Friday, August 22, 2008

A stunning double standard

Robert Parry succinctly summarizes the problem with double standards by which U.S. media and political elites see fit to condemn Russia while having raised nary a discouraging word over the U.S. invasion of Iraq (Iraq, Panama, Grenada, etc, etc)

While major U.S. news outlets may be comfortable wearing blinders that let them see only wrongdoing by others, the rest of the world views the outrage from Bush and the neocons over Russia as a stunning double standard.

This larger problem is that the Bush administration – along with its neocon allies and many establishment Democrats – have lost any credibility with the world community when it comes to invoking international law.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

They Burrowed Gore with idiotic memes

Harper's Magazine has a stunning interview of Chris Lehmann, senior editor of Congressional Quarterly. Ken Silverman asks six questions about media coverage of the current election campaign.

Asked of the media's "feverish speculation" about vice presidents, Lehmann responds with a condemnation and a telling analogy:

The reporters and editors who are composing these inane pieces are pretty much talking to each other ... Imagine if you were covering the baseball playoffs and you wrote that there was massive speculation about who was going to win. It’s manifestly moronic because you’re writing about a scheduled event that is going to take place on a known timeline. You’re contributing nothing. It’s the opposite of news; any useful public information is entirely missing. But that’s the way the press bubble operates. Not only do reporters write about what they’re talking about, but they’re writing about each other.

Asked about expected "bounces" Lehmann notes an unconstitutional aspect of a recent bounce event

... It’s the same thing with all the discussion about who won the Saddleback debate. The only important issue about Saddleback is that the Constitution specifically forbids any religious test for office, so why are you having an evangelical minister asking the two candidates about their relationship to Christ? ...

Asked about the intensity of the media coverage, Lehmann says

... Market share dictates the witless coverage, which is largely for the media’s own amusement. You see that all the time on the Sunday political chat shows, which are always about the polls and who is performing better in strategic terms. The only constituency that cares about that is the media.

When questioned about the current relevance of the coverage:

... The reason so much political coverage on cable is crap is that there is an effort to portray the campaign as this floating spectacle; it’s devoid of public interest. Not to be too conspiratorial, but there is an economic interest at stake because you want people to come back and watch the same drivel the next day ... That’s why the VP speculation is so perfect for cable; you can fill up all that airtime without any reporting. There are studies of the content of cable news that show that something shy of 10 percent of the coverage is original reporting.

While answering questions about narratives (the novelization of political "reporting") becoming self-fulfilling prophecies Lehmann proffers an answer that will surely come to the attention of Bob Somersby and the erstwhile staff of The Daily Howler:

It’s not a stretch to say that the media largely defeated Al Gore. They burrowed in with these idiotic memes about him being uncomfortable in his own skin and about his claiming to have invented the Internet and Naomi Wolf advising him on how to be a he-man. Most of it wasn’t even true, but that didn’t matter because the press is so invested in its own narrative that it all becomes self-fulfilling; these things are repeated like mantras. In the same way, it never seems to matter that John McCain is the wealthier candidate and represents economic interests that are in many ways aristocratic; it’s always Barack Obama who is the “elitist.”

Be still my heart. A truth teller. I don't look to see him working for the Washington Post, the New York Times, cable news, or any of the stalking heads chattering classless shows EVER.

Of course, he did not name names - MoDo would be atop any such list fo' sho'.

Nike was generous enough

Mother Jones reports on a technological introduction that takes some of the luster off the seemingly never ending string of world speed records set by Michael Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in perspective:

Since [the wetsuit-style Speedo LZR Racer (here's a pic)] was introduced in February of 2008, more than 50 world records have been broken by athletes wearing it.

Talk about planned obsolescence:

the suits (which cost around $600 each) must be thrown out after an athlete has used them 10 times

And just like big pharma - the suit making companies happily issued the first few samples for free (it's all about patriotism, you see)

In the US, Nike was generous enough to allow the athletes it sponsored to wear the suits gratis.

Not entirely sure where generosity ends and an impressive marketing campaign begins.

Update I:

From the Mother Jones article, I had gotten the impression that Nike made the suits. Wrong. Speedo makes the suits. Although, IN THE US, advantage to Nike-sponsored athletes who didn't have to pay for the suits.

The Daily Telegraph U.K. has more information:

The suit ... was created by Aqualab, the research and development arm of Speedo which is owned by Britain's Pentland Group Plc.

Jason Rance, the worldwide head of Aqualab, said that while the suit was tested in a NASA wind-tunnel the physics behind the design emanated from the research departments of Nottingham University.

"We worked closely with Dr Herve Morvan of Nottingham University on the computational fluid dynamics," he said, "as well as with ANSYS, a Sheffield-based company who provided computer software used in the design."

The manufacturers claim the suit, which took four years to design and has 'ultrasonically welded' seams instead of traditional stitching, improves performance in three key ways.

It reduces drag by being made from super smooth material; physically compresses the swimmer's body to make them more aqua-dynamic and acts like a corset around the swimmer's stomach to help them maintain the correct body position when they are getting tired in the dying stages of a race.

To create a level playing field for all the swimmers in Beijing, whether from rich or poor federations, the company is forced by FINA, the sports governing body, to make the suits available to every athlete at the Games who wanted one.

As a result Speedo brought more than 3,000 suits to the Games and have seen queues of more than 100 swimmers at a time waiting to be fitted out.

LA Times reports that Phelps had four corporate sponsors who gained "face time" at the olympics:

Joyce Julius calculates that Phelps' corporate partners have combined for six minutes of exposure during prime time. The company estimates the value of on-screen time by calculating the cost of commercial spots running during NBC's broadcasts.

Phelps' races are won by cutting down on the number of seconds spent in the pool, but sponsors obviously win when the seconds mount up.

Nike's winning time through Tuesday night was 3:33 -- the minutes and seconds that Phelps wore his warm-up jacket with the Nike logo. Joyce Julius set the value to Nike at $5.3 million.

The Speedo logos on Phelps’ warm-up jacket, swim cap and bodysuit currently are in second place with 2:24 of airtime valued at $3.6 million. The remaining time was shared by Adidas and Visa.

Imaginary conversations & malicious projections sullying the oasis of measured reflection

I am not alone in my disgust for MoDo's tripe. James Wolcott offers a suggestion for disengaging the harpie from NYT's op-ed pages. I remember Steve Gilliard paying Wolcott's writing VERY high praise. The paragraph which follows is as good as literary wit, criticism, insight, and irony get:

Far from the Madding Dowd

If only Maureen Dowd could fulfill her heart's delight and tour the country in a dinner theater production of His Girl Friday, playing the Rosalind Russell role with a phone to her ear opposite beefcake emeritus Lyle Waggoner. Anything to get her off the op-ed page of the Times, where her imaginary conversations and malicious projections sully the crystal waters of insight and reason, the oasis of measured reflection, into which William Safire, John Tierney, A. M. Rosenthal, William Kristol, Ann Althouse, and other intellectual nobilities have peed. How can she poison what they've already polluted? By giving each column that extra special dash of dementia.

An apology to reptiles

The LegalSchnauzer blog fascinates me. Its author has taken a number of very hard knocks, loss of job, potential foreclosure of home, among other matters, in an ongoing effort to point out how things appear rotten in the State of Alabama. Perhaps the syzygy of such events is coincidental? Doubtful. One plausible explanation:

Even political big dogs get worried, and more than a little agitated, when a blogger is exposing them, or their brethren, as corrupt reptiles. (An apology to reptiles; they don't deserve to be compared with the lowlifes at the heart of Legal Schnauzer.)

On this day

Some of the underdogs fought back:


Pueblo Indians drove out the Spanish and took possession of Santa Fe, N.M.


Nat Turner led an insurrection of slaves in Virginia.


Latvia declared its independence from the Soviet Union.


Samuel Bowers, a 73-year-old former Ku Klux Klan leader, was convicted in Hattiesburg, MS, of ordering a firebombing that killed civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer in 1966.

Why we invaded Iraq, and not Iran

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy, retired, keeps taking his sword-like pen to deconstruct all the lies the neocons have used to frighten the American press corpse into a not altogether unsuccessful effort to frighten the American public into believing the boogey man is Iran; well, that it WAS Iran, until the Ruskies went all invasion on our bestest buddy Georgia (well, maybe 2nd bestest with its former contribution of 2,000 "coalition" troops in Iraq, 2nd bestest after our bestest buddy England's 20,000 or so, well, maybe 3rd bestest since to overlook the 190,000 mercenaries -- er, make that contractors -- is to fail to appreciate the size of the military undertaking that was so enhanced by the "surge").

It's likely true that, as the Bush administration insists, no nation poses a greater challenge to us than Iran. That, however, only goes to illustrate how few challenges—at least military ones—we actually face. Iran's military budget is less than one percent the size of ours. The Bush administration's assertions that Iran seeks nuclear weapons and is arming militants in Iraq have been disproven time and again. Iran's conventional forces hardly pose the kind of threat to its Gulf region neighbors the administration would like you to think they do. Its army has never operated more than a few miles from its border, and that was during an eight-year stalemate against the Iraqi army we twice cut through like hot butter. Iran's navy would sink of natural causes before it could engage anyone beyond the Persian Gulf or its coastal waters in the Caspian Sea and Gulf of Oman, and its air force's wings were clipped when we stopped selling them spare parts for their top-of-the-line fighter jets. Moreover, Iran's exterior geographic position and mountainous terrain make it next to useless as a base of operations from which to dominate the Middle East militarily (that's one of the main reasons we invaded Iraq and not Iran).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

So, when was he honorable?

Booman does not merely question McCain's* honor, but offers several refutations of honorable behaviour:

McCain ... wasn't honorable at the Naval Academy.
He wasn't honorable in his first marriage.
He wasn't honorable when he voted against MLK Day,
or when he got involved in the Keating Five.
He wasn't honorable when he defended the Confederate Flag (as he has admitted).
He's not being honorable now. So, when was he honorable?

And this now famous non-denial denial about whether or not McCain was in-the-cone or not in-the-cone is a classic:

Nicolle Wallace, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, said on Sunday night that Mr. McCain had not heard the broadcast of the event while in his motorcade and heard none of the questions.

“The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous,” Ms. Wallace said.

But it turns out that McCone was not in-the-Cain (to the reported surprise of The Purpose Driven Life author)

Mr. Warren started by asking Mr. McCain, “Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?”

Mr. McCain deadpanned, “I was trying to hear through the wall.”

Interviewed Sunday on CNN, Mr. Warren seemed surprised to learn that Mr. McCain was not in the building during the Obama interview.

But do note - McCain does not answer the straightforward question. (The straight forward, HONORABLE answer would have been, "I was not in the cone of silence.")

No, McCain is not being honorable now.

*Disclaimer: nothing in this post should be construed as impugning the character of John McCain's military service in Vietnam.

Horrid people who have no talent of any kind

Roseanne Barr blogs and has some issues with certain glamour/entertainment/fashion/gossip media mavens:

I must always attack the media's representation of what is good or cool, because those who inhabit the media world of glamour and entertainment and fashion and gossip are horrid people who have no talent of any kind, and yet think of themselves as tastemakers

Booman evaluates Cable News

Just loved this vivid description from Booman:

[E]very once in a while the Cable News channels will air a debate or forum that is safe for human consumption. But most nights they provide the equivalent of a balloon of nitrous oxide. If you hooked your cranium up to a scanner you could actually see the brain cells dying as you watched the pundits perform their circle jerk.

Gerhard Schröder on the conflict in Georgia

Speigel Online International has a fascinating interview in which former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder offers his perspectives on the present USSR - Georgia military conflict.

The interviewer begins with a "simple" question that has a simple answer. Georgia invaded South Ossetia.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Schröder, who is at fault for the Caucasus war?

Gerhard Schröder: The hostilities undoubtedly have their historic causes, as well, and the conflict has had several historic precursors. But the moment that triggered the current armed hostilities was the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia. This should not be glossed over.

SPIEGEL: You see no partial fault on Moscow's part, no lack of proportionality in the actions of the Russian military?

Schröder: That is something I cannot and do not wish to judge. But we know, of course, that military conflicts develop their own dynamics. The crucial issue now is that all parties involved will take advantage of the French president's six-point plan.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe that the American military advisors stationed in Tbilisi encouraged Georgia to launch its attack?

Schröder: I wouldn't go that far. But everyone knows that these US military advisors in Georgia exist -- a deployment that I've never considered particularly intelligent. And it would have been strange if these experts had not had any information. Either they were extremely unprofessional or they were truly fooled, which is hard to imagine.

SPIEGEL: The US government claims that it warned Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili against taking military action. But wasn't the whole thing only too convenient for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin?

Schröder: These are speculations in which I prefer not to participate. I assume that no one in the Moscow leadership has an interest in military conflicts. There are enough internal problems in Russia that need to be solved. For instance, corruption and abuse of authority must be addressed. Russia has plenty of deficits, an issue I've addressed many a time. President (Dmitry) Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin are addressing these problems -- together, by the way, in friendship and mutual respect, not in competition with one another, as journalistic fortune-tellers often imply.

Schröder's assumption may or may not be valid for the Moscow leadership. No one would make the same assumption about the Cheney administration, even though there ARE enough internal problems in the United States that need to be solved. Almost EVERYONE in the American leadersnhip has an interest in continued and continuing military conflicts. That's what the military-industrial-congressional-media-infortainment-prison complex is ALL about. Virtually every congressional district in the nation has companies that benefit directly from the "defense" industry.

If Schröder's assumption is in fact valid for Moscow leadership it would certainly explain why the U.S. does NOT see eye to eye, because our military and political leaders are projecting their own world view upon the Russians.

SPIEGEL: That may well be, but something else is now at stake: Russia has never overcome the loss of its superpower status, and in recent years it has felt cornered and humiliated by NATO. During the wars in the Balkans, the Iraq invasion by the "Coalition of the Willing" under Washington's leadership, the Kosovo declaration of independence ...

Schröder: ... don't forget the development of an American missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic ...

Russia has never overcome the loss of its superpower status -- says who? Does the Russian incursion into Georgia mean that Russia has finally licked the "Afghanistan syndrome?" And who is to say Russia has not regained its superpower status, as the world's largest exporter or energy? And who is to say that this economic power now wielded is not more satisfying and gratifying? Perhaps the Russians learned a valuable lesson from their defeat in Afghanistan: that as long as they had nukes, they had retaliatory strike capabilities, and any further investment into expenditures into an ever increasing arms race was unnecessary. Why not let the U.S. remain in an arms race with itself?

in recent years it has felt cornered and humiliated by NATO -- how about THREATENED by NATO

SPIEGEL: ... the Kremlin has been forced to look on. Isn't it possible that an economically and militarily strengthened Moscow now sees US friend Saakashvili as the best possible opportunity to retaliate against the West? And that Putin wants to assert imperial claims?

Schröder: In my view, there have indeed been serious mistakes made by the West in its policy toward Russia. Can we conclude that this bears some relationship to the recent events in the Caucasus, as Russia's response, so to speak, to the Georgian provocation? I think it's wrong to combine these two notions.

SPIEGEL: You don't share the newly erupted fear among many in the West of a "Russian threat?"

Schröder: No, not at all. There is a perception of Russia in the West that has very little to do with reality.

SPIEGEL: Could the new, highly self-confident leadership duo in Moscow feel that the West needs them more than they need the West?

Schröder: It is a mutual dependency. There is not a single critical problem in world politics or the global economy that could be solved without Russia -- not the nuclear conflict with Iran, the North Korea question and certainly not bringing peace to the Middle East. The set of problems relating to the climate can also only be addressed universally. Incidentally, Moscow ratified the Kyoto Protocol to fight global warming, while we are still waiting for Washington to do so. And when it comes to energy policy, only dreamers can pursue the idea that Western Europe could become independent of Russian oil and natural gas. On the other hand, the Russians need reliable buyers for their energy shipments.

SPIEGEL: You see no reason, in light of the harsh actions in the Caucasus, to terminate the special German-Russian "strategic partnership," or at least to put it on ice?

Schröder: No. I don't see why this concept should be jeopardized because of Georgia. Mutual dependencies also create mutual securities. I am also opposed to criticism of Russian investments in Germany. Who should have a problem with Mr. (Alexei) Mordashov investing in the (tourism company) TUI, Mr. (Oleg) Deripaska owning 10 percent of (the construction company) Hochtief or another oligarch owning a share of the fashion house Escada? I would like to see more and not less investment in the German economy. Historically speaking, such economic integration has proven to be politically beneficial.

SPIEGEL: Now you sound like (former US Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger. Have you always thought this way?

Schröder: Certainly not in my Young Socialist days. But ever since I became professionally involved in foreign policy as chancellor, this sober approach has always been my preference -- and it's certainly the most reasonable one.

SPIEGEL: With all due respect to cool-headed realpolitik: Don't we have to draw a red line now, one that Moscow cannot cross if it wants to continue playing a role in international institutions and as a partner of the West? Immediate withdrawal of all troops from Georgia, for example, and recognition of its territorial integrity, as US Secretary of State Rice has vehemently demanded?

Schröder: I do not believe that Russia is pursuing a policy of annexation. And I also do not believe that there can be a return to the status quo ante in South Ossetia or Abkhazia. It's out of the question. In my opinion, this has less to do with supposed Russian expansionist interests than with the wishes of the civilian population.


SPIEGEL: Robert Kagan, an idol of the neoconservatives and still the Republicans' leading foreign policy thinker, has defined the day of Russia's invasion of Georgia as the beginning of renewed territorial conflicts between the major powers and "as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell."

Schröder: I read that, but it too means nothing to me. Kagan, after all, was one of the men who strongly advised intervening in Iraq. The consequences were not pleasant, neither for America nor Europe. Perhaps one should simply not listen to his advice.


Schröder: That is precisely the price. Europe will only be able to play a true role in the context between America, on the one side, and Asia, on the other, if it manages to establish and maintain a strong relationship with Russia. I see Russia as part of Europe, more than as part of any other constellation.

SPIEGEL: And is that how Russia sees itself?

Schröder: At least it is the way the current leadership sees it. And we in Germany and Europe should interpret this as an opportunity. Russia has an Asian alternative, but Europe does not. Besides, such a constellation does not necessarily have to lead to Europe distancing itself from the United States.

SPIEGEL: This sounds very optimistic. You don't see a remake of the Cold War developing?

Schröder: No. At least it would not be in the Russian leadership's interest. I am completely opposed to demonizing Russia. And I believe that Moscow will soon see the need, once again, for greater integration into the international community.


SPIEGEL: Are you speaking in your capacity as former chancellor or as an employee of the Russian state-owned company Gazprom?

Schröder: SPIEGEL should not participate in the spreading of misinformation. I am not anyone's employee, but rather the chairman of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream, a Dutch-German-Russian joint venture, whose sole purpose is to build a pipeline through the Baltic Sea that will make Germany's and Europe's gas supply significantly more secure.

Nothing real issues from the American press

Paul Craig Roberts takes a hard shot at U.S. press in Counterpunch:

Nothing real issues from the American press, which is about demonizing Russia and Iran, about the vice presidential choices as if it matters, about whether Obama being on vacation let McCain score too many points.

The mindlessness of the news reflects the mindlessness of the government, for which it is a spokesperson.

The American media do not serve American democracy or American interests. They serve the few people who exercise power.

Many others feel the same.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Serving as an arm of Government

Glenn Greenwald writes in Salon about the ongoing perversion of present day journalism into a transmitter of government propaganda:

Source confidentiality is premised on a model of journalism where the media is adversarial to the Government, and safeguarding the anonymity of sources is the only way to find out what the Government is doing. But these days, so frequently, the media serves as an arm of the Government -- the Government uses the establishment media to disseminate propaganda and outright lies to the public (Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman, Saddam's aluminum tubes) or even uses leaks to the media to commit crimes (as it did in the Plame case). When the journalists who are used to spread these lies or commit these crimes then conceal who it is who has done such things, they are complicit in the Government wrongdoing, key enablers of it.

By endorsing the sanctity of that Government-media relationship through shield laws and the like (which I've always supported in the past), it's actually -- perversely -- bestowing the Government with yet another tool to shield its misconduct from the public. Because the establishment media so frequently now serves as a tool used by the Government to amplify its false claims and promote its agenda, rather than as a watchdog against it, increasing the Government and media's power to keep that relationship secret is to empower the Government even further -- the exact opposite of what source confidentiality is intended to achieve [and, indeed, proposed federal shield laws provide large exceptions for national security leaks, which means that such a law would still allow the Governments to try to invade, and courts to destroy, the good kind of confidentiality (e.g., the CIA black sites and NSA leaks) while protecting the bad kind (where the Government uses the media to spread lies and other disinformation)].

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mo Do on War in Kosovo

From the MoDo NYT column entitled Liberties; No Free War we get insights into the Maverick Saint John McCain and how he would deal with war in far off places:

Washington is buzzing with testosterone, happy to be engaged in a matter with more gravitas than Monica Lewinsky....

Further reading of this column will indicate who in Washington is buzzing with testosterone, and then who might not be. When MoDo says "Washington" does she mean the press corpse?

There are jitters, as usual, about the Clinton team's spine.

(No testosterone buzz on team Clinton)

''The White House is scared to death,'' says Senator John McCain, the Presidential candidate with the most military experience.


It's simply that in hard moments that require clarity, the Clintonites seem in soft-focus. Nero fiddled; Clinton golfed. The President and his Secretary of State are great at wagging fingers at strongmen, but you are left with the uneasy feeling that they may not be ready to do what it takes, or may not even know what it takes.

(And ... MoDo apparently does know what it takes, although, she ain't sayin)

''Credibility is our most precious asset,'' Mr. McCain says. ''We have purchased our credibility with American blood.''


It wasn't reassuring when the President noted, the day the bombing began, that he had been ''reading up on the history of that area.'' ...

(Well, at least SOMEBODY is reading up on the history of the area -- this didn't exactly happen much during the course of the Vietnam War)

The Administration was caught off guard by the scale and brutality of Slobodan Milosevic's purge of Albanian Kosovars following the NATO bombings. ''There was a gross miscalculation about how he would react,'' says Mr. McCain.

It was disturbingly reminiscent of Robert McNamara's stunning admission in 1996 that the Vietnam debacle occurred because top Washington officials were not sophisticated about other nations' thinking. He said a major lesson of Vietnam was ''know your opponent.'' Isn't that why we have the State Department, C.I.A. and N.S.A.?


''It detracts from our ability to carry out the mission if our first and major priority is to keep casualties down,'' Mr. McCain says. ''Wars, many times, do not go according to plan. This one has not gone according to plan.''

He calls the President and his team unfocused and ''feckless'' on foreign policy. ''They have had feckless behavior in Iraq, China and North Korea so there is a lack of confidence in this guy,'' he says. ''It is not so much his personal problems, but he has not handled foreign policy in a manner that a leader should and it has eroded people's confidence.''

If John McCain is elected president, expect it to be said of Americana, We Are All War Mongers Now. Sadly, too if Barack Obama is elected.