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iS THIS still a democracy?
Posted: 10 August 2007 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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fellas,

how often does the NYT say that war was a violation of the UN Charter and should never have been waged?

How often does the NYT say that the war was poorly planned?

There is a fundamental difference between the two questions. One implies that legality is important and the other implies that it doesnt, especially if the crime is successful. The NYT fits in perfectly with the latter.

Scott Ritter has a new book out, Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Anti-War Movement. In the book he cites one of his articles (by the same name) that was a catalyst for the book. He said this:

“Americans aren’t against the war in Iraq because it is wrong; they are against it because we are losing.”

The Art of War for the anti-war movement
http://www.alternet.org/blogs/themix/34332/

Now, considering this is also the attitude of the media, which the public relies on for its source of information, I think this can help explain the importance of groups like FAIR.

Anyway, the question of this thread is this still a democracy? First, Id say: democracy is as democracy does (sorry to rip of Forrest Gump!). Then Id say that one of the essential things a democracy needs is a free press that does not work as an agent for the government. In this respect, we are losing ground as a democracy. Do your own research if you dont want to trust groups like FAIR. Pick a topic and look at the coverage. If you can show that the media is not showing extreme favor of our government and our governments allies while showing a considerably different tone towards officially designated enemies then share it. It has been my experience in looking at these things that we hold “others” to a much higher standard then we hold “ourselves.”

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Posted: 10 August 2007 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Shorter truthaddict: if a newspaper doesn’t have a pacifist editorial line, it’s a mouthpiece for the government.

Brilliant.

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Posted: 10 August 2007 05:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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that was absurdly lame. i cant think of a grosser misrepresentation of what ive been saying. im not even going to bother defending myself to that statement.

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Posted: 10 August 2007 10:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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I think the media is ultimately answerable to two things: the financial motives that drive its parent corporations, and its own internal culture. The venal motives are fairly easy to spot. The internal cutlure is the tricky part. A legitimate desire to be balanced may lead to the nonsense of present pro and anti-evolution arguments as if they were two equal and rational sides of a real debate. An honest desire to be a watchdog may lead to excessive dramitization of minor political foibles, medical erros, etc. I think the best defense the citizen has is a variety of ostentatiously biased publications from all perspectives, ideally cheaply and readily available., For now, at least, that means the internet mostly. It does place a burden on us as citizens to both monitor a variety of nes sources and also to challenge our own biases by looking seriously at publications we know come from the opposite end of the spectrum. I don’t believe true impartiality is achievable for the vast majority of the media, and the corporate structure ain’t going away soon either, so being adequately informed is up to us. And, sadly, lots of people withhout the drive or ability to do the legwork will be chauffeured to their opinions by the information sources they have easiest access to. Kind of grim, but that’s how it looks to me.

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Posted: 11 August 2007 03:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Brennan, what you’re essentially proposing is a British model of media: there’s the lefty Grauniad, the leftish Independent, the neutral BBC, the righty Times, and the Torygraph. In the US, there’re only BBC-like papers; none of them has the depth and breadth of the Beeb, but they have the same basic idea. Right-wing print media ownership is restricted to tabloids like New York Post, though this may be changing with the Murdoch acquisition of the Wall Street Journal, which presently has the most liberal news coverage in the US (the editorial line is something else, obviously).

The problem is, those British papers are for shit. Seriously. The worst excesses are confined to places like the Daily Mirror and the Sun, but when the Grauniad runs “Oh, God” as a headline in response to the 2004 election, it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in those papers’ quality. The one place in British media that’s any good is the one outlet that has the same balance-based culture as all Murdoch-free US media.

In the US, the same thing sort of exists on the New York Times op-ed pages. Krugman is predictable. So are Dowd, Tierney, Brooks, Kristoff, and Friedman. You know that come what may, Friedman is going to defend neoliberalism, Brooks and Tierney are going to defend the Republicans, and Krugman is going to defend the Democrats. At least those people are qualified. Krugman is an immensely accomplished economist and an excellent writer, who until fairly recently was even-handed in his criticism and could raise underemphasized issues that are important to the people. Friedman knows shit on international economics, but he knows more about and makes more sense on Middle Eastern politics, Iraq excepted, than almost anyone else in the West. But even then, their predictability makes the op-ed pages one of the worse parts of the paper.

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Posted: 11 August 2007 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Alon - 11 August 2007 03:40 AM

the neutral BBC

wtf? neutral? a state-owned station that says the Iraq War is a humanitarian intervention to bring democracy? oh glory hallelujah, the aggressors are in Iraq with benevolent intentions! neutral?????

for doug, I would hope - since he considers himself up to date on philosophy - would consider the two books by harry frankfurt (on truth and on bullshit) and keep that in mind with this topic about media and democracy. frankfurt says in “on truth” that a healthy society depends on the quality of truth to shape opinions and that misrepresentations of truth are tantamount to lies and bullshit. thats precisely the indictment i am issuing to our media.

alon, you have been making some pretty ridiculous comments (in one seperate post you implied that i am anti-israel for having criticisms of the israeli government and the above comment about pacifism and the bbc neutrality are just compounding your own mistakes).

ive said it and ill say it again, if we all agree that we need a media that does not serve the interests of the government and their big business constituents (because of the obvious lessons history ought to have taught us) then we should be very cautious and skeptical on how the press shapes their work. we can do that. you can use media lens or fair if you want. you can be skeptical of their work too and check them for errors. i doubt you will find much. or you can just look for your self.

considering how the public relations industry works it is no surprise that the bias of mainstream media shows up in public opinion. when the mainstream press has criticism of the iraq war on pragmatic grounds that amount to petty complaints about not winning, poor planning and mistakes it shows up in public opinion. the previous scott ritter comment was an observation of just that.

alon, i strongly dispute the neutrality of the BBC comment. anyone with sense can see that on issues related to the state that they largely tote the party line. i think searching their archives - like the NYT - will show that they routinely rely on “officials” to help shape stories. when journalists rely heavily on the government on matters of policy then the bias is apparent. it would not be surprising to find the Nazi german press doing the same thing. besides, i think you are obscuring the meaning of neutrality

why is it considered partisan politics - or politics at all - to point out glaringly obvious facts as the war is illegal and based on lies that the mainstream media willingly helped issue out to the public?

we already have existing laws and morals that ought to govern our actions. to “fix the facts around the policy” (downing street memo) in order to wage an illegal war of aggression is simply wrong. to say someone is on the left or right for pointing this out is absolutely absurd.

my comments on this issue are probably more relevant in the truth section because that is the gist of my comments about the press in a democracy. as ours is, we can (or should since apparently too many dont see it) clearly see that the mainstream press is too cozy with the government; they are “embedded” even at home.

To point out this journalistic error is not a call for the press to rely mainly on “pacifisists” (i think you know that that was a straw man). the press has a job to do: to inform the public on the truth of matters relevant to the function of our society. If their methods of obtaining the truth to cover matters of state policy is to heavily rely on press hand outs by the state then it doesnt take a genius to realize that something is wrong here. There are many ways of checking facts and getting more input on these issues. For the most part our press isnt doing it; and if you dispute this then you really ought to browse through the archives of the paper of record. If you can honestly tell me that you dont see obvious flaws in how pieces are structured then let me know, and we can take a look together.

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Posted: 12 August 2007 01:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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It’s partisan to expect everyone to care about the same things you care about. To a lot of people, the war’s poor planning matters a great deal. The point of The Assassins’ Gate isn’t just that Bush is incompetent; it’s also that neoconservatives are a delusional bunch who will ignore the facts whenever they’re inconvenient to their grand dreams. That’s a point worth making, which the US media thankfully has implicitly made over and over since 2005. It’s important to show that authoritarianism isn’t a dictatorial but successful form of management, as many conservatives argue, but rather a cover for delusion and incompetence. You might care more about the fact that the war was a violation of a country’s national sovereignty; but I submit that the sales of Fiasco and the Assassins’ Gate, compared with those of other books about Iraq that work the angles you’re thinking in terms of, suggest that yours is a minority taste.

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Posted: 12 August 2007 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Alon - 12 August 2007 01:16 AM

It’s partisan to expect everyone to care about the same things you care about. To a lot of people, the war’s poor planning matters a great deal. The point of The Assassins’ Gate isn’t just that Bush is incompetent; it’s also that neoconservatives are a delusional bunch who will ignore the facts whenever they’re inconvenient to their grand dreams. That’s a point worth making, which the US media thankfully has implicitly made over and over since 2005. It’s important to show that authoritarianism isn’t a dictatorial but successful form of management, as many conservatives argue, but rather a cover for delusion and incompetence. You might care more about the fact that the war was a violation of a country’s national sovereignty; but I submit that the sales of Fiasco and the Assassins’ Gate, compared with those of other books about Iraq that work the angles you’re thinking in terms of, suggest that yours is a minority taste.

ok, i can see this is going nowhere. the suggestion that people should not be hypocrites is now “partisan.” In your own words: “brilliant!”

im not sure if youre playing apologia or just bullshiting (pretending to know more than you really do), but that is all nonsense and anyone with a shred of decency and knowledge of what is going on can see that.

our media apparently has no problem with showing the integrity when the scope is turned on “enemies.” When Palestinians fire a rocket into Israel our press has no qualms to utter the words “war crime” or “violation of international law.” We have no problem of seeing Milosovic or Hussein tried for war crimes, but the thought we should be put on trial does not even show up in ink. When discussing the crimes of those not in our favor (even if they were in our favor when the crimes were committed, like saddam hussein) they magically have the ability to rely on other sources than the said government. But, when the topic is us or our allies the integrity crumbles to petty apologetics or criticism is narrowed to limits of pragmatism. Do we really need to do thought experiments on how we would react to Nazi Germany press articles limiting their criticims to whether they can “win” or “succeed”? To say that having a fundamental sense of decency is partisan is just too much bullshit for me to handle.

Or how about this one: If I shot and killed someone without a legitimate pretext it would be an indictment to our judicial system to not be prosecuted. How would you respond to the press if they refused to note such obvious facts as “Michael broke the law and should be held to justice”? What if instead, they said I should have planned and conducted the murder better? Would you say that the press would critical of me or not? Why is it any different for our government and when the results is far worse?

Regardless of whether pragmatists get better sales or whether mine “is a minority taste” is frivolous bullshit. Again, try applying the logic to other boogeymen of histories past.

What does it say about our media when it is clearly shown to be too cozy with government, especially in regards to its policies? The invasion and occupation of Iraq is just one of many examples (Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, Israel and domestic issues like social security and the healthcare system also come to mind) where truth and reality are obscured to serve dubious agendas.

The media has not “implicitly” deflated the neocons dreams. Where do you come up with this stuff? Constructive criticism about how to do it right (by making comments about dissolving the army or not having enough troops, or pretending abuses is just the doings of “bad apples” and is not systemic to the crime itself) is not saying that it was wrong, just poorly conducted and planned.

Can you find one NYT article that explicitly says the war was illegal, should never have been waged and that our leaders should be held to justice for the crimes they committed and Iraq paid reparations? How could you say such a thing is partisan politics? It is not partisan to take notes of such elementary facts.

[ Edited: 12 August 2007 06:19 PM by truthaddict ]
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Posted: 20 September 2007 03:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Daybrown asks:  “I mean, the way the media manipulates the mind of the electorate, does rational discourse and free choice really matter?”

First, there’s the assumption that the media manipulates the mind of the elcotorate.  That’s a big assumption to swallow, as the above discussion makes clear.

Next, “rational discourse” is a very slippery idea.  Almost any discussion about policy will involve normative (personal values-based) premises and conclusions (e.g. do you value privacy or security more?  Is it more important to provide for the destitute or reward smart inventors and businesspeople? Should we go to Mars or cure malaria?).  Perhaps “civil discourse” using substantiated claims and logical arguments is the best we can hope for - but people aren’t really good at such discourse without training and self-discipline.  To expect such sophistication of the general electorate is unreasonable. 

Without digging out references from psycholocical studies, I’ll make the unsubstantiated (but not unsubstantiatable) claim that most people make decisions based upon emotional predispositions and quasi-rational (at best) cognitave frameworks (see the writings of George Lakoff). 

The Founders thought the rational discourse would occur not so much among the masses, but among their elected representatives.  Sadly, their preconceptions about an emergent government of meritocracy comprised of selfless and wise public servants never came to fruition.  We could talk about why, but that would be way far afield at the moment…

The good thing about our American system is that it tends very very strongly to pull government towards the center of the political spectrum - and the center is generally where the most effective balance of conflicting interests can be obtained.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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tscott - 20 September 2007 03:35 AM

The good thing about our American system is that it tends very very strongly to pull government towards the center of the political spectrum - and the center is generally where the most effective balance of conflicting interests can be obtained.

That’s true but I personally dispute the lens of our “political spectrum.” I am of the opinion that what it means to be “center” is to make symbolic gestures to address social grievances while still allowing private and state tyrannies to persist (usually with regulations or modifications).

Take Hillary Clinton’s healthcare proposal. Obviously something is wrong and we all know what it is: privatized social services that are run for profit are disasters waiting to happen. The most sensible and reasonable solution would be to have a single-payer program overseen by the state. If insurance companies fall by the way-side oh well. The so-called “center” solution Hillary proposed is to keep insurance companies in the fold and making profits, but for the government to give “credits” (aka subsidize health insurance companies without any public oversight) to ensure Aetna, Cigna, etc can pay their CEOs large salaries.

The so-called “center” is nothing but the maintaing or producing passivity in the general public so that private institutions can continue to profit at the expense of the public. If the exploitation becomes too much then the government will step in to mitigate the problem just enough to pacify the public but keep private tyrannies afloat. We have seen this time and time again. From race issues to labor issues and now to privatized social services.

I dont think this is a “good thing.” A good thing - again, in my opinion, would be to do away with it and put in its place the structures of direct citizens and workers councils (aka Anarchism/Libertarian Socialism) where social life is self-managed. The idea - like those of the “Founders” - that “an emergent government of meritocracy comprised of selfless and wise public servants” would arise surely did not come to fruition and it was naive to think so.

I like to end posts with quotes and I got two of them. The first is from Eugene Debs and it is expressive of what I just said about the naive notion that a benevolent force would arise in some representation system. I am personally convinced that through solidarity our potential is increased but to maintain the efficacy and productivity of our collective efforts we cant rely on leaders or systems of authority. This is precisely what Debs is getting at.

The second quote is by the Ukranian anarchist Nestor Makhno in the Dielgo Trouda (Workers Cause) groups Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communist. Mahkno and others participated in the Russian Revolution and his experience encouraged him and other participants to seek the formation of a General Union of Anarchists in order to be better prepared for collective self-management when the next social revolution presented itself. His comment has to do with modern democracy and is somewhat reflective of my opinion about what you see as a “good thing” in the American system. . .

“I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.” - Eugene Debs

“The basis of democracy is the maintenance of the two antagonistic classes of modern society: the working class, and the capitalist class and their collaboration on the basis of private capitalist property. The expression of this collaboration is parliament and the national representative government.

“Formally, democracy proclaims freedom of speech, of the press, of association, and the equality of all before the law.

“In reality all these liberties are of a very relative character: they are tolerated only as long as they do not contest the interests of the dominant class i.e. the bourgeoisie. Democracy preserves intact the principle of private capitalist property. Thus it (democracy) gives the bourgeoisie the right to control the whole economy of the country, the entire press, education, science, art - which in fact make the bourgeoisie absolute master of the whole country. Having a monopoly in the sphere of economic life, the bourgeoisie can also establish its unlimited power in the political sphere. In effect parliament and representative government in the democracies are but the executive organs of the bourgeoisie.

“Consequently democracy is but one of the aspects of bourgeois dictatorship, veiled behind deceptive formulae of political liberties and fictitious democratic guarantees.” - Nestor Makhno

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Posted: 20 September 2007 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Wow… You seem to be a proponent of socialism.  That’s certainly left-leaning.  :grin:

We’ll likely have lots of opportunity for terrific discussions! smile

I think the big bagaboo of democratic/republican governance structures is the tendency to create monopolies and hereditary dynasties.  It’s one of the reason why I’m firmly in favor of anti-trust laws, and firmly opposed to most government subsidies (give something away and people value it at its cost - not a bit).


It would be nice if we had a minimum requirement for office-holding in government.  Certainly not based on race, religion, etc., which the Framer’s wisely excluded - but a nice passing score on natural science, economics, psychology, sociology, history and principles of effective management would be nifty-keen.

As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others…”

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Posted: 20 September 2007 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Im not opposed to democracy. Im just opposed to how it has been manipulated as “one of the aspects of bourgeois dictatorship, veiled behind deceptive formulae of political liberties and fictitious democratic guarantees.”

History has shown time and time again that Makhno was absolutely right when he said “In reality all these liberties are of a very relative character: they are tolerated only as long as they do not contest the interests of the dominant class.” So far, that has been modern democracy in a nutshell.

Or as Noam Chomsky once said: “Democracy is largely a sham when the industrial system is controlled by any form of autocratic elite, whether of owners, managers, and technocrats, a vanguard party, or a state bureaucracy.”

I also think that that was what John Dewey was getting at when he said, “As long as politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance.”

So how do we structure our democracy so its not a sham, so that its not the shadow cast on society by big business? Well, I think Anarchism provides a much clearer solution than Republicanism, Bolshevism or anything else because it seeks to decentralize power, nurture solidarity and free individuality, and allow those affected by managerial decisions to directly partake in making those solutions.

So far, I would say anarchisms’ biggest problems has been the size of its experiments and its isolation from other workers and radicals around the world who would be helpful in assisting in the resistance to foreign and external pressures who seek to undermine the movements; simply put, the social revolutions need to be better organized from the get go and extend beyond national borders in solidarity with workers and citizens around the world. It’s a large and difficult task but unless we work to do so we will remain where we are. I think the best way to better organize ourselves is to follow the platform advanced by Makhno and others, as well as the Spanish example where revolutionary workers like Durruti, Ascaso and Oliver were touring the country - and indeed the world - to give speeches, organize, agitate, inform and prepare the workers for a social revolution that in a broad sense would be spontaneous. What was achieved for decades throughout the US in the 1800s (isolated anarchist communes), or what was short lived in places like Russia, Ukraine and Spain - and those experiments were very successful and a beacon of hope for the participants - would have a better chance at survival if it was bigger and extended farther out; in other words, power in numbers.

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Posted: 02 October 2007 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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cgallaga,
you sound educated, well meaning, and naive. Is this still a democracy? the question isn’t asking about the theoretical democracy you’re living in while you’re reading…the question tackles the practical issues surrounding the decay of your liberties as they exist in your “democracy”. The issue is “will my vote have the power that it is intended” and the answer is “no”. Were electronic voting machines built hackable? “Yes”. Do you need to do some research? “Yes”.
And you should do it sooner than later, or you’ll end up like so many well mannered, educated fools that never saw Hitler coming, because they had so much faith that everything was as it should be, and that the rights of the people were nicely scribed and honored by all. You’re Government, your central bank, and your popular media are telling stories, and they’re using techniques that should strike an educated man not slip passed him in the quiet night. You aught to be more afraid of what your democracy has become, as the world bares another million deaths on the back of your labor and your tax dollars. Children sir, are feeling bullets and bombs, and rape, and starvation, and they are not so educated, but they know a lie when they see one. The German people were very well read and they failed to find their humanity to the loss of 52 million lives. I think the Question “Is this still a Democracy?” when more than p support an end to these massacres, it’s a fine question, a dire question. And you might consider digging your heels into it.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 06:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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What we really have is a spectator democracy.

The media does help to manufacture consent…....by distortion and by what they DON’T tell you about certain events.
How much coverage did the U.S. supported atrocities in East Timore get? Not much. How about when the U.S. moved in to overthrow the capitalist-democratic government of Guatemala and replaced it with death-squads so the U.S. could exploit their natural resources and cheap labor? Those stories go on and on and on…......

Why did the media call the Reagan presidential victory a “landslide”? 3 out of 2 voters hoped his policies on armaments, cut backs on social spending etc. would NOT be enacted.

As Walter Lippmann put it, “the common interests elude public opinion entirely and can only be understood and managed by a “specialized class” of responsible men who are smart enough to figure things out.”

And the bias and propaganda of the media has been used for that end for hundreds of years because the people with power, presidential administrations, use the media for that goal and the administrations serve the interests of the multinational business class and in this day and age of “free trade” and/or “globalization”, it’s the interests of our CEO’s who our left or right government will serve.

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Posted: 04 October 2007 09:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Skepticdave,
you have it right. you know what’s going on, and there’s more, the media is not afraid of a little white lie, or in completely linking up to bend the majority mind. They use these coordinated assaults on you and me every day to sell us on wars using manufactured facts and false testimonials. but we are not children and we alone are responsible for taking these bad dogs and rubbing their noses into whatever crap they deliver us. Here is a call for the warrior in each of us to obliterate their ideas and their practice of manipulation. we are not going to allow this any longer, I will with each breath take in the truth and exhale wrath, like a father protecting his young, what difference is there between my child and that Afghani child? They deserve your attention equally. If you ask me there’s not enough pissed off North Americans yet. Get mad and let your passion drive you. This is not a time for cheap words or cheap love, while I write this post, bombs are exploding and innocent people are being fired upon by your armies…skepticdave has it right, Big Media, Big Government, The Central Banks, Big Industry they have no love for life, they love only profit and power, and they will kill for these, lie for these, and cheat for these ends. They are ONE unit with many arms and we have to stand against them, Cull them at the top, and remake our world. If you disagree then you have not done your homework, you are living a lie, and you are endangering the lives of many beautiful souls. Don’t imagine these monsters to believe what you believe, don’t imagine them to think the way you think, they suspend the ethical, and they have turned their techniques on the people.

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