Media

Matt Taibbi on the Journalist & Politician Cheerleaders for Iraq War, Then & Now

Democracy Now! - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 5:21pm

In this web-only conversation with journalist Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, we turn to Iraq. He recently wrote a piece for Rolling Stone titled "Forget What We Know Now: We Knew Then Iraq War Was a Joke." Taibbi wrote the piece after Jeb Bush's infamous interview on Fox News. Megyn Kelly asked Bush "knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?" Bush responded, "I would have." Jeb Bush later reversed his stance.

Categories: Media

A Plot to Level a Village Isn’t News–When Targets Are Muslim and Plotter Is Christian

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 1:41pm
No crime fascinates US media like terrorism–provided it’s the right sort of terrorism

No crime fascinates US media like terrorism–provided it’s the right sort of terrorism, that is.

The media-approved sort of terrorist is motivated by some fanatic strain of Islam. Terrorists motivated by other ideologies are often forgotten by corporate media (Extra!, 6/13)–sometimes to the point where pundits deny that non-Muslim terrorists exist (FAIR Blog, 12/16/14)–even though the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the United States are carried out by people with agendas unrelated to Islam (Extra!, 8/13)

Sensational acts of or schemes for political violence are ignored because they don’t fit Islamophobic stereotypes (FAIR Blog, 1/11/131/25/14)–or, if the violence is too dramatic to overlook, journalists decline to affix the “terrorism” label to it (FAIR Media Advisory, 4/15/14; FAIR Blog, 6/13/14).

The latest example of the sort of crime story that would be huge news if the perpetrator were Muslim–rather than, in this instance, someone who hates Muslims–is the case of Robert Rankin Doggart, a former congressional candidate from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, who was caught on tape and on social media talking about wiping out a Muslim community in upstate New York.

According to a plea agreement reached in US District Court in the Eastern District of Tennessee, Doggart told an FBI informant that he was planning to attack the residents of a Muslim community known as Islamberg near Hancock, New York.  (Doggart, an ordained Christian minister, apparently became fixated on the hamlet as a result of alarmist reporting on right-wing media.) In a call recorded by the informant, Doggart said:

Those guys [have] to be killed. Their buildings need to be burnt down. If we can get in there and do that not losing a man, even the better.

The buildings Doggart planned to destroy included a mosque, a school and a cafeteria.

In another conversation, Doggart elaborated:

When we meet in this state, the people we seek will know who we are. We will be cruel to them. And we will burn down their buildings [and] if anyone attempts to, uh, harm us in any way, our standoff gunner will take them down from 350 yards away. “The standoff gunner would be me,” he added.

On Facebook, Doggart declared that “Target 3 [Islamberg] is vulnerable from many approaches and must be utterly destroyed.”

The plea agreement, filed April 29, notes that Doggart took substantive steps to carry out his plan, including traveling to recruit gunners and “battle test[ing]” his M4 rifle. Despite this, Doggart was allowed to plead guilty only to interstate communication of threats and faces a maximum of five years in jail.

There has been little coverage of Doggart’s case in national media, as a broad Nexis search reveals. One of the first reports was in the Chattanoogan (5/16/15), a local online news outlet. The article reports that Doggart

is on federal bond awaiting sentencing in the case…. Doggart was first ordered detained; however, Federal Magistrate Susan Lee later allowed his release on certain conditions after attorneys said he had weaned himself from pain medication and had stopped abusing alcohol. The government opposed his release, saying he remains a danger.

Later other local outlets picked up on the story, with a modest article appearing in the Chattanooga Times Free Press (5/18/15) that quoted Doggart’sFacebook boast: “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.” Stories appeared a couple of days earlier in the Arizona Republic (5/16/15), as well as the Rock Hill, S.C., Herald (5/16/15), which ran an article focusing on the reaction of a similar Muslim community in northern South Carolina.

Nexis also turns up brief reports in the London Independent (5/18/15) andSky News (5/18/95), as well as a handful of Pakistani papers. But nothing in major US papers like the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Todayor LA Times. While Nexis’ broadcast transcripts are not exhaustive, there was no indication that the story had been picked up by any US TV outlet, or by National Public Radio.

There were a handful of online news outlets that carried the story, often making reference to the lack of coverage in other media (“Guess Why This Christian Terrorist Plot Against Muslims Isn’t Getting Any Press,” Daily Beast, 5/18/15) or the evident double standard in the criminal justice system (“Would This Man Be Charged With Terrorism if He Were Muslim?,” Think Progress, 5/18/15).Wonkette (5/18/15) highlighted the sensationalized Fox News coverage that may have motivated Doggart’s terror scheme. One of the most substantive articles appeared on the web publication Heavy (5/18/15), with a report that cited Muslim reactions to the plot and examined Doggart’s 2014 independent congressional bid, which garnered 6 percent of Tennessee’s 4th District vote.

The Daily Beast report, noting that “it goes without saying that if Doggart had been Muslim and had planned to kill Christians in America, we would have seen wall-to-wall media coverage,” pointed to a major reason that the case has not gotten more attention: the tendency for journalists to rely on official sources to tell them what stories are important. Beast contributor Dean Obeidallah wrote:

One big reason for the lack of media coverage was that neither the FBI nor the US Attorney’s office put out a press release about Doggart’s arrest.  In contrast, the FBI office in Knoxville, the one that handled this investigation, has posted press releases for numerous other recent arrests, such as for drug crimes and robbery charges.  (My calls to the FBI about this issue have not been returned.)

However, when a Muslim is arrested in a sting-type operation, as we saw recently in Brooklyn, the FBI touts that arrest to the media with a detailed press release. We have also seen US attorneys hold press conferences to announce the arrest of Muslims, as we witnessed recently with the six Minnesota men charged with planning to join ISIS. But not here.

Categories: Media

Janice Dickinson Sues Bill Cosby for Defamation

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 11:25am
The ex-supermodel says his team's labeling her a liar over sexual assault allegations has damaged her career.

Former supermodel Janice Dickinson has filed a lawsuit against Bill Cosby for defamation, stating that Cosby damaged her public image when his team said she lied about being raped by him in 1982. The suit, filed yesterday, leaves Cosby’s legal team 30 days to respond.

Dickinson is one of more than 30 women who have come forward since October of last year with allegations of rape against Cosby, with some of the charges dating back as far as the late 1960s. Like nearly every other woman allegedly assaulted by Cosby, Dickinson reports being drugged by the comedian—who she says invited her to dinner under the pretense of being able to help her career—then later awakening to find she had been raped. For the most part, it’s been assumed that Cosby won’t face prosecution, since nearly all of the cases are long past the statute of limitations. According to Reuters, Dickson is pursuing a jury trial and monetary damages, though the exact figure isn’t given.

Dickinson’s suit comes in response to a statement from Cosby’s lawyer, Martin Singer, who said in November, "The only story [Ms. Dickinson] gave 12 years ago to the media and in her autobiography was that she refused to sleep with Mr. Cosby and he blew her off. Documentary proof and Ms. Dickinson's own words show that her new story about something she now claims happened back in 1982 is a fabricated lie."

According to Dickinson’s attorney, Lisa Bloom—who is also the daughter of famed civil rights attorney Gloria Allred—a request for Cosby’s legal team to retract the accusation of lying was made. She says Cosby refused, leading Dickinson to file suit. 

In a televised interview with CNN, Dickinson said, “I want justice done. I want Lisa Bloom to depose Bill Cosby, get him on the stand and in front of a jury and let the law decide."

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WATCH: Letterman Gets Send-Off From U.S. Presidents Current, Former and Deceased

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 10:40am
Our long national nightmare of life without Letterman begins.

As you may have heard, David Letterman brought an end to his brilliant, groundbreaking, highly influential talk show last night after some 33 years behind the desk. The highlights in Letterman’s final episode were numerous. There was a star-studded Top Ten List (featuring Tina Fey, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carey, Steve Martin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray and—only semi-oddly—Peyton Manning and Barbara Walters). There was a look back at the time Letterman worked a Taco-Bell drive-thru. And, to boot, a series of U.S. presidents, currently serving, living and dead, announcing that “Our long national nightmare is over"...because Letterman is finally retiring.

Check out the tribute, which compiles footage of Ford, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama (who just shrugs when Letterman asks if he’s kidding) sending the host on his way.

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Hundreds of Tech Companies Line Up to Oppose TPP Trade Agreement

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 10:05am
Letter signed by more than 250 companies demands greater transparency and says ‘dangerously vague’ language would criminalize whistleblowers.

More than 250 tech companies have signed a letter demanding greater transparency from Congress and decrying the broad regulatory language in leaked parts of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bill.

The TPP would create an environment hostile to journalists and whistleblowers, said policy directors for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, co-authors of the letter. “TPP’s trade secrets provisions could make it a crime for people to reveal corporate wrongdoing ‘through a computer system’,” says the letter. “The language is dangerously vague, and enables signatory countries to enact rules that would ban reporting on timely, critical issues affecting the public.”

Among the signatories is activist, sci-fi author and Guardian tech columnist Cory Doctorow. “Democracies make their laws in public, not in smoke-filled rooms,” Doctorow wrote. “If TPP’s backers truly believed that they were doing the people’s work, they’d have invited the people into the room. The fact that they went to extreme, unprecedented measures to stop anyone from finding out what was going on – even going so far as to threaten Congress with jail if they spoke about it – tells you that this is something being done to Americans, not for Americans.”

Also on the list are prominent members of the open source community, including David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework, image hosting company Imgur and domain name manager Namecheap.

There was a notable absence from the letter of big international tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. Apple and AT&T are part of the president’s International Trade Advisory Committee (which advises the Oval Office on matters relating to industry) and their representatives have presumably been able to read sections of the bill that would apply to their industry.

The letter’s signatories also criticized the fast-track bill, known as the Trade Promotion Authority, which is being discussed in Congress this week. If passed, the TPA would give Obama a yes or no vote on the trade pact without the ability for legislators to amend it. The fast-track bill needs to be passed to even give the TPP a shot at approval.

Several other companies and industry trade groups sent statements to Congress in support of the legislation, among them Cisco and the Consumer Electronics Association. The Seminconductor Industry Association said: “SIA strongly supports trade promotion authority (TPA) and applauds the introduction of this bipartisan legislation. TPA paves the way for free trade by empowering US negotiators to reach final trade agreements consistent with negotiating objectives laid out by Congress. Free trade is especially critical to the US semiconductor industry, which designs and manufactures the chips that enable virtually all electronics.”

TPP has sparked a growing row within the Democrat party. Senator Elizabeth Warren renewed her attack on the pact this week, issuing a scathing report on past trade deals.

Of particular concern to the tech community is an “Investment Chapter” of the TPP drafted in 2010 and leaked by Wikileaks. The letter’s signatories argue the provisions would allow corporations to use an international legal system to override national sovereignty: “The TPP Investment Chapter contains text that would enable corporations to sue nations over democratic rules that allegedly harm expected future profits. Companies can use this process to undermine US rules like fair use, net neutrality, and others designed to protect the free, open internet and users’ rights to free expression online.”

The section has likely been revised in the last five years, but whether the provisions have changed has not, and cannot, be disclosed.

“The future of the internet is simply too important to be decided behind closed doors,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. “The Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority process actively silences the voices of internet users, startups, and small tech companies while giving the biggest players even more power to set policy that benefits a few select companies while undermining the health of the entire web.”

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Categories: Media

WATCH: Amy Schumer Makes Fun of Street Harassment, Spanx and the Obsession with Women's Butts

Alternet - Media Culture - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 9:55am
The comedian's latest is a decidedly unsubtle takedown of our sexist culture.

Amy Schumer’s season of skewering misogyny is the gift that keeps giving. In the latest skit to roll out from her show, the comedian takes on street harassment, cultural appropriation, body shaming, the centralizing of whiteness, and the fetishization of women’s body parts—that whole “Year of the Butt” thing—all in one video.

The faux-infomercial features a cameo by Michael Ian Black playing Martin Daniels, a shill who lets women know that their only hope for street harassment these days is to add some junk to their trunks. “Pretty face? So what. Big boobs? Big deal!” Daniels announces.

“Black and Latino men have enjoyed a shapely bottom for years,” Daniels says against a backdrop that includes pictures of George Zimmerman and Clarence Thomas. “But now, even normal guys are into it,” Daniels informs us, flanked by pictures of Brad Pitt, John Boehner and…himself.

Swanks Push ‘Em Downs—named “very much without her permission” after Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry—push women’s now useless-to-men body parts to their butts, causing, in Daniels’ words, “minor internal bleeding, and major external hotness. A condition known in the medical community as ‘worth it’!”

“Times and what white guys like have changed,” Schumer adds, noting that her boobs aren’t cutting it anymore. “And it’s my responsibility as a role model to change with them,” she says, showing off the results of the product, just before spitting up a little blood.

Check out the very unsubtle clip, below:

Get More: Comedy Central,Funny Videos,Funny TV Shows

 

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An Act of Protest, Not Sabotage, at the Birthplace of the Bomb

Democracy Now! - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 6:05am

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

There is a vast military complex deep in the hills of eastern Tennessee called “Y-12.” This is where all of the highly enriched uranium is produced and stored for the production of the U.S. nuclear-warhead arsenal. It is in Oak Ridge, the city that was created practically overnight during World War II, that produced the uranium for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Today, the facility, dubbed “The Fort Knox of Uranium,” holds enough of the radioactive element to make 10,000 nuclear bombs.

It was there, in the pre-dawn hours of July 28, 2012, that three “Plowshares” peace activists, including an 82-year-old nun, penetrated the facility’s myriad security systems and got to the heart of the complex, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, or HEUMF. They spray-painted messages of peace on the wall, poured blood, hammered on the concrete and were arrested. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court overturned their convictions for sabotage, setting them free after two years in prison. This was the first time convictions for sabotage for Plowshares activists have been reversed, a historic moment for nuclear disarmament.

Plowshares is a movement that derives its name from the biblical verse Isaiah 2:4, which instructs “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Inspired by faith and committed to action, Plowshares activists for the past 35 years have repeatedly engaged in nonviolent direct action. They access secure military facilities, hammer on weapons of war, be they warplanes or missile silos — or, in this most recent case, the facility that enriches and stores uranium for bombs. Among the first Plowshares activists were the Berrigan brothers, Father Daniel and the late Philip, who had gained national attention by burning draft records to protest the Vietnam War. In 1980, the Berrigans and others entered a General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Pa., where nuclear missiles were made, and hammered on nose cones, making them unusable. They went to prison for that and many subsequent actions. Scores of similar Plowshares disarmament protests have occurred around the globe since then.

The protesters who gained entry into the ultrasecure Y-12 complex were an unlikely trio: Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun; Michael Walli, a Vietnam veteran turned Catholic peace activist; and Greg Boertje-Obed, a former U.S. Army officer, now a house painter and peace activist. After cutting through four separate fences and traversing patrolled grounds to get to the HEUMF, they painted slogans that read “The Fruit of Justice Is Peace” and “Plowshares Please Isaiah.” Like the previous actions, this group coined a name for themselves, “Transform Now Plowshares.” I asked Sister Megan what that meant. “Why have we spent $10 trillion in 70 years, when that could have been used to transform not just the United States, but the world, into life-enhancing alternatives?” she told me. “Instead, we make something that can never be used, should never be used, probably will never be used, unless we want to destroy the planet.”

The security breach sent shock waves through the national-security establishment, especially at the Department of Energy, which runs Y-12. While the three Transform Now Plowshares activists faced federal sabotage charges and up to 30 years in prison, they were still out on bail and free to attend the congressional hearings prompted by their act of civil disobedience, which The New York Times labeled “the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex.’ Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton praised Sister Megan Rice: “We want to thank you for pointing out some of the problems in our security. While I don’t totally agree with your platform that you were espousing, I do thank you for bringing out the inadequacies of our security system ... that young lady there brought a Holy Bible. If she had been a terrorist, the Lord only knows what could have happened.”

Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, now a senator, addressed her as well, adding, “Thank you for your willingness to focus attention on this nuclear-weapons buildup that still exists in our world and how much we need to do something to reduce it.”

Sister Megan Rice is now 85 years old. She and her two co-defendants await a lower court’s decision on whether or not they should continue serving time for the lesser charges of destruction of government property, for cutting fences, painting slogans and pouring blood on Y-12. But freedom from prison is clearly not her first concern. “As long as there’s one nuclear weapon existing,” she told me, “nobody is free.”

Subscribe to Amy Goodman’s podcast on SoundCloud and Stitcher Radio.

Categories: Media

Brave New Films' Graphic New Video Shows How Cellphones Can Fight Police Brutality

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 5:11pm
Cops have guns and fists, but citizens have cellphones.

Americans can fight police brutality by using their cellphones to record police violence, a shocking new video by Brave New Films explains by using graphic footage to show why law enforcement in a dozen states are trying to outlaw the activity.

“Police officers have known that video cameras are their worst enemy,” the narrator begins, as the opening footage gleaned from YouTube shows people being shot, punched, bludgeoned and pepper-sprayed. “I’m not shutting it off, officer,” a person says in one scene, after being stopped in his car. “Then you’re going to jail,” the cop replies.

“They will do anything they can to stop you from legally videotaping,” the narrator continues, as an officer in another setting grabs a woman’s phone and destroys it. As that scene unfolds, a map appears noting that while it is legal in all 50 states to film the police, 12 states have adopted new laws that “severely limit the rights to film the police.”

<p< p=&quot;&quot;><p>Vanessa Baden, spokeswoman for Brave New Films, explained that these 12 states&amp;mdash;Washington, California, Nevada, Texas, Montana, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire&amp;mdash;have right-to-privacy laws to include uniformed police officers who are on the job.</p><p>&amp;ldquo;No police officer who is on the job should have a right to privacy,&amp;rdquo; she said, noting that these laws would not likely stand up in a federal appeals court, but for now become pretexts for police to arrest people, sieze their phones and erase the videos.</p><p>Four states&amp;mdash;Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas&amp;mdash;have prosecuted people for taping the police under these laws, the film&amp;rsquo;s graphics said.</p><p>&amp;ldquo;Everything those cops did, they did to someone else when there were no cameras rolling,&amp;rdquo; the narrator said, as statistics showing that 5,600 people have been killed by police since 2000 and fatal police shootings are at &amp;ldquo;the highest in 20-years.&amp;rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&amp;ldquo;There&amp;rsquo;s a Rodney King every day in this country and Black America has always known it,&amp;rdquo; the narrator said as more footage of shooting and beating roll by. &amp;ldquo;They do it because they know they will get away with it.&amp;rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The film notes that for &amp;ldquo;every 1,000 people killed by police, 1 officer is convicted.&amp;rdquo; It concludes, &amp;ldquo;We need more police accountability, not less&amp;hellip; Don&amp;rsquo;t let them take your rights&amp;hellip; Do your civic duty&amp;hellip; Film the police.&amp;rdquo;</p><p>Brave New Film&amp;#39;s Baden also said that the ACLU of California has <a data-cke-saved-href=&quot;https://www.aclunc.org/news/aclu-california-releases-tool-hold-law-enfor... href=&quot;https://www.aclunc.org/news/aclu-california-releases-tool-hold-law-enfor... a new cellphone app that will automatically back up any video footage taken of police in the event that the cops try to sieze and destroy a citzen&amp;#39;s cellphone.&nbsp;</p><p>Even though the app was developed by the ACLU of California, she explained that it can be used anywhere in the country and said that the ACLU is now building a network to share whatever police videos are taken with local advocates fighting police brutality.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p<>

Vanessa Baden, spokeswoman for Brave New Films, explained that these 12 states—Washington, California, Nevada, Texas, Montana, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire—have expanded right-to-privacy laws to include uniformed police officers at work.

“No police officer should have a right to privacy while they are doing a public job,” Baden said.

These new right-to-privacy laws would likely not be upheld in a federal court, she said, but for now they are pretexts for police to arrest people, seize their cellphones and erase the videos.

Four of the states—Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas—have prosecuted people for taping the police, according to the film.

“Everything those cops did, they did to someone else when there were no cameras rolling,” the narrator says, as statistics point out that 5,600 people have been killed by police since 2000 and fatal police shootings are at their "highest in 20 years.”   

“There’s a Rodney King every day in this country and black America has always known it,” says the narrator as footage of shootings and beatings rolls by. “They do it because they know they will get away with it.”     

The film note that for “every 1,000 people killed by police, one officer is convicted.” It concludes, “We need more police accountability, not less… Don’t let them take your rights… Do your civic duty… Film the police.”

Brave New Film's Baden also said that the ACLU of California has developed a new cellphone app that will automatically back up any video footage taken of police in the event the cops try to seize and destroy a citzen's cellphone. The app can be used anywhere in the country. The ACLU is building a network to share the videos with local advocates fighting police brutality.

 

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Categories: Media

9 Types of News Headlines That Reveal the Madness of Our Times

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 4:39pm
There’s a certain repetition factor in our increasingly bizarro American world that lends predictability to that future.

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It’s commonplace to speak of “the fog of war,” of what can’t be known in the midst of battle, of the inability of both generals and foot soldiers to foresee developments once fighting is underway. And yet that fog is nothing compared to the murky nature of the future itself, which, you might say, is the fog of human life. As Tomorrowlands at world fairs remind us, despite a human penchant for peering ahead and predicting what our lives will be like, we’re regularly surprised when the future arrives.

Remind me who, even among opponents and critics of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, ever imagined that the decision to take out Saddam Hussein’s regime and occupy the country would lead to a terror caliphate in significant parts of Iraq and Syria that would conquer social media and spread like wildfire. And yet, don’t think that the future is completely unpredictable either.

In fact, there’s a certain repetition factor in our increasingly bizarro American world that lends predictability to that future. In case you hadn't noticed, a range of U.S. military, intelligence, and national security measures that never have the effects imagined in Washington are nonetheless treasured there. As a result, they are applied again and again, usually with remarkably similar results.

The upside of this is that it offers all of us the chance to be seers (or Cassandras). So, with an emphasis on the U.S. national security state and its follies, here are my top nine American repeat headlines, each a surefire news story guaranteed to appear sometime, possibly many times, between June 2015 and the unknown future. 

1. U.S. air power obliterates wedding party: Put this one in the future month and year of your choice, add in a country somewhere in the Greater Middle East or Africa. The possibilities are many, but the end result will be the same. Dead wedding revelers are a repetitious certainty.  If you wait, the corpses of brides and grooms (or, as the New York Post put it, “Bride and Boom!”) will come. Over the years, according to the tabulations of TomDispatch, U.S. planes and drones have knocked off at least eight wedding parties in three countries in the Greater Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen) and possibly more, with perhaps 250 revelers among the casualties.  

And here’s a drone headline variant you’re guaranteed to see many times in the years to come: “U.S. drone kills top al-Qaeda/ISIS/al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula/[terror group of your choice] leader” -- with the obvious follow-up headlines vividly illustrated in Andrew Cockburn’s new book, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins: not the weakening but the further strengthening and spread of such organizations.  And yet the White House is stuck on its drone assassination campaigns and the effectiveness of U.S. air power in suppressing terror outfits.  In other words, air and drone campaigns of this sort will remain powerful tools not in a war on terror, but in one that creates terror with predictable headlines assured.

2. Latest revelation indicates that FBI [NSA, CIA] surveillance of Americans far worse than imagined: Talk about no-brainers. Stories of this sort appear regularly and, despite a recentcourt ruling that the NSA’s mass collection of the phone metadata of Americans is illegal, there’s every reason to feel confident that this will not change. Most recently, for instance, an informant-filled FBI program to spy on, surveil, and infiltrate the anti-Keystone XL Pipeline movement made the news (as well as the fact that, in acting as it did, the Bureau had “breached its own internal rules”). In other words, the FBI generally acted as the agency has done since the days of J. Edgar Hoover when it comes to protest in this country. 

Beneath such reports lies a deeper reality: the American national security state, which has undergone an era of unprecedented expansion, is now remarkably unconstrained by any kind of serious oversight, the rule of law, or limits of almost any sort.  It should be clear by now that the urge for ever more latitude and power has become part of its institutional DNA.  It has already created a global surveillance system of a kind never before seen or imagined, not even by the totalitarian regimes of the last century.  Its end goal is clearly to have access to everyone on the planet, Americans included, and every imaginable form of communication now in use.  There was to be a sole exception to this blanket system of surveillance: the official denizens of the national security state itself.  No one was to have the capacity to look at them.  This helps explain why its top officials were so viscerally outraged by Edward Snowden and his revelations.  When someone surveilled them as they did others, they felt violated and deeply offended.

When you set up a system that is so unconstrained, of course, you also encourage its opposite: the urge to reveal.  Hence headline three. 

3. FBI [NSA, CIA, DIA, or acronym of your choice] whistleblower charged by administration under the Espionage Act for revealing to reporter [any activity of any sort from within the national security state]: Amid the many potential crimes committed by those in the national security state in this period (including torture, kidnapping, illegal imprisonment, illegal surveillance, and assassination), the record of the Bush and Obama administrations is clear.  In the twenty-first century, only one act is a crime in official Washington: revealing directly or indirectly to the American people what their government is doing in their name and without their knowledge.  In the single-minded pursuit and prosecution of this single “crime,” the Obama administration has set a record for the use of the Espionage Act.  The tossing of Chelsea Manning behind bars for 35 years; the hounding of Edward Snowden; thejailing of Stephen Kim; the attempt to jail CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling for at least 19 years (the judge “only” gave him three and a half); the jailing of John Kiriakou, the sole CIA agent charged in the Agency’s torture scandal (for revealing the name of an agent involved in it to a newspaper reporter), all indicate one thing: that maintaining the aura of secrecy surrounding our “shadow government” is considered of paramount importance to its officials.  Their desire to spy on and somehow control the rest of us comes with an urge to protect themselves from exposure.  As it happens, no matter what kinds of clampdowns are instituted, the creation of such a system of secrecy invites and in its own perverse way encourages revelation as well.  This, in turn, ensures that no matter what the national security state may threaten to do to whistleblowers, disclosures will follow, making such future headlines predictable. 

4. Contending militias and Islamic extremist groups fight for control in shattered [fill in name of country somewhere in the Greater Middle East or Africa] after a U.S. intervention [drone assassination campaign, series of secret raids, or set of military-style activities of your choice]: Look at Libya andYemen today, look at the fragmentation of Iraq, as well as the partial fragmentation of Pakistan and even Afghanistan.  American interventions of the twenty-first century seem to carry with them a virus that infects the nation-state and threatens it from within.  These days, it’s also clear that, whether you look at Democrats or Republicans, some version of the war-hawk party in Washington is going to reign supreme for the foreseeable future.  Despite the dismal record of Washington's military-first policies, such power-projection will undoubtedly remain the order of the day in significant parts of the world.  As a result, you can expect American interventions of all sorts (even if not full-scale invasions).  That means further regional fragmentation, which, in turn, means similar headlines in the future as central governments weaken or crumble and warring militias and terror outfits fight it out in the ruins of the state. 

5. [King, emir, prime minister, autocrat, leader] of [name of U.S. ally or proxy state] snubs [rejects, angrily disputes, denounces, ignores] U.S. presidential summit meeting [joint news conference, other event]: This headline is obviously patterned on recent news: the announcement that Saudi King Salman, who was to attend a White House summit of the Gulf states at Camp David, would not be coming.  This led to a spate of "snub" headlines, along with accounts of Saudi anger at Obama administration attempts to broker a nuclear peace deal with Iran that would free that country’s economy of sanctions and so potentially allow it to flex its muscles further in the Middle East. 

Behind that story lies a far bigger one: the growing inability of the last superpower to apply its might effectively in region after region.  Historically, the proxies and dependents of great powers -- take Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam in the early 1960s -- have often been nationalists and found their dependency rankling.  But private gripes and public slaps are two very different things.  In our moment, Washington's proxies and allies are visibly restless and increasingly less polite and the Obama administration seems strangely toothless in response.  Former President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan may have led the way on this, but it’s a phenomenon that’s clearly spreading.  (Check out, for instance, General Sisi of Egypt orPrime Minister Netanyahu of Israel.)  Even Washington’s closest European allies seem to be growing restless.  In a recent gesture that (Charles de Gaulle aside) has no companion in post-World War II history, England, Germany, and Italy agreed to become founding members of a new Chinese-led Asian regional investment bank.  They did so over the public and private objections of the Obama administration and despite Washington’s attempts to apply pressure on the subject.  They were joined by other close U.S. allies in Asia.  Given Washington’s difficulty making its power mean something in recent years, it’s not hard to predict more snubs and slaps from proxies and allies alike.  Fortunately, Washington has one new ally it might be able to count on: Cuba.    

6. Twenty-two-year-old [18-year-old, age of your choice] Arab-American [Somali-American, African-American or Caucasian-American convert to Islam] arrested for planning to bomb [drone attack, shoot up] the Mall of America [Congress, the Empire State Building, other landmark, transportation system, synagogue, church, or commercial location] by the FBI thanks to a Bureau informer: This is yet another no-brainer of a future headline or rather set of headlines.  So far, just about every high-profile terror “plot” reported (and broken up) in this country has involved an FBI informer or informers and most of them have been significantly funded, inspired, or even organized by that agency right down to the fake weaponry the “terrorists” used.  Most of the “plotters” involved turned out to be needy and confused losers, sometimes simply hapless, big-mouthed drifters, who were essentially incapable, whatever their thinking, of developing and carrying out an organized terror attack on their own.  There are only a few exceptions, including the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 and the Times Square car bombing of 2010 (foiled by two street vendors). 

What the FBI has operated in these years is about as close as you can get to an ongoing terrorism sting-cum-scam operation.  Though Bureau officials undoubtedly don’t think of it so crudely, it could be considered an effective part of a bureaucratic fundraising exercise.  Keep in mind that the massive expansion of the national security state has largely been justified by the fear of one thing: terrorism.  In terms of actual casualties in the U.S. since 9/11, terrorism has not been a significant danger and yet the national security state as presently constituted makes no sense without an overwhelming public and congressional fear of terrorism.  So evidence of regular terror “plots” is useful indeed.  Publicity about them, which runs rampant whenever one of them is “foiled” by the Bureau, generates fear, not to say hysteria here, as well as a sense of the efficiency and accomplishment of the FBI.  All of this ensures that, in an era highlighted by belt-tightening in Washington, the funds will continue to flow.  As a result, you can count on a future in which FBI-inspired/-organized/-encouraged Islamic terrorism is a repeated fact of life in “the homeland.”  (If you want to get an up-close-and-personal look at just how the FBI works with its informers in the business of entrapping of “terrorists,” check out the upcoming documentary film (T)error when it becomes available.)

7. American lone wolf terrorist, inspired by ISIS [al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, terror group of your choice] videos [tweets, Facebook pleas, recordings], guns down two [none, three, six, other number of] Americans at school [church, political gathering, mall, Islamophobic event, or your pick] before being killed [wounded, captured]: Lone wolf terrorism is nothing new.  Think of Timothy McVeigh.  But the Muslim extremist version of the lone wolf terrorist -- and yes, Virginia, there clearly are some in this country unbalanced enough to be stirred to grim action by the videos or tweets of various terror groups -- is the new kid on the block.  So far, however, among the jostling crowds of American lone mass murderers who strike regularly across the country in schools, colleges, movie theaters, religious venues, workplaces, and other spots, Islamic lone wolves seem to have been a particularly ineffective crew.  And yet, as with those FBI-inspired terror plots, the Islamic-American lone wolf turns out to be a perfect vehicle for creating hysteria and so the officials of the national security state wallow in high-octane statements about such dangers, which theoretically envelop us.  In financial terms, the lone wolf is to the national security state what the Koch Brothers are to Republican presidential candidates, which means that you can count on terrifying headlines galore into the distant future.

8. Toddler kills mother [father, brother, sister] in [IdahoClevelandAlbuquerque, or state or city of your choice] with family gun: Fill in the future blanks as you will, this is a story fated to happen again and again.  Statistically, death-by-toddler is a greater danger to Americans living in “the homeland” than death by terrorist, but of course it raises funds for no one.  No set of agencies broadcasts hysterical claims about such killings; no set of agencies lives off of or is funded by the threat of them, though they are bound to be on the rise.  The math is simple enough.  In the U.S., ever more powerful guns are available, while “concealed carrying” is now legal in all 50 states and the places in which you can carry areexpanding.  Well over 1.3 million people have the right to carry a concealed weapon in Florida alone, and a single lobbying group in favor of such developments, the National Rifle Association, is so powerful that most politicians don’t dare take it on.  Add it all up and it’s obvious that more weapons will be carelessly left within the reach of toddlers who will pick them up, pull the trigger, and kill or wound others who are literally and figuratively close to them, a searing life (and death) experience.  So the future headlines are predictable.

9. President claims Americans are ‘exceptional’ and the U.S. is ‘indispensible’ to the world:Lest you think this one is a joke headline, here’s what USA Today put up in September 2013: "Obama tells the world: America is exceptional"; and here’s Voice of America in 2012: "Obama: U.S. 'the one indispensible nation in world affairs.'" In fact, it’s unlikely a president could survive politically these days without repetitiously citing the “exceptional” and “indispensable” nature of this country.  Recently, even when apologizing for a CIA drone strike in Pakistan that took out American and Italian hostages of al-Qaeda, the presidentinsisted that we were still “exceptional” on planet Earth -- for admitting our mistakes, if nothing else.  On this sort of thing, the Republicans running for president and that party’s war hawks in Congress double down when it comes to heaping praise on us, making the president’s exceptionalist comments seem almost recessive by comparison.  In fact, this is a relatively new phenomenon in American politics.  It only took off in the post-9/11 era and, as with anything emphasized too much and repeated too often, it betrays not strength and confidence but creeping doubt about the nature of our country.  Once upon a time, Americans didn’t have to say such things because they seemed obvious.  No longer.  So await these inane headlines in the future and the repetitive litany of over-the-top self-praise that goes with them, and consider them a way to take the pulse of an increasingly anxious nation at sea with itself.

And mind you, this is just to scratch the surface of what’s predictable in the American future.  I’m sure you could come up with nine similarly themed headlines in no time at all.  It turns out that the key to such future stories is the lack of a learning curve in Washington, more or less a necessity if the national security state plans to continue to gain power and shed the idea that it is accountable to other Americans for anything it does.  If it were capable of learning from its actions, it might not survive its own failures.

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Noam Chomsky Reads the New York Times -- Explains Why 'Paper of Record' Is Pure Propaganda

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:24pm
From Laos to the Middle East, a roundup of Times stories that piqued the interest of the esteemed scholar.

A front-page article is devoted to a flawed story about a campus rape in the journal Rolling Stone, exposed in the leading academic journal of media critique. So severe is this departure from journalistic integrity that it is also the subject of the lead story in the business section, with a full inside page devoted to the continuation of the two reports. The shocked reports refer to several past crimes of the press: a few cases of fabrication, quickly exposed, and cases of plagiarism (“too numerous to list”). The specific crime of Rolling Stone is “lack of skepticism,” which is “in many ways the most insidious” of the three categories.

It is refreshing to see the commitment of the Times to the integrity of journalism.

On page 7 of the same issue, there is an important story by Thomas Fuller headlined “One Woman’s Mission to free Laos from Unexploded Bombs.” It reports the “single-minded effort” of a Lao-American woman, Channapha Khamvongsa, “to rid her native land of millions of bombs still buried there, the legacy of a nine-year American air campaign that made Laos one of the most heavily bombed places on earth” – soon to be outstripped by rural Cambodia, following the orders of Henry Kissinger to the US air force: “A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves.” A comparable call for virtual genocide would be very hard to find in the archival record. It was mentioned in the Times in an article on released tapes of President Nixon, and elicited little notice.

The Fuller story on Laos reports that as a result of Ms. Khamvongsa’s lobbying, the US increased its annual spending on removal of unexploded bombs by a munificent $12 million. The most lethal are cluster bombs, which are designed to “cause maximum casualties to troops” by spraying “hundreds of bomblets onto the ground.” About 30 percent remain unexploded, so that they kill and maim children who pick up the pieces, farmers who strike them while working, and other unfortunates. An accompanying map features Xieng Khouang province in northern Laos, better known as the Plain of Jars, the primary target of the intensive bombing, which reached its peak of fury in 1969.

Fuller reports that Ms. Khamvongsa “was spurred into action when she came across a collection of drawings of the bombings made by refugees and collected by Fred Branfman, an antiwar activist who helped expose the Secret War.” The drawings appear in the late Fred Branfman’s remarkable book Voices from the Plain of Jars, published in 1972, republished by the U. of Wisconsin press in 2013 with a new introduction. The drawings vividly display the torment of the victims, poor peasants in a remote area that had virtually nothing to do with the Vietnam war, as officially conceded. One typical report by a 26 year-old nurse captures the nature of the air war: “There wasn't a night when we thought we'd live until morning, never a morning we thought we'd sur¬vive until night. Did our children cry? Oh, yes, and we did also. I just stayed in my cave. I didn't see the sunlight for two years. What did I think about? Oh, I used to repeat, `please don't let the planes come, please don't let the planes come, please don't let the planes come.'"

Branfman’s valiant efforts did indeed bring some awareness of this hideous atrocity. His assiduous researches also unearthed the reasons for the savage destruction of a helpless peasant society. He exposes the reasons once again in the introduction to the new edition of Voices. In his words:

“One of the most shattering revelations about the bombing was discovering why it had so vastly increased in 1969, as described by the refugees. I learned that after President Lyndon Johnson had declared a bombing halt over North Vietnam in November 1968, he had simply diverted the planes into northern Laos. There was no military reason for doing so. It was simply because, as U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Monteagle Stearns testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in October 1969, `Well, we had all those planes sitting around and couldn't just let them stay there with nothing to do’.”

Therefore the unused planes were unleashed on poor peasants, devastating the peaceful Plain of Jars, far from the ravages of Washington’s murderous wars of aggression in Indochina.

Let us now see how these revelations are transmuted into New York Times Newspeak: “The targets were North Vietnamese troops — especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a large part of which passed through Laos — as well as North Vietnam’s Laotian Communist allies.”

Compare the words of the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, and the heart-rending drawings and testimony in Fred Branfman’s cited collection.

True, the reporter has a source: U.S. propaganda. That surely suffices to overwhelm mere fact about one of the major crimes of the post-World War II era, as detailed in the very source he cites: Fred Branfman’s crucial revelations.

We can be confident that this colossal lie in the service of the state will not merit lengthy exposure and denunciation of disgraceful misdeeds of the Free Press, such as plagiarism and lack of skepticism.

The same issue of the New York Times treats us to a report by the inimitable Thomas Friedman, earnestly relaying the words of President Obama presenting what Friedman labels “the Obama Doctrine” – every President has to have a Doctrine. The profound Doctrine is “’engagement,’ combined with meeting core strategic needs.”

The President illustrated with a crucial case: “You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies.”

Here the Nobel Peace laureate expands on his reasons for undertaking what the leading US left-liberal intellectual journal, the New York Review, hails as the “brave” and “truly historic step” of reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. It is a move undertaken in order to “more effectively empower the Cuban people,” the hero explained, our earlier efforts to bring them freedom and democracy having failed to achieve our noble goals. The earlier efforts included a crushing embargo condemned by the entire world (Israel excepted) and a brutal terrorist war. The latter is as usual wiped out of history, apart from failed attempts to assassinate Castro, a very minor feature, acceptable because it can be dismissed with scorn as ridiculous CIA shenanigans. Turning to the declassified internal record, we learn that these crimes were undertaken because of Cuba’s “successful defiance” of US policy going back to the Monroe Doctrine, which declared Washington’s intent to rule the hemisphere. All unmentionable, along with too much else to recount here.

Searching further we find other gems, for example, the front-page think piece on the Iran deal by Peter Baker a few days earlier, warning about the Iranian crimes regularly listed by Washington’s propaganda system. All prove to be quite revealing on analysis, though none more so than the ultimate Iranian crime: “destabilizing” the region by supporting “Shiite militias that killed American soldiers in Iraq.” Here again is the standard picture. When the US invades Iraq, virtually destroying it and inciting sectarian conflicts that are tearing the country and now the whole region apart, that counts as “stabilization” in official and hence media rhetoric. When Iran supports militias resisting the aggression, that is “destabilization.” And there could hardly be a more heinous crime than killing American soldiers attacking one’s homes.

All of this, and far, far more, makes perfect sense if we show due obedience and uncritically accept approved doctrine: The US owns the world, and it does so by right, for reasons also explained lucidly in the New York Review, in a March 2015 article by Jessica Matthews, former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: “American contributions to international security, global economic growth, freedom, and human well-being have been so self-evidently unique and have been so clearly directed to others’ benefit that Americans have long believed that the US amounts to a different kind of country. Where others push their national interests, the US tries to advance universal principles.” Defense rests.

 

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Statement on Military Equipment Ban

Women in Media and News - WIMN's Voices - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:05pm

Reposted with permission from millionhoodies.org

New York, NY — May 18th, 2015

“This is a good first step from President Obama but it is by no means a fix-all solution for the ways Black and Brown communities have been criminalized and stigmatized here in the United States,” said Million Hoodies National Policy and Communications Director, Pete Haviland-Eduah. “President Obama’s Executive Order will require data collection and will give us the proper tools necessary to track incidents of police malpractice and militarized equipment but it fails to address important aspects of policing such as hiring and training practices that have significantly contributed to aggressive tactics by the police in communities across the country. We are at a critical point in our nation’s history and we applaud the President on this crucial first step, but we will continue to work towards further systemic reforms that ensure that a culture of police militarization along with hyper-aggressive tactics are truly a thing of the past.”

 

“We appreciate the President’s executive order to change the way communities around the country are policed, it is such an important discussion and knowing that this has prompted a response from the White House is a vital first step towards making change,” said Million Hoodies Movement for Justice University of California Riverside Chapter President, Lauren Green. “However, as college students, we realize that a militarized police culture is not just a problem for communities, it is a problem for college campuses and universities as well. We must take steps to ensure that students are protected from these types of practices as well and we will continue our work with the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice until places of higher education are held accountable for their policing practices as well.”

Click here for more information on our work around police militarization.

Million Hoodies Movement for Justice is a national racial justice network with over 60,000 members working to end the mass criminalization of youth of color. Million Hoodies seeks to build a safer and just America by transforming the public narrative on gun violence and mass criminalization while providing the tools necessary for communities to protect themselves.

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The post Statement on Military Equipment Ban appeared first on The Center for Media Justice.

Categories: Media

Google Says Sorry Over Racist Google Maps White House Search Results

Alternet - Media Culture - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 9:45am
Searches using a racist slur return results pinpointing the White House in Washington DC.

Google has apologised after searches which include the racist slur “nigger” were shown to find the White House in Google Maps.

Searches for “nigger house”, in a global view of the world, and for “nigger king”, when focused on in the Washington DC greater area, return with the home of the US president Barack Obama as either the primary search result or one of three.

 

Google Maps

“Some inappropriate results are surfacing in Google Maps that should not be, and we apologise for any offence this may have caused. Our teams are working to fix this issue quickly,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. It has not explained why the results are occurring.

At the time of writing, the racist search results had not been fixed. They were firstexposed by the Washington Post on Tuesday.

             


 Google Maps

It is not the first time a Google search-based product has appeared to be racist. In 2010, the company’s search auto-complete system suggested racist queries after simply typing “why”, while its advertising system was shown to be 25% more likely to bring up ads for criminal record checks when searching for traditionally black names.

Both systems are automated, taking user input from the billions of searches performed using Google to predict likely queries and results.

But Google was also forced to shut off its crowd-sourced Map Maker system for Google Maps, which allowed user-generated corrections and additions to maps, after pranks including a picture of an Android robot urinating on an Apple logo.

Google said it had been experiencing “escalated attacks to spam Google Maps over the past few months”. Whether the latest incident is a hack by a third-party or an issue with Google’s algorithm is unknown.

 

 

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Clinton Smear Book Author's Past Revealed: He Was Ghostwriter for Jesse Helms

Alternet - Media Culture - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 6:23pm
Odd that Peter Schweizer's right-wing roots didn't give pause to the Times or Post.

Something strange is happening in America’s biggest-time media circles. When it comes to mainstream news departments covering the present and future, the past is not important—even when the latest information-bearing source is a walking red flag.

That right-wing propagandist Peter Schweizer has a new book slamming the Clintons is no surprise. But in the weeks since the New York Times and Washington Post used a pre-release copy as the basis for investigative reports criticizing the Clintons while Hillary was Secretary of State, Schweizer’s publisher has issued retractions, including revising the e-book version. The papers should have seen that coming, instead of elevating Schweizer’s latest hit job to something presented as investigative reporting and not partisan opinion.

But they didn’t, raising the question, can sources ever be too toxic? One can only wonder if the Times or the Post knew that Schweizer worked as a writer for North Carolina’s ex-Sen. Jesse Helms, who was not only one of the Senate’s most unapologetic racists but blocked then-President Clinton’s agenda as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair from 1994 to 2000. Schweizer, a foreign policy expert, was brought into Helm’s orbit by spokesman Marc Thiessen, who became his business partner after working as a speechwriter in George W. Bush’s White House.

Helms was one of America’s most divisive politicians. He defended segregation for decades, from protecting apartheid South Africa from sanctions to opposing a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. He blocked foreign aid that mentioned abortion and provided birth control. He hated Clinton’s foreign policy. Helms opposed Clinton in Haiti, Bosnia and the Middle East. He blocked a 1999 Chemical Weapons Convention, helped kill a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for nuclear arms with Russia, and regularly attacked the U.N. In his campaigns, Helms played the race card, including an ad where he said that electing a black senator would kill jobs for whites. Schweizer was tapped to ghostwrite for Helms, Tallahassee magazine said in a glowing 2009 profile.  

Schweizer has made a lucrative career writing books that portray right-wingers as heroes and Democrats as hypocrites. He has a record of making accusations that turn out to be false, even forcing editorial pages—where one expresses a mix of facts and opinions—to run corrections. That history didn’t stop the Times or the Post from treating his latest anti-Clinton screed as an investigative goldmine, when in reality, it reads like typical political opposition research report, filled with innuendo and dots that can’t be proven but leave a sour taste in the mouth.

If the Times and the Post want to go after Bill and Hillary Clinton for ethical lapses surrounding the donations to their family foundation or reveal who is writing six-figure checks for their speeches, they don’t need to rely on an established right-wing provocateur. Political Washington is actually a small town, and it does not take too long to find alternative sources.

When asked if the Times knew of Schweizer’s background, the assistant to Public Editor Margaret Sullivan declined to comment beyond what has already been said. “The information is not being taken at face value; it’s being reported out,” Sullivan wrote. “I’m satisfied that there is no financial arrangement. (Mr. Schweizer surely will benefit from the exposure in The Times, of course; no small consideration.)”

The Post’s spokesman said much the same thing; they will look at anything and then decide what to do from there. Needless to say, neither paper has said much about the errors in their source’s book. Thiessen did not return a call to comment on bringing Schweizer into Helm’s orbit.

These newspapers are supposed to be better than this. Thiessen is a columnist at the Post, where like other columnists, he can say whatever he wants on the opinion pages. But that isn’t the same as the news pages. It’s a sad state of affairs when these papers will sanction reporters to write about a past president’s and current candidate’s blurring of ethical lines, when the source for their investigations has a history of inaccurate attacks and vicious partisanship—as evidenced by revelations of ghostwriting for Helms and forced corrections to the anti-Hillary book.

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Remembering Malcolm X on His 90th Birthday

Democracy Now! - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 9:46am

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of Malcolm X. Look back at Malcolm X's life and legacy by browsing Democracy Now! coverage over the years. Below you can browse his speeches, as well as interviews with scholars, journalists, activists and his biographer Dr. Manning Marable–as well as a debate on Marable's book. Click here for a debate between Malcolm X and James Baldwin, and click here to see all of our coverage.

Malcolm X: The Ballot or the Bullet

50 Years After Murder, Malcolm X Remembered by Daughter Ilyasah Shabazz & Friend A. Peter Bailey

Part 2: 50 Years After Murder, Malcolm X Remembered by Daughter Ilyasah Shabazz & A. Peter Bailey

Civil Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama on Witnessing the Assassination of Malcolm

Manning Marable on 'Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention'

Manning Marable’s Controversial New Biography Refuels Debate on Life and Legacy of Malcolm X

Malcolm X: Make It Plain

Grace Lee Boggs on Malcolm X: 'He Was a Person Always Searching to Transform Himself'

Categories: Media

Waco Biker Gang Killings -- Funny How the Corporate Media Won't Call It a Riot When White People Are Involved

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:44pm
Reporting on Waco biker gang killings reveals disparities in news coverage.

Nine people have died after a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in Waco on Sunday, when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in the central Texas city.

I use the terms “shootout” and “gunfire erupted” after reading numerous eyewitness reports, local news coverage and national stories about the “incident,” which has been described with a whole host of phrases already. None, however, are quite as familiar as another term that’s been used to describe similarly chaotic events in the news of late: “Riot.”

Of course, the deadly shootout in Texas was exactly that: A shootout. The rival gangs were not engaged in a demonstration or protest and they were predominantly white, which means that — despite the fact that dozens of people engaged in acts of obscene violence — they did not “riot,” as far as much of the media is concerned. “Riots” are reserved for communities of color in protest, whether they organize violently or not, and the “thuggishness” of those involved is debatable. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Texas.

A riot is not simply a demonstration against police brutality. It can also be what happens when scores of hostile white people open gunfire in a parking lot. And when that happens, it can be described as anything but a “riot.”

Here are some synonyms different outlets, as well as law enforcement officials, came up with:

CNN
melee
ruckus
fracas
brawl
fistfight
brouhaha
“issues”
trouble
chaos

New York Times:
shootout
chaos
fight
confrontation
problems

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Anderson Cooper Just Got Trolled by the Onion

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:30pm
Old media and new media collide

Professional Serious Person Anderson Cooper mistook a Clickhole article (Clickhole is a product of satirical "news site" the Onion) for the real thing this afternoon:

 

After an immediate and unforgiving twitter storm of mockery he quickly tweet out:

His self-aware response actually makes him more lovable, as is the fact that he has yet to delete the tweet.

This isn't the first time a CNN Celebrity Journalist has made an ass of themselves publicly. Recall Wolf Blitzer's infamous 2009 appearance on Jeopardy where the Host of The Situation Room finished with negative $4,600 

Anderson, by allow accounts is not dumb however - just adorably unhip. 

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Here's a List of Kanye West's Lyrics that Were Silenced in His Billboard Music Awards Performance Last Night

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 11:13am
ABC censors got a little mute-happy in their effort to ensure no foul language made it on air.

Did you see and hear Kanye West on the Billboard Music Awards last night? I don’t mean, were you watching—I mean did you actually see and hear him, because it was almost impossible to do either. That's because ABC censors went so overboard in trying to mute any swear words or use of “ni***a” that the performance was basically reduced to long stretches of silence. And Kanye’s own decision to perform in the middle of a pyrotechnics display meant that it was nearly impossible to see him.

What might have set things off was the fact that the set began with “All Day,” a song that makes generous use of the n-word. Censors made things go quiet when the word came up, which was often. But then something funny happened: They started to censor nearly everything, including completely innocuous phrases. Was this some sort of joke? It continued into Kanye’s second performance, “Black Skinhead.”

As proof of just how mute-button-happy the censors were, Buzzfeed rounded up all the phrases they blocked out, many of them unnecessarily.

1. You already know

2. South

3. N***a

4. Ball so hard, man, this shit cray

5. And you ain’t gettin’ money ‘less you got eight figures

6. For that Jesus piece, man, I’ve been saved

7. Just talked to Farrakhan, that’s sensei

8. Allstate n***a

9. If you run into me, better have Allstate with ya

10. You a Rico Suave n***a

11. Ride around listening to Sade

12. If you ain’t with us, you in our way

13. You actor, you should be on Broadway

14. Cause you do shit the broad way

15. Your bitch got a ass, but my broad way thicker

16. Tell your P.O. how long you been high? All day (This line was not censored in the first verse)

17. Pour some Hen out for my n***s that died

18. They need that Ye in the streets, boy

19. Like a light-skinned slave, boy, we in the motherfuckin’ house

20. My leather black jeans on

21. Middle America

22. Number one question they’re askin, fuck every question you askin’

23. If I don’t get ran out by [Catholics] (Catholics was not censored))

24. So follow me up cuz’ this shit bout to go down

25. Stop all that coon shit

26. Early morning cartoon shit

27. This is that goon shit

28. Fuck up your whole afternoon shit

29. Black out the room, bitch

30. Stop all that coon shit

31. Them n***s ain’t doing shit

32. Them n***s ain’t doing shit

33. You n***s ain’t breathin’ you gaspin’

34. These n***s ain’t ready for action

To enjoy the sounds of silence for yourself, check out the video:

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Jay-Z and Beyonce Have Been Discreetly Paying the Bail of Baltimore and Ferguson Protesters

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 9:34am
Activist dream hampton says the two are giving generously to the cause, but want to avoid being a distraction.

Jay-Z and Beyonce get a lot of flack for being apolitical, but if a series of tweets from noted hip-hop writer, cultural critic and activist dream hampton can be believed, the couple is actually very politically engaged -- but just prefer to keep their social activism quiet.

hampton’s tweets, posted yesterday, claim that Jay-Z and Beyonce have been sending “tens of thousands” of dollars to underwrite efforts in Ferguson, Baltimore and for the Black Lives Matter movement in general. Though her tweets were later erased, Complex magazine had the foresight to capture screen grabs before they disappeared. The tweets are below:

(h/t Complex)

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Paul Krugman Drops Epic Truth Bomb on Latest Round of Lies About Iraq War

Alternet - Media Culture - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 8:20am
The war was no mere mistake: The Bush administration wanted a war and concocted the intelligence.

"Mistakes were made" just doesn't get at the truth about how America was coerced into the disastrous war in Iraq,and the horrific consequences that are still unfolding. Paul Krugman sets the record straight in Monday's column, beginning with the ironic statement, that "there’s something to be said for having the brother of a failed president make his own run for the White House."

Yep, Jeb Bush has unwittingly ushered in the chance to have an honest discussion about the invasion of Iraq. About time.

Of course, Bush and a whole lot of other people would prefer not to have that honest discussion, or if they do, to make excuses for themselves (Judith Miller.) ,

The Iraq War was no innocent mistake based on faulty intelligence, Krugman argues compellingly. "America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war," he writes. "The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war."

And we knew it—or certainly should have. Krugman:

The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games — the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

And at this point we have plenty of evidence to confirm everything the war’s opponents were saying. We now know, for example, that on 9/11 itself — literally before the dust had settled — Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, was already plotting war against a regime that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. “Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] ...sweep it all up things related and not”; so read notes taken by Mr. Rumsfeld’s aide.

This was, in short, a war the White House wanted, and all of the supposed mistakes that, as Jeb puts it, “were made” by someone unnamed actually flowed from this underlying desire. Did the intelligence agencies wrongly conclude that Iraq had chemical weapons and a nuclear program? That’s because they were under intense pressure to justify the war. Did prewar assessments vastly understate the difficulty and cost of occupation? That’s because the war party didn’t want to hear anything that might raise doubts about the rush to invade. Indeed, the Army’s chief of staff was effectively fired for questioning claims that the occupation phase would be cheap and easy.

The harder question is why? Here, Krugman can only speculate. Enhancing American power? Building the Republican brand? It is impossible not to ascribe cynical motives.

So politicians and many in the media don't want to talk about it. But Krugman argues we should hold their feet to the fire. Some may have been duped. Others bullied. Many were downright complicit. "The bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud," Krugman writes. "And it doesn’t get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war."

The media, Krugman concludes, has an obligation to get the story right. Right now.

 

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Bad Apple: 5 Ways the Computer Giant Is Plundering America

Alternet - Media Culture - Sun, 05/17/2015 - 8:40pm
No amount of clever branding can hide these harsh truths.

An emotional response to any criticism of the Apple Corporation might be anticipated from the users of the company's powerful, practical, popular, and entertaining devices. Accolades to the company and a healthy profit are certainly well-deserved. But much-despised should be the theft from taxpayers and the exploitation of workers and customers, all cloaked within the image of an organization that seems to work magic on our behalf. 

1. Apple Took Years of Public Research, Integrated the Results, and Packaged it As Their Own 

Apple's stock market value of over $700 billion is about twice the value of any other company. It is generally regarded as innovative, trendy, and sensitive to the needs of phone and computer users all around the world. Many of us have become addicted to the beautifully designed iPhone. But the design goes back to the time before Apple existed. 

Steve Jobs once admitted: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." And reaping most of the benefits. As economist William Lazonick put it, "The iPhone didn’t just magically appear out of the Apple campus in Cupertino. Whenever a company produces a technology product, it benefits from an accumulation of knowledge created by huge numbers of people outside the company, many of whom have worked in government-funded projects over the previous decades." 

In her revealing book, The Entrepreneurial StateMariana Mazzucato explains that "Apple concentrates its ingenuity not on developing new technologies and components, but on integrating them into an innovative architecture." She goes on to describe 12 major technologies that have their roots in government research, including memory and hard disks, displays, cellular technology, GPS, and all the Internet protocols. Much of it came from the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, NASA, the Air Force, and other U.S. agencies. The biggest expense in the iPhone is the touchscreen, which was developed at the CERN laboratories in Europe. 

The "stealing of ideas" has not been accompanied by a reciprocal contribution to research. Apple spends much less than Microsoft and Google on R&D as a percentage of revenue. 

It gets worse. Apple effectively takes all the credit for much of our public R&D by invoking the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed publicly-funded work to be patented by companies. In 2011, for the first time, Apple spent more on patent purchases and lawsuits than on R&D. And worst of all, patents can make it extremely difficult for other researchers to continue work on the ideas behind newly developed products. 

2. Even After Taking Our Research, Apple Does Everything in its Power to Avoid Taxes 

In 2013 Apple CEO Tim Cook proclaimed, "We pay all the taxes we owe - every single dollar." Delusion teams with denial. When questioned about the "Double Irish" scheme that allowed Apple's Irish subsidiary to pay ZERO taxes from 2009 to 2012, Apple executive Tony King said he had "no idea" what the questioner was talking about. 

Apple recently announced that its overseas, untaxed cash hoard, currently about $157 billion, is expected to reach $200 billion by 2017. But rather than pay taxes, Apple, along with other tech companies, has been part of a "fierce attack" on plans to crack down on tax avoidance, lobbying instead for a repatriation tax holiday to allow the billions of overseas dollars to come home at a greatly reduced tax rate. 

3. Overcharging Customers 

The manufacturing cost of a 16 GB iPhone 6 is about $200, and with marketing it comes to about $288. But without an expensive phone contract with Verizon, AT&T, or one of the other wireless carriers, the cost to the customer is at least $650

4. Underpaying and Mistreating Employees 

In response to criticisms of Apple, Rand Paul advised us to "apologize to Apple and compliment them for the job creation they’re doing." The company claims to have "created or supported" over a million jobs in the United States. But in reality it has 66,000 employees in the U.S., about half of them retail store workers. 

Apple has an efficient way of undermining workers, earning nearly $600,000 profit per employee while paying their full-time retail "specialists" less than $30,000 per year. Thus each store worker gets about $1 for every $20 in profits that he or she helps to generate. As for higher-level employees, Apple is alleged to have conspired with Google and other Silicon Valley tech firms to hold down the salaries of engineers and analysts. 

Regarding laborers at notorious Chinese factories like Foxconn, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in 2012: "We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain." The sentiment went deeper three years later in 2015, when Apple VP Jeff Williams assured us that "We care deeply about every worker in Apple’s global supply chain." But investigations have revealed little change, with a continuation of low wages, forced overtime, safety hazards, employee abuse, increased production quotas, and manipulation of student interns. Before the launch of the iPhone 6 in late 2014, workers put in 15 hours a day for 10 weeks without a day off. 

5. Apple Has Figured Out How to Spend Most of its Untaxed Money on Itself 

Much of Apple's 'offshore' money is reportedly held in the U.S., in the form of U.S government securities, earning interest from U.S. taxpayers. When the company needs cash, it simply borrows the money at a near-zero interest rate, often using that cash to pay off shareholders with stock buybacks, which use potential research and development money to pump up the stock prices for shareholders. 

After spending $90 billion on stock buybacks last year, Apple has now proudly announced a 2015 "share repurchase authorization" of $140 billion, almost the entire amount of its currently hoarded cash. Buybacks benefit company executives and investors. Beyond that, Apple's ever-growing $.7 trillion stock market value is spread among relatively few Americans. The richest 10% own 91 percentof U.S. stocks. 

Apple's View 

The tax-avoiding, research-appropriating, cost-escalating, wage-minimizing, self-enriching Apple Corporation has, according to CEO Tim Cook, a very strong moral compass. 

Categories: Media