KEXP “Eat the Airwaves” Program Notes – March 9, 2013
Maria and Geov are starting an experiment of combining and posting our program notes from each week’s “Eat the Airwaves” KEXP show here at ETS! (These will include our notes for news items we don’t have time to get to on air.) This requires a certain amount of initiative on our part – and it’s /Maria’s busiest time of year at her day job – so we’ll see how well it goes. Hopefully each week we’ll have them up over the weekend or Monday; we’ll know better once we get into a rhythm.
To start, here are our program notes from last Saturday, March 9. The actual program is archived at http://www.hotpotatomedia.com/eta/030913et.mp3.
Listen live each week, 8:30-9:00 AM Pacific Time on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle, or http://kexp.org.
KEXP MARCH 9, 2013
Good news, sort of: The US Department of Energy has agreed to ship some of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s copious amounts of radioactive waste to New Mexico rather than waiting for a long-delayed treatment plant at Hanford. But: the DoE doesn’t have a modified permit to ship the waste, some 7,500 to 30,000 drums of transuranic radioactive waste that would go to New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project if the state of New Mexico agrees to take it. Which would be, uh, why? Even if they do, it’s a two to four year process to start shipping
The Seattle City Council approved its South Lake Union rezone, increasing allowabl heights to up to forty-story buildings from just north of Denny Way to the lake. But they put off discussing main elements of the rezone: Fees to charge developers if they want to exceed the height limits (fees would go to affordable housing construction – and what’s the definition of “affordable”?); the height of buildings along Lake Union (Vulcan owns a lot of that property); and how to preserve views of the Space Needle. So construction will go on in the absence of real regulation.
The City Council is considering rules for purchase and use of surveillance equipment by city departments, including the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Its current bill says city departments have to get City Council approval to purchase such equipment, and would have to formulate rules for its use and deployment, for how data is stored, and who gets to see it. The council took public testimony from about a dozen people and groups, and they requested changes to the bill: Protections regarding public access to the data, and the right for citizens to sue the government if the data is misused in any way – a strong deterrent to potential misuse.
Merrick Bobb, the court-appointed monitor, submitted the Department of Justice-mandated Monitoring Plan for SPD reforms to the court on Tuesday. Mayor McGinn was surprised because he thought he had sign-off authority on the overall plan.
From the document: “…the purpose of the Monitoring Plan is to establish clear expectation for the City and DOJ on how the Monitor will assess compliance with the Settlement Agreement.” Bobb makes it clear that the Monitor’s role is to set deadlines, adopt various measurements and assessments, and set a schedule (proposed by SPD) for reporting on the progress of changes at SPD. McGinn can give input, but doesn’t have sign-off authority.
The plan says in several places that it doesn’t expand on the Settlement Agreement – it doesn’t add any new requirements for the SPD to follow. That depends on how you interpret the Settlement Agreement. McGinn and SPD Chief Diaz have a narrow interpretation. They say the DOJ didn’t find that the SPD had engaged in “biased policing.” That’s not strictly true. The DOJ said there were strong indications the SPD had engaged in biased policing, but it was difficult to analyze because the SPD didn’t keep adequate statistics and they didn’t have enough data. Diaz and McGinn, however, are resisting any wording in the Monitoring Plan that mentions “biased policing” – even though it should be something they want to ensure doesn’t happen, regardless of whether they believe it’s happening now.
But the Monitoring Plan is full of such wording. Merrick Bobb is essentially saying, “Look, you have a problem with communities of color. You have to put into place some measurements and institute some training to address that problem.” And it is, after all, good practice for police departments to do this.
The Monitoring Plan also runs afoul of the police union. It requires SPD to hire more sergeants and lieutenants to oversee rank-and-file cops. The union will have something to say about that, since it relates directly to working conditions. The Monitoring Plan also contains specific wording that says no contract between the city and the police union can supersede or invalidate any portion of the Settlement Agreement or the Monitoring Plan.
In the past, the SPD and the mayor have used this as an excuse not to make changes at SPD, particularly around public, civilian oversight of the department – they’ve always said it was prohibited by their agreement with police union. (But then failed to try to negotiate to have that changed in subsequent city negotiations with the union.) Bobb is saying that the city has to set aside that excuse and work on the real issues.
The city council is also getting ready to approve the new, fifteen-member Community Police Commission mandated by the court-approved DoJ consent agreement. The appointments, made by Mayor McGinn, are better than in past “reform” efforts like the OPA. Nominees include Marcel Purnell of Youth Undoing Institutional Racism; Jennifer Shaw, Deputy Director of the ACLU of Washington; Jay Hollingsworth of the John T. Williams Organizing Committee; Harriet Walden of Mothers for Police Accountability; Bill Hobson, Executive Director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center; and Rev. Aaron Williams, Senior Pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church. But the commission also includes four members of law enforcement or the justice system, and several politicians – hardly “community” members, and most of them vested in the status quo. Past such commissions have seen token activists ignored with patronizing assurances that only the insiders really know the difficult realities of police work, ad nauseam. Will the activists be listened to this time?
Similar to the DoJ’s investigation of abuse and racial bias in SPD’s policing, the US Department of Education is now investigating the Seattle School District for disproportionate disciplining of black district students.
In the 2011-12 school year, nearly 13 percent of Seattle’s black high school students received at least one short-term suspension; the parallel number was under four percent for white students. In middle schools it was even worse: seven percent for white students and a whopping 27 percent of blacks. These disparities are far above those for comparably sized urban districts in other parts of the country – even though, compared to many of them, Seattle’s crime rate is lower and its economy is better, both of which should predict lower school discipline rates in Seattle.
The PI’s article on the investigation had this depressingly hilarious quote: “The district has long been aware of the disparity…”
And yet it is helpless, utterly helpless, to do anything about it. Pity.
The Arkansas state legislature has passed an anti-abortion bill that’s patently unconstitutional.
It bans abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy. That deadline is within the first trimester (13 weeks); some women don’t even know they’re pregnant by then, let alone having had time to make what is usually a major life decision and then make appointments and financial and/or travel arrangements in a state where few counties even have abortion services available.
The US Supreme Court has set the limit before which abortions are constitutinoally protected at 24 weeks (just under six months).
Even anti-abortion groups hate the Arkansas law because it’s so obviously unconstitutional that it may lead multiple courts to validate the 24-week limit. The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights will sue in court to try and prevent Arkansas’ law from taking effect.
Currently, two state laws that set the limit at 20 weeks are being challenged in court: Georgia’s and Arizona’s. This week, on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that Idaho’s 20-week law is unconstitutional.
John Brennan was confirmed this week as President Obama’s new CIA Director, even though, under the Bush administration, he was not only instrumental in implementing its torture program – illegal under both US and international law – but remained a staunch public advocate of the program long after it fell out of public and political favor.
The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report (which remains classified) on the Bush administration’s program of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (waterboarding, for one example). The public can’t see the report (why not?), but people who have read it are talking to the press. From their accounts, the report found that the program was ill-conceived, sloppily managed, and not effective in getting the information that would lead to the capture of other terrorists (including Osama bin Laden – unlike what we see in the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which is clearly fiction) or in stopping terrorist attacks.
The impact of bipartisan confirmation of Brennan – with little serious public opposition – is not to permanently indemnify Brennan and his fellow Bush-era war criminals. That’s already happened. The real takeaway regards the impact of President Obama’s refusal to prosecute those crimes, and, indeed, to embrace many of the Bush regime’s most odious national “security” practices (Guantanamo, rendition, grossly exaggerated domestic terrorism prosecutions, and continued erosion of domestic civil liberties, to name only four). Brennan should be facing trial in The Hague. instead, he is back in a position of enormous power running exactly the same agency responsible for many of the Bush era’s worst crimes – and was put there by the party supposedly opposed to those crimes. In practical Washington political and media terms, this means such practices are established precedent that can now be pursued or expanded on by presidents of either party in the future, with the expectation of little public opposition. That is, to put it mildly, terrifying.
It was only fitting, then, that Brennan, in being immediately sworn in to his new office after his Senate confirmation, took his oath of office on an original draft copy of the US Constitution – meaning one that didn’t include the Bill of Rights.
Once again, this was a banner week for economic happy talk. The national press is buzzing about the Dow reaching record highs, the housing market recovering, and the official unemployment level going down.
Why, then, does it still feel like times are tough for average Americans? Answer: because they are.
A New York Times article delivered the shocking news (to NYT readers, apparently) that most Americans aren’t sharing in the good times:
* In the third quarter of 2012, corporate profits were 14.2 percent of all national income, the largest share since 1950;
* Employees’ share of national income was 61.7 percent, the lowest share since 1966;
* Corporate earnings have risen 20 percent per year since the end of 2008, when the recession began; and
* The average American’s disposable income grew only 1.4 percent per year in the same time period – not even keeping up with inflation.
While this is a long-term trend, the difference has never been so pronounced. As one CEO quoted in the article says: “There’s no doubt we will continue to drive productivity year after year.”
“Drive productivity” is corporate-speak for fewer workers working longer hours for, on average, less pay. No doubt he’ll drive productivity with a whip, if he has to. And be paid handsomely for his efforts.
A new study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that the economies of the nine states without a state personal income tax (including Washington State) underperformed both the economies of the nine states with the highest income tax rates and all 41 income tax states as a whole. Over the past decade. real per capita GDP growth was only 5.2 percent in the non-income-tax states, but 8.2 percent in the nine highest taxed states. Real median household income also fell further in the non-income-tax states, while unemployment rates similar for all three groups.
Another New York Times article this week dealt – sort of – with the “threat” of hacking or cyberattacks on the US by China or Iran.
The article uses as its basis President Obama’s State of the Union speech, in which he claimed that foreign hackers are targeting our infrastructure; therefore, the Pentagon must set up their new Cyber Command as quickly as possible.
Reading between the lines of the article, you come to the same conclusion we’ve aired previously on this show: Chinese hackers working for the Chinese government are not “targeting” our infrastructure for sabotage. China, which owns most of our government debt, can’t afford to do anything that would damage our ability to pay back our loans. Instead, private Chinese hackers are in search of corporate secrets so their companies can compete in the markets.
Iran, on the hand, has the will to do us damage, but doesn’t have the technology or the skills to really accomplish that.
So why are we spending huge amounts of taxpayer money to set up a Cyber Command? It’s just more corporate welfare to help US companies protect their secrets.
Meanwhile, the real cyberattacks are US-sponsored ones against Iran. Symantec, the computer security firm, has discovered that an early test version of the Stuxnet worm was released into the wild in 2005 – long before Chinese hackers arrived on the scene (in 2007). Computer security firms had long ago determined that Stuxnet is a creation of the US government with help from Israeli hackers. So one country is aggressively targeting the infrastructure of perceived enemies. But you won’t read about it in the New York Times or other elite national media, because that country has been and continues to be the United States, which has pioneered the practice.
What you could read in national media this week were plenty of accounts all but celebrating the cancer death of Venezuelan president (and official Enemy of The United States) Hugo Chavez. These sorts of “objective” attacks on the Venezuelan “dictator” (elected multiple times as president, by huge margins, in elections far fairer and more closely monitored than any held in the United States) have been a US media staple for years – but not for the entirety of Chavez’s tenure. In his early years, his US media coverage was relatively benign. That started to sour as Chavez cozied up to Cuba and made clear that he really meant all those things he said about allowing Venezuela’s poor to share in their country’s oil wealth.
But the real turning point came in 2002, when traditional oligarchists who had run Venezuela for most of its history – and still owned many of its major media outlets – staged a coup, financed, armed, and backed by the Bush administration, that attempted to overthrow Chavez’s democratically elected government, and in fact kidnapped and jailed Chavez for several days before popular outrage forced the coup plotters to abandon their scheme. Chavez rightly blasted the United States for backing the coup – a US move said by many DC insiders to have been all about oil, and who would control Venezuela’s massive oil reserves in the future.
Once that happened, Chavez was and has remained persona non grata in elite American media (particularly in the New York Times, which regularly ran alarmist hit pieces on him). And Chavez in turn became far more pointed in his criticisms of US foreign policy, especially since the coup attempt was followed shortly thereafter by the Bush administration’s criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq (also widely believed to be oil-motivated). Yet that critical turning point in Chavez’s reign was completely missing from almost every corporate US media account this week of Chavez and his history. Funny, that.
Mon. Mar. 11, 7:30: The Northwest Film Forum hosts a screening of the new documentary “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” Bari, a renowned labor and environmental organizer in Northern California’s redwoods, had her car bombed in 1990, and was then herself (along with passenger Darryl Cherney) investigated as having bombed themselves, while the real culprits were never found. Cherney, Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle, and the producer and director will be on hand for a Q&A. $10 general admission, $6 for NWFF members; 1515 12th Ave. on Capitol Hill.
Tue. Mar. 12, 7-9 PM: “Still Think Christian Fascism is Dead?,” with Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. University Temple United Methodist Church, 43rd & 15th NE in the U-District.
Weds. Mar. 13, 6:30-9:30 PM: A screening and community discussion of the new documentary “Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity.” At Seattle University’s Campion Hall, $18 general admission, $5 students.
Thu. Mar 14, 7-9 PM: A screening and discussion of “The House I Live In,” the outstanding 2012 documentary on the War on Drugs. At the Common Good Cafe, . University Temple United Methodist Church, 43rd & 15th NE in the U-District.