canals, illustrating the remains of a bustling ancient city linking Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temples complex.

The discovery was announced late on Monday in a peer-reviewed paper released early by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The laser scanning revealed a previously undocumented formal urban planned landscape integrating the 1,200-year-old temples.

The Angkor temple complex, Cambodia's top tourist destination and one of Asia's most famous landmarks, was constructed in the 12th century. Angkor Wat is a point of deep pride for Cambodians, appearing on the national flag, and was named a Unesco world heritage site.

Archaeologists had long suspected that the city of Mahendraparvata lay hidden beneath a canopy of dense vegetation atop Phnom Kulen mountain in Siem Reap province. But the airborne lasers produced the first detailed map of a vast cityscape, including highways and previously undiscovered temples.

"No one had ever mapped the city in any kind of detail before, and so it was a real revelation to see the city revealed in such clarity," University of Sydney archaeologist Damian Evans, the study's lead author, said by phone from Cambodia. "It's really remarkable to see these traces of human activity still inscribed into the forest floor many, many centuries after the city ceased to function and was overgrown."

The technology, known as lidar, works by firing laser pulses from an aircraft to the ground and measuring the distance to create a detailed, three-dimensional map of the area. It is a useful tool for archaeologists because the lasers can penetrate dense vegetation and cover swaths of ground far faster than they could be analyzed on foot. Lidar has been used to explore other archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge.

In April 2012, researchers loaded the equipment on to a helicopter, which spent days crisscrossing the dense forests from 800 metres above the ground. A team of Australian and French archaeologists then confirmed the findings with an expedition on foot through the jungle.

Archaeologists had already spent years doing ground research to map a 3.5 sq mile section of the city's downtown area. But the lidar revealed the section was much bigger – at least 14 sq miles – and more heavily populated than once believed.

"The real revelation is to find that the downtown area is densely inhabited, formally-planned and bigger than previously thought," Evans said. "To see the extent of things we missed before has completely changed our understanding of how these cities were structured."

Researchers do not yet know why the civilization at Mahendraparvata collapsed. But Evans said one current theory is that possible problems with the city's water management system may have driven people out.

The next step for researchers involves excavating the site, which Evans hopes will reveal clues about how many people once lived in the city. Complete article

One problem that they might have made is relatively minor but it is one that the commercial media repeats over and over again. They implied that Angkor Wat is the name attributed to the larger temple complex. Actually it is the largest of many, and since it is mentioned so much more than many of the others, they often give people the impression that they're talking about Angkor Wat when they are actually taking about some of the others including the Bayon or Angkor Thom which were built after Angkor Wat and they're the ones with the giant faces. This is actually relatively minor but it is typical of the way the commercial media treats everything. One of the things that they mentioned is that it was peer reviewed but anyone that pays enough attention to the way the commercial media covers any given subject might have noticed that just because something is peer reviewed doesn't mean that the article from the media about it was peer reviewed as well or that they presented all the comments that may or may not have come from peers.

The longer article, The lost city, that the AP cites does a little better job putting it into perspective but the more important thing that might be worth considering is their claim that they don't know why the civilization at Mahendraparvata collapsed. This may be technically true but there is enough research into many of these lost civilizations to indicate that many of them almost certainly collapsed for many of the same reasons. This usually involves a combination of corruption, war and internal conflict that often involves class conflict. There is adequate reason to believe that this is almost certainly what happened at Angkor. In fact the enormous amount of effort they put in this, and many other ancient wonders, indicates a major problem that almost certainly contributes to the decline of all these civilizations. Instead of putting their resources into the basic needs of their society they seem to become obsessed with the monuments that we admire today. If they had put the efforts for construction to other purposes they could have prevented their own decline. Ironically the leading theory they provide is the impact on the environment and the water management system; this may have been a contributing factor then but as far as I can tell they had more water available to them than many other lost civilizations and the environmental damage wasn't nearly as bad as it is now. war and internal conflict seem far more likely as an explanation.

Like many of the ancient Egyptian temples the people that built them weren't allowed back in to the temples once their work was done. These temples were reserved for the use of the elites of their society; the servants that worked for them afterwards weren't allowed to stay in the temples when they weren't working. This means that they had to know that there was more to find so this wasn't too big of a surprise since the workers had to live somewhere if they weren't allowed in the temples.

Many of these ancient wonders clearly indicate an incredible amount of knowledge and skill that were used for purposes that were often not in the best interest of their societies as a whole although they may have helped those that led them to maintain control of their people; but that control and lack of considerations for the necessities of the majority may have led to their collapse. Downplaying or misrepresenting the reasons for their collapse passes up on an opportunity to remind many people that we are making many of the same mistakes that many of these other ancient civilizations made centuries ago as i indicated previously in a recent post about 107 Wonders of the Ancient World.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Is “Prism” news? or is it ECHELON?

By now most people have heard the "new" disclosure of "Prism;" but for the most part there is little or no mention of the possibility that this program is virtually identical to ECHELON which was reported years ago; in fact it was exposed before the attacks on 9/11 or even when George Bush was inaugurated president. Anyone that takes a close look at this would almost certainly come to the conclusion that they're very similar if not virtually the same thing and perhaps that the biggest thing that is news isn't that the program was exposed but that they're covering it in a high profile manner, and that they're making a major appeal to emotions that is getting much more attention.

The vast majority of the coverage in the commercial media about this clearly seems to imply that this program is a few years old and that it was created after the attacks on 9/11; yet this almost certainly isn't true. ECHELON was created first and then after 9/11 they passed laws that made it legal without reminding the public that this was already in place. This was previously reported in several outlets, including an article in the National Geographic although none of them were nearly as high profile as the coverage that is going on now. The way they covered it in the past was, mostly to ignore it when possible or to refuse to acknowledge or deny the existence of this program. Some other countries admitted that they participated in it; but it received so little coverage that only a fraction of the public knew about it. One notable exception was when it apparently appeared on 60 Minutes in 2000 (for transcript of segment see and there wasn't nearly as much hype surrounding it nor was the whistle blower threatened with prosecution as Edward Snowden is now being threatened. Mike Frost disclosed most if not all the same material that Edward Snowden covered except for the possibility that they have apparently been searching Google and Facebook, but these two companies weren't nearly as big, if they existed at all at the time. Expanding the program to cover this would have been predictable and the way it was described was a blanket surveillance program that would have covered most if not all internet activity anyway so even though they didn't directly report on this they did so indirectly.

This didn't end there; apparently in 2002 George Bush attempted to implement a program, "Total Information Awareness" promoted by John M. Poindexter, who was involved in the Iran Contra scandal that did virtually the same thing, only with a different name. However when this was exposed it was supposedly abandoned, although ECHELON was already in place. This makes absolutely no sense; they try to start a program, that for all practical purposes is already up and running under another name, then claim that they're abandoning it while ECHELON is still running meaning that it isn't actually being abandoned at all.

Additional whistle blowers have also been cited including a couple that blew the whistle on Nightline in 2008; these two didn't mention ECHELON nor did the reporters, as far as I know and they implied that this began after 9/11. As far as I know they weren't persecuted anymore than Mike Frost was; nor did they receive nearly as much attention. This was reported in a low profile manner and the vast majority of the public hardly paid any attention and didn't even notice that they were reporting similar stories as if they were isolated incidents and they seemed to start all over each time as if it was the first time one of these stories is being exposed.

And furthermore since this has happened several times before and when they were reported they just downplayed them and they went away many people in power virtually had to know that if they did the same thing it would be virtually guaranteed that they could get the same results. Yet they chose not to and it is being blown up into a much bigger story.

What this may mean is that the only thing that is new about the disclosure of this information is the amount of coverage they're providing and the way they're providing it and that they're doing it with much more appeal to emotion and an attempt to intimidate people; and intentionally or not they are actually stirring up much more opposition from a large segment of the public and this was predictable with the information they had beforehand. Someone has started a White House petition asking to "Pardon Edward Snowden" and it already has more than 68,000 signatures as of now; and will almost certainly have much more by the time I finish writing this. (There is a second petition requesting that they Let Glenn Greenwald Interview President Obama About The NSA which I also recommend even though I have doubts about the coverage.)

The fact that there is so much opposition to this program is great; but there is something wrong with the way they're presenting this and the possibility that even the alternative media outlets aren't reporting the whole truth or mentioning ECHELON, or at least not the highest profile alternative media outlets. If they thought this through they would have predicted that the public would have been opposed to this and that they would have faced an enormous amount of resistance; yet they took positions that would clearly antagonize many of their constituents. One of the more ironic examples is the supposedly "liberal" Senator Feinstein; who once declared, as mayor of San Francisco, that she thought the public had the right to know when there is something going on to justify disclosing information about the "Night Stalker," who later turned out to be Richard Ramirez. The information she disclosed wasn't limited to the possibility that he could be in the San Francisco area but it also included the fact that the police knew he had size 11 Reebok and they had a mold of it for potential prosecution purposes. This fact did absolutely nothing to protect the public but it enabled Richard Ramirez to know that he should dispose of the sneakers which were never recovered. Diane Feinstein has displayed an incredible lack of discretion when it comes to recognizing what the public should have a right to know and what will only interfere with an investigation.

It may not seem obvious to anyone that isn't familiar with this but the failure to mention ECHELON indicates what should be considered a major blunder and there are some people who have clearly recognized this although they don't seem to have access to the commercial media. One of these includes the author of To the Guardian – why PRISM? ECHELON has been around since 1948 supported by US, UK, Canada, Australia; who doesn't seem entirely opposed to spying as well as many other people that are often refereed to as "conspiracy theorists" implying that they're irrational fringe people. this is sometimes justified but some of them do a much better job checking the facts and even some of the less rational ones occasionally get things right. If you Google "Prism ECHELON" you'll find there are plenty of people that have already made this connection and the reporters investigating this almost certainly have known this would happen and reported on it for those who haven't. When there is an important fact like this in a diverse media there should be an opportunity for someone to get that message to a large segment of the public once it is recognized as important; but those that recognize it's importance have no access to the mass media and those that do ignore it. Not only that but Edward Snowden almost certainly should have known this as well. Yet they aren't mentioning it at all, as far as I can tell.

So far it clearly indicates an enormous amount of what I would consider incompetence at best but there is more that is worth considering; and I suspect that it might go beyond incompetence. As I indicated the fact that they would receive an enormous amount of opposition from the public was predictable to the government as well as those that are reporting it; yet the government isn't doing the best they could to minimize the opposition they indicate they're opposed and, as far as I can tell, the "alternative media reporters" aren't exposing this in the most effective way possible with the resources that they have.

In my opinion this looks like an enormous amount of theater being played out for one reason or another and I suspect that when it is all said and done it won't be for the reasons that most people seem to think it is for right now. A lot of this seems to present him as either a "hero or a traitor" but I'm not sure he is either. The alternative media outlets are playing into the hands of the government when trying to claim, or imply, that this program came after 9/11, which is clearly not the case. the government is feeding the enormous response by addressing it so incompetently; and I suspect that some people that are familiar enough with the CIA and their typical practices as reported in many of the articles and books about them might have some questions about what Edward Snowden is doing and why he chose to do this, and whether he was truly and "ex-CIA agent." the CIA is well known for continuing to deal with so called "ex-CIA agents," and many of them almost certainly aren't retired from the CIA at all.

One of these "ex-CIA" agents is Bob Baer who has written at least two books on the CIA and become a TV pundit. He has been critical of the CIA at times but if he was too critical they almost certainly wouldn't allow him to have that much media access. His material is almost certainly authorized. He has claimed that Edward Snowden should be prosecuted; however he has also provided some testimony in one of his books that might raise doubts about whether he really left at all and support the assumption that the CIA encourages people to stay on for their career for life. He wrote about how much it costs to train a CIA agent before he can be sent out into the field and it is a lot, perhaps at least a quarter million dollars plus enough money to support his activities once he gets started. This indicates that what ever they do is extremely expensive and inefficient and when you consider how much incompetence they have been involved in and how much their activities have backfired in many cases there should be doubts about their effectiveness.

Furthermore they don't normally admit to being CIA agents or there not supposed to according to most reports; in fact there have been some people who have even claimed that there is no such thing as an "ex-CIA agent," implying that they're all really still working for the CIA. I find this extremely hard to believe but it is apparently still the case that many of these so-called "ex-CIA agents" haven't really left the CIA at all and they almost certainly wouldn't have hired him at Booz Allen Hamilton if he left on suspicious terms. Another problem is that several of the whistleblowers from the CIA in the past have indicated that the CIA likes to hire people with the expectation that they would be with them for life although I'm reasonably certain that this isn't always the way it works out. It would probably be very unusual for someone to leave while they were so young however it might not be nearly so unusual for them to take on another job under cover, which is supposedly routine for the CIA; which implies the possibility that the job at Booz Allen Hamilton might have been his cover but for some reason it isn't being reported that way.

Another thing that the people at the CIA almost certainly must be considering, assuming they're able to think rationally is the possibility that there might be major reform coming and if there isn't then the current course of action that they've been carrying out is virtually guaranteed to backfire on everyone including them,selves.

Essentially it seems as if they might be in a situation where they figuratively have a tiger by the tail and they don't know how to let it go.

We're in the process of major protests all over the world and there is an enormous amount of major issues that need to be addressed, including environmental destruction, endless war, economic inequality and many other things. If there isn't some major reform then they won't be addressed and many of the most important decisions will continue to be handled by the ideological fanatics currently in power.

Under the current circumstances our economic and political system, either in the government or the private sector seems to be increasing the amount of expenditures that we spend on things that don't benefit the majority of society while cutting the expenditures that do.

We're increasing the amount spent on war, espionage, propaganda, prosecuting those that expose this while letting those off the hook that are involved in torture, advertising, shipping products half way around the world and many other things. For every "terrorist" we kill we alienate more people creating more potential terrorists. this system didn't prevent the Boston Bombings or many other attracts; instead it almost certainly antagonized them.

At the same time we're cutting the budget for schools especially in low income areas and they're increasing the budgets for prisons in many of those same areas. A longer list of false priorities would indicate many more problems.

If a collapse of the current society is inevitable without reform and they know it then they almost certainly have to support some kind of reform although they may not want more than they have to but if it is too much then they could be held accountable for it. If they have to have some kind of reform then wouldn't it be reasonable to believe that they would want to control, or at least partially control, it?

This almost certainly is not be the first time someone from the CIA disclosed some of their information when they didn't have to and possibly mixed it in with misinformation. As I explained in a previous post about Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect and Stanford Prison Experiment I have reason to suspect that he might have been conducting research for the CIA. He has admitted to doing some of his work with funding from the Office of Naval Research which Alfred McCoy believes has been used as a front for CIA work in the past. He has indicated that he thought that Philip Zimbardo's classmate, Stanley Milgram, was also doing work for them along with their professor in the 1950's, Irving Janis who researched "Groupthink." Philip Zimbardo was involved in the obedience to authority experiments that Alfred McCoy cited and his other experiments clearly seem to be related. As indicated in the blog cited I have reason to suspect that Philip Zimbardo disclosed a lot of information that he didn't have to if he was trying to keep it as secret as possible and use the manipulation tactics that he was researching; but at the same time he was also using the same manipulation tactic and presenting himself as an authority figure.

If he was trying to disclose things in the most effective and trustworthy way possible this wouldn't be the way to do it; however if he wanted to keep it hidden so that they could continue indoctrinating people without their knowledge it wouldn't help to tech them their tactics since many people might recognize that he is using it against them. This led me to consider the possibility that they might be preparing for possible disclosure at some point but at the same time it indicates that they can't be trusted to do so and that everything has to be carefully fact checked.

Now some of you must think that I'm starting to sound like an absurd fringe "conspiracy theorist," and that this is absurd. If so I certainly agree that it is absurd, and I certainly don't consider this possible explanation to be a strong conspiracy theory without additional back up. However just because it is absurd doesn't mean that it is factually flawed or false; anyone that has been paying attention to the news for the past few years might have noticed that an enormous amount of what they've been presenting to the public is completely absurd. With all the experience that these politicians and media people have are we supposed to believe that they can't conduct a better scam than what they did when they presented the most recent batch of Republican presidential candidates. Did anyone watch all those debates and avoid coming to the conclusion that many of these candidates are absurd, or that many of the other things that have been going on in the news aren't absurd; and yet just because they're absurd we're still supposed to believe them.

That doesn't mean there aren't flaws with this assumption or that there is more than circumstantial evidence and speculation to back it up but one way or another they would like to control the disclosure of the information if they could and the media has behaved in a manner that has given it an enormous amount of attention when they could have easily avoided it and they have done so on many occasions in the past.

If partial or controlled reform and perhaps disclosure was your objective would this be the way you would have done it? It's certainly not the way I would have done it; but the more important question is is it the way the people at the CIA would do it? Seems unlikely if they're acting rationally but if they're acting rationally and this is the way they accomplish their goals what could their goals possibly be? I can't think of any possible answer which opens the possibility for irrational goals and methods and there are an enormous amount of stories about that which have leaked over the years.

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall reported on what she considers 'The CIA And The “Left” Gatekeepers' (This was also reported on Open Salon on her blog in April of 2011.); this explains how the CIA has been partially influencing the left progressive news outlets. The full details are uncertain and they almost certainly aren't conducting some of the most extreme activities through outlets like Democracy Now or the Guardian; but it might be possible that they have been able to influence their coverage in other ways. This could conceivably explain why they would avoid covering things that they might consider inconvenient ahead of schedule at least. If they expose this then they had to know that people would eventually figure out that this is ignoring ECHELON and many other activities but it would enable them to control a large portion of the debate at least for a little while.

If they're controlling the debate then they could be disclosing information when and only when it suits their purposes and it could put them in a position to implement as much reform and only as much reform as they want to prevent this from backfiring on them if possible; or if they don't think they could completely control it then they could at least minimize or avoid any repercussions if they control the disclosure of some of this information, which they may not be able to completely control indefinitely.

This would also enable them to continue debating it as if this program was developed after 9/11 for what ever reason they might have in mind. Also they may know what else is coming that might follow it and they might not want to disclose any more than they have to at least until it suits their purposes. One thing they might not want to expose if possible or at least not until their ready is the full involvement of many of the individuals and companies that will inevitably be exposed if the discussion of this eventually leads to many more disclosures. This might even lead to the disclosure of how a lot of this technology was developed and it might not be the way many people have been led to believe.

In "The Day After Roswell" Philip Corso claims that a lot of technology that was developed since World War II was done so with the help of what they call "reverse engineering;" which means that he claims that they found alien technology and studied it and learned how to replicate it. quite frankly there are a lot of problems with this hypothesis, or at least the way he presents it and I wouldn't assume that there is anything to it without further back up; however it might be worth considering the possibility that this might be partially close to the truth.

Philip Corso provides a theory that involves aliens that have come here to invade us and he concludes that we could easily beat them at the end of the book and it includes a certain amount of cold war paranoia or at least it seems to; however if there is something to this it is almost certainly full of an enormous amount of disinformation as well as the discussion that accompanied it in the UFO community. This seems to be standard operating procedure when discussing UFOs in a high profile manner. If you watch enough of it you will find a lot of colossal blunders by both the "believers" and the "skeptics." It is hard to understand why the "skeptics" would make so many blunders if they truly were as scientific as they often claim to be. With all the blunders that the "believers" make it often seems as if the strongest evidence they have that will stand up to scrutiny is that their opponents have blundered a lot too.

One of the UFO researchers, and believers, that many people consider the most credible is Stanton Freidman, and he claims that he doesn't find Philip Corso to be credible at all; however when he is trying to make his case for UFOs he often criticizes certain tactics they use but when he criticizes Philip Corso he uses some of these same tactics. this is typical of the disinformation in the UFO debate. This doesn't prove anything except that the subject isn't being handled well at all, at least when it comes to the high profile presentation of it. this doesn't mean that we should come to the conclusion that they are real or not; but it does mean that we should research it in a scientific manner not with all hype and misinformation before coming to conclusions.

However if there was some truth to it then either they would want to disclose it eventually or they wouldn't. If they did want to disclose it then they might want to control that disclosure; and if they had additional activities that they wanted to consider that couldn't be done after disclosure then they wouldn't want the disclosure to interfere with it.

If this is true then the use of the technology that they received whether it was through "reverse engineering" or something else seems as if it might include many other technologies that have been developed fast over the past few decades including cloning and Genetic engineering or genetically modified crops including Monsanto. According to Philip Corso, "General Trudeau encouraged me to start contacting plastics and ceramics manufacturers, especially Monsanto;" which if it were considered would raise some serious questions about where Monsanto get their technology; not just the technology that Philip Corso, but additional technology that might not be discussed in the book. It should also raise major doubts about whether Monsanto has any justification for the extreme claims they make for "intellectual property;" even if they did develop this technology on their own or still had to do a lot of development research to relearn it then their claims for "intellectual property" rights are still being taken too far. This is also discussed in Ohio Company Linked To Alien Tech, Informant Says

This disclosure, assuming there is something to it, would also indicate that the first use for most of this technology was almost always to increase control of the authoritarians, not for benevolent purposes; although it could be used for benevolent purposes if it was exposed. Actually this would also be true about the development of the technology if it without any help from aliens at all as well; but if it is with their help one way or another they wouldn't be benevolent nor would they be the military threat that many make them out to be since if they were they would have already conducted their military activities directly.

You think this hypothesis is so ridiculous it isn't worth considering that it is close to the truth?

One problem with that hypothesis is that something just as ridiculous is the version of the truth that is being presented by the commercial media and the government;. a reasonable amount of skepticism is understandable and advised; but this should also go for the official truth, which isn't adding up.

Even if the UFO hypothesis is false there is still a problem with the coverage they've been providing for the Prism program and that would mean there is another explanation; and this should be exposed with thorough peer review.

The following are some related articles including some that were used as sources.

NSA Bombshell Story Falling Apart Under Scrutiny; Key Facts Turning Out to Be Inaccurate

ECHELON: Exposing the Global Surveillance System

The continuing attempts to SILENCE US on the net. Tim Berners-Lee.

ECHELON intercept station at Menwith Hill, England.

Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

NSA scandal: what data is being monitored and how does it work?

Edward Snowden, NSA files source: 'If they want to get you, in time they will'

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

The Progressive Review

Inside the NSA: America's Cyber Secrets Welcome to the NSA

Prism, Echelon, Unlimited Data Mining, the NSA, Where Did it Start?

Forget PRISM – ECHELON The Real Threat To Our Privacy!

Edward Snowden Beware: How Spooks Smear Whistleblowers

"Inside the Company: CIA Diary." by Philip Agee

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ben Jealous’ “Truth and Reconciliation” proposal needs work

Ben Jealous recently made a call for a "Truth and reconciliation commission" on democracy Now! I have also thought that we should consider what I refereed to as a possible "Truth and education commission;" however I thought it should be considered carefully and that we should also review past "Truth and reconciliation commissions" and perhaps revise them as well and learn from their mistakes.

Past "Truth and reconciliation commissions" may have been accompanied by conditions that were too extreme and included Constitutions that give corporations certainly long term protection that they might not have deserved and these should be revised. Some of these conditions may have been made without all the knowledge that the people might have needed to make decisions and some of this knowledge may have come out during the commission or after it but they would still be committed to some of the conditions. Some of this should have been subject to renegotiation when they had the information they needed to make these decisions. To decline to do this would be similar to negotiating under unreasonable duress.

Glen Ford has also raised some legitimate concerns in the following article.

Ben Jealous’ Obscene “Truth and Reconciliation” Proposal by Glen Ford

NAACP president Ben Jealous wants to start a “truth and reconciliation” process in the U.S. – before political prisoners are freed, while mass incarceration devastates Black families and communities, and when Blacks are murdered by the state every 28 hours. Jealous’ “talk of reconciliation is an obscene diversion from reality.”

NAACP chief Ben Jealous hasn’t taken a position on Assata Shakur, the exiled former Black Panther who President Obama’s FBI has elevated to Domestic Terrorist Number One – despite the fact that the grandmother has spent the last 29 years living peacefully in Cuba. Yes, Jealous knows that Shakur was a political prisoner before her escape, charged in the 1973 death of a New Jersey policeman. He told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman that he thinks the NAACP will have to take a position on Shakur’s case at some point, and that he also feels for the families of the cops who died in New Jersey and in the Brinks robbery, in New York, in 1981. Jealous says he’s most interested in healing the nation from the effects of what he calls “politically motivated violence, on both sides.” What’s needed, he claims, is a kind of “truth and reconciliation commission.”

Ben Jealous’s clear reference is to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, convened in Cape Town, in 1996, by a multiracial cast of notables led by Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Commission’s powers were limited to granting amnesty to perpetrators, or offering rehabilitation and reparations to victims. The hearings were quite controversial from the very start, and ultimately produced no political consensus among the races that justice was served. Complete article at Black Agenda Report

I wouldn't go so far as to refer to Ben Jealous’ “Truth and Reconciliation” as Obscene but Glen Ford still has some legitimate points. Proposal The South African "Truth and reconciliation commission" did reduce the violence that was going on at the time and it did produce some degree of reconciliation but it came at a long term cost which they should not be committed to indefinitely since they agreed to it without adequate information to make important decisions. the Obama administration is still unwilling to discuss it and they continue to take activities that indicate that they aren't sincere about real reform; this includes the imprisonment of a large number of minorities that don't have adequate opportunities to participate in society and the economic system. In many cases these minorities are being imprisoned with a lower standard of proof than many Caucasians; and even when they aren't they often don't have the same opportunities so in some cases they inevitably turn to crime due to the fact that they can't get by otherwise.

The government continues to let white collar criminals off the hook without much if any scrutiny even though a close look at them would indicate that they often target those with the least amount of political power including minorities. They also continue to conduct activities related to civil rights of Africans as well as other minorities, some at the state level others international, including stop and frisk, disproportionate profiling of minorities, drone strikes, indefinite detentions and many other things.

Any formal "Truth and reconciliation" or "education commission" should be accompanied to an end to these things and most importantly if they involve some degree of immunity or promise of leniency for those with political power they should also offer this to those without and they should let those go that have been imprisoned on trivial basis. This should not involve conditions that virtually gazetteer that once we go through a "Truth and reconciliation commission" and it becomes clear that the most powerful people in this country have been looting us blind that they get to keep the loot they've been stealing from us. It should allow for some consideration of compensation although it might not be unreasonable to provide some guarantee that they won't face death penalty or perhaps long prison sentences without reasonable consideration for their cooperation. It is unlikely that they would cooperate if they were only going to face excessive punishment or what they consider excessive punishment; however many of those in power should be very cautious when they continue to advocate for strict punishments, including the death penalty, of those without political power, since in the event of real reform those positions could be turned around against them.

There are many other things that should be considered before agreeing to formal conditions for some kind of "Truth and reconciliation commission," this include the possibility that some of the "progressives" presented by the commercial media, including Ben Jealous, avoid discussing some of the most important issues, perhaps to avoid being shunned by the commercial media. However there is one important thing that Glen ford seems to have overlooked; what Ben Jealous said was, "some sort of truth and reconciliation commission" or that "can start a conversation about a truth and reconciliation commission." I would consider this quite reasonable as long as the conversation isn't controlled by the commercial media and the political establishment along with some of those that they consider acceptable "progressives."

In order for this to work, ideally it should be taken out of the hands of the commercial media and put into the hands of a much more diverse segment of society where many more people can participate. this would mean that people like Glen Ford and many others should have their chance to express their views before a long term agreement is put in place.

This discussion can't happen quickly and rushing into a formal "Truth and reconciliation commission" would be foolish and it could potentially lead to a "Reconciliation and Capitulation Commission" as Glen ford fears if it is done without input from a diverse group of people and adequate efforts to address their concerns. This is why I initially indicated, in my "Truth and education commission;" post, that even without a formal "Truth and reconciliation commission" we can continue to expose as much information as possible, and fact check them without conditions.

The recent disclosures about the "Prism" program are a clear sign that they aren't prepared to cooperate in a formal "Truth and reconciliation commission" now and it also indicates that they haven't adequately fact checked this program which is supposedly a new disclosure. this is clearly not true since the "Prism" program seems to be identical or almost identical to the ECHELON program which was exposed years ago. a closer consideration of this will almost certainly raise more doubts about the government as well as the people reporting on it as if it is news which I will go into more in a follow up post.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Coming soon real reform ….. or book burning? Genocide?

Anyone that relies on the traditional commercial media outlets for their information might be aware of the fact that there have been a fair amount of protest movements making the news but they almost certainly won't be familiar with the majority of the details that people are protecting about or how much protests are going on around the world. In order to find out more about this it appears necessary to become familiar with a lot of different alternative media outlets that do a much better job reporting on this even with much fewer resources; or become familiar with where to find good non-fiction books that report on many of the corrupt activities that government and corporations have been conducting.

Most of the biggest frauds don't involve well kept secrets; there are hundreds of books exposing them. Unfortunately the commercial media doesn't report on them much if at all so only those that either take the time to read up on these or those that have help from others, at the grass roots level, who pass this information on to them would be familiar with them. These books include many reports exposing the lies that we have been fighting wars over; books that consider different ideas about fiscal ideology; books that expose many corporate frauds; books exposing methods corporations use to market to people starting at childhood and how it is interfering with eduction; books exposing CIA tactics and environmental destruction and much more. There are literally dozens of books about Wal-Mart alone and although many of them are puff pieces that have almost certainly been at least partially influenced by Wal-Mart executives many more are quite well done and there are a growing number of people that are reading these books and learning about all the corruption that is going on. this would be the same for many other subjects; but the most reliable sources do the best job backing up their claims so once they're subjected to scrutiny, assuming it is fair and accurate they will prove to be the most credible.

Many of the people involved in these protests seem to be familiar with at least some of them and they're trying to get their views across to a growing number of people. The government and the media continue to pretend this isn't happening and they continue to act even more incompetent and dysfunctional. With all this corruption going on and escalating environmental destruction, poverty and military activities based on lies the number of people being effected by it directly is growing and so complacency is shrinking. Also many of these scandals can't go on indefinitely; for example Enron played shell games but they were involved in something similar to a Ponzi scam so it eventually had to become so big that it collapsed; the same went for many other scandals including Bernie Madoff, Bear Stearn's and many others. It is a matter of time before it happens with some of the other bigger scandals. Wal-Mart has already cut so many corners that their products have become so pathetic that their complaints are much higher than most people realize and the damage being done by pollution from the energy companies is much worse. Environmental damage has been escalating throughout the world in areas where there is little or no political power and this can't go on forever especially with the escalation of natural disasters going on.

Current policies being implemented simply can't go on indefinitely and there are alternatives although the commercial media isn't covering them. The inevitable result may be that eventually, perhaps sooner rather than later, we will have to implement major reforms and make many of the most important decisions on rational facts, or at least the closet thing we can come to or there will be an escalation in the destruction of the environment and democratic system.

If the current establishment wants to avoid this then they are going to have to escalate efforts to suppress information and it could lead to an escalating amount of censorship or at least attempts to censor. In fact there is some indication that this has already happening, although a lot of it is incompetent and it has backfired at least when it comes to those that have paid attention to the alternative media outlets that have exposed these attempts. Escalating the denial of reasons why "terrorists" keep attacking us could lead to an escalating amount of violence as well; and if some of the most extreme factions have their way, which fortunately I don't expect, violence against opponents will continue to incite more violence until it escalates so much that when ever we successfully kill a "terrorist" two or more will be incited so it won't end until either we rethink things or we wipe out all of the opposing view points through violence.

My best guess is that these two extremes won't happen or they won't get to far before a growing number of people start speaking out against them. In fact this is already happening and some of it is slowly making it's way into the the commercial media although the best material remains only in alternative outlets. A more likely possibility is that some of the "progressives," as presented by the commercial media attempt to implement a token amount of reform and give credit, primarily to those high profile "progressives" that the commercial media presents to us without acknowledging most of the grass roots protests that has slowly made it clear that without even that token amount of reform the commercial media would lose the last shreds of credibility that they have left.

There are numerous signs that they're already trying to do this. One of the clearer of these signs is a Melissa Harris Perry propaganda piece where she talks about how her daddy used to close his notes to her by saying, "the struggle continues." Her take on this is that we constantly try to reform things and we get a little done at a time and keep on trying, or something like that. "But what" this propaganda "means and what I've taken as my own" is that by repeating this message over and over again without providing an enormous amount of higher quality reporting she is setting herself up to take credit for changes along with other "progressives" from the commercial media and attempting to prepare the public to settle for the moderate changes that they present to us, without pushing for the more extensive reforms that we need due to the extreme positions that our government has been taking and the enormous amount of environmental damage that is already escalating and other social and economic problems including a major deterioration in constitutional rights already going on.

Many alternative media outlets have clearly indicated that there are opportunities for major reforms, not just the token ones that the "progressives" presented by the commercial media have promoted; and if they had their chance to get their views across to the majority there would be a good chance of implementing them.

One of the most blatant examples of how incompetent the commercial media has become is how much time it sells to the oil companies that have been putting about an enormous amount of propaganda presenting themselves as good corporate citizens that are concerned about our economy and protecting the environment and how little coverage they present about the enormous amount of environmental damage they've been causing. Real environmentalists don't have much if any chance to present their views on the commercial media, due to the fact that, for all practical purposes, the truth according to the commercial media is for sale to the highest bidder regardless of the facts. In all fairness they do occasionally cover some of the accidents when they occur; but they don't cover them nearly as well as they could or should; and they certainly don't provide the public with a well organized list of the enormous volume of these accidents; instead what they do is report them one at a time as isolated incidents and most people forget the vast majority of them before the next one happens so they don't realize how many there are. On at least one occasion I did a search of the internet that was far from complete and quickly built up a surprising list of oil spills or tanker explosions and listed them on the blog post BP is just the tip of the iceberg. this only lists a fraction of the oil explosions and there are many other types of environmental damages that could be further reported and they would easily turn up as much damage for them as well by searching for things like deforestation, coal disasters, nuclear disasters and many other types of pollution. (Additional blogs of mine that cover this include Environmental Apocalypse and Natural Born Killers of the Planet; and of course many environmental outlets report much more on the subject.)

However on at least one occasion when three of the organizations much fewer resources attempted to get their view across with a much lower budget that could only buy a small amount of air time the commercial media was intimidated by a possible law suit from ExxonMobil as reported by Marcia G. Yerman in “ExxonMobil Hates Your Children” and This Ad. If you look at it technically ExxonMobil almost certainly doesn't hate children; however they care much more about their profits than the lives of children, many of which continue to die as a result of the pollution they cause and many more of which will die in the future if they continue business as usual. the result is that ExxonMobil and the other oil companies can continue dictating their version of the truth to the public without much if any opposing views assuming the public relies solely on the commercial media for information. However as these stories get out it becomes increasingly obvious that the public clearly can't rely on the commercial media for their information and they're losing the last of their credibility.

This is just one of many examples where they have attempted to suppress the truth and to some degree they succeed, at least when it comes to what they present in the commercial media but every time they do this it is reported in alternative media outlet and the commercial media loses a little more credibility. Sometime this even happens when it comes to outlets that are considered alternative media outlets like Facebook which was forced to restore a couple accounts and they were exposed for extreme censorship attempts. This was reported in Facebook Censors Freedom Of Expression - Mom Who Protests Genetically-Modified Food which cites Facebook wages censorship war against moms of autistic children who protest GMOs: Exclusive interview with Andrea Lalama. The account is now apparently back up with explanations about how they were censored at "Reversing Autism" by Andrea Lalama (Facebook) A similar incident occurred with Natural News' account when Facebook bans Gandhi quote as part of revisionist history purge and they had to restore that account as well. the fact that they aren't completely suppressing these incidents indicates that it is backfiring in the long run although in the short run they may have some degree of success with those that still rely on the commercial media.

Similar incidents may eventually backfire when it comes to the way they continue to fight the so-call "war on terror;" although in this cases the short term repercussions could lead to potential divisions that could have serious results that many might not recognize as easily for emotional reasons; but fortunately many others do recognize this and they're attempting to point out the double standards of our government. One example of this is the recent Woolwich incident where two "terrorists" ran down a soldier and hacked him to death.

Glenn Greenwald raised some difficult questions about whether or not this should be considered terrorism if we use a consistent definition of terrorism in, Was the London killing of a British soldier 'terrorism'? One of his doubts is based on the assumption that terrorism is defined as attacking civilians that aren't involved in combat and since this soldier was involved in combat he doesn't fit the category but when we kill their civilians one way or another it is called "collateral damage." He allows for other definitions of terrorism but no matter which one you pick there is a problem of a double standard when they apply it one way to them and a different way to us. He also indicates that they clearly won't overlook the double standard so if we continue to then this problem will only escalate and we will never end this "war on terrorism" without either reconsidering our tactics or escalating to genocide eventually. Fortunate sine there are enough people, at least in some of the alternative outlets, speaking out about this, hopefully more rational views will be considered before it is too late. Mark Crispin Miller was also little more blunt when he changed the title to the same article to “Why do they hate us?” Because we keep killing them, stupid!

Even though there tactics were clearly unjustified and other tactics would be far more effective when enough people participate in them, they got one thing right our so-called leaders "don’t care about" about us.

“We swear by Almighty Allah, we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. The only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We apologize that woman had to see this today, but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you.” Complete article

If our government did care about us as much as they imply with their propaganda they wouldn't be giving us all this propaganda without allowing opposing views to have a fair chance to explain some of the inconvenient facts that the government and the commercial media don't cover adequately. If they cared as much as the implied they wouldn't give overwhelming preferential treatment to corporations that are involved in epidemic levels of corporate fraud, or use this amazing double standard when it comes to defining terrorism and rights to free speech and many other things. When Mayor Bloomberg spoke about the letter recently sent to him he claimed that he felt safe and that there were always some kind of threats; this is presumably because he has access to an enormous amount of security to defend him, which the vast majority of us don't have. He isn't the only one with enormous amounts of security, of course, many of the other business leaders and politicians that make all the decisions also have an enormous amount of security so they don't have to worry to much about these death threats.

The soldiers that they hire to do all their fighting for them don't have all that security nor do most citizens. In fact the people with the least say in how our government usually have the least amount of protection. the government provides much more protection to those with political power even when they're involved in an enormous amount of white collar crime, or some times even worse, when they provide funds for violent regimes like the oil companies and many other corporations that deal with violent dictators. When there soldiers do leave they don't receive nearly as much help whether it is security or access to employment or even health care and many of them are left homeless. First they recruit people with few choices, partly due to the infective economic system, then they indoctrinate them and train them to follow orders based on lies; then when they no longer have a use for them they abandon them. In many cases like in Abu Ghraib when they do follow orders based on lies they even leave them to take the blame without holding those that gave the orders accountable.

We're supposed to believe that an establishment that behaves like this cares about us?

This "terrorist" was right about the fact that they don't care about us but that doesn't mean that his methods ale likely to work; in fact they run a major risk of escalating the conflicts and there are many in power that might be inclined to try to use this as an excuse to clamp down violently against many dissenters, possibly even the peaceful ones which they have demonstrated that they don't care about either be continuing to ignore them.

When Michael Moore said "I am outraged that we can't kill people in other counties without them trying to kill us!" he had a major point as indicated by some of the examples that Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his article and many more that those who keep up with alternative media outlets might be aware of. One the responses to this said, "Look Michael unless we are killing them for the wrong reasons, I really don't want to hear about it." this might be more common among many closed minded people that have been paying to much attention to the propaganda; and the clear response to this is that we are "killing them for the wrong reasons," and if this person was paying attention he would know it.

Unfortunately he isn't alone; since then there have been anti-Muslim protests that don't seem to acknowledge these inconvenient facts. If to many people increase the opposition and violence against Muslims and others that disagree with us it could only escalate and, if unchecked, it could even lead to genocide; fortunately as I said before I don't expect this to happen but the reason is because there are plenty of people like Glen Greenwald and Michael Moore speaking out about it and even though they don't have as much air time as the commercial media I suspect that in the end they will eventually get their views across and many of them will stand up to scrutiny.

There is an enormous amount of news in alternative media outlets that could provide alternatives to the current situation and if enough people read them or for those less inclined to read them if they have help from sincere people who do and relay some of this information to them then there could be a major opportunity for reform. If they don't then it could deteriorate badly. this isn't the first time we have wound up in a similar situation but many people aren't doing a very good job learning from history. Harry Truman recognized some of these same problems in 1950 when he made the following statements as part of a speech to congress; unfortunately not all of his policies avoided panic but some of them at least tried to.

photo source

Harry S. Truman: Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States. August 8, 1950

Soon after our Government began functioning under the Constitution, there was enacted, in 1798, the group of legislative acts known as the Alien and Sedition Laws. These laws were ostensibly designed to prevent activities which would undermine the Nation's safety and independence. But in fact they were broad enough--and were used--to imprison many leading citizens, including a Member of Congress, who expressed disagreement with the policies of the Administration then in office.

The Alien and Sedition Laws were so repugnant to the free spirit of our people that they played an important part in the disappearance of the Federalist Party, which sponsored them, and the objectionable features of these laws were shortly repealed or allowed to expire. That experience taught us a great lesson: that extreme and arbitrary security measures strike at the very heart of our free society, and that we must be eternally vigilant against those who would undermine freedom in the name of security.

Since the time of the Alien and Sedition Laws, there have been recurrent periods-especially in wartime-when the safety of our Nation has been in danger. Each of these occasions has confronted us with a new set of conditions, to which we have had to adjust our internal security laws and procedures.

At the same time, each of these periods of danger has been seized on by those who, in good faith or bad, would severely limit the freedom of our people in a misguided attempt to gain greater security. As we look back now, we can see that there have been certain times when we have, to some extent, repudiated our own ideals of freedom in an excess of zeal for our safety. Nevertheless, it is a tribute to the strong faith and common sense of our people that we have never for long been misled by the hysterical cries of those who would suppress our Constitutional freedoms.

The present period is one of the times in which it has been necessary to adjust our security measures to new circumstances. .....

Nevertheless, there are some people who wish us to enact laws which would seriously damage the right of free speech and which could be used not only against subversive groups but against other groups engaged in political or other activities which were not generally popular. Such measures would not only infringe on the Bill of Rights and the basic liberties of our people; they would also undermine the very internal security they seek to protect.

Laws forbidding dissent do not prevent subversive activities; they merely drive them into more secret and more dangerous channels. Police states are not secure; their history is marked by successive purges, and growing concentration camps, as their governments strike out blindly in fear of violent revolt. Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

We must, therefore, be on our guard against extremists who urge us to adopt police state measures. Such persons advocate breaking down the guarantees of the Bill of Rights in order to get at the communists. They forget that if the Bill of Rights were to be broken down, all groups, even the most conservative, would be in danger from the arbitrary power of government.

Legislation is now pending before the Congress which is so broad and vague in its terms as to endanger the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly protected by the First Amendment. Some of the proposed measures would, in effect, impose severe penalties for normal political activities on the part of certain groups, including communists and communist party-line followers. This kind of legislation is unnecessary, ineffective, and dangerous. ...... Complete speech

As Mark Crisin Miller says They’re protesting austerity all over Europe (and it’s not reported all over America) and there are many more protests all around the world as well, including many in the USA which aren't being reported. these include many protests in countries that rarely ahd protest due to the threat of repressions, including Cambodia and Bangladesh and many other places. And in some cases, perhaps most notably, South and Central America they have been holding a lot of trials that exposed the wrong doings of the past death squads in those countries and this will inevitably lead to exposing the participation of the US government, if it hasn't already done so. These trials have gone on in Guatemala, Chile, Argentina and there may have even been some land reform in some of the more violent countries including Columbia according to some recent news reports although I haven't been able to keep track of all of them. The important thing is that some people are and as Melissa Harris Perry's father might say "the struggle continues" but there seems to be enough educational information going on and protest that indicate that major and real reforms, not just token reform might be a possibility.

Some of these protest are already leading to reforms, or at least discussions and if the more rational ideas are allowed they could lead to real reform.

URGENT: "We will die. We will not leave without being heard."

Live from the Amazon: Indigenous Leaders Arrive in Brasília "In an unprecedented step, the Brazilian government has met protestors' demands by flying the entire indigenous occupation – as well as their legal council and accompanying journalists – from Altamira to Brasilia to dialogue with President Rousseff's Chief of Staff Gilberto Carvalho and other high officials and ministers."

The following are just a partial sample of sources that provide either news or more in depth books that could help lead to major reform. and there are many more at many alternative media outlets some of which are listed here.

The American Empire Project

The Ralph Nader Library

Mayflower Oil Spill: Exxon Doesn’t Want You to Know People Are Getting Very, Very Sick

Freedom Rider: Chickens Roost in Woolwich

In this case, the IRS did nothing wrong, whereas the press did almost nothing right