Friday, April 01, 2011

Moron Joe: MSNBC And The Scarborough Factor

Morning dolt and “libertarian” Republican Joe Scarborough must be chafing at the bit in MSNBC’s mildly P.C. liberal culture populated by smart, progressive women, including his co-host Mika Brzezinski. It seems Scarborough has been fuming “for a decade now” at being lectured by the Left  until, finally, he found an opening to vent his contempt for those odious liberals and progressives that he  co-habitates with. Or so he thought.

It's impossible to tell who or what sparked his rage, but Moron Joe used America's  humanitarian intervention in Libya as a pretext to lash out incoherently at liberals in the friendly anti-lib platform of POLITICO, the D.C. political gossip (m)ag favored by the Idiot Punditocracy. POLITICO attracts lots of cloaked wingnuts like Joe himself, and unfortunately provides much of the punditry seen on MSNBC’s IP parade — enabled by Matthews & Mitchell, et al.

Moron Joe’s rant is hardly worth comment except in the wider MSNBC context of a host writing a hit piece aimed squarely at several of his colleagues. It would be one thing it it were factual, thoughtful, or objective. It is none of these. Even by Scarborough’s low standards (POLITICO has none when it comes to attacking liberals) it was a piece unworthy of publication. It reads like the peckings of a drunk or someone who’s in a drug-induced altered state. Which could well be the case. Here are the lowlights:

The idiocy begins at the top with the non sequitur title, “The hypocrisy of the American left.” Huh? Even as a portentous title hook to make you read his illogical screed, there’s no there there. First, there’s no equivalence whatsoever between President Obama’s collective, UN-sanctioned limited action as part of a NATO force to prevent the imminent genocide of innocent civilians, and Bush’s unilateral invasion of a country with massive sea, air and ground forces — one that was based on a pack of lies about weapons of mass destruction which we were led to believe the dictator planned to use against the U.S.

Second, Moron Joe commits the classic error of every narcissist "libertarian" wingnut: He believes the Left to be as monolithic as the Right. He just assumed the Left would march in jack-booted lockstep — because that's how his comrades in the wingnut hive behave — the moment our President (Supreme Leader to the wingnuts) commits us to military action. So accustomed must Moron Joe be to the collectivist knee-jerk reaction of the Right he didn’t even bother to notice the deep fissures President Obama’s action in Libya opened in the Left. Instead, oblivious to the evidence of leftist discord all around him — Juan Cole's open letter to the Left (below) makes it crystal clear — Moron Joe charged ahead with his attack on liberals and progressives:
How can the left call for the ouster of Muammar Qadhafi for the sin of killing hundreds of Libyans when it opposed the war waged against Saddam Hussein? During Saddam’s two decades in Iraq, he killed more Muslims than anyone in history and used chemical weapons against his own people and neighboring states.

With the help of his equally despicable sons, Uday and Qusay, Saddam devastated Iraq, terrorized his people and destroyed that country’s environment. By the time American troops deposed him in 2003, Saddam had killed at least 300,000 of his own people — and human rights groups say that tally does not even include the million-plus casualties his invasion of Iran caused.

If Obama and his liberal supporters believed Qadhafi’s actions morally justified the Libyan invasion, why did they sit silently by for 20 years while Saddam killed hundreds of thousands?
Wow. I’m not quite sure which “left” Moron Joe is indicting here. Certainly not Rep. Dennis Kucinich. He has called for Obama’s impeachment. Did any Democrats call for Bush’s impeachment days after the illegal invasion of Iraq? Tragically, no. It was years after the war began before serious questions were raised by Democrats. In 2008, Rep. Kucinich introduced a bill with Rep. Robert Wexler which contained 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush. There was hardly any opposition from conservatives. Republicans and the Right, besides the few exceptions noted here, rubber-stamped everything Bush wanted.

So drop the pretense, Moron Joe. Dennis Kucinich wasn’t the only Democrat/progressive to oppose President Obama’s action in Libya. The clamor of opposition from the Left against the Libya military operation has been infinitely more vigorous and substantive than any Republican grumblings over Bush's illegal prosecution of the Iraq war. Ron Paul was just about the only active Republican member of Congress to make a fuss about it.

Most important, the Left's opposition to the Libya operation has been principled. Here’s but one example of how much (not!) the Left emulates the Right in goosestep lockstep when it comes to blindly supporting the authority of its leaders. This heated exchange between MSNBC's Ed Schultz (for intervention) and Jeremy Scahill of the Nation (against it) will tell you all you need to know about the often strong differences of opinion within the Left on matters of policy and high principle. Liberals and progressives are individuals who consider every issue on the basis of truth and principle. We are not like the wingnuts in their frat house hives poring over their Luntz talking points to tell them how to respond to a moral question.

Compare this to the reprehensible political posturing of the Right and the wannabe GOP presidential candidates. From the flip-flops of  Newt Gingrich and Rand Paul to the reflexive opposition of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, the lunatic Right has even floated outrageous charges alleging President Obama is helping Al Qaeda in Libya. Contrast these disgusting cheap shots against our President with the Left’s debate about our military commitment: How much will it cost? how many jobs could the  $1 million price tag for each cruise missile lobbed at Libya save? Are we getting mixed up in a civil war? How come we didn’t intervene against “friendly” dictators in Yemen and Saudi Arabia? What’s the endgame? The difference between Left and Right on this issue is striking.

The history of our involvement with Saddam Hussein goes back further than 20 years. In 1983, Moron Joe’s god, President Ronald Reagan, sent “special envoy” Donald Rumsfeld — the very same co-war  criminal completing the Bush-Cheney Iraq war trinity — to assure Saddam of our support against Iran with a handshake and a handwritten letter from the Gipper. (Hmm … I wonder if Saddan had it framed?) No one on the Left “sat silently” as this outrage unfolded.

Democrats and the Left decried the bloodshed in the Iran-Iraq war and worried about the spillover that could destabilize the region and draw Israel into the conflict. It was President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat who introduced human rights as an essential component of our foreign policy. Lessons learned from Vietnam, he said, are that “we must become more cautious about . . . interventions” and “ought not go plunging militarily into under-developed countries.” UN Embassador Andrew Young said the U.S. rejected “military activism.” True to his policies, President Carter’s only use of military force was an ill-fated attempt to rescue the American hostages held by Iran.

Carter’s human rights policy was thrown under the bus with a vengeance by the Reagan administration. President Reagan invaded Grenada, sent the marines into Beirut, crawled out after the terrorist bombing of the barracks, bombed Khaddafi killing members of his family and nearly killing the dictator himself, illegally sold arms to Iran (our avowed enemy) to fund the reactionary Contras in Nicaragua, and embraced the brutal dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, while arming his enemy and ours (Iran). And Moron Joe has the gall to accuse liberals of looking the other way to Saddam's atrocities (a lie) when his god, Ronnie, was blowing kisses at the Iraqui butcher, and after Democratic President Jimmy Carter, Reagan's predecessor, had enshrined human rights as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy?

Regarding Saddam's atrocities, Moron Joe suffers from an affliction particularly common to the Right and his collectivist comrades in the wingnut hives: selective memory. It wasn't the Left but the Reagan administration that turned a blind eye to Saddam's human rights violations. The Left had opposed Reagan's foreign policy misadventures, and referred to Saddam, contemptuously, as "our sonofabitch." Furthermore, Moron Joe conveniently overlooks the accurate estimates of Iraqui deaths after the U.S. invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein. As the Wall Street Journal reported:
WASHINGTON -- A new study asserts that roughly 600,000 Iraqis have died from violence since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, a figure many times higher than any previous estimate.
"Since March 2003, an additional 2.5% of Iraq's population has died above what would have occurred without conflict," the report said. The country's population is roughly 24 million people.

Human Rights Watch has estimated Saddam Hussein's regime killed 250,000 to 290,000 people over 20 years.
A Johns Hopkins survey of civilian casualties in Iraq, "The Human Cost of the War in Iraq," gave a 95% certainty to the figure being between 426,269 and 793,663, with the highest probability given to the figure of 601,027.
As a direct result of Bush-Cheney's criminal war on Iraq, between 310,000 and 350,000 more Iraquis were killed in Bush's war of choice than killed by Saddam in the previous 20 years. No wonder Moron Joe wants to lay the moral failings (and worse) of two Republican presidents (one of whom he reveres) at the doorstep of the Left. Such crude history FAIL might pass muster with the lazy anti-intellectualism and disdain for the truth of his comrades on the Right, but it doesn't make the grade with liberals and progressives for whom the truth is not a fungible commodity.

Furthermore, it is inaccurate for Moron Joe to call NATO’s intervention in Libya and its establishment of a no-fly zone to protect civilians an “invasion.” The NATO sorties over Libya are no more an “invasion” than Nazi Germany’s air war on the British Isles during the Battle of Britain. Had that been an “invasion” we’d all be speaking German and giving the Nazi salute today.

Once Moron Joe's major premise is shot down in flames, what remains are the barely coherent ravings of years of pent-up, internalized contempt for liberals and women unleashed in his primal scream. He begins by sef-righteously proclaiming that “[s]elf-righteousness is a dangerous vice [which] breeds arrogance and moral blind spots for those who come to believe they are superior to those who share different worldviews.” (Projection. Next.)

He decries televangelists “caught crawling on the ground outside a hooker’s hotel room” and “politicians (who) have also wallowed in the grandiosity of their moralistic worldview.” An interesting juxtaposition considering the televangelist thing is a Religious Right FAIL and the hooker  thing is a GOP politician FAIL. Moron Joe names no names, probably because most of his miscreants are fellow Republicans and Religious Right fanatics.  David Vitter, Ken Calvert, Duke Cunningham, Christopher Lee, the Craigs List Congressman are but a sampling of Republicans addicted to hookers. Here’s the comprehensive list. And unlike Democrats caught up in similar scandals (e.g., Elliot Spitzer), it's the hypocrisy of the family values “moralistic worldview” that is the greater sin — and a total Republican FAIL. Next.

Moron Joe asserts the usual wingnut false equivalence whining that George W. Bush “has been damned by the ministers of the far left as a war criminal, a fascist and a Nazi when labeling his policies as overly ideological and deeply flawed would have sufficed.” Ministers of the far left …WTF? Although, George Orwell’s 1984 Ministry of Truth is close at hand: FOX “News” at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in New York City. (You could do us all a BIG favor, Joe, and walk your resumé over there. They might anoint you the Fifth Wingnut at Fox & Friends.) Next.

Oh, yeah. How about some names please, Joe. No? Okay, my turn: Former Reagan Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein called for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and the prosecution of Bush administration officials who carried out the executive branch’s criminal policies. Said Fein: “Bush claimed authority to say he can kidnap people, throw them into dungeons abroad, dump them out into Siberia without any political or legal accountability. These are standards that are totally anathema to a democratic society devoted to the rule of law.”

Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Treasury Secretary in the Reagan administration, said Bush should be tried as a war criminal. He has compared Bush to Hitler and Bush supporters (E tu, Joe?) to  “brownshirts with the same low intelligence and morals as Hitler's enthusiastic supporters.” Perhaps the bewildered Scarborough is acting out pent-up resentment over the harsh, venomous indictment of Bush by two prominent former Reagan administration officials.

Yes, the Left said it first, Joe, but don’t blame the messenger. Not when your conservative colleagues agree with the Left — chapter and verse. Imagine how uncomfortable it must make Moron Joe, Reagan idolater that he is, to see two fellow travelers break Reagan’s 11th Commandment — “thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican” — with so much self-righteous malice. How did Moron Joe put it? — Ah yes, wallowing in the “grandiosity of their moralistic worldview.” Next.

 As for the Hitler and Stalin allegations — names, please Joe. The fact is, we’ve all seen the hideous racist and violent signage of the Tea Party. There’s nothing, nada, from the Left that compares to that, and I challenge Scarborough to either put up or shut up. PERIOD. Next.

We know Moron Joe couldn’t pass up slamming a leftie woman’s group, right? I mean, Mika in her infinite ‘boys will be boys’ patience says he’s “raised the bar” (for wingnuts?) and calls Moron Joe sidekick Mike Barnicle “my mysoginist.” So she’s got Joe’s henpecked back for this:
“That extremism required that the Bush years be filled with images of CODEPINK protesting on Capitol Hill, anti-war activists clogging the streets of New York City and left-wing commentators beating their chests with the self-righteous indignation of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker … But in the morally murky afterglow of the Obama years, the certainty of these secular saints has melted away. President Barack Obama bowed to his generals’ demands by tripling troops in an unending war. CODEPINK did nothing.”
Wow. Now this one's really getting into psycho-babble territory. For the Left, CODEPINK, the feminist activist group, is just a blip on our radar. They're in, they're out, they demonstrate, do their thing. Gone. For male wingnuts, however, these aggressive feminists and their street theater appear to be a threat to their very manhood. One after another, wingnuts from Scarborough to Limbaugh to Beck and everyone inbetween lash out at CODEPINK (hardly noticed at all by the Left) obviously not because of who they are, but what they represent. To the male wingnut, an angry CODEPINK feminist holding a sign and engaging in her little street theater can only mean one thing: emasculation.

The nonplussed Moron Joe never bothered to check his facts. For instance, the CODEPINK announcement that “Critics of President Obama’s decision to bomb Libya will speak in front of the White House about why they oppose the bombing campaign and what they think should be done instead. Speakers include Retired US Army Colonel and former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright and CODEPINK/Global Exchange cofounder Medea Benjamin.” How could Joe have missed it? It's right in their website. As to Guantanamo, CODEPINK gave President Obama a failing grade: “And when it comes to Home Ec, he's given the military an even bigger slice of the pie while the country is starved for dough. The former law professor has hardly made straight A's in upholding international law (Guantanamo still open) and civil liberties (cracking down on peace activists).” Oops.

(Wouldn't care to speculate on the Bakkers — again, of little consequence to the Left — and all that “secular saints” shit. Is Joe Scarborough Catholic? That might explain it. Believe me, I know.)

To be fair, Moron Joe did name one progressive — Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of the Nation — as “one of the few liberals to take a principled stand against what America is doing in Libya.” Katrina's entitled to her opinion. The point is, she's not “one of the few.” Nor are those who disagree with her motivated by a desire not to hurt the President's reelection chances. That is a fundamental misread of the debate raging on the Left; and hardly credible, considering that lately liberals and progressives have been the President's least enthusiastic supporters. And judging by Jeremy Scahill's reaction, the President's got a lot more fence-mending to do before this is all over. Suffice it to say, like every other wingnut out there —Moron Joe has issues. Which is fine by us. But when he mixes public policy with personal baggage and proceeds to lie about the history — then it becomes everyone's problem.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Boy Genius Out to Disprove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

This kid, 12-year old Jacob Barnett, is hilarious — he’s a teaching fellow at a local university and is taking advanced courses in astrophysics. Here he explains a calculus problem that may (or may not) solve Dark Matter, with a warning: “For those of you who do not know very much math, and are having MATH PHOBIA, I recommend you GO AWAY RIGHT NOW.”

Cute kid. A Time article quotes “professors at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey — you know, the U.S. academic homeroom for the likes of Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Kurt Gödel — have confirmed he's on the right track to coming up with something completely new.” Thanks to Telemann for this.

Fantastic Guitar, Beautiful Melody, The Awesome Music of Brazil

This song, "Samba Em Prelúdio," was written by Baden Powell (yeah, named after the Scout Master), who was also the virtuoso of virtuosos in a nation of great guitar players. Here's one more, Paulinho Nogueira, who interprets Baden's song beautifully. The chords and melodies in Brazilian music, Samba, like Blues in America, are incomparable. Just watch and enjoy the instrumental version. It's awesome!

Juan Cole: An Open Letter To The Left On Libya And ... Learn to Chew Gum And Walk at The Same Time

I was contemplating a friendly slam of my pacifist anti-interventionist friends on the Left regarding their passionate opposition to America's military action in Libya, but fortunately for this weary blogger, Juan Cole has done it better, with all the authority of his intellect and scholarship. For those unfamiliar with Dr. Cole, he is one of the nation's preeminent authorities on the Middle East and a leading progressive with impeccable creds with the Left. There is a link to his blog in ours. Here is a brief bio of Dr. Cole, from Wikipedia:
John Ricardo I. "Juan" Cole (born October 1952) is an American scholar, public intellectual, and historian of the modern Middle East and South Asia. He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. As a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs, he has appeared in print and on television, and testified before the United States Senate. He has published several peer-reviewed books on the modern Middle East and is a translator of both Arabic and Persian. Since 2002, he has written a weblog, Informed Comment.
For all of their sound and fury, the usual charges of imperialism, neocolonialism, neconservatism, neoliberalism, that it's all about oil, that the West is extracting concessions from the Libyan insurgents that current contracts with Khaddafi must be honored, the flight of refugees beyond Libya's borders to Europe must be contained, and that, for good measure, we the liberal "hawks" are "innocents" or, to put it more bluntly, "fucking ignorant" — for all of this bluster and bravado from the facifists, I have looked and looked and looked, and have yet to find their answer to one simple question:

Is it your position that, given credible intelligence, knowing Khaddafi was poised to commit a monstrous massacre of  thousands upon thousands of defenseless Libyan civilians in Benghazi that only our military and our allies' could prevent — you would stand by and allow it to happen? YES or NO?

 Dr. Cole's full text is here. These are some excerpts:
"I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed. I can still remember when I was a teenager how disappointed I was that Soviet tanks were allowed to put down the Prague Spring and extirpate socialism with a human face. Our multilateral world has more spaces in it for successful change and defiance of totalitarianism than did the old bipolar world of the Cold War, where the US and the USSR often deferred to each other’s sphere of influence.

The United Nations-authorized intervention in Libya has pitched ethical issues of the highest importance, and has split progressives in unfortunate ways. I hope we can have a calm and civilized discussion of the rights and wrongs here.

The United Nations Security Council authorization for UN member states to intervene to forestall this massacre thus pitched the question. If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule. The implications of a resurgent, angry and wounded Mad Dog, his coffers filled with oil billions, for the democracy movements on either side of Libya, in Egypt and Tunisia, could well have been pernicious.

The arguments against international intervention are not trivial, but they all did have the implication that it was all right with the world community if Qaddafi deployed tanks against innocent civilian crowds just exercising their right to peaceful assembly and to petition their government. (It simply is not true that very many of the protesters took up arms early on, though some were later forced into it by Qaddafi’s aggressive military campaign against them. There still are no trained troops to speak of on the rebel side).

Some have charged that the Libya action has a Neoconservative political odor. But the Neoconservatives hate the United Nations and wanted to destroy it. They went to war on Iraq despite the lack of UNSC authorization, in a way that clearly contravened the UN Charter. Their spokesman and briefly the ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, actually at one point denied that the United Nations even existed. The Neoconservatives loved deploying American muscle unilaterally, and rubbing it in everyone’s face. Those who would not go along were subjected to petty harassment. France, then deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz pledged, would be “punished” for declining to fall on Iraq at Washington’s whim. The Libya action, in contrast, observes all the norms of international law and multilateral consultation that the Neoconservatives despise. There is no pettiness. Germany is not ‘punished’ for not going along. Moreover, the Neoconservatives wanted to exercise primarily Anglo-American military might in the service of harming the public sector and enforced ‘shock therapy’ privatization so as to open the conquered country to Western corporate penetration. All this social engineering required boots on the ground, a land invasion and occupation. Mere limited aerial bombardment cannot effect the sort of extreme-capitalist revolution they seek. Libya 2011 is not Iraq 2003 in any way.

Allowing the Neoconservatives to brand humanitarian intervention as always their sort of project does a grave disservice to international law and institutions, and gives them credit that they do not deserve, for things in which they do not actually believe.

The intervention in Libya was done in a legal way. It was provoked by a vote of the Arab League, including the newly liberated Egyptian and Tunisian governments. It was urged by a United Nations Security Council resolution, the gold standard for military intervention. (Contrary to what some alleged, the abstentions of Russia and China do not deprive the resolution of legitimacy or the force of law; only a veto could have done that. You can be arrested today on a law passed in the US Congress on which some members abstained from voting.)

The proposition that social problems can never be resolved by military force alone may be true. But there are some problems that can’t be solved unless there is a military intervention first, since its absence would allow the destruction of the progressive forces. Those arguing that “Libyans” should settle the issue themselves are willfully ignoring the overwhelming repressive advantage given Qaddafi by his jets, helicopter gunships, and tanks; the ‘Libyans’ were being crushed inexorably. Such crushing can be effective for decades thereafter.
Many are crying hypocrisy, citing other places an intervention could be staged or worrying that Libya sets a precedent. I don’t find those arguments persuasive. Military intervention is always selective, depending on a constellation of political will, military ability, international legitimacy and practical constraints. The humanitarian situation in Libya was fairly unique. You had a set of tank brigades willing to attack dissidents, and responsible for thousands of casualties and with the prospect of more thousands to come, where aerial intervention by the world community could make a quick and effective difference.

This situation did not obtain in the Sudan’s Darfur, where the terrain and the conflict were such that aerial intervention alone would have have been useless and only boots on the ground could have had a hope of being effective. But a whole US occupation of Iraq could not prevent Sunni-Shiite urban faction-fighting that killed tens of thousands, so even boots on the ground in Darfur’s vast expanse might have failed.

I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. It is possible to reason our way through, on a case-by-case basis, to an ethical progressive position that supports the ordinary folk in their travails in places like Libya. If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left. We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo if doing so makes us heartless (inflexible a priori positions often lead to heartlessness). It is now easy to forget that Winston Churchill held absolutely odious positions from a Left point of view and was an insufferable colonialist who opposed letting India go in 1947. His writings are full of racial stereotypes that are deeply offensive when read today. Some of his interventions were nevertheless noble and were almost universally supported by the Left of his day. The UN allies now rolling back Qaddafi are doing a good thing, whatever you think of some of their individual leaders.
Thank you, Juan Cole, for shining a light of clarity, prescience and common sense on this senselessly doctrinaire debate sweeping the Left.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whenever I See Donald Trump's Mug I'm Reminded To Feed My Goldfish ...

His name is Sparky The Prognosticator, and he wants the Donald to know he's not buying his 'fish story' about President Obama's birth certificate being fake. Sparky's demanding to see all of Trump's tax returns for the past 20 years. Either that, or he'll consider dropping his demands in exchange for a 300 gallon fish tank. Sparky made a splash with his predictions during the last presidential campaign. He can be very persuasive about getting the MSM after those returns.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Heading Toward Chernobyl Territory ... But With Lots of Happy Talk

In relative terms, the effect of Japan's nuclear catastrophe on us will be minimal, "writ large" at least. Despite slightly elevated levels of radioactivity detected as far across the country as rainwater in Massachusetts, it's so diluted that there is no cause for alarm. Yet. The experts, including the few that I trust, such as Joe Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, have said as much. The best advice Cirincione gave is this: "At moments as serious as the nuclear crisis in Japan, we all — experts, journalists, officials, and corporate executives — have a duty to fully inform the public. And to trust them with the simple truth." All of us have different thresholds for what is, or isn't, safe to our health. Cirincione acknowledged this:
Just this morning, March 18, after I explained in detail over breakfast to a friend why any radiation from Japan would be greatly diluted by the time it traveled 5,000 miles across the Pacific, my friend — a successful businesswomen and breast cancer survivor — told me, "I don't have a margin of error here. I do not want to be part of anyone's science experiment. I don't want to be a nuclear lab rat." She has turned strongly anti-nuclear power overnight.
Some people in Japan — infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems — are at higher risk of health effects due to increased radiation exposure. Here's my problem with happy talk "expert" advice. From my layman's perch, I do not believe the directives issued by the Japanese government to residents of the area surrounding the nuclear disaster have necessarily been the best for their health. From the government's perspective, it must weigh the socio-political-economic consequences of a huge dislocation of the most endagered population — with no place to go, if an evacuation is deemed necessary by, what, multiple meltdowns? — with the possible health hazards of the people's exposure to high levels of radiation in the years to come.

What would you do if you were a government official tasked with making this call? Or an "expert" whose function is to offer objective reassurances — happy talk — and quash alarmist 'what if?' scenarios? It's a tough call for the Japanese government. They're not lying. They're simply weighing the risks against the costs to society at large of, e.g., an evacuation order, at a time of extreme crisis. In the last analysis, the residents in the danger zone must make their own decisions about the health hazards to themselves and their families based on inadequate, contradictory, and incomplete information.

The parade of disturbing information continues unabated. After reports of contamination to water and vegetables, the New York Times reports today "workers at Japan’s crippled nuclear plant piled up sandbags and readied emergency storage tanks on Tuesday to stop a fresh leak of highly contaminated water from reaching the ocean." Why? One "expert" after another has said it's a good thing that the radiation is going out to sea — at least the airborne radiation. Hasn't it occurred to anyone that the ocean is not a self-healing dumping ground and that all this radiation could severely impact marine life, including seafood consumed by humans? The article continues:
As fears of further contamination grew, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said his government was in a state of maximum alert over the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The Japanese government said the discovery of plutonium in the soil near the plant provided new evidence that the fuel in at least one of the plant’s reactors had experienced a partial meltdown. A full meltdown of the fuel rods could release huge amounts of radiation into the environment.

“There is a high possibility that there has been at least some melting of the fuel rods,” said Yukio Edano, the government’s chief spokesman. “That in itself is a very serious situation,” he said.
Partial meltdown. Plutonium in the soil. Continued concerns of a full meltdown that will release "huge amounts of radiation into the environment." And much too much happy talk. Obviously, for Americans to stock up on potassium iodide pills is an irrational and destructive response that could be hazardous to one's health if not used as prescribed. Worldwide supplies may well be limited. Before this crisis is over the people of Japan will most likely need potassium iodide pills in massive quantities. It would be irresponsible for anyone living in this continent, separated from Japan by a vast ocean, to clear the shelves of supplies that are most urgently needed by the Japanese victims closest to the nuclear plant disaster. The extent of Japan's loss is staggering. The National police Agency’s figures for casualties from the earthquake and tsunami, as of Sunday night, exceeds 27,000 killed or missing:
  • Number of people killed 10,804
  • Number of people missing 16,244
Rachel referred to Tokio Electric Power Company (Tepco) CEO Masataka Shimizu as "the Tony Hayward of this crisis." He has not been seen in public since March 13 and is reportedly suffering from exhaustion. Meanwhile, the executive charged with supervising the crisis in Mr. Shimizu's absence, Tepco Managing Director Akio Komiri, hasn't fared much better. The information coming from the company is yes, inadequate, contradictory, and incomplete by all accounts. A false reading on Sunday of a massive radiation release led to the temporary evacuation of the plant and an apology from the company.


In a country which has a more rigid, vertical executive corporate structure than most U.S. corporations, the top leadership of Tepco is down for the count. Considering Japanese culture, these top executives could well be under a suicide watch. The last notable Japanese citizen to commit seppuku, the Japanese ritual suicide to avoid family shame and dishonor, was Isao Inokuma, CEO of the Tokai Kensetsu company, "possibly due to the financial losses suffered by his company"— in 2001.

It's a familiar pattern. In the Gulf Oil spill, BP witheld information from the public and considered every disclosure from a public relations perspective. As a result, outside experts, including government officials could not get an accurate reading on the amount of oil spilled into the ocean until much later into the disaster. Tepco seems as reluctant as BP was to release accurate, timely information while the Japanese government is as unable to do much about it as our government was during the BP disaster.

This raises troubling questions about disaster preparedness and chain-of-command when these environmental catastrophes occur. Most disturbing of all is that the expertise for dealing with a catastrophic environmental crisis such as this one (and to a lesser extent the BP oil spill) is left to the private sector, where the profit motive is paramount even if it means cutting safety corners, while government regulation and oversight has grown increasingly ineffective in the course of decades of privatization and deregulation.

It's a recipe for disaster.

PS - Here's an example of why people who watch TRMS get proportionately smarter than people who watch Fox or believe anything the Idiot Punditocracy, aka Beltway Media, says at face value. (I was thinking the same thing, Rachel: Chris Hayes is a really SMART guy!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yo Wingnuts: What Page in the Karl Rove Dirty Tricks Manual Is "FALSE FLAG OPERATION" Under?

This is rich. Just as the wingnuts' screeching and bluster about fictional "thuggery" by union members at anti-Gov. Walker protests in Wisconsin grows more strident, we catch a rare glimpse of what real, organized thuggery against working people and public employees is, courtesy of the now unemployed former right wing deputy prosecutor in Indiana and self-described Republican "activist," Carlos Lam. Eager to help Gov. Walker out of his travails with those pesky constituents protesting his abusive and un-American policies, Lam the little fascist wannabe e-mailed the Governor suggesting he should stage a phony attack on himself from, you know, one of those "union thugs" our buddy Treach keeps dreaming up, in order to gin up sympathy for his cause and "discredit the public unions."

Nice. And the guy's a deputy prosecutor (or was) no less, himself a public employee paid by the taxpayers. Had to be a Republican rat-bastard. In his e-mail obtained by the watchdog group Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Lam helpfully discloses how he's been "involved in GOP politics here in Indiana for 18 years" adding that the "situation in WI presents a good opportunity for what's called a 'false flag' operation." Here is the text of the e-mail:
“If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions. Currently, the media is painting the union protest as a democratic uprising and failing to mention the role of the DNC and umbrella union organizations in the protest. Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam.”
There is a difference between the parties, not only on policy but in how they conduct political operations. Democrats will concentrate their energy and resources — volunteers, many of them from unions, for phone banks, distributing campaign literature — into getting out the vote, driving voters to the polls, informing them of the issues and running factual campaign ads. The GOP, on the other hand, has always been about suppressing the vote, with voter intimidation and harassment at the polls, outrageous robo-calls, and corporate-funded campaign ads that spread lies and misinformation about Democrats aimed, not only at ginning up their base, but keeping Democratic voters home and not voting. Because you see, there are more of us than there are of them.

And so GOP activists are ready to deploy their Rovian bag of dirty tricks. These include passing out pamphlets in heavily Democratic black or latino districts directing voters to go to the wrong precinct, or vote on Nov. 3rd rather than the 2nd, representing themselves as the Democratic candidate with some outrageously false claim against the community that is too big a lie to pass muster in TV ads, or trying to scare voters away from the polls by distributing a sheet with an official-looking state logo falsely informing them photo IDs or driver's licenses are required to vote. These are the "false flag operations" officially sanctioned by the GOP that Lam boasts of in his e-mail, in which individuals and groups will represent themselves to voters under a false and misleading cover: "If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions." 

Is it just a coincidence that on the same day the e-mail went out, Jeffrey Cox, an Indiana deputy attorney general tweeted that police should "use live ammunition" against the protestors? He was fired the next day and Lam was forced to resign. So the next time wingnuts breathlessly pass along some ginned-up story about union "thuggery" you'll know what the brown-shirted pros in the GOP war rooms call it: a "false flag operation."

PS  - What kind of sickness, what kind of insanity is spreading from wingnuts like Beck and Limbaugh to GOP law enforcement officials working in a state attorney general's office, that they will suggest the use of  "LIVE AMMUNITION" and "employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you)"? Anyone, wingnuts? *CRICKETS* — What a bunch of sickos.

Rule of Thumb: Don't Want A SKUNK To STINK UP Your AOL Garden Party? DON'T INVITE HIM!

Memo to Arianna "I wah saw mahwv'd" Huffington:


Are you nuts? What were you thinking? You must know who this wingnut agent provocateur is. We're all for a diversity of opinion, but Arianna, THERE ARE MINIMAL EDITORIAL STANDARDS for any contributor to a news publication. These include, first, that the contributor shall not knowingly and repeatedly TELL LIES. Second, the contributor shall not direct, participate in, fund, or encourage CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES. Third, the contributor shall not be an ideological rat-bastard wingnut SKUNK. Okay, that's my personal "rule of thumb," but Arianna, if your aim is to increase readership and not repulse your current readers by posting that ugly ferret-face Breitbart mug with the eeevil slit eyes to pollute your front page, then (see headline) you should NEVER have invited the SKUNK provocateur in the first place! You've rustled up those flies and mosquitos over at our favorite wingnut rag, The Daily Caller, and gotten them all ABUZZ. Our buddy "Digger" Jim has found a new cause célebre. He has a point.

I mean, c'mon. Banning Breitbart from the Huff Post (after you invited him in) for saying some nasty things about the progressive group Color of Change is a totally invalid excuse that amounts to muzzling him. Free speech is free speech, and ad hominems aren't the exclusive province of any one person or side. In Breitbart's case, they're his coin of the wingnut realm, for Chrissakes!  

You cannot plead ignorance and say you don't know what this guy is about. As Greg Sargent of the WaPo Plum Line notes, "for many liberals, Breitbart has been revealed by the Shirley Sherrod affair and other dust-ups to be a particularly toxic and dishonest figure that has no journalistic standards whatsoever. It’s hard to see what he adds in value, beyond ginning up a lot of comments and traffic and noise." He's right on target. Color of Change points out in its vehement protest of Breitbart joining the Huff Post, that he is a "notorious liar and race baiter” who “poses as a journalist and then uses his position to gin up race-based fears, protect racists, and demonize Black political leaders and institutions," adding:
We agree that civil, honest dialogue is important — which is exactly why the Huffington Post should not elevate someone like Breitbart, who consistently lies and undermines honest debate.

This isn’t about Breitbart being a conservative, or whether the Huffington Post allows him to post on their site; it’s about the decision of its editors to give him top billing, while he repeats falsehoods that have been debunked. This is about whether or not the Huffington Post considers itself a credible news outlet that chooses to adhere to any basic editorial standards when it decides what to elevate. The Huffington Post claims to have a policy about posts being subject to removal for being untruthful -- but they haven’t applied that to Breitbart.

Andrew Breitbart has repeatedly twisted the truth and used deceptively edited videos to take down black leaders and institutions on false premises — as was the case with Shirley Sherrod, the NAACP, and ACORN. And when caught, he doesn’t apologize — he attacks those who seek to hold him accountable. For black Americans, this man is dangerous — not on his own, but when treated as legitimate by organizations like the Huffington Post that some have come to trust.
I smell AOL behind this latest Breitbart kerfuffle and his second banning from a "legitimate" MSM media outlet, the first being ABC News dropping him as an election night commentator after an avalanche of similar protests. The guy's a right wing provocateur par excellence, a polarizing figure that spells ratings, or hits to the suits in the MSM councils. If they could have done this under the radar, they would have. Hopefully, this latest Breitbart flareup will result in his permanent banishment from legitimate media outlets. No one wants to silence him. It's just that his wingnut ravings belong with his kind in their echo chamber hives. I'm told Tucker Swanson Carlson is hiring.

THIS is what Arianna (in an apparent attack of temporary insanity) thought would "elevate" the discourse at the Huffington Post: