Category Archives: Holocausts

On the Ukraine: Curiouser and curiouser indeed

Watching the news from the Ukraine as filtered through the American mainstream media arouses a powerful sense of suspicion that we’re not being told the entire story.

One recent item caught our attention, an inflammatory developement that casts the pro-Russian Ukrainians in an extremely negative light.

From USA Today:

Leaflet tells Jews to register in East Ukraine

World leaders and Jewish groups condemned a leaflet handed out in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which Jews were told to “register” with the pro-Russian militants who have taken over a government office in an attempt to make Ukraine part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website, and Ukraine’s Donbass news agency.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the language of the leaflets “is beyond unacceptable” and condemned whomever is responsible.

Britain’s Sky News reported with a bit more more nuance:

Ukraine Jews Told To ‘Register’ In Mystery Flyer

Donetsk’s chief rabbi says the anti-Semitic leaflet campaign “smells of a provocation”, as its origins remain unclear.

The chief rabbi in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk has told Sky News of his distress at the distribution of a leaflet suggesting Jewish people must “register” with the government.

The leaflet, written in Russian, was apparently signed by Denis Pushilin, a leader of Donetsk People’s Republic, but he has denied his organisation is behind it.

Now if you want to united American politicians behind an issue, just raise the flag of antisemitism and folks all the way from from the Christian Zionist far right to the Democratic party will rouse themselves to condemnation of the alleged perpetrators. . .as well they should, if the allegations are legitimate.

Given that registration of Jewish communities was the first step on the road to the Holocaust, it’s almost as though the flyers are too good to be true, playing on some of the unsavory realities in today’s Russia [ranging from state-sanctioned homophobia to the resurgence of antisemitism] to rouse wrath on behalf of policies favored by Washington and its NATO allies.

The legitimacy of the charges remains to be proved, as Sky News acknowledged, and yet another recent headline raises some very interesting possibilities, especially given the timing on an event that happened several day’s before today’s stories.

Again from USA Today:

White House: Brennan was in Kiev this weekend

The White House confirmed Monday that CIA Director John Brennan traveled to Kiev, Ukraine, in recent days as part of a longer trip to Europe.

Russian media reported Brennan’s visit to Kiev this past weekend, raising suspicions about it.

Those suspicions are unwarranted, said White House spokesman Jay Carney, adding that Brennan was only meeting with intelligence counterparts in Ukraine.

More from Forbes, which adds some interesting detail:

Why CIA Director Brennan Visited Kiev: In Ukraine The Covert War Has Begun

Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, Vladimir Putin has said, and he should know because the country is already in the midst of a covert intelligence war. Over the weekend, CIA director John Brennan travelled to Kiev, nobody knows exactly why, but some speculate that he intends to open US intelligence resources to Ukrainian leaders about real-time Russian military maneuvers. The US has, thus far, refrained from sharing such knowledge because Moscow is believed to have penetrated much of Ukraine’s communications systems – and Washington isn’t about to hand over its surveillance secrets to the Russians.

If you have any doubts that the battle is raging on the ‘covert ops’ front just consider today’s events in Pcholkino where Ukrainian soldiers from the 25th Airborn Division handed over their weapons and APC’s to pro-Russian militiamen and pretty much surrendered. The Ukrainian commander was quoted as saying “they’ve captured us and are using dirty tricks”. This is the kind of morale-busting incident that can spread quickly. It doesn’t happen spontaneously and it often begins with mixed messages, literally – messages purporting to come from the chain of command but actually originate from the enemy’s dirty tricks department.

Given that even the highly conservative Forbes acknowledges the dirty tricks implicit in the disinformation game now underway, one has to wonder whether the passion-arousing flyers are in fact a classic bit of disinformation, akin to tactics used by the FBI in its notorious COUNTELPRO campaigns against American radicals back a half-century ago and more recently against Latin American countries governed by folks who won’t toe the Washington line.

After all, the CIA turned to dirty tricks to target an American citizen and academic who criticized both the George W. Bush administration’s war policies and it’s pro-Israeli politics.

Given Israel’s brilliant use of the Russian expat Nathan Sharansky’s devious Three-D gambit [previously] to sensitive media to condemn any criticism of Israel as antisemitic, the American press is quick to leap uncritically when the dog whistle of of antisemitism is blown.

Given American intelligence’s long history of practicing deception/disinformation and Washington’s powerful interests in destabilizing the Russian government — which oversees the supply of natural gas to Europe — we are highly suspicious of the very convenient timing of the flyers.

Another critique of American coverage

Michael Hudson [previously], one of the sharpest economists around these days, is also highly critical of American media coverage of events in the Ukraine.

Consider the following interview of Hudson, an economist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City by Jessica Desverieux of The Real News Network:

Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors

An excerpt from the transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Micheal, what are you tracking this week?

HUDSON: The big news is all about the Ukraine. And it’s about the events that happened in the shootings on February 20. Late last week, the German television program ARD Monitor, which is sort of their version of 60 Minutes here, had an investigative report of the shootings in Maidan, and what they found out is that contrary to what President Obama is saying, contrary to what the U.S. authorities are saying, that the shooting was done by the U.S.-backed Svoboda Party and the protesters themselves, the snipers and the bullets all came from the Hotel Ukrayina, which was the center of where the protests were going, and the snipers on the hotel were shooting not only at the demonstrators, but also were shooting at their own–at the police and the demonstrators to try to create chaos. They’ve spoken to the doctors, who said that all of the bullets and all of the wounded people came from the same set of guns. They’ve talked to reporters who were embedded with the demonstrators, the anti-Russian forces, and they all say yes. All the witnesses are in agreement: the shots came from the Hotel Ukrayina. The hotel was completely under the control of the protesters, and it was the government that did it.

So what happened was that after the coup d’état, what they call the new provisional government put a member of the Svoboda Party, the right-wing terrorist party, in charge of the investigation. And the relatives of the victims who were shot are saying that the government is refusing to show them the autopsies, they’re refusing to share the information with their doctors, they’re cold-shouldering them, and that what is happening is a coverup. It’s very much like the film Z about the Greek colonels trying to blame the murder of the leader on the protesters, rather than on themselves.

Now, the real question that the German data has is: why, if all of this is front-page news in Germany, front-page news in Russia–the Russian TV have been showing their footage, showing the sniping–why would President Obama directly lie to the American people? This is the equivalent of Bush’s weapons of mass destruction. Why would Obama say the Russians are doing the shooting in the Ukraine that’s justified all of this anti-Russian furor? And why wouldn’t he say the people that we have been backing with $5 billion for the last five or ten years, our own people, are doing the shooting, we are telling them to doing the shooting, we are behind them, and we’re the ones who are the separatists?

What has happened is that the Western Ukraine, the U.S. part, are the separatists trying to break up the Ukraine, in keeping, pretty much, with what Brzezinski advised in his book some years ago when he said breaking Ukraine off from Russia would be the equivalent of blocking any Russian potential military power.

Class war quote of the day: One dollar, one vote

Yep, good ol’ Tony Perkins, the plutocratic investment bankster who brought Al Gore on to his team at Kleiner Perkins of who infamously compared folks who criticize the arrogance of the wealthy elite to Nazi persecution of German Jews on Kristallnacht, has done it again.

From the Irish Times:

Billionaire suggests rich should get more votes than the poor

  • Venture capitalist claims if you pay $1m in tax you should get 1m votes

This time, Tom Perkins knew he was courting controversy. The 82-year-old venture capitalist, who caused a stir last month when he said in a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal that protesters criticising the wealthy were similar to Nazis, has fully embraced a new role as a spokesman for the beleaguered “one percent.”

In a conversation with a Fortune magazine editor at a San Francisco event on Thursday, Mr Perkins spent an hour riffing on his position that the wealthiest Americans are being unfairly treated.

One major theme was taxation. Many wealthy businessmen argue that the rich pay too much in taxes. Mr Perkins goes several steps further. “The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes,” he said at the very end of the interview, explaining that he had spent some time formulating this theory. He cited Thomas Jefferson and Margaret Thatcher to provide ideological precedent.

“But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you should get a million votes,” he said. “How’s that?” The remark drew laughter from some in the audience, who apparently thought the investor was joking. In a summary of the event, a Fortune reporter wrote: “Perkins later said offstage that what he meant was that, with 50 per cent of registered US voters not paying taxes, ‘we got ourselves into a mess.’”

UPDATE: From blogger Bud Meyer, a fascinating clip that opens with Sam “the Gravedancer” Zell, landlord to thousands of UC Berkeley students and the man who almost destroyed the Los Angeles Times, then contrasts Zell’s ghoulish rapacity with that of another member of the elite who characterizes the views of Zell, Perkins, and their ilk as sociopathic:

Nick Hanauer on MSNBC Discussing Inequality

Program notes:

Nick Hanauer was a guest on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes” discussing inequality and the attitudes of the wealthiest people in America.

It was fascinating bit of insight he gave us about those at the very tippy-top of the income ladder. Here are some excerpts…

“Ultimately, this is not about money—it’s about status, privileges and power. For a subset of these people, the most important thing in the world is status, privilege and power. They have sacrificed everything for it. A lot of these folks, they are border-line sociopathic people, and they don’t care about other people.”

Mister Hanauer goes on to explain that if someone in the top 0.01% believes they are a job creator, and if they accept the efficient market hypothesis—the idea that markets are perfectly efficient—then the rich deserve to be rich, and the poor deserve to be poor. So they deny that the working class are the true wealth creators, because to believe otherwise—to challenge them—would threaten their core belief in that they deserve all their status, privileges and power.

Signs of class war in Babylon by the Bay

UPDATED: at the end.

That what passes for recovery is, in fact, a redfinition of class lines, is becoming clearer to more Americans.

What is emerging is a landscape of an underclass increasingly deprived of pensions and other protections established in the first half of the 20th Century serving as indentured servants to an upperclass increasingly liberated from the constants of law, borders, and morality.

We offer two examples from close to home.

First, this clip from Abby Martin’s RT show, Breaking the Set:

Why Google is Pissing Off San Francisco | Think Tank

Program notes:

Abby Martin with journalist and Salon writer, Natasha Lennard, discussing the activist movement against Google employees in San Francisco and where the growing frustration from city residents is rooted.

And then there’s this, about the hyperbolic whining of a Bay Area venture capitalist and it’s furtherance by Rupert Murdoch’s media.

From Philip Bump for The Wire:

The Paranoid Rich Are Circling the Bentleys

Rich Americans control the nation’s wealth and its power. They’re hoarders with bigger houses, a collection of Howard Hugheses who see poorer people as threatening germs. They hear the non-rich banging at the gates so the rich are calling for help. And The Wall Street Journal is there to provide it.

Remember when the venture capitalist Tom Perkins wrote a letter to the Journal last week worrying that the Google bus protests were a step down a path toward the German night of anti-Jewish violence known as Kristallnacht? In its effort to step up to the plate for Perkins, the Journal’s editorial board first had to get the Nazi analogy out of the way, which is generally a sign your argument an uphill one. “[A] useful rule of thumb is not to liken anything to Nazi Germany,” the editorial board writes on Thursday, eager to get to its broader defense of Perkins’ real argument: that the rich are put-upon and at risk.

The Journal’s concern about the Nazi analogies is short-lived. That sentence then continues, “unless it happens to be the Stalinist Soviet Union.” Or, in other words: “you may not make Nazi allusions unless you are comparing Stalinists to Nazis, and by the way Stalinists were anti-capitalist.” You may also use Nazi allusions in headlines. The essay is called “Perkinsnacht,” implying that Perkins has fallen victim to Kristallnacht-like violence, thereby making precisely the same Nazi comparison that Perkins first made.

Read the rest.

UPDATE: Another reason for rational umbrage is the vast wealth the tech companies have been extracting from us whilst peddling us endless streams of rapidly obsolescent/unfashionable high tech. Rather than lower prices or hired domestic workers to make their goods, they simply siphon off the wealth.

From Quartz:

BLOG Cash hoardes


Also consider the following segment from RT’s The Big Picture:

Oakland Raiderette Lacy on wage theft violations

Program notes:

Lacy T., Oakland Raiders’ Raiderette & Leslie Levy, Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams both join Thom Hartmann. A group of Oakland Raiders cheerleader is suing the team over wage theft violations. They claim that the organization owes them thousands of dollars worth of back pay for practices and workouts. Could this be a turning point for labor in sports?

Robin Abcarian includes the RT video with a column she writes about their contract at the Los Angeles Times, headlined “Secret Oakland Raider cheerleaders’ handbook patronizes, demeans.”

An excerpt:

A section called “Rehearsal Absentee and Missed Games Policy” lists fines incurred for missed rehearsals. Oddly–or perhaps illegally, as Lacy T.’s lawsuit claims–cheerleaders are not compensated at all for their thrice weekly rehearsals. That means any fines for missed practices are deducted from the paltry $125 they earn for each home game.

See if you can follow along:

“If you miss a Saturday rehearsal or weekday rehearsal (as in the final rehearsal prior to a game day performance), you will not be allowed to cheer that game. This means you will be fined 1 1/2 absences for the missed rehearsal and $125 will be deducted from your end of season pay for not performing on that game day. You will be notified if you are required to perform the pre-game and/or halftime routine and then remain in the dressing room for the duration of the game…Since three lates equal one absence and missing any rehearsal before a game is 1 1/2 absences, you can find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season.”

Honestly, I’m starting to think cheerleaders are why God made labor unions.

Quote of the day: Plutocratic semantics

David Sirota, writing at Pando Daily about the hubris of billionaire venture capitalists like Kevin O’Leary complaining that income equality activists are transforming the elite into the equivalents of Jews in Nazi Germany. The title of his essay? “Disingenuous Basterds: The oligarchs’ long campaign to depict their critics as Nazis”:

That deceptive narrative is what I called in my first book The Myth of the Persecuted Billionaire, and what Thomas Frank later called a trick designed to make us “pity the billionaire.” In the plutocrat-glorifying fable, the Tom Perkinses comprise the rag-tag team from “Inglourious Basterds” – the underdogs bravely defying the scourge of oppression and genocide.

The objective of this hideous mythology should be obvious. Rather than permit any honest discussion about the serious problems that accompany rampant economic inequality, the winners of that economic system aim to manufacture story lines that depict themselves – not the poor – as victims on par with history’s most persecuted peoples. It is, as Frank says, the great “hard-times swindle” of the modern era – and it is everywhere.

Acknowledging this is not to justify stuff like property damage to Google buses any more than it is to rationalize state-sanctioned police brutality against those protesting economic inequality. Indeed, even though there has been far more brutality committed in defense of the aristocrats, violence on either side of the class divide is inarguably deplorable.

But contextualizing Perkins’ comments in the growing catalogue of similarly themed rhetoric is critical to appreciating the ubiquity of the whole sordid meme. Tom Perkins’ letter to the editor is not, as the enraged commentary around it implies, some isolated or anomalous incident. Rather, it is a fairly standard example of a pervasive system of propaganda attempting to paint the world’s wealthiest oligarchs as victims.

Read the rest.

Headlines of the day I: Big Brother, zone zealots

Today’s walk on the dark side begins with the latest in provoked [by Edward Snowden] political posturing from the New York Times:

Obama Calls for Overhaul of N.S.A.’s Phone Data Collection Program

President Obama, declaring that advances in technology had made it harder “to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties,” announced carefully calculated changes to surveillance policies on Friday, saying he would restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to telephone data, and would ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government.

But Mr. Obama left in place significant elements of the broad surveillance net assembled by the National Security Agency, and left the implementation of many of his changes up to Congress and the intelligence agencies themselves.

Another take, from The Guardian:

Obama presents NSA reforms with plan to end government storage of call data

  • President stops short of ending controversial bulk collection
  • Obama assures allied foreign leaders on NSA surveillance
  • Reforms also include added Fisa court safeguards

US president Barack Obama forcefully defended the embattled National Security Agency on Friday in a speech that outlined a series of surveillance reforms but stopped well short of demanding an end to the bulk collection of American phone data.

In his widely anticipated address at the Justice Department on the future course of US surveillance policy, Obama said the government should no longer hold databases of every call record made in the United States, citing the “potential for abuse”.

But Obama did not say what should replace the databases and made it clear the intelligence agencies should still be able to access call records information in some unspecified way, signalling a new round in the battle between privacy advocates and the NSA’s allies.

Still another take, also from The Guardian:

Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public

  • Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place

In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America’s most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama’s much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for “reforming” the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.

The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

And seen from Germany by

Obama: We won’t tap allies’ phones

US president Barack Obama announced on Friday in a speech that he would restrict the NSA’s powers. It will no longer be allowed to monitor phones of allied country leaders, including Germany.

The National Security Agency (NSA) will have to get the permission of a special court to view mass telephone data, Obama said from Washington, in a hotly anticipated speech following Edward Snowden’s revealing of the country’s mass spying programmes.

Mass data will also no longer be stored by the NSA, making it harder to access, he said. This curbing should “protect the privacy and civil liberties, no matter their nationality or where they are.”

A laconic techie take from The Register:

Obama reveals tiny NSA reforms … aka reforming your view of the NSA

  • Prez announces tweaks here and there for ordinary American citizens

From TheHill, a critical take:

Critics: Obama spy plan keeps status quo for NSA

Privacy rights advocates and tech companies on Friday dismissed President Obama’s proposed overhaul of government surveillance as preserving the status quo.

CNN parses semantics:

Despite Obama’s NSA changes, phone records still collected

After the firestorm over Edward Snowden’s disclosure of U.S. surveillance programs, the most contentious aspect revealed by last year’s classified leaks will continue under reforms announced Friday by President Barack Obama.

Someone will still collect records of the numbers and times of phone calls by every American.

While access to the those records will be tightened and they may be shifted from the National Security Agency to elsewhere, the storage of the phone metadata goes on.

The Guardian gets itchy:

US telecoms giants express unease about proposed NSA metadata reforms

  • AT&T concerned US may force company to retain data
  • Tech firms hail ‘positive progress’ on privacy protections

Privately, telecoms executives have expressed concern that they will be forced to retain customers’ metadata – information about call duration, recipients and location. Speaking anonymously, one executive said the firms were concerned about how long they would have to keep data, which government agencies would have access to it and what protections they would have should there be legal challenges to their retention or distribution of the information.

The Verge has the predictable praise:

Intelligence and defense leaders offer support for Obama’s NSA reforms

President Obama today announced his approach to reforming some government surveillance practices, and at least for right now, the US intelligence and defense communities are supportive of those ideas. Both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have issued statements vouching for the changes outlined in Obama’s speech. “These programs must always balance the need to defend our national security with the responsibility to preserve America’s individual liberties, and the President’s decisions and recommendations will do that,” said Hagel in a statement.

Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Mike Rogers, who lead the Senate Intelligence Committee and House Intelligence Committee respectively, also seemed happy with Obama’s speech. According to a joint statement, they “look forward to working with the president to increase confidence in these programs.” Not everyone was impressed with Obama’s remarks. Senator Rand Paul said the new strategy basically amounts to “the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration.”

Roseate musing from The Guardian:

NSA critics in Congress sense reform momentum after Obama speech

  • Three new co-sponsors for USA Freedom Act
  • Sensenbrenner: ‘Reform cannot be done by presidential fiat’

Critics of National Security Agency surveillance are hoping President Barack Obama’s call to stop government collection of telephone data will give fresh momentum to legislation aimed at banning the practice entirely.

On Friday, three new co-sponsors joined the 120 congressmen who have already backed the so-called USA Freedom Act, but their reform bill faces tough competition from rival lawmakers who claim the president’s broad support for the NSA favours separate efforts to protect its powers.

Reviews from abroad via The Guardian:

Obama NSA reforms receive mixed response in Europe and Brazil

  • EU commissioner says speech is a step in right direction, but German ex-minister says changes fail to tackle root problem

Europeans were largely underwhelmed by Barack Obama’s speech on limited reform of US espionage practices, saying the measures did not go far enough to address concerns over American snooping on its European allies.

A compendium of the  eurocommentariat from the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

European commentators see little to praise in Obama’s NSA changes

President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated revisions to the National Security Agency international spying program didn’t come close to satisfying European commentators.

The French newspaper Le Monde called them “timid and partial.” The British newspaper The Guardian referred to them as “sleight of hand.” The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel called them “Refoermchen,” meaning less than a real reform, or a “tiny reform.” The Russian news agency Novosti reminded its audience that “neither the reform nor the statement would have happened without the leaks from Edward Snowden,” a former NSA contract worker who began leaking secret files back in June. The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau simply noted in a headline: “Obama disappoints the world.”

The reason? The speech made it clear to Europeans that the Obama administration intends to continue to collect almost as much data as it always has, but has promised not to use it unless necessary. To Europeans, who since last summer have grown increasingly distrustful of the intentions of the American spy program, such words are of little comfort.

Wired wonders:

So what did the tech companies get?

As expected, they will have more freedom to disclose the number and the nature of requests from the government for data related to national-security concerns. So we can expect more detailed transparency reports from the companies showing that they only provide a fraction of their information to the government.

Additionally, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will add members with expertise in civil liberties and technology and will declassify more of its decisions.

BuzzFeed gets to the bottom of it:

America’s Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead

  • “I would love to put a bullet in his head,” one Pentagon official told BuzzFeed.

The NSA leaker is enemy No. 1 among those inside the intelligence world.

Edward Snowden has made some dangerous enemies. As the American intelligence community struggles to contain the public damage done by the former National Security Agency contractor’s revelations of mass domestic spying, intelligence operators have continued to seethe in very personal terms against the 30-year-old whistle-blower.

“In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,” a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. “A lot of people share this sentiment.”

Also drawing considerable attention was the latest Snowden leak from The Guardian:

NSA collects millions of text messages daily in ‘untargeted’ global sweep

  • NSA extracts location, contacts and financial transactions
  • ‘Dishfire’ program sweeps up ‘pretty much everything it can’
  • GCHQ using database to search metadata from UK numbers

The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.

The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to people in the UK.

The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets.

The Wire sums up:

NSA on Text Messages: ‘A Goldmine to Exploit’

If you were curious: Yes, the National Security Agency is collecting and filtering text messages to the tune of 194 million a day. It’s a collection of data that one agency slide, obtained by The Guardian from leaker Edward Snowden, called “a goldmine to exploit.”

The Guardian details the NSA’s text message collection infrastructure in a new report, including its massive scale.

  • The agencies collect 194 million messages a day.
  • They include 76,000 geocoordinates for users, thanks to people seeking directions or setting up meetings.
  • The agencies track 1.6 million border crossings and 5,000-plus occurrences in which someone is traveling.
  • They’re able to link hundreds of thousands of financial transactions.
  • They collect over 5 million missed call alerts, which then get pushed into the “contact-chaining” system, building out the NSA’s ad hoc social network.

More from The Guardian:

NSA leaks: Dishfire revelations expose the flaws in British laws on surveillance

How can we have a meaningful debate about excessive snooping when so much information is a state secret?

What we have no words for we cannot discuss except crudely. The latest revelation about the security services brings a new word to our growing vocabulary: Dishfire. This week’s exposé reveals the NSA collecting and extracting personal information from hundreds of millions of text messages a day. While messages from US phone numbers are removed from the database, documents show GCHQ used it to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to British citizens.

We are not so much free citizens, innocent until proven guilty, but rather, as one of the Dishfire slides says, a “rich data set awaiting exploitation”. Prism, Tempora, Upstream, Bullrun – as our language grows we begin to speak with greater clarity. We move from James Bond fantasies to a greater understanding of what the intelligence services actually do in our name and with our money. Is indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance the best way to protect democracy?

NSA Dishfire presentation on text message collection – key extracts

A pre-Obamacast declaration from The Hill:

Sen. Leahy on NSA claim: ‘Baloney’

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Thursday the National Security Agency’s claim that they’re “very protective” of Americans’ information is “baloney.”

Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” that the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program has not thwarted a single terrorist attack.

President Obama, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, and lawmakers, such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), have said the program has helped stop at least 50 terrorist plots.

“The other thing that keeps striking me is that [the NSA says] ‘we’re very protective of this information.’ Baloney,” Leahy said. “They weren’t protective enough that they could stop a sub-contractor, Mr. Snowden, from stealing millions of their biggest secrets. To this day, they still don’t know all of what he’s stolen.”

Leahy has introduced several bills that would change the NSA’s operations. One bill, the USA Freedom Act, would end the NSA’s metadata program.

After the jump, European blowback, German inquiries, NSA-tech-enabled hackers,  compliant corporations, direct action claims, lethal attack on the press, another Mideast causus belli debunked, Asian crises hit the textbooks, claims, zones, corporate espionage, a Google setback, and more. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: Europe’s perennial scapegoats

Journalist Ian Birrell, writing in an essay in The Independent headlined “The grim history of the Roma is no fairy tale”:

Europe’s 10 million Roma are still victims of abuse, prejudice and poverty. I was shocked to discover the hatred towards them in Hungary; they are unable to get jobs, segregated, and their children classified as mentally handicapped to keep them out of mainstream schools. The governing party blames them for crime while honouring a leader who deported families to Auschwitz, and vigilante groups terrorise their villages and firebomb their homes. One gang was jailed two months ago for a 14-month murder spree; a child of five was among the dead.

There are similar stories across the Continent, forcing fearful families to the fringes of society.

In Italy, where mobs attacked their camps five years ago and the prime minister responded in the most racist manner by ordering the fingerprinting of all 150,000 Roma, acid was thrown at a mother and her child earlier this month. In the Czech Republic, human-rights groups demanded action to protect Roma from violence and intimidation after riots this summer. In Slovakia, they are being segregated behind imposing walls, a disturbing echo of dismal recent history.

In France, politicians on right and left have scapegoated Roma amid recent economic woes. One prominent figure ridiculously claimed a community of 15,000 people was responsible for one in 10 crimes in a country of 65 million, while the hardline interior minister’s poll ratings rose after calls for them to leave and forced evictions. The hapless president, meanwhile, tied himself in knots over the expulsion of a teenage Roma girl that led his popularity to plunge further.

Chart of the day II: Cogito ergo autoGoogle?

The Internet version of the selfie seems to be the rage these days, growing in prevalence as income rises, especially among the more affluent.

From a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:

BLOG AutoGooglers

Video history: The Mike Wallace Interview

In a varied career that including stints as actor, announcer, game show host, and, in his most significant role as correspondent for 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace hosted The Mike Wallace Interview, a thirty-minute 68-episode ABC Sunday night broadcast that ran from 1957 to 1960.

While his revealing questioning of Ayn Rand makes for his best-known episode, we especially liked his interview of Aldous Huxley.

We add two more segements to our posts, each with a transitional figure

Mike Wallace interviews Rod Serling, 1959

Serling was and best known for When Wallace interviewed Serling, a seminal figure in the history of TV drama, the writer/producer was just launching The Twilight Zone, an anthology of fantasy and science fiction featuring some superb writing and memorable acting.

Whast 60 Minutes was to TV magazine shows, Twilight Zone was to drama, both a template for future shows and a springboard for a remarkable range of talent.

Serling has a lot to say about commercial television, and one memorable moment is the rendition of the time he was forced to drop the mention of gas in a story about the Holocaust because a sponsor manufactured gas ranges.

Mike Wallace interviews Erich Fromm, 25 June 1958

Erich Fromm represents a directoion not taken by mainstream psychiatry. A German Jew, he was a member of the Frankfurt School, a remarkable assemblage of thinkers that included the seminal media critic and socialist Walter Benjamin and political philosophers Herbert Marcuse and Theodore Adorno.

From the transcript:

WALLACE:  This is Dr. Erich Fromm, one of the most influential psychoanalysts in the world.  A man whose work has been hailed as a significant step forward from the theories of Sigmund Freud.

WALLACE:  Recently, Dr. Fromm said: “There has never been a better society than in the United States in 1958, but …”  He added, “if the United States goes on in the direction it is now taking, it is in serious danger of destroying itself.” We’ll find out why in a moment.


FROMM: Well, Mr. Wallace, I would say, if I would put it generally, because in our enthusiasm to dominate nature and to produce more material good – goods — we have transformed means into ends.   We’ve wanted to produce more in the 19th century and the 20th century in order to give man the possibility for more dignified human life; but actually what has happened  is that production and consumption have become means — have ceased to be means and have become ends, and we are production crazy and consumption crazy.

More interviews here.

Unclear Holocaust: From the Anti-Banality Union

From the Anti-Banality Union [ABU]:

Detourned by The Anti-Banality Union. 65 mins. U.SS.A.
Amerikan with some Arabic.

Unclear Holocaust is a feature-length autopsy of Hollywood’s New York-destruction fantasy, gleaned from over fifty major studio event-movies and detourned into one relentless orgy of representational genocide. It is the unrivaled assembly of the greatest amount of capital and private property heretofore captured in one frame, that, with unfathomable narrative efficacy, suicides itself in an annihilatory flux of fire, water, and aeronautics.

“A Terrorist film collective hijacks the U.S. propaganda apparatus and detonates it over New York. Everything is obliterated and the world celebrates. Through fifty studio event-movies abstracted of all demokratic variation, we see the Cinema as it really is; an unequivocal annihilation, the auto-genocidal mass fantasy of a megalomaniacally depressed First World. Every screen is lifted and bares the obscene underside of all these images. Movements of character and narrative burst into pure and mechanically perfect propulsions of a psychotic camera from which all this violence emanates. The Mise-En-Scene becomes an inventory of the dominant visual-auditory arsenal, enumerating and measuring the power of every weapon available to the Spectacle. Utilizing them all with paradigmatic rigor, the Hollywood-Military complex launches an endless pre-emptive attack on its own shadow, the Terrorist. And, as in all encounters between doubles, the former ends up joyously suiciding itself.” -A.B.U. Communique #1

“When I first heard of Unclear Holocaust, the debut project of nebulous situationist art collective The Anti-Banality Union, my initial impression was that these impious troublemakers would fully deserve the inevitable fatwa that will be vexed upon them. However, after viewing part of the work, which reconstitutes scenes from over 50 Hollywood New York City disaster porn films into a more or less coherent narrative, I am pleased to report it is a rather damning yet thoughtful–and dare I say hilarious and enjoyable?–reminder of how bad Hollywood had pushed this scenario. (In cinematic terms, what is 9/11, after all, other than all three* Die Hard movies–exploding tower, exploding airplane, exploding New York City–rolled into one?) “The Spectacle of Terrorism forces the Terrorism of Spectacle upon us…” the ABU wrote me in this mysterious, Frankfurt School-inspired communique. I’m reminded of the remarks Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw shared on 9/11 the other day:

‘Perhaps the whole point of 9/11 was that it could never be represented on the cinema screen. The diabolic, situationist genius of the kamikaze attacks was that they were themselves a kind of counter-cinema, a spectacle very possibly inspired by the art-form, but rendering obsolete any comparable fictions it had to offer. The 9/11 attacks smashed Hollywood’s monopoly on myth-making and image production, and inspiring as they did only horror and revenge, aimed a devastating blow at imagination, and maybe for a while enfeebled the reputation of cinema and all the arts.’

Thankfully for the ABU, Hollywood pulled its shit together and made Nicolas Cage apocalypse thriller Knowing, providing Unclear Holocaust about half its runtime.”


p.s. Expect ‘Police Mortality’.

Important documentary: The Power Principle

An important documentary by Scott Noble. The Power Principle exposes the hidden agenda driving American foreign policy over the last seven decades and its gruesome consequences.

Historian Michael Parenti calls the film “A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the events of today.”

In an interview for Soldiers for the Cause, a veterans group supporting the Occupy movement, filmmaker Noble outlines the theses advanced in his documentary:

  • The Cold War was not just a struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States; the real struggle was between American corporations and the Third World.
  • Top policy planners in the US and other Western nations were acutely aware that the Soviet Union had a conservative foreign policy. You can see this in numerous declassified documents.
  • Nevertheless, the American government engaged in what can only be described as a campaign of terrorism against the American people, constantly invoking the “Soviet Menace” to justify military spending and war.
  • The United States does not have a free press.
  • The Pentagon is a Keynsian Mechanism.
  • The American government was responsible for genocide during the Cold War.
  • The Empire is similar to the mafia.
  • Corporate interests are inextricably wed with military policy.
  • American imperialism is not of recent vintage.
  • Elites deceive themselves as well as the public.
  • The US is not exceptional. It is behaving pretty much as powerful states always have.
  • Western elites supported fascism prior to, during and after WWII.
  • A WWIII scenario is almost inevitable unless the American public wakes up – and fast.

For more information see the film’s website.

And now, the documentary:

The Power Principle – I: Empire

The program notes:

An Introduction to the Empire; Iran – Oil and Geopolitics; Guatemala – the “merger of state and corporate power”; The Congo – Neocolonialism; Grenada – “The Mafia Doctrine”; Chile – “libertarianism with a small l”; Globalization: Consequences.

1945: Grand Area Strategy; Fascism: a “rational system of the plutocracy”; Case Studies: the Greek Communists; The Italian Communists; the Spanish Anarchists; Fascism’s Western backers; Trading with the Enemy; Fascism as “preservation of civilization”; the Cold War and “A Century of Fear”.

The Power Principle – II: Propaganda

The program notes:

The Soviet Menace?; Case Studies: El Salvador, Nicaragua; Propaganda: Self-Deception and blowback; The “International Communist Conspiracy”; Declassified Documents; NSC 68; The Pentagon as Keynsian Mechanism; The Military Industrial Complex; The War against the Third World; Shifting rationales; What is imperialism?; Case Study: Haiti; “War is a racket”.

Fear-based conditioning – The War of the Worlds, The Triumph of the Will; World view Warfare; The Russians are coming; Television: The “perfect propaganda medium”; Soviet vs. American propaganda; Hollywood and the Pentagon; Psywarriors and the media; Operation Mockingbird; The Pentagon Pundits; Project Revere; The Bomber Gap; “scare the hell out of them”.

The Power Principle – III: Apocalypse

The program notes:

Mutually Assured Destruction; MAD men – Curtis Lemay and the super hawks; MAD men – Hermann Kahn and the Rand Corporation; Over flights as provocation; Cuba: the “danger of a good example”; terrorism against Cuba; “Unconventional warfare”; the Cuban Missile Crisis and the “man who saved the world”.

Why did the Soviet Union collapse?; Gorbachev: a “more violent, less stable world”; the Pentagon’s New Map; Did Ronald Reagan end the Cold War?; The Brink of Apocalypse: Able Archer; The betrayal of Russia; The expansion of NATO; Yugoslavia and Libya; the Yeltsin coup; Living standards in the former Soviet Union; A third way?

EuroRacism: Greece violence, Danish questions

When racism has reared its ugly head in Europe in years past, the targets have all too often been immigrants or the continent’s wandering peoples, the Roma, Sinti, Tinkers, and Travelers often collectively grouped together as Gypsies.

One people previously targeted is conspicuously absent from the list, Jews.

In both Germany and France in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, Jews were the favorite targets, most conspicuously the Eastern European Jewish immigrants, who maintained a distinctive style of dress and stuck to their native language, Yiddish.

But since the Second World War and the still-vivid memories of the Holocaust, Jews have been replaced by Muslims, who like the Ostjuden of yore typically maintain the language and dress of the nations from which they came.

The lethal spark that leads from a largely passive racism to violence has always been economic disaster, and with the collapse of the European economy, the old pattern is reemerging.

Today’s report focuses on violence in Greece and Eastern Europe, and some disturbing patterns beginning to emerge in a country to the north.

Anti-immigrant violence erupts in Greece

No country has been harder hit by the crash than Greece, where ancient animosities sparked by a long history of occupation by Islamic Turkey mix with the resentments of a beleaguered working class to form a deadly mix.

Greece, along with Italy, is a major gateway for undocumented immigrants from the Islamic world, and the country has been receiving unrelenting prfessure from the European Union to tighten its border controls — one area of government conspicuously spared the lash of the austerians.

Golden Dawn, the neofascist which saw a surge in support prior to the last round of parliamentary voting, has been at the forefront of rousing racist sentiments.

Violence follows in wake of stabbing

From the Greek Arabic newspaper AlYunaniya:

Violent episodes have erupted as extreme far-right Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) members have clashed with police during an anti-immigrant protest in the western port of Patras in front of the abandoned factory of Peiraiki Patraiki used by illegal immigrants for shelter.

Events came after the funeral of 30 year old Thanassis Lazanas who was murdered by three young Afghans on Saturday, according to

Approximately 150 members of the Golden Dawn, who reportedly, joined an anti-immigrant protest rally with organized by residents of Patras for Thanasis Lazanas. Dressed in black with helmets and holding batons and flags members of Golden Dawn lined against the police forces outside the old factory in an attempt to storm the abandoned factory with the immigrants. Residents asked the police not to stop them and let them storm the factory to evict migrants. Shortly after 8 pm the fighting broke out with  police responding with tear gas. Protesters attempted to invade the building at least three times, according to To Vima.

The murder of the 30 year old man as residents of Patras say was the straw that broke the camel on the situation that has developed in the large number of illegal immigrants. There is a growing concern by the citizens of Patras, that an increased number of illegal immigrants will loiter around the new port, according to Ta Nea.  They are afraid that crime may increase in their neighborhoods and therefore they had decided to set up a citizens patrol in the area since last December.

In an announcement by the official website of Golden Dawn, which came during the incidents, said: “The police and riot police instead of applying the law and  clear the area of illegal immigrants, they have attacked residents in Patras with tear gas, and have  arrested residents of Patras and members of Golden Dawn “.

Read the rest.

More from A. Papapostolou of Greek Reporter:

Police say the clashes followed a peaceful demonstration by hundreds of local residents outside an old factory inhabited by migrants seeking to stow away on Italy-bound ferries.

Dozens of Golden Dawn supporters who held a separate march threw stones at riot police guarding the migrants, and police responded with tear gas.

Read the rest.

Ekathemerini has more details:

Authorities in Patra held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss ways of tackling the presence of hundreds of illegal immigrants in the city, following violent clashes between police and supporters of Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn).

Five people were arrested, eight policemen injured, one police bus and two motorcycles were damaged during the fighting on Tuesday night.

Dozens of locals had gathered outside a disused factory near the port area used as makeshift accommodation by undocumented migrants to protest the fatal stabbing last week of a 30-year-old local man. Three Afghan migrants are suspected of attacking the victim after a disagreement.

However, the protest was broken up by dozens of supporters of the far-right party who clashed repeatedly with riot police.

Read the rest.

And Keep Talking Greece has more:

Hand-to-hand fighting. Scenes of incredible ferocity as supporters of Chrysi Avgi attacked policemen with rafters, iron sticks, stones and fire bombs in Patras on Tuesday night. Unprecedented was the incident in which one protester stole a police motorcycle and fled to unknown direction.

According to local news portal , the motorcycled units of police had rushed to the spot where the incidents were taking place. There they got surrounded by a group wearing helmets who pushed them down off the motorcycles and started to beat them.

Accoridng to police, some 350 Chrysi Avgi supporters who came also from other cities, were among the protesting residents.

According to local media, angry residents of Patras and supporters of extreme-right party Chrysi Avgi tried to storm an abandoned factory illegally occupied by immigrants. The protest started after a 30-year-old resident was stabbed to death by three Afghans.

The incidents lasted until 2 o’ clock in the morning with the angry mob attempting twice to storm the factory. Once with a bulldozer…

The port city in north-western Peloponnese experiences a huge immigrants problem as Patras is the country’s exit to Italy. Residents have been complaining since a long time about the issue that is combined with high crime rate, saying that they are even afraid to go on the street due to the increased number of immigrants.

Read the rest.

From the Greek Streets has posted two videos from the incident.

The first, shot earlier in the afternoon, depicts the clash between police and anti-immigrant protesters, who can be heard chanting “Foreigners out of Greece” before the melee begins:

The second, shot later, shows the Golden Dawner making off with the police cycle:

And an earlier attack on Afghan immigrants

While we haven’t found specifics of the fatal stabbing that led to last night’s violence, we did discover another incident involving Afghans, in which the immigrants were victims of an assault by Golden Dawn members one of whom was subsequently elected to parliament.

From Ekathemerini:

A court in Greece on Wednesday postponed for the sixth time the trial of three Greeks, including a neo-Nazi parliament candidate, accused of beating up three Afghan immigrants in Athens a year ago.

The defence requested the delay in order to obtain testimony from a Continue reading

‘Banking with Hitler,’ a highly disturbing reminder

A superb 1998 documentary by Paul Elston for BBC’s Timewatch narrated by Arthur Kent, Banking with Hitler offers a timely reminder of the essential amorality of banks.

More than 370 Swiss banks opened their vaults to the Nazis during World War II, and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau was outraged, and launched an investigation that revealed the cooperation of many Wall Street and London banks as well.

Even more shocking was the role of a Swiss-based institution, the Bank of International Settlements [BIS], created by London and Berlin and headed by an American, was the critical funding mechanism for Hitler’s regime — with the cooperation between the banksters’ financial Axis and the Nazi-dominated war-making Axis continued with the full knowledge of the British and American governments.

BIS president Thomas McKittrick, whose ostensible loyalties lay with Washington, was in fact a close friend of Nazi financial wizards, and regularly partied them at the height of the war. The BIS laundered the Nazis’ wealth, looted from conquered nations and the seized assets of European Jews.

Bank of England head Montague Norman fiercely resisted any efforts to rein in the BIS because the bank was making tidy profits off the Nazi’s looted riches

The Norwegian government in exile demanded that the BIS be shut down, but the move was fiercely and successfully resisted by Britain at the famous Bretton Woods conference, despite Morgenthau’s opposition. But British economist John Maynard Keynes led the resistance to a shutdown, saying the bank would be needed to rebuild Europe after the war.

Another center of resistance was Chase bank, the ancestor of JP Morgan Chase, drawing the attention of Morgenthau’s investigators, who discovered the bank had cooperated closely with the Nazi regime through its Paris branch, which remained open throughout the war. Chase also cooperated with the Nazis in seizing the assets of Jewish clients on behalf of the Nazi occupation regime.

British banks also remained open in occupied Paris, cooperating with the Nazis.

Morgenthau’s investigators found evidence of pro-Nazi sympathizers in many of America’s biggest banks, but his investigations were shut down after the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and he left office in bitter disappointment. McKittrick, the BIS boss, went on to work for Chase, as did one of the leading Nazi bankers.

As for Morgenthau’s staff, many were targeted by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC], their lives, reputations, and careers destroyed.

The moral: Banks don’t have morals, and they’re quite willing to work with mass murderers as long as there’s a buck to be made.

Breivik, Europe, racism, and the New Right’s rise

We’ve been deeply concerned for some time about the resurgence of racism in Europe [for extended analyses, see here and here].

The rantings of self-confessed mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik as his trial begins in Oslo for the 22 July 2011 massacres Norway offer a stunning reminder of the thread of racism that lies at the heart of all extreme right wing movements across the globe.

The last time racist extremism surged to the fore in Europe was in the years of the 20th Century’s Great Depression, and the targets of the Nazis were Jews, the Roma and Sinti peoples [“Gypsies”], and Slavs.

The Sinti and Roma were targeted for total annihilation along with Jews.

In the 21st Century collapse, Jews have been replaced by Muslims, while Europe’s wandering peoples have again been singled out and the Slavs are rarely mentioned.

Both former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched mass arrests of Sinti and Roma and expelled them from their borders.

Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff drew the parallel:

Europe’s security services neglect Far Right

This should come as no surprise.

Way back in 1966, when we were reporting on radical politics for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, we interviewed a member of the Minutemen extremist group who worked at a secure government nuclear facility, where he’d been vetted for atomic-level secrets.

The Minutemen actually published a guidebook by founder Robert Bolivar DePugh [subsequently arrested for making kiddie porn], which included instruction on assassination techniques suitable for deployment against government officials.

Had the guy been a communist, he’d have never been cleared, but the far Right was neglected by security agencies because they were deemed to pose no threat.

Now the same sort of selective blindness is happening in Europe, reports one human right group.

From Nikolaj Nielsen of EUobserver:

Security services in Europe have neglected the kind of right-wing extremism which inspired Norway’s Anders Behring Breivik to commit mass murder, a UK-based rights group has warned.

“Post-911, all major authorities have themselves in the EU focused on the direct threat of Islamic terrorism while they took their eye off the ball on the radicalisation of Europeans,” Daniel Hodges, a campaigner for Hope Not Hate, a London-based NGO, told EUobserver on Monday (16 April).

“EU authorities have been lagging on radicalisation in Europe. They’ve been slow to grasp the power of the Internet and social media that encourages and helps co-ordinate the activities of the groups,” he added.

Hope Not Hate in a report out on Sunday said the ‘counter-jihad’ movement has become the new face of the far right in Europe and North America. The survey identifies some 300 disparate groups and individuals behind the trend.

Read the rest.

Greece’s racist fascists out from under their rocks

The latest example of a neofascist party to rise in Europe is Greece’s Golden Dawn, which espouses a policy of ethnic cleansing and has adopted explicitly Nazi elements into symbology.

Here’s one example you can purchase at their website, the Golden Dawn hoodie:

Here’s Evangelos Venizelos, head of the Greek “socialist” party [PASOK] commenting on the rise of Golden dawn, via Greek Reporter’s Marianna Tsatsou:

He said that the Greek Political party Golden Dawn “longs for fascism and nazism of the past.”

Golden Dawn and other similar chauvinist parties became popular with Greeks, due to the great number of illegal immigrants coming to Greece everyday. In the centre of Athens, residents and businessmen are terrified by their actions.

When citizen’s listen to Golden Dawn’s officials saying that “we need Greece with only Greeks living in it,” a proportion of them feel safe so they choose to vote for them.

Read the rest.

The issue, of course, is immigrants, and the party is already having an impact, as the New York Times’ Rachel Donadio and Dimitris Bounias report:

[E]ven if Golden Dawn fails to enter Parliament, it has already had an impact on the broader political debate. In response to the fears over immigration and rising crime, Greece’s two leading parties — the Socialist Party and the center-right New Democracy Party — have also tapped into nationalist sentiment and are tacking hard right in a campaign in which immigration has become as central as the economy.

Experts say the group is thriving where the Greek state seems absent, the most virulent sign of how the economic collapse has empowered fringe groups while eroding the political mainstream, a situation that some Greek news outlets have begun comparing to Weimar Germany.

“Greek society at this point is a laboratory of extreme-right-wing evolution,” said Nicos Demertzis, a political scientist at the University of Athens. “We are going through an unprecedented financial crisis; we are a fragmented society without strong civil associations” and with “generalized corruption in all the administration levels.”

With what critics say is a poorly policed border with Turkey, Greece is seen as an entry point for illegal immigrants, some of them asylum seekers but most intent on moving to more promising economic terrain in Northern and Western Europe. But many of the immigrants remain in Greece or are returned there after being deported from other countries in Europe. This has stoked fears here of an onslaught of illegal immigrants, who economists say bear little or no responsibility for Greece’s economic troubles but who make easy scapegoats for politicians across the spectrum.

Read the rest.

More from Foreign Policy’s Allison Good:

Golden Dawn joins the ranks of dozens of nationalist-populist fringe parties all over Europe whose enflamed euroskeptic reactions to the “cuts to wages and pensions imposed in order to secure aid from the EU and the IMF” have resulted in political shakeups. The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) , led by Geert Wilders, won 24 of the 150 parliamentary seats in the 2010 general election, and came in second in the Netherlands in the 2009 European Parliament elections.

Golden Dawn also espouses a particularly anti-German sentiment:

“It’s right to hate Germany, because it is still the leader of the banksters and the European Union,” Mr. Michaloliakos, the group’s leader, said, using a derogatory term for bankers.

Of course, Golden Dawn is still transitioning from a street-fighting group  into a political party, but it remains to be seen whether it can  become a well-oiled machine like France’s National Front, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, is still campaigning for the presidency. Even so, its increasing popularity is evidence of a dangerous trend that only promises to worsen.

Read the rest.

Interesting choice of words: You can hate Germany, but only because of the power of German banks. And note that he doesn’t say it’s alright to hate Germans.

As the party’s symbols make clear, there’s another Germany, now vanished, that they very much like. And note their official logo, which strongly resembles the flag of that other Germany, right down to the choice of colors [black and white on a red background] and the strongly angular central figure.

Another famous logo

Golden Dawn logo

Another warning on the spread of racism

This time from a European monitoring group.

Areti Kotseli of Greek Reporter:

The RED (Rights Equality and Diversity) Annual Report for Europe 2011 sounds the alarm for Greece who seems to be , along with Spain, the most acute example of racist violence cases.

The bigger increase in crime cases against immigrants in Greece and Spain is partly attributed to the fact that “these countries present the highest unemployment rates among young people,” explains Miltos Pavlou in the findings of the report.

The report findings underline the inconsistency between the political correctness of the EU and the previous European legislation for the protection of minorities’ rights on one hand, and the rise of xenophobic rhetoric and racist violence in the Member States on the other.

“The EU seems to be cut out from national governments,” Miltos Pavlou, RED Network Coordinator, points out. In almost all EU countries of the RED Network, problems concerning the implementation of national legislation prohibiting discrimination and combating racist and hate crime are reported. The situation is deteriorating even in countries which didn’t exhibit such problems in the past,” he added. A special emphasis is put on the Roma children being segregated in education in most EU countries and immigrants.

Read the rest.

The January annual report of the European Commission on Human Rights takes note of the persecution of Roma and Sinti peoples and the Travelers, who have been singled out for prosecution in Britain:

As a result of persisting serious challenges in the field of securing the enjoyment by Roma and Travellers of their human rights throughout Continue reading

The Roma: Europe’s most despised minority

We’ve reported repeatedly on the plight of Europe’s Roma, Sinti, and Traveler peoples — collectively often called Gypsies.

Both the governments of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi relied on whipping up anti-Roma sentiment to distract voters from their roles in creating the economic woes sweeping their countries.

And we have especially disturbing reports from Germany and Eastern Europe, while we close with some of the finest musicianship you’ll ever hear.

Pandering to the political base

We’ve noted the irony implicit in Sarko’s racism: Sárközy is a common family name among the Roma of Hungary, the land of the French President’s father.

While Berlusconi is gone, Sarkozy remains committed to xenophobia, targeting both Muslims and the Roma. Most recently, he’s declared that “we have too many foreigners,” a bit of baiting that plays well with his conservative base.

So would Sarkozy’s leading rival in the upcoming presidential election mean better times for the Roma?


Antoine Lerougetel of World Socialist Web Site reported on the stark reality on 24 February:

In a February 12 interview on Canal Plus TV, François Hollande, Socialist Party candidate for president in the upcoming elections, proposed as a “solution” to the presence in France of Roma European Union (EU) citizens “the creation of camps … to accommodate them”.

The association of a “solution” in relation to specific racial groups with special camps can only bring to mind the period of Nazi rule in Europe, during which not only Jews and homosexuals, but also Roma and gypsies were rounded up and sent to extermination camps. This was not lost on many French people.

Hollande called for the establishment of “European rules to avoid our experiencing this constant to and fro [of the Roma]. Let there be camps that we can decide on, that is, to avoid these people settling just anywhere … [to] enable these people to go back to Romania … and not then return to France”.

Put more concretely, the Roma would be rounded up, and after their improvised encampments were broken up, they would be sent back to Romania, the same policy the present right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy is pursuing.

Read the rest.

International Roma Day riots

Sunday was International Roma Day, an annual event created in 1990 and recognized by an increasing number of governments around the globe.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even had her own announcement to mark Friday’s events.

But in Belgrade, the day was just another excuse for violence by the Serbian racist right.

From EurActiv:

International Roma Day coincided with racist clashes in Belgrade over the relocation of Roma from a shanty town in central Belgrade to state-sponsored container camp in a suburb.

Residents of suburban Resnik protested over the relocation of Roma to their community, where they would live in containers provided by the government. Local authorities said that if the government doesn’t drop the plans, they would organise a blockade of a nearby railway.

Serbian police said 12 officers and two protestors were hurt in the clashes in Resnik on 8 April. About 20 protestors were arrested by police who were guarding the construction site.

Belgrade Mayor Dragan Đilas called the protest “racist”. “The same law applies for all and there will be no negotiations between Belgrade and the citizens of Resnik who refuse the relocation of Roma in their community,” he was quoted as saying.

As protests occurred in Resnik, celebrations were held to mark International Roma Day, organised by the Serbian Parliament in Belgrade.

Deputy Prime Minister Božidar Đelic’, who is also coordinator of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, said the government had decided to remove shanty towns from the capital and provide residents with new accommodation.

Read the rest.

Germany’s sentiment recalls a bitter past

For Europe’s Roma and Sinti peoples, being targets of murderous violence has a long history.

But nothing compares to the campaign launched by Hitler’s Germany, a program of systematized slaughter in parallel with the Nazi murder campaign against Jews and the mentally ill.

While the Holocaust against Jews is widely remembered, that’s not the case with what the Roma call O Porrajmos, the devouring. Yet the intent was the same, to annihilate people from the face of a continent.

And while prejudice against Jews is widely and rightly condemned in Germany, rebuked whenever it appears, such is not the case with hatred expressed against the Sinti and Roma — an attitude still prevalent among a large minority of the German population.

From Deutsche Welle’s Andrea Grunau:

According to polls conducted by conflict researcher Wilhelm Heitmeyer, some 44 percent of the German population believe that Sinti and Roma have a tendency to criminal conduct. Four out of 10 say it is a problem for them to have Sinti and Roma nearby. And yet, say Heitmeyer and other researchers, the respondents are not likely to know any members of the minority they dislike so much.

That’s typical for what scientists call antiziganism, or anti-Romanyism. It is an attitude not based on individual experience, says Berlin political scientist Markus End, but on projections by the surrounding population. “You can have antiziganist beliefs without ever having had any personal contact with people who you perceive as being ‘gypsies.’ ” For centuries, Sinti and Roma have been stereotyped as homeless, lazy, or criminal, clichés repeated by the media today.


The German government’s anti-discrimination agency admits that “racist slogans against Sinti and Roma are still common in Germany.”, an initiative lobbying for the protection of children’s rights online, has analyzed antiziganism on the internet and found that often, platforms like Facebook and YouTube are used to spread racist rants and murder threats.

German rightwing extremists actively agitate against Romanis online. Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, says he is particularly worried about a neo-Nazi forum where members openly call for a “special treatment” for Romanis. This term was used by the Nazis to conceal their real intention of murdering minorities.

Read the rest.

And Roma Buzz has more on Germany’s Roma and Sinti population, including a surprising number:

There are an estimated 120,000 Sinti and Roma in Germany, with some 70,000 of them having the German passport. This makes them the largest ethnic minority group in the country.

Sinti and Roma are originally from Northwest-India. Some 600 to 800 years ago, they migrated to Europe in groups. The Sinti, a sub-group of the Romanis, came to German-speaking regions, to what is today Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The groups who moved to eastern and southeastern Europe call themselves Romani and came to Germany about a hundred years ago.

For centuries, Sinti and Roma were victims of persecution, which culminated under Nazi rule, when more than 500,000 people were Continue reading

A day that will live in infamy, 20 January 1942

Today marks the 70 anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, a gathering at a bucolic villa in suburban Berlin chaired by Reinhard Heydrich and attended by representatives of the German government. The purpose: Ironing potential bureaucratic kinks that could interfere with implementation of the Final Solution.

The meeting took place in Villa Wannsee, a pleasant estate confiscated by the SS from a Jewish businessman. It still stands today, much as when we photographed it on 24 August 2006.

24 August 2006, Nikon D70, 1/500 sec, 18mm, f3.5

From Spiegel:

Germany somberly marked the 70th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee Conference on Friday, with the country’s president saying the meeting that laid out plans for the Holocaust still caused “anger and shame.”

At the same villa on the shore of Berlin’s Wannsee lake where the original meeting took place, now a museum, President Christian Wulff told an audience that even though many years have passed, Germany should never be allowed to forget its responsibility for the genocide of some 6 million European Jews. “Therefore it is important and a national task to keep the memory alive,” he said.

On Jan. 20, 1942, high-level members of the Nazi party and other bureaucrats met at the villa to orchestrate large-scale plans for the extermination of Jews. At the time, hundreds of thousands of Jews had already been murdered, but many historians believe that the conference was the point at which Adolf Hitler’s plans for their industrialized killing were laid out explicitly for his top officials.

These men included Nazi party members and members of the SS, the party’s military force, which was to oversee the plans.

“This place and the name ‘Wannsee’ has become a symbol for the bureaucratically organized decision between life worth living and life not worth living, for state-organized extermination, for the planned and official systematic killing of Europe’s Jews,” Wulff said.

Inside the Villa, we discovered a graphic that summarizes the ethos at the heart of virulent racism, the “despoilation” of “our” women by the sinister, alien other. Substitute an African American for the for the Jewish caricature, and the crude artwork could have come from a KKK flyer from the 1920s.

24 August 2006, Nikon D70, 35mm, 1/125 sec, f4.2

Oh, those initials in to the right of the caricature?

Yep, it’s that A.H.

The War on Citizenship: Going global

There’s a new disturbing trend happening, and it’s most malicious manifestation is happening right here in the United States.

The goal is to strip inconvenient folks of their citizenship.

Here’s U.S. Representative Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, describing the legislation he’s introduced along with Pennsylvania colleague Jason Altmire. The companion measure in the upper house is sponsored by Senators Joe Leiberman [Connecticut independent] and Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican being challenged by Elizabeth Warren.

Here’s the text of the bill:


To add engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States to the list of acts for which United States nationals would lose their nationality.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the ‘Enemy Expatriation Act’.


(a) In General- Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481) is amended–

(1) in subsection (a)–

(A) in each of paragraphs (1) through (6), by striking ‘or’ at the end;

(B) in paragraph (7), by striking the period at the end and inserting ‘; or’; and

(C) by adding at the end the following:

‘(8) engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States.’; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

‘(c) For purposes of this section, the term ‘hostilities’ means any conflict subject to the laws of war.’.

(b) Technical Amendment- Section 351(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1483(a)) is amended by striking ‘(6) and (7)’ and inserting ‘(6), (7), and (8)’.

Note first the name of the legislation the bill would amend: “Loss of nationality by native-born or naturalized citizen; voluntary action; burden of proof; presumptions.”

Also note that to lose citizenship under the existing law requires the government to make its case only by a “preponderance of the evidence,” a much lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” required for conviction in a criminal case.

In other words, you could lose your citizenship even if the government prosecuted you in criminal court and you were found not guilty.

And what, precisely, is meant by “materially supporting”?

Citizenship under attack in France, too

Not only is it becoming harder to win French citizenship, but there’s a move afoot to end dual citizenship

From FRANCE 24:

Foreigners seeking French nationality face tougher requirements as of January 1, when new rules drawn up by Interior Minister Claude Guéant come into force.

Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker. They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities.

“Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought”, reads the charter, drafted by France’s High Council for Integration (HCI). In a more obscure passage, the charter suggests that by taking on French citizenship, “applicants will no longer be able to claim allegiance Continue reading

The lingering, lethal ghost of eugenics

One of the most noxious movements of the 20th Century was eugenics, the doctrine that humans should be treated as livestock, with frequent cullings of the herd to eliminate the “bad stock” from the gene pool.

One nation took the lead in the pursuit of eliminationism, and that was the United States. So effective were American eugenics that the inspired an Austrian-born former German Reischswehr corporal back in the 1920′s, when he lamented that Germany’s law weren’t nearly so “progressive.”

And lest we forget, until that German corporal took power, the place that led the world in eugenics was California, where sterilizations of the “feeble-minded” became a matter of routine.

While sterilizations were the rule until Hitler came along, quiet killings happened here in the U.S., especially of newborns.

In Germany, before the killings started, sterilizations were performed on mental patients, the depressed, alcoholics, “habiutual criminals,” and an assortment of other conditions deemed unworthy of the Aryan gene pool — with the Afro-Germanic offspring of French African colonial occupation troops and German women being the first to go under the knife.

But the cutting didn’t stop with Hitler’s demise, and continues into the present.

Mass sterilization in Peru

The sterilization campaign which claimed the most victims in the post-Hitler era happened in Latin America, and only ended eleven years ago.

From a story by Simon Tegel of The Independent:

Peru’s Attorney General last month reopened an investigation into the alleged forced sterilisations during the government of Alberto Fujimori, President from 1990 to 2000, who is currently serving a 25-year prison term for embezzlement and directing death squads during the crackdown against the Maoist Shining Path.

The investigation will look at the entire issue of forced sterilisations while focusing on one sample case, of Mamerita Mestanza, a 33-year-old, Quechua-speaking mother-of-seven, from the Andean region of Cajamarca. She died in 1998 from complications from sterilisation surgery that health officials allegedly harassed her into accepting.

According to human rights groups, there may have been as many as 300,000 victims, overwhelmingly women, the majority of them poor and often indigenous, Quechua-speakers with limited Spanish. “They were the weakest and most vulnerable,” says Ms Vigo, whose case remains the only one to have reached the courts in Peru.

According to the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights, Fujimori’s Peru is one of only two instances of forced sterilisations being adopted as state policy since the Third Reich.

Read the rest.

And in Europe, the usual suspects

The other example of post-Hitler forced sterilization cited by the Center for Reproductive Rights [CRR] is European, and its targets are a favorite latter-day target of European racial hysteria, the Roma, one of the groups of European itinerants known grouped together collectively as Gypsies.

And, lest we forget, the Roma was targets of Hitler’s other holocaust, with trainloads brought into the death camps from throughout Europe.

From the CRR website:

A three-month fact-finding in late 2002 by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Poradna pre obcianske a ludské práva (Centre for Civil and Human Rights), a Slovak human rights organization, reveals that not only do coerced and forced sterilization practices continue in Slovakia, so too does the widespread abuse and discrimination against Romani women in the country’s maternal health services. We conducted extensive interviews with more than 230 women in almost 40 Romani settlements throughout eastern Slovakia, the region with the highest concentration of Roma.

The interviews revealed numerous instances of coerced, forced and suspected sterilization of Romani women, along with physical and verbal abuse, racially discriminatory standards of care, misinformation in health matters, and denial of access to medical records.

The situation of Roma in Slovakia represents one of the worst throughout all of Europe. As the countries of Eastern and Central Europe transition into market economies and integrate into the European Union, their commitments to international and regional law and policy must be strengthened and demonstrated. Slovakia’s entry into the community of nations requires that it adheres to human rights law and investigates, without delay, the violations being committed within its borders.

Read the rest.

But we found one other instance, and spread throughout much of the Western world.

Targeting transsexuals

From Ann Tornkvist of Global Post:

More than two decades later, [sterilization victim Aleksa] Lundberg is a dramatic voice in a larger struggle against authority — the Swedish legal requirement that people who want to officially change their sex with the government must be sterilized first. The law also forbids the freezing of sperm or eggs before corrective surgery, which effectively means transgender Swedes are barred from having biological children.

“Forcible sterilization” has been quietly practiced for decades in countries typically cast as progressive on LGBT rights: France, the Netherlands, Australia and a number of U.S. states still require it. Italy and Germany have just recently overturned similar legislation.

Although Swedish leaders have been talking for months about repealing the sterilization law that Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called a “dark chapter in Swedish history,” it remains on the books. The conservative Christian Democrats have doggedly opposed the repeal, arguing that sex reassignment surgery is a threat to traditional social roles. Transgender advocates like Lundberg say they are fed up with being the last of the LGBTs to win their rights.

“It infuriates me that a group of people think they have a right to tell another group of people what they can and cannot do,” Lundberg says.

Read the rest.

We find it especially curious that it’s the ardent Christians who are so eager to sterilize transsexuals. Aren’t they the same folks who loathe contraception?

But then eugenics and Christianity have accommodated each other before.

The deeper pattern is one that’s all too familiar, the targeting of scapegoats designated as the causes of social or moral disorder. And that’s something that only gets worse in tough economic times when people are encouraged to blame anyone but the real crooks, robbers, and confidence artists responsible for the very things that make folks so angry.

Pam Geller hates those Norwegian mischlings

Mischling, or ethnically mixed, was a term of art in Nazi Germany, enshrined in the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, which defined the legal definition of Aryan and classified those of mixed German-Jewish heritage as mischlings.

Well, now it seems that Pam Geller, the American zionist blogger who whipped up a hate-storm over what she dubbed “the Ground Zero Mosque,” has demonized Norwegian mischlings, in this case young Norsk people with some trace of Arabic ancestry.

Lee Fang, who blogs at Think Progress, has the goods:

Popular hate blogger Pam Geller has received scrutiny in recent days as the public became aware that the right-wing terrorist in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik, had praised her blog and thoroughly cited her writing in his political manifesto. After a number of blogs made the connection, as well as the New York Times, the Atlantic, and other major outlets, Geller became incensed and began lashing outat her critics.

In a post defending herself yesterday, Geller — who has called Obama “President Jihad” and claimed that Arab language classes are a plot to subvert the United States — reached a new low. Geller justifies Breivik’s attack on the Norwegian Labour Party summer youth camp because she says the camp is part of an anti-Israel “indoctrination training center.” She says the victims would have grown up to become “future leaders of the party responsible for flooding Norway with Muslims who refuse to assimilate, who commit major violence against Norwegian natives including violent gang rapes, with impunity, and who live on the dole.”

To get her point across, Geller posts a picture of the youth camp children Breivik targeted. The picture was taken on the Utøya island camp about 24 hours before Breivik killed over 30 children, so it is likely Geller is mocking many of the victims. Under the picture, Geller writes: “Note the faces which are more MIddle [sic] Eastern or mixed than pure Norwegian.”

Read the rest.

Fang’s updated post notes that Geller subsequently pulled the offensive and very self-revealing caption, but he links to a screenshot of the original here.

We’ll leave the editorializing to you.

Another Euro terror attack, this time Germany

And the targets of Monday’s attack were people targeted for annihilation by Adolf Hitler: Sinti and Roma  [Gypsy] families living in Leverkusen, Germany.

Following directly on the heels on last week’s carnage in Norway, Monday’s arson attack has received little or no coverage we’ve been able to find in American news media.

And once again, the terrorists are white males.

From the German English-language news site The Local:

Police investigating an arson attack on an apartment housing Roma and Sinti families in Leverkusen were continuing Tuesday morning to probe the possibility that neo-Nazis may have been behind the attack.

Police and state prosecutors in nearby Cologne in North Rhine-Westphalia are investigating a xenophobic motive to the attack, in which nine people had to flee a ground-floor apartment after assailants hurled several fire bombs through the windows around 12:25 am Monday.

All nine people in the apartment escaped unharmed but the apartment was totally burnt out by the blaze and only the intervention of the fire brigade stopped it destroying the rest of the building.

The attack came amid a heightened atmosphere surrounding far-right violence in the wake of the massacre of at least 76 people on Friday by a Norwegian nationalist.

Witnesses saw two young men wearing dark clothing fleeing the scene in a dark Volkwagen car, possibly a Golf or Polo, with number plates from the NRW city of Neuss, police reported. Daily Bild reported that the fleeing suspected had shaved heads.

A police spokesman confirmed to The Local on Tuesday morning that investigators were continuing to probe the possibility that right-wing extremists were behind the attack, though all avenues were being examined.

Read the rest.

Given that many neo-Nazis are called skinheads because of the shaved heads, we think it’s likely they’ll prove to have been the attackers.

Now consider this from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, from its account of the Nazi’s little-known genocidal campaign against the Sinti and Roma peoples of Europe:

It is not known precisely how many Roma were killed in the Holocaust. While exact figures or percentages cannot be ascertained, historians estimate that the Germans and their allies killed around 25 percent of all European Roma. Of slightly less than one million Roma believed to have been living in Europe before the war, the Germans and their Axis partners killed up to 220,000.

After the war, discrimination against Roma continued throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The Federal Republic of Germany determined that all measures taken against Roma before 1943 were legitimate official measures against persons committing criminal acts, not the result of policy driven by racial prejudice. This decision effectively closed the door to restitution for thousands of Roma victims, who had been incarcerated, forcibly sterilized, and deported out of Germany for no specific crime. The postwar Bavarian criminal police took over the research files of the Nazi regime, including the registry of Roma who had resided in the Greater German Reich.

Only in late 1979 did the West German Federal Parliament identify the Nazi persecution of Roma as being racially motivated, creating eligibility for most Roma to apply for compensation for their suffering and loss under the Nazi regime. By this time, many of those who became eligible had already died.

Read the rest.

The account is partially inaccurate in that Sinti, another group also called gypsies, were also targets of the Nazi killing machine. The same methods used to slaughter Jews, shooting squads and death camps, were also used in the annihilation of Sinti and Roma.

The Roma have their own term for the Holocaust they experienced. They call it the Porrajmos,“the Devouring.”

And persecution of Sinti and Roma has an ancient European pedigree, as Jennifer Rosenberg notes:

Decrees, laws, and mandates often allowed the killing of Gypsies. For instance, in 1725 King Frederick William I of Prussia ordered all Gypsies over 18 years of age to be hanged. A practice of “Gypsy hunting”was quite common – a game hunt very similar to fox hunting. Even as late as 1835, there was a Gypsy hunt in Jutland (Denmark) that “brought in a bag of over 260 men, women and children.”

And, as we’ve noted before, the persecution continues to this day, notably in France and Italy.

Memories of a terrifying, literal blast from the past

I’ll lay the usual third-person editorial “we” aside for this post, because what I’m about to write is intensely personal.

Have you ever had the shit scared out of you?

I don’t mean this in the metaphorical sense, but in the literal meaning of being so thoroughly terrified that my bowels opened up, spewing out in a single violent surge everything contained in my viscera.

It happened to me one night in October, 1962, at the peak of the crisis that brought the world closer to nuclear Armageddon than at any time before or since.

We know it now as “the Cuban missile crisis,” the confrontation between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev over the placement of nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba.

The United States was encircling the Soviet Union with nuclear-armed bombers and missiles in Europe and Turkey, and the Soviets responded by accepting an invitation from Cuba — attacked two years earlier by the CIA-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs — to install nuclear missiles 90 miles from the American shoreline.

More missiles were on the way, and Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of the island, and for a few endless days, most Americans believed that millions of us would die in an apocalypse of biblical proportions, “the fire next time.”

I was born in 1946 in the very first wave of what would become the Baby Boom, and I grew up in a world filled with images of nuclear explosions conducted above ground at the Nevada Test Site and in the South Pacific.

Films of atomic blasts appeared regularly in the newsreels I watched during Saturday matinees at the Plaza Theater in Abilene, Kansas, and on nightly news broadcasts on the television Dad brought home when I was five.

Still photos in Life magazine brought the images home, delivered in our mailbox in the dominant picture magazine of the day, and at least once a month, the scream of air raid sirens brought life to halt and sent chills down my spine.

As a young child I was mesmerized by what everyone called The Bomb, knowing that this incredible, monstrous creation hung like a sword of Damocles over my future and the lives of everyone I loved.

When, at age 10, we moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, I found myself living 45 miles away from the nation’s first nuclear missile field, headquartered at Frances E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. And at watched as missile silos were dug into the earth just a few miles from home.

A cousin, Harry Yesley, was a uranium prospector, and I used to join him as he searched for veins of pitchblende and thorite. I owned my first Geiger Counter when I was ten.

Obsessed with the bomb, I learned the likely nearby targets, the fallout patterns, all the necessary precautions to take in the event of an attack.

And then, when I was ten, I saw a brief film on The Ed Sullivan Show that consolidated all my deepest fears [H/T to Disinformation]:

I’d forgotten about the film until I discovered it this morning in my daily web rounds, and watching it 55 years later evoked the same sense of despair I felt them. [For more on the film see here, here, and here.]

But the fear I felt after seeing the film was nothing like the abject terror that came six years later.

A fishing trip gone horribly wrong

As the Cuban Missile Crisis played itself out, I glued myself to the television, watching every bulletin, including this 22 October presidential address to the country:

By the 26th, sabers were rattling louder than ever before, and Dad, bless him, was distraught at the terror he saw in my eyes. That’s when he decided we needed to go on a fishing trip.

The happiest times of an often troubled childhood were spent with Dad, exploring the back country and fishing the lakes and streams of Colorado and Wyoming.

Back in 1962, our favorite destination was Glendo, Wyoming, where a massive dam on the Platte River had created a reservoir where we never failed to catch our limits of Rainbow Trout, trolling our lines off the sides of our 14-foot Feathercraft aluminum boat.

So we bundled up our gear and loaded up the camper Dad and I had built on the back of a white Chevrolet pickup, hitched up the boat, then headed north on Interstate 25, a route that took us directly past the entrance to Frances E. Warren Air Force Base.

Sitting behind the wheel, I spotted a line of Air Force blue cars and trucks headed rapidly into the base gate. I’d have turned on the radio, except that Dad Continue reading