The Charlie Hebdo story isn’t adding up

Just watched CBS explain the shootout in Paris today & wonder if there was a problem in translation because the story doesn’t add up in English. We aren’t likely to learn the full truth about this incident & it’s not politically productive to fixate on it anymore than on 911 or other alleged conspiracies because it dead-ends. Our work lies with figuring out how to respond to the problems this assault creates for civil liberties, antiwar opposition & Palestinian solidarity.

CBS ended their mangled narrative with a homily explaining why Charlie Hebdo was not reckless in their caricatures. The news reader offered the pompous justification that freedom of the press is “absolute”–which is simply not true in any country. Freedom of the press, which is part of freedom of speech, has all sorts of restrictions including on porn, defamation, incitement, obscenity, copyright violations.

In France, the Press Law of 1881 governing media has a rich political history with specific provisions against hate speech & incitement to racism or violence as crimes. Other European countries also have hate laws implemented in the wake of the holocausts of WWII. Several prominent figures have been prosecuted under this law including Bridget Bardot, designer John Galliano, and Charlie Hebdo.

In truth, France has selective freedom of speech because just last summer it attempted to ban Palestinian solidarity protests as a “threat to public order” & protesters were threatened with prison & hefty fines. France also has a long political tradition undaunted by such threats & there were several massive protests.

This morning The International Business Times published a story on alleged links between Israeli intelligence & the CH shootings but pulled it within a few hours calling it a lapse in judgement beneath their journalistic standards. It’s a plausible connection–maybe even likely–but because it can’t be documented it really can’t be charged & is fruitless to speculate. There’s much more important political work to do than play detective with the masters of deceit.

Behold the glory that is capitalism!

Filipino boy at dump (Aaron Favila:AP) Jan 9 2015

In 2001, as the anti-globalization movement was erupting around the world, a Swedish nonentity named Johan Norberg wrote a book titled “In Defense of Global Capitalism.” At the time, our man’s resume was pretty paltry for taking on the daunting task of defending neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism. His only credential for the job–other than considerable vanity–was a brief youthful foray as an anarchist. He was commissioned by a Swedish libertarian think tank to do the job so perhaps he has a way with words along with his willingness to mangle reality.

It’s now translated into several languages & as happens with all those who sing for their supper, Norberg’s fortunes & prestige are enhanced. He’s now ensconced in the global network of think tanks promoting libertarian policies & neoliberal predation according to the gospel of Milton Friedman.

One shouldn’t condemn a book one refuses to read but is there really anything to learn from a book arguing neoliberal plunder has reduced poverty, hunger, infant mortality, & inequality? You get a better education watching “Jeopardy.” Or for that matter, reading the side panel on a cereal box.

The book was praised in Canadian media as a refutation of Naomi Klein & in US media as a refutation of “dull old Marxists.” The kiss of death was the rave review by Ben Stein, the Fox News commentator who is a cornucopia of right-wing idiocy & cruelties. Stein opposes women’s reproductive rights; disavows climate change; campaigns for creationism; defended Israel’s commando raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza (nine unarmed solidarity activists were shot & killed in 2010); denounced Black residents of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina as gangsters, gang bangers, & looters; & claimed Michael Brown in Ferguson was not unarmed because he was “full of muscles.” If that fool found Norberg’s book a “stunningly insightful, brilliantly detailed refutation of the crank theories of the anti-globalists” it might best go straight to toilet paper.

Those think tanks can hire the best brains money can buy (Norberg & Stein would not be among them) but there’s no thinking their way out of the vortex of political, social, & economic crises erupting across this planet where the ratio of human impoverishment & suffering grows in direct relationship to neoliberal plunder. There are few options & no solutions within the system; that’s why police & military repression are so ubiquitous.

This tiny boy is running from burning electrical wires in a dumpsite in Manila, Philippines where the unemployed scavenge for recyclables. This is of course neoliberal waste management. Working people have the right to dream big for their kids, to want their kids raised in a world that doesn’t stink of manure, or where they have to pick through garbage to earn a living. We need to look at our own options.

(Photo by Aaron Favila/AP)

Police release video showing execution of Tamir Rice

Tamir Rice  (the Jan 9 2015

Under pressure, Cleveland police finally released the full video transcript of the police murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice while he played with a toy gun in a public park. He was shot November 22 & died the next day. Police had responded to a 911 call reporting a child with a gun. The video shows there was no attempt by cops to discern the facts or negotiate. Tamir was shot within seconds of their arrival.

Police have resisted its release & its damning exposure of police brutality. As Tamir’s 14-year-old sister rushed to help him, one of the cops shoved her to the ground, handcuffed her, & threw her in the squad car. His mother said on nightly news they threatened her with arrest if she interfered.

Can media explain to us once again how exposing & protesting this violent & arrant criminality against Black kids endangers the lives of cops? Cause it’s really hard to get that when you see them shoot down a young boy & wrestle his young sister to the ground.

May young Tamir RIP & may we help his family find justice.

(Photo of Tamir Rice from

Let me hold up my own pen in the spirit of Liberté

Let me hold up my own pen in the spirit of Liberté. And since French president François Hollande now honors insolence in journalism, let me speak frankly. How do you say in French not everything that glitters is gold? Sometimes it’s just the sun reflected off merde. Every crowd that gathers is not an expression of human solidarity nor every “Je suis Charlie” sign a defense of civil liberties under attack.

The suspects are not apprehended with French police reportedly violating all sorts of search & seizure rights to find them. They’re having as hard a time as the US Pentagon when it hunted down Osama bin Laden in the caves of Afghanistan. But it didn’t take long for the collective outrage to begin to shake out & take on something of a clamor. We see behind that furor not just defiance of terrorist acts but a cacophony of objections to religion & mostly a chance to have a go at Muslims. Remarkable when they still don’t have the suspects in hand & we don’t know if they’re actually guilty or if either has ever seen the inside of a mosque.

Let me say to those who oppose religion, this is not the time to express your critique. It should not be difficult to understand that when people are under attack you stand with them, not provide more ammunition for persecution.

As for those who go after Muslims under the guise of Liberté? Islamophobia is the ethos of neoliberal capitalism used to justify massive restrictions on civil liberties & scare-monger us into supporting unspeakable crimes against humanity. Those who do not stand with Muslims against this choose to stand with tyranny, war, colonialism. There are unsavory comparisons in history for this perspective. German fascism comes to mind but there are others as odious.

You can’t stop this crap by speaking truth to power–unless when you speak truth to power you bring a million people with you. It can only be defeated by mobilizing the power of human solidarity against social hatreds of every kind & standing against their murderous wars. For those who think that too daunting & can’t be done, think again. Over a million people around the world stood with Gaza last summer; the antiwar movement is weak now but in the past has mobilized millions on a single day around the world.

The world is changed not by those who give up without a fight but by those who believe in the possibility of social transformation. Is there any proof of that? Is there any proof it doesn’t? Is there any reason not to try?