Friday, July 6, 2012

DCCC Nakedly Revealed As Rethuglican Owned and Run? In Rating Collapsing U.S. International Credibility - Give It A Ten!

Monday, Jun 25, 2012

Collapsing U.S. Credibility

Condemning foreign governments for abusive acts while ignoring one's own is easy. But the U.S. leads the way

Collapsing U.S. credibility

(Credit: AP)

Two Op-Eds in The New York Times this morning both warn of the precipitous decline of American credibility on matters of human rights and peace ushered in by the Obama presidency. Taken together, they explain much of why I’ve been writing what I’ve been writing over the last three years. The first is from Columbia Professor and cyber expert Misha Glenny, who explains the significance of the first ever deployment of cyberwarfare — by the U.S. (first under Bush and accelerated under Obama), along with Israel, against Iran:

THE decision by the United States and Israel to develop and then deploy the Stuxnet computer worm against an Iranian nuclear facility late in George W. Bush’s presidency marked a significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the Internet. Washington has begun to cross the Rubicon. If it continues, contemporary warfare will change fundamentally as we move into hazardous and uncharted territory.

It is one thing to write viruses and lock them away safely for future use should circumstances dictate it. It is quite another to deploy them in peacetime. Stuxnet has effectively fired the starting gun in a new arms race that is very likely to lead to the spread of similar and still more powerful offensive cyberweaponry across the Internet. Unlike nuclear or chemical weapons, however, countries are developing cyberweapons outside any regulatory framework. . . .

Stuxnet was originally deployed with the specific aim of infecting the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Iran. This required sneaking a memory stick into the plant to introduce the virus to its private and secure “offline” network. But despite Natanz’s isolation, Stuxnet somehow escaped into the cyberwild, eventually affecting hundreds of thousands of systems worldwide.

This is one of the frightening dangers of an uncontrolled arms race in cyberspace; once released, virus developers generally lose control of their inventions, which will inevitably seek out and attack the networks of innocent parties. Moreover, all countries that possess an offensive cyber capability will be tempted to use it now that the first shot has been fired. . . .

The United States has long been a commendable leader in combating the spread of malicious computer code, known as malware, that pranksters, criminals, intelligence services and terrorist organizations have been using to further their own ends. But by introducing such pernicious viruses as Stuxnet and Flame, America has severely undermined its moral and political credibility.
He also explains that the Obama administration opposes any treaties to regulate all of this in part because it “might undermine its presumed superiority in the field of cyberweaponry and robotics,” and because it claims Russia and China (but not, of course, the U.S.) would attempt to exploit such treaties to control the Internet.

In case anyone thinks he’s being melodramatic in his warnings, the original New York Times article by David Sanger that confirmed U.S. responsibility for the cyber attack included this passage: “Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade.” It also explained that America’s maiden use of this new form of warfare “could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks.”

The second is from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, an actually meritorious Nobel Peace Prize winner, who describes the record of his fellow Nobel laureate, the current President, in an Op-Ed entitled “A Cruel and Unusual Record“:

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues. . . .

It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the [Declaration on Human Rights'] 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. . . .

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior. . . .

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.
One can reasonably object to Carter’s Op-Ed on the ground that it romanticizes a non-existent American past (systematic human rights abuses are hardly a new development in the post-9/11 world), but what cannot be reasonably disputed is the trend he denounces. Note that the most egregious examples he cites — assassinating U.S. citizens without due process, civilian-killing drone attacks, the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA — had some genesis under Bush but are hallmarks of Obama policy (his other example, the rapid erosion of constraints on government domestic surveillance, took place under both, with the full support of Obama). It’s a remarkably scathing denunciation of the record of his own political party and its current leader.

Many American pundits and foreign policy experts love to depict themselves as crusaders for human rights, but it almost always takes the form of condemning other governments, never their own. There’s no end to self-styled U.S. human rights moralizers who will oh-so-bravely (and inconsequentially) write one screed after the next about the oppressive acts of Syria, or Russia, or China, or Iran (the targets of their wrath are not just foreign governments, but usually ones serving the role as Current Enemy of the U.S. Government).

But when it comes to the human rights violations they can actually do something about — the ones committed (or enabled) by their own government: the government for which they vote and to which they pay taxes and over which they are supposed to act as adversarial watchdogs — they are largely silent.

They prefer the cheap, easy, self-satisfying and pointless sermons (look over there at how terrible that foreign country is) to the much harder and more purposeful opposition to their own government’s abuses (American commentators who devote substantial attention to the human rights abuses of other nations but the bulk of their time on their own government’s are commendable rarities). As Noam Chomsky perfectly explained when asked why he focuses more of his time and energy on the human rights abuses of the U.S. and its allies than other countries:

My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.
Condemning the abusive acts of other countries while ignoring or sanctioning those of one’s own government is indeed easy. It’s cost-free. It’s inconsequential. It’s career-advancing (using purported human rights concerns to bash America’s Enemies converts one into an eager, useful instrument of U.S. policy and a perpetuator of D.C. orthodoxy). And, most of all, it’s self-affirming (those people over there are really bad, but not us, and by railing against them I show what a good and concerned person I am).

That’s precisely why the prime dogma in U.S. political and media discourse on foreign policy is that serious human rights violations (along with Terrorism) are something that non-Westerners do, not the West (and certainly not the U.S.). What these two Op-Eds today demonstrate is that not only is this false, but the U.S. continues to be a key pioneer in these abuses. It’s easy to distinguish American pundits and experts with a genuine commitment to human rights from those who feign concern by the extent to which they work against their own government’s conduct.

UPDATE: A related point was made by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967, when he delivered an extraordinary speech designed to address complaints that his anti-war activism was distracting from his civil rights work, and he explained why the latter was impossible without the former (h/t Duncan Mitchel)

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.

But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.

Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
Last January, I wrote about King’s speech and how it relates to current political activism.
Considering where most of the money comes from for these guys, it's not really a surprise is it?

Friday, July 06, 2012

DCCC Sends A Message: If You Want Financial Help, Vote With The Republicans

Yesterday Sam Stein blew the whistle on how the DCCC has "favored" the worst Democrats in Congress. If you're a regular DWT reader you're well aware of the overall narrative: the DCCC recruits and finances conservatives and discourages and starves progressives. We've mentioned it... frequently. In fact, it's gotten even worse since "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel took over the committee and has systematically gone forward institutionalizing a policy Rahm Emanuel put in place in 2006 and that lapsed slightly when Chris Van Hollen ran the show - but just slightly. Now, however, it's full steam ahead.

Let me share a couple of examples. (This post would never end if I shared all the examples.) On March 20th the big news out of Illinois was that progressive Ilya Sheyman was defeated by garden variety, conservative-leaning, corporate Democrat Brad Schneider. Schneider and 4 other conservative, corporate-leaning Dems were put into the DCCC's Red to Blue program in a matter of hours.

The next morning Israel was boasting how they had 5 new candidates-- Tammy Duckworth, Brad Schneider (New Dem), Bill Foster (New Dem), Brad Harriman and Cheri Bustos. He even mentioned that IL-13 was redistricted in a way that would make it much easier for a Democrat to win.

But the Democrat that won that night, progressive doctor David Gill, was the only winning candidate not put into the Red to Blue program. He had had the temerity to beat corporate shill and Israel-favored conservative Matthew Goetten.

And three months later, David Gill is still not on the Red to Blue list -  even though incumbent Republican Tim Johnson saw the polling numbers and announced he was retiring - a couple days after he won the Republican primary! Until Joe Walsh destroyed himself Tuesday Dr. Gill's race was probably the surest thing in the state for the DCCC... but Israel would rather see a Republican win than a progressive.

How dare I? Someone's got to tell the truth about what Israel is up to and how he'd rather restock the Democratic caucus with Blue Dogs and New Dems than win back the majority if it means helping to elect progressives. Let take a look at another example - one down in western North Carolina, NC-10. 

No one would argue that nasty, extremist, mean-spirited little closet case Patrick McHenry has earned a tough reelection battle but this is another one Israel is ignoring. "Oh," you might say, "he has to pick and chose carefully and decide where to spend DCCC resources where it will do the most good." And that is absolutely true - and (t)he point of this whole post - and we'll get to how Steve Israel picks and choses in un momento.

Meanwhile, though, let me remind everyone that before the May primary in North Carolina, Steve Israel thought enough about the race against McHenry to recruit a candidate to run for the nomination. But instead of picking progressive champion, state Rep. Patsy Keever, he recruited Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy.  

Problem is that, despite Israel's fantasies about western North Carolina, only Republican voters like candidates like Bellamy, who is anti-Choice, anti-gay, pro-developer and completely unsuitable to go up against McHenry, a corporate shill just like her. But not only did she lose in Asheville, she lost every single one of the seven counties that make up NC-10. That's how inept and clueless Steve Israel is... but inept, clueless and vindictive.

The day after his pathetic candidate lost the primary, he walked away from NC-10. The far more Republican district next door, where anti-Choice, anti-gay, corporate whore Hayden Rogers, a fellow Blue Dog, won the primary, Israel is excited about
. Rogers was immediately put on the DCCC's "Emerging Races" list. That's how he rolls - and that's what he's turned the DCCC into.

The corporate-oriented New Dems - think Blue Dogs without the KKK regalia - has endorsed 27 candidates. 8 still have primaries coming up. But of the 19 who will be running in November, the DCCC is pushing every one of them - and even some who haven't won their primaries yet. And of the mangy 7 Blue Dogs running in November (+ Rob Wallace who still has a primary run-off), the DCCC has embraced all of them. Just what Congress needs, lots more Democrats who are anti-Choice, anti-gay, anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-family... Isn't that what the Republican Party is for?

So, as Sam Stein pointed out yesterday, "the 17 House Democrats who voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt last week have received more than $1.3 million in financial aid from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since the start of 2009, a review of campaign finance records shows. That total constitutes roughly one out of every nine dollars that the committee either spent or earmarked for candidates during that time period."

Of course that isn't half the story. When the DCCC gets behind a candidate, they tell big Democratic donors around the country - as well as sleazy lobbyists in DC - that these are the candidates the Democratic Party wants funded... and that other candidates should NOT be given any money.

[W]ith anger mounting among the Democrats over the GOP's treatment of Holder, the money breakdown threatens to re-ignite a long-simmering debate over what type of lawmakers are best suited to fill the party's ranks. The 17 Democrats who voted to hold Holder in contempt for the invoking of executive privilege in the Operation Fast and Furious investigation did so under pressure from the National Rifle Association. Their votes demonstrate the gun lobby's continued power within the halls of Congress, while raising the question of why the DCCC lacks that same institutional clout.

In addition, seven of those 17 Democrats have said they either are skipping the party's convention this summer or remain unsure of their intentions. One member has declined to endorse President Barack Obama's reelection campaign.

"[DCCC Chairman Steve Israel] is spending gargantuan amounts of money and energy on hopeless Blue Dogs ... [rather] than working on winnable campaigns for independent-minded, progressive Democrats," said Howie Klein, the co-founder of Blue America PAC, an organization devoted to promoting progressive candidates.

"Those 17 Democrats didn't just suddenly join [Rep. Darrell] Issa's witch hunt and stray from the Democratic fold. All 17 - no exceptions - are among the Democrats who vote with [Speaker John] Boehner and [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor most frequently for the far right's anti-family agenda."

The vast majority of the support the DCCC offered these members (approximately 95 percent) came in the form of earmarked donations - money that came from other groups and donors but was solicited by the campaign committee.

"What the DCCC is doing for those candidates is what Act Blue does for other Democrats," explained a prominent campaign finance lawyer who advises congressional candidates. "They are sending out an email saying, 'Here are our top 10 target races. Will you give money to those races?'"

Because the DCCC is thereby prioritizing those races, the lawyer continued, it is fair to categorize an earmarked donation as a form of support from the committee. It's "a conscious decision" to help that candidate.

The extent of that support is disproportionate to the help the DCCC is offering House members and candidates at large. During the same period that the committee funneled $1.3 million to those 17 anti-Holder lawmakers, it sent just over $9.1 million to all House Democratic candidates.

That breakdown may seem counterproductive - why reward the party's least orthodox members? - but for party strategists, it reflects a political reality. Those 17 members hail from some of the most closely contested districts in the country, meaning that they, more than their colleagues, need the support.

"The only way you're going to have Congress not bringing up Eric Holder contempt resolutions, [and] instead bringing up middle-class jobs bills, is to have the majority in Democratic control," said a Democratic Hill aide.

Not all of the 17 members received the same level of support:

* Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), who lost his primary bid for reelection, received $17,000-plus in contributions and earmarked donations.

* Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), who is not attending the convention, received $13,000-plus.

* Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), who is not seeking reelection in 2012, received just $1,000.

* Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) received $90,200-plus.

* Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) received $60,000-plus.

* Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.), who defeated Altmire in the primary and has said he will not be attending the convention, received more than $300,000, much of it coming during his special election campaign to replace former Rep. John Murtha in 2010.

* Rep. Joseph Donnelly (D-Ind.), who is running for the Senate in Indiana, received $57,000-plus.

* Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) received $54,000-plus, much of which came during her special election campaign to replace Rep. Chris Lee, who resigned.

* Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) received $26,200-plus. He is not attending the convention.

* Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) received more than $110,000. He voted against health care reform, has continued to advocate its repeal and recently said he was unsure about going to the convention.

* Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who is not attending the convention, received $44,000.

* Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), who has declined to endorse Obama's reelection, received just shy of $60,000.

* Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), who won a special election in 2009 and will not be attending the Democratic convention, received more than $375,000.

* Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), who is also not attending the convention, received more than $10,000.

* Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) received $6,000.

* Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) received more than $65,000.

* The only member for whom there were no records of DCCC financial aid since 2009 is Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
Peterson doesn't need any help from the DCCC. He's one of the most corrupt Blue Dogs in Congress and takes huge amounts of money from AgriBusiness in return for letting them write all U.S. agricultural and food policies. Collin Peterson is literally killing this country. I could have helped Sam with his story with tidbits like this on every member he mentioned. In fact, when he asked me for the quote, I asked him if it could be 5 pages long.

Here's an interesting interactive map we need to look at together in a few days. He tells a lot of how Israel plans to make the DCCC into the BDCCC, the Blue Dog Congressional Campaign Committee. And if you get a plea for cash from some outfit called the House Majority PAC, that's the DCCC too.

They just know how muddied their name is so they're trying to reach voters under another guise. The House Majority PAC, for example, financed ConservaDem Ron Barber's win in Arizona to the tune of around $700,000, only to smile when Barber voted to gut a package of crucial environmental laws, announced he won't commit to voting for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and then voted to join Darrell Issa's witch hunt against Eric Holder.

If you want to contribute to the DCCC, at least be aware what you're throwing your money away on. And if you'd like to support progressive Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt type Democrats, like David Gill and Patsy Keever, mentioned above, you can do it directly through ActBlue, where the DCCC doesn't rake off a cut for themselves.

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