Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

UsefulIdiot

Herr Drumpf has declared China and Russia to be our friends because (the FBI says) they hacked the DNC’s emails (and modified some of them) in order to sow discord in the party’s convention.  While I’m irritated that a handful of emails were ugly they’re not game changers or smoking guns and the DNC has reacted appropriately to smooth things over.  I’m much more concerned with the fact that Putin is purposely interfering with our Presidential election, which is unprecedented in our country’s history to my knowledge.  What’s worse, it appears to be working because our Media, which can’t resist a controversy, is blowing the email story out of proportion and because Herr Drumpf, who relies on Russian oligarchs for money (the same oligarchs that put and help keep Putin in power), is saying that he would essentially abandon our NATO partners to Russia’s encroachment.   Either Herr Drumpf is actively working for Russian interests or he’s their Useful Idiot.  And you know we’re headed for some serious trouble when the best we can hope for is that a Presidential candidate is a Useful Idiot for an expansionist Russian dictator.

 

h/t Ashby at BobCesca.com

There’s nothing I hate more than hypocrisy. Unfortunately, I see it every single day in our news media. Who controls the majority of our news media is primarily to blame and the number of people who control it has been shrinking for decades. In 1983 there were 50 companies who controlled the majority of our news and information and now there are only 6. And when such consolidation happens, it means fewer individuals shape the news and that news will inevitably be shaped by their individual opinions, journalism be damned. Let me give you the perfect example.

Yesterday, I heard that Robert Redford had a new movie out called “Truth” about Rathergate. Some background–You may recall that Rathergate refers to the scandal that ended the long illustrious career of newsman Dan Rather. Two months before the 2004 Presidential election, “60 Minutes” aired a Rather segment critical of President Bush’s service record in the Air National Guard in the early 1970’s based on a set of memos called the “Killian Documents”. The memos turned out to be forgeries and Rather retired, quite unwillingly, a year later. The award-winning producer who broke the Abu Ghraib prison tortures, Mary Mapes, was fired and never worked in the field again. Mary Mapes did write a book, however, and the film is based on that book.

Interested in the movie I viewed the trailer online and saw that the New York Daily News had a review so I read that too. It panned the movie and used it as a platform to excoriate Mapes and Rather, as if the destruction of their careers had not been enough punishment. I would like to think that such a scolding comes from a wellspring of journalistic integrity and a desire to protect the profession. After a little more=e digging, I decided, unfortunately, that’s probably not what is going on here.

The author of the piece is Don Kaplan, TV editor for the NY Daily News, for whom I struggled to find any bio information. However, what I did find is that the paper is owned and run by billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman, a long time supporter of the Democratic party, who also happens to be a big supporter of Israel and Jewish causes. He has been accused by John Mearsheimer, Harvard political science professor, as being part and parcel of the “Israeli Lobby” in the U.S. Zuckerman’s response in the conservative paper, the New York Sun, to that accusation was as follows:

I would just say this: The allegations of this disproportionate influence of the Jewish community remind me of the 92-year-old man sued in a paternity suit. He said he was so proud; he pleaded guilty.

While I won’t speak about Professor Mearsheimer’s accusation as to whether Zuckerman and the Israeli Lobby have an outsized influence on US foreign policy (although I do have an opinion), I think it is fair to say that Zuckerman has a bias towards Israel when it comes to foreign policy. At this point you’re asking, what does this have to do with Rathergate and a journalistic scolding disguised as a movie review? Well I’m getting there, be patient.

In the lead up to the Iraq War one of the biggest and loudest cheerleaders supporting the Bush Administration’s desire to invade was Mortirmer Zuckerman. While the UN was saying we needed more time to investigate whether Saddam actually had WMD, Zuckerman took a very public stance saying that we didn’t need a smoking gun and assured everyone that Hussein was “clearly lying” about having abandoned WMDs. According to Robert Wright of The New York Times , Zuckerman’s writing during the build up to the invasion was “melodramatic, borderline-hysterical” about the imminent threat that Saddam posed to the U.S.

What did Zuckerman and many others base their opinions on, the opinions that shaped the national debate and led us into a disastrous war? Their world-altering opinions were based on information coming out of the White House that was in turn being trumpeted by papers like the NY Daily News and the New York Times, and at the Times specifically by Judith Miller. Indeed, while Judy Miller cooled her heels in jail for Contempt of Court she had visits from her rich and powerful friends in the Israeli Lobby including Mr. Zuckerman. I’m not making an accusation based entirely on association, there is plenty of evidence that Zuckerman’s published opinions were the same as Miller’s and that he knew the same people she used as sources and that they have both attended public and television events to discuss their shared opinions over the years.

Now we get to the meat of matter.  Why was Miller in jail and why is it important to my reasoning here? She was incarcerated for refusing to be questioned by a federal prosecutor regarding her sources during the grand jury investigation into the outing of CIA officer, Valerie Plame. We learned later that her source was actually “Scooter” Libby, Assistant to President George W. Bush. We also know that many of her sources were people who had some history with the administration or were actively in the administration per her own admission in a recent book and in recent interviews.  This demonstrates the types of sources she used in her reporting before the Iraq War that was so instrumental in convincing the people that we were justified in our invasion.

Judith Miller’s defense, which has been repeated by Zuckerman in his continuing justification for the Iraq War, was that they’d successfully relied on those sources before in regards to other stories and felt they were accurate. Miller was part of the NY Times team that won the Pulitizer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for it’s 2001 coverage of global terrorism before and after the 9/11 attacks. She says she used many of the same sources. Relying on a set of experts, who were essentially Administration lackeys and subject matter experts who had worked for and owed their standing to said Administration, for explanatory reporting the birth and growth of Al Qaeda when that group had openly taken responsibility for 9/11 is NOT the same as relying on that same set of people to develop a casus belli

Furthermore, relying on those experts when the information about Al Qaeda could be found elsewhere and easily cross-checked is NOT the same as the run up to the Iraq war when the ONLY intelligence we had was being filtered and massaged by the Administration, essentially a single source. In the debate in the U.K. over whether to join us in Iraq much was made about the fact that the information came from a single source, but not here in the good ‘ol USA.  To our everlasting regret, the media did not cross-check the information–and this includes Zuckerman.

And there WERE other sources to be tapped. What about Joe Wilson and the trip to Niger? Judith didn’t investigate the President’s claim that Saddam tried to buy uranium in Africa or she would have discovered Joe Wilson. What about Richard Clarke? He has said that from the day Bush entered the White House Clarke was warning Condolezza Rice about Al Qaeda but she and the President were already fixated on Saddam. Rice and Bush said that Al Qaeda was just a distraction from Saddam. The CIA repeatedly told them not to ignore Al Qaeda and that Saddam was the real distraction. In fact, they were so certain of the impending 9/11 attacks and so NOT worried about Saddam that they did a couple of telling things. First they asked Joe Wilson, a non-agent, a non-CIA employee and a diplomat, to go to Niger and investigate whether Saddam had bought enriched uranium there. If they felt it was a serious lead, they would have sent a team. Sure enough, the rumor was just that and Wilson reported that fact to the CIA at the time and later as an opinion piece in the NY Times in 2003.  That didn’t stop President Bush from claiming that Saddam tried to purchase uranium in Africa. The second thing they did occurred on July 9, 2001. The CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center staffers were told in a meeting by a senior official that they should resign so that when the Al Qaeda attack occurred they couldn’t be blamed.  Ironically, the Administration did just that. So, it was abundantly clear to the CIA that Al Qaeda was the imminent threat and Saddam was not.

Why didn’t Judith Miller check with any of those other sources? If she could get high level sources in the Administration wanting to go into Iraq, why could she not find people that thought we shouldn’t because there were plenty of those both inside and outside of the Administraton? She had Scooter Libby as a source and he was involved in the outing and/or cover-up of Valerie Plame, wife of Joe Wilson. The CIA and Wilson was practically doing a jig under her nose. Why wouldn’t you try to get both sides of the story because we were talking about going to war–it was too important to get wrong. War is costly and convincing us to go to war based on lies is ethically abhorrent.

And later when the Administration waved around articles by the likes of Zuckerman, Miller, Robert Novak and others  saying ‘see here’s proof, Saddam is an imminent threat’ why didn’t she publicly say something like ‘wait a minute, it doesn’t work like that’. That’s like me reporting as an anonymous source to my local paper that the moon is made out of cheese. They in turn report ‘our sources say the moon is made out of cheese’, and then I take that paper as proof to my friends and family and say, ‘see I told you the moon was made out of cheese’. It was her’s and their obligation as journalists and as citizens of a country about to go to war to get the opposing side of the story and failing that, to stand up and say something when they used their articles as “proof”.

Another defense that Miller, Zuckerman, and others use to excuse their shoddy journalism (and in my opinion, spectacular failure in their civic duty) was to say “but Saddam wanted to hurt us and would have if he was given the opportunity”. That’s some specious bullpucky there. If intention and desire were the criteria by which we establish a case for war we would have to bomb half the world. And while we are still hearing all kinds of excuses and non-apologies from the likes of Miller and Zuckerman (who can forget Miller’s smirking interview with Jon Stewart), what happened in Rathergate?  Rather admitted he made a mistake in judgment and apologized and Mapes, while she didn’t apologize did admit she made mistakes.

So what was the result of the shoddy and agenda-filled reporting in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq? The Iraq War resulted in over 36,000 dead and wounded U.S. soldiers, killed and wounded over 100,000 Iraqi civilians (some claims are as high 600,000) and displaced 5 million more, and we spent $1.7 trillion of the national treasure. What were the consequences of Dan Rather’s story? Dan Rather’s very distinguished and respected career in journalism ended far too soon and Mary Mapes had her professional livelihood destroyed. It had no effect whatsoever on the election. Let me be clear here…I’m not advocating for Redford’s movie, nor justifying what Rather and Mapes did. In both cases they made huge journalistic mistakes, that could have affected (and in one case did affect) the course of our nation.

The point is that Zuckerman and his paper have some kind of nerve to spank Dan Rather and Mary Mapes for not doing their due diligence and failing to verify their sources, when he and many other powerful, influential people printed stories while failing to do the same thing. Moreover, it just goes to show you that as the number of people who control the news and journalism in this country continues to shrink, this kind of hypocrisy will not only continue, it will get worse and will lead this nation into more disastrous decisions.

 

Sources:

http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6

http://www.amazon.com/Truth-Duty-Press-President-Privilege/dp/0312354118
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/robert-redford-truth-article-1.2381935
http://www.amazon.com/Israel-Lobby-U-S-Foreign-Policy/dp/0374531501
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/16/AR2005091601646.html
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451669399/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1451669399&linkCode=as2&tag=bobcescom-20&linkId=2KWKQW7BOE7ZO7Z5
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/06/opinion/what-i-didn-t-find-in-africa.html?pagewanted=all
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/leadup-iraq-war-timeline
http://icasualties.org/iraq/
http://www.conflictandhealth.com/content/2/1/1
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/us-iraq-war-anniversary-idUSBRE92D0PG20130314
http://www.nysun.com/national/kalb-upbraids-harvard-dean-over-israel/29470/
http://www.nysun.com/national/kalb-upbraids-harvard-dean-over-israel/29470/

St. Andrew's Cross, The Scottish Flag

St. Andrew’s Cross, The Scottish Flag

First, I know Scotland is having the big VOTE for independence today and I want to wish them luck.  I know a lot of respected economists are saying it isn’t a good idea BUT my heart says I hope they vote Yes and they can work out the details later.  I seriously doubt that England will shoot itself in the foot by refusing to let them continue to use the British pound for their currency.  If they do, it will be colossally stupid and destabilizing for both countries.  My opinion is definitely colored by my Irish heritage.   Even though Scotland has a longer history of being part of the U.K. than Ireland, it doesn’t change the fact that it originally occurred as a matter of conquest.  I only wish that a united Ireland could do the same.

Second, I’m so very tired of hearing the constant negative press against the President.  It’s like the American media isn’t in touch with reality any more.  They’re just so dead set on being against the Administration (Faux News, I’m looking at you) or they’ve wed themselves to the idea of appearing centrist (even NPR drank the kool aid on this nonsense) that they won’t report what’s really going on.   Here’s what they’re not telling Americans.

Pesky facts about how President Obama has actually improved things in the U.S.

Pesky facts about how President Obama has actually improved things in the U.S.

Do you see the difference in Deficit % of GDP, that’s frigging huge!  And that’s not disputable….it’s a fact.  But try to tell a conservative that the president has reduced the deficit and they will have a hissy fit.  It doesn’t fit into their narrative so it couldn’t possibly be true.  Ht to @BlueNationUnited for the graphic

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;
–William Shakespeare, from Henry V

In my mind, the part that says “sheds his blood with me” should be “sheds his blood for me”. See in modern warfare everyone doesn’t fight in wars–at least not in the U.S. We have the luxury of having standing armies. But that doesn’t relieve us as fellow citizens of our obligations to those who do fight. Apparently U.S. Senate Republicans have forgotten that.

Senate Republicans voted down a VA spending bill.  Only Democratic Senators and two Republicans voted for the bill. The opposed Republicans argued that 1) it’s borrowed money and that’s bad policy, 2) the VA is wasteful so why extend its mission if it’s already failing, and 3) they wanted new sanctions against Iran tagged onto the bill because they couldn’t get it to the floor for debate any other way.

There’s so much there to lambaste….where to start. I’ll try to keep it simple.

1) Borrowed Money BS: The GOP has the nerve to bitch about borrowed money when they supported TWO wars and borrowed money to fund them. Hell they didn’t even budget for them until Pres. Obama came into office and insisted that we put the expense on the books and start paying for them. You, know, to do the grown up thing. Both wars cost us $4 trillion with tens of billions wasted and ended up lining the pockets of big corporations like Halliburton and Xe. You know Halliburton the company that Dick Cheney used to run and Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, who provided soldiers for hire when we ran out of troops.

So now these same guys are now refusing to pass a bill that would take care of the very veterans that fought in those wars because it would cost us $21 billion over 10 years. Now realize this new bill restores pension money that was previously promised to veterans and upon which many military familes were planning on having upon retirement. Congress only recently took a part of their pension away–so they could give it back–they never should have taken it in the first place. The bill also sought to expand benefits like caretaker stipends. You know for all those soldiers so wounded from IED’s that they need constant care while their beleaguered spouses have to now work just to survive. Did you know that the military spent $103 million on food stamps in 2013, which was a 5% increase from the year before, and that the usage of food stamps by military families has quadrupled since 2006? That’s because base pay for a soldier with a wife and one kid is $20,000. That’s nothing in today’s economy.

2) VA failing in its mission: Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) actually said “If the VA is already failing to meet its obligations to veterans, is it wise to extend its mission even further?” Oh, do you mean like we were losing in Iraq and extended what we were told would be a “get in, get out” kind of thing? Like when Pres. Bush declared mission accomplished but the war actually lasted 10 frigging years and the country is still experiencing chaos? The hypocrisy is so thick, you could cut it with a knife.

3) Iran sanctions: Do you hear that loud drum beat? That’s the war hawks in the Republican party pounding the drum for war in Syria and/or Iran. They think if they appear to be “strong” then it will make the President look “weak” in comparison. It’s why we’re seeing so many conservative articles online comparing Pres. Obama and Vladimir Putin and praising Putin for his “direct” approach. It’s a two pronged strategy: make him look weak and deny him any peaceful foreign policy solutions. And voila, we’ll have a very profitable war–profitable for them and their ilk but not so much for our military, our national budget, or well for anyone other than the warmongers and the companies that grease their palms. They are so desperate to deny Pres. Obama any political successes that they want to sabotage the already working negotiations with Iran. So they want to sabotage the peaceful solution we are currently engaged in and willing to risk a boots on the ground war with Iran for the sake of getting over politically on the President. Weren’t these the same assholes who demanded that liberals put country first any time we criticized the previous administration? Yes, yes they are.

The problem here is that Americans aren’t paying attention. They aren’t hearing this hypocrisy, at least for the most part. I certainly hope that military families are seeing and hearing the BS coming from the GOP, because if they don’t, these idiots will be voted back into office at the next midterm elections. Wake up America.

Sources:

http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/gop-dissent-attacks.html

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/370782/value-putin-victor-davis-hanson/page/0/1

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/02/04/3244781/rohrabacher-mccain-graham/

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-soldiers-are-increasingly-relying-on-food-stamps/

http://item.liveleak.com/2/view?i=e4e_1393543001&comments=1

http://www.kcet.org/living/food/food-rant/a-reminder-military-families-use-food-stamps.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/senate-rejects-far-reaching-veterans-affairs-bill/2014/02/27/1d10801c-a001-11e3-b8d8-94577ff66b28_story.html

The Guantanamo Bay detention facility will remain open because Congress says so in the latest Defense spending bill (ht JM Ashby at BobCesca.com).   Our The stupid twats and despicable lawmakers  are saying that the Administration is not allowed to transfer the detainees to American soil for criminal prosecution.  The far left will be blaming the President for not closing it in spite of the fact that he legally can’t do so–actually, they’ve been doing this for years so it will only continue, just in greater volume.  And the right will be crowing about how he has broken yet another campaign promise.

First of all, Congress is afraid that these “baddest of the bad, and worst of the worst” will break out of Federal Max security prisons.  This so dumb it beggars belief.  I’m very familiar with those facilities and their security procedures.  This is not and never will be a concern.  We’ve kept MUCH more dangerous people in those facilities with nary a problem.

Second, the idea that this country accepts the denial of habeas corpus rights to detainees (technically we don’t call them prisoners, which is exactly what they are, war prisoners) so long as they aren’t on our soil is a distinction without a  difference.   Out of sight means out of mind I guess.  In WWII the prisoners were kept in camps right in our cities.  As a child my father used to go talk to Italian war prisoners through a prison camp fence in Charleston, SC.  It makes it much harder to deny these people justice when we don’t have to see their suffering.

Third, the fact that these people are even considered detainees or even war prisoners was and is a colossal mistake.  We should have treated them as criminals, arrested them as such and prosecuted them as such.

Unfortunately, since so many of the detainees rights have been violated and FSM knows how much of the evidence against them has been obtained (i.e., via coercion plus unreliable or secret sources who are unavailable or unable to be present at trial for testimony) the odds of actually getting a conviction in an honest criminal court might be impossible. So all that poisonous fruit will come back to haunt the prosecutors. I blame effing Bush and Co. If they’d handled this properly in the criminal courts to begin with, we wouldn’t be worried about all this kind of crap. I consider myself an expert on our Criminal Justice system (I’m also Queen of the world in my own tiny mind but I digress) and the choice to use military force against Al Qaeda, essentially a criminal enterprise, will go down as one of the worst mistakes in U.S. history. And how often do you see anyone on the teevees or press making this larger and crucial point. We used to be a gold standard in liberty and due process (at least compared with the majority of nations) but not anymore and it’s all because of the idiotic, never ending “war on terror” and the bullshite of renditions and Guantanamo. We STILL haven’t learned the big lesson here and we never will at this rate.

Okay, rant over.