Archive for February 2016
Jason Horowitz has a good report in the NY Times:
More than three decades before he became a familiar face on Sunday morning shows, cable television news and the late-night comedy circuit,Bernie Sanders made no secret of his contempt for commercial TV.
It was not just a profit-making enterprise, he wrote in a 1979 issue of The Vanguard Press, an alternative weekly, but an opiatelike vehicle to subjugate the masses with “lies and distortions.”
And that was just the news programs. Commercials, he went on, employed “Hitlerian” tactics in which the public is “bombarded” with short, simple messages in keeping with the owners’ mission to “create a nation of morons who will faithfully go out and buy this or that product, vote for this or that candidate.”
He may have softened his language, but Mr. Sanders’s critique of the news media, as in nearly everything else, has remained constant as he has risen over the last 40 years from radical protester and protest candidate to mayor, congressman, senator and now a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. Despite the advent of the Internet, the diminishing of traditional news media companies and the emergence of new media Goliaths like Facebook that have helped fuel his rise, Mr. Sanders remains orthodox in his mass media doctrine.
Antagonism toward the news media is, of course, the standard posture for politicians, especially insurgent candidates. Republicans frequently try to prove their conservative bona fides by bashing the “liberal media,” and Barack Obama tried to circumvent the press filter with his own website. But Mr. Sanders’s dim view of the “corporate media,” as he refers to it, is much more than a campaign tactic; it is a pillar of his anti-establishment, socialist worldview.
On the night of the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Sanders proclaimed that his victory would send “a profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment and, by the way, to the media establishment.”
With that, the crowd at his victory party roared “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” as it turned to jeer the assembled news media.
As Mr. Sanders sees it, the profit-hungry billionaire owners of news media companies serve up lowest-common-denominator coverage, purposefully avoid the income-inequality issues he prioritizes and mute alternative voices as they take over more and more outlets.
It is a view that imbues the candidate’s interactions with reporters covering his presidential campaign. Ask him how much time he has for an interview, and he responds, “If you are a typical media idiot, hmm, 12 seconds.” Inquire about the sword hanging on the wall of his Senate office, and he responds: “When media gives you a problem, take it out! Threaten them!”
In Dubuque, Iowa, in August, he answered a reporter asking about his tacit criticism of Hillary Clinton’s benefiting from “super PACs” by saying: “The corporate media talks about all kinds of issues except the most important issues. O.K.?” In December, his campaign demanded that the “corporate network news” grant him as much coverage as it does Mrs. Clinton (the “Bernie blackout,” they called it). And in his speech on the night of the Iowa caucuses, he directed familiar contempt to “all of my critics out there in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and in corporate America, wherever you may be.” . . .
I blogged earlier today about this highly relevant incident.
A somewhat depressing article by Joseph Cox in Motherboard.
Jenna McLaughlin has a good report in The Intercept:
Apple, summoned to Capitol Hill to explain why it is refusing to help the government access a terrorist’s phone by developing malware to hack in, says Congress should be the one answering questions.
Bruce Sewell, Apple’s top lawyer and senior vice president, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. In the prepared text of his opening statement, Sewell calls for public debate around three questions in particular.
“The American people deserve an honest conversation around the important questions stemming from the FBI’s current demand,” Sewell wrote.
“Do we want to put a limit on the technology that protects our data, and therefore our privacy and our safety, in the face of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks?”
“Should the FBI be allowed to stop Apple, or any company, from offering the American people the safest and most secure product it can make?”
And: “Should the FBI have the right to compel a company to produce a product it doesn’t already make, to the FBI’s exact specifications and for the FBI’s use?”
A California federal magistrate judge . . .
And, BTW, isn’t this sort of thing exactly what we pay NSA to do?
We’re starting to see a lot of government overreach, often justified by vague references to terrorist threats (in general, not specific threats: the idea seems to be “terrorists are really bad, so we should be able to take any steps we want if we chant, ‘Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists’), even though all our recent terrorist attacks are almost all lone-wolf right-wing militia types. (The attack in San Bernardino was an exception: almost all mass shootings in America are Americans shooting other Americans.)
Kelly Davis reports in The Intercept:
As the FBI and Apple fight a media war over whether the federal government can force the computer company to hack an iPhone, in California a new privacy law is raising questions over how deeply government should be allowed to peer into a convicted criminal’s digital life.
That new law, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act(CalECPA), requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching a person’s cellphone, laptop, or any digital storage device. At issue is whether the law covers people on probation, parole, and other forms of supervised release who’ve agreed to what’s known as a “Fourth waiver,” a condition that allows law enforcement to search their person and property at any time.
CalECPA took effect on January 1, 2016. Three days later, San Diego County prosecutors and Superior Court judges began asking defendants who were eligible for probation to sign a form giving “specific consent” to county probation officers “and/or a law enforcement government entity” to collect information that would be otherwise protected under CalECPA.
The consent form described everything that could be searched and seized:
Call logs, text and voicemail messages, photographs, emails, and social media account contents contained on any device or cloud or internet connected storage owned, operated, or controlled by the defendant, including but not limited to mobile phones, computers, computer hard drives, laptops, gaming consoles, mobile devices, tablets, storage media devices, thumb drives, Micro SD cards, external hard drives, or any other electronic storage devices, by probation and/or a law enforcement entity seeking the information.
The defendant shall also disclose any and all passwords, passcodes, password patterns, fingerprints, or other information required to gain access into any of the aforementioned devices or social media accounts.
Defense attorneys immediately protested, arguing that the form had been drawn up without input from the defense bar and that the language was vague and overly broad.
“Folks on parole, probation, even supervised release, they have a reduced expectation of privacy while they’re under supervision,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, criminal justice and drug policy director for the ACLU of California, “but that’s not the same as no right to privacy online or offline.”
Dooley-Sammuli said she was surprised by the expansiveness of the consent waiver. “Anything, anytime, from the beginning of time until after your death is what it suggests in that language.”
In January, I attended dozens of probation and sentencing hearings in San Diego’s main courthouse. The majority of defendants were told that there would be broad monitoring of their online lives, despite objections from defense attorneys. In one case, a judge told a pair of young co-defendants — a boyfriend and girlfriend who pleaded guilty to robbery — that their emails, cellphones, and social media accounts would be monitored to make sure they weren’t in contact with each other during their five years’ probation. A young woman convicted of felony DUI was told . . .
Radley Balko points out the casual way Indiana law enforcement and prosecutors simply ignore the law in asset forfeiture, and the Indiana Attorney General doesn’t care. Somehow our various governments—municipal, county, state, and Federal have become, like unmaintained buildings and bridges, dilapidated and unsafe. We need some serious rebuilding of our governing institutions.
I attribute the shoddy state of those institutions to two causes: first, too few people are voting. We have a mechanism to remove non-performing government officials: elections. Those offices filled through elections can appoint better people and pressure current people to get better performance, but only if the elected officials do their job, and it’s up to voters to remove those who do not. (We have term limits; they’ called “elections.”)
The second cause is that the news media—press, cable, television, on-line—has mostly been taken over by corporations, who see their media empire as supporting their various profit-making ventures, and they are loathe to report stories that might impact their own profits. Thus MSNBC cut away from the Bernie Sanders press conference as soon as Sanders was about to talk about how bad the TPP is for the public. The reason is simple: Comcast owns MSNBC, and Comcast favors TPP because it will increase Comcast profits. Here are some reports.
So lacking good voter turnout (and I favor the Australian idea: heavy fines for those who fail to vote) and without good investigative journalism, we are living now in the governmental equivalent of a slum.
Balko writes in the Washington Post:
The Institute for Justice, a libertarian advocacy law firm, is suing the state of Indiana over its civil asset forfeiture practices. Under state law, the proceeds from forfeiture are supposed to go to a schools fund. But that isn’t happening.
For far too long, police and prosecutors in Indianapolis have been keeping 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds for themselves. The constitution couldn’t be clearer—“all forfeitures” belong to the schools—yet the Indiana school fund hasn’t seen a penny of forfeiture money from Indiana’s capital since before some current students were even born. Meanwhile, police and prosecutors are siphoning off millions of dollars in civil forfeiture proceeds, violating both the Indiana Constitution and the state’s Civil Forfeiture Statute and fueling an increasingly aggressive forfeiture machine.
Now a group of Indiana citizens—two of whom were once unjustly targeted in a forfeiture case—have teamed up with the Institute for Justice to right the ship in Indianapolis. They are asking the courts to compel Indy’s police and prosecutors to follow the law and stop profiting from their forfeiture program. Victory will set a precedent to bind every police department and prosecutor’s office in Indiana. Equally important, it will have a nationwide impact by driving home that police and prosecutors—like everybody else—must follow the law.
More here. Under the law, law enforcement agencies can use forfeiture funds to reimburse themselves only for the cost of the investigation that led to the property seizure. The counties get around the requirement by wildly overestimating the cost of those investigations. Or they simply don’t try to justify their actions at all. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has expressed little interest in enforcing the requirement that the forfeiture proceeds go to the schools fund.
The problem with the money going back to law enforcement agencies is of course that it creates a perverse incentive to “find” connections between money or property and illegal activity, even where none exists. A 2010 investigation by the Indianapolis Star found sheriffs and police chiefs essentially operating slush funds with forfeiture proceeds.
But this is a problem in many states. In Indiana, not only is the money not getting to the schools fund, in many counties prosecutors have contracted forfeiture cases out to private attorneys and law firms, who then get a cut of what they win in court. (I know this is also done in Kansas, and possibly in other states.) Back in 2008, one attorney who specializes in these forfeiture contracts made more than $113,000 on a single case. That’s more than all 92 Indiana counties contributed to the state’s schools fund from 2008 through 2009.
It gets better. For 10 years, one Indiana prosecutor simultaneously prosecuted criminal drug cases while referring the civil forfeitures in those cases to his own private law firm, from which he’d then get a portion of the proceeds. . .
They’ve had an editorial calling for her to release the transcripts of her (highly) paid speeches to Wall Street firms, and now they are running a series on the the failed policies she supported for Libya (The Libya Gamble Part 1, Part 2; Libya quotes)—and of course her support for the Iraq War (which Bernie Sanders opposed and voted against) is well known.
Ms. Clinton’s refusal to let us know what she was telling Wall Street is revealing: it means that she figures that hiding her statements is less damaging than revealing them, and that tells us quite a bit.
Pam Martens and Russ Martens have a column in Wall Street on Parade commenting on the conflicted nature of the Times’ support for Clinton. It’s worth reading. From the column:
. . . When Bill Clinton began his first term as President in 1993, the national debt stood at $4.4 trillion. The country was 217 years old. It had paid for the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, clawed back economically from the 1929 Wall Street crash and Great Depression, paid for World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War. Today, the national debt stands at $19 trillion. It has more than quadrupled in just 23 years. Much of that debt stems from attempting to resuscitate the U.S. economy from the catastrophic 2008 financial crash that resulted from the deregulation of Wall Street under Bill Clinton. Exactly how much of that debt results from ill-advised wars in the Middle East we don’t know because the Department of Defense is a black hole of accounting. But we know it’s in the trillions of dollars.
Curiously, the New York Times video that follows the video of Clinton’s ill-fated adventurism in Libya is a clip of President Obama visiting a batteries plant in Jacksonville, Florida last Friday. In the clip, the President makes a reference to the rhetoric coming from the campaign trail, saying:
“They’re spending all their time talking down America. I don’t know when it became fashionable to do that.”
This is a deceptive ploy from the President – an attempt to silence critics of the status quo on the false narrative that it’s unpatriotic. Hillary Clinton has jumped right in to this ploy, with her new refrain that ‘America never stopped being great.’
Establishment candidates want to avoid the tough questions on how America fell this far this fast because the answers are an indictment of the status quo they hope to perpetuate on behalf of the one percent who pay their way into office and line their pockets when they’re out of office. The answers are also an indictment of the toothless regulators the one percent handpick to oversee their interests in Washington in exchange for campaign financing.
According to the most recent Census Bureau report, 46.7 Americans live in poverty. As Bernie Sanders is alerting Americans on the campaign trail, “There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. There is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.”
As we wrote in 2013, we used to be a country with a rich heart. Now we’re the land of the heartless rich. As billionaires’ wealth grows exponentially and hedge fund owners pay a lower tax rate than plumbers and nurses, the number of homeless children in public schools in the U.S. continues to set records, now at 1.36 million – a doubling of the number since before the recession according to Federal statistics. . .