Bruce Blog

Dick Meister: Still dreaming of justice

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Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based columnist who has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century.  Contact him through his website,www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Think back to Aug. 28, 1963.  More than a quarter-million labor and civil rights activists led by Martin Luther King Jr. march onto the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to demand good jobs at decent wages and strict enforcement and expansion of the laws guaranteeing meaningful civil and economic rights to all Americans.

The demands, spelled out in Dr. King's famous "I have a Dream" speech that day,  will be forcefully raised once again by  a fiftieth  anniversary March from the Lincoln Memorial  to the King Memorial  on the  Mall  this August 24.

The 2013 march has been called for very good reason: The need for greatly strengthened labor and civil rights is at least as urgent today as it was in 1963. Read more »

Solomon: Memo from Oslo: If peace is prized, a Nobel for Bradley Manning

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

Oslo, Norway: The headquarters of the Nobel Committee is in downtown Oslo on a street named after Henrik Ibsen, whose play “An Enemy of the People” has remained as current as dawn light falling on the Nobel building and then, hours later, on a Fort Meade courtroom where Bradley Manning's trial enters a new stage -- defense testimony in the sentencing phase.

Ibsen’s play tells of mendacity and greed in high places: dangerous threats to public health. You might call the protagonist a whistleblower. He's a physician who can't pretend that he hasn't seen evidence; he rejects all the pleas and threats to stay quiet, to keep secret what the public has a right to know. He could be content to take an easy way, to let others suffer and die. But he refuses to just follow orders. He will save lives. There will be some dire consequences for him.

The respectable authorities know when they've had enough. Thought crimes can be trivial but are apt to become intolerable if they lead to active transgressions. In the last act, our hero recounts: “They insulted me and called me an enemy of the people.” Ostracized and condemned, he offers final defiant words before the curtain comes down: “I have made a great discovery. … It is this, let me tell you -- that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.” Read more »

Solomon: The moral verdict on Bradley Manning

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

The sun rose with a moral verdict on Bradley Manning well before the military judge could proclaim his guilt. The human verdict would necessarily clash with the proclamation from the judicial bench.

In lockstep with administrators of the nation’s war services, judgment day arrived on Tuesday to exact official retribution. After unforgiveable actions, the defendant’s culpability weighed heavy.

“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house,” another defendant, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, wrote about another action that resulted in a federal trial, 45 years earlier, scarcely a dozen miles from the Fort Meade courtroom where Bradley Manning faced prosecution for his own fracture of good order.

“We could not, so help us God, do otherwise,” wrote Berrigan, one of the nine people who, one day in May 1968 while the Vietnam War raged on, removed several hundred files from a U.S. draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, and burned them with napalm in the parking lot. “For we are sick at heart…” Read more »

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

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

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

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

Solomon: The portrait of a leaker as a young man

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

 

A Portrait of the Leaker as a Young Man

By Norman Solomon 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Norman Solomon

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

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

Now what?

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

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

Read more »

Dick Meister: Celebrating July Fourth with the enemy

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

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

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

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

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

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By Bruce B. Brugmann

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

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

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

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

Normon Solomon: Terminal

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

Read more »

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

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

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

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

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

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