2012 in review

January 1, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Unfortunately for Gary, and for the rest of us humans, his vote was wasted. Not a single one of all the lofty ideals mentioned in Gary’s poem can be accomplished by voting no matter that they are all essential to our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

Presidential election day always makes me more deeply ashamed to be an American. Instead of being a beacon of freedom and human rights, we’re just a tired, old sham dismantling the Constitution, whose rights were the one and only thing that made the US a different, and better, country. No more.  America is now a caricature of its founding ideals. [CONTINUES BELOW]

 

I Voted

Gary Corseri

Dissident Voice: November 5, 2012

http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/11/i-voted/#more-46308

I voted today. …
I voted for peace and justice and sanity
In an insane world of violence and injustice.
I voted.

I voted for clear streams, rivers, and seas;
Bright stars in a cedar-scented night-sky;
Whale-songs heard in unpolluted oceans.
Not for the lesser of two evils,
But for the greatest good for the greatest number—
For nothing less, I voted.

I voted for climate-change victims;
And for those torn apart by war;
Against the Empire, and for the planet;
For the hungry and forgotten,
For the terrified and abused–
I voted.

Against the military-industrial-media complex
And for the dream of MLK–
I voted.

I voted for Iraqi mothers and Afghani;
In Pakistan and around the world—
Because each of them is my mother, also,
Weeping like Rachel for her lost children.

For Kathy Kelly and Rachel Corrie,
For Cindy Sheehan and Cynthia McKinney,
Jill Stein, Helen Caldicott and Medea B.–
For standing against madness and lies,
Opportunism and exploitation—
For all of them, I voted.

For brothers in exile I voted;
For the martyred, the betrayed, the abandoned—
Ishmael, Aguinaldo, Sandino and Guevara;
Tashtunka Witco, Tecumseh, Bradley Manning—
For this council of leaders, I voted.

Against slavery and wage-slavery;
Sexploitation, television and bad food;
The corruption of Art; mis-education;
The torture of humans and animals;
Our prison-work-complex and sham democracy;
Citizens United; the Electoral College;
And every meme kicked down the road
By glutinous politicians and their corporate masters—
Against all of this, I voted.

To pass from these Dark Ages
To a Renaissance of Reason,
To a New Age of Enlightenment–
I voted.

That truths may be reclaimed;
For the wisdom to discern;
That children may be honored
With cleanliness and virtue,
With books and venerable teachers;
That all may be protected
From the ravenous and greedy—
I voted.

To see the planet whole;
To know our place upon it;
To nurture and restore it;
To abide in moderation,
With compassionate humility;
That the arts might consecrate us—
I voted.

For the best that lies within us;
For the fortitude to harness;
For the healing grace that’s needed.
For the courage to continue–
I voted.

Frankly, I was pretty amazed at the close finals between a Mormon born in Mexico and a could-be black, President Al Jolson. Do you really have nothing better to think about than this phony reality TV?

These meat puppets spent six billion dollars advertising themselves to convince you to vote for them. Think about the good a responsible govt could do for all citizens with that enormous sum. Instead, it was spent to elect just another millionaire to commit further atrocities in our name. That money could have gone to your kids’ education.

Drugs. And why? Is somebody going to break into your house and still your flatscreen? If so, you live in the w-r-o-n-g neighbourhood, homes. Millions of people, mostly poor and of colour are in prison. This means they can’t ever vote…if there’s ever anybody better to choose than these bozos.

This election day, 7,225,800 Americans are in prison or parole, mostly people of colour. This means they can’t ever vote—big loss, eh?–…if there’s ever anybody better to choose than these bozos.

Foreclosure. You bought shit you didn’t have the money to pay for. That’s supposed to be the big American dream, isn’t it? But it’s really like playing Monopoly—sometimes you lose. Take a lesson from Occupy: “You are not a loan. You are not alone.” That’s your house. If little Iceland, pop. 300K, can tell the big banks to take a hike, so can you. Don’t leave, not matter what their threats. In America, you can’t be jailed for debt…not yet.

Terrorism. Yeah, where, exactly? All the terrorism plots in the US have been instigated by our FBI. Watch out when you cross the street—it’s way more dangerous.

Frankly, if you think this election is important, I don’t have much sympathy. Meat Loaf…and Fox News do..

Universal health care, even for poor people, caring for the elderly, free education for all with no student loans. All these initiatives which are fundamental to any democratic society could be paid for tomorrow…by deleting the US military.

How, exactly, does the military make you safer in your home? 

Charming (dead) family, no? [American Museum of Natural History/D. Finnin]

President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 African expedition with his son Kermit brought back to the Smithsonian 5,013 mammals, 4,453 birds, and 2,322 reptiles and amphibians, according to Theodore Roosevelt the Naturalist [!!!] by Paul R. Cutright (1956).

Presidents of today hunt humans with drones. Just like animals in Africa in 1909, there are far too many of them to matter.

Tell me again why this election was important???

It’s high time to call bullshit on this whole system because it’s only reality TV. If you buy into their system, tough luck on you, Bubba.

Break out of the puzzle palace. The USA has stopped being so special.

I don’t buy into a lot of the far-out conspiracy theory. But if you don’t think both these guys have been cloned by aliens, they’ll likely abduct you in your sleep.

Sweet dreams, America.

CJ Hinke

Freedom Against Censorship[ Thailand (FACT)

WikiLeaks ‘back open for donations’ after banking blockade

Agence France-Presse: July 19, 2012

http://www.bangkokpost.com/tech/computer/303153/wikileaks-back-open-for-donations-after-banking-blockade

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks said Wednesday that it had found a way to get around the banking blockade that has dramatically cut its donations over the last 18 months.

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks said Wednesday that it had found a way to get around the banking blockade that has dramatically cut its donations over the last 18 months.

“After almost two years of fighting an unlawful banking blockade by US financial giants VISA and MasterCard, WikiLeaks has announced it is back open for donations,” the website said in a statement.

It aims to use Carte Bleue, a French affiliate of Visa, to beat the blockade and raise a million euros ($1.2 million), which it says it needs immediately if the website set up by Julian Assange is to continue operating.

“VISA and MasterCard are contractually barred from directly cutting off merchants through the Carte Bleue system,” the website said.

“WikiLeaks advises all global supporters to make use of this avenue immediately before VISA/MasterCard attempts to shut it down.”

Visa and MasterCard banned payments to WikiLeaks in December 2010 along with other money transfer companies including PayPal and Western Union, forcing the website to drastically scale back its publication of secret documents.

The blockade was introduced when WikiLeaks began publishing 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables, embarrassing Washington and governments around the world. The website said it had cut off more than 95 percent of its donations.

WikiLeaks claims the blockade has cost it more than $20 million (16 million euros) and left it covering just 21 percent of its operating costs for 2011.

Wednesday’s announcement comes after an Icelandic court ruled last week that Valitor, the company formerly known as Visa Iceland that handles Visa and MasterCard payments in the country, must allow payments to WikiLeaks.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 19, seeking political asylum in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes.

The Australian ex-computer hacker said in a statement: “We beat them in Iceland and, by God, we’ll beat them in France as well.

“Let them shut it down. Let them demonstrate to the world once again their corrupt pandering to Washington. We’re waiting. Our lawyers are waiting.”

 

Wikileaks: July 5, 2012

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31762

 

Today, Thursday 5 July 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing the Syria Files – more than two million emails from Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies, dating from August 2006 to March 2012.

This extraordinary data set derives from 680 Syria-related entities or domain names, including those of the Ministries of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Information, Transport and Culture.

Over the next two months, ground-breaking stories derived from the files will appear in WikiLeaks (global), Al Akhbar (Lebanon), Al Masry Al Youm (Egypt), ARD (Germany), Associated Press (US), L’Espresso (Italy), Owni (France) and Publico.es (Spain). Other publications will announce themselves closer to their publishing date.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: “The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents. It helps us not merely to criticise one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it.”

At this time Syria is undergoing a violent internal conflict that has killed between 6,000 and 15,000 people in the last 18 months. The Syria Files shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy, but they also reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another.

The range of information extends from the intimate correspondence of the most senior Baath party figures to records of financial transfers sent from Syrian ministries to other nations.

The database comprises 2,434,899 emails from the 680 domains. There are 678,752 different email addresses that have sent emails and 1,082,447 different recipients. There are a number of different languages in the set, including around 400,000 emails in Arabic and 68,000 emails in Russian. The data is more than eight times the size of ’Cablegate’ in terms of number of documents, and more than 100 times the size in terms of data. Around 42,000 emails were infected with viruses or trojans. To solve these complexities, WikiLeaks built a general-purpose, multi-language political data-mining system which can handle massive data sets like those represented by the Syria Files.

In such a large collection of information, it is not possible to verify every single email at once; however, WikiLeaks and its co-publishers have done so for all initial stories to be published. We are statistically confident that the vast majority of the data are what they purport to be.

We would like to thank our sources, technical team, donors and defenders without whom this contribution to the historical record would not be possible. https://wlfriends.org/

For more information on the Syria Files, please see: http://wikileaks.org/syria-files/re…

For media enquiries, please see: http://wikileaks.org/Press

Support Network, citing an “active investigation”

Bradley Manning Support Network: July 6, 2012

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31777

 The Bradley Manning Support Network rallying for Bradley

A letter dated May 18, 2012, which purports to originate from the US Army Criminal Investigative Division (CID), rejects a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted for data the government has collected on the Bradley Manning Support Network. The letter states that “an active investigation is in progress with an undetermined completion date.” At this time, the Bradley Manning Support Network has no reason to believe that the investigation in question refers to our Network (as compared to the investigation against Manning himself), but we object to any efforts by the government to block public access to documents pertaining to our organization.

Three calls were made to a number listed on the document in order to independently verify its authenticity. Each call was met with a persistent busy signal. The document was brought to our attention by a blogger operating under the pseudonym “Robert Paulson,” an apparent reference to the 1999 film Fight Club.

The letter cites a number of FOIA exemptions:

“This section does not apply to matters that are
[…]
(b)(6) personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of
which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
(b)(7) records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but
only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records
or information
(A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement
proceedings;
[…]
(C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted
invasion of personal privacy;
[…]

(F)  could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical
safety of any individual[.]

A Department of Justice document adds that exemption (7)(F) is intended to protect government witnesses and “undercover agents.”  Nowhere does the exemption require that authorities need to consider the organization under investigation to be a threat.

It’s important to understand that government agencies routinely over-cite exemptions, especially in their initial denials of FOIA requests. A review conducted by the Associated Press in 2010 found that the Obama administration had issued more FOIA exemptions in its first full year in office, compared to the Bush administration during its final year, despite an overall decrease in FOIA requests. This pattern of obfuscation has only gotten worse, according to a report issued last year by the open government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which found that the Obama administration was using FOIA exemptions 33% more often than during the Bush administration’s last year in office. This stands in stark contrast to the promises of unprecedented openness which were the hallmark of President Obama’s presidential campaign and the first days of the administration. Most of these highly touted open government initiatives have since suffered significant budget cuts.

Our government’s massive problem with over-classification was itself a hallmark of the WikiLeaks releases that have been attributed to Bradley Manning. Furthermore, as Vice President Biden has noted, there was no substantive damage to national security from the revelations. Government prosecutors have actually gone so far as to try to preclude any discussion of the documents’ impact from being heard during Bradley’s court-martial. According to the terms of President Obama’s own executive order, the fact that there is no evidence of harm to national security means that the WikiLeaks documents never should have been withheld from the public in the first place.

To put it simply, our government routinely cites any number of spurious exemptions to avoid producing information that belongs to the American people.

At this time, it is unclear whether the investigation cited in the FOIA denial simply refers to the government’s ongoing legal retaliation against Bradley Manning, or whether there is actually some other separate investigation targeting the Support Network.

We are nonetheless concerned that the Army may be investigating or overreacting to First Amendment-protected legal speech of Support Network members. For example, when hundreds of supporters were demonstrating in support of Bradley outside the front gates of Fort Meade during the December Article 32 hearings, over a hundred members of regional law enforcement were suited up in full riot gear just inside the base perimeter. They were on hand to back up a full mobilization of all available military police on base. And during a hearing in March, several Manning supporters were photographed while eating lunch outside a sandwich shop at Fort Meade.

Military officers have also taken retaliatory action against Bradley Manning activists.  In December, they ordered noted gay rights activist Lt. Dan Choi to be tackled and removed from Bradley’s hearings, sending him to the hospital with an injured wrist. That same day, they moved to evict famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg from the courtroom, and relented only after attending journalists intervened on his behalf.

These actions by the government will have no effect on our commitment to supporting Bradley Manning, a whistleblower who brought light to egregious harms committed by the United States government.

We are continuing to investigate this matter. Please check back to BradleyManning.org for future updates. If you have additional information to provide regarding this FOIA request, please email press@bradleymanning.org.

Lawrence Davidson

Dissident Voice: June 25, 2012

http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/06/hero-on-the-run/#more-44982

 

The Hero Becomes the Hunted

It was back in 2006 that Julian Assange and associates founded the Wikileaks website. Their goal was and is a noble and necessary one. Wikileaks aims at forcing the world’s governments to act with greater transparency, and therefore possibly rule more justly. It was Assange’s opinion that if governments were less able to lie and keep secrets, they would be less prone to break their own and international laws, or at least more likely to adhere to a general rule of decency allegedly shared by their citizenry. This is a truly heroic undertaking. What did Wikileaks do to accomplish this task? It created a web-based non-governmental window on government activity through which it makes public those official lies and secrets. This information is supplied to it by whistle blowers the world over.

Soon Wikileaks was telling the world about “extrajudicial killings in Kenya…toxic waste dumping on the coast of Cote d’Ivoire…material involving large banks…among other documents.” None of this got Assange into great trouble. The simple fact is that the ability of states such as Kenya and the Ivory Coast to reach out and crush an organization like Wikileaks is limited. However, in 2010 the website started publishing massive amounts of U.S. diplomatic and military documents, including damaging information on procedures at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and a video documenting attacks on civilians in Iraq.

It is at this point that Assange, as the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, became a criminal in the eyes of the U.S. government. The hero now became the hunted. Republican Representative Peter King of New York, an Islamophobe who unfortunately chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, labeled Wikileaks a “terrorist organization” and said that Assange ought to be “prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917.” On the Democratic side of the aisle, Diane Feinstein of California, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Assange had harmed the national interest and “put innocent lives at risk” and therefore should be prosecuted for espionage. Actually, a good argument can be made that the stupid and corrupt policies of American politicians have done much greater harm to objectively defined national interest, particularly in the Middle East. In addition there is no evidence that any of Wikileaks’ actions have resulted in any loss of “innocent lives.” However, none of this can save Assange.

Who is the Real Criminal?

One of the serious questions raised by the case of Wikileaks and Julian Assange is just who is a criminal? If an organized crime syndicate commits illegal acts and some outside party reveals its activity, the syndicate might mark the witness for punishment. However, which one is the real criminal? Lots of governments act like organized crime syndicates. If you ask King or Feinstein what they think about the behavior of, say, Russia in Chechnya or China in Tibet, they are likely to describe that behavior as criminal. And, if Assange had just exposed the sins of Russia or China, he would be praised within the halls of Congress.

But what happens when the U.S. government behaves like an organized gang of criminals? After all, a very good case can be made that the leaders of the United States are systematically violating their own constitution with policies like indefinite detention. And the government’s behavior in Viet Nam, as well as in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq (for instance, in the application of draconian sanctions which did take the lives of up to a million innocents) and the actual occupation of that country, all violated more moral precepts than one cares to count. Then there is the practice of torturing suspected, but not actually convicted, terrorists, and the current use of drone attacks which kill more civilians than targeted enemies. Along comes Wikileaks and Assange to bear witness against some of these acts. Washington marks him for punishment. But just who is the real criminal?

It is to the enduring shame of most of the U.S. media that they did not, and still can’t, manage a straight answer to that question. The establishment press has always kept its distance from Assange, asserting that he was not a “real” journalist. This no doubt reflects the attitudes of its basically conservative owners and editors. For instance, the New York Times executive editor, Bill Keller, once called Assange a “smelly, dirty, bombastic…believer in unproven conspiracy theories….” He did this even while his own paper selectively dipped into the 391,832 Pentagon documents Wikileaks had divulged. Even then the information was used in the most innocuous fashion. I think it is fair to say that investigative journalism at a local (city or state) level still goes on in the U.S., but at the national level it has become an increasingly rare phenomenon.

Popular Disbelief

Though a noble and necessary effort, Assange’s Wikileaks experiment always faced very high odds, particularly in the U.S. This is because its revelations play themselves out within the context of an establishment culture that has long ago turned the great majority of people into subservient true believers. True believers in what? In the essential goodness of their nation as it operates in the world beyond its borders. Therefore, transparency might be acceptable for one’s local political environment where the mayor turns out to be corrupt, but foreign policy is something else again. For Americans in the post 9/11 age, foreign policy boils down to promoting democracy and development on the one hand, and protecting the citizenry from terrorists on the other. Within that frame of reference, it is nearly impossible for Americans to conceive of their national government as purposefully acting like a criminal organization. They just refuse to believe it.

Particularly in the so-called war against terrorism, most Americans see nothing noble or necessary about exposing the government’s clandestine operations. Thus, when Julian Assange points out the criminal behavior of those supposedly defending the nation, most citizens are going to feel indignant and rally around the flag. The messenger is soon the one who is seen as criminal and dangerous because he is undermining national security.

There are no greater adherents to this point of view than the political and military leaders who claim to be defenders of the nation. For them the old Barry Goldwater saying, “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” excuses all excesses. Wikileaks both challenged and embarrassed them by making their innumerable excesses public. Thus, be they Democrats or Republicans, the so-called champions of homeland security are determined to silence him.

U.S. authorities have latched onto an exaggerated sex scandal in Sweden in which Assange is sought for questioning (though as yet not charged with any crime). They have pressured the Swedes to extradite Assange from his present UK residence when it would be much easier and efficient (as Assange has offered) for Stockholm to send court representatives to England to perform the questioning. So why do it the hard way? Because, once in Sweden, the head of Wikileaks could be given over to the Americans (something the British will not do). Assange will not cooperate in this game. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, “as a foreign national accused of harming U.S. national security, he has every reason to want to avoid ending up in the travesty known as the American judicial system.” When he recently lost his UK court battle against extradition, he sought asylum in the embassy of Ecuador, a country whose leaders are sympathetic to Assange’s plight. True to form, American media comment on Assange’s appeal for asylum has beendisparaging.

Conclusion

Julian Assange is now a hero on the run. And, he is probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Even if he makes it to Ecuador he will need bodyguards to protect him from kidnaping or worse. As one Pentagon spokesman put it, “If doing the right thing is not good enough for [Assange] then we will figure out what other alternatives we have to compel [him] to do the right thing.” And what do America’s leaders regard as the “right thing” in this case? Obviously, keeping silent about Washington’s doing the wrong thing.

That is the nature of our world. Submerged in a culture defined by the educational and informational dictates of our leaders and their interests, many of us can not recognize when we are being lied to or misled. And, if someone tries to tell us what is happening, they sound so odd, so out of place, that we are made anxious and annoyed. So much so that, in the end, we don’t raise a finger when the messenger is hounded into silence.

Lawrence Davidson is in the Department of History, West Chester University, Pennsylvania. Read other articles by Lawrence.

Ben Quinn

The Guardian: June 26, 2012

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/26/prominent-americans-urge-ecuador-to-accept-julian-assanges-asylum-request/

 

A letter signed by leading US figures in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s application for political asylum in Ecuador has been delivered to the country’s London embassy.

Among those who signed the letter were Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky and Danny Glover.

Other signatories included the author Naomi Wolf, comedian Bill Maher and Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military analyst turned whistleblower, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and has been a long-standing supporter of Assange.

Robert Naiman, policy director at the Just Foreign Policy campaign group, delivered the letter to the embassy on Monday, along with a petition signed by more than four thousand Americans urging President Rafael Correa to approve Assange’s request for asylum.

The Australian national arrived at Ecuador’s embassy last week in the latest dramatic twist in his fight to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex offences.

The letter, which has been posted online, states that its signatories believe Assange has good reason to fear extradition from the UK to Sweden, “as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States”.

Adding that the US government “has made clear its hostility to WikiLeaks”, it says he could face the death penalty in the US if he was charged and found guilty under the Espionage Act.

“We also call on you to grant Mr Assange political asylum because the ‘crime’ that he has committed is that of practicing journalism,” says the letter, which is addressed to Correa.

It concludes: “Because this is a clear case of an attack on press freedom and on the public’s right to know important truths about US foreign policy, and because the threat to his health and well-being is serious, we urge you to grant Mr Assange political asylum.”

Ecuador’s ambassador to the UK, Anna Alban, has gone back to Ecuador to brief Correa on Assange’s application and to hold a series of meetings at the foreign ministry.

Assange was set to be extradited to Sweden, where he faces accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another into sex in Stockholm in August 2010, while on a visit to give a lecture.

He denies all charges, saying the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated.

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