Archive | internet RSS feed for this section

What Chelsea Manning has told us

17 Jun

 “[Chelsea Manning] did break the law by sharing private government knowledge with Wikileaks about what she observed while she was over in the Middle East. But there has been no proof that by leaking this information she risked our lives. By leaking this information we know about critical events in our countries actions while over in the Middle East.”- Lucas McCahill of the LGBTQ Humanist Council of Baltimore

With trans* whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s new op-ed in the New York Times about the U.S. military and media freedom there are those who will say that Manning got what she deserved, that she is a traitor, yadda yadda. Yet, none of this is true. Chelsea Manning leaked thousands of documents to the anti-secrecy and transparency organization, Wikileaks (which is also a legitimate journalistic outfit) which have improved the public discourse. These documents and files included the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, the Guantanamo files,over 250,000 US diplomatic cables (which Wikileaks called ‘Cablegate’[1]), and the Collateral Murder video [2] This article highlights some of what was leaked, and shows that Manning was just following the montra of the current national security state: ‘if you see something, say something,’ by leaking dirty deeds of the US government, war crimes and much more.

Here are some specifics of what we know now because of Chelsea Manning:

1. “According to WikiLeaks cache of U.S. embassy cables, there is number of different discoveries about Iran. For one, the United States has been involved in Iran in some way since that time and people are tired of reforms,” secondly the US has been working to foment revolution in Iran and it is, “right for Iran to be angry at the United States due to current actions there covertly and actions in the past” as noted in an article I wrote for Interesting Blogger (on blogspot) back in December 2011 [3]

2. As noted in The Guardian, “Chevron negotiated with Tehran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield in spite of tight US sanctions…[and] a US state department source said that after a first round of bids in June 2009, there were news stories that Iraq’s government was in talks with Chevron to develop the Majnoon oilfield. It is one of the richest in the world, near Basra and the Iranian border.” [4]

3. As the founding director of Global Voices Advocacy has said, “what we call the Arab Spring was the result of many seemingly small things, butterfly effects. One of them was a courageous woman named Chelsea Manning. If the U.S. will take 35 years from Chelsea Manning’s life, may it console her that she has given us, Arabs, the secret gift that helped expose and topple 50 years of dictatorships.”

4. As noted by Greg Mitchell in an article in The Nation, he writes that there were a number of things that came out from the ‘Cablegate’ leaks:

  • “[the] Yemeni president lied to his own people, claiming his military carried out air strikes on militants actually done by the US. All part of giving US full rein in country against terrorists”
  • “[the] US tried to get Spain to curb its probes of Gitmo torture and rendition”
  • “Egyptian torturers [were] trained by FBI…allegedly to teach the human rights issues”
  • “[a] State Dept. memo [said that the] US-backed 2009 coup in Honduras was “illegal and unconstitutional””
  • cables on Tunisia which “appear to [have] help[ed] spark revolt in that country [show that] the country’s ruling elite described as “The Family,” with Mafia-like skimming throughout the economy. The country’s first lady may have made massive profits off a private school”
  • “[the] US knew all about massive corruption in Tunisia back in 2006 but went on supporting the government anyway, making it the pillar of its North Africa policy”
  • “[the] cables showed the UK promised in 2009 to protect US interests in the official Chilcot inquiry on the start of the Iraq war”
  • “[the] oil giant Shell claims to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government”
  • “[the] US pressured the European Union to accept GM[Os]“
  • “Washington was misled by our own diplomats on Russia-Georgia showdown”
  • “[an] extremely important historical document [was] finally released in full: Ambassador April Glaspie’s cable from Iraq in 1990 on meeting with Saddam Hussein before Kuwait invasion”
  • “the UK sidestepped a ban on housing cluster bombs…[there were] shocking levels of US spying at the United Nations…and intense use of diplomats abroad in intelligence-gathering roles”
  • “[a] potential environmental disaster kept secret by the US when a large consignment of highly enriched uranium in Libya came close to cracking open and leaking radioactive material into the atmosphere”
  • “[the] US used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at last year’s crucial climate conference in Copenhagen”
  • “American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program — with poor security — could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India”
  • “Hundreds of cables detail US use of diplomats as “sales” agents, more than previously thought, centering on jet rivalry of Boeing vs. Airbus”
  • “Millions in US military aid for fighting Pakistani insurgents went to other gov’t uses (or stolen) instead”
  • “Israel wanted to bring Gaza to the ”brink of collapse.””
  • “The US secret services [sic] used Turkey as a base to transport terrorism suspects as part of its extraordinary rendition program”
  • “as protests spread in Egypt, cables revealed that strong man Suleiman was at center of government’s torture programs, causing severe backlash for Mubarak after he named Suleiman vice president during the revolt. Other cables revealed or confirmed widespread Mubarak regime corruption, police abuses and torture, and claims of massive Mubarak family fortune, significantly influencing media coverage and US response.”

5. As noted on the site of the Chelsea Manning Support Network, Chelsea Manning revealed that (of things which haven’t been mentioned before)

  • “thousands of reports of prisoner abuse and torture had been filed against the Iraqi Security Forces” but the US government did nothing
  • “U.S. officials were told to cover up evidence of child abuse by contractors in Afghanistan”
  • the prison at Guantanamo “has held mostly innocent people and low-level operatives
  • “there is an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan”
  • “The State Department backed corporate opposition to a Haitian minimum wage law.”
  • “The State Department authorized the theft of the UN Secretary General’s DNA.”
  • “The Japanese and U.S. Governments had been warned about the seismic threat at Fukushima.”
  • “The Obama Administration allowed Yemen’s President to cover up a secret U.S. drone bombing campaign.”

6. As noted by Ryan Gallagher in an article in Slate magazine, Manning revealed that:

  • “Coalition troops’ [had an] alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers.”
  • “U.S. special operations forces were conducting offensive operations inside Pakistan despite sustained public denials and statements to the contrary by U.S. officials.”
  • “A leaked diplomatic cable provided evidence that during an incident in 2006, U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. The disclosure of this cable was later a significant factor in the Iraqi government’s refusal to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution beyond 2011, which led to U.S. troops withdrawing from the country.”
  • “A NATO coalition in Afghanistan was using an undisclosed “black” unit of special operations forces to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. The unit was revealed to have had a kill-or-capture list featuring details of more than 2,000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaida, but it had in some cases mistakenly killed men, women, children, and Afghan police officers.”
  • “The U.S. threatened the Italian government in an attempt to influence a court case involving the indictment of CIA agents over the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric. Separately, U.S. officials were revealed to have pressured Spanish prosecutors to dissuade them from investigating U.S. torture allegations, secret “extraordinary rendition” flights, and the killing of a Spanish journalist by U.S. troops in Iraq.”

7. As noted by Rania Khalek on Alternet, Manning revealed that:

  • “US officials work as salespeople for Boeing.  The merger of state and corporate power is striking in a  slew of cables  detailing US State Department officials acting as marketing agents on behalf of one lucky corporation. Earlier this year the  New York Times  revealed details about how US diplomats have actively promoted the sale of commercial jets built by the US company Boeing. Hundreds of cables from WikiLeaks show that Boeing had a sales force of US diplomats that went up to the highest levels of government, even going as far as sabotaging sales for Boeing’s European rival Airbus. Enticing deals for the jetliners were offered to heads of state and airline executives in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey and other countries. The WikiLeaks documents also suggest that demands for bribes and payment to suspicious intermediaries still take place.”
  • “Public Citizen has discovered a cable from October 2009, when Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa issued a decree to “improve access to medicines and support public health programs through a protocol that would reduce drug costs. Cables from US embassy personnel in Ecuador to the U.S. Department of State show “the United States, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and three ministers within the government shared information and worked to undermine Ecuador’s emerging policy.””
  • “From Bolivia to Venezuela to Peru, American diplomats are obsessed with securing the profits of multinational mining corporations at the cost of indigenous rights and the environment. At least that is the impression given by WikiLeaks cables that detail the eruption of anti-mining protests near the Ecuador border against the mining firm Minera Majaz.”
  • “A more recent US embassy cable dated March 17, 2008, reveals that US diplomats spied on indigenous activists and their supporters who were organizing anti-summit protests against the European Union-Latin American Heads of State summit that was scheduled in Lima that year.”

8. As noted in a November 2010 Reuters article purportedly about the ‘main revelations’ of the Wikileaks cables, Manning revealed:

  • “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program and is reported to have advised Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.”
  • “The Bahraini king told U.S. diplomats that Iran’s nuclear program should be halted by any means, and the crown prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi saw “the logic of war dominating” when it comes to dealing with the Iranian threat.”
  • “Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia offered to promote energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, U.S. diplomatic cables said.”
  • “The top diplomatic adviser to French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a senior U.S. diplomat last year that Iran was a “fascist” state and the time had come to decide further steps.”
  • “A non-Iranian businessman traveling often to Tehran told U.S. diplomats last year one of his contacts had been told by former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had terminal leukemia and could die in a few months.”
  • “Iran has obtained sophisticated missiles from North Korea capable of hitting western Europe, and the United States is concerned Iran is using those rockets as “building blocks” to build longer-range missiles.”
  • “China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the U.S. Embassy in January, as part of a computer sabotage campaign carried out by government operatives, private experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into U.S. government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.”
  • “Some Chinese officials do not regard North Korea as a useful ally and would not intervene if the reclusive state collapsed, a South Korean official told the U.S. ambassador to Seoul citing conversations with high-level officials in Beijing.”
  • “In April 2009, He Yafei, then China’s vice foreign minister, told a U.S. diplomat in Beijing that North Korea acted like a “spoiled child” to attract U.S. attention through steps such as firing a three-stage rocket over Japan.”
  • “U.S. and South Korean officials discussed the prospects for a unified Korea should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode.”
  • “The South Koreans considered commercial inducements to China to “help salve” Chinese concerns about living with a reunified Korea that is in a “benign alliance” with Washington, according to the American ambassador to Seoul.”
  • “Russian Prime Minister Russia’s Vladimir Putin is an “alpha-dog” ruler of a deeply corrupt state dominated by its security forces, U.S. diplomatic documents said. By contrast, President Dmitry Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.””
  • “U.S. diplomats described Afghan President Hamid Karzai as “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts,” but was easily swayed by conspiracy theories. They said his brother was widely believed to be corrupt and a drug trafficker.”
  • “Since 2007, the United States has mounted a secret and so far unsuccessful effort to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor out of fear it could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.”
  • “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December.”
  • “American diplomats have bargained with other countries to help empty the Guantanamo Bay prison by resettling detainees. Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Barack Obama, and Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees. In another case, accepting more prisoners was described as “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe,” a cable said.”
  • “U.S. diplomats cast doubts on the reliability of NATO ally Turkey, portraying its leadership as divided and permeated by Islamists and said advisers to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had “little understanding of politics beyond Ankara.”
  • “Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “feckless, vain and ineffective” and his “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest,” a U.S. diplomat said.”
  • “The United States has failed to prevent Syria supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has amassed a huge stockpile since its 2006 war with Israel, the cables said.”
  • “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton questioned the mental health of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, asking U.S. diplomats to investigate whether she was on medication.”

9. According to The Week magazine Manning revealed:

  • “Afghan soldiers are killing each other in drug-fueled, fratricidal skirmishes”
  • “The leaks contain “intriguing evidence” that the U.S. military is “paying local media outlets to run friendly stories,””
  • “A February 2009 report ominously suggests that the Taliban could have developed chemical weapons”
  • “The incident reports are full of stories of the U.S. chasing down and killing Taliban fighters with unmanned Reaper aerial drones, flown by joystick-wielding pilots in a Nevada bunker.”
  • “Among the “range of sensational plots” allegedly hatched by colluding Taliban and Pakistani intelligence agents was one to poison the beer headed to Western troops,”

10. As noted in a CBS News story, Manning showed:

  • “The Obama administration worked with Republicans during his first few months in office to protect Bush administration officials facing a criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies that some considered torture…[and] leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.”
  • “Secret State Department cables show a South Korean official quoted as saying that North Korea’s collapse is likely to happen “two to three years” after the death of the current dictator, Kim Jong Il”
  • North Korea is secretly helping the military dictatorship in Myanmar build nuclear and missile sites in its jungles, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.”
  • “Secret U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that BP suffered a blowout after a gas leak in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan in September 2008, a year and a half before another BP blowout killed 11 workers and started a leak that gushed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.”
  • Saudi Arabia is one of the largest origin points for funds supporting international terrorism, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.”
  • “Mexican President Felipe Calderon told a U.S. official last year that Latin America “needs a visible U.S. presence” to counter Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region”
  • “A newly released confidential U.S. diplomatic cable predicts Cuba’s economic situation could become “fatal” within two to three years
  • “McDonald’s tried to delay the US government’s implementation of a free-trade agreement in order to put pressure on El Salvador to appoint neutral judges in a $24m lawsuit it was fighting in the country”

11. According to an article in The Daily Beast, Manning revealed:

  1. “As tensions on the peninsula escalate, American and South Korean officials have already discussed plans to unite the two Koreas should the North ultimately collapse.”
  2. “[the US] State Department Gives Low Marks to Germany’s Merkel”

12. As noted in a paper I published on academia.edu, one can determine easily that Rwanda’s “two main opposition parties (the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party) cooperate with RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front]; and did not oppose Kagame as President.” This means that Rwanda is “a terror state run by Kagame and his cadres…that benefits a specific group of elites over the poor masses,” and has little or no opposition to such a state in the political arena since the ‘opposition’ parties are not really opposition parties but are rather collaborators with the Kagame regime.

 

There is likely much more, but I think this is sufficient for now.[4] If there is something else that someone finds, please share it.

 

Notes:

[1] This does not include the Kissinger Cables or the Carter Cables. The Kissinger Cables, as noted by Wikipedia, revealed that “Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority, was a key asset to the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East…Kissinger and State Department were doubtful of Margaret Thatcher’s prospects of becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom because of her “immaculate grooming” and “imperious manner”…The Vatican dismissed reports of massacres by the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as “propaganda”…George Fernandes, chairman of the Socialist Party of India, who had faced prosecution for conspiracy against the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sought to obtain funding from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the French government in order to organize underground sabotage activities.”

[2] This video shows, according to Wikileaks, “the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad” including two journalists from Reuters. I remember watching the whole thing sometime ago and its deeply disturbing and sickening what extent they go to so that these people are killed.

[3] For the specific cables used in that article, see: 09RPODUBAI316, 09RPODUBAI327, 01DUBAI1141, 97ABUDHABI3777, and 96ABUDHABI7350

[4] There has been some happiness from the right-wing after Wired wrote this article about the WMD hunt in Iraq, yet none of the times does it say that chemical weapons were found but only presumed to be…which is not conclusive evidence of WMDs…and once again says that there really weren’t WMDs in the country. Case closed.

Resisting digital personalization

8 Jun

Reposted from Z Blogs.

There is always talk about how the internet is a magically decentralized system. Eli Pariser, the former head of the liberal, pro-Democratic Party group, MoveOn, challenges this notion in his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, in which he sounds off on the dangers of digital personalization. This article will review the book and also attempt to offer some methods of resisting digital personalization.

Pariser focuses much of his book around the ‘filter bubble.’[1] Basically, the filter bubble is a set of algorithms used on sites such as Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo! to name a few.[2] Filtering is, as Pariser describes it, is personalized tailoring of information to your liking. Such personalization, he says, could narrow our thoughts because we are inundated with those perspectives that agree with our views, not those that challenge us. In addition, the storage of our personal information by private companies and corporations is used to blast personalized advertising at us and filter our content through ‘click signals.’ Pariser worries that such filtering concentrates the control of the internet in the hands of a few American multinational corporations.

Digital personalization itself is the subject of a recent Warner Brothers film, Her. On the surface, the movie is about a relationship between the lonely and rarely social protagonist Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who works for a company that writes letters for those in intimate relationships, and an operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johanson). Theodore, who is still married to a wife he has been separated with for years, tells Samantha his deepest thoughts as he falls deeply in love with her, and gets his life back together. Samantha is one of the many OS’s, commercial products that purport to make people understand their lives better, which evolve to meet the needs of the user, and personalize the content, so that they feel like a trusted friend. However, they are deceptive since the OS’s are not really human and their artificial intelligence creates a ‘lock in’ to their technology.[3] They also suggest what you may like based on your activities, thoughts, a bit like the function on sites such as Facebook or Amazon saying ‘if you like this, then you’ll like this!’ Theodore finds out the true nature of Samantha when she tells him that she is talking to more than 8,000 at the same time as him and is in love with about 1/10 of them. He is shocked as he thought Samantha was only his and possibly commits suicide (its open to interpretation) as the film closes. In essence, this movie warns of the dangers of digital personalization and how it can control human life.

After reading through this book I was a bit depressed about the future predicament of netizens.[4] US netizens, as they are called, are likely concerned about personalized ads being directed toward them. However, there is little action to counter such digital personalization. Interestingly, there has been more concern about the NSA engaging in mass surveillance on Americans and the rest of the world through the massive public-private national security complex, than the collection of personal data by companies such as Google and Yahoo!. This is not to say that NSA mass surveillance is not important, but rather that it is connected to what can rightly be called corporate surveillance. In the second part of the recent FRONTLINE documentary, United States of Secrets, it notes how the personal information which the

NSA collected to spy on Americans and people across the world was first exploited and stored by American multinational tech companies to benefit their bottom line.

Still, there is one major difference between collection of personal information which is digitally personalized by American multinationals and the ‘collect it all’ doctrine of the NSA & its partners. Digital personalization, as noted by Pariser, has the potential to seep into every part of our lives, as noted in the movie Her (talked about two paragraphs ago). NSA surveillance on the other hand is not all-encompassing, as it would be impossible for the NSA to collect all the personal information of Americans. Rather it is based on the idea of social control, where the NSA collects enough information for everyone to feel like they are under surveillance. Despite these differences, NSA surveillance and digital personalization are deeply connected, which is, strangely enough, not pointed out by Pariser, who only mentions the NSA once in passing in the book. But the book does allude to the possibility that government would exploit personal information used by American multinationals for their own uses (which they have done).

In the last chapter of the book, Pariser outlines what he believes are effective strategies for resisting digital personalization. They are pretty moderate in general. They include breaking your digital habits (looking at different things every day) and using technology where you have more control of the filter bubble imposed on you by the certain service. Pariser, for example, says that Twitter is better than Facebook because you get to control ‘your’ filter bubble. He also advocates for implementing and enforcing the Nixon-era Fair Information Practices as well.[5] Also, he writes that “to rescue our digital environment from itself, we’ll ultimately need a new constituency of digital environmentalists—citizens of this new space we’re all building who band together to protect what’s great about it.”[6] In a hopeful tone, Pariser says that “if the great mass of us decide that an open, public-spirited Internet matters and speak up about it…the lobbyists won’t stand a chance” (which was the case with the defeats of SOPA, PIPA and CISPA)[6]. But he worries that a “small group of American companies may unilaterally dictate how billions of people work, play, communicate, and understand the world.”[7] He concludes with the though that for “all of us,” protecting the “early vision of radical connectedness [on the internet] and user control should be an urgent priority.”[7]

I think that Pariser’s call to action to protect “radical connectedness” on the internet and resist digital personalization should be applauded. However, I feel that he does not go far enough. Companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and others who are exploiting user information and selling it to advertisers and, at times, giving it to the government, are simply “digital imperialists…[who] violate the basic right to privacy…[and constitute] part of the globalization of the surveillance state.”[8] Pariser’s book is a reminder of the increasing control of the internet by corporate power, but he does not mention, sadly, the “corporate concentration of the [online] blogosphere” or the growing power of a small number of internet service providers (mostly American multinationals) in the US. [8] To be fair, Pariser is focusing on digital personalization and highlighting its dangers in his book, not the issues I just talked about. On the other hand, I agree with Pariser’s view that as users, we should choose services which give us more power over our information flow: Twitter instead of Facebook, a digital dictatorship. Additionally, efforts to fight government or corporate censorship, through the law or otherwise, should be fought off.

Still, it is not enough to just leave Tumblr (before Yahoo! took it over), Blogspot (after Google introduced an intrusive new privacy policy), or permanently delete your Facebook account as I have done. Rather, it is better to support privacy-centered and open-source technology that gives people power. On top of this, there should be a push for a more democratic internet, with communities building “next-generation networks that are directly accountable to residents and local businesses,” and owned municipally, by cooperatives, nonprofits, or otherwise, as advocated by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). This may not be perfect, but its a better alternative than the status quo. Such a challenge to what is exists is the reason why “publicly owned high-speed internet” in Wilson, North Carolina, and Thomasville, Georgia have been attacked by the corporate bill-mill called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). In the end, while it is clear that the internet is a free marketeer’s dream, there must a concerted effort for the people to exert control of the internet, hopefully without government structures, to fight off further efforts to privatize the net.

Notes:

[1] Other than Pariser’s book, most of the results are interviews with Pariser or reviews of his book. But there are also other articles like ‘Algorithms and the Filter Bubble Ruining Your Online Experience?‘ on Huffington Post, and ‘Tim Berners-Lee: Facebook could fragment web‘ in The Guardian.

[2] Much of the internet is tied into digital personalization, even constituting sites like the main feed on academia.edu (you can somewhat control it), Myspace (yes its still around), and others.

[3] Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: what the Internet is hiding from you (p. 40). New York: Penguin Press. Pariser defines this as “the point at which users are so invested in their technology that even if competitors might offer better services, it’s not even worth making the switch” (40).

[4] Michael Hauben defines this term, also called Net Citizen, as someone who exists “as a citizen of the world thanks to the global connectivity that the Net makes possible [since]…you physically live in one country but you are in contact with much of the world via the global computer network.” TechTarget adds that a netizen is a “a citizen who uses the Internet as a way of participating in political society” or an “internet user who is trying to contribute to the Internet’s use and growth.”

[5] Pariser, 239-40 and more directly defined the summary of the report of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems in July 1973 as the following: “[1]There must be no personal data record keeping systems whose very existence is secret. [2] There must be a way for an individual to find out what information about him is in a record and how it is used. [3] There must be a way for an individual to prevent information about him that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without his consent. [4] There must be a way for an individual to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about him. [5] Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuse of the data.”

[6] Pariser, 242.

[7] Ibid, 243.

[8] My article on Nation of Change titled ‘The Digital Imperialists Strike Back.’

Two shows challenge thoughts, instead of insulating them

7 Aug

In the past few weeks I have watched two big shows: The Killing on TV and the Orange is the New Black (OITNB) via the internet. I have only watched all of the episodes of the latter, but not the former. Neither of the shows is revolutionary. In fact, the HRC and GLAAD both Gay Inc. organs, back the film. A number of publications like Time Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Newsweek, Salon and Mashable. Even activist & sports writer David Zirin likes the series as does former Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines. At the same time the political views of a few members of the cast: a libertarian, a Scientologist and an anti-choice activist, add to the show bit by bit. Regardless, these shows are likely to influence people’s perceptions but in a positive way.

Night by night, I watched episode by episode of the comedic drama, Orange is the New Black, each lasting between 50 and 60 minutes. There was always the one minute introduction with the different faces of the cast. Then the story, based on a book by Piper Kerman began about her time in prison, begins. By the end of the series, you develop an understanding for the characters, a kinship for them, and want the best for them. As Vice Magazine correspondent Bert Burykill (a pseudonym) writes, the show succeeds admirably in depicting at least a few fairly normal people who got locked up over some bullshit…[it] did a phenomenal job of keeping shit relevant and realistic…[the characters are] humans first and prisoners second.” Kit O’Connell of OccuQueers adds to this, writing in Firedoglake that the characters “flashbacks aren’t about romanticizing crime or even depicting the most dramatic moments that led to each character’s eventual conviction. Instead, they show how normal people end up in prison, breaking the idea that there’s a certain kind of person who becomes a criminal.” This depiction is part of the third-person limited omisicant narrator tells you the back stories of numerous inmates not just those of the protagonist, Piper Chapman.

The series has a number of strong suits. For one, a transgender person of color has a main part in the cast. This is unheard of in television and movies. As ColorLines noted, this is part of the hype of the show: “a transgender character played by a real live trans woman, a diverse cast of women of color, a decent exploration of queer sexuality…all in…a women’s correctional facility.” Additionally, gender is somewhat questioned along with sexual orientation. In a sense, both are perceived as fluid as said by Chapman at one point, during her affair with with her former girlfriend, Alex Vausse in prison. This questioning of identity has happened among many inmates, who are lesbians, putting it in a positive light. Already, there has been some discussion on twitter about how the queer characters on the show. In the show itself, the anti-lesbian, homophobic characters that run the prison are portrayed as evil and the same ones who exploit the powerlessness of the inmates. Despite this and the self-segregation by race, the inmates come together and help each other out. As one reviewer put it, “the reason this show can dive into characters of color so deeply is because in prison…even though people are segregated by race, they still have to deal with each other.” After one character is locked in a closet and dies after overdosing on pills, black and latino characters bring food and drinks to the funeral party on their bunks. There is sisterhood across racial & class lines, and some say there is a social critique in the show which is “tempered by its humorous representations of bureaucrats of the state…as boorish and buffoons.”

Still, there are some negatives to this show. Overall, the show seems to counter stereotypes, with one specific instance being when black characters mock white stereotypes. Even The Root writes that while Chapman is “oblivious to her own racial privilege, she delivers some hard-hitting soliloquies taking down male and heterosexual privilege.” Still they are rampant throughout the show especially among black characters, but also among the family of Chapman’s fiance.
Dr. Zigler writes on blac(k) academic about this very subject, giving a mix of the positives and negatives in the show.

“Orange is The New Black…written and directed by women with a majority women cast…is breaking new ground in a number of ways…mainly…by ushering in a new and powerful representation of black trans identity through the character of Sophia Burset. Although OITNB treads the line of racial stereotype, the show is redeemed by the ways in which it depicts female sexuality. For the most part, all of the women in the prison are represented as having control of their sexuality despite their reality of incarceration…the women are consistently shown with some semblance of sexual agency. The character of Sophia is no different…Sophia is advised to offer sexual favors to a sexually abusive guard in return for him sneaking in her life saving hormones…Sophia ultimately rejects the offer to seek out alternative means of trans survival…[Sophia is] a challenge to the widespread notion that black people are more homophobic and transphobic than any other racial group.”

ColorLines adds to this, making very valid points. Their article mentions the show’s problems with white privilege and more despite its strengths:

“the show does little to address the issue of sexual assaults in prisons, at times getting dangerously close to suggesting that the women willingly use their sexuality to get things like special food and medication, or better jobs in the prison…“Orange” often relies on cartoonish representations of people of color, most strongly personified by [lesbian] Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren…who aggressively pursues white lead character Piper Chapman…—whom she calls “dandelion.”…a straight, white woman remains at the center. It’s difficult to imagine that the memoir upon which the dramedy…would be so popular if…a woman of color taking a brief spin in a life of crime and landing a 15-month sentence.”

Tiffany Doggett, a character who believes that God saved her, preaching about it to other inmates is portrayed as completely insane, beyond recognition, resulting in her downfall. Maybe as one reviewer put it, she’s just shown as almost a “cartoonish character,” while having still having a “brillant performance” at times. Chapman’s fiance and his family, in the view of Sigal Samuel are stereotyped: “the show’s Jewish characters, all of whom feel cut from cardboard…The more you watch them, the more you start to feel like these three people are really just sad caricatures of themselves…[Larry's] helicopter mom, who’s forever butting into her son’s personal life and nagging her husband to eat another bowl of soup, fits the Jewish mother stereotype to a tee. As for Larry’s dad, he is…a lawyer.” Later, after Larry raises a stink about Chapman in Solitary on Thanksgiving, in Samuel’s view, the bureaucrats say that “Piper, the liberal, wealthy offender, is connected to Larry, a liberal, wealthy Jew…[who] he has connections on Capitol Hill…[and] speculate…that he’s got a direct line to Obama himself…What emerges from this scene, then, is a continuation of the stereotype of the modern American Jew, who is understood as a powerful and intimidating bully…As a viewer, I found the portrayal of Jewish characters in “Orange” somewhat disappointing.” At the same time as another reviewer pointed out: there is an inherent case of white privilege at play because white lesbians have sex with each other, but there is no scene of lesbians of other races doing the same. Regardless, some even lose their white privilege, like Chapman, in the closing minutes of the series by committing a heinous, violent act.

But, there are some inherent problems with the series. Kit O’Connell argues that “Orange is the New Black is without a doubt political…it’s condemnation of the prison-industrial complex never feels preachy. It’s clear the system rarely metes out rehabilitation or justice, but we’re led to this conclusion.” While I agree it is political, I differ with his main point. While one of the characters goes into solitary confinement, there isn’t much criticism of it, other than in parts of the show people being afraid of it and the pysch ward. In my opinion, the show isn’t against violence, instead promoting a sort of “every person for themself” type of thoughts. Most importantly it doesn’t challenge the prison-industrial complex and makes it seem that you have to go to prison to repent your wrongs. In a counterpoint. In other words, it says that prison is necessary to deal with the wrongdoers, which is never questioned by any of the characters, other than complaining about how much time they have left.

There are also some additional questions as well. I keep asking myself if the show criticizes organized religion because there is sex in the church twice and a cross falls from the ceiling, resulting in it having to be replaced. As it turns out, there is some truth to this, with Chapman saying that God doesn’t exist (she says he believes in science), and Vausse mocking “organized religion, its conservative ideas and homophobia” as noted by Feministing .
Some say the showis anti-man like Denise Warner of Entertainment Weekly. This is not accurate at all, as certain male characters who don’t discriminate aren’t pushed below female characters.

The Killing, a wonderful thriller, is very different indeed. The two hosts of Citizen Radio mentioned the show, the politics of Peter sarsguard and how Jeremy Scahill likes the show as well! I can say that despite the title of the show, it does not, from the episodes I watched, seem to accept killing, terming it something unacceptable and not needed. In fact, in the ending part of the series detective Holder makes a plea to his fellow detective, Lyndn, to not kill a mass murderer. This is accompanied by the fact that the show time and time again has a very anti-death penalty message since one innocent man, who is wrongly suspected as a murderer, is killed. Such a view is unlike anything usually in a TV show and provides a unique perspective. This ties into the questioning of authority by the characters, which projects onto the viewer. This is also like Orange is the New Black, the theme of working together to achieve common ends, this time its male and female characters. There is only detractions I can think of: lack of people of color in the cast.

Both The Killing and Orange is The New Black have the ability to change people’s perceptions even though both are confined within the realms of TV entertainment. The Killing can influence thoughts on the death penalty and Orange is The New Black can question perconceptions about transgender people and lesbians, possibly even gender itself. I highly recommend you watch both and make your own impressions about each. As Gil-Scott Heron said in a 1982 performance of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,
“The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things, and see there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown.”

Anarchy in the political spectrum

16 Jun

I recently wrote a piece on this blog defining four new positions on a political spectrum of my own making, including aristocrat/elitest, populist, reactionary and radical. However, this doesn’t take into account (as a libertarian twitter user noted) the concept of freedom. Since it is likely that I won’t use these terms and the chart which is way too complex, I am abandoning the whole chart. If you still want to use it, go ahead. I propose a better alternative: ANARCHY IN THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM!

What would this anarchy include? Well, you could still define someone as a fascist, democrat (Jeffersonian definition), aristocrat, anti-capitalist, elitist, conspiracist, socialist, or communist. But, there are certain groups which cannot be concretely pinned down to an ideology like Anonymous & the occupy movement. So, I instead encourage you to create your own political label of yourself, not taken in by the spectrums, charts and systems used to categorize people.

Distracting global resistance: conspiracy theories UPDATED

3 Jun

I have time and time again had to confront the growing problem of conspiracy theories on the internet. Its those people who ask you questions, and say “look it up on the internet,” which you know is a bad sign. The reason for this is because there are hundreds if not thousands of websites for conspiracy theories. Sadly, this has hampered down global resistance to the powerful.

There are some obvious examples of the distraction caused by these theories. Rosanne Barr, the Presidential candidate for a democratic socialist party in California, the Peace & Freedom Party, in 2012 said she supported chemtrails. These are the trails in the sky caused by planes, which they allege are spreading chemicals. In reality, major scientific organizations have rejected this as proposterous as there is no evidence of such chemicals being spread. At the sams time, certain accounts on twitter spread the gospel of conspiracy.

Searching using the name of one of the most popular conspiracy shows, Infowars, hosted by the Rush Limbaugh of the conspiracy world, Alex Jones, I found a number of accounts were spreading the message of this show and conspiracies in general.

These include:
- Citizen News Network [@IIIMEIIIXoP]
- TruthJusticeLiberty [@OccupyEarthNow]
- Anonymous 4th Estate [@4thAnon]
- Oh Boy What A Shot [@ohboywhatashot]
- Disinformation [@disinfo]
- Anonymous [@oPHILOSORAPTORo]
- We Are Free [@AllAboutHelp]
- Truther K [@fawking_riot]
- Anonymous [@YourAnonNews]
- The Real Anonymous [@anon99percenter]
- Luke Rudowski [@Lukewearechange]
- StopRealIDNow [@StopRealIDNOW]
- David Icke [@davidicke]
- cinnamon_carter [@cinnamon_carter]
- anonmoecephus [@anonmoecephus]
- #New World Order [@nwohashtag]
- beforeitsnews [@beforeitsnews]
- Political Dissident [@TehDissident]
- AKilluminati [@An0nkn0wledge]
- The Illuminati [@GodOfIlluminati]
- rouge67 [@rougek67]
- censorednewsnow.com [@censorednewsnow]

I’m not saying all of what these accounts say is bad. However, this does tell you something troubling. The thought of conspiracy has gone into the minds of some of the Anonymous movement. I can tell you that the protest I went to on Saturday to free Bradley Manning had a person talking about how Ft. Meade was a FEMA Camp. I knew what he was talking about was complete bogus and was completely absurd because I’ve looked into the issue myself. Also, he said the “list of FEMA camps” was deleted from the internet. More like: IT DOESN’T EXIST, BUDDY. All of these theories, born out of misinformation, assume that government is competent and concidence equals causation must be discredited.

Theory #1: New World Order
Probably the most common conspiracy theory, this claims that the UN will create a one-world government to tyrannically rule over us all (and recently they say “seize our guns”.)This is connected to the theory about a perfectly laid out sustainable development plan, Agenda 21, and the Federal Reserve, which are rooted in the same idea in the theory. First off, as William Blum notes in his book, Rogue State, New World Order is really code word for American Empire or American domination of the world. Just replace the words “New World Order” with American Empire and you’ll see. When this is used in a foreign context, as by the Chinese, it means they want a new global system that would give them more control over the world like us Americans. As for Agenda 21, this is simply a 500 page plan for sustainable development & is NON-BINDING. In other words, it doesn’t have much force at all. This is how the whole “UN will create tyrannical govt.” thing falls apart. The UN overall is too weak just like its predecessor, The League of Nations, to implement such a system. It would clearly violate the UN Charter & is not in the interest of the UN members. Even the UN Security Council is just a tool of the elite, not a part of a global govt. There is already a one-world govt. made up of the Power Elite I have written about in the past, made up of the:
- IMF
- World Bank
- WTO
- World Economic Council
- Business Roundtable
- NAFTA
- NATO
And many others. This does NOT include the elite clubs that are unimportant like the Council of Foreign Relations, the Bohemian Grove, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderberg Group. Some might get mad as I say that, but its true. If you think otherwise, you have been deceived.

Theory #2: Illuminati
This is proported to be a secret society that has control over the world. This is proposterous because there is no real evidence of this in the slightest. No documents, no nothing. Some quotes but nothing substantial that I know of. Instead, its assumed it still exists because of the principle that since its not admitted by government officials, it exists. This is ridiculous. This assumes the government is competent for one.

Theory #3: 9/11 was an inside job
This one has become more and more widespread with govt. incompetance. Due to poor investigation into the causes of 9/11 and a medicore report by the 9/11 commission, people have turned to conspiracy theories. The main theory (not the one that directed energy weapons were fired at the World Trade centers or that there was a missile beneath the plane) was that it was a controled demolition. There are supposedly “scientists” and “engineers” who have said this haplened. However, as Noam Chomsky notes, no credible claim has been submitted to the main scientific journals. Instead, after careful analysis one can tell that the towers did fall from the planes not as Immortal Technique sings roughly “Bush blew up the towers.” If this actually happened, how could they cover it up? It would be revealed by now. That’s what theorists don’t get at all. Let me be clear: there is no truth about the 9/11 “truth” movement. Its better to call it: the 9/11 Truth about unreliable non-existent Truth (TAUNT) movement.

There are many other theories I don’t need to discuss here like ones about Aliens, Lizards ruling the world, UFOs, Flouride being toxic, and conspiracy to kill JFK (promoted by people like Oliver Stone) among others. Sadly, the debate about GMOs has caused groups like Infowars to declare they are toxic which is true but in the eyes of some it discredits the claim. This what I worry about and is why I will continue to find rabid conspiracy theories for the rest of time and promote the truth free of right-wing distraction. The SPLC has great lists of hate groups that must be examined as well. In the end, remember to be critical of government and ALWAYS skeptical of conspiracy theories.

UPDATE:
After I wrote this article, I criticized one of the accounts mentioned above, @censorednewsnow, as peddling “ridiculous conspiracy theories” and here’s what they had to say in response (there was more, but here’s the nastiest of the responses):

20130604-105649.jpg

20130604-105701.jpg

20130604-105713.jpg

20130604-105723.jpg

Also, had debates with accounts about the “9/11 is an inside job” theory. Here are some of those tweets:

20130604-110718.jpg

20130604-110728.jpg

20130604-110740.jpg

20130604-110749.jpg

20130604-110804.jpg

20130604-110811.jpg

I end with this one:

20130604-110841.jpg

“Public” Broadcasting or Propaganda Radio?

30 May

PBS fo real

In light of the recent criticism of PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) on Democracy Now!  I thought it was a good idea to look if corporate propaganda spewed by that public broadcasting station and National Public Radio (NPR) as well. One must wonder if is as propagandistic as the white propaganda outlets integrated into the US government.

I start with a quote from today’s Democracy Now! show:

“In Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article, she details how Neil Shapiro, president of PBS station WNET here in New York City, called David Koch, a resident of 740 Park Avenue, to warn him that the Alex Gibney film was, quote, “going to be controversial.” Koch was a WNET board trustee at the time. Over the years, he has given $23 million to public television. Jane Mayer writes that Shapiro offered to show him the trailer and include him in an on-air discussion that would air immediately after the film. The station ultimately took the unusual step of airing a disclaimer from Koch after the film that called it “disappointing and divisive.” Jane Mayer reports this exchange influenced what then happened to Citizen Koch, which was set to be aired on the same PBS series called Independent Lens. The film’s funder and distributor, ITVS, has now said it, quote, “decided not to move forward with the project…So, in essence, what we’re looking at here is not necessarily a direct intervention by Koch, but self-censorship by the public television community in an effort to prevent someone like Koch from pulling their dollars out.”

So maybe when Noam Chomsky said PBS was for a set of political elite, he was right. Now, this isn’t the only thing that PBS has refused. On an interview on The Real News Network, investigative journalist Greg Palast noted the following:

For British television, I investigated what really happened. Actually, right after Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, I get a message from a witness, an insider from the Caspian Sea, which is, you know, the other side of the planet, in Asia, saying, I know exactly what happened here, ’cause the exact same thing happened in the Caspian Sea two years earlier: there was another BP rig €”another BP rig blew out, just like the Deepwater Horizon. And BP covered it up. BP hid it because it occurred offshore off the nation of Azerbaijan, which is what I call in my book Vultures’ Picnic, I called it the Islamic Republic of BP. They own that place….But I put it on TV more than a year ago in Britain. It was all over the top of the nightly news all over the world, all over Europe, everywhere but the United States, where you could not get it on TV. You couldn’t get it into the news here for love or money. No way. And, you know, the Petroleum Broadcast System, PBS, was the worst of all. They absolutely refused to take the information. We offered it to them…I got to tell you, Frontline, for example, was offered our material, Frontline, PBS. Instead they ran a story that the Deepwater Horizon was caused by a so-called culture of lack of safety at BP, and they said specifically you’ll love this—that if it had been Chevron, this would not have happened, the Deepwater Horizon explosion. They actually had the president of Chevron saying, we wouldn’t have done this. But Chevron knew about the Caspian explosion, covered it up. I investigated Chevron. If you go, again, to VulturesPicnic.org or GregPalast.com, you’ll get the information from Vultures’ Picnic that Chevron, you know, basically poisoned the Amazon Jungle areas, big parts of the Amazon in Ecuador. So PBS is basically fronting for Chevron. Why? Take a look at Chevron and at the PBS NewsHour home page. You have to go into the WayBack machine, in which you will find out that the number-one official national sponsor of NewsHour and PBS is Chevron oil. So what you’re getting is Chevron news, not real news. And the best, that’s PBS.”

That isn’t the case anymore, but using the current list of funders which is backed up by the page on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, these two pictures I made below reflect more accurately the reality:

pbs newshour pbs newshour corporate

So, you’ll get news from a big oil company that caused the worst oil spill in US history, AT&T that has ok’d the National Call Database that stores all your phone calls, the Rockefeller Foundation which is a CIA front, and BNSF which paid a settlement of $2.5 million dollars for “discharging industrial stormwater containing toxic metals from an urban rail yard directly into the Puget Sound.” Then, there’s the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, but I’ll get to that later on. As a result, its no surprise that PBS Newshour would, according to FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) would write in November 2012 that:

“A FAIR Action Alert (10/24/12) criticized the PBS NewsHour for reporting that “Iran’s nuclear weapons program has been a particular flash point” in the presidential race. As we noted, there is no hard evidence that Iran has such a weapons program; in fact, international inspections have consistently found no evidence that Iran has diverted uranium for military purposes…This is important, and wouldn’t have happened without the letter-writing. PBS did not issue an on-air correction, which is unfortunate. But you can’t help but feel like the NewsHour doesn’t really feel like they need to correct much–hence the reference to “Iran’s widely suspected military ambitions in pursuing nuclear energy.” Widely suspected by whom? They don’t say. What is clear is that the NewsHour knows they shouldn’t have reported this allegation as if it were a fact–but they want you to know that the allegation is considered a fact by a lot of serious people nonetheless.”

This is followed up by a post this April about how Margaret Thatcher, a free-market fundamentalist, was shown with kind words on PBS’s NewsHour:

“Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death yesterday brought waves of mostly flattering coverage of the divisive right-wing leader.  It was striking to see the parallels between the way Thatcher was covered on the PBS NewsHour and Fox News Channel‘s most popular show, the O’Reilly Factor…The main Thatcher segment on the PBS newscast was a discussion with two former Republican secretaries of State, George Shultz and James Baker. Of course, both were big fans of Thatcher’s foreign policy…It was more than that, too; as Baker put it, Thatcher “emphasized the private sector and got rid of the oppressive influence of the trade unions.”…PBS had one other guest: former Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who cheered both Thatcher’s defeat of unions but also her humanity: “It’s kind of touching to be reminded of what a lovely woman she was.”…On PBS…reporter Margaret Warner declared that Thatcher “brought a free market revolution to Britain, lowering taxes and privatizing state industries…. Britain’s economy rebounded from her tough medicine.”…PBS is supposed to be about giving us the views that we’re not getting from the commercial media.”

Now, there are some more instances of PBS spreading propaganda. The worst includes the sponsoring of a show called America’s Heartland by Monsanto (and many others). The New Standard wrote in 2005:

“A new television series set for distribution this fall to public TV stations across the country is drawing fire from activists who say its funders exploit a model of factory farming that has profoundly undermined the same rustic lifestyle the program is meant to showcase. The telecast, America’s Heartland, consists of twenty half-hour episodes produced by PBS affiliate KVIE in Sacramento and is based on a popular, long-running KVIE broadcast called California Heartland. While the bulk of the new national program’s underwriting will be provided by the farming trade group the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and biotech giant Monsanto, the show is also receiving financial support from other large farming associations such as the National Cotton Council, United Soybean Board and the US Grains Council…In a letter sent to public television managers about America’s Heartland, 70 groups “ including IATP, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and the Organic Consumers Association “ suggest stations should either forego showing the series or schedule complementary programming to expose Heartland as a “piece of propaganda.”…They point out that Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau promote policies that “place the US food supply into the hands of a few major corporations” by pressuring politicians to keep federal subsidies flowing to large agribusinesses…Sheldon Rampton, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy, a media watchdog group, said a series like America’s Heartland can poison news-gathering at cash-strapped and politically insecure PBS stations. “The [funders] understand [station programmers] have a limited news hole,” he said, and “when someone else proposes programming [on a similar subject], they can say we’ve already covered that topic.””

If you go back in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, you’ll see this:

monsanto and more

What about the sponsors of this show now? Well, the show which makes itself sound so grand, its still sponsored by a lot of the same industry groups, as a recent screencap shows:

sponsors of america's heartland 2013

There are more instances of this occurring, as with a new show on PBS called “The Rise of the Drones” which is interesting funded by Lockheed Martin which makes (you guessed it) drones. FAIR has the whole story here:

“The PBS Nova broadcast “Rise of the Drones” was sponsored by drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin–a clear violation of PBS‘s underwriting guidelines…Some of that technology, unbeknownst to viewers, was created by the company described as giving Nova “additional funding” at the beginning of the broadcast. Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor with $46 billion in 2011 sales, is a manufacturer of drones used in warfare and intelligence…The show did not entirely skirt the controversies over drones. A section of the broadcast dealt with drone pilots firing on targets in countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan. Viewers, though, are told that drone pilots have distinct advantage over conventional pilots…The show does not ignore the question of civilian deaths…But, in keeping with the generally upbeat tone, Nova tells viewers that technology will help turn things around…The program’s sponsorship tie to the drone industry were never mentioned–though there were opportunities to disclose that relationship. In addition to Lockheed Martin’s connection to one of the interview subjects, the show discussed a U.S. drone that was captured by Iran–without mentioning that it was manufactured by Nova‘s underwriter…Though the broadcast included an underwriting announcement at the beginning [on TV]…that credit was removed from the webcast, and the company is not credited on the Nova website for the episode.”

Since that post was written, PBS’s Ombudsman said Lockheed’s sponsorship presents  “a perception and commercial test problem for PBS.” However this should be no surprise because if you go on the site of the Rise of the Drones you’ll find that some of their “PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS” include AAI/ Textron Systems, Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Vanguard Defense Industries with “special thanks” given to BAE Systems, Inc. among others. Additionally a screencap from NOVA showed that two of their biggest sponsors are Boeing and the the David H. Koch Fund for Science which is run by one of the Koch Brothers:

sponsors of NOVA

Watchdog Progressive even writes about this, noting the sponsorship of NOVA by David Koch, saying that it could be part of Koch’s agenda to promote greenwashing.

The list of such programs sponsored by corporations doesn’t end here. There’s another one, since discontinued called “America Revealed” which officially was a “look at what makes America tick, what it takes to keeps the biggest food machine in the world going, the delicate balance that keeps our supermarkets stocked with groceries and fast food restaurants supplied with fries. How we keep America moving with its vast and complex transport systems.” Interestingly enough, in an archived homepage of the show, you can see their premier sponsor is Dow, which is the second biggest chemical company in the world by revenue after BASF and third biggest by capitalization (DuPont and Basf would be bigger). FAIR criticizes PBS for this show and notes the following:

“PBS ombud Michael Getler…agrees that the Dow Chemical Corporation’s sponsorship of a PBS series violates PBS underwriting guidelines. PBS, unfortunately, stands by its show. A FAIR Action Alert… pointed out that the decision to allow Dow to sponsor the series America Revealed, which deals with issues that closely track Dow’s business interests, flies in the face of PBS funding guidelines. Noting that he had received some 500 messages inspired by the alert, Getler agreed, saying that “the points raised by FAIR were fair ones, in my view, and many of the letters were quite comprehensive in their criticisms.”…The main problem with the funding arrangement, as Getler sees it, is that it fails the PBS “perception test,” which warns against allowing underwriting if viewers might “perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control.”…Getler wrote that “it would indeed be surprising if “a significant portion” of viewers, whether they write to me or not, or subscribe to FAIR or not, would not make some connection with Dow, its full range of operations, and the plus-side of this series. It took about 30 seconds for that to pop into my head as a viewer.”PBS, which has given corporate underwriters a pass several times over the years…does not think so. In response to several questions from Getler, PBS defended Dow’s sponsorship. They pointed out that the company has sponsored other programming, including An Evening With Smokey Robinson…As FAIR pointed out in the alert–and Getler agreed in his column–it would not be hard for an alert viewer to make a connection between Dow’s interests and the program it was sponsoring. One segment touted genetically modified corn, a controversial product made by Dow, as a “game changer” for agriculture; the four parts of the series…perfectly matched the four areas of business Dow touts on its website.PBS stressed that Dow was not involved editorially in the program. That may indeed be the case. It is also irrelevant, in that their perception test does not require such a direct link.”

Now, FAIR has also written twice (here and here) about changing PBS’s funding system and how it stymies some of the best work of Public TV. As I end the examination of PBS, I just took some screenshots of the donors recognized by PBS (which include the CIA front, the Ford Foundation) and the corporate sponsors of the Sponsorship Group for Public Television which gives money to PBS:

sponsors of SGPTV PBS founding funders

This is why PBS is called Petroleum Broadcasting Service or Propaganda Broadcasting Service.

Now, onto National Public Radio itself, which some call National Pentagon Radio (or National Propaganda Radio). I wrote about this on my now archived HermannView tumblr blog: “The American multinational giant, Yahoo! just bought Tumblr. I heard about this from that NPR, oh sorry National Propaganda Radio, show called Marketplace which just loves drones (http://www.directionsmag.com/podcasts/drones-war-machine-today-helpful-tool-tomorrow-npr-marketplace/303007), Monsanto (http://www.organicconsumers.org/bytes/ob276.htm), and is propaganda for Wall Street (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Marketplace/218790781520139).” Now, there is more to NPR than which I write about. The corporate sponsorship page doesn’t say much about this, so I looked farther into the organization itself. It’s 2010 Annual Report, the most recent on its website gives the following sponsors (starting on page 26).

THE REAL NPR LOGO

Yes, I didn’t include all of the sponsors, only the corporate one (not even all of them because there’s so many!) but I was trying to make a point if there are any of those naysayers out there.

Now, taking this in mind, one begins to wonder: Is NPR really a public radio station or is it helping the elite? Well, NPR’s Ombudsman responded to FAIR’s study, saying:

“FAIR is a media watchdog group that describes itself as “progressive” — i.e., on the left. The study…assessed NPR interviews in its newsmagazine programs for June 2003. The study also looked at which experts were invited to speak on NPR over a four-month period from May to August of that year…FAIR says that NPR regularly has “elite” (FAIR’s term) experts and opinion makers to comment on events. This group of current and former government officials accounts for 28 percent of the interviews and commentaries. Twenty six percent were “professional experts” (academics, think tank experts, lawyers, doctors and scientists). Seven percent were journalists but overwhelmingly (83 percent) these journalists were from mainstream commercial outlets…FAIR says that NPR has improved in a couple of respects…Although there are more women on the air, they are still a minority of voices interviewed on NPR…The FAIR study seems about right to me with a couple of exceptions. In a similar study I commissioned, we looked at NPR interviews over a two-month period from Nov. 24, 2003 through Jan. 23, 2004. It is not entirely fair (as it were) to compare the studies since they were done at different times..Is NPR now ignoring the Democrats in a way it once may have ignored the Republicans? I have criticized NPR in the past for its narrow reliance on a few bright men (and they are overwhelmingly male)..Listeners are quick to dash to their e-mails when they hear an opinion that is not their own. NPR ‘s role, it seems to me is not to provide listeners with intellectual comfort food. FAIR is concerned whether the pendulum has swung too far. That’s my concern as well…At the same time, FAIR’s study seems to reinforce the notion that what constitutes the center in American journalism is rapidly becoming an endangered species.”

There is a host of articles criticizing NPR on CounterPunch and FAIR including but not limited to:

  1. NPR and the NAFTA Highway [about NAFTA and downplaying the construction of a highway]
  2. Spinners of Venezuelan Fairy Tales An Open Letter to All Things Considered: NPR’s Spinnners of Venezuelan Fairy Tales
  3. “No Doubt, It Needed to Happen”: NPR News: National Pentagon Radio?
  4. NPR Watch: Why NPR Refuses to Report on the Single Payer Movement … And What Should be Done About It
  5. Fanning the Hysteria About Iran: NPR Leads the Charge to War
  6. The Voice of a Quaker Hawk: Scott Simon, NPR & The Empire
  7. Expert Opinions: NPR: the Voices and Views of One Side
  8. Who Needs the Voice of America?: National Pentagon Radio (NPR) Watch
  9. NPR, the New York Times and Nicholas Kristof: Advocating Sweatshops
  10. Race, Politics and NPR: Was Juan Williams “Lynched”?
  11. An Open Letter to NPR’s Producers: The Distortions of NPR on Palestine
  12. NPR vs. Free Speech — FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
  13. NPR Disappears Iraqi Dead — FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
  14. NPR Ombud: ‘Critics are right’ on Zinn obituary — FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy…
  15. Is Critical Journalism Incomprehensible to NPR?
  16. NPR Could Use Some ‘Energy Independence’ of Its Own
Also, this article on Reader Supported News is relevant, reposting a story by the ombudsman at the time:
NPR hasn’t aired a story on the “Occupy Wall Street” protest— now entering its second week — but several of you aired your concerns about the lack of coverage, and Ralph Nader called to say NPR is ignoring the left. “You’ll cover the Tea Party, but god forbid you actually cover sane Americans demanding civilized economic policy,” wrote Brad Nolen from Mobile, AL. NPR.org included a stream of Associated Press stories on the subject such as Dozens Arrested at ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protest, 80 People Arrested at ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protest, and Protesters Vow To Camp Near Wall St. Indefinitely.  But the online posts were not enough for Daniel Clay from Atlanta, GA, who wrote, “Does NPR think this is unimportant? Are you going to wait for someone to die or commit serious violence before you give it the attention it deserves?” We asked the newsroom to explain their editorial decision. Executive editor for news came back: “The recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective.” As ombudsman, I don’t weigh in on daily news judgment unless its totally egregious or part of a long term trend, and this one is neither. But the complaints have validity, too. Nader’s complaint is a broader one about how much he and other progressive war horses of his generation are interviewed on NPR in comparison to Tea Party leaders and the like. Nader is no longer the political player he once was and the left is not as organized as in the past. See this New York Times that ran yesterday. Still, I do want to follow whether the left is being shortchanged in coverage. Feel free to share your thoughts, and we’ll make sure that they get to the newsroom.”
I end with a quick look at the Board Members of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which includes a California Business Lawyer, a former Democratic Senator and a former manager of a public radio broadcaster. That’s all for now as I find a page describing all of the public radio outlets in the country. In the end, all I can say is always be careful what you watch/listen to on PBS, the Petroleum Broadcasting Service, or NPR, National Pentagon Radio, because it isn’t meant for you, its a message that’s meant for a certain section of the ruling elite of this country.

HermannView plans to merge with Interesting Blogger

23 May

By Burkely Hermann

May 23, 2013

Somewhere, USA – Tumblr commentary blog HermannView announced today that it will be merging with Interesting Blogger effective August 31, 2013 (if not earlier). This date is subject to change if certain circumstances which are unknown at this time arise. “Officials” of both entities which happen to be the same person, are expected to meet in the inner reaches of the mind of the said person as soon as possible to discuss the transfer of information and the sadness from deleting a blog of tumblr which was independently owned until it was bought by the sick witch of the internet Yahoo! very recently.

The editor of HermannView  expects this merger to improve confidence and widen the base of readers.  In addition, this will ensure that the creation from this merger is independent from multinational companies which are raping the resources of the world, and allowing it to challenge such an order.  Hopefully there can be an area for submissions opened as well.

The merger will permit HermannView to continue its blogging but under the protection of free software and not corporate control.  In exchange, as soon as the merger is completed the name of this blog will change to HermannView, but the tagline will change (or both descriptions may be merged) and the url will remain the same as to keep all currently linked articles intact. There will be no “stores” opened except those in the mind and the promotion of the Really Really Free Market.

More information is expected to be released after the merger has been considered after consulting with followers of the said tumblr blog and other actors as needed.

 

About HermannView

HermannView was created in 2009, to our knowledge, by the said blogger. Its current mission is to “strive for an independent, fearless and fierce approach to global, national and local problems and issues. Through this, one blogger hopes to spread political awareness to fight the powers that be!”- http://hermannview.tumblr.com/about

 

About Interesting Blogger

Interesting Blogger was made in protest of Google’s privacy policy this blog and was meant to “broadcast news relating to the people and that is critical to the elite. Not only is this an opinion blog but this is meant to help people learn more about important issues. Some posts come from other independent news sources and others are original…We are a blog for the people, by the people and of the people.”-
http://interestingblogger.wordpress.com/about/

 

Contact

To learn more about this merger, please contact me!

Just comment on this post. That’s all you need to do.

No crap with emails or phone numbers.

We thank wikiHow for their wonderful help.

###

The Affordable Corporatist Act, Drones and more

22 Mar

20130322-014109.jpg

“Taken together we may consider both the more symbolic electronic civil disobedience actions and the more tangible hacktivist events under the rubric of extraparliamentarian direct action Net politics, where extraparliamentarian is taken to mean politics other than electoral or party politics, primarily the grassroots politics of social movement. By no means was 1998 the first year of the browser wars, but it was the year when electronic civil disobedience and hacktivism came to the fore.”- Stefan Wray who invented the term Electronic Civil Disobedience (<a href="http://"Taken together we may consider both the more symbolic electronic civil disobedience actions and the more tangible hacktivist events under the rubric of extraparliamentarian direct action Net politics, where extraparliamentarian is taken to mean politics other than electoral or party politics, primarily the grassroots politics of social movement. By no means was 1998 the first year of the browser wars, but it was the year when electronic civil disobedience and hacktivism came to the fore."- Stefan Wray who invented the term Electronic Civil Disobedience (http://switch.sjsu.edu/web/v4n2/stefan/)

The Affordable Corporatist Act
http://hermannview.tumblr.com/post/45961263658/the-affordable-corporatist-act

Pentagon May Take Over CIA’s Drone Program
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=2lckwSv%2FdWzKMhalaz8He8LjyL8Df8kw

CIA’s Gus Hunt On Big Data: We ‘Try To Collect Everything And Hang On To It Forever’
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=ap3vdc4RZkstmwHGN7soisLjyL8Df8kw

Number of Hunger Strikers Surges at Guantánamo
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=uA5kXe9j90r3Jb5Sfj%2FoBsLjyL8Df8kw

The Government Can (Still) Read Most Of Your Emails Without A Warrant
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=axXpMPAdLSws4nXK5xj1bsLjyL8Df8kw

The Push to End Warrantless Intrusions on Digital Communications
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=8DCIy6%2F9UBR%2Ft79zGyxXceiwbXv6SNXZ

An open letter to conspiracy theorists

6 Mar

Dear conspiracy theorists,
I’ve read your websites, your twitter feeds, all your stuff. You have talk radio “hosts” like Alex Jones spreading your gospel. I’d like to counter some of your theories.

1. New World Order. You say that there will be a creation of a one-world government under the direction of the UN. This is silly because there is ALREADY a world government. Its the IMF, World Bank, WTO, BIS, G-8, World Economic Forum, and the G-20. Plus, how bad would a one-world DEMOCRATIC government reprsenting all the world be? Additionally, New World Order used by American politicians means the continuation of American domination of the world, NOT a one-world government. Used abroad, it means that countries want a resetting of the order, the power structure of the world, likely to give their specific country more power.

2. Bilderberg and Bohemian Grove. I’m sorry but these groups aren’t really that important. Meaning its a waste of time to even protest them. It would be better to protest the powerful Business Roundtable, the Financial Services Roundtable, ALEC, and the others in the core of the business elite. I’ve written about this before, so I’d be glad to point you to my article ln the subject.

3. Chemtrails. They aren’t real. Sorry to break your bubble but they are just contrails put out during changing tempature. Here’s some support for that:

“Chemtrails are the basis of a theory that states some contrails left behind jets are not merely condensation, but include chemicals or biological agents deliberately sprayed on the unknowing public for an unidentified purpose…Chemtrails are generally believed to be toxic, although supporters disagree on their purpose…Scientists, universities, publications, and governments around the world have all denied the existence of chemtrails. The United States received so many complaints that NASA, the EPA, the FAA, and NOAA issued a jointly published fact sheet in 2000 that explains how contrails are formed and outlines their known and potential impacts on temperature and climate. Other countries — including Britain and Canada, where chemtrails are purported to be prevalent — have also vehemently refuted the chemtrail conspiracy theory.”

(from WiseGeek)

“Why are some people afraid of contrails? Why would the appearance of water vapor in the exhaust of a jet inspire feelings of illness and dread? It all began in the 1990s…“Chemtrails” are said to last much longer than normal contrails from before 1995, but proponents are curiously oblivious of photographs of long-lasting contrails from as far back as World War II…I’ve also been e-mailed photographs of the interior of planes filled with large containers connected by tubes, accompanied by the exclamation that “This is the spraying equipment!” But these photographs turned out to be pictures of ballast tanks used in flight testing of new airliner designs; the tubes simply allow water to be pumped from tank to tank, simulating passenger motion in the cabin for the aircraft test. Kennedy assassination and 9/11 conspiracy theorists are mere pikers compared to “chemtrail” buffs. You will rarely find a more virulently self-deluded group, anywhere.”

(From physicist Dave Thomas)

“The trail of clouds that billow from an airplane streaking across the sky can be mesmerizing for children and adults alike. Jet engine traffic has become so common that it’s not unusual to see several lingering streaks in the afternoon. And though many consider the streaks beautiful against a bright blue sky, others are alarmed about them. Concerns range from the idea that these streaks could exacerbate global warming to more elaborate theories that the government has secretly been dumping harmful substances on the land. Before we get into the various theories about the possible harmful effects, let’s discuss the scientific explanation for these streaks. Jet engines spew out very hot air. And, because water vapor is one of the byproducts of the exhaust, the air is also very humid. However, high in the atmosphere where these jets fly, the air is typically very cold — often lower than -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the atmosphere up there is often of low vapor pressure, or the force exerted by a gas on the surrounding environment. When a jet engine is spewing out hot, humid air into an atmosphere that is cold and has low vapor pressure, the result is condensation. The water vapor coming out of the engine quickly condenses into water droplets and then crystallizes into ice. The ice crystals are the clouds that form behind the engine. This is why the streaks are called contrails, short for “condensation trails.” To help explain it, scientists liken it to seeing your breath on cold days. You may have noticed that puffs of breath dissipate quickly on dryer days. The same is true of contrails: When the atmosphere is more humid, the contrails linger, but when the atmosphere is dry, the contrails disappear more quickly. This explanation makes sense. But, as author and airline pilot Patrick Smith tells readers, the contrails consist of not just ice crystals and water vapor but also other byproducts of engine exhaust. These include carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfate particles and soot . Some point out that these, in addition to the extra cloud cover, can have negative environmental effects. And conspiracy theorists have nicknamed contrails “chemtrails” under the suspicion that the government is taking advantage of this scientific phenomenon to secretly release other substances into the atmosphere.
Conspiracy theorists have become suspicious that the contrails expelled from jets today are thicker and linger longer than they did in the past. So, while they accept that contrails are a natural byproduct of jet engines, the suspicion is that the government has since used that excuse to put other substances in them, creating chemtrails. In addition, conspiracy theorists latch on to anecdotal evidence that connect epidemics of flulike symptoms to instances of contrails. Those who believe that there’s something fishy about contrails have come up with several theories to explain what the government could be covering up. One of the more extreme theories says that the government is intentionally spraying people with harmful substances in order to experiment with the effects — or even to “weed out” the sick and elderly. However, many dismiss these theories on the grounds that such experiments would be of no real use. They say that the “chemtrails” would be released so high in the atmosphere that unpredictable winds would move them around significantly, making such experiments worthless and unreliable . Others speculate that the government is dumping barium salt aerosol on the land in order to assist in radar mapping for defense purposes . Still others believe that the government could be experimenting with weather manipulation for defense purposes. This actually isn’t as much of a stretch as it may seem. As long ago as the 1950s, the British were able to successfully “seed” clouds with salt, dry ice and silver iodide to make rain…It would seem that weather manipulation, then, is a very possible and effective military defense tactic. Conspiracy theorists believe it might have connections to HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, which studies the atmosphere to advance communication and navigation systems. Another popular theory is that chemtrails are well-intentioned attempts by the government to combat global warming or the depletion of the ozone layer by spraying particles to reflect the sun’s radiation. However, if this is true, it’s ironic that (non-conspiracy theorist) environmentalists blame contrails for polluting the skies. They say that jet traffic has become so bad that the sheer cloud cover from contrails, which can be seen from space, has been negatively affecting the environment, possibly contributing to global warming. So, whether you consider the conspiracy hype healthy skepticism or paranoia, contrails are certainly an area of concern for the environment.”

(From HowStuffWorks)

Likely the high amount of clouds is from increased air traffic as The Daily Mail writes. Wikipedia notes:

“The environmental impact of aviation occurs because aircraft engines emit noise, particulates, and gases which contribute to climate change and global dimming. Despite emission reductions from automobiles and more fuel-efficient and less polluting turbofan and turboprop engines, the rapid growth of air travel in recent years contributes to an increase in total pollution attributable to aviation. In the European Union, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation increased by 87% between 1990 and 2006…One of the products of burning hydrocarbons in oxygen is water vapour, a greenhouse gas. Water vapour produced by aircraft engines at high altitude, under certain atmospheric conditions, condenses into droplets to form Condensation trails, or contrails. Contrails are visible line clouds that form in cold, humid atmospheres and are thought to have a global warming effect (though one less significant than either CO2 emissions or NOx induced effects) SPM-2. Contrails are extremely rare from lower-altitude aircraft, or from propeller-driven aircraft or rotorcraft…In attempting to aggregate and quantify the total climate impact of aircraft emissions the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that aviation’s total climate impact is some 2-4 times that of its direct CO2 emissions alone (excluding the potential impact of cirrus cloud enhancement).”

That’s all I have for now. I know there are more but I don’t wish to address them all at this time. The last thing I’ll say is that there are good conspiracies and bad conspiracies. Sadly, these people are buying the bad, useless ones than those like the US’s plan to get Kim Dotcom and Julian Assange along with the massive surveillance on American citizens, among many other injustices.

Best regards,
Burkely Hermann
Editor of Interesting Blogger

4.

Vote with your heart: cast a ballot for socialism

31 Oct

I have debated again and again in my mind who I should vote for. Obama and Romney, the corporate choices handed to me are not of my favor due to the fact that pleasing their overlords is not something I want to do. Instead, I listened to Democracy Now’s wonderful “Expand the Debate” where they asked Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson the same general ideas described in the debate (Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate was invited but declined). Still, listening to Stein and Anderson, I found something troubling: there was much in their ideas. While the ideas were valid, and they were fierce in their criticism, it didn’t seem like enough. Just like when I watched the first Presidential debate and saw similarities between Romney and Obama (even though they were false in a sense as Romney was being a con man that night), I worried that I wouldn’t be voting for that much of a difference. I know that the Green Party is more environmentally-focused and the Justice Party is more justice-focused, but to me, both of them seemed like social democrats. After reading my favorite book, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, I knew something more was possible than just a new form of capitalism since Zinn had written a whole chapter about the socialist movement in the early 20th century, including numerous males and females who were socialists including Hellen Keller, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Big Bill Haywood of the IWW, Mother Jones and Eugene Debs. With this rich history, I thought it would be wrong to not vote for what was right, what I felt inside of me.

I was intrigued by the campaign of Stewart Alexander and Alex Mendoza of the Socialist Party USA, who hadn’t been covered on the Real News Network or even Democracy Now!, two alternative media outlets I respect and love deeply for their dedication to objective journalism. The man was a middle-aged African American who was a bit a mix between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eugene Debs in my mind. The campaign video they put out was what really turned me. It was short and sweet YouTube video with soothing music in the background:

“I know what struggle is. I know what it’s like to be homeless. I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. I know what it’s like to live without healthcare. People everywhere are losing their jobs. People are losing their homes. People are losing their lives in unjust wars. As a country, as a society, we have to stop making excuses for the system that’s gotten us into this mess. I want people to realize they have alternatives. They don’t have to vote for the lesser of two evils. I want people to know that by voting for socialism, they are voting for people, they are voting from their hearts. That choice, that single elected choice is for real power, real change in lives, together we have the ability to make real change, I’m going to fight as long as it takes, as long as Americans are a paycheck from poverty, as long as Americans are losing their jobs and hopes, as long as Americans are going bankrupt from medical bills, as long as Americans are being discriminated against I’ll fight for socialism, I’ll fight for you. I’ll fight for all of us.”

When Alexander said that that people should vote “from their hearts” for socialism which reminded me of Billy Bragg’s song “Socialism of the Heart.” From this I realized that Alexander was my man. His ideas intrigued me. On his homepage, he noted how his campaign allied itself with the Occupy Movement because both Alexander and Mendoza “are truly of the 99%” due to their current occupations and that “the economic system must be pulled out by the root and replaced with another system which seeks to meet the needs of the 99%.” In order to do this, they propose to put in place democratic reforms mirroring what Jack London wrote of in the San Francisco Examiner in the Christmas of 1895 where he wrote that the ultimate aim of socialism is : “pure democracy…a form of government in which the supreme power rests with and is exercised directly by the people.” The Alexander-Mendoza campaign would put in place “proportional representation and the single transferrable vote” to make sure there is universal suffrage, not the idea of universal suffrage and limit the amount of money put into the system as a whole. Alexander and Mendoza want an economy be run by “workers and consumers…for themselves and not for their exploitation” not by Wall Street, which they believe would result in a new way of manufacturing goods by making them reusable instead of disposable, ending the need for a mass accumulation of wealth and allowing “workers would reap the fruits of their labor.” Simply enough, the campaign has major policy ideas aimed at different areas: the “Real Deal” to fundamentally reform the country, a more aggressive tax and budget policy, a new democratic model to education similar to the ideas of Rethinking Schools, a justice-based foreign policy, a working class jobs program, a plan for expanded rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, and Intersex individuals and a stronger social safety net.

The “Real Deal,” based off the FDR’S New Deal in the 1930s goes even further than that program, which in minds of many “saved capitalism.” The Real Deal has nine major aspects. The first aspect is to nationalize the banks (the bailouts in 2008 were actually the perfect opportunity to do this), insurance and financial companies by creating a framework that would allow the US citizenry to democratically control them. The second aspect follows the famous words of Karl Marx: “Workers of the world, unite!” by offering the framework of nationalization to “other North American countries” so that “working people across borders to work together freely and democratically.” The third aspect includes investing $100 billion to develop, manufacture and sell electric cars and half a trillion to create a nationwide “mass transit system.” Both programs will not be corporate subsidies but will rather be a “direct enterprise by the United States government run democratically by the people.” The fourth aspect is a Single Payer healthcare system which seems to have supermajorities of Americans backing it throughout the years (the last poll was worded in such a way to not have support) which would create a “ fully nationalized health care system” which would be “much cheaper and effective” than the current system and have “high quality” healthcare as the “profit motive [would be removed] from the system.” The fifth aspect is in a completely different realm, it’s something that I’ve supported for a while, “free and quality education” going from secondary, all the way up to primary education which would allow the citizenry “to make informed choices.” In this time of economic trouble, those that are unemployed, especially those that have exhausted money from being unemployed for 99 weeks or about two years, will be greatly helped by the sixth plank of the Real Deal, the “indefinite extension of unemployment benefits.” Along this idea, the seventh and eighth parts of the Deal include putting in place community “public work relief programs” and nationalizing the financial sector as a whole so that full employment can be realized. Finally, the Deal’s ninth plank is a drastic cut of 50% in the national armed forces over a 24-month period to free up “economic resources to work towards productive purposes.”

This real deal is definitely what fellow socialist, Howard Zinn, was writing about in 1999 when he said that “Americans might be ready to demand not just more tinkering, more reform laws, another reshuffling of the same deck, another New Deal, but radical change.” A continuation of this is the Alexander-Mendoza aggressive tax and budget policy which would be more balanced toward human needs and is based around four principles: a strict “progressive tax structure,” increased taxation of the 1%’s financial assets, community-based taxation, and the reversing of state and local bankruptcies. More specifically this would include “a steeply graduated tax system for personal income, the taxation of capital gains, an estate tax that places limits on the transfer of capital generation to generation, a tax on Wall Street transactions, the assessment and taxation of stocks, bonds and funds held in offshore accounts, the creation of a serious corporate tax structure without loopholes, punitive taxation on multinational corporations and other large employers who seek to [outsource jobs]…taxes on all businesses [that are]…paid into a fund that supports community educational, cultural and development projects, a Federal Fund to bail out bankrupt state and local governments and encouraging state and local governments to adopt similar [successful tax strategies.” These ideas would allow there to be more money available for social programs and will help to “create a society in which grassroots democracy plays a role in everyday life” with the ideas like that participatory budgeting, where “all community members to have a determining voice in how money is raised and what it is — or isn’t – spent on,” which has been tried across the world, even in Chicago, Illinois. Such ideas would in the minds of Alexander and Mendoza allow the “99% to raise their demands for just taxation and to back those demands” with a desire for a democratic voice in the working of the economy.

What interested me the most about their policies was not the “Real Deal” or their budget/tax policy, but rather a democratic education model seemingly based on Rethinking Schools, which was praised by Howard Zinn. The campaign lays it out in clear words: “the current educational system is failing us” thanks to austerity measures and the high debt of American college students. After dismissing privatization and charter schools as part of the problem, they propose a completely new educational system that would be publically owned, using public money to “fully fund high-quality education from age 3 through graduate school” by having “full and equal funding of public education…comprehensive Early Childhood Education…an egalitarian educational system that accommodates a wide range of teaching and learning styles…Student, parent, and teacher control of curriculum formation…Vigorous affirmative action programs so that the faculty and student-body of all schools reflect the community at large…Opportunities for lifelong self-education…[and] full funding for Adult Education [which would] keep the GED test under public control and [make it] administered free of charge.” But this isn’t all, instead education will not use standardized tests which limits educators, but rather have a “democratic classroom that empowers students to think critically, assess problems and develop creative solutions,” while “fully promot[ing]…and support[ing] the right of teachers to unionize, to collectively bargain and to run classes as they see fit” and eliminating “high-stakes standardized testing.” Such a plan would likely make the “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” that Dwight D. Eisenhower talked about in his famed 1961 farewell address where he warned of the specter of the military-industrial-complex.

In order to control the complex I just talked about, Stewart Alexander and Alex Mendoza plan to dismantle it, not just keep it in place, so that there can be a more peaceful foreign policy. There are multiple steps to this plan. Federal money that goes to the military would be cut by 50% immediately, foreign interventions in the Muslim World would end, troops that remain in Iraq and Afghanistan would be withdrawn and drone wars would cease along with “clandestine (black) operations throughout the region,” all US military bases worldwide would be shut down, and US embassies demilitarized. This isn’t all. If Alexander had been President, the Libya war would have not happened as it did, because he would end the participation of America in NATO all together. In addition, the CIA would have been abolished, all covert and clandestine (black) operations, “that contravene international law and the domestic laws of nations” would have ended, the use and existence of private mercenary forces would not be possible as all contracts would be canceled, “all international military, police, and security assistance and training programs” would cease. Most importantly, military and civil officials who engaged in war crimes in Guantanamo Bay, starting illegal, unconstitutional wars and violated “international Humanitarian and Human Rights law” among other aspects would be criminally prosecuted. Such steps would help “to combat the culture of militarism…in the US…[and create a] culture of international accountability through democracy.” Such a peaceful foreign policy would be continued by making the UN more democratic through the US paying off its debt to the UN, ending permanent seats on the UN Security Council including the US veto power in this respect, end all provisions that give war powers not authorized by the Constitution (give Congress back its war powers), support a “Constitutional Amendment [that would] require[e]…a binding vote of the people on all issues of war or military intervention,” provide federal dollars to clean up environmental damage caused by the Pentagon and use it “to retrofit these areas into productive enterprises.” He would also stop injustice by stopping the idea of “Free Speech Zones,” (the U.S. is a huge free speech zone), repeal the Patriot Act along with other egregious violations of civil liberties, and reverse the imprisonment of “people whom speak in favor of groups our government officially opposes. Along with this ideal of justice, Alexander would support a movement that would ban WMDs, “safely dispose of the US stockpile of nuclear weapons,” ratify the treaty banning weapons with depleted uranium while also “ratify[ing] and enforc[ing]…the Land Mine Ban and Cluster Munitions conventions.” These measures would advance American standing in the world, but human rights would also need to be advanced, which would be assisted by “recognizing that social and economic human rights are as binding as political rights by ratifying and enforcing International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),” enforcing the Geneva Conventions strictly, ratifying the Rome Treaty which established the International Criminal Court “along with the Additional Geneva Protocols protecting civilians in conflict,” and enforce “other international human rights conventions….[which] include those ensuring the rights of the disabled, rights of children, and elimination of discrimination against women.” Such measures would likely put the United States on a firm footing and on the way to what Howard Zinn hoped for in the last chapter of A People’s History of the United States, that America would be “a humanitarian superpower, using its wealth to help people in need.”

Mitt Romney talks about how he’ll create all these jobs but cutting spending, President Obama does the same but in a different way. Both seem to forget the struggle people are having in the job market right now. Gallup, in a post last month gave a sort-of happy jobs report, noting that that “underemployment…was 16.5% in September…the lowest rate Gallup has recorded since it started collecting unemployment data in 2010…[and that] unemployment [was]…at 8.6% in September.” Shadow Stats, run by a private consulting economist named John Williams tells more of the truth, noting in their “SGS alternate” rate, based on “current unemployment reporting methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994” that unemployment in the United States was about 23 percent. The Alexander-Mendoza campaign realizes this deception, noting problems with the Bureau of Labor Statistics official unemployment rate, noting that “this number fails to account for the larger percentages of people who are underemployed…and those who have given up looking for employment because the opportunities just aren’t there.” In order to tackle this, the campaign calls for a full-employment economy that will consist of four steps: creating “an emergency federal jobs program,” taxing the top 1% of Americans, then directing money to develop new sectors and to rebuild “the manufacturing capacity of the economy,” using public money to “create a worker-owned and worker-managed co-operative sector,” and move to a system that uses “job-sharing and job-splitting” so people can work “few[er] hours for the same amount of pay.” This system would transform the top-down management system, that social theorist Noam Chomsky has called “fascist,” by instituting a workers’ “bottom-up democracy” that gives workers the ability to have a voice in every aspect of their work, because in the view of the campaign, “democracy doesn’t end when we go to work.” The campaign would also build on changes of this form already occurring through co-ops and thinks worksites should operate with these principles in place.

There is another group of people are sort-of accepted in society but still discriminated against. That group is “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, and Intersex [LQBTQI] individuals in our society” as the campaign notes. They want to help these individuals by accepting the “full and total equality of the LGBTQI community and members from this community” which they believe is “echoed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 1.” In order to put these ideals into practice, the campaign calls for the Defense of Marriage Act to be repealed, and for “full and equal same-sex marriage [to]…be instituted by the federal government [along with] the same rights to visit your spouse while they are in the hospital, inheritance, adoption rights, access to healthcare, and tax benefits should be available to all people regardless of their sexual orientation.”As for job discrimination against these individuals, the campaign calls for protections to stop LGBTQI discrimination which would be enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition to this, the campaign recognizes the problems of “transgendered individuals,” noting that “every resource must be made available to these individuals to ensure them a happy and productive life” including the ability to have access to “gender counseling, hormone replacement therapy, and even sexual reassignment surgery free of charge.” Such ideas would likely help to eliminate discrimination and help to integrate LGBTQI individuals into society instead of having them marginalized.

There is one last area Stewart Alexander touches on, the issue of a crumbling Social Safety Net. One must note certain polls and studies on healthcare issues done by Gallup in the past year. In February of this year, Gallup noted that despite the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) “fewer Americans got their health insurance from an employer in 2011 (44.6%) than in 2010 (45.8%), continuing the downward trend Gallup and Healthways have documented since 2008” and that “the percentage of Americans who have employer-based health insurance has been declining since 2008 and has dropped to a low of 44.6% this year. At the same time, more Americans are now uninsured and more are insured through a government program.” In a post a month earlier, Gallup elaborated how “more American adults lacked health insurance coverage last year [2011] than in any year since Gallup and Healthways started tracking it in 2008. The uninsured rate has been increasing since 2008, climbing to 17.1% in 2011…The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data reveal that more Americans lack healthcare today than did four years ago.” The campaign notes problems of the sort and defines the social safety net as including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the U.S. Postal Service, saying that these programs must be modernized and strengthened. For the Postal Service, the campaign proposes that it remain public, but become more modernized with new technology and “input from the people on ways to make its services more attractive, modern and appealing.” Furthermore, the campaign puts forward a “social safety net model” that would put in place: a system that honors basic human and economic rights to eliminate suffering; single-payer “comprehensive high-quality healthcare” as the first step onto a “fully socialized medical system;” expanded and increased unemployment benefits that cover 100% of a workers wage or the minimum wage, depending on which is higher; job retraining programs that would be federally funded; having a full-employment economy as noted earlier and providing of a “livable guaranteed annual income,” an idea that is also championed by Cornel West, not the privilege to get a house, bu the “right to affordable high-quality housing” including “the expansion of Section 8 housing” that would be “new, fresh and smart;” “the creation of a Federally funded Community Land Trust program” to help homeowners sell their homes; making sure that all have easy access to high-quality organic and locally grown food; and preserving “the right to civil rights and civil liberties” as the Bill of Rights is set out to do.

You still may be wondering why Stewart Alexander is the best, considering the Socialist Party is not on the ballots of all of the fifty states. The Green Party is on the ballots of 32 states (plus DC), the Libertarian Party is on the ballots of 45 states, and the Constitution Party is on the ballots of 37 states. But does that make what these parties stand for right? The capitalist system is crumbling before us. As Paul Jay of The Real News Network noted, there is a unregulated global derivatives market of “about [a] quadrillion [which is] the notional value, not the actual cash involved in these bets” and if one makes a wrong bet, it can be very harmful, possibly causing bankruptcies, and institutions to fail in the system as a whole. The world capitalist system is rotten to the core and must be replaced before it’s too late for society. David Walker’s Appeal, written 182 years ago, is fitting to this occasion: “Let your motto be resistance! resistance! resistance!—No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance. What kind of resistance you had better make, you must decide by the circumstances that surround you, and according to the suggestion of expediency.” That being said, vote for socialism as it will be a vote for resistance and for revolution that will save humanity from the destructive nature of renegade capitalism.

By Burkely Hermann

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,297 other followers