Sunday, November 30, 2014

21 Best '80s Songs Railing Against the Horrible Reagan Era

Published on Alternet (

AlterNet [1] / By Kali Holloway [2]

21 Best '80s Songs Railing Against the Horrible Reagan Era

November 24, 2014 |

For perhaps the last decade or so, the metaphor of the inmates running the asylum has seemed to fit the GOP perfectly, what with so many conservatives saying and doing so many batshit insane things. Then came the 2014 midterms -- an election which swept more extremist Republican ideologues into Congress than even pollsters saw coming -- and suddenly, the image of a bunch of rafter-swinging, WB-cartoon-style lunatics taking over the party started to seem almost quaint. If the recent elections taught us anything, it’s that we’re not only going to need a bigger asylum, we’re going to need much, much better drugs.

Take solace in the protest music of the Reagan era, which spoke out against the hero of nearly all of today’s most insane conservative politicians. (And while you’re at it, have a look at this list of things about President Reagan [3] that conservatives would rather you forget.) Here are 21 political songs to help you get through the coming Republican Congressional era.

1) "My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg) [4]" - The Ramones (1985): Written in protest of President “Bonzo” Reagan’s 1985 stop at Bitburg Cemetery in Germany, where roughly 50 of the 2,000 interred are Nazi soldiers. The unpopularity of the visit wasn’t helped by Reagan’s insistence that the SS dead "were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps [5]." Joey Ramone accused the president of “sort of shit[ting] on everybody,” and asked [6], “How can you forget six million people being gassed and roasted?”

Fun Fact:Though it’s easy to imagine the song pitting Joey against Johnny and/or Dee Dee -- the former an avowed conservative and the both purportedly avid collectors of Nazi memorabilia -- Joey’s brother claims [7] the song was actually Dee Dee’s idea. In any case, for more on the incredible story that is the Ramones, check out the exceptional rockumentary “End of the Century [8].”

2) "Born In the U.S.A." [9] - Bruce Springsteen (1984): Quite possibly the most misinterpreted political song in history, Bruce Springsteen’s scathing critique of America’s indifference to its veterans is probably soundtracking a monster truck rally at this very moment. Acting on a tip from clueless conservative columnist George Will [10], Reagan’s 1984 re-election team began using “Born in the U.S.A.” on the campaign trail, mistaking it for a patriotic anthem. If they’d paid any attention to the lyrics, they might have noticed Springsteen had instead written an attack on Reaganomics and its complete disregard for Vietnam veterans. In a 2005 NPR interview[11], Springsteen cited Reagan’s use of the song as the moment “when the Republicans first mastered the art of co-opting anything and everything that seemed fundamentally American.” Within just a few campaign stops, the singer’s team quickly put an end to Reagan’s unauthorized use of the song.

Fun Fact:“Born in the U.S.A.” was originally called “Vietnam,” and the original chorus was “You died in Vietnam!” Even Springsteen himself [12] called the single “the most misunderstood song since ‘“Louie, Louie.’”

3) "Human Error [13]” - Subhumans (1981): It’s difficult to pick a Subhumans song that isn’t overtly political and critical of the entire political machine -- it was, along with other UK anarcho-punk bands like Crass and Conflict,kind oftheir thing. But “Human Error” is particularly affecting, possibly because of its echoes of ‘80s fears about nuclear war, and its indictment of an entire world seemingly in conflict, from Belfast to Vietnam to America. Beyond that, the track is worth a listen for its distillation of reggae into wonky, brittle British punk rock and Zappa-esque noodling.

Fun Fact: Sometimes called Subhumans UK so to avoid confusion with the Canadian band of the same name, who were also highly political leftists. It’s worth noting that the Canadian Subhumans’ constantly changing roster included a future member of D.O.A., who also made this list.

4) "****** UP Ronnie [14]" - D.O.A. (1984): Although always a politically charged voice in punk, this single was one of the Canadian band’s most explicit attacks on Ronald Reagan. D.O.A.'s slogan, "Talk minus action equals zero," (also the title of two of their releases) was a pretty good indicator of their commitment to anti-right-wing causes. "Fucked Up Ronnie" is another example of '80s nuclear war fears -- including Reagan's perceived eagerness to drop bombs on America's Cold War foes -- put to song.

Fun Fact: D.O.A. continues to tour today, with plans for a 2015 world tour recently announced. It's worth noting that the band isn't just one of hardcore's most seminal acts, they're sometimes credited with popularizing the name of the genre. Their second album "Hardcore '81" is cited by some as the first usage of the term in reference to their music by a North American punk band.

5) “99 Luftballons (99 Red Balloons [15])" - Nena (1983): Released in the midst of the Cold War, this song imagined a nuclear war that ends with cities being reduced to dust. Originally recorded in German, the band later released an English version that also became a hit. The original German version of the song did well in America and Australia, while the English version fared better in Ireland, the UK and Canada. Oddly, the English version isn’t a direct translation of the German track, although the anti-war stance of both songs remains intact.

Fun Fact: Nena -- which, by the way, is the name of the band and its lead singer -- are often referred to as one-hit wonders, and the song did climb to the top of the charts in several countries. In the U.S., however, it only made it as far as number two.

6) "Ronnie Talk to Russia [16]" - Prince (1981) : Essentially, an open letter to President Reagan requesting that he put an end to the Cold War “before it’s too late.” Although one of the lesser known tracks from “Controversy,” it’s as catchy as anything else on the album, with lots of synths and big harmonized vocals. Sounds a little like a song from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” as imagined by Prince.

Fun Fact: Prince writes about sociopolitical topics a lot, although he’s rarely spoken of as a political songwriter. On 1987’s "Sign o' the Times,” he sang about drugs, AIDS, nuclear war and Reagan’s heavily criticized Star Wars defense initiative. There are too many political Prince songs to name, but “Race,” “Uptown,” “Dreamer” and “Hello” all feature political and social commentary.

7) “The Message [17]” - Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (1982): Endlessly sampled and infinitely imitated, it’s hard to downplay the significance of this seminal hip-hop classic, one of rap’s first socially conscious -- and more lyrically complex -- hits. “The Message” never mentioned Reagan by name, but it didn’t have to: rapper Melle Mel painted a bleak picture of inner city blight, poverty, inequality, and death that tacitly implicated the entire American power structure. It is a thoughtful and damning deconstruction of the myth of the American dream that manages, even now, to be one of the best get downs in hip-hop history. It’s also the starting point for conscious hip-hop, which led to rappers from Chuck D to KRS-One to Common. Check out the song’s music video, linked above, for gritty scenes of a pre-Disneyfied, very non-artisanal 1980s New York City.

Fun Fact: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first rap inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Among the innumerable examples of “The Message”’s influence in pop culture are Genesis’s 1983 international hit “Mama [18],” and the 2006 film “Happy Feet [19],” which features a CGI penguin rapping the song’s chorus.
Extra Fun Fact: It’s hard to talk about Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel without mentioning the duo’s “White Lines,” a critique of ‘80s decadence and inequity seen through the prism of the decade’s hard drug of choice, cocaine. The song features a sample from “Cavern[20]” by post-punks Liquid, Liquid, making it a testament to hip-hop’s early willingness to explore and engage new sonic terrains.

8) “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now [21]” - Dead Kennedys (1981): Not so much an original song as a repurposing of one of the band’s most enduring classics, “California Über Alles.” The first recording had been a jab at then-California Governor Jerry Brown, whom the band realized was a far less deserving target than the man they called “Emperor Ronald Reagan.” Following the president’s election, lead singer Jello Biafra retrofitted the track with new lyrics that called out Regan for everything from racism to religious totalitarianism.

Fun Fact: The song was again modified in 2004 to serve as a critique of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Kali-Fornia Über Alles 21st Century" also went after Enron, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and FOX News.

9) “Reaganomics [22]” - D.R.I. (1983): Short, and not exactly sweet, D.R.I.’s criticism of Reagan’s economic policies clocks in at just 42 brief seconds. The lyrics are also uncomplicated and straight to the point, consisting solely of four lines repeated. ("Reaganomics killing me / Reaganomics killing me / Reaganomics killing me / Reaganomics killing you.")

Fun Fact: D.R.I. stands for “Dirty Rotten Imbeciles,” a name given to the band by the annoyed father of two of its members. He apparently hated the band’s music, and wasn’t too keen on the fact that their practice space was located in his home.

10) “Land of Confusion [23]” - Genesis (1986): Though mildly political from a lyrical standpoint -- with a focus on trying to make the world a better, less tumultuous place -- the video for this song (which definitely scared us all as little kids, right?) was pointedly anti-Reagan. It was also, notably, filled with puppet versions of nearly every 1980s world leader and celebrity. It opens with Ronald and Nancy and a gorilla -- guessing that’s a Bonzo reference -- in bed, then follows Reagan’s bizarre dreams, in which he imagines himself alternately as a superhero and a cowboy. The whole thing ends with Reagan waking and, bumbler that he is, accidentally nuking the world. It’s a perfect artifact from the Cold War years.

Fun Fact: Phil Collins is usually identified as conservative and a Tory supporter, a charge he denies. In a 2010 interview [24], he claimed he was actually apolitical, stating that he’d only voted “once in [his] life,” which seems like maybe not the best admission to make. Said Collins, “Nobody ever asked me if I was Tory or Labour. The truth is that I don't believe in any of them.”

11) “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos [25]” - Public Enemy (1989): “I got a letter from the government / The other day / I opened and read it / It said they were suckers.” A stinging and prophetic indictment of the U.S.’s criminal justice system, which today houses 2.3 million Americans -- or roughly 3% of the country’s population. The song, which tells the story of a jailbreak, linked prison with slavery and the oppression of African-Americans. Public Enemy pulled off the astounding feat of pushing both lyrical and musical boundaries, and still emerged as critical and audience favorites.

Fun Fact: Another song from the same album titled “Rebel Without a Pause [26],” takes aim more directly at Regan, and includes the line “impeach the president.”

12 and 12.5) “All She Wants to Do is Dance [27]” (1985) / “The End of the Innocence [28]” (1989) - Don Henley: Though often regarded as ‘80s shmaltz -- and if we’re being honest, it’s easy to hear why -- Henley’s output from the era is actually far more political than might be immediately apparent. “All She Wants to Do is Dance” bemoans America’s focus on frivolousness and self-indulgence as their government makes a mess of the world. While “The End of the Innocence” mourns the loss of Boomer idealism “for this tired old man that we elected king.” Meaning Reagan, of course. Henley’s earnest use of his musical bully pulpit for social good was lost on most Americans, who just heard gauzy soft rock anthems from the guy who’d co-written “Hotel California.”

Fun Fact: Henley apparently has a zero tolerance for conservative politicians using his songs, going so far as to sue California Senate candidate Chuck DeVore in 2010 for copyright infringement. Devore used parodies of Henley’s "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" (rechristened “All She Wants to Do is Tax”) and "The Boys of Summer" (renamed "Hope of November") in two campaign ads. The two sides settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

13) “Right Wing Pigeons [29]” - Dead Milkmen (1984): Punk's perennial pranksters take on the entire right wing, whom they accused of being “sent here to destroy the human race.” The song speaks to Reagan in particular, saying, “The man in the White House who just don't care / He starves little kids and he dyes his hair.”

Fun Fact: Although it’s been many years since “Punk Rock Girl,” Dead Milkmen’s biggest hit -- and the only song from the band to make it into heavy rotation on MTV -- the members continue onward. Their most recent album, “Pretty Music for Pretty People,” came out in October 2014.

14) “Allentown [30]” – Billy Joel (1982): Billy Joel’s ode to the working class laments the loss of manufacturing jobs and the dire economic straits of those left to deal with the demise of industry. The picture painted by the singer-songwriter is a grim portrait of joblessness and burnt-out industrial towns: “Well we're living here in Allentown / And they're closing all the factories down / Out in Bethlehem they're killing time / Filling out forms / Standing in line.”

Fun Fact: The song was originally about Levittown, New York, one of the most famous post-World War II American suburbs and the place where Billy Joel grew up. The decision was made to change the subject of the song to Allentown after Joel took a trip to Pennsylvania that inspired new lyrics.

15) "I Shot the Devil [31]" - Suicidal Tendencies (1983): When a song opens with the lead singer screaming, “I shot Reagan,” it gives you a pretty good sense of what you’re in for. From there, it’s a hardcore blast of rapid fire drumming and rat-a-tat vocals, with singer Mike Muir rattling off the names of various famous people he’s shot (all of whom were actually assassinated or the victims of assassination attempts). Reagan, however, gets name checked more than anyone else.

Fun Fact: A longstanding rumor holds that the original title of the song, “I Shot Reagan,” was changed after the band received a visit from an FBI agent who, um, encouraged them to alter the name.

16) “Two Tribes [32]” - Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984): An anti-nuclear song about the futility of war. Although the track wasn’t a hit in the United States, it was massive in the band’s native UK, where it was the number one song for a record-breaking nine weeks.

Fun Fact: The video for the song features actors dressed as President Reagan and Soviet politician Konstantin Chernenko duking it out in a ring as an audience -- most of them clearly having bet on the fight -- cheers them on.

17) “Reagan Is For The Rich Man [33]” - Louisiana Red and Carey Bell (1983): The title really says it all. Blues musician Louisiana Red penned this song, with the lyrics coming straight from his heart -- he claimed he’d written the track after having been denied benefits. “I’ll be so glad when Ronald Reagan ain’t no more around,” Red sings as Bell accompanies him on harmonica. “I’d rather see him in a cowboy movie / Than any political ground.”

Not-So-Fun Fact: Like so many blues musicians, Red had a life marked by sadness and tragedy. His mother died of pneumonia just a week after he was born, and his father was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan when he was five years old. Those early losses might explain why he became such an effective voice of the underdog.

18) “Reagan Youth [34]” - Reagan Youth (1984): A song comparing 1980s young Republicans to Nazis. Reagan Youth -- both the band and the song -- was a corruption of Hitler Youth, the children’s wing of the Nazi party. Despite being very young when they began playing together -- they were still in high school when they had their first show -- Reagan Youth wrote some of the most political punk of the hardcore era.

Fun Fact: Reagan Youth’s lead singer, the late Dave Rubinstein, was adamantly anti-right-wing, and the son of Holocaust survivors. Reagan Youth was incredibly important to New York City hardocre (NYHC), the scene that also gave us Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law and, in their earliest incarnation, the Beastie Boys.

19) "Bye Bye Ronnie [35]" - M.D.C. (1989): As if to make clear that President Reagan is the titular Ronnie, the song opens with dialogue from Reagan’s turn as George “The Gipper” Gipp in the film “Knute Rockne, All American [36].” From there it shreds into a hardcore vision of Reagan being tried for war crimes -- and more specifically, the Iran-Contra affair. M.D.C. were among a number of punk bands who played the Rock Against Reagan tours in the ‘80s, which pushed back against the President’s conservative politics with protest songs.

Fun Fact: M.D.C.’s most famous release of all-time may be “John Wayne Was a Nazi [37],” the subject of which makes itself apparent via the title.

20) “Old Mother Reagan [38]” - Violent Femmes (1986): It’s hard to say whether this is a takedown of Ronald Reagan himself or his first lady, Nancy Reagan. At a mere 31 seconds in length, it’s not exactly epic, but the band manages to squeeze in a litany of complaints aimed either at the President or, quite possibly, the woman whose greatest contribution to the War on Drugs was the phrase “Just say no.” In any case, the song alternately labels the Reagan in question “dumb,” “dangerous” and imagines her -- or him -- being barred from entering Heaven, presumably due to wreaking so much havoc on Earth.

Fun Fact: The band’s website [39] relays this incredible story: “The Violent Femmes were eating dinner at Doyle's Seafood in Sydney. [Bassist Brian] Ritchie ate a live lobster served sashimi style. When [Singer Gordon] Gano saw the arms of the lobster waving around while Ritchie munched the raw flesh, he called a taxi and went back to the hotel. The next day, Gano announced he was becoming a vegetarian and has never eaten meat since then.”

21) “Hinkley Had a Vision [40]” - The Cruci***** (1985): Although Cruci***** lead singer Doc Dart saves most of his vitriol for right-wing Christians in this song, he does get right down to brass tacks when discussing his contempt for Reagan, singing, “I wanna take the president / Chop off his head / And mail it to them / In a garbage bag.”

Fun Fact: Dart continues to be highly political, even running for Mayor of Lansing, Michigan, in 1989. He failed to win the election but did garner five percent of the vote. Dart also made news for posting controversial political statements on yard signs in the days following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. (These included, but were not limited to, “BUSH: WHITE TRASH IMBECILE MAGGOT CORPORATE SLUT” and “U.S. TERROR IN IRAQ MAKES SEPT 11TH A TINY MIRROR IMAGE.”)

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[41] on 21 Best '80s Songs Railing Against the Horrible Reagan Era

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Mexico Is a Criminal Country

Published on Alternet (

Le Monde diplomatique [1] / By Rafael Barajas [2], Pedro Miguel [3]

Mexico Is a Criminal Country
November 28, 2014 |

When a police force arrests 43 students and hands them over to narco-gangsters who kill them as a “lesson”, then the police work for a narco-state that entwines organised crime and political power. The same police force also machine-gunned students, killing six and seriously wounding six more; it seized a student, tore the skin from his face, ripped out his eyes and left him lying in the street. This is a narco-state that practises terrorism.

These things happened in Iguala, the third-biggest city in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. The police attacked a group of students from the Ayotzinapa rural teacher training college and are accused of leading them to their deaths. Iguala’s mayor, José Luis Abarca, and his wife, María de Los Angeles, who have close links with a cartel in the region, are suspected of ordering this operation. They were arrested on 4 November.

Mexico’s rural teacher training centres were established 80 years ago to provide high-quality rural teaching and give young teachers from poor backgrounds the chance to better themselves. But these aims, inherited from the revolution (1910-17), have clashed with the neoliberal economic model adopted since the 1980s. According to neoliberal logic, public education limits the scope to exploit education as a commodity, and the countryside harbours relics of the past (indigenous communities or peasant farmers who stand in the way of expanding export-focused agro-business). That is why Mexico’s 15 remaining rural teacher training centres are under threat, as is evident from budget cuts and the accusation by the media and politicians that they are “seedbeds for guerrillas”, according to the former secretary general of the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI), Elba Esther Gordillo (1[4]); havens for “good-for-nothings and delinquents”, according to a debate on Televisa (1 December 2012); and “dens of organised crime,” as Ricardo Alemán wrote in El Universal, 7 October 2014.

The Ayotzinapa students are fighting for their college’s survival. They have been topping up meagre state subsidies — $3.6m a year to cover tuition, accommodation and medical care for just over 500 students, 40 instructors and six administrative staff — through fund-raising. The Ayotzinapa students kidnapped on 26 September had gone to Iguala to organise a fund-raiser. A police witness has revealed that the injured students were made to walk a long distance before being beaten, humiliated, doused with petrol and burned alive. All that remained was ashes, teeth and bone fragments.

Drug money oils the economy

Mexicans have grown used to news of decapitations, group executions and torture, but this story has aroused unprecedented indignation, leading to widespread protests in late November. This proof of terrorism stemming from the way power is shared by politicians and cartels raises troubling questions about the reach of Mexico’s narco-state and its capacity for repression.

It also exposes a structural problem: drug money makes the Mexican economy go round. A 2010 US-Mexican study estimated that the cartels are responsible for an annual cash flow of between $19bn and $29bn from the US to Mexico (2 [5]). According to Kroll, the leading risk and security consultancy, the figure fluctuates between $25 and $40bn (3 [6]). So the drugs trade may be the main source of foreign currency revenue, ahead of oil exports ($25bn) and remittances from expatriates ($25bn). This money feeds directly into the financial system, which is the backbone of the neoliberal order. Stemming the flow would lead to the economic collapse of the country. Mexico and the narco-economy are mutually dependent.

The alliance between politics and drugs extends throughout the country. Entire regions — including the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Michoacán, Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Oaxaca — are under the cartels’ control. They appoint civil servants and police chiefs and cut deals with state governors. Irrespective of the political affiliation of the state’s representatives, authority remains in the hands of organised crime. A few weeks ago, a video released by the Knights Templar cartel showed Ricardo Vallejo Mora, the son of the former governor of Michoacán, in relaxed conversation with Servando Gómez Martínez, known as “la Tuta”, the godfather of the criminal organisation that runs this state (4 [7]). In these regions, organised crime takes its cut, and engages in kidnap, rape and murder with impunity. Inhabitants live in a nightmare, and in some states their only option has been to organise self-defence militias.

There are indications that the narco-state has infected the highest spheres of Mexican political life. No party or region is immune, especially the biggest: the ruling PRI, the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The cartels cannot operate without the cooperation of politicians and civil servants at all levels. Money plays a determining role in election campaigns, which also offer an effective means of laundering cash.

President Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI has been in power since 2012, and there is no direct evidence linking him to organised crime. But during one of the most expensive election campaigns in Mexico’s history, the press revealed murky dealings amounting to several million dollars (5 [8]). The scandal made waves in Mexico, but the international community stayed silent. It is impossible to measure just how much money Peña Nieto spent to win the election. But on 5 November an electoral commission established that the PRI had spent more than 4.5bn pesos ($330m, 13 times the legal limit (6 [9])). The commission was unable to investigate many secret transactions that would have produced a higher figure. Officially, no one knows the source of this money, a worry in a country riddled with drug trafficking. In territories dominated by organised crime, the local cartels actively support the PRI (7 [10]).

Promises not kept

Promises to tackle narco-trafficking effectively were a key part of Peña Nieto’s campaign; he guaranteed results within a year. That was three years ago. Many of the electorate hoped that the PRI’s policy would be more effective than that of its predecessor, led by Felipe Calderón, but its security plan is almost exactly the same: the US is watching to ensure its security doctrine is followed. So the murders have gone on. According to a federal government agency, the National Public Security System (SNSP), there were 57,899 wilful homicides during the first 20 months of Peña Nieto’s government (8 [11]).

The violence from organised crime tends to relegate the crimes of the state to second place, yet they are far from insignificant. The government claims that the Ayotzinapa killings were an isolated incident. Mexicans have good reason to think otherwise. Peña Nieto, during his time as governor of the state of México in 2006, ordered a crackdown on the citizens of San Salvador Atenco, who had long resisted the seizure of their land for the building of an airport. Many human rights violations were committed, including sexual assaults on female detainees. No charges have ever been brought.

Since Peña Nieto came to power, the prisons have been full of people whose only crime is to have fought for their rights, land or patrimony and defended their families against organised crime. This August, the Nestora Libre committee, a defence organisation for political prisoners, claimed that since December 2012 at least 350 people had been locked up on political grounds (9 [12]). In Michoacán, Dr José Manuel Mireles, the founder of a self-defence militia, was arrested with 328 members of his group. In Guerrero, Nestora Salgado, 13 community police officers and four people’s leaders who opposed the construction of La Parota dam were also imprisoned. In Puebla, 33 people are behind bars for opposing the building of a highly polluting thermo-electric power station. In Mexico City, Quintana Roo, Chiapas and many other states, it is impossible to count the number of political prisoners. In the states of Sonora and Chiapas, citizens who protested about water privatisation have been jailed, along with those who asked for fertiliser.

Since the start of Peña Nieto’s administration, the forces of order have employed dirty war tactics, reminiscent of the political repression in Latin America from the 1960s to the 80s. Nepomuceno Moreno, a member of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, was tortured and killed in the state of Sonora while taking part in a caravan for peace. In Chihuahua, assassins killed Ismaël Solorio and Manuelita Solis, who were defending water resources against Canadian mining companies. Atilano Roman, the leader of a movement for people displaced by the construction of the Picachos dam, was killed in the state of Sinaloa.

The atrocities in Iguala have increased popular anger, now visible in traditionally apathetic sectors. The survival of the regime is under threat in a previously unthinkable way. None of the PRI’s traditional weapons — co-optation, hostile media coverage, infiltration, provocation, defamation — have managed to contain it. Attempts to buy families’ silence, acts of repression, incitements to violence (10[13]), the campaign against Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the main leader of the opposition left, trying to blame him for the violence against the students, and the mainstream media’s defence of the president, have only heightened anger and increased the desire for change.

The movement in support of the students and their families took unprecedented action on 10 November and blocked Acapulco’s international airport for more than three hours. This is a major tourist entry point to the country. It is likely that further action will follow, targeting Guerrero’s other major airports and motorways.

Mexico’s prosecutor general, Jesús Murillo Karam, repeated that Ayotzinapa was an isolated case on 7 November when he was asked if he believed it was a state crime. “Iguala is not the state,” he replied. But what happened there shows what this state has become.


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[14] on Mexico Is a Criminal Country

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

The Hunger Games Economy


This is a well-written article about the need for solidarity. It is like so many other well-written articles. It tells us what we need, but doesn’t provide the blueprint to achieve the goal. Individualism is a plague on U.S. society, and in my opinion it rules. As an organizer, I know how difficult it is to unite people. But we must keep trying.



(photo: Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast)

The Hunger Games Economy
By Jedediah Purdy, The Daily Beast
29 November 14

The popularity of Suzanne Collins’s series suggests it has caught something many Americans sense: This is not the best we can do.

Katniss Everdeen has broken the Hunger Games and entered open war against the Capitol. But from Ferguson to Washington to Wall Street, we are still playing our own Hunger Games. We are still playing by rules that divide us.

At the start of the YA series, no one really questions that each of Panem’s twelve districts will send two of its young people to fight to the death in a landscape-scale arena that is part haunted forest, part Tough Mudder course. The audience wants its favorites to win. The participants want to win—or at least they want to survive, and when losing means dying, winning is the only way to survive.

The story’s moral core is solidarity: the Gamers start caring about one another and resisting the rule that only one contestant can survive the Hunger Games. The political pivot comes when they realize that there could be a world without Hunger Games at all. The rules of this game are man-made. They benefit some people and hurt many others—even the so-called winners, who survive by becoming killers, then become the celebrity playthings of Capitol elites. With this insight, the fight against the other contestants and the other districts can become a united rebellion against the Capitol.

And what about here in our real world, the one Suzanne Collins didn’t create? Well, of course the Hunger Games is a violent fairy tale. There’s no leering President Snow behind our rules of the game. But the enormous resonance of the story suggests it’s caught something many Americans sense: these rules are not the best we can do. We are living with our own Hunger Games.

What are our Hunger Games? I’d start with the economy. The fact that tens of millions of Americans still can’t afford health care—especially but not only in states that have resisted Obamacare—means that losing the game can literally mean dying. Statistically, rejecting the Medicaid expansion means more than a thousand early deaths every year in my state, North Carolina, mostly among the working poor. That’s just one rule of the game.
Another is that, because it’s hard to unionize, a worker who asks for more is likely to be replaced by someone who will ask for less. Solidarity is harder, and people are pitted against one another. The 29 coal miners who were killed in the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia four years ago were non-unionized, which made it easier for their bosses to ignore safety rules and press for ramped-up production over human life. Don Blankenship, then-head of the company, has just been criminally indicted, but it’s five years too late. His policies made the workplace a Hunger Games arena of its own. National labor law made it easier for him to do.

In this week of Ferguson and everything it stands for, looking behind the rules of the game is especially urgent. The American economy does not teach us that “black lives matter,” at least not as much as white lives. At the start of each Hunger Games, the contestants scramble for a pile of survival gear and weapons before taking off for the woods to hunt one another. Here, black children are born into families with about 10 percent—one-tenth—the average wealth of white families. They are born in neighborhoods with fewer business owners, fewer professionals—fewer of the patrons who can spot their talent and send the real-world version of those little silver parachutes that drop into the Hunger Games arena to save our heroes.

Some white people and immigrants feel personally accused by talk of a “racist” system. After all, don’t they work hard and play by the rules? Do they hate anybody? This perspective can be perfectly sincere and deeply personally decent. (On the Midwestern side of the family, I come from people who work very hard, obey all the rules, and hate no one—who, in fact, would help anyone who needed it.)

But once we understand that it’s the rules of the game that are the problem, we can see that no one needs to be racist for the system to keep spitting out racist results. No one needs to hate for a game to be hateful. Even “fair” rules, which treat every person alike, are not really fair if the contestants scramble across the starting line in very unequal situations, some with swords and bows, some with a little rope and a box of matches. The problem is that being a decent person in an indecent situation is not enough, even though it may also be all you can do.

This is especially hard to see because Americans, even more than other people, tend to see the rules of the market as natural and unchangeable facts. Gravity, as the tee-shirt says, isn’t just a good idea; it’s the law. In American life, the familiar version of market competition is often treated as that kind of law, the kind you can’t change and defy only if you don’t mind falling on your face.

This is naiveté, but it isn’t exactly innocent anymore. We have no excuse for ignorance about the universal health care that most wealthy countries enjoy, the more cooperative and secure German labor economy (where union representatives are entitled to a generous share of seats on corporate boards), or the Swedish family-leave policies that mean you don’t risk losing your job if you dedicate six months to your new baby. And we have no excuse for not knowing that our economy, our schools, and our policing enforce an inequality that many of us wouldn’t wish for but few are doing much to change.

As grown-ups without turbo-charged explosive arrows, we can only change the rules through politics. And our politics reinforces our Hunger Games economy, thanks partly to the Supreme Court’s commitment to treating money as speech and, therefore, democracy as a branch of capitalism. No wonder we enjoy a story where all the power is concentrated in a few wealthy hands. It’s not quite our reality, but it’s not exactly unfamiliar, either.
On a holiday dedicated to reflection, we should take seriously the political impulse that the Hunger Games spurs, even if the movie itself has no politics beyond that impulse. We love winners, even against our better judgment, which is why, in the first movie, we were unsettlingly like the Capitol’s fans, thrilling to the macabre bloodshed in the arena. But we also know better. Solidarity, looking out for one another, can move us more. And, just like Katniss, we need rules that make solidarity a centerpiece of shared life, not a desperate act of rebellion. Recognizing this is the first step away from a Hunger Games economy. It is a grown-up’s way to be the Mockingjay.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert November 30 – December 2, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert November 30 – December 2, 2014

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center. Go to If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski [at]

Tune into the Maryland Progressive Blog at

1] Books, buttons & stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists
4] Buy coffee through HoCoFoLa
5] Can you donate a kidney?
6] Delegation to Cuba – Dec. 8 – Dec. 18
7] Thinking Outside the Box – Nov. 30
8] Peace and Pancakes – Nov. 30
9] Documentary “Just Play” – Nov. 30
10] Support PSR – Nov. 30
11] Boycott Re/Max – Nov. 30
12] Advent Prayer Service for Peace and Life – Nov. 30
13] Pentagon Vigil – Dec. 1
14] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Dec. 1 – 5
15] Water Is a Human Right – Nov. 30
16] No privatization of water – Dec.1
17] Hands Up Coalition/DC at DOJ – Dec. 1
18] Stop Oil Trains – Dec. 1
19] Documentary “Schools that Change Communities” – Dec. 1
20] Book talk WAGING PEACE – Dec. 1
21] Pledge/FOC meeting – Dec. 1
22] “Breakthrough or Extension: Implications for U.S. and European Relations with Iran" – Dec. 2
1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available. “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Donate your books to Max. Call him at 410-366-1637.

2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at

3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR]. It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed. It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq. To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to mobuszewski at Verizon dot net. Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.

THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe. It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing. To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.

4] – You can help safeguard human rights and fragile ecosystems through your purchase of HOCOFOLA Café Quetzal. Bags of ground coffee or whole beans can be ordered by mailing in an order form. Also note organic cocoa and sugar are for sale. For more details and to download the order form, go to The coffee comes in one-pound bags.

Fill out the form and mail it with a check made out to HOCOFOLA on or before the second week of the month. Be sure you indicate ground or beans for each type of coffee ordered. Send it to Francine Sheppard at 5639B, Harpers Farm Rd., Columbia 21044. The coffee will arrive some time the following week and you will be notified where to pick it up. Contact Francine at 410-992-7679 or

5] – A relative – or sort of relative – of the Berrigans by the name of Michael Moore has an ex-wife suffering from renal failure and is on dialysis four times each day. Her only hope is to receive a kidney from a donor. Her name is Mary Ann Nowak, and she can be reached at 760-632-5462 or by email at Anyone willing to be tested or who has already been tested and is able to donate a kidney would give new life to this woman. Many thanks for any and all consideration you can give. Thanks for reading, for caring, for considering--Liz McAlister.

6] - Witness for Peace, 1616 P St. NW, Ste. 100, WDC 20036 [202-547-6112,, or www.witnessforpeace.orgCuba: The Fabric of Cuban Society] is hosting a delegation to Cuba from Mon., Dec. 8 through Wed., Dec. 18. The delegation coordinators are Leni Reeves (559-855-4511, and Moravia de la O (

7] - Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 AM to noon. On Nov. 30, Hugh Taft-Morales will give a platform address titled "Thinking Outside the Box". This will be pre-recorded since Hugh will be travelling. Instead of Q&A, discuss and brainstorm "out of the box" ideas to grow our society. Here's the description:

"The human race is confounded by our stubborn reliance on patterns of behavior that don’t work. Often we approach overwhelming problems – like climate change, racism, and war – in ways that haven’t worked in the past, and probably won’t work in the future. We need some more radical creativity in our world. Hugh Taft-Morales explores ways we can learn, brainstorm and think outside of the box to lead more flourishing lives and save the world!" Call 410-581-2322 or email

8] - Join the Kadampa Meditation Center for Peace and Pancakes on Sundays at 10:30 AM at KMC Maryland, 2937 North Charles St. All are invited to participate in guided meditation and chant praying for world peace. There will be a talk based on Buddhist thought followed by brunch. Call 410- 243-3837. Brunch is $5.

9] - On Sun., Nov. 30 at 11:30 AM, see the documentary “Just Play” from director Dimitri Chimenti at Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ, 1 Westmoreland Circle in Bethesda, at the intersection of Massachusetts and Western Avenues. Parking is available in a small lot north of the church and on nearby streets. This film is about Al Kamandjati music schools – a series of music schools created in refugee camps in Palestine and Lebanon. Ramzi Aburedwan, a Palestinian violist who is one of the founders of Al Kamandjati, will be present for the film and the discussion to follow. Call 301-229-7766 or go to

10] -- On Sun., Nov. 30 between noon and 5 PM in the Philadelphia area, Ten Thousand Villages has again agreed to support Physicians for Social Responsibility-Philadelphia with a community shopping event! FIVE different Ten Thousand Villages stores will donate 15% of net sales to PSR Philadelphia when you shop: Center City (1122 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19107); Chestnut Hill (8331 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118);
Exton (271 Main St, Exton, PA 19341); King of Prussia (690 W Dekalb Pike #2098, King of Prussia, PA, 19406 - in the mall); and Media (101 W State St, Media, PA 19063).

Shop Ten Thousand Villages for unique handmade gifts from around the world including fair trade baskets, jewelry, crafts and other items from international artisans. This is a great opportunity to not only financially support PSR, but to make more people aware of the great work PSR is doing! See

11] -- Boycott RE/MAX: No Open House on Stolen Land Campaign is happening on Sun., Nov. 30 at 2 PM. This is a national BDS effort, to get RE/MAX to pull back from its complicity in the sale of Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories. The office in Olney is a large office, close to the intersection of Sandy Spring Road (108) and Georgia Ave. (97). Visit YN873x109064397&id= YN873x109064397&q=Re%2fMax+ Olney+MD. Call Ann at 410-730-0464.

This is sponsored by the Committee for Palestinian Rights, a Howard County-based group of concerned people who come from diverse backgrounds but share a commitment to opposing the tragic denial of justice, dignity and human rights to the Palestinian people. This injustice is a direct result of the military occupation of their lands by the state of Israel. For the Palestinians, life under the Israeli occupation is a daily struggle against checkpoints, curfews, detentions, home demolitions, and widespread poverty and unemployment. Email

12] – On Sun., Nov. 30, First Sunday of Advent, from 5 to 6 PM, Pax Christi Baltimore invites you to come to the Annual Advent Prayer Service for Peace and Life and hear Lin Romano, Chief Operating Officer of GEDCO, at the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, 1001 West Joppa Road, Towson 21204. Come and join Pax Christi as they await the coming of the Prince of Peace! A reception will follow after the conclusion of the service. Contact Chuck Michaels at 443-846-5207.

13] -- There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop. The next vigil is Mon., Dec. 1, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Email or call 202-882-9649. The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro. By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr., and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM. No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr.

14] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday from 10 AM to noon on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to All shows are also available as podcasts at

15] – Gather at the Baltimore War Memorial, 101 N Gay St., on Mon., Dec. 1 at 4 PM. Water should be free; No shutoffs; No seizures of homes for water bills. Join with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Peoples Power Assembly, We, the Peoples Movement and many others to state WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT! Call (410) 396-4565 or email Visit

16] – Be at City Hall, 100 Holliday St., on Mon., Dec. 1 at 5 PM, as the Baltimore community is concerned that the mayor's office and Department of Public Works may spend up to $500,000 to hire Veolia, a corporation infamous for privatizing water systems in the U.S. and across the globe. Veolia is proposing to study our water system and then change the way our system is operated. Veolia's track record includes rate hikes, contract terminations, and political interference.

Baltimore and HomeServe have entered into a contract where the city is recommending people buy insurance for pipe damage. HomeServe has a history of deceptive business practices and has been sued by Attorneys general in several states as well having an advisory issued against them by the Better Business Bureau. Why would Baltimore contract with Veolia and why does HomeServe's letter have a city letterhead? Corporations with those track records should have no role in our water system! This event is hosted by One Baltimore United. Email or call 443-821-7663.

17] -- Members of the Hands Up Coalition/DC will peacefully assemble at the Justice Department every Monday at 4 PM to demand: • The demilitarization of local law enforcement across the country. • A comprehensive review of systemic abuses by local police departments. • Repurposing of law enforcement funds to support community based alternatives to incarceration. • Congressional hearings to investigate the criminalization of communities of color. • Passage of the End Racial Profiling Act. • A National Plan of Action for Racial Justice. Visit

18] – The Port of Baltimore’s Fairfield terminal could soon be used to store up to 12.6 million gallons of crude oil in the city. Energy company Targa Resources – which purchased the terminal in 2011 – plans to start a “rail to barge” operation in Baltimore, in which crude oil will be transported through the city via railroad to Fairfield terminal, where it will be loaded onto barges for shipment. Targa Resources applied for an air emissions permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) earlier this year, and preliminary approval has already been granted.

MDE is holding a public hearing for residents and environmental groups who have raised various concerns over the project, such as the volatility of crude oil transport in the city, and whether or not city railroads meet federal safety regulation standards. The hearing will be held on Mon. Dec. 1 at 6 PM at the Brooklyn Branch Enoch Pratt Free Library, 300 E. Patapsco Ave., Baltimore 21225.

19] – Beyond the Classroom Living & Learning Program presents the award-winning documentary “Schools that Change Communities” on Mon., Dec. 1 from 7 to 9 PM at 1104 South Campus Commons, Building 1, College Park 20742. The film profiles a diverse group of public schools that are successfully creating higher achieving students in a different way -- by turning the communities where they live into their classrooms. The film re-imagines what education can be, visiting K-12 public schools in five states across America that are engaging students in learning by solving real-world problems in a variety of communities, from economically and environmentally challenged rural areas to poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods. Teachers, students and local residents discuss their projects and the value they find in place- and community-based education -- an interdisciplinary approach which emphasizes hands-on, curiosity-based investigation using surrounding neighborhoods as "living" classrooms. By confronting and solving real-world issues in their hometowns, students become more engaged in the learning process and develop a stronger sense of civic responsibility and pride. Call 301-314-6621 or email

20] – On Mon., Dec. 1 at 7 PM, David Hartsough, author of “Waging Peace: Global Adventures of A Lifelong Activist,” speaks at Pendle Hill in the 'Barn', 338 Plush Mill Road, Wallingford, PA 19086. Hartsough was born the son of a Christian minister in 1941, and has been an anti-war activist since the 1950s. In 1952 he and his family joined the Society of Friends (Quakers) and settled in the Philadelphia area. At age 15, Hartsough shook hands with Martin Luther King, Jr., and he would later cite that meeting as one that strongly propelled him toward peace activism. David is currently the executive director of Peaceworkers and cofounder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, as well as an initiator of the World Beyond War movement.

And the rest has been a lifelong tale of experimenting with the power of active nonviolence, and an effort to live as though we are all sisters and brothers. David has now written Waging Peace: Global Adventures of A Lifelong Activist with stories of a peace activist's eyewitness account of historical events of the past sixty years - the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, and lesser known nonviolent efforts in the Soviet Union, Kosovo, Palestine, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Being there and often getting in way like when he used his body to block Navy ships headed for Vietnam and trains loaded with munitions and on their way to Central American. He's also crossed borders to meet "the enemy" in East Berlin, Cuba, and present-day Iran. Visit

21] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore usually meets on Mondays at 7:30 PM, and the meetings take place at Max’s residence. The next meeting may be on Mon., Dec. 1. The proposed agenda will include anti-drone activities, including getting a drone law passed in Baltimore’s City Council, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, lobbying Rep. Sarbanes, a march from the EPA to the Pentagon, the film A RIVER THAT HARMS, the play GROUNDED, and a talk about ISIS. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at for directions.

22] – On Tues., Dec. 2 at 10 AM, Clifford Kupchan, Eurasia Group, Cornelius Adebahr, Carnegie Endowment, and Erich Ferrari, Ferrari & Associates, will discuss "Breakthrough or Extension: Implications for U.S. and European Relations with Iran" at the Atlantic Council, 12th Floor, 1030 15th St. NW, WDC. RSVP at

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

How Government Spying Undermines Climate Action

Nov. 29--

(photo: unknown)

How Government Spying Undermines Climate Action

By Andrew Kerr, Greenpeace International
28 November 14

Unless you’ve been living in a hole in the ground or in a galaxy far, far away you won’t have missed media revelations about government security services snooping on our every communication.

Personal phone calls and e-mails are among the data routinely scooped up and stored for possible later scrutiny. It makes a mockery of the notion of personal privacy.

As private citizens we express, or suppress, our outrage and get on with our day-to-day lives. We call, text and mail our nearest and dearest with our most intimate secrets. In the back of our minds we hope that “someone” is there to prevent the descent into an Orwellian dystopia. Or we ignore it and reckon it doesn’t affect us.
When individuals snoop, it’s called ‘hacking’ and they are pursued to the ends of the Earth. When governments do it, it’s “surveillance” and they get off Scot-free.

Private and government communications compromised

Governments, too, rely on electronic communication to exchange their most intimate secrets and that includes their negotiating positions in international talks, such as those on climate change.

Decisions about cutting carbon pollution are serious business and impact on trillions of dollars of present and future investments. And vested interests have the upper hand if they know the positions of their opponents.

What’s the most likely outcome of a card game where your hand is on the table while other players hold their cards close to their chests?

The odds are already stacked against developing countries that face the brunt of climate change impacts. Their disadvantage in protecting themselves against the ‘dark arts’ of electronic eavesdropping makes them even more vulnerable.

Big Brother has been watching all along. For all we know, the outcome of the UN climate talks opening in Lima, on Dec. 1, may already have been compromised.
Copenhagen Climate Summit hung out to dry

In an article, “For the NSA, espionage was a means to strengthen the US position in climate negotiations,” the Danish publication Information raised the question as to whether electronic surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contributed to the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit, in 2009.

The summit was billed as the moment when the world’s nations would reach agreement on achieving significant cuts in carbon pollution. As Information put it, some called the summit the most important of its kind since the end of World War II. More than a hundred government leaders participated. Never before had so many heads of state been gathered outside the UN headquarters in New York.

According to the article, the Danish climate minister and her staff took special care to keep track of every paper copy of a Danish draft proposal. If handed out, each copy was collected again at the end of the meetings.

But this was before Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, blew the whistle on all-pervasive electronic snooping. Back in 2009, no security precautions were taken to protect the Danish document in electronic form.

An accompanying article, “NSA spied against UN climate negotiations,” cited a leaked document reporting that the U.S. NSA, along with its close partners from intelligence agencies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK—the so-called Five Eyes—“will continue to provide policymakers with unique, timely, and valuable insights into key countries’ preparations and goals for the conference, as well as the deliberations within countries on climate change policies and negotiation strategies”.

It appears that at an early stage in the Copenhagen process, the NSA had intercepted information about the position that the Danish government—the host of the conference—had as its bottom line. If so, this would be crucial intelligence. The US government would know that it didn’t need to shift its position—if they held out, the rest of the world would come to them.

A further article by ‘Information’, “Legal experts: Illegal to spy on Denmark and the UN”, referred to the view of legal experts that, “It would constitute a violation of both Danish laws and international conventions if the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied against Denmark and the UN climate summit COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009″.

Not only the NSA

The NSA is not alone in its spying effort. In an article published on Nov. 1, Information reported, “The British intelligence service GCHQ has spied systematically against international climate change summits”.

The article says that a “February 2011 PowerPoint presentation lists the annual UN COP summits from 2007 to 2010 as targets of GCHQ espionage, including Copenhagen’s COP15 in December 2009, although it is not clear if the service spied on COP14 in Poland in 2008. According to the presentation, GCHQ was also deployed against the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change (MEF), a meeting for the world’s top economies which took place in Paris in the spring of 2009 as a part of the preparations for the summit in Copenhagen later that year”.

Another article by Information, “Disguised as Climate Negotiators,” reports that “climate change became a ‘serious intelligence priority’ for GCHQ in 2007.” It says, “An undercover employee of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was embedded in the British delegation when world leaders assembled at the 2010 UN Climate Change Summit in Cancún, Mexico”.

The meeting in Cancún was intended to bring the UN climate negotiations back on track after the historic failure in Copenhagen in 2009. Did you notice a dramatic development from the Cancún meeting? (Just in case I’d missed something).
Cancún was four years ago—ancient history on the electronic snooping timescale.

UN territory and talks must be off-limits to snooping

Negotiations under the UN banner are meant to allow every country to have its say.
More than that, the venues of all UN climate summits are declared to be UN territory for the duration of the negotiations, so the snoopers could have been breaking international law.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said he’s launching an investigation into reports that Britain spied on other governments at two successive global climate summits: “All diplomatic information is inviolable. If there has been any breach … they should be investigated. UN information should be protected in its entire confidentiality.”

What does it mean for Lima in December 2014?

Governments are giving the UN climate talks another shot in Lima, starting on 1 December—the twentieth time they’ll have met to achieve progress.

It’s easy, and unbelievably frustrating, to say that governments haven’t achieved nearly enough when the science and clean energy solutions are staring them in the face.

Climate change affects us all. The saddest response from negotiators in Lima to the question, “What did you do to stop it?” would be, “I failed to encrypt my communications.”

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Grassroots Mobilizations Connect Struggles against State Violence and Injustice

November Vigil Concludes with Solemn Funeral Procession to Fort Benning (home of the School of the Americas) & Two More Civil Disobedience Arrests Mass Mobilization to Shut Down Latin American Security Forces Training School, For-Profit Immigrant Detention Center

Grassroots Mobilizations Connect Struggles against State Violence and Injustice

Columbus, Georgia – 2,500 human rights activists braved the rainstorms on Sunday, November 23 and converged at Fort Benning to call for an end to militarized state violence in the US and abroad. Featured presenters came from Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the US.

Following the stage program, a solemn funeral procession commemorated those murdered at the hands of School of the Americas/WHINSEC graduates, including the two women and six Jesuit priests who were massacred in 1989 at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, as well as activists from Honduras, Mexico and Colombia killed earlier this year.

Eve Tetaz, an 83-year-old author, veteran peace and justice activist and retired public schoolteacher from Washington, DC, crossed the line onto Fort Benning in solitary nonviolent witness at 9 am, carrying with her a poster of one of the 43 students disappeared in Ayotzinapa, Mexico this September, and the prophetic Isaiah verse, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares.” After the procession concluded, longtime SOA Watch activist Nashua Chantal, a 62-year-old human rights defender from Americus, Georgia, carried a ladder to the fence which military police erected to keep our peaceful message from entering the base. This is the third arrest at Fort Benning for Chantal, who previously served a three-month sentence in 2005 and six months in 2013 for crossing the line.

Five human rights defenders were arrested on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at the gates of the Stewart Detention Center, carrying their nonviolent message of justice and dignity for all onto the property of the Corrections Corporation of America, which warehouses 1,800 men at Stewart for profit in horrific conditions--Anton Flores, La Grange, GA, Jason McGaughey, Washington, D.C., Kevin Caron, Atlanta, GA, Maureen Fitzsimmons, Detroit, MI, and Rebecca Kanner, Detroit, MI. At least one detainee has died.

The civil disobedience action followed a procession of about 1,000 human rights activists from Lumpkin, Georgia to the Stewart Detention Center. Activists called for an end to the unjust imprisonment of immigrants and denounced the clear connection between US militarization and forced migration.

SOA/WHINSEC training is among the roots causes which force people to migrate and flee their countries. Many immigrants to the United States are victims of US-sponsored military atrocities in Latin America. In its fight to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC, SOA Watch continues to work towards a world that is free of suffering and violence. SOA Watch considers deportation quotas, mandatory detention, for-profit immigration detention centers, the militarization of the border, the drug war and the training of repressive forces at the SOA/WHINSEC, as all parts of the same racist system of violence and domination. A dismantling of these and other policies is needed for there ever to be true "Comprehensive Immigration Reform."


for photos and videos of the November Vigil weekend, visit

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Fracking moves forward

NewsOpinionEditorial November 27, 2014

Fracking moves forward

Even with 'best practices,' hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Western Maryland is a risky proposition
A week ago, a failed switch in a home along the shores of Deep Creek Lake caused 1,700 gallons of raw sewage to accidentally spill into the water, enough that health officials had to monitor local water quality and post warning signs nearby after the cleanup. The episode was uncommon, but it demonstrated how much the Garrett County resort area depends on pristine water not only at Deep Creek but at the wild and scenic Youghiogheny River, which is considered one of the Mid-Atlantic's best spots for kayaking.

This week, the final report weighing the costs and benefits of Marcellus Shale drilling was released in draft form by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and Department of the Environment. Its authors ultimately recommend the state move forward with hydraulic fracturing — fracking — for gas, but not without some major caveats. Here's what they wrote about the potential consequences for Garrett's economic lifeblood:

"The economy of Garrett County, more so than Allegany County, is dependent on tourism and outdoor recreation, which could suffer during the active phases of gas development, even if no accidents or incidents occur," the study notes. "A large portion of Garrett County's revenue comes from real estate taxes on the land around Deep Creek Lake, and studies have shown that property values can decline sharply if drilling occurs nearby."
Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he intends to move forward with regulations that would require energy companies to follow "best practices" and minimize the hazards — perhaps to a degree unmatched by any other state. That Maryland is going to approve fracking eventually no longer seems to be in doubt given that Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has made clear his support for exploitation of the state's natural gas resources. But how the state regulates the industry is critical.

It's disappointing to hear Mr. Hogan already sniping at the O'Malley administration for adopting regulations of various kinds during the final two months in power, calling them an effort to "sneak things in at the end." We trust he's not referring to the proposed restrictions on fracking which even supporters of drilling recognize as crucial. The incoming governor deserves to have a say on them, of course, but so does the General Assembly, which probably ought to have placed a moratorium on unconventional drilling until regulations are adopted that can protect Western Maryland tourism, quality of life and other vital interests.

Here's another point the latest study makes — the financial benefits of drilling for natural gas are not as great as one might think. Maryland has only a small portion of the Marcellus Shale deposit, essentially less than a county and a half's worth, and many of the jobs that would be created by drilling will go to out-of-state crews from places like Texas and Oklahoma who show up with their equipment, drill the wells and then leave for the next drilling site.

It's part of the "boom and bust" nature of natural gas development. Even the tax dollars involved are relatively modest with Allegany County securing little more than $4 million in a peak year and Garrett $17.1 million. There are royalty payments to those who own mineral rights, of course, but, as the authors point out, that's not necessarily going to people who live in Maryland as mineral rights typically aren't held by landowners — that relationship was severed decades ago when energy companies were hunting for coal.

One would have to be truly oblivious not to have concerns about hydraulic fracturing, which involves horizontal drilling and the fracturing of underground rock with pressurized water and chemicals to release gas deposits. There have been enough bad experiences in neighboring Pennsylvania where at least 243 drinking water wells have been contaminated by fracking operations, according to a recent report, to justify such caution. It isn't just about protecting human health (although that ought to be the top priority) but defending the region's economy as well.

A kayaking trip, an eco tour, a hike to Swallow Falls, a rafting trip down the Upper "Yough," waterskiing on Deep Creek — none of these signature Garrett County tourist attractions benefit if customers first get stuck on rural highways behind chemical trucks hauling fracking wastewater or the visitors discover methane leaking into their drinking water. This is one circumstance where Mr. Hogan ought to be pleased that the state wants to regulate. What the next governor ought to be examining more closely, given the relatively modest and fleeting benefits of fracking versus the potential harm to local businesses, is whether these risks ought to be tolerated at all.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Friday, November 28, 2014

Talking to James Risen About Pay Any Price, the War on Terror and Press Freedoms

Glenn Greenwald speaks to the media after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday. (photo: AP)

Talking to James Risen About Pay Any Price, the War on Terror and Press Freedoms

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

27 November 14

James Risen, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for exposing the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, has long been one of the nation’s most aggressive and adversarial investigative journalists. Over the past several years, he has received at least as much attention for being threatened with prison by the Obama Justice Department (ostensibly) for refusing to reveal the source of one of his stories—a persecution that, in reality, is almost certainly the vindictive by-product of the U.S. government’s anger over his NSA reporting.

He has published a new book on the War on Terror entitled Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War. There have been lots of critiques of the War on Terror on its own terms, but Risen’s is one of the first to offer large amounts of original reporting on what is almost certainly the most overlooked aspect of this war: the role corporate profiteering plays in ensuring its endless continuation, and how the beneficiaries use rank fear-mongering to sustain it.

That alone makes the book very worth reading, but what independently interests me about Risen is how he seems to have become entirely radicalized by what he’s discovered in the last decade of reporting, as well as by the years-long battle he has had to wage with the U.S. government to stay out of prison. He now so often eschews the modulated, safe, uncontroversial tones of the standard establishment reporter (such as when he called Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation” and said about the administration’s press freedom attacks: “Nice to see the U.S. government is becoming more like the Iranian government”). He at times even channels radical thinkers, sounding almost Chomsky-esque when he delivered a multiple-tweet denunciation—taken from a speech he delivered at Colby College—of how establishment journalists cling to mandated orthodoxies out of fear:

It is difficult to recognize the limits a society places on accepted thought at the time it is doing it. When everyone accepts basic assumptions, there don’t seem to be constraints on ideas. That truth often only reveals itself in hindsight. Today, the basic prerequisite to being taken seriously in American politics is to accept the legitimacy of the new national security state. The new basic American assumption is that there really is a need for a global war on terror. Anyone who doesn’t accept that basic assumption is considered dangerous and maybe even a traitor. The crackdown on leaks by the Obama administration has been designed to suppress the truth about the war on terror. Stay on the interstate highway of conventional wisdom with your journalism, and you will have no problems. Try to get off and challenge basic assumptions, and you will face punishment.
I spent roughly 30 minutes talking to Risen about the book, what he’s endured in his legal case, attacks on press freedoms, and what is and is not new about the War on Terror’s corporate profiteering. The discussion can be heard on the player below, and a transcript is provided. As Risenput it: “I wrote Pay Any Price as my answer to the government’s campaign against me.”

GREENWALD: This is Glenn Greenwald with The Intercept and I am speaking today with Jim Risen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times who has released a new book, the title of which is Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. Hey Jim, thanks so much for taking some time to talk to me.
RISEN: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

GREENWALD: My pleasure. So, I’ve read your entire book, and I have several questions about it, beginning with a general one, which is: there have been a lot of books written about the failures of the War on Terror, deceit kind of embedded with the War on Terror, most of which have taken the war on its own terms, and critiqued it because of strategic failures or of failure to achieve the claims which have been made to justify the war, and I actually have written a couple of books myself about the War on Terror from that perspective. Yours is really one of the first that has focused on a particular part of the War on Terror, namely the way in which economic motives, what you call the Homeland Security Industrial Complex, has driven a huge part of the war, and there’s a lot of new reporting about how that functions.

I wanted to ask you two things about that. One is, is that something that you intended to do; that you set out to do when you began writing the book, and if so, what led you to do that, and the second part of it is, how much of this economic motive is the cause of the fact that we’ve now been at war for 13 years as opposed to traditional war objectives such as increasing domestic power or asserting foreign influence. How big of a role do you think it actually plays?

RISEN: That was my goal. That was one of the key objectives of writing the book, and I think it plays a really central role in why the war is continuing. I think it’s basically that after so many years there’s a whole class of people that have developed. A post-9/11 mercenary class that’s developed that have invested in their own lives an incentive to keep the war going. Not just people who are making money, but people who are in the government who their status and their power within the government are invested in continuing the war.

So I was trying to show that it wasn’t just greed—it was partly greed—but it was also status, and power, and ambition that all intertwined to make it so that there’s very little debate about whether to continue the war, and whether we should have any real re-assessment on a basic level. So you’re right, I was trying to get at those motivations, I was trying to understand how we could have this prolonged period of war with such little debate. And I think it’s both economic incentives and personal power incentives and ambition and status.

GREENWALD: Let’s talk about the economic part of the motive, because obviously one of the most striking things about the war is not just its duration but the fact that it’s continued essentially unimpeded, notwithstanding these wild swings in election outcomes. You have the Republicans, who were in power when the war commenced, get smashed in 2006 and 2008 as a result of, at least primarily, as a result of dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and the general state of things, but then you had the war continue under a president who kind of vowed to reign it all in, and then even when the Democrats get killed in 2010 and then again in 2014, there’s no signs of any of this letting up.

It’s easy to see why there’s this private sector—you know, the weapons manufacturers and the defense contractors, sort of a General Dynamics, Booz Allen world—that want the war to continue. They do really well when they’re selling huge amounts of machinery, weapons, and drones. But what causes the political class to be so willing to serve their interests so brazenly, even when public opinion is so overwhelmingly against it?
RISEN: That’s a question I’ve struggled with myself. I’ve tried to understand. I think we had one or two real moments when we could have gone in a different direction. The primary one was, of course, 2008. I think Obama had a chance. He had a mandate to do something different. And he didn’t do it. I think part of it was that he was never exactly what we thought he was, I think he was never really as liberal as people thought he was. I think a lot of voters invested in him their hopes and dreams without exactly realizing what he really was. I think he was always really more conservative than how he presented himself in 2008.

To give him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, I think it’s very easy for the intelligence community to scare the hell out of politicians when they come in, and I think that Obama probably got seduced a little bit by the intelligence community when he arrived. All you have to do is look at a lot of raw intelligence to scare somebody. Convince them that “Oh, it’s much worse than you ever realized.” But at the same time, he must take some of the blame. He surrounded himself with a lot of the Bush people from the get-go. Brennan was on his campaign. Most of his team had some ties to the Bush years in the War on Terror.

To me, that’s the hardest thing to really sort out, the factors that led Obama—at that one moment, I think there was one opportunity he had in 2008 to make a significant change and he didn’t do it. And I think historians are going to be struggling with that for a long time.

GREENWALD: Well, let me struggle with that with you for a little bit because the idea, and I think it’s a commonly expressed one—there’s probably an element of truth to it—that a new president who doesn’t really have a great deal of experience with the military or the intelligence community has these impressive generals and CIA people coming in with medals on their chest and decades of experience and, as you say, purposefully scaring them.
But at the same time, anybody who’s remotely sophisticated about the world understands that that’s going to happen. Dwight Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex 50 years ago. And you know that there are factions in Washington who maintain their power by scaring you, and you have your own advisors. If you and I know that so much of that is fear mongering, he has to know, right?

RISEN: Right, and I’m not trying to excuse it at all, and in fact I think it’s what he wanted. My own gut tells me that what he decided to do was in early 2009 was to focus on economic and healthcare policies and that in order to do those things on the domestic side, he had to protect his flank on national security and not fight the Republicans on national security, so I think there was a calculated move by Obama to prolong the War on Terror in order to try to focus on domestic issues. And I think that after a while, he lost control of that narrative.

GREENWALD: It’s always hard to talk about somebody’s motives, right? I think we have a hard time knowing our own motives, let alone other people’s, who are complicated. As you say, he had this great opportunity in 2008 because things like closing Guantanamo and reining in the War on Terror and stopping torture—these were all things that he ran on, and won on, right?

RISEN: Right.

GREENWALD: And you’ve been really outspoken about the fact that it’s not just the continuation of the Bush national security agenda but the even—especially, rather—an escalation of the attack on journalism. I’ve seen you have some pretty extreme quotes on that, that he’s the worst president on press freedom since at least Nixon, maybe worse. Do you think that’s a byproduct of the fact that every president gets progressively worse, or do you think there’s something unique and specific about his worldview and approach that has made him so bad on these press freedom issues?

RISEN: I think one of his legacies is going to be that on a broad scale he normalized the War on Terror. He took what Bush and Cheney kind of had started on an emergency, ad-hoc basis and turned it into a permanent state and allowed it to grow much more dramatically than it ever had under Bush or Cheney, and part of that—I think within that—was his attack on whistleblowers and journalists. I think it’s all part and parcel of the same thing. If you believe in the national security state in the way Obama does, then you have to also believe in squashing dissent.

GREENWALD: And I think that’s part of what makes war so degrading, right, for a political culture and a country is that it always gets accompanied by those kinds of things. Let me ask you a little bit about your own personal experience as part of that war on whistleblowing and journalism.

I know you’re a little constrained because your case is still pending. But one of the things I always find so interesting is that whenever your case is talked about, it always gets talked about in this very narrow sense: that you had a source for a story that you published in your book about some inept and ultimately counterproductive attempts to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program and the case is about trying to force you to reveal your source, and like every good journalist should, you refuse to do so and therefore face a possibility of being held in contempt of court and being sent to prison.

But the background of your case, that I want to just step back and talk about a little bit, is that you’ve had this very adversarial relationship with the intelligence community, this increasingly adversarial relationship with the intelligence community, as a result of a lot of the reporting that you did, including exposing the warrantless NSA program in 2005, for which you won the Pulitzer Prize.
Can you talk about that, the tensions you’ve had with the government in the War on Terror reporting that you’ve done and how that has manifested and affected your life?

RISEN: Yeah, sure. In fact, I’ve said in affidavits in the case that I believe that the reason they came after me on this subpoena is because of the NSA stories that we did for The New York Times. I’m convinced, and I believe there’s a lot of evidence to show that they decided ultimately not to come after The New York Times on the NSA stories and instead wanted to isolate me by looking at something in my book. In fact, I know for a fact that they conducted leak investigations of at least three or four separate chapters in my book.

They interviewed a lot of people about totally unrelated things to the case that they ultimately came after me on and I think they were looking for something in my book to isolate me from The New York Times, and in their court papers they have repeatedly cited the fact that The New York Times decided not to run the story as one of the arguments for why it’s justified for them to come after me on it. And so I pride myself on the fact that I developed an adversarial relationship with the government because I think that’s what every reporter should do.

GREENWALD: I know from my own experience doing NSA reporting over the last 18 months—and I’ve heard you say before that you’re not going to let these kind of threats and recriminations affect your reporting. That was my mindset as well and I was actually even more determined a lot of times whenever I felt threatened to do the reporting even more aggressively, to make sure that those bullying tactics weren’t going to work. At the same time, when you hear top level government officials openly muse about the crimes that you’ve committed, when you hear privately through your attorney that the Justice Department might arrest you when you come back to the U.S., of course it does have an effect on you. It occupies a mental space. You spend a lot of time talking to your lawyers instead of focusing on journalism.

And one of the things I’ve always found so fascinating about your case is that you have a Pulitzer, you work for The New York Times, you’re one of the best known investigative journalists in the country—one of the most institutionally protected, even though they did separate you from the Timesby focusing on your book. Still, though, the fact that they were able to target you this way, for this many years, I thought was a very powerful message that if we can even go after Jim Risen, we can go after anybody.

I know you want to maintain the idea, and I know that it’s true, that none of this consciously deterred you from doing the journalism. But how does being at the center of a case like this, where people are openly talking about you going to prison, including people in the Justice Department—how does this have an effect on your journalism, on your relationship to your sources, just on your ability to do your work?

RISEN: Well, you know, it’s interesting. It affected me a lot at first, for the first couple of years. It’s one of those weird things that I’m sure you know now—these things go on forever and they take a long time and most of the time nobody’s paying any attention except you and your lawyers. During the first several years, nobody paid much attention, and it did have an effect on me then. And it took a long time for me to realize I’ve got to just keep going. But the fact that now a lot of people are supporting me has really helped me, this year in particular.

In the last six months to a year, when I’ve gotten a lot more attention and people supporting me, I feel like now I have to represent the industry, represent the profession, and so it’s changed the way I even think about the case.

GREENWALD: You have become this kind of increasingly prolific user of Twitter, out of nowhere. You were never on Twitter. You were a very late joiner. I clearly see all the signs of addiction forming, and I say this as someone who recognizes it personally. You’ve evolved—you had a Twitter egg for a long time, and now you have a real picture.

RISEN: (Laughs) My son took that picture.

GREENWALD: (Laughs) Alright, well I knew it was going to be somebody else who caused you to leave the egg behind. But one of the things I find really interesting is Twitter is a venue in which you get to speak in a different way about different things than you do, say, in an article that you write forThe New York Times, where you’re a little bit more constrained in how you’re talking. And you’ve expressed some ideas that I think are very rare for someone who is a reporter at a large, establishment institution like The New York Times to express, and I want to ask you a couple of questions about that.

You had this multi-part tweet maybe about a month ago. It almost sounded like something Noam Chomsky might say, or other people might say like that, about how the big plague of establishment thought in the U.S. is a fear of deviating from conventional wisdom, and it’s only after generation or two later when people who do that get vindicated, and so there’s this really strong incentive not to do that. Can you elaborate on the kinds of things you were talking about that and what you’ve experienced that has led you to see those things?

RISEN: That was actually part of a speech I gave at Colby College. I think the best thing I’ve written on this whole issue. I compared how Elijah Lovejoy, who was an abolitionist in the 1830s who was murdered because he was trying to run a newspaper in St. Louis that was pro-abolitionism, how he was so far ahead of his time that people thought he was crazy. He was so far outside the mainstream, and people thought abolitionism and the end of slavery was this idea that was insane.

And I was trying to compare that to what we have today, where anybody who says we shouldn’t have a War on Terror is considered delusional. And I was trying to show that conventional wisdom is a creature of our time. It’s not inherently true or not true. And that the mainstream press’s dependence on conventional wisdom ultimately cripples it in a lot of different ways.

GREENWALD: The impression that I have, and I’ve known you personally only for a few years, so it’s more just a speculative observation from having seen your work before that is that a combination of your going through this case with the government where your own liberty is very much at risk as a result of the government’s actions, combined with a lot of the reporting that lead to this book kind of has radicalized you in a way that I think is a pretty common thing that people in the War on Terror have gone through where people look at their country differently, much more so than they ever did before, look at institutions differently.

Am I right about that? Is the Jim Risen of today more willing to experiment with novel ideas that aren’t conventional than the Jim Risen of 20 years ago as a result of those experiences?

RISEN: Probably, probably. I have to think about that. I’m trying to think back. I think my real change came after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. I was covering the CIA as a beat then. And to me, it was fascinating talking to CIA people right after the invasion of Iraq and right before the invasion of Iraq, because it was kind of like privately talking to a bunch of Howard Deans. They were all radicalized against what Bush was doing.

To me it was wild to hear all of these people inside the intelligence community, especially in 2003, 2004, who were just going nuts. They couldn’t believe the radical change the United States was going through, and that nobody was opposed to it. And that led me to write my last book, State of War, because I was hearing things from within the intelligence community and the U.S. government that you weren’t hearing publicly from anybody. So that really led me to realize—and to step back and look at—the radical departure of U.S. policy that has happened since 9/11 and since the invasion of Iraq.

To me, it’s not like I’ve been radicalized, I feel like I stayed in the same place and the country changed. The country became more radicalized in a different direction.

GREENWALD: I wonder about that a lot. Obviously, I started writing about politics in 2005, and a huge part of it was that perception, that the country had radically changed, that things that we took for granted were no longer the case, and I’ve definitely had a rapid and significant evolution in my views of how I look at those things the more I focus on them and the more the country changed.
But if you go back and look at some media critics of the ’50s and ’60s, people like I.F. Stone who were kind of placed on the outside of conventional wisdom, and were viewed as fringe or crazy at the time—a lot of that can be traced to way before 9/11. Lies about the Vietnam War. The huge military industrial complex around the Cold War. Do you think 9/11 was this radical break from how things were done in the country, or was it more an injection of steroids into processes that were already underway?

RISEN: There have always been problems. But we’ve taken this to a new level. Both because the technology has allowed the government to do things it would never have done before, but also because of the willingness of the country to accept security measures and a reduction in civil liberties that I think would not have been contemplated before. I keep thinking that if you had a Rip Van Winkle from 1995 who woke up today, I don’t think they would really recognize the country. And that’s what I’m trying to write about, and what I view, because that’s the America that I remember.

GREENWALD: There’s this fascinating debate that took place in the ’90s, after the Timothy McVeigh attack on the Oklahoma City federal building, when the Clinton administration introduced these proposals to require backdoors into all encryption, for all computers and internet usage. And it didn’t happen, and the reason it didn’t happen is because all of these Republicans in Congress, led by John Ashcroft, stood up with a bunch of Democrats in alliance with them, saying “We’re not the kind of country that gives the government access to all of our communications. Privacy is actually a crucial value.” And just a few short years later, all of that reversed, and that debate became inconceivable.

RISEN: When Dick Cheney said, “the gloves come off,” I don’t think we realized how important that was, and what that really meant. As I’ve said before, that really meant, “We’re going to deregulate national security, and we’re going to take off all the rules that were imposed in the ’70s after Watergate.” And that was just a dramatic change in the way we conduct foreign policy and national security. And I think it’s been extended to this whole new homeland security apparatus. People think that terrorism is an existential threat, even though it’s not, and so they’re willing to go along with all this, and that’s what’s so scary to me.

GREENWALD: Let me ask you a few questions about some specific examples in your book, including one that relates to what you just said. You kind of have these different wars that you conceive of and one is called the “War on Normalcy.” One of the examples is, there’s this area on the U.S.-Canadian border that used to be kind of tranquil and now there’s a ton of War on Terror money that has gone to the state police there, and it’s kind of militarized that zone, and made it so the citizens are just interfered with in all kinds of ways.
One of the most overlooked trends, I think—you mentioned Cheney taking the gloves off—all of these things we were doing overseas aimed at ostensibly foreign terrorists have now begun to be imported onto U.S. soil, like the militarization of our police force using techniques from Baghdad, the use of drones, that “Collect it All” NSA model, which was first pioneered by Keith Alexander in Baghdad, is now aimed at U.S. citizens. Do you think that’s an important trend? Is that something that’s really happened, that what was the War on Terror aimed outward is now being aimed domestically?

RISEN: Absolutely, and that’s one of the most scary elements of it. To me, when the NSA started spying domestically that was like Caesar crossing the Rubicon. It was a really important shift. People thought that was absolutely forbidden. And when the NSA started doing it, and then when you started fooling around with creating a new Department of Homeland Security, merging all of these departments—creating Immigration and Customs Enforcement and all of this stuff—I think you’ve created a much more efficient federal domestic law enforcement apparatus, and efficiency is not always a good thing when it comes to that.
One of the things I always think about, and one of my earlier books was comparing the CIA and the KGB during the Cold War, and I always remember somebody telling me that the only countries that have really efficient security services are dictatorships.

GREENWALD: Right, and you can basically only have a really efficient security service if you’re willing to at least kind of go into that realm of authoritarianism—they kind of go hand in hand. Let me ask you: there’s this pretty new reporting you have on this company General Atomics, which is the maker of drones, and you kind of describe them as the new oligarchs. In 2001 they had $100 million in government contracts and now in 2012 they have $1.8 billion, an obscene increase. At the same time, coincidentally enough, you cite a good governance group documenting that they’ve spent more to fund congressional staff travel than any other company.
One of the things that always amazes me—I remember that there was this reporting that was done byWired, during the debate over whether to give immunity to the telecoms that participated in the NSA program that you uncovered. An extraordinary thing to do, to retroactively immunize the biggest companies in the United States, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller became the leading spokesman for it at the time. He was the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and there were studies showing that right around the time when he became the leading proponent of telecom immunity, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint began donating lots of money to his campaign, they threw parties for him, but still, in the context of Jay Rockefeller—a Rockefeller—with a super safe seat in West Virginia, they were pretty trivial amounts to be able to just dominate congressional policy that way. And that was what struck me too about General Atomics. So they fund some congressional staff travel.
What is it about the D.C. culture that lets these kind of seemingly trivial amounts in the scheme of things end up translating into this massive influence?

RISEN: You know, I don’t think that it’s the money that really does the trick. I think what really, you’ve got to look at is that all of the staffers, and all of the members of Congress are thinking about what are they going to do after they leave those jobs. The same is true for military officers. What are you going to do when you retire from the military, or from the House Intelligence Committee, or whatever? You’re going to need a job at a defense contractor. And so I think that the real incentive for a lot of these people is not to upset their potential employers in the future. The campaign contributions themselves are just tokens, as you said.

GREENWALD: To say that, on one hand it seems kind of self-evident, but on the one hand, it’s a pretty extraordinary observation because it’s a form of the most extreme corruption. Public officials are serving the interests of really rich corporations in exchange for lucrative private sector jobs that they get when they leave after serving their interests.

RISEN: What really hit home was when I was working on a chapter on KBR, and one of the guys who I describe was kind of a whistleblower, Charles Smith. He was an auditor for the army who tried to stop about a billion dollars of payments to KBR because they didn’t have any proof that they’d actually spent the money—or they didn’t have sufficient records to prove it—and he lost his job over his fight with KBR, he believes.
And after I started talking to him he said, “There’s this one general you could talk to who was one of my bosses for a while. He was a good guy and he would vouch for me.” So I called that general, and he had since retired, and he said, “Well, I think Charlie was a great guy, but I now work for a contractor that does business with KBR, and I don’t want to say anything publicly about Charlie because that might upset KBR.” And that’s the kind of thing that you see all the time.

GREENWALD: There’s a case that you talk about in the book that’s Burnett v. Al Baraka, where 9/11 families sued the Saudis. There are lots of influential people in D.C., like Sen. Bob Graham, the former head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and others, who have said that the role that the Saudis have played in the War on Terror, and specifically the 9/11 attack, has been really actively suppressed, because of the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia. And there is this sort of bizarre aspect that we’ve gone to war against a huge number of countries, one of the few exceptions to which has been the country that had the most nationals involved in that attack, and whose government has been the most persuasively implicated.
How persuasive or credible do you find those questions about the Saudi involvement in the War on Terror generally, 9/11 specifically, and whether that’s been actively suppressed?

RISEN: Well, as you said, I don’t really get into the substance of that in that chapter because it’s really about this bizarre operation and how crazy that operation became. But I think you’re right. I think it’s one of the unanswered questions of 9/11 that, as you said, Graham became fixated on, and they still have not unredacted parts of that report.

I think the role of the Saudi government is probably different from the role of wealthy people in the Persian Gulf. And that’s the distinction that people have tried to grapple with for a long time. Are these just individually wealthy people in the Gulf, either in Saudi Arabia or in the Emirates, or is there some direction from any of these governments? And that’s the question that the U.S. government has never wanted to address publicly.

GREENWALD: You said in an interview within the last week—it might have been at the Firedog Lake Book Salon, I’m not exactly sure where it was—but you described the period of time in 2004 and 2005 when you were trying to get the NSA eavesdropping story published as one of the most stressful times of your life. I think you even said the quote “most stressful period of your professional life.” The New York Times, to its credit, did eventually publish that story, and did a great job on it, but can you talk a little bit about what you meant by that? Why that period was so stressful?

RISEN: Eric Lichtblau and I were trying to get that in the paper beginning in October 2004, and they killed it, or they stopped it. They agreed with the White House not to run it before the election and then we tried again after the election, and they killed it again, and by that time it was pretty well dead. So I went on a book leave and I put it in my book, and I knew that by doing that, I was putting my career at The New York Times in jeopardy.

It was very stressful about what was going to happen between me, The New York Times, and the Bush administration. I really credit my wife more than anybody else. I told her at one point that if I do this, if I keep it in the book, and the Times doesn’t run it, I’m probably going to get fired, and I remember she told me, “I won’t respect you if you don’t do that.” And so that was enough for me to keep going, but I didn’t sleep for about six months.

GREENWALD: It’s got to be incredibly difficult knowing that you have a story of that magnitude, and that the story has been nailed down and you can’t get it out into the world. Your book, which I literally finished reading about 24 hours ago, is really riveting, and it’s not just a book that is a polemical indictment of the War on Terror, like you’ve read before, it really is an incredible amount of individual reporting on one of the most under-reported aspects of this war, which is just how many people are gorging on huge amounts of profit and waste at the expense of the taxpayer, and what a big part of the war that is. Congratulations on writing such a great book, and I really appreciate your talking to me.
RISEN: Well thank you.

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