AlterNet.org: Norman Solomon http://xxx.alternet.org/authors/norman-solomon en Why It's Quite Premature to Celebrate the Death of the Surveillance State http://xxx.alternet.org/civil-liberties/misleading-moment-celebration-new-surveillance-program <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Let’s not deceive ourselves with the notion that U.S. surveillance state has lost any of its turf.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/abaf6907b4892ae8eb3509718c99ed9e0cd11c71_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The morning after final passage of the USA Freedom Act, while some foes of mass surveillance were celebrating, Thomas Drake sounded decidedly glum. The new law, he told me, is “a new spy program.” It restarts some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act and further codifies systematic violations of Fourth Amendment rights.</p><p>Later on Wednesday, here in Oslo as part of a “Stand Up For Truth” tour, Drake warned at a public forum that “national security” has become “the new state religion.” Meanwhile, his Twitter messages were calling the USA Freedom Act an “itty-bitty step” — and a “stop/restart kabuki shell game” that “starts w/ restarting bulk collection of phone records.”</p><p>That downbeat appraisal of the USA Freedom Act should give pause to its celebrants. Drake is a former senior executive of the National Security Agency — and a whistleblower who endured prosecution and faced decades in prison for daring to speak truthfully about NSA activities. He ran afoul of vindictive authorities because he refused to go along with the NSA’s massive surveillance program after 9/11.</p><p>Drake understands how the NSA operates from the highest strategic levels. He notes a telling fact that has gone virtually unacknowledged by anti-surveillance boosters of the USA Freedom Act: “NSA approved.” So, of course, did the top purveyor of mendacious claims about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs — President Obama — who eagerly signed the “USA Freedom” bill into law just hours after the Senate passed it.</p><p>A comparable guardian of our rights, House Speaker John Boehner, crowed: “This legislation is critical to keeping Americans safe from terrorism and protecting their civil liberties.”</p><p>While some organizations with civil-liberties credentials have responded to the USA Freedom Act by popping open champagne bottles at various decibels, more sober assessments have also been heard. Just after senators approved the bill and sent it to the president, Demand Progress issued a <a href="https://demandprogress.org/demand-progress-decries-passage-of-usa-freedom-act/">statement</a> pointing out: “The Senate just voted to reinstitute certain lapsed surveillance authorities — and that means that USA Freedom actually made Americans less free.”</p><p>Another astute <a href="http://credoaction.com/usa-freedom-response/">assessment</a> came from CREDO, saying that Congress had just created “sweeping new authorities for the government to conduct unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans.”</p><p>As it happened, the president signed the USA Freedom Act into law while four U.S. “national security” whistleblowers — Drake as well as Coleen Rowley (FBI), Jesselyn Radack (Justice Department) and Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers) — were partway through a “<a href="http://www.standupfortruth.org/">Stand Up For Truth</a>” speaking tour from <a href="http://standupfortruth.org/event/stand-truth-speaking-tour-london">London</a> to <a href="http://standupfortruth.org/oslo">Oslo</a> to<a href="http://standupfortruth.org/stockholm">Stockholm</a> to <a href="http://standupfortruth.org/berlin">Berlin</a>. Traveling as part of the tour, I’ve been struck by the intensity of interest from audiences in the countries we’ve already visited — Great Britain and Norway — where governments have moved to worsen repressive policies for mass surveillance.</p><p>Right now, many people in Europe and elsewhere who care about civil liberties and want true press freedom are looking at the United States: to understand what an aroused citizenry might be able to accomplish, seeking to roll back a dangerous accumulation of power by an ostensibly democratic government. Let’s not unwittingly deceive them — or ourselves — about how much ground the U.S. surveillance state has lost so far.</p>  <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Norman Solomon’s books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and coordinates its ExposeFacts project. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.</p> </div></div></div> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 20:01:00 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 1037338 at http://xxx.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties surveillance As Trial Finds CIA Leaker Jeffrey Sterling Guilty on 9 Felony Counts, Govt. Claims 'This Case Is Not About Politics' http://xxx.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/trial-finds-cia-leaker-jeffrey-sterling-guilty-9-felony-counts-govt-claims-case <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Brave whistleblower exposed an ill-conceived and dangerous maneuver that had provided a flawed design for a nuclear weapon component to Iran. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-01-26_at_7.06.47_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When the jury in the CIA leak trial voted "guilty" on all nine felony counts Monday afternoon, it appeared to buy into a notable claim from the government: "This case is not about politics." </p><p>The prosecution made that claim a few days ago in closing arguments — begun with a somber quotation from Condoleezza Rice about the crucial need to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Of course prosecutor Eric Olshan was not foolish enough to quote Rice’s most famous line: “We don’t want the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud.”</p><p>During the seven days of the trial, which received scant media coverage, Rice attracted the most attention. But little of her testimony actually got out of the courtroom, and little of what did get out illuminated the political context of the government’s case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling.</p><p>A heavy shroud over this trial — almost hidden by news media in plain sight — has been context: the CIA’s collusion with the Bush White House a dozen years ago, using WMD fear and fabrication to stampede the United States into making war on Iraq.</p><p>And part of the ongoing context of the Sterling case has been the Obama administration’s unrelenting pursuit of Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information — revealed in the last chapter of a book by James Risen — about a now-15-year-old CIA operation that’s far more suitable for Freedom of Information Act disclosures than criminal prosecution. </p><p>It was just six weeks after the invasion of Iraq when, at the end of April 2003, Rice hosted a meeting at the White House to tell representatives of the New York Times that the newspaper should not report on Operation Merlin, the CIA’s ill-conceived and dangerous maneuver that had provided a flawed design for a nuclear weapon component to Iran three years earlier.</p><p>The Times management caved within a week. Only Risen’s book State of War, published in January 2006, finally brought Operation Merlin to light.</p><p>Rice was in her usual smooth form at the Sterling trial. Emphatic that the CIA’s Operation Merlin was hardly known to anyone, Rice testified: “This program was very closely held. It was one of the most closely held programs during my tenure.” Yet the CIA manager in charge of Operation Merlin (“Bob S,” who appeared at the trial behind a screen) testified that the operation was known to more than 90 people.</p><p>Helping to lay groundwork for the Iraq invasion, Rice was a key enabler for the CIA’s slam-dunk mendacity about Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction. More than a decade later, she has used the Sterling trial as an opportunity for more distortion of the historical record, as though her quash-the-Merlin-story meeting at the White House in 2003 was free of self-service.</p><p>The prosecution helped Rice settle into her stance:</p><blockquote><p>Q:  “Now, was the purpose of your convening this meeting out of any sort of embarrassment that it would get out that there had been a botched operation?”</p><p>RICE:  “My concern in convening this meeting was that we had a very sensitive, extremely important program for the security of the country that was about to be compromised . . . That was my concern.”</p></blockquote><p>But one of the prosecution’s main concerns, no doubt shared by Rice, had to do with insulating the trial from intrusive context — a context that could explain why any whistleblower or journalist might want to expose and debunk Operation Merlin — an operation targeting a supposed nuclear weapons program in Iran, a country that the Bush administration was eager to attack with the goal of regime change.</p><p>When the time came for Rice to face cross-examination, defense lawyer Barry Pollack tried to blow away some fog:</p><blockquote><p>Q:  “[P]reventing working nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of rogue states is one of the most important missions of your, the administration you worked for certainly –”</p><p>RICE:  “Yes.”</p><p>Q:  “– and any other administration, correct?”</p><p>RICE:  “That’s correct.”</p><p>Q:  “And certainly counterproliferation was of great interest at this particular time, correct?”</p><p>RICE:  “That’s correct.”</p><p>Q:  “The United States had invaded Iraq the earlier month?”</p><p>PROSECUTOR OLSHAN:  “Objection.”</p><p>JUDGE LEONIE BRINKEMA:  “Well, we’ve heard that before. Let’s just move this along, Mr. Pollack. Sustained.”</p></blockquote><p>A week later, in the closing arguments, Pollack — who noted that “the government has great lawyers” — told the jury: “Make no mistake. This is a very important case for the government.” He pointedly reminded jurors that the last chapter in Risen’s book “made the CIA look bad.”</p><p>Minutes later, wrapping up the prosecution’s closing statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Trump declared: “This case is not about politics. It’s not about salvaging the reputation of the CIA.”</p><p>But, no matter how great the government’s lawyers may be, the case of United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling has everything to do with politics and the CIA’s reputation.</p> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 15:51:00 -0800 Norman Solomon, Expose Facts 1030927 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics cia Why Jeffrey Sterling Deserves Support as a CIA Whistleblower http://xxx.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-jeffrey-sterling-deserves-support-cia-whistleblower <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sterling is accused of revealing a CIA operation involving flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/58ea5ae8c5403a0b34bd4b68b43a696caa32e30a_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, set to begin in mid-January, is shaping up as a major battle in the U.S. government’s siege against whistleblowing. With its use of the Espionage Act to intimidate and prosecute people for leaks in “national security” realms, the Obama administration is determined to keep hiding important facts that the public has a vital right to know.</p><p>After fleeting coverage of Sterling’s indictment four years ago, news media have done little to illuminate his case -- while occasionally reporting on the refusal of <em>New York Times</em> reporter James Risen to testify about whether Sterling was a source for his 2006 book “State of War.”</p><p>Risen’s unwavering stand for the confidentiality of sources is admirable. At the same time, Sterling -- who faces 10 felony counts that include seven under the Espionage Act -- is no less deserving of support.</p><p>Revelations from brave whistleblowers are essential for the informed consent of the governed. With its hostilities, the Obama Justice Department is waging legalistic war on our democratic rights to know substantially more about government actions than official stories. That’s why the imminent courtroom clash in the case of “United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling” is so important.</p><p>Sterling is accused of telling Risen about a CIA operation that had provided flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000. The charges are unproven.</p><p>But no one disputes that Sterling told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers about the CIA action, dubbed Operation Merlin, which Risen’s book later exposed and brought to light as dumb and dangerous. While ostensibly aiming to prevent nuclear proliferation, the CIA risked advancing it.</p><p>When he informed staff of the Senate oversight committee about Operation Merlin, Sterling was going through channels to be a whistleblower. Presumably he knew that doing so would anger the CIA hierarchy. A dozen years later, as the government gears up for a courtroom showdown, it’s payback time in the security-state corral.</p><p>The relentless prosecution of Sterling targets potential whistleblowers with a key implicit message: <em>Do not reveal any “national security” secrets that make the U.S. government look seriously incompetent, vicious, mendacious or dangerous. Don’t even think about it.</em></p><p>With so much at stake, <a href="http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10707&amp;track=RWOB20141231&amp;tag=RWOB20141231" target="_blank">the new petition “Blowing the Whistle on Government Recklessness Is a Public Service, Not a Crime”</a> has gained more than 30,000 signers in recent weeks, urging the government to drop all charges against Sterling. The initial sponsors include ExposeFacts, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Government Accountability Project, <em>The Nation</em>, <em>The Progressive</em> / Center for Media and Democracy, Reporters Without Borders and RootsAction.org. (A disclaimer: I work for ExposeFacts and RootsAction.)</p><p>Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has concisely summarized the context of the government’s efforts in the Sterling prosecution. “Sterling’s ordeal comes from a strategy to frighten potential whistleblowers, whether he was the source of this leak or not,” Ellsberg said in an interview for an <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/181919/government-war-against-reporter-james-risen" target="_blank">article</a> that journalist Marcy Wheeler and I wrote for <em>The Nation.</em> “The aim is to punish troublemakers with harassment, threats, indictments, years in court and likely prison -- even if they’ve only gone through official channels to register accusations about their superiors and agency. That is, by the way, a practical warning to would-be whistleblowers who would prefer to ‘follow the rules.’ But in any case, whoever were the actual sources to the press of information about criminal violations of the Fourth Amendment, in the NSA case, or of reckless incompetence, in the CIA case, they did a great public service.”</p><p>Such a great public service deserves our praise and active support.</p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 06:53:00 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 1029759 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics whistleblowing cia Jeffrey Sterling james risen James Risen Challenges the Greed, Power and Endless War of the National Security State http://xxx.alternet.org/books/james-risen-challenges-greed-power-and-endless-war-national-security-state <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The New York Times investigative reporter&#039;s &#039;Pay Any Price&#039; is an instant landmark in the best of post-9/11 journalism. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ccb17463069b76b1d271706f7d97daa4f1d48a7d.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>No single review or interview can do justice to <em>Pay Any Price</em>, the new book by James Risen that is the antithesis of what routinely passes for journalism about the “war on terror.” Instead of evasive tunnel vision, the book offers big-picture acuity: focusing on realities that are pervasive and vastly destructive.</p><p>Published this week, <em>Pay Any Price</em> throws down an urgent gauntlet. We should pick it up. After 13 years of militarized zealotry and fear-mongering in the name of fighting terrorism, the book, subtitled “Greed, Power, and Endless War," zeros in on immense horrors being perpetrated in the name of national security.</p><p>As an investigative reporter for the <em>New York Times</em>, Risen has been battling dominant power structures for a long time. His new book is an instant landmark in the best of post-9/11 journalism. It’s also a wise response to repressive moves against him by the Bush and Obama administrations.</p><p>For more than six years, under threat of jail, Risen has refused to comply with subpoenas demanding that he identify sources for his reporting on a stupid and dangerous CIA operation. (For details, see “<a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/181919/government-war-against-reporter-james-risen" target="_blank">The Government War Against Reporter James Risen</a>,” which I co-wrote with Marcy Wheeler for <em>The Nation</em>.)</p><p>A brief afterword in his new book summarizes Risen’s struggles with the Bush and Obama Justice Departments. He also provides a blunt account of his long-running conflicts with the <em>Times</em> hierarchy, which delayed some of his reporting for years -- or spiked it outright -- under intense White House pressure.</p><p>Self-censorship and internalization of official worldviews continue to plague the Washington press corps. In sharp contrast, Risen’s stubborn independence enables <em>Pay Any Price</em> to combine rigorous reporting with rare candor.</p><p>Here are a few quotes from the book:</p><blockquote><ul><li>“Obama performed a neat political trick: he took the national security state that had grown to such enormous size under Bush and made it his own. In the process, Obama normalized the post-9/11 measures that Bush had implemented on a haphazard, emergency basis. Obama’s great achievement -- or great sin -- was to make the national security state permanent.”</li><li>“In fact, as trillions of dollars have poured into the nation’s new homeland security-industrial complex, the corporate leaders at its vanguard can rightly be considered the true winners of the war on terror.”</li><li>“There is an entire class of wealthy company owners, corporate executives, and investors who have gotten rich by enabling the American government to turn to the dark side. But they have done so quietly. . . . The new quiet oligarchs just keep making money. . . . They are the beneficiaries of one of the largest transfers of wealth from public to private hands in American history.”</li><li>“The United States is now relearning an ancient lesson, dating back to the Roman Empire. Brutalizing an enemy only serves to brutalize the army ordered to do it. Torture corrodes the mind of the torturer.”</li><li>“Of all the abuses America has suffered at the hands of the government in its endless war on terror, possibly the worst has been the war on truth. On the one hand, the executive branch has vastly expanded what it wants to know: something of a vast gathering of previously private truths. On the other hand, it has ruined lives to stop the public from gaining any insight into its dark arts, waging a war on truth. It all began at the NSA.”</li></ul></blockquote><p>Fittingly, the book closes with a powerful chapter about the government’s extreme actions against whistleblowers. After all, whistleblowing and independent journalism are dire threats to the secrecy and deception that fuel the “war on terror.”</p><p>Now, James Risen is in the national spotlight at a time when the U.S. government is launching yet another spiral of carnage for perpetual war. As a profound book, <em>Pay Any Price</em> has arrived with enormous potential to serve as a catalyst for deeper understanding and stronger opposition to abhorrent policies.</p> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 07:47:00 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 1023111 at http://xxx.alternet.org Books Books james risen war reporting journalism barack obama george w. bush Memo to Potential Whistleblowers: If You See Something, Say Something http://xxx.alternet.org/activism/memo-potential-whistleblowers-if-you-see-something-say-something <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Antidotes to the poisons of cynicism and passive despair can emerge from organizing to help create a better world.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/finaldesignexposefactstransitshelter-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing creates a moral frequency that vast numbers of people are eager to hear. We don’t want our lives, communities, country and world continually damaged by the deadening silences of fear and conformity.</p><p>I’ve met many whistleblowers over the years, and they’ve been extraordinarily ordinary. None were applying for halos or sainthood. All experienced anguish before deciding that continuous inaction had a price that was too high. All suffered negative consequences as well as relief after they spoke up and took action. All made the world better with their courage.</p><p>Whistleblowers don’t sign up to be whistleblowers. Almost always, they begin their work as true believers in the system that conscience later compels them to challenge.</p><p>“It took years of involvement with a mendacious war policy, evidence of which was apparent to me as early as 2003, before I found the courage to follow my conscience,” Matthew Hoh recalled this week. “It is not an easy or light decision for anyone to make, but we need members of our military, development, diplomatic and intelligence community to speak out if we are ever to have a just and sound foreign policy.”</p><p>Hoh describes his record this way: “After over 11 continuous years of service with the U.S. military and U.S. government, nearly six of those years overseas, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as positions within the Secretary of the Navy’s Office as a White House Liaison, and as a consultant for the State Department’s Iraq Desk, I resigned from my position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of war in 2009.”</p><p>Another former Department of State official, the ex-diplomat and retired Army colonel Ann Wright, who resigned in protest of the Iraq invasion in March 2003, is crossing paths with Hoh on Friday as they do the honors at a ribbon-cutting -- half a block from the State Department headquarters in Washington -- for a billboard with a picture of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Big-lettered words begin by referring to the years he waited before releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971.</p><p><em>“Don’t do what I did,”</em> Ellsberg says on the billboard. <em>“Don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. You might save a war’s worth of lives.”</em></p><p>The <a href="http://www.accuracy.org/release/ellsberg-call-for-whistleblowing-reaches-state-department/" target="_blank">billboard</a> -- sponsored by the ExposeFacts organization, which launched this week -- will spread to other prominent locations in Washington and beyond. As an organizer for ExposeFacts, I’m glad to report that outreach to potential whistleblowers is just getting started. (For details, visit ExposeFacts.org.) We’re propelled by the kind of hopeful determination that Hoh expressed the day before the billboard ribbon-cutting when he said: “I trust ExposeFacts and its efforts will encourage others to follow their conscience and do what is right.”</p><p>The journalist Kevin Gosztola, who has astutely covered a range of whistleblower issues for years, pointed this week to the imperative of opening up news media. “There is an important role for ExposeFacts to play in not only forcing more transparency, but also inspiring more media organizations to engage in adversarial journalism,” he <a href="http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2014/06/04/new-organization-launched-to-accept-submissions-provide-support-to-whistleblowers/" target="_blank">wrote</a>. “Such journalism is called for in the face of wars, environmental destruction, escalating poverty, egregious abuses in the justice system, corporate control of government, and national security state secrecy. Perhaps a truly successful organization could inspire U.S. media organizations to play much more of a watchdog role than a lapdog role when covering powerful institutions in government.”</p><p>Overall, we desperately need to nurture and propagate a steadfast culture of outspoken whistleblowing. A central motto of the AIDS activist movement dating back to the 1980s -- <em>Silence = Death</em> -- remains urgently relevant in a vast array of realms. Whether the problems involve perpetual war, corporate malfeasance, climate change, institutionalized racism, patterns of sexual assault, toxic pollution or countless other ills, none can be alleviated without bringing grim realities into the light.</p><p>“All governments lie,” Ellsberg says in a <a href="http://www.exposefacts.org/" target="_blank">video statement</a> released for the launch of ExposeFacts, “and they all like to work in the dark as far as the public is concerned, in terms of their own decision-making, their planning -- and to be able to allege, falsely, unanimity in addressing their problems, as if no one who had knowledge of the full facts inside could disagree with the policy the president or the leader of the state is announcing.”</p><p>Ellsberg adds: “A country that wants to be a democracy has to be able to penetrate that secrecy, with the help of conscientious individuals who understand in this country that their duty to the Constitution and to the civil liberties and to the welfare of this country definitely surmount their obligation to their bosses, to a given administration, or in some cases to their promise of secrecy.”</p><p>Right now, our potential for democracy owes a lot to people like NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Kirk Wiebe, and EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. When they spoke at the June 4 <a href="http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=31&amp;Itemid=74&amp;jumival=11952" target="_blank">news conference</a> in Washington that launched ExposeFacts, their brave clarity was inspiring.</p><p>Antidotes to the poisons of cynicism and passive despair can emerge from organizing to help create a better world. The process requires applying a single standard to the real actions of institutions and individuals, no matter how big their budgets or grand their power. What cannot withstand the light of day should not be suffered in silence.</p><p>If you see something, say something.</p> Fri, 06 Jun 2014 09:07:00 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 1000149 at http://xxx.alternet.org Activism Activism Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace whistleblowing daniel ellsberg If Obama Orders the CIA to Kill a U.S. Citizen, Amazon Will Be a Partner in Assassination http://xxx.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/if-obama-orders-cia-kill-us-citizen-amazon-will-be-partner-assassination <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The online mega-retailer has a little-known $600-million contract with the CIA.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/amazon_1.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>President Obama is now considering whether to order the Central Intelligence Agency to kill a U.S. citizen in Pakistan. That’s big news this week. But hidden in plain sight is the fact that Amazon would be an accessory to the assassination.</p><p>Amazon has a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide the agency with “cloud” computing services. After final confirmation of the deal several months ago, Amazon declared: “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”</p><p>The relationship means that Amazon -- logoed with a smiley-face arrow from A to Z, selling products to millions of people every week -- is responsible for keeping the CIA’s secrets and aggregating data to help the agency do its work. Including drone strikes.</p><p>Drone attacks in Pakistan are “an entirely CIA operation,” New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti said Tuesday night in an <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/obama-administration-weighs-drone-attack-against-us-terror-suspect/" target="_blank">interview</a> on the PBS NewsHour. He added that “the Pakistani government will not allow the [U.S.] military to take over the mission because they want to still have the sort of veneer of secrecy that the CIA provides.”</p><p>The sinister implications of Amazon’s new CIA role have received scant public attention so far.</p><p>As the largest Web retailer in the world, Amazon has built its business model on the secure accumulation and analysis of massive personal data. The firm’s Amazon Web Services division gained the CIA contract amid fervent hopes that the collaboration will open up vast new vistas for the further melding of surveillance and warfare.</p><p>Notably, Amazon did not submit the low bid for the $600 million contract. The firm won the deal after persuading the CIA of its superior technical capacities in digital realms.</p><p>Amazon is now integral to the U.S. government’s foreign policy of threatening and killing.</p><p>Any presidential decision to take the life of an American citizen is a subset of a much larger grave problem. Whatever the nationality of those who hear the menacing buzz of a drone overhead, the hijacking of skies to threaten and kill those below is unconscionable. And, as presently implemented, unconstitutional.</p><p>On Feb. 11 the Times <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/world/asia/us-debates-drone-strike-on-american-terror-suspect-in-pakistan.html?_r=0" target="_blank">reported</a> that the Obama administration “is debating whether to authorize a lethal strike against an American citizen living in Pakistan who some believe is actively plotting terrorist attacks.” In effect, at issue is whether the president should order a summary execution -- an assassination -- on his say-so.</p><p>The American way isn’t supposed to be that way. The “due process of law” required by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is not supposed to be whatever the president decides to do.</p><p>A free and independent press is crucial for confronting such dire trends. But structural factors of corporate power continue to undermine the potential of journalism. The Washington Post is a grim case in point.</p><p>Six months ago, Jeff Bezos -- the CEO and main stakeholder of Amazon -- bought the Post. But the newspaper’s ongoing CIA-related coverage does not inform readers that the CIA’s big contract with Amazon is adding to the personal wealth of the Post’s sole owner.</p><p>This refusal to make such conflict-of-interest disclosures is much more than journalistic evasion for the sake of appearances. It’s a marker for more consolidation of corporate mega-media power with government power. The leverage from such convergence is becoming ever-less acknowledged or conspicuous as it becomes ever-more routine and dominant.</p><p>After <a href="http://www.rootsaction.org/news-a-views/742-the-cia-amazon-bezos-and-the-washington-post-an-exchange-with-executive-editor-martin-baron" target="_blank">e-mail correspondence</a> with me about the non-disclosure issue in early January, the executive editor of the Washington Post, Martin Baron, declined to answer questions from media outlets on the subject. On Jan. 15 -- when I delivered a RootsAction.org <a href="http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8979" target="_blank">petition</a> under the heading “Washington Post: Readers Deserve Full Disclosure in Coverage of CIA,” signed by 30,000 people, to the newspaper’s headquarters -- Baron declined to meet with me or designate any employee to receive the petition. Clearly the Post management wants this issue to go away.</p><p>But, as I wrote to Baron last month, it’s all too convenient -- and implausible -- for the Washington Post to claim that there would be “no direct relevance of the [Amazon-CIA] cloud services contract to coverage of such matters as CIA involvement in rendition of prisoners to regimes for torture; or in targeting for drone strikes; or in data aggregation for counterinsurgency.”</p><p>The surveillance state and the warfare state continue to converge. The Washington Post does not want us to insist on journalistic disclosure. Amazon does not want us to insist on moral accountability. President Obama does not want us to insist on basic constitutionality. It would be a shame to oblige any of them.</p><p> </p> Wed, 12 Feb 2014 06:51:00 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 957674 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics World amazon CIA assassinations drone attacks. Obama administration Why the Washington Post’s New Ties to the CIA Are So Ominous http://xxx.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-washington-posts-new-ties-cia-are-so-ominous <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Post owner Jeff Bezos guards CIA secrets through his Amazon cloud-computing service. So is it a conflict of interest for his newspaper to investigate those secrets?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_86219128.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>American journalism has entered highly dangerous terrain.</p><p>A tip-off is that the Washington Post refuses to face up to a conflict of interest involving Jeff Bezos -- who’s now the sole owner of the powerful newspaper at the same time he remains Amazon’s CEO and main stakeholder.</p><p>The Post is supposed to expose CIA secrets. But Amazon is under contract to keep them. Amazon has a new $600 million “cloud” computing deal with the CIA.</p><p>The situation is unprecedented. <a href="http://www.rootsaction.org/news-a-views/742-the-cia-amazon-bezos-and-the-washington-post-an-exchange-with-executive-editor-martin-baron" target="_blank">But in an email exchange early this month</a>, Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron told me that the newspaper doesn’t need to routinely inform readers of the CIA-Amazon-Bezos ties when reporting on the CIA. He wrote that such in-story acknowledgment would be “far outside the norm of disclosures about potential conflicts of interest at media organizations.”</p><p>But there isn’t anything normal about the new situation. As I wrote to Baron, “few journalists could have anticipated ownership of the paper by a multibillionaire whose outside company would be so closely tied to the CIA.”</p><p>The Washington Post’s refusal to provide readers with minimal disclosure in coverage of the CIA is important on its own. But it’s also a marker for an ominous pattern -- combining denial with accommodation to raw financial and governmental power -- a synergy of media leverage, corporate digital muscle and secretive agencies implementing policies of mass surveillance, covert action and ongoing warfare.</p><p>Digital prowess at collecting global data and keeping secrets is crucial to the missions of Amazon and the CIA. The two institutions have only begun to explore how to work together more effectively.</p><p>For the CIA, the emerging newspaper role of Mr. Amazon is value added to any working relationship with him. The CIA’s zeal to increase its leverage over major American media outlets is longstanding.</p><p>After creation of the CIA in 1947, it enjoyed direct collaboration with many U.S. news organizations. But the agency faced a major challenge in October 1977, when -- soon after leaving the Washington Post -- <a href="http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php" target="_blank">famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein provided an extensive expose in Rolling Stone</a>.</p><p>Citing CIA documents, Bernstein wrote that during the previous 25 years “more than 400 American journalists ... have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.” He added: “The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception.”</p><p>Bernstein’s story tarnished the reputations of many journalists and media institutions, including the Washington Post and New York Times. While the CIA’s mission was widely assumed to involve “obfuscation and deception,” the mission of the nation’s finest newspapers was ostensibly the opposite.</p><p>During the last few decades, as far as we know, the extent of extreme media cohabitation with the CIA has declined sharply. At the same time, as the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq attests, many prominent U.S. journalists and media outlets have continued to regurgitate, for public consumption, what’s fed to them by the CIA and other official “national security” sources.</p><p>The recent purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos has poured some high-finance concrete for a new structural bridge between the media industry and the surveillance/warfare state. The development puts the CIA in closer institutionalized proximity to the Post, arguably the most important political media outlet in the United States.</p><p>At this point, about 30,000 people have signed a petition (<a href="http://rootsaction.org/" target="_blank">launched by RootsAction.org</a>) with a minimal request: “The Washington Post’s coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon -- and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.” On behalf of the petition’s signers, I’m scheduled to deliver it to the Washington Post headquarters on January 15. <a href="http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8979" target="_blank">The petition</a> is an opening salvo in a long-term battle.</p><p>By its own account, Amazon -- which has yielded Jeff Bezos personal wealth of around $25 billion so far -- is eager to widen its services to the CIA beyond the initial $600 million deal. “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA,” a statement from Amazon said two months ago. As Bezos continues to gain even more wealth from Amazon, how likely is that goal to affect his newspaper’s coverage of the CIA?</p> Mon, 13 Jan 2014 10:47:00 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 946578 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Media News & Politics media cia Jeff Bezos Jeff Bezos Is Doing Huge Business with the CIA, While Keeping His Washington Post Readers in the Dark http://xxx.alternet.org/media/owner-washington-post-doing-business-cia-while-keeping-his-readers-dark <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Amazon has a bad history of currying favor with the U.S. government’s “national security” establishment. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/daf531e7a196c94793734df5475a954c159b5111.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>News media should illuminate conflicts of interest, not embody them. But the owner of the <em>Washington Post</em> is now doing big business with the Central Intelligence Agency, while readers of the newspaper’s CIA coverage are left in the dark.</p><p>The <em>Post</em>’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon -- which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. But the <em>Post</em>’s articles about the CIA are not disclosing that the newspaper’s sole owner is the main owner of CIA business partner Amazon.</p><p>Even for a multi-billionaire like Bezos, a $600 million contract is a big deal. That’s more than twice as much as Bezos paid to buy the <em>Post </em>four months ago.</p><p>And there’s likely to be plenty more where that CIA largesse came from. Amazon’s offer wasn’t the low bid, but it won the CIA contract anyway by offering advanced high-tech “cloud” infrastructure.</p><p>Bezos personally and publicly touts Amazon Web Services, and it’s evident that Amazon will be seeking more CIA contracts. Last month, Amazon issued a statement saying, “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”</p><p>As Amazon’s majority owner and the <em>Post</em>’s only owner, Bezos stands to gain a lot more if his newspaper does less ruffling and more soothing of CIA feathers.</p><p>Amazon has a bad history of currying favor with the U.S. government’s “national security” establishment. The media watch group FAIR <a href="http://www.fair.org/blog/2013/08/06/amazon-wilkileaks-the-washington-post-and-the-cia/" target="_blank">pointed out</a> what happened after WikiLeaks published State Department cables: “WikiLeaks was booted from Amazon’s webhosting service AWS. So at the height of public interest in what WikiLeaks was publishing, readers were unable to access the WikiLeaks website.”</p><p>How’s that for a commitment to the public’s right to know?</p><p>Days ago, my colleagues at RootsAction.org launched a <a href="http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8979" target="_blank">petition</a> that says: “The <em>Washington Post</em>’s coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the <em>Post</em> is also the main owner of Amazon -- and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.” More than 15,000 people have signed the petition so far this week, with many posting comments that underscore widespread belief in journalistic principles.</p><p>While the <em>Post</em> functions as a powerhouse media outlet in the Nation’s Capital, it’s also a national and global entity -- read every day by millions of people who never hold its newsprint edition in their hands. Hundreds of daily papers reprint the <em>Post</em>’s news articles and opinion pieces, while online readership spans the world.</p><p>Propaganda largely depends on patterns of omission and repetition. If, in its coverage of the CIA, the <em>Washington Post </em>were willing to fully disclose the financial ties that bind its owner to the CIA, such candor would shed some light on how top-down power actually works in our society.</p><p>“The <em>Post</em> is unquestionably the political paper of record in the United States, and how it covers governance sets the agenda for the balance of the news media,” journalism scholar Robert W. McChesney points out. “Citizens need to know about this conflict of interest in the columns of the <em>Post</em> itself.”</p><p>In a statement just released by the Institute for Public Accuracy, McChesney added: “If some official enemy of the United States had a comparable situation -- say the owner of the dominant newspaper in Caracas was getting $600 million in secretive contracts from the Maduro government -- the <em>Post</em> itself would lead the howling chorus impaling that newspaper and that government for making a mockery of a free press. It is time for the <em>Post</em> to take a dose of its own medicine.”</p><p>From the Institute, we also contacted other media and intelligence analysts to ask for assessments; <a href="http://www.accuracy.org/release/cia-cloud-over-jeff-bezoss-washington-post/" target="_blank">their comments</a> are unlikely to ever appear in the <em>Washington Post</em>.</p><p>“What emerges now is what, in intelligence parlance, is called an ‘agent of influence’ owning the <em>Post</em> -- with a huge financial interest in playing nice with the CIA,” said former CIA official Ray McGovern. “In other words, two main players nourishing the national security state in undisguised collaboration.”</p><p>A former reporter for the <em>Washington Post</em> and many other news organizations, John Hanrahan, said: “It's all so basic. Readers of the <em>Washington Post</em>, which reports frequently on the CIA, are entitled to know -- and to be reminded on a regular basis in stories and editorials in the newspaper and online -- that the <em>Post</em>'s new owner Jeff Bezos stands to benefit substantially from Amazon's $600 million contract with the CIA. Even with such disclosure, the public should not feel assured they are getting tough-minded reporting on the CIA. One thing is certain: <em>Post</em> reporters and editors are aware that Bezos, as majority owner of Amazon, has a financial stake in maintaining good relations with the CIA -- and this sends a clear message to even the hardest-nosed journalist that making the CIA look bad might not be a good career move.”</p><p>The rich and powerful blow hard against the flame of truly independent journalism. If we want the lantern carried high, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.</p> Wed, 18 Dec 2013 11:12:00 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 938277 at http://xxx.alternet.org Media Media Bezos While Cameron Defers to Parliament, Obama Locks into Warfare State of Mind http://xxx.alternet.org/world/while-cameron-defers-parliament-obama-locks-warfare-state-mind <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">During the next few days, a huge and historic battle will determine whether President Obama can continue the deadly record of presidential impunity.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_131100503.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p class="p1"><span style="font-size: 12px;">The British Parliament’s rejection of an attack on Syria is a direct contrast -- and implicit challenge -- to the political war system of the United States.</span></p><p class="p1">“It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the government will act accordingly,” Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursdaynight. At least for now, Uncle Sam’s poodle is off the leash.</p><p class="p1">Now all eyes turn to Congress, where the bar has suddenly been raised. Can the House of Representatives measure up to the House of Commons?</p><p class="p1">It’s a crucial question -- but President Obama intends to render it moot with unwavering contempt for the war authority of Congress. Like his predecessors.</p><p class="p1">Even with war votes on Capitol Hill, the charade quotient has been high. The Gulf War began in early 1991 after the Senate vote for war was close: 52 to 47. But, as the PBS “Frontline” program <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/gulf/script_a.html"><span class="s1">reported</span></a> years later, President George H.W. Bush had a plan in place: if Congress voted against going to war, he’d ignore Congress.</p><p class="p1">“The president privately, with the most inner circle, made absolutely clear he was going to go forward with this action even if he were impeached,” said Robert Gates, who was deputy national security advisor. “The truth of the matter is that while public opinion and the voice of Congress was important to Bush, I believe it had no impact on his decision about what he would do. He was going to throw that son of a bitch [Saddam Hussein] out of Kuwait, regardless of whether the Congress or the public supported him.”</p><p class="p1">By the Pentagon’s estimate, the six weeks of the Gulf War took the lives of 100,000 Iraqi people. “It’s really not a number I’m terribly interested in,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Colin Powell, said at the time.</p><p class="p1">Eight years later, the War Powers Act’s 60-day deadline for congressional approval of U.S. warfare expired on May 25, 1999 -- but large-scale U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia continued. Bill Clinton was unable to get authorization from Congress but, like other wartime presidents before and since, he ignored the law that was passed in 1973 to constrain autocratic war-making. Republican Rep. Tom Campbell said: “The president is in violation of the law. That is clear.” Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich said: “The war continues unauthorized, without the consent of the governed.” And President Clinton said, in effect, <i>I don’t care.</i></p><p class="p1">In October 2002, President George W. Bush won congressional approval for an invasion of Iraq, waving the fig leaf that passage would strengthen his hand at the bargaining table. Of course Bush got what he wanted -- a full-scale war on Iraq.</p><p class="p1">“The president’s ability to decide when and where to use America’s military power is now absolute,” pundit Michael Kinsley observed, <a href="http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,443202,00.html"><span class="s1">writing</span></a> in <i>Time</i> magazine in mid-April 2003, just after the U.S. occupation of Iraq began. “Congress cannot stop him. That’s not what the Constitution says, and it’s not what the War Powers Act says, but that’s how it works in practice.”</p><p class="p1"><i>That’s how it works in practice.</i></p><p class="p1">We’ve got to change how it works in practice.</p><p class="p1">During the next few days, a huge and historic battle will determine whether President Obama can continue the deadly record of presidential impunity to ignore Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution (“The Congress shall have Power … To declare War”) and the War Powers Act as well as public opinion, now strongly against an attack on Syria.</p><p class="p1">In recent days, perhaps as a tactical matter, some progressive groups and members of Congress have focused on urging that Congress get to vote -- or at least play a role -- in the decision on whether to bomb Syria. But we should not imply that we’ll be satisfied as long as the matter comes to a congressional vote. Time is very short; we should cut through the preliminaries and get to the point: <i>No attack on Syria!</i></p><p class="p1">Since mid-week, more than 20,000 people have sent this email message to Congress: “No Attack on Syria. As a constituent, I am writing to let you know that I oppose a military attack on Syria. Creative diplomacy is the best way to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons. I urge you to work for a ceasefire, to pressure Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and Turkey, to halt the flow of weapons, and to pressure Russia and Iran to do the same.” (<a href="http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8463"><span class="s1">To join in sending that email message to your senators and representative, click here.</span></a>)</p><p class="p1">Will the president again be able to order a military attack on yet another country -- on his own say-so?</p><p class="p1">That is Obama’s intention. “Administration officials made clear that the eroding support would not deter Mr. Obama in deciding to go ahead with a strike,” the <i>New York Times</i> reported on Friday morning. “Pentagon officials said that the Navy had now moved a fifth destroyer into the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Each ship carries dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles that would probably be the centerpiece of any attack on Syria.”</p><p class="p1">In the next days, history will be made. Let’s make it for peace.</p> Fri, 30 Aug 2013 10:01:00 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 889895 at http://xxx.alternet.org World World war syria congress obama What The Assault On Whistleblowers Has to Do With War on Syria http://xxx.alternet.org/activism/what-assault-whistleblowers-has-do-war-syria <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">To stop attack on Syria, we must support whistleblowers. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_943447.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><span style="color: rgb(35, 35, 35); font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 12px;">Without whistleblowers, the mainline media outlets are more transfixed than ever with telling the official story. And at a time like this, the official story is all about spinning for war on Syria.</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">Every president who wants to launch another war can’t abide whistleblowers. They might interfere with the careful omissions, distortions and outright lies of war propaganda, which requires that truth be held in a kind of preventative detention.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">By mid-week, media adrenalin was at fever pitch as news reports cited high-level sources explaining when the U.S. missile attacks on Syria were likely to begin, how long they might last, what their goals would be. But what about other (potential) sources who have documents and other information that contradict the official story?</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">It’s never easy for whistleblowers to take the risk of exposing secret realities. At times like these, it’s especially difficult -- and especially vital -- for whistleblowers to take the chance.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">When independent journalist I.F. Stone said “All governments lie and nothing they say should be believed,” he was warning against the automatic acceptance of any government claim. That warning becomes most crucial when a launch of war is imminent. That’s when, more than ever, we need whistleblowers who can leak information that refutes the official line.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">There has been a pernicious method to the madness of the Obama administration’s double-barreled assault on whistleblowers and journalism. Committed to a state of ongoing war, Obama has overseen more prosecutions of whistleblowers than all other presidents combined -- while also subjecting journalists to ramped-up surveillance and threats, whether grabbing the call records of 20 telephone lines of The Associated Press or <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/aug/27/obama-administration-james-risen-no-privilege"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">pushing to imprison</span></a> <i>New York Times</i> reporter James Risen for not revealing a source.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">The vengeful treatment of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, the all-out effort to grab Edward Snowden and less-publicized prosecutions such as the <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/23/110523fa_fact_mayer"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">vendetta</span></a> against NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake are all part of a government strategy that aims to shut down unauthorized pipelines of information to journalists -- and therefore to the public. When secret information is blocked, what’s left is the official story, pulling out all the stops for war.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">From the false Tonkin Gulf narrative in 1964 that boosted the Vietnam War to the fabricated <a href="http://www.prwatch.org/books/tsigfy10.html"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">baby-incubators-in-Kuwait tale</span></a> in 1990 that helped launch the Gulf War to the reports of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction early in this century, countless deaths and unfathomable suffering have resulted from the failure of potential whistleblowers to step forward in a timely and forthright way -- and the failure of journalists to challenge falsehoods in high government places.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">There are no “good old days” to point to, no eras when an abundance of whistleblowers and gutsy reporters thoroughly alerted the public and subdued the power of Washington’s war-makers. But we’re now living in a notably -- and tragically -- fearful era. Potential whistleblowers have more reason to be frightened than ever, and mainline journalists rarely seem willing to challenge addiction to war.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">Every time a president has decided to go to war against yet another country, the momentum has been unstoppable. Today, the craven foreshadow the dead. The key problems, as usual, revolve around undue deference to authority -- obedience in the interests of expediency -- resulting in a huge loss of lives and a tremendous waste of resources that should be going to sustain human life instead of destroying it.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">With war at the top of Washington’s agenda, this is a time to make our voices heard. (<a href="http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8463"><span style="color: rgb(18, 85, 204); ">To email your senators and representative, expressing opposition to an attack on Syria, click here.</span></a>) A loud and sustained outcry against the war momentum is essential -- and so is support for whistleblowers.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; font-family: Helvetica; color: rgb(35, 35, 35); ">As a practical matter, real journalism can’t function without whistleblowers. Democracy can’t function without real journalism. And we can’t stop the warfare state without democracy. In the long run, the struggles for peace and democracy are one and the same.</p> Wed, 28 Aug 2013 10:04:00 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 888816 at http://xxx.alternet.org Activism Activism whistle-blower syria Big NYT Hacks David Brooks, Tom Friedman, Bill Keller Wish Snowden Had Just Followed Orders http://xxx.alternet.org/media/nyt-hacks-david-brooks-tom-friedman-bill-keller-wish-snowden-had-just-followed-orders <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning both seemed useful to authority, but they also have principles and decided to act on them. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/democracy.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the <em>New York Times</em> reported on Sunday, “have renewed a longstanding concern: that young Internet aficionados whose skills the agencies need for counterterrorism and cyberdefense sometimes bring an anti-authority spirit that does not fit the security bureaucracy.”</p><p>Agencies like the NSA and CIA, and private contractors like Booz Allen, can’t be sure that all employees will obey the rules without interference from their own idealism. This is a basic dilemma for the warfare/surveillance state, which must hire and retain a huge pool of young talent to service the digital innards of a growing Big Brother.</p><p>With private firms scrambling to recruit workers for top-secret government contracts, the current situation was foreshadowed by novelist John Hersey in his 1960 book <em>The Child Buyer</em>. When the vice president of a contractor named United Lymphomilloid, “in charge of materials procurement,” goes shopping for a very bright 10-year-old, he explains that “my duties have an extremely high national-defense rating.” And he adds: “When a commodity that you need falls in short supply, you have to get out and hustle. I buy brains.”</p><p>That’s what Booz Allen and similar outfits do. They buy brains. And obedience.</p><p>But despite the best efforts of those contractors and government agencies, the brains still belong to people. And, as the <em>Times </em>put it, an "anti-authority spirit" might not fit “the security bureaucracy.”</p><p>In the long run, Edward Snowden didn’t fit. Neither did Bradley Manning. They both had brains that seemed useful to authority. But they also had principles and decided to act on them.</p><p>Like the NSA and its contractors, the U.S. military is in constant need of personnel. “According to his superiors...Manning was not working out as a soldier, and they discussed keeping him back when his unit was deployed to Iraq,” biographer Chase Madar writes in <em>The Passion of Bradley Manning</em>. “However, in the fall of 2009, the occupation was desperate for intelligence analysts with computer skills, and Private Bradley Manning, his superiors hurriedly concluded, showed signs of improvement as a workable soldier. This is how, on October 10, 2009, Private First Class Bradley Manning was deployed...to Iraq as an intelligence analyst.”</p><p>In their own ways, with very different backgrounds and circumstances, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have confounded the best-laid plans of the warfare/surveillance state. They worked for the "security bureaucracy,” but as time went on they found a higher calling than just following orders. They leaked information that we all have a right to know.</p><p>This month, not only with words but also with actions, Edward Snowden is transcending the moral limits of authority and insisting that we can fully defend the Bill of Rights, emphatically including the Fourth Amendment.</p><p>What a contrast with<em> New York Times</em> columnists David Brooks, Thomas Friedman and Bill Keller, who have responded to Snowden’s revelations by siding with the violators of civil liberties at the top of the U.S. government.</p><p>Brooks denounced Snowden as a “traitor” during a June 14 appearance on the<em>PBS News Hour</em>, saying: “He betrayed his oath, which was given to him and which he took implicitly and explicitly. He betrayed his company, the people who gave him a job, the people who trusted him. ...He betrayed the democratic process. It’s not up to a lone 29-year-old to decide what's private and public. We have—actually have procedures for that set down in the Constitution and established by tradition.”</p><p>Enthralled with lockstep compliance, Brooks preached the conformist gospel: “When you work for an institution, any institution, a company, a faculty, you don't get to violate the rules of that institution and decide for your own self what you’re going to do in a unilateral way that no one else can reverse. And that's exactly what he did. So he betrayed the trust of the institution. He betrayed what creates a government, which is being a civil servant, being a servant to a larger cause, and not going off on some unilateral thing because it makes you feel grandiose.”</p><p>In sync with Brooks, Tom Friedman and former Times executive editor Bill Keller have promoted a notably gutless argument for embracing the NSA’s newly revealed surveillance programs. Friedman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/opinion/friedman-blowing-a-whistle.html?partner=rssnyt&amp;emc=rss" target="_blank">wrote</a> (on June 12) and Keller <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/17/opinion/keller-living-with-the-surveillance-state.html?hp&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">agreed</a> (June 17) that our government is correct to curtail privacy rights against surveillance, because if we fully retained those rights and then a big terrorist attack happened, the damage to civil liberties would be worse.</p><p>What a contrast between big-name journalists craven enough to toss the Fourth Amendment overboard and whistleblowers courageous enough to risk their lives for civil liberties.</p> Tue, 18 Jun 2013 12:32:00 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 857023 at http://xxx.alternet.org Media Civil Liberties Media News & Politics bill keller Booz Allen bradley manning Central Intelligence Agency Chase Madar david brooks Edward Snowden Internet aficionados iraq John Hersey nsa new york times Person Career Private First Class Quotation thomas friedman tom friedman u.s. government u.s. military united states biographer contractor executive editor intelligence analyst novelist private contractors vice president If You Want to Build a Grassroots Base, Don't Look to Powerful Democrats in Washington for Cues http://xxx.alternet.org/election-2012/if-you-want-build-grassroots-base-dont-look-powerful-democrats-washington-cues <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Accommodation has been habit-forming for many left-leaning organizations, which are increasingly taking their cues from the Dem party establishment.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2012-11-17_at_4.45.13_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><div>Millions of Americans are eager, even desperate, for a political movement that truly challenges the power of Wall Street and the Pentagon. But accommodation has been habit-forming for many left-leaning organizations, which are increasingly taking their cues from the party establishment: deferring to top Democrats in Washington, staying away from robust progressive populism, and making excuses for the Democratic embrace of corporate power and perpetual war.</div><div> </div><div>It's true that many left-of-center groups are becoming more sophisticated in their use of digital platforms for messaging, fundraising and other work. But it's also true that President Obama's transactional approach has had demoralizing effects on his base. Even the best resources—mobilized by unions, environmental groups, feminist organizations and the like—can do only so much when many voters and former volunteers are inclined to stay home. A month before the 2010 election, Obama strategist David Axelrod noted that "almost the entire Republican margin is based on the enthusiasm gap." A similar gap made retaking the House a long shot this year.</div><div>For people fed up with bait-and-switch pitches from Democrats who talk progressive to get elected but then govern otherwise, the Occupy movement has been a compelling and energizing counterforce. Its often-implicit message: protesting is hip and astute, while electioneering is uncool and clueless. Yet protesters' demands, routinely focused on government action and inaction, underscore how much state power really matters.</div><div> </div><div>To escape this self-defeating trap, progressives must build a grassroots power base that can do more than illuminate the nonstop horror shows of the status quo. To posit a choice between developing strong social movements and strong electoral capacity is akin to choosing between arms and legs. If we want to move the country in a progressive direction, the politics of denunciation must work in sync with the politics of organizing—which must include solid electoral work.</div><div> </div><div>Movements that take to the streets can proceed in creative tension with election campaigns, each one augmenting the other. But even if protests flourish, progressive groups expand and left media outlets thrive, the power to impose government accountability is apt to remain elusive. That power is contingent on organizing, reaching the public and building muscle to exercise leverage over what government officials do—and who they are. Even electing better candidates won't accomplish much unless the base is organized and functional enough to keep them accountable.</div><div> </div><div>Politicians like to envision social movements as tributaries flowing into their election campaigns. But a healthy ecology of progressive politics would mean the flow goes mostly in the other direction. Election campaigns should be subsets of social movements, not the other way around. Vital initiatives to break the cycles of capitulation and lack of accountability will come from the grassroots.</div><div> </div><div>* * *</div><div> </div><div>"Bringing the vibrancy and democracy of activist movement culture to a political campaign is necessary but complicated," said Torie Osborn, a longtime progressive organizer in the Los Angeles area, whose dynamic grassroots campaign for the state legislature nearly advanced to the November ballot. "Activist protest culture is spontaneous, often angry and wildly uncontrollable. Campaigns have to be rigorously disciplined and controllable."</div><div> </div><div>The mismatch takes a toll. "Ultimately one shortfall of our heartbreaking 1 percent loss was that our volunteers did not show up in force until the very end," Osborn told me. "Our field program counted on a 'movement' turnout, but our experience was that the energized volunteers didn't really want to do what the campaign needed. They wanted to be on Facebook, to blog, to go to events, even drive around and put up lawn signs, but not the voter-contact work of walking and phoning—at least not at the scale we were counting on."</div><div> </div><div>Osborn's assessment tracked with my simultaneous experience as a candidate for Congress in California's North Coast district, a mostly liberal area north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Our campaign drew on my four decades of activism and several years of groundwork, including hundreds of speeches and other public appearances in the district. I'd been a member of the state Democratic Party's central committee since 2007, and our campaign had traction inside the party—despite the fact that its hierarchy was hot-wired for my main opponent, Jared Huffman, a five-year state legislator who had boosted his career with major donations from big corporations.</div><div> </div><div>During my run for Congress, I participated in Occupy demonstrations in more than a half-dozen cities across our far-flung district. (Because of my long record as an activist, some local Occupy organizers set aside their aversion to allowing a candidate to speak.) A deft organizer of some of those protests, Pat Johnstone, coordinated much of my campaign's fieldwork. "From the beginning, Occupiers have expressed concern about being 'co-opted' by progressive groups," she observed. "Occupy provided a renewed vision of what is possible when we rise up together. However, the success of any movement depends on building and sustaining capacity. Partnerships and coalitions are an important part of that growth. How strong can any grassroots movement be without the strength of numbers?"</div><div> </div><div>Early on, I announced that our campaign would not accept money from lobbyists or corporate PACs. Instead, we kept our eyes on small donors. I spoke at more than fifty house parties, and we developed a large e-mail list to update supporters while asking for contributions and volunteers. The campaign drew in hundreds of volunteers and more than 7,000 individual donors, raising $750,000. We approached fundraising as an outgrowth of grassroots support—not the other way around.</div><div> </div><div>Our organizing approach and my unabashed progressive positions paid off as our campaign fought for support from unions. The first breakthrough came from the legendary longshore union ILWU, which followed up its endorsement by hosting a fundraiser. I also received solo endorsements from AFSCME locals and the UAW, along with a dual endorsement from the California Federation of Teachers and a triple endorsement from SEIU California. Another major victory came when our campaign jolted expectations by depriving Huffman of a pre-primary endorsement from the California Teachers Association. Those hard-won victories were partly the result of my strong pro-labor commitments, like unequivocal defense of pensions. But sadly, the progressive California Nurses Association stayed out of the race. And the bulk of the labor establishment—including the building trades, the big labor council in the district and the state labor federation (AFL-CIO)—lined up with the garden-variety liberal Democratic politician making his way up the ladder.</div><div> </div><div>I was fortunate to get support from several progressives in Congress. Strong endorsement letters went out from Representatives John Conyers and Raúl Grijalva. Days before the June election, Representative Dennis Kucinich campaigned alongside me. But in the district it was a different story with retiring Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, whose fervent antiwar politics have lost steam when approaching endorsements. In 2010 she went far out of her way to help Jane Harman, a leading pro-war congresswoman and Blue Dog Coalition member, fend off a primary challenge from an antiwar progressive. This year, thirty-six hours after primary election night (with 40,000 votes still uncounted and a small margin between me and the runoff), Woolsey endorsed Huffman—who has never indicated that he will challenge the military-industrial complex. The takeaway: we need to build an independent progressive power base instead of relying on any politician.</div><div> </div><div>After campaigning nonstop for eighteen months, I received more than 25,000 votes in the primary (15 percent) and missed getting into the November runoff by 174 votes. (Huffman finished in first place, with 37.5 percent.) With just two Republicans among the dozen contenders in the "top-two open primary," one of the GOP candidates slipped through to the fall ballot. If I'd gotten past the primary and consolidated progressive support, I would have gone into the general election with an initial base of about 30 percent. At that point, I would have had to pull quite a populist rabbit out of the hat to win.</div><div> </div><div>"Technically, our campaign has ended," I wrote to supporters after the protracted vote count. "Politically, it's continuing—with plans to build an ongoing coalition on the foundation of what we've already done together." Dozens of people involved in my campaign quickly went to work on other ones with heightened skills, knowledge and abilities to draw in volunteers. Meanwhile, our campaign is morphing into a coalition for the long haul (<a href="http://grassrootsprogress.org/" target="_blank">GrassrootsProgress.org</a>), aiding efforts to elect progressives to local office within our district as well as to Congress elsewhere in the country.</div><div> </div><div>* * *</div><div>Overall, progressive insurgencies did not perform well in House primaries this year. A few bright spots appeared when David Gill beat the Democratic machine in a central Illinois district and liberal challengers took out centrist incumbents in Texas and Pennsylvania. But even with high-profile support from national netroots groups, progressive candidates—notably Ilya Sheyman in Illinois, Eric Griego in New Mexico and Darcy Burner in Washington State—lost by sizable margins. Each contest had its own dynamics (Burner was outspent six to one by a self-financed opponent who dropped $2.3 million, whereas Griego had a money advantage), but the pattern is grim.</div><div> </div><div>Yes, progressives are usually underfunded, and money matters a lot. But it's hazardous to internalize Mark Hanna's timeworn dictum, "There are two things that are important in politics. The first thing is money, and I can't remember what the second one is." We forget the second thing at our peril. In a word, we need to organize.</div><div>For progressives, ongoing engagement with people in communities has vast potential advantages that big money can't buy—and hopefully can't defeat. But few progressive institutions with election goals have the time, resolve, resources or patience to initiate and sustain relationships with communities. For the most part, precinct organizing is a lost art that progressives have failed to revitalize. Until that changes, the electoral future looks bleak.</div><div> </div><div>In my race, basic progress ended up reflected in vote totals to the extent that I was able to reach out and talk with people over the course of years. Yet many of the shortcomings of my campaign were related to fieldwork. Votes slipped through our fingers when we didn't do adequate follow-up with contacts made long before election day. As our campaign grew, so did the dilemmas of time, staff, volunteers and money. By any measure, we ran the strongest grassroots campaign in the race, but it wasn't grassroots enough.</div><div> </div><div>Fragmentation of core constituencies was another problem. From the outset, it was obvious that half of the twelve candidates didn't have a snowball's chance of getting through the primary. With rhetoric that sounded leftish, those six candidates received a combined total of 8.6 percent of the primary vote, while I lost by 0.1 percent. Huffman was no doubt exceedingly grateful to these anemic "protest candidates"; he could go on a cakewalk to the November runoff against a GOP candidate in a heavily Democratic district.</div><div> </div><div>My counsel to prospective candidates: do not launch a campaign unless you can give it your all and plausibly consolidate most of the progressive electorate along the way. Do thorough groundwork for a long time. Keep meeting people and adding to your database of contacts. Listen and learn about political microclimates. Work on building coalitions. Encourage volunteers and treat them with respect. Insist on meticulous, accurate and principled work from staff. Remember that better process is much more likely to result in better decisions; when disagreements flare within the team, strive to assess the clashing outlooks. Keep your eyes on the prize: not only winning but also making progressive activists and groups stronger for the long haul.</div><div> </div><div>A campaign with resonance should keep evolving after the election. Donor files, e-mail lists, working relationships, infrastructure, public good will and more can sustain and expand alliances. High-quality compost from one campaign should invigorate the growth of others.</div><div> </div><div>Winning or losing an election can hinge on the decisions of just one group or even one individual. We may not feel powerful, but an internalized sense of powerlessness represents another triumph for a system that thrives on vast imbalances of power. Let's get more serious—and effective—about gaining progressive power in government, shall we?</div> Sat, 17 Nov 2012 16:39:00 -0800 Norman Solomon, The Nation 746578 at http://xxx.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 News & Politics democrats progressives Time to Shut Down California's Nuclear Plants http://xxx.alternet.org/story/150772/time_to_shut_down_california%27s_nuclear_plants <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Let&#039;s make a swift transition to an energy policy focused on clean and green renewable sources and conservation.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The facts all point to this "inconvenient truth" -- the time has come to shut down California's two nuclear power plants as part of a swift transition to an energy policy focused on clean and green renewable sources and conservation.<br /><br /> The Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo and the San Onofre plant on the southern California coast are vulnerable to meltdowns from earthquakes and threaten both residents and the environment.<br /><br /> Reactor safety is just one of the concerns. Each nuclear power plant creates radioactive waste that will remain deadly for thousands of years. This is not the kind of legacy that we should leave for future generations.<br /><br /> In the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, we need a basic rethinking of the USA's nuclear energy use and oversight. There is no more technologically advanced country in the world than Japan. Nuclear power isn't safe there, and it isn't safe anywhere.<br /><br /> The perils to people are clear. In a recent letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein noted that "roughly 424,000 live within 50 miles of the Diablo Canyon and 7.4 million live within 50 miles of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station."<br /><br /> As someone who was an Obama delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, I believe it would be a tragic mistake for anyone to loyally accept the administration's nuclear policy. The White House is fundamentally mistaken in its efforts to triple the budgeting of federal loan guarantees for the domestic nuclear power industry, from $18 billion to $54 billion.<br /><br /> Our tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the nuclear power industry. Instead, we should be investing far more in solar, wind and other renewable sources, along with serious energy conservation.<br /><br /> The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a nuclear-friendly fox guarding the radioactive chicken coop. The federal government has no business promoting this dangerous industry while safe and sustainable energy resources are readily available.<br /><br /> The fact that federal law imposes a liability cap of about $12 billion on a nuclear power accident is a reflection of the fact that those plants are uninsurable on the open market.<br /><br /> As a candidate for Congress in the district that includes Marin and Sonoma counties, I intend to make this a major campaign issue. It remains to be seen whether my one declared opponent, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, will join me in urging a rapid timetable for the closure of California's nuclear power plants.<br /><br /> Huffman has ties to California's nuclear-invested utility PG&amp;E. Between 2007 and 2009, according to campaign finance data compiled by nonpartisan Maplight.org, he received $11,100 from PG&amp;E, which owns and operates the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.<br /><br /> While Huffman and other state lawmakers in February signed a letter to a federal commission on America's nuclear future citing seismic "concerns which deserve to be more closely examined," the time for equivocation on nuclear power is long past. We don't need yet more study on whether to operate nuclear plants on fault lines.<br /><br /> People want bold and responsible leadership as we face up to the well-documented realities of nuclear power on this fragile planet.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. Norman Solomon was also the director of the National Citizens Hearings for Radiation Victims in 1980 and co-authored "Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America's Experience with Atomic Radiation," which exposed the health and environmental effects of the nuclear industry. For two years ending in late 2010, he served as co-chair of the Commission on a Green New Deal for the North Bay. For more information, go to: <a href="http://solomonforcongress.com">SolomonForCongress.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 28 Apr 2011 08:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 666121 at http://xxx.alternet.org Environment Environment environment nukes california nuclear industry earthquakes Obama Isn't Standing Up to the Heartless Rich http://xxx.alternet.org/story/148923/obama_isn%27t_standing_up_to_the_heartless_rich <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">For two years Barack Obama has increasingly made a mockery of hopes for a green New Deal.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In his first term, President Franklin Roosevelt denounced "the economic royalists." He drew the line against the heartless rich: "They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred."<br /><br /> What a different Democratic president we have today.<br /><br /> For two years -- from putting Wall Street operatives at the top of his economic team to signaling that he'll go along with extension of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy -- Barack Obama has increasingly made a mockery of hopes for a green New Deal.<br /><br /> The news from the White House keeps getting grimmer. Since the midterm election, we're told, Obama has concluded that he must be more conciliatory toward the ascendant Republican leadership in Congress -- and must do more to appease big business.<br /><br /> Fifteen days after the election, the <em>Washington Post</em> reported that Obama -- seeking a replacement for departing top economic adviser Lawrence Summers -- "is eager to recruit someone from the business community for the job to help repair the president's frayed relationship with corporate America."<br /><br /> The last thing we need is further acquiescence to the economic royalists. What we need is exactly the opposite: leadership to push back against the Republican Party's right-wing ideologues and the forces they represent.<br /><br /> We need principled backbones in high places -- and much stronger progressive activism at the grassroots.<br /><br /> In moral and electoral terms, the status quo is indefensible. Economic realities include high unemployment, routine home foreclosures, huge tax breaks for large corporations, and widening gaps between the wealthy and the rest of us -- in tandem with endless war and runaway military spending.<br /><br /> Escalation of warfare in Afghanistan is running parallel to escalation of class war -- waged from the top down -- in Washington. The presidentially appointed co-chairs of the deficit commission, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, are pushing scenarios that would undermine Social Security.<br /><br /> Let's get a grip on matters of principle.<br /><br /> More and more warfare in Afghanistan? Extending massive tax cuts for the wealthy? Promoting plans to slash Social Security and Medicare? Pretending that "clean coal" is not an oxymoron? Failing to uphold habeas corpus and other precious civil liberties? . . .<br /><br /> The best way to fight the Republican Party is to stop giving ground to it.<br /><br /> The best way to defeat right-wing xenophobic "populism" is to build genuine progressive populism. In the process, we can draw on the spirit of the New Deal.<br /><br /> Back in the 1930s, millions of progressive activists -- under all sorts of names -- fought for economic equity, while FDR became willing to make common cause with them. Today, our scope of understanding has grown to include more dimensions of social justice and ecological imperatives.<br /><br /> These days, progressives have plenty of reasons to feel discouraged. But we have a lot more good reasons to rededicate ourselves to the vital tasks ahead.<br /><br /> A much better world is possible.<br /><br /><em>Si se puede!</em><br />  </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon is co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” To hear an excerpt from FDR’s 1936 speech welcoming the hatred from wealthy foes, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9yoZHs6PsU">click here</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 18 Nov 2010 14:00:01 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 664286 at http://xxx.alternet.org Media Economy News & Politics economy obama poverty wealth inequality income Progressives Must Fight the Kagan Nomination http://xxx.alternet.org/story/146801/progressives_must_fight_the_kagan_nomination <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Obama&#039;s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is one more example of how the president routinely combines progressive rhetoric with contrary actions.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>If President Obama has his way, Elena Kagan will replace John Paul Stevens -- and the Supreme Court will move rightward. The nomination is very disturbing, especially because it's part of a pattern.<br /><br /> The White House is in the grip of conventional centrist wisdom. Grim results stretch from Afghanistan to the Gulf of Mexico to communities across the USA.<br /><br /> "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills," President Obama said in support of offshore oil drilling, less than three weeks before the April 20 blowout in the Gulf. "They are technologically very advanced."</p> <p>On numerous policy fronts, such conformity to a centrist baseline has smothered hopes for moving this country in a progressive direction. Now, the president has taken a step that jeopardizes civil liberties and other basic constitutional principles.<br /><br /> "During the course of her Senate confirmation hearings as Solicitor General, Kagan explicitly endorsed the Bush administration’s bogus category of 'enemy combatant,' whose implementation has been a war crime in its own right," University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle noted last month. "Now, in her current job as U.S. Solicitor General, Kagan is quarterbacking the continuation of the Bush administration's illegal and unconstitutional positions in U.S. federal court litigation around the country, including in the U.S. Supreme Court."<br /><br /> Boyle added: "Kagan has said 'I love the Federalist Society.' This is a right-wing group; almost all of the Bush administration lawyers responsible for its war and torture memos are members of the Federalist Society."<br /><br /> The departing Justice Stevens was a defender of civil liberties. Unless the Senate refuses to approve Kagan for the Supreme Court, the nation's top court is very likely to become more hostile to civil liberties and less inclined to put limits on presidential power.<br /><br /> Here is yet another clear indication that progressives must mobilize to challenge the White House on matters of principle. Otherwise, history will judge us harshly -- and it should.<br /><br /> For more than 15 months, evidence has mounted that President Obama routinely combines progressive rhetoric with contrary actions. As one bad decision after another has emanated from the Oval Office, some progressives have favored denial -- even though, if the name "Bush" or "McCain" had been attached to the same presidential policies, the same progressives would have been screaming bloody murder.<br /><br /> But enabling bad policies, with silent acquiescence or anemic dissent, encourages more of them. At this point, progressive groups and individuals who pretend that Obama's policies merely need a few tweaks, or just suffer from a few anomalous deficiencies, are whistling past a political graveyard.<br /><br /> At the same time, with less than six months to go before Election Day, there are very real prospects of a big Republican victory that could shift majority control of Congress. Progressives have a huge stake in averting a GOP takeover on Capitol Hill.<br /><br /> The corporate-military centrism of the Obama administration has demoralized and demobilized the Democratic Party’s largely progressive base -- the same base that swept Nancy Pelosi into the House Speaker's office and then Barack Obama into the White House. National polls now show Democrats to be much less enthusiastic about voting in November than their Republican counterparts.<br /><br /> The conventional political wisdom (about as accurate as the claim that "oil rigs today generally don't cause spills") is that when a Democratic president moves rightward, his party gains strength against Republicans. But Democrats reaped the whirlwind of that pseudo-logic in 1994 -- after President Clinton shafted much of the Democratic base by pushing through the corporate NAFTA trade pact against the wishes of labor, environmental and human-rights constituencies. That's how Newt Gingrich and other right-wing zealots got to run Congress starting in January 1995.<br /><br /> For progressives, giving the Obama administration one benefit of the doubt after another has not prevented matters from getting worse.<br /><br /> At the moment, U.S. troop levels are nearing 100,000 in Afghanistan.<br /><br /> Massive quantities of oil are belching into the Gulf of Mexico.<br /><br /> The White House has signaled de facto acceptance of a high unemployment rate for several more years, while offering weak GOP-lite countermeasures like tax breaks for businesses.<br /><br /> Nuclear power subsidies are getting powerful support from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, while meaningful action against global warming is nowhere in sight.<br /><br /> The Justice Department continues to backtrack on civil liberties.<br /><br /> And now, if the president's nomination of Elena Kagan is successful, the result will move the Supreme Court to the right.</p> <p>Progressives should fight the Kagan nomination.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 10 May 2010 03:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 662159 at http://xxx.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties democrats gop progressives barack obama us supreme court elena kagan john paul stevens federalist society gulf of mexico solicitor general francis boyle Obama's Surprise Trip to Afghanistan: A Pro-War Pep Rally http://xxx.alternet.org/story/146209/obama%27s_surprise_trip_to_afghanistan%3A_a_pro-war_pep_rally <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">On Sunday, Obama stood before thousands of U.S. troops to proclaim the sanctity of the war effort, a commander in chief rallying the troops, while wearing a bomber jacket.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>President Obama has taken a further plunge into the kind of war abyss that consumed predecessors named Johnson, Nixon and Bush.</p> <p>On Sunday, during his first presidential trip to Afghanistan, Obama stood before thousands of American troops to proclaim the sanctity of the war effort. He played the role deftly -- a commander in chief, rallying the troops -- while wearing a bomber jacket.<br /><br /> There was something candidly macabre about the decision to wear that leather jacket, adorned with an American Eagle and the words "Air Force One." The man in the bomber jacket doesn't press the buttons that fire the missiles and drop the warheads, but he gives the orders that make it all possible.<br /><br /> One way or another, we're used to seeing presidents display such tacit accouterments of carnage.<br /><br /> And the president's words were also eerily familiar: with their cadence and confidence in the efficacy of mass violence, when provided by the Pentagon and meted out by a military so technologically supreme that dissociation can masquerade as ultimate erudition -- so powerful and so sophisticated that orders stay light years away from human consequences.<br /><br /> The war becomes its own rationale for continuing: to go on because it must go on.<br /><br /> A grisly counterpoint to Obama's brief Afghanistan visit is a day in 1966 when another president, in the midst of escalating another war, also took a long ride on Air Force One to laud and boost the troops.<br /><br /> In South Vietnam, at Cam Ranh Bay, President Johnson told the American soldiers: "Be sure to come home with that coonskin on the wall."<br /><br /> Then, too, thousands of soldiers responded to the president's exhortations by whooping it up. And then, too, the media coverage was upbeat.<br /><br /> In a cover story, <em>Life</em> quoted a corporal who called Johnson's visit the "best morale booster Cam Ranh's ever had."<br /><br /> The magazine piece, written by an eminent journalist of the era, Shana Alexander, went on: "Certainly the corporal was right and so was [White House press secretary Bill] Moyers when he later compared the day to a sermon, in that so much of the real meaning is not in what the preacher says but in what his listeners hear."<br /><br /> The article concluded that it had been a "wild and quite wonderful day."<br /><br /> Fast forward 44 years.<br /><br /> "There's going to be setbacks," President Obama told the troops at Bagram Air Base. "We face a determined enemy. But we also know this: The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something."<br /><br /> The applause line lingered as the next words directly addressed the clapping troops: "You don't quit, the American armed services does not quit, we keep at it, we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail. I am absolutely confident of that."<br /><br /> The president added: "And we'll be there for you when you come home. It's why we're improving care for our wounded warriors, especially those with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. We’re moving forward with the post-9/11 GI Bill so you and your families can pursue your dreams."<br /><br /> Those words provide a kind of freeze frame for basic convolution: The government will help veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to pursue their dreams.<br /><br /> In the realm of careful abstraction, where actual people are rendered invisible, best not to acknowledge how much better it would be if those veterans could pursue their dreams without suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries in the first place.<br /><br /> But such human realities are for private suffering, not public discourse.<br /><br /> The next morning, the front page of the <em>New York Times</em> reported that the president's visit to Afghanistan "included a boisterous pep rally with American troops."</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 29 Mar 2010 03:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 661589 at http://xxx.alternet.org World World afghanistan barack obama bomber jacket Congress Holds Historic Debate On Afghan War, But Media is MIA http://xxx.alternet.org/story/146004/congress_holds_historic_debate_on_afghan_war%2C_but_media_is_mia <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Wednesday marked the first major congressional debate about U.S. military operations in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. Where was the press?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The event on the House floor Wednesday afternoon was monumental -- the first major congressional debate about U.S. military operations in Afghanistan since lawmakers authorized the invasion of that country in autumn 2001. But, as Rep. Patrick Kennedy noted with disgust on Wednesday, the House press gallery was nearly empty. He aptly concluded: "It's despicable, the national press corps right now."<br /><br /> Sure enough, the Thursday edition of the <em>New York Times</em> had no room for the historic debate on its front page, which did have room for a large Starbucks ad across the bottom.<br /><br /> Despite the news media and the lopsided pro-war tilt on Capitol Hill (reflected in the 356-65 vote Wednesday against invoking the War Powers Act), antiwar organizing has a lot of hospitable terrain at the grassroots. National polling shows widespread opposition to the Afghanistan war effort -- a far cry from the dominant lockstep conformity in Congress.<br /><br /> "Apparently, as with many issues in Washington," Congressman John Conyers said in a written statement hours before the vote, "those who are forced [to] bear the costs of war are the first to recognize a flawed policy, while those who profit from perpetual war do their best to blunt any change in course."<br /><br /> Yet the three-hour debate was a step forward, offering a basic clash of assumptions. Cogent eloquence came from many who spoke in support of the antiwar resolution, introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The 65 votes for it should serve as a floor to build on.<br /><br /> But among the obstacles are snappy wooden constructs of language and attitude. Consider how a glib phrase now in vogue among Pentagon boosters and journalists -- "government in a box" -- mirrors the jaw-dropping arrogance of imperial power.<br /><br /> At the outset of its March 8th cover story "Taking on the Taliban," <em>Time</em> magazine recounts that Gen. Stanley McChrystal developed a clever plan for the U.S.-led counterinsurgency forces taking Marjah: "He described how these troops would protect the town while a 'government in a box' -- a corps of Afghan officials who had been training for this moment for months -- would start administering the town."<br /><br /> Three pages and 19 paragraphs later, the article gets around to a less uplifting fact: "It can hardly be reassuring to the residents of Marjah that their newly appointed mayor, Haji Zahir, has only recently returned from 15 years of living in Germany."<br /><br /> That's "government in a box" for you -- akin to the illusion that war can be sequestered in some kind of container -- the sort of feat that's possible only in fantasies.<br /><br /> Martin Luther King Jr. aptly likened the Vietnam War to a "demonic suction tube." And demonic suction tubes can't be boxed. In the real world, war's ripple effects lead to a kaleidoscope of terrible consequences, near and far. You can't keep a war in a box any more than you can deliver a government in a box.<br /><br /> With enthusiasm for war thriving on abstraction, its facile backers are eager to cheer on activities that bring terror, anguish and death as a matter of course.<br /><br /> That's what Congresswoman Barbara Lee was driving at when she spoke for a minute on the House floor just before the blank check for carnage in Afghanistan sailed through Congress with only her vote dissenting. "As we act," she said, "let us not become the evil that we deplore."<br /><br /> More than 100 months later, watching video of her prophetic statement may be enough to make you weep.<br /><br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf1N-y9Mbo4">http://www.youtube.com/watch?<wbr></wbr>v=Nf1N-y9Mbo4</a><br /><br /> And it might strengthen your resolve to help end the military occupation that she tried to prevent.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 11 Mar 2010 03:00:01 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 661324 at http://xxx.alternet.org World News & Politics World afghanistan barbara lee capitol hill john conyers patrick kennedy war powers act marjah haji zahir Don't Call It a "Defense" Budget http://xxx.alternet.org/story/145506/don%27t_call_it_a_%22defense%22_budget <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The new budget from the White House will push U.S. military spending well above $2 billion a day. Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This isn't "defense."<br /><br /> The new budget from the White House will push U.S. military spending well above $2 billion a day.<br /><br /> Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.<br /><br /> "Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors," the <em>New York Times</em> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/02/us/politics/02deficit.html?hp">reports</a> this morning.<br /><br /> It isn't defense to preclude new domestic initiatives for a country that desperately needs them: for healthcare, jobs, green technologies, carbon reduction, housing, education, nutrition, mass transit ...<br /><br /> "When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, social programs must inevitably suffer," Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out. "We can talk about guns and butter all we want to, but when the guns are there with all of its emphasis you don't even get good oleo. These are facts of life."<br /><br /> At least Lyndon Johnson had a "war on poverty." For a while anyway, till his war on Vietnam destroyed it.<br /><br /> Since then, waving the white flag at widespread poverty -- usually by leaving it unmentioned -- has been a political fact of life in Washington.<br /><br /> Oratory can be nice, but budget numbers tell us where an administration is headed. In 2010, this one is marching up a steep military escalator, under the banner of "defense."<br /><br /> Legitimate defense would cost a mere fraction of this budget.<br /><br /> By autumn, the Pentagon is scheduled to have a total of 100,000 uniformed U.S. troops -- and a comparable number of private contract employees -- in Afghanistan, where the main beneficiaries are the recruiters for Afghan insurgent forces and the profiteers growing even richer under the wing of Karzai-government corruption.<br /><br /> After three decades of frequent carnage and extreme poverty in Afghanistan, a new influx of lethal violence is arriving via the Defense Department. That's the cosmetically named agency in charge of sending U.S. soldiers to endure and inflict unspeakable horrors.<br /><br /> New waves of veterans will return home to struggle with grievous physical and emotional injuries. Without a fundamental change in the nation's direction, they'll be trying to resume their lives in a society ravaged by budget priorities that treat huge military spending as sacrosanct.<br /><br /> "At $744 billion, the military budget -- including military programs outside the Pentagon, such as the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons management -- is a budget of add-ons rather than choices," says Miriam Pemberton at the Institute for Policy Studies. "And it makes the imbalance between spending on military vs. non-military security tools worse."<br /><br /> Of course the corporate profits for military contractors are humongous.<br /><br /> The executive director of the National Priorities Project, Jo Comerford, offers this context: "The Obama administration has handed us the largest Pentagon budget since World War II, not including the $160 billion in war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan."<br /><br /> The word "defense" is inherently self-justifying. But it begs the question: Just what is being defended?<br /><br /> For the United States, an epitaph on the horizon says: "We had to destroy our country in order to defend it."<br /><br /> As new sequences of political horrors unfold, maybe it's a bit too easy for writers and readers of the progressive blogosphere to remain within the politics of online denunciation. Cogent analysis and articulated outrage are necessary but insufficient. The unmet challenge is to organize widely, consistently and effectively -- against the warfare state -- on behalf of humanistic priorities.<br /><br /> In the process, let's be clear. This is not a defense budget. This is a death budget.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 02 Feb 2010 02:00:01 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 660878 at http://xxx.alternet.org World World pentagon afghanistan barack obama department of defense defense budget military budget Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize With a Pro-War Speech http://xxx.alternet.org/story/144483/obama_accepts_nobel_peace_prize_with_a_pro-war_speech <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Obama spoke of &quot;the world as it is&quot; and insisted that &quot;war is sometimes necessary&quot; -- but generalities do nothing to mitigate the horrors of war being endured by others.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Eloquence in Oslo cannot change the realities of war.</p> <p>As President Obama neared the close of his Nobel address, he called for "the continued expansion of our moral imagination." Yet his speech was tightly circumscribed by the policies that his oratory labored to justify.<br /><br /> Lofty rationales easily tell us that warfare is striving for the noble goal of peace. But the rationales scarcely intersect with actual war. The oratory sugarcoats the poisons, helping to kill hope in the name of it.<br /><br /> A few months ago, when I visited an Afghan office for women's empowerment, staffers took me to a pilot project in one of Kabul's poorest neighborhoods. There, women were learning small-scale business skills while also gaining personal strength and mutual support.<br /><br /> Two-dozen women, who ranged in age from early 20s to late 50s, talked with enthusiasm about the workshops. They were desperate to change their lives. When it was time to leave, I had a question: What should I tell people in the United States, if they ask what Afghan women want most of all?<br /><br /> After several women spoke, the translator summed up. "They all said that the first priority is peace."<br /><br /> In Afghanistan, after 30 years under the murderous twin shadows of poverty and war, the only lifeline is peace.<br /><br /> From President Obama, we hear that peace is the ultimate goal. But "peace" is a fixture on a strategic horizon that keeps moving as the military keeps marching.<br /><br /> Just a couple of days before Obama stepped to the podium in Oslo, the general running the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan spoke to a congressional committee in Washington about the president's recent pledge to begin withdrawal of U.S. troops in July 2011. "I don't believe that is a deadline at all," Stanley McChrystal said.<br /><br /> War is not peace. It never has been. It never will be.<br /><br /> Actual policy always, in the real world, profoundly trumps even the best rhetoric. And so, for instance, when President Obama’s Nobel speech proclaimed that "America cannot act alone" and called for “standards that govern the use of force,” the ringing declaration clashed with the announcement last month that he will not sign the international Mine Ban Treaty.<br /><br /> As Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams pointed out, "Obama's position on land mines calls into question his expressed views on multilateralism, respect for international humanitarian law and disarmament. How can he, with total credibility, lead the world to nuclear disarmament when his own country won’t give up even land mines?"<br /><br /> At the outset of his speech in Oslo, the president spoke of his "acute sense of the cost of armed conflict." Well, there's acute and then there's acute. I think of the people I met and saw in Kabul who are missing limbs, and the countless more whose lives have been shattered by war.<br /><br /> In the name of pragmatism, Obama spoke of "the world as it is" and threw a cloak of justification over the grisly escalation in Afghanistan by insisting that "war is sometimes necessary" -- but generalities do nothing to mitigate the horrors of war being endured by others.<br /><br /> President Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize while delivering -- to the world as it is -- a pro-war speech. The context instantly turned the speech's insights into flackery for more war.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 10 Dec 2009 04:00:01 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 659836 at http://xxx.alternet.org World World afghanistan barack obama nobel peace prize stanley mcchrystal olso obama nobel speech jody williams international mine ban tr Politicians' Symbolic Opposition to Afghan Escalation is Pointless As Long As Congress Keeps Writing Checks http://xxx.alternet.org/story/144256/politicians%27_symbolic_opposition_to_afghan_escalation_is_pointless_as_long_as_congress_keeps_writing_checks <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It doesn&#039;t much matter whether people &quot;support&quot; the escalation. What matters is whether they openly oppose it -- and, if so, how vocally and emphatically.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>An underlying conceit of the new spin about benchmarks and timetables for Afghanistan is the notion that pivotal events there can be choreographed from Washington. So, a day ahead of the president's Tuesday night speech, the New York Times quoted an unnamed top administration official saying: "He wants to give a clear sense of both the time frame for action and how the war will eventually wind down."<br /><br /> But "eventually" is a long way off. In the meantime, the result of Washington's hollow politics is more carnage.<br /><br /> The next days and weeks will bring an avalanche of hype about insisting on measurable progress and shifting burdens onto the Afghan army -- while the U.S. military expands the war. In the groove, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed, told CNN viewers on Sunday: "The key element here is not just more troops. The key element is shifting the operations to the Afghanis [sic]. And if that can be done, then I would support the president."<br /><br /> That's the kind of talk that I. F. Stone disparaged at the height of the Vietnam War, in mid-1970, when he concluded: "Not enough Asians are going to fight Asians for us even if the price is right."<br /><br /> Now, President Obama's decision to massively escalate the Afghanistan war is confronting people and institutions in the United States with a challenge of historic dimensions.<br /><br /> Among those inclined to be antiwar, it doesn't much matter whether they "support" the escalation. What matters is whether they openly oppose it -- and, if so, how vocally and emphatically.<br /><br /> There's a clear and well-trod pathway for ineffectual dissent from members of Congress who end up passively assisting the escalation by a fellow Democrat in the Oval Office. Avid support for the war effort is helpful but not necessary. Scarcity of determined opposition will suffice to keep the war politically viable in Washington.<br /><br /> At the core of the enabling politics is inner space that's hollow enough to reliably cave under pressure. Typically, Democrats with antiwar inclinations weaken and collapse at push-comes-to-shove moments on Capitol Hill. The habitual pattern involves loyalty toward -- and fear of -- "the leadership."</p> <p>Early on, during President Johnson's Vietnam War escalation, Senators Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening and then Frank Church were prophetic antiwar pariahs. As years went by, the war's horrors and growing domestic opposition led some others in Congress to find a solid inner core that withstood pro-war pressures. Eventually.<br /><br /> We're now in an early stage of such a progression. Due to careful silences in U.S. politics, many more lives will be shattered. Soon. And eventually.<br /><br /> The essence of a core becomes evident under pressure. It's one thing to voice opposition to sending more troops into Afghanistan -- it's another to really try to prevent the escalation. Few in Congress have gotten serious enough about halting the war's deadly spiral to sign onto Congresswoman Barbara Lee's bill H.R. 3699, which would prohibit any increase in funding for additional troop deployment to Afghanistan.<br /><br /> Among Democrats in powerful positions, some misgivings about the war are evident -- but willingness to withhold spending for the war is not.<br /><br /> The tragic limits of those misgivings were evident last week when ABC News interviewed Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who called for a war surtax.<br /><br /> "On the merits, I think it's a mistake to deepen our involvement," Obey said. "But if we are going to do that, then at least we ought to pay for it. Because if we don't, if we don't pay for it, then the cost of the Afghan war will wipe out every other initiative that we have to try to rebuild our own economy."<br /><br /> Then came a direct question from the network correspondent: "The White House comes and asks you again to get through this Congress money for an increased commitment in Afghanistan -- are you going to be there fighting to get that passed?"<br /><br /> The congressman replied: "I'm going to be there fighting to get whatever they do, paid for."<br /><br /> But Congress can't stop the war while paying for it.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 30 Nov 2009 07:00:01 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 659614 at http://xxx.alternet.org World News & Politics World congress afghanistan barack obama lyndon johnson jack reed democracts There's No Such Thing As a Kinder, Gentler War In Afghanistan http://xxx.alternet.org/story/143918/there%27s_no_such_thing_as_a_kinder%2C_gentler_war_in_afghanistan <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Fine-tuning the U.S. war in Afghanistan is no substitute for acknowledging -- with words and with policy -- that there will be no military solution.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Disputes are raging within the Obama administration over how to continue the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. A new leak tells us that Washington's ambassador in Kabul, former four-star general Karl Eikenberry, has cautioned against adding more troops while President Hamid Karzai keeps disappointing American policymakers. This is the extent of the current debate within the warfare state.</p> <p>During a top-level meeting Wednesday afternoon in the White House, the <em>Washington Post</em> reports, President Obama "was given a series of options laid out by military planners with differing numbers of new U.S. deployments, ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 troops. None of the scenarios calls for scaling back the U.S. presence in Afghanistan or delaying the dispatch of additional troops."</p> <p>No doubt there are real tactical differences between Eikenberry and the U.S./NATO commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, the ultra-spun brainy spartan who wants to boost the current U.S. troop level of 68,000 to well over 100,000 in the war-afflicted country. But those policy disputes exist well within the context of a permanent war psychology.</p> <p>What's desperately needed is a clear breakaway from that psychology, which routinely offers "kinder, gentler" forms of endless and horrific war. But predictably, in the days and weeks ahead, some progressives -- from the grassroots to Capitol Hill -- will gravitate toward Eikenberry's stance.</p> <p>Fine-tuning the U.S. war in Afghanistan is no substitute for acknowledging -- with words and with policy -- that there will be no military solution. Adjusting the dose and mix of military intervention is a prescription to do more harm on a massive scale.</p> <p>A recent spate of media stories has focused on soldiers, veterans and family members struggling with PTSD and other heartbreaking consequences of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the key messages is that the government must do a better job of caring for battle-scarred veterans.</p> <p>To the great extent that such stories don't question continuation of the warfare, they're part of the stampede. As long as the only options put forward have to do with finding better ways to cope with ongoing war, the men and women in the military are framed as people who are most admirable as participants in their own suffering (and, implicitly, as people who are willing to inflict suffering on others).</p> <p>The suffering of Afghan people, meanwhile, gets short shrift in the USA's media and political discourse. While we hear -- though not enough -- about traumas that continue to plague Americans many months or years after being in war zones, we hear almost nothing about the traumas that the U.S. military visits upon people living in the occupied country.</p> <p>After 30 years of war, Afghans do not need more ingenious war efforts by the latest batch of best and brightest in Washington.</p> <p>Thundering along Pennsylvania Avenue, the stampede for war is hard to resist. It's a stampede that few members of Congress have been willing to directly challenge. So, the "serious" policy arguments, from the White House to Capitol Hill, have remained bullish on war -- and eager to find better ways to wage it.</p> <p>The November 12 edition of the <em>Post</em> reported that Ambassador Eikenberry "has expressed frustration with the relative paucity of funds set aside for spending on development and reconstruction this year in Afghanistan, a country wrecked by three decades of war." The newspaper added: "Earlier this summer, he asked for $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending for 2010, a 60 percent increase over what Obama had requested from Congress, but the request has languished even as the administration has debated spending billions of dollars on new troops."</p> <p>The Obama administration is spending upwards of 90 percent of all U.S. funds in Afghanistan on military operations -- and what Eikenberry is seeking would add up to mere drops in the bucket compared to what Afghanistan really needs for "development and reconstruction." Nor is the U.S. government in any moral or logistical position to effectively supply such aid.</p> <p>Right now, the paltry aid from Washington is largely disbursed in Afghanistan as an adjunct to the Pentagon's military operations -- and it is widely recognized as such. That's why the resulting projects are so often blown up or burned down by insurgents.</p> <p>In war-ravaged Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, effective aid is possible. While woefully underfunded, the National Solidarity Program and the Aga Khan Foundation are prime examples of successes -- if the goals are genuine humanitarian aid and development rather than providing "hearts and minds" photo-ops and leverage for the occupiers' military campaigns.</p> <p>The current dispute over how to continue the war in Afghanistan should not be mistaken for an argument over basic assumptions. And what's wrong with U.S. intervention in Afghanistan is fundamental.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 12 Nov 2009 21:00:01 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 659294 at http://xxx.alternet.org World World afghanistan hamid karzai stanley mcchrystal karl eikenberry Men Toting Guns, In Kabul and Washington http://xxx.alternet.org/story/142551/men_toting_guns%2C_in_kabul_and_washington <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">How long will the U.S. continue destroying Afghanistan under the flimsy pretense of &quot;helping?&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>For those who believe in making war, Kabul is a notable work product. After 30 years, the results are in: a devastated city.</p> <p>A stale witticism calls Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai “the mayor of Kabul.” Now, not even. On block after block in the Afghan capital, AK-47s are conspicuous in the hands of men on guard against a near future. Widely seen as corrupt, inept and – with massive election fraud -- now illegitimate, Karzai’s government is losing its grip along with its credibility.</p> <p>Meanwhile, a war-stoking mindset is replicating itself at the highest reaches of official Washington -- even while polls tell us that the pro-war spin has been losing ground. For the U.S. public, dwindling support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a tipping point. But, as you’ve probably heard, the war must go on.</p> <p>Kabul’s streets are blowing with harsh dust, a brutal harvest of chronic war that has destroyed trees and irrigation on mountains around the city.</p> <p>Visiting Kabul in late August, I met a lot of wonderful people, doing their best in the midst of grim and lethal realities. The city seemed thick with pessimism.</p> <p>In comparison, the mainline political discourse about Afghanistan in the United States is blithe. A familiar duet has the news media and the White House asking the perennial question: “Can the war be won?”</p> <p>The administration insists that the answer is yes. The press is mixed. But they’re both asking the wrong question.</p> <p>More relevant, by far, would be to ask: Should the U.S. government keep destroying Afghanistan in order to “save” it?</p> <p>All over Kabul, men are tensely holding AK-47s; some are pointing machineguns from flatbed trucks. But the really big guns, of course, are being wielded from Washington, where administrative war-making thrives on abstraction. Day to day, it can be easy to order the destruction of what and who remain unseen.</p> <p>Truly, the worst enemy in Afghanistan is poverty. But the U.S. government keeps waving a white flag.</p> <p>Does anyone in the upper reaches of the Obama administration actually grasp what it means that Afghanistan’s poverty is very close to the worst in the world?</p> <p>The current version of the best and the brightest should ponder the kind of data that can be found in the CIA World Factbook, such as Afghanistan’s infant mortality rate -- defined as “the number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1,000 live births in the same year.” The current number is 154.</p> <p>Last year, while the U.S. government was spending nearly $100 million a day on military efforts in Afghanistan, an Oxfam report put the total amount of humanitarian aid to the country from all sources at just $7 million per day. Not much has changed since then. The<br /> supplemental funding measure that the White House pushed through Congress a few months ago devotes 90 percent of the U.S. spending in Afghanistan to military expenditures.</p> <p>Dimes to nurture life. Dollars to destroy it.</p> <p>I hate to think of the kind of future that the U.S. war escalation foreshadows for the very thin children I saw in Kabul, flying ragged little kites or playing with toys like an empty plastic soda bottle with a rope tied around its neck.</p> <p>Echoing now is a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1967. If we replace the word “Vietnam” with “Afghanistan,” the gist of his message is with us in the autumn of 2009:</p> <p>“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Afghanistan. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Afghanistan. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.”<br />  </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 10 Sep 2009 07:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 657976 at http://xxx.alternet.org World World News & Politics war obama afghanistan poverty afghan war Is Your Representative Speaking Out Against Escalation in Afghanistan? http://xxx.alternet.org/story/133744/is_your_representative_speaking_out_against_escalation_in_afghanistan <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some members of Congress have asked Obama to reconsider sending 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. But the list is awfully short.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Is your representative speaking out against escalation of the Afghanistan war?<br /><br />Last week, some members of Congress sent President Obama a letter that urged him to “reconsider” his order deploying 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan.<br /><br />Everyone in the House of Representatives had ample opportunity to sign onto the letter. Beginning in late February, it circulated on Capitol Hill for more than two weeks. The letter was the most organized congressional move so far to challenge escalation of the war in Afghanistan.<br /><br />But the list of signers was awfully short.<br /><br />    *  California:  Bob Filner, Michael Honda<br />    *  Hawaii:  Neil Abercrombie<br />    *  Kentucky:  Ed Whitfield<br />    *  Maryland:  Roscoe Bartlett<br />    *  Massachusetts:  Jim McGovern<br />    *  Michigan:  John Conyers<br />    *  North Carolina:  Howard Coble, Walter Jones<br />    *  Ohio:  Marcy Kaptur, Dennis Kucinich<br />    *  Tennessee:  John Duncan<br />    *  Texas:  Ron Paul<br />    *  Wisconsin:  Steve Kagen<br /><br />We desperately need a substantive national debate on U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the Obama administration says that the problems of the region cannot be solved by military means, the basic approach is reliance on heightened military means.<br /><br />One of several journalists in Afghanistan on a tour “organized by the staff of commanding Gen. David D. McKiernan,” the <em>Washington Post</em>’s Jackson Diehl, wrote a March 23 op-ed in support of an invigorated “counterinsurgency strategy.” With journalistic resolve, he explained: “Everyone expects a surge of violence and American casualties this year; no one expects a decisive improvement in the situation for at least several years beyond that.”<br /><br />The commanding general, Diehl added, does not anticipate that the Afghan army “can defend the country on its own” until 2016. In effect, the message is to stay the course for another seven years: “The thousands of American soldiers and civilians pouring into the country deserve that strategic patience; without it, the sacrifices we will soon hear of will be wasted.”<br /><br />And so, with chillingly familiar echoes, goes the perverse logic of escalating the war in Afghanistan. “Strategic patience” -- more and more war -- will be necessary so that those who must die will not have died in vain.<br /><br />In contrast, the letter from the 14 members of the House (eight Democrats, six Republicans) lays down a clear line of opposition to the rationales for stepping up the warfare.<br /><br />“If the intent is to leave behind a stable Afghanistan capable of governing itself, this military escalation may well be counterproductive,” the letter says. And it warns that “any perceived military success in Afghanistan might create pressure to increase military activity in Pakistan. This could very well lead to dangerous destabilization in the region and would increase hostility toward the United States.”<br /><br />More than 400 members of the House declined to sign the letter. In effect, they failed to join in a historic challenge to a prevailing assumption -- that the U.S. government must use massive violence for many more years to try to work Washington’s will on Afghanistan.<br /><br />An old red-white-and-blue bumper sticker says: “These colors don’t run.”<br /><br />A newer one says: “These colors don’t run ... the world.”<br /><br />Now, it’s time for another twist: “These colors won’t run ... Afghanistan.”<br /><br />But denial and evasion are in the political air.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Fri, 27 Mar 2009 04:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 654569 at http://xxx.alternet.org War on Iraq World congress afghanistan barack obama pakistan dennis kucinich ron paul marcy kaptur john conyers jackson diehl david d. mckiernan bob filner michael honda neil abercrombie ed whitfield roscoe bartlett jim mcgovern howard coble walter jones john duncan steve kagen Announcing the 2008 P.U.-litzer Prizes http://xxx.alternet.org/story/115977/announcing_the_2008_p.u.-litzer_prizes <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The year&#039;s stinkiest media performances.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Now in their 17th year, the P.U.-litzer Prizes recognize some of the nation's stinkiest media performances. As the judges for these annual awards, we do our best to identify the most-deserving recipients of this unwelcome plaudit.</p><p>And now, the P.U.-litzer Prizes for 2008:</p><p><strong>HOT FOR OBAMA PRIZE</strong> -- MSNBC's Chris Matthews: This award sparked fierce competition, but the cinch came on the day Barack Obama swept the Potomac Primary in February -- when Chris Matthews spoke of "the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often."</p><p><strong>BEYOND PARODY PRIZE</strong> -- Fox News: In August, a FoxNews.com teaser for the "O'Reilly Factor" program said: "Obama bombarded by personal attacks. Are they legit? Ann Coulter comments."</p><p><strong>UPSIDE-DOWN "ELITIST" AWARD</strong> -- <em>New York Times</em> columnist David Brooks: For months, high-paid Beltway journalists competed with each other in advising candidate Obama on how to mingle with working-class folks. Ubiquitous pundit Brooks won the prize for his wisdom on reaching "less-educated people, downscale people," offered on MSNBC in June: "Obama's problem is he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who could go into an Applebee's salad bar and people think he fits in naturally there. And so he's had to change to try to be more like that Applebee's guy." It would indeed be hard for Obama to fit in naturally at an Applebee's salad bar. Applebee's restaurants don't have salad bars.</p><p><strong>GUTTER BALL PUNDITRY AWARD</strong> -- Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball": In program after program during the spring, Matthews repeatedly questioned whether Obama could connect with "regular" voters -- "regular" meaning voters who are white or "who actually do know how to bowl." He once said of Obama: "This gets very ethnic, but the fact that he's good at basketball doesn't surprise anybody. But the fact that he's that terrible at bowling does make you wonder."</p><p><strong>STRAIGHT SKINNY PRIZE</strong> -- <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reporter Amy Chozick: In August, the <em>Journal</em>'s Chozick went beyond the standard elitist charge to offer yet another reason that average voters might be wary of Obama. Below the headline "Too Fit to Be President?" she wrote of Obama: "Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them." Chozick asked: "In a nation in which 66 percent of the voting-age population is overweight and 32 percent is obese, could Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability?" To support her argument, she quoted supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton. One said: "He needs to put some meat on his bones." Another, prodded by Chozick, wrote on a Yahoo bulletin board: "I won't vote for any beanpole guy."</p><p><strong>"OUR CENTER-RIGHT NATION" AWARD</strong> -- <em>Newsweek</em> editor Jon Meacham: With Democrats in the process of winning big in 2008 as they had in 2006, a media chorus erupted warning Democratic politicians away from their promises of change. Behind the warnings was the repeated claim that America is essentially a conservative country. In an election-eve <em>Newsweek</em> cover story with the subheadline "America remains a center-right nation -- a fact that a President Obama would forget at his peril," Meacham argued that the liberalism of even repeatedly re-elected FDR offended voters. And the editor claimed that a leftward trend in election results and issues polling means little -- as would Obama's victory after months of charges that he stood for radical change. Evidence seemed to lose out to journalists' fears that campaign promises might actually be kept.</p><p><strong>BAILOUT BLUSTER AWARD</strong> -- Pundit David Brooks: On Sept. 30, just after the House defeated the $700 billion Wall Street bailout measure, Brooks' column in the <em>New York Times</em> denounced the balking House members for their failure to heed "the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed." But a week later, after the House approved a bailout -- and with the credit crunch unabated and stock market still plunging -- Brooks wrote: "At these moments, central bankers and Treasury officials leap in to try to make the traders feel better. Officials pretend they're coming up with policy responses, but much of what they do is political theater." Now he tells us.</p><p><strong>"STATUS QUO CENTRISTS CAN'T BE IDEOLOGUES" AWARD</strong> -- Too many to name: In late November, corporate media outlets began to credit Barack Obama with making supposedly non-ideological Cabinet picks. The <em>New York Times</em> front page reported that his choices "suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues." <em>Conservative Times</em> columnist David Brooks praised the picks as "not ideological" and the economic nominees as "moderate and thoughtful Democrats." <em>USA Today</em> reported that Obama's selections had "records that display more pragmatism than ideology." In mediaspeak, if you thought invading Iraq and signing the NAFTA trade pact were good ideas, you're a pragmatist. If not, you're an ideologue.</p><p><strong>"WHO WOULD HAVE PREDICTED?" AWARD</strong> -- <em>New York Times</em>: The <em>Times</em>' op-ed page marked the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion in March by choosing "nine experts on military and foreign affairs" to write on "the one aspect of the war that most surprised them or that they wish they had considered in the prewar debate." None of the experts selected had opposed the invasion. That kind of exclusion made possible a bizarre claim by <em>Times</em> correspondent John Burns in the same day's paper: "Only the most prescient could have guessed ... that the toll would include tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, as well as nearly 4,000 American troops; or that America's financial costs by some recent estimates, would rise above $650 billion by 2008." Those who'd warned of such disastrous results were not only prescient, but were routinely excluded from mainstream coverage.</p><p><strong>IMPERIALLY EMBEDDED PRIZE</strong> -- John Burns, <em>New York Times</em>: Described as "the longest-serving foreign correspondent in <em>New York Times</em> history," Burns seemed less a skeptical reporter than a channeler of Henry Kissinger when he offered his world view to PBS' Charlie Rose in April: "The United States and its predominant economic, political and military power in the world have been the single greatest force for stability in the world, such as it is now, certainly since the Second World War. If the outcome in Iraq were to destroy the credibility of American power, to destroy America's willingness to use its power in the world to achieve good, to fight back against totalitarianism, authoritarianism, gross human rights abuses, it would be a very dark day."</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><a href="http://www.jeffcohen.org/">Jeff Cohen</a> is founder of the media watch group <a href="http://www.fair.org/index.php">FAIR</a>, former TV pundit and author of <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/097606216X?tag=commondreams-20&amp;camp=0&amp;creative=0&amp;linkCode=as1&amp;creativeASIN=097606216X&amp;adid=0JRZWM7XPZRT2CFXYWZ2&amp;">Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media</a></i>. Norman Solomon's latest book, Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 29 Dec 2008 21:00:01 -0800 Jeff Cohen, Norman Solomon, AlterNet 652513 at http://xxx.alternet.org Media Media media punditry Corporate Media Try to Scare Obama Into Betraying Progressives http://xxx.alternet.org/story/107934/corporate_media_try_to_scare_obama_into_betraying_progressives <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Bill Clinton&#039;s alleged lurch to the left in &#039;92 is being used to push Obama to the right. Problem is, it never happened.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It's been 16 years since a Democrat moved into the White House. Now, the fog of memory and the spin of media are teaming up to explain that Barack Obama must hew to "the center" if he knows what's good for his presidency.</p><p>"Many political observers," the <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em> reported days ago, say that Obama "must tack toward the political mainstream to avoid miscalculations made by President Bill Clinton, who veered left and fired up the 1994 Republican backlash." This storyline provides a kind of political morality play: The new president tried to govern from the left, and Democrats lost control of Congress just two years later.</p><p>But, if facts matter, the narrative is a real head-scratcher.</p><p>During the 1992 election year, Clinton had campaigned for the White House under the mantra "Putting People First." But as economic analyst Doug Henwood was to comment, President-elect Clinton swiftly morphed into the champion of an austerity plan that could have been called "Putting Bondholders First."</p><p>From the outset, President Clinton made clear his commitments to the corporate centers of economic power by choosing such officials as Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, trade representative Mickey Kantor and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.</p><p>Soon after becoming president, Clinton abandoned his few initial stances that might qualify as "left." He quickly deserted his brief position for gay rights in the military. Under fire for his nomination of progressive law professor Lani Guinier to be assistant attorney general for civil rights, Clinton tossed her overboard.</p><p>In sharp contrast, the new president fought like hell for the corporate-beloved trade agreement known as NAFTA. And he spread his wings as a deficit hawk, while his campaign's pledges of "public investment" fell to earth with paltry line items. Less than five months into his presidency, <em>Newsweek</em> lauded Clinton's "shift to the right" and urged him to show "the backbone" to stay there.</p><p>But none of that has stopped the media's clucking about the Clinton administration's early "lurch to the left." The myth never died, though it was quickly ripe for debunking.</p><p>In real time, one of the most astute debunkers was Barbara Ehrenreich. As the only writer from the left with a regular column in a major U.S. newsmagazine (she later got the boot), Ehrenreich wrote a <em>Time</em> piece in mid-June 1993 that directly addressed the nascent mythology. The incoming president's leftward lurch was "a neat parable," she noted, "but it never happened."</p><p>Ehrenreich added: "The lurch to the left is like the ‘stab in the back' invented by right-wing Germans after World War One: an instant myth designed to discredit all one's political enemies in one fell swoop. ... Maybe it's been so long that we've forgotten what ‘left' is and how to tell it from right. At the simplest, most ecumenical level, to be on the left means to take the side of the underdog, whoever that may be: the meek, the poor and, generally speaking, the ‘least among us,' as a well-known representative of the left position put it a couple of millenniums ago."</p><p>More than 15 years after Barbara Ehrenreich wrote those words, the tall tale of President Clinton's lurch to the left is still in the air. Warning Democratic politicians against being "liberal" or moving "left" remains a time-honored -- even compulsive -- media ritual. But as Barack Obama fills key economic posts in his administration, the left-leery and corporate-friendly press is likely to be quite content.<br /> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 20 Nov 2008 07:00:01 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 651570 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics right clinton obama progressives left center Obama Has a Mandate to Spread the Wealth http://xxx.alternet.org/story/106202/obama_has_a_mandate_to_spread_the_wealth <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Barack Obama won the presidency after clearly saying that he wants to spread the wealth. Let&#039;s make him do it.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Two days before he lost the election, John McCain summarized what had become the central message of his campaign: "Redistribute the wealth, spread the wealth around -- we can't do that."<br /><br />Oh yes we can.<br /><br />The 2008 presidential election became something of a referendum on "spreading the wealth."<br /><br />"My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody," Barack Obama said on Oct. 12, in a conversation with an Ohio resident named Joe. The candidate quickly added: "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."<br /><br />McCain eagerly attacked the concept, most dramatically three days later during the last debate. While instantly creating the "Joe the Plumber" everyman myth, McCain sharpened the distinctions between the two tickets while the nation watched and listened. He charged: "The whole premise behind Senator Obama's plans are class warfare -- let's spread the wealth around."<br /><br />Obama has routinely reframed the issue in terms of fairness. "Exxon Mobil, which made $12 billion, record profits, over the last several quarters," he replied during the final debate, "they can afford to pay a little more so that ordinary families who are hurting out there -- they're trying to figure out how they're going to afford food, how they're going to save for their kids' college education, they need a break."<br /><br />This fall, the candidates and their surrogates endlessly repeated such arguments. As much as anything else, the presidential campaign turned into a dispute over the wisdom of "spreading the wealth." Most voters were comfortable enough with the concept to send its leading advocate to the Oval Office.<br /><br />In the process, the top of the GOP ticket recycled attacks on the principles of the New Deal. Like Franklin Roosevelt when he first ran for president in 1932, Barack Obama put forward economic prescriptions that were hardly radical. Yet, in the next few years, Obama's administration could accomplish great things -- reminiscent of the New Deal, with its safety-net guarantees and its (redistributive) progressive income tax and its support for labor rights and its mammoth commitment to public works programs that created jobs. Today, we need green jobs that cure our economy and heal our environment.<br /><br />Let's be clear: Despite their rhetoric, even McCain and Palin know that spreading the wealth from greedy elites to the masses of people is quite popular in our country. That's why their campaign emphasized how Palin "stood up to the oil industry" in Alaska. She did it by imposing a windfall profits tax on big oil that put money into the hands of every man, woman and child in the state. If it's good for Alaska, why wouldn't it be good for America as a whole?<br /><br />Obama and his activist base won a mandate for strong government action on behalf of economic fairness. But since election night, countless pundits and politicians have somberly warned the president-elect to govern from "the center." Presumably, such governance would preclude doing much to spread the wealth. Before that sort of conventional wisdom further hardens like political cement, national discussions should highlight options for moving toward a more egalitarian society.<br /><br />Government policies in that direction would be a sharp reversal of what's been happening over the last few decades. No matter how you slice it, more of the economic pie has been going to fewer people.<br /><br />"The top 1 percent of households received 22.9 percent of all pre-tax income in 2006, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s," the Working Group on Extreme Inequality reports. "This is the greatest concentration of income since 1928." And: "Between 1979 and 2006, the top 5 percent of American families saw their real incomes increase 87 percent. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth saw zero increase in real income."<br /><br />Current tax structures are steeply tilted to make the rich richer at the expense of others: "In the 2008 tax year, households in the bottom 20 percent will receive $26 due to the Bush tax cuts. Households in the middle 20 percent will receive $784. Households in the top 1 percent will receive $50,495. And households in the top 0.1 percent will receive $266,151."<br /><br />We can reverse those trends. The time and opportunity have come to "spread the wealth."<br /><br />When President Franklin Roosevelt heard pleas for bold steps to counter extreme economic inequality, he replied: "Go out and make me do it."<br /><br />Barack Obama won the presidency after clearly saying that he wants to spread the wealth. Let's make him do it. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 06 Nov 2008 13:00:01 -0800 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 651214 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2008 Economy obama wealth election 2008 financial crisis What Progressives Need to Do After November 4th http://xxx.alternet.org/story/104836/what_progressives_need_to_do_after_november_4th <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Progressives must push for economic justice, health care for all, civil liberties, environmental protection and demilitarization.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->It could be a start -- a clear national rejection of the extreme right-wing brew that has saturated the executive branch for nearly eight years.<br /><br />What's emerging for Election Day is a common front against the dumbed-down demagoguery that's now epitomized and led by John McCain and Sarah Palin.<br /><br />A large margin of victory over the McCain-Palin ticket, repudiating what it stands for, is needed -- and absolutely insufficient. It's a start along a long uphill climb to get this country onto a course that approximates sanity.<br /><br />McCain's only real hope is to achieve the election equivalent of drawing an inside straight -- capturing the electoral votes of some key swing states by slim margins. His small window of possible victory is near closing. Progressives should help to slam it shut.<br /><br />Like it or not, the scale of a national rejection of McCain-Palin and Bush would be measured -- in terms of state power and perceived political momentum -- along a continuum that ranges from squeaker to landslide. It's in the interests of progressives for the scale to be closer to landslide than squeaker.<br /><br />As McCain's strategists aim to thread an electoral-vote needle, it cannot be said with certainty that they will fail. Who can credibly declare that an aggregate of anti-democratic factors -- such as purged voting rolls, onerous requirements for voter ID, imposed obstacles to voting that target people of color, inequities in distribution of voting machines, not counting some votes as they are cast, anti-Obama racism and other factors -- could not combine to bring a "victory" resulting in a President McCain and a Vice President Palin come Jan. 20, 2009?<br /><br />Under these circumstances, the wider the real margin for Obama over McCain, the less likely that McCain can claim sufficient electoral votes to become president.<br /><br />Progressives are mostly on board with the Obama campaign, even though -- on paper, with his name removed -- few of his positions deserve the "progressive" label. We shouldn't deceive ourselves into seeing Obama as someone he's not. Yet an Obama presidency offers the possibilities that persistent organizing and coalition-building at the grassroots could be effective at moving national policy in a progressive direction. In contrast, a McCain presidency offers possibilities that are extremely grim.<br /><br />Some progressives, as a matter of principle, have come to a different conclusion. They're eager to cast their votes for a presidential candidate (Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney) who can't win.<br /><br />Of course people's votes are entirely their own, to do with as they see fit. But the right to do something is distinct from the wisdom of doing it.<br /><br />Last week, a mass email from the Nader for President 2008 campaign began by telling supporters: "Ralph Nader is at 5 percent in The Show Me State -- Missouri. And he's moving up. That's according to the most recent CNN/Time Missouri poll." The celebratory tone of the message was notable. Nader was polling at 5 percent in a crucial swing state -- where polls showed that McCain and Obama were in a dead heat. No wonder, on the same day as the email message, McCain spoke at rallies in suburbs of St. Louis and Kansas City.<br /><br />Nader's potential effect on the election may be too small to increase the chances of a McCain victory. But from all indications, even if McCain and Obama were tied in polls across the country, the Nader campaign would be proceeding as it is now. What does that tell us about the logic of pressing forward with a vanguard approach even if it might serve the interests of right-wing forces that most progressives are straining to roll back in this election?<br /><br />From the 1960s through the '90s, Ralph Nader had an unparalleled record of fighting for progressive reform. But the 2008 campaign of Nader and running-mate Matt Gonzalez has a frozen-in-time quality. Their campaign makes an electoral argument that focuses largely on Democrats, not Republicans. Much of Nader's pitch for votes is centering on the charge that Democrats are as corporate and compromised as ever -- and in many ways he's right. But he ignores the reality that Republican leaders keep getting worse and more right-wing; they are clearly more dangerous than many assumed a decade ago.<br /><br />The historical trend is clear: Bush-Cheney have been further right and more reckless than even Newt Gingrich, who was further right than Ronald Reagan, who was further right than his Republican predecessors. And Palin speaks for herself.<br /><br />My former co-author Jeff Cohen puts it this way: "Focusing on Democratic corruption is not the problem. The problem is developing an electoral strategy that fails to acknowledge how increasingly extremist Republicans are. It reminds me of that George Carlin joke: 'Here's a partial score from the West Coast -- Dodgers 5.' An electoral strategy has to assess the current positions of BOTH teams."<br /><br />At this point, is an Obama victory a cinch? Maybe not. Consider this <i>New York Times</i> reporting published on Oct. 24: "Pollsters say there has never been a year when polling has been so problematic, given the uncertainty of who is going to vote in what is shaping up as an electorate larger than ever. While most national polls give Mr. Obama a relatively comfortable lead, in many statewide polls, Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain are much more closely matched. Even a small shift in the national number could deliver some of the closer states into the McCain camp, making an Electoral College victory at least possible."<br /><br />In fact, it's possible that Obama could win a clear victory in the popular vote while McCain manages to claim enough electoral votes to move into the White House. Crucial to such an outcome would be Missouri (which, as the <i>Times</i> notes, "has been a bellwether in every White House race during the last century except 1956"). Is taking that risk worth the satisfaction of getting a couple percent of the vote for Ralph Nader for president in 2008?<br /><br />The Nader campaign actually seems to be gunning for swing states in the stretch drive of the campaign, as if to maximize the chances that the Nader-Gonzalez ticket could be a factor in how the electoral votes end up being divided. Last week the Nader campaign announced that, beginning on Oct. 28, "Mr. Nader will make his final rounds campaigning in traditional swing states Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania."<br /><br />All year, the Nader campaign has been asking rhetorical questions such as (in the words of an Oct. 22 press advisory): "Why is it that so-called liberals and progressives continue to support Democratic candidates like Obama whose campaign slogans and rhetoric do not match their stated positions and voting records?"<br /><br />And: "Why do we progressives continue to delude ourselves that we stand for core, liberal values and then work for candidates who demonstrate that they have no commitment to these values?"<br /><br />This fall, the answers to these largely valid questions revolve around a truth that trumps many others: A McCain-Palin administration would be such a disaster that we want to do what we can to prevent it.<br /><br />When I've spoken to dozens of audiences during the two months since the Democratic National Convention (where I was an elected Obama delegate), there's been an overwhelmingly positive response when I make a simple statement about Obama and the prospects of an Obama presidency: "The best way to avoid becoming disillusioned is to not have illusions in the first place."<br /><br />Looking past the election, progressives will need to mobilize for a comprehensive agenda including economic justice, guaranteed healthcare for all, civil liberties, environmental protection and demilitarization.<br /><br />The forces arrayed against far-reaching progressive change are massive and unrelenting. If an Obama victory is declared next week, those forces will be regrouping in front of our eyes -- with right-wing elements looking for backup from corporate and pro-war Democrats. How much leverage these forces exercise on an Obama presidency would heavily depend on the extent to which progressives are willing and able to put up a fight.<br /><br />It's a fight we should welcome. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 28 Oct 2008 06:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 650905 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics obama progressives election08 mccain The Battle for a Progressive Congress http://xxx.alternet.org/story/104134/the_battle_for_a_progressive_congress <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Moving a progressive agenda on Capitol Hill will take more than defeating Republicans. It will also require electing strong progressives.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->At this point, many journalists are speculating about the number of congressional seats that Republicans will lose on Election Day. But a boost in the size of the Democratic majority might not count for much if a blue wave simply makes it possible for conservative and centrist "blue dogs" to end up doggie-paddling into the House.<br /><br />Less than two weeks before Election Day, the scent of red blood is in the water. "A big wave for Obama might be too much of a burden for Republican congressional candidates to bear," the Rothenberg Political Report says, "at a time when they are already saddled with an unpopular Republican president and an unpopular Republican brand." On Nov. 4, dozens of GOP candidates are likely to lose contests for House seats deemed "safe" just months ago.<br /><br />But moving a progressive agenda on Capitol Hill will require more than defeating Republicans. It will require electing strong progressives. And the most meaningful shifts will come with genuine progressive candidates who actually take seats away from right-wing Republicans.<br /><br />That's why Bill Durston's campaign against a very conservative incumbent, the notably arrogant Rep. Dan Lungren, has symbolic and substantive potential for helping to change the direction of Congress.<br /><br />In late winter, I visited Durston as he was launching his long-shot campaign to unseat Lungren in a far-flung congressional district that extends from the Sacramento area all the way to the Nevada border. The conventional wisdom was that Lungren couldn't be beat. So, Bill Durston had the Democratic primary all to himself.<br /><br />Congressman Lungren -- whose latest rating from the League of Conservation Voters gives him a score of 0 percent -- went into this election year with a mainstream aura of invincibility. The national Democratic Party apparatus showed no tangible sign of interest in ousting him.<br /><br />But after a long grassroots campaign against the odds, polling now says that Bill Durston is in a statistical dead heat with Rep. Lungren.<br /><br />If Durston wins, he'll be one of the most progressive members of Congress. I'm sure of that -- not just because of his background but also because this year I talked with him a lot and watched him in action many times. It's fitting to say that Durston is a former Marine who fought in Vietnam and is now strongly anti-war; that he's an emergency-room physician who is adamantly in favor of single-payer healthcare for all; that he's a genuine progressive on every issue under the sun. All true enough. But I've also learned, firsthand, about his resolute integrity and determined humility -- qualities that no piece of campaign literature is quite able to convey.<br /><br />It doesn't surprise me that even now, as far as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is concerned, Durston scarcely exists. While pouring large amounts of money into dozens of other congressional races, the DCCC has done nothing for his campaign. Durston is not a "moderate," and he doesn't trim his sails for prevailing winds.<br /><br />Thanks to grassroots volunteers and groups like Take Back Red California, Democracy For America and Progressive Democrats of America, the hold that Lungren had on his seat is now so shaky that Politico recently included him in a list of several Republicans now "fighting for their political lives, a reversal of fortunes that has caught even the most astute campaign observers by surprise."<br /><br />A defeat of Lungren would be something of a political earthquake in Northern California. Similarly, a few hundred miles to the south, in Orange County, the luck of fellow right-wing incumbent zealot Rep. Dana Rohrabacher may be about to run out as he tries to fend off a strong grassroots challenge from progressive Democratic candidate Debbie Cook.<br /><br />Understandably, this year the presidential campaign has largely overshadowed congressional races. But as a blue wave appears to be swelling across the country, it's a good sign that progressives are becoming more focused on what they can do to carry like-minded candidates into Congress. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 22 Oct 2008 07:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 650724 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2008 congress progressives election08 News Media Propaganda Helped Push Through Failed Bailout http://xxx.alternet.org/story/102773/news_media_propaganda_helped_push_through_failed_bailout <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The news media played a pivotal role in stampeding the country into a bailout that was unwise and unjust.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->It's mid-October, and the Wall Street bailout that was supposed to save the economy from collapse is a flop.<br /><br />Only two weeks ago, the media hype behind the $700 billion bailout was so intense that it sometimes verged on hysteria. More recent events should not be allowed to obscure the reality that the news media played a pivotal role in stampeding the country into a bailout that was unwise and unjust.<br /><br />Exceptions in the news coverage underscore the fact that other perspectives were readily available when the Bush administration began pushing its bailout proposal in late September. "Many of the nation's brightest economic minds are warning that if the Wall Street bailout passes, it would be a dangerous rush job," McClatchy Newspapers reported on Sept. 26. For instance, economist James K. Galbraith called the warnings of economic disaster in the absence of a swift bailout "more hype than real risk." He added: "A nasty recession is possible, but the bailout will not cure that."<br /><br />When the House of Representatives rejected the bailout on Sept. 29, all media hell broke loose. During the next few days, journalists and selected sources took turns decrying the failure of House naysayers to recognize the urgency of the moment. The nation's economy was at stake, and craven ideologues on Capitol Hill were dithering around!<br /><br />Countless editorials and pundits castigated the House members who had voted no. The condemners spanned the mainline media spectrum; liberals, moderates and conservatives excoriated the House and called for a swift reversal.<br /><br />Senate passage came on Thursday, Oct. 2, and the next day a chastened House approved a revised version. That Friday afternoon, President Bush signed the $700 billion Wall Street bailout into law.<br /><br />Despite all the media hype about how the bailout measure would quickly steady the stock market, it fell and kept falling. Over the next week, ending Oct. 10, the Dow made history as stocks plunged by 18 percent in five trading days.<br /><br />And what about the ostensible main reason for the humongous bailout in the first place -- unfreezing the credit markets? Well, in spite of the enormous media outcry for the bailout to get credit flowing, it didn't. And the key economic factor in the recession -- housing -- remained just as stuck as before.<br /><br />At the Center for Economic and Policy Research, on Oct. 1 -- two days before the House caved -- economist Dean Baker addressed a pivotal flaw in the spin. "It would be foolish to issue a mortgage loan without a very substantial down payment, since the expected decline in house prices will quickly destroy much or all of the equity held by the homeowner," he wrote. "In other words, it is the drop in house prices that is causing banks to demand 20 percent down payments in many markets, not their lack of capital. This situation will only be changed by a government house-price support program. Improving the financial conditions of banks will make little difference."<br /><br />But the media storyline required -- in fact, demanded -- that committing many billions of dollars to the "rescue" was the essential step to be taken from Capitol Hill.<br /><br />After the House initially balked at approving the Wall Street bailout on Sept. 29, the range of <i>New York Times</i> op-ed columnists took turns with the denunciation chores. None was more bitterly caustic than David Brooks. On Sept. 30, under the headline "Revolt of the Nihilists," he denounced the noncompliant House members for failing to heed "the collected expertise of the Treasury and Fed."<br /><br />A week later, on Oct. 7, when Brooks wrote a follow-up column, the bailout had been law for several days. But the stock market was plunging faster than ever, and the credit crunch was unabated. "At these moments, central bankers and Treasury officials leap in to try to make the traders feel better," Brooks wrote. "Officials pretend they're coming up with policy responses, but much of what they do is political theater."<br /><br />Now he tells us.<br /><br />Before the bailout gained approval on Capitol Hill, the media narrative was dangling the prospects of immediate results. But afterwards, there were none.<br /><br />"Global markets have so far given thumbs down to the giant $700 billion bailout plan," former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said in an Oct. 8 public-radio commentary, five days after the bailout had become law. "The easy answer to why the bailout hasn't worked is it hasn't been implemented yet. But its purpose was largely psychological -- to boost confidence that the government is doing something big to clear out bad debts that have been clogging the system. That psychological boost should have happened as soon as the bailout was enacted. Yet no one seems to believe that $700 billion will make much difference."<br /><br />On Oct. 12, the lead story on the <i>New York Times</i> front page wondered aloud "whether the administration squandered valuable time in trying to sell Congress on a plan that officials had failed to think through in advance."<br /><br />The <i>Times</i> now tells us that the much-hyped bailout plans to "buy distressed assets" will be diminished in favor of a "capital infusion program for banks." But what hasn't changed with the $700 billion planning is a basic approach for trickle-down instead of trickle-up.<br /><br />As the Institute for Policy Studies pointed out on Oct. 1, "A real 'bailout' would target the troubled households of working American families. A $200 billion 'Main Street Stimulus Package' could bolster the real economy and those left vulnerable by the subprime mortgage meltdown."<br /><br />Components of such a stimulus package could include "a $130 billion annual investment in renewable energy to stimulate good jobs anchored in local economies and reduce our dependency on oil" -- and "a $50 billion outlay to help keep people in foreclosed homes through refinancing and creating new homeownership and housing opportunities" -- and "a $20 billion aid package to states to address the squeeze on state and local government services that declining tax revenues are now forcing." But that kind of discourse for grassroots economic stimulus hasn't gotten into the media storyline this fall.<br /><br />It's now being revised with quite a bit of backspin. But the media storyline for justifying the Wall Street bailout was great while it lasted. And it lasted long enough to stampede Congress into approving a massive jolt of taxpayer money to redistribute wealth upwards in the United States. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 14 Oct 2008 08:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 650486 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Media Economy news economy bailout financial crisis Progressives: Don't Underestimate the Power of McCain's Dirty Tricks http://xxx.alternet.org/story/102376/progressives%3A_don%27t_underestimate_the_power_of_mccain%27s_dirty_tricks <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some progressives believe the McCain campaign is doomed. Let&#039;s not forget how low the Republicans will go to win.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Projection is a psychological hazard of politics. What's "obvious" to some doesn't occur to others. So, these days, it's hardly reassuring when some progressives roll their eyes at the latest McCain-Palin maneuver and express confidence that few voters will be swayed by the latest slimy attacks on Barack Obama.<br /><br />The poll numbers so far this month, combined with ample media hype, have fostered the belief that the current economic crisis is close to dooming the McCain campaign. But any crystal ball that offers assurance of an Obama victory is a piece of junk.<br /><br />Twenty years ago, presidential nominee Michael Dukakis emerged from the Democratic National Convention with a 17-point lead in a Gallup Poll. One of the main reasons that the lead disappeared was a scurrilous TV ad, linking Gov. Dukakis to a prisoner who committed a rape during a weekend furlough. The commercial included an ominous photo of the African-American convict, Willie Horton.<br /><br />Now, a "Willie Ayers" ad is getting plenty of media attention, and Sarah Palin is accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists." The McCain campaign is eager to implement desperate measures for its desperate times -- making preposterous claims to link Obama with terrorism -- scraping toward the bottom of the barrel and heaving larger quantities of mud.<br /><br />Any confidence that such tactics will have scant effect on the electorate is misplaced.<br /><br />There's also the matter of race -- and, more to the point, racism. "Many older Democrats quietly admit they will not vote for Mr. Obama because they fear he would put too many blacks in power, or be hamstrung in office by racial opposition," the New York Times reported from Florida on Oct. 4.<br /><br />This fall, no one knows exactly how much we'll see of the "Bradley effect" -- named after the defeat of the black mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, who received conspicuously fewer votes from whites than election-eve polling had predicted when he ran for governor in 1982.<br /><br />Polls involving a black nominee "have tended to undersell the level to which race negatively impacts voting -- particularly among whites," political reporter Chris Cillizza wrote on <a href="http://washingtonpost.com" target="_blank">washingtonpost.com</a> four months ago. "That is, a black candidate tends to underperform his or her polls on Election Day, as some voters who may have told a pollster they would support an African-American candidate ultimately decide against doing so."<br /><br />The Bradley effect has a long history, Cillizza noted. "In other races involving a black candidate -- most notably Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt's candidacies against Sen. Jesse Helms in 1990 and 1996 as well as L. Douglas Wilder's victorious run for the Virginia governor's mansion in 1989 -- the Bradley effect came into play."<br /><br />Some political analysts say that the Bradley effect has diminished and will have little or no impact on Obama. Maybe they're right. But I doubt it.<br /><br />Along with throwing mud and benefitting from racism, McCain stands to gain from the fact that the national Republican Party now has a lot more money in the bank than the Democratic Party does. And in many states, a wide range of anti-democratic measures -- including purges of voter rolls and very unreasonable requirements for voter ID on Election Day -- will work to the benefit of the McCain-Palin ticket.<br /><br />Overall, the polls showing Obama with a sizeable lead should be taken with a box of salt. The count on election night could be close. In the meantime, McCain can only benefit when progressives assume he'll lose.<br /><br />Such rosy assumptions are dangerous. They're apt to result in overconfidence, reducing volunteer energy and voter turnout for Obama.<br /><br />Assume that the economic crisis has doomed the McCain campaign? He hopes you will.<br /><br /><i>AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.</i> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 09 Oct 2008 13:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 650425 at http://xxx.alternet.org Election 2008 Election 2008 race obama mccain election 2008 Are 'Real' Journalists Jealous of Jon Stewart? http://xxx.alternet.org/story/98590/are_%27real%27_journalists_jealous_of_jon_stewart <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It blows the conformist minds of big-name journalists to see &quot;The Daily Show&quot; regularly slam right-wing rulers.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->As corporate media coverage of the presidential race becomes even more notably stingy with intrepid journalism, the mainstream press enthusiasm for "The Daily Show" seems more cloying than ever.<br /><br />The pattern is now a routine feature of the media landscape: "The Daily Show" gets laudatory attention from major news organizations, where countless journalists watch like shackled prisoners in awe of Superman.<br /><br />Look -- up in the media sky -- it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Jon Stewart!<br /><br />While news accounts note how many viewers hold faux "news anchor" Stewart in higher esteem as a journalist than the "real" ones at the top of the media pack, there's a sheepish quality to much of the coverage about "The Daily Show."<br /><br />After all, many big-name journalists have earned their keep by describing and analyzing the embroideries of the emperor's new clothes. It blows their conformist minds to see a network program that regularly exposes right-wing rulers without a stitch.<br /><br />Last month, a Sunday edition of the <i>New York Times</i> devoted more than two full broadsheet pages to "The Daily Show," starting with a color photo of Stewart that filled nearly half the cover page of the newspaper's "Arts &amp; Leisure" section. The program "has earned a devoted following that regards the broadcast as both the smartest, funniest show on television and a provocative and substantive source of news," eminent <i>Times</i> critic Michiko Kakutani wrote.<br /><br />Consider the subtexts of this passage in the story: "Mr. Stewart ... and his writers have energetically tackled the big issues of the day -- 'the stuff we find most interesting,' as he said in an interview at the show's Midtown Manhattan offices, the stuff that gives them the most 'agita,' the sometimes somber stories he refers to as his 'morning cup of sadness.' And they've done so in ways that straight news programs cannot: speaking truth to power in blunt, sometimes profane language, while using satire and playful looniness to ensure that their political analysis never becomes solemn or pretentious."<br /><br />Well, OK. That says a lot about "The Daily Show." But what does it say about the "real" news media -- and especially about the most important and self-important huge media outlets that dispense news with enormous ripple effects across the media terrain?<br /><br />If -- as the <i>New York Times</i> soberly reported in the article -- "straight news programs cannot" tackle the "big issues of the day" while "speaking truth to power," we should ask a key question: Why not?<br /><br />But this is not a question that media outlets like the <i>Times</i> seem interested in pursuing to any depth.<br /><br />Contrasts with the overwhelming bulk of corporate media are primarily drawn to underscore the uniqueness and extraordinary qualities of "The Daily Show." It's exceptional as an exception. Comedy Central's most famous program is in the spotlight, and the vast expanses of the corporate media are the arrays of darkness that make it so conspicuous. What sheds light is punched up by what blocks it.<br /><br />Absent from the fawning media coverage of "The Daily Show" is evident self-awareness that the elaborate praise is a tacit form of convoluted self-loathing -- in professional terms anyway -- among the likes of, say, <i>Times</i> journalists. Their own media institution is so circumscribed and so lumbering in its daily incarnation that they're apt to be amazed and envious at the incisively documented presentations on "The Daily Show."<br /><br />That's the way it goes in medialand. What isn't conspicuous is apt to be insidious. The tick-tock of U.S. media hypnosis may be passably good at looking back -- reexamining some aspects of propaganda for the Iraq invasion, for instance, years after it occurs -- while now helping to mesmerize the country into escalation of the war in Afghanistan. But let's not quibble. Everybody has a job to do. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Fri, 12 Sep 2008 07:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 649690 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Media satire daily show jon stewart corporate media The Clash Between Progressives and Obama http://xxx.alternet.org/story/95760/the_clash_between_progressives_and_obama <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Support for Obama should not require a lack of candor about his defects.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->By now, across the progressive spectrum, some familiar storylines tell us the meaning of the Obama campaign. In a groove, each narrative digs its truths. But whether those particular truths are the most important at this historical moment is another story.<br /><br />We can set aside the plotline that touts Obama as a visionary pragmatist who has earned the complete trust of progressives. The belief has diminished in recent months -- in the wake of numerous Obama pronouncements on foreign policy, his FISA vote to damage the Fourth Amendment and the like -- but such belief was never really grounded in his record as a politician or his policy positions.<br /><br />A more substantial narrative concedes that Obama has "compromised" on numerous fronts but assumes he has done so in order to get elected president, after which time his real self will emerge. This kind of dubious projection is as old as the political hills, and inevitably becomes a kind of murky exercise in armchair psychology. All in all, projection is not useful for assessing where political leaders are and where they're headed.<br /><br />In contrast, quite a few on the left -- some from the outset of his presidential race, others beginning more recently -- express appreciable disdain for the Obama campaign. The critiques of Obama's positions on issues are often on the mark. Overall, the fact that Obama brings civility and intelligence to public discourse that would be a welcome change in the White House does not alter the corporate centrist core of his espoused policies.<br /><br />No matter how much we might like to think that people's reasoning and logic are the essence of political judgments, actual experience tells us different: The political stances of many people, including on the left, are contoured around their own internal emotional terrain. And there may not be a lot of sorting through contradictions or analysis of the current historical circumstances.<br /><br />Yet we're in great need of willingness to acknowledge contradictory truths, to sort through them as a means of finding the best progressive strategies for the here and now. While some attacks on Obama from the left are overheated, overly ideological and mechanistic, there's scant basis for denying the reality that his campaign and his positions are way too cozy with corporate power. Meanwhile, his embrace of escalating the war in Afghanistan reflects acceptance rather than rejection of what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism."<br /><br />To some, who evidently see voting as an act of moral witness rather than pragmatic choice (even in a general election), forces such as corporate power or militarism are binary -- like a toggle switch -- either totally on or totally off. This outlook says: either we reject entirely or we're complicit.<br /><br />Such analysis tends to see Obama as just a little bit slower on the march to the same disasters that John McCain would lead us to. That analysis takes a long view -- but fails to see the profound importance of the crossroads right in front of us, where either Obama or McCain will be propelled into the White House.<br /><br />Any progressive who watched the "faith" forum that Obama and McCain participated in on Aug. 16 would have good reasons to be negative when assessing some of Obama's answers. But McCain's responses were vastly more jingoistic, militaristic, fanatical and pro-corporate, while also making clear his enthusiasm for the worst of the current Supreme Court justices.<br /><br />In an odd and ironic way, progressives who are unequivocal Obama boosters and unequivocal Obama bashers embrace similar concepts of limited alternatives in electoral work. They seem to rule out candidly critical support of a candidate -- viewing such an option as either a betrayal of the candidate or a betrayal of principles.<br /><br />But supporting one candidate -- clearly preferable to the Republican -- should not require a lack of candor about the preferred candidate's defects. And progressive interests are not advanced by claiming, against the evidence, that it doesn't really matter which candidate wins.<br /><br />We suffer from way too much political argumentation that seems to be on automatic pilot, either puffing up Obama as a paragon of progressive virtues or denying the real differences between him and McCain. The pretending that follows from faith or dogma is no way to mobilize a progressive movement. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 20 Aug 2008 06:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 649113 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2008 obama progressives mccain election 2008 The Democratic Convention Platform Must Include Guaranteed Health Care for All http://xxx.alternet.org/story/94436/the_democratic_convention_platform_must_include_guaranteed_health_care_for_all <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Health care as a human right? What a concept.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->"Health care." In media and politics, the phrase has become a cliche that easily slides into rhetoric and wonkery. The tweaking Washington debate runs parallel to the bottom line of corporate health care. While government officials talk, the principle of health care as a human right goes begging.<br /><br />Routinely, two contexts -- the macro and the personal -- obscure each other. Numbers may represent people, but people are anything but numbers. Paper, computer screens, claim forms and spreadsheets keep flattening humanity into commodity. But, of course, no one you love can ever be understood as a statistic.<br /><br />What's in place is a profit-driven system of health care with devastating effects on human beings. Even the most illuminating stats tend to become glib, abstracting calibration of damage to lives in the United States, where at any moment 47 million people are uninsured and another 50 million are badly under-insured.<br /><br />In the presidential race, with "health care" a frequent topic, John McCain offers more capitulation to the insurance industry. Speaking in the usual GOP terms, he calls for "ridding the market of both needless and costly regulations." Under his plan, McCain acknowledged on July 24, "There would be no limits to premiums."<br /><br />Meanwhile, nationwide efforts are underway to bring grassroots views on health care into the 2008 Democratic Party Platform that will be adopted in late August at the national convention. In the mix is a "Statement in Support of Guaranteed Health Care for All."<br /><br />Since it was launched by Progressive Democrats of America last week, the statement has already gained signers among convention delegates from more than 30 states. If you'd like to be part of this effort to move the national discourse on health care policy in a more progressive direction:<br /><br /><ul><li>Click <a href="http://www.demconvention.com/certified-delegates-ec" target="_blank">here</a> and find the names of your area's delegates to the Democratic National Convention.</li><br /><br /><li>Contact those delegates and urge them to sign onto the Statement for Guaranteed Health Care for All. Any delegate can go online and become a <a href="http://pdamerica.e-actionmax.com/takeaction.asp?aaid=3410" target="_blank">signer</a>.</li><br /><br /><li>Pass this information along to others.</li></ul><br /><br />The statement urges the convention to adopt a platform plank to "guarantee accessible health care for all" in the United States, to "create a single standard of high quality, comprehensive, and preventive health care for all" -- and to "eliminate financial barriers that prevent families and individuals from obtaining the medically necessary care they need."<br /><br />Barack Obama's website summarizes his current position with references to "affordable health coverage," "participating insurance companies" and "private insurance" as centerpieces of his health care plan. But private insurance companies are antithetical to truly guaranteeing health care for all with a single standard of care. They're in the business of limiting and denying health care, while maximizing profits.<br /><br />In contrast, H.R. 676 -- the single-payer bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers that now has 90 co-sponsors in the House -- would guarantee publicly funded, privately delivered health care for everyone in the United States.<br /><br />Conyers was the first 2008 Democratic National Convention delegate to become a signer of the Guaranteed Health Care for All statement. It notes that "the U.S. Conference of Mayors, at its June 2008 national meeting, passed a resolution in support of single-payer health care" and that "35 state AFL-CIO organizations support single-payer health care."<br /><br />We need health care that's publicly funded and guaranteed for all -- not theoretical "insurance coverage" that in the real world is much less solid than Swiss cheese.<br /><br />Health care. A human right. What a concept. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Fri, 08 Aug 2008 12:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 648845 at http://xxx.alternet.org Personal Health Personal Health health democrats universal health care Fund Health Care, Not War http://xxx.alternet.org/story/88744/fund_health_care%2C_not_war <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The old claims of a justified war in Iraq have melted away. So have promises of a humane society back at home.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Speaking in a time of war, Martin Luther King Jr. said: "Somehow this madness must cease."<br /><br />Forty-one years later, young soldiers are returning to the United States from terrifying zones of carnage. The old claims of a justified war have melted away. So have the promises of a humane society back home.<br /><br />Statistics about the war dead tell us very little about human realities. And familiar downbeat numbers about health care -- 47 million Americans with no health insurance, perhaps an equal number woefully under-insured -- tell us very little about the actual consequences or other options.<br /><br />"The shocking facts about health care in the United States are well known," <i>Yes! Magazine</i> noted in the autumn of 2006. "There's little argument that the system is broken. What's not well known is that the dialogue about fixing the health-care system is just as broken."<br /><br />That's an apt description. For all the media focus and political rhetoric on health care, the mainline discourse is stuck in a corporate-friendly rut. But there are signs that a movement for a rational, humanistic health-care system in this country is now gaining strength.<br /><br />A few hours after writing these words, I'll be at a large demonstration in San Francisco. The lightning rod for this historic June 19 protest is a national meeting of America's Health Insurance Plans, an outfit that cheerily pitches itself as "a national trade association representing nearly 1,300 member companies providing health benefits to more than 200 million Americans."<br /><br />As it happens, this meeting of America's Health Insurance Plans got underway just as news broke that the congressional "leadership" has devised a formula to fully fund more war. "Democratic and GOP leaders in the House announced agreement Wednesday on a long-overdue war funding bill they said President Bush would be willing to sign," the Associated Press reported. The bill would "provide about $165 billion to the Pentagon to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for about a year."<br /><br />There's a lot of profit in death. Under the guise of national security. And under the guise of health care.<br /><br />Today, across the United States, people are dying because they don't have access to health care. But policy solutions are available. In Congress, about 90 co-sponsors are backing H.R. 676, a bill to provide "comprehensive health insurance coverage for all United States residents." Call it whatever you like -- "single payer" or "improved Medicare for all" or "universal health care with choice of providers and no financial barriers." What it adds up to is the policy option of treating health care as the human right that it is.<br /><br />In the latest edition of "Health Care Meltdown," author C. Rocky White identifies himself as "a conservative Republican who has always held an entrepreneurial 'pull yourself up by your own bootstraps' free-market philosophy." A longtime physician, White describes "the frustration I began to experience while trying to provide compassionate, quality health care in the context of a market in which the accustomed rules of business economics don't apply."<br /><br />Dr. White immersed himself in research on health-care policy and finance. Then he pored through reams of the latest data on the tradeoffs of reform options. "No matter how I turned the cube," he writes, "the answer never changed. That answer was nearly impossible for me, a free-market Republican, to accept."<br /><br />Here are Dr. White's two key conclusions in his own words:<br /><br /><ul><br /><li>"Until we remove the motive of profit from the financing of health care, we cannot and we will not resolve our current health care crisis."</li><br /><br /><li> "Any group that proposes reform policy that maintains the use of for-profit insurance companies in a so-called free market is being driven by one single motive -- to protect the golden coffers of their share of the $2 trillion cash cow!"</li></ul><br /><br />Dr. White adds: "To continue down this road is paramount to suggesting that we privatize our fire and police services and turn them into for-profit organizations. You do that and people will die -- just like they are dying now under our current health-care system!"<br /><br />Grotesquely, the insurance and hospital industries at the center of health care in the United States are, in effect, profiting from priorities that condemn many people to death and many more to avoidable suffering.<br /><br />Meanwhile, corporate enterprises continue to make a killing from U.S. military expenditures now in the vicinity of $2 billion per day.<br /><br />During a wartime speech in 1969, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist George Wald said: "Our government has become preoccupied with death, with the business of killing and being killed."<br /><br />The preoccupation continues.<br /><br />"When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people," Martin Luther King observed, "the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."<br /><br />Still, somehow, this madness must cease.<br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 19 Jun 2008 13:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 647576 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Personal Health World war insurance health care defense spending health care reform Bush's Deadly "Diplomacy" http://xxx.alternet.org/story/87962/bush%27s_deadly_%22diplomacy%22 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Bush&#039;s rhetoric on Iran is frighteningly similar to his pantomime of diplomacy in the build-up to the Iraq war. And the media is eating it up.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->With 223 days left in his presidency, George W. Bush laid more flagstones along a path to war on Iran. There was the usual declaration that "all options are on the table" -- and, just as ominously, much talk of diplomacy.<br /><br />Three times on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports, Bush "called a diplomatic solution 'my first choice,' implying there are others. He said 'we'll give diplomacy a chance to work,' meaning it might not."<br /><br />That's how Bush talks when he's grooving along in his Orwellian comfort zone, eager to order a military attack.<br /><br />"We seek peace," Bush said in the State of the Union address on January 28, 2003. "We strive for peace."<br /><br />In that speech, less than two months before the invasion of Iraq began, Bush foreshadowed the climax of his administration's diplomatic pantomime. "The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world," the president said. "Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's legal -- Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups."<br /><br />A week after that drum roll, Colin Powell made his now-infamous presentation to the U.N. Security Council. At the time, it served as ideal "diplomacy" for war -- filled with authoritative charges and riddled with deceptions.<br /><br />We should never forget the raptures of media praise for Powell's crucial mendacity. A key bellwether was the <i>New York Times.</i><br /><br />The front page of the <i>Times</i> had been plying administration lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction for a long time. Now the newspaper's editorial stance, ostensibly antiwar, swooned into line -- rejoicing that "Mr. Powell's presentation was all the more convincing because he dispensed with apocalyptic invocations of a struggle of good and evil and focused on shaping a sober, factual case against Mr. Hussein's regime."<br /><br />The <i>Times</i> editorialized that Powell "presented the United Nations and a global television audience yesterday with the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions and has no intention of revealing or surrendering whatever unconventional weapons he may have." By sending Powell to address the Security Council, the <i>Times</i> claimed, President Bush "showed a wise concern for international opinion."<br /><br />Bush had implemented the kind of "diplomacy" advocated by a wide range of war enthusiasts. For instance, Fareed Zakaria, a former managing editor of the elite-flavored journal <i>Foreign Affairs</i>, had recommended PR prudence in the quest for a confrontation that could facilitate an invasion of Iraq.<br /><br />"Even if the inspections do not produce the perfect crisis," Zakaria wrote the previous summer, "Washington will still be better off for having tried because it would be seen to have made every effort to avoid war."<br /><br />A few months later, on November 13, 2002, <i>Times</i> columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that "in the world of a single, dominant superpower, the U.N. Security Council becomes even more important, not less." And he was pleased with the progress of groundwork for war, writing enthusiastically: "The Bush team discovered that the best way to legitimize its overwhelming might -- in a war of choice -- was not by simply imposing it, but by channeling it through the U.N."<br /><br />Its highly influential reporting, combined with an editorial position that wavered under pressure, made the <i>New York Times</i> extremely useful to the Bush administration's propaganda strategy for launching war on Iraq. The paper played along with the diplomatic ruse in much the same way that it promoted lies about weapons of mass destruction.<br /><br />But to read the present-day revisionist history from the <i>New York Times</i>, the problem with the run-up to the Iraq invasion was simply misconduct by the Bush administration (ignobly assisted by pliable cable news networks).<br /><br />Recently, when the <i>Times</i> came out with an editorial headlined "The Truth About the War" on June 6, the newspaper assessed the implications of a new report by the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The report shows clearly that President Bush should have known that important claims he made about Iraq did not conform with intelligence reports," the <i>Times</i> editorialized. "In other cases, he could have learned the truth if he had asked better questions or encouraged more honest answers."<br /><br />Unfortunately, changing just a few words -- substituting "the <i>New York Times</i>" for "President Bush" -- renders an equally accurate assessment of what a factual report would clearly show: "The <i>New York Times</i> should have known that important claims it made about Iraq did not conform with intelligence reports. In other cases, the <i>Times</i> could have learned the truth if it had asked better questions or encouraged more honest answers."<br /><br />Now, as agenda-setting for an air attack on Iran moves into higher gear, the mainline U.S. news media -- with the <i>New York Times</i> playing its influential part -- are engaged in coverage that does little more than provide stenographic services for the Bush administration. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 12 Jun 2008 13:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 647422 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics ForeignPolicy iran bush iraq new york times Democrats Must Move Past Anger http://xxx.alternet.org/story/87082/democrats_must_move_past_anger <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The fight for the nomination has fueled a combustible anger among Democrats. Let&#039;s hope the American people don&#039;t get burned.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->In politics, as in so many other aspects of life, anger is a combustible fuel. Affirmed and titrated, it helps us move forward. Suppressed or self-indulged, it’s likely to blow up in our faces.<br /><br />With the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination coming to a close, there’s plenty of anger in the air. And the elements are distinctly flammable. As Bob Herbert just wrote in the <i>New York Times</i>, "the Clinton and Obama partisans spent months fighting bitterly on the toxic terrain of misogyny, racism and religion."<br /><br />Herbert doesn’t spread the blame evenly. And, as an elected Obama delegate to the national convention, I don’t either. But at this stage in the nomination process, the returns of blame aren’t merely diminishing -- they’re about to go over a cliff.<br /><br />The anger that’s churning among many Hillary Clinton supporters is deserving of respect. For a long time, she’s been hit by an inexhaustible arsenal of virulent sexism, whether from Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh or Chris Matthews.<br /><br />If Barack Obama were facing defeat now, his supporters might be more inclined to dwell on the thinly veiled, and sometimes unveiled, racial bigotry that caused some Americans to tell reporters that they could never vote for a black man for president.<br /><br />There’s no lack of injustices, defamations and outright outrages to cite. They’re important to remember, assess, denounce. And: Now what?<br /><br />In times of emergency, people have been known to put aside differences, at least for a while. Sometimes, feuding neighbors unravel hoses and pass buckets so the entire block doesn’t go up in flames. Or alienated relatives take care of a fading loved one. People who fear strangers learn to trust in a shared humanity.<br /><br />The Bill of Rights is burning. Children are dying in Baghdad and Chicago and Los Angeles and countless other cities and towns because of Republican "leadership." Negative trends of governance are scorching a social contract that had been slowly weaving the threads of human decency.<br /><br />This year offers an electoral opportunity to get out the fire hoses and douse the pyromaniacs of the GOP. But the long Obama-Clinton battle has depleted precious time with little good to show for it.<br /><br />A lot of negativity has aired, and some of it has combusted. Despite the real progress of the past several decades, remaining prejudices and injustices of gender and race -- and, though less talked about in news media, of sexual orientation and economic class -- are still haunting us and shadowing the future.<br /><br />Furious supporters of Hillary Clinton are now talking about Michigan and Florida. Understandably, they’re apt to see recent developments in the context of despicable male chauvinism and unfair caricatures in the press.<br /><br />There’s more than enough anger to burn.<br /><br />And John McCain is eager to benefit from every bit of such anger, the more displaced the better. Right-wing corporatists quietly cheer his calls to give them even more extreme tax cuts. Outright militarists are hoping for four more years, and the odds seem to be shifting in their favor. Men on the Supreme Court named Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito are waiting to welcome kindred spirits in black robes.<br /><br />Unfortunately, the angry often end up burning themselves. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 04 Jun 2008 13:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 647218 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2008 democrats clinton obama mccain nomination Obama's Triumph Over Media Frivolity http://xxx.alternet.org/story/84753/obama%27s_triumph_over_media_frivolity <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Obama&#039;s Tuesday win represents a victory over a press corps fixated on fluff over substance.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Barack Obama's triumph on Tuesday night was a victory over a wall that pretends to be a fly on the wall.<br /><br />For a long time, the nation's body politic has been shoved up against that wall -- known as the news media.<br /><br />Despite all its cracks and gaps, what cements the wall is mostly a series of repetition compulsion disorders. Whether the media perseveration is on Pastor Wright, the words "bitter" and "cling," or an absent flag lapel-pin, the wall's surfaces are more rigid when they're less relevant to common human needs and shared dreams.<br /><br />"We've already seen it," Obama said during his victory speech in North Carolina, "the same names and labels they always pin on everyone who doesn't agree with all their ideas, the same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives, by pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy, in the hopes that the media will play along."<br /><br />And how, they've played along. From the front pages of "quality" dailies to the reportage of NPR's drive-time news to the blather-driven handicapping on cable television, the ways that media structures have functioned in recent weeks tell us -- yet again -- how fleeting any media attention to substance can be.<br /><br />News outlets spun out -- "pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy" -- as media Obama-mania about a longshot candidate morphed into Obama-phobia toward the candidate most likely to become the Democratic presidential nominee. The man who could do little wrong became a man who could do little right. The lines of attack were spurious and protracted enough to be jaw-dropping.<br /><br />But how often can we be truly shocked by such media patterns? Perennial corporate structures are reinforcing the narrow boundaries.<br /><br />If this sounds like an old complaint, it is. Institutional dynamics -- fueled and steered by ownership, advertising, underwriting and undue government influence -- repeat themselves with endless permutations. Dominant media routinely focus on counterfeit issues, often ignoring or trashing progressive options in the process.<br /><br />From George McGovern to Gary Hart to Michael Dukakis to Al Gore to Howard Dean to John Kerry, a long line of Democratic contenders with a chance to become president have been whipsawed by cartoonish images or bogus "issues," incubated by the right wing and fully hatched by the mass media. The slightest progressive wrinkles of even the starchiest corporate Democrats have been ironed out by media steamrollers.<br /><br />In recent months, as Barack Obama went from underdog to frontrunner, the news media became stainless-steel accessories to the "kitchen sink" politics of smear and fear.<br /><br />The media pretense of being a fly on the wall has often been preposterous. In the real world of politics -- where power brokers and manipulators proceed with the cynical axiom that perception is reality -- the fly on the wall is the wall. The political press corps is not observing reality as much as redefining it while obstructing outlooks and constraining public perceptions.<br /><br />Yet, in North Carolina and Indiana, voters had more votes than all the pundits did. Pundits lost. Voters came out ahead. So did Obama. And so did the body politic.<br /><br />We're still up against the media wall. But when dawn broke on Wednesday, that wall wasn't quite as high or mighty. And the nation might be able to see a little more clearly beyond it.<br /><br /><i>AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.</i><br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon is an elected Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention. His books include <a href="http://www.powells.com/partner/32513/biblio/9780471790013"> "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."</a> A documentary film of the same name, based on the book, was released this spring via home-video outlets including Netflix. For further information, go to: <a href="http://www.normansolomon.com">www.normansolomon.com</a> </div></div></div> Wed, 07 May 2008 11:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 646578 at http://xxx.alternet.org Media Media Election 2008 media news obama election 2008 Let's Party Like It's 1932 http://xxx.alternet.org/story/83051/let%27s_party_like_it%27s_1932 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Obama has the potential to become as great a president as FDR, while activists have the potential to prompt change comparable to the New Deal.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Seventy-six years ago, to many ears on the left, Franklin D. Roosevelt sounded way too much like a centrist. True, he was eloquent, and he'd generated enthusiasm in a Democratic base eager to evict Republicans from the White House. But his campaign was moderate -- with policy proposals that didn't indicate he would try to take the country in bold new directions if he won the presidency.<br /><br />Yet FDR's triumph in 1932 opened the door for progressives. After several years of hitting the Hoover administration's immovable walls, the organizing capacities of labor and other downtrodden constituencies could have major impacts on policy decisions in Washington.<br /><br />Today, segments of the corporate media have teamed up with the Clinton campaign to attack Barack Obama. Many of the rhetorical weapons used against him in recent weeks -- from invocations of religious faith and guns to flag-pin lapels -- may as well have been ripped from a Karl Rove playbook. The key subtexts have included racial stereotyping and hostility to a populist upsurge.<br /><br />Do we have a major stake in this fight? Does it really matter whether Hillary Clinton or Obama wins the Democratic nomination? Is it very important to prevent John McCain from moving into the White House?<br /><br />The answers that make sense to me are yes, yes and yes.<br /><br />In 1932, there were scant signs that Franklin Delano Roosevelt might become a progressive president. By the summer of that election year, when he accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for president, his "only left-wing statements had been exceedingly vague," according to FDR biographer Frank Freidel.<br /><br />Just weeks before the 1932 general election, Roosevelt laid out a plan for mandated state unemployment insurance nationwide along with social welfare. Even then, he insisted on remaining what we now call a fiscal conservative. "Obviously he had not faced up to the magnitude of expenditure that his program would involve," Freidel recounts. "Obviously too, he had not in the slightest accepted the views of those who felt that the way out of the Depression was large-scale public spending and deficit financing."<br /><br />Six days later, on October 19, FDR delivered a speech in Pittsburgh that blasted the federal budget for its "reckless and extravagant" spending. He pledged "to reduce the cost of current federal government operations by 25 percent." And he proclaimed: "I regard reduction in federal spending as one of the most important issues of this campaign." If he'd stuck to such positions, the New Deal would never have happened.<br /><br />As the fall campaign came to a close, the <i>Nation magazine</i> lamented that "neither of the two great parties, in the midst of the worst depression in our history, has had the intelligence or courage to propose a single fundamental measure that might conceivably put us on the road to recovery." Looking back on the 1932 campaign, Freidel was to comment: "Indeed, in many respects, for all the clash and clamor, Roosevelt and President Hoover had not differed greatly from each other."<br /><br />The Socialist Party's Norman Thomas, running for president again that year, had a strong basis for his critique of both major-party candidates in 1932. But in later elections, when Thomas ran yet again, many former supporters found enough to admire in FDR's presidency to switch over and support the incumbent for re-election.<br /><br />"The Roosevelt reforms went far beyond previous legislation," historian Howard Zinn has written. Those reforms were not only a response to a crisis in the system. They also met a need "to head off the alarming growth of spontaneous rebellion in the early years of the Roosevelt administration -- organization of tenants and the unemployed, movements of self-help, general strikes in several cities."<br /><br />Major progressive successes under the New Deal happened in sync with stellar achievements in grassroots organizing. So, in Zinn's words, "Where organized labor was strong, Roosevelt moved to make some concessions to working people." The New Deal was not all it could have been, no doubt, but to a large extent it was a stupendous result of historic synergies -- made possible by massive pressure from the grassroots and a president often willing to respond in the affirmative.<br /><br />Support of a candidate does not -- or at least should not -- mean silence about disagreement. There shouldn't be any abatement of advocacy for progressive positions, whether opposition to nuclear power plants, insistence on complete withdrawal of the U.S. military and mercenaries from Iraq, or activism for a universal single-payer healthcare system.<br /><br />For good reasons, Obama doesn't say "I am the one we've been waiting for." He says in speech after speech: "We are the ones we've been waiting for." Whether that ends up being largely rhetoric or profoundly real depends not on him nearly so much as on us.<br /><br />A crucial task between now and November is to get Obama elected as president while shifting the congressional mix toward a progressive majority. Next year will bring the imperative of organizing to exert powerful pressure from the base for progressive change.<br /><br />At a recent caucus in California's 6th congressional district, I was elected as an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention. It's clear to me that Obama is now the best choice among those with a chance to become the next president.<br /><br />Barack Obama has the potential to become as great a president as Franklin Roosevelt -- while social and political movements in the United States have the potential to become as great as those that made the New Deal possible. I seriously doubt that Hillary Clinton has such potential. And John McCain offers only more of the kind of horrific presidency that the world has endured for the last 87 months.<br /><br /><i>AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.</i> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 21 Apr 2008 16:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 648785 at http://xxx.alternet.org Election 2008 Election 2008 clinton obama progressives new deal fdr NPR: National Pentagon Radio? http://xxx.alternet.org/story/80604/npr%3A_national_pentagon_radio <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">When even public radio parrots the military&#039;s official line on the war in Iraq, what hope is there for unbiased, quality reporting?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->While the Iraqi government continued its large-scale military assault in Basra, the NPR reporter's voice from Iraq was unequivocal on the morning of March 27: "There is no doubt that this operation needed to happen."<br /><br />Such flat-out statements, uttered with journalistic tones and without attribution, are routine for the U.S. media establishment. In the <i>War Made Easy</i> documentary film, I put it this way: "If you're pro-war, you're objective. But if you're anti-war, you're biased. And often, a news anchor will get no flak at all for making statements that are supportive of a war and wouldn't dream of making a statement that's against a war."<br /><br />So it goes at NPR News, where -- on <i>Morning Edition</i> as well as the evening program <i>All Things Considered</i> -- the sense and sensibilities tend to be neatly aligned with the outlooks of official Washington. The critical aspects of reporting largely amount to complaints about policy shortcomings that are tactical; the underlying and shared assumptions are imperial. Washington's prerogatives are evident when the media window on the world is tinted red-white-and-blue.<br /><br />Earlier in the week -- a few days into the sixth year of the Iraq war -- <i>All Things Considered</i> aired a discussion with a familiar guest.<br /><br />"To talk about the state of the war and how the U.S. military changes tactics to deal with it," said longtime anchor Robert Siegel, "we turn now to retired Gen. Robert Scales, who's talked with us many times over the course of the conflict."<br /><br />This is the sort of introduction that elevates a guest to truly expert status -- conveying to the listeners that expertise and wisdom, not just opinions, are being sought.<br /><br />Siegel asked about the progression of assaults on U.S. troops over the years: "How have the attacks and the countermeasures to them evolved?"<br /><br />Naturally, Gen. Scales responded with the language of a military man. "The enemy has built ever-larger explosives," he said. "They've found clever ways to hide their IEDs, their roadside bombs, and even more diabolical means for detonating these devices."<br /><br />We'd expect a retired American general to speak in such categorical terms -- referring to "the enemy" and declaring in a matter-of-fact tone that attacks on U.S. troops became even more "diabolical." But what about an American journalist?<br /><br />Well, if the American journalist is careful to function with independence instead of deference to the Pentagon, then the journalist's assumptions will sound different than the outlooks of a high-ranking U.S. military officer.<br /><br />In this case, an independent reporter might even be willing to ask a pointed question along these lines: You just used the word "diabolical" to describe attacks on the U.S. military by Iraqis, but would that ever be an appropriate adjective to use to describe attacks on Iraqis by the U.S. military?<br /><br />In sharp contrast, what happened during the <i>All Things Considered</i> discussion on March 24 was a conversation of shared sensibilities. The retired U.S. Army general discussed the war effort in terms notably similar to those of the ostensibly independent journalist -- who, along the way, made the phrase "the enemy" his own in a followup question.<br /><br />It wouldn't be fair to judge an entire news program on the basis of a couple of segments. But I'm a frequent listener of <i>All Things Considered</i> and <i>Morning Edition.</i> Such cozy proximity of world views, blanketing the war maker and the war reporter, is symptomatic of what ails NPR's war coverage -- especially from Washington.<br /><br />Of course there are exceptions. Occasional news reports stray from the narrow baseline. But the essence of the propaganda function is repetition, and the exceptional does not undermine that function.<br /><br />To add insult to injury, NPR calls itself public radio. It's supposed to be willing to go where commercial networks fear to tread. But overall, when it comes to politics and war, the range of perspectives on National Public Radio isn't any wider than what we encounter on the avowedly commercial networks. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 27 Mar 2008 08:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 645582 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics iraq war media bias npr public radio Warfare and Health Care http://xxx.alternet.org/story/79368/warfare_and_health_care <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Here&#039;s an obvious solution to the health care crisis: why not cut the Pentagon&#039;s massive budget to fund health care for all?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->It's kind of logical. In a pathological way.<br /><br />A country that devotes a vast array of resources to killing capabilities will steadily undermine its potential for healing. For social justice. For health care as a human right.<br /><br />Martin Luther King Jr. described the horrific trendline four decades ago: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."<br /><br />If a society keeps approaching spiritual death, it's apt to arrive. Here's an indicator: Nearly one in six Americans has no health insurance, and tens of millions of others are badly under-insured. Here's another: The United States, the world's preeminent warfare state, now spends about $2 billion per day on military pursuits.<br /><br />Gaining health care for all will require overcoming the priorities of the warfare state. That's the genuine logic behind the new "Health Care NOT Warfare" <a href="http://pdamerica.org/articles/news/2008-03-05-12-05-43-news.php">campaign.</a><br /><br />I remember the ferocious media debate over the proper government role in health care -- 43 years ago. As the spring of 1965 got underway, the bombast was splattering across front pages and flying through airwaves. Many commentators warned that a proposal for a vast new program would bring "socialism" and destroy the sanctity of the free-enterprise system. The new federal program was called Medicare.<br /><br />These days, when speaking on campuses, I bring up current proposals for a "single payer" system -- in effect, Medicare for Americans of all ages. Most students seem to think it's a good idea. But once in a while, someone vocally objects that such an arrangement would be "socialism." The objection takes me back to the media uproar of early 1965.<br /><br />Today, we're left with the unfulfilled potential of Medicare for all. It could make healthcare real as a human right. And it could spare our society a massive amount of money now going to administrative costs and corporate gouging. At last count, annual insurance-industry profits reached $57.5 billion in 2006.<br /><br />On Capitol Hill, lobbyists for the corporate profiteers are determined to block H.R. 676, the bill to create a universal single-payer system to implement health care as a human right.<br /><br />In the current presidential campaign, none of the major candidates can be heard raising the possibility of ejecting the gargantuan insurance industry from the nation's health care system. Instead, there's plenty of nattering about whether "mandates" are a good idea. Hillary Clinton even has the audacity (not of hope but of duplicity) to equate proposed health care "mandates" with the must-pay-in requirements that sustain Social Security and Medicare.<br /><br />For Clinton's analogy to make sense, we'd have to accept the idea that requiring everyone to pay taxes to the government for a common-good program is akin to requiring everyone to pay premiums to private insurance companies for personal medical coverage.<br /><br />A recent <i>New York Times</i> story was authoritative as it plied the conventional media wisdom. The lead sentence declared that an "immediate challenge that will confront the next administration" is the matter of "how to tame the soaring costs of Medicare and Medicaid." And the news article pointedly noted that current federal spending for those health-related programs adds up to $627 billion.<br /><br />I've been waiting for a <i>New York Times</i> news story to declare that an immediate challenge for the next administration will be the matter of how to tame the soaring costs of the Pentagon. After all, the government's annual military spending -- when you factor in the supplemental bills for warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is well above the $627 billion for Medicare and Medicaid that can cause such alarm in the upper reaches of the nation's media establishment.<br /><br />Assessing the current presidential race, the <i>Times</i> reported: "The Democrats do not say, in any detail, how they would slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid or what they think about the main policy options: rationing care, raising taxes, cutting payments to providers or requiring beneficiaries to pay more."<br /><br />There are other "policy options" -- including drastic cuts in the Pentagon budget. And health care for all. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Norman Solomon's latest book Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to <a href="http://www.madelovegotwar.com/">www.madelovegotwar.com</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 11 Mar 2008 08:00:01 -0700 Norman Solomon, AlterNet 645147 at http://xxx.alternet.org News & Politics Personal Health health care military spending medicare mandates