Category Archives: Protest
Bruce Fein & Associates, Inc.
722 12th Street, N.W., 4th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20005
July 26, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution
Dear Mr. President:
You are acutely aware that the history of liberty is a history of civil disobedience to unjust laws or practices. As Edmund Burke sermonized, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Civil disobedience is not the first, but the last option. Henry David Thoreau wrote with profound restraint in Civil Disobedience: “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”
Thoreau’s moral philosophy found expression during the Nuremburg trials in which “following orders” was rejected as a defense. Indeed, military law requires disobedience to clearly illegal orders.
A dark chapter in America’s World War II history would not have been written if the then United States Attorney General had resigned rather than participate in racist concentration camps imprisoning 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens.
Civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jim Crow laws provoked the end of slavery and the modern civil rights revolution.
We submit that Edward J. Snowden’s disclosures of dragnet surveillance of Americans under § 215 of the Patriot Act, § 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments, or otherwise were sanctioned by Thoreau’s time-honored moral philosophy and justifications for civil disobedience. Since 2005, Mr. Snowden had been employed by the intelligence community. He found himself complicit in secret, indiscriminate spying on millions of innocent citizens contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the First and Fourth Amendments and the transparency indispensable to self-government. Members of Congress entrusted with oversight remained silent or Delphic. Mr. Snowden confronted a choice between civic duty and passivity. He may have recalled the injunction of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Mr. Snowden chose duty. Your administration vindictively responded with a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Espionage Act.
From the commencement of your administration, your secrecy of the National Security Agency’s Orwellian surveillance programs had frustrated a national conversation over their legality, necessity, or morality. That secrecy (combined with congressional nonfeasance) provoked Edward’s disclosures, which sparked a national conversation which you have belatedly and cynically embraced. Legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate to curtail or terminate the NSA’s programs, and the American people are being educated to the public policy choices at hand. A commanding majority now voice concerns over the dragnet surveillance of Americans that Edward exposed and you concealed. It seems mystifying to us that you are prosecuting Edward for accomplishing what you have said urgently needed to be done!
The right to be left alone from government snooping–the most cherished right among civilized people—is the cornerstone of liberty. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson served as Chief Prosecutor at Nuremburg. He came to learn of the dynamics of the Third Reich that crushed a free society, and which have lessons for the United States today.
Writing in Brinegar v. United States, Justice Jackson elaborated:
The Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing
the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
These, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so
effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the
first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance
disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.
We thus find your administration’s zeal to punish Mr. Snowden’s discharge of civic duty to protect democratic processes and to safeguard liberty to be unconscionable and indefensible.
We are also appalled at your administration’s scorn for due process, the rule of law, fairness, and the presumption of innocence as regards Edward.
On June 27, 2013, Mr. Fein wrote a letter to the Attorney General stating that Edward’s father was substantially convinced that he would return to the United States to confront the charges that have been lodged against him if three cornerstones of due process were guaranteed. The letter was not an ultimatum, but an invitation to discuss fair trial imperatives. The Attorney General has sneered at the overture with studied silence.
We thus suspect your administration wishes to avoid a trial because of constitutional doubts about application of the Espionage Act in these circumstances, and obligations to disclose to the public potentially embarrassing classified information under the Classified Information Procedures Act.
Your decision to force down a civilian airliner carrying Bolivian President Eva Morales in hopes of kidnapping Edward also does not inspire confidence that you are committed to providing him a fair trial. Neither does your refusal to remind the American people and prominent Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate like House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann,and Senator Dianne Feinstein that Edward enjoys a presumption of innocence. He should not be convicted before trial. Yet Speaker Boehner has denounced Edward as a “traitor.”
Ms. Pelosi has pontificated that Edward “did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents.” Ms. Bachmann has pronounced that, “This was not the act of a patriot; this was an act of a traitor.” And Ms. Feinstein has decreed that Edward was guilty of “treason,” which is defined in Article III of the Constitution as “levying war” against the United States, “or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
You have let those quadruple affronts to due process pass unrebuked, while you have disparaged Edward as a “hacker” to cast aspersion on his motivations and talents. Have you forgotten the Supreme Court’s gospel in Berger v. United States that the interests of the government “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done?”
We also find reprehensible your administration’s Espionage Act prosecution of Edward for disclosures indistinguishable from those which routinely find their way into the public domain via your high level appointees for partisan political advantage. Classified details of your predator drone protocols, for instance, were shared with the New York Times with impunity to bolster your national security credentials. Justice Jackson observed in Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York: “The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally.”
In light of the circumstances amplified above, we urge you to order the Attorney General to move to dismiss the outstanding criminal complaint against Edward, and to support legislation to remedy the NSA surveillance abuses he revealed. Such presidential directives would mark your finest constitutional and moral hour.
Counsel for Lon Snowden
Protesters, responding to calls by a loose network calling itself #stopwatchingus, braved searing summer temperatures Saturday to demonstrate in Hamburg, Munich, Berlin and up to 35 other German cities and towns.
Some wore tinfoil hats to shield themselves from the sun—and make a political statement about warding off unwanted eavesdroppers.
Others held placards showing support for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue of the NSA’s alleged interception of Web traffic when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Berlin last month. But German opposition parties remain skeptical of the government’s claim that it had known nothing about the surveillance.
The US government hasn’t been happy at all that there is any press coverage of the Bradley Manning trial, and seems to bend over backwards to make their lives more difficult. However, it appears that they took things to an entirely new and ridiculous level this week in actively spying on and harassing journalists covering the trial.
@carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanLfuller, and @wikileakstruck have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, being “screamed at” for having “windows” open on their computers that show Twitter in a browser tab, and having to undergo extensive, repeated, invasive physical searches.
Even the NY Times has noted how extreme it was:
Two military police officers in camouflage fatigues and armed with holstered handguns paced behind each row there, looking over the journalists’ shoulders, which had not happened during the trial. No explanation was given.
Reading through the various tweets, the MPs were specifically trying to stop journalists from using Twitter. Kevin Gosztola was directly told not to use Twitter and was later admonished for having “a window” open on his computer. No joke. The reporters also noted that they had to go through an incredibly detailed TSA-style search before they could enter the courtroom — and that this had not happened previously in their coverage of the trial. Multiple journalists noted how “creepy” it was and how intimidating it is to have military police with guns looking over your shoulder and watching everything you do. Freedom of the press? Not at all.
In response to all of this attention, the judge apparently claims that she ordered the “extra security” because of “repeated rule violations” of rules that no one was told about. But, reading through the details, it sounds a hell of a lot more like intimidation of the press than than about any attempt to stop “rules violations.”
The following editorial in today’s Irish Examiner is worth reproducing in full.
The header asks: Why are we pathetically complacent?
I don’t’ think the Irish people are complacent. I think rather they have, over the decades, being rendered totally powerless by the sheer weight of corruption within the political/administrative system.
Irish citizens can see the corruption, they are extremely angry about it, particularly since September 2008, but because the governing system is so infected with the disease it is, short of a revolution, almost impossible to make any serious challenge to the power of state corruption.
Challenging corruption – Why are we pathetically complacent?
Friday, July 26, 2013
It is not an exaggeration to say that the country was convulsed in the run up to the passage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill through the Oireachtas.
Tens of thousands of people marched, every media platform was dominated by debate on the issue. Croziers were dusted off and swung like broadswords in a way that once commanded obedience. Taoiseach Enda Kenny showed an unexpected ruthlessness to get the legislation passed.
We had, in Irish terms at least, a spectacular and almost unheard of form of protest — politicians risking careers on a point of principle.
It was, whichever side of the debate you stood on, a matter of right or wrong. A position had to be taken, remaining neutral was not an option.
Yet, and though the ink is barely dry on the abortion legislation, another manifestation of this society’s justice system’s dysfunction and ongoing failures, our seeming indifference to allegations of corruption — or the innocence and good name of those accused of it — presents itself and there’s hardly a game-changing ripple across the public consciousness.
There is certainly no prospect of 40,000 people marching through the streets of our capital to protest at yet another Irish outcome to an Irish problem.
Is it that we don’t care? Is it that five years after our banking collapse and not a single conviction to show for society-breaking years of Wild West banking that we are a beaten, abject people who have come to accept that for some people accountability is as remote and unlikely a prospect as levitation?
The collapse of the planning and corruption trial earlier this week because a witness is too ill to give evidence has served nobody well, not even the businessman, the councillor and the two former councillors in the dock. Though the principle of innocent until proven otherwise must always apply, too many important questions remain unanswered.
This one case may put the issue into a sharp, if fleeting, focus but there are myriad examples of our failure to adequately deal with the whiff of corruption.
Speaking to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, former financial regulator Matthew Elderfield put it in the gentlest terms when he chided that we do not have a system capable of holding individuals to account or tackling white-collar crime.
How could it be otherwise? A report from that committee suggests that fewer than 60 state employees are focussed on white-collar crime. This figure includes all relevant gardaí, Central Bank officials and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement staff assigned to the problem. We probably have more dog wardens.
It is surely, despite the occasional protest from cornered politicians, naive to imagine this is accidental. If it is, like our tribunals, it is profoundly under-whelming and utterly unequal to the challenge. More likely it is another example of our enthusiasm for rules but our fatal distaste for implementing them.
There is great, chest-filling talk about political reform, about a new political party even and changing the culture of how a citizen interacts with the state. Sadly, all of that will stand for nothing more than a cynical diversion unless we have a policing, regulatory and justice system capable of, and most importantly, enthusiastic about, investigating allegations of corruption.
It is said that a society gets the politicians it deserves and that may well be true, but it is absolutely certain that a society must suffer the consequences of the behaviours it tolerates. The evidence is all around us.
Member countries of the European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP) have issued a jointly agreed statement expressing apprehension about the impact of public spending austerity on services to patients in hospitals.
Amongst the negative impacts of public spending austerity causing concern to hospital pharmacists are: increasing expectancy placed upon patients to meet the up-front costs of their medicines; the unintended impacts national cost-cutting measures are having in respect of medicines shortage; short-staffing in hospitals; diminished opportunities for healthcare professional training and development; and shrinking investment in areas of patient safety enhancement.
EAHP’s members have called for a European Commission review into the potential for greater joint level cooperation between governments in terms of reducing the detrimental health impacts of austerity measures. Such a review could be conducted in the context of both the pan-European aspects of these problems, and the remit of the European Union to take action in the area of public health, as per article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Speaking about the new policy statement, EAHP president Dr Roberto Frontini said, “Hospital pharmacists, by the nature of our profession, are highly attuned to detecting patient safety threats. So with the impacts of public spending squeezes now keenly felt in almost all European countries, we call for greater caution, care and compassion by policy-makers when it comes to the area of health. Too much progress has been achieved in previous decades to be casually discarded in a rush to resolve macro-economic challenges. Sober analysis must made of the patient safety implications of all decisions, as well as the impacts on sustainable health services.”
Dr Frontini further added, “I see significant potential value that could be delivered by the European Commission taking a proactive role in helping member states navigate the current financial challenges to health systems. Ultimately, we all have a duty to ensure that it is not the sick and vulnerable that pays the price of austerity.”
EAHP is an association of national organisations representing hospital pharmacists at European and international levels.
Like plague in the 14th century, the scourge of debt has gradually migrated from South to North. Our 21st-century Yersinia pestis isn’t spread by flea-infested rats but by deadly, ideology-infested neoliberal fundamentalists. Once they had names like Thatcher or Reagan; now they sound more like Merkel or Barroso; but the message, the mentality and the medicine are basically the same. The devastation caused by the two plagues is also similar – no doubt fewer debt-related deaths in Europe today than in Africa three decades ago, but probably more permanent harm done to once-thriving European economies.
Faithful – and older – New Internationalist readers will recall the dread phrase ‘structural adjustment’. ‘Adjustment’ was the innocent-sounding term for the package of economic nostrums imposed by wealthy Northern creditor countries on the less-developed ones in what we then called the ‘Third World’. A great many of these countries had borrowed too much for too many unproductive purposes. Sometimes the leadership simply placed the loans in their private accounts (think Mobutu or Marcos) and put their countries in hock. Paying back in pesos, reals, cedis or other funny money was unacceptable: the creditors wanted dollars, pounds, deutschmarks…
Anti-austerity protests in Spain
Furthermore, the Southerners had contracted their loans at variable interest rates, initially low but astronomical from 1981 when the Federal Reserve declared an end to the era of cheap money. When countries such as Mexico threatened default, panicked creditor-country treasury ministers, top bankers and international bureaucrats spent some sleepless weekends eating take-out and cobbling together emergency plans.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.* Decades later, serial crisis meetings still take place, this time in Brussels and, with minor variations, the response is identical: you only get a bailout in exchange for committing to a set of stringent requirements. These once echoed the neoliberal ‘Washington Consensus’; now they are more truthfully labelled ‘austerity packages’ but demand the same measures. Sign here, please, in blood.
For the South, the contracts said: ‘Cut back food production and grow cash-earning crops. Privatize your State enterprises and open up profit-making activities to foreign transnational corporations, especially in raw materials and extractive industries, forestry and fisheries. Drastically limit credit, cancel subsidies and social benefits. Make health and education paying propositions. Economize and earn hard currency through trade. Your prime responsibility is to your creditors, not your people.’
Now it’s Europe’s turn. The countries of southern Europe, plus Ireland, are relentlessly told: ‘You have been living beyond your means. Now pay.’ Governments meekly accept orders and their people often assume that their debt must be paid instantly because the debt of a sovereign State is just like the debt of a family. It’s not – a government accumulates debt by issuing bonds on financial markets. These bonds are bought mostly by institutional investors such as banks which receive an annual interest payment, low when the risk of default is low, higher when it isn’t. It’s absolutely normal, desirable and even necessary for a country to have a debt which will pose zero problems and generate many benefits if the money is prudently invested for the longer term in productive activities such as education, health, social benefits, solid infrastructure and the like.
Indeed, the higher the proportion of public spending in a government budget, the higher the standard of living and the more jobs are created – including private-sector jobs. This rule has been verified time and again since the correlation between public investment and national well-being was first noted in the late 19th century.
Obviously, borrowed money can also be wasted and spent stupidly and benefits can be distributed unfairly. The big family-State budget difference is that States don’t disappear like bankrupt companies. Productive, well-managed investment financed by government borrowing should be seen on the whole as A Good Thing.
The magic numbers
In 1992, European countries narrowly voted Yes to the Maastricht Treaty, which at the insistence of Germany contained two magic numbers, 3 and 60. Never allow a budget deficit greater than three per cent; never contract public debt greater than 60 per cent of your Gross Domestic Product (GDP).** Why not two or four per cent, 55 or 65 per cent? Nobody knows, except perhaps some ancient bureaucrats who were there, but these numbers have become the Law and the Prophets.
In 2010, two famous economists announced that beyond 90 per cent of GDP, debt would plunge a country into trouble and its GDP would contract. That sounds logical because interest payments would take a bigger chunk out of the budget. But in April 2013, a North American PhD candidate tried to replicate their results and found he couldn’t. Using their figures, he got a positive result for GDP which would still rise by more than two per cent per annum. The famous, if red-faced, twosome had to admit they were Excel victims and had misplaced a comma.
Even the International Monetary Fund has confessed to similar mistakes, this time on the austerity cuts issue. We now know, because the Fund was honest enough to tell us, that cuts would hurt the GDP by two to three times more than it initially foresaw. Europe should go easy, says the IMF, and not ‘drive the economy with the brakes on’. The magic 60 per cent of GDP debt limit is no more sacred than the three per cent deficit limit; yet policies remain the same, because the neoliberal hawks seize upon every scrap of dubious evidence that seems to promote their cause.
We are faced with two basic questions. The first is why did the debts of European countries rise so steeply after the crisis struck in 2007? In just four years, between 2006 and 2010, debts escalated by more than 75 per cent in Britain and Greece, by 59 per cent in Spain and by fully 276 per cent in all-time champion Ireland, where the government simply announced it would assume responsibility for all the debts of all the private Irish banks. The Irish people would henceforward be held responsible for the irresponsibility of Irish bankers. Britain did the same, though in lesser measure. Just as profits are privatized, losses are socialized.
So citizens pay through austerity, whereas bankers and other investors who bought the country’s bonds or toxic financial products contribute nothing. After the 2007 crisis, the GDP of European countries dropped by an average five per cent and governments had to compensate. Escalating business failures and mass unemployment also meant more expenditures for governments just when they were taking in less income from taxes.
The New Morality
Economic stagnation is expensive – higher expenditure and lower revenue add up to a single answer: borrow more. Saving the banks and taking the consequences of the crisis they created are the fundamental reason for the debt crisis – and consequently for harsh austerity today. People were not ‘living beyond their means’ but the New Morality is clearly ‘Punish the Innocent, Reward the Guilty’.
This is no defence of stupid or corrupt policies such as allowing the Spanish housing bubble to inflate or Greek politicians to hire masses of new civil servants after each election. The Greeks have a bloated military budget and inexcusably refuse to tax the great shipping magnates and the Church – the biggest property owner in the country. But if your bathtub leaks and the dining room paint is peeling, do you burn down your house? Or do you fix the plumbing and repaint?
The human consequences of austerity are inescapable and well known: pensioners search through rubbish bins at mid-month hoping to find a meal; talented, well-educated Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards flee their countries as unemployment for their age group approaches 50 per cent; unbearable stress is laid on families; violence against women increases as poverty and distress rise; hospitals lack essential medicines and personnel, schools decline, public services deteriorate or disappear. Nature takes the brunt as well: nothing is invested in reversing the climate crisis or halting environmental destruction – it’s too expensive. Like everything else, we can’t do it now.
We know these outcomes, the results of what Angela Merkel calls ‘expansionary austerity’ policies. This neoliberal theory claims that markets will be ‘reassured’ by tough policies and reinvest in the newly disciplined countries concerned. This hasn’t happened. Pictures of Merkel adorned with swastikas are appearing throughout southern Europe.
Many Germans think they are helping Greece – and they don’t want to anymore. In fact, virtually all the bailout money has taken a circuitous route: EU government contributions made through the European Stability Mechanism have been channelled via the Greek Central Banks and private banks right back to British, German and French banks that had bought up Greek Eurobonds to get a higher yield. It would be simpler to give European taxpayers’ money directly to the banks, except that said taxpayers might notice. Why make an ongoing psycho-drama over two per cent (Greece) or 0.4 per cent (Cyprus) of the European economy? A cynic might say: ‘Easy. To ensure Ms Merkel’s re-election in September.’
The second basic question is: why do we continue to apply policies that are harmful and don’t work? One can look at this self-created disaster in two ways. Eminent prize-winning economists like Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz believe that the European leadership is brain-dead, ignorant of economics and needlessly committing economic suicide. Others note that the cuts conform exactly to the desires of such entities as the European Roundtable of Industrialists or BusinessEurope: cut wages and benefits, weaken unions, privatize everything in sight and so on. As inequalities have soared, those at the top have done nicely. There are now more ‘High Net Worth Individuals’ with a much greater collective fortune than in 2008 at the height of the crisis. Five years ago there were 8.6 million HNWIs worldwide with a pile of liquid assets of $39 trillion. Today, they are 11 million strong with assets of $42 trillion. Small businesses are failing in droves, but the largest companies are sitting on huge piles of cash and taking full advantage of tax havens. They see no reason to stop there.
This is not a crisis for everyone and the European leadership is no more stupid than its counterparts elsewhere. It is, however, entirely subservient to the desires of finance and the largest corporations. Certainly, neoliberal ideology plays a key role in its programme but serves especially to emit thick smokescreens and pseudo-explanations and justifications so that people will believe There Is No Alternative. Wrong: the banks could have been socialized and turned into public utilities, like other utilities that run on public money; tax havens closed down, taxes levied on financial transactions and many other remedies applied. But such thoughts are heretical to neoliberalism (although 11 Eurozone countries will start taxing financial transactions in 2014).
I am a fervent European and want Europe to thrive, but not this Europe. Against our will we have been plunged into class warfare. The only answer for citizens is knowledge and unity. What the one per cent has imposed, the 99 per cent can reverse. But we’d better be quick about it: time is running out.
Susan George is Board President of the Transnational Institute and author of 16 books, most recently Whose Crisis, Whose Future? and How to Win the Class War, on her website in June for electronic download and print on demand along with six ‘Susan George Classics’.
* ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’
** Public debt is money owed by a government in the form of loans obtained on the financial markets rather than other forms of lending.
I spent the summer of 1961 behind the Iron Curtain. I was part of the US–USSR student exchange program. It was the second year of the program that operated under auspices of the US Department of State. Our return to the West via train through East Germany was interrupted by the construction of the Berlin Wall. We were sent back to Poland. The East German rail tracks were occupied with Soviet troop and tank trains as the Red Army concentrated in East Germany to face down any Western interference.
Fortunately, in those days there were no neoconservatives. Washington had not grown the hubris it so well displays in the 21st century. The wall was built and war was avoided. The wall backfired on the Soviets. Both JFK and Ronald Reagan used it to good propaganda effect.
In those days America stood for freedom, and the Soviet Union for oppression. Much of this impression was created by Western propaganda, but there was some semblance to the truth in the image. The communists had a Julian Assange and an Edward Snowden of their own. His name was Cardinal Jozef Mindszenty, the leader of the Hungarian Catholic Church.
Mindszenty opposed tyranny. For his efforts he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Communists also regarded him as an undesirable, and he was tortured and given a life sentence in 1949.
Freed by the short-lived Hungarian Revolution in 1956, Mindszenty reached the American Embassy in Budapest and was granted political asylum by Washington. However, the communists would not give him the free passage that asylum presumes, and Mindszenty lived in the US Embassy for 15 years — 79% of his remaining life.
In the 21st century roles have reversed. Today it is Washington that is enamored of tyranny. On Washington’s orders, the UK will not permit Julian Assange free passage to Ecuador, where he has been granted asylum. Like Cardinal Mindszenty, Assange is stuck in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.
Washington will not permit its European vassal states to allow overflights of airliners carrying Edward Snowden to any of the countries that have offered Snowden asylum. Snowden is stuck in the Moscow airport.
In Washington politicians of both parties demand that Snowden be captured and executed. Politicians demand that Russia be punished for not violating international law, seizing Snowden, and turning him over to Washington to be tortured and executed, despite the fact that Washington has no extradition treaty with Russia.
Snowden did United States citizens a great service. He told us that despite constitutional prohibition, Washington had implemented a universal spy system intercepting every communication of every American and much of the rest of the world. Special facilities are built in which to store these communications.
In other words, Snowden did what Americans are supposed to do — disclose government crimes against the Constitution and against citizens. Without a free press there is nothing but the government’s lies. In order to protect its lies from exposure, Washington intends to exterminate all truth tellers.
The Obama Regime is the most oppressive regime ever in its prosecution of protected whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are protected by law, but the Obama Regime insists that whistleblowers are not really whistleblowers. Instead, the Obama Regime defines whistleblowers as spies, traitors, and foreign agents. Congress, the media, and the faux judiciary echo the executive branch propaganda that whistleblowers are a threat to America. It is not the government that is violating and raping the US Constitution that is a threat. It is the whistleblowers who inform us of the rape who are the threat.
The Obama Regime has destroyed press freedom. A lackey federal appeals court has ruled that NY Times reporter James Risen must testify in the trial of a CIA officer charged with providing Risen with information about CIA plots against Iran. The ruling of this fascist court destroys confidentiality and is intended to end all leaks of the government’s crimes to media.
What Americans have learned in the 21st century is that the US government lies about everything and breaks every law. Without whistleblowers, Americans will remain in the dark as “their” government enserfs them, destroying every liberty, and impoverishes them with endless wars for Washington’s and Wall Street’s hegemony.
Snowden harmed no one except the liars and traitors in the US government. Contrast Washington’s animosity against Snowden with the pardon that Bush gave to Dick Cheney aide, Libby, who took the fall for his boss for blowing the cover, a felony, on a covert CIA operative, the spouse of a former government official who exposed the Bush/Cheney/neocon lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Whatever serves the tiny clique that rules america is legal; whatever exposes the criminals is illegal.
That’s all there is to it.
Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts
Europe is haunted by austerity. Public sectors across the European Union (EU) have been cut back and working class gains from the post-war period seriously undermined. In this article, I will assess the causes of the crisis, its implications for workers and discuss the politics of labour in response to the Eurozone crisis.
The underlying dynamics of the Eurozone crisis
Current problems go right back to the global financial crisis starting in 2007 with the run on the Northern Rock bank in the United Kingdom (UK) and reaching a first high point with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Two major consequences of the crisis can be identified. First, states indebted themselves significantly as a result of bailing out failing banks and propping up the financial system. Second, against the background of high levels of uncertainty financial markets froze. Banks and financial institutions ceased lending to each other as well as industrial companies. Countries too found it increasingly difficult to re-finance their national debts. The Eurozone crisis, also known as the sovereign debt crisis, commenced.
Nevertheless, this analysis only scratches the surface of the causes of the crisis. The fundamental dynamics underlying the crisis have to be related to the uneven nature of the European political economy. On the one hand, Germany has experienced an export boom in recent years, with almost 60 per cent of its exports going to other European countries (Trading Economics, 10 May 2013). Germany’s trade surplus is even more heavily focused on Europe. 60 per cent are with other Euro countries and about 85 per cent are with all EU members together (de Nardis, 2 December 2010). However, such a growth strategy cannot be adopted by everybody. Some countries also have to absorb these exports, and this is what many of the peripheral countries which are now in trouble, such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, have done. They, in turn, cannot compete in the free trade Internal Market of the EU due to lower productivity rates. Germany’s export boom has resulted in super profits, which then require new opportunities for profitable investment. State bonds of peripheral countries as well as construction markets in Ireland and Spain seemed to provide safe investment opportunities. In turn, these investments led to yet more exports from Germany to these countries and yet further super profits in search of investment opportunities.
Who is being rescued?
It is often argued in the media that citizens of richer countries would now have to pay for citizens of indebted countries. Cultural arguments of apparently ‘lazy Greek’ workers as the cause of the crisis are put forward. Nevertheless, this is clearly not the case. Greek workers are amongst those who work the longest hours in Europe (BBC, 26 February 2012). In any case, it is not the Greek, Portuguese, Irish or Cypriot citizens and their health and education systems, which are being rescued. It is banks, who organised the lending of super profits to peripheral countries, which are exposed to private and national debt in these countries. For example, German and French banks are heavily exposed to Greek debt, British banks to Irish debt (The Guardian, 17 June 2011).
What is the purpose of the bailout programmes?
Is the purpose of the bailout programmes to ensure the maintenance of essential public services in Europe’s periphery? Clearly not. On the contrary, the Troika consisting of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demands cuts in public finances precisely for services such as education and health care. Is the purpose to assist peripheral countries in re-gaining competitiveness? Again, this too is clearly not the objective. The bailout programmes do not include any industrial policy projects.
The true nature of the bailout programmes is visible in their conditionality, making support dependent on austerity policies including: (1) cuts in funding of essential public services; (2) cuts in public sector employment; (3) push towards privatisation of state assets; and (4) undermining of industrial relations and trade union rights through enforced cuts in minimum wages and a further liberalisation of labour markets. Hence, the real purpose of the bailout programmes is to restructure political economies and to open up the public sector as new investment opportunities for private finance. The balance of power is shifted further from labour to capital in this process. Employers, ultimately, use the crisis in order to strengthen their position vis-à-vis workers, facilitating exploitation.
Are German workers the winners due to the export boom?
In contrast to general assumptions, German workers have not benefitted from the current situation. German productivity increases have, to a significant extent, resulted from drastic downward pressure on wages and working related conditions.
“Germany has been unrelenting in squeezing its own workers throughout this period. During the last two decades, the most powerful economy of the eurozone has produced the lowest increases in nominal labour costs, while its workers have systematically lost share of output. EMU has been an ordeal for German workers” (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 4).
The Agenda 2010 and here especially the so-called Hartz IV reform, implemented in the early 2000s, constitutes the largest cut in, and restructuring of, the German welfare system since the end of World War II. In other words, Germany was more successful than other Eurozone countries in cutting back labour costs. “The euro is a ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ policy for Germany, on condition that it beggars its own workers first” (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 30).
Hence, while the mainstream media regularly portray the crisis as a conflict between Germany and peripheral countries, the real conflict here is between capital and labour. And this conflict is taking place across the EU as the economic crisis is used across Europe to justify cuts. In the UK, although not in the position of countries such as Greece, Portugal or Ireland, people too are faced with constant further cuts and restructuring including privatisations in the health and education sectors as well as attacks on employment rights. In short, across the EU, employers abuse the crisis to cut back workers’ post-war gains. The crisis provides capital with the rationale to justify cuts, they would otherwise be unable to implement.
What possibilities for labour to resist restructuring?
Considering that austerity is a European-wide phenomenon, pushed by Brussels but equally individual national governments, it will remain important that trade unions combine resistance to neo-liberal restructuring at the European level with resistance at the national level. To declare solidarity with Greek workers is a good initiative by German and British unions, for example. Nevertheless, the more concrete support is resisting restructuring at home. Any defeat of austerity in one of the EU member states will assist similar struggles elsewhere.
When thinking about alternative responses to the crisis, short-term measures can be distinguished from medium- and long-term measures. Immediately, it will be important that German trade unions push for higher salary increases at home so that the German domestic market absorbs more goods, which are currently being exported. Along similar lines is the proposal by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) for an economic stimulus, investment and development programme for Europe. This new Marshall plan is designed as an investment and development programme over a 10-year period and consists of a mix of institutional measures, direct public sector investment, investment grants for companies and incentives for consumer spending (DGB 2013). Neo-Keynesian measures of this type will ease the immediate pressure on European economies. However, they will not question the power structures, underlying the European political economy.
A victorious outcome in the struggle against austerity ultimately depends on a change in the balance of power in society. The establishment of welfare states and fairer societies were based on the capacity of labour to balance the class power of capital (Wahl 2011). Overcoming austerity will, therefore, require a strengthening of labour vis-à-vis capital. As Lapavitsas notes, “a radical left strategy should offer a resolution of the crisis that alters the balance of social forces in favour of labour and pushes Europe in a socialist direction” (Lapavitsas 2011: 294). Hence, in the medium-term, it will be essential to intervene more directly in the financial sector. As part of bailouts, many private banks have been nationalised, as for example the Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK. However, they have been allowed to continue operating as if they were private banks. Little state direction has been imposed. It will be important to move beyond nationalisation towards the socialisation of banks to ensure that banks actually operate according to the needs of society. Such a step would contribute directly to changing the balance of power in society in favour of labour.
In the long run, however, even the change in power balance between capital and labour will not be enough. Capitalist exploitation is rooted in the way the social relations of production are set up around wage labour and the private ownership of the means of production. Exploitation, therefore, can only be overcome if the manner in which production is organised is being changed itself.
 This article was first published in Norwegian on radikalportal.no
 European Monetary Union
I’m shocked — shocked! — that Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge who ruled in February that Bradley Manning could be tried on various charges even after being held prior to arraignment for more than five times the absolute longest time specified in the US Armed Forces’ “speedy trial” rules, has now also ruled that Manning can be convicted of aiding an enemy that does not exist.
Yes, you read that right: There’s only an “enemy” to aid, in any legal sense, if the United States is at war, a state created by a congressional declaration. There’s been no such declaration since World War II.
Lind had only one legal duty as judge in this case: To dismiss all charges due to the government’s failure to meet the “speedy trial” deadline. If the United States was, as John Adams put it, “a government of laws, not of men,” that’s exactly what she would have done.
“Any person subject to this chapter who –
“(1) is responsible for unnecessary delay in the disposition of any case of a person accused of an offense under this chapter; or
“(2) Knowingly and intentionally fails to enforce or comply with any provision of this chapter regulating the proceedings before, during, or after trial of an accused; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
No, I’m not really shocked that none of this happened. It’s par for the course. Laws, including the “supreme law of the land,” aka the US Constitution, are for us little people. The US government doesn’t need or want them, except for use as camouflage. It does whatever it wants to do (or rather whatever the ruling members of the American political class tell it to do).
The only reasonable takeaway from the Manning trial is that American “rule of law” is a sham. The US government doesn’t operate within the Constitution’s constraints on state power, nor does it honor that Constitution’s list of enshrined individual rights. It never has done so absent extreme compulsion and it never will do so on anything like a regular basis.
The corollary: If the US government isn’t bound by its own alleged rules, why on Earth would anyone else be?
Those unfortunate to find themselves interned by remand, despite not being found guilty of anything, can be imprisoned for lengthy periods with no sign of either a date for trial or release. Political internees can find themselves in gaol for up to 2 years, or more, under this repressive, draconian policy, awaiting a trial… – Stephen Murney. 1/6/13.
Stephen Murney is a political and community activist, who lives in Newry in the north of Ireland. He is also a member of Eirigi (Arise) which is a legal, registered Irish socialist republican political party. Stephen has frequently documented, photographed and recorded incidents of harsh PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) stop and searches of people, house raids and other rough treatment in the Newry area. Stephen regularly highlighted these issues in local newspapers and on the internet.
In late November 2012, Stephen Murney wrote a letter to a local newspaper expressing his strong condemnation of several early morning raids by the PSNI on homes in the Derrybeg Estate, Newry. He stated that these incursions were causing deep distress to the targeted families and maintained the raids were excessive, unnecessary and avoidable.
On November 28th, some 24 hours after Stephen’s letter was published, in scenes similar to those he had described and criticised, police smashed in his front door and stormed into his home in a dawn raid. Police officers searched his house, seized a computer, political literature and a flute band uniform and arrested Stephen.
The PSNI then three days later charged Stephen Murney with three ‘offenses’. The first charge is, collecting information which maybe of use to terrorists. The second charge is, distributing information which maybe of use to terrorists. The third charge is, possessing items which could be used for terrorist purposes.
The first charge concerns Stephen openly taking photographs of people, including PSNI officers at a protest rally in Newry in June 2012. The PSNI didn’t question, or arrest Stephen, or confiscate or examine his camera/phone or ask for certain images to be deleted at that time. The police did ask him to stop taking photographs and he promptly agreed and did so. The second charge relates to Stephen later posting the same photographs on Facebook, as well as having other political images on this computer. The third charge is in regards to the items of clothing (flute band uniform), two airguns and political literature seized from his home.
At a hearing on December 21, Stephen’s lawyer said the photographs had been openly taken, that Stephen had stopped when instructed and that the posting of some photographs was also for a perfectly legitimate purpose. Some of these photos were taken by Stephen at political protests, commemorations and other events. But most of the photos were downloaded from the internet, many were old, dating back to the Civil Rights Movement in north of Ireland in the late 1960s. The lawyer added that the items that could allegedly be used for ‘terrorist’ purposes consisted of flute band uniforms, possessing two ball-bearing airguns (belonging to his son and are legal and widely available throughout Ireland), legal political leaflets and images freely available to the public on the internet. Many supportive references from community organisations in Newry in support of Stephen Murney were also presented to the court.
It is common practice for political activists around the world to take photographs of demonstrations and of police at political protests. In fact, legal and human rights groups regularly advise political activists to record such protests and any instances of police harassment or mistreatment that occur. Like many hundreds of thousands of other people Stephen loads this information on his computer and sometimes posts some of it on social media sites.
After querying the vague nature of the charges the judge granted Stephen bail. But at the request of the PSNI, the judge imposed several draconian bail conditions, including: banning Stephen from living at home with his wife and family, banning him from entering Newry, his home town, where almost all his family and friends live and banning him from attending any political events or meetings. The judge additionally, ordered that Stephen, reside at least five miles from Newry, report daily to the PSNI barracks (a further 12 miles away), accept a daily curfew from 7pm to 10am and wear an electric tagging device at all times.
Stephen rejected the humiliating bail conditions the court imposed, declaring his total innocence of the charges. Several efforts by Stephen’s lawyers to change the harsh bail conditions were refused and he remains in imprisoned in Maghaberry Gaol.
The Orwellian State of Affairs in the North of Ireland.
‘There has been an accelerated erosion of legal rights since 1998’ – Pat McNamee, former member of the Stormont Assembly and former local councillor.
At a recent protest, a former member of the Stormont Assembly and friend of Stephen Murney, Pat McNamee stated, that only through entering the world of ‘newspeak’ could we obtain the answer as to why Stephen Murney is imprisoned. He said:
Newspeak is the term used by Orwell, in his book 1984, to describe the language employed to oppress people in what was a fictional totalitarian state. That state is not really so fictional nowadays.
Stephen Murney is charged with having a band uniform that he wore whilst a member of a local republican flute band. In ‘newspeak’, that is having a paramilitary uniform and being equipped for terrorism. Stephen Murney is charged with having photographs of protests he had taken part in, which inevitably included images of members of the PSNI, who were also present at these demonstrations. In ‘newspeak’, that is having information useful to terrorists. Stephen Murney is charged with having his son’s toy guns in his home. In ‘newspeak’, that is having an imitation firearm. In ‘real speak’, Stephen has been held in prison for over six months solely because he is an effective republican and community activist.
Congratulating all of those present at the rally, Eirígí activist Shane Jones said that it was representative of a growing awareness of the plight of Stephen Murney across the country and of the excesses of the British state. He said:
However, if those within the British establishment, its puppet parliament at Stormont, its compliant judiciary or its corrupt police force thought that they could isolate Stephen Murney and smother his criticism of their collective actions, they have misjudged the situation. People once unaware of the true nature of the continued British presence in Ireland are being exposed to it across the country. Over the past couple of weeks alone pickets, protests, leaflet drops and information stalls have been held in Newry, Offaly, Wexford, Wicklow, Belfast, Galway and Dublin, with many more to come.
Concluding the rally, Davy Hyland, independent councillor in Newry and Mourne District Council, vowed that he and those assembled would continue to raise the case of Stephen Murney until he is released and allowed to return to his family, home and community. Despite The Good Friday Agreement, Injustice Continues.
Despite all the supposed “changes’, many of the old repressive injustices remain, including internment, political policing, Diplock courts and ongoing M15/ British army military activity – Stephen Murney.
Highlighting that Stephen Murney is but one victim of an increasingly oppressive British state apparatus, Pat McNamee said that after two decades of ‘peace processing’, the rights of the individual, rather than being protected through a Bill of Rights, which was but one of a number of promises enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement that had been reneged upon without sanction. Pat McNamee stated.
Through extended periods of detention, increased stop and search powers, the reduction of the right to a trial by jury and ‘closed evidence hearings’, where judges are presented with secret ‘evidence’ which can neither be disclosed to nor challenged by the accused or their legal representatives, the British state apparatus is more draconian now than at any time during the years from 1969 through 1999. Instead of moving forward with human rights, it is they who are dragging us back.
Stephen Murney is a victim of British injustice in the north of Ireland, but he is one of many of those suffering from an increasingly oppressive British state system. The terms of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) offered better times, a period of peace and healing, yet people’s human rights and civil liberties are still constantly violated. And the basic rights that were meant to be upheld by the GFA process are being grossly abused.
Calls for the Release of Stephen Murney Grow.
Since the arrest and imprisonment of Stephen Murney a number of Irish republican and various other organizations have campaigned for his freedom, including Eirigi, Republican Network for Unity, Irish Republican Socialist Party, Republican Sinn Fein, 32 County Sovereignty Movement, as well as local Councillors and other individuals.
Independent Councillor Davy Hyland from the Newry and Mourne Council stated that, ‘Stephen has been held … on the most spurious charges … he tried to get bail, but was given the most atrocious conditions that he couldn’t possibly meet.’ He added, ‘Stephen’s treatment has been absolutely deplorable.’ Sinn Fein Councillor Brendan Curran said the bail restrictions imposed were, “excessive and unacceptable” given the “dubious” charges.
And human rights groups are starting to take up his case. On 14, June, Justice Watch Ireland wrote to the British Secretary of State Theresa Villars and Justice Minister, David Ford, calling for the immediate release of Stephen Murney. JWI also issued a press release on the facts of the case and their conclusions. JWI’s press release said:
Justice Watch Ireland are more than concerned that Mr Murney may be a victim of the most blatant abuse of the Justice system seen in the last decade. We are equally concerned that should this practice of Judicial Abuse be allowed to continue unabated, it could well threaten the democratic rights of all citizens in the future. We call on all politicians and those opposed to losing their democratic and human rights, to voice their disapproval of such abuses continuing. Justice Watch Ireland calls for Stephen Murney to be released on unconditional bail as a matter of urgency. We believe his detention is nothing short of ‘Interment’ by definition. ‘Internment by remand’ is being claimed by many, in which we are currently investigating, but in this case our conclusion is that Mr Murney truly is interned by definition with the use of the remand process currently being implemented.
Support Stephen Murney, Imprisoned Republican Political Prisoner.
Political policing and internment is nothing new. They are practices which have been in place for some decades, practices that we in Eirigi have been to fore in highlighting, exposing and opposing. As a result, those of us who have been most vocal in opposing these unjust activities and our families have paid a heavy personal price in the form of constant PSNI harassment, frequent ‘stop and searches’, house raids, assaults, threats, intimidation and ultimately, the loss of liberty – Stephen Murney
Stephen Murney is imprisoned, not because he has done or planned to do anything unlawful, but he is in jail due to his dissident political views and because he is an active, outspoken and effective Republican and community activist. In a normal, civil society in another place there would have to be substantial evidence against Stephen Murney to warrant the serious charges he now faces. But the British occupied north of Ireland is not a normal, ordinary place. So, instead of these charges being clearly recognised as weak and ridiculous, in the six counties, they are depicted by the PSNI as a very grave matter and bring the prospect of lengthy prison sentence if Stephen is convicted.
The British authorities have used a policy of selective internment against Stephen Murney in an attempt to silence him and other opposition. A political activist is now in effect interned without trial on the basis of the most ridiculous ‘evidence.’ Stephen Murney has done nothing wrong, but freely exercised his democratic right to attend political demonstrations, to take photographs and to be critic of PSNI actions and of British rule in the north of Ireland. Stephen Murney is innocent and his imprisonment is utterly unjust. The flimsy charges against him should be dropped and Stephen should be immediately and unconditionally released.
Internment was wrong and unjust in previous years and it remains as equally wrong and unjust today. I would encourage all those that disagree with its continued use to organise and publicly oppose internment in its current form – Stephen Murney.
Guest writer Steven Katsineris, Vice Chairman of the James Connolly Association, Melbourne, Australia with a piece on republican prisoner Stephen Murney.
Bradley Manning‘s Attorney David Coombs argues a motion in front of Judge Denise Lind at Fort Meade, Md. July 15, 2013 (Art: Kay Rudin/RSN)
Judge Denise Lind did not dismiss the “Aiding the Enemy” charge against Bradley Manning, stating that the Army did present evidence that Manning should have known, based on his training, that the enemy would be able to access the information he released to Wikileaks. She also stated that evidence was presented that Manning did know that the enemy could use the SIGACTS (mapping of incidents in a region) he leaked in the same manner that the Army uses them.
Judge Lind read into the record the evidence that she determined met the elements for the charge. If the Judge gives weight to that evidence when she enters her final verdict at the conclusion of the case, it does not look good for Manning or Press Freedom in America. The result would be chilling for whistleblowers or anyone who publishes information on the internet that could be used by the “enemy.”
Manning has already pleaded guilty to illegal use of information that he had the right to access. The chilling issue here is that with no contact with the enemy, Manning could serve life in prison without the possibility for parole. Bradley Manning did not give the information to an enemy of the United States, he gave it to the media.
Even if you don’t believe Wikileaks is the media, Judge Lind asked the Army on two occasions the following: If the documents were released to The New York Times and not Wikileaks would you still have brought the same charges? The Army’s response on both occasions was “Yes Ma’am.” So precedent that would be set here with a guilty verdict is that providing information to any media organization can result in a conviction for aiding the enemy.
Where is the line? How often have we all crossed it?
On May 27 this year, almost two million people in 436 cities across the world marched against what they believe is ‘corporate greed’ and an attack on human health. Increasing information about the adverse effects of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) has left people appalled and outraged, however, it has had no effect on the growth and profits of the companies that are manufacturing these products.
In order to remind the world of this indifference and insensitivity of corporations towards the health and well being of innocent people, a video revolt has been organized. According tomonsantovideorevolt.com, ‘In an effort to generate even more awareness across the globe, the largest players in the natural health field are coming together to push this Monsanto Video Revolt into hyper space. Together, they are joining forces and asking YOU to help even further on July 24th, 2013, in the Monsanto Video Revolt.’
The website has also described the three basic steps involved for people who wish to join the revolt:
Step 1 – Create a video of any length detailing why you stand against Monsanto and GMOs at large. The video can be as long as you want – it’s your choice.
Following are two videos that have been posted as part of the protest:
And this is an animated video explaining GMO and its effects on health in a very interesting way. Have a look:
Do you have a video planned for the protest? Do share it with us.