Thursday, January 29, 2009

Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land (Part 1)

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New World Notes News
Volume 2, Number 5 -- February 3, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #50 -- February 3 & 6:

We all can name at least one democracy that has remained committed to freedom of the press since its founding.

A country that does have its faults but has the great virtue of respecting--or at least tolerating--the media's expression of a wide range of opinions about government policies. Even in time of war.

The democracy I'm thinking of is Israel.

The United States? Puh-leeze!

So when we want to get a rounded view of the Israel-Palestine conflict . . . when we want better to understand the claims and grievances of both sides . . . when we want to appreciate a multitude of perspectives on the causes of and solutions to the conflict . . .

. . . we drop the New York Times into the recycle bin, toss the TV set out the window, turn on the computer, and read the online English edition of the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz (

On the other hand, if we want 175 media sources all repeating the same Government-approved Party Line--all making the same Official Talking Points in pretty much the same language . . . with the same omissions and distortions--well, just look around.

How did we get to this pretty pass?

The Media Education Foundation analyzed American media coverage of the Palestine conflict. In 2003 it presented its findings in a video documentary: Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land. Alas, the film is just as true and relevant today as it was six years ago. I've turned the film into a three-part series for radio.

To give you and me a break from Mideast strife, we'll broadcast the three installments over an eight-week period. (The piece survives such rough treatment nicely.) Dates of initial broadcast (on WWUH) are Feb. 3, Feb. 27, and March 20--three days later on WHUS.

Response to the film has been very positive. Chalmers Johnson, author of the Blowback trilogy, called it "The best, least biased presentation we have of all the issues involved. A must-see documentary."

Donna Baillie, herself a filmmaker, said this: "Painstakingly stripping away the myths and inaccuracies regularly passed off as truth by the U.S. media, this film not only reveals the motivations and methods of those responsible for skewing the picture, but also manages to present the most concise and accurate account of the history and implications of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the role that the U.S. has played in the continuation of that conflict that I have seen."

Baillie concludes, "This is a very important piece of work that challenges the viewer to think twice before accepting a version of the world that owes more to the special interests of a powerful elite than to any notion of freedom of the press."

This week's installment provides (1) a brief history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, (2) an explanation of why the media spin has taken the form it has--no, it's not all the fault of AIPAC--and (3) an exploration of the first of the seven means by which the media distort the truth.

The documentary uses many striking clips from network TV news. It adds excellent commentary by American, Israeli, and Palestinian "talking heads"--or maybe, for radio, "disembodied voices"--including Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Neve Gordon, Alisa Solomon, and Rabbi Michael Lerner.

Catch New World Notes . . .

Monday, January 19, 2009

What the HECK is a Conservative?

New World Notes News
Volume 2, Number 4 -- January 27, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #49 -- January 27 & 30:

What the HECK is a "Conservative"?

If memory serves, during the Presidential campaign, John "Songbird" McCain charged Barack Hussein Obama with being "the most liberal member of the Senate." To me, even if true, this would be low praise at best, like being the "most tolerant" member of the Ku Klux Klan or the roughest, toughest Teletubby of 'em all!

Seems to me that our Senators run the gamut from Eisenhower Republicans (Ted Kennedy) rightwards to people who call Mussolini a Commie because he supported public transportation (McCain and 53 others). With Obama just a step right of center.

Why most duck-hunters prefer daytime.

Bushism differs from traditional conservatism
in a few respects.

Incidentally, I have no idea how McCain gained the nickname "Songbird." According to an article in CounterPunch several months ago, it was given to him by his POW comrades back in Vietnam days. Has anyone heard details about what particular Asiatic tortures his evil captors inflicted upon the airman whom they knew to be the son of the commander of all U.S. forces in southeast Asia? I suspect the tortures involved being forced to read Asian Socialist magazine and eating locally-grown brown rice instead of Uncle Ben's.

But I digress. I'm old enough to remember when people who proclaimed themselves to be Conservatives advocated (1) limited government (2) "fiscal responsibility," including (3) balanced budgets; (4) maximum freedom of the individual from the heavy hand of government control; (5) local control of schools, even to the point of (6) abolishing the Department of Education; (7) avoiding debt; (8) restraint in military interventions abroad; and (9) oh, why go on? These principles are all so quaint . . . all so 20th-century!

Conservative icon

Conservative icon

Apparently not a conservative icon

So if the Cheney-Bush CABAL was "conservative," what the heck is a Conservative? By the same token--with Ted Kennedy a leading advocate of the "No Child Left Behind" anti-education horror--what the heck is a Liberal? But since no politician is willing to be called a Liberal, that's the less pressing of the two questions.

So in NWN #49 we explore what turns out to be a very interesting question . . . with important implications to our lives. After a general look around, we'll zero in on two contentious issues: The No-Child-Left-Behind fiasco of recent years and the school-integration-through-busing fiasco several decades back.

The show is mostly brilliant monologue, but the topic does give me excuse to play the two funniest songs about conservatives I've ever heard (not counting "Ballad of the Green Berets").

Yes, but you have to marry them first. T-shirt sociology.

TV commentatress Ann Coulter: GOP heartthrob.

Naturally, pointy-headed Liberals disagreed with Coulter's
for the European Union.

This week's music:

  • Roy Zimmerman, My Conservative Girlfriend
  • The Foremen [includes Roy Zimmerman], Ain't No Liberal
  • Intro/Outro: Warren Zevon with Something Happens, Werewolves of London
Catch New World Notes . . .

Duck-hunting at Wasilla Municipal Pool? Is this Sara Palin or Tina Fay? In either
case, she looks better in a patriotic bikini than Vice President Cheney ever did.
She also has a better grasp of elementary gun safety than Cheney. Note trigger-
finger kept alongside (not on) the trigger when there's no intent to fire imminently.
This summer I asked if America was ready for a Vice President who posed a
greater danger to game species than to her hunting partner. In November,
America answered with a resounding NO!
Gul-durn Liberals!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Story of STUFF

Volume 2, Number 3 -- January 20, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #48 -- January 20 & 23:

Apart from the speaker's voice, this is great radio! I know: we're getting pretty close to, "Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" But hear me out.

Annie Leonard is a serious person; a good researcher, writer, and editor; and a talented filmmaker. On-screen she's dressed and made-up comfortably and very plainly, with only a smidgeon of conventional femininity--as though she planned to go out back and dig up the garden as soon as filming was over
But her voice! It's the cutesy, squeaky, faux-kindergarten-teacher style: high-pitched, with too great a range of intonation. She's the lady on the supermarket PA system, cooing about how your cat will love Acme-brand Kitty Treats . . . and you! But speaking twice as fast. Melanie Griffith on amphetamines. (Shirley Temple, for you old-timers.)

But don't touch that dial! Two minutes into her talk, the voice was bothering me much less. Three minutes in, I stopped noticing entirely. What she was saying was a brilliant, cogent synthesis of politics, science, and economics. She was explaining--clearly, persuasively, and in ways almost anyone could understand--why our globalized system of production, consumption, and disposal is bad news for almost everybody everywhere and also completely unsustainable.

Let's go back a few steps. Leonard produced a 20-some-minute video called The Story of STUFF. It's available, free, on the Internet. The visuals alternate between her (speaking to the camera/viewer) and some animated stick-figures drawn in pencil. This was the easiest video in the world to adapt for radio, since the heart and soul of the work are Leonard's spoken words. Though, I hafta admit, the stick-figures are awfully cute.

Auld acquaintance and now acclaimed Lefty folk-singer Anne Feeney turned me on to the video. Thanks, Anne! Later I discovered that the Unwelcome Guests Collective ( had already broadcast the piece on their nationally-distributed radio program. Well, if you live in southern New England, you may have missed it, so here's another chance.

I still have no idea why God gave the world Melanie Griffith. I should check the Book of Job for clues. But Annie Leonard's contribution to the universe is easier to discern. Everyone--especially every American--should either see her video or else listen to a fine radio adaptation of it, such as . . . well, modesty forbids. . . .

This week's music:
  • Chumbawamba, The Good Ship Lifestyle
  • Intro: Warren Zevon with Something Happens, Werewolves of London

Catch New World Notes . . .

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Media, Jenin, & the Bloodbath in Gaza

New World Notes News
Volume 2, Number 2 -- January 13, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #47 -- January 13 & 16, 2009:

Here's the show in a nutshell:

American news media demonize those who oppose various vicious state policies. At the same time, they whitewash and sanitize gruesome wars the state wages to preserve those policies. Especially wars the State of Israel wages.

Two young Palestinian men. Top: Mahmoud, from Jenin. (Top photo by moomin13,

A photograph of a young Palestinian man inspires such reflections on the media plus reflections on Israeli operations in Jenin (2002) and now Gaza. Three news reports from Al-Jazeera offer a different--but still inadequate--view of the horrors of our war against the people of Palestine.

Life in Gaza: 3 views.

This week's music:

  • David Rovics, Jenin
  • Tom Smith, from Waterboardin'
  • David Rovics, Occupation

Two civilian casualties

Sometimes it's the little things that really liquid waste you off!

The United States Government--which objected little or not at all to the events in Jenin--compels me to censor one of the words singer David Rovics uses in narrating same . . . at least in the radio broadcast. Smearing excrement on walls before killing the inhabitants is acceptable. Using the word "shit" to identify what's smeared on the walls is offensive.

Hamas rocket lands near kibbutz.

Soldier prays.

Catch New World Notes . . .

Two mosques

Friday, January 2, 2009

On Gaza and Israel

For January 6 edition of New World Notes News--on George Carlin--
scroll down to December 28, 2008

New World Notes Supplement

Number 2 -- January 2, 2009

Foreword by KD:

I am an American friend of Israel.
I'm told that friends don't let friends drive drunk.

The militarists that have wrested control of our country away from the American people--this happened well before 2000--may be great pals with their Likudnik ultra-Zionist counterparts in the Middle East. That doesn't make any of the lot of them friends of Israel--let alone friends of the people of Israel.

We, the people of the United States, are not to blame for the ongoing bloodbath in Gaza, any more than we are to blame for My Lai or Abu Ghraib. Unless we connive in it or condone it. Unless we refuse to see what is happening in front of us. Unless we refuse to affix a suitable name to what we see.

Theologian and distinguished journalist Chris Hedges has been heard on New World Notes two or three times over the past year. Here he suggests a few useful names. And a few that simply won't do.

A way of naming something implies a way of acting in response to it.

Party to Murder

by Chris Hedges

Condensed by Kenneth Dowst

Originally published on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 by

Can anyone who is following the Israeli air attacks on Gaza wonder why we Americans are hated? Our self-righteous celebration of ourselves and our supposed virtue is as false as that of Israel. We have become heartless and savage. We are a party to human slaughter, a flagrant war crime, and do nothing.

Over 350 Palestinians* have been killed, many of them civilians, and over 1,000 have been wounded since the air attacks began on Saturday. Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, said Israel is engaged in a "war to the bitter end" against Hamas in Gaza.

Killed Palestinian policemen

A war? Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps and slums, to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command and control, no army, and calls it a war. It is not a war. It is murder.

The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights, Richard Falk, has labeled what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza "a crime against humanity." Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as "a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

The foreign press has been barred by Israel from entering Gaza to report on the destruction.

December 27, 2008

Israel's stated aim of halting homemade rockets fired from Gaza into Israel remains unfulfilled. Gaza militants have fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing four people and wounding nearly two dozen more, since Israel unleashed its air assault. Israel has threatened to launch a ground assault and has called up 6,500 army reservists. It has massed tanks on the Gaza border.

As Falk points out, the rocket attacks by Hamas are also criminal violations of international law. But as Falk notes, "such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel's imposition of a [severe] collective punishment . . . on the people of Gaza."

According to Falk, "A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. About 18 percent of Gaza's children have stunted growth. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people. Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live."

Most of Gaza is now without power, which can be a death sentence to the severely ill in hospitals. There is little medicine, and no cancer or cystic fibrosis medication. And Israel has revoked most exit visas, meaning some of those who need specialized care, including cancer patients and those in need of kidney dialysis, have died.

"It is macabre," Falk said of the blockade. "People have been referring to the Warsaw ghetto as the nearest analog in modern times."

President Abbas' office

The point of the Israeli attack, ostensibly, is to break Hamas, the radical Islamic group that was elected to power in 2007. But Hamas has repeatedly proposed long-term truces with Israel and offered to negotiate a permanent truce. It was Israel that, on Nov. 4, initiated an armed attack that violated the truce and killed six Palestinians. It was only then that Hamas resumed firing rockets at Israel.

The use of terror and hunger to break a hostile population is one of the oldest forms of warfare. I watched the Bosnian Serbs employ the same tactic in Sarajevo. Those who orchestrate such sieges do not grasp the terrible rage born of long humiliation, indiscriminate violence and abuse. A father or a mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. All who endure humiliation, abuse and the murder of family members do not forget. This rage becomes a virus within those who survive. Is it any wonder that 71 percent of children interviewed at a school in Gaza recently said they wanted to be a "martyr"?

The Israelis in Gaza, like the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, are foolishly breeding the next generation of militants and Islamic radicals. The violence unleashed on Palestinian children will, one day, be the violence unleashed on Israeli children. This is the tragedy of Gaza. This is the tragedy of Israel.

© 2008

*At 3 PM on Friday, January 2, NPR News gave the death toll as "more than 400" --KD
Addendum: "More than 900," according to other sources, on January 12. That should put us comfortably over 1,000 by Martin Luther King Day. --KD