Tag Archive: Democracy Now

Jun 03 2013

A Discussion of Obama’s “Dirty Wars”

In a fascinating hour and a half, Jeremy Scahill, the National Security Correspondent at The Nation magazine, discusses his book and award winning documentary “Dirty Wars.” Joined by Spencer Ackerman, formerly of “Wired” now National Security Editor for The Guardian, they discuss President Obama’s drone program, preemptive war and the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and two weeks later, his 16 year old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. They also talk about Obama’s roll in the jailing of Yemeni journalist,  Abdulelah Haider Shaye, for his reporting of the US bombing of  al-Majalah, a impoverished Yemeni village killing 46 people mostly women and children. Later in the talk, Jeremy took written questions from the audience, discussing Blackwater, Eric Prince and as well as the global impact and the legality of the perpetual drone war.

There is another way of looking at Pres. Obama’s speech the other day. And that is, he came out and did a full frontal defense of the US asserting the right to assassinate people around the world. . . that really is the take away. [..]

He is asserting the right of the Unites States to conduct these kinds of operations in perpetuity. [..]

The US does not recognize International Law unless it’s convenient. That true; it’s not a rhetorical statement. . . . There is one set of laws for the rest of the world and there another set of laws for the United States. [..]

There have been attempts to challenge many of these wars by the Center for Constitutional Rights, challenging under the War Powers Act and the idea that Congress cannot give these authorities to the president to wage these wars. The way they’ll get around it is they’ll say well, the Authority to Use Military Force (AUMF), that was passed after 9/11, gives us the right to strike in any country where we determine there be a connection to 9/11 or Al Qaeda.

In some cases now, we are targeting persons who were toddlerson 9/11. How can we say that they were attached to it, So in Obama’s speech, when he says he wants to refine the Authorization for Military force and, ultimately, real it, I think the first step of that is really disturbing. They’re talking about making permanent the sort of perpetual war mentality, probably by removing the language necessitating a connection to 9/11 or to Al Qaeda from it, so they can broaden their justification.

Also this White House, like the Bush/Cheney people, relies very heavily on Article II of the Constitution and an i interpretation that Commander in Chief clause gives the president the right to unilaterally set these policies. . . .They effectively perceive themselves as, on a counter-terrorism and national security issues, to be a dictatorship. And that Congress plays a minimal roll in those operations only funding it and overseeing how the money os spent but not necessarily overseeing the operations themselves.

There are Constitutional law experts that would say that’s a ridiculous interpretation of Article II of the Constitution, but it is being asserted in in  private.

It’s tough to stand up and be principled when someone like Obama is in office. It’s easy when to be against all this war and criminality when Bush/Cheney are there. They’re cartoonish villains.

Your principles are tested when someone like Obama is in office and you have the courage to stand up and say, “no. A principle is a principle and I’m against it when a Democrat does it and I’m against it when a Republican does it.”

There’s no such thing as Democratic cruise missile and a Republican cruise missile.

Jeremy recommended that everyone should watch California’s Democratic Rep. Barbra Lee’s speech on September 7, 2001. She was trembling as she gave one of the most epic speeches of this era. It took tremendous courage to stand up and say, “No.”  She was right then and she is right now.

We need to all stand up for the principles on which this country was founded and on which the current president was elected. It’s not just the economy, stupid, it’s the Republic, if we can keep it..

May 11 2013

Cooking For Democracy

Michael Pollan on How Reclaiming Cooking Can Save Our Food System, Make Us Healthy & Grow Democracy



Full Transcript can be read here

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! spent an hour with Michael Pollan,  Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism.

Pollan has written several best-selling books about food, including “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” In his latest book, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” Pollan argues that taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make our food system healthier and more sustainable. “There is a deliberate effort to undermine food culture to sell us processed food,” Pollan says. “The family meal is a challenge if you’re General Mills or Kellogg or one of these companies, or McDonald’s, because the family meal is usually one thing shared.” Pollan also talks about the “slow food” movement. “Slow food is about food that is good, clean and fair. They’re concerned with social justice. They’re concerned with how the food is grown and how humane and chemical-free it is.” He adds, “Slow food is about recovering that space around the family and keeping the influence of the food manufacturers outside of the house. … The family meal is very important. It’s the nursery of democracy.”

Apr 24 2013

The World Is a Battlefield

Since after 9/11, the United States has been engaged in a global war on terror (GWOT). Even as the illegal was in Iraq has allegedly ended and the one in Afghanistan finally begins to wind down almost 2 years after Osama bin Laden’s assassination, the US has widened its war in East Asia to the Arabian Peninsula and Africa sending in military on the ground as “advidsors” and unmanned armed drones to carry out “targeted strikes.” The world is now the battlefield for the US military and its contractors who are bleeding the American tax payer under the guise os keeping us safe. But are they keeping us safe? The reality is starting to surface. According to news sources the alleged Boston Marathon bombing suspect told investigators that the attack was spurred by their anger at America’s continued wars and its assault in Islam.

Yemeni journalist Farea Al-Muslimi testified before the Senate Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and human rights. He told the committee what American’s need to hear:

“Just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers.

“The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine.

“What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.”

We needed to hear this a very long time ago, long before 9/11.

Jeremy Scahill, author and National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine, joined Amy Goodman in an interview on Democracy Now to discuss the his project Dirty Wars which has produced a documentary and soon to be released book,“Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield.”

The book is based on years of reporting on U.S. secret operations in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration has defended the killing of Anwar, it has never publicly explained why Abdulrahman was targeted in a separate drone strike two weeks later. Scahill reveals CIA Director John Brennan, Obama’s former senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, suspected that the teenager had been killed “intentionally.” “The idea that you can simply have one branch of government unilaterally and in secret declare that an American citizen should be executed or assassinated without having to present any evidence whatsoever, to me, is a – we should view that with great sobriety about the implications for our country,” says Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine. Today the U.S. Senate is preparing to hold its first-ever hearing on the Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing program. However, the Obama administration is refusing to send a witness to answer questions about the program’s legality.

The Secret Story Behind Obama’s Assassination of Two Americans in Yemen

Mar 27 2013

Curing Capitalism

Economist Richard Wolff discusses how austerity is making economic problems worse and the cure for these economic woes.

Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse, and his new book, “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Wolff also gives Fox News host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.



Full transcript here

   AMY GOODMAN: Professor Wolff, before we end, I want to turn back to the crisis in Cyprus and relate it to what’s happening here. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News warned his audience last week that Cyprus and other European countries are facing economic hardships because they’re so-called “nanny states.”

       BILL O’REILLY: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, now Cyprus, all broke. And other European nations are close. Why? Because they’re nanny states, and there are not enough workers to support all the entitlements these progressive paradises are handing out.

   AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. Richard?

   RICHARD WOLFF: You know, he gets away with saying things which no undergraduate in the United States with a responsible economic professor could ever get away with. If you want to refer to things as nanny states, then the place you go in Europe is not the southern tier-Portugal, Spain and Italy; the place you go are Germany and Scandinavia, because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what: Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation. The unemployment rate in Germany is now below 5 percent. Ours is pushing between 7 and 8 percent. So, please, get your facts right, Mr. O’Reilly.

   The nanny state, you call it, the program of countries like Germany and Scandinavia, who tax their people heavily, by all means, but who provide them with social services that would be the envy of the United States-a national health program that takes care of you, whether you’re employed or not, and gives you proper healthcare. In France, for example, the law says when you go to work, you get five weeks’ paid vacation. That’s not an option; that’s the law. You get support when you’re a new parent for your child care and so forth. They provide services. And they are successful in Germany and Scandinavia, much more than we are in the United States and much more than those countries in the south.

   So they’re not broken, the south, because they’re nanny states, since the nanny states, par excellence, are doing better than everyone. The actual truth of Mr. O’Reilly is the opposite of what he says. The more you do nanny state, the better off you are during a crisis and to minimize the cost of the crisis. That’s what the European economic situation actually teaches. He’s just making it up as he goes along to conform to an ideological position that is harder and harder for folks like him to sustain, so he has to reach further and further into fantasy.

H/t Heather at Crooks and Liars

Capitalism efficient? We can do so much better

by Richard Wolff, The Guardian

For all its vaunted efficiency, capitalism has foisted wasteful inequality and environmental ruin on us. There is an alternative

What’s efficiency got to do with capitalism? The short answer is little or nothing. Economic and social collapses in Detroit, Cleveland and many other US cities did not happen because production was inefficient there. Efficiency problems did not cause the longer-term economic declines troubling the US and western Europe.

Capitalist corporations decided to relocate production: first, away from such cities, and now, away from those regions. It has done so to serve the priorities of their major shareholders and boards of directors. Higher profits, business growth, and market share drive those decisions. As I say, efficiency has little or nothing to do with it.

Many goods and services once made in the US and western Europe for those markets are now produced elsewhere and transported back to them. That wastes resources spent on the costly relocation and consequent return transportation. The pollution (of air, sea and soil) associated with vast transportation networks – and the eventual cleaning up of that pollution – only enlarges that waste.

Feb 08 2013

The Drone Wars

There weren’t many questions about the legality of targeted assassinations from the Senators for CIA Director nominee during his hearing before the  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to Pres. Jimmy Carter, said the problem with drones was not the drones themselves but the how they are used. There are many questions about the legality of targeted assassinations, not just with regard to its constitutionality, but its permissibility under international law and treaties.

This analysis by Kevin Gosztola of the Justice Department undated white paper memo that was revealed by Michael Isikoff, discusses the convoluted and weak defense of the program:

According to the Justice Department’s white paper, “The threat posed by al Qaida and its associated forces demands a broader concept of imminence in judging when a person continually planning terror attacks presents an imminent threat, making the use of force appropriate.” A “decision maker” cannot know all the al Qaida plots being planned at any one moment and, as a result, “cannot be confident” no plots are about to occur. There may be a small window of opportunity to take action. And so, the United States does not need to have “clear evidence that a specific attack on US person and interests will take place in the immediate future” to attack a target.

There is absolutely no way the targeted killing program can operate under these incredibly authoritarian presumptions and reasonably considered to follow international law.

UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson, who has launched an investigation into the use of drones and targeted killings by countries for the purposes of fighting terrorism, does not appear to think the US is abiding by international law. [..]

The targeted killing program does not appear to adhere to international law. The Justice Department knows that, which is why it lifted phrases from actual tenets of international law and cited historical analysis of legal questions offered to excuse massive war crimes. That was the best it could do to piece together some kind of argument that it it is legal.

Moreover, the Justice Department’s assertion it can preemptively attack individuals out of “self-defense” is as questionable as the claim Bush made that Iraq posed an “imminent threat” and needed to be attacked out of “self-defense.” Both twist international law to provide cover for the inevitable commitment of atrocities. And, in the end that may not be surprising because, like the justification for war in Iraq, the justification for targeted killings is intended to make normal the use of state-sanctioned murder to further the agenda of American empire.

National security correspondent for The Nation, Jeremy Scahill joined Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez to talk about John Brennan’s testimony fro the Senate committee:

President Obama’s nominee to run the CIA, John Brennan, forcefully defended Obama’s counterterrorism policies, including the increase use of armed drones and the targeted killings of American citizens during his confirmation hearing Thursday. “None of the central questions that should have been asked of John Brennan were asked in an effective way,” says Jeremy Scahill, author of the forthcoming book “Dirty Wars.” “In the cases where people like Sen. Angus King or Sen. Ron Wyden would ask a real question, for instance, about whether or not the CIA has the right to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. The questions were very good – Brennan would then offer up a non-answer. Then there would be almost a no follow-up.” Scahill went on to say, “[Brennan has] served for more than four years as the assassination czar, and it basically looked like they’re discussing purchasing a used car on Capitol hill. And it was total kabuki oversight. And that’s a devastating commentary on where things stand.



Transcript not yet available.

Mr. Brennan’s testimony did raise some serious questions about oversight of this program:

The committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters after the hearing that she wanted to open more of the program to the public so U.S. officials can acknowledge the strikes and correct what she said were exaggerated reports of civilian casualties.

Feinstein said she and other senators were considering legislation to set up a special court system to regulate drone strikes, similar to the one that signs off on government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases. [..]

Feinstein said other senators including Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Pat Leahy, D-Vt., have all indicated “concern and interest” over how to regulate drones.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said some members of his panel also had been looking at establishing a “court-like entity” to review the strikes.

It appears that Mr. Brennan will be confirmed and that should be a huge concern for all Americans.

Dec 15 2012

Dean Baker: The Fiscal Myth

The Biggest Myth in Obama-GOP Spending Showdown is the “Fiscal Cliff” Itself

As negotiations continue between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner, leading economist Dean Baker joins us to discuss the myths about the so-called fiscal cliff. With little more than two weeks before the deadline, President Obama insists on an immediate increase in the top two income-tax rates as a condition for further negotiations on changes to spending and entitlement programs. But Boehner said Washington’s “spending problem” is the biggest roadblock to reaching a deal and has urged the White House to identify more spending cuts. “This idea that, somehow, if we don’t get a deal by the end of the year we’re going to see the economy collapse, go into a recession, really that’s just totally dishonest,” says Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The basis for this is that we don’t have a deal all year. And the fact that you don’t have a deal December 31st does not mean you don’t get a deal by December 31st, 2013.”

Transcript can be read here.

Nov 14 2012

West and Smiley: Obama is Not a Progressive

Tavis Smiley, Cornel West on the 2012 Election & Why Calling Obama “Progressive” Ignores His Record

As the most expensive presidential election in U.S. history comes to an end, broadcaster Tavis Smiley and professor, activist Dr. Cornel West join us to discuss President Obama’s re-election and their hopes for a national political agenda in and outside of the White House during Obama’s second term. At a time when one in six Americans is poor, the price tag for combined spending by federal candidates – along with their parties and outside groups like super PACs – totaled more than $6 billion. Together, West and Smiley have written the new book, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.” Both Tavis and Smiley single out prominent progressives whom they accuse of overlooking Obama’s actual record. “We believe that if [Obama] is not pushed, he’s going to be a transactional president and not a transformational president,” Smiley says. “And we believe that the time is now for action and no longer accommodation. … To me, the most progressive means that you’re taking some serious risk. And I just don’t see the example of that.” West says that some prominent supporters of Obama “want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way.”

Transcript can be read here

Obama is a ‘Republican in Blackface’

“In a recent interview on Democracy Now!, ex-Princeton professor and frequent Obama critic Dr. Cornel West lashed out against the president as well as pundits Michael Eric Dyson, Melissa Harris-Perry and Rev. Al Sharpton.

West called Obama a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface” and said Dyson, Harris-Perry and Sharpton were all “for sale.”

West, along with TV personality Tavis Smiley, has been one of President Barack Obama’s loudest and harshest African-American critics. Although West endorsed and campaigned for Obama during the 2008 campaign, he has since complained that the first black president turned his back on impoverished Americans.”

Cenk Uygur and Jayar Jackson discuss West’s comments and racial attitudes toward Obama in general. Is there a way he should act as both the president and a leader for the black community? How would he manage that?

Nov 08 2012

Election Day Ballot Measures: The Winners & Losers

Besides deciding who would occupy the Oval Office for the next four years and which party would rule in the House and Senate, there were numerous ballot measures and amendments to state constitutions that voters decided. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! discuss the winners and losers of the ballot measures with her guests Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center; Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP; and Laura Flanders, host of GritTV and author of many books, including Bushwomen: How They Won the White House for Their Man.

From Marriage Equality to Legalizing Marijuana, Election Day Ballot Measures Won by Movements

The transcript can be read here.

Advocates of marriage equality ended Tuesday with four out of four victories, as voters legalized same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland, upheld same-sex marriage in Washington state, and defeated a measure to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

Maryland voters also affirmed the DREAM Act, allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition.

In Montana, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that would limit corporate spending on elections, while Colorado voters also resoundingly approved a measure backing a constitutional amendment that would call for the same.

In a historic move, voters in Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use, becoming the first states to do so.

In California, voters defeated a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty and another that would have required labeling of genetically modified foods.

A separate measure to ease penalties for nonviolent offenses under California’s “three-strikes” law was approved.

California voters also rejected a measure that would have curbed the political influence of unions.

There were a few other measures that got an “up or down” vote:

Abortion

Florida’s Amendment 6, which would have banned state resources from funding abortions, was defeated by a 10 percent margin.

Montana also wrestled with abortion issues with LR-120, also known as the Montana Parental Notification Measure, which passed with 70 percent of the vote. LR-120 requires doctors to notify parents of minors under the age of 16 at least 48 hours before performing an abortion.

Church vs. State

Florida voters rejected Amendment 8, which would have overturned the so-called Blaine Amendment, which prohibits religious organizations from receiving direct state funding. The measure failed 56 to 44 percent.

“This proposed amendment would have done nothing to preserve religious liberty,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, claiming that it would have instead “stripped away key safeguards.”

Assisted Suicide

Massachusetts’ Question 2, better known as the “Death with Dignity Act,” official was too close to call, but supporters nonetheless conceded defeat. The act would have legalized physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients expected to die within six months. The measure was strongly opposed by the state’s Catholic bishops.

Marijuana

Six states voted on measures concerning marijuana. Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana and Washington passed measures liberalizing marijuana use. Measures in Arkansas and Oregon failed.

The measures in Arkansas, Massachusetts and Montana dealt with medical marijuana, while the measures in Colorado, Oregon and Washington sought to legalize state-regulated recreational marijuana. Recreational pot use in Colorado and Washington state will now be legal once the measure is fully implemented, although many observers expect a conflict with federal drug laws.

Gambling

Maryland approved Question 7, which greatly expanded casino gambling within the state, particularly in suburban Washington. Rhode Island voters approved two new casinos, and Oregon rejected private casinos.

Nov 08 2012

Drone Wars & War Crimes Will Continue

A major topic that was never mentioned during any of the campaign speeches or debates from either of the two major party candidates was the continued, and escalating, use of drones in the eternally, nebulous war on terror. During the election night coverage at Democracy Now!, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich discuss the expansion of the drone war and the targeted assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen struck by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last year.

In Obama’s 2nd Term, Will Dems Challenge U.S. Drones, Killings?

The transcript can be read here.

Dec 05 2010

The Wikileaks Debate

Democracy Now hosted a debate about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The guests were Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional law attorney and legal blogger for Salon and Steven Aftergood, senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. He directs the Project on Government Secrecy and runs Secrecy News. The transcript is in this link to Democracy Now.

Is WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a Hero? Glenn Greenwald Debates Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News

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