- Here’s What ‘Obama Money’ is Doing for You – in Kenya!
- America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution
- IP is Dead, Long Live Media!
- FBI Admits to Probing Late Historian, Howard Zinn
Posted: 02 Aug 2010 04:53 PM PDT
An investigation by three Republican congressmen has revealed the Obama administration has secretly spent $23 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars in Kenya to fund a “Yes” vote on a constitutional referendum scheduled for Aug. 4 that would increase access to abortions in Kenya and establish legal status for Islamic law tribunals.
Meanwhile, trusted sources in Kenya tell WND that the White House has used Vice President Joseph Biden’s trip to Kenya in June and the office of U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael E. Ranneberger to put out the message that passage of the referendum would enable the White House to open the floodgates to allow millions of dollars of additional U.S. government aid and private investment capital to flow into Kenya.
Last week, in response to inquiries from Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the U.S. Agency for International Development admitted to spending more than $23 million of U.S. taxpayer money to influence voters in Kenya to pass the highly contentious constitution.
“Despite denials, the Obama administration’s funding to support passage of the controversial Kenyan proposed constitution is clear,” Jeff Sagnip, spokesman for Rep. Smith, told WND in an e-mail over the weekend. “It constitutes U.S. monetary interference in a sovereign nation’s voting process. If passed the constitution would dramatically alter existing pro-life laws.”
Sagnip pointed out that the proposed constitution would water down the existing abortion law. It would permit abortion when “in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.” That language, Sagnip said, is “obviously vague” and riddled with “blatant loopholes.”
The proposed constitution would also give legal status to what are known as “Kadhi Courts,” constituting an Islamic judicial structure within the overall structure of the Kenyan legal structure, to resolve disputes between Muslims under Shariah, or Islamic law.
Critics have charged that the constitutional provision to codify Kadhi Courts would violate the separation of state and religion by allowing Islamic law to have official legal status.
WND previously reported that in the 2007 presidential campaign in Kenya, Raila Odinga – the presidential candidate of the Orange Democratic Party and a Luo tribesman like Obama’s father – signed an undisclosed memorandum of understanding with radical Muslims in Kenya to expand Islamic law within the country in exchange for Muslim support of his candidacy.
As reported by Ecumenical News International in the U.K., many Kenyans believe the provision in the proposed referendum that would establish Kadhi Courts is a fulfillment of the agreement Odinga made with Sheik Abdullah Abdi, the chairman of the National Muslim Leaders Forum.
U.S. taxpayers support “Yes” vote
According to Smith’s office, the AID inspector general had identified the following programs with direct ties to supporting the “Yes” vote the Obama administration had funded in Kenya:
“By funding (nongovernmental organizations) with obtaining ‘yes’ votes, the administration has crossed the line,” Smith said last week in a statement. “Directly supporting efforts to register ‘yes’ voters and ‘get out the yes vote’ means the U.S. government is running a political campaign in Kenya. U.S. taxpayer funds should not be used to support one side or the other.”
The Standard in Kenya reported Kenyan Higher Education Minister William Ruto, who is leading the “Red” team opposing the Kenyan constitutional referendum, has accused Ambassador Ranneberger of crossing the “no-go-zone for foreign diplomats.”
In defending his actions, Ranneberger argued he was operating within his diplomatic orbit, but “more so because the U.S. is a friend of Kenya and is pro-reform,” according to the report published by the Standard.
“Ranneberger maintained he was a friend of Kenya and would therefore not shy away from pointing out the lies being propagated by the ‘No’ team,” the Standard wrote.
“Separated by a few kilometers from another meeting, where Ruto was selling his views against the draft, the envoy promised to continue helping the push for reforms,” the paper said. “The American ambassador again pointed out Obama was interested in ensuring the country embraces reforms to pave way for better governance, improved livelihood for citizens.”
Obama’s links to Odinga
The Obama administration’s funding of Kenyan internal politics appears to follow a pattern then-Sen. Obama first set on his 2006 Senate-funded visit to Kenya.
During that trip in 2006, Obama campaigned so openly for Odinga that Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua went on Kenyan television on behalf of Kenyan President Kibaki to object that Obama was meddling inappropriately in Kenyan politics, as WND reported.
WND reported in 2008 that Obama raised almost $1 million for Odinga during the run-up to Kenya’s 2007 presidential election.
Also as WND previously reported, Odinga called for protests over alleged voter fraud during the December 2007 Kenyan presidential election, with the resulting protest violence leaving an estimated 1,000 members of the dominant Kikuyu tribe in Kenya dead and an estimated 500,000 displaced from their homes.
In a horrifying incident following the election, at least 50 people, including women and children, were killed when an angry mob forced Kikuyu Christians into an Assembly of God church in the village of Eldoret, about 185 miles northwest of Nairobi. The mob set fire to the church, hacking with machetes any of the Christians who attempted to escape the flames.
In the final days of the New Hampshire Democratic primary, after the postelection violence in Kenya, Obama told reporters he continued to remain in contact with Odinga by telephone.
Obama did not object to Odinga’s continued push to share the head of state with President Mwai Kibaki despite Odinga’s electoral defeat.
Instead, Obama worked with former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to end the violence by creating for Odinga the position of prime minister – a position not defined in the Kenyan constitution – so Odinga could become co–head of state with Kibaki.
As recently as May, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, was in Kenya to investigate the possibility of bringing criminal charges against both Kibaki and Odinga for their roles in the postelection violence.
Posted: 02 Aug 2010 11:41 AM PDT
As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.
When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.
Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government’s agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about “global warming” for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.
Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.
The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who created and doth sustain us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity. Our classes’ clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark’s Gospel: “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
The Political Divide
Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg’s tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences “undecided,” “none of the above,” or “tea party,” these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. Hence officeholders, Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate — most Democratic voters, plus a few Republicans. This means that Democratic politicians are the ruling class’s prime legitimate representatives and that because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters while the rest vote for them reluctantly, most are aspirants for a junior role in the ruling class. In short, the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. But some two-thirds of Americans — a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents — lack a vehicle in electoral politics.
Sooner or later, well or badly, that majority’s demand for representation will be filled. Whereas in 1968 Governor George Wallace’s taunt “there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference” between the Republican and Democratic parties resonated with only 13.5 percent of the American people, in 1992 Ross Perot became a serious contender for the presidency (at one point he was favored by 39 percent of Americans vs. 31 percent for G.H.W. Bush and 25 percent for Clinton) simply by speaking ill of the ruling class. Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it burgeoned in size and pretense, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans’ conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so.
While Europeans are accustomed to being ruled by presumed betters whom they distrust, the American people’s realization of being ruled like Europeans shocked this country into well nigh revolutionary attitudes. But only the realization was new. The ruling class had sunk deep roots in America over decades before 2008. Machiavelli compares serious political diseases to the Aetolian fevers — easy to treat early on while they are difficult to discern, but virtually untreatable by the time they become obvious.
Far from speculating how the political confrontation might develop between America’s regime class — relatively few people supported by no more than one-third of Americans — and a country class comprising two-thirds of the country, our task here is to understand the divisions that underlie that confrontation’s unpredictable future. More on politics below.
The Ruling Class
Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?
The most widespread answers — by such as the Times’s Thomas Friedman and David Brooks — are schlock sociology. Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive, the technical skills to run it so rare, that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. Similarly fanciful is Edward Goldberg’s notion that America is now ruled by a “newocracy”: a “new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization — including the multinational manager, the technologist and the aspirational members of the meritocracy.” In fact, our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude.
Other explanations are counterintuitive. Wealth? The heads of the class do live in our big cities’ priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Palo Alto, California, to Boston’s Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. But they are no wealthier than many Texas oilmen or California farmers, or than neighbors with whom they do not associate — just as the social science and humanities class that rules universities seldom associates with physicians and physicists. Rather, regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative “nonprofit” and “philanthropic” sectors and public policy. What really distinguishes these privileged people demographically is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on any of America’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Streets. These socioeconomic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter’s grievances.
Posted: 02 Aug 2010 08:50 AM PDT
The Internet is a wonderful thing. It has enabled communication in a way no other invention since the telephone has. It has also enabled the sharing and reproduction of all kinds of media, from print, to audio and video. The only comparable revolution was the Printing press. Before the printing press, a copy of a manuscript was only possible through long hours of manually copying each page. While this resulted in beautiful works of art which are still cherished today, it also drastically limited the audience for those books. With the advent of the Printing Press, a book could be completely reproduced in the time it once took to copy a few pages. Data became less scarce, only as scarce as the resources required to print a book.
Now, with the Internet, that same book can be reproduced in the time it once took to set the type for a single page, or even faster, if you don’t need a hard copy. This is a nightmare for content producers, much as the Printing press was. Worse, since the reproduction of the book does not require the expenditure of physical resources. The Internet, as Cory Doctorow has said, is a gigantic copy machine. It is based on making copies.
As you read this article, you’re not reading the original. The original is still on my computer. You’re not even reading the copy I Emailed to email@example.com, since that copy is still in the inbox. You’re not even reading the copy that was uploaded to the server. That copy is still there, for others to access. You’re actually reading a copy stored locally in a temporary directory. By Conventional copyright law, You, the site, and gods know how many servers along the way, have already committed violations, by copying and storing my work.
Data on the Internet is no longer scarce at all, it is abundant. Just as no-one can own the air, because it is abundant, No-one can own Internet-resident Data. If you keep the data off the Internet and on a piece of paper, You can own the piece of paper that the Data is written on, and if you prevent the Data from being copied (Thus keeping it scarce), you can own that data, But the moment you make it accessible on the Internet, it becomes abundant, and out of your control.
What’s worse, Modifying information has never been easier, either. Before the printing press, you were required to scrape the vellum and re-write what you wanted to change. After the printing press, you had to print another page, or, eventually, use white-out or another correction method. Now, modifying a book is easy as a few keystrokes. Images can be altered with a few mouse movements. Music can be remixed almost as easily. My work, this article, can be easily edited… Once it’s out of my control. All of those copies out there are out of my control. Obviously, trying to control what is done with those copies is almost as absurd as trying to stop them from being created.
That’s OK, though… Because I have no claim on those copies. They’re not mine. I made the article available on the Internet, and thus abundant. The copy on your hard drive is your property now, since the data which comprises it resides on your property (Your hard drive). Were I to lay claim on them, I would be laying claim to part of your property, claiming that I can tell you how to use your property (Your hard drive). I don’t think any reader of The Libertarian Enterprise would appreciate that. Since it’s your property, you can do whatever you want with that copy of the article. You can save it, delete it, print it, even edit it. Though, if you do edit it, I would appreciate if you would not attempt to pass off the resultant work as being wholly mine, or wholly yours. You can, of course, if you want… But I can always prove you wrong by producing the original.
But… How to make a buck when my work can so easily be copied, or even altered? There are many ways to profit from a good you cannot control the access to. By far, the easiest is to simply *ask*. The donation model has a long history of working very well. Ad-supported works well, too… It’s the model the Internet was built on. Many content producers do well by using the Internet as a method to promote their traditional media works. Giving away your content is a great way to get an audience.
On podiobooks.com, you will find several authors whose for-pay works have gotten their start by giving it away. The Solar Clipper series, by Nathan Lowell, is currently ranked on Amazon with the likes of R. A. Heinlein. Scott Sigler parlayed his free audiobook into a contract with Crown books (A division of Random House) J. C. Hutchins’ wildly successful audio-book podcast was recently optioned by Warner Brothers. In addition, he’s also got a deal with Discovery to help promote the second season of The Colony, as well as a book published by St. Martin’s Press. Cory Doctorow, who gives away all his books online for free, does a booming business on his dead-tree format books. Jonathan Coulton calls the Internet his “Money pooping cow”, which he feeds music, and out comes money.
Maybe you’ve never heard of any of those people. Maybe some more mainstream Examples would help? Radiohead released their 2007 album “In Rainbows” on the web only, and asked only that downloaders pay “whatever they want”. Nine inch Nails Released “Ghosts I-IV” online, offering the first 9 tracks for free, in DRM-free MP3s. They sold out of their $300 limited edition package. Not “mainstream”, but certainly more likely to be known in these circles, J, Neil Schulman’s “Alongside Night” outsells all his other works on Amazon… And he gives that one away free online.
Content producers have found ways to still do what they love, and make a living doing it, even considering the Internet’s destruction of the notion that you can control what other people do with their copies of your works. Whether or not you think IP is a viable concept for a Libertarian society, you have to acknowledge that it’s an unenforceable and unnecessary one in the Internet age.
Posted: 01 Aug 2010 09:39 PM PDT
From Raw Story
Those who knew of the dissident historian Howard Zinn would not be surprised that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI kept tabs on him for decades during the Cold War.
But in a release of documents pertaining to Zinn, the bureau admitted that one of its investigations into the left-wing academic was prompted not by suspicion of criminal activity, but by Zinn’s criticism of the FBI’s record on civil rights investigations.
“In 1949, the FBI opened a domestic security investigation on Zinn,” the bureau states. “The Bureau noted Zinn’s activities in what were called Communist Front Groups and received informant reports that Zinn was an active member of the CPUSA; Zinn denied ever being a member when he was questioned by agents in the 1950s.
“In the 1960s, the Bureau took another look at Zinn on account of his criticism of the FBI’s civil rights investigations.”
On Friday, the FBI released a 243-page file on Zinn, who died in January at age 87. The release describes the historian as “radical.” The documents show the bureau taking an active interest in Zinn since the late 1940s, when he was a student at New York University. The interest continued through the 1950s, as Zinn worked on his PhD at Columbia University.
When the FBI again took an interest in Zinn in the 1960s, documents show the bureau evidently tried to have the historian fired from his job as professor at Boston University.
In a document from the Boston FBI office (see PDF file here), an FBI “source,” whose name was redacted from the publicly released documents, was quoted as being outraged over Zinn’s comment at a protest that the US had become a “police state” and that prosecutions of Black Panther Party members were creating “political prisoners.”
The bureau’s Boston office then indicated it wanted to help the source in his or her campaign to unseat Zinn. “[The] Boston [office] proposes under captioned program with Bureau permission to furnish [name redacted] with public source data regarding Zinn’s numerous anti-war activities … in an effort to back [redacted] efforts for his removal.”
The bureau’s response to the request does not appear to have been included in the released documents.
(Raw Story reporters will continue to mine through the documents for more details. If you want to help, you can view the FBI files here, here and here (PDF). Send us what you find to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The FBI notes that its investigations of Zinn — three in total, over 25 years — “ended in 1974, and no further investigation into Zinn or his activities was made by the FBI.”
Zinn had harsh words for the FBI during his academic career. In a paper published not long before his death, Zinn said the best thing the public could do to curb the FBI’s powers was to “continue exposing them.”
Of the FBI, he said, “They don’t like social movements. They work for the establishment and the corporations and the politicos to keep things as they are. And they want to frighten and chill the people who are trying to change things. So the best defense against them and resistance against them is simply to keep on fighting back, to keep on exposing them.”