Arranology

Archive for September 2007

Comes the Excuse: Surveillance Cameras in Boston

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The City of Boston installed surveillance cameras in some high-crime areas like Chinatown three years ago, and now they’re citing two murder cases in which those cameras played a key role to justify the installation of even more cameras.

The department has 25 cameras, each costing about $20,000, that can pan, tilt, and zoom, and can be attached to a wall or roof in less than an hour. Regulations require approval from property owners before police can mount the cameras. The department purchased the devices in 2004, and they were first used at the Democratic National Convention.

But in point of fact, it isn’t efficacy that’s driving the camera surveillance boom in police work. It’s conservatives and their demands for low-taxes.

Chris Ott, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned the emphasis on fancy gizmos to replace old-fashioned police work.

“For whatever reason, there is a tendency to look at technical solutions to nontechnical problems,” Ott said. “We’d encourage people to ask questions about whether there are simpler methods, perhaps better lighting or more community policing.”

Dunford said that while community policing is a priority, the funds do not exist to put more police on the streets.

“The cameras are a force multiplier,” he said. “We try to put out as many walking beats as we can, and then enhance those units with the cameras.”

(emphasis added)

Simple as that. There’s no money, thanks to Prop 2 1/2 and the Big Dig, to add patrols even though everyone knows patrols are more effective than cameras.

Michael Wong, coordinator of Chinatown’s crime watch program, said how effective the cameras are remains a mystery to many area residents.

“After the police put them up, we haven’t heard anything from them. I don’t know if they have anybody to watch them,” he said. “The crime here has gone down a lot, but I don’t think it is because of the cameras. We’re walking the streets. If criminals see our crime watch, they go away.”

That’s bad enough, but buried inside the story is the news that Homeland Security also has a camera system installed in Boston, independent of the police system.

The department can also tap into other camera surveillance systems, including those provided by the Department of Homeland Security to monitor areas of the city that may be susceptible to terrorist attacks such as the harbor, parks, and evacuation routes.

(emphasis added)

This is an all-but-open admission by HS that it is allowing local police to access its surveillance equipment, equipment we were promised would be used only against “terrorists”. But like the rest of the Bush Administration’s promises, that one was a crock, too.

All of this in the name of saving money. Apparently we’re not only willing to trade our civil liberties for the illusion of “safety” and protection from imaginary hoards of Islamofascists, we’re prepared to sacrifice them for something as menial as lower taxes.

Maybe we deserve what we’re going to get.

Written by Mick

September 25, 2007 at 12:20 pm

As Long As You’re Happy….

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Mike Luckovich

Written by Mick

September 23, 2007 at 12:42 am

Posted in Humor/Satire, Iraq, Military

Tagged with

US General Uses Maoist Playbook, Creates Re-Education Camps in Iraq (Updated)

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matttbastard at Comments from Left Field (where I’ve been posting this week, thus my absence from here) points to what he calls “the ‘WTF?!’ story of the day” – a piece by the WaPo’s Walter Pincus, one of the few real reporters the paper’s got left, on the way the commander of our detention camps has borrowed a leaf from the Chinese Communists’ Handbook of Re-education.

The U.S. military has introduced “religious enlightenment” and other education programs for Iraqi detainees, some of whom are as young as 11, Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, the commander of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, said yesterday.

Stone said such efforts, aimed mainly at Iraqis who have been held for more than a year, are intended to “bend them back to our will” and are part of waging war in what he called “the battlefield of the mind.” Most of the younger detainees are held in a facility that the military calls the “House of Wisdom.”

The religious courses are led by Muslim clerics who “teach out of a moderate doctrine,” Stone said, according to the transcript of a conference call he held from Baghdad with a group of defense bloggers. Such schooling “tears apart” the arguments of al-Qaeda, such as “Let’s kill innocents,” and helps to “bring some of the edge off” the detainees, he said.

First, somebody needs to explain to me why we’ve got 11-yr-olds in jail. Second, Gen Stone’s optimism may be, it seems to me, slightly misplaced. I mean, wouldn’t it seem fairly obvious to the meanest observer that the occupation of their country, the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the fact that they’re in jail basically for being Iraqi might explain their “extremism”?

I guess not.

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Written by Mick

September 19, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Caruso Lives?

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I don’t usually do this, but my friend Jack turned me on to this guy, and I swear to gawd I thought I was listening to Enrico Caruso for a minute. The same vocal quality, the same emotional control. Or am I imagining it? You tell me.

His name is Jonathan Wright and he’s a local boy.

Written by Mick

September 18, 2007 at 12:11 am

Posted in Music

Call-and-Response

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At Michael Tedesco’s invitation, I’ve been blogging at Comments From Left Field the last week or so, off and on, and will be temporarily abandoning Witness to take his place for a week or so in October while he goes windsurfing on Lake Titicaca.

The last couple of days I’ve been embroiled in a discussion of Democratic culpability for the mess we’re in with Kyle Moore, and I think between us, and with the help of commenters like matttbastard, we’ve put some perspective on the problem and begun to evolve the core of the debate that needs to happen. You can read Kyle’s post here and my response here.

I hope you’ll join us. In the meantime, a jab in the ribs from Ted Rall to keep the blood flowing.

rall1.gif

Written by Mick

September 16, 2007 at 1:11 am

The Comedy Team of Crocker&Petraeus Gets Good Reviews

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Everybody wants to give the team of Crocker & Petraeus credit for not lying more than they did. The Washington Post‘s Fred Hiatt was all over the Crocker half of the sketch, gushing that he “deserves credit for frankly and soberly delivering a message this week that neither his audience in Congress nor his superiors in the Bush administration wanted to hear”, blithely managing to sidestep the implication that the telling of uncomfortable truths by Administration lap-dogs is, you know, rare and kind of risky.

He was particularly encouraged by M Crocker’s comment where he claimed to be seeing “seeds of reconciliation” in Iraq’s political leaders even though he didn’t name them and conceded they weren’t “readily apparent from Washington”. Which is understandable given that Iraq’s political leaders have been throwing spitballs and each other for months and that most of them are not currently on speaking terms.

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Written by Mick

September 13, 2007 at 10:27 am

Posted in Iraq, Media

Dems v Dems: Woolsey’s Little Revolt

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In my recent posts about the Democrats I’ve said more than once that the hold of the minority conservative leaders currently controlling the party could be broken if the majority of liberal/progressive Dems currently under their thumb staged a revolt. Well, according to The Hill, one has – in a mild, non-revoltish sort of way.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is encouraging anti-war activists to find challengers to centrist Democrats, with the aim of moving the party to the left and ramping up opposition to the war in Iraq, to the chagrin of top Democratic aides.

“You folks should go after the Democrats,” Woolsey said in response to a suggestion from an activist during a conference call last month organized by the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

“I’d hate to lose the majority, but I’m telling you, if we don’t stand up to our responsibility, maybe that’s the lesson to be learned.”

OK, so she’s one legislator. We don’t have a headdress yet but we’ve got our first feather and the first crack in the wall.

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Written by Mick

September 12, 2007 at 3:18 pm

Finally: 9/11 in Real Perspective

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There are a lot of 9/11 retrospectives and remembrances kicking around, as there always are, but few of them are as brutally honest and as trenchantly powerful as Kyle Moore’s at Comments from Left Field.

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Written by Mick

September 11, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Posted in 9/11

Bremer and De-Ba’athification

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In examining the little contretemps between a Bush trying to slide out from under direct responsibility for the single worst decision in the whole Iraq mess and a Bremer determined not to play fall-guy for a president who didn’t think twice about throwing him under the bus to save his own precious neck, Fred Kaplan at Slate isn’t as forgetful about Chalabi’s early role as Blumenthal, but he does miss Chalabi’s later role and, for some reason, comes over all coy about assigning the decision to Cheney even though the evidence is right under his nose.

Bremer is right about one thing: It wasn’t him. Though he wouldn’t be so self-demeaning as to admit it, he was a mere errand boy on this point. He arrived in Baghdad on May 14, 2003. The next day, he released CPA Order No. 1, barring members of the Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army.

In his memoir, published last year, Bremer wrote that he was handed the orders—and told to announce them as soon as possible—by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. “We’ve got to show all the Iraqis that we’re serious about building a new Iraq,” Feith reportedly told him. “And that means that Saddam’s instruments of repression have no role in that new nation.”

Bremer’s version rings true, and if it is then the orders came from Cheney. Period. Feith was L’il Dick’s boy and wouldn’t have dared make a move like that without the Veep told him to. Maybe Kaplan has some doubts about Bremer’s tale, but he doesn’t say what they are.

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Written by Mick

September 11, 2007 at 12:38 am

Boston Jazz Legend Dies of Cancer

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pomeroy Somehow I missed this, but three weeks ago legendary local jazz trumpeter Herb Pomeroy passed away, a victim of cancer at 77.

I never met Herb but my trumpet teacher had been one of his students, and I went to hear him play whenever I could get to Boston. He was an astounding talent with a combination of technical agility and improvisational originality that was as rare as it was exciting to listen to. I wasn’t particularly surprised to learn that the memorial service held for him yesterday featured the same property of synthesizing opposites that made Herb so special.

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Written by Mick

September 10, 2007 at 11:45 am

Bush and WMDs

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Memories in America, trained by tv, are remarkably short even when they belong to otherwise intelligent reporters. Two recent articles – one by Sidney Blumenthal in Salon, the other by Fred Kaplan in Slate, both usually reliable – made it clear to me that we need to go back over some fundamental history of the Second Gulf War, key elements of which both seem to have forgotten or lost track of. We’ve covered this ground already but it was several years ago, so it bears repeating.

If you ask, “Why is it important to go through all this again? And why are these picayune details significant anyway?” The answer is, “Because we need to get it into our heads once and for all that conservatives are naive, gullible children, easily led over cliffs by anyone who feeds them what they want to hear.” The real story of the twisted intelligence that led to the SGW and idiotic decisions like de-Ba’athification isn’t just about arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance. It’s also – and crucially – about misplaced trust and a dangerously juvenile credulity that allows conservatives to believe demonstrably false ideas and foist them on the rest of us just because those ideas are appealingly melodramatic.

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A Word About Larry Craig – But Not From Me

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What Digby would call “the Kabuki” at the heart of the Larry Craig Show doesn’t interest me much. These days, what’s one more Republican hypocrite more or less? There are so many. Practically all of them if you count the ones what ain’t been outed yet.

Anyway, what difference if Larry stay or if he go?

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Written by Mick

September 7, 2007 at 4:08 am

Glorious Pavarotti Voice Stilled

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Luciano Pavarotti, the iconic tenor of our age as Caruso was of his, died today at age 71 after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.

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Written by Mick

September 6, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Music, Obits, Theater

Democrats Support Secret Trade Deal that Lets Corps Evade Taxes

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The Bush’s truly rotten trade deal with Panama and the Democratic leadership that is hip-deep in the drive to make sure it passes.

David Sirota has another round-up of the latest on the secret trade deal the Democratic leadership is developing with Bush out of the range of cameras or witnesses – or its own rank and file. The deal as a whole involves Peru, Panama, South Korea and Columbia(sp) Colombia, with different provisions that apply to each country separately as well as a group of provisions they hold in common. Sirota lists half-a-dozen articles and they’re all disturbing but I want to key on the one that is most indefensible: the deal with Panama.

Economist and investment/globalization specialist Peter Riggs of the Tax Justice Network, which describes itself as an outfit devoted to “combating tax evasion by corporations and the rich”, took a good long look at the Panama trade deal. After noting that the Panama and Peru deals have been considered “relatively non-controversial and will probably pass”, he explains that the deal with Panama has nothing to do with trade.

Indeed, the proposed bilateral trade agreement with Panama has skated through without much attention at all. But the agreement with Panama is highly significant. The problem is, the trade agreement with Panama isn’t really about trade. It’s about foreign investor rights, money laundering, and tax dodging. And the United States should in no way reward this notorious offshore tax haven with a “gold star” Free Trade Agreement.

***

Panama has two major areas of “economic comparative advantage” in the region. One, obviously, is the Canal. But the other is much more insidious-and major U.S. corporations are hoping that no one draws any attention to it.

Panama’s other economic comparative advantages are in the area of tax and banking secrecy, and the ease with which U.S. companies can create subsidiaries in Panama for purposes of dodging taxes.

Panama is already home to a lot of U.S. corporate subsidiaries. How many? Tens of thousands of U.S. corporations have hung out a shingle-or should we say, set up an email box-in that country.

Panama boasts a total of 400,000 registered corporations-second only to Hong Kong as a home to corporations and corporate subsidiaries. Subsidiaries whose sole purpose, in many cases, is to help transnational companies avoid taxes.

(emphasis added)

In the last few years, Panama has been consistently condemned by the G-7’s Financial Action Task Force for “resisting international norms in combating tax evasion and money laundering.” The Clinton Administration several times “vigorously expressed its concern about loose corporate accountability standards in Panama, and the murkiness of the Panamanian banking sector.” But the Bush Administration’s deal with Panama – a deal the Democratic leadership is pushing hard – is not only enshrining those low standards and “murkiness” in law, it’s going one step further and allowing corporations to evade both trade laws and courts.

[W]ith the text of the Free Trade Agreement as it now stands, Panamanian investors would get new rights in the United States, with no new disclosure responsibilities at home. We have a situation where it is very, very easy to set up a business subsidiary in Panama. Panama’s “corporate” specialists advertise the country has having the most favorable and flexible incorporation laws in the world, in addition to some of the strictest banking secrecy laws available.

So the FTA will just encourage more U.S. businesses to pursue a strategy for tax purposes, designed solely to evade taxes in the United States. But then the text of the Panama agreement allows corporations and investors with a “substantial business presence” in Panama-that is, registered subsidiaries of multinational corporations-to use provisions found in Chapter 10 of the agreement to bring a claim against U.S. laws using an international investor tribunal. Panamanian-registered corporations would be able to bypass the U.S. courts system altogether in the case of an investment dispute involving the United States.

That’s right, Panamanian corporations – as well as Panamanian subsidiaries of U.S. corporations - would be able to bypass the U.S. legal system, and take their claims to an international investor tribunal. Historically, these tribunals have proven much more sympathetic to corporate interests than they have to public-interest regulation.

The case is heard before an ad-hoc panel of three international investment lawyers, working without a system of formal legal precedent. Panamanian investors would be empowered to challenge U.S. federal, state, or local laws, citing an “expropriation” of expected profits or a failure to provide Panamanian investors with a “minimum standard of treatment.”

(emphasis added)

Sirota explains what this means.

So, if U.S. federal, state, or local laws tried to close tax loopholes or prevent corporations from evading taxes through tax havens like Panama, those corporations could cite their subsidiaries in Panama and the Panama Free Trade Agreement as grounds to have an international tribunal strike those laws down. Such cases have already been brought under NAFTA by corporations seeking to strike down American environmental laws. But thanks to Panama’s tax haven status, the Panama deal would take such abuse to a whole new level.

Charlie Rangel has a long and distinguished history in the House, but his overt advocacy for and determination to pass the FTA is putting a blot on his reputation he’ll be hard-put to erase. He has publicly announced that he intends to see the FTA passed whether the rank-and-file like it or not, and that he will ram it through over their objections and the objections of its progressive opponents no matter what.

I never thought, a few years ago, that I would ever see Charlie Rangel pimping for corporate crooks but what else can you call this?

There is absolutely no way to explain away the Democratic leadership’s actions over this bill as anything other than a deliberate collusion with the Bush White House to clear the way for more corporate theft of the public Treasury by legalizing tax evasion for multinationals. There is no possible excuse that can be made for their rabid support of the Panama “trade” deal when its sole purpose is to enable corporate thievery. It can’t by any measure you like be rationally justified as an “accident”, incompetence, or electoral fear.

Would any of our Democratic apologists like to try explaining why we shouldn’t dump the Dems over this?

Democrats Support Secret Trade Deal that Lets Corps Evade Taxes

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David Sirota has another round-up of the latest on the secret trade deal the Democratic leadership is developing with Bush out of the range of cameras or witnesses – or its own rank and file. The deal as a whole involves Peru, Panama, South Korea and Columbia, with different provisions that apply to each country separately as well as a group of provisions they hold in common. Sirota lists half-a-dozen articles and they’re all disturbing but I want to key on the one that is most indefensible: the deal with Panama.

Economist and investment/globalization specialist Peter Riggs of the Tax Justice Network, which describes itself as an outfit devoted to “combating tax evasion by corporations and the rich”, took a good long look at the Panama trade deal. After noting that the Panama and Peru deals have been considered “relatively non-controversial and will probably pass”, he explains that the deal with Panama has nothing to do with trade.

Indeed, the proposed bilateral trade agreement with Panama has skated through without much attention at all. But the agreement with Panama is highly significant. The problem is, the trade agreement with Panama isn’t really about trade. It’s about foreign investor rights, money laundering, and tax dodging. And the United States should in no way reward this notorious offshore tax haven with a “gold star” Free Trade Agreement.

***

Panama has two major areas of “economic comparative advantage” in the region. One, obviously, is the Canal. But the other is much more insidious-and major U.S. corporations are hoping that no one draws any attention to it.

Panama’s other economic comparative advantages are in the area of tax and banking secrecy, and the ease with which U.S. companies can create subsidiaries in Panama for purposes of dodging taxes.

Panama is already home to a lot of U.S. corporate subsidiaries. How many? Tens of thousands of U.S. corporations have hung out a shingle-or should we say, set up an email box-in that country.

Panama boasts a total of 400,000 registered corporations-second only to Hong Kong as a home to corporations and corporate subsidiaries. Subsidiaries whose sole purpose, in many cases, is to help transnational companies avoid taxes.

(emphasis added)

In the last few years, Panama has been consistently condemned by the G-7’s Financial Action Task Force for “resisting international norms in combating tax evasion and money laundering.” The Clinton Administration several times “vigorously expressed its concern about loose corporate accountability standards in Panama, and the murkiness of the Panamanian banking sector.” But the Bush Administration’s deal with Panama – a deal the Democratic leadership is pushing hard – is not only enshrining those low standards and “murkiness” in law, it’s going one step further and allowing corporations to evade both trade laws and courts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mick

September 5, 2007 at 12:53 pm

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