Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Win-Hold-Lose: How the Pentagon is Already Planning the Next Wars

Posted in Afghanistan, media, politics, war by allisonkilkenny on March 15, 2009

banksy-soldiers-painting-peace-signIn 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act, which formed the National Military Establishment, a department with the unfortunate acronym “NME,” (pronounced “enemy”). Wise men realized a name change was in order, so they rebranded NME as the “Department of Defense.” In its new role, the DoD would oversee the duties formerly handled by the Department of War and the Department of the Navy. 

Department of War and “enemy”  are more suitable nomenclatures for our modern wartime Chimera, the Department of Defense.  

As Thom Shanker details with the cool, detached demeanor of a serial killer, the “protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.”

Of course, “only two wars at a time, boys” isn’t written anywhere in our Constitution. That may be because our forefathers were sort of wary about that whole empirical conquest thing. They’d just escaped being ruled over by a tyrannical king and were in no rush to impose their own authoritarian regime upon anyone else, though that didn’t stop them from wiping out the Native Americans and pesky Mexicans.

Shanker continues:

A senior Defense Department official involved in a strategy review now under way said the Pentagon was absorbing the lesson that the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns likely to be part of some future wars would require more staying power than in past conflicts, like the first Iraq war in 1991 or the invasions of Grenada and Panama.

I know what you’re thinking: Surely, the only lesson to be taken out of the Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires is to NOT invade countries that pose no threat to the United States. Well, that’s why you’re not in charge of leading young men and women to their deaths. The problem isn’t ideological. It’s strategical. 

Among the refinements to the two-wars strategy the Pentagon has incorporated in recent years is one known as “win-hold-win” — an assumption that if two wars broke out simultaneously, the more threatening conflict would get the bulk of American forces while the military would have to defend along a second front until reinforcements could arrive to finish the job.

Another formulation envisioned the United States defending its territory, deterring hostility in four critical areas of the world and then defeating two adversaries in major combat operations, but not at exactly the same time.

For anyone of you weak, pathetic peace-lovers out there, who thought maybe (just maybe) the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan (and sometimes Pakistan) were winding down, stick this Pentagon memo in your pipe and smoke it. This is the long-vision, people. This is perpetual war. 

An inconvenient truth is that Americans get worked up at the thought of an extended, massive ground invasion of foreign lands. That’s why the future of war is small, scattered, air-oriented, and covert. Whether it’s Dick Cheney’s implementation of a secret assassination ring, or Pakistan-stationed US drones killing civilians, war no longer has to receive the blessing of Congress, or – pause for laughter – the American people.

War is an inevitability, so a public debate about whether war should be is never an option. It’s not a matter of should we be planning for multiple, simultaneous, small invasions, but a debate over technicalities and strategies for when it happens. And the media usually walks hand-in-hand with the Pentagon, somehow managing to keep a straight face on the matter, when generals and bureaucrats start spouting rhetoric about preserving freedom and democracy via cluster bombs.

The war debate (if it can be called a debate) is completely off-kilter. Even in the “liberal” New York Times, the article isn’t balanced with a pro-war participant and a serious anti-war participant. Yet again, we get a photocopied Pentagon memo crammed within a major newspaper’s margins, without analysis or journalistic insight into the consequences of perpetual war. Including an anti-war voice isn’t partisan. It’s actually doing real journalistic work, which is representing all sides of a story, and not just the loudest opinions resonating from the state.

The closest the Times comes to representing an anti-war voice is in the confusing interjection from Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior follow from the Brookings Institution, a think tank that the Times tells me is center-left, though I wouldn’t have guessed that from O’Hanlon’s comment:

“We have Gates and others saying that other parts of the government are underresourced and that the DoD should not be called on to do everything. That’s a good starting point for this — to ask and at least begin answering where it might be better to have other parts of the government get stronger and do a bigger share, rather than the Department of Defense.”

This sounds like O’Hanlon wants to outsource killing to other departments. Maybe we can arm teachers and parachute them into Pakistan. 

Yet again, the debate over our larger war policies goes unexamined by the mainstream media. The media remains compliant in the imperial conquests of our government, and then acts dumbfounded when popular support for their institution wanes, and they find themselves antiquated and bankrupted.

Thomas Friedman’s Five Worst Predictions

Posted in media by allisonkilkenny on March 5, 2009

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

In this morning’s New York Times,columnist Thomas Friedman makes a grave prediction regarding Obama and the ongoing financial crisis: “I fear that his whole first term could be eaten by Citigroup, A.I.G., Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and the whole housing/subprime credit bubble we inflated these past 20 years.” Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, a staple ofThe New York Times, and a bestselling author, and thus this prediction should be taken very seriously—in some alternate universe where the news media is a meritocracy and Thomas Friedman is a competent observer of the world and its workings. The rest of us can probably relax.

Let’s review:

In October of 2000, Friedman decided that the Chinese regime would soon find itself threatened by a major unemployment crisis caused by an influx of American wheat and sugar into that country. In fact, American wheat and sugar failed to make any inroads whatsoever, while Chinese unemployment figures (however unreliable they may be) remained at low levels for a period of seven years.

After the announcement of Colin Powell’s Secretary of State nomination in December 2000, a clearly impressed Friedman related to his readers that “it was impossible to imagine Mr. Bush ever challenging or overruling Mr. Powell on any issue,”  that Powell “can never be fired,” and that “Mr. Bush can never allow him to resign in protest over anything.” Five years later, Powell was out via “resignation” after having been consistently challenged and overruled by Bush, who must have missed Friedman’s column.   

In 2001, Friedman advised the American citizenry to “keep rootin’ for Putin,” hailing the K.G.B. veteran as “Russia’s first Deng Xiaoping” and a strong force for reform. Three years later, Friedman announced in his most awkward prose that “I have a ‘Tilt Theory of History’,” and called Russia “a huge nation” (this part checks out) “that was tilted in the wrong direction and is now tilted in the right direction” with regards to free speech, the rule of law, and the like. In 2007, Friedman finally noticed that Russia cannot even properly be termed a democracy and promptly wrote a column to this effect.

Then, a month into the Afghanistan conflict, Friedman complained that “the hand-wringing has already begun over how long this might last” and advised readers to “take a deep breath,” noting that Afghanistan is “far away.” Besides, Friedman had “no doubt, for now, that the Bush team has a military strategy for winning a long war.” A month later, he noted in passing that “America has won the war in Afghanistan” and that “the Taliban are gone,” though he did express some concern about “all the nonsense written in the press about the concern for ‘civilian casualties’,”  a term he took to using with scare quotes. Seven years later, civilian casualties remain a major item of concern for Afghan’s in the non-won war against the non-gone Taliban.

In 2005, Friedman explained that it was necessary for Democrats “to start thinking seriously about Iraq” lest the party “become unimportant.” Though Democrats never came around to Friedman’s way of serious thinking , they did manage to take control of both chambers of Congress the following year, ushering in a period of nearly unprecedented political dominance that continues to this day, which strikes me as a pretty important thing to do. 

Now, I don’t ask a lot of favors from the American citizenry and rarely even hit it up for money, but I was thinking that it might be kind of neat if everyone could stop pretending that  Friedman’s prognostication deserves to be taken seriously.

Also, could we key his car or something? This is a time for bold moves.

Barrett Brown is the author of Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Easter Bunny and serves as director of communications for Enlighten the Vote, previously known as GAMPAC.

The Rick Santelli ‘Tea Party’ Controversy: Article Kicks Up a Media Dust Storm

Posted in Barack Obama, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on March 4, 2009

Mark Ames & Yasha Levine, eXiled Online (h/t Alternet)

Image from eXiledonline.com

Image from eXiledonline.com

Last week, CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli rocketed from being a little-known second-string correspondent to a populist hero of the disenfranchised, a 21st-century Samuel Adams, the leader and symbol of the downtrodden American masses suffering under the onslaught of 21st century socialism and big government. Santelli’s “rant” last-week calling for a “Chicago Tea Party” to protest President Obama’s plans to help distressed American homeowners rapidly spread across the blogosphere and shot right up into White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’ craw, whose smackdown during a press conference was later characterized by Santelli as “a threat” from the White House. A nationwide “tea party” grassroots Internet protest movement has sprung up seemingly spontaneously, all inspired by Santelli, with rallies planned today in cities from coast to coast to protest against Obama’s economic policies.

 

But was Santelli’s rant really so spontaneous? How did a minor-league TV figure, whose contract with CNBC is due this summer, get so quickly launched into a nationwide rightwing blog sensation? Why were there so many sites and organizations online and live within minutes or hours after his rant, leading to a nationwide protest just a week after his rant?

What hasn’t been reported until now is evidence linking Santelli’s “tea party” rant with some very familiar names in the Republican rightwing machine, from PR operatives who specialize in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns (called “astroturfing”) to bigwig politicians and notorious billionaire funders. As veteran Russia reporters, both of us spent years watching the Kremlin use fake grassroots movements to influence and control the political landscape. To us, the uncanny speed and direction the movement took and the players involved in promoting it had a strangely forced quality to it. If it seemed scripted, that’s because it was.

What we discovered is that Santelli’s “rant” was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a “Chicago Tea Party” was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.

As you read this, Big Business is pouring tens of millions of dollars into their media machines in order to destroy just about every economic campaign promise Obama has made, as reported recently in the Wall Street Journal. At stake isn’t the little guy’s fight against big government, as Santelli and his bot-supporters claim, but rather the “upper 2 percent”’s war to protect their wealth from the Obama Adminstration’s economic plans. When this Santelli “grassroots” campaign is peeled open, what’s revealed is a glimpse of what is ahead and what is bound to be a hallmark of his presidency.

Let’s go back to February 19th: Rick Santelli, live on CNBC, standing in the middle of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, launches into an attack on the just-announced $300 billion slated to stem rate of home foreclosures: “The government is promoting bad behavior! Do we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages?! This is America! We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July, all you capitalists who want to come down to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing.”

Almost immediately, the clip and the unlikely “Chicago tea party” quote buried in the middle of the segment, zoomed across a well-worn path to headline fame in the Republican echo chamber, including red-alert headlines on Drudge.

Within hours of Santelli’s rant, a website called ChicagoTeaParty.com sprang to life. Essentially inactive until that day, it now featured a YouTube video of Santelli’s “tea party” rant and billed itself as the official home of the Chicago Tea Party. The domain was registered in August, 2008 by Zack Christenson, a dweeby Twitter Republican and producer for a popular Chicago rightwing radio host Milt Rosenberg—a familiar name to Obama campaign people. Last August, Rosenberg, who looks like Martin Short’s Irving Cohen character, caused an outcry when he interviewed Stanley Kurtz, the conservative writer who first “exposed” a personal link between Obama and former Weather Undergound leader Bill Ayers. As a result of Rosenberg’s radio interview, the Ayers story was given a major push through the Republican media echo chamber, culminating in Sarah Palin’s accusation that Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” That Rosenberg’s producer owns the “chicagoteaparty.com” site is already weird—but what’s even stranger is that he first bought the domain last August, right around the time of Rosenburg’s launch of the “Obama is a terrorist” campaign. It’s as if they held this “Chicago tea party” campaign in reserve, like a sleeper-site. Which is exactly what it was.

ChicagoTeaParty.com was just one part of a larger network of Republican sleeper-cell-blogs set up over the course of the past few months, all of them tied to a shady rightwing advocacy group coincidentally named the“Sam Adams Alliance,” whose backers have until now been kept hidden from public. Cached google records that we discovered show that the Sam Adams Alliance took pains to scrub its deep links to the Koch family money as well as the fake-grassroots “tea party” protests going on today. All of these roads ultimately lead back to a more notorious rightwing advocacy group, FreedomWorks, a powerful PR organization headed by former Republican House Majority leader Dick Armey and funded by Koch money.

On the same day as Santelli’s rant, February 19, another site called Officialchicagoteaparty.com went live. This site was registered to Eric Odom, who turned out to be a veteran Republican new media operative specializing in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns. Last summer, Odom organized a twitter-led campaign centered around DontGo.com to pressure Congress and Nancy Pelosi to pass the offshore oil drilling bill, something that would greatly benefit Koch Industries, a major player in oil and gas. Now, six months later, Odom’s DontGo movement was resurrected to play a central role in promoting the “tea party” movement.

Up until last month, Odom was officially listed as the “new media coordinator” for the Sam Adams Alliance, a well-funded libertarian activist organization based in Chicago that was set up only recently. Samuel Adams the historical figure was famous for inspiring and leading the Boston Tea Party—so when the PR people from the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance abruptly leave in order to run Santelli’s “Chicago Tea Party,” you know it wasn’t spontaneous. Odom certainly doesn’t want people to know about the link: his name was scrubbed from the Sam Adams Alliance website recently, strongly suggesting that they wanted to cover their tracks. Thanks to google caching, you can see the SAA’s before-after scrubbing.

Separated at Head Pubes?

 

Eric "The Dome" Odom

Rising Koch revolutionary Eric Odom…and embalmed Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin?

Even the Sam Adams’ January 31 announcement that Odom’s fake-grassroots group was “no longer sponsored by the Alliance” was shortly afterwards scrubbed.

But it’s the Alliance’s scrubbing of their link to Koch that is most telling. A cached page, erased on February 16, just three days before Santelli’s rant, shows that the Alliance also wanted to cover up its ties to the Koch family. The missing link was an announcement that students interested in applying for internships to the Sam Adams Alliance could also apply through the “Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program” through the Institute for Humane Studies, a Koch-funded rightwing institute designed to scout and nurture future leaders of corporate libertarian ideology. (See hi-resolution screenshots here.) The top two board directors at the Sam Adams Alliance include two figures with deep ties to Koch-funded programs: Eric O’Keefe, who previously served in Koch’s Institute for Humane Studies and the Club For Growth; and Joseph Lehman, a former communications VP at Koch’s Cato Institute.

All of these are ultimately linked up to Koch’s Freedom Works mega-beast. Freedomworks.org has drawn fire in the past for using fake grassroots internet campaigns, called “astroturfing,” to push for pet Koch projects such as privatizing social security. A New York Times investigation in 2005 revealed that a “regular single mom” paraded by Bush’s White House to advocate for privatizing social security was in fact FreedomWorks’ Iowa state director. The woman, Sandra Jacques, also fronted another Iowa fake-grassroots group called “For Our Grandchildren,” even though privatizing social security was really “For Koch And Wall Street Fat Cats.”

If you log into FreedomWorks.org today, its home page features a large photo of Rick Santelli pointing at the viewer like Uncle Sam, with the words: “Are you with Rick? We Are. Click here to learn more.”

FreedomWorks, along with scores of shady front organizations which don’t have to disclose their sponsors thanks to their 501 (c)(3) status, has been at the heart of today’s supposed grassroots, nonpartisan “tea party” protests across the country, supposedly fueled by scores of websites which masquerade as amateur/spontaneous projects, but are suspiciously well-crafted and surprisingly well-written. One slick site pushing the tea parties, Right.org claims, “Right.org is a grassroots online community created by a few friends who were outraged by the bailouts. So we gathered some talent and money and built this site. Please tell your friends, and if you have suggestions for improving it, please let us know. Respectfully, Evan and Duncan.” But funny enough, these regular guys are offering a $27,000 prize for an “anti-bailout video competition.” Who are Evan and Duncan? Do they even really exist?

Even Facebook pages dedicated to a specific city “tea party” events, supposedly written by people connected only by a common emotion, obviously conformed to the same style. It was as if they were part of a multi-pronged advertising campaign planned out by a professional PR company. Yet, on the surface, they pretended to have no connection. The various sites set up their own Twitter feeds and Facebook pages dedicated to the Chicago Tea Party movement. And all of them linked to one another, using it as evidence that a decentralized, viral movement was already afoot. It wasn’t about partisanship; it was about real emotions coming straight from real people.

While it’s clear what is at stake for the Koch oligarch clan and their corporate and political allies—fighting to keep the hundreds of billions in surplus profits they’ve earned thanks to pro-rich economic policies over the past 30 years—what’s a little less obvious is Santelli’s link to all this. Why would he (and CNBC) risk their credibility, such as it is, as journalists dispensing financial information in order to act as PR fronts for a partisan campaign?

As noted above, Santelli’s contract with CNBC runs out in a few months. His 10 years with the network haven’t been remarkable, and he’ll enter a brutal downsizing media job market. Thanks to the “tea party” campaign, as the article notes, Santelli’s value has suddenly soared. If you look at the scores of blogs and fake-commenters on blogs (for example, Daily Blog, a slick new blog launched in January which is also based in Chicago) all puff up Santelli like he’s the greatest journalist in America, and the greatest hero known to mankind. Daily Bail, like so much of this “tea party” machine, is “headquartered nearby” to Santelli, that is, in Chicago. With Odom, the Sam Adams Alliance, and the whole “tea party” nexus: “Rick, this message is to you. You are a true American hero and there are no words to describe what you did today except your own.  Headquartered nearby, we will be helping the organization in whatever way possible.”

It’s not difficult to imagine how Santelli hooked up with this crowd. A self-described “Ayn Rand-er,” one of Santelli’s colleagues at CNBC, Lawrence Kudlow, played a major role in both FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth.

So today’s protests show that the corporate war is on, and this is how they’ll fight it: hiding behind “objective” journalists and “grassroots” new media movements. Because in these times, if you want to push for policies that help the super-wealthy, you better do everything you can to make it seem like it’s “the people” who are “spontaneously” fighting your fight. As a 19th century slave management manual wrote, “The master should make it his business to show his slaves, that the advancement of his individual interest, is at the same time an advancement of theirs. Once they feel this, it will require little compulsion to make them act as becomes them.” (Southern Agriculturalist IX, 1836.) The question now is, will they get away with it, and will the rest of America advance the interests of Koch, Santelli, and the rest of the masters?

This article first appeared on Playboy.com on Feb. 27, 2009.

Listen As I Barely Suppress My Rage

Posted in Barack Obama, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on March 3, 2009

podcastlogoThe excellent Michael Tisdale was kind enough to recently have me on his podcast, The Podcast Where Dignity Lives w/ Tiz.  

Michael runs KemoCity.com, which you should all check out because he’s rad, the website is rad, the podcast is rad, and you should be supporting independent podcasts because you’re smart and hate corporate media — right?

I come in about halfway through the episode (around 20:00,) and I use the word “retard” 5 seconds into my interview. I apologize in advance.


We discuss President Obama’s address to Congress, the mainstream media (who I may or may not call a bunch of liars,) and Bobby Jindal, who I definitely call a liar. I also try to figure out what I’m doing with my life during the interview, which is neat and real.

I hear I’m on the show next week, too, so I’ll be sure to put up that clip when it airs.

“Tea Party Movement” Planned Months Ago By GOP Billionaires?

Posted in Barack Obama, Economy, media, politics, Tea Party Movement by allisonkilkenny on March 3, 2009

Jeffrey Feldman 

billionaires(Please Note:  Since first posting this piece, some claims asserted in the Ames/Levine post cited herein have been responded to in a way that makes my initial reading of that article less certain. To reflect that, I have revised the title to include a “?”, added an UPDATE section at the bottom of the post, and included in-line links to that update section where relevant. Some questions were answered, some new questions have emerged, and so the conversation has grown.  –ed.)

Populist revolt against the U.S. government is all the rage in the Republican Party, these days.  As they tell the story, the public is so outraged by the recovery and reinvestment efforts of the Obama administration that Americans everywhere are turning out to overthrow the tyrannical king of the federal government by re-enacting the Boston Tea Party.  

Funny thing, though: it turns out this whole “populist” movement was a planned PR stunt funded by big-money right-wing backers of the GOP who specialize in faking grassroots movements to drum up opposition to Barack Obama. 

Everything about this so called “Tea Party” movement was pre-planned–from the supposedly “spontaneous rant” of CNBC stock market reporter, Rick Santelli, to the presumed ground-level organizing of protests all over the country.  Fake, fake, fake–like a product launch staged covertly to look like a spontaneous trend.  (please UPDATE below)

Playboy bloggers Mark Ames and Yasha Levine pulled together all the pieces of this puzzle in an incredible expose (Exposing The Rightwing PR Machine):

What hasn’t been reported until now is evidence linking Santelli’s “tea party” rant with some very familiar names in the Republican rightwing machine, from PR operatives who specialize in imitation-grassroots PR campaigns (called “astroturfing”) to bigwig politicians and notorious billionaire funders. As veteran Russia reporters, both of us spent years watching the Kremlin use fake grassroots movements to influence and control the political landscape. To us, the uncanny speed and direction the movement took and the players involved in promoting it had a strangely forced quality to it. If it seemed scripted, that’s because it was.

What we discovered is that Santelli’s “rant” was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a “Chicago Tea Party” was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced. Namely, the Koch family, the multibilllionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of scores of rightwing thinktanks and advocacy groups, from the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine to FreedomWorks. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was a co-founder of the notorious extremist-rightwing John Birch Society.

It helps, in other words, to have field experience ferreting out Soviet propaganda to understand how Rick Santelli suddenly became the figurehead of a right-wing “grassroots” revolt against the United States government.   It is worth reading the entire post.  

The next time you hear that the Tea Party Republican revolt is “grassroots,” “spontaneous,” and “populist,” just swap out those PR keywords for the more accurate terms:  “planned,” “scripted,” “billionaire bigwigs.”  

All of this makes sense, of course.  Santelli’s philippic had all the hallmarks of a rehearsed piece of political theater–the pre-planned message launched of a viral marketing campaign. (please UPDATE below)

Not that any of this comes as a surprise, but…my goodness. 

Even though the curtain has been pulled back  on this astroturf marketing by GOP megabucks elite backers, it is important to keep in mind what the larger stakes are and how to respond.

Scripted or not–this Tea Party revolt needs to be treated as politically real.  People engaged in this agitation will not acknowledge ever that it is scripted, because these folks sincerely think they are engaged in some kind of revolution against their own government. They really want the country to evaluate whether or not an elected President and Congress are the same as a tyrannical king and whether a tax by fiat from the 18c is the same as a legislature approved public investment program from the 21c.  Those folks just want to make noise–lots of noise–to throw the debate off its tracks.

The big story to defend and advance, in other words, is a president advancing real solutions aimed at helping millions of Americans in serious economic trouble.  The agitation against it, whether it is scripted or not, is designed to stop those solutions from being discussed seriously, from unfolding, and then to weaken the president making them happen.  That is a basic confrontation between pragmatic action and ideological politics–between investment in people and inaction in the name of  dogma.

In the end, then, we need to make themselves aware of the massive resources the right is spending to block any effort by the American people to work together to repair the damage to our economy and restore our national confidence.  And after we have made ourselves aware of how far the opposition is willing to go, we need to get back to work making sure the debate states focused on the real issue at hand here:  millions and millions families who need help right now, and the greatness of a nation that stands together in times of need to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.

: This Story Has Grown (3.3.09)
Well, that was fast:  this story, less than a week old, seems way out of date.  Among other things, there have been lots of answers to the claims posed in the Ames/Levine piece that it warrants opening up my initial title to a  bigger question about what exactly happened.  First and foremost, I have added a question mark (“?”) to the end of the post title to reflect how this story has grown since I first posted about the Ames/Levine piece on Rick Santelli.  Here is the list of events that I think are relevant for everyone to know:

1. Santelli finally made a statement about this whole thing here. This is his first paragraph:

First of all let me be clear that I have NO affiliation or association with any of the websites or related tea party movements that have popped up as a result of my comments on February 19th, or to the best of my knowledge any of the people who organized the websites or movements. By the way of background, I am not and never have been a stockbroker. Not that there is anything wrong with being a stockbroker. The home I have lived in for 20 years is a 2,500-square foot ranch. Not that there is anything wrong with owning a larger, grander house. I am currently an on air editor with CNBC. Prior to my 10 years in this capacity I was a member in good standing on both the Chicago Futures Exchanges. My career in the futures industry spanned 20 years.

Seems like an answer, although I wish he had not used the phrase ‘to the best of my knowledge’–which makes him sound like he talked to a lawyer first. When people deny that they knew someone or were involved in something ‘to the best of my knowledge,’ that typically means they are concerned about accidentally committing perjury if a fact comes out later that shows they were in fact involved.  Does that mean Santelli might have been involved in something without knowing it?  I have no idea; I am not an attorney.   It could be that Santelli just adds that sentence as a routine part of insulating himself from accusations of financial conflicts of interests.  Since he reports from a trading floor, that kind of legalese could just be routine.  So, Santelli has spoken and that is where it ended up.

2. Whether or not CNBC actually asked Santelli if he was involved in any organizing is the obvious question.  As a result of filing that exact query, the Columbia School of Journalism’s blog Full Court Press(FCP) posted the following exchange they had with CNBC spokesman Brian Steel:

All this led Mark Ames and Yasha Levine to speculate at playboy.com that Santelli’s fifteen minutes were actually part of a right-wing Republican disinformation campaign to undermine Obama’s efforts to rescue the economy. Asked about this charge by FCP, CNBC spokesman Brian Steel sent an e-mail saying, “Rick Santelli’s comment clearly struck a nerve among a large portion of American citizens and sparked a debate which is something Rick has done for more than a decade as a commentator on CNBC. To try to make anything more of his comment than that is ridiculous and without basis in fact.”

FCP e-mailed back, “On the record: was he asked by his bosses if he was part of a larger organized effort? What “news” purpose was served by repeating this rant over and over again on CNBC, and promoting him (and it) on the Today Show?”

“We don’t comment on internal CNBC discussions,” Steel replied. Then, although FCP had specified that it was only interested in an on-the-record response, he added: “Off the record it strikes me that my first answer is unquivocal [sic] and should answer all your questions. Also off the record I am curious as to why CJR has written about it at least three times particularly since each time your readers via the comments section of your website have overwhelming disgreed [sic] with your views. It seems as if you are both tone deaf and hypocritcal [sic].”

So much for asking follow-up questions in the world of cable news.

Once the accusations of ‘hypocrisy’ come out, that tends to be a sign that nobody wants to have a grown-up conversation anymore.  Steel is clearly doing his job, which is to spread the chosen message that Santelli’s performance was consistent with his long history of making statements that spark widespread debate amongst American citizens.  In all fairness to Steel trying to get out CNBC’s message, the only example of Santelli sparking debate I can think of is the time he called for ‘Tea Parties’ last week.  So CNBC should probably issue a list of debates Santelli sparked if they want that message to take.

3.  Playboy took down the Ames/Levine post (as of Mar 2, from what I can tell).  They have not issued any kind of statement. 

4. Ames and Levine are sticking by their story, following up with a not-so-subtle piece titled CNBC Bitch-Slaps Santelli Into Line, FreedomWorks Admits It Organized “Grassroots” Tea Parties, Jon Stewart Cancels Santelli & Megan McArdle Queefs On Our Founding Fathers. 

5. Among other things, the Ames-Levine follow-up piece cites an AP article that they say backs up their initial claims.  The provide a link to a Star-Tribune article titled CNBC Says Ranting Rick Santelli is not Affiliated with Political Site that Uses his Name (David Bauer, Mar 2, 2009).  The article goes on to desccribe how the site reateaparty.com included enough references to Santelli for readers to conclue that Santelli was involved with the group–right up to an ‘About Rick Santelli’ page, but took down all the references when asked to do so by CNBC.

So, what can we conclude thus far?  The Tea Party folks would have us conclude that anyone who asked these questions about Santelli (me, for example) is an idiot leftie.  No surprise about that reaction, but there is more to be said.

In particular, I still wonder about two missing pieces of information: (1) why did Playboy take down the original post and (2) why did Santelli use the phrase ‘to the best of my knowledge’ in is rebuttal.   It seems fair to wonder about those things, given that the debate supposedly sparked by all this has led to cries of anti-government revolution (no small thing).

To speculate on the first:  Playboy probably took it down for fear of a boycott or of being sued or both.  Despite the racy content of the magazine, Playboy is still a relative newcomer to the world of political blogging.  They likely decided to just pull back and wait this thing out.

To speculate on the second: Santelli probably said ‘to the best of my knowledge’ because CNBC advised him to–which is perfectly legal, logical, reasonable, etc.  And CNBC probably advised him to say it because they had not yet figured out if Santelli was really involved with any of the sites that seemed to claim him as a participant.  CNBC then got to work examining all the free marketing they received as a result of Santelli’s performance, putting Santelli and their brand back in the bottle as much as they could (which is their legal right), and pushing back against questions from bloggers and journalists who were wondering (also fairly) about those connections.

And that brings us up to date.

Wars, Endless Wars

Posted in Afghanistan, Barack Obama, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on March 3, 2009

iraq_quagmire_accomplished_button-p145949191670659356tmn2_210Note from Allison: I don’t get Bob Herbert. He’s wonderful, and brilliant, and everything, but I just don’t get him. I don’t understand how he got hired at the New York Times, or why he’s kept writing for them all these years. Bob Herbert working at the New York Times reminds me of Marilyn Munster living with her freak family. How did HE comes from THAT stock?

Sometimes, I imagine Bob standing around with Thomas Friedman, or (God forbid) Maureen Dowd, at a NYT staff party. Thomas is babbling about his latest trip to a golf club in East India (and how it really reminded him of the power of Globalization.) Maureen isn’t listening to Thomas (typical,) and she asks Bob, “If Hillary Clinton could be a kind of cocktail dress, what kind of dress do you think she would be?” and I imagine Bob’s face twitching as his hand slowly crushes his plastic cup of punch. 

I don’t get Bob, but I’m glad he’s around to inject some sanity into the Op-Eds. 

Bob Herbert

The singer Edwin Starr, who died in 2003, had a big hit in 1970 called “War” in which he asked again and again: “War, what is it good for?”

The U.S. economy is in free fall, the banking system is in a state of complete collapse and Americans all across the country are downsizing their standards of living. The nation as we’ve known it is fading before our very eyes, but we’re still pouring billions of dollars into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with missions we are still unable to define.

Even as the U.S. begins plans to reduce troop commitments in Iraq, it is sending thousands of additional troops into Afghanistan. The strategic purpose of this escalation, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged, is not at all clear.

In response to a question on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Mr. Gates said:

“We’re talking to the Europeans, to our allies; we’re bringing in an awful lot of people to get different points of view as we go through this review of what our strategy ought to be. And I often get asked, ‘Well, how long will those 17,000 [additional troops] be there? Will more go in?’ All that depends on the outcome of this strategy review that I hope will be done in a few weeks.”

We invaded Afghanistan more than seven years ago. We have not broken the back of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. We have not captured or killed Osama bin Laden. We don’t even have an escalation strategy, much less an exit strategy. An honest assessment of the situation, taking into account the woefully corrupt and ineffective Afghan government led by the hapless Hamid Karzai, would lead inexorably to such terms as fiasco and quagmire.

Instead of cutting our losses, we appear to be doubling down.

As for Iraq, President Obama announced last week that substantial troop withdrawals will take place over the next year and a half and that U.S. combat operations would cease by the end of August 2010. But, he said, a large contingent of American troops, perhaps as many as 50,000, would still remain in Iraq for a “period of transition.”

That’s a large number of troops, and the cost of keeping them there will be huge. Moreover, I was struck by the following comment from the president: “There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments, but our enemies should be left with no doubt. This plan gives our military the forces and flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners and to succeed.”

In short, we’re committed to these two conflicts for a good while yet, and there is nothing like an etched-in-stone plan for concluding them. I can easily imagine a scenario in which Afghanistan and Iraq both heat up and the U.S., caught in an extended economic disaster at home, undermines its fragile recovery efforts in the same way that societies have undermined themselves since the dawn of time — with endless warfare.

We’ve already paid a fearful price for these wars. In addition to the many thousands of service members who have been killed or suffered obvious disabling injuries, a study by the RAND Corporation found that some 300,000 are currently suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and that 320,000 have most likely experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Time magazine has reported that “for the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Suicides among soldiers rose in 2008 for the fourth consecutive year, largely because of the stress of combat deployments. It’s believed that 128 soldiers took their own lives last year.

Much of the country can work itself up to a high pitch of outrage because a banker or an automobile executive flies on a private jet. But we’ll send young men and women by the thousands off to repeated excursions through the hell of combat — three tours, four tours or more — without raising so much as a peep of protest.

Lyndon Johnson, despite a booming economy, lost his Great Society to the Vietnam War. He knew what he was risking. He would later tell Doris Kearns Goodwin, “If I left the woman I really loved — the Great Society — in order to get involved with that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs… All my dreams…”

The United States is on its knees economically. As President Obama fights for his myriad domestic programs and his dream of an economic recovery, he might benefit from a look over his shoulder at the link between Vietnam and the still-smoldering ruins of Johnson’s presidency.

New CBS News VP Tied to Jack Abramoff Scheme

Posted in media, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 25, 2009

The Raw Story

abramoff200809041When it was announced last week that CBS News had hired Jeff Ballabon as a senior vice president for communications, with responsibility for “all media relations and public affairs,” there were scattered complaints about Ballabon’s extreme conservatism and apparent bias against Democrats.

One blogger at Huffington Post, Ira Forman,recalled that when he debated Ballabon a decade ago, “Ballabon claimed that, after his most recent job in Washington, he became convinced that Democrats are inherently bad people and Republicans are fundamentally good people.”

However, what has not been widely noted is that Ballabon formerly had a close relationship with lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff, first as a client and then seemingly as a friend.

Ballabon was an executive vice president with Channel One in 1998 when it came under fire from Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). Channel One had developed a comfortable niche providing free educational programming to public schools in exchange for running commercials during the programs, many of them for soda, candy, and other junk food. Responding to complaints from conservative constituents, Shelby expressed concern and called for Congressional hearings.

Channel One quickly hired the lobbying firm of Preston, Gates to head off this threat to its profits, ultimately paying them over a million dollars. Preston, Gates assigned the still-obscure lobbyist Jack Abramoff to the account. 

Emails released by the Senate Finance Committee show that Abramoff was hard at work by January 1999. Over the next several months, he would recruit all his most reliable allies to speak on Channel One’s behalf: Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Traditional Values Coalition, Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Toward Tradition. and two groups which had sponsored Abramoff’s overseas junkets — the National Security Council Foundation and the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR).

As described by Raw Story in a series of articles in 2006, all these groups were accustomed to provide articles or testimony favorable to Abramoff’s clients — such as the Marianas Islands or Stoli Vodka – without revealing their relationship to the lobbyist. John Byrne and Ron Brynaert wrote specifically of the support expressed for Channel One in May 1999 by NCPPR’s Amy Ridenour:

“Ridenour defended Channel One’s use of commercials after Ralph Nader’s Commercial Alert urged Congress to investigate the practice. Ridenour said Nader’s charge was spurious. ‘Commercial Alert turns benefits of Channel One on its head,’ she wrote in an editorial. ‘Instead of seeing the free 10-minute current events program and 250 hours of educational programming and tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and servicing as a benefit received by the schools in exchange for one to two minutes of commercials, Commercial Alert sees the schools as exploited and those who benefit from Channel One’s services as “forced” to watch ads.’”

Ballabon was fully aware of these subsidized efforts on Channel One’s behalf. On May 19, Abramoff emailed him, “When we are through the hearing, we have to discuss getting Amy a contribution as we discussed. She was going to do 5 pieces for $10K. We can chat on this next week.”

Ballabon responded, “yup–i have not forgotten (was it $10? — I wrote it down–whatever it was, she’ll get it.)”

However, the most interesting of the emails relating to Ballabon may be one which has been largely overlooked, perhaps because it is not part of the Senate Finance Committee file but was released separately, by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Ralph Reed, who had been friends with Abramoff since their College Republican days in the early 80′s, also participated in the Channel One lobbying effort. On February 3, 1999, just as the campaign was getting underway, he sent Abramoff an email with the subject heading,”Karl Rove.”

“Did you and Karl chat?” Reed asked. “I am planning to get Ballabon down to meet with the Governor in the next month or two and I’d like to do the same with you.”

It would be interesting to know whether Ballabon actually did meet in Texas with then-Governor George W. Bush, and if so what was said about Channel One’s lobbying campaign, but no emails appear to have been released which could shed light on this matter.

However, it does appear that Abramoff and Ballabon remained close, because in December 2001, Abramoff tried to get an invitation for Ballabon to a White House Chanukah party. In a December 5, 2001 email released by the Government Reform Committee, he asked the favor of his former aide, Susan Ralson, who by then was working for Rove in the White House.

“I understand that they are doing a ceremony for Chanukah on Monday night,” Abramoff wrote. “I was wondering if you could possibly arrange for xxxx, the kids and me in to that? The last time we were able to go to that was during Bush 41. Jeff Ballabon also wants to come (solo) if that is not too much to ask.”

Drunken Politics with Journalist Johann Hari

Posted in media, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 25, 2009

Johann Hari

Part 1 can be heard here.

A big, warm welcome to Johann Hari, our very first guest with a fatwa on his head!

Allison and Jamie return from their trip to the UK!  First up is the Unfunny But Totally Real Headlines: learn about the world, while sitting on your ass, and feel like you’re actually doing something. It’s only two minutes, so hang in there, and you can sound smart to your apathetic, hipster, douche bag friends.  

Jamie barely represses his rage at the state of the American comedy industry, and Allison and Jamie discuss Obama’s sketchy policy decisions. 

Join Drunken Politics for part one of their interview with journalist Johann Hari, their very first guest with a fatwa on his head. Visit JohannHari.com to read Johann’s amazing articles.

Johann Hari is an award-winning journalist who writes twice-weekly for the Independent, one of Britain’s leading newspapers, and the Huffington Post.

Every Wednesday on BTR

Every Wednesday on BTR

In 2008, he became the youngest person ever to be awarded the George Orwell Prize, which the Observer newspaper calls “Britain’s pre-eminent award for political writing”. In 2007 he was named Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International for his reporting on the war in Congo. The judges called his reports ‘outstanding’, ‘beautifully written’ and ‘brave’.   

‘Prince’ Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Ambassador to Britain, has accused Johann of “waging a private jihad against the House of Saud”. (He’s right). Johann has been called ‘Maoist’ by Nick Cohen, “Stalinist” by Noam Chomsky, ‘Horrible Hari’ by Niall Ferguson, “an uppity little queer” by Bruce Anderson, ‘a drug addict’ by George Galloway and “fat” by the Dalai Lama

Part two of the interview next Wednesday on BTR!

Listen to our interview with Johann Hari.

Times Editors Cut From Story Their Own Reporter’s Debunking Of GOP Mouse Tale

Posted in Barack Obama, Economy, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 24, 2009

The Plum Line

mickey-mouse-munching-mulch-in-muddy-marshOkay, this is pretty interesting. As I noted here yesterday, the infamous GOP talking point that the stimulus package contains gobs of cash for saving marsh mice found its way into a New York Times story, without the paper mentioning that the claim is untrue.

It turns out, however, that earlier drafts of the story did describe the claim as “misleading” — but Times editors removed that description from the copy, leaving the assertion to stand on its own. An email from the author of the story to a reader confirms this.

The line in the final story read:

Mr. Gingrich sees the stimulus bill as his party’s ticket to a revival in 2010, as Republicans decry what they see as pork-barrel spending for projects like marsh-mouse preservation. “You can imagine the fun people will have with that,” he said.

The story doesn’t note that there are no such funds in the bill.

A reader tells me that he emailed the author of the story, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, to discuss the omission. Here is part of her reply to him in her email, which I obtained:

I did write in the story I submitted that the assertion was misleading, but I’m sorry to report that language was removed by editors and that I didn’t notice the deletion. My initial text read like this:

“….as Republicans decry, often misleadingly, what they see as pork-barrel spending for projects like marsh mouse preservation.”

So the words “often misleadingly” were removed by editors.

Often such editing decisions are made in haste or to save space. But this was only two words, and it’s worth recalling that the notion that there was millions in the bill to save the marsh mouse in Nancy Pelosi’s district isn’t just some garden variety talking point. It has been a major component of GOP push-back for weeks, repeated by high profile GOP officials in all sorts of settings.

In the email, Stolberg (who declined to comment) also wrote: “Still, I think the wording as published was not inaccurate.”

I can kind of understand this argument — to a point. The final Times passage doesn’t quite say that the money is in the package. Nonetheless, this was clearly a reference to the GOP talking point that the money is, in fact, in the bill. And the paper removed its own reporter’s assertion that it was “misleading” before publishing.

“Slumdog Millionaire”: A Hollow Message of Social Justice

Posted in media, poverty by allisonkilkenny on February 24, 2009

Mitu Sengupta, Alternet

Dharavi

Dharavi

Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”, perhaps one of the most celebrated films in recent times, tells the rags-to-rajah story of a love-struck Indian boy, Jamal, who, with a little help from “destiny,” triumphs over his wretched beginnings in Mumbai’s squalid slums. Riding on a wave of rave reviews, “Slumdog” has now won Hollywood’s highest tribute, the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with seven more Oscars, including one for Best Director.

These honors will probably add some $100 million to “Slumdog’s” box-office takings, as Oscar wins usually do. They will also further enhance the film’s fast-growing reputation as an authentic representation of the lives of India’s urban poor. So far, most of the awards collected by the film have been accepted in the name of “the children,” suggesting that its own cast and crew regard it (and have relentlessly promoted it) not as a cinematically spectacular, musically rich and entertaining work of fiction, which it is, but as a powerful tool of advocacy. Nothing could be more worrying, as “Slumdog”, despite all the hype to the contrary, delivers a deeply disempowering narrative about the poor that thoroughly undermines, if not totally negates, its seeming message of social justice.

“Slumdog” has angered many Indians because it tarnishes their perception of their country as a rising economic power and a beacon of democracy. India’s English-language papers, read mainly by its middle classes, have carried many bristling reviews of the film that convey an acute sense of wounded national pride. While understandable, the sentiment is not defensible. Though at times embarrassingly contrived, most of the film’s heartrending scenarios are inspired by a sad, but well-documented reality.

Corruption is certainly rampant among the police, and many will gladly use torture, though none is probably dim enough to target an articulate, English-speaking man who is already a rising media phenomenon. Beggar-makers do round-up abandoned children and mutilate them in order to make them more sympathetic, though it is highly improbable that any such child will ever chance upon a $100 bill, much less be capable of identifying it by touch and scent alone.

Indeed, if anything, Boyle’s magical tale, with its unconvincing one-dimensional characters and absurd plot devices, greatly understates the depth of suffering among India’s poor. It is near-impossible, for example, that Jamal would emerge from his ravaged life with a dewy complexion and an upper-class accent. But the real problem with “Slumdog” is neither its characterization of India as just another Third World country, nor, within this, its shallow and largely impressionistic portrayal of poverty.

The film’s real problem is that it grossly minimizes the capabilities and even the basic humanity of those it so piously claims to speak for. It is no secret that much of “Slumdog” is meant to reflect life in Dharavi, the 213-hectare spread of slums at the heart of Mumbai. The film’s depiction of the legendary Dharavi, which is home to some one million people, is that of a feral wasteland, with little evidence of order, community or compassion. Other than the children, the “slumdogs,” no-one is even remotely well-intentioned. Hustlers, thieves, and petty warlords run amok, and even Jamal’s schoolteacher, a thin, bespectacled man who introduces him to the Three Musketeers, is inexplicably callous. This is a place of evil and decay; of a raw, chaotic tribalism.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Dharavi teems with dynamism and creativity, and is a hub of entrepreneurial activity, in industries such as garment manufacturing, embroidery, pottery, and leather, plastics and food processing. It is estimated that the annual turnover from Dharavi’s small businesses is between US$50 to $100 million. Dharavi’s lanes are lined with cell-phone retailers and cybercafés, and according to surveys by Microsoft Research India, the slum’s residents exhibit a remarkably high absorption of new technologies.

Governing structures and productive social relations also flourish. The slum’s residents have nurtured strong collaborative networks, often across potentially volatile lines of caste and religion. Many cooperative societies work together with grassroots associations to provide residents with essential services such as basic healthcare, schooling and waste disposal, and tackle difficult issues such as child abuse and violence against women. In fact, they often compensate for the formal government’s woeful inadequacy in meeting the needs of the poor.

Although it is true that these severely under-resourced self-help organizations have touched only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, it is important to acknowledge their efforts and agency, along with the simple fact that these communities, despite their grinding poverty, have valuable lives, warmth, generosity, and a resourcefulness that stretches far beyond the haphazard and purely individualistic, Darwinian sort portrayed in the film.

Indeed, the failure to recognize this fact has already led to a great deal of damage. Government bureaucrats have concocted many ham-handed, top-down plans for “developing” the slums based on the dangerous assumption that these are worthless spaces. The most recent is the “Dharavi Redevelopment Project” (DRP), which proposes to convert the slums into blocks of residential and commercial high rises. The DRP requires private developers to provide small flats (of about 250 sq. ft. each) to families that can prove they settled in Dharavi before the year 2000. In return for re-housing residents, the developers obtain construction rights in Dharavi.

The DRP is being fiercely resisted by slum residents’ organizations and human rights activists, who see it an undemocratically conceived and environmentally harmful land-grab scheme (real-estate prices in Mumbai are comparable to Manhattan’s).

Though perhaps better than razing the slums with bulldozers — which is not, incidentally, an unpopular option among the city’s rich – the DRP is far from a people-friendly plan. It will potentially evict some 500,000 residents who cannot legally prove that they settled in Dharavi prior to 2000, and may destroy thousands of livelihoods by rendering unviable countless household-centered businesses. If forced to move into congested high-rises, for example, the slum’s potters and papad-makers, large numbers of who are women, will lose the space they need to dry their wares. For the government, however, that the DRP will “rehabilitate” Dharavi by erasing the eyesore and integrating its “problem-population” into modern, middle-class Mumbai.

It is ironic that “Slumdog”, for all its righteousness of tone, shares with many Indian political and social elites a profoundly dehumanizing view of those who live and work within the country’s slums. The troubling policy implications of this perspective are unmistakeably mirrored by the film. Since there are no internal resources, and none capable of constructive voice or action, all “solutions” must arrive externally.

After a harrowing life in an anarchic wilderness, salvation finally comes to Jamal, a Christ-like figure, in the form of an imported quiz-show, which he succeeds in thanks to sheer, dumb luck, or rather, because “it is written.” Is it also “written,” then, that the other children depicted in the film must continue to suffer? Or must they, like the stone-faced Jamal, stoically await their own “destiny” of rescue by a foreign hand?

Indeed, while this self-billed “feel good movie of the year” may help us “feel good” that we are among the lucky ones on earth, it delivers a patronizing, colonial and ultimately sham statement on social justice for those who are not.

A version of this article appeared in the Toronto Star.

Mitu Sengupta is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

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