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This is the blog for Sean Brennan and London After Midnight. For more information please see the LAM website at londonaftermidnight.com.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oil is Motivation for War; The War You Don't See; Fox 'News' Lies About Climate Change; WikiLeaks is GOOD; Tax Cuts for the Rich Kill Jobs; Ralph Nader; Cheney the Criminal; more

- Oil or Terrorism: Which Motivates U.S. Policy More? The protection of some of the world’s most virulent authoritarian regimes thus became integral to maintaining Anglo-U.S. geopolitical control of the world’s strategic hydrocarbon energy reserves. Our governments have willingly paid a high price for this access – the price of national security.

- FOXLEAKS: Fox Boss Ordered Staff to Cast Doubt On Climate Science In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."

The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."

- Majority of One by Ralph Nader On Friday, December 10, 2010, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent Socialist, of Vermont,  tore the covers off an oligarchic driven Congress and a concessionary President with eight-and-a-half hours of non-stop presentations of facts and figures and a plea for fairness and justice.

Obama has frittered away his comfortable majority in Congress on many accounts for two years. And millions of people and their children will be paying the bill for his failure to fight for them.

- Journalists Begin, Finally, to Stand Up in Defense of WikiLeaks and Freedom of Information While most US journalists have been slow to defend WikiLeaks-and some have been openly critical of the website's distribution of leaked US diplomatic cables-their Australian peers are pushing back against attempts to constrain freedom of information and the press.

- Nigeria Mulls $250 Million Deal to Drop Cheney Charges Nigeria has negotiated a 250 million dollar settlement deal that would see it drop charges against US ex-vice president Dick Cheney and others over a bribery scandal, an official said Tuesday.

- ...And Justice For Few Poor defendants on death row, immigrants in unfair deportation proceedings, torture victims, domestic violence survivors and victims of racial discrimination - all these groups are consistently being denied access to justice while those responsible for the abuses are protected, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

- Tax Cuts Create Jobs? Prove It ...the period between 2001 and 2004, when George W. Bush pushed through a series of tax cuts for investors and corporations in the name of creating jobs, actually saw some of the weakest job creation rates on record following a recession.

- Who is Better on Taxes, Republicans or Democrats? Democrats, Clearly A simple chart explains why.

- The Republicans' Fatal Misreading of FDR -- and How It Would Worsen The Depression It's almost forgotten now, but FDR ran for election promising a balanced budget and big spending cuts. By the time he assumed the Presidency, however, public protests against the economic collapse were so huge that he was forced to change course and launch his public spending push. The result? Unemployment began to slide down from its 25 per cent peak.
But then, in 1936, FDR wobbled. He listened to [Republicans] and slashed spending. Unemployment rose again - producing the spike in unemployment that [Republicans] now perversely cite as evidence that the New Deal didn't work. But the reality stands. When FDR spent, unemployment fell. When FDR cut back, unemployment rose.

Pilger: Wikileaks is Necessary 'Revolution in Journalism'
WikiLeaks, Web to Revolutionize Reporting, says Journalist and Filmmaker John Pilger
Published on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 by Reuters
by Mike Collett-White

LONDON - Revelations on the WikiLeaks website which have enraged governments around the world should force the traditional media to rely less on official sources, award-winning journalist John Pilger said.
[In an interview to discuss his film "The War You Don't See," the veteran Australian reporter, John Pilger, told Reuters the internet, and more specifically WikiLeaks, would bring about a "revolution" in journalism which too often failed to do its job properly.]In an interview to discuss his film "The War You Don't See," the veteran Australian reporter, John Pilger, told Reuters the internet, and more specifically WikiLeaks, would bring about a "revolution" in journalism which too often failed to do its job properly.
In an interview to discuss his film "The War You Don't See," the veteran Australian reporter told Reuters the internet, and more specifically WikiLeaks, would bring about a "revolution" in journalism which too often failed to do its job properly.

One reason the media did not challenge the U.S. and British governments' justification for going to war in Iraq in 2003, later shown to be misplaced, was their eagerness to believe the official version of events, Pilger argued.

He said the same was true of television coverage of the Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, when British broadcasters appeared willing only to use Israeli video rather than trawling the internet for alternative footage.

"That mindset that only authority can really determine the 'truth' on the news, that's a form of embedding that really now has to change," said Pilger, who has covered conflicts in Vietnam and Cambodia, written books and made several acclaimed documentaries.
"There's no question about the pressure on it to change coming from the internet and coming from WikiLeaks -- it will change," he added in the interview ahead of Tuesday evening's broadcast of his new film.

"That is the canker in all of this, it's the compulsion to quote, not necessarily believing the authority source. But then once you quote it and you put it out on the wires or you broadcast it, it takes on a sort of mantle of fact and that's where the whole teaching of journalism is wrong.

"Authority has its place, but the skepticism about authority must be ingrained in people."
In The War You Don't See, Pilger interviews leading broadcast journalists including Dan Rather and Rageh Omaar, who agree that journalists failed in their basic duties during the build-up to the Iraq conflict.

It seeks to highlight how British television reporters based in London were quick to accept what they were being told by officials in Westminster, which did not necessarily reflect what was happening on the ground in Iraq.

OTHER SIDE OF STORY

The film shows how independent journalists occasionally provided evidence that countered the official version, while WikiLeaks was a relatively new source of sometimes disturbing information with the potential to embarrass the authorities.

The documentary opens with extended clips from classified U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff. WikiLeaks released the footage in April.

Pilger also interviews WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, remanded in custody in Britain last week after Sweden issued a European arrest warrant.

Assange jokes that since it is officially wrong to retain information and to destroy it, his only choice was to publish.

Pilger, one of several prominent figures who offered a surety to secure bail for Assange, praised the recent publication of secret U.S. embassy documents which have attracted global media coverage.

"I think the WikiLeaks disclosures have been like watching a great parade of wonderful scoops," Pilger said in the interview.

"(It is) basic rich journalism that is telling people how the world works. It's not just telling them what a prime minister said. It's not framing it in how governments or other vested interests want us to think about something.

"It's giving us the story in their words. I think it's a revolution in journalism."
The War You Don't see is aired on ITV on Tuesday evening and is being screened at select theatres across Britain.

Sean

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Leaked Fox News Emails Prove Fox Lies; Ralph Nader Accurately Describes Obama; Tax Cuts for the Super-Rich; WikiLeaks

- Nader: I am Looking for Someone to Challenge Obama in 2012 Perennial third-party candidate Ralph Nader predicted on Wednesday that President Obama's tax deal with Republicans will earn him a primary challenge in 2012. .... He said Obama's decision to allow tax-cut extensions for the wealthy in the lame-duck deal betrays the progressives who supported his campaign in 2008 and called the president a "con man."

- Obama's Huge Would-Be Gift To The Scions Of The Super-Rich The Obama concession [to the republicans] that's getting most of the attention in the media is the one that would extend the Bush income tax cuts even for households making over $250,000 a year. That's a gift to your average millionaire of $139,000 a year for the next two years.

- House Dems Reject Obama's Tax Deal; Pelosi Promises a Fight for a Fairer Plan After he brokered a deal with congressional Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts and establish a sweeping estate-tax exemption in return for maintaining unemployment benefits, President Obama essentially told congressional Democrats: Take it or leave it. House Democrats have decided to leave it.

- 'Hacktivists' Warn Over More Action The loose-knit group, known as Anonymous, has disrupted sites belonging to finance giants including MasterCard and Visa by bombarding their websites with millions of bogus visits during a campaign called "Operation Payback".
Their blog post vowing to fight any organisation which supports censorship came as WikiLeaks' payment processor, DataCell, said it was preparing to take legal action against the credit card companies over their refusal to process donations.

- WikiLeaks Cables: Shell's Grip on Nigerian State Revealed The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

- On Behalf of Afghan Familes, Journalist Testifies before Congress Jeremy Scahill Testifies Before Congress on America's Secret Wars

- FLASHBACK: Fox News emails not the first leak indicating effort to slant news rightward Today, Media Matters released emails obtained from a Fox News source, showing Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directing staff not to use the phrase "public option" when discussing health care reform legislation. ... It is not the first time that Media Matters obtained leaked Fox News documents that paint a picture of network management attempting to slant the news toward the right (and often succeeding.)

LEAKED EMAIL: Fox Boss Caught Slanting News Reporting
by Ben Dimiero
Published December 09, 2010 at MediaMatters.org

At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase "public option."

Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use "government option" and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts.

Journalists on the network's flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon's directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox's Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to "slant" Fox's supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon's "government option" email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox's reporting to the right -- in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.

As far back as March 2009, Fox personalities had sporadically referred to the "government option."

Two months prior to Sammon's 2009 memo, Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity's August 18 Fox News program. Luntz scolded Hannity for referring to the "public option" and encouraged Hannity to use "government option" instead.

Luntz argued that "if you call it a 'public option,' the American people are split," but that "if you call it the 'government option,' the public is overwhelmingly against it." Luntz explained that the program would be "sponsored by the government" and falsely claimed that it would also be "paid for by the government."

"You know what," Hannity replied, "it's a great point, and from now on, I'm going to call it the government option."

On October 26, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the inclusion of a public insurance option that states could opt out of in the Senate's health care bill.
That night, Special Report used "public" and "government" interchangeably when describing the public option provision.

Anchor Bret Baier referred to "a so-called public option"; the "public option"; "government-provided insurance coverage"; "this government-run insurance option"; the "healthcare public option"; and "the government-run option, the public option." Correspondent Shannon Bream referred to "a government-run public option"; "a public option"; "a government-run option"; and "the public option."

The next morning, October 27, Sammon sent an email to the staffs of Special Report, Fox News Sunday, and FoxNews.com, as well as to other reporters and producers at the network. The subject line read: "friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the 'public option.' "

Sammon instructed staff to refer on air to "government-run health insurance," the "government option," "the public option, which is the government-run plan," or -- when "necessary" -- "the so-called public option":
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the "public option"
1) Please use the term "government-run health insurance" or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible.
2) When it is necessary to use the term "public option" (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation's lexicon), use the qualifier "so-called," as in "the so-called public option."
3) Here's another way to phrase it: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
4) When newsmakers and sources use the term "public option" in our stories, there's not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
Fox's senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, soon replied. He thanked Sammon for his email and said that he preferred Fox staffers use Sammon's third phrasing: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
From: Clemente, Michael
To: Sammon, Bill; 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Sent: Tue Oct 27 08:45:29 2009
Subject: RE: friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the "public option"

Thank you Bill
#3 on your list is the preferred way to say it, write it, use it.
Michael Clemente
SVP-News
212.XXX.XXXX
Sammon's email appears to have had an impact. On the October 27 Special Report -- unlike on the previous night's broadcast -- Fox journalists made no references to the "public option" without using versions of the pre-approved qualifiers outlined in Sammon's and Clemente's emails.

Reporting on health care reform that night, Baier referenced the public option three times. In each instance, he referred to it as "government-run health insurance" or a "government-run health insurance option" -- precisely echoing the first wording choice laid out by Sammon.

On the same show, correspondent Jim Angle referred to "a government insurance plan, the so-called public option"; "a government insurance option"; and "a government insurance plan."

The wording of Sammon's email -- a "friendly reminder" not to "slip back into calling it the 'public option' " -- suggests that someone in the Fox News chain of command had previously issued similar instructions.

And indeed, the issue had surfaced before in Fox's newscasts.

On the September 3, 2009, Special Report -- three weeks after Luntz told Hannity to call it the "government option" -- Baier discussed the potential inclusion of a public option during the show's nightly commentary segment.

During the segment -- after Baier himself had referred to a "public option" -- NPR's Mara Liasson also referred several times to the "public option," prompting Baier to interrupt her to clarify that it is the "government-run option of health insurance."

As the conversation continued, The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer and The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes both used "public option." When Liasson mentioned a "triggered public option," Baier again interrupted, asking, "Should we say 'government option,' by the way?"
"Government option, OK," replied Liasson.
"Everybody gets it," Baier explained.
On-screen text during the segment also used "Government Option."

Watch:


Fox executives regularly defend the network by claiming that the right-wing propaganda on Hannity and its other opinion shows is entirely separate from its news programming, which they insist is objective. But Sammon's email gives credence to allegations that news from Fox's Washington bureau is being deliberately distorted to benefit conservatives and the Republican Party.

In October, Media Matters reported that sources with knowledge of the situation had raised concerns about the direction of Fox's Washington bureau under Sammon, who took over as managing editor in February 2009:
"[There is] more pressure from Sammon to slant news to the right or to tell people how to report news, doing it in a more brutish way," one source with knowledge of the situation said. "A lot of the reporters are conservative and are glad to pick up news. But there is a point at which it is no longer reporting, but distorting things."
"[Former Fox News Washington managing editor] Brit Hume was also encouraging people to look at things with other points of view. Brit was smart to see that a lot of mainstream media ignore certain points of view," the source added. "That was a smart and effective way to build the Fox brand.
"But if you come in to say, 'ignore points of view and ignore facts,' then you are straying away from being a legitimate news reporter."
Asked about the first source's allegation, a second source with knowledge of the situation said, "I wouldn't disagree with it from this standpoint: Brit was the 800-pound gorilla who could pick up the phone and say he will not do that. Bill Sammon is no 800-pound gorilla within the organization. He doesn't have that much sway."
The second source also said of Sammon, "He is not going to buck the bosses in New York. The D.C. bureau chief [Brian Boughton] and managing editor in D.C. [Sammon] are not as powerful as they once were. They are not going to raise objections and fight hard. They will just pass on the message."
Since then, a Fox source has told Media Matters:
"People are allowed to have opinions when they espouse opinions. But when news is being tampered with, you have to worry. I keep hearing things from staffers about Sammon."
"I think Sammon comes up with this himself. It takes a conservative slant; it is his news judgment. If things are being classed as news that aren't, that is a problem."
Media Matters contacted Sammon, Clemente, and two Fox spokespeople for comment and we have not received a response.

Update:
Sammon spoke to The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz about the leaked email and reportedly told him:
Sammon said in an interview that the term "public option" "is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase," and that after all, "who would be against a public park?" The phrase "government-run plan," he said, is "a more neutral term," and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist.
"I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not. It's simply an accurate, fair, objective term."

Sean

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WikiLeaks and Why It's a Good Thing; Obama Halted Bush Torture Probe; Tea Party Hypocrisy; Climate Change Cost Billions Their Homes; Palin Homophobia; more!

- Obama and Republicans Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe Read!

- Amnesia as a Way of Life: WikiLeaks Amid the "Careless People" If one could cut through the thicket of false premises, logical fallacies, false dichotomies, arrays of strawmen, general flutter-headed palaver, and out and out paranoid fantasy marshaled by the caretakers and apologists of the present system, I would ask this question -- why is it you are driven with such vehemence to defend and attempt to preserve the current order? As it is, it seems the nation is being held together with hydrogenated fat, wheat gluten, payday loans, Tyvek®, particleboard, and the provisional binding of homespun bigotry and official duplicity.

- Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government” Assange has a clearly articulated vision for how Wikileaks’ activities will “carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity,” a strategy for how exposing secrets will ultimately impede the production of future secrets. The point of Wikileaks — as Assange argues — is simply to make Wikileaks unnecessary.

- Anti-Spending Tea Party Caucus Members Took Over $1 Billion In Earmarks Congressional earmarks have been one of the primary targets  of the tea party, ... But it appears that tea party’s self-proclaimed representatives in Washington haven’t been putting their money where their mouths are. Hotline On Call reports today that members of House Tea Party Caucus, founded by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to “represent the views of our constituents,” requested over $1 billion in earmarks during the last fiscal year...

- The defense budget has grown so obscenely bloated...



- Climate Change Will Cost a Billion People Their Homes Devastating changes to sea levels, rainfall, water supplies, weather systems and crop yields are increasingly likely before the end of the century, scientists will warn tomorrow.

- Afghan War Hero is Put Down by Mistake Target, a tawny-coloured mongrel bitch, defied an Afghan suicide bomber, gunshot wounds and an attempted hit-and-run, but fate finally caught up with her in middle America, where an animal control agent put her to sleep in a heartbreaking case of mistaken identity.

- Willow Palin (Sarah's Daughter) Facebook Posts: Homophobic Slurs & More (PHOTOS) Willow Palin, the 16-year-old daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, wrote multiple Facebook posts containing homophobic slurs such as "faggot" on Sunday night [after classmates posted bad reviews of her mother's new TV show].

- While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.




The Moral Standards of WikiLeaks Critics
By Glenn Greenwald
Published Dec 1 2010 on Salon.com

Time's Joe Klein writes this about the WikiLeaks disclosures:

I am tremendously concernced [sic] about the puerile eruptions of Julian Assange. . . . If a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail because of a leaked cable, this entire, anarchic exercise in "freedom" stands as a human disaster. Assange is a criminal. He's the one who should be in jail.
Do you have that principle down?  If "a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail" because of the WikiLeaks disclosure -- even a "single one" -- then the entire WikiLeaks enterprise is proven to be a "disaster" and "Assange is a criminal" who "should be in jail."  That's quite a rigorous moral standard.  So let's apply it elsewhere:
What about the most destructive "anarchic exercise in 'freedom'" the planet has known for at least a generation:  the "human disaster" known as the attack on Iraq, which Klein supported?  That didn't result in the imprisonment of "a single foreign national," but rather the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent human beings, the displacement of millions more, and the destruction of a country of 26 million people.  Are those who supported that "anarchic exercise in 'freedom'" -- or at least those responsible for its execution -- also "criminals who should be in jail"?

How about the multiple journalists and other human beings whom the U.S. Government imprisoned (and continues to imprison) for years without charges  -- and tortured -- including many whom the Government knew were completely innocent, while Klein assured the world that wasn't happening?  How about those responsible for the war in Afghanistan (which Klein supports) with its checkpoint shootings of an "amazing number" of innocent Afghans and civilian slaughtering air strikes, or the use of cluster bombs in Yemen, or the civilian killing drones in Pakistan?  Are those responsible for the sky-high corpses of innocent people from these actions also "criminals who should be in jail"?

I'm not singling out Klein here; his commentary is merely illustrative of what I'm finding truly stunning about the increasingly bloodthirsty two-minute hate session aimed at Julian Assange, also known as the new Osama bin Laden.  The ringleaders of this hate ritual are advocates of -- and in some cases directly responsible for -- the world's deadliest and most lawless actions of the last decade.  And they're demanding Assange's imprisonment, or his blood, in service of a Government that has perpetrated all of these abuses and, more so, to preserve a Wall of Secrecy which has enabled them.  To accomplish that, they're actually advocating -- somehow with a straight face -- the theory that if a single innocent person is harmed by these disclosures, then it proves that Assange and WikiLeaks are evil monsters who deserve the worst fates one can conjure, all while they devote themselves to protecting and defending a secrecy regime that spawns at least as much human suffering and disaster as any single other force in the world.  That is what the secrecy regime of the permanent National Security State has spawned.

Meanwhile, in the real world (as opposed to the world of speculation, fantasy, and fear-mongering) there is no evidence -- zero -- that the WikiLeaks disclosures have harmed a single person.  As McClatchy reported, they have exercised increasing levels of caution to protect innocent people.  Even Robert Gates disdained hysterical warnings about the damage caused as "significantly overwrought."  But look at what WikiLeaks has revealed to the world:

We viscerally saw the grotesque realities of our war in Iraq with the Apache attack video on innocent civilians and journalists in Baghdad -- and their small children -- as they desperately scurried for cover.  We recently learned that the U.S. government adopted a formal policy of refusing to investigate the systematic human rights abuses of our new Iraqi client state, all of which took place under our deliberately blind eye.  We learned of 15,000 additional civilian deaths caused by the war in Iraq that we didn't know of before.  We learned -- as documented by The Washington Post's former Baghdad Bureau Chief -- how clear, deliberate and extensive were the lies of top Bush officials about that war as it was unfolding:  "Thanks to WikiLeaks, though, I now know the extent to which top American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public," she wrote.

In this latest WikiLeaks release -- probably the least informative of them all, at least so far -- we learned a great deal as well.  Juan Cole today details the 10 most important revelations about the Middle East.  Scott Horton examines the revelation that the State Department pressured and bullied Germany out of criminally investigating the CIA's kidnapping of one of their citizens who turned out to be completely innocent.  The head of the Bank of England got caught interfering in British politics to induce harsher austerity measures in violation of his duty to remain apolitical and removed from the political process, a scandal resulting in calls for his resignation.  British officials, while pretending to conduct a sweeping investigation into the Iraq War, were privately pledging to protect Bush officials from embarrassing disclosures.  Hillary Clinton's State Department ordered U.N. diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data in order to spy on top U.N. officials and others, likely in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961 (see Articles 27 and 30; and, believe me, I know:  it's just "law," nothing any Serious person believes should constrain our great leaders).

Do WikiLeaks critics believe it'd be best if all that were kept secret, if we remained ignorant of it, if the world's most powerful factions could continue to hide things like that?  Apparently.  When Joe Klein and his media comrades calling for Assange's head start uncovering even a fraction of secret government conduct this important, then they'll have credibility to complain about WikiLeaks' "excessive commitment to disclosure."  But that will never happen.

One could respond that it's good that we know these specific things, but not other things WikiLeaks has released.  That's all well and good; as I've said several times, there are reasonable concerns about some specific disclosures here.  But in the real world, this ideal, perfectly calibrated subversion of the secrecy regime doesn't exist.  WikiLeaks is it.  We have occasional investigative probes of isolated government secrets coming from establishment media outlets (the illegal NSA program, the CIA black sites, the Pentagon propaganda program), along with transparency groups such as the ACLU, CCR, EPIC and EFF valiantly battling through protracted litigation to uncover secrets.  But nothing comes close to the blows WikiLeaks has struck in undermining that regime.

The real-world alternative to the current iteration of WikiLeaks is not The Perfect Wikileaks that makes perfect judgments about what should and should not be disclosed, but rather, the ongoing, essentially unchallenged hegemony of the permanent National Security State, for which secrecy is the first article of faith and prime weapon.  I want again to really encourage everyone to read this great analysis by The Economist's Democracy in America, which includes this:

I suspect that there is no scheme of government oversight that will not eventually come under the indirect control of the generals, spies, and foreign-service officers it is meant to oversee. Organisations such as WikiLeaks, which are philosophically opposed to state secrecy and which operate as much as is possible outside the global nation-state system, may be the best we can hope for in the way of promoting the climate of transparency and accountability necessary for authentically liberal democracy. Some folks ask, "Who elected Julian Assange?" The answer is nobody did, which is, ironically, why WikiLeaks is able to improve the quality of our democracy. Of course, those jealously protective of the privileges of unaccountable state power will tell us that people will die if we can read their email, but so what? Different people, maybe more people, will die if we can't.
The last decade, by itself, leaves no doubt about the truth of that last sentence.  And Matt Yglesias is right that while diplomacy can be hindered without secrecy, one must also consider "how the ability to keep secrets can hinder diplomacy" (incidentally:  one of the more Orwellian aspects of this week's discussion has been the constant use of the word "diplomacy" to impugn what WikiLeaks did, creating some Wizard of Oz fantasy whereby the Pentagon is the Bad Witch of the U.S. Government [thus justifying leaks about war] while the State Department is the Good Witch [thus rendering these leaks awful]:  that's absurd, as they are merely arms of the same entity, both devoted to the same ends, ones which are often nefarious, and State Department officials are just as susceptible as Pentagon officials to abusive conduct when operating in the dark).

But Matt's other point merits even more attention.  He's certainly right when he says that "for a third time in a row, a WikiLeaks document dump has conclusively demonstrated that an awful lot of US government confidentiality is basically about nothing," but I'd quibble with his next observation:

There’s no scandal here and there’s no legitimate state secret. It’s just routine for the work done by public servants and public expense in the name of the public to be kept semi-hidden from the public for decades.
It is a "scandal" when the Government conceals things it is doing without any legitimate basis for that secrecy.  Each and every document that is revealed by WikiLeaks which has been improperly classified -- whether because it's innocuous or because it is designed to hide wrongdoing -- is itself an improper act, a serious abuse of government secrecy powers.  Because we're supposed to have an open government -- a democracy --  everything the Government does is presumptively public, and can be legitimately concealed only with compelling justifications.   That's not just some lofty, abstract theory; it's central to having anything resembling "consent of the governed."

But we have completely abandoned that principle; we've reversed it.  Now, everything the Government does is presumptively secret; only the most ceremonial and empty gestures are made public.  That abuse of secrecy powers is vast, deliberate, pervasive, dangerous and destructive.  That's the abuse that WikiLeaks is devoted to destroying, and which its harshest critics -- whether intended or not -- are helping to preserve.  There are people who eagerly want that secrecy regime to continue:  namely, (a) Washington politicians, Permanent State functionaries, and media figures whose status, power and sense of self-importance are established by their access and devotion to that world of secrecy, and (b) those who actually believe that -- despite (or because of) all the above acts -- the U.S. Government somehow uses this extreme secrecy for the Good.  Having surveyed the vast suffering and violence they have wreaked behind that wall, those are exactly the people whom WikiLeaks is devoted to undermining.

* * * * *

On the issue of the Interpol arrest warrant issued yesterday for Assange's arrest:  I think it's deeply irresponsible either to assume his guilt or to assume his innocence until the case plays out.   I genuinely have no opinion of the validity of those allegations, but what I do know -- as John Cole notes -- is this:  as soon as Scott Ritter began telling the truth about Iraqi WMDs, he was publicly smeared with allegations of sexual improprieties.  As soon as Eliot Spitzer began posing a real threat to Wall Street criminals, a massive and strange federal investigation was launched over nothing more than routine acts of consensual adult prostitution, ending his career (and the threat he posed to oligarchs).  And now, the day after Julian Assange is responsible for one of the largest leaks in history, an arrest warrant issues that sharply curtails his movement and makes his detention highly likely.  It's unreasonable to view that pattern as evidence that the allegations are part of some conspiracy -- I genuinely do not believe or disbelieve that -- but, particularly in light of that pattern, it's most definitely unreasonable to assume that he's guilty of anything without having those allegations tested and then proven in court.

Finally, as I noted last night:  I was on Canada's CBC last tonight talking about these issues; it can be seen here.  I'll also be on MSNBC this morning, at roughly 10:00 a.m., on the same topic.

UPDATE:  The notion that one crime doesn't excuse another has absolutely nothing to do with anything I wrote; it's a complete nonsequitur, merely the standard claim of those who want to propound moral standards for others that they not only refuse to apply to themselves, but violate with far greater frequency and severity than those they're condemning.

UPDATE II:  This cartoonist (and Professor of History) summarized several of the key points perfectly:

Sean

Friday, November 26, 2010

Climate Change- Real and Scary; The Angry Rich; War and the Cost; War on Middle Class; more

- The Angry Rich ...if you want to find real political rage - the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason - you won’t find it among these suffering Americans [who have lost their jobs, homes, health insurance, etc]. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

- Afghanistan War: US Says Violence Reaches All-Time High Violence in Afghanistan has reached an all-time high, with clashes up fourfold since 2007, the Pentagon has said.

- UN Issues Severe Climate Warning Ahead of Summit The world is now firmly on the path for dangerous climate change in the coming century, a major new assessment reveals today on the eve of the forthcoming UN climate conference which opens next week in Mexico.

- The Reign of Right-Wing Primetime ... [not the best article, but it shows republicans favor the bad, brain-dead TV shows]... if you look at the list of broadcast shows that are Republican favorites, it closely mirrors the Nielsen top 10 list, whereas Democrats tend to gravitate toward titles likely to have narrower audiences.

- It’s Official: Rich Declare War on the Middle Class For the past thirty years the rich have been waging war on the middle class.  It’s been astonishingly effective, partly because it has been undeclared.  But even that pretense is now being abandoned.... The national debt quadrupled between 1980 and 1992 [under republican leadership].  George W. Bush would repeat Reagan’s policies and double it again between 2000 and 2008.  Meanwhile, the share of national income going to the top 1% more than doubled, from 9% to 24%.  The share going to the top one-tenth of 1% of income earners more than tripled.  We now have the most unequal distribution of income in the developing world and the inequality is growing rapidly.

- The true cost of the Iraq war: $3 trillion and beyond it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war's broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected. .... Moreover, two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict's most sobering expenses: those in the category of "might have beens," or what economists call opportunity costs.

There Won't Be a Bailout for the Earth
by Johann Hari
Published on Friday, November 26, 2010 byThe Independent/UK

Why are the world's governments bothering? Why are they jetting to Cancun next week to discuss what to do now about global warming? The vogue has passed. The fad has faded. Global warming is yesterday's apocalypse. Didn't somebody leak an email that showed it was all made up? Doesn't it sometimes snow in the winter? Didn't Al Gore get fat, or something?

Alas, the biosphere doesn't read Vogue. Nobody thought to tell it that global warming is so 2007. All it knows is three facts. 2010 is globally the hottest year since records began. 2010 is the year humanity's emissions of planet-warming gases reached its highest level ever. And exactly as the climate scientists predicted, we are seeing a rapid increase in catastrophic weather events, from the choking of Moscow by gigantic unprecedented forest fires to the drowning of one quarter of Pakistan.

Before the Great Crash of 2008, the people who warned about the injection of huge destabilizing risk into our financial system seemed like arcane, anal bores. Now we all sit in the rubble and wish we had listened. The great ecological crash will be worse, because nature doesn't do bailouts.

That's what Cancun should be about - surveying the startling scientific evidence, and developing an urgent plan to change course. The Antarctic - which locks of 90 percent of the world's ice - has now seen eight of its ice shelves fully or partially collapse. The world's most distinguished climate scientists, after recording like this, say we will face a three to six feet rise in sea level this century. That means the drowning of London, Bangkok, Venice, Cairo and Shanghai, and entire countries like Bangladesh and the Maldives.

And that's just one effect of the way we are altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere. Perhaps the most startling news story of the year passed almost unnoticed. Plant plankton are tiny creatures that live in the oceans and carry out a job you and I depend on to stay alive. They produce half the world's oxygen, and suck up planet-warming carbon dioxide. Yet this year, one of the world's most distinguished scientific journals, Nature, revealed that 40 per cent of them have been killed by the warming of the oceans since 1950. Professor Boris Worm, who co-authored the study, said in shock: "I've been trying to think of a biological change that's bigger than this and I can't think of one." That has been the result of less than one degree of warming. Now we are on course for at least three degrees this century. What will happen?

The scientific debate is not between deniers and those who can prove that releasing massive amounts of warming gases will make the world warmer. Every major scientific academy in the world, and all the peer-reviewed literature, says global warming denialism is a pseudo-science, on a par with Intelligent Design, homeopathy, or the claim that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. One email from one lousy scientist among tens of thousands doesn't dent that. No: the debate is between the scientists who say the damage we are doing is a disaster, and the scientists who say it is catastrophe.

Yet the world's governments are gathering in Cancun with no momentum and very little pressure from their own populations to stop the ecological vandalism. The Copenhagen conference last year collapsed after the most powerful people in the world turned up to flush their own scientists' advice down a very clean Danish toilet. These leaders are sometimes described as "doing nothing about global warming." No doubt that form of words will fill the reporting from Cancun too. But it's false. They're not "doing nothing" - they are allowing their countries' emissions of climate-trashing gases to massively increase. That's not failure to act. It's deciding to act in an incredibly destructive way.

The collapse of Copenhagen has not shocked people into action; it has numbed them into passivity. Last year, we were talking - in theory, at least - about the legally binding cap on the world's carbon emissions, because the world's scientists say this is the only thing that can preserve the climate that has created and sustained human civilization. What are we talking about this year? What's on the table at Cancun, other than sand?

Almost nothing. They will talk about how to help the world's poor "adapt" to the fact we are drying out much of their land and drowning the rest. But everybody is backing off from one of the few concrete agreements at Copenhagen: to give the worst-affected countries $100bn from 2020. Privately, they say this isn't the time - they can come back for it, presumably, when they are on rafts. Oh, and they will talk about how to preserve the rainforests. But a Greenpeace report has just revealed that the last big deal to save the rainforests - with Indonesia - was a scam. The country is in fact planning to demolish most of its rainforest to plant commercial crops, and claim it had been "saved."

Karl Rove - who was George W. Bush's chief spin-doctor - boasted this year: "Climate is gone." He meant it is off the political agenda, but in time, this statement will be more true and more cursed than he realizes.

It's in this context that a new, deeply pessimistic framework for understanding the earth's ecology - and our place in it - has emerged. Many of us know, in outline, the warm, fuzzy Gaia hypothesis, first outlined by James Lovelock. It claims that the Planet Earth functions, in effect, as a single living organism called Gaia. It regulates its own temperature and chemistry to create a comfortable steady state that can sustain life. So coral reefs produced cloud-seeding chemicals which then protect them from ultraviolet radiation. Rainforests transpire water vapour so generate their own rainfall. This process expands outwards. Life protects life.

Now there is a radically different theory that is gaining adherents, ominously named the Medea hypothesis. The paleontologist Professor Peter Ward is an expert in the great extinctions that have happened in the earth's past, and he believes there is a common thread between them. With the exception of the meteor strike that happened 65 million years ago, every extinction was caused by living creatures becoming incredibly successful - and then destroying their own habitats. So, for example, 2.3 billion years ago, plant life spread incredibly rapidly, and as it went it inhaled huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This then caused a rapid plunge in temperature that froze the planet and triggered a mass extinction.

Ward believes nature isn't a nurturing mother like Gaia. No: it is Medea, the figure from Greek mythology who murdered her own children. In this theory, life doesn't preserve itself. It serially destroys itself. It is a looping doomsday machine. This theory adds a postscript to Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest. There is survival of the fittest, until the fittest trash their own habitat, and do not survive at all.

But the plants 2.3 billion years ago weren't smart enough to figure out what they were doing. We are. We can see that if we release enough warming gases we will trigger an irreversible change in the climate and make our own survival much harder. Ward argues that it is not inevitable we will destroy ourselves - because human beings are the first and only species that can consciously develop a Gaian approach. Just as Richard Dawkins famously said we are the first species to be able to rebel against our selfish genes and choose to be kind, we are the first species that can rebel against the Medean rhythm of life. We can choose to preserve the habitat on which we depend. We can choose life.

At Cancun, the real question will be carefully ignored by delegates keen to preserve big business as usual. Do we want to ramp up global warming with filthy fossil fuels, or make the leap to a clean planet fuelled by the sun, the wind and the waves? Right now we are making the wrong choice. But we could change the ending of this story, if we act decisively. Long after our own little stories are forgotten, this choice we make now will still be visible - in the composition of the atmosphere, the swelling of the seas, and the crack and creak of the great Antarctic ice. Do we want to be Gaia, or Medea?

Sean

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bill Maher's GREAT Commentary on Jon Stewart's False Comparison between Left and Right

Starts around 1:30. Click here to view video (it starts at about 1.5 minutes into the video).
Sean

Friday, November 5, 2010

Republican/Right Wing Media Lies; Olbermann Suspended over NOTHING; Climate Change Puts Human Advances at Risk; Palin Favorites Racist Coulter Tweet

- CNN, ABC, and confronting right-wing lies The question for the mainstream press, as always, is how to deal with egregious falsehoods that take hold and quickly drive our political discourse. Sometimes I think the right-wing plan is to just drown everyone in so many lies that it becomes too time consuming for journalists to fact-check all the fabrications. And perhaps that's why so often the lies are not confronted.

- Palin 'favorites' photo that claims Obama is a 'Taliban Muslim' Whether Palin "favorited" the Coulter tweet personally is unclear, but SarahPAC staffer Rebecca Mansour insisted to a reporter this summer that "anything that goes out under [Palin's] name is hers."

- Keith Olbermann Suspended from MSNBC for Making Small LEGAL Donations to Three Political Candidates Olbermann, who does not hide his liberal views, has acknowledged donations of $2,400 each to Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords during this election cycle.

As Politico notes, Olbermann and MSNBC President Phil Griffin have been critical of Fox News over its two $1 million donations to Republican and Republican-leaning groups during the midterm election cycle.

Sign the petition to get Keith back on the air.

- Fox News Wins The 2010 Election Leading Fox News contributors with an eye on the 2012 presidential race -- Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum -- raised an astonishing $33.1 million in the 2010 elections to help fund the candidates of their choice and advance their various causes.

Former Bush advisor Karl Rove -- another Fox contributor -- raised and spent an astonishing $38 million to elect Republicans and it didn't hurt matters that Fox News hosted him time and again to discuss the election without noting this blatant conflict of interest. Now that's what I call journalistic ethics.

All told, more than 30 different Fox News personalities -- from hosts to contributors -- supported Republicans in at least 600 instances, in nearly every state during the election.

- UN Report Warns of Threat to Human Progress from Climate Change Human development report says inaction on climate change puts at risk decades of progress on education and health.... The United Nations warned today that a continued failure to tackle climate change was putting at risk decades of progress in improving the lives of the world's poorest people.

Rachel Maddow on the Lies of the Republicans and the Right-wing Media


Sean

Thursday, November 4, 2010

EXTRA! EXTRA! PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS and believe in ghosts!; Johnny Cash's Daughter Slams Republicans; Jon Stewart was Wrong; The Conservative Media Paints False Picture of Election; Tea Party FAILS; more

- Republicans Didn't Win a Majority to Deny Our Care While a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed the public split over on the new [health care reform] law, only one-quarter of repeal supporters stuck with their position when told repeal would mean that insurance companies would no longer be required to cover people with medical conditions or prior illnesses.

- Buck Up People...Progressives Won! ...the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus in the House Democratic Caucus at over 80 members, emerged virtually unscathed, losing only three members.

By constrast, the conservative Blue Dog Democratic caucus was more than sliced in half from 54 members to only 26. Further, of the 34 conservative Dems who voted against Obama's Healthcare Reform, a mere 12 won re-election.

- Rich Media, Poor Democracy As the 2010 elections come to a close, the biggest winner of all remains undeclared: the broadcasters. The biggest loser: democracy. These were the most expensive midterm elections in U.S. history, costing close to $4 billion, $3 billion of which went to advertising. What if ad time were free? We hear no debate about this, because the media corporations are making such a killing by selling campaign ads. Yet the broadcasters are using public airwaves.

- 10 Steps to Take Now After a Brutal Election

- Just 32% of Tea Party candidates win For all the talk of the Tea Party's strength [by the conservative mainstream media] ... just 32% of all Tea Party candidates who ran for Congress won and 61.4% lost this election.

- Barack Obama's Green Agenda Crushed at the Ballot Box With a slew of new climate change deniers entering Congress, Barack Obama's environmental ambitions are now dead

- WikiLeaks Founder Urges US to Investigate Alleged Abuse by Its Troops The founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has called on the US to investigate alleged abuses by its troops in Afghanistan and Iraq

- Zogby Interactive: 37% Believe in Ghosts & 23% Say They Have Been Visited by the Dead A Zogby Interactive poll found that 37% say they believe in human or animal ghosts, 23% believe they have been visited by a dead relative or friend, and 20% say they have seen or heard a ghost. Another 22% say that while they have not experienced a ghost, they know someone who says they have.

- Johnny Cash’s daughter to GOP chief: Stop using my father’s name, you ‘asshat’ he daughter of star singer Johnny Cash has some harsh words for the Republican Party's House leader.

Notes Gawker, "Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has been using a dumb—trust me, really dumb—line involving Johnny Cash in some recent speeches. Cash's daughter Roseanne doesn't think much of that. And she let Boehner know, by calling him 'asshat.'"


Jon Stewart's "Rally for Sanity" Ignored Reality
When Jon Stewart said the Left and Right were equal, he ignored the facts.
Also read this.

Sean

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election was about Economy, NOT about Rejection of Progressive Issues; The Republicans/Tea Party Don't Understand Constitution; Earth Will Take 100,000 Years to Recover from Climate Change

- Your Vote, Your Economy-Why Today’s Election Matters to Your Pocketbook Election Day is finally here, and control of the House and the Senate hangs in the balance. The differences between parties could not be more stark. Republicans have promised to repeal health care reform and slash government spending for social programs, all while preserving tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Some of the more radical ideas bandied about this election season—by conservative candidates with a decent shot at winning—include privatizing social security and eliminating the Department of Education.

- The Tea Party Constitution Versus the Thomas Jefferson Constitution So it should be understood that O'Donnell, Miller, Angle, Buck, Johnson and the rest of the Tea Partisans who might be senators are not talking about the Constitution as it was written or as the founders intended it. Rather, they are talking about the Constitution as they would like to see it rewritten and reinterpreted—with the help of the most activist Supreme Court in American history. While their intents are radical, their prospects must be seen in light of the fact that Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative majority have already reinterpreted the First Amendment's free speech protection in a manner that extends the natural rights that the founders reserved for human beings to multinational corporations.

- Lessons of the Blue Dog Blowout Today's New York Times has analysis from [conservative Democrat] Evan Bayh, a retiring centrist/moderate/presidential aspirant, which was obviously penned before polls closed in order to make it to press. "We were too deferential to our most zealous supporters," he bemoans, (huh?), and Democrats "over-interpreted our mandate."  Bayh's solution is to focus more on GOP priorities like tax reform, government spending freezes and entitlement cuts. Third Way, a think tank that was literally founded to push Democrats to the center, has been pushing a similar line this week.

It is truly bizarre, because on Tuesday, voters rejected the very Blue Dog Democrats [conservative democrats] who have been following that exact approach.

- Economy, Not Healthcare or Deficits, Drove Midterm Vote Boehner’s wrong about what voters have repudiated, and his party’s primary accomplishment this election is having made its precarious dance with the tea party all the more dangerous. Voters who identified themselves as “moderates” stuck by Democrats—there just weren’t enough of them at the polls. And the independents who pushed Republicans over the top weren’t nearly as interested in supporting the GOP’s empty ideas as they were in rejecting the president’s leadership.

Exit polls showed that voters across the political spectrum cast ballots based on the economy. Not health care reform or the deficit or immigration or any of the GOP’s favorite tropes, but the economy [ironically, an economy that republican policy destroyed!].






Earth Will Take 100,000 Years to Recover from Global Warming Say Geologists
The Earth will take 100,000 years to recover from global warming if mankind continues to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, geologists have warned.
by Louise Gray
Published on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 by The Telegraph/UK


A conference organised by the Geological Society in London this week will bring together scientists from around the world to look at how the world coped with climate change in the past.

[Professor Jim Zachos, of the University of California, said continuing to pump out greenhouse gases at the current rate will cause a more rapid temperature rise than at any other time in history and could cause "mass extinction of species".(photo by Flickr user AZRainman)]Professor Jim Zachos, of the University of California, said continuing to pump out greenhouse gases at the current rate will cause a more rapid temperature rise than at any other time in history and could cause "mass extinction of species".(photo by Flickr user AZRainman)
By studying rock sediments from millions of years ago geologists have been able to model how increases in greenhouse gases led to temperature change and extinction of species.

Professor Jim Zachos, of the University of California, said that 55 million years ago volcanic activity caused around 4,500 gigatons of greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere over thousands of years.
This caused the planet to warm by 6C (10.8F), forcing whole ecosystems, including early mammals, to adapt, migrate or die out in certain areas.

Prof Zachos said that if the world continues to pump out greenhouse gases at the current rate, around 5,000 gigatons of greenhouse gases will be released into the atmosphere over a few hundred years.

He said this will cause a more rapid temperature rise that at any other time in history and could cause "mass extinction of species".

"The impacts will be pretty severe compared to 55 million years ago in terms of evolution of this planet," he said.

The Geological Society warned that it could take the Earth 100,000 years to recover.
A statement read: "The geological evidence from the 55 million year event and from earlier warming episodes suggests that such an addition [a massive increase in greenhouse gases caused by the activities of mankind] is likely to raise average global temperatures by at least 5 to 6C, and possibly more, and that recovery of the Earth's climate in the absence of mitigation measures could take 100,000 years or more. Numerical models of the climate system support such an interpretation. In the light of the evidence presented here it is reasonable to conclude that emitting further large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over time is likely to be unwise, uncomfortable though that fact may be."

Sean

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Republican Party is Corrupt; STUDY: Liberals Smarter than Conservatives; People Voting Based on Right Wing Lies; Conservatives Shun Science

- Eight False Things the Public "Knows" Prior to Election Day There are a number of things the public "knows" as we head into the election that are just false. If people elect leaders based on false information, the things those leaders do in office will not be what the public expects or needs. Here are eight of the biggest myths that are out there...

- Science Scorned The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge. There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts - including regulation of environmental and other issues and stem-cell research. Take the surprise ousting last week of Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican senator for Alaska, by political unknown Joe Miller in the Republican primary for the 2 November midterm congressional elections. Miller, who is backed by the conservative 'Tea Party movement', called his opponent's acknowledgement of the reality of global warming "exhibit 'A' for why she needs to go".

- Bleeding-heart liberal? Die-hard conservative? It’s in the genes… maybe This isn’t the first attempt to prove that political sensibilities are ingrained at birth. A 2006 longitudinal study of 100 nursery schoolers in Berkeley, California found that three-year-olds who possessed negative characteristics (according to their teachers) eventually grew up to be self-identified conservatives 20 years later.

- Union of Concerned Scientists Fact Checker UCS fact checks the most dubious claims (universally from the republicans) about science.

- Why Liberals Are Smarter than Conservatives Once again science has confirmed what we already know: liberals and conservatives think differently. Neuroscientists at NYU and UCLA conducted a simple test on college students all along the political spectrum... So now its been scientifically proven that liberals are smarter than conservatives. There's no point in gloating: conservatives don't recognize science, either. Just let them continue digging their own spider holes of fuzzy logic and dogmatic umbrage and come November '08 we can use our superior hand-eye coordination and letter-recognition skills to hit all the right letters.

- Neurocognitive correlates of liberalism and conservatism The study proving republicans are idiots.


Media Matters: The real story of the 2010 election

October 29, 2010 at MediaMatters.org

By most accounts, the Democrats stand to lose seats in both the House and Senate this coming Tuesday. There are, of course, a wide range of explanations for why this is the case.
However, in endeavoring to explain how the GOP has seemingly managed to reverse its political fortunes in such a short amount of time, media outlets would be remiss not to mention one of the most important factors. In fact, we don't need to wait for Tuesday's results to pinpoint perhaps the most significant development in the country's political landscape over the past two years.

One of the two major political parties in the country is run by a "news" network.

Since President Obama's inauguration, Fox News has transformed from simply the mouthpiece and oppo research shop of the Republican Party into its headquarters. For the GOP, Fox fundraises, campaigns, gives strategic advice, picks candidates (and then provides them a comfortable platform to reach millions of voters, free of charge), throws and promotes rallies, gets out the vote, and, perhaps most importantly, sets the narrative.
They do all of this while continuing their time-honored tradition of tearing down liberal initiatives and politicians with shameless smears, lies, misrepresentations, and fabricated stories. But before we get to Fox's massive influence over the coming elections, some back-story is necessary.

Less than two months after Obama's inauguration, Fox News senior vice president Bill Shine gave an interview with NPR about how the network's ratings were soaring at the time. During the interview, Shine noted that some people were "rooting for [Fox] to go away" after the election, but "[w]ith this particular group of people in power right now and the honeymoon they've had from other members of the media, does it make it a little bit easier for us to be the voice of opposition on some issues?"

Fox's programming has effectively answered Shine's rhetorical question with a forceful "yes."

Right out of the gate, Fox led the charge against the stimulus, eschewing the views of economists to attack deficit spending and rewriting history to attack FDR and the New Deal.

The network was certainly "the voice of the opposition" on health care reform, spewing countless falsehoods about both our broken health care system and the proposals to fix it while promoting disruptions of health care town halls and GOP initiatives to kill reform.
And of course, Fox operates as a perpetual dishonesty machine, trotting out a steady stream of overhyped scandals and faux-outrages to dent the administration and Democrats (mustard on Obama's "fancy" hamburger, anyone?)

The network was integral to fostering discontent with Democrats and the administration through their relentless promotion of the Tea Party movement. Fox gave the Tea Party a huge assist last year in the run-up to the original protests, which Fox took ownership of by sending several of their top hosts to throw "FNC Tax Day Tea Parties."


Since then, Fox has shown that there is no Tea Party gathering too small to treat as a news event, and their personalities continue to regularly appear at Tea Party events around the country.

But Fox has done far more this cycle than foster an environment conducive to a GOP electoral victory, having assumed a more hands-on role in Republican electioneering. In addition to Fox's parent company donating $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association and another million to the GOP-aligned Chamber of Commerce, more than thirty Fox Newsers have supported GOP candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances in at least 47 states, as we detailed in a report this week.

While it would be nearly impossible to run through Fox's influence in all of the individual races this year, their "coverage" of a select few races is indicative of the network's complete transformation into GOP headquarters.

The network tipped its hand for how it would handle covering elections in the "voice of the opposition" era during the run-up to January's senate election in Massachusetts. Not only did Fox portray Scott Brown as a heroic Founding Father-like figure while smearing his opponent, it also actively aided Brown's campaign by hosting him repeatedly in the days leading up the election and allowing him to direct viewers to his website so they could find out how to "help with donating and volunteering." After Brown's victory, the network was jubilant.

With the successful trial run out of the way, Fox copied the Brown blueprint in several other races around the country.

In the Nevada Senate race, Fox has spent months promoting Sharron Angle and attacking Harry Reid. While Angle has mostly refused to grant interviews to news outlets, she has made an exception for Fox. In fact, their welcoming atmosphere led Angle to brag about how "friendly" outlets like Fox help her with fundraising.

Fox personalities have also worked overtime to aid her race. Fox contributor Sarah Palin endorsed Angle and her PAC gave $2,500 to the campaign. Fox contributor Karl Rove's GOP slush fund (aka American Crossroads) has indicated it will invest in GOTV efforts to aid Angle. It is also aired an ad targeting Reid. Fox's Dennis Miller appeared at an October fundraiser for Angle.
And then there's Dick Morris. Fox's human ethics scandal has repeatedly fundraised on Angle's behalf while also touting on-air the anti-Harry Reid group that he's advising.

And as Election Day rapidly approaches, Fox kicked off this week by launching an evidence-free smear of Reid. After Reid's office responded to Fox's desperate attempts to create a new "political scandal," Fox's flagship news program, Special Report, deceptively quoted a statement from Reid's office in order to continue to push the story.

And, just in case their blatant efforts to get Angle elected fail, Fox already has their backup plan in place. This week, Fox News has been hyping comically flimsy allegations of "voter fraud" in Nevada. As top Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston explained to a confused Bill Hemmer, the fraud allegations are merely a "preemptive" strike so the GOP can "cry fraud" in the event Angle loses.

But a candidate doesn't even need to be in a close race in order to receive the benefits of FoxPAC support. In Delaware, Fox News has thrown their full weight behind Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, Karl Rove's short-lived detour questioning O'Donnell's qualifications for office notwithstanding.

Rove quickly got with the program and endorsed O'Donnell. He was joined by fellow Fox personalities Sarah Palin and Michelle Malkin. The network's hosts have heaped praise on O'Donnell while playing dumb in order to claim her opponent has admitted to being a "bearded Marxist." While it would be difficult to list all of the effusive O'Donnell praise, one characteristic outpouring of affection came from Fox Business host Stuart Varney, who labeled her precisely the kind of "new face, new blood that we need to get in there."

Following in Angle's footsteps by bragging about the love she gets from Fox, Christine O'Donnell told GOP insiders at a strategy meeting that she has "got Sean Hannity in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money by attacking you guys." A host who was concerned about maintaining any credibility may have bristled at being portrayed this way, but Sean Hannity has long-since demonstrated his lack of concern for ethics. Far from being upset, Hannity is still welcoming O'Donnell on his show.

The Ohio gubernatorial race features Republican candidate John Kasich, who just so happens to be a former Fox News host. Kasich repeatedly used his platform as a Fox host to position himself for a run, and continued to appear regularly as a Fox contributor and host from the time he announced that he was paving the way for a gubernatorial run in March 2008 until he officially declared his candidacy on June 1, 2009. Since declaring his candidacy, Kasich has continued to reap benefits from his cozy relationship with the network. Several Fox News personalities campaigned for him and openly root for him.

Two Fox hosts - Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee -- have told Kasich that they "love" him. Hannity has appeared at a fundraiser for Kasich, invited Kasich onto his show to plug his website, and reportedly "pledged to give $10,000 to Kasich's campaign should he run, as well as have his wife give another $10,000."

Rupert Murdoch and his wife also donated $10,000 each to Kasich, and Murdoch initially explained News Corp.'s donation to the RGA as resulting from his "friendship" with Kasich. After Kasich's opponent (accurately) criticized Fox as a "propaganda network" that is "committed to getting Republicans elected," Bill O'Reilly responded by attacking him for "whining."

Those are just three races. I haven't even detailed Fox's love for "rock star" Marco Rubio, or the fact that Glenn Beck (along with the rest of the network) has transformed his show into a GOTV operation for the GOP.

So when reporters sit down to explain the results of next Tuesday's election, it's important that they include the role of Fox News in shaping the outcome.

And if you think the last few months were bad, just wait until Tuesday's election wraps up and attention shifts to 2012 and the GOP's presidential primary. Fox currently employs no fewer than five potential contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, and things could get awkward as they try to figure out which of their friends they want to help elect.
It looks like FoxPAC is just getting started.

Sean

Friday, October 29, 2010

US Wikileaks Coverage lacking; Climate Change Proven while Republicans Deny it; Disaster Predicted Should Republicans Win; AZ Immigration Fears Manufactured to Make Money; BP Oil Leak was Avoidable

- With GOP-Controlled Congress, Roubini Predicts US "Fiscal Train Wreck" [If the Republicans win the election next week ] the U.S. economy is a "fiscal train wreck" waiting to happen that risks ushering in a period of stagnation featuring by minimal growth, high unemployment and deflationary pressure, U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini wrote on Friday.

- Climate Change Denial Pervades US Elections Meanwhile, the issue of climate change is being used by conservative candidates to rally support from right-wing voters, such as those affiliated with the Tea Party movement.

- Climate change: The Evidence So I’ll be clear: climate change is real. The average temperature of the Earth is increasing. This is almost certainly due to mankind’s influence on the environment.

- Climate change: How do we know? The proof that CLimate Change is real is undisputed

No Republican running for a Senate seat openly supports limiting greenhouse gas emissions, as the proposal for a cap and trade system approved by the U.S. House but rejected by the Senate in 2009 would have done. Many candidates even actively deny the validity of climate change and the science behind it.

- November 2, Creative Destruction and ‘Repealing the 20th Century’ ...protecting Corporate America's ability to engage in creative destruction is the central reason behind the unprecedented flow of corporate money [going to Republicans and Tea Party candidates] from the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads flowing into this midterm election season.

- Happy Halloween... Bat Disease Threatens Ecological Catastrophe A virulent and deadly pathogen in America is exterminating a predator that is vital to farmers for controlling insect pests

- Child Soldiers Not a Problem for USA In a decision critics say has undermined a powerful new law, the United States has decided to turn a blind eye to four countries that use child soldiers in their armed forces.

- BP, Halliburton Knew Well Cement Was 'Unstable' BP and its cement contractor, Halliburton (the  company former vice president Dick Cheney ran), knew weeks before the Deepwater Horizon explosion that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the new well was unstable but still completed the work, staff for the presidential commission investigating the accident said in a letter Thursday.

- Private Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law New investigation proves the immigration "problem" in Arizona, that inspired the racist Tea Party and Republican SB 1070 law, was in fact created as a way for the private prison system to make millions

- Beck's "Us Vs.Them" In All Its Twisted Glory  Charles Wilson, jailed last week for threatening to kill a Washington senator who voted for health care reform, was "under the spell that Glenn Beck cast...his fears were grown and fostered by Beck's persuasive personality," wrote a cousin attesting to his character, if not his taste in "pundits".

- Lack of WikiLeaks coverage disturbing, but not surprising The sad lack of coverage ("Sunday talk shows largely ignore WikiLeaks' Iraq files") of the leak of unfiltered, publicly owned information from the latest WikiLeak is disturbing, but not historically out of the ordinary for major American media.


New York Times vs. the world: WikiLeaks Coverage

By Glenn Greenwald published Oct 25 2010 at Salon.com

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

To supplement my post yesterday about The New York Times' government-subservient coverage of the WikiLeaked documents regarding the war that newspaper played such a vital role in enabling, consider -- beyond the NYT's sleazy, sideshow-smears against Julian Assange -- the vast disparity between how newspapers around the world and The New York Times reported on a key revelation from these documents:  namely, that the U.S. systematically and pursuant to official policy ignored widespread detainee abuse and torture by Iraqi police and military (up to and including murders).  In fact, American conduct goes beyond mere indifference into active complicity, as The Guardian today reports that "fresh evidence that US soldiers handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad has emerged in army logs published by WikiLeaks."

Media outlets around the world prominently highlighted this revelation, but not The New York Times:

BBC:

The Guardian: Al Jazeera:

 Hindustan Times:

Even Politico acknowledged and trumpeted this fact:

By stark and deliberate contrast, here's how The New York Times framed these revelations to its readers (h/t Remi Brulin):

 

Three cheers for the U.S.!  While a handful of American soldiers -- a few bad apples -- may have abused Iraqi detainees in hellholes like Abu Ghraib, those detainees "fared worse in Iraqi hands," so we weren't as bad as the new Iraqi tyrants were.  That's the way The New York Times chose to frame these revelations.  And while that article mentions in passing that "most [abuse cases] noted in the archive seemed to have been ignored, with the equivalent of an institutional shrug," the vast bulk of the article focuses on Iraqi rather than American wrongdoing and even includes substantial efforts to exculpate the American role ("American soldiers, however, often intervened").  

The difference in how (a) the NYT "reported on" -- i.e., whitewashed -- these horrific, incriminating revelations about the U.S. and (b) the rest of the world media reported on it, could not be more vast.  Again, even Politico understood its significance, as this was the first line of its article:  "Newly released Iraq war documents paint a devastating portrait of apparent U.S. indifference to a pattern of murder and torture by the Iraqi army, raising new questions about the Obama administration's plans to transfer the nation's security operations to Iraqi units."  But the NYT in its headline chose to venerate the superiority of American detainee treatment, while barely mentioning one of the most critical revelations from this leak.

Similarly, newspapers around the world heavily covered the fact that the U.N. chief investigator for torture called on the Obama administration to formally investigate this complicity in Iraqi abuse, pointing out that "if leaked US files on the Iraq conflict point to clear violations of the UN convention against torture, Barack Obama's administration has a clear obligation to investigate them," and that "under the conventions on human rights there is an obligation for states to criminalise every form of torture, whether directly or indirectly, and to investigate any allegations of abuse."   Today, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister called on the British Government to fulfill that obligation by formally investigating the role British troops might have played in "the allegations of killings, torture and abuse in Iraq."

But these calls for investigations -- and the U.N.'s explanation of the legal obligation to do so -- are virtually nonexistent in the American media.  The only mention in the NYT of the U.N.'s statement is buried deep down in a laundry list of short items on one of its blogs.  Along with most American media outlets, The Washington Post has no mention of this matter at all (while whitewashing American guilt, the NYT -- in the form of Judy Miller's former partner, Michael Gordon -- prominently trumpeted from the start of its coverage the "interference" in Iraq by Iran in aiding "Iraqi militias," a drum Gordon has been dutifully beating for years).  

The notion that the Obama administration not only should -- but must -- investigate the role its military played in enabling this widespread, stomach-turning torture and abuse in Iraq is simply suppressed in American political discourse, most of all by the newspaper which played the leading role in enabling the attack on that country in the first place.  It's not hard to see why.  The last thing American political and media elites in general want is a discussion of the legal obligations to investigate torture and bring the torturers to legal account, and the last thing which enablers of the Iraq War specifically want is a focus on how we not only allowed but participated in the very human rights abuses which we claimed (and still claim) our invasion would stop.

 

UPDATE:  Note, too, how the NYT in its article on brutal detainee abuse steadfastly avoids using the word "torture" to describe what was done, consistent with its U.S.-Government-serving formal policy of refusing to use that word where U.S. policy is involved.  By stark contrast, virtually every other media account uses that term to describe the heinous abuse of detainees chronicled by this leak, the only term that accurately applies:  see The Guardian ("American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes"); BBC (US "ignored Iraq torture"); Politico ("a devastating portrait of apparent U.S. indifference to a pattern of murder and torture by the Iraqi army").  BoingBoing appropriately mocks the NYT's increasingly humiliating no-"torture" policy by creating a euphemism-generator.

 

UPDATE II:  The Daily Beast has an extraordinary article today by Ellen Knickmeyer, who was The Washington Post's Baghdad Chief during much of the war.  The headline of the article is "WikiLeaks Exposes Rumsfeld's Lies," and she writes:  "Thanks to Wikileaks, though, I now know the extent to which top American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world, as the Iraq mission exploded."  She documents how WikiLeaked documents prove that Rumsfeld and other top military and political officials outright lied about the state of Iraq in 2006.

This is the type of language which the NYT and Washington Post would never, ever use; it's undoubtedly true that Knickmeyer could not have written this if she were still at the Post.  Our leading establishment news outlets use far more deference and respect and muted language when talking about High Government Officials.  They'll unleash a slew of insults about Julian Assange's mental health and alleged personality faults -- and viciously malign anyone who lacks power in their world -- but they would never dare use language like this when talking about a political or military official who wields power.  Knickmeyer had to leave the Post in order to speak the truth this way.

 

UPDATE III:  Michael Calderone of Yahoo! News documents how the Sunday news shows barely bothered to discuss the substance of the WikiLeaks documents at all.  Even worse, on ABC NewsDiane Sawyer demands to know whether WikiLeaks -- but not the U.S. Government officials responsible for perpetrating and sanctioning torture in Iraq -- will be arrested.   To paraphrase that exchange:

WikiLeaks documentsThere was mass torture, abuse, government deceit, reckless civilian deaths in Iraq.

Diane SawyerWill WikiLeaks be arrested?

As I wrote yesterday:  "serving the Government's interests, siding with government and military officials, and attacking government critics is what they do. That's their role. That's what makes them the 'establishment media'."


Sean