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The time has come, the media say,
to talk of pigs with wings

  29 April 2009: Yesterday the Chronicle devoted almost half its A section to alarming headlines and contradictory news and blather about a possibly emerging flu epidemic and then headed their lead editorial, "Now is not the time to panic." Of course, I didn't read the editorial because it wasn't signed. But I e-mailed friends in San Diego, where 5 of the 3 million county residents had been diagnosed with mild cases of "swine flu" to ask if they were in a panic. They weren't. As for me, only one of probably over 40 million Californians not infected, you may not care what I think since I have not spent a minute, since September 11 2001, fearing a terrorist would strike me. But I'll tell you anyway that I think now might be a good time for a trip to Mexico.
        Oh I know. There's been either 200 or 102 or 2 deaths clearly pinned on swine flu there, and maybe 2000 milder cases (a few or very few or even fewer of which have been verified) in a national population of (approximately or possibly or maybe) about 120 million. It's the "danger zone."
        On today's front page, the Chronicle asks why - that is the Chronicle claims "puzzled" scientists are wondering with all their might WHY - there are so many more unconfirmed cases and not-certainly related deaths in Mexico than anywhere else. After puzzling myself about why they'd be asking such a stupid question, I came up with only a half dozen obvious answers, beginning with (1) it started there and (2) pigs don't fly.
        Obviously the Chronicle, like Backtrack Obama who also doesn't know what to do, is just thrashing around. To sensibly fill the big spread they think they need would require a hard squint at some facets of the problem or pseudo problem they instinctively know they don't want to touch. Too bad, because this MAY be a situation that could use some media with the brains to keep the public properly informed. I say it COULD be, because it could be.
        The most useful actual fact I dug out of the blather (it wasn't up front where it belonged) is that you can't get swine flu from eating cooked pork. A lot more of that kind of information was needed, such as, for instance, that the reason First World cases so far reported are mild is that First World people live in cleaner and less crowded conditions than poor Mexicans and have more resources when they get sick.
        I also learned in today's Chronicle that U.S. pig farmers say swine flu doesn't even come from swine; and from a number of sources since yesterday that Mexican investigators say it damn sure does but they aren't sure ANY cases in Mexico came from swine; and that they aren't sure if all or even many of the cases ARE cases; and that the Mexican government thinks the disease may come from ANOTHER country (that's called keeping your eye on the ball); and that some scientists think the disease may have already been common everywhere and is now being found because they're looking for it, so the more they look for it the more they find it, and the more it looks like a pandemic.
        To belabor a point that needs belaboring, one question the media don't have the wit or the will to answer for me is: are most cases in poor, crowded, unsanitary neighborhoods? I think so, and the reasons I'm not afraid to go to Mexico now, when I won't be tripping over a lot of other tourists, is that (1) I'll be driving alone in the clean interior of my own car, not riding a crowded bus, (2) I'll be drinking bottled water, like all tourists and all well-off Mexicans, (3) I'll eat only hot cooked foods from clean stands or in clean places where nobody looks sick, (4) I'll be staying NOT in crowded dirt-floored shanties but in clean little hotels where the sheets and pillow cases are washed daily, (5) I'll be bathing and brushing my teeth and gargling mouth wash and washing my hands regularly and cleaning my nails, etc. That is I'll be living like a first world person, as I always do, not the way the world's poor majority live. Add that (6) I'll be taking my first world health in with me, with infection and disease resistance built on a lifetime of good nutrition, that is I won't be weakened by any of the endemic diseases and conditions that plague the majority poor, and after decades of Latin American travel I won't be threatened by Montezuma's revenge, either. All this plus odds steeper than the lottery against catching swine flu at all (YET) and, apparently, odds of at least hundreds to one (probably thousands to one) that the case I catch will be mild. Add to that the fatalism of a 72-year-old seasoned traveler and realistic philosopher who knows that the death rate is 100%, anyway.
        I don't mean to foolishly guffaw at the swine flu threat. If it's not just a way to keep us from noticing what's happening in Pakistan, or a way to punish Latin America for siding with Cuba, it's at least a more real KIND of threat than most of the threats the media hype. It could turn out a number of ways, though.
        It could be a false alarm just like the bird flu and West Nile disease. Or it could be as bad as sleeping sickness or an outbreak of cholera or AIDS, devastating to certain populations but not others. It could be a worse strain of flu than the strain they say killed 50 million people once upon a time (never believe catastrophe stats) yet less disastrous because people now are more resistant. Or that could be true in the suburbs but not in the ghettos. Or it could be more deadly this time because there are so many more people living so much closer together and intermixing so much more in so many more ways. Assuming this is a poor people's disease (which I do), it's important that, along with having 6 times as many people now as in 1918, we have more than 6 times as many poor people.
        Anyway, there'll be more pandemics and if this one's not bad enough, the next one or the next one will be. During the 20 years between 1950 when, at 14, I was given my first typewriter and 1970, when I gave up hope that I, anyway, could penetrate human denial - during that time when, unlike now, I was actually on a crusade, I regularly predicted that the eco-collapse of the 21st Century (brought on by overpopulation and the overgrowth of the human encampment, exacerbated by capitalism and its necessary corollary sprawling poverty, facilitated by religion and tribalism) would include endless wars for space and "free running diseases." For free running diseases read pandemics - which has to be plural. I and others like me who struggled hopelessly to make that point back then were called "doomsayers" by media that never identified or quoted us. But now it appears that Mother Nature, who can't be ignored, is starting to make our point for us.

Obama is lectured in Trinidad by angry Latin American leaders

     21 April 2009, I can't say much about what went on summit-wise at the "Summit of the Americas" in Trinidad. My best source is Fidel Castro, who wasn't there, through his Granma column, well headed "The Secret Summit," since this was the second Latin American presidents' meeting in less than a month to be disappeared behind a U.S. leader's photo op.
     Almost all western media wrote it up as a clip-out for Obama fans, blurring over the off-THEIR-screen back talk from a crowd that WASN'T Obama's fan club. Like loyal embedded press who didn't understand the issues,anyway, they focused on pix of Obama and read-outs from his slick and speechy but shallow pronouncements, mixing what he said to the press, to the assembly, and to private groups of sycophants, with no concern for clarity or the possibility that anyone in the audience wasn't clapping.
       The impression given is of a remote rose garden meeting of plantation peon reps and their new boss, whom at least the SF Chronicle had expected to be greeted like a "rock star." Some selected grumbling is mentioned, a little in this story and a little in that, as a kind of vague context for the new boss's triumph. But the starry-eyed press is as convinced as Obama himself that the empty oratorical flourishing and self-consciously velvet gloved whip cracking that has become his and Hillary Clinton's trademark will both win the necessary respect of the peons, impress readers, and continue to delight Obama's heroically oblivious supporters.
     I wrote March 30, though (see below), that I would expect a response to Joe Biden's arrogance in Santiago, and behind the newsprint veil, my expectations were met in Trinidad. Apparently, while media have been going on and on and (JHC!) ON about Washington's beautiful new facial expression and studiously or stupidly ignoring the growing world-wide anger of everyone who recognizes the same-ol' American whip-hand, the Latin American presidents who really didn't like being lashed by Biden in March have been lying in wait for their chance at his fool boss in April.
     BBC called it a "sour note" (in the Obama debut symphony they were stubbornly directing) when Evo Morales demanded an apology for the Obama State Department's role in a recent attempt to assassinate him (I don't know about that, but neither do you). But the Bolivian president was actually perfectly on key.
     I'm sure the actual new leaders of the free world came hoping to disarm America's swell-headed pretender with a generous measure of diplomatic applause and friendliness up to a point, but I doubt they were surprised when he stupidly repeated Biden's recitation that the embargo couldn't be expeditiously ended because "the Cuban people still aren't free" (see the definition of freedom). In fact, they arrived in Trinidad already angry.
     Hugo Chavez didn't just run out to the hotel bookstore for a copy of Eduardo Galeano's " Open Veins of Latin America" and present it to Obama as a spontaneous response to the American's presumptuous explanation to a group of new socialist leaders that poverty must be alleviated "from the bottom up (?)". Obviously, Hugo already knew that his junior colleague needed educating.
     Argentine President Cristina Kirchner wasn't just ad libbing in response to Obama's asininely boss-like (or Fox News-like) advice not to blame America for all their problems when she read off a litany of U.S. business, political, and CIA sins against civilization.
    And though Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's address was apparently not pre-written, he was only freshly motivated by Obama's repeating Biden's slander of Cuba when, as part of a list of Nicaraguan grievances against a comprehensive list of U.S. presidents, he expressed everyone's "shame" for attending a supposed "summit" from which Cuba was excluded not by the majority, nor (as the media said) by anonymous organizers, but by the U.S.
     Ortega also vainly reminded the comatose press that Latin America has recently started organizing their own new trading bloc, quarter-world bank, and progressive summit organization - the most important news blacked out of the main stream media story from Santiago.
    Readers may not know, since the media never remind them, that The "Summit of the Americas" is an entirely U.S. stage show, invented by George Bush I just before he left office, for the specific purpose of isolating Cuba, then being described as regularly as a pop song by tacitly obedient American media as "the only country in the hemisphere still not free" (see #10 under Misconceptions About Cuba on this website). All the command delegates know that and, had they not had slight hopes for Obama, it wouldn't have surprised me if they'd all boycotted the Trinidad conference.
     In effect, they probably ended its run, as they refused to sign a "mission accomplished" type summit summary document (written two years ago in the U.S.) until it declares capitalism the hemisphere's worst problem and until it adds Cuba to the membership list.
     After Obama demonstrated the same velvet insult technique that isn't fooling Iran by offering to smilingly "listen" to Cuba's admissions of guilt, and after Raul Castro obviously ironically responded on the radio from Caracas that he will talk with Obama about several things including a prisoner exchange, Hillary Clinton dizzily burbled that Raul seemed to be admitting his errors, but only Obama's team and most of the press were confused.
     Just one news account I read that day called Raul's radio speech "fiery" and "reminiscent of his brother," meaning when Fidel was angry. And the Washington Post registered two days later that he was actually offering to trade Obama any Cuban convicts Obama miscalled "political prisoners" (see my Friendy Critique Of Cuban Press Freedom for the truth about those guys) for the 5 Cubans jailed in America for spying NOT on America but on the Miami mafia. But I believe (I hope) Raul's point, talking about a "prisoner exchange", was that since the embargo, which is based on the WWII American Trading With The Enemy Act is to be continued, the opposing commanders in chief could do some legitimately war-related stuff like that.
     In his column, Fidel virtually told Obama to stop talking and just end the embargo. He characterized Obama's reference to the embargo as "aspero y evasivo." The few accounts that have mentioned Fidel's response translated aspero as terse or gruff, but Fidel meant that Obama's apparent understanding of his subject was abrasively and insultingly inadequate, and he added that, being over half as old as Fidel, Obama was old enough to understand things better than that.
     Fidel really nailed Obama as a specimen, however (pay attention NOW Obama fan club), when he reacted to Obama's ostentatiously diplomatic admission that Cuba's practice of sending medical missions to other countries that need them has been more effective than U.S. military missions in gaining influence for the Cubans. The most highly respected chief of state in the world explained, "We the Cubans don't do that to gain influence."
     President Obama, to whom it is now clear the purpose of power is power, even if he'd read that, might not have understood it or even believed it, but outside the U.S. ignorance bubble it's understood and believed, which is why all of Latin America is "going Castro's way (see 20 February below)." But Obama, who was invited to come along but failed the test when his false summit collapsed (but who may have been comforted when he was cheered the next day by CIA torturers he was defending), may not be welcome now in the newly blossoming progressive government's organization, ALBA (dawn), which, though still ignored by regressive media, will hopefully soon be leaving the U.S. dominated OAS behind.

(To follow up this analysis, read If Not Democracy, What? under On Political Philosophy on this website)

  13 April 2009: As protesters and police struggle in Thailand, media repeatedly interview exiled former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatr. They ask him about the turmoil, whether he'll run for election again, but they never ask him if he has a social or economic agenda. Obviously, as a politician, he tosses in the word democracy free. So what? If I were interviewing Thaksin, I'd ask him what he expects to achieve THROUGH democracy. Does he intend to redistribute wealth in Thailand? Voting is a means, not an end. What are the ends of the insurgency the media think will support him? Cleaning out the sex industry? Keeping U.S. troops out? Leveling slums and building new homes? Diminishing the power of the king? If it's not just a brawl, what's it about? The Thai story goes on and on with no reference to the issues.

  10 April 2009: Once again U.S. soldiers patrolling somebody else's streets, this time in Kabul, break down a door and murder a family and then claim they were fired on first. What were they doing there? Were these foreign troops looking for Osama bin Laden on a residential street in Kabul? If they weren't there, would there BE any firing, and if there would be, has their presence prevented it? Except for people dropping paper ballots into boxes annually, has life in Afghanistan even changed since 2001? Will Obama having his own war there change it?

  8 April 2009: An Al Jazeera story quotes the relative of a man murdered by Fujimori in Peru that Fujimori's conviction is a mile post in the "fight against impunity." The word "impunity" was well chosen by Gisela Ortiz. A president has been punished for the impunity of murdering people in his own country. Over 60 years ago, a few presidents were punished for the impunity of murdering people in other countries.

  7 April 2009: Korea launches a sattelite. Obama starts talking about WMD's and going to the Security Council. Every day we're told and told and told that Obama talks differently than George Bush. But, regardless of his tone of voice or the expression on his face, U.S. rhetoric quoted in this story is exactly like the talk that led up to the attack on Iraq. U.S. war games in Korean waters ordered by Obama not Bush deliberately provoked a response which permitted Obama to bluster. He already has one war of his own. Does he want two? Every day we're told and told and told that Obama, unlike George Bush, "will listen." But he's not listening to North Korea's explanation that, after being called "evil" and seeing Iraq, which was also called "evil" and had no WMD's, attacked; while Pakistan, which has the A-bomb, was befriended, they felt they needed atomic weapons to immunize themselves from attack. Is Obama's supposedly changed approach more reasonable than that?

US won't end Cuban embargo, Biden tells press in Chile

  30 March 2009, He said he wasn't there to talk about Cuba, but exactly as if he'd been sent to Santiago last weekend to remind Latin America who's boss, U.S. VP Joe Biden, speaking (I assume) for Barack Obama, told the world and his hostess Michelle Bachelet (who just got back from Havana) and all the other new regional presidents (who all just got back from Havana) that the Cuban embargo won't end until the Cubans are "free."
     Since Biden's slickly insulting arrogance perfectly echoed the 20th Century U.S. plantation-boss stance south of the Rio Bravo, I'm now awaiting an appropriate response, both from pseudo-progressive American Obama groupies who surely weren't expecting this, and from Latin American leaders who surely haven't been falsely raising their poor constituents' hopes.
     Brazilian President Lula de Silva, who once asked the UN to declare inequality a human rights abuse, spoke out at the ignored Progressive Summit (actually presented by media as a prep for a definitely NONprogressive G20 meeting this week in Europe), accusing rich nations of turning the world into "a giant casino," and rejecting "blind faith in the market." But he's not reported as effectively defending Cuba from Biden's obviously Miami inspired slanders. Maybe he did or will, but that the Brazilian president (and other Latin American leaders) let their so-called "Progressive" Summit meeting be turned into Biden's regressive photo op and press conference and then went nonstop from Santiago to Doha to embrace the Arab sheiks, among the world's worst capitalists with the least interest in equality, makes me wonder how clear Latin America is on their own revolution.
     Just talking about arrogant US bullying and exploitation of the world, Latin America ethically HAS to support Ahmadinejad's refreshingly logical back talk. But there's little to choose between the west and most of the middle east. Besides the insiders further enriching their already obscenely rich ruling families and the outsiders spreading their brutally primitive religion, what agenda does the Arab world have? One hears of socialist gestures there but not much and the internet doesn't turn up much, either. I'm for the Latin American revolutionary ideal of social and economic equality, and I don't think they should surrender any sovereignty to the systemically stratified U.S. OR compromise their integrity by getting ambiguously chummy with the religiously stratified Arabs.
     Latin America is a big enough part of the world that, even with only their own company, they can't be thought of as standing alone. So I don't see how misalliances with the G20 or the Arabs help their cause. Trading is OK, although they have everything between them they may think they need to trade the Middle East OR the U.S. for and Cuba has done more than anybody for its people for decades without U.S. help. So they don't absolutely NEED to trade with any brand of fascists their integrity may antagonize.
    It would mean a lot to this lost world if Latin America stood up all together on the podium I thought they were building and, with a clear conscience, told Biden and Obama AND the feudal Middle East: either normalize relations with Cuba and recognize the virtue of the Cuban revolution and the significance of our alliance with the Cuban ideal of economic and social equality NOW or do without us!
    Of course that would be revolutionary.

  21 March 2009: A BBC headline shouts "Venezuelan Military Seizes Ports! Does that mean Venezuela is seizing Venezuela? BBC news reporting prejudice is too apparent. When the news is about Venezuela, rich Venezuelan friends of the U.S. who control Venezuela's biggest news media also control U.S. and British media.

  20 March 2009: In stories on Sudan, the media never explain U.S. spokesperson Susan Rice's role. What does she have to do with Sudan's friction with the UN? The UN has a legitimate complaint against the president of Sudan. But the automatic acceptance by media of the US assumption that they have a say about everything dismays me. Why doesn't the reporter ask Rice what business she has issuing proclamations? Media don't need to explain why the world needs a strong UN. They DO need to ask why it needs NATO, and a U.S. business motivated puppet master in Washington.

  20 March 2009: Obama offers a "new beginning" to Iran, but, just reading his lips, his stance toward Iran is the same as Bush's stance, arrogant and baseless. Apparently, all the phrase "new beginning" means is that he's changing the look on his face. Instead of frowning and demanding, he smiles and demands. But he still demands with no real authority to demand and he still makes charges without evidence. Iran's response that it's the U.S. that needs to change is reasonable.

  11 March 2009: The last I heard from our most reliable source on atomic weapons threats, Mohammad Al Baradei, was that there is NO evidence of any intent by Iran to develop atomic weapons. Remember that ignoring Al Bareidei and other truly knowledgeable sources in 2003 was a serious mistake. U.S. accusations, now as then, amount to an irresponsible provocation, contradicting Obama's claims to a new and less arrogant way of confronting the world, including Iran.

  11 March 2009: Another story today on China and Tibet not only assumes the Dalai Lama is telling the truth, it seems to revere him, and thus seems to be promoting theocracy. All western media take this stance. Why? Theocracy is clearly regressive. The Dalai Lama, like the pope, is clearly an atavism at best. He's also known to have been paid by the CIA for a long time (maybe he still is). Objective observers before the Chinese Revolution described Tibet as "Hell on earth" or words to that effect. U-tube reports indicated the monks killed more people in Llasa last year than the police. China is obligated to deploy police when riots are imminent. The ongoing story that constantly implies the Chinese oppressed the lamas by stopping their riot in Lhasa needs to get real.

  11 March 2009: Tariq Aziz has been in jail since 2003, and now, finally being tried, just to cover up the injustice of jailing him, he may be convicted of war crimes that seem oddly unconnected to his job. In a world of inarticulate people and politicians, I was impressed by Tariq Aziz's clear and rational response to Colin Powell's clear nonsense at the UN Security Council meeting that led to the criminal invasion of Iraq. He vainly did his job as Iraq's press secretary well. If he also, behind the news I know anything about, ordered a political mass murder, he should be punished. But if that charge is trumped up, then he's only guilty of being an eloquent diplomat and will stay in jail until he dies for that.

  10 March 2009: Responding to an article on Polar ice melt up to 2003 - Over 60 years ago, when there were already way too many people, I and a few others KNEW the eco-system would be collapsing NOW and predicted, among a lot of other things still not being mentioned, the melting of the ice caps. The media gate-keepers, as stubbornly blind then as they still are, scornfully called us "doomsayers" but never told their readers who we were or what we said. But we sent our message, hopelessly it seemed, TO the media, believe me. Now, Mother Nature, who can't be ignored, is finally delivering it.

A freely profitable press is not really a free press
Media rigging elections again    

  6 March 2009: The fourth estate is a miserable failure in America.Though he never used the phrase fourth estate, numerous quotations make it clear that Thomas Jefferson advocated and constitutionally secured freedom for the press precisely so media could serve as a disconnected sector of government, uncontrolled or influenced by government, able to keep the government honest by watching it and criticizing it in the interest of the people.
     Jefferson did foresee the misuse of an embedded press (he didn't use the term embedded but that was clearly what he meant), but he underestimated the force of greed in a free enterprise society and the inevitable misuse of a free enterprise press by the rich (and, yes, by other special enterest groups but mainly by the rich) and, through the rich, by the government itself, making the press in America, as a fourth estate, a miserable failure.
     The media are, right now, rigging elections again - so blatantly that you might think they'd read my exact description of their regular procedure (see 31 January below) and were trying to prove me right. The article on page 1 of yesterday's Chronicle about the "race" to win the California governor election in 2010 is so outrageously, cunningly, insidiously dishonest, I'm damned if I can see why every "news" reader above the lumpen level isn't infuriated.
     Of the 4 Democrats and 3 Republicans the media and their very fishy "Field Poll" have themselves selected and placed before the voters, only ONE has even clearly tossed in her hat. And the Chronicle disingenuously allows that that "leading" Republican, though not previously well known, "got some help from the timing of the poll because (she) has been in the news sinceannouncing her likely candidacy two weeks ago."
     I'll say. In fact, the Chronicle has been strenuously publicizing her for two weeks. But I'd bet (and win for sure) that most California Republicans who supposedly favor her have still never heard or thought of her. And I'd bet (and win) that most California Democrats specifically asked if they felt favorably or not favorably about the candidacy of Diane Feinstein (who hasn't announced her candidacy) had not been thinking about THAT. The election being rigged is a year and 8 months away, and I'd bet most Californians had no idea it was already a "race" with "favorites" already installed until the Field pollsters called and told them so.
     The most appalling thing about this sham news story, except for the actually printed quote from Mark DiCamillo, the director of the Field Poll, that "people have to be comfortable with candidates and they're comfortable with Diane Feinstein," - except for that stunning proof of the fishiness of the Field Poll, the most appalling thing is the revelation that, while 54% of Republicans telephoned refused to offer an opinion, 80% of Democrats were willing to play the game. I'm not a fan of democracy, anyway (see my definition of democracy linked on the front page), but I'm apparently more protective of it's imaginary virtue than are the true believers, including the ostentatiously pro-democracy pseudo progressives, because it's ME telling you this is not the way America's vaunted democracy is supposed to work.
     What good is democracy if THE voters don't even select the redundant insider candidates THE voters then dumbly and dutifully vote for?

Media fixated on Middle East fumble Latin American story

 20 February 2009, Maybe their grip on the Middle East is slippery, too, but thanks to Sunday school, Christmas carols, and their own obsessive reportage including countless war maps, even if they've got a lot of them wrong, at least they know there ARE details there. If it wasn't about Mexican food, most western editors couldn't pass the simplest pop quiz on Latin America, which (except for the Amazon and Club Med) most of them think is ALL Gus Arriola's Mexico south of the one and only border.
     It's not that the places they cover aren't important. My hometown's important and, to the Baghdadians, so's Baghdad. But I'm talking about a place that starts right across the border from San Diego, includes half the land area on America's half of the planet (17% of the dry world and 9% of the world population), has oil, winter fruit, art, music, dope, plenty of newsworthy strife, and maybe the world's only respectable revolution, a uniquely harmonious multi-country project that actually seems to be going somewhere. I'm not mistaken. YOU just don't know about it.
     Latin America, which doesn't do suicide bombing and has only a few occasionally tense borders and no international wars, may be the only part of the world currently progressing (muy poco a poco - very slowly) toward political and philosophical civilization, eventually to include (if the CIA and the U.S. Marines will stand for it) actual social and economic equality - which makes it more important than the U.S., Europe, or the Middle East. Yet all the embedded news media are strenuously ignoring Latin America.
     When I lived in San Diego, there wasn't a highway sign in town pointing toward Tijuana or Mexico, and there's not much sign of the approximately 30 countries south of Imperial Beach in the San Diego Union, either. Nor in the LA Times, SF Chronicle, NY Times or any major U.S. media. On the world net, Al Jazeera MIGHT have one Latin American story a day (usually the same one for a week), and BBC and CNN ditto.
     A week ago, Michelle Bachelet, the president of Chile (a country just as modern and twice as big and beautiful as California and maybe more important right now), paid a visit to Fidel and Raul in Cuba, which was certainly 10 X as important as Hillary Clinton's farcical runway stop in South Korea the same day. The following day, Venezuelans voted to let themselves keep Hugo Chavez, whom I consider on solid grounds the real "leader of the free world," as their president for as long as they need him; then new Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom almost stepped on Bachelet's heels as he arrived in Cuba specifically to apologize for his country helping the U.S. attack the Bay of Pigs in 1961 - landmark stories all. But western media news-briefed the first, completely missed the point of the second, overlooked the third, and made no connection between them. I was reminded of how all their meager coverage of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's campaign, election, and inaugeration focused on her clothes and compared her image to that of Evita or Madonna; I forget which.
      If you're very young - not even very - just young - in fact, if you're an American of any age informed of the world mostly by your own religiously anti-communist media, you may not know or remember that in the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's, there was a strong and rapidly spreading revolution all over Latin America and even slopping a bit into the U.S. in the 60's and 80's against local and colonial capitalist poverty and for socialist dignity and eventual equality, spearheaded by armed guerrillas like FARC in virtually every mainland Latin American country. American barbershop and coffeehouse owls, whose predecessors hooted then of "falling dominoes," now think they think, with media help of course and still NO grasp of their subject, that all that ended in 1990. But it didn't.
     Far from it (see Chapter Two of "Cuban Notebooks" on this website). It didn't end because poverty didn't end and, in spite of western media claims that communism had failed, the Cuban beacon was still there. And, in fact, since Hugo Chavez' emergence first prompted laughable American "suspicion" that he was "going Castro's way" (of course he was), newly elected leftist presidents in EVERY South American country but the tiny Guyanas, Peru, and Colombia have followed him. That's right - almost EVERY ONE. When the FARC take Hugo's advice to trade their arms for amnesty and equal political participation, now fascist Colombia will probably follow him, too, and as soon as the once leftist now quisling Alan Garcia ends his presidential term, Peru certainly will. And that will make a whole continent "going Castro's way" completely off the mainstream media screen.
     Isn't that a bigger better story than the bloody awful but endlessly redundant and utterly pointless religious tribal or tribally religious feuds of the Middle East? OK, I know all the wars (besides boosting the arms business) are really wars for space and THAT's important, but the editors don't even know THAT.
     Bachelet's visit to Cuba was a landmark because, though she had looked less certainly militant than other new leftist presidents, she clearly came out when she recently hosted a South American summit in Santiago where Evo Morales' eviction of the U.S. ambassador from Bolivia was applauded and supported, and now she is the next to last of the new leftist presidents to make what's apparently become (to wide awake people and certainly the CIA) a necessary pilgrimage, a rite of passage, an initiation for membership in the new Latin American order. They've ALL done it. All the recently elected new strongly leftist new South American presidents suspected by the CIA of "going Castro's way" have apparently confirmed its squint-eyed hunch by ceremonially visiting Havana to talk to Fidel and Raul, except the most recent, Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo, who, from an election celebration platform he shared with Raul Castro in Asuncion last year, shouted, "Viva Fidel!" Lujo, known as "the rebel priest" before he was elected president, is reportedly planning his Havana visit some time in the next few weeks.

The science of economics unclarified for you daily  

  17 February 2009, While the "western" world's designated economy experts met earlier this month in a place called Davos and tried but failed to come up with a solution to world financial problems, the main yell of the protestors outside, who couldn't have been Americans, was, "YOU're the problem! Resign!" Get it? No? Try this then.
       If the media accounts of how normality became financial crisis and may now be restored if Obama's supposedly better bail-out somehow works sound like hocus pocus to you; and if the quoted comments of congressmen you know can't even speak English read like pocus hocus, should you feel dumb? Why?
       Just remember that the editors, "think" tankers, and politicians who supposedly understand what you don't understand are the same klunks who believe that digging up gold and reburying it in an official cellar makes money more valuable than beans or lumber or shoes or hard work or wisdom.
       And they're the same klunks who believe that the profiteering of a handful of U.S. billionaires at home and abroad is everybody's major interest but that environmentalists are a special interest group. They also believe the most important thing a president can do is spend trillions of your dollars proving he's tough by bombing places you never heard of and have nothing against to supposedly somehow protect you from "terrorists" you're not afraid of. They believe that a supernatural being nobody's ever seen approves of the bloody exploits of our leading klunks and the sacrifice of uniformed children to unexplainable causes so much that he'll reward us all later in heaven with some deal even better than 27 virgins apiece.
       So maybe what reads like hocus pocus to you IS hocus pocus.

Media start staging THEIR next election  

  31 January 2009, On January 12, an article on page 10 of the SF Chronicle kicked off the media's 2010 California gubernatorial election. The possessive word media's isn't a typo. It's always the media's election from start to finish.
     This was the standard start: 22 months before the vote, those who saw the article were handed, with no effort needed on their part, a ready-made line-up of THEIR preferred candidates, including some they may never have heard of, and told how they already ranked them, not as philosophical leaders, just as candidates in another exciting candidate race. There's even already a favorite. Those who missed that article will find out in the next one it's Diane Feinstein.
     The Chronicle fielded 10 Democrats and 3 Republicans for their election, no Greens or independents or socialists, though for sure once or twice between now and November of 2010, voters will hear of the media's rejects in separate stories specifically about the rejects as rejects. Voters will be constantly told what they think of the viable candidates -AS CANDIDATES - right up to election day, so they'll be prepared for the result. Don't you realize you've seen this over and over throughout your voting life?
     Just in case you've forgotten or are habitually oblivious, I explained how it works in April of '05 in a letter from Cuba about how similar the Cuban elections are to American elections in this respect. "As you certainly know," I wrote, "the rigging of American elections doesn't usually happen on election day. The voters apparently vote as they wish. But most of them (and that's all it takes in a democracy) wish what they've been trained to wish. Starting long before election day, after entrenched insiders decide which candidates are to be taken seriously and line up their pictures before you in a kind of cast-of-characters article (like the article that appeared two weeks ago, right on schedule), the embedded media then stage a very long-running, very predictable but very slick and expensive multi-media show of irrelevantly trivial and personal but effectively relentless and pervasive propaganda - a daily, hourly, up-to-the-minute smoke cloud - that goes on for months, if not years.
     "Pre-presidential election "reporting" (brainwashing) in America used to go on for only about a year, but, ever since the media were badly scared by their own loss of control when they tried (every minute every hour every day for only a year) and failed to convince Americans that Bill Clinton's sex life was grounds for impeachment, it's been a 2-year frame-up.
     "So, for at least a year but probably two years, these days, not the candidates but the much more reliable media, speaking like matching oracles from within the smoke, tell Americans every single thing they reportedly think, not about issues, almost never about what this candidate or that might do to change or adjust the system to make life better for all the participants, but just about the candidate race as a candidate race, from the beginning until voting day, when the voters do nothing but fulfill their assigned destinies. By election day, they've been literally hypnotized. A relentlessly induced paralysis of their individual and collective will stymies any urge to vote outside the box.
     "The American media, the mercenary bards of the rich, the slickest propaganda machine ever anywhere, write, direct, produce, and stage elections which always end with their type of people still in power, with hardly a word ever spoken about the purposes and functions of government and government officials, because the actual, mainly business purposes of government in America are too shallow or too shameful to reveal. Most of the world follows the American plan, often with American help (whether they want it or not)."

     An Obama supporter, drunk with euphoria, has pointed out to me that Obama's election proves that, no matter how long it takes, the voters eventually always decide who their leaders will be, but that's not what happens, and it's not what happened in the last two years.
     Two years ago, it should have been apparent to anyone that the voters would be given John McCain as a sacrificial goat, since the Republicans had to lose, and Hillary Clinton to vote for, so they could go on thinking democracy works. Though the candidates have to be safe for business, what the media sell isn't just candidates; it's democracy (see democracy in the definitions box on the front page). So not very long at all after the curtain rose, in an era when too many people were getting suspicious of America and what it was up to, a third actor was added to the cast to provide the voters a more convincing democracy show, with an exciting candidate race (they'd be told every day how exciting it was - and they were) between an acceptable woman and an acceptable black man. It was always obvious why the woman was acceptable, since Hillary was no threat at all to the status quo. In the last few weeks, it's become clearer and clearer why Barack Obama was acceptable, too.

Obama fans need to look up CHANGE  

  21 January 2009, CHANGE? Is that just a slogan or does it mean CHANGE? Come on. What change? I don't think the insiders want or will permit CHANGE.
     Obama's first act as president today was to go to a praying place and pray. Hey, that's NOT CHANGE, folks. That's a familiar staged assurance that America's insider media have written, produced, directed and staged the election of yet another religious (or pretend-religious) leader, just like in the Middle East. Of course, it's politically correct to be or pretend to be religious. But hey! Political correctness is NOT CHANGE, either. It's also the same old shit.
     CHANGE would be to move away from the fantasy world of gods and flags and anti-communism and secret agents and "tough" leaders and overwhelming military force and religiously-believed-in democracy and "free" trade and transparently stacked-deck stock markets and "THE" economy which is only the rich insiders' economy and eternal growth for the sake of business (and to hell with the eco-system} and even entrepreneurial environmentalism (thank you Mr. Gore) and other assorted politically correct posturing and - FOR A CHANGE - INSTEAD OF CONTINUING TO LIVE IN THAT FANTASY WORLD - come live with me in the real world - the one with NO god but Mother Nature - the real world that desperately needs real CHANGE, before the 80% forever poor finally get fed up with being forever poor and revolt bigtime, and before Mother Nature finally steps up her own obviously now on-going surge to the level of zero tolerance and overwhelming force.

    CHANGE, to the establishment, eternally means centrism, which always always ALWAYS means NO CHANGE that would threaten the flow of profits into the pockets of insiders who ARE the establishment. And Obama is afraid to move any further outside the rich insiders' establishment than into the other inside-the-pocket "liberal" establishment, where CHANGE has meant the same short-list of about four nice safe politically correct causes for so long now that the establishment insiders have long ago thrown the pseudo progressive "liberals" a bone and bought them by adopting and tailoring their four nice safe causes into a safe back pocket of centrism (Obama and his staged election being the best imaginable example).
     Obama? Change? Obama is on a short leash. He can talk about eventually bringing the troops home, and respecting other countries ONLY WHILE, like any Republican, staying a "tough" homeland defender and still talking "tough" about upper-class religious America's military support for upper class religious Israel and food basket charity for lower class religious Palestine. But he can't go to the UN as a member and urge the UN to persuade the Middle Eastern countries, whether they ever become democratic or not, to become civilized SECULAR states.
     Obama can mouth the word environment and play the presidential mime role in Al Gore's very conveniently one-trick-pony show about one environmental issue. But he can't direct American schools and urge the UN to persuade the world to direct all its schools to immediately start teaching all children everywhere from the first grade on that one child is enough, two is maximum, and zero is fine, too, since there is no such thing as too few people.
     Obama can talk about eventually closing Guantanamo, but he can't just close the damned place, instruct his State Department to get agreements from all the other countries involved to admit the released detainees with civilized guarantees, immediately evacuate the marines from the once-Cuban enclave and give it back to Cuba, and then go himself to Havana and meet there with all the new truly progressive Latin American leaders and LISTEN to their much less stagnant ideas about what CHANGE should really be.
     Obama and his head are being inflated to mythic proportions, just when America needs to stop talking down to the world and start looking up to the world's real new leaders like Hugo Chavez, and it actually scares me when he speaks of foreign affairs. He obviously still divides the world between them and us; he obviously means to negotiate with the foreigners more diplomatically now just so they'll do what Washington wants them to do; he obviously still thinks the bad guys designated as "evil" by his stupidest Republican predecessors are indeed the bad guys. I'm afraid he knows no more about the "foreign" world than Hillary Clinton. Maybe the appointment of an information oriented man to head the CIA means something. But, if so, why not just expeditiously close the CIA's covert meddling branch (IF they'll let him - they never even let Jimmy Carter know what they were up to) and CHANGE the department into an honest information gathering agency to re-educate him and his government for participation in a new more educated and constructive approach to domestic and world policy?
     Dumping the Republicans in America should be as great as dumping the Jihadists and Zionists in the Middle East would be. But I don't think it's going to be. Everything the new democratic leaders say seems to indicate we're going to go on having mediocre political leadership. CHANGE? I think America is more likely going to go on being SHORT CHANGED.

  10 January 2009 It says in today's SF Chronicle that Obama is "counting the days" until he takes over as "leader of the free world." Q#1: When was THAT election? Q#2: What is "the free world"?
    The second answer first: "the free world" was a World War II era term and then (because U.S. editors just couldn't pull their heads out of those days of neat heroes and villains and war maps and stuff) it hung on as a very inept cold war era term actually based on an old Flash Gordon serial fantasy wherein Flash's Perry-Mason-looking father was "leader of the free world" and the rest of the world was on another planet called Mongo cruelly over-lorded by a paper-doll string of Emperor Mings just begging for a good old American punch in the nose.
    Now the answer to the first question: if any such election (I mean for "leader of the free world") were held any time during at least the last half century anyplace outside the American ignorance bubble, Washington and the CIA would lose it. In fact, Obama's best bet to finally achieve the international respect neo-Roman America doesn't have and doesn't deserve would be to join the UN as a listening member. On page 10 of today's Chronicle, Pakistan's prime minister is quoted as proudly admitting the CIA is still leading THEM around by the nose. "The American CIA and Pakistani ISI have an old working relationship," he boasts. A lot of countries like Venezuela wouldn't second his probably Cheshire enthusiasm.
    The Chronicle story goes on to tell us Obama is asking his critics to send him their economic stimulus plans. Mine's filed under 11 October below, and if I find his address on (the only clue provided) and send it in, I've got as much chance to reach the man himself with it as I do to reach Michael Moore (which I've vainly tried). Zero. So I suggest instead that he talk to the actual leader of the newly free Latin American world, Hugo Chavez, about re-joining the OAS as an equal member with ears as well as a mouth. The 31 Latin American countries who recently met very pointedly without the U.S. have some ideas about stimulating the economy NOT of the rich but of the rest of us.
    On the other foot, today's Al Jazeera declares that "Most Americans would stop short of tossing their footwear at the outgoing president - not wanting to spend the rest of their lives in one of his administration's secret prisons." Sounds like a wild accusation. U.S. media regularly print such stuff about Cuba, though, and Americans don't doubt it. In fact, nobody is jailed in Cuba without a trial. But this charge by Al Jazeera against Bush's U.S. isn't really far fetched. Is it?

  4 January 2009 An Al Jazeera photo today placed right beside their story of Israel invading Gaza shows George Bush on the phone. He seems to be talking to the Israeli war room. BBC yesterday reported that Bush himself had rejected a unilateral ceasefire in Palestine (that's what it's ALL called in my 1940 world atlas) and had outlined HIS conditions for a ceasefire. What if, while the SF Chronicle is front-paging nostalgic stories of twenty years ago or trying to convince us Al Gore type "green" fiddling around is already saving the world, our neo-Napoleon president declares a national emergency and suspends Obama's inauguration so he can start World War III?
    You might not have noticed his bottom of the news story declaration a few days ago, just before the Israeli bombardment began, that Israel deserves to fulfill their dream and finally win the much larger homeland they were promised in the Bible. Hey! I didn't make that up. Always read to the bottom of the story. And, while you're upgrading your reading habits, go back to 2001 and re-read Bush's proclamations about his own dream of "ending" 35-50 countries to stabilize the world for himself and his fellow insiders. He's not gone yet.

the Chronicle screams at you in 60 point type

  19 December 2008, The Chronicle screams in big type a lot these days. But it's not just to tell you what's going on, as in "INSIDERS STRIKE AGAIN." RUSH isn't an objective third person verb here. Maybe it's a noun. Maybe. But it looks like the command form of the verb rush to me. Besides selling ads, the Chronicle is selling home loans.
   "Talk about economic stimulus," the "story" excitedly begins its sales pitch, while leaving out the kind of truly revolutionary counter advice this country needs. Hey! Ignore the editor's cunning excitement. Do your own thinking and Don't fall for it again!
    Already over-squeezed borrowers are being urged to put themselves back into the hands of the same cowboys who just milked them dry. In the dictated context, which reflects a situation 8 years ago, the reduced 4.5% interest rate that excites the Chronicle may have been good. But in the current context of home "owners" saddled with houses that cost 5 times what they were worth due to an era of historically unregulated greed, it's not. What's called for now and what the unfortunately suckered American home "owners" should be demanding is historic CHANGE. Not mild mannered Obama change. Really historic change.
   The Chronicle talks about $300,000, $400,000, and $600,000 houses as if those figures made sense. They don't, except as historic price gouging. The profiteers aren't the majority your vaunted democracy is supposed to represent. They're a piggish minority, and they shouldn't be bailed out. They should be brought down to earth.
   FIRST, all the overpriced houses should be devalued to their 2000 price plus a logical 8-year increase of about 2 percent a year, the same amount my pension went up each of those years and, if you're lucky, your salary went up. THEN, people who have really already paid enough for their houses should be given their titles, while people who haven't are given lower interest rates on what's left of their reduced home prices.
   Would that be messy? Sure it would. Because it's not enough. We need socialism. But, compared to the cow we have now, which is being milked by the same crooks anticipating more bail-outs in the future, at least that much would be neat enough, easy to understand, and unprecedentedly honest.

  2 November 2008,  With elections pending, I had to search to find the Chronicle's low-key one-line opposition to putting another religious taboo into the California state constitution on a grey page near the end of a throw-away tabloid insert. On page ONE, however, I was slapped in the face by another in a series of topside photo-flashy big-headed celebrations of an anti-intellectual minority having a DEMOCRATIC impact - quite a story. One that's become a regular reminder to every red-neck American Jihadist that he isn't alone and CAN secretly vote against secular government, civilization and social progress.
   This kind of stuff challenges my previous claim that the Chronicle is pushing democracy not religion. But I'm sticking to it. After all, the insiders can HAVE convenient religion, war, ecological destruction, oppression and privilege WITH and THROUGH democracy, without revealing their fleshless grinning skulls. The Chronicle is just being spectacularly clumsy because they're over-excited by what looks like another of the kind of dumb-people's backlashes that got them Ronald Reagan.
        A better story (that they'll never do) would be about how Americans who scorn the religious governments of the middle east yearn for a religious government of their own (Tom Jefferson will never know).
   But the best propaganda isn't always what the media say. It's just as often what they don't say. The biggest unreported story of them all, which, just by being totally unreported, conveniently convinces the public it doesn't matter, remains the story of the now happening collapse of the eco-system due to excess human population growth and the corollary (always profitable, which is all the media care about) growth of the human encampment. I invite you to search today's paper, yesterday's paper, all last week's and last month's papers, and all next month's papers, cover to cover. You'll find many virgin sidebar stories. But you can count on it that, in the mass media, at least, too many cars will never be driven by too many drivers, too many fish caught will never be caught by too many fishermen, too much global warming will never be caused by too many global warmers, etc. I can't help wondering how too many readers can keep swallowing the hook, the line, and the sinker with no apparent suspicion of what they're being fed.
       Maybe they don't. The only intelligent reference to overpopulation I ever see is in an occasional letter to the editor. But I'd guess no more than one out of hundreds of such letters are printed. I "guess" that because I started writing such always unpublished letters (always exactly 350 words or less, always in perfect journalistic style, I'm a retired journalism prof, remember) to the Chronicle in 1959 when I first moved to the bay area to study journalism at San Jose State. The media can't stand too many anti-sustained-growth pitches. They like Al Gore because, in their very own style, he's an insider conveniently covering up the main story with a sidebar story that, guess what, never mentions overpopulation, actually promoting a myth that a problem that's not the problem can be solved by MORE business - "green" business that will advertise in the Chronicle, WHILE the unmentioned real problem keeps outgrowing all the phony but profitable solutions.
       The next best propaganda to flagrant ommissions are sneaky insertions. Flipping past today's front page celebration of religious homo-phobics, I'm taught that those trials "in Cuba" are coming to an end. I wonder how many politically and geographically challenged readers are continually confused by Cuba's editorially apparent connection to Guantanamo. A lot, I'd guess. They're certainly always given the chance. The AP writer further slanders the island with references to iguanas, large rodents, and "turkey" vultures which he associates with the same Cuba where those awful trials are found. As a frequent traveler in Cuba, I found an iguana under my pillow once in a beautiful colonial house in Gibara, but large rodents and "turkey" vultures don't ring a bell (though of course ugly wildlife exists everywhere - including Texas). Maybe they came to Guantanamo, which (it's stupid to say it but I have to) is NOT politically part of Cuba, with the Marines.
       Mentioned in passing, along with the few journalists enduring Cuba's supposedly rodent and vulture infested terrain along with the on-dragging extra-judicial charades, are the trial of "an alleged communications specialist" (use of the word alleged keeps him from suing them for calling him a communications specialist, you see) and the "relatively minor case" (if you can conceive of a war criminal less innocuous than a communication specialist) of a 16-year-old boy whose confession was tortured out of him.
       But AP's main interest is in how many journalists aren't covering "America's 6-year attempt to try what it called 'the worst of the worst' for crimes of war." America's attempt? I thought this was just the War Department's hypocritical project. But AP calls it "America's...attempt," to convince Americans that they are all part of the war effort, which they absolutely are not. They're left out of the loop and ignorant with the help of AP.
       Way down, almost lost in the story's dregs, is this: "Only months ago, the military periodically flew dozens of print reporters, TV crews, pool photographers and sketch artists to Guantanamo Bay from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington." As my own reporter going always to Cuba alone, with no permission or assistance from AP or the Air Force, I may be the only one noticing this reminder that King George I's idea of selecting and conducting approved reporters to and around military scenes is still in effect. Of course, most readers are now OK with the concept of "embedded reporters." Aren't they? And Why? Because their news/propaganda media constantly glorify the concept, proactively discouraging them from ever thinking they might not be OK with it.
       A few pages further on, a killer smog that happened in a Pennsylvania factory town in 1948 is treated as an historical oddity, from back in the olden days when U.S. Steel was still (understandably?) naive enough to call it "an act of God." Some awful leftists proved they were wrong and "it was the first time," we are falsely told, "that people really understood..." Not any more, you're supposed to think. In fact, there's a story on BBC's Latest Headlines right now about a catastrophic mud volcano that's been inundating whole towns in Indonesia for two years, obviously caused by a gas drilling outfit that denies it and blames a small earthquake, "an act of God."
       On the next page, readers who are kept from ever suspecting that most informed people in the world consider Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Evo Morales as the good guys are treated to a tear jerking tale of how ONE woman who earns a living ironing gringo shirts may lose her job because Morales is kicking the US out of Bolivia. Of course, Bolivia suffers from historic poverty, but US media don't or won't grasp or don't want readers to ever suspect that Morales' socialist agenda may eventually eliminate poverty, while sustaining their own beloved status quo will not. In fact, this story, like all others on Bolivia, simply leaves that factor out. Instead, the reporter easily finds local capitalists to criticize Morales, measuring Bolivia's problems against their own discredited capitalist yardstick.
       Two pages further on, a headline indites "rebels (who) tighten grip over swaths of eastern Congo." WHAT they are rebelling against, WHY there is a war, WHO are the socialists, WHO are the capitalists, or IF it's in fact just tribal rivalry, WHY UN "peace keepers" are taking sides, readers will not find out. Strife in Africa, as in most of the barely reported world, is just strife - with refugees, individual suffering, all the regular stuff, but NO ISSUES. It regularly drives me nuts reading paragraph after paragraph of stories like this, looking for some reference to the issues and almost never finding any. Once in a while a sentence, but almost nothing.
       In today's Iraq story, US troop withdrawal, for about the fourth time in a week, is tied to the year 2011. Rat-tat-tat. 2011 2011 2011. When you've read that enough, you'll forget you were ever hearing 2009 2009 2009. Try to remember with little help from the media that Obama's stated target is 2010 2010 2010.
       On a lighter but still relevant note, today's TraVel section, with the V printed in red, ac-cen-tu-ates the positive and ee-lim-i-nates the negative about a place that comes across as an almost funky Peru. There's even a picture of an Inca flag. Did you know the Inca's had a flag? I didn't either. Maybe I saw it and didn't notice it. I know that, in Peru, I saw some of the worst poverty I've ever seen anywhere. Check my document, "From the Andes" on my other website. But poverty isn't to be stressed on a newspaper travel page. Pictures of Inca women selling their wares show them clean, colorful, and happy.
       I talked to the Indians a lot in Peru, because, just as in Guatemala, I found their second-language Spanish a lot like mine. Usually, the people I talked to were wearing frayed and (excuse me) dirty clothing. Except for the beggars, who aren't mentioned in today's happy story, I didn't find them bitter. But I sure as hell knew they could be dangerous and never talked to other travelers who didn't have some at least second hand mugging stories to tell.
       But this story's purpose is to promote business, even foreign business, who cares, as long as it's business. To encourage readers to part with dollars, all U.S. media regularly declare high priced restaurants cheap and $500,000 houses at last affordable again. As a practical, down-scale political tourist, I'm always amazed to read about good hotel deals in places like Cuzco for from $60 to $114 (single). I think maybe once in all my Latin American travels, in a moment of weakness, I paid $60, for a palacial colonial hotel in Antigua. I didn't record all my bills in Peru, so I don't know what I paid, but partly because I'd just come from one of the best hotels on Lake Titicaca covered with flea bites, in Cuzco I treated myself to one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever stayed in, virtually a turret, with big windows overlooking all of tile topped downtown, clean, atmospheric, gracious, for maybe $35, but I think I'd remember $35, so it probably wasn't that much.

  23 October 2008, Americans not well trained by their media might wonder why the Chronicle has been pushing the primitive Proposition 8 for three days, even providing a front page boxed display of Biblical quotations. Of course, the hysterical right's weird idea of a liberal press is wrong. The media are certainly owned and edited by and for the rich. But PC liberal conspiracy theorists are just as far off target. The media isn't above reminding readers they believe in gods and absurd godly morality. But this time the Chronicle isn't pushing religion or even straight sex. It's pushing democracy, a pill readers are so well trained to love to swallow whole, they're far beyond noticing it's daily inclusion in the lesson plan anymore. They'd feel deprived without it.
        Presenting Obama's nearly conscious though timid ideas as equal to McCain's idiot Bushisms is part of the same lesson plan. So's presenting Palin's popularity among the dumb as if popularity could validate her dumbness. And so's seriously headlining GOP uneasiness about the "peril" of a Congress dominated by one party. The thrust of the Proposition 8 story isn't that there are two significant views of an issue (and certainly not that intellectual progress might again be bogged down in primitive superstition). It's that one side's 14 point lead has gone down to an 8 point lead. The myth of democracy that has to be taught daily because it is so obviously wrong that it might easily be forgotten is that you can count up the truth - that you can elect logic. (see Democracy under definitions on the front page).
       I witnessed the tragic foisting of this insidious nonsense on revolutionary Nicaragua in 1996. The Nicas were still in some respects behind the times. American liberals had abandoned their own revolutionary integrity and embraced the "pro-democracy" cop-out six years earlier. But the Nicaraguans had bowed their heads and betrayed their pledge (here, nobody sells out or surrenders)in 1990 from weariness of war and death and injury and loss of friends and family and continuous fear of a George Bush I invasion. But by the '96 election, a modern TV extravaganza, the CIA, the US funded press, the opportunistic big shots in the FSLN, and, yeah, Jimmy Carter, had sold Nicaraguans the creed. So the pleading of honest militants that what mattered was NOT democracy but the revolution fell on enough deaf ears so that, by the numbers, falsehood, capitalism, and poverty were counted the winners again.
        You should know what I'm talking about if you noticed the media didn't tell you yesterday that home prices are almost sane again. They told you how many people are suddenly buying homes again (so you should, too - get it?). And today they don't tell you about death and pain in Iraq. They reported more body counts, the higher the count, the more significant the incident. One writer thinks a higher death count in one incident was the "most fatal" in a 365-day period. On the business page yesterday, they didn't discuss the actual need for a new downtown SF skyscraper. They told you how many feet tall it will be and how many dollars the lot cost. I know somewhere in today's paper you're told why you should watch a TV show or see a movie. Why? Because a winning number of other Americans are doing it. And again today, as yesterday and the day before, you've learned why you should consider changing your vote to McCain - because more people say they'll do that today than said so yesterday.

    11 October 2008, If I had proposed a month ago that the feds start buying the banks, I'd have been dismissed as a crank.
       So now that just such useless half measures are being taken, if I propose that, instead of buying bank stocks, they nationalize the banks, close the stock market, roll back and freeze all prices at the 2000 level subject only to fair adjustment to keep them sensibly inter-related, and set a permanent minimum and maximum annual income scale from $30,000 to $50,000, I'd be dismissed as a crank. So what? Obviously, the crank dismissers have a propensity for being wrong.
       In spite of the religious belief of philosophically challenged Americans that socialism is a naughty word, someday they'll have to finally abandon the failed capitalist game and progress maybe kicking and screaming to socialism. The solution: stop kicking and screaming and go for it - not in jerks and jolts but with dignity,with a plan, carefully and logically.
       And while you're at it, start solving the world's even more important problems by dissolving NATO and other counter-productive extra cogs in the wheel, by joining the UN not as a bully but as a member, and by promoting world-wide, Cuban style population control (they just peacefully teach everyone, without coercion, that one child is enough and two is maximum, and it works) and by moving pro-actively, as a world, away from this savage dog-eat-dog economic non-system that Americans only think they're trapped in toward civilization. As long as it's finally being admitted that "urgent and exceptional action" is called for, why not finally do the exceptional things that have been really urgently needed for a long time?
       I'm not crusading, by the way. I personally gave up the world in 1970 as beyond salvation. This is in second person for a reason. I'm saying that if YOU think the world can still be saved, then you ought to finally start demanding that your so-called leaders (obviously your misleaders) start doing the things that need to be done to save it.

    30 September 2008, "NOW WHAT?" the Chronicle screams angrily in their biggest font at their naughty readers today. Just yesterday, after all, the Chronicle told all you guys flatly, "Make no mistake," clearly meaning, "Don't make the mistake of thinking for yourselves; think what we tell you to," which was quickly clarified as that "only a quick and immense response from the federal government can prevent a historic breakdown of the financial system, one that would have ..."
   What did they mean "would have"? They meant they were trying to conjure up a win for the insiders by reporting it as a done deal, so you guys wouldn't waste time calling Congress. A left top headline above that, cunningly labeled NEWS ANALYSIS, claimed the "need" for the bill already "sways (in present tense) even former skeptics, and another head on the right top declared, again in present tense, "Many believe they must support the bill."
   Trying to sound like Roosevelt or Churchill, not as objective press but as editorial corporate media, the Chronicle itself warned you against fear while trying to scare you into believing that giving away $700 billion dollars quickly to insiders without thinking about it was the only way to go. But they failed. A flood of Americans who weren't suckered e-mailed and wrote and called Congress and said, "Hell no, we won't go for it." Congress got scared for their cushy jobs and voted down the bail-out. And the shocked Chronicle reacted with today's huge headline, a doomsday alarm trying to scare you again, trying again to tell you what you think, trying to soften you up, actually, so you won't resist the second bail-out bill, which will be a lame compromise coming up soon.
    For a whole two days now, maybe for another day or two (I won't expect more than that), this all reminds me of when the Chronicle ran equally huge headlines screaming that Americans had finally had enough of Bill Clinton's disgraceful tom-catting and weren't going to take it anymore. But it didn't work, and then, like now (for a few days now, anyway), their readers refused to be told what they thought. It was the biggest story never reported, not the Bill and Monica story, the U.S. media and their readers story, which was never reported by the media (though it certainly prompted extension of routine pre-election public brainwashing from one year to two).
    Americans were bombarded all that year, every hour of every day, with puritan propaganda until finally the media and Congress had to turn it off and surrender their impeachment dream, because the people, who may have been stupid enough to be fooled about politics and economics, at least knew ALL about sex and COULDN'T be fooled about that.
    Too bad this isn't about sex or sports or pop stars. It's about politics and economics. And a new bill faked up to look more acceptable is already on the table and being hyped to the people with Cheshire smiles. So I'll be amazed if the people's momentary good sense doesn't wash off.
    But I was already pleasantly amazed when the BBC blog board responded to THEIR bail out propaganda piece, not with the usual lumpen blather but with numerous articulate comments accurately nailing the bail out, the Republicans and Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, and even capitalism. Some writers even understood that the big bad debt was - IS - a fantasy, that the crooks were to get real money to replace the dream loot they never actually had in their hands to lose.
    It would be something if Congress, pretending to intelligently ponder an inadequately amended compromise bill to reduce the ransom, were once again flooded with e-mails and calls telling them, "Hell no! We STILL won't go for it!" I'm not expecting that, but I'll do a little for the cause here - at least for the cause of clarity - by explaining to my one or two readers how an illusion has become a real mess that's really scary but should be boldly used as a painful way to finally bring down the jungle system of capitalism. Oh yeah. I bet.
    Day before (or before that) yesterday, the media explained to you (taught you) for the umpteenth time that the crisis stems from lenders being merely "complicit in the stupid decisions to offer mortgages to home buyers who couldn't afford them." Sure. What really happened was that home buyers who rightfully wanted homes were conned into agreeing to pay 5 times what the homes were worth by crooks trying to make a killing and intending to foreclose on the first wave of suckers and then re-sell at an even more criminal price to a second wave of suckers.
    But once the first suckers had been screwed, no second wave came, and prices started dropping (they haven't stopped dropping yet and shouldn't until they get back down to earth). So the crooks, in their minds, got screwed, too. But they didn't lose $700 billion actual dollars. They failed to GET 80% of the loot they wanted - a fantasy - dream loot. Their victims couldn't pay it.
    At that point, the government should have stepped in, given the homes to the buyers, and locked up the crooks. But it was the crooks who had friends who looked the other way as they used the dream loot on their books like unhatched chickens to reinvest in other ventures, and those ventures also used the fantasy loot to pay for labor, materials, etc. So the fantasy loot was transmuted into a real mess. That's normal capitalist jungle chaos. But it got too big and obvious, so the foxy chicken guards who let it happen decided to save us all by replacing the dream loot with real money (that they're busy printing).
    Some other countries the mess has slopped into are nationalizing some of their banks. That makes sense. That's what we should be doing, just for a start, because it's past time to deep 6 capitalism, which never worked for anyone but the winners, anyway. But it's more likely the losers WILL finally be fooled again into voting against themselves again.

   September 28 2008, The estimated 1300 people who've killed themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate, according to my calculator, are not quite 1/4 as many people as have killed themselves by joining the U.S. military and going to Iraq and Afghanistan. But if you take the time period into account and divide 4600 dead soldiers by 7 years and l300 jumpers by the 71 years the bridge has been there, nearly 700 U.S. troops a year have jumped off Afghanistan and Iraq, while only 18 people a year have jumped off the bridge. Now, considering that the actual human death rate is 100%, meaning that of the well over 6 billion people alive today, assuming an average life expectancy of 65 years, even figuring an extremely bottom heavy age distribution, loosely a million people die every year, not only is it apparent that only 1 out of 55555 of them jump off the Golden Gate, it's also apparent that the entire 1/55555 would have died anyway if they hadn't made that jump.
    If anyone thinks I'm being too frivolous about such a serious subject, I remind you that, just like minorities who claim the right to joke about racism, as a human getting close to death, I have the right (and so do you) to be frivolous about death, especially in response to a mass media which constantly fakes a laughably pious attitude toward the subject, and especially when the SF Chronicle prints a headline and picture that probably unconsciously invite a realistically frivolous response, especially when that response has important implications society's insiders want to keep covered up.
    Seeing the headline in the local section today, Shoes memorialize bridge jumpers, over a picture of a whole lot of shoes, I had to ask myself, "Did they all take off their shoes before they jumped and are these their shoes?" Then, reacting rationally to the pious but incoherent read-out, "Research shows that if you can break that cycle, only for a moment, they might not do it." my second question (and I hope yours, too) had to be, "So What?" And then, seeing the cunningly misleading subhead, Support for the barrier, I had to get pissed and ask another question, "What support?" And you've gotta be unconscious if you can't guess my 4th question, in response to the insidious unquoted nonsense clearly representing the Chronicle's own fractured (at the comma - look close) editorial view:

    Though a recent unscientific online poll by the district found that 75 percent of 1,600 respondents opposed any changes to the bridge, the net (a stupid steel net to catch people) seemed to be the most attractive alternative.

    My own unscientific ongoing poll has so far failed to turn up anyone who even opposes suicide or, get this, anyone who doesn't admire and defend Dr. Kervorkian. So my fifth question could be "What world does the Chronicle editorial staff live in?" But it isn't. I know the answer. I also know the defense for this story is that it's about a media event staged by the supporters of a suicide barrier on the bridge. But that's no defense for the spectacular absence of a large philosophical feature explaining why no really rational person sees any reason to spend a fortune disfiguring the bridge. And it's no defense for the Chronicle's refusal to print ANY really realistic comment on the issue of suicide, like, for instance, the following, my own brief clear and unprintable letter to the editor:

    July 9 2008, Originally, it was going to cost $2 million to study how to waste another $2 million to disfigure the bridge so people fed up with life can't exercise their existential right to jump off. Now it's $40 to $50 million. Of course this isn't a secular state, but why should the people of a supposedly secular state spend millions to enforce a religious taboo?
    Come on! Here's a message from the real world. If you don't want anyone jumping off the Golden Gate because it's a costly and bothersome nuisance to try to drag their bodies out, then put up signs on the bridge rail telling them the unreligious truth.
    Put up a sign every 50 yards explaining that, "Hey! Hitting the water doesn't kill you. It just smashes your bones and adds a lot of pain and the panic of being a helpless cripple to the smothering horror of drowning in rude and icy saltwater!"
    And at the bottom of each sign put a number they can call to get suggestions and instructions for better ways to kill themselves.
    Better yet, pretend we really are both secular and civilized here and sell 2-pill suicide kits without a prescription in every drugstore, consisting of a sleeping pill guaranteed to put you quickly and gently into a deep enough sleep for surgery and a time-release cyanide capsule guaranteed to kill you in 3 seconds while you're sound asleep "in the privacy of your own room."
    Oops! Did I go off nearly everybody else's screen there? Sorry. I can never get used to living in a whole world of cruel and dopy mystics, intellectual cowards, and piously hypocritical politicians

    Remember my last question that I already know the answer to was,"What world does the Chronicle editorial staff live in?" and another question I already know the answer to (which means it's ALL the Chronicle's OTHER readers who should be asking these questions) is, "Why does the Chronicle strain so hard to convince us we share their 19th century religious prejudice against suicide?"
    Since the Chronicle won't tell you, I will. It's because death postponement is big business. Population growth and development are big business. Selling life-prolonging products to lots and lots and lots more people through their youth, adulthood, middle age, and old age is big business. Religion is big busines. Denial is big business. And, not only are the Chronicle publishers and (probably) editors businessmen, their major advertisers are big businessmen. And even if it directly causes the rapidly nearing total collapse of the eco-system, big business depends on SUSTAINED growth. And to hell with all the losers who'd at least like to pick up their useless marbles and abstain from further participation in growth sustainment. Their forcibly sustained life, failure and exploitable misery are big business.
    More specifically, some insider wants the contract to build the unneeded suicide barrier. And he doesn't HAVE TO have a friend in City Government or on the Chronicle staff (though he may). The 1/10 of 1% insiders who own and run this country are all in the same general business. Whether their conspiracy is tacit or explicit, "good" business is good for all of them. So all of them (including media chiefs) try to be "good" for "good" business.
    But since you probably aren't in the club, why is the Chronicle trying so hard to convince YOU a money-making scam like the suicide barrier is something you know in your heart is needed? Come on. That's how big businessmen talk to suckers.
    P.S. Compare it to the way the Chronicle talks to you about the big business bail-out. SEE September 30 2008 above.

   September 20 2008, Back in 1982, Americans proud of their own fabled free speech were smugly critical when Margaret Thatcher blasted UK news media for covering the Falklands war objectively, but if Thatcher were in the White House, she'd be happy with U.S. media treatment of North Korea, which is so seamlessly slanted, you may be too used to it to notice.
        For instance, a Chronicle headline today (Saturday) - North Korea backing out of nuclear deal - is followed by an AP story that, instead of calling the North Koreans bad guys just assumes you know that. But, in fact, the placement of North Korea's side of the story in paragraph #9, which, if this were on the front page, would be past the jump and probably go unread, violates textbook journalism rules, though it certainly fulfills the apparent rules of normal Associated Press coverage of communist countries.
       So the propaganda in the lead, on which the headline is based (as if the Chronicle needed any help being anti-communist, too), unbalanced by the distant paragraph #9, saturates the readers' view. Re-read the headline Hi-lighted in red above and then read the beginning of the story below, paying careful attention to how coy but relentless anti-communist propaganda works.

       A rare foreign policy success for the Bush administration is imploding as North Korea backs away from pledges to abandon nuclear weapons pretty much as the president's critics on the right had warned.
       Distracted by an economic crisis at home and a series of diplomatic setbacks abroad, President Bush and his top aides are watching the collapse of a painstakingly negotiated process that just months ago seemed on track to produce a major international success and perhaps bring a final end to the Korean War before they leave office.

       Maybe you ARE so used to the pitch you don't see what's wrong with that lead. But I hope you can at least gasp without my help at the inept pretense that George Bush who's clearly trying to start a Korean war is trying to end the old Korean War The 1945-50 Korean war!?! Holy cow! In the first place, the supposed failure of an official war-ending peace treaty way back then (because of South Korea's probably US inspired refusal to sign) to end a war that, after all, was never officially started is old, old, old meaningless hat, and second, it's irrelevant to the current situation. The excessive length of this graph makes me wonder if an old Chronicle editor inserted the 14 words after international success to keep an old pot of his own boiling. Maybe it's better not to dwell on whatever the point is.
        But before that, just in the first graph, repetition of the editorial word success is meant not to inform but to teach readers what they think. Negative words like imploding, abandoned and warned subtly support the lesson. The lie that North Korea "pledge(d)" to surrender without their own conditions being met reiterates previous lessons about North Korea you've been relentlessly handed. The reference only to unnamed critics on the right (who, I guess, "warned" Bush he couldn't trust those rats) legitimizes the rightists' narrow view, while robbing you of the less rabid views of other critics.
       The second graph is worse, because it's not the graph that, according to the rules of journalism, belongs here, and because it's not news - it's just propaganda. First AP provides Bush an alibi - that he was distracted by his other failures. Then AP itself (nobody's being quoted) praises what it calls a "painstakingly negotiated process," i.e. relentless stonewalling and name calling (on both sides but with less honesty on the Bush side), which readers are told by AP was "on track to produce a major international success." That's what AP says, which would be OK if you didn't think this was a news story and if AP wasn't such a shameless lap dog.
       But if my journalism students had printed it, besides posting this story on the wall covered with red ink, I'd have reminded them that they'd been taught that the second graph of a story citing a serious accusation should cite the response of the party being accused. And, the lesson being an important one, I'd have posted a typed example on the wall beside it, including an appropriately rewritten version of the buried paragraph #9 as the second graph.

       What's been touted as a rare foreign policy success for the Bush administration seemed to collapse Thursday when North Korea apparently backed away from pledges to abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions in response to what they called Washington's continued failure to fulfill its side of the deal.
       While White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley called the North Koreans "obstructionists," Pyongyang spokespersons declared the DPRK had given up on Washington and will "go its own way." North Korea has long demanded that the U.S. take them off it's terrorist blacklist, but the State Department has not complied.

       This is a 13-graph story with only one brief and buried nod to objectivity, preceded by numerous stories just like it, some of which strenuously painted North Korea as a pretty sordid place. I've never been there, and I don't pretend to know. Maybe North Korea is sordid. but I'm sceptical because the same kind of slander has been regularly heaped on places that I do know don't deserve it. That is, I have no reason to trust AP or any other mainstream western media, and neither do you, and the example I'm deconstructing here should at least make you wonder.
       Understand that I'm not making a case here for North Korea. I'm judging western media, especially but not only AP, because there are a lot of sordid places in the world, including parts of Texas, that they don't so strenuously slander. So their current display of vitriol toward North Korea is contrived and even trumped up to support George Bush, whom I certainly don't trust, and also to reinforce their eternal and eternally regressive and philosophically contemptible anti-communist stance.
       You should recall and take notice that AP never reminds you that the confrontation with North Korea, including the constant unjustified presence of U.S. troops in their faces, has been going on for over 60 years, ever since the Korean War, which was started by the US and Russia, not by the Koreans, fizzled out; and that it also includes dealings with Bill Clinton who failed to fulfill his promises to North Korea; the fact that George Bush very belligerently called North Korea part of an "axis of evil" and then gratuitously attacked another country on that supposed "axis" and seems bent on attacking another; and the fact that Bush has never threatened Pakistan, a very unstable muslim country guilty of many state approved human rights abuses, with a population that mostly doesn't like us, and prone to wage war against its neighbor, India. Since Pakistan's free pass is clearly that they have nuclear weapons, North Korea's wish for nuclear retaliatory capability makes sense. Doesn't it? Remember, my POINT isn't that it DOES make sense, though I think it does, but that AP makes a point of never acknowledging that it does.

   August 22 2008, BBC's carefully official and repeated reference to a "French resolution" on the Georgian conflict serves to remind us that, since the election of Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France, the U.S. insiders and their corporations have a new puppet in the UN.
    That's interesting, but this website is and will be more interested in how obviously BBC, AP, and all the mainstream media so smoothly and loyally pander to the insiders political economic games and to their version of history and reality. Today's BBC story is as much a part of the game as George Bush whispering in Sarkozy's ear.