Thursday, March 06, 2008

Siegelman and Scrushy - Tip of the Iceburg?

Alternet: Going to Jail for Being a Democrat: How Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman Got Roved
By Paul Craig Roberts, CounterPunch.

The frame-up of Siegelman and businessman Richard Scrushy is so crystal clear and blatant that 52 former state attorney generals from across America, both Republicans and Democrats, have urged the US Congress to investigate the Bush administration's use of the US Department of Justice to rid themselves of a Democratic governor who "they could not beat fair and square," according to Grant Woods, former Republican Attorney General of Arizona and co-chair of the McCain for President leadership committee. Woods says that he has never seen a case with so "many red flags pointing to injustice."

The abuse of American justice by the Bush administration in order to ruin Siegelman is so crystal clear that even the corporate media organization CBS allowed "60 Minutes" to broadcast on February 24, 2008, a damning indictment of the railroading of Siegelman. Extremely coincidental "technical difficulties" caused WHNT, the CBS station covering the populous northern third of Alabama, to go black during the broadcast. The station initially offered a lame excuse of network difficulties that CBS in New York denied. The Republican-owned print media in Alabama seemed to have the inside track on every aspect of the prosecution's case against Siegelman. You just have to look at their editorials and articles following the 60 Minutes broadcast to get a taste of what counts for "objective journalism" in their mind.
The story itself bears so much similarity to so many other stories that it seems almost routine. It took a few of the comments to make me realize that suddenly "Dog bites Man" is genuine news.

The news is that "plausible deniablity" is off the table. We now know that when "Dog bites Man," it's almost always the same goddamn dog - just as we always suspected.

The Internet, the web and other emerging peer-to-peer connections are a staggering intelligence advantage to ordinary people, and a freakin' nightmare to those who would prefer to keep citizens "Mushroomed;" eg, "Kept in the dark and fed bullshit."

The Internet, the web, and now the various social media of "web 2.0" are a freaking godsend for people like me who justify their existence by making connections between apparently unrelated things. While the implications of it trouble civil libertarians when they contemplate how potentially troublesome data mining linkages could be, it's a fact that this particular phenomenon is at least as dangerous to those who would abuse their authority than to those they might find "dirt" on to abuse.

This case is fascinating evidence of that phenomenon. Not only do we have evidence of abuse, but clear and damning evidence pointing to a systematic cover-up.

It wasn't all that long ago that the assassinations of Robert and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and probably others were undertaken without any blow-back to those who set it up, or conclusive evidence pointing to who was responsible.

Back in the day, it only took a few judicious threats here and there, and the ominous, but truthful observation; "Who ya gonna tell?"

The answer today is "the whole goddamn world, and whatcha gonna do about it?" There are people alive today -Sibel Edmonds leaps to mind - who probably would have perished suddenly and quietly fifteen or twenty years ago.

The problem for those who start thinking in that way is this: There is no way to shut up a whistle-blower these days without significant and persuasive notice being taken. And if the implications of data-mining for connections between ordinary individuals may be troubling to ordinary individuals - imagine what the very idea does to the sphincters of people with connections to Karl Rove.

You see, this is one of those ideas that could have gotten me put in a quiet padded room somewhere very private, back in the day, just for pointing it out. But I hardly need to point it out, it's obvious, it's inevitable and it's already happening. The internet is a powerful and absolutely magnificent tool for individuals who need to evaluate the reliability of various information sources.

In "free and open societies" such as our own, a newspaper can be scrupulous about their journalistic standards and still be corrupt as all hell. There are probably three or four stories a year that are of critical importance - and if a paper sits on those stories, it's even better than publishing lies.

Well, that reality actually ended in the mid-eighties, when the Internet became a flood of information, and a way to reality-check information cheaply and reliably. What was first the tool of the hardwired geek intelligencia is now available to anyone with the cash to pick up a second-hand computer. If you are the slightest bit interested in data security, it's pretty darned easy to hide your tracks.

What this new reality amounts to is a means by which the average person can have access to the sort of information that William Casey would have sacrificed his left nut and his first-born to get his hands on - if he could have kept it to himself.

Indeed, that was J. Edgar Hoover's secret to power - files that contained dirt on everyone of significance in positions of power both public and private. Well, of course Rove has taken that tactic to heart - but the fact that he has done it is so clearly obvious to people in a position to "connect the dots" that it significantly erodes the effect.

For instance, ten years ago, even five years ago, Nancy Pelosi may well have gotten away with saying "impeachment is off the table." Anyone who disagreed and could object meaningfully would have no ability to do much of anything about it.

But by now there is some point to saying aloud that "taking impeachment off the table" made no goddamn sense politically or strategically when it's in the absolute best interest of honest Democrats to remove corrupt Republicans from power before they can fix the next election.

It makes sense to say that some combination of stupidity, incompetence and blackmail must account for the difference between implied promises in 2006 and delivered results in time for 2009 have significant and troubling implications.

The web hasn't eliminated smoke-filled back rooms where deals are made between politicians and "the people that matter." What it has done is put a live webcam in there, so we can see that the people in those smoke-filled rooms aren't any smarter, better informed or more high-minded than your average gas-station attendant or insurance agent.

We always had the right and the responsibility to oversee them. Now we have the practical capacity to do so; yes, that is bi-partisan urine trickling down their legs.

Oh - and by the by, what's true here in the US is true everywhere there is a robust Internet. So, pretty much, that means everywhere. The implications for the Taliban, for Norway, for China and Russia are all the same - there's no way of keeping "internal matters" internal, there's no way of ensuring that they don't end up on the front pages of their own media and blogs and there's no way of erasing every single trace of corrupt dealings.

Come to think of it, consider the implications of the internet in an honor society like Pakistan, where it becomes impossible to hide the private dealings of "men of the world."

It's a good way to get a private enterprise rocket grenade enema.

Nor is there any effective way of restricting access to that information without killing off their own economy. Now, some regimes don't give much of a crap about that - but that doesn't mean they can absolutely ensure that their citizenry will obey, when disobedience is so very profitable in so very many ways.

And it's also true of the United Nations, and stuffy old NGO's like the Red Cross. If it hadn't been for the web, I doubt they would have gotten so righteously hammered as they did in Canada, where the government took away their control over the blood supply after it turned out that they had willfully neglected to screen blood plasma for HIV - because it would have been "too expensive." That piece of data became widely known - along with another damning number - their overhead ate up 80 cents of every dollar donated. As I recall, - though it's only a vague recollections - it was a combination of hemophilia advocates who had been tracking this that brought it to national attention, but they did it by way of the internet, skipping the historical process of having to find someone to call who could do something and might be persuaded to do so.

Essentially, what has occurred is this: the web advantages people who deal honestly and who either have no skeletons in their closets, or who use them as festive decor while chuckling gleefully. It has made it clear that those who have invested a lot in appearing to have nothing to hide are less worrisome and more likely to screw you over than those who, say, like dressing up in rubber and don't much care about what "decent people" might think.

The average person is now capable of getting enough information to compete intellectually abd even strategically with "the people who matter," because we also have the ability to collaborate to mutual advantage at minimal cost.

Conservatives decry Wikipedia, for instance, because it's not "definitive," that it is "unreliable," and it's possible to insert innacurate information.

All of this is true - but what they don't comprehend is that the distinction between Wikipedia and, say, The World Book is that you can tell who's fingerprints are on which bit of information.

It's true that you can insert inaccuracies - but the act of doing so is information in it's own right; more compelling than the misinformation. Further, the process by which Wikipedia is self-policed tends to give extra validity to articles that have become stable and uncontested.

Compare that to the editorial policy of The Brittanica or Groliers.

Oh, wait. You can't.

So how do we know they have equal or higher standards, as is alleged by conservative sources?

They say so. Very authoritatively. And to the extent that you would have been able to check, that would be true, back in the day. The problem is, that makes you tend to rely on the accuracy of things you cannot check. And that is where the money is.

Go ahead, look up Armenian Genocide in three or four different encyclopedias.

Now go to Wikipedia. I don't actually know what it says - but I know that it will come from more perspectives than the "authoritative" sources, and the comments section will be more fun than "All My Children" and "Project Runway" put together.

History and culture is no longer defined by the victors, or by those who believe they are the "winners" in our society. Everybody gets their fifteen seconds - and it's archived by keyword on You-Tube forever.

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