THE NEW SOLIDARITY: “I’ve played hundreds and hundreds of demonstrations, but I’ve never been in the middle of anything like this,” veteran Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello told me when we spoke about his participation in the mass protests in Wisconsin last winter. In August he returned to Madison for a Labor Day concert that took the struggle to the next stage. Morello, Tim McIlrath of the group Rise Against, and the MC5’s Wayne Kramer used the show to kick off the Justice Tour, bringing concerts to the battleground states of Ohio and Michigan, where unions are fighting back against right-wing assaults on labor rights. Proceeds from the concerts benefited The Nation Institute, to support journalism that exposes corporate abuse and highlights union struggles.
Morello was one of the first national figures to show up at the State Capitol in Madison in February, where he performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” He has since written a song about the Wisconsin fight—“Union Town”—and is donating profits to the America Votes Labor Unity Fund. He has become a spokesman for the new solidarity that crosses lines of class, politics and musical genres. (In Madison he was joined by Firefighters Local 311 Pipes & Drums.)
“The future of workers’ rights in this country will not be decided in the courts or in Congress, on talk radio or on Fox News,” Morello wrote in Rolling Stone last winter. “The future of workers’ rights in this country will be decided on the streets of a small Midwestern city, on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin. And who knows? Maybe in your city too.” JOHN NICHOLS
CABLEGATE’S LAST CHAPTER: In the first week of September, WikiLeaks published, unredacted, its entire collection of US Embassy cables, 251,287 total, creating what the Australian newspaper the Age described as an “astonishingly comprehensive, publicly available, fully searchable and free archive of US diplomacy covering every corner of the globe…. There are no redactions or deletions.” The controversial move followed a convoluted series of apparent mistakes: a decryption password was published in a book about WikiLeaks by Guardian journalist David Leigh that, according to the group, allowed the public access to a file containing the complete set of unredacted cables. (The Guardian claims that the password was temporary and would have long since expired by the time the book came out.) The file itself is said to have been erroneously uploaded by WikiLeaks supporters.
The revelations contained in the last batch of cables—that former Blackwater employees kept working in Iraq after the firm was banned; that China has bought gold to weaken the US dollar; that American diplomats have sought to advance the interests of Monsanto and Big Pharma; that the US military concealed details of the execution of ten Iraqis by US troops in 2006—were largely overshadowed by the fact that the cables were unredacted. The State Department warned that the cables would endanger the lives of those whose names appear. Defending the decision, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange explained that the information was already available to intelligence agencies around the world and that those who might face retaliation deserved to have access to the records for their own safety. On its website, WikiLeaks announced that it had pre-emptively notified Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the State Department.
Regardless, WikiLeaks fell under fire for the release. Fanning the flames was Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a WikiLeaks defector who has publicized the exposed file and password and who recently founded OpenLeaks, a rival whistleblower site that has yet to launch. KEVIN GOSZTOLA
THE “PROLIFE” PARTY: “How can you applaud death?” asked former death row prisoner Anthony Graves upon reading about the boisterous response to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s execution record by audience members at the GOP debate on the night of September 7. When moderator Brian Williams brought up the fact that Perry had signed off on the killing of 234 prisoners in the state’s death chamber, enthusiastic clapping followed. Williams then asked, “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”
“No, sir,” answered Perry, expressing full confidence in his state’s legal system. “I’ve never struggled with that at all.” But if Graves’s case is any indication, the governor should be losing plenty of sleep. Released last year after eighteen years behind bars, Graves is one of twelve death row prisoners who have been exonerated in Texas since 1973. And Perry has signed off on a number of controversial executions during his tenure, most famous among them being that of Cameron Todd Willingham, whose case was the subject of a state investigation that the governor repeatedly sabotaged. Current death row prisoners include Larry Swearingen, who has faced lethal injection three times for a crime medical experts insist he could not have committed, as well as Hank Skinner, scheduled to die on November 9 despite claims that untested DNA evidence could prove his innocence.
“I was exonerated from the very same system that [Perry] is boasting about,” Graves told ABC News after the debate. “He’s a politician, but I’m an exoneree and I think I know more about the subject.” He might be able to teach the GOP base a bit about the subject too. LILIANA SEGURA
FINALLY, FREEDOM FOR THE HIKERS: More than two years ago, Nation writer Shane Bauer and his friends Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were arrested by Iranian soldiers while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border and accused of trespassing and espionage. Eventually, Shourd was released on bail, but Bauer and Fattal were convicted in late August and sentenced to ten years in prison. Now, finally, it appears that their ordeal is approaching an end.
While speaking to NBC’s Ann Curry in Tehran on September 13, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he would pardon Bauer and Fattal and free them in two days. The FARS state news agency reported that the men would be released on $500,000 bail each. As this issue goes to press, we at The Nation are cautiously optimistic that Bauer and Fattal will soon be back with their families. We look forward to Shane’s return to journalism and to our pages. RICHARD KIM