Monday, December 27, 2010

2011: A Brave New Dystopia

The following article has been widely published on the internet today by most of the usual "liberal"and other sources. So why am I publishing it yet again? Because it is a most important analysis from an often ignored commentator who I have been following for some time, and who has evolved into perhaps the most prescient voice available for opinion on the current state of our affairs. Hopefully, readers who have not read it from other sources will begin to understand our current predicament from reading it here.

Published on Monday, December 27, 2010
2011: A Brave New Dystopia
by Chris Hedges

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.” “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” in his book “Democracy Incorporated” to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass.

The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.”

The result is a monochromatic system of information. Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left. Prescient social critics, from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky, are banished. Acceptable opinions have a range of A to B. The culture, under the tutelage of these corporate courtiers, becomes, as Huxley noted, a world of cheerful conformity, as well as an endless and finally fatal optimism. We busy ourselves buying products that promise to change our lives, make us more beautiful, confident or successful as we are steadily stripped of rights, money and influence. All messages we receive through these systems of communication, whether on the nightly news or talk shows like “Oprah,” promise a brighter, happier tomorrow. And this, as Wolin points out, is “the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.” We have been entranced, as Wolin writes, by “continuous technological advances” that “encourage elaborate fantasies of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, actions measured in nanoseconds: a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose denizens are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge.”

Our manufacturing base has been dismantled. Speculators and swindlers have looted the U.S. Treasury and stolen billions from small shareholders who had set aside money for retirement or college. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus and protection from warrantless wiretapping, have been taken away. Basic services, including public education and health care, have been handed over to the corporations to exploit for profit. The few who raise voices of dissent, who refuse to engage in the corporate happy talk, are derided by the corporate establishment as freaks.

Attitudes and temperament have been cleverly engineered by the corporate state, as with Huxley’s pliant characters in “Brave New World.” The book’s protagonist, Bernard Marx, turns in frustration to his girlfriend Lenina:

“Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?” he asks.

“I don’t know that you mean. I am free, free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”

He laughed, “Yes, ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We have been giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.

The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.

We increasingly live in Orwell’s Oceania, not Huxley’s The World State. Osama bin Laden plays the role assumed by Emmanuel Goldstein in “1984.” Goldstein, in the novel, is the public face of terror. His evil machinations and clandestine acts of violence dominate the nightly news. Goldstein’s image appears each day on Oceania’s television screens as part of the nation’s “Two Minutes of Hate” daily ritual. And without the intervention of the state, Goldstein, like bin Laden, will kill you. All excesses are justified in the titanic fight against evil personified.

The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.

“Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling,” Winston Smith’s torturer tells him in “1984.” “Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.

Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.

“Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?” Orwell wrote. “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.”

Copyright © 2010 Truthdig, L.L.C.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

War on WikiLeaks Continued (3): Assange Interview with David Frost; "Courage is Contagious"


- Good Assange Interview With David Frost (video)
- WikiLeaks Links
- Conditions that Suspected Leaker Bradley Manning is Being Held In (& Links)
- What Is Fascism?

Latest Julian Assange interview:
The WikiLeaks founder speaks to David Frost about secrets, leaks and why he will not go back to Sweden.

This recently released portion of an hour long interview between long-time professional journalist David Frost and Julian Assange is incomparably better, with much more relevant information, than the interview posted on the blog two days ago, Tuesday, 12/21/12. For one thing, Frost was actually trying to get Assange's side of the story, rather than attempting to reinforce the US and Western media victimization and frame-up of Assange, as was done in the previous interview by BBC. Better yet, it is a video, so one can get an additional measure of the man.

"Courage is Contagious"


Some Related Links:
Many of these links are via Tom Feeley at Information Clearinghouse

Julian Assange defends decision not to face questioning in Sweden

Assange attacks allies [?] and foes

News Release
Ex-Intelligence Officers, Others See Plusses in WikiLeaks Disclosures
December 7, 2010

Daniel Ellsberg's Website See Ellsberg & Ron Paul on “Countdown With Olbmermann”

WikiLeaks to release Israel documents in six months
Thursday, 23 December 2010 01:41

Chris Hedges: Obama is a "Poster Child for the Death of the Liberal Class"

Leaked Cable Stirs Animosities Between Palestinian Sides
Published: December 22, 201

U.S. criticized New Zealand for reaction to 2004 Israel spy affair, WikiLeaks cables reveal
The Guardian reports that U.S. diplomats accused New Zealand of using the arrest of two suspected Israeli spies in 2004 to bolster its export of lamb to Arab states.

By Haaretz Service

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Vows to Resume Whistleblowing After Release from London Jail

More on WikiLeaks from Democracy Now!

Fatah asked Israel to attack Hamas

WikiLeaks cables: Bangladeshi 'death squad' trained by UK government

Netanyahu's patience with Abbas has 'run out'

US cables: Syria believed Israel was behind sniper killing

US Cables: FBI Now Keeping Tabs on Native Americans -- in South America?

WikiLeaks Founder Predicts Resignations At Big US Bank

Reporters Without Borders to host mirror site for WikiLeaks

Freed on bail – but US steps up efforts to charge Assange with conspiracy

The full allegations against Julian Assange

¡Viva WikiLeaks! SiCKO Was Not Banned in Cuba

Bradley Manning--the alleged source of the links

Scott Horton Interviews Glenn Greenwald

As WikiLeaks’ Assange Freed on Bail, Alleged Military Leaker Bradley Manning Imprisoned under Inhumane Conditions

Bradley Manning Speaks About His Conditions

UN looking into WikiLeaks suspect's treatment

UN probes Manning's jail treatment

A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning



Fascism as defined by an Historic Leading Fascist:

Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism as it is a merge of state and corporate power: Benito Mussolini

Elements of Fascism:

Elements of Fascism include:

* Powerful idea of nationalism
* Powerful executive control in government
* Lower human rights outlook
* Military reigns supreme
* Corporations wield great power
* Idea that National Security is at great risk to some threat
* Identifying of enemies/scapegoats that unifies citizens in Patriotism
* Mass media controlled by State and Corporations
* Fixed elections
* Rampant corruption
* Unlimited power held by police force


"The strategic adversary is FASCISM... the FASCISM in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour, the FASCISM that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us."
Michel Foucault  1926-1984, French Essayist, Philosopher

"What no one seemed to notice was the ever widening gap between the government and the people. And it became always wider.....the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting, it provided an excuse not to think....for people who did not want to think anyway gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about.....and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so the machinations of the 'national enemies,' without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.....
"Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, 'regretted,' that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these 'little measures'.....must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing.....Each act is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next.
"You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even talk, don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.' But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes.
"That's the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed.
"You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father.....could never have imagined."

Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans, 1938-45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)

"Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of a private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism & ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power."
FDR: message to Congress proposing the monopoly investigation, 1938

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

War on WikiLeaks Continued: Assange Interview

[Edited 12/22/10]
War on WikiLeaks Continued: Assange Interview—You be the Judge

The merciless assault on Julian Assange has continued, and although he has not been charged with any crime, he has been granted “bail” to live in an ankle bracelet in-house arrest arrangement on the British estate of a friend, while the British government either arranges to turn him over the U.S. for some sort of Kangaroo Court, or gives him up to the subservient nation of Sweden, who would likely do the same.

There are at least two motives that I can discern for the way his case has been handled by the “authorities.”

The first of course, is that the embarrassed Western industrialized countries, AKA, the “international community,” are/is engaged in a smear campaign to destroy him personally for his having revealed the scandalous information, i.e., leaks, that had been given to him by others to publish. The anti-democratic and in some cases, illegal, activities of the world’s governments that are revealed in the leaked documents, seem to have brought out the worst authoritarian tendencies from some American leaders, up to and including calls for Assange's assassination. (He is not a U.S. citizen, and therefore, as far as I know, not subject to U.S. laws in regard to revealing “secret” information.) An example must be made of those who dare resist and defy imperial power. Nothing different about what he has done really, except in the magnitude of the world corruption that his leaks reveal, than the leaks that the mainstream media (MSM) regularly publish when they see it in their interest to occasionally tell people the truth. The MSM have in fact been eager to publish the information he forwarded to them, even though they have also been happy to downplay the value of the information, or spin it in a way that destroys its effectiveness, all the while participating in the campaign to annihilate WikiLeaks.

The second motivation seems to be to divert attention from the embarrassing nature of the information WikiLeaks has provided, and to instead put the focus on Julian Assange’s character—to portray him as a lawless terrorist and serial rapist (kill the messenger). Nothing there that should have been unexpected, and it wasn’t. This is the way Western governments operate. They have become accustomed to putting out the most outrageous, irrational, and unbelievable lies, (Iraq MWD and etc.) and having the mainstream press repeat them incessantly (before "trial" and in this case, even before official charges), until they convince the public to believe the claims are true (Hitler’s Big Lie).

Below is an interview by the BBC’s John Humphrys, a media shark, intent on furthering the character assassination of Julian Assange. Problem is, Assange’s calm, gentlemanly, rational demeanor and forthright responses to Humphrys’ apparent viciousness, disarm, for the most part, Humphrys’ arrogant and aggressive attempt.

You be the Judge by reading or listening to the interview below, but here are
Humphreys’ last three questions with the answers from Assange. Much is lost without listening to Assange in the interview, where he answers some questions about the circumstances behind his detention, but these last three answers tell you something about him.:

Q: Just a final thought. Do you see yourself… as some sort of messianic figure?

JA: Everyone would like to be a messianic figure without dying. We are bringing some important change about what is perceived to be the rights of people who expose abuses by powerful corporations and then to resist censorship attacks after the event. We are also changing the perception of the west.

Q: I'm talking about you personally.

JA: I'm always so focussed on my work, I don't have time to think about how I perceive myself… I had time to perceive myself a bit more in solitary confinement. I was perfectly happy with myself. I wondered what that process would do. Would I think "my goodness, how have I got into this mess, is it all just too hard?"

The world is a very ungrateful place, why should I continue to suffer simply to try and do some good in the world. If the world is so viciously against it ,why don't I just go off and do some mathematics or write some books? But no, actually, I felt quite at peace.

Q: You want to change the world?

JA: Absolutely. The world has a lot of problems and they need to be reformed. And we only live once. Every person who has some ability to do something about it, if they are a person of good character, has the duty to try and fix the problems in the environment which they're in.

That is a value, that, yes, comes partly from my temperament. There is also a value that comes from my father, which is that capable, generous men don't create victims, they try and save people from becoming victims. That is what they are tasked to do. If they do not do that they are not worthy of respect or they are not capable.

Read or listen to the interview:
Transcript And Audio: The Assange BBC interview (via Information Clearing House)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Interesting Comment about Nut Cases & Overgrazing with My Initial Response

[Edited 12/19/10- One friend told me today that the place I got my information, the County weed list on the County web site looks to be out of date and that both Whitetop and Scotch Thistle are now on the County's high priority Class "A" weed List. Another friend told me she couldn't identify the weeds, so she couldn't identify the problem. I was actually afraid of that because the weeds are in their much smaller early stages of growth and not easily identified by people unacquainted with identifying weeds. So in a future post & below I will try to clear up that problem and I'll edit the captions below soon.]

Back on December 13th, an anonymous individual posted an off topic ad hominem attack on my Dec. 1st blog which was about the water damage to the County Court house and also the Cole Case. The comment was not about what had been posted on the blog, it was simply a rant against me and another environmental type, because we don't perceive the public lands and grazing abuse the same way the commenter does. I've posted two photos related to this issue below the comments.

Here is the Comment from anonymous:

Anonymous said...
Mr.Christie...Thanks for your comments. I want to inform other people on this site of what a nut case you are. You drive around in your white toyota pickup with barking dog in back, telling local ranchers that you are taking pictures of flowers...come to find out you are trying to find evidence of "overgrazing" and harassing the ranchers and farmers in Baker County that are working hard to provide food for loosers like you. You belong in Portland...not in our wonderful community. Oh, and take Dick Hensey with you. He is nothing more than a nut case extremist also, and needs to go. After all these years have you not figured out that without Agriculture Baker County would be a ghost town? Do something constructive with your worthless lives.

December 13, 2010 5:38 PM

Here is my initial response:


I don’t normally allow off-topic, hateful, ad hominem attacks on the blog, but made an exception in your case, because I think something instructive, primarily having to do with the activities and attitudes of some ranchers, could come out of it.

Your words remind me of a young rancher I spoke with out at the Hutton Ranch on Goose Creek back in April of this year. On that visit, I had to cross the Hutton Ranch property to access BLM managed public land that the Huttons’ seem, in my opinion, to run like it is their own private cow pasture.

Your words are very similar to those of that same rancher, when he harassed me while I was sitting in my truck on October 8th after I had been out riding my bike and running the dogs on Chandler Lane. The part about “Taking Dick Hensey [sic—actually Hentze, a decent, respected, moderate person- Chris] with you. He is nothing more than a nut case extremist also, and needs to go” is almost exactly what the young rancher told me on October 8th, except that he didn’t call me a nut case extremist to my face.

You left out some things though, like the young rancher asking me in April if I had a rifle so I could shoot any wolves I saw (which would have been a violation of the law), and his telling me in October to never come on his property again, which I would have to do if I were to try to access the same public road on the public’s BLM land.

Making observations about grazing activities is not the only reason I access the public’s land. In fact I was taking photos of plants and critters before I noticed and became interested in what appeared to be, in many arid areas of the west, the wholesale destruction of our public lands and their ecosystems by private, for profit public lands ranchers. The problem is that so much wildflower diversity, and many homes/habitats for wild critters, have been replaced by weed infestations and non-natives due to the rancher’s cows, while the ranchers and the BLM looked the other way. That problem doesn’t leave me much to take photos of—except for grazing damage. So I did. . . .

Now that you have reminded me, I will publish them on a future blog so people can see why the young rancher on the Hutton Ranch told me I could never come on his property again.

Christopher Christie

So in a future post, I'll post some additional photos and some video, and write a little about those condition as well as related issues raised by myself or anonymous, such as ranchers closing off access routes to public land that they graze, with the result that the public can't access their own lands or observe what the public lands rancher is doing to it. . . . . Or whether people who live out on Goose Creek should be considered treasured members of the community, but that people who live in town and think the public lands should be treated with respect, while being forced to pay a weed levy to pay to control weeds caused primarily by ranching and other agricultural activities should leave. . . . . Or whether people who think the public lands should be treated with respect are trying to turn Baker County [sic] into a "ghost town." . . . . Or just what a barking dog in the back of a white Toyota pickup has to do with it. . . . Or. . . . etc.

Below are two early spring scenes on the Goose Creek Allotment.

Non-Native weeds like Scotch Thistle, #4 on the Baker County "B" designated weed list on the County website, but Class A according to a friend who should know (seen as little gray rosettes in April, Whitetop (# 1 "B" designated weed on the County website, but Class A according to a friend who should know), and Teasel (#9 on the "B" list) have taken over seasonally moist ravines on the Goose Creek Allotment. White top has spread widely, even into dry areas. The Hutton Ranch has had the permit and was running their herd on this public property in Late April. The poorly developed early seral grasses and bare ground leave the hillside soils largely un-protected at this time of year. The white top will continue to spread throughout the allotment, and the scotch thistle will spread, become large and coarse, and crowd out native plants that used to live here. Photo taken on April 25, 2010.

Non-Native weeds like Scotch Thistle, and Whitetop have invaded this hill top on the Goose Creek Allotment. The Whitetop in the photo is just developing the blossomy white top. The scotch thistle is in its small rosette stage but will become large and coarse. Both weeds can crowd out native plants. Photo taken on April 25, 2010.

The non-native weed Whitetop has invaded even the drier areas of the Goose Creek Allotment. The Whitetop will continue to spread throughout the allotment and crowd out native plants and wildflowers, as it is doing in the area shown by this photo. One friend couldn't see the weeds so I'd like to point out that the lower half of the photo is almost entirely weeds or dead/dying sagebrush. The most developed Whitetop in the photo shows up as a darker green color and some plants, like the ones in the lower right hand corner, are developing blossoms--the white top. There is another weed in the photo as well, perhaps common tansy, but I didn't put it in my notes at the time. Photo taken on April 25, 2010

Non-Native weeds like Scotch Thistle, and Whitetop have invaded this draw adjacent to Spring Creek on the Goose Creek Allotment. The Whitetop in the photo is just developing the blossomy white top. The Scotch Thistle plants are most evident as the large gray stems in the foreground. These plants were once large prickly and and course last summer, but have become mere skeletons over winter. Both weeds can crowd out native plants and productive habitat. Photo taken on April 25, 2010.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Virginia Judge Rules Mandatory Health Insurance Unconstitutional; also: Obama Tax Deal Update & WikiLeaks

In This Issue:

- Virginia Judge Rules Mandatory Health Insurance is Unconstitutional

- Two Articles From Dean Baker at CEPR on Tax Deal

- Black Caucus Opposes Tax Deal, Wants Relief for 99ers

- Entertaining Video--Ellsberg Talks WikiLeaks on "The Colbert Report"


Virginia Judge Rules Mandatory Health Insurance is Unconstitutional

This is one aspect of "Obamacare" that got stuck in the craw of many across the political spectrum, including myself.

Virginia health-care ruling strikes down key provision of Obama's plan
By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2010; 2:39 PM

RICHMOND - A federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that a key provision of the nation's sweeping health-care overhaul is unconstitutional, the most significant legal setback so far for President Obama's signature domestic initiative.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson found that Congress could not order individuals to buy health insurance.

In a 42-page opinion, Hudson said the provision of the law that requires most individuals to get insurance or pay a fine by 2014 is an unprecedented expansion of federal power that cannot be supported by Congress's power to regulate interstate trade.

"Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market," he wrote. "In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.]

Hudson is the first judge to rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. He said, however, that portions of the law that do not rest on the requirement that individuals obtain insurance are legal and can proceed. Hudson indicated there was no need for him to enjoin the law and halt its implementation, since the mandate does not go into effect until 2014.

See original article for all.

December 13, 2010
Judge Voids Key Element of Obama Health Care Law
New York Times

A federal district judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional, becoming the first court in the country to invalidate any part of the sprawling act and ensuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from below.

Judge Henry E. Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, declined the plaintiff’s request to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal, meaning that there should be no immediate effect on the ongoing rollout of the law. But the ruling is likely to create confusion among the public and further destabilize political support for legislation that is under fierce attack from Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.

In a 42-page opinion issued in Richmond, Va., Judge Hudson wrote that the law’s central requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The insurance mandate is central to the law’s mission of covering more than 30 million uninsured because insurers argue that only by requiring healthy people to have policies can they afford to treat those with expensive chronic conditions.

The judge wrote that his survey of case law “yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, not withstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.”

Judge Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits filed against the health care law. The others — in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va. — have upheld the law. Lawyers on both sides said the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute.

Find entire article here.

Obama Tax Deal Update

Two Articles From Dean Baker at CEPR

The Tax Deal and the Apocalypse

To be an important person in Washington these days requires a solid record of failure. That is why we have 25 million people unemployed, underemployed or out of the labor force altogether. And those who got us into this disaster are still overwhelmingly the ones calling the shots. So people who want a realistic assessment of what the defeat of this tax package means for the economy may not want to rely on the usual suspects.

Dean Baker
Truthout, December 13, 2010

See article on original website

The proponents of the tax deal that President Obama and the Republicans negotiated last week have gotten out their TARP and Iraq War hysterics. All the important people are now telling us that if Congress doesn’t approve the package it will be the end of the world!!!!!

To be an important person in Washington these days requires a solid record of failure. That is why we have 25 million people unemployed, underemployed or out of the labor force altogether. And those who got us into this disaster are still overwhelmingly the ones calling the shots. So people who want a realistic assessment of what the defeat of this tax package means for the economy may not want to rely on the usual suspects.

As I have noted before, the major risk of this deal is that it would undermine Social Security. The deal temporarily lowers the Social Security tax by 2 percentage points. In principle the tax rate will go back to its current rate after the end of next year.

However, several prominent Republicans have already made it clear that they will call the expiration of this tax cut a tax increase. And they will point out that it is an extremely regressive tax increase that disproportionately hits low and moderate-income workers.

At the end of the 2011 the unemployment rate is virtually certain to be well above 8.0 percent and quite likely above 9.0 percent. In this context does anyone seriously believe that President Obama will refuse to go along with efforts by the Republicans in Congress to continue the tax cut beyond the scheduled deadline?

If the payroll tax is indefinitely lowered by 2.0 percentage points, then Social Security’s finances will appear much more shaky. As it stands, Social Security is fully funded through the year 2037, but that doesn’t keep the Washington Post and National Public Radio from running endless scare stories about the program’s funding crisis.

If the payroll tax is permanently reduced by 2.0 percentage points it would double the program’s projected 75-year shortfall. This would give far more ammunition to the Social Security fear mongers.

While Obama’s deal ostensibly provides for general revenue to be placed into the trust fund to make up the lost payroll tax revenue, there is little reason to believe that this funding would persist beyond the first year. Again, does anyone believe that President Obama will stand up for Social Security on this point?

In short, this deal is a very large first step toward cutting and/or privatizing Social Security. If the President wants to remove this risk he can simply arrange to have the exact same tax cut given to workers from general revenue. There is no legitimate reason for the Republicans to reject this change in structure, unless their intent is to destroy Social Security.

It’s really that simple. The structure of the deal would be changed unless the point is to undermine Social Security.

What about the threatened apocalypse if we don’t do the deal? Well, the deal would provide a net stimulus to the economy and also give money to unemployed workers who really need it. Not getting this boost would be bad news.

But it is hard to stomach the whining from people who were too damned lazy or incompetent to think about the consequences of the collapse of an $8 trillion housing bubble. These workers are unemployed because the folks calling the shots messed up.

In other words, the reason that we have 25 million people unemployed or underemployed is that people like Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers messed up royally on their jobs. Fortunately for the folks on top, employment is not dependent on performance.

More to the point, this will not be our last chance to extend unemployment benefits or get additional stimulus. Unemployment benefits are hugely popular across the political spectrum. Even conservatives understand that the reason people are unemployed is because the economists messed up, not that the workers themselves lack the necessary skills or desire to work.

Congress will feel considerable pressure to extend benefits. In the same vein, the Republicans in Congress know that they will be evaluated in large part on the state of the economy in 2012. This means that they will have incentive to support additional stimulus, under whatever name they choose to give it.

In short, the train is not leaving the station. If this deal goes down, there will be other deals in the months ahead.

Remember, it was the Gingrich Congress that gave workers the first increase in the minimum wage in more than 15 years. They needed something to show for the 1996 elections. This Republican Congress is likely to feel the same pressure. [Bold Emphasis Added]


Social Security Tax Cut: A Deal Breaker

Dean Baker
The Hill, December 9, 2010

In principle there is nothing wrong with financing a portion of Social Security benefits with money from general revenue. This was in fact the original intention of President Roosevelt when he designed the program. However, the fact is that the program has always been financed exclusively by the Social Security tax that is taken from workers’ wages. This makes the tax regressive, but it has the advantage that workers can quite legitimately say that they have paid for their benefits. This will be to some extent less true if a portion of the funding comes from general revenue rather than payroll taxes. In short, getting funding from general revenue opens a new line of attack on the program.

The prospect of this tax cut being the basis for a renewed attack on Social Security could be dismissed if the program had defenders in high places, but this does not appear to be the case. Most of the Republicans would almost certainly like to privatize Social Security.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration cannot be counted on to defend the program either. In fact, top officials in the administration seem to view attacks on Social Security and its supporters as a way to prove their manhood. President Obama’s decision to appoint two arch-enemies of Social Security to chair his Fiscal Responsibility commission certainly does not inspire confidence among supporters of Social Security.

In short, supporters of Social Security have good reason to oppose the tax deal. It is easy to have the same stimulus with an expanded version of President Obama’s Making Work Pay tax cut. Supporters of Social Security should reject the latest deal and tell President Obama to stand behind his own tax cut. This is what presidents are supposed to do.

See entire article on original website
Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy. He also has a blog, "Beat the Press," where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues.

Black Caucus Opposes Tax Deal, Wants Relief for 99ers

December 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Hot on the heels of Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee’s [D, TX-18] statement Thursday on the House floor that an extension of unemployment insurance for 99ers should be added to Obama’s tax deal, the Congressional Black Caucus has announced that adding 99ers relief is essential for winning the support of their members.

“The CBC has reached a consensus on three areas that we believe we can unite behind, ”">Rep. Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] said at a press conference on Friday. “First, we support the 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits, but we all agree that we also ought to extend benefits for the so-called 99ers — those who are exhausting the benefits they have.”
View the full press conference here.

The deal brokered by Obama and congressional Republicans would extend the four tiers of unemployment benefits that expired on December 1st, but would not create a new tier of benefits for those who have moved through those tiers and are still unemployed. The four tiers provided up to 99 weeks of benefits in some states, and we’re now more than 99 weeks out from the brunt of the ‘08 financial crisis. That means that, before the tiers expired, a wave of people who lost their jobs as a direct result of Wall Street recklessness and regulatory incompetence began being dropped off the backend of the federal insurance programs. There’s no official estimate of how many 99ers there are already, but most estimates put the number around 5 million.

The Congressional Black Caucus has 42 members, which might not be enough to force a change in the tax deal. If all House Republicans vote for the bill, only 39 Democratic votes would be needed to secure passage. In September, 31 conservative Blue Dog Democrats wrote a letter to the leadership advocating for all of the Bush tax cuts to be extended, so they can be counted as likely yeses. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama Administration is currently working to round up the final votes they need by lobbying lame duck Democrats in the House who lost re-election in November and are no longer accountable to voters.

Ultimately, whether or not additional weeks for 99ers can be added to the bill is up to Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] and the House Democratic leadership. The Senate is expected to pass the bill early this week, and Pelosi and crew have the choice of passing it as is, or passing it with an amendment. Even if Pelosi goes with an amendment, it’s possible that it would address other items — the estate tax or the length of the extension of the existing unemployment tiers — and not seek to add anything for the 99ers. As the WSJ reports today, Pelosi is “walking a perilous path” by attempting to satisfy her Democrats, who strongly oppose the deal, while at the same time trying to shepherd some form the deal into law so the tax cut debate is not pushed back to the next, more Republican, session of Congress.

See article for other links.

Video--Ellsberg Talks WikiLeaks on "The Colbert Report"

Daniel Ellsberg on Colbert Report: Julian Assange is Not a Criminal Under the Laws of the United States

"[Daniel's segment starts at 4:06]

ELLSBERG: Julian Assange is not a criminal under the laws of the United States. I was the first one prosecuted for the charges that would be brought against him. I was the first person ever prosecuted for a leak in this country—although there had been a lot of leaks before me. That’s because the First Amendment kept us from having an Official Secrets Act. . . . The founding of this country was based on the principle that the government should not have a say as to what we hear, what we think, and what we read. . . .

If Bradley Manning did what he’s accused of, then he’s a hero if mine and I think he did a great service to this country. We’re not in the mess we’re in, in the world, because of too many leaks. . . . I say there should be some secrets. But I also say we invaded Iraq illegally because of a lackof a Bradley Manning at that time."


Billy Bragg and Wilco-- "The Unwelcome Guest"
By Woodie Guthrie

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Obama's Republican Tax Deal & Cole Case


- Obama's Republican Tax Deal [Edited 12/12-13/10]
- Cole Case--Judge Reynold's orders dismissal "with prejudice." [Edited 12/12/10]


Obama's Republican Tax Deal

After having crumbled repeatedly to the desires of the morally bankrupt corporate Republican leadership (not the sme as the Republican rank and file), President Obama has apparently made the politically expedient choice to attack a softer target--members of his own party--particularly those in the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives. This is a dangerous and destructive version of Bill Clinton's run to the right and "triangulation" strategy during his two terms of "divided government." I would remind Obama that he still has a majority in Congress until the end of the year, but it looks like he has decided to ignore that. Obama even brought Clinton to the White House to help sell his tax cut deal. (People might want to remember that Clinton and his financial advisors, including current Obama advisor Larry Summers (a Clinton Secretary of the Treasury), helped set the stage for the economic collapse brought to fruition by George W. Bush.) In response to criticism about his having cut out Democratic input to his Republicanesque tax deal with the coldest stone in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, Obama has taken to implying his own party is irresponsible, and has called them "sanctimonious" "purists," and etc. Real Democrats, such as Oregon's Peter De Fazio, suggest that Obama has abandoned Democratic values. One wonders if the ever adaptable Obama's next move will be changing parties to run for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2010. ;-)

Some Democrats and progressives think letting the tax cuts expire would put the responsibility for not extending unemployment benefits back where it belongs--with the Republicans. The revenue could be used for a targeted stimulus to put people back to work and to protect the security of those who have been economically displaced through no fault of their own, as well as for cutting the deficit. Unfortunately, Obama had made that much less likely.

Representative De Fazio was on NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday" this morning. When asked by Simon if the Democrats in opposition were acting responsibly, he replied
"Absolutely! We're trying to save tens of hundreds of billions of dollars for the American people. . .[because many of Obama's] measures will not put a single American back to work and are not targeted toward families in need."

He stated he thought the Republicans were bluffing and asked the rhetorical question of whether the Republicans are:
". . . prepared to go home as the Grinch--the people who took away unemployment benefits from people who want to work, who are struggling to make ends meet, keep food on the table for their kids--just before Christmas. [just] because they are holding out for millionaires and billionaires? I don't think so. I really think the President . . . got taken to the cleaners on this. . . . . When have we buckled down to this kind of fight? We haven't. I mean the President negotiated these things away without any fight at all. . . . . I mean when he says all these people who supported the public option--their just "purists" and these people who are opposed to the breaks for the wealthiest among us on borrowed money . . . are "sanctimonious"--Wow . . . ."

Listen to De Fazio on NPR: Opposing The Tax Deal Is Oregon Rep's Bottom Line

Financial investment types, as well as Obama apologists and advisors, have been busy reframing the issue and distorting who gets what and which ideas can fairly be called Democratic. Remember that an Obama deal that cuts out the input of most Congressional Democrats is not a Democratic proposal--it's a Barak Obama, Larry Summers, Joe "lets make a deal--any deal" Biden proposal.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich puts the deal in its proper context in a recent article where he writes:

Apart from its extraordinary cost and regressive tilt, the tax deal negotiated between the President and the Republicans has another fatal flaw.

It confirms the Republican worldview.

Americans want to know what happened to the economy and how to fix it. At least Republicans have a story – the same one they’ve been flogging for thirty years. The bad economy is big government’s fault and the solution is to shrink government.

Here’s the real story. For three decades, an increasing share of the benefits of economic growth have gone to the top 1 percent. Thirty years ago, the top got 9 percent of total income. Now they take in almost a quarter. Meanwhile, the earnings of the typical worker have barely budged.

The entire article can be found here: Why the Tax Deal Confirms the Republican Worldview

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took the Senate floor for 8 hours detailing even more of the economic and political history related to the tax deal.
"Mr. President, in 2007, the top one percent of all income earners in the United States made twenty-three and one half percent of all income. . . . . That is more than the bottom fifty percent . . . . . The percentage of income going to the top one percent nearly tripled since the 1970's. . . . . Eighty percent of all new income earned from 1980 to 5005 has gone to the top one percent. The top one percent now owns more wealth than the bottom ninety percent. . . . .

That is not the foundation for a democratic society, that's the foundation for an oligarchic society."

[Oligarchy: 1.
a. Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.
b. Those making up such a government.
2. A state governed by a few persons.]

You can view and hear the Senator on C-SPAN: SEN. SANDERS HELD A TAX CUT FILIBUSTER

James Kwak discusses various aspects of the deal on The Baseline Scenario in his article: More on the Tax Deal

Here is a small sample:
Obama has said for years that he wants to preserve the tax cuts for the “middle class,” but not for the rich. For the purposes of this post, “middle class” means a household with less than $250,000 in annual income. Of course, this is ridiculous, since $250,000 lands you easily in the top five percent of the population by income, according to Census figures. Why Obama chose to draw the line to separate the extremely rich from the very rich is something I’ve never understood. And besides, households above that line still benefit from the tax cuts as well, because they pay less taxes on their incomes up to $250,000, just like everyone else. In dollar terms, someone making $500,000 benefits just as much as someone making $250,000, and much more than someone making $50,000.

He also writes about how the issues are being distorted and mis-framed in another article, Who Wanted What?, where he reviews disingenuous analysis by Obama advisor Austan Goolsbee and others.

And from Simon Johnson:

. . . . Cutting taxes for the very rich is an ineffective way to stimulate the economy in the short term (for a detailed discussion, see this post by my colleague James Kwak). On this there is widespread agreement, including from the pages of The Wall Street Journal, where Robert Frank, a careful student of the rich and famous (and editor of The Journal’s Wealth Report and author of “Richistan”), said: “When I ask wealthy business owners and entrepreneurs why they’re not hiring, they rarely mention taxes. They say consumer demand. And jobs.”

Three much more effective ways to support consumer demand and jobs would be:
Really extend unemployment benefits. There is nothing in the proposal on the table that will help people who have already been unemployed for 99 weeks – see this explanation from Nevada.

Don’t lay off teachers anywhere in the country. The broader goal, of course, is to increase teacher quality, which is not easy and takes time (see the film“Waiting for Superman”). But firing teachers at any level of K-12 education makes no sense in the short or medium run.

Immediately hire more people to teach in community colleges. The unemployed – and those at risk of being fired – need new skills, particularly around information technology and the ability to run businesses. Give the long-term unemployed the opportunity and incentive to attend these classes. Help them get jobs – or start their own businesses. Even if those companies fail, the entrepreneurial experience will keep them in the labor force and enable them to enhance their skills – and become more productive employees when larger companies decide to start hiring in earnest again.


Cole Case--Judge Reynold's orders dismissal "with prejudice."

On December 2, 2010, Judge Garry Reynolds issued a Judgement in State of Oregon v. Brian Cole, Case No. 09-725 (Baker County). I posted the Judgement Friday on

In the Judgement, Reynolds dissmissed the sex abuse charges "with prejudice."

"Under Oregon law, a dismissal with prejudice prevents the plaintiff from litigating his case again. See Joseph v. Cohen, 658 P.2d 544, 546 (Or.App.1983) (dismissal with prejudice is "terminal judgment on the merits"); see also Black's Law Dictionary 421 (West 5th ed. 1979) (dismissal with prejudice is 'An adjudication on the merits, and final disposition, barring the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim or cause.')."
Reference Citation: 101 F.3d 705

Apparently it is common practice in settlements like the Civil Compromise settlements as in this case, for the Judge to then dismiss the case "with predudice," which certainly benefits the defendant by protecting them from further litigation. But also, as best I understand it, dismissal with prejudice seems to be a dream come true for Judges. Conceivably, the presiding Judge could issue a dismissal with prejudice judgement so as to help insulate his own actions and decisions from further judicial review, at least any brought by the plaintiff. A friend just told me that it might not prevent the defendant from appealing some of the decisions made by the judge, although I am uncertain of that.

For information on this case see;
Cole Case (18 months probation) & County Court House Damage

Cole Case: Justice Delayed IS Justice Denied: Reynolds Dismisses Sex Abuse Charges Against Cole.

Billy Bragg and Wilco-- "The Unwelcome Guest"
By Woodie Guthrie

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finding Your Way in the New Temporary Courthouse & City Manager Updates

Temporary Courthouse at North Baker Elementary (7th & B Streets)

This post is a bit repetitive, and is intended for folks who like to have some idea of where they are going before they go there, with the focus on folks who may need to find Circuit Court Courtroom and offices, or the District Attorney.

Assuming you can find North Baker Elementary at 2725 7th Street in Baker City, the public entrance is the main entrance to the school on the east side of the building (7th Street).

Use This Entrance

When you first enter the building, there is currently a sign in front of you with a diagram showing the location of the County offices in the building and arrows pointing to a hall on your left (south).

Sign in hall at front entrance showing the location of the County offices

Here is a closer look at the diagram showing office locations:
Labeled County Office Diagram

If you follow the arrows pointing to your left on the sign in the front hallway, you can go through this door and down the south hallway to Circuit Court and the DA's office (Note, security screening device by doorway may be operational--read pink signs in doorway):
Doorway and south hallway to DA's Office & Circuit Court

The Circuit Court Courtroom is the first door, halfway down the Hallway, on your right:
Temporary Circuit Court Courtroom

The Circuit Court "offices" are inside the second door, past the courtroom, on your right:
June Falcon, left, and Tracy Williams, right, working in newly opened Circuit Court offices.

Just across the hall from the Circuit Court offices is the DA's Office, which is in the old Music Room (third door down the hall on your left):
District Attorney's Office

If you are looking for the Commissioners, Assessor's Office, Planning, Taxes, Water Resources, Geology, or Emergency Management, then, when you first enter the building from 7th Street, just follow the signs down the first hallway on your right (North). The offices are clearly marked.
North hallway to Commissioners, Assessor's Office, Planning, Taxes, Water Resources, Geology, or Emergency Management offices.

Hope this short and incomplete tour helps people understand where their favorite office is located in the new temporary quarters. The County did an awesome job of transforming the elementary school and getting staff and equipment moved so quickly. I picked up a document I wanted at the Circuit Court yesterday so things appear to be up and running and the public is being well served.

See Also:
Cole Case (18 months probation) & County Court House Damage


New City Manager Mike Kee's Welcome and Needed Updates

New City Manager Mike Kee has instituted, on his own initiative, the very welcome practice of sending out weekly updates on what the City is doing to keep things functioning and in good order.

I get them as PDF files so it is difficult to reproduce them on the blog, but it would be a pain in the ass to do so in any event, so I have posted the last two at If you would like to receive them via e-mail, please contact City Manager, Mike Kee at

Find them here (Latest first):

Baker City Weekly Report, December 10, 2010

Baker City Weekly Report, December 3, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


New Digs At North Baker Elementary

The County Commissioners released some more information about the County Courthouse Emergency Mitigation and Agency Relocation to North Baker Elementary at the Commissioner’s meeting today at the Baker School District 5-J office this morning. I was told that some information, such as the cost to date of the cleanup and relocation efforts is still not available.

I was told by the County’s Information Officer, Karen Spencer, that the Commissioners might have details of the cost estimate to repair the damage at the Court House, in the form of a “Scope of Work” document from the insurance adjusters, by around noon on Monday, December 15th but that has been delayed to a potential availability date of next Wednesday.

Today the estimate on a small portion of the damage, that done to hardware, such as computers, is estimated to be about $7,500.00. Damage to other office structures, such as partitions, a desk, carpets, surge protectors, and etc., was not available, according to the County.

There are roughly two phases of work that has been, or will be, completed. These are categorized as:

1) the remediation phase (cleanup, moving, and etc), and
2) the construction phase.

Full costs for each category are not yet available.

The County states that they have kept costs down by using current employees for moving to North Baker Elementary, and by using County owned trailers, such as the emergency management trailer for some of the District Attorney's office space.

Use This Entrance

Karen Spencer, County Information Officer, released the following update summary this afternoon:

Baker County
1995 Third Street
Baker City, Oregon 97814

Baker County Courthouse Update
December 8, 2010

The work at the Baker County Courthouse continues after a broken pipe flooded the 101 year old building sometime during the weekend following Thanksgiving. Representatives for the County’s insurance provider traveled to Baker City to inspect the progress of the remediation. The area of damage was redefined after a walk through on December 7th with Kelly Montague, Claims Adjuster, and Russell Clark, Executive General Adjuster. Floor coverings in adjacent work areas were added to the quantified damages.
The demolition and clean up of the increased area is expected to be complete by Friday December 10, 2010.

Overview of damage by floor:

Basement – approximately 50% of the area was damaged
Areas involved:
Planning Department
Facilities (Office)
Facilities (Shop)

First Floor – approximately 40% of the area was damaged
Areas involved:
Main Lobby

Second Floor – approximately 60% of the area was damaged
Areas Involved:
Circuit Court (Judge’s Chambers)
Circuit Court (Courtroom, Recording and Staff Offices)

The claims adjuster, Kelly Montague, is expecting to present a scope of work to the County for reconstruction on Monday December 13, 2010.

Humidity levels continue to decrease throughout the building, however a few areas still registering higher readings. Those areas may need additional work for dry out.

A timeline for repairs has not been established at this point. A clearly defined process will be communicated by City/County Insurance Services when it is prepared.

The relocation to North Baker School is progressing. Cables have been run to each office, providing phone, fax and networking capabilities. Each department has a phone and fax line: the numbers will remain the same as assigned to the courthouse. Because of the move, the public may experience more busy signals and longer rings prior to pickup.

The Circuit Court, District Attorney, and Commission offices are transitioning to North Baker School today. Administration, the County Clerk and the Treasurer remain at the courthouse until further notice.

Justice Court continues to conduct business at Baker City Police Station. The Veteran’s Services office has temporarily relocated to Baker City Hall. All other departments are open to the public at North Baker School.


Inside New Quarters

Some good general information is in an article in today’s Baker City Herald:
County adjusts to temporary home

Additional information, in the form of video of today’s meeting, including a mitigation/relocation update from Gary Timm, a can be accessed on YouTube and Scribd. (See below)

Gary Timm Gives Update on Damage to Courthouse and Relocation Efforts.mp4

Gary Timm gives update on damage to courthouse and relocation efforts as outlined in the document BAKER COUNTY COURTHOUSE EMERGENCY MITIGATION AND AGENCY RELOCATION UPDATE which can be found at


My Questions for Commissioners Concerning Courthouse Emergency 120810.mp4

Q & A on initial Bidding Process

Answer from Commissioner Warner.

Q & A on waiver forms distributed to County employees for working in water damaged Courthouse.

Answer from Director Bennett and Commissioner Warner.


Mark Bennett, Emergency Mgmt. Director & County Attorney Dan Van Thiel Discuss Bidding Process.mp4

Mark Bennett, Emergency Mgmt. Director & County Attorney Dan Van Thiel Discuss Bidding Process. Dan Van Tiel stresses that he would like to see County declare "extreme" emergency which gives the County the authority to allow the insurance carrier, City/County Insurance Services to provide for the bidding and hiring process. The question had apparently been raised by contractors who were not allowed to bid on the initial cleanup of the Courthouse after water valves broke during the last week of November.


County Attny Van Thiel & Commissioner Warner Discuss Contract With School District for Office Space.mp4

Proposed agreement calls for $2600 the first month, $2500 the second month, with a cost of $2300 for each additional month, including insurance coverage.

If you have comments on this blog, please add your views, anonymously, or otherwise, in the comment section below. Any fairly well reasoned comments, even if anonymous, will be accepted.

This information may be edited or added to tomorrow, 10/9/10

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Obama Tax & Unemployment "Deal" and The War On WikiLeaks

In This Issue:

- What is known about Obama's tax cut for the rich deal-making?
- The "War On WikiLeaks"


What is known about Obama's tax cut for the rich deal-making?

I was in a local business establishment this afternoon and was talking with the proprietor and a customer, who I have become acquainted with there. When the conversation turned to the issue of unemployment benefits being extended, the acquaintance, who is really fun to talk with, said something about giving more unemployment benefits to people who haven't found a job in two years was something like ill-advised to absurd. Anyone should be able to find a job in a little less than two years, even at McDonald's, right? In reading the article below about the details [I didn't] of the most recent Obama capitulation, I find that he probably didn't understand the details. According to these Congress watchers, "99 weeks would still be the maximum amount of time that anybody could receive benefits" which is a little less than two years of allowable unemployment benefits. That's it. So regardless of whether the economy is producing enough jobs to keep people gainfully employed, which it is not, if you can't find a job in 99 weeks, you can just fall through the "safety net" into sone sort of hell, perhaps on the street or worse.

The most recent Employment Situation Summary from the BLS reported that 39,000 jobs were created in November. Some spinmeisters saw this as a positive sign, but a report from an economist on NPR this last weekend noted that we need 115,000 to 120,000 jobs created every month just to keep up with population growth. [Nice of NPR to let this factoid through to their audience, as the are constantly labeling people opposed to mass-immigration as "anti-immigrant, even though mass-immigration (immigrants and children of immigrants) is responsible for between 75 to 90+% of US population growth.] Some commentators put the numbers higher, with one saying the number of new jobs needed to keep up with population growth is around 150,000, and even he uses what is probably a low estimate of actual population growth.

So the point is how are people supposed to find jobs when we can't create enough jobs to even keep up with new entries to the job market?

Another positive part of the article below is that the writer actually referred to the Tea Party folks as Republican. While many are in fact independents and Libertarians, it is clear that the press and Republican spin on their political ideology clearly favors the Republican leadership.

At the end of the day, when push came to shove this week, Obama didn't make the effort to offer a continued case to show that the Republican's were holding the unemployed hostage in order to enrich millionaires and billionaires. He has capitulated once again, and has given away his veto power. Now the deficit, that the Republicans say they hate, only gets worse. So-called compromise, even when it is self-defeating, destructive and idiotic, takes the day.

What Exactly Is In Obama's Tax Cut/Unemployment Extension Compromise?
Open Congress : Congress Gossip Blog
December 7, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

President Obama on Monday announced the “framework” of a deal with congressional Republicans for dealing with the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts. It’s a two-year deal, and it includes a bunch of other stuff, all at a cost about $900 billion. None of it is offset, so this will be a direct increase in the deficit. Let’s take a look at the specifics of what’s included:

1. Two-year extension of all Bush tax cuts — Income taxes will stay right where they are at least until January 2013, even for the wealthiest Americans. Obama seems to think that having this tax debate again in 2012 will be good politics for his re-election.

2. Two-year estate tax cut — Bush’s 2001 tax bill gradually scaled back the estate tax, a federal assessment on inherited wealth, to 0% in 2010. But because it was done using budget reconciliation, the bill sunsets after ten years (just like the income taxes) and the rate is scheduled to go back up on January 1st to the pre-Bush rate — 55%, with the first $675,000 being exempt. Obama’s proposal would lower this significantly for 2011 and 2012 — the first $5 million would be exempt and the rest would be taxed at 35%. This compromise is taken directly from a Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] amendment that was added to the 2010 budget resolution by a vote of 51-48.

3. 13-month extension of federal unemployment programs — The filing deadline for federal unemployment insurance that provides benefits for people who run out of their 26 weeks of state-provided benefits without finding a job would be extended until January 2012. Essentially, this will make it possible for people who became unemployed in the past 99 weeks and still haven’t found a job to collect benefits for the same length of time as people who lost their job more than 99 weeks ago. This would not add additional weeks of benefits — 99 weeks would still be the maximum amount of time that anybody could receive benefits.

4. One-year payroll tax holiday — Social security payroll taxes, which, under current law, are split equally between employees and employers, would be reduced from 6.2% to 4.2% with all of the benefits of the reduction going to the employees. For the average U.S. salary of $50,000, this would mean tax savings of about $1,000 next year. Obama originally wanted to include an extension of his “Making Work Pay” tax credit, which provides workers up to $400 annually for all workers, but Republicans objected and the payroll tax holiday was included instead. Reducing payroll taxes is generally considered the most stimulative form of supply-side policy.

5. Two years of 100% business expensing — Businesses will be able to immediately write off 100% of the costs of new equipment purchases until 2013. Typically, the costs of equipment purchases are deducted over the life of their use. This proposal is designed to free up now money for businesses that would normally be spread over multiples years in order to encourage more hiring and investing.

6. Miscellaneous stimulus bill tax cut extensions — The lower earning threshold for the child tax credit would be extended for two years. The expanded earned income tax credit would be extended. And the American opportunity tax credit, which provides college students with a $4,000 credit in exchange for community service, would be extended.

Now, this is far from a done deal. This package is designed to get 60 votes in the Senate, but it may not pass muster in the House. The House Democratic caucus, which is generally more progressive than their Senate counterpart, is reserving the option to revolt. And Tea Party Republicans are threatening to vote “no” because of the unemployment insurance extension that is attached.


The Baseline Scenario
What happened to the global economy and what we can do about it
Tax Cut Ironies

By James Kwak

From The New York Times:

“Congressional Republicans in recent days have blocked efforts by Democrats to extend the jobless aid, saying they would insist on offsetting the $56 billion cost with spending cuts elsewhere.”

Instead, as it turns out, they agreed to offset the cost with tax cuts elsewhere.

Still, though, I place the blame for this one squarely on the White House. The Republicans are just doing what Republicans do: arguing for lower government spending and lower taxes. The fact that they justify the former by saying it will cut the deficit and the latter by saying it will stimulate the economy (when you could just as easily switch the arguments and make them point the other way) is just a detail.

As I’ve said before, the Bush tax cuts were always bad policy.* After the last election, President Obama will be able to accomplish precious little. But he could easily have killed the Bush tax cuts and thereby done more good for our nation’s fiscal situation than anyone will be in a position to do for many years to come. Killing the tax cuts would alone reduce the national debt by roughly as much as the deficit commission’s entire proposal. And killing the tax cuts was the path of least resistance. Obama could have done it by doing nothing. Or he could have done it by taking a strong negotiating position and being willing to walk away from the table.

(Note to Barack: If you want to win a negotiation, you have to be willing to walk away. Take my daughter. If I threaten her with a three-minute timeout, she says, “I want a timeout for eight hours!” If I threaten to take away an episode of Dinosaur Train, she says, “I don’t want to watch Dinosaur Train ever again!” You have two daughters, right?)

Instead, we got a two-year extension as part of an overall package that adds $900 billion to the debt.

Now, Ezra Klein, whom I agree with more often than not, says, “the White House and Congress are right to make the deficit less of a priority than economic recovery.” Well, sure, in principle. But this deal isn’t justified by that principle for two reasons. First, as Paul Krugman pointed out, a two-year extension will reduce the unemployment rate by 0.2 to 0.6 percentage points. Yes, that’s hundreds of thousands of jobs, but it’s at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. And at the current course and speed, those hundreds of billions of dollars will, in the long term, get taken away from the middle class in lower Social Security and Medicare benefits. The reason it’s just 0.2-0.6 percent is that tax cuts, once again, are a lousy form of stimulus. According to Mark Zandi (via Menzie Chinn), the multiplier for the Bush income tax cuts is 0.29 and the multiplier for accelerated depreciation is 0.27.

Second, this can no longer be considered a two-year tax cut. This year, the Democrats gave in to the framing that letting the cuts expire would be a tax increase. President Obama has already nailed himself to the cross of “stop[ping] middle-class taxes from going up.” With that on his resume, how is he going to flip-flop and let those taxes go up in 2012? He won’t win a vote to cut taxes just for the middle class with fewer Democrats in Congress than he has now. So if he wants to preserve the middle-class tax cuts, he’ll have to compromise again.

And Obama will no longer be able to say the tax cuts were a mistake made by President Bush that he was letting expire. Now he owns the mistake. This is a long way of saying that this isn’t a two-year tax cut to stimulate the economy (with a 0.29 multiplier, remember) in a recession. It’s a wedge of about 2 percent of GDP that is part of the structural deficit for the foreseeable future, just like the AMT patch that magically keeps getting extended.

Sure, they might not be extended in 2012. But I fail to see how the politics will be any different. “I protected you from a tax increase in 2010, but I’m raising your taxes now because . . . because . . . suddenly I care about the deficit . . . and we’re not in a recession anymore.” Yeah, right. By comparison, the message this time would have been easy: “I and the Democrats in Congress supported a bill to keep your taxes low. The Republicans blocked it because they insisted on tax cuts for the rich. Blame them.” So the tax cuts might not be extended, but you could also say that Congress will vote to raise taxes. Not likely in either case.

So finally, you have to ask, what does Barack Obama want? Does he really like most of the Bush tax cuts? Does he really think the bulk of the tax cuts are good for the country, and that going along with the tax cuts in the top brackets is a reasonable price to pay to keep them?

* How bad? Here’s one example. In order to pass the bill using reconciliation–the first time reconciliation was ever used to pass a deficit-increasing bill–they had to limit the ten-year cost of the bill. One way they did that was by adding a provision that allows upper-income taxpayers, in 2010, to convert their traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. This is unambiguously good for upper-income taxpayers, because it’s optional, so you can decide if you want to do it. So in the long term, it will result in lower tax revenues. But it artificially juices tax revenues in 2010, because when you convert you have to pay tax on the conversion amount now. That increased the amount by which they could cut taxes elsewhere in the bill. So, as my tax casebook puts it, the bill uses tax cuts for the rich to fund more tax cuts for the rich.


President Obama: FIGHT, don't cave on Bush tax cuts for millionaires!

The War On WikiLeaks: WikiLeaks and the Arrest of Julian Assange
One of the hallmarks of Fascism is the cooperation and collusion of corporations with governments to their mutual benefit, which is not, unfortunately, the same as benefiting those they have power over, the people. The behavior of US multinational corporations (eg. Amazon terminating it's WikiLeaks hosting, and PayPal preventing contributions to Assange's defense) and several of the world's governments, especially our's, in their attempts to destroy Julian Assange for informing people about the true nature of their governments is a case in point.

Assange, who turned himself into British authorities today was denied bail. He was alleged to have conducted "rape" and not worn a condom during consensual sex [later reports say the condom broke and he continued to engage, and in one case was reported to have unprotected sex with a "sleeping" woman he woke up with 12/10/10], with adult women who were proud of their association with him afterwards, with one even hosting a party for him the next day (she had also worked for a CIA funded anti-Castro group). Mysteriously (or not), Assange has not actually been charged with any crime (Glenn Greenwald on the Arrest of Julian Assange and the U.S. "War on WikiLeaks"), and he is only wanted for questioning about possible charges of "rape" and abuse for not wearing a condom. Interesting that a person who turns himself in for questioning under a warrant without charge, would be arrested and denied bail, don't you think?

My own thoughts on the situation are that an internationally lawless US government has arranged for his arrest on trumped-up charges in order to get him extradited to Sweden, who will then extradite him to the US, or that he will be directly extradited to the US, so that the your government can charge him, and perhaps imprison him indefinitely, on even more spurious charges related to espionage, even though he only reported information that was provided to him, and even though that same information is being reported by the New York Times, the Guardian of London, and other mainstream media outlets.

Don't Shoot Messenger for Revealing Uncomfortable Truths

WIKILEAKS deserves protection, not threats and attacks.

By Julian Assange

December 07, 2010 "The Australian" --IN 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide's The News, wrote: "In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win."

His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch's expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.

I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.

These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.

If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.

WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain's The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.

Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes. I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the US for me to be "taken out" by US special forces. Sarah Palin says I should be "hunted down like Osama bin Laden", a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared a "transnational threat" and disposed of accordingly. An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister's office has called on national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed for no other reason than to get at me.

And Australians should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to these sentiments by Julia Gillard and her government. The powers of the Australian government appear to be fully at the disposal of the US as to whether to cancel my Australian passport, or to spy on or harass WikiLeaks supporters. The Australian Attorney-General is doing everything he can to help a US investigation clearly directed at framing Australian citizens and shipping them to the US.

Prime Minister Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a word of criticism for the other media organisations. That is because The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.

We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn't want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.

Has there been any response from the Australian government to the numerous public threats of violence against me and other WikiLeaks personnel? One might have thought an Australian prime minister would be defending her citizens against such things, but there have only been wholly unsubstantiated claims of illegality. The Prime Minister and especially the Attorney-General are meant to carry out their duties with dignity and above the fray. Rest assured, these two mean to save their own skins. They will not.

Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: "You'll risk lives! National security! You'll endanger troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can't be both. Which is it?

It is neither. WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US, with Australian government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months alone.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn't find a single person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by anything we have published.

But our publications have been far from unimportant. The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts:

► The US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.

► King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US to attack Iran.

► Officials in Jordan and Bahrain want Iran's nuclear program stopped by any means available.

► Britain's Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect "US interests".

► Sweden is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept from parliament.

► The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian President only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.

In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said "only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government". The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

Julian Assange is the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
Copyright 2010 News Limited

Glenn Greenwald on the Arrest of Julian Assange and the U.S. "War on WikiLeaks"

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested in London on an international warrant to face sex crime allegations in Sweden. Assange is expected to face a hasty extradition process to Sweden. We speak with Glenn Greenwald, constitutional attorney and blogger at Greenwald says: "Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they have not been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. Yet look what has happened to them. They have been removed from Internet … their funds have been frozen … media figures and politicians have called for their assassination and to be labeled a terrorist organization. What is really going on here is a war over control of the Internet, and whether or not the Internet can actually serve its ultimate purpose—which is to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world’s most powerful factions."

Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney and political/legal blogger at

Related stories:

With Rumored Manhunt for Wikileaks Founder and Arrest of Alleged Leaker of Video Showing Iraq Killings, Obama Admin Escalates Crackdown on Whistleblowers of Classified Information

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Cancún, Mexico, at the U.N. Climate Change Conference. In a moment, we’ll turn to the talks here in Cancún, but first our top story. Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website, was arrested in London earlier today on an international warrant to face sexual assault allegations in Sweden. Assange is appearing in court today after surrendering to British police. The case reportedly centers on accusations from two women who say Assange refused to use a condom during consensual sex. Assange and WikiLeaks have denounced the case as a political witch-hunt that’s intensified with the group’s release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is carrying out a separate criminal probe focused on WikiLeaks’s decision to release secret U.S. documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghan and U.S. diplomatic cables. U.S. Defense Secretary Gates said earlier today Assange’s arrest, quote, "sounds like good news to me."

The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has said it will keep operating as normal despite the arrest of its founder, Julian Assange, in Britain. A spokesperson said, quote, "WikiLeaks is operational. We are continuing on the same track as laid out before. Any development with regards to Julian Assange will not change the plans we have with regards to the releases today and in the coming days." WikiLeaks has released less than one percent of the more than 250,000 secret diplomatic cables in its possession.

For more on the arrest of Julian Assange, I’m joined by Democracy Now! video stream by Glenn Greenwald, constitutional attorney and blogger at

Glenn, if you could just respond to this latest news on the arrest of Julian Assange in Britain.

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, what’s interesting is it’s being depicted in the media as some kind of an international manhunt that finally concluded. That’s what Matt Lauer announced this morning on NBC News, the international manhunt is over. The reality is that although this case has been around for quite some time, there was really only a valid arrest warrant for the first time in England, the country where he’s been located, as of yesterday, and last night his attorneys negotiated his turning himself in with the police department in London. So it was entirely voluntary. There was never any manhunt of any kind, nor has he been actually charged with a crime. The arrest warrant has been issued by the Swedish authorities in order to question him about the accusations that have been made. There’s no judgment that he’s guilty or that there should be a prosecution at all. They’re simply seeking to interrogate him.

And one of the most—the strangest and most interesting aspects of all of this is that it’s extremely unusual for Interpol, the international police agency used in Europe and other places, to be used in this manner. I mean, he was put on the, quote, "most wanted" list, even though, as I just said, he’s not charged with any crime. They’re simply seeking to interrogate him. And for months now, his attorneys have offered to the Swedish police and to prosecutors to make him available for questioning, whether it be by telephone or by Skype or by appearing in some other technologically suitable means, and yet they’ve been extremely insistent, very oddly so, that that isn’t good enough, that he actually make himself physically available in the jurisdiction of Sweden in order to be detained and interrogated.

And, of course, the real concern is—and it’s the concern that Assange and his lawyers have—is that what this really is is just a ploy to get him into custody in a country, which is Sweden, that is very subservient to the United States, that is willing to extradite him to the United States or turn him over with the slightest request. And any person who has followed the United States, quote-unquote, "justice system" over the last decade knows that there’s good reason to fear that, that anybody who’s accused of national security crimes, especially if they’re not an American citizen, is treated in violation of virtually every Western norm of justice, without almost any due process.

So I think the responsible thing to do for any person is to wait and see with regard to the allegations themselves that these women have made, whether there’s evidence to support it. We should all wait and see one way or the other, and hopefully the case will play itself out. But there’s lots of reasons, in terms of how it’s been treated by Swedish authorities, to find it very questionable indeed whether what’s really going on is a politically motivated effort to get him out of WikiLeaks, stop what he’s doing in terms of exposing and bringing transparency to governments around the world, and ultimately hand him over to the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange has appeared on Democracy Now! several times this year. On October 26th, he detailed some of the international pressure facing WikiLeaks.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Oh, there’s no doubt that this organization is under siege. There was a direct demand made by the Pentagon that we destroy all previous publications, all upcoming publications—an incredible demand for prior restraint on a media organization by a military—and that we cease dealing with U.S. military whistleblowers.

My Swedish residency application was denied for reasons that still remain secret.

One week after the release of the Afghan war diaries, our donation credit card processing company Moneybookers, the second biggest on the internet after Paypal, terminated our accounts, and we were forwarded an email by the security department explaining the situation to the account manager, which was that we were on a U.S. watchlist and an Australian government blacklist and to see the current controversy in relation to Afghanistan. Fortunately, we have just now managed to get up an Icelandic-based credit card processing scheme, so donors can once again donate there.

The Australian attorney general stated that he would assist any country anywhere in the world to prosecute us over these disclosures and that, when asked the question, had he provided intelligence assistance, something that we have evidence of, said, "Well, yes, we help countries from time to time, but I won’t comment directly on that matter."

And we know the Icelandic government has been publicly pressured to not be a safe haven for our publishing activities or for me personally.

The Swedish government has been pressured at the intelligence agency level to its body SAPO. When I left Sweden on the 27th of September, my—to a flight to Berlin on SAS, one of the world’s most—if not the world’s most reputable airline—my luggage disappeared. That was the—I was the only case in that plane.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Julian Assange speaking on Democracy Now! just a few weeks ago.

By the way, a correction to an earlier headline, a Swiss bank has frozen Julian Assange’s account, not a Swedish bank.

Also, the newspaper called The Australian is preparing to run an op-ed by Julian Assange that was written before his arrest. The newspaper reports, quote, "Mr Assange begins by saying: 'in 1958, a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide's the News, wrote: 'In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.' It goes on to say a few more things about freedom of speech; the 'dark days' of corrupt government in Queensland (where Assange was raised); and it says much about his upbringing in a country town, 'where people spoke their minds bluntly'. It says that Australian politicians are chanting a 'provably false chorus' with the US State Department of ’You’ll risk lives! You’ll endanger troops!’ by releasing information, and 'then they say there is nothing of importance in what Wikileaks publishes. It can't be both.’" Those are a few of the quotes that will appear in Julian Assange’s op-ed piece. The Australian newspaper is releasing it at midnight Australian time. Final comments, Glenn Greenwald?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I just want to underscore how alarming everything is that you just described, both in that report and in your earlier one, which is, whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they’ve never been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. And yet, look at what has happened to them. They’ve been essentially removed from the internet, not just through a denial of service attacks that are very sophisticated, but through political pressure applied to numerous countries. Their funds have been frozen, including funds donated by people around the world for his—for Julian Assange’s defense fund and for WikiLeaks’s defense fund. They’ve had their access to all kinds of accounts cut off. Leading politicians and media figures have called for their assassination, their murder, to be labeled a terrorist organization. What’s really going on here is a war over control of the internet and whether or not the internet can actually serve what a lot of people hoped its ultimate purpose was, which was to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world’s most powerful factions. That’s what this really is about. It’s why you see Western government, totally lawlessly, waging what can only be described as a war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange outside the bounds of any constraints, because that’s what really is at stake here. If they want to prosecute them, they should go to court and do it through legal means. But this extralegal persecution ought to be very alarming to every citizen in every one of these countries, because it essentially is pure authoritarianism and is designed to prevent the internet from being used as its ultimate promise, which is providing a check on unconstrained political power.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, I want to thank you very much for being with us, constitutional lawyer and blogger at He’s speaking to us from Brazil. We’re in Cancún covering the U.N. climate change talks. And we’re going to go to that after break. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. You can go to our website at [] to see all our interviews with Julian Assange, as well as with Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the premier whistleblower in the United States.


[These audios are from Australia and may be very slow in downloading at times.]

In two ABC Radio Australia interviews, John Pilger asks Australians to break their silence and rally round compatriot Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks. John Pilger's new film, 'The War You Don't See', due to be released in Australia in 2011, will feature an interview with Queensland born Assange.

First interview - Breakfast (3 Dec)

John Pilger in second interview:
"I think we have got to the stage where we have been deceived on such a scale about how wars begin, how governments deal with each other, ah, that in democratic societies we have a right to know, without that right to know we have no democracy-- that is basic. . . . . Jefferson said Information is the currency of democracy, and without it we don't have any. . . ."

Billy Bragg and Wilco-- "The Unwelcome Guest"
By Woodie Guthrie