Economic and political analysis-Window on culture-Media criticism

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gitmo Tribunals Imploding; Problems with the Official Explanation

The Nation provided a web only article "Rigged Trials at Gitmo" by Ross Tuttle discussing the legal ramifications of torture in the trial of six Guantanamo detainees.

The article explains the military tribunal process: "According to Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo's military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees to foreclose the possibility of acquittal." Davis had resigned in October, claiming that "full, fair,open trials" were not possible under the current system.

Colonel Davis quotes Pentagon general counsel William Haynes saying to him that "we can't have acquittals" in reference to the trials. Davis resigned when Haynes was "put above him in the commission's chain of command" as explained in The Nation article.

Haynes was a political appointee whose nomination to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals fell through because of suspicions over "Haynes's role in writing, or supervising the writing of, Pentagon memos advocating the use of harsh interrogation techniques."

Col. Davis wasn't the first military attorney to quit based on allegations that the system was rigged; three other prosecutors had requested transfer out of the Office of Military Commissions, a group created explicitly by Bush for trying the alleged terrorists.

The Nation cites a LA Times article written by ACLU attorney Ben Wizner where he describes the process: "In an ordinary justice system, the accused must be acquitted to be released. In Guantánamo, the accused must plead guilty to be released."

Something is definitely the matter when career military officers can't prosecute those who allegedly participated in the most egregious crime of 9/11. Conviction of a terrorist should be notable achievement much sought outght by any attorney.

A strong case shouldn't need testimony from torture. Military attorneys would not resign if indeed the case were noble and based on viable evidence.

Still, the trial process in Guantanamo is imploding. Standards of evidence have been violated by harsh interrogation techniques. Whatever testimony had been gathered was tainted. So bad was the corruption of evidence deemed to be that in in 2006 the Pentagon reinterviewed the detainees without the use of torture. Writing in Harper's, Scott Horton refers to the new FBI interviewers as the "clean" team.

Another explanation could explain the mass lawyer defection: perhaps the detainees weren't guilty! Perhaps al Qaeda is not solely responsible for 9/11 or the detainees have insubstantial connections to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda simply means the Base in Arabic, and was in the beginning nothing more than a list of unaffiliated Islamists who'd fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. While al Qaeda has morphed into a more cogent force, the group's structure is assymetrical without a clear top-down command hierarchy. Egyptian al-Zawahiri and bin Laden are the two most popular figures but neither runs the organization day-to-day--if indeed such a command-and-control apparatus had ever existed.

Proving the guilt of a defendant seems an easy task if Davis's accusations are accurate. Winning a conviction under the system hardly seems much of a challenge. It's unlikely prosecutors had protested and quit as the result of a preponderance of evidence. Instead the methods in which evidence was gathered and asssembled must have violated established legal procedure. Any subsequent trials based on impropriately extracted evidence would therefore shatter the attorneys' ethics and obligation to uphold the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

While Bush has been able to brush away the law in Washington, the military's sense of duty may be proving a far tougher obstacle in the perverse trade-off of law for security. The attorneys are sworn to uphold the law and must place their obligation to a fair trial process above their willingness to just take orders. Otherwise, failing to follow the orders of one's superiors--the military judges presiding over the process--becomes insubordination.

Other articles are popping up about the Guantanamo trials as information enters the public domain about the cases, their evidence, and the tribunal process.

Alternet's Joshua Holland interviews Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, who has gone through the case histories of all 749 Guanatanmo detainees. Worthington explores the conditions of the detainees' capture and discovered that many were sold to US forces as al Qaeda when the connection to the terrorist organization were vague. He explains:
Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham...described (tribunals) in an explosive statement last year as reliant upon generalized and often generic "evidence" that had nothing to do with the detainees in question, and was designed merely to rubber-stamp their designation as "enemy combatants" - you realize that, in connection with the "War on Terror," the presumption of innocence has been done away with completely.

For the first four and a half years after 9/11, every prisoner was effectively regarded as guilty until proved guilty. After the tribunals, 38 detainees were cleared for release - although the administration, denying the concepts of innocence and wrongful arrest, referred to them as "no longer enemy combatants" - and many more have been cleared in the review boards that have taken place every year since then, but for the 281 detainees who remain, it's apparent that the "evidence" against them has never really been tested at all.

Declaring whomever they'd caught in their dragnet an enemy combatant failed to distinguish between detainees. In the mad rush to declare all combatants to be terrorists, the presumption of guilt overcame any considerations of guilt or evidence.

The harsh interrogations approved by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld meant that detainees were tortured, and put in a position where they would confess just to stop the pain. If the Spanish Inquisition were any indicator of how the interrogations went, detainees were assumed to be guilty and their confession, extracted during torture, was treated as evidence of guilt. During the Salem witch trials, if an accused "witch" were to die during their "confession", it was considered proof of guilt.

Seeing boogeymen behind every Afghan rock--and in just about every other nation which had a radical Islamic presence--convinced the witchhunters that the terrorists were everywhere. Taliban and al Qaeda were merged into a single force in this zealous over-simplification. Anyone who opposed the US was a terrorist. Anyone delivered to US forces by a supposedly friendly government was considered to be a terrorist. The individual's circumstances were secondary to the desire of the military to capture bad guys. The crusade had been launched and lasted well into the Iraq War--it persists today as a cornerstone for the War on Terror.

The Worthington interview explains the overzealous administration, which sought to prove that al Qaeda did present a threat, and that their immediate confessions were vital to protecting national security:
It's also worth noting, however, what happened at Guantanamo in the fall of 2002. The administration was disappointed by the quality of the intelligence obtained from the detainees and decided that it was because they had been trained by Al Qaeda to resist interrogation, whereas in fact they were mostly innocent men or foot soldiers and had no worthwhile intelligence to give.

The idea that the Gitmo detainees were captured on the battlefield is completely inaccurate. Worthington explains:
The overwhelming majority (of detainees) were not captured on any kind of battlefield at all and, as an analysis of Pentagon documents by the Seton Hall Law School showed, were not even captured by U.S. forces. Eighty-six percent were captured by the Americans' allies, who then handed them over, or sold them, as discussed above. It's also worth noting that several dozen detainees were captured in 17 other countries, including Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Egypt, the Gambia, Georgia, Indonesia, Iran, Mauritania, Thailand and Zambia.

Worthington goes on to explain how many Gitmo detainees where simply caught at the wrong time and place. Others were not caught at all, but rather pawned off fro reward money, regardless of their affiliation to al Qaeda. We see the same technique used in Iraq today, where factions threaten to turn in their rivals to the Americans, calling them al Qaeda, in exchange for the reward money. In actuality, the prisoners are unaffiliated with al Qaeda or any terrorist group.

Here from The Independent of England is an article about insider in the tribunals process who've become whistleblowers. The number of senior military officers who've protested the treatment of detainees and the legality of tribunal process is remarkable and provides evidence of a conspiracy to convict the defendants.

What Really Happened: The 9/11 Truth

I'll advance a theory here that the 9/11 Commission report is flat out wrong in assigning blame to al Qaeda for the destruction of the three World Trade Center buildings. My evidence is circumstantial, based largely on the fact that Osama never admitted his role in the bombings. Rather than point any fingers, I'll simply make my case that the O.E. (Official Explanation) could never have been true.

The Taliban who'd unwittingly hosted Osama bin Laden had offered to turn bin Laden over to the Americans long before 9/11. Shortly after the event, the Taliban requested proof of bin Laden's role in the bombings from the Americans, at which point they'd promised to turn him over. Yet no proof came. Even now the FBI admits no direct link between OBL and 9/11 (source); OBL's wanted poster does not include any mention of 9/11.

The Official Explanation is a tenuous and illogical basis on which to make an argument that al Qaeda and bin Laden deserve full responsibility. The O.E. is largely laid out in the 9/11 Commission report, which has had prominent defections since its publishing with many participants seeking to revise their testimony. Limiting 9/11 culpability to the terrorist group al Qaeda overshadows the involvement of other governments--notably the Saudi, Pakistani, and Israeli--in 9/11.

Odd how the miltary machine, led by a Bush group that was clearly politically motivated to do battle, turned the 9/11 event into justification for two wars. The War on Terror is completely an artificial creation; if anything the US deserves blame for letting the mujhadeen in Afghanistan continue their jihad: we financed al Qaeda and forgot about them after the Soviets left Afghanistan.

With so much of US foreign policy fixated on the idea of global terrorists, it became politically expedient to find terrorists to justify ongoing wars. The terrorists became both the target and chief rationalization to expand the war on terror. Many other nations were eager to present an image of cooperation; rendition flights and other extralegal behaviors were tolerated in Western Europe and other nations.

After 9/11, the threat of what terrorists could do provided a sense of urgency to find these terrorists and to get them to talk--"actionable intelligence." Live detainees were treated as if they had "actionable intelligence" that could prevent the carrying out of some nefarious terrorist attack. Harsh interrgoations--torture--were authorized to prevent such attacks.

The US approach to terror-fighting hinges on the concept that radical Islamic terrorists were capable of launching additional attacks, yet proof of their operational capability remains oddly elusive even after 6 1/2 years of hunting al Qaeda. The White House framed the threat posed by al Qaeda as limitless, talking up the threat. On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann just provided another accounting of the Nexus of Politics and Terror that saw terror threats timed to coincide with times of greatest political opportunity for the Bush administration.

Any Muslim who'd advocated violence was lumped in with al Qaeda, captured, detained, or killed. Dead men can't profess their innocence, or explain how the US had armed and financed them, so dead terrorists were preferable to live ones.

Unfortunately, dead terrorists can't be paraded before the angry victims of their attacks like the hapless East Asian prisoners in Orwell's 1984 were carted through the streets of a future London.

Unlike Nuremburg, a full news blackout surrounds the military tribunal in Guanatanamo. The US military doesn't want the detainees to air their grievances, to say certain things--we are left to wonder what could possibly be so threatening.

Surely the US could do better if there had been an operation launched by al Qaeda to destroy the Twin Towers. Such an operation should have thousands of leads to follow up on, countless investigatory angles, and reams of evidence. The best the US can do is six defendants including Osama's part-time limo driver and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind. KSM had been waterboarded and during the course of his interrogation confessed to things that had occurred after his arrest.

I'd brought up the fact that two of KSM's sons had been detained with him, which could well have led to confessions if those techniques were threatened to be used on his boys. Here's what I said on June 12th:
One example of interrogators hearing all they wanted to hear--and then some--may have been Khalid Shiekh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11. KSM, as he is referred to, apparently did everything for al Qaeda except maybe their limo driving for which another man stands accused.

Khalid Shiek Mohammed's sons were allegedly detained by US forces:
"In September 2002, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's two young sons, aged seven and nine, were arrested. According to eyewitnesses, the two were held in an adult detention center for at least four months while U.S. agents questioned the children about their father's whereabouts." (Source)

KSM was allegedly waterboarded--which is a clear practice of torture--and proceeded to spill his guts. Deciphering the truth out of what Mohammed has confessed to is proving to be impossible. Admitted to a myriad of crimes--probably including some we never directly accused him of--KSM must have been a good example of the effectiveness of torture, at least until the breadth of his confessions brought into question the plausibility of individual confessions. Underlings must have pleased their political bosses in Washington who'd been eager to pin 9/11 on him and al Qaeda.

In short, 9/11 had been pinned on KSM. He'd admitted everything. Confessions are fine if he'd been summarily executed or "tried to escape" but proving his guilt is not as easy as parading his confession, which had clearly been made under duress or torture.

Surely there'd be more substantial evidence then a confession tortured out of KSM, being that he was supposedly al Qaeda's chief planner.

I think the far more likely scenario is that al Qaeda was not operating alone in destroying the World Trade Center buildings. Elements of the plan were in my opinions carried out by al Qaeda-affiliated personnnel, but the complete lack of proof available for trial 6 1/2 years later shows that there's no way al Qaeda planned or executed the whole operation that brought down the three towers.

The next and very scary question is who did 9/11? Who gained by it? With so much of our current military aggression based on a flawed assumption, it's very likely that the US has lashed out at the wrong people.

Even the act of thinking independently and questioning the Official Explanation has been considered unpatriotic. So many artificial constructs have been built upon the shaky assumption that OBL and al Qaeda, acting alone, did 9/11 that any other explanation would require revisitation of every single assumption made to date. It's simply easier for the National Security State and continuity of propaganda for the initial explanation to persist despite its contradictions and inadequacies.

The lack of appropriately-obtained evidence and the inadequacy of the military tribunal system in trying the alleged conspirators could reflect the truth that 9/11 involved other governments, and possibly even our own, or some form of an inside job. It's very possible that our government knew the hijackings would happen, and stood down. Most conspicuously, virtually no investigation of 9/11 followed the 9/11 Commission report; nor were any of its initial conclusions that 9/11 had been al Qaeda operating alone ever contested.

I'm not going to explain why I think 9/11 was an inside job. I can only offer the evidence that the Official Explanation is inaccurate, and point out the inconsistencies in the government's blame of al Qaeda exclusively and in entirety. If al Qaeda were acting independently, surely more evidence would be available identifying key operational planners and methods. Despite the best efforts of the world's largest government, al Qaeda is charged with the crime but little evidence is available with which terrorists can be charged.

Evidence connecting specific al Qaeda operators to 9/11 hasn't been appearing in the trials. One would think our government would be eager to show the world evidence of specific 9/11 terror activities connected to al Qaeda and specific defendants. Desperate to keep the Official Explanation intact, patsies like KSM are being tromped before the military tribunals. Looking deeper at Mohammed Atta reveals the man was a cocaine-using, alcohol-abusing, topless club-goer with an Anglo girlfiriend, hardly a typical martyr.

Naturally if there were a cover-up, the O.E. would claim that the terrorists acted alone, then died, leaving few traces. The 9/11 Commission report seems content to state that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda acted independently. Why is proving that assumption so hard, even where the court system have made a conviction a virtual certainty?

If the US really wanted to learn who'd really been involved, surely it would have done more to identify and prosecute the specific individuals involved. If these Gitmo trials are the best that can be done to prosecute the 9/11 ringleaders, it's robably because the government knows its O.E. is fake and therefore there is no need to investigate 9/11 lest new truths be revealed that threaten the O.E..

Our government wanted to blame al Qaeda exclusively for 9/11. According to NYC Fire Department, the WTC buildings had been rigged with explosives, including WTC 7, which housed a safe with evidence pertaining to large-scale SEC investigation after the tech bubble collapse. A fresh WTC lease was signed just before the event; the buildings' owner knew that asbestos repairs would cost over $100 million dollars.

These little bits of evidence add up; none are addressed by the government. The scarcity of surviving suspects to bring to trial is more contradiction in the O.E.. Truth-seekers should not be surprised by the possibility of government complicity but rather approach the event with the greatest degree of suspicion. On the "bombs in the building" accusation, I believe the veracity of the NYC FD more than anyone else.

If Washington were involved in or prescient of 9/11, torture would produce coerced testimony from radical Islamists that admitted their responsibility for 9/11. If 9/11 was preventable, then the War on Terror has been launched against completely innocent people, who've been tortured and admitted their "crimes" only to stop the pain and agony.

Our military can't now observe the most basic evidentiary procedures because of the previous politicization of the War on Terror. The prosecutions have been run for political purposes.

Perhaps Washington had reasons to demand that detainees be tortured other than seeking out actionable intelligence. Torture might anchor them in the story that our government wanted told by al Qaeda-linked detainees: that it had been al Qaeda and al Qaeda alone. The legal actions of our government in pursuing the war on terror hint at an underlying frustration and despair to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that 9/11 was the product of al Qaeda alone.

Misconduct in waging the terror war could mask our government's own desire to exercise control over its own populace through the fear of terror. Failing to investigate and prosecute all those responsible is more than a symptom of mere incompetence--it's potentially an admission that terrorism and its proxy al Qaeda provides a valuable method of manipulating fear and justifying wars.

It's not a coincidence that the wars that followed the event have been geared at large energy reserves. The resource war angle also provides a serious motive for blaming the Arabs or more specifically the Taliban and the Iraqis.

Redacted sections of the initial 9/11 report provide examples of how "friendly governments" helped the hijackers. The Saudi government was intimately involved in helping the hijackers set up in the U.S., and their involvement was retroactively deleted from reports. And a general from Pakistan who met with prominent American politicians the morning of 9/11 had sent Mohammed Atta money, so many of our "friends" may have been directly involved.

Also, the Clean Break strategy advocated by Israel stood to gain; the Pearl Harbor-type event saw the subsequent launch of two major wars against foes of Israel. The "moving van" incident on 9/11 involved 5 Israelis with military intelligence ties cheering the 9/11 attacks from atop a van in New Jersey, clearly pleased that the US would now be intervening against Israel's enemies. The Israelis may have informed the FBI as to the hijacker's intentions; a text message from Israel company Odigo went out the morning of 9/11 warning Israeli nationals not to come to work.

With the ramifications of 9/11 so major, one would think most people would be very concerned about these disturbing contradictions in the Official Explanation. Yet for some reason when it comes to 9/11, most Americans seem to just go along, although polls show many do carry substantial doubts about the government's story.

As the consequences of just going along and getting into multiple wars grow, more and more Americans are waking up to the inevitable conclusion that 9/11 was not planned and executed by al Qaeda acting alone, and that other players and actors and even our own government took advantage of the event and directly participated in 9/11.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama, Agent of Change; the Mortgage Bailout

I haven't been paying Obama the respect due him. In the Potomac primary last week, Obama's message resonated with liberal white voters and African Americans, giving him a huge spread over Hillary.

One reason I'd been less respectful of Obama's viability as a candidate is my belief that Hillary has been appointed as the Democratic candidate. Some of the widely held cynicism in the primary process can be traced to the murky role of superdelegates, politicos who carry disproportionate influence. Obama and his supporters have been quick to point out the unfairness of overturning the popular will which directly address this backdoor threat to his candidacy.

Back-room deals in the convention would favor Hillary, who is much more the party insider. Also, there are those delegates from Michigan and Florida, two states who'd been moved up in the primary season in exchange for some vague promise not to count, Democratic Party officials had explained.

My cynicism might be very well placed if convention insiders plan to release the previously inconsequential delegates to Hillary.

Posted on michaelmoore is this insightful article, "Democrats Look for Way to Avoid Convention Rift" from the New York Times. In it, authors Don van Natta and Jo Becker address the serious threat posed by convention politicking:
The issues party leaders are grappling with, they said, include how to avoid the perception of a back-room deal that thwarts the will of millions of voters who have cast ballots in primaries and caucuses. That perception could cripple the eventual Democratic nominee’s chances of winning the presidency in November, they said.

Obama: A Real Agent of Change?

Obama is content to package his candidacy in change, hope, and vision. How Obama plans to actually put those principles into action remains unclear.

Obama does have the problem with his campaign that he talks about change but doesn't provide direct methods to solve problems. On needlenose.com, Swopa said "it's important for Obama not to become so infatuated with his success that he's afraid to tie his high-flying rhetoric to specific policy goals..."

Clinton's repeated calls for solutions is an attack on the Illinois Senator's absence of resolutions to achieve specific goals and deal with specific problems. He has been taking heat for his health care plan's lack of universality.

After a tortuous period of divisiveness, coming together is sufficiently noble a purpose in itself to lend considerable momentum and credibility to the Obama campaign. Obama's charismatic style lends itself well to connecting people with his campaign, and has encouraged independents and the young to participate.

These intentions are great and Obama is showing himself to be a superior political leader, but will those talents translate into victory in the fall? Should he capture the nomination, Obama will likely be swift-boated, pilloried, and abused.

Presidential elections are determined in the Red states of the heartland, by largely conservative voters. Between the constant attacks likely to be directed towards him, and a message that might have little effect on less enthusiastic voters, Obama might be in trouble. Still, Obama's surprising support in Virginia and Kansas has led some political pundits to speculate that the Red/Blue divide is no more. I'm not so sure; then again I've misjudged Obama's popularity before.

I should make the point that at no point have I supported Hillary, although I have believed in the past that Barack might not be electable. The bulk of my reasoning is based on McCain's attack plan which will go after Obama using a stream of negative attack ads. Hillary says she's girded herself for that assault, as she considers herself a past victim of the vast right wing conspiracy that gutted her health plan back during her time as First Lady. Unfortunately for Hillary, she's looking beyond the nomination process, which is quite a leap considering she is likely trailing Obama in the delegate count.

Economic Whammy

Economics will likely have a major impact on the Elections if things are anywhere near as bad as they are thought to be. Like geopolitics, or limitations on the use of military force, economics are an arbitrary restraint on the exercise of political power. Political support for an administration is limited by the state of the economy, which often defines how effective the political leadership has been.

The sub-prime crisis has its origins in liquidity bubble created by years of expansionary monetary policy. Rather than be content to let the markets control themselves, our self-appointed protectors of the American economy have come to the rescue.

None of the administration's solutions solve the problem. In Counterpunch, Mike Whitney explains:

"So far, all of Paulson's solutions have been nothing more than 'business-friendly' band-aids which fail to address the core issues of rising foreclosures, falling home prices, skyrocketing inventory, and tumbling sales."

Whitney discusses a potential solution being offered which involves "a reduction of the face value of the mortgages by the banks." The nasty truth is that the face values are based on peak prices that are unlikely to be reached in the forseeable future. Rather than ignore the mortgage-holder's obvious temptation to walk away, banks are considering write-downs.

Congress just increased Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage loan limits to $729,750 from $417,000. Migrating to the higher caps raises the issue of just whom the mortage bailout is meant to bail out. Extending a loan to a waiter for a $417,000 home is one thing; any mortgage lender who'd loan a waiter 3/4 of a million should not be helped by the taxpayer on account of the lender's sheer stupidity. To up the loan limits hints at subsidizing mortgage lender mistakes rather than helping out over-stressed families.

Writing in San Francisco Chronicle, Sean Olender predicts a massive bailout. Olender explains:
It's like some sort of upside-down communism where the poor pay the rich welfare. Why should taxes from families earning $48,000 a year be used to support expensive mortgages in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco? Welfare for the hungry and homeless is evil, but welfare for million-dollar homeowners facing a tough refi ... well, that's called 'helping the economy.'

Now the far bigger impact on the economy is not from rising foreclosures but rather tightening lending standards. This is in large part due to the fact our economy is based not on assets but rather borrowing and debt. To grow, we must borrow.

Now there are limits to how much the Fed can do. Even if the Fed makes capital cheap and plentiful for money center banks, those banks have to answer to their shareholders who will look disfavorably upon rising defaults and bad loans. As lenders tighten standards, worthy borrowers are denied credit just like the bad, so the bad taints the good.

As Ron Paul notes, much of this recent economic mess is because our government has devalued our currency. Rather than represent an asset, our money is actually an IOU. While being owed is good, far better is to own more assets--which as the exotic derivatives trading shows--debt does not make. By trying to commoditize debt and piling debt on debt, we've created a house of cards that puts the stability of our financial systems at risk.

An economy cannot forever go on borrowing like we do. We are burning through $2 billion/day of mostly foreign money to finance our trade deficit and government spending drains us of another billion every day.

Historically, no fiat-based monetary system has ever avoided debasing itself. Inflation represents the theft of money from current holders, but it also allows governments to pay off their creditors with money they've essentially printed out of thin air.

Getting governments to control their spending is proving impossible. The 'starve the beast' hypothesis advanced several decades ago is based on the concept that governments will spend less only if they don't have the money. Now, traditionally the Fed has provided an alternative to a government control over the money supply--conceptually good but in practice Fed control has seen the purchasing power of the US decline by 96% since 1913, hardly a stable situation.

In short, if you want the money that you've worked for to maintain its value, you'd better be a good investor and beat inflation. Unfortunately, many of the working poor and elderly have limited capital and can't stay ahead of the inflation curve. It's only by working that many people can try to stay even; still, just how many working class people have seen their wages go up 4-5% a year? Bill Clinton said the other day that average family incomes have actually decreased by $1,000/year under Bush.

Stagnant wages combined with inflation mean people can afford less and less. With flattened incomes, people must divert more and more of their income into essentials like food and fuel that are rising in price.

Compassionate conservatism has never extended to matters of the economy. Instead we're told by our President that holding two jobs is an American thing, to be proud of. That coming from a man who'd failed miserably in the oil business, who rode his last name to capture millions in profit on a Texas Rangers ballpark subsidized by public funds. Of course Bush's millions were hard-earned and deserved to him.

It's hard to take seriously the economic advice of George Bush, who had neither the managerial skills need to help this economy nor the compassion to care about those affected by changes in the global economy. As Americans, we find ourselves in a YOYO world, where we are on our own. Don't expect pity or help from our government if a disaster should strike. Yes, you might get a formaldehyde-laced trailer for your efforts, or form the backdrop for the President's photo op should he visit your disaster-wrecked city, but the problems you have are yours alone. If you can't overcome them, or resolve them yourself, that's just tough.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Media Bias Helps Hillary as Minority Rule Emerges

Super Tuesday was largely an event of limited significance despite the significance of the huge number of votes cast. Hillary Clinton extended her lead. Pundits were quick to point out that the Kennedy endorsement appears to have made little difference in Massachussets, which went to Hillary.

I'd said the New Hampshire primary recount disrupted the media narrative which tried to attribute the "victory" to Hillary's (first) crying incident. As I'm generally fond of criticizing the media, I find schadenfraude in their mistaken predictions--"how we could be so wrong," etc. The Mass Media's self-infatuation is glaring and limitless. This attitude is likely forged by their ego and sense of control, which comes across in the uniformity of their prognostications, then in the most recent case, the uniformity of their apology.

Biased towards Clinton, I've noticed media has either ignored entirely or tried to dismiss the Kennedy endorsement which Fox and the Right seemed to laugh off. So when Clinton won the Kennedys' home state on Super Tuesday, this provided evidence (highly circumstantial) that the Kennnedys' influence had waned, which was surely good news for the Clinton camp. Still, one very influential Kennedy, Robert F., had endorsed Hillary, so the idea of a Kennedy political monolith persisting into the present era wasn't apparent and thus the criticisms were directed toward a straw man which the pundits had set up for destruction.

By the way, I've referenced Robert F.'s article on the stolen election in Ohio here repeatedly, so his endorsement is credible. Just how much political benefit it brought to the Clinton campaign--or how much damage it did to the other Kennedys' endorsement of Obama--is unclear. Still, I read Maria Cocco's article today that started out "Kitchen table worries trumped even the charisma of Camelot..." as if the Kennedys were indeed a monolith. I've heard several people in the media "dis" the Kennedys as dead liberalism.

Lest I incur the wrath of a writer who actually has their picture next to their column, I will admit the Cocco and many other journalists have a preponderance of talent and the potential--theoretically at least--to provide a lot of facts pertinent to the issue. {Readers should note that in order for me to be worried about what Cocco or any others I've pilloried might think, this blog must first be read, which may be a bit of a fantastical narrative in itself.}

Cocco is accurate with her analysis of Clinton's influence with Latins/Asians, a factor I'd considered in my blog's last post. I don't know the source of Hillary's success among Hispanic voters, but the results speak for themselves: "in California, Latinos voted for Clinton 2-1," Cocco says. She goes on to mention Hillary's advantage with Asians, who voted 3-1 for Clinton and make up a big and growing chunk of California voters.

The new minority candidates have found themselves framed in the Media as being limited in their support from other minorities. Just under the reporting veneer is the highly charged accusation that Hispanics don't like blacks and wouldn't vote for one (don't expect to see that racism exposed by the MSM any time soon.)

Whatever the levels of support in the various ethnic groups the make up our country, the main issue is that minorities make up the majority of this country now. Women themselves compromise a majority; Latinos surpassed African Americans in their numbers recently, which would put the two groups' combined population at about 25% or so of the total. Another 8% Asian America puts the total minorities at about one third of our overall population.

White male liberal voters, with whom Obama earns the most support, no longer have the numerical strength to carry the party. Edwards' reliance on shrunken labor unions may have likewise doomed him. Hillary should appeal to women not, as many in the Media have said, because they are anti-male, but because people simply like to vote for people who are like them.

Still, Clinton is not at all like the vast majority of people who voted for her, unless they have about $5 million to lend their campaign and husbands that are former presidents. Obama, whose pedigree clearly establishes him as part of the elite establishment, does identify with the young, in part due to his being relatively young at 46 years of age.

To win elections, it's been necessary to woo various ethnic constituencies, so the concept of a minority candidate alienating other minorities is a new field for Presidential politics. The politics of inclusion are meant to dispel the ethnocentric commonalities that tend to divide Americans and bring all kinds of people together under one proverbial tent. The racial divides that can lead to friction may not be strong enough to drive minorities out of the Democratic party, though I can see more than a few traditional Demos crossing the line to vote for McCain if Obama wins the nomination (extremely unlikely.)

Historically, the Democratic Party's structure is built around non-whites supporting whites. With only one woman ever appearing on a (major party's?) national ballot, Geraldine Ferraro with Mondale in '84, the presumption has been that the Democratic party can win if it unites all minorities against the white Republicans.

The Obama test case also shows that blacks may not fit into the Democratic party establishment. They have their candidate in a position to come in second, which is a notable first. The age when race doesn't matter in the selection of a candidate is still years off, but by far the most significant achievement of this primary season will be Obama's impact. A black man can achieve great things, at least within the Democratic Party. First though it seems that the coronation of a woman candidate and President will be necessary step in the advancement of minority rights in the political arena.

Of course the political pundits love to suggest the possibility that people side with Clinton not necessarily because they like her, but because they don't like Obama. By proxy, therefore some of Hillary's success is attributed to the Latino anti-black vote or the anti-black white woman vote, etc. still, this preying on ethnice divisions is immature and quite likely politically misguided. While these sentiments exist, acknowledging them in itself does little to advance the broader popular appeal of the the eventual choice of Democratic candidate. And if this racism exists, as it surely does, it will most likely emerge in the form of support for McCain, the Republicans' presumptive candidate.

While racism may have held sway over the South and other areas, many of these regions are firmly in the GOP camp anyway and it's unlikely the minority status of the Democratic candidate would be in itself a reason to vote for McCain. Plus, the huge populations of California and other fast-growing states have been augmented by legions of Hispanics and Asians who might now outnumber white "conservatives" whose population hasn't kept pace.

The demographics in America have forever changed, and both Hillary's and Obama's organization have shown that race does matter in politics, useful as a force to draw Americans together rather than forcing them apart as the politics of race have done in the past.

Now if Obama somehow gets on the ticket as Vice President, this would be a sweeping acknowledgement of how the times have really changed. A Clinton/Obama ticket would signify the establishment's belief that the negatives associated with race can really be surmounted by the demographic changes, and that the political power of minorities has permanently altered the establishment itself. Most likely, a female/black ticket would be considered too much of a social experiment, too risky a proposition for the largely conservative South and Midwest that tend to decide Presidential elections. Still, compared to a stodgy McCain (read white old man), the pairing of Obama's appeal with Clinton's realism could be unbeatable.

I do hope that the Media can stay away from the race- and gender based issues, as hopefully America has transgressed beyond them, socially at least. In the fall, we will hopefully be treated to less coverage of the fact that Hillary is a women (and all the permutations subordinate to that basic truth) and more about the qualifications that would make her a good President.
* * *
I'd brought my readers' attention to anchorperson Don Lemon's snafu on CNN last week, where he'd read that Maxine Waters, Congresswoman from California, would have a bigger impact on the race than would the Kennedys, a statement which is inflammatory, partisan, and presumptive. The statement had come on the heels of coverage on the endorsement by Caroline, Senator Teddy, and Patrick Kennedy. To his credit, Lemon at least had the wits to stammer a bit as he read the line, as he realized that he'd been fed a clearly anti-Obama line.

Judging from the primary results, perhaps the CNN editors who produced the line for Lemon had been right in dismissing the power of the Kennedy endorsement. Either that or CNN saw Water's defection as a chance to dis' the Kennedys and diminish their relevance in any way they could.

Pro-Clinton partisans must have seen Waters' endorsement as the perfect method to diminish the importance of the Kennedy (3/4ths) endorsement. Waters was an undeniable liberal. She shared Obama's race yet had split from him. To Clinton supporters in the CNN newsroom, Waters exemplified a rift within the black community that could serve as a wedge between black voters and Obama.

Just as our government seeks to divide Iraqis against themselves, so too does the pro-Clinton camp want to turn black against black so Obama loses. Dividing one's enemies is a very basic yet effective strategy--simply choose a position or candidate to support then stir chaos among those who oppose that position or candidate. Perhaps the best example of divide and conquer currently being practiced is the occupation of Iraq, which emerged out of David Wurmser's Clean Break as a means to destabilize Israel's enemies by capitalizing on long-standing feuds and religious and ethnic differences in the Middle East.

Iraq is also a textbook example of media manipulation, called perception management. Rove and neocon advisers established a wing in the Pentagon called the Office of Special Plans that sought out excuses to attack Iraq. Using a similar war room technique, Republican operatives were later tasked to churn out swift-boat style attacks on Kerry. Orders in hand, GOP activists and press people were then dispatched to media outlets that would repeat the accusations as news facts then replay them constantly in the media.

The Media's covert crusade for Bush and for the war both enabled government propaganda and made it more effective by constant repitition of the message that Iraq 1) had WMD and 2) was involved in 9/11. Some time back, I'd made the point the branding a commercial message was largely the product of repitition of the message; that approach made the substance of the message less meaningful and maximized the duration and impact of the subliminal imprint--the not-so-proverbial branding.

The nexus of media and GOP support is hardly new. The owners of media companies have been active donors, and the directors of Big Media news divisions are widely Zionist/Israel-first. So it should come ass no surprise that corporate news would push news that backed the case for war. Media people who failed to please their bosses had career problems; an example was made of Phil Donahue just as Bush and other politicians made an example out of Army Chief of Staff Shinseki, who'd advocated a larger force for the invasion. Shinseki's crime was not to be wrong about his surge but rather to have suggested it prematurely, when his boss Rumsfeld had sought to experiment with his minimalist approach to troop strength.

Perhaps the best example of collusion between the media and prowar forces may have been Howard Dean, who'd had a remarkable run and looked to be on track to seize the nomination in 2004. Then he made a mistake. The 700 or so repititions of the Dean Scream which played over and over again in the MSM ended that antiwar candidate's run.

The Scream did its damage but couldn't inflict a mortal wound on the Dean campaign until the constant replays elevated the Scream into a major political liability. It's hard to imagine the re-running of the Scream on that kind of level without a coordinated campaign against him or even a massive media conspiracy. With so much media control in the hands of so few, destroying Dean may have required little more than a few phone calls once he'd screamed the Scream.

The follow-up to Dean was Kerry's swift-boating, which had been engineered for political purposes like the agitation/propaganda run up to the Iraq War. {This approach presumes a war President will garner more popularity and political support for their reelection.}While some GOP corporations like Sinclair Media aired Kerry hit pieces, most of the MSM simply omitted key stories like Rather's report on Bush's National Guard (non-)service and the New York Times long-delayed article on torture authorized by the Bush administration. New York Times publisher Sulzberger, an ardent Zionist, had let run numerous unproven WMD allegations written by Scooter Libby confidant Judith Miller.

A media outlet can release information without scrutinizing its contents and therefore act just as a government propaganda organ would. (I've posted on the role of covert action by the CIA and Pentagon in shaping media coverage before, Operation Cointelpro was but one effort to frame the Communists.)

Censorship-by-omission can be at least as effective as the insertion of propaganda, because the latter eventually impacts the credibility of the news source--at least if its readers find out. The NYT delayed publication until after the election; the paper has since made no direct correction of the WMD allegations it so vociferously ran on its front page in the lead up to Iraq.

Most Americans are unaware that the editors and owners of mainstream media publications use their positions to advance a partisan agenda. Few have the reading and analytical skills, as well as time, to delve into the nuances of media coverage. But for those who've taken the purple pill, their manipulations are as clear as day. For me, it's gotten to the point I can ascertain the political affiliation of the network or news source from the content, often within the first paragraph.
* *
Media self-infatuation is preferable to a hidden agenda like sympathizing with a foreign cause.

Better a faulty narrative than deeply seeded propaganda or censorship-by-omission. In some case the media narrative can contain more nefarious purposes; however for the most part narratives are simply fanciful outcroppings of truth rather than some partisan masquerade.

Media narratives create a life unto themselves. Facts that emerge subsequent to the creation of the story line are bent to conform to the spin. The worst part of this kind of reporting is that it keeps key information suppressed.

As with Iraq, it's what American didn't know that has done the most damage. The media's stout refusal to criticize the invasion, or scrutinize the justifications for it, persists to the present day. I've blamed this on Zionist influence, a group of neo-conservatives and Right wing Jews who coordinate their actions to increase the power of the Israeli state. The consolidation of media is a big reason why Americans get the bulk of their "news" from only 5 corporations (Viacom/CBS, Walt Disney/ABC, GE/NBC, CNN/AOL/Time, and Fox/Murdoch.) See a slow-loading chart of media ownership here.

Hopefully the corporate news' inability to provide unbiased information--particularly on any issue tied to the Mideast, Israel, or the Arabs and terrorism--will lead the public away from traditional sources. Even with very limited resources, blogs are already proving their marketability on the basis of their willingness to tell the truth, a vital function necessary to democracy that can only emerge out of total independence from foreign lobbying and/or corporate influence.

Rather than acccept a state of ignorance borne of MSM omissions and non-coverage, early adopters have already turned to alternative sources. Knowing now what they do, they will never turn back--like the purple pill in The Matrix there is no going back.

The more the MSM coverage degrades, and reality diverges from the narrative, the more glaring the inadequacy. In a free market for news, this should boost competing sources as consumers go elsewhere. Instead, the FCC has created clusters of cross-owned media monopolies. The Web, inaccessible by a large percentage of the population, can't replace TV, so consumer choice, already limited, is getting even more constricted as media consolidation continues. {Note: Having 10 sports channels won't qualify as diversity I'm afraid.}

Now if you like hearing about Brittany Spears that's OK, but the American people need to be kept informed concerning issues vital to their nation like war, debt, taxes, and the economy. These can't be offered by some corporate news division expected to produce higher revenue every year, nor can the hard news be presented as just one more offering on the smorgasbord of infotainment, to be chosen and explored only if it looks good or smells good.

News worthiness cannot be based simply on whether it makes people feel good. Americans also complain about how depressing something is, as non-Americans will readily notice. One reason the US has the problems it has now is the popular ignorance of the consequences of the decisions being made on our behalf by our political leaders.

We can't legislate the responsibility to stay informed, so it will probably require the pain of entering this brave new world ignorant and dumbed down in order to force change. Iraq and a draft could achieve this prerequisite pain, as could a major economic downturn.

Absent change, the elitist view will continue to dominate. The lower echelons of society will remain ignorant, politically unaware, and apathetic--a state of afffairs which greatly helps the rich to get richer and garner even more political power and control. As outsourcing and down-sizing have already pushed millions into lower wage service jobs, much of the destruction of the Middle Class has already transpired. Like the frog who's boiled in water that gradually heats up, the bulk of the citizenry is ignorant to their own plight until, like lemmings, they plunge headlong off the cliff. Content until the end in doing as those around them do, many Americans will be spared from the "depressing" reality of what is coming until it's arrived.