Tom Pacheco at The Colony in Woodstock
Saturday, July 5, 2003
You've got to watch what you say these days.
It isn't illegal to use controversial, dirty words like "peace" but it isn't hard to feel it's getting close when we see the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct's chief attorney arrested at an Albany mall for wearing a T-shirt that says "Peace On Earth" on the front and "Give Peace A Chance" on the back. This was just one of the more public of countless incidents of reprimand and reprisal against the expression of such "unfashionable" sentiments in the current climate across the country. It's a climate that performing songwriter Tom Pacheco, who appears at The Colony in Woodstock tomorrow night, has viewed with concern from home and abroad.
"When I come back to the United States after being in Europe, it takes a while to get used to being in the States again," said Pacheco, whose music enjoys something of a musical cult status in Europe and tours there twice a year. "There are some very aware people in this country but they're in a real minority. Most people are not thinking anymore. They watch Fox News, CNN and so on and there's a huge sense of brainwashing on the scene- sometimes it's not even subtle."
Pacheco notes that people are so occupied with concerns about their jobs and the economy, so manipulated by fear of terrorism, that they don't see the mechanisms in place which will take those jobs and crash the economy.
"People are struggling," Pacheco observes. "They don't have the time to see what's actually going on in this government; how our rights are being taken away, how we're being monitored. Everyday you see in the paper something that's been taken away. We have 149,000, so they say, soldiers in Iraq right now and they're cutting veteran's benefits; cutting back on Medicare, Medicaid. There's huge tax breaks for the rich which are going to impoverish the country in ten years. I notice this strangeness after I've been back for a while- a kind of 'amnesia' that's happening all over the country. The majority of people don't know what's going on."
A song on Pacheco's last album, There was A Time, draws a tight bead on loss of jobs: "That 45-floor building was just a house of cards/The company was bankrupt before it fell apart/The big boys sold their stock off long before the place was gone/They never warned us workers once, in fact they cheered us on/And now I'm out on Main Street, unemployed and out of luck/My sixteen years of savings isn't worth a thousand bucks/I cannot call my congressman or senator downtown/Their campaigns were all financed by the company that drowned."
When a gentle soul with an angry heart puts such expression eloquently and passionately to music, you can hear the emotion clenched in his voice and ringing on his guitar. He's singing a song that says something...and that is the element which burns at the core of Tom Pacheco's art.
The oldest of nine children, Tom was born in Massachusetts on November 4, 1946. His father, Tony Pacheco, was a visual artist and jazz musician who played with Django Reinhart and taught Tom his first licks at age ten. After recording a modestly circulated solo album, he gravitated to the folk scene of Greenwich Village in its heyday, recorded singles with a group named Ragamuffins and an album as part of two couples calling themselves Euphoria before he was signed by Columbia as a duo with Sharon Alexander in 1971. The album, titled Pacheco and Alexander, featured an array of Woodstock-based musicians and has been recently re-issued as a cd in Japan- as has the slightly lesser of two interesting albums for RCA Victor in the mid-70's, Swallowed Up In the Great American Heartland.
The earliest major label releases featured an eccentric blend of folk-rock and country-influenced "story-songs" with themes which sometimes ranged into science fiction (Pacheco carried on a correspondence with sf-master Ray Bradbury in this period) and the Gothic fantasy landscapes of H.P. Lovecraft. Tribute songs to Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson wound up on the same album along with a tune sung from the perspective of an ancient oak tree. The RCA sessions with legendary producer Shadow Morton stacked up enough outtakes for a third, never released album.
Eventually moving to Woodstock, Pacheco built a regional following of loyal fans, as he tended to do in each locale he has lived- from Austin and Los Angeles to Nashville- always on the outer fringe of fame but strongly based in the local musical community. When the singer-songwriter market stagnated during the 1980's, his move to Dublin, Ireland for a decade opened horizons not only in the Isles but in Scandinavia and mainland Europe. Eleven albums and 188 recorded songs later, Pacheco has lost track of how many tunes he has penned which were never recorded. He stopped counting, he recalls, at 2,500.
Where does he find the time and inspiration to write so frequently? He's always writing, he admits, even on tours he's taking notes. On a hectic tour of England, Scotland, Wales, Sweden and Norway in April and May, for instance, his notebook was still busy.
When a young London-based songwriter, Thea Gilmore, whose first album (scheduled for a September release) is packed with unusually poignant, elegant and amusing songs, attended one of his performances he was obliged to recognize himself as a "roots" source because she was a regular attendee of his shows as a budding teen musician during his Irish years. To be a source of inspiration for such a remarkable talent could not have been hard to take even if it does make him something of a greybeard.
"She made me aware that I was in 'Jack the Ripper country' and showed me around all the streets," Pacheco smiled, referring to their excursion to still-standing Ripper haunts like The Ten Bells Tavern not far from the East London club he had just played. As he perused the streets and alleys where victims had been found and the fears had been shivered, a new song began to formulate which addressed the ever-enduring enigma of the murders.
"Stories that have mysteries associated to them have always fascinated me," he observed. Themes with mythic qualities, streams of subsurface current, stir actively in many of Pacheco's efforts, unobtrusively (and sometimes melodramatically) nudging those vital and neglected centers of the psyche which Carl Jung, in Man and His Symbols, cautioned were rapidly diminishing in our culture along with humanity's fuller capacities for life.
In his essay "Lost in the Supermarket: Myth and Commerce in the Music Business," music critic Anthony DeCurtis fingers this issue without ever quite getting a firm grip upon its deeper implications. He writes, in this essay included in Kelly & McDonnell's 1999 anthology Stars Don't Stand Still in the Sky: Music and Myth; "It should surprise no one that, in the determinedly one-track mind of the music industry, myth, like everything else, is merely something to be marketed." True enough until he makes an unwarranted assumption that the "verity" of myth differs in the distance of time and that, today, "the very idea of myth has been drained of its significance."
Accurately, he describes the loss of meaning which results from corporate exploitation of spiritual and emotional symbols for profit and effectively points out that the "real lost meaning of myth...is as a symbolic repository of a people's deepest hopes and fears, an expression of all the complex, contradictory, incomprehensible elements of their lives." But, then, in the same paragraph he misplaces the purest connotations of symbolism and the inner identity of myth by equating the lost 'innocence' of rock and roll with deliberate self-deception: "For reasons that extend far beyond rock'n'roll itself...it is difficult now for any adult- or even for the most sophisticated young people- to retain that deep belief in the possibilities for social change and self-transformation that once seemed inherent in rock'n'roll."
To begin with, despite its nebulous edges, the depth and clarity of the collective cultural myth which arose in the turbulent 1960's has very rarely been described with any accuracy by historians or, particularly, by contemporary chroniclers outside of the culture itself. Even many of the hipper sociologists didn't seem to get that much closer to what was going on in the noncommercial core of the culture than the average American tv viewer absorbing characterizations of drug-ridden "hippies" (a media term) on Jack Webb's Dragnet. Even peripheral "hippies" who just infiltrated by growing their hair didn't get down to it either and the era was then and has continued to be so misrepresented, distorted and lied about by historians, Hollywood, television productions and media in general that it is small wonder DeCurtis doesn't quite "get it" either.
Did the subculture really "believe" that it could change the world by living its myth? Yes and no. And that is the point about myth. It doesn't possess that kind of "truth." It has a deeper truth and the inner mind knows this even as the intellect denies it. Despite what it may seem on the surface, this is not an anti-rationalist statement... The truths involved are symbolic and the symbols are needed to keep the dreams alive. As long as the dream lives anything, self-transformation and social change especially, remains possible.
Into the inky shadows of the still smouldering cultural revolution of Communist China an outside popular music began, in the late 1970's, to seep from Hong Kong and Taiwan gangtatyue, as the Chinese put it, or "half-openly." A slow and cautious testing of the political acceptability of a new musical style tenderly expanded on borrowed cassette tapes, never heard on radio broadcast, until Gangtai style music spread dominantly through the youth of a severely repressed culture. Here there was "myth" in music in its most natural sense, growing like spring grasses where yards of ice had pressed the winter fields. Just one instance of the eternal wellsprings of myth and music sharing a common truth.
As the mythic mind of Chinese youth followed musical development from Gangtai through xibeifeng and yaogun yinyue, expectations of increasing freedom led to a yearning for democracy which culminated in the student massacre in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. (For the role of music in the Beijing "uprising", see the "New Long March" essay by Tim Brace and Paul Friedlander in Rockin' the Boat: Mass Music and Mass Movements, edited by Rebe Garofalo). In their desperate bid for freedom, the students mistakenly took the political rhetoric of Western leaders too seriously, anticipating that the administration of President George Herbert Walker Bush would favor democracy over international corporate interest in the low wage and high profit future of China's economy. They hoped, at very least, for the support of meaningful sanctions from Western nations to leverage their movement against Beijing's hard-liners but, as Gordon Thomas details in his 2001 book Seeds of Fire: China and the Story Behind the Attack on America, democracy was the last thing the corporations wanted to see emerge in the Chinese marketplace. The situation was being as closely monitored by the Beijing office of Kissinger Associates as by U.S. intelligence services and the President's brother, Prescott Bush, who was closely associated with Asset Management, International Financing and Settlement, Ltd. (which was building an $18 million country club in Shanghai, a wood-processing plant in rural China, and a satellite-linked computer database network in Beijing), was less than thrilled by the student demonstrations. The students had found in the music of their movement qualities which DeCurtis defines in myth- spirituality, idealism, community, transcendence- the first qualities a repressive regime would seek to suppress.
Although his heart is in the right place, DeCurtis is considering music entirely within the confines of the corporate structure which imprisons it when he calculates success and failure in the art and quotes a music business personality's cynical declaration that "It's not called show art, it's called show business." Yes, and it has a programmed captive audience that's been trained to stare rather than think or read... Likewise, DeCurtis himself seems unable to consider music outside of an industry context. He writes: "Certainly nothing about the, shall we say, 'colorful' origins of the music industry (founded by a group of men primarily distinguished by an odd combination of traits: monumental self-interest, piratical greed, and extraordinary good taste) would suggest that the motivations of its founders were primarily idealistic."
Exception must be taken with the judgment DeCurtis makes about the "good taste" of his subjects- which is unsupportable by the evidence. It requires comparison between popular music and music never heard. We are dealing, after all, with a "build it and they will come" mentality which predetermines public taste through repetition. It is presumption to suppose that the cream always rises to the top in a tangle of corporate tubing. In fact, most of it is probably never milked. DeCurtis, perhaps listening through the filter of those years in which his own musical standards were set, spends too little time listening to the "unauthorized" version of musical inspiration which would not often reach the desk of a commercial critic. If its primary inspiration is commercial, then the manager he quotes is correct; it should be called business and not art.
Ah, but this digression has already made its point and DeCurtis and I are not far apart in our general view. He writes: "Record companies are no longer run by people who, despite their innumerable other flaws, rose up through the ranks and may even have been musicians- or at least fanatical music fans- themselves. They are owned by multinational conglomerates- Sony, Bertelsmann, TimeWarner, and a few others- with many other holdings, and they are expected to show the same types of steady returns as other, more traditional, less creative businesses. The vagaries of artistic inspiration- another element in the creation of myth- are ironed out into trusty formulas, and artists who don't play by the rules better justify themselves with millions of sales (thereby generating the next formula), or they're gone." (Certainly from the main stage that we're all conditioned, including DeCurtis, to focus upon. The wand is waved and the spotlight turns.)
Okay, if you haven't noticed by now that everything touched by the corporate mentality turns to shit, I'm not about to detail the state of world industries from food to health care, pharmaceuticals to transportation to... you name it. Although they're given more rights under our system of law as it has developed in the recent era than human beings (for whom the laws were designed) are granted- even though they are not mortal in the sense that we think of limited lifespans, corporations are not "human" and do not possess human values. They do not breath air that humans breathe, drink water or eat foods that humans nourish themselves with. They are by nature constrictors and they will squeeze their victims until every drop of life is gone. That's something to consider when you realize that they've taken control of the national treasury. And I must point out that a prime authority on "fascism" named Benito Mussolini proudly (and accurately) defined the term as a blending of corporatism and government. Why should it be different with music?
But music itself, or any art, when defined by the marketplace becomes something other than what its original impulse provides. It can be refined, shaped, elevated, distorted or destroyed. Musical tastes, like opinions or (as Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky observed) "consent" can be manufactured. This was done, very quietly in the 1970's, to the alternative culture music of the previous decade.
Since I've written at length elsewhere about the quiet suppression of musical culture in the early 1970's; the secret meeting of music industry corporate executives at CBS's music chief Clive Davis's offices in New York, the organized and coordinated withdrawal of industry money from the underground press, the sudden overhaul of FM radio formats, the promotion of disco, the sieve put over the contracting of "counter-cultural" bands, and all the rest of the stealthy social engineering of the era; it need only be mentioned here that the current manipulation of the musical marketplace is not 'phase one' of the operation just as the recent invasions of nations vital to petroleum interests were certainly not manifestations of the first phase of corporate imperialism in our nation's history.
If we take a few huffs and puffs to blow away just a bit of the fog of collective amnesia Pacheco speaks of we might recall the words of an American military hero named General Smedley Darlington Butler who, in reviewing his career, admitted "I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street" and revealed how his troops were housed in the Latin American facilities of Standard Oil for some of his operations.
Twice a Medal of Honor recipient, Butler bristled at the use of his troops purely to further the goals of corporate greed in the overthrow of foreign governments and challenged the motives of those who would use American resources to establish corporate slave states. As Jules Archer details in his book about Butler's shining efforts in frustrating an attempted secret takeover of the country by fascist conspirators during the FDR Administration, The Plot to Seize the White House, he welcomed a Senate investigation of the use of Marines to intervene in Latin American affairs in December, 1929: "He upset the Hoover Administration by shooting from the hip in an extemporaneous speech he made in Pittsburgh, revealing that the State Department had rigged the Nicaraguan elections of 1912 by ordering him to use strong-arm methods during the Marine intervention... 'The opposition candidates in Nicaragua were declared bandits when it became necessary to elect our man to office,' he explained. And he said of Diaz, 'The fellow we had there nobody liked, but he was a useful fellow to us, so we had to keep him in. How to keep him in was a problem.' Then he described how the election had been rigged, under orders, for that purpose. 'When a marine is told to do something,' he said, 'he does it'."
Sound familiar? Perhaps not. These are the kinds of details which tend to slip by compilers of standard American history texts. But Butler remembered, with no little bitterness, the blood of his lads spilled to repave the corporate patio with polished stones imported from conquered lands. A more complete quote from which his statement above is taken would include: "It may seem odd for me, a military man, to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country's most agile military force- the Marine Corps...And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short I was a racketeer for capitalism..."
"Thus I helped make Mexico...safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras 'right' for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
"During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was awarded with honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We marines operated on three continents."
You can legitimize a "Let's kill Frank and take his house" philosophy by wrapping it in a flag and claiming that Frank was whispering threatening things and nobody liked him anyway- just as long as you never let the public see you wiping your backside with that flag in the corporate outhouse. But, if corporations are supposed to be all about bottom lines, why wasn't the Iraq invasion efficient? It's hard to be sure how many people Al Capone killed in taking over Chicago but it was certainly no where near the 10,000 civilians who died in the taking of Baghdad. Is that an efficient takeover? But, then, the more weaponry expended, the more the stock needs to be replenished and we all know who profits from that, don't we? And who pays for it...
One of Tom Pacheco's finest songs is called "Bluefields" and Bluefields Harbor in Nicaragua was the site of one of Butler's most celebrated "victories." Although Tom's song is about the nonmaterial things that really matter in life and his Bluefields are a dreamed-about escape from the meaningless fixtures of consumer obsession into an imaginary paradise in the Elysian foothills, he is well aware of Butler's Nicaraguan adventure.
In 1909, Nicaragua's Liberal President Jose Santos Zelaya, a nationalist modernizer popular with his people but resistant to international exploitation, was targeted for regime change by U.S. investors and mercenaries under Captain Godfrey Fowler of the Texas National Guard were sent down to equip and train rebel troops. By the time pressures from the Taft administration forced Zelaya to resign in hopes of preserving his nation's sovereignty and he turned the reins over to Jose Madriz, the plotting was past the point of deals and the American guests came to the table with plans to eat the whole pie.
Butler's account, quoted in the introduction to Holly Sklar's book Washington's War on Nicaragua tells us that "Near Bluefields was the property of a large American gold mine, whose stock was owned mainly by Pittsburgh financiers and partly by the then Secretary of State, Philander C. Knox. President Madriz refused to recognize the validity of the gold mining concession and 225 Marines immediately were dispatched to Bluefields to 'protect American lives and property.' I commanded those Marines and in order to be sure that there was an American life to protect in Bluefields I made certain the local consul was on the job. There wasn't another American in miles. The technique of raping this country for American financiers demanded that the revolutionaries have the true cause of patriotism on their side. Consequently, we marines soon developed the puppet revolutionary candidate for President, Juan J. Estrada, into another George Washington..." Works every time, doesn't it? When it was time to advance the invasion, Butler notes: "We sent an American beachcomber on ahead to Rama to be sure there would be another American life to protect and then re-enacted the farce of Bluefields."
Of course "Gold Fever" is an old story, getting longer by the day. One recent gold story which you may have missed- because corporate media sure did and if you bought the hard cover edition of Greg Palast's The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth about Globalization, Corporate Cons and High Finance Fraudsters as I did, you missed it there also- because the publisher suppressed it. But, if you go to Palast's website you can fill yourself in on the details of how a gold mining company took over a mine site in East Africa from poor prospectors with legal claims using the help of company "bulldozers, backed by military police firing weapons, roll(ing) across the goldfield, smashing down worker housing, crushing their mining equipment and filling in their pits. Several thousand miners were chased off the property. But not all of them. About fifty miners were still in their mine shafts, buried alive."
Not good publicity, of course, and it's a fortunate thing that Barrick's Canadian mining company has a Senior Advisor as powerful as George "Poppy" Bush (hmmm, where have I heard that name before?) to help them keep a low press profile. When Bush isn't busy stumping for telecom companies like Global Crossing (which awarded him $13 million in stock for a single address to board members) or lobbying his friend, the President of Argentina, on behalf of the Mirage Casino Corporation or the oil minister of Kuwait on behalf of Chevron, he certainly must provide a few valuable words of advice to Barrick. It couldn't have hurt that in the closing days of his reign as President, as Palast points out, Bush cleared the way for Barrick to "earn" an estimated $10 billion return on American investments which "paid the U.S. Treasury a little under $10,000."
Or, you might consider the life-long interest Poppy Bush has had in "black gold," - that liquid stuff which threatens the health of the present leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and other heads of state who have it pooled under their feet but haven't learned to play corporate footsy with it. You might want to visit websites like igc.org to read reports like "Chevron Kills Protestors in Nigeria" wherein the helicopters of private corporate armies swoop down and... well, see for yourself. Check out reports about "evidence that Mobil helped the Indonesian Army massacre up to 39,000 people" or try the website for Drillbits and Tailings to find out what really behind the "drug war" in Columbia or the use of Shell's private police force to expertly torture anti-corporate activists in other lands. But, remember, if you have your own president in place, it's much more efficient to use the U.S. Armed Forces as your private corporate army. Just keep that flag handy.
The role of oil in the Vietnam adventure was successfully kept at low profile except for a few glitches- like when it emerged, ever so briefly, that the oil companies were paying North Vietnam huge sums not to mess with their equipment or supply routes. Some researchers dug to the roots of the issues, like Professor Peter Dale Scott in his book The War Conspiracy: The Secret Road to the Second Indochina War. But, then, Scott's book was notoriously hard to find. A letter from rare book dealer Thomas Jefferson Davis to a friend of mine who was investigating the suppression of this kind of information at the time noted: "This book is a devastating indictment of the government in the Indochina War. It was always available, even though it never got any real publicity. The interesting thing is that the parent company to Bobbs-Merrill, Howard S. Sams in Indianapolis, has never remaindered this book. They have about 4,500 copies sitting in their Indiana warehouse, but don't seem to want to see them distributed at any price. I have this on excellent authority."
Hmmm... 4,500 copies were more than enough to pass around to every senator, congressman and congressional aide. This is relevant because Scott, in laying out his meticulously gathered evidence, called repeatedly for congressional and senate investigation, citing verse and chapter of precisely where to look for the evidence. His phone calls to Senator William Fulbright's Foreign Relations Committee went unheeded.
"If Senator Fulbright's committee is serious about unearthing the origins and course of US intervention in Indochina," Scott wrote, "it will have to examine the recurring importance of alleged 'intercepts' in provoking escalation in response both to the Tonkin Gulf incidents in 1964, and in Cambodia in 1970. In particular it must examine the recurring pattern of 1964 and 1970, in which covert aggression by Air America and paramilitary forces under SOG [Special Operations Group] and the CIA, which help to provoke a crisis, are followed by intelligence 'intercepts' which falsely indicate enemy offensive actions, and/or provide grounds for open US military retaliation."
As we look through the data amassed by Scott at the time, we note that he is gesturing to 18 offshore oil concessions south of the Mekong delta and westward toward Cambodia: "The US Navy has played a key role in the geological and geophysical exploration of this basin of the South China Sea, in various operations dating back to 1957. The interest of major US oil companies in the offshore development of the entire basin has become evident since about 1963." Quoting from the Journal of Commerce and Forbes, he noted the then current speculation that "the ocean floor off South Vietnam...may contain the richest petroleum deposits in Southeast Asia" and "that the entire Far East could contain oil deposits rivaling those of the Middle East." Scott thought that "It is thus possible that oil prospects help explain why Nixon, after being elected on a pledge to end the war, has since expanded it to include a permanent South Vietnamese occupation of eastern Cambodia."
Scott questions why Nixon didn't share his plans to invade Cambodia with his own congress but instead spoke with his friends in the American Security Council, "a powerful lobby with strong links to Nixon himself, to the US intelligence community, and to the Los Angeles oil and aerospace interests who contributed so much to elect Nixon in 1968." Listing ASC members and including Nixon's former law partner Henry O'Melveny Duque- "who sits on the board of California's Union Bank with two directors each from Union Oil of California (the beneficiaries of the Cambodian coup) and TRW (Thompson-Ramo-Woolridge, a leading defense aerospace contractor). Also working with the ASC are vice-presidents from Atlantic-Richfield, Standard Oil of California, and General Dynamics...", Scott adds that "(t)hese interlocks between the ASC, Nixon, intelligence personnel and Pacific-oriented oil companies could be expanded to fill pages."
Now, certainly, the coincidence theorists will insist that it's simply happenstance that these folks had oil connections and that CIA Director John A. McCone happened to hold a million dollars in Standard Oil of California stock when he was pushing hard for a Cambodian invasion- just as it was coincidental that the large stock put options placed against United Airlines just before September 11, 2001 paid off big for a highly-placed CIA official (see Michael Ruppert's From the Wilderness publication for details of this scam- or copvcia.com on the web) but keep in mind that Union Oil of California (Unocal) planned a pipeline across Afghanistan from the Caspian Sea before negotiations with the Taliban broke down in 2001.
As Professor Michel Chossudovsky maintains in his book War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11: "Unknown to most, the Saudi Company Delta Oil is owned by the bin Mahfouz and Al-Amoudi clans which are known to have ties to bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization. [Boston Herald, 12-10-01- These connections are much more detailed in Chossudovsky's book.] In fact, powerful financier Khalid bin Mahfouz' sister is Osama bin Laden's wife...Ironically, the Unocal-Delta-led consortium was integrated by prominent members of the bin Laden family, who coincidentally had also developed business ties with members of the Republican party, including the Bush family." Cozy. But there's that word again, "coincidentally."
Unocal contracted the Enron Corporation under Kenneth Lay to do the feasibility studies for the pipeline and the negotiations with the Taliban. (I'm sure that this didn't have anything to do with the $43 million that Colin Powell shuffled to the Taliban in May of 2001 but gosh, I do hope that records of these talks didn't get shredded or anything else which might hamper their ability to clear themselves...) Details of the negotiations are the subject of a book by Jean-Charles Brisard & Guillaume Dasquie called Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden. Here we learn that when talks broke down, the Bush administration advised U.S. allies as early as July, 2001 that Afghanistan would be invaded the coming October- a caution which allowed forces, including the Brits of course, to be coincidentally in suitable position on "maneuvers." All that was needed was something like the September 11 attacks to justify the strike.
Now, it would be cynical to think that the Bush administration had anything other than the best interests of the Iraqi people in mind when they removed a thug from power who had started his career as a failed CIA assassin but, despite what the cynics may think, I don't see how the installation of Unocal employees into the power structure of post-invasion Afghanistan and the resumption of the pipeline project could be anything other than coincidence and opportunism, do you? Also, we have to take into account that the authors above are French and every oil-blooded American knows how misguided they can be... And don't give me that 'if it wasn't for Lafayette and the French, there wouldn't be a United States' stuff either... the Statue of Liberty lost her accent a long time ago. What's more important? Liberty or oil? Okay, then let's see you walk home!
General Butler was arrested at Quantico for court-martial following the international waves he made with a speech in Philadelphia on January 19, 1931 which warned about the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler. The impending trial publicity was disturbing Secretary of State Henry Stimson's European negotiations, as Jules Archer outlined; "Crucial to that agreement were preliminary negotiations between Italy and France, which feared Italian and German fascism. Resisting Stimson's pressure to sign an arms limitation agreement with Mussolini, the French cited as justification popular American support of Butler's view that Mussolini could not be trusted and widespread protest over his arrest for saying so." It caused such a row that, to quiet things down, Mussolini himself suggested charges against Butler be dropped. See? What a nice guy! Whatever made the French posture that they know more about fascism than we do?
"People in Europe have in the past disagreed with American policies, as has South America, Argentina, Chile, and been justifiably angry," Tom Pacheco observed recently. "This time I find Europeans are actually afraid. It's not even anger. They're afraid of this administration and whoever's in cahoots with them all over the world."
To consider Pacheco as anything other than a patriot would have to value the symbols of freedom over the realities of it. Although he, like many around the world, question the official version of the September 11 attacks, he was also profoundly effected by them. One of the things he did in the wake of the attacks was to record a song called "World Without America" which he had written some years before for The Band. (Partly because of Levon Helm's battle with throat cancer at the time, it was, unfortunately, never cut by them.) Tom gathered a host of Woodstock all-stars, including John Herald, Happy Traum and a number of others to join him on the track and its limited release garnered considerable attention, including an invitation to sing it on The Larry King Show and other such venues. Realizing how the song could be exploited for the wrong purposes- like drumming up a war fever, Pacheco withdrew it quietly.
As Peter Dale Scott (whose own website is keeping pace with these current events) wrote in War Conspiracy; "In contrast to nineteenth-century flag imperialism, the twentieth-century equivalent is multinational, like the large corporations whose sphere of influence is enlarged, and whose syndicates...have proceeded to divide up the whole of the southern South China Sea for oil exploration."
These forces are still in play and many beguiled American patriots make the mistake of viewing the current chief executive as a "nationalist." In fact, his interests and those of his inside supporters are, by the evidence, globalist in nature. A key part of the globalist strategy is to bring the United States to its economic knees so that international bankers can call the shots as they do in Third World Countries. It's so obvious that only a hypnotically programmed populace can miss its blatant choreography... "The Big Sleep" that Pacheco sings of in "There Was A Time." Hello?
Books like Gore Vidal's Dreaming War, Al Martin's The Conspirators: Secrets of an Iran-Contra Insider, Kristina Borjesson's Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press, Danny Schechter's The More You Watch, The Less You Know, Gerry Spence's From Freedom To Slavery: The Rebirth of Tyranny In Americaand his Give Me Liberty! and even Len Bracken's The Shadow Government: 9-11 and State Terror should be on the reading list of anyone who absorbs more than an hour a week of network news. Among other books relevant to the topic, the best so far is undoubtedly Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed's The War Against Freedom but, despite brisk initial sales, it has suddenly and utterly vanished from all browsers- from Google to Amazon.com, etc.- disappearing as completely as The War Conspiracy did in the 1970s. (David Icke's Alice In Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster: Why the Official Story of 9/11 is a Monumental Lie gets most of the background correct but includes material that no one can take seriously and is conceivably designed to discredit earnest inquiry. Approach with caution.)
There are many websites which provide news you'll not see in major media. You might start with "QuestionsQuestions" or "What Really Happened" and follow the leads... Check out the real history of the Bush family and how they made their fortunes supplying the Nazis during World War II (Poppy's father's firm was shut down by FDR under the Trading With the Enemy Act) and how all that corporate Reichsbank money disappeared after the war until the veterans who had fought fascism died off and memories began to fade. Trace how it re-emerged in the coffers of the multinationals who are now running things. Take a night off from television and search the web while it's still there. Try the tightly researched and free downloadable George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography by Webster G. Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin and sample some of the other information available at websites with credibility measurably better- and at first shockingly so- than many mainstream sites. Since 9-11, millions have discovered this unsettling fact.
Meanwhile, the good-cop, bad-cop dance of the Republicans and Democrats keeps public attention diverted from the international corporate understructure supplying the candidates for both major parties participating in the "democratic" process. The agenda is pushed from both ends by the non-party organizations (like the so-called "Bilderberger" group, etc.) who pre-choose the candidates and, so, we have an illusion of free choice and a President like Clinton who slips in the WTO and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to advance the program while liberals shiver at thoughts of what might have happened under Dole.
The more things change, the more they remain the same... The last straw before the crackdown on counterculture music came after the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song "Ohio" raced up the charts only weeks after the shooting of students protesting Nixon's invasion of Cambodia. Many observers consider that the killings at Kent State and Jackson State had a long term chilling effect on the antiwar movement. It was more than that. It's still more than that.
Many hawks blamed press coverage of the war in Vietnam for the strength of the opposition at home and felt that it should have been "sold" more effectively. Media consolidation has made the press much more controllable than it was that night in the pre-invasion war room described by Leonard Garment, the Counsel to the President who replaced John Dean after Watergate, in his book In Search of Deep Throat... "If Nixon had treated the incursion as a routine military operation," Garment opined, "the domestic reaction to it might not have been so intense. (Before the incursion, Al Haig, then working for Henry Kissinger, gave a briefing to the White House staff, complete with maps and pointers. As he talked, Donald Rumsfeld, then an assistant to the president, piped up, 'Why are we making such a big deal out of this? Why don't we just do it?' But Nixon acted otherwise: Once the invasion had been launched, he announced it in a televised speech to the nation. The demonstrators began demonstrating: the authorities began overreacting. There were killings of students at Kent State and Jackson State universities. Outrage erupted. A nationwide campus shutdown began, and students thus liberated headed to Washington by the busload to continue their demonstrations. They created, briefly, a state of siege in the White House. It is easy to forget, unless you were there, the beleaguered quality of those days, when there were sandbags piled around the While House for protection."
Garment's point, of course, is that Rumsfeld was right. Just do it and damn what anyone else has to say. But Nixon didn't really have a choice. He had expanded the war into the direction of the oil fields and ordered the bombing of another country. He had not informed Congress. It was the foreign press that had informed Congress and the US media had been shamed into a game of catch-up. It was, again, the foreign press which broke the Iran-Contra scandal and the ensuing official investigations assumed their usual roles of damage control and cover-up as the press took their cues from the "authorities." And, so it is today, with the foreign press airing coverage overseas which is now forbidden to Americans.
Robert Parry was one of the best of the Iran-Contra journalists and his book Trick or Treason: The October Surprise Mystery is still among the best treatments of these latter events (his Consortium website still archives updates to the affair) but even he hasn't crossed the invisible line on 9-11. Parry even wrote a book called Fooling America: How Washington Insiders Twist the Truth and Manufacture the Conventional Wisdom which analyzed the "CW- conventional wisdom" pitfall he would fall into himself in the 9-11 aftermath and how it "came to define the boundaries of permissible thinking within the journalistic and government communities of Washington."... Don't ask the really hard questions- don't bring up the "unthinkable." Don't even wonder what on earth Oliver North and his covert crew were doing at the Desert One staging area outside of Tehran during President Carter's ill-fated rescue mission to free the hostages in Iran when North had no official government excuse to be there and good ol' William Casey was still just a coordinator for the Reagan-Bush campaign. How did those helicopters crash again? Just thought I'd ask...
Parry takes us over the ground where "in the early 1980's, the White House quietly established a domestic 'public diplomacy' apparatus to shake the nation out of its post-Vietnam War funk and to create a new pro-interventionist CW. Guided by CIA director William J. Casey and staffed, in part, by CIA propaganda and military psychological-warfare experts, this domestic campaign went to unprecedented lengths to discourage any conflicting views on President Reagan's pet foreign-policy programs. The administration not only applied modern advertising techniques to promote these presidential causes, it constructed a propaganda apparatus which harassed opposition groups, targeted antiwar politicians, punished out-of-step journalists and led whenever necessary." And lied and lied... And they were just getting warmed up...
Even on the ill-circulated book's 1992 back jacket, Parry had pinpointed the nerve of the "new" regime's facade to invite potential readers inside: "He had been Hitler, Mussolini, a monster, a madman, even 'a big fat rat,' but what never sank in to the egotistical Saddam Hussein was that he was only a bit player in a larger drama that surrounded the Persian Gulf crisis. Saddam was the accidental villain and his pathetic country an unfortunate scene on location. The more important strategic war that Saddam stumbled into by invading Kuwait was a long-fought battle for the hearts and minds of the American people. Waged for a decade by the Reagan and Bush administrations, it was a struggle to subdue, once and for all, the Vietnam Syndrome.
"From the earliest days of the Reagan-Bush era, the White House had recognized that the greatest check on its ability to commit American forces abroad was not a foreign enemy. It was heartland America. The Vietnam War- its endless casualties, bitter generational divisions, the cheery public relations which would be exposed as lies- had deeply scarred the country's psyche and America's willingness to dispatch soldiers abroad. Breaking the people of this syndrome, this national reflex to pull away from the flame of foreign conflict, had been at the center of the Reagan-Bush international agenda...
"This long war against the Vietnam Syndrome had made America the target of the same techniques for influencing a population that the CIA historically applies to hostile foreign countries. The drive to throttle the Vietnam Syndrome had even skirted the rules that bar CIA propaganda experts from applying their skills domestically. But the American people know next to nothing about this unprecedented campaign of which they were the targets, this war to purge the legacy of Vietnam from the American psyche. It was a war fought in secret, out of public view, in the Conventional Wisdom trenches of Washington."
You can stare right at conspiracy, if you're a journalist or a politician, but you're not allowed to see it...
As things progressed and the "Vietnam Syndrome" of reluctance to commit to foreign adventure was thoroughly stomped by psych-op specialists working with CNN during the Desert Storm exercise, intelligence operatives disguised as newsfolk were increasingly infiltrated into the media. CIA propaganda specialist Kevin Klose was even installed as head of National Public Radio as psych-op agents found domestic media assignments working programs like Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Is it any wonder that Tom Pacheco returns from Europe and gets the feeling that most people don't seem to know what's really going on?
If at first you don't succeed, use corporate think tanks to influence public opinion, re-educate the young, put your own politicians and media in place and wave that national flag... People don't want to know the truth anyway... As the page turns on the last chapter of history, the title changes from "It Can't Happen Here" to "It Can't Happen Again..." and we hear Dylan's voice in the background croaking out "They all fall there so perfectly,/It all seems so well timed./An' here I sit so patiently/Waiting to find out what price/You have to pay to get out of/Going through all these things twice."
We now return you to regular programming...
In the 13 plus months since he has played in Woodstock, Pacheco's album There Was a Time was released by Appleseed Records to world-wide acclaim. Five star reviews rocketed forth from Melbourne, Australia to Memphis, Tennessee. Sing Out magazine excerpted a track for their quarterly cd release and the glossy music publication Dirty Linen ran a four-page feature on the "Lost American Songwriter" with photographs of Tom with music celebrities Levon Helm and Pete Seeger as well as non-musical notables Phil Donahue and Ralph Nader. The article's author, Paul-Emile Comeau, noted that; "One would be hard-pressed to think of another songwriter who can bring such poetic complexity and consummate musical skill to such a range of subject matter: the disenfranchised and alienated, mysterious strangers and mystical insights, our common humanity and our occasional lapses into inhumanity, perpetrators and victims, simple pleasures and the wonders of nature, idyllic places and their potential dark side."
When some of that subject matter not only strays from the official line but postures it critically, we begin to understand why, as Comeau points out, Pacheco can be writing so many superb songs of "quintessential Americana" and yet "remains practically unknown in his native country." The American traditional of such music, stretching back to colonial times, has never been in greater peril.
It used to be that you could turn on the radio and hear the Youngbloods singing Dino Valenti's song, "Get Together," which urges people to "smile on your brother...try to love one another..." Pacheco arose in a culture which freely permitted such seditious thought. More recently, however, that song and 157 others were blacklisted by Clear Channel Communications, a Texas-based media colossus run by former business associates of the head of the current administration in Washington. You won't hear the latest version of Steve Forbert "Oil Song" on those stations and that's not a bit mysterious but many of the tunes on the forbidden list might be more puzzling... The terrorist anthem "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" by those dastardly evildoers Simon and Garfunkel, for instance, might seem a ponderous inclusion until you think of DeCurtis's qualifications for mythic quality in song- "spirituality, idealism, community, transcendence"- all undesirable traits in targets for subjugation.
Since CCC, home of syndicated shows by Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and other stars of the political right, operates at least 1,225 radio stations nationwide (and, with international partners, hundreds more in Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Europe), most of which were acquired since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act cleared the way for media monsters, this raises the knotty question of a particularly powerful faction effectively blocking the airwaves from the expression of dissenting political opinion.
About the time that fellow in a T-shirt was seized at Crossgates Mall, CCC made national news by banning the Dixie Chicks from airplay after remarks critical of President Bush. Airplay, of course, is a crucial element in a musical career and the company, which is being investigated in Congress for anti-trust business practices, has also been accused of coercing acts to appear in their concert promotions for greatly reduced rates leveraged against airtime. They are also accused with driving up advertising rates in commercial markets they control exclusively. (Digital journalist Eric Boehlert of Microsoft's Salon website wrote an articulate series on the company's objectionable practices without even touching upon their ability to define "patriotism" in most of the commercial radio spectrum as the will to invade other countries).
Of the 40 commercial radio stations in the Kingston listening area at least 24 of them are owned by Clear Channel or Cumulus Media, another corporation, founded in 1998, which banned the Dixie Chicks and, like Clear Channel, sponsored "pro-war" rallies around the country during the pre-invasion Iraqi debate. How likely would it be that a voice singing a song of peace would be slotted into their playlist? (I say "at least 24" because companies like Concord Media Group, which are listed as "independent" in ownership inventories such as the one compiled by the nonpartisan, non-profit Center for Public Integrity but, upon closer inspection, is run by Clear Channel. Also, according to In These Times magazine; "The FCC is weighing evidence submitted last year that Clear Channel illegally 'parks' or 'warehouses' radio stations it's not allowed to own, by selling them to front, or shell, companies...These front companies would allow Clear Channel an easy way to buy back the stations if the FCC were to further reduce ownership limits."
Right now, in this area, you can get most of your "programming" on cable tv but we won't even start getting into the dynamics of the AOL-Time/Warner Cable Monopoly. There's only that one cable line in and pondering that fact could get very nasty if you begin to consider what's going on with the Federal Communications Commission.
Since I have also written extensively about the FCC, its former commissioner and the unspeakable Telecommunications Act of 1996 elsewhere, I will confine myself to one succinct quote from an unsigned web story critical of Clear Channel. None of the facts it mentions are in dispute. It refers to the new FCC Commissioner under the current administration, Michael Powell, who is, coincidentally, the son of General Colin Powell: "One of the first big issues that FCC Commissioner Powell had to face was the largest communications merger in history, the billion dollar AOL-Time Warner nuptials. What the general public was shielded from, thanks to the relationship between politics and corporate broadcasters, was the fact that General Colin Powell was on the Board of Directors of AOL, and subsequently was profiting from millions of dollars of AOL stock options. It was found that General Powell also owned stock in Time Warner prior to the merger. FCC Commissioner Powell did not exclude himself from the FCC approval, citing there was no basis to a 'fuzzy' connection between himself and AOL."
Thankfully, the media did not see fit to embarrass a war hero with such a trifling detail. Or, as one wag put it in the distant past, there are none so blind as those who refuse to see...
There are still some centrist commercial radio stations, particularly in the New England area, which are making it a point to play the songs on CCC's banned list, songs like the one on the back of Stephen Down's T-shirt, "Give Peace A Chance." But it's a safer bet that you'll hear some songs that "say something" other than "our love's a'gonna grow, ooo-wa" by coming to The Colony Saturday night than sitting by your radio...
On the way to the show, you may be wondering: When political opinions are reduced to one media voice in a given market, what happens to the principles of democracy? One might suppose that they'd stand as much chance as Pacheco's song about Julia "Butterfly" Hill's almost mythic fight to save a redwood would stand getting played on Clear Channel. Or, even less likely, the title tune of his new album with lines like; "There was a time when people would stand/And fight for their rights, they'd march hand in hand/Before the big sleep, well planned and designed/Turned lions to sheep, there was a time..."
Irv Yarg is an internationally published observer on cultural and political events who resides in the Hudson Valley area. His analysis of the recent and ongoing musical history of the region will be featured as a part of our coverage of the local scene.