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The Vindication of Edward Snowden May 12, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Surveillance, Surveillance State, Whistle-blowing.
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Roger’s note: I suppose, at least in theory, there may be a justification for a “state secrets” doctrine.  I could picture an extreme circumstance where the democratic right of the people and their representatives to know could be trumped because making information public could aid and abet an enemy in an imminently dangerous way.  Nevertheless, that doctrine has been used and abused over and over again to evade accountability; and I am not aware of a single case where it was used to avoid an actual danger.

But with respect to “legality,” I have often referred to a speech given many years ago by the notable civil liberties lawyer William Kunstler, which showed how some of the most noteworthy crimes in history — from the executions of Socrates and Jesus to the Nazi Holocaust — have been perpetrated under the color of “the Law.”  My point is that men (sic) make the laws and the victors write the history.  Take the issue under consideration in the following article, Snowden’s uncovering of NSA bulk surveillance.  A federal appeals court says it is illegal.  This will be appealed to the Supreme Court, which could well reverse with the result that was illegal one day becomes legal the next.

The Law and the judicial system are sacred and not to be taken lightly.  But in the final analysis, it comes down who holds political and economic and military power.  And in our world today those who own and operate monopoly capitalism are in the driver’s seat.  Justice will not come about until they are dislodged.

 

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A federal appeals court has ruled that one of the NSA programs he exposed was illegal.
Mark Blinch / Reuters

 

Conor Friedersdorf  May 11, 2015  http://www.theatlantic.com

Edward Snowden’s most famous leak has just been vindicated. Since June 2013, when he revealed that the telephone calls of Americans are being logged en masse, his critics have charged that he took it upon himself to expose a lawful secret. They insisted that Congress authorized the phone dragnet when it passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act, citing Section 215, a part of the law that pertains to business records.

That claim was always suspect. The text of the law does not seem to authorize mass surveillance. A primary author and longtime champion of the law avows that Congress never intended to authorize the phone dragnet. And nothing like it was ever discussed during an extensive, controversy-filled debate about its provisions.

Now the wrongheadedness of the national-security state’s position has been confirmed.

A panel of judges on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the program Snowden exposed was never legal. The Patriot Act does not authorize it, contrary to the claims of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Michael Hayden, Keith Alexander, and James Clapper. “Statutes to which the government points have never been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here,” Judge Gerard E. Lynch declared. “The sheer volume of information sought is staggering.”

Other conclusions reached by the three-judge panel include the following:

“The interpretation that the government asks us to adopt defies any limiting principle.”
“We would expect such a momentous decision to be preceded by substantial debate, and expressed in unmistakable language.There is no evidence of such a debate …”
“Congress cannot reasonably be said to have ratified a program of which many members of Congress—and all members of the public—were not aware … only a limited subset of members of Congress had a comprehensive understanding of the program…”
“Finding the government’s interpretation of the statute to have been ‘legislatively ratified’ under these circumstances would ignore reality.”

Consider what this means.

Telling the public about the phone dragnet didn’t expose a legitimate state secret. It exposed a violation of the constitutional order. For many years, the executive branch carried out a hugely consequential policy change that the legislature never approved. Tens of millions of innocent U.S. citizens were thus subject to invasions of privacy that no law authorized. And the NSA’s unlawful behavior would’ve continued, unknown to the public and unreviewed by Article III courts, but for Snowden’s leak, which caused the ACLU to challenge the illegal NSA program.

Snowden undeniably violated his promise to keep the NSA’s secrets.

But doing so was the only way to fulfill his higher obligation to protect and defend the Constitution, which was being violated by an executive branch exceeding its rightful authority and usurping the lawmaking function that belongs to the legislature. This analysis pertains only to the leaked documents that exposed the phone dragnet, not the whole trove of Snowden leaks, but with respect to that one set of documents there ought to be unanimous support for pardoning his disclosure.

Any punishment for revealing the phone dragnet would be unjust.

Now that a federal appeals court has found that Section 215 of the Patriot Act did not in fact authorize the policy, punishing a man for exposing the program would set this precedent: Whistleblowers will be punished for revealing illegal surveillance. That’s the position anyone who still wants Snowden prosecuted for that leak must take, if the ruling stands. (Other federal courts have issued rulings pointing in contrary directions, and this latest ruling will likely be appealed.)
Related Story

Does the PATRIOT Act Allow Bulk Surveillance?

Consider how this federal court ruling informs the debate over state secrets generally. Civil libertarians have long warned that secret national-security policies undermine both representative democracy and our system of checks and balances.

And that is exactly what happened with respect to the phone dragnet!

The Verb: To Netanyahu May 3, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Hillary Clinton.
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THE VERB TO NETANYAHU: SAY ONE THING ONE DAY AND THE OPPOSITE THE NEXT IN ORDER TO WIN AN ELECTION

THE STARRY EYED DREAMERS WELCOME BERNIE SANDERS INTO THE RACE BELIEVING THAT IT WILL MOVE HILLARY CLINTON TO THE PROGRESSIVE POPULIST LEFT.

I AM SURE THAT IT WILL, DURING THE CAMPAIGN, THEN, ONCE ELECTED SHE WILL NETANYAHU AND GO BACK TO HER GENUINE CORPORATE TOADYING WARMONGERING SELF.

AMERICAN DEMOCRACY IN ACTION; OR, AS MY ANARCHIST FRIENDS SAY: DON’T VOTE, THE GOVERNMENT ALWAYS WINS.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

Mark Twain

 

 

 

FAST TRACK and TPP: OBAMA PREPARES FOR HISTORIC BETRAYAL OF AMERICAN PEOPLE April 9, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Democracy, Economic Crisis, Environment, Imperialism, Labor, Trade Agreements.
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Roger’s note: A critical element of fascism, with Nazi Germany as the most dramatic example, has to do with the merging of corporate wealth (capital) and government.  Since the beginnings of industrial capitalism, the influence of Enlightenment philosophy has mitigated the most oppressive consequences of capitalism with degrees of democratic institutions and occasional economic reform.  However, as economic crises deepen and competition for markets intensifies, democracy and economic justice become a luxury that the world capital cannot afford.  We thereby see the need for a greater degree and a more tyrannical manifestation of political and economic repression.  In other words,  degrees of influence and control governments once had over expansive, rapacious, and sometimes violent capital are rapidly shrinking.  Apart from actual armed conflicts, primarily in the oil sodden Middle East, trans-national trade agreements become a means of enforcing the will of capital over that of human need, most particularly in terms of environmental, human rights, and labor protection, and the destruction of social programs.  In short, the laws of nations become such that corporations (capital) can rule over the laws of nations.  This happens as such trade agreements are made into law by “democratically” elected governments.  Note: Hitler and the Nazi Party did not come into power in German in the 1930s via a coup d’etat, rather via democratic election.

 

Posted on March 8, 2015 by doctom2010
Posted by Thomas Baldwin, March 9, 2015

Biloxi, MS

This is an important collection of web posts and blogs on the critical nature of the Fast Track and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) trade agreements about to be considered in Congress and being strongly supported by Barack Obama. If one reads the critiques of what is known about these “secret” agreements, the net impact upon the U.S. is disastrous in numerous instances. The article included here give details of those huge defects. TPP is often referred to as NAFTA on steroids and the results of the latter show that about 1,000,000 jobs in the U.S. have been lost since its enaction under Clinton in 1993. These agreements are always represented as “creating” large numbers of jobs and improving the worsening trade deficit. Both in the case of NAFTA and the Korean Trade Agreement exactly the reverse has occurred.

It is imperative that Congress and especially Obama be stopped! These articles show ways you can be involved both my supporting these organizations fighting these agreements and by contacting Congress and the Obama administration in large numbers with petitions, calls and letters. STOP FAST TRACK AND STOP THE TPP.

TPP: THE DIRTIEST TRADE DEAL YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF!

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Newsletter: At A Critical Juncture, Rise Up!

Excerpted from: POPULAR RESISTANCE NEWSLETTER

March 7, 2015

https://www.popularresistance.org/newsletter-at-a-critical-juncture-rise-up/

NEWSLETTER CIVIL RIGHTS, CLIMATE CRISIS, CORPORATISM, FAST TRACK, POLICE BRUTALITY, RACISM,TPP

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, http://www.popularresistance.org
March 7th, 2015

Fast Track is a Game Changer

The struggle that we are putting most of our energy towards for the next few months is to stop Congress from giving the president fast track trade promotion authority. This would allow the president for the next seven years to negotiate deals in secret and sign them before they go to Congress for limited review, no amendments and an up-or-down vote. We can’t emphasize enough how dangerous this is!

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which is nearly completed, goes way beyond typical trade deals. Most of the chapters are on issues not related to trade but that would instead enhance corporate rights and power. Although the TPP has been negotiated in secret, it will require that all of our laws, down to the local level, be ‘harmonized’ with the agreement. It would allow multinational corporations to challenge our laws to protect our communities and the planet through an extrajudicial trade tribunal run in part by corporate lawyers. This is called Investor State Dispute Settlement and Sen. Warren wrote about it in the Washington Post.

Corporations are writing laws that enhance their profits even though they harm our health and safety. Alison Rose Levy describes how this affects the food we eat. And leaks of text from the European version, called TTIP, show how the agreement will destroy the National Health System in the UK.

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The President is currently putting tremendous pressure on Congress for fast track in order to complete negotiations of and sign the TPP. The administration went so far as to lie about fast track after the day that Sen Warren’s article was published and eight Senators spoke out on the senate floor.

We have been very focused on Sen. Wyden, who is the key person in the Senate, and have been sitting-in at his DC office. Thousands of people are calling his office and jamming his lines and it’s having an effect (His number is 202 224 5244). The President wanted fast track legislation on his desk by the end of March, but it won’t be introduced in the Senate until mid-April. This gives us more time to ramp up the public pressure and we need to do that because the Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to launch a $160 million ad campaign.

Click here for a link to information about how you can get involved. Here are the basics:
1. Join the weekly “Fast Track Resistance” National Calls – starting on Wednesday, March 11 at 9 pm Eastern/6 pm Pacific, we’ll host weekly education and organizing calls to teach about Fast Track and the TPP, provide legislative updates and organize specific actions. We’ll have activists on hand to facilitate break-out groups where you’ll learn how to organize teach-ins, do visibility actions, use social media to have an impact and reach legislators with your message. You must register for the call. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.
2. March 13 is the National Day to ‘Drop in and Hang Out’– Representatives will be in their home districts on recess so people across the country will hold rolling sit-ins like we’ve been doing for the past 2 weeks in Senator Ron Wyden’s office. It’s easy to do. Just go to your member’s local office during office hours and hold a sign urging them to oppose Fast Track. Bring your friends. Take pictures and share them on social media. Urge those who can’t join you to call in to the office. CLICK HERE TO FIND OR POST AN ACTION.
3. Join the Rapid Response Team– you’ve probably seen some of us ‘dropping in and hanging out’ in Sen. Wyden’s office over the past 2 weeks. It has had an effect but we understand that Sen. Wyden is trying to make a deal with Sen. Hatch to support Fast Track legislation. We’ve got to stop him from from doing that.

We have plans for a larger action and we need you. Please let us know if you can join us in DC on Thursday, March 19. Contact Mackenzie@PopularResistance.org.

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The End of the Nation-State?

We are at a critical juncture in world history. We live in a globalized world. That is the reality. But at present, it is a world that is increasingly dominated by multi-national corporations and big finance capital that controls national policies. The result of this system is exploitation of people and the planet and the use of the security state to oppress those who resist or to gather resources.

William Dalrymple reminds us of the serious consequences that can result from such an arrangement in his article about the East India Company.

It is up to us to rise together and fight back, to resist the expansion of corporate power and to build new systems that are more democratic, just and sustainable. We are with you in this struggle. People power, applied strategically, can succeed.

We also need your financial support to do this work. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation.

https://www.popularresistance.org/newsletter-at-a-critical-juncture-rise-up/

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Flush the TPP!

Stop the Global Corporate Coup!

http://www.flushthetpp.org/

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Colorado Students Employ Civil Disobedience School Board Sought to Censor November 8, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Democracy, Education, Youth.
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Roger’s note: How encouraging to see young (white and apparently middle class) students giving a lesson in democracy to the Neanderthal cristofascists who de facto govern their (the students’) formal education.  That this kind of action is taking place in Colorado and not Berkeley is also a hopeful sign.  Watch the video.

 

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‘Do not pretend that patriotism is turning a blind eye and a passive mind to the changing world around us,’ student organizer says

An image from one of the student protests in September. (Photo: John Lebya/Denver Post)

Protesting the conservative school board’s efforts to censor their history curriculum, more than a dozen students were escorted out of a Jefferson County Board of Education meeting in Colorado on Thursday night after disrupting proceedings by reading from their history textbooks and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

The students employed one of the very tactics that school board member Julie Williams was seeking to downplay through a proposed curriculum review committee: civil disobedience. In late September, Williams’ proposal—to establish a committee to ensure that the district’s history texts promoted positive aspects of the United States and avoided encouragement of “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law”—prompted mass student walk-outs and teacher ‘sick-outs.’

“You want to limit what we learn so you can push your own political opinion. Our problem is that the nation you want to build consists of people who cannot think critically.”
—Ashlyn Maher, JeffCo Student Network for Change

Many of the students involved in Thursday evening’s action were organizers of the September protests.

According to Chicago Public Radio, “the disruptions started when board members refused to let students speak, after they didn’t speak in the order they were called. A few minutes later, one student after another stood up in the public meeting, reciting historic acts of civil disobedience from history textbooks.”

The report continues:

When asked to leave the room, students at the podium left or were escorted out peacefully. After another group of students read aloud from history books and were escorted out, about a dozen students stood up in the packed meeting to read the Pledge of Allegiance. They then filed out.

Along with the students were “legal consultants,” law students taking descriptive notes of the scene. That didn’t please one security guard who lobbed several insults at the law students.

Standing in a circle outside the education building, a set of sprinklers suddenly came on. When the students moved out of the way, those sprinklers came on. The pattern repeated until all the sprinklers were on but the students didn’t leave. A security officer came out and informed the group that they were trespassing.

Student organizer Ashlyn Maher, a member of the recently formed JeffCo Student Network for Change, didn’t get a chance to speak at Thursday’s meeting. She posted her speech on Facebook.

“Our problem is that you, the board majority, passed a redundant, and highly opposed curriculum review committee because you have other motives,” Maher said. “You want to limit what we learn so you can push your own political opinion. Our problem is that the nation you want to build consists of people who cannot think critically. We as students want to develop our minds. Critical thinking is our ticket to the future. Do not limit what we learn…Do not try to fool us…Do not pretend that patriotism is turning a blind eye and a passive mind to the changing world around us.”

Chalkbeat Colorado reports that “as part of their demonstration, the students said they had four demands: a public apology from the school board’s conservative majority for referring to students as ‘union pawns;’ a reversal of an earlier decision to amend content review policies; proof from the board that they listen and act on community input instead of what students called an ‘ideological’ agenda; and more resources for classroom instruction.”

Watch security guards take books away from the students in the video of the action below:

Report: Senate Report on CIA Will Sidestep Look at Bush ‘Torture Team’ October 19, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: The United States government and military violate international law on a daily basis; the Bush/Cheney torture regime, which Obama has outsourced to Bagram and god knows where else, is one of its most blatant manifestations.  Obama’s “we need to look forward not backward” excuse for violating his oath to defend the constitution does credit to Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka.  The next time you are before a judge accused of a crime, please remind her that it is time to look forward and not backward.  Your charges are sure to be dropped.

 

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According to sources who spoke with McClatchy, five-year inquiry into agency’s torture regime ignores key role played by Bush administration officials who authorized the abuse

 rumsfeld_bush_cheneyFrom left: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney. Thanks to an Obama adminstration that insisted on “looking forward, not backward” on torture, and a Senate investigation that has limited its scope to the mere “action or inactions” of the CIA, neither these men nor the others who helped authorize the torture program will likely ever face prosecution for what experts say were clear violations of domestic and international law. (Photo: Wikimedia/Public domain)

According to new reporting by McClatchy, the five-year investigation led by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee into the torture program conducted by the CIA in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 will largely ignore the role played by high-level Bush administration officials, including those on the White House legal team who penned memos that ultimately paved the way for the torture’s authorization.

Though President Obama has repeatedly been criticized for not conducting or allowing a full review of the torture that occured during his predecessor’s tenure, the Senate report—which has been completed, but not released—has repeatedly been cited by lawmakers and the White House as the definitive examination of those policies and practices. According to those with knowledge of the report who spoke with McClatchy, however, the review has quite definite limitations.

The report, one person who was not authorized to discuss it told McClatchy, “does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.” Instead, the focus is on the actions and inations of the CIA and whether or not they fully informed Congress about those activities. “It’s not about the president,” the person said. “It’s not about criminal liability.”

Responding to comment on the reporting, legal experts and critics of the Bush torture program expressed disappointment that high-level officials in the administration were not part of the review. In addition to the president himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, others considered part of what it sometimes referred to as the “Torture Team,” include: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who wrote many of the specific legal memos authorizing specific forms of abuse.

“If it’s the case that the report doesn’t really delve into the White House role, then that’s a pretty serious indictment of the report,” Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School, said to McClatchy. “Ideally it should come to some sort of conclusions on whether there were legal violations and if so, who was responsible.”

And Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, indicated that limiting the report to just the actions of the CIA doesn’t make much sense from a legal or investigative standpoint. “It doesn’t take much creativity to include senior Bush officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction. It’s not hard to link an investigation into the CIA’s torture to the senior officials who authorized it. That’s not a stretch at all.”

As Mclatchy‘s Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor report:

The narrow parameters of the inquiry apparently were structured to secure the support of the committee’s minority Republicans. But the Republicans withdrew only months into the inquiry, and several experts said that the parameters were sufficiently flexible to have allowed an examination of the roles Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials played in a top-secret program that could only have been ordered by the president.

“It doesn’t take much creativity to include senior Bush officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s not hard to link an investigation into the CIA’s torture to the senior officials who authorized it. That’s not a stretch at all.”

It’s not as if there wasn’t evidence that Bush and his top national security lieutenants were directly involved in the program’s creation and operation.

The Senate Armed Services Committee concluded in a 2008 report on detainee mistreatment by the Defense Department that Bush opened the way in February 2002 by denying al Qaida and Taliban detainees the protection of an international ban against torture.

White House officials also participated in discussions and reviewed specific CIA interrogation techniques in 2002 and 2003, the public version of the Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded.

Several unofficial accounts published as far back as 2008 offered greater detail.

Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld relentlessly pressured interrogators to subject detainees to harsh interrogation methods in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, McClatchy reported in April 2009. Such evidence, which was non-existent, would have substantiated one of Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003.

Other accounts described how Cheney, Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Secretary of State Colin Powell approved specific harsh interrogation techniques. George Tenet, then the CIA director, also reportedly updated them on the results.

“Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft said after one of dozens of meetings on the program, ABC News reported in April 2008 in a story about the White House’s direct oversight of interrogations.

News reports also chronicled the involvement of top White House and Justice Department officials in fashioning a legal rationale giving Bush the authority to override U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture. They also helped craft opinions that effectively legalized the CIA’s use of waterboarding, wall-slamming and sleep deprivation.

Though President Obama casually admitted earlier this, “We tortured some folks.” — what most critics and human rights experts have requested is an open and unbiased review of the full spectrum of the U.S. torture program under President Bush. And though increasingly unlikely, calls remain for those responsible for authorizing and conducting the abuse to be held accountable with indictments, trials, and if guilty, jail sentences. In addition, as a letter earlier this year signed by ten victims of the extrajudicial rendition under the Bush administration stated, the concept of full disclosure and accountability is key to restoring the credibility of the nation when it comes to human rights abuses:

Publishing the truth is not just important for the US’s standing in the world. It is a necessary part of correcting America’s own history. Today in America, the architects of the torture program declare on television they did the right thing. High-profile politicians tell assembled Americans that ‘waterboarding’ is a ‘baptism’ that American forces should still engage in.

These statements only breed hatred and intolerance. This is a moment when America can move away from all that, but only if her people are not sheltered from the truth.

As McClatchy notes, a redacted version of the report’s summary—the only part of it expected to be released to the public—continues to be under review. Its release date remains unclear.

WHAT ‘DEMOCRACY’ REALLY MEANS IN U.S. AND NEW YORK TIMES JARGON: LATIN AMERICA EDITION October 19, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America, Media, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: I read the New York Times (it is the most right wing site I go to online; and, when asked how I keep up with the “other side,” I reply that one absorbs it by osmosis), there is often good reporting and feature articles; but on U.S. foreign policy, the Times is as Neanderthal as Bush/Obama/Clintons.

 

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BY GLENN GREENWALD

One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”

More amazingly still, the Times editors told their readers that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a central role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez” [the paper forgot to mention that it, too, blessed (and misled its readers about) that coup]. The editors then also acknowledged the rather significant facts that Chávez’s “redistributionist policies brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans” and “there is no denying his popularity among Venezuela’s impoverished majority.”

If you think The New York Times editorial page has learned any lessons from that debacle, you’d be mistaken. Today they published an editorialexpressing grave concern about the state of democracy in Latin America generally and Bolivia specifically. The proximate cause of this concern? The overwhelming election victory of Bolivian President Evo Morales (pictured above), who, as The Guardian put it, “is widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia’s natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.”

The Times editors nonetheless see Morales’ election to a third term not as a vindication of democracy but as a threat to it, linking his election victory to the way in which “the strength of democratic values in the region has been undermined in past years by coups and electoral irregularities.” Even as they admit that “it is easy to see why many Bolivians would want to see Mr. Morales, the country’s first president with indigenous roots, remain at the helm” – because “during his tenure, the economy of the country, one of the least developed in the hemisphere, grew at a healthy rate, the level of inequality shrank and the number of people living in poverty dropped significantly” – they nonetheless chide Bolivia’s neighbors for endorsing his ongoing rule: “it is troubling that the stronger democracies in Latin America seem happy to condone it.”

The Editors depict their concern as grounded in the lengthy tenure of Morales as well as the democratically elected leaders of Ecuador and Venezuela: “perhaps the most disquieting trend is that protégés of Mr. Chávez seem inclined to emulate his reluctance to cede power.” But the real reason the NYT so vehemently dislikes these elected leaders and ironically views them as threats to “democracy” becomes crystal clear toward the end of the editorial (emphasis added):

This regional dynamic has been dismal for Washington’s influence in the region. In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the new generation of caudillos [sic] have staked out anti-American policies and limited the scope of engagement on developmentmilitary cooperation and drug enforcement efforts. This has damaged the prospects for trade and security cooperation.

You can’t get much more blatant than that. The democratically elected leaders of these sovereign countries fail to submit to U.S. dictates, impede American imperialism, and subvert U.S. industry’s neoliberal designs on the region’s resources. Therefore, despite how popular they are with their own citizens and how much they’ve improved the lives of millions of their nations’ long-oppressed and impoverished minorities, they are depicted as grave threats to “democracy.”

It is, of course, true that democratically elected leaders are capable of authoritarian measures. It is, for instance, democratically elected U.S. leaders who imprison people without charges for years, build secret domestic spying systems, and even assert the power to assassinate their own citizens without due process. Elections are no guarantee against tyranny. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of each of these leaders with regard to domestic measures and civic freedoms, as there is for virtually every government on the planet.

But the very idea that the U.S. government and its media allies are motivated by those flaws is nothing short of laughable. Many of the U.S. government’s closest allies are the world’s worst regimes, beginning with the uniquely oppressive Saudi kingdom (which just yesterday sentenced a popular Shiite dissident to death) and the brutal military coup regime in Egypt, which, as my colleague Murtaza Hussain reports today, gets more popular in Washington as it becomes even more oppressive. And, of course, the U.S. supports Israel in every way imaginable even as its Secretary of State expressly recognizes the “apartheid” nature of its policy path.

Just as the NYT did with the Venezuelan coup regime of 2002, the U.S. government hails the Egyptian coup regime as saviors of democracy. That’s because “democracy” in U.S. discourse means: “serving U.S. interests” and “obeying U.S. dictates,” regardless how how the leaders gain and maintain power. Conversely, “tyranny” means “opposing the U.S. agenda” and “refusing U.S. commands,” no matter how fair and free the elections are that empower the government. The most tyrannical regimes are celebrated as long as they remain subservient, while the most popular and democratic governments are condemned as despots to the extent that they exercise independence.

To see how true that is, just imagine the orgies of denunciation that would rain down if a U.S. adversary (say, Iran, or Venezuela) rather than a key U.S. ally like Saudi Arabia had just sentenced a popular dissident to death. Instead, the NYT just weeks ago uncritically quotes an Emirates ambassador lauding Saudi Arabia as one of the region’s “moderate” allies because of its service to the U.S. bombing campaign in Syria. Meanwhile, the very popular, democratically elected leader of Bolivia is a grave menace to democratic values – because he’s “dismal for Washington’s influence in the region.”

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Noam Chomsky vs. Al Franken: Behind the odd progressive divide between senators, intellectuals on Gaza July 23, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: The United States Senate voted 100% to support the Israeli massacre in Gaza; apparently our senators have no problem with the massive attack on Gaza citizens, including women and children, who are hemmed in by the Israeli/Egyptian blockade and have nowhere to go.  What does this have to say about electoral “democracy” in our capitalist world?  Is this representative government?  Even with the whoring corporate mainstream media blasting out the Big Lie narrative of Israeli victimhood, surely a significant percentage of Americans via alternative sources of information are aware of the illegal and immoral slaughter.  Who represents them (us)?  Note to “progressives” who see salvation in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren: these heroes  have no problem with war crimes and the violation of international law, not to mention common decency.  Where is Senator Wayne Morse when we need him?

 

, http://www.salon.com

Senate progressives join unanimous resolution

backing Israel, but the reaction has been different

elsewhere on left

Noam Chomsky vs. Al Franken: Behind the odd progressive divide between senators, intellectuals on GazaAl Franken, Noam Chomsky (Credit: Reuters/Richard Clement/AP/Hatem Moussa)

Very recently, former U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski had this to say about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brutal attack on and now invasion of Gaza: “He is isolating Israel. He’s endangering its longer-range future. And I think we ought to make it very clear that this is a course of action which we thoroughly disapprove and which we do not support and which may compel us and the rest of the international community to take some steps of legitimizing Palestinian aspirations perhaps in the U.N.”

While it is to be expected that not all of Washington would sign on to this, it is shocking to find the U.S. Senate voting unanimously for Senate Resolution 498, which gave U.S. support for the Israeli defense forces’ invasion and urges Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas and condemn the attacks on Israel. The resolution calls on Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., a co-sponsor of the resolution, was absolutely right when he said, “The United States Senate is in Israel’s camp.”

For many outside the U.S. Senate, the discovery that even progressive stalwarts such as Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Al Franken, D-Minn., voted for the resolution is more than disappointing. It does more than confirm U.S. Senate support for Israel. It pushes that statement beyond any rational or ethical or moral framework imaginable.

The resolution not only gave the green light to the invasion—it gave the IDF a high-five and armaments as they crossed the intersection. All this after more than 400 civilians already had been killed by Israeli forces, the vast majority of them children. It was as if that bloodshed were not of a sufficient quantity.

The notion that the invasion would bring peace and calm is delusional. A people described by even David Cameron as living in a prison camp have no incentive to stop defending themselves from a full-scale military invasion. As one young person wrote from Gaza, “What do we have to lose?”

U.S. Funds “Terror Studies” to Dissect and Neutralize Social Movements June 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Roger’s note: Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex in his farewell address.  A functional definition of fascism is when the state and the corporate world are largely indistinguishable.  What is discussed in this article is exactly what we say in the brutal repression of the Occupy Wall Street movement at the hands of policing and spying agencies of all three levels of government.

Tue, 06/17/2014 – 23:19 — Glen Ford

US Forced to Release Memo on Extrajudicial Drone Killing of US Citizen June 23, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: As I have noted more than once on this Blog, the major crimes in history, including the death of Socrates, Jesus, and the Holocaust, were carried out and justified by the existing “legal’ system, that is under the color of law.   Again, history repeats itself, and David Barron of the OLC joins the disgraced criminal ranks of John Yoo, Bruce Bybee and the other torture memo conspirators.

Revealed: Gov’t Used Fusion Centers to Spy on Occupy May 23, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Roger’s note: The Patriot Act and the establishment of the Orwellian named Homeland Security have taken the United States one giant step forward towards a police state.  Criminalizing dissent is nothing new, goes back to WWI and further; but the scope of it today is truly frightening.

New report exposes US government’s treatment of social movements as ‘criminal or terrorist enterprises’

– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

(Photo: David Shankbone / Wikimedia Creative Commons)

U.S. government Fusion Centers, which operate as ill-defined “counter-terrorism” intelligence gathering and sharing centers, conducted spy operations against Occupy protesters involving police, the Pentagon, the FBI, military employees, and business people.

So finds a report released Friday by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund based on 4,000 public documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The release was accompanied by an in-depth article by the New York Times.

“The U.S. Fusion Centers are using their vast counter-terrorism resources to target the domestic social justice movement as a criminal or terrorist enterprise,” PCJF Executive Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard stated. “This is an abuse of power and corruption of democracy.”

“Although the Fusion Centers’ existence is justified by the DHS as a necessary component in stopping terrorism and violent crime, the documents show that the Fusion Centers in the Fall of 2011 and Winter of 2012 were devoted to unconstrained targeting of a grassroots movement for social change that was acknowledged to be peaceful in character,” the report states.

Police chiefs of major metropolitan areas used the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center to produce regular reports on the occupy movement.

Furthermore, “The Boston regional intelligence center monitored and cataloged Occupy-associated activities from student organizing to political lectures,” according to the report. That center also produced twice-daily updates on Occupy activities.

The New York Times notes:

The Boston Regional Intelligence Center, one of the most active centers, issued scores of bulletins listing hundreds of events including a protest of “irresponsible lending practices,” a food drive and multiple “yoga, faith & spirituality” classes.

Nationwide surveillance has included extensive monitoring of social media, in addition to a variety of spying methods used across Fusion Centers.

“[T]he Fusion Centers are a threat to civil liberties, democratic dissent and the social and political fabric of this country,” said Carl Messineo, PCJF Legal Director. “The time has long passed for the centers to be defunded.”

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