Truth to Power

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The Mainstream Media Goes After Michael Hastings for Doing Their Job Better Than They Do

In Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 29, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Now that Michael Hastings has done the U.S. a favor by exposing what a bunch of arrogant, undisciplined jerks McChrystal and his cadre of General-worshippers were, rather than having a moment of introspection, the media is going after Hastings for daring to expose the fact that McChrystal had nothing but contempt for a) the Commander in Chief and b) the civilian diplomats with whom he was supposed to be working in order to make his much-beloved COIN strategy work.

The Beltway media trades access for the unspoken understanding that the subjects of the “news” stories will be handled largely with kid gloves lest there never be another interview. So don’t expect any Watergate revelations anytime soon from the likes of David Gregory, David Brooks or Lara Logan. And speaking of Logan, Matt Taibbi takes her to task for her groveling attitude towards the power elite about which she is supposed to be reporting. Here is an excerpt:

I thought I’d seen everything when I read David Brooks saying out loud in a New York Times column that reporters should sit on damaging comments to save their sources from their own idiocy. But now we get CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan slamming our own Michael Hastings on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program, agreeing that the Rolling Stone reporter violated an “unspoken agreement” that journalists are not supposed to “embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter.”

Anyone who wants to know why network television news hasn’t mattered since the seventies just needs to check out this appearance by Logan. Here’s CBS’s chief foreign correspondent saying out loud on TV that when the man running a war that’s killing thousands of young men and women every year steps on his own dick in front of a journalist, that journalist is supposed to eat the story so as not to embarrass the flag. And the part that really gets me is Logan bitching about how Hastings was dishonest to use human warmth and charm to build up enough of a rapport with his sources that they felt comfortable running their mouths off in front of him. According to Logan, that’s sneaky — and journalists aren’t supposed to be sneaky:

“What I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he’s laid out there what his game is… That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don’t — I don’t go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life.”

When I first heard her say that, I thought to myself, “That has to be a joke. It’s sarcasm, right?” But then I went back and replayed the clip – no sarcasm! She meant it! If I’m hearing Logan correctly, what Hastings is supposed to have done in that situation is interrupt these drunken assholes and say, “Excuse me, fellas, I know we’re all having fun and all, but you’re saying things that may not be in your best interest! As a reporter, it is my duty to inform you that you may end up looking like insubordinate douche bags in front of two million Rolling Stone readers if you don’t shut your mouths this very instant!” I mean, where did Logan go to journalism school – the Burson-Marsteller agency?

But Logan goes even further that that. See, according to Logan, not only are reporters not supposed to disclose their agendas to sources at all times, but in the case of covering the military, one isn’t even supposed to have an agenda that might upset the brass! Why? Because there is an “element of trust” that you’re supposed to have when you hang around the likes of a McChrystal. You cover a war commander, he’s got to be able to trust that you’re not going to embarrass him. Otherwise, how can he possibly feel confident that the right message will get out?

True, the Pentagon does have perhaps the single largest public relations apparatus on earth – spending $4.7 billion on P.R. in 2009 alone and employing 27,000 people, a staff nearly as large as the 30,000-person State Department – but is that really enough to ensure positive coverage in a society with armed with a constitutionally-guaranteed free press?

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George Mitchell Expresses Frustration With Israel’s Lack of Progress in Proximity Talks

In Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Mideast Peace, News, Politics on June 28, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Now before the usual chorus of “why is the Obama administration only asking anything of Israel!!!” lets remember that for the past year-and-a-half, it’s primarily been Benyamin Netanyahu who has been throwing up successive roadblocks to meaningful negotiations. Lets remember who the parties are, shall we? While the Israel Can Do No Wrong crowd constantly throws around all the problems Israel faces with Hamas, the reality is that Hamas is not at the negotiating table. The Palestinian Authority/Fatah is. And at this point, the PA has shown significant progress in fighting violence and extremism and trying to bolster it’s infrastructure and economy- no small task given Israel essentially makes that near impossible.

From Haaretz:

U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. Mitchell, who is due in Israel on Thursday for another round of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah, has expressed to Netanyahu his wish to see more progress by Israel on core issues.

[snip]

The senior U.S. official also said that the administration would like Netanyahu to show more willingness for substantive discussions on core issues, and to see the Palestinians moving toward direct talks with Israel.

There have been four rounds of proximity talks so far, during which Mitchell shuttled between Ramallah and Jerusalem. During talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu, the two informed the U.S. envoy of their positions on the various core issues. However, the Palestinian side has presented far more detailed positions…

Honestly, George Mitchell has the patience of a saint. I don’t know he does it quite frankly.

Most of his frustration probably stems from the fact that the right-wing Likud coalition has zero interest in anything resembling a peace process, let alone a two state solution. It probably also doesn’t help that every week Mitchell is greeted with new revelations of Israel’s intransigence. The most recent revelation:

The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve an unprecedented master plan that calls for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, a move largely based on construction on privately owned Arab property.

The committee’s proposal would codify the municipality’s planning policy for the entire city. In essence, Jerusalem would uniformly apply its zoning and construction procedures to both halves of the city.

[snip]

According to a document prepared by Ir Amim, an NGO that “seeks to render Jerusalem a more viable and equitable city,” the master plan vastly underestimates the construction needs of the Arab population in the city. While the plan calls for 13,500 new residential units in East Jerusalem for Palestinians, updated demographic studies indicate that this amount barely represents half the minimum needs for the Arab population by 2030.

Ir Amim officials also said that while the plan allows for Palestinian construction in the north and south of the capital, it barely provides for an expansion of Arab construction projects in the center of the city, particularly in the area next to the holy basin.

The group added that the plan creates a spate of bureaucratic obstacles for Palestinians who wish to build in the city. Ir Amim warns that the plan is likely to be perceived as an Israeli provocation because most of the Jewish building projects are designated for areas east of the Green Line.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat instructed his subordinates to alter the plan in line with his policy of thickening the Jewish presence around the holy basin and the eastern half of the city.

Despite the National Planning and Building Committee’s decision to designate the City of David – which sits in the heart of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan – as “a national park,” the new master plan allows for the construction of residential units in the area.

The Ir David Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase Jewish settlement in the City of David and whose heads are close associates of the mayor, has in recent years bought houses near the Old City in an effort to “Judaize” the area…

So, Bibi is coming to Washington, D.C. again to meet with President Barack Obama in early July and once again he will demonstrate that the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel is a one-way street- the U.S. is to give in to every Israeli demand, scuttle any international attempts at holding Israel accountable for violating international law, give Israel billions of dollars a year because they are so special, fight all Israel’s battles (most recently, our obsessive focus on Iran) give Israel preferential treatment in regards to obtaining lucrative defense contracts, equipment etc. and on and on and on. And what does the administration of President Barack Obama get in return? They get called anti-Israel, Arabist anti-Semites. Oh, and the other requirement is that whenever a public figure says the word “Israel” out loud, they are required to also include the boilerplate statement “we support Israel’s right to defend itself and protect its security interests by whichever means it sees fit…” or something along those lines. Because if they don’t say something along those lines, the AIPAC mobs will start screaming “anti-Israel!” from their perch on the NYT editorial page.

The truly pathetic part of all this? This is how it plays out year after year after year after year….and there is no end in sight.

$1 Billion a Year For Each al Qaeda member in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, Economy, Foreign Policy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 28, 2010 at 8:18 pm

The mainstream media likes to complain about the unruly, unwashed hacks which make up the blogosphere, but I think that is largely a result of envy. Many bloggers are just better at doing a MSM “journalist’s” job than the MSM is. Take Emptywheel for example and just imagine what would happen if Jake Tapper or that useless David Gregory would ask Panetta, Obama, Biden, Gates or Clinton about this:

Think Progress does the math on Panetta’s admission that there are just 100 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, and discovers we’ve got 1,000 American troops in Afghanistan for each al Qaeda member.

The U.S. has committed nearly 100,000 troops to the mission in Afghanistan. ABC This Week host Jake Tapper asked CIA Director Leon Panetta how big is the al Qaeda threat that the soldiers are combating:

TAPPER: How many Al Qaeda, do you think, are in Afghanistan?

PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. I think at most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

[snip]

Now let me add to their math. Even Afghan war fans admit that it costs $1 million a year–on top of things like salary–to support a US service member in Afghanistan.

[snip]

So 1,000 US troops per al Qaeda member, at a cost of $1 million each. That’s $1 billion a year we spend for each al Qaeda member to fight our war in Afghanistan.

How do you think the Obama administration would be able to justify to the U.S. taxpayer continuing on with its failed Afghanistan policy if asked about the cost per soldier or per member of al Qaeda? Answer- they wouldn’t be able to. But first it would take some sparky, committed member of the Washington press corp to ask such a question and that would never happen because it would involve the risk of upsetting the cozy relationship the press has with the powerful elites which it is supposed to be holding accountable.

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CIA Chief Panetta: Iran could have 2 nukes in 2 years. Again.

In Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Mainstream Media, Neocons, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Gee, where have I heard this before?

“In an EXCLUSIVE interview on “This Week,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said if the Iranians chose to pursue making a nuclear weapon, they could have a bomb in two years.

In Iran, “there is a continuing debate right now about whether or not they ought to proceed with a bomb. But they clearly are developing their nuclear capability and that raises concerns,” Panetta said. “Just exactly what are their intentions?”

“We think they have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons,” the CIA Chief said. “They do have to enrich it fully to get there. And we would estimate if they made that decision, it probably would take a year to get there. Probably take another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable,” he told host Jake Tapper.”[emphasis added]

So, where have we heard this before? Here:

“Iran is the center of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is in my view more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb, whereas the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option.”

Benjamin Netanyahu 2009? Try again. These words were in fact uttered by another Israeli prime minister (and now Israeli president), Shimon Peres, in 1996. Four years earlier, in 1992, he’d predicted that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.

You can’t accuse the Israelis of not crying wolf. Ehud Barak, now defense minister, said in 1996 that Iran would be producing nuclear weapons by 2004.

[snip]

The issue today is Iran and, more precisely, what President Barack Obama will make of Netanyahu’s prescription that, the economy aside, Obama’s great mission is “preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons” — an eventuality newly inscribed on Israeli calendars as “months” away.

[snip]

Israel’s nuclear warheads, whose function is presumably deterrence of precisely powers like Iran, go unmentioned, of course.

Netanyahu also makes the grotesque claim that the terrible loss of life in the Iran-Iraq war (started by Iraq) “didn’t sear a terrible wound into the Iranian consciousness.” It did just that, which is why Iran’s younger generation seeks reform but not upheaval; and why the country as a whole prizes stability over military adventure.

Arab states, Netanyahu suggests, “fervently hope” that America will, if necessary, use “military power” to stop Iran going nuclear. My recent conversations, including with senior Saudi officials, suggest that’s wrong and the longstanding Israeli attempt to convince Arab states that Iran, not Israel, is their true enemy will fail again.

What’s going on here? Israel, as it has for nearly two decades, is trying to lock in American support and avoid any disadvantageous change in the Middle Eastern balance of power, now overwhelmingly tilted in Jerusalem’s favor, by portraying Iran as a monstrous pariah state bent on imminent nuclear war…

So, how many times is Iran going to get nukes in two years? We’ve been saying this for over a decade. But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good headline. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Jake Tapper had asked Panetta about how the US and Israel have been saying this repeatedly and yet, here we are in 2010 and we’re still just TWO SHORT YEARS AWAY from Iran getting nukes.

Oh, and no mention of the other nuclear power in the region, right? Because that has nothing to do with anything, right? If the point of Israel’s nuclear arsenal is deterrence, then apparently it’s not working if they are claiming every five minutes that within two short years, Iran will have the capability to use nuclear weapons against them.

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Israel Seizes Oxygen Machines Headed for Gaza

In Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Mideast Peace, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

No matter how Israel spins their big “concession” about allowing more goods into Gaza, so long as they continue to play these games, most of the international community isn’t going to be fooled:

Seven machines donated by Norwegian agency confiscated en route to PA over chance generators attached could be used for purposes other than medical treatment, Ma’an reports.
By Haaretz Service Tags: Israel news Gaza West Bank PA

Israel confiscated seven oxygen machines en route to hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza based on the claim that there was a chance the generators attached to the machines would not be used for medical purposes, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Saturday.

According to Ma’an, the Ramallah-based health ministry said that the generators, which were donated to the Palestinian Authority by a Norwegian development agency, were seized by Israeli officials despite the fact that only one machine was bound for Gaza.

The generators “came under the category of possible use for non-medical purposes” if they were delivered to southern Gaza, the Palestinian health ministry said in a statement, adding that the six other machines were bound for government hospitals in the northern Gaza, inducing the European Hospital in Gaza City, the Rafdieyah hospital in Nablus, and other facilities in Ramallah and Hebron.

Shameful.

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It’s Official. Sarah Palin’s Speech at CSU Sucked

In Conservatives, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm

There was an open mic that caught the negative reaction of the press after the speech.

I have to say I agree with them. I am no Sarah Palin fan but even if she were a liberal, I’d be ashamed of someone who has no clue what they are talking about. She strings together a bunch of soundbites, does her usual sarcasm thing, and that’s it, an easy 200-300K for her effort. It’s all rather pathetic.

It’s only a matter of time until Palin comes out swinging against the “Lamestream Media” because she, like so many on the right, sees herself as a perpetual victim. Annoying.

Joan Walsh at Salon has more.

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Frank Rich Nails It: Obama is Naive, if Not Totally Clueless

In Foreign Policy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

But the question is, will they learn from the events of the last several weeks? It’s not often that I cite with approval a NYT editorial, but this one is right on the money:

What we saw was this: 1) Much of the Beltway establishment was blindsided by Michael Hastings’s scoop, an impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did; 2) Obama’s failure to fire McChrystal months ago for both his arrogance and incompetence was a grievous mistake that illuminates a wider management shortfall at the White House; 3) The present strategy has produced no progress in this nearly nine-year-old war, even as the monthly coalition body count has just reached a new high.

If we and the president don’t absorb these revelations and learn from them, the salutary effects of the drama’s denouement, however triumphant for Obama in the short run, will be for naught.

There were few laughs in the 36 hours of tumult, but Jon Stewart captured them with a montage of cable-news talking heads expressing repeated shock that an interloper from a rock ’n’ roll magazine could gain access to the war command and induce it to speak with self-immolating candor. Politico theorized that Hastings had pulled off his impertinent coup because he was a freelance journalist rather than a beat reporter, and so could risk “burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.”

[snip]

Symbolically enough, Hastings was reporting his McChrystal story abroad just as Beltway media heavies and their most bold-faced subjects were dressing up for the annual White House correspondents’ dinner. Rolling Stone has never bought a table or thrown an afterparty for that bacchanal, and it has not even had a Washington bureau since the mid-1970s. Yet the magazine has not only chronicled the McChrystal implosion — and relentlessly tracked the administration’s connections to the “vampire squid” of Goldman Sachs — but has also exposed the shoddy management of the Obama Interior Department. As it happens, the issue of Rolling Stone with the Hastings story also contains a second installment of Tim Dickinson’s devastating dissection of the Ken Salazar cohort, this time detailing how its lax regulation could soon lead to an even uglier repeat of the Gulf of Mexico fiasco when BP and Shell commence offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The Interior Department follies will end promptly only if Obama has learned the lessons of the attenuated McChrystal debacle. Lesson No. 1 should be to revisit some of his initial hiring decisions. The general’s significant role in the Pentagon’s politically motivated cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death in 2004 should have been disqualifying from the start. The official investigation into that scandal — finding that McChrystal peddled “inaccurate and misleading assertions” — was unambiguous and damning.

Once made the top commander in Afghanistan, the general was kept on long past his expiration date. He should have been cashiered after he took his first public shot at Joe Biden during a London speaking appearance last October. That’s when McChrystal said he would not support the vice president’s more limited war strategy, should the president choose it over his own. According to Jonathan Alter in his book “The Promise,” McChrystal’s London remarks also disclosed information from a C.I.A. report that the general “had no authority to declassify.” These weren’t his only offenses. McChrystal had gone on a showboating personal publicity tour that culminated with “60 Minutes” — even as his own histrionic Afghanistan recommendation somehow leaked to Bob Woodward, disrupting Obama’s war deliberations. The president was livid, Alter writes, but McChrystal was spared because of a White House consensus that he was naïve, not “out of control.”

We now know, thanks to Hastings, that the general was out of control and the White House was naïve. The price has been huge. The McChrystal cadre’s utter distaste for its civilian colleagues on the war team was an ipso facto death sentence for the general’s signature counterinsurgency strategy. You can’t engage in nation building without civilian partnership. As Rachel Maddow said last week of McChrystal, “the guy who was promoting and leading the counterinsurgency strategy has shown by his actions that even he doesn’t believe in it.”

This fundamental contradiction helps explain some of the war’s failures under McChrystal’s aborted command, including the inability to hold Marja (pop. 60,000), which he had vowed to secure in pure counterinsurgency fashion by rolling out a civilian “government in a box” after troops cleared it of the Taliban. Such is the general’s contempt for leadership outside his orbit that it extends even to our allies. The Hastings article opens with McChrystal mocking the French at a time when every ally’s every troop is a precious, dwindling commodity in Afghanistan.

[snip]

You have to wonder whether McChrystal’s defenders in Washington even read Hastings’s article past its inflammatory opening anecdotes. If so, they would have discovered that the day before the Marja offensive, the general’s good pal Hamid Karzai kept him waiting for hours so he could finish a nap before signing off on the biggest military operation of the year. Poor McChrystal was reduced to begging another official to wake the sleeping president so he could get on with the show.

The war, supported by a steadily declining minority of Americans, has no chance of regaining public favor unless President Obama can explain why American blood and treasure should be at the mercy of this napping Afghan president. Karzai stole an election, can’t provide a government in or out of a box, and has in recent months threatened to defect to the Taliban and accused American forces of staging rocket attacks on his national peace conference. Until last week, Obama’s only real ally in making his case was public apathy. Next to unemployment and the oil spill, Karzai and Afghanistan were but ticks on our body politic, even as the casualty toll passed 1,000. As a senior McChrystal adviser presciently told Hastings, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.”


The more Obama talks about this war, the more he sounds like George W. Bush, who as we know, didn’t know what the fuck he was doing.

Lanny Davis: The Fake Liberal Strawman

In Economy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

Lanny Davis is one of those Democrats that Fox News and the WSJ love- he’s always willing to slam the liberal base of the party and because he’s a Democrat who claims to be a “liberal” his criticisms of the left are accepted as per se legitimate by the corporate media.

Here’s Davis’ last bit of nonsense over at The Hill:

Two events last week involving elements of the Democratic Party who call themselves the “true progressives” show a danger they represent to the progressive change they say they want to effect. Together they offer President Barack Obama an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah moment” — perhaps to save the Democratic Party majority in both houses of Congress, as well as his progressive agenda in the last two years of his administration.

First was the success of Sen. Blanche Lincoln in June 8’s Arkansas Democratic primary, despite a campaign organized by these self-described progressives, along with certain labor unions. Lincoln won the primary, despite the confident predictions of these liberal-left groups at the “netroots.” Labor unions spent nearly $10 million trying to defeat Lincoln, primarily, they said, because she opposed the “card-check” method of organizing a union. Yet labor supported her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who also opposed card-check. Go figure.

[snip]

The second event was a conference on that June 8 primary day, held in Washington and organized by the Campaign for America’s Future, a self-described “progressive” organization, which cheered denunciations of Obama for “retreat on Guantánamo [and] no movement on worker rights or comprehensive immigration reform,” according to The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, and shouted down and nearly prevented liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from speaking. “Progressives have grown ever more dissatisfied [with Obama’s policies] for good reason,” Robert Borosage, the organizer of the conference, said.

[snip]

But this “eating your own children” syndrome by these so-called progressives also offers Obama an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah moment” — i.e., challenging the base of his own party engaging in these self-destructive tactics.

He can challenge those who prefer the perfect over the good, who seem to prefer to defeat Blue Dog House Democrats and Senate moderates from Republican or marginal districts and states, even if that means setting back the progressive cause substantially with the Republicans winning back the House and narrowing the margin in the Senate way below the current filibuster-proof 60 votes.

That would be the right thing to do for President Obama — and it would be the right politics. By doing so, he will have a chance of winning back those political independents and moderates who supported him for president in 2008 but, polls show, have now become less supportive of him and the Democratic Party….

Let me translate Lanny Davis’ argument- progressives should just STFU and stop complaining that Obama has backed off of all of his key campaign promises/policy positions that HE articulated, and let the adults in the DNC and DLC handle things because, after all, the Republicans are worse.

This reasoning is why nothing ever changes. This is why gays still have to serve in silence in the military, why BP was allowed to operate with minimal to no regulatory oversight, why the financial crisis almost destroyed the global economy and why we became a nation which tolerates such undemocratic policies as torture, rendition and targeted assassinations of Americans abroad.

That progressives and many moderates elected Obama because they wanted REAL change and because they agreed with his stated policy positions during the campaign, is of little importance to Lanny Davis. But he is not alone in this “Blame the Liberals” campaign. To hear these faux liberal establishment types talk, you would think that Obama had campaigned on a platform to NOT close Gitmo, to NOT roll back some of Bush’s most repugnant, secretive terrorism policies, to NOT take on Wall Street full force (as opposed to the window dressing legislation he’s lauding).

But then again, Lanny Davis is the guy who went and worked PR for the coup government of Honduras after the elected President was kidnapped and illegally spirited off to another country, so what can you expect? Basically, policies which maintain the elite status quo benefit Lanny, so anything that threatens to disrupt that is going to be a target of his ire. The thing is, no one really on the left really buys into Lanny’s BS because we’re not fooled by his “I’m a liberal but…” nonsense.

Greg Grandin of NYU pretty much exposes Lanny Davis for the corporatist fraud that he is:

Last Friday, I debated lawyer-turned-lobbyist Lanny Davis, now working for the business backers of the recent Honduran coup, on Democracy Now! It actually wasn’t much of a debate — in the way that word means an exchange of ideas — as Davis was fast out of the box, preemptively trying to taint host Amy Goodman and me as “ideologues.”

[snip]

Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, all the while touting himself as a “pro-labor liberal.”

Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist of the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late 90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and de facto president General Perez Musharraf.

Now Lanny Davis finds himself defending another de facto regime in Honduras that is engaging in “grave and systemic” political repression, suspending due process, harassing independent journalists, killing or disappearing at least ten people, and detaining hundreds as “constitutional,” all the while touting himself as a (Honduran) constitutional expert.

The Honduran coup occurred on June 28, when soldiers, working on behalf of a small group of business and political elite who control the country, kidnapped democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya and sent him into exile. Since then, the military-backed de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti has tried to argue to the world that it was acting constitutionally, even though nearly every country in Latin America, along with the European Union, isn’t buying it. Only in the U.S. is there a debate as to whether Micheletti government is legal or not — largely thanks to the lobbying efforts of Lanny Davis.

Davis’s argument is based on a disingenuous description of the legal and political maneuvers by Zelaya’s opponents in the Supreme Court and Congress prior to the coup. He calls these power grabs constitutional.

Never mind that several clear violations of Honduras’ constitution were carried out on June 28th, including the detention of president Zelaya by the armed forces (violation of articles 293 and 272), his forced deportation to another country (violation of art. 102) and Congress’ decision to destitute the president (this is not within Congress’ constitutional attributions).

But the best response to this position — in addition to pointing out that Davis’ description of events is so selective as to be false (see below for details) — is that throughout Latin America’s long history of coups, those who executed them usually counted on legal and political backing. Pinochet in Chile, for example, had both.

In retrospect, I should have made this point. But Davis was running through so many lies — they were too focused and polished to be simple mistakes or errors of interpretation — it was hard to catch up.

Through the program, host Amy Goodman demonstrated almost superhuman restraint, professionally refusing to respond to Davis’s provocations. His very first lie accused her of an ideological rant, for simply reporting the truth, for saying that Zelaya accepted a proposal to settle the crisis brokered by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. This is demonstrably true — Zelaya has repeatedly indicated a willingness to accept the compromise; Micheletti, on the other hand, is playing for time until November’s regularly scheduled presidential elections — yet Davis repeatedly insisted otherwise. My favorite part of the debate took place about a third into the show, when in response to me pointing out that he was carrying out ad hominem attacks, Davis said that I was the one engaging in ad hominem, since I used the word “elite” to describe supporters of the coup. “‘Elite’ is an ad hominem word,” Davis said.

You can read the point-by-point take down of Davis’ lies about the Honduran coup here.

And then of course there is Lanny Davis’ “Israel-First” philosophy which self-defeatingly claims that essentially, Israel can do no wrong and that they should NEVER be publicly called out for ANYTHING, ever. Lanny begins every one of his hasbara meme’s on HuffPo or The Hill or wherever else with the empty assertion that he supports a two state solution. Big deal. By making the claim publicly, he hopes to not come across as the pandering, apologist that he is. What good is verbally supporting a two state solution when any attempt to get the parties to make concrete steps in that direction is violently opposed by the AIPAC crowd, of which Lanny is a proud member? Any call for Israel to stop building illegal settlements is tantamount to a full revocation of U.S. support for Israel in Davis’ knee-jerk, Israel-First world.

Of course, those of us who actually support Israel, realize that sometimes friends have to disclose uncomfortable truths and not always just in private. Blindly supporting the Israeli government even when their policies are dangerous, self-defeating and in some cases, illegal, is not “helping” or “supporting” Israel. In fact, it simply adds to their growing isolation. To not make any distinction between the policies of Likud and the other more moderate political parties in Israel is just ridiculous, as is the refusal to question the policies and hateful rhetoric of people like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. To blame everything on Israel’s enemies while ignoring the frequent slights Israel levels at her allies, is hardly sound policy. It’s time Israel starts to act like the mature, sovereign nation state it is (or should be) and start taking responsibility for some of its more self-defeating policies rather than simply running behind the U.S. for cover. But as long as people like Lanny Davis, Anthony Weiner, Chuck Schumer, Abe Foxman, etc. manipulate media coverage of the issue and use the age-old tactic of claiming any criticism of Israel represents anti-Semitism or anti-Israeli sentiment, it’s unlikely that the government of Benyamin Netanyahu will change course any time soon.

Elizabeth Warren Supports Plans for Consumer Protection Agency

In Consumer Protection, Corporate Malfeasance, Economy, News, Politics on June 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Ok, I’m an Elizabeth Warren fan- if more people were like her and more importantly, if more members of Congress had heeded her advice a decade ago we might not have had the global financial crisis. She advocated years ago for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency and during the campaign, Barack Obama said he supported her vision of what it should look like. Today however, two years after the economic meltdown the White House has backed off its original demands for an agency that actually has teeth and seems to have left it entirely in the hands of Congress, where the banking lobby is doing everything possible to kill it.

Over at the Huffington Post, this caught my eye:

Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who originated the idea of the consumer financial protection agency, supports the current version of the bureau that Wall Street reform conference committee negotiators are settling on, she told the Huffington Post.

Though her endorsement isn’t a ringing one, Warren, who chairs the congressional panel overseeing the bailout, said that the version emerging from negotiators is strong enough to rein in abuses in the lending industry despite exemptions that Congress has carved out for auto dealers.

“I’m disappointed that Congress seems to be taking the side of auto lenders and big banks over the Pentagon, community banks, and all the public interest groups that oppose an auto dealer carve-out, and there are some other problems as well,” said Warren. “But right now the bureau has the authority and the independence it needs to fix the broken credit market. I keep waiting for an incoming missile that means the banks have won their fight to destroy this consumer agency, but that hasn’t happened so far — and I don’t think it will.”

Indeed, the bureau was left for dead almost as often as the public option was during the health care debate, yet it rose after each assault. Backers of the CFPA — which has now become the CFPB — wanted an independent director, an independent source of funding that Congress can’t cut off and independent authority to write and enforce rules.

[snip]

While the CFPB isn’t a stand-alone agency — it will be housed within the Federal Reserve — the Fed does not have authority over it. Instead, the Fed is required to fund the bureau, meaning members of future Congresses can’t cut off funding for the CFPB….

You know, the financial industry essentially almost brought down the entire global economy and the deregulation, predatory practices and total lack of business ethics all played a role. And yet despite all this, the democrats (including the White House) and the GOP still can’t even get behind strong consumer protections. Where is the outrage? This should have been easy for the Democrats given the palpable and justified anger at Wall Street. And yet, the Democrats, despite controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, couldn’t lead a bunch of ants across a picnic table.

If they won’t stand up for the average consumer because of pressure from the very people who brought the economy crashing down, then what is it exactly that they do stand for?

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Israel Approves Plan to Demolish Palestinian Homes in East Jerusalem

In Israel, News, Politics on June 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I’m trying to imagine what the reaction of the Glenn Beck-types would be if the U.S. government, or anyone for that matter, came along and tossed them out into the street and demolished their homes without just compensation simply to make way for housing for a more “preferable” ethnic group or simply because they wanted the space for a nice new tourist center and art galleries:

Jerusalem municipal planning committee approves plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem to make room for a tourist center.

[snip]

The Jerusalem municipal planning committee approved Monday a contentious plan to raze 22 Palestinian homes to make room for a tourist center that Palestinians fear would tighten Israel’s grip on the city’s contested eastern sector.

The plan, which affects the neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, risks more U.S.-Israeli friction just two weeks ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Crowley said the United States was concerned about the project, though he said it was a preliminary step being taken by the Jerusalem municipality and not the Israeli government.

[snip]

Barkat says the plan gives a much-needed facelift to Jerusalem’s decaying al-Bustan neighborhood, which Israel calls Gan Hamelech, or the King’s Garden.

The plan calls for the construction of shops, restaurants, art galleries and a large community center on the site where some say the biblical King David wrote his psalms. The 22 displaced families would be allowed to build homes elsewhere in the neighborhood, though it’s not clear who would pay for them.

Ummm, I think it’s pretty clear who is not paying for them- the local government of East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu just keeps building and building in the hopes that there will soon be no more land to squander and thus no need to even discuss a two state solution. One would think such a cynical, illegal ploy would be met with firm international resistance, but the fact is, Israeli governments for the past several decades have been doing this and they have almost achieved their objective, so why stop now, right?

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