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Michael Munk PDX Historian


Heard the One About Obama Denouncing a Breach of International Law?

by Norman Solomon

Breaches of international law are a serious matter… when some country other than the United States is accused. (Photo: Reuters)International law is suddenly very popular in Washington. President Obama responded to Russian military intervention in the Crimea by accusing Russia of a “breach of international law.” Secretary of State John Kerry followed up by declaring that Russia is “in direct, overt violation of international law.”

Unfortunately, during the last five years, no world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama. He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt, helping to further normalize a might-makes-right approach to global affairs that is the antithesis of international law.

Fifty years ago, another former law professor, Senator Wayne Morse, condemned such arrogance of power. “I don’t know why we think, just because we’re mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right,” Morse said on national TV in 1964. “And that’s the American policy in Southeast Asia—just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it.”

Today, Uncle Sam continues to preen as the globe’s big sheriff on the side of international law even while functioning as the world’s biggest outlaw.

Rather than striving for an evenhanded assessment of how “international law” has become so much coin of the hypocrisy realm, mainline U.S. media are now transfixed with Kremlin villainy.

On Sunday night, the top of the New York Times home page reported: “Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has pursued his strategy with subterfuge, propaganda and brazen military threat, taking aim as much at the United States and Europe as Ukraine itself.” That was news coverage.

Following close behind, a Times editorial appeared in print Monday morning, headlined “Russia’s Aggression,” condemning “Putin’s cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea.” The liberal newspaper’s editorial board said that the United States and the European Union “must make clear to him that he has stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior.”

Such demands are righteous—but lack integrity and credibility when the same standards are not applied to President Obama, whose continuation of the Bush “war on terror” under revamped rhetoric has bypassed international law as well as “civilized behavior.”

In these circumstances, major U.S. media coverage rarely extends to delving into deviational irony or spotlighting White House hypocrisy. Yet it’s not as if large media outlets have entirely excluded key information and tough criticism.

For instance, last October the McClatchy news service reported that “the Obama administration violated international law with top-secret targeted-killing operations that claimed dozens of civilian lives in Yemen and Pakistan,” according to reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Last week, just before Obama leapt to high dudgeon with condemnation of Putin for his “breach of international law,” the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece that provided illuminating context for such presidential righteousness.

“Despite the president’s insistence on placing limits on war, and on the defense budget, his brand of warfare has helped lay the basis for a permanent state of global warfare via ‘low footprint’ drone campaigns and special forces operations aimed at an ever-morphing enemy usually identified as some form of Al Qaeda,” wrote Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s law school.

Greenberg went on to indicate the scope of the U.S. government’s ongoing contempt for international law: “According to Senator Lindsey Graham(R-S.C.), the Obama administration has killed 4,700 individuals in numerous countries, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Obama has successfully embedded the process of drone killings into the executive branch in such a way that any future president will inherit it, along with the White House ‘kill list’ and its ‘terror Tuesday’ meetings. Unbounded global war is now part of what it means to be president.”

But especially in times of crisis, as with the current Ukraine situation, such inconvenient contradictions go out the mass-media window. What remains is an Orwellian baseline, melding conformist ideology and nationalism into red-white-and-blue doublethink.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State“.


 

"Whether sending missiles across borders or using the latest digital technology to spy on vast numbers of people, the U.S. government relies on military violence and chronic secrecy in an ongoing quest to exert control over as much of the world as possible. The agenda reeks of impunity and arrogant power. Revoking Edward Snowden’s passport is in sync with that agenda. We should challenge it."

Why Snowden’s Passport Matters

By Norman Solomon

When the State Department revoked Edward Snowden’s passport four months ago, the move was a reprisal from a surveillance-and-warfare state that operates largely in the shadows. Top officials in Washington were furious. Snowden had suddenly exposed what couldn’t stand the light of day, blowing the cover of the world’s Biggest Brother.

Cancelation of the passport wasn’t just an effort to prevent the whistleblower from getting to a country that might grant political asylum. It was also a declaration that the U.S. government can nullify the right to travel just as surely as it can nullify the right to privacy.

“Although I am convicted of nothing,” Snowden said in a July 1 statement after a week at a Moscow airport terminal, the U.S. government “has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”

Since 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has affirmed with clarity: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” The only other words of Article 14 specify an exception that clearly doesn’t apply to Snowden: “This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

The extent of the U.S. government’s scorn for this principle can be gauged by the lengths it has gone to prevent Snowden from gaining political asylum. It was a measure of desperation -- and contempt for international law -- that Washington got allied governments of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to deny airspace to the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales in early July, forcing the aircraft to land for a search on the chance that it was carrying Snowden from Moscow to political asylum in Bolivia.

Although Snowden was able to stay in Russia, revocation of his U.S. passport has been a crucial weapon to prevent him from crossing an international border for any reason other than to come home to prison in the United States.

Just as the decision to revoke Snowden’s passport was entirely political, any remedy will be political. The law has nothing to do with it, other than giving the Secretary of State the power to revoke his passport.

Unfortunately, that option was established in the case of Philip Agee, the CIA agent who revealed wrongdoing and became a CIA foe. He lost a legal fight to regain his revoked passport when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him in 1981.

Thurgood Marshall was one of the dissenting justices in that 7-2 decision on Haig v. Agee. The other was William Brennan, who wrote that “just as the Constitution protects both popular and unpopular speech, it likewise protects both popular and unpopular travelers.”

Justice Brennan added: “And it is important to remember that this decision applies not only to Philip Agee, whose activities could be perceived as harming the national security, but also to other citizens who may merely disagree with Government foreign policy and express their views.”

Clearly winning the right to travel for “both popular and unpopular travelers” is a political battle ahead. A step in that direction has begun with an online petition telling Secretary of State John Kerry to restore Snowden’s passport. Thousands of signers have posted cogent -- and often eloquent -- personal comments alongside their names.

“I urge you to immediately reinstate the passport of Edward Snowden, a U.S. whistleblower who has educated the public about threats to our privacy and precious constitutional rights,” the petition says. “Due process is fundamental to democracy. Your revocation of Mr. Snowden’s passport contradicts the words of many U.S. leaders who have often criticized other governments for violating the principle of freedom to travel.” (The petition, launched by RootsAction.org, has gained more than 25,000 signers since mid-October.)

Whether sending missiles across borders or using the latest digital technology to spy on vast numbers of people, the U.S. government relies on military violence and chronic secrecy in an ongoing quest to exert control over as much of the world as possible. The agenda reeks of impunity and arrogant power. Revoking Edward Snowden’s passport is in sync with that agenda. We should challenge it.

________________________________________

 

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

 

The Repetition Compulsion for War --
and How It Might Fail This Time

By Norman Solomon

No matter how many times we’ve seen it before, the frenzy for launching a military attack on another country is -- to the extent we’re not numb -- profoundly upsetting. Tanked up with talking points in Washington, top officials drive policy while intoxicated with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism,” and most media coverage becomes similarly unhinged. That’s where we are now.

But new variables have opened up possibilities for disrupting the repetitive plunge to war. Syria is in the crosshairs of U.S. firepower, but cracks in the political machinery of the warfare state are widening here at home. For advocates of militarism and empire by any other name, the specter of democratic constraint looms as an ominous threat.

Into the Capitol Hill arena, the Obama White House sent Secretary of State John Kerry to speak in a best-and-brightest dialect of neocon tongues. The congressional hierarchies of both parties -- Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, John Boehner, Eric Cantor -- are on the same page for an attack on Syria. And meanwhile, the U.S. mass media have been cranking up the usual adrenalin-pumped hype for war.

More than 10 years ago, American media outlets were filled with breathless idolatry of the latest U.S. weapons poised to strike Iraq. Now, the big TV networks are at it again – starting to hype the Pentagon’s high-tech arsenal that’s ready to demolish Syrian targets. Of course the people at the other end of the weaponry aren’t in the picture.

The Media Education Foundation has just posted a two-minute montage of coverage from MSNBC, Fox and CNN idolizing the latest Pentagon weaponry for use in the Iraq invasion a decade ago -- as well as Walter Cronkite doing the same on CBS during the Vietnam War. As a present-day bookend, a CNN clip from a few days ago provides a glimpse of how little has changed (except for slicker on-screen graphics).

But the usual agenda-building for war may not work this time.

The first week of September has stunned the military-industrial-media complex. It began with a familiar bellicose call for action from the president, seconded by leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill and echoed by mass media. And yet by the end of the week, grassroots opposition had interrupted the war momentum.

Senators and members of the House are being overwhelmed with anti-war messages via email, fax and phone. People are rising up to demand that Congress vote against launching a war on yet another country.

Whether Obama would actually abide by failure to gain congressional “authorization” to attack Syria is by no means clear. But our immediate task is to create such a failure.

This is a pivotal juncture of history in real time, an “all hands on deck” moment to exert enough public pressure to prevent a war-on-Syria resolution from getting through Congress. Such an outcome would thoroughly delegitimize any order from Obama to attack Syria. In the process, we would make real progress against the masters of war.

There’s an antidote to the repetition compulsion for war. It’s called democracy.

__________________________________

 

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.


 

Memo from Oslo: If Peace Is Prized, a Nobel for Bradley Manning


By Norman Solomon
 
The headquarters of the Nobel Committee is in downtown Oslo on a street named after Henrik Ibsen, whose play “An Enemy of the People” has remained as current as dawn light falling on the Nobel building and then, hours later, on a Fort Meade courtroom where Bradley Manning's trial enters a new stage -- defense testimony in the sentencing phase.


Ibsen’s play tells of mendacity and greed in high places: dangerous threats to public health. You might call the protagonist a whistleblower. He's a physician who can't pretend that he hasn't seen evidence; he rejects all the pleas and threats to stay quiet, to keep secret what the public has a right to know. He could be content to take an easy way, to let others suffer and die. But he refuses to just follow orders. He will save lives. There will be some dire consequences for him.


The respectable authorities know when they've had enough. Thought crimes can be trivial but are apt to become intolerable if they lead to active transgressions. In the last act, our hero recounts: “They insulted me and called me an enemy of the people.” Ostracized and condemned, he offers final defiant words before the curtain comes down: “I have made a great discovery. … It is this, let me tell you -- that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”


Alone Bradley Manning will stand as a military judge proclaims a prison sentence.


As I write these words early Monday, sky is starting to lighten over Oslo. This afternoon I'll carry several thousand pages of a petition -- filled with the names of more than 100,000 signers, along with individual comments from tens of thousands of them -- to an appointment with the Research Director of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The petition urges that Bradley Manning be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Like so many other people, the signers share the belief of Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire who wrote this summer: “I can think of no one more deserving.”

Opening heart and mind to moral responsibility -- seeing an opportunity to provide the crucial fuel of information for democracy and compassion -- Bradley Manning lifted a shroud and illuminated terrible actions of the USA's warfare state. He chose courage on behalf of humanity. He refused to just follow orders.

 
“If there’s one thing to learn from the last ten years, it’s that government secrecy and lies come at a very high price in blood and money,” Bradley Manning biographer Chase Madar wrote. “And though information is powerless on its own, it is still a necessary precondition for any democratic state to function.”

Bradley Manning recognized that necessary precondition. He took profound action to nurture its possibilities on behalf of democracy and peace.

No doubt a Nobel Peace Prize for Bradley Manning is a very long longshot. After all, four years ago, the Nobel Committee gave that award to President Obama, while he was escalating the war in Afghanistan, and since then Obama's dedication to perpetual war has become ever more clear.

Now, the Nobel Committee and its Peace Prize are in dire need of rehabilitation. In truth, the Nobel Peace Prize needs Bradley Manning much more than the other way around.

No one can doubt the sincere dedication of Bradley Manning to human rights and peace. But on Henrik Ibsen Street in Oslo, the office of the Nobel Committee is under a war cloud of its own making.

 
__________________________________


Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Obama’s Escalating War on Freedom of the Press

 By Norman Solomon

 The part of the First Amendment that prohibits “abridging the freedom … of the press” is now up against the wall, as the Obama administration continues to assault the kind of journalism that can expose government secrets.

Last Friday the administration got what it wanted -- an ice-cold chilling effect -- from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen. The court “delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial,” the Guardian reported.

The Executive Branch fought for that ruling -- and is now celebrating. “We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify … in criminal proceedings.”

At the Freedom of the Press Foundation, co-founder Trevor Timm calls the court ruling “the most significant reporter’s privilege decision in decades” and asserts that the court “eviscerated that privilege.” He’s not exaggerating. Press freedom is at stake.

Journalists who can be compelled to violate the confidentiality of their sources, or otherwise go to prison, are reduced to doing little more than providing stenographic services to pass along the official story. That’s what the White House wants.

The federal Fourth Circuit covers the geographical area where most of the U.S. government’s intelligence, surveillance and top-level military agencies -- including the NSA and CIA -- are headquartered. The ruling “pretty much guts national security journalism in the states in which it matters,” Marcy Wheeler writes.

That court decision came seven days after the Justice Department released its “News Media Policies” report announcing “significant revisions to the Department’s policies regarding investigations that involve members of the news media.” The report offered assurances that “members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activities.” (Hey thanks!) But the document quickly added that the government will take such action “as a last resort” when seeking information that is “essential to a successful investigation or prosecution.”

Translation: We won’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs unless we really want to.

Over the weekend, some news accounts described Friday’s court decision as bad timing for Attorney General Eric Holder, who has scrambled in recent weeks to soothe anger at the Justice Department’s surveillance of journalists. “The ruling was awkwardly timed for the Obama administration,” the New York Times reported. But the ruling wasn’t just “awkwardly timed” -- it was revealing, and it underscored just how hostile the Obama White House has become toward freedom of the press.

News broke in May that the Justice Department had seized records of calls on more than 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters over a two-month period and had also done intensive surveillance of a Fox News reporter that included obtaining phone records and reading his emails. Since then, the Obama administration tried to defuse the explosive reaction without actually retreating from its offensive against press freedom.

At a news conference two months ago, when President Obama refused to say a critical word about his Justice Department’s targeted surveillance of reporters, he touted plans to reintroduce a bill for a federal shield law so journalists can protect their sources. But Obama didn’t mention that he has insisted on a “national security exception” that would make such a law approximately worthless for reporters doing the kind of reporting that has resulted in government surveillance -- and has sometimes landed them in federal court.

Obama’s current notion of a potential shield law would leave his administration fully able to block protection of journalistic sources. In a mid-May article -- headlined “White House Shield Bill Could Actually Make It Easier for the Government to Get Journalists’ Sources” -- the Freedom of the Press Foundation shed light on the duplicity: As a supposed concession to press freedom, the president was calling for reintroduction of a 2009 Senate bill that “would not have helped the Associated Press in this case, and worse, it would actually make it easier for the Justice Department to subpoena journalists covering national security issues.”

Whether hyping a scenario for a shield law or citing new Justice Department guidelines for news media policies, the cranked-up spin from the administration’s PR machinery does not change the fact that Obama is doubling down on a commitment to routine surveillance of everyone, along with extreme measures specifically aimed at journalists -- and whistleblowers.

The administration’s efforts to quash press freedom are in sync with its unrelenting persecution of whistleblowers. The purpose is to further choke off the flow of crucial information to the public, making informed “consent of the governed” impossible while imposing massive surveillance and other violations of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Behind the assault on civil liberties is maintenance of a warfare state with huge corporate military contracts and endless war. The whole agenda is repugnant and completely unacceptable.

_________________________________________

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

 


Denouncing NSA Surveillance Isn’t Enough -
- We Need the Power to Stop It

By Norman Solomon

For more than a month, outrage has been profuse in response to news about NSA surveillance and other evidence that all three branches of the U.S. government are turning Uncle Sam into Big Brother.

Now what?

Continuing to expose and denounce the assaults on civil liberties is essential. So is supporting Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers -- past, present and future. But those vital efforts are far from sufficient.

For a moment, walk a mile in the iron-heeled shoes of the military-industrial-digital complex. Its leaders don’t like clarity about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t like being exposed or denounced -- but right now the surveillance state is in no danger of losing what it needs to keep going: power.

The huge digi-tech firms and the government have become mutual tools for gaining humungous profits and tightening political control. The partnerships are deeply enmeshed in military and surveillance realms, whether cruise missiles and drones or vast metadata records and capacities to squirrel away trillions of emails.

At the core of the surveillance state is the hollowness of its democratic pretenses. Only with authentic democracy can we save ourselves from devastating evisceration of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

The enormous corporate leverage over government policies doesn’t change the fact that the nexus of the surveillance state -- and the only organization with enough potential torque to reverse its anti-democratic trajectory -- is government itself.

The necessity is to subdue the corporate-military forces that have so extensively hijacked the government. To do that, we’ll need to accomplish what progressives are currently ill-positioned for: democratic mobilization to challenge the surveillance state’s hold on power.

These days, progressives are way too deferential and nice to elected Democrats who should be confronted for their active or passive complicity with abysmal policies of the Obama White House. An example is Al Franken, senator from Minnesota, who declared his support for the NSA surveillance program last month: “I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people.”

The right-wing Tea Party types realized years ago what progressive activists and groups are much less likely to face -- that namby-pamby “lobbying” gets much weaker results than identifying crucial issues and making clear a willingness to mount primary challenges.

Progressives should be turning up the heat and building electoral capacities. But right now, many Democrats in Congress are cakewalking toward re-election in progressive districts where they should be on the defensive for their anemic “opposition” to -- or outright support for -- NSA surveillance.

Meanwhile, such officials with national profiles should encounter progressive pushback wherever they go. A step in that direction will happen just north of the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend, when House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi appears as guest of honor to raise money for the party (up to $32,400 per couple) at a Marin County reception. There will also be a different kind of reception that Pelosi hadn’t been counting on -- a picket line challenging her steadfast support for NSA surveillance.

In the first days of this week, upwards of 20,000 people responded to a RootsAction.org action alert by sending their senators and representative an email urging an end to the Insider Threat Program -- the creepily Orwellian concoction that, as McClatchy news service revealed last month, “requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.”

Messages to Congress members, vocal protests and many other forms of public outcry are important -- but they should lay the groundwork for much stronger actions to wrest control of the government away from the military-industrial-digital complex. That may seem impossible, but it’s certainly imperative: if we’re going to prevent the destruction of civil liberties. In the long run, denunciations of the surveillance state will mean little unless we can build the political capacity to end it.

__________________________________

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Reward of a Whistleblower: Solidarity or Solitary?
By Norman Solomon
  

Rarely has any American provoked such fury in Washington's high places.  So far, Edward Snowden has outsmarted the smartest guys in the echo chamber - and he has proceeded with the kind of moral clarity that U.S. officials seem to find unfathomable.

Bipartisan condemnations of Snowden are escalating from Capitol Hill and the Obama administration.  More of the NSA's massive surveillance program is now visible in the light of day - which is exactly what it can't stand.

      

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include

War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

Published on Monday, June 24, 2013 by Common Dreams

The Pursuit of Edward Snowden: Washington in a Rage,
Striving to Run the World


Snowden supporters in Hong Kong. (Getty Images)

Rarely has any American provoked such fury in Washington’s high places. So far, Edward Snowden has outsmarted the smartest guys in the echo chamber—and he has proceeded with the kind of moral clarity that U.S. officials seem to find unfathomable.

Bipartisan condemnations of Snowden are escalating from Capitol Hill and the Obama administration. More of the NSA’s massive surveillance program is now visible in the light of day—which is exactly what it can’t stand.

The central issue is our dire shortage of democracy. How can we have real consent of the governed when the government is entrenched with extreme secrecy, surveillance and contempt for privacy?

The same government that continues to expand its invasive dragnet of surveillance, all over the United States and the rest of the world, is now asserting its prerogative to drag Snowden back to the USA from anywhere on the planet. It’s not only about punishing him and discouraging other potential whistleblowers. Top U.S. officials are also determined to—quite literally—silence Snowden’s voice, as Bradley Manning’s voice has been nearly silenced behind prison walls.

The sunshine of information, the beacon of principled risk-takers, the illumination of government actions that can’t stand the light of day—these correctives are anathema to U.S. authorities who insist that really informative whistleblowers belong in solitary confinement. A big problem for those authorities is that so many people crave the sunny beacons of illumination.

On Sunday night, more than 15,000 Americans took action to send a clear message to the White House. The subject line said “Mr. President, hands off Edward Snowden,” and the email message read: “I urge you in the strongest terms to do nothing to interfere with the travels or political asylum process of Edward Snowden. The U.S. government must not engage in abduction or any other form of foul play against Mr. Snowden.”

As the Obama White House weighs its options, the limits are practical and political. Surveillance and military capacities are inseparable, and they’re certainly huge, but constraints may cause major frustration. Sunday on CNN, anchor Don Lemon cited the fabled Navy Seals and said such commandos ought to be able to capture Snowden, pronto.

The state of surveillance and perpetual war are one and the same. The U.S. government’s rationale for pervasive snooping is the “war on terror,” the warfare state under whatever name.

Too rarely mentioned is the combination of nonviolence and idealism that has been integral to the courageous whistleblowing by Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. Right now, one is on a perilous journey across the globe in search of political asylum, while the other is locked up in a prison and confined to a military trial excluding the human dimensions of the case. At a time of Big Brother and endless war, Snowden and Manning have bravely insisted that a truly better world is possible.

Meanwhile, top policymakers in Washington seem bent on running as much of the world as possible. Their pursuit of Edward Snowden has evolved into a frenzied rage.

Those at the top of the U.S. government insist that Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning have betrayed it. But that’s backward. Putting its money on vast secrecy and military violence instead of democracy, the government has betrayed Snowden and Manning and the rest of us.

Trying to put a stop to all that secrecy and violence, we have no assurance of success. But continuing to try is a prerequisite for realistic hope.

A few months before the invasion of Iraq, looking out at Baghdad from an upper story of a hotel, I thought of something Albert Camus once wrote. "And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions."

Edward Snowden’s honorable course has led him to this historic moment. The U.S. government is eager to pay him back with retribution and solitary. But many people in the United States and around the world are responding with love and solidarity.

 

Published on Thursday, June 20, 2013 by Common Dreams

Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother

A terrible formula has taken hold: warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

“National security” agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. “Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors,” the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

“Much of the coverage of the NSA spying scandal has underplayed crucial context: The capacity of the government to engage in constant surreptitious monitoring of all civilians has been greatly enhanced by the commercialization of the Internet,” media analyst Robert McChesney pointed out this week.The Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp office building is seen in McLean, Virginia June 11, 2013 (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)The Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp office building is seen in McLean, Virginia June 11, 2013 (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Overall, he said, “the commercialized Internet, far from producing competition, has generated the greatest wave of monopoly in the history of capitalism.” And the concentration of online digital power is, to put it mildly, user-friendly for the surveillance state.

It’s a truly odious and destructive mix -- a government bent on perpetual war and a digital tech industry dominated by a few huge firms with an insatiable drive to maximize profits. Those companies have a lot to offer the government, and vice versa.

“The giant monopolistic firms that rule the Internet -- Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Version, AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft -- all have tremendous incentive to collect information on people,” McChesney said. “There is a great deal of profit for these firms and others to work closely with the national security apparatus, and almost no incentive to refuse to participate. In short, there is a military-digital complex deeply embedded into the political economy and outside any credible review process by elected representatives, not to mention the public.”

Central pieces of the puzzle -- routinely left out of mainline media coverage -- have to do with key forces at work. Why such resolve in Washington’s highest places for the vast surveillance that’s integral to the warfare state?

What has not changed is the profusion of corporations making a killing from the warfare state in tandem with Washington’s quest for geopolitical positioning, access to fossil fuels and other raw materials -- and access to markets for U.S.-based industries ranging from financial services to fast food.

Let’s give credit to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman for candor as he wrote approvingly in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

On Wednesday, I had a brief on-air exchange with Friedman, live on KQED Radio in San Francisco.

Solomon:  “I think it’s unfortunate the sensibility that Thomas Friedman, who’s a very smart guy, has brought to bear in so many realms. For instance, we heard a few minutes ago, asked about Iraq and the lessons to be drawn -- quote, ‘We overpaid for it.’ ‘We overpaid for it.’ Which is sort of what you might call jingo-narcissism, to coin a term. Just the dire shortage of remorse, particularly given Thomas Friedman’s very large role in cheering on, with his usual caveats, but cheering on the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Full disclosure, this is Norman Solomon, I chronicled his critique in my book War Made Easy, his critique of foreign policy, and he did cheerlead -- in his sort of kind of erudite glib way, he did cheerlead the invasion of Iraq before it took place. Just as, as I chronicle in the book, he was gleeful in his columns about the bombing of Serbia, including Belgrade, civilian areas, just chortled and very very gleeful about that bombing. One other point I’d like to make. His recent column about NSA surveillance is absolutely a formula for throwing away the First Amendment gradually in stages. The idea that somehow we should relinquish the sacred Fourth Amendment, a little bit at a time, maybe not a little bit at a time, because if there’s terrorism that takes places in a big way again in this country then hold onto your hats -- I mean, that is formulaic as an excuse, may I say a bit of a craven way, to accept this attack on our civil liberties.”

Host:  “Norman, let me thank you for the call and get a response from Tom Friedman.”

Friedman:  “Well first of all, I would invite, I wrote a book called Longitudes and Attitudes that has all my columns leading up to the Iraq War. And what you’ll find if you read those columns is someone agonizing over a very very difficult decision. To call it cheerleading is just stupid and obnoxious. Okay. Number one. And on the question of the Fourth Amendment, as has been pointed out, there actually has been no case of abuse that has been reported so far with this program. Believe me, if there were one, two, ten or twenty, then I think we’d be having a very different debate. And so to simply -- he says I’m dismissing the Fourth Amendment, which is ludicrous, I’m terribly agonized over this whole business -- but to simply blithely say, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to use the threat of another terrorist attack,’ as if that isn’t a live possibility, as if we haven’t had three or four real examples of people trying to do things that had they gotten through I think would have led to even worse restrictions on privacy and civil liberties.”

Well, that’s Thomas Friedman, in sync with the downward spiral of fear, threats, militarism and corporate consolidation. What a contrast with the clarity from Robert McChesney.

A week before the Guardian began breaking stories about NSA surveillance, McChesney appeared on FAIR’s “CounterSpin” radio program to talk about the findings in his new book Digital Disconnect. He warned that we “have an economy dominated by a handful of monopolistic giants working hand in hand in hand with a national security state that’s completely off-limits to public review, to monitor the population.” And he said: “It’s not a tenable situation for a free society.”

 An Economic Agenda for Main Street

by Norman Solomon                              

By Norman Solomon    
 

A simple twist of fate has set President Obama's second Inaugural Address for January 21, the same day as the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.

Obama made no mention of King during the Inauguration four years ago - but since then, in word and deed, the president has done much to distinguish himself from the man who said "I have a dream."

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He co-chairs the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign organized by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.


Create New Green Jobs

  • Jobs and sustainability must go hand in hand. As co-chair of the Commission on a Green New Deal for the North Bay, I organized public hearings and heard testimony that repeatedly debunked the false choice between jobs and the environment. By bringing together labor, entrepreneurs and environmental leaders, I saw the potential of good green jobs to provide high-quality employment while safeguarding the environment.
  • I support major federal investment to create jobs that expand green technologies such as rooftop solar, well-sited wind and tidal energy production.
  • By expanding conservation efforts, we can create jobs programs that directly fund retrofitting and weatherization for homes, schools and other buildings.
  • We need large-scale government investment in public transportation – to create vast numbers of new jobs, reduce greenhouse gases and ease traffic gridlock.


Invest in Our Workers and Communities

  • We must reinvest in America’s workers and families, to rebuild our economy and our social fabric. I support robust public investment in economic programs that create living-wage jobs. The government should invest directly in the nation’s infrastructure, and in social services that help stabilize our communities.
  • I support policies that strengthen small businesses and protect them from the predatory practices of big box stores and other corporate chains which stifle competition and erode the local tax base. Small businesses are key engines for job creation and a core part of local economies.
  • I will defend federal housing programs that help cities and counties invest in new affordable housing, create opportunities for first-time homebuyers, and reduce homelessness at the local level.
  • I strongly support H.R. 870 – the “Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act” – introduced by Congressman John Conyers, which provides for a federal policy of full employment. With a one-quarter of 1 percent transaction tax on Wall Street, the bill would generate roughly $150 billion per year in revenues, creating millions of new jobs.


Stand Up for Workers — Not Wall Street

  • I will never hesitate to stand up to corporate lobbyists and Wall Street in defense of working Americans, the unemployed and under-employed.
  • In the early 1990s, I publicly opposed NAFTA before it was enacted. Widespread evidence shows that NAFTA and other international "free trade" deals have hurt American workers, undermining job security and wages, and should be renegotiated to protect the U.S. economy and the environment.
  • I publicly opposed the Wall Street banks bailout before it was enacted in October 2008. Rather than subsidizing big investors and rewarding corporate executives for destroying jobs, the federal government should be creating jobs and protecting homeowners from predatory foreclosures.
  • I support passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. This measure is vital to restoring workers’ fundamental rights, and will help improve wages and healthcare for all American workers. I support a national living wage and a worker’s right to collective bargaining. All workers should be treated with dignity and respect.


Protect Social Security and Medicare

  • I will fight to protect – and strengthen – Social Security for current and future beneficiaries. I support Sen. Bernie Sanders' bill to protect Social Security from the budget ax in the so-called congressional Super Committee.
  • We must defend Social Security’s cost-of-living allowance.
  • Contrary to myth, Social Security is solvent – and we must stand firm against cuts and privatization schemes that would “fix” what isn’t broken.
  • I will unequivocally oppose all efforts to raise the eligibility age for Medicare.
  • I will push for reform of Medicare Part D to reduce the costs of drugs while reining in runaway profits of huge pharmaceutical companies.


Quality Health Care for All

  • I support single payer health care, also known as enhanced Medicare for all.
  • The fact that the U.S. spends more on health care than most industrialized nations is a reflection of the unhealthy power of the insurance, hospital and pharmaceutical industries. Our current system does not serve Americans equitably; it must be reformed and improved.
  • I will fight to protect and bolster Medicare and Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal in California.
  • I support expanded federal funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • I will fight to ensure that every community has access to quality health care services.


Removing Big Money Power From Our Politics

  • For decades -- as an activist, author and nationally syndicated columnist -- I have detailed how big money in politics promotes everything from war and environmental degradation to economic injustice and unfair trade treaties to media conglomeration and corporatization of healthcare. In my largely volunteer-driven campaign for Congress, I have implemented a grassroots approach to fundraising: raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from several thousand (mostly small) donors, while refusing to accept a penny of corporate PAC money.
  • As a member of Congress, one of my top priorities will be to back legislation and a constitutional amendment aimed at removing money from politics. Among my plans: I will promote a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood, and to affirm that campaign funding is not speech and can be strictly regulated, thereby overturning the Citizens United decision.
  • I will immediately cosponsor the “Fair Elections Now Act” -- which would establish public financing of elections and enable federal candidates to avoid large donations, big money bundlers and donations from lobbyists.
  • I will cosponsor legislation banning elected officials from working as lobbyists after they leave office.
  • Polls show that public financing and lobbying bans are popular with the U.S. public -- whether Democrat, Republican, some other party or independent. I pledge to go to Washington to fight to fulfill the public’s desire to take money and corruption out of politics.
 
"People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want
and the courage to take.” 
Emma Goldman
The right to rebellion is the right to seek a higher rule... GEORGE ELIOT

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