Former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently called on the government to force young people to spend two years either “serving” in the military or performing some other type of government-directed “community service.” Neoconservative Senator John McCain has introduced legislation creating a mandatory national service program very similar to Reich’s proposal. It is not surprising that both a prominent progressive and a leading neocon would support mandatory national service, as this is an issue that has long united authoritarians on the left and right.
Proponents of national service claim that young people have a moral obligation to give something back to society. But giving the government power to decide our moral obligations is an invitation to totalitarianism.
Mandatory national service is not just anti-liberty, it is un-American. Whether or not they admit it, supporters of mandatory national service do not believe that individuals have “inalienable rights.” Instead, they believe that rights are gifts from the government, and, since government is the source of our rights, government can abridge or even take away those rights whenever Congress decides.
Mandatory national service also undermines private charitable institutions. In a free society, many people will give their time or money to service projects to help better their communities, working with religious or civic associations. But in a society with government-enforced national service, these associations are likely to become more reliant on government-supplied forced labor. They will then begin to tailor their programs to satisfy the demands of government bureaucrats instead of the needs of the community.
The very worst form of national service is, of course, the military draft, which forces young people to kill or be killed on government orders. The draft lowers the cost of an interventionist foreign policy because government need not compete with private employers for recruits. Anyone who refuses a draft notice runs the risk of being jailed, so government can provide lower pay and benefits to draftees than to volunteers.
As the burden of our hyper-interventionist foreign policy increases, it is increasingly likely that there will be serious attempts to reinstate the military draft. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continues to suggest that US troops on the ground may be needed to fight “Operation Inherent Resolve” in Iraq and Syria. A major escalation requiring a large US troop deployment will likely add pressure to consider a military draft.
The only real way the American people can protect their children from the military draft is to demand an end to the foreign policy that sees the US military as the solution to any and every problem — from ISIS to Ebola — anywhere in the world.
Some who share my opposition to a militaristic foreign policy support the draft because they think a draft will increase public opposition to war. However, the existence of a draft did not stop the American government from launching unconstitutional wars in Vietnam and Korea. While the draft did play a role in mobilizing political opposition to Vietnam, it took almost a decade and the death of thousands of American draftees for that opposition to reach critical mass.
It is baffling that conservatives who (properly) oppose raising taxes would support any form of national service, including the military draft. It is similarly baffling that liberals who oppose government interference with our personal lives would support mandatory national service. Mandatory national service is a totalitarian policy that should be rejected by all who value liberty.
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin — Bonnie Block, Jim Murphy, Lars and Patty Prip, Mary Beth Schlagheck, and I were at Rest Area 10 along I- 90/94, about 5 miles south of Mauston, from 10:00 am – noon on Thursday October 9, 2014. We had a model drone and a stack of flyers “6 Things You Should Know About Drones” to help us in reaching the public and so they can learn more about what is going on just up the road at Volk Field Air National Guard Base. We were there in solidarity with others around the country as part of “Keep Space for Peace Week” and global days of actions against drones sponsored by Code Pink, Know Drones, and other groups.
We chose to leaflet at this particular rest area because it is the closest one to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, about 20 miles south of the base. We, as Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, have been vigiling outside the gates of Volk Field for almost three years, protesting the training there of pilots who operate the Shadow Drones. We are at the base with our signs every 4th Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30. At 4:00 pm around 100 cars leave the base and drive right past us and so we have a lot of exposure.
Jim has been urging us to try leafleting at the rest area for a couple of years and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for public education. We were able to connect with a real cross-section of middle America and we had a chance to hand out our leaflets and talk to people about what is going on at Volk Field, as well as in the drone wars overseas. A fair number of people were very supportive and engaged with us. Quite a few seemed like they did not have a lot of feelings about drone warfare one way or the other. There were a small number of people who were very unhappy to see us there and let loose with some pretty unfriendly language.
Shortly after we arrived at the rest area and began setting up the drone, the manager of the rest area came out and told us we would have to pack up and leave. We said we were on public property and that we planned to stay there until noon. We also told her that we would not block anyone or act threatening, and we gave her a flyer. She became upset and angry when we told her this and she said that if we didn’t leave she would have to call the State Patrol and she didn’t think that we would want it to go that far. We responded that we would like her to call the State Patrol because we knew we had the right to be there. She left in a huff.
It was 15 minutes or so before a plain clothes officer dressed in a suit with a neat crew cut and a badge around his neck approached us. He said that he had been told there was a disturbance, and he asked us if there was a disturbance. Jim responded by asking if it looked like there was a disturbance. The officer angrily replied that he would be asking the questions and we would answer.
We explained to him what we were doing, that we were on public property and it was our constitutional right to be there. We told him we were not blocking anyone and if they didn’t want a flyer we didn’t push it.
At that point a uniformed State Patrol officer arrived at the scene. The officer we were talking to said that the uniformed officer would be taking over. After the two of them talked for several minutes, the uniformed officer came over and we told him what we were doing. He told us that some people might not appreciate our position, and he said that if they started saying things we didn’t like we should turn the other cheek. We told him we practice nonviolence and are good at de-escalating those kinds of situations. He told us to have a good day and walked away. It felt like this was a small win for us. It is not often that the police are called and they end up telling us to go ahead and keep doing what we are doing.
Several minutes later a Juneau County Sheriff car pulled into the rest area and parked. He didn’t talk to us, but spent several minutes talking to someone in an unmarked police car before they both drove away. Citizen activism seemed to have won out for the day.
I want to relate a story about one man I talked to. As I handed him a leaflet, he said he was supportive of what we are doing. But, he said, his grandson was in the military and operated a camera for the drones and he didn’t kill children. (One of our signs said “Drones Kill Children”.) I replied that there are many innocent people, including many children, who are being killed by drone attacks in countries overseas. He said again that his grandson didn’t kill children. I told him that we had a list of names of many of the children who have been killed. He said again that his grandson was a family man with four children and he wouldn’t kill children. He added that he had been a nurse assisting in surgery with children for many years and he knew what it was like for traumatized children and his grandson would not kill children.
This story really illustrates the disconnect and denial going on in our society, about how much we want to believe that we are the good guys, that we wouldn’t hurt others. Yet, people are dying all around the world as a result of our government’s policies. It seems like there are not enough people speaking out against what is going on because so many people refuse to really look at the death and destruction our military is leaving all around the globe. It is so much easier to close our eyes. I think this was a genuinely good man that I talked to, and there are so many good people like him. How do we get these good people to wake up and join the fight, to be able to admit to and take responsibility for the horrors that our government, and we, are perpetrating around the world?
All six of us who were there felt like it was a successful venture and we all agreed that we need to go back to the rest area where we can reach people who would otherwise not be reached. It is impossible to know what kind of impact we may have had, but we are hopeful that we touched a few people.
Please consider rest areas near you as a possible place for demonstrations. We no longer have town squares. It is illegal, at least in Wisconsin, to protest at shopping malls because they are privately owned. It is not always easy to find a public space where there are a lot people, but this was a good test today and we discovered that the police will not try to prevent us from demonstrating at a rest area in Wisconsin. But then again, who knows what may happen the next time. All I know for sure is that we will be back.
BETHLEHEM – Palestinian Authority police regularly detain people in the West Bank due to their political affiliation, an official said Sunday.
Khalil Assaf, a member of the subcommittee on civil liberties formed after the West Bank-Gaza unity government was sworn in in June, told Ma’an that regardless of the committee’s formation, none of its recommendations have been implemented.
“Every day people are being detained in the West Bank because of their political affiliation, though in most cases they are released within days,” Assaf said.
Though he could not give an exact number of political detainees, he said “we are talking about dozens” of people.
The subcommittee, which was tasked with maintaining and monitoring civil liberties in the West Bank and Gaza, has not been summoned for any meetings with the rest of the unity government so far, Assaf said.
He said it was formed in order to address several aspects of freedom in a democratic society: the freedoms of work, assembly, research, and movement; the freedom to distribute newspapers; the freedom to participate in political activities without discrimination; providing passports to citizens who had previously been denied passports; and the issue of citizens being summoned for questioning both in the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinian political leaders have been unable to implement these freedoms due to the lack of full implementation of the unity government, he added.
Critics of the US-backed PA often decry the night raids conducted by Palestinian police to arrest dissenting politically active individuals, stressing that they are carried out in a manner nearly identical to the raids conducted by occupying Israeli forces.
Jeff Leen, the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations, begins his renewed attack on the late Gary Webb’s Contra-cocaine reporting with a falsehood.
Leen insists that there is a journalism dictum that “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.” But Leen must know that it is not true. Many extraordinary claims, such as assertions in 2002-03 that Iraq was hiding arsenals of WMDs, were published as flat-fact without “extraordinary proof” or any real evidence at all, including by Leen’s colleagues at the Washington Post.
A different rule actually governs American journalism – that journalists need “extraordinary proof” if a story puts the U.S. government or an “ally” in a negative light but pretty much anything goes when criticizing an “enemy.”
If, for instance, the Post wanted to accuse the Syrian government of killing civilians with Sarin gas or blame Russian-backed rebels for the shoot-down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, any scraps of proof – no matter how dubious – would be good enough (as was the actual case in 2013 and 2014, respectively).
However, if new evidence undercut those suspicions and shifted the blame to people on “the U.S. side” – say, the Syrian rebels and the Ukrainian government – then the standards of proof suddenly skyrocket beyond reach. So what you get is not “responsible” journalism – as Leen tries to suggest – but hypocrisy and propaganda. One set of rules for the goose and another set for the gander.
The Contra-Cocaine Case
Or to go back to the Contra-cocaine scandal that Brian Barger and I first exposed for the Associated Press in 1985: If we were writing that the leftist Nicaraguan Sandinista government – the then U.S. “enemy” – was shipping cocaine to the United States, any flimsy claim would have sufficed. But the standard of proof ratcheted up when the subject of our story was cocaine smuggling by President Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras.
In other words, the real dictum is that there are two standards, double standards, something that a careerist like Leen knows in his gut but doesn’t want you to know. All the better to suggest that Gary Webb was guilty of violating some noble principle of journalism.
But Leen is wrong in another way – because there was “extraordinary proof” establishing that the Contras were implicated in drug trafficking and that the Reagan administration was looking the other way.
When Barger and I wrote the first story about Contra-cocaine trafficking almost three decades ago, we already had “extraordinary proof,” including documents from Costa Rica, statements by Contras and Contra backers, and admissions from officials in the Drug Enforcement Administration and Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council staff.
However, Leen seems to dismiss our work as nothing but getting “tips” about Contra-cocaine trafficking as if Barger and I were like the hacks at the Washington Post and the New York Times who wait around for authorized handouts from the U.S. government.
Following the Money
Barger and I actually were looking for something different when we encountered the evidence on Contra-cocaine trafficking. We were trying to figure out how the Contras were sustaining themselves in the field after Congress cut off the CIA’s financing for their war.
We were, in the old-fashioned journalistic parlance, “following the money.” The problem was the money led, in part, to the reality that all the major Contra organizations were collaborating with drug traffickers.
Besides our work in the mid-1980s, Sen. John Kerry’s follow-on Contra-cocaine investigation added substantially more evidence. Yet Leen and his cohorts apparently felt no need to pursue the case any further or even give respectful attention to Kerry’s official findings.
Indeed, when Kerry’s report was issued in April 1989, the Washington Post ran a dismissive story by Michael Isikoff buried deep inside the paper. Newsweek dubbed Kerry “a randy conspiracy buff.” In his new article attacking Gary Webb, Leen just says:
“After an exhaustive three-year investigation, the committee’s report concluded that CIA officials were aware of the smuggling activities of some of their charges who supported the contras, but it stopped short of implicating the agency directly in drug dealing. That seemed to be the final word on the matter.”
But why was it the “final word”? Why didn’t Leen and others who had missed the scandal as it was unfolding earlier in the decade at least try to build on Kerry’s findings. After all, these were now official U.S. government records. Wasn’t that “extraordinary” enough?
In this context, Leen paints himself as the true investigative journalist who knew the inside story of the Contra-cocaine tale from the beginning. He wrote:
“As an investigative reporter covering the drug trade for the Miami Herald, … I wrote about the explosion of cocaine in America in the 1980s and 1990s, and the role of Colombia’s Medellin Cartel in fueling it.
“Beginning in 1985, journalists started pursuing tips about the CIA’s role in the drug trade. Was the agency allowing cocaine to flow into the United States as a means to fund its secret war supporting the contra rebels in Nicaragua? Many journalists, including me, chased that story from different angles, but the extraordinary proof was always lacking.”
Again, what Leen says is not true. Leen makes no reference to the groundbreaking AP story in 1985 or other disclosures in the ensuing years. He just insists that “the extraordinary proof” was lacking — which it may have been for him given his lackluster abilities. He then calls the final report of Kerry’s investigation the “final word.”
But Leen doesn’t explain why he and his fellow mainstream journalists were so incurious about this major scandal that they would remain passive even in the wake of a Senate investigation. It’s also not true that Kerry’s report was the “final word” prior to Webb reviving the scandal in 1996.
In 1991, during the narcotics trafficking trial of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, the U.S. government itself presented witnesses who connected the Contras to the Medellin cartel.
Indeed, after testimony by Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder about his $10 million contribution to the Contras, the Washington Post wrote in a Nov. 27, 1991 editorial that “The Kerry hearings didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time” and that “The Noriega trial brings this sordid aspect of the Nicaraguan engagement to fresh public attention.”
But the Post offered its readers no explanation for why Kerry’s hearings had been largely ignored, with the Post itself a leading culprit in this journalistic misfeasance. Nor did the Post and the other leading newspapers use the opening created by the Noriega trial to do anything to rectify their past neglect.
In other words, it didn’t seem to matter how much “extraordinary proof” the Washington Post or Jeff Leen had. Nothing would be sufficient to report seriously on the Contra-cocaine scandal, not even when the U.S. government vouched for the evidence.
So, Leen is trying to fool you when he presents himself as a “responsible journalist” weighing the difficult evidentiary choices. He’s just the latest hack to go after Gary Webb, which has become urgent again for the mainstream media in the face of “Kill the Messenger,” a new movie about Webb’s ordeal.
What Leen won’t face up to is that the tag-team destruction of Gary Webb in 1996-97 – by the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times – represented one of the most shameful episodes in the history of American journalism.
The Big Papers tore down an honest journalist to cover up their own cowardly failure to investigate and expose a grave national security crime, the Reagan administration’s tolerance for and protection of drug trafficking into the United States by the CIA’s client Contra army.
This journalistic failure occurred even though the Associated Press – far from a radical news outlet – and a Senate investigation (not to mention the Noriega trial) had charted the way.
Contrary to Leen’s column, “Kill the Messenger” is actually a fairly honest portrayal of what happened when Webb exposed the consequences of the Contra cocaine smuggling after the drugs reached the United States. One channel fed into an important Los Angeles supply chain that produced crack.
But Leen tells you that “The Hollywood version of [Webb's] story — a truth-teller persecuted by the cowardly and craven mainstream media — is pure fiction.”
He then lauds the collaboration of the Big Three newspapers in destroying Webb and creating such enormous pressure on Webb’s newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, that the executive editor Jerry Ceppos threw his own reporter under the bus. To Leen, this disgraceful behavior represented the best of American journalism.
“The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in a rare show of unanimity, all wrote major pieces knocking the story down for its overblown claims and undernourished reporting.
“Gradually, the Mercury News backed away from Webb’s scoop. The paper transferred him to its Cupertino bureau and did an internal review of his facts and his methods. Jerry Ceppos, the Mercury News’s executive editor, wrote a piece concluding that the story did not meet the newspaper’s standards — a courageous stance, I thought.”
“Courageous”? What an astounding characterization of Ceppos’s act of career cowardice.
But Leen continues by explaining his role in the Webb takedown. After all, Leen was then the drug expert at the Miami Herald, which like the San Jose Mercury News was a Knight Ridder newspaper. Leen says his editors sought his opinion about Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series.
Though acknowledging that he was “envious” of Webb’s story when it appeared in 1996, Leen writes that he examined it and found it wanting, supposedly because of alleged overstatements. He proudly asserts that because of his critical analysis, the Miami Herald never published Webb’s series.
But Leen goes further. He falsely characterizes the U.S. government’s later admissions contained in inspector general reports by the CIA and Justice Department. If Leen had bothered to read the reports thoroughly, he would have realized that the reports actually establish that Webb – and indeed Kerry, Barger and I – grossly understated the seriousness of the Contra-cocaine problem which began at the start of the Contra movement in the early 1980s and lasted through the decade until the end of the war.
Leen apparently assumes that few Americans will take the trouble to study and understand what the reports said. That is why I published a lengthy account of the U.S. government’s admissions – both after the reports were published in 1998 and as “Kill the Messenger” was hitting the theaters in October. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.”]
Playing It Safe
Instead of diving into the reeds of the CIA and DOJ reports, Leen does what he and his mainstream colleagues have done for the past three decades, try to minimize the seriousness of the Reagan administration tolerating cocaine trafficking by its Contra clients and even obstructing official investigations that threatened to expose this crime of state.
Instead, to Leen, the only important issue is whether Gary Webb’s story was perfect. But no journalistic product is perfect. There are always more details that a reporter would like to have, not to mention compromises with editors over how a story is presented. And, on a complex story, there are always some nuances that could have been explained better. That is simply the reality of journalism, the so-called first draft of history.
But Leen pretends that it is the righteous thing to destroy a reporter who is not perfect in his execution of a difficult story – and that Gary Webb thus deserved to be banished from his profession for life, a cruel punishment that impoverished Webb and ultimately drove him to suicide in 2004.
But if Leen is correct – that a reporter who takes on a very tough story and doesn’t get every detail precisely correct should be ruined and disgraced – what does he tell his Washington Post colleague Bob Woodward, whose heroic Watergate reporting included an error about whether a claim regarding who controlled the White House slush fund was made before a grand jury.
While Woodward and his colleague Carl Bernstein were right about the substance, they were wrong about its presentation to a grand jury. Does Leen really believe that Woodward and Bernstein should have been drummed out of journalism for that mistake? Instead, they were lionized as heroes of investigative journalism despite the error – as they should have been.
Yet, when Webb exposed what was arguably an even worse crime of state – the Reagan administration turning a blind eye to the importation of tons of cocaine into the United States – Leen thinks any abuse of Webb is justified because his story wasn’t perfect.
Those two divergent judgments – on how Woodward’s mistake was understandably excused and how Webb’s imperfections were never forgiven – speak volumes about what has happened to the modern profession of journalism at least in the mainstream U.S. media. In reality, Leen’s insistence on perfection and “extraordinary proof” is just a dodge to rationalize letting well-connected criminals and their powerful accomplices off the hook.
In the old days, the journalistic goal was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” but the new rule appears to be: “any standard of proof works when condemning the weak or the despised but you need unachievable ‘extraordinary evidence’ if you’re writing about the strong and the politically popular.”
Who Is Unfit?
Leen adds a personal reflection on Webb as somehow not having the proper temperament to be an investigative reporter. Leen wrote:
“After Webb was transferred to Cupertino [in disgrace], I debated him at a conference of the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization in Phoenix in June 1997. He was preternaturally calm. While investigative journalists are usually bundles of insecurities and questions and skepticism, he brushed off any criticism and admitted no error. When asked how I felt about it all, I said I felt sorry for him. I still feel that way.”
It’s interesting – and sadly typical – that while Leen chastises Webb for not admitting error, Leen offers no self-criticism of himself for missing what even the CIA has now admitted, that the Contras were tied up in the cocaine trade. Doesn’t an institutional confession by the CIA’s inspector general constitute “extraordinary evidence”?
Also, since the CIA’s inspector general’s report included substantial evidence of Contra-cocaine trafficking running through Miami, shouldn’t Leen offer some mea culpa about missing these serious crimes that were going on right under his nose – in his city and on his beat? What sort of reporter is “preternaturally calm” about failing to do his job right and letting the public suffer as Leen did?
Perhaps all one needs to know about the sorry state of today’s mainstream journalism is that Jeff Leen is the Washington Post’s assistant managing editor for investigations and Gary Webb is no longer with us.
[To learn how you can hear a December 1996 joint appearance at which Robert Parry and Gary Webb discuss their reporting, click here.]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
As expected, the recent fabricated ISIS terror scare that swept the headlines of Canada’s Zionist-owned media is being used by the neocon regime in Ottawa to give Canada’s spy agency CSIS more sweeping powers to spy on citizens and protect the identities of informants.
“The federal government will face intense scrutiny – perhaps even a constitutional challenge – when it introduces legislation to give its spies more legal powers,” reported the Ottawa Citizen.
Proposed amendments to the act governing CSIS will grant the Canadian spy agency more wiggle room to collaborate with the “Five Eyes” spy network comprised of US, UK, Australia and New Zealand espionage agencies. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the Five Eyes network has been neck-deep in illegal espionage activities targeting millions of their own citizens.
“A second measure,” the Citizen continued, “would give CSIS informants the same anonymity that already exists for police sources, who are not subject to cross-examination and can have their identities hidden, even from trial judges.” The Canadian government’s informants are more than likely responsible for spurring or otherwise concocting the very ‘terror’ plots CSIS claims to have foiled — just like its counterpart in the US has been caught doing time and time again. (See The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism by Trevor Aaronson) Problem, reaction, solution — the Machiavellian methodology never fails.
Like Canada, Australia and Britain are endeavoring to empower their spook agencies as well as stiffen their fraudulent “anti-terror” laws in the face of phony ISIS ‘terror plots’ that bear all the hallmarks of intelligence psyops.
That is what the ISIS sham threat is all about — creating a bogus pretext so our governments can strip us of our liberties and stamp out dissent.
British PM David Cameron unveiled the real agenda behind ISIS terrorism fear-mongering — silencing critics of the war on terror and skeptics of the US and UK government versions of 9/11 and 7/7. In September, Cameron delivered a bizarre speech at the UN in which he said with unreserved hubris:
“As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it. … The peddling of lies: that 9/11 was a Jewish plot and the 7/7 London attacks were staged. The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy. The concept of an inevitable clash of civilizations. We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism.”
More and more people are awakening to the truth that 9/11, 7/7 and other major terrorist incidents in the West were staged by US, UK and Israeli intelligence services to provide said countries a pretext to launch the pre-planned Zionist-contrived war on terror against Israel’s enemies. Innumerable masses of people are learning about the dark legacy of Zionism and are starting to speak out about it.
The public’s growing interest in alternative theories about 9/11, 7/7 and other false-flags has alarmed the Western powers-that-be whose present foreign policies hinge upon the big lies surrounding those events. If the true story of 9/11 and 7/7 emerged, the American and British public would rise up in revolt against the unjust and criminal regimes occupying their capitals. The perfidious elites cannot allow that to happen, hence Cameron’s insistence that “non-violent extremists” — 9/11 and 7/7 truthers, anti-Zionists, etc. — are akin to the head-chopping Takfiri marauders of ISIS and should be treated as such.
The manufactured ‘civil war’ in Syria, like the preceding one in Libya, is a deliberate Zionist policy of destabilization. Syria, like Iran, is one of the last bastions of resistance against Israeli hegemony in the region, and has therefore been earmarked for extinction by the usual suspects and their Western lapdogs.
Aside from being impediments to Israel’s imperium, countries like Syria, Iran, Libya, Iraq and other target states have been resilient to globalist attempts to import a degenerate American monoculture into their jurisdictions. These countries affirmed their sovereignty against the globalist cultural imperialists — headquartered in Washington — who seek to export MacDonalds, Burger King and Wal-Mart to the four corners of the earth. The globalists want to erect a global shopping mall on the ruins of traditional cultures.
Unlike in America and much of the deracinated West, the peoples of the Middle East have been widely educated about the Zio-American world menace. Instead of chowing down Big Macs or listening to the putrid rhymes of Kanye West, Middle Easterners are being informed on issues of global importance. Instead of reading trashy gossip mags and stewing over celebrity degeneracy, Iranians are perusing The Protocols of Zion and holding conferences questioning the veracity of ‘the holocaust.’
Neocon Zionists like Daniel Pipes, David Aaronovitch and Jonathan Kay have routinely decried the “conspiracy” culture emanating from homogenous Muslim societies. That’s what Pipes’ book The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy was all about; Aaronovitch’s Blaming the Jews documentary is of a similar vein. The reality is that the Muslim world has figured out the Zionists’ Machiavellian game plan and is therefore being punished for failing to succumb to their decrepit exceptionalist mythology.
A dumbed down, atomized mass of materialistic consumers is what the Zionists and their Big Money cohorts want. A pitiful populace comprised of tattooed, chain-smoking, money-chasing, burger-munching airheads is what pleases the moneyed elite.
The Frankfurt School Zionists conquered much of the West through the promotion of degenerate and dysgenic social norms, thereby weakening the traditional culture of their host nations and effectively taking them over. Since the nation-states of the Middle East have largely thwarted the cultural imperialists’ internal plots, the globalist armies of the West have besieged them.
But there is still a glimmer of hope in the West as more people come to terms with the truth about 9/11, 7/7 and the ‘war on terror’ hoax. Only time will tell if that will be enough to stop the globalist menace from devouring what’s left of our broken world.
Copyright 2014 Brandon Martinez
The New York Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit against the NYPD challenging its refusal to confirm or deny the existence of records related to its surveillance of a New York City mosque. The case appears to be the first time that a court has affirmed a “Glomar doctrine” below the federal level. Adam Marshall from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has more:
The case, Abdur-Rashid v. New York City Police Department, involved a request by Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid for records regarding NYPD surveillance of himself and his mosque in New York City. The city refused to disclose to Mr. Abdur-Rashid whether any such records existed, and told him that even if they did exist, such records would be exempt under the New York Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”).
In its decision, the court somewhat perplexingly acknowledged that according to federal and state case law, “[i]t should follow that when a local agency such as the NYPD is replying to a FOIL request, the Glomar doctrine is similarly inapplicable.” However, it then went on to state that as this was a case of first impression, the NYPD’s use of a Glomar response “is in keeping with the spirit of similar appellate court cases.” The court determined that “disclosing the existence of responsive records would reveal information concerning operations, methodologies, and sources of information of the NYPD, the resulting harm of which would allow individuals or groups to take counter-measures to avoid detection of illegal activity, undermining current and future NYPD investigations.” Therefore, it granted the NYPD’s motion to dismiss the case.
Elizabeth Kimundi, a lawyer for the firm of Omar T. Mohameddi, which is representing Abdur-Rashid, said over the phone that her firm is drafting an appeal.
That appeal will be one to watch, because this is a “case of first impression,” meaning that, if the ruling is upheld, it will set precedent in the state of New York. And it would be a bad precedent.
The Glomar doctrine gives agencies the obvious power to hide the existence of records, but it also allows agencies to short-circuit the appeal process, since requestors can’t file an appeal for records they don’t know exist. The NYPD consistently flouts both the spirit and letter of New York’s Freedom of Information Law. There is no expectation that it would use Glomar powers in good faith. A Glomar doctrine would just become another tool in Police Plaza One’s aggressive strategy to block and discourage FOIL requestors.
- CIA says it didn’t know it had a copy of the Senate torture report.
- ACLU and EFF file appeal in suit for LAPD license plate reader tech
- Obama admin asks judge to dismiss civil lawsuit against United Against Nuclear Iran, attempting to invoke state secrets without public explanation. “After everything – the torture, the rendition, the eavesdropping…This is the case that stands for the proposition that privilege can be asserted in the dark?”
- In FOIA lawsuit, EPA says it may have lost text messages it was required to archive under federal record law.
- Judicial Watch sues DOJ for Operation Choke Point records.
- Pebble Project files lawsuit against EPA, alleging FOIA violation
Diosdado Cabello speaks at a press conference in this archive photo. (Photo: AVN )
The president of the Venezuelan National Assembly Diosdado Cabello called Friday on intelligence agencies to investigate Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the country that are funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Cabello’s call comes on the heels of the arrival of a representative of the U.S. government in Venezuela to meet with representatives of NGOs at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.
According to their website, USAID’s mission is “furthering America’s interests, while improving lives in the developing world.”
In practice, much of the work of USAID has been to support the activities of groups that are opposed to democratically elected governments. Cabello pointed to an NGO that has links to “Operation Liberty”, the group lead by Lorent Saleh, who is currently in custody on accusations of intent to commit terrorist acts in Venezuela.
Cabello has previously warned of the attempts by the U.S. and its allies to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela, saying, “This is one way for imperialism to finance conspiracy [against the government].”
Bolivia expelled USAID and its representatives from that country in 2013 due to their support of opposition groups opposed to the government of Evo Morales.
Where is the American corporate media at on the disappearance of 43 normalistas from a rural teachers college in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico? Where is the wall to wall coverage? Where are the calls for Enrique Peña Nieto to resign? Or, at least, where are the calls for Aguirre’s resignation, the governor of Guerrero? Where are the pundits oversimplifying and labeling the Mexican government whatever they want, regardless if it has a basis in fact? The corporate media is eerily silent.
Let us contrast this silence with their coverage of Venezuela not so many months ago. 43 people from all sides of the conflict were killed over a couple of months of violent conflict between the opposition, chavismo supporters and state security forces. The coverage was almost 24/7. The pundits were labeling Maduro a dictator and calling for his head. The coverage was oversimplified and made to push the US government’s position that chavismo must go, without any mention of Maduro or the PSUV being elected, or that this should be decided by referendum and not just by protest.
The difference in coverage of the two cases represents a clear example of imperial priorities in the corporate media. The Mexican students are “unworthy victims” for the US corporate media. The students do not fit neatly into a narrative that supports imperialist ambitions. Actually, because the rural teachers college is a “leftist” school, the students are probably considered deviant by much of the US corporate media, and therefore “legitimate” targets of the Mexican state. So, the coverage, as it was of El Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero’s death in the 1980s, is minimal and passive.
Whereas, in contrast, Venezuela became the cause célèbre of every major media outlet, even though there was no execution/kidnapping of civilians by the state in collusion with vicious drug cartels, but instead a drawn-out conflict begun by a very hostile opposition that is part of a decade long campaign to oust the PSUV from power that already had the 2002 coup attempt under its belt.
For the US corporate media the Venezuelan opposition are “worthy victims” whose narrative fits neatly into the framework of US imperial ambitions as it attempts to make Latin America its backyard once more. They are also “worthy” because they are mostly whiter, more middle and upper class and vacation in Miami. This is unlike the normalistas, who are predominantly indigenous campesinos, a group who only gets paternalistic coverage, if any.
So, let us weigh these two cases.
The case in Mexico is blatantly a state crime against its citizens, with local and state authorities having connections to drug cartels and the police and military implicated. It was carried out against peaceful students who had no weapons, although they did commandeer a bus, which is nothing new for them and has never led to physical harm. One of the students was left in the street with a flayed face and eyes gouged out. So far, the Mexican government has said the kidnapped/murdered students harm foreign investment and gave their “sincerest” condolences.
The case in Venezuela was a conflict between competing political groups representing different class and ethnic/racial interests in which people from all sides died over the course of the conflict and all most likely committed crimes. Those protests continued over a couple of months, even though the Venezuelan government was considered to be absolutely authoritarian in handling the protests by the US corporate media. So far, the Venezuelan government had an open dialogue with all opposition members who wanted to talk with them and made policy concessions.
The former is a much more grievous crime than the latter. Also, the government reaction in the former is callous, compared to the reconciliation proffered by the Venezuelan government. Yet the former receives scant, if any, attention, while the latter was unavoidable during its peak. Only so many conclusions can be drawn from this.
So, please, tell me again how objective the media is. Or maybe at another award celebration the pundits from the US corporate media can tell us how principled they are.
This is not new; acrobatics are normally done in order to make Enrique Peña Nieto seem as if he is trying to stop the bloodshed. This is scandalous seeing as EPN is implicated in the violent police repression in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico State, Mexico that happened while Peña Nieto was Governor. That repression led to two deaths and 207 incidences of cruel treatment, including 26 cases of sexual assault against women. The Nation Human Rights Commission said that preference was given to force by the government, instead of diplomacy, leading to the human rights violations. The New York Times dedicated one paragraph to the heinous act which doesn’t mention Enrique Peña Nieto even once.
PBS NewsHour Executive Producer Sara Just and NPR Standards Editor Mark Memmott seem to have come up with almost identical statements about commentator David Brooks’ conflict of interest. (Brooks, who works for the New York Times, NPR and PBS, had kept hidden the fact that his son was serving in the Israeli military while Brooks was commenting on Israel.)
Either Sara Just and Mark Memmott have been gifted with telepathy, or they – and/or their bosses – collaborated on their statements.
UPDATE, 11am Pacific time: Mark Memmott has just emailed me: “I’ve had no contact with PBS. I’ve actually never met Sara Just, as far as I remember, and have not had any email correspondence with her. I have to think that they agreed with what I wrote and decided to (mostly) reissue it.”
I find it disconcerting that PBS’s Sara Just didn’t attribute her statement to NPR’s Memmott; this seems dangerously close to plagiarism. I wonder how she learned of his statement? I’m also curious about why she removed a small but significant portion of what he had written. Please read on:
Here are the facts:
PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler reports that on Oct. 15th NewsHour Executive Producer Sara Just issued the following statement:
“David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on the PBS NewsHour to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is not a secret. We agree with the New York Times’ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel are informed by many factors. We also agree with the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column. That seems reasonable to us as well. If a situation arises in which Mr. Brooks will be appearing on the NewsHour and discussing Israel and its military, we will consider how we might disclose his son’s service to the audience at that time.”
Five days before, in response to my questions about David Brooks, I had received an email from the NPR ombudsman’s office containing a statement that they said was from NPR’s standards and practices editor:
David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on All Things Considered to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is no secret. We agree with the Times’ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel have been “formed by all kinds of things … [and] are not going to change whether or not his son is serving in the IDF, beyond his natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being.” We also agree with the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column. That strikes us as a reasonable suggestion. If a situation arises and we feel he should also mention it on our air, we still [sic] discuss that with Mr. Brooks at that time. [Ellipsis was in the original statement emailed to me.]
(You can see the statements side by side below.)
I published this email and a rebuttal to the statement on my blog that same day, Friday, Oct 10th. The following Wednesday, Oct. 15th, I was able to reach NPR’s standards editor, Mark Memmott, who confirmed that he had written the statement. I then raised some of the flaws I saw with it (the same ones I discussed in my post).
Memmott was particularly interested when I pointed out that the statement acknowledging Mr. Brooks’ “natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being” indicated why Mr. Brooks should recuse himself, since his commentaries have the power to influence the public in ways that would impact his son either positively or negatively.
During the phone call it came out that Memmott had not known before I called him that his statement had been sent to me. After we hung up it occurred to me that Memmott was also probably unaware that I had published it. I told him I was working on a blog post and would send it to him. I was then involved in other projects over the following days and was only able to finish my new post tonight. This contains additional info on NPR’s ethics guidelines.
After I completed it, I then looked to see if PBS’s ombudsman Michael Getler (whom I had spoken with by phone last week) had yet written anything about Brooks. I discovered his column, and was startled to see Sara Just’s statement, parts of it word for word the same as Memmott’s. The only significant difference was that the reference to Brooks’ “natural concerns as a father” section was omitted.
I now plan to contact Memmott and Just, and ask about the source of their telepathy.
While PBS and NPR are both under the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the public perception is that they are largely independent entities with separate editorial control and decision-making. It appears that’s not the case.
Below are the two statements:
* * *
Following is information about Just and NewsHour from a press release on the PBS website:
In addition to being executive producer, Just is also Senior Vice President of NewsHour Productions LLC. She reports to Rick Schneider, President of NewsHour Productions LLC and Chief Operating Officer of WETA.
The press release states:
“In July 2014, WETA assumed management and control for PBS NewsHour, with the formation of NewsHour Productions LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of WETA. This transition followed the retirements of the program’s original founders, managing editors and co-anchors, Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil, who established the commitment to excellence in journalism that guides PBS NewsHour to this day.”
Update on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 08:49AM by Alison Weir
A few years ago PBS ombudsman Michael Getler wrote a column in which he emphasized:
“My interest in mentioning this is simply to remind the vast majority of those who wrote to me or called is to explain that PBS is not NPR…. and that both organizations, while part of public broadcasting in this country, are separate organizations and separate public media entities.”
So is it appropriate for the two supposedly separate media organizations to collaborate on how to respond to ethics complaints, especially without informing the public that they are doing so?
Update on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 10:07AM by Alison Weir
It’s interesting to see that Memmott was one of the authors of NPR’s newest code of ethics.
It’s even more interesting to see that when the handbook came out, NPR’s vice president for news stated: “…commentators are expected to follow NPR’s ethical principles when doing work on behalf of NPR.”
She also said that commentators would receive copies of the handbook.
NPR, according to a 2012 press release, “reaches 27 million listeners each week.”
Who Will Show the Moral Courage to End the US’s Middle East Wars?
American military interventions tend to follow a familiar pattern. The path to intervention begins when Washington decides to support one side in an ongoing conflict. Regardless of its true nature, the side Washington chooses is elevated to sainthood while the side Washington decides to attack is demonized.
Soon, the usual suspects, Neocons and Liberal Interventionists who are only nominally Republicans or Democrats, trot out the old mantra, “It’s the 1930s and we can’t we can’t let another Hitler rise again.” In 1991 it was Saddam Hussein. In 1995, the villains were Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. In 1999, the principle villain was Slobodan Milošević. All were guilty of heinous crimes and deserved the worlds’ contempt, but none were radically different from most of their contemporaries governing peoples at the same time in the Balkans and the Middle East.
To the uniformed American public remote from the regions where their armed forces will operate, it did not matter. With the added boost from America’s enthusiastic media, the usual suspects stampeded the nation into military action.
Today, things are a little different. After 13 years of ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan and Iraq, and, after watching 123 Islamist Militias overrun Libya in the aftermath of the United States-led NATO bombing campaign, Americans are more circumspect. True, ISIS, the Sunni Islamists in pickup trucks ransacking towns across the wastelands of the Middle East, is barbarous and savage, but the support for all-out war to destroy ISIS involving tens of thousands of American Soldiers and Marines is tenuous. The solution: an “airpower only” answer to Washington’s need to “do something.”
Today, it’s a re-run of the Kosovo Air Campaign across Mesopotamia. It’s worth pausing to recall the events of the air campaign that lasted from 28 February 1998 until 11 June 1999.
In Kosovo American and NATO pilots found few if any good targets on the ground. Once Yugoslav (Serbian) tanks, artillery and troops dispersed across mountainous and forested terrain inside a region smaller than Wales, American Airpower had enormous trouble finding and attacking Serb forces. Old, but robust Serb air defenses skillfully integrated with commercial radars made effective air strikes launched from below 11,000 to 15,000 feet extremely dangerous, if not impossible.
Confronted with this situation, General Wes Clark expanded the air war beyond Kosovo into Serbia where the aircraft could easily identify and strike infrastructure. Initially, the resulting strikes in Serbia looked impressive on television and acted as a tonic for NATO’s beleaguered leaders. The destruction of electrical power plants and bridges over the Danube ruined Serbia’s economy, but it did little to influence events on the ground in Kosovo.
America’s European allies grew impatient. Why, Europeans asked, had NATO’s military Leaders not anticipated Serb military action to expel Kosovo’s Muslim Albanian population? Why not refocus the air campaign on Serb forces in Kosovo? To make matters worse, small numbers of Serb and Albanian civilians died in air strikes meant for Serb troops or infrastructure. Predictably, public support for the air campaign in the United States and Europe weakened.
Undeterred, General Clark pressed for the commitment of U.S. and European ground forces. Clark believed the air campaign was the equivalent of “Rolling Thunder;” the 1965 air campaign that led to the commitment of U.S. Ground Forces to Vietnam. It was not to be.
After weeks of negotiations, Ambassador Strobe Talbot succeeded in persuading Moscow to abandon Belgrade. Moscow deserted Belgrade because Moscow needed American and European support to cope with Russia’s shattered economy and a relentless Muslim rebellion in Chechnya.
Without Russian material support in terms of food and fuel, Milošević had no choice but to capitulate. Without food and fuel, hundreds of thousands of Serbs would die in the fierce Balkan winter. Serbian forces withdrew in good order from Kosovo. Pushing the Serbs out of Kosovo cost roughly $4.5 billion. Air strikes inflicted $9 billion of damage on little Serbia. Damage to the economies of the States in the Danube River Valley, to Italy and Greece ran into the billions of dollars too.
President Clinton was understandably relieved. He’d escaped from the Balkan disaster just in time.
Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, the Middle East is not tiny Kosovo. There is no easy retreat from the strident declarations made at the outset of his generals’ hasty, ill-conceived policy of intervention from the air. Once again, there are few, if any, lucrative target sets for American Airpower. Worse, the Middle East is in the grip of societal collapse and radicalization.
From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, the old Cold War military alliances are crumbling and many of the Sunni Arab ruling elites that supported them fear their own populations. Millions of Sunni Muslim Arabs admire ISIS. They do so because they are struggling with dysfunctional governments mired in corruption and they fear the encroaching power and influence of Shiite Iran in Damascus, Baghdad, and the Persian Gulf Emirates.
More significantly, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is leading Turkey’s population of 77 million on an Ottoman Revival intertwined with the re-invigoration of Turkey’s centuries’ old Islamic identity. Since taking office, Erdogan has rejected every American diplomatic and military initiative in the region. Frustrated with the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood to secure power in Egypt, Erdogan has no interest in obstructing ISIS’s attacks on his regional opponents, apostate Shiites, Christians, Jews and, most of all, Kurds.
Erdogan and his Sunni Islamist supporters in the region are furious with Washington’s support for the Kurdish independence and Iran’s client Shiite State Baghdad. American air strikes are rescuing Ankara’s enemies from destruction at the hands of ISIS. Whatever else ISIS may be, in Erdogan’s mind, they are fellow Sunni Islamists and many of its fighters are Turks from the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as Anatolia. Under these circumstances no one in Washington should be surprised that the Turkish Army, the largest in NATO, obedient to Erdogan’s orders recently attacked Kurds, but not ISIS fighters.
More time, new tactics, more money, more troops and better strategic “partners” will not change these regional realities. The logical choice for President Obama is to tell the American people the truth: America’s military interventions in the Middle East and Southwest Asia are festering sores, bottomless pits for American blood and treasure. Americans can secure their own borders, enforce the rule of law and build economic prosperity at home, but Americans in uniform cannot and will not “fix” the Middle East.
Of course, suspending military operations that are both ineffective and counterproductive takes both understanding and moral courage. In Washington DC, moral courage is always in short supply. British Prime Minister, Sir Benjamin Disraeli made the same point over a hundred years ago: “You will find as you grow older,” Disraeli said to a new member of the House of Commons, “that courage is the rarest of all qualities to be found in public life.”
NPR’s standards editor & ombudsman minimize and/or ignore NPR ethics requirements regarding David Brooks
In recent weeks I’ve phoned and emailed the NPR ombudsman’s office several times about commentator David Brooks’ conflict of interest – Brooks’ son has been serving in the Israeli military while Brooks has been commenting on Israel without divulging that his son was in the Israeli army. Ombudsmen are charged with publicly addressing ethical breaches by a news organization’s journalists.
Now I’ve also been in touch with NPR’s Standards and Practices Editor, Mark Memmot, who is in charge of ensuring that NPR journalists adhere to ethics standards. Last week NPR’s ombudsman’s office sent me an email that contained a statement by Mr. Memmott. I discussed this statement in a previous post and now will expand on this a bit more, specifically including information about NPR’s own ethics code.
Below is the email containing Mr. Memmott’s statement:
Thank you for contacting the NPR Ombudsman. We appreciate your comments and your thoughts will be taken into consideration as we continue to monitor the reporting.
The Ombudsman is currently working on a blog post about this issue. You may be interested in this statement from our standards and practices editor:
David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on All Things Considered to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is no secretWe [sic] agree with the Times’ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel have been “formed by all kinds of things … [and] are not going to change whether or not his son is serving in the IDF, beyond his natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being.” We also agree with the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column [see my comments on the Rosenthal and Sullivan statements here]. That strikes us as a reasonable suggestion. If a situation arises and we feel he should also mention it on our air, we still [sic] discuss that with Mr. Brooks at that time.
There are a number of problems with this statement, one of which is that it largely fails to apply NPR’s own ethics requirements to Mr. Brooks.
The fact is that NPR’s ethics codes place a strong emphasis on impartiality and transparency. They include the activities of family members among the activities that may interfere with impartiality, and decree that NPR journalists inform NPR of any potential conflicts of interest. And they apply these ethical requirements to analyses and commentaries, not just to reportorial activities.
NPR’s full ethics handbook states:
“All NPR journalists, including those of us who work for the arts and music desks, must tell our supervisors in advance about potential conflicts of interest.”
NPR’s ethics handbook states:
“Our methods are transparent and we will be accountable for all we do.”
“We are vigilant in disclosing to both our supervisors and the public any circumstances where our loyalties may be divided – extending to the interests of spouses and other family members – and when necessary, we recuse ourselves from related coverage.”
The handbook has an entire section on the importance of impartiality. Below is a particularly relevant section:
Impartiality in our personal lives
Be aware that a loved one’s political activity may create a perception of bias.
Some of our family members — including spouses, companions and children — may be involved in politics or advocacy. We are sensitive to the perception of bias. So we inform our supervisors and work with them to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest [emphasis added].
NPR journalists recuse themselves from covering stories or events related to their family members’ political activities. We may go so far as to change job responsibilities (for instance, moving off the “politics desk” to an area of coverage well removed from that subject). “You have the right to marry anyone you want, but you don’t have the right to cover any beat you want” if the potential conflicts appear to be too great, as Tom Rosenstiel of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said to the Los Angeles Times.
The ethics handbook includes additional statements specifically about commentary, concluding:
Our commentaries must also hew to other Guiding Principles, reflecting honesty, accuracy and transparency.
In other words, NPR’s own standards indicate that Mr. Brooks should have informed his editors of his son’s employment in the Israeli military. They also suggest that he should recuse himself from commenting on Israel. If Mr. Brooks chooses not to recuse himself from this subject matter, and if NPR fails to require this, its ethics codes direct that he should at least divulge to the public the fact that his son is serving in the military of the foreign country he is discussing.
Yet, so far NPR
- has not informed listeners that Brooks had a close personal interest in a subject in which he was supposedly offering disinterested analysis,
- has not asked Mr. Brooks to recuse himself from future commentary on a subject in which he has a personal interest, and
- has not stated clearly that this conflict of interest will be divulged in the future (only saying that they might discuss this with Mr. Brooks “if the situation arises”).
There are a number of factual errors and logical inconsistencies in Mr. Memmott’s statement (which I also discussed in my previous post):
1. While Mr. Memmott claims that Mr. Brooks’ situation is “no secret,” in reality, the large majority of NPR listeners quite likely have no idea of Mr. Brooks’ conflict of interest.
The only place the information about Brooks has appeared in print to date is a Hebrew version of an Israeli newspaper, and possibly the Los Angeles Jewish Journal (whose online article was the first place to reveal it in English; it was also on the New York Magazine website). It has not appeared on any mainstream radio or TV broadcast that I’m aware of.
2. While Mr. Memmott is correct in stating that Mr. Brooks is not a reporter, this does not exempt Mr. Brooks from the necessity of abiding by ethics requirements. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists‘ decrees that opinion writers should disclose potential conflicts of interest.
3. It is entirely correct that Mr. Brooks has “natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being,” which is precisely why Mr. Brooks should recuse himself from commenting on matters that concern Israel.
The reality is that Mr. Brooks is a powerful and influential journalist whose commentary about Israel does indeed have the capacity to affect his son’s “safety and well-being.”
Commentary that defends Israel to the American public serves to help keep American tax money ($8-10 million per day) and American diplomatic support for Israel flowing, both of which are extremely important for his son’s safety and well-being.
Commentary that pointed out the illegality and immorality of Israel’s recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military in which his son is serving would quite likely interfere with his son’s well-being, as an increasing number of Americans would join those around the world calling for war crimes tribunals.
Since Mr. Brooks does the former and not the latter, his commentary, at minimum, gives a strong appearance of bias.
According to NPR’s ethics handbook, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos is also responsible for addressing ethical violations. In fact, the ombudsman is called NPR’s Chief Ethics Officer. He is also responsible for informing the public about such matters.
Yet, so far Mr. Schumacher-Matos has failed to weigh in on this matter, most recently choosing instead to write about what to call the Washington DC football team.
Important as that issue is, it is hard to feel that it is more important than the life-and-death issue of Israel-Palestine and the recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military that David Brooks’ son was serving in while Mr. Brooks was praising Israeli actions on NPR.
I hope that Mr. Schumacher-Matos will eventually step up to the plate and call on NPR, which proclaims its dedication to honesty, transparency, and the highest principles of journalism, to inform the public that commentator David Brooks has been issuing opinions on an issue in which he had a hidden interest. I hope he will also recommend that NPR look for another commentator to replace Mr. Brooks – one who doesn’t believe he is above ethical obligations.
Street Demonstrations In 21 European Countries Held To Protest Against TAFTA/TTIP; Another ACTA Revolt Brewing?
Last month, the European Commission refused to accept a request to allow an official EU-wide petition called a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to take place. This was a curiously maladroit move by the Commission: it would have been easy to allow the petition against TAFTA/TTIP and CETA to proceed, thank the organizers once it was completed, file it away somewhere and then ignore it. Instead, by refusing to allow it to take place, the European Commission has highlighted in a dramatic manner the deeply undemocratic way in which so-called trade agreements are conducted.
Moreover, those making the request have simply gone ahead anyway, launching what they call the “Self-organised European Citizens’ initiative Against TTIP and CETA“. Even though this was only launched last week, it has already collected over 600,000 signatures from European citizens at the time of writing, and there is every indication that it will go well past the nominal one million signatures that the ECI would have required. The European Commission’s refusal to allow the official petition was doubly stupid, since it came shortly before a Europe-wide day of action against TAFTA/TTIP that took place last Saturday, and doubtless encouraged people to take to the streets in order to make their views felt:
On October 11, 2014, tens of thousands of people and hundreds of organisations in 21 countries are organising actions to reclaim democracy, and stop the negotiations on three far-reaching trade agreements: the EU-US deal (TTIP), the EU-Canada deal (CETA) and the trade in services deal (TiSA).
This decentralised European Day of Action — consisting of over 300 actions, marches, meetings and flash mobs — is being organised by an unprecedented alliance of civil society groups and individuals, social movements, trade unions, rights defenders, farmers and grassroots activist groups.
Reporting on the event, Euractiv.com wrote:
Some 400 activist groups marched all over Europe on Saturday (11 October) in protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as the EU-US trade deal crystallises opposition to a wide variety of issues — from shale gas to corporate finance.
That last point is important. Euractiv.com goes on to explain:
The opposition to TTIP has many faces however, and seems to embody a wide variety of concerns. In France, many small demonstrations focused on opposition to shale gas, especially in the South of France, while in Berlin protesters were worried that TTIP would weaken the powers of the German regions, or Länders.
Potentially, that could make the European opposition to TAFTA/TTIP even broader-based than it was to ACTA, where people were largely concerned about a single issue — digital rights. And just as the ACTA demonstrations started off small scale, but grew to hundreds of thousands of people before ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament, so the anti-TTIP movement in Europe could easily swell larger still. Especially if the European Commission continues to conduct the negotiations in secret and without any input from its citizens.