Here’s what really happened. Manning signed up when he was just 18, believing he would be protecting and defending his country and the cause of freedom. He soon found himself sent to Iraq, where he was ordered to round up and hand over Iraqi civilians to America’s new Iraqi allies, who he could see were then torturing them with electrical drills and other implements. The only “crime” committed by many of these people was to write “scholarly critiques” of the occupation or the new people in charge. He knew torture was a crime under US, Iraqi and international law, so he went to his military supervisor and explained what was going on. He was told to shut up and get back to herding up Iraqis.
Manning had to choose between being complicit in these atrocities, or not. At the age of 21, he made a brave choice: to put human rights before his own interests. He found the classified military documents revealing that the US was covering up the deaths of 15,000 Iraqis and had a de facto policy of allowing the Iraqis they had installed in power to carry out torture – and he decided he had a moral obligation to show them to the American people.
To prevent the major crime of torturing and murdering innocents, he committed the minor crime of leaking the evidence. He has spent the last seven months in solitary confinement and is expected to be sentenced to at least 80 years in jail. Manning’s decision was no “tantrum” – it was one of the most admirable stands for justice and freedom of 2010.
Under-appreciated Person Three: Senator Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders was elected as the independent socialist senator for Vermont with 65 per cent of the vote in 2006, in a fight against the richest man in the state. He won by turning down Big Money and instead organising amongst ordinary citizens – by promising to defend their interests against the people ripping them off.
He won over even very conservative parts of his state to a self-described socialist agenda by telling them: “Conservative Republicans don’t have healthcare. Conservative Republicans can’t afford to send their kids to college. Conservative Republicans are being thrown out of their jobs as our good-paying jobs move to China. You need somebody to stand up to protect your economic well-being. Look, we’re not going to agree on every issue, that’s for sure. But don’t vote against your own interest. I don’t mind really if millionaires vote against me. They probably should. But for working people, we’ve got to come together.”
In the place of the fake populism of the Tea Party, he offered real populism. In office, he kept his word. He has been demanding a real healthcare deal, trying to end the country’s disastrous jihadi-creating wars, and captured America’s imagination by standing for nine hours in the Senate trying to filibuster Obama’s sell-out of his principles and his people. This is what democracy looks like.
“We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled. Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.”—Chris Hedges (via azspot)
“If inner-city gangs had done this to America, we’d have martial law. If Arabs had done it, we’d have launched another war. Wall Street bankers? They’ve walked away scot free. And they’re actually being rewarded, helped by legal theft from the middle class.”—
STREET CRIME Marketwatch column on how Wall St. triumphed and left rest of American with devastating financial losses and high unemployment. - GregMitchell (via brooklynmutt)
Another great quote from this article that’s not so much inflammatory as informative:
By keeping short-term interest rates near zero, the Fed is basically robbing your grandmother, and other hard-working savers, and giving to Wall Street. The banks borrow from us for free, and then lend us back our own money at interest by purchasing Treasury bonds.
“So far, the lame-duck session has managed to pass an $850 billion tax-cuts-and-stimulus deal, the repeal of DADT, the Defense Authorization bill, a continuing resolution to keep funding the federal government, the START treaty, the food-safety bill, and probably a few more pieces of legislation I’m forgetting.
This is vastly more than anyone expected, and even if I’m disappointed by the failure of the omnibus spending bill (for reasons explained here) and the DREAM act, I can see why Sen. Lindsey Graham summed up the session by saying, “When it’s all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch.”
But it wasn’t really Harry Reid who ate their lunch (and how much better would that quote have been if Graham had said, “Harry Reid drank our milkshake”?). It was the Republicans. DADT repeal passed because Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown voted with the Democrats. The tax deal went through because a host of Republicans voted with the Democrats. Same for START, the food-safety bill and the DoD authorization. If the bill helping 9/11 responders get medical benefits passes, that too will be because of Republican support.
The question is why the Republicans didn’t just drag their feet and let things expire and then come back to everything in 2011, when they’ll have more allies in the Senate and control of the House? As Graham said, “with a new group of Republicans coming in, we could get a better deal on almost everything.”
The answer, I think, is that there are plenty of Senate Republicans who aren’t too comfortable with the class of conservatives who got elected in 2010. These legislators knew they had to stick with McConnell before the election, as you can’t win back the majority by handing the president lots of legislative accomplishments. But now that the election was over, the bills that had piled up were, in many cases, good bills, and if they didn’t pass now, it wasn’t clear that they’d be able to pass later.
The incumbent — and the outgoing — Republicans know that the fact that Republicans will have more power in 2011 doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll use that power to pass sensible legislation. So those of them who wanted to pass sensible legislation decided to get it all done now, even if that meant handing Reid and Obama a slew of apparent victories in the lame-duck session.”—Ezra Klein
“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in - an interesting hole I find myself in - fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”—Douglas Adams
“People who live on the streets tend to cycle through emergency rooms, addiction treatment, psychiatric care and jails. Housing them yields huge cost savings for society. In Los Angeles, the nation’s homeless capital, 4,800 chronically homeless people — about 10 percent of the city’s homeless population — consume half a billion dollars in services annually (pdf, p.23), well more than the remaining 90 percent. Providing supportive housing in Los Angeles is 40 percent cheaper than leaving people on the streets.”—Bornstein, David. “A Plan to Make Homelessness History" NYTimes.com. Web. 21 Dec. 2010.
Furthermore, anyone challenging the brutality of the regime towards detainees is being targeted. BCHR president Nabeel Rajab was detained for over an hour at the airport on 2 December as he was on his way to Greece. He was threatened, his laptop and mobile phone were confiscated and all files and information on these devices were copied.
David House, 23, said his laptop, cell phone, USB flash drive and other electronics were searched and seized, under the guise of a customs search, by two officials claiming to be Department of Homeland Security agents after he returned from a short vacation in Mexico with his girlfriend on Nov. 3. His electronics were not returned at press time.
How disturbing is it that our federal government is using techniques to harass those who would dissent (or, in House’s case, support dissent) very similar to a country like Bahrain - which has an extensive history of human rights issues? In my mind, quite disturbing.
“The Espionage Act was crafted in 1917 — because President Woodrow Wilson wanted a war and, faced with the troublesome First Amendment, wished to criminalize speech critical of his war. In the run-up to World War One, there were many ordinary citizens — educators, journalists, publishers, civil rights leaders, union activists — who were speaking out against US involvement in the war. The Espionage Act was used to round these citizens by the thousands for the newly minted ‘crime’ of their exercising their First Amendment Rights. A movie producer who showed British cruelty in a film about the Revolutionary War (since the British were our allies in World War I) got a ten-year sentence under the Espionage act in 1917, and the film was seized; poet E.E. Cummings spent three and a half months in a military detention camp under the Espionage Act for the ‘crime’ of saying that he did not hate Germans. Esteemed Judge Learned Hand wrote that the wording of the Espionage Act was so vague that it would threaten the American tradition of freedom itself. Many were held in prison for weeks in brutal conditions without due process; some, in Connecticut — Lieberman’s home state — were severely beaten while they were held in prison. The arrests and beatings were widely publicized and had a profound effect, terrorizing those who would otherwise speak out.
Presidential candidate Eugene Debs received a ten-year prison sentence in 1918 under the Espionage Act for daring to read the First Amendment in public. The roundup of ordinary citizens — charged with the Espionage Act — who were jailed for daring to criticize the government was so effective in deterring others from speaking up that the Act silenced dissent in this country for a decade. In the wake of this traumatic history, it was left untouched — until those who wish the same outcome began to try to reanimate it again starting five years ago, and once again, now. Seeing the Espionage Act rise up again is, for anyone who knows a thing about it, like seeing the end of a horror movie in which the zombie that has enslaved the village just won’t die.
I call on all American citizens to rise up and insist on repeal of the Espionage Act immediately. We have little time to waste. The Assange assault is theater of a particularly deadly kind, and America will not recover from the use of the Espionage Act as a cudgel to threaten journalists, editors and news outlets with. I call on major funders of Feinstein’s and Lieberman’s campaigns to put their donations in escrow accounts and notify the staffers of those Senators that the funds will only be released if they drop their traitorous invocation of the Espionage Act. I call on all Americans to understand once for all: this is not about Julian Assange. This, my fellow citizens, is about you.”—Naomi Wolf (via ericmortensen)
“So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure—and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground. “It happened to my family,” said Roxanne Donovan, whose sister runs Kites for a Cure, a family kite-flying event that raises money for lung cancer research. “They came after us ferociously with a big law firm. They said they own ‘cure’ in a name and we had to stop using it, even though we were raising money for an entirely different cause.”—
“Wikileaks is only a single part of something that is, on its own terms, very important. They’ve given us a great deal of knowledge about exactly how the American state actually acts, proof that many of the state department’s secrets are simply a way of avoiding democratic oversight, that our diplomatic corps secretly does horrible things in our name. We already had a lot of knowledge of that, but now we have a lot more, and much of it utterly and uniquely damning. Julian Assange is a smart man who’s done some brave things in service of a good cause — and we owe him a debt of gratitude for the gift he’s given us. Thank you, Wikileaks. But that’s all we owe him, and them. Which is why I want to say this, as clearly as I can: it’s exactly because Assange and Wikileaks are relatively unimportant (compared to the gigantic scandal of the anti-democratic security state in which we now live) that the media has made him into a superstar, has tried to make the entire story about Wikileaks and a single eccentric and interesting character, rather than about the United States government’s actions as a system. The more we focus on him – and I’ve contributed to that, which is why I particularly want to write this post — the more we take attention away from the real story, the substance of the things Wikileaks has revealed.”—zunguzungu (via azspot)