Fox News Ticker

Monday, March 31, 2014

Comrade! We haff story for you!

They've since backed off, however as late as last month the Federal Communications Commission was putting forward a plan that would have put federal monitors in radio and television newsrooms.
"The Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (CINs) initiative was proposed last May. The FCC explained that it wanted information from television and radio broadcasters 'to ascertain the process by which stories are selected, station priorities (for content production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CIN's and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.'" Fox News reported. "The FCC has identified eight CINs, or key topics that the government believes should be covered."
Words fail. I mean seriously, I don't even know where to start.
Let us begin with the First Amendment, which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
I'm not sure what might abridge the freedom of speech or of the press _more_ than having government political officers sitting in on your newsroom staff meetings taking notes about what you intend to cover and why — or worse, making "suggestions" about what to cover. Note above: "The FCC has identified eight CINs, or key topics that the government believes should be covered."
I can just see some Soviet Zampolit saying: "Comrade! We have story ideas for you!"
And if that seems alarmist, consider that this administration has already admitted to spying on the American public and on journalists as well.
Consider as well that America has slipped to 46 on Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. Seriously, Namibia ranks higher than we do.
What's more frightening to me is that there has been very little outcry among journalists, beyond the right-leaning new media.
Where is CNN flipping a biscuit over this? ABC? CBS? I leave out MSNBC and NBC News as they would probably welcome a Commissar to make sure they were not deviating from the approved message.
Leaving politics aside, I simply cannot fathom the media even 10 years ago laying down like this for _any_ administration.
After the initial furor over the reports that the Department of Justice was wiretapping the Associated Press, the story has died away. I cannot imagine any other president — of either party — surviving that sort of Constitutional infringement.
But the press has been strangely silent on this. I will not speculate as to why, although I could do so, but I will say the lack of reaction is at least as chilling as the suggestions.
A free press is as necessary to the security of a free state as the right to keep and bear arms. Without a free press the government is free to do as it wills, when it wills without regard to the legality of its actions.
Given that the natural tendency of government is to expand its power and to arrogate ever more authority unto itself, some check on its ability is required. The press was designed to be this.

We cannot function effectively — indeed at all — with government monitors watching our every move. The national media should be ashamed of their lack of outrage at this unprecedented intimidation by the FCC.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Russia and the waning Pax Americana

I've heard tons of theories over the last few weeks as to why Russia -- and specifically Russian President Vladimir Putin -- have invaded Crimea and Ukraine, but the comment that really sent me around the bend was that "no one could have seen this coming."
Because the open-source intelligence firm Stratfor saw this coming back in 09. Anyone with a brain actually saw this coming back about 1989 or 90 with the fall of the Soviet Union.
A little history. Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire from about 1783 on. It was largely ignored in the 19th century but became important again in the early 20th and was a founding member of the USSR before gaining independence in the fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine hasn't really been a country of it's own for very long, while there have always been nationalist movements, Ukraine has been at the least a satrapy of one Russian Empire or another for over 200 years. And it is a strategic region. Particularly the Crimea. It was for centuries one of the breadbaskets of Europe, much of Russia's wheat still comes from Ukraine.
Moreover Crimea has Russia's only year-round port and is home to the Black Sea fleet. Ukraine also provides defensive depth for Russia. Moscow is a bare 350 miles from the Ukrainian border -- which sounds like a lot, but is not, particularly given the speed of modern warfare -- with no significant natural barriers to invasion. Which means an Army is not limited to roads. It was the defensive depth given to Russia by Ukraine which allowed them to contain, and eventually drive back Germany in World War II.
So seen from that perspective, the move was inevitable. Russia has never truly regarded Ukraine as independent and would, under the right set of circumstances, move to take it back.
Enter former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, a Russian Nationalist, dictator and all around bad guy, but much loved of his people. He's been moving to reconstruct not so much the USSR as the old Russian Empire (with himself as Tsar) since he took office after ousting the Amiable Alcoholic Boris Yeltsin. He's had to reconstruct an economy, which is still shaky, and a military which is shakier yet, but more powerful than anything else in the region. Russia is not a resurgent Superpower -- yet -- but it's certainly a Great Power again.
Now enter the last two presidents.
Russia snaffled off part of Georgia under George W. Bush, mostly because we were over extended and distracted in the Middle East and, frankly had little strategic interest in Georgia. Putin knew it, Bush knew it, and both knew that Bush was unlikely to ignore provocation in Ukraine. While we allowed Putin's little Georgian adventure, we also made moves to strengthen ties with Ukraine and some of the other former Soviet Republic, gave a little military aid, and promised a missile defense shield.
These moves were enough to let Putin know where the line was and that we would not allow it to be crossed.
Comes now Barack Obama. He's seen world-wide as weak, and waffling on foreign policy. He doesn't appear to be really interested in it. Neither of his Secretaries of State has been particularly strong and he's gone so far as to tell Putin's Puppet Dmitry Medvedev that "after the election I'll have more freedom."
Our military is exhausted, demoralized and being cut not to the bone but through it. In short we're projecting not strength but weakness.
Russians do not respect weakness. Putin goes around without a shirt on all the time for a reason. Yes it looks ridiculous to us, but not to Russians, who see him as strong, virile and a leader. Certainly it looks no more ridiculous than Obama in mom jeans riding a bicycle with a helmet on -- and that image is replayed repeatedly all over Russia.
What it comes down to is this: When you are the preeminent empire in the world (yes, yes we're more hegemony than empire, just go with me on this) you cannot EVER afford to look weak. The Pax Americana which followed the Pax Britannia has relied chiefly, as such Paxis do, on the strength of the nation enforcing it.
We are allowing that strength to wane and the peace we have enforced will go with it. Russia is capitalizing on that as other nations will as well.
We must either move to reestablish the Pax Americana or be prepared for what will follow World War III.