Guy Who Shot Walter Scott Video Is Selling It for 10K. And Good for Him

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

The guy who took the video that caught a South Carolina cop shooting Walter Scott in the back is telling news outlets that they’ll have to cough up $10,000 to post or broadcast it.

Good. Good for him.

For the record: Passerby Feidin Santana, who took the cell phone video that shocked the nation and landed the police officer in jail awaiting a murder trial, gave it away for free to the family so they could pursue legal remedies, and to media organizations in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

“Now they will have to pay,” Max Markson, the publicist, said.

Let’s get one thing straight: News is big business. The CEO of NBCUniversal makes $31 million a year. Last year – which relatively sucked – brought in $91 million in operating profits to The New York Times. So it’s not like major news outlets can’t afford to shell out a few bucks.

As long as I can remember – in other words, too long – American news organizations have raked in handsome profits and paid exorbitant salaries to their executives, while monetizing video footage and other news assets created by ordinary citizens who gave them away for free. They claim that their refusal to “pay for news” is motivated by the purely noble desire not to allow money to corrupt the process.

The truth is, they’re just cheap. Newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets all around the world routinely pay for interviews, photos and videos; there’s no evidence that the ABC in which the A stands for Australia is any less trustworthy than ours. I have some experience with this: When I agree to an interview with a non-American news organization, it is not rare for me to receive an honorarium to compensate me for my time. Believe me, those foreigners aren’t getting anything different from me than the outfits based here in the good old U.S. of A.

In 2002, two French brothers sold the rights to their exclusive footage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 to CBS for $1 million. They caught a lot of flak for profiting from tragedy, but CBS got 35 million viewers to tune in to their riveting documentary of the attack on New York City. You can be damned sure that CBS made a handsome profit on that.

To reiterate, I would come down on the other side of the argument if we didn’t live in a world of corporatized mass media that keeps thousands of fat white guys, and a few fat white women, in penthouse apartments and Hamptons vacation homes. As long as they’re making money from news, why can’t the rest of us?

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Two Stories the Same Day Show That the U.S. is Rotten to the Core

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Still think the United States is governed by decent people? That the system isn’t totally corrupt and obscenely unfair?

Two stories that broke April 23rd ought to wake you up.

Story 1: President Obama admitted that one of his Predator drones killed two aid workers, an American and an Italian, who were being held hostage by Al Qaeda in Pakistan. As The Guardian reports, “The lack of specificity [about the targets] suggests that despite a much-publicized 2013 policy change by Barack Obama restricting drone killings by, among other things, requiring ‘near certainty that the terrorist target is present,’ the U.S. continues to launch lethal operations without the necessity of knowing who specifically it seeks to kill, a practice that has come to be known as a ‘signature strike.'”

“Lack of specificity” is putting it mildly. According to a report by the group Reprieve, the U.S. targeted 41 “terrorists” — actually, enemies of the corrupt Yemeni and Pakistani regimes — with drones during 2014. Thanks to “lack of specificity,” a total of 1,150 people were killed. Which doesn’t even include the 41 targets, many of whom got away clean.

Obama’s hammy pretend grief was Shatner-worthy. Biting his lip in that sorry/not sorry Bill Clinton way, the president summed up mock sadness for an event that happened back in January. Come on, dude. You seriously expect us to believe you’ve been all weepy for the last three months, except for all those speeches and other public appearances in which you were, you know, laughing and cracking jokes?

Including, um, the same exact day when he pretend-sadded, when he yukked it up with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots? “That whole story got blown a little out of proportion,” he jibed. (Cuz: “deflate-gate.”) While sad. But laughing.

So. Confusing.

I swear, the right-wing racists are right to hate him. But they hate him for totally the wrong reasons.

Anyway, what took so long for the White House to admit they killed one of our best citizens? “It took weeks to correlate [the hostages’] reported deaths with the drone strikes,” The New York Times quoted White House officials. But in his prepared remarks, Obama said “capturing these terrorists was not possible” — thus the drone strike.

How stupid does the Administration think we are?

The fact that it is possible to find out who dies in a drone fact (albeit after the fact) indicates that there is reliable intelligence coming out of the targeted areas, presumably provided by local police and military sources. If there are cops and troops there who are friendly enough to give us information, then it obviously is possible to ask them to capture the targeted individuals.

Bottom line: the U.S. government is blowing up people with drones willy-nilly, without the slightest clue who they’re blowing up. Which, as political assassinations, are illegal. And which they specifically said was what they were no longer doing. Then they have the nerve to pretend to be sad about the completely avoidable consequences of their actions. They’re disgusting and gross and ought to be locked in prison forever.

Story 2: David Petraeus, former hotshot media-darling general of the Bush and early Obama years, received a slap on the wrist — probation plus a $100,000 fine — for improperly passing on classified military documents to unauthorized people and lying about it to federal agents when they questioned him about it.

Here we go again: more proof that, in the American justice system some people fly first-class while the rest of us go coach.

In this back-asswards world, people like Petraeus who ought to be held to the highest standard because they were entrusted with immense power and responsibility, walk free while low-ranking schlubs who committed the same crime get treated like Al Capone. Private Chelsea Manning, who released warlogs documenting U.S. war crimes in Iraq to Wikileaks, rots in prison for 35 years. Edward Snowden, the 31-year-old systems administrator for a private NSA outsourcing firm who revealed that the U.S. government is reading all our emails and listening to all our phone calls, faces life in prison.

Two years probation. Meanwhile, teachers who helped their students cheat on standardized tests got seven years in prison. To Petraeus, who went to work for a hedge fund, $100,000 is a nice tip for the caddy.

Adding insanity to insult is the fact that Petraeus’ motive for endangering national security was venal: he gave the documents to his girlfriend, who wrote his authorized biography. Manning and Snowden, heroes who in a sane society would receive ticker-tape parades and presidential medals of freedom, weren’t after glory. They wanted to inform the American people about atrocities committed in their name, and about wholesale violations of their basic freedoms, including the right to privacy.

Before he was caught and while he was sharing classified info with his gf, Petraeus had the gall to hypocritically pontificate about a CIA officer who disclosed sensitive information. Unlike Petraeus, the CIA guy got coach-class justice: 30 months in prison.

“Oaths do matter,” Petraeus pompously bloviated in 2012, “and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.”

If you’re a first-classer, the consequences are very small.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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Yemen Drone Strikes: Arrest This!

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative studied Obama’s drone strikes in Yemen and found that, contrary to assurances that drone strikes are only used when there is no other way to apprehend targets, people were killed even when the local authorities were ready, willing and able to arrest them. But arrests just aren’t as damned cool as drones.

yemen drone strikes

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EU Antitrust Charges Against Google? NP. Just Buy Europe

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

The European Union is about to file antitrust charges against Google, The New York Times reports. If found guilty of abusing its market dominance — Google controls 90 percent of search in Europe — it may have to pay a six billion Euro fine. That’s equivalent to 10 percent of Google’s annual profits.

But the worst thing for Google isn’t the prospective fine, says aNewDomain legal analyst Tom Ewing. It’s that the firm will likely have to substantially change its business practices. The claim against Google is around complaints that Google favors it own products and services, non search-related, when someone in Europe uses Google to search. The complaints came from Microsoft, TripAdvisor, Yelp and others. The EU announcement this week culminates a five-year investigation, during which Google didn’t do enough to satisfy EU complaints.

That’s the whole point of anticompetition law and, likely, the EU antitrust charges against Europe. But here is a possible out for Google: Buy Europe!

Google antitrust Googe Europe antitrust

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Bigger, Badder LAPD Cops: What Could Go Wrong?

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Be Sensitive

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck “wants to swarm high-crime neighborhoods with more than 200 highly trained officers from the elite Metropolitan Division without undermining years of progress the department has made in building better relationships with those communities,” report Kate Mather, Richard Winton and Cindy Chang in The Times.

Metro Division cops are the best of the best — the department’s elite. So what could go wrong?

“Parachuting reinforcements into unfamiliar territory on this scale marks a change from the LAPD’s longtime community policing tactic of using beat cops to patrol neighborhoods. Metro officers are known more for their specialized tactical and weapons training than for their skills in building relationships with residents,” their report says.

Civil rights lawyer Connie Rice told The Times that she’s concerned the Metro Division deployment may make things worse. “The Metro officers are a super paramilitary version of policing,” she said. “They are not the cops who have relationships and know the communities. They tend to be very aggressive, historically. They don’t get to know a community…. They don’t get to know the people they police or, for that matter, the local officers.”

Today’s cartoon is centered around a rather hilarious quote by Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff: Metro Division police “are not Ferguson-like. They are not South Carolina-like. Our training — sensitivity training, use of force training — is off the charts.”

Really, truly … do these people ever stop and listen to themselves?

Given the state of police-community relations in Los Angeles and across the United States — and I mean “community” in the broad, dictionary sense, not the euphemistic stand-in for “black neighborhood” — the burden of proof is on the cops. Asking us to “just trust them” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Of course, there are establishment types who do still trust the police. Last week, for example, New York Times columnist David Brooks argued that police body cameras violate privacy rights — not for you and me, but for the cops. “Cop-cams…undermine communal bonds,” Brooks wrote. “Putting a camera on someone is a sign that you don’t trust him, or he doesn’t trust you. When a police officer is wearing a camera, the contact between an officer and a civilian is less likely to be like intimate friendship and more likely to be oppositional and transactional.”

I got a ticket a few days ago (for talking on my cellphone while driving). You know what?

It wasn’t an “intimate friendship.”

Although that would certainly be a nice standard to which the Metropolitan Division should aspire.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Clinton Runs First, Thinks Last

The revealing headline: “Hillary Clinton Will Run; She Still Has to Explain Why.”

The money quote from the story beneath that headline: “For months, Mrs. Clinton has lamented the stagnant wages holding back lower-income people and the concentration of wealth among a sliver of the wealthiest, a sentiment echoed in her first public remarks as a 2016 candidate.”

Linger on that sentence’s introductory phrase: “For months.”

Months?

!

What?

Hillary has been a political animal for decades. She’s been a possible future presidential candidate since at least 1996 — the year she last drove a car. She’s just getting around to figuring out what her politics are?

(By the way and speaking of which, someone in Hillaryworld needs to clue in She-Who-Must-Be-Driven to basic automotive vernacular. When one is a passenger, one does not say, as Secretary Clinton did yesterday, “when I was driving here.” Driving is something one does, not something that is done to you. Unless you are actually, you know, driving, the correct phrase would be: “when I was riding here.” Unless, of course, this is one of those misremembering “dodging sniper fire” senior moments.)

Maybe I took high school civics class too seriously, but I thought the correct order was:

First, come up with list of ideas, policies, and bills that you would, as President of the United States, promote, enact and propose.

Second, run for President of the United States.

This, however, is no longer how a professional political class so removed from the lives of the average citizen that they not only don’t drive but don’t even know words about driving — who think being worth $25 million equals “dead broke,” and that earning $12 million a year makes you “not truly well off” — sees it. First, they fundraise. Second, they run. Third, they figure out what they believe in.

With a campaign warchest likely to set new records, the task of selling influence in a 2017-2021 first term is well underway. Unless she dies or gets hosed by a new scandal, Hillary has the Democratic nomination all sewn up. Which means it’s time for the last priority: ginning up a platform.

At this writing, Clinton says she wants to be a “champion” for “everyday Americans.” What does that phrase even mean? As opposed to what — Americans who live outside the standard Sunday-to-Saturday space-time continuum? Is there some special eighth-and-a-halfth day for one percenters?

There are, she told Iowans, “four big fights that I think we have to take on.”

Hillary’s big fight #1: “We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday.” Question: will there be flying robots? If there are flying robots, I’m in! But not flying robot murderers, like we use to kill Pakistanis and Yemenis. Too much tomorrow.

Big fight #2: Strengthening families. “When families are strong, America is strong.” You’ve been warned, single people who drain America’s strength — Hillary is coming for you! “Because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.” Hell-o, Oprah!

Big fight #3: Campaign finance reform. “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all – even if that takes a constitutional amendment.”

Big fight #4: National security. “We need to protect our country from the threats that we see, and the ones that are on the horizon.”

With all due respect — in other words, none — Hillary’s “platform” reads like a mash-up of Dick Morris’ focus-grouped pabulum and a schoolchild answering test questions about a book she didn’t read.

The “big fight” thesis gets an F: Who’s against “an economy of tomorrow”? Does anyone oppose stronger families? If a presidential candidate has ever run in favor of letting threats go unanswered, it’s news to me.

Of Hillary’s “big four fights,” only a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision has substance. But campaign finance reform is a low priority for Americans. What Americans care most about, polls have shown consistently, is the economy. People want more jobs, higher wages, better job security.

In all fairness, Hillary isn’t the only run-first-think-second presidential contender. With the exception of Rand Paul, there isn’t much beef on the Republican side either.

Still, Hillary’s lameness towers above the rest if for no other reason than the fact that she’s had at least 20 years to think about what she’d do as president. If this is all she can think up after all this time, how slowly will she react when she gets that hotline phone call at 3 a.m.?

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Rand Paul Proves That the American Political System is Broken

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I have been arguing for years that the American political system is broken. Not in the way that everyone else says it is – the Democrats and Republicans unable to compromise or get anything done. Given what happens when the two major parties cooperate – “free trade” agreements that send American jobs overseas and cut wages for those that remain, wars we have no chance of winning, and tax “reform” that only benefits the extremely wealthy and the corporations they control – we could use a lot more Washington gridlock.

The best indication that the United States government is no longer a viable entity, and so beyond reform that we need to start from scratch, is the fact that the best and the brightest no longer aspire to a career in politics or governmental inspiration. It’s not just anecdotal; polls and studies show that the millennial generation, like the generation Xers before them, care deeply about the nation’s and the world’s problems but don’t think that it’s possible to solve them through the political system, refuse to sacrifice their personal privacy in a campaign, and are disgusted by the requirement of raising millions of dollars in order to run.

Despite the obstacles, every now and then – like that one tadpole out of a thousand that manages to evade the snapping jaws of hungry fish – someone interesting and intelligent decides to enter public life. Unfortunately, these poor souls must present themselves as boring and stupid in order to do so – and shred every last ounce of integrity they had before they entered the political process.

If there is a better case for this political system being over and done, I don’t know what it is.

Current case study: Rand Paul.

The senator from Kentucky has been a principled voice of resistance to the Obama administration’s most egregious violations of privacy and civil liberties. He has relentlessly opposed the National Security Agency’s wholesale collection of Americans’ personal communications and digital data, filibustered to protest the attorney general’s refusal to rule out using drones to kill American citizens on American soil, and followed his libertarian father’s tradition of non-interventionism by opposing the post-9/11 endless “war on terror.”

In many respects Paul, a Republican, has been more liberal – and certainly more vocal – than the most left-leaning members of the Democratic Party.

Now, however, he has officially declared that he is running for president next year. And so the usual coalition of GOP officials, Washington Beltway pundits, and no doubt his campaign advisers are telling him that he must abandon the interesting, intelligent and true-to-the-Constitution stances that got him noticed in the first place.

Gotta become “electable,” you see.

In just one week as a presidential candidate, he has backed away from his 2007 statement – which happened to have the virtue of being correct – that Iran did not represent a military threat to the United States. To be a Republican these days, you have to be against everything Obama does, and he just finished negotiating a deal to normalize relations with Iran.

Paul made some major efforts to reach out to African-Americans over the last few years – rare for a Republican – but there are early signs that his unwillingness to call out the racist “dog whistles” of his Tea Party-besotted opponents will neutralize his previous expressions of sympathy for black victims of police profiling and brutality.

He even flip-flopped on drones. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him,” he said recently.

What’s next: selling us out on the NSA? Apparently maybe.

I am tempted to argue that Paul is wrong, and that he would be better off personally as well as politically sticking to his guns. After all, he has, or at least has had, these popular positions all to himself. Why follow the lead of Al Gore, who foolishly decided not to emphasize his credibility as an environmentalist in 2000?

Be that as it may, let’s focus on the big takeaway: the perception among the political class that, to be electable, you have to adjust your positions to conform to the banal, the uninspired, the illegal, with total disregard for the will or the greater good of the American people.

Broken.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

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