Sunday, August 18, 2013

Editorial: Little Gloria, hypocrisy at last


Did you miss the news last week?  Barton Gellman (Washington Post) reported:

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

Margaret Hartmann (New York magazine) pointed out that this was in spite of President Barack Obama having insisted a week before, "What you're hearing about is the prospect that these [programs] could be abused.  Now part of the reason they're not abused is because they're -- these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC."

As Barack repeatedly lies to the American people, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden is revealed as even more of a truth teller.  But Barack attempts to hunt Snowden down.  Strong arms governments not to give him asylum, forces down Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane and has a snit-fit that Russia grants Snowden temporary asylum.

All of the above is disheartening and appalling.  So when the White House announced who Barack would be granting the Medal of Freedom to this year, it was especially distressing to read Women's Media Center's damp panty post celebrating Gloria Steinem making the list when it should have been carrying an announcement that Gloria was refusing the award.

Before Gloria identified as a feminist, she declared herself a journalist.

Last month, Jonathan S. Tobin observed:

The alarming nature of the Department of Justice’s jihad against the press was made all too clear early this year when news of the government’s spying on Associated Press reporters and Fox News correspondent James Rosen was revealed. But if a federal appellate court ruling issued last week stands, the problem may be far worse than we thought.
On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia decided that New York Times reporter James Risen must testify in the trial of a former CIA official accused of leaking information that was allegedly used to help write a 2006 book. Doing so would not just violate Risen’s pledge not to reveal his sources but would constitute a major infringement of press freedom that could have serious consequences for the future of American democracy.

He made those observations in the right-wing Commentary.  The Huffington Post quoted Risen stating:

They've said in that there is no reporter's privilege.  I think they want the court to rule on a fundamental constitutional issue of whether or not there is a reporter's privilege in a criminal case, which makes this case kind of have a broader import than it might otherwise have. That's why I think it's become a pretty important case. It's a fairly basic constitutional issue for the press, whether or not there is a reporter's privilege. It's something a lot of people outside the press don’t really understand, don't really care about. I think the basic issue is whether you can have a democracy without aggressive investigative reporting and I don't believe you can. So that's why I'm fighting it.

Why in the world would anyone who ever called themselves a journalist accept an award from such an administration?

Some will insist, "Gloria Steinem's not the only one on the list!"  No, she's not. Among the named who are still living, there's a baseball player.  We're not really seeing him as a journalist or a fighter for human rights.  There's Oprah and we just laugh.  This is the woman over half of America thinks is gay and in the closet, so why would anyone expect courage from Oprah?  (We also laughed at the idea that her 'work' has warranted any award.  In 2008, her ratings began to tank.  She moved on to her own cable channel which still flounders.  All she has is a talk show and we haven't seen Phil Donahue awarded when he certainly did more for the country with his daytime talk show than Oprah ever did with her own.)

Gloria's supposed to stand for something.  When actress Sondra Locke was being tricked and deceived by Clint Eastwood and Warner Brothers, Gloria took it upon herself to be outraged, to contact Sondra and insist she was going to help her.

After that, Sondra never heard from her again.

That's actually a rather typical Gloria Steinem move and a number of people have excused it over the years noting Gloria spreads herself thin.

This can be more bluntly stated as: Gloria's word is meaningless.

Apparently, so are her actions.  Question, if a media crew is not around, does Gloria practice activism?

Many would argue "no" and point to Gloria's past relationships with various questionable males -- a number of whom exhibited racism.  (Dating racists does not make Gloria one -- and to be very clear, we're not accusing her of racism.  We are noting that her judgment has been questionable numerous times in the past.)

Journalism is under attack -- from Barack.  Whistle-blowers are under attack.  Mike Masnick (TechDirt) pointed out in June just how much Barack has attacked whistle-blowers:

Instead, as we've discussed repeatedly, President Obama has been the most aggressive President ever in attacking whistleblowers and bringing the full weight of the law down on them. In fact, in 2012, rather than promote protecting whistleblowers in his campaign, the campaign bragged about how it cracked down on whistleblowers:
President Obama has done more than any other administration to forcefully pursue and address leaks of classified national security information.... The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many cases under the Espionage Act as all other administrations combined. Under the President, the Justice Department has prosecuted six cases regarding national security leaks. Before he took office, federal prosecutors had used the Espionage Act in only three cases.
The above paragraph is true -- and we've pointed it out in the past as well -- but we thought it was shameful, not something worth bragging about. Furthermore, since he was elected, President Obama has never praised a single federal employee who was a whistleblower. When asked by a reporter from the Huffington Post for an example of President Obama supporting a whistleblower, the White House refused to respond. 

This is not someone you accept an award from, not if you're concerned about social justice.

And have we mentioned the illegal spying?

Charlie Savage (New York Times) reported Friday, "The National Security Agency violated privacy rules protecting the communications of Americans and others on domestic soil 2,776 times over a one-year period, according to an internal audit leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden and made public on Thursday night."  Andrea Peterson (Washington Post) explained how this news was in direct contrast to Barack's repeated claims.

Why would you accept an award from this man or his administration?

As Peter Van Buren (Mother Jones) noted, "What lies at the nexus of Obama's targeted drone killings, his self-serving leaks, and his aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers is a president who believes himself above the law, and seems convinced that he alone has a preternatural ability to determine right from wrong."

The notion that Barack is even handing out Medals of "Freedom" makes a mockery of freedom.

And, Gloria, you used to care -- or pretend to -- about Iraq.  What happened there?

Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."  In the near year since he reported that, you and your website and Women's Media Center (which Gloria co-founded with Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan) have repeatedly failed to address or even mention that.

You're going to accept a medal from someone sending troops back into Iraq?

You've also failed to note that December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed and it provides the legal framework for joint-US and Iraq patrols in Iraq (see the December 10th and December 11th Iraq snapshots). -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.   

Despite being an activist, a voice in the media and in control of one media outlet, you've repeatedly failed to inform the public what Barack has done.

And now you're going to accept an award from him?  In the name of 'freedom'?

Lynne Stewart, June 2013
Lynne Stewart, June 2013

Where's Lynne Stewart's freedom?  She's one of many US political prisoners.

What was Lynne's 'crime'?  Issuing a press release from her client to Reuters news agency.

That's what the attorney's been imprisoned for.

And that's disgusting enough.

When you add in that the 73-year-old grandmother's cancer has returned and that Barack will not let her have a compassionate release?

Last week on Black Agenda Radio (airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network),  hosts Nellie Bailey and Glen Ford spoke to Lynne's husband Ralph Poynter.

Nellie Bailey: But first, supporters of Lynne Stewart, The People's Lawyer, serving a ten year sentence, who is suffering from Stage IV breast cancer got some bad news last week.  The judge who sent her to prison rejected her request for compassionate release saying he had no choice in the matter because the Obama administration had previously turned her down.  Ralph Poynter is Lynne Stewart's husband and lifelong comrade in struggle.  We asked him what's the next step?

Ralph Poynter:  What is next is what Lynne had expected.  She had urged her lawyers to file for compassionate release even if the papers were not finished.  And, as a matter of fact, three weeks ago she reapplied for compassionate release to be ready the moment that it was turned down by Judge [John] Koeltl.  He had said he would give it expeditious attention when it came from the Bureau of Prisons.  Now that is the letter of the law, that it has to come from the Bureau of Prisons, recommended by them.   Now under Lynne's first appeal for compassionate release, the warden at Carswell Federal Medical Center and the physicians there agreed that Lynne should have compassionate release and they filed for it as per the law.  And then, in an extraordinary situation, the Justice Dept, under Samuels who is the head of the national Federal Bureau of Prisons let it sit on his desk for eight weeks never answering it.  Now I will allow people to use their own judgment as to what happened there.   And along with this set of facts that the Bureau of Prisons, Samuels in Washington, DC didn't act on the warden's, from Carswell's, application for compassionate release for Lynne, as per law.   Then we find out that the Justice Dept has argued against Lynne's cert before the Supreme Court to have her case heard in another very unusual situation.  So we have the administration in Washington -- that is Obama, Holder -- to keep another whistle-blower, Lynne Stewart, in prison.

Glen Ford: They seem intent on keeping her there until she departs.

Ralph Poynter: Until death.

Glen Ford:  Now the judge, what do you read into his ruling?  The legal language is rather dry, but did you get the impression that he would have liked to have --

Ralph Poynter:  Yes, that is what he has been saying.  That if he were to grant Lynne's compassionate release, it would be breaking the law.  The law is very specific, that says that after a person applies for compassionate release, the warden has to look at that and then forward it on the behalf of the prisoner.  The prisoner cannot do it without the warden's consent.  The warden at Carswell consented.  He read the papers of the attending physician and they said Lynne has complied with all the necessary conditions for compassionate release and this is where the trouble continued, in Washington, with [Charles] Samuels, with the Justice Dept and I call it under the guise of President Obama who seems to enjoy doing the work of this oppressive, corporate juggernaut that is squeezing us all and keeping the truth from us all and continuing the oppression of the American people.  But the judge did question the prosecutor as to his understanding that Lynne was dying.  And the prosecutor answered that he was perfectly aware but he challenged the judge on the law.  This is where we are.  And I just want people to understand it is clear where this is coming from.  And you put that together with the government's opposition in a rare situation to challenge Lynne's right to go to the Supreme Court, it makes sense.  It begins to fit -- even for those who do not want to recognize who and what Mr. Obama is and who or where this government is going.  

Glen Ford: And now for Lynne's supporters, the pressure must be brought directly against Eric Holder and the President.

Ralph Poynter:  Exactly and we can no longer kid ourselves.  We must notice that the unions who have talked about bringing justice to their membership -- and if you don't have a lawyer, there can be no justice.  The unions have not participated as a group in Lynne Stewart, Bradley Manning, [Ed] Snowden or any of the other issues around the Bill of Rights, Freedom of Speech, etc. The ministers have not participated in this struggle.  And what I say to people of color who voted for Obama on the average of 90% must understand who is on their side. And if they understand that 35 years of service to our community by Lynne Stewart and then see what their president is doing to Lynne Stewart -- and I'm continuing my dance in front of the White House until Lynne is freed or until we pick her up in a box.

The unions haven't participated?

Where the hell has Gloria Steinem been?

As Lynne is sentenced to death in prison by Barack Obama, Gloria plans to accept a medal -- of freedom -- from him?


Last February, Gloria told Marlo Thomas (Huffington Post, link is video):

Actually, I think the most powerful women leaders are the populist movements that rise up and say "no more."  We have peace in Ireland now because of the Irish Peace Women -- because the Catholic and Protestant women together at great risk to themselves -- came together and said, "Okay, this is it."  We have an end to the warlords in Liberia because the women rose up for years with great danger to themselves sat in the roads with white t-shirts, said "No more, no more," to get rid of the warlords.  That also was Muslim and Christian women together.  So, in a way because -- how shall I say it? Because there are so few women at the top and we're not yet seating at the peace tables -- which we should be -- our paths to real influence are outside -- at the moment -- more outside the structures than inside them.

She's at risk of no violence for turning down the medal.  If she wants to praise the bravery of women in Ireland and Liberia, turning down the medal -- for the reasons outlined above -- is the very least she can do.  And at 79, she really needs to be exhibiting bravery since she's the one who has repeatedly argued women grow more radical with age.


Law and Disorder Radio  has provided these numbers for people to call and demand Lynne be released:

Please call to push for Lynne’s release from prison.

  • U.S. Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels – 202-307-3198  Ext. 3
  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – 202-514-2001
  • President Barack Obama – 202-456-1111]

This topic was first raised in the following last week:  "Worthless Women's Media Center," "Iraq snapshot,"  "Gloria Steinem needs to turn down Medal of Freedom," "steinem needs to turn down the award" and "Summer Salad in the Kitchen"

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