April 30, 2013

A Question of Torture

"Anyone who fights with monsters should take care that he does not in the process become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes back into you."
                                                                                          - Friedrich Nietzsche

Amid the frantic, nonstop media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, another equally horrific news story was, perhaps predictably, overshadowed. A nonpartisan, independent review commissioned by the Constitution Project confirmed what many of us had long known: The United States, in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, deliberately and knowingly engaged in torture.

The nearly 600-page report concludes the U.S., in the aftermath of 9/11, “indisputably” engaged in “the practice of torture,” and that the highest officials within the Bush administration bear responsibility for it according to The New York Times(04/16/13). The authors of the report called the widespread use of torture unprecedented. “[There had never before been] the kind of considered and detailed discussions… directly involving a president and his top advisors on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody,” the report states.

The report’s authors find “no justification” for the use of torture. They add that it “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.”

This is certainly not news for most citizens. Most Americans—whether they approve of such heinous practices or not—at least have some inkling of the government’s use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” But the panel’s report should finally put an end to any remaining debate or uncertainty (most of it generated by the corporate media) that still surrounds the issue.

Regardless, Americans’ general response to these findings has been a collective shrug. Perhaps that is due to a general acceptance (among both conservatives and liberals) of torture as a legitimate interrogation technique in the “war on terror.”

A poll conducted last fall by Professor Amy Zegart of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution finds 41 percent of respondents support the use of torture in questioning designated “enemy combatants”—an increase of 14 points since 2007. An additional 25 percent believe it is acceptable to use nuclear weapons to combat terrorists, while a whopping 69 percent favor killing suspected terrorists outright through targeted assassination programs.

Zegart attributes the steady climb in support for torture (which, curiously has increased, rather than decreased during the Obama years) to popular portrayals in shows like 24 and this year’s Oscar nominated film, Zero Dark Thirty. I believe it has more to do with the simplistic dichotomization and overalldumbing down of our political culture. But pop-culture’s pervasive glorification of sadistic acts of torture by rugged heroes like Jack Bauer likely does not help.

Of course, torture’s widespread public acceptance and support does not change the fact such inhumane treatment is still illegal under dozens of international laws. While comedian Jon Stewart may disagree, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other prominent administration figures, according to the dictates of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture (both of which the U.S. is a signatory to), are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They should all be in prison. Yet immediately after taking office, Barack Obama nixed any notion of criminal investigations for illegal acts committed by the members of the Bush administration, preferring to “look forward rather than backward.”

Not only was Obama’s refusal to prosecute Bush and Co. politically cowardly, legalistically speaking it was downright asinine. Law enforcement is, by its very nature, predicated on “looking backward” as that is precisely where the crime has occurred—in the past. Consider the utter absurdity of Jack Abramoff, Adam Lanza or even Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleading to a courtroom, “Your honor, my crimes all occurred in the past. We need to look forward rather than backward so we can heal as a nation.”

Indeed, without justice, victims can never “move forward.” In the words of Saint Augustine, “Charity is no substitute for justice denied.”
Instead of a jail cell, George W. Bush received an honorary presidential library. As Ralph Nader observes in a recent article (“He is Comfortable in Bush’s Inferno,” 04/21/2013), the traditional rule of law that once governed our nation—which clearly lays out a formal process of impeaching criminal presidents—no longer seems to apply. “The American people have yet to come to terms with the reality that presidents are above the law,” Nader writes. “Presidents can commit repeated crimes in an outlaw presidency so long as they can invoke, however falsely and vaguely, national security.”

Torture is never justified. Never mind its proven failure to solicit accurate, useful information from its victims. Torture represents the ultimate debasement of one’s humanity. Those who resort to torture succumb to the most savage, sinister urges of human nature.

Torture, Chilean author Ariel Dorfman wrote, “presupposes, it requires, it craves the abrogation of our capacity to imagine others’suffering, dehumanizing them so much that their pain is not our pain. It demands this of the torturer, placing the victim outside and beyond any form of compassion or empathy, but also demands of everyone else the same distancing, the same numbness…”

But torture is more than just brute, physical harm. As Naomi Klein explains in her superb book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism the torturer’s ultimate goal is to psychically erase the prisoner’s identity and create a new one from scratch. Psychologist and shock-therapy innovator, Ewen Cameron, sadistically used electroshock treatment on his patients in an effort to literally wipe their minds clean—to create a “blank slate” onto which he could start anew.

This is how the totalitarian Party finally “reforms”Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984.

“We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves,” O’ Brien tells Winston during the novel’s grim and lengthy torture sequence. And so they do. By the dystopian novel’s end, the rebel Winston finally pledges his unwavering loyalty to Big Brother.

“Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain,”Orwell wrote of Winston’s torture. “In the face of pain there are no heroes, no heroes, he thought over and over as he writhed on the floor…”

April 29, 2013

Left Forum: I'll be on a panel there.

I might also be selling t-shirts. Be sure to swing by and say hello.

Does the US Forest Service love fracking?

In case you didn't know, the US Forest Service is currently pursuing charges against environmental activst, artist (and Green Party member) Lmnopi for an anti-fracking parody she made.

You can check out her store here.

You can also send the US Forest Service a letter asking them if they love fracking or something. I've included below my letter to them:

SUBJ: Does the US Forest Service love Fracking?

Dear US Forest Service,
Just wondering if you guys love fracking or something.

It just seems weird that you would be pursuing charges against an environmental activst/artist who has a design that is CLEARLY a parody (and I'm confident you're going to lose your case), and not a plagery of your precious anti-forest fire cartoon bear spokesperson.

Is the environmental damage from fracking less permenant and widespread than forest fires?

I can't wrap my head around what your angle is here.

If smokey were a real bear, and could understand that fracking is the reason he's getting cancer from eating fish that swim in contaminated streams, he'd be PISSED.

So I have to ask again, does the US Forest Service love fracking?

You can ask them yourself by clicking here: http://www.fs.fed.us/contactus/

April 25, 2013

Abolish the Federal Government: a tactical plan

There is a formula that has worked over and over. It's working right
now in Spain. It worked in Iceland.

For your consideration, something I wrote on the Occupy Congress wiki
during the leadup to #j17 last year:

1) Create a series of demands that will work in the favor of the 99%
that Congress cannot agree to without systemically and radically
altering the way that politics works in the US. (things like
proportional representation, full public financing for elections,
Ranked choice or Approval voting to replace the "first past the post"
we currently have, ending corporate personhood, etc)

2) To avoid the appearance of being unhinged or radical or fringe, do
“what we're supposed to” and arrange for meetings with every member of
congress over a period of two or so days, centered on getting binding
agreements to those demands a la Grover Norquists pledge to never
raise taxes.

Those demands must strike a root problems, and be both short term
(commitment to introduce legislation within weeks, such as: mandatory
clean elections modeled on Maine's original clean election system (or
better), a repeal of the NDAA sections that regard indefinite
detention, a constitutional amendment stating clearly that
corporations are not people) as well as longer term (pledging to run
on clean elections funds in the next election).

(Long term beyond the next election is unnecessary. This is where we
will differ from nonprofits, who get pledges for things, like dropping
the keystone pipeline, and then are continually disappointed when
their issue gets thrown under the bus one election cycle later. We are
interested in systemic change, right now, not next election cycle. If
they do not comply by the time they adjourn for the next election
season, we will nonviolently remove them from office either through
electoral activism or demands for resignation (or both). But they
don't need to know that. We will give them the opportunity to fail.
Their arrogance will only make our case for their removal even
stronger in the public's eye, which is how we build the popular
support for their removal.)

3) those who refuse to make a binding agreement to any part of our
demands, or those who do not make good on their promises within the
timeline we set, we follow up with them, confronting them directly and
openly (and on tape).

4) we take direct action demanding they make good on their promises.
This includes, but is not limited to, occupations of their office

5) when that fails (it will probably fail), we shift from filling
legislative demands to demanding immediate resignation. Special
elections be held in their home districts if they do resign. This part
is fun and sexy, and raises a ton of media attention around our

6) from local Occupy Movements in those congressperson's districts,
sevb>eral people are chosen to challenge our target congressperson in
the primaries, in ALL parties, so that both major party must face
challangers from within, as well as from outside (libertarian party,
green party, reform party, etc, depending on what third party has
ballot access-- OR running as independents.)

During this stage, there must be a real effort on the part of all
Occupy candidates to demonstrate solidarity across transpartisan
lines, and the focus MUST be exclusively on the narrow demands for
electoral reform.

Both primary and general election challengers who abides by the
narrowly focused Occupy demands for electoral reform.

Our delegate to congress must also, (obviously) make a binding agreement to:
a) run using clean election money
b) make their first act in office creating legislation that meets
whatever other demand there is (amendment to the constitution
declaring that corporations are not people and that money is not
speech, a law to make clean elections funds [based on Maine's original
clean elections law] the ONLY way to run for office, etc)
c) as soon as their narrow policy goal is achieved, RESIGN.

7) local occupations work their asses off electing their delegates in
every party primary, and then in the general election as well.

This is the transpartisan electoral strategy is exactly what has been
employed by the 1% and it works. We too must employ a transpartisan
stragey as well to counter.

Electoral activism becomes irrelevant if we are able to demand the
resignation of the entire government and call a constitutional
convention, as they did in Iceland, and as they are trying to do now
in Spain, but I don't think it should be removed from the toolbox.

April 22, 2013

Plant a Seed - Grow a Revolution



Update: CISPA passed the House in a surprise vote on Thursday evening. You can still take action below, but now the fight moves to the Senate. We will have more updates soon.


On the heels of the SOPA and PIPA comes a new debacle, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which gives the intelligence community and private businesses free rein to delve into any citizen's everyday internet activity.

CISPA allows companies and the government to bypass existing laws in order to monitor our communications, filter content, or potentially even shut down access to online services for undefined “cybersecurity" purposes. But what it doesn't do is provide any new protections for critical infrastructure systems, like electrical grids and water supplies. Some security that is!

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the bill on Friday, April 27 Thursday evening, April 26. Send an email to your member of Congress telling him or her to vote no. (email can be edited)


April 18, 2013

[quote] a well regulated militia

"I've changed my mind. Any person should be able to purchase any weapon they want. But in accordance with the constitution they should be part of a militia. So if you'd like to purchase an assault rifle please do. Directly after purchase you can hop on a plane and go serve our country on the front lines using whatever weapon you wish. If you think that sounds crazy...how's about reading what the reasoning of our founders was when they drafter the second amendment:

'In the year prior to the drafting of the Second Amendment, in Federalist No. 29 Alexander Hamilton wrote the following about "organizing", "disciplining", "arming", and "training" of the militia as specified in the enumerated powers:
This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by congress.'

No need for a draft. All you basically need is an NRA membership and you're on the front lines right after boot camp."

--Nate Amadon

April 16, 2013

Goodbye Social Security

During the Sex Pistols’ final show on January 14, 1978, singer Johnny Rotten, in a last ditch snarl of punk-rock defiance, asked the crowd, tauntingly, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
I could put the same question to supporters of Barack Obama.

President Obama’s proposed budget, which he unveiled this past week, calls for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. This makes Obama the first Democratic president in history to officially propose cuts to the cherished programs—often considered the political apex of liberalism. An editorial headline in the latest issue of The Socialist Worker (04/10/2013) sums it up best: “With friends like this, who needs Republicans?”

While liberals and many congressional Democrats cried out in dismay, Obama’s latest political maneuver should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The president first offered Social Security and Medicare cuts during 2011’s debt negotiations as part of a so-called “Grand Bargain” with House Republicans. A Grand Betrayal is a more accurate term.

Yet most liberals must have missed this story two years ago, because protecting social programs was THE major reason progressives cited for backing Obama’s re-election last fall. “If you care at all about the social safety net,” the argument went, “you will vote for Obama.”

The Portland Phoenix summed up this liberal hyperbole in their endorsement for Obama’s re-election (“The Obama Imperative,” 10/31/2012), which the editors called one of two things “stand[ing] between almost certain economic and social catastrophe.” (The other thing, they claimed, was the Democrats “maintaining—or expanding—their majority in the Senate.”)

Well, turns out we got both those things and we are still headed for catastrophe. But remember: Mitt Romney would have been so much worse…!

As always, it is instructive to observe how the corporate media are spinning Obama’s budget. In fact, many liberal pundits are praising Obama’s “compromise” as a laudable “move to the center,” in an effort to stake out the politically coveted “middle ground.”

This is precisely how NPR’s Cokie Roberts portrayed the budget last week on Morning Edition(04/08/2013). “This is a move towards the middle,” she said, “to getting those independent voters who he [Obama] lost in the last election…by emphasizing deficits which is something they say they care about.”

Over at The Washington Post, meanwhile, Dana Milbank mocked socialist independent Sen. Bernie Sanders for his vocal denouncement of Obama’s plan to cut social services.“For Sanders,” Milbank writes, “…the betrayal stung so badly that he literally took to the streets, joining left-wing activists for a protest…outside the White House” (04/09/13).

By casting Sanders and any other progressives who would dare oppose the president’s budget as part of the “extreme left,” Milbank insinuates this is merely another traditional “left-right” issue—with “centrist moderates” presumably approving of the plan. He writes:

[I]n reality, the progressives’ street protest did Obama a favor. He needs to have the likes of Bernie Sanders against him. It strengthens his hand and helps him negotiate a better deal with Republican leaders, who can now see that liberal backbenchers and interest groups can sometimes be as intransient as conservatives.

Milbank goes on to claim Obama’s proposal “restores his credibility on the budget.”

“His previous budgets, which skirted entitlement cuts, weren’t taken seriously,” he writes. “Now Obama, by publicly defying liberals in his party, looks like the reasonable one…”

But “reasonable” to whom…? Poll after poll shows the majority of Americans—liberals, conservatives and independents alike—strongly support Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In fact, a poll in Milbank’s own paper last summer (08/21/2012) found a mere 17 percent favor cuts to Medicare, while 21 percent support cutting Social Security. In other words, there is no middle on this issue. It is the president’s budget that is extreme—not those opposing it.

News surrounding Obama’s social services slashing comes as Wall Street hit record highs last week. USA Today, without a hint of irony, marked the occasion with the exclamatory headline (03/29/13), “We’re Feeling Rich Again.” Well, I’m glad someone is. Wish I could say the same, myself. Warren Buffett was right: “It is class warfare, and my class has won.”

Here is what readers need to know about Social Security and other earned income benefits, err… I mean “entitlements.”

Social Security does not contribute one dime to the federal deficit. And contrary to Washington talking points, there is nothing wrong with Social Security’s overall sustainability. (It may need some minor tweaking down the road, but the program is structurally sound.) Medicare, likewise, is projected to remain financially viable until at least 2024 and even then there will still be enough in the fund to pay 87 percent of benefits.

Even if these social programs did add to the deficit (which, again, they don’t)…So what? The deficit is a red herring—a distraction. The notion that, in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we must focus solely on paying down the national debt is idiotic. Paul Krugman is (mostly) right: The U.S. government should be paying more money to stimulate the economy and encourage job creation—not looking to cut benefits Americans have paid into all of their working lives.

The debt is a problem to be certain and we should deal with it at some point. Right now, however, it is a major distraction from our nation’s real dilemma—mass unemployment.

Meanwhile, as working-class, elderly, poor and disabled Americans are being asked to sacrifice these earned income benefits, corporations like General Electric and Pfizer continue to enjoy myriad, extravagant types of corporate welfare in the form of bailouts, subsidies, off-shore accounts and tax-cuts. As I write this, it is Tax Day and G.E. has not paid any income taxes since 2010—possibly even earlier. And G.E. is just one of dozens of other multinational corporations that make record profits but pay virtually no taxes. But you and I still have to.

Liberals’ feigned outrage over Obama’s budget is just that. The president is merely doing what he has, for two years now, said he would do. Chris Hedges is right: The liberal class believes in nothing. And now, it appears it is getting what it paid for.

Adam Marletta is a writer, activist and coffee-fiend. He is the former chair and current secretary of the Portland Green Independent Committee and editor of the political commentary blog, Guerrilla Press. He lives in Portland, Maine and supports all things Green Party.

April 8, 2013

Renegade Journalism from Mayflower, AK

If it's illegal to tell the truth, break the law.

via LiveLeaks


Yesterday, activist indy news team JNL RadikalMedia did what the mainstream media won’t or can’t do, providing exclusive video from the scene of Exxon’s oil pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas.

The video shows what can only be described as a lake of oil. Allegedly Exxon has been pumping the spill into this area. Exxon’s absorbent pads aka paper towels can also be seen scattered across the ground.

Video streaming by Ustream

Originally the FAA issued a no-fly zone over the area, but after major scrutiny, particularly from online activists, they partially lifted order, allowing news organizations interested in filming from the air to do so.

The same does not go for media trying to cover the scene from the ground. Reporters say Exxon has threatened to have them arrested for merely entering the spill site.

To which, the journalists have this to say:

April 3, 2013

Iraq All Over Again...?

I was in my sophomore year of college when the U.S. launched the Iraq War. I remember watching President George W. Bush’s U.N. address where he presented the dubious “evidence” concerning Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction.”

Even then, I was skeptical of the rationales for the invasion. I remember getting into heated debates with fellow students over the war. And I will never forget how even many of the campus liberals bought, hook, line and sinker, the bogus allegations of Iraq’s stockpiles of WMDs—how they too, waved the American flag in favor of war. Many of those same liberals have, in the years since the war’s start, naturally changed their tune. Some will even claim that they too, opposed the war from the start. But I was there. I know better.

In the ten years since the start of the Iraq War—an illegal, unjustified invasion based entirely on lies and deliberate fabrications of evidence—it is frustrating to watch the U.S. media repeat the same uncritical, stenographic reporting that helped launch the war. Indeed, recent news coverage of Iran and Syria—replete with renewed claims of both countries’ alleged nuclear and chemical weapons—suggest the corporate media have learned quite little.

The press’s failure to debunk—or even offer the remotest of skepticism—to the Bush administration’s bogus war rationales has been well documented.

In fact, it was the supposedly “liberal” outlets (The New York Times, MSNBC, CBS News) that campaigned the hardest for the war. (And yet the baseless “liberal media”myth nonetheless persists.)
Even the celebrated Bill Moyers was reprimanded by PBS (that’s right: the “non-commercial,” Public Broadcasting Network) for his critical coverage in the lead-up to the invasion. And MSNBC famously pulled the plug on Phil Donahue’s popular news show when he dared to feature critics of the impending war. As Donahue explained in a recent appearance on Democracy Now!, “I had to have two conservatives for every liberal on the show. I could have [neoconservative Bush consultant] Richard Perle on alone but not Dennis Kucinich.”

Now the saber-rattling media have turned their sights on Syria and Iran.

Reports of Syria’s government using chemical weapons on rebel fighters in the country’s ongoing civil war could lead to a more pronounced U.S. involvement in the conflict. Speaking in Israel last month, President Obama called the use of chemical weapons a “game changer,” according to The New York Times (03/21/13). With Israel now expressing concerns over Syria’s alleged chemical weapons, some fear a broader American commitment in Syria may be on the horizon.

Anybody else feeling a sense of deja vu, here?

As with Iraq, there is reason to doubt the media’s claims of chemical weapons in Syria—as indicated, perhaps inadvertently, by the NYT story itself. Reporters Mark Landler and Rick Gladstone make clear two paragraphs into the front-page article:

“American officials reiterated that they did not have independent evidence that chemical weapons had been used…”

Any logical person, after reading this sentence would, one imagines, wonder what accounts for the article’s remaining 23 paragraphs. If there is no actual evidence of chemical weapons use, then what is the story, here…? Well, in typical both-sides-are-valid-facts-be-damned, “objective”reporting, the story is that Israeli government officials, despite the complete lack of tangible, verifiable evidence, nonethelesscontend Syria possesses chemical weapons.

The report goes on:

“Two senior Israeli officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak, said that Israel was sure that chemicals were used, but did not have details about what type of weapons were used, where they came from, when they were deployed, or by whom.”

Well, that pretty much satisfies the five reporting “W”s. What is most curious about these anonymous “senior Israeli officials,” is their remarks seem to contradict those of Israeli cabinet ministers, Tzipi Livni and Yuval Steinetz. The story notes how both leaders have taken to the airwaves recently, claiming to have “credible evidence” of Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

“Ms. Livni, the new Israeli justice minister, said in an interview with CNN, ‘It’s clear for us here in Israel that it’s [chemical weapons] being used,’ adding, ‘This, I believe, should be on the table in the discussions.’”

This sort of “he-said-she-said” reporting essentially leaves it up to the reader to decide what the truth is. Regardless, it is pretty clear which side is really gunning for a U.S. invasion, here. Israel already launched an air attack on Syria earlier this year. According to Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com (03/17/2013),

Israel’s government is keen to move from the air strikes against Syria to a more full-scale offensive, with the possibility of seizing more Syrian territory as a “buffer zone” being raised, even though Israel already took a buffer zone in 1973 and never gave it back.

It is worth reminding readers of Israel’s role in pressuring the Bush administration to invade Iraq—an often overlooked aspect to the run-up to the war. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in September, 2002 titled, “The Case for Toppling Saddam.”

As for the U.S. and Israel’s next potential target,Iran, again the media seems determined to repeat the mistakes of Iraq. Despite what you may have heard on mainstream television news, there is actually zero evidence that Iran is currently developing a nuclear weapon. Last year, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta publicly admitted as much. The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz even conceded the lack of evidence in a 2012 story. The article states: “The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week… indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb” (01/18/2012). And a 2011 reportissued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) offered the same conclusions.

Have the U.S. media learned nothing from the last ten years? Sad to say, but drumming up support for unnecessary, immoral and illegal wars seems to be one of the few things the corporate media can be counted on for.

Adam Marletta is a writer, activist and coffee-fiend. He is the former chair and current secretary of the Portland Green Independent Committee and editor of the political commentary blog, Guerrilla Press. He lives in Portland, Maine and supports all things Green Party.