Bipasha Shom recorded this interview.
By Norman Solomon
Every new revelation about the global reach of the National Security Agency underscores that the extremism of the surveillance state has reached gargantuan proportions. The Washington Post just reported that the NSA “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden have forced top officials in Washington to admit the indefensible while defending it. One of the main obstacles to further expansion of their Orwellian empire is real journalism.
Real journalism is “subversive” of deception that can’t stand the light of day. This is a huge problem for the Obama administration and the many surveillance-state flunkies of both parties in Congress. What they want is fake journalism, deferring to government storylines and respectful of authority even when it is illegitimate.
In motion now, on both sides of the Atlantic, are top-down efforts to quash real journalism when and how it matters most. In the two English-speaking countries that have done the most preaching to the world about “Western values” like freedom of the press, the governments led by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron are overseeing assaults on real journalism.
They’re striving to further normalize fake journalism -- largely confined to stenographic services for corporate power, war industries and surveillance agencies. A parallel goal is to harass, intimidate and destroy real journalism. The quest is to maximize the uninformed consent of the governed.
December 05, 2013 | Permalink
By Norman Solomon and Abba A. Solomon
More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.
In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.
While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.
A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).
Netanyahu and many other Israelis -- as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics -- fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”
This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
November 25, 2013 | Permalink
By Norman Solomon
Fifty years after the horrific day in Dallas, it’s hard to think of John F. Kennedy apart from an aura of political sainthood. But mythology is disorienting in the long run, and we can do better with realism.
JFK brought youthful intelligence and evocations of soaring idealism to the Oval Office. But he got there as a cold warrior who had falsely claimed during the 1960 presidential campaign that the United States was on the short end of a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union.
As president, Kennedy rolled the dice for all of humanity in October 1962. Determined to prevent installation of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, the president voiced willingness to chance a vast holocaust.
Speaking from the White House with valorous and dangerous rhetoric, he said: “We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth -- but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.”
November 20, 2013 | Permalink
By Norman Solomon
Four years ago, countless Democratic leaders and allies pushed for passage of Barack Obama’s complex healthcare act while arguing that his entire presidency was at stake. The party hierarchy whipped the Congressional Progressive Caucus into line, while MoveOn and other loyal groups stayed in step along with many liberal pundits.
Lauding the president’s healthcare plan for its structure of “regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in July 2009 that the administration’s fate hung in the balance: “Knock away any of the four main pillars of reform, and the whole thing will collapse -- and probably take the Obama presidency down with it.” Such warnings were habitual until Obamacare became law eight months later.
Meanwhile, some progressives were pointing out that -- contrary to the right-wing fantasy of a “government takeover of healthcare” -- Obama’s Affordable Care Act actually further enthroned for-profit insurance firms atop the system. As I wrote at the time, “The continued dominance of the insurance industry is the key subtext of the healthcare battle that has been raging in Washington. But that dominance is routinely left out of the news media's laser-beam concentration on whether a monumental healthcare law will emerge to save Obama's presidency.”
Today, in terms of healthcare policy, the merits and downsides of Obamacare deserve progressive debate. But at this point there’s no doubt it’s a disaster in political terms -- igniting the Mad Hatter Tea Party’s phony populism, heightening prospects for major right-wing electoral gains next year and propagating the rancid notion that the government should stay out of healthcare.
November 17, 2013 | Permalink
By Norman Solomon
Ever since the first big revelations about the National Security Agency five months ago, Dianne Feinstein has been in overdrive to defend the surveillance state. As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she generates an abundance of fog, weasel words, anti-whistleblower slander and bogus notions of reform -- while methodically stabbing civil liberties in the back.
Feinstein’s powerful service to Big Brother, reaching new heights in recent months, is just getting started. She’s hard at work to muddy all the waters of public discourse she can -- striving to protect the NSA from real legislative remedies while serving as a key political enabler for President Obama’s shameless abuse of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.
Last Sunday, on CBS, when Feinstein told “Face the Nation” viewers that Edward Snowden has done “enormous disservice to our country,” it was one of her more restrained smears. In June, when Snowden first went public as a whistleblower, Feinstein quickly declared that he had committed “an act of treason.” Since then, she has refused to tone down the claim. “I stand by it,” she told The Hill on Oct. 29.
Days ago, taking it from the top of the NSA’s main talking points, Feinstein led off a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed piece with 9/11 fear-mongering. “The Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States was highly organized and sophisticated and designed to strike at the heart of the American economy and government,” she wrote, and quickly added: “We know that terrorists remain determined to kill Americans and our allies.”
From there, Senator Feinstein praised the NSA’s “call-records program” and then insisted: “This is not a surveillance program.” (Paging Mr. Orwell.)
November 06, 2013 | Permalink
November 04, 2013 | Permalink
By Norman Solomon
When the State Department revoked Edward Snowden’s passport four months ago, the move was a reprisal from a surveillance-and-warfare state that operates largely in the shadows. Top officials in Washington were furious. Snowden had suddenly exposed what couldn’t stand the light of day, blowing the cover of the world’s Biggest Brother.
Cancelation of the passport wasn’t just an effort to prevent the whistleblower from getting to a country that might grant political asylum. It was also a declaration that the U.S. government can nullify the right to travel just as surely as it can nullify the right to privacy.
“Although I am convicted of nothing,” Snowden said in a July 1 statement after a week at a Moscow airport terminal, the U.S. government “has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”
Since 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has affirmed with clarity: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” The only other words of Article 14 specify an exception that clearly doesn’t apply to Snowden: “This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”
The extent of the U.S. government’s scorn for this principle can be gauged by the lengths it has gone to prevent Snowden from gaining political asylum. It was a measure of desperation -- and contempt for international law -- that Washington got allied governments of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to deny airspace to the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales in early July, forcing the aircraft to land for a search on the chance that it was carrying Snowden from Moscow to political asylum in Bolivia.
Although Snowden was able to stay in Russia, revocation of his U.S. passport has been a crucial weapon to prevent him from crossing an international border for any reason other than to come home to prison in the United States.
October 23, 2013 | Permalink
By Norman Solomon
Google Inc. is now aligned with the notorious ALEC.
Quietly, Google has joined ALEC -- the American Legislative Exchange Council -- the shadowy corporate alliance that pushes odious laws through state legislatures.
In the process, Google has signed onto an organization that promotes such regressive measures as tax cuts for tobacco companies, school privatization to help for-profit education firms, repeal of state taxes for the wealthy and opposition to renewable energy disliked by oil companies.
ALEC’s reactionary efforts -- thoroughly documented by the Center for Media and Democracy -- are shameful assaults on democratic principles. And Google is now among the hundreds of companies in ALEC. Many people who’ve admired Google are now wondering: how could this be?
Well, in his recent book “Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy,” Robert W. McChesney provides vital context. “It is true that with the advent of the Internet many of the successful giants -- Apple and Google come to mind -- were begun by idealists who may have been uncertain whether they really wanted to be old-fashioned capitalists,” he writes. “The system in short order has whipped them into shape.”
McChesney adds: “Any qualms about privacy, commercialism, avoiding taxes, or paying low wages to Third World factory workers were quickly forgotten. It is not that the managers are particularly bad and greedy people -- indeed their individual moral makeup is mostly irrelevant -- but rather that the system sharply rewards some types of behavior and penalizes other types of behavior so that people either get with the program and internalize the necessary values or they fail.”
Google has widely mythologized itself as some kind of humanistic techno-pioneer. Obscured in a fog of digital legend is the agenda that more than ever is transfixed with maximizing profits while capitalizing on anti-democratic leverage of corporate power. Google’s involvement in ALEC is consistent with the company’s mega-business model that relentlessly exploits rigorous data-mining of emails, online searches and so much more.
Yet image-conscious companies can be skittish about public pressure. That helps to explain why dozens of firms withdrew from ALEC during the last year.
A few days ago -- when my colleagues at RootsAction.org sent out an email alert about news of ALEC’s connection with Google as well as with Facebook and Yelp -- more than 25,000 people quickly signed a petition urging those companies to “stop funding ALEC.” Several thousand of the petition signers added comments that can be read online along with the petition.
Those comments reflect widening comprehension of Google and the significance of its alignment with ALEC. Here’s a sampling:
October 10, 2013 | Permalink