Archive for April 25th, 2014

by lizard

A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists declared 2013 to be the second worst year for journalists getting jailed. At the top of the list for the second consecutive year is America’s pal, Turkey. Iran and China round out the top 3. Nothing surprising about any of that.

In Ukraine, the brief detention of Simon Ostrovsky nearly set things off in a bad way. Yesterday he was released, seemingly unharmed. From the link:

Pro-Russian armed gunmen in Ukraine have released an American journalist held hostage since Tuesday, his news organisation has confirmed.

Simon Ostrovsky, a correspondent for Vice News, had been covering the region’s unfolding crisis for several weeks and had recently followed the activities of masked gunmen as they seized government buildings in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine said Ostrovsky had been held on suspicion of spying for Right Sector, a far-right Ukrainian nationalist party, or for other possible “enemy groups”.

While going after journalists is indefensible, it’s clear there is an incredibly complex information war being waged across the globe. Even the words we use (or don’t use) are a part of it.

I wrote earlier this month about the attempt to define “covered journalists” with the Free Flow of Information Act. How this term is defined could impact who, for example, spends time in jail for reporting on acts of whistle-blowing. If some blogger is doing the reporting, good luck blogger.

The information war is nasty. For reporting on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye was sentenced to 5 years in jail.  Why?  Because President Saleh, a loyal lapdog of the US, knows how to please his master.

When Saleh was about to pardon this journalist, Obama called to express his “concern”.  What was Obama concerned about?  The truth of who was doing the killing in Yemen.

This excerpt is from an article Jeremy Scahill wrote for The Nation, titled Why is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?

While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”

21 children killed.  That’s one more kid than was killed at Sandy Hook.

The information war is being waged on another front, net neutrality. Once upon a time candidate Obama was for net neutrality. But President Obama’s FCC appointment is of course going to try and do the exact opposite, as reported by The New Yorker:

In 2007, at a public forum at Coe College, in Iowa, Presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked about net neutrality. Specifically, “Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land? And would you pledge to only appoint F.C.C. commissioners that support open Internet principles like net neutrality?”

“The answer is yes,” Obama replied. “I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.” Explaining, he said, “What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites…. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

If reports in the Wall Street Journal are correct, Obama’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, has proposed a new rule that is an explicit and blatant violation of this promise. In fact, it permits and encourages exactly what Obama warned against: broadband carriers acting as gatekeepers and charging Web sites a payola payment to reach customers through a “fast lane.”

Speaking of virtual lanes, the road to the Moon of Alabama was recently closed due to a DDoS attack disrupting typepad service. Thankfully service has been restored, so go and read this post about how John Kerry is spreading lies first trumpeted by the NYT, and only later, feebly retracted.

This is how the American public was prepped for the war on Iraq.

Don’t worry, just in time for the midterms MSNBC has a new initiative called Growing Hope, and by initiative I mean marketing campaign. Watch the ad here, if you dare. For the empty words, there’s this:

As hope grows, so does the power of people. Growing Hope is a new initiative that invites Americans to share their hopes around issues that matter to them. We want you to share your hopes, contribute to the conversation, and find a way – large or small – to make a difference in your community. Explore, join in, and speak out about issues that matter to you.

Thanks MSNBC! That’s a great idea.

Oh, and poets, sharpen your pencils. It might not be a bad idea to keep multiple hard copies of your work.

by lizard

Judge William B. Jones and Judge Edward A. Tamm were influential enough to have had a lecture series named after them, and this is what the lectures series is allegedly all about:

The Judge William B. Jones and Judge Edward A. Tamm Lecture Series honors the memory of two distinguished jurists who had strong Montana ties. They left their mark, a very positive mark, on the federal judiciary. Both of them established themselves as judges who were deeply committed to improving the administration of our judicial system and preserving and enhancing the rule of law in our society. In view of their exemplary commitment to the administration of justice, their deep interest in lawyers and in particular, law students and members of the bar, this lecture series was founded.

This year Leon Panetta was the guest of honor.

It’s so nice to have the UM School of Law and the Missoulian enable a professional liar to spread dangerous bullshit like torture helped find Osama Bin Laden. Just read this excerpt from the Missoulian article:

The CIA is a “very self-contained operation,” Panetta said, with people who run missions, build technology and command the support of the regular military for actions in addition to analyzing intelligence.

“I don’t have a large bureaucracy to deal with,” Panetta said. “The president tells me what to do and I can get it done.”

Bennett inquired about the CIA’s use of torture in some of those activities.

“Do you believe enhanced interrogation techniques are consistent with American values?” Bennett asked. “Do they work?”

Panetta said some enhanced interrogation techniques “come very close to the line of what’s torture and what’s not torture.” But he added President Barack Obama told the CIA “we’re not going to use those methods anymore,” and he oversaw the closure of some facilities where they were used.

“Intelligence was gathered by those methods that helped piece together the identities of couriers that led to bin Laden,” Panetta said. “I don’t know if that could have been reached by other methods.”

Compare Panetta’s statements with this Guardian article:

A hotly disputed US Senate torture report concludes that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with the investigation.

The CIA still disputes that conclusion.

From the moment of bin Laden’s death almost three years ago in what was America’s biggest counterterrorism success, former Bush administration and some senior CIA officials have cited the evidence trail leading to the al-Qaida mastermind’s compound in Pakistan as vindicating the “enhanced interrogation techniques” they authorized after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

But Democratic and some Republican senators have disputed that account. They described simulated drownings, sleep deprivation and other such practices as cruel and ineffective. With the release edging closer for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on interrogations, renditions and detentions, they hope to make a persuasive case.

The real gem is Panetta’s lamenting that America’s greatest threat is our “inability to deal with the budget”. Here is his comment:

“Our most dangerous national security issue is our inability to deal with the budget,” said the man who’s also directed the Central Intelligence Agency and Office of Management and Budget, and chaired the U.S. House Budget Committee. “We need tax reform and a budget deal that tells us where the U.S. is going. If we cannot fix this, we will not be a strong nation in the future. We will be a nation in decline.”

We are already a nation in decline and that is in large part because of our “defense” spending and the fact we waged wars on the national credit card. Tax reform isn’t going to save us, though. We need a total reevaluation of our nation’s priorities.

And if we ever try to shift our national priorities, I hope going after the financial terrorists on Wall Street is near the top of the list.

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