This may be the most ironic story of the year. We often discuss two outstanding characteristics of modern China: expanding pollution and shrinking civil liberties. Now, the two have collided where Chinese officials are struggling with the loss of surveillance from its thousands of surveillance cameras spying on citizens. Pollution is now making it difficult to maintain such surveillance due to the permanent shroud of particulates and pollutants. Thus, while Chinese lives are being shortened, their government may have given them a slight respite from monitoring. Of course, it is hard to use free speech when you are gasping for breath. A recent report details how pollution in one Chinese city is being attributed as the cause of lung cancer in an eight-year-old boy.
Archive for the 'International' Category
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi King Abdullah to deal with increasing tensions with the Kingdom. What I thought was the most interesting moment came when a female reporter asked Kerry about the continued bar on women driving in the Kingdom. We just discussed how a Kuwaiti woman was arrested for driving her father to a hospital during a diabetic seizure. Kerry’s response was remarkably muted on an issue of human rights.
The insatiable appetite of Chinese for consuming endangered species has been previously discussed on this blog as fueling the black market for such products. This week, however, the scope of such crimes was on full display after police in Tanzania arrested three Chinese living in Dar es Salaam in a house filled with a reported 1.9 tons of blood ivory. At least 200 elephants were slaughtered for the ivory. Seven tons in all have been seized in recent weeks.
We have previously discussed how, after Sept. 11th, officials have simply begun to classify acts to be terrorism to use ramped up surveillance and sentencing laws. It was inevitable that with Western countries giving official unprecedented anti-terror powers, they would start to move as many crimes as possible under the expanding category. That is evident after it was disclosed this week that British authorities framed the case against David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, as a case of terrorism “terrorism” for carrying documents from Edward Snowden.
Abu Dhabi is taking a step back in following other Muslim countries criminalizing “sorcery.” We have seen countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia pursue witches and sorcerers under Sharia laws. Abu Dhabi currently treats sorcerers as a form of fraud but now wants heavier criminal penalty as a form of blasphemy.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
Everyday we read about the latest call for drastic cuts in government spending and claims that our national debt is killing us. Those calling for the cuts claim that austerity is the only way that we can get the economy moving again. To that end they call for cuts in Social Security, Medicare, SNAP and many other assistance programs, but consistently refuse to cut our immense defense budget. Where else have these calls for austerity been made into law and what are the results of these programs?
If you look to Ireland, you can see just one example how austerity has brought a country and its people, to their knees. Continue reading ‘Ireland and The End of Austerity?’
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Through the years this site has produced a multitude of blogs that details the excesses that occur in the intelligence community of the United States. Whether it is about spying on us, or upon other governments, the disclosures of incidents where this group of agencies has overstepped the bounds of our Constitution have become too numerous to detail. Beyond that through the years there have been many instances where elements of our Intelligence Complex have interceded in other countries, under the rubric of protection of United States interests. There are many different Agencies within our government that deal with intelligence and in the post 9/11 era the prevention of threats to our country and its citizens has become a giant self serving industry. The Agencies that we know about have supposedly fallen under the egis of the Department of Homeland Security, which should mean from an organizational chart perspective, they are under the control of the President of the United States. To get the political issue out of the way I believe that President Obama has aided and abetted policies that go against the Constitution of the United States. However, not to justify his policies, which are clearly wrong, my opinion is that it has been a very long time since any American President had control of our Intelligence Complex. My belief is not informed by any information public or private, but from what I’ve gleaned from history and from what I know about the operations of bureaucracy. This Guest Blog is not a piece of investigative journalism, but the opinion of someone who understands both the workings of human nature and the workings of bureaucracy. I hope that this piece can engender discussions about the Intelligence Complex and elicit opinions as to what service it provides in protecting this country. The issue is not one of politics per se, because the guilt of enabling our Intelligence Complex falls equally on both political parties and the powerful elements within those parties who would support any action taken by the Intelligence Complex including abrogating our Constitution. The FBI is where I’d like to begin my perspective and that might surprise some, who consider the Federal Bureau of Investigation, basically a law enforcement agency. The history of the FBI is such that it has expanded its role with each upheaval, or new popular shibboleth that garners national attention. Continue reading ‘The Problem with the “Intelligence Community”’
This week we saw how NSA Director General Keith Alexander called on the government to find a way to stop the free press from being . . . well . . . a free press and publish Snowden documents. This follows statements from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other denouncing both Snowden and the media despite admissions (as a result of those disclosures) that the government has made a variety of violations of U.S. and international laws. Now, even as his country decries the disclosure of over monitoring of foreign leaders and citizens, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he intends to stop English papers like the Guardian of informing of the public of the content of these Snowden documents.
The Dallas Safari Club has come up with its own version of the Gourmet Club featured in the hilarious comedy The Freshman. However, rather than pay to eat one of the last animals of an endangered species, the Dallas Safari Club is auctioning off the right to shoot one of the most endangered animals in the world: a black rhino. The auction is being done in conjunction with the Republic of Namibia to sacrifice one of 5,055 remaining rhinos to raise money. Thus, ostensibly to raise money to protect the rhinos from continued illegal hunting, Namibia and the Club are advertising the thrill of shooting of an endangered rhino.
For civil libertarians, there may be no more unsettling statements than “Dianne Feinstein is here to protect civil liberties.” Of course, it is not quite that bad. The Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been the greatest champion for the creation of the massive surveillance of U.S. citizens and effectively blocked any demand for a perjury prosecution of National Intelligence Director James Clapper for lying about the programs. She has called for the prosecution of Edward Snowden for revealing years of deceitful or false statements made to the public. She has criticized the media for disclosing information on the programs despite admissions that of unlawful conduct by the government after the disclosures. No, none of that bothers Dianne Feinstein. However, she is outraged by the monitoring of foreign leaders and promised a “total review” surveillance program.
NSA documents released by Edward Snowden have revealed years of false statements by the government, the capture of calls and emails from every citizen, the monitoring of tens of millions of people globally, the surveillance of world leaders including close allies, and the perjury by National Intelligence Director James Clapper. It has caused the Obama Administration — after denials of violations — to admit violations of U.S. laws and abuse of surveillance powers. Now General Keith Alexander, NSA director, says enough. We simply cannot stand any more disclosures of wrongdoing so Alexander wants to see actions taken against the media to prevent further disclosures.
As the world joins in opposition to the U.S. attack on privacy worldwide, President Barack Obama has to face awkward meetings with world leaders of allied countries who were subjects of his surveillance. Some reports have stated that Obama personally approved the monitoring of Angela Merkel’s telephone three years ago. Now, the National Security Agency (NSA) is insisting that Obama did not order the monitoring personally. I am not sure what is worse: that Obama ordered interceptions of allied leaders like Merkel or that the surveillance state is so large that functionaries now have the discretion to order such surveillance. Merkel may not find it as more assuring that Obama didn’t order her monitoring than the notion such she is just another target delegated to discretion of lower level officials. It is also not clear if Mike Rogers is going to suggest that Merkel should also thank us for the monitoring.
Europeans are upset after learning that, in addition to capturing the email and phone records of Americans, the NSA has been doing the same to them in a global assault on privacy. This includes leaders of allied nations. The United States is now viewed as an international rogue nation with no respect for the law or privacy or even loyalty. Now into this explosive environment has jumped Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Rogers responded directly to the French and said that this is all a “good thing” and the French should really be “applauding and popping champagne corks” for keeping them all under surveillance and destroying any notion of privacy.
Tags: airshow, Corsair, Eric Goujon, P-38, Ray Riedmann, Red Bull
Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger
There used to be a program on one of the television sports channels called World of Speed & Beauty. It was about fast, beautiful and graceful machines on the land, water and air. That is what this story is about. These past few weeks have seen enough tales of woe, bigotry, greed, anger and most of the other deadly sins that I thought we needed something to bring a smile to a few faces. Below the fold are two High Definition videos I hope will do just that.
Almost everyone looks up when they hear an airplane go over. The kid who never grew up still lives in most of us.
Various news sites are reporting that four Christians have been sentenced in Iran to 80 lashes each for drinking communion wine at services and possessing a satellite antenna. Behzad Taalipasand, Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan), Mehdi Dadkhah (Danial) and Amir Hatemi (Youhanna) were reportedly arrested during a house service in December. These house services are efforts of Iranian Christians to practice their faith in the face of the continued Iranian crackdown on non-Muslims. The cases have been made public in the aftermath of a United Nations report criticizing the denial of religious freedom in Iran.
We have become accustomed to reports of unimaginable corruption and waste in Afghanistan from bags of money delivered to President Karzai to constructing huge buildings to be immediately torn down to buying aircraft that cannot be used. The common element to the stories is the absence of any reported prosecution or even discipline for those responsible. You can simply waste hundreds of millions of dollars and continue in your government position. This week’s outrage comes from a report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Among huge examples of waste and delay is this little ditty: USAid paid a $300,000 charge for 600 gallons of diesel fuel. That is $500/gallon to a contractor.
English Couple Keeps Disabled Pakistani Girl In Confinement Where She Is Repeatedly Raped . . . Given Just 13 Years For A Decade Of AbusePublished 1, October 23, 2013 Criminal law , International , Society 25 Comments
We have often discussed the relatively low sentences handed out in some English cases. While our country goes to the opposite extreme, it sometimes shocks the conscience to see disproportionately light sentences. One such case is that of Ilyas and Tallat Ashar who brought a 10-year-old girl to England where she was repeatedly raped, kept in appalling conditions against her will, and used as more of a slave than a servant. That was roughly a decade of abuse. However, Ilyas Ashar, 84, who was found guilty of 13 counts of rape, was jailed for 13 years. That is roughly a year for year of confinement, rape, and abuse. Tallat Ashar, 68, convicted of benefit fraud and trafficking, got only five years.
No it is not the latest rock band. Fat Leonard is the nickname for the rotund contractor named Leonard Glenn Francis, chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine. The Asian company is accused of greasing the skids in the Navy with bribes ranging from prostitutes to luxury hotels to tickets to Lady Gaga concerts. Snared in the scandal are an array of top Navy officials, including an official at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and a Navy Commander known “Little Bro” to Fat Leonard. Fat Leonard was well known in Naval circles and was given his nickname because he dressed out at 6-3 and 350 pounds.
We have yet another example of how well our war in Afghanistan is going after tens of thousands of deaths and wounds (and hundreds of billions of dollars): the commander of an Afghan special forces defected to the Taliban and took a Humvee filled with U.S. supplied weapons and equipment. That, believe it or not, is a fortunate outcome. We have repeated had Afghan allies shoot U.S. soldiers in the back before running off to join the enemy. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration has been pressuring Afghanistan to allow thousands of U.S. soldiers to remain in the country and continues to pour huge amounts of money into the country.
The Taliban has long personified the ignorance and intolerance found among religious extremists. Indeed, they first attracted international attention with their destruction of the famous giant Buddhas of Bamiyan. However, it is always impressive to see the degree to which its Islamic beliefs seem to produce uniformly harmful impacts on the populations under its cruel control. A report last week documented how there is a serious polio outbreak that is threatening global progress against the disease. The Taliban has denounced vaccinations as a Western plot and threatened anyone who receives one. It is a tragic irony since the disease has long been the scourge of the Middle East going back to ancient times, as this Egyptian tablet from the 18th Dynasty (1403–1365 BC) reflects. The ancient populations could only dream of a cure but, now that one is available, the Taliban again seeks to force its areas back into the dark ages.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
Back in July of this year, we discussed a successful request by oil giant Chevron to subpoena 9 years of metadata from countless defendants and non-defendants. This was arguably an attempt to attack a $19 Billion dollar judgment handed down by an Ecuadorian court against Chevron by going after the parties involved in the lawsuit.
Chevron was not deterred when the United States Supreme Court refused to review the judgment. It merely went on the attack and found an allegedly friendly judge in New York to assist in refusing to pay the judgment owed to various indigenous communities that were devastated by Chevron’s predecessor’s actions in the rainforests where it was drilling for oil. We need to revisit this issue now that the RICO action filed by Chevron started this week in New York. Continue reading ‘Chevron Owes $19 Billion and Doesn’t Want to Pay!’
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
It has always seemed to me that the use of nuclear energy is a bad idea given the current technology. My opinion is perhaps formed because I was in school during the 1950’s and due to the “Cold War” and the bomb tests, there developed in most of us, a deep fear of nuclear annihilation. I can remember watching in fascinated fear, in 1952, as they exploded a Hydrogen Bomb at Eniwetok, one of the Marshall Islands. The blast was covered on TV as I guess a reassurance to the American People of the power and might of our government and to give us a feeling of safety from those “Commies” in the USSR. Being eight years old at the time this demonstration of US power was not comforting in the slightest. We had “duck and cover” exercises in Elementary School, where we would go under our desks and cover our eyes in case of a nuclear attack. Given the actual nuclear explosions I had witnessed on TV, the idea that “duck and cover” would save me cast a skeptical suspicion in my eight year old mind.
As I grew I learned that beyond the immediate effect of a nuclear blast, the subsequent radiation was even more dangerous. Radiation poisoning could maim you and it could kill you in a slow, lingering death. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings did more than just kill many people. Beyond the maiming of the immediate victims who survived, we learned about the rates of cancer which were off the charts, especially in the infants of pregnant women. As the threat of nuclear destruction faded, the idea of radiation poisoning was nevertheless present as the United States began using nuclear power and a large industry sprang up around it. The industry was fostered by the then named Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which was soon in thrall of the industry it was supposed to regulate. As with cigarette smoking the stories of rising cancer rates were downplayed by the AEC and the “nuclear industry. The AEC has now become the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) because the AEC had developed the reputation as an industry shill, rather than regulator. This is hardly a surprise because it seems that all government regulation today is in the hands of industry lobbyists and an exchange program where the regulators find jobs with the industry they regulate. The “revolving door”. Continue reading ‘Nuclear Musings’
The Cour de Cassation in Paris, France’s highest appeals court, dealt another legal blow to the Church of Scientology in upholding the convictions for “organized fraud” by church officials. The court rejected claims of religious freedom by Scientologist lawyers and found that the Church was engaged in fraudulent practices that led to the convictions and $812,000 in fines. Specifically mentioned in the allegations were the Church’s Celebrity Center and a Scientology bookshop in Paris. The court also upheld the convictions of Scientology’s leader in Paris, Alain Rosenburg, and the Celebrity Centre’s former president Sabine Jacquart for taking financial advantage of elderly members of the Church. They were sentenced to two-year suspended prison sentences as well as being handed €30,000 fines for organized fraud. Continue reading ‘French Court Upholds Convictions Of Scientology For “Organized Fraud”’
A Malaysian appeals court on Monday showed once again how a religious based legal system is fundamentally at odds with not just freedom of speech but freedom of religion. The court upheld an abusive government ban on non-Muslims using the word “Allah.” Other faiths are now barred from using the term after the court upheld a law previously struck down by a lower court.
Who’s Your Buddy? NSA Gathering Hundreds of Millions of Contact Lists and “Buddy Lists” From AmericansPublished 1, October 15, 2013 Congress , Constitutional Law , Criminal law , International , Politics , Society 104 Comments
The Obama Administration — with the clear support of Democratic and Republic leadership — has continued to eviscerate privacy in the United States despite recent controversies over NSA spying on Americans. The most recent report details how the National Security Agency is collecting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts, including those of Americans. The reported collection program is a new operation that intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services. It is the latest effort by the Obama Administration to turn this into a fishbowl society where citizens and their associations are entirely transparent to the government. Once again, the most amazing aspect of this story is the complete lack of response or outcry. President Obama has succeeded, it seems, in changing the expectations of privacy in our society — a change that is unlikely to be reversed to the great detriment of civil liberties in America. It is the latest example of why it is increasingly curious for Americans to refer to this country as “the land of the free” as we construct a massive internal security state and unchecked executive powers.
It appears that the greatest danger to piracy is vanity. A notorious Somali pirate leader known as “Loud Mouth” has been captured by Belgian police in a creative sting operation. Mohammed Abdi Hassan was lured to the Brussels Airport in the belief that he was going to sign an agreement to make a movie on his life. He made an estimated fortune of hundreds of millions and recently announced that he was going to move from piracy to politics — a nature transition in any country. Somalia has long been criticized for protecting such pirates but it was vanity that led to his undergoing.
There is an uproar over the rather refined tastes of the bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst. Despite the serious financial problems of the church and a new Pope who (to his and the church’s great credit) is shedding many trappings of the papacy, the bishop is building a luxurious home and offices next to Limburg Cathedral in the state of Hesse. Originally, estimated at €3 million, the complex is now up to €31 million. It includes a few items that seem out of place with a vow of poverty. He has now been called to Rome — apparently to answer why he seems to be a walk-on for a Robin Hood remake movie.
Air Canada is under fire this week for its response to the disappearance of Larry, a two-year-old Italian greyhound, on a flight from San Francisco. The dog’s owner had died of cancer and Jutta Kulic had found a family in Canada to take the animal. However, Air Canada reported that, during a delay, the dog was let out of its cage and then ran away. That is bad enough but a response from the airline sent people in both countries into a fury over the airline’s actions. This is a case where the company’s slogan appears to be “Go [TOO] Far.”
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Last week I wrote two guests blogs that were essentially two sides of the same coin. “How We Are Manipulated #1” and “The Decline of Journalism” were akin in that in the former I was writing about the use of “False Equivalency” that has long been a propaganda tool, especially from the wealthy backers of the conservative movement and the bland acceptance of “False Equivalency” by our mainstream media. I receive “E mails” each week from “Media Matters for America” the organization that examines bias in the media. http://mediamatters.org/ . This organization often provides me with ideas for this blog and I think performs a yeoman service for the people in this country who wish to clear the mental fog of propaganda, supplied by people who want to destroy the democratic process, and that has bombarded us since the Age of Reagan. These people own the major media and/or use their media ownership to ensure that the truth about our country is not only hidden, but subsumed in a planned torrent of propaganda. In this piece I will continue my series by providing various quotations that serve as examples, or admonishment of the prevalence of “False Equivalency” memes in the media. Links will be supplied at the end of this blog. Continue reading ‘False Equivalency: How We Are Manipulated #2′
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
As a Jew who is familiar with “The Gospels” there is something perplexing about some Christians in America who have risen to power in our political process within the last four decades. Much of Jesus message, as detailed in “The Gospels” has been one of sympathy to the poor, enmity to the rich and love for humanity. I can give you the time tested quotes but just about everyone is familiar with them. Indeed through my childhood and formative teen years Christmastime every year would yield endless repetition of “Peace on Earth, Good Will to All Men”. Sometime in the 1970’s people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell gained prominence and political power preaching their version of Christianity. These Christians became Kingmakers as it was assumed and actually true that their millions of followers would vote as a bloc. The Christianity that they preached had little to do with the American Christianity that I grew up with. To be sure their teachings on sexuality differed little from Christian thought for the previous 1,700 years and so abortion was evil, virginity was prized and sexuality was to be performed in subscribed methodology. What was different was that this version of Christian belief was a far more muscular and mach one. War was good when fought for American principles of capitalism and self interest. The wealthy needn’t worry about the “eye of the camel.” Poverty was seen as the result of moral failure. Rendering unto Caesar (the Government) was no longer the moral thing to do.
Now knowing history there were always periods where certain Christian leaders were in favor of warfare, favored the wealthy and sought to kill non-believers. Nevertheless, all through those era’s the same message of peace and love was preached as doctrine, whilst the religious leadership ignored the dichotomy of their own works. However, hypocrisies have always existed in every religious belief. The overriding principles always remained static, even if logic had to be twisted to ignore the obvious dichotomy. This is certainly true of the religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that each give their own interpretation of the “Torah.” The most glaring example of this is the entire Chapter of Genesis, which is literally riddled with dichotomy. Who did Cain, Abel and Seth marry and where did their brides come from? The standard method of dismissing these dichotomies was to ignore them and censor the questioner. Today though, in certain Christian circles these overarching principles derived from the teachings of Jesus have become ignored, to be replaced by a new “Dominionist” view, which would turn Jesus into a warlike, wealthy Republican that hated government and taxes. That is the subject of this guest blog. Continue reading ‘Ted Cruz, Dominionism and Jesus’
Victory First, Votes Second: Officials Declare Azerbaijan President Winner A Day Before The ElectionPublished 1, October 10, 2013 Bizarre , International , Media , Politics 16 Comments
Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev appears to have taken a lesson from Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen: “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.” However, Aliyev has modified it to “victory first, votes second.” The authoritarian regime was slightly embarrassed when the state media released the results of the election showing Aliyev winning with 72.76 percent of the vote. The problem is that the polls had not opened yet.
There is an interesting case out of France this week where four former members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church have been arrested and charged with torture, barbarism, and kidnapping of Antoinette, a 19-year-old Cameroonian. Their defense is novel: consent. Her former boyfriend, Eric Deron, who fashions himself to be something of a prophet, insisted that they were performing an exorcism by tying her to a mattress in a crucifixion position and kept her alive with small amounts of oil and water.
Saudi Cleric Rapes, Tortures, and Kills Five-Year-Old Child . . . Pays “Blood Money” To Mother And Receives Eight Years In JailPublished 1, October 9, 2013 Criminal law , International , Politics , Religion , Society 49 Comments
Fayhan al-Ghamdi is a well-known television commentator in Saudi Arabia who, while not recognized as a cleric, commonly instructed people on good Muslim values and lifestyles. We discussed his case earlier when he was released from jail after paying “blood money” for the raping, torture, and killing of his five-year-old daughter. Now, he has been given just eight years in prison and 800 lashes for the unspeakable crime. Ghamdi’s second wife, accused of taking part in the crime, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and 150 lashes in Saudi Arabia, you can be sentenced to death for adultery, apostasy or blasphemy. However, raping, torturing, and killing a toddler is just a matter of some blood money and an eight year stint. A husband can never be executed for killing one of his children or a wife under religious Sharia law. Continue reading ‘Saudi Cleric Rapes, Tortures, and Kills Five-Year-Old Child . . . Pays “Blood Money” To Mother And Receives Eight Years In Jail’
Kuwait is reportedly developing a test that it says will be able to “detect” homosexuals to prevent their entry into that country and other Gulf nations. It is perfectly bizarre, but Kuwait believes that it is possible to have some type of anti-gay detection system. It is not clear what type of test it would be since, despite stereotypes, leaving a Barbra Streisand album in the middle of a rope snare on the floor of the terminal may not catch all gay men. (Indeed, as a Broadway show fan, I would be the first hanging upside down in the Kuwait airport clutching a copy of Funny Girl). I have long wondered where all of those phrenologists went after the collapse of their “science” in the detection of criminals from head shapes.
Muslim Countries Move To Adopt New Law Allowing The Prosecution Of People Insulting Religion In Other CountriesPublished 1, October 7, 2013 Constitutional Law , Free Speech , International , Politics , Religion , Society 59 Comments
The effort by Muslim countries to curtail free speech in the name of their religion continues. While the Obama Administration has sought to appease these countries in developing an international blasphemy standard, this case shows how even the more modern Islamic countries (as well as Western countries) are finding blasphemy to be a useful vehicle to control speech and silence critics. The latest attack comes from Qatar which has proposed a ban that would allow for the prosecution of people in other countries. That’s right, our allies are creating laws to allow them to prosecute people for insulting religion outside their own countries.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
When I awoke a short time ago my mind was in its usual morning fog that slowly dissipates as I go through my wake-up routine which includes laying out the 35 or so pills that I take to stay alive. That fog mentally is usually a jumble of wide ranging short thoughts that are later forgotten as the fog lifts after my first coffee. On the way to the bathroom for my morning ablutions I found myself thinking about the biggest news all week which had been the shutdown of the government and the crisis that ensued. Suddenly, as an idea arose that woke me from the fog. Political Theater, it is all political theater. The threatened shutdown by the Republican Congressman, led by John Boehner et. al. was merely a show whose purpose was to destroy the publicity that would have surrounded the inception of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dubbed by the conservative PR geniuses “Obamacare”. How obvious this was took my breath away and also gave me some chagrin that it took me so long to see this con job in the making, while I mulled over the ramifications of a government shutdown. As the President has said and as some Republican have opined the GOP’s great fear regarding “Obamacare” is that it will succeed. Since enrollment was scheduled to begin on October 1st, without the shutdown speculation dominating the news cycle there would have been much publicity on the beginning of people enrolling in the plan. There would have been actual discussion of the plan and not just the cacophony of misinformation deftly spread by well placed conservative rumor mongers, broadcast blaringly on FOX News and flacked by the innumerable leaders of the “Tea Party”. Our mainstream media would play their continuing game of false equivalence by blithely accepting all information as being equal and not bothering to supply context when lies are told in the service “informing” the public.
Instead we have a manufactured crisis that sends the ACA to the back pages of virtual news media and we have faux layoffs and service loss endlessly debated. Now in truth this thought make me even a little sad for those “Tea Party” congresspeople that haven’t been let in on the nature of the game, nor their role as pawns in the manipulations of some the wealthy elite in this country. As I explained awhile ago in these guest blogs: http://jonathanturley.org/2011/08/02/tea-party-and-the-myth-of-a-grassroots-movement/#more-38049 and http://jonathanturley.org/2013/02/16/tea-party-a-phony-movement-mantled-as-legitimate/ the so-called “Tea Party” is not a grassroots movement, but the creation of the Koch, via an organization known as “Freedomworks” which they fund. On the Bill Maher show last Friday night one of his panel guests was the President and CEO of “Freedomworks” Matt Kibbe. From my perspective he was debunked by the panel, particularly Congressman Alan Cranston. What caught my attention though, was that Kibbe was at one point railing about how big government was run by insider lobbyists. None on the panel, or Maher, were perceptive enough to call him out on this since he is the quintessential lobbyist for the Koch Brothers. To my mind there is nothing to see here folks, move along and allow yourselves to be distracted by yet another manufactured crisis, designed to prevent you from actually evaluating the health care plan that is now available to you without adequate health care, or who are paying far too much for what should be a basic right of citizenship, health care. The Affordable Care Act is not my ideal of what American health insurance should be about because I believe in the “single payer” system used in most civilized nations. However, it is far better than what we already have and because of that should be fairly evaluated by the public. Perhaps though that fair evaluation will never get a chance since there are those who consciously work to distract us through propaganda, mythology and political theater into supporting what is in our own worst interests. Continue reading ‘How We Are Manipulated #1′
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
A lynchpin of the idea of America has been the meme “freedom of the press”. It is specifically mentioned in the First Amendment and many have declared it essential as a bulwark against tyranny. The Constitution, however, was written at the time when it took little expense to produce a newspaper or a one sheet broadside informing the people about one’s point of view. It was a time that had no media except for the print media and so “the press” as it existed then played a central role in informing the citizenry about the important issues of the time. From 1704 on the regular newspapers and magazines in the colonies had begun to charge for advertising, but the price of a paper still was the most significant revenue stream. While press freedom always was impacted by the major advertisers a paper had, the impact was quite minimal for more than 150 years, most importantly because each newspaper reflected its publisher’s point of view and that was the raison d’etre for the publishers. Then too, one could publish independent leaflets (broadsides) that could also sway the public discourse. Print media, which mainly included newspapers and magazines held sway as the conduit through which most Americans learned of the doings of the world and from which they formed their opinions politically. This “monopoly” last until the late 1930’s when the CBS and NBC radio networks started developing correspondents to go overseas and cover the world descending into war.
Depending on which side you were on the tradition of American journalism was a long and proud one. It played a significant role in the American Revolution and continued to do so for long afterward. The “free press” almost always took sides in that certain publications were known for their views and from what point on the political spectrum they saw the world. Investigative reporting was a proud American tradition, protected in the main by our Constitution and exposing the dark underside of America’s dream. The reader either is aware of, or can easily find instances where such reporting made a difference in the “people’s view” of a given issue and so I won’t detail the history except broadly. Sometimes, such as in William Randolph Hearst’s manufacture of the “The Spanish American War”, this press freedom was used in service of private interests. At other times with journalists like Lincoln Steffens; Ida B. Wells; Ambrose Bierce; Upton Sinclair; and Jacob Riis; to name a few, the public was informed of corruption both public and private in a long tradition dating back to the founding of this country. Whether one agreed, or disagreed with the information source, one could depend on the fact that given the already obvious point of view of the journalist/reporter, what they were reading was indeed a nuanced version of the facts that at least properly developed one side of the issue. The advent of first Radio and then Television supplanting the print media as the source of information for most Americans led to a trend in so-called “objective journalism” that has resulted in reporters/journalists/newsreaders presenting “both” sides of a dispute, without insight or context. Its’ my contention, as I’ll explain, that this has become very dangerous to the idea of an informed electorate and has resulted in sensationalistic bombast on a given issue, rather than intelligent debate allowing the public to make informed judgments as to where they stand. Continue reading ‘The Decline of Journalism’
While there has been little media attention in the United States, European press is reporting how German-Bulgarian writer and activist Ilija Trojanow was barred from entering the United States this week. A critic of NSA spying programs and professor at The European Graduate School, Trojanow was invited to speak at a literary conference and is well-known for his criticism of the surveillance state. He said that he was given no explanation for being barred from entry.
The Saudi legal system is back in the news today with another report of an abomination from the Sharia-based courts in the Kingdom. It appears that Saudi judges do not want to be outdone by the punishment against woman videotaped dancing in the rain. According to this report, a Saudi court has sentenced four men to up to 10 years in prison and 2000 lashes for the crime of dancing “naked” in public. Like the women in Pakistan, the men were left exposed due to a posting on YouTube. The medieval Sharia legal system took it from there.
We have followed controversies over fake pictures in Chinese newspapers, fake eggs in Chinese stores, fake meat in Chinese markets (here and here) and fake lions in Chinese zoos, but that does not appear to the end of it. Recently, cash rained down from an apartment building after a raid by policemen. The occupants tossed out $50,000 to try to destroy evidence of their fraud: fake scholarly articles being sold to academics.
Drive and Die? Leading Saudi Cleric Warns Women That Driving Will Result In Damage to Ovaries and Birth DefectsPublished 1, September 30, 2013 Bizarre , International , Religion , Society 34 Comments
Al Arabiya is reporting a bizarre warning issue by a leading Muslim cleric that women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and pelvises and birth defects. The announcement from Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Luhaydan comes as women continue to demand to be able to drive in the Kingdom and international pressure is growing for Saudi to make fundamental reforms. Judging from today’s other Saudi story, I thought the greatest danger was the religious police on the roads.
Saudi Religious Police Reportedly Kill Man After Forcing His Car To Overturn In Chase . . . Then Flee The ScenePublished 1, September 30, 2013 Criminal law , International , Religion , Society 23 Comments
We have long covered the abuses of the Saudi Arabian religious police known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. These are the religious fanatics who reportedly forced girls back into a burning school in Mecca because they were not sufficiently covered in public — 15 died as a result. When they are not apparently burning girls, they are forcing women to cover up “attractive eyes” or shutting down dinosaur exhibits or shutting down lingerie stores or arresting women having coffee. When it comes to their own crimes, however, they appear less committed to harsh Sharia punishment. A young Saudi was killed in a car chase last week trying to flee the religious police. After he crashed, the police fled the scene.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
You may be wondering who is this person named Rouhani and why would it be hard to call him/her on the phone? Would you think differently if you knew that Rouhani is Hassan Rouhani and he is the current President of Iran? As reported this past week, after President Obama and President Rouhani had both spoken at the United Nations in New York City, it was rumored that the two might actually meet in person.
While that meeting did not take place, it was reported that President Obama actually called President Rouhani on the telephone. As you can imagine, it was considered a big deal in the media that the Presidents of the United States and Iran had actually spoken on the telephone. On one level, I can understand the importance of the first direct contact between the heads of these two countries since 1979. Additionally, in light of the level of sabre rattling over Syria recently and Iran constantly, I guess it is a big deal..sort of. Continue reading ‘Was It Really So Hard To Pick Up The Phone And Call Rouhani?’
President Obama Trying to “Fast Track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a Trade Pact That Could Be Worse Than NAFTAPublished 1, September 28, 2013 Congress , Constitutional Law , International , Politics , Society , Uncategorized 85 Comments
Know much about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? If you don’t, it’s not your fault. According to Zoë Carpenter (The Nation), Congress hasn’t heard much about TPP either. That’s because this so-called “free trade” agreement is being negotiated in “extreme” secrecy by representatives of twelve different countries—the United States, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Carpenter says that the Obama administration has ignored “repeated calls from legislators to make the process more transparent, while pressing to finalize the agreement this year.”
In his article titled Multinationals Are Plotting to Steamroll What’s Left of Our Democracy to Make Huge Profits, Dave Johnson says that the TPP negotiating process “has been rigged from the start.” While hundreds of representatives of corporate-interest groups have been providing their input— “representatives of labor, human rights, civil justice, consumer, environmental and other stakeholder groups have been kept away from the negotiating table.” Members of Congress have not seen the agreement yet. United States Senators “have been barred from seeing negotiation points or drafts.” The public has been denied any access to TPP negotiating texts. We the people—as well as our elected representatives—are being “kept in the dark” as to what is going on behind closed doors. Yet, “600 corporate advisers” have been involved in the negotiation process. Multi-national corporations like Monsanto and Walmart are helping to craft the agreement.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
When 1965 dawned I was about to be twenty one years old and in my Junior Year in college. My parents were dead years past and I lived in a furnished room off campus, supporting myself by working 35 hours per week in a liquor store. The Viet Nam War was heating up and the civil rights of Black people, then called “negroes”, was the big issue of the day thanks to the inspired leadership of Martin Luther King. My parents had been Leftists in both words and deeds, which of course influenced my political leanings, because I loved and admired them greatly. JFK had been the great hope for a country recovering from the conformity of the 50’s, but he was murdered. Yet working and going to school full time, dating and hanging out with friends, gave me little time for political activity. The year before I had attended the organizing meeting for Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) on my college campus, but while I found the ideas stimulating, the organizer from national SDS seemed to be quite full of himself and an ass to boot. My economics professor had discussed Viet Nam disparagingly and predicted a costly war being pursued because of mineral rights off the coast of that country. His foreboding about the War proved to be correct. People peacefully demonstrating for an end to “Jim Crow” were being beaten and being murdered. The seamy underpinnings of our “exceptional” society were being exposed and the hypocrisy of it all was running rampant
Musically, the Beatles had pushed Folk Music somewhat to the side, yet there was still great popularity for it among the “intelligentsia”, or those who thought themselves “intellectuals”. The “enfant terrible” of folk music was of course young Bob Dylan, who scandalized the “folkies” when he moved to electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in Forest Hills Stadium. He released a song that year becoming his first single record to hit the “Top Forty” charts. I think this song ranks among his most prescient works and that I’ve used part of it to title this piece. The song was listed by Rolling Stone Magazine as the 332nd “Greatest Song of All Time”, but in my life it has had much greater influence. I was a young adult orphan, without the guidance and love of my parents, living in a world of ever-increasing complexity. Many of my generation, myself included, turned to popular music for guidance. The Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” not only offered guidance for navigating this ever stranger land that America was becoming, but also predicted many of the “changes” to this country that we discuss here on this blog and to my mind achieves greatness because of Dylan’s foresight. Let me explain. Continue reading ‘“You don’t need a weatherman, To know which way the wind blows”’
Iranian Media Accuses CNN Of Falsely Reporting Rouhani’s Acknowledgement Of The Crimes Of The HolocaustPublished 1, September 27, 2013 International , Politics , Society 48 Comments
The appearance of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani before the United Nations created an outpouring of rare positive coverage for the country when he gave an interview with CNN where he was quoted as condemning the Holocaust. The world celebrated the possibility that the extremism of the Iranian government might be subsiding. It seemed like a fresh start after the vehemently anti-Semitic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, the Iranian government has now moved to deny the comments — God forbid that its president would acknowledge (let alone condemn) the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis.
EasyJet has long been notorious for the level of service and comfort of a cattle car. However, the cattle were at least allowed to get on the plane and occasionally “moo”. Mark Leiser, who lectures at Strathclyde University, says that he was pulled out of line on his delayed flight and told that he could not board the plane. The reason? Lesier had tweeted criticism of the airline, which one would think the no-frills company would be rather used to. Apparently not. He says that he was only allowed on the plane after the airline employees discovered that he is a lawyer.
Millions of Americans struggle on a daily basis to afford medicine in the United States which is the highest in the world. Many seek affordable drugs by driving to Canada or seeking medicine (as well as medical care) in India. Yet, one of the first things that President Obama did in the new health care law was to cave to a demand by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby to drop provisions guaranteeing cheaper medicine. The lobby then got Congress to block two measures to guarantee affordable medicine. With billions at stake, Congress and the White House again yielded to the demands of this industry, which is sapping the life savings away of millions of families. Given this history, many are concerned about a meeting planned between Obama and the Prime Minister of India. Public interest groups object that Obama is threatening retaliation against India in the hopes of blocking one of the major alternatives for families in acquiring affordable medicine. Congress has also again responded to industry demands for pressure in India to change its laws and, as a result, raise the cost of medicine. Doctors Without Borders, a highly respected medical group, has denounced the effort of the Obama Administration as threatening basic health care for its own citizens and those around the world.
It has been a bloody week for elephants in the news. Yesterday, we discussed how NBC has aired a program showing a NRA lobbyist shooting an elephant in the face for ratings while in Cameroon serial elephant poachers are facing just three years for killing more than 100 elephants. Over in Zimbabwe, three poachers have been sentenced to roughly 15 years in prison for killing another 81 elephants by poisoning their water holes. This sentence is more substantial and welcomed, though it is hard to imagine what you would have to do against the environment to merit a life sentence.