Friday, August 15, 2008

Freedom of Dissent in USA in Jeopardy: From Protesters to WalMart Employees

Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.William O. Douglas

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety" Benjamin Franklin

"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." Edward R. Murrow

"Eternal Vigilance Is The Price of Liberty" used to mean we watched the government - not the other way around." Bill Stewart

"No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots" Barbara Ehrenreich

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear." Harry Truman

"A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious." Aristotle

"No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices." Edward R. Murrow

As Edward R. Murrow has rightfully pointed out a nation is terrorized by its leader or government when the people or its representatives in government or in the media refuse to speak out and become willing accomplices to tyranny . The Founding Fathers of America and their supporters stood up to the Tyranny of the British Crown and were willing to fight and die in that cause. Now America is in the hands of a group of tyrants and are unwilling to fight those tyrants in speech or deed. It is considerate to be in bad taste or is seen as socially unacceptable to question the rich and powerful and their puppets in the media. To even question the use of torture on detainees is seen as going too far. To even suggest that racism is still a serious problem in American society is seen as going too far.To question the anti-drug policies in America as being ineffective as colossal waste of money and resources or as draconian is seen as going too far in one's exercise of one's freedom of speech. It is odd how Americans were always critical of countries such as the former Soviet Union for its restrictions on freedom of speech and dissent of its citizens and yet the American populace has come to see freedom of speech or dissent of its own citizens as a threat to the nation.

Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Dissent is not supported in the USA if that speech criticizes the Bush Regime or its policies or criticizes Democrats who support those policies such as the War in Iraq or Afghanistan and the promised wars to come against Iran or Russia etc. All those who dissent are considered a clear and present danger to the nation. One can protest in favor of capital punishment or against Gun Control or against abortion etc. but not against an unnecessary war & occupation in Iraq . The deaths of some 650,000 to 1,200,000 Iraqis is seen as of no real concern for the average American citizen. Once again those concerned over the deaths of Iraqi civilians are characterized by the Bush Regime and the Republican Party and even a large number of Democrats as being unAmerican . All those who believe that capital punishment should be eliminated or that so called detainees have certain rights and should not be tortured are characterized as being soft on terrorism as in the old days people were characterized as being soft on communism.

As Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! writes in a recent article:
Thursday, August 14, 2008 by Don't Cage Dissent by Amy Goodman

The bulwark against tyranny is dissent. Open opposition, the right to challenge those in power, is a mainstay of any healthy democracy. The Democratic and Republican conventions will test the commitment of the two dominant U.S. political parties to the cherished tradition of dissent. Things are not looking good.

Denver’s CBS4 News just reported that the city is planning on jailing arrested Democratic convention protesters at a warehouse with barbed-wire-topped cages and signs warning of the threat of stun gun use. Meanwhile, a federal judge has ruled that a designated protest area is legal, despite claims that protesters will be too far from the Democratic delegates to be heard.

The full spectrum of police and military will also be on hand at the Democratic convention in Denver, many of these units coordinated by a “fusion center.” These centers are springing up around the country as an outgrowth of the post-9/11 national-security system. Erin Rosa of the online Colorado Independent recently published a report on the Denver fusion center, which will be sharing information with the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the U.S. Northern Command. The center is set up to gather and distribute “intelligence” about “suspicious activities,” which, Rosa points out, “can include taking pictures or taking notes. The definition is very broad.”

Civil rights advocates fear the fusion center could enable unwarranted spying on protesters exercising their First Amendment rights at the convention. Documents obtained by I-Witness Video, a group that documents police abuses and demonstrations, revealed that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency were receiving intelligence about the protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. The growing problem is that legal, peaceful protesters are ending up on federal databases and watch lists with scant legal oversight.
In the Twin Cities on the evening Obama was giving his Democratic acceptance speech in June, the St. Paul Police Department arrested a 50-year-old man peacefully handing out leaflets promoting a Sept. 1 march on the Republican National Convention. After mass arrests at the RNC in Philadelphia in 2000 and roughly 1,800 arrests in New York City in 2004, ACLU Minnesota predicts hundreds will be arrested in St. Paul, and is organizing and training 75 lawyers to defend them.

For now, the eyes of the world are on the Beijing Olympics. Sportswriter Dave Zirin is reporting on the suppression of protests that are occurring there. He has an interesting perspective, as he is a member of the anti-death-penalty group infiltrated in Maryland. He told me, “Our taxpayer dollars went to pay people to infiltrate and take notes on our meetings, and it’s absolutely enraging … a lot of this Homeland Security funding is an absolute sham … it’s being used to actually crush dissent, not to keep us safer in any real way.” The lack of freedom of speech in China is getting a little attention in the news. But what about the crackdown on dissent here at home? Dissent is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. There is no more important time than now.

And as for the right of association and the right to unionize many Americans see Unionization as another threat to the nation and the body politic.

The Death Nell for Workers Rights in America- Vote for Obama you lose your job!!!
That's American Democracy once more at work. Workers who fight for better wages or working conditions:

Thursday, August 14, 2008 by Reuters/US Groups File Election Complaint Against Wal-Mart
CHICAGO - Labor groups on Thursday asked federal regulators to look into whether Wal-Mart Stores Inc broke the law during company meetings with store managers where it warned about the consequences of a proposed labor law backed by Democrats.
At issue is whether Wal-Mart’s discussion of the law, which would make it easier for workers to unionize, amounted to an effort to dissuade employees from voting for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Wal-Mart denies that it tried to influence voting. said it filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in conjunction with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and other groups.

A spokeswoman for said the group has heard from about two dozen Wal-Mart workers in recent weeks regarding comments made by managers about the legislation. A Wall Street Journal story earlier this month disclosed some of the meetings’ details.
A spokeswoman for said the group has heard from about two dozen Wal-Mart workers in recent weeks regarding comments made by managers about the legislation. A Wall Street Journal story earlier this month disclosed some of the meetings’ details.

At some meetings, “they outright said if you vote for Barack Obama this law is going to pass, your wages would go down, you could lose your job,” said Meghan Scott. She added that the comments varied in their directness.

Wal-Mart has acknowledged holding meetings with U.S. store managers, where it warned them of the possible consequences of the labor-friendly Employee Free Choice Act that is backed by Obama.

as for the now demonized Russians:

Once again it appears America and her allies give support to an aggressive fascist style regime against the forces of democracy and Human Rights. So what is America's interest is it oil or some other important interest . Or is it just a way to stir things up before the November Presidential election to silence all those who are not Hawkish enough who believe in diplomacy . Are we to return to the cold war ethos that any country or group hostile to Russia is to be supported at any cost as we in the West did in Afghanistan so we supported Islamic extremist groups rather than the more moderate factions in order to defeat Russia . The consequence of this action was the arming and or creation of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups. Will America or the West ever learn. Are the Americans using this as an excuse to attack Russia because Russia has been making treaties with various countries especially in regards to oil supplies and oil and gas pipelines. Is this another warning to the rest of the world including Europe and Canada and other countries who calls the shots. In other words if Canada pisses the American/ Bush Regime and its Corporations off then the Americans will take action.
Officials and citizens "accused Western leading countries of arming Georgia in the conflict: "A Georgian only knows how to ride a cow," he said, "the aeroplanes which destroyed the building were Ukrainian," he said.

Another fighter said: "The Georgians were 30 times stronger than us. They wanted to kill us to destroy everything. But we held them off."

Destruction in Tskhinvali:'I've never heard anything so monstrous as people shelling a hospital'

Tom Parfitt travelled to Tskhinvali, in a trip organised by the Kremlin, to witness first hand the destruction caused by the battle for South Ossetia
By Tom Parfitt

14/08/08 "The Guardian"

Outside in the street, a priest in an immaculate black cassock walked through the scene of devastation. Saurmag Bazzate, an Ossetian prior, arrived in Tskhinvali on Monday. "I came to be with my people," he said. "Those who perpetrated this horror are criminals who must be punished by God. This war is a result of Georgian fascism, which has flourished with the support of the West."

Russian officials in the city say their main aim is now to contain a humanitarian disaster by repairing water supplies insuring that bread factories are working and re-establishing an electricity supply.

Close to the centre of the city Russian officers led the group to the city's main hospital which was hit by small arms fire and shells during the first days of fighting. Doctors at the hospital said they had been forced to carry out operations in corridors and the basement of the building without electricity, water or light.
Tina Zakharova, one of the doctors, pointed out chunks of shrapnel which had hit the building.

"This is the humanitarian aid that Georgia sent us," she said, "and that," she said, pointing at a field hospital nearby, "is the help we received from Russia. Which do you think we should chose?" She added: "I've never heard anything so monstrous as people shelling a hospital."

One man showed the Guardian the metal casing of a Grad rocket lodged in the ruins of his home: "We managed to escape to the shelter just in time," he said, pointing at the mouth of a cellar protected by huge chunks of concrete.

Colonel Konashenko said: "The Georgians could not get tanks through these narrow streets. So first they turned it to ruins with a Grad attack and tried to punch through here to the centre of the city. There was heavy fighting in the streets. I think more than 500 bodies were pulled out of this part of town."

Asked if there had been atrocities against civilians the Colonel replied: "I personally saw one man beheaded lying in the street and others say they witnessed civilians who had been finished off with a shot to the back of the head."

and as Gwynne Dyer points out it was the Georgians who started the War and Not Russia:

Russian Triumph as Saakashvili's Gamble Fails By Gwynne Dyer

14/08/08 "NZHerald" -- - -The three-day war in South Ossetia is settled, and the Georgians have lost. There may be some more shooting yet, but it is now clear that Georgia will never regain control of the rebel territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Also that President Mikhail Saakashvili has handed Russia a major victory, and that Georgia's hopes of joining NATO are gone. Pretty impressive work for one long weekend.

Now Saakashvili is playing on old Cold War stereotypes of the Russian threat in a desperate bid for Western backing: "What Russia is doing in Georgia is open, unhidden aggression and a challenge to the whole world. If the whole world does not stop Russia today, then Russian tanks will be able to reach any other European capital."

Nonsense. It was Georgia that started this war. The chronology tells it all. Skirmishes between Georgian troops and South Ossetian militia were more frequent than usual over the past several months, but on the afternoon of Thursday, August 7, Saakashvili offered the separatist South Ossetian Government "an immediate ceasefire and the immediate beginning of talks," promising that "full autonomy" was on the table.

The same evening, however, he ordered a general offensive.

South Ossetia's President, Eduard Kokoity, called Saakashvili's ceasefire offer a "despicable and treacherous" ruse, which seems fair enough. Through all of Thursday night and Friday morning, Georgian artillery shells and rockets rained down on the little city of Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, while Georgian infantry and tanks encircled it. Russian journalists reported that 70 per cent of the city was destroyed, and by Friday afternoon it was in Georgian hands.

It was obvious that this offensive had been planned well in advance, but this, it appears, was as far as Saakashvili's plan extended. He assumed that the world's attention would be distracted by the opening of the Olympics, and that the Russian reaction would be slow because Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was off in Beijing.
How much does all of this matter? It matters a great deal to Saakashvili, who is likely to lose power. It matters a lot to the 300,000 Georgians who fled their homes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia when the two ethnic enclaves, which had been autonomous parts of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in Soviet times, declared their independence after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

The Georgian attempts to reconquer them in 1992-93 were bloody failures, and after this second failure it is clear that the Georgian refugees will never go home.

It is a reason to rejoice for most Abkhazians and South Ossetians. Although they share much history and a common eastern Orthodox Christianity with the far more numerous Georgians, they are ethnically distinct peoples with different languages, and they always resented Stalin's decision to place them under Georgian rule.

It will probably be decades before they achieve formal independence or are fully absorbed into the Russian Federation, but either way they will be happy with the outcome.

The Bush Administration's ambition to extend Nato into the Caucasus mountains is dead, which will please the French, the Germans and other Nato members who always found it bizarre and wilfully provocative.

Russians, who were the target of the provocation, will be quietly pleased with the speed and effectiveness of their Government's response. There is no great moral issue here. What Georgia tried to do to South Ossetia is precisely what Russia did to Chechnya, but Georgia wasn't strong enough and South Ossetia had a bigger friend. There is no great strategic issue either: apart from a few pipeline routes, the whole Transcaucasus is of little importance to the rest of the world.

and so it goes,

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