Various matters

Ongoing banker-government corruption; media hostility and Assange; our friendly Iranian Terrorists

Published June 23, 2012 11:54AM (EDT)

(1) If you can find 25 minutes or so this weekend, I can't recommend highly enough this segment from this week's Bill Moyers program, with Yves Smith and Matt Taibbi, discussing the increasingly corrupt banking industry and the multiple ways the U.S. Government continues to prop it up:


(2) One of the hallmarks of the establishment media is how it reverses its ostensible function: it is servile and reverent when reporting on or questioning the nation's most powerful actors, yet becomes aggressively adversarial only toward those who challenge establishment factions and who are loathed within them. In sum, these media outlets are orthodoxy enforcers, little high school clique monitors venerating the popular and scorning the outcasts. The vitriolic media discussions this week of the widely-loathed-in-D.C.-and-London Julian Assange provided a perfect example (watch this incredibly hostile CNN interview with an Assange supporter and ask whether any upstanding, respected figure of D.C. power would ever be treated that way in a CNN interview).

In particular, this sneering, threatening, blindly jingoistic Washington Post Editorial is a classic illustration of this prevailing media attitude: the democratically elected Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, is "a small-time South American autocrat" because he defies the U.S.; Assange and Correa's criticisms of American foreign policy are "anti-American slanders and paranoia"; granting Assange asylum would make Correa "a hero with the global anti-American left"; Congress should punish Ecuador if it grants asylum by withdrawing its "special trade preferences that allow it to export many goods duty-free", etc. etc. As always in American media discourse: Our Side is the Embodiment of Freedom and Justice and anyone who criticizes Us are anti-freedom haters (as President Correa said in an interview yesterday: "if we had done a hundredth of what they did to Assange, we would be called dictators and oppressors"). The Post Editorial also contains this amazing passage:

The WikiLeaks man claims, after all, that he is resisting extradition to Sweden because he believes he will be subsequently turned over to the United States and exposed to the death penalty. That no U.S. charges or extradition case are open against him is irrelevant to this fantasy.

So fears that the U.S. seeks to prosecute and extradite Assange are mere "fantasy," say the Post Editors. Apparently, they don't read their own newspaper (and, really, who can blame them?):

WikiLeaks founder could be charged under Espionage Act

By Ellen Nakashima and Jerry Markon, Washington Post Staff Writers

Federal authorities are investigating whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group's release of government documents, including possible charges under the Espionage Act, sources familiar with the inquiry said Monday.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr said the Justice Department and Pentagon are conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" . . . . .

The U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria - which in 2005 brought Espionage Act charges, now dropped, against two former pro Israel lobbyists - is involved in the effort, the sources said. . . Holder was asked Monday how the United States could prosecute Assange, who is an Australian citizen. "Let me be very clear," he replied. "It is not saber rattling."

There's also this:

The US government has opened a grand jury hearing into the passing of hundreds of thousands of state secrets to WikiLeaks – the start of the process of deciding whether to prosecute the website and its founder, Julian Assange, for espionage.

The first session of the grand jury is understood to have begun in Alexandria, Virginia, with the forced testimony of a man from Boston, Massachusetts. The unidentified man was subpoenad to appear before the panel.

The terms of the subpoena – first revealed by the Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald – gave a clear indication that the jury has been convened specifically to consider whether to approve the prosecution of Assange and Wikileaks.

It said the hearing was investigating "possible violations of federal criminal law involving, but not necessarily limited to, conspiracy to communicate or transmit national defence information in violation of" the Espionage Act.

And this:


Can you believe what a paranoid loser Julian Assange is for indulging the obviously deranged "fantasy" that the U.S. would seek to prosecute and extradite him? Note, too, how Hiatt -- without apparently realizing the contradiction -- simultaneously mocks Assange for fearing U.S. prosecution, while demanding that Congress severely punish Ecuador if it grants Assange asylum: if the U.S. has no interest in punishing Assange, why would it be angered by the granting of asylum?

Most of the snide commentary about Assange is grounded in the unstated belief that actual oppression is something that happens only in non-Western countries, not in such sterling beacons of justice as Britain, Sweden, and the United States of America. Dissidents in need of protection from state oppression are something that lowly countries like China and Russia have, not the Land of the Free and its allies.


(3) In case you're wondering why the U.S. is poised to remove the Iranian group MEK from its list of Terror organizations, the reason (other than the large payments funneled to political leaders such as Ed Rendell, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, Fran Townsend, etc.) is captured perfectly by this misleading Reuters article today:

MEK is now beloved in Washington because they are being turned into the Ahmed Chalabis of Iran: used to create the false illusion that there is substantial support among Iranians for Western intervention in their country (note, too, how "appeasement" means: negotiating in order to achieve a peaceful resolution). The reality is that MEK, which supported Iraq in its war with Iran and was long protected by its patron Saddam Hussein, is widely loathed in Iran, a country where even actual opposition leaders support Iran's right to pursue its nuclear program. MEK leaders are as far away from being the "Iran opposition head" as a person randomly selected from the U.S. phone book. But because this designated Terror group is now being used to advance American interests, it is, by definition, no longer a Terrorist group and will thus likely soon be removed from the list. That's what "Terrorist" means: those who defy American dictates and impede its interests. 


(4) As is obvious, a huge amount of oligarchical money is flooding America's political system: more so than ever before. This is often blamed on the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, but that ruling concerned a narrow issue: whether corporations and unions were permitted to spend unlimited amounts from their general treasury on supporting political candidates. That decision was not about whether individuals (such as, say, Sheldon Adelson) were permitted to do so. This New York Times article does a good job of debunking many of the most common misconceptions around this issue and, most importantly, identifying the numerous systemic causes for the suffocating influence of money in the political process. I continue to believe that a system of robust public financing is the optimal solution for counter-balancing these influences.


(5) The environmental activist Dave Roberts recently gave a 15-minute TED talk on climate change that, as he alludes to at the beginning, arose from a Twitter discussion he had a few months ago with me and Chris Hayes. The talk is an excellent, easy-to-understand summary of the case for why global warming merits greater attention. It can be viewed here:


(6) This Gawker critique of a New York Times glowing profile of two teenager heirs is one of the most amusingly scathing things I've read in some time.


(7) In connection with the release next week of the paperback version of my last book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, I'll be appearing at several events and doing multiple media appearances, which I'll post as they approach. For now: for those in Chicago, I'll be speaking on the evening of June 29 at the Socialism 2012 Conference on "Challenging the Surveillance State"; event information is here; for those in New York, I'll be speaking at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn on the evening of July 2, hosted by the very funny political comedian Jamie Kilstein; event information is here (those who had tickets to that event originally scheduled for last October but cancelled at the last minute can obtain free tickets by contacting Powerhouse).

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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