Archive | November, 2012

Chinese Official People’s Daily Reports as Serious the Onion’s Spoof Naming Kim Jong Un ‘Sexiest Man Alive’

27 Nov

Chinese Official People’s Daily Reports as Serious the Onion’s Spoof Naming Kim Jong Un ‘Sexiest Man Alive’: Voice of the Chinese Communist Party Joins Legions of Others with No Sense of Humour

In an excellent example of enterprising hard spot news reporting, China’s Communist Party newspaper, not known for its keen reporting antenna for detecting humour, reported as hard news today U.S. satirical publication’s The Onion naming North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”

That is correct.

Here is a screenshot of the online version of the People’s Daily English language from Tuesday November 27, which one would suspect has a limited lifespan prior to being removed.

Headline in Today’s November 27 issue of Chinese People’s Daily

The headline reads “U.S. website The Onion has named North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un as the “Sexiest Man Alive for the year 2012” and quotes the Onion in detail:

“With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile,” it said.

“He has that rare ability to somehow be completely adorable and completely macho at the same time,” said Marissa Blake-Zweiber, editor of The Onion Style and Entertainment.

The People’s Daily feature story then further digs itself into what will be an interesting hole to watch them extricate themselves from by documenting the newly crowned sex appeal Prince of the Planet with a 55 page section showing photographs of the world’s hottest male on horseback looking rugged and manly, Kim waving at a passing a military parade, Kim wearing sunglasses, and Kim inspecting stuff with new fetching lucky new bride.

Here is another screenshot of People’s Daily well sourced breaking news.


Another Screen Shot from Chines People’s Daily Reporting Kim Jon-un ‘Sexiest man Alive’

According to Shanghai list, thePeople’s Daily had no immediate comment. A man who answered the phone at the newspaper said he did not know anything about the report and requested queries be directed to their newsroom on Wednesday morning.

But to be fair to the keen newssense of the brilliant breaking news team of talent at the People’s Daily, the Korea Times English version made a similar mistake a few weeks ago. However, in the Korean language version of the paper, they did make clear that the Onion story was satire.

Here is a screenshot of the English Korea Times Story:

November 18 Korea Times English language Headline. The Korean language version made clear the Onion story cited was satire

The Onion, for its part released a statement congratulating their Chinese colleagues for their coverage of the award.

The Voice of the Chinese Communist Party is in good company.

For other examples of people taking seriously the satirical reports from the Onion, see a website devoted entirely to people expressing outrage over Onion reports after taking them as serious at face value. Literally Unbelievable also has a Face Book page that regularly updates an alarming degree of the absence of a sense of humour globally.

Oops. That Hits a Bit Close to Home: Second Thoughts on North Korean Propaganda

26 Nov

Oops. That Hits a Bit Close to Home: Second Thoughts on North Korean Propaganda

By Nate Thayer

I had my finger on the enter button to post a snarky comment about recent satellite photos from Google Earth which revealed a message of praise, each letter measuring 49 feet wide and 65 feet high, carved into the side of a North Korean mountain reading “Long Live General Kim Jong Un, the Shining Sun!”

Earlier this year, after Kim Jong Il’s death, the slogan “Peerless Patriot General Kim Jong Il” was revealed as carved into Mount Sokda, in South Pyonggan province, North Korea.

I felt quite comfortable in expressing my outrage at another oversized example of absurd state sponsored political propaganda, once again taken to precise levels of perfection by the boneheads in charge in Pyongyang.

120 meter inscription carved into North Korean mountain praising Kim Jong Il

According to the Daily NK, a media outlet run by North Korean defectors, these chopping up of the earth for political propaganda “got worse after Kim Il Sung’s death, when Kim Jong Il ordered the authorities to carve phrases into various scenic locations because ‘We need to convey to our descendants how great a person we had as Suryeong [our leaders]” by “carving inane things in them like ‘The Nation’s Celebrated Mountain. Kim Jong Il.’

Four Important Dead White Guys in the U.S. Carved in Mountain

Then I paused, as  vague recollections of similar propaganda monuments flashed a red warning sign, and, very shortly, my riotous indignation was rapidly deflated as I took a bit of a look into the larger issue of governments carving monuments of political adulation into mountainsides.

There is the matter of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Mount Rushmore features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) carved into the side of the mountain in a memorial covering  1,278 acres.

In addition to the ostentatious oversized propaganda icon, it is controversial because the United States stole the land from the Native American Lakota tribe in a war and then granted the land  back to the Lakota in 1968 in perpetuity. And then swiped it back.

A Sioux Indian in front of gargantuan carvings on the side of mountain swiped back from his people after being seized in war in order to build propaganda icon

Then it seems to get even worse.

The sculptor of Mount Rushmore was one Gutzon Borglum, who, it turns out, was an active member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Then it gets worse and plain weird.

The largest carved propaganda monument on earth is in fact a bas relief sculpture, the Confederate Memorial Carving on Stone Mountain, Georgia, which memorializes  the side that lost the American civil war fought to end slavery. The KKK activist, Gutzon Borglum, was first commissioned to do this carving,  abandoning it in 1923 to begin Mount Rushmore.

The World’s Biggest propaganda Monument carved into a mountain–in the U.S. by Ku Klux Klan sculpture in Georgia, U.S. commemorating the leaders of the war defending slavery

This monument depicts three Confederate leaders of the U.S. Civil War measuring about  3 acres–the size of three football fields. The carving measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain, the deepest point at Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s elbow, which is 12 feet deep into the mountain’s surface. The carving is 400 feet (120 meters) above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet (58 meters), and is recessed 42 feet (13 meters) into the mountain.

The Ku Klux Klan connection seems to be a dominant thread in outsized U.S. propaganda monuments craved out of stone.

Wide View of Stone Mountain Georgia Propaganda Monument

Then it gets even wackier.

A few years ago, In recent years, stone samples from Stone Mountain were sent to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation for use in the monument under construction in Washington, D.C.  in King’s honor, but they lost out in the bidding to a superior supplier. From China.

Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington is remembered for his reference to “let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!”

The MLK Memorial on the National Mall, next to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, was completed exactly one year ago, the fall of 2011, after a 27-year wait,

Martin Luther King Propaganda Monument which rejected Ku Klux Klan stone in favor of Chinese stone and design by Mao trained propagandist

And it was designed by a Chinese artist, carved by Chinese workers, and is made from imported Chinese granite, which was reconstructed by Chinese workers on the National Mall.

The Economist noted that the memorial caused a political hullabaloo at the time: “Why not an American artist, critics ask? With American rock? And why use white granite, some have noted, to portray a black man?”

The nationally syndicated African American Washington Post columnist, Clarence Page, answered the question, because “white rock shows up better than black rock at night. Chinese white granite is harder than the domestic variety, so it will last longer. The artist best prepared to work the hard Chinese rock is, not surprisingly, Chinese” although he hastened to add the memorial’s Chinese sculptor, Lei Yixin, is “better known for his mammoth tributes to Chairman Mao” and his rendition of Martin Luther King is “a bit too much of a worker’s-paradise seriousness for my taste.”

Former Mao propagandist Chinese sculptor hired by U.S. to build Martin Luther King monument in Washington

Poet Maya Angelou complained the inscription on the memorial, a quote from King, makes him “look like an arrogant twit.”

The Economist went on to posit that “Mr. Lei is not hired to offer his interpretation of a subject…On the contrary, he is hired not to interpret, to apply the same psychologically dead and mendaciously indifferent treatment to all his subjects. Mr. Lei is a political bullshit artist, and it shows. That Chinese white granite is especially durable is a stupid reason to get stuck with this kind of soulless stone agitprop.”

So, to sum it up, a north east Asian propaganda artist trained by Chairman Mao was the choice of Washington to build a propaganda monument to a political activist who was assassinated for protesting the government policies memorialized by the slave owning former head of states whose heads were carved in a mountain in  the American west by a Ku Klux Klan inspired artist who abandoned his commission to carve what is now the biggest propaganda monument on earth to the leaders of those who went to war to preserve slavery, which is in MLK’s home state of Georgia.

“If you don’t like the people represented in the carving, there’s got to be some poetic justice to projecting the American flag on their mugs and playing patriotic music to a crowd of people of all races. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate “F U” to confederate leaders?”–an online commentator on the debate on the Stone Mountain monument

So let’s return briefly to North Korea.

A few weeks after the MLK monument was unveiled in Washington, North Korea pulls the sheets off its latest propaganda effort, a 120 meter inscription carved on Mount Sokda for Kim Jong-Il. The inscription read: “Peerless Patriot General Kim Jong-Il. February 16, Juche 101 (2012)” Kim’s name is 10 meters high, 5.5 meters wide and 1.4 meters deep, according to official Korean Central News Agency. “Officials and working people in South Pyongan province chose the rock that is easily visible, reflecting the ardent desire of the people around the country to exalt his immortal revolutionary feats forever,” it added.

And then back to the United States.

Newest propaganda monument to the black mayor of Stone Mountain Georgia

In 1995, Tyrone Brooks, a black resident of Stone Mountain, Georgia, was told by his grandmother that black people had been lynched and thrown from the mountaintop. “I did not grow up with a good feeling about Stone Mountain,” Brooks told the Los Angeles Times:”I still don’t have a good feeling about it.”

When the 1996 Olympics were held in nearby Atlanta, there was a laser show nightly from May through Labor Day featuring Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson, and the Confederate flag and accompanied by Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Dixie.”

In 1997, Stone Mountain was a majority black city and elected a black mayo, Chuck Burris.

The 20th-century Ku Klux Klan was born here in 1915, and, until his death in 1993, the town was home to James R. Venable, the hate-spewing imperial wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Now Burris lives in the same house where Mr. Venable, himself the mayor in the 1940’s, lived for most of his life.

“Tell me,” said Chuck E. Burris, the then Mayor-elect, ”that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. There’s a new Klan in Stone Mountain, only it’s spelled with a C: c-l-a-n, citizens living as neighbors. And I guess I’m the black dragon.”

The first Black mayor of Stone Mountain Georgia”“Tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. There’s a new Klan in Stone Mountain, only it’s spelled with a C: c-l-a-n, citizens living as neighbors. And I guess I’m the black dragon.”

So the question seems to be should anyone really try and mess with the ridiculous edifices erected by the ego’s of politicians in history. It seems more fun to just enjoy them and make fun of them and then laugh at them.

Or we could try option number two.

On March 1, 2001, the then in power Taliban of destroyed two giant Buddha statues in a particularly barbaric act of cultural destruction in which they took cannons and shelled the 1,800 year-old statues carved into a mountainside in Afghanistan on the Silk Road. They claimed that they were false idols contrary to their Islamic beliefs.

The two Buddhist statues in Afghanistan before they were blown up by the Taliban in March 2001

The two massive Bamiyan Buddha’s were 50 meters (165 feet) and 34.5 meters (114 feet) tall and were built around the second century. Koichiro Matsuura, chief of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization convened an emergency meeting of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to try to stop the destruction. ”They are destroying statues that the entire world considers to be masterpieces,” Matsuura said at the time.

Taliban strategy to oppose propaganda art. 2001 state organized destruction of largest Buddhist mountain carvings on earth (Reuters Photo)

Even Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf couldn’t change their minds, and wrote Taliban head Mullah Omar a four-page letter urging him not to blow up the statues, secretly hand-delivered to Omar by Pakistani Internal Security Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, but the letter had no effect, according to my former Far Eastern Review colleague Ahmed Rashid in his bestselling book on the country.

“The destruction work is not as easy as people would think. You can’t knock down the statues by dynamite or shelling as both of them have been carved into the cliff. They are firmly attached to the mountain,” a Taliban spokesman lamented at the time.

Osama bin Laden’s influence over the Taliban at the time apparently played a role in the decision to try to erase history. Bin Laden is said to have campaigned vigorously for the destruction of the statues, which further isolated both Bin Laden and the Taliban. That strategy towards state sanctioned art didn’t end well for either of them.

By 2006, both Omar and bin Laden were holed up probably regretting their political positions on art.

The new Afghan government began re-construction of the statues, and a $1.3 million UNESCO-funded project began collecting by hand the shards of clay and plaster.

Plus, the new Afghan government  gave the green light to Japanese artist Hiro Yamagata’s $64 million sound-and-laser show to begin in 2009 to project Buddha images powered by hundreds of windmills that would also supply electricity to surrounding residents.

And then a few months ago, calls to destroy Egypt’s Great Pyramids Began as prominent Muslim clerics called for their demolition, as Saudi Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi’I put it, those “symbols of paganism.”

Egypt’s Muslim Salafi party has a plan to cover them with wax. Most recently, Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs” and President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud, called on Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, to “destroy the Pyramids.”

My advice would be to do a bit of internet research before casting stones that might break ones own windows.


The Plague of Online Plagiarism: A Case Study of the Anatomy of Journalistic Theft from my Facebook Page

23 Nov

The Plague of Online Plagiarism: A Case Study of the Anatomy of Journalistic Theft from my Facebook Page

The decline of Journalism Standards and Ethics in the Age of the Internet

By Nate Thayer

Being a freelance journalist is tough enough these days, and I am not alone in providing what I do for a living far too often for free these days.

But worse is the alarmingly common and increasing trend in the age of online journalism of having ones work baldly being plagiarized,  reprinted without compensation, citation, or attribution to the sourcing by for profit media organizations. Plagiarism is widely defined as “copying or stealing someone else’s words or ideas and claiming or presenting them as if they were your own.” Details on the definitions, origins, and concept of plagiarism are provided at the end of this post.

For freelancers without the institutional support and resources to effectively object to this most immoral, egregious and serious violation of journalistic standards and ethics, this is not a new problem. But since the utter collapse of the business model for traditional media outlets that has evaporated most jobs in journalism as online media has transformed the profession, its effects are concrete and crippling.

For purposes of emphasis, I offer a couple of details that I am less than comfortable with sharing. These are times in which I am usually unable to pay my rent or bills in a timely manner and keep sufficient food in the refrigerator. I am unable to afford such things as an iPhone, to repair my currently non-functioning most important possession, my sole computer—the very lifeline that puts food on my table, clothes to protect me from the elements, and shelter over my head. To be fully honest, these are times I cannot even afford an internet subscription ( I place my laptop by an open window and illicitly tap into neighbors wifi while having to constantly shift the position of the machine to get a strong enough signal). Mine is not an unusual position if one surveys the state of freelance journalists over the recent past.

So, when less than a couple hours ago, I noticed a suspiciously familiar news story that is now being prominently featured in major profitable news outlets that I suspected was more than a coincidence, I did some cursory research.

Google News is at the moment featuring a story by the London Mail titled: “Did Cambodia’s first lady mock Obama with a ‘greeting that’s meant for servants?’” By “Lydia Warren and Daily Mail Reporter” posted at 13:48 EST, 22 November 2012

“Bun Rany, Cambodia’s first lady, gives President Obama a “sampeah” greeting at a tilt usually reserved for servants.” (Investor’s Business Daily caption without attribution as an AP photo)

The story prominently featured a picture of Hun Sen’s wife and President Obama exchanging a greeting with traditional Asian clasped hands. The Photo caption of the AP picture read: “Coded slight? First Lady Rany greeted the president with a pressed-hands greeting typically used only with servants.” The text of their story was clearly compiled to give analysis, significance and context of the photo.

The story read: “Just before dinner, all appeared to be well as Sen formally introduced his wife, Cambodia’s First Lady Bun Rany, to the president. Rany greeted Obama with the traditional ‘sampeah’ greeting — a pressed-hands gesture that shows respect for a person. Where a person’s hands are placed and how deeply they bow during the gesture indicates their level of respect for the person they are greeting.

Rany placed her hands at chest level and tilted the upper half of her body slightly, leading the editorial board at Investor’s Business Daily to believe that she was showing disrespect to the president.

”First lady Bun Rany greeted Obama with a traditional “sampeah” pressed-hands greeting reserved for servants, a little dig that was probably lost on him but not to Asians,’ the editorial board wrote.

The Daily mail was practicing a common, growing, and acceptable tactic of today’s major media—picking up stories published elsewhere and tweaking them , presenting them as much as is ethically acceptable as their own. But they fully cited the source of their story to Investors Business News and the photograph to the AP, even though the entire story was essentially lifted from another publication, they played within the rules of proper citation and accreditation.

Then a few hours ago another story, by Asian News International (ANI) was prominently featured on Yahoo News with a story posted “12 minutes ago titled: “Did Cambodia’s First Lady mock Obama with greeting typically ‘meant for servants’?

The Asian News International  based in Delhi, India, provides multimedia news to 50 bureaus in India and throughout  Asia., claiming to be ”South Asia’s leading Multimedia News Agency providing content for every information platform, including TV, Internet, broadband, newspapers and mobiles….including breaking news and features with regional perspectives, along with politics, business, health, technology, travel and entertainment content. The New Delhi head office is staffed by professionals round the clock 365 days a year.”

The story, datelined “Phnom Penh, Nov. 23 (ANI): US President Barack Obama’s historic first trip to Southeast Asia ended with a questionably disrespectful greeting Cambodia’s First Lady Bun Rany shared with him.” The story continued quoting the Daily Mail: “According to the Daily Mail, Obama met Prime Minister Hun Sen that White House officials described as tense…Just before dinner, Sen formally introduced his wife, Cambodia’s First Lady Bun Rany, to the president. Rany greeted Obama with the traditional ‘sampeah’ greeting, a pressed-hands gesture that signifies respect for a person.  Where a person’s hands are placed and how deeply they bow during the gesture indicates their level of respect for the person they are greeting, the report said. Rany placed her hands at chest level and tilted the upper half of her body slightly, leading the editorial board at Investor’s Business Daily to believe that she was showing disrespect to the president, the report added. “First lady Bun Rany greeted Obama with a traditional “sampeah” pressed-hands greeting reserved for servants, a little dig that was probably lost on him but not to Asians,’ the editorial board wrote. A sampeah at mouth level is reserved for bosses, elders or higher-ranking people. For parents, grandparents or teachers, a sampeah is typically raised to nose level and when saluting the king or monks, the sampeah is raised to eyebrow level, the report said. According to Investor’s Business Daily, however, Rany’s sampeah was only ‘fit for a servant’. (ANI)”

So here were the two largest News aggregators, Yahoo and Google, who make billions of dollars in profit, promoting a story by two highly profitable media conglomerates, the Daily Mail and the Asian News International, written up on Tuesday November 22. Both of these news media conglomerates picked up the story that was cited as originating with a for profit business that publishes, among offering other investment and financial services, the Investor’s Business Daily. But both the Daily Mail and ANI, along with Google and Yahoo, played within the acceptable rules of ethics, fully citing albeit as an entirely single sourced article, Investor’s Business News.

But the conduct and apparently transparently egregious intentional ethical behavior of Investor’s Business News is entirely another matter. IBN is also another for profit, and decidedly right wing business and media outlet that has an openly very conservative editorial bias and also sells other business services.

The Daily Mail story was published on November 22. The ANI story was then published on November 23. Google and Yahoo catapulted the reader reach of both articles by featuring them on their news site that picks what it deems the most important stories from thousands of outlets worldwide on November 23rd.

So then I searched and found the Investor’s Business News story, which was categorized as an editorial; and dated as published on November 20 at “07:01 PM ET” It was titled “Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip All Style, No Substance” with the sub headline  “Investor’s Business Daily Editorial for November 20, 2012: Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip All Style, No Substance.”

The IBD editorial was a rather virulent right wing anti Obama piece under the category “Diplomacy. It began “So amid all the colorful and flirty photos from President Obama’s first tour of Southeast Asia, what did he actually accomplish? As usual, he served himself politically in what was largely a Potemkin mission abroad. It was obvious enough from the rube like gaffes that the president hasn’t been particularly interested or attentive to the affairs of Thailand, Burma or Cambodia as he made his first trip since his re-election. It was pretty much all style over substance.”

The entire story had not a single source, citation, or attribution which under rudimentary journalistic guidelines represents that its entire content originated with its own reporting of both facts and ideas presented.

Like the Daily Mail and ANI stories, the IBN story prominently featured that aforementioned AP photograph of the encounter between president Obama and Cambodian first lady madam Hun Sen, with the text and analysis written around the photo to explain its significance.

The IBN story began with a general denigration of Obama’s trip to Burma as gaffe ridden and counterproductive in a clearly partisan driven polemic. “In his tour of Burma, billed as an historic first visit since Burma’s 2007 move to democracy, it was clear he was in way over his head, even on small things” and followed this with “It didn’t help that he ignored the real heroes who helped push Burma toward a more open system — President and Mrs. Bush, as well as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Sens. John McCain and Mitch McConnell, seeming to take credit for it himself.”

This was followed by: “On his trip to Cambodia, a country he claimed didn’t deserve a visit due to its strongman government, first lady Bun Rany greeted Obama with a traditional “sampeah” pressed-hands greeting reserved for servants, a little dig that was probably lost on him but not to Asians.

While all three stories prominently featured and were written around large sized reproductions of the AP Photo of the controversial exchange of greetings between Mrs. Hun Sen and Obama, the Daily Mail and ANI carefully provided credit to the source of their information, Including the text, citing IBN, and the photo crediting the AP.

The Investor’s Business Daily did neither, offering no citation, quotes or attribution to the premise of the body of the article, and even left the photo uncredited.  Given that the AP photo was distributed with a watermark of their copyright, and, speaking as a former AP correspondent, requires full attribution on all it material which is all copyrighted.

Investor’s Business Daily sourced exactly no one in either their written text story and offered no credit to the owner and author of the photograph.

This is where I come in.

It didn’t take much of a cursory amateur sleuthing to determine that Investor’s Business Daily had, in fact plagiarized—stolen–virtually the entire substance of their story and analysis from me, on not just the significance of the photographic depiction, but directly plagiarized from my writings and analysis of that photograph, in addition to the wholesale lifting of my writings in their analysis of Burma, while twisting it entirely by intentionally taking out context that detracted from their politically motivated missive.

Their opinion being forwarded is not an issue of contention, but rather the process of how they obtained it , took credit for it, distorted it, and plagiarized it intentionally leaving its readers with the dishonest impression it was their own generated analysis.

There is not a more serious ethical violation in journalism than what the Investor’s Business Daily engaged in. If I had conducted myself in a remotely similar matter, I would have been summarily fired, with good cause, from the numerous credible news media organizations that have employed me during my 30 year career. And probably died from shame and embarrassment as a result.

This is how my very serious accusations, not made lightly or without due research diligence, evolved. And its origins are from my Facebook postings.

On November 19, some of you will remember, I posted the AP picture of the greetings between the Cambodian First lady and president Obama and suggested it was an intentional gesture of disrespect by virtue of the positioning of Madame Hun Sen’s clasped hands. I sourced the photo to AP, and offered my entirely original analysis (if reasonably debated in its accuracy in the thread that followed). My posting accompanying the photo read in its entirety: “Note how low Ms. Hun Sen’s clasped hands are. The higher the ‘wai’ is towards one’s own head is a specific sign of level of respect intended towards the recipient. This level of wai is used for those considered subordinate, younger, or of marginal importance. Obama’s briefing papers must have included instructions on using this traditional gesture of respect, but I suspect not given details of the nuances of usage. Here, he is being directly given a sign of disrespect, roughly the equivalent of a limp, short handshake. I suspect Madame Hun Sen may be reflecting conversations she overheard between her husband and his loyalists.”

All of my FB postings are posted for viewing to my “friends” list only, and intentionally not “public”. And this is for a reason. While I know it is far from foolproof, I choose my friends largely based on my impression of their ethics and quality of upholding ethical standards in general both personally and professionally, with those practicing the noble craft of journalism in particular mind.

My post resulted in a reasoned an substantive debate in the comments thread that followed. And the post was shared by two people. In taking a closer look at those who shared my post, within a few minutes I found that one of them was by a person who lists her employer as Investors Business Daily. On her friends list is one “Andrew Malcolm”, the author of the Investor’s Business Daily story of which this far too long missive objects to and focuses on. Mr. Malcolm’s biography on the IBN website reads in full: “A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm joined Investor’s Business Daily October 2011. He formerly served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four.”

On another post I made on November 19 which was accompanied by a photo of president Obama kissing Aung San Suu Kyi awkwardly on the cheek, the ensuing thread of again reasoned by debated comments which included some which I viewed as unnecessarily partisan, and I added my two cents on my views: “Let’s not impose partisanship where it doesn’t need to exist. The fact is that during Clinton’s tenure, it was primarily republicans who carried the banner of the Burmese opposition. They included John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Dana Rohrabacher. Those three, and others, continued to support those fighting for human and political rights in SE Asia from the 1980’s through now, and deserve due credit, through both republican and democratic administrations. Clinton’s SE Asia policy while in power kowtowed to his domestic political agenda, and George Bush didn’t really give a damn about much of anything outside the U.S., little less Asia unless it fit his ideological doctrines. Due credit for Burma and other obscure countries, with no hometown political electoral capital, deservedly belong to many republicans who did the right thing regardless of the fact it meant absolutely nothing to their home constituency. Dana Rohrabacher stands out among them. Some view him as a nutcase, but to Cambodians and Burmese who not long ago had few friends, he and others were lone voices demanding for Burma and Cambodia and elsewhere… The principles of freedom which is about the only thing that distinguishes the U.S. outside its borders is truly a heartfelt sentiment that thank god has no domestic internecine borders in Washington.”

That exact reference, down to those exact names of U.S republican politicians, and the republican role in supporting Burmese dissident voices, was reprinted virtually verbatim in the IBN article—with no attribution or citation. As was exactly the same case as the virtually verbatim republishing of my analysis of the Obama-Mrs. Hun Sen exchange of traditional Asian greetings and the analysis of nuances of the meanings of how they were exchanged—again with not attribution, clearly intentionally giving the impression that both the words and ideas were original to Investor’s Business Daily. The Investor’s Business Daily editorial quote, “It didn’t help that he ignored the real heroes who helped push Burma toward a more open system — President and Mrs. Bush, as well as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Sens. John McCain and Mitch McConnell, seeming to take credit for it himself” would prompt far more than red flags from any sophomore student of journalist ethics. In fact, for the publications I work for it would get me fired for plagiarism

The same Investor’s Business Daily FB friend of mine shared and commented on both these posts of mine of November 19th and the IBD article was written the following day, authored by her colleague at IBD who is listed as a friend on her FB page. I do not believe that my FB friend engaged in any unethical behavior herself. I know her as a reputable, serious and ethical journalist. I am considerably less convinced the same is true of the author of the IBN article, who, as the author, bears sole and full responsibility for any violations of journalistic standards and ethics.

Why am I seemingly making a big deal out of what many might view as a small issue. Because it isn’t a minor transgression. It is the most serious of unacceptable conduct against the integrity of the profession of journalism, and it is alarmingly growing in frequency in the age of online so called reporting. It is an act of intentional deception of the readers, and violates the most important and fundamental premise to that it at the heart of reputable journalism. There is a reason why journalists rank in public opinion polls on integrity and trustworthiness alongside politicians, used car salesmen, and lawyers.

On a more personal note, I, along with thousands of other journalists who have devoted our lives to defending, promoting and practicing what I consider a profession vital to any free society. And I am tired of having my reputation soiled by association. And I am tired of being largely helpless to effectively object. Not to mention this is how I make a living and I don’t like, nor can I afford having my work stolen. And like it even less when it is done by those who would never put up with such conduct directed towards them. I have little patience for hypocrisy or  unethical behavior. Full stop. And since I write for a living, tonight I am writing about this because I can and because I am correct.

At the bottom of the page where Investor’s Business Daily published this article which should result in the author and his editor, if he even has one, is the IBD own warning to anyone who would attempt to conduct themselves towards them in exactly the manner they went to significant acrobatics and deception to perpetrate on its readers and the integrity of the profession of journalism:

Notice: Information contained herein is not and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell securities. The information has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable; however no guarantee is made or implied with respect to its accuracy, timeliness, or completeness. The information and content are subject to change without notice. You may use IBD’s Services and Subscriber-Only features solely for personal, non-commercial use. Removal or alteration of any trademark, copyright or other notices will result in legal action taken to protect our rights. You may not distribute IBD’s Services or Subscriber-Only features to others, whether or not for payment or other consideration, and you may not modify, copy, frame, reproduce, sell, publish, transmit, display or otherwise use or revise any portion of IBD’s Services or Subscriber-Only features. For information regarding use of IBD’s Services for any purpose, please see our Terms and Conditions of Use. © 2000-2012 Investor’s Business Daily, Inc. All rights reserved. Investor’s Business Daily, IBD, CAN SLIM and corresponding logos are registered trademarks of Investor’s Business Daily, Inc Copyright and Trademark Notice | Privacy Statement

The merriem-webster dictionary says the definition of plagiarism is “transitive verb: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source  and for the “intransitive verb: “to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.” defines plagiarism as: pla·gia·rism [pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-]

noun act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author: It is said that he plagiarized Thoreau’s plagiarism of a line written by Montaigne. Synonyms: appropriation, infringement, piracy, counterfeiting; theft, borrowing, cribbing, passing off.

2.a piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation: “These two manuscripts are clearly plagiarisms,” the editor said, tossing them angrily on the floor.

It quotes the “Word Origin & History” as “plagiarism: 1621, from L. plagiarius “kidnapper, seducer, plunderer,” used in the sense of “literary thief” by Martial, from plagium “kidnapping,” from plaga “snare, net,” from PIE base *p(e)lag- “flat, spread out.” Plagiary is attested from 1597. “

The American Heritage Cultural Dictionary plagiarism definition is “Literary theft. Plagiarism occurs when a writer duplicates another writer’s language or ideas and then calls the work his or her own. Copyright laws protect writers’ words as their legal property. To avoid the charge of plagiarism, writers take care to credit those from whom they borrow and quote.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines plagiarism as: “the act of taking the writings of another person and passing them off as one’s own. The fraudulence is closely related to forgery and piracy-practices generally in violation of copyright laws.”

Wikipedia sums it up quite well: “Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the “wrongful appropriation,” “close imitation,” or “purloining and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work, but the notion remains problematic with nebulous boundaries. The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement, while in the previous centuries authors and artists were encouraged to “copy the masters as closely as possible” and avoid “unnecessary invention.” And continued with “The 18th century new morals have been institutionalized and enforced prominently in the sectors of academia and journalism, where plagiarism is now considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics, subject to sanctions like expulsion and other severe career damage. Not so in the arts, which not only have resisted in their long-established tradition of copying as a fundamental practice of the creative process, but with the boom of the modernist and postmodern movements in the 20th century, this practice has been heightened as the central and representative artistic device. Plagiarism remains tolerated by 21st century artists.

Plagiarism is not a crime per se but is disapproved more on the grounds of moral offence, and cases of plagiarism can involve liability for copyright infringement.”

It seems quite evident that the Investor’s Business Daily firs quite seamlessly as a poster child of these characterizations based on their behavior.

I welcome any response, correction, or comments. And I damn well hope that Investor’s Business Daily doesn’t make the mistake of either ignoring or attempting to mitigate, downplay, or justify what appears to be, what seems to me, a rather irrefutable, firmly documented, convincingly researched, and carefully worded argument that I document above.










As Sappy an Appreciation of Thanksgiving That Will Ever be Offered from a Grateful if a Bit Loopy American Citizen

22 Nov

As Sappy an Appreciation of Thanksgiving That Will Ever be Offered from a Grateful if a Bit Loopy American Citizen

Like most history, the American holiday of Thanksgiving has a whole catalog of competing theories, each with valid evidence driven data, as to its political and religious origins, what it actually celebrates, and its relationship with ethnic genocide of Native Americans.

Even where, when, and for what reason it is a holiday is popularly mythologized to fit the pre-determined ideological narratives of whomever is forwarding whatever.

In fact, it was not a national holiday initiated by Europeans pilgrims. It first became a national holiday celebrated tomorrow during the U.S. civil war in 1863—200 years later.

And today, it is a phenomena mostly associated with encouraging consumer spending–the starting day for its more jet fuelled, seemingly endlessly hyped sister holiday of enforced Capitalist excess, guilt tripping the masses into spending into debt—Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving is a national shopping orgy, the busiest consumer purchasing day of the year.

That said, for most everyone, in reality it is a day for Americans to relax and do whatever they coose with whomever they choose to share that with. It is a time to fraternize with loved ones, eat in excess, watch excessively promoted sporting contests where extra large people beat each other up as the modern equivalent of Roman gladiators, and celebrate the too often unrecognized good fortunes Americans have been bequeathed in abundance.

We really don’t think about that whole uncomfortable matter of modern histories most successful ethnic genocide, where about 95% of the Native American population was exterminated as Europeans took control of North America.

And really, no ones history is not marked with egregious behavior.

I, for one, feel lucky and proud to be an American, and give thanks for that, despite my countries numerous faults, challenges, and wholesale mistakes. Mainly because I can bleat as loudly and often  and uninformed and randomly as I choose in objection, have the political rights and protection to not be shot doing so, and actually have an effect on policy. I could only wish such a system on the rest of the planet.

The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was given by the Continental Congress in 1777 from its temporary location in York, Pennsylvania, while the British occupied the national capital at Philadelphia. Samuel Adams drafted the final version:

“ FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success: It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost. And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.”

George Washington, who led the American Revolutionary War, proclaimed a Thanksgiving in December 1777 as a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga.

Then on September 24, 1789, the first House of Representatives voted to recommend the First Amendment of the newly drafted Constitution to the states for ratification. The next day, a New Jersey Congressman proposed that the House and Senate jointly request of President Washington to proclaim a day of thanksgiving for “the many signal favors of Almighty God”.

The fellow from Jersey said that he “could not think of letting the session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining, with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings he had poured down upon them.”

In the first year that there was an American President in 1789, after we ousted our Imperial master, some guy named George in London, who as Imperialists go, wasn’t all that bad a guy, George Washington created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government of the United States of America:

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interposition of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.”–George Washington.

George Washington again proclaimed a Thanksgiving in 1795. President John Adams declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799. No Thanksgiving proclamations were issued by the third president, Thomas Jefferson, but James Madison renewed the tradition in 1814 after the War of 1812 when the British got uppity and sacked Washington D.C., burning down the White House. Madison also declared the holiday twice in 1815.

However none of these holidays were celebrated for the bounty of a fall agricultural harvest, or were they held this time of year. They were more connected to religious and political celebrations or commemorations.

It wasn’t until the middle of the civil war which split the countries and caused horrific suffering and uncountable dead and wounded in the mid 19th century that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863.

That document reads: “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union. In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.” Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863.

It has only been since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually as a national holiday in the United States.

I suspect that historical narrative will be far from the minds focused later today on televised football, and the stomachs filled to excess with the extraordinary bounty of not just food, but clothing, shelter from the elements, a durable absence of violence as a means of disputes over public policy, and endless opportunity accessible to every citizen regardless of how much money, guns, or political power one possesses. These taken for granted luxuries remain elusive to and the objective of far too much of the planet as the remarkable American political experiment continues, it’s latter chapters far from being written.

Obama: Support Cambodian Human Rights, Democratic Freedoms, and Those Resisting the Last Murderous Thug Left Standing in South East Asia

18 Nov

Obama Must Side With the Rights and Dignity of  Cambodians, Not Strengthen the Last Thug Left Standing in Power in South East Asia. If Not Cambodia, where? If not now when?

If the U.S. won’t support those fighting for democratic freedoms in Cambodia, a country no longer with significant political, economic, military, or strategic value to the region or world, the poster child of  the modern era for unspeakable suffering by government, then where else on earth will they?

Villagers feel totally helpless as they see no recourse against official arbitrary violence and abuses. Deprived of any means to seek justice, even when their children are taken away and being murdered, they swallow their anger and sadness, bow to the powers that be, accept with resignation their fate and withdraw in silence, knowing after long years of oppressive experience that words can kill.”  1994 UN Center for Human Rights confidential report.

The United States Government is almost as afraid of former Khmer Rouge military officer, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, as the millions of Cambodians who suffer in fear living under the incompetent jackboot of  the rapacious, corrupt failed nation state he controls.

Hun Sen in a fit of rage on 14 Nov 2011

And by the U.S. supplicating itself to the threats of a childish temper tantrum of an obscure toothless dictator whose decades old modus operandi is to only employ his violent thuggery against the weak and vulnerable, the Obama administration is damaging the reputation of America as a defender of the principles of human rights, democratic institutions, and the dignity of man by succumbing to the implicit blackmail threats of a tinpot ruler.

Portraits of President Barack Obama on the roof of houses near Phnom Penh Airport November 14, 2012.182 families are being evicted ahead of Obama’s visit. 8 were arrested for writing the appeal the day before the arrival of U.S. secretary of Defense Leon Pannetta and on the eve of the arrival of Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama

The so called non-conundrum at issue is either continue to bankroll the egregious Cambodian government repression, mute criticism of their use of murder by U.S. funded and trained security forces, keep quiet about the use of intimidation as routine policy by top leaders to line their pockets with corrupt money obtained through subordinating the common good of the nation to line their personal bank accounts, and demanding the U.S. make excuses for the total subjugation of the judicial system to political dictates as a tool to erase dissent in a an amateurish imitation of Singapore, and continue to bankroll with U.S. money which funds, strengthens, and gives legitimacy to this crudely transparent farce of a veneer of democracy or Hun Sen will take the proverbial football and go play only with China.

But even if one sets aside the immorality and cowardice of such a stand, it is a policy that has failed in its diplomatic objective. The evidence of such a strategy in which America has lavished hundreds of millions of dollars to finance and strengthen dictatorship, line the pockets of the corrupt leadership, and give moral support for the most egregious architect of oppression by government in Asia today has long proved itself to be a failed strategy.

“Please use your liberty to promote ours.” –Aung San Suu Kyi

In 2012, the last murderous thug left standing in power in South East Asia is shamelessly living off the decades old fumes of the suffering of it people decades ago under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge as an excuse to maintain the most murderous and corrupt government remaining in South East Asia today. And the Obama administration, acting like a gaggle of easily impressionable high school students, is falling for the ruse as the Cambodian government snickers derisively while consolidating its incompetent, thuggish control of the government propped up by the misguided sympathy and money of the properly organized countries who effectively pay for any services normally provided by a state while its rapacious leaders stuff their pockets with the change.

Hun Sen defending the murder torture and summary execution of scores of his opponents when he seized power by violent coup in 1997

Anyone who objects is humiliated, intimidated, sued, imprisoned, or murdered.

Cambodia, the last running sore in Southeast Asia, is a failed state. Not because it needs to be, but rather because it leader’s put their personal interests in front of  the common good and they are aided and abetted by the wealthy nations, who more than thirty years after this strategy was first employed still fall hook, line, and sinker for it.

Carnage scene after the grenade attack on opposition politician Sam Rainsy March 1997 carried out on Hun Sen’s orders, according to a repressed FBI investigation. Two months later he ousted the UN elected government in a 3 billion dollar effort. His putsch left hundreds dead and tortured, with their eyes gouged out, tongues ripped out with pliers, and penises cut off and stuffed in the victims mouths–all while alive. Thousands of opposition supporters fled to the jungle or to exile, and the fragile democracy was over. The U.S. refused to call the violent overthrow of the elected government a coup, as that would require the cessation of U.S. aid under U.S. law

Let’s look at the facts: Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were in power for three years eight months and 20 days more than thirty years ago. They were ousted by an internecine ideological dispute between communist governments and the United States  in 1979 by a Soviet sponsored invasion of Vietnam, not because the invading army objected to mass murder and crimes against humanity as state policy, but because their loyalists were next on the target list of Pol Pot’s profoundly delusional and murderous state policies.

]The Vietnamese installed in power a motley collection of former Pol Pot loyalists who served as puppets for the Vietnamese and their larger cold war allies until they could stand on their own feet. They remain in power today. The current prime minister, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, Interior Minister, Finance Minister and thousands of provincial and local government leaders and officers in the security forces that comprise the current Cambodian government were loyalists of Pol Pot.

Former Pol Pot military officer and current Prime Minister Hun Sen flanked by two other former Pol Pot senior officials. On Hun Sen’s right is current Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who was a senior military officer under Pol Pot and to the Prime Ministers left is Current Finance Minister Kiet Chhon who was a personal aide to Pol Pot and didn’t leave the Khmer Rouge until the 1990’s, more than a decade after they were driven from power in 1979

Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong, a former Khmer Rouge leader of a prison camp where scores were sent to their torture and execution as intellectuals deemed enemies while the current Foreign Minister headed the political prison camp

U.S. secretary of Defense Leon Pannetta on Friday in Cambodia where he met with his counterpart, Defence Minister Tea Banh, a former Khmer Rouge military officer who has overseen hundreds of political murders by his subordinates under the current government

One can argue whether this was at the time necessary or appropriate, but one cannot argue it is not fact. Cambodia stands as a nation state mainly as a symbol of some of the most egregious abuses of human rights and crimes against humanity as state policy of any government in our lifetime. Neither before or since Pol Pot, has a Cambodian government distinguished itself with much notable, the least of which is a willingness, or ability if one is to be pessimistic, to administer its affairs in a manner that is in league with the properly organized world. It is a failed state; a dependency political culture that has been unable to provide the most rudimentary of services that define a government, including education, health care, economic opportunity, a physical infrastructure of transportation, security, or basic freedoms, dignities, or opportunities for its citizens. More than half of its government budget is direct funding of donor nations. In sum, it is the last running sore of South East Asia, a failed state. It lives off the alms and misguided generosity of the it’s more capably organized neighbors and the wealthy nations of the world.

Senior Hun Sen security service officer Mok Chito at trial of the killing of a military police officer who himself assassinated conservationist Chut Wutty, Mok Chito has been trained and funded by the U.S. miltary. His office first claimed the assassinated conservationist committed suicide after shooting the military officer. The assertion was rejected as absurd by eyewitnesses and forensics and another military officer who was working for a private company connected to the government illegally logging national forests was convicted under intense international pressure earlier this year, but was later released from prison.

The net result is this has empowered a cabal of thugs, overwhelmingly dominated by former loyalists of Pol Pot, to create a personal fiefdom to enrich themselves, their families, and their minions.

The good people of Cambodia, meanwhile, suffer, unspeakably.

Assassinated journalist Khim Sambo funeral ceremony 2006

In a few hours, president Barrack Obama will be the first U.S. president to ever visit Cambodia. And it is probable that the representative of the symbol of hope for millions to support freedoms basic to the dignity of those aspiring to be, and be supported to attain, lives of a free people will take the side of the dictators, giving their tormentors moral support and money, with a wink and a nod accompanied by obligatory empty rhetoric promising long never forthcoming support to those who desperately deserve the tangible support in their heroic efforts to simply be free; To live a life where they have opportunities to create a better life for their children; where they can object to the abuses of those with guns , money, and political power without fear of death or reprisal; who have had their jackboot of the authorities firmly held on their necks of the great majority of Cambodian citizens, for many, for their entire lifetimes.

A cambodian elderly woman removes her shirt baring her breasts in protest to police violence and arrests of others who were forced from their homes after Cambodian government gave the land to politically connected Chinese developers offering the poor residents no compensation

Anti-riot police force against peaceful protesters in front of Phnom Penh Court trial of an independent journalist sentenced to 20 years prison in 2012. The journalist had received U.S. funded training in workshops on the concepts of the importance of a free press as independent voices in a democracy.

And the most offensive aspect of this reality is Cambodia is a country where the United States along with virtually all the rest of the planet has virtually no strategic, economic, or political tactical or strategic interest in 2012. There is no more cold war. There is no significant powerful  business interests to kowtow to. There is no war or insurgency group that needs to be quelled.

Opposition elected parliamentarian Om Radsady murdered

In sum, there is no downside to standing up for the principles of freedom and the dignity of the rights of man in Cambodia. If the U.S. cannot do so in Cambodia, where else on the planet will they? If they cannot stand on the side of human and political rights in Cambodia today, when will they ever in that cursed nation or elsewhere?

Cambodia is surrounded by economically booming competently led countries. The region has gone from 18 separate wars 20 years ago, to zero today. The cold war is over and there are no proxy armies fighting the interests of larger regional or superpowers using Cambodian territory as a hot theatre. Cambodia and it people have suffered unspeakably under a series of egregious thuggish regimes. There is no downside to standing up to supporting the principles of democracy, human rights, free speech, a free press, corruption, military abuses, and thuggish abuses of those with money, guns, and political power that deny its citizens the equal ability to access the economic, educational and human opportunities to live free and access the means to live a peaceful life free from want and fear of government abuses.

Thousands of Cambodian opposition protesters fill the streets of Phnom Penh Sunday, Sept. 13, 1998. Thousands of protesters calling for the ouster of strongman Hun Sen braved a heavy clampdown Sunday and marched through the capital to cheers from Phnom PenhÕs citizens, who threw them food and honked car horns in support. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

But Pro-Hun Sen supporters arrived jumping from their trucks to attack opposition protesters during the parade through the streets of Phnom Penh, paid by Hun Sen and protected by government security forces who stood by and protected the violent government attackers

Thousands of Cambodian opposition protesters fill the streets of Phnom Penh Sunday, Sept. 13, 1998. Thousands of protesters calling for the ouster of strongman Hun Sen braved a heavy clampdown Sunday and marched through the capital to cheers from Phnom PenhÕs citizens, who threw them food and honked car horns in support. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

In the recent past hundreds of voices of dissent have been silenced by the government enforcers of Hun Sen. Hundreds have been murdered directly for expressing opinions. Journalists have been assassinated, jailed, sued, and forced into exile. Opposition politicians have been victims of the same tactics and fate. Prominent environmentalists have been killed. Thousands of peasants have been forced off their land without compensation, scores shot, and jailed for objecting. Buddhist monks have been threatened with arrest. The main political opposition leaders have been silenced, threatened, murdered, and forced into exile. Many of them have been accused of preposterous crimes for objecting.

Thirteen arrested residents from Boeung Kak lake community evicted from their land which was given to a Chinese developer arrive at Court in June 2012 handcuffed and dressed in prison uniforms. They were arrested four days after the departure of Secretary of State Clinton, who gave inneffective lip service to the peaceful protestors. Photo Meng Kimlong Phnom Penh Post

Phol Srey Phors, 10, and 8 month old brother outside prison where their arrested mother and seven others held 15 November 2012 for writing SOS and placing photo of Obama on roof of their homes

Yet Hillary Clinton and Defence Minister Leon Pannetta and regional leaders swept in and out of Cambodia without even addressing the situation.

On Thursday, Hun Sen’s entirely politicized armed security forces arrested villagers for plastering the U.S. president Obama’s picture on their rooftops beside spray-painted messages of “SOS” as they faced forced government eviction from their homes without compensation. Dozens of police ordered villagers to remove the rooftop artwork and  arrested those responsible.

“We didn’t mean any harm. We just wanted Obama to help us,” said 23-year-old villager Sim Sokunthea.

Villagers were arrested Thursday for painting SOS on their roofs and attaching portraits of President Obama days before his scheduled arrival.

The next day, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived on Friday and met with former Khmer Rouge military commander and current defense minister general Tea Banh and promised increased assistance to Cambodia.

The Pentagon has quietly deployed teams of Special Operations forces to train counterterrorism and special-warfare forces despite overwhelming repeated indisputable documentation of the security forces virtually sole mission to repress, murder, intimidate, and imprison advocates of effective voices of dissent against government murder, repression of any voices of dissent, jailing and intimidation of any and all voices that dissent from the corrupt dictatorship that runs the government.

Protestors against eviction from their land

Land disputes have become a critical social and political issue in Cambodia, which Prime Minister Hun Sen has led for nearly 30 years. Powerful companies with influential connections to Hun Sen and his top loyalists take over land and evict villagers, who receive little or no compensation. The problem has sparked unrest nationwide, with deadly force repeatedly used by security forces to evict villagers.

And now, on the eve of Obama’s visit, more than 10,000 security forces have been assigned to keep order during the summit as part of Hun Sen’s determined effort to show Cambodia’s best face to the outside world.

U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Pannetta greeted by Hun Sen’s son at arrival in Phnom Penh on Friday, four days ahead of President Obama. Hun Manet was sponsored and paid for by the U.S. to attend West Point military academy and further studies at New York University. Hun Sen’s other two sons have also been given special U.S. funded training in a bid to improve relations with what is believed will be an attempt at a hereditary dictatorship similar to North Korea

Villagers were arrested thursday for painting SOS on their roofs and attaching portraits of President Obama days before his scheduled arrival.

And now once again, Cambodia is likely to fall victim to being used as a playground by outside powers vying over influence in regions outside their own borders, in a strategy that should have been soundly discredited as ineffective and counterproductive by post world war two modern history. The excuse this time to prolong the suffering of Cambodians to a fate none of the decision makers would accept for a moment to befall their own countries, is the growing competition for influence in Asia between the United States and China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen agree to strengthen strategic cooperation and partnership between their two countries in March 2012

An October 31 letter by a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers called on Obama to confront  the long list of thuggish abuses of Prime Minister Hun Sen, including demanding politically trumped up legal convictions that forced opposition leader Sam Rainsy into exile be dismissed before the next set of what every honest observer has agreed has been a series of sham elections since Hun Sen seized power in a bloody, violent military putsch in 1997 that overthrew and rendered irrelevant the $3 billion dollar international elections held in 1993.

But Washington is as afraid of the ten cent dictator in Phnom Penh as Cambodia’s own citizens, fearing relations between Phnom Penh and Washington would suffer if they pressed for rudimentary democratic policies because Hun Sen would hand over political favour to China, resulting in a rise in China’s influence over the Hun Sen regime.

Cambodian Police beat, arrest women protesting eviction from their homes after corrupt land concessions given to Chinese companies brokered by senior Cambodian government officials

The argument is should human rights take precedence as a political priority in Cambodia to the detriment of other issues.  The answer is: what other issues?  Cambodia has long been for sale to the highest corrupt bidder precisely because of the absence of the basic tenets of democracy, and China now controls an extraordinary bulk of the economic benefits. A level playing field, free from corruption, with a functioning independent judiciary, and opposition political voices who didn’t fear death for engaging in debate on issues of national interest would be the fruits of defending and promoting and, indeed, demanding, democracy in exchange for the hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars now sent to line the pockets of corrupt organized crime figures who pose under the guise of and take refuge in the privileges of a recognized nation state.

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony places incense by photograph of his brother, slain labour rights leader Chea Vichea in Jan. 2012. Photo Phnom Penh Post

People light candles at site of killing of anti-logging activist Chut Wutty in Koh Kong province on May 11, 2012. Photograph Reuters

Australian academic Carlyle Thayer argues that Washington’s influence lies in its military support of  Phnom Penh. “The president should raise his [human rights] concerns. The U.S. should see how Hun Sen responds and work out a policy,” Thayer said. “But there are other issues at stake including U.S.-Cambodia defense relations, which is about the only major conduit of U.S. influence.”

Obama’s policy of engaging Asia as a new priority may well take the submissive position of subordinating support of basic democratic values and human rights out of fear of China using economic power to dominate the competition for influence. But, as is required by U.S. law under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which forbids U.S. companies paying bribes to acquire foreign contracts, it is impossible for the U.S. to become a significant economic investor in Cambodia to compete wit China’s corrupt status quo, or any other country with a similar official code of government conduct.

And such thinking ignores the massive popular resentment that Chinese complicity in the corruption in the pillaging of Cambodian private property, resources, and economy has engendered.

Cambodian police beat Khmer monk in 2007

In this case doing the right thing also happens to make good strategic political policy.

One might look to Burma as providing some degree of guidance. Washington’s hardline policy isolating Burma has forced the Rangoon authorities to, with important qualifications, cave to demands for allowing important levels of democratic freedoms, in contrast to U.S. policy towards Cambodia which has been to give a wink and a nod to egregious abuses as a tactic to attain closer relations and influence. The result certainly will be a decrease in Chinese influence in Burma, after decades of Beijing giving carte blanche to Rangoon in exchange for economic access to resources.

The reforms in Burma, however limited and tenuous, will certainly increase Washington’s influence there and will force a lone spotlight on Hun Sen as the last unacceptable thug among Asean countries, without a peer as the most repressive leader in Asia outside of North Korea.

Protestors against eviction from their land

Given Hun Sen’s rejection of constructive relations with any foreign powers, either regional or global, in the short term he is likely to throw what is akin to a childlike tantrum. But the fact is the lifeline of his government is economic assistance—free money—from bilateral and multilateral institutions who fund virtually all services normally the obligation of a government and compassion fatigue from the donor community is long overdue. What has given Hun Sen the most effective reassurance in recent decades is that his reputation has remained acceptably intact internationally regardless of his conduct. If that is compromised, there is little doubt the Cambodian government will have to adjust to the realities of what would be an entirely legitimate new set of conditions to prop up the collapsed dependency state of which is Cambodia today.

The record of murder, violence, intimidation, imprisonment, and abuse of government institutions to enforce the personal interests of the small cabal in power is overwhelming in recent years.

Scores of opposition supporters were killed during the UN administered election process between 1991 and 1993; More than a dozen journalists have been assassinated since Hun Sen seized power in a bloody coup in 1997; That coup saw more than 100 opposition supporters tortured, humiliated and summarily executed, many with their eyes gouged out, their tongues ripped from their mouths with plyers, and their penises cut off and stuffed in their mouths while alive. These included Deputy Interior Minister Ho Sok who was acknowledged by Hun Sen to have been executed in the Ministry of Interior compound; The 1999 acid attack on a 16-year-old Tat Marina by the wife of Svay Sitha, a senior government aide of Hun Sen official;

Victim of acid attack violence who survived-2008

The 2003 execution of Om Radsady, a popular elected opposition member of parliament in a Phnom Penh restaurant;

Opposition elected parliamentarian Om Radsady murdered

The 2004 killing of popular labor leader Chea Vichea;

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony places incense by photograph of his brother, slain labour rights leader Chea Vichea in Jan. 2012. Photo Phnom Penh Post

“tell them I want to kill them”–head of Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit responding to evidence that implicated him in a bomb attack against a peaceful protest led by opposition politician Sam Rainsy that killed and wounded scores

The 2008 killing of investigative journalist Khim Sambo and his son while the two exercised in a public park;

Assassinated journalist Khim Sambo funeral ceremony 2006

and the 2012 killing of environmental activist Chut Wutty by government security forces;

Chut Wutty assassinated in 2012 by Cambodian military in the employ of corrupt government illegal logging companies. He was a fearless, uncompromising opponent of corruption. When other forms of intimidation prove ineffective under the current Cambodian Hun Sen government, murder is the inevitable option to silence those who insist on using peaceful dissent to express political opinion. Assassination has been used without hesitation hundreds of times by Hun Sen and his cabal in power to ensure supine loyalty more akin to a mafia syndicate than leaders of a legitimate nation state,

The arrest and jailing for 20 years of Mom Sonando and other activists on October 1, 2012 on trumped up charges of participating in a purported “secession” movement, while three local activists were sentenced to terms of 15 to 30 years and three others to terms of up to 5 years. Sonando, 71, a critic of Hun Sen, had been arrested twice before for political activities and owned Beehive Radio, a politically independent radio station in Cambodia. His arrest came two days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s departure from the country after attending the Regional Forum of ASEAN;

Villagers pray for release of Mam Sonando at his trial where he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 2012. Mam Sonando ran a politically independent radio station in Phnom Penh and received training by U.S. funded organizations promoting excersizing voices of a free press in Cambodia. His conviction and harsh sentencing was universally viewed as a political message organized by Hun Sen to silence anyone attempting to raise a voice of dissent to the Prime Minister. It isn’t just loyalty or agreement that is demanded, but supine obsequiousness.

U.S. funded anti-riot police force deployed against peaceful protesters in front of Phnom Penh Court trial of independent journalist Mom Sanada sentenced to 20 years prison 2012 for what are universally agreed to be politically concocted charges of sedition

On May 24 2012 a Phnom Penh court sentenced 13 women, including one 72 years old, to two-and-a-half years in prison for protesting evictions and demanding proper resettlement for people displaced by a development project owned by a Hun Sen associate and a Chinese investor in the Boeng Kak area of Phnom Penh;

Hundreds of Cambodians evicted from their homes after land sold to Chinese company with corrupt relationship with Hun Sen protest at Boeung Kak Lake. Within days after Secretary of State Clinton visited Phnom Penh in a public relaions coup for Hun Sen when she raised the issue of the complaints of the Boeung Kak residents, more than a dozen were arrested and sentenced to prison in what was interpreted as a direct rejection of the influence and interests of the American government.

In August and September2012  courts summoned the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions a prominent labor leader, charging him with inciting strikes by garment workers in Phnom Penh;

Acid violence survivor 2008

In 1997, the main opposition leader former finance minister Sam Rainsy was the target of an assassination attempt in a well-planned attack with grenades thrown into the crowd, killing protesters and bystanders, including children, and blowing limbs off street vendors. Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit was implicated as responsible and numerous witnesses reported that the assassins  ran to the closed and guarded home of Hun Sen. Witnesses told investigators from the United Nations and the FBI that the bodyguards opened the line to allow the assailants to pass into the compound. The bodyguards then stopped at gunpoint crowd members who were pursuing the grenade-throwers and threatened to shoot those who did not retreat.  Rainsy escaped with a minor leg injury.The FBI quickly investigated the attack under a US law providing the FBI jurisdiction whenever a US citizen is injured by terrorism. Ron Abney, a US citizen, was seriously injured in the attack and had to be evacuated to Singapore to treat shrapnel wounds in his hip.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is rushed from the scene moments after grenade attack U.S. FBI determined was carried out by Hun Sen

The FBI’s lead investigator interviewed soldiers and officers up the chain of command and concluded that only Hun Sen could have ordered the bodyguard unit to be deployed at the park. He has said he had enough evidence to file criminal charges. Yet in May 1997 the US ambassador ordered him out of the country.

Carnage scene after the grenade attack on opposition politician Sam Rainsy March 1997 carried out by Hun Sen’s orders.

A 2007 report by the nongovernmental organization Global Witness says: “The elite Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 70 [the official name of the bodyguard unit] unit makes between US$2 million and US$2.5 million per year through transporting illegally logged timber and smuggled goods.

A large slice of the profits generated through these activities goes to Lieutenant General Hing Bun Heang, commander of the prime minister’s Bodyguard Unit.” Hing Bun Heang has since been promoted and is now a lieutenant general and deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. The commander of Brigade 70 at the time, Huy Piseth, who admitted to the FBI that he ordered the deployment of Brigade 70 forces to the scene that day, went on to become undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Defense. “Handing out promotions to people implicated in massacring peaceful demonstrators shows cruel disregard for the victims,” Said Brad Adams, head of Human Rights Watch. “The message sent is that human rights abusers, no matter how egregious their acts, will not only go free, but will be rewarded.”

Cambodian Police beat, arrest women protesting eviction from their homes after corrupt land concessions given to Chinese companies brokered by senior Cambodian government officials

In 2012, the Pentagon is expanding counterterrorism assistance to Cambodia, training a counterterrorism battalion even though the nation has not faced a serious militant threat in nearly a decade.

The only terrorist force of consequence in Cambodia today is the armed security forces of the current government. The U.S. is training the armed forces of Cambodia’s former Khmer Rouge commander Hun Sen, who uses his military not against any non-existent external threat but almost solely to execute and intimidate political opponents.

Cambodia has no ordinary history of egregious dictators in charge of policies that violate virtually every major tenet of basic human rights and democratic institutions more than three decades after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power, after killing 1.7 million—or about 20% of the population.

Fleeing Phnom Penh residents carry their belongings along Pochentong airport Phnom Penh 1997 Hun Sen coup

But U.S. government policy has not been to stand up for the poster nation of modern inhumane government policy. Rather, it has been to coddle and be successfully intimidated by the successive leaders who were trained, schooled and members of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

The current dictator, Hun Sen, an ex Khmer Rouge military officer who broke from the notorious group not because he objected to mass murder as a state policy, but rather that he was next on the list of targets, lost Cambodia’s only modern free election organized by a $3 billion dollar U.N. conducted 1993 elections.

Former Khmer Rouge military commander Chea Sim (L) shares a laugh with former Khmer Rouge military commander Hun Sen. Both now lead the current Cambodian government

Four years later he seized control in a bloody, vicious coup detat that left hundreds of opposition figures horribly tortured, thousands forced to flee the country, and every last vestige of minimal modicum of opposition politics silenced through, intimidation, murder, and imprisonment by his government.

The Pentagon and the State Department have responded to Cambodia, along with Burma, the last running sore of incompetence and corruption and thuggery in Asia, by not just downplaying and coddling the dictatorship, but financing and encouraging it to hardening its Stalinist organization of power.

For instance the Pentagon has embraced and financed a hereditary dictatorship promising to institutionalize the Hun Sen regime. Hun Sen now stands as the longest serving dictator in the world, holding power since 1979. All three of Hun Sen’s sons have been trained financed and encouraged by the U.S government to inherit power in Cambodia. All three hold influential posts in the Cambodian government and military.

Hun Sen and heir apparent Hun Manet, trained and paid for to study at West Point

Hun Manet, the eldest son, was sponsored by the U.S embassy and paid to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated in 1999. He earned a master’s degree in economics from New York University, also paid for by U.S funds. A deputy commander and major general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, Hun Manet is widely seen as the heir apparent to his father.

The U.S. military also paid for the prime minister’s youngest son, Hun Many, 29, to earn a master’s degree in strategic studies at the National Defense University in Washington in 2011.

And the U.S. military organized Hun Sen’s middle son, Hun Manith, a senior intelligence official, to be trained in counterterrorism in Germany, according to American diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

In 2008, the U.S. government created a special Cambodian anti-terrorism military unit ostensibly to combat al-Qaeda sympathizers. In 2003, a leader of an Indonesian al-Qaeda affiliate was hiding in Cambodia and other members of the group were charged with plotting to bomb the U.S. and British embassies in Phnom Penh.

But such sanctuaries are a direct result of widespread institutional official corruption of the Cambodian government which is sanctuary to more wanted criminals on Interpol lists than any other country in the world, notably European pedophiles, petty criminals, Russian and Asian organized criminal syndicates, and representatives of armed insurgencies purchasing weapons from dozens of groups from Sri Lanka to Bangladesh to the middle east, to Africa. It is precisely because of Cambodian government policy that exchanges sanctuary for such groups for corrupt payoffs to operate with impunity and protection of the Hun Sen government that they migrate to Cambodia. TO fund and strengthen these same forces is a misguided and counterproductive strategy of what on the surface is a clueless U.S policy.

Justice Cambodian government style

In the State department’s annual report on terrorist activity in  Cambodia in 2011, it listed no problems in the country. But the U.S. counterterrorism training has been expanded. U.S. Ambassador William E. Todd singled out Hun Manet for his leadership and praised the performance of his troops this year saying: “Your commitment to training, your dedication to perfection, and your willingness to sacrifice for your country clearly demonstrates this unit’s unspoken pledge to be the best counter-terrorism force in Southeast Asia,” according to the U.S. Embassy’s Web site.

Although terrorism is not on the list of Cambodia’s problems, the Pentagon’s reasons to continue  training is a means of increasing access and influence, but none of either has been focused on defending or promoting or strengthening democratic institutions. By financing and training and encouraging not just Hun Sen’s cabal of loyalists, but his immediate family directly benefits the Cambodian prime minister, ensuring that with his own in charge Hun Sen can rely on the loyalty of the armed security services to any dissent or challenge to his rule. The U.S. military counter terrorism training is run by a U.S. Special Forces group based at the U.S. Embassy.

Police beat Cambodian peaceful protestors 2012

“We support Cambodia in its development as a responsible regional partner,” said Lt. Col. Brad Doboszenski, a spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command, Pacific and “is guided by U.S. policy objectives, not personal relationships.”

U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Pannetta greeted by Hun Sen’s son at arrival in Phnom Penh four days ahead of President Obama

Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Catherine Wilkinson said “We have to make sure we’re not working with people who commit gross human rights violations, but we can’t turn our backs and not provide training,” which “helps to prevent these problems from reemerging.”

Independent monitors of Cambodia’s political development take exception to such analysis. ““There’s almost this childlike faith that if these people are exposed to the U.S. military, it will invariably lead to a more professional military,” said Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch. “There was almost no acknowledgment about how the U.S. could be helping to consolidate the power of highly abusive actors.”

Artist with “Strange Watch” Charged with “Possessing an Explosive Device” at U.S. Airport: Cite “watch itself was on incorrect time.”

17 Nov

Artist with “Strange Watch” Charged with “Possessing an Explosive Device” at U.S. Airport: Cite “watch itself was on incorrect time.”

Police officials said that no actual explosives were found but “McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials and appeared to have made alterations to his boots which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles.”

Mug Shot of accused Terrorist Plotter Artist Geoff McGann

Authorities also said their suspicions were aroused because McGann had no checked bag, carried a backpack that contained no clothes, was wearing a military-style shirt with a tourniquet band built into each sleeve, was wearing shoes two sizes too big, and his shoes had homemade inserts with cavities that could be used to hide explosives. Except they didn’t hide anything, he was on a day long business trip, and he contended his shoes were designed to make him look taller.

“When you add it all up, it didn’t add up,” Police spokesman Nelson said.

Nelson said McGann had “all the components” to make an “improvised explosive device.” That is except for anything that actually could explode.

By Nate Thayer

Geoff McGann had a very bad day Friday. The California artist was arrested after trying to board an airplane in Oakland with what appears to be a uniquely modified Timex and now stands accused of being a terrorist.

McGann placed his “ornate” watch in the plastic bin while going through airport security on a return flight to his home near Los Angeles, which U.S. Transportation Safety Agency officers determined “could be used to make a timing device for a bomb.” McGann, 49, of Rancho Palos Verdes was taken into custody Thursday night after his watch was inspected and said to have “switches, wires and fuses”, according to Sgt. J.D. Nelson, of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, even though a bomb squad, which arrived within five minutes, determined there were no explosive materials in the watch. He attracted the attention of authorities after placing a coat and his watch in a plastic bin bound for the screening machine. The watch included a toggle switch, wires and a circuit board, said Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

And the clincher? According to the police spokesman “the watch itself was on incorrect time.”

Advertising Creative Director, Artist and accused Terrorist Geoff McGann

McGann told Transportation Security Administration officers that he’s an artist and the watch is art, Nelson said.

McGann was charged with possessing materials to make an explosive device, sheriff’s officials said, and taken to Santa Rita Jail where he remains in custody on $250,000 bond.

Police officials said that no actual explosives were found but “McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials and appeared to have made alterations to his boots which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles.”

Nelson said McGann had “all the components” to make an “improvised explosive device.” That is except for anything that actually could explode.

Authorities also said their suspicions were aroused because McGann had no checked bag, carried a backpack that contained no clothes, was wearing a military-style shirt with a tourniquet band built into each sleeve, was wearing shoes two sizes too big, and his shoes had homemade inserts with cavities that could be used to hide explosives. Except they didn’t hide anything, he was on a day long business trip, and he contended his shoes were designed to make him look taller.

“When you add it all up, it didn’t add up,” Police spokesman Nelson said.

McGann said he’d been on a business day-trip in the Bay Area and was about to return to Los Angeles, that the watch was art and the shoes were altered to make him look taller.

The officials didn’t buy McGann’s story. “He does do art kind of stuff, but what reasonable person would bring a watch like that into an airport and think that’s OK?”  Nelson said. “You may have a toy gun as art, but would you bring it to the airport?”

Some of accused terrorist airplane bomber photographic art work

An officer arrested McGann on “suspicion of possession of materials that can be used to make a destructive device” and is being held on $150,000 bail, according to Alameda County records


But a cursory inspection of documents, online references, and social media of Geoph McGann’s profile does not exactly fit the profile of a terrorist. In fact it pretty much describes a good chunk of quite normal citizens with a dash of free spirited quirkiness. Or pretty much a spot on profile of an average artist.

McGann, according to various biographies, his Face book page, his Linked In profile, and numerous news stories is an accomplished artist, photographer, advertising creative director and martial artist. Among other accomplishments is what is reported to be his key contribution to creating the Nike sneaker company advertising campaign “Just do it.”

He graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts and Visual Communication Design from the Art College of Design in Pasadena California in 1987 and worked for a Seattle Washington advertising firm as their creative director in the 1990’s.


Jailed advertising exec and artist and accused Terrorist at a gallery show of his artwork

He currently is Managing/Creative Director of a Los Angeles company, Locomotus which focuses on “Diversity Training Program/ Advertising/Design.” One biography says “Geoff is one of the country’s top creative educators, with over twenty years experience as a Creative Director, Writer/Director, Photographer, Fine-Arts Designer and Teacher” and another biography says “Geoff has held ECD positions at Public Interest, a non-profit advertising agency/production company dedicated solely to cause-marketing initiatives, funded by The Gates Foundation (Amnesty, AIDS-AID, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Wounded Warriors). He also founded and supervised EDO the branded-content entertainment division at Ogilvy in Los Angeles” and “Geoff has held the Program Director position at 72U, the in-house advertising and communications school at 72andSunny, and currently, he is the Managing Creative Director at Generator, a creative portfolio development program in Los Angeles.”


Ad executive accused of using lefts in his shoes he contends were to add the appearance of height to hide explosives, none of which were found on his possession when checking in at airport for flight home

In 2006, McGann “signed on as Creative Director with Public Interest, a nonprofit advertising agency dedicated to producing high impact public service advertising and messaging for social change. The addition of McGann – an award-winning creative, director, and photographer – reflects a growth and independence experienced by the agency over the past several months. “Geoff’s arrival marks the beginning of a new era for Public Interest,” said President and Executive Creative Director Michael Franzini. “He is one of the great creative thinkers in advertising, and I see his enthusiasm for our work as a sure sign that we’re doing something right. I’m excited about the great things we will do together.” McGann comes to Public Interest with a versatile creative portfolio that spans the ad agency, photography, and commercial production arenas.”


Among major advertising companies, McGann is listed as having worked as a Creative Director “for industry leaders Wieden + Kennedy, Portland and Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles, among others. His work for clients including Nike, Miller Beer, and MTV won awards in every major advertising show.” McGann is quoted in a news release by San Francisco based Public Interest as saying: “After doing this for over fifteen years, the notion of working with a non-profit organization that does marketing and creative for worthy causes is exciting.”

McGann’s Linked In and other online sites list his interests as “Photography/HD Videography/Poetry/Jiu Jitsu”, that he belongs to the Directors Guild of America, and has won honors and awards which include Cannes film festival Gold Lion, The One Show Gold, Communication Arts, Pan American Jiu Jitsu Gold Medal 2009, US Open Jiu Jitsu Gold 2007, 2008, and 2009, and the American National Jiu Jitsu Gold in 2007, 2008, and 2009.


Artist accused explosives terrorist

From January 2007 until now, he has worked as Co-Founder/owner of company, specializing in all types of video and film production in all media, with special emphasis in On-Line content development.

Nelson adds, “as a triggering device, absolutely, absolutely. It absolutely could have been a triggering device. Obviously he was missing a couple of things along the way.”

A Southern California resident is in custody after authorities say he tried to board a plane in Oakland with a watch modified by materials that could have been part of a bomb.


He has held positions as Executive Creative Director/Producer since 1987 for several major advertising firms including in the Creative Director/Entertainment Division Los Angeles Office  of Ogilvy & Mather, Writer, Creative Director on multiple accounts (primarily NIKE), all media, and Executive Producer on special On-Line film/video content at Wieden + Kennedy including Writer and Creative Director on the Nike “Just Do It” account “from inception” as well as Miller Lite, MTV, Subaru, and the Gap.

His artwork and photography has won acclaim and been shown at gallery exhibitions, adding “It is not uncommon for an artist to find a day job necessary to help support their art, but McGann creates art to help support his day job. As Creative director for Public Interest, a 501(C) 3 non profit, he receives a modest salary in exchange for the pleasure of doing work he is passionate about, creating public service ads for an array of prevalent causes. Public Interest works with big name foundations such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Film Institute, creating public awareness to affect social change.  The agency is also involved with the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps support injured troops when they return home.”

He certainly doesn’t fit the profile of your average terrorist. The news article on a recent art gallery show cited “stand-out pieces included a series of ethereal images suggestive of angels and Hindu Goddesses where women were draped in blurred twinkling lights posed against black backgrounds. Alongside were a serene black and white landscape and several portraits that expressed a blend of glossy sophistication and decadence. “Riders”, a surfer-themed series, used light and shadow to depict this well-known Southern California icon with a slightly ominous undertone. This was Geoff’s first major exhibition and he was surrounded by friends, family and admirers. Geoff’s daughter Skylar, dressed in a pink princess outfit, pointed out her favorite photo, a portrait of a glamorously pensive woman in an open button down shirt and unraveled tie.“ adding “McGann’s background in advertising and commercial direction is apparent. Some of his photos could easily be imagined as print ads; particularly the series entitled “Starters” that features athletes at the ready, toned limbs glistening.  Using an exaggerated sense of perspective to create a sense of impending action, these are some of his best photos. Prices ranged from $350 to $1,400, with twenty percent of all profits donated to Public Interest. “

But none of these details seemed to sway the TSA or local California terrorist task forces who arrested McGann “after airport security found him wearing a watch that looked like a timing device for an explosive,” they said. The fact that the bomb squad was called to the checkpoint and determined there was no explosive device connected to the watch didn’t seem to diffuse the concern of the TSA terrorist detectors.

Photo art of accused terrorist McGann arrested fro wearing an unusual watch and shoes too big for his feet

A Seattle Times article describing McGann’s work at the Seattle based advertising firm paints a portrait of a highly successful if quirky advertising genius, referring to the company as “off the beaten track but still on the mark” and the “Portland-based advertising agency whose commercials for Nike have bewitched an entire generation into believing that “Just Do It” referred to exercise, not sex. Most advertising agencies are stress factories built on hustle, schmooze and art. The secret to W&K’s success isn’t witchcraft, but something equally alien to American industry: creativity” and “encourages folks to rope in brainstorms wherever they occur. Geoff McGann knows this. While other feet spend their workday stuck under a desk, McGann’s feet skip over the chilly Willamette River behind a water-ski boat. Some of his best ideas come while he’s water-skiing. One day early last fall, the 26-year-old copywriter was thinking about how to best capture Nike’s new Air Flight basketball shoes. He dropped into the water, swam back to the boat and reached for the tape recorder he had installed for brainstorms such as this. He spoke only two words: “Twilight Zone.” The article describes a business meeting at the company as including “Geoff McGann is, predictably, barefoot. His colleagues tease that they don’t give him back his shoes until 5, or else he’ll sneak out early. Everyone helps himself to jelly beans from a giant candy jar Wieden keeps in his office….McGann returns to his office and rests his feet atop the Fred Meyer shopping cart someone has deposited there and which he plans to keep. (“In case I get kicked out of my house, I’ll have someplace to go.”)

McGann, who was hired when he was 24 years old, is portrayed as a quirky genius. “That’s young even by advertising standards, but his bold style fits in well here. If he feels strongly about an idea, he’s given the freedom to try it out, even if the bosses are skeptical.”If you’re happy, you do your best work,” he says. “And I’m happy here.”

That quite clearly is not what Geoff McGann is feeling tonight, locked up in a jail cell and charged with plotting to blow up an airplane because he designed a watch and war “suspicious clothes and shoes with lifts in them.

I am purely guessing, but I suspect that Mr. McGann will have all charges dropped soon and the Transportation Security Administration and the Alameda County Sherriff’s Office will have considerable explaining to be. This appears strongly to be a case of Arrested for being an artist, where the TSA has effectively made quirky creativity, even those who have demonstrated their success at the pinnacle of corporate America, to be crimes that fall within the category of terrorist plotting.

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