When People Act on Their Consciences

Looking at the political landscape of the past several decades it is often difficult, if not impossible, to find reason for hope or optimism! Today’s New York Times published “Burglars Who Took on FBI Abandon Shadows,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/07/us/burglars-who-took-on-fbi-abandon-shadows.html?pagewanted=1&rref=us&hpw) the account of the burglary of the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office that blew the top off of J. Edgar Hoover’s Cointelpro operations against the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War.

Forty-three years ago, eight antiwar activists, five of whom are named in this article, broke into that FBI office during an evening when a hugely popular boxing match took place and provided  the incriminating evidence from FBI documents of FBI wrongdoing to a reporter at The Washington Post. The rest is history, so to speak, with governmental wrongdoing and spying put ever-so temporarily on hold (The popularity of war was also questioned for a time…it had a name…Vietnam Syndrome).

By the early 1970s, the Vietnam War had become unpopular with a majority of those polled in the U.S., and the system of inducting men into the military by way of a draft was on life support (The draft lottery had already been implemented, but that did not take the energy out of the antiwar movement).

As a war resister during that era, my only criticism of those who have bravely come forward now is: why so late? I am keenly aware of all of the risks involved in taking bold action against an immoral war (It’s been awhile since there’s been a “moral” one), but one of the prices that must be considered in committing civil disobedience is paying a penalty for taking on authority and power.

Parallels are drawn between the FBI office burglars and the contemporary whistleblower Edward Snowden, but that analogy is somewhat stretched. I believe that Snowden did a service to this country, but unlike the Vietnam War where millions perished, the current wars that the U.S. wages are not on the scale of the former. Perhaps readers might conclude that the single death of an innocent civilian is one death too many, but the analogy to Snowden still falls short. However, the same issue of surveillance is at play now, as it was during the Vietnam War, but surveillance has reached Orwellian proportions now, so perhaps the analogy is closer than I originally thought.

As I observed in my comment on The Times article on the burglary: “Hats off gentlemen [sic]!”

Does Edward Snowden Get to Come Home?

I think that Edward Snowden is both a hero and a patriot in the tradition of King, Gandhi, and Ellsberg, in addition to the tens of thousands of others who have said no to arbitrary authority and said yes to their consciences in times of war and oppression!

But will Edward Snowden be granted clemency or allowed to plead to some type of lesser charge(s) brought by the U.S. government for revealing some of the secrets of the NSA?

For a somewhat narrow perspective on the issue of two U.S. senators (Rand Paul, R-Kentucky and Charles Schumer, D-New York), readers might like to consult the short article on the New York Times Website today (Sednators [sic] Differ Sharply on Penalty for Snowden, January 5, 2014).

It’s interesting to note that between the two senators interviewed for this article that Paul the libertarian and conservative Republican is far more “sympathetic” to an argument for showing some sort of leniency toward Snowden than the Democratic senator from New York. And is that any surprise when the head of the Democrats in the U.S., Barack Obama, has conducted the most secretive administration in recent memory and has actively pursued and championed the prosecution of government whistleblowers! Readers would have to go as far back to the administration of Richard Nixon to find a more clandestine philosophy of government than Barack Obama’s. Indeed, the NSA’s program of mass surveillance of national and global communications has grown exponentially under the Obama administration. The latter may not bring solace to many of Obama’s supporters? These supporters have been as silent in reaction to the Obama administration’s drone wars and ongoing and past wars in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and once again perhaps in Iraq. It’s amazing at how liberals give blank checks to the leaders of their party, but rail against Republicans who take similar actions and positions!

Some may be acquainted with the Espionage Act of 1917. It has to do with giving aid to the enemy in times of war (and can also be applied in times of peace) and its penalties are draconian! Although I’d like to think otherwise, no administration that has been so secretive and has actively pursued war on so many fronts is going to cut any deal with an individual who removed the shroud of secrecy from government spying.

While there is a place for government secrets in a world of political and religious fanaticism, there is also the well-established tradition of the respect for individual rights and the right of individuals in this society to freely communicate with one another without the threat and reality of government snooping! That’s codified in the Bill of Rights, a document that many in the government need to seriously peruse from time to time.

“The Poor Will Always Be With Us?”

The New York Times carries an excellent article today on the level of poverty in the U.S. ( 50 Years Later, War on Poverty Is a Mixed Bag). Despite inroads into cutting poverty through federal government intervention in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the number of poor and near-poor in the U.S. have risen to alarming numbers and affect more people in real numbers than in the 1960s when the battle to eradicate poverty began. Many in the middle class are a single paycheck or illness away from poverty

The reasons for intractable levels of poverty are many. Post-industrial capitalism is well known for how it jettisoned millions of workers and their families when a global economy was enshrined into law through international trade agreements. Workers who could once support a family on a working class and lower-middle class income vanished. At the same time, the service industry exploded and surplus workers either took what lesser work they could find or began working longer hours (entire households returned to the workforce beginning in the 1970s).

Along with the creation of a service-sector economy, supports for working families that were on the edge of the economy disappeared. The Clinton administration is known for its end to what came to be a cliche as welfare-as-we-know-it. Housing subsidies were also ended for many. The cost of retraining in the new economy became extravagant for many and student debt rose to the $1 trillion mark with many graduates unable to repay their loans because the work they often found was not equal to their newly acquired skills.

In the 1970s, a more pernicious side to the global economy came home to roost domestically. Those who could not compete in the new economy sometimes found themselves falling into the prison industry. As many penalties for drug use and drug sales were toughened, some found themselves locked away for sentences that could be categorized as draconian at best.

While the president talks the talk about raising the minimum wage (which would be a good first step in fighting poverty), corporations that are sitting on trillions of dollars of assets often refuse to invest in the domestic economy. And the nation’s treasure is squandered on foreign entanglements of all kinds!

In the wealthiest nation, poverty remains a permanent stain!

Attacks Against Women’s Reproductive Rights

Attacks against women’s right to reproductive independence has [have] been going on for 40 years. The anti-choice movement is relentless in its efforts to return abortion to back alleys. This well-financed movement to return women to a subservient role in the U.S. will leave those most vulnerable in dire circumstances. I often wonder where the voice of the anti-choice movement is when it comes to funding public health initiatives for children, programs of social uplift, and education across the U.S.?

 3-Year Push by States to Curb Abortion Alters Legal Terrain

The New Quagmire in Iraq

The New Quagmire in Iraq

The disaster that has been in the making since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 on completely false pretenses is coming to a head, so to speak. With the loss of parts of the cities of Falluja and Ramadi (The New York Times, Parts of 2 Key Iraqi Cities Fall to Qaeda Group Active in Syria, January 2, 2014) what the administration of George W. Bush falsely ranted about in 2002 and 2003, and was largely supported by those polled in the U.S. (70 percent), major newspapers, and the larger media, is actually taking place. Religious extremists from al Qaeda, not present in Iraq during the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, are making inroads into this nation that has been torn apart by warfare for over 2 decades. And with the administration of Barack Obama pledging material support for the government in Baghdad, the endless cycle of war in the Middle East seems as if it’s on a trajectory to continue. Meanwhile, here in the U.S. food stamps are being cut for poor people!