That's what you get when you scrape the bottom of the barrel.
What they failed to foresee was that when you scrape the bottom of the barrel for long enough, none of the "chosen" know when they can speak out loud what they need to keep confined to the cloakroom.
So, bye-bye Mr. American pie.
Drive that Chevy away, baby.
Not Really Breaking News:
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
October 8, 2015
Our email inbox yesterday and this morning raised more alarm bells for the mega banks – you know the ones I mean; the ones that should have been broken up before we were on the cusp of the next downturn. Here’s a quick rundown before we get into the details:
Let’s start off with the Deutsche Bank writedown. That’s a monster amount: $7 billion exceeds JPMorgan’s London Whale fiasco of $6.2 billion. To put things in perspective, as of yesterday’s close, Deutsche Bank has a market cap (value of all of its shares outstanding) of $39.7 billion versus JPMorgan’s market cap of $229.7 billion. That pretty much tells you that Deutsche will, indeed, have no choice but to eliminate its dividend.
- Deutsche Bank announced it will take an approximate $7 billion writedown in the third quarter and potentially eliminate its dividend;
- Charles Schwab is out with a report on the potential for deflation and what it could do to corporate earnings;
- The Treasury’s Office of Financial Research released a report on big bank liquidity concerns;
- Bank of America released a report on the $100 billion exposure that the troubled commodities firm, Glencore, poses to global financial institutions;
- Bloomberg Business is reporting on the anticipated revenues downturn when big U.S. banks begin to report third-quarter earnings next week.
Deutsche Bank’s kitchen sink writedown announcement was big on numbers and light on specifics.
Click on the title link above for the reasons why.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Forgive me, friends, from tacking on a few articles I had missed commenting on some time before now.
They are very worthwhile considering and so you should.
Today's latest news, however, is how the Koch Brothers elected a General Assembly that has fracked North Carolina. Literally.
And its tar heels.
Yes, we are fracked. And that's not figuratively.
(Thanks to my buddy, RJ Sigmund, for sending me this so quickly.)
From No Fracking Way!
by Chip Northrup on October 8, 2015
How very un-Tea Party of them.
In the dead of night, the Repuglicans of North Carolina, the fracking dumbest frackers in the Union, passes ALEC Frack Anywhere legislation. On behalf of the frackers. Who paid them to pass the law that they (the frackers) wrote. See how that works?
New law makes new county moratoriums on fracking ‘invalidated and unenforceable’
by Lauren McCauley Comments
“This is yet another example of the state attempting to lure the fracking industry to North Carolina over the objection of those who would be most directly impacted,” said Brooks Rainey Pearson, a staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
After a a number of local communities enacted temporary moratoriums on oil and natural gas development, including fracking, the Republican-led North Carolina government issued a resounding response: Drillers welcome!
A last-minute markup passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory last week “renders ‘invalidated and unenforceable’ local ordinances that place conditions on fracking that go beyond those restrictions drafted by state oil-and-gas regulations,” the "Winston-Salem Journal" reported on Monday.
The vote occurred just days after a local body in Stokes County, N.C. passed a three-year fracking moratorium, following the lead of a number of other municipalities that are hoping to stave off exploration into their oil and gas reserves.
Brooks Rainey Pearson, a staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the provision was “passed in the dead of night, having never received a committee hearing or vetting of any kind.”
“This is yet another example of the state attempting to lure the fracking industry to North Carolina over the objection of those who would be most directly impacted,” Pearson added.
The argument as to whether a community has the right to protect itself from potentially dangerous and toxic industries is also being waged in Colorado, where state lawmakers have attempted to ban local fracking ordinances.
Renewables are cheaper?
Who'd a thunk it.
Err. . . Everyone knowledgeable in the least since the 60's?
Deborah Lawrence had been watching a once-empty parking lot near Midland-Odessa, Texas, fill up with idled drilling rigs usually at work plumbing for oil in the nearby Permian Basin. In January she noticed 10 rigs, then 17 a few weeks later. As winter turned to spring, the number climbed to 35.
That trend has continued across the country. By the end of July, the nationwide rig count had slipped 54 percent since the same time a year ago, indicating distress in the oil and gas industry. The most obvious culprit is the precipitous drop in crude prices. But the trouble goes deeper, as Lawrence knows—and she isn’t just a casual observer. Lawrence is a former Wall Street financial consultant who now runs the Energy Policy Forum, helping to identify and analyze trends in the industry.
Right now, our fossil-fueled energy path has us on a roller-coaster ride and we are plunging, white knuckled. Production in the United States from the exploitation of shale oil (or tight oil), which accounts for 45 percent of the country’s oil production, will take a hit if prices continue to remain well below the $100 mark. Tens of thousands of jobs have already been cut, and some debt-laden companies may go belly up.
Another Hiroshima Remembrance Day needed?
Don't read this one, friends.
It will not improve your mood.
The US has always insisted that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary to end World War Two. But it is a narrative that has little emphasis on the terrible human cost.
"I think we as a society need to revisit this point in history and ask ourselves how America came to a point where it was okay to destroy entire cities, to firebomb entire cities.
"I think that's what's really necessary if we are going to really make sense of what happened on that day."
It isn't the sort of thing you often hear said by Americans about Hiroshima. The first President George Bush famously said that issuing an apology for Hiroshima would be "rank revisionism" and he would never do it.
The conventional wisdom in the United States is that the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war, and because of that it was justified - end of story.
Is that really the end of the story?
It's certainly a convenient one. But it is one that was constructed after the war, by America's leaders, to justify what they had done. And what they had done was, by any measure, horrendous.
It didn't start on 6 August. It had started months before with the fire bombing of Tokyo.
On 9 March 1945, 25 sq km (9.7 sq miles) of Tokyo were destroyed in a huge firestorm. The death toll was as large, or even larger, than the first day at Hiroshima. From April to July the relentless bombing continued in other parts of Japan.
Then came Hiroshima.
'There was no sound at all'
Keiko Ogura had just celebrated her eighth birthday. Her home was on the northern edge of Hiroshima behind a low hill. At 08:10 on 6 August, she was out on the street in front of the house.
"I was surrounded by a tremendous flash and blast at the same time," she says.
"I couldn't breathe. I was knocked to the ground and became unconscious. When I awoke I thought it was already night because I could not see anything, there was no sound at all."
What Keiko witnessed in the following hours is hard to comprehend.
By mid-morning, survivors of the blast began pouring out of the city looking for help. Many were in a terrible state.
"Most of the people who were fleeing tried to go to the hillside. There was a Shinto shrine near our house so many came here," she says.
"Their skin was peeling off and hanging. At first I saw some and I thought they were holding a rag or something, but really it was skin peeling off. I noticed their burned hair. There was a very bad smell."
A deliberate civilian targetEighteen-year-old Shizuko Abe was staggering out of the city, the whole right side of her body burned, her skin hanging off. Now 88, she still bears the terrible imprint of the bomb on her face and hands.
"I was burned badly on my right side and my left hand was also burned from the bomb. Fire was coming closer… We were told to run to rivers when hit by air raids so people jumped into the rivers.
"So many bodies were floating in the river that I could not even see the water," she says.
Somehow, despite the agony, she staggered to a medical station.
"They did not even have any dressing for the wounds. Many injured people lay their bodies down under the roof, so I found a place there as well to lie down. People around me were calling out 'Mother it hurts, Father it hurts'.
"When I stopped hearing that, I realised they had died right next to me."
Hiroshima was not a military target. The crew of the Enola Gay did not aim at the docks, or large industrial facilities.
Their target was the geographical centre of the city. The bomb was set to explode 500m (0.3 miles) above the ground for maximum destructive effect.
On the ground many survived the initial blast, but were trapped in the wreckage of their homes under wooden beams and heavy tiled roofs. Then the fires began.
Ms Abe remembers hearing the cries for help from beneath the debris as the flames swept forward.
"They were such sad voices calling out for help. Even 70 years later, I can still hear them calling out for help," she says.
No-one is sure how many died on that first day. Estimates start at 70,000. More than eight out of 10 were civilians.
If you look up "Hiroshima in colour" online, you will find some remarkable film that is now kept in the US national archives.
A US military team and Japanese camera crew shot more than 20 hours of film in March 1946. It is the most complete and detailed visual record of the after effects of the first atomic attack.
There is high-quality colour footage of the horrific scarring caused by flash burns from the bomb. There are injuries that had never been seen before.
'They should not thank the bomb'
What is all the more remarkable is that the film was not seen in public until the early 1980s. It was marked secret and suppressed by the US government for more than 30 years.
Instead, Americans were told a sanitised narrative of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: that a great scientific endeavour had brought quick victory, and saved hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides.
Decades later when Ms Ogura travelled to the Washington DC to see the unveiling of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Museum, she was astonished to find this version of history still holding sway.
"Many American people said to me, '"Congratulations, you could come here thanks to the bombing! Without the bombing you would have to do hara-kiri, you know, commit suicide'."
"That is a very awful excuse. We do not blame the Americans, but they should not say that thanks to the bomb so many people could survive."
A lifetime of radiation secrecy
The atomic bombing has left one final legacy that sets it apart from all the other horrors of World War II.
In the weeks after the bombing otherwise healthy people began dying of a strange new illness. First they lost their appetite, then they began to run a high fever.
Finally strange red blotches began appearing under their skin. No-one knew it at the time, but these people were dying from radiation poisoning.
To this day many hibakusha keep their pasts a secret, afraid that their families will be discriminated against because of the fear of radiation.
"I had bad burns and looked deformed so I could not keep it secret," says Ms Abe. "My children were discriminated against. They were called 'A-bomb children'."
Tears fill her eyes as she describes what happened to them.
. . . It is also true that terror bombing was not invented by the United States. The Nazis unleashed it at Guernica in 1937 and again on British cities in 1940.
The Japanese bombed Chongqing for six years. The British destroyed Dresden and many other German cities.
But no other bombing campaign in WW2 was as intense in the destruction of civilian lives as the US bombing of Japan in 1945. Between 300,000 and 900,000 people died.
As Jamal Maddox put it to me so well, how was it that the country that entered the war to save civilisation ended it by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians?
At its burst point, the center of the explosion reached temperatures higher than at the center of the sun, and the velocity of its shock wave exceeded the speed of sound. A tenth of a millisecond later, all of the materials that had made up the bomb converted into an ionized gas, and electromagnetic waves were released into the air. The thermal heat of the bomb ignited a fireball with an internal temperature of over 540,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Within one second, the blazing fireball expanded from 52 feet to its maximum size of 750 feet in diameter. Within three seconds, the ground below reached an estimated 5,400 to 7,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Directly beneath the bomb, infrared heat rays instantly carbonized human and animal flesh and vaporized internal organs.
Below live the ghouls (arising from the spirits above) who brought us the horrific aftereffects of 9/11.
Hard to disagree, isn't it? And aren't they an awe-inspiring pair?
You notice (again) that it doesn't take much to impress the right wing.
Here’s some radical news. A video has emerged with a montage of clips from an interview recorded the day after 9/11 featuring Donald and Frederick Kagan, two members of a leading neoconservative family. This father/son Kagan duo were advocating responding to the 9/11 attacks by invading Palestine and taking out the Palestinian Authority.
Speaking of those who had attacked America, they said with assurance that we should attack Palestine. “We have to take the war to these people,” Frederick Kagan said.
Donald Kagan is a Greek scholar at Yale, so he must know. Son Frederick is at the American Enterprise Institute. The year before they’d penned a book called While America Sleeps.
Milt Rosenberg: Are you suggesting that we’ve got to go to war or rather we should.
Frederick Kagan: We are at war. We are at war. We have no option. See, I would like to see military operations commencing immediately.
Donald Kagan: The longer we go chasing around the actual perpetrators our job is going to be next to impossible.
Frederick Kagan: I didn’t say that we know exactly who conducted this attack. What I pointed out is that there are a few groups out there that are dedicated to conducting exactly this sort of attack and I said that we should attack those groups regardless of whether we know exactly which one specifically conducted this. But we hardly need any more evidence to know that it would be a very good idea to take Bin Laden out even if he had nothing to do with this.
Milt Rosenberg: He’s done enough already is your point.
Frederick Kagan: Exactly
Milt Rosenberg: Who else is?
Donald Kagan: And one key place is certainly the Palestinian Authority, these guys are at the center of all sorts of terrorist organizations that we’ve seen operate before.
Milt Rosenberg: How? Airpower?
Frederick Kagan: No, I would prefer to see ground forces go into Palestine and hunt out Hezbollah. I would like to see Delta Force raids, I would like to see the panoply of covert operations —- but I would also like to see American ground forces deployed into Palestine to restore peace in that area.
Published on the new blog of Robbie Martin, named after his upcoming documentary film, A Very Heavy Agenda, Martin writes he was “archive digging” for the film when he discovered the clip from an old radio program on WGN AM, a Chicago radio station. (Martin is a radio host himself, co-hosting Media Roots Radio with Abby Martin).
The revelation of this information is astounding.
Martin offers a brief forward on his blog – a run down on “insane warmongering neoconservatives”– mentions Frederick’s bother Robert Kagan is a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century, which proselytized the Iraq war by saying Israel’s war is our war, and married to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland (of “Fuck the EU” fame).
Speaking of marriages, Frederick is the husband of Kim Kagan, founder of the DC neocon war spinning think tank Institute for the Study of War (most famous for the Elizabeth O’Bagy scandal, and Bill Kristol is on the board of directors – what’s not to like eh?).
Martin picks up a little more transcript, the whole thing is a shocker. His headline, Neocons Fred & Don Kagan wanted a US military invasion of Palestine in response to 9/11, pretty much sums it up. The entire appearance (available here) is about 20 minutes. Martin edited down to 3 minutes using dashes where he edited it. It’s “the worst stuff they say but nothing is taken out of context,” he told me. Check it out.
*The transcript above is transcribed from the video, of clips edited from the interview. Listen to the entire 20 minute interview on WGN’s "Remembering 9/11," Extension 720 – September 11 and 12, 2001.
(Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for "Mondoweiss," a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani)
Other posts by Annie Robbins.
Seems that the folks at Apple are about as truthful about their good deeds as the folks at Microsoft.
Funny how everything comes out eventually, isn't it?
There are no long-term secrets.
05 August 2015
By Nicki Lisa Cole, Truthout | Report
It seems that these days, everywhere you look, journalists and environmental activists are praising Apple for powering its data centers with "100 percent renewable energy," as the company puts it.
Greenpeace named Apple tops in its 2015 "Clicking Clean" report and commended the company for being transparent about its energy use, pledging to power its data centers entirely with renewable energy, seeking to reduce and mitigate its carbon footprint, and advancing the cause of renewable energy by pushing utility companies to make it available to both large and small customers.
Countless headlines praising Apple followed the May 2015 publication of the Greenpeace report, and many others lauded the company's announced plans to pursue renewable energy initiatives for facilities in Arizona, Denmark, Ireland and China.
But dig below the slick PR surface of Apple's claims and the celebratory headlines, and one finds that the jewel of Apple's data centers, its facility in Maiden, North Carolina, is not powered by renewable energy at all, though the company states in its 2014 Environmental Responsibility Report that it has been "100% renewable since opening June 2010."
The company's claims that its data centers are powered by "100% renewable energy" are simply not true.
Since 2013, Apple has gone to great lengths to assert this point. On its environmental website Apple notes that powering the data center with "renewable sources," along with several other corporate facilities, was a highlight of 2012. Remarking on Apple's accomplishments in 2013, the website states that the company "powers all its data centers ... with 100 percent renewable energy."
Getting down to the details, Apple reports in its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report that 76 percent of the data center's energy was generated on-site by two photovoltaic solar arrays and its fleet of biogas-powered fuel cells (about 20 percent each per solar array, and 37 percent from the fuel cells).
Apple states that the remainder of the energy required to power the center was provided by NC GreenPower.
But all of this is a lie. The company actually buys all of the energy it needs for this facility from Duke Energy Carolinas (Duke), which by March 2015 had less than 0.02 percent renewable energy in its grid mix. About 33 percent of the energy Duke sells comes from nuclear, half is from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), and 15 percent comes from hydroelectric sources.
The several-year-old relationship between Apple and Duke was first made public by an April 2012 report by Robert McMillan for "Wired," which referenced an internal Duke document that describes in detail how Duke landed Apple as a customer. (Following McMillan's article, Duke scrubbed the document from their website, but "Wired" archived the PDF.)
To Apple's credit, though the company's executives are lying about using it, Apple is in fact generating 167 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy at the facility via its two solar arrays and fuel cells. In accordance with North Carolina law, Apple must sell this energy to the utility that it buys its energy from: Duke. Sam Watson, general counsel of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, confirmed this arrangement in June 2015.
Purchasing offsets is not the same as actually powering something with renewable energy.
But what about the energy Apple says that it is buying from NC GreenPower to provide the final 24 percent of the center's needs? That energy does not exist. Instead, Apple buys renewable energy certificates to offset its reliance on Duke's dirty energy. Katie Shepherd Lebrato, the marketing and communications manager of NC GreenPower, confirmed that Apple has had this arrangement in place since 2012.
That Lebrato dates the relationship between NC GreenPower and Apple to 2012 raises questions about whether or not Apple actually offset the energy needs of the center, which came online in 2010, with renewable energy certificates from another source. Apple purchased the land for the center and began construction on it in 2009, but there is no mention of it in the company's discussion of renewable energy initiatives in its 2010 Facilities Report, nor in the 2011 report.
The first official mention of the Maiden data center came in Apple's 2012 Facilities Report, which suggested that it would be powered by renewable energy at some point in the future.
Then, in its 2013 report, Apple provided a lengthy and contradictory description of how it powers the center, stating that the renewable energy it generates on-site "displaces dirtier forms of energy, such as coal," but then states that it purchases renewable energy certificates from NC GreenPower because direct access to renewable sources is not available in the state.
What all of this amounts to is a boldfaced lie on Apple's part. The company's claims that its data centers are powered by "100% renewable energy" are simply not true, given that the Maiden center - one of the company's largest - is powered by a mix of nuclear and fossil fuels. Through generating solar and fuel cell energy on-site, selling it to Duke and by purchasing renewable energy certificates, what Apple is actually doing is offsetting the carbon footprint of this center.
This is a common practice for companies seeking to mitigate their production of greenhouse gases. It's likely also something that many of "Truthout" 's readers have done to offset emissions from air travel.
But the fact of the matter is, purchasing offsets is not the same as actually powering something with renewable energy. The big difference lies in the very real carbon dioxide emissions that are created by the operation of this data center.
Apple's data shows that annual emissions from this facility are on an upward trajectory.
Explaining why this distinction matters, Dr. Christine Shearer, program director at CoalSwarm, said the problem with offsets and renewable energy certificates is that "the reduction in overall emissions is hard to verify. The projects are difficult to separate from reductions that would have occurred regardless, and they can create perverse incentives to keep polluting activities legal."
An Apple spokesperson who the author has previously communicated with did not respond to questions sent by email at the end of July about why Apple is misrepresenting how the Maiden data center is powered, and why it began lying after initially telling the truth about it (albeit in an obscure manner). This email also included a request for emissions data for the center for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
However, chronology suggests that this misrepresentation is a cornerstone of the company's environmentally oriented rebranding effort that launched in 2013 and included the hiring of Lisa Jackson, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the position of vice president for environmental initiatives (now vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives). This branding effort and the energy initiatives tied to it focused on Apple's data centers after the company's reliance on fossil fuel energy was publicly criticized by Greenpeace.
Jackson told this lie in her first formal dispatch for the company - a blog posted in honor of Earth Day on Apple's site in 2014. In it, she wrote, "every one of our data centers is powered entirely by clean sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy. So whenever you download a song, update an app, or ask Siri a question, the energy Apple uses is provided by nature." This post was accompanied by a photo of one of the solar arrays in Maiden.
Since then, the lie has been a centerpiece of Apple's environmentally oriented branding, "offsetting" examination of the actual carbon emissions generated by this facility.
In 2014 alone, by sourcing its power from Duke, the Maiden data center generated 92,306 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions - a figure helpfully provided by Apple in its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report, meant to show how much emissions the center did not create.
Why has Apple, which initially told the truth about its energy acquisition, changed its tune to one that is patently false?
All told, the center, which has been operational since 2010, generated an estimated 243,928 metric tons of carbon dioxide through the fall of 2014. That's equivalent to adding more than 51,000 passenger cars to the road, or burning 262 million pounds of coal. (This figure was reached using emissions data provided by Apple's 2013 Facilities Report, and the "default emissions" listed in its 2014 and 2015 Environmental Responsibility Reports.)
Given that Apple still has the same deal in place with Duke for fiscal year 2015, it can be expected that the data center will produce at least another 92,306 metric tons of carbon dioxide - the 2014 figure - by fall of this year, and annually into the future.
In fact, Apple's data shows that annual emissions from this facility are on an upward trajectory, having grown 43 percent from 2012 to 2013, and 22 percent from 2013 to 2014. Further, a 2015 permit granted to Apple by Catawba County shows that the company is in the process of building another data center next to the existing one that will increase energy needs at this location by 22 percent, and perhaps more in the future, given that the permit includes an additional 100,000 square foot parcel that is not yet in development.
What's more, the "biogas" fuel cells Apple claims to draw 37 percent of the Maiden center's power from are not actually powered by biogas, but regular old natural gas, according to an April 2012 legal filing to the North Carolina Utilities Commission on behalf of Apple. Here too, as it does with its solar arrays and renewable energy certificates, Apple creates an offset for its energy consumption by purchasing and pumping actual biogas into natural gas pipelines, location unknown.
And when Duke's grid fails, Apple will rely on backup diesel-powered generators to run the facility, which can burn as much as 429,600 gallons of diesel fuel stored in on-site tanks, according to a March 2015 permit filed with the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission. According to the EPA, this equates to another 4,325 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions just waiting to be expelled at this "renewably powered" data center.
So the question remains, why lie? Why has Apple, which initially told the truth about its energy acquisition and usage in North Carolina, changed its tune to one that is patently false? Is claiming that its data centers are "100% powered by renewable energy" really that important to the company's $118 billion brand? Perhaps so, given how many journalists and activists have happily parroted this claim.
Did you know that one of Simón Bolívar's descendants has been adopted by (or joined on his own volition) the rightwingers in Venezuela?
Talk about generations improving their economic lot.
No wonder we have no idea of what's happening there from the mainstream media.
05 August 2015
By Amy Goodman and Juan González
"The Making of Leopoldo López: A Closer Look at the Democratic Bona Fides of the Rock Star of Venezuela's Opposition." That's the headline to a new investigation into Venezuela's most prominent opposition leader who has been jailed since February 2014. President Nicolás Maduro dismisses him as a criminal. But López's supporters call him a political prisoner and accuse Maduro of silencing a dissenting voice. We speak with Roberto Lovato about his new piece in "Foreign Policy." Lovato is a writer and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today’s show with a major investigation into the jailed leader of Venezuela’s opposition movement, Leopoldo López. Last February, López turned himself in to authorities after they issued a warrant for his arrest for inciting violent anti-government protests that left more than 40 people dead. President Nicolás Maduro dismisses him as a criminal. But López’s supporters call him a political prisoner and accuse Maduro is silencing a voice of dissent.
AMY GOODMAN: In a new report in "Foreign Policy," journalist Roberto Lovato draws on interviews, U.S. State Department cables released by "WikiLeaks," archived video to profile López. His article is titled "The Making of Leopoldo López: A Closer Look at the Democratic Bona Fides of the Rock Star of Venezuela’s Opposition." Roberto Lovato will join us in a minute, but first to a clip of Leopoldo López speaking in 2004, two years after the 2002 coup, which briefly ousted President Hugo Chávez from power.
LEOPOLDO LÓPEZ: [translated] We should be proud of April 11th. I don’t know if there’s someone who is not proud about April 11th, when we overthrew Chávez with a march. Now, on April 12th, it happened, and the history is there, and we will criticize, and we will see. But April 11 doesn’t put them in the swamp. We have to claim the 11th, the march of the 11th, the power of the people from the 11th, and that the man resigned on the 11th. He put his tail between his legs and left, and that is the reality.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Leopoldo López speaking in 2004.
For more, we go to San Francisco, California, to be joined by Roberto Lovato, author of this new profile of López. Roberto is a writer and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research.
Welcome back to "Democracy Now!," Roberto. Tell us why Leopoldo López is so significant.
ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, glad to be on the show again, Amy.
Leopoldo López is a unique phenomenon, I think, in Latin American political — recent Latin American political history, in terms of being someone who, on the one hand, "Newsweek" calls a "revolutionary who has it all" and, quote, someone who has, quote, "twinkling chocolate-colored eyes." I’ve never seen in all my time covering social movements and revolutionary movements in Latin America — seen this kind of attention paid to a figure of an opposition movement in Latin America, a Latin America that, remember, has turned away from U.S. policy and from the U.S. And so, you have someone who’s called a revolutionary by "Newsweek," who at the same time is unlike — you know, his movement, unlike most Latin American movements, is opposed to U.S. policy — is supported by U.S. policy, as versus opposed to it. The opposition in Venezuela gets U.S. funding, instead of being opposed by U.S. funding.
So, you know, last year, we saw a lot of violence. We also saw people killed. And one of the reasons that I undertook this story was that I noticed that there was a difference between what we saw last year, in terms of the immense awakening in Hollywood suddenly to Venezuela, from Jared Leto, Madonna, Cher tweeting and talking about the opposition and López, and what was actually on the streets, which was that there were 43 people killed. But you didn’t hear about the people that were Chavistas that were killed, people like a young man named Elvis Duran, 29-year-old cyclist, motorcyclist, who was beheaded by barbed wire put out by the opposition in Venezuela. So, I decided I wanted to look at the opposition. And I thought, "Well, what better way to look at the opposition than to look at one of its rising stars, its leader, Leopoldo López?"
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Roberto, give us a thumbnail sketch. Who is Leopoldo López? Especially what are his family and — who is he descended from?
ROBERTO LOVATO: Leopoldo López is descended from Simón Bolívar through his mom, who has a line that runs to Simón Bolívar’s sister. And he’s been compared to Gandhi and Mandela and other prominent figures in global human rights. And he, by his own admission, comes out of the 1 percent. He did an interview with his high school newspaper, at Hun High School, which was a high school where Saudi princes have gone, where the children of CEOs, Fortune 500 CEOs, and the son of a president have gone. So, by his own admission, he comes from the 1 percent and has risen to where he is now because he comes from a prominent family and because he’s a capable organizer, according to U.S. State Department cables. You know, what’s interesting about López, if you look at those cables, is that at the same time that the —
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Roberto, just to get back to that for a second, though, his mother, as you say in your article, is from the — is one of the executives of the Cisneros Group, which is probably the largest media company in South America, certainly?
ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world is the Cisneros Group, with stations and networks all over the world. His mother is a senior executive. It’s interesting. He has a lot of family connections that are in media. His mother is with the Cisneros Group, this large conglomerate. His father is on the editorial board, according to El Espectador in Colombia, of El Nacional newspaper. His wife is a reality show star, TV — former TV host and radio jock. And he’s also very connected to people here in the U.S., like former Republican operatives like Robert Gluck, who runs a PR firm and previously was working on Lamar Alexander and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign, for example, to get Gray Davis out of office. And he also has connections to people like a gentleman named Leonardo Alcivar, who did communications for the Romney administration and — for the Romney — I’m sorry, for the Romney campaign, and worked with the Bush administration.
So, you know, I looked into statements by different figures. I interviewed members of his family. I interviewed his allies. And I had people like Gluck, Robert Gluck, tell me that he was — you know, that they have this volunteer effort called Friends for a Free Venezuela. And when I asked Gluck if he was being paid for his — for what he did, he stalled, and then he said, "Yes," and told me that he was being paid by Leopoldo López’s family. So — and this is the gentleman who said in the news — and I quote — that to call Leopoldo López right-wing is the, quote, "ultimate in Orwellian doublespeak."
So, Leopoldo López comes from a very wealthy, influential, well-connected family that I think serves him in his rise to power through, first, Primero Justicia party, up to now, his party, Voluntad Popular. And throughout, you see a figure that’s also been very divisive. If you look at State Department cables that say that he is, quote, "power-hungry and vindictive," quote-unquote, and at the same time describing him as a good organizer.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about his circumstances today. Why is he in jail?
ROBERTO LOVATO: He’s accused of, you know, arson and incitement in last year’s upheavals that we saw in Venezuela. And he had a lot of other charges against him, but those were dropped. And, you know, his trial has had these fits and starts, and it’s been going on for quite some times. And he is — you know, according to a pollster, being in — according to one of the preeminent pollsters of Venezuela, Vicente León, Luis Vicente León, he’s actually — his time in jail is benefiting his political career, because he’s perceived as a political prisoner. That’s surely the case in the international arena, although in Venezuela the opinion about Leopoldo López is divided, as is public opinion generally. And that’s not really come out in our media, just like those Chavista dead that I mentioned early up front, that you don’t hear about the beheaded — the people that were beheaded by the opposition. You don’t hear about the Chavista dead. You heard about the people that the Chavistas killed.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Roberto, shortly after Leopoldo López’s arrest last year, his opposition Popular Will party released a video of him speaking before he surrendered to government troops. This is part of what he said.
LEOPOLDO LÓPEZ: [translated] I would like to tell all Venezuelans that I do not regret what we have done thus far, like the call we put out for the protest, which is what we’ve been doing for some time. But on the 12th of February, on the Day of Youth, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Venezuela, not only in Caracas like in the past, but in all of Venezuela. In the cities and in the towns, there were 10 or 50 or a thousand or 10,000, or even 70,000, but the people came out. The people woke up. Venezuela today, more than ever, needs you who are watching this, and that each one of us takes on the commitment to want change. But that commitment cannot be passive. That commitment has to be active.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Leopoldo López last year. So, Roberto, we only have about a minute. In terms of his role in achieving greater or less democracy in Venezuela, what do you — how do you judge that?
ROBERTO LOVATO: I think you look at the constitution and the way that people around López, as I document in my article, are or aren’t committed, or in López himself, are committed to democracy in terms of the constitution, and the constitution that was shredded by something called the Carmona Decree and the coup. López and his lawyers, Jared Genser and José Maes, make statements denying that he had any role, when in fact, if you look at my article, López was involved in activities like a PDVSA general strike and a protest, and has made statements like on your early tape where he’s clearly supporting the coup, even though he was not a signator to the document, the Carmona accord, that his own father, who I interviewed also, signed. I interviewed López’s father, not López, and his father told me that he had signed not a — not the Carmona accord, but —
AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.
ROBERTO LOVATO: He signed — he told me he signed an attendance sheet, when, you know, you can see videos that there was a call to sign the accord.
AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We’re going to link to your article in "Foreign Policy" called "The Making of Leopoldo López: A Closer Look at the Democratic Bona Fides of the Rock Star of Venezuela’s Opposition."
That does it for our show. I’ll be speaking in Manhasset, New York at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock tomorrow night, Thursday night, for the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima. And next week at the Venice Biennale, we’ll be broadcasting from Venice, Italy.
Remember how proud we were and we bragged to all in listening distance previously about being a democratic country that had gotten away from the rich choosing our political candidates for us in dark smoke-filled rooms?The Pentagon’s top contractors sent an army of more than 400 lobbyists to Capitol Hill this spring to press their case for increasing the nation’s spending on military hardware, in a massive effort costing tens of millions of dollars of their own funds from April to June alone, according to an analysis of public lobbying data by the Center for Public Integrity.
The contractors are upset in part because most military spending has been capped for the past few years under budget controls meant to rein in government debt. So far, the caps have forced a decline in main defense budgets from about $528.2 billion in fiscal 2011 to $496.1 billion in fiscal 2015, instead of a previously projected increase to roughly $598 billion. Mounting frustration with the caps was evident in the administration’s submission this year of a military budget that exceeded the limits by about $38 billion, followed by moves by both branches of Congress to add even more billions.
The caps remain the law of the land, however, and they won’t go away until Congress votes to lift them. The issue has so far been tangled up in a dispute between the parties over whether to also increase spending on social welfare programs. But several lobbyists said in interviews that they were optimistic that this could finally be the year that lawmakers agree to let defense contractors return to their historic pattern of ever-higher revenue from the federal treasury.
This could explain in part why total lobbying expenditures by the 53 top defense contractors that reported paying for such work in the second quarter of 2015 were more than 25 percent higher than the amount they spent in the same quarter of 2014 — $58.5 million instead of $45.7 million. But not all of the lobbying was related solely to military spending.
Boeing, a $100 billion corporation that makes military aircraft and other lethal hardware, as well as civilian aerospace goods, reported to the clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate that it spent almost $13.2 million on lobbying in the first two quarters of this year. Its filing said some of this expenditure was related to expanding its “Commercial Aircraft Sales/Services” and supporting the Export-Import Bank, among other issues. The aerospace contractor’s commercial aircraft division receives billions in financing from the bank, and so it has a large stake in this year’s continuing congressional skirmish over renewing the bank’s charter.
Gayla Keller, a Boeing communications director, declined to comment specifically on their lobbying activities in an emailed response to questions.
Parsing the lobbying reports to sort out just the defense-related expenditures for these contractors is not easy, because the lobbying reporting requirements have some ambiguity baked into them. Lobbying expenses are only reported on an overall basis for an organization, and aren’t tied to specific issues or associated with the agencies that lobbyists target. And for some of the top defense contractors, the Pentagon is only one of many customers, albeit an outsized one.
Still, 40 of the 53 top contractors that lobbied during the last quarter reported that one target of their efforts was the National Defense Authorization Act, the main legislation authorizing defense spending each year. Some of these firms — including Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon — said that their efforts were aimed at budget controls.
General Electric — which makes washing machines and light bulbs and has a major healthcare division — lobbied on the Export-Import Bank, Medicare, passenger and freight train safety and natural gas production, according to its latest disclosure. It also lobbied on several defense weapons programs, including the B-1 Bomber, the CH-53K Super Stallion helicopter, the F-18 Fighter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
General Electric responded to the Center’s requests for comment with an emailed statement that its “[e]mployees educate officials on our Company’s operations, emerging technologies and markets, as well as on our views on public policy issues.”
Boeing and General Electric had the largest increases in lobbying spending compared with the same period in 2014, among the 15 defense contractors that spent $1 million or more to lobby in the quarter. General Electric almost tripled its lobbying spending compared with the earlier period, from $2.8 million to almost $8.5 million. Boeing more than doubled its spending for the quarter, from almost $4.2 million in the second quarter of 2014 to $9.3 million in the most recent quarter of this year.
Industry experts the Center spoke with said that while there were probably multiple reasons for the heightened lobbying, lifting the budget caps has been the industry’s central ambition. “People are concerned about the sequester,” said retired Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, the chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association, the country’s main defense industry association. “For the industry as a whole, that may be the top issue,” said a veteran defense lobbyist, who asked not to be named.
Of the total 655 lobbyists employed by the contractors, 423 of them specifically lobbied on defense, in some cases along with other issues, according to the lobbying reports.
General Dynamics paid for 74 lobbyists, more than any other contractor, for example, and 70 of these lobbied on defense, part of its $2.7 million lobbying tab. Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense contractor, spent $3.5 million and enlisted 64 lobbyists to press government officials, including 56 who lobbied on defense as well as other issues.
“The defense budget is capped at a level that neither the industry nor the Pentagon wants," said Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Stimson Center and a senior White House budget official for national security during the Clinton administration. “The industry has been active on that, company by company, and by the industry as a whole," Adams said. Companies “either want to raise the caps or get rid of them all together.”
Contractor Number of lobbyists who lobbied on defense issues Total number of lobbyists General Dynamics Corporation 70 74 Lockheed Martin Corporation 56 64 Boeing Company 49 64 Raytheon Company 37 38 United Technologies Corporation 34 42 Northrop Grumman Corporation 30 32 Huntington Ingalls Industries 28 28 General Electric Company 21 57 BAE Systems 20 20 Honeywell International 20 26 L-3 Communications 17 19
Source: Center for Public Integrity analysis of lobbying reports filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives
It's an iconic image: A group of tough-talking, cigar-smoking politicians wearing cheap suits and drinking whiskey gather in the backroom of some convention center somewhere in the US.
They trade bribes, offer each other favors and calculate the odds, and then, after hours of debate punctuated by the occasional cigar puff, they pick their candidate.
This is more or less how people were nominated for president for most of the modern era here in the United States.
See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at "Truthout."
It wasn't the people who picked the candidates; it was the party bosses, who were more concerned with keeping their machines running than representing the will of the people.
This system, while great for the political insiders, was terrible for the country, and it only really began to change in the 1960s, when both the Republican and Democratic parties opened up their primary system so that everyday voters would have a bigger say in choosing who they wanted to run for president.
The new system wasn't perfect - establishment candidates still had the edge - but it was a step forward from the days when corrupt politicians called all the shots behind closed doors.
It at least had the potential to allow an outsider run, and Barack Obama probably never would have been nominated for president in 2008 without it.
But ever since the Supreme Court opened up the floodgates with its 2010 "Citizens United" decision, we've moved back to the old system.
Nobody wants to admit it, but our political process is rapidly going back to the days when cigar-smoking insiders handpicked the nominees, except this time it's not corrupt political bosses choosing who they want to run for president, it's billionaires like the Koch Brothers.
As "The New York Times" pointed out over the weekend, "fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era."
Another report, this one from the Associated Press, found that just "60 donations of a million dollars or more accounted for about a third of the more than $380 million brought in so far for the 2016 presidential election."
There's a word for this kind of political system where wealth, power and influence are concentrated in the hands of such a few number of people: oligarchy.
Former President Jimmy Carter talked about that on a recent episode of my radio show.
While everyday voters still technically choose the candidates these days, the boatload of money that's flooded into our political system in the wake of "Citizens United" has changed the game.
The only candidates who actually stay in the race are the candidates who have billionaires behind them.
This is why, for example, in 2012 Newt Gingrich was able to campaign well past his past due date. With Sheldon Adelson backing him, he never had to worry about running out of money like a traditional second place candidate would have had to.
It's also why over the weekend, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and a few of the other Republican frontrunners went to the Koch brothers' annual summer seminar at a fancy resort out in California - they know that the single most important factor in determining their success as candidate is whether their Super PAC gets that big fat check from Charles and David Koch.
So voters still have a choice, but those choices are shaped and ultimately determined by who the billionaires want to run for president.
It's a sham democracy, and when it comes down to it, it's really no different than the days when corrupt party bosses sat in backrooms haggling over candidates like they were cattle.
Replace Super PACs with party machines and the system is pretty much the same, the corruption just happens to be out in the open this time.
People, not party insiders or billionaire plutocrats, should pick our presidents.
So go to Move To Amend now to help money out of politics once and for all.
06 August 2015
By John Pilger, Truthout
The siege of Knightsbridge is both an emblem of gross injustice and a grueling farce. For three years, a police cordon around the Ecuadorean embassy in London has served no purpose other than to flaunt the power of the state. It has cost £12 million. The quarry is an Australian charged with no crime, a refugee whose only security is the room given him by a brave South American country. His "crime" is to have initiated a wave of truth-telling in an era of lies, cynicism and war.
The persecution of Julian Assange is about to flare again as it enters a dangerous stage. From August 20, three quarters of the Swedish prosecutor's case against Assange regarding sexual misconduct in 2010 will disappear as the statute of limitations expires. At the same time, Washington's obsession with Assange and WikiLeaks has intensified. Indeed, it is vindictive American power that offers the greatest threat - as Chelsea Manning and those still held in Guantanamo can attest.
The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up, and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables. WikiLeaks continues to expose criminal activity by the US, having just published top secret US intercepts - US spies' reports detailing private phone calls of the presidents of France and Germany and other senior officials, relating to internal European political and economic affairs.
The persecution of Julian Assange is about to flare again.
None of this is illegal under the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as "part of a healthy democracy," arguing that they "must be protected from reprisal." But in 2012, the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama boasted on its website that he had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had pronounced the whistleblower guilty. She was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison, having been tortured during a long pretrial detention.
Few doubt that a similar fate awaits Assange, should the US get its hands on him. Threats of the capture and assassination of Assange became the currency of the political extremes in the US following Vice President Joe Biden's preposterous slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a "cyber-terrorist." Those doubting the degree of ruthlessness Assange can expect should remember the forcing down of the Bolivian president's plane in 2013 - wrongly believed to be carrying Edward Snowden.
According to documents released by Snowden, Assange is on a "Manhunt target list." Washington's bid to get him, say Australian diplomatic cables, is "unprecedented in scale and nature." In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has spent five years attempting to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. This is not easy. The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers.
Faced with this constitutional hurdle, the US Justice Department has contrived charges of "espionage," "conspiracy to commit espionage," "conversion" (theft of government property), "computer fraud and abuse" (computer hacking) and general "conspiracy." The Espionage Act has life in prison and death penalty provisions.
Assange's ability to defend himself in this Kafkaesque world has been undermined by the US declaring his case a state secret. In March, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the "national security" investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was "active and ongoing" and would harm the "pending prosecution" of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rosthstein, said it was necessary to show "appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security." Such is the "justice" of a kangaroo court.
Sweden's Role in the Targeting of AssangeThe supporting act in this grim farce is Sweden, played by the Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny. Until recently, Ny refused to comply with a routine European procedure that required her to travel to London to question Assange and so advance the case. For four and a half years, Ny has never properly explained why she has refused to come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him to the US under a secret arrangement between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US.
Contrary to its 1960s reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA "renditions" - including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and in WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had flown to Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan - in which Sweden had forces under US command.
"Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England," wrote Al Burke, editor of the online Nordic News Network, an authority on the multiple twists and dangers facing Assange, "clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is every reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights."
Why hasn't the Swedish prosecutor resolved the Assange case? Many in the legal community in Sweden believe her behavior inexplicable. Once implacably hostile to Assange, the Swedish press has published headlines such as: "Go to London, for God's sake."
Assange's ability to defend himself in this Kafkaesque world has been undermined by the US declaring his case a state secret.
Why hasn't she? More to the point, why won't she allow the Swedish court access to hundreds of Short Message Service (SMS) messages that the police extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the misconduct allegations? Why won't she hand them over to Assange's Swedish lawyers? She says she is not legally required to do so until a formal charge is laid and she has questioned him. Then, why doesn't she question him? And if she did question him, the conditions she would demand of him and his lawyers - that they could not challenge her - would make injustice a near certainty.
On a point of law, the Swedish Supreme Court has decided Ny can continue to obstruct on the vital issue of the SMS messages. This will now go to the European Court of Human Rights. What Ny fears is that the SMS messages will destroy her case against Assange. One of the messages makes clear that one of the women did not want any charges brought against Assange, "but the police were keen on getting a hold on him." She was "shocked" when they arrested him because she only "wanted him to take [an HIV] test." She "did not want to accuse JA of anything," and "it was the police who made up the charges." (In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been "railroaded by police and others around her.")
Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both have denied they were raped, and one of them has since tweeted, "I have not been raped." That they were manipulated by police and their wishes ignored is evident - whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they are victims of a saga that blights the reputation of Sweden itself.
For Assange, his only trial has been trial by media. On August 20, 2010, the Swedish police opened a "rape investigation" and immediately - and unlawfully - told the Stockholm tabloids that there was a warrant for Assange's arrest for the "rape of two women." This was the news that went round the world.
In Washington, a smiling US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that the arrest "sounds like good news to me." Twitter accounts associated with the Pentagon described Assange as a "rapist" and a "fugitive."
Less than 24 hours later, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took over the investigation. She wasted no time in canceling the arrest warrant, saying, "I don't believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape." Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, "There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever." The file was closed.
Enter Claes Borgstrom, a high-profile politician in the Social Democratic Party, then standing as a candidate in Sweden's imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor's dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in the city of Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically.
On August 30, Assange went to a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered all the questions put to him. He understood that was the end of the matter. Two days later, Ny announced she was reopening the case. Borgstrom was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed, citing one of the women as saying she had not been raped. He replied, "Ah, but she is not a lawyer." Assange's Australian barrister, James Catlin, responded, "This is a laughing stock … It's as if they make it up as they go along."
On the day Marianne Ny reactivated the case, the head of Sweden's military intelligence service - which has the acronym MUST - publicly denounced "WikiLeaks" in an article entitled "WikiLeaks [is] a threat to our soldiers." Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its US counterparts that US-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be "cut off" if Sweden sheltered him.
For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the new investigation to take its course. The Guardian was then on the brink of publishing the Iraq "War Logs," based on WikiLeaks' disclosures, which Assange was to oversee. His lawyer in Stockholm asked Ny if she had any objection to his leaving the country. She said he was free to leave.
Inexplicably, as soon as he left Sweden - at the height of media and public interest in the WikiLeaks disclosures - Ny issued a European Arrest Warrant and an Interpol "red alert" normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals. Put out in five languages around the world, it ensured a media frenzy.
Assange went to a police station in London, was arrested and spent 10 days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on £340,000 bail, he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under virtual house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court. He still had not been charged with any offense. His lawyers repeated his offer to be questioned by Ny in London, pointing out that she had given him permission to leave Sweden. They suggested a special facility at Scotland Yard commonly used for that purpose. She refused.
Assange's choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the US, or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety.Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape wrote: "The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction. … The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?"
This question remained unanswered as Ny deployed the European Arrest Warrant, a draconian and now discredited product of the "war on terror" supposedly designed to catch terrorists and organized criminals. The EAW had abolished the obligation on a petitioning state to provide any evidence of a crime. More than a thousand EAWs are issued each month; only a few have anything to do with potential "terror" charges. Most are issued for trivial offenses, such as overdue bank charges and fines. Many of those extradited face months in prison without charge. There have been a number of shocking miscarriages of justice, of which British judges have been highly critical.
The Assange case finally reached the UK Supreme Court in May 2012. In a judgment that upheld the EAW - whose rigid demands had left the courts almost no room for maneuver - the judges found that European prosecutors could issue extradition warrants in the UK without any judicial oversight, even though Parliament intended otherwise. They made clear that Parliament had been "misled" by the Blair government. The court was split, 5-2, and consequently found against Assange.
However, the Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, made one mistake. He applied the Vienna Convention on treaty interpretation, allowing for state practice to override the letter of the law. As Assange's barrister, Dinah Rose QC, pointed out, this did not apply to the EAW.
The Supreme Court only recognized this crucial error when it dealt with another appeal against the EAW in November 2013. The Assange decision had been wrong, but it was too late to go back. With extradition imminent, the Swedish prosecutor told Assange's lawyers that Assange, once in Sweden, would be immediately placed in one of Sweden's infamous remand prisons.
Assange's choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the US, or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety. Supported by most of Latin America, the courageous government of Ecuador granted him refugee status on the basis of documented evidence and legal advice that he faced the prospect of cruel and unusual punishment in the US; that this threat violated his basic human rights; and that his own government in Australia had abandoned him and colluded with Washington. The Labor government of prime minister Julia Gillard had even threatened to take away his passport.
Gareth Peirce, the renowned human rights lawyer who represents Assange in London, wrote to the then-Australian foreign minister, Kevin Rudd: "Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions ... it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged."
It was not until she contacted the Australian High Commission in London that Peirce received a response, which answered none of the pressing points she raised. In a meeting I attended with her, the Australian Consul-General, Ken Pascoe, made the astonishing claim that he knew "only what I read in the newspapers" about the details of the case.
Personal Attacks Obscure the Miscarriage of Justice
Meanwhile, the prospect of a grotesque miscarriage of justice was obscured by the vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. Personal and vicious attacks were aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the US threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, to freedom of speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious.
Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive. The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, "one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years." It became part of his marketing plan to raise the newspaper's cover price.
With not a penny going to Assange or to "WikiLeaks," a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book's authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a "damaged personality" and "callous." They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that "Scotland Yard may get the last laugh."
The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons Parliament reformed the Extradition Act to prevent the misuse of the EAW. The draconian catch-all used against him could not happen now; charges would have to be brought and "questioning" would be insufficient grounds for extradition. "His case has been won lock, stock and barrel," Gareth Peirce told me. "These changes in the law mean that the UK now recognizes as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit." In other words, the change in the UK law in 2014 meant that Assange would have won his case and he would not have been forced to take refuge.
Ecuador's decision to protect Assange in 2012 bloomed into a major international affair. Even though the granting of asylum is a humanitarian act and the power to do so is enjoyed by all states under international law, both Sweden and the United Kingdom refused to recognize the legitimacy of Ecuador's decision. Ignoring international law, the Cameron government refused to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador. Instead, Ecuador's embassy was placed under siege and its government abused with a series of ultimatums. When William Hague's Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, warning that it would remove the diplomatic inviolability of the embassy and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down. During one night, police appeared at the windows of the embassy in an obvious attempt to intimidate Assange and his protectors.
Since then, Julian Assange has been confined to a small room under Ecuador's protection, without sunlight or space to exercise, surrounded by police under orders to arrest him on sight. For three years, Ecuador has made clear to the Swedish prosecutor that Assange is available to be questioned in the London embassy, and for three years she has remained intransigent. In the same period, Sweden has questioned 44 people in the UK in connection with police investigations. Her role, and that of the Swedish state, is demonstrably political; and for Ny, facing retirement in two years, she must "win."
The Legal Battles Ahead
In despair, Assange has challenged the arrest warrant in the Swedish courts. His lawyers have cited rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that he has been under arbitrary, indefinite detention and that he has been a virtual prisoner for longer than any actual prison sentence he might face. The Court of Appeal judge agreed with Assange's lawyers: The prosecutor had indeed breached her duty by keeping the case suspended for years. Another judge issued a rebuke to the prosecutor. And yet she defied the court.
Last December, Assange took his case to the Swedish Supreme Court, which ordered Marianne Ny's boss - the prosecutor general of Sweden, Anders Perklev - to explain. The next day, Ny announced, without explanation, that she had changed her mind and would now question Assange in London.
In his submission to the Supreme Court, the prosecutor general made some important concessions: He argued that the coercion of Assange had been "intrusive" and that the period in the embassy has been a "great strain" on him. He even conceded that if the matter had ever come to prosecution, trial, conviction and serving a sentence in Sweden, Julian Assange would have left Sweden long ago.
In a split decision, one Supreme Court judge argued that the arrest warrant should have been revoked. The majority of the judges ruled that, since the prosecutor had now said she would go to London, Assange's arguments had become "moot." But the Court ruled that it would have found against the prosecutor if she had not suddenly changed her mind. Justice by caprice. Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as "abnormal" and demanded that she be replaced.
Having said she would go to London in June, Ny did not go, but sent a deputy, knowing that the questioning would not be legal under these circumstances, especially as Sweden had not bothered to get Ecuador's approval for the meeting. At the same time, her office tipped off the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen, which sent its London correspondent to wait outside Ecuador's embassy for "news." The news was that Ny was cancelling the appointment and blaming Ecuador for the confusion and by implication an "uncooperative" Assange - when the opposite was true.
As the statute of limitations date - August 20 - approaches, another chapter in this hideous story will doubtless unfold, with Marianne Ny pulling yet another rabbit out of her hat and the commissars and prosecutors in Washington the beneficiaries.
Perhaps none of this is surprising. In 2008, a war on WikiLeaks and on Julian Assange was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the "Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch." It described a detailed plan to destroy the feeling of "trust" that is WikiLeaks' "centre of gravity." This would be achieved with threats of "exposure [and] criminal prosecution." Silencing and criminalizing such a rare source of truthtelling was the aim, smear the method. While this scandal continues, the very notion of justice is diminished, along with the reputation of Sweden, and the shadow of America's menace touches us all.
Note from John Pilger: This is an updated version of my 2014 investigation, which tells the unreported story of the unrelenting campaign, in Sweden and the US, to deny Julian Assange justice and silence WikiLeaks: a campaign now reaching a dangerous stage. For more information, see justice4assange.com.
(John Pilger is an Australian-born, London-based journalist, filmmaker and author. For his foreign and war reporting, ranging from Vietnam and Cambodia to the Middle East, he has twice won Britain's highest award for journalism. For his documentary films, he won a British Academy Award and an American Emmy. In 2009, he was awarded Australia's human rights prize, the Sydney Peace Prize. John Pilger's films can be viewed on his website.)
And for just a few minutes more:
To obtain a hard copy of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), the most popular personality test in the world, one must first spend $1,695 on a week-long certification program run by the Myers & Briggs Foundation of Gainesville, Florida.
This year alone, there have been close to 100 certification sessions in cities ranging from New York to Pasadena, Minneapolis, Portland, Houston, and the Foundation’s hometown of Gainesville, where participants get a $200 discount for making their way south to the belly of the beast. It is not unusual for sessions to sell out months in advance. People come from all over the world to get certified.
In New York last April, there were twenty-five aspiring MBTI practitioners in attendance. There was a British oil executive who lived for the half the year under martial law in Equatorial Guinea. There was a pretty blonde astrologist from Australia, determined to invest in herself now that her US work visa was about to expire. There was a Department of Defense administrator, a gruff woman who wore flowing skirts and rainbow rimmed glasses, and a portly IBM manager turned high school basketball coach. There were three college counselors, five HR reps, and a half-dozen "executive talent managers" from Fortune 500 companies. Finally, there was me.
I was in an unusual position that week: Attending the certification program had not been my idea. Rather, I had been told that MBTI certification was a prerequisite to accessing the personal papers of Isabel Briggs Myers, a woman about whom very little is known except that she designed the type indicator in the final days of World War II. Part of our collective ignorance about Myers stems from how profoundly her personal history has been eclipsed by her creation, in much the same way that the name "Frankenstein" has come to stand in for the monster and not his creator.
Flip through the "New York Times" or "Wall Street Journal," and you will find the indicator used to debate what makes an employee a good "fit" for her job, or to determine the leadership styles of presidential candidates. Open a browser, and you will find the indicator adapted for addictive pop psychology quizzes by BuzzFeed and Thought Catalog. Enroll in college, work an office job, enlist in the military, join the clergy, fill out an online dating profile, and you will encounter the type indicator in one guise or another — to match a person to her ideal office job or to her ideal romantic partner.
Yet though her creation is everywhere, Myers and the details of her life's work are curiously absent from the public record. Not a single independent biography is in print today. Not one article details how Myers, an award-winning mystery writer who possessed no formal training in psychology or sociology, concocted a test routinely deployed by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies, the US government, hundreds of universities, and online dating sites like Perfect Match, Project Evolove and Type Tango. And not one expert in the field of psychometric testing, a $500 million industry with over 2,500 different tests on offer in the US alone, can explain why Myers-Briggs has so thoroughly surpassed its competition, emerging as a household name on par with the Atkins Diet or The Secret.
Well, just so long as you didn't mind not getting hired.