Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Thousand Words

Sgt. Brian Keith, 28, with the Army's 10th Mountain Division, shared the last few minutes before his deployment to Kunduz, Afghanistan, with his wife, Sara Keith, 24, and their 6-month-old son, Stephen, on March 29 at Fort Drum, N.Y. Credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times.

Source / New York Times

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Signs of a Sick Society: Hatred of the Other

Hating Muslims in America
By Juan Cole / December 21, 2010

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the incoming chair of the House committee on Homeland Security has announced that he will hold hearings into the ‘radicalization’ of American Muslims. This, despite the fact that the Muslim Americans are pillars of the US community–disproportionately well-educated and well integrated into the country, and even though a third of tips forestalling radical Muslim operations come from the community itself. And, despite the fact that most terrorism in the US is committed by white supremacists.

King’s obscene gesture of Kristallnacht-by-hearing does not come out of the representative’s own eccentricities, but is part of an organized conspiracy to demonize and marginalize Muslim Americans and Arab Americans. (Ironically, as we will likely hear more of from the Wikileaks cables, the British government considers King little more than a terrorist himself, given his vocal support for the Irish Republican Army, which regularly blew up London from the 1970s through the early 1990s).

Max Blumenthal, writing at, explores the crazed underground world of anti-Muslim hatemongers, fueled by secret funding from millionaire fanatics and the poison pens of professional propagandists, who have proved that they can push around Establishment institutions and successfully smear their innocent scapegoats.

It is worth remembering that there have been three phases of the Ku Klux Klan. The second arose in the wake of the massive wave of immigration to the US from the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe 1880-1924, which provoked the KKK 2.0 to widen its sphere of hatred from emancipated African Americans to newer arrivals— Jews and Catholics. Now that Jews and Catholics have become ‘white,’ some of them have joined with evangelical Protestant nativists in a new sort of Ku Klux Klan targeting the latest immigrant group, the Muslim-Americans. The most prominent figures in this hate-mongering and in the fomenting of ‘media lynching’ of Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans have been fanatical backers of the Israel lobbies, some right wing Catholics such as Tom Tancredo and Rudy Giuliani, and evangelicals such as Mike Huckabee.

John Mearsheimer’s explanation of the march toward a US national security state and the decline of US democracy is persuasive. He says it is rooted in perpetual war and a foolish and self-destructive attempt by the US to be a global hegemon. I would add that both enterprises require a regimenting of the domestic public, which in turn requires fear-mongering to get them to surrender their rights. Since the wars are for resources in the resource-rich Muslim world, it is convenient to demonize Muslims across the board, including domestic ones. In essence, the military-industrial complex, in which Peter King is a key player, is busy reducing us to prison inmates, and convincing us that we are about to be raped by some large Muslim convict, and that we have no choice but to become the ‘bitches’ of people like King to avoid an even worse fate.

People like Peter king want to take the US from being the land of the free and of the First Amendment to being akin to the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, which forced all Muslims in Spain to convert to Christianity or leave the country.

Most propaganda and hate-mongering depends on ignorance. Those interested in the subject might check out the new paperback, revised edition of my book, Engaging the Muslim World.

Source / Informed Comment

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Signs of a Sick Society: Afraid of Your Own Citizens

Terrorist by Association: The Justice Department targets nonviolent solidarity activists
By Jeremy Gantz / December 13, 2010

‘Anyone who does international solidarity or anti-war work, anyone who goes against the grain of American politics, is affected by this,’ says activist Mick Kelly, whose home was raided by the FBI.

September 24 began like any other Friday for Joe Iosbaker and Stephanie Weiner. Then, at 7 a.m., FBI agents knocked on the door of the Chicago couple’s house in the city’s North Side.

Armed with a search warrant, more than 20 agents examined the couple’s home, photographing every room and combing through notebooks, family videos and books, even their children’s drawings. Some items were connected to their decades of anti-war and international solidarity activism, but others were not. “Folders were opened, letters were pulled out of envelopes,” says Weiner, an adult education professor at Wilbur Wright College. “They had rubber gloves and they went through every aspect of our home.” (See video interview with Weiner and Iosbaker above.)

Ten hours after their arrival, as television news crews filmed and activist supporters stood on the sidewalk, the agents drove away with nearly 30 boxes of material, including t-shirts and a photograph of Malcolm X. By that time, Iosbaker and Weiner had been served subpoenas to appear before a grand jury investigating “material support” for “foreign terrorist organizations.” And they knew theirs wasn’t the only home invaded that day. More than 70 FBI agents had raided seven residences in Chicago and Minneapolis and questioned activists in Michigan, California and North Carolina, serving subpoenas to 11 people. A few days later, the Justice Department subpoenaed members of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee (AWC), whose office was also raided on September 24, raising the number to 14. (Editor’s note: five additional Chicago-area activists were subpoenaed in early December; see update below.)

The grand jury and FBI are looking for evidence that connects the 14 activists and their “potential co-conspirators” to two organizations: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which are both on the State Department’s “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” list. None of the 14 has been charged with a crime, and all deny providing “material support,” including money, to any foreign organization.

Citing the Fifth Amendment, all 14 are refusing to testify before the grand jury, which they say is a secretive arm of a government intent on silencing critics. (The U.S. Attorney’s office conducting the investigation declined to comment. The search warrant affidavits justifying the FBI raids remain under seal.)

Joe Iosbaker, a Service Employees union steward, and Stephanie Weiner, a Palestinian solidarity activist, at home in Chicago. The FBI used their porch as a staging area before the September 24 raid. Watch In These Times' video interview with the couple in their home below. (Photo by Peter Holderness)

Most of those subpoenaed, including Weiner and Iosbaker, have been active in the labor movement and/or are members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), a self-described “socialist and Marxist-Leninist organization” with about 100 members. But affiliations vary: 71-year-old great-grandmother Sarah Martin belongs to the Minneapolis-based group Women Against Military Madness; Hatem Abudayyeh is executive director of the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago social services agency; others are connected to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago and the Colombia Action Network, which has protested U.S. military aid to Colombia and the assassinations of unionists there. The only connection they all have in common is that they all participated in an AWC-organized rally outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

Except for Mick Kelly and Tom Burke, FRSO members who have interviewed PFLP leaders, and Jess Sundin, who met with FARC members 10 years ago during a visit to Colombia, none of those subpoenaed say they have communicated directly with members of FARC or PFLP. But many of the activists are sympathetic to those organizations’ goals and some have traveled to Colombia and Palestine as part of solidarity delegations.

“Anyone who does international solidarity or anti-war work, anyone who goes against the grain of American politics, is affected by this,” says Kelly, a University of Minnesota cook and Teamster. “It’s extremely important to push back against this repression. It affects the movement as a whole.”

The Supreme Court’s ‘deeply chilling effect’

The phrase “material support for terrorism” brings to mind money and weapons, or other goods and services that directly support a terrorist organization’s violent objectives or actions. But in June, the Supreme Court in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project upheld a much broader definition of material support—one that criminalizes speech advocating peace and human rights if it is “coordinated” with an official terrorist organization. It is this ruling that sets the stage for September’s raids.

“For the first time, [the court] actually says it’s criminal to speak out, to associate,” says Michael Deutsch, an attorney with the Chicago-based People’s Law Office and one of the National Lawyers Guild members working with the activists. “The ruling criminalizes First Amendment activity. It’s quite ominous.”

Material support for terrorism was first criminalized by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The 2001 PATRIOT Act broadened the definition of “material support” to include “expert advice or assistance” and provided a maximum sentence of 15 years. (The American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was charged with, but not convicted of, providing material support to al Qaeda.) In 1998 the Humanitarian Law Project went to federal court to challenge the material support statute. The nonprofit group wanted to assist the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with conflict resolution and human rights monitoring. It was later joined in the lawsuit by Tamil-American organizations wishing to provide medical assistance to victims of the 2004 South Asian tsunami, which would have required working with the now-defeated Tamil Tigers, which, like the PKK, is a State Department-listed terrorist group.

The Humanitarian Law Project argued that the material support law violated the First Amendment’s right to free speech. But a majority of the Supreme Court accepted the government’s argument—made by then-Solicitor General and current Justice Elena Kagan—that all nonviolent aid is properly illegal because it “frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends” and “legitimates” foreign terrorist groups. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts clarified that the law only criminalizes speech “under the direction of, or in coordination with foreign groups,” leaving “independent advocacy” on the right side of the law.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor strongly disagreed, writing: “Not even the ‘serious and deadly problem’ of international terrorism can require automatic forfeiture of First Amendment rights.”

University of Chicago law professor Aziz Huq takes issue with the court’s distinction between “independent” and “coordinated” speech—a critical distinction if any of the 14 activists are charged with “material support” of FARC and PFLP. “There is some kind of speech that is not possible to do independently,” Huq says. “There are speech interests that are squelched here.”

Deutsch agrees: “It creates a chilling effect on people who are challenging U.S. foreign policy. If you speak out for the rights of Palestinians or question the government of Colombia, or are supportive of the Kurds’ right to their homeland, you’ve invariably going to come into contact with these groups. You’re going to be advocating some of the things that they’re promoting.”

That’s a point familiar to former anti-apartheid activists, who organized to end white supremacy in South Africa. The anti-apartheid movement took direction from the African National Congress (ANC), which was called a terrorist organization by President Reagan in 1986. If the material support statute had been in place in the 1970s, the thousands of people who led anti-apartheid protests across the United States could have been considered criminals. (The ANC and its leader, Nelson Mandela, were not removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations until 2008, 15 years after Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize.)

“This is almost the 1950s coming back. It’s overreaching,” says Jim Fennerty, another attorney assisting the subpoenaed activists. Similarly, he adds, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter could be charged with “material support” for monitoring Lebanon’s 2009 elections, which involved coordinated activity with Hezbollah, an official terrorist organization that was on the ballot.

In February, when the Supreme Court heard Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, David Cole, the Center for Constitutional Rights attorney sparred with Justice Antonin Scalia:

Cole: The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the L.A. Times ... published op-eds by Hamas spokespersons…thereby providing a benefit to Hamas. [Under this statute,] they’re all criminals…President Carter—

Scalia: [Interrupting]: Well, we—we can cross that bridge when we come to it.


While many in the legal world condemn the material support law, the subpoenaed activists are focusing their anger on those responsible for the grand jury and the home raids—the Justice Department and the FBI. The activists say the fervor of the current harassment is reminiscent of the agency’s COINTELPRO program of the 1950s and 1960s that targeted Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Black Panther leaders, among many others. (The long-running operation, which officially ended in 1971, also targeted the entire “New Left” movement, including Students for a Democratic Society, a chapter of which Weiner advises at her college.)

“This is just another in a long line of cases of FBI and government oppression against people who think like we do and try to do social justice work to make changes in this country and other places,” says Palestinian solidarity activist Hatem Abudayyeh, whose five-year-old daughter was home when the FBI raided his Chicago house. (Many of the subpoenas demanded activists produce any records of money given to Abudayyeh, as well as PFLP and FARC.)

Two trends over the past few years are particularly disturbing, according to Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, which advocates local legislation protecting civil liberties. First, the government is criminalizing speech that was formerly constitutionally protected, and second, the FBI is regaining access to intrusive investigative tactics. Buttar co-wrote a November 19 letter to the Obama administration and Congress signed by 45 advocacy organizations, that noted “an ongoing trend of intrusive government surveillance of progressive activists in the United States.”

The same week the FBI raided activists’ homes, the Justice Department’s Inspector General released a report saying the agency had improperly spied on American activists involved in First Amendment-protected activities in the years following 9/11. The report, which reviewed FBI investigations between 2002 and 2006 of advocacy groups including Greenpeace and the Religious Society of Friends (i.e. the Quakers), said the FBI had inappropriately labeled nonviolent civil disobedience as terrorism, thereby improperly placing activists on federal terrorist watch lists.

Weiner says what angers her most about the FBI raid on her home is that the agents’ motivations were cloaked in secrecy; they didn’t have to provide any evidence of criminal activity. “The trauma is due to the [FBI’s] audacity—they took the broadest approach—they didn’t know what they were looking for.”

Buttar says that FBI surveillance of activists without any implicating evidence has “accelerated” under the Obama administration. In December 2008, former Attorney General Michael Mucasey issued more permissive guidelines governing FBI investigations. Current Attorney General Eric Holder could amend those guidelines but has not. “We had thought that these abuses had ended after the [post-Watergate] Church Committee,” Buttar says. “But the FBI’s abuses of the constitutional rights of activists have only expanded under Obama.”

Barbara Ransby, who along with Barack Obama was an anti-apartheid activist while a student at Columbia University in the early 1980s, says that given the long history of abusive FBI surveillance of political activists, the recent raids aren’t surprising. But the fact that it happened under the first black U.S. president matters. “In some ways that gives it more cover,” says Ransby, now a historian at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who spoke at a recent meeting of the Chicago chapter of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “It makes people hesitant to see it as an attack. As a community of progressives, at moments like this, we really have to step up and embrace people who are under attack and defend them without question.”

‘Undemocratic and biased’ grand jury system

The activists directly affected have not hesitated to see the raids and subpoenas as attacks. Just weeks after the raids, those subpoenaed and their allies formed the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, which is demanding an end to “the repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists,” the return of all materials confiscated by the FBI (some have already been returned) and an end to the grand jury proceeding, which began in August 2009.

“I don’t think there’s anything fair about a grand jury,” says Tom Burke, a central organizer of the committee who was subpoenaed in Grand Rapids, Mich., after the FBI followed him to a coffee shop. “There’s no judge, you aren’t allowed to have your lawyer with you. … It’s a totally undemocratic and biased system, and it would be foolish to cooperate.”

The grand jury system was imported from England by American colonists, who often used it to defend their rights and express grievances against the king’s policies. But the unique subpoena power of the modern grand jury system, in use virtually nowhere else, has long since morphed into something different, according to attorney Deutsch. Since the Nixon era, he says, the Justice Department has used grand juries against political activists, “forcing them to testify [through compulsory immunity], even what I call ‘interning’ them without charges.”

If a subpoenaed person refuses to testify before the grand jury after being offered immunity by the government, she can be jailed for contempt—without ever having been convicted of a crime. The government considers this “coercion” a means of compelling testimony rather than punishment; famous victims include former Weather Underground member Bernadine Dohrn and former New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Jail is an immediate possibility for some of the 14 activists, three of whom were re-subpoenaed in November. (The Justice Department let all of their initial appearance dates pass after they refused to testify.)

But while Dohrn and Miller were released after less than 12 months, the uncooperative activists could face much more time because the current grand jury is investigating support for terrorism. (“Terrorism enhancement” sentencing guidelines, passed after the Oklahoma City bombing, allow judges to dramatically increase sentences if an offense “involved, or was intended to promote, a federal crime of terrorism.”)

“They’re not just looking at a few months in jail if they don’t testify, they’re looking at years,” says Deutsch, pointing to the case of Abdelhaleem Ashqar as the most egregious recent example of grand jury abuse. In 2007, a federal judge sentenced Ashqar, a Palestinian and former professor of business administration at Howard University, to more than 11 years in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury—after he was acquitted of all terrorism-related charges.

He remains imprisoned.

Solidarity drives pushback

While they’d rather go to jail than be part of what they call a “government witch hunt,” the 14 subpoenaed activists are trying to avoid both outcomes by pressuring members of Congress and encouraging street protests around the country. In October, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression organized protests outside of the FBI’s Chicago and Minneapolis offices, and during the week of November 29, it spearheaded a series of protests in cities across the country.

The committee also sent a delegation to Washington D.C. in November that met four members of Congress, including Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and Andrea Martin, the executive director of the Progressive Caucus. No politician had committed to sending a “Dear Colleague” letter to fellow representatives, but committee members are hoping that protests outside home district offices, a national petition letter to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, and additional visits to the Capitol will cause influential people to condemn the grand jury investigation.

While the Justice Department’s next step is unclear—it could offer immunity to those subpoenaed, push for indictments or impanel a new grand jury after the current one expires in February—the reaction to its investigation is not. More than 140 organizations from around the country, including the Green Party, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and dozens of labor unions and councils, have condemned the government’s actions.

Jess Sundin, the antiwar activist who traveled to Colombia 10 years ago, sees those actions as an affront to her freedoms—and conscience. “The idea that it could be against the law for Americans to meet with people who our government doesn’t support—I never imagined that that was illegal,” Sundin said at a November 13 meeting of Seattle United Against FBI Repression. “I always believed that we had a right and responsibility to speak our opinions and to dissent when our government is making mistakes.”

UPDATE: On December 3 and 8, after In These Times’ January 2011 issue went to press, five additional Chicago-area Palestinian solidarity activists were subpoenaed by the Grand Jury, bringing the total number of individuals called to testify to 19.

Source / In These Times

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

US Corporate Media: Not Much Meaningful Truthiness

News Black-Out in DC: Pay No Attention to Those Veterans Chained to the White House Fence
By Dave Lindorff / December 18, 2010

There was a black-out and a white-out Thursday and Friday as over a hundred US veterans opposed to US wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and their civilian supporters, chained and tied themselves to the White House fence during an early snowstorm to say enough is enough.

Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

No major US news media reported on the demonstration or the arrests. It was blacked out of the New York Times, blacked out of the Philadelphia Inquirer, blacked out in the Los Angeles Times, blacked out of the Wall Street Journal, and even blacked out of the capital’s local daily, the Washington Post, which apparently didn't even think it was a local story worth publishing.

Making the media cover-up of the protest all the more outrageous was the fact that most news media did report on Friday, the day after the protest, the results of the latest poll of American attitudes towards the Afghanistan War, an ABC/Washington Post Poll which found that 60% of Americans now feel that war has “not been worth it.” That’s a big increase from the 53% who said they opposed the war in July.

Clearly, any honest and professional journalist and editor would see a news link between such a poll result and an anti-war protest at the White House led, for the first time in recent memory, by a veterans organization, the group Veterans for Peace, in which veterans of the nation’s wars actually put themselves on the line to be arrested to protest a current war.

Friday was also the day that most news organizations were reporting on the much-touted, but also much over-rated Pentagon report on the “progress” of the American war in Afghanistan--a report prepared for the White House that claimed there was progress, but which was immediately contradicted by a CIA report that said the opposite. Again, any honest and professional journalist and editor would immediately see the publication of such a report as an appropriate occasion to mention the unusual opposition to the war by a group of veterans right outside the president’s office.

And yet, the protest event was completely blacked out by the corporate news media. (Maybe the servile and over-paid White House press corps, ensconced in the press room inside the White House, didn't want to go out and brave the elements to cover the protest.)

If you wanted to know about this protest, you had to go to the internet and read the Huffington Post or to the Socialist Worker, OpEd News, or to this publication (okay, we’re a day late, but I was stuck in traffic yesterday), or else to Democracy Now! on the alternative airways.

My old employer, the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, showed how it’s supposed to be done. In an article published Friday about the latest ABC/Washington Post Poll, reporter Simon Mann, after explaining that opposition to the war in the US was rising, then wrote:

The publication of the review coincided with anti-war protests held across the US, including one in Washington in which people chained themselves to the White House fence, leading to about 100 arrests.

That’s the way journalism is supposed to be done. Relevant information that puts the day's news in some kind of useful context is supposed to be provided to readers, not hidden from them.

Clearly, in the US the corporate media perform a different function. It’s called propaganda. And the handling of this dramatic protest by American veterans against the nation’s current war provides a dramatic illustration of how far the news industry and the journalism profession has converted itself from a Fourth Estate to a handmaiden to power.

Source / Truthout

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Makes Americans So Fearful?

¡Viva WikiLeaks! SiCKO Was Not Banned in Cuba
By Michael Moore / December 18, 2010

Yesterday WikiLeaks did an amazing thing and released a classified State Department cable that dealt, in part, with me and my film, 'Sicko.'

It is a stunning look at the Orwellian nature of how bureaucrats for the State spin their lies and try to recreate reality (I assume to placate their bosses and tell them what they want to hear).

The date is January 31, 2008. It is just days after 'Sicko' has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Documentary. This must have sent someone reeling in Bush's State Department (his Treasury Department had already notified me they were investigating what laws I might have broken in taking three 9/11 first responders to Cuba to get them the health care they had been denied in the United States).

Former health insurance executive Wendell Potter recently revealed that the insurance industry -- which had decided to spend millions to go after me and, if necessary, "push Michael Moore off a cliff" -- had begun working with anti-Castro Cubans in Miami in order to have them speak out and smear my film.

So, on January 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana took a made up story and sent it back to his HQ in Washington. Here's what they came up with:

XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore's documentary, "Sicko," as being subversive. Although the film's intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, he said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.

Sounds convincing, eh?! There's only one problem -- the entire nation of Cuba was shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008! The Cubans embraced the film so much so it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of Sicko were set up in towns all across the country.

But the secret cable said Cubans were banned from seeing my movie. Hmmm.

We also know from another secret U.S. document that "the disenchantment of the masses [in Cuba] has spread through all the provinces," and that "all of Oriente Province is seething with hate" for the Castro regime. There's a huge active underground rebellion, and "workers there readily give all the support they can," with everyone involved in "subtle sabotage" against the government. Morale is terrible throughout all the branches of the armed forces, and in the event of war the army "will not fight." Wow -- this cable is hot!

Of course, this secret U.S. cable is from March 31, 1961, three weeks before Cuba kicked our asses at the Bay of Pigs.

The U.S. government has been passing around these "secret" documents to itself for the past fifty years, explaining in painstaking detail how horrible things are in Cuba and how Cubans are quietly aching for us to come back and take over. I don't know why we write these cables, I guess it just makes us feel better about ourselves. (Anyone curious can find an entire museum of U.S. wish fulfillment cables on the website of the National Security Archive.)

So what do you do with about a false "secret" cable, especially one that involves you and your movie? Well, you wait for a responsible newspaper to investigate and shout what it discovers from the rooftops.

But yesterday WikiLeaks gave the 'Sicko' Cuba cable to the media -- and what did they do with it? They ran the it as if it were true! Here's the headline in the Guardian:

WikiLeaks: Cuba banned Sicko for depicting 'mythical' healthcare system

Authorities feared footage of gleaming hospital in Michael Moore's Oscar-nominated film would provoke a popular backlash

And not one scintilla of digging to see if Cuba had actually banned the movie! In fact, just the opposite. The right wing press started to have a field day reporting a lie (Andy Levy of Fox -- twice -- Reason Magazine and Hot Air, plus a slew of blogs). Sadly, even BoingBoing and my friends at the Nation wrote about it without skepticism. So here you have WikiLeaks, who have put themselves on the line to find and release these cables to the press -- and traditional journalists are once again just too lazy to lift a finger, point and click their mouse to log into Nexis or search via Google, and look to see if Cuba really did "ban the film." Had just ONE reporter done that, here's they would have found:

June 16, 2007 Saturday 1:41 AM GMT [that's 7 months before the false cable]

HEADLINE: Cuban health minister says Moore's 'Sicko' shows 'human values' of communist system

BYLINE: By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press Writer


Cuba's health minister Jose Ramon Balaguer said Friday that American filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary 'Sicko' highlights the human values of the island's communist-run government... "There can be no doubt this documentary by a personality like Mr. Michael Moore helps promote the profoundly human principles of Cuban society."

Or, how 'bout this little April 25, 2008 notice from CubaSi.Cu (translation by Google):

Sicko premiere in Cuba


The documentary Sicko, the U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore, which deals about the deplorable state of American health care system will be released today at 5:50 pm, for the space Cubavision Roundtable and the Education Channel.

Then there's this from (translation by Google). Or this Cuban editorial (translation by Google). There's even a long clip of the Cuba section of 'Sicko' on the homepage of Media Roundtable on the website!

OK, so we know the media is lazy and sucks most of the time. But the bigger issue here is how our government seemed to be colluding with the health insurance industry to destroy a film that might have a hand in bringing about what the Cubans already have in their poverty-ridden third world country: free, universal health care. And because they have it and we don't, Cuba has a better infant mortality rate than we do, their life expectancy is just 7 months shorter than ours, and, according to the WHO, they rank just two places behind the richest country on earth in terms of the quality of their health care.

That's the story, mainstream media and right-wing haters.

Now that you've been presented with the facts, what are you going to do about it? Are you gonna attack me for having my movie played on Cuban state television? Or are you gonna attack me for not having my movie played on Cuban state television?

You have to choose one, it can't be both.

And since the facts show that the movie played on state TV and in theaters, I think you're better off attacking me for having my films played in Cuba.

¡Viva WikiLeaks!

[Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker. See more of his work at his website]

Source / Common Dreams

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Disappointment Is Too Shallow a Characterization

Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty

Bernie Sanders Puts Barack Obama to Shame
By Matt Taibbi / December 15, 2010

In an era of Democratic waffling and compromise, the Independent from Vermont actually stands up for what he believes in

Not long ago I was sitting at home writing something for publication – I won’t say what, except that it was a passage about a certain politician on the Hill. Out of habit I launched into a description that was full of nasty and personal language, and I was about to press on to the next part of the piece when suddenly I hit a mental speed bump. A voice in my head whispered – this really happened – “If you write that shit and Bernie Sanders sees it, he’s going to be disappointed in you.” So I went back and removed the gratuitous body blows from the article.

I thought about this when I watched Bernie go through his amazing one-man filibuster against the Obama tax cut deal last week. Week after week, month after month, we watch politicians who disappoint us, not just as leaders but as people, failing to achieve the basic life-competency standard we expect of most grown-ups, doing things we wouldn’t tolerate from 15-year-olds. Whether it’s Mark Foley writing sexy letters to little boys, or Charlie Rangel or Duke Cunningham or Jerry Lewis doing the pay-for-play game, or even assholes like Orrin Hatch roaring with partisan excitement when the individual mandate – his own idea – was recently declared unconstitutional by a federal judge (who himself has financial stake in the health care business), these guys fail the common decency/honesty test with unnerving regularity. It’s sad but true, but in 99.9% of all cases, you wouldn’t think of looking up to an elected official as a moral role model. Which is why Bernie Sanders is such a rarity, and people should appreciate what he’s doing not just for his home state of Vermont, but for the reputation of all politicians in general.

I was in Washington last week and visited Bernie in his office, mainly to talk about the incredible results of the Federal Reserve audit, about which I’ll be writing more in the upcoming weeks and after the New Year. The audit of the Fed was undertaken because Bernie and a few other members of congress fought very hard during the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform debate to force open Ben Bernanke’s books, and as a result we now know the staggering details of the secret bailout era. We know that Citigroup received $1.6 trillion in loans, and Morgan Stanley $2 trillion, and Goldman Sachs – the same Goldman Sachs that bragged about how quickly it paid back its $10 billion TARP bailout – over $600 billion. We know that hedge fund billionaires who moved their corporate addresses to the Cayman Islands to avoid U.S. taxes were rewarded by their buddies in government with huge Fed loans; we know that the U.S. government likewise has been extending massive loans to a variety of Japanese car companies at a time when many American auto workers in Detroit have seen their wages cut in half, to $14 an hour. There’s that and there’s more on the outrage front, and we know it all because Sanders kicked and screamed and stamped his feet about Fed secrecy until just enough other members of the Senate decided to go along with him.

I’m bringing this up now to put into context what Bernie did on the floor of the Senate last week, standing up for eight hours and 37 minutes to make a case that the hideous deal that Barack Obama cut with the Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts was an outrage to the very qualities that matter most to this politician, common decency and common sense. While everyone else in Washington was debating the political efficacy of the deal – the Hill actually published a piece talking cheerfully about how CEOs found a “new friend” in Obama, while the New York Times shamelessly ran a front-page “analysis” talking up the deal’s supposed benefits to the middle class and the political benefits from same that Obama would enjoy – Sanders blew all of that off and just looked at the deal’s moral implications. Which are these: this tax deal, frankly and unequivocally, is the result of a relatively small group of already-filthy rich people successfully lobbying an even smaller group of morally spineless politicians to shift an ever-bigger share of society’s burdens to the lower and (what’s left of the) middle classes. This is people who already have lots of shit just demanding more shit, for the sheer rotten sake of it. Here’s how Bernie put it:

"How can I get by on one house? I need five houses, ten houses! I need three jet planes to take me all over the world! Sorry, American people. We've got the money, we've got the power, we've got the lobbyists here and on Wall Street. Tough luck. That's the world, get used to it. Rich get richer. Middle class shrinks."

I contrast this now to the behavior of Barack Obama. I can’t even count how many times I listened to Barack Obama on the campaign trail talk about how, as president, he would rescind the Bush tax cuts as soon as he had the chance. He stood up and he said over and over again – I can still hear him saying “Let me be clear!” with that Great Statesman voice of his, before he went into this routine – that the Bush tax cuts were wrong and immoral. He said more than once that they “offended his conscience." Then, just as he did with drug re-importation and Guantanamo and bulk Medicare negotiations for pharmaceuticals and the issue of whether or not he would bring registered lobbyists into his White House and a host of other promises, he tossed his campaign “convictions” in the toilet and changed his mind once he was more accountable to lobbyists than primary voters. He pulled an Orrin Hatch, in other words, only he did it serially.

I can live with the president fighting for something and failing; what I can’t stand is a politician who changes his mind for the sake of expediency and then pretends that was what he believed all along. You just can’t imagine someone like Sanders doing something like that; his MO instead would be to take his best shot for what he actually believes and let the chips fall where they may, budging a little maybe to get a worthwhile deal done but never turning his entire face inside out just to get through the day. This idea that you can’t be an honest man and a Washington politician is a myth, a crock made up by sellouts and careerist hacks who don’t stand for anything and are impatient with people who do. It’s possible to do this job with honor and dignity. It’s just that most of our politicians – our president included, apparently – would rather not bother.

Source / Rolling Stone

Many thanks to Charlie Loving / Fluxed Up World

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Hacktivism: Defiance of Authority for Good Cause

Click graphic to enlarge.

Hacktivism Beats Voting
By Joel S. Hirschhorn / December 12, 2010
The WikiLeaks situation has brought much attention to hacktivism, which has been employed against commercial websites as payback for attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder. But hacktivism is best seen as a new force for democracy.

Because of the attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder there has been considerable media attention to the hacktivism practiced by supporters of WikiLeaks. That has been manifested as cyber attacks on mainstream commercial websites. Hacktivism as retribution and strategy to gain political objectives is bound to become much more common. And considering how voting, especially from the perspective of younger people, has been enormously disappointing as a means of reforming government and political systems worldwide, that seems appropriate.

Naturally, there is a fine discussion of hacktivism at Wikipedia. There we learn that it has been around far longer than the current attention to the WikiLeaks situation.

Hacking has come to mostly mean illegal breaking into computer systems, while activism has always been either violent or nonviolent. Hacktivism is clearly now seen as an alternative to convention activism, civil disobedience and, especially, participation in democratic, electoral processes.

The combination of computer programming skills, critical thinking, anger and disgust with prevailing corporate and government institutions can and probably should drive better focused hacktivism. It could become an effective strategy for achieving major political reforms.

Cyberterrorism along with cyber crime, Internet fraud and everyday spamming are to be feared and fought, while hacktivism merits considerable respect and public support as a philosophic and political tactic responding to contemporary political and social issues and needs. At least, as long as it does not do harm to individuals.

Those with the expertise to implement hacktivism are a new breed of radicals, revolutionaries, and power brokers that is unsurprisingly an inevitable consequence of the whole computer, networking and Internet world that has been overly embraced. As with all technologies, there are always generally unseen and unintended negative impacts that catch people, governments, companies and just about everyone else by surprise. If there is any real surprise it is that the world has not seen far more widespread hacktivism.

In a fine 2004 article "Hacktivism and How It Got Here," Michelle Delio pointed out: Hacktivism, as defined by the Cult of the Dead Cow, the group of hackers and artists who coined the phrase, was intended to refer to the development and use of technology to foster human rights and the open exchange of information.

We should see hacktivism as a dimension to cyber or digital democracy. It may first appear as more deadly than violent street protests against government actions that are seen frequently, particularly in Europe, but should it not be seen as just a more technological form of protest appropriate for our time? Indeed, just as WikiLeaks is seen as a more potent, technological form of whistle blowing, is not hacktivism its logical complement?

There is a wonderful, detailed history of hacktivism on the Wikipedia site, including a citation to a 2006 published paper by the now infamous Julian Assange title "The Curious Origins of Political Hacktivism."

Listen to the thinking of a 22-year-old London software engineer known only as Coldblood, who controls the servers the group Anonymous uses to implement its hacktivist actions. "I decided to speak as I'm passionate about how government shouldn't censor the internet. We suggest sites to attack, and if enough people think it's good, it will generally happen. It's a community thing. By making it harder for these companies to operate online we show them a message that it's not just governments they need to keep happy, it's the users as well. If their website is offline, then people can't use their services and it affects them. It's like an idealistic democracy. But everyone is aware that the attacks are illegal. Nobody is pressured into taking part. A lot just watch. But if they arrest one person, the attacks won't stop."

This much seems certain about the future: The more that electoral politics in western democracies appears increasingly ineffective in fighting political and corporate corruption, economic inequality, restraints on the Internet, environmental problems, suffering in developing countries, and unnecessary wars, the more we can expect to witness hacktivism. The most interesting question is whether the American and global plutocracy that has so successfully advanced the greedy interests of the rich and powerful will learn to live with hacktivism or whether it mounts a far more aggressive attack on it, including severe criminal penalties.

Source / Nolan Chart

Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Perpetual Warfare: Knowing Helps Us Not At All

The Blog of War: WikiLeaks Exposes Business-as-Usual, and a New Battle Ensues
By Randall Amster / December 11, 2010

In an ideal world, the WikiLeaks revelations would have ended two wars. Documenting patterns of cavalier abuse and untold brutality in Iraq and Afghanistan might have sparked public outrage sufficient to undermine the capacity to continue these campaigns.

Instead we’ve seen the war machine dig in even deeper, extending drawdown deadlines and expanding fronts to adjacent locales. Rather than being in retreat over the WikiLeaks data dump, the Pentagon seems to have become emboldened by the simple fact that a significant portion of its dirty laundry has been aired publicly, and the neighbors have barely uttered a murmur of discontent at the sight.

Even more perversely, WikiLeaks seems to have exacerbated two additional wars rather than ending the ones most clearly in its sights. The first is simply the “war at home,” in which the technologies of scanning and surveilling utilized in combat theaters are emplaced domestically under the guise of fighting terrorists. Under the same paltry logic that keeps us indefinitely embroiled in Afghanistan, periodic attempts at impracticable mayhem by disaffected pawns become the basis for a quantum leap in backscatter hardware, security screeds in public places, and the state’s increasing interpenetration of our privacy and dignity. By chronicling the perverse lengths to which the U.S. will go in the “war on terror,” WikiLeaks has ironically helped to legitimize those actions by adding to their endorsement the imprimatur of public acceptance.

Not only has this led to the tacit approval and domestic deployment of the war machine, but in a feat of suspicious synergy the WikiLeaks controversy has actually spawned a third war. Media outlets everywhere have caught the wave of “cyberterrorists” and a burgeoning “cyberwar” as part of an “Operation Payback” that is ostensibly designed to avenge the mistreatment of Julian Assange and militantly defend the murky concept of “internet freedom.” Business Week, for instance, characterized this as an effort “to wage a cyberwar in WikiLeaks’ defense,” launched by a terrorist-sounding “shadowy group” with “axis of evil” overtones that is “starting to look like the onset of a global struggle by Web anarchists against the mighty Empire.” The socio-cultural import and dramatic nature of such war imagery was not lost on Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow, who unabashedly tweeted in support: “The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.”

Interestingly, this purported cyberwar comes at a time when the debate over internet access and regulation is reaching a tipping point. Some politicians and pundits have openly called for listing WikiLeaks as a “terrorist organization,” invoking the standard Trojan Horse phrase that is repeatedly used to curtail liberty, justify incursions, and foster interminable conflicts. For their part, the self-described “Anonymous” hacktivists and avengers of Assange have in many ways fed into this narrative, simultaneously exalting the power of the technological web and throwing down the gauntlet over its privatization and/or regulation: “The internet is the last bastion of freedom in this evolving technical world. The internet is capable of connecting us all. When we are connected we are strong. When we are strong we have power…. This is why the government is moving on WikiLeaks. This is what they fear. They fear our power when we unite.”

The Economist has documented some of the inner workings of the group, referring to the campaign as more of a “propaganda coup” than a cyberwar – and yet with talk of deploying software tactics such as a “low-orbit ion cannon” and launching missions aimed at “vulnerable targets,” the warlike sensibilities at work here are unmistakable. Another “inside look” at the hacktivists’ “hidden world of Internet sabotage” reveals an obsession with “revenge attacks” and vigilante propaganda, and concludes that “the group has declared war against ‘corrupt governments of the world’ and anyone who tries to censor and copyright online information.” In lauding the potentially revolutionary cyber-anarchism of WikiLeaks and the campaign to avenge it (for the record, Assange has described himself as a proponent of “free market libertarianism” and not as an anarchist), Mother Jones pithily invokes the war ethos in its call to “bring it on.” The totality of these sentiments and activities has led Secure Computing Magazine to proclaim a nascent “total cyberwar,” with the Anonymous hacktivists following suit by asserting that “we will fire at anyone or anything that tries to censor WikiLeaks.... The major shitstorm has begun.”

While the ostensible motivations of the WikiLeaks hacktivists may be intended to stand at cross-purposes to the mega-militarism of the war machine, the invocation of similar phrases and motifs raises some troubling issues about the nature of this resistance. More to the point, it engenders concerns over how the response to it will be constructed and deployed. By launching and/or threatening cyberattacks on central financial enterprises such as VISA and MasterCard, on retail pillars like Amazon (which apparently never quite fully developed as initially planned), and on governmental entities including Swedish prosecutors and various U.S. Senators’ sites, Operation Payback has triangulated its nonlinear efforts on what may be the virtual equivalent of the World Trade Center, at least in terms of symbolic stature. Unfortunately, the post-9/11 era has taught us that any perceived threat to business as usual is going to be met with overwhelming force, and moreover that human rights and civil liberties are likely to be among the myriad casualties.

Such are the ironies of the era in which we live: even antiwar actions and intentions can be fed back into the loop of justifying more war in the process. The military machine appears monolithic on some levels, but it is a good deal more agile and adaptable than is often perceived. On some level, we might plausibly conclude that if entities such as WikiLeaks and its shadowy avengers didn’t exist, the Pentagon would probably have to invent them. To wit: the data contained in the voluminous war logs – and the attendant cables detailing the behind-the-scenes machinations that undergird perpetual warfare – indicate a widespread pattern of official overreaching and international illegality. These sordid details should have been sufficient to erode the ability to wage war, but instead we’ve seen an expansion that now includes cyber-fronts and potential retrenchments on virtual liberties in addition the physical ones already under assault. In this sense, WikiLeaks has perhaps unwittingly provided a base of tacit support for such abuses and an impetus to expand the range of battlefields in the age of perpetual warfare.

In a bygone day, analysts referred to the “fog of war” to encapsulate the moral murkiness and battlefield blurriness attendant to combat zones. Today, however, with the advent of high-tech warfare and the relative transparency of information vis-à-vis WikiLeaks, we can see much more clearly what war does and how it impacts all spheres of our lives. And yet, this potential sense of greater clarity has not brought with it an end to war, but rather a proliferation of it. Whereas the “fog of war” metaphor might cast doubt on the ethics and integrity of the enterprise, today we are experiencing a “blog of war” in which more information sharpens our gaze and thus inculpates us further as accomplices who still choose to suborn the ongoing operations. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know exactly what it is that we are blithely dismissing and conveniently ignoring in the collective “pursuit of happiness” that informs the business of our modern lives.

[Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., teaches Peace Studies at Prescott College, and is the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is Lost In Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly 2008).]

Source / Common Dreams

Fluxed Up World

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Signs of a Sick Society: Police State Amerikkka

Justice Department Prepares for Ominous Expansion of "Anti-Terrorism" Law Targeting Activists
By Michael Deutsch / 11 December 2010

In late September, the FBI carried out a series of raids of homes and antiwar offices of public activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Following the raids, the Obama Justice Department subpoenaed 14 activists to a grand jury in Chicago and also subpoenaed the files of several antiwar and community organizations.

In carrying out these repressive actions, the Justice Department was taking its lead from the Supreme Court's 6-3 opinion last June in Holder v. the Humanitarian Law Project, which decided that nonviolent First Amendment speech and advocacy "coordinated with" or "under the direction of" a foreign group listed by the Secretary of State as "terrorist" was a crime.

The search warrants and grand jury subpoenas make it clear that the federal prosecutors are intent on accusing public nonviolent political organizers, many of whom are affiliated with Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), of providing "material support" through their public advocacy for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Secretary of State has determined that both the PLFP and the FARC "threaten US national security, foreign policy or economic interests," a finding not reviewable by the courts, and listed both groups as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO).

In 1996, Congress made it a crime - then punishable by 10 years, which was later increased to 15 years - to anyone in the US who provides "material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization or attempts or conspires to do so." The present statute defines "material support or resources" as:

... any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safe houses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel and transportation except medicine or religious materials.

In the Humanitarian Law Project case, human rights workers wanted to teach members of the Kurdistan PKK, which seeks an independent Kurdish state, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which sought an independent state in Sri Lanka, how to use humanitarian and international law to peacefully resolve disputes and obtain relief from the United Nations and other international bodies for human rights abuses by the governments of Turkey and Sri Lanka. Both organizations were designated as FTOs by the Secretary of State in a closed hearing, in which the evidence is heard secretly.

Despite the nonviolent, peacemaking goal of the Humanitarian Law Project's speech and training, the majority of the Supreme Court nonetheless interpreted the law to make such conduct a crime. Finding a whole new exception to the First Amendment, the Court decided that any support, even if it involves nonviolent efforts towards peace, is illegal under the law since it "frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends," and also helps lend "legitimacy" to foreign terrorist groups. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts, despite the lack of any evidence, further opined that the FTO could use the human rights law to "intimidate, harass or destruct" its adversaries, and that even peace talks themselves could be used as a cover to re-arm for further attacks. Thus, the Court's opinion criminalizes efforts by independent groups to work for peace if they in any way cooperate or coordinate with designated FTOs.

The Court distinguishes what it refers to as "independent advocacy," which it finds is not prohibited by the statute, from "advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization," which is, for the first time, found to be a crime under the statute. The exact line demarcating where independent advocacy becomes impermissible coordination is left open and vague.

Seizing on this overbroad definition of "material support," the US government is now moving in on political groups and activists who are clearly exercising fundamental First Amendment rights by vocally opposing the government's branding of foreign liberation movements as terrorist and supporting their struggles against US-backed repressive regimes and illegal occupations.

Under the new definition of "material support," the efforts of President Jimmy Carter to monitor the elections in Lebanon and coordinate with the political parties there, including the designated FTO Hezbollah, could well be prosecuted as a crime. Similarly, the publication of op-ed articles by FTO spokesmen from Hamas or other designated groups by The New York Times or The Washington Post, or the filing of amicus briefs by human rights attorneys arguing against a group's terrorist designation or the statute itself could also now be prosecuted. Of course, the first targets of this draconian expansion of the material support law will not be a former president or the establishment media, but members of a Marxist organization who are vocal opponents of the governments of Israel and Colombia and the US policies supporting these repressive governments.

In his foreword to Nelson Mandela's recent autobiography "Conversations with Myself," President Obama wrote that "Mandela's sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress. … The first time I became politically active was during my college years, when I joined a campaign on behalf of divestment, and the effort to end apartheid in South Africa." At the time of Mr. Obama's First Amendment advocacy, Mr. Mandela and his organization the African National Congress (ANC) were denounced as terrorist by the US government. If the "material support" law had been in effect back then, Mr. Obama would have been subject to potential criminal prosecution. It is ironic - and the height of hypocrisy - that this same man who speaks with such reverence for Mr. Mandela and recalls his own support for the struggle against apartheid now allows the Justice Department under his command to criminalize similar First Amendment advocacy against Israeli apartheid and repressive foreign governments.

Source / Truthout

Fluxed Up World

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Nima Shirazi: Human Rights Day and the US

Human Rights Day & U.S. Hypocrisy: Defensive America's Contempt for Full Court, Press
By Nima Shirazi / December 10, 2010

"The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity." - André Gide

"WikiLeaks has shown there is an America in civics textbooks and an America that functions differently in the real world." - James Moore

Sixty-two years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration, to which the United States is undoubtedly beholden, affirms:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Well, except for WikiLeaks, of course.

Internet giant, which hosted the whistle-blowing website, dropped WikiLeaks last week, "only 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's committee on homeland security." Lieberman's call for censorship was also heeded by the Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which was hosting some informational, interactive charts linked to by WikiLeaks. These graphics contained absolutely no confidential material whatsoever and merely provided data regarding where the leaked cables originated and in what years they had been written. Nevertheless, for fear of government retribution, Tableau removed the charts, explaining,

"Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website."

Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal have all since followed suit.

But Lieberman hasn't stopped there. A few days ago, the Senator suggested that the New York Times could potentially be charged with violating U.S. law by publishing the leaked diplomatic cables. "To me, New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship," Lieberman said, during an interview with Fox News. "And whether they've committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department," he continued.

Direct connections can, and should, be made to the 2006 revelations in the New York Times about the Bush administration's widespread domestic surveillance program, when then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested that "the government has the legal authority to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information."

In addition to being a perfect example of the exploitation of state power to protect unflattering, revealing, and possibly damaging information about the government, Lieberman's censorship crusade is also amazingly ironic considering statements he has made in the past regarding internet freedom. Lieberman is a member of the less than nine-month-old "Global Internet Freedom Caucus," founded in late March 2010 by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE) in an effort to further demonize countries that occasionally push back against American imperialism and hegemony.

In his announcement of the new caucus, Brownback proudly declared, "Walls of oppression today are built out of networks and software as much as bricks and mortar. In China, Iran, and around the world, authoritarian governments censor information, suppress communication, and persecute free speech. Just as we stand against physical brutality of oppressive regimes, so too we must stand against this new digital tyranny that violates human rights and threatens all free nations."

Not wanting to be outdone, Lieberman chimed in, saying, "Cyberspace is a critical battlefield in the global struggle for human freedom. The United States has both a strategic interest and a moral imperative to ensure that the Internet works to empower people everywhere to secure their inalienable human rights - rather than allow the dictators who hope to use new technologies to achieve greater control and stifle dissent."

Apparently, according to Lieberman, these "inalienable human rights" do not include knowledge of one's own government's war crimes and whitewashing. Serial violations and violators of human rights abuses are to be unconditionally protected from exposure, scrutiny, investigation, prosecution, and punishment, while those who reveal the truth are crucified on the altar of vital state secrecy and false cries of national security threats.

The hypocrisy of the U.S. government was yet again on display with characteristic oblivious-to-irony and self-unawareness on Thursday, when State Department spokesman and professional liar P.J. Crowley posted this on Twitter:

Crowley, whose lies about whether or not the U.S. was responsible for illegal drone attacks in Yemen that killed dozens of civilians were exposed in the first round of leaked diplomatic cables (spoiler: the U.S. was of course responsible for the attacks, despite Crowley's straight-faced denials to the press), was tweeting with regard to the State Department's announcement that the United States will host UNESCO's 2011 World Press Freedom Day event in Washington D.C. The statement, released by Crowley himself on Tuesday December 7, contains the following:

"New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals' right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information."

If only someone could identify which authoritarian, secretive, and oppressive governments would do such a thing! Maybe Joe Lieberman knows.

Recent American history contradicts Crowley's tweet. Though the United States is without a doubt the world's leading preacher on the fundamental necessity of human rights and transparency, its actions reflect somewhat different priorities. As the 16th century French essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote in On Anger, "Saying is a different thing from doing; we must consider the sermon and the preacher distinctly and apart."

On his first full day as president, Barack Obama signed a memorandum on Transparency and Open Government which stated his supposed commitment to a new level of openness in government. The memo stated, "Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing."

In what ways these pretty words square with the recent, petty efforts of Obama's own Attorney General, Eric Holder, to try and threaten WikiLeaks with criminal charges is unclear and most likely not forthcoming. Holder, in the most honest example of the Obama's administration openness, explained, "We are looking at all the things we can do to try to stem the flow of this information."

This past September, in front of the United Nations General Assembly, Obama declared that "the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and open governments," continuing that "the arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble and by organizations outside of government that insisted upon democratic change and by free media that held the powerful accountable...Open society supports open government, but it cannot substitute for it."

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has relentlessly prosecuted those who have sought to publicize government wrongdoing, while simultaneously refusing to even investigate those in the previous administration for domestic spying and authorization of torture.

Regarding the indictment of Thomas Drake, who revealed failures and wasteful spending of the NSA's illegal spying and eavesdropping program, the New York Times reported in June that "the Obama administration is proving more aggressive than the Bush administration in seeking to punish unauthorized leaks," and that, in his first year and a half in office, "President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions. His administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was often in public fights with the press."

Sometimes, though, George W. Bush was not merely content to have "public fights with the press." Sometimes he kidnapped them, imprisoned them, and tortured them. Other times, he just killed them.

On December 15, 2001, Sami Al-Haj, a Sudanese journalist and cameraman for Al Jazeera, was seized on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan and was subsequently held without charge, let alone trial, by the U.S. military at Guantánamo Bay for six and a half years. Over that period, al-Haj was interrogated 130 times and repeatedly mistreated, beaten, and sexually assaulted. British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who represented al-Haj, was finally allowed to visit his client at Guantánamo in 2005 and revealed that "The only reason he has been treated like he has is because he is an Al Jazeera journalist. The Americans have tried to make him an informant with the goal of getting him to say that Al Jazeera is linked to Al Qaida." Al-Haj was unconditionally released on May 1, 2008 without ever being charged with a crime or presented with any evidence for his illegal incarceration.

Associated Press photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner Bilal Hussein was taken into U.S. custody on April 12, 2006 in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. He was held in Iraq, without charge, for nearly two years, eventually being released on April 16, 2008.

Furthermore, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported in 2007:

"Hussein’s detention is not an isolated incident. Over the last three years, dozens of journalists - mostly Iraqis — have been detained by U.S. troops, according to CPJ research. While most have been released after short periods, in at least eight cases documented by CPJ Iraqi journalists have been held by U.S. forces for weeks or months without charge or conviction. In one highly publicized case, Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, a freelance cameraman working for CBS, was detained after being wounded by U.S. military fire as he filmed clashes in Mosul in northern Iraq on April 5, 2005. U.S. military officials claimed footage in his camera led them to suspect Hussein had prior knowledge of attacks on coalition forces. In April 2006, a year after his arrest, Hussein was freed after an Iraqi criminal court, citing a lack of evidence, acquitted him of collaborating with insurgents."

CPJ has since reported that "In at least 12 cases in Iraq, journalists were held for prolonged periods. No charges were substantiated in any of the cases."

Another Iraqi photojournalist, Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed, was working for Reuters when he was abducted by U.S. and Iraqi forces from his home in Mahmudiya on September 2, 2008. Even though, as Reuters reported in late 2008, "The Iraqi Central Criminal Court ruled on November 30 that there was no evidence against Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed, and ordered the U.S. military to release him from Camp Cropper prison near Baghdad airport," the U.S. military refused to abide by the decision, claiming that Jassam was still considered "a threat to Iraq security and stability."

At the time, a military spokesman told the press, "He will be processed for release in a safe and orderly manner after December 31st, in the order of his individual threat level, along with all other detainees." Jassam was finally released on February 11, 2010, after 17 months of imprisonment.

And still, these were some of the lucky ones.

On November 16, 2001, U.S. bombs destroyed the Kabul office of Al Jazeera in what was almost certainly a deliberate attack. A report in The Guardian, published two days after the bombing, warned that the attack "opens up a worrying development for news organisations covering wars and conflicts: now they could be targeted simply for reporting a side of the story that one party wants suppressed."

Al Jazeera cameraman Tareq Ayyoub died from wounds sustained during a U.S. bombing raid in Baghdad that targeted the offices of both Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV, another Arabic-language news network on April 8, 2003. Three other journalists were wounded in the attack.

The very same day, a U.S. tank fired heavy artillery at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, the well-known base for most of the foreign media covering the invasion of Iraq at the time. The assault killed Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Spanish television network Telecinco cameraman José Couso. The recently leaked embassy cables have now revealed that the U.S. government pressured Spain to drop all investigation into the death of Couso.

After WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs this past October, The Guardian reported that "US troops killed several Iraqi journalists at checkpoints or near US bases, in most cases without accepting responsibility. Often they promised to hold investigations but never released their findings." The article continued,

"One of the most notorious incidents was the killing of Asaad Kadhim and his driver, Hussein Saleh, who worked for the US-funded TV station al-Iraqiya. They were shot by US troops outside a base at Samarra, 80 miles north of Baghdad, on 20 April 2004. At a press conference Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director of operations for coalition forces in Iraq, said there were signs banning filming or stopping near the base. US forces at the entrance warned the driver to stop by firing several shots. When they were ignored, Kimmitt said, forces fired at the car."

Perhaps the most well-known case of the U.S. military killing journalists has also been made public by WikiLeaks. On July 27, 2007, a U.S. Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad repeatedly opened fire on a group of civilians, killing over a dozen people, including Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and assistant Saeed Chmagh.

News agency Bikya Masr reports that 230 journalists have been murdered in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Four journalists have been killed since the announced withdrawal of the U.S. combat forces at the end of August of this year.

But, of course, as P.J. Crowley tweeted: no one believes in press freedom like the United States. Then again, the U.S. government is no stranger to double standards, especially when it comes to the importance of addressing past crimes in order to build a stronger country in the future.

Despite Obama's repeated insistence that "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards," thereby somehow prohibiting him from launching investigations into well documented and publicly admitted U.S. war crimes even though the UN Convention Against Torture unequivocally and explicitly compels him to do so, the United States consistently tells other countries to do precisely what it refuses to do itself.

Amazingly, during an interview in March 2010 with an Indonesian television outlet, Obama was asked his opinion on an Indonesian national commission charged with investigating the human rights atrocities perpetrated by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime "in an attempt to finally bring the perpetrators to justice." When Obama was asked, "Is your administration satisfied with the resolution of the past human rights abuses in Indonesia?," he replied, "We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can't go forward without looking backwards."

Obama should have added, "Oh, and by we, I of course mean you, not us."

This past November, while in Cambodia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "visited a former Khmer Rouge torture house...and urged the nation to proceed with trials of the former regime’s surviving leaders in order to 'confront its past.'" Perhaps without even realizing the painful irony of her statements, Clinton also declared that "a country that is able to confront its past is a country that can overcome it," continuing, "Countries that are held prisoner to their past can never break those chains and build the kind of future that their children deserve. Although I am well aware the work of the tribunal is painful, it is necessary to ensure a lasting peace."

An identical double standard has also be presented by the United States with regards to scrutinizing Burma's past.

This past August, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration declared its support for "the creation of a United Nations commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma, a sign of a tougher U.S. policy against a regime long accused of murdering and raping its political foes."

Even more recently, in Honolulu, Clinton reaffirmed the U.S.'s support for an official, international inquiry into Burma's atrocities, in an effort to, as she herself put it, "underscore the American commitment to seek accountability for the human rights violations" and to "make clear to Burma’s new leaders, old and new alike, that they must break from the policies of the past."

Clinton's comments echoed those of ubiquitous spokesman P.J. Crowley who, a couple of weeks earlier in mid-October, declared the administration's "hope that a new government will take a different approach than it has in the past."

If only Crowley, Clinton, and Obama realized that Americans - at least the ones who are actually offended by wholesale slaughter, torture, rendition, indefinite detention, a totalitarian surveillance state, extrajudicial assassination, the lack of due process, drone attacks, and the illegal and immoral invasion, destruction, and occupation of two countries (while bombarding and murdering civilians in many more) - still hold the same hope for their own government.

With the New York Times reporting early this year that "the Obama administration has decided to continue to imprison without trials nearly 50 detainees at the Guantánamo Bay military prison in Cuba because a high-level task force has concluded that they are too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release," these issues are not going away.

With regard to the perceived necessity of punishing WikiLeaks for its crime of telling the inconvenient truth about American conduct in Afghanistan, Iraq, and within US Embassies worldwide, Senator Joe Lieberman recently opined, "And, again, why do you prosecute crimes? Because if you don't, well, first you do because that's what our system of justice requires. Second, if you don't prosecute people who commit crimes, others are going to do it soon and again. And I'm afraid that's what's going to happen here."

Indeed, Joe, we all are. But not about WikiLeaks; rather, about what we already know and what WikiLeaks has once again revealed.

Happy Human Rights Day.

Source / Wide Asleep in America

Fluxed Up World

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