"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Do Men Love Differently Than Women?

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Oldspeak:“It’s becoming more and more apparent that most of our behavior is evolutionarily and biologically driven, in spite of all our modern culture and technology. Fascinating!”

From Stephen Stosney @ Psychotherapy Networker:

Most of the couples I work with are referred by clinicians who find the man to be “too resistant” for therapy to continue. Typically, when the guys come in, they’re either defensively resentful, angry, or just emotionally shut down. Often they start right off by proclaiming that they’re frustrated as hell with therapy. As we talk, it becomes clear that, initially, they practiced the communication techniques they were taught and took to heart the insights they learned about relationships and family of origin. Yet, for reasons they can’t explain, they couldn’t bring themselves to make the long-term effort to use their new skills or apply their consulting-room insights on a routine basis at home. Of course, this failure to follow through makes their wives even more disappointed in them: “It was one thing when I thought he couldn’t do it; now I know he just won’t!” noted one angry spouse.

But beyond the frustration and resentment of the men I see is their utter bewilderment. Despite their time in therapy, they still don’t have a clue about what their wives and therapists want from them. Partly this has to do with having different expectations from their partners—men just don’t buy relationship-improvement books or read women’s magazines or watch Oprah. They find words like, connection, attunement, and validation mystifying, used less to enlighten than to point out their deficiencies.

Most of my male clients feel that their previous therapy experience was about forcing them to fit a template of what the Therapy World believes love and relationships should look like. While the therapeutic language of “intimacy” is supposedly gender-neutral, most men see it as reflecting values and ideals that appeal disproportionately to women. Nevertheless, when men don’t buy into our relationship template, we often wind up labeling them as resistant, manipulative, narcissistic, or, maybe worst of all, “patriarchal.” The message these “failed” clients get is that the way they express their love just isn’t good enough.

The reason men can talk about feelings and relationship patterns in consultation rooms, but are unlikely to keep doing it at home is simple: emotional talk tends to produce more physiological arousal in men—they experience it more stressfully. Unlike women, they don’t get the oxytocin reward that makes them feel calm, secure, and confident when talking about emotions and the complexities of relationships; testosterone, which men produce more of during stress, seems to reduce the effect of oxytocin, while estrogen enhances it. It takes more work with less reward for men to shift into and maintain the active-listening and self-revealing emotional talk they learn in therapy, so they’re unlikely to do it on a routine basis.

Some readers may be squirming right now at the very suggestion that there may be gender differences in the way people love. So let me emphasize that gender differences can never account for all of the nuances and complexities of individual behavior or render irrelevant the impact of personality variables, such as introversion, sociability, and neuroticism. It’s important to remember that research findings are always about group averages and thus provide room for lots of individual exceptions.

My colleague Pat Love and I begin our presentations standing side-by-side while making the empirically valid statement that men are generally taller than women. (Pat is 5 ft. 11 in. or so, while I’m just over 5 ft. 6 in.) If you randomly select 25 men and women, the average height of the men will likely exceed the average height of the women, yet probably there’ll be tall women and short men in the sample as well. There most assuredly are men who love to talk about feelings and women who hate it. For some couples, no doubt, emotional conversation is like a good, mutually enjoyable backrub—both parties love it equally. However, those couples are unlikely to seek therapy.

Broadly speaking, the men who do come into therapy want to feel understood and appreciated as much as their wives, but therapy typically involves asking partners to go beyond generalized expressions of appreciation to acknowledge that each partner’s point of view is reasonable or understandable in certain circumstances. The focus of most of today’s couples therapies is “validation”—conveying an understanding that you experience your partner’s mental and emotional states and that you value their experience. But the fact is that men often don’t want their thoughts and deeper feelings experienced or valued by their partners, even if their therapists think they should want these things. Unless we develop a better understanding of the real, intrinsic rewards men can experience as a result of being in therapy, they’ll just go through the motions or pursue their hidden agendas, like “Learning what I have to say to get laid.”

For men to engage in the hard work of change, the rewards have to be automatic and visceral, independent of the artificial environment of the therapist’s office and vague therapeutic concepts. They have to feel compelling reasons to change and, most important, to incorporate new behavior into their daily routine. I believe that the primary motivation keeping men invested in loving relationships is different from what keeps women invested, that it has a strong biological underpinning present in all social animals, and that it’s been culturally reinforced throughout the development of the human species.

The glue that keeps men (and males in social animal groups) bonded is the instinct to protect. If you listen long enough to men talking about what it means to love, you’ll notice that loving is inextricably linked, for many men, to some form of protection. If men can’t feel successful at protecting, they can’t fully love.

Protection and Connection

The main role of males in social groups throughout the animal world is to protect the group from outside threats. For the most part, males participate in packs and herds only if the group has predators or strong competition for food. Herds and packs without predators or competitors, like elephants and hippos, are matriarchal, with males either absent or playing peripheral or merely sperm-donor roles.

Male physiology is well-evolved for group protection, with greater muscle mass, more efficient blood flow to the muscles and organs, bigger fangs and claws, quicker reflexes, longer strides, more electrical activity in the central nervous system (to stimulate organs and muscle groups), and a thicker amygdala—the organ that activates the flight or fight response. That’s right, the first emergency response in male social animals is flight, with the option to fight coming into play only when flight isn’t possible. The principal protective role of males in social groups is to lead the pack to safety. (The primacy of flight over fight may be why the initial response of most men to conflict with their wives is to withdraw or shut down.) Significantly, males who are deficient in protecting—the ones poorer at escaping or, if necessary, fighting—have little access to the females of the species.

In species in which the females are the primary hunters, like African lions, males protect the pride from competition for food from other lions and hyenas. This sets them apart from lions in other parts of the world because they’re socially integrated with the pride. Some zoologists believe that this is because the smaller females, while excellent hunters, couldn’t protect their kills from hyena packs.

When most animal packs are under attack and can’t flee, the males form a defensive perimeter, while the females for the most part gather the young and hide them within an inner circle of protection. This scenario plays out in a great many human households, when the woman, who generally has keener hearing, detects a middle-of-the-night sound somewhere in the house. The man typically goes down to investigate, perhaps carrying a baseball bat, while she checks on the children.

Even when male animals are dominant in packs and herds, the glue of the social structure is maintained by females, who attend to one another in ways that are analogous to “validation”— sniffing, licking, and grooming other female members of the pride. This behavior calms and gratifies all the females involved, much the same way that a good emotional talk with girlfriends seems to calm and gratify women. If one of the females is missing from the pack, the others seem to worry. When she returns, the other females greet her with sniffing, licking, and grooming. The males remain connected to the group by virtue of proximity to the females, but don’t interact with them much. In contrast, it appears that frequent interaction among the females—along with fear of isolation—keeps them connected.

Anthropologists agree that humans were communal from our earliest time on earth, moving into pair-bonding relatively late in our history. There’s no reason to suspect that early human social structures were greatly different from those of other primates, where the larger, stronger males protected the tribe and the more social females “validated” each other. Both specialized activities—protection and validation—increased survival rates by enhancing group cohesion and cooperation.

Through much of history, the idea that men and women should consistently engage in intimate conversation and validate each other’s emotional worlds would have been laughable. As historian Stephanie Coontz puts it, previous generations widely assumed that men and women had different natures and couldn’t truly understand each other. The idea of intergender emotional talk independent of the need to protect didn’t emerge until the dissolution of the extended family, which began in the middle of the 20th century. Previous to that, the nuclear family—an intimate couple and children living as an isolated unit—was a rarity. Other family members were in the same house, next door, or across the street. Women got their emotional validation from other women, although they certainly wanted admiration from their men and vice versa. Today, research shows that the healthiest, happiest women have a strong network of girlfriends. In earlier times, men tended to associate mostly with other men—a cultural construct that’s still prevalent in many parts of the world, frequently reinforced by religious beliefs.

Male Protection and Self-Value

The survival importance of the instinct to protect makes it a potent factor in men’s self-value. Men with families automatically suffer low self-value when they fail to protect loved ones, no matter how successful they might be in other areas of life. Just imagine the emotional fate of a world-class CEO who distractedly lets go of his child’s hand, and sees the child run over in traffic. In contrast, a man’s self-value will likely remain intact, even if he fails at work, as long as he feels he can protect his loved ones. As a boy, I remember the manager of our Little League baseball team, a man in his mid-forties, who was beloved by his two sons and idolized by the rest of the kids, even though our parents considered him a flunkie for working as a grocery store bagger. Getting fired from a job is more tolerable for men who are more invested in the protection of their families than in their egos. They tend to search immediately for another job as a means of putting food on the table, while those who view failure at work primarily as an ego assault may face weeks of self-reproach and depression before they get up the energy to job-hunt. Under stress at work, women tend to want closer family connections, while men under stress are likely to withdraw if not isolate from their families to keep from feeling overwhelmed by their failure to protect. Men who abandon their families don’t respond to them as individuals with needs as much as symbols of their failure to protect.

Failure to protect drains meaning and purpose from the lives of family men. As a result, they often turn to some form of adrenaline arousal for motivation or stimulation—chronic resentment, anger, drugs, affairs, or compulsive behavior. When those prove insufficient, they succumb to a dispirited numbness or depression. I’ve never seen a depressed, resentful, angry, abusive, addicted, unfaithful, or compulsive man who didn’t see himself as a failure at protecting his family.

Violence and Failure to Protect

Male social mammals who succumb to fear and fail to protect the pack are either killed or driven away by its dominant males. Those who survive banishment often become rogue predators on the pack, raping females and killing juveniles who stray too far from the group. Among humans, violent criminals usually lack what sociologists term a stake in the community: marriage, paternal investment in children, a job, and positive neighborhood connections. Serial killers and terrorists almost never have intimate relationships or a close connection to their children. Historically, invading armies wanted soldiers before they married or had children; when they did have spouse and children, they were kept isolated from them. By contrast, defensive armies conscripted married men because they’d be willing to die to protect their families from invading hordes.

The increase in family violence since the 1960s parallels the diminishment of fatherhood in America. Fatherless homes have grown 400 percent by some estimates, greatly increasing the risk to women and children. A woman and her children are much more likely to be abused by a boyfriend who isn’t the father of the children and to suffer serious violence and death at the hands of a rejected father, compared to a woman and children who live with the children’s father. Men marginalized as protectors of their families are likelier to struggle for power and control over their wives or girlfriends. They compensate for loss of the capacity to protect with dominance and/or violence.

My early experience with court-ordered domestic-violence offenders taught me that when fathers are more involved in the lives of their children, they’re less likely to hurt women. Before developing our intervention for domestic violence, we studied a group of young men (with a mean age of 22), all of whom had at least two children from previous relationships and who were court-ordered for abuse of their current partners. (At that time, there was only one agency in the area offering batterer intervention, and it had a long waiting list.) As is too often the case with young violent men, none of our guys had a relationship with his children.

We gave them a course called Compassionate Parenting, which raised their awareness of the emotional worlds of their children, particularly their need for fathers who care about them and are willing to look out for them. These young men got more involved in the lives of their kids and, without any direct intervention for domestic violence, reduced recidivism of partner abuse to about 28 percent. The normal recidivism rate for unmarried men of this age group was more than 60 percent, after domestic-violence intervention.

Fur and Bone

In modern culture, male protection is defined almost entirely in financial terms. Protector is practically synonymous with provider, and a man’s worth is measured by how much fur and bone he can bring home to the cave. But the world has changed profoundly. Now few women have a choice between work and full-time motherhood, and more often than not, men aren’t the chief source of financial support in their families. The psychological toll on men conditioned by nature and society to equate being the provider and protector with personal value can be devastating. The predominant cultural message continues to cast men as the dollar signs of families, only now it upholds a standard of breadwinning that fewer men than ever can achieve.

The harm of making the dollar the measure of the man is twofold. First, it undervalues the emotional support that men can—and many do—give their families. In fact, our therapeutic message to men can appear to be paradoxical because we ask them to give more emotional support to their partners at the same time that the culture undervalues it. Second, overvaluing financial support creates a sense of entitlement in many successful providers. They think all they have to do is make more money to earn the “services”—emotional, sexual, homemaking—of their wives. The fact that wives and therapists expect more from them than being a successful breadwinner seems inherently unfair.

Male Protection in Therapy

As a practical matter, it’s useful in therapy to educate couples about the role of protectiveness in the male psyche as a way of normalizing the difficulties they have in forming a more perfect union. Couples typically find it particularly interesting that males remain connected to social animal groups by proximity to the females, even though they don’t interact much, while the females enhance group cohesion by frequently interacting with one another. If the couple has had a boy and girl toddler, they can see this difference in social orientation for themselves early on. Assuming that the children are both securely attached, the boy will tend to play in proximity to the caregiver, always checking to see that he or she is there, but seeking far fewer direct interactions—talking, asking questions, making eye contact, touching, hugging—than the girl. As long as he knows his caregiver is present, his primary interaction is with the environment.

Similarly, a man can feel close to his wife if he’s in one room—on the computer, in front of the TV, or going about his routine—and she’s in another. He’ll likely protest, sulk, or sink into loneliness if she goes out, which she may well do since he isn’t talking to her anyway. To her, and to uninformed therapists, it seems that he wants her home so he can ignore her. But he isn’t ignoring her; her presence gives stability to his routine.

This little example of why proximity to his wife is crucial to him works wonders in opening a man’s eyes to that fact that his wife gives meaning and purpose to his life. In fact, we tend to think about meaning or purpose only when we’re losing it, which is why men tend to fall in love with their wives as they’re walking out the door, with their bags packed. Evidence for the drastic loss of meaning and purpose that men suffer when they lose their wives is seen in the effects of divorce and widowerhood on men: poorer job performance, impaired problem-solving, lowered creativity, high distractibility, “heavy foot” on the gas while driving, anxiety, worry, depression, resentment, anger, aggression, alcoholism, poor nutrition, isolation, shortened lifespan, and suicide. The divorced or widowed man isn’t merely lonely—he’s alone with the crushing shame of his failure to protect his family.

I’m able to use education about the effects of divorce on men clinically, because most guys know someone at work who’s lost his family and become a shadow of his former self. As a quick way of accessing men’s fundamental sense of the meaning and purpose of their lives, I ask each man to write down what he thinks is the most important thing about him as a person. “How do you want those you love to remember you,” I ask. “Near the end of your life, what will you most regret not doing enough of?”

Because meaning and purpose are elusive psychological concepts—a way of describing why we do something rather than what we do—men will rarely hit the mark at first. They say they want to be remembered as a “good provider,” “hard worker,” “loyal man,” choosing mostly protective terms. I then ask them to imagine that they have grown children and how they’d most like their children to feel about them when they’re gone. “Dad was a good provider, hard worker, loyal, etc. I’m not sure he cared about us, but he was a good provider, worked, and was loyal” or “Dad was human; he made mistakes. But I always knew that he cared about us and wanted what was best for us.” On a deep level, all the men I’ve worked with have wanted to be remembered with some version of the second statement—as both protective and compassionate. Helping men learn to express care and compassion directly to the people they love is the key to bridging the divide between their protective instinct and their reluctance to show their emotions.

To Love Big, Think Small

Most of my work with couples centers on helping men come up with ways to approach expressions of emotional support and compassion as a form of protection. We start with enhancing a man’s daily awareness of how his desire to protect his family gives meaning and purpose to his life. He signs an agreement in therapy to remind himself every day that the primary reason he does most of what he does is to protect his family.

My experience in working with men has taught me not to be misled by the interest they might show in therapeutic topics during sessions. They’re often curious about patterns of behavior and communication, as well as family-of-origin issues. They’re also capable of impressive catharsis during sessions. Typically, however, their curiosity and catharsis won’t translate into sustainable behavior change, as 20-plus years of doing regular follow-ups with couples indicate. For all its repetitive tedium, behavior rehearsal is more effective with men in the long run than insight and catharsis.

That’s probably because men are creatures of habit, who generally don’t like surprises or departures from routine. They tend to be less tolerant of interruptions in their relatively rigid daily regimens—eating the same thing for breakfast every day, brushing their teeth at the same time and in the same direction, putting their keys in the same place at the same interval after they arrive home. Because routine is paramount for most men, behavior change based on insight and catharsis eventually sinks beneath the grind of daily habits. But if their routine incorporates small behaviors that enhance their relationships (by increasing their sense of protectiveness), change is likelier to endure.

Early in therapy, I ask men to come up with some brief, symbolic rituals that will build an awareness of the meaning and purpose of their role as protector into their daily routine. A few of my favorites include lighting a morning candle, posting “I love you” notes, putting a flower petal on his wife’s breakfast plate, sending affectionate text messages, and writing one line of their favorite song every day. To increase the chances of compliance, the rule for the small rituals is that they’re spread throughout the day and take less than two minutes total to enact. The goal is to build a mentality of caring over time.

Although men in treatment almost invariably buy into compassion as a deeper form of protection, there’s one aspect of this important bonding emotion that’s hard for both men and women to grasp: true compassion is giving what the other person needs, not necessarily what you want to give. The kind of protection men want to give often comes off more like control than the help and support their partners desire. It’s easy for any of us to confuse control with support when we feel protective of loved ones. If you doubt that, just ask your children. What seems controlling to them, you feel you do out of concern and protectiveness. I use several techniques with couples to convert control into support.

First I explain that control is: implying that she isn’t smart or creative enough to decide things on her own, or that her perspectives and opinions aren’t valid, relevant, or important. It’s telling her what to do and then criticizing or withdrawing affection if she doesn’t do it. By contrast, protective support is: respecting her competence, intelligence, creativity, and resourcefulness. It’s giving her encouragement to find the best course of action and then standing by her if what she decides to do doesn’t work. The therapeutic practice I use is role-playing advocacy—he’s her lawyer presenting her case (i.e., perspective) in a disagreement. This forces him to focus on the strengths of her position, rather than trying to undermine it. We practice this until the ability to see both perspectives simultaneously becomes automatic to him. The nice thing about this exercise is its built-in reciprocity effect; women tend to begin see both perspectives simultaneously, too, when their husbands start doing it.

A major challenge to lasting change in marriage lies in the fact that couples’ day-to-day interactions operate largely on automatic pilot. Emotional response is triggered predominantly by unconscious cues, such as body language, tone of voice, and level of mental distractedness. Negativity in any of these inadvertently sets off the automatic defense system that’s developed between the parties. Once triggered, the unaware couple can easily spiral into dysfunctional patterns of relating. They tend to get lost in the details of whatever they’re blaming on each other, with no realization of what’s actually happened to them—namely, an inadvertent triggering of the automatic defense system.

To offset the escalating effects of the automatic defense system, I try to get men to use their negative emotions as cues to protect. If he feels guilty, ashamed, resentful, or angry, she’s most likely feeling anxious or afraid, even if those vulnerable emotions are hidden beneath harsh resentment or anger. I ask the guy to remember times when he first felt negative emotions in any given interaction with his wife. He recalls the feeling and briefly “physicalizes” it, noting what it feels like in his neck, jaw, chest, shoulders, back, arms, and hands. He associates these physical sensations with a moment’s mindfulness of the things he most values about himself as a person, which is to be protective and compassionate to his family. He then shifts focus to the anxiety or fear underlying his wife’s resentment/ anger. He makes some gesture of reassurance—a demonstration of protectiveness to ease her anxiety—usually making eye contact, touching her hand, rubbing her shoulder, or just asking if he can help. The gesture has to convey that he cares about how she feels and that he very much wishes her well. This level of compassion has to be established before they address the content of their dispute. Once emotional reactivity is regulated by compassion, any dispute becomes easier to resolve. We practice the exercise in treatment until it seems automatic to the couple.

This is sounding much more mundane and plodding than it is in execution. It’s actually exhilarating to help a man use his protective instinct to strengthen his vulnerability. It’s exciting to watch him move from perceiving his wife’s requests (and complaints) as indictments of his ability to protect to experiencing them as cues to activate his desire to protect. He can then see, hear, and support—that is, protect—the most important adult in his life. When he’s able to do that, she feels validated. They both feel “connected,” for want of a better term, even though they’re in different emotional states and doing different things for different rewards. Rather than forcing themselves to act like the same instruments playing the same notes in a duet, couples who begin to interact in this way become like two different instruments playing different notes to create something together that neither can do individually—relational harmony.

How Many Americans Has Obama Targeted For Assassination?

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2010 at 10:55 am

Oldspeak: “Another frightfully misguided and dangerous Bush Era policy, adopted by Obama and supported by his current Supreme Corp Nominee Elena Kagan. Extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens… the U.S. President has the power to target your fellow citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process. Who compiles the Hit list? How do they decide who gets on it? Allegedly for “terrorists” only; who’s next? A dissident? A human rights activist? A journalist? An anarchist?

From Glenn Greenwald @ Salon

When The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest first revealed (in passing) back in January that the Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens targeted for assassination, she wrote that “as of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens.”  In April, boththe Post and the NYT confirmed that the administration had specifically authorized the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki.  Today, The Washington Times‘ Eli Lake has an interview with Obama’s top Terrorism adviser John Brennan in which Brennan strongly suggests that the number of U.S. citizens targeted for assassination could actually be “dozens”:

Dozens of Americans have joined terrorist groups and are posing a threat to the United States and its interests abroad, the president’s most senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security said Thursday. . . . “There are, in my mind, dozens of U.S. persons who are in different parts of the world, and they are very concerning to us,” said John O. Brennan, deputy White House national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism. . . .

“If a person is a U.S. citizen, and he is on the battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq trying to attack our troops, he will face the full brunt of the U.S. military response,” Mr. Brennan said. “If an American person or citizen is in a Yemen or in a Pakistan or in Somalia or another place, and they are trying to carry out attacks against U.S. interests, they also will face the full brunt of a U.S. response. And it can take many forms.”

Nobody — or at least not me — disputes the right of the U.S. or any other country to kill someone on an actual battlefield during war without due process.  That’s just obvious, but that’s not remotely what Brennan is talking about, and it’s not remotely what this assassination program is about.  Indeed, Brennan explicitly identified two indistinguishable groups of American citizens who “will face the full brunt of a U.S. response”:  (1) those “on the battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq”; and (2)those “in a Yemen or in a Pakistan or in Somalia or another place.”  In other words, the entire world is a “battlefield” — countries where there is a war and countries where there isn’t — and the President’s “battlefield” powers, which are unlimited, extend everywhere.  That theory – the whole world is a battlefield, even the U.S. — was the core premise that spawned 8 years of Bush/Cheney radicalism, and it has been adopted in full by the Obama administration (indeed, it was that “whole-world-is-a-battlefield” theory which Elena Kagan explicitly endorsed during her confirmation hearing for Solicitor General).

Anyone who doubts that the Obama administration has adopted the core Terrorism policies of Bush/Cheney should listen to the concession — or boast — which Brennan himself made in his interview with Lake:

Mr. Brennan toward the end of the interview acknowledged that, despite some differences, there is considerable continuity between the counterterrorism policies of President Bush and President Obama.

“There has been a lot of continuity of effort here from the previous administration to this one,” he said. “There are some important distinctions, but sometimes there is too much made of those distinctions. We are building upon some of the good foundational work that has been done.”

I would really like never to hear again the complaint that comparing Bush and Obama’s Terrorism and civil liberties policies is unfair, invalid or hyperbolic given that Obama’s top Terrorism adviser himself touts that comparison.  And that’s anything but a surprise, given that Brennan was a Bush-era CIA official who defended many of the most controversial Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies.

I’ve written at length about the reasons why targeting American citizens for assassination who are far away from a “battlefield” is so odious and tyrannical, and I won’t repeat those arguments here.  Suffice to say — and I’m asking this literally — if you’re someone who believes, or are at least willing to acquiesce to the claim, that the U.S. President has the power to target your fellow citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process, what unchecked presidential powers wouldn’t you support or acquiesce to?  I’d really like to hear an answer to that.  That’s the question Al Gore asked about George Bush in a 2006 speech condemning Bush’s claimed powers merely to eavesdrop on and imprisonAmerican citizens without charges, let alone assassinate them:  “If the answer is yes, then under the theory by which these acts are committed,are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? . . . If the president has th[is] inherent authority. . . . then what can’t he do?”  Can anyone defending this Obama policy answer that question?

One other thing that is truly amazing:  the U.S. tried to import this same due-process-free policy to Afghanistan.  There, the U.S. last year compiled a “hit list” of 50 Afghan citizens whose assassination it authorized on the alleged ground (never charged or convicted) that they were drug “kingpins” or funding the Talbian.  You know what happened?  This:

A U.S. military hit list of about 50 suspected drug kingpins isdrawing fierce opposition from Afghan officials, who say it could undermine their fragile justice system and trigger a backlash against foreign troops. . . .

Gen. Mohammad Daud Daud, Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister for counternarcotics efforts . . . said he worried that foreign troops would now act on their own to kill suspected drug lords, based on secret evidence, instead of handing them over for trial . . . “They should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes,” Daud . “We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own” . . . .

The U.S. military and NATO officials have authorized their forces to kill or capture individuals on the list, which was drafted within the past year as part of NATO’s new strategy to combat drug operations that finance the Taliban.. . . . “There is a constitutional problem here. A person is innocent unless proven guilty,” [Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former Afghan interior minister] said. “If you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?”

In other words, Afghans — the people we’re occupying in order to teach about Freedom and Democracy — are far more protective of due process and the rule of law for their own citizens than Americans are who meekly submit to Obama’s identical policy of assassination for their fellow citizens.  It might make more sense for Afghanistan to invade and occupy the U.S. in order to spread the rule of law and constitutional values here.

What makes all this most remarkable is the level of screeching protests Democrats engaged in when Bush merely wanted to eavesdrop on and detain Americans without any judicial oversight or due process.  Remember all that?  Click here and here for a quick refresher.  Yet here is Barack Obama doing far worse to them than that without any due process or judicial oversight — he’s targeting them for assassination — and there is barely a peep of protest from the same Party that spent years depicting “mere” warrantless eavesdropping and due-process-free detention to be the acts of a savage, lawless tyrant.  And, of course, Obama himself back then joined in those orgies of condemnation, as reflected by this December, 2008, answer he gave to Charlie Savage, then of The Boston Globe, regarding his views of executive power:

5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

[Obama]: No. I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.

So back then, Obama said the President lacks the power merely to detain U.S. citizens without charges; indeed, when asked if “the Constitution permit[s]” that, he responded:  “no.”  Yet now, as President, he claims the power to assassinate them without charges.  Could even his hardest-core loyalists try to reconcile that with a straight face?  As Spencer Ackermandocumented in April, not even John Yoo claimed that the President possessed the power Obama is claiming here.  Given Brennan’s strong suggestion that there are not merely three but “dozens” of Americans who are being targeted or at least could be (“they also will face the full brunt of a U.S. response”) — and given the huge number of times the Government has falsely accused individuals of Terrorism and its demonstrated willingness to imprison knowingly innocent detainees — is it time yet to have a debate about whether we think the President should be able to exercise a power like this?

Bill Clinton: We May Have to Blow Up The BP Oil Well

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Oldspeak : “Well wouldja look at that… Ol’ Billy Clint, stating the obvious. Should have been the  1st option, not the 5th, and it’s rarely been mentioned as a solution. But, as we’ve come to see, if there’s no profit in it, it’s not happening. BP’s primary objective here is saving their revenue stream, NOT the Gulf of Mexico.”

From Brian Montopoli @ CBS News:

Former President Bill Clinton said during a panel discussion in South Africa that it may become necessary to blow up the Deepwater Horizon well that continues to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Unless we send the Navy down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of rock and debris, which may become necessary – you don’t have to use a nuclear weapon by the way, I’ve seen all that stuff, just blow it up – unless we’re going to do that, we are dependent on the technical expertise of these people from BP,” Clinton said.

There has been some pressure for BP to simply blow up the well, with critics suggesting the company is forgoing that option out of a desire to get as much oil as possible from the rig.

“If we demolish the well using explosives, the investment’s gone,” former nuclear submarine officer and a visiting scholar on nuclear policy at Columbia University Christopher Brownfield said in a Fox News interview in May. “They lose hundreds of millions of dollars from the drilling of the well, plus no lawmaker in his right mind would allow BP to drill again in that same spot. So basically, it’s an all-or-nothing thing with BP: They either keep the well alive, or they lose their whole investment and all the oil that they could potentially get from that well.” (He penned an opinion piece in the New York Times making the argument.)

Some lawmakers have also pushed for blowing up the well.

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why BP couldn’t go into the ocean floor, maybe 10 feet lateral to the — around the periphery — drill a few holes and put a little ammonium nitrate, some dynamite, in those holes and detonate that dynamite and seal that leak. And seal it permanently,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (Ga.) said earlier this month.

Jury Convicts Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge of Lying About Torture

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Oldspeak: “America Does Torture: It’s own citizens. Nice. You can bet your sweet ass Chicago isn’t the only place this happens. “

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Decades after torture allegations were first leveled against former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, a federal jury has found him guilty of lying about torturing prisoners into making confessions. Burge has long been accused of overseeing the systematic torture of more than 100 African American men. Two years ago federal prosecutors finally brought charges against Burge—not for torture, but for lying about it. On Monday afternoon, after a five-week trial, Jon Burge was found guilty on all counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about the abuse. He could face up to forty-five years in prison.

Guest:

Flint Taylor, attorney with the People’s Law Office in Chicago. He has represented many of the torture victims.

AMY GOODMAN: Decades after torture allegations were first leveled against the former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, a federal jury has found him guilty of lying about torturing prisoners into making confessions. Burge has long been accused of overseeing the systematic torture of more than a hundred African American men. The police department fired him in 1993 for mistreatment of a suspect, but did not press charges. More than a decade later, Cook County prosecutors looked into the torture allegations and found that although there was evidence to show torture had occurred, the statute of limitations had expired.

Two years ago, federal prosecutors finally brought charges against Burge—not for torture, but for lying about it. On Monday afternoon, after a five-week trial, Jon Burge was found guilty on all counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about the abuse. He could face up to forty-five years in prison.

Outside the courthouse, the verdict drew a visibly emotional response from one of the men who had been tortured under Burge, Mark Clements.

    MARK CLEMENTS: These people stole my [bleep] life! I hate to tell you the truth. I sat in a prison cell, and I prayed for this day! Today is a victory for every poor person. I was sixteen years old! This is America! Sixteen years old! What are we going to do about other people who are sitting in those prisons? And I’m sorry if I’m offending anyone, but it’s out!

AMY GOODMAN: This was Mark Clements’s response when reporters asked him how he felt.

    MARK CLEMENTS: Relieved that finally at least one of these people are now going to finally feel the pain. My daughter is twenty-nine years old. I missed all those years with my daughter, sitting in them prison cells for a crime I did not commit. I do not feel sorry for Jon Burge. That’s all I have to say.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Clements, one of the dozens of men who were tortured under former Chicago police commander Jon Burge.

I’m joined now from Chicago by Flint Taylor, an attorney with the People’s Law Office in Chicago. He’s represented many of the torture victims.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Your response to the guilty verdict, Flint Taylor?

FLINT TAYLOR: It was a wonderful victory for the African American community and all people here in Chicago who have fought so long and so hard for justice. This fight, as you’ve mentioned, has gone on for decades. It’s a human rights victory that should be understood across the entire country, because here in Chicago we’ve now done something, after thirty years of struggle, that has not happened anywhere else. And that is, we have a conviction of a torturer, a United States torturer. And that is what the lesson needs to be taken by the Obama administration, who seems so leery to prosecute people like Cheney and people under his command for torture abroad by the US. Now we have an example. And actually, it was a Republican prosecutor who did this. So I think that we all across this country should take a lesson from Chicago.

But we’re also saying this struggle has to continue, because there are many men under the command of Jon Burge who are being investigated, who need to be indicted. There are men behind prison bars still who are there because of the torture, by tortured confessions. We need to have a federal statute that says that torture is a crime akin to other human rights violations that has no statute of limitations, so future Burges cannot end up being prosecuted only for perjury and not for the torture that happened. And we need to have full compensation by the city for the men, many of whom have never had or cannot have lawsuits, men who came forward and are the true heroes of this piece and this prosecution, the men who testified against Burge and who were ripped from pillar to post by his lawyer in a very racist way and presented to this jury that it was OK to torture them, it’s OK to torture poor black men who are charged with crimes, who may have been in street gangs.

And this jury, which only had one African American on it, spoke loudly and said no, it’s not right to torture. Doesn’t matter if you’re poor and black and a criminal. And I think the message is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a terrorist either, or an alleged terrorist, that we cannot countenance torture in this country or by this country. And until all people who torture and all those people who are responsible for torturing are brought to justice, the conscience of Chicago and the conscience of this country cannot be cleansed.

AMY GOODMAN: Last month, just as the trial was beginning, I spoke to Darrell Cannon, one of the dozens of men to come forward with allegations of abuse at the hands of the Chicago police. He says police tortured him in 1983 and forced him to confess to a murder he didn’t commit. He spent more than twenty years in prison. But after a hearing on his tortured confession, prosecutors dismissed his case in 2004. Now he’s suing Chicago for wrongful conviction. In this clip, he’s describing the torture he was subjected to by the Chicago police under Jon Burge’s command.

    DARRELL CANNON: By them not being successful in getting what they wanted out of me, they then did a third treatment, which was they put me in the backseat of a detective car. They unhandcuffed my cuffs from behind, put them in front. John Byrne had a gun to my head and told me, “Don’t move,” when they redid the handcuffs. They put me sideways in the backseat of a detective car and made me lay down across the seat. They pulled my pants and my shorts down, and that’s when Byrne took an electric cattle prod, turned it on, and proceeded to shock me on my testicles. They did this what seems like forever with me, but it wasn’t that long. At one point, I was able to kick the cattle prod out of the detective’s hands, and that knocked the batteries out. He got the batteries, put them back in. One of them tried to take his feet and put it on top of one of my feet, the other one did the same thing, to stop me from kicking. Then this is when they started using the electric cattle prod on me again, while telling me that they knew that I wasn’t the one they wanted, but I had information that could lead them to the other person that they wanted. They continued to do this until finally I agreed to tell them anything they wanted to hear. Anything. It didn’t matter to me. You know, if they said, “Did your mother do it?” “Yes, yes, yes.” Because the diabolical treatment that I received was such that I had never in my life experienced anything like this. I didn’t even know anything like this here existed in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: I also want to turn to an interview I did in 2006 with David Bates, who says he was tortured by men under Burge’s command. This is how he described what happened to him.

    DAVID BATES: I believe it was October the 28th or 29th of 1983, when a few officers knocked on my mom’s door and announced that they were police officers and let my mom know that I’ll be taken away and that I’ll be coming home shortly. There were supposed to be some questions regarding a case. Of course, I got to the police station. I was questioned. I let the officers or detectives know that I had nothing to do with the case. I knew nothing. This went on for two days.

    At that time, it was five sessions of torture, starting with two with slaps and kicks and threats. It was two particular sessions of torture that was very devastating, in which a plastic bag was placed over my head. I was punched and kicked. And I’ll tell you, when you talk about torture, you’re talking about individuals who, most part, were young, had a few brushes with the law, but never in a million years thought that they would have a plastic bag placed over their head.

    More importantly, the torture has never been resolved. No one has ever owned up to the torture. So we have hundreds of individuals who have psychologically been warped, been destroyed. There’s never been any clinical resolution to the torture. No one has owned up to it.

AMY GOODMAN: That was [David Bates]. We talked to him in 2006. Flint Taylor, how is it possible that we’re talking perjury here and not actual torture?

FLINT TAYLOR: Well, it goes right back to the mayor of the city of Chicago, Richard Daley. Back in the early ’80s, when this torture first came to light and the doctor from the jail brought definitive evidence to the chief of police, who then brought it to Daley, who was the chief prosecutor at that time, Daley chose not to prosecute Burge, but rather continued to use Burge as a key witness in the prosecution of the person who was tortured. That went on for six or eight years after that, while Daley was the prosecutor. And Darrell Cannon’s case arose during that time. David Bates’s case arose during that time. And scores of others were tortured. If those men—those men never would have been tortured if Daley had acted back in 1982 and prosecuted Burge for torture, rather than for obstruction of justice. Since he did not do that, and since the Justice Department, under Reagan, first Reagan, later Bush I, then Clinton, and then Bush II, none of those Justice Departments listened to the movement’s pleas to prosecute Burge for torture when the statute had not run. So the statute was gone by the time that Fitzgerald, the prosecutor who did indict him, after decades of struggle and decades of fighting by the people that were fighting for justice, did indict him. All that was left was his lying in lawsuits that we had brought, that he had lied about torturing people, that he obstructed justice by lying about torturing people. That’s all he could be charged with now.

That’s why we need a federal stature that not only makes police torture a federal crime, but says no statute of limitations. If you cover it up, you can be prosecuted ten, twenty, thirty years later, because these crimes against humanity, this is like the prosecutions in the South of the Klansmen who blew up the church and killed the little children. No matter how long it takes, how many decades, you have to prosecute these people for what they did. In David Bates and Darrell Cannon’s case, they were both prosecuted by John Byrne and Peter Dignan, the two right-hand men of Burge. They have to be prosecuted, as well. There’s an open investigation, and we’re now calling for them to be indicted and to be prosecuted. And the entire political structure here is in question. And the mayor has still been—is silent at this point.

AMY GOODMAN: Mayor Daley.

FLINT TAYLOR: But the money that the city of Chicago has paid has to be stopped, for defending Burge and his men.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking Mayor Daley.

FLINT TAYLOR: Yeah, of course. The city has paid, and still pays, tens of millions of dollars for pensions for these men. They’ve paid over $10 million to defend the cases in civil courts. They’re still paying for defense of Burge in the civil courts. The Fraternal Order of Police has paid millions of dollars to defend Burge in the criminal cases. So the city is still on the wrong side of this issue after all these years. And one man who testified, Melvin Jones, is homeless. He never has gotten a nickel over all these years, yet he’s come forward and testified. The city has to make these people whole. Just because they don’t have a lawsuit that they can bring, there has to be compensation. There has to be treatment offered to these men. There are over 110 men who have been tortured. That’s been documented. So this jury only heard it from a few of them. There are many others that are still behind bars. All of these issues remain unresolved in the city. And so, the conscience of the city and justice in the city cannot be obtained until all of these issues are dealt with. And that’s why people rejoice in this verdict, but that we know that how many more years, or decades, hopefully not, however much longer it takes, we have to get full justice in these cases and make sure that this kind of thing cannot and does not happen again.

AMY GOODMAN: Flint Taylor, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Flint Taylor, the attorney with the People’s Law Office in Chicago. By the way, that last clip was David Bates, who I interviewed in 2006.

Toronto in Turmoil: The Real Crime Scene Was Inside the G20 Summit

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Oldspeak:”Peaceful protesters brutally beaten and detained, independent media access restricted and harshly policed; corporate media focused on the violent protest of the “Black Bloc”, 1 billion squandered on “security”.  All while 20 men decide the fate of billions. Halving the deficit by 2013 = massive cuts in gov’t spending, social programs, health care, and education. Disproportionately affecting the poor and disenfranchised; paid for by bottom 80 percent of the worlds’ societies. NO BUENO.”

From Amy Goodman/Naomi Klein @ Democracy Now:

As thousands protested in the streets of Toronto, inside the G20 summit world leaders agreed to a controversial goal of cutting government deficits in half by 2013. We speak with journalist Naomi Klein. “What actually happened at the summit is that the global elites just stuck the bill for their drunken binge with the world’s poor, with the people that are most vulnerable,” Klein says.

Guest:

Naomi Klein, journalist author. Her most recent book is The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. She has an op-ed in the Globe and Mail today, titled Sticking the Public with the Bill for the Bankers’ Crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: As thousands protested in the streets of Toronto, inside the G20 summit world leaders agreed to a controversial goal of cutting government deficits in half by 2013. Economists say such a move could usher in sizable tax increases and massive cuts in government programs, including benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, world leaders at the G8/G20 failed to come to an agreement on setting new global rules for big banks or imposing a new across-the-board global bank tax.

Journalist Naomi Klein joins us now from her home in Toronto. Her most recent book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. She has an op-ed in the Toronto Globe and Mail today called “Sticking the Public with the Bill for the Bankers’ Crisis.”

Naomi, welcome to Democracy Now! You were out on the streets throughout the weekend. Describe what Toronto looks like and what the G20 decisions—their significance are.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, Toronto has pretty much returned to normal. They cleaned up the broken glass, and the leaders have gone home. And I was near the Convention Center last night and saw some sweeping up. And, you know, all weekend the media here has been in hysterics over the broken glass and the burning police cars and saying, you know, nothing like this has ever happened before in Canada, which, first of all, is just not true. We have some pretty intense hockey riots, where in one case sixteen police cars were burned. So it isn’t true that we’ve never seen property destruction like this.

But my feeling, when I went by the Convention Center after all the leaders had gone home, was that this was the real crime scene, not those shattered storefronts, but what actually happened at the summit on Sunday night, when the world leaders issued their final communiqué. And what that communiqué said was that there wouldn’t even be a measly tax on banks to help pay for the global crisis that they created and also prevent future crises. There wouldn’t be a financial transaction tax, which could create a fund for social programs and for action on climate change. There wouldn’t be a real action to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuel companies that have also created so many social and environmental costs around the world, as we see with the BP disaster.

But what there would be was very decisive action on deficit reductions. These leaders announced that they would halve their deficits by 2013, which is shocking and brutal cut. You know, I don’t believe—maybe some of the leaders intend on keeping—making good on this promise, but, on the other hand, they can hide behind this promise as the excuse to do what a lot of them want to do anyway, and say, you know, “We have no choice; we made this commitment.” But so, just to put this in perspective, if the US were to cut its deficit, its projected 2010 deficit, in half by 2013, that would be a cut of $780 billion, you know, if there were no tax increases in that period. So, you know, that’s why I wrote the piece that came out this morning in Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail, that what actually happened at the summit is that the global elites just stuck the bill for their drunken binge with the world’s poor, with the people who are most vulnerable, because that is really who’s going to pay, when they balance their budgets on the backs of healthcare programs, pension programs, unemployment programs. And also, the other thing that they did at this G8 summit, that preceded the G20 summit, is admit that they were not meeting their commitments to doubling aid to Africa, once again, because of the debt that was created by saving the banks.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, in your piece in The Globe and Mail, you talk about the history of G20, how it was formed.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, you know, the G20 is a little bit of a mysterious institution. Amy, you and I were both at an event in Toronto on Friday night, both speaking at an event organized by the Council of Canadians. It was a terrific event. And Vandana Shiva was one of the other speakers, and she had a great line. She said, “Ah, the G20, so young and yet so old,” referring to the fact that the ideas of the G20 are so old, so predictable. But it is a young institution. It was conceived in 1999 as a summit of finance ministers. It only became a sort of an extension of the G8 as a leaders’ summit in the past two years, and that we saw in London, and we saw it in Pittsburgh, and we have now seen it in Toronto. So this incarnation of the G20 as a leaders’ summit is very young indeed.

But yeah, ten years ago, Paul Martin, who was then Canada’s finance minister, later Canada’s prime minister, was at a meeting with Larry Summers. This is 1999, so Summers at that time was Bill Clinton’s nominee for Treasury secretary. And the two men were discussing this idea to expand the G7 into a larger grouping to respond to the fact that developing country economies like China and India were growing very quickly, and they wanted to include them into this club, and they were under pressure to do so. So, what Martin and Summers did—and this history we only learned last week. This really wasn’t a history that had been told. So this story came out in The Globe and Mail. And it turns out that the two men didn’t have a piece of paper. They wanted to—I don’t know how this would possibly be the case, but their story is that they wanted to make a list of the countries that they would invite into this club, and they couldn’t find a piece of paper, so they found a manilla envelope and wrote on the back of the manilla envelope a list of countries. And by Paul Martin’s admission, those countries were not simply the twenty top economies of the world, the biggest GDPs. They were also the countries that were most strategic to the United States. So Larry Summers would make a decision that obviously Iran wouldn’t be in, but Saudi Arabia would be. And so, Saudi Arabia is in. Thailand, it made sense to include Thailand, because it had actually been the Thai economy, which, two years earlier, had set off the Asian economic crisis, but Thailand wasn’t as important to the US strategically as Indonesia, so Indonesia was in and not Thailand. So what you see from this story is that the creation of the G20 was an absolutely top-down decision, two powerful men deciding together to do this, making, you know, an invitation-only list.

And what you really see is that this is an attempt to get around the United Nations, where every country in the world has a vote, and to create this expanded G7 or G8, where they invite some developing countries, but not so many that they can overpower or outvote the Western—the traditional Western powers. So, as this happened, we have also seen a weakening and an undermining of the United Nations. And I think that that’s the context in which the G20 needs to be understood. And that’s why a lot of the activists in Toronto this week were arguing that the G20 is an illegitimate institution and the price tag is—that we, as Canadian taxpayers, have had to take on for hosting this summit, you know, $1.2 billion, is particularly unacceptable, given that we have the United Nations, where these countries can meet in a much more democratic, much more legitimate forum, as opposed to this ad hoc invitation-only club from the back of an envelope in Larry Summers’s office.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to the issue of war. There were a number of feeder marches into the main one on Saturday. The peace groups started in front of the US consulate in Toronto. And there, in a rare moment, a mother of a young Canadian who had just been deployed to Afghanistan, to Kandahar, spoke out against war.

    JOSIE FORCADILLA: I’m Josie. I’m employed by the United Church of Canada in the Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations Unit. My son was deployed in Afghanistan in May this year and is currently working in the Kandahar Airfield, where the Canadian forces is located. And he is under the Royal Regiment, the regiment—the battle group, I mean, that is currently deployed in Afghanistan.

    AMY GOODMAN: And why are you here in front of the US consulate on this rainy day?

    JOSIE FORCADILLA: I’m here—I’m here, even though it’s raining, as you can see, that I just want to convey my message to the members of the G20 and G8, that relatives, a mother like me, doesn’t want to extend this mission in Afghanistan.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why?

    JOSIE FORCADILLA: Why? Because lots of lives has been lost, not only from this side of the NATO forces or the ISAF, but as well as the Afghan civilian population. We don’t know what’s happening with the civilians. We don’t know how much people have died—how many people have died in this conflict. So, as a mother, I’m very concerned about that.

    AMY GOODMAN: There have just been reports that have come out about torture at the Kandahar air base. Have you heard about this?

    JOSIE FORCADILLA: I’ve heard about that, and I’ve read about that. And I think it’s—this government, the Harper government, should come clean with this issue. There should be an impartial investigation, as far as torture is concerned in Kandahar Airfield.

AMY GOODMAN: Josie Forcadilla is the mother of a Canadian soldier currently serving in Kandahar. A hundred fifty Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan. Four civilians have died, two since I actually spoke to her.

Naomi Klein, talk about war in the context of the G20 summit, and Canada’s decision to pull out troops, their 4,500 troops, in a year.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, we’ll see whether that happens. But I do think that the anger that we saw displayed on the streets of Toronto this weekend did surprise a lot of people. You know, people think of Canada as a very polite country, and there was a lot of anger and a lot of very angry young people. And this has to do with a real transformation that’s taken place in our country. And, you know, I say that without romanticizing the pre-Harper Canada, because it had many, many flaws, and Canada is a colonial country with a very violent history. But having said that, something has changed under this government, and it began under the preceding government, where the country has become much more militaristic. And the tradition that Canadians identify with, which is the tradition of peacekeeping, not these overt combat missions, as we’re engaged with in Afghanistan, is really disappearing. And, you know, one of the things that you really notice as a Canadian traveling internationally is that people are constantly asking—certainly they’re constantly asking you, you know, “What is going on with Canada? You know, Canada used to be such a sort of friendly player on the world stage and, you know, pro-human rights and so on. And now Canada is a really belligerent force.” And, you know, Amy, you saw this in Copenhagen around climate change. Canada has the worst record on climate change because of the tar sands.

But, for me, the turning point of realizing just how bad things had gotten was when Jeremy Scahill reported on a speech that Erik Prince, the CEO of Blackwater, the founder of Blackwater, gave in—I believe it was Michigan a couple of months ago. And, you know, Erik Prince didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about too many people, but he was positively effusive about the role that Canada was playing in Afghanistan. He said if you ever see a Canadian, stop them and thank them for the role they’re playing in Afghanistan. So, to me, this was a real sort of turning point in terms of really understanding just how bad things have gotten. And we’ve lost a lot of friends in the world, and the new friends we’re making are people like Erik Prince, not the kind of friends we want to have. So, yeah, there have been a lot of ongoing torture scandals, with Canadian officials having knowledge of torture when they transfer prisoners in Afghanistan, allowing it to happen. So, you know, there’s a real identity crisis going on in this country, where a lot of our cherished beliefs about who we are in the world are just being challenged by the facts. And I think that what we saw on the streets this weekend and this expression of anger in the streets needs to be seen in that context.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a young journalist who was beaten and arrested. Among the hundreds of people arrested at the G20 protests in Toronto was Jesse Rosenfeld. He is a freelance reporter who was on assignment for The Guardian newspaper of London. He’s also a journalist with the Alternative Media Center. He was arrested and detained by Canadian police on Saturday evening covering a protest in front of the Novotel Hotel. We reached him just before this broadcast this morning. He was over at the CBC. And he described what happened to him.

    JESSE ROSENFELD: They started sending in snatch squads and declared a mass arrest. At that point, I went up to them, and I was with some other media and said, “What about the media?” Their first reaction was, “Well, media is also under arrest.” And then the officer came up actually [inaudible], said, “If you had an official lanyard from the G8/G20 summit, then you’re actually going to be OK and you can go through.”

    Now, it’s interesting, because I filed for my G8/G20 media accreditation on June 11th, back at the deadline, submitted both—you know, all my documentation, including a letter from The Guardian. And then, what happened was, while the summit kept saying, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m approved, they’re just waiting for the final approval of the RCMP background check before they can send me my lanyard or my official media photo ID, that it basically said it had to declare a background check. And that was basically used to prevent me from getting the media pass. So I only had an Alternative Media Center pass on me, which was the passes that the AMC, the Alternative Media Center, not the government, set up. Alternative Media Center had issued to all the independent journalists that were working with it.

    The police told me, “Oh, we don’t recognize these credentials.” I explained to them that I was a journalist also with The Guardian, that I was writing for “Comment Is Free.” I told them about my editors. I told them about my stories. And they said, “Well, we’ll check your credentials, and then, if it’s fine, we’ll let you go.”

    At that point, I was sort of taken to the side, after a bunch of media had gotten through the police line, and an officer walked up to me, looked at my ID and said—my Alternative Media Center press pass, that is—and said, “This isn’t legitimate. You’re under arrest,” at which point I was immediately jumped by two police officers. I had my notepads in my hands. Grabbed my arms, they yanked back. My notepad went flying. I was hit in the stomach by one officer as I was held by two others. As I was going over, I was then hit in the back and went down. After I went down and as I went down, I smacked my leg. I had officers jump on top of me. I was being hit in the back. My face was being pushed to the concrete. All the time I’m saying, “I’m not resisting arrest. I’m a journalist. Why are you beating me?” My leg was lifted up, and my ankle was twisted, from while I was on the ground not resisting. And at that point, after I started saying these things, the police then started saying, “Stop resisting arrest,” as if to try and provide cover for themselves.

    Something interesting about when I was jumped, as well, is, just a minute or so after, two other officers had passed by, and they identified me as someone who is, quote-unquote, “a mouthy kid.” Basically, I had run into them at demonstrations previously in the week and basically been asking tough questions on the front of the riot line as they were either clashing with media, which they did quite violently through the week, or beating protesters. And so, they had identified me as someone who was challenging them publicly and on the record. And it was at that point that I was jumped by the other officers, you know, and beaten and arrested.

    We were then hauled off to jail. I spent—I guess I was arrested at around 10:00, 11:30 in the evening, and I didn’t get out of jail ’til 5:00 or 6:00 the next afternoon. And that was basically on—we weren’t charged. We were held on the—we were detained on the grounds of, quote-unquote, “breach of peace,” which is not a criminal offense. And the conditions in jail—I mean, I’ve been working from the Middle East as a journalist for the past three years or so, since 2007, and the jails actually remind me a lot more of the ones I’ve seen that Israelis hold for Palestinians or the Palestinian Authority holds. We were in handcuffs, or at least I was in handcuffs ’til nearly 5:00 in the morning, while being processed in different cells and waiting to be processed and in cells of over—overcrowded cells with over twenty people, with a porta-potty, very limited access to water. Then, after I was processed, I was moved to a five-foot-by-eight-foot cell, where there were five other people with me. And there was benches, no washroom, only a concrete floor. And the room was absolutely freezing, not even enough space for us to lie down and sleep all at the same time. It was incredibly difficult to sleep because it was so cold. A lot of the people I was in jail with had been beaten, and beaten quite badly—black eyes, bloody noses, and been hit all over. And also, a lot of the people from—there were several people from the Alternative Media Center who had been taken in for just doing their job, which was reporting from the front lines.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Jesse Rosenfeld, freelance reporter on assignment with The Guardian newspaper in London. He was also a journalist with the Alternative Media Center, arrested and detained by the Canadian police on Saturday evening.

Naomi Klein, the level of force that was used, the money that has been put into this, and then I want to end with the Gulf of Mexico, from the G20 to the Gulf of Mexico, and there are connections. I think you make them when you speak and when you write, when we’re talking about the power of corporations.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well. we’ll see if we make it to the Gulf of Mexico, Amy. But, yeah, I want to talk a little bit about, you know, that horrifying story from Jesse. And there are many others like it. And, you know, the police rioted after what happened on Saturday. As you mentioned at the top of the show, more than 600 people have been arrested, brutally arrested in many cases, these nighttime raids. There are stories of people waking up with guns pointed in their faces.

And the context for this is really frightening, because the police are feeling really cornered and feeling like they have to justify something which is completely unjustifiable. And that is the price tag that they put on what it would cost to provide security for the G8 and G20 summit. Security for this summit cost, as you mentioned, an estimated $1 billion. Just to put that in perspective, it’s more than security has ever cost for any summit ever in the world. And, you know, Canada is not a country which has a history of terrorist attacks. So, it isn’t at all clear why they felt they needed to spend such a huge amount of money. As a point of comparison, at Pittsburgh G20 summit, the price tag for security was $100 million. So you went in less than a year from a $100 million price tag to $1 billion price tag for security, with no explanation. And as Canadians started to learn about this, they became rightfully very, very angry. And the police were under a lot of pressure to explain why they were treating this summit that Canada was hosting essentially as a cash grab. Basically what happened is they were able to buy all kinds of new toys, water cannons, sound cannons, you know, all kinds of high-tech stuff. But the real cash grab was overtime pay for the police. I mean, they were absolutely extravagant in their overtime demands, unyielding. They said, “If you want security, this is what it costs.” So, before the summit started, there was a public opinion poll that was conducted that found that 78 percent of Canadians believed that the cost was unjustified.

So, what happened on Saturday, when you saw those burning cop cars and windows breaking, was what I can only describe as a cop strike. Essentially, they were just letting it happen. And people were watching this, not understanding why, for hours, the same police car was just allowed to burn. I mean, these guys had just bought themselves a brand new water cannon, and yet they couldn’t seem to find themselves a fire extinguisher.

Now, while that was happening, media outlets were getting press statements. And I’ll just read you one. This is from the Toronto Police Department: “All you have to do is turn on the TV and see what’s happening now. Police cars are getting torched, buildings are being vandalized, people are getting beat up, and [so] the so-called ‘intimidating’ police presence is essential to restoring order.” In other words, the police were playing public relations, overtly. They were saying, “OK, you’re telling us our price tag was too high. We’re getting in political trouble for our outrageous demands. So now we’re going to show you this huge threat that we’re up against.” And so, we have a police commissioner named Julian Fantino, who’s now started to talk about activists as organized crime. He says it’s not enough to call them thugs, they’re organized criminals. So, what’s dangerous here is that in order to justify their own unjustifiable actions, they need to overinflate a threat.

And so, that has played itself out in two ways: one, by allowing what happened on Saturday to happen with almost no intervention; and then—that was stage one—and stage two was using that inaction as justification for scooping up hundreds of other activists, beating up journalists, just going on a rampage. Now, it they were serious about getting the people who had broken the windows, they would have done the arrests there at the time. But that’s not what they’d done. They went to other parts of the city. They waited hours. And that’s who they arrested. So, I feel very, very worried about my friends who are in jail right now, because—because I think there’s nothing more frightening than, you know, a police force that feels the need to justify itself in this way and using these young activists as their political cover. And, you know, I think it’s a very dangerous situation, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi, we just have a minute, but I would like you to touch on, since you were in the Gulf, and because the G20 is not as much about containing corporate power, but it seems to be augmenting and protecting it. What you see is the connection from the Gulf to Toronto?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, well, Amy, I do have a long piece about the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the cover story in The Nation this week, if people want to read it. It’s called “A Hole in the World.” And I won’t try to summarize it here.

But, you know, to me—and this is what I spoke about in Toronto—one of the most important messages that we really need to learn in this moment is if we are going to oppose the strategy that these G20 leaders have just put on the table for how to deal with the budget crisis that they created, if we’re going to say, “We don’t want to get stuck with the bill for your crisis,” then we have to put other revenue sources on the table, and that means cutting military and police spending, like the outrageous police spending we just saw in Toronto, but much larger than that, the losing wars that we’re fighting—that’s a great cost saver—and also taxing the banks, financial transaction taxes, but also going after the fossil fuel companies, because the message that we need to learn from the BP disaster is just the incredible costs imposed on societies by this industry. It is not just BP.

And we’ve accepted the principle in the Gulf of Mexico, or most of us have, with the exception of some Republicans, that the polluters should pay. And I think what we need to do is extend that principle, so that [inaudible] paying around the world, so Shell is paying for the environmental devastation it has wrought in Ogoniland in Nigeria and the decimation of the Niger Delta, and Chevron is paying for what its predecessor, Texaco, did in the Amazon in what’s called the Amazonian Chernobyl, in a case, I know, that you’ve covered extensively onDemocracy Now!, and on and on. [inaudible] that is the issue of what the whole fossil fuel industry has done, in terms of sticking us with the bill for climate change, the cost of adapting to climate change, but also the cost of shifting away from fossil fuels.

And, you know, one of the things that we just heard at the G20 summit is that they can’t—the leaders don’t believe that they can afford to take real action on climate change. Any action on climate change, according to the G20, has to ensure economic growth, which basically means they can’t take any action on climate change. So, I think we need to very forcefully put on the table, we do need to take action on climate change, and if our governments have a cash flow problem, then they should be going directly after the fossil fuel companies, and they should pay for it, because they created the crisis, they created the problem, and the polluters should pay.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, I want to thank you very much for being with us, journalist and author, her latest book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, has the cover story of The Nation magazine, wrote an op-ed piece today in The Globe and Mail of Canada. Over 600 people have been arrested protesting the G8 and G20 summits, and the amount of money that went into so-called security in Toronto, more than a billion dollars, the most expensive event in Canada’s history.

USSF: The Control of Public Media as a Social Justice Issue

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Oldspeak: “If we seek the survival of our communities and our movements, we must win two essential communicative capacities: communities in struggle must win the capacity to communicate with each other as well as the capacity to project their perspectives across society, no community can effectively reproduce culture or defend their material conditions if they lack the ability to communicate internally as well as project their perspectives across society.”

From

Yana Kunichoff @ Truthout:

The control of public media is a life-or-death struggle fought by diverse communities working toward social change against corporate-owned or undemocratic, government-sponsored media and professional journalists. The participation of marginalized and oppressed communities in shaping media systems is the only way forward for a democratic system of communication, and experiences from South America show this to hold true not only on the page, but in the field as well.

This was the message of the USSF workshop Control of Public Media as a Social Justice Issue: Lessons from Latin America and the US, which highlighted the availability of media as a racial and economic justice issue and what steps activists must take to bring media into the hands of the people.

“Who produces media systems?” asked panelist James Owens, an organizer and media coordinator with Chicago Media Action, who called for movement-based media producers organized in a network to lead the fight. “The answer to that question will largely inform us as to the culture and politics that that system will produce.”

“If we seek the survival of our communities and our movements, we must win two essential communicative capacities: communities in struggle must win the capacity to communicate with each other as well as the capacity to project their perspectives across society,” said Owens. “No community can effectively reproduce culture or defend their material conditions if they lack the ability to communicate internally as well as project their perspectives across society.”

According to Owens, the alliance of commercial media with corporate power makes it inherently untrustworthy, and the lack of democratic control of government-sponsored, national media networks such as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) has the same result.

Even nonprofit news is not immune, because of its “basically undemocratic nature. They are not run by the people … too often public broadcasting outlets have boards populated by elite and corporate representatives, who historically have used their power to filter out the very perspectives we seek to extend.”

The elitist nature of professionalism in the journalism industry, Owens said, further serves to foster elitism by keeping out “unauthorized practitioners” and, thereby, continues control over the social message.

He called instead for democratically elected boards for NPR and PBS, much like those governing libraries and other recipients of public money. To fill the role of professional journalists, Owens says, the community will control the media and use it to enable the powerless “to shape the larger social life” through its broad-reaching tools. He calls this choice “commercial journalism vs. active journalism.”

Scott Sanders, a Chicago-based media organizer also with Chicago Media Action, identified Pacifica Radio as the existing model closest to his and Owens’ democratically run ideal. Founded in 1946, Pacifica reformed its board member system in 2003 after two years of national debates among thousands of listeners, sponsors and activists. The system it came out with gave listener-sponsors the responsibility of electing new local station boards at each of the five Pacifica stations. These local boards, in turn, elect the national board of directors.

Media outlets have been under the large-scale control of corporations since about 1975, Sanders said, but the deep cuts in budgets and credibility that news outlets across the country are suffering from mean “we now have a rare and historic opportunity to wholly re-invision our public media system. We could use it to create stories, produce culture, change conditions, but will we? We must listen to our friends down South.”

Allan Gomez with Radio Populares works with communities primarily in South America to build low-power FM (LPFM) community radio stations. Because radio is the most accessible communication technology, Gomez says, it is particularly adept for use by disenfranchised and often isolated groups.

LPFM radio uses electronic broadcasting, but at a very low power and low cost. An antenna and a transmitter for the average LPFM station can cost between $2,000 and $5,000, while the cost to for the average FM station can run into millions of dollars. As part of his program, Gomez teaches activists and communities in rural areas to build and operate the radios themselves.

A particular success for Gomez was building a radio with a group of women in a small, isolated village in a sea of Contra activity in Nicaragua. The women had begun a cooperative, which then went on to found health clinics and education programs focusing on conflict resolution.

“The women were hailed as amazing and everyone in the region loved it. Then they started addressing domestic violence and suddenly not everyone loved the women, in fact they started denouncing them,” he said. “The other station in the community, actually the only other station in the community, was an evangelical radio station that promoted women as the property of men and would denounce women as witches.”

Having their own radio station allowed them to counter these accusations. According to Gomez, this experience helped the women “identify how important is it to actually be your own messenger, be your own voice” and not give up that power to anyone else, “however well-intentioned they may be.”

The second panelist from Latin America, Gerardo Torres, experienced first hand the move from the neutral network and professional journalism to community-based activism. When President Zelaya of Honduras was ousted in an Army coup in June 2009, Torres, a Honduran journalist, sprang into action. He went from editing the arts and culture beat of a national newspaper to working with the International Commission of the National Front of Popular Resistance of Honduras on underground news ventures.

“After June 28 we stopped being journalists and started to work with the resistance,” said Torres. “You are not an 8-hour person, you are more than that,” he said of his move away from the so-called neutral network of mainstream news to the resistance.

Such a rejection of common media conventions for the common good are what Sanders hopes to see increasingly in the future.

“Public media’s elite offer us an unequal relationship in which they are the parents and we are the children, anxiously waiting for information to be spoon-fed to us. We can let this happen, let go and do nothing. It will continue.” To combat this, says Sanders, “social justice movements need to radically re-invision the US public service media system. It would be almost unrecognizable alongside the current version – alternative democratic structures to govern public media and radio.”

“Democratic participation in cultural civic production only occurs,” Sanders said, “when the powerless speak to themselves and to wider audiences.”








CIA Director Leon Panetta: There May Be Less Than 50 Al-Qaeda Fighters In Afghanistan

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 9:56 am

Oldspeak: 98,000 vs 50. Seems like overkill. Billions in tax dollars being squandered and more Americans killed every month in Afghanistan, while the U.S. paying the Taliban not to shoot at U.S. soldiers, and it’s believed most of who we’re looking for are in Pakistan. There’s gotta be a better way to do this.  Bush’s War doesn’t have to become Obama’s. BRING ‘EM HOME.

From The AP/Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Sunday there may be less than 50 al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan, with “no question” that most of the terrorist network is operating from the western tribal region of Pakistan.

Panetta’s remarks came as President Barack Obama builds up U.S. forces in Afghanistan to prop up the government and, in his words, “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda.” About U.S. 98,000 troops will be in Afghanistan by fall.

Asked by ABC’s Jake Tapper to estimate the number of al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, Panetta said, “I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity.”

Panetta told ABCs’ “This Week” that the CIA is heavily focused on killing the al Qaida leadership in Pakistan, and he defended CIA drone strikes against “dead wrong” claims that they violate international law. He said Osama bin Laden is hiding amid the region’s rough terrain with “tremendous security around him.”

Asked to describe what an American victory would look like in Afghanistan, Panetta said: “Our purpose, our whole mission there, is to make sure that Al Qaeda never finds another safehaven from which to attack this country. That’s the fundamental goal of why the United States is there. And the measure of success for us is: do you have an Afghanistan that is stable enough to make sure that never happens.”

ABC News notes:

The CIA director said the U.S. is making progress in Afghanistan. “It’s harder, it’s slower than I think anyone anticipated. But at the same time, we are seeing increasing violence,” he told host Jake Tapper.
“Is the strategy the right strategy? We think so,” he said. “I think…the key to success or failure is whether the Afghans accept responsibility, are able to deploy an effective army and police force to maintain stability. If they can do that, then I think we’re going to be able achieve the kind of progress and the kind of stability that the President is after,” Panetta said.

A NATO spokesman also stressed Sunday that military operations to secure vast areas of Afghanistan would not be delayed by the ouster of the top commander in the war and mounting casualties.

NATO and U.S. forces are continuing their work as they await the arrival of new commander Gen. David Petraeus. He is taking over from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was ousted by President Barack Obama after he and his aides were quoted in Rolling Stone magazine making disparaging remarks about top Obama administration officials.

There has been concern that the leadership shake-up will further slow a push into the volatile south that has already been delayed by weeks in some areas and months in others. But NATO spokesman Brig. Josef Blotz told reporters in Kabul that the worries are unwarranted and the military is not pausing because of the changes.

“We will not miss a beat in our operations to expand security here in Afghanistan,” Blotz said, repeating the assurances of many diplomats in recent days that the change in leadership does not mean a re-evaluation of strategy.

The top American military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, flew to Afghanistan on Saturday to assure President Hamid Karzai that Petraeus would pursue the policies of his predecessor, including efforts to reduce civilian casualties.

Blotz said Petraeus was expected in Kabul in the next seven to 10 days.

Operations appear to be continuing apace, according to NATO statements. Two recent air strikes in the north, east and south killed at least nine militants, including two local Taliban commanders, NATO and Afghan officials said. No civilians were injured, NATO said.

Eight other militants were killed in a NATO-Afghan military operation in eastern Ghazni province, according to Gen. Khail Buz Sherzai, the provincial police chief.

NATO deaths also are climbing daily. A U.S. service member was killed in a bomb attack in the south and two others in a firefight in the east on Sunday, said Col. Wayne Shanks, a U.S. forces spokesman.

June has become the deadliest month of the war for NATO troops with at least 93 killed, 56 of them American. For U.S. troops, the deadliest month was October 2009, with a toll of 59 dead.

Blotz said the deaths do show that the fight is getting harder in Afghanistan, but said that does not affect NATO’s resolve.

“We are in the arena. There is no way out now. We have to stay on. We have to fight this campaign,” he said.

Blotz said about 130 middle- to senior-level Taliban insurgents have been killed or captured in the past four months.

But Taliban attacks against those allied with the government or NATO forces have also surged. In the latest such violence, the headmaster of a high school in eastern Ghazni was beheaded by militants on Saturday, the Education Ministry said. A high school in the same district – Qarabagh – was set on fire the same day.

In southern Zabul province Sunday, a roadside bomb attack on a private security company vehicle killed two of those inside and injured three, according to the provincial spokesman, Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar.


Fortress Toronto: Massive Security Clampdown for G8/G20 Meetings Most Expensive in Canadian History

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Oldspeak: ” ‘Austerity Measures’, regressive, anti-democratic policies, expansion of the police/security state, Indefinite detention without charge, restriction of movement/dissent… All coming to a country near you, courtesy of the G8/G20. It’ll be a stone cold gas.”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

World leaders have started arriving for the G8 and G20 meetings amidst a massive security crackdown that will mark the most expensive three days in Canadian history. Large swaths of Toronto’s downtown core have the appearance of a police state, with an estimated deployment of over 19,000 security personnel—nearly five times the number at the G20 in Pittsburgh last year. The security price tag is around $1 billion, and some predict the total summit cost will surpass $2 billion.

Guests:

John Clarke, founder of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Sharmeen Khan, spokesperson with the Toronto Community Mobilization Network

arriving for the G8 and G20 meetings here amidst a massive security crackdown that will mark the most expensive three days in Canadian history. President Obama is among the heads of state gathering in the remote town of Huntsville for the G8 talks today before heading to Toronto for the G20 beginning on Sunday.

Large swaths of Toronto’s downtown core have the appearance of a police state, with an estimated deployment of over 19,000 security personnel, nearly five times the number at the G20 in Pittsburgh last year. A nearly four-mile-long security wall has been erected around the G20 summit site at the Toronto Convention Center, flanked by armed police at scores of checkpoints. The Canadian police recently added water and sound cannons to their arsenal of weapons that can be used to disperse protesters. A Canadian judge is expected to rule today on a court challenge to the sound cannons’ use. The security price tag is around a billion dollars, and some predict the total cost of the summit will surpass $2 billion.

The thousands of activists here have been holding daily marches on a wide range of issues, including environmental and social justice, war and indigenous rights.

We’re starting today’s broadcast with two guests. Sharmeen Khan is a spokesperson with the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, the umbrella group behind the G20 protest. And John Clarke is with us. He’s the founder of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, or OCAP.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

JOHN CLARKE: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharmeen Khan, let’s begin with you. What about these preparations for the summit? And what’s happening to—how does that affect the protest?

SHARMEEN KHAN: Well, we’ve been expecting [inaudible] security for the last few months and have already been visited by police in the months leading up to the mobilizations against G8/G20. We’ve been hearing in the media and also from police themselves about the weapons that they’ll be bringing to the streets of Toronto. So that hasn’t been a secret.

The impacts on the organizing have been a great deal of police intimidation. Even before the week of mobilization began, we’ve had activists and organizers met by both CSIS and police on their activities. I was visited twice at my workplace. And—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean you were visited twice?

SHARMEEN KHAN: Police came to my workplace twice just to ask about what the plans were for the G20 mobilizations.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, we’re having some sound problems, so we’re going to try to fix the microphones. We’ll go to a break, and then we will come back. We’re here in Toronto, Canada, where the G8 and G20 summits are taking place over the next few days. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to try to bring you the sound as best as we can. We’re in Toronto. We’re overlooking the water, which is very choppy. There are planes overhead. Toronto is behind us. Our guests are Sharmeen Khan and John Clarke, two key organizers here in Toronto.

Before we go back to Sharmeen, John, I want to ask you why people are gathered here, why there is protest for the G8 and the G20.

JOHN CLARKE: Well, I think there’s recognition of the fact that the G20, going all the way back to the G6 in ’75—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the G20 is, and the G6 and the G8.

JOHN CLARKE: OK. Well, the G6 in ’75 was an initial grouping of the world’s most powerful and important imperial nations, essentially.

AMY GOODMAN: Group of 6, uh-huh.

JOHN CLARKE: And they were formed at a time when the world economy was in crisis, and they were looking to rearrange the world economy on the basis of a neoliberal agenda, to impose massive cutbacks and austerity on populations, to reverse the relative concessions of the postwar boom years. And their strategy all along has been to do that.

And this gathering, which has now been broadened to the G20 formation, I think, is setting itself the task of essentially deepening the process of austerity massively. They just stabilized the system with this binge of spending, bailouts to corporations and banks and what have you, spent trillions of dollars, and they’re looking to impose—looking to come to us for the bill. The International Monetary Fund is talking about twenty years of austerity.

So these meetings are always vile. They’re always reprehensible. They always need to be challenged. But this one in Toronto, I think, is exceptionally important.

AMY GOODMAN: And the difference between the G8 and G20?

JOHN CLARKE: Essentially, they’ve brought some of the other economies in the world—major, often third world economies—to the table, so that they can form, I think, a partnership between the traditional imperial powers and elites in the rising economies within the third world. I don’t think it represents a democratization; quite the reverse, it represents a consolidation of an anti-democratic strategy.

AMY GOODMAN: And Sharmeen Khan, the fact that they’re together, this is rare, right? The G8 and the G20 all in one place.

SHARMEEN KHAN: Yeah, I believe that the G8 meetings are planning to be—they’re still going to meet, but I believe that the G20 meetings are going to become more prominent. The G20 is quite new; they’ve only met four times. But I think this year marks a moment where the twenty countries—or twenty leaders, I should say—will consolidate and try to meet more regularly and be the power broker.

AMY GOODMAN: You said that the police came to your workplace. To say what?

SHARMEEN KHAN: Well, I was visited. They came to two events that we were organizing. They’ve mostly been wanting to check out the events we’ve been putting on around the G8 and G20 and then to also ask activists in the room about what our plans were. I should say that they were very polite, but we still refused to speak to them. But that’s sort of been their—they’re called community liaisons, and that’s been their strategy, is to come to different meetings, talk about a different partnership. But a lot of activists felt that they also want to get a sense of who was in the room and who the organizers were.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk, John Clarke, about the amount of money that is being spent for this summit and what’s happening in Toronto, yours an organization dealing with poverty.

JOHN CLARKE: Right. If they’re spending a billion dollars on security, it happens at a time when already the austerity measures in this province of Ontario are really kicking in in a very decisive way. In the last provincial budget, the government here abolished something that’s called the special diet. It’s an income food supplement program for people on social assistance. It was worth $200 million a year. They’ve eliminated it. And so, just in one act of security buildup, they’ve spent five years’ worth of special diet money for people whose basic nutrition is not being met. And you could find a myriad of other examples of how this is an offensive and disgusting process.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the decisions the G8/G20 will be making that affect Canada and, of course, countries all over the world.

JOHN CLARKE: Well, I mean, these are the world power brokers. They’re going to devise a strategy to restructure the economies of the world in a regressive fashion—under US hegemony, of course. And the point about it is, however, is that this is not just some abstract process, that governments throughout the world are going to be expected to take their lead from the decisions of the G20 meeting, and they’re going to be expected to impose these measures of austerity. We’ve seen what’s happened in Greece. We’ve seen the budget—the budget has just been brought down in Britain, where savage cuts, unprecedented in the last forty years, are being imposed. I mean, I think we are looking at an incredible period of austerity. Hopefully we’re also looking at an incredible period of resistance, though. That needs to be said.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharmeen Khan, you’re the umbrella group of many of the groups that are protesting. Talk about the scope of the people’s concerns and the scope of the organizations.

SHARMEEN KHAN: Well, we’re made up of organizations, labor unions and individuals, who might not be affiliated with any organization, who are mobilizing against the G8 and G20. And we’ve been organizing around specific themes that we’ve sort of divided up into themed days. So, some of the issues that people are concerned with are indigenous sovereignty, anti-poverty, gender justice, migrant issues, and an end to war and occupation. So, these are many of the issues that we feel the G8 and G20 have a great deal of influence over. And it’s a very large and diverse network, hopefully that will keep going after the G8 and G20 meetings are done. It’s been a vibrant network.

I should say, though, that we’re not organizing any of the actions. We’ve asked—we’ve done call-outs for organizations to take on some of the days, do workshops, do rallies. But the network is doing the convergence center. We’re providing childcare, doing logistics of the actions.

AMY GOODMAN: How many people are involved in these protests?

SHARMEEN KHAN: That’s hard to say. I mean, as the days go on, it has—yesterday we saw around 2,200 people in the streets. In the network itself, there’s probably around 150 to 200 people involved.

AMY GOODMAN: John Clarke, what are the actions planned?

JOHN CLARKE: We’re putting most of our resources into an action today. It’s going to be a day to struggle for community justice. We’re going to gather in a major downtown park. We’re going to march through the streets. We haven’t choreographed the route with the cops, so we don’t know what to expect in terms of how they’re going to respond.

And the event will culminate this evening in a tent city. We’re going to take over an area. We’re going to put up tents. It’s going to be a place of solidarity for homeless people. And it’s going to be a place to express the anger of all those who are being displaced and victimized by the system and by the agenda of the G20. I think it will be a very powerful event and a very important one.

And as was alluded to, the real question is going to be where it goes from here. We’re not just protesting a summit; we’re protesting a whole series of attacks. We’re protesting a whole economic system. And as such, the struggles that flow out of today are of the greatest importance.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of war. Yesterday, as we came into Toronto from Detroit, from covering the US Social Forum, I was seeing a news zipper occasionally would mention the name—I think it was James MacNeil—of a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan.

JOHN CLARKE: Right, right. Yeah, I mean, I think that the great—one of the great ironies of preparing this and working with mainstream media, for example, is that the fixation is, is this going to be peaceful? Is somebody going to break a window? Is somebody going to scuffle with the cops? Which is such a tiny issue relative to the enormous violence of the agenda that’s being prepared here. It’s not just about imposing austerity on people. They’ll use whatever form of military violence is necessary to ensure that that agenda is enforced. And yes, we are confronting something that I think is profoundly dreadful.

Obama Hedges On July 2011 Drawdown Date For Afghanistan, Giving Leeway To Gen. Petraeus

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 11:10 am

Oldspeak: ” ‘The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living.’ Sigh. No Bueno Obama, No Bueno. BRING ‘EM HOME.”

From Richard Sisk @ The Daily News:

President Obama went squishy Thursday on July 2011 as a hard-and-fast date for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, giving some leeway to new commander Gen. David Petraeus.

The drawdown date was set last year in the agreement to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to the combat zone, but “we did not say that starting July 2011 suddenly there would be no troops from the U.S. or allied countries in Afghanistan,” Obama said.

“We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,” Obama added during a joint news conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the White House.

Obama said July 2011 should be seen more as a date for a transfer of responsibility to Afghan forces. He also said he will be relying heavily on Petraeus’ advice when the pullout date and war strategy come up for another major administration review in December.

Petraeus sought to avoid comment on troop withdrawals as he went to Capitol Hill to visit members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That panel will hold hearings next week on his certain confirmation to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

“I support the President’s policy,” Petraeus told CNN, but he also will be providing his “professional advice” for the December war review.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left for Afghanistan yesterday to ease the concerns of field commanders over Obama’s sacking of McChrystal and Petraeus’ succession.

Earlier, Mullen joined Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Pentagon in agreeing that McChrystal had to go after mocking Obama and the civilian leadership in a stunning Rolling Stone magazine article.

“Honestly, when I first read it, I was nearly sick,” Mullen said of the magazine piece. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Gates said that McChrystal’s remarks made his position “untenable.” But he stressed that McChrystal’s contempt for the chain of command was not typical of the top uniformed leadership.

“This is an anomaly, not a systemic problem,” Gates said.

In Death, Michael Jackson Has Had The Comeback He Always Wanted.

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 10:03 am

Oldspeak:“It will be reallllly interesting when all the facts come out on Michael’s death. 400 Million in debt no longer, somebody’s making out like fat rats.”

From Ben Sesario @ The New York Times:

His estate, managed by two longtime associates, the entertainment lawyer John Branca and the music executive John McClain, has nearly settled his troubled finances by making a string of big deals: a record-contract extension with Sony, a new Jackson-themed video game, two Cirque du Soleil shows and a plethora of merchandise.

Over the last year, the Jackson brand has generated hundreds of millions of dollars, and experts in the management of celebrity estates say that in the long term it might very well equal or eclipse the value of what until now has been the ultimate entertainment estate: that of Elvis Presley, which earned $55 million last year, according to an estimate by Forbes magazine.

“Michael Jackson’s This Is It,” a film drawn from rehearsal tapes for the O2 arena shows in London that had been scheduled before he died a year ago, grossed $261 million around the world, according to boxofficemojo.com. And last year Jackson sold nearly 8.3 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan — far more than any other artist.

“What they’ve done brilliantly is that they’ve taken advantage of the emotion surrounding the tragic and unexpected passing of Michael Jackson, and done it in a way that’s tasteful yet profitable, and that’s challenging,” said Robert F. X. Sillerman, the financier who until recently was the chairman and chief executive of CKX, which controls the Presley estate. (Mr. Sillerman remains CKX’s largest shareholder.)

Before Jackson died on June 25 at the age of 50, he was on the brink of financial disaster, and he was about to embark on a risky move to return to performing after a 12-year absence. He was more than $400 million in debt, and bookmakers in London were placing bets that he would not appear for a planned series of 50 concerts at the O2 arena.

The change in public perception since Jackson’s death has been just as remarkable as his estate’s financial turnaround.

Although tickets to his London shows sold out in hours, the Jackson brand had been hurt by allegations of child abuse that had dogged him over the last two decades. (He settled a case in the 1990s, and was acquitted at a trial in 2005.) Last spring few fans turned out to view memorabilia at a planned auction in Beverly Hills, Calif. (it was canceled after Jackson objected), but when another Jackson auction opens in Las Vegas on Thursday, significantly bigger crowds — and higher prices — are expected.

Jackson’s executors were well aware that his public image needed tending.

“We felt we needed to restore Michael’s image, and the first building block of that was the movie,” Mr. Branca said in an interview on Tuesday. “People came away from that movie with a completely different view of Michael. Rather than being this out-of-control eccentric, they saw him as the ultimate artist, the ultimate perfectionist, but at the same time respectful of other people.”

But many cultural critics and estate managers say that the enormous, worldwide outpouring of emotion upon Jackson’s death — aided by an Internet-fueled news engine that has kept the issue in the public eye for the last year — established a momentum of its own.

“His sainthood began the moment that he died,” said David Reeder, vice president of GreenLight, a licensing agency that works with the estates of Johnny CashSteve McQueen and other celebrities. “That’s been beneficial for the estate. They haven’t had to overcome a lot of obstacles that might have made him less desirable commercially.”

Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of black popular culture at Duke University, said that death has changed the way Jackson is remembered and discussed, particularly among African-Americans. Last week Jackson was inducted into the Apollo Theater’s hall of fame, along withAretha Franklin.

“Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the Michael Jackson story is such a sad story in the end,” Professor Neal said. “And in reading him that way, some of his humanity has been recovered. We don’t necessarily see Michael as the demon that some folks might have seen him as in those last couple years of his life.”

Whether the Jackson estate can sustain its current levels of business — and whether public opinion will remain rosy — is another question.

This fall, Sony is planning to release an album of unreleased Jackson material. But the one major new song that has been released so far, “This Is It,” from the soundtrack of the movie, failed to catch fire on the charts. And the enormous spike in record sales from last year has settled down to the level of Jackson’s sales while he was alive; halfway through 2010, a little more than a million of his albums have been sold in the United States.

Bob Lefsetz, a former entertainment lawyer who writes a widely read blog about the music industry, said in an interview that without a Graceland-style destination to attract fans — Jackson’s ranch, Neverland, will most likely be sold, according to people with knowledge of the property — Jackson’s sales will eventually slow to a modest level.

“The question is legacy: Is he Elvis or is he not?” Mr. Lefsetz said. “It’s not like Elvis. There’s not much music. There’s one and a half albums there, somewhere between ‘Off the Wall’ and ‘Bad,’ and I think it ultimately fades out.”

Not everyone is so certain. Mr. Sillerman, who noted that the Presley estate was on track to have its most profitable year ever, said that death changes everything.

“There’s something unique about Americans,” he said. “We root against people and look for the negative while people are alive, and then we’re very forgiving, whether they deserve it or not, and we celebrate their success in death.”

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