RSSCategory: Orwellian

Today’s target of American civil rights abuses

January 17, 2012 | By | Reply More
Today’s target of American civil rights abuses

Glenn Greenwald agrees with Law Professor Jonathan Turley that Americans are facing “ten major, ongoing assaults on core civil liberties, expanded during the Bush administration yet vigorously continued and/or expanded by President Obama:

Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

In today’s column, Greenwald asks “who are generally the victims of these civil liberties assaults?” Perhaps his question could be tweaked as follows: “Who are today’s victims of these civil liberties assaults?” Here is his answer:

The answer is the same as the one for this related question: who are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War? Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals). And that is a major factor in why these abuses flourish: because those who dominate American political debates perceive, more or less accurately, that they are not directly endangered (at least for now) by this assault on core freedoms and Endless War (all civil liberties abuses in fact endanger all citizens, as they inevitably spread beyond their original targets, but they generally become institutionalized precisely because those outside the originally targeted minority groups react with indifference).

This endless war and civil rights abuses are destroying the American character. On this point, Greenwald refers to Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech critical of the Vietnam War, which includes this passage:

I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such . . . .

Like so much of Greenwald’s research and writing, today’s column is detailed and precisely and persuasively argued. I would highly recommend reading the entire original.

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Why Americans are at war in the Middle East

January 9, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
Why Americans are at war in the Middle East

Glenn Greenwald keeps unveiling stunning information about U.S. foreign policy. The following video by General Wesley Clark is jaw dropping, especially in light of the events that have unfolded since the conversations he reveals. The bottom line is that a pro-war U.S. foreign policy is repeatedly enacted without any national debate. The U.S. considers the Middle East to be U.S. property. How else can you explain that we are operating armed drones in six Muslim countries, and that politicians are actively discussing the “need” to invade Iran?

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Treat all those who cheat the public like crooked locksmiths

December 28, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
Treat all those who cheat the public like crooked locksmiths

Here is an MSNBC feature on locksmiths who cheat people who call them in emergencies when they are locked out of their homes. This news piece follows a tried and true formula for creating a good memorable story: It vividly exposes an unscrupulous practice, and then turns the camera on the perpetrators as they try to slink away. To tell the complete story, the producers included the fact that there are honest people in the trade (in this case, honest locksmiths); locksmiths can make a living while giving people a fair shake.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Why, then, don’t networks treat all of those who lie, cheat and steal with comparable scrutiny? What I have in mind are Wall Street Banks, telecoms, fossil fuel industries, healthcare insurers, the defense industries and other powerful entities who have purchased Congress and then made certain that industry reform is impossible. These industries have driven out competition and/or figured out how to freely feed out of the public trough. They’ve been gouging consumers, directly and indirectly, in ways that make the crooked fees charged by locksmiths look like chump change. Consider this recent article by Matt Taibbi, illustrating how big banks are cheating taxpayers.

Consider also how Barack Obama’s promise of an expanded industry of energy conservation and sustainable energy production would be a centerpiece of his Administration. Though he has done some good things, has also opened up large tracts of Western lands to coal mining and providing much more funding to nuclear and fossil fuel than to green alternatives. This is one of many of Obama’s broken promises– somehow, indefinite warmongering against undefined enemies is somehow much more important that having a sustainable economy back home. And even after “health care reform,” people who had health insurance are struggling mightily to pay uncovered medical bills, many of them tipping over into bankruptcy. Payday lenders run rampant across the country. A few months ago, telecoms almost succeeded in destroying what is left of net neutrality.

These sorts of thing don’t just happen; powerful people are consciously making these terrible decisions, and they (including most of our politicians) are motivated by money, not public service.

I fear that one of the main reasons we are cleaning up these industries is that too many Americans are math challenged — they suffer from innumeracy. And most Americans would flunk a basic test on American civics and history. Foxes run rampant in the American hen house. One would need to spend some serious time thinking about the effects of lack of competition in order to appreciate how much the public is being fleeced, but Americans are highly distracted with TV and other forms of entertainment. Another hurdle is that big media is owned by big companies and serves big industries by selling them commercials. Thus, we don’t see constant aggressive journalism illustrating how the public is being ripped off by many (by no means all) big businesses.

Don’t expect the journalism to get better, especially for the reasons outlined by John Nichols of Free Press. Expect things to get worse, in light of the fact that this week the FCC proposed a new set of rules that would unleash a wave of media consolidation across the country. If the agency’s proposal sounds familiar, that’s because it’s nearly identical to rules the FCC proposed during the Bush administration. This proposal is especially scandalous for the reasons stated here.

An additional hurdle to getting these stories out is to make them simple and memorable stories, but this is quite a challenge. These industries have successfully complexified themselves–it now takes “experts” (including teams of lawyers) to understand how these industries function. Ordinary people don’t have much of a chance of even articulating how and why they are getting ripped off, much less understanding what can be done to fix the problems. Complexity is not an accident–it is a tactic. Consolidating the mass media isn’t simply happening–it is a tactic of big business to maintain control, as are recent attempts to give private businesses the power to shut down internet domains without a court order.

There is no incentive for the mass media to excoriate those behind any of these proposals. There is little to no incentive for big media to descend on those behind these movements as though they were crooked locksmiths. If only.

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Greatest country in the world?

December 23, 2011 | By | Reply More
Greatest country in the world?

To what extent do candidates for President need to declare their belief in “American Exceptionalism”? More specifically, is the United States of America the greatest country in the world? If ever patriotism dovetails with religion, this has got to be the place, because the typical user of these phrases has no interest in real world factual inquiry regarding either the United States or of other countries. In other words, those who use this phrase almost never engage in any comparisons based on evidence, yet the use of these phrases denotes that a factual comparison has been conducted.

At his well-researched article at Huffpo, Jerome Karabel explores the historical use of the term “American Exceptionalism.”

What might be called the “U.S. as Number One” version of “American exceptionalism” enjoys broad popular support among the public. According to a Gallup poll from December 2010, 80 percent of Americans agree that “because of the United States’ history and its Constitution … the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” Support for this proposition varied somewhat along party lines, but not by much: 91 percent of Republicans agreed, but so, too, did 73 percent of Democrats.

For President Obama, the issue of American exceptionalism could be his Achilles’ heel. In that same 2010 Gallup poll, Americans were asked which recent presidents believed that “the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” Reagan was highest at 86 percent, followed by Clinton at 77 percent, and George W. Bush with 74 percent; President Obama was a distant fourth at 58 percent. Obama’s vulnerability on the issue may be traced in part to his response to a question in April 2009 from a Financial Times reporter about whether he subscribed, “as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism.” “I believe in American exceptionalism,” declared Obama, “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Though taken out of context, the remark serves as Exhibit A for Republicans making the case that Obama does not believe in “American exceptionalism” and, by extension, in America’s greatness.

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U.S. military shutting down public access to trial of Bradley Manning

December 22, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
U.S. military shutting down public access to trial of Bradley Manning

If the U.S. military authorities were proud of the way they were conducting the trial of Bradley Manning, they would give easy and wide-open public access to the proceedings. They are doing the opposite, as reported by Rainey Reitman at The Nation:

Unfortunately, the military is taking steps to block access by the media and the public to portions of the trial, robbing the world of details of this critically important trial. The details of Bradley Manning’s prosecution aren’t making their way into the public domain in large part because there is no full transcript being made public. During a recess from the hearing, I questioned a Public Affairs Officer who refused to provide his name about when a transcript would be made available. He said that it would likely be three to four months before any transcript would be available to the public—long after the media interest had faded . . . The government has denied any recording devices, audio or video, to be in the media center or the courtroom . . . When Nathan Fuller applied for a press pass to attend the hearing and take notes from the media center, his request was granted—and then rescinded. Among other things, Fuller is an intern with the Bradley Manning Support Network . . .

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About terrorism experts

December 21, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
About terrorism experts

Glenn Greenwald spares no mercy when condemning “terrorism experts”:

That has to be the single most amusing phrase ever to appear unironically in the Paper of Record: Twitter terrorism. And, of course, the authority cited for this menacing trend is that ubiquitous sham community calling itself “terrorism experts,” which exists to provide the imprimatur of scholarly Seriousness on every last bit of inane fear-mongering hysteria. That cottage industry (like the government’s demands for greater power and Endless War) remains vibrant only if Terrorism does (that is, Terrorism by Muslims: a propagandistic redundancy). Thus, with Osama bin Laden dead, a full decade elapsed since the last successful Terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and the original Al Qaeda group rendered inoperable, these experts are now warning the nation about lurking sleeper tweets.

Consider, too, this gem from a BBC documentary called “The Power of Nightmares”:

In the past, the power of politicians promised to create a better world. They had different ways of achieving this, but their power and authority came from the optimistic visions they offered their people . . . Politicians were seen simply as managers of public life. But now they have discovered a new role that restores their apparent authority. Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us . . . from nightmares.

Because we have bought the nightmares, we have bought endless warmongering at a price of $2 Billion/week in Afghanistan alone:

The disastrous legacy of the Iraq War extends beyond treasure squandered and lives lost or shattered. Central to that legacy has been Washington’s decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft. With all remaining prudential, normative, and constitutional barriers to the use of force having now been set aside, war has become a normal condition, something that the great majority of Americans accept without complaint. War is U.S.

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Who is Killing the Post Office?

December 13, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
Who is Killing the Post Office?

I’ve been wondering this for years, as the USPS has been struggling to subsidize the Congressionally mandated 75 years in advance retirement plan during the worst downturn in the economy since the Great Depression. In order to continue, they have to shut down stations, limit deliveries, and eliminate next-day mail. Or be in violation of a Federal Unfunded Mandate.

Note that the Post Office receives $0.00 in taxpayer money, yet Congress gets to tell it how much it is allowed to charge, how much it has to pre-pay on all its benefit programs, and even how many free perks it has to give to members of Congress. In my lifetime, the price of a First Class stamp has gone from the price of a cup of coffee (5¢) to less than a third of that. We pay less for postage now than ever before in history, in terms of coffee, movie tickets, ounces of gold, or any hard measure.

Yet Congress in its wisdom has been steadily adding burdens and removing permissions in the last decade. And I have been wondering, why? Sure, the answer is clearly pandering to the lobbyists. But whose? Who really wants to kill the only company that delivers to every house in the country? Last night, I think I got my answer.

I was watching the news, flipping through the networks, and every outlet covered this story: Record online holiday sales trigger record shipping day.So which stations covered which shipping company? Who covered this story for the USPS? For DHL? For UPS? No one.

But FedEx was given minutes of free advertising (as an in-depth story) on every network. Thus my wacky conspiracy theory of the day is: FedEx is behind the lobbyists who are behind the legislation that is gutting the post office.

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On defining “terrorism”

December 11, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
On defining “terrorism”

Glenn Greenwald once again finds that the United States defines its terms, in this case, “terrorism,” in strangely specialized ways:

Few things better illustrate the utter meaninglessness of the word Terrorism than applying it to a citizen of an invaded country for fighting back against the invading army and aiming at purely military targets (this is far from the first time that Iraqis and others who were accused of fighting back against the invading U.S. military have been formally deemed to be Terrorists for having done so). To the extent the word means anything operationally, it is: he who effectively opposes the will of the U.S. and its allies.

This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc. It’s a word that simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything.

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Orwellian attack ads aimed at Elizabeth Warren

December 9, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Orwellian attack ads aimed at Elizabeth Warren

The thing about “swift boating” is that you don’t need any facts at all. All you need is money and the lack of a conscience, as illustrated by the recent attack ads run against Elizabeth Warren.

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