July 09, 2007

Support Your Favourite Blogger

Let me pitch a story to you, if you don't mind.

I have now been blogging for more than four years. Here is the guts of my very first blog post way back in Feb, 2003:
Who are we? Where are we going? What kind of world do we want to create? ...

The industralised behommeth [sic] of 21st Century "Civilisation" races at full steam towards a destination most thinking people no longer wish to attain... Who built this cursed machine? Who controls it? Should we be trying to stop it, destroy it or re-direct it? Or should we just be jumping off?!?

After centuries of disenfranchisement, subjugation and de-humanisation, the Internet promises to re-empower the individual and unite ordinary people around the globe. Personal web sites like Blogger give us a medium to make our voices heard like never before. This Blog is my voice on the Internet.
At the time, I wasn't too sure exactly what I wanted to do with a blog, or what I wanted to say. But I knew I wanted to say something.

Then came the Iraq War invasion. Like you, perhaps, I was shocked and awed. In fact, I was totally gob-smacked, just plain dumbfounded and disgusted by what my own country was doing. Two months into the war I wrote this:
We are now witnessing the collapse of the myriad Bush administration myths about why the USA had to invade Iraq... So now it it time to ask: WHY DID THEY DO IT?

The answer, obvious enough once the other myths are exploded, is OIL.

So, what now? Iraq is perhaps the only nation on earth capable of seriously challenging Saudi Arabia as the World #1 oil exporter. The Americans will clearly want to maintain control of this oil for the next hundred years (or at least until it is all gone). The obvious fix would be to "sell" all the Iraqi's oil to the USA at very attractive prices. In return, the USA will give the Iraqis ... what? Hmmn... How about ongoing military and administrative support? Well, that won't be necessary once the Iraqis regain control of their country and set up a stable, model democracy, right?

Hands up anyone who thinks the instability in Iraq will be resolved anytime soon.
If the truth was obvious to me, a relatively uninformed middle-aged nobody, way back then, why couldn't the whole world see it? Why couldn't our politicians admit it? Why was the media silent? Why has it taken us four long years of lies, and over half a million deaths, to reach this point of public outrage? How on earth did Bush, Blair and Howard manage to get re-elected?

The disturbing answers to these questions tell us much about who we are, what we have become, and where we are going.

I have now spent over four years blogging nearly every day against Bush, Howard, Blair and their Big Money backers. It has been a process of learning and self-realisation as much as a politically-oriented campaign for truth and accountability.

The knowledge I have accumulated has been quite shocking, in many respects, and almost always depressing. Much that was dismissed, just a short time ago, as wild Conspiracy Theory, is now accepted as common knowledge. I have learned a good deal about politics, business, and Western society, but I have learned far, far more about human nature.

Again, it is mostly depressing: human beings, for the most part, are greedy, self-centered, cowardly, lazy, stupid and cruel. They are capable of rising above such weaknesses, certainly, but not while opportunistic leaders continually exploit them. As a result, blogging can be an extraordinarily depressing experience.

What to do? If I could walk away from it all, wipe my hands, and be done with "the short-lived passions of men", I would do so. But I have kids. I need to give them a future. And I cannot abandon the millions of innocent people around the globe who suffer every day because of our own governments' ruthless greed. So I blog on. I blog on.

I am pleased to say that my own journey has been just one of countless personal awakenings across the Internets. Over the past four years, I have encountered many fine voices of reason and compassion, from all corners of the earth. Such noble efforts restore one's faith in humanity. Individually, we bloggers may struggle and grow weary, complaining that no one hears our voices, feeling ineffectual. But together, we are most certainly making a difference.

In the USA, in particular, the media would never have uttered a word of truth on Iraq if not for the bloggers: Australia has benefitted (by extension, as usual) from this elevation of consciousness. There are civil wars now raging in the newsrooms of papers like the New York Times and Washington Post. Much is at stake. Rupert Murdoch straddles the globe like a colossus, determined to push his radical pro-business agenda. The old print and TV media empires are disappearing as fast as the business models that fueled their rise. What will rise in their wake?

The answer, I suspect, is up to us - the bloggers, and those who read them.

For too long, media empires have not only reported the news but also shaped it. Some would argue that it is impossible to report news without lending at least some slanted perspective on it. But voices like Murdoch's have gone far beyond that, working actively within political and business communities to create mutually beneficial power cliques, destroying opponents, stifling dissent and perpetuating lies. For the wingnut masses, this has become a form of entertainment. For the unscrupulous, it is a path to riches: sell your soul and climb aboard.

Bloggers clearly shape the news rather than reporting it, but at least our biases are (usually) plain for all to see. And our motives tend (usually) to be purer. True, we do feed off the content provided by "real" journalists, who go out on the road and report actual facts. But I don't think such journalists are our real competitors, and I don't think such journalism is actually "in danger" from bloggers, as many analysts claim.

It's the opinion-shapers in the media who are really endangered by the blogosphere. And that is largely because they have destroyed their own credibility. Just compare your favourite bloggers with the hate-filled cash-for-comments on talkback radio! Or look at the abysmal record of anonymous editorials in major newspapers over the past four years. Reading the news is one thing, but understanding what it means is another. Most people don't have the time to pore over every little story, research background stories, seek out connections, and join the dots. Who are you going to trust for such analysis?

Which brings me to my pitch.

I have never made a cent out of blogging. I have a wife and three kids (aged two, nine and eleven), plus a live-in mother and a cat. I work full-time in a soul-destroying wage-slave office I.T. job, which depresses me no end in its own right, but at least it gives me time to read the news and blog.

If I had my 'druthers, I would become a full-time blogger and a serious freelance investigative journalist. And I would write a book based on my experiences of the past four years. Beyond that, I have a few ideas for a new website.

On the other hand, if I cannot make any money out of blogging, there is a real chance that I will have to set it aside. Like I said, I have a young family to take care of. If I were to add up all the hours I have spent reading the news and blogging over the past four years, it would come to many months - others have spent such time advancing their careers, or profiteering from stocks and real estate deals. Know what I'm saying?

Today I have finally added a "donations" button to the sidebar. If you enjoy reading this blog, and if you appreciate the positive change that blogs are bringing to media and politics, please consider making a small Pay Pal donation.

Even if I get only one dollar, after all my efforts to date, that would mean something. At least I could tell my wife (who has very little patience with politics) that it is not all just a waste of time.

July 03, 2007

Destroying The Evidence

Via Talking Points Memo:
"all TALON reports were deleted from their database in June 2006 with no archives."

Is TEH USA a Monarchy Yet?

President George W. Bush commuted Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison term in the CIA leak case, saying the 2 1/2 year prison term was "excessive."
But it's not all good news for poor little Libby:
"My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby," Bush said in a statement. "The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long- lasting."

The president's action means that Libby's conviction still stands and he is still required to pay the $250,000 fine ordered by a federal judge.
What a crock. Pontificator at Kos saw this one coming. Bush can still pardon Libby in January 2009, as he walks out the White House door. Expect it to happen.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall asks what conceivable argument Bush might use to explain this decision:
The only basis for this decision is that Libby is the vice president's friend, the vice president rules the president and this was the minimum necessary to keep the man silent.
John Conyers suggests the move may be illegal:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mi.) released a statement saying that "until now, it appeared that the President merely turned a blind eye to a high ranking administration official leaking classified information. The President's action today makes it clear that he condones such activity. This decision is inconsistent with the rule of law and sends a horrible signal to the American people and our intelligence operatives who place their lives at risk everyday."
Joe Wilson says Bush's decision is in and of itself participation in obstruction of justice. Harry Reid nails it:
"Libby's conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war. Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone," Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid has said.
Check TPM for more responses. Angry protestors have been calling the White House, which has now closed its phone lines. The awakening of the USA continues apace...

UPDATE 2: Pat Fitzgerald, who led the prosecution against Libby, reacts to Bush's use of the word “excessive":
The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals.
Jane Hamsher says:
By commuting Libby’s sentence rather than pardoning him, Bush insures that Scooter will remain silent and be able to invoke the fifth before before Congress and not risk being cited for contempt. This president’s contempt for the rule of law is thorough and complete.

Fitzgerald is an honest prosecutor who worked like a dog for this conviction and got mocked by pissy members of the beltway entitlement set for his efforts. Now his work gets swept away by the chief crook seeking to obstruct justice. I’m gonna guess he’s righteously pissed. I know I am.
The world is watching, George. We are all pissed.


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