Friday, December 5, 2008

The Midnight Knock When You're All Alone

Egyptian blogger and former law student Abdel Karim Suleiman looks out of a police bus in Alexandria. Reporters Without Borders called on Egyptian authorities to release Suleiman for insulting religion and President Hosni Mubarak as he has now served half his four-year sentence. (AFP null)
You've always thought that blogging is a nice, pleasant, no risk activity anyone can do from the safety and sanctity of their own home?

Think again.

Abdel Karim Suleiman, 24, Egyptian blogger and former law student, blogged in Egypt under the name Karim Amer.

Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday called on Egyptian authorities to release Suleiman, who has served two years of a four year sentence after being arrested in 2006 for insulting religion and President Hosni Mubarak.

Suleiman was sentenced in February 2007 to three years in prison for "inciting hatred of Islam" and one year for "insulting" the Egyptian president.

"Two years have gone by and nothing has changed," the press freedom group said in a statement, according to an AFP article in the Middle East Times today:
"His family have never come to visit him. Only his lawyer reports to the outside world, about his morale, which weakens day after day, and his fragile state of health.

"His parents, probably as a result of intimidation, have even publicly disowned their son and called for him to be sentenced to death... Two years, that's enough. It is time to free him," said Reporters Without Borders.

Suleiman was convicted of insulting religion and defaming Mubarak after posting an entry on his blog lashing out at Cairo's Al-Azhar University -- the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam.

"I say to Al-Azhar and its university and its professors and preachers who stand against anyone who thinks differently to them: 'You are destined for the rubbish bin of history, where you will find no one to cry for you, and your regime will end like others have'," he wrote.

His conviction was based on a series of vaguely worded articles in the penal code that forbid the spreading of false information, insulting Islam or other revealed religions, and "affronting the President of the Republic."

The decision was seen by international rights groups as an attempt to intimidate Egypt's blogging scene.

According to a new census by New York-based media watchdog group the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), online journalists, bloggers, web-based reporters and online editors, outnumbering print, TV or any other medium, now account for 45 percent of all media workers in jail worldwide.
CPJ's survey found 125 journalists in all behind bars on December 1, a decrease of two from the 2007 tally.

(Read detailed accounts of each imprisoned journalist.)
The CPJ says that 56 of currently imprisoned journalists are "online journalists", for the first time outnumbering print journalists, the second largest category with 53 in prison for their reporting. Television and radio journalists and documentary filmmakers make up the remainder, and the overall number of journalists imprisoned worldwide has decreased by two since 2007.

Of the 125 journalists behind bars, seven were found to be imprisoned in the Arab World – one in Egypt, two in Iraq (one in US custody, the other in Iraqi Kurdistan custody), and four in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon says "Online journalism has changed the media landscape and the way we communicate with each other,". "But the power and influence of this new generation of online journalists has captured the attention of repressive governments around the world, and they have accelerated their counterattack."

The rise of the imprisonment of online journalists goes hand-in-hand with the rise of freelance journalists being jailed. The number of imprisoned freelancers has increased by over 40% in the last two years, numbering 45 out of the 125 on CPJ's list this year.

"The image of the solitary blogger working at home in his pyjamas may be appealing, but when the knock comes on the door they are alone and vulnerable," said CPJ's Simon. "All of us must stand up for their rights - from Internet companies to journalists and press freedom groups. The future of journalism is online and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom who are using imprisonment to define the limits of public discourse."

There's more: "The Midnight Knock When You're All Alone" >>

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another Interrogator Speaks Out

If you haven't read it already, "Matthew Alexander's" Washington Post article about his experience as an Interrogator in Iraq is a crucial document in the story of America's decline. Alexander and I had similar experiences (I'm pretty sure I know him, actually). As a fellow former Interrogator, I found myself nodding in agreement through much of the piece.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.
I'm hesitant to shift too much of the blame for the attacks themselves away from the ordinary Iraqis who supported those foreign fighters ("Zarqawi's Willing Executioners"?), but the connection to our detention policies is spot-on. I heard versions of this many, many times from detainees--America came waving the banner of freedom, then unjustly imprisoned and horrifically abused the people they were supposed to be saving, thus inviting a bloody backlash.

Not only was I told this directly, but like Alexander I was also told the correlate: the good treatment, adequate food and healthcare that they received in our prisons convinced at least five of the men I personally interrogated to give solid intelligence. Once they found out that we (all) weren't that bad, they opened right up. I wish this story were told more often--Alexander and I can't be the only ones who heard this:

"I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."
Imagine how different this war would have gone if that was a commonly-heard refrain. How tragic that it isn't.

(Cross-posted at Decline and Fall.)

There's more: "Another Interrogator Speaks Out" >>

Surveying The Landscape: Obama A Center-Right Pragmatic? Or Progressive?

Who is this guy? What is this guy?

I have long argued and have written much the past few days in particular that Obama's past statements and actions, especially as indicated by his latest picks for a foreign policy team, show him to be a center-right imperialist/empire-ist who will simply do the bidding of, or at least be heavily constrained by, a combination of oil companies, corporate oligarchy and foreign policy establishment.

That he will be exactly that, at least when it comes to foreign policy, "war on terror" memes, and the likelihood of him continuing the imperialist policies of the past six or more decades that are creating the very terrorism that the "war on terror" started by George Bush so misguidedly and murderously has done.

Have progressives been suckered into supporting a President who will really govern from the 'center-right', and who is an imperialist hawk in sheeps clothing? A very good salesman, in other words, who has been very successful at coopting and defanging progressives and the antiwar movement?

I'm far from alone in my thinking about this. But hang in here for a bit. There's an opposing viewpoint coming, further down.

As far back as July 2007 Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of Monsters To Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin wrote, in an article published at Tom Engelhardt's TomDispatch: Democratic Doublespeak on Iraq:

...what does it mean to "leave Iraq"? Here's where most of the Democratic candidates come smack up against that hard place. There is a longstanding bipartisan consensus in the foreign-policy establishment that the US must control every strategically valuable region of the world -- and none more so than the oil heartlands of the planet. That's been a hard-and-fast rule of the elite for some six decades now. No matter how hard the task may be, they demand that presidents be rock-hard enough to get the job done.

So whatever "leave Iraq" might mean, no candidate of either party likely to enter the White House on January 20, 2009 can think it means letting Iraqis determine their own national policies or fate.
So the Democratic front-runners must promise voters that they will end the war -- with not too many ideologically laden ifs, ands, or buts -- while they assure the foreign-policy establishment that they will never abandon the drive for hegemony in the Middle East (or anywhere else). In other words, the candidates have to be able to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.

"The single most important job of any president is to protect the American people," [Obama] affirmed in a major foreign-policy statement last April. But "the threats we face.... can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.... The security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people." That's why the U.S. must be the "leader of the free world." It's hard to find much difference on foreign policy between Clinton and Obama, except that Barack is more likely to dress up the imperial march of U.S. interests in such old-fashioned Cold War flourishes.

That delights neoconservative guru Robert Kagan, who summed up Obama's message succinctly: "His critique is not that we've meddled too much but that we haven't meddled enough.... To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States." To control everything and everyone, he wants "the strongest, best-equipped military in the world.... A 21st century military to stay on the offense." That, he says, will take at least 92,000 more soldiers and Marines -- precisely the number Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recommended to President Bush.
And of course in the past few days we've seen Obama reiterate his statements that he intends to "end the war in Iraq 'responsibly'", and also seen him confirm that he will retain George Bush's appointee Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, as well as bring in Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and former NATO commander General James L. Jones, all complimenting his VP Joe Biden as war hawks.

Not very confidence inspiring of "progressive" foreign policy thinking, to say the least.

In May 2007 Larry Everest wrote at Z-Net in The Bush Veto, the Democrats' Response, and Why Millions Must Break with the Politics of Empire:
What the Bush Regime portrays as a noble effort to make the world safe from terrorism and bring democracy to the Middle East is actually a vicious war of empire to deepen the U.S. stranglehold on the Middle East and Central Asia --a war that is part of a broader effort to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable imperialist empire.

This goal is not viewed as capricious or incidental by those in charge--whether Democrats or Republicans--rather it flows from the deepest needs and drives of their system: U.S. hegemony in the Middle East and global dominance is crucial for U.S. capitalism's ongoing functioning and U.S. global power.
So when Bush says, "Even if you thought it was a mistake to go into Iraq, it would be a far greater mistake to pull out now," he's expressing a fear -- from an imperialist viewpoint - that a U.S. pullout would leave the empire weaker. And he is saying this in opposition to other forces in the U.S. ruling class who, also coming from an imperialist viewpoint, now think it's a big mistake for the U.S. not to withdraw.

This whole dynamic of riding the anti-war vote to power, then voting to fund an ongoing war while claiming to be ending it, reflect the conflicting necessities the Democrats face. As representatives of U.S. imperialism, they are committed to maintaining U.S. global dominance. Yet they fear the U.S. is sliding toward a strategic debacle of epic proportions and may already have lost the war in Iraq. So they're trying to find a way to extricate most U.S. forces and reposition and strengthen the U.S. in the region.
Meanwhile, the Democrats also have to try to maintain the loyalty of their supporters (to both the party and the system), millions of whom have turned against the war and are furious at the Democrats. So we get all the talk of carrying out the "will of the voters" and "moving to end the war"--while horrendous crimes continue to be carried out in Iraq and they do nothing to really put an end to the war.
Here's an opposing view, from Robert Creamer at AlterNet.

Clues Obama Won't Govern Center-Right
December 02, 2008
Should progressives beware? Has Barack Obama suckered them into supporting a President who will really govern from the "center-right"? The short answer is no.

Since November 4th there has been growing protestation from right wing intellectuals that America is really a "center-right" nation and that Obama's victory does not indicate that the electorate has rejected the "center-right" value frame that has defined American politics for the last thirty years.

This line of argument has now extended to the contention that while Obama may have won the nomination and election with the strong support from the left of the Democratic Party, he really intends to govern from the "center-right." Even the New York Times ran a front-page analysis last Saturday concluding that Obama's recent cabinet choices, "suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues."

Both of these arguments are complete baloney.

Right wing pundits can comfort themselves with the fantasy that America is a "center-right" nation but it just ain't so. In fact, all of the polls show that the November election represented a complete repudiation of right wing Bush-Cheney top-down economics and their Neo-Con foreign policy. Over 80% of voters indicated they wanted fundamental change. The polling shows massive majorities in favor of policies that would guarantee health care for all. It shows overwhelming support for policies that give tax relief to middle income Americans and increase taxes on the wealthy. Polls show complete rejection of neocon notions about "preemptive" war and unilateralism. And Americans strongly favor bold government action to stimulate the economy - not the failed laissez-faire economics that have lead to the current economic meltdown.

The fact is that normal people have supported policies like health care for all and bottom up economics for decades. They've known for years that economic policies that have lowered their incomes and siphoned off all of our growth to the top 2% were not in their interest. Now the market collapse, potential bankruptcy of the country's biggest firms, and obvious failure of Neo-Con foreign policy have finally forced even the country's punditry and

Not only have "center-right" policies proven themselves a complete failure, their intellectual and moral basis has collapsed. How many more bailouts does someone need before he stops believing that the unfettered "free market" will always lead the "private sector" (meaning those who control giant corporations and Wall Street Bankers) to act in the public interest. How many times can corporate CEO's emerge from their private jets with tin cups in Washington before people begin to question the "center-right's" claim that the private sector is inherently more efficient that the public sector. Let's face it, it's getting pretty tough to justify why Wall Street's "masters of the universe" deserve to be paid hundreds of millions of dollars while middle class incomes tank; or why a CEO should make more money before lunch on the first day of the year than his minimum wage worker makes all year long.

Obama ran a campaign that clearly and unequivocally described priorities that will turn American in a fundamentally progressive direction. His cabinet picks indicate that he will surround himself with people who have experience and can competently manage the government. They also indicate his absolute commitment to unifying the country to make change. But they do not in any way diminish the fact that America is demanding -- and Obama intends to enact -- a sweeping progressive program the likes of which we have not seen since the New Deal.

Political consultant, activist and author Mike Lux will publish a book early next year that surveys the history of progressive change in American history. He concludes that progressive changes happen in big batches. Change doesn't happen incrementally. I think of it as the "Drain-O" theory of history. At key points in history the pressure for democratizing, progressive change overwhelms the forces of the status quo. Then, as the pipes are suddenly cleaned out, massive numbers of progressive changes can finally flow. America is about to experience one of those periods. How much we can accomplish, and how long this period lasts will depend on many factors that we don't yet know -- and one that we do. It will depend heavily on our success in continuing to mobilize the millions of Americans who elected Barack Obama into a movement to enact his program.

Finally, writers and pundits who focus on Obama's cabinet picks to show he will govern from the "center right" need to have a look at history. Like Obama, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln all installed people in their cabinets who they believed to be effective managers who could deliver. They all had their share of outsiders and progressives, but many were old Washington hands. Yet all of these Presidents faced historic challenges that demanded and enabled them to make fundamental change. And all of them were guided by progressive values that were sharply different from those of Bush, Cheney, and Delay. Obama shares and articulates those values more than any political leader since Robert Kennedy died forty years ago.

Barack Obama will not govern from the "center right", but he will govern from the "center". That's not because he is "moving to the center". It's because the center of American politics has changed. It has moved where the American people are. It once again resides in the traditional progressive center that has defined America's promise since Thomas Jefferson penned its founding document over 200 years ago.




"Obama ran a campaign that clearly and unequivocally described priorities that will turn American in a fundamentally progressive direction."?

Was it a "pragmatic" campaign to simply gain the presidency? Is he a Center-Right Pragmatic? Or Progressive?

There's more: "Surveying The Landscape: Obama A Center-Right Pragmatic? Or Progressive?" >>

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The More Things Change: Empire Classic Or Empire Lite?

In the spring of 2007, 6 months after taking control of Congress in the November 2006 midterm elections by running on an "end the Iraq occupation" platform throughout 2006, the Democratic controlled congress under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned around 180 degrees, stuck their thumbs in the eye of the public who had given them their majority based on the expectations of ending the occupation, and gave George Bush the first Iraq supplemental funding bill ever passed by a Democratic congress, in their determination that the US would control the oil resources of Iraq and have a central base from which to attempt to expand that hoped for control across the Middle East.

Their dreams of empire have since developed a badly cracked and shattered facade but not died out, and that first supplemental funding bill was to become only the beginning of a two year long series of betrayals of their mandate, as the Democrats put all of their energy into enabling Bush with multiple Iraq supplemental funding bills and selling the same old deathtrap in Iraq with a shiny new Democratic paintjob, and over the past couple of months enabling and participating in the theft of nearly nine trillion dollars from taxpayers as they have fallen all over themselves to hand bags of cash to their criminal friends on Wall Street who have been busy as beavers all this time wrecking the US and global economy.

Yesterday in Obama's Foreign Policy Team: Pragmatic Chump Change? The Real News talked to Lawrence J. Korb and Phyllis Bennis to analyze the overall message about ongoing US foreign policy that is sent out to the world by Obama's choices as Hillary Clinton was confirmed as Obama's Secretary of State, and three other appointments were confirmed as well: his closest foreign affairs adviser Susan Rice becoming UN ambassador with a seat at the cabinet table, former NATO commander General James L. Jones as national security adviser, and current Secretary of Defense Bush appointee Robert M. Gates to remain in that role.

For his "pragmatic" appointments of some of the most hawkish war and imperialism proponents in and out of the Democratic party...

Barack Obama is riding a tide of public approval over his performance so far as US president-elect, as well as strong support for his top cabinet picks, a new poll showed Tuesday.

Nearly a month after his historic November 4 election, and in the midst of the devastating downturn in the US economy, more than three out of four Americans approve of how Obama has handled his transition so far, according to the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.

Of his high-profile cabinet appointments, 69 percent to 25 percent approve Obama's pick of his former Democratic nomination rival Hillary Rodham Clinton to be his secretary of state.

By an overwhelming margin, 80 percent to 14 percent of Americans endorse Obama's decision to ask President George W. Bush's defense secretary Robert Gates to keep his post, said the poll.
We then heard about the propagandizing "Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism" wheeling out the heavy artillery once again of blatant WOT fearmongering with WAPO reporting on them saying:
The odds that terrorists will soon strike a major city with weapons of mass destruction are now better than even, a bipartisan congressionally mandated task force concludes in a draft study that warns of growing threats from rogue states, nuclear smuggling networks and the spread of atomic know-how in the developing world.

The sobering assessment of such threats, due for release as early as today, singled out Pakistan as a grave concern because of its terrorist networks, history of instability and arsenal of several dozen nuclear warheads. The report urged the incoming Obama administration to take "decisive action" to reduce the likelihood of a devastating attack
Today Pepe Escobar at The Real News describes a shiny new Democratic "war on terror" being sold to the American public....
Much has been said about the strong personalities who will feature in President-elect Barack Obama's national security "team of rivals". But Obama has already made it clear that "the buck stops" with him.

Pepe Escobar argues that instead of "change", what America has in fact bought is an Obama vision that may not be too dissimilar from the war on terror framework.

Real News: December 3, 2008
Empire classic or empire lite?
Obama foreign policy does not question basic assumptions of the past
Go shopping? Don't forget to pick up duct tape?

There's more: "The More Things Change: Empire Classic Or Empire Lite?" >>

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What's LEFT Of Blogs?

Magnifico reports at Docudharma today in his Four at Four on the Washington Post story today: Nuclear or Biological Attack Called Likely.

The story tells in a very serious "objectively journalistic" matter of fact manner of a new report produced by the "Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism".

WAPO's article notes that:

The odds that terrorists will soon strike a major city with weapons of mass destruction are now better than even, a bipartisan congressionally mandated task force concludes in a draft study that warns of growing threats from rogue states, nuclear smuggling networks and the spread of atomic know-how in the developing world.

The sobering assessment of such threats, due for release as early as today, singled out Pakistan as a grave concern because of its terrorist networks, history of instability and arsenal of several dozen nuclear warheads. The report urged the incoming Obama administration to take "decisive action" to reduce the likelihood of a devastating attack.
...the creation of the commission, chaired by former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), with former congressman James M. Talent (R-Mo.) serving as vice chairman, was one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which explored the causes of the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.
I don't recall the 9/11 Commission ever doing any "exploring" of the root causes of the 2001 terrorist attacks or of the root causes of the oppression and imperialism and the general foreign policies of messing internally with other countries militarily and via CIA fomented insurrections, destabilization campaigns, and false flag operations to fog the minds of Americans over the past six or more decades.

I don't recall the 9/11 Commission ever doing anything other than their job: creating justifications for the "war on terror" fearmongering and propaganda campaigns that replaced the "cold war" mentality of 'political rule on behalf of multinational corporate stripping the earth bare like a swarm of locusts the rest of the world's human beings are our property and resources to be used till exhausted with no regard for their humanity' American Exceptionalism that was behind all the lies and deceits of the ten year sanctions war and eventual invasion and occupation of Iraq that was directly responsible for the deaths, maimings and poisonings of over a million Iraqis; men, women, and children.

But "explore the causes"? Deluded misinformation at best, and pure manipulative propaganda at worst.

Boo! The boogeymen are out to get you.

This story is all over the left blogs today, and most of what I read is people lapping it up as easily and thoughtlessly as the 26 percenters lapped up all of Bush's years of Rovian manipulations, and using it as justification for "pragmatic" hide their heads in the sand denial of Barack Obama's obvious militarist tendencies and full intentions to continue the war on terror memes and determination to militarily dominate the earth while blaming the blowback on "terrists" on behalf of the corporatocracy that rules America.

Have we learned nothing in eight years?

Glenn Greenwald: How Beltway reporters mislead the country
by: ek hornbeck
Sun Nov 25, 2007
I think this is the arena that we are most effective in, media criticism.
The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.

(I)t (is) a low trade and a habit worse than heroin, a strange seedy world full of misfits and drunkards and failures. The business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.

Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. - Stockton
I think this is the arena that we used to be most effective in, media criticism. But no longer, it seems.

What's LEFT Of Blogs?

The Unseen Lies: Journalism As Propaganda
By John Pilger, August 8, 2007
The truth about most modern journalism: You first become a career media worker, you start climbing the ladder, and then you prostitute yourself. It's as common as it's straightforward.

The following is a transcript of a talk given by John Pilger at Socialism 2007 Conference in Chicago this past June:

The title of this talk is Freedom Next Time, which is the title of my book, and the book is meant as an antidote to the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism. So I thought I would talk today about journalism, about war by journalism, propaganda, and silence, and how that silence might be broken. Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media.

That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It is a history few journalist talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising. As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called "professional journalism" was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment-objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalist. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media and with the great corporations, and the whole thing was, as Robert McChesney put it so well, "entirely bogus".

For what the public did not know was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources, and that has not changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories-domestic and foreign-you'll find they're dominated by government and other established interests. That is the essence of professional journalism.


One of my favorite stories about the Cold War concerns a group of Russian journalists who were touring the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by the host for their impressions. "I have to tell you," said the spokesman, "that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV day after day that all the opinions on all the vital issues are the same. To get that result in our country we send journalists to the gulag. We even tear out their fingernails. Here you don't have to do any of that. What is the secret?"

What is the secret? It is a question seldom asked in newsrooms, in media colleges, in journalism journals, and yet the answer to that question is critical to the lives of millions of people. On August 24 [2006] the New York Times declared this in an editorial: "If we had known then what we know now the invasion if Iraq would have been stopped by a popular outcry." This amazing admission was saying, in effect, that journalists had betrayed the public by not doing their job and by accepting and amplifying and echoing the lies of Bush and his gang, instead of challenging them and exposing them. What the Times didn't say was that had that paper and the rest of the media exposed the lies, up to a million people might be alive today. That's the belief now of a number of senior establishment journalists. Few of them-they've spoken to me about it-few of them will say it in public.

Ironically, I began to understand how censorship worked in so-called free societies when I reported from totalitarian societies. During the 1970s I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. I interviewed members of the dissident group Charter 77, including the novelist Zdener Urbanek, and this is what he told me. "In dictatorships we are more fortunate that you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know its propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West. We've learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and unlike you, we know that the real truth is always subversive."


We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now.
Want change you can believe in?

Follow the leader:

There's more: "What's LEFT Of Blogs?" >>

Real News: Obama's Foreign Policy Team: Pragmatic Chump Change?

Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice,
Gen. James L. Jones, Robert M. Gates
On Monday President-elect Barack Obama announced the makeup of the core of his incoming administrations foreign affairs team with what Jeremy Scahill, Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute, yesterday called "Barack Obama's Kettle of Hawks":
The absence of a solid anti-war voice on Obama's national security team means that US foreign policy isn't going to change.
[T]he real rivalry that will play out goes virtually unmentioned. The main battles will not be between Obama's staff, but rather against those who actually want a change in US foreign policy, not just a staff change in the war room.

When announcing his foreign policy team on Monday, Obama said: "I didn't go around checking their voter registration." That is a bit hard to believe, given the 63-question application to work in his White House. But Obama clearly did check their credentials, and the disturbing truth is that he liked what he saw.

The assembly of Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Susan Rice and Joe Biden is a kettle of hawks with a proven track record of support for the Iraq war, militaristic interventionism, neoliberal economic policies and a worldview consistent with the foreign policy arch that stretches from George HW Bush's time in office to the present.

Obama has dismissed suggestions that the public records of his appointees bear much relevance to future policy. "Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost," Obama said. "It comes from me. That's my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure, then, that my team is implementing." It is a line the president-elect's defenders echo often. The reality, though, is that their records do matter.
Hillary Clinton was confirmed as Obama's Secretary of State, and three other appointments were confirmed as well: his closest foreign affairs adviser Susan Rice becoming UN ambassador with a seat at the cabinet table, former NATO commander General James L. Jones as national security adviser, and current Secretary of Defense Bush appointee Robert M. Gates to remain in that role.

What is the symbolism and what is the actuality of Obama's appointments?

The Real News CEO Paul Jay talks to Lawrence J. Korb and Phyllis Bennis to analyze the overall message about ongoing US foreign policy that is sent out to the world by Obama's choices...

Lawrence J. Korb is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Senior Adviser to the Center for Defense Information. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics) under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1985. In that position, he administered about seventy percent of the Defense budget.

Phyllis Bennis is a Senior Analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. She is the author of Before and After: US Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis , Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power, and her newest book Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer.
He confirmed the selection of Hilary Clinton for the Secretary of State, Eric Holder for Attorney General, Gen. James Jones for National Security Adviser, Susan Rice as the Ambassador to the UN, and Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security.

In perhaps the most shocking of the appointments, Obama confirmed that Bush appointee Robert Gates will stay on as Obama's Secretary of Defense for a to-be-determined period of time. The appointments have drawn great praise from established Washington voices, including most members of the GOP, but have been highly criticized by others as lacking the 'change' that Obama's campaign preached.

Senior Editor Paul Jay talks to Lawrence Korb, an adviser to Obama during the campaign, and Phyllis Bennis to get their opinions on Obama's selections and what they signify.

Real News: December 2, 2008
Pragmatism trumps change
Lawrence Korb and Phyllis Bennis discuss the significance of Obama's foreign policy appointments

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