Dec 242011
 

 

* A CHRISTMAS CLASSIC WITH AN OCCUPY TWIST: GOD BLESS US, EVERY 1 PERCENT

By Frank Lesser, Washington Post

Ebenezer Scrooge was alphabetizing unpaid mortgages on Christmas Eve when the ghost of his late business partner Jacob Marley appeared, moaning and rattling his chains. “Great, another protester,” Scrooge muttered, before shouting, “Cratchit!,” at which point his clerk burst through the door in riot gear and pepper-sprayed Marley in his ashen face.

“Sorry, Jacob,” Scrooge said as the ghost writhed upon the floor, “but I learned a few things after dealing with the urchins camping outside my office. Incidentally, you can’t stay on the floor — I need to keep it clear so it can be cleaned. Cratchit?”

Cratchit splashed a bucket of grayish water on the ghost, and Marley melted away into the floorboards.

“You owe me one, Bob,” Scrooge said to his impoverished clerk. “Even though it seemed like he was coming after me, he was really coming to raise your taxes.”

Marley’s ghost reappeared an hour later with an ice pack over his eyes. He locked the door this time, then turned his infernal aspect upon Scrooge and said in a grave voice, “Ebenezer Scrooge, tonight you will be visited by three ghosts.”

Scrooge frowned. “Three ghosts? What exactly are you protesting — my past, my present, or my future? Your message is confusing.”

Marley tried again. “I am here tonight to warn you that you have yet a chance to escape my fate.”

“What’s so awful about your fate? You’re dead, so by my calculations you don’t even pay income tax, you freeloading corpse.”

“I pay sales tax on chain polish,” Marley said quietly, and he held up a few shiny links as evidence.

“Hah, yum-hug!” exclaimed Scrooge. Noticing Marley’s puzzled expression, he added, “I had my exclamations focus-grouped by a political consultant, and ‘Bah, humbug’ doesn’t test well with peddlers.”

Marley gritted his teeth. “Perhaps this will convince you.” He set up another cry, clanked his chains and unwrapped the bandage round his head. His lower jaw dropped down upon his chest.

Scrooge recoiled in horror. “I suppose now you’ll expect me to pay for your health care.”

Marley disappeared to rethink his strategy.

By the time the ghost returned it was nearly dawn. “Ebenezer, I beg you!” he cried. “Have you no shred of compassion to spare for the less fortunate, or have you hoarded away your mercy alongside your wealth? Can you not see that while the poor have gotten poorer, you and your fellow misers have gotten richer?”

“I’m going to stop you there,” Scrooge said, casually leafing through a money-lending chart. “We don’t call ourselves misers anymore. We prefer the term ‘joy-creators.’ And what you and your fellow ghosts are asking for is a radical redistribution of Christmas spirit.”

On Christmas morning, Marley was too discouraged to materialize. He hailed a carriage from the graveyard to Scrooge’s office.

“So, how were the other ghosts’ visits?” Marley asked after making cautious small talk about the weather. “Did they show you how a paltry sacrifice on your part would make an immeasurable difference in the lives of the less fortunate?”

In response, Scrooge held up a copy of that day’s newspaper with the headline, “Ghost of XXX-mas: Spirit Arrested for Peeping.”

“I called the cops when I caught the Ghost of Christmas Present outside my nephew’s house,” he said. “He was crouching in the bushes beneath his window, spying on the cheer inside.”

“He was trying to show you that the wealth of a man is not measured by his bond portfolio, but by his bond with his fellow man!”

“Yum-hug! I suppose next you’ll tell me friendship is golden, but I checked with commodities speculators and they assure me it’s tin, at best.”

Marley started heading for the door.

“Cheer up, Marley, it wasn’t all for naught. When the Ghost of Christmas Future wasn’t looking, I asked one of the mourners at my funeral who won the World Series, and come October I’m hoping to make a killing.”

Marley didn’t reappear till New Year’s Eve. When he did, he found Scrooge alone in his office writing a generous check.

“I’m glad our message of charity warmed some small cobwebbed corner of your heart,” Marley said.

“Charity?” Scrooge said. “I have to get this donation to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform Foundation before the end of the year for the deduction to count.”

Marley slumped into an armchair and wept. Scrooge laid his hand on where Marley’s shoulder would have been. “I appreciate what you tried to do,” he said, “but times have changed. For instance, thanks to Tiny Tim’s sugary soft drink consumption, we now call him that only ironically. If you ghosts really wanted to influence someone’s opinion, you’d have bought your own newspaper like I did.”

He showed Marley that day’s paper, headlined, “Bedford Falls FAIL: George Bailey Gets Bailout From Socialist Townsfolk.” Marley continued his sobbing.

“Why don’t you get a job?” Scrooge challenged Marley. “It’ll take your mind off this whole income inequality thing, which if you ask me is just typical postmortem liberal guilt. Tell you what, I’ll hire you back at half your old salary. I’m going to be swamped next year collecting debts from all the paupers that those other ghosts showed me.”

Marley’s spirit’s spirit finally slackened. “I do miss the end-of-year bonuses,” he sighed. Scrooge handed him a W-4 form.

Frank Lesser is a writer for “The Colbert Report” and the author of “Sad Monsters: Growling on the Outside, Crying on the Inside.” […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-christmas-classic-with-an-occupy-twist-god-bless-us-every-1-percent/2011/12/20/gIQAJ8RQCP_print.html

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* THE INTELLECTUAL COWARDICE OF BRADLEY MANNING’S CRITICS

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

After imprisoning Private First Class Bradley Manning for eighteen months, the U.S. Army last week finally began the preliminary stage of his court-martial proceeding, and that initial process ended on Thursday. Manning faces over 30 charges; the most serious — “aiding the enemy” — carries a death sentence (though prosecutors are requesting “only” life in prison for the 24-year-old soldier). The technical purpose of this week’s hearing was to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a full court-martial proceeding; the finding (that there is such evidence) is a virtual inevitability. Manning’s counsel, Lt. Col. David Coombs, spent the week challenging the Army’s evidence, suggesting that his client may have suffered “diminished capacity” by virtue of his gender struggles and emotional instability, and finally, forcefully arguing that the leaks were an act of political conscience and that the Army has severely “overcharged” Manning in an attempt to coerce incriminating statements against WikiLeaks (Kevin Gosztola and The Guardian were at the hearing and have recaps of what happened over the last week; my general view of Manning was set forth in an Op-Ed in The Guardian last week, and my specific view of the gender defense is here).

For the moment, I want to make one narrow point about Bradley Manning. I’ve made it before but it was really underscored for me by a debate I had on an Al Jazeera program Thursday night regarding Manning with Daniel Ellsberg and the neocon activist Cliff May, who vigorously defended the Obama administration’s treatment of Manning (the video of our segment is embedded below; it was preceded by a short interview of P.J. Crowley):

Ever since Manning was accused of being the source for the WikiLeaks disclosures, those condemning these leaks have sought to distinguish them from Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers. With virtual unanimity, Manning’s harshest critics have contended that while Ellsberg’s leak was justifiable and noble, Manning’s alleged leaks were not; that’s because, they claim, Ellsberg’s leak was narrowly focused and devoted to exposing specific government lies, while Manning’s was indiscriminate and a far more serious breach of secrecy. When President Obama declared Manning guilty, he made the same claim: “No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.”

One problem for those wishing to make this claim is that Ellsberg himself has been one of Manning’s most vocal defenders, repeatedly insisting that the two leaks are largely indistinguishable. But the bigger problem for this claim is how blatantly irrational it is. As Ellsberg clearly details in this Al Jazeera debate, he — Ellsberg — dumped 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents: the highest known level of classification; by contrast, not a single page of what Manning is alleged to have leaked was Top Secret, but rather all bore a much lower-level secrecy designation. In that sense, Obama was right: “Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way” — the secrets Ellsberg leaked were classified as being far more sensitive. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2011/12/24/the_intellectual_cowardice_of_bradley_mannings_critics/singleton/

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* TORTURED

By Kathryn Sikkink, UTNE Reader

Illustration: Zina Saunders @ www.zinasaunders.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first began to learn about the human rights violations of the George W. Bush administration after 9/11: I still recall an email from an Argentine colleague asking me whether they were starting to “disappear” people in the United States. At the time, I thought she was referring to Middle Easterners residing in the United States who were being detained for long periods without charges in the period after 9/11. I wrote back to say that although this was indeed arbitrary detention without trial, these people were not disappeared. We now know that I was wrong.

By 2002 the CIA was indeed taking detainees to “black sites,” secret detention centers where they were tortured and interrogated. American officials were denying that they knew the whereabouts of these detainees, and they did not allow the International Red Cross to visit them. This fits the technical definition of disappearance. U.N. experts have clarified that international law completely prohibits such secret detention.

By the spring of 2004, after the photos of torture and degrading treatment of inmates in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq appeared, and the report of U.S. General Antonio Taguba, who investigated the abuses, was leaked to the press, I walked into the last human rights class of the semester at the University of Minnesota and said to my students: “I have been teaching this class for over 10 years, and I have to stand up and say something today that I have not said before. We have clear proof that the United States government has engaged in torture and cruel and unusual punishment of detainees.” […]

READ @ http://www.utne.com/print-article.aspx?id=2147492021

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* OBAMA AGAIN UNCONSTITUTIONALLY CLAIMS UNCONSTITUTIONAL POWERS IN A SIGNING STATEMENT

By David Swanson, War Is A Crime

As you know if you’ve been awake the past several years, Bush began the unconstitutional practice of rewriting laws with signing statements, there was a little scandal when people found out, candidate Obama promised not to do it, Obama did it, Obama declared it OK in an executive order, and now it’s all perfectly fine.

As you know if you give a damn about the future of this country, it isn’t really perfectly fine.  Here’s Obama’s latest.  This is from a signing statement on a spending bill, not the “Defense” Authorization Act which is yet to come (perhaps on Christmas just to rub it in):

“Section 113 of Division H requires the Secretary of Defense to notify the Appropriations Committees of both Houses of Congress 30 days in advance of “any proposed military exercise involving United States personnel” that is anticipated to involve expenditures of more than $100,000 on construction. Language in Division I, title I, under the headings International Organizations, Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities, disallows the expenditure of funds “for any United Nations peacekeeping mission that will involve United States Armed Forces under the command or operational control of a foreign national,” unless my military advisers have advised that such an involvement is in the national interest, and unless I have made the same recommendation to the Congress. In approving this bill, I reiterate the understanding, which I have communicated to the Congress, that I will apply these provisions in a manner consistent with my constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.

“Certain provisions in Division I, including sections 7013, 7025, 7029, 7033, 7043, 7046, 7049, 7059, 7062, and 7071, restrict or require particular diplomatic communications, negotiations, or interactions with foreign governments or international organizations. Others, including sections 7031, 7037, and 7086, hinder my ability to receive diplomatic representatives of foreign governments. Finally, section 7041 requires the disclosure to the Congress of information regarding ongoing diplomatic negotiations. I have advised the Congress that I will not treat these provisions as limiting my constitutional authorities in the area of foreign relations.

“Moreover, several provisions in this bill, including section 627 of Division C and section 512 of Division D, could prevent me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibilities, by denying me the assistance of senior advisers and by obstructing my supervision of executive branch officials in the execution of their statutory responsibilities. I have informed the Congress that I will interpret these provisions consistent with my constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

“Additional provisions in this bill, including section 8013 of Division A and section 218 of Division F, purport to restrict the use of funds to advance certain legislative positions. I have advised the Congress that I will not construe these provisions as preventing me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibility to recommend to the Congress’s consideration such measures as I shall judge necessary and expedient.

“Numerous provisions of this bill purport to condition the authority of executive branch officials to spend or reallocate funds on the approval of congressional committees. These are constitutionally impermissible forms of congressional aggrandizement in the execution of the laws. Although my Administration will notify the relevant committees before taking the specified actions, and will accord the recommendations of such committees appropriate and serious consideration, our spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval of congressional committees. In particular, section 1302 of Division G conditions the authority of the Librarian of Congress to transfer funds between sections of the Library upon the approval of the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate. I have advised the Congress of my understanding that this provision does not apply to funds for the Copyright Office, which performs an executive function in administering the copyright laws.

“BARACK OBAMA”

I have bolded the Bush-speak lines that mean “Here are the parts of this law that I am signing into law rather than vetoing but fully intend not to comply with.”

I have both bolded and colored red a bit wherein our Constitutional scholar in chief dictates to the First Branch of our government how spending decisions will be made. […]

READ @ http://warisacrime.org/content/obama-again-unconstitutionally-claims-unconstitutional-war-powers-signing-statement

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* A THIRD-RATE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY FOR A FAILING SUPER-POWER: THE CIA’s GLOBAL DEMISE

By Wayne Madsen, Strategic Culture Foundation

Based on its recent string of failures, most notably those that have occurred under America’s top general-turned-spymaster David Petraeus, the CIA has become a third-tier intelligence agency that is trying to prop around the world up a failing, financially bankrupt, and over-extended super-power the United States.

The CIA, started in 1947 with veterans of the war-time Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and military personnel, who were soon supplemented by economists and international relations graduates of America’s top Ivy League universities, is now attempting to promote itself as a “made-for-television” futuristic high-tech spy and covert warfare agency, operating intelligence-gathering and armed drones from over 60 bases around the world. All that is missing from the CIA’s over-inflated view of itself are the X-Men and Jason Bourne.

The record of the CIA speaks otherwise. The agency has become a bloated and ineffectual spy agency that is heavy on inflating intelligence reports while being responsible for major intelligence failures.

Recent major failures of the CIA in its drone operations in the Middle East and Africa have some congressional sources wondering what is afoot with the CIA.  Under Petraeus’s watch the CIA has experienced its worst foul ups since those that occurred when it failed to foresee the Iranian embassy hostage situation and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Petraeus’s first major failure, Lebanon, involved Hezbollah’s exposure of the CIA’s agent network in the country. The CIA station chief, Daniel Patrick McFeely, has been outed as the CIA station chief at the U.S. embassy in the Awkar neighborhood of Beirut. Not only was Hezbollah able to out McFeely, who operates as “official cover” as part of the embassy staff, but they identified his predecessor, Louis Kahi.

By conducting surveillance of meetings at Pizza Huts and Starbucks in Lebanon between CIA case officers and agents, Hezbollah — and their Iranian allies — were able to construct the CIA’s network that included over 1000 top Lebanese politicians, academics, medical doctors, journalists, military personnel, and celebrities. Essentially, the CIA’s network in Lebanon has been largely rolled up. According to Al Manar television, the code names of the agents, names like Nick, Jim, Youssef, Liza and Jonah, were also exposed.

The U.S. corporate media has refrained from publishing the names of the CIA station chiefs or the cover names of their Lebanese agents. In more and more cases, the U.S. media has run from its duty to report all the facts about intelligence-related matters, succumbing to either appeals or threats from spy agencies that they should not write about intelligence-related matters because of some nebulous and non-provable “threat” to national security.

Almost simultaneous to the Lebanon roll up, Iran announced it discovered a network composed of at least 42 CIA agents operating within its territory, operatives that worked in nuclear and other scientific centers, the military, biotechnology, and various universities. Iran’s chief prosecutor has already indicted fifteen of the 42 for espionage on behalf of the CIA.

On November 26, a U.S. air strike killed 24 Pakistani military personnel on the Pakistani border with Afghanistan. The incident, which frayed already poor relations between the United States and Pakistan, resulted in the U.S. being expelled from the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan, one from which CIA drones were launched, with few successes and many failures, against “terror” targets in Pakistan’s volatile mountainous frontier region bordering Afghanistan.

The debacle that resulted in the loss of the Shamsi drone base was followed by the biggest intelligence failure to date, the downing by accident or hostile action, including through possible electronic warfare “spoofing,” of an RQ-170 Sentinel stealth-enabled drone over Iran. President Barack Obama was under pressure to launch a commando raid on Iran to retrieve the state-of-the art technology drone or bomb it and its security detail once it was discovered to be in Iranian hands. Obama chose to ask the Iranian to return the drone to the United States, something Tehran has refused to do, without, at the very least, an official apology.

Obama had on his hands a “Jimmy Carter moment” and his Republican opponents eagerly jumped on him for not sending in a commando team to retrieve the drone or order air strikes to destroy it. Obama left himself open to charges that he is a weak and ineffectual president because he allowed the RQ-170 to fall into the hands of not only the Iranians, but, as the rhetoric from his political enemies has alleged, the Russians and Chinese, as well. The right-wing claims that Russia or China, or both, will attempt to re-engineer the CIA’s expensive toy, what is known as the mysterious “Beast of Kandahar,” in order to leap frog the United States in stealth drone technology by years. […]

READ @ http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2011/12/21/a-third-rate-intelligence-agency-a-failing-power-cia-global-demise.html

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* HOW DID THIS WEEDKILLER END UP IN OUR WATER, AIR, RAIN AND FOOD?

By Sayer Ji, OpEdNews

Monsanto’s Herbicide May Be Contaminating The World’s Drinking Water

In a groundbreaking study published in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry last month, glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide “Roundup,” is flowing freely into the groundwater in areas where it is being applied. The researchers found that 41% of the 140 groundwater samples taken from Catalonia Spain, had levels beyond the limit of quantification — indicating that, despite manufacturer’s claims, it does not break down rapidly in the environment, and is accumulating there in concerning quantities.

Why Is Groundwater Contamination An Important Finding?

Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface, that supplies aquifers, wells and springs.  If a chemical like glyphosate is mobile enough to get into the groundwater and is intrinsically resistant to being biodegraded (after all, it is being used to kill/degrade living things — not the other way around), significant environmental exposures to humans using the water are inevitable. After all, according to the USGS, 88,000 tons were used in the US in 2007 alone.

Keep in mind that glyphosate is considered by the EPA as a Class III toxic substance, fatal to an adult at 30 grams, and has been linked to over 20 adverse health effects in the peer-reviewed, biomedical literature.

This groundwater contamination study adds to another highly concerning finding from March, published in the journal of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, where researchers found the chemical in 60-100% of all air and rain samples tested, indicating that glyphosate pollution and exposure is now omnipresent in the US. When simply breathing makes you susceptible to glyphosate exposure, we know we are dealing with a problem of unprecedented scale.

Who Is Responsible For The Groundwater Contamination? 

Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, presently dominating the global genetically engineered seed market, with 90% market share in the US alone. It is also the world’s largest producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as “Roundup,” among other brand names.  If you are eating corn and soy, or any of their ten thousand plus byproducts — and it does not have a USDA organic logo — you are getting the Monsanto “double whammy”: the health effects that follow the consumption of GM food (because we are — literally — what we eat), and ceaseless chemical exposure to glyphosate, as all Monsanto-engineered plants have been designed to be glyphosate-resistant, and therefore are saturated with it.

Is Monsanto’s Herbicide A New Agent Orange?

Roundup is not Monsanto’s first entry into the systemic herbicide market. Monsanto admits it manufactured the herbicide/defoliant Agent Orange from 1965 to 1969, which Vietnam estimated killed and maimed 400,000 people and resulted in the 500,000 children being born with birth defects.

The true devastation caused by Agent Orange was covered up for many years. We may find that Monsanto’s Roundup, and its primary active ingredient glyphosate, may be causing a similar degree of devastation to both environmental and human health under the lidless, though not very watchful eye (as far as business interests are concerned), of our regulatory agencies.

Indeed, glyphosate is a powerful endocrine disrupter. Exceedingly small amounts are capable of mimicking and/or disrupting hormonal pathways, cell receptor sites and signaling. Research culled from The National Library of Medicine links it to 17 adverse pharmacological actions, including carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, neurotoxicty, hepatoxicity, and nephrotoxicity.

But what is most disturbing, and which may make its comparison to Agent Orange all the more appropriate, is its potential teratrogenicity, i.e. ability to cause fetal malformations.

A 2003 study of pregnant, glyphosate/Roundup-exposed rats indicated the formulation exhibited significant tetragenicity. The researchers commented: “We may conclude that glyphosate-Roundup is toxic to the dams and induces developmental retardation of the fetal skeleton.”

A study published in 2004 revealed that glyphosate exhibits endocrine-disruptive and embryotoxic effects. Researchers found the chemical alters the expression of the enzyme aromatase in both fetal and placental cells and tissue — changes which indicate it may contribute to birth defects and abnormal fetal development.

Another study published in 2009 showed that glyphosate formulations induce cell death and necrosis in human umbilicial, embryonic and placental cells.

Now that glyphosate has been found in the majority of air and rain samples tested in the US, and is now likely contaminating our wells, springs and aquifers, exposure is not only likely, its inevitable — the difference being only a matter of degree. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=143184

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* ANNOUNCEMENT OF “COLD SHUTDOWN” OF FUKUSHIMA REACTORS IS BASED ON A POLITICAL DECISION, NOT SCIENCE

By Washington’s Blog

If The Reactors Are “Cold”, It May Be Because Most of the Hot Radioactive Fuel Has Leaked Out

The Japanese Government and Tepco say that they have achieved a “cold shutdown” of Fukushima nuclear reactors. Specifically, they claim that the water inside the reactors is now below the boiling point.

In reality, no one knows what’s really going on inside the reactors.

A representative of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it doesn’t know what’s going on inside the reactors (video at link).

NHK reports:

  • At Reactor No. 1 they believe most of the molten fuel has fallen from the pressure vessel to the bottom of the containment vessel where there is no thermometer
  • The amount of water has not been measured accurately with a water gauge and has only been guessed at
  • Tepco has installed systems to test for new “criticalities” – i.e. new nuclear reactions – in Reactors No. 1 and 2, but hasn’t done so in No. 3 – so no one can even tell if there are ongoing reactions in No. 3

By way of background, the New York Times noted on November 30th:

“This is still an overly optimistic simulation,” said Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor of physics at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, who has been a vocal critic of Tepco’s lack of disclosure of details of the disaster. Tepco would very much like to say that the outermost containment is not completely compromised and that the meltdown stopped before the outer steel barrier, he said, “but even by their own simulation, it’s very borderline.”

“I have always argued that the containment is broken, and that there is the danger of a wider radiation leak,” Mr. Koide said. “In reality, it’s impossible to look inside the reactor, and most measurement instruments have been knocked out. So nobody really knows how bad it is.”

***

Tepco now assumes that “100 percent of the fuel at Unit 1 has slumped” into the outer primary containment vessel.

In addition, the simulation suggests that the fuel bored more than two feet into the concrete, Mr. Matsumoto said. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/announcement-of-cold-shutdown-of-fukushima-reactors-is-based-on-a-political-decision-rather-than-science.html

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