Archive for the ‘Foreign Terrorism’ Category

I heard a story on NPR yesterday about a recent Bloomberg poll that asked:

Do you support banning Muslims from the United States for a while?

65% of Republican voters said yes and a surprising 18% of Democratic voters said yes.  They did not interview any Independents so it’s safe to assume that more than 37% of American likely voters support what is essentially an unconstitutional and unethical policy.  If that doesn’t worry you maybe their answer to the follow-up question should.  They asked a second question that states it even more clearly…something like “even if it’s unconstitutional and goes against everything that America stands for and it makes us less safe” do you still support it and they STILL answered yes.

They then talked to a focus group of Trump supporters.  Most of them were college educated (so claiming their ignorant isn’t an answer to this conundrum). When asked why they supported the ban it was VERY clear there were two main reasons:  1) fear and 2) spite. The spite is something many online have speculated about.  Essentially they think Trump challenges the status quo and the “elites”, which they define as the media.  They believe the media elites are looking down on them (and they are and rightly so) calling them bigots.  Well if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…But instead of shaming them, it only makes them madder and makes them support Trump more.  So that’s why we’re seeing his numbers go higher every time he says something awful–so the online and media speculation was correct.

What it all boils down to is these two important points.  First, they are SO afraid of more terrorist attacks that they will trade long term safety (and scoff at rational policy as presented by Pres. Obama and any Democratic nominee) for short term safety (as offerred by Trump).  I.e., they know it’s wrong they just don’t give a f*ck.  Second, the left and the Media telling them it is wrong, makes them so angry that they are willing to cut their nose off to spite their face.  It’s like telling your 4 year old, ‘if you do that one more time I’m going to spank you’ so, of course, they do the forbidden thing out of defiance.

When you really understand the dynamic here and you look at how many Americans probably feel this way, it is incredibly disturbing.  Maybe we should be concerned about the Democratic Party’s nominees chances in the general election.  Fear is contagious and so is anger.  These two emotions have been the main impetus behind some pretty ugly things in our history like the Internment of the Japanese during WWII.   This could be another one of those defining moments.  Unfortunately this decision will most likely be made by people with the mentality of 4 year olds.

Advertisements

The U.S. Senate has once again decided it’s A-OK to let terrorists buy guns legally in the U.S.  Yes, you read that right.    You can be on the FBI’s Terror watchlist and buy a gun in the U.S.  You can also be batshit crazy and/or have a history of harrassing and attacking women’s health clinics.  Or you can be anybody, like a man with a history of domestic violence, and just show up to a gun show–no background check required!

There have been 351 Mass Shootings in the first 334 days of 2015.  Note that doesn’t include individual shootings–just “mass” shootings.   And all we’re getting from our leaders is “thoughts and prayers”.  I’m not saying don’t pray.  That’s your right to do so.  It probably makes you feel better, but it doesn’t actually DO anything to address the gun violence in this country.  A true Christian demonstrates faith through deeds.  Words are not enough (Christ specifically said it wasn’t enough to simply profess faith but one must engage in good works).

So while everyone is running scared of Muslims right now, please note that white extremists (domestic terrorists, our fellow citizens) have killed twice as many Americans as Jihadists since 9/11.  Twice as many.  But the right will demonize Muslims because “fear of the Other” is such great motivator for voting.  But it’s not the Mooslims you need to fear…it’s the white guy sitting next to you.  And for those of you who want to argue this, you can’t.    FBI stats don’t lie.  It is true for every type of violent crime–rape (twice as likely), assault, robbery, murder (4.6 times as likely), gange violence (53.3%) etc, etc.  If you’re white, the odds of your attacker being white is significantly higher than being attacked by someone of a different color and/or religion.  But white folks don’t see that because our white dominated media focuses so much on crime by other races against whites.  It makes sense that Americans don’t think this is the case.  It’s totally screwed up but that’s the reality.

So America will continue to believe and fear that brown and black people and particularly those with a different religion are the real problem.   The innocent will continue to die and the grand experiment of our democracy will go out with a whimper drowned out by the cacophony of prayers by disingenuous and detached politicians and the rat-a-tat-tat of automatic machine guns.

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/

Some quickies for you:

  • Dinesh D’Souza, asshat extraordinaire, is a big whiny child.  Those evil prosecutors are doing their job and trying to put him in prison.  How dare they?!  He’ll get probation and we’ll probably still have to see his idiocy on Bill Maher.
  • Conservatives are freaking out because the President saluted with a coffee cup in his hand.  I would rather have a latte in the middle of my salute than a Scottish Terrier.  And never mind about the real problems this country has because the paranoid, desperate, white, male base eats up this shit up.
  • Can I just say how much I admire Gabby Giffords?  She is absolutely amazing to have come back from that horrible tragedy in Tucson AND launch a PAC to fight against NRA extremism.  What’s even better?  It’s working.
  • If I hear one more liberal complain that the President isn’t liberal enough, is ineffectual and that Congress sucks, I’m going to go nuclear and remind them that it’s probably because they didn’t vote in the f*%!ing 2010 mid-terms.  Here’s just one very good example of how that has hurt and will continue to hurt us for years to come.
  • How effed up is that Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, gave a speech to the U.N. on feminism and as a result was threatened with sexual violence and having nude photos of her posted online. This kind of terrorizing online is getting worse, not better.  I don’t know the solution but I really feel for any woman who is harrassed and terrorized because she speaks her mind on the Intertoobs.
  • Love the fact that big tech companies are divesting themselves of ALEC.  If you don’t know who they are, they’re what’s wrong with America.  A group of corporate representatives and conservatives who draft “model” legislation that they then push using vast resources in multiple states.  Their laws which include gems like SB1070, Stand your Ground,  Voter ID, and many more are nightmares and they’re making headway in many state legislatures because people aren’t paying attention to what’s happening on the state level. They’re too busy hating the President (see “Coffeegate” above and Congress (lowest approval ratings ever) on the national level and worrying about things that aren’t immediate threats (Ebola, Isis, etc).
  • And speaking of ISIS, don’t you just love that we’ve gone to war and there was absolutely no debate in Congress?!  They’d rather have yet another vote on appealing Obamacare.  Never mind that the rising cost of healthcare has actually slowed down as a direct result of the law, which was one of the main points of it in the first damn place.  Who needs facts….right?

I’d better stop while I’m ahead.  Methinks I’m getting my mojo for political blogging back and it’s about damn time!

If one were only paying attention to Faux News and Congress, one would think that Benghazi was and is a scandal of monumental proportions without precedence of any kind.  So much so that many Republicans routinely say they will use it as evidence for impeachment.  They also use it as a wonderful distraction from things that remain unresolved such as our plan to drop bombs on ISIS, Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, Immigration Reform, and our slow moving economy.  Not that it isn’t important–it is and the causes that lead to the breakdown in security at our Benghazi Consulate have since been corrected.

What is most important about Benghazi is how Republicans are using it as a political football by saying it is unique and something that should be laid exclusively at President Obama’s feet.  In reality there have been no less than thirteen, yes I said 13, previous attacks on U.S. Consulates, Embassies and their associated staff and troops abroad during the Bush Presidency from 2002 until 2008 before President Obama was elected.  Bob Cesca over The Daily Banner  has the complete list.  If we want to go further back, there are plenty more.  I distinctly remember the bombing of our marine barracks in Beirut back in 1983 under yet another Republican president, good ol Ronnie Raygun.

When those incidents occurred what did we hear?  Did we see Dems attacking those Presidents?  Or did we see everyone understand that those are dangerous jobs in dangerous places doing important work for our country?   There were no calls for impeachment, no endless investigations that failed to find anything, no scandals, nothing.  Because shit happens overseas in dangerous regions.  But the fact that there’s nothing there to find with Benghazi doesn’t matter to Republicans.  They keep beating that dead horse (just like they did with ACORN).

The GOP propaganda machine has realized that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.   And it doesn’t hurt that the majority of the news media in the U.S. is owned by a very small group of rich conservative white males and their monopolistic corporations. Fortunately for Americans (and my sanity) they can’t change history or hide reality so long as liberal bloggers like Bob, media watchdogs like Media Matters, and individual bloggers like myself keep up the good fight.  So here’s your daily dose of truth–Benghazi was tragic and has been appropriately addressed.  The rate of these kinds of attacks have actually been less under President Obama.  It was not unique or evidence of wrongdoing constituting impeachable offenses.  If it were, then all thirteen of the attacks Bob listed would have been as well.

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.