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

Posts Tagged ‘1st Amendment Rights’

Goldman Sachs Threatens Legal Action, Withdraws Pledged TARP Funds To Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union; Occupy Wall Street’s Bank

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Oldspeak:”Some of the biggest members of the Transnational Corporate Network’s International Banking Cartel are using their vast resources as a political weapon to attack small low-income community banks that support and do business with Occupy Wall Street. And the resources they’re withholding are taxpayer bailout funds they’re mandated to use for community reinvestment.  So they’re retaliating against the people protesting their practices by withholding money, PUBLIC MONEY (the peoples money they took to remain ‘solvent’), that is owed.  “You’ve had basically Goldman has started a kind of run on low-income banks that will associate with Occupy Wall Street. This is a dangerous use of public money. I’ve got to emphasize this: it’s TARP money, that is bailout money that we gave these banks in 2008. They were required, as part of the deal—in Goldman Sachs’ case, explicit—that they give back some of the money to low-income communities and reinvest there. It’s our money. It’s not a donation. And this is just little bits. And they’re withholding these payments. I haven’t seen Goldman put out—they’ve put out less than half a cent on the dollar we gave them, the lowest of any bank. But they are setting a—they’re basically setting a course that all of the other banks are now following, saying, “Hey, you want our money? You have to clear your political positions with us at the big banks.” This is a very dangerous new business.” –Greg Pallast Corporatocracy in action. Only an organization with no fear of reprisal could conceive of so blatantly disregarding actions its been lawfully ordered to carry out. Predictably, very coverage of this in corporate media, and the little there is distorted and inaccurate. If you’ll notice there is no mention of the fact the Goldman is witholding taxpayer money they’ve been ordered to pay. It’s referred to as their money in the wall st. journal article below.” “Ignorance Is Strength

Related Video:

Greg Palast: ‘Goldman Sachs vs. Occupy Wall Street’

Related Story:

Goldman Sachs Sends Its Regrets to This Awkward Dinner Invitation

By Greg Palast @ Democracy Now:

Guest:

Greg Palast, investigative reporter with the BBC and author of the books Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His next book, out in November, is calledVultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a controversy in the banking community around the Occupy Wall Street movement. Recently, the financial giant Goldman Sachs pulled out of a fundraiser for a small Lower East Side bank that caters to poor people after it learned the event was honoring the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. The investment bank withdrew its name from the fundraiser and also canceled a $5,000 pledge.

But did Goldman Sachs actually use U.S. taxpayer bailout money to attack Occupy Wall Street’s not-for-profit community bank? Investigative reporter Greg Palast filed this report from Wall Street.

GREG PALAST: Downtown New York, near Wall Street, these are the towers of Goldman Sachs, the mega-bank. With over $933 billion in assets, nearly a trillion dollars, Goldman has declared war on one of the smallest banks in New York City.

The story begins here at Occupy Wall Street. It all started here, with these buckets. Unexpectedly, the donation buckets were filling up with thousands of dollars in cash, and the anti-bank protesters suddenly needed a bank.

BOBBY “BAILOUT”: We basically started out here just thinking we were going to a protest, and maybe some people would come out. Then, very soon, we were collecting large amounts of donations, and we were in way over our head.

GREG PALAST: Occupy Wall Street chose to bring their bucket of bills to the nearby Latino neighborhood. This is New York’s Lower East Side, and this is the not-for-profit community bank, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union.

Inside, the bank was serving lines of residents from housing projects, bodega owners, other locals, most of whom had been refused service by the big commercial banks. In their cramped back office, the only space to speak with the bank’s leader was inside their vault.

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: So this is our old-fashioned safety deposit boxes that many of our members still use.

GREG PALAST: People’s Credit Union chairwoman, Deyanira Del Rio.

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: So, our membership is 80 percent low income, approximately, and we also have about, I would say, 65 percent or so of our members are Latino.

GREG PALAST: What makes you different—

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: Right.

GREG PALAST: —from Capital One or Goldman Sachs—

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: Yeah.

GREG PALAST: —or any of the other big, giant banks?

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: We started off when the last bank branch in a hundred-block radius of the neighborhood was closing its doors. And community residents came together to initially protest the closure of that bank, and ultimately did something very different, which was start their own institution, an alternative to the mainstream bank.

GREG PALAST: They’re holding a dinner next week, and they’ve announced they’re honoring their new big member owner, Occupy Wall Street, to celebrate Occupy’s call for its supporters to move their money out of big banks to people’s and other community banks.

UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: You were inside with everybody else.

CUSTOMER: I’m a customer. I’m a customer.

WITNESS 1: She is a customer.

CUSTOMER: I’m a customer.

UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: You were inside. Yes, but you were inside with the whole—no, no, no.

WITNESS 2: What are you doing?

WITNESS 1: Hey, what the—hey!

WITNESS 3: What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?

GREG PALAST: Twenty-three protesters protesters were arrested at a branch of Citibank following the call to move their money.

WITNESS 3: Oh, my god! This is wrong! This is wrong! This is wrong! What you’re doing is wrong! This is wrong!

GREG PALAST: And Goldman Sachs, which had donated $5,000 to the credit union, threatened legal action over the little bank’s honoring Occupy Wall Street. When the credit union refused to back down, Goldman took back its $5,000. The credit union members we spoke with backed their little bank.

LYLE WALFORD: I mean, it was a courageous thing to do. It’s their saying, that “We have members who are part of us. We are part of the community. We are people-oriented. We are the people’s institution, not the money’s institution.” So, yes, I think it was a great thing for them to do.

GREG PALAST: We waited all day and night for an answer to our calls to Goldman.

Were you trying to threaten the credit union for its support for Occupy Wall Street? We’re waiting outside your building.

Back at the Wall Street occupation, a street performer showed Goldman’s system of the old give-and-grab-back.

STREET PERFORMER: There you go, buddy!

GREG PALAST: Thank you.

STREET PERFORMER: For your boys. All right, all right, take care. Make sure you spend it the right way. Adios. Excuse me, I want my money back, please. Give me back my money!

GREG PALAST: Oh, no!

STREET PERFORMER: Give me back my money!

GREG PALAST: From the Occupied territory, Wall Street, New York, this is Greg Palast for Democracy Now!, news for the 99 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Palast, investigative reporter with the BBC, author a number of books, including Armed MadhouseThe Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His new book, out in November, is called Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores. We are joined by Greg Palast right now.

Continue to explain what exactly happened.

GREG PALAST: It’s not about $5,000 donation. First of all, it’s not a donation. The issue is about a multi-billion-dollar battle over TARP money and the finance community. Back in 2008, Goldman Sachs, which is an investment bank—that meant that all their losses were there—was turned into a commercial bank, within 24 hours, so they could qualify for $10 billion in bailout funds. But as part of the deal—as part of the deal, Amy—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain commercial bank.

GREG PALAST: OK, commercial bank is the types where you put in your savings, and we, the taxpayers, and the government guarantees the profits, or guarantees the solvency of that bank. So, for Goldman to get into the $10 billion—to get their $10 billion check for bailout, they had to become—go from a gambling house, an investment bank, into a nice commercial bank. But they had to agree that they would then be subject to what’s called the Community Reinvestment Act and return some of that money, a chunk of it—most banks put in a billion dollars—return a chunk of it back into low-income communities. Well, Goldman doesn’t have any branches, so they gave money to the designated low-income bank of New York, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, and—but they’ve been giving out the money in eyedroppers, like this $5,000. Now remember, it’s not a donation. It’s a required payment under the law that they got in return for our $10 billion, OK? So it’s not a donation. This is mischaracterized. It’s a payment required by law, with an eyedropper.

But what they are doing is starting off something very dangerous and new, which is to say—there are literally tens of billions of dollars in these funds for community reinvestment, boosted by the bailout funds. They see this as a political weapon, as a hammer to control the political discussion. These community development credit unions have been joining the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide. It’s about moving your money from the big banks to the small banks. And they’re not worried about losing little deposits. What they are worried about is losing political control of the discussion. Right now, people like Paul Volcker are calling for removing the rights of banks like Goldman, now a commercial bank, to stay in the gambling trading business. Well, Goldman is very much afraid of that. So the Occupy Wall Street movement has put back on the table these issues of bank deregulation, these issues of community reinvestment.

And Goldman, I think they’re actually quite smart. They figured out, “Well, we’ve got—there’s like a hundred billion dollars on the table here. Why don’t we start saying, ’You’re not going to get any of it unless you dance to our tune?’” And I have to tell you, from inside, it wasn’t minor. It wasn’t just, “Oh, take—give us back our donation money.” It was legal threats saying, if you—you cannot—if you’re going to get our money, you may not back Occupy Wall Street and the “move your money” movement, without getting approval from us at Goldman Sachs. That’s a whole new business. So, it’s very dangerous, because it involves billions of dollars in public money. It’s not Goldman’s money. It’s our money. And that’s what they’re doing with it.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain the significance of this credit union.

GREG PALAST: Well, the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, and I—listen, my ex is the CEO, and so I hope she’s not mad at me doing this report. But I’ve got to tell you, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union has been designated by federal charter to be the bank for all New Yorkers of low income, if you own—if you earn less than $38,000 or work or live on the Lower East Side. What’s happened is, is that the big banks give Lower East Side a few dollars and then send all the poor people to that bank. You walk in poor, you say, “I’m in a housing project and on public assistance,” “Oh, go down to Lower East Side.” So they dump the poor there. They can’t even open bank accounts, let alone get loans at these big banks. So it’s a dumping ground so that the—it’s a brilliant bank. It does very well, and it serves all the entire poor community of New York. It’s got branches in Harlem.

But what the banks now want to do is say, as this bank is growing not only as an economic force, but a political force, in the low-income communities in New York, and they are being used as the model nationwide, they are taking a political stance, saying, “We honor Occupy Wall Street, because we are against people putting their money in these commercial banks. It’s time that banking become for the people, not for the money.” And that message is a no-go with the banking community.

So it’s not, by the way, just Goldman Sachs. Capital One said, “Take our name off.” You’ve had basically Goldman has started a kind of run on low-income banks that will associate with Occupy Wall Street. This is a dangerous use of public money. I’ve got to emphasize this: it’s TARP money, that is bailout money that we gave these banks in 2008. They were required, as part of the deal—in Goldman Sachs’ case, explicit—that they give back some of the money to low-income communities and reinvest there. It’s our money. It’s not a donation. And this is just little bits. And they’re withholding these payments. I haven’t seen Goldman put out—they’ve put out less than half a cent on the dollar we gave them, the lowest of any bank. But they are setting a—they’re basically setting a course that all of the other banks are now following, saying, “Hey, you want our money? You have to clear your political positions with us at the big banks.” This is a very dangerous new business. And I hope that with this report here on Democracy Now!, that the regulators are going to step in and say, “No, no. This is not your money. This is our money. This is not a political weapon.” It’s a very dangerous new thing that the banks are doing.

AMY GOODMAN: You tried to speak to Goldman Sachs.

GREG PALAST: Boy, we tried to speak to Goldman. We actually staked them out, if you saw me at night in front of their big office buildings just outside Wall Street on the West Side Highway. So we’ve tried. They won’t speak to us, at all. They certainly won’t speak to Democracy Now! They gave a good spin of a little story that went on the front page of the Wall Street Journal about, “Oh, this little credit union, they were slapping us around by taking our money and then backing Occupy Wall Street.” It’s not about that. It’s about the billions of dollars at stake with community reinvestment funds, out of the bailout money, and who has political control.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re not just a journalist, Greg. You started off in finance. You got your degree in finance.

GREG PALAST: Yeah, believe it or not. I was a protégé of a little guy named Milton Friedman. Pretty strange stuff. Yeah, and I was—

AMY GOODMAN: University of Chicago.

GREG PALAST: And before I was a journalist, as an investigative journalist, I was actually an investigator. And then I said, no one is putting out the news of the real stories, so maybe I’ll do something for U.S. news, and ended up having to leave the country, work for BBC.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think has to happen right now?

GREG PALAST: What has to happen right now is that the regulators in the Obama administration, the Federal Reserve Board, has to step in and tell Goldman, “No, it’s not your money. You may not use the community reinvestment funds as a political hammer to beat up the small community groups, credit unions, community banks, to which you’re giving this money.” It’s a very dangerous thing to be saying, “We’re going to be giving out money based on your political positions and based on whether you are telling people that the banking system has to change,” because community banks like Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union are taking the position that the commercial banking system is rotten and should be replaced by a people’s banking system. So it’s not just—they don’t want to be the little safety valve, “Just send us your poor people.” They want to replace the banking system. And believe me, Goldman, and the other banks following them, don’t want to hear that message.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Palast, I want to thank you for being with us. We will continue to talk to you. His new book coming out just in a few weeks is called Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores. Thank you very much.

Advertisements

Free Speech Under Siege In The “West”

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Oldspeak:“Democracies stand for free speech; dictatorships suppress it….The censorship of memory, which we once fondly imagined to be the mark of dictatorship, is now a major growth industry in the “free” West. Indeed, official censorship is only the tip of an iceberg of cultural censorship. A public person must be on constant guard against causing offense, whether intentionally or not.” – Robert Skidelsky. How can knowledge, discovery, and intellectual advancement be achieved without free, unfettered inquiry and constant and rigorous questioning of “accepted truths” based in religion, science or cultural memory?  Political correctness cannot ever usurp freedom of speech, to do so opens the door to authoritarianism, totalitarianism, rigidity of thought and society. There should be no such thing as accepted ways of thinking in a free society. The frightening thing is in the supposedly “free” U.S. much of the population self-censors and acts as thought police to those who think outside the politically correct and accepted spheres of thought. Phrases like “Conspiracy Theorist”, “Radical” “Fringe Elements” or ” ‘Your name here’ Extremists” are used to dismiss un-PC thought and speech as not worthy of serious, critical consideration, as they fly in the face of generally “accepted truths”  There are fewer and fewer public spheres one can introduce ideas which challenge people to actually think and consider facts that don’t jive with what they see in corporate media networks and learn from commodified, corporate controlled for-profit education systems. This has a chilling effect on those interested in engaging in political protest movements, dissent, and challenging and questioning the official narrative of history and objective reality. It’s what leads the Department of Justice to think it’s ok to surveil harass and violate the civil liberties of  law abiding citizens who dare dissent. It that that much different than what goes on in China, Iran, or Israel? If people are discouraged or afraid to engage politically in any way that they wish, state-sanctioned or not, democracy dies.”

By Robert Skidelsky @ Project Syndicate:

Recently, at a literary festival in Britain, I found myself on a panel discussing free speech. For liberals, free speech is a key index of freedom. Democracies stand for free speech; dictatorships suppress it.

When we in the West look outward, this remains our view. We condemn governments that silence, imprison, and even kill writers and journalists. Reporters Sans Frontièreskeeps a list: 24 journalists have been killed, and 148 imprisoned, just this year. Part of the promise we see in the “Arab Spring” is the liberation of the media from the dictator’s grasp.

Yet freedom of speech in the West is under strain. Traditionally, British law imposed two main limitations on the “right to free speech.” The first prohibited the use of words or expressions likely to disrupt public order; the second was the law against libel. There are good grounds for both – to preserve the peace, and to protect individuals’ reputations from lies. Most free societies accept such limits as reasonable.

But the law has recently become more restrictive. “Incitement to religious and racial hatred” and “incitement to hatred on the basis of sexual orientation” are now illegal in most European countries, independent of any threat to public order. The law has shifted from proscribing language likely to cause violence to prohibiting language intended to give offense.

A blatant example of this is the law against Holocaust denial. To deny or minimize the Holocaust is a crime in 15 European countries and Israel. It may be argued that the Holocaust was a crime so uniquely abhorrent as to qualify as a special case. But special cases have a habit of multiplying.

France has made it illegal to deny any “internationally recognized crimes against humanity.” Whereas in Muslim countries it is illegal to call the Armenian massacres of 1915-1917 “genocide,” in some Western countries it is illegal to say that they were not. Some East European countries specifically prohibit the denial of communist “genocides.”

The censorship of memory, which we once fondly imagined to be the mark of dictatorship, is now a major growth industry in the “free” West. Indeed, official censorship is only the tip of an iceberg of cultural censorship. A public person must be on constant guard against causing offense, whether intentionally or not.

Breaking the cultural code damages a person’s reputation, and perhaps one’s career. Britain’s Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke recently had to apologize for saying that some rapes were less serious than others, implying the need for legal discrimination. The parade of gaffes and subsequent groveling apologies has become a regular feature of public life.

In his classic essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill defended free speech on the ground that free inquiry was necessary to advance knowledge. Restrictions on certain areas of historical inquiry are based on the opposite premise: the truth is known, and it is impious to question it. This is absurd; every historian knows that there is no such thing as final historical truth.

It is not the task of history to defend public order or morals, but to establish what happened. Legally protected history ensures that historians will play safe. To be sure, living by Mill’s principle often requires protecting the rights of unsavory characters. David Irving writes mendacious history, but his prosecution and imprisonment in Austria for “Holocaust denial” would have horrified Mill.

By contrast, the pressure for “political correctness” rests on the argument that the truth is unknowable. Statements about the human condition are essentially matters of opinion.  Because a statement of opinion by some individuals is almost certain to offend others, and since such statements make no contribution to the discovery of truth, their degree of offensiveness becomes the sole criterion for judging their admissibility. Hence the taboo on certain words, phrases, and arguments that imply that certain individuals, groups, or practices are superior or inferior, normal or abnormal; hence the search for ever more neutral ways to label social phenomena, thereby draining language of its vigor and interest.

A classic example is the way that “family” has replaced “marriage” in public discourse, with the implication that all “lifestyles” are equally valuable, despite the fact that most people persist in wanting to get married. It has become taboo to describe homosexuality as a “perversion,” though this was precisely the word used in the 1960’s by the radical philosopher Herbert Marcuse (who was praising homosexuality as an expression of dissent). In today’s atmosphere of what Marcuse would call “repressive tolerance,” such language would be considered “stigmatizing.”

The sociological imperative behind the spread of “political correctness” is the fact that we no longer live in patriarchal, hierarchical, mono-cultural societies, which exhibit general, if unreflective, agreement on basic values. The pathetic efforts to inculcate a common sense of “Britishness” or “Dutchness” in multi-cultural societies, however well-intentioned, attest to the breakdown of a common identity.

Public language has thus become the common currency of cultural exchange, and everyone is on notice to mind one’s manners. The result is a multiplication of weasel words that chill political and moral debate, and that create a widening gap between public language and what many ordinary people think.

The defense of free speech is made no easier by the abuses of the popular press. We need free media to expose abuses of power. But investigative journalism becomes discredited when it is suborned to “expose” the private lives of the famous when no issue of public interest is involved. Entertaining gossip has mutated into an assault on privacy, with newspapers claiming that any attempt to keep them out of people’s bedrooms is an assault on free speech.

You know that a doctrine is in trouble when not even those claiming to defend it understand what it means. By that standard, the classic doctrine of free speech is in crisis. We had better sort it out quickly – legally, morally, and culturally – if we are to retain a proper sense of what it means to live in a free society.

Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, is Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University.

 

U.S. Park Police Choke & Body Slam Dancers At Jefferson Memorial; Fine & Chase Musicians From Central Park

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Oldspeak:” On this Memorial Day, supposedly a day to remember those who have died in war for freedom and “The American Way”, understand that your rights to free speech and freedom of assembly are no longer valid in public spaces. The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where musicians have shared their art free of charge for 100 years, is now designated as a “Quiet Zone”. If you decide you’d like to dance, picket, or make a speech at a national memorial, those actions are now “banned activities”, and will be met with a violent response from law enforcement. Think about that. Under these “laws” the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech would have been against the law. Public spaces, the commons are being more and more privatized and rigidly policed, you need permits to film/photograph at public national memorials. Your rights are being abridged every day in this burgeoning police state masquerading as a democracy. Civil Disobedience on a grand scale is what’s necessary to combat this absurd violation of our rights.”

Related Video: Adam Kokesh body slammed, choked, police brutality at Jefferson Memorial

By NBC Washington:

A handful of dancers got cuffed on Saturday for doing what they say the Founding Fathers would have wanted them to do – expressive dancing in National Parks.

A court recently ruled that expressive dancing was in a category with picketing, speechmaking, and marching – a banned activity at national memorials.

A small group came out on Saturday to protest the ruling, by dancing together inside the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial.

But after a few minutes, their moves got busted by Park Police.

Five were arrested, while listening to earphones and moving rythymically in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson.

“The founders understood that the only thing that was going to make the American experiment succeed was the people standing up for these rights,” Jared Denman, a demonstrator, told NBC Washington.

The memorial was shut down while demonstrators got arrested.

Some visiting from out of town were less than impressed with the protesters’ interprative moves.  “I think its ridiculous,” said Edward Kelly of Richmond.  “We just traveled up the steps and we’ve been waiting for 15 minutes.”

Musicians chased from Central Park

By Cynthia R. Fagan @ The New York Post:

City officials began blitzing street musicians with nuisance summonses and posted a “Quiet Zone” sign last week at the beloved Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where virtuoso performers have been making beautiful music together for over a century.

On weekends, baritone John Boyd, 48, would belt out spirituals backed by a choir including six of his nine children and fellow classical buskers. But two months ago, Parks police descended on the Bethesda Terrace arcade with a message: Muzzle the music.

Last week, they posted a Quiet Zone sign banning Boyd and other serious musicians from playing in the arcade where world-class performers offer their talents for free to ordinary New Yorkers.

The silky baritone’s clash with officials started two months earlier.

“The Parks Department cops came and said the rules will be revamped,” Boyd told The Post. “A month ago they started issuing me summonses because I would not stop singing.”

After being hit with five summonses totaling $2,300, the former choir director from Detroit was arrested by Parks cops Wednesday and hauled in handcuffs to the Central Park police station.

“I have a right to free speech,” said Boyd. “When I sing, it is expressing what I believe in. I told them, ‘You are not chasing me away.’ ”

Classical harpist Meta Epstein, 59, of Mill Basin, Brooklyn, won first prize at the Paris Conservatory of Music in the 1970s. But she’s afraid to play in the park.

“It was very intimidating. It was a patch of dirt. They told me I was destroying the ground, but there were picnickers right there. Now I’m afraid to play, especially in the fountain terrace,” she said.

Double-bass player Vasyl Fomytskyi, formerly of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, has been playing his beloved Bach near the fountain for two years.

“If I play softly by myself, [cops] still have threatened to arrest me and confiscate my instrument,” he said.

Newcomer Shigemasa Nakano, 31, a classical guitarist and opera singer, says he’s disappointed because acoustics in the arcade are superb.

“But . . . I don’t want to get a ticket,” he said.

On Friday, passer-by Rhonda Liss, 63, of Yonkers, asked Boyd if she could join him in an impromptu duet.

“You have such a beautiful voice,” said Liss, a onetime Met opera singer and “Phantom of the Opera” cast member in Toronto. The pair tossed off a jazzy rendition of “My Favorite Things.”

“Is this what they want to arrest people for — singing joy to the people?” she asked incredulously.

When asked about the music crackdown, a spokesman for the Central Park Conservancy, the cash-flush nonprofit that runs the park for the city, said: “The fountain is a place for quiet reflection.”

Read more:http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/please_clear_the_aria_5Ih5ZOpqdHAUPUKWmwK8xJ#ixzz1NrA1XtS7

Why Wikileaks Is Good For Democracy

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Oldspeak: “Information is the currency of democracy.  -Thomas Jefferson. The U.S. has been going in the wrong direction for years by classifying millions of documents as secrets. Wikileaks and other media that report these so-called secrets will embarrass people, yes. Wikileaks and other media will make leaders uncomfortable, yes. But embarrassment and discomfort are small prices to pay for a healthier democracy. ”

From Bill Quigley @ Truthout:

Since 9/11, the US government, through Presidents Bush and Obama, has increasingly told the US public that “state secrets” will not be shared with citizens. Candidate Obama pledged to reduce the use of state secrets, but President Obama continued the Bush tradition. The courts, Congress and international allies have gone meekly along with the escalating secrecy demands of the US Executive.

By labeling tens of millions of documents secret, the US government has created a huge vacuum of information.

But information is the lifeblood of democracy. Information about government contributes to a healthy democracy. Transparency and accountability are essential elements of good government. Likewise, “a lack of government transparency and accountability undermines democracy and gives rise to cynicism and mistrust,” according to a 2008 Harris survey commissioned by the Association of Government Accountants.

Into the secrecy vacuum stepped Private Bradley Manning, who, according to the Associated Press, was able to defeat “Pentagon security systems using little more than a Lady Gaga CD and a portable computer memory stick.”

Manning apparently sent the information to Wikileaks – a nonprofit media organization that specializes in publishing leaked information. Wikileaks in turn shared the documents to other media around the world, including The New York Times, and published much of the documents’ contents on its website.

Do you like this? Click here to get Truthout stories sent to your inbox every day – free.

Despite criminal investigations by the U.S. and other governments, it is not clear that media organizations like Wikileaks can be prosecuted in the U.S., in light of the First Amendment. Recall that the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Outraged politicians are claiming that the release of government information is the criminal equivalent of terrorism and puts innocent people’s lives at risk. Many of those same politicians authorized the modern equivalent of carpet bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, the sacrifice of thousands of lives of soldiers and civilians and drone assaults on civilian areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Their anger at a document dump, no matter how extensive, is more than a little suspect.

Everyone, including Wikileaks and the other media reporting on what the documents reveal, hopes that no lives will be lost because of this flood of information. So far, it appears those hopes have been met: McClatchy Newspapers reported November 28, 2010, that “US officials conceded that they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone’s death.”

The U.S. has been going in the wrong direction for years by classifying millions of documents as secrets. Wikileaks and other media that report these so-called secrets will embarrass people, yes. Wikileaks and other media will make leaders uncomfortable, yes. But embarrassment and discomfort are small prices to pay for a healthier democracy.

Wikileaks has the potential to make transparency and accountability more robust in the U.S. That is good for democracy.