July 11, 2013 archive

On This Day In History July 11

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

July 11 is the 192nd day of the year (193rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 173 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1789, Jacques Necker is dismissed as France’s Finance Minister sparking the Storming of the Bastille.

Necker was seen as the savior of France while the country stood on the brink of ruin, but his actions could not stop the French Revolution. Necker put a stop to the rebellion in the Dauphiné by legalizing its assembly, and then set to work to arrange for the summons of the Estates-General of 1789. He advocated doubling the representation of the Third Estate to satisfy the people. But he failed to address the matter of voting – rather than voting by head count, which is what the people wanted, voting remained as one vote for each estate. Also, his address at the Estates-General was terribly miscalculated: it lasted for hours, and while those present expected a reforming policy to save the nation, he gave them financial data. This approach had serious repercussions on Necker’s reputation; he appeared to consider the Estates-General to be a facility designed to help the administration rather than to reform government.

Necker’s dismissal on 11 July 1789 made the people of France incredibly angry and provoked the storming of the Bastille on July 14. The king recalled him on 19 July. He was received with joy in every city he traversed, but in Paris he again proved to be no statesman. Believing that he could save France alone, he refused to act with the Comte de Mirabeau or Marquis de Lafayette. He caused the king’s acceptance of the suspensive veto, by which he sacrificed his chief prerogative in September, and destroyed all chance of a strong executive by contriving the decree of 7 November by which the ministry might not be chosen from the assembly. Financially he proved equally incapable for a time of crisis, and could not understand the need of such extreme measures as the establishment of assignats in order to keep the country quiet. Necker stayed in office until 1790, but his efforts to keep the financial situation afloat were ineffective. His popularity had vanished, and he resigned with a broken reputation.


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Late Night Karaoke

Permanent Depression: Where The Hell Is Outrage?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Where the hell is the outrage? That is the question that senior fellow at Campaign for America’s Future and former executive at AIG, Richard (RJ) Eskow asks about the current state of the US econoomy:

From the first breath of life to the last, our lives are being stolen out from under us. From infant care and early education to Social Security and Medicare, the dominant economic ideology is demanding more lifelong sacrifices from the vulnerable to appease the gods of wealth.

Middle-class wages are stagnant. Unemployment is stalled at record levels. College education is leading to debt servitude and job insecurity. Millions of unemployed Americans have essentially been abandoned by their government.  Poverty is soaring. Bankers break the law with impunity, are bailed out, and go on breaking the law, richer than they were before.

And yet, bizarrely, the only Americans who seem to be seething with anger are the beneficiaries of this economic injustice — the wealthiest and most privileged among us.  But those who are suffering seem strangely passive.

As long as they stay that way, there will be no movement to repair these injustices. And the more these injustices are allowed to persist, the harder it will be to end them.

Where the hell is the outrage? And how can we start some?

He notes that Paul Krugman, too, is feeling grim about the possibility that high unemployment has become acceptable and that the “political and policy elite” see no need to find a solution, one that is staring them right in the face:

First of all, I think many of us used to believe that sustained high unemployment would lead to substantial, perhaps accelerating deflation – and that this would push policymakers into doing something forceful. It’s now clear, however, that the relationship between inflation and unemployment flattens out at low inflation rates. We can probably have high unemployment and stable prices in Europe and America for a very long time – and all the wise heads will insist that it’s all structural, and nothing can be done until the public accepts drastic cuts in the safety net.

But won’t there be an ever-growing demand from the public for action? Actually, that’s not at all clear. While there is growing “austerity fatigue” in Europe, and this might provoke a crisis, the overwhelming result from U.S. political studies is that the level of unemployment matters hardly at all for elections; all that matters is the rate of change in the months leading up to the election. In other words, high unemployment could become accepted as the new normal, politically as well as in economic analysis.

Eskow points to the factors why Americans have learned to live in a “quiet state of desperation” and offers a Action Plan for the solution:

1. Expand our avenues of political expression: First, we need to remind ourselves that electoral politics is not the only productive avenue for political activism -that we need strong and independent voices and movements.

2. Refuse to let politicians use social issues to exploit us economically: We also need to reject the exploitation and manipulation of progressive values by corporatist politicians who use social issues like gay marriage and reproductive rights exactly the way Republicans do — to manipulate their own base into ignoring their own economic interests. Politicians who don’t take a stand on economic issues should be rejected, up and down the ticket.

3. Explain what is changing — and contrast what is with what should be:We need to do a better job of explaining what’s happening, so that we can make people aware of the harmful changes taking place all around them.And it’s not just about “change”: It’s also about contrast – between economic conditions as they are, and conditions as they should be and could be, if we can find the political will.

4. Expand the vocabulary of the possible: The “learned helplessness” outlook says “the rich and powerful always win; we don’t stand a chance.” History tells us otherwise. From the American Revolution to the breaking up of the railroads, from Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting to FDR’s New Deal, from Ike’s Social Security and labor union expansion to LBJ’s Great Society victories, we need to remind ourselves of what we’ve accomplished under similar conditions.

5. Tell stories: And we need to tell stories — human stories.

Some of those human stories started 22 years ago when Bill Moyers began documenting the stories of two families ordinary families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who had lost good paying factory jobs and how they have managed over the years. In a 90 minute special on PBS’ Frontline, Moyers revisits the the Stanleys and Neumanns anf their struggles to finding other jobs, getting retrained yet still finding themselves on a “downward slope, working harder and longer for less pay and fewer benefits, facing devastating challenges and difficult choices.”

Over at AMERICAblog, our friend Gaius Publius has posted his interview with RJ Eskow that was taped at this year’s Netroots NAtion in San Jose, CA. It’s an excellent conversation.

Bidder 70

(h/t Diane Sweet @ Crooks & Liars)

It seems to me his only crime was not being a member of “the club” and not having $1.7 million in his pocket at the end of the auction (which is by law open to anyone).

He was soon able to raise it (after he became notorious, but too late to keep him from being convicted) and this has always struck me as a far more effective form of environmental activism than wasting your money on an ineffective institutional activist organization who’s real goal is cushy K Street offices for their over-paid lobbyists.

A House of Cards

Your tax dollars at work.

Problem-plagued missile defense system fails in $214-million test

By W.J. Hennigan. Los Angeles Times

July 5, 2013, 5:28 p.m.

The failure of the $214-million test Friday involved a ground-based defense system, designed by Boeing Co., to defend the U.S. from long-range ballistic missile attacks.

The Missile Defense Agency now has a testing record of eight hits out of 16 intercept attempts with the “hit-to-kill” warheads. The last successful intercept occurred in December 2008.

It’s a significant blow for the ground-based system of 30 interceptors in Alaska and California, which the Government Accountability Office estimated would cost taxpayers $40 billion from 1996 to 2017.

Despite the poor track record, the Pentagon plans to add 14 missile interceptors in Alaska to counter North Korea, which has issued threats since it tested an underground nuclear device and launched a small satellite. The Pentagon expects cost of the expansion to be $1 billion

F-35 fighter jet struggles to take off

By W.J. Hennigan and Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times

June 12, 2013

After a decade of administrative problems, cost overruns and technical glitches, the F-35 is still not ready for action. The program has consistently come under political attack even though the military considers it crucial to the nation’s defense needs.

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, called this approach “acquisition malpractice” last year and said that predictions were too optimistic.

“Now we’re paying the price for being wrong,” Kendall said.

There are 61 F-35s already delivered, 81 completely built and others still being assembled at Lockheed’s facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. The Pentagon estimated that retrofit costs for the first 90 aircraft will amount to $1.2 billion.

Two decades ago, officials wanted 648 F-22 fighter jets for $149 million per plane. Eventually, the military ended up with only 188 at a price tag of $412 million each. Before that, the Pentagon wanted 132 new B-2 stealth bombers at about $500 million per plane. It ultimately bought 21 at $2.1 billion each.

F-22 program produces few planes, soaring costs

By Ralph Vartabedian and W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times

June 16, 2013

When the U.S. sought to assure Asian allies that it would defend them against potential aggression by North Korea this spring, the Pentagon deployed its top-of-the-line jet fighter, the F-22 Raptor.

But only two of the jets were sent screaming through the skies south of Seoul.

That token show of American force was a stark reminder that the U.S. may have few F-22s to spare. Alarmed by soaring costs, the Defense Department shut down production last year after spending $67.3 billion on just 188 planes – leaving the Air Force to rely mainly on its fleet of 30-year-old conventional fighters.

“People around the world aren’t dumb,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). “They see what we have. They recognize that our forces have been severely depleted.”

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-22 is the most lethal fighter jet in the world. But it has also become a symbol of a broken procurement process that’s failing to deliver advanced weapons systems on time, on budget and in sufficient quantities.

The F-22 was originally intended to replace all of the Air Force’s F-15 combat jets that date back to the early 1970s. But today those F-15s still represent the bulk of a so-called air superiority fleet – the jets that are supposed to outgun enemy aircraft and gain control of the sky.

The early cancellation led directly to a new advanced warplane, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that Lockheed also produces. Today, that nearly $400-billion system is headed in the same direction as the F-22, falling behind schedule, encountering serious software problems and suffering sharp cost growth.

On the day after Lockheed won, Rice declined to say that it was the better product and cited Lockheed’s superior management plan for the program.

In a recent interview, Rice conceded that the F-22 was not necessarily the better plane, saying, “There were some reasons to think that the YF-23 might be a better plane for the Air Force.”

The early termination of the F-22 has left the nation with a weaker deterrence to potential enemies, said John Pike, executive director of GlobalSecurity.org. China is building two stealth fighters, one of them able to operate off aircraft carriers, and seems able to build more than 188 aircraft, he said. “You’d have to be worried.”

Feel safer?  Still confident we can nuke Iran into oblivion?

This is what your elites have produced.  A house of cards.

Company Paper in a Company Town

The journalistic practices of the Washington Post and Walter Pincus

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Wednesday 10 July 2013 07.24 EDT

Pincus, in lieu of any evidence, spouted all sorts of accusatory innuendo masquerading as questions (“Did Edward Snowden decide on his own to seek out journalists and then a job at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Hawaii facility?” – “Did Assange and WikiLeaks personnel help or direct Snowden to those journalists?” – “Was he encouraged or directed by WikiLeaks personnel or others to take the job as part of a broader plan to expose NSA operations to selected journalists?”) and invoked classic guilt-by association techniques (“Poitras and Greenwald are well-known free-speech activists, with many prior connections, including as founding members in December of the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation” – “Poitras and Greenwald have had close connections with Assange and WikiLeaks”).

Apparently, the Washington Post has decided to weigh in on the ongoing debate over “what is journalism?” with this answer: you fill up articles on topics you don’t know the first thing about with nothing but idle speculation, rank innuendo, and evidence-free accusations, all under the guise of “just asking questions”. You then strongly imply that other journalists who have actually broken a big story are involved in a rampant criminal conspiracy without bothering even to ask them about it first, all while hiding from your readers the fact that they have repeatedly and in great detail addressed the very “questions” you’re posing.

But shoddy journalism from the Washington Post is far too common to be worth noting. What was far worse was that Pincus’ wild conspiracy theorizing was accomplished only by asserting blatant, easily demonstrated falsehoods.

As I documented in an email I sent to Pincus early yesterday morning – one that I instantly posted online and then publicized on Twitter – the article contains three glaring factual errors: 1) Pincus stated that I wrote an article about Poitras “for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog” (I never wrote anything for that blog in my life; the article he referenced was written for Salon); 2) Pincus claimed Assange “previewed” my first NSA scoop in a Democracy Now interview a week earlier by referencing the bulk collection of telephone calls (Assange was expressly talking about a widely reported Bush program from 8 years earlier, not the FISA court order under Obama I reported); 3) Pincus strongly implied that Snowden had worked for the NSA for less than 3 months by the time he showed up in Hong Kong with thousands of documents when, in fact, he had worked at the NSA continuously for 4 years. See the email I sent Pincus for the conclusive evidence of those factual falsehoods and the other distortions peddled by the Post.

The lengths to which some media outlets in this case have gone to assist the US government in trying to criminalize the journalism we’ve done has been remarkably revealing. But the willingness of the Post to aid in this effort by spewing falsehood-based innuendo, which they then permit to remain hour after hour even while knowing it’s false, is a reminder of how ill-advised it is to trust what you read in that establishment venue, and is a vibrant illustration of the reasons such organizations are held in such low esteem.

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple spoke to Pincus about all of this, and Pincus’ comments have to be read to be believed. He says a correction “is in the works.” Wemple’s analysis of his Post colleague’s journalistic practices is, by itself, well worth reading.

Pincus responds to Greenwald blast

By Erik Wemple, Washington Post

Published: July 10, 2013 at 8:25 am

Pincus also cited “close connections” between Greenwald (and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who also got a piece of the leak stories) and Assange/WikiLeaks. Here’s an example of those connections, via Pincus: “On April 10, 2012, Greenwald wrote for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog about Poitras and WikiLeaks being targeted by U.S. government officials.”

That claim was among the many that prompted Greenwald to go public with his concerns about the column. Greenwald: “I have no idea what you’re talking about here, and neither do you. I never wrote anything ‘for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog.’ How you decided to pull that fact out of thin air is a genuine mystery. The April 10, 2012, article of mine you seem to be referencing – about the serial border harassment of the filmmaker Laura Poitras – was written for Salon, where I was a Contributing Writer and daily columnist. Neither it, nor anything else I’ve ever written, was written ‘for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog.’ ”

Pincus now concedes Greenwald’s point. A correction on the point is in the works, he said. As for the rest of the piece, Pincus said it’s “argumentative.”

Maybe so. The suggestion that Greenwald and WikiLeaks are somehow collaborators, however, is a rather dramatic allegation. Absent the claim that Greenwald penned a column especially for WikiLeaks, what’s left of Pincus’s case that there are “close connections” between the journalist and advocacy group? Asked about that, Pincus pointed, again, to the WikiLeaks Web site. Specifically, this page, which directs the public to various experts on matters related to WikiLeaks. It’s divided into various subsections: “WikiLeaks,” for example; “Julian Assange,” “Freedom of the Press.” Under each section, it provides the names and contact information for folks who know about the topics. Greenwald is among them.

The page stipulates that none of the listed people are WikiLeaks officials: “These commentators do not represent WikiLeaks; they are listed because they are knowledgeable about the topics.”

Is Greenwald’s inclusion on such a directory evidence of “close connections” between him and Assange/WikiLeaks? If you need more, said Pincus, consider that Greenwald has written “a lot” about Assange and has “appeared with him.” His story also reported that a nonprofit in which Greenwald and Poitras are founding members strives to assist whistleblowers, “including WikiLeaks.”

The doctrine of “close connections” drew a fiery response from Greenwald, who insisted he’s never “appeared” anywhere with Assange: “I’ve never met Julian Assange in my life,” Greenwald told the Erik Wemple Blog. “I’ve certainly expressed support for WikiLeaks, am on the board of a group that raised money for them, and have communicated with him very periodically via e-mail. I would not describe that as anything approaching ‘close connections,’ but in the scheme of Pincus’s factual errors, that’s low on the list.”

In his brief column, Pincus managed to generate other flashpoints with Greenwald. For instance, he alleged that Assange, in a May 29 interview, “previewed the first Greenwald Guardian story based on Snowden documents that landed a week later. Speaking from Ecuador’s embassy in London, Assange described how NSA had been collecting ‘all the calling records of the United States, every record of everyone calling everyone over years. . . . Those calling records already [are] entered into the national security complex.’ ”

Given that interview, Pincus asked whether Assange knew “ahead of time” about the Greenwald story regarding the NSA’s collection of Verizon phone records.

No way, said Greenwald: “The sentence you quoted from Assange’s May 29 interview about the collection of phone records was preceded by this: ‘The National Security Agency – and this has come out in one court case after another – was involved in a project called Stellar Wind to collect all the calling records of the United States.’ Stellar Wind, as you rather amazingly do not know, is the code name for the 2001-2007 Bush NSA spying program. As part of that program, the NSA (as you also rather amazingly did not know) engaged in the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.”

Pincus is not the first to raise questions about the conduct of Snowden and the journalists that he tapped for his leaks. That said, he insisted he’s not poking at potential wrongdoing by the media. His focus is on Snowden. “Why did he go to Booz Allen? Why did he go to these journalists?” asked Pincus. “What interests me is, did he do this on his own or did someone else tell him to do it?”

The Erik Wemple Blog supports questions. Questions about politicians, celebrities, dogs, journalists – the whole lot. At some point, however, facts and findings about Greenwald & Co. are going to have to catch up with these various curiosities. As we’ve stated before, the public knows more about how these particular leaks dripped from source to recipient than we do about the average national security story, thanks to the disclosures of the reporters involved. Thus far, those disclosures have spelled out a set of captivating, though hardly scandalous, interactions between Snowden and his leakees.