Bruce Blog

Solomon: Obama's escalating war on freedom of the press

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The part of the First Amendment that prohibits “abridging the freedom … of the press” is now up against the wall, as the Obama administration continues to assault the kind of journalism that can expose government secrets.

Last Friday the administration got what it wanted -- an ice-cold chilling effect -- from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen. The court “delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial,” the Guardian reported.

The Executive Branch fought for that ruling -- and is now celebrating. “We agree with the decision,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “We are examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” The Risen case, and potentially many others, are now under the ominous shadow of the Appeals Court’s pronouncement: “There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify … in criminal proceedings.” Read more »

Solomon: The portrait of a leaker as a young man

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Painted by Robert Shetterly for his Americans Who Tell The Truth Project.

 

A Portrait of the Leaker as a Young Man

By Norman Solomon 

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters With America's Warfare State."

Why have Edward Snowden's actions resonated so powerfully for so many people?

The huge political impacts of the leaked NSA documents account for just part of the explanation. Snowden’s choice was ultimately personal. He decided to take big risks on behalf of big truths; he showed how easy and hazardous such a step can be. He blew the whistle not only on the NSA’s Big Brother surveillance but also on the fear, constantly in our midst, that routinely induces conformity.

Like Bradley Manning and other whistleblowers before him, Snowden has massively undermined the standard rationales for obedience to illegitimate authority. Few of us may be in a position to have such enormous impacts by opting for courage over fear and truth over secrecy—but we know that we could be doing more, taking more risks for good reasons—if only we were willing, if only fear of reprisals and other consequences didn’t clear the way for the bandwagon of the military-industrial-surveillance state.

Near the end of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, the man in a parable spends many years sitting outside an open door till, near death, after becoming too weak to possibly enter, he’s told by the doorkeeper: “Nobody else could have got in this way, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I'll go and close it." Read more »

Solomon: Denouncing NSA surveillance isn't enough--we need the power to stop it!

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By Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

For more than a month, outrage has been profuse in response to news about NSA surveillance and other evidence that all three branches of the U.S. government are turning Uncle Sam into Big Brother.

Now what?

Continuing to expose and denounce the assaults on civil liberties is essential. So is supporting Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers -- past, present and future. But those vital efforts are far from sufficient.

For a moment, walk a mile in the iron-heeled shoes of the military-industrial-digital complex. Its leaders don’t like clarity about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t like being exposed or denounced -- but right now the surveillance state is in no danger of losing what it needs to keep going: power.

Read more »

Dick Meister: Celebrating July Fourth with the enemy

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By Dick Meister
Dick Meister is a veteran Guardian columnist and freelance writer.

The Fourth of July, as we all know, is Independence Day. Hurray for George
Washington and the revolutionaries, down with King George and the British.
That sort of thing.

But have you ever wondered what it's like on the other side? Have you ever
celebrated the Fourth across the border in Canada, in that territory settled
by pro-British "Loyalists" who fled the United States after the
Revolutionary War? It is a most peculiar experience for one accustomed to
the American way of viewing the events of 1776.

My wife Gerry and I observed the Fourth on the other side a few years back
-- in Fredericton, the beautiful little capital of New Brunswick, named in
honor of King George's second son, Frederic. Going into Fredericton meant
going into the camp of a former enemy -- a friend now, but a former enemy
who openly hails the "Loyalists" who fought for them against us. I mean
people who opposed our revolution and never even said they were sorry. Read more »

The Fourth of July: Remembering the good old days in Rock Rapids, Iowa, circa 1940s to 1950s

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By Bruce B. Brugmann

(Note: In July of 1972, when the Bay Guardian was short a Fourth of July story, I sat down and cranked out this one for the front page on my trusty Royal Typewriter. I now reprint it each year on the Bruce blog, with some San Francisco updates and postscripts.)

Back where I come from, a small town beneath a tall standpipe in northwestern Iowa, the Fourth of July was the best day of a long, hot summer.

The Fourth came after YMCA camp and Scout camp and church camp, but before the older boys had to worry about getting into shape for football. It was welcome relief from the scalding, 100-degree heat in a town without a swimming pool and whose swimming holes at Scout Island were usually dried up by early July. But best of all, it had the kind of excitement that began building weeks in advance.

The calm of the summer dawn and the cooing of the mourning doves on the telephone wires would be broken early on July Fourth: The Creglow boys would be up by 7 a.m. and out on the lawn shooting off their arsenal of firecrackers. They were older and had somehow sent their agents by car across the state line and into South Dakota where, not far above the highway curves of Larchwood, you could legally buy fireworks at roadside stands. Read more »

Normon Solomon: Terminal

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Edward Snowden has provided, in my estimation and that of many others, a valuable journalistic and public service. And he has accomplished what he said he wanted to do: start a public debate on the NSA and its heretofore unknown amassing of our emails and phone messages, et al.  Here's how you can help him.

Read more »

Solomon: David Brooks, Tom Friedman, Bill Keller wish Snowden had just followed orders

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the New York Times reported on Sunday, “have renewed a longstanding concern: that young Internet aficionados whose skills the agencies need for counterterrorism and cyberdefense sometimes bring an anti-authority spirit that does not fit the security bureaucracy.

Agencies like the NSA and CIA -- and private contractors like Booz Allen -- can’t be sure that all employees will obey the rules without interference from their own idealism. This is a basic dilemma for the warfare/surveillance state, which must hire and retain a huge pool of young talent to service the digital innards of a growing Big Brother.

With private firms scrambling to recruit workers for top-secret government contracts, the current situation was foreshadowed by novelist John Hersey in his 1960 book The Child Buyer. When the vice president of a contractor named United Lymphomilloid, “in charge of materials procurement,” goes shopping for a very bright ten-year-old, he explains that “my duties have an extremely high national-defense rating.” And he adds: “When a commodity that you need falls in short supply, you have to get out and hustle. I buy brains.”

That’s what Booz Allen and similar outfits do. They buy brains. And obedience. Read more »

Solomon: The pursuit of Edward Snowden: Washington in a rage, striving to run the world

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By Norman Solomon


Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Rarely has any American provoked such fury in Washington’s high places. So far, Edward Snowden has outsmarted the smartest guys in the echo chamber -- and he has proceeded with the kind of moral clarity that U.S. officials seem to find unfathomable.

Bipartisan condemnations of Snowden are escalating from Capitol Hill and the Obama administration. More of the NSA’s massive surveillance program is now visible in the light of day -- which is exactly what it can’t stand.

The central issue is our dire shortage of democracy. How can we have real consent of the governed when the government is entrenched with extreme secrecy, surveillance and contempt for privacy? Read more »

Solomon: Uncle Sam and Corporate Tech: Domestic Partners Raising Digital Big Brother

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By Norman Solomon
Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”


A terrible formula has taken hold: warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.

“National security” agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. “Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors,” the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.

“Much of the coverage of the NSA spying scandal has underplayed crucial context: The capacity of the government to engage in constant surreptitious monitoring of all civilians has been greatly enhanced by the commercialization of the Internet,” media analyst Robert McChesney pointed out recently. Read more »

Thunder from West Portal: Quentin Kopp savages the Warriors' Embarcadero Wall and its $220 million taxpayer subsidy

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(Scroll down to read Kopp's column from the Westside Observer)

When then State Sen. Quentin Kopp was appointed to the bench in San Mateo County, some of his fellow judges took him out to lunch.  “We hope you realize you have now given up your First Amendment rights,” he was told.

Judge Kopp did as he was told and kept silent for years on the bench on the many issues he felt strongly about and would have taken on in the public arena.   Today, however, he is retired, given up judicial restraint, and is back in action exercising his First Amendment rights with gusto. Operating from a desk in the office of Atty. Peter Bagatelos in West Portal, Kopp blasted the scavengers on behalf of an initiative aimed at upending the scavenger monopoly and controlling rates (he was right.) He has fired away at the RosePak/Willie Brown/Chinatown power structure on the Central Freeway.
He regularly blasts Mayor Lee for “compliancy” on big development, District Attorney for any number of misdemeanors and indiscretions, and former Sup. Sean Elsbernd for being Sean Elsbernd.

Now, in the current edition of the Westside Observer, Kopp has hit his stride with an acidic but well argued column titled appropriately, “The Art of Picking the Public Purse.”  Read more »