Category Archives: Government

Jury Selection: Ahmaud Arbery Case

Ahmaud Arbery Blog #5, Monday 18 October 2021

Approximately 1,000 people were called for jury duty in the Ahmaud Arbery case in Brunswick, Georgia.  Roughly 600 of them showed up on Monday when jury selection began.

During the first part of the day, the judge considered objections to juror questions.  The judge increased the number of peremptory strikes of both the defense and the prosecution.  In cases where there are multiple defendants, it is common for the judge to increase the number of peremptory strikes.  One lawyer on Court TV, however, commented that he thought it was unusual for the judge to give the prosecution additional strikes.

Defense attorneys tried to exclude the press from juror questioning entirely, but the judge allowed two reporters in the courtroom to take “notes” on jury pool members’ answers to questions. This means that the only access the community has to the answers of potential jurors is filtered through a third party. Because only people involved in the case are allowed in the courtroom, members of the community have no independent source for this information. The reporters are not making a transcript, only making “notes.”

According to these “notes,” one juror who was retired military was dismissed from the jury pool.  This man said that he had a negative view of Gregory McMichael, but not evidently of Travis McMichael.  When asked why, he said that Greory McMichael seemed to him to be the “lead dog.”  This potential juror also said that he got the impression that Gregory McMichael was “stalking” Arbery. 

Another potential juror said that he had seen the video of the killing a number of times and that he was “sick of the video.”  He also said that he had talked about the video with his brothers, one of whom was also called for jury duty.  This same juror claimed not to care what happened in the case, but admitted that he had “said they were guilty.”

Ahmaud Arbery: Jury Selection

Blog #5

Jury selection in the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery is starting this morning. Speculation is that the process may take as much as three weeks.  Over 1,000 people have been called for jury duty which is a much larger pool than is usual in most cases, even in high profile cases like this one.  Attorneys have said that they have never heard of a case where this many potential jurors have been called.  There is speculation that many of the people called will not show up – for legitimate reasons and because they don’t want to take part.

The potential jurors have been asked to fill out a questionnaire.  It is not a long questionnaire especially not in comparison with other trials of this prominence.  Some of the questions are:  Have you seen the video of the shooting in Satilla Shores? How many times have you seen the video.  Have you been to the neighborhood?   Potential jurors will then be asked questions in the courtroom.  Commentators are creating the impression that

Social media posting will be searched for the potential jurors.  Strict rules about how they can access that information.  They cannot sneak onto their social media, but it is generally accepted now that the lawyers are responsible for searching any information that is public.  There will be people who have posted about this case, about the issues related to this case.  A lawyer is saying that she was not going to convict another black man.  She said that she was going to court and would not convict. 

No matter how many times people are told, and how many times they see other defendants’ videos of jailhouse conversations (Casey Anthony), they assume privacy when they post on the internet and talk on the telephone.  It is also difficult for people even if they know they are being taped, to remember this once they get into a conversation. 

One of the issues that was raised in this case was the use of the jailhouse phone conversations of the defendants.  As I previously posted, there are notifications literally beside the phones in jails and prisons informing people that their conversations will be recorded, but people still make those phone calls and conduct those conversations like it was 1950.  The judge in this case, for that reason, turned down a defense motion to exclude all the jailhouse conversations of the defendants. They argued 14th amendment, they even argued for Gregory McMichaels, spousal confidentiality.  But, the judge ruled, once you are informed that you are being recorded and you pick up that phone you make a decision to give up all those rights. 

The host of Court TV today is again repeating the William “Roddie” Bryan.  I have no idea why this middle name is repeated by almost every commentator on television and every print journalist. 

Court TV is doing live coverage of the trial. There are also several interesting interviews with attorneys in the case posted on the site.

Notes: 600 of the called 1,000 potential jurors showed up on Monday 18 October 2021. The court interviewed 8 of them in individual voir dire. One juror was dismissed after stating that he had negative views of Gregory McMichael but evidently not Travis McMichael. The potential juror said that Gregory McMichael appeared to be the “lead dog.”

FOR ALMOST THREE MONTHS THERE WERE NO ARRESTS AFTER THE KILLING OF AHMAUD ARBERY IN GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA

Cars line up along Highway 17 in Glynn County, Georgia to protest the County handling of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

AHMAUD ARBERY

#2 PROSECUTORS

The date for the trial of the three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery and shot him in the street is October 18, 2021 in the Glynn County Courthouse, Brunswick, Georgia.

For almost three months after Arbery, 25, was shot and killed, there were no arrests, no charges brought and almost no local press coverage.  But one of the men who joined the chase of Arbery as Arbery jogged through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood filmed the chase and the shooting.  When the video went viral, media attention was attracted to the case.  At that point, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) took the investigation out of the hands of local officials.  Charges were brought in days.

The local prosecutor in Brunswick, Georgia, Jackie Johnson, where the shooting occurred recused herself almost immediately.  Gregory McMichaels, 64, had been a police investigator in her office.  After making a decision to recuse herself, Johnson contacted another local prosecutor, George E. Barnhill, Sr., and asked him to advise the county police department about the case. 

Barnhill then advised the Glynn County Police Department that the three men who armed themselves and pursued Ahmaud Arbery in a suburban neighborhood and then shot him in the street, appeared to have been acting in self-defense. 

At much the same time as she was contacting Barnhill Sr. and asking him to consult with the Glynn County Police Department, Johnson, contacted the state Attorney General and requested a new prosecutor.  The state Attorney General assigned the case to Barnhill Sr., the same Barnhill who had been asked by Johnson to give advice to the Glynn County Police Department.   It is unclear whether Johnson recommended Barnhill to the state Attorney General.  It seems likely that she did.  It was later revealed that Johnson did not tell the state Attorney General that she had requested Barnhill, Sr. to give advice on prosecution to the Glynn County Police Department.

After Barnhill, Sr. was given the case, the family of Ahmaud Arbery found out that Barnhill Sr.’s son worked in Johnson’s office.  They then objected to the elder Barnhill’s appointment.  As far as can be determined, the family was not aware at the time that Johnson had asked and Barnhill,Sr. had already advised the Glynn County Police Department on prosecuting the case.  They were, however, aware that Barnhill Sr.’s son, George F. Barnhill, not only worked as an attorney in the Brunswick DA’s office, but that the younger Barnhill had worked with Gregory McMichaels, on a case against Ahmaud Arbery years before.

After being notified by the family of their objections, Georgia Attorney General, Chris Carr took the Sr. Barnhill off the case and assigned the case to Tom Durden from the Atlantic Judicial Circuit in Hinesville.  Durden announced plans in early May of (2020?) to ask a grand jury to consider criminal charges.

Carr later made a statement that the elder Barnhill never mentioned potential conflicts when he was initially asked to take over the case, nor did Barnhill Sr. mention that he had already offered the Glynn County police department an “initial opinion.”  This opinion was that the three men had most likely acted in self defense, i.e., that they should not be prosecuted.

The case was later transferred to the DA in Cobb County, Georgia.  It is unclear why Durden was taken off the case.  

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in June of 2021 that a grand jury had been convened to investigate the actions of DA Jackie Johnson in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

amanpour interview with michael lewis about his new book

Christina Amanpour interviews author Michael Lewis May 6, 2021 about his new book “The Premonition.” 

In his book, Michael Lewis followed three characters involved in the public health system and tells their stories.  The stories carry lessons for pandemic response in the past and the future.

As Amanpour notes, Lewis had already written about the hollowing out of creative professionals in the ranks of government.  This hollowing out left a bureaucracy afraid of creativity and afraid of risk.  When COVID hit, the CDC which should have been the leader, was afraid to act. 

As Ezra Klein noted in his article about  Lewis’ book in the New York Times (May 2021), the CDC was “too passive, too unwilling to act on uncertain information, too afraid of making  mistakes, too interested in its public image.”

According to Lewis, the hollowing out of the CDC, the loss of their reputation, happened long before Trump.  I was interested to hear this since during the COVID crisis I kept wondering how Trump could eviscerate the CDC so rapidly.  Turns out he didn’t. 

According to Lewis, by 2012 the CDC had become an academic institution reluctant to take on any action aside from studying problems.  It had, according to Lewis, become a “disease observation and reporting” institution, not a disease control center.

Lewis tells the stories of several people involved in the public health system and their experiences dealing with the CDC. One, Charity Dean, was a public health official on the ground, locally.  When she tried to get assistance from the CDC for public health problems, she found none.  In fact, she found active hostility.  When she called on the CDC to help her they actually obstructed her investigations. 

Lewis commented that if the three people whose stories he told were asked whether the CDC would act as the battlefield commander in the event of a pandemic, they would have answer no.  The Centers for Disease Control had ceased to function to control disease.

It was obvious to some people, people who were actively trying to develop strategies for a future pandemic, that a battlefield commander was going to be needed.  But, the CDC wasn’t listening.

As Lewis tells tells the story, after 9/11 and Katrina, George Bush was primed to be concerned about any unexpected threat.  Sometime in 2005, he was handed the book “The Great Influenza.”  He supposedly read it and asked about the plan for dealing with a future pandemic.  The answer was that there wasn’t any.

Surprisingly, the Bush administration acted quickly and within weeks had Congress appropriate money to study the issue and devise a strategy.  Lewis notes how this back story illustrates just what can be done quickly when the President focuses on an issue and decides to get something done.

And, also surprisingly, the individuals brought in from various federal agencies were nominated because of their reputation for creative thinking.  That in-and-of itself is extraordinary.  In a country that spends untold amounts of money creating commissions and investigations filled with dignitaries and political donors, this body was staffed by people who were creative.  Go figure.

These folks Bush appointed to the commission, created a testing, tracking and social distancing strategy and convinced the rest of the world that it could be effective.  This strategy was designed to decrease mortality during the period between the onset of a pandemic and the development of vaccines.

The kicker was that after convincing a skeptical world that this public health strategy could work, the country that developed it failed to adequately put it into effect when a read pandemic occurred.

Lewis noted that this was because the strategy was widely considered to be a theoretical idea not an implementable public health measure.   Similarly, a pandemic was considered to be a theoretical threat, not a real possibility.

But, people on the ground, people like Charity Dean, one of the people in Lewis’ book, were looking at factors like the increasing worldwide transmission of viruses from animals to humans.  What they were looking at wasn’t a theoretical possibility.  When they looked at the evidence, the outbreak of a dangerous pandemic was a matter of when not if.

But, as Charity Dean told Lewis, people like her felt like Moses, building the ark.  Everyone around them accused them of lunacy.  So, there were people who knew a dangerous pandemic was coming.  When Trump went on national TV and claimed that the COVID virus outbreak was a total shock to the world, he was (as usual) lying.

By 2011 people like Charity Dean, people on the local level of public health, knew not only that a pandemic was coming, but that the country was unprepared.  The population, however, (as usual) was being told that we were the most prepared country in the world. 

Studies ranking preparedness, listed the U.K. an the U.S. as the most prepared countries in the world.  They were wrong.  They made people feel good.  They made people complacent, but they were wrong. 

As Lewis noted, the U.S. with 4% of population would up with 20% of the deaths.  Somehow, sometime, Americans are going to have to stop creating and repeating and believing their own propaganda. 

Crisis response is not about having the most resources or the most labs or the most prestigious boards at the CDC.  Lewis detailed some of the problems that are part of the structure of the society, features that make crisis response (whether it’s to a war or a pandemic) almost impossible.

Lewis and doctors at the WHO, talked about the endemic fear of failure.  As one of the doctors at the WHO put it, in March of 2020, fear of failure, fear of making a mistake has become paralyzing. “If you need to be right before you move, you will never win.”

Lewis noted that the culture has been primed to punish viciously crimes of commission, but to forget crimes of omission.  It doesn’t take much to predict which crimes will be the most prevalent. 

Many of the researchers who understood and warned about the coming pandemic believe that this is not the serious pandemic they are concerned about.  They believe that this is only a dry run.  The real pandemic has yet to happen.  We all need to put that in our pipes and smoke.   

TOMORROW: How the For-Profit Health Care System Crippled the pandemic Response.

india is the republican’s idea of the future

In the past two days I have listened to three interviews with Indian journalist Barkha Dutt about the stunning second wave of COVID deaths in India.  Dutt lost her own father to COVID within the past week.  She comes from what she describes as a privileged family in India, but even so, she was not able to get the medical attention that could have kept her father alive.  The desperation in her reporting and in her voice are inescapable.

After it became apparent that a second wave of COVID was out of control in India, a number of journalists posted photographs of vastly overburdened crematoriums operating all over the country.  There was also video footage of hospitals that are so over run patients are laying on the ground, or on flattened paper boxes with IV feeds hanging from the limbs of trees.  Family members are desperately running from hospital to hospital seeking medical attention for loved ones, and individually searching for oxygen and taking it to those lucky enough to be in hospitals.

According to Dutta, India was incredibly complacent after the first wave of COVID.  Most people thought the worst was behind them.  The Indian government failed to buy adequate supplies of vaccines to cope with a possible second wave, rejected the idea of buying vaccines that weren’t completely made in India and even gave vaccine away after the first wave.  Politicians continued to have enormous rallies without any social distancing or masking and the government allowed masses to gather for religious services.

Now, a second wave has hit India and even the official statistics of deaths are stunning. And, as Dutt reports, the official statistics, alarming as they are, are grossly underreporting the number of deaths.  Dutt has talked to crematorium workers who report burning over 120 bodies a day.  This is one crematorium in one location.  Government statistics for that region, report something like 47 deaths for the entire city. 

Dutt has said that she can’t even estimate how extensive the underreporting is.  She said that she has seen instances where there is as much as a four-fold difference between the official statistics and those she estimates for a city. 

To add to the problem, some testing facilities have been asked to decrease the amount of testing so that there will not be so many cases reported.  This is reminiscent of actions taken by the Trump administration when COVID case counts became politically embarrassing.

Dutt argues that the Indian government was outrageously complacent and did not adequately prepare for the possibility of a second wave of COVID.  She also reports that people in India while initially forgiving of the mistakes of the government, are now angry.

Some people are blaming health care workers for the lack of vaccines and infrastructure, but in fact, it is the fault of the government.   Citizens, she says, have been left to fend for themselves.  Whether you survive this pandemic depends on who you know and how strong you are.  It is survival of the richest and the most connected.  People feel that they are out there all alone, she says.  There is no state apparatus to turn to for help at the hospitals or the crematoriums.  It is just every person on their own fighting for resources.  You can hear the fear and desperation and anger in her voice.

This is what the social configuration looks like when the state breaks down in a complex society.  This is exactly what the Republicans have in mind for this country.  They have worked for decades to destroy the faith people had in the government.  They have worked tirelessly to block any policy that would have allowed government to improve their lives of the citizenry.  They have blocked any policies which would have even allowed the government to function.  Republicans are against effective programs to deal with COVID because successful state intervention in a crisis might have caused people to start understanding and valuing the role of government in a complex society.  An effective government response to COVID might cause people to question whether the state is the enemy.

Numerous corporate journalists (who are like parrots) are now having a field day talking about how the Republicans have ceased to be ideological.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They have been and are now conducting an ideological fight for a world where life is each against all, where the wealthy and the powerful can secure access to health and clean food and clean water and the rest of us fight it out on the street as did Dutt’s family when they went to have her father cremated.

This is the world Republicans are ushering in.  The reality is staring us in the face every day, with every news report, but the reality is so disturbing Americans cannot and will not look at it.  They would prefer to watch corporate news hosts make celebrities out of the hundreds of thousands of people who needlessly died because of a refusal to allow the government to act. They would rather watch hosts quote rap lyrics as if they were great literature, follow the soap opera of the royal family, or  interview each other about their books (which all say that the institutions are holding and everything’s fine).  The American people would, in other words, prefer to do anything, anything but look at the stark reality of the world the Republicans are preparing us for.

And, we should remember that many of these Republicans have no investment in this world.  They truly believe that this is the “end times,” and that in a very short time they are going to be leaving the rest of us behind while they ascend to heaven.  So, far from being free of ideology, they have the most destructive ideology on the planet.  They believe that the worse things get the better because that brings us nearer to the end of the world.

If you want to know what that world is going to look like, just take a look close look at India.

Dutt was interviewed on Christine Amanpour’s nightly news program and by Ian Bremmer on his podcast, Gzero World (5/8/21)

scarborough, both sidesism, fbi, georgia is not a beacon of hope

Joe Scarborough, both-sideser in chief and head MSNBC misogynist is at it again this morning joined by his usual kiss ass crew.  He got in a little trouble yesterday by repeatedly asking guests whether it was necessary to impeach Trump.  The dreadful Mika told him to stop and he responded like the petulant bully he is, by berating her and trying to embarrass her on national television.

This morning, he and Peter Baker are trying to figure out how “we” can work with the Republicans like James Langford, who have suddenly had an attack of conscience over trying to overthrow an election.

But, for Scarborough and Baker, that’s just a minor blip.  Sedition?  Just apologize and Scarborough will find a way to launder your reputation (if you are a Repubican). 

Baker’s contribution to this was to lament the fact that, in his words, both sides have decided to go back into their partisan corners.  Equal corners, right?  One side is providing the rationale for sedition and the other is trying to restore democracy, but they are both equally to blame. 

On to other matters.

On Ari Melber’s MSNBC show last night, Eugene Robinson (Mr. Mild Manners himself) said that the Republicans created this division and now they are buying body armor.

AOC was evidently so afraid when the attack was going on, she was fearful of going into a safe room with Republicans.  She thought they might lead the attackers to her.  It was not an unreasonable suspicion since one of the members of the House was texting out the location of Nancy Pelosi.

Lindsey Graham characterized the impeachment proceedings as “sheer hatred.”  I can’t wait to find out why Graham did a 180 turn to support Trump.  Maybe if Trump gets more and more frustrated, he will start to spill the dirt. 

Rep Madeleine Dean, who will be one of the impeachment managers said “Lindsay Graham knows better.”   “You too” she said referring to Graham, “are complicit…” 

Trump evidently brought Bannon back into the sedition circle.  Roger Stone was the one who came up with the “Stop the Steal” rallying cry. 

Tony Schwartz is saying that Trump is now moving “between rage and delusion.”  And that Trump has unleashed forces that we may well see become more powerful in the future.  

Peter Strzok, former FBI, expressed “frustration and anger” at the lack of preparedness at the Capitol.  If you look at other events, Strzok argued: “The government can secure the capitol when it wants to and that didn’t happen here.”  Strzok said that the tour groups that evidently went through the Capitol the day before the assault needed to be “looked into.”

Elizabeth Newmann, former Assistant Secretary for Threat Presentation and Security Policy at DHS, explained that the Terrorist Watch List is a separate list from the No Fly List and is broader, larger.  She says it includes “suspected white supremacists.”  But, she also said, this list functions more as an alert system than a surveillance system.  If, for example, someone got arrested, law enforcement could run the name and the person would show up as on this Terrorist Watch List.  But, there is no ongoing surveillance on these people.  So, they could all decide to go to Washington at the same time and go and there would be no automatic alert because of this list.

Last night, Rachael Maddow was commenting on the absurdity of having people on this list, but not knowing that they were all converging on the same problematic location.  The only way law enforcement could know this is if these people were under constant surveillance and I’m not sure that’s what we want.

A number of people are already pointing out on Twitter and in articles that this siege of the Capitol may well end up working to the disadvantage of legitimate protest.  As always, it’s easy to argue for more surveillance of individuals when they are opposed to you politically.  But, these same surveillance measures can be turned quickly against legitimate protest.

I heard no discussion yesterday of the way in which a person might be put on this Terrorist Watch List.  Once on this list, are you ever taken off?  What surveillance measures can the government take after you are put on this list? These are questions we need to answer.

Newman, after explaining the list, went on to say that there was “no excuse for the lack of preparation” at the capitol.  She pointed out that that the Executive Branch, while reluctant to tell another branch of government what to do, has a “duty to warn” of dangerous situations.  They, for example, should have issued a “Joint Intelligence Bulletin.”  They did not.  “They knew that violence was planned” Newman continued.  “You always assume the worst, prepare for the worst…”

Petef Strzok expressed disappointment that we had not heard from Director Wray.  He wondered whether the FBI attempted to warn other agencies but was prevented from doing so.  Strzok didn’t say by whom. 

Anna Palmer noted that since the COVID outbreak, the Capitol had been like a “ghosttown.”  She noted the extensive security measures for even going into the Capitol as a reporter.  “It’s been months since people were even around” she noted.  These tours were highly unusual. 

Biden has named Jamaal Bowman head of the DNC.  It has not escaped notice that Bowman is against Medicare For All. 

And, lastly, in Georgia…

I had an interesting exchange with a friend on Facebook.  He commented that when the FBI asked all these low-level attackers who are being arrested if they had any coordination or contact with Congressmen or Trump, they would flip and implicate them.

I responded: True, if the FBI agents ask them.

Now, as usual, he took exception to this.  Most people, especially those who have worked around law enforcement accept a law enforcement ethos.  They resist any aspersions on the integrity of the force, even confronted with daily evidence to the contrary.

He responded in a curious way.  First he said that I shouldn’t paint all agents with a “broad brush.”  Seemed to me that he was painting them with a broad brush, just assuming that the FBI would be trying to turn offenders on higher ups.  Why this assumption is made, I don’t know. 

We have just witnessed years of the most curious behavior on the part of the FBI and the Justice Department in recent memory.  Why did James Comey make public the absurd reopening of the investigation of Hillary Clinton right before the 2016 election?  Why did he within the past few days argue publicly that Biden should pardon Trump?  What was going on in the New York City office of the FBI in 2016 that almost lead to a work stoppage?  These are just a few threads that need to be followed up here.  In addition, why was the Justice Department so easily compromised by Jeff Sessions and then Bill Barr?  Why was the Mueller investigation so limited as to make it meaningless?

I’m sorry, but I just don’t think we can assume that all those FBI agents out there are crusaders for justice especially when it comes to investigating people at the top of the food chain.  (See Jesse Eisinger’s “The Chickenshit Club.)

Then, my friend said that the last time he talked to me I was (overly) concerned “dismayed” with voter suppression in Georgia, and Georgia had become the beacon of election security.  Georgia, he said had become the “honest election state that is saving democracy. What truly happened?”

Now, I have no idea what this last paragraph has to do with FBI agents working overtime to get dirt on powerful Congressmen, but there you are.

I find the statement amazing.  I fully realize that the media, prone as they are to simplistic narratives, is trying to make heroes out of Raffensperger, Sterling and Kemp, but anybody who reads should know that Georgia is far from a beacon of hope.

Brian Kemp’s government spent a fortune on a fancy new voting machine system.  And they conducted a propaganda operation by replacing all the “I voted” material with “I secured my Vote.”  It was all a propaganda operation.  I did poll worker training in Georgia before the general and I left at lunch and didn’t go back.  It was obvious to me then that the new system was unwieldy and full of holes.  The measures taken to “secure the vote” were geared toward security threats in the 19th century.  Nobody could answer questions about hacking into the system. 

Even though the media has touted “paper ballots” as an indication of transparency, in Georgia, they are not really “paper ballots.”

The ballots are marked by a machine.  Then, the voter gets a sheet of paper which has his choices printed on it. The voter is supposed to check these choices to make sure they are right.  But, the scanners that count the votes do not even register the words printed on the ballot.  They count a bar code at the bottom of the ballot.  The voter cannot read the bar code.  The poll workers cannot read the bar code.  I don’t think anybody outside of the Voting Machine company can read the bar codes.  It’s protected by law.  What kind of state of affairs is that?

Before the general election, Brian Kemp’s government made a decision that any recount in Georgia would be done by simply feeding the same ballots (with the same bar codes) through the scanners again.

In short, Georgia spent a fortune on a voting system that is impenetrable.  They regularly send out “experts” who claim that the system cannot be hacked.  But, Jennifer Cohn, Jonathan Simon and the Coalition for Good Governance have repeatedly offered evidence that at best, we don’t know this.

In addition, Kemp is the king of voter suppression.  That’s how he won a race against Stacey Abrams for governor.  Raffensperger and Sterling were in the voter suppression game up to their eye balls.  Kemp, Raffensperger and Sterling are like the guys who are willing to drive the getaway car, but not willing to go into the liquor store with the gun.

Oh,

Just in case you hadn’t heard…Kyle Rittenhouse is out on bail and sitting in a bar drinking and yucking it up with the Proud Boys. Reality Winner has COVID and in still in jail.  I know she’s not receiving her mail because I have a box of returned letters.

essential podcasts: majority report interview with jared yates sexton

This is by far the best podcast out there. I know the corporate media is seductive, but your time would be better spent giving this a listen. Sam Seder puts together some of the most interesting and pertinent interviews available.

Sam Seder

Sam Seder interviews Jared Yates Sexton

https://majorityreportradio.com/2020/12/08/12-8-american-rule-how-a-nation-conquered-the-world-but-failed-its-people-w-jared-yates-sexton

From the Majority Report Website:

“Sam hosts writer and political analyst Jared Yates Sexton to discuss his new book, American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World But Failed Its People, and why the foundational myths of American Exceptionalism have such a hold on the populace.

Sam and Jared explore the stories Americans told themselves throughout the country’s history, from how the process behind writing the Constitution to how the “Mound Builders” stories helped justify indigenous Americans’ slaughter. The two consider how these stories have shaped the populace’s thinking and why it’s essential to reject politics as a spectacle. 

Follow on @cjjohns1951

The corporate media and access journalism

Corporate Media and the Trump Family

In the midst of an on-going coup attempt, the Washington Post is continuing to publish puff pieces about Trump staffers and family.  The seemingly inexplicable nature of this has led some on Twitter to hypothesize that the puff pieces are pay back for individuals who previously provided access to Post reporters and/or who passed on information to them.

When I read this speculation from someone who is a journalist this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I know to some people this must sound naïve, but what kind of newspaper sells positive stories for information?  The Washington Post unabashedly uses “Democracy dies in darkness” as a slogan.  Democracy dies in darkness, but reporters are making back room deals selling positive coverage for information?

How exactly do these deals work?  Is there an explicit negotiation?  Does a reporter say to Ivanka Trump, we’ll give you five 3000 word totally positive personal write-ups in exchange for a hot piece of information? 

If this kind of negotiation is going on, why isn’t that considered essential to disclose to the reader.  After all, the reader is consuming the story as if it is independent journalism, not a glamour piece placed by Ivanka Trump’s agent. 

Why is such a practice considered ethical?  Why is such a practice not a scandal, not considered as what it is, a bribe?

When our local newspaper publishes a puff piece about a doctor and his practice which looks like an article, it is at least identified as such.  I don’t even think that practice is ethical, but it at least involves disclosure for those who are interested enough to look, that the piece is bought and paid for, not independent journalism. 

There is no such disclosure for these little fluff pieces churned out in exchange for “access.” 

That would be one kind of disclosure, letting the reader know that the piece is paid for.  But, another type of disclosure is also necessary.

The assumption is that publishing a paid-for personal ad as independent journalism is worth the “access” given the reporter.  Well, I would like to be able to judge that for myself.  If the Washington Post is going to allow itself to be bribed into publishing particular stories, what was the going price?  I as a reader have a right to know.

There are a lot of problems with the current widespread practice of “access journalism.”  First of all, it’s lazy.  Reporters are too lazy to go out and establish sources for a story, so they tell themselves they have to spend endless hours socializing with powerful people at parties or retreats in the country to get information.  Second, journalists are supposed to be keeping the powerful honest, not spending weekends with them in their country estates.  No journalist is going to keep honest the people s/he is socializing with and on whom he is dependent for information.  People in power are not supposed to be a reporter’s friends.  Third, how much trust can you put in information that is intentionally leaked to you by the powerful.  There have been countless instances where “access” has resulted in journalists being turned into stenographers for those in power.  The powerful leak the stories they want to be published.

Now, evidently, we have to add to the problems of access journalism, other stories, published by other reporters that are part of some deal for access.  To portray staffers and members of Trump’s family as glamorous, hard-working innocent bystanders with a promising political future in exchange for some undisclosed piece of information is unconscionable. 

The corporate media has a lot to answer for.

THE DEVIL HIMSELF: ERIK PRINCE

While corporate media pundits spend time interviewing each other about interviews they have done ( Lemon interviewing Tapper about his interview with Biden, dogs sniffing assholes)  and touting their books (Maddow and Scarborough), Trump has dangerously upped the ante in the crime spree that has been the Trump/Republican administration.  They are stealing billions from the American people and neither the corporate media nor the Democratic Party is screaming bloody murder as they should be.

As just one minor example of a story that should have been hammered for days, Trump, after getting rid of a top level of Pentagon officials, has appointed stooges (Lewandowski) who will facilitate the massive grifting of the federal government.

With this top layer of sycophants in place, it is being widely reported that (the devil himself) Erik Prince has been awarded a “classified contract” to take over military operations in Africa.

This move would help facilitate a long-pursued project of Prince’s to take over military operations for the U.S. government (he proposed doing so in Afghanistan) and for the Republicans to privatize the enormous defense budget every more than it’s already been farmed out to giant defense contractors.

It was reported that Prince proposed a take-over of the Afghanistan war to the Trump administration earlier in the year.  It is not clear why he was turned down.  He has come back with his hand out for part of the spoils being awarded by Trump and the Republicans.

In case you don’t remember, Erik Prince is the brother of Betsy de Vos.  He was the founder of a mercenary contracting group that was unleashed in Iraq and wreaked so much uncontrolled, unfettered terror among the population, they finally had to prosecute Blackwater and some of his operatives.

Erik Prince is another of the multitude of people (Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump,Jr. Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, etc.) who would already have been in prison in 2016 if we had a functioning Justice Department which prosecuted white collar, corporate and political crimes (See “The Chickenshit Club” by Jesse Eisinger).

Also see Jeremy Skahill’s book about Blackwater and (the Devil) Erik Prince.

erik prince: the devil himself, a classified contract with your money

The reporting is that Trump’s new buffoon appointments in the Pentagon have awarded EriK Prince (read, the Devil) a classified contract to run mercenary operations in Africa.

This is the best book out there about the true depth of corruption and violence represented by Erik Prince.