"All you need is like!"
The embattled distributor now says it's looking at every possibility to share the film with the public.
Audiences may yet have a chance to watch “The Interview,” the Sony film that has become the center of a hacking debacle. Representatives of the distributor say they’re looking for ways to get the film out to the public, and are even considering free services like YouTube and Crackle.
Lauren Condoluci of Rubenstein Communications, Sony’s PR firm, said the film company “is still exploring options for distribution.”
That statement was furthered bolstered by David Boies, a Sony lawyer who appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “It will be distributed," the attorney said. "How it's going to be distributed I don't think anybody knows quite yet. But it's going to be distributed."
Sony had originally slated “The Interview” for a Christmas Day release, but withdrew those plans after hacker group Guardians of Peace released private emails that resulted in a series of public embarrassments for the company. The leak included emails from top Sony executives using racist language about President Obama and making offensive statements regarding celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Kevin Hart and Adam Sandler. Sony cancelled the theatrical release of the film after the hackers threatened to launch a “9/11-like attack” against theaters that screened the film.
Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Pictures, has echoed his colleagues’ sentiments, stating, “There have been a lot of conversations about the robustness of various systems to be able to make sure they’re not hacked, if and when we put the movie out digitally.”
He suggested that some digital distributors have turned down the film due to concerns that they might also become targets of the hackers.
This weekend, Guardians of Peace -- which the FBI has maintained has ties to the North Korean government -- posted a statement mocking the law enforcement agency's efforts, and calling them "idiots."
Do you have too much money? The New York Times has some shopping tips for you.
North Korea warns ‘toughest counteraction will be boldly taken.’
The United States may classify North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism after its “cybervandalism” of Sony Pictures, President Barack Obama has said.
The president said the hack on the Hollywood studio was not an act of war but was “very costly”, and could land Pyongyang back on the administration’s terror list, a designation lifted by the Bush administration in 2008 during nuclear talks.
“We’re going to review those [issues] through a process that’s already in place,” he told CNN in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “I’ll wait to review what the findings are.”
Michael Lynton, the studio’s chief executive, said it had “not caved” to the hackers and was considering various options to release the comedy, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as journalists who are charged with assassinating North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. “We would still like the public to see this movie, absolutely,” he told CNN.
North Korea has denied any involvement in last month’s hack which crippled Sony’s Hollywood studio, and threatened to hit back at the White House and other US targets if Washington sanctions it.
The country’s top military body, the National Defence Commission, said in a statement on the country’s official news agency that the army and people “are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the US in all war spaces including cyber warfare space to blow up those citadels”.
“Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the White House, the Pentagon and the whole US mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the ‘symmetric counteraction’ declared by Obama,” it said.
John McCain, the Arizona senator, led Republican calls for a robust response from the US, including a restoration of sanctions lifted under the Bush administration.
“The president does not understand that this is the manifestation of a new form of warfare,” McCain said, also on CNN. “When you destroy economies and are able to impose censorship on the world … it’s more than vandalism, it’s a new form of warfare.”
In his interview, which was recorded on Friday, Obama said the hack was not act of war. “It was an act of cybervandalism,” he said.
Foreign governments and freelance hackers presented cyberthreats to commerce, he said, adding: “If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber a company’s distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that’s a problem.”
The hack was a challenge to the news media as well as the entertainment industry, he said. “CNN has done critical stories about North Korea. What happens if in fact there is a breach in CNN’s cyberspace? Are we going to suddenly say, are we not going to report on North Korea?”
Restoring North Korea to the terrorism sponsorship list could be difficult. The State Department would have to determine that the regime repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, something traditionally understood to mean violent, physical attacks rather than hacking.
Obama and Hollywood’s creative community last week accused Sony of surrendering to intimidation and setting a precedent for censorship by cancelling the planned Christmas Day release of The Interview. The studio responded by blaming cinema chains which refused to show the film following anonymous terrorist threats.
The president expressed sympathy for Sony’s plight but renewed his claim that he might might have been able to help if given the chance: “You know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was.”
On Saturday, it was reported that the US was seeking China’s help in containing North Korea.
Lynton said Sony Pictures still wanted to show the film – a shift in tone from last week when a spokesman said there were no plans for any release – but so far had been stymied by cinema chains and online distributors.
“We have not given in. And we have not backed down. We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie,” he said, adding that the company was exploring all options, including YouTube.
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday quoted film industry analysts speculating that Sony Pictures’ parent corporation in Japan may sell the studio, a relatively small part of its global operations, in order to get rid of the headache.Related Stories
And Antonin Scalia explains his stunning torture logic.
1. Antonin Scalia: Torturing convicts is a no-go, but torturing suspects is A-OK.
Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia was asked this week by the BBC about the CIA’s fully exposed use of torture in the years after the 9/11 attacks, and he found, shall we say, some rather interesting hairs to split.
“We have laws against torture,” Scalia said. (Whew.) But then he added, “The Constitution says nothing whatever about torture. It speaks of punishment; ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments are forbidden.”
“So torture is forbidden, in that case?” his interlocutor asked.
“If it’s imposed as a punishment, yes,” Scalia responded. “If you condemn someone who has committed a crime to be tortured, that would be unconstitutional.”
OK, good. But notice how it seems to leave a bit of an opening for torture. That’s not a mistake. When Scalia is asked about torture as a tool for interrogation, his tune changes: “We have never held that that’s contrary to the Constitution. And I don’t know what provision of the Constitution that would contravene.”
“Listen, I think it is very facile for people to say, ‘Oh, torture is terrible.’ You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. You think it’s an easy question? You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person? I don’t think that’s so clear at all.
“And once again, it’s this sort of self-righteousness of European liberals who answer that question so readily and so easily. It’s not that easy a question.”
There you have it, you European liberals always unreasonably saying never to torture people. It's fine to torture some people, sometimes. Just not convicts.
2. Fox Newsian: No fair. Colbert got rich off of our idiocy.
A shocking outbreak of truthiness and Christmas spirit occurred on Fox News on Friday. The Five gang was sitting around acknowledging that Colbert’s finale was pretty darn impressive. Among the things they marveled at was Henry Kissinger’s presence on the show and Kareem Abdul Jabar’s height.
“It was an epic send-off,” co-host Eric Bolling said amongst the sparkling commentary, “one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
“Very fun,” former Bush administration press officer Dana Perino agreed. “I thought it would have been great to have Bill O’Reilly on there.”
Yes, Papa Bear was sorely missed. Then again, he is probably licking his wounds over all the blows Colbert has landed over the years.
“It was fine,” said Greg Gutfeld. “But he should really write an eight-figure check to Fox News because all of our gaffes made that man’s career.”
Yupp. He said that. Interesting that he calls them “gaffes.” Guess that’s his word for a relentless, years-long campaign of hate-spewing, truth-distorting bile, racism, spiteful misinformation, victim-blaming, and anti-intellectualism that has done real and lasting damage to actual people and set the country back a few decades and deepened its divisions.
3. Ann Coulter: Women who are raped just want attention.
Ann Coulter says she does not know anyone who has been raped. Odd, isn’t it. You’d think she’d be the warm and fuzzy female friend many a woman would turn to after a traumatizing event. Last week, the conservative radio personality appeared on the Lars Larson Show and asserted that the whole campus rape thing is an invented problem, and the Rolling Stone story proves it.
“People know what rape is,” she said, “and to have girls trying to get attention, from Lena Dunham to this poor psychotic at UVA, Lady Gaga claiming she was raped but she didn’t admit it to herself for five years. What major crime do people say, ‘I didn’t admit it to myself?'"
Coulter is shocked, shocked I tell you, at this appalling fraud. “There are a few, very few, percentage of actual rapists, and as I said on Hannity, but his idiot producer cut it, they’re usually Clintons or Kennedys.”
And a very merry Christmas to you, too, Ann.
4. Fox Business Newsian: Elizabeth Warren is the devil.
Melissa Francis needs to get a grip. The Faux Business host promised that Wall Street will devote all of its resources to defeat its arch nemesis Elizabeth Warren should the reform-minded Massachusetts senator decide to run for president. They will do this, Francis says, because bankers and traders believe Warren is “actually the devil.” Yes, actually. And she agrees with those bankers and traders. “I mean, without question, Elizabeth Warren is the devil,” she said.
It was all part of a very elevated discussion of 2016 presidential politics on Tuesday’s edition of Out Numbered, with America-is-awesome-even-though-it-tortures-people host Andrea Tantaros. This brain scientist noted that Hillary Clinton’s delay in announcing her candidacy is fueling Warren supporters.
“I think Elizabeth Warren is going to capitalize on not only her economic populism, but also the social justice aspect,” co-host Kennedy Montgomery said, pointing out that all of the senators who were potential presidential candidates had voted against a recent budget bill that weakened consumer financial protections.
“And she"—meaning she-devil Warren—“really came out smelling like a rose,” Francis said.
You know it’s bad when the devil wears her rose perfume.
5. Missouri GOPer: Women should get men’s permission for abortion.
This whole notion of a Republican war on women is pure poppycock. Amirite? You might have to ask a man because one super-enlightened Missouri legislator does not think women can make decisions about their own bodies.
This marvel of modern-day enlightenment thinking, state representative Rick Brattin, recently proposed a bill that says, “No abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion.”
There are exceptions for cases or rape and incest, but even those are limited, you know, to legitimate rape, "Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it," Brattin tells Mother Jones. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.”
Women are always doing that, “Oh yeah, I was raped," thing.
Also, Brattin’s use of the term “legitimate rape” should in no way be confused with former Mo. Rep. Todd Akin's use of the term.
"I’m just saying if there was a legitimate rape, you’re going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed," Brattin says. "That’s just common sense." He hastened to add that “legitimate rape” is the kind of rape you can easily prove. Because you’re either dead or badly beaten.
What’s next, legitimate incest?
6. Gordon Klingenschmitt recommends you pray for your healthcare.
It used to be that you could pretty much laugh off right-wing Christian lunatic Gordon Klingenschmitt’s every utterance. But the hate-spewing former Navy chaplain went and got himself elected to the state legislature in Colorado, giving him an unfortunate mantle of legitimacy.
Well, at least he’s wearing it responsibly. This week he turned his ample intellect to the problem of healthcare and came up with an answer: Jesus.
He was commenting on a Fox News poll (Yeah, so totally on the up-and-up) that showed 58 percent of respondents wanted to repeal Obamacare, reported Right Wing Watch.
“We ought to look to the Lord for our healthcare,” Klingenschmitt said during his PIJN News program.
It’s right there in Exodus, Klingenschmitt pointed out (the Old Testament book, not the Ridley Scott movie, you heathens).
He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’”
“Isn’t that inspiring? I personally prefer to look to almighty God as my healer and not to the government as a substitute god or substitute healer,” Klingenschmitt said.
And then he prayed. No, really.
7. Rick Santorum assures us he has had sex, not that we asked.
Rick Santorum is such a fun guy. He had a wonderful time joshing around about his sex (tee-hee-hee, he said that word!) life in a recent interview with the Daily Caller.
His interviewer said: "If you run [for the White House], lots of people are going to shriek about sex, Christianity and accuse you of being a wild-eyed social conservative. And that’ll shape the willingness of younger voters, urban voters, upper-income voters to pull the lever for you. What are you going to tell these guys?"
Santorum responded: “I’ve spoken on a lot of college campuses and a lot of high schools, and [I've got] seven kids, so obviously sex isn’t a real problem for me….”Related Stories
The 11-page Kindle download is the story of five players who decide to teach a female game developer a "lesson."
A thinly veiled, 11-page-long fantasy about raping game developer Zoe Quinn, titled Roughed Up By #GamerGape, has been made available for purchase as an Amazon Kindle download.
“Zada Quinby is a controversial video game designer who may have crossed the line,” the book’s description reads. “When her latest game offends the nation, five upset players decide to teach her a lesson. This gang of gamers decides to give Zada of piece of their mind, and much more!”
Its target audience consists of “[f]ans of group action who fantasize about being brutality taken by men who can’t understand the word ‘no,’” which is a scenario similar to many of the threats that Quinn herself received from members of the #GamerGate community.As one reviewer of the book noted, “it’s all about selling rape fiction of game developers — ethical rape fiction, that is.” Quinn herself noticed the book Friday morning and tweeted:
so um. someone's selling rape fanfic of me on amazon. :/ TW obviously http://t.co/fHC81lTfkr
— Dr Jabroni Frendzoni (@TheQuinnspiracy) December 19, 2014
She also noted that:
having your trauma be fetishized and sold to people who wish they could revictimize you is not an occupational hazard I signed up for.
— Dr Jabroni Frendzoni (@TheQuinnspiracy) December 19, 2014
An Amazon representative told Raw Story that the book — of whose existence she only just became aware — appears to violate Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing’s Content Guidelines, which indicate both that “[w]e don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts” or other “offensive content,” which they define as, “[w]hat we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.”
UPDATE:The title was removed by Amazon minutes after Raw Story spoke to an Amazon representative. GamerGate is, however, taking credit for having the title removed:
— Orthonormalist (@orthonormalist) December 19, 2014
A prestigious medical journal just weighed in.
“Should I trust what Dr. Mehmet Oz, peddler of TV medicine, tells me?” By now, you should already know that the answer to that question is probably “no.” The great and powerful doctor has been subject to a number of high-profile takedowns over the past year and a half: a scathing New Yorker profile in which he told writer Michael Specter that he thinks of science as “a very religious experience” as opposed to something wedded to fact; a Senate subcommittee hearing in which Claire McCaskill delivered a thorough scolding of the supposed weight-loss “miracles” he promotes on his show; and a fair amount of Twitter backlash.Now, the prestigious British Medical Journal has joined the pile-on. In an article published this week, a group of health experts analyzed a random sampling of episodes of “The Dr. Oz Show” (along with another syndicated show, “The Doctors”). The upshot: the evidence supports less than half of what he says. Which, in practical terms, means you should have reasonable doubt about all of it.
The researchers sat through 40 episodes of the “The Dr. Oz Show”; from those, they identified 479 separate recommendations he or his guests made to his TV audience. After winnowing the selection down to more forceful recommendations, they randomly selected 80 and weighed them against the existing medical literature, evaluating each claim for “consistency and believability.” Only 46 percent of the advice, they found, had evidence supporting it, and just 33 percent of the time were those claims supported by “believable or somewhat believable evidence.” For just more than 1 in 3 recommendations, they weren’t able to find any supporting information at all (despite, they note, “being quite liberal in the type and amount of evidence we required”).Interestingly, the researchers noted that about 58 to 59 percent of the time, Oz never specified the supposed benefit of what he was recommending — the implication, apparently, being that viewers should do things simply because the TV doctor is telling them to. They observed as well that the show rarely detailed the potential harms and costs of recommendations; thus, they write, “anyone who followed the advice provided would be doing so on the basis of a trust in the host or guest rather than through a balanced explanation of benefits, harms, and costs.”
Not all of the questionable advice that Dr. Oz talked up is necessarily harmful. Take, for example, the idea that “sneezing into your elbow prevents the spread of germs.” The researchers concede that even though they didn’t find evidence to back that up, it might just be prevailing medical wisdom. Either way, it’s not terribly controversial. Still, they conclude that “consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided on television medical talk shows.”
December 19, 2014
Comcast Merger Opponents Have Submitted Nearly 600,000 Public Comments to FCC
Merger Would Stifle Competition and Lead to Higher Prices, Fewer Choices, And Even Worse Customer Service
WASHINGTON. D.C. – Opponents of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger announced today that they have submitted just under 600,000 public comments to the Federal Communications Commission in recent months urging it to reject the proposed deal. The announcement was made just days before the FCC’s December 23rd deadline for submitting reply comments on the merger.
The nearly 600,000 public comments calling on the FCC to reject the merger were gathered and submitted over the last few months by Common Cause, Consumers Union, DailyKos, Demand Progress, Free Press, Media Mobilizing Project, Presente, and The Blaze. Thousands of additional comments opposing the merger have been submitted by other organizations, businesses, and individuals.
“Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to this disastrous merger,” said Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy division for Consumer Reports. “They know that combining two companies with terrible track records for providing lousy service at high prices will make an already bad situation worse. We need more competition to give consumers real choices, not an even bigger Comcast that will dominate the market and be even less responsive to its customers’ needs.”
A Consumer Reports poll released in June found that just 11 percent of the public supports the merger, 56 percent oppose, while 32 percent had no opinion. Large majorities agree that the deal will hurt consumers by leading to higher prices, fewer choices, and reduced incentives to provide good customer service.
“What’s obvious to so many Americans should become obvious to the FCC as well: There isn’t one single benefit to this merger,” said Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron. “A bigger Comcast would use its monopoly power to protect its own offerings at the expense of the online innovations sought by millions of Internet users nationwide. The merger would increase Comcast’s incentives to harm development of the streaming video market, violate Net Neutrality and-price gouge consumers. Comcast has done all of these things in the past. Handing it control of more of our media will only make matters worse.”
The merger would combine two of the worst-rated pay TV and internet providers in the country into a media giant that would dominate the market. Comcast would become a national gatekeeper for the Internet with control over nearly half of the truly high-speed residential broadband market and the authority to decide who could pass through the gate, and on what terms.
In addition, Comcast would control almost 60 percent of the country’s cable television customers. Comcast could dictate what programs get carried not only in its markets but across the country. By owning valuable programming through its merger with NBC Universal and its interests in regional sports networks and other content, Comcast already has the ability and incentive to discriminate against other pay TV providers. The merger would increase Comcast’s power to deny its pay TV rivals access to programming or raise licensing fees to carry those programs.
“As things stand now, the incentives for cable companies to offer affordable prices and adequate customer service are woefully insufficient. This merger would entrench Comcast’s monopoly power and make things worse for the public, as Comcast would gain even greater control over pricing, service quality, and how people are able to express themselves online” said David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress. “That’s why hundreds of thousands have called on the FCC to protect consumers by rejecting this toxic deal.”
“Comcast has arrogantly dismissed the concerns of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who believe in the importance of diverse voices in media responsive to the needs of local communities,” said Todd O’Boyle, Director of Media and Democracy for Common Cause. “The FCC has a duty to protect the public interest when it considers big media mergers like this one. It should do its job and reject this merger forthwith.”
Comcast has tried to tout the benefits of the merger, including its Internet Essentials program, a discount Internet service for low income families. But only a small fraction of those families have been enrolled in the program.
“We’ve talked with low-income people across Philadelphia about Comcast, mostly from communities of color, and most have never heard of Internet Essentials. Those who actually tried to apply for the program weren’t able to overcome the many barriers to entry,” said Jeff Rousset, a lead organizer with Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia, Comcast’s hometown. “Comcast’s top priority is profits, not poor people. The best way to bridge the digital divide is not to depend on charitable contributions from a media monopoly, it’s to increase competition, including municipal broadband options.”
“The proposed Comcast merger is the most dangerous merger Latinos have ever faced,” said Arutro Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org. “The deal’s resulting company would become the cable source for 91% of Latinos — a disaster. Our communities cannot afford Comcast as the gatekeeper to information and success and over 10,000 of our members have demanded that the Federal Communications Commission stop the merger.”
Contact: Michael McCauley, Consumers Union, email@example.com or 415-902-9537 (cell)
The recent Sony hacking has far greater implications than saber-rattling over a Seth Rogen comedy.
Even as U.S. officials appeared to confirm longstanding rumors that North Korea was behind the hack on Sony Entertainment and even subsequent terrorist threats against movie theaters showing its new film The Interview, pundits have argued whether the action constitutes an act of war or not, and how America should respond if at all.
The question is more profound than it at first seems. Those who dismiss this incident as an overblown kerfuffle over a low-brow Hollywood comedy mistake the seriousness of the precedent being set. If North Korea was indeed behind both the hack itself and the terrorist threats, it will mean that a nation-state has taken an action against a multinational corporation that would certainly be deemed an act of war if it were perpetrated against another nation-state. That sovereign nation will also have engaged in terroristic threats not just against a single enemy nation, but against all private companies anywhere in the world that sell a specific creative work produced by Sony, with chilling implications on free speech for people of all nationalities around the world.
It's an unprecedented situation, but one that will become increasingly common as the world grows more connected digitally, as multinational corporations continue to grow in power over nation-states, and as actions in any one corner of the globe have increasingly strong reverberations everywhere. Cyberattacks themselves are not new: the United States launched arguably the first major cyberattack with the Stuxnet virus, which was simply a new, digital version of the sort of sabotage that sovereign nations have commited against one another for centuries--and it can easily be argued that the United States had moral and legal legitimacy in hobbling Iran's nuclear program. Still, the escape of the Stuxnet virus and the economic damage it caused worldwide demonstrates again how digital conflicts between two parties can have disastrous implications globally. The alleged North Korean hack on Sony only increases the stakes.
Even so, many people will find the idea of rattling sabers over a Seth Rogen comedy to be absurd on its face. But consider a similar scenario with slightly higher stakes: a hacker group sponsored with plausible deniability by a former Soviet republic hacks the satellite of a private Russian corporate cell phone company, and threatens to collide it with a private French corporation's communications satellite, to get revenge on a Putin crony oligarch. If the satellites collide, it would create such a mess of space junk that it would seriously threaten global communications and GPS systems dependent on other satellites in orbit. Would that be an act of war? Against whom? It would a global threat, but the theoretical hack would be on a private Russian corporation. What level of responsibility would the government of the former Soviet republic have? How would NATO deal with it? How would Russia and China deal with it? Right now the United States official policy is that we would literally threaten the hypothetical offending nation-state with a nuclear attack in response. If that sounds like overreach, it's worth considering what the official response should be, not only from the United States but also the rest of the world. The North Korean case isn't actually that different from the above scenario--only a matter of degree, not of kind.
The global community must have an institutionalized way of dealing with this sort of situation that is both credible and effective. The limitations of our existing sovereignty-based legal structures have already been laid bare for years by the international "War on Terror." The United States has asserted that because Al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups do not fight under a sovereign banner, they don't qualify for protection under the Geneva Convention and other international codes of conduct. Petty dictatorships have used the American example to justify a variety of horrors in the name of "fighting terror." But despite over a decade of legal wrangling and disagreements, there is still no accepted international protocol for dealing with non-state combatants. There is even less international protocol for nation-states that commit acts of war against multinational corporations with global implications for digital and free speech rights.
Ultimately, no individual nation-state or alliances alone can cope with these disturbing new geopolitical realities. Terrorism is not the only issue for which 20th century Westphalian structures are failing. Climate change is a clear and present danger to human civilization itself--but sovereign nations appear unable to muster the political will to take the necessary steps to combat it, either due to corruption from corporate fossil-fuel interests or fears that other nations might not keep up their end of the sustainability bargain. Rising wealth and income inequality is also a global phenomenon that developed democracies seem increasingly unable to keep in check regardless of their social safety nets or progressive tax structures due to the power of global wealth mobility that allows rich individuals and corporations to play nations off one another in search of tax advantages. The wealth mobility problem is so great that Thomas Piketty in his groundbreaking work Capital in the Twenty-First Century advocated for the seemingly radical step of a global wealth tax to prevent international cherry-picking by the jet-setting elite. Other global challenges also abound, including mass extinction crises, nuclear proliferation, water shortages, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and even eventual potential threats to the concept of employment itself due to artificial intelligence, 3D printing and mechanization of production. The convergence of all these issues points to the need for a much more potent international organization capable of dealing with global crises that fall beyond the reach or power of any one nation-state to rectify.
Obviously, that seems somewhat far-fetched given the comparative ineffectiveness of the United Nations. But history suggests that human beings do eventually adapt their political structures to meet the challenges of their day, and invent new ones if necessary. Civilization collapse is the only alternative. Our legal and economic systems are straining under the weight of outdated assumptions about power and the entities that wield it. International corporations now fight in the same weight class as sovereign nations, small non-state actors can deliver punches that can bring both of them to their knees, fights between competitors now invariably spill out of the ring and threaten everyone in the arena, and global challenges make the idea of pitting two combatants against one another almost an archaic sport.
Most of our non-dystopian science fiction about the future of our planet assumes some sort of supranational global federation, loosely based or otherwise. It only makes sense as the next step on the path of human political complexification, particularly once mankind begins to colonize other worlds.
Recent events show that it may be that for our own survival's sake, we may need to advance toward that reality faster than some had thought. When the history is finally written, children could one day learn that the world's reaction to North Korea's seemingly silly threat against the creators of an innocuous comedy helped precipitate significant advances in how we think about international law and political organization.Related Stories
Or how the right-wing army succeeded in making American democracy duller and smaller.
John Mellencamp first heard his 2003, antiwar, anti-Bush song on the radio while driving around his home state of Indiana with one of his sons. The DJ played “To Washington,” his update of the Woody Guthrie protest anthem, and asked listeners to call the station to report their reaction. One angry caller captured the mood: “I don’t know who I hate more, Osama bin Laden or John Mellencamp.” Mellencamp’s son asked his dad how he felt about having a freshly painted bull’s-eye on his back for right-wing venom, and he dispensed some fatherly wisdom, “Sometimes when you stick your neck out, your head gets cut off.”
For the first couple of days after the publication of my essay criticizing military worship, “You Don’t Protect My Freedom,” I certainly felt like my head was resting in the guillotine. On the day of publication I woke up to check my email and found thousands of messages, ranging from the mild (“I hope you die and burn in hell”) to the touching (“If I ever see you on the street, I will kill you.”)
My Twitter account, which I had updated once in five years, exploded with counterarguments of similar erudition and insight. A scroll through my feed took me through a tour of the cyberschoolyard. Mockery of my hairstyle, and invective like “loser,” “punk and the retrograde “hippie” substituted for real argument. The Twitter campaign found its fearless leader in Montel “Bounce Any Checks Lately?” Williams, who after calling me a “POS” (an acronym for “piece of shit,” I assume), challenged me to a debate 140 characters at a time. He then unleashed his public relations team on me, and together, they started tweeting at all the cable news networks, seemingly jockeying for a segment on television, in which the payday-loan pitchman could pose as defender of the sanctity of the military against my “vile” attack.
Feeling no obligation to give Montel and his minions a venue to insult me, I deleted my Twitter account. Two days later, while the emails were still overwhelming my inbox, a well-meaning weirdo created a Twitter feed using my name and likeness, and began to tweet sophomoric replies to the right-wing mob. I filed a complaint with Twitter, and after scanning and sending them an image of my driver’s license to verify that I am the real David Masciotra, they removed the page. Michelle Malkin, whose claim to fame is defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, followed all of the action closely and provided her fans with updates on Twitchy – a conservative Us Weekly without the charm – and contributed to the conversation about war, peace and militarism by calling me a “jack ass” and “douche bag.”
For the rest of the week, I let the delinquent children play with their paste and crayons. Watching from afar in Indiana, in the company of my loving girlfriend and cats, I rejected several invitations to appear on Fox News and conservative talk radio. I reread my essay, thought about the arguments I made and the conversation I hoped to provoke, and reflected on my confrontation with contemporary right-wing culture and my visit to the intellectual sewer of social media.
First, I considered my own errors. I firmly believe that every point I argued in my essay is correct, and I do not repudiate any of my criticism of America’s gratuitous glorification of the military. The language I used to express some of my points, however, lacked the sensitivity necessary for acknowledging the loss many families suffer when their loved ones enlist. When any politician or pundit discusses the military, thousands of Americans do not approach the issue as a political, philosophical or cultural abstraction, even if it does have important implications in all three areas of analysis. They simply think of their child, spouse or sibling. They worry for his safety or mourn his death.
By dealing with the topic as merely the source of an intellectual inquiry, I ignored the pain and trepidation many families feel on a daily basis when they confront headlines or news reports of a bombing in Afghanistan. If I could rewrite the original essay, I would better account for the burden that military families silently and steadily carry, because the American government has committed itself to eternally validating the conclusion of United States Marine Corps’ Smedley Butler: “War is a racket.”
I should have included the story of my own grandfather, a veteran in World War II who was the sole survivor of an Army plane crash. He hated war more than anyone I’ve ever met, and he found mawkish tributes and parades for veterans both cheap and corrosive to a critical perspective necessary to prevent future deaths of young men who take their final breaths among the carnage of plane debris, broken bones and bloody faces.
I should have written about my own father, who was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, and began suffering from severe heart disease in his 40s, even needing open heart surgery, despite having a healthy BMI, and never even taking a puff off a cigarette. It is likely that his heart problems are the result of exposure to Agent Orange in Southeast Asia. The VA invited any Vietnam vet who showed symptoms of heart disease under the age of 50 to file for compensatory benefits, but they subjected my father to the typical treatment of endless delays until he finally surrendered.
I also should have written about my former student, Daniel, who is an Army veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He told me the word “hero” embarrasses him, and that whenever he hears the phrase “thank you for your service,” he remembers participating in a raid based on faulty intelligence. When he and his fellow soldiers violently burst into the home of a “suspected terrorist,” all they found was an elderly man so shocked by the upheaval that he immediately entered cardiac arrest and died. Daniel speculated that if the elderly man’s son or grandson was not a terrorist before the American raid induced that heart attack, he “probably is now.”
The inclusion of my own personal experiences with veterans, and the testimony of their own heartbreak over the costs of carrying out the orders of Empire, would have humanized my argument. But I wonder if it would have made any measure of difference. The overwhelming majority of readers who reacted with rage to my article showed no evidence of actually reading it. Had the people who accused me of “hating the troops” or “supporting terrorism” given the essay even a cursory look, they would have seen that I twice stated that some of the troops are heroes, but that many are not. They would have also learned that, unlike many of the political pawns of the Pentagon who can’t cry enough tears for our “heroes,” I support providing all veterans with the best possible healthcare and psychiatric services. My antiwar advocacy and resistance to militarism is, partially, motivated by solidarity with the military – a term I used in the original essay. Fewer soldiers fighting fewer wars translates into fewer funerals, and less waste and betrayal of the bravery that active duty military personnel do display on the battlefield. In the words of historian Thaddeus Russell, “calling soldiers heroes gets more soldiers killed.”
Fewer soldiers fighting fewer wars also minimizes what theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who I quoted in my article as instructing pastors to discourage young congregants from enlistment, calls the “moral loss” of having to accept the duty to kill. Even if the killing occurs in self-defense, it strikes a blow to the killer’s psyche and sense of ethics.
It is supportive of troops and veterans to demand aggressive action to protect women from rape while serving in the military. The nearly universal refusal to acknowledge the evidence that sexual assault is rampant in all branches of the military demonstrates how little the bodies and lives of women matter in American culture. Writers, activists and documentary filmmakers invest their energy into emphasizing the gruesome reality that, according to the Department of Defense’s own study, one-third of women in the military become victims of sexual assault while wearing the uniform, and the mainstream media, along with the political establishment, continue to ignore it. No one in the media who vilified me for my perspective made any attempt to counter the statistical data I cited on the sexual assault epidemic in the military. No one even mentioned it, with the exception of the characteristically sophisticated Rush Limbaugh who claimed it is “childlike” to “pretend all of this is happening.”
An apparently “childlike” woman who spent years in the Air Force emailed me, thankful for my article, and wrote that she had twice been sexually assaulted. An active duty soldier, who also works as a paralegal with military justice, objected to some of the terminology and rhetoric in my essay, but told me that he sees the sexual assault epidemic up close in his legalistic role, and that clearly, rapists, even those in uniform, are not heroes.
The cultural narrative that all troops and veterans are heroes will not allow for the acknowledgment that some are rapists. But by ignoring the stories of thousands of women who battle the real “rape culture” of the barracks and the Pentagon, who are the defenders of the sanctity of the military really protecting? They are enhancing and extending the vicious violation of women who suffer the violence and degradation of rape, and they are providing a cover story for the rapists and the military administrators who would rather bury the story than deal with embarrassing headlines. Given the priorities of American culture, the popular bumper sticker should actually read, “Support the troops unless they are raped by other troops.”
Just as observing the indifference toward rape in the military exposes the depth and breadth of American sexism, any engagement with right-wing media and culture confirms all the worst suspicions anyone could have about its leaders and followers.
There is not only an acceptance of ignorance, but from Fox News, an encouragement of it. On “Fox and Friends,” “The Five” and Fox Business News’ “The Independents,” the respective hosts of the programs vilified and demonized me as someone who hates everyone in the military. “Fox and Friends” posted my photo, over the ominous tones of their hosts condemning my words – almost none of which they quoted – as if it was a mug shot, and then told readers, “Go tell him what you think of this.” The language of the command exposes the poison of their propaganda. They did not tell viewers to go online and read the article, evaluate it according to their own analysis, and decide for themselves what they believe. They ordered their viewers to believe a certain way, without acquiring any information, and target me with their hatred and hostility. Judging from my inbox, thousands of viewers marched along like wooden soldiers, eager to behave as if they just received a lobotomy from the skilled surgeons of Fox.
The pattern of ad hominem attacks, without any engagement of the evidence or acknowledgment of the argumentation of my article, demonstrated the thoughtlessness that defines political activism on much of the right wing, but also the racism, homophobia and prejudicial scorn and fear of Islam. Clearly, the worst thing much of the right can think to call someone is “gay.” Nearly every email I received contained some accusation of homosexuality. When one homophobic crackpot suggested that I’ve had sex with John Mellencamp, Jesse Jackson, Noam Chomsky and Jimmy Carter, because I’ve written favorably about all four men, I emailed a bisexual friend and said, “I’m not gay, but if I was, I guess I’d have some impressive and accomplished partners.” My friend wrote back, “I’d be in awe.”
My previous writing on Jesse Jackson seemed to cause the right-wing psycho meter to go off the charts. Many of my correspondents resorted to ugly racial slurs that, out of respect for Rev. Jackson, I won’t repeat. The rhetoric about Islam, always accompanied by an insinuation that I’m actually a Muslim, was equally vicious and vulgar.
Kennedy, host of “The Independents,” offered the insightful rebuttal to my essay by positing I had a “miserable childhood,” and then proceeded with her guest, a representative of Concerned Veterans for America, to concede one of my major points – the elementary truth that not all soldiers and veterans are heroes. Then, they gave revelatory insight into the strange and sick mind-set of libertarian ideology. In my article, I argued that much better ways to offer “support for the troops” than contrived hero worship and garish displays of nationalism is to grant all veterans the best healthcare and psychiatric services available, and to oppose wars that turn soldiers into victims by wasting their lives for the advancement of unnecessary and unjust military adventurism.
Kennedy and her guest laughed off the healthcare argument, apparently operating under the assumption that a 20-year-old in a wheelchair doesn’t really need medication, physical therapy and handicap accommodations in his home, but will settle for ribbons around trees and stickers on cars. Then, they denied that any veterans are victims. The right wing is especially resistant to the categorization of any group of people as victims. They decry black Americans for embracing “victimology,” and they disparage women for “playing the victim,” whenever anyone identifies incidents or patterns of racial or sexual injustice. It is of crucial importance to the right-wing project of constructing a society of solipsism to sketch a victimless world of capitalistic purity. If there are no victims, institutions are irrelevant, and there are no victimizers. If there are no victimizers, there is no need for external agitation from democratic organization or government enforcement of fair and consistent standards under the law.
It is why, as Jesse Jackson once told me, “Anyone who even gestures toward justice is on their [the right-wing] out list.”
The prevention of wars of aggression and corruption is central to any culture not just gesturing, but marching toward justice. Maintaining faith in the fidelity of the American government to causes of freedom, and expressing that faith in the ritualistic prayer of thanking “heroes” for “protecting our freedom” is sacramental and essential. Religious language clarifies the dogmatic approach to American exceptionalism and militarism, because as historian Morris Berman correctly explains, “The real religion of America is America.”
Spiritual devotion to the purity of America, preached by fundamentalists such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and even by moderate believers like Barack Obama, explains why for all their whining about “political correctness,” the right wing is far more sensitive and emotionally fragile than liberals. Many liberals do have a problem with overreacting to gaffes and jokes, but the real p.c. enforcement comes from the flag-saluting conservative crowd, with “p.c.” standing not for “political correctness,” but “patriotic commandments.”
At the top of the tablet is the Patriotic Commandment, “Thou shalt not criticize the military.”
Besides a couple of mildly stressful days, when the emails would not stop, I did not suffer because of my article. Many right-wingers promised to make my life a “living hell,” but after a few days the emails dropped down to zero, and they had moved onto their next target for hatred. Coincidentally, it was Bruce Springsteen for performing “Fortunate Son,” a classic song with antiwar themes, at the Concert for Valor.
The salient question is not how badly the right-wing army failed at making my life unpleasant, but how terribly they succeed in making American democracy duller and smaller. With cooperation from much of the moderate media, and the American political establishment, they exercise the removal of certain topics and arguments from the discourse, and in doing so, narrow the conversation about American power. The myth of universal heroism in the military and pure benevolence of American foreign policy functions as a force field around the status quo. It protects the “masters of war,” Bob Dylan famously indicted, and it shields American eyes from the dead or disfigured children in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and other places on the other side of the planet, barely in the consciousness of the average citizen of the United States.
Ernest Hemingway wrote in “A Farewell to Arms” that I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain …There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.”
The abstraction of “thanking heroes for our freedom” not only distracts from the bodies and hearts that break in the wake of war, but contributes to the continuation of war. One man who cannot forget the concrete names of dead soldiers in the ground is Fred John Boenig, a radio host in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Boenig spent his three hours on the air, the morning after the publication of my article, defending my arguments against another radio broadcaster, Chris Salcedo in Houston, who was denouncing me on his show as a traitor. Boenig reads the names of American military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan each morning on this show — all the names of the fallen who died on that particular day of the year, from 2001 to present. He invited me to come on the air, and after I declined, he asked if we could speak privately on the phone.
Boenig is a gold-star father with three children currently in the military. His oldest son died in Afghanistan, and it was over the phone on the morning of Veterans Day that he humbled me by sharing his story.
Austin Gates Benson, Fred’s son, at the age of 19, enlisted in the United States Air Force, because one of his goals in life was to help bring Osama bin Laden to justice for orchestrating the murder of thousands of Americans. Benson’s brilliance in computer engineering and programming ensured that he would not contribute to the cause of the U.S. military in a combat role, but rather as a computer specialist in Afghanistan. Always a precocious boy, at the age of 18 he was reading and writing at the high collegiate level, and at the age of 7, he was an extra in the Julia Roberts movie “Stepmom.”
Fred speaks of his son with the words and tone of a proud father. Austin was not only talented, but brave and compassionate. His potential to contribute and serve was without limit, and it was something that Col. Wesley L. Rehorn saw and affirmed. Rehorn cradled Benson as a protégé, even developing a personal friendship as he would invite him to smoke expensive cigars on base. Benson wrote home and explained how much he was enjoying his bond with Rehorn, and that all seemed well in Afghanistan.
For his work, he would receive high military honors (a Firewall 5) normally not given to young A1Cs. He was able to repair the Joint Special Operations Command computer for monitoring drone strikes. When his improvements were complete, the military sharply escalated its drone strike program in 2010. The strikes in Pakistan, for example, increased from 25 to 150 a month, after Benson’s reworking of the computer. He wrote home explaining how he loved the leadership and wanted to extend his tour.
Communications stopped for two weeks in April 2010. Benson’s mother, Joie Gates, emailed Austin, saying, “No news is good news, but what’s up?” Austin wrote, “We have been real busy with this roll up. I’ll call today.” When the call came, Joie had just seen a report on the BBC about a drone strike in Pakistan that killed 79 innocent civilians. She asked her son if the report was accurate. Benson said that he could not discuss it because it was classified, but whispered, “Funny they are only reporting one.” Many civilians had died in drone strikes. The firsthand knowledge and experience of Benson reinforces the New York University Law School and Stanford Law School joint study finding that in Pakistan, drone strikes have ended the lives of 471 to 881 civilians, including 176 children.
Benson said goodbye to his mother, and that afternoon his parents received an email from him stating, “Due to recent events, including those that kept me from communicating with you, I have cemented my decision, I will not spend one second in Afghanistan longer than I have to. Don’t worry I’ll be home on time.” Two weeks later, he shot himself in the head. In his suicide note, he wrote that he “felt like a monster only a mother could love.”
Fred Boenig and Joie Gates, while still mourning the loss of their son, have petitioned President Obama to address the growing number of suicides in the military, have become antiwar advocates, and have called for reevaluation of the drone strike program. Boenig has also started the Daily Ripple, a news site focusing on the American movement for peace and social justice.
Through his work, Boenig is able to give his son a voice, and he tells me that he often has to remind people, “My son didn’t feel like a hero. He cared about what he was doing, which he did with great expertise, but he felt very badly for the Afghan people caught in the middle. He wasn’t fighting for our freedom. The only freedom we lost after 9/11 was because of the Patriot Act.”
Boenig told me that he wears the gold star and three blue stars on his lapel whenever he knows he will share a room with a politician. He uses it to get their attention, and when he has it, he explains what it’s like to pick a son up at Dover Air Force Base and live with the constant fear of losing his other children who are currently serving. “No boots on the ground,” he tells them. “I don’t ever want to pick up another kid in a flag-covered box.”
Fred Boenig isn’t a flag waver, using the patriotic banner to shield his eyes from the real cost of war. He reminds people as they so bravely say from the comfort of their home, “We should kick their ass,” that it likely won’t be their child going, but it will be his. Then he asks them, “Do you know how many we have lost so far?”
When they often fail to give even an approximate estimate, he replies, “I guess if you aren’t concerned with the ones we already lost, what’s a few more?” The numbers are real to Boenig and he reads them every day on the air because on both ends of the barrel, every casualty is someone’s son or daughter. He understands, learning in the worst imaginable way, how war devastates the human spirit. With an average of 22 vets a day, dying by suicide, he wishes America would find a better way to use talented and brave children than sending them to fight over something few if any understand.
One year to the day of his son’s death, JSOC sent SEAL Team 6 to get Osama bin Laden, a bittersweet anniversary for Boenig, knowing the role his son had in it.
The story of Austin Gates Benson not only exposes the hollow center at the core of America’s militaristic culture, but it also demonstrates and dramatizes the wisdom of Asha Bandele, who in her novel “Daughter” illumines the absurdity of apologetics for violence. Bird, a character of the story who is a Vietnam veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, tells his young lover, “The United States likes to act as though it honors their dead. But if it did, there’d be a whole lot more people alive.”
The second paragraph of the Washington Post's news story (12/17/14) on President Obama normalizing relations with Cuba begins, "Cuba is a flyspeck of an island that long ago ceased to be a threat to the United States."
By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
The failed United States policy against Cuba, which has for more than half a century stifled relations between these neighboring countries and inflicted generations of harm upon the Cuban people, may finally be collapsing. On Wednesday morning, we learned that Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor convicted in Cuba for spying, had been released after five years in prison. Another person, an unnamed Cuban imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years for spying for the U.S., was also released. This has made global headlines. Less well explained in the U.S. media are the three Cubans released from U.S. prisons. They are the three remaining jailed members of the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five were arrested in the late 1990s on espionage charges. But they were not spying on the United States government. They were in Miami, infiltrating Cuban-American paramilitary groups based there that were dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Cuban government.
By noon Wednesday, President Barack Obama made it official—this was not just a simple prisoner exchange: “Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba. ... I’ve instructed Secretary [of State John] Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961.”
It was President Dwight Eisenhower who severed relations with Cuba, on Jan. 3, 1961, two years after Fidel Castro took power. President John F. Kennedy then expanded the embargo. Months after Kennedy took office, the CIA invasion of the Bay of Pigs, intending to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, went awry. It is universally considered one of the greatest military fiascos of the modern era. Scores were killed, and Cuba imprisoned more than 1,200 CIA mercenaries.
Cuba became a flash point, most notably as the Soviet Union attempted to place short-range nuclear missiles on the island, precipitating the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. This episode is widely considered the closest that nations have come to all-out nuclear war. The U.S. also tried to assassinate Castro. While the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee identified eight such attempts, Fabian Escalante, the former head of Cuban counterintelligence, uncovered at least 638 assassination attempts.
The Cuban revolution has its critics, but the transformation of daily life there can’t be denied. Throughout the 1950s, under dictator Fulgencio Batista, most Cubans suffered in dire poverty, with scant access to education, health care or decent-paying jobs. The Batista regime was brutal, engaging in arbitrary arrests, torture and executions. Batista allied himself with the U.S. Mafia, personally profiting from widespread corruption, especially from the opulent hotels and casinos in Havana. Today, Cubans enjoy the same life expectancy as their neighbors in the U.S. and experience less infant mortality. Cuba has among the highest literacy rates in the world, surpassed only by Finland, Denmark, New Zealand and Australia, according to the United Nations Development Program, which ranks the United States as 21st globally, two notches above Kazakhstan.
Cuba, often battered by hurricanes, has developed one of the best disaster-response medical systems in the world. They recently deployed 250 doctors to West Africa to combat Ebola. Then-President Fidel Castro offered to send 1,500 doctors to the U.S. in 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The administration of George W. Bush did not respond.
The embargo has long been central to national electoral politics, as the Cuban community in Miami, many of whom have long been staunchly anti-Castro, has been considered crucial to winning Florida in a presidential election. Miami also has served as the haven for anti-Castro terrorist groups. One of the Cuban Five, Rene Gonzalez, was released in 2011 after 13 years in prison. I spoke to him from Cuba in 2013. He told me, “It was part of our development or common experience to have seen people coming from Miami raiding our shores, shooting at hotels, killing people here in Cuba, blowing up airplanes.”
In 1976, an Air Cubana flight was blown up by terrorists. It exploded in midair, killing all 73 people on board. In 1997, hotels across Havana were bombed, with one Italian tourist killed. Former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles took responsibility for the hotel bombings, and evidence strongly links him to the bombing of the airliner. The Cuban Five were guilty of investigating the terrorist activities of these men, and the nonprofit front groups that supported them, like the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue. Posada Carriles currently lives in Florida, a free man.
The Cold War is over. Cuba’s government is communist, but so are the governments of China and Vietnam, both of which have deep ties to the U.S. The 11 million people of Cuba, as well as all of us here, deserve an open connection as neighbors, based on equality, grounded in peace.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,200 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.
© 2014 Amy Goodman / Distributed by King Features Syndicate
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced that he sort of could be running for the Republican presidential nomination. Of course, that drew substantial media attention.
The chances that any data can be reliably protected from prying eyes are close to nil.
The most shocking thing about the digital disemboweling of Sony Pictures' computer data is that anyone would actually find it shocking.
That goes for everything from the vulnerability of everyone's personal and proprietary data, not just Sony's, to the revelation that a sausage-making industry like the movie and TV business is likely to be run by people who know their way around an abattoir.
If you haven't been following the Sony story, the gist of it is the malicious Nov. 24 public dump of 40 gigabytes of private email, employee evaluations, complaints, salaries, medical records, passwords, social security numbers, movies, scripts, PowerPoint presentations, financial spreadsheets, executive suite gossip, marital confidences, temper tantrums, profanity, flattery, deceit, contempt, obsequiousness, insecurity, bad taste and (in the view of at least some people) evidence of racism, sexism and a host of other indefensible behaviors.
As of this writing, the culprit most widely suspected of breaking into Sony's servers, stealing its intellectual property, violating its trade secrets, invading its employees' privacy and doing their best to humiliate the company and damage its business is the North Korean government, posing as a group calling itself Guardians of Peace. The motive: revenge for The Interview, a Sony Christmas comedy about assassinating North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un. An alternative theory is that the perps are fiendishly talented malware coders with a score to settle with Sony for reasons ranging from its efforts to crack down on piracy to allegations of arrogance and greed. Whoever is responsible, their message to management is that the carnage is far from over.
If you've paid any attention to the files that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden turned over to journalist Glenn Greenwald, you know how invasive and pervasive U.S. government surveillance has become. Whether you believe that such spying is legal and justified by the threat of terrorism, or that it's unconstitutional and corrosive of the very democracy that terrorists threaten, what's inescapable is the scary likelihood that privacy, secrecy and security are technological illusions. There is a ferocious battle going on today between white hat hackers and black hat hackers, and though one or the other of those camps may momentarily outfox the other, the chances that any data -- government, corporate, or personal -- can be reliably protected from prying eyes are close to nil.
How should that make us feel, let alone behave? A few years ago, when the TSA introduced body-scanning technology at airports, there was an uproar about its potential for abuse -- the fear that contractors were casting us as unwitting performers in some kind of pornographic security theater. No, no, came the reassurances. The scans can't be stored. The faces will be pixilated. The genitals will be blurred. Your picture will be seen in a distant room, with no possibility of recording it or connecting your identity to your image. It turns out, of course, that those images provided plenty of entertainment for the staff. As one former TSA agent confessed to Politico, "All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels."
It would not be farfetched to assume a comparable nakedness of our emails and texts, our photos and finances, our locations and contact lists, our browsing and phone calls. There has been much public discussion about what privacy rights we should have online, what terms-of-service transparency a social media, e-commerce or any other site must provide. But I can't help thinking that all the privacy policies in the world won't be able to prevent a determined tyrant, crook, sociopath or teenager from making the Sony data dump a demoralizingly common occurrence. And looming beyond that industrial crime, of course, is a far darker digital terrorism capable of bringing down power grids, financial markets, transportation systems and military defenses -- the "cyber-Pearl Harbor" that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned about two years ago.
Much has been written -- much of it erroneously -- about people's attitudes toward privacy in the digital age. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been misquoted as saying that young people no longer care about the norm of privacy the way previous generations did. What polls actually show is that Americans under 30 are substantially less likely than those over 30 to agree that it's "more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy."
The Sony hack threatens to take the debate between civil liberties and national security, between freedom and privacy, out of our hands. The Guardians of Peace, or whoever these or the next vigilantes are, couldn't care less about social contracts. Their tech prowess alone could engineer a bloodless revolution, the transformation of any society into North Korea, where fear rules communication and no one dares risk an honest idea about anything. It's not that much of a big deal when hackers out producer Scott Rudin for dissing Angelina Jolie as a brat. Yes, it's infuriating when the financial and medical confidentiality of thousands of Sony employees is violated by cyberthugs. But what's most sobering is that the plausible nightmare of having our private words exposed will drive our democratic society to pre-emptive self-censorship, hustling us, without a shot being fired, toward the tyranny of Pyongyang.Related Stories
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Consumers Union urges FCC to reject Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in reply comments to agency
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, today filed reply comments at the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of CU and Common Cause in opposition to the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.
In the filing, CU asked the FCC to reject the merger application submitted by the two Internet and cable giants, saying, “A merged Comcast-Time Warner Cable will result in anticompetitive harms that no conditions can remedy. Comcast overstates the proposed benefits from the merger and fails to address the public interest harms that could result. The net effect will be higher prices for consumers, fewer choices, and less incentive for the combined company to respond to consumers’ needs.”
The reply comments focused on refuting several of Comcast’s arguments for the merger:
COMPETITION: Comcast claims the transaction poses no threat to competition because there is no geographic overlap in the areas where the two companies provide service. But CU explained that this argument takes far too narrow a view of how competition works. This merger would give a single company unprecedented control over key video programming, together with unprecedented control over the means by which video programming is distributed to American consumers, and would create a ‘national gatekeeper’ of the Internet.
MARKET SIZE: Comcast claims the combined company would control only 35.5% of the broadband market. But this low figure is based on the inclusion of broadband speeds as low as 3 Mbps, and it includes DSL and wireless, neither of which is a true substitute for high-speed broadband services. If the merger goes through, Comcast will control essentially half of the truly high-speed broadband in homes across the country.
UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES: Comcast claims the merger will help close the digital divide. Although its Internet Essentials program provides some benefits to consumers, it does not significantly close the gap between those who can afford access to broadband and those who cannot. Comcast claims that it has expanded broadband access to serve new communities. But it relies on a definition of broadband that the FCC considers outdated, and which is inadequate to serve consumers’ needs. Relying on this outdated definition of broadband creates the impression that Comcast has implemented programs to adequately serve rural and minority communities with broadband, when in reality communities in underserved areas are left with limited options and slower speeds.
NET NEUTRALITY: Comcast says that it is a proponent of net neutrality. But Comcast’s version of net neutrality would allow it to give big companies priority access to its broadband customers if they pay for it. This differs significantly from the net neutrality proposal backed by Consumers Union and the millions of consumers who wrote the FCC in opposition to letting the largest ISPs engage in practices that favor the companies with the deepest pockets. Comcast has been reluctant to accept a legal framework that limits its ability to extract additional tolls from other businesses that use its broadband facilities to reach consumers.
HARMING THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Comcast has suggested that concerns about its notoriously poor customer service are irrelevant to the FCC’s merger analysis. Considerations of customer satisfaction clearly fall under the Commission’s broad analysis of whether a merger will be in the public interest. Customers of both Comcast and Time Warner Cable have already said they are highly dissatisfied with the services they receive, which is a strong indication of a lack of competition in the market, and the incentives to improve service would only be further reduced under the merger. Meanwhile, even Comcast has admitted that the merger will not result in lower rates to residential customers. Cable and broadband rates continue to rise for consumers at a pace faster than inflation, and we believe consumers will see higher prices if this merger is approved.
CU originally filed comments opposing the merger with the FCC in August. Today’s CU filing is a reply to comments filed by Comcast since that time. The deadline for all reply comments in the FCC proceeding is December 23. In addition to the FCC, the Justice Department is reviewing the merger. CU submitted a detailed document to Justice in October in opposition to the deal.
In Consumer Reports’ annual survey of readers’ experiences with television and Internet service in 2013, both Comcast and Time Warner Cable received low customer satisfaction scores. Comcast ranked 15th among 17 television service providers, earning particularly low marks for value and customer support. Time Warner Cable ranked 16th overall for television service with particularly low ratings for value, reliability, and customer support. Both companies rated mediocre on overall satisfaction with Internet service.
Political comedy usually doesn't work well when it's anchored in seething hatred or even casual contempt.
After nine years at the helm of The Colbert Report, where he turned his brilliant right-wing persona into a sprawling marketing empire (see your grocery's freezer section), explained super PACs to everyday Americans, enlightened us about divinity, and added "truthiness" to the nation's vocabulary, Stephen Colbert says his farewell to the Colbert Nation this week to become CBS's new Late Night host. (Sans persona.)
For nearly 10 years and more than 1,400 episodes, Colbert remained a constantly amusing and insightful part of our national dialogue. "Fans of the show and its indomitable host (only now defeated by the real-life lure of late-night respectability) have good reason to mourn," noted The New Yorker earlier this year, while Salon recently crowned Colbert "one of the most important figures in U.S. political comedy of all time."
By embracing the absurd and truly embodying it, Colbert has made politics and public policy uproariously funny, while providing much-needed bouts of sanity for devoted news junkies.
His satirical voice won't be gone completely, of course. Colbert's late-night colleague Jon Stewart continues to soldier on with The Daily Show, that show's alumni John Oliver is doing fine work at HBO, while another, Larry Wilmore, readies his turn to take over Colbert's late-night Comedy Central slot.
But there's no denying Colbert's exit from Comedy Central marks a cultural and political milestone of sorts. The exit is disheartening not only because the genuine laughs will be missed, but because Colbert's satirical work has been instrumental in spearheading progressive arguments and critiques for years.
Colbert's departure also reminds us how hollow conservative comedic efforts have been, as they fail to play catch-up in the cultural war of political satire. Humor remains a rhetorical weapon that American conservatives simply cannot harness.
Maybe that's because political comedy usually doesn't work well when it's anchored in seething hatred or even casual contempt, the type that conservatives hold for President Obama. Political satire works best when it's fueled by curiosity, bewilderment, annoyance, and with a dash of self-righteousness mixed in. And for nine years, Colbert has been deftly mixing that cocktail on The Colbert Report.
Indeed, over the last decade Stewart and Colbert emerged as the Mantle and Maris of political satire, revolutionizing the way viewers, especially young ones, consume news. They're two giants whose staffs added DVRs to the liberal arsenal, catching their favorite target, Fox News, in an array of uproarious bouts of hypocrisy, while puncturing their endless bouts of Obama Derangement Syndrome.
Colbert once described his character as a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot." One reason the on-air Colbert has resonated nationwide, of course, is that Fox News is currently filled with closed-minded millionaire hosts who perfectly mirror the buffoonery Colbert projects every week. Colbert has been blessed with cable news doppelgangers (Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, etc.) who make The Colbert Report laughs entirely authentic. And for liberals, they're who make the guffaws all the more appreciated (i.e., if you don't laugh, you'll cry).
It was just over a decade ago that the laughs arrived, and just in time. That's when Stewart's incarnation of The Daily Showhelped restore bits of progressive sanity, especially in 2002 and 2003, as America launched its misguided invasion of Iraq. At a time when so much of the Beltway press laid down for the Bush administration, Stewart pushed back. And he got big laughs. Yes, he was on basic cable, and no, he didn't have an especially large national following at the time. But this was obviously prior to the advent of Facebook, Twitter and the explosion of social media. Back then, Stewart, with Colbert later at his side, proved to be a pioneer.
This was a time when there were very few high-profile media voices that progressives could point to and say, "That's exactly how I feel about the war and about the mainstream media's utter capitulation to the Republican war culture."
Against all odds, late-night Comedy Central became that voice.
If you've forgotten how oppressive the Bush era was in terms Beltway media critiques, simply recall Colbert's star-making turn as the featured performer at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner. Holding court just a few feet away from Bush and before a sea of assembled journalists, Colbert skewered both targets with gleeful abandon; the satire layered on thick.
"Over the last five years, you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out," chided Colbert.
Then he lowered the boom:
Here's how it works: The president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction!
The media response to the epic truth-telling? First they mostly ignored him. Then they said he just wasn't funny.
The Washington Post, the longtime guardian of acceptable Beltway behavior, seemed especially humorless about Colbert's now-classic performance. "The consensus is that President Bush and Bush impersonator Steve Bridges stole Saturday's show -- and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's cutting satire fell flat," wrote the Post'sAmy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts.
Accordingto Dana Milbank, Colbert "wasn't terribly funny." AndPostcolumnist Richard Cohen was utterly aghast at how "rude" Colbert had been to Bush. It was the comedian's rudeness that utterly rendered his act "not funny" and why he "failed dismally."
For the record, Cohen represented a prime example of a D.C. pundit who not only bought Bush's bogus tale of WMD's in Iraq, but who actively pushed the fabrication in his column. But I'm sure that had nothing to do with Cohen's disdain for Colbert's biting performance, right?
Meanwhile, can you imagine a conservative comedian rattling the Beltway the way Colbert did at that dinner, and the way he's been doing it for nearly a decade? Neither can I. Comedy Central's satirical juggernaut must be driving conservatives to distraction, especially the ones worried about losing the larger pop culture war.
"The right's anger over being comically challenged is made worse by that fact that they so desperately want to be funny," comedian Dean Obeidallah wrote on Daily Beast this year, when humorless Fox News anchors spent days lamenting President Obama's very funny appearance on the Zach Galifianakis web series, Between Two Ferns. ("Tragic," "gross," "dreadful," "unbearable" was how the unsmiling pundits lambasted Obama's extended bit.)
I doubt we'll ever see a conservative comic, or one of any partisan stripes, deliver the kind of satirical brilliance and insights that Colbert has for the last decade.
Nation, farewell.Related Stories
The Washington Post's poll most likely found that a small minority of Americans thought torture was justified after 9/11. In other words, pretty much the opposite of what the Post's headline said.
To argue that Elizabeth Warren is the left equivalent of Jim DeMint, one must exhibit no interest in the substance of politics.
There were plenty of women of color who made an impact, although their achievements didn't always make the news.
14 Women of Color Who Rocked 2014As 2014 comes to an end, I wanted to look back at the accomplishments of women of color who’ve been doing amazing work in the face of this really challenging and turbulent year. There would be no way to create a truly exhaustive list, so apologies in advance for all of the folks not included below. If you’re interested in perusing a much longer list, a post looking for suggestions on my Facebook page generated more than 50 possible women to recognize. Without further ado, 14 women of color who rocked 2014, in no particular order:
Vanita Gupta (Photo courtesy of the ACLU)
1. Civil rights attorney Vanita Gupta is having a big year. As deputy political director with the ACLU, she spearheaded the group’s efforts in Ferguson. In October, she was selected to join the Obama administration as the acting assistant attorney general of the new Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. (She’ll face congressional approval before she can take the position on permanently.) Both roles are just the most recent steps in a career dedicated to eliminating excessive use of force by police departments, as well as prejudicial policing in communities of color.
Janet Mock (Photo by Aaron Tredwell)
2. You’re probably not surprised to see Janet Mock on a list like this—she is one of the most high-profile black trans women the U.S. This year started with the publication of her New York Times bestselling book, “Redefining Realness.” She’s continued her work in journalism as a contributing editor for Marie Clare, and she’ll start hosting her own weekly pop culture television show on MSNBC’s Shift network. Mock continues to elevate the issues facing the trans community with her hashtag #girlslikeus, and is bringing these issues to wider audiences all the time.
Alicia Garza addresses tech workers in San Francisco. (Brian Ward/San Francisco Chronicle)
3, 4 & 5: Even if you don’t recognize the names of Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, you’ve no doubt experienced the hashtag-turned-movement these three women* created: #BlackLivesMatter. While they came up with the hashtag in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it gained worldwide momentum this year after the police killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. Thousands have used #BlackLivesMatter on- and off-line, the result of Garza’s, Cullors’ and Tometi’s organizing. (Garza lays out the origins of the movementover at Feminist Wire.) Outside of #BlackLivesMatter work, Garza is special projects director for National Domestic Workers Alliance; Tometi is the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration; and Cullors is an artist, organizer and the founder of Dignity and Power Now, a group “dedicated to protecting incarcerated people and their families” in Los Angeles.
Paulina Helm-Hernandez (Southernersonnewground.org)
6. As co-director of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), an LGBT organization at the forefront of queer organizing in the South, Paulina Helm-Hernandez has led incredible work this year. The group has organized to stop deportations through the Not1More campaign, worked to hold police and government accountable for discriminatory profiling in small Southern cities, and continued their annual “Gaycation” event which attracts many folks from across the region looking to build community.
Ai-jen Poo (Photo courtesy of NDWA)
7. Ai-jen Poo recieved lots of media attention this year because she received a so-called “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation. But Poo also made incredible strides in her work as executive director of the National Domestic Worker’s Alliance and co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign: Poo has been part of a successful push to get the Department of Labor to extend basic protections for home-care workers, including minimum wage and overtime pay.
Mo’Ne Davis (Getty Images Sport/ Jeff Gross)
8. There’s no question that 13-year-old Mo’Ne Davis has had a great year. She pitched the first shut-out by a female player at the Little League World Series this past summer, and she boasts a 70-mph fastball. She evenlanded on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Her memoir is set to be published by HarperCollins in March of 2015. You can also join the 34,000 people following her on Twitter.
Bamby Salcedo (Getty Images/ Jason Merritt)
9. Bamby Salcedo is the founder and president of the Los Angeles-based TransLatin@ Coalition. As the high murder rate of trans women of color receives more media attention, Salcedo has played an important role in organizing and advocating for the community. This year the trans Latina activist was also recognized in a new film, “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story.”
Cherisse A. Scott (Photo courtesy of Cherisse Scott)
10. Cherisse A. Scott has been part of the reproductive justice movement for more than a decade. As the founder and CEO of SisterReach, the only reproductive justice organization in Tennessee, Scott recieved national attention this year for her work to defeat Amendment 1, a statewide anti-choice measure. SisterReach conducted phone banking and canvassing on two Memphis zip codes with high rates of poverty, sexually transmitted infections, low birth weight and maternal mortality. It also reached out to voters at historically black universities. The amendment passed, but Scott’s continues to argue for a political strategy that engages black communities.
Lucy Flores (Getty Images/ Ethan Miller)
11. Lucy Flores: While Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis received much attention for telling her abortion story on the floor of the state legislature, she wasn’t the only politician to do so this year. As a Nevada state assemblywoman, Lucy Flores took a risk by telling the public she’d had an abortion becuase she wasn’t ready for a child. While she lost her bid for lieutenant governor of Nevada this fall, we’ll being seeing more of Flores, who many think has a bright future in the Democratic Party.
Veronica Arreola (Photo courtesy of Veronica Arreola)
12. Veronica Arreola: A long-time Latina feminist writer and activist, Arreola started a year-long feminist selfie project with one hashtag: #365feministselfie. What began as a Flickr group formed in response to a Jezebel article calling selfies a “call for help,” the project has collected more than 1,700 photos and you can find the hashtag across social media. As the first year of radical self-love and representation comes to an end, the project is moving offline and organizing two feminist conferences next year.
Gina Clayton (Photo courtesy of Gina Clayton)
13. An attorney, activist and advocate, Gina Clayton received three prestigious fellowships this year that have allowed her to start the Essie Justice Group, an organization centered on women with incarcerated loved ones. Essie brings these women together, providing them with healing, financial advice and advocacy. The first group is being piloted in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Wagatwe Sara Wanjuki (Photo by Morea Steinhauer)
14. Wagatwe Sara Wanjuki became a prominent voice on campus sexual assault after starting the #survivorprivilege hashtag. A sexual assault survivor from Tufts University, Wanjuki created her hashtag in June in response to a Washington Post column that minimized campus rape. Since then, she has continued to speak out—in writing and during media appearances—on the national conversation about campus sexual assault. An example: her recent piece about the Rolling Stone/UVA controversy.
*Article updated to reflect the fact that only two of the women (Garza and Cullors) identify as queer, not all three as originally stated.
The police union demanded that Andrew Hawkins apologize for his choice of attire. Hawkins responded in the best way possible.
The day after Cleveland Browns player Andrew Hawkins wore a T-shirt supporting the families of Tamir Rice and John Crawford in his pre-game warmup, he made this courageous statement to the media. The statement was responding to the criticism levied against him by the Cleveland Police Union in which he was called "pathetic" and demanded to apologize.attribution: Screenshot from ABC 5