Friday, August 30, 2013

Syria vs. Iraq: truth vs. lies and the news media cover up.

Whether or not to launch a retaliatory attack on Assad for his use of chemical weapons and the killing of more than 1300 civilians with those weapons is a very simple and easy proposition. Do we punish him for doing it or not?

Yet to watch the debates on some of the cable news shows or read opinion pieces in newspapers, the complicating of a simple issue, the distortions, the inability or refusal to see a forest for a forest and a tree for a tree has turned a simple proposition into a debate where a debate doesn't even need to take place.

The biggest argument both chicken little type journalists like Wolf Blitzer and the other usual suspects who appear on these game shows passing for journalism, is supposedly the lessons learned from Iraq. But the more these journalists and politicians talk the more its clear they learned no lessons from Iraq because they still do not want to admit the truth about Iraq.

The Iraq argument is that the U.S. was wrong about Saddam having WMD and that the war based on that rationale was wrong. The argument goes that, supposedly the intelligence community got it wrong, the U.S. and its allies like the UK got bogged down in  a war they never should have gotten involved with in the first place for all the wrong reasons and no one wants to see that happen again in Syria.

But what the media and the politicians now discussing Syria and making comparisons to Iraq refuse to admit is that none of that is true. What IS true is that Bush, Cheney and Condoleeza Rice  outright lied the country into war with sheer fabrications because they had wanted an excuse to invade Iraq and topple Sadaam and 911 gave them that excuse. And the same collection of journalistic sycophants debating Syria now,  went along with the fabrications without questioning the validity of the claims or asking for proof of what the Bush administration was claiming.

In fact the likes of Wolf Blitzer, the New York Times and others were actually afraid to question it, afraid they'd be attacked by lock step Republicans who would accuse them of being unpatriotic.

Democrats who voted for the resolution to attack Iraq might also be put in that category and deserve to be, with a few exceptions like Democratic senator Bill Nelson who publicly, after the fact, pointed out, upon learning the truth,  that he was brazenly lied to by an Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, who told him that Sadaam had drones that had the capability of launching a chemical attack on the east coast of the United States. They kept hidden a US Air Force intelligence report on Saddam's drones that said the drones were made of wood, had a maximum range of 250 miles and couldn't deliver a serious munitions attack of any kind. Nelson was furious when he found out, and called a press conference to expose it, something barely covered by the sycophantic news media who never made it an issue.

That the Bush administration lied the country into war in Iraq and like trained seals, the biggest names in mainstream media, led by bogus news stories on the front page of the NY Times fed to them by Dick Cheney, supported these lies, is something the news media even today refuses to admit. So we get comparisons between the disaster that was Iraq and possible intervention in Syria as if there was some equivalency.

Weapons inspectors inside Iraq stated repeatedly they did not believe Sadaam had WMD. Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector made the statement repeatedly and was repeatedly mocked by Republicans without protest by the news media.  Joe Wilson exposed Bush's claim about Sadaam trying to buy yellow cake in Niger as a lie. The presentation made by Colin Powell to the U.N. laying out the case for attacking Sadaam, was in Powell's words, the lowest day of his life now knowing that all the information he was given on which he based his presentation were 100% fabrications, known to be fabrications by Bush and Cheney, but kept from Powell.

And the news media, the Wolf Blitzer's of the world, those like Jill Abramson who was Judith Millers NY Times  Washington  bureau chief who approved stories of the certainty of Sadaam having WMD without demanding a single shred of proof or corroboration, and then rubber stamped by then New York Times editor Bill Keller, all went along with the lies and the charade and afterwards never held anyone accountable. Because to do so would be to hold themselves accountable for their  flagrant journalistic negligence, cowardice and incompetence in their reporting. And the dire consequences and massive loss of life and resources that resulted.

In a recent New York Times editorial questioning whether or not Assad actually used chemical weapons and making it clear it did not  now support a missile strike, an editorial that in and of itself is a parody of a NY Times editorial, the editors state, "Given America's gross failure in Iraq when the Bush Administration went to war over non-existent nuclear weapons, the standard of proof is now unquestionably higher". Nowhere do they mention that they, the New York Times and it's editors were the primary news organization that did not require any standard of proof before publishing their Dick Cheney fed stories on their front pages which the Bush Administration used to further make their case for war.

And so today, the debate over whether to launch a strike against Syria for the mass killing of civilians with chemical weapons is, by those who oppose it or want to tread lightly,  compared to Iraq and it's   failures, which in fact were not the result of a failure of intelligence by intelligence agencies  that got it wrong,  but a failure of  intelligence, honesty and integrity by the Bush administration and their sycophants in the news media who went happily  along.




Thursday, August 22, 2013

Has Obama's red line on Syria's use of chemical weapons gone from pink to yellow?

It wasn't that long ago when Obama made the statement in response to why he wasn't doing more to help the Syrian rebels against Assad, that if Assad ever used chemical weapons against the rebels, it would be crossing a red line. And that crossing of the red line would be a game changer.

At the time Obama made the statement he was confident he would never have to back it up because he was certain that Syria wouldn't use chemical weapons. They did.

Obama's response  to Assad's use of chemical weapons the first time, which he waited days to acknowledge when the rest of the world had confirmed it days earlier, was the same response he always gives. The same response he gave to his promise of  a public healthcare option. The same response he gave to his promise of real financial reform and holding banks who were responsible for the financial crisis accountable.  The same response he has given to his promise to close Gitmo.  The same response he gives to everything.  The response was nothing. A  grudging shipment of small arms to the Syrian rebels that was the equivalent of  giving the rebels the capacity to throw spitballs at a battleship.

Now there is evidence that, not concerned about any kind of intervention from the United States, Assad  launched a  second chemical attack, this one massive and against Syrian civilians -- non combatants including children, women and the elderly that by some estimates killed more than 1,300. They symptoms described by doctors make it a near certainty that Sarin gas was used.

It had to make an impression on Assad that the first time he used chemical weapons, Obama's red line turned pink. And so unconcerned about a response from Obama, Assad used them again, with even deadlier consequences. John McCain who has long advocated more intervention by the United States has said the same thing even suggesting it was Obama's lack of response the first time chemical weapons were used, that emboldened Assad to use them again without fear of consequences.

Obama again isnt do much beyond paying lip service to the most recent chemical attack.. His response during an interview on CNN was that the use of chemical weapons " starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has". Haven't we heard that before? A State Department spokesperson said:  "If these reports are true it would be an outrageous and flagrant use of chemical weapons by the regime". Thanks for letting us know that. Because without that Obama approved statement we'd all be befuddled as to what the use of chemical weapons might mean.  Now we know that if chemical weapons were used, it would mean chemical weapons were used. And it would be outrageous and flagrant. As opposed to what? A reasonable and discreet use of chemical weapons? This is Obama at his best. Saying nothing but trying to make it sound like somethng. It's his administration's idea of fighting back with their own chemical weapon: hot air.

The spokesperson also added: "the president  of course has a range of options that we've talked about before." And talked about before and talked about before and talked about before.

Back in April after Obama's first red line was crossed,  his somewhat diluted response to his red line being crossed, his game changer, was promising to send small arms to the Syrian rebels which of itself was a completely empty gesture in that it wouldnt make a dent in the rebels ability to stop Assad's forces. But no one knew exactly how empty a gesture it was until now when rebel forces have complained that to date, those small arms which Obama promised,  as insignificant as they were, was never sent to the Syrian rebels.Obama promised them back in April. Four months later he still hasnt sent them. Adding this to the healthcare public option, holding banks accountable for the financial crisis, closing Gitmo and a truck load of other Obama promises that ended up as landfill.

If Obama still takes no decisive action in the wake of the 1300-1500 civilians killed by these chemical weapons,  it will prove that Obama's red line, which he already had turned pink, was really yellow all along. And a  yellow line  that Obama will not cross.




Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rolling Stone cover gathers no remorse.

The Rolling Stone issue featuring  Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover, a cover which was attacked by some narrow minded conclusion jumping self appointed censors, and which both CVS and Walgreens decided to ban from their magazine displays, became, ironically, one of the biggest selling single issues in Rolling Stone's history.

The criticism by those who were "outraged" by the cover  made one thing abundantly clear : none of them had ever read a single issue of Rolling Stone in their lives and none of them bothered to read the article.
The major complaint about the cover was that Tsarnaev was being given the "rock star treatment" .
The cover photo, which had been circulated and seen before in other contexts, showed Tsarnaev as an innocent, almost angelic,  tousle haired college age kid who a lot of people would have found attractive. Calling this "giving Tsarnaev the rock star treatment" as the Mayor of Boston called it, and as some others who took exception to the cover,  is a pretty good indication that neither he nor any of those doing the criticizing thought there was a difference between Rolling Stone and  Fab Teen Beat.

Never mind that the cover blurb with the photo, to paraphrase it said,  " How a popular promising student fell into radical Islam and became a monster".

That was the point: that evil can look like this. Benign. Non- threatening. Innocent. A point that went well over the heads of those criticizing the cover who saw it on their own superficial terms, both misunderstanding it and making grossly wrong headed assumptions about where it appeared and like censors everywhere, thought that their sensibilities and judgement were superior and the ones that mattered and so wanted to supress it.

Had the same image with the same cover blurb appeared on the cover of Time, or National Review, or Esquire or the New York Times magazine no one would have said a word. No one would have called it giving the bomber "the rock star treatment". Only because it was Rolling Stone,  a handful of narrow minded conclusion jumping critics  attacked the cover and Rolling Stone  for running it preposterously believing that Rolling Stone was glamourizing Tsarnaev  instead of what the picture was really conveying -- the truth.  The critics also seemed oblivious to the fact that Rolling Stone has been reporting on more than the  music scene for decades, and cover politics, foreign and domestic policy and current events.

If there is any reak criticism to be made of Rolling Stone, its that they didn't defend the cover more vigorously.

The cover was both a function of art direction ( something I know about having  won awards for art direction in the advertising business at the beginning of my professional life) and editorial comment. Both the editorial comment and the image that re-enforced it had impact because it made the point and showed that evil can look like this: innocent, unsuspecting, casual, friendly. Which was the whole point. A point that a group of politicians and corporate executives missed  because they were too busy getting "outraged"   and narrow minded instead of being informed.

CVS's decision, out of either  a moment of PR grandstanding or a misplaced fear of public condemnation, banned the issue from being sold in their stores. So did Walgreens.

That CVS took issue with the cover photo and thus the art direction and design and the concept behind what the cover was conveying and substituted  their own taste and judgement over the belief that the cover would offend their customers sensibilites and sense of aesthetics is especially amusing considering that anyone who has ever been inside a CVS store  knows the place looks like it was designed by committee of retired teachers aides.

 The cover and the reactions by those who completely misunderstood it but who thought they knew best and decided their taste and judgement was the right one makes the case again that censorship of any kind has no place in a free society. Those who want to be the deciders of what other people should see, read and hear,  have proved again, as they have throughout history, that those who create what the censors want to stop make a greater contribution to society than those who want to stop it. And they always will.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Obama NSA meetings, press conference and dirty dishes all but exonerates Edward Snowden.

On Thursday the White House announced that Obama had met with the CEO's of Apple, Google, ATT&T and other companies and groups  forced to comply with the surveillence programs exposed by Snowden and who had concerns about their forced compliance.  The White House statement on the meeting was:

"The meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue the president has called for on how to respect privacy while protecting national security".

Actually it was Snowden who called for that dialogue, forced it really,  since prior to exposing the government program, Obama never did a thing to consider ways to respect the privacy of Americans while protecting national security ( remember, the ACLU has called Obama's record on civil liberties "disgusting"). Snowden forced his hand. And yet the person actually responsible for this dialogue, Ed Snowden, is a fugitive and wanted man, wanted by the man standing at the podium at the press conference who has claimed credit for the dialogue.

Obama's meeting with CEO's over the NSA surveillence program, along with the White House statement on the meeting, is, whether he likes it or not, an Obama acknowledgement of the justification and value of Snowden's having acted on conscience by revealing the existence of these programs, even while Obama trashes Snowden while at the same time trying to take credit for the benefit of Snowden's disclosures. This is Obama's idea of a balancing act.

But Obama went a step further during his press conference when he said:

"Given the history of abuse by governments its right to ask questions about surveillence particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives".

But the only one who asked the question was Edward Snowden. And his answer came when James Clapper, Director of National Intelligecne committed perjury in front of a senate committe when he was asked about domestic intelligence surveillence and denied the very existence of the program Snowden eventually revealed.

The leaking by Snowden of these programs continues to reverberate. In his press conference Obama outlined actions he says he wants to take (keeping in mind that Obama saying he wants to do something and then actually doing it are always two different things) which include:

A) Having a civil liberties advocate present at  FISA court presentations to offer judges an opposing point of view to requests made by the government to the FISA court.

B) Appointing some kind of expert review board to review the current system and suggest changes.

C) And "greater oversight, greater constraints  and greater transparancy"  of the process, but never said specifically what those things would be and how they would be implemented. Probably because he doesnt really know,  and if history is an indication ("Assad using chemical weapons would be crossing a red line") he has no intention of following through anyway.

The New York Times called his remarks "weak" and even "bizarre" especially with Obama's analogy of " showing his wife he did the dishes" as a comparison to being more transparent and showing the American people that there is nothing for them to be concerned about. In his words," it's not enough to just tell the American people the dishes are clean, I have to show them".  The Times called comparing the NSA mass data collection on innocent American citizens and offering more transparancy of the process to washing dirty dishes "bizarre". Calling it "bizarre" is being kind.

But what Obama's meeting with the CEO's of companies whose records had to be turned over to the governement shows, and what his words, as bizarre as they might be, confirms, is that Edward Snowden was entirely justified in his feeling that these programs of which he was a part, were questionable at best and a violation of  the rights of American citizens. We've also learned they have had little or no value in preventing terrorist attacks,  did not have proper oversight or controls and needed to be exposed and either eliminated or reined in,  justifying Snowden's leaking of these programs to the Guardian.

With Obama promising to fix all the things that Snowden found objectionable which he revealed as a matter of conscience, and with the House narrowly failing by only 7 votes to eliminate the program entirely, an effort that failed largely because of Nancy Pelosi's duplicitous political sycophancy towards Obama ( after lobbying Democrats to vote against getting rid of the program she had the gall to send a letter to Obama saying that  the program was troubling and that changes had to be made), Snowden is morally if not legally, exonerated in exposing a program that Obama now acknowledges needs to be changed and constrained.  And that 205 members of the House voted to eliminate.All because of Snowden's revelations.

That, Senators Feinstein, Graham and Schumer and Representatives Peter King,and Mike Rogers, and CNN analyst Jeff Toobin,  is the definition of a whistle blower, not a traitor.

And yet, even with all this and brandishing all his double talking skills, Obama said in the end,  " I dont think Edward Snowden is a patriot". He went on to say, "My preference, and I think the American peoples preference would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws, a thoughtful fact based debate that would then lead us to a better place".

Maybe that might have happened if Obama's Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper didnt brazenly and willfully, and with Obama's tacit approval,  lie and commit perjury in front of a senate subcomittee asking about the very NSA spy program Snowden revealed and that Clapper, in his perjury, denied even existed. Not exactly a lawful, fact based answer. Showing again that Obama's statements are basically self serving, designed to cover up that he is saying absolutely nothing of real value and  devoid of anything approximating reality.

 Clearly Clapper's televised perjury denying the existence of the NSA program Snowden had misgivings about  had everything to do with Snowden deciding to go to the Guardian and not through official channels. And keep in mind that while certain members of congress mindlessly attacked Snowden for going to the Guardian and not going through channels, Clapper had other channels besides committing perjury. He could have asked to be questioned in executive session and told the truth. Instead his choice was perjury and to keep the existence of the program secret from the members of the U.S. congress, the people's representatives, who had legal oversight over all of  his and his agency's activities. That Clapper had other options besides committing felony perjury is something Senators Feinstein, Graham, Schumer and Rep .King and Rogers as well as others think it's best to ignore. And these are the people who say "trust us"? With what?

It was Obama and Clapper that prevented " a thoughtful fact based lawful orderly examination" not Snowden.And for forcing Obama's hand to have that " thoughtful fact based lawful orderly examination", he now claims to want,  Snowden is a hunted and wanted man.

Obama would do better to stop comparing instituting changes to the NSA domestic spy programs that have been overstepping American's 4th amendment privacy rights to his washing dirty dishes and instead start washing his and the NSA's dirty laundry.

And maybe start calling Snowden something else. Like dishwasher.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Chuck Schumer's attacks on Snowden and Putin: an errand boy on a fools errand.

Watching New York Democratic senator Charles Schumer descend to the level of  Obama errand boy attacking Edward Snowden and then Russian president Vladmir Putin with infantile name calling that falls somewhere between mindless and idiotic has been an embarrassment both to Schumer,  the U.S, government and the Democratic party

Schumer's childish,even  embarrassing attacks on Russian president Vladmir Putin, first making silly threats to Putin for not agreeing to U.S. demands to turn over Snowden which Putin ignored, and  then even more  childish, descending to name calling after Russia granted Snowden asylum, has made Schumer an embarrassment for doing Obama's dirty work and for how he's done it.

Instead of sounding tough, Schumer, with every word approved by Obama, has made the United States not just look weak and foolish but look and sound like the old Soviet Union while making Russia look and sound like the United States. It is Putin who has come out of this episode looking noble and Obama, Schumer, Lindsay Graham and a host of others who come out looking like the bullies Schumer tried to ascribe to Putin.

The role reversals are something to behold. Someone inside government exposes massive and secret government spying on their own citizens and allies then  has to flee to another country to escape prosecution and is granted political asylum by another country while his home country makes loud threats against any country that would give him asylum, tries to use bully tactics to prevent it,  and pounds its fists publicly demanding "the traitor's" return to face prosecution. Only the country spying on its own citizens and allies  and demanding the return of the whistle blower who exposed it is the United States and the country granting political asylum to the whistle blower is Russia. Nice.

And throughout this Obama/NSA fiasco, the main spokesperson for Obama has been NY Democratic senator Chuck Schumer who seems to care more about making his own place at Obama's table than the civil liberties of Americans ( the ACLU has publicly described Obama's record on civil liberties as "disgusting".)

Schumer was the first to make ridiculous and empty threats against Putin, issuing warnings that fell on deaf ears,  if Putin didn't turn Snowden over to United States, threats that were as silly and childish and empty as they were ineffective since Putin just ignored them.

Why Schumer ( and by extension, Obama)  thought they could publicly strong arm Putin  and threaten him and that he would somehow curl up into a fetal position overcome with fear and remorse and turn over Snowden to the U.S. even when there is no extradition treaty and the U.S. took the same position Russia is now taking in similar incidents,  shows how silly and shallow Schumer and Obama's tactics and position were, how ineffective, how much they are on the wrong side of the issue and how badly they miscalculated.

Schumer had gone on Meet the Press a week ago and sounding more like Chuckie Schumer in the 3rd grade, accused Putin of being a "school yard bully"  for refusing to  return  Snowden. Since it was Putin who refused to give in to Obama's attempts at bully tactics, Schumer calling Putin a bully becomes something psychologists call projection.

Schumer is going to have a hard time finding any other world leaders, or even many at home who are going to support the idea that Putin granting Snowden asylum is an act of a bully. And when you cant find the right words to support your side of the argument its usually because you dont have a legitimate side of the argument to make.
 It's been Schumer whose been making all kinds of idiotic,  hollow, empty and above all,  bullying threats to Russia which predictably has fallen on deaf ears. Schumer almost laughably ignores that its been  Obama who's been doing the bullying, making threats to other countries who might have the gall to offer Snowden asylum, threats which also fell on deaf ears. And  wasn't it Obama who pressured European countries to refuse permission for the president of Bolivia's jet to fly over their territory because they thought it was carrying Snowden? A lot of people would call that bullying.

As if  all that wasn't embarrassing enough to the U.S., Schumer issued another statement a few days ago after the White House announced that Obama  was going to have an official pout and cancel a scheduled summit with Putin  in September. Schumer, using the same infantile rhetoric  he used before which achieved nothing said "Putin has been behaving like a school yard bully and doesn't deserve the respect a bilateral summit would have accorded him".

Why both Schumer and Obama think infantile trash talk will make them look noble leaves a lot of people shaking their heads.  For Schumer to publicly say Putin doesn't deserve respect for not caving in to demands on Snowden when it is well known that it is  Obama who does not have the respect of foreign leaders, has never been able to get any foreign leader to agree to a single proposal he has ever made, and has little respect here at home, even among Democrats,  not only makes Schumer's statement a diplomatic embarrassment and factually dishonest,  but  makes Schumer's childish talk sound more as if it is being offered for consumption by the senate colleagues he is trying to impress and to curry favor with Obama than anything Putin will  ever care about. 

 And given that Schumer has had nothing to say about the 205 members of the House of Representatives who voted to dismantle and junk the spy program Snowden revealed,  it adds to Schumer's resume as acting more as Obama's errand boy and a bully boy in his own right in trying to bully Snowden than someone speaking out of any conviction. It might eventually lead to the conclusion that it is Schumer  and Obama who doesn't deserve respect.

Schumer, as well as others criticizing Snowden seem oblivious to the fact that 67% of Americans have a negative view of the NSA spy program, James Sensenbrenner, author of the Patriot Act voted to get rid of it and said it was something he never intended, and Obama himself, talking out of both sides of his mouth, said he is open to making changes to the program, things that never would have been discussed had Snowden not,  as a matter of conscience , revealed the program.

 So on what grounds does Schumer and Obama demand Snowden's return for prosecution? If what Snowden did in revealing the program was criminally acting against the United States why is the House of Representatives on the verge of getting rid of the program he revealed on the grounds that it is overstepping the rights of American citizens? Why is the author of the Patriot Act on record as wanting to get rid of it? Why is the president talking about changing it?

This isn't the first time Schumer  has looked foolish in trying to pander politically.  He did it a few months ago during the gun legislation debate with his remarks on the second amendment in a sorry attempt at trying to gather conservative support for stricter background checks by trying to show he is "one of them".

His statement was, " I believe in a person's right to bear arms. I don't believe in the liberal view that the second amendment is about militias."

It actually is not the liberal view that says the second amendment is only about  the right of the states to have their own armed militias its the conservative view.  Which is why many conservative judges blasted the 5-4 decision by the five conservatives on the Supreme Court over their second amendment ruling, pointing out that it completely undermines the cornerstone of conservative jurisprudence which is the concept of Original Intent. It is also why former conservative Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren Burger, appointed by Richard Nixon, wrote extensively on the fact that the second amendment has nothing at all to do with an individual right to own a gun.

Its the liberal view that says we don't have to apply the constitution based on the words the Founders actually meant at the time  but can make those words mean whatever we want them to mean today. The word "arms" didn't mean guns to the Framers. It meant everything and anything that can be used as military weapons ( as the word "arms" still means today). And the term " to bear arms" to the Framers who wrote it, didn't mean to own a gun or use one.  It meant to go to war and to wage war.  So Schumer not only showed he knows nothing about what the second amendment actually means, he showed in his effort to pander that he doesn't know conservative judicial philosophy from liberal.  Hopefully for the state of NY and for Democrats, Schumer will face a legitimate primary challenge by another Democrat, someone Democrats can be proud of as they are of Kirsten Gillebrand and  not the White House sycophant and errand boy Schumer has become.


The White House announced that Obama had met yesterday with the CEO's of Apple, Google, ATT&T and other companies and groups with concerns over the surveillence program exposed by Snowden, The White House statement on the meeting was:

"The meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue the president has called for on how to respect privacy while protecting national security".

Actually it was Snowden who called for that dialogue  since prior to exposing the government program it didnt occur to Obama to consider ways to respect the privacy of Americans while protecting national secuirty.And yet the person who forced this dialogue, Ed Snowden, is still a fugitive and wanted man.

Obama's hypocrisy ( and by extension everyone else in and out of government attacking Snowden) went one step further during Obama's press conference when Obama said:

"Given the history of abuse by governments its right to ask questions about surveillence particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives". Ed Snowden may have said it better but it seems that Snowden has made his point even while Obama, Schumer and others continue to attack him as a traitor and Putin for giving him asylum.