Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Post Acknowledges The Obvious at Last

As I have written before here, the "controversy" about whether we can try terrorists or house them in U.S. prisons is absurd because we have already tried and imprisoned international terrorists in our criminal justice system.

The Post finally acknowledged this in a recent piece explaining that almost three dozen international terrorists are held in federal prison currently (although I wouldn't be surprised if the total number wound up being higher if you included narcoterrorists and persons affiliated with terrorist groups who did not personally engage in terrorist acts on U.S. soil).

The same congressional representatives (including Harry Reid) fretting about housing terrorists in U.S. prisons had no problem trying, convicting and incarcerating folks like the first World Trade Center bombers, Timothy McVeigh and (an in my opinion framed up) Jose Padilla (the cooked up charges of radioactive bomb conspiracy of which he was charged never seeing a day in court, after those charges were dropped).

Well, at least someone at the Post put their thinking cap on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Democrats and Republicans Slowly Go Insane

The Post continues its discussion on how Democrats are incapable of maintaining any promises to their progressive base, in this case illustrating their inability to close Guantanamo Bay and actually try terrorism suspects (like we tried the first World Trade Center bombers). The Post naturally fails to interview any third party progressive voices that would illustrate the insanity of this discussion, instead letting the issue remain an echo chamber between the two corporatist "major" parties, the Democrats and Republicans, both of whom would rather trot out focus group tested cliches than actually attempt to make sense and honor the American jurisprudential tradition.

"We spent hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions on Guantanamo to try these cases," Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) said Sunday on ABC News's "This Week." Webb added, "I do not believe they should be tried in the United States."

Look at this logic: we spent so much money on incarcerating these people without providing them a proper trial, that we can't possibly provide them with a fair trial now. Yet, the Post prints such patently ludicrous nonsense without providing a platform for a contrarian voice that would point out the absurdity in the above comment.

Or how about this priceless attempt at "logic":

Reid said the Senate will make sure that any final plan includes a prohibition on the transfer of detainees to U.S. prisons. "Can't put them in prison unless you release them," he said.

How Orwellian: prison = release. Oh, I get it, if we give them a fair trial, since we can't prove the guilt of most of the detainees, we'd have to release them. What a tragedy for the bloodthirsty lench mob that wants to hold someone, anyone, in jail for something, regardless of guilt or innocence. We've got to be tough on someone, right?

Where is the sanity?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Indefinite Detention, No Trial

The corporatist Wall Street Journal often is given the scoop on police state expansions of power because they will report on such expansions uncritically. The trend continued recently when the Journal reported on rumblings that the Obama administration is considering indefinitely holding detainees (i.e. accused terrorists) without trial. This state of affairs is reported as if it is normal without quoting a civil liberties proponent who would frame such an action as lunacy (the ever-present, usually quoted "administration critic" that is quoted whenever such stories are reported in equally corporatist but more centrist publications like the New York Times or the Washington Post). No corporatist paper, of course, would print an alternative view pointing out prior successful federal court prosecutions of accused terrorists who actually committed violent acts on U.S. soil, such as Timothy McVeigh or the original World Trade Center bombers. If the FBI, federal law enforcement, and U.S. attorneys were able to build successful cases against those perpetrators, why has no one in the corporate press questioned why neither the Bush nor the Obama administration is capable of trying cases against the current crop of alleged terrorists?

Is it possible that the cases against the current crop of detainees is paper-thin and/or based on information gathered through torture (such information being inherently unreliable as people might say *anything* to get the torture to stop)? Since our military-intelligence infrastructure is an extension of global corporatist interest (the ultimate bargaining chip, if you will, to enforce multinational corporate will in any arena, globally), corporatist media is wary of presenting criticism of any utilization of force by the military/intelligence system that has intertwined closer than ever since the start of the Global War on Anyone Opposed to U.S. Expansionism (the new way to demonize anyone who opposes corporate interests anywhere, as past revelations of wiretapping of peace activists and other radicals seems to imply).

Since so many detainees committed no acts of violence against U.S. citizens (or anyone), how far are we away from the "thought crime" scenario in "1984"?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So, Now Obama Will Have Filibuster-Proof Majority in the Senate

So, with the recent party switch of Arlen Spector to the Democratic Party and the projected seating of Al Franken as the Democratic Senator from Minnesota, the Democrats will have 58 seats in the U.S. Senate. Along with the two independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a democratic socialist, and former Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut), both of whom regularly vote parallel to the Democratic caucus on a range of issues, the Democrats essentially now have the 60 votes to prevent a filibuster in the Senate. The filibuster is a procedural tactic that minority parties have historically used when they know they will lose a straight vote on the Senate floor on an issue particularly contentious to their party constituents (or, more likely, the corporate interests to which their party is most indebted). With that magic anti-filibuster number of Democratic and allied senators established, now Obama can be the practical progressive his supporters still believe that he is without fear of Republican obstructionism in the Senate. Let's see what he does with his newfound power.

The only worrying aspect of all this is Joe Lieberman's bordeline insane support of every form of militarism against Arab (and Persian) nations in the Middle East, which means that he may choose to caucus with the Republicans to filibusters attempts to prevent further killing of brown people in that region, even when the initial auspices for doing so are specious, to say the least (lies about non-existent weapons) or start new conflicts based on unsubstantiated allegations that nation-states would (against every proliferation pattern in modern military history*) supply a rogue agent with a nuclear device (as neo-cons allege nonsensically about Iran).

Cross your fingers for sanity.

* No country in the nuclear age has provided nuclear technology to anything other than a fellow nation-state, so why would someone seriously believe the Iranians would give one away to a proxy agent they have no real control over? Who would they give it to, Hezbollah? The Israelis would rain nukes on them in response to any nuclear attack on their soil. I wish people in the corporate media would ask questions that showed any type of understanding of military history, proliferation as regard proxy armies, etc. For example, Reagan didn't give the Contras nuclear submarines (LOL). Nation-states *never* give their most potent weaponry to proxy armies (they sensibly keep them for their own militaries).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Absurdity of the Afghanistan Policy

By now, millions of people have seen the footage of individuals allegedly affiliated with the Taliban flogging a young woman, allegedly for exiting a home of a man who was not her husband. Violence of this type is naturally abhorred, but what about the violence inherent in war? Why is there no video of what U.S. forces are doing in Afghanistan and (illegally) in Northwest Pakistan? There is no military solution to abuse against women. You don't call in the Marines to improve gender relations. Imagine if domestic disturbance calls in the U.S. resulted in a military response, where black clad Special Forces invaded a home with flash-bang grenades and M-16s? The thought is it is absurd, so why are people implicitly using this instance of assault to justify the wholesale military occupation of an entire country? Why did people regularly ask about President Bush's exit strategy in Iraq (he had none), yet no one asks about President Obama's exit strategy in Afghanistan (he has none)? Both military adventures burn billions of dollars to no recognizable end. One cannot kill one's way out of political extremism; violence only begets more political extremists, because it shows by example the use of violence for political ends.

When will people realize that war is almost never the answer, in 99.9% of most scenarios, war only serves to enrich a few who sell weapons systems and military paraphernalia? So sad to see the same con game played on generation after generation, yet the deeper questions never receive media attention: what is the purpose of this and how can violence create peace?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Obama Convinces Russians to Reduce Nukes/What YOU Can Do

This is excellent news. President Obama and Russian President Medvedev met and agreed that we need to reduce our mutual warhead numbers below the level agreed upon in 2002 (possibly even lower than 1700, which is still enough to incinerate the human population many times over, unfortunately). This is a great step, since in the current economy, neither country can afford to maintain its current number of warheads, anyway, nor does our current level of warheads serve any national security purpose (since even 10% of 1700 warheads is enough to pretty much wipe out humanity).


(from the article)

"Obama also pledged to work for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate rejected in 1999. Senate aides said Wednesday that trying to bring the treaty to a vote probably would take time, and they predicted that it does not currently have enough votes to pass."

PLEASE LOBBY YOUR SENATORS TO SUPPORT OBAMA BY RATIFYING THE COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY. Contact information to email or call your Senator can be found at in the upper right hand corner (the "find your senator" search box). As much as it probably pleases the arms industry for us to randomly detonate nuclear weapons in superfluous tests (so we have to buy more to replace the ones detonated), this does not serve the interest of the U.S. taxpayer in an era of ballooning deficits and financial crisis. Further, and of equal importance, tests will invariably have a negative environmental impact, so the fewer there are, the better. I'm not sure if there is some worst case scenario where a test procedure could mistakenly be viewed as aggressive, but even a miniscule possibility of this should be reduced as much as possible (the fewer tests that occur, the less likely this is, if it is likely at all) (although traditional missile tests are more likely to cause such a misunderstanding than what I imagine would be underground detonations that are probably standard for nuclear testing).


Monday, March 30, 2009

The Celebration Is Over

Two months after the inauguration, people still send me pictures of obama and the first family smiling and looking all cutesy. Apparently no one got the memo. The celebration is over.

It's time for work.

Romantic sentiment about obama is over for me. the troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. not one soldier has come home as near as I can tell and he hasn't event given banks hundreds of billions of dollars while befgrudgingly giving the auto industry a few billion even though that industry employs working people throughout the midwest (and allowed a lot of working people to break into the middle class and make a better life for their kids). He has refused to attend the U.N. Conference against Racism in South Africa because he doesn't want to discuss reparations or Zionism (discuss, not act on...he doesn't even want to debate the
issue). If he disagrees with people's positions on Zionism or reparations, why can't he send a State Department envoy to represent his administration's position on those matters?

I don't want to see any more pretty smiling pictures. I want the change that was promised.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fox News Attempts to Distract From Post Controversy

Those clever lads at Fox News (TV arm of the Newscorp hydra) have found yet another way to distract attention from the latest scandal at Newscorp owned New York Post, this time by insisting that civil rights leaders boycott alleged domestic abuser Chris Brown instead of the Post in a recently published opinion piece. Of course, there is no disclaimer accompanying the piece that explains that Fox News and the New York Post share the same parent company, because that would display the type of traditional journalistic ethics for which Newscorp, as a company, has never been known. Even a post-piece disclaimer would have been appropriate. The piece author does not note Fox News' failure to cover domestic violence in any measurable capacity, for that would be to bite the hand that publishes. Sigh.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New York Times Still Refuses To Question Illegal Action

The New York Times continues its running failure to contextualize illegal U.S. military aggression in foreign countries as a violation of international law, in this case referring to a bombing campaign inside Pakistan's borders as a breach of sovereignty. Of course performing covert bombing raids inside a foreign country is a breach of sovereignty, but absent UN Security Council resolutions authorizing such acts, they are also flagrantly illegal under the UN Charter, to which we are a signatory*.

Neglecting to place U.S. military acts within an international law context are only the beginnings of the failure of the Times to report on matters involving U.S. intervention, there is a routine failure to attempt to objectively measure claims regarding anti-American sentiment. In the same article, the Times reports (without attributing a named source) on the presence of an "increasingly powerful anti-American segment of the Pakistani population". The Times also more crucially fails to attempt to substantiate this claim with any objective means of measuring the size of this "segment" or to measure whether its size was actually, in fact, "increasing", say, with polling data, as they would when making any similar claim about sentiments of the U.S. population on any given issue.

It is somewhat of a tradition to report a rise in anti-American sentiment whenever U.S. military or paramilitary (C.I.A., etc) forces engage in actions that kill civilians, but the continuous failure to back such claims with actual statistical evidence or any real evidence at all is a stunning failure in journalism. Can world politics be reported on accurately when U.S. journalists report on the unsubstantiated hunches of unnamed officials about what any given set of untold millions of people in foreign nations may be thinking?

There are numerous polling companies engaging regularly in measuring the attitudes of populations in a variety of countries, including Pakistan. It's a shame that reporters don't dig deeper to find objective data to back their reporting on these sensitive issues.

* Students of history may recall Nixon's illegal "secret bombing campaign" in Cambodia. Although civilian casualties and U.S. military casualties in the Afghanistan/Pakistan military aggression are distinctly lower than the Vietnam/Cambodia military incursion by U.S. forces, several observers are beginning to make parallels.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bank Bonuses Unquestioned In Corporate Media

President Obama, following the lead of Senator Claire Maskill of Minnesota (who perhaps introduced the idea to provide political cover for her ally?) recently decided to propose that executives at banks who accept TARP funds should have their compensation capped at $500,000 a year

This corporate media account of course neglects to put much emphasis other than a clause at the end of a 43 word sentence:

Under Obama's plan, any executive of a company accepting federal aid will be able to increase their $500,000 basic pay through the award of shares but they will not be able to cash these in until all taxpayer funds have been paid back.

The fine print at the end of this long-winded piece of prose is that executives can accept stock-based bonuses that they cannot cash in after TARP funds are repaid, i.e. after those stocks are worth much, much more than they are currently, which is not much of a "cap". And it still allows for performance bonuses for people whose "performance" has sunk the world into a global financial crisis.

Bank representatives have wisely been quiet on this issue, but corporate media sources have frequently quoted financial experts about the alleged threat that capping bonuses presents, alleging that capped execs may leave the country in protest to work for foreign banks. Few voices are presented to illustrate the ludicrousness of this claim (as prior attempts to limit executive pay or even generally increase taxation on the wealthy have almost never resulted in any significant exodus). This is customary when an official source is quoted from the corporate elite, as heads of corporations and individuals critical of corporate power are almost never treated equally (or given anything close to equal time) in the corporate media.

Of the few critical voices given room to speak on this issue in the corporate media, former JP Morgan investment banker and author William Cohan discredits the criticism that bonuses will lead to "banker flight" the best:

“There’s this fallacy that everybody will leave” if bonuses are restricted, said William Cohan, a former investment banker at Lazard Ltd. and JPMorgan and author of “The Last Tycoons” about Lazard. “What do they do? They push paper around. Where else can you get paid $500,000 to do that?”

Notably, autoworkers were not given the same amount of airtime and inches of newsprint to question whether their benefits should have been limited under the auto bailout terms that much richer (and much more incompetent) banking executives are given to vent about their bonuses being capped at a "mere" 1000% of the median salary of the average American worker.

Any critic of the banking industry might have been quick to note that (1) beggars can't be choosers and if banks want taxpayer funds, they have to accept pre-conditions just like they would from any other massive equity investor (2) executives whose pay is capped still have the benefit of a wide range of performance bonuses (even though their performance so far has led to a global banking crisis and thereby their performance barely justifies their base salary, let alone a bonus) and (3) due to layoffs throughout the banking industry globally, executives whose pay is capped have nowhere else to go. The third point is key. Arguing that caps on salary will prevent Bank of America from tapping quality banking talent is erroneous on its face because layoffs have resulted in a massive pool of very talented, currently unemployed people in the banking industry.

Ken Lewis, who runs Bank of America, received $20m in 2007. BoA needed federal aid after its takeover of Merrill Lynch.

Considering that B of A bought Merrill Lynch for pennies on the dollars and will write down any bad assets they have, it's hysterical to assert that Bank of America needs financial assistance *and* must pay its top executives millions of dollars. If these top executives had made smart business decisions worthy of earning the bonuses they are taking home, their company's profitability would have been high enough to absorb the underpriced Merrill Lynch purchase without missing a step. As is, B of A is loaded down with its own share of bad debt and absorbing Merrill only exasperates the problem, thanks to poor judgment by the same Bank of America execs asserting their right to earn performance bonuses. Rewarding ineptitude is the *opposite* of how the free market is supposed to operate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Obama Wants To Give Away $350 Billion To Banks

And newspapers continue to call this giveaway a "bailout".

The media is running with the "Hey, hes better than Bush" angle to explain how *this* $350 billion will be better used than the first $350 billion, which was never used to buy troubled assets as Paulson insisted must happen or the whole sky would fall. No one in the media has questioned why Paulson's dire prediction about the downfall of the global banking industry (that he said would occur if no troubled assets were bought) never came to pass. No media account I have uncovered has questioned why the banks were given $350 billion in exchange for non-voting stock and said banks seemingly didn't use any of that $350 billion to lessen the credit crunch by, say, lending it to folks who wanted credit at a decent interest rate. If that did that, of course, that would end the "credit crunch" crisis that banks have created because...surprise...they are the ones who control the terms regarding how credit is issued.

Picture this.

Bank A, B and C issue loans to borrowers who cannot truly afford their mortgages (both subprime lenders and lenders whose loans are based on minimal, inconclusive or even fraudulent documentation regarding their ability to pay said loans for the life of the mortgage)

Bank A, B and C then re-package said loans and sell them amongst themselves

Real estate market implodes, houses are worth less than the amount borrowed to purchase them, ARMs start re-setting, and generally speaking, reality sets in.

Banks panic and say they are sitting on troubled assets, after they started the trouble by issuing loans they never should have issued and purchasing mortgage securities that they sold amongst themselves in a huge Ponzi scheme.

Treasury Secretary Paulson insists that the federal government are the only ones who can buy these troubled assets (replace "can" with "will" and I agree).

The House of Representatives gets screamed on by its constituents and initially refuses to pass the bailout bill

The stock market collapses because the elites can always sell off a bunch of stock and create a short term drop in the Dow

Constituents get shaken up and convince the House of Reps to pass the giveaway bill. The Senate, filled to the brim with multi-millionaires, is already on board

Paulson gets the first $250 billion.

Bush next authorizes the release of the next $100 billion

Most of it is used to buy non-voting stock in "ailing" banks, NOT to buy troubled assets

The sky does not fall.

Bush then asks for the $350 billion

The general electorate in America screams "You're nuts"

The Bush gang says "Hey, Congress, let that extra $350 billion go, so Obama can spend it, he seems trustworthy"


Here is where the cult of personality goes off the rails. Obama can read a cue card awfully well and he seems like a swell guy, but that has nothing to do with the banks "needing" this $350 billion giveaway for a bank-created emergency.

I'm against it.

I'm against Bush getting it and I'm against Obama getting it.

Come on, America. Don't let this stand.

And are there any honest journalists left willing to risk their career to fight this?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Newspaper Coverage of Melee Trite and Predictable

I love how standardized media coverage of any race-related melee has become.

After the unprovoked shooting of unarmed citizen Oscar Grant by a BART police officer on a Bay Area Rapid Transit subway platform led to no serious investigatory progress in six days, a few dozen people at a protest became frustrated and decided to randomly misdirect their anger by smashing cars and storefronts.

Nothing new there, but look at the standard racialized potrayal by the San Francisco Chronicle, which decided to point out that some of the vandalized businesses were black-owned. Post-April 29, 1992 (if not back to racial uprisings in the 60s), it has been standard practice for media outlets to mindlessly point out the racial background of the owners of any businesses that are burned, in any uprising in reaction to the murder of a black person. Why? Does this imply that if the business was owned by a non-black person that such burning was somehow more justified? Or that black business owners are exempt from the rage of the dispossessed? The key word, of course, being "dispossessed". The way the media routinely presents these matters as if all black people should feel a sense of ownership in any black-owned business is simplistic and patronizing (as it is routinely presented alongside the oft-repeated admonishment about the error of "rioting blacks destroying their *own* community", presuming that rioters even share a sense of ownership in communities where people are disproportionately renters instead of owners and are disproportionately transient or even that black business owners and rioters of any race even live in the same community; many business owners who operate stores in urban areas chose to live in the suburbs).

As long as discussions of race in the mass media remain trite and shallow, we will never make much progress in this field.

Post Blithely Reports Inauguration Police State

You would think a story about the shutting off every commuter point of entry into a major city would be worthy of including a critical voice, right?

Not in The Post, where a series have stories appeared regarding the police state tactics being adopted for the "security" of the inauguration, including the closing of metro stations near the inauguration, the closing of metro parking lots at stations outside the beltway that might be used by commuters (a plan later jettisoned because the wild guessing about the number of charter buses needing metro parking turned out to be wildly inflated) and the decision to close 395 and 66, two major highways leading into the city , an option discussed even before the bridge closure decision was made.

Note the quote from that last article linked above, that these security plans will "secur[e] the largest area of the nation's capital for any inauguration".

All this "security" for an incoming president with a personal approval rating in the high 70's? You would think that Cheney had been elected.

A bit ironic that now that throngs of black people are expected to come into Washington to view the swearing-in of the first black President, that there needs to be a massive shutdown of virtually every common-sense way to enter the city via vehicle.

So when people flood the residential streets through which they can still enter the streets via Maryland, can we expect the entire city to be gridlocked? Oh, the brilliance of planning in the absence of media critical analysis.