Photo credit: Reuters

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

XKeyscore: Stasi on Steroids

Dear Mr. President,
Yesterday Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage, theft and Computer Fraud and Abuse. Unclear about the latter, I looked it up. Sure enough, it’s a crime to intentionally access a computer and obtain information from any department or agency of the United States. Guilty as charged. But there’s also a section of the act that makes “distribution of malicious code” a crime. Stuxnet and Flame was code inserted into Iran’s computer systems to slow down their nuclear program. Isn’t that a crime or doesn’t it apply to the government? I looked up “espionage” in my dictionary: “The act or practice of spying or using spies to obtain secret information.” Manning was guilty of that, too: the videos documenting war crimes—the helicopter gunship pilots laughing as they gunned down innocent Iraqi civilians—was classified; so were the war logs that revealed a far different picture of the wars than the generals and politicians presented. Then, this morning, the Guardian revealed “XKeyscore,” the NSA program that collects nearly everything from everybody and allows any analyst to sift through it without a court order or oversight. Edward Snowden claimed he could have gone through your emails—including the content—had he wanted to. Rep. Rogers (R-MI) said Snowden was lying but it turns out Snowden was right; XKeyscore is Stasi on Steroids, a massive espionage program and a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. Or doesn’t that apply either? And isn’t hacking into other countries’ computer networks, the G-20, the EU, the UN, a violation of the Espionage Act? Or is government above the law? In The Audacity of Hope you wrote: “the people’s instincts for fair play and common sense…” My instinct is that the government is not playing fair when it sends a whistleblower to prison for life and lets those who lie, torture, kill, violate the Constitution, domestic and international law and human rights go unpunished. Rep. Rogers and Rep. Ruppersberger (D-MD) issued a joint statement yesterday on Manning’s conviction: “Justice has been served today, Pfc. Manning harmed our national security, violated the public’s trust, and now stands convicted of multiple serious crimes.” Manning’s conviction for revealing war crimes and government malfeasance was not justice but a travesty of justice. The traitors are not the Mannings and Snowdens who reveal the truth but the Rogers and Ruppersbergers, the Feinsteins and Clappers who lie and cover up the crimes of our government.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Manning's Verdit on Kill List Tuesday a Warning to Snowden

Dear Mr. President,
It’s fitting that Bradley Manning’s verdict is read on Kill List Tuesday—as much justice in Manning’s trial as in your selection of those to be killed this week. The Manning verdict was a foregone conclusion months ago, maybe years ago. Guilty as charged on all counts (except the over-the-top aiding the enemy). 130 years. You’re putting that boy away for life, sending a clear message to any other Bradley Mannings out there that the consequences of exposing war crimes and government malfeasance is life in prison. The secret findings and secret memos justifying the assassination of both foreign and American citizens is not unlike the trial of Pfc Manning. Held in a military courtroom next to NSA headquarters at Ft. Meade, the judge had a reputation for handling—i.e., controlling—the press. Armed guards wanded, searched and intimidated the small press corps, isolated in a media center away from the courtroom, watching the trial on a video feed. There was little resemblance to a real court of law—no court transcripts, no recorded video or other court documents, and only 70 press credentials issued (more than 350 were requested). The photos of Manning being led to and from the courtroom tells the story. There’s one in today’s NYT (p. A12); he’s in handcuffs, a burly guard on each side, the top of his beret barely reaching the guards’ shoulders. As Kay Rudin, a sketch artist covering the trial says, “He is tiny…. He's literally the size of a 12-year-old. The tiniest little man is also the biggest in the room in several ways… Manning is surrounded by huge fullbacks who really hate him [because] he's also the smartest guy in the room.” ( In the epilogue of Dreams from My Father, you make this statement: “The study of law can be disappointing at times, a matter of applying narrow rules and arcane procedure to an uncooperative reality; a sort of glorified accounting that serves to regulate the affairs of those who have power—and all too often seeks to explain, to those who do not, the ultimate wisdom and justness of their condition.” This seems to be your guiding principal as president—the manipulation of law to protect power and then explain the wisdom and justice of your power to those who have none. Stay safe, Edward Snowden, and out of reach of the American juggernaut for there is no justice in the land of the free or the home of the brave.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bud Day, War Hero and Garry Davis, World Hero

Dear Mr. President,
Two obits in today’s NYT—“Col. Bud Day, Heroic Pilot in Vietnam War, Dies at 88” and “Garry Davis, ‘World Citizen’ and Peace Advocate, Is Dead at 91”—are a contrast in world view. Bud Day was a Marine in WW II, Garry Davis a bomber pilot. After the war, Day went to college, got a law degree and an officer’s commission in the Air Force Reserve. Davis, on the other hand, had an epiphany about war while on a bombing mission over Germany: “How many bombs had I dropped? How many men, women and children had I murdered? Wasn’t there another way?” In 1948, Davis walked into the American Embassy in Paris, renounced his citizenship and declared himself a citizen of the world. He believed that if there were no nation-states, there would be no wars.The nation-state is a political fiction which perpetuates anarchy and is the breeding ground of war, Allegiance to a nation is a collective suicide pact.” In November 1948, he stormed into the UN General Assembly and proclaimed, “We, the people, want the peace which only a world government can give. The sovereign states you represent divide us and lead us to the abyss of total war.” For the rest of his life Davis remained stateless, advocated one world government and peace, and was arrested numerous times crossing borders with only a World Citizen passport. Bud Day, on the other hand, became a war hero. In 1951 he was recalled to active duty and flew a fighter-bomber, tracking Soviet planes off the coast of Japan. He volunteered for Vietnam and on August 26, 1967, Day’s F-100 was shot down over North Vietnam and he was captured. He spent 5 years in North Vietnamese prisons including the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ with John McCain and James Stockdale (Ross Perot’s running mate). He was tortured, beaten and starved but divulged only false information. He is among the most decorated American servicemen in history but was never promoted to general. After retirement he practiced law, campaigned for McCain (twice) and was active in the Swift Boat smear of John Kerry. Garry Davis’ movement has a million world citizens—Camus, Sartre, Schweitzer and Einstein among them—and has issued 2.5 million passports, birth and marriage certificates and ID cards. Last year Davis sent Julian Assange a world passport; a few weeks ago he sent one to Edward Snowden. But life is unfair: Garry Davis who worked all his life for peace never got a Nobel Peace Prize while a promoter of war, Kill Lists, drone strikes and indefinite detention did.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Holder’s Letter, Obama’s Grandfather

Dear Mr. President,
An article in today’s NYT (“U.S. Letter Says Leaker Won’t Face Death Penalty” p.A4) is shocking and surreal. Holder’s letter to his Russian counterpart assured him that the U.S. won’t torture or kill Edward Snowden if he’s returned, even if death penalty charges are added. Imagine. The U.S. Department of Justice assuring Russia that we won’t torture or kill a whistle blower who exposed his government’s criminal activity and violations of the Constitution! Think about that, Mr. President, how far we’ve fallen from even the low standards of the Bush era. Who can believe Holder’s promise not to torture Snowden? Not Manning; he was tortured in U.S. military prisons for almost a year. Not any of the Guantanamo prisoners or the ones in Abu Ghraib or Bagram who were beaten, brutalized and waterboarded. And try telling it to any of the estimated 30,000 prisoners in solitary confinement on any given day in U.S. prisons. But aside from torture, how many people believe Snowden would last long in a U.S. prison? Some mysterious ailment, a previously unknown heart condition, he stops breathing; a prison autopsy, he’s buried in a prison graveyard or dumped out to sea like bin Laden, end of story. Holder’s assurances ring hollow. Government officials are not to be trusted, not even you, Mr. President; your word isn’t worth a plugged nickel. In Dreams from My Father your paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango, was both feared and respected. Feared because he was mean and demanding but respected because he lived by a strict code of honor: to always do what he said he would do. Your aunt Zeituni tells you the story of a man who wanted to cross your grandfather’s land with a goat and your grandfather refused, “the goat will eat my plants.” But the man persisted and finally your grandfather said, “You can pass with your goat. But if even one leaf is harmed, then I will cut down your goat also.” Zeituni and your grandfather followed the man and sure enough, the goat soon started eating a plant. Whack! your grandfather killed the goat with his machete. “If I say I will do something, I must do it. Otherwise, how will people know that my word is true?” your grandfather said and the village council agreed, clearing him of charges. What happened in two generations? You are the opposite of Hussein Onyango; you say one thing and do another; you keep no promises, no vows, no pledges and no one believes you or trusts you. Your grandfather must be spinning in his grave.

Pelosi Fiddles While America (and the World) Burns

Dear Representative Pelosi,
I received your email letter Thursday thanking me for expressing my “support for the arts,” how “A great nation must invest in artistic and cultural development…” and how you have “fought to protect funding for the arts in San Francisco and across the country.” Yes, we need more funding for the arts, but I don’t recall writing a letter about it. Perhaps a mention in passing while decrying Congress’s slashing of funds for social services and infrastructure or the CIA’s monthly delivery of bags of cash to Karzai in Kabul or the spending of billions to kill and destroy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, but my letters are almost exclusively focused on the immoral, soul-destroying war of terror we’re waging around the globe and the destruction of democracy here at home—a surveillance state where the government operates in secrecy and everything is justified as critical to national security. Yes, I am for more funding of the arts, but I am vehemently opposed to the funding of wars and death, opposed to supporting corrupt and despotic regimes abroad, opposed to an expanding police state here at home, and I see you as part of the problem, Ms. Pelosi: complicit by voting against the Amash Amendment on Wednesday; complicit by calling Snowden a “criminal” last month but remaining silent on those like Clapper and Alexander who lied to Congress and the public; complicit by accusing Snowden of threatening to release information to Russia and China, an unfounded claim completely counter to the facts. But then, you have a long history of twisting truth and betraying trust. In 2002 you assented to torture; in 2006 you blocked a move to impeach Bush; in 2011 your insider trading was exposed; and in 2012 you agreed to put Medicare and Social Security on the table for cuts. During your time in office you’ve enabled the Executive to amass power and run roughshod over the rest of the world and our own citizens. I’m glad you fight to fund the arts but I’m distressed that you’ve done nothing to stop injustice and the abuse of power of this and the previous administration. I want an end to war, an end to drones, an end to illegal surveillance, an end to corporate control of government and I see you doing nothing about any of it. We need new legislators and a new president with a moral center, respect for law, the Constitution and human rights who will promote life not death. Write again when you have something to say on any of these issues.
cc: President Barack Obama

Friday, July 26, 2013

Snowden and Manning or Clapper and Alexander: Who are the Real Traitors?

Dear Mr. President,
The NYT reported on the Bradley Manning trial today (“In Closing Argument, Prosecutor Casts Soldier as ‘Anarchist’ for Leaking Archives” p. A12). The Times calls it a “high-profile” trial even though their coverage is near zero. But today they dutifully repeated the the prosecution’s closing arguments: “Pfc. Manning was not a humanist; he was a hacker,” Major Fein said, adding: “He was not a whistle-blower. He was a traitor…” Fein called the WikiLeaks staff “information anarchists” and Manning an “anarchist.” He also claimed Manning turned over documents to WikiLeaks “in a bid for ‘notoriety, although in a clandestine form’” which seems an oxymoron, but when you have no case all you can do is call someone names and assassinate their character. Most fascinating, however, was this: “While Major Fein made his arguments, reporters watched the trial on a closed-circuit feed at the media center. Two military police officers in camouflage fatigues and armed with holstered handguns paced behind each row there, looking over the journalists’ shoulders, which had not happened during the trial. No explanation was given.” I know you view the press as the enemy but isn’t this a bit over the top? And speaking of your war on the press, Abdulelah Hider Shaye, the Yemeni journalist who exposed the U.S.’s missile attack on the village of al-Majalah and stayed in prison 2½ years due to your personal intervention, got released Tuesday. Maybe you don’t carry as much weight with President Hadi as you did with President Saleh or maybe you weren’t paying attention what with Snowden and Congress’s revolt over the NSA. Speaking of Snowden, the Guardian reported today that Holder sent a letter to his Russian counterpart assuring him that we wouldn’t seek the death penalty so Russia should send him back for prosecution. And Tuesday, Geoffrey Robertson’s article ( pointed out our history of forcing down commercial jets carrying a suspect so we can arrest them, which explains why Snowden didn’t take that flight to Havana last month and why he’s staying in Moscow for now, reading Crime and Punishment and learning Russian. Tell me again who’s the real traitor? Snowden and Manning or Clapper and Alexander? Snowden and Manning or the liars who “overreach, misleading the public and covering up abuse and mistakes.” (NYT “Spy Agencies Under Heaviest Scrutiny Since… the ‘70s” p. A13).

Billions for Kabul, Not a Dime for Detroit

Dear Mr. President,
Today’s NYT (“Taliban Seize Police Force In a Hamlet” p. A4) reports that yesterday the village of Kala Khel received “some of the best news they had heard all year”—the entire Afghan Local Police unit assigned to their hamlet had been kidnapped by the Taliban Wednesday night. The 14-man unit has been beating and stealing from villagers every day since they arrived 5 months ago. So much for the American strategy of local militias taking over as we leave; most Afghans see them as little more than thugs, criminals, village toughs and, many times, Taliban sympathizers. But train them we do—to operate just like their mentors, the Special Forces—and what do they do but act like a bunch of Afghan Rambos, stealing possessions (they especially like motorcycles) and extorting money from villagers, beating, sometimes torturing and killing them like the ones in Wardak Province earlier this year who tortured and killed 17 civilians—or maybe it was the U.S. Special Forces who did it. Or maybe a covert team of CIA assassins; it’s hard to tell one group from another, they all have big guns, facial hair and a mean look. How many billions have we spent on this program, Mr. President, and how many more billions did you commit to? It’s reported that we’ll be propping up the most corrupt government in the world—Afghanistan’s—for at least another decade and that means more billions a year to train, equip and pay their 350,000 man security force they can’t afford. Meanwhile, in a NYT Op-Ed today, “Come See Detroit, America’s Future” by Charlie LeDuff, we get a look at the future of America as seen through bankrupt Detroit—tens of thousands of abandoned homes, streets unlighted, cop cars with floorboards rusted through, no computers or air conditioning, firefighting rigs without maintenance, bodies lying in the open for 6½ hours before an understaffed morgue can send someone to pick them up, a 58-minute wait for a 911 call (the whole system down for 15 hours the other day) and cops taking gunshot victims to hospitals in their squad cars because there are no ambulances available (2/3 of the city’s fleet is broken on any given day). Detroit owes $18 billion and who’s going to pay? Not the banks or the fat cat bondholders, their loans secured by physical assets that will be sold off. It’s the pensioners, the poor, the civil servants. Billions for Kabul, not a dime for Detroit. The collateral damage of war. Jefferson County, Alabama, Stockton, Detroit… who’s next?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Snowden Stuck, Amash Fails, Mayorkas Under Investigation

Dear Mr. President,
Not a good day for justice or democracy. Edward Snowden’s still stuck in the transit terminal of the Moscow airport and the Amash amendment to strip the NSA of funds for illegally collecting phone call metadata was defeated, the USPS will no longer deliver mail to the front door of new homes and I write my representatives but it does no good—Feinstein is your spearchucker, a true believer on national security, Pelosi’s a faithful party hack waiting to get the Speaker’s seat back from Boehner and Boxer seems to have lost her way. But the vote today was close; it lost by only 12 votes and more Democrats voted for it than against it in spite of your intense lobbying to kill it. What’s discouraging though, is that no one (except for outsiders like ex-Sen. Humphrey) is defending Snowden’s act of moral courage that brought all this on. Like the Mexican woman living under the freeway that I wrote about yesterday, Snowden just doesn’t have the right connections and so, he’s left to twist in the wind. Having the right connections is what it’s all about; it gets you places. Like that SEC guy who took a $5 million a year job with a law firm representing Wall Street clients before the SEC. Or your pick for the #2 spot at DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas who, it turns out, is under investigation for helping a Chinese investor gain a special visa after the initial application had been denied and the appeal rejected. Turns out these special EB-5 visas are for rich people who invest $500,000 to $1 million in U.S. businesses. And this rich Chinese guy was investing his money not with just any U.S. company but with Gulf Coast Funds Management LLC whose CEO is none other than Anthony Rodham, your pal and former Secretary of State Hilary’s brother. And not only did Mayorkas cut a shady deal here, but also, as a U.S. Attorney, drew heat for lobbying Hilary’s hubby Bill while he was president to commute the prison sentence of the son of a heavy Democratic donor. The donor had also hired another of Hilary’s brothers, Hugh Rodham to lobby on his behalf. Mayorkas is now Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, being bumped up by you either for his connections or his service to the country. In any case, what’s obvious from all this is that you folks back in D.C.-land have got everything wired while we out here on the hustings are still trying to connect the dots. But fissures keep appearing in the dykes, Mr. President, and stuff happens. Keep Hope Alive!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Living Under the Freeway

Dear Mr. President,
I took the wrong bus today and ended up some distance from my destination but rather than backtrack or take another bus, I decided to walk. My route took me under the freeway, an area of warehouses and big box stores, parking lots and storage yards. And homeless. The throwaways, the detritus, the druggies, the drunks, the mentally ill, the ones no one wants in their neighborhood or anywhere in sight; men—both black and white—with hard chipped faces laying, sitting or standing on the sidewalk with their ratty blankets and shopping carts, stuffed plastic bags tied to the sides. Mostly shopping carts, but there were a few wagons and garbage cans on wheels, anything that rolled so they could pack quickly when the cops came by to roust them and Move on! Move on! But there was one woman in her 40s, Mexican, her face not ravaged by drugs or drink or mental illness, sweeping with a broom her area, a small encampment of 4 carts neatly lined up with blankets folded and boxes and bags stacked, a picture of a young girl—maybe her daughter—fastened to one of the carts. Through the stench of urine and misery she was struggling to do more than just survive another day, she was trying to reclaim some part of a home she once had, a life she once had. I was reminded of Lolo telling you when you were a boy giving coins to beggars in Djakarta that you didn’t have enough coins to give all the beggars, to not be foolish and give all your money away lest you end up like them. In today’s NYT (p. A1) there’s an article about a top Wall Street regulator who worked 17 years at the SEC and left recently to take a job with a law firm representing Wall Street clients at SEC hearings. His starting salary? $5 million a year. On page A4, an article about the latest Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction report detailing failed reconstruction projects—unneeded military headquarters, unused schools, unfinished highways and electrical plants, a project to prevent roadside IEDs that was only partly done— graft, fraud, theft, missing records, mismanaged, no oversight, much of the $90 billion gone for naught. But no money to bail out Detroit or Stockton or Jefferson County, Alabama. $2 billion for the new NSA data center in Utah to store purloined data but no money for the Mexican woman sweeping garbage from her spot under the freeway who’s down on her luck and doesn’t have the right connections. The American dream is now part of the illusion of American justice.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Snowden, Manning, Abdulelah Hider Shaea and American Justice

Dear Mr. President,
Here’s still more news the NYT thinks not fit to print: on Friday, Col. Denise Lind permitted the prosecution to “rebut” the defense in the Bradley Manning trial and call back a witness who suddenly “remembered” Manning tell her the “flag means nothing to me.” A new rule you and Eric cooked up? If prosecutors blow the case against a whistleblower, even after they’ve rested, they get another shot? Even if the allegation is undocumented and no other witnesses? Here’s how my dictionary defines kangaroo court “1. A mock court set up in violation of established legal procedures. 2. A court characterized by dishonesty or incompetence.” Why not fly Manning directly to Guantanamo and put him with the other 166 indefinitely detained men you deem enemies of the state and stop the charade? CNN reported today that an NSA source (leaker?) said Edward Snowden didn’t get the “crown jewels.” Well, that’s reassuring. Also disconcerting. What else are they doing that we don’t know about? What other violations of law? What other criminal activity? And late today, one of Snowden’s Russian lawyers believes he’ll be able to leave the airport by Wednesday. I hope so. I hope he didn’t have to pay too high a price to the devil to get sprung. And I hope he finds safe refuge and stays out of the hands of America’s assassins and kidnappers, although the odds aren’t in his favor. As he said in that first interview, “If they want to get you they’ll get you.” And here’s something you said in Dreams from My Father: “But power was patient and knew what it wanted; power could outwait slogans and prayers and candlelight vigils.” That knowledge is useful now in your pursuit of Edward Snowden. Patience. Assure everyone that he didn’t get the “crown jewels” then, when everyone relaxes and the TV cameras no longer follow him, make him suddenly disappear, silence him forever; show all other would-be whistleblower what happens when you expose high crimes and misdemeanors. Kill them, imprison them, at the very least ruin their lives. Not only here but anywhere. I think of Abdulelah Haider Shaea, the Yemeni journalist who reported that the U.S. launched Tomahawk cruise missiles armed with cluster bombs against the village of al-Majalah in Yemen on Dec. 17, 2009, killing 21 women, 14 children and 7 men. He is still in prison because you personally called Saleh and threatened to cut off American counter-terrorism funds if he was released.* American Justice. A travesty. A tragedy.

* See my letter of April 11, 2011

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Edward Snowden and Sen. Gordon Humphrey Speak

Dear Mr. President,
Here’s more news the NYT apparently thought not fit to print: an email exchange last Monday between former Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and Edward Snowden. I found it on Glenn Greenwald’s Guardian blog ( “Mr. Snowden, Provided you have not leaked information that would put in harms way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution. Having served in the United States Senate for twelve years as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I think I have a good grounding to reach my conclusion. I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere. Kindly acknowledge this message, so that I will know it reached you. Regards, Gordon J. Humphrey.” Greenwald emailed Sen. Humphrey to verify the email was his and here is part of Humphrey’s reply: “To my knowledge, Mr. Snowden has disclosed only the existence of a program and not details that would place any person in harm's way. I regard him as a courageous whistle-blower. I object to the monumentally disproportionate campaign being waged by the U.S. Government against Edward Snowden, while no effort is being made to identify, remove from office and bring to justice those officials who have abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States and the rights of millions of unsuspecting citizens.” Here is Ed Snowden’s response (in part) to Sen. Humphrey:Thank you for your words of support. I only wish more of our lawmakers shared your principles - the actions I've taken would not have been necessary. The media has distorted my actions and intentions to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations and instead focus on personalities… Perhaps, in such times, loving one's country means being hated by its government. If history proves that be so, I will not shy from that hatred. I will not hesitate to wear those charges of villainy for the rest of my life as a civic duty…” There’s not much I can add except urge you to reflect on their exchange and the course you have chosen for yourself, for our country, for the world. It is not the path to peace or security but rather, the path to tyranny and injustice. You surely know this, Mr. President. You also know history will not treat you kindly.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Obama's New Rule: You've Got Rights But You Can't Enforce Them

Dear Mr. President,
Yesterday in Federal District Court in Washington, Judge Rosemary Collyer heard a government request to dismiss a suit charging violation of the constitutional rights of Anwar and Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, all American citizens and all killed in drone strikes in Yemen in 2011 without charges, evidence or a trial. The DoJ lawyer, Brian Hauck, argued that the Executive “could kill American citizens it designated as dangerous, with no role for courts to review the decision.” (Today’s NYT, “Judge Challenges White House Claims on Authority in Drone Killings” p. A8) Judge Collyer asked if the government believed “that a U.S. citizen targeted by the United States in a foreign country has no constitutional rights… Hauck acknowledged that Americans targeted overseas do have rights, but he said they could not be enforced in court either before or after the Americans were killed.” Whoa! We have rights, we just can’t enforce them? Astounding! This argument could apply to all constitutional right—we have them but we can’t enforce them. Further, he argued, “Judges… have neither the expertise nor the tools necessary to assess the danger posed by terrorists, the feasibility of capturing them or when and how they should be killed” and besides, he said, targeted assassinations have adequate oversight and checks within the Executive. That’s when Judge Collyer, a G.W. appointee and FISA court judge got testy: “No, no, no… The executive is not an effective check on the executive.” This exchange illustrates how far we’ve strayed from the rule of law, how laws and justice have been distorted beyond recognition, where government is no longer accountable to anyone, where plaintiffs have “no standing” and where the Judiciary is dismissed as incapable of judging the Executive. In your warped vision of America, no one has a right to privacy, whistleblowers are traitors, assassins are heroes, the law is whatever you say it is and every government act is necessary for national security. The President of the United States is neither above the law nor is he or she, The Law. The Constitution is the basic law of the land, a document you took a sacred oath—twice—to uphold. You violated that oath—and the Constitution—in the most blatant and profound ways imaginable. We are no longer a democracy nor are we truly free. We have become a rogue state wreaking violence, terror and injustice on the world. You should be stripped of your Nobel Peace Prize and impeached.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Obama and Holder Knock Off the 1st Amendment

Dear Mr. President,
“‘We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected,’ said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. The talk of human rights rang hollow to the Kremlin given the Snowden case. Mr. Putin has suggested that Washington is being hypocritical in complaining about Russian actions while seeking to prosecute a leaker who exposed American surveillance programs.” (Today’s NYT, “Obama May Cancel Moscow Trip as Tensions Build Over Leaker” p. A10) Not only Snowden, but Manning, Kirakou, Drake, Binney and others. And the hits keep coming. The federal appeals court in Richmond, VA, ruled today that reporters have no 1st Amendment protections when it comes to confidentiality of sources in criminal cases, in this instance, the government’s case against Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent charged with “revealing state secrets”—information about the U.S. cyberattack on Iran—to James Risen of the NY Times. You and Holder must be high-fivin’ it in the Oval Office for knocking off another constitutional guarantee, the 1st Amendment, to add to your string—the 4th, 5th, 6th,and 8th Amendments. With the 1st Amendment gone, no more leaks, no more investigative reporting and no more oversight of government by We the People. The perfect Security State. Mission Accomplished! Also in today’s NYT, (“N.S.A. Imposes Rules to Protect Secret Data Stored on Its Networks”, p. A16) there’s a photo of General Alexander, Director of National Intelligence, in full uniform, a chest full of ribbons and medals, gold stripes up his arms and gold stars on his shoulders, announcing the new 4,000 man-strong cyberteams in the Pentagon’s push for “conducting cyberoffense and –defense operations…” which will be under his command. He also announced new safeguards to prevent another Snowden fiasco. No talk of ending the illegal collection of every phone call, email and mouse click on the internet, though. “Privacy is a kind of power and a right,” Rebecca Solnit said in an open letter to Edward Snowden ( One by one you eliminate our rights, criminalize assembly and protest, suppress dissent and, at the same time, strip us of any semblance of privacy. That, Mr. President, is called tyranny.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Snowden, Manning and American Justice

Dear Mr. President,
On November 19, 2005 in Haditha, Iraq, 24 unarmed civilians including 7 children, a toddler, 3 women and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair were gunned down by Marines at close range. None of those Marines spent a single day in prison—charges against 6 of them were dropped, a 7th was found not guilty and the 8th was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and reduced in rank. Today Col. Denise Lind refused to drop the “aiding the enemy” charge against Bradley Manning in spite of the government’s failure to show Manning was aware the information he released to WikiLeaks would be read by the enemy, knowledge the defense showed that even his trainers and supervisors were unaware of. Manning has spent more than 3 years in prison, one year under conditions of torture. The military justice system is a travesty. In today’s NYT Op-Ed (“The Drone That Killed My Grandson”), Nasser al-Awlaki says he is filing another suit in federal court demanding the U.S. government explain the justification for assassinating—without evidence, charges, or trial—his American son, Anwar, and his 16-year-old American grandson, Abdulrahman, in drone strikes in Yemen in 2011. In previous attempts to file suit, the court has ruled he has “no standing.” Yesterday a federal appeals court in New York reversed a ruling that prohibited indefinite detention authorized by the 2012 NDAA, ruling that the plaintiffs “lacked standing.” Indefinite detention is now the law of the land. (Today’s NYT, “Challenges To Policies On Terror Are Halted” p. A14) Also yesterday, a federal appeals court in Washington reversed a federal judge’s order to stop groin searches of Guantanamo prisoners. Edward Snowden was right to flee the U.S. He knew if he stayed he’d be locked up, silenced, tortured, never again set foot outside a prison. He knows there is no longer justice in America. The system is rigged, the outcomes whatever the State wants. In our Orwellian system, to spy on the spies is espionage and to reveal criminal activity by the government is treason. In 2008, you said that laws are not subject to the whims of rulers and that justice is not arbitrary and yet, that is exactly the path your administration has taken for the past 4 years, We no longer have a system of justice but a system of tyranny; we are no longer a democracy because democracy requires the rule of law and transparency. Your legacy, Mr. President, what you will be remembered for, is the Man Who Lost Democracy in America.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Obama: A Tale of Betrayal and Cowardice

Dear Mr. President,
In Dreams from My Father, you go deep into the psychology of race, of powerlessness, suppression and rage. Your description of how capitalism destroys cultures and then abandons them is brilliant. Your ruminations on black identity in White America is profound; the desperation and hopelessness in the projects of Chicago where you worked as an organizer gives us some insight into the causes of despair and lack of cohesion and community. As I read this section of your book—Chicago—I kept flashing on where you are now, sitting in the White House, a seat of power and playing the game the way it’s always been played—backroom deals and secret handshakes. How you’ve abandoned and betrayed not only all those people in Altgeld Gardens on Chicago’s South Side, but all the people who elected you, who longed for the change you promised to bring—a return to the rule of law, to morality, to the end of unjust wars and the maldistribution of wealth, to a transparent government and to a reining in of the Banksters on Wall Street. But no sooner did you take office than you grew deaf to the voice of conscience and morality, blind to the suffering of others and divorced from your own humanity. When you wrote that book in 1995, you understood and clearly wanted change, but over the intervening years you changed, turned your back on all that and lost your moral compass but kept up the pretense, and it make me angry that you had the talent, the ability, the rare opportunity and the moral obligation to make a difference, to deliver on your promise of Hope that you campaigned on in 2008, and you threw it away, squandered something that may not come around again for decades—if ever—and the desperate lives left in the wake of your betrayal is on your shoulders, on your conscience, on your soul for all eternity. It is the most immoral, most evil kind of betrayal and one label for that is “traitor.” You are the real traitor to America, Mr. President, not Snowden, not Manning, not Drake or Binney or Kiriakou or any of those who stand up for freedom and justice. Compare yourself to Snowden: he risked everything to reveal the truth, gave up everything—a comfortable life, a comfortable job, a secure future—to expose the high crimes and misdemeanors of your government, knowing his life would never be the same. You, on the other hand, have never risked a thing. You play it safe, take the easy way, the path of least resistance. You are not only a traitor, you are a coward.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Snowden's Leaks Are Grounds to Impeach

Dear Mr. President,
Here’s what you said on June 7, two days after Edward Snowden’s first disclosure of illegal NSA surveillance appeared in the press: “I welcome this debate and I think it's healthy for our democracy,” Yeah, right. Like most of what you’ve said over the past 4½ years, it sounded good and that’s what people wanted to hear, but the truth is, your administration has done everything in its power to silence Snowden, trapping him in a Moscow airport so he has no choice but to ask for asylum in Russia until he can travel safely on to Venezuela or Bolivia or Nicaragua. Putin doesn’t want him but it’s a chance to stick his finger in your eye and he’s not going to pass that up. The debate you claimed you wanted will take place, not in the court of public opinion but in federal courts, no doubt including the Supreme Court. As Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU said, the government has been playing a “shell game” with the Constitution, blocking every attempt to stop the NSA’s illegal surveillance, arguing in Clapper v. Amnesty International that the plaintiffs had no standing because they were unable to show that the NSA was spying on them. In other cases, government lawyers invoked the state secrets privilege and that old standby, national security, to avoid revealing anything about the program. But one 29-year-old hacker (your term) brought all the lying and secrecy to a halt by revealing the truth. Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit in San Francisco federal court on behalf of many plaintiffs including Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch and the Council on American Islamic Relations, to stop the NSA surveillance program. Last month, the ACLU filed a similar suit in New York federal court and other suits against the NSA have been filed as well. Without Mr. Snowden, none of this would be taking place. Something else you said on June 7: that the two most important commitments you made on taking office were to keep the American people safe and to uphold the Constitution. Clapper, Alexander, Brennan and others in your administration have lied to Congress and the American people. Snowden has sparked a debate that you yourself have described as “healthy for democracy.” Why then, are you charging Edward Snowden with espionage? And why did you not fire Clapper and Alexander who are guilty of contempt of Congress and have undermined the Constitution? You have failed your oath to uphold the Constitution, Mr. President, and that is grounds for impeachment.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Obama: More Orwellian than Machiavellian

Dear Mr. President,
I watched a video with clips of Candidate Obama in 2008 juxtaposed against clips of a President Obama press conference after Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA. ( Here’s what you said in 2008:“No more illegal wiretapping of American citizens, no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime, no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war, no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient.” After Snowden revealed the scope of illegal surveillance and bald-face lies to Congress and the American public by Clapper, Alexander and others, here’s what you said, picking and choosing your weasel-words carefully: “The relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs. These are programs that have been authorized by broad bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006.” That statement was refuted by numerous legislators and one author of the Patriot Act said they never intended it to be interpreted as you have. Intercepting phone calls and internet traffic is not just illegal, it’s creepy. Here’s what else is creepy: a secret FISA court with no oversight; secret laws that can’t be revealed; assassination of American citizens (and foreigners) without legal recourse; Kill Lists (now called a “disposition matrix”); indefinite detention; force-feeding hunger strikers in Guantanamo. More lies: an article in The Guardian, ( reveals that we still run black sites in east Africa, we still render suspected terrorists to prisons run by Allies in the Middle East and Central Asia, and we still ‘rendition to justice”—the latest euphemism for kidnapping a suspect, hooding him and flying him to the U.S. for trial (Mahdi Hashi, for example). The Obama legacy is more Orwellian than Machiavellian, more Kafkaesque than Alice in Wonderland, and it proves you were not the lesser of two evils in 2012 but the more effective evil. Romney would have been a disaster but the Democrats and the Left would have been forced to come out of their somnolent trance and oppose the evil rather than keeping their eyes closed to it. I read today in the NYT (“Documentary Film is Planned On Schoolgirl Shot by Taliban” p. B3) that Malala Yousafzai has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Edward Snowden should also be nominated. And yours should be rescinded.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Malala Yousafzai, Edward Snowden, Hope for the Future

Dear Mr. President,
Yesterday was Malaladay at the UN, honoring and celebrating Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday. She spoke to a gathering of the Youth Assembly about the importance and power of education—“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world”—and called for world leaders to provide free compulsory education for all children. (Her call puts us to shame as we dismantle our public education system.) She spoke about human rights and her belief and faith in nonviolence, a belief learned from her parents, from Mohammed, from Jesus, from Martin Luther King, from Gandhi and others—“I do not even hate the Talib who shot me,” she said. “Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was in front of me, I would not shoot him.” The power of education, the power of love. She was poised, eloquent and certain, and as I write this I am reminded of something you wrote at the end of Chapter 9 in Dreams from My Father: “…in politics, like religion, power lay in certainty—and that one man’s certainty always threatened another’s.” Reagan’s Freedom Fighters in the 1980s are your terrorists today, which goes back to the Arabic proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Malala’s speech and her call for education and nonviolence put the lie to that proverb however, and she shames all who live by that dictum, who preach and practice hatred and violence, who call whistleblowers traitors, who reward torturers and assassins, who operate in secret, ignore laws and trample human rights, who cannot distinguish good from evil and no longer care. Malala Yousafzai gives hope in this angry, fearful, ignorant world deaf to the cry for peace and common humanity. Edward Snowden, like Malala, also gives us hope. Hope that not everyone has sold out or been cowed by the power of the state. Like Malala, he has defied power to call for education—in this case, education of the public about the excesses and deceit of our government—in hopes of starting a dialogue about whether this is the kind of world we want. And like Malala’s enemies, Snowden’s enemies are doing everything in their power to silence him. I hope there will also be a Snowdenday at the UN to honor this courageous American patriot who believes in democracy and the power of truth and transparency, who believes that a government operating in secrecy is a danger to us all. Edward Snowden and Malala Yousafzai, a new generation of voices for justice and freedom. Listen to them, Mr. President, they are the future.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Snowden and Manning, Obama Untethered

Dear Mr. President,
At Ft. Meade on Wednesday, the defense rested in the Bradley Manning trial after only 3 days and 10 witnesses. The government’s case is so weak that there’s not much to defend against. Few reporters covered it and few papers bothered to report on it—more news not fit to print I guess. Nevertheless, the heart of the government’s case—that Osama bin Laden read WikiLeaks and therefore Manning knowingly provided information to the enemy—was blown out of the water by Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor and WikiLeaks expert who testified that bin Laden didn’t know about WikiLeaks until your administration went hysterical over Manning’s leaks. Zero evidence of the most serious charges, zero case against Manning. Meanwhile, the Moscow airport was a media circus today when Ed Snowden met with human rights activists and Russian officials. Reporters ran up down escalators to get ahead of the crowd, cameramen came to blows and Jay Carney accused Russia of providing a ‘propaganda platform’ for Snowden. One of the meeting’s attendees, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, said the US embassy contacted her en route to the airport urging her to tell Snowden that “he is not a human rights defender, he is not a whistleblower, and that he violated the law and should be held responsible” ( What hypocrisy! Snowden hurt no one and put no one in danger. He performed a crucial service for democracy by exposing criminal activity and abuse of power, the partnership between government and corporations, and the seamless lies they use to hide it. A few weeks ago you said you were not going to “wheel and deal” to get Snowden but you pressured France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to prevent the Bolivian president’s plane from flying over their countries on the rumor he was on board; Uncle Joe in the Vice’s office was working the phones; today’s NYT reports that every country in Latin America has been warned not to grant him asylum; and you’re calling Putin tonight. I call that wheeling and dealing. For 4½ years you have betrayed the Constitution and the American people and disregarded human rights. In this topsy-turvy Obamaworld, whistleblowers are traitors, murder and torture is humanitarian and people are guilty until proven innocent. You’ve become untethered, Mr. President; you can no longer distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, justice from injustice. And that’s scary.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dismantling Education, Dismantling Democracy

Dear Mr. President,
Received your July 2 letter yesterday. It’s brief—less than a page—and the crux of it is this: “Despite our differences, most of us share common hopes for America’s future—opportunity for our children, security for our seniors, and the broad-based prosperity that stems from a rising, thriving middle class. While we may disagree on how to get there, I remain committed to forging reasonable compromise where we can. Together we can strengthen our Union, safeguard our liberties, and restore the basic bargain at the heart of the American dream—the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead.” We may share common hopes for our future but I don’t see you leading us there. The middle class is still shrinking, wages falling and unemployment 7.6%. State and local governments are hard-pressed, cutting services and safety nets while the war machine—the Pentagon and security agencies and their contractors—sucks the economy dry. For example, a college education, which used to be affordable, now means a lifetime of indentured servitude to pay off loans that fatten banker bonuses. Here in San Francisco, 85,000 students attend Community College which will have its accreditation revoked next July, not by the Board of Education but by a quasi-private commission whose motives are suspect. The school has suffered poor administrative leadership and weak governance but academic quality is excellent and their benefit to the community is huge. Without accreditation the school is ineligible for public funding and will have to close, driving many of the 85,000 students into for-profit learning centers like Phoenix. Not for lack of funding or poor academic outcomes, but for administrative incompetence, something easily fixed. Shutting down a major public institution that provides affordable education lessens opportunity for our young and CCSF is only one casualty in the wave of the privatization of education sweeping the country. Chicago is closing 49 elementary schools, Pittsburgh closed 7 in 2012, Cleveland closed 16 in 2010 and 7 in 2011, and New York City closed 164 over the past decade. For-profit charter schools are replacing public K-12 schools, for-profit colleges and universities are replacing community and state-funded institutions, a process your Department of Education champions. I see it not as promoting “common hopes for America’s future,” but the dismantling of democracy in America. Part of your legacy, Mr. President.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Humpty-Dumpty NSA Surveillance Program

Dear Mr. President,
It’s like Chinese water torture—the steady drip drip drip of revelations from the Snowden documents. First the phone logs, then PRISM, then the surveillance of China and Hong Kong, the bugs and wiretaps of EU offices and our European allies, the hacking of Germany’s phone and internet systems—and now Brazil’s—with more coming and the knowledge that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put the Humpty-Dumpty NSA program back together again. You call it espionage and treason; I call it a heroic attempt to save democracy. And there’s more. The McClatchy report exposed your Insider Threat Program that not only encourages but requires government employees to snitch on “high-risk persons or behaviors,” i.e., potential whistle-blowers ( and in today’s NY Times (“Judge Urges President To Address Prisoner Strike,” p. A12) Judge Gladys Kessler of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia ruled that “It is perfectly clear that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating and degrading process” but Congress has prevented her from intervening. You, however, have the authority to address the issue, she wrote. Even the Times editors found the backbone to denounce the secrecy of the FISA court and urged Congress to pass Sen. Merkley’s legislation that would require declassification of the court’s activities so we can see what they’re doing. And the Bradley Manning trial? Not going well for the government. Today Colonel Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, testified that the Guantanamo files released by Manning contained no useful information for an enemy and, in fact, most of it had already been made public by the Pentagon, a documentary, a book, and in news articles. The prosecution has produced zero evidence so far that Manning knowingly aided the enemy but no matter, the fix is in; the government wants a conviction to deter future whistle-blowers. But it’s too late: the Europeans are angry, the Central and South Americans are furious, and maybe the Americans are coming out of their somnolent trance. Thanks to Manning, Snowden, et al, America’s Secret Security State has been exposed and seen for what it is—the abuse of power that is leading us to a world of perpetual war with neither security nor freedom. It shows us as dangerous, a threat to world peace and that’s the first step, the recognition of abuse, to stopping it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

FISA Court Über Alles

Dear Mr. President,
“In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.” (today’s NY Times, p.A1) reveals that the FISA court has made secret laws, built a secret body of legal precedents, secretly exempted the NSA from most 4th Amendment restrictions and has given the NSA powers the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act never intended. The court’s so secret that even where they meet in the Federal Courthouse in Washington is not revealed. The article calls the FISA court “almost a parallel Supreme Court” but the FISA court is not a real court, for they hear only one side—the government’s—which violates a fundamental tenet of American jurisprudence—adversarial arguments—and every decision, every finding, every interpretation of law is secret. This is the court you declared “transparent” on the Charlie Rose Show a few Mondays ago. Transparent to you maybe but not to us. This has become public because a number of current and former officials leaked it to the press and since everything about the court is classified, will these people be tracked down and charged with espionage? Hounded and punished like Assange, Manning Drake, Kiriakou and Snowden? The Times calls them “sources” not “leakers” but leakers they are, spilling the beans on this secret court whose operations are opaque and cloaked in the name of national security. It’s for the public’s protection, we’re told, that these secrets can’t be revealed but from out here on the hustings, it looks like it’s for your protection, Mr. President, and the protection of the appartchiks who just follow orders: your illegal wars and illegal surveillance on the rest of us. From out here, it looks more criminal than legal, more like tyranny than democracy. The FISA court, ironically, was created in 1978 to stop the abuse of illegal wiretapping but has morphed into a rubber stamp legal cover for illegal surveillance activity by the NSA. Only a handful of cases have ever been taken to the Court of Review and none have gone to the Supreme Court. Of the 1,800 requests submitted to the court last year, none were rejected and only 13 denials in 35 years. This is not justice or the rule of law or transparent government, Mr. President, this is an assault on democracy, the Constitution and We the People by the bright, thoughtful boy from Hawaii who became a smooth-talking presidential candidate from Illinois filled with false Hope and empty promises, whose true agenda was the greatest secret of all—the lust for power.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Obama's Brave New World

Dear Mr. President,

The American Propaganda Machine is in full throttle forward. Snowden is a “defector,” a “traitor,” an “aider and abettor of the enemy”—called that and worse by blowhards in Congress and liars in your administration. You even got UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to denounce Snowden, saying he “misused data” —no mention of the misuse of data by the NSA or the rest of the American Security apparatus. Feinstein, faithful spearchucker that she is, without a shred of evidence claims Russian intelligence went through all Snowden’s computers and sucked up everything on his hard drives. Snowden denies it, Russia denies it, and given a choice between Snowden and Feinstein, my money’s on Snowden. Today’s NY Times had another hit piece on him, calling him, among other things, a hacker, a high school dropout, and a lone wolf; not one mention of the illegality of what he exposed or the lies told Congress and the American public. What bothers me most, however, is that Americans are not out in the streets protesting the Big Brother state of the nation. The news that the USPS photographs the front and back of every piece of mail sent—100 billion pieces a year—that law enforcement, federal, state and local government agencies are given copies without a court order or any oversight, barely made a ripple. The notion of privacy has become a quaint anachronism. Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and George Lucas’s THX-1138, worlds where the government knows everything about everybody—every movement, every conversation, every thought—and controls and programs its citizens through propaganda and punishment that teaches them not to question authority, not to dissent and not to rebel. It’s a dystopian vision of the future that seems to have arrived while we weren’t looking, that snuck up on us when we thought we were shucking the bad old regime of Bush and his neocons for the new enlightened Obama democracy of Hope, Change, Freedom, Equality and Justice. Instead, we got a smoother, slicker, more polished and far more effective version of Bush, a president who orders assassinations without qualm, who detains indefinitely and calls it national security and who won’t allow illegally imprisoned men in Guantanamo to either be released or die with dignity. Welcome to the Brave New World of Obama’s Amerika, where truth and transparency is the enemy, where We the People are guilty till proven innocent, and where whistleblower are called traitors. How did we let this happen?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More News Not Fit To Print

Dear Mr. President,
It didn’t take long for an obedient press to parrot your “Everybody’s doing it!” line about NSA’s spying, bugging and wiretapping. The lead editorial in today’s NYT agrees—no big deal, they say, “European reaction is overblown.” Besides, it’s not illegal for us to do it in foreign countries, just our own country. No mention that American phone calls, emails and internet activity is also being sucked up illegally. Nor is there any mention that the government rested its case in the Bradley Manning trial yesterday—now in its 5th week—or that the prosecution has presented conflicting testimony and a lack of concrete evidence showing harm done to the U.S. (beyond embarrassment and evidence of war crimes and cover-ups), and no mention of yesterday’s admission that the Army lost the ‘contract’ Manning signed stipulating his terms of access to classified information upon deployment to Iraq. But none of that matters; the outcome is already in the bag—guilty as charged—by this Kangaroo Court. No mention either of the latest study on drone strikes done for the military by Larry Lewis, a researcher at the Center for Naval Analysis, which found that civilian casualties in Afghanistan resulting from drone strikes between mid-2010 and mid-2011 were an order of magnitude higher—10 times higher—than civilian casualties resulting from manned air strikes ( Not fit to print by the NYT, I guess, since it directly contradicts Brennan, Feinstein and others, including you: “conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” You said that in a speech you gave in May. No mention either of the 4 Guantanamo hunger strikers who filed suit in federal court Sunday to stop force-feeding or that your Department of InJustice claimed today that it was a perfectly humane way to keep them alive and not a form of punishment or intended to inflict pain, and besides, all 4 are “in good health.” The Propaganda Wars are in full swing, the winner, the one who controls the definitions and the press. It’s something you understand, Mr. President, the power of words and their ability to move people. But in your case, you’re using it to move them in the wrong direction and that will be your enduring legacy.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Snowden Cornered, Obama On the Defensive

Dear Mr. President,
You may have Snowden cornered, stripped of his passport, declared a traitor, stateless, unable to move out of his room in the Moscow airport, but he’s got you on the defense too, trying to explain away the NSA and all those bugs and wiretaps, assuring our friends and allies they have nothing to fear from us—“Everybody does it,” you say. Yeah, right. But not on this scale, they don’t. Your words ring hollow like everything you say nowadays, like that statement that neither you nor anyone in your administration is going to “wheel and deal over a 29-year-old hacker” and even as you said it, your Vice, Uncle Joe Biden, is calling Correa in Ecuador, twisting his arm, and you’re warning other countries that granting asylum to Snowden would have “consequences,” and behind the scenes pressure mounts on country after country that might grant Snowden asylum. Maybe you don’t call it “wheeling and dealing” but it sure looks like it from out here in the hustings. And what about the deal with France and Portugal today, the pressure to deny the Bolivian president’s plane permission to pass through their air space because your security apparatchiks thought Snowden might be on board? The mask is slipping and people are finally discovering your M.O.—say one thing and do the opposite. Like calling on other nations to abide by the rule of law while we ignore laws and treaties alike. I’m rooting for Snowden, a true American hero and patriot who values democracy and hasn’t lost his moral compass. For me, personally, it’s sad to see the country I was brought up to believe was the beacon of freedom and justice become another evil empire like the one we were warned about back in the 50s and 60s (“We have met the enemy and he is us!” Pogo said back then), to watch our government lie and hide the truth, bend and ignore the law, human rights and justice, and regard its own citizens as the enemy, feared and suppressed, silenced and brutalized for speaking the truth. You’re just another two-bit politician in a town full of them, Mr. President, caring not a fig for the common good, corrupted by power or greed or revenge or whatever it is that drives you. You could have been one of the greats but you aren’t and you never will be ‘cause you’re in way too deep now, caught in a web of lies, deceit, secrecy and the seduction of power, so deep you probably believe it’s all necessary and just. But it isn’t and you’re on the wrong side of history, way past the tipping point.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Poet's Warning and Obama's First Speech

Dear Mr. President,
Chapter 5 of your memoir, Dreams from My Father, recounts your discover of the power of words and your ability to move people by them. Your very first speech at Occidental College during a rally for divestment from South African is short, barely a minute, just a few lines, but spoken from the heart as your friend Regina says, and captures your emotions, knowing your words “had them, that the connection had been made” between you and those gathered on the quad. Here’s what you said: “There's a struggle going on,’ …My voice barely carried beyond the first few rows. A few people looked up, and I waited for the crowd to quiet. ‘I say, there's a struggle going on!’ The Frisbee players stopped. ‘It's happening an ocean away. But it's a struggle that touches each and every one of us. Whether we know it or not. Whether we want it or not. A struggle that demands we choose sides. Not between black and white. Not between rich and poor. No—it's a harder choice than that. It's a choice between dignity and servitude. Between fairness and injustice… A choice between right and wrong…” As I read this, I wondered where that young man’s passion for right went, for dignity and fairness and justice. The same man who uttered those words 3 decades ago now presides over the greatest surveillance state in history, orders extrajudicial assassinations, ignores the Constitution he has sworn to defend, calls truth a threat to national security, and prosecutes whistle-blowers while rewarding liars and murderers. What so twisted you to use your gifts not for justice and the common good but for secrecy and suppression, the tools of tyrants and dictators? Earlier in the same chapter, just before you leave Hawaii for Occidental, you recount a conversation with Frank, the old black poet who warns you that college isn’t going to educate you but train you. “They’ll train you to manipulate words so they don’t mean anything…They’ll train you to forget what it is that you already know. They’ll train you so good, you’ll start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that shit. They’ll give you a corner office and invite to fancy dinners, and tell you you're a credit to your race. Until you want to actually start running things, and then they'll yank on your chain and let you know that you may be a well-trained, well-paid nigger, but you're a nigger just the same.” My god, Mr. President, is that what happened? Is that the price of power?