RSSCategory: Orwellian

Secrecy out of control

January 31, 2012 | By | Reply More
Secrecy out of control

At Salon, Justin Elliot documents the evidence demonstrating that the secrecy system of the United States is out of control. His article describes unfulfilled Freedom of Information requests that are more than a decade old.

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The rules of the game in the age of the “war on terror”

January 24, 2012 | By | Reply More
The rules of the game in the age of the “war on terror”

Glenn Greenwald notes several recent legal decisions, all of which accord with the following rules for deciding cases in the age of the war against “terrorism.”

The Rules of American Justice are quite clear, and remain in full force and effect:

(1) If you are a high-ranking government official who commits war crimes, you will receive full-scale immunity, both civil and criminal, and will have the American President demand that all citizens Look Forward, Not Backward.

(2) If you are a low-ranking member of the military, you will receive relatively trivial punishments in order to protect higher-ranking officials and cast the appearance of accountability.

(3) If you are a victim of American war crimes, you are a non-person with no legal rights or even any entitlement to see the inside of a courtroom.

(4) If you talk publicly about any of these war crimes, you have committed the Gravest Crime — you are guilty of espionage – and will have the full weight of the American criminal justice system come crashing down upon you.

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Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship and why

January 18, 2012 | By | 7 Replies More
Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship and why

It’s time to step up and voice your concerns because we now have a bit of momentum. Here’s how to strike back against Internet censorship.

Here is why you should consider taking at least a few minutes to get involved.

I’ve blackened the DI banner today as a symbol of my concern regarding efforts to pass SOPA (pending in the House) and the Protect IP Act (pending in the Senate).

Free Press has offered a page indicating the senators who are pro, con and on the fence. If you plug in your zip code, you will be presented with phone numbers for your senators and it LITERALLY takes only a minute to voice your concern to the staffer of your senator. I called my two senators in two minutes. Please join me in voicing your concern to your elected officials. You will be doing your part to use logic, fairness and reason to oppose $90 million in campaign contributions. Reason sometimes work, as demonstrated by today’s reversal of course by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

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Why we must oppose PIPA and SOPA

January 17, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Why we must oppose PIPA and SOPA

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published this succinct explanation setting out the dangers of PIPA and SOPA.

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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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