Feb
01
2011

SoundBites

Judge’s Conflicts Stricken From Record

Under U.S. law, a judge must disqualify himself “in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” or in which the judge “has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding.” But the conflicts of federal Judge Henry Hudson were little noted when he struck down as unconstitutional the healthcare law’s requirement that individuals buy private insurance.

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post reported last July (7/30/10) that Hudson was a major shareholder in Campaign Solutions, a Republican political consulting firm counting healthcare reform opponents like John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and John McCain among its clients.

Worse, Campaign Solutions was paid $9,000 in 2010 by Kenneth Cuccinelli, the Virginia attorney general who filed the state’s lawsuit challenging the healthcare law. In other words, one of the people bringing the case before the judge had a direct financial connection to him. Hudson has made tens of thousands of dollars from Campaign Solutions dividends in recent years.

Big news? The Washington Post (12/14/10) referred to it parenthetically in the lead of a page 17 analysis piece by Ezra Klein. The New York Times (12/16/10) finally mentioned the conflict three days after the decision—and played it down, describing Hudson as a “passive minority” owner in Campaign Solutions.

How the Other Half... Er, 0.2 Percent Lives

CNBC business anchor Erin Burnett (Today, 12/7/10) referred to the December tax deal as an early Christmas for Wall Street, but then tried to spin tax breaks for the wealthy and an ensuing stock rally as good for everyone:

Across the board gains, something that could benefit a lot of Americans. With capital gains and dividend taxes staying low, the half of Americans that own stocks get a benefit there as well.

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has pointed out (1/30/06), the benefits of low rates on dividends and capital gains flow overwhelmingly to the wealthy.

More than half of capital gains and dividend income goes to households with incomes over $1 million—the richest 0.2 percent. Households earning less than $50,000 get about 4 percent of the benefits. So, yes, “a lot of Americans” benefit—some a lot more than others.

Not Anarchy, but China

Thomas Friedman offered partial approval to WikiLeaks in his New York Times column (12/15/10):

I read many WikiLeaks and learned some useful things. But their release also raises some troubling questions. I don’t want to live in a country where they throw whistleblowers in jail. That’s China. But I also don’t want to live in a country where any individual feels entitled to just dump out all the internal communications of a government or a bank in a way that undermines the ability to have private, confidential communications that are vital to the functioning of any society. That’s anarchy.

WikiLeaks didn’t “dump out all the internal communications” of the U.S. government; the group has so far published less than half a percent of the State Department cables it possesses, and has been generally conscientious about redacting information that could harm individuals (Salon, 12/10/10). And the whistleblower who gave WikiLeaks this information is generally believed to be Private Bradley Manning, and he has been thrown in jail—under conditions that could be characterized as torture (Salon, 12/15/10). So we don’t have anarchy—but we are China.

NYT ‘Balance’ on Holbrooke

Following its proud tradition of objective journalism, the New York Times included both positive and negative views of Afghan envoy Richard Holbrooke in its December 14 obituary:

Some called him a bully, and he looked the part: the big chin thrust out, the broad shoulders, the tight smile that might mean anything. To admirers, however, including generations of State Department protégés and the presidents he served, his peacemaking efforts were extraordinary.

On the one hand, the big chin and a tight smile; on the other, the extraordinary peacemaking efforts. Of course, Holbrooke was called much worse than a bully (Huffington Post, 12/15/10); he was criticized for facilitating genocide in East Timor (Democracy Now!, 1/28/08), for delivering the designed-to-be-rejected ultimatum that started the Kosovo War (Extra!, 7-8/99) and for cheering the military targeting of journalists (Democracy Now!, 4/23/99). But those criticisms the Times decided not to bother readers with.

And ‘Karzai’ and ‘Che’ Both Have Six Letters

The New York Times’ Helene Cooper and Carlotta Gall (12/3/10) on Afghan president Hamid Karzai:

Mr. Karzai first burst onto the international stage in the style of Che Guevara, slipping over the Afghan border from Pakistan in 2001 as United States forces pounded the Taliban, before being installed by the West. President George W. Bush invited him to his first State of the Union speech after September 11, 2001, where Mr. Karzai sat in the audience as a symbol of heroes who emerged from the terrorist attacks.

Remember when Che was installed by the West following a U.S. invasion, and then invited to the State of the Union address? Karzai is just like that.

By ‘Killers,’ They Mean ‘Scientists’

In a piece Newsweek headlined “Killing the Killers” (12/20/10), Israeli military analyst Ronen Bergman recounted an Israeli assassination program he described as “a decades-long campaign to eliminate scientists working for its enemies on missiles and weapons of mass destruction.” The first incident recounted, targeting German scientists working with Egypt, killed five workers and maimed a secretary in the 1960s.

In the early ‘80s, Israeli agents found a scientist suspected of working for Saddam Hussein in Paris and clubbed him to death in a hotel room. A sex worker who testified to the police in that case died shortly thereafter in a hit-and-run accident. In 1990, Israeli agents murdered a Canadian-born artillery designer in his apartment—then mailed pictures of his corpse to others allegedly working on the same project.

Note that the only killing in these stories is by Israel, making “Killing the Killers” a dubious headline; “Israeli State Terrorism Revealed” would have been a better fit.