Monday, December 27, 2010

UNDER THE RUG: What Project Censored Missed and MSM Didn't Want You to Know in 2010

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.
Harry S. Truman

The past is never dead. It's not even past.
William Faulkner

This is the second consecutive year that I've highlighted stories that our mainstream media (MSM) outlets seemed to be oblivious of. For the last 35 years, this is a task that Project Censored has done a fantastic job of doing with their annual list of Top 25 Censored Stories. But sometimes, even with their great track record of illuminating "the most important underreported stories" of the year, some stories slip through the cracks. Last year, I highlighted two such stories, this year I have four to report. In retrospect, I should have reported three stories last year, there was an important story I neglected which I will reference when I report the final story.

STORY #1: Key Evidence From Russian Report Corroborating Allegations of Ronald Reagan's Presidential Campaign Interference in 1980 "October Surprise" Hidden From the American Public in 1993

This revelation was reported by George Polk Award winning investigative reporter Robert Parry on May 6, 2010. I wrote about this report in a blog post commemorating the 30th anniversary of the October Surprise. Here's an excerpt from that report:

Key October Surprise Evidence Hidden

By Robert Parry (A Special Report)
May 6, 2010

A Russian government report, which corroborated allegations that Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign interfered with President Jimmy Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations in 1980, was apparently kept from the Democratic chairman of a congressional task force that investigated the charges a dozen years later.
Lee Hamilton, then a congressman from Indiana in charge of the task force, told me in a recent interview, “I don’t recall seeing it,” although he was the one who had requested Moscow’s cooperation in the first place and the extraordinary Russian report was addressed to him.
The Russian report, which was dropped off at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Jan. 11, 1993, contradicted the task force’s findings – which were released two days later – of “no credible evidence” showing that Republicans contacted Iranian intermediaries behind President Carter’s back regarding 52 American hostages held by Iran’s Islamic revolutionary government, the so-called October Surprise case.
I was surprised by Hamilton’s unfamiliarity with the Russian report, so I e-mailed him a PDF copy. I then contacted the task force’s former chief counsel, attorney Lawrence Barcella, who acknowledged in an e-mail that he doesn’t “recall whether I showed [Hamilton] the Russian report or not.”
In other words, the Russian report – possibly representing Moscow’s first post-Cold War collaboration with the United States on an intelligence mystery – was not only kept from the American public but apparently from the chairman of the task force responsible for the investigation.
There was a follow-up article that Robert Parry wrote in June 2010 that I neglected to mention in my October blog post. Here is an excerpt of that article:


The Tricky October Surprise Report

by Robert Parry
Originally published in yesterday, 17 June 2010

A congressional report on a turning point of modern U.S. political history – whether candidate Ronald Reagan struck a treacherous deal with Iranian radicals to help win the White House in 1980 – was written haphazardly and deceptively, including an apparently false claim that Reagan’s innocence was approved unanimously by a House task force.
A recent reexamination of the task force’s work also reveals that evidence implicating Reagan’s campaign in a pre-election deal to delay the release of 52 Americans then held hostage in Iran was kept from the U.S. public and even from members of the task force; that senior staff investigators shelved late-arriving evidence of Republican guilt; and that dissent within the task force was suppressed.
Recently, one task force member, retired Rep. Mervyn Dymally, D-California, while working on his personal memoirs, noticed that the cover letter accompanying the task force report claimed that there had been a unanimous vote on Dec. 10, 1992, exonerating Reagan. Dymally told me that he knew of no such vote on that date nor at any other time.
When I contacted former task force chairman Lee Hamilton, he told me that he would not have claimed there was a unanimous vote if there hadn’t been one.
However, when I checked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I was told that no record could be found of a roll call of the task force vote. “From the records we have there is no evidence of a recorded vote,” said committee spokesman David Barnes in an e-mail. (In the mid-1990s, when I searched through the task force’s unpublished files, I also found no record of a roll call.)

In addition to the new revelation that task force member Dymally did not approve of the findings of the investigation, Parry's article does a wonderful job of providing a context for what these revelations really mean in the world today. The election of 1980 was truly a cultural crossroads where America faced two distinct choices. To quote Parry, "The significance of Reagan’s victory on modern American history can hardly be overstated. For instance, while Carter wanted to use his second term to press for U.S. energy independence and to secure a lasting Middle East peace, Reagan had little use for such policies and instead pushed through an anti-government agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of corporations." While the anti-government agenda, which Parry mentions, is a distinct aspect of the Tea Party mentality that fueled the House GOP takeover this November, another aspect that remains entrenched since 1980 is the lack of accountability that allows such criminal behavior to flourish. Though the October Surprise was a prequel involving many of the same players in the Iran-Contra scandal, it was the last chapter in the official cover-up by our government.

STORY #2: Fired AIPAC Employee Steve Rosen Threatens to Expose Massive Spy Ring, Files $20 Million Lawsuit Alleging Passing Classified Info is Common Practice

This story has an explosive potential on many levels. As I detailed in my November blog post, exposing the AIPAC Spy Scandal could open a Pandora's Box that Sibel Edmonds detailed revolving around multi-billion dollar drug smuggling and black market nuclear sales to terrorists such as what Valerie Plame's cover company, Brewster Jennings & Associates, was tracking prior to being exposed in the media. If that wasn't explosive enough to interest MSM, there is also the tawdry sexual aspects of this case:

Ex-AIPAC official threatens to uncover mass spying at Israel lobby

By Daniel Tencer
Sunday, November 21st, 2010 -- 11:41 am

 Ex AIPAC official threatens to uncover mass spying at Israel lobby
Top AIPAC officials visited prostitutes, regularly watched porn at work: claim
Is US's most influential advocate for Israel about to implode?
Steve Rosen, who was in charge of foreign policy issues at AIPAC until 2005, is suing his former employer for $20 million, alleging that AIPAC defamed him when they fired him. Rosen and colleague Keith Weissman were charged in 2004 with espionage for allegedly pressuring a Washington Post reporter into running classified US government information they had obtained about Iran. The charges were dropped last year, evidently due to lack of evidence.
Rosen says his actions were common practice at the organization. He said his next move is to show that AIPAC, Washington’s major pro-Israeli lobbying group by far, regularly traffics in sensitive U.S. government information, especially material related to the Middle East.
"Unfortunately for AIPAC, Rosen has 180 documents which could prove that Howard Kohr, AIPAC's executive director, and probably the AIPAC board as well, knew exactly what Rosen was doing," reports M.J. Rosenberg at Al-Jazeera.
He suggests that Rosen's threat to reveal AIPAC trafficking of data is meant to intimidate the lobby group into settling out of court. Making the lawsuit go away "will not be easy - even if Steve Rosen ultimately accepts a payoff from the organization and refrains from telling what he knows," Rosenberg writes.

One month later, this story is still alive and MSM still refuses to touch it:

FRIDAY UPDATE: AIPAC Bill Passage Shows AIPAC Weakness, Plus Rosen Follies, & The GOP Rabbi's Chutzpah Lands Him With 20 Years

AIPAC scandal finally shows on Hill. My earlier piece indicated that the AIPAC/Berman bill's quick passage showed that the status quo lobby is as strong as ever. This fine analysis by Josh Ruebner after the bill's passage indicates otherwise!
The Forward reports on some new filings on the AIPAC espionage/sex/blackmail case. (And here is JTA on same)
Steve Rosen, pushing with all his might for a $20 million payoff, asserts that there are other occasions (other than the one for which he was indicted) in which AIPAC trafficked in government secrets. He is the worst enemy the lobby ever had. (Irony. When I worked there, I always told my friend, then executive director, Tom Dine, to fire that spook before he destroyed the organization. I'm glad he ignored me).
The Forward thinks that AIPAC will ultimately settle. Of course it will. It cannot allow AIPAC to be exposed for what it is.
But, so what. The payoff itself will send a clear message that AIPAC cannot allow the truth to come out. Remember that memo Steve Rosen sent to me in 1982: "A lobby is a nightflower. It thrives in the dark and withers in the sun."
I believe Mr. Rosenberg's analysis of the story may prove to be correct. AIPAC will not allow the truth to come out. The deeper underlying truth is that the AIPAC Spy Scandal is bigger than AIPAC, it's bigger than Israel. This is a common misunderstanding; when I originally posted my blog post of this story at Democratic Underground, my original post in the General Discussion forum received 186 recommendations. However, one of the moderators moved my post to the Israel/Palestine forum, apparently not comprehending that the broader context and real focus of this scandal is not AIPAC or Israel: it's the neo-cons!
The commonplace espionage exhibited in this scandal appears to be part of a broader set of FBI and Pentagon investigations of close collaboration between prominent U.S. neo-conservatives and foreign officials going back 40 years. Apparently, this informal right-wing network began in 1970 led by Democratic Senator Scoop Jackson, whose staffers included Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams and Paul Wolfowitz. In October 1970, an FBI wiretap at the Israeli Embassy records Richard Perle discussing classified information with an Israeli official. In 1978, Paul Wolfowitz was investigated for allegedly passing a classified document on proposed US weapons sales to Israel through AIPAC. Elliott Abrams, of course, was indicted for deceiving Congress on the Iran-Contra scandal and Douglas Feith was questioned in 2004 about passing classified information to an Iraqi politician or a U.S. lobbying group allied with Israel.
But the habit of neo-cons passing classified info extends beyond the original circle of Jackson staffers and beyond just Israel and AIPAC. As detailed in my UNDER THE RUG post last year, Marc Grossman and Dick Armitage exposed Valerie Plame's classified cover company in June 2001 to Turkish clients connected with the American Turkish Council. In 1989, Doug Feith registered International Advisors Inc. (IAI) as a foreign agent representing the government of Turkey, earning $60,000 a year for doing so from 1989-1994. And then there is Michael Ledeen. Ledeen served as the go-between for Oliver North in the early stages of the Iran/Contra scandal, working with Israeli spy David Kimche to gain the release of US hostages in Beirut through an Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar. He also received $120,000 in 1980 or 1981 from Italian intelligence agency SISMI and was reputed by the CIA station in Rome to also be an agent of influence of Israel.
These are all questionable associations, some which may or may not be connected with the threats that Rosen made in 2010 regarding his lawsuit. A thorough investigation might resolve some of these questions. But considering the lack of attention MSM is shining on this case, that possibility seems remote.

STORY #3: Mumbai Plotter Worked for DEA While Training With Terrorists
This is a story I had written about when it was originally reported in October:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mumbai Attacks Update: The DEA Connection

Almost two years ago, there were a series of coordinated terror attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai, India that killed 166 people, including six Americans. At the time, I wrote a blog post about it titled Who's really responsible for Mumbai? Dick Cheney doesn't want you to know. It explored how the primary suspects in the terror attacks, Dawood Ibrahim and the terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba, were connected with Dick Cheney through their mutual financial profiteering via the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network. There was also reports cited that the attackers might not have all been Arab or Pakistani; the possibility of a Chechen connection was explored because of tactical similarities and eyewitness accounts of "foreign looking, fair skinned" men with "blonde hair" and "a punkish hairstyle".

Since then, there has been minimal exposure in American mainstream media (MSM) regarding investigations into the Mumbai attacks. But recently, there has been a bombshell revelation:

Feds Confirm Mumbai Plotter Trained With Terrorists While Working for DEA

by Sebastian Rotella
ProPublica, Oct. 16, 2010, 11:04 p.m.


Feds Confirm Mumbai Plotter Trained With Terrorists While Working for DEA [1]

U.S. Embassy Didn’t Pass Along Tip About Headley’s Ties to Terrorists [2]
Federal officials acknowledged Saturday that David Coleman Headley, the U.S. businessman who confessed to being a terrorist scout in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was working as a DEA informant while he was training with terrorists in Pakistan.
Federal officials, who spoke only only on background because of the sensitivity of the Headley case, also said they suspect a link between Headley and the al Qaeda figures whose activities have sparked recent terror threats against Europe.
Courtroom drawing of David Coleman Headley, left. Dec. 9, 2009. (Verna Sadock/AP Photo)
Courtroom drawing of David Coleman Headley, left. Dec. 9, 2009. (Verna Sadock/AP Photo)
The revelations came after a report Friday [3] by ProPublica and the Washington Post that the FBI had been warned about Headley’s terrorist ties three years before the Mumbai attacks. Headley wasn’t arrested until 11 months after the attack.
After Headley was arrested in a 2005 domestic dispute in New York City, his wife told federal investigators about his long involvement with the terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba and his extensive training in its Pakistani camps. She also told them he had bragged about being a paid U.S. informant while undergoing terrorist training.


Quite an astounding revelation! Yet except for reporter Sebastian Rotella having his article reprinted in the Washington Post and a related story in the New York Times, MSM has been strangely silent on this story. Perhaps this is excusable to the predominate focus on the upcoming election in November. But still, an American confessing to involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks turns out to be a DEA informant, turns out the FBI was warned of his terrorist links three years prior to the attacks, yet this story doesn't merit nationwide front page headlines? No morning talk or evening cable news interviews with the ex-wife, or with the DEA or FBI? A more likely reason for MSM muting of this story is Deep Politics. As long as the links between government, intelligence, drugs and terrorism are not officially acknowledged, how are we to know they exist?

There have been no further updates regarding Headley's connection with the DEA. But there was an interesting development courtesy of a Wikileaks cable:
WikiLeaks: Headley Wasn't Acting Alone, Said Chidambaram
2010-12-18 17:20:00

New Delhi/London, Dec 18 (IANS) Home Minister P. Chidambaram had insisted on having access to Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley, who scouted for targets for the 26/11 terror attack. 'I have a feeling in my bones that Headley was not acting alone,' the minister is quoted as saying in a fresh WikiLeaks US cable.
A 'secret' US cable of Feb 26 this year, put out by the whistleblower website and reported by Guardian, said that in a Feb 23 meeting in 2010, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Chidambaram discussed the case of Headley, who is in US custody.
The cable said: 'Chidambaram insisted that the GOI (Government of India) have access to Headley: 'we must be able to say we had access, even if Headley did not speak'. He also requested access to Headley's spouse, Shaiza, who he said is in Chicago so GOI investigators can question her on the meaning of her alleged message to Headley that she `saw your graduation'.'
During the meeting, Chidambaram confided that 'I have a feeling in my bones that Headley was not acting alone' in India and expressed frustration over what he characterised as Headley's false claim that he had no accomplices in India, the daily reported.

Before I report STORY #4, I want to preface my report with a story that I should have highlighted on last year's list, but neglected to. Every year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) publishes their World Energy Outlook, a forecast of trends in global oil production and energy consumption for the next 25 years. While their goal is to exist as an independent agency providing unbiased and accurate projections for the 28 national governments that support the agency, that isn't always the case. In 2009, even as the IEA's chief economist Dr. Fatih Barol said that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years, there were whistleblowers claiming that the IEA's pretense at independence was not all it appeared to be:

Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower

Exclusive: Watchdog's estimates of reserves inflated says top official

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.
Now the "peak oil" theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. "The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year," said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. "The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.
"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources," he added.
A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad," he added.

Though The Guardian is a mainstream British publication, this story was ignored by American MSM last year. So what does the IEA have to say this year?

STORY #4: IEA Confirms Global Production of Conventional Oil Peaked in 2006
This should have been the biggest story of the year. On November 9, the 2010 IEA World Energy Outlook became available. On page 6 of the executive summary, the IEA tucked this nugget of data within an otherwise innocuous sentence:
"Crude oil output reaches an undulating plateau of around 68-69 mb/d by 2020, but never regains its all-time peak of 70 mb/d reached in 2006, while production of natural gas liquids (NGLs) and uncoventional oil grows strongly."
The IEA did not emphasize that part of the sentence, I did. Perhaps the whistleblowers were correct that US pressure to underplay a looming shortage has had an effect on the IEA. That might also explain the MSM silence on the revelation:

IEA acknowledges peak oil

by Stuart Staniford
Average: 3.5 (2 votes)
Please Log in or register to rate this article.

If you go to the executive summary of the 2009 International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook, and search for "peak oil", your browser will come up empty. The whole subject was so beneath the dignity of a serious energy agency that they didn't even bother mentioning it.
However, yesterday, the 2010 IEA World Energy Outlook became available. And if you repeat the exercise in that executive summary, you will come upon a section titled:

Will peak oil be a guest or the spectre at the feast?

Followed by an explicit discussion of the whole question. The IEA's position is summarized in the graph above - conventional crude oil production has already peaked in 2006! Suddenly, the subject of impending peak has gone from not worthy of discussion to in the past already!


Alas, if you rely on the New York Times, you'd still be in the dark. The piece on the report doesn't make a peep about peak oil (being focussed entirely on the China demand growth aspect of the report, which is admittedly interesting and important).


What does this mean in layman's terms? Remember back in the late 90's when you would drive into a gas station, see a sign that said Regular Unleaded - $1.20 and think, "That Clinton! If he didn't 'wag the dog' in the Middle East, gas would be so cheap!" Well, those were the good ol' days, and those days are never coming back. Conventional oil generally refers to light sweet crude, the kind of oil that in the past was the easiest to find and is always the cheapest to refine. Naturally, this is the type of oil that is the highest in demand by consumers in civilized countries. We will never be able to produce as much as we did in 2006, no matter how high demand gets! So to make up the difference and hopefully avoid the lines at the gas station prevalent in 1973 and 1979 there will be an increase in the production of uncoventional oil, which to their credit the IEA mentioned in their report. What they did not mention was how much more expensive it is to refine Venezuelan heavy oil or Canadian tar sands and how much more the consumer would have to pay.

But the economic ramifications of Peak Oil are much deeper than just paying more at the pump. There are many websites that provide detailed descriptions, but here is a succinct explanation of why:

What does peak oil mean for our societies?

Our industrial societies and our financial systems were built on the assumption of continual growth – growth based on ever more readily available cheap fossil fuels. Oil in particular is the most convenient and multi-purposed of these fossil fuels. Oil currently accounts for about 43% of the world's total fuel consumption [PDF], and 95% of global energy used for transportation [PDF]. Oil and gas are feedstocks for plastics, paints, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, electronic components, tyres and much more. Oil is so important that the peak will have vast implications across the realms of war and geopolitics, medicine, culture, transport and trade, economic stability and food production. Significantly, for every one joule of food consumed in the United States, around 10 joules of fossil fuel energy have been used to produce it.

When the full ramifications of Peak Oil become too severe to ignore, I believe that there will be a tremendous outcry similar to the one we experienced during the economic meltdown in the autumn of 2008 with the same plaintive question, "Why didn't anyone see this coming?!" When that happens, I hope that Richard Heinberg will be around to say, "I told you so!" Another prophet-turned-historian, Kenneth Deffeyes will hopefully do the same. I agree with his analysis of the IEA's current predicament, that they are trying to say, “look, oil production peaked five years ago and nothing catastrophic happened” – that is if you ignore the worst global recession in 80 years which certainly was helped along by the $147 a barrel oil we had two years ago. But there is one no longer around who first piqued my curiousity in the 2004 documentary The End of Suburbia. At an Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) seminar in May 2003, when asked when he thought Peak Oil would occur, Dr. Ali Samsam Bakhtiari, Corporate Planning Directorate of the National Iranian Oil Company stated, "I think it's between 2005 and 2007. That's what my model shows".
No wonder Michael Ruppert called him "The Prophet Ali" on page 562 of his book, Crossing the Rubicon. Every Peak Oil researcher, starting with M. King Hubbert in 1949 on to many others not mentioned here working today, should be accorded such praise for efforts and their prescient voices.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Krampus of the Year: Newt Gingrich

This is officially the second annual Krampus of the Year award, an American Judas exclusive. For an explanation of who Krampus is and why I gave the award to Joe Lieberman a year ago, please read this link.

This year, it was a much tougher choice. I thought I might bestow this honor on one of the loudest complainers in what has become a perennial "War on Christmas" that those to the right of Father Coughlin seem to think is not only real but is a real threat to America, or even Christian civilization itself! Where it got too humorous to seriously consider giving an award to these social baboons was how certain people in Congress expressed this concern. I'll let Andrea Stone explain:

It began when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that senators might have to work through the Christmas break if that's what it takes to get through a spending bill, a nuclear arms treaty, the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and other pressing legislation.

That prompted Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona to accuse the Democrat of Grinch-like behavior, saying it was not possible to stay in session "without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians."
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., walks near the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., shown near the floor of the Senate in Washington on Wednesday, called plans for the Senate to work through the Christmas break "sacrilegious."

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint soon piled on. He told Politico the schedule was "sacrilegious," suggesting Reid, a Mormon, was acting in a most un-Christian fashion. "What's going on here is just wrong. This is the most sacred holiday for Christians," he said.

Reid would have none of that. He took to the Senate floor to blame Republican filibusters all year long for keeping lawmakers at work.


Sorry Senators Kyl and DeMint, you came close but no cigar. You just had to pick on a Mormon, didn't you? You just had to imply that the Church of Latter Day Saints doesn't consider the day of Christ's birth to be holy? What, Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck weren't around to chastise you? I was all set to give those bloviators, as well as Congressman Mike Pence the award, but a latecomer from out of the blue yesterday blew those pretenders to the throne out of the water.

And the winner of the American Judas 2010 Krampus of the Year Award is...

Newt Gingrich!

How did he come to deserve the honor of being considered an honorary Bad Cop of Christmas? Check out what Laura Bassett reported that he had to say yesterday:

Newt Gingrich Blames Nation's Problems On Unemployed People

First Posted: 12-20-10 05:48 PM | Updated: 12-20-10 05:56 PM


Newt Gingrich, who is currently mulling a presidential bid in 2012, said at a political event in South Carolina on Thursday that most of America's problems can be blamed on the "leftist news media," Hollywood, tenured academics, overpaid federal workers, and unemployed people.
"I'm opposed to giving people money for doing nothing," he told the crowd of 250 cheering GOP activists in a state with a 10.6 percent unemployment rate.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
Comparing unemployment benefits to welfare, a system he worked with former President Clinton to overhaul in the mid-1990s, Gingrich asserts that the country spent $134 billion last year on unemployment compensation "and got nothing for it." Instead of wasting money "paying people to do nothing for 99 weeks," he would make job training mandatory for anyone getting an unemployment check.
There are five jobless people for everyone one job opening right now, making it difficult for even the most industrious job hunters to find work, yet Gingrich's comments echo the sentiments of a number of GOP Congressman who believe unemployment benefits make people lazy. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), for instance, said jobless benefits mean people are "encouraged not to go look for work," and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told South Carolina's News 13: "We can't just keep paying people to stay at home."

That headline is from the Huffington Post, not The Onion. The Huffington Post may host some humorous columns, but the one above was not intended for humor. But how can you not read the headline "Newt Gingrich Blames Nation's Problems on Unemployed People" without your jaw hitting the floor? So Gingrich wins the award in a breakaway final sprint, with Sen. Jim DeMint a close second since he had the misfortune of being quoted in the same article. What fine Christian men!
But wait, perhaps I'm being too hard on him and rushing to judgment! After all, this potential presidential nominee claims he has a solution to this problem. He wants to make job training mandatory for anyone getting an unemployment check. Way to put the cart in front of the horse, Newt! Since Newt didn't mention that his prospective mandatory job training would be 100% faith-based, I think I'm safe in assuming that Newt is proposing that our tax dollars go to fund a secular-socialist program! Which I think is great, I have no problem with such a blatantly hypocritical 360 degree reversal if the program actually created jobs in America for Americans. But see, that's the problem: it doesn't. Training people for jobs that don't exist would be a real waste of taxpayer money. At least when unemployed people spend their unemployment checks (which by the way Newt, is a government program that unemployed people payed into when they were employed, which technically makes it their money that they're receiving!) that money gets spent on food, clothing, rent, electricity - you know, buying things that actually help the economy grow, Newt!
But when unemployed CEOs get their golden parachutes, do they spend that money creating jobs? No, they spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince the same people whose jobs they outsourced to China, India and Bangalore among other countries that they should be given job titles like Governor and Senator where this time, they'll do the job right, by gum! So it seems to me that the only fiscally responsible way for Newt Gingrich to employ (no pun intended) his plan for training the unemployed would be to force them upon graduating from this mandatory job training program to empty out their savings account or their closest relative's savings account and buy them a plane ticket so they can fly (after a full cavity search courtesy of TSA, of course!) to the nearest or farthest foreign country where the golden parachuted CEOs outsourced all our jobs!
Would Newt Gingrich consider such an austere solution? Why else would I name him Krampus of the Year? To quote a fictional 19th century Krampus, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hey Interpol! Why Don't You Issue an Alert For This Criminal?

It seems to me the lesson of the Wikileaks revelations and the international manhunt for it's activist founder, Julian Assange, is that if you threaten to expose corporate crime, you are a target. If you commit corporate crime, people conveniently look the other way. Otherwise, why wouldn't Interpol arrest this man?:

Halliburton may pay $500 million to keep Cheney out of prison: report

By Daniel Tencer
Thursday, December 9th, 2010 -- 10:52 pm

 Halliburton may pay $500 million to keep Cheney out of prison: report

Oilfield services company Halliburton is in negotiations with the Nigerian government to keep its former CEO, Dick Cheney, out of prison, according to a news report.
Sources inside Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told GlobalPost this week that a settlement keeping the charges against Cheney out of court could cost as much as $500 million.
Nigeria filed charges against Cheney this week in an investigation of alleged bribery estimated at $180 million. Prosecutors named both Halliburton and KBR in the charges, as well as three European oil and engineering companies -- Technip SA, EniSpa, and Saipem Construction.
The charges allege that engineering contractor KBR, until 2007 a subsidiary of Halliburton, was among companies that paid bribes to secure a $6 billion contract for a natural gas plant. KBR pleaded guilty to the same bribes in a US court in 2009, and agreed to pay a $382 million fine. The Nigerian charges appear to stem from the US case -- though, in that trial, Cheney was never directly charged.

Anyone care to issue a citizen's arrest?!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winnebago Man

Prior to viewing the documentary Winnebago Man, I had never heard of the Winnebago Man. Somehow this pop culture phenomenon had slipped under my radar. But as the story unfolded, there were elements of the tale that had a ring of familiarity to it. The Winnebago Man, also known as "The Angriest Man in the World", is Jack Rebney, a pitchman who shot an industrial promotional film for Winnebago in 1989. During the shoot, his inability to remember his own dialogue resulted in a series of outbursts colored with so much cursing, the editors of the film cut the outtakes together and passed around VHS copies of Rebney's meltdown to share the hilarity. During the 90's, long before there was a youtube, the Winnebago Man became a viral video courtesy of fans copying the video on VHS and giving it to friends who made even more copies. When opened in 2005, the Winnebago Man became an internet sensation.

But what had become of the real Jack Rebney? That is the question the director of Winnebago Man, Ben Steinbauer, is intent on answering. At first, it seems as though he has completely fallen off the map. The only clue to the whereabouts of Rebney is an an advertisement he placed the purchase a sailboat. Is Jack deliberately trying to avoid being found? Steinbauer explores the 21st century phenomenon of cyber-bullying, how the subjects of viral videos are often the targets of intentional humiliation. His own feelings toward Rebney are sympathetic; often he has felt similar frustrations on film shoots and at the end of the day would pop in a copy of Rebney's ranting as a stress reliever. Many fans expressed similar identification. Was Jack aware of his popularity?

Ultimately, Steinbauer hires a private investigator to track Rebney down. After a few weeks, his search is successful as Rebney returns his call and leaves a message welcoming Steinbauer to visit him. Rebney lives by himself in a Shasta County mountain cabin in Manton, California. Steinbauer is surprised to find such a warm, articulate and relatively calm individual, saying that it's as though Rebney has spent the time since his days on the Winnebago shoot "doing yoga". While he claims he was notified of his notoriety on the internet by a friend, his general attitude toward it is described by Steinbauer as a "minor anecdote" in the grand scheme of Rebney's life. Rebney bids him farewell and Steinbauer returns home, disappointed and wondering if he has made too much of the whole Winnebago Man phenomenon.

But then a week later, Rebney calls him back. And he keeps calling him. Apparently, the sweet docile old man behavior was just an act. As he relates how he really feels about his notoriety, which he has been aware of since the collection of outtakes was passed around on VHS, the bitterness comes out with the same cursing cantakerousness we are familiar with from the viral video. It seems he has changed his mind about the impression he tried to convey when Steinbauer initially visited him. He is still upset, but now the primary focus of his anger is the political direction the country is heading toward and he wants to voice his opinions. He invites Steinbauer out for a second visit, but before that visit happens, Regney's glaucoma causes him to go blind.

Sound dramatic? Actually, this is one of the funniest documentaries I've ever seen. Even after his blindness, Regney is constantly cutting loose with the funniest foul-mouthed observations. From the interaction with his faithful dog and his best friend, to the way he drags out the word "Waaaal-Mart" as he rants in front of one in Redding, Regney is a constant source of laughter. What really surprised me is how the movie ended. I won't print a spoiler, but it was amazingly sweet and touching. If I have one critique of the movie, it's that I wish Steinbauer had quit trying to rein Regney in. If Regney wants to shoot a video where he castigates Dick Cheney for destroying the economy a full year and a half (March 2007) before the stock market actually collapsed (September 2008), then for f@#$% sake, let the man say whatever he g$%@#%* feels like! S#$%!