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Greenwald on Wikileaks and U.S. Media

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Within the past hour, Julian Assange was granted bail in a British court and will be able to fight extradition to Sweden from outside a jail cell. I’ve been following the Wikileaks developments with much interest but have refrained from commenting here b because I haven’t done the leg work of reading the released material or researching the legal issues around any possible U.S. prosecution of Assange.

Somebody who has done all that hard research is Glenn Greenwald. He has followed very closely both Wikileaks activities, the U.S. government’s response and the media reaction to the leaks and to Assange himself. In the process Greenwald seems to have discovered a corporate media blind spot. It seems that media organizations are giving citizens the idea that Wikileaks has released many more documents than they really have. Greenwald has communicated with Time magazine over this matter, with limited success:

What was vital here was to have Time state clearly that the claim of “indiscriminate” dumping of cables is factually false — not merely that Assange disputes it. That could then be used to quash this lie each time it appears in other venues. Of course, all of that fell on deaf ears, because my demand required that Time do exactly that which establishment media outlets, by definition, will rarely do: state clearly when the facts contradict — negate — claims by those in political power, especially when the target of the false claims is a demonized outsider-of-Washington faction like WikiLeaks.

Of course, Time’s behavior and that of the rest of the corporate media in this regard is explainable if one considers the role of said corporate media to be not to inform but rather to guide the thinking of the public by making it more difficult for real information to be widely distributed. Kind of like Pravda in the Soviet Union.

I encourage anyone who stumbles on this to visit Greenwald’s corner at Salon and see what he has to say about Wikileaks, Julian Assange and the DOJ.

Others are on the case as well, of course, like Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars, who wonders why, if Julian Assange is such a terrible person, Bob Woodward is allowed to run around loose.

There’s been a lot of talk about how WikiLeaks is terrible, how the information released is damaging to national interests and/or security, how Julian Assange should be treated as a terrorist/enemy combatant/spy (pick your hyperbole), US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad points out that far more damaging information was given by someone with a much higher clearance to Bob Woodward, and no one started screaming that Bob Woodward should be prosecuted–or worse, executed.

I may agree on very little with Ron Paul and on even less with his son but props to Congressman Paul for his defense of Wikileaks.

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December 14th, 2010 at 11:18 am

Greenwald Defends Assange – Takes on Washington Elites

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Here is video from an MSNBC aired on Wednesday, December 1. Note how the network loses its connection to Glenn Greenwald at about 1:52 into the video. No, I’m sure it was accidental and not some conspiracy to silence WikiLeaks sympathizers like Greenwald.

Greenwald discusses the segment in his blog at Salon:

Overwhelmingly, the reaction of establishment media figures has been to scorn these disclosures as somehow being both a Grave Threat and Nothing New. Watch this short segment I did yesterday on MSNBC with Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post Editorial Page and former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari. Technical difficulties impeded my participation, but what’s important is not really what I said, but what they said. Two notes about it: (1) Capehart, who calls himself a “journalist,” could not be more contemptuous of WikiLeaks as it shines a light on the U.S. government, and (2) the snickering and disdain toward Assange from Capehart and Molinari are indistinguishable — totally interchangeable — because there is no distinction between how most American “journalists” and how standard politicians think about those who are actually providing adversarial checks on U.S. political power; media and political figures are in the same undifferentiated class…

I think Greenwald has the better argument here. Maybe one of contributions les affaires Assange and Wikileaks makes is to our understanding of the interconnectedness of corporate media and journalism. I remember reading not so long ago about how Soviet dissidents got around Pravda and other official media to keep themselves informed. From Wikipedia:

Samizdat (Russian: ????????; Russian pronunciation: [s?m??zdat]) was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader. This grassroots practice to evade officially-imposed censorship was fraught with danger as harsh punishments were meted out to people caught possessing or copying censored materials.

Regarding Capehart’s assertion that there is nothing new in the latest Wikileaks release, Juan Cole has posted what he considers the top 10 WikiLeaks disclosures from the current round:

1. The British government’s official inquiry into how it got involved in the Iraq War was deeply compromised by the government’s pledge to protect the Bush administration in the course of it.

2. Afghan President Hamid Karzai routinely pardons drug dealers and corrupt officials.

3. Karzai’s brother, Ahmad Wali, is called a corrupt drug dealer. He is chief of the provincial council of Qandahar and said to be more powerful than the province’s governor. A US official wrote, “While we must deal with AWK as the head of the Provincial Council, he is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker. End Note.”

4. The Boston Globe reports of Senator John Kerry that he urged the return of the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace: “In the meeting last February with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Kerry said Syria should be involved simultaneously in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “needs to compromise and work the return of the Golan Heights into a formula for peace,’’ according to the summary of Kerry’s remarks.”

5. Israeli General admits that Israel’s narrow focus on its qualitative military edge often conflicts with the global interests of the United States.

6. Former US-appointed interim prime minister of Iraq in 2004-early 2005, Iyad Allawi, is Alleged to have urged a US attack on Iran. He denies the report.

7. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told the US to forget about democracy in Iraq and instead install a dictator (“the Iraqis are too tough.”) He also warned the US to stay in Iraq militarily, asserting that otherwise the Iranians would take over the country. Mubarak had vigorously opposed the US march to war against Iraq in 2002-2003.

8.The Israelis wanted military dictator Pervez Musharraf to remain in power.

9. Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the current Pakistani chief of staff, allegedly considered making a coup in spring, 2009, when Nawaz Sharif was leading a popular movement in the streets to demand the reinstatement of the dismissed supreme court chief justice. Kayani considered moving against President Asaf Ali Zardari in case his weakness might allow Nawaz to return to power.

10. Aside from that occasion, Kayani, is said to have learned from dictator Gen. Musharraf not to try to rule directly. He is adept at staying behind the scenes but using other institutions to protect the interests of the military. He succeeded in foiling an American plan to put civilian politicians in control of the military. (Obviously, this French assessment of Kayani was made before, or in ignorance of, his having toyed with a coup in spring 2009).

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December 2nd, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Progressives on Election Day: Digby Says it Better

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In my last post I tried to anticipate how U.S. Progressives are feeling these days and what they might do in the coming election. Turns out I’m not the only one thinking about this. Some have in fact done it better.

Digby grabs this presidential quote from Glenn Greenwald:

Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get — to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed — oh, well, the public option wasn’t there. If you get the financial reform bill passed — then, well, I don’t know about this particular derivatives rule, I’m not sure that I’m satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace and — (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.

Digby then comments:
Well, I think at least one thing is clear. Robert Gibbs wasn’t freelancing with his similar comments.

Regardless of whether you agree with Obama’s characterization there, I think most people would agree that it’s an odd way to fire up the troops. There seems to be some misapprehension on the part of the DC Dems that trying to browbeat people into appreciating you is smart politics. I’m thinking maybe a little ass kissing at this point might be a little bit more effective.

More importantly, it’s a complete misreading of what ails the base. It’s not about a bunch of liberal bloggers being pissed about the health care bill or the wars. Sadly, there just aren’t enough of us to make a difference. And it’s not about a bunch of liberal pundits in DC fretting about “tidal waves.”

Digby goes on to quote Susie Madrak:

[T]hose of us left living on a wing and prayer thanks to your “half full”, half-assed economic policies just don’t have a sense of humor about our continuing plight. I know it’s been a long time since your mom got food stamps, but you might want to give that empathy thing some thought.

Finally, Digby drives the point home:

Unfortunately, midterms are almost always partisan elections, driven by the hardcore base of both parties. Behaving as if your voters are petulant and unappreciative may be therapeutic, and it may even be true, but it doesn’t get the job done.

As I noted in my previous post, there are some faint hopeful signs that the White House political operation is beginning to understand that an alienated base is a problem, however Gibbs, Emmanuel and BHO himself feel about those idiots and troublemakers who put them in office. On the other hand, remarks like those of the President quoted above do not help matters.

Strategically, it makes more sense to attack Republicans right now rather than progressives and other members of Obama’s coalition. It would also make more sense for the Democrats to stress that they are fighting for those who are struggling and stop apologizing by constantly repeating that the economy is improving. I still get nightmares about previous Presidents who saw light at the end of the tunnel and claimed that prosperity is right around the corner.

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September 18th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Which Side are You On?

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Here’s the Dropkick Murphys’ version of Florence Reese’s Which Side are You On?

It was posted on Union TV
but I found it in this post at at Open Left. In this post, Paul Rosenberg discusses Glenn Greenwald’s response to the Blanche Lincoln victory over Bill Halter in last Tuesday’s Arkansas primary runoff. As Greenwald puts it:

The run-off between Democratic Senate incumbent Blanche Lincoln and challenger Bill Halter, which culminated on Tuesday night in Lincoln’s narrow victory, brightly illuminates what the Democratic Party establishment is…. Obama loyalists constantly point to the Blanche Lincolns of the world to justify why the Party scorns the values of their voters: Obama can’t do anything about these bad Democratic Senators; it’s not his fault if he doesn’t have the votes, they insist.

Lincoln’s 12-year record in the Senate is so awful that she has severely alienated virtually every important Democratic constituency group — other than the large corporate interests that fund and control the Party….

So what did the Democratic Party establishment do when a Senator who allegedly impedes their agenda faced a primary challenger who would be more supportive of that agenda? They engaged in full-scale efforts to support Blanche Lincoln….

Ordinarily, when Party leaders support horrible incumbents in primaries, they use the “electability” excuse…. That excuse is clearly unavailable here. As Public Policy Polling explained yesterday, Lincoln has virtually no chance of winning in November against GOP challenger John Boozman….

What happened in this race also gives the lie to the insufferable excuse we’ve been hearing for the last 18 months from countless Obama defenders: namely, if the Senate doesn’t have 60 votes to pass good legislation, it’s not Obama’s fault because he has no leverage over these conservative Senators. It was always obvious what an absurd joke that claim was; the very idea of The Impotent, Helpless President, presiding over a vast government and party apparatus, was laughable. But now, in light of Arkansas, nobody should ever be willing to utter that again with a straight face. Back when Lincoln was threatening to filibuster health care if it included a public option, the White House could obviously have said to her: if you don’t support a public option, not only will we not support your re-election bid, but we’ll support a primary challenger against you. Obama’s support for Lincoln did not merely help; it was arguably decisive….

Rosenberg pretty much concurs with Greenwald’s argument, while acknowledging differing opinions from some commentators who are more quick to excuse the institutional corporatism in the Democratic Party, pundits such as Mori Dinauer at Tapped. Rosenberg also links to Ezra Klein who argues that Obama gives in on issues like the public option and off shore drilling because he the Presidency isn’t as powerful as it used to be.

Rosenberg concludes:
Of course no president gets everything they want. There are things beyond their power that prevent that. But what they do get is dependent on two things within their power: Their priorities, and their willingness to fight for those priorities. And the situation with Blanche Lincoln is deeply illustrative of both, regardless of whether Obama could have prevailed.

The question, ultimately, is not whether Obama could have won. He himself said many times that change is hard. We all know that. The question, rather, is whether he would struggle. And, of course, the ultimate question: Which side is he on?

I have asked myself the same question and the painful answer I keep coming up with is “Not the side of liberals, labor and working people, progressives, peace activists, civil libertarians or environmentalists.” On the other hand, he always seems to be able to do something for the corporations.
On nearly every issue of national consequence that has been on the table since January 20, 20009, Obama has gone out of his way to distance himself from those constituencies that worked like hell to elect him. How many Sister Soulja moments does one President need anyway?