Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Americans Will Support War Against Syria

Right now most Americans are opposed to any United States action against Syria. Too bad that won’t last. Mark Twain explains.

“There has never been a just [war], never an honorable one--on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful--as usual--will shout for the war. The pulpit will--warily and cautiously--object--at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, 'It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.' Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers--as earlier--but do not dare say so. And now the whole nation--pulpit and all--will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

U.S. War on Africa

On June 8, 2013 I participated on a Left Forum panel sponsored by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), "The War on Africa." At the time the Susan Rice drama was front and center in the news but I made the point that it didn't matter if she was secretary of state or not. She and her bosses Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had taken actions which killed millions of Africans, especially in the Congo. Listen up for ten minutes.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Interview on State of the City

Last week I was interviewed by Daren Muhammed on his WFBR program State of City. I talked about the beauty of old R&B (his question) but mostly about my recent Black Agenda Report column Sex Tapes and Butlers. Interview starts at about 4 minutes 40 seconds and lasts for about 30 minutes.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Russell Simmons' Harriet Tubman Sex Tape

Where to begin? Yesterday Russell Simmons caused a disruption in the cosmos with a video called The Harriet Tubman Sex Tape. I was first in denial, not wanting to know how the words Harriet Tubman and sex tape could be in the same sentence.

Harriet Tubman is one of the greatest people who ever lived in this country. She was born enslaved in Maryland. She escaped slavery but returned numerous times to free over 300 men, women and children. She was the only woman known to have led an assault during the civil war. The Combahee River raid resulted in a confederate defeat and the liberation of 750 people. She was a union spy and nurse. 

No matter. The bottom feeder Russell Simmons thought it would be funny to mock her and turn her into a pornography character. Apparently Simmons has issues with women and even if they do empower themselves he sees them as only able to empower with sex. Fortunately most people on the planet with a brain and an internet connection thought otherwise. Despite originally calling his ill conceived opus "one of the funniest things I've ever seen" Simmons issued a half hearted non-apology and removed the video from youtube. 

I have so many questions. Who thought of this? What was the pitch meeting like? Did anyone think it might not be a good idea? What went through the minds of the actors and the crew? WTF is wrong with people?

You can't unsee the Harriet Tubman sex tape. It is out there in the universe still and it will live on, in a very bad way, in our memories. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Obama Kind of Sort of Thanks Edward Snowden

President Obama held a news conference today. That fact is now particularly newsworthy, but the first item on his agenda was.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, Americans know that their personal data is sucked up into the maw of the surveillance state. Obama huffed and puffed and tried to blow the house down but Vladimir Putin gave Snowden temporary asylum in Russia and the big bad wolf went home empty handed.

So today the president announced a task force and a web site and an ombudsman and a transparent thingamajig to "restore confidence" in the government's ability to spy on millions of people here and around the world. The question is why. After first going on Jay Leno's show to yuck it up a bit before telling us we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about this, he now gives a performance of charades. Of course Snowden's name came up and the slippery politician tried to have it both ways.

"And there's no doubt that Mr. Snowden's leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board to go through -- and I'd sat down with Congress and we had worked this thing through -- it would have been less exciting and it would not have generated as much press -- I actually think we would have gotten to the same place, and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country."

Less exciting? How about never would have happened? How about senators Wyden and Udall being stone walled at every turn when they asked questions about the NSA and the FISA court? 
Well anyway, he was forced to answer not only to millions of Americans but to foreign governments who now know that they were being spied on too. I can't say it enough. Edward Snowden is one of my favorite people. He did the right thing, he screwed our government, and then he got away. Obama and his crew are left sputtering and hoping Leno helps them out. How perfect is that?

Monday, August 05, 2013

August 6, 1945: A Date That Will Live in Infamy

"Very late the next night, however, something happened that did change the plan. The Soviet Union declared war and launched a broad surprise attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria. In that instant, Japan’s strategy was ruined. Stalin would not be extracting concessions from the Americans. And the approaching Red Army brought new concerns: The military position was more dire, and it was hard to imagine occupying communists allowing Japan’s traditional imperial system to continue. Better to surrender to Washington than to Moscow."

American propaganda teaches that Japan's surrender in 1945 happened only because Hiroshima and Nagasaki were incinerated. That mantra is demonstrably false. They surrendered because the Soviets declared war and left them with no way out. The United States is still the only nation that has dropped atomic weapons on human beings and it didn't have to happen. Read here.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

What Chris Hayes Said About Bradley Manning Sentence

On Tuesday, July 30th, PFC Bradley Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy but found guilty of 20 different counts of espionage by a military court.

I have written about the government’s zealous pursuit of Manning in my Black Agenda Report column. Manning is but one person who has been victimized by the Obama administration’s effort to punish whistle blowers with the utmost severity.  The 1917 Espionage Act has been Obama’s weapon of choice to make sure that no one considers joining their ranks. Of course, there will always be an Edward Snowden, thank goodness, but a potential 100 year prison sentence isn’t likely to inspire similar behavior.

Obviously a great deal was written about Manning on the day the verdict was announced. On Facebook I shared a post which claimed that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes advocated that Manning receive a 20 year sentence.

That is not what Hayes said. Here is the end of Hayes’s interview with Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice. Video and transcript can be found here.

Hayes - The final thing I want to get from you is this. You know, defenders of Bradley Manning have been quite vocal and active and very well organized, and I'm quite sympathetic in some ways to people's pointing out the absolute difficult to justify conditions under which Bradley Manning was held, ten months of solitary. The three years before he faced trial. The overkill of the prosecution. It also does seem to me the army isn't going to walk away from some private first class giving away 800,000 documents, right? My question to you is, as sentencing starts tomorrow and there is no minimum sentence , he faces 100 years. What do you think justice is in this case?

Goitein -  I think justice is to take in account those very things that were considered irrelevant. I think they shouldn't have been considered irrelevant, but they were considered irrelevant at the guilt phase. That is his actual motive and the actual harm that the disclosures caused, or in this case really didn't cause. Those factors will be relevant at the sentencing hearing and, you know, I think some sentence is appropriate. I actually believe that.

Hayes -  He has pled to a sentence that would give him about 20 years. I have to say --

Goitein -  Up to 20 years.

Hayes - Up to 20 years. I mean, I'm not a sentencing judge, but clearly that would be a disincentive for future actions if that's the thing the army is worried about. Liza Goitein from the Brennan Center for Justice . Thank you.

Early in the interview Hayes did explain why the government’s claim of aiding the enemy was so wrong and how it would have devastated freedom of the press. It is also very clear that neither Hayes nor his guest advocated for any particular sentence. His guest says that a sentence of some kind is in order, but she only mentioned 20 years as a way of explaining what a sentence based on his guilty pleas might be.

If it were up to me, Manning would never have been charged in the first place. If I could speak to the judge now I would ask for a sentence of time served so that Manning could be freed immediately. (I know. Won’t happen.)

Hayes gives the impression that while critical of the charge of aiding the enemy, he isn’t very concerned about what happens to Manning now. His words come off as a shrug of the shoulders. “Well, what do you expect when you break the rules?”

I have a lot of issues with MSNBC. Hayes is one of the beneficiaries of left leaning media which “… in creating media personalities who, in advancing themselves, have done significant damage to the left and its ability to communicate its message.”

He is not the worst actor in this drama but he showed his true colors with his remarks on Edward Snowden’s pursuit of his right to seek asylum. Hayes expressed “concern” about Snowden’s revelations of government surveillance of nearly every American, but when pressed could only wag his finger at Snowden for seeking asylum in Russia. The fact that he was forced to do so because president Obama violated his right to seek asylum in numerous other countries went unmentioned.

There are no true leftists in corporate media and that means critique of MSNBC is necessary. It is seen as being something it isn’t and can never be, which actually makes it more problematic to progressives than Fox news. We should point that out and still get the facts straight.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Snowden is Free


“So consider what has happened: we have a sitting President who is treating a journalist as a personal threat and is going to extreme lengths to stymie him providing testimony to Congress. That of course has not deterred Greenwald. One of the points of the testimony Wednesday (technically, not a hearing) was for Greenwald to rebut statements made by Obama, James Clapper, and Keith Alexander that the NSA programs were limited…” Naked Capitalism

At last. Edward Snowden left the Moscow airport today after being forced to take sanctuary there for the past five weeks. Russia gave him temporary asylum and allowed him to enter the country. The former defense contractor employee fled first to Hong Kong and was then en route to a third country when the Obama administration cancelled his passport as he landed in Moscow.

Liberal Obamabots wrung their hands and scolded Snowden for seeking refuge in evil Russia. They never bothered to point out that Snowden sought asylum in over 20 countries but was thwarted by American government interference. Absent the Obama temper tantrum he might have ended up someplace that liberals found more acceptable.

This news is huge. Vladimir Putin directed a very public rebuke to Barack Obama who was very ham handed in his appeals to the Russian president. Kerry, Carney and every member of the senate and house fumed and fussed. They called Snowden a traitor and all used the finger in the eye metaphor straight out of the Three Stooges. It was all for naught. Putin was already angry about Syria and about being made a fool of over the Libya security council vote. He also refused to give in on Russian law, which has no extradition agreement with the United States.

It isn’t coincidental that Russia made its decision official two days after Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage. The Manning case proved that Snowden had a well founded fear of persecution, which is the international standard for the granting of asylum.

Obama had gone to great lengths to get Snowden and to silence his critics. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the Snowden story was scheduled to give testimony to congress on the NSA. Congress had narrowly defeated a bill meant to defund the NSA’s ability to gather and store information on our phone calls. The double whammy of Greenwald speaking directly to congress was too much for the president to handle  says Firedoglake.

President Obama has historically considered the Hill some lower bardo of hell.  One of the major complaints of congressional Democrats has always been that the President does not consult them or include them in shaping his legislative agenda, let alone stop by for a chin wag.

So imagine everyone’s surprise when the President suddenly announced he was coming to the Hill today to meet with all the Democrats –  right before the August recess begins.

Coincidentally, this forced Alan Grayson to cancel the hearing on NSA activity scheduled for today, at which the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald was to testify. Grayson’s bipartisan hearing was organized to give critics of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance programs a chance to air their concerns, and stem the tide of “constant misleading information” coming from the intelligence community, per Grayson.

Those who saw Glenn Greenwald on ABC’s This Week last Sunday heard him hint at reporting he would publish this week which would directly contradict claims made by General Keith Alexander, James Clapper and President Obama himself about the limited nature of the NSA’s programs (video above).

DSWright has more on XKeyscore, the NSA program Greenwald reports on today.  Suffice to say the Guardian publishes copies of training manuals that teach analysts how to search nearly “everything a user does on the internet.”  Of all the revelations made by Edward Snowden so far, these are by far the most explosive — and they directly contradict statements by the President that the NSA’s surveillance activities are limited to metadata.

Sadly, Grayson’s hearing has to be pushed into September because of the President’s sudden desire to drop by for a cuppa.  Coincidence?  Only those in the White House would know for sure.

I’ll say it. It was no coincidence at all. But it doesn’t matter. The U.S. can’t always succeed in telling the rest of the world what to do.

Thank goodness.