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Sen. John McCain Renews Push for Senate Committee to Halt WikiLeaks’ Undermining of America

11:05 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

On Wednesday, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona renewed his push for the creation of a temporary Senate committee to investigate WikiLeaks and the hacktivist group Anonymous that would be called the Committee on Cyber Security and Electronic Intelligence Leaks.

In a letter to Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, he urges the creation of a committee to get around the issue of “competing committees of jurisdiction.” (Essentially, establishing the committee means no discussion over who has the right to develop legislation to take down WikiLeaks or Anonymous once and for all. Every senator will have an opportunity for glory now, however, only a few will be chosen.)

McCain opens by suggesting a committee must be developed to address “the continuing risk of insider threats that caused thousands of documents to be posted on the website WikiLeaks.”  The alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning may have been on the inside, however, as far as one can tell, he does not fit the classic definition of an insider. His story is different from Aldrich Ames, an insider who did commit real espionage against the United States, at all. Manning did not do what he is alleged to have done for money. He did not allegedly give secrets to another country like Russia, China or Iran but WikiLeaks.

The White House and several committees in Congress have been deliberating over the development of national cybersecurity proposals that can be implemented. As McCain notes, “The White House put forward a legislative proposal in May and the Department of Energy put forth requirements and responsibilities for a cyber security program that same month.  Earlier this month, the Department of Commerce sought comment on its proposal to establish voluntary codes of behavior to improve cyber security and the Department of Defense issued its strategy for operating in cyberspace.”

McCain argues the development of cybersecurity policy and legislation would benefit from using a model recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report for the organization of a committee that a small group of members could be a part of to conduct oversight of the intelligence establishment. He says it would help the creation of “adequate safeguards to detect and defeat any insider threat of disclosure of classified documents such as we experienced with the Wikileaks fiasco that endangered the security of many of our nation’s diplomats and soldiers serving abroad.”

That diplomats or soldiers serving abroad have been endangered is phony and speculative in the same way that former Vice President Dick Cheney or Karl Rove’s suggestion voting John Kerry in 2004 could’ve meant US had another 9/11 was phony and speculative.

There is significant doubt as to whether soldiers or diplomats have been harmed.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on October 17, 2010 “the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure.” A senior NATO official on that same day said, “There has not been a single case of Afghans needing protection.” The Associated Press has reported, “There is no evidence that any Afghans named in the leaked documents as defectors or informants from the Taliban insurgency have been harmed in retaliation.” And Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said on August 11, 2010, “We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the WikiLeaks documents.”

There is no concrete conclusion that people have suffered or died as a result of the releases.

McCain closes his letter saying:

Just this month former CIA Chief and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and said, “The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyber attack …”  We must act now and quickly develop and pass comprehensive legislation to protect our electric grid, air traffic control system, water supply, financial networks and defense systems and much more from a cyber attack.

When it comes to WikiLeaks, McCain has raised the issue of WikiLeaks in Senate Armed Services hearings. In a hearing to consider the nomination of General Martin E. Dempsey for appointment to chief of staff of the US Army in March, McCain said, “I’m very concerned about WikiLeaks. Almost daily, we see some additional revelation of the WikiLeaks situation. First of all, how did this happen? And second of all, who has been held responsible for this greatest disclosures, frankly, of classified information in the history of this country?”

During a hearing on defense budget requests for 2012 and future years, McCain asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “Mr. Chairman, just briefly, anything more on the WikiLeaks investigation?” Gates said:

Well, sir, after our last hearing, I went back and — and I had been told that I had to keep my hands off of it because of the criminal investigation, but I have been able to narrow an area of where I have asked the secretary of the army to investigate in terms of procedures and — and the command climate and — and so on that has nothing to do with the individual, the accused individual. But — but to see what lapses there were where somebody perhaps should be held accountable.

McCain considers the release of WikiLeaks cables to be “America’s worst security breach in the history of the country.” That’s quite reactionary when you consider the fact that, in 1942, in the aftermath of the Battle of Midway, the Chicago Tribune published a story strongly suggesting that the decisive American naval victory at Midway owed to the fact that the United States had been successfully reading Japanese codes.” No information has been revealed like that at all. Nothing has been published that could give any “enemies” information on the location of US troops, which could help them launch successful attacks.

In November 2010, McCain told the National Review, the WikiLeaks “scandal” will have consequences “far beyond the cables. ” He predicted it would have a “devastating and chilling effect on our ability to carry on relationships with foreign leaders, harming our ability to fight this war against radical Islamic extremism.”

Yes, it would have profound implications on Sen. McCain’s ability to meet Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and discuss terms of for providing US military aid again. It would limit the chances of him ever having another “interesting meeting with an interesting man” at his “ranch” in Libya. It would put limits on all leaders meeting with despots of the world, as there is now a trove of information to question the US’ diplomatic relationships with countries all over the world.

This committee would likely be building off of procedures that have already begun to be implemented to “create ‘insider threat’ programs to ferret out disgruntled workers who may leak state secrets.” It would likely reinforce plans among agencies to look for “behavioral changes” among employees with access to secret documents.

There is a federal grand jury based in Alexandria, Virginia, empanelled to investigate WikiLeaks for crimes of espionage that is currently issuing subpoenas to those the government thinks are connected to or have information on WikiLeaks. David House, Bradley Manning Support Network co-founder, has gone before the grand jury already and pled the fifth.

Would this committee be something that could complement the grand jury’s fishing expedition by developing law that can turn what was done into a crime that could lead to indictments?

The pursuit of mechanisms to clampdown on who the government presumes is responsible for the release of material to WikiLeaks and the increased regulation of access to secret documents within government agencies will not address the problem. It won’t because the problem is overclassification, something the Department of Defense, with a new rule to safeguard unclassified information, simply are making worse.

The government has told a court that there should be no such thing as “good leaks.” This virtually ensures that individuals, instead of going through proper channels to blow the whistle on government waste or criminal wrongdoing in government, will turn to organizations like WikiLeaks and create further problems for the government in the future.

The public is growing to understand that overclassification is rampant. Nick Davies of The Guardian illuminates the situation:

…If you look for example at the Afghan war logs what you see is a military which routinely classified every single instance in which they were involved as secret. Why should we respect that kind of mechanical routine classification. Just pull back and look at what’s going on here and ask yourself, is the attempt to prosecute Bradley Manning something to do with the judicious application of the law or a really rather vile piece of political persecution?…

If a committee is established, it won’t prevent future acts of whistleblowing by individuals and guarantee information doesn’t get released to WikiLeaks. A press that tolerates overclassification of information and only asks for selective leaking of materials on secret government operations every now and then, a press that does not ask more questions about the operations of power domestically and internationally will inevitably lead to, in this age of widespread corruption, individuals in government, who have not lost their conscience, finding a way to share the truth.

If a committee is established, it won’t ensure that the world never learns what is really going on behind closed doors in America again because the people of this country are living in a very broken democracy. Many of its citizens know government officials are outright lying when they stand before them and speak. They suspect government officials and whole entire agencies are serving powerful corporate and special interests instead of them. They know coverups of mass misconduct and criminal wrongdoing are being carried out. And so, information will continue to be released to WikiLeaks and there’s nothing Sen. John McCain or any senator can do to stop it so long as they defend the system that created the symptom that is the release of information to WikiLeaks.

Deafening Liberal Silence as the Senate Moves to Extend the Patriot Act

7:52 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The United States Senate came one step closer to extending provisions of the PATRIOT Act, as only eight senators stood up and called for the provisions to be reformed or not extended. The provisions, slated to expire on Friday, now must pass in a final vote later in the week.

Provisions slated to expire include: the “roving wiretap provision,” which permits government to obtain intelligence surveillance orders without identifying the person or the facility being tapped (Section 206 of the Act); the “Lone Wolf” provision, which permits intelligence agencies to survey non-US persons not affiliated with a foreign organization (Section 6001 of the Act); and Section 215, which grants government authorization to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, even if there is no evidence the “thing” pertains to the terrorist or terrorist activity under investigation.

One senator, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who would like to “sunset the entire PATRIOT Act and protect American civil liberties,” delivered a speech on the Senate floor in defense of freedom and privacy in America.

What the PATRIOT Act has done, explained Paul, is “taken away some of the protections of the Fourth Amendment.” Under the Fourth Amendment, the government must “name the person and place to be searched.” Those protections are gone.

No longer does government need to have “probable cause.” As Paul stated, the Act has taken away those rights and made it so if it’s “relevant” or they think the search or seizure is related to the investigation authorities can conduct searches and seizures.

Paul raised the issue of national security letters (NSLs), something that candidate Barack Obama opposed. They allow the FBI to write warrants without review by a judge, Paul stated. This throws off our nation’s system of checks and balances.

“Do we want a government that looks at our records and is finding out what our reading habits are?” asked Paul. “One of the provisions apply to library records. Do you want the government to find out what you’re reading at the library?”

Additionally, Paul asked, “We now have a president that wants to know where you contributed before you do work for the government. Do we want that kind of all-encompassing government that is looking at every record from top to bottom and invading our privacy?”
Read the rest of this entry →

Martin Luther King Jr. Understood Politics and How to Win Change

9:02 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

MLK Jr. and Arlen Specter (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

What Four Essays Published by The Nation Magazine Can Teach Those Seeking Change in America

Americans typically regard Martin Luther King Jr. as a civil rights leader who had a “dream.” In the most basic terms, Martin Luther King Jr. believed in a “dream” that Americans could, through a large social movement for equality led by Negroes, rise up and live out the true meaning of a creed etched into the fabric of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Yet, the “dream” did not end after August 28, 1963, when King delivered his most famous speech.

King had a vision of economic security for all Americans, not just cultural equality. He did not just want to shift the consciousness of white Americans enough so that brutal and unjust repression of Negroes would come to an end. He wanted all people to be protected from discrimination that might thwart long-term employment, to have food, clothing, education and stability essential for raising a family. He wanted jobs for all people that were not “substandard or evanescent.” He urged massive nonviolent action in the years following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had been won.

Today, however, Americans are under-educated or simply unaware of the full history of King. A surface understanding of King exists, an understanding non-threatening to ruling elites in Washington. That is why on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2009 a CNN poll found 69 percent of blacks thought King’s vision had been fulfilled in the forty-five years since his “I Have a Dream Speech.” That result, up from 34 percent in a similar poll taken in March 2008, reflected the widespread belief that the presidential election of Barack Obama “fulfilled” King’s “dream.”

Surface understandings of King are also why generals with the Pentagon are able to stand before the American people and propagandize King’s history as a civil rights leader by lauding King and simultaneously whitewashing his opposition to American militarism, which he spoke out against during the Vietnam War, and claim King would have supported wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is why right wing pundits like Glenn Beck are able to hold “Restoring Honor” rallies to manipulate disturbed and frustrated Americans into believing they can learn something from King about how he believed in “states” rights,” no taxation without representation and other talking points that have helped plant the seeds of proto-fascist movements in our nation’s history.

During the civil rights era in the 1960s, The Nation magazine had King publish annual reports on the struggle to win civil rights and equality for Negroes. It is in these essays that we gain a true glimpse into the political heart and mind of King. Within these essays is a distinct political philosophy. It is a philosophy if applied to today would ensure that the election of Barack Obama was not simply a symbolic election that signified a majority of the white power structure could now accept having an African-American in the White House.

In 1963, King wrote “A Bold Design for a New South.” This essay called upon President John F. Kennedy to understand that the South was split, “fissured into two parts.” One was ready for “extensive change,” the other “adamantly opposed to any but the most trivial alterations.” King pressed the Administration to “place its weight behind the dynamic South, encouraging and facilitating its progressive development.” He believed this was the “moment for government to drive a wedge into the splitting South” and spread it open so that civil rights could be won in the South.

What stands out in this essay is King’s talk of “tokenism.”

The decline of civil rights as the Number One domestic issue was a direct consequence, I believe, of the rise and public acceptance of “tokenism.” The American people have, not abandoned the quest for equal rights; rather, they have been persuaded to accept token victories as indicative of genuine and satisfactory progress”

” This is inevitable when sharply limited goals are set as objectives in place of substantial accomplishments. While merely 7 per cent of Negro children in the South attend integrated schools, the major battle of the year was over one Negro in a Mississippi university. Two thousand school districts remain segregated after nearly a decade of litigation based upon Supreme Court decisions”

” If tokenism were our goal, this Administration has adroitly moved us towards its accomplishment. But tokenism can now be seen not only as a useless goal, but as a genuine menace. It is a palliative which relieves emotional distress, but leaves the disease and its ravages unaffected. It tends to demobilize and relax the militant spirit which alone drives us forward to real change.

King understood that “tokenism” could not bring economic security or the full emancipation of Negroes. King understood that small victories won through legislation or the enactment of laws could not be regarded as the end of struggle. For example, one might presume, if health reform had been a battle King was alive to help people wage today, he would not have let up after health reform was passed. He would still be taking nonviolent action to ensure that the industry did not gut the regulations that had progressives had manage to eke out of the legislative process.

Also, King would have been for expanding Medicare to cover all Americans. If achieved, his dream of economic security for all Americans, especially Negroes, would have been one step closer to achievement. He would not have fought for a “token” public option victory or the small consumer protections that the private insurance industry will likely manipulate to increase profits in the long term. That’s because, as evidenced here, King understand the problem with setting limited goals was that your movement for change could fall short of correcting the injustice, which had pushed you to take action.

What King ultimately concludes is instructive:

Tokenism was the inevitable outgrowth of the Administration’s design for dealing with discrimination. The Administration sought to demonstrate to Negroes that it has concern for them, while at the same time it has striven to avoid inflaming the opposition. The most cynical view holds that it wants the vote of both and is paralyzed by the conflicting needs of each. I am not ready to make a judgment condemning the motives of the Administration as hypocritical. I believe that it, sincerely wishes to achieve change, but that it has misunderstood the forces at play. Its motives may better be judged when and if it fails to correct mistakes as they are revealed by experience.

The day for assessing that experience is at hand. Token gains may well halt our progress, rather than further it. The time has come when the government must commit its immense resources squarely on the side of the quest for freedom. This is not a struggle in which government is a mere mediator. Its laws are being violated.

In sections like the previous one, it is evident that U.S. politics remains very similar to the politics King had to confront to win civil rights victories. King recognized that violations of the law and failure to correct perceived mistakes could tell Americans more than judging how a presidential administration handled forces aligned against change. In the aftermath of the struggle for health reform legislation, King’s rubric for judgment should compel progressives to ask what the Administration intends to do to enforce laws and regulate insurance. It also should ask if it has learned from its failure to communicate an agenda for health reform, because that is what gave great power to Tea Party forces that branded the legislation “Obamacare,” that is what gave insurance companies great power to convince Americans Obama wanted to pass “a government takeover of healthcare,” even though Americans were going to be forced to buy a defective product from private insurance companies under penalty of law because of the individual mandate.

Progressives very much allowed forces of the status quo to stunt the level of change pushed through Congress. A conglomeration of people organizing under the Tea Party moniker created a political culture from the “bottom” up (even if it had secret financers like Dick Armey or the Koch Brothers or Karl Rove raising money to help it take action). Media accepted this as something that would severely limit the agenda of President Obama and progressives lowered their expectations. Unlike King, who did not allow the Ku Klux Klan or those outright sympathetic to force compromise, progressives gave up and accepted a limited goal.

In “Hammer of Civil Rights,” written in 1964, there is further indication that the Senate posed a threat to progressive legislation like it still does today. In the essay, he wrote of the filibuster, “As had been foreseen, the bill survived intact in the House. It has now moved to the Senate, where a legislative confrontation reminiscent of Birmingham impends. Bull Connor became a weight too heavy for the conscience of Birmingham to bear. There are men in the Senate who now plan to perpetuate the injustices Bull Connor so ignobly defended. His weapons were the high-pressure hose, the club and the snarling dog; theirs is the filibuster. If America is as revolted by them as it was by Bull Connor, we shall emerge with a victory.”

The filibuster has consistently popped up as an enemy to a progressive agenda in America. If progressives can learn one thing from King’s attitude toward the filibuster, it is that progressives should frame moves to filibuster (or place “secret holds” on legislation) as part of an agenda of injustice. The filibuster should be framed as a weapon that can bring suffering. In the same way an insurance company can deny coverage, a predatory lender can manipulate interest rates, a bank can throw families out of their homes with no proof to support foreclosure, the filibuster can bring pain and anguish.

King contended, “It is not too much to ask 101 years after the Emancipation, that Senators who must meet the challenge of filibuster do so in the spirit of heroes of Birmingham. They must avoid temptation to compromise the bill as a means of ending the filibuster. They can use the Birmingham method by keeping the Senate in continuous session, by matching the ability of the segregationists to talk with their capacity to outlast them. Nonviolent action to resist can be practiced in the Senate as well as in the streets.”

He hoped that those in favor of radical change would wear down “Southern obstructionists” and force them to a point where they were morally and physically exhausted. He then supposed that cloture could be employed to end the “misery” they were experiencing. He believed that the movement needed to wait out obstructionism, not bend to it. He did not suggest that people take cues from President Kennedy and adjust their goals or objectives when faced with opposition in the Senate. On the contrary, he welcomed opposition as an opportunity to exhaust defenders of the status quo.

Returning to his essay, “A Bold Design for a New South,” King wrote:

A legislative struggle this year need not be a quixotic exercise in futility. The obstructive coalition of Southern Democrats and Conservative Republicans can be split on this issue. The Republicans cannot afford to block civil rights legislation which the President earnestly sponsors, and Southern Democrats cannot defeat it if they are isolated; if, however, the President is lethargic, the Republicans can be tranquil. They can content themselves merely with criticizing the President in absence of real challenge. If civil rights is elevated to the urgency that trade, tax and military legislation enjoys, 1963 can be a year of achievement and not another annual experience with frustration.

These are practical political considerations all dictating one road. Yet above it all, a greater imperative demands fulfillment. Throughout our history, the moral decision has always been the correct decision. From our determination to be free in 1776, to our shedding of the evil of chattel slavery in 1863, to our decision to stand against the wave of fascism in the 1930s, we grew and became stronger in our commitment to the democratic tradition. The correct decision in 1963 will make it a genuine turning point in human rights. One hundred years ago a President, tortured by doubts, finally ended slavery and a new American society took shape. Lincoln had hoped the slavery issue could be relegated to secondary place, but life thrust it into the center of history. There segregation, the evil heritage of slavery, remains.

The lethargic manner with which Obama has gone about advancing seemingly progressive legislation has had an air of quixotic futility to it. He did not try to isolate Blue Dog Democrats in his party opposed to health reform. He let Republicans “content themselves merely with criticizing the President in absence of real challenge” and never truly explain why all Americans should not have access to health care.

Admittedly, with the exception of health reform (although that is debatable), President Obama has failed to articulate the moral imperative for advancing any legislation that might correct significant problems in this country. This inability to be transformative seems to have rubbed off on progressives, as they wonder what they can possibly do, if anything, now that the GOP controls the House (and now that Obama has bought into, like many Democratic governors, this idea that a war on the public sector needs to be waged to address deficits in America).

Issues of urgency have been the tax cut deal in the lame-duck session. Issues that should have been of urgency by now include ending the wars, closing Guantanamo, investigating and prosecuting Bush Administration officials for torture and other war crimes, passing a living wage and other reforms to strengthen labor, and taking on a new agenda to reverse a re-organization of society to favor corporations at the expense of the people, which was energized by the Citizens United v. FEC decision a year ago. And, on health and financial reform, “token” victories should have become flashpoints for progressives to double their efforts and continue to build political momentum in favor of more change, perhaps, by using an end to wars to fund human needs as a notion to compel Americans to support wins for economic security.

In Part 2, Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy on “consensus presidents” and King’s trust in demonstrations and nonviolent action from

Senator Bernie Sanders Filibusters the Tax Cut Deal (Watch Now)

1:03 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

As I put this together, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is on the Senate floor “filibustering” or giving a long speech on Obama’s politically flawed tax cut deal, which highly favors corporations and the wealthy and rich in this country. He is talking about how this deal includes Republican ideas to divert money from Social Security, which will handicap Social Security and perhaps be the beginning of the end of the program. And, he is also talking about how agreeing to continue these tax cuts now could mean that they become permanent because extending the cuts once will likely put him in a corner where he has to extend them again and again. [WATCH HERE]

Sen. Sanders has been on the floor for a few hours. As TPM reports, “Joined at different times by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sanders has been decrying the Obama tax cut plan for bailing out the wealthiest people in America.”

Here are some of the things he has said so far:
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*Reading from Arianna Huffington’s Third World America , he detailed how our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. He shared the following: “Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic.” And said, “Think about that. A cost of $78 billion a year. Think of all the pollution, all of the frustration, all of the anxiety, all of the road rage.”

*He outlined that, in studying car crashes across the country, it has been determined that badly maintained roads are responsible for $272 billion a year in damages. If you want to know why we are seeing car crashes, the problem is bad roads

*On America’s situation with rail, he explained, “Train rides in the 1930s and 1940s took less time than those journeys would take today. In the 30s, 40s, 50s, people were able to get there in less time.” Specifically, he cited  trips like a trip from Chicago to Minneapolis, which used to take 4 1/2 hours and now takes 8 hours.

*He talked specfically about problems with bridges in this country, pleaded with President Obama to invest in bridges at the federal level.

*He said, “With our infrastructure collapsing…We have an agreement which puts zero dollars in infrastructure.” And, mentioned that this country would need $850 billion to get all of America’s bridges into good shape.

*He again read from Huffington’s book and illuminated how are drop to third world status is being sped up by our lack of investment in public education: “Historically, education has been the great equalizer. That has been the incredible virtue of our public school system.” And he lauded the fact that historically we have “given young people millions of young people the opportunity to go to school go to college and fulfill their potential.”

*He shared statistics that many who saw the documentary Waiting for Superman are likely familiar with: Among 30 developed countries ranked by OECD, ranked 25th in math, 21st in science. Even the top 10% ranked only 24th in the world in math literacy.

*He pleaded – “Does anyone believe here in America we take intellectual development seriously?” And he pointed out how we pay millions to sports stars but can only give a small salary to teachers or early childhood education providers.

*”67% high school graduates don’t have enough of the skills required for success in college,” he noted. And said, “When you invest in your kids, you are investing in the future of America.”

*He noted, “If you don’t invest in your young people, they are not going to become productive taxpaying workers. They end up engaging in destructive behavior.” They will be dropping out and ending up in jail at great expense.

*He dropped this statistic: 75% of American youth who apply to the military are unable to serve because of los cognitive ability, obesity, criminal records. A “National Security” issue?

*He noted that the deal will provide tens of billions of dollars to wealthy at a time when they have enjoyed tax breaks and that Citizens for Tax Justice has said, for example, if this deal is allowed, Rupert Murdoch, CEO of NewsCorp, would receive a 1.3 million tax break, Jamie Dimon, head of JPMorganChase, would receive a $1.1. million tax break, Vikram Pandit would receive a $785,000 tax break,e etc.

*He read a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows. Again, comrades over there, take the lesson from your own experience. Not only did you not grudge, but you gloried in the promotion of the great generals who gained their promotion by leading their army to victory. So it is with us. We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.”

*And he noted that by adjusting the estate tax, as the deal would do, the Walton Family would receive a $32.7 billion tax break. At a time when we supposedly cannot afford to “give $14 billion to people who are struggling” for a $250 COLA check to seniors and disabled veterans, we can give more than double to the Walton Family. He added, “If this makes sense to anybody, please call my office.”

His filibuster continues at 4 pm ET. Sanders is doing what Americans elect their leaders to do — He is defending us. He is speaking up for the people.

Thank you, Bernie.

To see him filibustering, click here.

FBI Continues to Target Activists in Chicago and Minneapolis (VIDEO)

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

On December 6th, Chicagoans came out for an Emergency Response Rally organized by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression to support activists who have been targeted by the FBI in the past months. Those present stood in the cold and condemned U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been directing the FBI to expand its repression of activists in Chicago.

The rally specifically addressed the recent targeting of three young women who had traveled to Palestine last summer. On Friday, December 3rd, they were given subpoenas to appear before a Grand Jury on January 25, 2011. Since then, two more individuals have been subpoenaed. This new wave of repression came a week after subpoenas for three activists in Minneapolis -” Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sarah Martin -” were re-activated and asked to appear before a Grand Jury again after refusing to speak to a Grand Jury in October.

The father of one of the Chicago women subpoenaed, Stan Smith, appeared at the rally and read a statement from her daughter, Sarah Smith, “Friday morning I received a phone call from an FBI agent. He asked if I had about 30 minutes to sit down and speak with him so he could ask me some questions. I asked about what and he said he was not at liberty to discuss it.”

“I felt there was something suspicious about him telling me he wanted to ask me some questions, but he would not tell me what these questions were,” read Smith. “I reiterated that it would be much easier for me to sit down with him if I knew why an FBI agent wanted to sit down with me. He then said it had to deal with a trip I took this last summer. He emphasized I think you know, which one I’m talking about.”

Smith noted, “I don’t think I need to speak in defense of her character. While she was in high school, Crain’s Chicago Business had a special edition called the “100 Most Influential Women in Chicago” and they chose my daughter as being one of Chicago’s six most influential and up-and-coming women high school students. Crain’s Chicago Business chose her partly because they saw she was willing to travel to different parts of the world and see for herself and to make up her own mind about what was happening over there. Evidently, the FBI thinks that there is something criminal in doing that.”

Subpoenaed activist Stephanie Weiner, who had her home raided by the FBI on September 24th of this year, lamented the fact that more activists were being subpoenaed and explained it was being done to put fear, intimidate and divide members of activist movements in the country. She outlined the fact that they are from many different movements: union, immigrant rights, justice, and Latin American and Palestinian solidarity movements.

Matt Brandon of SEIU Local 73 said, “When people can’t get together and peacefully protest without being threatened by arrest or a raid or a subpoena, it’s a sad state of affairs.” He provided a brief history of how dissent has been repressed in America and why it is important for all movements to come together and fight bac

The hunting down of activists began on September 24th when the FBI raided homes and offices of activists from Minneapolis and Chicago. Computers, phones, documents and other personal items were seized and the FBI officially subpoenaed 14 activists to appear before a Grand Jury. The FBI began to contact members of the “peace community” and ask them what they knew about the subpoenaed activists’ “material support for terrorism.”

The attorneys representing the activists have noted “the current definition of “material support’ can cover just about anything, like providing humanitarian aid that ends up in the hands of a group tagged as ‘terrorist’ by the US government, or posting a link to an informational website. The implications of this law, as it is being used, are troubling to anyone who does community organizing, or anyone who does journalistic reporting or academic research on wars, conflicts or controversial movements.”

Months later, the activists in Minneapolis and Chicago have not been charged with a crime, but they continue to face possible jail time if they refuse to go before a Grand Jury and participate in this “witch hunt.” They have yet to have their belongings, which were seized by the FBI, returned.

In the face of repression, activists across the nation have held actions in cities to show solidarity with activists who have been targeted. In Minneapolis, supporters held a protest outside Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office. And, a delegation of people has visited Congress to inform key House and Senate members of the FBI’s targeting of individuals engaged in activism.

In Chicago, those opposed to the FBI raids plan to meet with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Members of the Committee have noted in recent weeks that some in Congress have been briefed on the actions of the FBI but, for the most part, few know what is happening to activists in Chicago and Minneapolis.

The Committee to Stop FBI repression designated December 9th as a “Call-In Day” and urged supporters and those concerned to call U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and demand that he end the “witch hunt” on activists in America.

Here is a video from the rally in Chicago on December 9th:

Julian Assange’s Real Crime: Making It Difficult for America to Wage Superpower

6:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


WikiLeaks pledges to continue to fight government secrecy despite persecution by the U.S. and other countries. by R_SH

Political leaders like the tyrannical Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and complicit authoritarian Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have come out in full support of prosecuting the now-captured and arrested Julian Assange under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. Whether they can do so or not is of no concern to them, and don’t expect that to matter as the press repeats this idea that Assange could be prosecuted.

Sen. Lieberman, Senator John Ensign (R-Nev) and Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) have introduced a bill that would “stop” WikiLeaks and make it “illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants.” The bill known as the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act (SHIELD) would amend the Espionage Act. The main problem with the act is, as Dave Weigel of Slate wrote, “the information being leaked, while embarrassing, hasn’t been highly classified. It’s been secret, or marked “NOFORN,” but it’s not classified.” Thus, it appears the act might currently be ineffective in “stopping” WikiLeaks or future releases of information by any individual, group or organization.

What these senators aim to do is guaranteed to further reduce the protections for journalists and members of the media in this country. It’s guaranteed to further create a political climate where journalists are faced with the possibility of coercive measures if they actually exercise the rights and privileges granted to them by the First Amendment. And, it’s that climate that ensures more and more individuals will leak materials to WikiLeaks instead of media outlets in America, who cannot give their sources guarantees they will be protected under the law.

Sen. Lieberman appeared on the Fox News Channel on December 7th to express his support for not only prosecuting Assange but also examining the culpability of media organizations like the New York Times, which have referenced in the leaked secrets in their news articles.

HOST: Julian Assange has written an editorial that points out or characterizes his organization as an underdog in the media world. And he’s saying that he is a journalist and he’s saying that he’s just providing information out there for the world’s citizens to see. He mentions that organizations like the New York Times have published his information, which you’re classifying as state secrets. So, are other media outlets that have posted what WikiLeaks put out there also culpable on this and could be charged with something?

LIEBERMAN: I have said that I believe the question you are raising is a serious legal question that has to be answered. In other words, this is very sensitive stuff because it gets into America’s First Amendment, but if you go from the initial crime–Private Manning charged with a crime of stealing these classified documents, he gives them to WikiLeaks, I certainly believe WikiLeaks has violated the espionage act. But then what about the news organizations, including the NYT, that accepted it and distributed it? I’m not here to make a final judgment on that. But to me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department. [emphasis added]

In his appearance, Sen. Lieberman called the release of documents by Assange and WikiLeaks “the most serious violation of the Espionage Act” in America’s history.

Sen. Feinstein, in her editorial published by the Wall Street Journal , wrote, “When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange released his latest document trove–more than 250,000 secret State Department cables–he intentionally harmed the U.S. government. The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”

She claimed the authority to decide whether Assange is or is not a journalist, a power she and nobody in government holds. She promoted the idea that the release has hurt people, when there is absolutely no proof that anyone has been harmed as a result of these leaks. And, she concluded, “As for the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has held that its protections of free speech and freedom of the press are not a green light to abandon the protection of our vital national interests. Just as the First Amendment is not a license to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, it is also not a license to jeopardize national security.”

This is where we get into the real crime that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are guilty of committing. They are guilty of posing a threat to American superpower.

They have made it more difficult to wage a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture false cases for any future wars. They have made it harder to mislead Americans and other citizens of the world to believe a country poses an imminent threat to the United States. They have made it more problematic for America to use illegal detention, torture, and rendition on the world’s citizens when prosecuting the “war on terror.” They have made it more complicated for America to use spying and blackmailing when engaging countries in diplomacy. And, they have made leaders of countries in the world less willing to upset the sensibilities of people whom they govern and lie to them to prevent them from demonstrating their disapproval and outrage for going along with a ruthless superpower.

Political leaders and media pundits are disinforming the public when they talk about prosecuting Assange. Leaders like Sen. Feinstein are cherry-picking portions of a Congressional Research Service report to suit their worldview on what can and cannot be done to “protect” America. Indeed, an October report did claim there exists “ample statutory authority for prosecuting individuals who elicit or disseminate the types of documents at issue, as long as the intent element can be satisfied and potential damage to national security can be demonstrated.” But, as Evan Harper commented on one of Glenn Greenwald’s posts:

“In Feinstein’s WSJ op-ed, she claims “That he is breaking the law and must be stopped from doing more harm is clear. I also believe a prosecution would be successful,” citing a Congressional Research Service report which wrote that “there is ample statutory authority” for such a prosecution. But she very badly cherry-picked the report, which goes on to say:

‘…we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction.’

Essentially, CRS found that a plausible reading of the Espionage Act, by itself, might find some grounds to charge Assange — but that precedent, the Constitution, and jurisdictional issues all weigh against a successful prosecution. Feinstein was grossly dishonest in eliding this.”

It’s quite telling that they would fall back on the Espionage Act as the tool that could prevent Assange and WikiLeaks from causing more damage to America’s image in the world. The Espionage Act was signed into law by Glenn Beck’s least favorite president, Woodrow Wilson, shortly after America entered World War I. The act was intended to only apply during wartime, but, like many expansions of executive power in recent American history, the act continued to be applied to dissidents who were getting in the way of military recruiting or efforts to prosecute wars.

As Neal Rockwell points out on NYC Indymedia, “Its first major test case was with a Socialist named Charles Schenck, who received a six month sentence for passing out leaflets denouncing the draft, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. There have been a number of high profile Individuals prosecuted or threatened with this law over the years. In 1918, the famed Socialist organizer Eugene Debs was given a ten year sentence for delivering an anti-war speech on the grounds that it obstructed recruitment and the war effort. His sentence was later commuted by Warren Harding in 1921, and he was released after spending thirty two months in prison. The poet E E Cummings spent a few months in jail under the Act, for speaking openly about his lack of hatred for the Germans. The Post Office was also instrumental in using this law, in that it refused to deliver materials which were deemed to violated it, thus suppressing many radical newspapers.”

Julian Assange has brought out the true spirit of America. Visa and MasterCard refuse to process donations to WikiLeaks or Assange. PayPal refuses to allow WikiLeaks to use the service for donations. Amazon censors the Wikileaks website. Tableau opts to prohibit WikiLeaks from using its graphics service for data visualizations. The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University warns students to refrain from commenting on the leaked diplomatic cables on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter and not post links to the documents if they hope to ever work for the State Department (while at the same time pledging to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011). And, the Obama Administration and the Department of Defense orders hundreds of thousands of federal workers to not view the once secret cables.

The U.S.-led “war on WikiLeaks” has tacitly endorsed censorship of the Internet and taken steps that will move it further away from being an arena where all citizens of the world can act openly without fear of being met by unchecked political power. The crew of WikiLeaks has demonstrated that America is more interested in being a closed, conspiratorial, inefficient and totalitarian country instead of using the document dumps WikiLeaks have brought to the world to become more open and honest in government operations. And, those who have supported, aided or abetted WikiLeaks should be aware of how this all could steamroll into a situation where Americans are increasingly asked to take “loyalty oaths” in order to take jobs or use services on the Internet and face surveillance that will lead to persecution if found to be engaging in suspect political activity (indeed, a new round of witch hunts aimed at “disloyal” Americans is already being mounted by the FBI in this country).

Ask yourself: Will there be an agent at your door asking you, “Are you or are you not working in cooperation with Julian Assange and others associated with WikiLeaks?” And, if so, do we intend to stand up and mobilize and raise our voices high and defend our right to disseminate now-public information and utilize our First Amendment rights without threat of intimidation or criminalization?

Whether Julian Assange is guilty of rape or sexual molestation allegations is for the Swedish courts to decide. If he did in fact commit a crime, he will suffer the consequences. But, the charges increasingly appear to be part of a campaign of political persecution that is being endorsed and sponsored by a nation that wishes revenge on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for daring to challenge American superpower.

Restoring Sanity to Our Elections: Are We Managers of Democracy or Citizens?

1:07 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Many of the people who energized support for Barack Obama in 2008 gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the “One Nation Working Together” rally.  by Kevin Gosztola

Our electoral and political system is broken, co-opted by corporate and military interests. That is why we are talking about restoring sanity. That is why we see people, Republican and Democrat, wishing the polarization of politics stops.

A vacuum has grown in American politics thanks to Democratic Party leaders who have abandoned the notion of waging crucial debates and putting forth new ideas. They now instead behave like staff members of a marketing communications or public relations firm. They handle the president’s agenda and message to the people and finesse arguments to justify timidity and spinelessness, which favors the wealthiest three or four percent of Americans and endangers the bottom ninety percent. This also endangers innocent civilians all over the world who continue to fall victim to wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Liberals and progressives who form the base of voters for the Democratic Party have failed to muster the courage to make Democrats bear the consequences of their transformation over the past decades into a corporate party. Upset, instead of offering a different vision, they defend politicians in the party hoping to curb Republican, Tea Party, and free market enterprise organizations who have gone on the offensive.

Choosing to do nothing more than defend the idea of voting or supporting Democrats, failing to fill the vacuum with a language for something other than a society that lauds the individual and loathes the notion that “we are all in this together” is why the Tea Party has enjoyed prominence.

Among people who participate in political discussions, it is increasingly difficult to nuance one’s support for Democratic or Republican politicians. Many think you either must be with one side or the other. This is what America’s two-party system does to its citizens.

Instead of focusing on what actions politicians have taken or failed to take, concerned citizens fight each other and accuse people who dare to vote outside the two parties of being responsible for enabling crimes or dark trends in society. Citizens beat each other into lining up behind one of the two parties, which for at least three elections have dealt with an American population wary of re-electing incumbents.

The two most prominent parties are co-opted by moneyed interests that neutralize our votes, they allow the dominance of money in politics to increase, and instead of breaking away and making reasonable calls for reforms to voting or elections, citizens fret about the possibility of spoilers. They fear being good to themselves and voting their conscience on Election Day.

Fear of “Purism” Bringing America Closer to Ruin

People especially Obama supporters are good and ready to argue a number of things will happen if Republicans are elected. But, how many of these things that are feared are already manifesting themselves in politics, government, or society in America?

One could say the Tea Party will be bad for gay people, but Democrats and President Obama have done very little to shift the consensus on rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in America. Obama has contradicted himself by expressing his view that he is a “fierce advocate” for gays and lesbians and then asserting that he is opposed to same-sex marriage because marriage is between a man and a woman. Even worse, in a legal brief filed in June 2009, Obama’s Justice Department “compared gay unions to incestuous ones and that of an underage girl in the sense that states have the right to not recognize marriages that are legal in other states or countries.” This happened days before the Democratic National Committee was to hit up the LGBT community for cash in a fundraiser featuring Biden (perhaps, he told them to “stop whining” then, too).

President Obama’s Department of Justice continues to obstruct a rescinding or repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That’s as conservative pundits like Bill O’Reilly and John Stossel genuinely or opportunistically express condemnation for the Obama Administration’s continued legal defense of the anti-homosexual military policy.

One could say the Tea Party will ensure that future-eaters continue to reign over America and imperil a world’s population because the Tea Party does not “believe” in the science of global warming. That supposes that Democrats would take steps that would begin to truly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lawyers with the Environmental Protection Agency, Laurie Williams & Allan Zabel, wrote in the Washington Post on current legislation on the table:

“The House and Senate climate bills are not a first step in the right direction. They would give away valuable rights in cap-and-trade permits and create a trillion-dollar carbon-offsets market that will not lead to needed reductions. Together, the illusion of greenhouse-gas reductions and the creation of powerful lobbies seeking to protect newly created profits in permits and offsets would lock in climate degradation for a decade or more. The near-term opportunity to create an effective international framework would also be lost.”

One could say the Tea Party will privatize Social Security. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has already opened the door for privatization by allowing Alan Simpson to lead a “Catfood Commission” or Deficit Commission to find ways to reduce America’s deficits. Simpson has displayed sharp ignorance about Social Security by promoting the Republican idea that Social Security is going bankrupt and is a burden on government. How could anyone have faith in an Administration’s effort to fight the privatization of Social Security when a man who said Social Security is “a milk cow with 310 million t-i-ts” is involved in putting together policy recommendation that will determine Social Security’s political future?

One could say the Tea Party will put food stamps programs at risk, but Democrats have already cut food stamps. They made cuts to fund education and health care. They chose austerity and cut the social program instead of taking money from defense, which is about 57% of the federal budget and could be significantly reduced.

On jobs and the economy, the top issue in the midterm election, the Tea Party’s gospel of free markets with a twist of Ayn Rand ideology would surely be bad for Americans. The GOP plan would raise the deficit $4 trillion. But, the Democrats are not a guaranteed panacea for fixing unemployment and making the economy work for all Americans instead of just the top 1%.

The Democrats are split on the Bush tax cuts, despite a Moody’s Investors Service report that “U.S. companies are hoarding almost $1 trillion in cash” and “are unlikely to spend on expanding their business and hiring new employees due to continuing uncertainty about the strength of the economy.” Lest you be optimistic about the split, the last time Democrats were this divided the people lost the public option or a Medicare buy-in. Conservative Democrats or Blue Dogs won the battle over what would be in health reform and would likely win the battle over tax cuts.

Finally, Obama supporters greatly fear a government shutdown or impeachment proceedings against Obama. Why the consternation? Democrats should welcome a shutdown. The shutdown Newt Gingrich briefly engaged in back in the 1990s likely contributed to President Clinton’s re-election in 1996. If Republicans displayed their obstructionism even more prominently, it would probably be easy for Democrats to sell themselves to voters in 2012 unless a number of Democrats became involved or complicit in the shutdown to win votes in their districts (not beyond the realm of possibility, many Democrats have run ads against supposed accomplishments of the Obama Administration).

The Democrats should also welcome endless investigations of Obama. What with Birthers, the Tea Party, and the fact that a poll has been released suggesting Bill Clinton is America’s most popular politician, the Democrats could on a daily basis remind Americans of how Republicans engaged in a hunting of President Clinton and stalled change and that is exactly what they are doing now. It would resonate because a significant amount of Americans remember the Clinton Years as being good years compared to the Dubya Years.

And, alas, there is little reason to fret about the possibility of a paralysis of government. Senate Democrats struck a bargain with Senate Republicans to block Obama nominees and prevent President Obama from making any recess appointments while senators were back home campaigning for the midterm elections. This means Republicans and Democrats are willing to either push for or be complicit in the paralysis of government.

Plus, in the run-up to the election, Democrats have failed to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and pass a 9/11 First Responders health care, a small business bill, and a defense supplemental. They also struggled to get jobless benefits extended. All they were able to get through were measures comparable to resolutions commending the University of Southern California men’s tennis team or acts to provide for the issuance of a Multinational Species Conservation Fund Symposium stamp.

Change Takes Time, Give Obama a Chance

Loyal Democrats and Obama supporters call reasoned debunking of fears disloyal, unforgiveable, and even criminal because they argue such thoughts enter the echo chamber of political debate, mesh with reactionary Tea Party outrage toward President Obama and make it harder for President Obama. That notion should be challenged. There is a key difference between the type of criticism offered above and that of the Tea Party, which Democrats are rightfully committed to defeating: it isn’t malicious nonsense based in racism or unfounded fears of socialism.

Also, as Robert Scheer, Truthdig editor-in-chief and journalist, said in a Live Chat earlier this year, criticism of the president would only strengthen the Obama Administration if it came from the grassroots and the people around him had to deliver to the people who vote.

Those who discuss what to do in politics and how to vote in elections are members of the informed citizenry, which Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson understood would be the “true repository of the public will.” People willing to engage each other are those who understand their responsibility toward shaping a political and social culture that will contribute to a society where all people share in setting the agenda and bear the consequences for agendas which jeopardize the wellbeing of the country.

Not just during elections, this citizenry is expected to not leave the most pressing issues untended. It is not to allow suffering or let profit-driven competition-oriented ethics pervert democratic culture. Yet, the nature of elections has us all behaving as pundits, strategists, or managers of democracy.

Saturated with advertising or political party propaganda filtered through print, radio, television, etc, the citizenry or grassroots that the experiment of democracy depends upon to survive begins to think and operate like the very bums it increasingly wishes to see out of power. It lets “electability” get in the way of supporting candidates, a corporate idea that primarily rests upon whether that candidate can raise millions or billions of dollars and demonstrate support from the private sector.

At the nation’s peril, those who most care about this country devalue elections by letting pundits choose the issues that matter. In this election, jobs and the economy became the top issue and how economic problems were framed. What if the framing had been unemployment and privatization? Or corporate power and accountability?

Wars are determined to be unimportant to Americans or unworthy of being a key election issue, a crude victory for the military industrial-complex or war profiteers who sap American taxpayer dollars and continue to waste the blood of US soldiers and civilians for their own gain. Three to four trillion dollars will be expended on Iraq, hundreds if not trillions more on Afghanistan, and, so, the wars are most certainly important and should be a part of any discussion of jobs and the economy.

Another key problem is the catnap the collective takes between elections. The late Howard Zinn understood how a people could truly bring hope and change to a country having seen an inspirational civil rights movement make huge gains in the Fifties and Sixties. In a still relevant article, “Election Madness,” he wrote:

“Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war.

Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”

Corporate executives and business managers are and have been waging direct action. They have foreseen what many of us have thought to be the unexpected and engaged in “crisis management” at the expense of Americans (e.g. the economic crisis of 2008). They have been ready to contain any change that citizens and politicians might deem fit for this country so that their enterprise does not face consequences for misconduct. They have even taken opportunities for change and aggressively turned those opportunities into chances to leverage power over government so they can reap huge financial or monetary advantages in the long run.

They have it easy with a revolving door spinning between their offices and the halls of power. But, that doesn’t mean citizens should go cynical and give up. It doesn’t mean they should let the failures of the Democratic and Republican Parties turn Americans cynical and pessimistic. And, it doesn’t mean it is required that citizens abbreviate or modify their condemnations of government to suit the so-called politics of the possible.

Voting one’s conscience wouldn’t be such a problem if one could point to key movements that are out in force making gains independent from the two political parties in between Election Days. Unfortunately, unions and civil rights organizations have been bought off by Democratic Party operatives and all the Republican Party is interested in is maximizing the efficiency of fake grassroots organizations, which are front groups for corporate and special interests in America.

Conclusion

There’s something insane about American elections, that’s for certain. But, it isn’t the Tea Party. It isn’t that we get candidates like Christine O’Donnell or Alvin Greene. It isn’t even that guys like the “Rent Is Too Damn High” candidate in New York somehow manage to get into debates. It’s the idea that only two candidates are allowed to run against each other and all other candidates, even if they win ballot access, are off limits to voters that is insane.

People who wish to restore sanity: having more than two candidates means society gets more than a party of “no” in power or a party of no ideas in power. It means a third or fourth person can cut through arguments that deepen division and offer input that may lead to democratic consensus necessary for true progress in society.

Open, free and fair multi-party elections won’t come now, but let this election be a teaching moment. Support for a third party alternative in politics is between fifty and sixty percent each time organizations poll Americans. And, surprisingly, Howard Dean has come out in favor of ranked choice voting, something that would do away with winner-take-all elections that have contributed to conflict among liberals or progressives.

Obama may not be able to change the culture or process of politics in Washington, but absent our involvement, we shouldn’t expect him to.

As Stewart said to President Obama, “Are we the people we were waiting for or does it turn out those people are still out there and we don’t have their number?”

There probably are phone calls to be made, but Americans do hold the answers to their future and can continue to push for a society supportive of all people, if they want it.

One Nation Working Together to Keep the Democrats from Losing the Midterms

10:35 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3056/4597208454_393a1078a5.jpg

Tens of thousands of Americans will gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow to stand for jobs, education, equality, and justice and put forth a distinct alternative to the Tea Party narrative that the media has become captivated by | Photo by wikimediacommons

Organizers of a liberal event called "One Nation Working Together" expect a hundred thousand Americans to gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, October 2nd, to advocate for jobs, education, equality, and justice. One month before the midterm elections, hundreds of organizations–many of them major organizations the Democratic Party needs to help them get-out-the-vote (GOTV) for November–will send a message to Democrats: No matter how much you beat upon the base for raising its voice and offering healthy criticism, progressives will still vote for you.

NAACP President, Ben Jealous, expressed the main concern of the organizers and told the Associated Press, "It’s critical that as we stand there on Oct. 2, that people think about Nov. 2, that they own the fact that what happens on Election Day is up to them"We need people to stand up now, at this key moment in this country, when there’s so much at stake."

There is definitely much at stake. But, as each year progresses, it becomes less and less clear why Americans think they can squeeze any sort of meaningful reform out of a political or electoral system, which continues to be increasingly controlled and influenced by corporate and special interest organizations (most recently, shadowy organizations like American Crossroads that use millions to go after true advocates for the people like Sen. Russ Feingold).

The lead organizers have chosen to organize under the belief that all Americans "deserve a just and fair chance to achieve the American Dream" and America’s "national identity is rooted in the ideal that all people regardless of race, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, heritage or ability should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential." That is a belief, one that a number of Americans unfortunately would quibble with.

It is a belief worth defending and entrenching into policy proposals and agenda items that progressives can advocate for and push President Obama and Congress to support. Yet, the coalition says, "One Nation Working Together will chart a bold, pragmatic path toward a more unified, sustainable, prosperous future by building support for these core principles and policy ideals." [emphasis added]

In other words, it seems like the coalition seeks to extend the political culture, which has diminished the capability of the Obama Administration so greatly. It hopes for compromise or consensus to create a way forward when there are certain ideas, like the ones this coalition purports to stand for, that Republicans and Democrats will fashion to suit corporations with boards who will never let shared ideals get in the way of profit. It seems like the coalition wishes to uphold a rationale for tolerance and diversity and apply checks and balances to efforts to make ideas correspond with reality.

Organizations endorsing this event break down into categories: environmental, GLBT, education, unions, college, immigrant rights, and peace and justice. Each of issues-based organization within each category likely has a mission that they wish to achieve. And, each likely understands the importance of attaining certain objectives especially since there are very few among non-profit organizations that would say they are in it for the money.

It is hard to accept that any organizations in any of these categories would be pragmatic in their endeavors especially in these times.

Environmental organizations share a commitment to the preservation of the planet and taking measures to prevent further environmental destruction. They understand the science of global warming and intend to contribute to human efforts to curb the impact global warming. They can never find common ground with those in the Christian Right and those who work for energy corporations or free market enterprise think tanks paid to produce pseudo-science to create support for their conscious destruction of the Earth.

GLBT organizations share a dedication to achieving equality for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. They understand that America’s Constitution does not prohibit them from loving and marrying someone who is the same gender as they are. And, they believe they should enjoy the equality that most Americans especially white Americans have always enjoyed. They can never compromise with military generals that would prevent them from serving in the military or Mormons who would use theology to prevent gay and lesbian couples from having a family.

Education organizations share a pledge to preserve access to education for all Americans. From history, education organizations know public education has been the very system that ensures all Americans get an education. They understand the way to improving education is through enriching public schools and not charter schools or merit-pay proposals that have proven to little to improve the education of students. They can never compromise with for-profit education institutions or Secretary of Arne Duncan and President Obama, whose Race to the Top schemes pit students and teachers against other students and teachers in America.

Union organizations share an allegiance to the workers who are members of their organization. Presumably, those who fill their ranks need them to stand up to Big Banks, fight for moratoriums on foreclosures, health care for all, and living wages for all, preserve the right to collective bargaining, be on the offensive when it comes to expressing the value of unions to a free and democratic society, etc. They cannot compromise with business executives on Wall Street, free market think tanks like the American Enterprise Foundation, or even the officials who work for regulatory agencies and the political leaders who fail to stick up for unions when they are most in need.

College organizations function under the idea that every young American has a right to a college education. They believe that all banks should be able to provide loans to students so students can go to school. They also believe in colleges being affordable. They cannot compromise with banks that refuse to give money to students, political leaders that cut funding to grant programs that help students pay for college, or universities that are more interested in profit than education.

Immigrant rights organizations operate under the notion that they have just as much right to citizenship in the United States as other Americans do. They deserve to be given human rights just like other hard working Americans. They cannot compromise with architects of state and federal laws like SB1070, defenders of ICE raids which tear apart families, and bigots who cling to a brand of nationalism that does not include them.

Finally, peace and justice organizations share the idea that wars should not be prosecuted especially when they involve the investment of money that could be put toward fueling an economy. They especially understand that wars waged on false pretenses, that entail incidents that violate laws and treaties are unacceptable. They cannot compromise with the military-industrial complex, Pentagon leaders and military generals craving victory in the Middle East, or political leaders who haven’t the moral fortitude or courage to end funding for wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan now. They also cannot compromise with agencies, which spy on and seek to infiltrate them, or leaders that support spying and infiltration by agencies like the FBI as they seek to organize.

Pragmatic tactics have been what has dragged this Administration’s approval rating down. It and President Obama’s failure to, as Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Network for Spiritual Progressives pointed out, "consistently speak the truth, tell us and the country what was really happening in the corridors of power and what the constraints are that he was facing," has made it impossible for changes to get through unscathed by obstructionist Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans, lobbyists, and corporate interests.

All Americans hoping this event brings forward new changes or revitalizes the prospect of real change under an Obama Administration should ask leaders of this event what they mean when they use the word "pragmatic." They should ask them to explain what they expect to get out of Democrats and how they expect to get it especially since, recently, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" failed to be repealed, the DREAM Act, a small business bill, and a 9/11 First Responders health care failed to pass and a vote on a climate change bill or middle class tax cuts failed to happen. And, all because the Democratic Party leadership refused to stand up against moneyed interests and be champions for the people.

Organizers have unfortunately been swept up in another election frenzy. It is, therefore, reasonable to re-read the fine words of the late Howard Zinn and commiserate over the fact that we still have yet to "free ourselves from the election madness engulfing the entire society, including the left" and the reality that "we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It is an understandable reaction to wonder why organizers are not willing to give Americans who are discontent with this country’s two-party system an outlet for expression. After all, nowhere in the organizers’ list of policy principles is there any mention of advocating for instant run-off voting or other electoral reforms that might make it possible for Americans to vote for what they believe in instead of always voting against individuals in elections.

I will be at the "One Nation" event tomorrow. I intend to post updates, which feature interviews with people. While I am skeptical of the tactics organizers want to use to achieve these ideas, I wholeheartedly support the values and principles that the coalition has come together to support. I am especially pleased to see the economy being connected to peace and justice groups.

I look forward to reaching out to all those who are working to create change from the bottom up and hope to see tens of thousands of people in front of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow.

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.