LikeTheDew.com » John Hickman http://likethedew.com A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:11:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 LikeTheDew.com http://likethedew.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dew3_mh4feed.png http://likethedew.com 88 31 A journal of progressive Southern culture and politics The walls of an information ghetto http://likethedew.com/2014/08/01/walls-information-ghetto/ http://likethedew.com/2014/08/01/walls-information-ghetto/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 20:08:35 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=57137 Listen to those defending Israeli violence against the Palestinians in Gaza and what you hear is denial. They cannot deny the facts and instead deny their emotional and moral significance. They agree that the Israeli military is bombarding Gaza and that thirteen hundred have been killed as a consequence. Rather than admit that the bombardment constitutes a humanitarian disaster and heinous war crime, however, they leap to the rhetorical devices of blaming the victim and condemning the condemner.

The post The walls of an information ghetto appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

US-News-Media-Wall

Listen to those defending Israeli violence against the Palestinians in Gaza and what you hear is denial. They cannot deny the facts and instead deny their emotional and moral significance. They agree that the Israeli military is bombarding Gaza and that thirteen hundred have been killed as a consequence. Rather than admit that the bombardment constitutes a humanitarian disaster and heinous war crime, however, they leap to the rhetorical devices of blaming the victim and condemning the condemner.

Ignoring more than sixty years of state terror that began with the ethnic cleansing of Israel that left most Palestinians scattered across the Middle East or locked into blockaded Gaza or shrinking enclaves in the West Bank, the deniers endorse the Israeli government’s claim that its operations target Hamas rather than the Palestinian population, and then proceed to blame Hamas for the deaths of Palestinians in some version of the ‘human shields’ accusation.

Rather than concede that the Palestinians might have just cause to resist their oppressors or even that they face oppression, the deniers are likely to accuse critics of anti-Semitism. At the very least they conjure an existential threat to all Jews if Israel is not permitted to do what it will with the Palestinians and their homeland out of the hyperbolic silliness common to political rhetoric across the Middle East (including Israel) and the physical threat of the pathetic homemade rockets from Gaza and the rocks thrown by the youth of the West Bank. Reference is inevitably made to pogroms and the Holocaust in a manner suggesting that Palestinians would commit the commit the same horrors if only they could.

This pathological denial is possible because the major U.S. news media sources act as the walls of an information ghetto. What’s obscured beyond those walls would erode the uncritical support for Israel in American public opinion. The Palestinians almost disappear as the indigenous inhabitants of the land that was seized to establish Israel and are recast as the angry bigoted Arabs who live on its periphery. How they got there is apparently a mystery that need not be explained. Certainly no mention is made of the still uncompensated expropriation of Palestinian land in Israel or of the right of several million Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Comparing Israel is the other European settler states in the Middle East and Africa – French Algeria, British Kenya, Rhodesia, and apartheid era South Africa – is of course rarely heard because of the possibility that it flags. Palestinians disappear so completely that the deniers dare to say that they can’t recognize their true enemy in Hamas.

The extraordinary influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington has received some news coverage of late but hardly comparable to what would be broadcast or published if Mexico or Germany attempted to insert themselves in our domestic politics to the same degree. Imagine the outrage if Mexico City or Berlin were operating domestic lobbies as powerful as AIPAC!

Scarcely any mention is made of the enormous transfers, in both total amount and per capita terms, of American military aid to Israel. The recent announcement of a billion dollar U.S. munitions depot in Israel that the Israelis were permitted to draw from to reload came as a surprise to many Americans. The Israeli arms industry, which depends on American technological licensing but sells to some of America’s enemies, is nowhere to be seen in news coverage. Nor is there much news coverage of Israeli espionage against the U.S. That Israel is one of only nine nuclear weapons states on the planet is a secret only to some of the American news audience. So is the terror those weapons inspire around the Middle East.

Fortunately the walls of our information ghetto do not block out all of the truth. U.S. cable companies might have organized an Iron Wall preventing older and poorer Americans from watching al Jazeera but younger and wealthier Americans are getting a lot of their news, and better quality news, elsewhere. Successful denial requires a poor quality information environment. That is not something likely to last. The political reckoning to follow from the emotional and moral response of the Americans public to images of dead and wounded Palestinian children can only be delayed. After public opinion has broken the absurd excuses made for Israeli atrocities will likely embarrass those who made them.

The post The walls of an information ghetto appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/08/01/walls-information-ghetto/feed/ 3
Who should be Georgia’s GOP Senate nominee? http://likethedew.com/2014/04/29/georgias-gop-senate-nominee/ http://likethedew.com/2014/04/29/georgias-gop-senate-nominee/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 02:29:19 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=55780 Who should Democrats and Independents vote for in the May 20 Republican U.S. Senate Primary?  Before recoiling at the seemingly inappropriate nature of this question, please consider the following. Michelle Nunn appears to have the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat locked up.  Unless voters want to cast votes in contested races further down the ballot there is little reason to participate in the Democratic primary beyond the public display of civic virtue.

The post Who should be Georgia’s GOP Senate nominee? appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

Who should Democrats and Independents vote for in the May 20 Republican U.S. Senate Primary?  Before recoiling at the seemingly inappropriate nature of this question, please consider the following.

Michelle Nunn appears to have the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat locked up.  Unless voters want to cast votes in contested races further down the ballot there is little reason to participate in the Democratic primary beyond the public display of civic virtue.

SONY DSC

In contrast to the Democratic primary, intense competition for the Republican nomination means that a primary runoff on July 22 is likely.  A bruising fight between Republican candidates might enhance Nunn’s chances of winning the general election.  With the four leading candidates still polling in the teens, possible low voter turnout, and almost a third of likely voters yet to decide, visiting Democrats and Independents could mean a very different primary runoff.  That presents the uncommon opportunity to help one or more of the most ideological extremist candidates make it into the runoff.  Optimally that race would pit one wingnut against another.

Then there is entertainment.  The Republican primary presents a particularly amusing collection of candidates.  Jack Kingston, the Chamber of Commerce candidate, is campaigning against people on welfare.  In an economy that does not generate enough employment, he wants to require them to work in return for benefits.  Phil Gingrey, who plays a doctor in his television ads, is running against Obamacare.  Karen Handel, who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin and Jan Brewer, is running against the male candidates in the primary.  She does not seem especially interested in the empowerment or rights of women generally, perhaps on the assumption that the election of a woman is all that’s needed or wanted.

The most amusing of all is Paul Broun.  Anti-immigrant xenophobia, public statements like one that described evolution and the big bang theory as “lies straight out of the pits of hell,” the choice of the NSDAP flag colors — red, black and white — for his campaign signs, and a German surname, is the formula for einen ultrakonservativen Kandidat.

Finally, there is pedagogy.  Much of the American electorate has yet to realize that the GOP is increasingly fissured by factions.  Libertarians and religious conservatives hold one another in contempt while the Chamber of Commerce “wealth creators” and the Tea Party populists distrust one another.  Give them credit: Contempt and distrust are the appropriate reactions.  By helping one of the most ideologically extreme candidates in the Republican runoff, Democrats and Independents can expose those divisions.  That’s important in a state like Georgia where the Republican Party has achieved near hegemony.

There is more to what should be understood as pedagogically motivated civic engagement.  Georgia’s majority runoff electoral system and absurdly burdensome legal barriers to getting a third party candidate on the ballot for most races mean that voting in the other party’s primary is the only practical way to register a protest vote.

Who then should Democrats and Independents choose on November 20?  The answer has to be Paul Broun.  Not only is he the most absurd of the cohort but he is polling among the top four.  Any possible runoff pairing that includes Broun would be fun and educational for the whole electorate.  Democrats and Independents almost owe it to their fellow Georgians to step up and do the wrong thing in this case.

The post Who should be Georgia’s GOP Senate nominee? appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/04/29/georgias-gop-senate-nominee/feed/ 7
Delusion despite logic and evidence http://likethedew.com/2014/04/27/selective-stupidity/ http://likethedew.com/2014/04/27/selective-stupidity/#comments Sun, 27 Apr 2014 11:36:31 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=55746 Why do so many Americans doubt the scientific consensus about Darwinian evolution and anthropogenic climate change? Although the temptation is to attribute these sentiments simply to religious indoctrination and corporate public relations, feelings of powerlessness and resentment may also be in play.

Consider the large differences in acceptance of different scientific conclusions in March 20-24 AP-GfK Poll. Where a mere 4% of respondents doubt the link between cigarette smoking and lung disease and only 6% doubt that mental illness is a medical condition affecting the brain, fully 42% doubted that life evolved through natural selection and 37% doubted that humans were responsible for global warming...

The post Delusion despite logic and evidence appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

12394062_s

Why do so many Americans doubt the scientific consensus about Darwinian evolution and anthropogenic climate change? Although the temptation is to attribute these sentiments simply to religious indoctrination and corporate public relations, feelings of powerlessness and resentment may also be in play.

Consider the large differences in acceptance of different scientific conclusions in March 20-24 AP-GfK Poll. Where a mere 4% of respondents doubt the link between cigarette smoking and lung disease and only 6% doubt that mental illness is a medical condition affecting the brain, fully 42% doubted that life evolved through natural selection and 37% doubted that humans were responsible for global warming. Respondents appear more likely to reject the science when the phenomenon in question is a very large scale, impersonal process. Where lung disease and mental illness are understood as problems that affect individuals and might be avoided or treated individually, evolution and climate change must be understood as enormous processes that reduce most individuals to the role of powerless observers. Indeed, individual self-interest is implicated in the failure to take effective collective action to stop or mitigate climate change.

It is no coincidence that ‘powerless observer’ describes how most Americans view the economy. Business interests and the politicians who serve them have hollowed out popular democracy. Why should citizens take electoral politics seriously when what government can do for them in substantive economic terms is profoundly limited? The supply of credit is largely determined by a ‘depoliticized’ Federal Reserve, which balances national economic growth against the stability of the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency. The power to pass legislation protecting domestic producers from unfair foreign competition and adopt regulations to protect the health of consumers, worker safety and the environment are limited by the World Trade Organization and a growing list of international trade agreements like NAFTA. Corporate investment and hiring decisions that reward or punish state and local governments for the degree to which they are ‘business friendly’ leave little room for any of the other interests of citizens.

Denied any political influence over the very large scale, impersonal process that is the economy, it is unsurprising that many accept invitations from the Christian Right and Big Energy to redirect their resentment at approved targets. Egghead scientists talking about evolution and global warming make good scapegoats. To be sure, effective indoctrination and public relations are still necessary to elicit that transference of rage.

Creationism is believed, in part, because it is an easy story to teach captive audiences of children in Evangelical Sunday schools. It is repeated by adults because the fixed and unchangeable view of life that it offers is consistent with the fixed and unchangeable view of human nature insisted upon by conservatives. (Much as the radically plastic view of life offered by Lysenkoism was consistent with the radically plastic view of human nature in Soviet Marxism-Leninism.)

Climate denialism is embraced, in part, because the implications of the scientific consensus are bad news for the sort of mass consumption to which many feel entitled. Wishful thinking and socially approved self-indulgence are powerful impulses. You would be justified in suspecting that Big Tobacco would have been rather more successful in persuading the public that there was no connection between cigarette smoking and lung disease if they had waged that fight in the era of Fox News and talk radio.

If the minds of many of the doubters are forever closed to explanations of the logic and evidence for Darwinian evolution and anthropocentric climate change, the minority of doubters who are intellectually curious can still be enlightened. Reason is also powerful. Moreover, if they are led to understand something of those complex, large scale processes, they are likely to begin asking questions about the causes for the increasing economic inequality that they and other Americans now suffer. That’s where political re-empowerment may begin.

The post Delusion despite logic and evidence appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/04/27/selective-stupidity/feed/ 3
Writing Off A Generation http://likethedew.com/2014/04/20/writing-generation/ http://likethedew.com/2014/04/20/writing-generation/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 12:05:54 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=55696 Politicians from both parties might perform public anguish about the student loan problem but it is painfully obvious that they just don’t get how serious it is. The most recent Congressional legislation tying interest rates on student loans to the several points beyond the interest rates on treasury notes might have looked like an important reform in Washington, where achieving anything bipartisan is hailed a great victory, but not to the 37 million young Americans who are on the hook for more than one trillion dollars in student loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. They owe an average of $29,000. In an economy that no longer produces enough decent jobs

The post Writing Off A Generation appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

Indentured Student

Politicians from both parties might perform public anguish about the student loan problem but it is painfully obvious that they just don’t get how serious it is. The most recent Congressional legislation tying interest rates on student loans to the several points beyond the interest rates on treasury notes might have looked like an important reform in Washington, where achieving anything bipartisan is hailed a great victory, but not to the 37 million young Americans who are on the hook for more than one trillion dollars in student loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. They owe an average of $29,000. In an economy that no longer produces enough decent jobs that’s enough to prevent many from achieving the perfectly reasonable and certainly laudable aspirations to launch careers, start businesses, begin families, or simply move into their own homes. The soaring loan delinquency and default rates suggest that many of them have already given up hope. Unless something very significant is done soon some will fall from the middle class permanently into the ranks of the working poor.

That an entire cohort of young Americans will be subjected to financial quasi-serfdom throughout the early 21st century is a problem not just for the individual debtors but for American society as a whole. We are diminished as a nation both economically and spiritually if their energy and talents are wasted. To frustrate so many hard working young people betrays the promise of the American Dream. If the United States is to remain a prosperous liberal democracy it needs a large and growing middle class. Greed might tempt some of the one percenters to entertain authoritarian alternatives but the rest of us know that is the path to disorder and violence.

What is needed is debt relief. When Wall Street was in danger of going belly up in 2007 and 2008 the second Bush and Obama administrations rushed to rescue the largest banks with enormous bailouts. The time has arrived to do something comparable for what we hope will become the middle class of the next half century. Writing down the bulk of the student debt would not only emancipate the quasi-serfs but provide the sort of stimulus that would generate a real economic recovery rather than the miserable virtual recovery that we have been experiencing.

The answer to the inevitable criticism that writing down the current student debt would add a lot to the government deficit is that we have done it before to achieve economic growth: the deep tax cuts of the Reagan administration added to the deficit to provide an economic stimulus. The difference is that writing down the student debt would provide far more bang for the buck. It is worth remembering that the same conservative politicians and pundits who now decry the size of the deficit gave their enthusiastic support for the War in Iraq.  If we can squander a trillion dollars to replace one Middle Eastern dictatorship with another then we can spend a trillion dollars to guarantee that America has a large and growing middle class.

The answer to the inevitable moral hazards argument that serious debt relief would simply encourage more indebtedness is the reality that much of the current student loan will never be paid off and that the Department of Education and the banks continue to encourage students to take out more student loans. Rather than continue to encourage further indebtedness we need state governments to once again fund higher education as if they understood how important it is for their state economies and for the opportunities it provides to their citizens.

The time has arrived to emancipate tens of millions of Americans and half measures will not suffice. Their futures, and ours, depend upon it.

The post Writing Off A Generation appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/04/20/writing-generation/feed/ 3
Why the New Guantanamo Hunger Strike Euphemisms? http://likethedew.com/2014/03/16/new-guantanamo-hunger-strike-euphemisms/ http://likethedew.com/2014/03/16/new-guantanamo-hunger-strike-euphemisms/#comments Sun, 16 Mar 2014 18:18:58 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=54995 Clever public relations officers working somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon have decided that henceforth the Guantanamo hunger strike will be termed a “long term non-religious fasting.”  What’s more, rather than being subjected to forced-feeding the “non-religious fasters” are now being treated to “enteral feedings.” What are we to make of such obvious lexical fig leaves?

The post Why the New Guantanamo Hunger Strike Euphemisms? appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

Hunger-strike-in-Guantanamo

Clever public relations officers working somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon have decided that henceforth the Guantanamo hunger strike will be termed a “long term non-religious fasting.”  What’s more, rather than being subjected to forced-feeding the “non-religious fasters” are now being treated to “enteral feedings.” What are we to make of such obvious lexical fig leaves?

We have read and heard as bad before.  Early in the Cold War the Atomic Energy Commission decided that exposure to radioactive fallout would be measured in “Sunshine Units.”  While our nuclear weapons are a “nuclear deterrent” their nuclear weapons are a “nuclear threat.”  During the War in Vietnam bombing became “air support,” destroyed villages were “pacified” and refugees were “ambient non-combat personnel.”   With the War on Terror prisoners of war denied their rights under the Geneva Conventions became “unlawful combatants,” torture became “enhanced interrogation,” and kidnapping by secret agents became “extraordinary rendition.”

So who are the targets for the Pentagon’s new euphemisms for the hunger strike at Guantanamo?  They aren’t needed to reinforce the political obedience of the core Fox News television audience.  The Pentagon’s news blackout about the hunger strike at Guantanamo last December shields those viewers from awareness of the nightmare.  Appeals to fear are more than sufficient to stop them from asking the wrong sort of questions.

That the euphemisms are patently unconvincing makes their deployment even more of a puzzle.  Unlike the Republican Party’s “tort reform” and “entitlement reform” slogans they hide nothing.  By comparison with Big Energy’s slick messages “clean coal” and “safe, proven fracking technology” they are so clumsy they almost announce themselves as official lies.

One possibility is that distorted language is intended not for the general news audience but for military personnel.  Perhaps they serve the same purpose as the nonsense claimed when dictatorships construct cults of personality.  For example, Turkmen are asked to believe that Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s landslide election as president ushered in an “era of supreme happiness.”  Equatoguineans are asked to believe that Teodoro Obiang has a direct connection to God and was once forced to pocket the national treasury to keep it out of the hands of corrupt bureaucrats.  Gambians are asked to believe that Yahya Jammeh has invented a cure for AIDS made of herbs and bananas.  Expressed disbelief in such utterly preposterous claims can be used to identify dissidents.

Perhaps the Guantanamo hunger strike euphemisms function as loyalty tests in a bureaucracy so reliant on command and secrecy that some preference falsification is second nature.  What better way to assess intellectual subordination in a military waging a global war without end than the demonstrated willingness to use terminology as absurd as “long term non-religious fasting?”

Makes you wonder whether the public relations officers who devised the new terms have read, or more importantly have understood, George Orwell’s classic 1984.  Why are Americans who serve in the military, people routinely referred to as heroes by elected officials and journalists, demeaned by having to use language so patently dishonest?   They deserve better.  So does the rest of America.

The post Why the New Guantanamo Hunger Strike Euphemisms? appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/03/16/new-guantanamo-hunger-strike-euphemisms/feed/ 2
The beam out of thine own eye http://likethedew.com/2014/03/05/beam-thine-eye/ http://likethedew.com/2014/03/05/beam-thine-eye/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 14:26:34 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=54923 That the Crimean Crisis would be exploited by Republican Congressional leaders to criticize President Obama was inevitable.  Politics hasn’t stopped at the water’s edge in the United States for a very long time. What wasn’t inevitable was the shamelessness of Senator John McCain’s denunciation of President Obama in a speech to the most powerful ethnic foreign policy lobby in Washington.  In a March 4th address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Arizona Republican complained about a “feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”

The post The beam out of thine own eye appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

That the Crimean Crisis would be exploited by Republican Congressional leaders to criticize President Obama was inevitable.  Politics hasn’t stopped at the water’s edge in the United States for a very long time.

What wasn’t inevitable was the shamelessness of Senator John McCain’s denunciation of President Obama in a speech to the most powerful ethnic foreign policy lobby in Washington.  In a March 4th address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Arizona Republican complained about a “feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”  Yet after insisting that Russian action in Crimea “must be made unacceptable to the world community,” all that he could offer as a policy response was the imposition of new economic sanctions.  Oddly, he seemed to think it especially important that corrupt Russians be prevented from visiting Las Vegas.

If the empty bluster was merely pathetic what accompanied it was nauseating.  McCain explained the Russian majority in Crimea as the result of Stalin’s mass expulsion of the ethnic Crimean Tatars.  Yet he was speaking to an audience present to support Israel, a country with a Jewish majority made possible only by the mass expulsion of Palestinians.  Both the Crimean and Palestinian expulsions took place at essentially the same historical moment.

McCain fulminated about Russian annexation of Crimea and possibly of the Russian speaking eastern half of Ukraine.  Yet he was speaking to an audience that had endorsed the annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, and endorses the ongoing annexation of the West Bank.  Hypocrisy more complete would be difficult to conceive.

American journalists allow politicians like McCain to get away with such nonsense because many fear reporting anything critical about either Israel or the Israeli lobby.  They are also captives of the news frames constructed by official sources in Washington.  For the Crimean Crisis the consensus news frame is that Russian behavior is a violation of a strong post Second World War international norm against territorial annexation.  The historical reality is that the norm has been frequently and successfully violated: Poland annexed East Prussia, East Brandenburg, Lower Silesia, and Pomerania; Russia annexed Bessarabia and Bukovina; India annexed Goa, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli; India and Pakistan partitioned Kashmir; Indonesia annexed West Irian; Ethiopia annexed Ogaden; Turkey annexed northern Cyprus; Morocco annexed Spanish Sahara, and Israel annexed the majority of Palestine.  Yes, of course some sort of justification could be offered for each of these events.  There are always justifications.  What is important but ignored in the outrage currently being performed about Crimea is that “the world community” did not protest strongly or effectively.

The consensus news frame also excludes reference to the complexities of Russian and Soviet history.  When reporters deploy the propagandistic phrased like “Ukraine’s Crimea” they ignore the fact that Russian sovereignty over the peninsula predates American possession of the Mississippi Valley and ignores the rather artificial transfer of sovereignty over the peninsula from Russia to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev.  Forget about sympathy for the difficulties faced by ethnic Russian minorities in the post-Soviet near abroad.

Between the irresponsible pandering of politicians and the cockeyed international news coverage it seems likely that many will be deceived by a simplistic narrative of Ukrainian nationalist good guys and Russian bad guys.  What a pity that it always seems to take so long to realize we are being failed by our political and news media leaders.

The post The beam out of thine own eye appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/03/05/beam-thine-eye/feed/ 3
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?” Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! http://likethedew.com/2014/03/02/ask-much-give-ooh-answer/ http://likethedew.com/2014/03/02/ask-much-give-ooh-answer/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 04:41:10 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=54876 What would winning the War in Afghanistan look like? America has been at war there for 13 years and you would expect that after thousands of casualties and spending immense sums of our tax dollars something that could be deemed victory would have been achieved by now. Instead of that we are presented with soon to be retiring Rep. Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, chiding the America people and President Obama for not wanting to keep fighting the longest war in our history.

The post And when you ask them, “How much should we give?” Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

What would winning the War in Afghanistan look like? America has been at war there for 13 years and you would expect that after thousands of casualties and spending immense sums of our tax dollars something that could be deemed victory would have been achieved by now. Instead of that we are presented with soon to be retiring Rep. Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, chiding the America people and President Obama for not wanting to keep fighting the longest war in our history. In a February 24th speech to National Press Club the California Republican claimed that we were just shy of achieving a “safe and secure Afghanistan.”

Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif)

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif)

What is McKeon’s evidence for that improbable claim? He is impressed that the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) have doubled in size and can actually fight some on their own rather than tag along behind U.S. troops as they chase the Taliban guerrillas temporarily out of this or that piece of territory. Students of the War in Vietnam will recall that was something the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) also managed to achieve. In the end it didn’t matter all that much then either.

McKeon is also impressed that continued U.S. military presence has been endorsed by the Afghan politicians ‘elected’ to the Loya Jirga, Afghanistan’s parliament, and purportedly by the Afghan public, as evidenced by a public opinion poll. Given that Freedom House rates Afghanistan as ‘Not Free’ there is good reason to treat such expressions of support very carefully.

He touts new schools, roads and irrigation systems constructed. He likes the expansion of the internet and the multiplicity of new electronic media sources. That much of the former are physically insecure and the latter are concentrated in the capital of Kabul ought to give the rest of us pause before celebrating.

What’s needed, McKeon claims, is resolve. To support that he made two comparisons. The first was silly: “Afghanistan is not going to turn into Sweden overnight.” What Republican wants any country to turn into a social-democracy like Sweden? (Perhaps he was thinking about mountainous Switzerland.)

The second comparison is at least superficially plausible: “It took the British 12 years to put down the Malayan communists.” Yes, Britain did win a long counterinsurgency war against Communist guerrillas there. However there are major problems with that historical example.

One is that the Malayan communists were overwhelmingly ethnic Chinese, thus a minority group, and backed by the People’s Republic of China, which shared no border with Malaysia. Those weaknesses proved fatal. By contrast, the Afghan Taliban are members of the ethnic Pashtun plurality in Afghanistan, and move easily back and forth across the border with Pakistan, where they enjoy the support of elements of the Pakistani government.

Another is that Britain’s Malaysia might have been poor and exploited but its economy was based on legal commodities, including rice, rubber and tin. That is not true of Afghanistan. Notwithstanding all the new (in some cases still functioning) infrastructure we have built, the economy of Afghanistan still consists of foreign aid and opium. (McKeon never mentions opium.) As a consequence, whoever rules the country will seek quasi-rents from those sources. Forget building the sort of healthy economy that can support a liberal democracy.

Expecting the current venal leadership of the country to wage a war for the survival of their regime when the American military will do it for them is a mistake. Perhaps they would fight with more heart if they knew the U.S. military was not always coming to the rescue but it is certain that most have made careful plans to exit the country to enjoy the fruits from corruption should the Taliban prevail.

What McKeon may be worried about is not the fate of Afghanistan but his own political legacy. Both of his wars – Afghanistan and Iraq – were foreign policy fiascos. What does Americans have to show for all of the blood and money they have cost?

There is more to ask about that political legacy. Back on May 5, 2010 McKeon posted a column on his blog bragging that Republicans Members on the House Armed Services Committee had embraced “Ronald Reagan’s peace through strength” mantle. Indeed. Just for a moment consider what a different history we would have had if Reagan had not funded and armed the fanatical Sunni Islamist guerrillas who eventually drove the Red Army out of the country. Would it have been so terrible for the Soviets to raise living standards in Afghanistan to the same levels of the neighboring Central Asian Soviet Republics? McKeon expressed pleasure that many women in Afghanistan are now receiving educations. But imagine how many more women in Afghanistan would have gotten educations over the last four decades if the Soviets had not been driven out. After all, the bearded religious fanatics who Reagan described as “freedom fighters,” the people who later morphed into al Qaeda and the Taliban , were motivated by opposition to universal female education and other modern social reforms attempted by the pro-Soviet government in Kabul. Could it be that McKeon is haunted by the knowledge that the horror and waste of his favorite war are ultimately the fault of his party’s hero, Ronald Reagan?

The post And when you ask them, “How much should we give?” Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/03/02/ask-much-give-ooh-answer/feed/ 4
Sláinte! Ideology and Alcohol http://likethedew.com/2014/02/02/slainte-ideology-alcohol/ http://likethedew.com/2014/02/02/slainte-ideology-alcohol/#comments Sun, 02 Feb 2014 20:25:53 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=54593 A recent article in the Journal of Wine Economics by Duquesne University Economics Department associate professor Pavel A. Yakovlev and graduate student Walter P. Guessford offers research findings so obviously pleasing to conservatives that you might wonder whether they were perpetrating a hoax. What their findings show is a positive relationship between measures of the ideological liberalism of a state and measures of how much alcohol was consumed in a state for the years between 1967 and 2010.

The post Sláinte! Ideology and Alcohol appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

Elephants drinking

A recent article in the Journal of Wine Economics by Duquesne University Economics Department associate professor Pavel A. Yakovlev and graduate student Walter P. Guessford offers research findings so obviously pleasing to conservatives that you might wonder whether they were perpetrating a hoax. What their findings show is a positive relationship between measures of the ideological liberalism of a state and measures of how much alcohol was consumed in a state for the years between 1967 and 2010. Note that the authors are careful not to claim directly that their findings show that liberals drink more than conservatives. However they do reference a theory in their introduction that points to just such a conclusion. Moral hazards theory is deployed to suggest that dependency on government provision of health care makes people irresponsible about behaviors that affect their health. Mind you, if that is what explains these findings, then the real news here is that Americans in more liberal states began drinking to celebrate Obamacare four decades before it arrived!

Logic be damned, conservative reporters, editors and bloggers loved the idea that liberals are boozers. Jennifer Harper at the Washington Post led with, “New academic research correlating a link between unhealthy behaviors and political ideology does not bode well for liberals.” John Aziz at The Week wrote that the, “findings are consistent with other recent studies in other parts of the world showing that people with socialist views tend to drink more.” Liberals and socialists are basically indistinguishable don’t you know?

Finally, here was something to weigh against all those maps showing higher rates of social pathologies – poverty, obesity, smoking, teen pregnancy, etc. – in the Red states than in the Blue states.

Beyond the time order problem with the moral hazards argument, this research suffers from a methodological flaw that anyone with a bachelor’s degree in the social sciences would have recognized: the ecological fallacy. The rule is that evidence of behavior at one level of analysis should not be used to reach conclusions about behavior at another level of analysis. So the statistics analyzed by Yakovlev and Guessford could only tell them about aggregate behavior at the state level and not about the behavior of state residents at the individual level. What that means is that the larger amounts of alcohol consumed in more liberal states were actually consumed by minorities of unhappy conservatives. Picture in your mind all those deeply depressed Republicans on the West Coast and in Colorado, Iowa and New England trying to drown their partisan sorrows in rivers of Coors Lite, MD 20/20 and Old Crow. (OK, I’m just guessing.) Alternatively, perhaps both liberals and conservatives in more liberal states may drink more because they are celebrating the superior quality of life in states where the problems of poverty, obesity, smoking, teen pregnancy etc, are less severe. We don’t know…and neither do Yakovlev and Guessford. Sláinte!

The post Sláinte! Ideology and Alcohol appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/02/02/slainte-ideology-alcohol/feed/ 0
Dear Nob Akimoto: Honesty is Important http://likethedew.com/2014/01/31/dear-nob-akimoto-honesty-important/ http://likethedew.com/2014/01/31/dear-nob-akimoto-honesty-important/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 20:39:46 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=54564 Ordinary Gentlemen blogger Nob Akimoto’s “Guide” to the recently reignited controversy surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is mislabeled. What he has actually penned is an “Apology” for war criminals and those who honor them. That is unfortunate because trusting readers may misunderstand why the memorial deeply offends some many people all over the world. The first clue that a bait and switch is being perpetrated is the deployment of that classic piece of illogic called special pleading.

The post Dear Nob Akimoto: Honesty is Important appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

yasukuniOrdinary Gentlemen blogger Nob Akimoto’s “Guide” to the recently reignited controversy surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is mislabeled. What he has actually penned is an “Apology” for war criminals and those who honor them. That is unfortunate because trusting readers may misunderstand why the memorial deeply offends so many people all over the world.

The first clue that a bait and switch is being perpetrated is the deployment of that classic piece of illogic called special pleading. Just four sentences into the piece Akimoto raises and then immediately drops the Shinto concepts of kami and matsura with the plea that they are difficult to “translate into western terms.” Thus are readers invited to simply accept his subjective perspective as true, without further explanation. That some of those readers might grasp difficult ideas like predestination, non-attachment, or dharma doesn’t matter. Just accept that you’ll just never understand the essence of Japan (Then imagine you hear the ghostly music of Noh theatre).

The second clue is the obvious reduction through minimal description of the offenses committed by the 14 Class A war criminals who were memorialized at the Yasukuni Shrine in 1978. Describing them as crimes against peace (conspiracy to start and wage war) and atrocities committed against prisoners of war doesn’t capture the extraordinary scale and extreme cruelty of their war crimes. To make matters worse, Akimoto offers only one figure: the 2,463,915 Japanese military dead from multiple wars memorialized at the Yasukuni Shrine. The war that these monsters launched took the lives of 20 million Chinese and another seven million people in the other countries conquered by the Japanese military.

The third clue is the unnecessary narrowing of the explanation for outrage about the Yasukuni Shrine. Yes, Chinese and Koreans are angered when Japanese prime ministers perform there to curry support from nationalist voters, but so too are many Japanese. Japanese public opinion is not monolithic. Like the deceptive euphemisms of officially approved history textbooks, official visits to the Yasukuni Shrine reinforce the suspicion that Japan’s conservative elites are intent upon downplaying responsibility for the horrors perpetrated by Japan between 1937 and 1945.

Akimoto ends by deploying a tu quoque or ‘you did it too’ argument. Chinese have no right to complain, he argues, because they venerate Mao Zedong. What Akimoto fails to note is that it was the extraordinary disruption of Chinese society and economy caused by the Japanese invasion and occupation that created the political opportunity for Mao Zedong’s Red Army to win the Chinese civil war that erupted at the end of the Second World War.

What does Akimoto conclude? Only that it was in “bad taste” to include the 14 Class A war criminals among the other war dead memorialized at the Yasukuni Shrine. Bad taste? That isn’t even sufficient to describe Akimoto’s apology.

The post Dear Nob Akimoto: Honesty is Important appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2014/01/31/dear-nob-akimoto-honesty-important/feed/ 1
Obama Should Listen http://likethedew.com/2013/09/09/obama-should-listen/ http://likethedew.com/2013/09/09/obama-should-listen/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 15:27:39 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=53101 Failure is written all over the Joint Statement on Syria issued on September 6th meeting of the Group of 20 in St. Petersburg. Only 11 of the 20 leaders present – the U.S., Britain, France, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Saudi Arabia –  signed on to the condemnation of Damascus. Thus the opposite of the international moral consensus that is supposed to be the foundation of international law.

Worse from the standpoint of the Obama administration, the text of the statement does not endorse military action.

The post Obama Should Listen appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

Failure is written all over the Joint Statement on Syria issued on September 6th meeting of the Group of 20 in St. Petersburg. Only 11 of the 20 leaders present – the U.S., Britain, France, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Saudi Arabia – signed on to the condemnation of Damascus. Thus the opposite of the international moral consensus that is supposed to be the foundation of international law.

reconquistaWorse from the standpoint of the Obama administration, the text of the statement does not endorse military action. Instead, it calls for a, “political solution which will result in a unified, inclusive and democratic Syria.” Look again at the list of 11 governments willing to join the Joint Statement. On Sesame Street children learn one of the most fundamental of inquiries: “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong?” In this case the correct answer is Saudi Arabia. Unlike the others, it is clearly not a liberal democracy. Indeed, it may be the most authoritarian government on the planet.

Now while neither NPR nor Fox News would dare to describe the Saudi government a ‘regime’ we need only consult the U.S. State Department’s own 2012 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Saudi Arabia to recognize that it is a dystopian nightmare. The country and all its oil wealth are owned by the seven thousand men of the royal family. Women, members of the Shi’a minority, and foreign workers are denied even basic legal rights. Contestation for power is impossible because there are no national elections, political parties and labor unions are banned, and the press is censored. This is a government is so medieval that on June 19, 2012 it beheaded one Muree bin Ali al-Asri for the crimes of witchcraft and sorcery. (We all know that the kingdom’s client terrorists in other Arab countries, including Syria and Iraq, also enjoy a good beheading.) Despite this the Obama administration credits Saudi Arabia as a worthy partner in a project to bring about a “unified, inclusive and democratic Syria.”

Two days after that Joint Statement was issued, Secretary of State John Kerry met with his counterparts in the Arab League in Paris. Unlike President Obama, Secretary Kerry could claim consensus support on Syria at his meeting. He emerged from the talks just as proud as punch that Saudi Arabia had endorsed military action, by the United States. Despite expressions of public outrage about the treatment of their brothers in Syria and in possession of a very large and well equipped military, the Saudis will not be participating in any military action. They are going to leave that to us. Just like everyone else except the French.

Americans are right to wonder why punishing the Syrian government for an unproven violation of international law is almost sole responsibility of the United States. They are right to wonder why their own government is doing the bidding of Saudi Arabia rather than pursuing American national interests. They are right to be appalled that we are being hustled into yet another Wilsonian crusade to save the Middle East from itself. After Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, Americans have learned that every crusade is prelude to another crusade. Rather than attempt to persuade us to support a punitive bombing likely to be the first step in a deeper involvement, President Obama should listen to us. We don’t want to go to war again.

The post Obama Should Listen appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2013/09/09/obama-should-listen/feed/ 1
Why Should Our Tax Dollars Pay for ‘Journalism with an Edge’? http://likethedew.com/2013/07/01/why-should-our-tax-dollars-pay-for-journalism-with-an-edge/ http://likethedew.com/2013/07/01/why-should-our-tax-dollars-pay-for-journalism-with-an-edge/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 22:40:59 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=52104 The June 26, 2013 U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the foreign language broadcast services funded by the United States government offered an imperfect example of Washington political elites successfully sidestepping the obvious. What most of the participants wanted to talk about was reorganizing entities like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, possibly by turning them over the State Department; adding language broadcasts like Ibo and Sindhi...

The post Why Should Our Tax Dollars Pay for ‘Journalism with an Edge’? appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

The June 26, 2013 U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the foreign language broadcast services funded by the United States government offered an imperfect example of Washington political elites successfully sidestepping the obvious. What most of the participants wanted to talk about was reorganizing entities like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, possibly by turning them over the State Department; adding language broadcasts like Ibo and Sindhi; eliminating existing language broadcasts in Greek; eliminating the 23 duplications of language services such as Russian, Spanish and Burmese; and the failure of the Persian News Network to cover the most recent presidential election in Iran. Inevitably, anti-Castro, Cuban-American Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen offered comments in defense of Radio Marti.

Only one of the participants dared to probe the problem that producing propaganda undermines the journalistic credibility of a news source. Democratic New York Rep. Elliott Engel asked two important questions: “Is there any common ground on the overarching mission of U.S. international broadcasting? Is it possible for broadcasters to provide authoritative, accurate and objective news while at the same time advancing U.S. interests?”

None of the three testifying witnesses or committee members offered a convincing formula for transcending that contradiction. Former Broadcasting Board of Governors member Enders Wimbush responded gamely that the broadcasting by the various entities should be “journalism with an edge.” Right. Well, perhaps euphemisms become indistinguishable from resolutions when you have been lost in the gray zone between journalism and propaganda long enough.

What went completely unchallenged during the hearing was the assumption that the U.S. government must continue to fund foreign language broadcasts about its foreign policy views with its own propaganda organization. Much of what was said in defense of the curiously un-challenged proposition that such an organization was needed involved praise for the role that Radio Free Europe had performed in weakening Soviet communism. Such views will be of great importance should the Soviet Union return from the grave.

Had they wanted to challenge that assumption they might have asked a question something like this: Given the uncritical reporting of announcements made by the White House and State Department by American news sources, why not simply subsidize broadcasts of relevant portions of their news covered translated into the desired foreign languages? Compare the news reports about the Syrian Civil War from Voice of America with those from National Public Radio or Fox News, and you won’t see any significant differences. Does it really matter whether the entity beating the war drum for U.S. covert and military intervention in that tragedy is a government owned entity, a non-profit entity with commercial endorsements, or a commercial entity? There is absolutely no shortage of journalism with an edge when it comes to reporting the Middle East.

Naturally, there would be competition between the various American news sources for the contracts to broadcast their news in translation. Political fights to favor some over others would be inevitable. Imagine the sort of compromise wherein specific target language populations are distributed among the different American news sources in the same way that British colonial authorities in Sub-Saharan Africa distributed exclusive rights to missionize specific ethnic groups among the Christian denominations. CNN would get Chinese, Fox Farsi, Bloomberg Burmese, etc.

Absurd you say? Well yes… alliteration in sequence is silly and subjecting 110 million Farsi speakers to Fox News would be cruel. However the current arrangement is also absurd. Continuing to operate government owned news/propaganda entities makes no sense in a world where news sources are proliferating across old and new media. Captive foreign audiences hungry for accurate and objective reporting in news broadcasts provided by the U.S. government may be appealing but it is unrealistic.

Organizations sometimes outlive their usefulness. When that happens the proper thing to do is not to find a more efficient way to do what is useless, but to dismantle them.

The post Why Should Our Tax Dollars Pay for ‘Journalism with an Edge’? appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2013/07/01/why-should-our-tax-dollars-pay-for-journalism-with-an-edge/feed/ 2
Into the Syrian Quagmire http://likethedew.com/2013/06/17/into-the-syrian-quagmire/ http://likethedew.com/2013/06/17/into-the-syrian-quagmire/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 17:38:51 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=51852 Last Friday, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes had the job of announcing that the Obama administration had decided to officially begin arming the Sunni Islamist insurgents attempting to overthrow the Syrian government. All that lobbying by the war party in Washington and its ‘friends in the Gulf’ is finally paying off. You would think that the problem was explaining why to a skeptical news media. Not so.

The post Into the Syrian Quagmire appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

QuagmireLast Friday, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes had the job of announcing that the Obama administration had decided to officially begin arming the Sunni Islamist insurgents attempting to overthrow the Syrian government. All that lobbying by the war party in Washington and its ‘friends in the Gulf’ is finally paying off. You would think that the problem was explaining why to a skeptical news media. Not so.

Rhodes began the press conference by offering an intelligence estimate that the Syrian military had used Sarin nerve gas on a small scale to kill 100 to 150 people, thereby crossing a ‘red line.’ “Our intelligence community has high confidence given the multiple independent streams of information associated with their reporting,” he added. Reporters at the press briefing might have challenged that substitute for fact with the obvious. Just how much faith should be placed in multiple accounts generated by the foreign correspondents determined to further their careers by reporting yet another big war in the Middle East, the activist/bloggers who serve as the propaganda machine for a Sunni Islamist insurgency, and intelligence agents working for the British and French governments that want U.S. military intervention in Syria?

Rather than asking the obvious, however, the reporters focused their questions on the execution of the new policy. Unmistakably impatient with the scope and pace of the U.S. intervention, they wanted more detail about the kinds of assistance and whether it would be delivered with sufficient urgency. Was this new assistance or was it already in the pipeline? How could the effectiveness of the insurgents be enhanced?

As if obeying a script, the reporters consistently described the insurgency as ‘the opposition’ and the insurgents as ‘the rebels.’ Anywhere else on the planet and Sunni Islamists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, and financed by reactionary Persian Gulf monarchies would be described as insurgents or terrorists. That includes neighboring Iraq. When they cross the border into Syria it seems they undergo a mysterious rechristening.

The reporters also consistently referred to the government of Syria as the ‘regime.’ That word properly describes any set of political institutions, but American journalists now use it in the Syria news story, and only the Syria news story, in the retro Cold War sense of “dictatorship the audience should think is illegitimate.” They would not have dared to refer to the authoritarian Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf like Saudi Arabia or Bahrain as regimes.

One of the absurd consequences of that naming convention is that Rhodes met with no objection when he talked about “the end of Bashar al Assad’s reign” and a few moments later talked about “working with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar.” Only monarchs may be said to ‘reign’ and the only leaders in the Middle East who actually reign are U.S. clients.

Mind you, Bashar al-Assad did inherit his position as president from his father, Hafez al-Assad, but as part of an informal political dynasty in a republic. That phenomenon occurs around the world and without much complaint from the U.S. government. No one in official Washington is denouncing the kleptocratic police states operated by the Nguema-Obiang family in oil rich Equatorial Guinea, the dos Santos family in oil rich Angola, and the Bongo family in oil rich Gabon, to name but a few of the many.

Beyond the obviously Orwellian language, the reporters avoided asking questions about the wisdom of a yet another U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. There was no mention of the disastrous consequences of our military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. Of what use to the rest of us is a Washington press corps that acts like it suffers from historical amnesia?

The post Into the Syrian Quagmire appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2013/06/17/into-the-syrian-quagmire/feed/ 2
Why a Surge for Guantanamo? http://likethedew.com/2013/06/11/why-a-surge-for-guantanamo/ http://likethedew.com/2013/06/11/why-a-surge-for-guantanamo/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 20:06:00 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=51720 Could there be a more appropriate monument to the War in Terror than the wasteful and counterproductive prison camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base? At a cost of $4,360.00 a day per prisoner, it is among the most expensive lock-ups on the planet and surely the most expensive for inmates who are neither deposed heads of state nor leaders of defeated rebellions. (For that amount you could book a Premier Suite at the Ritz Carleton Central Park and still have a thousand dollars left over to pay for dinner!)

The post Why a Surge for Guantanamo? appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

100616-N-7456N-091Could there be a more appropriate monument to the War in Terror than the wasteful and counterproductive prison camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base? At a cost of $4,360.00 a day per prisoner, it is among the most expensive lock-ups on the planet and surely the most expensive for inmates who are neither deposed heads of state nor leaders of defeated rebellions. (For that amount you could book a Premier Suite at the Ritz Carleton Central Park and still have a thousand dollars left over to pay for dinner!)

The cost in international reputation cannot be calculated in dollars but there is no doubt that Guantanamo has become the favorite symbol of Washington’s hypocrisy about human rights and the rule of law. Lectures about unfair courts and horrible conditions in the prisons of other countries ring hollow when they come from a government that has held people indefinitely and without trial for more than a decade in a ‘war’ with no definable end.

Absurd expenditure and international embarrassment notwithstanding, Republicans politicians insist on operating Guantanamo as the location to conduct an unending spectacle of punishment. Their problem is that 103 of the 166 prisoners are now weeks into a hunger strike to demand release and President Obama renewed his now five year old campaign promise to shut down the prison camp.

The response of Congressional Republicans and most but not all of their Democratic colleagues on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee was to vote a measure that would block closing the prison camp, prohibit transfer of any of its prisoners either to the U.S. or other countries, and to fund another $247 million in construction. For its part, the Pentagon Brass ordered another company of MPs to assist in the medicalized torture of force feeding the hunger strikers.

No one in government has labeled it a SURGE but that’s what it is. Now if the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us anything, it is that the success of any surge is temporary. The reason is that doing more of the same thing more intensely – which is the basic idea in a surge – is that it treats the symptoms but not the underlying malady.

Beyond the obvious, there is one very big difference between the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan and what Congressional Republicans and the Pentagon are doing at Guantanamo. The surges in Iraq and Afghanistan were undertaken to extract the United States military from disasters created by the Bush administration; the surge in Guantanamo is intended to make a misguided policy begun by the Bush administration permanent.

091007-A-5584W-025It is tempting to attribute what appears to be a deeply irrational policy preference to geography. Cuba has been the focus of the political fantasies of American conservatives for over 150 years. Consider the conspiracy to add the island to the Union as a slave state prior to the Civil War; wildly sensationalistic news coverage of Spanish rule on the island in the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers before the Spanish-American War; the Bay of Pigs invasion; the CIA’s comic opera assassination schemes targeting Fidel Castro; trade sanctions to ruin the island’s economy; and continuing to list the Cuba government as a state sponsor of terror. Maintaining a prison camp for “the worst of the worst” bogeymen on the island could be understood as yet another episode in a history of unhealthy obsession.

Then there is the opportunity to thwart President Obama and to urge to defend the legacy of the most recent former President Bush. Guantanamo is another example of the sort of zero sum partisanship that now poisons American political life.

Most importantly however, Congressional Republicans know that many Americans still believe the original justification for the Guantanamo decision. They still credit the assertions that the prisoners are terrorist supermen and that the naval base holds some special magic as a place for interrogation and trials. Given the failure of Congressional Democrats to challenge the nonsense it is unsurprising that their rivals keep repeating the same appeals to fear. What neither has figured out is what to do when most Americans finally recognize how badly we were deceived.

###

Selling Guantanamo by John Hickman

John would like you to buy his new book, Selling Guantanamo, so click here.

The post Why a Surge for Guantanamo? appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2013/06/11/why-a-surge-for-guantanamo/feed/ 3
Associate Justice Alito Changes His Mind About Giving the Targets of Secret Surveillance a Day in Court http://likethedew.com/2013/03/05/associate-justice-alito-changes-his-mind-giving-the-targets-of-secret-surveillance-a-day-in-court/ http://likethedew.com/2013/03/05/associate-justice-alito-changes-his-mind-giving-the-targets-of-secret-surveillance-a-day-in-court/#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 18:52:14 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=49745 Surveillance was victorious over Liberty once again in the U.S. Supreme Court on February 26th. In a 5 to 4 vote in Clapper v. Amnesty International,the court overturned a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that U.S. citizen attorneys, activists and journalists working on human rights issues have standing to seek a permanent injunction against the monitoring of their electronic communications with foreigners outside the country by U.S. intelligence agencies. The important work they perform requires privacy of communication so that their sources will give them information

The post Associate Justice Alito Changes His Mind About Giving the Targets of Secret Surveillance a Day in Court appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

catch22Surveillance was victorious over Liberty once again in the U.S. Supreme Court on February 26th. In a 5 to 4 vote in Clapper v. Amnesty International, the court overturned a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that U.S. citizen attorneys, activists and journalists working on human rights issues have standing to seek a permanent injunction against the monitoring of their electronic communications with foreigners outside the country by U.S. intelligence agencies. The important work they perform requires privacy of communication so that their sources will give them information. Standing is the requirement parties must have a substantive dispute meriting a judicial decision.

The practical effect of the Supreme Court’s reversal of the Second Circuit is that secret policemen may read the e-mail messages exchanged between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals if they can persuade the U.S. Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence to request a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). How difficult is that? Given that the FISC conducts its business in secret, we don’t know much about its decision-making. However, we do know that in 2011 it granted 1,674 of the 1,676 requests for authority to conduct secret electronic surveillance. The other two requests were withdrawn rather than denied. In effect, all that protects U.S. citizens from having intelligence agents read any e-mails they might exchange with foreigners is a court that holds its proceedings in secret and never says ‘no.’

That a court dominated by conservatives would sacrifice freedom to security is unsurprising, but who wrote the majority decision in Clapper and how he delivered the bad news merits scrutiny. The author is one of former President George W. Bush’s appointees: Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. Here is what Alito said during his January 10, 2006 U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Confirmation Hearing when asked whether the victims of government spying should have their day in court:

“Certainly. If someone has been the subject of illegal law enforcement activities, they should have a day in court. And that’s what the courts are for, to protect the rights of individuals against the government or anyone else who violates their rights. And they have to be absolutely independent and treat everybody equally.”

Yet a day in court is exactly what Alito is denying with the Clapper decision. Without standing, bringing an action for a permanent injunction against being spied upon is blocked.

What is Alito’s reasoning? Because U.S. citizens who believe their electronic communications are being monitored have no knowledge of the Government’s targeting practices, what they fear is “necessarily conjectural.” That is not enough to give them standing in court. In footnote 4 he instructs that it is, “not the Government’s burden to disprove standing by revealing details of its surveillance priorities,” and then follows with a bit of terrorist baiting:

“Moreover, this type of hypothetical disclosure proceeding would allow a terrorist (or his attorney) to determine whether he is currently under U.S. surveillance simply by filing a lawsuit challenging the Government’s surveillance program.”

Not only does Alito tell the subjects of secret government surveillance that they cannot have their day in court because the surveillance they complain about is being conducted secretly – that the burden is on them to produce evidence that is in the possession of the secret police – but then tags them as possible terrorists.

To identify other examples of absurdity as nauseating one has to turn to fiction: the exchange between Captain Yossarian and Doc Daneeka about the rule that is also the title of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch 22. Under that regulation, U.S. Army Air Corps bomber crewmen exposed to escalating risks of death because of the professional rivalries among their senior officers could not be medically grounded for insanity unless they so requested. However, all such requests would be automatically denied because they constituted evidence of sanity.

Under the Clapper decision, targets of secret surveillance are denied legal standing to challenge their secret surveillance because they cannot show that they are being surveilled. They cannot show that because their surveillance is being conducted secretly. That is absurdity so patent, so obvious, that the failure to recognize it could be taken as evidence of insanity.

The post Associate Justice Alito Changes His Mind About Giving the Targets of Secret Surveillance a Day in Court appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2013/03/05/associate-justice-alito-changes-his-mind-giving-the-targets-of-secret-surveillance-a-day-in-court/feed/ 2
John Kerry on Global Warming Climate Change ‘Climate Concerns’ http://likethedew.com/2013/02/23/john-kerry-on-global-warming-climate-change-climate-concerns/ http://likethedew.com/2013/02/23/john-kerry-on-global-warming-climate-change-climate-concerns/#comments Sat, 23 Feb 2013 20:28:02 +0000 http://likethedew.com/?p=49582 We learned a lot about the issue agenda of John Kerry from his first major foreign policy speech as Secretary of State.  Although cast as the strong advocate for action on global warming in the Obama administration second term, he barely mentioned the single most daunting problem that confronts our species.  Instead his theme was that the U.S. State Department existed to tell the rest of the world that America was open for business.  Oh yeah, and the department can’t do its work without its meager share of the Federal budget.

The post John Kerry on Global Warming Climate Change ‘Climate Concerns’ appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>

john-kerryWe learned a lot about the issue agenda of John Kerry from his first major foreign policy speech as Secretary of State. Although cast as the strong advocate for action on global warming in the Obama administration second term, he barely mentioned the single most daunting problem that confronts our species. Instead his theme was that the U.S. State Department existed to tell the rest of the world that America was open for business. Oh yeah, and the department can’t do its work without its meager share of the Federal budget.

In a 6800 word speech delivered at the University of Virginia on February 20th, Kerry devoted all of 316 words to global warming in a brief tangent from the main themes of promoting trade and the State Department budget. Just as in President Obama’s latest Inaugural Address and State of the Union Address, the phrase ‘global warming’ was missing altogether. The word ‘climate’ was used only twice, and in neither instance as part of the phrase ‘climate change.’ In clear contrast, Kerry used the word ‘investment’ 16 times, the word ‘job’ 14 times, the word ‘budget’ 13 times, the words ‘market’ and ‘trade’ 8 times each.

It gets worse. In the two paragraphs ostensibly about global warming, the issue was addressed in terms of opportunities for American businesses rather than as an unfolding crisis necessitating international cooperation to limit carbon emissions. He’s a sample: “When we work with others, large and small, to develop and deploy the clean technologies that will power a new world – and they’re there waiting for us, $6 trillion market, huge amount of jobs – when we do that, we know we’re helping to create the new markets and new opportunities for America’s second-to-none innovators and entrepreneurs so that we can succeed in the next great revolution in the marketplace.” While there is nothing wrong with making a reasonable profit by providing something that people need, Kerry’s speech seems to suggest that the U.S. State Department is uninterested in global warming unless it turns a fast buck.

For a strikingly different take on the nature of this public policy problem one need only the August 31, 2009 op-ed column by a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts named John Kerry. There is the focus is national security: “Climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale.” After noting the then upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen, he concluded with a strong warning: “This time we have to connect the dots before we face catastrophe.” Note the irony. As U.S. Senator, John Kerry looked to international diplomacy to prevent further harm. As the Secretary of State, John Kerry looks to international commerce to benefit from the harm.

That global warming is no more a priority in the second term than it was in the first was made abundantly clear when Obama snubbed 40,000 environmental activists who rallied at the National Mall on the 17th and 18th to fly down to Florida to play golf with lobbyists from Big Oil. Rather than effective action on the difficult public policy of our time, we can only expect ever weaker and more evasive language.

The post John Kerry on Global Warming Climate Change ‘Climate Concerns’ appeared first on LikeTheDew.com.

]]>
http://likethedew.com/2013/02/23/john-kerry-on-global-warming-climate-change-climate-concerns/feed/ 3