tv Democracy Now LINKTV August 24, 2015 8:00am-9:01am PDT
08/24/15 08/24/15 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from pacifica, this is democracy now! >> here is the idea we are going to test, referendum president, a candidate who runs for president making a single promise that if elected, he would serve as long as it takes but only as long as it takes to pass fundamental reform to finally achieve citizen equality. once the reform is passed, this president would step down. amy: as 2016 shapes up to the
most expensive presidential campaign in political history, harvard law professor lawrence lessig considers joining the race with a single goal -- removing money from politics. he will join us from boston. then to sarah shourd, the american hiker jailed in iran for 14 months on the iran nuclear deal and her new play about solitary confinement, "opening the box." did we go to guatemala city where president otto perez is rejecting growing calls to resign. collects i declare categorically i reject any link to the scandal are receiving money from that defrauding operations. my conscience in that sense is at peace. i reaffirm i will not resign and will fully submit myself to the legal process. good night and may god bless you. amy: we will speak to investigative journalist allan nairn. all that and more, coming up.
welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. china is calling it black monday. global stocks are falling as china's market saw its sharpest daily fall since the global financial crisis in 2007. the shanghai stock exchange plunged 8.5% monday, sending shock waves throughout asian and european markets. today's fall comes after weeks of decline in the chinese markets, which led the dow jones to plummet by more than 500 points on friday. the decline also caused oil prices to plunge to their lowest levels in almost six years. french president hollande has awarded the legion of honor, france's highest award, to the three americans one british citizen on monday for the role in thwarting an attack in a high-speed train traveling to paris from amsterdam friday. no one died. the three americans, two of them service members, tackled and disarmed the suspected gunman, a
26 year old moroccan man. police say european authorities suspected him of being an islamist militant come although he was not being tracked. the lawyer for the suspected gunman says her client denies the attack was motivated a terrorism and that he was only a poor man intending to rob train travelers because he was hungry. i asked him whether he knows what he is been accused up. it is the first thing we do to see the understand what their rights are. he replied, yes. but when i reminded him of why he was there, he was stunned by the terrorist nature, which is being given to his actions. amy: in news from north carolina, protests erupted at the charlotte courthouse after a judge declared a mistrial in the case of a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed african-american college student who was seeking help after a car crash in 2013. randall kerrick, a white police officer, faced charges of voluntary manslaughter for shooting 24-year-old jonathan ferrell. according to prosecutors, the
college student had sought help from a homeowner after a car crash, but the woman had called the police because she believed she was being robbed. when the officers arrived, the officer pointed his taser at farrell's chest. farrell fled, which brought him close to officer randall kerrick, who opened fire striking the student 12 times. , on friday, the jury said it was deadlocked on whether to convict the officer. in ohio, anti-choice activists are pushing for a new law that would make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion if a woman is terminating the pregnancy because the fetus has tested positive for down syndrome. the legislature is expected to approve the measure. ohio republican governor john kasich, who is running for president, has not said whether he supports the bill, although he has signed a slew of anti-choice legislation since taking office in 2010. in germany, right-wing
protesters clashed with police over the weekend during demonstrations against a newly opened migrant shelter in a small town outside of dresden. pro-immigration activists staged a counter protest, holding signs that read, "refugees welcome." the demonstrations followed the interior minister's announcement that germany could receive as many as 800,000 asylum seekers this year, the biggest influx since the second world war. meanwhile, the italian coast guard says it rescued 4400 migrants at sea in over 22 operations on saturday alone. this comes as thousands of other migrants resume their journeys north through macedonia after the country reopened its border with greece after declaring a state of emergency and sealing the border last week. guatemalan president otto perez molina rejected calls to step down sunday night, following the resignation of the majority of his cabinet over the weekend. the president has faced months of massive protests amid a growing corruption scandal, which has lead to arrests of top officials, including the former
vice president. the government has accused of running a multimillion dollar scheme in which importers paid bribes to tax authority officials to obtain discounts. on sunday, the roman catholic church called for the president's resignation, but her as molina rejected those calls. >> i declare categorically i reject any link to the scandal are having received money from that money defrauding operation. my conscience in that sense is at peace. notaffirm that i will resign and will fully summit myself to the legal process. good night and may god bless you. amy: we will sleep with journalist allan nairn in guatemala city rate in the broadcast. meanwhile, in lebanon, at least one protester has died as massive demonstrations against government ineptitude rocked the capital beirut. riot police fired water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas at the thousands of protesters. the red cross says at least 40 people have been hospitalized, the growing campaign which is
, dubbed, "you stink," began as a protest against the massive piles of garbage that the government has failed to collect. it has now become a cry for the government's fall. in yemen, tribal sources and local officials say two apparent u.s. drone strikes killed seven people over the weekend. in both attacks, the dead are being described by officials as suspected al-qaeda militants. meanwhile, dozens of people have died following u.s.-backed, saudi-led air strikes on friday on the southwestern city of taiz. in news from afghanistan, at least 12 people have died following a suicide car bomb in the capital kabul on saturday. officials say the target of the attack was a nato convoy. three american working for private contractors were killed, along with nine others. at least 50 people have died in syria following government airstrikes saturday on a residential area of douma, a city northeast of damascus. meanwhile, the self-proclaimed islamic state has destroyed the ancient baalshamin temple in the syrian city of palmyra.
news agencies reported the destruction occurred sunday, although the syrian observatory for human rights says the temple was destroyed by isil last month. at least 21 people have died in somalia following two suicide car attacks on saturday. the first attack struck a training base for government troops, killing 16 soldiers. the second attack struck an intersection on the capital mogadishu, killing five. the militant group al shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack on the training base. in malaysia, police say they have unearthed the mass graves of more than 20 people who are believed to be human trafficking victims. the graves were found along the border with thailand in a region known as a transit point for human smuggling. the site was close to where authorities found a mass grave containing the remains of 26 bodies in may. democratic presidential candidate bernie sanders held his first campaign rally in south carolina friday night. the move was seen as an attempt by sanders to court black voters, who still overwhelmingly
support former secretary of state hillary clinton. at the event, sanders invoked the names of men and women who have been killed in police or jail custody in recent years. >> we must be clear and we must be clear and we're talking about racism, we're talking about sandra bland, michael brown, rakia boyd. [applause] we are talking about eric garner, walter scott, freddie gray, and many others. [applause] many, many others over the years whose names we do not know. and these people died unnecessarily and wrongly at the hands of police officers or in
police custody. that must change. amy: in more news from the campaign trail, vice president joe biden is increasingly expected to join the race as a democratic candidate. biden met with massachusetts democratic senator elizabeth warren on saturday to discuss economic policy. meanwhile, donald trump has responded to the arrest of two brothers in boston accused of attacking a 58-year-old hispanic man with a metal pole and urinating on his face. police say that the brothers were arrested, he told them -- "donald trump was right -- all these illegals need to be deported." on friday, trump tweeted -- "boston incident is terrible. we need energy and passion, but we must treat each other with respect. i would never condone violence." bernie sanders has told on the largest campaign rallies although trump drew 20,000 people over the weekend in mobile, alabama. and women in saudi arabia are registering to vote for the first time in the nation's history ahead of upcoming municipal elections in december. women will also be permitted to
register as candidates and run for office in the december elections. the shift implements the late king abdullah bin abdulaziz's 2011 decision to grant women the right to vote and run for office. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. the 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be the most expensive political race in history. experts predict as much as $10 billion could be spent by candidates, parties and outside groups on the campaign. a recent analysis by "the new york times" shows fewer than 400 families are responsible for almost half the money raised to date. the vast majority of the $388 million raised so far has been channeled to super pacs which can accept unlimited donations in support of candidates. according to "the new york times," the political network overseen by the conservative billionaires charles and david
koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign. that figure dwarfs how much the republican national committee and the party's two congressional campaign committees spent in the 2012 election. meanwhile, hillary clinton has a -- has set a fundraising goal of $2.5 billion. today we are joined by a law professor who is considering challenging clinton in the democratic primary. his platform is simple -- get money out of politics. harvard professor lawrence lessig says that if he won the presidency, he would serve only as long as it takes to pass sweeping campaign finance reform. then, he says, he would resign. in 2012, lessig launched rootstrikers to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics. he is a legendary figure in the world of cyberlaw credited with helping to create creative commons, an alternative copyright system. lawrence lessig welcome back to democracy now!
are you announcing your candidacy for president of the united states? ifwell, what we have said is by labor day, september 7, two weeks from today, we have raised the initial $1 million to fund this campaign that i would run, and i would run on a platform not of campaign finance reform, which is can of like referring to now collect as someone with a liquid intake problem, but i would run on a platform of fundamental citizen inequality. because what we have allowed to happen in this democracy is a radical inequality and the way citizens are represented. since the way we fund campaigns is one example, but the most grotesque example, of what we don't have a democracy that works. rightxplain the problem now. talk about the amount of money that is going into this election and put it in some kind of historical and global context.
up perfectly, amy. the point is, when you have a system that raises its money from such a tiny, tiny fraction of the public -- 400 families for all of the money raised war 130 families for half the money that is been raised in the republican party, that tiny, tiny number has enormous influence inside of our political system and the influence they have is not from rational influence of the elites, it is a completely veto-ocracy. if you want climate change legislation, we know we won't have, change legislation until we fix this corrupted inequality. if you want to deal with the problem of wall street, we are not going to deal with the largest contributor to congressional campaigns until we change the way campaigns are funded. every important issue gets tied to the way we're finding these
campaigns, the inequality. i said until we address that first, all of these other things that people are talking about, things that excite us, things that especially excite us progressives, all of them are a fantasy. we have got to stop with the fantasy politics and address the reality that we have to fix our democracy if we're going to have a democracy that works. amy: how do you do it? how do you deal with money being equated with free speech? >> well, the reforms i have proposed in what we're calling the citizen inequality act do items ther any of the spring court is talked about. the supreme court says you cannot restrict speech. we're describing a way to delete that incredible concentration of funders. by increasing bottom-up citizen funded elections either through vouchers, which is the give to every voter that they could use to fund elections or matching funds the way john from maryland has described, all of these would radically change the way campaigns are funded and
radically disempower the lobbyists and special interest inside of our political system. that is the first step. what we need is a mandate strong enough to get that first step. what i've said is none of the other candidates, even if they're are talking about the right issues -- which i think only bernie and martin o'malley are even getting close to talking about the right issues -- even if they're talking about it, they can begin to describe a process, a plan for them to have the mandate to actually get this enacted. they have a great plan for getting elected, but they don't have a plan for actually getting us a democracy back. amy: how would you do it if you were elected? >> what i've said is i would serve only until we passed this thing we have called the citizen equality act, which would establish citizen funded elections, number one, number two, it would end the political gerrymandering that creates an incredible disempowerment for a vast number of americans because of the way we design districts. number three, it would end the ridiculous system that tried to
do some power, disable people from being able to vote. that would get us to the first of september democracy back. when that is passed, i would resign. and the vice president would become president. but the point of this mandate is, it would be a referendum on this reform, and this reform for citizen equality is the kind of equality that all of americans should affirm. i agree with bernie about the need to deal with wealth inequality. there are many of the progressive left that agree with bernie about that. what i know is that america is not yet of the view we should become sweden. and the fact is, we can't rally america unanimously to that idea. but i think the idea of citizen equality, and the idea at the core of what representative democracy is, is an idea we could rally people to and if we did, we could build a mandate powerful enough to begin to get us the democracy we deserve. amy: you said you would resign
after you achieved your goal career vice president would be particularly important, so who would you choose? >> i personally would love to see a vice president that excites the democratic base to create the kind of passion and energy that would be necessary to get elected. people like bernie have done that. elizabeth warren. what i've also said is, the referendum president, which i'm describing here, trying to create, actually should have different power for picking the vice president from a regular president. a regular nominee selects the vice president, symington or hoping, that vice president is never president. i want to select a vice president who i want to be president the very next day after i am inaugurated. so this person is a much more significant person in the traditional balance. and i think that means the convention, the party has a much more significant role in selecting and deciding who that person should be. so we would select raised on what the party ratifies as the values of the party based on also what they think is most
likely to succeed in november. amy: have you spoken with bernie sanders or any of the presidential candidates about your possible bid, your run for the presidency? >> i tried to reach out to bernie before i announced. i haven't had a chance to connect with him about that. that is the only person i have tried to reach out to because bernie is 70 who i have enormous respect for. -- somebody who i have enormous respect for. i worked with him and tried to describe what kind of change would make his campaign credible. i tried to reach out to him, but i haven't had a chance to talk to him yet. i think the critical thing is to recognize that as much as people love what he is saying, and for good reason they should love what he is saying, but what we need is a way to make what he is saying possible. and what we don't have right now
is a way to make this change or any change, frankly, possible. that is what i'm trying to focus this campaign on. amy: earlier this month, 10 leading republican presidential candidates faced off in the first debate of the 2016 presidential election. during the debate, donald trump defended his record of donating to democratic candidates in previous races. but admitted that the election system is broken. >> i will tell you that our system is broken. . gave to many people when they call, i give. you know what? when i need something from them, two years later, three years later, i called them, they are there for me. that is a broken system. >> what did you get from hillary clinton and nancy pelosi? >> to heller clinton i said, be at my wedding and she was at my wedding. she had no choice because i gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. i did not know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. it was. amy: that is donald trump will stop -- donald trump. lawrence lessig, your response?
>> i think he is the biggest gift since the supreme court's decision of citizens united, crystallizing that the system is deeply corrupted. there he is pulling back the curtain on the way the system works, making a possible even in the republican primary for people to begin to talk about the corruption of the system. i agree with him. this system is deeply corrupted. the difference between donald trump and me -- well, 10 but you know is indifference at least -- but in addition to that, the differences that donald trump solution is that we let billionaires. in my solution is that we actually have the democracy that our framers gave us. donald trump's side of the revolution lost. amy: earlier this year, hillary rodham clinton kicked off her bid for the democratic presidential nomination with her -- >> we need to strengthen families and communities because
that is where it all starts. we need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment. and we need to protect our country from the threat we see and the ones on the horizon. i'm here in iowa to begin a conversation about how we do that. , how do wece lessig do that and what is your response to hillary clinton's approach to campaign finance reform? haven't seen a lot. she is talked about a constitutional amendment, which i support the idea, but i think we have to recognize that is not going to be a solution in the short run. and in the short run, liver critical number of problems we have to have the ability to solve. she has also pushed the idea of disclosure. she said "unaccountable money." accountable what money does. i'm not sure what is better to have billions of dollars that we can account for then billions of
dollars that we can't account for. of course i want to account for it, but it is still the billions of dollars that is calling the shots. what we need is to change the way elections are funded. we need a commitment to a very simple idea that we in a democracy and represent of democracy need to be represented equally and she is not yet articulated any plan that would get us that in any time short of when we need to get there to deal with the critical problems that we face as a nation. amy: lawrence lessig, i want your response to mark schmitt from the roosevelt institute and former editor of the megan prospect. he was on democracy now! explaining why he was opposed to a constitutional limit to overturn citizens united. >> i view it as a distraction from progress that we can make because while you can build a movement around these -- they're like 17 different versions of the amendment, while you can build a movement around this concept, the message
is that we can't do anything until we have a constitutional amendment. that is the same as saying, we can't do anything. i think that is just sending the wrong signal to people. and overlooking the tremendous beingss that is actually made. amy: that is mark schmitt at the roosevelt institute. your response, lawrence lessig? >> i think is completely right. talking about constitutional commitment has excited in a credible base and the movements have done enormous good to our democracy by getting people to recognize the fundamental problems we have to address. if the truth is, we can address a vast majority of that problem tomorrow in a statute. and i talked about passing the citizen equality act, that is a statute, not amending the constitution. a first step that would have enormous impacts on the ability of democracy to ackley function. i think if we can give people a sense of what is possible, we can excite an incredible amount of energy. in 2013 we found 96% of
americans believe it is important to reduce the influence of money in politics. but 91% didn't think it was possible. oft is the politics resignation. and if you constantly talk about the constitutional amendment or you make it sound like that is what is necessary to win, then those resigned people will stay resigned. they won't show up to try to change the system. and that is exactly the resignation after find a way to solve. to allople resorting sorts of efforts to change the system. earlier this year, the u.s. mailman doug hughes made national headlines when he flew a tiny personal aircraft known as the gyrocopter onto the lawn of the u.s. capitol in an act of civil disobedience. he was carrying letters to every member of congress urging them to address corruption and to pass campaign finance reform. the letter began with a quote from john kerry's farewell speech to the senate -- "the unending chase for money i believe threatens to steal our democracy itself."
in april, democracy now! spoke to doug hughes and asked him to elaborate on the message he hoped to convey. >> my letter actually said to the congress critters was that they have to decide whether they're going to deny the corruption exists or there when you pretend they're doing something about it or they can roll up their sleeves and be a part of reform. but i looking to the local media, particularly the print media, ok, at the local level, to hold the candidates feet to the fire and force them to take a stand on real reform and whether or not they're going to vote for it or whether or not there one to try to take halfway stain on it which means they will try to preserve the status quo. the idea is the voters can decide well if they are informed list of the national media can't and won't inform the voters
about where the candidates stand. but the local media, which has know, very weak and impotent and impotent in the political process, can really take the ball and they can be the moving force in informing the voters. amy: and earlier this year, activists carried out a rare protest inside the supreme court chamber to oppose the ruling in mccutcheon versus fec, a case critics call next citizens united. in a five to four vote last her, the court's conservative justices eliminated a long-standing limit on how much donors can give in total to federal candidates, party committees, and political action committees in a two-year election cycle without any aggregate limit. a donor can now give millions of dollars directly to candidates and parties. in early april, the five activists with the group 99 rise stood up inside the court to call on justices to reverse their decision. >> justices, is it not your duty
to protect our right to self-government. overturn citizens united. one person, one vote. amy: that is the five activists with 99 rise and then you have doug hughes, i believe use going to try, he would not take a plea deal. a lot of the media did not even report he was doing this for campaign finance reforms, just that he flew a gyrocopter onto the grounds of the capitol. lawrence lessig, talk about what groups are doing. >> i think there's been an incredible amount of creative protest that is been focused on this issue. doug hughes is a hero. we just opened up a kick starter online to raise money for his legal defense fund. we said we needed to raise $10,000 and 30 days. in one day, we raise the money he needs to defend himself against the felony charges he is now facing. and 99 rise has done a very job raising the attention of this issue -- done a very
good job raising the attention of this issue. i think what we need to do is raise the level of the debate. tellingnot just about some people they can't speak or trying to silence the ability of certain interests in the political process. this is about achieving the fundamental equality of our democracy. i think if we raise the level of the debate so we're not talking about campaign finance, which is just one corner of this problem, and instead talk about the commitment of a representative democracy, as madison said, one that would "be not where the rich would have no more power than the poor in this democracy" we could build the political movements. -- political movements we have to build to win. it has to be not fought in the court or the supreme court, not in a court that is deciding whether protester should go to jail, but in the court of public opinion where if the public is reminded of this commitment of equality in our democracy, they
could see how we could get a democracy that could work again. and if we did, then these problems that all of us roll our eyes about, the climate change or the debt or student debt or wall street or gun control -- all of these problems would be problems we could actually solve . we could actually have a democracy that is responsive again because this inequality, this corrupt inequality has been removed and it would not be a world were yet distended say black lives matter, because we would have equality in the system where that statement would be crazy to even imagine the necessity of uttering. amy: lawrence lessig, to summarize, your timetable on when you will announce your candidacy for president of the united states, under what conditions? $550,000 at about the million dollars us that we needed to raise within two weeks. if we get there in the major candidates have not said this would be their primary focus, then i will enter the race.
and i will enter the race and we will also try to recruit 50 referendum representatives to also run to make it so on day one of 2017 of the administration, we would have the majority necessary to pass this equality act. know of two weeks, we will whether this race will happen. if it does happen, i will give it every ounce of my energy to make it possible for this democracy to utter the words that are so obvious and self-evident, that in a democracy, all of us should be treated equal. amy: professor lawrence lessig, thank you for being with us. lawrence lessig is considering running for the democratic nomination for preside in order test for president in order to protest money in politics. he is a professor at harvard law school and his most recent book is called "republic, lost: how , money corrupts congress -- and a plan to stop it." when we come back, sarah shourd joins us. she was in solitary confinement in iran for more than a year. she will comment on the iran nuclear deal and also talk about
amy: this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. as members of congress continue to debate the historic iran nuclear deal ahead of next month's vote, my next guest says there's more than enriched uranium and centrifuges at stake. a washington post reporter and two others whose where about certain question. president obama was recently questioned by cbs reporter ager garrett about the imprisoned americans. >> there are four americans in iran, three held on trumped up charges and according to administration, when whereabouts
unknown. you tell the country, sir, why your content with all of the fanfare around the steel to leave the conscious of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for relation to these four americans? >> i had to give you credit for the way he crafted us questions. the notion that i am content as i celebrate with american citizens languishing in iranian jails? major, that is nonsense. and you should know better. i have met with the families of some of those folks. nobody is content. and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out. amy: president obama went on to say he did not tie these negotiations to the release of the hostages because essentially would encourage a randy's hostages to perhaps get additional concessions from u.s. joining us now is sarah shourd, one of three american hikers
imprisoned in iran for more than a year in solitary confinement. she was captured, along with her two companions, in july 2009, while hiking near the unmarked iran/iraq border in semi-autonomous iraqi kurdistan while on a week-long trip from her home in damascus, syria. sarah was held incommunicado in solitary confinement for 410 days before being released, without a trial or any evidence shown against her, by then-iranian president ahmadinejad on compassionate grounds. since her release, sarah shourd's work has focused largely on exposing and condemning the cruelty and overuse of solitary confinement in u.s. prisons. and she just wrote a play about solitary confinement in the u.s. it was performed thursday at an event hosted by the fortune society in new york city before an audience of many who had been in solitary.
sarah, welcome back to democracy now! it is great to have you with us. first, comment on the iran nuclear deal. are you for or against it? a great deal.is i think is more than we could have ever hoped for. not only does it week in the hardliner position in iran and ease tensions between our two countries, could lead to cooperation to combat isis. i also think it is good for the americans that are currently detained there. it actually gives the iranian government less incentive to use hostagetaking as a tactic. amy: i want to go back to the iran nuclear deal because those who are opposed to it, democrats and republicans, say you can't trust iran. certainly, you are evidence of this. you are imprisoned and held in solitary confinement for more than a year. do you trust them? >> well, i mean, there's been a lot of distrust on both sides for a very long time. we have been locked in his relationship of animosity that has benefited no one.
i think i trust this deal because i think it is a good deal for both sides, and i think that anything other than this deal will inevitably lead to war, which is a terrifying prospect. abouto i want to ask you why you feel that those americans who are imprisoned in iran have more of a shot at release if this deal is signed. it is selling out what others are saying. they're saying it is a sign of john kerry and obama's weakness, that they could not include the hostage release in this deal. i because of the diplomats worked with -- i was released after a year being held as a political hostage in my husband and my friend were there for another year. i was in the center of negotiations for the release between the u.s. government, be , the venezuelan government was involved, the iraqi government.
althoughinced me that it is ridiculous to say his political hostages are not tied to larger issues that just the nuclear deal, because that is why they're being held in the first place, their collateral, they are like money in the bank for the iranian government that they're going use to assert pressure on whatever issues that are important to them that involve the united states. amy: explained back before you were released how deals you feel led to your release, deals that you are not included in. >> i was sitting in myself in 2010 -- in my cell in 2010, i had a small iranian television and the ticker was in english. that was the only information i got from the outside world. i learned about the tehran declaration when turkey and brazil came up with an amazing it would would have -- have gone very far to solve the nuclear issue with iran. there was all kinds of
excitement. i was dancing and laughing in my cell because i no doubt in my mind my release and shane and reallylease would be collaborated. if the temperature is good, looks better for the hostages. that deal was shot down by the u.s. government the very next day, and another round of sanctions were put on the iranian government, which made me -- it quite clear to me i was going to be in their for at least a while longer, it's not a very long time. i knowink probably -- wordexperience inside, worl travels fast as i prison, whether that televisions or not, there is wishe whispers, guards top. most likely these hostages have and areout this deal feeling hopeful but also very worried that it is not going to go through. amy: explain who these four men are. pastor. is a christian
none of done anything wrong. there's no evidence shown against them, anything that has been in way been demonstrated by the iranian government. jason works for "the washington post" and his iranian-american, was working in the country. all have been subjected to very long periods of solitary confinement, as i was. jason just had a trial and his family is awaiting the results. people, by all accounts, are just being used as pawns. amy: and the other two men? >> amir was picked up weeks after shane and josh were released, which made it a clear revolving door. he is also a u.s. citizen. like i said, if there is any evidence against these people, the iranian government would have shown it a long time ago. amy: and the final man? >> levinsohn has been missing. he disappeared while he was
visiting the islands. for a long time it is been suspected the iranian government knows where he is, but he really has been completely missing and no one knows anything. there was a video released by his captors a few years ago. amy: you have been focusing on solitary confinement since you left. many -- meaning or circumstance would get as far away as they could of the circumstances you look through when you are in iran, but you have really drilled down into it and looked here in the united states. talk about your project. sure. anytime i would get a chance to see my captors i would say, what you're doing is torture, illegal. i can feel -- i know something is happening to my brain. i can no longer focus on a book for more than a few minutes without getting frustrated because i have to read the same paragraph again and again. why? which means --
>> scientific studies are still -- there have been enough, but there been studies that show after two or three days, your brain starts to shift toward delirium and stupor. being in that kind of isolation, you start to lose sense of who you are, of your values. our identity as people is people,other conversations, work we do in the world. and that kind of isolation, it is very easy to completely succumb to depression. that is why suicide in solitary confinement is twice as high as the rest of the prison population in this country. amy: talk about "opening the box [captioning made possible by democracy now!] >> it is been several years now. i started researching -- really was part of -- when i got out and saw that solitary confinement doesn't just happen in places like iran. in this country we have far more
people in solitary confinement in any country in the world per capita. i was in isolation for 410 days. do you especially up a tour against torture says 15 days can cause permanent lasting damage. people in this country are held for decades in some cases. one of the most important things in an and moving forward empowering way was to talk to other survivors and talk about, talking to herself, naming your feeling an having -- emotional connection to an insect that happens to make its way into your cell is not strange at all, that we all experience these kinds of fours --horrors. i started to collect these stories. wrote them into this play called "opening the box." amy: so you and around the
country speaking to people in solitary confinement? in-depth letter correspondence. i found some of the most incredibly creative, amazing people that express themselves so eloquently in many cases through the written word because that is their only method of communicating with the outside world, just pouring their souls and of these letters. i tried to visit as many as i could get permission to come in new york, new jersey, pelican bay in california i went to many times. and developed these amazing relationships and wove them into a fictional account of resistance behind bars. amy: i want to turn to the reading of your new play, "opening the box." this is a clip from the event last week, thursday night posted yorkrtune society in new which helps people reenter society after they get out of prison. so that was the audience.
many in the audience had been in prison. many have been in solitary. this is a scene with a character by the name of rocky, a young prisoner, and this is his reaction when he just learns that he has been remanded to solitary confinement for 18 months. >> i'd rather be somebody else. i've always felt that way. a different guy on a whole different planet. i sit here hating all of the people that have what i've never had. it's like my virus no one can touch. who says i even exist? my brain is like oatmeal. my brain is a piece of [bleep] what do i have left? the color red? minute of my julia every
and every time there is a pain in my chest like being stabbed. i'd cut off a finger to see her. i'd cut my whole hand. why do i fit her in pain asking for more pain? [bleep] how can they be so lucky? they can't feel nothing. . can hit them and kick them they don't feel nothing. i swear i'd rather be punched in the face every minute of the day and have to sit here just feeling. get me out of here1 get me out of this! amy: that is rocky from "opening the box" sarah shourd plus play. tell us about rocky and who he is based on. recordingccess to herman wallace part of the angola three and one of the
people -- amy: he was held more than 40 years in solitary confinement and ultimately died a few days after he was dying of cancer, which is why was released from prison and ultimately died a free man. >> and was incredible to get these recordings and immerse myself in his voice and create this character. rocky is based on the young man that herman wallace held inside. whenever a new person would come in, he would reach out and give them advice on how to cope, tell them of how this pod works, basically. that is the relationship between rocky in my play. amy: and who played rocky? >> he is a friend of a friend. he came out of a the word work. >> what you plan to do with "opening the box"? your performing excerpts around the country? for thewe're working
production. it will premiere -- the world premiere will be in san francisco next july. i mean, i think -- there's been a lot of attention comparatively speaking on solitary confinement in the last five years. momentum has been building. people know the facts, but i feel like there's still a lack of actual stories of who the people are that end up in the deep end of our prison system in the worst punishment that we mete out. i feel this is a role like an plane. the high profile nature of my case meant i got a tremendous amount of attention. when we performed at the fortune society, it was for an audience of many of which no one has ever asked them what it was like. no one has asked them to talk about what happened to them. amy: this is a completely different issue, but he also happened to be a columnist at "the daily beast" and you wrote
an interesting piece about facebook and prisoners and prisoners saying they want pages taken down. can you expand what is going on? >> electronic frontier foundation and the aclu wanted toup and they see why facebook was taken down inmate pages. what they found is that facebook was taking these pages down no questions asked. if the prisoner administration said, this is a prisoner, take this down, they would do it. it is not against facebook's policy for prisoner to have a page. really, they were doing a private -- a private company was doing a prison spending and oftentimes it was actually helping the prisoner ministers find out who had contraband cell phones. doing the prisons work for them. they have since come under this pressure from esf and the aclu, change the policies are they do push back and ask them a why is this prisoner a risk? what rules are they breaking?
an issueed out this is of censorship because taking down facebook pages of prisoners and all of their content and not just prisoners, but also free citizens that have commented on these pages -- i think in a time when we are questioning how to reduce our system of mass incarceration, this is a really important piece to look at because we don't just need to let people outcome as important as that is, not just low-level offenders but violent offenders that have been in for too long, but we need to talk about how to help them stay out and reduce recidivism. when prisoners have all of their ties to their families severed, when they get out, they're far less chance of success of getting a job, getting an apartment. they are no security. that is why many prisoners go back to crime and in depth in prison. amy: sarah shourd, thank you for being with us journalist, , playwright and university of california berkeley visiting scholar. she spent 410 days in solitary confinement while held as a political hostage by the iranian government from 2009 to 2010.
since her release from prison five years ago, shourd's work has focused largely on exposing and condemning the cruelty and overuse of solitary confinement in u.s. prisons. when we come back, we go to walla walla city. will the guatemalan government fall? with the president resign? stay with us. -- will the guatemalan government fall? will be president of guatemala resign? stay with us. ♪ [music break]
the president has faced months of massive protests and its multimillion dollar corruption paidal in which importers bribes to tax authority officials to obtain discounts. over the weekend, resident press ♪ [music break] plus step down including the former vice president who was arrested friday on corruption charges. on saturday, crowds were rallied outside the presidential palace waving wiedemann flags and chanting "resign now pepco robing catholic church joined and asking for his resignation. he announced he would not resign. >> i declare categorically a reject any link to the scandal or having received money from that money defrauding operations. my conscience in that sense is at peace. i will show my face and show before the institutions that by laws required through the necessary process that i have not been a part in even less
receptor those ill-gotten funds against the guatemalan people. amy: we go to guatemala to speak with journalist allan nairn. welcome back to democracy now! can you tell us what is taking place in guatemala right now? >> well, there's a popular uprising that may bring down the president, general perez molina. it is based on corruption, but perez molina was also involved in mass murder during the 1980's. perez molina was also on the payroll of the cia when he served as chief of intelligence for the g2. the program of rios mont was backed by the reagan administration will stop they got arms from the u.s. come arms from israel with u.s. help.
reagan said the government was getting a bum rap on human rights. and this is as they were sweeping through the mountains decapitating, raping, slicing open pregnant women with their machetes, executing whole villages at point-blank range. they were the isis of their day. and now one of the field commanders for that slaughter is the president. and there's a chance he could be brought down. but on other grounds. rios mont, the dictator at the time, was brought to trial by guatemalan court as a result of popular pressure and some brave prosecutors and judges. he was convicted of genocide. you sentence to 80 years. the oligarchy demanded the sentence be set aside. a tomorrow, rios montt's trial is due to resume. he is trying to dodge accountability, claiming health problems.
it is a moment where the entire system of guatemala is shaken. in some senses, guatemala is leading the world. they've achieved a level of civilization far higher than that of the u.s. it is inconceivable the u.s. could bring an american in american trial court for mass murder of civilians. but guatemala has done that. and now the people were in the streets demonstrating are trying to take it farther by bringing down a sitting president. amy: allan, for the radio listeners, i want to describe and the tv viewers as well, we were showing images of you speaking -- well, it has turned out that it is the current guatemalan president otto perez molina? >> it was in the mountains of guatemala 1982, 1 of the many zones with a population is
indigenous mayan. in that video, that is for a film that i worked on with two others. otto perez at that time was using an alias. he was calling himself major tito. he told me that all of the families here are with the guerrilla. his men, those below him, described in detail how they would go into villages, struggle civilians, execute them on the spot, return and bomb their villages, chase people and to the hills and kill them. dust into the hills and kill them. some of the survivors that we were able to speak to that of in place and armie concentration camps, they verify these accounts by the soldiers and , latern, perez molina rose to intelligence on the
payroll of the cia and other president of guatemala. amy: let's turn to -- as probable the president of the republic had participated in a commission with the same punishable conduct by those who have accused of being part of the criminal organization. amy: so the guatemalan attorney general's implicating the president, and he spoke on national television last night and said he won't go. you have 10 seconds. what is going to happen now, do you believe? >> the u.s. is trying to prop up perez molina. he is refusing to resign. it is unclear what is going to happen. people are in the streets. a new election is scheduled september 6. people are calling for postponement. they are calling -- amy: that is the end of the show. allan nairn, journalists, speaking to us from guatemala city, guatemala.
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