Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Demanding Justice for Michael Brown

By Reginald Johnson

   Around the country, people are demanding justice in the Michael Brown case.

  Demonstrations have swept major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago as well as dozens of smaller cities, with thousands expressing anger that a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Brown, an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri last August.

  Hundreds of people are now marching to the Missouri State Capital of Jefferson City to show their concern for what happened to Brown, who was 18 at the time of the shooting.

  Last weekend about 100 people protested in Bridgeport, a city of about 150,000 in Connecticut.

 “Bridgeport could be the next Ferguson,” Rev. Mary McBride Lee told the crowd gathered outside the City Hall Annex, according to the Connecticut Post. “We have to stick together and stand up for what’s right.”

  It’s a good thing that so many people are criticizing the grand jury result in the Michael Brown case, because there’s a lot to be upset about.  The more you look at the facts of the case, it’s hard to understand how the grand jury came to the conclusion that there was no probable cause to indict Wilson.

  There are inconsistencies in the account Wilson gave to the grand jury and some legal experts, including a noted forensic pathologist, say Wilson’s version of how the fatal shooting took place, doesn’t conform with the physical evidence.

  Questions have also been raised about the quality of the local investigation of the Brown shooting and the way St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch handled the grand jury.

  A recent piece in Mother Jones magazine analyzed the testimony given by dozens of witnesses to the shooting, and compared that with Wilson’s testimony, and the statement by McCulloch announcing there was no basis for an indictment.  The article identified a number of discrepancies, relating to different accounts about an initial confrontation between Wilson and Brown, how it escalated into a fight, whether Wilson shot at Brown when he and his friend Dorian Johnson ran away, and whether Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot at him, after Brown had stopped running and turned around.

   Two findings are particularly noteworthy from the article, which drew in part from an analysis by PBS News Hour of 500 pages of witness testimony and Wilson’s statements:

·        While Wilson testified he did not shoot at Brown after he fled, a full 16 witnesses said he did. Only four witnesses supported Wilson on this point;

·        Though Wilson told the grand jury he shot Brown only after the teenager turned around with his hands down and began advancing towards the officer, 16 witnesses said Brown had his hands raised after he turned around. Only two witnesses said Brown did not have his hands up.

  In a recent interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, well-known forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht said Wilson’s testimony that Brown had his hands down and was reaching into his waistband, does not comport with the physical evidence. Wecht, the one-time president of the American Academy of Forensic Science, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a past consultant on many high profile crime cases, said the location and shape of the wounds sustained by Brown indicate that he could not have had his hands down at the time of the shooting. His hands had to have been raised, Wecht said.

  Wecht also expressed astonishment that a county medical examiner who came to review the Brown shooting scene on the day of the incident failed to take photographs, as required. The official said he couldn’t do so, since his camera was “out of batteries.” The medical examiner also failed to take measurements, another standard step.

   “This is absolutely unacceptable,” said Wecht.

 While no criminal charges will be forthcoming from the local grand jury, there is still the possibility that the federal government could file criminal charges against Officer Wilson. Officials from the Justice Department are conducting a separate investigation of the case.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Travesty in Michael Brown Case


By Reginald Johnson  


   There’s no question in my mind that a St. Louis County grand jury had enough information to indict Officer Darren Wilson on charges of murder or manslaughter in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

  The fact that they didn’t is a travesty.

  The grand jury, overseen by Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, met for weeks to review the case of Wilson, who shot the 18-year-old Brown, who was black, in Ferguson last August.

  The case has been fraught with racial overtones, since Wilson is white and Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

  Many African-Americans maintain that the shooting is one more example of a pattern of unjustified killings of young black men by white police officers.

  In the incident, Brown and a friend were walking down the street in Ferguson, when Wilson pulled up in a squad car and asked the two to walk on the sidewalk. According to Wilson, the two refused, and words were exchanged. When Wilson pulled his car ahead and tried to get of his car, he said Brown slammed the door on him, and a tussle occurred. Wilson maintained that Brown reached for Wilson’s gun. In the struggle, Wilson got control of the gun and fired two shots, with one grazing Brown.

   Brown then ran, and Wilson got out of the car and pursued him, apparently with gun in hand. He told the grand jury he shouted to Brown to ‘get down the ground’ but Brown refused. Then, the officer claimed, Brown turned around and began running at him. This claim, however, is disputed by eyewitnesses who said Brown stopped and put his hands up.

  Wilson said he fired several shots, with one striking Brown’s forehead, killing him.

  Though Wilson never testified that he “feared for his life” before shooting Brown, he said in his testimony that he was frightened by Brown who was bigger and who he said had a “crazed” look on his face and looked like a “demon.”

  Frightened or not, Wilson had an obligation as a trained police officer to use all methods or means at his disposal short of using deadly force to deal with Brown. By his own testimony, he had Mace in his car. Why didn’t he attempt to use it? He also had an asp (like a blackjack) in his car. Using a blackjack is not very nice, but it’s generally not going to create fatal injuries. Why didn’t he prepare to use that? Finally, all officers are trained in self-defense without a weapon. Why didn’t he plan to deal with Brown using those fighting techniques if need be, until backup help arrived?

  Why was there such a ready willingness to use deadly force?

 Contrary to the blather I’ve heard on FOX news, that the officer was “presumed innocent” from the get-go in this case, I think there was a heavy burden on Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department to show that Wilson absolutely had no alternative but to use deadly force on Brown, who did not have a weapon  The burden was clearly on the police to prove Wilson’s actions were appropriate.

  When you consider that Wilson had other non-lethal means of dealing with Brown, and that some witnesses even contradicted Wilson in his claim that he was being threatened,  I don’t think this burden of proof was met.

  Certainly, District Attorney McCulloch had enough probable cause to bring an indictment.

   It is troubling that apparently McCulloch did not try to direct this grand jury, as prosecutors usually do. Instead he just threw a lot of information to the grand jurors, who are ordinary citizens, and said in effect, ‘you decide.’

  It’s pretty clear McCulloch didn’t want to bring charges against Officer Wilson.

  What a disgrace. Hopefully, federal prosecutors will step in and do justice in this case.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

U.S. breaking the law? Who cares?

                  By Reginald Johnson

                 Aided by a compliant media, President Obama and top administration officials keep successfully peddling the lie that while other countries violate international law, the United States never does.

       This fact was again on display during the recent “60 Minutes” interview with Obama.

    In a question and answer session at the White House conducted by Steve Kroft, Obama talked about the U.S. campaign to roll back the the terror group ISIS and later about American relations with Russia and the U.S. economy.

    In the last month, U.S. warplanes have been bombing targets in both Iraq and Syria, with the avowed aim of destroying ISIS, which Obama and other officials maintain is a “grave threat” both to Iraq and the greater Middle East. ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
    Kroft asked a number of questions --- including why the U.S. is seemingly getting involved in another war in the region after years of following a policy of withdrawal, and also how it was that the U.S. was caught off guard by the sudden rise of ISIS, which has taken over whole areas of both Iraq and Syria.

   At no point, however, did Kroft ask the president whether the bombing of Syria, a sovereign country, was legal. He should have asked, because clearly the air strikes are not legal under international law. Syria has not attacked the U.S. and America has not secured either Syria’s permission or the United Nations Security Council permission for the strikes.

  An attack on a nation’s homeland or Security Council authorization are the only legal bases for a nation taking military action against another state.

    Clearly, under UN law and the Nuremberg Principles, the American attack qualifies as “aggression” against Syria.  Checking Dictionary.com, we see the very first definition of the word aggression is this: “The action of a state in violating by force the rights of another state, particularly its territorial rights.”

    While the subject of aggression and the legality of one nation attacking another didn’t come up during the discussion on Syria, it was a different story when the interview turned to Russia and the situation in Ukraine.

    After some diplomatic comments about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama accused the Russians of  “aggression” in Ukraine.

   “Russian aggression violated the sovereignty and terroritorial integrity of a smaller weaker country and violates international norms,” Obama said, in an apparent reference to Russia’s incursion into and takeover of Crimea in the spring, following a coup in Ukraine led by anti-Russian forces.

    There is some validity to the claim that Russia broke international law with respect to Crimea. While the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to rejoin the Russian Federation following the change in government in Kiev, it is also a fact that Russian security forces, not in uniform, had entered Ukraine prior to the vote and basically taken over the area. This was not authorized by the UN, or in any way agreed to by Ukraine. So it was not legal.

 But if the Crimean action by the Russians was illegal, then certainly our attack on Syrian terrority was illegal.

  It should also be noted that the Russian grab of Crimea was done without bloodshed, which hasn’t been the case with American attacks on Syria. Already, U.S. bombing has caused civilian deaths, according to a human rights group.

  The clear hypocrisy of Obama’s claim about aggression, however, didn’t prompt a question from Kroft. No, he just let Obama’s claims slide, without challenging the president over the double standard.

  The “60 Minutes” interviewer also failed to question the president on whether the Syria attacks are legal under domestic law.

    According to Constitutional provisions and the War Powers Act, Obama needed to get approval from Congress before sending U.S. military forces into action in another country. This never happened.

  Both the violations of international law (the treaties of which are ratified by the U.S. and are part of our law) and of the Constitution with respect to Syria, should form the basis for an impeachment proceeding against Obama. He has failed to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” as stated in his oath of office.

  Unfortunately, while some members of Congress are grumbling over the president’s failure to get congressional approval for the Syria attacks, it is unlikely that a large number of lawmakers would ever move towards impeachment over this policy.

  Too many Democrats are playing politics and turning a blind eye to Obama’s failings, while Republicans always want to look “tough” on issues of war --- whether laws are being broken or not --- and support the Syria attacks.

  So the air strikes will go on and civilian deaths will pile up just like they did in the illegal Libyan intervention three years ago. And there’s always the danger that the Syrian intervention could touch off a wider war.

 But does anyone care in Congress or in the mainstream media? Apparently not.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Shut Down a Cold War Relic

By Reginald Johnson                                      

    Nearly 25 years after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, many people are wondering, why is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) still around?

   NATO, an alliance of nations including the United States and western European countries formed in 1949 to deter any potential aggression by the Soviet Union and its allies, is not only still around, but has increased its membership and been involved in several military interventions.

   NATO forces led the intervention in Serbia in 1999, took part in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and aided in the bombing of Libya in 2011.

   Defenders of  NATO say the alliance is still needed to provide vital help in combatting terrorist forces around the globe and countering perceived expansionism by Russia.

  But critics, both in Europe and the U.S., claim NATO has become a point organization for protecting western imperial interests around the world.  The bombing of Libya, for instance, they say, was done to make sure that western oil companies could regain access to Libya’s rich oil fields, something they had lost when former dictator Mohammar Quaddafi came to power.

   “NATO is an extension of the Pentagon,” said Henry Lowendorf, a leader of the New Haven Peace Council. “The U.S. calls the shots, and these other countries go along.”

   “Everybody thought, when the Soviet Union fell, that would be the end of NATO. Instead they grew. NATO grew,” Lowendorf said.

    Acting in violation of the agreement U.S.officials struck with the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev --- that NATO would not take on any more members and move its borders to the east towards Russia --- NATO did just that in the last two decades, picking up new members out of the former Iron Curtain group, such as Poland, Lithuania and Hungary.

   The eastward advance has caused great distress among Russian officials, and is fueling the crisis over Ukraine. That country, which borders Russia, is now led by a western-oriented government, which took power after a coup in February. Government forces have been fighting a civil war against pro-Russian dissidents in eastern Ukraine who are refusing to be under the control of the new regime. The Ukrainian government recently applied for NATO membership.

 Lowendorf and a small group of others recently held an anti-NATO protest in downtown New Haven, handing out leaflets to passersby and holding placards that said “NATO, U.S. War Puppet” and “Dissolve NATO.”

Protests are also taking place in Wales, where NATO countries are holding a summit this week. President Obama will be attending.

Nancy Eberg, Mary Compton and Henry Lowendorf protest NATO.

  The Ukraine situation is expected to be a chief topic of discussion, as well as a push by the U.S. and the UK to make other member countries increase their defense spending and meet the NATO requirement that each nation spend at least 2 per cent of their GDP on the military.
   Lowendorf and others say it’s time to fold up NATO.

  “We’re asking that countries of NATO decide that NATO has no positive value in the universe and be dissolved,” he said. “We’re looking for the people of the United States to join the people of Europe, who know more about NATO than we do, and call for its dissolution. Shut it down, get rid of it.”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Drifting Towards War?



 By Reginald Johnson


        As violence spreads in Ukraine, the danger grows of an eventual confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.

     Forces loyal to the pro-western regime that came to power in Kiev in a February coup have been waging a brutal military campaign against pro-Russian separatists in the east, who do not recognize the new authorities.

  Dozens of fighters on both sides, as well as civilians, have been killed. There have been some horrific incidents with pro-government neo-Nazi fighters setting fire to buildings where separatists have fled, and burning people alive. Rebel fighters also been accused of accused of atrocities.

    The separatists, many of whom are ethnic Russians, have taken over whole cities in eastern Ukraine and say they won’t take part in a national election set for this Sunday.

   There’s concern on the part of some observers that the on-going fighting could turn into a full-fledged civil war, prompting Russia --- which borders Ukraine --- to intervene. At some point NATO and the U.S. could get involved, too.

   Given that NATO countries like the U.S. are nuclear-armed, and Russia is nuclear-armed, this is a frightening scenario.

   Unfortunately, it’s not a possibility that is totally remote, says the widely respected expert on Russia, Prof. Stephen Cohen.

          “It is not inconceivable that we may be creeping, crawling, drifting towards war with Russia,” Cohen said on the Counterpoint radio show on WPKN hosted by Scott Harris.

    Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New York University and Princeton said that in the chaos in Ukraine, “anything can happen….I think it’s the worst crisis since the Cuban missile crisis.”

          The Cuban Missile Crisis, for those not alive at the time or who don’t know, saw the U.S. and Russia (then the Soviet Union) almost start a nuclear war over American demands that Russian missiles be removed from Cuba. Fortumately, catastrophe was averted when Premier Nikita Krushchev of
Russia and President John F. Kennedy worked out a deal, whereby Russian missiles would be taken out of Cuba in return for American missiles being removed from Italy and Turkey, together with a pledge that the U.S. would not invade Cuba.

          Cohen said that to defuse the present crisis, there is an urgent need for dialogue between the Kiev regime and the east Ukrainian separatists. He said the group in east Ukraine is demanding a greater level of autonomy, possibly a form of independence in a federalized system. “This is negotiable,” said Cohen.

    At the urging of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, “roundtable” talks involving officials from Kiev, and political and business leaders in east Ukraine got started last week, but little was accomplished. More talks are planned. Separatist leaders did not attend, partly because they distrust the authorities in Kiev, and partly because the Kiev leaders said they would not talk with people “with blood on their hands,” which would exclude a number of separatists.

          It should be noted that these meetings were not suggested by the United States. The Obama administration said they didn’t object to the talks, but there was no public endorsement for the negotiations by either President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.

          In general, Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin has offered a number of steps to try to ease the crisis, while the United States has done nothing. Putin announced he was pulling his troops back from the Ukrainian border, although the west says he is lying; he asked the separatists not to hold independence referendums recently; and he’s now given support for the national election and will respect the results; and he advocated for a dialogue between the Kiev government and the eastern protesters.

     The only contributions coming from the U.S. have been a string of belligerent statements by Obama and Kerry, blaming Russia for arming and encouraging the rebel groups, and saying Russia would be hit with more economic sanctions for its alleged bad behavior.

 There’s been little apparent effort by the administration to make sure that verified neo-Nazis are not being used in the civil strife.  The fascist thugs, who spearheaded the fighting in the February coup, have now been incorporated into the National Guard, and have been reportedly carrying out atrocities in east Ukraine.

          It would be nice if President Obama would change course, tone down the rhetoric and start taking the steps to bring about a constructive dialogue between the factions in Ukraine, and settle the crisis.

          But I don’t think that is likely to happen, because the Ukraine crisis serves the United States. This is part of a long-range plan, developed probably by hawks in the Pentagon and neo-cons in the White House --- and you have to conclude now that Obama is one of them --- to undermine Russia, and ultimately force regime change.

          The noted author and war critic John Pilger wrote recently in The Guardian (“In Ukraine, the U.S. is dragging us to war with Russia”) if the civil strife continues and there’s more attacks on ethnic Russians, Putin may be provoked into coming to their aid. Then, Pilger writes, Putin’s  “pre-ordained ‘pariah’ role will justify a NATO-run guerilla war that is likely to spill into Russia itself.”


  A war that Russia has to fight next door, similar to the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, would be tremendously draining. That cost, together with the sanctions, could seriously undermine Russia in the long term, and might force regime/leadership change. The annoying Mr. Putin, who has aided two enemies of the U.S., Syria and Iran, would be out of the way. This may be the neo-cons’ dream scenario.

  But this dream plan is fraught with unbelievable risks. If Russia is backed into a corner fighting the Ukrainian regime aided by NATO weaponry, they might consider striking back with nuclear weapons. Someone’s dream scenario becomes a nightmare.

   Obviously, this is all speculation. I don’t know if such a neo-con plan is afoot. But I do know neo-cons and hawks seem to be holding sway in the White House, and Russia is certainly deemed to be a problem nation, given their alliances. So some sort of geopolitical power scheming is going on.

  We have no business in Ukraine. This is in Russia’s backyard, and their actions to date are understandable, if not always legal. They feel threatened by the eastward advance of NATO, and with Ukraine becoming a western ally (and possibly a NATO member later), Russia feels encircled.

  American policy to date in Ukraine is irrational and risks, possibly, a world war.

  People need to get involved in opposing this policy. They need to call and write their congress people and push them to take a stand against this. Congress so far has been asleep at the switch on Ukraine, with too many members unthinkingly going along with the administration. There should be hearings and a debate on Ukraine.

  As Prof. Cohen said, “I don’t remember in my lifetime there ever being a situation in America where war was on the horizon and there was no debate inside the beltway, the mainstream press, or in Congress.

          No debate at all! That’s not democracy. That’s a failure of democracy. Whether I’m right or wrong, everybody should agree we should have a debate about this.” 

    Get involved.


























































































Thursday, May 1, 2014

Media on Ukraine: What Happened to Journalism?

By Reginald Johnson

            As the United States continues to ramp up the manufactured “Ukraine Crisis” to gain geopolitical advantage over Russia, mainstream press outlets have once again abandoned their role as impartial purveyors of vital news.

             Major media operations like The New York Times, The Washington Post and MSNBC, have become virtual propaganda machines for the Obama administration as it seeks to paint Russia as the villain in the Ukraine situation. Every outrageous statement or claim by Secretary of State John Kerry or President Barack Obama about Ukraine is dutifully reported by these media, with little attempt to give a countervailing view or put the claims in context. Crititical reporting has basically gone out the window.

   The one-sided reporting has gone on pretty much unabated since a putsch took place in February in which militants, led by neo-Nazis, ousted the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, from power. The American government, whose representatives had openly encouraged protests leading up to coup, quickly recognized the new regime. The new leaders pledged to seek closer ties to the West and join the European Union.

   Coverage of both the rebellion and the establishment of a new government has been decidedly positive. Press reports have largely glossed over the presence of fascists in the uprising and in the new regime. There was wide acceptance in the mainstream press of the claim by the rebels that government snipers had shot and killed Ukrainian citizens participating in the protests, and no investigation of reports that right-wing militants had in fact, done the shooting.

    When Russia moved into Crimea in Ukraine to protect its Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol, Russia was denounced by both the Kiev government, the Obama administration and the press for breaking international law and being “expansionist.” It was true that Russia was breaking international law, and that’s wrong. But media reports on this issue rarely brought up, or brought up only sparingly, Russia’s legitimate security interests in taking back Crimea, which had been part of the old Soviet Union until 1954.

   In the 1990s, American leaders promised former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, NATO would not expand its borders to the east. But under the Clinton and Bush administrations, former Soviet bloc countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Baltic states were asked to join the western alliance, and they did. Now NATO’s borders are much farther east.

    With a potential enemy alliance inching closer to their borders and an anti-Russian government now in control in Ukraine, what were Russian leaders like Vladimir Putin supposed to think? Status quo is fine? No potential military threats?  This is absurd.

   Yet the drumbeat goes on by the administration and key members of the media that Russia is a villain, not to be trusted, and bent on expansion. America has led the way to impose economic sanctions on Russia for their actions in Crimea, and now for allegedly fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, where the Russian-oriented population seeks to break away from Kiev. The U.S. has accused the Russian Federation of secretly sending in military agents to train the east Ukrainian militants, who have taken over government buildings in various cities..

  In an echo of their shoddy reporting prior to the Iraq War, the Times recently ran a front-page piece making the case that Russian military personnel had unlawfully gone into Ukraine to train east Ukrainian rebels. The story came with photographs purportedly showing Russian soldiers training militia. In one case, the story showed a photograph of a group of men previously taken in Russia, and then photos of some of the same men doing training in Ukraine.

   But the story quickly fell apart when the free lance photographer who took the picture of the trainers stepped forward and said the group photo was shot in Ukraine, not Russia. He also said he not given permission for use of his photos, which he had posted on Instagram.

  The Times issued a limited retraction of the story some days later, with a short piece buried inside the paper.

  The Times has had other questionable stories, most recently a lengthy 1500-word Sunday article which mused about Putin’s possible substantial fortune and how it could be hit by sanctions, too. The piece on April 27 enititled “Sanctions Revive Search for Secret Putin Fortune,” offers no hard facts or evidence, just speculation.

   It’s amazing the Times would devote so much space to a piece that’s just speculation, but this fits in with the paper’s consistent portrayal of Putin as the “bad guy” in the Ukraine situation.

  Other press outlets like The Washington Post also have been on the bandwagon running Russia-bashing stories, and adopting the position of the administration and of the Kiev regime on events in Ukraine, without any questioning.

    Robert Parry, the editor of Consortiumnews.com, detailed in an article recently how Washington Post reporter Lally Weymouth, in an interview with Ukrainian internal affairs minister Arsen Avakov on the regime’s efforts to deal with the protesters in east Ukraine, referred to “Russians” in occupied buildings, and at another point called the protesters “terrorists.”

   There has been no proof presented by the U.S. government that there are Russians taking part in the occupations, but here you have a journalist, so-called, adopting the language of the administration which continues to claim that Russians are guiding the protests and Russia is masterminding the secessionist movement.

  In using the word “terrorist,” Weymouth picked up the language of the Kiev regime, which said they have to conduct “anti-terrorist” campaigns against the militants in eastern Ukraine.

   Parry writes:  “For their part, those eastern protesters have said they are resisting the imposition of power from Kiev, which has included the appointment of  billionaire “oligarchs” as regional administrators, and are rejecting a harsh austerity plan from the International Monetary Fund that will make their hard lives even harder.

 “Yet, Official Washington has largely banished those realities to the great memory hole. Many in the U.S. government and the mainstream press corps seem to be licking their lips over the prospect of unleashing hell on the eastern Ukrainians.”  http://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/22/prepping-for-a-ukrainian-massacre/

 Other outlets, usually called liberal, seem to be buying into the administration view of “Russia bad, U.S. good” on Ukraine. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in a recent segment on the sanctions wondered whether the “escalating tactics” short of war by the U.S. against Russia, were working. Then she interviewed former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who referred to Russia “escalating tensions” in Ukraine, and said the sanctions were aimed at stopping “further aggression” by Russia.

    The whole tenor of the interview was that both Maddow and McFaul were in agreement that Russia was at fault in Ukraine, and needed to be punished. Maddow didn’t raise any contrary views, or note that the U.S. had a role in fomenting the February coup, which led to the tensions in the first place.

  To top off the poor reporting and analysis of the events in Ukraine, major media --- following the administration --- have criticized any media (such as RT or alternative media) that has brought up Russian perspectives on Ukraine, for spouting Russian propaganda.

   Parry has done an excellent job in recent weeks spotlighting the media bias on Ukraine.
  In his piece, “Ukraine, Through the U.S. Looking Glass,” he wrote,  “In my four-plus decades in journalism, I have never seen a more thoroughly biased and misleading performance by the major U.S. news media. Even during the days of Ronald Reagan – when much of the government’s modern propaganda structure was created – there was more independence in major news outlets. There were media stampedes off the reality cliff during George H.W. Bush’s Persian Gulf War and George W. Bush’s Iraq War, both of which were marked by demonstrably false claims that were readily swallowed by the big U.S. news outlets.

 “But there is something utterly Orwellian in the current coverage of the Ukraine crisis, including accusing others of “propaganda” when their accounts – though surely not perfect – are much more honest and more accurate than what the U.S. press corps has been producing.” http://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/16/ukraine-through-the-us-looking-glass/

  As for me, I can’t say for sure what’s going on with some of the media. It may be in some cases top people in certain organizations agree with the “Neo-con” foreign policy of the Obama and Bush administrations and the utterly backwards and arrogant notion of “American exceptionalism.”  If so, reporters and editors below feel obliged to fall in line with the slanted coverage, or else. Probably a few reporters are neo-cons themselves, and write accordingly. In other cases, reporters feel a need, again for the sake of their careers, to play along with the administration they’re covering, otherwise they’ll lose access.

  A really good report on Ukraine would start with this central question: why is the United States so obsessed with something going on in a country that is 8,000 miles away from our borders?

   What are our motives in aiding an unelected, far-right wing regime in Ukraine and constantly demonizing Russia and its leader Mr. Putin? It’s certainly not about preserving the sanctity of international law, since we break it all the time. Stopping expansionism? How many bases do we have around the world?

   Aren’t we trying to undermine Russia, and possibly someday force regime change? And in effecting regime change, aren’t we paving the way for private corporations to gain access to the vast mineral, oil and gas wealth of Eurasia, while at the same time removing a powerful patron of Iran and Syria --- enemies of both the U.S. and Israel?

   That’s the way I see it.

  But I don’t know for sure, I’m just asking.

 I hope some people in the mainstream media, those who haven’t totally sold-out, will finally stand up and start asking similar questions.

 It's critical that they do, because the Ukraine situation --- with two nuclear-armed nations at odds with each other --- is fraught with incredible danger.


   For more in-depth news stories on Ukraine, you can go to a number of good, non-mainstream websites. Among them are: www.btlonline.org; www.consortiumnews.com; and www.commondreams.org.





Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dismantling the Corporate State


By Reginald Johnson 

                America has slid into a form of  “corporate totalitarianism”  where basic rights and freedoms outlined in our Constitution have been wiped away.

            The only thing that will restore our rights will be a mass movement, similar to the labor movement and civil rights movements of years past,  where people defy the government and engage in acts of civil disobedience.

            That’s the view of one of America’s leading intellectuals, Chris Hedges, the author of numerous books on America’s social condition and a former reporter for The New York Times.  Speaking at a recent conference on civil liberties at Central Connecticut State University, Hedges said the establishment of a mass surveillance system, repressive new laws and corporate power have made democracy in the United States  “a fiction.” There is only one way to turn it around. 

            “Reform will only come through building mass movements and alternative centers of power that can overthrow --- let me repeat that word for Homeland Security --- overthrow the corporate state,” he said.           

 Hedges was the keynote speaker at the conference sponsored by the Connecticut Coalition to Stop Indefinite Detention. The gathering also featured workshops and panel discussions on issues related to prisoners, discrimination against Muslims, deportations, drones, unlawful detentions and other civil liberties subjects.

A 20-year foreign correspondent who reported in East Germany and Czechoslovakia under communist rule, as well as in El Salvador and Guatemala during the civil wars in the 1980s, Hedges said the United States is taking on many of the characteristics of the dictatorial regimes he once covered.

    Under the guise of fighting terrorism, a vast surveillance apparatus has been set up through the National Security Agency and the FBI, which allows the government to learn everything about you --- who you are communicating with, what your views are, what your activities are, where you travel, and if you’ve had any personal issues or problems in the past. As whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed, the NSA sweeps up phone calling “metadata” of all Americans as well as their emails.

   The FBI, through legislation passed after 911, can secretly gain your personal information by issuing warrantless National Security Letters to anyone --- your employer, your bank, your doctor, your friends or a library, Hedges said.  They also have the technical capabilities through cell phones and GPS systems to track your geographical movements.

Moreover, “they will store this information for perpetuity in government computers,” Hedges said.

Additionally, under the Section 1021 provision of the National Defense Authorization Act, the government now has the power to arrest an American citizen simply on the basis that they might be linked to terrorists, place them in jail, and hold them indefinitely, without due process. And, as has happened under Barack Obama, the President can order the assassination of American citizens, if it is determined such individuals are terrorists.

Chris Hedges speaks on the surveillance state

Hedges said that those who try to expose illegal behavior by the government are  “hunted down” and pay a heavy price. He pointed to Chelsea Manning, an Army officer who released military files to divulge war crimes by U.S. soldiers, and then was tried on espionage charges; and Snowden, who released classified files to reveal the unconstitutional NSA spying program, and then had to flee the country to avoid prosecution.

     “This is always the way totalitarian secret police forces work --- the SS, the KGB, the East German Stasi,” said Hedges. “Dissent is criminalized, truth is hidden.”

   As the laws were passed and court decisions handed down which enabled the surveillance state, Constitutional provisions such as the 4th Amendment and its guarantee of privacy, have been shredded, Hedges said.

    Hedges said many people in the legal profession should have spoken up during this period of constitutional erosion, but did not.  “Where are the judges, the deans of law schools, the nation’s 1 million lawyers?” he asked.  “Why do they refuse to defend the Constitution? They have become valued partners, along with a bankrupt press, in a campaign to eradicate our most basic civil liberties.”

   While the  ‘war on terrorism’ and ‘national security’ are always cited as the reasons for the passage of the laws and judicial decisions curbing civil liberties, Hedges sees another reason behind the repression: corporate influence.  In these times of economic distress and widening inequality,  the elites in the corporate world fear potential unrest and seek control, Hedges said.  A mass surveillance system serves their interests.

            “Totalitarianism no longer comes through communism or fascism, it comes now from corporations,” Hedges said. “And these corporations fear those who think, write and speak out and those who form relationships freely. Individual freedom impedes their power and their profit.”

        Hedges, the author of a dozen books, including  “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt,” “Empire of Illusion,” and “Death of the Liberal Class,” dismissed the idea that reform of our government and repealing anti-democratic laws will somehow come from elected officials like Obama or members of Congress.

  About the recent proposal by Obama to restrict NSA’s metadata collection, in the wake of Snowden’s revelations, Hedges said at first it seems good, “until you look at the details.”

  Then he said,  “I ask you, how many times does Barack Obama have to lie to you before you get it?”

     He said Obama had broken a number of pledges concerning civil liberties and constitutional matters, including the promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison; a pledge to revisit the Patriot Act; the promise to shut down our “black sites”; or the promise to reverse unconstitutional executive decisions by his predecessor, former President George Bush.

   “We got none of this. We got more untruths,” Hedges said.

 To restore our liberties, Hedges said,  the American people cannot look to government officials. “It means refusing to trust in their cosmetic reforms. Reforms will never come from those complicit in crimes.”

 In the end, it will be the people who will have to bring about change. “We can only save ourselves. We are the people we have been waiting for,” he said.

  “We must find, like Snowden, the physical and moral courage to tear down the structures that enslave us,” he said.