Chomsky in Havana

If you think you can stomach it, here is the transcipt of an interview with Noam Chomsky by Bernie Dwyer on Radio Havana, dutifully published in Z Magazine. (Via Oliver Kamm.) Here are some excerpts.

[Bernie Dwyer] A couple of new popular books have recently been published such as Weapons of Mass Deception and Stupid White Men. Do you see them as a viable alternative to the corporate media?

[Noam Chomsky] No, they are not trying to be an alternative to the corporate media. They are just books among the many books written about the way the corporate media function and there is by now, in the United States, more than any other western country that I know, a rather significant popular movement concerned with the corporate media, which is virtually all the media within the United States, and the way they function as a kind of propaganda system.

This blog is not a part of the corporate media. NPR is not a part of the corporate media. The New York Times may be corporate, but it takes a rather different editorial line than The Wall Street Journal, also corporate. There is no propaganda “system” in this country. Or perhaps I should say there are many different propaganda systems. Quite unlike the monolithic state-run system in Cuba where Chomsky is giving this interview.

[Bernie Dwyer] The recent war on Iraq and the current US occupation was fully supported by the mainstream press in the US to the extent that the media became the political wing of the Bush administration. Isn’t that pushing the power of the press beyond all limits?

[Noam Chomsky] It’s hard to answer that. An independent press, of course, would not function in that fashion. You are quite right.

Here is Chomsky pulling his Jedi mind trick. Indeed, an independent press would not act as the political wing of the Bush adminstration. Therefore, Chomsky suggests, the American media is not independent. It is controlled by the Bush adminstration. Including NPR and the New York Times. This he says on state-controlled Cuban radio.

Of course, our media did not function in that fashion. Fox News and the Rush Limbaugh Show can be accused of functioning in that fashion up to a point, but they did so voluntarily. And the relentlessly anti-war New York Times did not operate in that way at all. But nevermind that. Chomsky has to trash the American free press on state-run media in a Communist dictatorship, and facts cannot get in his way.

Naturally, he can’t give an interview without injecting his trademark:

The fact that the United States can label other countries as terrorist states itself is quite remarkable because it not a secret that the United States is incontrovertibly a terrorist state.


[Bernie Dwyer] You would still uphold your admiration of the Cuban system as you did before?

His admiration for the Cuban system. Savor that. And remember it.

[Noam Chomsky] As far as I am concerned, I do not pass judgement on what Cubans decide to do.

But it’s okay to judge liberal democracies…

I am in favour of Cuba’s successful defiance of the United States.

Thanks for the solidarity, Noam.

I am in favour of them taking matters into their own hands.

Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship, but he doesn’t mind. No, really. He doesn’t.

Exactly how they carry it out… I have my own opinions. A lot of things I think are fine, a lot not, but it’s a matter for the Cubans to decide. My concern is that the hemispheric superpower not resort to violence, pressure, force, threat, and embargo in order to prevent Cubans from deciding how to determine their own fate.

Cubans are not allowed to determine their own fate, and it isn’t the United States that prevents them from doing so. They live in a prison-state from which they are not allowed to leave.

I do agree with one thing Noam Chomsky said, though not what he meant. It is a matter for Cubans to decide. Too bad when he said “Cubans” he only meant Fidel Castro.

A Glass Half Full

If you turn on the news or look at the headlines in the newspaper box, the post-war reconstruction of Iraq looks like a failure.

Look more carefully. The Iraqi summer of 2003 is a violent one, but something wonderful and new is being born.

Here is Iranian journalist Amir Taheri:

Iraq is the only Arab country today where all political parties, from communist to conservative, operate freely. Visitors will be impressed by the openness of the political debate there, something not found anywhere else in the Arab world. Also, for the first time, Iraq has no political prisoners.

Almost 150 newspapers and magazine are now published there, offering a diversity not found in any other Arab country. One theme of these new publications is the need for democratization in the Arab world. This may be putting the cart before the horse. What Arabs, and Muslims in general, most urgently need is basic freedom, without which democracy cannot be built.

The impact of Iraq’s liberation is already felt throughout the region.

Here are some interesting quotes.

“What we need is a space of freedom in which to think and speak without fear,” says a leading Syrian economist. “Bashar knows that if he does not create that space, many Syrians will immigrate to Iraq and be free under American rule.”

And this, from the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson:

“I decided to leave Iran and settle in Iraq where the Americans have created a space of freedom,” Hussein Khomeini says. “The coming of freedom to Iraq will transform the Muslim world.”

Perhaps the best reaction, if we can trust it, comes from Libya.

In a recent television appearance, Col. Muammar Khadafy (whose one-man rule has been in place since 1969) told astonished Libyans that he now regarded democracy as “the best system for mankind” and that he would soon unveil a package of reforms. These are expected to include a new Constitution to institutionalize his rule and provide for an elected national assembly.

Free people do not fight wars against each other.

And that is why I supported the liberation of Iraq. For freedom. For democracy. For all of us.

Bomb Found in Portland

Someone found a bomb on a commuter train in the Portland suburbs.

Investigators are trying to determine how a bomb with the power to kill a person was left on a MAX train in Washington County.

Police explosives experts detonated the device with no injuries Wednesday night.

It was the second bomb scare on Wednesday at the Beaverton Transit Center

“To set it off, you had to light the fuse,” Hyde said.

Members of the Portland police bomb disposal unit ignited the device in a nearby field and found it contained explosive material.

“No one speculated on just what it may have been,” Hyde said. But, “experts at the scene indicated that it easily could have caused serious injury or death to anyone nearby.”

Solberg said it was not clear where on the train the rider found the bomb, and investigators were trying to determine how it got there.

“It might have fallen out of somebody’s pocket or a bag,” Solberg said.

It seems too amateurish to be the work of a foreign terrorist organization. Looks home-grown or freelance to me.

Generation X and the American Flag

Sean LaFreniere, real liberal and fellow GenXer, wants to take back his country and his flag from the Baby Boomers.

Moonbat? Or Not?

Mike Silverman, a real liberal, posts two quizzes. Are You a Leftist? And Are You a Rightist?

I am thankfully neither.

Don’t Panic

Andrew Apostolou in a piece that manages to be both refreshing and sobering at the same time:

That mistakes have been made in postwar Iraq is not in doubt, but that predicted disasters have not transpired is rarely acknowledged. The Coalition, like the U.N., planned for a humanitarian catastrophe when there was none. Contrary to some pessimists, Iraq has not fallen apart. Far from destroying Iraq’s territorial integrity, the Coalition has restored it, bringing the Kurdish safe haven back into Iraq. There have been remarkably few revenge killings so far, thanks to the Coalition presence, and equally little of the predicted ethnic conflict. Hundreds of thousands of ethnically cleansed Kurds have not rushed back to their homes nor have they punished their Arab oppressors. There has been little of the reverse ethnic cleansing seen in Kosovo where the Albanians often dispensed rough justice to their former Serb overlords.

He’s no pollyanna, though. There are plenty of problems, even if they are smaller than those we anticipated. Read the rest, and take note of the last sentence.

[T]here is no surer path to defeat than to rush into the arms of those who wish we had never toppled Saddam in the first place.

Blogging At Its Finest

This smackdown of the Washington Monthly at the Daily Howler is one of the finest pieces of muckracking media criticism I’ve read in a while.

What’s the beef? Liberal bias? Nah. Laziness and sheer contempt for the audience.

Two Shiite Views of the “Resistance”

Here’s one, as reported in Yahoo! News:

Lebanon’s top Shiite Muslim cleric warned that Iraqi Shiites would join the armed resistance against U.S. and British forces if the occupation of Iraq persisted for too long.

Grand Ayatollah Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said Iraqi Shiite political leaders and clerics have been united in their rejection of the occupation and in their public calls for U.S. and British forces to leave the country.

“So far, the (anti-U.S.) resistance does not have clear objectives. When we examine the message of (Iraqi) Shiite leaders and clerics, we find that there is a single voice in rejecting the occupation and in calling on the occupation to leave Iraq to the Iraqis,” Fadlallah said in a live interview with the Lebanese Future television station late Tuesday.

“(Joining the resistance) is not very far if the occupation continues to afflict the Iraqis, becoming a tool to restrict the Iraqis’ freedom,” he said.

Fadlallah, 67, strongly opposed both the regime of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

And here’s another in the Times of London (subscription required) from Iranian journalist Amir Taheri in Europe:

Despite the gloomy impression given by the Western media, it is important to recognise that not one of the five major Shia parties wants the US to leave: in fact, all agree that they need the US Armed Forces. Sciri leaders I talked to yesterday insisted that there would be no change in the strategy of co-operation with the US-led coalition.

Who to believe? The anti-American Shiite blowhard in Lebanon? Or the pro-American Shiite intellectual in Europe?

Okay, so it’s a spun and loaded question. But since anti-Americans are occasionally terrorists and are almost always idiots, let’s go with the report from the pro-American intellectual for now.

Liberalism and Socialism

In the comments section of this post is a debate over whether or not liberals are socialists.

I’d like to leave you with the following quote from Winston Churchill which, I think, is exactly right.

Liberalism is not Socialism, and never will be. There is a great gulf fixed. It is not a gulf of method, it is a gulf of principle. [...] Socialism seeks to pull down wealth. Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. Socialism would destroy private interests; Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely by reconciling them with public right. Socialism would kill enterprise; Liberalism would rescue enterprise from the trammels of privilege and preference [...] Socialism exalts the rule; Liberalism exalts the man. Socialism attacks capital; Liberalism attacks monopoly.


Race: Human

James Lileks:

I’m lucky; I don’t know where I come from. We have some theories, but they’re just that. One side of my lineage dead-ends in an adoption; the other trails off in Europe, east of Paris. Don’t know.

Don’t. Care. I’m a mongrel. I’m a race mixer. Everyone into the blender; fine by me. What I do know is that anyone who believes as I do today would have been shoved on a train by the real goose-steppers circa 1943.

Same goes for me. Sort of.

My father’s side of the family is from England. That’s where my name is from. I have no idea about my mother’s side. She’s a mix of Euro this and Euro that. From where, I’ve no idea. I mean, no idea at all. East of Paris? Maybe. West of Moscow? Probably, but perhaps not. Definitely north of the Congo. That’s all I know.

I could be part Jewish, part Arab, part native American Indian for all I know. And like James Lileks, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know because I don’t want to start caring about that sort of thing. I don’t want to find out I’m a part of a victim group so I can start feeling bad about something I’ve never felt bad about before. I don’t want to feel like I’m supposed to hold some old world grudge against other people who never did anything to me or my family. Not that I would, but I don’t want anyone else thinking I should. Is part of my family Greek and formerly oppressed by the ancestors of my Turkish-American neighbors? I really don’t care.

My wife’s family is Scotch-Irish. So, okay, my father’s ancestors oppressed hers. It’s trivia. In Belfast our marriage would be impossible. That is what is great about America. We’re over it. Never worried about it in the first place.

I know it’s easy for me to say ’cause I’m a white guy. And I know that makes me lucky. I do. Still, there was a time when this sort of thing did matter in this country to people like me, and my marriage would have been impossible even here. That day is past. It will be past for others too. Some day.

Roger L. Simon says that day is now. Or it ought to be.

Oregon’s Outback

When people think of my state of Oregon they think of green. And not just those who don’t live here. Most Oregonians live to the west of the Cascade mountains in the wet, lush, dripping, fogged-in valley between the snowy peaks and the sea. Everywhere you look is creaking timber tall enough to tear the bottoms out of the clouds. Wisps of fog roll off the hills like smoke down the sides of an ashtray. The grass is a vibrant psychedelic green even in Winter. Most of our towns are little more than encampments in the woods.

There is another Oregon, too. Like a crazy aunt shunted away in the attic, the Eastern Oregon desert is out of sight, out of mind, and mostly out of the way. Many Oregonians don’t even realize it’s there. They go to the mountains to ski, or maybe to go fishing. If they cross they don’t venture far. Because if you climb the spine of the Cascades and keep on driving east, you will leave the Pacific Northwest. You’ve only crossed to the center of Oregon, but you’ve entered what’s known as the West.

Yes, the West is east of Seattle and Portland. And it is desolate.

I took a friend through the empty Oregon Outback last September, and he didn’t like it so much. There’s nothing out here, he said, and he was right.

There is nothing out there. That’s what I like about it.

You don’t go to the Empty Quarter because of what’s there. You because of what isn’t.

There is no traffic, no smog, no people, no phones, no office towers, no red lights, no light pollution at night. There are no forests to block your view of the mountains, the plains, and the stars. Nor is there much of anything else.

The cold in Winter burns. The sun in the summertime punishes. The land has been split by God with a sword, and pounded for centuries with hammers.

Oregon would not be whole if it were not there.







Photos by Michael J. Totten

The Graphic Left (Updated)

Long-time readers of this Web site know that I used to think of myself sometimes as a liberal, sometimes as a leftist.

These days I think of myself sometimes as a liberal and increasingly as a centrist.

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. I don’t know how you will react to these images from anti-war.us, but I find them viscerally repulsive. I just don’t think of my country in this way, and I feel no solidarity whatsoever with people who do.righteous.jpg





UPDATE: I wonder what would happen if Andrew Sullivan wrote a little post where he said he felt no solidarity whatsoever with the Ku Klux Klan. Would conservatives give him a hard time? Somehow I doubt it. So why must certain liberals give me a hard time now?

Oliver Willis says in the comments:

What I can’t understand is why liberals like Michael tend to do the dirty work of the right for them.

This sort of thing just alienates me from the left even more. I’m a “Bush Tool” now because I won’t stand with those who think America is a nation of bloodthirsty psychotic imperialists? Give me a break.

As to Oliver’s next question:

why are there more liberals bashing fellow liberals while the right-wingers sit back and laugh at us?

First of all, I don’t think the pictures above are from “fellow liberals.” They are from anti-war leftists. But either way, the reason I do this is because any liberal movement that I will belong to must draw a clear line in the sand between itself and the hateful bigots at the core of anti-war activism. Or I will walk. There is no tent big enough for us all.

The Republican tent isn’t big enough for me, either. These days I keep asking myself if I need to belong to either group. The reactions to these posts of mine are helping me make my decision.

Independence is looking awfully enticing these days.

The bottom line is this: I need to feel there is some daylight between myself and the radicals. And if I have to move all the way to the center to make it happen, then that’s what I’ll do. There needs to be a clean break somewhere, either between the liberals and the radicals, or between me and the liberals.

Notes on the “Resistance”

Mark Steyn on why Iraq is not the West Bank:

For purposes of comparison, consider two suicide bombings within hours of each other: the Canal Hotel attack in Baghdad, the bus bomb in Jerusalem. The latter was greeted with the traditional Palestinian festivities: proud relatives, neighbours handing out candy, ululating women, dancing in the street, happy days are here again, grey skies are gonna clear up, strap on a happy bomb, etc.

When I was in the West Bank in May, I was struck by how almost every humdrum transaction of daily life takes place in the context of overwhelming social acceptance of terrorism: the posters of ‘martyrs’ in the grocery stores, the streets named after them, the competitions about them in the elementary schools. There’s none of that in Iraq. When a suicide bomber blows up the UN, no one passes out candy, there’s no dancing in the street. The dead-enders behind the attacks have no significant public support to draw on.

Iraq isn’t Vietnam, either. By the way.


Michelle at A Small Victory has posted a collection of violently anti-Semitic and anti-American cartoons that keep appearing on Indymedia.


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