Thursday, September 4, 2008

Arresting accredited journalists

At TruthDig, Amy Goodman reports on her arrest in St. Paul while covering the Republican National Convention:

I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif and Nicole were being bloody arrested, in every sense. Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck. I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.

The attack on and arrest of me and the "Democracy Now!" producers was not an isolated event. A video group called I-Witness Video was raided two days earlier. Another video documentary group, the Glass Bead Collective, was detained, with its computers and video cameras confiscated. On Wednesday, I-Witness Video was again raided, forced out of its office location. When I asked St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington how reporters are to operate in this atmosphere, he suggested, "By embedding reporters in our mobile field force."

Embedded reporters. Consider the mind set. The US military embedded reporters to cover war. Is it a stretch to think that Police Chief Harrington assumes that the city of St. Paul is engaged in a war, requiring that reporters be embedded? If so, who is waging this "war" and against whom is this "war" being waged?

Isolation - inevitable result of hard-nosed provacative contrary stance

An interesting fact from the Energy Information Agency of the US government:

In 2007, Russia’s real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by approximately 8.1 percent, surpassing average growth rates in all other G8 countries, and marking the country’s seventh consecutive year of economic expansion. Russia’s economic growth over the past seven years has been driven primarily by energy exports, given the increase in Russian oil production and relatively high world oil prices during the period. Internally, Russia gets over half of its domestic energy needs from natural gas, up from around 49 percent in 1992. Since then, the share of energy use from coal and nuclear has stayed constant, while energy use from oil has decreased from 27 percent to around 19 percent.

As to the recently ended Russian military incursion Tom Engelhardt suggests, that, no, this isn't the beginning of a new Cold War (or even a continuation of the old one):

Right now, the Bush administration continues to have its hands militarily more than full just handling a low-level war in Iraq and a roiling one in the backlands of Afghanistan (and Pakistan). At the moment, it couldn't fight a "new Cold War" if it wanted to.

While Michael Klare observes that:

Putin prevailed this time around because he focused on geopolitical objectives, while his opponents were blindly driven by fantasy and ideology; so long as this pattern persists, he or his successors are likely to come out on top. Only if American leaders assume a more realistic approach to Russia's resurgent power or, alternatively, choose to collaborate with Moscow in the exploitation of Caspian energy, will the risk of further strategic setbacks in the region disappear.

On the Russian homefront, Alexander Golts, deputy editor of the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnalthe offers a critique picked up by the Moscow Times. Golts compliments the military but chastizes the politicians. (And also calls the incursion an "aggressive, neo-imperial foreign policy"

I must admit that for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's army fought well despite the fact that its main weaponry dates back to the early 1980s. What's more, the army fought with an extremely outdated communications system and without the use of drones, night-vision equipment or precision-guided weapons.

The conflict also demonstrated that the military top brass runs the armed forces the same way they did in the 1970s. Its archaic structure prevents the military from conducting joint operations between all the branches of the armed forces under a unified command structure. The result is that land- and air-based forces operate completely independent of each other. It is anyone's guess why Tu-22 strategic bombers were used for reconnaissance purposes or for the strafing of tactical ground targets. It is also unclear why the Air Force was unable to foil Georgian anti-aircraft systems using electronic countermeasures; as a result, Georgia was able to shoot down a few Russian aircraft. Moreover, military intelligence dropped the ball when it failed to provide timely reports of Georgian troop deployment.

But a successful military campaign ended up being a political catastrophe for Russia, which now finds itself completely isolated by the international community. The level of isolation is not unlike when the Soviet Union was ostracized in 1983 after its fighter jets shot down a South Korean airplane full of passengers. In answer to the condemnation that Russian has received from all sides, propagandists on state television ask: "Has Russian done anything wrong? Didn't NATO send troops into Yugoslavia without a mandate from the international community? And didn't the United States do the same thing in Iraq?"

The West has never been this united against Moscow's aggressive, neo-imperial foreign policy. But this has been building up for years, based largely on the inflammatory rhetoric of Russia's top leaders. ...

To put it bluntly, the Georgian campaign was a complete and total failure of Russian diplomacy. Moscow's current isolation is the inevitable result of having developed over the last few years its hard-nosed, provocative stance against the West.


The Russian economy is growing faster than the economies of the other members of the G-8.

Russia is decreasing its energy use of oil.

Russia's top politician's understand geo-politics far better than the current US administration's ideologues.

Russia's weaponry is 20+ years old, it's military communication systems out of date, and it's military didn't use drones, night vision equipment, or "precision-guided weapons" (Russia is not in an arms race with the US. The US is in an arms race with itself.)

Russia's military command structure is out-dated and not integrated (good, so is ours).

Russia's air force was unable to use electronic counters to Georgian anti-air craft weapons (most likely supplied by the US).

Russian military intelligence is not so hot either.

At least one publication seems able to offer FAR more criticism of the Russian military and political situation than the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times etc., etc., ever offer of the US military and political counterparts.

Okay. All good. Iran, which spends 1% of what the US does on defense remains our biggest threat.

Nobody's military is out "to get us."

So I can sleep safe tonight.

Well, not while Cheney or McCain are or may be in the White House.

Becoming associated with the same sloppy arrogance as the MSM

I agree with Al Giordono of Narco News:

Most members of the commercial media don't want to face what everybody else knows - that as institutions go, that of "the media" is as hated or more so than George W. Bush and the US Congress.

Unfortunately, in recent days, too many bloggers and their commenters have forgotten that truth, too.

Bloggers, in general, claim to understand just how much the public distrusts the media. We bloggers have been "running against the media" from the get-go. It's one of the biggest keys to our success: that readers turn to us instead of the commercial media it distrusts. The one thing that could most rapidly destroy that for us would be if we became, in the public's mind, associated with the same sloppy arrogance which it associates with the media.

That ought to be a no brainer. But in recent days, too many bloggers and their commenters [sic] have aped the worst qualities of the commercial media in such a way as to allow the McCain campaign and the far right to lump us in with the reviled commercial media to make us, too, the receptacle of that public hatred.

It's about the "unvetted diaries," stupid.

It hasn't been just in recent days. The venom directed at Senator Clinton disgusted me (I understand - it started with the MSM). Same for the hatred directed at Senator Obama. The venom of which I speak is that which secreted from the fangs of some of the SCLB's - the So Called Liberal DailyKos and Booman Tribune Blogs, to name two. The hatred of which I speak exploded with atomic enmity from Larry Johnson's No Quarter Blog (Johnson is certainly no liberal; but he was and remains an ardent Clinton supporter).

The rumors-mongering I read (in the comments sections) of some of the SCLB's about who in the Palin family was the mother of Trig was absolutely disgusting, horrifying stuff. Worthy of the Free Republic. When a "news source" or "internet community" puts that kind of speculation out here in cyberspace, where will stay (forever, almost) and subsequently the speculation turns out to be FALSE, at that point the blog hits a junction known as Credibility Gap. Juvenile crap - junior high school crap, high school crap, Jerry Springer crap. And when you've covered yourself with crap - it takes a LOT of scrubbing, a lot of apologizing, a lot of mea culpa's, and a lot of time to have any shot at returning to relevance or legitimacy.

One can wear a DFH tag with pride (to the extent it represents opposing the invasion, occupation and destruction of Vietnam, the supporting of civil rights for African-Americans, of equal pay for equally responsible jobs for women for African-Americans, for Hispanics, for government to PROTECT workers and citizens from corporate pollution, corporate endangerment, and a whole host of issues commonly assumed to be part of the democratic party's core "platform") when it comes to standing up for and speaking out the belief that government ought to serve the common weal.

But when the so-called liberals or progessives start to include smears, lies and character assassination as part of their chatter, count me out. Those tactics are mean-spirited, appealing to the basest instincts.

The unvetted diaries and worse - the unvetted comments - could easily undermine a lot of otherwise decent intentions.

A little civility, please.

For all the MSM's belittling attitudes towards bloggers over the years (interesting all the major newspapers seem to have their own blogs now), it is ironic now that "bloggers in general" are now casually conjoined by the McCain campaign (the Republican party and it's far right dominionist footsoldiers).

When two sides fight in the mud, the side that claims they seek to win the mud fight in order to ressurect a cleaner, safer, nobler past will win the audience UNLESS the other side can make the point, the mud's the reason we're in this fight - the longer they made the rules, the muddier things have become, and we seek to win the fight in order to take away their mud-making machine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Maintaining order: a euphemism for consolidating power

In a Q & A interview at Counterpunch, Mike Hudson offers some harsh criticisms of the Federal Reserve:

MW:Do you see the Federal Reserve as an economic organization designed primarily to maintain order in the markets via interest rates and regulation or a political institution whose objectives are to impose an American-dominated model of capitalism on the rest of the world?

Michael Hudson: Surely, you jest! The Fed has turned “maintaining order” into a euphemism for consolidating power by the financial sector and the FIRE sector generally (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) over the “real” economy of production and consumption. Its leaders see their job as being to act on behalf of the commercial banking system to enable it to make money off the rest of the economy. It acts as the Board of Directors to fight regulation, to support Wall Street, to block any revival of anti-usury laws, to promote “free markets” almost indistinguishable from outright financial fraud, to decriminalize bad behavior – and most of all to inflate the price of property relative to the wages of labor and even relative to the profits of industry.

As a favor to the Republican presidential candidate?

To find out about rumors circulating in the U.S., one must, of course, read a German newspaper:

Rumors are currently circulating in the US that Cheney may have sparked the crisis in Georgia as a favor to the Republican presidential candidate. There is a wealth of evidence to support such a theory. McCain’s foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann was a lobbyist for the Georgian government until last May. McCain is a close friend of Saakashvili. If the OSCE allegations concerning Georgia’s war plans are substantiated, it could fuel debate on the issue. In the meantime, an election campaign conducted in the shadow of an international crisis offers McCain a golden opportunity. In the hour of peril, experience is likely to garner more votes than hope. Putin has triggered what McCain urgently needs: a sense of anxiety.

Arrested for committing news

Professor Juan Cole comments most aptly on the arrest of Amy Goodman and her Democracy Now! news co-workers at the RNC in Minneapolis:

Ironically, Democracy Now! is among the few news programs that tries to deliver real news to the American public, not the babysitting pap that passes for such so often in the corporate media. Of course, in our Bushwellian State, its staff would have to be arrested for committing News.

Beligerence has been a substitute for strength; stubbornness for leadership

At the Democratic National Convention, Susan Eisenhower articulated the abiding reasons that the Republican party has lost its authority to lead the nation:

... [T]oday the divisions in our country are deep and wide. Our cohesiveness as a nation is strained by multiple crises in finance and credit, energy and health care. These problems, which threaten American prosperity and well-being, are as relevant to our national security as any conflict overseas.

At the same time, we have knowingly saddled our children and grandchildren with a staggering debt. This is a moral failing, not just a financial one.

Overseas, our credibility is at an all-time low. We urgently need to restore our international leadership position and the leverage that goes with it to address urgent problems before they become crises.

We must advance a new and compelling vision for the 21st century. But rather than focus on these critical strategic issues, our national discourse has turned into a petty squabble.

Too many people in power have failed us. Belligerence has been a substitute for strength; stubbornness for leadership; and impulsive action has replaced measured and thoughtful response.

There aren't enough Republican experts left

I really find myself agreeing with David Brooks today. Well, even a broken watch is right once every 43,200 seconds.

There simply aren’t enough Republican experts left to staff an administration, so [McCain] will have to throw together a hodgepodge with independents and Democrats.

But why IS it that there simply aren't enough Republican experts left to staff an administration? Because this is one astonishing statement. My thoughts on the matter.

1. There never were enough in the first place because their so-called experts were really idealogues in disguise, trying to implement an agenda.

2. They got all the legislation passed they needed to and are now working for mega-bucks for the industries that benefitted.

3. They got out while the gettin' was good and are working on K street or in private consulting.

4. They know how badly they mucked things up and don't want to return to government until the Democratic party fixes the mess (and the public and media forget that they created the mess in the first place).

5. They retired to write their memoirs of their time in the Bush administration and are making more money than was ever dreamt of, even in Horatio's philosophy.

6. They went to work for right-wing think tanks so they are in place to declare on the day that Obama takes the oath of office that (1) we are not merely in a recession but a depression and (2) with sufficient deregulation the market will correct itself, but only after (3) those players that are too big to fail must be subsidized for their failure and bailed out.

6. They got thrown in jail.

7. They all died.

McCain will need his own Darth Vader

The things David Brooks worries about:

My worry about Palin is that she shares McCain’s primary weakness — that she has a tendency to substitute a moral philosophy for a political philosophy.

The pundit, having defined the problem, proceeds to prescribe the antidote to the hypothetical:

If McCain is elected ... [h]e really needs someone to impose a policy structure on his moral intuitions. He needs a very senior person who can organize a vast administration and insist that he tame his lone-pilot tendencies and work through the established corridors — the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council. He needs a near-equal who can turn his instincts, which are great, into a doctrine that everybody else can predict and understand.

Kind of like what the 43rd president has in Dick Cheney, except (to paraphrase Brooks):

Once GWB was elected, everyone knew he really needed someone to structure his photo ops to hide a policy structure dictated by the energy industry, wall street, the neo-cons, AIPAC, and the theo-cons. He needed a very senior person to fill a vast administration with ideologically pure loyalists and insist that policy be carried out behind closed doors always "for reasons of national security." He needed a low profile puppet-master pulling the strings, who could turn Bush's talents for winning elections and bamboozling the media and the public, which were great, into a messianic cult of personality and war propaganda aimed at desensitizing the population into oblvious acceptance of a permanent state of war, never-ending tax cuts for the wealthy (and the media elites), and a gutting of the government's ability in providing services or money for any except the wealthy and the war machine.

None have, or likely ever will again, so perfectly matched a president suited for nothing more than photo ops, hyping propaganda, and running a permanent campaign, with the ability to implement policy so secretly and wage war so openly.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Holy (political) wars

The appeal of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin to white religious fundamentalists is likely to make this election far closer than it ought to be based on the Republican party's track record with the economy, foreign policy and governance over the past year.

Having Palin on the GOP ticket will energize the voting base especially in the swing states and states that voted for Bush in 2004 that the Obama campaign believes to be in play in 2008. And while her religious denomination (Assembly of God) is not particularly large, her anti-abortion and/or her anti-sciente positions will find strong appeal to Pentacostals, Charismatics, Southern Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans and Roman Cahtolics, Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Free Church.

Attacks on Palin will further energize the base into closing ranks to "protect one of their own" while creating some internal dissonance for scriptural literalists who believe a woman's plance is in the home.

I sincerely hope to be proven wrong in this prognostication.

Better a 3rd class fireman than a 1st class arsonist

With all the excitement of the opening Olympics ceremony it was pretty easy to overlook this CBS Political Players interview with the president of the Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission regarding John McCain's vice presidential selection:

(CBS) Political Players is a regular conversation with the leaders, consultants, and activists who shape American politics. This week, CBS News' Brian Goldsmith talked with one of the nation’s key evangelical leaders, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission about John McCain’s campaign and his upcoming vice presidential selection.

... A number of evangelicals and leaders of what used to be called the religious right have said that what they're really looking for--to determine whether they hold they nose when they vote for McCain, or whether they go in enthusiastically and bring their friends--is the person he chooses to be his running mate. What are you and the people you represent looking for in that running mate?

Richard Land: First of all, I agree with that assessment. I think that the vice presidential choice that John McCain makes is probably the most important choice he's going to make in this entire campaign. Because he has no room for error, no margin for doubt. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it will confirm the unease and the mistrust that some evangelicals--and don't forget this, social conservative Catholics--feel about McCain.

If he picks a pro-life running mate, it will help to ease their concerns and confirm to them that, while he may not have been their first choice, he may not have been their second choice, that it's better to vote for a third class fireman than it is to allow a first class arsonist to become president. Who’s on the list of people mentioned for VP that you think would most excite Southern Baptists and other members of the conservative faith community?

Richard Land: Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life.

She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who's a Southern Baptist.

Maybe easy to overlook because all the faux press speculation circulated on Obama's pick - to Hillary or not to Hillary, that was the question. (To Hillary was to be weak - to not Hillary was to sell out the Hillary supporters - worst of all, Obama planned to text his supporters rather than simply inform the kewl kids in the press korpse - so, they spent a lot of time and energy trying to get the inside story first).

Putting country first (for once)

From the John McCain website:

For our fellow citizens,

Let us put country first.

"I pledge that tomorrow night and if necessary throughout our convention, we will act as Americans and not as Republicans because America needs us now..."

But after the convention no doubt or the storm passes, apparently which ever comes first, we can expect more partisanship, more attempts to dismantle government down to a size where it can be drowned in a bath tub, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So for one week out of every four years, the GOP will put country first.

As honest an assessment as any ever to slip.

We don't set policy, we tell stories

Writing in the July/August 2008 edition of the CJR, Christine Russell article has penned a poignant on climate change. A most worthy read. Some key points:

The era of “equal time” for skeptics who argue that global warming is just a result of natural variation and not human intervention seems to be largely over—except on talk radio, cable, and local television. Last year, a meteorologist at CBS’s Chicago station did a special report entitled “The Truth about Global Warming.” It featured local scientists discussing the hazards of global warming in one segment, well-known national skeptics in another, and ended with a cop-out: “What is the truth about global warming?…It depends on who you talk to.” Not helpful, and not good reporting.


As the climate issue moves further into public policy, journalists will face new challenges in sorting out the political and economic interests of experts with a dizzying array of opinions about the costs and benefits of combating global warming. The he-said, she-said reporting just won’t do. The public needs a guide to the policy, not just the politics.

A Gallup report last November found that only about four in ten Americans believes that immediate, drastic action is needed to deal with global warming, and just one in four says there will be “extreme” effects of global warming in fifty years if efforts are not increased. Is this a failure of the experts and politicians to communicate the situation or a failure of journalists to dig and report?

... In the spring of 2006 ... Al Gore’s documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth ...jump-started media coverage of global warming after years on the back burner. Suddenly, climate change—that term is gaining ground over global warming, by the way—was on front pages and magazine covers, including Time’s iconic image of a lone polar bear and the warning, “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.”

Today, says Nisbet, “the underlying appeal is a moral message: ‘We’re all in this together.’ It’s a moral call to arms.” Gore’s new $300-million “We” media campaign seeks to cross the partisan divide with the optimistic motto: “We Can Solve It.” The cover of Time’s Spring 2008 environment issue, bordered in green instead of Time’s customary red, took the famous World War II photo of Marines raising a U.S. flag on Iwo Jima and substituted a tree to illustrate its bold headline: “How to Win the War on Global Warming.”

Others are feeling their way more carefully. “Sure, I care about the environment,” says Steve Curwood, host of “Living on Earth,” a weekly environmental show on more than three hundred public radio stations. “But it’s not our job to decide what should be done. It’s our job to inform the citizenry. Right now we have an alarmed citizenry, but still not a very well-informed one,” he said at a recent journalism forum.

“We don’t set policy, we tell stories,” says David Ledford, executive editor of The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, and president of The Associated Press Managing Editors. “But it’s important to not just throw out that the earth is on fire without giving a sense of what they can do.”

“It’s very simple. The job of a professional journalist is to give the audience information that is a good thing for them to know,” says seasoned ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore, who has led the network’s new multiplatform approach to global warming. Yet he finds that the momentous nature of the climate-change story carries even more of a responsibility and psychological burden than the dozen wars he has covered. “The unprecedented nature of this story,” says Blakemore, “is quite grave.”

Undreamt of in their philosophies

Paul Krugman eloquently summarizes the crux of the one major difference between the two major U.S. political parties, which both embrace militarism, both genuflect before AIPAC, and are both beholden to big finanace, big pharma, the military-industrial-prison-fossil fuels-infotainment complex, and exist primarily to be re-elected.

And that one difference is defined most clearly by this sad, pathetic story:

FEMA’s degradation, from one of the government’s most admired agencies to a laughingstock, wasn’t an isolated event; it was the result of the G.O.P.’s underlying philosophy. Simply put, when the government is run by a political party committed to the belief that government is always the problem, never the solution, that belief tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Key priorities are neglected; key functions are privatized; and key people, the competent public servants who make government work, either leave or are driven out.

... because the political philosophy responsible for FEMA’s decline hasn’t changed, the administration hasn’t been able to reverse the agency’s learned incompetence. Three years after Katrina, and a year past a Congressional deadline, FEMA still doesn’t have a strategy for housing disaster victims.

What we really need is a government that works, because it’s run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all. And that seems to be something undreamed of in either Mr. Bush’s or Mr. McCain’s philosophy.

What's wrong with this picture?

This Paul Krugman NYT op-ed piece is destined to become a classic:

... Mr. Bush is playing Commander in Chief. On Sunday morning the White House Web site featured photos of the president talking to Gulf state governors about Hurricane Gustav while ostentatiously clutching a red folder labeled “Classified.” On Monday, instead of speaking at the convention, reports suggest that Mr. Bush will address the nation about the storm.


What’s wrong with this picture?

Let’s start with that red folder. Assuming that the folder contained something other than scrap paper, is the planned response to a hurricane a state secret? Are we worried that tropical storm systems will discover our weak points? Are we fighting a Global War on Weather?

Actually, that’s not quite as funny as it sounds. Some observers have pointed out that daily briefings on preparations for Gustav, which should be coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — which is, you know, supposed to manage emergencies — have been coming, instead, from the U.S. military’s Northern Command.

Thank you, William Kristol

Does this mean that the Obama is such an unknown unknown narrative has finally been refuted? Or is it simply an indictment of a press corpse that does not even try to inform its readers? Either way, we must all heartily say, "Thank you, William Kristol!"

Voters are unlikely to learn much that is new or surprising about Obama, McCain or Joe Biden over the next two months.