The Barbarian’s Book Review: Ghosts of Tom Joad, by Peter Van Buren

By: Sunday September 28, 2014 6:40 pm

Set in a fictional small town in Ohio, home of a shuttered glass factory and a shattered American Dream, the protagonist, Earl, is a high school football player who graduated around 1977. He’s not exactly a sympathetic character, at least not to me. He’s basically an ignorant jock who did as little school work as possible, then dropped out after he got hurt in the middle of dumb teenage jock roughhousing, couldn’t play anymore, and went to work in the same factory where his World War II vet grandpa and his Korean War vet dad had worked before him.


Tomgram: Peter Van Buren: Undue Process in Washington

By: Thursday July 24, 2014 6:26 pm

You can’t get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted — about one-third of the text is missing — Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner.

Tomgram: Peter Van Buren: What We’ve Lost Since 9/11 (Part 2)

By: Thursday June 26, 2014 6:40 pm

Here’s a bit of history from another America: the Bill of Rights was designed to protect the people from their government. If the First Amendment’s right to speak out publicly was the people’s wall of security, then the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy was its buttress. It was once thought that the government should neither be able to stop citizens from speaking nor peer into their lives. Think of that as the essence of the Constitutional era that ended when those towers came down on September 11, 2001. Consider how privacy worked before 9/11 and how it works now in Post-Constitutional America.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Peter Van Buren, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent (novel)

By: Saturday May 24, 2014 1:59 pm

Anyone who has not endured the story told in Ghosts of Tom Joad is privileged, overwhelmingly. But they likely live with the fear that at any moment they could be in Earl’s shoes.

Come Yell at Me in Person, or via Live Chat (Boston, Washington DC and here on FDL!)

By: Friday May 16, 2014 2:05 pm

I’m going to be exercising my First Amendment rights and traveling over the next few days, and invite all FDL readers to join me in Boston on May 16 and Washington DC on May 20.

Peter Van Buren: I’m a Whistleblower, Want Fries With That?

By: Thursday April 24, 2014 4:19 pm

There are many sides to whistleblowing. The one that most people don’t know about is the very personal cost, prison aside, including the high cost of lawyers and the strain on family relations, that follows the decision to risk it all in an act of conscience. Here’s a part of my own story I’ve not talked about much before.

At age 53, everything changed. Following my whistleblowing first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, I was run out of the good job I had held for more than 20 years with the U.S. Department of State. As one of its threats, State also took aim at the pension and benefits I’d earned, even as it forced me into retirement. Would my family and I lose everything I’d worked for as part of the retaliation campaign State was waging?

Did State Department Fail American Peace Activist When She Was Detained at Cairo Airport?

By: Monday March 10, 2014 9:00 am

An American peace activist and co-founder of the group CODEPINK was planning to go to Gaza as part of a delegation on women. However, she flew to Cairo. She was detained in the airport, held for hours and then, before Egyptian security officers tried to deport her, she was roughed up and had her arm broken.

You Can’t Opt Out: 10 NSA Myths Debunked

By: Friday January 17, 2014 7:21 am

The debate Edward Snowden envisioned when he revealed the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans has taken a bad turn. Instead of a careful examination of what the NSA does, the legality of its actions, what risks it takes for what gains, and how effective the agency has been in its stated mission of protecting Americans, we increasingly have government officials or retired versions of the same demanding — quite literally — Snowden’s head and engaging in the usual fear-mongering over 9/11. They have been aided by a chorus of pundits, columnists, and present as well as former officials offering bumper-sticker slogans like “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” all the while claiming our freedom is in direct conflict with our security.

It’s time to face these arguments directly. So here are ten myths about NSA surveillance that need debunking. Let’s sort them out.

Sentencing Phase of Bradley Manning’s Trial, Day 12 (Live Updates)

By: Friday August 16, 2013 11:15 am

The trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning is set to continue this afternoon with the government indicating whether it will put on a rebuttal to the defense’s sentencing case or not.

On Wednesday, Manning gave an apology in military court at Fort Meade. I covered it here at Firedoglake and also wrote a full reflection on what he said the day after.

I also reached out to some other people for reactions.

State Dept. Whistleblower Peter Van Buren: Edward Snowden Is One of Us

By: Friday July 12, 2013 1:20 pm

Edward Snowden today made clear both his own bona fides as a whistleblower, and the hypocrisy of the United States in its manhunt for him.

Whistleblower? Snowden’s remarks reinforce the basic tenet of whistleblowing, that is an act of conscience. He made clear what he gave up– home, family, perhaps even his liberty and life– and what we gained, learning what a government which claims to be “of the people” is doing to the people.

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