Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Interview of Seymour Hersh on bin Laden killing

May 14, 2015

As I think about it, I can understand why the governments of the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia preferred to permanently silence Osama bin Laden than to question him or put him on trial.  I don’t like this, but I can understand it.

The most damning thing about Seymour Hersh’s article on the killing of Osama bin Laden was how President Obama panicked when a helicopter crashed, and broke the U.S. agreement with Pakistan on the agreed-upon cover story on the bin Laden killing.

I strongly disagree with Barack Obama’s policies and priorities, which I think are very different from what his supporters think they are, but I always thought of him as exceptionally cool and self-controlled.  Apparently not.   Of course revealing sensitive security information for political purposes isn’t new.

The video embedded above is most of an interview of Seymour Hersh by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!  Below is a link to the full interview, with a transcript.

Seymour Hersh Details Explosive Story on Bin Laden Killing & Responds to White House, Media Backlash | Democracy Now  [Hat tip to Mike Connelly]

Below is a link to an interview with Jeffrey Sterling, who either is a brave whistleblower who is going to prison because he revealed corruption and incompetence in the Central Intelligence Agency to investigative reporter James Risen, or a victim of injustice who was convicted on circumstantial evidence.

Exclusive: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Speaks Out upon Sentencing to 3.5 Years in Prison | Democracy Now

Why liberals no longer believe Seymour Hersh

May 13, 2015

Bush liberals conservatives militarism

When George W. Bush was President, most liberals believed the exposes of investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.  Now that Barack Obama is President, they are more skeptical.

As Espeth Reeve pointed out in The New Republic, liberals and Hersh are no longer on the same page.

militarism Obama liberals conservativesLINKS

The Killing of Osama bin Laden by Seymour M. Hersh in the London Review of Books.

The Loneliness of Sy Hersh by Elspeth Reeve for The New Republic.

Matt Taibbi on political journalism

April 30, 2015

We’re conditioned to believe that the candidate who has the early assent of a handful of executives on Wall Street and in Hollywood and Silicon Valley is the “serious” politician, while the one who is merely the favorite of large numbers of human beings is an irritating novelty act whose only possible goal could be to cut into the numbers of the real players.

via Rolling Stone.

Lance Mannion on political journalism

April 30, 2015

Sports journalism treats games as if they’re matters of life and death.  Political journalism treats matters of life and death as if they’re all part of a game.

via Lance Mannion.

Rand Paul shows his inexperience

April 14, 2015

Senator Rand Paul lost his temper at reporters for  NBC and The Guardian last week and CNBC back in February for asking him unfair questions.

If he were a more seasoned politician, he simply would have ignored the questions he was asked and answered the question he wished he were asked.

How journalists can be fooled

February 24, 2015

This interview with alleged ISIS fighters was broadcast last Nov. 1, but it’s one more thing that’s new to me.

Its significance is the claim of RT News (formerly Russia Today) to have exclusively interviewed ISIS fighters in the field, a remarkable accomplishment if true.

But a number of things in the interview should have raised alarm bells before the broadcast.

The supposed ISIS fighters, located in a Lebanese village near the Syrian border, say they are a “sleeper cell” in Lebanon, who will be activated when the time comes.

Why would members of a “sleeper cell” alert the Lebanese government to their existence by giving interviews?   It doesn’t make sense.   Advertising a sleeper cell defeats the purpose of having a sleeper cell.

Then, too, the interviewees either disagree with ISIS practice or don’t understand it.

The so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria beheads journalists, but the interviewees follow the mainstream Islamic teaching that journalists are messengers and so should be spared.  ISIS murders Christians, Shiite Muslims and people of other faiths, but the interviewees say it is impractical to establish a Caliphate in Lebanon because it is a nation of many religions.

I think the young men who claim to speak for ISIS are intentionally deceiving the reporter, or they are ISIS sympathizers who don’t fully understand the ISIS ideology.

Another reason, besides RT News’ sponsorship by the Russian government, to take RT News broadcasts with a grain of salt.

 

Fox affiliate faked ‘kill a cop’ video

December 25, 2014

I think Fox News over the year has done more to stir up racial conflict than peaceful protesters ever have.

Why it’s hard to know what is going on

October 20, 2014

Number of American journalists, correspondents and broadcast news analysts.

57,600.

Number of Americans with security clearances.

5.1 million.

Maidan snipers: Ukraine’s Gulf of Tonkin?

April 18, 2014

The crisis in Ukraine was set off on Feb. 20 by snipers killing peaceful anti-government demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan Square on Feb. 20.   Angry mobs surrounded the Ukrainian Parliament and forced President Yanukovych to flee the country, and he was replaced by an unelected provisional government.

Now an investigation by a German TV station, ARM Monitor, which was broadcast last week, indicates the sniper was working for the extreme Ukrainian nationalist Svoboda Party, which was part of the opposition and is now part of the new government.   Police as well as protestors were killed, and the bullets came from the same guns.   The snipers were operating from the roof of the Hotel Ukrayina, which was the headquarters of the protestors.

Now a member of the Svoboda Party is in charge of the investigation.   Families of dead protestors are unable to get autopsy reporters or other vital information.

Michael Hudson, a distinguished professor of research economics at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, was interviewed about this on the relatively obscure Real News Network  (which is listed on my Resources page).   The ARM Monitor investigation is headline news in Germany and (naturally) in Russia, he noted; why is it ignored in the United States?

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/04/ukraine-obama-channeling-cheney.html

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11730

I’m not saying that President Yanukovych or President Vladimir Putin necessarily have good intentions, or that the Russian secret services are not capable of false flag operations of their own, or that Russian-speaking Ukrainians necessarily want to be part of Russia.   I recognize that there are armed minorities in both east and west Ukraine who don’t necessarily speak for the people they claim to represent.   I do not claim to understand the intricacies of Ukrainian politics.

All I’m saying is that the Ukrainian people, and the American people, are being pushed toward war over something that didn’t happen the way we were told it did.

This is the news for April First

April 1, 2014

Hat tip to Gin and Tacos.

And now a word from our sponsor.

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George Orwell and the death of truth

March 14, 2014

Reading differing versions of the Ukraine conflict reminds me of George Orwell’s recollections of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939.  Orwell fought on the government side against rebels led by General Franco and was wounded in action.  Soviet Russia supported the government side; Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported the rebels.

Here’s what Orwell had to say:

George Orwell

George Orwell

I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists.

But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.

Recently I drew up a table of atrocities during the period between 1918 and the present; there was never a year when atrocities were not occurring somewhere or other, and there was hardly a single case when the Left and the Right believed in the same stories simultaneously.

And stranger yet, at any moment the situation can suddenly reverse itself and yesterday’s proved-to-the-hilt atrocity story can become a ridiculous lie, merely because the political landscape has changed. [snip]

govtposterspainI remember saying once to Arthur Koestler, ‘History stopped in 1936’, at which he nodded in immediate understanding.  We were both thinking of totalitarianism in general, but more particularly of the Spanish civil war.

Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie.  I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened.

I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’. [snip]

fascistposterspainOut of the huge pyramid of lies which the Catholic and reactionary press all over the world built up, let me take just one point — the presence in Spain of a Russian army.  Devout Franco partisans all believed in this; estimates of its strength went as high as half a million. Now, there was no Russian army in Spain.  There may have been a handful of airmen and other technicians, a few hundred at the most, but an army there was not.  Some thousands of foreigners who fought in Spain, not to mention millions of Spaniards, were witnesses of this.  Well, their testimony made no impression at all upon the Franco propagandists, not one of whom had set foot in Government Spain.

Simultaneously these people refused utterly to admit the fact of German or Italian intervention at the same time as the Germany and Italian press were openly boasting about the exploits of their ‘legionaries’.

I have chosen to mention only one point, but in fact the whole of Fascist propaganda about the war was on this level.

This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world.  After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history. How will the history of the Spanish war be written?   If Franco remains in power his nominees will write the history books, and (to stick to my chosen point) that Russian army which never existed will become historical fact, and schoolchildren will learn about it generations hence.

But suppose Fascism is finally defeated and some kind of democratic government restored in Spain in the fairly near future; even then, how is the history of the war to be written?  What kind of records will Franco have left behind him?  Suppose even that the records kept on the Government side are recoverable — even so, how is a true history of the war to be written?  For, as I have pointed out already, the Government also dealt extensively in lies. [snip]

Yet, after all, some kind of history will be written, and after those who actually remember the war are dead, it will be universally accepted.  So for all practical purposes the lie will have become truth. [snip]

This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not a frivolous statement.

Click on George Orwell: Looking back on the Spanish War for the full article, published in 1943, which also describes his experiences in the war and his thoughts on the nature of fascism.   Orwell did NOT think the answer to lying propaganda was to assume that “the truth lies somewhere in between.”

The elusive facts about the Ukraine conflict

March 11, 2014

ukrainepropaganda

I have been trying for a couple of weeks to educate myself about the political conflict in Ukraine, and I am not sure even of basic facts.

Consider these two articles, each of which I would believe contained the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, if I hadn’t read the other.

A Petition by Scholars: Don’t Brand Kiev Maidan Protestors as Extremists.

The Crimean “Crisis” and Western Bias by Outlook Zen.  Hat tip to ClubOrlov.

About the only thing I feel sure of is that the Russian Federation, United States and other governments are trying to turn the Ukrainian political factions into their proxies in their global competition for geopolitical and economic power.

Washington Post maps that explain the world

August 27, 2013

Max Fisher of the Washington Post has compiled 40 interesting maps that do throw a lot of light on what’s going on in the world.   I linked to some of them in my posts on country comparisons of religion and IQ and racism and diversity.

You can click on 40 maps to see them all, starting with a geopolitical map of world powers as of 200 A.D. and ending with an interactive time-lapse map of the earth as seen from space over 12 months.

Many of the maps have links to accompanying Washington Post article.  If the video link above doesn’t work, you should be able to see the same video on the 40 maps link.

What we’d know if news media were liberal

August 13, 2013

Jack Akadjian, who writes for the Daily Kos web log, recently listed 15 things that all Americans would know if the news medical really were liberal.

1.  Where the jobs went.

2.  Upward wealth redistribution and/or inequaliy.

3.  ALEC.

4.  The number of people in prison.

5.  The number of black people in prison.

6.  U.S. health care costs are the highest in the world.

7.  Glass-Steagall.

8.  Gerrymandering.

9.  The number of bills blocked by Republicans in Congress.

10.  The Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

11.  Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

12.  Tax cuts primary benefit the rich.

13.  What’s happened to the bees.

14.  The impact of temporary workers on the economy.

15.  Media consolidation.

For details, click on 15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media.

Correction: Amazon not world’s largest retailer

August 11, 2013

Contrary to what I wrote in Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to buy Washington Post, Amazon is not the world’s largest retailer.   It is the largest on-line retailer, but is far behind Wal-Mart and other giants in total sales.

Click on 2013 Top 100 Retailers for information about its revenues and ranking.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to buy Washington Post

August 6, 2013

Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, will buy the Washington Post for $250 million.  I suppose it is not as bad as the Post being bought by the Koch brothers or Rupert Murdoch.  We’ll see.

Bezos’ politics might be described as Silicon Valley liberalism.  He is a champion of gay rights, but not in the right of his employees to decent working conditions.

I worked on newspapers for 40 years, and liked to believe that journalism was a calling and more than just a way for journalists to earn a salary and owners to earn a profit.

Most (not all) of the historically great American newspapers were owned by families who believed in the newspapers’ mission, rather than by corporations whose main business was elsewhere.

Bezos will own the Washington Post as an individual and incorporate it into Amazon, so he doesn’t fall into either category.  It will be interesting to see what his intentions are.

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The Koch threat to independent newspapers

August 2, 2013

The billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch, are the fourth and fifth richest Americans, according to Forbes magazine.  They own Koch Industries, a conglomerate corporation founded by their father, Fred Koch, which Forbes says is the second largest privately-held American company.

Little known to the general public, they have spent decades funding right-wing, conservative and libertarian organizations, such as the Cato Institute, the Federalist Society, Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

They reportedly are interested in acquiring the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and other newspapers owned by the Tribune Company.

My friend Anne Tanner e-mailed me a copy of this letter from David Simon, former Baltimore Sun reporter and creator of The Wire television series, about his concerns regarding the possible Koch takeover.

Dear Friend,

Strange that I acquired a certain notoriety and success writing television drama, yet for some dumb luck, I’d be in a newsroom somewhere watching what is happening to American journalism and wondering when anyone is going to speak up and act.  Yes, I make television now; but The Wire and Treme are narratives rooted in what I came to value in print journalism, and the world that the Baltimore Sun opened up for me when I arrived in that city, fresh out of college.

A newspaper — an honest one — was a marvelous place to learn about the world and to convey what is learned to the community it serves.  But this is only true, of course, if the newspaper is of and for the community and if it values its daily report more than any pre-determined point of view.  So it is alarming to me that the Koch brothers, the billionaire duo so actively engaged in supporting a particular political ideology, are interested in buying the Baltimore Sun and a dozen other newspapers including the Los Angeles Times , the Chicago Tribune and the Hartford Courant .

Join me in signing a petition asking the Tribune Company not to sell to the Koch brothers, and to instead support the local ownership of American news organizations.

My concern does not stem from my distaste for the Koch brothers’ right-wing ideology.  I would be appalled if, say, Arianna Huffington or Ralph Nader or any other politically engaged voice was attempting to buy my local newspaper.  Good journalism needs to be unaligned and indifferent to ideological cant and partisan politics; it needs to be about the acquisition of unaligned fact.

There are many who claim the internet has rendered professional reporting obsolete; that the careful, impartial coverage of an increasingly complex world can be left in the hands of citizen bloggers, that no one needs to be paid to cover institutions consistently and with unbiased and ethical rigor.

I don’t agree.  Reporting is a delicate and professional endeavor.  And maintaining that endeavor is the only way to maintain an open and honest society.  This will remain true whether a news report is delivered digitally or in print, and supporting professional journalism with a revenue stream that is rooted in a committed hometown readership that trusts its local newspaper.

The original sin of American journalism is having listened to Wall Street four decades ago, when it was first suggested that out-of-town ownership by publicly-traded chains were the optimum means of assuring profit and viability.  The seeds of this disaster predate not only the Koch brothers, or the internet, or even the Tribune ownership of my hometown paper.  It goes back nearly three decades to the moment when local ownership of that paper passed from Baltimoreans to those who did not live, or work, or live and die with this city.

Wall Street is very good at manufacturing short-term profit and little else.  And political ideologues are very good at manufacturing a stunted political argument. But for a newspaper to serve its community with care and precision and dedication, the newspaper must be of the city and a part of the city — and beholden only to that city.

To that end, there are Baltimore-based consortiums who have made clear to the Tribune Company that they are ready and willing to purchase the Baltimore Sun and operate the newspaper as a locally-owned enterprise.  There are people in my city who understand that a first-rate metropolis requires a daily paper that is not merely a vessel for profit or ideology, but rather for unbiased, unaligned and properly supported journalism.  And the Tribune company, in divesting itself of its newspaper assets with an eye to local ownership, could undo the great damage that news-chain journalism has done to our civic life.

A sale to the Koch brothers would indeed be a journey from bad to worse.  The only way to restore print journalism for the civic good is to have it practiced and owned by those who live in and are dedicated to the community itself.

Join me in asking the Tribune papers not to sell to the Koch brothers.

David Simon
Baltimore, Maryland

Click on Working Families to sign the petition.

[Update 8/5/13]  Another threat.  Washington Post to be sold to Jeff BezosIt is always a problem when a newspaper or news broadcaster is a component of a corporation in some other line of business, which has interests that will be affected by the way news is covered.  In this case, Jeff Bezos is buying the business as an individual rather than as CEO of Amazon, but the principle is the same.

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For an idea of the Koch brothers’ power and influence, click on the following links.

Inside the Koch Empire: How the Brothers Plan to Reshape America by Daniel Fisher in Forbes.

Political activities of the Koch brothers on Wikipedia.

The Koch Club – Koch millions spread influence through nonprofits, colleges by the Investigative Reporting Workshop of American University’s journalism school

Koch Brothers Influence Peddling Exposed for highlights of the AU students’ report on Daily Kos.

Affirmative action for conservatives?

July 1, 2013

Back when I was a reporter for the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, our city editor once did an informal poll on our internal e-mail system as to what reporters and editors thought about the topic of abortion.

Not all the reporters and editors responded, but of those who did, there was a large number (including me) who were pro-choice and one brave lonely individual who was pro-life.

I recalled this the other day when I read that the University of Colorado Board of Regents intended to conduct a survey to determine whether conservatives and conservative viewpoints were underrepresented on the university’s faculty.

newspaper-2In the case of the D&C newsroom, I think our near-unanimity was a handicap in doing justice to both sides.  We all tried to be as fair to all points of view as we could, but you never know what you are unconsciously taking for granted until you interact with someone whose assumptions are different.

I don’t what could have been done about this imbalance.  Nobody asked my political opinions when I was interviewed for the job.  I don’t think that would have been a proper question to ask, any more than a question about my religion.  If a newspaper were ever to start an intentional policy of hiring more conservatives and Republicans, what they would get is a lot of opportunists claiming to be whatever they thought would get them hired.

It is a fact of life that certain occupations attract certain types of people, and it is also a fact of life that working in certain occupations gives you a certain point of view.  I doubt you would find, to pick a few random examples, that the political opinions of military officers, climate scientists, engineers or bankers necessarily represent a cross-section of the population.

Looking back on my own work, I think I was biased not so much liberal or conservative as biased toward the point of view of the people I covered—in my case, the Rochester business community.  This is an old and familiar tendency in newspaper work.  The sports writer becomes a fan of the home team, the police reporter take on the point of view of the police, the political reporter starts to think of herself as a political insider.

The answer is not to try to correct a bias with a corresponding opposite bias, and certainly not to put journalism under the supervision of politicians, but to strive for professionalism, which means reporting the relevant facts as accurately and completely as you can, stating opposing views fairly and being willing to acknowledge errors and inconvenient truths.

I don’t in fact think we did a bad job of covering the abortion issue.  Both sides complained about our coverage in about equal measure.

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Click on University of Colorado plan to survey political climate draws mixed reactions for a report on the Colorado regents’ plan.  I found the link on the Unqualified Offerings web log.  I agree with  “Thoreau” on Class is a battlefield and Samuel Goldman of The American Conservative on Trolling for Conservatives.

What do you think?

Julian Assange on the Bradley Manning show trial

June 25, 2013

Julian Assange said in an interview Monday that the Bradley Manning court-martial is a show trial.   Just like the show trials in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, the verdict has been pre-determined, and the purpose of the trial is to convince the public of the defendant’s guilt.

The judge has ruled out the Manning’s lawyers main line of defense, which is that the information he released was wrongly over-classified, and allowed only one of 33 witnesses the defense wanted to call.  The prosecution will call 141 witnesses, some of whom will present their testimony in secret.  Access by the press is controlled, and less than a quarter of those who applied were granted press credentials.

Assange pointed out that many American newspapers published articles using the information Manning revealed, but not one of them contributed to Manning’s defense fund.  Some reporters may have done so individually, however.

Links for weekend browsing 5/31/13

May 31, 2013

Here are links to articles I found interesting, and you might find interesting, too.

Our American Pravda by Ron Unz.

The publisher of the American Conservative writes that many important news stories are ignored by the major U.S. newspapers and broadcasters, including the mystery of the 2001 anthrax attacks, evidence that American POWs were left behind in Vietnam and charges by an FBI whistleblower of a high-level espionage ring.  Ron Unz says you need to use the Internet to find the real news.

Postal service is on its last legs, with little help in sight in the Los Angeles Times.

OC&LpostofficeAs a government corporation, the U.S. Postal Service has the worst of both worlds—a requirement to make a profit, but no freedom of action to do the things necessary to make a profit.  Even so, the USPS might be able to survive if not for the requirement that it fund retirement benefits 50 years in advance—far longer than the USPS is likely to be in existence, unless things change.

At Universities, Too, the Rich Grow Richer by Lawrence Wittner.

Graham Spanier, the president of Pennsylvania State University, received $2.9 million in salary for the 2011-2012 academic year, the year he was forced to resign in disgrace over the Penn State pedophile scandal.   He is an example of how state universities reflect the U.S. trend to huge compensation packages for top executives, wage stagnation for middle-level workers and a growing number of low-paid temporary workers (adjuncts) at the bottom.

Why is the FBI helping a monstrous dictator? by Ted Rall.

A cartoonist and syndicated columnist asks why the FBI has arrested an opponent of Uzbekistan’s corrupt and hated dictator, Islam Karimov, who has massacred his own people and literally boiled opponents alive.  Karimov was so odious that the Bush administration severed relations, but the Obama administration restored the connection, because of Uzbekistan’s strategic location and Karimov’s help in prosecuting the war in Afghanistan.

President Obama is lucky in his enemies

May 30, 2013

President Obama is fortunate in his right-wing enemies.   They help him more than they hurt him.  When they attack him for minor and imaginary misdeeds, as they almost always do, they divert attention from the worse things of which he really is guilty.

Enemies who make Obama friendsFor example, I can’t see what is so terrible about Internal Revenue Service auditors looking extra carefully at Tea Party groups claiming tax-exempt status on the grounds that they are non-political educational organizations.  It seems to me that this is an obvious thing to look at closely.  As I understand it, the IRS didn’t actually challenge the tax exempt status of any Tea Party affiliate, just put them to the inconvenience of filling out extra paperwork.   Maybe the IRS inquiry was justified, maybe not, but I don’t see it as important.  The result of the controversy will be that IRS agents from now on will think long and hard before questioning a tax-exempt application from any right-wing organization.

The government’s reading of Associated Press and Fox News e-mails without warrants is a more serious issue, but it is a well-known fact that the U.S. government has developed a universal electronic surveillance system that operates outside the Fourth Amendment.  Why would they be except?  The whole affairs reminds me of Senator Joe McCarthy’s investigation of the U.S. Army in 1954 (which I am old enough to remember).  McCarthy could get away with smearing the reputations and ruining lives of individuals, but when his attack on a key part of the U.S. power structure proved to be his downfall.   My first thought was that President Obama overreached himself in a similar manner, but my sober second thought is that the Washington press corps is not a key part of the U.S. power structure, they only think they are.

communicatorThe Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, is a legitimate issue.  It is reasonable to inquire whether better security could have been provided and whether the State Department intentionally presented misleading information.  But to me, these questions are much less important than the question of why the sdministration sponsored the overthrow of the Libyan government in the first place.  Muammar Qadaffi, the rule of Libya, renounced terrorism and efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and the overthrow tells other dictators there is nothing to be gained by cooperating with the United States.

The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party says President Obama is a socialist who wants to redistribute income to the lower classes and call off the war on terror.   The truth is that the President is a corporatist who has bailed out Wall Street, offered to cut Social Security, done nothing for black people as such while proposing to continue the war on terror indefinitely.   But it is hard to use these facts to point out that the Tea Partiers are wrong, without making Obama’s policies seem like good things rather than bad things.

The biggest problem in making the true case against Obama is the false case against Obama.

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Click on How Arrested Development Explains the Obama Presidency for Conor Friedersdorf’s complaint that the U.S. public’s choice is between President Obama, who is committed to a state of war lasting for the indefinite future, and opponents such as Rep. Peter King, who complains that Obama says the war will someday have to end.

Click on Drones for “Regime Protection” for Philip Girardi’s article in The American Conservative about how the Obama administration plans to keep the Maliki and Karzai regimes in power after the troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan by the use of flying killer drones against their enemies.

Click on Obama’s terrorism speech: seeing what you want to see for Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of the difference between President Obama’s rhetoric and his actions.

Click on Media Targeted By Obama, Discovers Noone Cares Except the Mediafor more about straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

Julian Assange: a profile in courage

May 15, 2013

The United States and British governments treat Julian Assange like the ultimate terrorist threat.

police. ecuadorian-embassyMembers of the London Metropolitan Police, wearing Kevlar vests, surround the Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange has taken refuge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They occupy the front steps and entrances, they occupy street corners nearby, one police officer occupies a room in a building adjoining Assange’s room.  Chris Hedges, a journalist and former war correspondent, said the Metropolitan Police spent the equivalent of $4.5 million in surveillance of Julian Assange just through January 31.

Behind the United Kingdom government is the power of the U.S. government.  A dozen government agencies are working on the Julian Assange case.  They have waged economic warfare and cyberwarfare to try to shut down Assange’s WikiLeaks operation.  They interrogate and try to recruit WikiLeaks supporters every time they pass through a U.S.-controlled airport.  Assange’s lawyers believe that Bradley Manning, who leaked confidential government information to WikiLeaks, could plea bargain for a reduced sentence by testifying that Assange solicited the information.

A secret grand jury in Arlington, Va., reportedly has handed down a sealed indictment of Assange.  Hedges reported that the Department of Justice is mounting a major effort on this.  It spent $2 million this year alone for a computer system to handle Assange prosecution documents.  The U.S. Congress in 1989 authorized the federal government to seize anyone, anywhere in the world, who is accused of a crime under U.S. law, even if this is done in violation of international law or the law of the country concerned.

I read a lot about the partisan divisions in the U.S. government, but Democrats and Republicans, the so-called liberals and the so-called conservatives, are united in their desire for the U.S. government to capture Julian Assange.   If this happens, Julian Assange can look forward to spending the rest of his life in the equivalent of the Soviet Gulag.

jul650What is Julian Assange’s crime?  What makes him such a threat?  What he has done is to break the wall of secrecy which makes possible the “disposition matrix,” “signature strikes,” “extraordinary renditions,” “enhanced interrogation” and all the other secret Orwellian activities of government.  If he is guilty of revealing secret information to the enemy under the Espionage Act, it is only if the U.S. government regards the American people as its enemy.

The remarkable thing is that, with all this power arrayed against him, Julian Assange is not afraid.   The powers-that-be are afraid of him.  He is not afraid of them.  Trapped in a corner, he continues his work, to make known what the world’s governments want to hide.  To the extent that freedom and democracy survive the next few decades, he will be regarded as one of our era’s greatest heroes.

Click on The Death of Truth: Chris Hedges Interviews Julian Assange for Hedges’ full report and links to the interview.

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Are journalists biased in favor of abortion?

April 19, 2013

Back in the 1980s, when I was a reporter for the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, we had a managing editor who used the newsroom e-mail system to provoke discussion and bring the newsroom closer together as a group.  One day he conducted a poll on whether we were pro-choice or pro-life.   Some of us declined to answer, but of those who did, all (including me) were in favor of abortion rights, except for one person.

Did this raise questions about whether we could be balanced our coverage?  Maybe it did, although we seemed to get the same number of complaints from the pro-choice and pro-life sides.   To the extent this was a problem, I don’t know what we could have done about it, except to try extra-hard to be fair to the side we didn’t agree with.   Nobody asked my opinion on this or any other controversial issue when I was interviewed for the job, and for obvious reasons I don’t think newsrooms would benefit from affirmative action policies for conservatives.

Journalism is a field which attracts people with particular sets of values, as does medicine, law, teaching, police work, military service and entrepreneurial business, and these values affect your outlook.   That’s just how things are.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell

Dr. Kermit Gosnell

The reason I write about this subject today is that a lot of people evidently think that (1) the murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell should have got more coverage than it did and (2) the reason it didn’t is that journalists are biased in favor of abortion.

Based on my newspaper experience, I think you have to turn to Chaos Theory to explain why some events become national news and others are only local news.   If bias caused the Gosnell case to be under-reporter, this bias affected the right-wing press such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal as much as it did CNN and the Washington Post.   In any case, it is front-page news now.

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Bob Woodward’s leaks vs. Bradley Manning’s

March 1, 2013

Web watchdog’s new site: CloudFlare-Watch.org

February 2, 2013

Daniel Brandt, who has spent decades researching the Central Intelligence Agency, covert action and government conspiracies, and the last 10 or so years as an investigator and critic of Google and Wikipedia, has turned his attention to a obscure (to me) Internet company called CloudFlare.

I asked Daniel to explain in layman’s terms just what was so significant about CloudFlare.  This was his answer.

Thanks, Phil, for your invitation to write about what I’m trying to do with my new site, CloudFlare-Watch.org.

You are right — this CloudFlare-Watch stuff is much too technical. To confuse it more, CloudFlare is not a hosting provider, but merely a DNS provider (domain name system).  This is why CloudFlare tries to claim that they are unable to exercise any authority over content, since they do not host content for anyone.

cloudflarewatchHowever, it is impossible to get to a website without going through DNS.   If you deleted the records for a domain that uses CloudFlare’s nameservers, that site becomes unreachable within minutes.  Moreover, CloudFlare actually does cache some of their customer’s pages on their servers, in order to speed up access.  They currently claim that half a million domains are using their nameservers.  They offer several levels of service, and the lowest level is free of charge.

You asked about laws, which instantly means that one has to make a huge number of distinctions.  The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) applies to sites hosted in the U.S.  Probably over half of CloudFlare’s clients are hosted in other countries, even if the person creating the content is still in the U.S.  The DMCA only covers copyright, and only covers providers in the U.S.  Thankfully, CloudFlare is headquartered in San Francisco, which means that they try to make it appear that they are minimally cooperating with DMCA requirements.  I believe that they are not doing this in good faith, and I provide evidence of this on my site.

Child porn, on the other hand, is universally illegal, which makes it easier to prosecute.  Even here, you have to identify the< hosting provider and hope that this provider will hand over the identity of the person operating and hiding behind the server.  In the U.S., a hosting provider will cooperate with the FBI if it involves child porn because they don’t want any servers seized at their data centers.  If the FBI wanted to play tough, they could haul off a few extra racks of servers just to be sure they get it all.  This would mean that many innocent customer sites in that data center would go down, and stay down.

badguyBut what about providers in other countries?  Will you need a court order to get anywhere?  You might even discover that the hosting provider is hidden behind a chain of “tunneling” servers in one or more countries.  From the point of view of an FBI agent, this means that you have to deal with authorities in various places —  Romania, Ukraine, etc., just to work your way toward identifying the perp.  That’s a huge amount of work.

Defamation?  Forget it.  The laws are all over the place, and these are mostly civil laws, which means that you don’t have the assistance of law enforcement. Your chances of identifying the person you need to sue are minimal. Are you rich enough to sue someone in another country, even if you are lucky enough to find them?

At the corporate level, everything is even more confused.  In 1996, the Communications Decency Act in the U.S. (Section 230) granted immunity to providers that host content, but do not create or monitor content.  The federal law trumps all state laws in the U.S.  Criminal laws are not affected, and copyright is handled by the DMCA, but that still leaves room for lots of nastiness on the web that is difficult to address. 

Other countries see things differently.  Google, for example, has court orders against them in Japan, Italy, Spain, Australia, and Argentina, based on search results that those courts have ruled are defamatory.  Google can ignore them by pointing out that the relevant content is not based in that country.  What’s the judge going to do, block all of Google?  Hardly.  That would be a career-killer.  Google basically does not respond to defamation complaints at all, even when it involves content on their servers (blogspot.com, YouTube, etc.) as opposed to mere search results.  For search results, Google consistently pretends that the algorithm did it, and they are not to blame — as if the algorithm was not created by Google’s engineers, and cannot not be fixed by those same engineers!   Google knows this, but they’re too busy laughing all the way to the bank.

cfhackerCloudFlare thrives in a legal gray area that was already gray even before they came along. They are exploiting this.  Cyberwars are happening.  You may think this is movie fiction and hype, but it’s not.  CloudFlare is a cyberwar profiteer.  They deliberately attract both sides in this war — the cyber criminals as well as the cyber victims.  My new CloudFlare-Watch site is trying to sound the alarm so that CloudFlare’s chances of getting a second round of venture funding are diminished.  It feels like I’m a voice in the wilderness — everyone else is hyping CloudFlare as much as possible.

But I’m used to it.  I was the first Google critic at a time when webmasters ridiculed me on forums for arguing that Google was saving everything they could get on everyone (Google-watch.org started in 2002).  I remember one whiz-kid webmaster who argued that you couldn’t possibly fit much information into a little cookie.  I tried to explain that all you need in a cookie is a globally-unique ID of maybe 20 characters, and that this ID is what is used to reference all your information.  The actual data on you is kept offline somewhere in the Googleplex, and you don’t get to see it.  He couldn’t grasp what I was saying.

Much bigger fish than I are trying to tame Google these days, and this means that I can retire from Google criticism. Google’s search engine emerged into public consciousness around 2000, which was two years after they incorporated. In 2001 I noticed that there were some nagging questions that needed to be addressed, such as Google’s cookie that had an expiration date of 2038.  I knew your hard disk wouldn’t last that long, but this wasn’t about hard disks.  Rather, it was an important clue to Google’s state of mind about user privacy.  It turned out that I was right.

Now it’s time to concentrate on CloudFlare, which is less than three years old, before it becomes the next web monster. The basic problem I have with CloudFlare is that it offers one more way to hide the location and identity of your hosting provider, and it’s easy and free to use.

cloudflare-vid-splash2I believe in privacy for passive web users. For example, someone who is doing research on Google deserves privacy, and that’s why I ran Scroogle for seven years. But what about web publishers?  Anyone who publishes information on the web that can affect other people should not be allowed to hide behind a screen name, or behind CloudFlare, or behind VPNs (virtual private network or “tunneling” servers), or hide by cherry-picking a provider in whatever country they choose.

People who publish content that can affect others should use their real names so that they can be held accountable. Everyone who uses CloudFlare’s nameservers is some sort of web publisher, and CloudFlare should reveal the IP addresses of their hosting providers without any questions asked.  They should have a search box on their home page that spits out the IP addresses with date stamps for every domain that uses their nameservers.

The problem, from CloudFlare’s perspective, is that this would mean that half of their clients would disappear overnight. It would mean that their hype about protection against DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks would be null and void, because the attackers could now target the original provider. And cyber-criminals who use CloudFlare to hide would have to go elsewhere.

Their entire package of hype would fall apart. All that would be left of CloudFlare is a DNS and caching service, which would not be nearly as enticing. It would, however, be much more socially responsible.

— Daniel Brandt

________________________

Click on A watchdog and iconoclast of the Internet for my profile of my friend Daniel.

Click on CloudFlare-Watch.org for his CloudFlare site.


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