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What does Independence Day mean to you? The holiday can be a time to gather with family, friends and community. But it can also be an opportunity to reassess the direction of the country, the past struggles that secured rights and freedom, the challenges to power that rose up in the face of adversity, and the inequalities that still exist.
A coalition of open Internet advocates unveiled a “Declaration of Internet Freedom” this week, seeking to rally activists against censorship and privacy violations from both governments and corporations. The Declaration comes as a Manhattan Judge ordered Twitter to turn over months of personal data from an Occupy Wall Street protester, arrested during last fall's mass demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge. Both Google and Twitter released reports this month showing the US government requested more private user data than any other country in the world, and the companies largely complied. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.
(Transcript; audio available here)
H/T LUV News
By Dave Lindorff
Let me preface this column by saying that I don’t think all conservatives and right-wingers are stupid. In fact I have some right-leaning friends of a libertarian bent who are really smart, and a lot of fun to argue with. They may have an unquestioning faith, bordering on religious zealotry, in the wonders of the “market,” but like Jesuit-trained Catholics defending the existence of God, debating that faith with them can be entertaining and even challenging.
Dennis Trainor, Jr., has produced a full-length movie of the Occupy movement, and he's done a hell of a great job.
The Occupy movement was created, as are all movements in the United States, in large part by the corporate media. They didn't understand it. They didn't want it. They didn't originate it or take part in it or develop its brilliants insights, effective techniques, or inspiring courage. They transmitted what to them was an indecipherable code that reached their viewers and readers with the obvious clarity of a crack on the head. They got huge assists from brutal cops and incompetent mayors. But it was the corporate media that took something in one city and made it big and made it national.
Then, as always, the corporate media turned hostile and lost interest and went away.
June 25, 2012
Asylum for Julian Assange
By Ray McGovern
(for Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence)
Editor Note: Decisions to speak out inside or outside one's chain of command -- let alone to be seen as a whistle-blower or leaker of information -- is fraught with ethical and legal questions and can never be undertaken lightly. But there are times when it must be considered. Official channels for whistle-blower protections have long proved illusory.
The Hunger Games vs. the Reality of War
by Captain Paul K. Chappell, U.S. Army (ret.)
Author’s Note: I wrote this because the first book in The Hunger Games series has become required reading in many schools. When students are required to read a book for a class they have a reasonable expectation of being educated, but The Hunger Games portrays serious subjects such as war, violence, and trauma in very unrealistic ways. I hope the following will encourage critical thinking, promote discussion, and help people better understand war. I dedicate this to the veterans whose psychological wounds are misunderstood because of unrealistic media depictions of war, violence, and trauma.
DEBUNKING THE MYTHS OF WAR
Imagine yourself sitting in a doctor’s office. Looking at you remorsefully, the doctor says you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and there is only a four percent chance you will be alive in two weeks. Even worse, he informs you that your death will be incredibly painful. The illness kills most people by violently rupturing one or more of their internal organs, causing them to bleed to death. As if the situation could not get any worse, he then says you must be quarantined in a government laboratory. You will be prevented from communicating with your friends and family members in any way as you lie on your deathbed. You will be forced to face death alone.
How do you think most people would react upon hearing this grim news? And how do you think most people would feel while lying on their deathbed alone, afraid, and on the verge of suffering an extremely painful death? Could you imagine some people having panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and other severe psychological issues?
The scenario I just described is very similar to the situation twenty-four children must face in the science fiction series The Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins. In the first book (and film) of the series, twenty-four children from the ages of twelve to eighteen are chosen to compete in a fight to the death called "the hunger games," where they must kill each other with bows and arrows, swords, knives, and other close-range weapons until one person is left standing. Most of the children are selected at random through a kind of lottery, while a few volunteer. Like the terminal illness scenario, each child has only a four percent chance of surviving (1), dying will be extremely painful, and they will be forbidden from seeing their friends and family members while facing death.
If twenty-four children from the ages of twelve to eighteen were told they had a terminal illness – giving them a ninety-six percent chance of dying an extremely painful death in the next two weeks – and then prevented from seeing their friends and family members, do you think many of the children would suffer from panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and other severe psychological issues? If so, isn’t it odd that not a single child in the first book of The Hunger Games series has a mental meltdown when their situation is in fact worse (for reasons I will explain later) than the terminal illness scenario?
There is a common myth in our society that human beings are naturally violent. In my books I write about the abundant evidence that refutes this myth, and although I cannot offer all the evidence in this short essay, I will share a few examples later on. As a result of this myth, many believe if you simply tell people to kill each other, their natural violent urges will take over and they will massacre each other rather easily. We can see this myth in The Hunger Games, because most of the twenty-four children are given only three days of combat training (a few have been training throughout their lives, which I will discuss later), yet despite this extremely minimal training the children are able to function well in a situation that requires them to kill or be killed. But is a three-day session of combat training enough to prepare people for the trauma of war? During World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, American soldiers who were not children but grown men were given months of combat training (and in some cases years if they were in the regular army). Yet despite this, more American soldiers were pulled off the front lines due to psychological trauma than were killed during the wars.
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman is a former West Point professor and Army Ranger who has written extensively about combat. He also trains military and law enforcement personnel throughout the country. Grossman’s in-depth research shows that the human mind, rather than the body, is actually the weakest link in war, because in combat our mind is more vulnerable to collapse than our body. Explaining how this can affect soldiers in war, Grossman tells us: "Richard Gabriel, in his excellent book, No More Heroes, tells us that in the great battles of World War I, World War II and Korea, there were more men pulled off the front lines because of psychiatric wounds than were killed in combat. There was a study written on this phenomenon in World War II entitled, ‘Lost Divisions,’ which concluded that American forces lost 504,000 men from psychiatric collapse. A number sufficient to man 50 combat divisions! ... Very few people know about this. While everyone knows about the valiant dead, most people, even professional warriors, do not know about the greater number of individuals who were quietly taken out of the front lines because they were psychiatric casualties. This is another aspect of combat that has been hidden from us, and it is something we must understand." (2)
Lieutenant Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, an army psychiatrist who is the director of the Army Surgeon General’s office for behavioral health, tells us: "In the first months of the Korean conflict, from June to September 1950, both the physical and psychological travails were overwhelming. Many of the soldiers were initially pulled from easy occupation duty in Japan, with inadequate uniforms (including winter clothes), arms, or training. The rate of psychological casualties was extraordinarily high, 250 per thousand per year." (3)
By John Grant
Vietnam, a story of virtually unmitigated disasters that we have inflicted on ourselves and even more on others.
-Bernard Brodie, 1973
Scoundrel Media Support for Obama
by Stephen Lendman
Months before November's election, New York Times editors made their choice: Obama in 2012. Expect an official endorsement to follow.
Gareth Porter, the Washington-based journalist, has won the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism for 2012 for his investigation of US ‘killing strategy’ in Afghanistan, including the targeting of people through their mobile phones.
The judges said: ‘In a series of extraordinary articles, Gareth Porter has torn away the facades of the Obama administration and disclosed a military strategy that amounts to a war against civilians.’
The Martha Gellhorn Prize is given in honour of one of the 20th century’s greatest reporters and is awarded to a journalist ‘whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth that exposes establishment propaganda, or “official drivel”, as Martha Gellhorn called it’.
Previous winners include Robert Fisk of the Independent, Nick Davies of the Guardian, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and the late Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times (special award).
The Florida Sun Sentinel has for many years been rather unique, as a corporate newspaper with a regular columnist who's actually good, and I don't mean just good for the context, but actually worth reading even if the masses of South Florida weren't reading along. Happily, they are.
Stephen L. Goldstein has just published a book, also worth reading, called Atlas Drugged (Ayn Rand Be Damned!) It's fiction, often hilarious fiction, aimed at debunking the notion that Ayn Randian "free-market" trickle-down crapitalism can coexist with basic human decency. "This is a work of fiction," says the back cover. "But any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely intentional. The names have been changed but, hopefully, not enough to protect the guilty."
In fact, while the book takes rightwingerism to an extreme, it blends in plenty of elements from reality. Imagine the most outlandish carrying of so-called conservatism to its logical conclusion, and abandoning New Orleans to a hurricane, or watching a fire department stand by while a house burns (because the owner didn't pay the proper fees) fits right in.
The opening scene is basically a CPAC conference set in a world in which normal had become one of today's CPAC conferences. The speeches of the fascists who populate this book ought to echo in the reader's head when he or she later hears the speeches of actual politicians, because the former are just slightly exaggerated versions of the latter.
The heroes of the book are part Occupy Wall Street, part Anonymous. People march by the millions. They organize and inspire. They shut down all the department stores owned by a particular plutocrat, simply by "shopping" en masse, without actually buying anything. But other tactics, from stunts involving animal dung (you have to read it) to hacking into the sound system at important events, rely on a small, secretive band of super-heroes -- too much so, I suspect. A real revolution is more likely to come through a combination that relies more heavily on popular action and less on the secret heroics of beings who fuse together Julian Assange with the Yes Men and MacGyver.
I also wish there weren't quite so much nationalism in what is after all a fantasy of an ideal future at war with a kleptocratic dystopia. But if you're going to go all in for the founders and the red-white-and-blue, it would have been better to remember the one thing the founders got most right that we have most forgotten: you don't give a single individual power. You can't solve tyranny through a presidential election, replacing a bad tyrant with a good one. You have to divide and check power, reducing the president to an impotent executive. In fact, one would hope that after a couple of centuries we would be able to at least fantasize about moving further toward direct democracy, and away from monarchy.
Be that as it may, it's not as if "Atlas Drugged" is going to move people in the direction of pinning their hopes on presidential candidates more than they already do (a physical impossibility). It is, however, going to deservedly and comically drag through the mud of its own making the disgustingly stupid idea that greed and selfishness are the smart way to be kind and generous. The result, I hope and expect, will be a greater ability to spot the absurdity of the political philosophy being satirized. If THIS is where free-market principles lead, if the catastrophe carved out by the job-creators in this book is what we're consciously attempting to arrive at, then we'd better reject as absolutely evil many of the assumptions and claims we encounter every day in the rhetoric and the policy coming from our politicians, including of course -- this being reality after all -- both of our leading candidates for president.
By Dave Lindorff
Reading, watching and listening to the mainstream media in America, it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between journalism and rank propaganda. Consider the coverage of the French parliamentary election currently underway.
Most Americans who read newspapers probably learned about this via the Associated Press report that went out on the weekend for Monday’s papers (AP is the de facto “foreign correspondent” for almost every newspaper in America now that all but a few papers have eliminated their foreign reporting staffs). It stated that recently elected Socialist President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party “stands positioned to take control of the lower house of parliament.”
In support of the ongoing policy of US drone strikes in Pakistan, US defence secretary Leon Panetta stated that "This [policy] is about our sovereignty as well". His comment came in response to claims by Pakistan that their sovereignty is at risk as a result of the drone attacks. Despite the wild suggestion that the sovereignty of the world's military superpower could be at risk from this tribal region of northern Pakistan, the BBC chose to highlight Panetta's claim, adding to the report the sub-headline (appearing midway through) '"Our Sovereignty"'.
The article, appearing on 6 June, following two weeks of heavy drone strikes on Pakistan, ran with the headline 'Pentagon chief Panetta defends Pakistan drone strikes'. It would be hard to imagine a similar headline from the BBC if another world power such as Russia or China were to undertake a policy of assassination in the territory of another country – particularly if the orders came from the top, from the President’s own ‘kill list’, as is the case with the drone strikes on Pakistan.
The BBC presents the arguments thus: ‘Pakistan says the drone attacks fuel anti-US sentiment and claim civilian casualties along with militants. The US insists the strikes are effective’. The report itself reads almost as a press-release for the Department of Defense, the ‘resentment’ of Pakistani society allowed only the briefest of acknowledgements.
Throughout BBC reporting on the US policy of drone warfare, the ‘effectiveness’ of the attacks is a primary consideration. Where arguments against the strikes are noted (acknowledging that the policy ‘is highly controversial’) the BBC presents as counter-argument the priority of those advocates of drone strikes; the capability for the US to ‘eliminate its enemies’, as Frank Gardner put it.
Some years ago, I watched a screening of a film about Daniel Ellsberg and the release of the Pentagon Papers. The film was shown in the U.S. Capitol, and Ellsberg was present, along with others, to discuss the movie and take questions afterwards.
I've just read Chris Hayes' new book "Twilight of the Elites," and am reminded of the question that progressive blogger and then-Congressman Alan Grayson staffer Matt Stoller asked Ellsberg.
What, Stoller wanted to know, should one do when (following the 2003 invasion of Iraq) one has come to the realization that the New York Times cannot be trusted?
The first thing I thought to myself upon hearing this was, of course, "Holy f---, why would anyone have ever trusted the New York Times?" In fact I had already asked a question about the distance we'd traveled from 1971, when the New York Times had worried about the potential shame of having failed to publish a story, to 2005 when the New York Times publicly explained that it had sat on a major story (about warrantless spying) out of fear of the shame of publishing it.
But the reality is that millions of people have trusted and do trust, in various ways and to various degrees, the New York Times and worse. Ellsberg's response to Stoller was that his was an extremely important question and one that he, Ellsberg, had never been asked before.
It's a question that Hayes asks in his book, which can be read well together with Chris Hedges' "Death of the Liberal Class." Hedges' book goes back further in U.S. history to chart the demise of liberal institutions from academia to media to labor. Hayes stays more current and also more conceptual, perhaps more thought-provoking.
Hayes charts a growing disillusionment with authorities of all variety: government, media, doctors, lawyers, bankers. We've learned that no group can be blindly trusted. "The cascade of elite failure," writes Hayes, "has discredited not only elites and our central institutions, but the very mental habits we use to form our beliefs about the world. At the same time, the Internet has produced an unprecedented amount of information to sort through and radically expanded the arduous task of figuring out just whom to trust." Hayes calls this "disorienting."
While I have benefitted from Hayes' brilliant analysis, I just can't bring myself to feel disoriented. I can, however, testify to the presence of this feeling in others. When I speak publicly, I'm often asked questions about how to avoid this disorientation. I spoke recently about the need to correct much of what the corporate media was saying about Iran, and a woman asked me how I could choose which sources of news reporting to trust. I replied that it is best to watch for verifiable specifics reported by multiple sources, to begin by questioning the unstated assumptions in a story, to study history so that facts don't appear in a vacuum, and to not blindly trust or reject any sources -- the same reporter or outlet or article could have valuable information mixed in with trash. Such critical media consumption may not be easy to do after a full day's work, I'll grant you. But it's not any harder to do than reading the New York Times and performing the mental gymnastics required to get what you've read to match up with the world you live in.
By John Grant
“No, Charlotte, I’m the jury now. I sentence you to death.”
The roar of the .45 shook the room. Charlotte staggered back a step.
“How c-could you?” she gasped.
“It was easy.”
- Mickey Spillane, I, The Jury
By Dave Lindorff
My wife and I live on a 2.3-acre plot of forested land in a pre-Revolutionary house with a run-down old barn. When we first moved here, there was a rather large set of grassy areas, one in front of the house, another behind the kitchen, a large field in the back, behind the barn, a smaller lawn in front of the barn, and a hidden glen, as well as an island of grass in the middle of a circular gravel driveway.
Produced by David Swanson, Christiane Brown of Talk Nation Radio
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Thursday, May 30th, 2012 3:00 PM EST
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This week's Sprouts is a discussion with Chase Madar, author of the new book "The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History." Speaking with Madar is David Swanson, host of the weekly program Talk Nation Radio, produced in Charllottesville, Va. Madar discusses the voluminous information that Manning is accused of providing to Wikileaks and to us, and some of the startling insights it gives us into what our supposedly representative government has been up to. The show also looks at the official and public responses to Manning, his mistreatment, his legal status, and the fate of whistleblowers under the Obama administration.
Sprouts is a weekly program that features local radio production and stories from many radio stations and local media groups around the world.It is produced in collaboration with community radio stations and independent producers across the country.
The program is coordinated and distributed by Pacifica Radio and offered free of charge to all radio stations.
By Michael Collins
(Washington, 2/30/2012) At the end of Monday's Leveson Inquiry with Tony Blair on the stand, Lord Justice Leveson sent the credibility of the effort's summary findings straight to Hell. After Blair's pressured presentation and an interruption by a protester who called Blair a war criminal, Leveson began an odd exchange with the former Prime Minister. It began with this request to Blair:
Lord Justice Leveson:
2 So whatever assistance you can give, who have
3 thought about how you change things for the future, I'd
4 be very interested. Let me give you some potential
5 issues. (May 28 transcript page 38)
If things had ended there, this could be seen as a modest invitation, one Leveson might have offered any number of witnesses as a general courtesy. But the justice was not finished. He outlined specific issues covering five pages of transcript.
Chris Hayes was driving me crazy, because I was beginning to think I'd need to start watching television. Luckily I've been saved from that fate, it seems. Hayes' comments on MSNBC, for which he has now absurdly apologized, were the type of basic honesty -- or, better, truth telling as revolutionary act -- that was tempting me.
MSNBC is part of a larger corporation that makes more money from war than from infotainment. Phil Donahue learned his lesson, along with Jeff Cohen. Cenk Uygur did too -- or perhaps he taught them one. Keith Olbermann didn't last. Rachel Maddow wants war "reformed" but would never be caught blurting out the sort of honesty that got Hayes into trouble.
Hayes questioned the appropriateness of calling warriors heroes, and of doing so in order to promote more war-making. He was right to do that. This practice has been grotesquely inappropriate for a very long time.
Pericles honored those who had died in war on the side of Athens:
According to Mitt Romney, the world is not safe. Presumably someone somewhere says the world is perfectly safe, and to that person we can all bellow: "Ha! Mitt's right, and you are wrong!" Except that what Mitt seems to mean is all wrong. He declares in the next breath that Iran is rushing to become a nuclear nation and share nuclear weapons with terrorist groups. According to the Secretary of "Defense" and the rest of the gang with access to the government's secrets, or at least the list of whom Obama plans to murder, Iran has no nuclear weapons program.
Next Romney lumps together as U.S. enemies Pakistan, China, Russia, and Venezuela. Does that make us more or less safe? Or does it just help sell weaponry? According to Mitt the U.S. should have the world's biggest military. According to reality, the United States could cut its military by two-thirds and have the world's biggest military. Military spending has increased every year that Bush or Obama has been president.
Romney says a bigger military means fewer wars. Eisenhower's prediction of 51 years ago, and the past 51 years worth of evidence, says the opposite: the military creates momentum for wars, planning for wars, and neglect of alternatives to war.
According to Mother Jones, "Mitt Romney Wants the Biggest Military Ever, Regardless of Cost." What can we say but "Mission Accomplished"? We've got the biggest military ever, and the financial cost has damaged our economy while requiring tragic trade-offs from human needs spending, not to mention devastating the environment, slashing our civil liberties, and making us less safe.
Mother Jones cheers for Obama's murder program and his illegal war on Libya. Less "liberal" groups and outlets love Obama's militarism even more, promoting it as politically advantageous. Yet, veterans, white males, and warmongers in general will vote heavily for Romney even if Obama commits to savaging Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect weapons spending and untaxed wealth. Why? The same reason poor deluded well-meaning people will vote for Obama: Because Romney will always promise worse.
The New York Times chose this "terror Tuesday" to publish an article called "Secret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will," a bizarre article that never explains what Obama's principles or will are or even offers any evidence that Obama has any principles or will.
There is one section in which the authors point out that Obama went out of his way to sneak the despicable John Brennan into his White House despite Congressional opposition, and that none other than Harold "these bombs are not hostilities" Koh swears Brennan is a moral man. Perhaps we should assume that Brennan's morality oozes upward from his "cave-like office in the White House basement" since his support for Bush's crimes is redeemed by Koh who only supports Obama's crimes.
BBC criticised for using Iraq photo to illustrate Syrian massacre
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been slammed for mistakenly using a photo taken in Iraq in 2003 to illustrate the Syria massacre, in which over 100 people, including 32 children, were brutally killed.
The picture, taken on March 27, 2003, showed a young Iraqi child jumping over dozens of white body bags containing skeletons found in a desert south of Baghdad.
It was posted on the BBC news website under the heading "Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows".
By Michael Collins
(Washington, 5/28/2012) Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair testified before the Leveson Inquiry today. He retains that familiar fatuous exuberance for failed policies and continues to deny the deadly lies he told in over a decade as Prime Minister. He was, as always, quite literally unbearable.(Image: Niecieden)
President George W. Bush had major problems selling his disastrous invasion plans for Iraq. The public smelled a rat. Strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans opposed a preemptive invasion without confirmation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by UN inspectors. That was during December 2002 and January 2003. Bush needed something special to push his diabolic plan over the top.
Blair's government released two fraudulent intelligence papers during the critical period just before the March 2003 Iraq invasion, the September 2002 report and the Iraq or Dodgy Dossier in early February 2003. Rupert Murdoch's media cartel led the charge for war. He headlined stories about both bogus reports including the outrageous claim that Iraq could launch chemical weapons at the invaders within 45 minutes of an attack and the big lie about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger to develop nuclear weapons..
Blair and Murdoch worked together to provide Bush with the credibility to tell the most disastrous lie ever told by a president:
The former president said he acted alone, independent of the contractorby John Glaser
The co-owner of a major Pentagon propaganda contractor publicly admitted Thursday that he was behind a series of coordinated misinformation campaigns targeting two USA Today journalists who had scrutinized the contractor in their reporting.
Camille Chidiac is the former president and still the minority owner of Leonie Industries, which USA Today exposed as contracting with the Pentagon to employ “the modern equivalent of psychological warfare,” said he alone was responsible for the attacks on the journalists and was operating independent of the company or the Pentagon.
By Dave Lindorff
It seems pretty clear by now that the three young “domestic terrorists” arrested by Chicago police in a warrantless house invasion reminiscent of what US military forces are doing on a daily basis in Afghanistan, are the victims of planted evidence -- part of the police-state-style crackdown on anti-NATO protesters in Chicago last week.
By Michael Collins
Criminal charges against Rupert Murdoch insider and favorite Rebekah Brooks may be a prelude to looming charges arising out of Brooaks' testimony before the Leveson Inquiry last week.
Crown Prosecution Services charged Brooks, her husband, and four others with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on Tuesday May 15. The alleged conspiracy took place between July 6 and July 19, 2011.
Brooks and the co-conspirators concealed and removed materials sought by police in their investigation of phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation subsidiary, News International, according to prosecutors. Brooks resigned as chief executive officer of the subsidiary on July 15, 2011. (Image: SnowViolent)
Brooks' current legal troubles should not obscure the significance of her testimony before the Leveson Inquiry last week. During her several hours on the witness stand, she was confronted with an explosive email that, if true, implicates Conservative Party Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a conspiracy to pervert the British regulatory process in favor of News Corporation's bid to acquire the ten-million-subscriber pay TV company BSkyB. News Corp owns 39% of the company. It sought the remaining 61%.
White House & Dems Back Banks over Protests: Newly Discovered Homeland Security Files Show Feds Central to Occupy Crackdown
By Dave Lindorff
A new trove of heavily redacted documents provided by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) on behalf of filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild makes it increasingly evident that there was and is a nationally coordinated campaign to disrupt and crush the Occupy Movement.