Summary: Two recent new articles revisit a sad story from our past. Gary Webb had a distinguished career in journalism, until his series in the San Jose Mercury News about the CIA’s involvement in smuggling drugs into America. What happened afterwards tells us much about America. We’re ignorant because we have the news media we deserve, since we do not appreciate or protect whistleblowers and journalists who tell us unpleasant truths. This leaves them vulnerable to attack by powerful interest groups. It’s a story of America’s decline.
- Webb’s allegations about the CIA
- The Empire strikes back
- For More Information about the CIA
(1) Webb’s allegations about the CIA
Urban legends that circulate to this day that the CIA created and profited from the crack epidemic that devastated our inner cities in the 1980s.There was an element of truth in these allegations, with their origin in a 1996 series of articles by Gary Webb in the San Jose Mercury News. They had a core of truth, but were wildly exaggerated. For details see:
(2) The Empire strikes back
Fast, open and thorough investigations could have shown the small CIA involvement in drug smuggling (their dirty work prevents them from working only with nice people). Eventually investigations did so with varying degrees of credibility.
But that’s not our government’s way. One way or another steps were taken to ruin Webb’s career. Perhaps by coincidence, Webb’s accusations against the government received massive investigations by major newspaper, which they never given to investigations of government iniquity.
Two recent articles describe this sad history.
“Ex-L.A. Times Writer Apologizes for ‘Tawdry’ Attacks“, LA Weekly, 30 May 2013 — “Jesse Katz admits that attacking journalist Gary Webb’s CIA-cocaine expose ruined Webb’s life”. Excerpt:
“Dark Alliance” blew the lid off the CIA’s ties to America’s crack market by showing for the first time not just the agency’s role in turning a blind eye to Nicaraguan contras smuggling cocaine to the United States but also vividly illustrating the role of that cocaine in the spread — via marketers like Ross — of crack in America’s inner cities.
The movie will portray Webb as a courageous reporter whose career and life were cut short when the nation’s three most powerful newspapers piled on to attack Webb and his three-part Mercury News series on the CIA’s crack-cocaine connection.
The New York Times, Washington Post and L.A. Times each obscured basic truths of Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series. But no newspaper tried harder than the L.A. Times, where editors were said to have been appalled that a distant San Jose daily had published a blockbuster about America’s most powerful spy agency and its possible role in allowing drug dealers to flood South L.A. with crack.
“Seeing the Gray in ‘Dark Alliance’“, Los Angeles Magazine, 6 June 2013 — “Jesse Katz on the life and death and Hollywood resurrection of Gary Webb, the reporter who linked the CIA to the crack epidemic.” Excerpt:
Summary: Here we look at two stories that powerfully illustrate the trends that are creating a New America on the ashes of the old. It’s not too late to stop this process. Doing so becomes more difficult each day. Soon it will be too late to stop, let alone reverse — it will become our legacy to our children.
Here are two stories showing outlines of the New America now emerging. They’re worth reading in full.
- An artistocrat mingles with the proles
- Building an unequal America thru poor schools
The many trends concentrating wealth and income are not just happening; these reflect long-standing policies of elements in our ruling elites.
This requires no conspiracy, just like-minded people in an open-source movement. There are nodes, key individuals and institutions (mostly non-profit think-tanks). It is an open-sourced insurgency, as described in John Robb’s great book Brave New War.
(1) One of our national leaders mingles with the common people
This is a oft-told story in oligarchic societies. An aristocrat wanders among the peasants, learns about their lives, returns home and shares her tale about their colorful but hard lives. It’s just an anecdote because nothing happens as a result of this experience.
“‘This was really eye-opening for me’: Fed’s Raskin shocked at low quality of work at local job fair”, Reuters, 17 June 2013 — Excerpt:
I became interested in this question of quality somewhat by accident. I did something atypical one day. I decided on my way into work I would stop at a jobs fair. There was a jobs fair at a local community college close to my home and I thought, instead of pounding through all this heavy data that we typically look at at the board of governors, let me just go into this job fair. It turned out to be a really interesting morning.
… This was really eye-opening for me.
(2) Building an unequal America thru poor schools
“The Great Divide: Schooling Ourselves in an Unequal America“, Rebecca Strauss, New York Times, 16 June 2013
Summary: We’re off to war in yet another nation. Little Syria has suddenly become a nation whose fate can shake the foundations of the United States. Rather than again dissect the mad arguments of the hawks, let’s step back to see the larger pattern at work. After all, our opinions on the war matter not at all to our ruling elites. These significance of these events lies only in their ability to show that our leaders are incompetent, that we can no longer see the world through the fog of propaganda, and as a result we have lost control of the Republic.
It might take a century or more, but future historians will devise a catchy name for the US interventions in Afghanistan (1979 – now), Iraq (1990-2011), Libya (2011), and Syria (2013) — our bipartisan policy of overthrowing secular regimes, replaced by Islamic regimes — with dubious results for their people and the US. It is a coherent but mad policy, with several characteristics.
- No clear plan; we rely on our awesomeness for success
- Ignorance or indifference to the historical record of the target nation
- Ignorance or indifference to the past failures of the methods used
- Indifference to the fate of women in the target nation
(1) No clear plan
Imitating the plan of Imperial Japan in WW2: our awesomeness will produce success.
Our lavishly funded foreign policy apparatus (mostly military), with its middle and senior managers stocked with people holding advanced degrees (at the higher levels, mostly from elite universities), seem unable to form a first-year B-school level plan for our interventions. Goals, entry, execution, exit, follow-up. That’s obvious in the histories published about the Afghan War. It was obvious at the time in the post-9-11 interventions. Such questions were asked in the general media, but our confident elites blew them off with in effect instructions to “trust us”.
Despite repeated failures, we do. Again and again. This time they’re scarcely bothering to give coherent stories to build support for this war. They’re just ringing the bell, knowing we’ll respond. WMDs! Iran! Overthrow tyrants!
See the posts at the end about the Libyan War for examples of ignored warnings and daft propaganda.
(2) Ignorance or indifference to the historical record of the target nation
All these nations were weakly held together, with deep ethnic (and religious in Iraq, Libya, and Syria) divisions. All had traumatic experiences with colonial aggression, with ours seen as just another chapter. Experts warned about the risk of prolonged instability, but were ignored.
(3) Ignorance or indifference to the past failures of the methods used
Summary: Marcus Ranum, our in-house cyber-expert, looks at the next stage of the government’s defense against the revelations of NSA surveillance. Like the surveillance itself, they rely on non-governmental agents to get the job done.
I’m sure we’re all shocked to see attempts to downplay the significance of the PRISM story.
What’s that you say? You’re not? Well, me either.
That was why I rushed together my article about finely slicing the word salad of “direct access” to servers, etc. It’s useful to try to clarify in advance the lies you are about to be told – it makes them more clear.
The attacks on Greenwald’s scoop tend to break into four categories:
- Traitor! Traitor! USA USA USA!
- It’s not new; we already knew all that.
- It’s not possible, it’s not feasible (reasons given)
- That’s not true! (no reasons given)
The people taking the second line of reasoning above either haven’t done their research or are deliberately ignoring the rich history of leaks about this kind of stuff dating back years. Past leaks about the surveillance state show not only the desire to massively tap data, but the resources spent doing so, and the technological capabilities. It is the latter that give the lie to responses such as farcical stories about thumb drives and FTP. Oh, we can be sure that thumb drives and FTP have occasionally been used, but that’s probably to collect information that can’t be gotten indirectly.
People who claim that Greenwald has it wrong are ignoring the rather obvious fact that the “Boundless Informant” slides show 97 billion records of data being injected into the system daily. That’s a lot of thumb-drives worth! They also are ignoring that Greenwald says there are more disclosures to come; my suspicion is that Greenwald has a couple bombs left up his sleeve and he’s waiting for the surveillance state to strongly stake out a position before he pulls the carpet out from under them.
Articles such as Rick Perlstein’s article in The Nation (“Glenn Greenwald’s Epic Botch?“) – title complete with face-saving question mark – show a lack of understanding of history. If Perlstein’s “no expert”, as he says, he should probably invest a day or two studying, rather than an hour or two writing. I find it amazing that any journalist would take a corporate spokesperson’s words at face value when they’re responding to a crisis, without researching the back-story. Was he born yesterday?
Previous whistle-blowers such as Mark Klein, who revealed the existence of Room 641A, have already described systems that align perfectly with what Snowden has revealed. For that matter, Duncan Campbell was documenting ECHELON back in the 80s.
Summary: Today we look at inflation, past and present. It tells much about who to trust for economic analysis, the current state of the US economy, and what we can expect in the future.
- The inflation picture
- Why has inflation fallen since 2011?
- Others see the rise in real rates
- For More Information
During 2010 and 2011 the media overflowed with confident and dire warnings from conservatives of inflation — or even hyperinflation — coming quite soon. They were totally wrong, as economists such as Paul Krugman said at the time. Instead inflation has slowed, by some measures hitting record low rates. As the posts at the end show, readers of the FM website saw the correct side of this debate (this has been added as a win on the Past Predictions page).
Today we look at what actually happened, and what this might mean for our future.
(2) The inflation picture
The public looks at the CPI to measure inflation. Many economists (e.g., Alan Greenspan) prefer the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index. The April numbers (annualized):
- overall PCE: -3.0%
- core PCE (excludes food & energy): +0.1% (the YoY change of 1.05% is the lowest on record, back to 1960)
- trimmed mean PCE (another measure of the core rate): -0.1% (lowest since record begins in 1977)
Three of the most important economic factors appear on this graph:
- Treasury interest rates (blue, here that of the 10 year bond),
- inflation (green, here using the CPI), and
- real interest rates (red, here measured by the difference between the two).
We see the effects of the Fed’s increasingly aggressive monetary policies, intended to boost CPI inflation and lower real interest rates. They have not done these because the recovery is wonderful, but because it is too slow. Note that one of these is unlike the other two.
- QE1 from November 2008 to June 2010 — it broke deflation, boosting the CPI and forcing down real rates.
- QE2 from November 2010 – June 2011 — another boost to CPI, further depressed real rates.
- QE3 from October 2012 — still running, but with inflation falling and real rates rising.
Houston, we might have a problem.