Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The State of Palestine

Number of U.N. member states recognizing Kosovo as an independent state: 72

Number of U.N. member states recognizing Palestine as an independent state: 106

Number of world's 20 most populous states recognizing Palestine as an independent state: 15

Number of world's 20 most populous states recognizing Kosovo as an independent state: 4

Does the USA recognize Kosovo as an independent state? Yes

Does the USA recognize Palestine as an independent state? No

Which state does Israel recognize as independent? Neither

[data by courtesy of John Whitbeck (click on the title of this post)]

Attorneys: Help EFF Defend Against Righthaven Trolls

Announcement by Rebecca S. Reagan:

The copyright troll Righthaven has brought over 190 cases—and counting—against bloggers, online journalists and others since March of this year. While EFF has taken on two of these cases directly (Democratic Underground and DiBiase) we have also been attempting to help those sued to secure counsel. If the tactics of these trolls trouble you and you are a member of the bar with experience in copyright litigation, these defendants need your help.

What’s Righthaven? Righthaven is a Nevada company operated by Las Vegas attorney Steven Gibson, whose “sole purpose” is “suing blogs and websites.” It searches the Internet for bloggers and websites that contain posts with content from certain newspapers. When it finds one, it purportedly buys the copyright from the newspaper publisher, applies for a copyright registration, and then files a lawsuit against the blogger or website. Its current partners include the Las Vegas Review-Journal (owned by Stephens Media LLC, who helped form the company) and the Denver Post.

Just as in many other copyright troll shakedowns, Righthaven relies on the threat of enormous copyright statutory damages (up to $150,000) to scare defendants, often individual bloggers operating non-commercial websites, into a quick settlements. They also threaten to seize the domain names, a threat without basis in law. Even if a blogger has meritorious defenses, the costs of defending can often be overwhelming - unless they blogger has pro bono counsel to help even the odds.

The pace at which EFF is hearing from Righthaven defendants is increasing, and we and our cooperating attorneys are presently working at capacity. We need more attorneys versed in copyright issues to whom we can refer people who need pro bono help defending themselves from Righthaven. EFF has already briefed several of these issues in the cases we're handling and those resources are available to counsel. Almost all of the cases are filed in the District of Nevada and we do have good links to possible local counsel.

If you are an attorney interested in representing Righthaven defendants, please contact Rebecca Reagan at rsreagan@eff.org.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chipping away

We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state. Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative. It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.
— Chris Hedges

Remember the Peterloo Massacre!

Dallas Darling writes at World News (click the title of this post for the original):
"Schools are an important indicator of the well-being of a democratic society. They remind us of the civic values that must be passed on to young people in order for them to think critically, to participate in power relations and policy decisions that affect their lives, and to transform the racial, social, and economic inequities that limit democratic social relations." —Henry A. Giroux
A glorious revolution is unfolding in Britain. It is a revolution that consists of students demonstrating against university tuition hikes, and it is a revolution that just clashed with a royal procession. While a convoy of limousines and security vans were driving Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to an expensive and illustrious dinner theater production, several students attacked the Rolls-Royce carrying the two royal highnesses. It was an unscripted moment in Britain's imperial mythology, and it was reminiscent of the Peterloo Massacre.

The Peterloo Massacre is a popular name for a catastrophic human disaster symptomatic of the unrest and repression in Britain immediately after the Napoleonic Wars. It also occurred during the height of the Industrial Revolution. At a time of massive unemployment, unabated recession, and high food prices, a demonstration was held in Manchester on St. Peter's Fields (where the Free Trade Hall now stands). It was also one of the first protests against corporatization, which was actually initiated long before the age of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

Crowds of workers, which at this time included women and children, had gathered to demand reform of the English Parliament. Not only had the government supported legislation in allowing large landowners to seize properties from small farmers, forcing them to become either landless or tenant farmers, but the English Parliament also favored the banking industries and wealthy owners who operated the Mills of Manchester and vice versa. Working together, their goal was more profits at the expense of the working poor.

Around the Mills of Manchester that were built on stolen property, steam engines filled the air with pollution from coal-burning factories. As precious water was diverted and food became scarce because it was exported, the working poor and oppressed found themselves thirsty, hungry, and living in squalid tenements. Neither were there sanitary or building codes. While unemployment increased, whole families crowded into dark, dirty shelters. Sickness and epidemics were common.

Working conditions were horrendous. Wealthy factory and large land owners and their bosses and security details treated workers just like their machines, to be cast away when worn out or broken. The average worker spent 14 to 16 hours a day at the job, 6 days a week. Factories were not well-lit and were unclean. Boiler explosions, machinery accidents, and other work-related injuries were frequent, costing laborers hands, legs, arms, eyes, and sometimes their lives.

The Mills of Manchester themselves, though, were treated much like Buckingham Palace — a bygone symbol of absolute power and riches. Factories were given enormous sums of money for research, innovation, sanitation, roads, transportation, and were built on the choicest lands. Not only were factories subsidized by the sweat and blood of the working-classes, but so too were the kings Summer and Winter palaces, along with their entourages. Vital resources were literally taken from the mouth of children workers to feed these ravenous beasts and to support their frivolous and uncaring lifestyles.

When magistrates observed 60-80,000 peaceful and unarmed citizens and workers amassing on St. Peter's Field next to the Manchester Mills, they became alarmed. While the Industrial Revolution was accepted and worshiped, Workers Revolutions were not. The authorities overacted and ordered armed troops and cavalry to clear St. Peter's Field. It is estimated that 11 unarmed people were killed and 500 more injured, including women and children. The name Peterloo was a parody taken from the recent carnage at Waterloo when the British routed Napoleon's forces.

Therefore — and regarding protesting and demonstrating university students who attacked a symbol of lavish wealth, a limousine, carrying the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall as they drove through London's busy West End and as they were heading to another subsidized event and photo-op — it was uplifting to witness a kind of a reverse Peterloo. It was actually empowering to observe royalty and their security detail under pressure and in chaos, for a change, instead of the working poor and oppressed youth.

It was also courageous of the students to show restraint, especially after experiencing years of dehumanization, economic existence, and perpetual military interventions that are causing an empire to collapse. The real "thugs" are the financial bankers, chief executive officers, and prime ministers who supported unjust wars that were subsidized by the poor. The real "thugs" are highnesses that stood aloof and remained silent in the midst of banking and corporate corruption and rising economic disparity. These are the individuals that need to be investigated.

Those who support the corporatization of colleges and favor tripling tuition fees, like Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative-led government, are the real criminals too. The lapse in security was not committed on Thursday at London's West End, but the thousands of unregulated events and crimes that preceded and then allowed corporate profits and educational injustices to take priority over student development and learning. When students cannot learn in the classroom, they will seek their education elsewhere, namely in the streets.

When Prime Minister Cameron stated that those involved should be "arrested and severely punished," it was eerily similar to the Six Acts which were immediately passed after the Peterloo Massacre. The Six Acts were parliamentary laws aimed against potentially worker-centered progress, betterment, and empowerment. They were designed to suppress the rights of assemble and the rights of freedom of speech and press. Since education is also a fundamental and God-given right, by tripling tuition rates, is Prime Minister Cameron enacting the Six Acts?

Even more sinister, by criminalizing such mass protests is Prime Minister Cameron doing the bidding of a corporate culture that no longer views public education in terms of its civic function; but rather a commercial venture in which the only form of citizenship available for young people is consumerism, and where the free exchange and flow of ideas becomes another product to be bought and sold to the highest bidder?

Thankfully, these civic-minded students are resisting the corporatization of public and university education. They understand that free and equal access to learning is for the public good and the betterment of an innovative society. They are rejecting the corporate market place of monopolized ideas that only train people for low-paying jobs. Challenging the encroachment of corporate and royal power is essential if democracy is to remain a defining principle of education and everyday life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Crimes of Wikileaks

Wikileaks did nothing. Its crime is revealing what others said and did. That is a crime only because those others are the ones who write and enforce our laws. In our name. In other words, they speak and act for us. Their words and actions belong to us. Their secrecy is the real crime. Which is why they must so forcefully (violently) prove that it is opening up their secrets to the public they nominally serve that is criminal. Or that at least it will be punished. Which only clarifies why their secrecy — in the service of power — is so dangerous.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Take a Stand for Peace

Stop These Wars!

Veteran-Led Resistance to U.S. Wars

Dec. 16, 10:00 a.m., Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C.

March to the White House for civil resistance action


Also sign this open letter to the left establishment to protest the policies of President Obama.

"[The Obama administration] has advanced repeated assaults on the New Deal safety net (including the previously sacrosanct Social Security trust fund), jettisoned any hope for substantive health care reform, attacked civil rights and environmental protections, and expanded a massive bailout further enriching an already bloated financial services and insurance industry. It has continued the occupation of Iraq and expanded the war in Afghanistan as well as our government’s covert and overt wars in South Asia and around the globe."

Further Notes on Nature-Guilt

By Eric Rosenbloom

We carry inside us a persistent guilt. We are aware that the fulfillment of our needs is made at the expense of other animals and our environment. Religion serves primarily to relieve that guilt, either by expiating it via sacrifice and prayer or by separating our lives from the other lives around us. Other means follow the example of religion: nationalism, professional identity, marketing.

Religion, along with its imitators, raises a proxy of our intrinsic guilt, some quotidian anxiety, for which it offers relief. Like junk food carefully designed to not quite satisfy, we must keep returning for more in this endless distraction from the real issue. The interest is indeed to not truly satisfy, to keep the circle feeding on itself: more material reward, more guilt, more means of relieving its stand-ins, more material reward . . . Our desires are now called needs.

Christianity's perfection of religion is the promise that you can have your cake and eat it, too: The necessary sacrifice has been made for all humanity for all eternity, and we are thereby liberated. Of course, nothing has actually changed, and Christianity's absolution serves to enable greater crimes, and thus greater guilt, and thus greater devotion to the church and greater opportunities for political and consumerist demagoguery. From the premise that our guilt has been washed away, only more defiant denial of its persistence is possible.

When our continuing crimes are acknowledged, they are blamed on others: We can not be perfectly free (from our guilt) until those others are expunged from us. They are marked as outsiders, threats, traitors. With increasing mistrust, people choose up sides as in a sporting contest and blame each other for the discomfort they still sense in themselves.

The denial of our guilt from knowing the consequences of our life, namely, that it takes from other life, ultimately requires seeing nature itself as our enemy. Nature is made to pay ever more as proof of our freedom (from guilt). This, too, is a vicious cycle, as greater depredations require ever more strenuous denial of guilt by greater depredation (even while denying it as such, by insisting it is to nature's benefit, remedy for the other team's depredations) . . .

This pattern, which dominates our relationship to ourselves and to our world, is the model for all challenges to our worldviews and lifestyles: the discomfort of the other team's evidence that your truth is not absolute, and the response to try harder to make it so — reward eludes you until you eliminate all that denies you its comforts. Something else we must deny is the example of history, which shows us that every effort to purge our lives of its nonconforming elements only makes things worse, increasing the need for the agents of distraction and flattery — religion and its imitators.

To stand against this is lonely indeed. Your effort to resolve your guilt yourself, to come to terms with it, to separate needs from desires and live in a way that does not exacerbate the reasons for your guilt — it is not looked upon generously by the social and economic machine that depends on your looking instead to its established systems for relief. You are an enemy. You are selfish, you think you're better than everyone else. That selfishness, that egocentrism, that pride, however, is a problem of definition.

Pride is indeed self-satisfaction, the pleasure of reshaping desires, urges, even needs, to fit the demands of reality and the outside world. But there are two kinds of pride. One is infantile, the other is what we should expect, but rarely see, from adults. Infantile pride is in pleasing external authority, even when internalized to the extent that it seems of one's self. The adult learns to separate his or her self from that authority and to replace it with his or her own means of balance and relief. The pride of pleasing one's self as thus created is the pride that is condemned by those whose pride remains infantile. It is, however, a pride that is justified. In contrast, infantile pride serves the external authority; it is about replacing the self, the pride of sacrificing one's self to the atoning power. Those whose pride is infantile hate the naysayers, those who take on the ambivalences of life in themselves and disdain the treadwheel and pabulum of institutionalized comfort and distraction. The infantiles' heros are those who follow orders most ardently. The adults' heros are those who think for themselves, expect others to think for themselves, and communicate in terms of reality rather than self-serving dreams.

The infantiles reverse not only reality and dream but also maturity and infancy. They believe it is their “adult” sacrifice, their submission to the “real world” of their psychological miasma, that makes it possible for the “naive” and “immature” to disdain them. Their pride tells them that they have grown to control their desires, but they have only transfered (or delivered) them to a higher authority.

Click here for original essay "Nature-Guilt".

Wikileaks mirror finder

Click on the title of this post for wikileaks.antiwar.com, which will redirect to a nearby working mirror of the Wikileaks web site.

As of this morning, there are 1,559 mirror sites.

Wikileaks itself is at http://213.251.145.96.

Also:  Search the cables that have been released at http://cablesearch.org.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Secrets and the Illiteratization of Society

Jimmy Johnson writes at Counterpunch (click the title of this post for the entire piece):

State secrecy is generally thought of as a matter of national security, or perhaps governmental transparency, but we should also view it as a matter of literacy. ...

The Roman Catholic Church in the 14th century held rigid control over the rituals designating legitimate pathways to salvation and the clergy had significant sway over secular officials, whose legitimacy was largely dependent upon clerical approval. The Church rituals - mass and communion - were conducted in Latin, a language in which almost all were illiterate, mitigating any challenge to Church authority. A key element leading to the Protestant Reformation and the subversion of Roman Catholic dominance was the efforts to translate the bible into the vernacular led by John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and others. By translating the bible into the vernacular they declassified the bible, which had been effectively a state secret up to that point. ...

For his efforts Tyndale was strangled then burned as a heretic, and the Church was so horrified about Wycliffe's radical legacy that his remains were dug up and he was burned at the stake posthumously. They saw, accurately, that the revealing of previously secret knowledge to the masses would make the clergy's social and political positions progressively less powerful. In exposing today's privileged knowledge, Wikileaks may indeed threaten the perpetuation of certain practices of the powerful. The reactions to Wikileaks, its editor-in-chief Julian Assange, and alleged source PFC Bradley Manning are certainly indicative of a perceived threat of that magnitude.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Feinstein and the crimes of secrecy

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, writes in the Wall Street Journal:
When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove — more than 250,000 secret State Department cables — he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.

The law Mr. Assange continues to violate is the Espionage Act of 1917. That law makes it a felony for an unauthorized person to possess or transmit "information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation." ...

Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security.
First, Wikileaks at the time of this writing has released fewer than 1,200 of the more than 251,000 cables it received. All of them include redactions as made by other media outlets, such as The Guardian in the U.K., Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France, and El Pais in Spain. (CNN and the Wall Street Journal were offered the cables but were too scared to take them, and the New York Times got them from The Guardian.)

Second, it is falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater that you don't have the right to do. As is evident by the U.S. war machine's desperate reaction, Wikileaks has revealed that there is indeed a fire.

Feinstein herself has said she voted for the invasion of Iraq on the basis of lies from the G. W. Bush White House (which she apparently lacked the common sense to question). Would she not have welcomed a leak of the facts in that case? Secrecy serves only the lazy bureaucrats and venal opportunists of armchair empire, who are the only ones complaining about Wikileaks, about their secrets being revealed.

The people of the world and of the U.S. itself are only harmed by secrecy. Secrets and lies ensured Feinstein's support for invading Iraq, which has killed some 900,000 people and seriously injured more than 1,500,000. Instead of repeating this crime, what future atrocities might we avert with our eyes open to what our governments are actually doing and thinking?

Finally, about that Espionage Act: As Feinstein quotes, it's about "information relating to the national defense", not to the tawdry everyday dealmaking, strongarming, and occasionally criminal information gathering revealed in the cables being released by Wikileaks. The honor or trust of diplomats is not a matter of national security. If they act honorably or in a trustworthy way, then there is no need for secrecy. It is because they don't, because American empire and corporatism require otherwise, that secrecy is necessary. And why violating that secrecy is so necessary.

U.S. State Dept. lobbying Russia for Visa/Mastercard

Why were Visa and Mastercard to eager to block payments the State Dept. doesn't like? From a "confidential" cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Feb 10, 2010:

According to Visa's XXXX, the latest version follows the "China model" of payment card systems. The law would set up a National Payment Card System (NPCS), which XXXX reported would likely be run by a consortium of state banks as either a non-profit entity or a joint stock, profit-making company. Banks and credit card companies would have the option of joining the NPCS. If they joined, banks in Russia would issue cards under the NPCS brand, with its own logo. Payment processing for these cards would be done on-shore by the NPCS entity. According to the Kommersant article, the fees for these services are estimated at Rb 120 billion ($4 billion) annually. As XXXX pointed out, the vast majority of Visa's business in Russia is done with cards issued and used in Russia; with earnings from processing going to NPCS, Visa would no longer profit from these transactions.

While joining the NPCS would be optional for both banks and international payment card companies, membership has its privileges. If Visa and MasterCard choose to join the NPCS, they would not have any role in domestic transaction processing, but the bank-issued NPCS cards could be "co-branded" with Visa or MasterCard. When the cardholder used his card abroad, the transaction theoretically would go through the normal Visa or MasterCard processing that takes place outside of Russia. While XXXX said such a deal is a possibility, it would require negotiations to specify this approach in the draft law.

In the proposed draft of the law, if international payment card companies choose not to join the NPCS, they will have to set up on-shore processing centers. But neither Visa nor MasterCard representatives, which together have 85% of the Russian payment card market, are willing to say whether they would be willing to do so. MasterCard's Head in Russia, XXXX XXXX, said MasterCard would have to "build and assess the business model of setting up on-shore processing" before it could reach a decision. The draft law stipulates that international payment card companies will have one year to establish processing centers inside of Russia. (Note: Currently no international companies have processing centers in Russia.) A ban on sending abroad payment data for purely domestic transactions will become effective two years after the law enters into force.

According to XXXX, MinFin understands that this would entail so much expense and difficulty for Visa and MasterCard that the two companies might quit the Russian domestic market. XXXX believes that, at least at the Deputy Minister level, MinFin's hands are tied. Implying that Russian security services were behind this decision, XXXX said, "There is some se-cret (government) order that no one has seen, but everyone has to abide by it." As described reftel, credit card company and bank representatives have told us that GOR officials apparently assume that US payment systems routinely share data associated with payment transactions by Russian cardholders with intelligence services in the US and elsewhere. ...

This draft law continues to disadvantage U.S. payment card market leaders Visa and MasterCard, whether they join the National Payment Card System or not. If they join, the NPCS operator will collect the fees, leaving them to collect processing fees only when card-holders travel abroad -- a tiny section of the market. If they do not join but choose to compete with NPCS cards, they will have to set up payment processing centers in Russia, a very large investment in itself, and compete against a system likely backed by the largest Russian state banks. While the draft legislation has yet to be submitted to the Duma and can still be amended, post will continue to raise our concerns with senior GOR officials. We recommend that senior USG officials also take advantage of meetings with their Russian counterparts, including through the Bilateral Presidential Commission, to press the GOR to change the draft text to ensure U.S. payment companies are not adversely affected.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Judge says killing citizens is political issue, none of his business

As the New York Times reports (click on the title of this post for the entire article):
A federal judge threw out a lawsuit on Tuesday that sought to block the American government from trying to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen and Muslim cleric accused of playing a significant role in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

The ruling clears the way for the Obama administration to continue to try to kill Mr. Awlaki and represents a victory in its efforts to shield from judicial review one of its most striking counter-terrorism policies.

The court not only rejected the lawsuit on the grounds that Mr. Awlaki’s father had no standing to file it on behalf of his son, but held that decisions to mount targeted killings overseas are a “political question” for executive officials to make — not judges. ...

Judge Bates' ... ruling emphasized that it was limited to the circumstances of Mr. Awlaki, whom the intelligence community has said is engaged in specific operational planning of attacks against the United States.

“The court only concludes that it lacks capacity to determine whether a specific individual in hiding overseas, whom the director of national intelligence has stated is an ‘operational member’ ” of Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, Judge Bates said, “presents such a threat to national security that the United States may authorize the use of lethal force against him.”
Sorry Mr. Bates, it is not the executive branch's privilege to decide when the Constitution applies. Your craven decision encodes an abuse of power that can only be called dictatorship.

U.S. State Dept. Defends "Free Flow of Information"

This is not a parody. Click on the title of this post to read the original press release.

The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 - May 3 in Washington, D.C. ...

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. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age. ...

[Click here to read a comment by Julian Assange regarding "free" speech in the West.]

The Pentagon Papers

From Wikipedia:

The Pentagon Papers, officially titled United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, was a top-secret United States Department of Defense history of the United States' political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers were first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of the New York Times in 1971.

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara created the Vietnam Study Task Force on June 17, 1967, for the purpose of writing an "encyclopedic history of the Vietnam War". The secretary's motivation for commissioning the study is unclear. McNamara claimed that he wanted to leave a written record for historians, but kept the study secret from the rest of the Johnson administration. Neither President Lyndon Johnson nor Secretary of State Dean Rusk knew about the study until its publication; they believed McNamara might have planned to give the work to his friend Robert F. Kennedy, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968.

Instead of using existing Defense Department historians, McNamara assigned his close aide and Assistant Secretary of Defense John T. McNaughton, McNaughton's aide Morton H. Halperin, and Defense Department official Leslie H. Gelb to lead the task force. Thirty-six analysts—half of them active-duty military officers, the rest academics and civilian federal employees—worked on the study. The analysts largely used existing files in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and did no interviews or consultations with the armed forces, the White House, or other federal agencies to keep the study secret from others, including National Security Advisor Walt W. Rostow.

McNamara left the Defense Department in February 1968 and his successor Clark M. Clifford received the finished study on 15 January 1969, five days before Richard Nixon's inauguration, although Clifford claimed he never read it. The study comprised 3,000 pages of historical analysis and 4,000 pages of original government documents in 47 volumes, and was classified as "Top Secret - Sensitive". "Sensitive" is not an official security designation; it meant that the study's publication would be embarrassing. The task force published 15 copies; think tank RAND Corp received two of the copies from Gelb, Halperin, and Paul Warnke, with access granted if two of the three approved.

Daniel Ellsberg knew the leaders of the task force well. He had worked as an aide to McNaughton from 1964 to 1965, had worked on the study for several months in 1967, and in 1969 Gelb and Halperin approved his access to the work at RAND (which was given 2 of the 15 copies made). Now opposing the war, Ellsberg and his friend Anthony Russo photocopied the study in October 1969 intending to disclose it. He approached Nixon National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Senators William Fulbright and George McGovern, and others, but nobody was interested.

In February 1971 Ellsberg discussed the study with New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan, and gave 43 of the volumes to him in March. The Times began publishing excerpts on June 13, 1971. The Papers revealed that the U.S. had deliberately expanded its war with bombing of Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, none of which had been reported by media in the US. The most damaging revelations in the papers revealed that four administrations, from Truman to Johnson, had misled the public regarding their intentions.

Prior to publication, the New York Times sought legal advice. The paper's regular outside counsel, Lord Day & Lord, advised against publication, but house counsel James Goodale prevailed with his argument that the press had a First Amendment right to publish information significant to the people's understanding of their government's policy.

President Nixon's first reaction to the publication was that since the study embarrassed the Johnson and Kennedy administrations, not his, he should do nothing. However, Kissinger convinced the president that not opposing publication set a negative precedent for future secrets. The administration argued Ellsberg and Russo were guilty of felony treason under the Espionage Act of 1917, because they had no authority to publish classified documents. After failing to persuade the Times to voluntarily cease publication on June 14, Attorney General John N. Mitchell and Nixon obtained a federal court injunction forcing the Times to cease publication after three articles. The newspaper appealed the injunction, and the case New York Times Co. v. United States (403 U.S. 713) quickly rose through the U.S. legal system to the Supreme Court.

On June 18, 1971, the Washington Post began publishing its own series of articles based upon the Pentagon Papers. That day, Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Rehnquist asked the paper to cease publication. After it refused, Rehnquist unsuccessfully sought an injunction at a U.S. district court. The government appealed that decision, and on June 26 the Supreme Court agreed to hear it jointly with the New York Times case. Fifteen other newspapers received copies of the study and began publishing it.

On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court decided, 6–3, that the government failed to meet the heavy burden of proof required for prior restraint injunction, although all nine justices wrote opinions disagreeing on substantive matters.

Ellsberg surrendered to authorities in Boston and admitted that he had given the papers to the press. He was later indicted on charges of stealing and holding secret documents by a grand jury in Los Angeles. Federal District Judge Byrne declared a mistrial and dismissed all charges against Ellsberg (and Russo) on May 11, 1973, after several irregularities appeared in the government's case, including its claim that it had lost records of illegal wiretapping against Ellsberg conducted by the White House Plumbers in the contemporaneous Watergate scandal.

Although the entire Pentagon Papers study has been published by several sources, the work remains classified.

Not all that secret

It has been estimated that about 3,000,000 Americans are authorized (by their government!) to read "secret" documents.

Among the latest 251,287 U.S. State Dept. cables recently released by Wikileaks, only 6.2% are "secret". None are "top secret". More than half (53.3%) are unclassified.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Irish Bailout of Financial Speculators

Nick Bearns writes at the World Socialist Web Site (click the title of this post for the entire piece):

What has taken place is not the bailout of Ireland. Rather, the Irish government has agreed to the demands from international financial markets that all the resources of the state be deployed to ensure that all Irish debts and financial assets held by banks and financial institutions are paid in full, at the expense of the working class. In other words, it is not “Ireland” that has failed and requires a bailout, but the holders of Irish debt—the European and international banks. [emphasis added]

The agreement is expected to cost Irish families an additional €4,000 each, on top of the €4,000 they are estimated to have lost already. And, as if to emphasise that there is no line it will not cross in order to meet the rapacious demands of the financial markets, the government agreed that pension funds would contribute €17.5 billion to the bailout.

No sooner was the agreement announced, however, than the financial wolf pack began lining up its next target … Portugal, Spain or possibly Belgium.

The deepening European financial crisis underscores the fact that the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008 was not the result of a cyclical downturn, which would be followed by “recovery”, but marked the beginning of a breakdown of the entire post-war global capitalist order.

The onset of the US financial crisis in 2007 had an immediate impact on European banks. They had been either directly connected to the sub-prime operations of the US finance houses, as in the case of Germany’s state banks, or engaged in similar speculative activity.

If that were all there was to it, the crisis would have been over by now. But the initial bankruptcies were only the expression of far deeper contradictions within the global capitalist economy.

Since the beginning of the 1980s, following the end of the post-war economic boom, world capitalism has been characterised by what could be called the rise and rise of financialisation. One significant statistic points to the extent of the process. Some three decades ago, the stock of global financial assets was equivalent to around 100 percent of world GDP. By 2007 it had risen to 350 percent.

The implications of such a vast shift are now manifesting themselves in the deepening debt and financial crisis.

Notwithstanding the delusions of various financial spokesmen that money can somehow, by its very nature, indefinitely beget money, financial assets represent, in the final analysis, a claim on the wealth produced by social labour, in particular, the surplus value extracted from the working class in the process of capitalist production. ...

The so-called Irish bailout is only the beginning. The financial markets are demanding not just a limited period of austerity, but the destruction of the entire post-war European social welfare system.

At the same time, the austerity measures being imposed now create the conditions for a vicious economic cycle, in which low growth exacerbates the economic crisis, leading, in turn, to deepening debts and insolvency—of banks, financial institutions and even governments.

The future of the European Union itself is in doubt, threatening a return to the intra-European conflicts that led to two world wars. National conflicts and divisions are on the increase. Writing in yesterday’s Financial Times, head of the Madrid Office of the European Council of Foreign Relations, José-Ignacio Torreblanca, blamed Germany for the mounting economic problems confronting Spain.

The conspiracy against us

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul this unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of statesmanship.
— U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt

[as quoted in an earlier draft ("State and Terrorist Conspiracies") of the essay "Conspiracy as Governance" (click here)]

Also see: "Wikileaks, Julian Assange & Modern Anarchist Praxis":

Most people could probably not name very many anarchists -- historical, contemporary, or even fictional. A few might cite artists like George Orwell or Leo Tolstoy, and fewer still will be aware of prominent historical anarchists like Emma Goldman or Peter Kropotkin. The historical impact of anarchist practice has largely been glossed over in the curriculum of government run, and compulsory, public schools. People generally aren't aware of anarchists fighting for the first labor rights in America or giving the first public talks on birth control. People are unaware that it was the anarchists who brought about the Russian revolution which was subsequently derailed by the Bolsheviks. People are largely unaware of historical anarchist movements in Spain, the Ukraine, and elsewhere. As for contemporaries, most people might only be able to name Noam Chomsky as an anarchist (and that is probably something of a misnomer).

But now, in the headlines of all the world's newspapers, on the lips of all the television pundits, all over the internet, and in the running for Time magazine's "Person of the Year," we have Julian Assange. One may argue about whether or not he precisely fits into the definition of what an anarchist is, and some dyed-in-the-wool anarchists will perhaps turn up their noses at the suggestion, but Julian Assange is engaged in anarchist acts and has presented governments around the world with damning attacks against their credibility and legitimacy.

He is one of the founders, and the public face, of Wikileaks (which publicly leaks damning internal documents from governments and corporations from around the world). With that tool he has thereby presented one of the biggest contemporary challenges to the continuation of state power. In theory, by the nature and design of the Wikileaks project, no national authorities with any degree of power are safe from exposure and subsequent public scrutiny. If that isn't a threat to corporatism and centralized governing power, nothing is. And while that alone isn't enough to make Assange an anarchist, the Wikileaks organization is intentionally designed to exist outside, and in spite of, the control of all nation states. Furthermore, in his own words, "leaking is basically an anarchist act." His organization, and his personal actions, are overtly in support of anarchist acts! At the very least, his tireless devotion to freedom of speech, and his intense scrutiny of governing bodies, is anarchistic at its core -- because most modern governments and major corporations could arguably not exist if people were fully aware of what the leaders of those institutions were actually doing. ...

Earlier in this essay was mentioned the historical impact of anarchist ideals and practice. That praxis cuts across many of the differences that modern states and figures of authority have used to divide the masses. This is because the common person (regardless of race, religion, or creed) does not wish for wars, or prisons, or opulence in the face of poverty. But those in power require these elements to be in place so that they can maintain their control over the various populations.

Consequently, false ideas of racial, religious, and national inequality are instilled and maintained by the governing institutions. At their core, however, most people around the world value anarchistic ideals. Even the masses of religiously-minded people are not usually at odds with the principles of anarchism. The Mahatma Gandhi was a Hindu who identified himself as an anarchist. The Christian ideal of Jesus Christ is fundamentally anarchist in his earthly habits. Lao Tzu (author of the Tao Te Ching and originator of Taoism), practically made a religion of anarchism. And the list of anarchistic saints could surely go on across many other cultures and religions.

One needn't totally agree with the pacifism of those spiritual anarchists to recognize that their anarchistic ideals resonate with many people across most cultures of the world. The point is... many people already value anarchistic ideals but are nevertheless controlled and manipulated by people who have polar opposite values. And it may not be the pacifism of the aforementioned religious figures that enthralls people but, rather, their sense of basic justice. That's why archetypes like Robin Hood, for example, are also held in high regard. And, when it comes down to it, all of humanity descended from, in the not-so-distant past, relatively egalitarian and peaceful primitive tribes. The majority of humanity has the same underlying values, buried in the very needs of our existence, but we have been manipulated, domesticated, and made subservient to those who do not have our best interests at heart. ...

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Blood on the sands

According to the Washington Post, 5,807 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq as of November 28, 2010.

According to the tally kept at the link in the title of this post, as of August 10, 2010, at least:

10,816 people involved on the U.S. side in the war in Afghanistan (soldiers, contractors, journalists) have been killed, and 33,925 have been seriously injured.

8,813 Afghan civilians have been killed and 15,863 seriously injured.

31,393 people involved on the U.S. side in the war in Iraq (soldiers, contractors, journalists) have been killed and 134,747 seriously injured.

864,531 Iraqi civilians have been killed and 1,556,156 seriously injured.

Julian Assange and Wikileaks have a lot to answer for!

Freedom vs. secrecy

"In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble."

— Ron Paul

Friday, December 03, 2010

Fiscalized speech

Julian Assange writes in The Guardian (click the title of this post for more):

The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be "free" because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wikileaks as projective test

Dallas Darling writes at World News (click the title of this post to read the entire piece):

A story is told of a psychologist who was administering a projective test. (A projective test presents subjects with ambiguous stimuli and then interprets the meaning of such stimuli. The assumption is that the subject's inner needs, feelings, desires, and perception of the world will be "projected" onto the stimuli.) The man being tested saw every one of the inkblots as either someone engaged in exploiting others, or people committing violent and aggressive acts. After the last inkblot (stimulus) was administered, the psychologist declared, "I've never in my entire career seen anyone so obsessed with exploitation and violence as you seem to be." The man responded indignantly and self-righteously, "What do you mean, I'm obsessed with exploitation and violence? You're the one with all the exploitative and violent pictures!" ...

WikiLeaks' revelations exposes an empire that projects its own concealed and unconscious aggression, violent anxieties, paranoid fears, and anger onto other nations. Unable to cope with its own violent past and its manipulative and hurtful political and economic realities, this empire utilizes projection as a defense mechanism. Unconsciously ashamed and embarrassed, it falsely sees its own depraved traits in other nations. ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fabricating Terror

Paul Craig Roberts writes in Counterpunch (click the title of this post to read the entire piece):

The [Associated Press] story [about the fake car-bomb plot in Portland, Oregon] arrives at its Kafka-esque highpoint when President Obama thanks the FBI for its diligence in saving us from the fake plot the FBI had fabricated. ...

The FBI did a year’s work in order to convince two people to participate in fake plots. ... When the US government has to go to such lengths to create “terrorists” out of hapless people, an undeclared agenda is being served. What could this agenda be?

The answer is many agendas. One agenda is to justify wars of aggression that are war crimes under the Nuremberg standard created by the US government itself. One way to avoid war crimes charges is to create acts of terrorism that justify the naked aggressions against “terrorist countries.”

Another agenda is to create a police state. A police state can control people who object to their impoverishment for the benefit of the superrich much more easily than can a democracy endowed with constitutional civil liberties.

Another agenda is to get rich. Terror plots, whether real or orchestrated, have created a market for security. Dual Israeli citizen Michael Chertoff, former head of US Homeland Security, is the lobbyist who represents Rapiscan, the company that manufactures the full body porno-scanners that, following the “underwear bomber” event, are now filling up US airports. Homeland Security has announced that they are going to purchase the porno-scanners for trains, buses, subways, court houses, and sports events. How can shopping malls and roads escape? ...

What is it really all about? Could it be that the US government needs terrorist events in order to completely destroy the US Constitution? On November 24, National Public Radio broadcast a report by Dina Temple-Raston: “Administration officials are looking at the possibility of codifying detention without trial and are awaiting legislation that is supposed to come out of Congress early next year.” Of course, the legislation will not come out of Congress. It will be written by Homeland Security and the Justice [sic] Department. The impotent Congress will merely rubber-stamp it.

The obliteration of habeas corpus, the most necessary and important protection of liberty ever institutionalized in law and governing constitution, has become necessary for the US government, because a jury might acquit an alleged or mock “terrorist” or framed person whom the US government has declared prior to the trial will be held forever in indefinite detention even if acquitted in a US court of law. The attorney general of the United States has declared that any “terrorist” that he puts on trial who is acquitted by a jury will remain in detention regardless of the verdict. Such an event would reveal the total lawlessness of American “justice.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

News Quiz

The U. S. now has the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth because:
A )The top 1 percent of income earners make more than the bottom 50 percent.
B )80 percent of all new income earned from 1980 to 2005 has gone to the top 1 percent.
C )The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.
D )The top 1 percent now owns more members of congress, supreme court justices, judges, governors, state legislators, tv networks and newspapers than the bottom 99 percent.
Hint: everyone passes this quiz.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Realism v. Idealism

There is truth in the one-liner that Democrats bandy: Anyone from the working or middle class who votes Republican is suffering from Battered Wife Syndrome. Although, one is tempted to retort, anyone who votes for either one of the corporate/National Security State parties is closer to a half-senile spinster who still believes her prince will come.

—Phil Rockstroh, "Public Like a Frog", Counterpunch, Nov. 12, 2010

Friday, November 05, 2010

Antisemitism

“Formerly an anti-Semite was somebody who hated Jews because they were Jews and had a Jewish soul. But nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.”

—Hajo Meyer

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Correction

Last week we reported that in a speech in Lebanon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "Jews were born only to serve us — without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the people of Islam".

In fact, it was Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and the founder and spiritual leader of the Shas Party, who said in a sermon on October 16, "Goyim were born only to serve us — without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the people of Israel,"

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Opium Wars

Chris Hedges writes at Truthdig:

The American left is a phantom. It is conjured up by the right wing to tag Barack Obama as a socialist and used by the liberal class to justify its complacency and lethargy. It diverts attention from corporate power. It perpetuates the myth of a democratic system that is influenced by the votes of citizens, political platforms and the work of legislators. It keeps the world neatly divided into a left and a right. The phantom left functions as a convenient scapegoat. The right wing blames it for moral degeneration and fiscal chaos. The liberal class uses it to call for "moderation." And while we waste our time talking nonsense, the engines of corporate power--masked, ruthless and unexamined--happily devour the state. ...

Politics in America has become spectacle. It is another form of show business. ... The modern spectacle, as the theorist Guy Debord pointed out, is a potent tool for pacification and depoliticization. It is a “permanent opium war” which stupefies its viewers and disconnects them from the forces that control their lives. The spectacle diverts anger toward phantoms and away from the perpetrators of exploitation and injustice. It manufactures feelings of euphoria. It allows participants to confuse the spectacle itself with political action. ...

The celebrities from Comedy Central and the trash talk show hosts on Fox are in the same business. They are entertainers. They provide the empty, emotionally laden material that propels endless chatter back and forth on supposed left- and right-wing television programs. It is a national Punch and Judy show. But don’t be fooled. It is not politics. It is entertainment. It is spectacle. All national debate on the airwaves is driven by the same empty gossip, the same absurd trivia, the same celebrity meltdowns and the same ridiculous posturing. It is presented with a different spin. But none of it is about ideas or truth. None of it is about being informed. It caters to emotions. It makes us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. And in the end, for those who serve up this drivel, the game is about money in the form of ratings and advertising. Beck, Colbert and Stewart all serve the same masters. And it is not us.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Glenn Greenwald on the ass-licking New York Times

Glenn Greenwald's been calling out the New York Times for its soft-pedal coverage of the Wikileaks Iraq documents and its equal feature of insinuations about the messenger, Wikileaks' director, Julian Assonge. The Times' John Burns performs investigative journalism at its best: denial and smear in service of power.

Sunday, Oct 24: The Nixonian henchmen of today

Monday, Oct 25: NYT v. the world

Wednesday, Oct 27: More on the media's Pentagon-subservient WikiLeaks coverage

The rent is too damn high

Jimmy McMillan, candidate for governor of New York, writes in The Guardian:

The rent is too damn high.

That's what I was thinking when the five guys jumped me as I was walking down a street in Brooklyn at two in the morning. At least, that's probably what I was thinking, since that's what I'm thinking most of the time.

I didn't see them, obviously. I don't have Spidey sense; I don't have peripheral vision. I'm a 10th degree black belt in karate, but, in the real world, there is no "crouching tiger". There's a car, exhaust steaming out like dragon's breath. I was pushed through an open door.

They tied my hands, blindfolded me. One said, "This is what you get when you talk about what you don't understand," or words to that effect. I could figure sending guys after me if I hadn't paid the rent – some of those landlords are straight-up criminals, it wouldn't surprise me – but I had. They wanted me to simply stop talking about it.

And they meant business, taking me to a wooded area off the parkway. I kept hoping this was some sort of prank. That my blindfold would come off and I'd be staring into a TV camera, into the face of Joe Francis or Paris Hilton.

I won't lie. Despite my three years as a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam, I was frightened. In Vietnam, I could see in the dark, shadows and voices guiding me through the jungle. Here, I could see nothing.

But I could smell gasoline.

They poured it over my head.

What did I say that had gotten them so mad?

George Bush and Barack Obama spent $700bn bailing out the banks, after the banks' housing Ponzi scheme collapsed. Obama spent another $787bn on the so-called "stimulus package". Every man, woman and child in America paid $5,000 to rescue Barack Obama and John McCain's top-hat-and-monocle-wearing friends. And the unemployment rate is still 9.6%. You still can't pay your mortgage or rent.

If the banks had collapsed, every homeowner who needed to could have called the bank and said, "I'm going to only pay you what I can afford, and you'll have to take it because you're too weak to say no." The free market would have solved the housing crisis. Obama and McCain only wanted the free market to apply to the little man, not their rich banker friends.

Banks have seized thousands of homes. What can we do?

First, reverse each and every foreclosure where bankers filed false documents. Arrest those bankers, right now. Filing false documents in court is illegal. Treat the banks like any other racketeering organisation that schemes to make millions by breaking the law. Bring the paddywagon, and give all these homes back to the families.

Second, nationalise the banks. If they say they are "too big to fail", and hate the free market when it applies to them, then make them a government organisation. Cut the average top banker salary from $20m a year to $45,000 a year. Bankers do not deserve big money. The free market has spoken: their businesses collapsed.

Third, use eminent domain to seize all of the other thousands of foreclosed properties that blight the urban landscape, and transfer them to families needing homes. The supreme court of the United States says that eminent domain can be used to transfer land from one private owner to another in order to further economic development (Kelo v. City of New London).

Finally, if we believe the free market theory, that putting cash into people's hands is the best way to boost the economy, then how about a rent freeze? High rent is the cancer and low rent the cure to this economic crisis. The rolling back of rent would give people money they can spend.

Grandmothers can't afford their medication; or, if they can afford it, they can't eat. You work 40 hours a week and you give all your money to the landlord. You've got no money for clothes. You've got no money to go on vacation. Even if you live in a homeless shelter, you have to pay $350 a month for rent.

When police found me that night, tied to a tree, at about 4am, I had some choice words for them.

The rent is still too damn high.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Income inequality at criminal levels

From an article by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Piketty and Saez’s unique data series on income inequality, based on IRS files, is particularly valuable because it provides detailed information on income gains at the top of the income scale and extends back to 1913. These data show that in the past decade, income concentration has reached levels last seen over 80 years ago (see Figure 2).


The uneven distribution of economic gains in recent years continues a longer-term trend that began in the late 1970s. In the generation following World War II, robust economic gains were shared widely, with the incomes of the bottom 90 percent actually increasing more rapidly in percentage terms, on average, than the incomes of the top 1 percent. But since the late 1970s, the incomes of the bottom 90 percent of households have essentially stagnated while the incomes of the top 1 percent have soared. (See Figure 3.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

High School Students Fight for Their Future in France





Also see a stirring collection of pictures compiled by the Boston Globe: click here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The War on Terror: What's It All About?

Paul Craig Roberts writes at Counterpunch (click the title of this post):

Does anyone remember the “cakewalk war” that would last six weeks, cost $50-$60 billion, and be paid for out of Iraqi oil revenues?

Does anyone remember that White House economist Lawrence Lindsey was fired by Dubya because Lindsey estimated that the Iraq war could cost as much as $200 billion?

Lindsey was fired for over-estimating the cost of a war that, according to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, has cost 15 times more than Lindsey estimated. And the US still has 50,000 troops in Iraq.

Does anyone remember that just prior to the US invasion of Iraq, the US government declared victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Does anyone remember that the reason Dubya gave for invading Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, weapons that the US government knew did not exist?

Are Americans aware that the same neoconservarives who made these fantastic mistakes, or told these fabulous lies, are still in control of the government in Washington?

The “war on terror” is now in its tenth year. What is it really all about?

The bottom line answer is that the “war on terror” is about creating real terrorists. The US government desperately needs real terrorists in order to justify its expansion of its wars against Muslim countries and to keep the American people sufficiently fearful that they continue to accept the police state that provides “security from terrorists,” but not from the government that has discarded civil liberties.

The US government creates terrorists by invading Muslim countries, wrecking infrastructure and killing vast numbers of civilians. The US also creates terrorists by installing puppet governments to rule over Muslims and by using the puppet governments to murder and persecute citizens as is occurring on a vast scale in Pakistan today.

Neoconservatives used 9/11 to launch their plan for US world hegemony. Their plan fit with the interests of America’s ruling oligarchies. Wars are good for the profits of the military/security complex, about which President Eisenhower warned us in vain a half century ago. American hegemony is good for the oil industry’s control over resources and resource flows. The transformation of the Middle East into a vast American puppet state serves well the Israel Lobby’s Zionist aspirations for Israeli territorial expansion.

Most Americans cannot see what is happening because of their conditioning. Most Americans believe that their government is the best on earth, that it is morally motivated to help others and to do good, that it rushes aid to countries where there is famine and natural catastrophes. Most believe that their presidents tell the truth, except about their sexual affairs.

The persistence of these delusions is extraordinary in the face of daily headlines that report US government bullying of, and interference with, virtually every country on earth. The US policy is to buy off, overthrow, or make war on leaders of other countries who represent their peoples’ interests instead of American interests. A recent victim was the president of Honduras who had the wild idea that the Honduran government should serve the Honduran people.

The American government was able to have the Honduran president discarded, because the Honduran military is trained and supplied by the US military. It is the same case in Pakistan, where the US government has the Pakistani government making war on its own people by invading tribal areas that the Americans consider to be friendly to the Taliban, al Qaeda, “militants” and “terrorists.”

Earlier this year a deputy US Treasury secretary ordered Pakistan to raise taxes so that the Pakistani government could more effectively make war on its own citizens for the Americans. On October 14 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered Pakistan to again raise taxes or the US would withhold flood aid. Clinton pressured America’s European puppet states to do the same, expressing in the same breath that the US government was worried by British cuts in the military budget. God forbid that the hard-pressed British, still reeling from American financial fraud, don’t allocate enough money to fight America’s wars.

On Washington’s orders, the Pakistani government launched a military offensive against Pakistani citizens in the Swat Valley that killed large numbers of Pakistanis and drove millions of civilians from their homes. Last July the US instructed Pakistan to send its troops against the Pakistani residents of North Waziristan. On July 6 Jason Ditz reported on antiwar.com that “at America’s behest, Pakistan has launched offensives against [the Pakistani provinces of] Swat Valley, Bajaur, South Waziristan, Orakzai,and Khyber.”

A week later Israel’s US Senator Carl Levin (D,MI) called for escalating the Obama Administration’s policies of US airstrikes against Pakistan’s tribal areas. On September 30, the Pakistani newspaper, The Frontier Post, wrote that the American air strikes “are, plain and simple, a naked aggression against Pakistan.”

The US claims that its forces in Afghanistan have the right to cross into Pakistan in pursuit of “militants.” Recently US helicopter gunships killed three Pakistani soldiers who they mistook for Taliban. Pakistan closed the main US supply route to Afghanistan until the Americans apologized.

Pakistan warned Washington against future attacks. However, US military officials, under pressure from Obama to show progress in the endless Afghan war, responded to Pakistan’s warning by calling for expanding the Afghan war into Pakistan. On October 5 the Canadian journalist Eric Margolis wrote that “the US edges closer to invading Pakistan.”

In his book, Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward reports that America’s puppet president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, believes that terrorist bombing attacks inside Pakistan for which the Taliban are blamed are in fact CIA operations designed to destabilize Pakistan and allow Washington to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

To keep Pakistan in line, the US government changed its position that the “Times Square Bombing” was the work of a “lone wolf.” Attorney General Eric Holder switched the blame to the “Pakistani Taliban,” and Secretary of State Clinton threatened Pakistan with “very serious consequences” for the unsuccessful Times Square bombing, which likely was a false flag operation aimed at Pakistan.

To further heighten tensions, on September 1 the eight members of a high-ranking Pakistani military delegation in route to a meeting in Tampa, Florida, with US Central Command, were rudely treated and detained as terrorist suspects at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport.

For decades the US government has enabled repeated Israeli military aggression against Lebanon and now appears to be getting into gear for another Israeli assault on the former American protectorate of Lebanon. On October 14 the US government expressed its “outrage” that the Lebanese government had permitted a visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who is the focus of Washington’s intense demonization efforts. Israel’s representatives in the US Congress threatened to stop US military aid to Lebanon, forgetting that US Rep. Howard Berman (D,CA) has had aid to Lebanon blocked since last August to punish Lebanon for a border clash with Israel.

Perhaps the most telling headline of all is the October 14 report, “Somalia’s New American Primer Minister.” An American has been installed as the Prime Minister of Somalia, an American puppet government in Mogadishu backed up by thousands of Ugandan troops paid by Washington.

This barely scratches the surface of Washington’s benevolence toward other countries and respect for their rights, borders, and lives of their citizens.

Meanwhile, to silence Wikileaks and to prevent any more revelations of American war crimes, the “freedom and democracy” government in DC has closed down Wikileaks’ donations by placing the organization on its “watch list” and by having the Australian puppet government blacklist Wikileaks.

Wikileaks is now akin to a terrorist organization. The American government’s practice of silencing critics will spread across the Internet.

Remember, they hate us because we have freedom and democracy, First Amendment rights, habeas corpus, respect for human rights, and show justice and mercy to all.

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

U.S. military expenditure

Just a reminder. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, military spending by the United States in 2009 represented 4.3% of its 2008 gross domestic product. That put it between Sudan (4.4%) and Yemen (4.3%). The next highest European country was Greece at 3.6%, with its worries about Macedonia and Cyprus. Russia, with its volatile borders, followed at 3.5%. Next were the United Kingdom at 2.5% and France at 2.3%, the main backers of North Atlantic Treaty Organization after the U.S. Most of the rest of Europe and the "West" were below 1.5%, many below 1.0%.

U.S. military spending, $663 billion, represented 43% of the world's total. It was equal to the next 13 biggest spenders — most of them "friends" and none of them an "enemy" of the U.S. — put together (that's 14 countries spending 86% of the world's total).

Remember, too, that many of those countries use the military as a domestic police force.

What is the big threat?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Birmingham, Israel

Dallas Darling writes at today's World News Network about the sentencing by an Israeli military court of Palestinian nonviolence activist Abdullah Abu Rahmeh to one year in prison along with a fine of $1,400 (which is more than the average Palestinian annual income). He compares the situation to Martin Luther King's arrest in Birmingham, adapting King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" ... (click on the title of this post for the complete piece)

Israel is probably one of the most thoroughly segregated and intolerant nations. Its ugly record of police brutality and military incursions are known in every section of the Middle East. Its unjust treatment of Palestinians and Arabs in the courts is a notorious reality, as are the numerous false imprisonments of men, women and children. There have been more unsolved bombings and bulldozing of Palestinian homes and attacks on mosques in Israel than any nation in the Middle East. There have also been unsolved killings and a complete disregard for basic human rights and civil liberties.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a nation that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I have worked against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. It is the kind of tension that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and unity.

Nations and groups are more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was "well timed," according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation and religious intolerance. For years now, I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Palestinian with a piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never!" We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that justice too long delayed is justice denied. ...

Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of global opinion before it can be cured.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Inverted totalitarianism and health care

The New York Times editorial today praises the defeat of one of the lawsuits against the requirement in the new health care insurance law that everyone otherwise not covered must buy a policy. They say this is necessary to socialize the costs. That is a reasonable concern, but the obligation is inverted.

To socialize costs, it is the obligation of the government to provide the service — single-payer insurance, if not socialized delivery as well, or at least a public insurance option to fill in the gap — not to force the people to benefit corporate profits.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Managed democracy, Superpower, and inverted totalitarianism

Chalmers Johnson writes in a May 2008 review of Democracy Incorporated by Sheldon Wolin (published in paperback earlier this year):

Wolin argues that to the extent the United States on occasion came close to genuine democracy, it was because its citizens struggled against and momentarily defeated the elitism that was written into the Constitution.

"No working man or ordinary farmer or shopkeeper," Wolin points out, "helped to write the Constitution." He argues, "The American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy. It was constructed by those who were either skeptical about democracy or hostile to it. Democratic advance proved to be slow, uphill, forever incomplete. The republic existed for three-quarters of a century before formal slavery was ended; another hundred years before black Americans were assured of their voting rights. Only in the twentieth century were women guaranteed the vote and trade unions the right to bargain collectively. In none of these instances has victory been complete: women still lack full equality, racism persists, and the destruction of the remnants of trade unions remains a goal of corporate strategies. Far from being innate, democracy in America has gone against the grain, against the very forms by which the political and economic power of the country has been and continues to be ordered."

To reduce a complex argument to its bare bones, since the Depression, the twin forces of managed democracy and Superpower have opened the way for something new under the sun: "inverted totalitarianism," a form every bit as totalistic as the classical version but one based on internalized co-optation, the appearance of freedom, political disengagement rather than mass mobilization, and relying more on "private media" than on public agencies to disseminate propaganda that reinforces the official version of events. It is inverted because it does not require the use of coercion, police power and a messianic ideology as in the Nazi, Fascist and Stalinist versions (although note that the United States has the highest percentage of its citizens in prison -- 751 per 100,000 people -- of any nation on Earth). According to Wolin, inverted totalitarianism has "emerged imperceptibly, unpremeditatedly, and in seeming unbroken continuity with the nation's political traditions."

The genius of our inverted totalitarian system "lies in wielding total power without appearing to, without establishing concentration camps, or enforcing ideological uniformity, or forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual." ...

"The new system, inverted totalitarianism, is one that professes the opposite of what, in fact, it is. The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed." ...

The main social sectors promoting and reinforcing this modern Shangri-La are corporate power, which is in charge of managed democracy, and the military-industrial complex, which is in charge of Superpower. The main objectives of managed democracy are to increase the profits of large corporations, dismantle the institutions of social democracy (Social Security, unions, welfare, public health services, public housing and so forth), and roll back the social and political ideals of the New Deal. Its primary tool is privatization. Managed democracy aims at the "selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry" under cover of improving "efficiency" and cost-cutting. ...

One other subordinate task of managed democracy is to keep the citizenry preoccupied with peripheral and/or private conditions of human life so that they fail to focus on the widespread corruption and betrayal of the public trust. ...

Another elite tactic of managed democracy is to bore the electorate to such an extent that it gradually fails to pay any attention to politics. Wolin perceives, "One method of assuring control is to make electioneering continuous, year-round, saturated with party propaganda, punctuated with the wisdom of kept pundits, bringing a result boring rather than energizing, the kind of civic lassitude on which managed democracy thrives." ...

Superpower is the sponsor, defender and manager of American imperialism and militarism, aspects of American government that have always been dominated by elites, enveloped in executive-branch secrecy, and allegedly beyond the ken of ordinary citizens to understand or oversee. Superpower is preoccupied with weapons of mass destruction, clandestine manipulation of foreign policy (sometimes domestic policy, too), military operations, and the fantastic sums of money demanded from the public by the military-industrial complex. (The U.S. military spends more than all other militaries on Earth combined. The official U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2008 is $623 billion; the next closest national military budget is China's at $65 billion, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.)

Foreign military operations literally force democracy to change its nature: "In order to cope with the imperial contingencies of foreign war and occupation," according to Wolin, "democracy will alter its character, not only by assuming new behaviors abroad (e.g., ruthlessness, indifference to suffering, disregard of local norms, the inequalities in ruling a subject population) but also by operating on revised, power-expansive assumptions at home. It will, more often than not, try to manipulate the public rather than engage its members in deliberation. It will demand greater powers and broader discretion in their use ('state secrets'), a tighter control over society's resources, more summary methods of justice, and less patience for legalities, opposition, and clamor for socioeconomic reforms."

Imperialism and democracy are, in Wolin's terms, literally incompatible, and the ever greater resources devoted to imperialism mean that democracy will inevitably wither and die. ...

"That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budgets means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from the government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate." ...

Why I'm voting secessionist instead of socialist (or anything else)

"Imperial politics represents the conquest of domestic politics and the latter's conversion into a crucial element of inverted totalitarianism. It makes no sense to ask how the democratic citizen could 'participate' substantively in imperial politics."

—Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated

Vermont

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Education, not Training!

Steve Nelson writes in today's Valley News (Vt. & NH):

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, indeed! Based on the response to the new documentary film of the same name by Davis Guggenheim, it's going to be a very long wait for an educational system that genuinely serves America's children. The political and public frenzy over the troubled state of American education is driving a "reform" movement that is arguably as irrational as stockpiling nuclear weapons as a means of bringing peace to Earth.

Guggenheim's film mischaracterizes the decline in American education and misplaces blame. It offers a broad, gratuitous indictment of teachers and teachers unions. While some teachers are great and some significantly less than great, this is nothing new. Teachers are by and large as well qualified and dedicated as they were a generation ago. If education has dramatically changed for the worse, teachers are not the variable. Race, class and rapid cultural and social shifts are the more germane variables.

In addition to misidentifying the root causes of educational ills, the film goes on to celebrate the tough-love, often militaristic, data-driven practices that are supposed to make education better. These practices are guaranteed to make it worse. Watching the parade of celebrities, political leaders and sycophants lionizing media darlings such as D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee is depressing for those of us who love children.

I regularly ask parents what qualities they hope to see nourished in their children. The responses are always the same: creativity, confidence, integrity, a sense of humor, compassion, originality, honesty, imagination, critical thinking skills and so on.

If the purpose of education is to develop such things, the practices in most schools today, particularly in the schools held up as shining exemplars in Waiting for Superman, will do much the opposite. In these schools, as children march in uniformed lockstep to the next regimented bit of curriculum, their little hearts, minds and souls are being bleached into sad, bland conformity. The illusion of achievement, as symbolized by the minor, self-prophetic improvement in test scores, feeds the frenzy and the vicious (often literally vicious) cycle continues. There is no time for passion or compassion, a sense of humor is a liability, and imagination is an unnecessary distraction. Thinking critically is a risk no child dare take. Children in these schools are being trained, not educated.

This is no mere philosophical quibble.

Current trends in education - increasingly early academic work, test preparation and tests - are waging psychological and even biological warfare on America's children.

Children's cognitive abilities, especially reading, develop along highly varied timelines - roughly analogous to the wide range of ages that children begin to walk. There is no reason to expect that all 7-year-old children will be able to do the same things in the same way, yet our system is designed as though they should. Our treatment of many late readers, for example, is as abusive and senseless as it would be to scream at your one-year-old for not standing up and running on her first birthday.

As the eminent psychologist Jerome Bruner once told me, the most damaging aspect of contemporary educational practice is the pressure for children to do too much, too soon. As a result of these practices, some children are branded for life as substandard, simply because they aren't yet up to "expectations." Others, who may be able to manage the work, are conditioned to see learning primarily as the process of giving the powerful adults (parents or teachers) the answers they're looking for.

The "losers" in such schools are disenchanted and brokenhearted. The "winners" are, in increasing numbers, unimaginative, dully conformist in thought and behavior, and neurotic. They can chant slogans about success and declare the ambitions they hope will please adults, but they have diminished capacity to love ideas, to take risks, to recognize or make something beautiful or to question authority.

The biological damage may be more profound. Advances in neurobiology and cognitive science make clear the im portance of rich and varied sensory stimulation for brain development. Children must sing, talk, paint, run, build fabulous towers, smell flowers, bounce balls, hear beautiful music and touch everything in sight. The complex and powerful neural pathways that constitute a well-educated person have their roots in all these natural and joyful experiences.

Why then would a supposedly "rigorous" school dispose of physical education, diminish art and music classes, while telling children to sit still and endure daily drills in computation and phonics? There is mounting evidence that the rote practices that produce the temporary illusion of progress are actually inhibiting the biological and emotional development required for authentic academic achievement.

Might this be why politicians and economists who brag about improved fourth-grade scores are often mystified by stagnant (or worse) eighth-grade scores? Could it be that the very practices that raise scores in the short term are guaranteed to fail in the long run? (Sound like Wall Street?)

Neuroscientists, psychologists and thoughtful educators around America know these things, but too many of the decisions about education are being made by politicians and metrics-driven "experts" who know very little about children. I'm sure the intent behind Waiting for Superman was good, but the result seems to be renewed enthusiasm for a very misguided approach to learning.

Steve Nelson lives in Sharon and New York City, where he is the head of the Calhoun School, a private school. He can be reached through e-mail at steve.nelson@calhoun.org. His column appears in the Valley News every other Sunday.

Monday, October 04, 2010

2010 Election Endorsements

Second Vermont Republic
Socialist Party USA
Liberty Union Party

US Senator: Peter Diamondstone, Socialist
Representative to US Congress: Jane Newton, Socialist
Governor: Dennis Steele, Second Vermont Republic; Ben Mitchell, Liberty Union
Lieutenant Governor: Peter Garritano, Second Vermont Republic; Boots Wardinski, Liberty Union
State Treasurer: Virginia Murray Ngoima, Liberty Union
Auditor of Accounts: Jerry Levy, Liberty Union
Secretary of State: Leslie Marmolare, Liberty Union
Attorney General: Rosemarie Jackowski, Liberty Union
State Senate (Addison County): Robert Wagner, Second Vermont Republic
State Senate (Chittenden County): Terry Jeroloman, Stephen Laible, and Mikey Van Gulden, Second Vermont Republic
State Senate (Rutland County): William Cruikshank and Dennis Morrisseau, Second Vermont Republic
State Senate (Washington County): Gaelan Brown, Second Vermont Republic
State Senate (Windham County): Aaron Diamondstone, Socialist
State House (Washington County): James Merriam, Second Vermont Republic

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mythbuster busted: Tom Gray and the hard facts of wind energy

The unflagging Tom Gray of the American Wind Energy Association has now presented a story about Kodiak Island, Alaska, as a "mythbuster".

It's a mythbuster only if you characterize, as Gray does, the problems with wind on the grid in the most simple-minded way.

1. First, he harps on the charge that backup power units must be kept running, noting (actually, asking tauntingly like a brat in a schoolyard) that Kodiak Electric Association (KEA) burned 930,000 fewer gallons of diesel fuel in the first year of three 1.5-MW wind turbines operating, so emissions must have been reduced.

2. For the same reason, fossil fuel use was reduced.

3. Finally, taking on the charge that wind is unreliable and hard to integrate into utility systems, he notes that KEA did it.

Now let us look at the facts.

The 4.5 MW of wind went into operation in July 2009. The data provided by KEA on diesel fuel saved is estimated as proportional to the net energy produced by the wind turbines. That is not a record of actual fuel savings, which is affected by the diesel generators' efficiency, which is affected by more frequent ramping and switching on and off to balance the wind feed.

As Gray knows, the charge that other plants have to be kept running primarily applies to large coal (and nuclear). Smaller coal plants may be able to ramp their production as needed (at a cost of efficiency). Natural gas plants may be able to switch very quickly on and off (again, at a cost of efficiency, like city versus highway driving). Diesel plants, too, can switch on and off quickly. On an island, they act very much like the backup generator that an off-gridder keeps ready.

So points 1 and 2 dodge the issue of exactly how much diesel fuel is saved by using an estimate rather than actual data. In a similar example from East Falkland, Islas Malvinas, less than one-fourth of the estimated fuel savings was actually seen. And it has still to be documented how less cleanly the remaining three-fourths is being burned.

Again, emissions may have been reduced, but by very much less, if any, than hoped or claimed. And fossil fuel use was reduced, but likely by very much less than estimated.

As for point 3, an island system is a simple closed system, with fast-responding diesel generators (as well as in this case hydro) to adjust quickly to changing demand. They continue to operate in the same way with the addition of wind turbines, which are essentially "negative demand". Being a "small, isolated" utility system is precisely why it is easy to integrate wind there, not, as Gray implies, an example of particular challenge.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Sheaf of Araby


"I considered the lilies on the veldt and unto Balkis did I disclothe mine glory. And this."   —Finnegans Wake