Tag Archives: activism

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.’

Expanding on the term ‘state in crisis’

7 May

Screenshot from 2014-05-06 20:56:16

Recently, I wrote a paper for my comparative politics class titled ‘Mexico: A state in crisis’ in which I proposed a new concept: a ‘state in crisis’ and countered what I believed to be a neoliberal strand among the students in the class. In order for everyone to read about this, I posted it on academia.edu. This article aims to expand the definition of a ‘state in crisis.’

While there are a number of different results when one searches for a ‘state in crisis,’ a term which many have used, my definition of the term has seemingly not been used before. In the PowerPoint for my presentation on paper, I defined this term as the following:

“A state which has not systematically broken down, but it has encountered some sort of domestic crisis which threatens the legitimacy and integrity of the state. Such a state has certain social conditions which threaten the well-being of the general population.”

For Mexico, the ‘domestic crisis’ was the drug war which is ravaging the country from top to bottom. The same could be said for the large amount of poor in Mexico.

In a section titled ‘Questions about the paper and presentation‘ I expanded on this term, writing:

“…Most importantly, I don’t want to use the term failed state because as a person in the First-World, in an imperialist nation in fact, I don’t want to impose a term onto Mexico, a Third -World country, but not be able to apply it to my home country, the United States. The term ‘state of crisis’ gets around this, and allows one to apply it to ALL countries in the world, whether rich, poor or middle-class countries.”

I added that even the US could a ‘state in crisis’:

“The United States, like Mexico has not had a systematic breakdown of the state. Also, there are a number of situations that could be classified as a “domestic crisis” in Mexico that threatens the legitimacy and integrity of the US state. These include rising poverty, massive student loan debt, the rise of mass incarceration and so on. As a result, there are social conditions present in the United States which “threaten the well-being of the general population”

Still, there needs to be some expansion of this definition. Some states which could be considered a ‘state in crisis’ are plutonomies. A controversial Citigroup memo in 2005 defined plutonomies as “economies powered by the wealthy” and classified the U.S., Canada and the UK as pluonomies (and later Australia).  The memo further noted:

What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions…There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie…The six drivers of the current plutonomy: 1) an ongoing technology/biotechnology revolution, 2) capitalist-friendly governments and tax regimes, 3) globalization that re-arranges global supply chains with mobile well-capitalized elites and immigrants, 4) greater financial complexity and innovation, 5) the rule of law, and 6) patent protection are all well ensconced in the U.S., the UK, and Canada…At the heart of plutonomy, is income inequality. Societies that are willing to tolerate/endorse income inequality, are willing to tolerate/endorse plutonomy.

As Noam Chomsky noted that basically, “Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is…They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift…. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat”[1] — people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society.” In a following memo, Citigroup analysts noted:

Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries…in the plutonomy countries, the rich are such a massive part of the economy, that their relative insensitivity to rising oil prices makes US$60 oil something of an irrelevance. For the poorest in society, high gas and petrol prices are a problem. But while they are many in number, they are few in spending power, and their economic influence is just not important enough to offset the economic confidence, well-being and spending of the rich.

Still, not all ‘states in crisis’ are plutonomies. The same goes for plutocracies, which Investopedia defines as:

“A government controlled exclusively by the wealthy either directly or indirectly. A plutocracy allows, either openly or by circumstance, only the wealthy to rule. This can then result in policies exclusively designed to assist the wealthy, which is reflected in its name”

However, there is a higher likelihood that those states that can be considered ‘in crisis’ are “unequal societies” with ‘Elites’ and ‘Commoners’ rather than egalitarian societies (no elites) or equitable society (with workers and non-workers). Such terms come from the classifications used by Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay at University of Maryland, and Jorge Rivas at the University of Minnesota in the controversial but well-sourced study titled ‘Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies’ released in March of this year which concludes that ” Collapse can be avoided, and population can reach a steady state at maximum carrying capacity if the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably.”

There is something more. Usually in states ‘in crisis’ elites have more power in forming public policy than the general populace or at minimum put in place elite-friendly policies. Recently, scholars have concluded that this applies to the US, writing:

“economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence…Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts”

Also, it is possible that a state ‘in crisis’ have “extractive institutions.” Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson define this as corresponding to “extractive societies, where an elite controls the economic and political system and uses its power to extract wealth from the society at everyone else’s expense” in contrast to “inclusive societies, where political power and economic benefits are shared broadly among the population.”

It is important to note that states which can be classified as a ‘state in crisis’ are usually capitalist governments but can have a number of different regimes: ‘liberal democracy’ [2], authoritarianism, psuedodemocracy/competitive authoritarianism/hybrid regime/illiberal democracy, or anything in between.

To review, a ‘state in crisis’ is:

  1. A state which is experiencing a domestic crisis(es) which threatens state legitimacy and integrity but has not systematically broken down
  2. State has social conditions which threaten the population’s well-being
  3. State usually has a capitalist government
  4. State is likely an ‘unequal society’ with elites and commoners rather than an equitable society or an egalitarian society
  5. State might be considered a plutonomy, or an economy powered by wealthy consumers with a group of members in society that are in a precarious position, a
  6. State might be a plutocracy or a government by and for the rich and powerful
  7. Elites in the said state may have more power in forming public policy than the average citizen and at minimum elite-friendly policies, often called ‘neoliberal’ like investor-rights agreements, privatization of public services, tax cuts for the rich, etc…
  8. State can have a plethora of different regimes, ranging from ‘democracy’ to ‘authoritarianism’
  9. The state might have an “extractive society” leading to extractive institutions which is more likely than an “inclusive society”

 

Notes:

[1] Guy Standing wrote on Policy Network in 2011 about the precariat:

“Every progressive political movement has been built on the anger, needs and aspirations of the emerging major class. Today that class is the precariat…The precariat has emerged from the liberalisation that underpinned globalisation. Politicians should beware. It is a new dangerous class, not yet what Karl Marx would have described as a class-for-itself, but a class-in-the-making, internally divided into angry and bitter factions. It consists of a multitude of insecure people, living bits-and-pieces lives, in and out of short-term jobs, without a narrative of occupational development, including millions of frustrated educated youth who do not like what they see before them, millions of women abused in oppressive labour, growing numbers of criminalised tagged for life, millions being categorised as ‘disabled’ and migrants in their hundreds of millions around the world. They are denizens; they have a more restricted range of social, cultural, political and economic rights than citizens around them…Growth of the precariat has been accelerated by the financial shock, with more temporary and agency labour, outsourcing and abandonment of non-wage benefits by firms…The precariat has no control over its time, and no economic security. Many in it suffer from what I have called in the book, a precarity trap. This is on top of the familiar poverty trap created by the folly of ‘targeting’ on the poor via means-tested social assistance. The precariaty trap arises because it takes time for those on the margins of poverty to obtain access to benefits, which means their hardships are underestimated, while they have no incentive to take low-income temporary jobs once they are receiving benefits…The worst fear of all is that a large part of the precariat, and those fearing a life in it, could be drawn to neo-fascism…The precariat observes with growing anger. The politicians had better respond or we will reap a harvest of discord. We can do better.”

A comment below an article on Karmas Project continues this:

“Many folks consider precariat to just be a new way of saying proletariat–specifically referencing the phenomenon of “proletarianization” going on for former members of the “middle class” in 1st world countries. It can be argued that the proletariat as such is always precarious, and that the experience of precarity by 1st world workers is simply what most workers everywhere would experience anyways. Such precarity was also perfectly common in early capitalism within the US and Europe as well… However this does not exhaust the use of the term precariat. The precariat is the name for a specific SEGMENT of the broader working class — and it is the name for something that IS novel, something that is new in today’s form of capitalism, something which never rightly existed for the historical proletariat. The precariat is the name for entire national economies that are disproportionately reliant on service industries and fictitious capital. All of that is more or less true — there still exists a proletariat as such and within that proletariat exists what we call the precariat.”

There are a number of good other articles on this subject: ‘A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens – review, ‘Why the precariat is not a “bogus concept””, ‘Youthful members of the full-time precariat, ‘The “Precariat,” the New Working Class”, ‘Is there a precariat?, ‘Paying Attention to the Precariat, ‘The rise of the precariat promises a renewal of the left‘, ‘Is There A Precariat? An Interview with Charlie Post‘, ‘The Precariat’ on rise in America‘, ‘Word of the Week: Precariat, ‘The American Precariat‘, ‘Preventing an American precariat, ‘Professors Join the Precariat‘, ‘Welcome To The Precariat, ‘The rise of the “precariat”?‘, ‘Zen Over Zinn: Avoiding Unpleasant Truths With David Brooks, ‘A Specter Is Haunting Precarity‘, ‘Towards a Charter for the Precariat‘, ‘The Precariat by Chris Dunkley‘, ‘Standing replies on the ‘precariat’, ‘The ‘precariat’: fighting for real jobs, ‘The new ‘precariats’‘, ‘Book Review: The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class by Guy Standing‘, ‘The Precariat and Climate Justice in the Great Recession‘, ‘Working on the Margins: Japan’s Precariat and Working Poor‘, and so on. There is however, debate if it is separate from the working class or if it is part of the working class. In my view, it seems that it would be a bit of both, because it could include unemployed people, along with those who have low-wage jobs, and those tied to ‘wage slavery. This relates to the Marxian concept of the lumpenproletariat which Karl Marx defined in 1852 as “vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers…pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers…pimps…brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars — in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème”

[2] Marxists define this not as a liberal democracy, but as a ‘bourgeois democracy’ as noted in the Encyclopedia of Marxism:

A government that serves in the interests of the bourgeois class. The word Democratic is attached to such a government, because in it all people in such a society have certain freedoms: those who own the means of production , the bourgeoisie, are free to buy and sell labor-power and what is produced by it solely for their own benefit. Those who own only their own ability to labor , the proletariat, are free to sell themselves to any bourgeois who will buy their labor power, for the benefit of maintaining their own survival, and giving greater strength and power to the bourgeoisie. The state fundamentally represents the interests of one class over others.

Debating a Tea Party and Occupy coalition

22 Aug

For years now, consumer advocate Ralph Nader has been calling for a left-right coalition on issues including corporate welfare, the military budget, foreign wars, the Patriot Act, and much more. Washington’s Blog in October 2011, Robert Cargill’s blog titled KV8R, a blog called ‘The Moderate Voice,’ the Examiner, a post on an Occupy Wall Street forum, former MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan, activist Irving Wesley Hall, and many others have called for something that would achieve these goals: push the Tea Party movement and Occupy to unite together. The mainstay of the “progressive” movement like Mother Jones, The Nation, AlterNet, Common Dreams, any of their allies in Congress and their supporters would scoff at this idea. They’d say that the movement has been corrupted from the start, but as Ben Ketchum, a community activist, said in October 2011, “for either movement to really be successful we will have to join forces…This is not left versus right. This is all of us against the influence of a very powerful few.” Additionally, one former tea partier noted that the media “turned our movement into a bunch of pro-corporate Republican Party rebranding astroturf…I wish your movement [occupy] better luck than we had with the tea party movement before it got hijacked by the theocrats and corporatists.” Let us ask ourselves: is it practical that the Tea Party and Occupy movements should unite, or is this just crazy talk?

In order to answer this question, there has to be a recognition of the reality: the two movements are already working together. This may be a shocker since the Tea Party has harshly criticized Occupy in the past, but let me explain. Locales of the Tea Party have united with locales of the Occupy movement on certain issues. One of the first instances of the two movements coming together was in November 2011, if not sooner. Joseph Mornin wrote that, “a meeting between Occupy Memphis protesters and local Tea Party members had an unexpectedly civil result…While the sides represent different ends of the political spectrum, they both agreed on one important issue [crony capitalism]…While there were still substantial disagreements, a representative of the Occupy movement felt it was helpful.” The original AP article noted that “Occupy Memphis member Mallory Pope…and fellow Occupy Memphis protester Tristan Tran had a lively, sometimes strained and confrontational, but mostly civil discussion with members of the Mid-South Tea Party…The factions saw eye-to-eye on some issues and clashed on others…By the end, the Occupy Memphis members and their audience…reached common ground on some issues, such as their perception that the government and politicians no longer listen to and serve the people they represent.” The next month, Salon Magazine reported on the possible teaming up of the two movements with hopes by Tom Robinson, founder of the Peninsula Patriots Tea Party chapter that this could spread wide. They wrote that “members of the Occupy Richmond and local Tea Party movements found acres of common ground…Robinson orchestrated this unlikely summit after having a number of one-on-one discussions with Occupy members…This was not the first time Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party members have met…But once in the same room, any discomfort members of the two groups might have felt seemed to melt away…Still, differences occasionally show through. Both sides speak in broad strokes about patriotism and devotion to country…Despite their differences and the cover story that the Tea Party and Occupy Richmond never met, members of the two groups seemed eager to plan a follow-up meting to talk some more.”

The next year, the working together of both of the movements only increased. In February 2012, in Oregon, Tea Partiers and Occupiers marched against the NDAA, or the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes the military to indefinitely detain any American citizen. Even a publication called the Telegram noted this protest as well. Months later in June 2012, occupiers and tea partiers protested side-by-side against Mitt Romney, an article noting that “both groups…have stood on common ground regarding certain issues: opposition to bank bailouts, heavy-handed drug enforcement, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)…both groups seem to determined to oppose the two-party system in November…about an hour into the protest…several of the Occupiers…ventured over to the Tea Party crowd in an effort to spark a dialogue that might bridge the gap between the two movements.” That same month, according to Ryan Devereaux of The Guardian, “clear skies and pleasant temperatures made for a picnic-like atmosphere as a mix of Ron Paul supporters, members of the 9/11 truth movement and a smattering of Occupy protesters gathered outside the Westfield Marriott hotel in Chantilly, Virginia where members of the Bilderberg group are meeting…the protest marked the gathering of a diverse cross-section of contemporary US activist movements.” I highlight this despite my desdain for protesting the Bilderberg Group, feeling it is a distraction and that other groups should be protested. Anyway, later that summer, PANDA (People Against the NDAA) said that the two movements should unify since “we cannot stand idle while our constitution and bill of rights are trampled on.” That same month, August, as noted in an interview by Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange, the Occupy Wall Street and The Tea Party were united in Dubuque, Iowa against red light cameras.

This is isn’t all. With climate change, or what some like Noam Chomsky call the coming environmental catastrophe, the two movements are uniting again. Waging NonViolence wrote that a common thread that runs through all of these movements is that “government is run for the benefit of powerful elites with vested interests at the expense of the average citizen.” This comes through in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Brian Merchant on TreeHugger noted that opposing the pipeline is an “interesting case, one that invites you to wonder how many more realistic opportunities there might be for genuine collaboration between the two movements on a grassroots level…[that] would provide more firepower to a social protest…[of] Occupy and the Tea Party joining forces.” Talking Points Memo adds to this this narrative. Their Brian Beutler writes: “though the project exists in a state of suspended animation, TransCanada…is preparing to build anyhow…on the portion of the pipeline that would link Nebraska to Texas, TransCanada has threatened to use disputed eminent domain powers to condemn privately held land, over the owners’ objections. And that’s creating unusual allies — Occupiers, Tea Partiers, environmentalists, individualists — united to stop TransCanada from threatening water supplies, ancient artifacts, and people’s basic property rights…Farmers on the proposed route likely wouldn’t face these threats were it not for the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court, divided 5-4, ruled that eminent domain powers extend to the transfer of land from one private owner to another, if that action increases economic development…The effect of it today is to place people like Randy Thompson on an unfamiliar side of the divide between conservatives and environmentalists; and business and liberal political activists.”

Now, there is something that threatens to expand the cooperation between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement even more. It is an organization called the Green Tea Coalition, what encouraged me to write this article in the first place, and which the big energy companies are calling an “unholy alliance.” Ashton Pishton writes on Occupy.com, that “in 2012, the Atlanta Tea Patriot Patriots joined the NAACP and the Sierra Club to successfully defeat a $7.2 billion transit tax referendum. That same year, Tea joined forces with Occupy Atlanta and the AFL-CIO to stop an anti-union bill that would have banned protests at private residences…The threat of a grassroots movement united across ideological lines manifested itself again last month when the Tea Party Patriots…triumphed in a win for solar energy…That win didn’t come without fierce opposition from deeply entrenched interests, including the Koch Brothers-funded organization Americans for Prosperity…the Kochs may have foreseen not only the benefits of jumping on the Tea Party train, but also the dangers of allowing such a movement to grow without a little corporate “direction.” The danger was that conservatives…would take some of the ideas brewing in the teapot too far. Conservative Americans had begun to wholly embrace the idea that there was such a thing as “crony capitalism,”…those ideas, taken to their logical conclusions, might have led to a conservative revolution that would have severely crippled the power of industries like Koch and Southern Company…The Green Tea Coalition, set to launch in Georgia on Tuesday, includes activists from the Sierra Club, Georgia Watch, Occupy Atlanta, Tea Party Patriots and the NAACP…To Koch, Southern Company and other energy titans who thought they had the Tea Party in their pockets, it’s an unholy alliance indeed. Beyond that, it’s a wedge that could grow bigger — and not only in Georgia.” There is some possibility that this could grow bigger.

Let us as activists for social justice not ask ourselves if an alliance between seemingly disparate groups can happen, but rather go out there and form such bonds ourselves. In the end, if we are challenge the corporate, military and financial elite, it must be a united effort even if that includes people from across the political spectrum.

Liberty and Justice?: US support for Israeli apartheid

31 Jul

The American pledge of allegiance professes that the United States will uphold liberty and justice for all. As the imperial actions of the United States show, this is clearly not the case. Noam Chomsky has been covering this perspective for years, but the late veteran journalist Helen Thomas, part Lebanese, is also fierce in her criticism. She infamously said Israel should get out of Palestine. In an interview with Democracy Now! she told Amy Goodman that President Bush was “arming Israel against the Palestinians in every way in Gaza” and that she can’t understand “how the US can provide F-16s, gunships, Apache gunships, phosphorus, possibly phosphorus, and cluster bombs and so forth to kill helpless people, children who are starving to death. They control the checkpoints. They control the arrivals and departures, supplies and people. And the Americans…remained silent to that suffering. He [President Bush] has blocked by a veto at the UN any stoppage of the warfare, and he continues to supply Israel.” In a later interview with The Real News Network, she noted that this horrid policy had continued, noting that “the Palestinians are dubbed as terrorists and all the Muslims are terrorists. I mean, this is so unfair.” From here it is important to understand how US taxpayer money is funding the occupation of Palestine, and what can be done to stop it.

There is a shocking level of US support for the brutal occupation. American organizations, as noted by Adri Nieuwhof of The Electronic Intifada, “transferred about $274 million to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza between 2002 and 2009.” End The Occupation has an even more direct figure: $30 billion dollars. This is the amount of military aid the United States government gives to Israel, which it uses to maintain its illegal “military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip [while also] misus[ing]…U.S. weapons in violation of U.S. law to kill and injure Palestinian civilians, destroy Palestinian civilian infrastructure, blockade the Gaza Strip, and build illegal settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem.” Between 2000-2009, according to their number crunching, the US “licensed, paid for, and delivered more than 670,903,390 weapons and related equipment to Israel” which were used to kill over 2,000 Palestinians.

Freelance journalist Ben White uses a word that Israeli apologists, Zionists, would hate to hear: apartheid. White writes in The National, that “in South Africa, there is the memory of Israel’s historic relationship with the apartheid regime…Israel’s “collaboration with the racist regime of South Africa” was condemned in the UN’s General Assembly…what has really struck many in South Africa, and elsewhere, are the similarities between the historical apartheid system, and Israel’s current policies towards the Palestinians. The common element of both systems is the consolidation and enforcement of dispossession, securing control of and access to land and natural resources for one group at the expense of another. Yet there are also important differences…Though there are numerous examples of de facto segregation and institutionalised discrimination within pre-1967 Israel, the apartheid comparison really began to take hold as Israel expanded its colonisation and control of the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip…Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which in 2017 will have lasted for half a century, has evolved into a complex system of control and exclusion, with Jewish settlers living among non-citizen Palestinians whose freedom to live in their own land is managed by a bureaucratic apartheid system of “permits” and physical obstacles and barriers.” Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, UN Human Rights Rapporteur John Dugard, and many others also declare the situation an apartheid.

There must be a recognition of what has to be done next. For one, there must be a push to divest “from companies that profit from violent, oppressive, and discriminatory practices,” as End to Occupation puts it. This would be a push for investors to “withdrawal their stocks and funds from corporations complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights [while] individual consumers are called on to show their opposition to Israel’s violations by participating in a consumer boycott of Israeli companies, goods and services or of international companies involved in Israeli policies.” This is part of the broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign. We must work in our communities, online and offline, to support the BDS campaign to help end Israeli apartheid, while also pushing electorally to stop Zionists, like capitalist reformer Elizabeth Warren, from getting into power.

This article was also published on Truthout and has been reposted here.

Nuclear power is a failure in regulation and reliability

29 Jul

Much of scientific community and general population believe climate change, caused in part by humans, is occurring, and there have been calls to use nuclear power. Renowned climate scientist James Hansen has time and time again has endorsed nuclear power as a worthy alternative. Green Left Weekly, while agreeing with his opposition to coal and petroleum, says his view is supported by “pseudo-science” that has “gone down a treat with the nuclear lobby.” This is dangerous because there has been seventeen big nuclear power accidents in a forty-seven year time span (1952-1999) and high public opposition to nuclear power in Japan (70% oppose it) with only 43% of Americans opposing the power overall. In the us, the high majorities of people that still support nuclear power may not know the risks. This could be because six corporations control the mainstay of the mainstream media along with General Electric, the world’s third largest company which creates nuclear power plants. As William Blum wrote in his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, NBC canceled “an appearance by a nuclear activist because she criticized General Electric which owns the network [and] another nuclear activist…is unwelcome at CBS because it belongs to Westinghouse,” the same case with ABC which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, or CNN which is owned by Time Warner. Basically, nuclear power interests are behind the media, so the polls are almost rigged from the start. In this article I plan to tell why nuclear power is not a reliable source of energy starting with the regulators, then into the specifics.

There are also two major groups that deal with nuclear power. The first one is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or NRC. This independent commission was supposed to overcome the industry coziness that resulted in the abolishment of its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission. However, as time went on, it turned out that the NRC was still in bed with the nuclear industry. In 1987, a congressional report noted that the NRC had “not maintained an arms length regulatory posture with the commercial nuclear power industry…[and] has, in some critical areas, abdicated its role as a regulator altogether.” When running for President, before he appointed a pro-nuclear power people to power, Barack Obama said the NRC had become “captive of the industries that it regulates.” In April 2011, an explosive article by Reuters adds to this mix using data from the Wikileaks cables :

“the Nuclear Regulatory Commission…is sometimes used as a sales tool to help push American technology to foreign governments…U.S. embassies have pulled in the NRC when lobbying for the purchase of equipment made by Westinghouse and other domestic manufacturers…the cables — from 2006 to early 2010 — show that the NRC’s role in promoting its regulatory model around the world can easily turn it into an advocate for U.S. nuclear technology, whether its officials realize it or not…The fear for diplomats is that U.S. equipment companies need government help, lest they be elbowed aside by foreign state-owned competitors…That beat-the-French theme comes up over and over again in cables from around the world — embassies noting with a sense of urgency that foreign competitor X is already on the ground meeting with government officials, and U.S. interests need to act fast at the highest levels to counteract the threat…In some cases, NRC officials, while not lobbying for American companies, may have smoothed their way…[The] push for American counter-action sometimes resulted in overt lobbying, but sometimes the response was more subtle.”

When one looks at the five commissioners you find that that NRC is captured by industry. For example, commissioner George Apostolakis received an award from the American Nuclear Society, a group that not only represents government agencies but also hundreds of corporations which are involved in the nuclear power industry! An anti-nuclear scientific group with reformist solutions, Physicians for Social Responsibility, wrote in a post last July, that the group has supported the current chairman of NRC because “Dr. Allison MacFarlane…[has a] record of support for on-site dry cask storage of nuclear waste and her critical analysis of the Yucca Mountain project” but that Commissioner Kristine Svinicki’s reappointment is disappointing because of here “dogged placement of nuclear industry desires over public safety needs.”At the same time, let us not forget that Commissioner William Magwood in the past “managed electric utility research and nuclear policy programs at the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, D.C [and]…was a scientist at Westinghouse Electric Corporation,” a clear conflict-of-interest. The last commissioner, William C. Ostendorff, was part of the military establishment and a former commander of a nuclear sub. As a result, according to a still relevant LA Times article, the votes of the NRC “typically reflect their attitudes toward regulating the nuclear power industry…[and] the majority [is currently] favoring less stringent safety and security initiatives.”

On the international level is the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA which is part of the UN system. President Eisenhower proposed the creation of the body in 1953 when he called for ‘peaceful’ nuclear power, and the next year it was created to keep a hold of nuclear weapons. Today, it is seen, similar to the NRC, as helping the nuclear power industry. An article in Nature by Geoff Brumfiel notes that the IAEA “is a promoter of nuclear power, but at the same time guards against the spread of technology that could be used for nuclear weapons [while setting]…voluntary international standards for safety in civilian nuclear plants, and offers assistance in times of crisis.” A similar article in the Christian Science Monitor notes that the IAEA offers non-compulsory safety standards while promoting “nuclear energy, but it also monitors nuclear use [and]…is the sole global organization overseeing the nuclear energy industry, yet…[must be compliant]…with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” Additionally, let us not forget that the IAEA’s role in the debate over nuclear weapons in Iran. They basically put out a report “bolstering hardliners by taking [old] information…that could very well relate to a program that existed that has been canceled, and feeding it as raw meat to people who want to move forward.” This is consistent with their reports about Iran’s nuclear program which assert falsely that the country is getting nuclear weapons.

There have been many accidents with nuclear power plants. As a well-sourced page on Wikipedia notes, “at least 57 accidents [involving nuclear power] have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and over 56 nuclear accidents have occurred in the USA [however] relatively few accidents have involved fatalities.” As of 2010, 99 accidents have occurred between 1952 and 2011. An article in The Guardian adds to this, noting that there have been “33 serious incidents and accidents at nuclear power stations since the first recorded one in 1952 at Chalk River in Ontario, Canada…[using] information…partially from the International Atomic Energy Authority…[showing] how they’re spread around the globe.”

Recently, there has been some startling news. The New York Times wrote that “the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima has probably been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for two years, ever since an earthquake and tsunami badly damaged the plant” based on what Japan’s chief nuclear regulator said. As confidence in nuclear power has waned in Japan, this will send more ripples worldwide saying the power source is not safe. After the disaster in 2011 in Fukushima, radiation from the power plants likely caused: butterfly deaths and abnormalities was radiation, 25 times as many people to get thyroid cancer, especially US servicemembers, and freaky vegetables and fruits, and the death of the former head of the TEPCO power plant. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism wrote recently:

“the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis continues unresolved in a bad way…there are two separate problems that Tepco has been forced to confess to in the last week…Tepco admitted some time ago that radioactive water was getting into the Pacific, but has been at a loss to explain how that was happening…radioactivity is apparently getting into the ocean via groundwater…the concentration of radioactivity in the trench water has not fallen much in two years despite the leakage…Third is that Tepco “hopes” to fix the problem…by “building a wall out of liquid glass between the reactors and the sea” to isolate the radioactive water and then removing it…Since the incident TEPCO has been pouring water over the damaged complex reactors to cool them for more than two years, but contaminated water has been building up at the rate of an Olympic-size swimming pool each week since then.”

This month a power plant closed because of a mysterious cause, and in Kyoto a worker pulled a drainwater valve which rose the water in the power plant, causing it to close down. There were also reports that 60 miles from the power plants in the city, radiation is 400 times normal in 2011!

Nuclear power in and of itself is dangerous. In the view of anti-nuclear writer for The Nation, Johnathan Schell, by expanding the amount of nuclear power plants, “the US is “playing with fire”…not only risking an international incident but also opening the spigot for nuclear proliferation.” In another piece, Schell says that “if the nuclear powers wish to be safe from nuclear weapons, they must surrender their own. Then we will all work together to assure that everyone abides by the commitment.” There is also an interesting article by Greg Mitchell in The Nation, noting that “a new government obsession with secrecy…spread from the nuclear program to all military and foreign affairs in the Cold War era,” with resident kept in the dark about the first nuclear bomb test and the fallout spread across the country. This was pretty similar to what happened in Fukushma. Lets remember these tips written by Matt Biven in The Nation in 2001 about you having to evacuate because of the explosion of a nuclear power plant: “your homeowner’s insurance will not reimburse you….[and] You will, however, as a taxpayer be indirectly picking up the tab for the accident” all thanks to a 1950s-era law called the Price Anderson Act. Biven also wrote that ‘Al Qaeda terrorists active in America have been thinking about nuclear terrorism for eight years now…one needs minimal inspiration from the NRC website to brainstorm half-a-dozen ways a handful of motivated individuals could turn a nuclear power plant into an American Chernobyl…A clear-eyed discussion of how to defend these plants just might conclude that they are indefensible.”

An article earlier this month, The Nation also addressed nuclear power. The article was a discussion between the magazine’s environmental correspondent Mark Hertsgaard and a longtime anti-nuclear activist Terry Tempest Williams who has considered some value in nuclear power only after watching what sounded to be a movie, Pandora’s Promise, that is propaganda for the nuclear industry. The movie seems to trash all alternative energies except nuclear power while playing loose and fast with the facts about the energy which is not surprising as it was basically funded by the nuclear power industry. Here’s some of the highlights of what Williams said:

“In declassified materials from the Atomic Energy Commission, Mormons and Indians living downwind of the blasts were considered “a low-use segment of the population.” In the eyes of our government, my people were expendable…Given that our species numbers 7 billion and rising, there are those who believe the only practical way we can sustain an energy-rich future is to commit to more development, more technology—nuclear energy included—as we continue on the trajectory of progress to fuel more consumption…What energy sources can we employ that do the least harm to life on earth and at the same time can meet the expanding needs of the human family?…I do not feel antinuclear activists have any kinship whatsoever with climate deniers, as the film repeatedly asserts. I resent this comparison…I remain uncertain about what the right course of action is regarding energy.”

On the other hand, Hertsgaard said:

“[the IAEA] concluded in a 2005 study that the radioactivity released at Chernobyl would cause 4,000 cancer deaths. A study by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation concluded in 2008 that Chernobyl had caused 6,000 thyroid cancers among children, and “many more” such cancers are projected in the years ahead. But the UNSCEAR study didn’t take into account the long-term impacts of radioactivity, as the European Environment Agency pointed out earlier this year…[which] said that Chernobyl will cause between 17,000 and 68,000 cancer deaths over the fifty years following the 1986 accident…My own reporting on the [climate] movement suggests that nothing so grandiose is under way. A small number of individual environmentalists have advocated nuclear…the overwhelming majority of green groups and leaders continue to oppose it…it is absolutely valid to reconsider nuclear power..The weapons risk is especially high in…a breeder reactor. This is because breeders don’t just produce plutonium; they also use it as fuel…The problem is that this same miracle fuel is a key ingredient in nuclear weapons…nearly all of the world’s sodium-cooled reactors have suffered fires [[Integral Fast Reactors]…Today…there is not a single commercially operating breeder reactor on earth…As a result, there are now an estimated 250 tons of plutonium at these plants, enough to make approximately 30,000 nuclear weapons…wind power is by far the fastest-growing source of electricity [and]…solar is growing nearly as fast…[while] improving energy efficiency is…the quickest, safest and most cost-effective route to reducing consumption of fossil fuels…Nuclear power is fantastically expensive—so expensive that private investors…stopped financing large nuclear plants.”

There are many rational arguments against nuclear power. Parts of the discussion above show this. As parts of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States show, people have been against it for some time, starting in the 1950s. Over two years ago, a redditor, made a sound argument against nuclear power, stating that “nuclear power isn’t inherently safe….I’m very skeptical about claims that it never can go wrong…There is no solution for nuclear waste. This is actually my main argument against nuclear power. Right now, nuclear waste just sits in barrels in Russia, in the ocean or in salt mines…In many cases it’s just in large buildings, waiting for a solution. This is crazy, we’re creating a problem that will exist for thousands and thousands of years. What’s the alternative? 100% renewable energy.” In the end, everyone must ask themselves if an energy that is a failure in regulation and reliability is worth the risk to the planet and humanity to push it forward as a ‘solution’ to climate change.

Editor’s Note: After trying to get this post rejected by numerous publications (Dissent, Dissident Voice and New Left Project), I am tired of sending it around, so I am publishing it here, on this blog, as it needs to put out there. This has also been published on White Rose Reader with an altered title: Nuclear Power: Unreliable and Unregulated. I don’t think its unregulated, but I guess that’s ok.

Equality for some is not equality at all: radical viewpoints on same-sex marriage, Prop 8 and DOMA

13 Jul

Editor’s Note: This article was originally sent to Global Research Center, but they refused to publish it. White Rose Reader didn’t do any better, but we’ll see. The article below is the one that was also submitted to White Rose Reader:

The response by the numerous media outlets and the oligarchy to the rulings invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 (Prop 8) were typical. The New Republic, a self-declared liberal magazine, declared through the mouth of Jonathan Cohn, that while “the ruling, as expected, does not establish a universal right to same-sex marriage…Kennedy and the four liberal justices declared that DOMA deprives same-sex couples of “equal protection” under the law.” A Yale professor in a New York Times op-ed wrote on the day of the decision that “federal benefits will dramatically improve the lives of countless people…couples will no longer suffer the indignity of having the government treat their marriages as inferior…Marriage equality has singular legal, cultural and practical significance.” Another op-ed in the same paper declared that the “Supreme Court decision to strike down the core provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act is a stride toward greater equality in the United States…[that] will reverberate far beyond our shores.” An article in Time Magazine declared that “opinions by Justices of the Supreme Court may not have resorted to gonzo language to summon partisans to arms in the battle over homosexuality’s place in American society, but they came very close.” Others like Credo Action declared that “Californians [won] the freedom to marry” while Truthout declared that the “homosexual agenda” had been victorious with the court decisions. Jeffrey Toobin, who called Edward Snowden a traitor, wrote in The New Yorker something that is way over the top: “the Supreme Court’s embrace of gay rights last week had an almost serene majesty. The obvious correctness of the Court’s judgment, its curt dismissal of a monstrous injustice, had a grandeur that requires little elaboration.” Think Progress, the blog of the liberal group, Center for American Progress, wrote that “although Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the DOMA case alludes to some questionable states rights views…the opinion is firmly rooted in the equal rights and equal dignity that same-sex couples share with straight ones” but that “Kennedy’s allusions to states’ rights do not work a revolution in the scope of federal power.” After all lets not forget that majorities of Americans support the court’s decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA, like radical singer Anne Fenney.

There were some in the mainstream who differed from these views. Executive Editor of The Nation, Richard Kim, uniquely noted that “the NAACP…the libertarian Cato Institute…Facebook, Google, Apple, Nike, Verizon, Intel and AIG…a slew of Democrats (and a few Republicans)…tripped over themselves in their rush to denounce the law.” This goes back directly relates to my article on Nation of Change, which talked a bit about how big business corrupted major gay non-profits (Gay Inc.) and the cause of “gay equality.” The latter is apparent by the supporting of the repeal of DOMA by huge multi-billion-dollar corporations. Many of these are the same ones connected to the commercialization of gay pride I wrote about on White Rose Reader. Also, this relates to how gay pride is in the view of some “both a movement and an event, is a univocal production…Missing from these celebrations are the voices of those of us who have failed both heterosexuality and homosexuality.” Others like SF Gay Shame have even argued that confronting the US empire is queer/trans liberation. One queer twitter user named Allison Francis tweeted that states don’t have to recognize gay marriage while hoping the DOMA victory will propel fights for other issues. While most of the media and numerous pundits say that the decision is a victory for equality, the views of the radicals who question this idea are not displayed at all, in fact they would probably be ridiculed by these forces.

The closest view to the mainstream opinion was the Gay Liberation Network. In a statement after the rulings, they wrote that the Court “failed to embrace coast-to-coast equal rights, leaving LGBTs in 37 states to continue experiencing the indignities of continued “legal” discrimination…[because] by refusing to rule on the substance of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, the Court has allowed same-sex couples in 37 states to continue experiencing legal discrimination not just in marriage, but in…housing, employment and access to public accommodations…[and that] the Court allowed state governments to nullify their own referendum process, something that could turn around to allow statehouse destruction of progressive referenda in future years…[since] the Court implicitly embraced the reactionary notion of “state’s rights” trumping civil rights…[while] the national Gay, Inc. groups are…uncritically heralding today’s decisions, seemingly oblivious to these dangers.”

One of the first opinions of radicals was from a twitter conversation with Dani Lamorte. Here’s the conversation in full:

Dani Lamorte (@dami_lamorte): Just say, “no,” to marriage. #scotus #prop8 #gaymarriage #queer #gayshame

Me (@burkelyh): @dami_lamorte Please elaborate on this. Are you opposed to state control through marriage? I’m just interested in this comment.

Dami: @burkelyh yes! I oppose marriage as an institution which privileges men and “normalizes” genders and sexualities. :)

Me: @dami_lamorte Ah. So, you are saying patriarchy is inherent in marriage?

Dami: @burkelyh it is the default, but we can resist. i think of MRG [marriage] as separate from monogamy, to be clear, and carrying historical baggage.

Me: @dami_lamorte Ok. I understand. Resistance should be an option

Other responses are pretty similar. An old post on Queer Radical radio noted that view of such queer radicals are unique: “there is a whole other world of radical Queers working for other causes and who have very different politics then those of the mainstream gay movement…there are even those radical queers who are critical of the mainstream gay marriage movement and the large gay organizations like the Human Rights Campaign who only focus on single queer issues and do not see the connection between issues…Queers from such groups as Gay Shame, Queers for Economic Justice, Fierce, Quit and other activists all of who share a commitment to a politics that links issues together instead of having a single-issue politics…[who] explain how for low income Queers, Queers of colors, feminists and others the issues of everyday survival, violence against queers, health care for all, gentrification and fighting the prison industrial complex as well as U.S imperialism are all important issues.”

The specific blogs and others prove what Queer Radical Radio said to be true. Occupy Austin, Texas “OccuQueers” wrote on their twitter before the decision (but its still relevant) that there is “so much more than marriage! Queers: RISE UP!” Also, Benjamin Craft-Rendon wrote in response to one of my tweets that “Lawrence v Texas weakened #Texaslege sovereign power to discriminate.” This was in response to an article I quoted from Firedoglake by Jon Walker which noted that “long term this could hamper the ability of citizens to use the ballot initiative process to circumvent elected officials who were refused to adopt new policies. This is unfortunate decision given that the main justification for creating the initiative process was to give citizens a way to enact laws that their current elected officials opposes…Now citizens have lost a potential tool to try to deal with the serious problem of officials simply refusing implement the new laws approved by a majority of the electorate…It would have been better if all prohibitions against same-sex marriage had been declared unconstitutional for being a clear violation of the equal protection instead of Prop 8 simply being eliminated in California for this technical reason regarding the initiative process.”

Other radicals had a voice as well about the court decisions as well. Twitter user Jasper Gregory said he “could get behind that [the]…queer activism programme.” This ‘programme’ was written back in 2004 and is still online which says in part: “Healthy, vibrant, effective movements acknowledge their mistakes, and reinvent themselves accordingly. They are capable of consistent self-critique. They are willing to take risks…Instead, the national gay/lesbian leadership throws its weight around Washington on lightning-rod issues that it deems critical for the rest of us, while grassroots groups across the country continue to struggle in relative isolation and with almost no resources. This gulf between queers has resulted in a process where resources are channeled into assimilationist fights about marriage and the military and away from the more difficult fight for social transformation of a more fundamental nature. Nationwide, the fight for universal health coverage…has been all but forgotten…As the gay movement becomes a gay market, the dreams, resistance, humor and fighting spirit that animated gay liberation politics have been diluted into pricey accessories, and sold back to us as empty symbols that many of us can’t even afford. While this may have led to increased “visibility,” it has not translated into social power for most queers. If local and national “leaders” took direction from the grassroots, they would find that transgender people, bisexuals, lesbians, and gay men…have complex lives, interests, and desires, not all of which are addressed by lobbying legislators, marketing queer paraphernalia, hosting ritzy benefits and electing lesbian/gay politicians…we have some suggestions…they should: demand and financially support the fight for universal health care; launch effective campaigns against laws which criminalize and penalize immigrants and in favor of laws which grant political asylum to queers whose lives are threatened in other countries; fight for the implementation of needle exchange programs and affordable AIDS drugs; work to promote a queer, cross-cultural curriculum which includes sexuality, safe-sex education, and queer teen suicide prevention; fund queer grassroots organizations which are com[m]itted to working on the above issues, and more!”

Through my searching across the internet I found some more radical perspectives. One post I found on Tumblr (to be owned by Yahoo!) in a blog titled Queer Feminist who supports full equality but has an interesting spin. The blogger writes in part that: “I believe there is an insidious idea behind this [gay marriage because]…it is forcing LGBTQ people to assimilate into the most palatable form that straight people can think of us as: in monogamous relationships…I definitely believe that LGBTQ people deserve the same rights to have partners and protections under the law but their are plenty of people within the LGBTQ community who do not want to be in monogamous marriages, and we shouldn’t forget their voice. Rather, I think it would be better to reframe the argument over protections under the law for all people and relationships. After all, there are people who do not want to be in relationships at all…Even the very name ‘Gay Marriage’ shuts out a majority of the community. Secondly, while this debate is an important one to have, we shouldn’t forget about the many other pressing concerns within the LGBTQ community…[like] LGBTQ youth homelessness [and] violence against trans* people.”

I found even more blogs using Startpage that expressed the radical perspective. This one which must be quoted in full was titled ‘Fuck marriage, fuck equality.” In part it noted that “For about a decade, same sex marriage has been the flagship issue of the GGGG movement [Gay, Gay, Gay and Gay movement (also known as the “LGBT” movement).] Marketed as the single-issue battle which would bring equality…it has been the main focus of GGGG activist and political effort. The struggle for same sex marriage has been presented to us as a struggle for full equality and citizenship…Marriage, as an institution, has been a tool of patriarchy, capitalism, and government for about as long as it’s existed…People with more urgent needs than marriage are neglected from the resources and activist efforts of the GGGG movement. GGGG organizations spend many millions of dollars on the struggle for marriage, while organizations addressing the issues of queer and trans homelessness youth, HIV positive queers, queers of color, queers in poverty, queer survivors of violence, and many others, suffer from a constant lack of money and resources…Same sex marriage will not help the ones who cannot or will not get legally married. It will not solve poverty, it will not solve violence, it will not open borders or keep people out of imprisonment…It also diverts money, resources and activist energy from issues that are far more urgent and queer populations who are much more in need…Instead of earning “rights” and aspiring for “equality,” we should agitate for liberation and aspire for a revolution.”

Others had the same spirit. One radical tumblr blog called ‘Black is Dangerous’ wrote that while“queer and trans* people without race and/or class privilege will be able to get married the same as other queers…[it] doesn’t mean that we will have the same benefits. If two poor people with no healthcare marry each other, they don’t suddenly get healthcare. And a black queer couple can’t get a break on estate taxes for a property they can’t buy because the owner will only sell to white folks.” In anoyther view, a blogger named ‘Avery’ posted numerous blogposts about same-sex marriage. Avery wrote in August that “same-sex marriage…operates as a proxy for queer rights…Marriage…lend[s] itself to assimilation and “we’re just like you” politics, but it’s an easy thing to support without questioning structural inequality…An issue like marriage equality gives folks a convenient measure by which to declare a movement “done.”…The specificity of queer struggle fades into the background, and I don’t want that to happen.” In another post, the blogger said it is troubling that same-sex marriage is a priority because it takes away from other issues affecting the LGBTQ community like decriminalizing sodomy and preventing hate crimes.

An interview on NPR, a “public” broadcasting outlet, of all places had an interview with radical queer Mattilida Sycamore who was leading SF Gay Shame at the time. Here’s the transcript from that interview and note the host is basically part of the establishment. In part, Sycamore, who identifies as a gender queer or ‘subversive’ told the NPR host that the “mainstream gay movement [is] centered around this assimilationist access…[about] accessing straight privilege” in prioritizing straight issues like “marriage, military service, adoption, ordination into the priesthood” but doesn’t “threaten U.S. Militarism” but is rather very nationalistic. Sycamore proposes moving away from the traditional notion of marriage, which she says is a “failed institution” and creating “more opportunities for everyone…like housing and health care and citizenship and love…[that is an alternative to] a long-term, monogamous coupled partnership.”After this, Sycamore adds that “the problem…with the gay marriage movement is it actually limits people’s options rather than increasing them…to say that this should be the central preoccupation of an entire movement is just horrifying to me…[while it] is shutting out radical queer voices…who are opposed to marriage….the sort of gay establishment agenda.”

There are many others who had radical views on the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions which are described in a list I created. The main cry is one that argues that focusing on same-sex marriage is too limiting since there are numerous other issues facing the LGBTQ community. Some say immigration should be a trans issue, and others have spray painted on a store of the Human Rights Campaign to criticize the organization’s lack of focus on queer issues. Then there’s an alternative gay pride event called the Dyke March, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and the queer group called the Radical Homosexual Agenda would all have a more radical approach to marriage as well. There’s even a book about radical queer critiques of gay marriage. The amount of stuff online about radical approaches to gay marriage and LGBTQ issues continues. forget there’s even a subreddit for radical queers which is “a space to discuss anti-assimilationist queer issues and radical perspectives gender, sexuality, and intersectionality of oppression!” which has over 1,000 subscribers. There’s also subreddits for LGBTQ issues, another for anarcha-feminism, trans-anarchism, Queer Theory, LGBT Equality, and many more. In the end, since LGBTQ radicals are treated as invisible by the mainstream, they must be highlighted, and worked with so that collectively we can make the world a more inclusive place.

Words of Oligarchy and what it means to you

6 Jul

What the oligarchy says is very different than what the commoner thinks. Using words posted by Tom Engelhart on Tom Dispatch, stuff from Jack London’s The Iron Heel, the Wikipedia page of Woobly lingo and elsewhere is supposed to provide some definitions of how differing words are used by the oligarchy.

Capitalism: A profit system that is not only inevitable but it is also biological as there will always be an unequal division of wealth and power in society.

Democracy: Any government that benefits the interests of the national security state. Can include oil-friendly gulf dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, but also states like China (in a sense)

National Security: National security concerns the defense of the rights of our corporate partners as noted by the Fear Department

Freedom: Corporate domination of the literal and figurative marketplace. In other words, free opportunity for all means the free opportunity to squeeze profits out of others.

God/religion: A convenient way of convincing the population to go to war and to justify any sort of militaristic adventure.

Jobs: Usually another name for profits in the corporate handbook.

Socialism: A utopian concept that is flawed to the core as it returns man to his brutish state of nature and is dangerous to the control of the Oligarchy. When real socialism took hold in America, the elite were afraid, so they promote this fake definition

Communism: A tyranny in the form of the Soviet Union the American empire defeated in 1991, showing capitalism triumphed. The reality of the real ideas embodied by communism are too dangerous to speak

Education: Something only those that can afford it should get.

Intellectual Property Rights: In the minds of the Oligarchy it refers to the corporate control of the information through the process which has to be paid for and cannot be developed freely under any circumstances.

Piracy (online): Refers to people who violate corporate “intellectual property rights.”

Society: The creation of the idle rich who toiled not and who in this way played.

“Free Trade”: Another name for protectionist agreements which give multinational corporations more power than governments.

Capitalist: A person who ethically or romantically believes they are doing right for the world by moving humans forward through ‘progress’ toward greater power for themselves with ‘marvelous’ achievements which may or may not have included slaves or serfs. There are big capitalists like CEOs of multinational corporations and small capitalists, such as those who own small businesses.

Worker: A person of no importance either for wealth, position or exceptional ability. This can also be called a prole. The plural of this is labor.

Founding Fathers/Founders: Wealthy elitists who created our constitution and governmental system for the benefit of those with the most money.

Wall Street: A street in New York which sits a stock exchange and the irrational organization of society-permitted and underhanded manipulation of all of the industries of the country.

Economic development: A development plan that benefits those with the most money and property.

Recovery: An economic plan that benefits the wealthy, not the commoner, and maintains capitalism.

Private Military Contractors: Agents of the Oligarchy who are part of corporations close to the interests of the government. They can be used abroad or at home to fight whatever ‘wars’ the oligarchy wants.

Middle Class: Just about everyone in the country since this incorrect designation which is in actuality much smaller can stop revolution against the oligarchy. But, no it never means the poor or homeless.

Federalism: A system which creates a strong national government or “big government” which maintains the power of the wealthy in society.

Fairness: Another word for keeping the status quo in society with huge income inequality, but putting in place ‘reforms.’

(New) American Century: An idea that the US should continue to be dominate the world politically, economically and culturally. This has been repeatedly noted by President Obama as a goal for the next 100 years.

Regime Change: A term meaning a country does not serve the interests of the Oligarchy and a puppet government should be installed.

Traitor: Someone who challenges the Oligarchy in a serious fashion either through activism, by leaking information, or proposing an egalitarian social order. Another name for these people are “subversives,” especially those who are jailed for their class conscious views or acts.

Corporation lawyer: A term not yet in use but could go into use possibly, which means someone who serves by corrupt methods the money-grabbing propensities of the corporations.

Class: A division in society which is not only inevitable but also should be permanent.

Bankruptcy: When an individual who failed competitively can forego paying their debts

Drones or UAVs: A tool of the Oligarchy to continue endless war in a worldwide battlefield.

Secret: Anything of yours the government takes possession of and classifies

Classification: The process of declaring just about any document produced by any branch of the U.S. government unfit for unclassified eyes.

Surveillance: Something for the national security state to keep you in continual fear so your “liberties” can be taken away.

Whistleblower: A homegrown terrorist

Leak: Information homegrown terrorists slip to journalists to undermine the American way of life and aid and abet the enemy

Journalist: Someone who aids and abets terrorists, traitors, defectors, and betrayers hidden within our government as they work to accomplish their grand plan to undermine the security of the country.

Source: Someone who tells a journalist what no one, other than the NSA, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and similar outfits, should know

Blood: This is what leakers have on their hands.  A leak, embarrassing the national security state, endangers careers (bloody enough) and, by definition, American lives.

Insider Threat Program: The name of an Obama administration initiative to promote patriotism inside the government

Patriot: Americans are by nature “patriots.”  If they love their country too well like (to take but one example) former Vice President Dick Cheney, they are “super-patriots.”  Both of these are good things.  Foreigners cannot be patriots.  If they exhibit an unseemly love of country, they are “nationalists.”  If that love goes beyond all bounds, they are “ultra-nationalists.”  These are both bad things.

Espionage Act: A draconian World War I law focused on aiding and abetting the enemy in wartime that has been used more than twice as often by the Obama administration as by all previous administrations combined.

Trust: What you should have in the national security state and the president to do the right thing, no matter how much power they accrue, how many secrets of yours or anybody else’s they gather, or what other temptations might exist.

Truth: The most important thing on Earth, hence generally classified.  It is something that cannot be spoken by national security officials in open session before Congress without putting the American people in danger.

U.S. Constitution: A revered piece of paper that no one pays much actual attention to any more, especially if it interferes with American safety from terrorism.

Amendments: Retrospectively unnecessary additions to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing a series of things, some of which may now put us in peril.

Checks and balances: No longer applicable, except to your bank statement.

The fourth branch of government:  A branch of government dedicated to the centralization of power in an atmosphere of total secrecy: the national security state.  In the post-9/11 years, it has significantly absorbed the other three branches.

FISA court: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, much strengthened since September 11, 2001, created a FISA “court” to oversee the government’s covert surveillance activities.  A secret “court” for the secret world of surveillance, it can, at just about any time, be convened and conducted via cell phone by the NSA or FBI.

FISA judge: There is, in essence, nothing for a FISA judge to judge.  FISA judges never rule against the wishes of the national security state.  Hence, a more accurate term for this position might be “FISA rubberstamp.”

Congressional oversight: When a congressional representative forgets to do something.

National Security Agency (NSA): A top-secret spy outfit once nicknamed “No Such Agency” because its very existence was not acknowledged by the U.S. govt.

American security (or safety): The national security state works hard to offer its citizens a guarantee of safety from the nightmare of terror attacks, which since 9/11 have harmed far more Americans than shark attacks, but not much else that is truly dangerous to the public.

The Global War on You (GWOY):  This term, not yet in the language, is designed to replace a post-9/11 Bush administration name, the Global War on Terror (GWOT), sometimes also called World War IV by neocons.

This is all for now. I’ll add more when I find them.

Ditching the liberal/conservative model: a new political spectrum

13 Jun

I’ve been struggling with this for a while now, trying to find a new spectrum to define the political landscape. “Left” and “Right” are helpful in some instances, but overall they are useless. The reason for this is, liberals (because Obama is a moderate republican), conspiracy theorists, neo-nazis, capitalists and the like can be considered right-wing, while only anti-capitalists, radicals, anarchists and the like can be considered left-wing. As a result, a new system is needed to define this dilemma. Political Compass and the Nolan Chart are nice, but they are inadequate as it falls into the left-right trap. In fact, there is a whole section on the Wikipedia page on the political spectrum about other proposed axises like the “Focus of political concern…Responses to conflict…Role of the church…Urban vs. rural…Foreign policy…International action…Political violence…Foreign trade…Trade freedom vs. trade equity…Diversity…Participation…Freedom…Social power…Change…Origin of state authority…[and] levels of sovereignty.” The chart I came up with mirrors the Nolan Chart in its structure but is different in many ways. Please note that this chart was made to apply to the American political situation, but if one had the public opinion of the people of a certain country, then they could still use this term. There is no mention of “right” or “left” as I noted before. After reviewing my ideas the first time I decided to change the chart around since certain distinctions made no sense at all. There are two axises: Reactionary vs. Revolutionary (right to left) on the horizontal axis and Aristocrat/Elitist vs. Populist (up and down) on the vertical axis. I plan to discuss these in depth as to explain the chart overall.

politicalspectrum

Reactionary
A reactionary is one who wants to go back to the status quo of a previous time. A few good examples I can think of are people like Joesph Stalin, and Ruhollah Khomeini, who took populist ideas and turned around crushing those revolutions. This person is opposed to a revolutionary.

Revolutionary
This is a person who wants fundamental and rapid change in structures. They are also radical as they want to lunge at the heart of a problem, to go to its root.

Populist
A populist is one that has a commitment to democracy, trusts the public overall to rule and is supportive of consensus rather than majoritarianism. One of this view would be what Thomas Jefferson defined as a democrat (not related to the Democratic Party), “identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish them and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depository of the public interest.” Noam Chomsky added to this in his book Secrets, Lies and Democracy that “democrats believe the people should be in control, whether or not they’re going to make the right decisions. Democrats exist today, but their becoming increasingly marginal.” An example of this view would be people like Noam Chomsky. (see this for specific views of the American public: http://t.co/HqBBfQAAJx).

Aristocrat/Elitist
As Thomas Jefferson defined it, aristocrats “fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.” Noam Chomsky added that “this view is held by respectable intellectuals in many different societies today, and is quite similar to the Leninist doctrine that the vanguard party of radical intellectuals should take power and lead the stupid masses to a bright future. Most liberals are aristocrats in Jefferson’s sense…Henry Kissinger is an extreme example of an aristocrat.” Those that have this view support an aristocracy as “government by the best citizens…a ruling body composed of the best citizens…form [of] government, in which the supreme power is vested in the principal persons of a state, or in a privileged order; an oligarchy…The nobles or chief persons in a state; a privileged class or patrician order; (in a popular use) those who are regarded as superior to the rest of the community, as in rank, fortune, or intellect.” In other words, these people would be elitists as well, so both words are included. Most politicians are aristocrats and don’t really give a flying fuck about the general population, just as a pointer.

Other classifications

You may be confused by who would be defined as a Reactionary Aristocrat, Reactionary Populist, Radical Populist, and Aristocratic Revolutionary. This section is dedicated to defining these terms.

Reactionary Aristocrat
This person would not only want the return of a previous time but they believe in the rule of the elite. An example would be Mitt Romney.

Reactionary Populist
This person would believe in the views of the people, but they would also want the return to the status quo of a previous time. Possibly libertarians would fall into this category.

Revolutionary Populist
This person wants to put place radical, revolutionary change, but also wants to for the most part put in place the views of the majority of the America populace.

Revolutionary Aristocrat
This person wants fundamental change but only that which benefits the elite class.

Hopefully, with such a spectrum, there isn’t much need to define one’s self as a Democrat, Republican, Independent or such. That’s all for now. Adieu!

Ethiopia: An unlikely place for protest?

9 Jun

Once again, its that country that was lead by the visionary Hallie Selassie I thought. I am talking about Ethiopia. In a Democracy Now! headline they wrote that “Thousands of people marched in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa on Sunday in a rare show of protest. Demonstrators carried pictures of jailed opposition leaders and chanted slogans calling for respect of the country’s constitution. It was Ethiopia’s first mass protest since 2005, when election-fueled unrest left around 200 people dead.” I looked into this to find more details about it. Here’s some details about Ethiopia from Wikipedia: “During the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was the only African country beside Liberia that retained its sovereignty as a recognized independent country. It was one of only four African members of the 20th-century League of Nations established following World War I. When other African nations gained their independence following World War II, many of them adopted the colors of Ethiopia’s flag. Addis Ababa became the base for several global non-profit organizations focused on Africa. In 1974, at the end of Haile Selassie I’s reign, Ethiopia became a federal republic ruled by a military junta known as the Derg, based on communism. In 1987 Mengistu established the Ethiopian People’s Democratic Republic which survived until being defeated by a coalition, loosely called the EPRDF. It had ruled since 1991.”

The Economist wrote about this protest. They said that:

“A RARE flicker of political protest graced the streets of Ethiopia’s otherwise regimented capital, Addis Ababa, on June 2nd. Demonstrators marched peacefully through the city, many carrying pictures of imprisoned loved ones. Later they gathered on Churchill Avenue, the capital’s main thoroughfare, where they were told that a new struggle had begun. Yilekal Getachew, the chairman of the opposition Semayawi (Blue) party, demanded the release of political prisoners and railed against unemployment, inflation and corruption. Activists claim that as many as 10,000 people attended; government officials say the number was nearer 4,000. Whatever the true figure, it was the biggest demonstration in Ethiopia since 2005, when protests amid claims of election rigging were violently suppressed, leaving nearly 200 unarmed protesters dead and thousands arrested.Over subsequent years the political opposition was eviscerated. Its leaders were jailed or went into exile, the media were muzzled and the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) acquired millions of new members. At the next election, in 2010, the party officially got more than 99% of the seats in parliament. By the time he died last year, Meles Zenawi, who had been prime minister since 1995, had created a single-party state in all but name. Little suggests that his system of “authoritarian development”, which got the economy to grow faster at the expense of individual freedom, is now about to unravel.Opposition numbers at the protest were swollen by Ethiopian Muslims who accuse the government of meddling in religious affairs, but were still modest compared with the million-strong crowds of eight years ago. That may explain the government’s muted reaction. It granted protesters permission to march, but with a week’s delay to ensure they did not embarrass the new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, as he played host to the African Union summit. The police did not harass demonstrators. Fears that the post-Meles transition would presage instability have so far not been borne out. But any suggestion that the protest marks a sea-change in the country’s politics may be premature.”

In an article reblogged by a blog called Ethiopianist, there are more details. They write that:

“Ethiopia opposition activists vowed Monday to press ahead with demonstrations calling for government reforms and the release of political prisoners, a day after thousands took part in a rare display of public protest. Peaceful demonstrations were organized by the newly-formed Blue Party opposition group, which called on the government to release journalists and politicians jailed under a controversial terrorism law and urged broad government reform. “We called the demonstration to ask for the reform of policy issues for the high cost of living, high rate of youth unemployment and systematic corruption,” Blue Party leader Yilkal Getnet told AFP. The Blue Party has asked the government to respond to its demands within three months and has pledged to hold further demonstrations if its calls are not answered. “If the government does not give a satisfactory answer for these questions, we will continue our protest peacefully in the coming months,” Yilkal added. He said the group also called for “release of political prisoners… and journalists, the government should respect the right to expression.” Journalists, opposition members and religious leaders have been jailed under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism legislation, which rights groups say is used by the government to stifle peaceful dissent. Yilkal said demonstrators were also protesting at what they called the forced displacement of ethnic groups for large scale farming projects in the country. Ethiopia has been accused by US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch of forcibly relocating communities in order to free up land for foreign investment, a charge the government denies. Sunday’s protests were the largest in the country since post-election violence in 2005, in which 200 people were killed and hundreds more arrested. They were the first time major protests have been held in the country since Ethiopia’s former prime minister Meles Zenawi died in August 2012. Government spokesman Bereket Simon said up to 4,000 people joined Sunday’s demonstration, while some observers put the number at 10,000. Bereket called the protests “peaceful” and said no arrests had been made. The Blue Party was formed in January 2012 and claims to have a 20,000-strong membership. Opposition politics remain limited in Ethiopia. Only one chair of Ethiopia’s 547-seat parliament is occupied by an opposition member, while the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolution Democratic Front party holds all other seats.”

In an article reposted from Bloomberg News they continue this. They write that:

“Ethiopia’s opposition Blue Party, which yesterday held the country’s largest protests in eight years, said it’s planning more demonstrations unless the state meets demands including the release of “political” prisoners. About 4,000 people demonstrated near government buildings yesterday in the capital, Addis Ababa, according to State Minister of Communications Shimeles Kemal. Most of those who took part in the peaceful protest were Islamist extremists, he said in a phone interview today from the city. The Blue Party is demanding the release of journalists and political leaders convicted on terrorism charges, Getaneh Balcha, head of organizational affairs, said in a phone interview today. Religious leaders being tried for terrorism offenses should also be freed and the state should take steps to combat high inflation and corruption by officials, he said. “We are protesting for our freedom,” Getaneh said. More protests will be held if the government fails to address the party’s demands within the next three months, he said. The demonstration yesterday was the biggest since 2005, when government opponents protested over the outcome of a disputed election, leading to the deaths of at least 193 people in a crackdown by security forces. In 2009, Ethiopia introduced anti-terror legislation that has been used against opposition politicians and reporters and which has been criticized by the U.S. and the United Nations. “It’s good we break the fear,” Telayneh Adugna, 63, said in an interview at the demonstration yesterday. “Breaking the fear is no small thing.”

Convicted Journalists

Opposition politicians and journalists including online writer Eskinder Nega and Woubshet Taye, former deputy editor of the defunct Awramba Times, were convicted last year under the terrorism law for crimes including trying to incite anti-government protests and links to banned groups. Members of a committee formed to ask the government to stop unconstitutional interference in Islamic affairs are on trial for terrorism charges. Protesters have gathered at mosques regularly after Friday prayers for more than 18 months to protest the interference and the arrests. More than 90 percent of the demonstrators yesterday were Muslim, Shimeles said. While the party has a right to protest, organizers will be held responsible for breaking the law, he said. “If it’s a serious encroachment that requires legal response then they may be held responsible,” he said. The demands for on-trial suspects to be released and the mixing of religion and politics are unconstitutional in Ethiopia, which is a secular and democratic state, Shimeles said. All Ethiopians are allowed to demonstrate for their rights, Getaneh said. “This government always says peaceful protests are terrorist acts,” he said.”

In a blog by Nampa, this narrative was continued. They wrote:

“Peaceful demonstrations were organised by the newly-formed Blue Party opposition group, who called on the government to release journalists and politicians jailed under a controversial terrorism law and urged broad government reform. “We called the demonstration to ask for the reform of policy issues for the high cost of living, high rate of youth unemployment and systematic corruption,” Blue Party leader Yilkal Getnet told AFP. The Blue Party has asked the government to respond to its demands within three months and has pledged to hold further demonstrations if its calls are not answered. “If the government does not give a satisfactory answer for these questions, we will continue our protest peacefully in the coming months,” Yilkal added. He said the group also called for “release of political prisoners… and journalists, the government should respect the right to expression”. Journalists, opposition members and religious leaders have been jailed under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism legislation, which rights groups say is used by the government to stifle peaceful dissent. Yilkal said demonstrators were also protesting what they called the ‘forced displacement of ethnic groups’ for large scale farming projects in the country. Ethiopia has been accused by US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch of forcibly relocating communities in order to free up land for foreign investment, a charge the government denies. Sunday’s protests were the largest in the country since post-election violence in 2005, in which 200 people were killed and hundreds more arrested. They were the first time major protests have been held in the country since Ethiopia’s former prime minister Meles Zenawi died in August 2012. Government spokesperson Bereket Simon said up to 4 000 people joined Sunday’s demonstration, while some observers put the number at 10, 000. Bereket called the protests “peaceful” and said no arrests were made.The Blue Party was formed in January 2012 and claims to have a 20 000-strong membership. Opposition politics remain limited in Ethiopia. Only one chair of Ethiopia’s 547-seat parliament is occupied by an opposition member, while the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolution Democratic Front party holds all other seats.”

An AP article printed in Miami Herald continues on this issue. It notes:

“Thousands of Ethiopian demonstrators took to the streets of the capital Sunday demanding the immediate release of jailed journalists and activists in a rare show of public opposition to the ruling party which maintains strict control over the East African nation. Protesters marched along major streets in the capital, Addis Ababa, shouting “We need freedom,” and “We need justice.” The peaceful rally was the first major demonstration since 2005 post-election unrest when security forces killed hundreds of protesters. The protest is the first show of disapproval against Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s government. Hailemariam succeeded former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who died Aug. 20. Communications Minister Bereket Simon responded to the demonstration by denying, to The Associated Press, that Ethiopia is holding political prisoners. But demonstrators held pictures of jailed journalists, activists, political leaders and even covers of banned newspapers. The New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists in a December report listed Ethiopia as the eighth worst jailer of journalists in the world with six journalists in prison. Last year 49 Ethiopian journalists were in exile and 72 newspapers had been closed under Meles, said the committee. Muluken Tesfahun of the private weekly Ethio-Mehedar has been detained since May 4 for covering evictions near the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam that is raising tensions with Nile-dependent Egypt, said the CPJ. After Meles died, the International Crisis Group had cautioned that the new government would find it difficult to contain public discontent in the absence of “any meaningful domestic political opposition.” In 2012 polls, the ruling party won over 99 percent of all regional and federal parliament seats. There is only a single opposition member in the 547 seat federal parliament. Yacob Hailemariam, a former United Nations prosecutor, was among those who addressed the protesters at the close of the rally. “In the 21st century when the rest of the world is freely exercising its rights . here in Ethiopia the daily news is ‘this person got arrested’. ‘that person received a life sentence’.this has to end,” said Yacob in his speech. Yacob was among scholars who led a popular opposition grouping in 2005 election when the ruling party lost key cities including the capital’s city council. The country’s electoral board declared the ruling party Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front as a winner on national poll tally. Protests broke out across the country and Yacob and his colleagues were jailed for several months before he was pardoned in 2007. “They say the youth has worn out . I disagree. Once again the youth has to be a force change and it should take over to lead (an) opposition group to end the ruling party’s dictatorship that has turned the country into a hell for us … we can repeat 2005,” shouted Yacob. Many of the protesters on Sunday were Muslims who have been protesting alleged government interference in their religion. Some Muslims activists who had been leading criticism of the government are currently in prison on terrorism charges. “I don’t care about politics . I don’t care if they (the ruling party) rule forever but I would die for my religion,” said a young protester who would only identify himself as Ahmed. “I am here to demand the release of our representatives . we won’t stop until they are free,” said Ahmed. Protesters vowed to return to the streets in three months’ time “unless the government releases journalists, activists, and Muslim leaders and annul unconstitutional legislations.” But Communications Minister Bereket denied that the government is holding political prisoners. “There are no political prisoners. There are only people who have been charged with criminal offenses,” said Bereket to AP. “We don’t have any qualms about the protesters exercising their rights but when you see the character of the demands, calls to give up the trials and release persons who are behind bars, convicted of criminal offenses . it is both unethical and unacceptable. Also, the government cannot interfere and release people suspected of criminal offenses . we will have to wait until the courts give verdicts,” added Bereket. The minister said the government will not have “any problem” with future demonstrations. He however expressed concerns about what he called a fusion of politics and religion.”

I thought this should be covered and that’s why I wrote this article. Some background of this struggle can be taken from Wikipedia:

Zenawi’s government was elected in 2000 in Ethiopia’s first-ever multiparty elections; however, the results were heavily criticized by international observers and denounced by the opposition as fraudulent. The EPRDF also won the 2005 election returning Zenawi to power. Although the opposition vote increased in the election, both the opposition and observers from the European Union and elsewhere stated that the vote did not meet international standards for fair and free elections. Ethiopian police are said to have massacred 193 protesters, mostly in the capital Addis Ababa, in the violence following the May 2005 elections in the Ethiopian police massacre. The government initiated a crackdown in the provinces as well; in Oromia state the authorities used concerns over insurgency and terrorism to use torture, imprisonment, and other repressive methods to silence critics following the election, particularly people sympathetic to the registered opposition party Oromo National Congress (ONC). The government has been engaged in a conflict with rebels in the Ogaden region since 2007. The biggest opposition party in 2005 was the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). After various internal divisions, most of the CUD party leaders have established the new Unity for Democracy and Justice party led by Judge Birtukan Mideksa. A member of the country’s Oromo ethnic group, Ms. Birtukan Mideksa is the first woman to lead a political party in Ethiopia.”

I looked in William Blum’s rogue state but I couldn’t find anything. But there is something more troubling from Wikipedia’s page on the country’s human rights:

“The government often ignores citizens’ privacy rights and laws regarding search warrants. Although fewer journalists have been arrested, detained, or punished in 2004 than in previous years, the government nevertheless continues to restrict freedom of the press. The government limits freedom of assembly, particularly for members of opposition groups, and security forces have used excessive force to break up demonstrations. Violence and discrimination against women continue to be problems. Female genital mutilation is widespread, although efforts to curb the practice have had some effect. The economic and sexual exploitation of children continues, as does human trafficking. Forced labor, particularly among children, is a persistent problem. Low-level government interference with labor unions continues. Although the government generally respected the free exercise of religion, local authorities at times interfere with religious practice. In order to improve Ethiopia’s image, they hired US agencies to improve Ethiopia’s image for 2.5$ million.”

I followed this to an article in Globe and Mail that noted after the Rwandan Genocide:

“Known for arresting hundreds of opposition politicians and repressing the media, the Ethiopian leader, Meles Zenawi, spent more than $2.5-million on three U.S. lobbying firms in 2007 and 2008. Its elections have been widely criticized as unfair and undemocratic, but it is a major recipient of Western aid. Mr. Zenawi, has ruled Ethiopia for 21 years.”

As I remembered correctly, there is a US drone base in Ethiopia. The Washington Post notes that

“the Air Force has been secretly flying armed Reaper drones on counterterrorism missions from a remote civilian airport in southern Ethi­o­pia as part of a rapidly expanding U.S.-led proxy war against an al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa, U.S. military officials said. The Air Force has invested millions of dollars to upgrade an airfield in Arba Minch, Ethi­o­pia, where it has built a small annex to house a fleet of drones that can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs. The Reapers began flying missions earlier this year over neighboring Somalia, where the United States and its allies in the region have been targeting al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group connected to al-Qaeda…As a result, the United States has relied on lethal drone attacks, a burgeoning CIA presence in Mogadishu and small-scale missions carried out by U.S. Special Forces. In addition, the United States has increased its funding for and training of African peacekeeping forces in Somalia that fight al-Shabab.”

That’s not all. Since 2004, there have been U.S. “anti-terror” related activities underway in Ethiopia. Currently there are only 19 US troops in the country. That’s all for now. In the end, all it seems is that the situation in Ethiopia is complicated.

“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.
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