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Helen Thomas: Dead at 92
by Stephen Lendman
On July 20, headlines reported the news. The doyen of the White House House press corps was gone.
After a long illness, the Gridiron Club and Foundation announced her passing. She ended decades covering presidential press conferences saying, "Thank you, Mr. President."
Two different stories linked by one scary trend: Track and Truth: Manning and the "Other" Surveillance System
By Alfredo Lopez
The tumble of revelations and developments involving the Internet has produced a pastiche of truths that, when examined closely, show links between what might usually be considered separate news stories.
His 'Crime' is Patriotism, not Betrayal Like Hale's Philip Nolan, Snowden has Become a 'Man Without a Country'
By Dave Lindorff
In Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country," US Army Lt. Philip Nolan, following a court-martial, is exiled from his country, his citizenship snatched away, leaving him doomed to sail the seven seas confined to a Navy vessel, unable to make any country his home. His crime: being seduced by a treacherous leader to betray the US of A, the country of his birth.
By John Grant
When people think of Florida, they think of oranges and pink flamingos, palm trees and beaches, the blue-green ocean. They think of Disney and margaritas. ... But it has a feral heart, a teeming center that would rage out of control if not for the concrete and rebar that keeps it caged.
-Lisa Unger, from Black Out
Criticizing Venezuela's Maduro Irresponsibly
by Stephen Lendman
A previous article explained. President Nicolas Maduro granted Snowden asylum. He did so responsibly. He did it courageously. He wants him protected from unjustifiable US persecution.
By Dave Lindorff
It’s little wonder that despite his disclosure of an unprecedented KBG-like or Stasi-like spying program targeting all Americans, fully half of all Americans polled are saying that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is a “spy” or “traitor” who should be brought to justice.
Why would this be, when a solid majority also say they oppose the spying program?
By John Grant
We're all aware of the reputed Chinese curse about living in interesting times. Upheaval seems to be in the air. According to Wikipedia, the interesting times curse was linked with a second, more worrisome curse: "May you come to the attention of those in authority."
Public Support Grows for Snowden in Europe: Germany and France Should offer NSA Whistleblower Asylum
By Dave Lindorff
Europeans are pissed off at the US, in the wake of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s latest revelation that the US was aggressively spying on its European allies, both at their and the European Union’s embassies in Washington, and in Europe itself, gleaning not information about terrorism, but inside-track knowledge about trade negotiation positions and other areas of disagreement or negotiation.
By Alfredo Lopez
In one of the most innovative uses of the bizarre rules of international travel, whistle-blower Edward Snowden sits in an airport transit lounge outside the customs barrier that is Russian enough to not invade but not Russian enough to claim the Russians are hiding him. He has now reportedly applied for asylum in Russia.
By Dan DeWalt
“If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress, and don't trust federal judges, to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here.”
By Jeff Cohen
The Edward Snowden leaks have revealed a U.S. corporate media system at war with independent journalism. Many of the same outlets – especially TV news – that missed the Wall Street meltdown and cheer-led the Iraq invasion have come to resemble state-controlled media outlets in their near-total identification with the government as it pursues the now 30-year-old whistleblower.
While an independent journalism system would be dissecting the impacts of NSA surveillance on privacy rights, and separating fact from fiction, U.S. news networks have obsessed on questions like: How much damage has Snowden caused? How can he be brought to justice?
By Dave Lindorff
Now that Edward Snowden is safely away out of the clutches of the US police state, at least for now, let’s take a moment to contemplate how this one brave man’s principled confrontation with the Orwellian US government has damaged our national security state.
By Dave Lindorff
Just for the sake of argument, let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend (I know it's a stretch) that the Obama administration and the apologists for the nation's spy apparatus in Congress, Democratic and Republican, are telling us the gods' honest truth.
If you own a computer and know where to look you've probably heard that there isn't actually any evidence for that claim.
Below are 10 reasons why this latest excuse for war is no good EVEN IF TRUE.
1. War is not made legal by such an excuse. It can't be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution. It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage. (Who says our government doesn't promote recycling?)
2. The United States itself possesses and uses internationally condemned weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium. Whether you praise these actions, avoid thinking about them, or join me in condemning them, they are not a legal or moral justification for any foreign nation to bomb us, or to bomb some other nation where the U.S. military is operating. Killing people to prevent their being killed with the wrong kind of weapons is a policy that must come out of some sort of sickness. Call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
3. An expanded war in Syria could become regional or global with uncontrollable consequences. Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China, the United States, the Gulf states, the NATO states . . . does this sound like the sort of conflict we want? Does it sound like a conflict anyone will survive? Why in the world risk such a thing?
4. Just creating a "no fly zone" would involve bombing urban areas and unavoidably killing large numbers of people. This happened in Libya and we looked away. But it would happen on a much larger scale in Syria, given the locations of the sites to be bombed. Creating a "no fly zone" is not a matter of making an announcement, but of dropping bombs.
5. Both sides in Syria have used horrible weapons and committed horrible atrocities. Surely even those who imagine people should be killed to prevent their being killed with different weapons can see the insanity of arming both sides to protect each other side. Why is it not, then, just as insane to arm one side in a conflict that involves similar abuses by both?
6. With the United States on the side of the opposition in Syria, the United States will be blamed for the opposition's crimes. Most people in Western Asia hate al Qaeda and other terrorists. They are also coming to hate the United States and its drones, missiles, bases, night raids, lies, and hypocrisy. Imagine the levels of hatred that will be reached when al Qaeda and the United States team up to overthrow the government of Syria and create an Iraq-like hell in its place.
7. An unpopular rebellion put into power by outside force does not usually result in a stable government. In fact there is not yet on record a case of U.S. humanitarian war benefitting humanity or of nation-building actually building a nation. Why would Syria, which looks even less auspicious than most potential targets, be the exception to the rule?
8. This opposition is not interested in creating a democracy, or -- for that matter -- in taking instructions from the U.S. government. On the contrary, blowback from these allies is likely. Just as we should have learned the lesson of lies about weapons by now, our government should have learned the lesson of arming the enemy of the enemy long before this moment.
9. The precedent of another lawless act by the United States, whether arming proxies or engaging directly, sets a dangerous example to the world and to those in Washington for whom Iran is next on the list.
10. A strong majority of Americans, despite all the media's efforts thus far, opposes arming the rebels or engaging directly. Instead, a plurality supports providing humanitarian aid.
We might better spread democracy by example than by bomb.
There are nonviolent pro-democracy movements in Bahrain and Turkey and elsewhere, and our government doesn't lift a finger in support.
But if you remember all those years of protesting wars and wishing millions of foolish partisan Republicans would join us in protesting blatant mass-murder even though the president was a Republican, I have good news for you. The Republicans are leading the way in pretending to oppose war this time. So, if you Democrats, who I'm sure were 100% sincere in opposing wars some years back are still ready to act, maybe -- just maybe -- we can build right now the sort of broad movement we've wanted.
If you're not too busy.
What the Government Doesn't Want You to Realize Lessons of the Snowden Revelations: You are the Target!
By Alfredo Lopez
If Edward Snowden's goal in blowing his whistle was to spark a public debate about privacy and surveillance, he has marvelously succeeded.
By Dave Lindorff
So New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and former Times executive editor Bill Keller are both saying that the massive NSA spying program on all Americans’ communications is a needed thing because if they don’t do it, then maybe there could be another major terrorist strike on the US, and democracy would be erased in the US.
A Cure for War – With Limitations.
by Erin Niemela
Earlier this week I wrote an editorial proposing a 28th constitutional amendment to abolish war. The NSA scandal, I argue, is tied to the more pervasive problem of violent foreign (and domestic) policy, and we’ll continue to see government abuses so long as war and inter-state military violence are the acceptable choices for conflict management. David Swanson, author of the brilliant history, “When the World Outlawed War,” thoughtfully responded to my plea by urging us to recall and reignite the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, an existing international pact renouncing war signed and ratified by the US president and Senate.
I agree with Mr. Swanson that any efforts to end war should point to existing law, and we agree that abolishing war is possible and necessary. However, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not without its limitations, and a fresh, people-driven constitutional amendment could both address those limitations and offer current, culturally relevant and legally dispositive reinforcement.
By Dave Lindorff
I hate to do this, but I feel obligated to share, as the story unfolds, my creeping concern that the writer Naomi Wolf is not whom she purports to be, and that her motive in writing an article on her public Facebook page speculating about whether National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden might actually be still working for the NSA, could be to support the government’s effort to destroy him.
In 1984 -- the year not the book, but it was fitting -- and five years before she died, Barbara Tuchman published a book called The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. In one part of the book she looked at the destructive work of a series of a half-dozen popes, work destructive of the papacy, work that brought into being the protestant secession from the Catholic church. This was offered as an example of folly, of rulers acting against the interest of their own institution. It was also an example of what we so casually label "the imperial presidency." That is, in these popes we watched the mad and cumulative concentration of power and normalization of abuses that Tuchman almost certainly was aware she was living through again -- along with the debasement of an institution previously imagined to embody certain principles and integrity.
Does history repeat itself?
Is the Pope Catholic?
Sixtus IV, Pope from 1471 to 1484 / Richard Nixon, President 1969-1974
"Sixtus introduced the period of unabashed, unconcealed, relentless pursuit of personal gain and power politics. . . . Antagonism slowly gathered around Sixtus. . . . [H]e exhibited the worst qualities of the Renaissance prince in his feuds and machinations, conducting wars on Venice and Ferrara. . . . The most scandalous of his dealings was involvement in and possible instigation of the Pazzi plot to murder the Medici brothers. . . . The internal health of the Church did not interest Sixtus."
Innocent VII, Pope from 1484 to 1492 / Jimmy Carter, President 1977-1981
"Amiable, indecisive, subject to stronger-minded associates, Sixtus' successor was a contrast to him in every way except in equally damaging the pontificate, in this case by omission and weakness of character."
Alexander VI, Pope from 1492 to 1503 / Ronald Reagan, President 1981-1989
"[T]hough cultivated and even charming, he was thoroughly cynical and utterly amoral. . . . To celebrate the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain, in 1492, the year of his election, he staged not a Te Deum of thanksgiving but a bullfight in the Piazza of St. Peter's with five bulls killed. . . . So many had been Alexander's offenses that his contemporaries' judgments tend to be extreme, but Burchard, his Master of Ceremonies, was neither antagonist nor apologist. The impression from his toneless diary of Alexander's Papacy is of continuous violence, murders in churches, bodies in the Tiber, fighting of factions, burnings and lootings, arrests, tortures and executions, combined with scandal, frivolities and continuous ceremony. . . . Certain revisionists have taken a fancy to the Borgia Pope and worked hard to rehabilitate him by intricate arguments . . . . The revision fails to account for one thing: the hatred, disgust and fear that Alexander had engendered."
Pius III, Pope from 1503 to 1503 / Bush Sr, President 1989-1993
He also happened.
Julius II, Pope from 1503 to 1513 / Bill Clinton, President 1993-2001
"Years of belligerence, conquests, losses, and violent disputes engaged him. . . . Art and war absorbed papal interest and resources to the neglect of internal reform. . . . In reference books he can be found designated as 'true founder of the Papal State'. . . . That the cost had been to bathe his country in blood and violence and that all the temporal gains could not prevent the authority of the Church from cracking at the core within ten years are not reckoned in these estimates."
Leo X, Pope from 1513 to 1521 / George W. Bush, President 2001-2009
"'God has given us the Papacy -- Let us enjoy it.' . . . the new Pope was a hedonist . . . with as little concern for cost as if the source of funds were some self-filling magic cornucopia. The popes' wars also earned Erasmus' scorn . . . . 'As if the Church had any enemies more pestilential than impious pontiffs. . . . The monarchy of the Pope at Rome, as it is now, is a pestilence to Christendom.' . . . Machiavelli found proof of decadence in the fact that 'the nearer people are to the Church of Rome, which is the head of our religion, the less religious they are.' . . . The abuse that precipitated the ultimate break was the commercialization of indulgences. . . . [T]he Pope was unaware of the issues and incapable of understanding the protest that had been developing for the century and a half. . . . Leo hardly noticed the fracas in Germany except as a heresy to be suppressed like any other. . . . Leo left the Papacy and the Church in the 'lowest possible repute.' . . . . A lampoon suggested that if the Pope had lived longer, he would have sold Rome too, and then Christ, and then himself."
Clement VII, Pope from 1523 to 1534 / Barack Obama, President since 2009
"The new Clement's reign proved to be a pyramid of catastrophes. Protestantism continued its advance. . . . Supreme office, like sudden disaster, often reveals the man, and revealed Clement as less adequate than expected. Knowledgeable and effective as a subordinate, Guicciardini writes, he fell victim when in charge to timidity, perplexity, and habitual irresolution. . . . By 1527, hardly a part of Italy had escaped violence to life and land, plunder, destruction, misery, and famines. Clement's misjudgments having prepared the way, Rome itself was now to be engulfed by war."
"The folly of the popes was not pursuit of counter-productive policy so much as rejection of any steady or coherent policy either political or religious that would have improved their situation or arrested the rising discontent. Disregard of the movements and sentiments developing around them was the primary folly. . . . When private interest is placed before public interests, and private ambition, greed, and the bewitchment of exercising power determine policy, the public interest necessarily loses, never more conspicuously than under the continuing madness from Sixtus to Clement. The succession from Pope to Pope multiplied the harm. Each of the six handed on his conception of the Papacy unchanged. . . . St. Peter's See was the ultimate pork barrel. Their three outstanding attitudes -- obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status -- are persistent aspects of folly. While in the case of the Renaissance popes, these were bred in and exaggerated by the surrounding culture, all are independent of time and recurrent in governorship."
By Dave Lindorff
It’s a pretty sad spectacle watching the US Congress toading up to the National Security Agency. With the exception of a few stalwarts like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and to a lesser extent Ron Wyden (D-OR), most of the talk in the halls of Congress is about how to keep the army of Washington private contractors from accessing too many of the government’s secrets (which need to be protected by government employees!), and about whether to try NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden for treason.
By Robert C. Koehler
We can end war.
Please, before you read on, let those four words float in silence for half a minute, until you actually hear them — until they come alive with meaning as insistent as a hatching egg. War is not inevitable, no matter how cluelessly enthusiastic the media may be to promote it, no matter how thoroughly it runs the global economy and dominates almost every government.
By Dave Lindorff
A lot of people in the US media are asking why America's most famous whistleblower, 29-year old Edward Snowden, hied himself off to the city state of Hong Kong, a wholly owned subsidiary of the People's Republic of China, to seek at least temporary refuge.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, they say. And as for China, which controls the international affairs of its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, while granting it local autonomy to govern its domestic affairs, its leaders "may not want to irritate the US" at a time when the Chinese economy is stumbling.
These people don't have much understanding of either Hong Kong or of China.
Obama, Clapper and most of Congress are full of s**t: Where’s the Bullshit Repellent When We Need It?
By Dave Lindorff
By Dan DeWalt
This week, the government began their assault against private Bradley Manning. Even though he has already plead guilty to misusing classified documents and faces twenty years in prison, prosecutors want him branded as having aided the enemy, with a life sentence to go along.
By Alfredo Lopez
This past Thursday (June 6), The Guardian (the British newspaper) and the Washington Post simultaneously reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting staggering amounts of user data and files from seven of the world's most powerful technology companies.
Companies use a progressive tool in very non-progressive ways: The "Cloudy" Skies Corporations Want to Sell You
By Alfredo Lopez
It's the nature of the shallow, consumer-driven, dream-drunken culture our society tries to impose on us that we popularly adopt terms without knowing what they mean and, more often than not, they don't mean much of anything.
Such is the case with "the Cloud".
Most people who use computers believe they know what it is except that everyone seems to have a different definition. From a satellite-based storage system to a virtually invisible network to a collection of hard drives all over the world to a new form of storage that doesn't require computers to...whatever new definition pops up this week. In any case, you have heard of the "cloud" and probably aren't sure what it really is.
There's no end to the pro-war movies we're subjected to: countless celebrations of bombs, guns, and torture. They come in the form of cartoons, science-fiction, historical fiction, dramas, and reenactments pre-censored by the CIA. Movies show us the excitement without the suffering. War in our theaters resembles almost anything else more than it resembles war.
Journalists appear in our movies too, usually as comic figures, talking-head air-heads, numskulls, and sycophants. In this case, the depiction is much more accurate, at least of much of what passes for journalism.
But, starting in June, a remarkable anti-war / pro-journalism film will be showing -- even more remarkably -- in big mainstream movie theaters. Dirty Wars (I've read the book and seen the movie and highly recommend both) may be one of the best educational outreach opportunities the peace movement has had in a long time. The film, starring Jeremy Scahill, is about secretive aspects of U.S. wars: imprisonment, torture, night raids, drone kills.
Dirty Wars won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 and, recently, the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Variety calls it "jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes." The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking documentaries [we've] ever seen." I agree.
Typically, information that does not support our government's war agenda appears only on the printed page, or perhaps in a power-point presented to the usual heroic crowd of aging white activists gathered outside the range of corporate radar. But stroll through an airport and you'll see hardcopies of Dirty Wars displayed at the front of the bookstores. Check out the movie listings in June and July, and you're likely to see Dirty Wars listed right alongside the latest super-hero, murderfest, sequel of a sequel of some predictable Hollywood hackery.
I wrote a review of the book some time back, after which I picked up a job helping to promote the film. But I'm promoting the film because it's a great film, which is different from calling it a great film because I'm paid to promote it. And my interest remains less in selling the film tickets than in recruiting those who see the film into an active movement to change the reality on which the film reports.
This is not Zero Dark Thirty. You can't walk into Dirty Wars supporting drone strikes, night raids, and cluster bombs and walk out with your beliefs reinforced. Most viewers of Dirty Wars will leave the theater believing that U.S. wars make the United States less safe. In that moment, when people who are usually otherwise engaged have come to realize that the Department of So-Called Defense endangers us (on top of impoverishing us) is when we should sign those people up to take part in activities the following week and month and year.
The film opens by contrasting embedded war journalism -- the regurgitation of spoon-fed propaganda -- with what the viewer is about to see. And what we see is investigative journalism. The film begins by providing us with an understanding of night raids, including from the point of view of family members who have survived them. We see the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tell Scahill that night raids that kills civilians should not be investigated. And then we see Scahill investigate them, his search leading him to secretive branches of the U.S. military involved in a variety of dirty tactics in various countries.
The film does have a failing. It doesn't tell people anything they can do about the horrors they're exposed to. But, of course, activism is possible and far more effective than any journalism -- good or bad -- will tell you.
One of the stories told in the film and the book of Dirty Wars is the story of the destruction of al Majala. On December 17, 2009, U.S. Tomahawk missiles and incendiary cluster bombs rained down on the tiny Yemeni village of al Majala, killing 21 children, 14 women, and 6 men, and burning all the homes and their contents. The government of Yemen falsely claimed responsibility. Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye disproved that claim.
Shaye reported on the carnage, including photographing missile parts labeled "Made in the United States." He reported on subsequent U.S. strikes in Yemen, working with the Washington Post, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and other outlets.
Shaye is in prison in Yemen for the crime of journalism, at the insistence of President Obama. A coalition has launched a petition today urging Obama and Yemen to set Shaye free. Fans of Dirty Wars who want to begin to do something to end the crimes committed in their names can be sent to RootsAction.org.
While the United States was searching for its citizen Anwar Awlaki to kill him, Shaye repeatedly tracked him down and interviewed him. These were tough and serious interviews, with Shaye asking Awlaki how he could possibly support acts of violence. Awlaki's image was not helped. But the U.S. government began warning media outlets not to work with Shaye, falsely accusing him of supporting al Qaeda. The Yemeni government kidnapped Shaye, threatened and released him, then snatched him again and gave him a one-sided "trial," universally denounced as a sham by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
On February 2, 2011, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, under public pressure, had drawn up, printed out, and was prepared to sign a pardon of Shaye. But Saleh received a phone call from President Barack Obama, who opposed release of the journalist. Saleh ripped up the pardon.
The White House is feeling a little pressure over recent revelations of government spying on and seeking the prosecution of U.S. journalists. It took the targeting of a U.S. journalist for prosecution to start people like Chuck Todd and Dana Milbank chattering about Obama treating journalism as a crime. But have you heard U.S. media outlets raising concerns over the imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist at the instruction of the U.S. president?
There is much else that we are not regularly told to be found in Dirty Wars. Organizations that would like to help promote this film and organize around it in U.S. cities should contact me. With any luck, together we'll change the conversation to one aware of and unaccepting of acts of murder anywhere on earth.