By Tom Eley in the USA:
Media promotes right-wing “tea parties”
17 April 2009
A series of anti-tax rallies were held across the US on Wednesday, the deadline for filing federal income tax returns. The rallies were heavily promoted and well-publicized by sections of the media in order to divert along reactionary lines the growing popular anger over the government bailout of the financial industry.
Organizers claim that over 700 rallies took place nationally, drawing over 100,000 protesters. Most of the larger rallies numbered in the hundreds, according to media accounts. The largest may have taken place in Michigan, where a crowd estimated at between 3,000 and 5,000 gathered in the state capital, Lansing.
The rallies were hardly the result of a spontaneous grass roots initiative. They were largely the outcome of an orchestrated media campaign, spearheaded by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and reactionary radio talk show hosts. The events had the backing of some prominent Republicans, anti-tax organizations, gun rights groups and anti-immigration zealots.
Fox News and radio figures such as Rush Limbaugh assiduously promoted the events. On the morning of the rallies, the more “mainstream” network, CNN, broadcast a national map pinpointing the locations where the events would be held and advised viewers of a web site they could visit in order to find the “tea party” closest to them.
Given the national media campaign promoting the events, the resulting turnout—even taking at face value the figures presented by organizers—was limited. But this did not stop the media from lavishing attention on the rallies. This was particularly true of regional newspapers, television stations and, of course, Fox News. Fox commentator Sean Hannity even broadcast his evening show from an Atlanta tea party.
The primary aim of the rallies was to confuse mounting public anger over the bailout of Wall Street, which may now exceed $10 trillion in loans, cash infusions and guarantees on debt. Organizers targeted the “fiscal irresponsibility” of Obama, who has taken over the dispensation of public funds to Wall Street from his predecessor. However, the protests focused their anger on Obama’s stimulus package, which is only a small fraction of the funds doled out to the banks.
In its coverage, the Detroit News featured a rally held by the fascistic Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, which the newspaper sought to portray as the voice of oppressed workers.
The group’s leader, according to the story, “is a postman.” The article stated that “these are people boiling on the back burner, struggling to make ends meet, carrying around a knapsack of resentment for a government that they claim has taken almost everything from them and given nothing in return.”
Cyn Soldenski told the News, “I’ve seen a 35 percent reduction in pay. I bought a house 18 months ago. The interest rate is going to reset and I’m so far underwater I’m going to drown. We’ve got to take the stupid government and throw it out.”
Soldenski said there was no difference between Obama and Bush. “They’re all the same thing,” he said, “Corporate tools.”
Such sentiments were manipulated by the organizers into attacks on the Obama administration from the right, based on the absurd contention that Obama’s handouts to the bankers constitute “socialism,” combined with thinly veiled appeals to racism and anti-immigrant chauvinism.
In Denver, a protester held a sign that read “Our Soldiers Didn’t Fight and Die for Socialism.” In Boston, protesters held signs reading “DC: District of Communism.” In Orlando, a sign read “Socialism is not Change.”
Prominent Republicans such as Texas Governor Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford addressed a number of rallies. Gingrich and Sanford, along with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal—who used his office to promote the rallies—are positioning themselves for presidential runs in 2012. In other states, such as Iowa, Minnesota and California, organizers complained that prominent Republicans stayed away.
The media promotion of the “tea parties” shows the far right’s outsized role in US politics. The term “tea party” is meant to invoke the “Boston Tea Party” of 1773, when American colonists dressed as Indians boarded a British merchant ship and tossed its payload, tea, into Boston Harbor as a protest against “taxation without representation.” The Boston Tea Party helped set the stage for the American Revolution, an immensely progressive struggle.
Wednesday’s events, in contrast, were held in the service of political reaction.
Cheney on the ‘tea parties’: here.
“Shutting Detroit Down”: Country singer John Rich sings about the crisis, but also spreads confusion: here.
News Corp will charge for newspaper websites, says Rupert Murdoch: here.
Obama’s arts policy: here.
The Boston Tea Party Revealed: Thom Hartmann, Berrett-Koehler Publishers: “The East India Company set a precedent that multinational corporations follow to this day: it lobbied for laws that would enable it to easily put its small-business competitors out of business. By 1681 most of the members of the British government and royalty were stockholders in the East India Company, so it was easy that year to pass ‘An Act for the restraining and punishing Privateers and Pirates.’ This law required a license to import anything into the Americas (among other British-controlled parts of the world), and the licenses were only rarely granted except to the East India Company and other large British corporations”: here.
Friday 17th April, 2009
Obama shadowed by protestors in Mexico
Big News Network.com Thursday 16th April, 2009
Demonstrations have broken out in Mexico on the visit to the nation by President Barack Obama.
President Obama, meeting with Mexico’s President, Felipe Calderon, ostensibly on drug issues, has been subject to demonstrations by activists who have said they want to see progress between the US and Mexico on many issues, ranging from immigration to trade concerns and environmental changes.
On the eve of Mr Obama’s arrival on Wednesday environmental activists unfurled a huge banner in a city square urging the US and Mexican leaders to ‘Save the climate.’
Before Mr. Obama’s arrival in Mexico City, immigrant-rights groups gathered in front of the US embassy to demand the status of more than 12 million undocumented Mexican workers in the United States be resolved.
According to onlookers, the demonstrations meeting Mr Obama have been relatively calm and in stark contrast to those in the previous years of the Bush presidency.
Apr 19, 10:49 AM EDT
PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama keeps some Bush secrets
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite a pledge to open government, the Obama administration has endorsed a Bush-era decision to keep secret key details of an FBI computer database that allows agents and analysts to search a billion documents with a wealth of personal information about Americans and foreigners.
President Barack Obama’s Justice Department quietly told a federal court in Washington last week that it would not second-guess the previous administration’s decisions to withhold some information about the bureau’s Investigative Data Warehouse.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group, had sued under the Freedom of Information Act to get records showing how the FBI protects the privacy of Americans whose personal information winds up in the vast database.
As a result, there is no public list of all the databases the FBI sucks into this computer warehouse; no information on how individuals can correct errors about them in this FBI database; and no public access to assessments the bureau did of the warehouse’s impact on Americans’ privacy.
“In light of all the fanfare at the highest levels of the administration about a new transparency policy, it’s remarkable that not one word of additional material has been released as a result of that new policy,” said David Sobel, the foundation’s lawyer in the case.
The administration’s handling of the decision fit a pattern that emerged this month: Highly visible announcements when Obama breaks with Bush policy in order to open hidden government files, but an almost stealthy rollout of decisions when Obama endorses secrecy.
“There has been a lack of consistency on the part of the administration when it comes to secrecy issues,” said James Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, an open government advocate. “They do seem to be torn between two conflicting tendencies: One is openness and other is a control-the-news tendency. But it’s still early in the administration, so I cut them some slack for not having this fully thought out yet.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler offered a different explanation: “Some withholdings are necessary in order to protect privacy, national security and other interests.”
There’s no lack of openness when Obama changes Bush policies.
On his first day in office, Obama reversed a policy on releasing government documents so there is a “presumption in favor of disclosure.” Attorney General Eric Holder promptly beat Obama’s deadline by two months for issuing new guidelines that urged release unless “foreseeable harm” would result.
With a flourish, the Justice Department has opened two batches of secret legal opinions crafted to support Bush’s anti-terrorism polices. Just Thursday, four Bush-era legal opinions that relaxed restrictions against torture of prisoners were made public, accompanied by a department news release and a statement from Obama.
In contrast, the decision to endorse Bush’s withholding of records about the FBI’s data warehouse was filed in federal court last Monday with no other public word from the current administration.
On April 3, the Obama administration issued no presidential statement or general Justice Department news release when it told a federal court in San Francisco that a lawsuit by AT&T customers to stop domestic wiretapping by the National Security Agency must be halted to avoid disclosing state secrets.
Instead, a court brief containing the decision was filed electronically with the San Francisco court at 8 p.m. EDT Friday.
Schmaler said the department had a statement prepared in case anyone called to ask about the filing. But in the NSA case, and the FBI case, the department did not follow the Bush administration practice of e-mailing reporters a copy of government briefs in newsworthy cases as soon as they are filed with a court.
During the presidential campaign, Obama said Bush invoked the state secrets privilege too often, and Holder has ordered a review of those cases. But Obama has since reasserted it in two cases where Bush earlier claimed it to prevent disclosure of his anti-terror tactics.
The NSA wiretapping case, filed shortly before Bush left office, was the first time Obama asserted the privilege on his own to try to kill a suit.
Last Monday’s decision not to release additional documents about the FBI data warehouse was the first one about a pending case since Holder issued the new freedom of information standard and said Bush-era decisions involved in pending suits could be revisited.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton had given the government 60 days to decide whether the new guidelines might alter its position. The government’s response declining to disclose more data did not say whether the Justice Department used the time to re-evaluate the Bush-era decisions.
Comparing the Obama decisions, attorney Sobel said, “The `torture’ memos affected a handful of people while this database potentially affects millions of American citizens. The average American was not likely to be tortured at the Guantanamo Bay prison, but they are likely to have information about them in this massive database which remains a black hole. We don’t even know what material they’re collecting.”
Begun in 2004, the data warehouse contains at least 53 databases that are refreshed regularly. Nearly three-quarters of the data comes from outside the FBI. Some 13,500 FBI agents, 2,000 FBI analysts and selected other federal, state and local law enforcement officers on joint task forces with the FBI can access the material, which includes unclassified documents and data classified confidential or secret, but not top secret.
The heavily censored documents already released show the warehouse contains the FBI’s electronic case files; its lists of people and groups “associated with” violent gangs and terrorist organizations; criminal histories from the National Crime Information Center; messages between the FBI and other agencies; newspaper stories from around the world; data about lost, stolen or fraudulent passports; CIA intelligence reports; suspicious banking activity reports; and lists of people barred from aircraft or subject to extra searches before flying.
But the names of more than half the data sets in the warehouse are blacked out.
In the Justice Department’s brief, FBI freedom of information chief David Hardy said that “knowledge of the data sources … would enable individuals involved in criminal or terrorist activities to adapt their activities and methods to avoid detection.” New department guidance for deletions like this cautions agencies to “ensure that they are not withholding based on speculative or abstract fears.”
The released documents also show the FBI assessed the data warehouse’s impact on the privacy of Americans, but won’t make those assessments public because it believes federal law doesn’t require that.
The new Justice guidance, however, says agencies “should not withhold information simply because (they) may do so legally.” It urges release of information that can be made public without “foreseeable harm.”
On the Net:
Justice Department’s guidance: http://tinyurl.com/cs2mxt
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