Bad News Rundown

23 Jun

Monday was a steady stream of bad news for smart people.  I ended the day wondering what the hell happened, let’s review.

1.) General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of all US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan, essentially told the President, Congress and the American People to eat a big bag of shit.  McChrystal was a Cheney man, a noted overseer of torture and general Special Ops badass who was put in charge to kick ass and center the troops around a mission of “winning” in Afghanistan and doing it in a hurry.  He has been political trouble for Obama from jump street, but Obama has stood by him and now that we’re at a critical juncture in the counter-insurgency, McChrystal decided to essentially motherfuck everyone in the chain of command.  The Republicans will trip all over themselves to set the discussion agenda tomorrow and turn this into a test of Obama’s failed leadership or other such meme.  Good times.  Also, anyone curious as to why this General (who is evidently widely known for this sort of behavior) received a pass on it from the Defense Department beat reporters?  It took a freelancer to get the story, primarily because he wasn’t worried about losing his “sources”.   Sad state of journalism in this country…

2.) The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, reduced the First Amendment rights of American Citizens.  This was the first SCOTUS test of free speech against new national security standards (Patriot Act, etc.)

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law that makes it a crime to provide “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations, even if the help takes the form of training for peacefully resolving conflicts.

The case arose after an American human rights group, the Humanitarian Law Project, challenged the law prohibiting “material support” to terror groups, which was defined in the 2001 Patriot Act to include “expert advice or assistance.” The law project wanted to provide advice to two terrorist groups on how to peacefully resolve their disputes and work with the United Nations. The two groups — the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — have violent histories and their presence on the State Department’s official list of terrorist groups is not in dispute.

But though the law project was actually trying to reduce the violence of the two groups, the court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. on behalf of five other justices, said that did not matter and ruled the project’s efforts illegal. Even peaceful assistance to a terror group can further terrorism, the chief justice wrote, in part by lending them legitimacy and allowing them to pretend to be negotiating while plotting violence.

In a powerful dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer, also speaking for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, swept away those arguments. If providing legitimacy to a terror group was really a crime, he wrote, then it should also be a crime to independently legitimize a terror group through speech, which it is not. Never before, he said, had the court criminalized a form of speech on these kinds of grounds, noting with particular derision the notion that peaceful assistance buys negotiating time for an opponent to achieve bad ends.

3.) A federal judge overturned President Obama’s six month moratorium on deep water oil drilling.

The judge in New Orleans who struck down the moratorium earlier in the day complained there wasn’t enough justification for it.

I guess the oil needs to be lapping at the courthouse door for him to see the “evidence”.  Of course, the judge does have significant investments in deepwater drilling companies, although I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

4.) Our “financial reform bill” that will supposedly “place tough regulations” (hack,cough) on Wall Street companies is being weakened yet again by Republicans and investment bank friendly Democrats in conference committee.

Levin and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), are the principal authors of legislation to strictly limit banks’ and other financial firms’ ability to make speculative trades with their profits. The idea originated with former Fed chair and Obama economic adviser Paul Volcker, who strongly backs the Levin-Merkley proposal. But they’re fighting Wall Street and an array of Democrats negotiating the final bill, who want to include a loophole that would allow banks to invest a potentially significant share of their capital in high-risk hedge funds. Levin and others are pushing back, but their time is limited: the conference committee will discuss the Volcker rule and the banks’ new favorite loophole tomorrow.

5.) Why do you think BP caved so easily on the idea of putting together a $20BN escrow fund to compensate the victims of their oil disaster?  I think the answer is in the last two paragraphs of this story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

6.) This is what a failed democracy looks like.

The Wall Street Journal just reported that the Federal Communications Commission is holding “closed-door meetings” with industry to broker a deal on Net Neutrality — the rule that lets users determine their own Internet experience.

The meetings include a small group of industry lobbyists representing the likes of AT&T, Verizon, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and Google. They reportedly met for two-and-a-half hours on Monday morning and will convene another meeting today. The goal according to insiders is to “reach consensus” on rules of the road for the Internet.

This is what a failed democracy looks like: After years of avid public support for Net Neutrality – involving millions of people from across the political spectrum – the federal regulator quietly huddles with industry lobbyists to eliminate basic protections and serve Wall Street’s bottom line.

We need open debate and transparent policymaking, unfortunately, we live in a corporatist state dominated by lobbyist influence.  We get the results out of the system that we plan for.

To end on a positive note, Carl Sagan always makes me feel better.  The Pale Blue Dot…


11 Responses to “Bad News Rundown”

  1. peteherr June 23, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    It really was kind of a bad week.

  2. Mike In WNY June 23, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    1. The whole Afghanistan thing is a giant clusterf**k.

    2. Agreed, SCOTUS screwed up.

    3. I side with the Federal Court Judge, people have invested money, followed regulations and have been given government approval to drill. In the absence of evidence of wrong-doing, or evidence showing an imminent danger, it is wrong to punish people who complied with the necessary steps to gain government approval.

    4. I see very little in the proposed financial reform bill, any version, that would result in any good. All that is necessary is to let banks, companies, etc., succeed or fail on their own.

    5. People are not obligated to settle through the “shakedown fund” and can still preserve their right to sue in court. The whole fiasco appears to be a combination of government error, government incompetence and short-cuts, with poor safety decisions, by BP. I do believe the government’s decision to compel BP to drill in 5000 feet of water, instead of 500 feet, setup this whole disaster.

    6. I won’t get into my whole stance on “net neutrality”, except to say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Consumers can vote with their wallets and that has been highly successful to date.

    • STEEL June 23, 2010 at 10:04 am #

      LOL you are just to funny – how do you come up with this crap day after day

      • Mike in WNY June 23, 2010 at 10:08 am #

        Since you didn’t rebut any point I made, I can only assume you’re shooting from the hip and haven’t thought through my responses analytically.

    • STEEL June 23, 2010 at 10:37 am #

      You mean the part where you say the government forces companies to do bad things? The part where you say that oil rigs are following all the rules and are all doing things safely and we should just trust them and leave them alone? The part were you call compensation money to people who have been harmed by PB “shake down” money? Or the part where you claim the government compels BP to drill in certain places? It is all very funny and ridiculous. Business has never proven that it is able to govern itself just as absolute government control has proven to be a failure. Your sill absolute belief that business can do no wrong unless government forces it to is so damn ridiculous it is funny – in a sad way.

      • Mike in WNY June 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

        The government did force BP out to a 5000 foot depth, Louisiana approved drilling in 500 feet of water.  It is patently unfair, without solid evidence, to change the rules.  You can’t have it both ways.  You either have rules that are followed, or you have no rules.  Having rules and changing them after many people have invested time and money doesn’t cut it.  The other oil rigs did follow the rules, haven’t had any problems, ergo, there is no reason to shut them down That would amount to stifling the livelihood of many people with a good reason.  “Shakedown” is the government “ordering” a private company to set aside $20 billion for future claims and putting under the control of a political appointee, depriving said company the ability to verify claims.  The fraud that occurred after Katrina should have been a lesson.

        The most egregious example of your inability to understand my position is your insistence, a number of times, that I said business can do no wrong.  You either don’t understand, or you are a liar.

      • STEEL June 23, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

        How did the government force them to drill anyplace. They did not have to drill there. No one forces them to drill anything. Don’t be stupid. No one forced them to ignore generally excepted safety practices either.

        No one forced them to give the money. They AGREED to give the money. They have also noted that the 20B fund is to their advantage in reducing the number of lawsuits they can expect. The 20 b is not even a large sum to this company by the way. They pay it out over 5 years. in that 5 year span they will make 100B in profits – well minus 20B so they are going to be ahead by $80B. In the mean time their actions will drive many people into bankruptcy.

        and you have said that business can do no wrong because no matter how egregious the corporate folly you claim the government was the cause.

  3. peteherr June 23, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    In the bad news department you left out that Sarah Palin Lite, Nikki Haley won the GOP Nomination for South Carolina Governor.

    @Mike In WNY – The Broadband debate might not be an issue here in Buffalo where we have pretty good access, but in many other places people aren’t getting the same level of service that other customers with the same BSP are getting for the same price. And in those areas often people can’t vote with their wallets because they only have one choice at this time. So, because they are on the end of the infrastructure they can’t do things like stream audio or video effectively without it buffering every 10 seconds, if it’ll play at all. They might argue whether the system is broke or not.

    • Mike in WNY June 23, 2010 at 10:06 am #

      If it is a local problem, address it locally rather than a federal one-size fits all solution, complete with unintended consequences.

  4. Michael June 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    1) The whole Afghanistan thing is a giant cluster fuck. The only business we should have over there (once we’ve cleaned up as best we can after the Bush regime) is burning poppy fields and helping the UN provide humanitarian aid.

    2) The PATRIOT Act is a slap in the face to the Bill of Rights. It was from Day 1 and needs to be repealed. One question though: will this ruling also apply to any “expert aid or assistance” provided to domestic, Right Wing Christian groups? Maybe it should be a violation of the PATRIOT Act to act as defense lawyer for any Christian militant who takes it upon himself to start killing doctors or firebombing an abortion clinic. Terror has many faces.

    The PATRIOT Act opened the door to a slippery fucking slope.

    3) “Six month moratorium” isn’t code for “permanent ban”. It means everybody stop fucking running for a second and let’s look where we’re going.

    That judge should have recused himself (naive, I know) and the fact that he didn’t should be looked at by Holder & company very seriously.

    Also, I’m shocked, shocked, that there’s gambling going on in here!

    4) The government should have Ma Belled all of these businesses, breaking them up once it was obvious that they’re too big to fail (a term I hate more than “shovel ready”). But they didn’t. Bush et al. opted to pay them for hitting on red instead of black and we’re stuck with it. Disentangling Goldman Sachs and the others from their hold on us all is going to be difficult, if likely at all, and will require multiple surgeries and not a single swipe of some fiscal Gordian knot.

    This, of course, is actively hindered by Republican avarice and distain, and hampered by Democratic obsequiousness.

    5) I fear that $20BN will not be enough, even if BP just divided it equally among every US citizen and gave us the two-fingered UK salute.

    What’s especially saddening though was being in Chicago two weeks ago and seeing people lining up at BP gas stations to get they’re tanks filled. We’re Tina and the oil industry is Ike.

    6) Failed democracy, indeed.

    Consumers can’t always vote with their wallets, unless you count foregoing a service completely.

    For the sake of discussion, say I live in the city of Buffalo and earn the local median ($27,850). FIOS isn’t available here and Time Warner has a deal to be only cable internet provider. Now, if Verizon DSL and TWC both decide they’re not going to allow access to the IP (guess) then what are my options?

    I can either go with Localnet (or another dial-up provider), pay more than I can afford for satellite service, or go without. I assume “going without” is the “vote with my wallet” option, right?

    What about Sprint? They own and manage the trunk line which services this area*. What if Sprint decides that the payment they receive from WNYMedia to block all access to that IP is large enough that it’ll offset any potential loss of revenue from disgruntled customers? Sprint has now cut off access for all of the state (or East Coast) to that IP, no matter what provider I use.

    What should people do in a similar scenario if, say, Microsoft pays Sprit* to block all packets flowing through their trunk line to any mail servers other than Hotmail?

    I assume the canned answer already: the free-market will provide for an ISP that with rise up and provide unfettered internet access, resisting all attempts at being bought out by the big fish (like Krusty said, “They drove a dump truck full of money up to my house. I’m not made of stone!”).

    * or substitute Telecom Corp X, if I’m wrong about it being Sprint. And yes, the internet has “wholesale providers” who rent bandwidth to ISPs.


  1. Obama’s Military Problem | - June 23, 2010

    […] Chris Smith laid out this morning that McChrystal gave a giant middle finger to the country as a whole, and was a torturer to boot. This is as ludicrous as it is off base. As that Esquire article points out, and those in the “black” or “grey” worlds know, no one has any idea who works for which agency, once the operations begin. That McChrystal was any more involved in the spectrum from interrogations to torture is conjecture at best and libel at worst. But even if he was the Chief Water Dripper, was he not following the leadership of the civilian authority, as “Cheney’s man” (Chris’ mocking title), what we’re mad he didn’t do now? And don’t tell me that officers have to only follow “lawful orders;” the jury is still out on the legality of any of those actions (note the Obama administration’s continued use of Gitmo and rendition). And finally, if McChrystal is such a heinous Cheney torturista, why did Obama hire him in the first place? In the end, the buck stops with the Obama administration’s failed procedural and bureaucratic approach. I say it all the time, but at the end of the day. Americans do not want large or small government – they want competent government. The Bush administration screwed up the Iraq War from the start, and was killed for it. Should we not have learned something, and not make the same mistakes? […]

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