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Killing Me Softly With His Drone

I keep thinking I should write up something thoughtful.  That I should find a way to express my opinion about The Drones, The Presidential Kill List (complete with Power Point presentations!) and the almost complete silence about the issue in both televised media and the fashionable progressive blogosphere.  But my brain is stuck on a simple phrase, “Are you fucking kidding me?

In a delayed reaction, I’m wondering – Is “militant” more like a religion or an activity?

Glenn Greenwald, Deliberate media propaganda

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration, in order to conceal civilian deaths caused by their drone attacks, “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” Although I wrote at length about the NYT‘s various revelations, I wrote separately about that specific disclosure, in order to emphasize the implications for media outlets reporting on American drone attacks:

What kind of self-respecting media outlet would be party to this practice? Here’s the New York Times documenting that this is what the term “militant” means when used by government officials. Any media outlet that continues using it while knowing this is explicitly choosing to be an instrument for state propaganda.

Early this morning, the U.S. fired a missile from a drone in northwest Pakistan — its first since the NYT story – and killed two people.

(snip)

There is, as usual, no indication that these media outlets have any idea whatsoever about who was killed in these strikes. All they know is that “officials” (whether American or Pakistani) told them that they were “militants,” so they blindly repeat that as fact. They “report” this not only without having the slightest idea whether it’s true, but worse, with the full knowledge that the word “militant” is being aggressively distorted by deceitful U.S. government propaganda that defines the term to mean: any “military-age males” whom we kill (the use of the phrase “suspected militants” in the body of the article suffers the same infirmity).

Jane, at FireDogLake has been silent about Obama’s Kill List (at least as far as I can tell – I’ll add links if I’m wrong.) But I stumbled across this great post by Dissenter, The Media on Obama’s ‘Kill List’.  It’s a long list discussing some of the stories I’ve mentioned in my posts and a couple I’m including today as well as some you haven’t seen from me.

Laugh or cry – or both: MSNBC: No Time for Obama’s Kill List?

The New York Times’ lengthy report (5/29/12) on Barack Obama’s drone “kill list” should provoke serious questions: Is such a program legal? How does it square with Obama’s criticism of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” policies? What does it tell us about how the administration identifies “militants” who are targeted for assassination?

But those questions have been raised only in fits and starts–and are basically absent from the liberal cable news channel MSNBC.

(snip)

But what about the channel that would seem the natural place for some of that left-leaning analysis? MSNBC has been mostly quiet. A search of the Nexis news database turns up nothing on Obama’s kill list. The program Morning Joe had one discussion (5/29/12) where the panelists mostly supported the program, though host Joe Scarborough expressed some reservations.

What was more newsworthy? MSNBC’s prime time shows seemed to have plenty of coverage of “birther” Donald Trump.

In an almost illegibly formatted piece from The Nation makes a pretty good point: US president’s kill list is illegal and immoral:

The Times described the president as poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies – their “baseball cards,” as one unnamed official put it – and making the final determination of whether and when a suspected terrorist leader, and sometimes his family, will be killed.But if the president’s personal involvement is laudable, the killings themselves are no less controversial. And, if the Times’s reporting is accurate, the programme itself is illegal.Becker and Shane confirm what we could only guess from remarks made by Obama’s advisors in the past: that the United States is targeting to kill individuals overseas who do not pose an imminent threat to the United States and who are not directly participating in hostilities against Americans. That’s a violation of international law.

And from Stephen Colbert (Video starts playing – with sound – as page loads!!!) – Two Birds With One Drone

It Lives: The Kill List

I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing these daily lists. It’s too disturbing.

Glenn Greenwald
How extremism is normalized

But that’s the point: once something is repeated enough by government officials, we become numb to its extremism. Even in the immediate wake of 9/11 — when national fear and hysteria were intense — things like the Patriot Act, military commissions, and indefinite detention were viewed as radical departures from American political tradition; now, they just endure and are constantly renewed without notice, because they’ve just become normalized fixtures of American political life. Here we have the Obama administration asserting what I genuinely believe, without hyperbole, is the most extremist government interpretation of the Bill of Rights I’ve heard in my lifetime — that the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that the State cannot deprive you of your life without “due process of law” is fulfilled by completely secret, oversight-free “internal deliberations by the executive branch” — and it’s now barely something anyone (including me) even notices when The New York Times reports it (as the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer asked yesterday: “These Dems who think executive process is due process: Where were they when Bush‬ needed help with warrantless wiretapping?” — or his indefinite detention scheme?)

Obama the Warrior

No late-night wrestling with conscience for this Nobel Peace laureate. Even his most radical decision — ordering an American citizen assassinated without a whiff of due process or transparency — is “easy” for him, and he’s so very “comfortable” with ordering people killed, say his aides who believe this to be a compliment.

From Reason.com: Obama’s Secret Kill List

Can the president legally do this? In a word: No.

The president cannot lawfully order the killing of anyone, except according to the Constitution and federal law. Under the Constitution, he can only order killing using the military when the U.S. has been attacked, or when an attack is so imminent and certain that delay would cost innocent American lives, or in pursuit of a congressional declaration of war. Under federal law, he can only order killing using civilians when a person has been sentenced lawfully to death by a federal court and the jury verdict and the death sentence have been upheld on appeal. If he uses the military to kill, federal law requires public reports of its use to Congress and congressional approval after 180 days.

(snip)

Obama has argued that his careful consideration of each person he orders killed and the narrow use of deadly force are an adequate and constitutional substitute for due process. The Constitution provides for no such thing. He has also argued that the use of drones to do his killing is humane since they are “surgical” and only kill their targets. We know that is incorrect. And he has argued that these killings are consistent with our values. What is he talking about? The essence of our values is the rule of law, not the rule of presidents.

A glowing critique from The Raw Story: A Critique Of The New York Times “Secret Kill List” Article (Can you tell where this is going?):

As I was reading it, I didn’t have a hard time imaging what the reaction from some on the left would be. The person that always comes to mind is Glenn Greenwald, whose sentences almost always include “a noun, a verb and drones”.

The Atlantic: Hey Voters: The Kill List Is What Matters

So to sum up, one candidate is portrayed, accurately, as being extremely rich, with a wife who has rich-person leisure-time pursuits; and the other candidate is portrayed, accurately, as someone whose secretive policies have wrought dead children, broken promises, violated due process rights, and possibly created more terrorists. And our political culture in the United States is so blinkered that the story about the rich candidate whose wife rides horses is regarded, by conservatives and savvy Politico journalists, as the one that is noteworthy for being negative; whereas the story about the Orwellian turn in the White House doesn’t even merit mention.

From Robert Scheer: Hope Burning

This is clearly not the Obama whom many voted for in the hope that he would stick by his word, including the pledge he made on his second day in office to ban brutal interrogation and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. “What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes,” the Times now reports concerning the early promises by Obama. “They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric.”

Parse that sentence carefully to learn much of what is morally decrepit in our journalism as well as politics. The word “realist” is now identical to “hypocrite,” and the condemnation of immoral behavior addresses nothing more than “rhetoric” that only the “fervent” would take seriously. The Times writers all but thrill to the lying, as in recounting the new president’s response to advisers who warned him against sticking to his campaign promises on Guantanamo prisoners: “The deft insertion of some wiggle words in the president’s order showed that the advice was followed.”

American Extremists: "Weapon of choice"

And THIS from Stephen Colbert (Might not be suitable for work — The video with sounds starts right away)

Barack Obama’s Righteous Drone Strikes : The government takes out Al Qaeda’s “number two,” and Barack Obama finds an alternative to shutting down Guantanamo Bay.

Happy Birthday OWS Bat Signal

Courtesy of Marsha.  This one is pretty good.  It shows the Bat Signal team from Occupy Wall Street setting up the equipment and the reaction from on the bridge.

Sooo, good morning to you and happy birthday to me!

Enjoy.

**************************

Glenn Greenwald has a pretty good piece up about how the Democratic party and its retainers are going to try to co-opt Occupy Wall Street.  And I know some Conflucians have expressed similar concerns.  I’ll get to those in a minute.  But I encourage you to go read Greenwald because I think he gets this movement in the same way that I do.  In particular, Greenwald is disturbed by the SEIU’s endorsement of Obama’s re-election the day before Occupy’s N17 Day of Action and explains why he thinks the SEIU will fail:

Having SEIU officials — fresh off endorsing the Obama re-election campaign — shape, fund, dictate and decree an anti-GOP, pro-Obama march is about as antithetical as one can imagine to what the Occupy movement has been. And pretending that the ongoing protests are grounded in the belief that the GOP is the party of the rich while the Democrats are the party of the working class is likely to fool just about nobody other than those fooled by that already. The strength and genius of OWS has been its steadfast refusal to (a) fall into the trap that ensnared the Tea Party of being exploited as a partisan tool and (b) integrate itself into the very political institutions which it’s scorning and protesting.

As I noted several weeks ago, WH-aligned groups such as the Center for American Progress have made explicitly clear that they are going to try to convert OWS into a vote-producing arm for the Obama 2012 campaign, and that’s what “Occupy Congress” is designed to achieve. I believed then and — having spent the last few weeks talking with many OWS protesters around the country — believe even more so now that these efforts will inevitably fail: those who have animated the Occupy movement are not motivated by partisan allegiance or an overarching desire to devote themselves to one of the two parties. In fact, one of the original Occupy groups — as opposed to partisan organizations swooping in to exploit it — has announced its own D.C. occupation to, in part, “demonstrate the failure of the Democrats and Republicans in Congress to represent the views of the majority of people.”

For a long time, I have believed, and still do believe, that the way to get the financiers to behave and for the corporations to begin treating their employees as humans and not resources, is to change the rulemakers in Washington.  But I also realize that you can’t sweep politicians out of office unless the electorate wants that to happen.  And at this point in time, there is still a significant portion of the electorate that has lost its way.  It is confused by ubiquitous messaging from their elected officials and those officials’ mouthpieces.  And the Democrats failed to interrupt this messaging when it had a chance.  When it had a filibuster proof majority in the senate and majorities in the House and a president of its own party, it should have moved immediately to reinstating the “fairness doctrine” and cementing net neutrality into law and doing a myriad other things that would ensure that a different message from the harsh, mean-spirited, “money is everything” one we get non-stop message we get all day long would be heard.  But the Democrats didn’t do this.  Whether it was through malice or stupidity, it managed to turn down its own volume in the public sphere.

We should have known when it did nothing to curtail the right wing messaging that we were on our own.  Without a voice, we have no way to move each other or politicians to do what we want.  We are easily dismissed as dirty fucking hippies and liberals and no one wants to hear from us.

Before we can change our political system, we have to change hearts to make sure that we don’t keep beating up on each other.  We have to expose the way the socio-economic system is set up right now.  And we have to have a movement of people who are willing to walk away from the current setup that isn’t working for them and set up something new that does.  It’s only by turning our backs on the current political climate and working hard to have our own social safety net and economic system that works for us in the long term that we will be free and it won’t matter who is in power in Washington.

Why should we care who is in power in Washington?  Neither party seems to care to exercise its power for our benefit.  I’m not terribly concerned anymore whether Democrats hold the White House or Republicans hold the House.  They’ve made it clear that no matter who we vote for, the result will be pretty much the same. The same people will be entrenched in power and the rest of us will watch them slowly erode away our standard of living and use excuses to steal the money we put away for our own retirements.  I’m not apathetic.  I’m incensed by that.  Everyday, I wonder how it is they have the unmitigated gall to ignore us.  But that’s the way it is right now and I’m no longer going to tilt at electoral windmills.  I made my mind up in 2008 to only vote for politicians who share my values and aren’t afraid to say it.  It looks like I’m not the only one because loudmouth Elizabeth Warren seems to be doing extraordinarily well these days.

Occupy Wall Street was started by people who didn’t like the way things are going.  Those of us who weren’t in the planning stages but don’t like the way things are going either don’t necessarily have to share the same socio political philosophy.  When movements catch on, maybe it doesn’t matter how each unit of that movement does its business as long as they share a common morality.  And that is Occupy Wall Street’s strength.  It is at its core a moral movement.  It is not a political one.  That moral movement is about the vast majority wanting to correct the vast disperity of wealth that has developed in this country, to correct economic and social injustice,to uphold the dignity of working people, to re-establish a social safety net and economic system that works for everyone and to redefine the meaning of success.  That last one is very important.  The morality of success matters.  Does success mean making money at all costs or does it mean achieving goals of a more personal nature?  Right now, our morality is dictated by the marketplace and the people who run it.  And this movement is about changing that morality.  The way we go about changing that morality and withdrawing our support from a system that fails us is what Occupy Wall Street has yet to decide.  So, calls for it to make demands are premature.

The 1% is going to try hard to disrupt that decision making process.  It is going to try hard to prevent the critical mass from forming (although I think they may be losing that battle).  And it is going to try hard to co-opt.  But as long as the movement focuses on determining how to translate its morality into creating a new economy that works for everyone, the political class can wait.  It is not our job to serve the politicians.  It is their job to serve us.

OccupyWallStreet: We are not cannon fodder for Washington policy wonks

 

My Favorite Sign

Glenn Greenwald gets OccupyWallStreet in a way that many doubters do not.  In his latest post at Salon, Can OWS be turned into a Democratic party movement, he writes:

Given these facts, does the Center for American Progress really believe that the protest movement named OccupyWallStreet was begun — and that people are being arrested and pepper-sprayed and ready to endure harsh winters andmarching to Jamie Dimon’s house — in order to devote themselves to ensuring that these people remain in power? Does CAP and the DCCC really believe that most of the protesters are motivated — or can be motivated — to turn themselves into a get-out-the-vote machine for Obama’s re-election and the empowerment of Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Party? Obviously, if when the GOP nominates some crony capitalist like Rick Perry or eager Wall Street servant like Mitt Romney, few if any of the protesters will or should support them, nor can it be denied that the GOP in its current incarnation is steadfastly devoted to a pro-Wall-Street, corporatist agenda. But it also seems to me quite delusional to think that you’re going to exploit this protest as a way “to mobilize protesters in get-out-the-vote drives for 2012″ on behalf of the Democratic Party that I just documented.

Presumably, people who are out protesting and getting arrested are politically astute enough to be aware of some, probably most, of these facts. A rejuvenated outburst of “populist rhetoric” from Obama — a re-reading of the 2008 Change script — just as election season is heating up and Obama again needs progressive enthusiasm to remain in power seems quite unlikely to make people forget all of this.

As Robert Reich recently pointed out, OWS and the Democratic Party are not exactly natural allies given that “Obama has been extraordinarily solicitous of Wall Street and big business” and that “a big share of both parties’ campaign funds comes from the Street and corporate board rooms.” As Naomi Klein explained after speaking to the protesters, the reason they are out on the street rather than working for the DNC or OFA is precisely because they concluded that electoral politics or working for either party will not address the issues motivating them; part of what they’re protesting is the Democratic Party. For an FDL Book Salon discussion this weekend, I reviewed Lawrence Lessig’s excellent new book on our corrupted political system, Republic: Lost, and he documents exactly why he transformed from an enthusiastic supporter of his long-time friend and colleague Barack Obama in 2008 into a harsh critic of both parties: because the political system itself has been subverted by oligarchical control. As he put it in his book: : “Democracy on this account seems a show or a rule; power rests elsewhere. . . . the charade is a signal: spend your time elsewhere, because this game is not for real.”

So best of luck to CAP and the DCCC in their efforts to exploit these protests into some re-branded Obama 2012 crusade and to convince the protesters to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested all to make themselves the 2012 street version of OFA. I think they’re going to need it.

My spidey sense tells me that the occupiers know that the Democratic party is an enabler of Wall Street behavior.  Where I disagree with Glenn is that *anybody* who takes financial industry money is going to do its bidding.  I don’t believe that.  The crisis of 2008 was so severe that getting away with murder could only be pulled off by making sure the weakest presidential candidate won.  Obama was weak in character as well as experience.  But I digress.

While OWS is still working through the process of what it can do with all of its newly found power, let’s talk about business in America.  What drives me nutz about some activists is the inability to separate the finance industry from corporations in general.  There are some forms of industry that are best carried out by corporations because they provide an economy of scale and physical set up that make working together ideal and logistically possible.  Some industries that come to mind are car and aircraft manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.  Go ahead, try to build a new plane or discover a new drug without a corporation.  It’s bloody hard.  Many unemployed chemists right now are faced with this dilemma.  I have a sneaky suspicion that the clueless MBA class thought cutting a huge number of pharma workers was going to pay off for them because these people would just turn into entrepreneurs and when their  projects got to the development stage, the big pharmas would swoop down and buy them out.  But this is a business school grad’s fantasy.  With very few exceptions, this will never happen.  It’s just too expensive and physically exhausting for a few people to get together and create a whole pharma company out of their garages.  The start up costs alone will bankrupt you before you even get started and there are years, decades even, before a drug hits the marketplace, if it ever does.  The risk is too high for small entrepreneurs who still have to eat.

I hope someone is paying attention to what I just wrote about garage startup pharmas.  Stop hoping for this to happen.  Getting a new drug this way is about as likely as an immaculate conception.  At best, small companies can only do a piece of the puzzle.  The rest has to be farmed out and even when the idea is a good one, what these entrepreneurs really want is for someone with deep pockets to buy them, which most venture capitalists these days are increasingly unlikely to do without a guarantee of a payoff.  Since you can’t get close to guaranteeing a payoff without significant start up funds… well, you can see this is a vicious cycle.  The pharmas would have been better off keeping us and leaving us alone in our labs for about 5 years.

Now that there are a lot of people struggling to make a living by starting their own companies, vulture capitalists can make them offers they can’t refuse.  That will discourage new entrepreneurs from trying it and pretty soon, chemists and biologists will turn in their labcoats and go work for Wall Street where bonuses of only $500,000 will make a spoiled 27 year old Ivy League graduate cry but not your average lab rat.

Anyway, the problem with corporations is that at some point in the last 20 years, their upper management was taken over by people who wanted to play by the finance industry rules.  Many of them, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, have no idea how their businesses work.  They are raised in a business culture that puts making money ahead of everything else.  An executive reading that sentence would laugh derisively and say of course they’re there to make money.  And who would disagree?  That’s what for profit businesses do.  More power to them.  Make gobs of cash.  BUT the way you make that gob of cash *does* matter.  If you do it by reinvesting some of your profit into your business and innovate and grow, your business is going to do pretty well but it might take longer for that gob of cash to grow.  If you do it by slashing your labor and compensation costs, raising prices astronomically and then skim the profits off the top and share the profit, that’s like eating your seed corn and your company will start to show diminishing returns over time.  This is already happening to pharma with many of them going over the “patent cliff” starting this year.

Corporations have decided to go with option number 2 because the finance industry puts pressure on them to deliver more and more money to the shareholder.  And that money gets managed by Wall Street and is used to invest in foreign markets and the people who are left in those corporations are encouraged to put money into their 401Ks and they are compensated with stock options, which are supposed to incentivize you but tend to make you feel like your future is not in your hands whenever the shares plummet.

And then there is the deregulation and non-transparent derivatives, which are also not regulated, and the credit default swaps and the over-leveraged banks and on and on.  The whole system has been changed over the past 30 years to reward speculation by the wealthy.  None of this is news to anyone.

But it just may be occurring to some that the horror stories about what Brookseley Born, Sheila Bair and Elizabeth Warren have come up against in Washington DC is the result not of the bankers but the politicians who have been compromised by the financial industry.  And this problem affects *both* parties.  The Republicans are more up front about it but the Democrats haven’t been much better.  I won’t leave Bill Clinton off the hook here but in his case, there were mitigating factors in addition to Larry Summers and Robert Rubin acting like total assholes.  But we have to remember who rehired Larry Summers after his reputation preceded him.  It was Barack Obama.

We can debate whether Obama was a knowing tool of Wall Street or just aspired to be like the class that reigns there.  But there is no doubt in anyone’s minds by now that under Obama, the finance industry will suffer no shocks to its system at the hands of government regulators.  By the way, Greenwald includes a graph of the politicians that have received the most campaign cash from Wall Street and Chris Dodd’s name was on that list. It should come as no surprise that Dodd was one of the people who obstructed Elizabeth Warren’s appointment to the CFPB.  This article from Vanity Fair gives all of the gruesome details.

So, what does this have to do with OWS?  Well, the naysayers who have never been to an occupation site (hello myiq!) seem to think that the occupiers are or can be co-opted to become another Obama for America organization.  My sense, having actually, you know, *been* there, is that that’s not true.  The occupiers like me who already know that the politicians are standing between the Wall Street and regulation are very suspicious of any activity that pushes them to support Obama.  The other’s are still working through this process.  And the fact that they are working through this process slowly and methodically indicates to me that they will soon reach the same conclusion that we early birds did: if the finance industry plays by its own set of rules, the way to make them behave is to change the rulemakers.  And you can’t re-elect the same rulemakers who answer only to Wall Street and not to you the citizen and taxpayer.  And if the faulty rulemakers are in both parties, then even if some of those more sympathetic rulemakers are on your side, you need to force them to become accountable to you.  And to become more accountable to you, you need to threaten them with electoral losses until they get the picture that the power is at the ballot box and not on Wall Street.

So, will OWS become a tool of the Democratic party?  I don’t know but I doubt it.  That’s because what OWS wants is to make life more fair for the 99% and right now that’s not possible with the current set of rulemakers.  OWS has to apply pressure from the outside of the system.  Becoming a part of that system will never work.  The Democrats will try.  They’ll use fear, uncertainty and dread.  But the power that OWS has is in staying separate from any political party and gathering bodies and momentum behind it.

My best guess as to where OWS is headed is as a voting bloc first and then as a new political party.  What they are doing right now is laying down the foundation for what that party represents and what it values.  I know, I know, they’ll tell you they are still working on what they want and party building is not on their agenda.  But the process they are pursuing has a new party as a very logical endpoint, among other things.  And if the platform focuses on economic issues primarily, it could be extremely appealing to millions of Americans who have had enough of both parties.

The Democrats have more to fear from OWS because so many occupiers have given it a chance, over and over again, to do something to rein in the investment class and have seen nothing come of those efforts.  They know they’ll never make any headway with the Republicans, who are busily invoking images of murderous radical marxists with tattooed faces who poop on cars (well, now we know how to spot the radical marxists).  The occupiers have had it with Democrats but they also have more to gain by taking Democrats on.  They are just now feeling their power.  They’re not about to turn it over to a bunch of Wall Street lackeys

What Lambert said

Democrats in Congress worry that Obama will cave to GOP

The liberals are watching three big tests over the next month to see whether the president is firmly in their corner: extending Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire Dec. 31, ratifying a new nuclear-arms treaty with Russia and repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military.

Seriously — THIS is what “liberal” Democrats are worried about?  Well, I can’t say it better than Lambert:

Nothing on jobs at all, or foreclosures, or the banks. Quelle surprise. If you didn’t know that the Ds threw the working class under the bus in 2008, now you really know it, eh?

(emphasis mine)

Nearly a year ago Glenn Greenwald wrote a post that changed my relationship to the Democratic Party, “The Democratic Party’s deceitful game

This is what the Democratic Party does; it’s who they are. They’re willing to feign support for anything their voters want just as long as there’s no chance that they can pass it.

The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation. They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it. One minute, it’s Jay Rockefeller as the Prime Villain leading the way in protecting Bush surveillance programs and demanding telecom immunity; the next minute, it’s Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer joining hands and “breaking with their party” to ensure Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General; then it’s Big Bad Joe Lieberman single-handedly blocking Medicare expansion; then it’s Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb joining with Lindsey Graham to support the de-funding of civilian trials for Terrorists; and now that they can’t blame Lieberman or Ben Nelson any longer on health care (since they don’t need 60 votes), Jay Rockefeller voluntarily returns to the Villain Role, stepping up to put an end to the pretend-movement among Senate Democrats to enact the public option via reconciliation.

But that was last year. THIS year, I guess it’s asking too much that they even just pretend to be on our side.

Saturday News: Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagen?

Good Morning Conflucians!!

I’m even more spacey today than I was yesterday. Now that I finish turning my final grades, my body and mind want me to drop everything and state into space for a few hours, then go back to sleep. Of could I’m still going to have to deal with the barrage of e-mail complaints from students who think they should have gotten an A even though their semester average was in the B- range. And then there are the ones who want me to give them a C even though they failed all the exams. {{Heavy sigh….}}

So anyway….I did stare into space for a long time and listened to the thunder and lightning outside….finally decided to focus on Elena Kagan’s supposedly immanent nomination for SCOTUS. I don’t know if the WH just leaked her name to get a preview of the reactions or if Obama really plans to submit her name next week. We’ll see, I guess. In the meantime, everyone is talking about it and breaking down her record.

Here’s the latest reaction from Glenn Greenwald. He pulls together most of the criticism of Kagan. And here is his original Case Against Elena Kagan, which we have already discussed at TC.

Much of the criticism has been of Kagan’s hiring record at Harvard, where she mostly hired white men. Some of the most pithy articles I read:

The White House’s Kagan Talking Points are Wrong

The White House’s primary response — like the magician performing a trick–is to point our attention elsewhere. The White House says the hiring numbers are misleading because they do not reflect the number of offers that Dean Kagan made to women and scholars of color. But this seems a bit hard to believe. Do women and people of color find a tenured or tenure-track professorship at Harvard Law School less attractive than white men? Do they really prefer to teach at less prestigious schools? Or if they only prefer not to teach at Harvard because of perceived hostilities to women and people of color, why is it that Kagan could somehow overcome these perceptions when it came to conservatives, but not women and people of color? After all, part of the praise for Kagan is that she made Harvard Law School welcoming again for conservatives—in this case, conservative white men.

In order to assess whether Dean Kagan effectively reached out to women and scholars of color, we need the number of tenure and tenure-track offers she made to women and scholars of color. But the White House does not provide us the number of tenure and tenure-track offers that Dean Kagan made to women and scholars of color. In fact, they provide everything but those numbers. An honest defense would provide those numbers in the first instance. (The White House memo implicitly cites the privacy of the individuals who received offers as a basis for refusing to release names — but we wonder how many law professors would be embarrassed by the public revelation that they turned down a Harvard Law School offer.)

There is quite a bit of discussion of this article around the ‘net because it was written by three top law professors. Lots of other blogs have commented on this article. Here’s the response from Darren Hutchinson at Dissenting Justice.

From Chris Good at The Atlantic: Kagan Could Be Hard to Hit

I asked Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network (a conservative group focused on judicial nominees) what conservatives are going to say about Kagan, and what Kagan’s “wise Latina” moment, if there is one, will prove to be.

“She has been much more careful than Justice Sotomayor. She never would have said something like that even if she thinks it. She’s been so careful for so long that no one seems to know exactly what she does think,” Severino said.

Severino attended Harvard Law School, where Kagan served as dean. She asked fellow Harvard people about Kagan’s tenure as dean. “Everyone came back with the same perspective, which was she was careful to never say anything on the record, or off the record, to anyone about her own opinions, so I think she’s been carefully shepherding her image for a long time, possibly ever since her DC circuit nomination by President Clinton, so that’s a long time to effectively live on the short list.”

Another problem for Kagan is her ties to Goldman Sachs, according to Matt Kelley of USA Today:

Solicitor General Elena Kagan was a member of the Research Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute, according to the financial disclosures she filed when President Obama appointed her last year to her current post. Kagan served on the Goldman panel from 2005 through 2008, when she was dean of Harvard Law School, and received a $10,000 stipend for her service in 2008, her disclosure forms show.


And from Sam Stein at Huffpo:

On Friday, a slew of inquiries was made to the White House and Justice Department about a minor post Solicitor General Elena Kagan once held at Goldman Sachs, the investment bank under fire over controversial mortgage securities transactions. Kagan served on a Goldman advisory council between 2005 and 2008, with the task of providing expert “analysis and advice to Goldman Sachs and its clients.” For her work she earned a $10,000 stipend.

This was actually old news. Kagan disclosed this information during her first confirmation hearings for the post of Solicitor General.

Unless you’re a committed (or commitable) Obot, I can’t see why the Goldman issue should be on the table. After all, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since Kagan’s previous confirmation hearings.

Charlie Savage discusses the issue of executive power and SCOTUS

As President Obama prepares to nominate somebody to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, his administration appears to be on a collision course with the Supreme Court in legal disputes that will test the limits of executive power.

Those disputes — involving issues like detainee rights and secrecy — throw into sharp relief the differences in the records of several leading contenders for the nomination, including Solicitor General Elena Kagan and two appeals court judges, Merrick B. Garland and Diane P. Wood.

And the there’s the “is she gay” issue. I don’t know if the Repubs will bring it up or not–maybe in sneaky ways.

There’s this from the Washington Post: Obama navigating high court nomination with more ease this time

After listing the ways the administration is handling things better, supposedly, there this:

….in other respects, the process is the same as a year ago, with senior administration officials hinting about who is on the shortlist — for the past couple of weeks, it has been Kagan, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit and Judge Sidney Thomas of the 9th Circuit — but remaining relatively opaque with outside interest groups. Activists with liberal interest groups said White House officials have kept open communication lines but have been circumspect about Obama’s thinking. “The contact has typically been one-way, which is, ‘We’ll hear what you want to tell us,’ ” said one activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of offending the administration.

Another said that there have been several meetings but that the White House has not much shared its point of view. Still, one outside source said the president’s preference is less apparent than at the same point a year ago, just before he nominated Sotomayor. “Last time around, you knew Sotomayor was going to be the candidate,” the person said. “She was such a home run on so many different counts. . . . I would say this one is much, much, much more difficult for them.”

As the process draws to a close, officials in several groups handicapped the race as between Kagan and Garland, giving Kagan the edge. Kagan, they said, has weathered criticism from conservatives and liberals. The left has criticized her defense of some of the terrorism policies of the George W. Bush administration, although her defenders point out that she was only representing the policies of the Obama administration.

Via Greenwald, there’s also this horrifying headline: Supreme Court Watchers Wonder: How Conservative Is Kagan?

If Obama nominates her, I’d have to guess she is pretty conservative.

What do you think? And what are you reading today? Have a great Saturday, and I apologize for my lack of energy this morning.

Saturday Morning News and Views: May Day Edition

Beltane Fire Ritual, Edinburgh, Scotland

Happy May Day, Conflucians!! It’s the feast of Beltane. In Edinburgh, 12,000 people gathered for the Beltane Fire Festival spring rituals. Here is a little information on the pagan holiday:

By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). These “need-fires” had healing properties, and skyclad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection.

Frequently, cattle would be driven between two such bonfires (oak wood was the favorite fuel for them) and, on the morrow, they would be taken to their summer pastures.

Other May Day customs include: processions of chimney-sweeps and milk maids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.

In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principly a time of “…unashamed human sexuality and fertility.” Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme, “Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross…” retain such memories. And the next line “…to see a fine Lady on a white horse” is a reference to the annual ride of “Lady Godiva” though Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a sky-clad village maiden (elected Queen of the May) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.

May Day is also an important day for the labor movement.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

Back here in the 21st Century, it’s been quite a week for news.

Continue reading

Friday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians! It’s been a long week for me. I’ve been trying to get caught up from missing a week of work for my dad’s funeral. Thank goodness the semester is almost over. But I must say, we had some beautiful spring weather in the Boston area this week. Today it’s cooler and overcast–a good day to stay inside and get some work done–or maybe read a good book.

So what’s in the news today? I couldn’t find much in the mainstream media about the two stories that have affected me most this week: President Obama’s order to kill a U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and the massacre of Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops in 2007, recently seen in a video released by Wikileaks. But Democracy Now has good coverage of both stories.

Here is their video discussion of the al-Awaki story: Is the CIA Assassination Order of a US Citizen Legal?

Spencer Ackerman also writes about the story in the Washington Independent: Are Anwar al-Awlaki’s Ties to 9/11 Strong Enough for the Government to Kill Him?

And here is Glenn Greenwald’s latest post on our war criminal King President. (WARNING: it includes praise and video of Keith Olbermann).

CNN reports that al-Awlaki’s father is begging the U.S. government to allow him to talk to his son before they blow him off the face of the earth without a trial.

The elder al-Awlaki, an agricultural economist, said he was “distressed and disappointed” to learn that his son had been singled out for killing or capture.

“What they have decided is to hunt for Anwar al-Awlaki and kill him by a drone as they do every day in Pakistan. I think this kind of policy will only make the U.S. look more ugly to Muslims all over the world,” he said.

“The U.S. is a powerful country and has the means to reach anyone anywhere in the world, but is killing people — and especially American citizens — without legal justification the right way to show American justice and power? I think not.”

It turns out that Democracy Now covered the 2007 helicopter massacre of Iraqi civilians the day after it happened. I highly recommend watching the entire episode and got reactions from witnesses at the scene. Thank goodness we still have a few independent news sources like Democracy Now!

Finally we are seeing some justice for people murdered by “law enforcement officers” in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: Judge in Danziger case sickened by ‘raw brutality of the shooting and the craven lawlessness of the cover-up’

A New Orleans police officer who fired his gun at civilians on the Danziger Bridge a week after Hurricane Katrina pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday, offering a chilling account of what transpired on the bridge that early September day in 2005.

The seven officers were charged on an array of murder and attempted-murder charges.
Michael Hunter, 33, became the first officer who actually participated in the shooting to enter a guilty plea. Two investigators have already confessed to playing roles in a wide-ranging cover-up of the police shooting, which injured four unarmed civilians and left two men dead.

Hunter, who resigned last week after he was charged in federal court, contends that fellow officers shot at people they should have seen were unarmed. The account of events Hunter signed Thursday afternoon, called a factual basis, provides the most specific details to date about officers’ actions on the bridge, which spans the Industrial Canal at Chef Menteur Highway.

Hunter, 33, said a New Orleans police sergeant fired an assault rifle at wounded civilians at close range after other officers stopped shooting and after it was clear that the police were not taking fire. He also says he saw another officer in a car fire a shotgun at a fleeing man’s back, although the man did nothing suggesting he was a threat to police. That man, 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who was severely mentally disabled, died of his wounds.

As part of his plea, Hunter also acknowledged taking part in a conspiracy with colleagues to conceal the circumstances of what he considered an unjustified shooting. At one point, in a meeting with other officers, a supervisor said “something to the effect of, we don’t want this to look like a massacre,” the court document says.

Also down in New Orleans, the Republicans are holding a “Southern Leadership Conference,” and Newt Gingrich is the man of the moment. He supposedly “made a rock star’s entrance,” and then gave “a self-assured address peppered with historical allusions.” Here are some highlights:

Democrats in Washington, he said, had put together a “perfect unrepresentative left-wing machine dedicated to a secular socialist future.”

Mr. Obama is “the most radical president in American history,” Gingrich said. “He has said, ‘I run a machine, I own Washington, and there is nothing you can do about it.’”

“What we need is a president, not an athlete,” Gingrich said during a question and answer period after his speech. He added: “Shooting three point shots may be clever, but it doesn’t put anybody to work.”

Gingrich discussed passage of the health care bill, saying the “decisive” election of Sen. Scott Brown sent a message that Democrats decided to ignore in order to “ram through” the bill against the wishes of the American people.

“The longer Obama talks the less the American people believe him,” Gingrich said, citing the decline in poll numbers for the health care bill as the president kept trying to sell it to the public.

Gingrich said that when Republicans take back the House and Senate in the midterm elections they should “refuse to fund” the administration’s proposals, drawing huge applause from the crowd.

{Yawn…}

Politico notes that there was no mention of Katrina at the “Leadership Conference.”

As for the Democrats, the latest Gallup Poll shows that

Americans’ favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties’ images that has prevailed for the past four years.

Gallup last measured party images in late August/early September of last year. At that point, the Democratic Party enjoyed an 11-point favorable image advantage over the Republican Party. Now, the favorable ratings of the two parties are essentially tied.

Lots of graphs at the Gallup link.

MABlue posted this story in the comments last night: Power Struggle: Inside the Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party If you ask me, it’s far too late. The Democratic Party already sold it’s soul to the devil–cheap.

I hate this story. It just makes me so angry!

To prevent Constance McMillen from bringing a female date to her prom, the teen was sent to a “fake prom” while the rest of her class partied at a secret location at an event organized by parents.

McMillen tells The Advocate that a parent-organized prom happened behind her back — she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn’t much to keep an eye on.

“They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them,” McMillen says. “The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn’t invited to.”
Last week McMillen asked one of the students organizing the prom for details about the event, and was directed to the country club. “It hurts my feelings,” McMillen says.

Shame on the Itawamba County School District in Jackson, Mississippi and the parents who brought up the bigoted kids who shut out a young girl because she’s gay. They make me sick to my stomach. Here is another more positive story about this situation.

The West Virginia coal mining disaster continues: Crews unable to search West Virginia coal mine on Friday

Toxic gas kept rescue crews out of a West Virginia mine on Thursday and that appears to be the case already on Friday morning.

Rescue teams had to stop searching the coal mine where four people are believed to be trapped. Search crews got to a refuge chamber where they hoped the missing miners would be, but were forced to turn back when they found signs of fire and smoke. It now looks like rescue teams will not be able to physically search the mine.

But don’t worry, because Massey Energy, the owners of the unsafe mine where 25 men are confirmed dead and four more are missing and presumed dead, will make up for lost revenues by forcing workers at their other mines produce more coal.

The accident at the UBB mine in West Virginia was one of the deadliest at a U.S. coal mine in recent years. The mine, owned by Massey’s Performance Coal subsidiary, is about 30 miles south of the state capital Charleston.

Massey Energy said in the filing that it had third-party insurance coverage that applies to litigation risk.

“We believe this coverage will apply to litigation that may stem from the UBB explosion.”

The UBB mine has had three fatalities since 1998 and has a worse-than-average injury rate over the last 10 years, according to federal records.

I don’t quite understand what this is about: Israel’s PM Cancels Nuclear Summit Trip

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called off his trip to Washington next week to attend a conference on the spread of nuclear weapons, officials in his office said Thursday night, fearing Israel would be singled out over its own nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu had said he would attend the conference to underline the dangers of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons, but suddenly called off the trip less than two days after he announced he would take part.

Army Radio reported that US sources informed Israel that a group of participating Arab countries led by Turkey and Egypt plan to use the summit to demand that Israel sign the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and allow its alleged nuclear capabilities to be placed under international inspection.

Perhaps it is related to the following story: Obama’s New Policy : All Israeli Nuclear Workers Now Refused US Visas‏

I hope someone more knowledgeable can enlighten me about this. I’m curious.

So what are you reading this morning? Post your links in the comments, and have a fabulous Friday!!

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!! There’s a lot happening in the world today. I’ll share the stories I’ve been reading, and you can add your own links in the comments.


HAITI EARTHQUAKE

The situation is very desperate in Haiti. Tensions Mount in Haiti as Situation Grows Desperate

Haiti’s capital is now devoid of a functioning police force. When the earthquake struck, it destroyed the city’s prison, allowing thousands of inmates to escape.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Haiti Saturday to get a first-hand look at relief efforts, days after tens of thousands of people were killed, and many other left homeless.

Clinton plans to meet with Haitian President René Preval and other officials, along with members of the U.S. government team on the ground.

Clinton said she will limit her visit to the confines of the airport so as not to disrupt relief efforts. Secretary Clinton said she planned to take relief supplies with her and that later, the same aircraft will carry Americans and others being evacuated.


Haiti earthquake: President Preval says country like a war zone

Haitian President Rene Preval said: “The damage I have seen here can be compared to the damage you would see if the country was bombed for 15 days. It is like in a war.”

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated much of the hilly coastal city on Tuesday also collapsed the elegant presidential palace and his own home.

Authorities in Haiti, already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, are saying they believe the death toll will be between 100,000 and 200,000 and that three-quarters of the city will need to be rebuilt.

I’ve been listening to CNN on XM radio, and I have to say I have new found respect for Sanjay Gupta. He and his CNN crew were at a hospital last night when all the UN doctors and nurses were ordered to leave because of security concerns. Gupta stayed and worked on injured people through the night, then cancelled his show this morning in order to keep working.

The anchors filling in for Gupta had Gen. Honore on–he was instrumental in the Katrina efforts. Gen. Honore said the UN needed to “suck it up” and realize that saving lives is more important than security in this critical time. He also said that dropping bundles from helicopters would be better than nothing for now. He seemed disgusted that the UN is so risk averse.


SCOTT RITTER ARRESTED IN INTERNET CHILD SEX STING

I saw this story yesterday, and I just didn’t know what to think. Well known writer and former U.N. Weapons inspector Scott Ritter was caught in a child sex sting and was arrested in November, but the news has just come out. He had been caught in a sting in 2001, and liberal bloggers blew it off as the Bush administration trying to shut Ritter up. But he was caught again a couple of years later, and again now. So apparently, the guy has been fooling around with teenage girls on the internet all this time. People are really strange.

Former Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter Nabbed in Teen Sex Sting


Ex-U.N. Weapons Inspector Is Charged in Child-Sex Sting

Cop who catches perverts

Here is a blog post by Justin Raimondo after Ritter was arrested for the second time in 2003

Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector who quit in 1998 and now says the U.S. is intent on manufacturing phony “evidence” of arms violations as a pretext for war, is the victim of what may be the sleaziest set-up job in recent history, a smearing so foul that it makes the Clinton crowd look like a bunch of amateurs. The news that he may have been arrested, in June 2001, as the result of an internet sex sting, in which an undercover cop posing as a sixteen-year-old girl lured him into “sex chat” over the internet, came to light in a very strange way. A local newspaper, the Daily Gazette, of Schenectady, New York, was first to pick up the dirt, which apparently came to light when an assistant district attorney was fired for settling the case and not informing the D.A. According to the Gazette:

“Police and prosecutors have declined to discuss the case, which involved at least one class B misdemeanor, because it was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal and ordered sealed by a Colonie Town Court justice. The Daily Gazette’s request for access to the arrest report was denied by the Colonie town attorney’s office, which ruled disclosure was barred under the state Freedom of Information Law.”

So the police just happened to conduct a “sex sting” operation against the one man who had exposed the lies of our war-mad rulers from the inside. On the eve of war, as hundreds of thousands protest in the streets, this staunch Republican and solid family man who has become one of the War Party’s most formidable enemies is suddenly “exposed” as a child molester.

Apparently, sometimes the person caught in a sting is actually guilty, even if he is a famous person who spoke truth to power. As I said earlier, people are strange.


MASSACHUSETTS SPECIAL ELECTION

The Democrats brought out the big guns–including Bill Clinton–for Martha Coakley yesterday, and now she seems to be embracing the Kennedy legacy that she avoided during the primary.

Martha Coakley waves as Bill Clinton hugs Rep. Jim McGovern

Coakley hopes for historic win in Kennedy seat bid

For much of her campaign, Martha Coakley steered clear of the Kennedy mystique, methodically crafting a low-key campaign to fill the late Edward Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat the way the seasoned prosecutor would build a case in court.

But with the wheels threatening to come off the campaign and a double-digit lead eroding to a dead heat in the polls, Coakley, the state’s attorney general, is banking that a deep-seated loyalty to Kennedy among Massachusetts Democrats will be enough to propel her to victory.

Coakley has publicly accepted the endorsement of Kennedy’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, and nephew, the former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy. Vicki Kennedy has also made a fundraising appeal and cut a television ad on Coakley’s behalf.

The Republicans responded by trotting out Rudy Giuliani to stump for Scott Brown: Rudy Giuliani joins Scott Brown, slams Martha Coakley on terrorism

Former New York City mayor and GOP stalwart Rudy Giuliani hammered Attorney General Martha Coakley on terrorism during a raucous campaign stop in the North End today where he revved up Scott Brown’s surging campaign.

“His election, I believe, will send a signal and I believe a very dramatic one, that we are going in the wrong direction on terrorism,” Giuliani said of Brown.

Coakley has come under fire from the opposition for comments she made about terrorists deserting Afghanistan for Pakistan and Yemen during Monday’s debate.

Coakley is opposed to President Obama’s plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. Brown supports the troop build-up and has sharpened his focus on terrorism in recent days

Democrats countered that Brown voted against giving financial assistance to 9/11 rescue workers.

This morning, nearly every website I’ve clicked on has Scott Brown ads at the top. His campaign has reportedly raked in $1 million per day every day this week.

Tomorrow, President Obama is coming to Massachusetts to help Coakley–at least she hopes he will help. It’s hard to know, because some of the people he needs to shore up support with are working class independents who voted for Hillary Clinton in the Massachusetts presidential primary.


OBAMA PAL CASS SUNSTEIN AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Here’s one more strange story. It seems that Obama’s chief of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein wants to stop Americans from speculating about conspiracies. Here is Joseph Cannon’s take on this story.

Legal scholar Cass Sunstein is Obama’s Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. In 2008, he co-wrote an odd and disturbing paper on conspiracy theories, which you can read here. Here’s the gist:

The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be.

“Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action.

Of course, it never occurred to this nitwit that using conspiratorial methods to fight conspiracy theories is a lot like fighting a house fire by spraying it with gasoline.

Glenn Greenwald also commented on the story yesterday

In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens’ faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper’s abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.

Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false “conspiracy theories,” which they define to mean: “an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”

So what are you reading?

HAVE A SPECTACULAR SATURDAY!!!!!!!!

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Eric Boehlert Needs to Get a Grip

Eric Boehlert is the guy on the left.

Eric Boehlert is the guy on the left.

I love Eric Boehlert. His book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, was terrific. And he even mentioned The Confluence in his recent effort, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press. But really, this is too much.

A President was killed the last time right-wing hatred ran wild like this

I’ve been thinking a lot of Kennedy and Dallas as I’ve watched the increasingly violent rhetorical attacks on Obama be unfurled….The radical right, aided by a GOP Noise Machine that positively dwarfs what existed in 1963, has turned demonizing Obama–making him into a vile object of disgust–into a crusade. It’s a demented national jihad, the likes of which this country has not seen in modern times.

Here is the link that Boehlert used to back up his claims of violence and racism at Glenn Beck’s September 12 event. It shows a number of tasteless signs that attack President Obama and a couple of wacky videos of Glenn Beck and Orly Taitz.

Eric, are you serious? I have no doubt that some of the right wingers who have attended the tea party events are racists, but that doesn’t make their attacks on Obama worse than the ones previous Presidents have endured. Have you forgotten the incredibly vicious attacks on President Clinton in the ’90s? If you’ve forgotten where the term “right wing noise machine” came from, here is a short reading list to refresh your memory.

Joe Conason and Gene Lyons wrote a whole book about it, remember?

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

Their book was even made into a documentary that was shown in theaters.

Here is a great summary of media attacks on the the Clintons:

eRiposte: THE MEDIA’S GORE-ING OF PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON (AND HILLARY CLINTON)

And to refresh your memory about the vicious attacks on Bill and Hillary Clinton by “progressives” during the 2008 primary campaign, here’s another piece by eRiposte at The Left Coaster: Clinton Derangement Syndrome = CDS = Clinton Double-Standard.

Finally, here is a recent blog post by Glenn Greenwald at Salon: Is the Right’s attack on Obama’s legitimacy new or unprecedented?

The attacks on Obama are far from unprecedented, and they are nowhere near as vicious as the ones I can recall lefties using against Richard Nixon or the ones that the right wingers used against the Clintons.

As much as I hate to admit it, even George W. Bush was ridiculed in some pretty nasty ways. The Nation lampooned him as Alfred E. Newman. And he was likened to a chimp all over the internet, here for example I’d say that’s pretty demeaning.

I can’t stand Glenn Beck or the rest of the rabble rousers at Fox “News” Channel. And I certainly have no patience for the nutty folks who believe that Obama was born in Kenya or that he’s a closet muslim. But every President faces public attacks and ridicule and yes–even the risk of assassination attempts. JFK was the last U.S. President to be assassinated, but have you forgotten that Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were victims of assassination attempts? Both men were Republicans, and their failed assassins weren’t crazed right wingers.

Squeaky Fromme made a weak attempt to shoot President Ford in September, 1975. She later claimed she did it to bring attention environmental issues. Later that same month Sara Jane Moore shot a gun at President Ford and was stopped by a bystander. According to the LA Times,

Moore was an FBI informant who was enmeshed in radical politics after moving to the Bay Area. A peripheral player rather than a leader, she volunteered for a group that distributed $2 million in food, as had been demanded by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the extreme leftist band that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.

The man who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan was John Hinkley, Jr., a paranoid schizophrenic who was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster. I don’t think there was any right-wing hatred involved with that one either.

There have been people who tried to assassinate every modern President, including Richard Nixon. Wikipedia has a list of recorded assassination attempts here.

The truth is there are nuts on both sides of the political spectrum. I guess it depends on whose ox is being gored. And please don’t accuse me of calling President Obama an ox, okay? No doubt there are plenty of right wing nuts who hate Obama. But that’s politics. It ain’t beanbag, you know. Let’s hope the Secret Service does its job well and keeps President Obama safe.

In the meantime, Eric, please get a grip.

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