Quote of the Day: Glenn Greenwald

If you’re faced with this question — should President X have the power to impose Punishment Y on Bad Person Z? — and you answer in the affirmative based on your adoration for or trust in current President X, or your belief in the wisdom and justness of Punishment Y in the specific proposed case, or your acute scorn for Bad Person Z, you’re actually doing much more than ratifying this power in a single instance, even if that’s the limit of your intention. Whether desired or not, you’re affirming — and entrenching — the legitimacy of the principle itself, ensuring that this power will be exploited in ways you can’t control. When enshrined without checks, the endorsed punishment power will inevitably — necessarily — endure, and even grow, beyond the reign of the leader you trust to future leaders you don’t, and will be applied against not only those you believe are deserving of it but those you know are not.

— Glenn Greenwald (Salon), referring to “limitless, secret surveillance, and torture, and due-process-free and oversight-less citizen assassinations ordered in the dark, and indefinite detention, and extra-judicial killings carried out by drones”

Be Careful Whom You Admire

by Norman Horowitz

Ozzie Guillen said something “politically incorrect.” For his punishment, the Miami Marlins have suspended him for five games.

In his “politically incorrect” remarks, Guillen expressed admiration for Fidel Castro. In response, the team apologized to “victims of [Castro’s] dictatorship.”

It appears that it no longer matters that Fidel Castro led a movement that overthrew Fulgencio Batista:

[Batista] was the United States-aligned Cuban President dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1940 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution.

…Batista suspended the Constitution and revoked most political liberties, He  aligned with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnating economy that widened the gap between rich and poor Cubans. Batista’s increasingly corrupt and repressive regime then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba’s commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with the American mafia, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana, and with large multinational American corporations that had invested considerable amounts of money in Cuba. To quell the growing discontent amongst the populace — which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riots and anti-Batista demonstrations — Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his anti-Communist secret police and U.S.-supplied weaponry to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions; ultimately killing as many as 20,000 Cubans.

The victims of Batista’s dictatorship never received an apology…from the Marlins or anyone else in this country.

Moreover, the “Batista transgressions” were, to the best of my knowledge, unreported in our freedom-loving country by our freedom-loving mainstream media.

To punish Ozzie Guillen for speaking of his admiration of Fidel Castro is about an un-American an act as I can remember anyone perpetrating in the game of baseball.

At this very moment, representatives from the mainstream media outlets are visiting China, a horridly repressive country that does not honor copyrights, and they are honoring their repressive television service.

So riddle me this: If it is a good thing to be nice to a repressive country and their media, why is it a bad thing to say something nice about Fidel Castro?

Our hypocrisy is stunning and sad.

The Money Race: Further Debunking the Billion-Dollar Myth

A couple weeks ago, I debunked the myth that the Obama campaign had raised $1 billion — or that they even had much of an advantage over Romney, once you include party money and Super PACs.

Now it seems that even the prediction that they will eventually raise $1 billion is looking unlikely. According to the latest numbers, they are now behind where they were at this point in 2008, when they raised $750 million:

And the decline isn’t confined to one or two industries. It’s across the board:

It’s worth noting that the Republicans’ plans to eviscerate Medicare and Social Security have not been lost on retired donors, just as their anti-contraception, pro-invasive-vaginal-probe crusade has driven women further into the arms of the Obama campaign.

But those gains aren’t nearly enough to keep up with Republicans’ Super PACs:

“They clearly are feeling the pressure,” said one major Obama fund-raiser, who asked for anonymity to characterize his conversations with campaign officials. “They’re behind where they expected to be. You have to factor in $500 million-plus in Republican super PAC money.

On the other hand, the Obama campaign didn’t have to wage war in the primaries, so they have more cash on hand than they had in 2008. But that will dry up fast, and they’ll be left with a big hole to fill:

To raise as much money for his campaign as he did four years ago, the president would have to raise about $70 million a month through the end of the election cycle, more than triple the rate he has been bringing in cash so far.

So campaign spending will probably decline as a percent of GDP for this election, which isn’t surprising since 2008 was a little above the norm. Contrary to popular belief, however, 2008 was not the most expensive election ever, relative to the size of the economy:

So, while we’re debunking myths, we can add the “money has taken over presidential elections” myth to the list. The truth is that money was always important — even more so in 1896, 1908, 1932, and 1968. As I said last month:

Policy is made by the elite. Always has been.

You can overturn Citizens United. You can ban Super PACs. You can even institute public financing of elections. But you can’t take money out of politics.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. I’m saying this problem predates Super PACs. It goes so much deeper than lobbying and campaign contributions. The elite have always had the ear of Congress. They have always been Congress. They have always owned the media. They have always controlled the conversationAnd they do not speak for us.

What remains to be seen is how Super PACs will change this equation. Based on the numbers above, it looks like they’ll be almost as powerful as the campaigns themselves…

Horowitz the Soldier

Norman wrote this over a month ago. I’ve been remiss in keeping up with his posts, but I’ll catch up in the coming week. — AWO

by Norman Horowitz

It was about sixty years ago during the Korean War that I enlisted in the Air Force. Our training was at Sampson Air Force Base in upstate New York in January — and was it ever cold!

My basic training lasted eight weeks and consisted primarily of marching and going to classes.

One night, I was assigned to guard a warehouse in the middle of nowhere for three hours carrying an unloaded rifle that I didn’t know how to use. Around midnight, I was delivered to my station by Jeep and told to walk up and down in the front of this warehouse until I was relieved in about three hours. It was dark and about fifteen below zero and windy. I was scared out of my mind. The three hours lasted forever.

I served as a student of electronics for almost a year, followed by three years as an instructor. I never did anything “military” other than “drill” from time to time during these four years.

That brings me to the very sad story involving the killing of 16 Afghans by U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales.

It appears that there is no question that the Sergeant is responsible for these deaths, but there is a larger responsibility that rests with Presidents Bush and Obama for continuing the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I cannot comprehend how our once-great nation allows a soldier to be in harm’s way during three tours in Iraq followed by a tour in Afghanistan. This man is someone’s son, husband, father, etc., and he was put in harm’s way day after day and year after year.

In 1969, a member of the President’s Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force wrote to its chairman that “while there is a reasonable possibility that a peacetime armed force could be entirely voluntary, I am certain that an armed force involved in a major conflict could not be voluntary.”

I expect that, were we to have a draft, the “system” would not as easily continue our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan requiring the system’s sons and daughters to be put in harm’s way.

Given the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with casualties, enlistments have dropped, and a majority of the American public no longer believing that these wars are worth fighting. We must conclude that Sergeant Bales has been unreasonably placed in harm’s way over and over again.

Of course the Sergeant needs to be punished by “the system,” but how about someone punishing those who operate the system?

Sergeant Bales will have a high-profile court-martial, President Bush will continue to clear brush in Texas, and President Obama will run for a second term as we get ready to go to war with Iran. Now what is wrong with that picture?

The Money Race: It’s Closer Than You Think

People seem to be fascinated by the money raised and spent by both parties in the presidential election, but they also seem to be quite misinformed — or, at least, confused — about who has the advantage and what that advantage means.

Many Republicans, for example, are telling scare stories about the Obama campaign being close to raising $1 billion. This is completely untrue. Some experts have predicted that they will eventually raise $1 billion, extrapolating from the $750 million they raised in 2008, but as of now, they are nowhere near that number:

Still, from these numbers, it looks like the Obama campaign has an incredible advantage. Don’t be fooled. That advantage will shrink quickly. The only reason the gap is so big is because Romney was competing against a half dozen other Republican candidates for money:

Now that he has the nomination, all the Republican donors will flow to Romney, which begs the question: Who are those donors?

Two characteristics distinguish Romney’s donors from Obama’s. First, they’re almost certainly richer, given the higher proportion of large contributions:

And second, they’re overwhelmingly dominated by Wall Street:

I still find it astonishing that, in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Republican party would nominate a candidate from Wall Street. But I digress.

Of course, the campaigns themselves won’t be the only spenders in this election. The parties also raise lots of money to promote their respective candidates. By that measure, it’s Romney who has the advantage:

Finally, independent groups — especially the new Super PACs — play a critical role in buying media time and airing attack ads. On this front, there’s no question that Romney is winning:

Republican-aligned groups are hitting President Barack Obama with almost $2 million in attack ads and the response so far has been silence.

The reason: Democratic groups formed to counter those charges don’t have the money to do it.

the hardest-hitting television ads will be crafted by outside groups run by advisers closely aligned with the campaigns. In this sphere, Obama and his allies are behind.

[The Republican-founded] Crossroads [GPS], which has two arms, plans to spend $250 million to influence the presidential and congressional races, it announced last year. One entity, American Crossroads, has raised $27 million, according to Federal Election Commission disclosure reports. The other, Crossroads GPS, takes unlimited donations and doesn’t reveal its contributors.

Romney has another friendly super-PAC, Restore Our Future, which was founded by his former aides. It raised nearly $43 million by the end of February, and spent $40 million on ads…

In contrast, Priorities USA set a goal of raising $100 million to defend the president during the general election. According to FEC reports, Priorities USA Action has raised just $6.5 million. When combined with Priorities USA, a partner group that doesn’t disclose donors, the total contributed to the effort was about $10 million by the end of February, according to Burton.

So, no matter what you hear, remember: It’s close, and it’s getting closer.