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Thomas Paine

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

24 October - The Great Dictator's Debate

English: The task of making foreign policy in ...English: The task of making foreign policy in the United States, according to the United States Constitution, is divided among different branches of government, with the executive branch having much of the decision-making authority, while the Senate ratifies treaties (2/3 vote needed to pass) and the Supreme Court rules on how to interpret treaties. Congress has a role in controlling appropriations for military expenditures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Orbis (foreign policy)Orbis (foreign policy) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mohammad Reza PahlaviMohammad Reza Pahlavi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
cover of text of Jay Treatycover of text of Jay Treaty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign PolicyThe Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
National Committee on American Foreign PolicyNational Committee on American Foreign Policy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Military allies of the United States.Military allies of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 17: Seats wait to be oc...WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 17: Seats wait to be occupied for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC. Testifying before the committee, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns said that in light of the recent uhevals, the United States should do what it can to support the transition from authoritarian rule to democratic governance, support the emerging governments' economic reforms and continue to urge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Martha Raddaz and the Faux Objectivity of Journalists
  • KarlNaylor3
    12 October 2012 2:55PM
    Glenn Greenwald writes,,
    The US has Iran virtually encircled militarily. Even with the highly implausible fear-mongering claims earlier this year about Tehran's planned increases in military spending, that nation's total military expenditures is a tiny fraction of what the US spends. Iran has demonstrated no propensity to launch attacks on US soil, has no meaningful capability to do so, and would be instantly damaged, if not (as Hillary Clinton once put it) "totally obliterated" if they tried. Even the Israelis are clear that Iran has not even committed itself to building a nuclear weapon.
    It is evident that mainstream US TV journalists are not going to challenge the bi-partisan consensus on American Foreign policy. Firstly, in the context of presidential elections foreign policy is not considered that important by most American citizens. Secondly, the idea is to get a mere statement of their position.
    Both presidents aim to compete on how tough they are on Iran in order to get votes and get into office. And it is in neither of their interests nor that of major TV networks to ask fundamental questions about foreign policy nor to understand the basis of what is driving it in the Middle East and Central Asia.
    One of the main reasons , of course, is that the plan to encircle and throttle Iran is part of the USA's ambition to gain hegemony over the region in order to control the oil and gas. This is something necessitated by the USA's overdependence upon it to fuel a high octane car based consumer economy.
    The fact that Iran has, in Greenwald's words, 'shown no propensity to launch attacks on US soil' is, therefore, largely irrelevant. It stands in the way as the only Power that can challenge US hegemony in both the Middle East to the west of Iran and in Central Asia to the east.
    In Afghanistan, the war has been mostly about the geopolitical advantages of securing the construction of the TAPI pipeline, one that will block off the rival IPI project and ratchet up the pressure on Iran's economy and society by reducing the revenue from gas exports to Pakistan and India.
    In Greenwald is going to criticise Establishment journalism for not probing on foreign policy, then there should be at least some alternative attempt to understand why the USA has become so fixated on targeting Iran as the main threat to its interests in the Middle East and Central Asia.
    Populist journalism can be as tedious as Establishment journalism as it allows radical critics of US foreign policy to feel a frisson of superiority to the people in power without any recognition that if American consumer lifestyles, even of "anti-war" protesters, are to be preserved, then this foreign policy is inevitable.
    The problem with those complaining about the US meddling in the Middle East and Central Asia is that, even when they criticise the US for invading Iraq for oil or targeting Iran to get 'regime change' ( also ultimately about control and protection of oil supplies, they seem oblivious to what powers their economy.
    That is not to state that US foreign policy is "right" but to present in stark terms the nature of what US foreign policy has been increasingly concerned with since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, increased competition with Russia and China and with the opening up of a New Great Game.

    William Heffner
    12 October 2012 2:59PM
    The insistence on "objectivity" in the media is interesting, since for most of history the purpose of printed media was to have an agenda. Look up the word "broadsides" and you'll find that people, including very important people, wrote opinions and paid to have them printed and circulated and that this was actually what evolved into today's newspaper.
    When I was growing up every town larger than a small village had at least two newspapers, each of which had its own political agenda. Usually one was a morning paper and the other was delivered in the evening, and people read both of them. The general knowledge of governance and politics was very high because people read bopth sides of most issues, and were treated to a lively discussion on issues of the day. Because both side were heard, something close to the truth was required, but objectivity most certainly was not.
    With mass ownership and reduction to the point that each person draws "information" from a single source, this pretense of objectivity has become necesssary, at the cost of honesty and any real depth of actual information.

    12 October 2012 3:04PM
    Considering this whole 18-month moronic charade is basically about convincing all the terminally "undecided", whoever the hell they are, about which persons are the most presidential/alpha/handsome/funky/godfearing/warmongering etc, it's not surprising that what is said is just a vehicle for them.
    I.e. in Hollywood terms, this makes the US election character-driven, not plot-driven...
    (Cartoon characters, of course, as opposed to real, European psychology :D )

    12 October 2012 3:05PM
    When you mix up the two, that's 'editoralising'. (And isn't that what GG is doing here?) And surely, any reasonably intelligent reader can recognise that?
    I think most readers are aware that is the purpose of 'Comment is Free' pieces.
    But to address your larger point, communication of information is changing. At one time, most people could not attend a vice-presidential debate in person, but relied on reports in their local paper. Later, people could watch it live in a broadcast by one of the major TV networks. Now most people probably watched clips, or read a transcript available on a multitude of internet sites. In other words, people have direct access to the "What (happened), Who (did it), Where (was it) , When (did it happen)". So the "(possibly, but not essential) Why" has taken on a greater importance.
    And the "Why?" cannot be answered, except in a larger context which depends on some ideological framework. While it might be theoretically preferrable for each person to work this out themselves, in reality, most people are interested in the opinions of others. So I think Glenn Greenwald is correct that when someone openly acknowledges their ideology, it allows other people to more accurately understand their opinions on a given issue.
    Welcome to the new media.

    12 October 2012 3:14PM
    Thank you for pointing out the essential "kabuki" of this sort of panto for proles.
    A few more examples:
    The debt crisis as a pretext for austerity.
    Competitivity as a pretext for out-sourcing, downsizing and the general need to transfer wealth from workers to owners.
    That the so-called "opposition", whether it be Miliband and co. here or Obama abroad, are active participants in the charade tells you all you need to know about their intentions.
    Government of, for and by the rich will be safe in their hands.
    God help us.

    12 October 2012 3:18PM
    If that is your description of him, then...
    Well, as long as fact (or opinions which we all in the context can accept as common sense) and opinion /ideology etc are declared, not confused, conflated, obfuscated etc, there's no problem. "Simply".
    I do however think that there is most often a differencewith regards to the priority of the pursuit of fact(/truth) vs the "cause"(/agenda, opinion etc) that is visible when comparing, say, a scientist and a lawyer. This is related to self-critique, intellectual honesty, or the lack of it. I.e.: if a fact turns up, that counters the cause, or vice versa, is the fact or the cause sacrificed?
    Opportunism(pragmatism) vs idealism("objectivism"(not the Rand kind though!)).

    12 October 2012 3:22PM
    Maybe a sign of how Glenn Greenwald has influenced my thinking over the years - as I was watching the debate last night the exact parts of Martha's questions that Glenn is discussing stuck out in my mind - her assertion that Iran is the biggest national security threat that we face, and that Social Security & Medicare are going bankrupt (stated in a matter of fact tone). I found myself thinking - I really hope Glenn posts about this. And sure enough, here is the post. :)
    People are praising Martha's moderation skills but frankly when I heard her say these things it made me lose all respect for her as a journalist.
    At the end of the day, who is the loser in this type of discourse? It's the people with least power in society - the Iranian civilians who suffer, the poor / middle class who depend on social security and medicare, the women who need access to women's health services without interference from politicians who use religion as a tool of power over others, etc.

    12 October 2012 3:34PM
    I remember sitting in America and Chavez had been voted 3rd worst dictator in the world in either a Fox or CNN news poll. Nobody pointed out that he wasn't a dictator.When news becomes propaganda.
    Sure the right has it's Isreal is awesome or the troops have to be great ideals that it expects everybody to accept as fact but the left is just as bad on it's issues.
    Debates on womens lack of representation at the top of buisness and politics just assume sexism or alledge its sexism with out evidence or without looking at hours worked, career choices etc. Or a debate on Islam and everybody in the establishment is just meant to accept Islam is a good thing, see recent question time position.
    Hell Paul Rudd got attacked for being sexist for talking about female housewivies because this apparently paints women in the wrong place in 21st century even though over 60% of women are or have been atleast part time housewivies. The debate in future will now be controlled and structured not to mirror reality but to mirror idealism.
    In Univesities we have social science deparments inventing terms that are loaded like objectification, white priviledge, patriarchy etc that people are just meant to accept as real things and people will talk about as real when they are no more real than souls or sin.
    We live in a world of spin, straight talking is out of fashion and news has been replaced by propaganda.
    Many people no longer believe they have a political opinions, they believe they have not only the absolute truth but moral superiority.

    12 October 2012 3:34PM

    But it is almost never noted that the Church just as stridently opposes US militarism
    When the Catholic Church starts being anti non-defensive wars from its parish pulpits instructing Catholic members of the US military to lay down their arms and/or threatening its parishioners with not being able to take the sacrament, suggesting that they aren't good catholics or should be excommunicated for participating in non-defensive military wars (or the military for that matter), then it will be just as strident as it is on abortion and reproductive rights.
    And when the entire association of American bishops spends as much time lobbying Congress and preaching from its pulpits that war is wrong, except proportional war in response to and in self-defense from invasion, the it will be just as strident as it is on abortion.
    When the Pope goes on a hunger strike against America's invasions of another country and rallies a billion Catholics to actively join him, then I'll believe he is actually attempting to walk in the shoes of Christ and the Catholic Church is committed to "right to life". Short of that color me unimpressed by his speeches or encyclicals.

    12 October 2012 3:59PM
    Interesting. A few weeks ago sullenandhostile and I had an exchange in which I maintained that objectivity is a total fantasy. It is. And a very dangerous one, yet a staggering number of people seem to buy into it.
    The most pernicious facet of this myth of objectivity is that it--that pretense of being cool, dispassionate, scientific-- is often abused and becomes the very rationale for flat-out objectifying of human beings and concerns. In order to do nearly all that we are doing in the Mid-East --torturing, droning, manipulating elections, imposing sanctions-- we have to erase the faces and names of the people who suffer from those policies.
    We'd do far better to subject ourselves to the exercise of examining closely the lives of those we set out to destroy. Taking that step might help us find a new direction.

    Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (2012)
    Medicine shortages? Unaffordable food? Collapsing economy?
    Our government is killing people in Iran. We don't have small-r republican government--of, by, and for the people. The politicians and unelected policymakers often act without and against our consent. If we're going to transform the empire into a democratic republic that's responsive to the needs of ordinary people, we have to speak out. The politicians, in bed with the weapons manufacturers and Big Oil, the merchants of war and death, want us to think that somehow the people of Iran are unlike the people of America. We must reject this "other-ing" and take on the plight of people in Iran as our own by opposing our government's illegal and cruel policies. If the policymakers inflict injustice and pain on people in Iran, you can be sure these politicians won't spare us.
    Take a look at this report by the U.N. Sec. General Ban Ki-moon, in particular, see p 15, items 42 and 43. It reads:
    "42. The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine. A number of Iranian non-governmental organizations and activists have expressed concerns about the growing impact of sanctions on the population and have noted that inflation, rising prices of commodities, subsidy cuts and sanctions are compounding each other and having far-reaching effects on the general population. They report, for instance, that people do not have access to lifesaving medicines. Furthermore, since the sanctions extend to banking transactions, many foreign banks have stopped doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran altogether, which has made it considerably difficult for Iranians to transfer funds and for private business to obtain lines of credit.
    "43. The sanctions also appear to be affecting humanitarian operations in the country. Even companies that have obtained the requisite licence to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions. Owing to payment problems, several medical companies have stopped exporting medicines to the Islamic Republic of Iran, leading to a reported shortage of drugs used in the treatment of various illnesses, including cancer, heart and respiratory conditions, thalassemia and multiple sclerosis."
    Also take a look at pages 14-15, points 37-39, excerpted below. All this is threatened by the illegal economic war (sanctions) and military strikes on Iran by US/Israel.
    "37. With a population of 75 million,the Islamic Republic of Iran is an upper middle-income country which has made notable progress in human development. Its human development index value for 2011 was 0.70, placing the country in the high human development category. This represents an increase from a human development index value of 0.493 in 1985 and a total increase of 42 per cent or an average annual increase of about 1.4 per cent.The Islamic Republic of Iran is also on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly Goals 1 (reducing extreme poverty), 2 (achieving universal education), 4 (reducing child mortality by half) and 5 (reducing maternal mortality by three quarters)
    "38. The Islamic Republic of Iran has showed greatly improved results in health and education. Access to health care, including reproductive health care, has improved, with increased life expectancy at birth for both men and women; more people have access to safe drinking water; maternal mortality decreased from 150 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 30 in 2008; the under-five mortality ratio decreased to 21 out of 1,000; the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel increased to 97.3 per cent; and primary health-care coverage in rural areas stands at more than 98 per cent. The country also has a literacy rate for girls of more than 90 per cent, an overall literacy rate of more than 75 per cent, social security coverage encompassing 30 million people and health insurance schemes covering about 50 per cent of the population.
    "39. The Islamic Republic of Iran has also made significant progress in women’s education and health. Literacy rates among 15-24-year-old women increased from 96.1 per cent in 2000 to 99.2 per cent in 2008, and the ratio of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education increased from 79.2 per cent in 1990 to 98 per cent in 2007. Currently, more than half of all university students are women. This progress is reflected in the increased gender development index, which rose from 0.713 in 2004 to 0.770 in 2009."

    12 October 2012 4:20PM
    fringe, unserious and radical
    It's amazing how little credibility remains to peacemakers and humanists. The Punch and Judy show of the bipartisan mandarin class in Washington now masquerades as objective reality. One of the few real threats to America's national security that was touched on by Joe Biden, paying for two wars with a credit card, was, as Glenn Greenwald has noted, made to sound as if Biden opposed the wars, when the truth is he supported both wars.
    First peacemakers were redefined as antiwar. It seemed to be simply semantics. Then antiwar was redefined as unpatriotic. Suddenly, it was too late. Peacemakers had become traitors. Like the misrepresentations of Social Security and Medicare, the "objective" statements about America's last war, it's current war and the war to come were sheer fabrications. Total lies.
    Neither candidate was prepared to discuss how much of their campaign has been financed by the bankers who foreclosed on the homes of 10,000,000 Americans while laundering cartel drug profits, circumventing sanctions and assisting their wealthy clients evade taxes by moving their income into offshore tax havens. The moderator's pose of objectivity prevented her from asking any awkward questions about the candidates' cozy connections to cronies on Wall Street.

    • Daveatcollinda
      12 October 2012 4:36PM
      Glen's point regarding the right of the US to attack Iran for, as it is now styled by both parties, "achieving the capability to develop a nuclear weapon" is both critical and ironic in its most basic implication. The Nuremberg Principles derived from the trials of Nazi war criminals are based on a single concept, the "preventive war." This is an act of aggression against a country deemed to pose a threat at some unspecified point in the future and absent of any overtly hostile act. The case in point in WW II was Hitler's pronouncement that Poland would become a threat to the Homeland and must be stopped. The US jurist on the tribunal called preventive war the greatest war crime and crime against humanity as it encompasses all the others. The US attack on Iraq, though dubbed by the Bush administration and the stenographic press as a preemptive war (allowed under the UN Charter such a war demands a clear and immediate danger of attack by the country that is preempted), was a clear-cut case of "the greatest of all war crimes and crimes against humanity." An attack on Iran for being deemed to have a capability to develop a weapon that might someday be used against the US (somehow) is an even more glaring case. That the US is unquestionably guilty of exactly the same conduct for which Nazi war criminals were tried, imprisoned and executed is simply never, ever mentioned. That it has continued this practice in Pakistan and elsewhere is never, ever mentioned. It most assuredly would not have been a topic in the debate of 10/11 and it will not be in next week's episode of the Reality TV Show called "Presidential Debate."

      12 October 2012 5:34PM
      That is what this faux {*presidential election*}, whether by design or otherwise, always achieves. It glorifies highly ideological claims that benefit a narrow elite class (the one that happens to own the largest media outlets which employ these journalists) by allowing that ideology to masquerade as journalistic fact.
      That is why some feel strongly that being taken in by coverage of presidential elections or legitimizing major party candidates is so damaging to the welfare of the American people and most of the rest of humanity.
      That is, the feeling that the assumptions conflating (1) the United States' borderless endless war of aggression and exploitation with "national security" and (2) the US led neo-liberal initiative to colonize 99% of humanity, including its own citizens, with the natural, if unintended, results of free and industrious people participating in a globalized "free market" is a fraud that will lead to savagely unacceptable consequences for us.
      Add to that the quiet insidious fraud perpetrated through silence and obfuscation that convinces people that catastrophic climate change due to human caused global warming is not an emergency we need to seriously and actively address now and it very much looks to many as if these frauds will perpetuate or lead to excruciating pain followed by eventual death for the vast majority of humankind.*
      IOWs that referenced "narrow elite class" is, through various methods and to varying degrees, devastating unto death an ever-expanding swath of humanity. Their destructive ways will eventually impact all of us if we don't stop them.
      Supporting or legitimizing the fraud that is the US Presidential election or either of the fraudulent presidential nominees of the major parties would, by itself, appear to ultimately hurt our interests far more than it will help.

     * Where the Green Revolution destabilizes governments. Decades of propaganda selling weather modeling as 'settled science' have worked. I say weather modeling as a reaction to suppression of the opinions of the only people who actually legitimately make a living at forecasting future conditions.

    12 October 2012 5:38PM
    To be honest, after watching the debate, I realized the value of the time which I clearly wasted. How nauseating was that! These media-orchestrated debates always seem like a desperate attempt to restore the public's faith in the so-called institutions of democracy. Their meaninglessness cannot be stressed enough.
    However, what is interesting is the dissection of these debates done by ethical journalists (for eg. the above article), albeit reluctantly. Such an exercise demonstrates the entrenchment of the establishment's view in the public discourse by separating facts from rhetoric. If we're to go by the "objective journalists" alone, who until yesterday cheered on Romney on personality, we run the risk of over-looking the deception by the ruling class again & again. This is fatal considering the coming election which is reduced to choosing the lesser evil. The public disillusionment with the establishment has peaked. As someone aptly said, "Obama can keep the change, we need the dollars"!

    12 October 2012 5:44PM
    In fact, one could reasonably make the case that those whose thinking is shaped by unexamined, unacknowledged assumptions are more biased than those who have consciously examined and knowingly embraced their assumptions, because the refusal or inability to recognize one's own assumptions creates the self-delusion of unbiased objectivity, placing those assumptions beyond the realm of what can be challenged and thus leading one to lay claim to an unearned authority steeped in nonexistent neutrality. That is why I believe that journalists who candidly acknowledge their opinions are better at informing others than those who conceal their opinions: conceal them either from others or, as is often the case, even from themselves.
    Something that ought to be required reading PRIOR to turning on the TV or opening a newspaper. Anyone who is not aware of this, is by definition lost even before he or she begins grappling with the actual content of American mainstream media.

    12 October 2012 5:53PM
    O/T [sort of]
    An indication of the current state of "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances".
    Nonviolent Protester of Drone Wars Sentenced to Federal Prison
    Catholic Worker Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa has been sentenced to serves 6 months in a federal prison for his witness against the use of drone warfare.
    [Brian Terrell is a Catholic Worker based in Maloy, Iowa and is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.]
    Below is a message from Brian and his statement before the court:
    [...] I expect nothing other than a prison sentence today. I accept this without regret and will, if allowed, surrender myself to a designated prison some weeks from now, but I cannot say that I see justice in this. I admit that my conduct was as the government described it at trial. That conduct, however, does not constitute a crime but was a response to one. It is conduct this court should be protecting. [...]
    But, I think many here might count their time not wasted by reading the whole thing. [@ first link]

    12 October 2012 5:58PM
    The debates deserve a certain level of dignity that reflects our American culture.
    For the next one I suggest "The Gong Show" format. A moderator, a panel of three standup comics, and a great big gong.
    Never bring an accordion to a pie fight. -- Coram Nobis' Collected Maxims

    Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire

    U.S. Vice-Presidential Debate : Demagogy and Reaction

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