Jan 182011
The Guardian (UK) happens to be one of the mainstream media’s more consistently “liberal” of all newspapers, yet it doesn’t fail to show liberalism’s characteristic lack of dependability when it comes to issues of importance to the global capitalist system.
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com  | January 12, 2011 | [print_link]

LAST WEEK, on January 3, The Guardian published a scathing Op-Ed by James Richardson blaming WikiLeaks for endangering the life of Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the democratic opposition in Zimbabwe.  Richardson — a GOP operative, contributor to RedState.com, and a for-hire corporate spokesman — pointed to a cable published by WikiLeaks in which American diplomats revealed that Tsvangirai, while publicly opposing American sanctions on his country, had privately urged their continuation as a means of weakening the Mugabe regime:  an act likely to be deemed to be treasonous in that country, for obvious reasons.  By publishing this cable, “WikiLeaks may have committed its own collateral murder,” Richardson wrote.  He added:  “WikiLeaks ought to leave international relations to those who understand it – at least to those who understand the value of a life.”

This accusation against WikiLeaks was repeated far and wide.  In The Wall Street Journal, Jamie Kirchick — the long-time assistant of The New Republic‘s Marty Peretz — wrote under this headline:  “Julian Assange’s reckless behavior could cost Zimbabwe’s leading democrat his life.”  Kirchick explained that “the crusading ‘anti-secrecy’ website released a diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Harare” which exposed Tsvangirai’s support for sanctions.  As “a result of the WikiLeaks revelations,” Kirchick wrote, the reform leader would likely be charged with treason, and “Mr. Tsvangirai will have someone additional to blame: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.”  The Atlantic‘s Chris Albon, in his piece entitled “How WikiLeaks Just Set Back Democracy in Zimbabwe,” echoed the same accusation, claiming “WikiLeaks released [this cable] to the world” and that Assange has thus “provided a tyrant with the ammunition to wound, and perhaps kill, any chance for multiparty democracy.”  Numerous other outlets predictably mimicked these claims.

There was just one small problem with all of this:  it was totally false.  It wasn’t WikiLeaks which chose that cable to be placed into the public domain, nor was it WikiLeaks which first published it.  It was The Guardian that did that.  In early December, that newspaper — not WikiLeaks — selected and then published the cable in question.  This fact led The Guardian — more than a full week after they published Richardson’s accusatory column — to sheepishly add this obscured though extremely embarrassing “clarification” at the end of his column:

• This article was amended on 11 January 2011 to clarify the fact that the 2009 cable referred to in this article was placed in the public domain by the Guardian, and not as originally implied by WikiLeaks. The photo caption was also amended to reflect this fact.

The way this “clarification” was done was bizarre.  The misleading headline still remains (“If Morgan Tsvangirai is charged with treason, WikiLeaks will have earned the ignominy of Robert Mugabe’s gratitude”).  So do numerous sentences attributing publication to WikiLeaks (“WikiLeaks may have committed its own collateral murder . . . . in the wake of  WikiLeaks’ release . . . where Mugabe’s strong-arming, torture and assassination attempts have failed to eliminate the leading figure of Zimbabwe’s democratic opposition, WikiLeaks may yet succeed“).  Meanwhile, other sentences originally in the piece were changed without notice:  for instance, the claim that “WikiLeaks released last week a classified US state department cable relating to a 2009 meeting between Tsvangirai and American and European ambassadors” was changed to read:  “The Guardian released . . . .”  And the photo caption was changed from “Zimbabwe’s PM Morgan Tsvangirai faces a treason inquiry after WikiLeaks’s publication of a US embassy cable” to “after the Guardian’s publication.”

[There are other strange aspects to The Guardian's behavior here.  If a newspaper publishes an accusation this serious and gets it this wrong, isn't more required than the quiet addition of two short sentences at the end of the column, eight days later without any announcement?  Moreover, Guardian's Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger objected last night to my attributing Richardson's piece to "The Guardian," insisting that the section where it appeared was comparable to an open forum such as Salon's Open Salon; but that comparison is quite inaccurate, since columns published in The Guardian's "Comment is Free" section are reserved for pieces solicited or accepted by Guardian Editors and published only with their prior approval, whereas "Open Salon" is open to anyone without editorial approval, i.e., like a blog's comment section.   Beyond that, while The Guardian disclosed that Richardson is a GOP operative and works for "Hynes Communications," it doesn't reveal that this organization is the self-proclaimed "nation’s leading social media public affairs agency" representing the online communications strategies of "leading companies and trade associations in the health care; telecommunications; pharmaceutical; finance; defense; energy; aerospace; manufacturing; travel; and retail industries."  In other words, Richardson, like so many people posing as pundits, is a paid communications hack, not some independent commentator.

But far worse, The Guardian published a news article on December 27 -- headlined:  "Morgan Tsvangirai faces possible Zimbabwe treason charge" -- which also attributed publication of this cable to WikiLeaks, and never once mentioned that it was actually The Guardian which did so.  The article's headline states:  "Lawyers to examine PM's comments on sanctions after WikiLeaks reveals talks with US diplomats," while the body of the article reports:  "Zimbabwe is to investigate bringing treason charges . . . over confidential talks with US diplomats revealed by WikiLeaks."  That news story remains uncorrected by The Guardian.]

But at least The Guardian – for which I have high journalistic regard — published some sort of correction, woefully inadequate though it may be.  Why hasn’t The Wall Street Journal, or The Atlantic, or Politico?   While The Guardian appended this correction yesterday, WikiLeaks on Twitter — a full week ago — made clear the falsehood driving all these stories:  “It is not acceptable [for] the Guardian to blame us for a cable the Guardian selected and published on Dec 8.”  WikiLeaks then immediately pointed to this post thoroughly documenting that it was The Guardian that first published this cable as part of a December 8 news article it published regarding revelations about Zimbabwe.  So this glaring, serious error has been publicly known and amplified for a full week (through WikiLeaks’ Twitter account, followed by 650,000 people, which presumably is followed by anyone writing about WikiLeaks, at least I’d hope so).  Yet these Beacons of Journalistic Responsibility have still failed to acknowledge that the very serious accusation they published about WikiLeaks was based in a wholesale fabrication.

* * * * *

This is not an isolated instance.  The reason I’ve been so repetitively vigilant about pointing out the falsehood that WikiLeaks indiscriminately published 250,000 diplomatic cables is because there is a full-scale government/media campaign to demonize the group through outright fiction of the type that sold the nation on Iraq’s WMD stockpiles and Al Qaeda alliance.  The undeniable truth from the start is that, with very few exceptions, WikiLeaks has only been publishing those cables which its newspaper partners first publish (and WikiLeaks thereafter publishes the cables with the redactions applied by those papers).  This judicious editorial process — in which WikiLeaks largely relies on the editorial judgment of these newspapers for what to release — was detailed more than a month ago by the Associated Press.  That’s the process that explains why The Guardian -- not WikiLeaks — was who first published the Zimbabwe cable.  Yet the false accusations that WikiLeaks indiscriminately dumped 250,000 cables went on for weeks before it finally (mostly) stopped (once it was lodged forever in the minds of most Americans) — and now we have the false claim that WikiLeaks injected this harmful Zimbabwe cable into the public domain, even though it simply didn’t.

This is the propaganda campaign — created by the U.S. Government and (as always) bolstered by the American media — which is being used to justify WikiLeaks’ destruction (and, with it, the repression of some of the most promising avenues for transparency and investigative journalism we’ve seen in many years).  Just consider this self-satire of a speech given yesterday by U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley, in which he sets out to rebut the notion that the U.S. is acting hypocritically by touting Internet freedom for the world while simultaneously attempting to obliterate WikiLeaks.  He says:

A free and vibrant press plays an important role around the world in the development of civil society and accountable governments. As a general rule, the freer the press, the more transparent and more democratic the government is likely to be. . . . No one is a greater advocate for a vibrant independent and responsible press, committed to the promotion of freedom of expression and development of a true global civil society, than the United States. Every day, we express concern about the plight of journalists (or bloggers) around the world who are intimidated, jailed or even killed by governments that are afraid of their people, and afraid of the empowerment that comes with the free flow of information within a civil society. . . .We remain arguably the most transparent society in the world.

Let’s leave to the side all the Bush-era assaults on press freedom (including imprisoning numerous foreign journalists for years without charges).  Leave aside that Freedom House ranked the U.S. 24th in the world in press freedoms for 2009 (tied with Lithuania and the Czech Republic) and that Reporters Without Borders ranked it 20th.  Leave to the side that those rankings were issued before the Obama administration — by all accounts — became vastly more aggressive about prosecuting whistleblowers than any prior administration (even subpoeaning reporters to do it). 

Leave to the side the administration’s demand that it have “backdoors” to all Internet encryption and its impeding of the whistleblower protections promised by candidate Obama.  Leave to the side how the Obama administration shields virtually every controversial executive branch action in the national security realm — including plainly illegal ones — from judicial review by invoking radically broad versions of secrecy privileges pioneered by the Bush DOJ.  And leave to the side the fact that many of the documents released by WikiLeaks are rather banal and uninformative, yet have been marked “SECRET”:  showing how reflexively the U.S. Government hides most of what it does from its citizenry behind a wall of secrecy.

Instead, just look at what the U.S. Government is doing to WikiLeaks.  It just caused an international incident by demanding the Twitter data of numerous individuals including a sitting member of Iceland’s Parliament.  American officials bullied private corporations and banks to cut off all ties with WikiLeaks.  And it’s openly boasting of its intent to criminally prosecute the group for doing nothing more than what newspapers do all the time.  Crowley justified all that by saying this:

We can debate whether there are too many secrets, but no one should doubt that there has been substantial damage in the unauthorized release of a database containing, among other things, 251,000 State Department cables, many of them classified. . . .We are a nation of laws, and the laws of our country have been violated. Since we function under the rule of law, it is appropriate and necessary that we investigate and prosecute those who have violated U.S law. Some have suggested that the ongoing investigation marks a retreat from our commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and Internet freedom. Nonsense.

Anyone passingly familiar with the Obama administration’s justifications for refusing to investigate Bush-era crimes will be sickened by that bolded part, but leave to the side, too.  The key point here is that WikiLeaks didn’t steal anything.  They didn’t break any laws.  They did what newspapers do every day, what investigative journalism does at its core:  expose secret, corrupt actions of those in power.  And the attempt to criminalize WikiLeaks is thus nothing less than a full frontal assault on press and Internet freedoms.

That’s where this propaganda comes in to play.  To justify this assault, the U.S. Government needs to claim that WikiLeaks is somehow distinct from what other press outlets do.  So it invents outright falsehoods to do so:  unlike newspapers, WikiLeaks indiscriminately dumps diplomatic cables without editorial judgment; unlike newspapers, they refuse to be transparent about their methods (nobody is less transparent about what they do than large newspapers); and now, WikiLeaks endangers people’s lives by recklessly publishing a cable which leaves democratic leaders in Zimbabwe vulnerable to attack, even though it wasn’t published by them at all, but by The Guardian.   

People devoted to a corrupt cause necessarily rely on falsehoods to advance it.  And what we’re seeing here is not only the government doing that, but The Watchdog Media — as usual — serving as its most valuable ally.  At the very least, the outlets that published this serious — and seriously false — accusation owe their readers a prominent, clear retraction.

GLENN GREENWALD is an attorney and leading media critic who has defended WikiLeaks from the start. 

Also at: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/01/12/propaganda/index.html

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Jan 182011

WATCH CLOSELY AS Norman Finkelstein stands his ground when pestered by a crying girl arguing the Zionist point of view. How many people would have had the presence of mind to reply as he did when the audience at first started to sympathise (as planned by those who planted her to “shame” Finkelstein) with her presentation? Finkelstein had the guts to call her action a case of “crocodile tears” and, while being heckled, kept his counterarguments flying until he prevailed. There’s a lesson here for those who wish to win tough political battles on the cheap. 


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Jan 182011

ANIMALS, as usual, provide the best lessons. Let’s hope the good people of Brazil take care of him now.

January 17th, 2011

06:10 PM ET   [print_link]

Comments (468 comments

As the death toll from devastating flooding in Brazil continues to rise, a single picture drives home the sense of loss.

Leao, a medium-sized brown mutt,  lies next to the grave of her owner, Cristina Maria Cesario Santana, who died in the catastrophic landslides caused by heavy rain.  This AFP/Getty picture was taken on Saturday, the second consecutive day that the dog refused to leave the woman’s grave at the cemetery in Teresopolis, near Rio de Janiero.

Brazilians are bracing for more rain, fearing more landslides after waves of muddy water swallowed towns in the country’s worst flood disaster on record.

At least 655 deaths were reported in a mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state, northeast of the city of Rio.

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Jan 182011

Update on Single Payer from Dr. Margaret Flowers

By Joan Brunwasser  |  January 16, 2011  |  [print_link]


My guest is Dr. Margaret Flowers, congressional fellow of Physicians for a National Health Program [PNHP]. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Margaret. Republican lawmakers, fresh from their November victory, are pledging to move immediately in the new Congress to dismantle the health care law that President Obama gave so much attention to. What’s your take on that?

photo credit: Mark Almberg, PNHP  Crossposted with OpedNews.com

THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME BACK, Joan. As you know, Physicians for a National Health Program does not support the new health law. Overall we find that it does more harm than good by further privatizing our health care and failing to address the fundamental problems of rising health care costs and lack of access to care for tens of millions of people. That said, we find the Republican plans to dismantle the health law reprehensible given that they are willing to remove what coverage was gained under the law and offer no effective alternative to our growing health care crisis. 

The Republican calls to repeal the law are mere political posturing and will not succeed. In fact the health industries, which contributed more heavily to Republican campaigns in the last election cycle than to Democrats, do not want the full law repealed. The Republicans will more likely succeed in defunding portions of the bill and relaxing regulation of the health insurance industry. This will escalate our health care crisis. 

The health law passed in 2010 has already begun to unravel as the Department of Health and Human Services has had to issue multiple waivers excusing businesses and insurance companies from complying with provisions in the law that they refused to meet. A large part of the increase in coverage under the law was based on an expansion of Medicaid, however, states are facing severe budget deficits which will prevent them from implementing the expansion. Republican efforts will likely accelerate the unraveling. 

This is why PNHP and the many other organizations which advocate for single payer/improved Medicare for All continue to push forward in educating and building the grassroots voice for single payer. We recognize that our health care problems have not yet been appropriately addressed or solved. 

There are millions of us out there who share your concern about the current health care crisis. But this is a little tricky. Those of us who feel that the law passed was less than stellar need to fight back against its repeal, its unraveling or being whittled away altogether by Republicans or strained state budgets. At the same time, we need to be agitating for something that will really do the job. That’s a little complicated. And voters and the public in general have had a notoriously short attention span. How do you channel that very real public distress to bring about meaningful and positive change? 

As you are aware, civil unrest in this nation is growing. It is an expression of the very real public distress that you mention. Although information about this unrest is largely censored from the mainstream media, we see that non-union workers and anti-poverty movements are growing as are more organized actions such as the prison protests in Georgia, nurses’ strikes and the veteran-led antiwar civil resistance. This type of unrest is to be expected if we look at what happens historically in nations which experience such severe wealth inequalities as we have in the United States. 

Some of the civil unrest is turning to violence. In the absence of constructive and nonviolent avenues for social change and as unemployment, lack of access to health care, homelessness and poverty grow, the level of violence may increase. This is why, now more than ever, we must educate, organize and engage in actions that change the balance of power away from corporate interests and to the needs of people. 

There are three important principles that will guide effective action. First, our movements, whatever the issue, must be independent of political parties. The Republican and Democratic parties are both controlled by concentrated corporate power. There are some differences between those parties but overall they serve corporate power and not the people. We must be willing to hold all legislators accountable to act on behalf of people even if that means that they lose a few elections until the shift occurs. And independence also includes the media. We will have to make our own media because mainstream media is also controlled by corporate interests. 

Second, we must be clear about what we ask for and that is where education comes in. We have the solutions to all of our problems. For health care it is a national single payer health system. For unemployment and the environment, it is investment in green jobs and ending oil and coal dependence. For the economy, it is developing sustainable local economies and ending Wall Street bailouts. And so on. We must educate the public through local events and independent media about these solutions. 

And third, we must be uncompromising in our demands. We are too often willing to accept partial or non-solutions to our problems because we are told that what we want is politically infeasible. When we look at health care, we are constantly told that single payer is not politically feasible. We have heard this for decades. However, the legislation that passes which is politically feasible fails to be feasible from a practical standpoint. It simply doesn’t work. The number of un-insured continues to grow and soaring health care costs are destroying our families and businesses. At some point, we have to realize that we determine what is politically feasible because we hold the power of the vote. We must learn to use that power. 

Of course, these are difficult times and many of us are struggling. However, each of us can contribute in some way. We can weaken corporate power by supporting local goods and services. We can educate ourselves and those around us. We can donate to non-profits. We can expose injustice that we see and work with others in our community to end it. We can treat each other with love and respect so that we model what we want to see for others. And for those who are able, we must join together and engage in acts of strategic non-violent resistance.

It is important to realize that work for peace and for social and economic justice is all related. The various movements need to join together in our actions to create a healthy, prosperous and just country. For me, this means that we must organize large acts of non-violent resistance together that focus on weakening corporate power and letting legislators know that business as usual cannot continue. This is why I joined the veterans in their action against war at the White House in December. I believe as we continue to educate, organize and act, more people will join us in any way they can. 

Wow, Margaret! This is a lovely, well fleshed-out plan of action, with something for everyone. What can you tell us about specific efforts going on now at the state level for single payer? We don’t hear much about it through the corporate media so it feels like nothing is happening. 

Yes, Joan. There is a lot happening at the state level when it comes to single payer. Currently, twenty states have single payer health bills in some phase of the legislative process. 

As you may know, California has passed a state single payer bill twice in 2006 and 2008. I just returned from a large health professional student-led march, rally and lobby day at the state capital in Sacramento. The California single payer coalition is continuing to move forward to pass single payer and have it signed by the new Governor. California faces such a serious budget crisis that I was told the legislature will be basing their cuts on what will result in the least number of lives lost. 

We are particularly enthusiastic this year about Vermont. They are poised to pass a single payer health bill this legislative session. The state hired Dr. William Hsaio from Harvard to design their health system. He has designed health systems for five countries, the most recent being the single payer system in Taiwan. The new governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, ran on a strong single payer platform. And, of course, Vermont has Senator Sanders, who has been a long time proponent of single payer. 

Even with all of the stars seeming to be aligned, it is going to be a difficult process to get single payer passed in Vermont. The forces who oppose this, primarily the corporations who profit from the status quo, will be putting tremendous resources into that state to stop single payer. For that reason, many of the organizations that support single payer are working to assist the state single payer movement. Single payer advocates from across the nation are volunteering or helping to raise funds for Vermont. 

I encourage your readers to visit www.vermontforsinglepayer.org to learn more about the efforts there and to support them. 

Legislation will also be introduced at the national level again in both the House and Senate this year. It is important to work at both the state and national levels because we cannot predict where we will be successful first. Of course, the ultimate goal is a national single payer health program so that all people living in our country will have access to care and so that we can control our health care costs at the national level. Health care costs are a significant cause of our national debt. 

Agreed. Tell us about the national deficit and the commission and efforts to cut social insurances like Medicare and Medicaid. How does that fit into the mix? 

You are probably aware that the President appointed a commission to look at our national deficit last April. This commission, the National Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Refom, was composed of 18 people, 14 of whom were fiscal hawks. The commission received support and staff from the Pete Peterson Foundation which has advocated for cuts to our social insurance programs for decades. It was interesting that the President created this commission despite opposition coming from within the Democratic party. 

During the summer and fall, there was a considerable effort by the Peterson Foundation and in the media to convince people in America that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid were to blame for the deficit and that they would need to be changed by either raising the age of eligibility or otherwise placing more of the cost onto the individual. 

Members of the single payer community testified before the commission ( read my testimony here ), educated staffers in Congress and built a public education campaign called Handsoffourmedicare.org to counter the misinformation coming from the deficit commission and the media. 

The commission was required to vote on recommendations to reduce the deficit by December 1st. They missed the deadline and were not able to gain enough votes to pass a package of recommendations. However, many believe that their proposed actions will turn up in legislation being put together in the coming year. 

It is commonly accepted that the rising cost of health care is a fundamental cause of our national deficit, as well as the wars and financial catastrophe. Several members of the commission rightly said that we must deal with the cost of health care in order to effectively resolve the deficit. 

Unfortunately, while the commission has made the correct diagnosis, they are ordering the wrong treatment. The commission proposed some initial cuts to Medicare including the Medicare funds that help to pay for the training of doctors, and proposed that more drastic measures be taken if the initial steps are not effective. Of course the initial steps will not be effective because they miss the cause of Medicare’s difficulties. 

Medicare and Medicaid are not the causes of our national deficit, they are the victims of a broken health system. As our overall health care costs rise, so do the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. The most effective way to control our health care costs would be to expand and improve Medicare and put everybody in the country on Medicare instead of using hundreds of different health insurances as we do now. 

The administrative savings alone of a single payer national health program would be around $400 billion. There are other ways that single payer/Medicare for All controls health care costs such as giving hospitals and other medical institutions a global budget and negotiating for the prices of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and services. 

We will need to watch carefully to make sure that Congress does not chip away at Medicare and Medicaid over the next few years. These social insurance programs have been effective in improving the health of the populations they serve and on lifting people out of poverty. It is imperative that we preserve and protect them as we continue to push for improved Medicare for all. 

Thanks for bringing us up to date on single payer, Margaret. It was a pleasure talking with you again. 


Physicians for a National Health Program website

Author’s Bio: Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Their goal: to restore (actually to create, since we never had fair and accurate elections—Eds.) fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning. 

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