Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Greenwald's Spotlight on Lamo and Manning a Much Needed Reality Check

Logo used by WikileaksImage via Wikipedia

There has been a great deal of coverage regarding the detention of Bradley Manning for his alleged leak of video and documents to the Wikileaks website, much of it centered around Julian Assange and the Wikileaks website.  While I am a fan of Wikileaks and Assange's firm devotion to his convictions, there has not been enough of a spotlight focused on the questionable actions and ethics of the individual who ratted Manning out.  However, Glen Greenwald at Salon is exploring the issue very thoroughly and has written a story that provides some insight into the Lamo - Paulson connection and the somewhat twisted history they share and the less than pure motives that seem to lurk behind Lamo's actions (see the story here).
Greenwald asks some very interesting questions and then does a very thorough analysis of the issues raised.  Admittedly, I agree with him very strongly that sites like Wikileaks perform an extremely valuable service, and the sense that I get from this article is that Lamo's ratting out of Manning seems to be motivated by little more than an extreme case of narcissism.  Lamo is the type of attention seeker that craves notoriety from as wide an audience as possible, and Poulson has acted as his blowhorn for years.  Turning on Manning was simply his latest attempt to garner said attention, most likely believing that his name would be forever etched into the annals of history as a the great American Hero who risked all to save his beloved countrymen while Poulson got the inside track... the all important scoop.
One of the most interesting issues raised in the article to my mind, besides the Lamo-Paulson vanity connection, are the statements by Manning in Lamo's logs that illustrate his belief that he was acting as a whistleblower and not as a "spy" or "traitor" as Lamo has repeatedly labeled him.  Statements such as the following serve to highlight Manning's noble intentions and his desire to provide people with the truth of what he saw as criminal and immoral behavior on the part of his government in the Middle East.  He believed that by leaking these documents and videos, the truth would be "out in the open… it should be a public good." 
Lamo: what's your endgame plan, then?. . .

Manning: well, it was forwarded to [WikiLeaks] - and god knows what happens now - hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms - if not, than [sic] we're doomed - as a species - i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens - the reaction to the video gave me immense hope. . . - i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.
To me, Manning's intentions are to inform the public so that they can exercise their democratic freedoms in an educated manner.  This is the very soul of democracy and reaches to heart of what Wikileaks represents and what whistleblowers are motivated by.  It is precisely because ill intentioned individuals, organizations and government bodies seek to silence such people that Wikileaks exists, and thank God for that.  We cannot make informed democratic decisions unless we know the truth behind the "facts." This is why freedoms such as those of speech, association and the media were encoded into the constitutions of democracies everywhere, and it is scary that so much circumvention of these freedoms has taken place that whistleblowers and Wikileaks need to exist at all.
At any rate, Glen Greenwald's story is an excellent examination of this issue, and I strongly recommend it for anyone wanting to understand the issue from a different angle or anyone already following the same chain of logic.  It is well researched and extremely informative.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Help Protect Canadian Shores from Big Oil

Fisherman Steve Johansen is petitioning the Canadian government and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea to protect our oceans through better policies and strict legislation so that Canada does not suffer the kind of disaster currently unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.
Right now, British Petroleum, the owner of the well that was responsible for the Gulf disaster, currently has three licenses to drill in the Beaufort Sea in Canada’s Arctic, and in conjunction with a number of other oil companies, is petitioning the Canadian federal government to loosen the environmental regulations controlling Arctic drilling.  Chevron, another oil company is  drilling a well off the coast of Newfoundland that will run even deeper than the offending rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and there have been a number of questions raised regarding its safety.  Also, the provincial government of British Columbia is pushing the federal government to lift a moratorium on drilling of their coast, and they are already part of plan to build a pipeline from the notorious tar sands in Alberta to the coast in order to load oil on tankers for transoceanic shipping.  If successful, either move on their own could threaten one of Canada's most pristine and delicate coastlines known worldwide for its rich biodiversity.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly displayed his arrogance and his ignorance by stating that the kind of spill that is destroying the ecosystem and the industries of the Gulf of Mexico could never happen in Canada.  His government must be sent a message that Canadians and the citizens of the world are not as stupid as he would like to assume we are or like us to be.  They need to know that it is no longer acceptable for our governments to pander to the will of big business, and that is time protect our environment and the future of our children.  
Accidents such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico can happen anywhere, and they do happen for a variety of reasons, one of the largest being the drive for profit on behalf of companies like British Petroleum which forces the cutting of corners and the continuance of dangerous operating practices with the sole intent of increasing the profitability of their operations.  
If you doubt this, ask yourself why they want Canadians to loosen our protections in the Arctic?  It has nothing to do with us, the average citizen, no matter what the rhetoric and propaganda about passing the savings onto customers.  We will never see a penny in savings.  Every penny they make lines the pockets of their shareholders and executives.  Again, if you doubt it, just look at the dividends and bonuses they have been passing around in the midst of the crisis in the Gulf while doing nothing to assist the people whose lives have been devastated with their oil spill.
Help Steve Johansen protect our shores and our seas from disaster.  Sign his petition, and help save our oceans: Help protect Canada's oceans

Learn more about "Cause An Effect - World Ocean's Day " at the David Suzuki Foundation's  Cause An Effect - World Ocean's Day YouTube site
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Gulf Spill - Time to Look at the Little Pictures

Think Progress has posted a series of pictures that provide some insight into the suffering of the Gulf wildlife since the BP spill, but as poignant as they are, they only offer a glimpse of this unprecedented environmental disaster and the chain of death and devastation that has been ignited in the Gulf that will effect the entire world in the end.  This disaster encompasses the entire chain of being from bacteria to humanity, and from algae to the atmosphere.  All of it the result of the greed of a few capitalists seeking to advance their gains at any cost.

While news agencies discuss clean-up efforts and the string of unsuccessful attempts to plug the leak, the plight oil coated wildlife and the local population who are suffering unemployment and the loss of their businesses is ignored.  While the BP, Transocean and Halliburton executives worry about bad public relations and their bonuses, the coastal inhabitants worry about defaulting on their mortgages, loosing their homes and their futures.  While BP has promised to help these people, the $5,000 payouts already made are likely exhausted by the average person and certainly by businesses.   Without immediate assistance, they face bankruptcies and foreclosures and from the experience of those who suffered from spills caused by Katrina, any further assistance will probably not come without years of litigation.

The prognosis for the local ecosystem is even more grim.  Oil from the Exxon-Valdez disaster is still making appearances in Alaska, and that spill was not as massive as this one.  This spill is likely to reach up the Eastern seaboard of the United States and large underwater plumes of oil have been seen working their way across the Atlantic, effecting anything their path.  And what of effects of those dispersants that were likely even more toxic than the oil they were meant to eliminate and was known to be killing algae, one of the fundamental and most important elements in the ecosystem?

More attention needs to be paid to the real costs of this disaster instead of the political and corporate spins provided by the elites that each own a part of the blame in this.  Maybe if we look to the devastation wrought by the greed of a few, there will be enough real outrage to make the companies involved live up to their ethical and moral obligations to compensate the victims and make some real effort to clean up the spill and repair the environmental damage.  Beyond this, it might help push some real reform in the system, like cutting the ties between big money and big government so that the corporate greed machine has less effect on public policies and outcomes, and creating a real system of the people.

In the meantime, have a look at the pictures on Think Progress, they are a good start in making people see a small part of the environmental cost.

Think Progress » The pictures BP doesn’t want you to see.
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Canadian Democracy Under Attack


Canada is rapidly becoming a glaring example of a democracy in decline.  With a minority government, Canada’s democratic process should be healthier than it has been in years.  The Conservatives, as the minority government, should be hard at work building consensus between parties and trying to balance public opinion to avoid loosing a non-confidence vote.  Instead, Stephen Harper has done his best to limit and control the media, he has made a mockery of our parliamentary system through two self-serving prorogations, he is now trying to limit the power and effectiveness of parliamentary committees, and he has restricted the lawful freedom of citizens to information... sadly the list goes on.  Anyone of these issues taken by themselves are disturbing enough, but when put together, they illustrate a party that has a complete disregard for the democracy they are charged with upholding and protecting.
The Conservatives have repeatedly misused and corrupted the system in order to maintain their grip on power, as was evidenced in their prorogation of Parliament to avoid loosing a non-confidence vote in December of 2008, and then using the same tactic a year later to stymie debate on the abuse and torture of Afghan prisoners, an issue that was causing them considerable political grief.  Prorogation of Parliament is a completely legitimate and normal part of the Parliamentary Cycle, but when used by a party to avoid continued scrutiny by the public and the Opposition, it undermines democracy itself, as public and political scrutiny are the foundation upon which the entire democratic system depends for its very support and survival.
For a leading party to shut down public and political debate with the sole intent of maintaining its own grip on power, is a sure sign that the party is not as dedicated to the democratic process as it is to using the process to gain and maintain their own power.  The fact that they did it twice in a year is only slightly more disturbing than the fact that Canadians did nothing about it.  A few people got angry, a few demonstrated and once the Conservatives re-opened Parliament, it was back to business as usual.  The Conservatives were never held accountable for betraying their sacred trust, to serve and protect our democratic principals.  This type of behaviour is unacceptable and Canadians should be outraged at the outright perversion of our political system for personal and political gain.
At every turn, the Conservatives have tried to avoid accountability to the people through any means at their disposal, even though this very accountability in any democratic system is the key to its survival as an institution.  In their latest moves to try and block the Opposition from viewing documents relative to an ongoing debate, preventing staff from testifying in Committees, and trying to prevent the proper and lawful release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act demonstrate the utter contempt this party has for public debate and makes one wonder what they are trying to hide.  
At end of day however, it is the common thread that has run through the leadership history of the Harper Conservatives, since they first began trying to restrict the press’ ability to question their members freely.  They are trying to limit the flow of accurate information in order to diminish any effective public and political opposition thereby strengthening their own grip on power.  Like most tyrants in the making, they hide behind the rhetoric of war and the impending danger to us all should we show any weakness at all.  They speak of state secrets that if revealed, will so weaken our military and intelligence networks that the walls of our great nation will begin to fall down around us as our enemies storm the gates.  This is the same tired rhetoric used by every tyrant who has traded in fear to tighten their grip on the reigns of absolute power, but it is nothing more than a smoke screen meant to blind us to the truth.
As Canadians, we need to start demanding a higher standard of conduct from our politicians, especially when they begin to act like our current leader and his party.  By allowing them to continue exploiting and perverting our democratic system, we are telling our politicians that we do not truly care about our democracy.  Worst of all, by allowing these transgressions now, we are setting dangerous precedents for the future.  A relativity of conscience will begin to occur, whereby each democracy limiting measure will seem less an affront and will be much easier to commit for successive parties seeking to consolidate their hold on power.  We need to tell the Harper Conservatives and the currently lackluster Opposition Parties that enough is enough.  We love our Democracy, our Freedoms, and we demand a higher standard of governance.
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