This Independence Day, Thank a Protester

From Truth Dig:

By Amy Goodman
Jul 3, 2013

More than 160 years ago, the greatest abolitionist in U.S. history, the escaped slave Frederick Douglass, addressed the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass asked those gathered, “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” His words bear repeating this Independence Day, as the United States asserts unprecedented authority to wage war globally, to spy on everyone, everywhere. Independence Day should serve not as a blind celebration of the government, but as a moment to reflect on the central place in our history of grass-roots democracy movements, which have preserved and expanded the rights proclaimed in the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Douglass answered his question about the Fourth of July, to those gathered abolitionists: “To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

Douglass not only denounced the hypocrisy of slavery in a democracy, but worked diligently to build the abolitionist movement. He fought for women’s suffrage as well. These were movements that have shaped the United States. The civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s set a permanent example of what can be achieved by grass-roots action, even in the face of systemic, violent repression.

Today, movements continue to shape our society. The trial of George Zimmerman, accused of murdering Trayvon Martin, would not be happening now in Florida were it not for a mass movement. Sparked by the seeming official indifference to the shooting death of yet another young, African-American male, nationwide protests erupted, leading to the appointment of a special prosecutor. A month and a half after Martin was killed, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder.

Gay men and lesbians have seen sweeping changes in their legal rights, as same-sex marriage become legal in state after state, the U.S. military has dropped its official discrimination against homosexuality, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act was recently judged unconstitutional. Again, undergirding this progress are the decades of movement-building and grass-roots organizing.

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This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie

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James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass (4th of July Speech)

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Put Away The Flags by Howard Zinn

By Howard Zinn
July 4, 2006

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours — huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction — what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early.

When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession.”

When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”

On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our “Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence.” After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: “We believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country.”

It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.

We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, “to civilize and Christianize” the Filipino people.

As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: “The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness.”

We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.

Yet they are victims, too, of our government’s lies.

How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for “liberty,” for “democracy”?

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

© 2010 The Progressive

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Lady Gaga Singing the National Anthem @ the NYC Pride Rally 2013

Happy Fourth of July, Y’all!

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Pro-choice Women Should Take On Republican Govs

From The Progressive:

By Ruth Conniff
July 2, 2013

After losing the Presidential election in 2012 thanks to the biggest gender gap in history, Republicans are redoubling their “war on women” program in 2013.

Republican governors Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and John Kasich–all of whom have Presidential ambitions–are competing to outdo each other with mandatory ultrasound requirements, onerous new regulations that will force abortion clinics to close, and special sessions and hidden bill signings to ram these provisions through despite majority opposition in their states.

What is going on here?

Do the Republicans have a death wish?

After all, women voters–including independent and Republican women–have proven over and over that they can and will vote against Republican candidates who aggressively curtail access to abortion, birth control, and women’s health.

The arrogance of power, combined with a desire to curry favor with Republican primary voters, seems to have overcome good political sense.

Which opens the door to an exciting possibility: strong, pro-choice women candidates could give the Republican Neanderthals a run for their money.

In Texas, state senator Wendy Davis became a national star overnight when she filibustered Rick Perry’s abortion-restricting legislation. Her courageous stand kicked off massive protests in Austin, and provoked Perry into calling a special session to try to force the issue. (It also prompted him into making impolitic personal attacks.)

Now there is speculation that Davis might run for governor.

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Evo Morales, Bolivia President, Leaves Europe After Flight Delayed Over Snowden Suspicions

From Huffington Post:


LAS PALMAS, Canary Islands — Bolivia’s president left Europe for home on Wednesday in a diplomatic drama after his flight was rerouted and delayed overnight in Austria, allegedly because of suspicions he was trying to spirit NSA leaker Edward Snowden to Latin America.

Bolivia accused the United States of ordering European countries to block President Evo Morales’ flight from their airspace, and accused European governments of “aggression” by thwarting the flight.

However it’s still unclear whether European countries did block the plane and, if so, why. French, Spanish and Portuguese officials all said Wednesday the plane was allowed to cross their territory.

Snowden himself remains out of public view, believed to be stuck in a Moscow airport transit area, seeking asylum from one of more than a dozen countries.

Bolivia’s president sparked speculation that he might try to help Snowden get out during a visit to Russia after he said that his country would be willing to consider granting him asylum.

The plane carrying Morales home from a Moscow summit was rerouted to Vienna on Tuesday night, adding a new twist to the international uproar over Snowden’s revelations of widespread U.S. surveillance. The plane took off again shortly before noon Wednesday after sitting overnight at the airport.

The emergency stop in Austria may have been caused by a dispute over where the plane could refuel and whether European authorities could inspect it for signs of Snowden.

Austrian officials said Morales’ plane was searched early Wednesday by Austrian border police after Morales gave permission. Bolivian and Austrian officials both say Snowden was not on board.

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James Clapper, EU play-acting, and political priorities

From The Guardian UK

Fixations on denouncing Edward Snowden distract, by design, from the serious transgressions of those who are far more powerful, Wednesday 3 July 2013

The NSA revelations continue to expose far more than just the ongoing operations of that sprawling and unaccountable spying agency. Let’s examine what we have learned this week about the US political and media class and then certain EU leaders.

The first NSA story to be reported was our June 6 article which exposed the bulk, indiscriminate collection by the US Government of the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans. Ever since then, it has been undeniably clear that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, outright lied to the US Senate – specifically to the Intelligence Committee, the body charged with oversight over surveillance programs – when he said “no, sir” in response to this question from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

That Clapper fundamentally misled Congress is beyond dispute. The DNI himself has now been forced by our stories to admit that his statement was, in his words, “clearly erroneous” and to apologize. But he did this only once our front-page revelations forced him to do so: in other words, what he’s sorry about is that he got caught lying to the Senate. And as Salon’s David Sirota adeptly documented on Friday, Clapper is still spouting falsehoods as he apologizes and attempts to explain why he did it.

How is this not a huge scandal? Intentionally deceiving Congress is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison for each offense. Reagan administration officials were convicted of misleading Congress as part of the Iran-contra scandal and other controversies, and sports stars have been prosecuted by the Obama DOJ based on allegations they have done so.

Beyond its criminality, lying to Congress destroys the pretense of oversight. Obviously, members of Congress cannot exercise any actual oversight over programs which are being concealed by deceitful national security officials.

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Why European nations must protect Edward Snowden

From Reporters Without Borders,44886.html

Wednesday 3 July 2013

The general secretary of Reporters Without Borders Christophe Deloire, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange co-sign today an Op-Ed in Le Monde to call out the states of the European Union to protect Edward Snowden.

On October 12, 2012, the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize for contributing to the “advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” The EU should show itself worthy of this honor and show its will to defend freedom of information, regardless of fears of political pressure from its so-called closest ally, the United States.

Now that Edward Snowden, the young American who revealed the global monitoring system known as Prism, has requested asylum from 20 countries, the EU nations should extend a welcome, under whatever law or status seems most appropriate.

Although the United States remains a world leader in upholding the ideal of freedom of expression, the American attitude toward whistleblowers sullies the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In 2004, the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression, as well as his counterparts in the Organization of American States and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe issued a joint call to all governments to protect whistleblowers from all “legal, administrative or employment-related sanctions if they act in ‘good faith.’” Whistleblowers were defined as “individuals releasing confidential or secret information although they are under an official or other obligation to maintain confidentiality or secrecy.”

More recently, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolved in 2010 that, “the definition of protected disclosures shall include all bona fide warnings against various types of unlawful acts.” The Assembly’s Resolution 1729 concluded that member countries’ laws “should therefore cover both public and private sector whistle-blowers, including members of the armed forces and special services.”

Some are calling for a manhunt for Snowden on the grounds that he is a traitor, and others are trying to cloak the issues he raised in legalistic complexities. But what serious person can deny that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower?

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Why Edward Snowden’s Leaks Have Empowered All of Us

From Alternet:

Edward Snowden has to some degree fragmented and dispersed the concentrated power of capital and the state.

By Elliot Sperber
July 2, 2013

If the expression knowledge is power – attributed to the English Renaissance philosopher Francis Bacon – is true, then it implies, among other things, that its opposite is also true. That is, if knowledge is power, then the lack of knowledge, or ignorance, amounts to a lack of, or exclusion from, power. As such, removing, obscuring, or hiding knowledge – in a word, secrecy – not only creates power, it produces powerlessness, weakness, and vulnerability as well. Indeed, as Elias Canetti phrased it in his Crowds and Power: “Secrecy lies at the very core of power.” As the state, then, acquires ever more knowledge/power through such programs as PRISM, ‘the people’ in general – in spite of the State’s dubious claims of enhancing security and safety – are only further weakened, put into an ever more vulnerable, precarious position. In addition to the myriad political, legal, and ethical issues embedded in the debate concerning the whistleblower Edward Snowden’s ongoing disclosures of classified information, this nonconsensual, actual precarization of the public (by secretive state and private-sector agencies whose authority to gather this power is by no means clear) constitutes a substantial harm in itself.

As such, those who argue that mass surveillance is wrong because it leads to horrible things at the bottom of a slippery slope entirely miss the point. Notwithstanding the fact that the ‘slippery slope’ is a  logical fallacy, the harm under consideration does not lie in some hypothetical future. Beyond present-day trespasses to people’s privacy, this actual disempowerment, which replaces political subjectivity with political subjugation to an unprecedentedly powerful state, is a present, concrete harm. That the disclosure of secrets disrupts this unprecedented aggrandizement of power to some degree explains why whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and others are exposed to such vengeful persecution. Insofar as whistleblowers have exposed this secrecy, along with its contents, they have not only redistributed knowledge, but have redistributed and threatened power as well.

Though US political culture has traditionally (if only nominally) claimed to be suspicious of concentrations of power, in reality order – as opposed to liberty – is predicated on just such concentrations. To be sure, while people like to point to the Constitution’s separation of powers schema as evidence of this alleged enmity to tyrannical concentrations of power, it is nothing short of a political-economic fact that that which is subject to separation hardly comprises actual power. For let us not forget that the US is a ‘representative democracy.’ And the interests represented in local, state and federal government alike are overwhelmingly those of the rich. This should not be too contentious a claim. Not only do the rich bankroll practically every candidate running for public office – and so act as gatekeepers to political office – the Supreme Court’s notorious decision in Citizens United (which holds that money is consubstantial with political speech) only amplifies this dynamic; in spite of any rhetoric to the contrary, one’s political power is contingent on one’s economic power.

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Egyptian army ousts President Morsi and suspends constitution

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People Get Ready: ‘Unprecedented’ Weather Glimpses Century Ahead

From Common Dreams:

Latest report from WMO says first decade of century was hottest, wettest on record with more to come

Jon Queally

The rate of rising oceans has doubled, the heat temperatures for both land and water are on the rise, the melting of the Arctic ice is speeding up, and both the weather extremes the world is experiencing and the overall global warming trends are simply ‘unprecedented.’

That’s the assessment contained in the World Meteorological Organization’s latest report, The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Climate Extremes, which examined the first decade of the 21st century. The report, released Wednesday, arrived with this warning: we better get ready for more.

“Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far reaching implications for our environment and our oceans, which are absorbing both carbon dioxide and heat,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

The decade between 2001 and 2010, according to the report, was both the hottest and the wettest since modern records were started in 1850.

According to the report, “Carbon-dioxide concentration […] reached an average global value of 389 parts per million by the end of the decade, the highest value recorded for at least the past 10,000 years.”

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Working with nature can protect us from floods

From Rabble Canada:

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We Need Climate Action on All Fronts

From Huffington Post:


In recent weeks, we’ve been calling on President Obama to show the “courage of his convictions” when it comes to fighting climate change. In his speech last week, he agreed to take some essential steps in saving our planet, most notably cutting carbon pollution from power plants.

This is the right thing for our country. This is the way that America shows its leadership. And in taking these important steps toward a national plan for climate action, the President is showing his leadership.

Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., and right now, those plants can spew an unlimited amount of carbon into our air and account for about 40 percent of our carbon footprint. When America’s new climate plan takes on power plants, it will strike a blow against the climate chaos that threatens us all.

With the Clean Air Act, we can limit this source of climate pollution. In fact, under a plan the NRDC has proposed, the Environmental Protection Agency could develop safeguards under which each state would have its own carbon reduction target, tailored to its specific energy mix. We can even take on carbon pollution from power plants in a way that is affordable for utilities and actually means a cost savings of up to $700 a year for consumers on their electric bills. That’s real money for our families.

Without question, we’re facing a climate crisis. And it is taxpayers who are bearing the high costs. Just last year, taxpayers spent nearly $100 billion on crop losses, wildfires and disaster relief from superstorm Sandy. Our coastal communities are under siege. The Great Plains are suffering drought for the third year in a row. Our people are hurting — and they’re demanding action.

That’s why the second significant pronouncement of the President is also critical. Simply put, President Obama gave a climate test to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring the climate destroying tar sands from Canada to the Gulf Coast across our waters and farms.

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Is environmental action impossible in corporate-dominated age?

From The Star Canada:

Paralysis on climate change contrasts with effective action on ozone in the past.

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