Posted by: quiscus | March 22, 2010

March 22, 2010

1.  “Bagram Eyed as Latest ‘New Guantanamo’

Afghan Prison Would Keep Detainees in Legal Limbo

The Bush Administration and later the Obama Administration have argued that the detainees at Bagram have even fewer rights than those held at Guantanamo Bay, and there are already some US court decisions supporting the position that the government can hold detainees at Bagram forever without explanation, without charges, and without any legal recourse.”

2.  “A little secret about Obama’s transparency

The current administration, challenged by the president to be the most open, is now denying more Freedom of Information Act requests than Bush did.”

3.  ”

It’s hard to imagine a politician more schizophrenic than Mitt Romney. As Massachusetts governor, Romney was pro-choice, supported amnesty for illegal aliens and was gay friendly. As a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, Romney became pro-life, opposed amnesty and gay marriage. In his new book, “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” Romney says hardly anything about abortion, illegal aliens or social issues, but plenty about how government must grow and do more, with his biggest beef with President Obama being where it should grow and what it should do. Critics might be inclined to compare Romney’s big government philosophy to that of the last Republican president but Romney’s is actually worse–particularly on the issue that has most defined Bush’s legacy.

Whereas President Bush ran for president in 2000 opposing Bill Clinton’s nation building overseas (something Bush would not live up to), Romney begins his book and presumably his 2012 presidential campaign, by making crystal clear that his concept of “American greatness” is inextricably tied to more war, more nation building and an even more ambitious foreign policy. ”

4.  “Cut off the cash and Israel might behave

President Netanyahu is undermining US interests. The sooner President Obama makes his support conditional, the better”

5.  “Police training has been a crucial part of American counterinsurgency warfare and global policy for a long, long time. During the American occupation of Haiti, which began in 1915, the establishment and training of an American-led Gendarmerie d’Haiti would contribute to the sad, brutal modern history of that island; in the late 1950s and 1960s, U.S. police training helped shape South Vietnam into a quasi-police state ready to wield torture as a weapon of daily life; in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, U.S. police training under thuggish dictatorships led to torture and extrajudicial killings, a history painfully captured in journalist A.J. Langguth’s presciently titled book Hidden Terrors; in Central America in the 1980s, it led to a flowering of extrajudicial death squads. The story of U.S. police training could, in many ways, act as a substitute history of human rights violations. ”

6.  “Former Obama Aide New Head of AIPAC”

7.  “China to go From Huge Trade Surplus to Trade DEFICIT?

In a command economy, the government decides what numbers it wants, and then instructs its economists and government agencies to arrive at those numbers.

If they don’t, they’re killed or thrown into prison.

So when China’s official daily newspaper – China Daily – writes that China will probably run a trade DEFICIT in March, it is hard to know if it is real.”

8.  “People Now Trust Bankers Less than Random People on the Street

As I have repeatedly written, the economy will not recover until trust is restored.

Now, a distinguished international group of economists (Giancarlo Corsetti, Michael P. Devereux, Luigi Guiso, John Hassler, Gilles Saint-Paul, Hans-Werner Sinn, Jan-Egbert Sturm and Xavier Vives) have written a brief essay arguing:

Public distrust of bankers and financial markets has risen dramatically with the financial crisis. This column argues that this loss of trust in the financial system played a critical role in the collapse of economic activity that followed. To undo the damage, financial regulation needs to focus on restoring that trust.

They note:

Trust is crucial in many transactions and certainly in those involving financial exchanges. The massive drop in trust associated with this crisis will therefore have important implications for the future of financial markets. Data show that in the late 1970s, the percentage of people who reported having full trust in banks, brokers, mutual funds or the stock market was around 40%; it had sunk to around 30% just before the crisis hit, and collapsed to barely 5% afterwards. It is now even lower than the trust people have in other people (randomly selected of course).

In other words, people now trust bankers less than random people on the street.”

9.  “The GOP’s newfound love of public opinion

One Republican leader after the next stood up yesterday to depict the health care bill as a grave threat to democracy because it was enacted in the face of disapproval from a majority of Americans.  Minority Leader John Boehner mourned:  “We have failed to listen to America.  And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents.  And when we fail to reflect that will — we fail ourselves and we fail our country.”  GOP Rep. Mike Pence thundered:  “We’re breaking with our finest traditions . . . . the consent of the governed.”  That the health care bill destroys “the consent of the governed” because it is opposed by a majority of Americans has become the central theme of every talking-points-spouting, right-wing hack around.

Of course, these are the same exact people who spent years funding the Iraq War without end and without conditions even in the face of extreme public opposition, which consistently remained in the 60-65% range.

For years, the explicit GOP view of public opinion was that it is irrelevant and does not matter in the slightest.  Indeed, the view of our political class generally is that public opinion plays a role in how our government functions only during elections, and after that, those who win are free to do whatever they want regardless of what “the people” want.  That’s what George Bush meant in 2005 when he responded to a question about why nobody in his administration had been held accountable for the fraud that led to the Iraq War:  “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections.”  Watching these same Republicans now pretend that public opinion must be honored and that our democracy is imperiled when bills are passed without majority support is truly nauseating (of course, Democrats back then protested Cheney’s dismissal of public opinion as a dangerous war on democracy yet now insist that public opinion shouldn’t stop them from doing what they want).

But, for better or worse, our political and media class does not believe that.  That’s why the GOP (with substantial Democratic help) funded the Iraq War indefinitely and without conditions even in the face of massive public opposition.  It’s why the Wall Street bailout was approved by both parties despite large-scale public opposition, and why a whole slew of other policies favored by majorities are dismissed as Unserious by the political class.  The Washington Post‘s Shailagh Murray explicitly said that public opinion is and should be irrelevant to what political leaders do because people are too ignorant to have their views matter:  “Would you want a department store manager or orthodontist running the Pentagon? I don’t think so.”  The American political system is now based on the central premise that nothing is more irrelevant than public opinion, and nobody has embraced that premise more enthusiastically than the Republicans who ran the country for the eight years prior to Obama’s presidency, including those now most gravely insisting that public opinion must be respected lest the Republic fall.”

10.  “The war on drugs has always been a pretext for political repression and social control.” Alexander Cockburn

11.  “The Ultimate Revolution

It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this:  That we are in the process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarch who have always existed and presumably always will always exist to get people to love their servitude. – Aldous Huxley

Huxley’s point was that a dictatorship was much more stable if the people consented to their servitude than if the servitude was enforced by guns and clubs, though even the most scientific of dictatorships will resort to the latter if the mob gets testy.

In Brave New World, people love their servitude because they are given an unlimited supply of SOMA, a drug that soothes.  Instead of SOMA, we have a full medicine chest of psychotropic drugs comfort and caress our minds.

Our houses are filled with screens that divert our attention from the real world even as they paint a distorted view of that world. The problem with this ubiquity of screens is not mind control ala 1984; it is mind apathy.

In his talk, Huxley also spoke of suggestibility, which is the degree to which a mind can be manipulated.  He suggested that in any given population, twenty percent of the people are highly suggestible while twenty percent can totally resist it.  The remaining eighty percent could go either way depending on the circumstances, though he did point out that a heightened state of anxiety makes an individual more prone to suggestibility, as in the War on Terror.

What this means is that in the United States, 60 million people hang on Rush’s every word while 60 million think he’s a complete asshole.  The remaining 180 million watch “American Idol.”

We are entering an era of increasing unrest as economic and environmental problems continue to mount.  How this plays out depends to a large extent on how well the 60 million skeptics in America are mobilized.  This is especially important because Fox News, the Tea Party and the radical right are mobilizing the 60 million sheep.  And lies, if they are repeated enough, can sway the remaining 180 million, and that would be enough to silence the skeptics.”

12.  “The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed

Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s decision to vote “yes” in Sunday’s House action on the health care bill, although he had sworn to oppose the legislation unless there was a public option, is a perfect example of why I would never be a politician. I respect Kucinich. As politicians go, he is about as good as they get, but he is still a politician. He has to run for office. He has to raise money. He has to placate the Democratic machine or risk retaliation and defeat. And so he signed on to a bill that will do nothing to ameliorate the suffering of many Americans, will force tens of millions of people to fork over a lot of money for a defective product and, in the end, will add to the ranks of our uninsured.

The claims made by the proponents of the bill are the usual deceptive corporate advertising. The bill will not expand coverage to 30 million uninsured, especially since government subsidies will not take effect until 2014. Families who cannot pay the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments, estimated to be between 15 and 18 percent of most family incomes, will have to default, increasing the number of uninsured. Insurance companies can unilaterally raise prices without ceilings or caps and monopolize local markets to shut out competitors. The $1.055 trillion spent over the next decade will add new layers of bureaucratic red tape to what is an unmanageable and ultimately unsustainable system.

The mendacity of the Democratic leadership in the face of this reality is staggering. Howard Dean, who is a doctor, said recently: “This is a vote about one thing: Are you for the insurance companies or are you for the American people?” Here is a man who once championed the public option and now has sold his soul. What is the point in supporting him or any of the other Democrats? How much more craven can they get? ”

13.  “If you doubt that the right-wing crusade is about race, you are either so oblivious of the past that you see nothing unusual about the present — or you haven’t been to a Tea Party lately. At Tea Parties across the nation, Obama is not only portrayed in hideous caricatures as the Joker, but as others such as Adolph Hitler, Karl Marx and Osama bin Laden.

Initially, the Tea Party movement was started by Congressman Ron Paul to appeal to Americans who were frustrated and fed-up with such things as taxes and wars, but it was immediately co-opted by right-wing think tanks and by Fox News whose target-eyed pundits brayed 24/7 about a massive “white culture” crusade taking over the nation. Racist hatemongers joined the party, especially Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and,in no time at all, had David Duke, a “white nationalist” and former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,looking like a rank amateur.

These guys aren’t crazy — okay, maybe they are — but they know exactly what they’re doing. They learned from eight years of K-K-Karl Rove and Dick Cheney that fear and hate are the two easiest emotions to work with. Stir in a generous helping of rage, and entire cultures can be manipulated into a frenzy. And, when those emotions feed on racism, a gathering can be turned into a mob, which can then be whipped into a destructive, extremist riot.”


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