Robert Scheer on The Shameful Exploitation of Bradley Manning: "Keep an American soldier locked up naked in a cage and driven half mad while deprived of all basic rights, and you will be instantly condemned as a barbaric terrorist. Unless the jailer is an authorized agent of the U.S. government, in which case even treatment approaching torture will go largely unnoticed. Certainly if a likable constitutional law professor happens to be president, all such assaults on human dignity will easily pass muster." And The New York Times, which published many stories based on the Wikileaks material that Manning allegedly passed to them, just as they did when they earned their "credibility" with Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, couldn't be bothered to send a reporter to cover Manning's first public testimony. "What is protected in the First Amendment is not the right of commercial enterprises to exploit the news for profit, but rather of citizens to become informed. That requires the courage of heroic sources, including Bradley Manning."
The Sad Saga Of The Estate Tax: "So, here we are, two years later, at another lame-duck session and with the same Barack Obama working with the same congressional Republicans on the estate tax again. A post-election poll for Americans for Tax Fairness found that by a margin of 58 to 32%, people support 'increase[ing] the estate tax, also called the inheritance tax, on estates of more than seven million dollars for a couple.' Obama is, as usual, aiming very low and asking for way too little. Even as much of a corporate shill as former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin, currently cochairman of Goldman Sachs, thinks Obama should step up his proposal. 'A substantial estate tax," explained this week, "can provide revenues at a time when our federal government badly needs additional revenues." " Of course, revenue isn't the real reason for the estate tax - it's about preventing individual families from building dynasties that become more powerful than government. From becoming, as the Waltons and the Kochs have, so powerful that their whims can overwhelm the needs of the entire country.
"How Organizing for Change Is Very Different Than Winning Elections: [...] The point I'm really trying to raise is that the Democratic Party has way too much control over what the AFL-CIO and the other unions are doing. Instead of labor telling the Democratic Party what they're going to do, the Democratic Party scripts out for labor what they're going to do. Which isn't really working for unions very much at all." (This called to mind an interesting thing Becky Bond said to Sam Seder on The Majority Report the other day, about how when Chris Van Hollen 's office calls complaining about how they've got their members screaming at them to say the right thing, the answer was basically: If you're not going to say the right thing, then we're going to keep screaming. She also refers to "the fiscal bluff" - a neat pun and probably one we should all start using. That show is also worth listening to for the interview with Ken Burns about the documentary he's made with his daughter about The Central Park Five.)
Peter Maass says, "Don't Trust Zero Dark Thirty [...] Much of the pre-release debate about the movie has focused on whether it portrays torture as effective, in the sense of prying information out of al Qaeda suspects. Yes, the movie conveys that view, and I think it's inaccurate. Many experts, including key senators who oversaw an extensive congressional investigation, have concluded that torture did not play a significant role in finding bin Laden, and that torture in general is a counter-productive way to get information from prisoners. But the heated debate on torture misses what's far more important and troubling about a film that seems destined for blockbuster and Academy Award status. Zero Dark Thirty represents a new genre of embedded filmmaking that is the problematic offspring of the worrisome endeavor known as embedded journalism. [...] The fundamental problem is that our government has again gotten away with offering privileged access to carefully selected individuals and getting a flattering story in return. Embeds, officially begun during the invasion of Iraq, are deeply troubling because not every journalist or filmmaker can get these coveted invitations (Seymour Hersh and Matt Taibbi are probably not on the CIA press office's speed dial), and once you get one, you face the quandary of keeping a critical distance from sympathetic people whom you get to know and who are probably quite convincing. That's the reason the embed or special invitation exists; the government does its best to keep journalists, even friendly ones, away from disgruntled officials who have unflattering stories to tell." And there goes the value of the 1st Amendment. Add that to the already disturbing fact that Hollywood has been increasingly willing, over the last two or three decades, to tell stories that encourage us to be callous toward others and to punch our better angels in the face, and you have an ugly brew bubbling up from our entertainment industry.
Here's Riverdaughter on the STEM-worker shortage scam and a number of other things she may not realize I've bitched about before. Yes, I'd rather have them get real green cards (not just the carrot that never reaches the teeth) and the same real rights that US citizens are supposed to have to act against abusive employers than have them here as pure guest-workers. But, right now, the idea that there is a dearth of educated Americans who can fill those jobs just infuriates me. As I've said before, I know far too many out-of-work people with experience and good degrees to believe any of this nonsense about how we just need to "educate ourselves to compete". They don't want us competing for good jobs and good wages, they want us competing with slave labor, and to do that they need to keep us away from jobs and other sources of income. The H1B visa exists for jobs where there are genuine labor shortages or there are only a tiny, tiny handful of experts and a few people who get paid not so much for what they do but for being who they are, and yet it's used to replace people who could easily be found in the US in their thousands. You don't need to hire a random foreign mathematician from a foreign country when we've already got plenty of them; you do need to hire Whit Diffie to be Whit Diffie (certainly not for mathematics skills which he himself describes as "indifferent"). If you decided that what we really needed were musicians, you wouldn't have to go to a foreign country to hire unknown musicians to fill slots on the bill of a place that just needed some music time filled up, but you have to hire Mike Jagger to be Mick Jagger, because he's the only The Mick Jagger there is. If the only true expert in the world on the cultivation of a certain plant that we just discovered can cure cancer is an African, it makes sense to give him a special visa to come to America and work on it (and teach Americans to do that same work), but when it's a gig where literally thousands of people already have the training and experience you need and are available to work right at home, then by the gods you'd better be hiring those people instead of complaining that you can't find them and need to import foreigners.
Tom Tomorrow on the bipartisan adventures of Simpson & Bowles
"The Christmas Song", performed by the Temptations