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Archive for the ‘media’ Category

The AP has a nice little story about the CIA’s kidnap and torture squad, re-posted here at Talking Points Memo:

Four of the nation’s most highly valued terrorist prisoners were secretly moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2003, years earlier than has been disclosed, then whisked back into overseas prisons before the Supreme Court could give them access to lawyers, The Associated Press has learned.

It amazes me that someone can write an entire article about an illegal secret government program that was designed to kidnap and torture people while hiding them from the courts and the public … without using the words “illegal,” “kidnap,” or “torture.”

But holy hell, what is this next bit about?

Worse for the CIA, if the Supreme Court granted detainees rights, the entire covert program was at risk. Zubaydah and al-Nashiri could tell their lawyers about being waterboarded in Thailand. Al-Nashiri might discuss having a drill and an unloaded gun put to his head at a CIA prison in Poland.

“Anything that could expose these detainees to individuals outside the government was a nonstarter,” one U.S. official familiar with the program said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the government’s legal analysis.

Let me unpack that logic a bit.  Individuals in the Bush CIA had to hide these imprisoned men from the courts and anyone else outside the government … because … if the prisoners were allowed to talk to anyone, they might complain about being tortured … by the CIA?  Which would, you know, look bad on their annual GS-14 performance reviews.  Or something.  It’s not like they could have been worried about being charged with crimes.  John Yoo and Jay Bybee told them it was all OK! (Guess which one of those two names is missing from the article.)

So instead, everyone in the Bush administration who learned about the illegal secret torture and kidnapping program just… went along with the conspiracy to cover it all up, because hey, why rock the boat?  And the AP is granting anonymity to a source who is “familiar” with “the program” because … if we knew the source’s name, presumably he could be charged with a crime, either in the US or somewhere else.

Glad we’ve cleared that up.

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So Boingboing, among several others, tells me that the Pentagon wants to take their ball back:

In a briefing at the Defense Department, Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell ordered Wikileaks to remove classified documents and return them to the U.S. government.

For reals?  I might be wrong here*, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how the internet works.  See, e.g., the Tom Cruise scientology video saga for just one example of what happens when powerful people with expensive lawyers decide to attack random people on the internet.  And if you think the Department of Defense is more web-savvy than the Church of Scientology, I suppose you’re entitled to that opinion… but short of nuking Iceland, what are they going to do?

I pose that question in all seriousness.

This isn’t about being “nice” or some kind of contest between DoD and Wikileaks about the meaning of “the right thing” in this context.  It’s almost universally accepted that the U.S. government is spending a ton of money  to murder innocent people in Afghanistan for no reason that can be articulated.   Wikileaks, majorities of the American public, and most of the rest of the world clearly wants it to stop.  To the extent that words like “good” or “right” have meaning here, any action that moves U.S. policy towards an end of the occupation is unquestionably “the right thing,” and so far Wikileaks has done more towards that end in just a few short weeks than the US military apparatus has been able to accomplish in nearly ten years.  DoD has significantly less credibility than Wikileaks does at this point- agents of the US government are in no position to be making demands.

The ultimatum the DoD has issued here, “Do the right thing and return our files…[implied OR ELSE!]” is essentially nonsense.  Even if Wikileaks wanted to comply (they don’t) or were going to try to comply (they won’t), what does it even mean to “return” a digital file?  I’m put in mind of those people who send emails via Outlook and then try to “recall” them… by sending a second email.  Exchange server might work like that, but *email* doesn’t.  And pretending that it does just makes the pretender look silly.  Or stupid.  Once something is on the web, you can’t take it back.

Over the last five years or so, we’ve witnessed the birth of that awareness in the collective consciousness of our more intelligent political leaders.  As applied to politicians, the long memory of the net is a positive- any tools that help the electorate to screen out people who are crazy or habitual liars are a good thing.  I guess this sample of DoD’s ideas about their power over the net is an indicator that the bureaucracies haven’t quite figured it out yet.

* I’m not wrong.

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The NRA has announced its opposition to the Elena Kagan nomination. By picking such a weak nominee, Obama was really  just asking for it:

We have carefully examined the career, written documents and public statements of nominee Elena Kagan and have found nothing to indicate any support for the Second Amendment. On the contrary, the facts reveal a nominee who opposes Second Amendment rights and is clearly out of step with mainstream Americans.

Therefore, the NRA is strongly opposed to Kagan’s confirmation to the Court.

See, here’s the thing.  She’s got no record to speak of.  No proven philosophy.  No demonstrated commitment to progressive causes, or women’s causes, or, hell, any causes at all for that matter.  The only thing that Democrats could use to justify supporting her nomination is that Barry Picked Her.

And that might have worked!  As long as nobody serious and organized bothered to point out any of the reasons to object to the nomination. Since the NRA is both serious and organized, they seized on the flaws in Kagan’s background and are using them to whip Republicans into opposition.

If Obama had picked someone that liberals could rally behind, there would be a groundswell of support for the nominee to stand against the NRA’s objections. As it is, the NRA is making essentially the same complaints that many on the left have been making ever since Kagan was named as the nominee: (a) we don’t know anything about her philosophy, (b) she has no relevant experience, and (c) there are reasons to suspect she might actually do more harm than good. See, for example, Glenn’s excellent coverage here.

If the Administration had listened to Greenwald’s substantive objections before the nomination, and picked someone that liberals could support without holding their noses, they could lean on that support now. Instead, liberals have no reason to rally behind this nominee, and so there are no voices to oppose the NRA. And if her nomination fails now because she is a blank slate, well, Obama only has himself to blame.

[this post was edited later that night for clarity]

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Zero hedge points out the logical disconnect between GOP rhetoric and fiscal reality:

[W]hile the noise out of Washington is trying to convince us that these deficits are ruinous, the ten year Treasury bond yields we saw yesterday at a stunning 2.97% are telling us that, in fact, they are no problem at all, and that the government can now borrow nearly infinite amounts of money at the lowest interest rates in history.

And what does all that deficit spending get us?

Out of a current projected budget deficit of $1.3 trillion, $700 billion, or 54% comes from the Bush era tax cuts, $320 billion (25%) from a tax revenue fall off caused by the Great Recession, $200 billion from the wars in Iran and Iraq (15%), and $50 billion (4%) is generated by Obama’s recovery measures. The TARP and the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so small, they don’t even register on the chart. All of the angst, complaining, moaning, blustering, and carping is about the 4%.

So all the sound and fury about austerity and fiscal discipline is just so much bullshit, to distract the focus of public attention from where it would otherwise be directed.  If anyone was really serious about cutting federal deficits, there are three big fat juicy targets: repeal the Bush tax cuts, end the pointless occupations, and put Americans back to work by having the government hire them directly.

It’s not rocket science.

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More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent, according to data compiled for The New York Times by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic.By contrast, homeowners with less lavish housing are much more likely to keep writing checks to their lender. About one in 12 mortgages below the million-dollar mark is delinquent. emphasis added

from The Big Picture.  I’m sure that somehow this can be blamed on lazy brown people.  I’m a bit less optimistic that we’ll see any retractions of all the “subprime” stories that started running in summer 2007.

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You might think that the people who have been running the US operation in Afghanistan for the last few years would show a bit more maturity than a bunch of fourteen-year-old valley girls.

You’d be wrong.

On Friday, however, officials close to McChrystal began trying to salvage his reputation by asserting that the author, Michael Hastings, quoted the general and his staff in conversations that he was allowed to witness but not report.

“You said you wouldn’t tell anyone!  You pinky-swore!  I thought we were friends!  I’m never going out to the movies with you ever again!”

Oh, and this:

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, Air Force Lt. Col. Edward T. Sholtis, acknowledged that Hastings, like other reporters who have interviewed McChrystal over the past year, was not required to sign written ground rules. “We typically manage ground rules on a verbal basis,” Sholtis said. “We trust in the professionalism of the people we’re working with.”

Ground rules?!  What the fuck are you talking about “ground rules?”  You assholes are using my tax money to murder innocent people in a country halfway around the world for no goddamn reason at all, and you’re openly slagging your boss in front of a MAGAZINE REPORTER for christsakes, and the reporter went and REPORTED your borderline-treasonous insubordination, and now you have the fucking gall to whine about “ground rules?”

Here’s a ground rule for you, you worthless bag of guts: be happy you haven’t yet been charged with committing war crimes, and shut the HELL up before someone corrects the oversight.

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I guess that depends whether you are (a) someone who enjoys music and art and culture, or (b) a parasite

Peer-to-peer file-sharing on the Internet has certainly weakened copyright, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless one equates “stronger copyright” with “better copyright.” According to the US Constitution, copyright is about promoting “the Progress of Science and useful Arts”; it’s not about enriching authors […]

[T]he most pertinent question to ask is […] Has file-sharing reduced creators’ incentives?

My knee-jerk answer is– of course not!  More people are creating and publishing creative works today than at any other point in history.  But I didn’t have any data to back that up, and knee-jerk reactions only work as a basis for policy when Republicans are in power, so anyone who hopes for meaningful change in the US copyright framework is going to need more ammunition.  Fortunately, someone has actually done a bit of research now, and you can read more about it here.

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