Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for October 25th, 2012

A comment on drones

Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2012

Not that anyone pays any attention to my opinion, but I think that the complaints about using drones for targeting killing are probably largely misplaced. Drones are bombs. Bombs are instruments of war. If one believes that we are at war with a stateless army, then killing members of that army with drones is preferable to the alternatives (e.g., cluster bombs, saturation bombing, and so on).

The real problem is that we have not really declared war. We have this strange Authorization of Military Force (see here for legal analysis), which probably applies to the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and almost certainly does not apply to Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other groups that formed subsequent to 9/11. If the Executive wants to continue to use drone strikes–or make war by any means outside of the AfPak region– he should ask for an updated AUMF. This is not a nicety. It’s one major means by which we prevent presidents from becoming tyrants.

As for assassinating American citizens, or any non-combatant, military or not, that’s plainly illegal. The claim for killing Anwar al-Awlaki was that he was serving as a chaplain for AQAP. Would we accept the targeting of an American chaplain as a legitimate action by an enemy? On many levels [fn], this was a war crime. Add one more level of wrongness for the killing of his son. The fact that drones were used is irrelevant to the basic legal issues and when the left focuses on the technology, it undermines its arguments against targeted killing.

They do have a better case against Israeli action, since Operation Cast Lead and subsequent events made it abundantly evident that Israel is involved in collective punishment against an occupied nation, not warfare.

As I say, not that anyone will listen.
fn. Lack of authorization for action against AQAP. lack of due process, since in principle al-Awlaki might have been a hostage rather than an active collaborator. Lack of evidence that he was an active combatant. For son, add targeting of a minor. More broadly, there’s the question of whether there’s even adequate oversight over who gets put on the kill list and whether there’s oversight over issues of “collateral damage,” i.e., dead innocent people.

Posted in terrorism | 1 Comment »

Malevolence or incompetence? You decide. (mass purge in LaPorte Co., Indiana)

Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2012

Via Don Briggs at DK.

Matt Fritz, The News Dispatch:

Back in 2011, some 800 voters were supposed to be purged from the La Porte County [of Indiana] voter registration system.

Instead, more than 13,000 got the boot and now the voter registration office is scrambling to get them online before Nov. 6.

Was it deliberate? Ask yourself what the GOP would say if the situation were reversed. Matt Fritz:

The Democrat party chair is asking the federal government to get involved in the wrongful purge of 13,000 voters in La Porte County last year.

Chairman John Jones said in a press release that he will be asking the U.S. Department of Justice Election Integrity Task Force to investigate exactly how the purge happened, which he said was an “effort led by Republican voters’ appointee Donna Harris, the wife of county Republican chairman Keith Harris.”

Malevolence or incompetence. You decide.

Posted in Republicans acting badly, voting rights | 5 Comments »

The rape rap: outdated edition

Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2012

From Brainwrap at DK:

But wait! This is already out of date! Volume 2 is available, and volume 3 is in preparation.

I think Hecate said it well (via ql at Atrios).

Take robbery, for example. If someone shows up with a gun and demands a man’s wallet, we don’t say, well, that man shouldn’t have been walking with a wallet in a bad part of town, having had more than a few drinks, and wearing a nice suit that advertised how much money he had, as if he wanted to attract robbers. He shouldn’t have stopped and offered to give the robber a dollar before saying that, no, he wasn’t willing to give the robber all of his money. We don’t say that he’d previously checked out movies that showed people getting robbed and, therefore, must have wanted to be robbed. We don’t say that he was, in one way or another, asking to be robbed.

It used to be said that Democrats were soft on crime. Now it’s clear that Republicans are very hard on crime victims.

Posted in crimes, Republicans as cancer | Comments Off on The rape rap: outdated edition

Planet Hershey: not so sweet corruption at the heart of “charitable” giving

Posted by Charles II on October 25, 2012

The Nation has a blockbuster expose based on a Philadelphia Inquirer series that goes to the heart of the corruption of charitable enterprises in the US. F. Frederic Fouad:

Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the deed of trust establishing the Milton Hershey School as an orphanage in 1909, funding it with revenue from the famous candy company. Since then, the school has officially been dedicated to “the purpose of nurturing and educating children in need.” Because its founder gave MHS Trust a controlling interest in the Hershey Company, today it boasts a massive $8.5 billion in assets and also owns Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (operating hotels and an amusement park). In keeping with its mission, the Milton Hershey School serves about 1,800 students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, who study in state-of-the-art school buildings in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

What the charity also does, of late, is shovel money and favors to a coterie of prominent Pennsylvania Republicans. MHS’s alleged wrongdoing is pervasive and well documented, but thanks to the GOP’s grip on power in the state—most crucially its iron lock on the attorney general’s office—the charity has never been effectively called to account. With the first real possibility of the attorney general’s office shifting to the Democrats since it became an elected position thirty-two years ago, all this may change come November.

For a sense of MHS’s alleged misdeeds and the culture of impunity surrounding the charity, consider how, in 2006, board members of the school allowed the trust fund to purchase a failing luxury golf course called Wren Dale. The $12 million investment was two to three times the appraised value of the course and bailed out as many as fifty prominent local businessmen and doctors—including a former Hershey Company CEO who also sat on the MHS board. These investors stood to lose tens of thousands of dollars if the course closed. With the purchase, the investors turned their potential losses into profits of between $15,000 and $100,000. MHS’s board then sank another $5 million into a swanky, Scottish-themed clubhouse for the money-losing course, all paid for by the charity. The charity explained the purchase as necessary to create a “buffer” between MHS students and the community, and later claimed the land was for future MHS expansion.

Last year, an MHS administrator named William Charney Jr., who was in charge of training houseparents, went to prison for receiving and distributing child pornography. The Philadelphia Inquirer exposé described how yet another administrator, Peter Gurt, mocked a sexual act involving several students, reportedly seeking to elicit laughs from this at a senior roast. Gurt was later promoted and is rumored to be in line today to become the next MHS president. Another two MHS teachers were fined and disciplined in 2006 and ‘07 for engaging in sex with students.

“The problem with the Hershey Trust,” Sitkoff says, “is that its massive fund has been captured by Pennsylvania politicians to provide takeover protection for a local company. But that’s not the purpose of the trust. The purpose of the trust—which enjoys a federal tax subsidy—is to take care of needy kids.”

If Hershey were doing its task, by my calculation, it would be spending at least $300 million dollars a year on orphans. The entire Pennsylvania state budget is $27B, of which $10B is public welfare. While one cannot make out how much of that is devoted to orphans, it looks to me like about $1.6B is devoted specifically to children, not including Medicaid. So, waste on this order of magnitude (say, $100M annually) is a huge chunk of what is spent on Pennsylvania’s disadvantaged children.

While Fouad points out that this widening scandal has been protected from investigation by Republican Attorneys General, Ed Rendell also failed at leadership.

And this seems to be the trend. As the rich decide they can play by their own rules, nominally charitable functions are corrupted into personal piggybanks and political vehicles. The Milton Hershey School is being subsidized through the federal tax code and probably through state and federal spending. The Milton Hershey School is a disgrace, and it’s just one among many.

Posted in corruption, crimes, The Plunderbund | 2 Comments »

Colin Powell Endorses President Obama

Posted by MEC on October 25, 2012

General Powell is on target with his explanation of why he’s endorsing President Obama for re-election. There’s a video at the link. It’s worth a listen. He praises the president’s achievements in both domestic and foreign policy, and criticizes Romney for his shifting positions (and, tacitly, his untrustworthiness). I’m feeling the irony that Powell criticizes Romney’s Neocon advisers, since Powell chose to work with those people and support that agenda in the Bush regime. But his endorsement is one of the strongest, clearest statements for why Obama should be re-elected that I’ve heard.

Posted in 2012, doing the right thing, President Obama | 2 Comments »

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