Section » Columns
Previous ETA program notes are archived below, under “Columns.” Each week, you can listen to Eat the Airwaves live, from 8:30-9:00 AM Saturdays on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle, or at http://kexp.org.
This week’s menu:
Chris Hansen goes off the deep end bidding for the Kings
Gov. Inslee signs bill on compensation for wrongful convictions
Seattle Times erects paywall – for its own reporters
Plan B judge denies appeal, rips Obama administration
Republicans move again to block ObamaCare implementation
Pentagon report and survey on sexual assault in the US military
Head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention Unit arrested for…sexual assault
Victims of wrongful foreclosures get screwed again, this time by Rust Consulting
Rios Montt trial verdict
Sarin gas in Syria
Update on the factory collapse in Bangladesh
If we needed more proof that Chris Hansen is a risky business partner for the City of Seattle, he announced that he and his investment partners are voluntarily raising the valuation of the Sacramento Kings basketball team to $625 million. That’s $100 million over their original valuation in January. Hansen has a binding agreement with the Maloof family, the 65% majority owners, to buy the team. Under the old valuation, Hansen & Co. would have paid about $341 million for a controlling ownership. Now they’re willing to pay $406 million. Who voluntarily increases the purchase price of an asset they’re trying to buy by $65 million? Unfortunately, the City of Seattle is caught in the midst of Hansen’s war with Sacramento and the NBA, and Seattle residents have little control over what kind of financial disaster could eventually end up in our laps. Of course Geov will say, “It’s never gonna happen, Maria!” But stranger things have happened—although few with the potential to be as financially ruinous for local taxpayers.–M.T.
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If you were wrongfully convicted of a crime in Washington State and served time, you will benefit from a new bill signed into law this week by Governor Jay Inslee. The new law allows people who were wrongfully convicted to receive monetary compensation from the state: $50,000 for each year in prison (including time spent waiting for trial) and $25,000 for each year on parole, in community custody, or listed as a registered sex offender. An additional $50,000 is available for each year spent on death row. The state will also reimburse child support costs, legal fees up to $75,000, and provide in-state college tuition waivers for the wrongfully convicted person and their children and step-children. That’s a very comprehensive attempt to redress a great wrong. And it also means that public security agencies like state and local police departments, public prosecutors, and judges will have a big incentive to put the right person behind bars, not just a “likely suspect.”–M.T.
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The Stranger reported this week that the new paywall restricting access to the Seattle Times website also restricts access for the paper’s own editorial staff – and that Times/I> reporters must pay in order to access their own newspaper’s archives.
Times head editor David Boardman told The Stranger that the cost is “deeply discounted” for those Times employees who don’t already have a home subscription. But the policy is still staggeringly stupid, since any reporters routinely need to use such archives to research background, retrieve file data, or simply fact-check. The editorial room has already been decimated by layoffs, and most senior reporters have long gone – leaving many of those remaining young (and thus cheap) writers who particularly need access to history that may predate their time at the paper, or in Seattle itself.
The policy points up three cold truths about the pathetic journalistic remnant that is the Times: first, that it’s hemorrhaging money and desperate for any income stream it can get. Second, that it places little or no value on retaining its professional staff. And third, apparently, that it considers things like context and accuracy outside a reporter’s job description. –G.P.
In last week’s show we described the Department of Justice’s appeal of a federal court ruling that reversed an Obama administration ruling barring access to “Plan B” emergency contraception for women under 15, and why that policy was so bad:
The DoJ is disingenuously complaining that the judge in the case overstepped his authority by ruling against the scientific findings of the FDA, when in fact he was re-installing the original FDA scientific recommendation that was overruled by a political appointee (Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius). The Obama administration is in essence arguing, against the existing scientific evidence, for political reasons: pandering to people terrified by the idea that teenage girls should have any control over their own bodies.
Here’s the thing – girls 14 and younger who get pregnant would have a much harder time than older teen girls getting to and paying for a physician visit without assistance from their parents. At the same time, there are any number of reasons why girls might not want to involve their parents, from philosophical or religious differences on the issue up to and including the much higher likelihood, at that age, that the father is a friend of or member of the family. By definition, a girl 14 or younger who is pregnant is the victim of statutory rape, The Obama administration is arguing for political reasons that these girls should have to go through their families, when there is a not insignificant chance that that would mean needing to get approval from their rapist.
That was last week. This week, the judge in the case – Reagan appointee Judge Edward R. Korman of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York – rejected the Obama administration’s request for a stay of his order, and in the process eviscerated the administration’s “frivolous” and “silly” arguments, making our criticisms sound mild:
“If a stay is granted, it will allow the bad-faith, politically motivated decision of Secretary Sebelius, who lacks any medical or scientific expertise, to prevail — thus justifiably undermining the public’s confidence in the drug approval process,” Korman wrote in his lengthy, scathing ruling. He added that if the stay is granted it would “vindicate the improper conduct of the secretary.”
Judge Korman also noted that it wouldn’t just be women under 15 who would be affected by such a policy. An age requirement would also require all young women to present proof of their age – meaning that women 15 and over who don’t have photo ID (eg a drivers license) would also be unable to get a legal, supposedly over-the-counter drug. Lots of teenagers don’t have drivers’ licenses (in most states, you can’t even get one until you’re 16) – and, Korman observed, that would also disproportionately affect poor and minority women.
Nonetheless, Obama’s DoJ has already said their will appeal Korman’s ruling to the full court this coming week. If a conservative judge can find this politically motivated policy – redolent of the misogynist, anti-sex, and anti-science biases of the most ignorant and hateful elements of the Tea Party – so harmful and preposterous, what does it say about Obama that, absent any electoral pressure, he continues to pursue it? –G.P.
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Sebelius was also in the news this week as the inadvertent beneficiary of the latest Republican efforts to prevent implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare.”
The catalysts were Congressional Republican leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, who announced they would refuse to nominate appointments to the new Independent Payment Advisory Board, The IPAB is a 15-member board, set to begin work next year, that is charged with finding cost savings in Medicare provider payments (not benefits) if costs exceed economic growth plus an additional percentage point in any given year. The 15 panel members are nominated, three each, by the White House and the major party leadership in the House and Senate, and then confirmed by the Senate. The refusal of Republicans to even nominate panelists also virtually guarantees that they intend to prevent any of the Democrats’ nominations from being voted on and approved by the Senate.
But here’s the thing: the way the ACA is written, if the IPAB fails to do its work for any reason, the Health and Human Services secretary (Sebelius) must order the cuts herself.
These Medicare cost savings decisions are what Sarah Palin famously labeled “death panels,” and this is about that. The irony is twofold: first, that the Rs, in claiming ObamaCare costs too much, are refusing to cooperate in a congressionally mandates cost avings process. Second, they claim the process is unaccountable, so they’re putting it in the hands of one person – a partisan political appointee – instead.
This is no accident. They want to drive up costs, make one person responsible for the process, and then claim it’s too expansive and one Democrat is making all the decisions. Or, wait until a Republican is in the White House and then their HHS secretary can single-handedly kill the whole thing. For the same reasons, Republican governors are refusing to implement the mandated state health care exchanges, requiring the federal government to come in and do it – which it will do, being the Kenyan Marxist enterprise it is, until a Republican is elected and the whole thing can be dismantled and the boot of tyranny taken off the necks of the poor private insurance companies.
All this Republican obstruction is an elaborate charade for political purposes that bears no relationship to reality, except for all the people who will have a more difficult time getting care as a result of their partisan posturing. Some, of course, will die as a result; many more will have their lives ruined. All this is known. They don’t care; it’s a feature, not a bug. Assholes. –G.P.
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It’s Sexual Assault Week at the Pentagon. Unfortunately, we can say that about every week in the US military, according to a recent Pentagon survey. About 25,000 men and women in uniform responded to a recent survey about sexual assault and battery. Of those respondents, 6.1 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men said that they were sexually assaulted in the past year. Extrapolating that over the total 1.4 million members of the military, the Pentagon came up with a total of 26,000 servicemen and women who were victims of sexual assault, a horrific number for only a single year. But what’s even more disturbing is that the official Pentagon report, also released this week, counted only 3,374 reports of sexual assault – only about 13 percent of the estimated total assaults. And most of those reported cases were not tried by a military court or, if they were, resulted in minor, administrative punishments.
Congress needs to ignore Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s “advice” not to do anything hasty, . Instead, it needs to pass legislation that allows victims of sexual assault in the military to have their own attorneys and the right to have their cases tried in civilian courts. Washington State Senator Patty Murray is co-sponsoring legislation that goes partway toward that goal. You can tell her what you think about it here .–M.T.
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Given that, it should come as no surprise that at least one Air Force officer took the term Sexual Assault Week too literally: Lt. Coronel Jeffrey Krusinski. He got drunk and sexually assaulted a female stranger in a dark parking lot. Krusinski was – get this – the chief of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention unit. He’d only been in the job for about two months and, while a Pentagon spokeswoman said he was quickly removed from the position after his arrest, she made no mention of a courtmartial or other punishment. Arlington County authorities are prosecuting him in a civilian court, since the attack happened off the base. However, Arlington County attorney Theo Stamos told reporters that she was shocked when military brass asked her to release Krusinski into their custody so they could discipline him instead. Noting that her office routinely prosecuted members of the military for other crimes, she said, “In my 26 years, I have never been asked by the government to turn over a member of the military. It doesn’t make sense.”
Clearly the military has a different standard for sexual assault cases versus other crimes. And if the female victim had been a servicewoman? It would have been swept under the carpet and Krusinski would have kept his new job.–M.T.
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The big banks are not the only corporations that mess up homeowners and people who’ve suffered foreclosures. Rust Consulting, the company that’s supposed to be mailing out checks to former homeowners who’ve been wronged by the big banks’ foreclosure abuses, has made several egregious mistakes. Three weeks ago, they sent out checks that bounced because they hadn’t transferred several hundred million dollars into the correct bank account. (I guess they were playing the stock market with that money.) Now they’ve messed up the checks again by using an incorrect equation to calculate the amount owed to people foreclosed on by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, depriving foreclosure victims of thousands of dollars each. Reports are also flooding in that Rust Consulting isn’t correctly calculating the amount to pay military members whose houses were wrongfully foreclosed – they’re sending them a few hundred dollars instead of the tens of thousands of dollars that they’re due to receive under the settlement terms. Also, Rust is not providing any information to recipients about how their compensation was calculated, so many people probably don’t even know they’re getting screwed. In addition, many of the checks are being sent to the addresses of the foreclosed homes, where the former owners no longer live. The federal government needs to fire Rust Consulting and take the job in-house. It may slow things down a bit, but at least there’d be some public oversight.–M.T.
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Remember the brouhaha over the (anonymous) interim head of National Clandestine Services branch of CIA? She was slotted to get the permanent job, thus (much to the delight of some women’s rights activists) becoming the highest-ranking woman in CIA history. There was only one problem: the same woman was also a focus of controversy (but not, alas, the criminal charges she richly deserved) during the Bush administration for not only overseeing the torture of War on Terror “detainees,” but, along with Jose Rodriguez, personally defying a federal court order and destroying torture session videos that were to be used as evidence in a court case challenging the lawfulness of the practice.
This week, the Obama administration announced that someone else got the job. That person has undoubtedly committed war crimes as well – but passing over a prime architect of one of the most horrific and blatant violations of US and international law in the long and sordid history of the CIA is not a blow against gender equity. Some people just don’t deserve to be promoted. Period. –G.P.
Late Friday, a three-judge panel in Guatemala convicted former Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efrain Rios Montt of genocide, and sentenced him to 80 years in prison, for the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of thousands of rural Ixil Mayans in the Guatemalan highlands under his regime in the early 1980s. The unambiguous verdict read, in part: “We are completely convinced of the intent to destroy the Ixil ethnic group.”
The verdict is believed to be first time a past leader has ever been convicted of such crimes by a fair trial in his own country. By comparison, not only is a trial on US soil for the war crimes of George W. Bush unimaginable, but it’s expressly prohibited by the US constitution. The trial was allowed to proceed despite the strong resistance of Guatemala’s current president, who was one of Rios Montt’s henchmen back in the days.
The United States wasn’t thrilled with the trial, either, since the chief political patron, arms supplier, and political apologist for Rios Montt was then-US president Ronald Reagan, who famously called Rios Montt a “champion of democracy” even as the genocide was unfolding – with his knowledge. Somehow, Reagan’s role in facilitating this massive crime is being completely omitted from almost every US media account of Friday’s verdict. –G.P.
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“Syrian Rebels May Have Used Sarin Gas” was the tiny headline in Monday’s New York Times. After front-page headlines screaming about “evidence” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons (or was going to use chemical weapons, which is the same thing, right?), I was shocked to see this little headline hiding out in the back of the International Section of the paper. Apparently, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria has found what it thinks is convincing evidence that sarin gas was used during the fighting in Syria. “This was use by the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” said Carla Del Ponte, a member of the commission, during an interview on Swiss-Italian TV. After searching out victims of chemical poisoning in field hospitals and refugee camps and interviewing both the victims and their doctors, the commission has very strong suspicions but no actual proof yet. But then again, the US government hasn’t produced even minor evidence to back their theory that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, saying only that they have “varying degrees of confidence.” Whatever that means.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget that the most effective fighting units in the Syrian rebel army are composed of jihadis who are not above targeting civilians in their quest for an Islamic state ruled by Shariah law. It makes the endless knee-jerk calls for US military intervention that accompanied the original reports – before anyone knew what had actually happened – even more ridiculous and dangerous in context, since any rebel forces sympathetic to US interests have long been marginalized now by the more violent and disciplined Islamist forces the US and its allies are choosing to covertly arm instead. –M.T. & G.P.
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Work crews are still digging through the rubble and pulling bodies out of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh, which collapsed over two weeks ago. The day before the collapse, the building was shut down when workers fled after huge cracks appeared in the walls. Nevertheless, the owner opened up the building for work the next day, and his entire work force was caught in the collapse. The death toll has climbed to over 1,000 people, officially making the Rana Plaza factory collapse the worst industrial accident in the history of the garment industry. That’s really saying something, since workplace fires are common in garment industry buildings. Over 100 years ago, it was the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City that led to the passage of worker safety laws in the US. In that fire, 146 people died; as in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, most of the victims were young women. But one of the most important things that came out of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), and it gave a boost to labor organizing in general.
Since the Rana Plaza collapse, there have been several angry demonstrations in the capital of Bangladesh, and the entire country is watching the rising body count and wondering if there’ll be any justice for the victims. Maybe Rana Plaza will lead to more union organizing and worker safety legislation in Bangladesh, too. We can hope so, but meanwhile we should continue to push budget clothing retailers like Gap, Walmart, Joe Fresh, H&M, and others to set standards for workplace safety and hold their suppliers accountable.–M.T.
Sat. May 11, 2-5 PM: International Day of Action on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the latest US-led effort for a multilateral free trade agreement, and how it will impact food and workers. Co-sponsored by numerous food justice, environmental, and labor groups. Central Co-Op Annex, 1900 E. Madison.
Sun. May 12, 12-5 PM: Remember the NAKBA commemoration of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Sponsored by Palestine Solidarity Committee. Westlake Park, 4th & Pine, downtown Seattle.
Tue. May 14, 330-6:30 PM: Rally to save Indian Heritage School, which – like most alternate schools in Seattle – has been jacked around by the school district for several years and is now facing elimination entirely. Bring your drums, signs, and voice. John Stanford Center for Excellence in Despising the Public (aka “The Glass Palace”), 2445 3rd Ave. S. in SoDo.
Tue. May 14, 3:30 PM open house, 4 PM testimony begins: The King County Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee will be holding a public hearing on budget cuts to public transportation in the face of the state legislature’s 17 percent budget cut of Metro. Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle.
Wed. May 15: Hundreds of Puget Sound nonprofits are participating in the Seattle Foundation’s annual Give BIG day, in which online donations made through the foundation to participating groups receive a percentage match from the foundation. Your favorite groups are probably among them. For more information and to donate, go here.
Thu. May 16, 7 PM: City Council candidate Kshama Sawant will be the featured speaker in the last installment this spring of the weekly Common Good Cafe1. University Temple United Methodist Church, 15th & 43rd NE in Seattle’s University District.