In the Belly of the Beast: 7/28/11: Geller, Anti-Jihadi Blogs Have ‘Very Real Blood of Children on Their Hands’

The Race Gap Becomes a Chasm

from Ted Rall’s Rallblog by Ted Rall

The Race Gap Becomes a Chasm

During the economic collapse of 2005-09, the median wealth of Hispanics fell 66%, of blacks 53%, and whites 16%.

INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)

“POLITICS”

Don’t Fall for the GOP Lie: There is No Budget Crisis. There’s a Job and Growth Crisis.

Richard Wolff: Debt Showdown is “Political Theater” Burdening Society’s Most Vulnerable

Israel and US political campaigns

SYNDICATED COLUMN: American Select

from Ted Rall’s Rallblog by Ted Rall

Bachmann got GSE loan days before calling for end to GSEs

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Playing Ball With the Pentagon

from TomDispatch – Blog by Andrew Bacevich
RACISM, SEXISM, CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

How Timothy McVeigh provided inspiration to Norway’s Behring

Anti-Islam bigotry in Norway

The guy who mocked Arabs for their (logical) propensity to favor conspiracy theories, comes up with the dumbest conspiracy theory

Wealth Gap Between Minorities and White Americans Doubles After Housing Crisis, Recession

British NHS health care rationing begins

Exclusive: David House on Bradley Manning, Secret WikiLeaks Grand Jury, and U.S. Surveillance

Harry Potter in Akransas

LABOR / THE ECONOMY


THE ULTRA-RIGHT


ENVIRONMENT





CORPORATE MEDIA

Headlines for July 28, 2011

“POLITICS”

There’s a debt deal among Obama, Reid, McConnell, Boehner and Pelosi

Here’s what Obama had to say tonight:

Good evening. There are still some very important votes to be taken by members of Congress, but I want to announce that the leaders of both parties, in both chambers, have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default — a default that would have had a devastating effect on our economy.

The first part of this agreement will cut about $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years — cuts that both parties had agreed to early on in this process. The result would be the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was President — but at a level that still allows us to make job-creating investments in things like education and research. We also made sure that these cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on a fragile economy.

Now, I’ve said from the beginning that the ultimate solution to our deficit problem must be balanced. Despite what some Republicans have argued, I believe that we have to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share by giving up tax breaks and special deductions. Despite what some in my own party have argued, I believe that we need to make some modest adjustments to programs like Medicare to ensure that they’re still around for future generations.

That’s why the second part of this agreement is so important. It establishes a bipartisan committee of Congress to report back by November with a proposal to further reduce the deficit, which will then be put before the entire Congress for an up or down vote. In this stage, everything will be on the table. To hold us all accountable for making these reforms, tough cuts that both parties would find objectionable would automatically go into effect if we don’t act. And over the next few months, I’ll continue to make a detailed case to these lawmakers about why I believe a balanced approach is necessary to finish the job.

Now, is this the deal I would have preferred? No. I believe that we could have made the tough choices required — on entitlement reform and tax reform — right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process. But this compromise does make a serious down payment on the deficit reduction we need, and gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan done before the end of the year.

Most importantly, it will allow us to avoid default and end the crisis that Washington imposed on the rest of America. It ensures also that we will not face this same kind of crisis again in six months, or eight months, or 12 months. And it will begin to lift the cloud of debt and the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over our economy.

Now, this process has been messy; it’s taken far too long. I’ve been concerned about the impact that it has had on business confidence and consumer confidence and the economy as a whole over the last month. Nevertheless, ultimately, the leaders of both parties have found their way toward compromise. And I want to thank them for that.

Most of all, I want to thank the American people. It’s been your voices — your letters, your emails, your tweets, your phone calls — that have compelled Washington to act in the final days. And the American people’s voice is a very, very powerful thing.

We’re not done yet. I want to urge members of both parties to do the right thing and support this deal with your votes over the next few days. It will allow us to avoid default. It will allow us to pay our bills. It will allow us to start reducing our deficit in a responsible way. And it will allow us to turn to the very important business of doing everything we can to create jobs, boost wages, and grow this economy faster than it’s currently growing.

That’s what the American people sent us here to do, and that’s what we should be devoting all of our time to accomplishing in the months ahead.

Thank you very much, everybody.

So, there’s a deal. The U.S. won’t default. But, there’s going to be a heavy price to pay for this deal — and it will be paid by those who can least afford it.

Yep. So glad we all worked so hard to elect Democrats — so they can just act like Republicans. The “Super Congress” is going to be real trouble. Everything will be on the table (including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.) Just wait and see. Real trouble.

Democratic politics in a nutshell

from Glenn Greenwaldby Glenn Greenwald

15 people liked this

Let’s begin by taking note of three facts:

(1) Three days ago, Democratic Rep. John Conyers, appearing at a meeting of the Out of Poverty caucus, said: “The Republicans — Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader Cantor — did not call for Social Security cuts in the budget deal. The President of the United States called for that” (video here, at 1:30);

(2) The reported deal on the debt ceiling is so completely one-sided — brutal domestic cuts with no tax increases on the rich and the likelihood of serious entitlement cuts in six months with a “Super Congressional” deficit commission — that even Howard Kurtz was able to observe: “If there are $3 trillion in cuts and no tax hikes, Obama will have to explain how it is that the Republicans got 98 pct. of what they wanted,” while Grover Norquist, the Right of the Right on such matters, happily proclaimed: “Sounds like a budget deal with real savings and no tax hikes is a go.”

(3) The same White House behavior shaping the debt deal — full embrace of GOP policies and (in the case of Social Security cuts) going beyond that — has been evident in most policy realms from the start. It first manifested in the context of Obama’s adoption of the Bush/Cheney approach to the war on civil liberties and Terrorism, which is why civil libertarians were the first to object so vocally and continuously to the Obama presidency, culminating in this amazing event from mid-2010: “Speaking at a conference of liberal activists Wednesday morning, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero didn’t mince his words about the administration’s handling of civil liberties issues. ‘I’m going to start provocatively . . . I’m disgusted with this president,’ Romero told the America’s Future Now breakout session.”

In other words, a slew of millionaire politicians who spent the last decade exploding the national debt with Endless War, a sprawling Surveillance State, and tax cuts for the rich are now imposing extreme suffering on the already-suffering ordinary citizenry, all at the direction of their plutocratic overlords, who are prospering more than ever and will sacrifice virtually nothing under this deal (despite their responsibility for the 2008 financial collapse that continues to spawn economic misery). And all of this will be justified by these politicians and their millionaire media mouthpieces with the obscenely deceitful slogans of “shared sacrifice” and “balanced debt reduction” — two of the most odiously Orwellian phrases since “Look Forward, not Backward” and “2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate” (and anyone claiming that Obama was involuntarily forced by the “crazy” Tea Party into massive budget cuts at a time of almost 10% unemployment: see the actual facts here).

With those fact assembled, this morning’s New York Times article — headlined: “Rightward Tilt Leaves Obama With Party Rift” — supplies the perfect primer for understanding Democratic Party politics. The article explains that “Mr. Obama, seeking to appeal to the broad swath of independent voters, has adopted the Republicans’ language and in some cases their policies,” and then lists numerous examples just from the debt debate alone (never mind all the other areas where he’s done the same):

No matter how the immediate issue is resolved, Mr. Obama, in his failed effort for greater deficit reduction, has put on the table far more in reductions for future years’ spending, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, than he did in new revenue from the wealthy and corporations. He proposed fewer cuts in military spending and more in health care than a bipartisan Senate group that includes one of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans. . . .

But by this month, in ultimately unsuccessful talks with Speaker John A. Boehner, Mr. Obama tentatively agreed to a plan that was farther to the right than that of the majority of the fiscal commission and a bipartisan group of senators, the so-called Gang of Six. It also included a slow rise in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65, and, after 2015, a change in the formula for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments long sought by economists.

How can the leader of the Democratic Party wage an all-out war on the ostensible core beliefs of the Party’s voters in this manner and expect not just to survive, but thrive politically? Democratic Party functionaries are not shy about saying exactly what they’re thinking in this regard:

Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said polling data showed that at this point in his term, Mr. Obama, compared with past Democratic presidents, was doing as well or better with Democratic voters. “Whatever qualms or questions they may have about this policy or that policy, at the end of the day the one thing they’re absolutely certain of — they’re going to hate these Republican candidates,” Mr. Mellman said. “So I’m not honestly all that worried about a solid or enthusiastic base.”

In other words: it makes no difference to us how much we stomp on liberals’ beliefs or how much they squawk, because we’ll just wave around enough pictures of Michele Bachmann and scare them into unconditional submission. That’s the Democratic Party’s core calculation: from “hope” in 2008 to a rank fear-mongering campaign in 2012. Will it work? The ones who will determine if it will are the intended victims of that tactic: angry, impotent liberals whom the White House expects will snap dutifully into line no matter what else happens (even, as seems likely, massive Social Security and Medicare cuts) between now and next November.

Tax Cut Memories

from Paul Krugmanby By PAUL KRUGMAN

Obama, at his press conference last December, announcing his surrender to the GOP on tax cuts; the questioner was Marc Ambinder:

Q Mr. President, thank you. How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?

THE PRESIDENT: When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?

Q Just in the sense that they’ll say essentially we’re not going to raise the — we’re not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you’re willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have –

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

And so my expectation is, is that we will have tough negotiations around the budget, but that ultimately we can arrive at a position that is keeping the government open, keeping Social Security checks going out, keeping veterans services being provided, but at the same time is prudent when it comes to taxpayer dollars.

Poll: Voters care way more about jobs than deficit

Who would have guessed besides everyone outside of the beltway? Even 50% of the Teabaggers want jobs over reducing the deficit. Bloomberg:

Sixty-seven percent of those questioned said they would prefer that politicians focus on employment, according to a report by Washington’s Mellman Group and Ayres McHenry and Associates Inc., of Alexandria, Virginia. The study, released today, was sponsored by the Washington-based Alliance for American Manufacturing.

“Most support a national manufacturing strategy and strong support has grown in the past year,” the consultants said in the report.

The two consulting groups advised manufacturers to pursue their political goals with messages focused on American pride in making things rather than on statements about tax policy or human-rights abuses in China, the world’s fastest-growing economy. The alliance includes Pittsburgh’s U.S. Steel Corp. and Luxembourg’s ArcelorMittal (MT), as well as the United Steelworkers union, based in Pittsburgh, and advocates stricter enforcement of U.S. trade laws and measures that protect American producers.

The full poll is here. Some key findings, via press release: Some key findings from the poll, include:

· When given an “either/or” choice, just 29% want Washington to focus on deficit reduction while 67% favor job creation.

· “Creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S.” and “strengthening manufacturing in this country” are the top voter priorities for the President.

· Only 50% of voters believe that the President is working to create manufacturing jobs – an 11% drop from 2010. Congress fares even worse – 41% say Democrats in Congress are working to create jobs, and 32% see the GOP working to create jobs.

· 90% have a favorable view of American manufacturing companies – up 22 points from 2010.

· 97% have a favorable view of U.S.-made goods – up 5 points from 2010.

· 94% of voters say creating manufacturing jobs is either “one of the most important” things government can do or “very important.”

· 90% support Buy American policies “to ensure that taxpayer funded government projects use only U.S.-made goods and supplies wherever possible.”

· 95% favor keeping “America’s trade laws strong and strictly enforced to provide a level playing field for our workers and businesses.”

But Washington just keeps talking about the deficit.

Don’t Fall for the GOP Lie: There is No Budget Crisis. There’s a Job and Growth Crisis.

from Robert Reich

2 people liked this

A friend who’s been watching the absurd machinations in Congress asked me “what happens if we don’t solve the budget crisis and we run out of money to pay the nation’s bills?”

It was only then I realized how effective Republicans lies have been. That we’re calling it a “budget crisis” and worrying that if we don’t “solve” it we can’t pay our nation’s bills is testament to how successful Republicans have been distorting the truth.

The federal budget deficit has no economic relationship to the debt limit. Republicans have linked the two, and the Administration has played along, but they are entirely separate. Republicans are using what would otherwise be a routine, legally technical vote to raise the debt limit as a means of holding the nation hostage to their own political goal of shrinking the size of the federal government.

In economic terms, we will not “run out of money” next week. We’re still the richest nation in the world, and the Federal Reserve has unlimited capacity to print money.

Nor is there any economic imperative economic to reach an agreement on how to fix the budget deficit by Tuesday. It’s not even clear the federal budget needs that much fixing anyway.

Yes, the ratio of the national debt to the total economy is high relative to what it’s been. But it’s not nearly as high as it was after World War II – when it reached 120 percent of the economy’s total output.

If and when the economy begins to grow faster – if more Americans get jobs, and we move toward a full recovery – the debt/GDP ratio will fall, as it did in the 1950s, and as it does in every solid recovery. Revenues will pour into the Treasury, and much of the current “budget crisis” will be evaporate.

Get it? We’re really in a “jobs and growth” crisis – not a budget crisis.

And the best way to get jobs and growth back is for the federal government to spend more right now, not less – for example, by exempting the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes this year and next, recreating a WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps, creating an infrastructure bank, providing tax incentives for small businesses to hire, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and so on.

But what happens next week if Congress can’t or won’t deliver the President a bill to raise the debt ceiling? Remember: This is all politics, mixed in with legal technicalities. Economics has nothing to do with it.

One possibility, therefore, is for the Treasury to keep paying the nation’s bills regardless. It would continue to issue Treasury bills, which are our nation’s IOUs. When those IOUs are cashed at the Federal Reserve Board, the Fed would do what it has always done: It honors them.

How long could this go on without the debt ceiling being lifted? That’s a legal question. Republicans in Congress could mount a legal challenge, but no court in its right mind would stop the Fed from honoring the full faith and credit of the United States.

The wild card is what the three big credit-rating agencies will do. As long as the Fed keeps honoring the nation’s IOUs, America’s credit should be deemed sound. We’re not Greece or Portugal, after all. We’ll still be the richest nation in the world, whose currency is the basis for most business transactions in the world.

Standard & Poor’s has warned it will downgrade the nation’s debt from a triple-A to a double-A rating if we don’t tend to the long-term deficit. But, as I’ve noted, S&P has no business meddling in American politics – especially since its own non-feasance was partly responsible for the current size of the federal debt (had it done its job the debt and housing bubbles wouldn’t have precipitated the terrible recession, and the federal outlays it required).

As long as we pay our debts on time, our global creditors should be satisfied. And if they’re satisfied, S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch should be, too.

Repeat after me: The federal deficit is not the nation’s biggest problem. The anemic recovery, huge unemployment, falling wages, and declining home prices are bigger problems. We don’t have a budget crisis. We have a jobs and growth crisis.

The GOP has manufactured a budget crisis out of the Republicans’ extortionate demands over raising the debt limit. They have succeeded in hoodwinking the public, including my friend.

 

 

The Centrist Cop-Out

By

The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats — who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether — have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.

As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media apparently can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this simple reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.

Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. As you may know, President Obama initially tried to strike a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. As The Times’s Nate Silver pointed out, Mr. Obama effectively staked out a position that was not only far to the right of the average voter’s preferences, it was if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter’s preferences.

But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? “Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric.” A Democratic president who bends over backward to accommodate the other side — or, if you prefer, who leans so far to the right that he’s in danger of falling over — is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!

Which brings me to those “centrist” fantasies.

Many pundits view taking a position in the middle of the political spectrum as a virtue in itself. I don’t. Wisdom doesn’t necessarily reside in the middle of the road, and I want leaders who do the right thing, not the centrist thing.

But for those who insist that the center is always the place to be, I have an important piece of information: We already have a centrist president. Indeed, Bruce Bartlett, who served as a policy analyst in the Reagan administration, argues that Mr. Obama is in practice a moderate conservative.

Mr. Bartlett has a point. The president, as we’ve seen, was willing, even eager, to strike a budget deal that strongly favored conservative priorities. His health reform was very similar to the reform Mitt Romney installed in Massachusetts. Romneycare, in turn, closely followed the outlines of a plan originally proposed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. And returning tax rates on high-income Americans to their level during the Roaring Nineties is hardly a socialist proposal.

True, Republicans insist that Mr. Obama is a leftist seeking a government takeover of the economy, but they would, wouldn’t they? The facts, should anyone choose to report them, say otherwise.

So what’s with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it’s coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it’s not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.

But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

Mystery Man

from Paul Krugmanby By PAUL KRUGMAN

I’m not alone in feeling deep frustration over Obama’s systematic destruction of his own bargaining power. Bruce Bartlett thinks he’s too young and lacks the tempering the Cold War used to provide:

Now we are in the midst of a debt crisis that stems largely from Obama’s inability to accept the intransigence of his political opponents. Last December, he caved in to Republicans by supporting extension of the Bush tax cuts even though there is no evidence that they have done anything other than increase the deficit. There were those who told Obama that he ought to include an increase in the debt limit, but he rejected that idea, believing that Republicans would behave like responsible adults and raise the debt limit just as they did routinely when their party held the White House.

Obama has continued to reject any proposal that might give him leverage in the negotiations even as House Republicans appear unwilling or incapable of raising the debt limit before a default occurs.

I think if Obama had the sort of experience that Cold War presidents had in dealing with the Soviet Union or that corporate executives and union leaders had in negotiating labor contracts he wouldn’t have been so naïve about the Republicans, who have never hidden the fact that their only objective is defeating him next year regardless of the cost. It’s not too late for Obama to play hardball, but I fear that it is just not in his nature.

Yves Smith is more caustic:

It is hard to come up with words that are strong enough to describe what an appalling display of misguided ego, inept negotiating postures, bad policy thinking, and utter disregard for the public interest are on display in this fiasco. But as a friend of mine likes to say, “Things always look darkest before they go completely black.”

It’s really hard to talk about this without getting into armchair psychoanalysis. I’ll try to refrain. But let’s just say that Obama’s continuing insistence on compromising, his continuing faith in bipartisanship despite two and a half years of evidence that these people don’t do compromise and will never make a deal, is looking obsessive and compulsive. It’s deeply frustrating.

Richard Wolff: Debt Showdown is “Political Theater” Burdening Society’s Most Vulnerable

Debt_button
Republicans have agreed to a vote today on a budget plan they say will cut the deficit $917 billion over 10 years. The move sets the stage for a showdown against unified Democratic opposition in the Senate and threats of a White House veto. To discuss the debt talks and economic austerity worldwide, we’re joined by Richard Wolff, Emeritus Professor of Economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of several books, including “Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.” “This is political theater in which two parties are posturing for the election coming next year,” says Wolff. “To put it in perspective, the number of times the government has raised the debt ceiling since 1940? Ninety, almost twice a year. This is a normal, automatic procedure. Every president, Republican and Democrat, has asked for it.” [includes rush transcript]

Israel and US political campaigns

“Assemblyman David I. Weprin, the Democratic candidate to replace former Representative Anthony D. Weiner in a special election on Sept. 13, is a Modern Orthodox Jew who keeps kosher, observes the Sabbath and has been to Israel at least eight times. So it comes as a surprise that, at this early stage of the short campaign, New York’s Ninth Congressional District finds itself talking about an unlikely subject — whether Mr. Weprin, who is unabashedly pro-Israel, is the best pro-Israel advocate. “It will be a one-upsmanship on who is more pro-Israel,” said Chris Malone, an associate professor of political science at Pace University.” Just as a May special election in a conservative district of western New York turned into an unexpected referendum on the Republican Party’s proposals about Medicare, the coming special election in a heavily Jewish district of Brooklyn and Queens is, at least for that district, emerging as a potential referendum on President Obama’s proposals about the Middle East.”

SYNDICATED COLUMN: American Select

from Ted Rall’s Rallblog by Ted Rall

Wall Street-Backed Third Party Flogs Fake Democracy

For “1984″ Orwell conjured up a one-party state so powerful and pervasive that it was forced to create a phony “resistance” movement led by a fiction-within-a-fiction, Emmanuel Goldstein.

This past Sunday’s New York Times op/ed column by Thomas Friedman, the hackiest hack in American mediadom, presents a Goldstein for America 2012: a third party whose candidate would purportedly be chosen by we, the people. “Thanks to a quiet political start-up that is now ready to show its hand,” writes Friedman, “a viable, centrist, third presidential ticket, elected by an Internet convention, is going to emerge in 2012.”

Amend that: rather than being chosen by we the people, whose ideologies span the gamut, this candidate would be picked by a tiny segment of centrists, i.e. the fraction of the electorate whose ideology falls between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Alas, Friedman continues. He always does.

“The goal of Americans Elect is to take a presidential nominating process now monopolized by the Republican and Democratic parties, which are beholden to their special interests, and blow it wide open—guaranteeing that a credible third choice, nominated independently, will not only be on the ballot in every state but be able to take part in every presidential debate and challenge both parties from the middle with the best ideas on how deal with the debt, education and jobs.”

The world may not be flat. Friedman’s prose, on the other hand…

Check it: there were 80 words in that sentence. A typical op/ed column is 650 words. Thomas Friedman could write an entire column in eight sentences.

Maybe the bizarro world of American journalism, in which Friedman deserves Pulitzers and #1 bestsellers while fellow Timesman Paul Krugman can’t get arrested on national TV, is correct. Only a genius could get paid for this.

Like the proles of “1984,” Americans of all political stripes are disgusted with the Democrats and Republicans. Americans Elect offers a tantalizing prospect to a populace starving for representation worthy of them and the problems that face our nation: genuine democracy free of big corporate money.

So who is Americans Elect?

Their website, americanselect.org, reads more like American Select.

There’s good reason for that.

Americans Elect, Friedman writes as though his readers would approve, is based in “swank offices, financed with some serious hedge-fund money, a stone’s throw from the White House.”

Just what we need—another phony Astroturf movement (hello, Tea Party) financed by thieving Wall Street hedge-fund scum.

Americans Elect is run by “Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq war veteran with a Silver Star, who serves as the chief operating officer of Americans Elect, and whose father, Peter, a successful investor, has been a prime engine behind the group.”

Talk about opaque! Elliot Ackerman, all of 30 years old, isn’t even listed on Wikipedia.

Let’s not get into how and where Mr. Zillionaire War Hero scored his Silver Star. Oh, let’s: it was for massacring local Iraqi resistance fighters defending Fallujah from U.S. occupation troops.

Anyway.

Ackerman & Son want to acquire nothing less than the United States of America. First they should probably learn how to name a website. Not to mention build one. Unless you register you get bumped one screen into their “my colors” page, which is supposed to measure where your politics are on the right-to-left-o-meter.

They might have fixed the website before calling Thomas Friedman, but whatever.

The proposed political mechanics of Americans Elect are beyond naïve. They’re so silly that a 7th grade civics student would laugh out loud.

“Any presidential nominee” resulting from the Internet nominations for president, Friedman says, would have to be “considered someone of similar stature to our previous presidents. That means no Lady Gaga allowed.”

In other words, you can vote for anyone you like, as long as it’s an Old White Protestant Male. Nice democracy you got there, Mssrs. Hedge Fund. Why not open things up? Whatever you think of her wardrobe, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta hadn’t destroyed the economy or started pointless wars.

Now for the best bad part. “Each presidential candidate has to pick a running mate outside of their party and reaching across the divide of politics,” sayeth Ackerman the Lesser, He Who Slaughtered the Ragheads of Fallujah.

So old-fashioned party politics do come into it.

Ds can run with Rs, Rs can run with Ds, socialists and libertarians need not apply. Oh, and why would anyone run for president knowing that their Old White Protestant Male running mate would be one heartbeat away from reversing everything you cared about?

Concludes chief cheerleader Friedman: “What Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what drugstore.com did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life.”

Drugstore.com? Really, Tom?

Big cheese at the Times. Makes high six, more like low seven, figures. Proof that anyone can make it in America, as long as they’re not smart.

“Serious hedge-fund money” aside, Americans Elect doesn’t stand a chance against the billions of corporate dollars lined up behind the Dems and GOP. But that isn’t stopping mainstream media like NPR and the cable news networks from giving them publicity—and thus false hope to a public in dire need of real solutions, not more charlatans.

Just like Emmanuel Goldstein, Americans Elect accomplishes something remarkable. It offers a third-party alternative so phony and disappointing that it can only make Americans more cynical than they are already.

Which makes me wonder. Are these guys the pompous clods they look like, or agents provacateur hastening the Revolution?

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

Bachmann got GSE loan days before calling for end to GSEs

Note that in the video below Bachmann uses the word “Democrat” when she should have said “Democratic.” Either she’s a blithering idiot, a la Palin, or she’s using the same slur other Republicans use about Democrats – they refuse to use the “ic” when using the word as an adjective because they believe that saying “Democrat” instead of “Democratic” sounds more pejorative. Yes, this is the level of emotional maturity we’re dealing with.

From AMERICAblog Elections: The Right’s Field:
The Washington Post reports today that in 2008 Michele Bachmann and her husband took out a $417,000 loan from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac only days before she called for the end of Fannie and Freddie.

Just a few weeks before Bachmann called for dismantling the programs during a House Financial Services Committee hearing, she and her husband signed for a $417,000 home loan to help finance their move to a 5,200-square-foot golf-course home, public records show. Experts who examined the loan documents for The Washington Post say that they are confident the loan was backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.


Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Playing Ball With the Pentagon

from TomDispatch – Blog by Andrew Bacevich

Post-9/11, doesn’t it seem as though all American experience is blending into a single experience whose label is “your safety”? Which means, in practical terms, you get poked, prodded, searched, and surveilled wherever you go.

The other day, I went to the ballpark to see my team, the Mets, play the Florida Marlins. It’s always a shock these days to make your way into the team’s new stadium, Citi Field (named, charmingly enough, after one of the financial institutions that took us down in 2008 and somehow came up smelling like roses). No more is it just tickets at the turnstile. What’s involved now is that peek into your backpack or bag, followed by the full-scale search of you, body wand and all.

I always have the urge to shout: I’m here for a ballgame, not the Global War on Terror! Instead, of course, I just lift my arms and let myself be wanded. It’s like an eternal reminder that, for Americans, 9/11 did change everything — and for the more intrusive at that. Once inside, past all the restaurants and clubs, memorabilia shops and sports-clothing stores that now add up to the baseball (basemall?) experience, it turns out you haven’t left America’s wars behind.

In about the fourth inning of this particular humdrum game, only modestly attended on a Monday night, the looming Jumbotron in the outfield (where I was sitting) suddenly flashed a shot of an Iraq War veteran in the stands. Caught in the camera’s eye, he stood up to wave, bringing the sparse crowd to its feet cheering. Then, former Mets great Tom Seaver came on screen making a pitch for vets, which he concluded this way: “They’ve made their sacrifice. Now, it’s time for us to do the same.”

And then, of course, everybody sat down, went back to hotdogs and peanuts, and the game proceeded. As Andrew Bacevich, TomDispatch regular and author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, points out in a particularly striking way, it’s no mistake that pleas like Seaver’s end in mid-air on nothing whatsoever. Like the Bud Lite being sold all over that stadium, sacrifice-lite is being sold all over America when it comes to wars that most of us are almost completely detached from (until the bills start coming in). Sacrifice-lite turns out to have less body and isn’t filling, but nobody’s about to complain. Not in America. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Bacevich discusses cheap grace and military spectacle, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

Ballpark Liturgy: America’s New Civic Religion
Cheap Grace at Fenway
By Andrew Bacevich

Fenway Park, Boston, July 4, 2011. On this warm summer day, the Red Sox will play the Toronto Blue Jays. First come pre-game festivities, especially tailored for the occasion. The ensuing spectacle — a carefully scripted encounter between the armed forces and society — expresses the distilled essence of present-day American patriotism. A masterpiece of contrived spontaneity, the event leaves spectators feeling good about their baseball team, about their military, and not least of all about themselves — precisely as it was meant to do.

In this theatrical production, the Red Sox provide the stage, and the Pentagon the props. In military parlance, it is a joint operation. In front of a gigantic American flag draped over the left-field wall, an Air Force contingent, clad in blue, stands at attention. To carry a smaller version of the Stars and Stripes onto the playing field, the Navy provides a color guard in crisp summer whites. The United States Marine Corps kicks in with a choral ensemble that leads the singing of the national anthem. As the anthem’s final notes sound, four U. S. Air Force F-15C Eagles scream overhead. The sellout crowd roars its approval.

But there is more to come. “On this Independence Day,” the voice of the Red Sox booms over the public address system, “we pay a debt of gratitude to the families whose sons and daughters are serving our country.” On this particular occasion the designated recipients of that gratitude are members of the Lydon family, hailing from Squantum, Massachusetts. Young Bridget Lydon is a sailor — Aviation Ordnanceman Airman is her official title — serving aboard the carrier USS Ronald Reagan, currently deployed in support of the Afghanistan War, now in its 10th year.

From Out of Nowhere

The Lydons are Every Family, decked out for the Fourth. Garbed in random bits of Red Sox paraphernalia and Mardi Gras necklaces, they wear their shirts untucked and ball caps backwards. Neither sleek nor fancy, they are without pretension. Yet they exude good cheer. As they are ushered onto the field, their eagerness is palpable. Like TV game show contestants, they know that this is their lucky day and they are keen to make the most of it.

As the Lydons gather near the pitcher’s mound, the voice directs their attention to the 38-by-100-foot Jumbotron mounted above the centerfield bleachers. On the screen, Bridget appears. She is aboard ship, in duty uniform, posed below decks in front of an F/A-18 fighter jet. Waiflike, but pert and confident, she looks directly into the camera, sending a “shout-out” to family and friends. She wishes she could join them at Fenway.

As if by magic, wish becomes fulfillment. While the video clip is still running, Bridget herself, now in dress whites, emerges from behind the flag covering the leftfield wall. On the Jumbotron, in place of Bridget below decks, an image of Bridget marching smartly toward the infield appears. In the stands pandemonium erupts. After a moment of confusion, members of her family — surrounded by camera crews — rush to embrace their sailor, a reunion shared vicariously by the 38,000 fans in attendance along with many thousands more watching at home on the Red Sox television network.

Once the Lydons finish with hugs and kisses and the crowd settles down, Navy veteran Bridget (annual salary approximately $22,000) throws the ceremonial first pitch to aging Red Sox veteran Tim Wakefield (annual salary $2,000,000). More cheers. As a souvenir, Wakefield gives her the baseball along with his own hug. All smiles, Bridget and her family shout “Play Ball!” into a microphone. As they are escorted off the field and out of sight, the game begins.

Cheap Grace

What does this event signify?

For the Lydons, the day will no doubt long remain a happy memory. If they were to some degree manipulated — their utter and genuine astonishment at Bridget’s seemingly miraculous appearance lending the occasion its emotional punch — they played their allotted roles without complaint and with considerable élan. However briefly, they stood in the spotlight, quasi-celebrities, all eyes trained on them, a contemporary version of the American dream fulfilled. And if offstage puppet-masters used Bridget herself, at least she got a visit home and a few days off — no doubt a welcome break.

Yet this feel-good story was political as well as personal. As a collaboration between two well-heeled but image-conscious institutions, the Lydon reunion represented a small but not inconsequential public relations triumph. The Red Sox and the Navy had worked together to perform an act of kindness for a sailor and her loved ones. Both organizations came away looking good, not only because the event itself was so deftly executed, but because it showed that the large for-profit professional sports team and the even larger military bureaucracy both care about ordinary people. The message conveyed to fans/taxpayers could not be clearer: the corporate executives who run the Red Sox have a heart. So, too, do the admirals who run the Navy.

Better still, these benefits accrued at essentially no cost to the sponsors. The military personnel arrayed around Fenway showed up because they were told to do so. They are already “paid for,” as are the F-15s, the pilots who fly them, and the ground crews that service them. As for whatever outlays the Red Sox may have made, they are trivial and easily absorbed. For the 2011 season, the average price of a ticket at Fenway Park had climbed to $52. A soft drink in a commemorative plastic cup runs you $5.50 and a beer $8. Then there is the television ad revenue, all contributing the previous year to corporate profits exceeding $58 million. A decade of war culminating in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression hasn’t done much good for the country but it has been strangely good for the Red Sox — and a no-less well funded Pentagon. Any money expended in bringing Bridget to Fenway and entertaining the Lydons had to be the baseball/military equivalent of pocket change.

And the holiday festivities at Fenway had another significance as well, one that extended beyond burnishing institutional reputations and boosting bottom lines. Here was America’s civic religion made manifest.

In recent decades, an injunction to “support the troops” has emerged as a central tenet of that religion. Since 9/11 this imperative has become, if anything, even more binding. Indeed, as citizens, Americans today acknowledge no higher obligation.

Fulfilling that obligation has posed a challenge, however. Rather than doing so concretely, Americans — with a few honorable exceptions — have settled for symbolism. With their pronounced aversion to collective service and sacrifice (an inclination indulged by leaders of both political parties), Americans resist any definition of civic duty that threatens to crimp lifestyles.

To stand in solidarity with those on whom the burden of service and sacrifice falls is about as far as they will go. Expressions of solidarity affirm that the existing relationship between soldiers and society is consistent with democratic practice. By extension, so, too, is the distribution of prerogatives and responsibilities entailed by that relationship: a few fight, the rest applaud. Put simply, the message that citizens wish to convey to their soldiers is this: although choosing not to be withyou, we are still for you (so long as being for you entails nothing on our part). Cheering for the troops, in effect, provides a convenient mechanism for voiding obligation and easing guilty consciences.

In ways far more satisfying than displaying banners or bumper stickers, the Fenway Park Independence Day event provided a made-to-order opportunity for conscience easing. It did so in three ways. First, it brought members of Red Sox Nation into close proximity (even if not direct contact) with living, breathing members of the armed forces, figuratively closing any gap between the two. (In New England, where few active duty military installations remain, such encounters are increasingly infrequent.) Second, it manufactured one excuse after another to whistle and shout, whoop and holler, thereby allowing the assembled multitudes to express — and to be seen expressing — their affection and respect for the troops. Finally, it rewarded participants and witnesses alike with a sense of validation, the reunion of Bridget and her family, even if temporary, serving as a proxy for a much larger, if imaginary, reconciliation of the American military and the American people. That debt? Mark it paid in full.

The late German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a name for this unearned self-forgiveness and undeserved self-regard. He called it cheap grace. Were he alive today, Bonhoeffer might suggest that a taste for cheap grace, compounded by an appetite for false freedom, is leading Americans down the road to perdition.

Andrew J. Bacevich, the author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His next book, of which this post is a small part, will assess the impact of a decade of war on American society and the United States military. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Bacevich discusses cheap grace and military spectacle, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

Copyright 2011 Andrew Bacevich

RACISM, SEXISM,
CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Geller, Anti-Jihadi Blogs Have ‘Very Real Blood of Children on Their Hands’

“People like Fjordman and Pamela Geller and the right-wing blogosphere who spew apocalyptic rhetoric and refuse to denounce the extremists among them now have the very real blood of children on their hands.”

OK, let take a quiz: who wrote that? Glenn Greenwald, perhaps? Andrew Sullivan? Or even me? Not a chance. This fascinating piece of writing comes from none other than Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs. If you’d asked me whether I’d ever agree with anything Johnson wrote I’d have said, hell no. But the fact is that it’s damn important that someone like Johnson writes this. Even more important than if Greenwald or Andrew Sullivan or I do.

Many supporters of Geller, Spencer, et al. have taken umbrage at my accusation that they inspired these foul murders. I can explain all I want but they’ll never buy it. But they’ll have a far harder time disputing with LGF’s founder.

A Dutch newspaper, Politiken, reports that Breivik’s political awakening occurred during a conference he attended in Copenhagen in 2007 sponsored by the bizarrely named, International Civil Liberties Alliance (originally called the Center for Vigilant Freedom). At the event, he had his first opportunity to rub shoulders and network with his counterparts from throughout the rest of Europe and the U.S. Robert Spencer was there, along with Ned May aka Baron Bodissey of Gates of Vienna, and other far-right bloggers. According to Politiken, these are a few of the English language websites within the network represented by the Alliance: Gates of Vienna, Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs, MEMRI, the English Defence League.

I find it almost wickedly funny that Pam Geller is blaming Johnson for the Breivik massacre. I kid you not. This illustrates the depth of the woman’s depravity:

Breivik cites LGF numerous times…He includes a long diatribe against Charles Johnson, whom he clearly admired until he felt betrayed enough to snap. The killer speaks about Charles Johnson obsessively and wrings his hands about Johnson’s turn to the left. Could this perhaps have been the provocation? Could this have been what caused him to snap?

The idea that Geller has any skills at psychological analysis is beyond ludicrous. Also, the notion that Breivik “snapped” is fatuous. He no more snapped than all the blogs he admired including Geller’s “snapped.” They are all part of a calculated, carefully developed and nurtured campaign against Islam and those they view as its secular western leftist enablers. The only difference between Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Pam Geller, et al. and Breivik is that he translated their theories into action. They, as he pointed out, didn’t have the courage of their beliefs to actually take Islam on physically. He did.

Read this from Gates of Vienna and tell me what distinction you can make between it and Breivik’s beliefs:

We are in a religious war, whether we like it or not.It is not for us to define the conditions, but we would do well to pay attention to them. We are mistaken if we think that the only enemy is out to kill us. Jihad is again offering the West two choices: We can convert or die.

It should also be noted that this passage matches perfectly the ideological world view of Kahanist settler extremists, who again, Breivik admired. This is why I argue vehemently against the notion that the Israeli-Arab conflict is primarily religious in nature. That takes us into the realm of holy wars and Armageddon. There is only death there. Rather, the conflict is a political one and like all political conflicts it can be resolved through negotiation. These are ideas that are anathema to the Breiviks and Gellers of this world.

I’m offended by Breivik’s lawyer’s attempt to label him mentally ill. In fact, the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Marc Sagemann, whose written about Islamist jihadis, says he’s seen no hint of mental illness in Breivik’s writings. Of course, there is much delusion, much fantasy, much anger. But that is not mental illness. Declaring these crimes to be the result of insanity defangs and depoliticizes them. Breivik is a political assassin. His crimes must be understood as fundamentally political. The answer to his crimes much also be political, as Norwegians are doing successfully in their hundreds of thousands by embracing their fellow Muslim citizens and reaffirming their commitment to democracy and tolerance–all the values Breivik detested.

The right would like nothing more than diagnose Breivik as insane. It would get them off the hook. It would create a firewall between them and him. But he is no more insane than they are. If he’s insane then they are too and perhaps we should lock the lot of ‘em up in a mental institution. But seriously, the antidote to Breivik is more freedom, more tolerance, more dialogue with the other. And that’s the way to face down the hateful Gellers of the world as well.

H/t reader Deir Yassin.

America’s Disappeared

Dr. Silvia Quintela was “disappeared” by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the “death flights” that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city’s slums, was 28 when she was murdered.

A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela’s infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the “El Vesubio” prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.

Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as theMontoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.

We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweekthat the CIA operated “a hit list.” He asked in the interview: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.

We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our “black sites,” many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. “We tortured people unmercifully,” admittedretired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “We probably murdered dozens of them …, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”

The bodies of many of these victims have never been returned to their families. They disappeared. Anonymous death is the cruelest form of death. There is no closure for the living. There is no way for survivors to fix the end of a life with a time, a ritual and a place. The atrocity is compounded by the atrocity committed against memory. This sacrilege gnaws at survivors. Regimes use clandestine torture centers, murder and anonymous death to keep subject populations off balance, agitated and disturbed. It fuels the collective insanity. The ability of the state to “disappear” people into black sites, hold them for years without charges and carry out torture ensures that soon these techniques will become a routine part of domestic control.

Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them awayin the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can “legally” be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as “extraordinary rendition,” are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.

Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in “The Lexicon of Terror”of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.

Human Rights Watch, in a new report, “Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” declared there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”

But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.

The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time—a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

Illustration by Mr. Fish

‘Intelligence’ and Islamophobia – PowerPointed and neoconned

from Mondoweiss by Paul Mutter

A barely legible 2009 FBI PowerPoint on “Islam” has come down the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) line at a very unfortunate time following the right-wing terrorist attacks in Norway. But it is very much part of that tragedy. The 62-slide PowerPoint presentation, which the FBI states that it is no longer in use, is for training interrogators to interview Muslim suspects. A few slides in, and one shudders what to think it has been replaced by, though.

A slide titled “Islam 101” presents – as fact – that Islam “transforms country’s culture into 7th century Arabian ways.”

The same slide also acknowledges (unironically, given the quality of the presentation), that Islam is “hard for Westerners to understand.” But at least Westerners think factually – the “Arabic mind is swayed more by words than ideas, and more by ideas than facts,” reads another slide. The Western mind, presumably, is analytical, unlike the “Arabic” one (the report wavers between distinguishing between Arabs and Muslims – this one of the points where it blurs them together).

Analytical information is what this report lacks most. “Muslims,” the report notes midway through, after dispensing with a great deal of basic statistics, “are fundamentally and inalienably spiritual while the West is purely materialistic” (not that this stops politicians, commentators or right-wing terrorists from depicting an mythical alliance between Islam and “the Left” (aka “liberals”) as a major threat to Western civilization).

The content of the PowerPoint is not unlike that of the Islamophobic blogosphere: the ethnic and cultural-religious smears could easily have come from a site like Atlas Shrugs, The Gates of Vienna or Jihad Watch. And it is really symptomatic of how mainstream Islamophobia has become today that such hate speech can be interchanged with statements in “intelligence” training materials. Opportunistic “Islam” experts have ingratiated themselves in the U.S. political establishment and our ostensibly objective intelligence agencies, from the FBI to the U.S. Army.

Surely, when attempting to understand a real, but specific, threat, American officials should be trained to view over a billion people as inscrutable and medieval time bombs just waiting to overrun the West. The Gates of Vienna, for instance, actively invokes this scenario – it proclaims that it’s struggle against “Islamization” is a continuation of an age-old war for civilization; Atlas Shrugs reguraly suggests that “willful stupidity” in the U.S. towards Muslims – and, by extension, multiculturalism – will result in submission to “Islamic supremacism” – not unlike the ultranationalist British National Party in the UK.

Hard to understand, perhaps, but not hard to make money, power and fame from by bashing it. “The Great Fear,” Max Blumenthal notes, geared up during the lead-in to the 2003 Iraq War. The neoconservatives in the White House and Department of Defense had their grand hope of not only settling the score with Saddam and doing good by oil (“60% of the earth’s oil reserves [are] in or near [the] Arabian Peninsula,,” notes the PowerPoint) but also bringing a Pax Americana to the Middle East. This group of like-minded men and women first came together during the 1970s to urge a more hardline stance for Israel and against communism, these neocons now railed against the “Islamofascist” bogeyman. Having their teeth in the first Gulf War and saw the second as a grand opportunity to orient U.S. foreign policy towards their ideological bent.

And what better way to achieve consensus on such a controversial project than by demonizing the enemy’s civilization? We’re not at war with Islam, then-President George W. Bush noted, but Islamophobes seemed to either miss or ignore that message. And so the anti-Muslim machine – a very diverse machine – took the security jitters and anti-Islamic sentiments resulting from 9/11 and turned them into a still-politically potent force. Republican Congressman Peter King’s hearings on “Muslim (and only Muslim) radicalization” in the U.S. are one of this year’s most notable developments, but it is not the only demonstration of the potency of Islamophobia in U.S. politics.

Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann’s foreign policy advisers include the neoconservative Frank Gaffney, who routinely rails against the “Islamofascist” threat to the U.S. and Israel (he sometimes conflates “the threat” with President Obama). Gaffney is no obscure ivory tower intellectual, though. During the Bush administration, Gaffney was an outspoken champion of the argument that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were both involved in the 9/11 attacks. That a serious presidential contender can bring such an individual onto her campaign demonstrates just how mainstream Islamophobia is today. Gaffney is part of the conservative camp that includes Daniel Pipes, founder of Campus Watch, the self-appointed watchdog of Middle Eastern affairs in U.S. academia, and David Horowitz, among others. These intellectuals’ work carried weight with Bush Administration officials such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle.

In such a climate, intellectuals, politicians, journalists, nonprofit groups and intelligence analysts – most of whom are self-taught on “Islam” – have been raking in millions of dollars from their work outlining the supposed “Islamic” threat to America. Other outlets have noted that these “experts” have even been hired by the federal government to do training and consultative work.

The Washington Monthly has outlined how “counterterrorism trainers for hire” have ingratiated themselves with state and local law enforcement across the U.S. – offering helpful advice to police on how to deal with Muslim suspects by employing “legal harassment,” a profiling tactic that assumes Muslims are guilty until proven innocent – one trainer described in the Monthly suggested that U.S. police raid convenience stores owned by Muslims (which, according to the trainer, all launder money for terrorists) under the cover of health code violations.

Even less “intelligence” is needed to be a politician with a similar opinion on the Islamic Question – though most are careful to present “the fight against Islam” in non-violent terms (“war” and “fight” are metaphors, they shouldn’t be taken literally – a clarification that, as in other debates, often only becomes clear following a literal bloodbath). “Anti-Islamization” Dutch politician Geert Wilders, for instance, affirms that “the global anti-Islamic movement” has always been a campaign to be won through “the power of the ballot box and the wisdom of the voter. Not bombs and guns.” In the U.S., the specter of “Sovietization” has been superseded (but not replaced) by the specter of “Sharia Law” replacing the Constitution. Bills have come up through multiple state legislatures to “preempt” the “Islamization of America.” Thankfully, America’s awakened bloggers and legislators won’t let that happen here (although there is still no consensus on what century the bill’s sponsors would like to take the U.S. back to).

It’s perfectly acceptable to draw broad conclusions like these in the mainstream media, too: The Washington Post ran an op-ed that immediately placed blame for the July 2011 Norway attacks on Islamists – and went on to reiterate the need to boost defense spending in light of the omnipresent “jihadist” threat. When it became apparent that Muslims were not behind the attack, the Post did not apologize for the inaccuracies – and the editorialist in question, Jennifer Rubin, simply reiterated her original argument by stating that while she was wrong on the particulars, “There is no shortage of threats. There is no shortage of evil. Democratic governments have many demands on tax dollars, but none is more important than defending the lives and security of our citizenry.” (Rubin also distinguished Breivik as a “lone-wolf” in contrast to “organized jihadists,” implying that the latter is the greater, omnipresent threat).

Not very subtle, but Islamophobia and neoconservativism rarely are.

In the blogosphere, sites like Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch and The Gates of Vienna are just some of the better-known outlets pandering Islamophobia as breaking news and informed commentary. There are thousands of similar blogs and organizations in the U.S. and the EU – and mainstream media is airing these views as part of a “balanced” commentary on “Islam.” U.S. commentators are increasingly linking up with their European counterparts (who for years have been encroaching on the margins of respectability – electorally and rhetorically – in the EU over Muslim immigration).

Speaking of imagined conspiracies (like Hezbollah laundering money through the local 7-11) and polemicists, Robert Spencer, now infamous because of Anders Breivik’s liberal citations of Jihad Watch posts in his manifesto, gets 2 nods in the “Recommended Reading” slide of the FBI presentation – 2 of his books, out of only 8 books in total, the FBI thought necessary to include here on this list are his.

Given the focus these sites give to culture in the Muslim world, it is not surprising that so much of the “jihadist” discussion in the PowerPoint is juxtaposed with (unrelated) aspects of Islamic culture. A photo of a Muslim circumcision ceremony is presented following a slide that reads “Things to use/consider for successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the M.E.” [Middle East]. Presumably, knowing that Muslims practice circumcision is a crucial component of U.S. security. Also: that they have prayer beads.

One can only guess at how many terror plots have been foiled now that we are armed with this knowledge.

It also helps to portray entire nations – millions of people – as targets who are as much front-line combatants in “the struggle” as soldiers are. But, of course, this kind of total war-mass civilian casualty conceptualization is only a metaphor when Westerners use it.

This PowerPoint offers much insight into the sort of thinking that has made Islamophobia an acceptable aspect of Western political “discourse.” Throughout history, Americans have castigated particular groups as subhuman. Blacks = apes, Japanese = spies, Jews = swindlers, Latinos = illegals. Now, the bogeyman is “the Muslim” (and/or “the Arab”).

For instance, that the Muslim inclination to terrorism can be determined by a sliding scale. Phrenologists rejoice. There is a helpful scale of tolerance on one slide to help determine whether one’s interrogation subject is a mild-mannered “Shaffii” (rated as most tolerant) or a sinister, suicide-bombing “Salafi Jihadi” (rated as least tolerant, with a helpful snapshot of a bearded man wearing a skullcap for profiling purposes!).

The irony is that in casting hundreds of millions of people as potential oppressors and villains, the Islamophobes are aping the “Islamists” they claim to be the vanguard against. Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Anders Breivik have much in common, as the American right is arguing, though for very different reasons than they suggest – they make an operational link; I’m making a philosophical one.

Actual advocates of Islamist terrorism and the Islamophobic commentators that Breivik latched on to too have a lot in common. Some commentators have distinguished Breivik’s actions from Al Qaeda’s because of their “political” character, but this is a nonissue. All terrorist actions – and the ideologies that motivate them – are political actions. The tools of bigotry, incitement to violence and fear mongering are nonsectarian – they serve a calculated purpose, which is to mobilize people to gain legitimacy. Such support legitimizes heinous actions – and Islamophobic speech is helping legitimize any and all measures against “Quislings” who don’t see that “Islam” is “the enemy” (just as anti-Semitic speech after 1917 has often lumped together Jews and Communists).

How is this done? The PowerPoint shows the way. On its sole “Recommended Reading” slide, the Quran is also included, as is Islamist godfather Sayyid Qutb’s seminal anti-Western screed, Milestones – which is basically like saying an FBI agent could get a good understanding of Christianity just from reading the Bible and former KKK leader David Duke’s Jewish Supremacism (or that Judaism can be understood by a reading of the Torah and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion).

The above is the general formula one sees by the detractors of any ideology: pick a main text, and then take an extreme “derivative” of it and paint to that extremism as the norm. It’s very effective – for one thing, it’s not mentally taxing – and it makes someone who is appreciably (or not appreciably) different easier to hate. Islamophobia plays on conformation biases and self-pity – as Antiwar Radio’s Justin Raimondo suggests, just go look at the Book of “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” from the neoconservative bible Project for a New American Century, for a relevant example – one especially relevant because of the imagining of the West against the rest (but specifically the “Muslim” rest). Blending together a visibly outsider (Muslims) with a populist fervor (anti-elitism) into a political package is a surefire way to win at the polls – or at least make a statement people won’t soon forget.

One can only hope that the FBI is getting better intelligence these days from its PowerPoints. It certainly isn’t getting it from most media outlets.

But hope, and facts, are sadly overrated in the face of fear. Which is exactly what extremists – no matter what creed they subscribe to – want.

The same Islamophobic bloggers and pundits that influenced Norway killer also influence Congress

from Mondoweiss by Karina Piser

In light of the Oslo attacks, it is important to pause and contemplate what sparked this event, and indeed where such hatred comes from. One thing is clear: this in no way occurred in isolation.

It was a disconcerting coincidence that an article on the front page of Monday’s New York Times coincided with a sensationalist event entitled “Homegrown Jihad in the USA: Culmination of the Muslim Brotherhood’s 50-year History of Infiltrating America,” presented by Citizens for National Security (CFNS), located in Boca Raton, Florida and sponsored by U.S. Congressman Allen West, a Republican from Florida.

In fact, the Times article reported on the strong influence of a group of American bloggers on Anders Behring Breivik’s–the man accused of the Oslo massacre–decision to bomb government buildings and kill so many innocent civilians. His 1,500-page manifesto spoke directly to the alleged failure of Norwegian politicians to protect the nation from the spread of nefarious Islamic influence. His manifesto, which cites Robert Spencer’s blog, Jihad Watch, an astounding 64 times, should serve as a reminder of the terrifying influence of right-wing extremism in a world of online media.

CFNS is part of this xenophobic network of ideologues to which Breivik subscribed. Eli Clifton at Think Progress has done great work on unpacking the influential forces behind the manifesto, revealing the frequency in which Breivik cites alleged counter-terrorism experts and Islamophobic bloggers and pundits in justifying his views. Breivik’s manifesto cites Daniel Pipes, a board-member of CFNS, and his think-tank, The Middle East Forum, eighteen times. Pipes’ blog features a variety of extreme, ultra-conservative gems of articles on the Middle East and a whole spectrum of important political issues, such as his confirmation of President Obama’s Muslim identity that lists the President’s “ties to Islamists,” or his plan for Palestinian-Israeli peace, which essentially calls for Israel to wage relentless violence on all of its potential adversaries in order to achieve its national goals. Pipes also thinks up clever phrases to describe his ridiculous assessments of the world. My personal favorite, Sudden Jihad-Syndrome, refers to cases “whereby normal-appearing Muslims abruptly become violent.” The most atrocious aspect of this blatantly racist and ignorant phrase is that, since Pipes coined it, it has appeared on an increasingly widespread basis.

What’s particularly frightening about all of this—the event, Daniel Pipes, Breivik’s manifesto—is not that right-wing radicals exist. That’s not news to any of us. But we should take note of the political influence these lunatics somehow manage to have, and the fact that our nation’s Congresspeople support events like “Homegrown Jihad in the USA.” Ignoring these trends would be dangerous.

The goal of the CFNS event was to present an “in-depth, 18-month long research project” revealing the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence in America. The presentation’s first slide, “THE WAR IS REAL,” introduced the “one-sided war” the Brotherhood has waged against America and the West for the last 50-years. Graphic representations of intricate networks of Muslim Brotherhood “affiliates”—a cast of super-nefarious organizations like the Muslim Students Association, the Muslim American Society, and the North American Islamic Trust—allegedly show the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood has not only infiltrated America but has transformed every Muslim-American into a raging terrorist, intent on waging “jihad” (a term undefined by the speaker of course) against the West, threatening the “inherently secular” nature of the American political climate (this statement was then contradicted, or perhaps unintentionally retracted, by the speaker after I posed a quite simple question regarding his opinion on the potential threat of other groups that conflate religion and politics, like Evangelical Christians or even lobbying organizations like AIPAC).

Even more bizarre than the “in-depth” research project is the absolute absence of citations or statistics in the pamphlet distributed at the briefing. The only citation is from the Center on Law and Security at NYU which offers graphical representation of prosecutions of “homegrown terrorists.” The goal was to show a linkage between “homegrown terrorists” and “Islam,” clearly to vilify Islam to such an extent that CFNS’s hideous conflation of Muslim and Terrorist would seem somehow grounded in scholarship or reality. In this clear misappropriation of important academic data, CFNS used a statistic about prosecution of terrorist activity to implicate the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim-Americans in general.

And what are we to make of the database of 6,000 names generated by CFNS’s “in-depth research?” When asked whether or not the names on said database were based on action or association, the speaker paused, and then confirmed that all individuals (and organizations, for that matter) marked as linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (and identified as alleged threats) were listed solely based on (unproved) “affiliation” rather than “terrorist activity.” The prospect of Congress having access to a database of 6,000 names of allegedly dangerous individuals is alarming and should serve as a red-flag for the possibility of violence against the American-Muslim community. If this isn’t McCarthyite, I’m not sure what is.

CFNS’s rhetoric should not be taken lightly. Although many of the attendees at the conference only came to witness its absurdity and get a free lunch, some took heed to the ludicrous message CFNS was trying to convey. The presence of Islamophobia in America and on a global scale is certainly alarming. The identification and data-basing of Muslim students should be a warning sign. This is not benign hatred. When an American politician sponsors an event clearly grounded in racism, anti-Muslim rhetoric and fear-mongering, conscientious individuals and organizations aimed at fostering understanding at peace should take action.

Karina Piser is an intern with New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force.



How Timothy McVeigh provided inspiration to Norway’s Behring

Andrew Gumbel, author of an upcoming book about the Oklahoma City bombing, has an op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times noting the comparisons between the Norway shooter and Timothy McVeigh:

America’s violent far right would have no difficulty recognizing the tell-tale signatures of Friday’s killing spree in Norway — and not just because they would see the confessed perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, as an ideological soul mate who, like their own heroes, thought he could trigger a white-supremacist revolution with bombs and bullets.

Breivik appears to have been more than simply inspired by American predecessors such as Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber: The materials he used, the way he planned and carried out his attacks, and his own writings all suggest he was deeply familiar with the actions of some notorious political killers on this side of the Atlantic.

And, hopefully, Breivik’s shooting will have the same impact:

The Oklahoma City bombing was ultimately viewed as an operational disaster by the radical far right in this country because the death toll of innocents — including 19 children under age 5 — caused only revulsion and effectively squashed the American militia movement. Breivik’s grand murderous folly is likely to generate that same kind of disgust.

Today’s New York Times reports there’s already been a noticeable change in rhetoric:

Less than a week after the mass killings in Norway, evidence of a shift in the debate over Islam and the radical right in Europe already appeared to be taking hold on a traumatized Continent.

As the police in Norway and abroad continued to search for potential accomplices, expressions of outrage over the deaths crossed the political spectrum. Members of far-right parties in Sweden and Italy were condemned from within their own ranks for blaming multiculturalism for the attack. A member of France’s far-right National Front was suspended for praising the attacker.

Breivik’s exclusivist nationalism reminds Sullivan of Zionism

from Mondoweissby Philip Weiss

1 person liked this

Sullivan makes the analogy to ultra-Zionist settlers, but how long before he is talking about Zionist zealots in the U.S.? (At Foreign Policy today there is a long discussion cobylined Shmuel Rosner, now of the Jewish People Planning Institute, about demographics and emigration in Israel, describing Israel as the Jewish homeland and refuge to oppressed peoples from around the world, melting pot, etc, in exalted terms (invoking aliyah, or the idea that in moving to Israel, Jews go higher), without any reference to the expulsions that established the Jewish majority and that continue today in East Jerusalem. These ideas are actually similar to Breivik’s ideal for Norway; though of course no massacre is endorsed in the Foreign Policy piece.)

Anti-Islam bigotry in Norway

“‘Whereas previous verbal assaults on Muslims were often nakedly racist and antiquated, referencing the old “Muhammadan” threat to conquer Europe, a more sophisticated bigotry against Muslims has emerged over the last several years. The anti-Muslim rhetoric does not make reference to race or color but instead turns to Muslim scripture to find passages to show that Islam is an evil religion. Critics of Islam also cite former Muslims who have left the community and now call it dangerous. Those who accept these claims without questioning them or attempting to find out more become scared that Muslims are aiming to overtake Norway‘”. (thanks Nabeel)

The guy who mocked Arabs for their (logical) propensity to favor conspiracy theories, comes up with the dumbest conspiracy theory

“Beyond massacring innocent Norwegians, Behring Breivik damaged conservatism, the counterjihad, and (in particular) those authors he cited in his writings, including myself. A close reading of his manifesto suggests this may have been purposeful.” (thanks David)

Obama’s whistleblower war suffers two defeats

from Glenn Greenwaldby Glenn Greenwald

11 people liked this

(updated below: w/reaction from Jim Risen)

The Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers suffered two serious and well-deserved defeats. The first occurred in the prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who was accused of multiple acts of espionage, only for the DOJ to drop virtually all of the charges right before the trial was to begin and enter into a plea agreement for one minor misdemeanor. Today, The Washington Post under the headline “Judge blasts prosecution of alleged NSA leaker” — reports that the federal judge presiding over the case “harshly criticized U.S. prosecutors’ treatment of a former spy agency official accused of leaking classified material.”

As the transcript of Drake’s sentencing hearing published by Secrecy News reflects, Judge Richard Bennett of the U.S. District Court for Maryland was infuriated by two aspects of the DOJ’s conduct: (1) after the Bush DOJ executed a search warrant of Drake’s home in 2007, the Obama DOJ — 2 1/2 years later — finally indicted him, meaning he had to live with that cloud of criminal uncertainty over his head for that outrageously lengthy period of time; and (2) despite dropping all of the serious charges right before the trial was about to begin, the DOJ demanded that Drake be forced to pay a $50,000 fine as “a deterrent” (on top of the tens of thousands of dollars he spent in legal fees until he had no money left and had to use public defenders, as well as the fact that he was five years away from earning a federal pension when he was fired and ended up working at an Apple Computer store to support his family); to justify the requested fine, the prosecutor cited a $10,000 whistleblowing prize Drake was awarded earlier this year.

As for the first issue, the court condemned what it called the “extraordinary position taken by the government, probably unprecedented in this courthouse” of dropping the whole case on the eve of trial after “an extraordinary period of delay.” Judge Bennett added: “I find that unconscionable. Unconscionable. It is at the very root of what this country was founded on against general warrants of the British.” As for the second issue, the court reviewed the difficult circumstances of Drake’s childhood (he was raised in poverty and sent himself to school with risky military service), his complete lack of any prior criminal record, and — most of all — the multiple ways in which the failed prosecution destroyed his life (“the financial devastation wrought upon this defendant”), and flatly refused to impose any fine at all, explaining: “I’m not going to add to that in any way.”

What is most notable about this hearing is that the prosecutor candidly described not only his reasons for wanting a substantial fine imposed on Drake, but (without his saying so) also the motive for the Obama DOJ’s broader war on whistleblowers: namely, an attempt to send a “message” of intimidation to future would-be whistleblowers (click on image to enlarge):

Yet Judge Bennett — who, as a Bush 43 appointee, is presumably not overly sympathetic either to criminal defendants generally or national security leaks in particular — was having none of that. He first explained that he had never seen prosecutorial delays as extreme as the one in this case (accounted for by the fact that the Bush DOJ had apparently decided not to prosecute Drake, but the Obama DOJ then proceeded):

Judge Bennett then eloquently explained that the DOJ already destroyed Drake’s life, even though it ended up convicting him of nothing other than a minor misdemeanor:

That, of course, is the real point here. Drake’s leak involved no conceivable harm to national security, but did expose serious waste, corruption and possible illegality. When Drake was indicted back in April, 2010, I wrote at the time: “the more I think about this, the more I think this might actually be one of the worst steps the Obama administration has taken yet, if not the single worst step — and that’s obviously saying a lot.” The effect of prosecuting Drake with multiple “espionage” counts, threatening him with decades in prison, and financially ruining him is clear: to frighten future whistleblowers into silence, and thus enable the government and the National Security State to do whatever it wants free of one of the only true checks it has. That’s what makes Obama’s War on Whistleblowing so pernicious.

The second defeat Obama’s whistleblower war suffered occurred in the prosecution of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who — like Drake — allegedly leaked information that exposed serious ineptitude but entailed no national security harm. As I wrote about several times, the Obama DOJ was seeking to force New York Timees reporter James Risen (to whom Sterling is accused of leaking) to testify about his source. But yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema quashed the DOJ’s subpoena, ruling in a decision (not yet public because it’s now undergoing a classification review) that Risen need only testify to affirm the accuracy of what he wrote (which he had long ago offered to do).

These events demonstrate how legally baseless are the Obama DOJ’s intimidation efforts, yet their rejection in court does not mean they have not succeeded. As I wrote about in the context of the Risen subpoena:

But for anyone who is engaged in meaningful dissent from and challenge to government officials — the Jim Risens and other real investigative reporters, the Thomas Drakes and other whistleblowers, the WikiLeaks supporters, the Midwest peace activists — these prosecutions and these ever-expanding surveillance, detention and even assassination powers are inevitably intimidating. Regardless of how those powers are used or even whether they are, they will, as Risen put it, have “a chilling effect” on the exercise of core freedoms.

Despite being largely vindicated, Thomas Drake’s life was all but destroyed, while Jim Risen spent years facing the prospect that he’d have to go to prison in order not to reveal his source. That climate of fear aimed at those who expose government wrongdoing is the prime outcome, if not the prime goal, of the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers.

* * * * *

Here is an issue that needs a lot more scrutiny: Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to the U.N., and Justin Raimondo, both superbly examine the potential help received by accused Oslo attacker Anders Behring Breivik from the network of Muslim-hating far-right activists. I summarized one aspect of their excellent arguments here (Geller’s deletion of the reference to “stockpiling weapons” in Norway described there occurred this month, apparently in the last 24 hours). In an age where Muslims are swept into intense law enforcement investigations and even prosecutions for even the most tenuous links to those who commit violence, the seemingly pervasive indifference to Breivik’s possible support network is revealing indeed.

UPDATE: Risen emailed me the following this morning about his sweeping victory:

This is an important victory for the First Amendment, and for the freedom of the press in the United States. Some people don’t seem to understand the connection between the ability of journalists to protect their confidential sources and a free press. But if whistleblowers in government, in corporations, and elsewhere in society can be hounded and persecuted, and if the Justice Department is able to use its power to turn reporters into informants, then investigative journalism in America will surely wither and die. The First Amendment will have lost its meaning.

That seems to be not a bug, but a feature — the primary one — of the Obama war on whistleblowers.

Wealth Gap Between Minorities and White Americans Doubles After Housing Crisis, Recession

Healthgap_buttonA new study of U.S. census data reveals that wealth gaps between whites and minorities in the United States have grown to their widest levels since the U.S. government began tracking them a quarter-century ago. White Americans now have on average 20 times the net worth of African Americans and 18 times that of Latinos. According to the Pew Research Center, the gaps were compounded during the housing bust and the subsequent recession, and essentially wiped out much of the economic progress made by people of color over the past 20 years. We discuss the center’s study with Roderick Harrison, sociologist and demographer, and former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau. “Any hopes or aspirations, particularly based solely on Obama’s election, that we had reached some kind of post-racial state were close to delusional,” says Harrison. “This report is pointing to just how much the socioeconomic inequalities have been exacerbated by the recession and poor economy.” [includes rush transcript]

Exclusive: David House on Bradley Manning, Secret WikiLeaks Grand Jury, and U.S. Surveillance

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org(Democracy Now!)

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Davidhouse_manning_buttonOn the eve of the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange in London, we spend an exclusive hour with David House, who co-founded the Bradley Manning Support Network after U.S. Army Private Manning was arrested for allegedly releasing classified U.S. military documents to WikiLeaks. House refused to testify last month in Alexandria, Virginia, before a grand jury hearing on WikiLeaks and the disclosure of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables. Democracy Now! spoke to House at the Frontline Club in London about the significance of WikiLeaks, how he helped found the Bradley Manning Support Network, his visits with Manning at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, the federal surveillance he and his associates have come under, and his experience before the grand jury. “In my mind, this reeks of the Pentagon Papers investigation,” says House. “Richard Nixon’s [Department of Justice] 40 years ago attempted to curtail the freedoms of the press and politically regulate the press through the use of policy created around the espionage investigation of the New York Times. I feel the WikiLeaks case we have going on now provides Obama’s DOJ ample opportunity to continue this attempt to politically regulate the U.S. media.” [includes rush transcript]

British NHS health care rationing begins

Despite what the GOP says, the US has already had rationing with health care. It was called private health insurance. The NHS has had it’s share of waiting (especially compared to France, which is public/private but is fast) but the Conservatives almost seem to be trying their darnedest to make the NHS unworkable. As we see with the Republicans in the US, they cut funding and then stand back and say “see, it doesn’t work so it needs to be scrapped.” The fact is, the NHS – warts and all – still ranks much higher than the US system. At least it did until the Tories decided to “modernize” it. The Independent:

Hip replacements, cataract surgery and tonsil removal are among operations now being rationed in a bid to save the NHS money.

Two-thirds of health trusts in England are rationing treatments for “non-urgent” conditions as part of the drive to reduce costs in the NHS by £20bn over the next four years. One in three primary-care trusts (PCTs) has expanded the list of procedures it will restrict funding to in the past 12 months.

Harry Potter in Akransas

“The parents of a 4th-grader in Cedarville, Arkansas, filed a federal lawsuit July 3 challenging the city school board’s placement of the Harry Potter series on a restricted borrowing list, which requires students to present written permission from a parent to borrow one of the four J. K. Rowling titles. The plaintiffs are Billy Ray Counts and Mary Nell Counts, the parents of a Cedarville student; Billy Ray Counts served on the materials review committee that recommended to the board in May that the district maintain unfettered access to the books.” (thanks Sultan)

LABOR / THE ECONOMY

THE ULTRA-RIGHT


ENVIRONMENT



CORPORATE MEDIA

9/11 families to meet with US Attorney General over News Corp hacking

This story is not going away for the Murdoch family. We need to know a lot more about how Murdoch’s media empire acted in the US. The Guardian:

Relatives of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York are to meet with America’s top law enforcement official to discuss allegations that journalists working for News Corporation tried to gain access to the phone records of the dead.

The US attorney general Eric Holder has agreed to see a group of family members and their legal representative on 24 August to discuss the progress of an FBI investigation. The agreement to hold the meeting is a sign of how seriously the inquiry is being taken.

Norman Siegel, a New York-based lawyer who represents 20 families who lost loved ones on 11 September 2001, confirmed the meeting and said he intended to take as many of the relatives as possible to see Holder in Washington. “We are hoping the allegations of hacking prove to be untrue but we want a thorough investigation to determine what happened,” he said.

In the UK the government is asking questions about the millions of deleted emails and what Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp knew about it. Stay tuned.

Murdoch given secret defense briefings by Tory government

The Murdoch propaganda machine needs to be fully exposed, so learning more about their meetings with the GOP needs to happen soon. Is News Corp the mouthpiece of the right or are they much more? The Independent:

On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were given confidential defence briefings on Afghanistan and Britain’s strategic defence review by the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. A further briefing was held with Ms Brooks, Rupert Murdoch and the Sunday Times editor John Witherow.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has had 16 separate meetings since May 2010 with News International editors and executives, including two with the Murdochs within just a month of taking office. He also invited Elisabeth Murdoch as a guest to his 40th birthday party last month.

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, dined with Rupert Murdoch within days of the Government coming to power and, after being given quasi-judicial oversight for the Murdochs’ £8bn attempted takeover of BSkyB, had two meetings with James Murdoch in which they discussed the takeover. Mr Hunt said last night that these were legitimate as part of the bid process.

But the minister who sees Rupert Murdoch the most frequently is the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, a former News International employee. Mr Gove has seen the mogul for breakfast, lunch or dinner on six occasions since last May. Overall, Mr Gove has had 12 meetings with Murdoch executives since becoming a minister.

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This entry was posted in Finance Capital, Human Rights, Islamophobia, Medicare, Norway, Obama, Social Security, US Economy, US Electoral Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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