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CA Gubernatorial Candidate Arrested at Debate: So Much for Open, Free and Fair Elections

8:09 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Candidate for CA Governor, Laura Wells, is arrested Tuesday night after trying to attend a debate she was excluded from. by Polidoc Productions

* Babette Hogan of Polidoc Productions contributed to this report.

A candidate for governor gets arrested for disorderly conduct for disrupting a debate from which he had been excluded. Candidates for the Senate organize a protest outside an event organized by a taxpayer funded organization that refused to allow them to participate. Candidates for the House aiming to pressure an incumbent to agree to debate them face to face go on a hunger strike. And, paid operatives go throughout the country filing lawsuits to intentionally bankrupt candidates’ campaigns and keep them off the ballot. Sound like stories from a Third World country America is trying to teach democracy?

These are all incidents, which have taken place during election cycles in the past decade, and they all happened in America. These incidents involved candidates, who in a democracy should have had the right to run in an open, free and fair election, but certain players conspired to keep these candidates from participating freely.

Despite a recent Gallup poll indicating that fifty-eight percent of Americans think a "third party is needed in this country," a Midterm Election Poll done by the The Hill this month that indicated fifty-four percent would like "an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans" and a CNN poll conducted in February that showed sixty-four percent of all Americans "like the idea of a third party that would run against the Democrats and Republicans," incidents against candidates running in the 2010 midterm election continue to persist. One of the most recent incidents is the arrest of California gubernatorial candidate Laura Wells.

CA Gubernatorial Debate Protest Ends in Arrest of Green Party Candidate | A Report from Polidoc Productions on Vimeo.

Running for election on the Green Party ticket, Wells was excluded from a gubernatorial debate, which only Democratic candidate Jerry Brown and Republican candidate Meg Whitman were allowed to participate in. Libertarian Party candidate Dale Ogden, American Independent Party candidate Chelene Nightingale, and Carlos Alvarez of the Peace and Freedom Party were also excluded.

Debate organizers asserted, as most organizers of private debates tend to do, that Wells was excluded because she was not polling 10% or more. This would be an acceptable standard to set if it weren’t for the fact that other states, as Green Party Watch points out, have allowed Greens to debate without double-digit percentages in push polls. Arizona has allowed Green candidate for the Senate Jerry Joslyn to debate John McCain, Massachusetts has let Green gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein and two other candidates debate Governor Deval Patrick, and New York has chosen to include Green candidate Howie Hawkins in an upcoming gubernatorial debate that will take place on October 18th.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Wells "attempted to enter Dominican University’s Angelico Hall at 5:20 p.m. when she presented a ticket that police said was not issued to her." They reported, "Wells refused to cooperate with campus security when they requested she surrender [her] ticket" and "became argumentative and refused to leave the area"even after she was warned that if she persisted she would be subject to a citizen’s arrest because she was on private property." Wells was placed under "citizen’s arrest" by private security until San Rafael police officers arrived to escort her away from the scene.

Contrary to what private security and police said, spokesman for Wells, Marnie Glickman, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "the two had tickets to the debate and were entering Angelico Hall, when they were pulled aside by authorities" and "were told that they could not enter because" Wells was a candidate running for governor in California.

Wells was contacted and said she believes she was excluded because she would talk about how "the richest of the rich mega-corporations and individuals are not paying taxes while the rest of [Californians] are" and because she supports the creation of a State Bank in California "to reduce the influence of Wall Street." And, she also said the debate organizers "know the public is disgusted with the two Titanic Parties" so they have chosen to keep the doors shut as tightly as they can.

A statement from Wells posted on her campaign site Tuesday night after her arrest asserted:

"…The polls are a fraud against the voters. I received a letter that congratulated me on my primary win and invited me to the debate, if I received 10% support among California likely voters. They didn’t tell me what the survey question was. If it were, "Do you want debates with only the Republican and Democratic candidates?" a huge majority of voters, especially this year, would say, "No!" But a couple of my supporters were surveyed and they told me the survey question: they were asked whether they preferred Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman. Not even other. And then when the pollsters report the results, they still didn’t say other, they say undecided. As if the only choices were Pepsi and Coke, not something we might like that’s healthy, like crystal clear water, or juice, smoothies or red wine!…" [emphasis not added]

When contacted and asked about how the government and other organizations make it harder for candidates to run who are not Democrats or Republicans, Wells explained that a " media subsidy of free media is given to the Titanics, as well as the Tea Partiers, and not to the independent political parties like the Green Party." She singled this out as a "key ingredient" for why candidates are kept out and how people continue to be disempowered and discouraged.

Charged with "trespassing," Wells must now appear in court on November 2nd, Election Day, which makes the bipartisan sham being perpetrated on California voters seem even more deliberate.

Standard operating procedure for Democrats and Republicans usually involves doing everything to make sure independents or candidates from other parties do not turn into a non-factor. As Independent Political Report has covered:

• In April an Independent candidate for governor of Vermont was arrested for disorderly conduct for disrupting a debate from which he had been excluded.

• In June, Libertarian candidate for US Senate in Florida, Alex Snitker, crashed an event from which he had been excluded by the Florida Press Association.

• Earlier this month, supporters of Arkansas Senate candidates John Gray of the Green Party and Independent Trevor Drown protested outside an event organized by a taxpayer funded organization which refused to allow them to participate.

• This week, the Socialist and Constitution Party candidates for US Senate in Ohio launched a petition drive to ensure that debates and forums will be open and inclusive.

• Finally, the Democratic and Libertarian candidates for US House in CA-52 recently ended a hunger strike aiming to pressure the incumbent Republican to agree to debate his rivals face to face.

And, Rich Whitney, a Green Party candidate for governor in Illinois, is not only battling exclusion from an ABC-TV televised debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, but also the painful reality that his name is misspelled "Rich Whitey" on electronic-voting machines in "nearly two dozen wards–about half in predominantly African-American areas." There is no indication that this misspelling is some dirty trick, but what makes it worse is the fact that the Chicago Board of Elections contends the problem is something that cannot be corrected by Election Day.

In spite of attempts to handicap candidates from campaigning as easily as Democrats and Republicans, there remain signs of hope for third party or Independent candidates hoping to do well in this election.

Arkansas Green candidate John Gray, running for the U.S. Senate, appeared in the first televised debate for a statewide office in Arkansas that includes a Green nominee on October 13th. Jill Stein, Green-Rainbow Party candidate was included in a gubernatorial debate in Massachusetts. And, the Chicago Tribune, a well-established newspaper, endorsed Jeremy Karpen, a Green Party candidate for state representative in Illinois.

Jesse Johnson, a Mountain Party candidate for governor in West Virginia who has been endorsed by veteran Democrat Ken Hechler, is doing so well that he might end up preventing Democratic Governor Joe Manchin from winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, which he hopes to snag so he can take on Obama and fire holes with his rifle through climate change legislation

LeAlan Jones, a Green Party candidate in an increasingly toxic race between Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias and Republican candidate Mark Kirk, may end up earning enough votes to give Kirk a win. Independent candidate for governor in Massachusetts, Tim Cahill, a former Democrat, may end up tipping the election negatively for incumbent Governor Deval Patrick. And, perhaps best of all, Green Party candidate for the Senate in South Carolina, Tom Clements, is polling better than deadbeat and possible GOP-plant Democrat Alvin Greene in a race against incumbent Republican Senator Jim Demint.

Of course, no candidate is entitled to votes. Every candidate has to win votes in order to win elections. Spoiling only happens if the two most prominent parties fail to capture the interest of one hundred percent of the electorate, which given recent polls demonstrating public interest in third party candidates is highly unlikely.

If any candidate "spoils" an election, it will not be because he or she recklessly chose to run in an election but rather because America is plagued by winner-take-all elections, which make it precarious and impractical for Americans to truly support more choice and more voices in elections.

More and more Americans are sympathetic to remarks like this one made by former Independent Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura recently:

"…I don’t distinguish between the two [parties] because [politics is] very much like pro wrestling. You [give] interviews on TV like you hate each other, to draw crowds and attention and make money. But behind closed doors, you’ll go out to dinner with each other. Well, the Democrats and Republicans are the same way. They’re not adversaries; they just make believe they are to the American public."

The differences get smaller. Cynicism among voters escalates. The people’s tolerance for political shenanigans, which limit democracy, decrease.

As one user commented in response to Wells’ arrest, "I guess I will play spoiler and vote for Laura Wells for Governor. If she cannot debate or even attend the debate the whole concept of this being a democracy is a farce."

*Additional Note: Independent Political Report reports the problem with Rich Whitney’s misspelled name will be corrected after all. Please note, had this been an issue with a Democratic or Republican candidate there would have been zero hesitation on the part of the Board of Elections. But, since Whitney is a Green Party candidate, the Board thought it could get away with having voters see his name appear as "Rich Whitey" on Election Day.

O’Donnell’s Victory Renews Her Fight Against the Scourge of Sex in America

1:20 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell’s victory over nine-term Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware’s Republican Senate primary Tuesday night may have been a signal that a significant number of Delaware citizens are willing to support candidates who like to preach to Americans on what they should and should not do sexually.

Prior to her primary victory, there had been much talk about O’Donnell’s history as an advocate for abstinence and a crusader against masturbation. But, if O’Donnell is so anti-masturbation, she shouldn’t be running for office. Doesn’t she know her campaign is stimulating a bunch of dicks and assholes?

Last night MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow played a video of her appearance on MTV’s “Sex in the ‘90s,” which shows exactly what O’Donnell means when she talks about being opposed to rubbing one out every now and then:

O`DONNELL: My name is Christine O`Donnell. I am the president and founder of the SALT. The SALT stands for the Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth.

We choose sexual purity in our lives. We have God-given sexual desires. And we need to understand them and preserve them to be used in God`s appropriate context.

We need to address sexuality with young people. And masturbation is part of sexuality. But it is important to discuss this from a moral point of view.

CHRISTINE GEDGAUDAS, MARKETING MANAGER, THE SALT: Masturbation is a selfish act, and it`s a lustful one. And we are to walk with pure hearts, not adulterous lusting hearts.

TODD HITCHCOCK, YOUTH PASTOR: The Bible is clear in the fact that it says that any sexual act outside of the realm of marriage is wrong.

O`DONNELL: The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So, you can`t masturbate without lust.

The reason that you don`t tell them that masturbation is the answer to AIDS and all these other problems that come with sex outside of marriage is because, again, it is not addressing the issue. You`re going to be pleasing each other. And if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am in the picture?”

I can’t speak for any man in O’Donnell’s life, but I can say if he does masturbate, he will still want you. Just because the bumper cars are a good time doesn’t mean you won’t want to ride the roller coaster later. And, I wouldn’t worry: God will enjoy every minute that he gets to watch you and your man unleash the sexual desires he gave O’Donnell and her man.

Even more straitlaced, Justin Elliott has put up a post on Salon.com that indicates O’Donnell believed, while in college, coedization of colleges could lead to "orgy rooms":

Dorm life has evolved into a blending of the sexes, from coed buildings to coed floors, coed bathrooms and now even coed rooms.

"What’s next? Orgy rooms? Menage a trois rooms?" asked Christine O’Donnell, spokeswoman for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington, Del., which publishes a college guide.

All this coedness is outside normal life, said Miss O’Donnell. "Most average American adults don’t use coed bathrooms – if they had the option of a coed bathroom at a public restaurant, they wouldn’t choose it." Coedness "is like a radical agenda forced on college students," she said.

O’Donnell’s commitment to surrendering her life to the will of a Father and her belief that a married person who uses pornography “compromises not just his (or her) purity, but also compromises the spouse’s purity” is just the type of Puritanism that has made sex education in America an utter wreck.

Evangelical Christians like O’Donnell have in recent years promoted the idea teenagers should take “virginity pledges” as a way of purifying American society and fighting moral decay. But, studies have shown that teenagers who take “pledges” are just as likely to have sex. They also were most likely to engage in sex without protection because the faith-based ideologues that defend abstinence-only education programs oppose reality-based sex education that includes education on contraception. [See this latest article on sex-ed posted on Salon.com.]

O’Donnell’s opposition to beating the bishop or, in her case, strumming the banjo may seem like a convenient distraction, but RHRealityCheck has noted how her view has translated into policy. For example, did you know she opposed President Bush’s restrictions on stem-cell research and contended they were not “restrictive enough”?  And, did you know she once argued sex education “would cause [society] to become blasé about sexual predators”?

RHRealityCheck points out

“This last argument is a particularly helpful illumination of the conservative position on sexuality: this aspect of being a human is dirty and shameful and deserving of punishment. Healthy sex or even just sex education is not distinguished from sexual molestation.

This kind of repression and denial is, of course, what gets people into trouble: we’re not really having sex so let’s not use a condom; we weren’t supposed to have sex so let’s abandon the baby in a trash can.”

O’Donnell’s position on spanking the monkey or pearl fishing is not only an attempt to shame people who have no problem with this human activity but also a part of the values voter agenda, the agenda which advocates a ban on same-sex marriage (sometimes even suggesting the criminalization of homosexuality), seeks to prevent women from having a right to choose abortion, and endorses policies that make it difficult to get birth control and/or emergency contraception.

Back in the 1990s, O’Donnell served as a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, an organization founded by Armageddon fantasist Timothy LaHaye’s wife, Beverly LaHaye. The organization’s mission is to “protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens – first through prayer, then education, then finally by influencing [American] society – thereby reversing the decline in moral values in [America].” They are an organization of literalists who believe the Bible to be the “inerrant Word of God,” and they believe it is their “duty to serve God” to the best of their ability and to “pray for a moral and spiritual revival that will return [America] to the traditional values upon which it was founded.”

Sarah Posner of ReligionDispatches reported this morning, in 1995, O’Donnell claimed integrating women into military institutions crippled “the readiness” of America’s defenses. O’Donnell said, “It’s an honor to be a lady. That’s a beautiful part of womanhood is to be ladylike," and West Point "has had to lower their standards” so that men and women can compete, which has, “reduced the effectiveness of [America’s] military." And, in response to criticism she said, “When you remove the role of the mother, the family is left to crumble,” and blamed declining SAT scores on giving women a role in the military they should not have.

Exactly, how far might this go? What might she tell women about the importance of submission to husbands as a necessary part of maintaining a good family? What would she do if a man she was with didn’t approve of her Christian-feminist advocacy? Would she tell her man God has commanded her to help men find salvation through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and so she has God’s permission to be more than a housewife?

Sociologists Margaret Power and Paolo Baccheta wrote a book, Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists, which was an analysis of conservative women and their conduct around the world. In the book they claimed, “One striking feature of a great many right-wing women leaders and full-time activists is their system of double standards. There is a huge gap between how right-wing women…live out their lives as individuals on the one hand, and the subjectivities they propose for other women on the other.”

In other words, she may not go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but it is unlikely O’Donnell has never gone hitchhiking on the Southern Trail.

Max Blumenthal wrote in his book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party,  “Redemption from a life of sexual sin is the right-wing woman’s business card; it is all the expertise she needs.” This is the “feminism” that emanates from people like O’Donnell and Sarah Palin, who campaign on how they have done right by God and avoided Satanic acts of pure pleasure that godless liberals would have no problem with. Women who have been trained by religious right groups with wives married to bullheaded loons that encourage people to be more aroused by prospects of Armageddon instead of the bodies of women are driven by this fixation on redemption and purity.

There is no evidence that O’Donnell became a fighter against choking the chicken or toggling the bit because she wanted to redeem herself from a teenage life of sexual sin. But, if history is any sort of guide, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that Americans find out before November O’Donnell has posed nude for photos while in the company of an ex-boyfriend or had a homosexual experience with a fellow Concerned Woman of America.

Finally, O’Donnell has been talking about how she won’t give out the location of her house because someone broke in and vandalized it during her 2008 campaign. A paranoid O’Donnell told the conservative Weekly Standard that she believes people are following her and that she has to have a team inspect cars and the bushes. And, she believes these people following her “knock on doors at all hours of the night” and hide in the bushes when she’s at candidate forums.

Honey, nobody is hiding in bushes. The only person or thing during this campaign that is hiding behind any bush is your vagina. Now, take a finger out, shove it into the Victoria’s Secret underwear you don’t want your supporters to know you wear because it would clash with the values you preach, and give the donut a rub. That’s right. Buff the muffin, douse the digits, and do the very thing conservatives love to chant about at conventions: Drill, baby, drill.

Perhaps after engaging in an act that most humans engage in and usually find comforting and relaxing, you will be less stressed and paranoid. And less toxic to America.

A Failure to Bring Hope and Change Will Create an Enthusiasm Gap Every Time

9:44 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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A not very happy looking crowd of Tea Party protesters listening to a Member of Congress. Tea Party protest, March 21, 2010, U.S. House of Representatives. By theqspeaks]

The media’s legitimization of fringe lunatic Terry Jones last week, the man with a history of actions only people sympathetic to the Westboro Baptist Church would support, had one effect that Democrats can be thankful for: it pushed aside talk of an "enthusiasm gap" between the Republican base and the Democratic base, which many think will produce big wins for the GOP in November. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom or meme the media is promoting.

Talk of an "enthusiasm gap" has returned. One recent example from TPM: "The Enthusiasm Gap: How Dispassionate Dems and Fired-Up GOPers Are Defining 2010."

On September 7th, Rachel Maddow said on her show, "The most important national dynamic heading into this year’s elections is the economy. The most important political dynamic is the yawning chasm that is the enthusiasm gap between the Republican base — they’re highly motivated — and the Democratic base, which hasn’t really been motivated at all." Joan Walsh of Salon.com said on "The Ed Show" that same day, there’s "this huge enthusiasm gap" and referenced a Public Policy Polling poll that found in five battleground states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, the Democrats "would be either way ahead or roughly tied if Democrats were turning out in the numbers that they did in 2008. But as of right now, they are not."

The day before, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile said on "The Situation Room," Democrats "have a large enthusiasm gap," but the base consists of people who come to the party, sit around, look, get a drink, and then move. In other words, Brazile contends Democrats have consciously chosen to be inert while Republicans are on the move. That’s a convenient argument for avoiding any discussion on the reality that much of the base is fed up with how failure or, in some cases, refusal to take on corporate and special interests has become a Democratic Party ritual over the past years.

Here’s an incomplete list that reinforces the idea that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party have failed miserably and should not be surprised their base is unexcited: initially failing to organize against Republicans looking to obstruct extensions of unemployment benefits, appointing Petraeus to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan and continuing a war in a country often regarded as "the graveyard of empires," committing to a permanent troop presence in Iraq, contributing to culture which led to the BP oil disaster by indicating renewed support for offshore drilling one month before the disaster, keeping the option of a national public-financed healthcare system off the table as Republicans cried foul about a socialist takeover of healthcare and talked death panels, refusing to advance the minor reform that labor unions have desired, the Employee Free Choice Act (pretty much the only real demand they have had for Obama), continuing the use of rendition, military commissions, or, in some cases, the denial of habeas corpus rights to detainees, refusing to investigate torture or release photos of the abuse that soldiers inflicted on detainees, failing to close Guantanamo, putting the Consumer Financial Protection Agency under the administration of the Federal Reserve and stalling on the appointment of Elizabeth Warren.

De facto Birther Newt Gingrich and other political leaders would like Americans to believe "the radicalism of the Obama team and Pelosi and Reid has, in a strange way, depressed [Democrats] and truly aroused both independents and Republicans in a way that [one] couldn’t have predicted two years ago." But, that ignores the way that the base, which has traditionally given the Democratic Party the energy it needs to win, works.

See, unlike Tea Partiers, who promote a neutered brand of white nationalism ("We’re taking our country back!"), the majority of the Democratic Party’s base lives in what one could call the reality-based world. They normally do not fail to remember that they need to rely on what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch in order to make logical decisions about what to do in the world that surrounds them. They, unlike many, can see a document like a birth certificate posted on the Internet, and lay to rest all notions that the first African-American president of the United States is a Kenyan. On the other hand, Tea Partiers, who are responsible for creating the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, do not need their senses. They only need their gut instincts (you know, what George W. Bush relied on to assert Saddam Hussein had WMDs), prejudices and cosmic or religious ideas, which human beings can never really prove or disprove because they are abstract.

Americans who fill the National Mall for "Restoring Honor" or 9/12 Project rallies, those that pay $225 for a meet-and-greet event with Glenn Beck, will explicitly argue Sharia Law is creeping into America and Obama, a Muslim or weak Christian, is helping to make this possible. They will argue a communist or socialist takeover has been unfolding since Obama’s election. Again, these are abstract and especially toxic notions that the Republican Party is lucky to be able to trot out as the 2010 Election approaches. They are pseudo-notions or sociopathic ideas that people who think and read for themselves and pause before speaking will never find reasonable.

The Democratic Party, except for perhaps the ideas that the Democratic Party is responsive to public pressure and in governance Democrats are more than slightly different from Republicans, don’t have celestial or preposterous ideas they can roll out to whip their base into a frenzy. They do, however, have actual facts that prove Republicans are preposterous and harmful to the future of this country. That fear can never match the fear of a Manchurian Muslim President engineering a communist/socialist/fascist takeover that is restarting American civilization at Year Zero, but it can motivate Democratic voters to participate in get out the vote (GOTV) activities that will help produce Democratic Party wins in November.

The problem is the Democratic Party is gradually losing its power to enslave people with their logic that the Republicans are much more evil than them. That idea can only work for so long before people abandon ideals on collective society that push them to vote Democrat and decide to revert to a troglodyte state of mind and vote Republican. It can only work for so long before people resign themselves to the fact that they will try to survive on their own and hope they can perhaps get lower taxes and further remove themselves from feeding the system.

Also, more and more Americans do not want to play the game at all. Politicians are seeing more and more people leave the Democratic Party and even the Republican Party. They are designating themselves as "independents." The media and politicians can attempt to define the politics of "independents," but the most one can say is they are no longer interested in being Democrats or Republicans but still recognize they should vote in elections.

The number of people willing to "dump Obama" is swelling. But, that animosity will likely fail to translate into any meaningful movement (for right now). A combination of messages like, "Give Obama a Chance," "Republicans are way worse," "Progressives willing to sell out the many to have their way right now are no better than Republicans," "Obama was given a catastrophe, now we have half a catastrophe," "Corporate Democrats aren’t generally as evil as Republicans," "Women, non-Christians, minorities, the poor, the sick, and the unemployed will be in for a world of hurt over the next two years if Democrats don’t turn out," and more prevent the organization of a real movement that could produce an alternative to the broken two-party electoral system that continues to fail people especially those in the lower and middle classes.

There’s also this message from Democrats: "Vote for your third party or sit on your hands on Election Day in protest. Then, be sure to acknowledge your share of the responsibility when what we have of health care reform is repealed, taking the leash off of the thieves in the insurance industry." That’s a thinking progressive’s way of giving those who genuinely want a way out of this mess the finger and hoping those whom they likely believe spoiled the election for Al Gore in 2000 will sit down and shut up.

It’s reasonable to doubt whether this "enthusiasm gap" will have the impact pundits, columnists, political strategists and Republican political leaders are suggesting. Although the lack of enthusiasm means less people involved in working directly for candidates to get them elected, members of the Democratic base will ultimately fulfill their contractual obligation as unapologetic Democratic voters and believers in the small bloc of political leaders in Congress who continue to fail to make a real difference in advancing an agenda for hope and change in this country.

This term "enthusiasm gap" will haunt Democrats from now until November. And, they largely deserve to be haunted. The failure of Democrats to argue in favor of taking this country in a decisive and new direction nullified the historic election of Barack Obama. The failure of President Obama to be a truly transformative leader and take on the corporations and special interests ensured the midterm election would be hellacious for Democrats. And, the failure to steadfastly take on the conservative media echo chamber which has won the scalps of former members of the Obama Administration like Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, and others has helped seal the Party’s fate in November.

What should those who believed in Obama and Democrats in 2008 do? For starters, remember how Democrats in Congress failed to fulfill their mandate and end the Iraq War after winning big in 2006. And then, do some thinking. If you find you are cornered and there’s no way of getting out without a fight, good. You’re one step closer to understanding why Democrats don’t need to give their base anything, really, in order to win elections.

The Difference Between Opposing Mosques and Burning Korans

3:12 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Dove Outreach World Center Pastor Terry Jones’ and his followers’ decision to burn Korans on September 11th has proven there are those in this country who will stoop to such a level and burn sacred texts to express their beliefs. It also indicates there is a line, for now, that those who subscribe to anti-Islam industry propaganda will not cross. Few who oppose the construction of the Park51 project (the "Ground Zero Mosque," as they affectionately term the proposed center) are flocking to support this crackpot pastor’s eagerness to burn Korans.

The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero [and Stop the 9/11 Mosque] put out a statement that the coalition finds the idea to be "irresponsible and wrong." The coalition upholds the "Minister’s freedom of speech and assembly" but contend, "with rights come responsibilities" and urge him not to go ahead with the burning. This is the same coalition that endorses and supports a major rally against the Park51 Project that will be held on 9/11.

What is the difference between obstructing and seeking to prevent the construction of a place of worship and the burning of a sacred text that those who are found to be dangerous derive much of their religious beliefs from?

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, who opposes the construction of the Park51 Project, said, "We don’t burn books. The Left does that." Continuing on without citing examples or even bothering to explain how burning Harry Potter books was the work of leftists in America, he said, "And, we certainly don’t do it if it’s going to put our armed forces in danger."

Levin asserted, "It is clear that there are individuals all over the world who will use this as an additional excuse to harm people. There is a fundamentalism-Islamic fundamentalism-that is out to destroy parts of the world and which has frankly murdered more of their fellow Muslims than the Western world or other religions could ever even try to destroy. So, why give a propaganda opportunity to people who are looking for all the propaganda opportunities they can get?"

To those who have been following the hullabaloo around the Park51 Project, this argument is one that supporters have used to undercut opposition to the "Ground Zero mosque." Supporters have argued opposition to the project could help write the recruiting script for Islamic extremists and even justify future acts of terror.

Yet, it does not appear that the opposition to the Park51 Project has had that effect. Director of Arab language television station Al-Arabiya Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashid, wrote recently that he does not think opposition has "provoked" Muslims in the way that a "2006 publication of a cartoon ‘mocking the Islamic prophet in a Danish newspaper,’" which set off violent protests in the Muslim world, did. He added there have been no "demonstrations related to the mosque in Arab countries, that imams have not addressed the controversy during their sermons and that the issue has not been taken up by Islamic religious and intellectual institutions."

The director argued this is because the center could be turned into a "symbol of hatred for Muslims." Such a notion speaks to the power opposition has had in influencing conversation on the project in the media. Certainly, it makes sense that Muslims would not want to erect "an arena for the promoters of hatred, and a monument to those who committed the crime," as Al-Rashid contended.

Muqteder Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, in a column published by the Washington Post, offers a bit more insight on why desecrating the Koran may provoke more demonstrations and violence in the Muslim World than opposition to the Park51 Project has:

…On September 11, 2010, some misguided Americans plan to burn the Holy Quran, the only book in the entire heritage of humanity that claims to be solely the word of God. This dastardly act is the brainchild of Terry Jones, a Christian Pastor from Florida. This act is not just some symbolic gesture of defiance. It is an act of egregious violence against the beliefs and the sacred symbols of one fourth of humanity. The act will scorch Muslim hearts everywhere. The searing pain will never be forgotten.

Along with the idea of God and prophets, the Quran is the thing that Muslims hold the dearest. My children have been listening to it since even before they were born. I use to recite it to them while they were still in the womb. Their children will be reciting it to them when they will be lowered in to their tomb. Believe me, there is nothing more precious to Muslims than the Quran, and watching people toss it into fire, will be horrifying. I would rather burn in fire myself, than watch a Quran burn…

Let’s be clear about Levin’s remarks–he did not condemn the content of Jones’ opposition to Islam but rather opposed the tactic Jones would be using to voice his discontent. For the purposes of further understanding how conservatives might be grappling with the planned burning of Korans:

"When our government funds so-called art–art that uses urine and feces and this so-called artist stuck a cross into the urine and feces, we were told that this is free speech and any effort to cut the funding for that department or to control what kind of grants are issued is an abomination, would be anti-American.

So, if we the taxpayers against our will fund the desecration of a cross with Jesus on it, there’s something wrong with us. If we object to a provocateur, a radical Imam, trying to locate a mosque at Ground Zero, there’s something wrong with us. But, if this Pastor Jones burns some Korans–which again I object and think is dangerous particularly to our soldiers–then what? Do you hear the liberals saying he has a constitutional right to do this? No."

Actually, a man who Levin and his listeners consider to be a "bleeding-heart liberal" has stated Jones has a constitutional right to burn the Korans. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a stalwart defender of the Park51 Project developers right to build, said yesterday:

"In a strange way, I’m here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful"The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can’t say that we’re going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement"If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them."

Jones appears to have underestimated how anti-Islam proponents’ dedication to supporting the troops would deter them from supporting his action. General David Petraeus’, the State Department’s and others’ contention that this would put America’s troops in harm’s way has resonated with Americans who likely agree with part if not all of Jones’ arguments on how Islam is "of the Devil."

What those who have spent time organizing against the so-called march of Islam toward instituting Sharia in the United States should understand is that it is they who lay the foundation for whackjobs like Jones to carry out such book burnings. Arguments based solely on a fear of a Third World religion dominating this country’s society at some point in the future give Jones the climate he needs to make his book-burning seem like something indicative of attitudes toward Islam in America. Without their activism, this could be disregarded in the same manner cross burnings by white supremacists are now routinely disregarded.

Anti-Islam activism, which has been warning of "Islamo-fascism" through work by David Horowitz and others since 9/11, has created a climate for hate crimes and vandalism of mosques. The number of protests against mosques has escalated, rallies have harassed people who support their cause but look like Muslims, and have promoted the idea that mosques are "clubhouses for terrorists." In Temecula, California, dogs were deployed to intimidate those attending prayer services and, in Florida, a man attempted to firebomb an Islamic center.

What difference is there between people like Mike Gallagher, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, or North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Pantano and Pastor Terry Jones other than the fact that they disagree on the tactics that should be used to oppose Islam? How many think it likely that individuals like Franklin Graham, John Hagee, or Pat Robertson sympathize with the action Terry Jones intends to take? And, how sure can one be that Jones’ ideology isn’t part of what fueled foreign policy thinkers like the now deceased Samuel Huntington, who proposed the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, or isn’t what fuel people like Frank Gaffney or Charles Krauthammer?

The city of Gainesville, Florida denied the Dove World Outreach Center a burn permit. (Do cities ever give out burn permits for the burning of books?) RBC Bank has called in the mortgage on Pastor Jones’ center and Cottons All-Lines has apparently canceled the center’s insurance. This and the calls from U.S. military men will not dissuade Jones and his few followers who are dedicated to making a statement.

Gen. Petraeus has said these words about troops being put in harm’s way before. This was the justification for not being transparent and preventing the release of photos that likely showed Americans torturing and abusing Muslim detainees. The ACLU almost succeeded in getting the photos released but President Obama and Congress took measures to prevent the photos from being released.

Will the world see the Obama Administration and Congress take this kind of action to protect America’s troops? Will there be state intervention? More importantly, can this be considered an act in furtherance of terrorism? Could the FBI and local police show up and handcuff Jones and others for proceeding with this act even if there is an argument to be made the act is protected by the Constitution? Will homeland security trump the First Amendment Rights of these loons who are people who not only find Islam to be "of the Devil" but also people who likely consider Obama to be the Antichrist?

Perhaps, it doesn’t matter. Jones can burn the Korans or the government can arrest him and his followers. Either way, the anti-Islamic fervor will continue because Americans harbor strong beliefs about Islam and, for many, the last thing they want is some Third World religion becoming dominant in America and transforming America’s national identity to one that, in their mind, runs counter to Judeo-Christian or Protestant values.

As Combat Brigades Leave Iraq, NBC News Corporation Helps Pentagon Manufacture Support for Withdrawal

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Taken in August 2009. by The U.S. Army

On the same night that the NBC news corporation had the "inside scoop" on America’s withdrawal of combat brigades from Iraq to Kuwait, Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army, discussed his new book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Chicago.

 

During the discussion, Bacevich explained to a room packed with standing room only that the Obama Administration’s movement of troops from Iraq is part of a plan to make Americans (and others in the world) think of this as some end point. But, the fact is that the Iraq War will continue, violence will continue, and the insurgency will still exist.

 

Bacevich added the officers likely believe this outcome is as good as it will get. The troops will now move into an "advise-and-assist" role not much different from a role troops had during part of the Vietnam War. And, this is because much of the military establishment and foreign policymakers no longer believe in "military solutions." The "officer corps" have resigned themselves to the fact that true victory, in the sense that Americans understand it, is impossible; they accept the fact wars from this point on will be protracted, dirty, costly, and will from now on end in an ambiguous way if they end at all.

 

Cue Richard Engel, who, embedded with the combat brigades that were leaving Iraq and claiming "victory," reported live for NBC. Cue Rachel Maddow who had been in hiding the past few days because she didn’t want anyone to know the "withdrawal" was going to begin Thursday night and she’d be reporting from the scene. And, cue MSNBC’s special coverage of the "end" of the Iraq War, which featured the all-star panel that many know from MSNBC’s Election Coverage.

The exit of brigades was heavily orchestrated. NBC had the express permission from the Pentagon to give the "official announcement" that war was "over"(although the Pentagon now claims nobody said the war was over) and troops were coming home (well, some of them; some are going to Afghanistan). The Associated Press reported "NBC Executive Phil Griffin said "Given the access, a decision to devote the entire evening to the story was a "no-brainer," Griffin said. "We’ve got something unique and it’s an important story. We said, ‘Let’s go for it.’"

It was an opportunity to manufacture support for the withdrawal and help the Pentagon sell this as victory. It was an opportunity to convince those watching that soldiers had done a good deed for humanity and that, despite fears, Iraqis will be able to secure the country.

Little time was spent trying to argue this was a complete withdrawal, however, NBC News Chief Correspondent Richard Engel reported "50,000 troops remaining, noncombat troops would stay behind and will have a "mandate" to be "trainers." Here, Engel essentially helped the Pentagon re-brand the war by explaining troops would not to be called into "direct combat operations." If there were incidents and the U.S. wished to respond, he said, they would have to file a "formal request for troops."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, said "there’s a worry that Iraqis may continue to fail to gain political traction and put together a government that can properly run Iraq." Hill also made clear "Iraq is important" to "American interests." He called it a "major league country" and expressed the belief that the U.S. must have a presence and mentioned America’s "impressive" embassy.

The all-star panel did not focus on whether it was right or wrong to fight the war. Criticisms were limited to tactical mistakes the military had made in the war.

 

Lawrence O’Donnell contended, initially, there was "no comprehension of the rebuilding required." O’Donnell noted how Coalition Provisional Authority leader Paul Bremer decided to completely disband the Iraqi military, the Iraqi police force and the bureaucracy of the government, "the people who knew how to deliver electricity, water, things like that throughout the country."

 

Chris Matthews argued Iraq was always an "ideological war" and talked of the "neocons and those who drank the Kool-Aid like Rumsfeld" and thought "the government in Iraq would topple the minute we went in there." Matthews suggested the neocons thought, "it wouldn’t take a long, protracted struggle to subdue the country because we would be liberators — we were liberators. They really believed that ideology that we’re going in there to free those people from the scourge of Baathism and then it proceeded to get rid of the Baathist army, get rid of the Baath Party politically throughout the agency."

 

Interestingly, Col. Jacobs stated he couldn’t remember a "single" country that America ever fought an unconventional war or limited war in and left better than when America went in. In contrast, O’Donnell directed attention to the fact that Vietnam is now a "vacation spot for American tourists" as if to suggest things could work out after all a Middle East Disneyland and other resorts could potentially stabilize this country.

 

Engel spoke on the issue of Iran and its influence on Iraq and how the war had helped increase Iran’s influence in Iraq. And, finally, there was attention paid to the Iraqis. Engel said:

 

I’ve been listening not only to what the soldiers say but some of your guests and we’re hearing this mantra building over and over again that the U.S. won the war in Iraq and then the Iraqis lost it or are potentially losing it. And I think that is true to a degree. But you also have to be cautious with that argument.

 

The United States in these last several years made quite a few mistakes in this country. And not to blame the people who are in these trucks, these sergeants and privates and first sergeants, they didn’t. But there were policy errors — there was the dissolving of the Iraqi army, which forced them to rebuild an army. There was the outbreak of civil war in this country which troops were then called in to try and pacify. But for many reasons, that civil war broke up because there were never enough troops here to begin with.

 

This mantra is not new and could be heard years ago when news organizations managed to find time in their newscasts to cover the Iraq War. This narrative implied Iraqis were ungrateful for the liberation (or war and occupation) America had brought to their country.

 

Soldiers interviewed, for the most part, contended Iraqis were better off and they were glad the U.S. was able to do something good for them and were able to come around and close it on a good note. They contended Iraqi army and police would be able to handle their situation as they did in 2007 and could hold their own without American support now.

There is a sober reality that cannot be forgotten in the midst of the patriotic cheering for troops who are homeward bound. Thousands of contractors will remain in the country. How they cooperate with the Iraqi army and police will likely determine the level of stability Iraq manages to achieve in the coming months.

Up to a million Iraqis are dead. At least 100 trillion dollars was spent. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers died in combat (and a number of contractors died as well). The Independent reports "human rights groups say extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, torture, bribery and corruption are still endemic with little accountability for perpetrators" and "more than 5 million Iraqis have been turned into refugees since the invasion, with 2.7 million of those displaced internally. Some live with relatives, others in public buildings."

Furthermore, The Independent notes that while Iraqis may have some economic prosperity to look forward to as foreign companies flock to the region to take advantage of the country’s natural resources, "unemployment runs at close to 40 per cent and GDP per capita remains a paltry $3,200." More importantly, "The presence of an occupying non-Muslim force in the heart of the Middle East sent Islamist militants flocking to Iraq with devastating consequences for both Iraq and its neighbours. Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have all seen al-Qa’ida-inspired militant activity increase with varying levels of success."

Robert Fisk, who recently reported on the impact America’s use of chemical weapons had in Fallujah, wrote a damning editorial on America saying "goodbye." An excerpt:

"…the millions of American soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague. From Afghanistan in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year they brought the infection of al-Qa’ida. They brought the disease of civil war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam’s vile rule after stamping the seal of torture on Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together…"

Few politicians will have the courage to say anything like that and interrupt what the Obama Administration will likely demand liberals or progressives celebrate as an end to the war or else. Few politicians except Dennis Kucinich, the politician White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs happens to think the "professional left" would not be satisfied with if he was president. Kucinich put out this press release proclaiming the "war in Iraq has entered a new stage of public relations":

Who is in charge of our operations in Iraq, now? George Orwell? A war based on lies continues to be a war based on lies. Today, we have a war that is not a war, with combat troops who are not combat troops. In 2003, President Bush said ‘Mission Accomplished’. In 2010, the White House says combat operations are over in Iraq, but will leave 50,000 troops, many of whom will inevitably be involved in combat-related activities.

Just seven days ago, General Babaker Shawkat Zebari, the commander of Iraq’s military, said that Iraq’s security forces will not be trained and ready to take over security for another 10 years. One story is being told to the military on the ground in Iraq and another story is being told to their families back home.

You can’t be in and out at the same time.

This is not the end of the war; this is simply a new stage in the campaign to lull the American people into accepting an open-ended presence in Iraq. This is not an honest accounting to the American people and it diminishes the role of the troops who will put their lives on the line. This is not fair to the troops, their families or the American people.

The Administration and the Pentagon would be wise to level with the American people about our long-term commitment to Iraq.

The cost of the wars has been estimated to be around $1 million per soldier per year. Each year the troop levels stay at 50,000 means another $50 billion is wasted. I object to spending billions of dollars to maintain a charade in Iraq while our own economy is failing and over 15 million Americans are out of work. I object to keeping any level troops in Iraq to maintain a war based on lies. It is time that Congress sees through the manipulation and finally acts to truly end the war by stopping its funding."

NBC’s cooperation with the Pentagon to bring Americans "closure" to the Iraq War Thursday night—to bring families with loved ones serving in the Iraq War "closure"—provided more evidence that U.S. media is solely concerned with the American perspective of war and cares little about the impact war has on the people many of the troops think they have liberated.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) reported in 2008, the percentage of news coverage devoted to the Iraq War was 4% down from 24% in January 2007 when President Bush announced the "surge" strategy. And, PEJ reported in 2007 that "although the bloodshed [was] occurring about 6,000 miles from Washington, coverage of the conflict [had] been overwhelmingly U.S.-centric. More than 80% of war news focused on Americans — those shaping policy, fighting or affected at home. Only about one in six stories about the war was about Iraqis, whether about their government, their lives, or their casualties.

U.S. media helped deceive the public into buying the Iraq War. They helped the Pentagon construct a case for war in Iraq just over seven years ago. So, how fitting is it that the endpoint of this travesty in American history would involve the media asking Americans to buy the "victory."

In the end, Brian Stelter, writing for the New York Times‘ Media Decoder Blog, characterizes what happened best (and affirms Rep. Kucinich’s contentions on the withdrawal):

The images from NBC and other outlets are important for the United States as a public relations tool, as they reaffirm with color and sound that the country is winding down a widely unpopular combat mission. But they are in part a media construct. Though the media may yearn for a dramatic finish to the war, there is not likely to be one, at least not yet.


Guantanamo Detainees Know America’s New Normal Far Too Well

10:44 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Flickr Photo by Peter Burgess

Mentally Ill Detainee Ordered to Be Released in 2004 Still at Guantanamo

Carol Rosenberg, a journalist for the Miami Herald and one of the few journalists who continue to follow operations and proceedings at the Guantanamo Bay prison reports "an emotionally ill detainee still being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was first recommended for release by the Pentagon in 2004."

Rosenberg writes:

"Despite the Pentagon’s recommendation, it wasn’t until 2007 that the Bush administration adopted the military assessment and put Adnan Abdul Latif, now about 34, on an approved transfer list. By then, however, the issue of transferring prisoners to Yemen, Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homeland, was mired in a diplomatic standoff over whether the Arabian Peninsula nation could provide security assurances and rehabilitate suspected radicalized Guantanamo detainees.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy disclosed the timeline in a heavily censored 28-page ruling made public on Monday night that ordered Latif set free. Latif is the 38th Guantanamo captive to be found by a federal judge to be illegally detained at the remote U.S. Navy base."

Ordered to be released by Kennedy on July 21, the Justice Department has been deciding whether to appeal the decision.

Latif’s lawyer, David Remes, says "why they continue to defend holding him is unfathomable" and contends, "Adnan’s case reflects the Obama administration’s complete failure to bring the Guantanamo litigation under control."

The detention of Latif is yet another incredibly disturbing indictment of a system developed to aid U.S prosecution of the "war on terror." Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, detailed Latif’s capture:

"26-year old Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif (identified by the Pentagon Ab Aljallil Allal or Allal Ab Aljallil Abd Al Rahman Abd) stated that he had sustained a serious head injury in an automobile accident in 1994, and had spent years trying to find affordable medical treatment. After being told about the health-care office of a Pakistani aid worker in Afghanistan who would treat him, he said that he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, and explained that, when the US-led invasion began, he fled to the border town of Khost and then made his way into Pakistan, where he was arrested by Pakistani forces, along with about 30 other Arabic-looking men. He told his lawyer, Marc Falkoff, that he later learned that each of them had been turned over to the US military for a bounty of $5000.

In his tribunal at Guantánamo, Latif appeared bewildered, refuting what he believed was an allegation that he came from a place called al-Qaeda by saying, "I am from Orday City in Yemen, not a city in al-Qaeda. My city is very far away from the city of al-Qaeda," which perhaps reinforces his claim that he had traveled to Afghanistan to receive treatment for a fractured skull."

In a recent post, Worthington illuminates his attorney, Marc Falkoff’s, reaction to the "unclassified summary of evidence"

"[W]hen I first saw the accusations, I thought they looked serious [but] when I looked at the government’s evidence, I was amazed. There was nothing there. Nothing at all trustworthy. Nothing that could be admitted into evidence in a court of law. Nothing that was remotely persuasive, even leaving legal niceties aside." At most, he added, "there was incredibly unreliable hearsay, often taken from other detainees who were — in the words of a military representative — "known liars,’ or else whom we now know to have been tortured."

Latif’s detention has driven him mad and turned him into a hazard to himself. An appeal issued in May 2009 by Amnesty International, as Worthington notes, described a "suicide attempt that took place on May 10, 2009, when he cut one of his wrists during a meeting" with Remes, his attorney.

"After the incident, Remes explained that Latif "chipped off a piece of the stiff veneer on the underside of our conference table and used it to saw into a vein in his left wrist " As he sawed, he drained his blood into a plastic container and, shortly before it was time for me to leave, he hurled the blood at me from the container." As Amnesty also explained, "A spokesman at Guantánamo confirmed the incident took place but said it could not be classified as a suicide attempt."

Amnesty also noted that Latif had been "held in solitary confinement in the psychiatric ward at Guantánamo since at least November 2008," and that he told his lawyers that "when he is awake he sees ghosts in the darkness, hears frightening voices and suffers from nightmares when he is asleep." He also told his lawyers that he had "ingested all sorts of materials including garbage bags, urine cups, prayer beads, a water bottle and a screw," that he had "eaten his own excrement and smeared it on his body" and that he had "used his own excrement to cover the walls of his cell door, the camera on the ceiling of his cell and the air vent in his cell."

In addition, Amnesty noted that Latif reportedly suffered from "a number of physical health problems, including a fractured cheekbone, a shattered eardrum, blindness in one eye, a dislocated shoulder blade, and a possibly dislocated knee." Latif also said that he suffered "constant throat and stomach pain which [made] it difficult for him to eat," but that, instead of dealing with this in an appropriate manner, the authorities strapped him in a restraint chair and force-fed him up to three times a day through a tube pushed up his nose into his stomach"

Rosenberg reports that recently Latif met his lawyer in "a padded green garment held together by Velcro called a "suicide smock." He had "been stripped of his underwear," and put into this "smock" which have been display for "reporters during camp tours." And, the "5-feet-4-inches" detainee" is now 93 pounds having lost more than twenty pounds since his arrival at the prison in January 2002.

As reported by AP in May 2009, after Latif’s suicide attempt, "the military says many incidents are not actual suicide attempts but merely "self-harm incidents" intended to gain attention."

The only problem with that argument is that "self-harm" is haram, which means it is not allowed in Islam. Muslims do not think their body is theirs. It belongs to Allah. If they do not treat their body properly, their body will be a testimony against their day of judgment before Allah. Latif’s desecration of his body affirms his attorney’s belief that Latif "sees death as his only way out."

Scott Horton with Harper’s Magazine has written about how the "suicides" are likely part of a cover-up of military wrongdoing at Guantanamo.

Latif’s case is but another example of what "the New Normal" does to human beings who get caught up in its inner workings. While presidential candidate Barack Obama said, after a Supreme Court ruling on June 12, 2008, that detainees held in Guantanamo Bay have a constitutional right to challenge their detention, "Today’s Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo – yet another failed policy supported by John McCain," President Obama has continued to attempt to create "a legal black hole at Guantanamo."

As the ACLU noted in their condemning report, "Establishing a New Normal":

"It was a promising beginning, but eighteen months [since Obama's Inauguration] Guantanamo is still open and some 180 prisoners remain there. The administration is not solely responsible for missing this one-year deadline; Congress has obstructed any possible relocation of even indisputably innocent detainees like the Chines Uighurs to the United States, thereby rendering diplomatic efforts to relocate detainees in Europe and elsewhere more difficult. And the administration deserves credit for releasing some 67 detainees from Guantanamo. But the Obama administration’s decision to halt all detainee releases to Yemen–even when the detainees have been cleared for release after years of harsh detention–has been a major factor in the prison’s remaining open; a majority of the remaining detainees are Yemeni. Moreover, the administration bears responsibility for opposing in court the release of detainees against whom the government has scant evidence of wrongdoing.

A FEW NOTES ON THE NEW NORMAL

Whether it’s the case of Latif or the case of 15-year old Omar Khadr, who was threatened with gang rape if he didn’t confess to committing a war crime, or the case of Canadian Maher Arar, who was interrogated and tortured (beaten with an electrical cable), or countless others who pursue release from detention because there is no evidence against them, the U.S. continues to have a moral imperative to close Guantanamo (and other prisons).

The system of detention and the Kafkaesque legal system detainees are being put through serves as a way of entrenching America in a permanent state of war. It strengthens this idea that some humans, in this global war, are less free than others.

If we think the uproar against the "Ground Zero Mosque" in this country upsets the Muslim World, we should shudder at the thought of what radical effect America’s extralegal system for detainees has had on Muslims. Not only should America make peace with Islam and uphold religious tolerance by allowing mosques to be built in America, but it should also end the factory of crimes against humanity that is Guantanamo Bay Prison.

As Wall Street Support Shifts from Left to Right, Liberal Pundits Respond to Gibbs’ Attack

6:29 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Robert Gibbs in studio interview by studio08denver

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs became the spokesperson for Obama Administration contempt toward the left on Tuesday. The display of contempt came in the midst of a nearly 70 percent shift in Wall Street executive donations from Democratic candidates to Republican candidates ahead of the November mid-term elections.

On Tuesday, The Hill published an interview with Gibbs, who said what Obama has done and is doing would never be "good enough" for the "professional left." Gibbs attacked the left for comparing Obama to George W. Bush, suggested, "these people ought to be drug tested" and said they "wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president." He also said they would only "be satisfied when [America has] Canadian healthcare and [America has] eliminated the Pentagon."

Gibbs’ remark revealed a lot about what members of the Obama Administration think of the role of debate and citizen participation in government. And, the implicit apology Gibbs made in the aftermath of his "inartful" comments revealed even more about an administration that believes progressives should take marching orders from this administration or else.

"So we should all, me included, stop fighting each other and arguing about our differences on certain policies," he said, and work together "because we’ve come too far to turn back now," Gibbs said after mentioning he watches a lot of cable television, as if to excuse his remark.

While circumstantial, the best evidence for why Gibbs would feel like uttering the aforementioned remarks is the shift of money from Wall Street to Republicans ahead of the election. Obama was the candidate of Wall Street in the 2008 Election garnering nearly $8 million in campaign contributions from securities and investment industries (nearly double what Republican presidential candidate John McCain garnered). The Democrats earned 57 percent of campaign contributions from securities and investment industries.

The situation compels the Obama Administration especially White House press secretary Gibbs to whip the left and the sections that are most listened to by voters into line not only because money from business interests needs to swing back the other way but because disappointed and disillusioned voters will likely stay home, not donate to Democratic Party campaigns, not make phone calls, and refuse to go door-to-door canvassing prior to Election Day if they do not fall in line.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Hotel Workers Stage Sit-Ins as Part of Nationwide Action Against Hyatt Hotels

7:17 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

4821225402_f6b3392366.jpg

Hotel workers from Chicago supported and participated in a nonviolent civil disobedience action aimed at calling attention to the Hyatt Hotel chain’s working conditions on Thursday evening. The action was part of a nationally organized plan to target Hyatt and call attention to its lack of fairness and respect toward workers.

 

Fifteen cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and Honolulu, participated in the planned actions and, in total, hundreds of workers from these cities were arrested for disrupting business as usual in the cities.

 

Chicago Breaking Business reported on the workers’ struggle:

 

"…Labor contracts affecting 6,000 downtown hotel workers expired 11 months ago, and labor negotiations so far have been unsuccessful. While the contracts affect workers at several hotel chains in Chicago, Unite Here has focused its efforts on Chicago-based Hyatt, controlled by the Pritzker family, holding it up as an example of a hotel chain that is using the economy as an excuse to take advantage of workers…"

 

People began to gather for the Chicago action, organized by UNITEHERE Local 1, around 4:30 pm CT and the sit-in began around 5 pm CT. The workers marched down the sidewalk on Stetson Avenue and on to Wacker Drive.

 

About fifty to seventy-five workers sat down in single-file horizontal lines during rush hour. With about ten to fifteen people in each line, they chanted, "We are human beings. Enough is enough." And, all of the workers were wearing T-shirts signifying that they were with UNITEHERE Local 1 or they had a piece of felt pinned on their back to show what hotel they worked for in Chicago.

 

As they sat blocking the street, hundreds stood in solidarity with the workers on the sidewalks watching the action develop. The Chicago media were present. And, the police had the area heavily controlled.

 

Minutes into the sit-in, an officer gave the first warning to get off the street because the workers did not have a permit. A second warning game minutes after that. The officer cited, again, the lack of permit and their violation of a city ordinance as reason why they would be arrested if they did not move.

 

Gradually, the workers in the back of the group stood and marched off of the street. For those who understood what was to take place, this was not planned. Around two hundred workers were going to be arrested, but out of respect for a killed police officer, whose wake was tonight and whose funeral was tomorrow, the workers chose to scale back their action and show respect toward Chicago police who wanted to go pay their respects to the officer and his family.

 

The third warning came as the last lines left the street. The officer warned those still in the street sitting down that they would be arrested now if they did not leave. Seconds later, they were stood up by police. They put their hands behind their back and were escorted over to the side of a building down the street away from the front of the Hyatt.

 

The action ended about 5:30 pm CT and around thirty people were arrested.

 

Reports on the event highlighted the fact that this is an ongoing struggle. In June of this year, workers protested at "Hyatt’s first shareholders’ meeting as a newly public company" and their labor practices were compared to the "Pharaoh’s enslavement of the Israelites" by religious leaders who were present.

 

And, in September 2009, around 200 workers were arrested when they demonstrated in support for "ongoing labor negotiations and for fired hotel workers in boston. At that action, the workers engaged in a sit-in in the middle of Chicago Avenue.

 

The Washington Post pointed out, in an article published before the action, that this union was "targeting one of President Obama’s biggest financial backers." But, at the protest, there were no noticeable signs of "friction," as suggested by this article.

 

However, workers were singling out Penny Pritzker, who serves on the board of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Pritzker has donated a combined total of $56,240 to DNC Services Corp and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

 

The workers pledged to return and, given the history of the struggle against hotels in Chicago so far, it’s likely there will be another civil disobedience action in Chicago in the not-so-distant future.

 

 

Comcast-NBC Merger: Media Consolidation In the Name of Diversity

8:27 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Photo from Free Press, which is pushing people to attend a public hearing in Chicago on July 13th on the Comcast-NBC merger and is opposed to the merger.

 

Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL) put together a hearing on the possible merger of Comcast and NBC Universal on July 8th, which was held in Chicago at the Everett Dirksen Federal Building (the same building holding the US v. Blagojevich proceedings). The hearing, held by the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet (a subcommittee of the Committee on Energy & Commerce in the House of Representatives), invited "witnesses" to testify and provide insight into who might benefit from the merge if it went through.

 

The hearing held was not open to public comments. However, Rep. Rush, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) asked questions of all the invited witnesses after an hour of opening statements.

 

The witnesses present included: Samuel R. DeSimone, Jr., General Counsel, Earthlink, Inc; Will Griffin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hip Hop on Demand, Jonathan Jackson, National Spokesman, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Inc.; Paula Madison, Executive Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, NBC Universal; Joseph W. Waz, Jr., Senior Vice President, External Affairs and Public Policy Counsel, Comcast Corporation. (Ms. Shirley Franklin, Senior Adviser for the Alliance for Digital Equality was invited but did not attend the hearing).

 

Initially, it appeared the merger would be framed as a debate about how it would impact consumers. The opening statements from representatives at the hearing highlighted how the merger could eliminate competition and limit choices in the marketplace. The statements made note of the fact that Comcast is "the nation’s largest video programming distributor, the largest residential broadband provider, and the third-largest home telephone service provider" as well as the fact that, "as measured by annual revenue, NBC is the fourth-largest media and entertainment company." The opportunity for a discussion of media consolidation presented itself.

 

But, Rep. Buyer seemingly headed off a real discussion on consolidation and said people needed to be careful to define what we think this merger will look like and get it wrong. He said there was a need to be careful because this is a dynamic industry. Rep. Buyer’s remark, if translated from marketspeak possibly meant worrying about what it could do to the marketplace of entertainment, news, technology and ideas is beside the point. (*Rep. Buyer may have been using talking points from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.)

 

So, instead of discussion on media consolidation, what emerged as the core of discussion and the wrapping that this merger would be packaged in so policy makers, industry representatives, concerned citizens and others would accept it was diversity. This was how it was framed and it became increasingly clear that Comcast and NBC Universal had been asked to make commitments to diversity by representatives if they wanted to get a merger deal and if they wanted representatives in Congress to work with them and make this merger happen without FCC or Department of Justice interference.

 

Griffin of Hip Hop on Demand [full statement] became the example of the type of media entrepreneur or mogul that representatives thought the merger could help produce more of. Griffin detailed his past, which included working at Time Warner during its post-merger integration with Turner, joining News Corp’s Strategy and Marketing group for a brief period of time, being advised by former Motown Chairman Clarence Avant, having a faculty advisor in law school who was Dennis Hightower, the first African-American President of Walt Disney Television, producing film with Reuben Cannon and Bishop TD Jakes, and partnering with Russell Simmons and Stan Lathan to create an launch Hip Hop on Demand on Comcast.

 

Griffin’s statement in support of the merger highlighted two reasons: "1) Comcast has the best Infrastructure of Inclusion to build upon in the media industry, and 2) African-American consumers and policy-makers have more potential leverage over Comcast than any other media company."

 

Griffin highlighted how Viacom’s UP and Time Warner’s The WB merged and "the first casualties were African-American shows" (Girlfriends, All of Us, Everybody Hates Chris). He attributed this to the fact that "advertisers have only been willing to pay for a limited amount of African-American impressions and will not pay for every African-American view generated." He further summarized, "The root of the problem is this: advertisers’ unwillingness to allocate minority marketing budgets in proportion to viewership ratings."

 

Convinced that Comcast would correct this problem, Griffin added that "some of the very systems at the core of the Comcast media empire were birthed by African-American media owners" and how "thousands of minorities in leadership positions at Comcast have been invaluable" to him as an owner of African-American Media.

 

This all became a point of debate during the question period as Rep. Buyer singled out suggestions that minority ownership would relate to minority programming. Rep. Buyer thought this claim defied economic principles, that total audience must be enough to cover production. But, it was maintained by Griffin that, while advertisers may have paid for all 10 million viewers of Seinfeld, a show with a predominantly African-American audience would maybe pay only 8 million of its 10 million viewers because advertisers have traditionally had a limited budget for minorities and have built this "defect into the market."

 

Rainbow/PUSH spokesman Jackson’s testimony [full statement] contrasted Griffin’s faith in the merger to correct the landscape for minorities. Jackson put the merger in the "context of economic emancipation" and wondered what "Comcast’s Return on Investment (ROI) in assisting in the economic empowerment of African American and underserved communities" would be and asked why it would be "good business for Comcast to address two of the nation’s most important challenges: creating jobs and helping to connect every American, especially people of color, to vitally needed news information and broadband internet services."

 

Jackson’s statement commented on media ownership:

There are three minority owners in the market, controlling a total of three stations, or less than 5 percent of all the commercial radio stations in Chicago: WJOB-AM 1230, controlled by Hammond, Indiana-based Vasquez Development, a Latino- female-owned company; WLTH-AM 1370, controlled by WLTH Radio, an African- American-owned company; and WVON-AM 1690, controlled by Chicago-based and African-American-owned Midway Broadcasting. Vasquez Development, WLTH Radio and Midway Broadcasting each own just a single station.

Media ownership in Chicago doesn’t reflect the diversity of its population. Racial and ethnic minorities are 37 percent of the population in the Chicago TV market; 38 percent of population in the Chicago radio market; and nearly two-thirds of the population in the city of Chicago. However, racial and ethnic minorities own less than 4 percent of Chicago’s full-power commercial radio and television stations. Women own just 6 percent of Chicago’s full-power commercial radio and television stations, despite comprising over half the population.

We want to make sure that independently owned and controlled minority cable networks don’t find it harder to gain carriage if this deal happens.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the civil rights community held out great hope that the emerging cable industry would be reflective of communities of color in programming, ownership and staffing. Our community hoped to not only own cable networks but cable franchises as well. But this simply hasn’t happened.

 

Jackson noted the need for corporate titans like Comcast or NBC who have the power to shape images and cultures to be held accountable for what they do or fail to do.

 

The witnesses for Comcast and NBC Universal, for the most part, detailed what they would do to build support for the merger. Madison of NBC Universal [full statement] said four diversity councils were being established and the geographic footprint of Telemundo would be expanded. Waz of Comcast [full statement] detailed commitment to continuing investment in broadcasting (which many communities of color depend upon) and announced that 10 new independently operated and controlled channels would be launched with a focus on ensuring minorities would end up as operators and controllers of this channel.

 

Rep. Boucher asked both witnesses for Comcast and NBC to specifically state that their increase in minority ownership and focus on diversity would actually result in diverse programming. Neither could commit. Madison, instead, took this opportunity to explain the industry had long way to go in order to be more diverse and inclusive but noted that shows like Undercovers, The Event and Outlaw (starring Jimmy Smits) would be coming on with minority characters.

 

It was Rep. Waters who put an end to this charade all in the name of diversity. She pointed out that the merger had flown under the radar until she requested an extension of the comment period. She said neither Comcast nor NBC had made any commitments to diversity but now that hearings were happening they were coming forward with ideas, many which were offered in the past week (the plan for creating 10 independent channels was offered days ago). She demonstrated that the corporations were only making concessions for diversity and consumers because there now existed a huge opportunity for both corporations to benefit.

 

Rep. Waters stated, "You don’t have diverse companies," and explained they need help to become more diverse. She called them out for not really answering Rep. Boucher’s question about minority ownership leading to minority programming. She went through a list of MSNBC and NBC news shows emphasizing the lack of diversity. She noted that if this goes through and there is no way to force the resulting entity to maintain certain commitments to diversity and the wider public, certain threats to democracy could present themselves. And, she closed by saying, "I want you to know you have failed miserably."

 

In conclusion, the hearing put on display the tactics Comcast and NBC Universal are using to get the merger through. First, they are already behaving as if they have merged. Two, they are selling it under the guise of increasing diversity and minority ownership.

 

Simply taking television genres with a predominantly white cast and changing the leads to people of color doesn’t necessarily mean a correction of past failures occurs. Cultures, audiences, opportunities, concerns, and interests could still be left out; the storylines could still be ones that do not speak to the people who have gained a level of representation. Also, it does matter if predominantly white people are reporting news and people of color are not and Comcast and NBC Universal should be made to address this reality publicly.

 

The resulting power of the merger is relevant, despite what representatives like Rep. Buyer claim. It will not only shape entertainment but will gain even greater lobbying power to advance free market initiatives in Congress that oppose Internet freedom (net neutrality) and create opportunities for increased profit. And, it will be able to absorb and co-opt alternative/independent news and programming and play a role in deciding who gets to access this news and programming.

 

*For more, read the briefing memo or talking points that were discussed at the hearing.

 

**The following videos show Rep. Maxine Waters in a video produced by Free Press questioning NBC’s Jeff Zucker on diversity and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asking questions about the Comcast-NBC merger.