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Nov 30 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

In the next four years, we’re going to have a hellacious amount of work ahead trying to put the country back together. There’s all of the damage from the Bush regime to set right, but the work doesn’t stop there – the media’s going to need a severe ass-kicking:

David Barstow had a devastating New York Times piece back in April, documenting the practice of retired U.S. generals appearing on the major cable networks as “independent” media analysts, while they were simultaneously working for defense contractors, and repeating talking points from the Pentagon. The painted picture was a train wreck of conflicts of interest and journalistic ethical malpractice.

Today, Barstow has yet another blockbuster, directing his focus to one of the more prominent retired generals: Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general, military analyst for NBC News, and highly-paid consultant to defense contractors.

It’s really worth reading the whole piece, but Spencer Ackerman’s take was spot-on.

[snip]


[T]he scope of McCaffrey’s hustle is really breathtaking. Barstow demonstrates that many, if not most, of the pronouncements he made on TV about the wars benefited one or another defense contractor who employed him. That’s the way the scheme worked: Company hires retired general to use his connections to its benefit. Retired general accepts special grants of access from the office of the secretary of defense that benefit both his TV career and his consulting career. Retired general proclaims on TV things that benefit both the secretary and the company — or, when circumstances necessitate, the company at the expense of the secretary. TV viewer, looking for informed analysis of confusing wars, is unaware of any of this. Welcome to the new military-media-industrial complex.

It’s that bad. As Barstow explained, “On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.”

Allowing self-interested dickweeds to get away with selling a war to line their own pockets while claiming independence is something the media needs to be trained not to do. That’s not journalism, it’s fucking propaganda.

For those who still have a soft spot for torture, convinced that it works because Jack Bauer always gets the info he wants, I have bad news for ye:


In a Washington Post op-ed today, a former Special Operations interrogator who worked in Iraq in 2006 sharply criticizes American torture techniques as ineffective and dangerous. “Torture and abuse cost American lives,” he writes:


I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. … It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

The writer, who used a pseudonym for the article, adds that when he switched his team’s techniques to a rapport-building method, they found enormous success. One detainee told the author, “I thought you would torture me, and when you didn’t, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That’s why I decided to cooperate.”

Let me say it one more time, for the record: torture doesn’t work. It’s self-defeating, a damned fool way of getting information, doesn’t give us accurate intel, and worsens situations drastically. Don’t make me repeat myself.

This shit has to stop.

In other news, we might have to return the new SOFA:

On Thursday, 149 members of the Iraqi Parliament voted for approval of the SOFA, 126 either voted against or simply did not show up. While we wait for the decision of the three members of the Presidential Council – each of whom has a full veto – the reactions inside Iraq are understandably mixed given the uncertainty on what is even in the agreement.

[snip]

Grand Ayatollah Sistani has made it clear he is not pleased with the agreement. “He had previously said he would not express an opinion on the pact and would leave it up to parliament to decide, as long as there was broad consensus in the event it was passed.”

Today he made it clear that the standard of a “broad consensus” has not been met:

“There was no national consensus over the pact, a matter that disturbs the country,” the source said in a press statement that was made while Aswat al-Iraq was present. “The pact is incomplete and mysterious,” he added. The source questioned “the Iraqi government’s ability to execute the pact,” considering U.S. pressures in this regard. He also referred to preserving “Iraq’s sovereignty and funds.”

Looks like they’ve learned their democratic lessons from Bush very well indeed. Still and all, they’re at least trying to make an effort at democracy, something Bush gave up on long ago.

In two days, Georgia will make a very important decision: whether to elect as their senator a reasonably intelligent man, or a complete fucking idiot:


This morning of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) about a statement he made in July when he argued that the U.S. economy “may not be in a recession.” Wallace played a recording of Chambliss
from an ad released by Jim Martin’s campaign:


CHAMBLISS: We may not be in a recession. I don’t know what that term means.

Chambliss attempted to defend himself, saying that he was “quoting Alan Greenspan.” Wallace, however, noted that while Chambliss used the Greenspan quote in July 2008, Greenspan had said in April 2008 that “we’re headed into a recession.” Chambliss responded by attempting (and failing) to fall back on the “technical definition” of a recession…


[snip]

Definitions aside, Chambliss’s apparent inability to recognize that the U.S. is in a recession demonstrates he is uninformed about the state of the economy. Indeed, the Federal Reserve’s latest economic outlook “warned that a recession is believed already to be underway could last until mid-2009 or later.” Further, as Forbes recently reported on the significant rise in unemployment claims in recent months, “[c]laims above 400,000 are generally considered a sign of recession, and claims have been above that level for 17 weeks.”


I really hope Georgians show more intelligence than Chambliss. We have enough stupid people in Congress as it is, thank you very much.

In closing, I’d like to turn your attention to an interesting idea:


The story of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign serving as the catalyst of the modern conservative movement, which reshaped the Republican Party, is well known. But Neal Gabler presents an interesting idea today, arguing that the real father of modern conservatism is Sen. Joe McCarthy. Indeed, as far as Gabler is concerned, “the McCarthy gene” runs deep in the GOP’s DNA, “and because it is genetic, it isn’t likely to be expunged any time soon.”

You know, the man could be on to something. It certainly would explain a lot…

2 comments

  1. 1
    Cujo359

    One of the most disheartening things about the last eight years has been the complicity of the press in the lawlessness and cruelty of the government. During the Nixon years, the press at least tried to act like independent observers, and did much of the digging. Now, they spent seven and a half years wondering what our problem was, and then turned around and started pointing out all the stuff we’d been complaining about.We can’t survive as a representative democracy without real journalism.

  2. 2
    Anonymous

    I’ve been trying to keep track of the corporate media coverage, the blogging reportage and the legislative responses in a links fest post. It’s presented roughly in chronologic order. Before Barstow’s first story, I had independently been carrying on a commenting campaign on Brian Williams’ blog, Daily Nightly, demanding disclosure of conflicts of interest by NBC for all reporters, writers, correspondents and anchors.Williams responded with disdain and disgust, so at least he and his editors were reading. I guess you could call that progress….

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