Michael Moore, who was one of the few public figures willing to take the heat for protesting the Iraq invasion, is doing his best to help people remember exactly why. Calling Donald Rumsfeld a war criminal (as he certainly was) is guaranteed to make at least some people pay attention:
Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore bitterly complained Tuesday night that no major Bush administration figure faced serious consequences for the invasion of Iraq.
On the tenth anniversary of the war, Moore told CNN’s Piers Morgan that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a “war criminal as far as I’m concerned.”
Moore has long maintained the Bush administration manipulated intelligence reports to make a case for war. The Bush administration claimed Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction and seeking to create a nuclear bomb, but following the invasion of the country no evidence of the weapons were found.
“I don’t understand why he, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz are still walking the streets,” Moore continued. “The whole way they are trying to revise history now is by saying, ‘Well, it was a mistake,’ or, ‘We were given bad information.’”
He doubted police would show him any leniency if he provided them with false information against one of his political targets, such as Goldman Sachs. “I think I would be arrested,” Moore remarked.
He warned the lack of repercussions against top Bush administration officials set a bad precedent for future presidents.
“The fact that no one has paid for this criminal act — why would an American, such as George W. Bush, send thousands of Americans off to their deaths? For what reason? And why doesn’t he have to answer for that?”
I've mentioned before that I have a Persian uncle. He immigrated here more than forty years ago, went through the process of getting his citizenship and has been a testament of the benefits of a strong immigration program can be for the nation. He has multiple degrees, owns his own business, has never even gotten so much as a traffic ticket and is loved in his community.
He also cannot fly anywhere without being harassed simply because he is a Muslim with an identifiably Middle Eastern name. A 24 hour turnaround to Las Vegas during the Christmas holidays turned into being detained, strip searched on both ends of the trip and hours of humiliation, because my uncle didn't think to bring luggage for such a quick trip. This is the reality for many Muslims in the US.
So when stories came forward that Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat was detained at LAX when he arrived for the Academy Awards, I wasn't particularly surprised. This is what we do in a post-9/11 world:
My wife and I had seen that look before -- on the faces of our kids, mostly. After all, like all Palestinian children living in the West Bank, ours have grown accustomed to the humiliation of ID checks and interrogations.
But we had never seen our youngest son, Gibreel, as disappointed as he was on Tuesday, when American immigration officials threatened to deny us entry to the United States and to the 85th Academy Awards for which we had traveled two days to attend.
As my friend and fellow filmmaker Michael Moore, who intervened to help secure my entry, tweeted after the episode: "Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee."
Well, I am an Oscar nominee. But more to the point, my film, 5 Broken Cameras -- which chronicles my village Bil'in's nonviolent struggle to resist Israeli occupation -- is about precisely the kind of humiliation my family and I experienced at Los Angeles International Airport. The only difference is that the victims where I come from number in the millions, and our stories have become so routine that what happened to my family and me yesterday pales by comparison.
This is a sad statement on our own ridiculous notions of Homeland Security, a worthy subject for any journalistic enterprise. But that's not the lede that Buzzfeed's Ben Smith wanted to take. Rather than look at racial profiling and how we're devolving as a country for a faux sense of security, Smith decided the better headline was to make fun of fellow filmmaker Michael Moore, who Burnat contacted for assistance. And even then, his reporter Tessa Stuart couldn't get the story right:
In statements made exclusively to The Atlantic Wire, Michael Moore and Emad Burnat say the Palestinian filmmaker's detainment by LAX customs officials on his way to the Oscars was anything but a "publicity stunt," as a deeply flawed BuzzFeed report based on a single anonymous source characterized the incident. "BuzzFeed is trying to spin their way out of this," Moore said in an interview on Tuesday evening, "and they're just running the talking points from the customs officials there at LAX." [..]
The Partnership for Civil Justice has just released the results of their Freedom of Information Act request about the Department of Homeland Security coordinating activities against the Occupy movement. No actual smoking gun about the apparent coordination that marked the police operations, but it's not too difficult to figure from the documents they released that there are some things they're not saying:
A trove of documents released today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a FOIA request filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee reveal that federal law enforcement agencies began their coordinated intelligence gathering and operations on the Occupy movement even before the first tent went up in Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011.
American taxpayers might find it odd to learn that the Secret Service was on duty to protect the Wall Street Bull in the name of protecting the U.S. Government. But there it is.
These documents, many of which are redacted, show that the highest officials in the Department of Homeland Security were preoccupied with the Occupy movement and have gone out of their way to project the appearance of an absence of federal involvement in the monitoring of and crackdown on Occupy.
On the street it would be called “Three Card Monte,” a swindler’s game to hide the ball -- a game of misdirection. The House always wins.
The DHS, as revealed in the newly released documents, has engaged in what appears to be a effort to avoid looking for Occupy related materials where it is likely to be found, including in Fusion Centers and DHS sub-divisions such as the Operations Coordination & Planning sub-division which is responsible for DHS coordination with local and federal law enforcement partners.
On November 16, DHS Press Secretary Matthew Chandler transmitted an e-mail to top ranking DHS officials, including the Chief of Staff to Janet Napolitano, the Chief of Staff to the DHS General Counsel, among others, in which he reports:
“We’re getting inquiries from CBS, AP, Daily Caller and others on an un-sourced Examiner.com piece that says that DHS and FBI are collaborating with cities by providing tactics and information on removing Occupy protestors. A check of I & A [Intelligence and Analysis] and FPS [Federal Protective Services] shows that this type of outreach is not occurring in any wholesale manner.”
The Press Secretary is careful to couch the official statement, that such is not occurring in any “wholesale” manner, leaving the door open to possible future revelations of such conduct.
But this official statement was based solely on a mid-November inquiry to two DHS sub-sections: Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) and Federal Protective Services (FPS). And by the date of that statement, Federal Protective Services and apparently also the I&A Directorate had already purged, “restricted and/or rescinded,” any Occupy related intelligence products, as discussed further here.
it is not surprising that Press Secretary Chandler’s statement that no “wholesale’ coordination of Occupy related actions is based on incomplete information.
The Press Secretary, following the script, conveniently avoided other likely DHS repositories and departmental components, including the personnel deployed to Fusion Centers or to the DHS Operations Coordination; Planning sub-division, which according to the DHS web site is “responsible for monitoring the security of the United States on a daily basis and coordinating activities within the Department and with governors, Homeland Security Advisors, law enforcement partners, and critical infrastructure operators in all 50 states and more than 50 major urban areas nationwide.”
Michael Moore is on tour with his new book, "Here Comes Trouble." He spoke the other night at Bunker Hill Community College in the Charlestown section of Boston, and the scene he described both troubled and inspired me as only Michael Moore can:
As I waited backstage for the college administrator to introduce me, he launched into something I, in all my years of speaking at hundreds of American colleges, have never witnessed. He began begging the crowd for money. Money for their student body's "Emergency Fund." The student body consists of many who are single parents and live below the poverty line. He didn't ask for tuition money or money for books. He begged the crowd for gas money. Babysitting money. Money to fix a car that's broken down, or for electricity that's been turned off. He listed all the things that cause a student to miss a class -- or drop out. Students (79 percent of them) who work near-minimum wage jobs AND try to be full time students at the same time. Community college is the only escape hatch they have, and even that is a crap shoot in this 21st century kleptocracy we live in.
He then told the crowd that he would hand out some envelopes and he asked them to put whatever they could in them.
Welcome to America! Where schools are turned into beggars as the rich on the other side of town post record profits and bonuses and the top corporations get away with paying no tax at all. I took the stage and began a 20 minute howl rejecting the America I just witnessed. A country that puts the education of its young dead last. DEAD LAST. A country that has purposefully abandoned the human right to an education in favor of sending millions of ignorant, uneducated, lost young people out into this world. This is no accident. Those in power cannot stay in power UNLESS the population they rule over are stupid and ignorant. To be smart is dangerous -- and they know that. If the ignorant were to know anything about civics (no longer taught in most schools), that could be nothing short of explosive. Because, if you are taught how to have a say, how to fight city hall, how to run for office and WIN -- well, look out, 'cause you will then have democratic change. The people who would make up a smart, educated majority would then start calling the shots. And we certainly don't want that because you know what those people from south Boston, from Toledo, from Pittsburgh, from Raleigh, from Flint are going to do? They're going to stop the wars. They're going to spend the money on their kids' schools, on their parents' health care, on laying down some railroad tracks so they can get from Chicago to Milwaukee in a half hour. That and dozens of other things that benefit the many, not the few.
Bob Somerby has been running an excellent series over the last week examining how the "greed is good" mentality has taken over American values over the past 40 or so years. Toward the end of his piece last Friday, he made pertinent point:
As income inequality has grown, one side’s heralds have worked very hard to pimp a load of supporting ideology. The other side’s heralds have largely slumbered, dozed, burbled and snored. We haven’t developed the language and the ideation with which we can approach those voters who are currently found outside our own tribe. Nor have we developed the forums in which we can approach such people with some hope of success. We prefer to spend our time insulting those who aren’t in our own tribe. This is lazy, self-indulgent behavior. Beyond that, it just isn’t smart.
What’s wrong with the societal pattern described in Whoriskey’s piece? If athletes and singers can haul in big swag, why can’t CEOs and “financial professionals?” The career liberal world has made little effort to fight back against that forty-year trend—a trend which has indeed driven along by “one half-baked study after another.”
I think there's definitely something to this. Liberals often assume that most of the public sees surging economic inequality as a profound and unqualified negative, but the reality is the public often has no idea just how unequal America has become. And what's more, the public has been fed the idea we should celebrate when the rich get richer because it means they'll just trickle more wealth down on the rest of us unworthy serfs.
So in response to Bob's challenge, I'd like to make the case for why greed is bad that could transcend the standard left-right divide and appeal to people who might disagree with me on a host of other issues. Let's give this a go, shall we?
Before delving too far into this, I'd like to give my general take on money. To me, money is a lot like sex and cupcakes. Meaning that while they're all things that everyone wants to have in one form or another, it's entirely possible to overindulge in all three. The key difference is, we don't stigmatize greedy people the same way we stigmatize people who are cads (i.e., Tiger Woods and Anthony Weiner) or people who are overweight (i.e., Michael Moore). In fact, when we read about somebody who makes an obscene amount of money we normally think, "Well good for them, I hope I can make it like that some day too!" The most classic example was the Wall Street Journal's interview with one of the homeowners whose foreclosure made hedge fund manager John Paulson into a gazaillinaire. Y'see, even though Paulson was literally profiting from the poor shlub's misery, he just couldn't find it in his heart to be upset:
In 2006, Mr. Booket got hit by a car while riding a motorcycle from a late-night party, was unable to find much work and couldn't pay the bank. In October 2008, he lost the house to foreclosure and plans to move out by next week. He says he bears no grudge against Mr. Paulson and Goldman.
"The man came up with a scheme to get rich, and he did it," says Mr. Booket, who had refinanced his mortgage just months before the accident. "So more power to him."
Mr. Booket is presumably a good guy. But he's also clearly bought into the idea that anything rich people do to make money is good for the rest of us too. Here, then, is my concise breakdown of the two biggest reasons why greed and inequality are bad:
First: When people at the top are greedy, workers don't get their just rewards. For a long time in this country, there was a very close relationship between productivity growth and wage growth. Increased productivity is a good thing because it means we've come up with new ways to make more stuff with less effort. Now take a look at this chart:
I love Michael Moore, because the man is a real American. There was a time in the early days of the blogosphere when most liberal bloggers ignored him - he made liberals "look bad," he "isn't our kind." I wasn't one of those bloggers, maybe because he is my kind -- a fighting liberal from a blue-collar family. (It's just hysterical when Sarah Palin calls this dyed-in-the-wool Michigander a "Hollywood" liberal.)
He marched with the Wisconsin protesters yesterday and spoke at their rally. He gave a wonderful speech called "America Is Not Broke", and we all should memorize it so that the next time a Fox News-loving person starts spouting the party line, you can set him or her straight. From PoliticusUSA:
“America is not broke. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages and settle for the life your great grandparents had. America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it is not in your hands.”
He then called the great conservative redistribution of America’s wealth a heist:
“It has been transferred in the greatest heist in American history from the workers and consumers to the banks and portfolios of the uber-rich. Right now, this afternoon, just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. Let me say that again, and please, someone in the mainstream media, just repeat this fact once. We’re not greedy. We’ll be happy to hear it just once. 400 obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008 now have more cash, stock, and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined.”
“I have nothing more than a high school education, but Gov. Walker, back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate, and here is what I learned. Money doesn’t grow on trees, unless it’s a palm tree. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things that we need, and guess what? That creates more jobs.
“It grows when we provide an outstanding education system. An educational system that then grows a new generation of entrepreneur, inventors, scientists, thinkers. The people who will come up with the next great idea for this planet, and those ideas create jobs, and the jobs produce tax revenue, but the few who have the most money don‘t want to pay their fair share of the taxes.”
Moore spoke about how the rich tax dodgers crashed our economic system. “They’d rather invest it in a gambling casino known as Wall St. betting for or against the stock market or against your home mortgage, and the entire population suffers because that wealth has been removed from circulation. What’s so cynical about this is that the very people who don’t pay their taxes crashed our economic system. They created the unemployment which has cost us tax revenue and states like Wisconsin have ended up with a so-called budget crisis, but Wisconsin is not broke.”
"What are three biggest lies of the last decade? Let’s repeat them. Number one, Wisconsin is broke. Number two, there’s weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and number three, the Packers needs Farve to win the Super Bowl. The nation is not broke, my friends. There’s lots of money to go around, lots, lots. It’s just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits in their well-guarded estates. They know. They know. They have committed crimes to make this happen.”
Moore did something brilliant. He shifted the narrative. Republicans want the Wisconsin story to be about the budget. Early on, Democrats were focused on the issues of liberty and collective bargaining. Moore broadened the message and created a third narrative about how decades of pro-corporate and pro-wealthy economic policies have redistributed the nation’s wealth from the people to a small group of super-rich haves. This is the story that terrifies both conservative politicians and the network of billionaire wealth that owns them.
Wisconsin isn’t only about freedom, unions and collective bargaining. At a deeper level, Wisconsin is about the systemic redistribution of wealth that the Republican Party has overseen since 1980. It is about creating an economic caste system where the rich always stay rich and rest of us are destined to serve them. Conservatives have expertly hid their true motives for years with distractions like the culture wars, and sometimes shooting wars like in Iraq. While America was focusing on the terror alert level, George W. Bush was picking up the mantle of Ronald Reagan and redistributing wealth.
If Republicans and their puppet masters are successful in breaking the back of organized labor, then millions of Americans will be returned to a form of economic serfdom that was once thought to have been banished decades ago.
Wisconsin is the battle field and unions are our last line of defense, and nothing less than economic liberty, and the American Dream hinge on the outcome.
In a classic case of telling the boss what he wants to hear, WikiLeaks released cables asserting that Michael Moore's documentary Sicko was banned in Cuba. Only problem? It wasn't.
Michael Moore was as surprised as anyone when WikiLeaks revealed a US cable asserting that Cuban officials banned his Sicko documentary because it depicted a "mythical" view of health care there. He was even more surprised when the media picked up on the cable and reported it as gospel truth. (See the Guardian, whose report in turn got widely disseminated.) The problem is that the documentary—a damning assessment of the American health care system—was not banned in Cuba, he writes at the Huffington Post.
As Digby points out, we used to have this thing that would actually check out stories before running them.
If only there were professional people who gather facts and research issues and interview subjects who could be called upon to investigate such things. I recall that there used to be an organization called The New York Times which was interested in sorting out various secrets and lies but they seem to have gone into another business. (Some strange foreigners still practice this old fashioned craft but here in the US not so much.) Too bad. It could be useful.
The point is apt, and makes the Americans media's tweaking about Julian Assange look all that much more ridiculous, because it looks more and more that many of these cables were written by people looking to make the bosses happy, not truthfully inform them. Like those cables that asserted that the Saudis actively supported and encouraged US aggression against Iran, all of these leaks and revelations must be met with skepticism and investigation into its validity.
Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail.
Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.
We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.
So why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth. The assault on them has been over the top:
**Sen. Joe Lieberman says WikiLeaks "has violated the Espionage Act."
**The New Yorker's George Packer calls Assange "super-secretive, thin-skinned, [and] megalomaniacal."
**Sarah Palin claims he's "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands" whom we should pursue "with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders."
**Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: "A dead man can't leak stuff ... there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch."
**Republican Mary Matalin says "he's a psychopath, a sociopath ... He's a terrorist."
**Rep. Peter A. King calls WikiLeaks a "terrorist organization."
And indeed they are! They exist to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and to others. Perhaps the next war won't be so easy because the tables have been turned -- and now it's Big Brother who's being watched ... by us! WikiLeaks deserves our thanks for shining a huge spotlight on all this. But some in the corporate-owned press have dismissed the importance of WikiLeaks ("they've released little that's new!") or have painted them as simple anarchists ("WikiLeaks just releases everything without any editorial control!")...read on
Read the whole post because it's excellent.
How disgusting is Bob Beckel of FOX News who said this about Assange?
BOB BECKEL, FOX NEWS ANALYST: I‘m not for the death penalty. So, if I‘m not for the death penalty, there‘s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a (EXPLITIVE DELETED).
OLBERMANN: You also offered the use of your Web site before Assange or your servers, or anything else you can do to keep WikiLeaks alive. What‘s the premise?
MOORE: The premise is that we really—we really owe a debt to Mr. Assange and to WikiLeaks for turning on a big spotlight on those people who brought about, first of all, this war that we‘ve been in for the better part of this decade. These people concocted lies, and they committed crimes in order to send our young men and women off to war.
And it has cost us not only the lives of our own people, but the lives of literally, now, tens of, if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghan citizens. And it‘s—I just think that if that in a free and open society, if we aren‘t able to find out the truth, mistakes like this get repeated over and over and over again.
I mean, I just—I was thinking yesterday when I sent the bail money over to London, what if we‘d had a WikiLeaks in August of 1964 when we were told that the North Vietnamese fired on a U.S. ship? Which, in fact, was a lie. It was a concocted lie at the Pentagon. And we didn‘t find out about that until Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers some six, seven years later...read on
Yesterday, on the TV and radio show "Democracy Now" hosted by Amy Goodman, the former Vice President of CIGNA, one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, revealed that CIGNA met with the other big health insurers to hatch a plan to "push" yours truly "off a cliff."
The interview contains new revelations about just how frightened the health industry was that "Sicko" might ignite a public wave of support for "socialized medicine." So the large health insurance companies came together over a common cause: Stop the American people from going to see "Sicko" -- and the way to do that was to cause some form of harm to me (either personally, professionally or...physically?).
The insinuation that the campaign could include physical damage just so Americans wouldn't learn that Canadian and UK health care systems aren't nearly as bad as they've been demogogued (and don't get me started on Norway) is more than a little frightening. But certainly, as Moore admits, the campaign worked.
The interview goes on as Potter reveals how his front group was able to get its talking points and smears into stories in the New York Times and CNN. It is a chilling look inside how easy it is to manipulate our mainstream media -- and just how worried the health insurance companies were that the American people might demand a true universal health care system.
In particular, Potter talks about how they may have succeeded in influencing CNN to run a factually untrue story about "Sicko" by its reporter, Sanjay Gupta (which led to my infamous encounter with Wolf Blitzer and later, an apology from CNN for getting their facts wrong).
Potter believes his work to defame "Sicko" succeeded, as the film didn't end up posting "Fahrenheit 9/11" grosses. To be clear, "Sicko" went on to become the 3rd largest grossing documentary of all time at that point. And as the release of "Sicko" in June of 2007 was the first time since the defeat of Hillary Clinton's healthcare bill in 1994 that the issue of health insurance was brought to the forefront of the national media, I believe it helped to reignite the issue during the 2008 election year by exposing millions of Americans to the truth about the health insurance industry. More than one person on Capitol Hill will admit that "Sicko" was a big help in rallying public support for the compromise bill that eventually passed earlier this year. But I agree, their smear campaign was effective and did create the dent they were hoping for -- single payer and the public option never even made it into the real discussion on the floor of Congress.
And forgive me for being a broken record on this, but here is example #3,208,296,209 of how the traditional media not only failed us, but conspired in a disinformation campaign with corporate interests. Pundits like Ted Koppel and Jon Stewart want to talk about how both MSNBC and Fox News are equally toxic to the national dialogue, but they've missed the boat, big time. The media has been failing us for much, much longer and in far more destructive ways than whether Olbermann or Beck show themselves to be hyper-ideological.
Glenn Beck long ago went around the bend and over the cliff rhetorically. Indeed, he has gone around several bends in the past year. So it was no big surprise that his big defeat with the passage of health-care reform sent him at warp speed round yet another.
This time, it seems he went around the penultimate bend: At the end of two days' worth of ranting, he evidently concluded that the Obama administration and the cadre of evil "progressives" in government are intentionally taking up immigration reform in the wake of the health-care vote because they hope to provoke an armed insurrection.
That's not quite justifying armed revolution, but it sure is nuzzling right up next to it by giving it an excuse.
This conclusion was one he built up over two days, beginning Monday with the usual deprecations about the motives of the people who supported health-care reform:
"You always thought the bad guys always lost in the end."
"All of the pressure and the bribes went to the dirty congressmen on the left, on the Democrats."
"They [Democrats] have finally been toppled, forced to submit."
"They sold their souls for this vote."
"Well, what they've become is ruthless, amoral, ends-justify-the-means, Saul Alinskyites who will do anything, including eat their own to get what they want."
Oh, and lest anyone forget: Michael Moore is fat.
"Because the average Democrat is not the California hippie Marxist Socialist Communist Progressive, sticking flowers in the barrel, sitting around smokin' dope all day during college and talkin' about how they can destroy the evil American empire."
"America changed for me this weekend. I don't see it anymore as this television set used to show me. I mean, I never thought I would see the kind of corruption, the backroom deals, the bribes, the out and out ... scumminess ... that got us to this health-care vote."
Beck again compared it to Pearl Harbor -- and then added the St. Valentine's Day Massacre "when the Mob came in and cleaned things up"), Chamberlain meeting with Hitler, and tossed in Jimmy Carter's election (huh?) and the burning of the Hindenburg (which he said is a picture of Medicare and Medicaid). He finished:
It will be remembered as a black spot in our nation's history, it will be. It will be -- ah well, depending on who wins the war. Because those are the people that will write the history books.
What's that? War? What war would that be? We're not sure at first, but he drops a few hints later, after disparaging his opposition as Marxists, professors, dupes, and leeches: