Monthly Archives: September 2011

Freedom Isn’t Free at the State Department

The Only Employee at State Who May Be Fired Because of WikiLeaks
By Peter Van Buren at TomDispatch, 9/27/11

On the same day that more than 250,000 unredacted State Department cables hemorrhaged out onto the Internet, I was interrogated for the first time in my 23-year State Department career by State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and told I was under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information. The evidence of my crime? A posting on my blog from the previous month that included a link to a WikiLeaks document already available elsewhere on the Web.

As we sat in a small, gray, windowless room, resplendent with a two-way mirror, multiple ceiling-mounted cameras, and iron rungs on the table to which handcuffs could be attached, the two DS agents stated that the inclusion of that link amounted to disclosing classified material. In other words, a link to a document posted by who-knows-who on a public website available at this moment to anyone in the world was the legal equivalent of me stealing a Top Secret report, hiding it under my coat, and passing it to a Chinese spy in a dark alley.

The agents demanded to know who might be helping me with my blog (“Name names!”), if I had donated any money from my upcoming book on my wacky year-long State Department assignment to a forward military base in Iraq, and if so to which charities, the details of my contract with my publisher, how much money (if any) I had been paid, and — by the way — whether I had otherwise “transferred” classified information.

Had I, they asked, looked at the WikiLeaks site at home on my own time on my own computer? Every blog post, every Facebook post, and every Tweet by every State Department employee, they told me, must be pre-cleared by the Department prior to “publication.” Then they called me back for a second 90-minute interview, stating that my refusal to answer questions would lead to my being fired, never mind the Fifth (or the First) Amendments.

Why me? It’s not like the Bureau of Diplomatic Security has the staff or the interest to monitor the hundreds of blogs, thousands of posts, and millions of tweets by Foreign Service personnel. The answer undoubtedly is my new book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Its unvarnished portrait of State’s efforts and the U.S. at work in Iraq has clearly angered someone, even though one part of State signed off on the book under internal clearance procedures some 13 months ago. I spent a year in Iraq leading a State Department Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and sadly know exactly what I am talking about. DS monitoring my blog is like a small-town cop pulling over every African-American driver: vindictive, selective prosecution. “Ya’ll be careful in these parts, ‘hear, ‘cause we’re gonna set an example for your kind of people.”

Silly as it seems, such accusations carry a lot of weight if you work for the government. DS can unilaterally, and without any right of appeal or oversight, suspend your security clearance and for all intents and purposes end your career. The agents questioning me reminded me of just that, as well as of the potential for criminal prosecution — and all because of a link to a website, nothing more.

It was implied as well that even writing about the interrogation I underwent, as I am doing now, might morph into charges of “interfering with a Government investigation.” They labeled routine documents in use in my interrogation as “Law Enforcement Sensitive” to penalize me should I post them online. Who knew such small things actually threatened the security of the United States? Are these words so dangerous, or is our nation so fragile that legitimate criticism becomes a firing offense?…

continue reading at TomDispatchcensorshi9p

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Filed under Afghanistan, National govt & politics

More Evidence the Psychopaths have taken over?

by Louis Hartmann, Thom’s Blog, 9/26/11

Not only is Governor Rick Scott killing jobs in Florida – he’s also bragging about it. Speaking at a CPAC conference last Friday – Scott touted his record of laying off public sector workers. With an unemployment rate at 10.7% – way above the national average – Scott said, “We’ve had plenty of success so far… we have 15,000 less government jobs in the state of Florida.” Upon hearing that – his audience cheered – which isn’t too big of a surprise since Republicans have cheered executions, sick people dying, and homophobia – why not cheer job losses too. Then Scott repeated the same right-wing talking point that “government doesn’t create jobs.” Right – tell that to the mailman, the police officer, and the teacher.

Since President Obama took office – more than half a million government workers have been laid off in mostly Republican states – which is the real reason why our nation’s unemployment rate is still above 9%.

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax

Tea Party America

by Paul Stoller, West Chester University, in Huffington Post, 9/14/11

…In Tea Party America, you are on your own. In Tea Party America, you have to take personal responsibility, which means you pay most of your increasingly expensive medical costs, you put out your own fires, you inspect your own meat and you rebuild your own house after a natural disaster. If for some reason you have lost your job and medical insurance, like 49.9 million of our fellow citizens, that’s too bad. You’ll just have to forgo going to the doctor or put off essential medical screenings. If for some reason, a fire engulfs your house, don’t expect firemen to come to save your home. In Tea Party America, their funds have been cut and their equipment is not in good working order. If you get sick from eating spoiled food, that’s too bad. In Tea Party America, you should shop at a store that has the funds to hire someone to inspect the food it sells. If a flood, tornado or hurricane destroys your house, don’t expect a government bailout because the funds for disaster relief have disappeared in Tea Party America.

In Tea Party America the rich are strong. They work hard, earn good salaries and live relatively healthy lives. In Tea Party America the poor are weak. They are lazy, unemployed and uninsured. In Tea Party America, the poor can no longer expect government “handouts” — unemployment insurance, Medicaid, food stamps and welfare. These are denied. In Tea Party America, the poor get what they deserve: to live hungry in squalid conditions and die a premature death.

These kinds of beliefs, which underscore much of the Tea Party worldview, come straight out of 19th century Social Darwinism, in which the strong — or the fit, to use terminology of Social Darwinism — adapt successfully to adverse conditions. Following this logic, the weak don’t have the wherewithal to adapt. In time their weakness makes them more and more socially marginal. As conditions change and people are increasingly left to their own devices, the weak become invisibly inconsequential. They fade away or die prematurely. They are no longer a drag on society. Let that terminally ill uninsured man die. Why should I pay for his care?

The explanatory rationale for 19th century Social Darwinism, of course, was so-called “scientific” racism — the belief that whites were genetically superior to browns, yellows and blacks. Scholars of that era used this unsubstantiated idea to explain the technological and social superiority of 19th and early 20th century Europe. At the turn of the 20th century, scientific racism resonated strongly and clearly in a racially segregated America that was confronting unparalleled immigration from Asia and Southern and Eastern Europe. The prevailing theory of the time was that the mix of immigrants into American society would threaten the genetic purity of nation.

In Tea Party America, the racist and anti-science ideological principles of Social Darwinism are being reaffirmed. Consider the widespread and disdainful display of Tea Party-Republican disrespect for President Obama. In Tea Party America, a black man as president is intolerably “unfit.” Consider Rick Perry’s derisive dismissal of science and scientists. In Tea Party America, fundamentalism eclipses science, ignorance subverts knowledge, and intolerance replaces open-mindedness as we revert back to a cruel and unforgiving time in our history. In Tea Party America, the poor, the sick, and the disabled are all unfit.

Considering the disturbing crowd reaction during the latest GOP presidential candidate debates, Tea Party America is a scary scenario.,,,

read the full article at Huffington Post

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Filed under National govt & politics, Right Wing

Historical patriotic reminder

The Pledge of Allegiance, as we know it today, dates only half way back to the Founders, and even so has been modified in various ways since it was first penned by socialist Baptist minister Francis Julius Bellamy in 1891.

Here is how the Pledge first stood, in Bellamy’s original words:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of my country and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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Filed under History, National govt & politics