Aug 142013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

middle-east11-1

Introduction

Representative democracies and autocratic dictatorships respond to profound internal crises in very distinctive ways: the former attempts to reason with citizens, explaining the causes, consequences and alternatives; dictatorships attempt to terrorize, intimidate and distract the public by evoking bogus external threats, to perpetuate and justify rule by police state methods and avoid facing up to the self-inflicted crises.

Such a bogus fabrication is evident in the Obama regime’s current announcements of an imminent global “terrorist threat”[1] in the face of multiple crises, policy failures and defeats throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Southwest Asia.

Internet ‘Chatter’ Evokes a Global Conspiracy and Revives the Global War on Terror

The entire terror conspiracy propaganda blitz, launched by the Obama regime and propagated by the mass media, is based on the flimsiest sources imaginable, the most laughable pretext. According to White House sources, the National Security Agency, the CIA and other spy agencies claimed to have monitored and intercepted unspecified Al-Qaeda threats, conversations by two Al Qaeda figures including Ayman al Zawahiri[2].

Most damaging, the Obama regime’s claim of a global threat by al-Qaeda, necessitating the shutdown of 19 embassies and consuls and a world-wide travelers alert, flies in the face of repeated public assertions over the past five years that Washington has dealt ‘mortal blows’ to the terrorist organization crippling its operative capacity[3] and citing the US “military successes” in Afghanistan and Iraq, its assassination of Bin Laden, the drone attacks in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and the US-backed invasion of Libya.  Either the Obama regime was lying in the past or its current terror alert is a fabrication. If, as Obama and the NSA currently claim, Al Qaeda has re-emerged as a global terrorist threat, then twelve years of warfare in Afghanistan and eleven years of war in Iraq, the spending of $1.46 trillion dollars, the loss of over seven thousand US soldiers[4] and the physical and psychological maiming of over a hundred thousand US combatants has been a total and unmitigated disaster and the so-called war on terror is a failure.

The claim of a global terror threat, based on NSA surveillance of two Yemen-based Al Qaeda leaders, is as shallow as it is implausible. Every day throughout cyberspace one or another Islamist terrorist group or individual discuss terror plots, fantasies and plans of no great consequence.

The Obama regime fails to explain why, out of thousands of daily internet ‘conversations’, this particular one, at this particular moment, represents an ongoing viable terrorist operation. One does not need a million spies to pick up jihadist chatter about “attacking Satan”.

For over a decade, Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen have been engaging in a proxy war with Washington-backed regimes and over the same time the Obama regime has been engaged in drone and Special Forces assassination mission against Yemeni militants and opposition figures[5]. In other words, the Obama regime has magnified commonplace events, related to an ongoing conflict known to the public, into a new global terrorist threat as revealed by his spymasters because of their high powered espionage prowess!

It is more than obvious that the Obama regime is engaged in a global fabrication designed to distract world public opinion and, in particular, the majority of US citizens, from police state spying and violations of basic constitutional freedoms.

By evoking a phony “terrorist threat” and its detection by the NSA, Obama hopes to re-legitimate his discredited police state apparatus.

More important, by raising the specter of a global terrorist threat, the Obama regime seeks to cover-up the most disreputable policies, despicable “show trials” and harsh imprisonment of government whistle blowers and political, diplomatic and military defeats and failures which have befallen the empire in the present period.

The Timing of the Fabrication of the Global Terror Threat

In recent years the US public has grown weary of the cost and inconclusive nature of the ‘global war on terror’, or GWOT.  Public opinion polls support the withdrawal of troops from overseas wars and back domestic social programs over military spending and new invasions. Yet the Obama regime, aided and abetted by the pro-Israel power configuration, in and out of the government, engages in constant pursuit of war policies aimed at Iran, Syria, Lebanon and any other Moslem country opposed to Israel’s erasure of Arab Palestine. The “brilliant” pro-war strategists and advisers in the Obama regime have pursued military and diplomatic policies which have led to political disasters, monstrous human rights violations and the gutting of US constitutional protections guaranteed to its citizens. To continue the pursuit of repeated failed policies, a gargantuan police state has been erected to spy, control and represses US citizens and overseas countries, allies and adversaries.

The “terror threat” fabrication occurs at a time and in response to the deepening international crisis and the political impasse facing the Obama regime – a time of deepening disenchantment among domestic and overseas public opinion and increasing pressure from the Israel Firsters to continue to press forward with the military agenda.

The single most devastating blow to the police state buildup are the documents made public by the NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, which revealed the vast worldwide network of NSA spying in violation of US constitutional freedoms and the sovereignty of countries. The revelations have discredited the Obama regime, provoked conflicts within and between allies, and strengthened the position of adversaries and critics of the US Empire.

Leading regional organizations, like MERCOSUR in Latin America, have attacked ‘cyber-imperialism’; the EU countries have questioned the notion of ‘intelligence cooperation’. Even dozens of US Congress people have called for reform and cutbacks in NSA funding.

The “terror threats” are timed by Obama to neutralize the Snowden revelations and justify the spy agency and its vast operations.

The Bradley Manning “show trial”, in which a soldier is tortured, often with forced nudity, in solitary confinement for almost a year, imprisoned for three years before his trial and publically prejudged by President Obama, numerous legislators and mass media (precluding any semblance of ‘fairness’), for revealing US war crimes against Iraqi and Afghan civilians, evoked mass protests the world over. Obama’s “terror threat” is trotted out to coincide with the pre-determined conviction of Manning in this discredited judicial farce and to buttress the argument that his exposure of gross US war crimes “served the enemy” (rather than the American public who Manning repeatedly has said deserve to know about the atrocities committed in its name). By re-launching the “war on terror” and intimidating the US public, the Obama regime is trying to discredit Bradley Manning’s heroic revelations of documented US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan by focusing on nebulous Al Qaeda terror threats over the internet!

In the international political arena, Obama has suffered a series of repeated political and diplomatic defeats with far-reaching implications for his fanatical empire building project.  The Obama-backed and Al Qaeda-led Islamist mercenary invasion of the sovereign nation of Syria has suffered a series of military defeats and his proxy jihadist ‘freedom-fighters’ have been denounced by most prestigious human rights groups for their massacres and ethnic cleansing of civilian populations in Syria (especially Christians, Kurds, Alevis and secular Syrians). Obama’s Syrian ‘adventure’ has backfired, and is clearly unleashing a new generation of Islamist terrorists, armed by the Gulf States – especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, trained by Turkish and NATO Special Forces and now available for global terrorist “assignments” against US client states, Europe and the US itself. In turn the Syrian debacle has had a major impact on Obama’s NATO ally, Turkey, where mass protests are challenging Prime Minister Erdogan’s military support for Islamist mercenaries, based along the Turkish border with Syria. Erdogan’s savage repression of hundreds of thousands of peaceful protestors, the arbitrary arrest of thousands of pro-democracy activists and his own “show trials” of hundreds of journalists, military officials, students, intellectuals and trade unionists, has certainly discredited Obama’s main “democratic Islamist” ally and undermined Washington’s attempt to anchor its dominance via a triangular alliance of Israel, Turkey and the Gulf monarchies.

Further discredit of Obama’s foreign policy of co-opting Islamist “electoral regimes” has occurred in Egypt and is pending in Tunisia. Obama’s post-Mubarak policy in Egypt looked to a “power sharing” arrangement between the democratically elected President Morsi of the Moslem Brotherhood, the Mubarak-era military and neo-liberal politicians, like Mohamed El Baradei. Instead, General Sistani grabbed power via the army, overthrowing and jailing the civilian President Morsi. The Egyptian army under Sistani has massacred peaceful pro-democracy Muslim protestors and purged the parliament, press and   independent voices. Forced to choose between the military dictatorship composed of the henchman of the former Mubarak dictatorship and the mass-based Muslim Brotherhood, US Secretary of State John Kerry backed the military take-over as a “transition to democracy” (steadfastly refusing to use the term ‘coup d’état’). This has opened wide the door to a period of mass repression and resistance in Egypt and severely weakened a key link in the “axis of reaction” in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt).

Obama’s incapacity to deal with the new peace overtures by the recently elected President Rouhani in Iran was evident in the Administrations capitulation to a Congressional vote (420 – 20) in favor of further and more severe sanctions designed, according to the bill’s AIPAC authors, to “strangle the Iranian oil economy”. Secretary of State Kerry’s offer to “negotiate” with Iran, under a US-imposed blockade and economic sanctions, was seen in Teheran, and by most independent observers, as an empty theatrical gesture, of little consequence. Obama’s failure to check the Israeli-Zionist stranglehold on US foreign policy toward Iran and to strike a deal ensuring a nuclear-weapon-free Iran, ensures that the region will continue to be a political and military powder keg. Obama’s appointments of prominent Zionist zealots to strategic Middle East policy positions ensures that the US and the Obama regime have no options for Iran, Palestine, Syria or Lebanon– except to follow the options dictated by Tel Aviv directly to its US agents, the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations, who along with their insider Zionist collaborators, co-author the Middle East policy script for the US Congress and the White House.

The Obama regime’s Israeli-Palestine peace negotiations are seen by most observers as the most distorted and bizarre efforts to date in that cruel farce.  Washington has purchased the leaders of the Palestinian ‘Authority’ with multi-million dollar handouts and gave way to Israel’s accelerated land grabbing in the occupied West Bank and ‘Jews only’ settlement construction, as well as the mass eviction of 40,000 Bedouins within Israel itself.

To ensure the desired result – a total fiasco, Obama appointed one of the most fanatical of pro-Israeli zealots in Washington as its “mediator”, the tri-national Martin Indyk, known in diplomatic circles as “Israel’s lawyer” (and the first US Ambassador to be stripped of security clearance for mishandling documents.)

The breakdown of the negotiations is foretold.  Obama, caught in the web of his own long-term reactionary alliances and loyalties and obsessed with military solutions, has developed a knack for engaging in prolonged losing wars, multiplying enemies and alienating allies.

Conclusion

The result of prolonged unpopular wars of aggression has been the massive built-up of a monstrous domestic police state, pervasive spying around the world and the commission of egregious violations of the US Constitution. This, in turn, has led to crudely concocted “terror plots” to cover-up the repeated foreign policy failures and to slander and persecute courageous whistle blowers and threaten other decent American patriots. The recent declaration of another vast ‘terror plot’, which served to justify the illegal activities of US spy agencies and ‘unify Congress’, produced hysteria lasting less than a week. Subsequently, reports began to trickle in, even in the obedient US mass media, discrediting the basis of the alleged global terror conspiracy. According to one report, the much-ballyhooed ‘Al Qaeda plot’ turned out to be a failed effort to blow-up an oil terminal and oil pipeline in Yemen. According to regional observers: “Pipelines are attacked nearly weekly in Yemen”[6] And so an unsuccessful jihadist attack against a pipeline in a marginal part of the poorest Arab state morphed into President Obama’s breathless announcement of a global terrorist threat! An outrageous joke has been played on the President, his Administration and his Congressional followers. But during this great orchestrated ‘joke’, Obama unleashed a dozen drone assassination attacks against human targets of his own choosing, killing dozens of Yemeni citizens, including many innocent bystanders.

What is even less jocular is that Obama, the Master of Deceit, just moves on. His proposed “reforms” are aimed to retrench NSA activities; he insists on continuing the “bulk collection” (hundreds of millions) of US citizens’ telephone communications (FT 8/12/13 p2). He retains intact the massive police state spy apparatus, keeps his pro-Israel policymakers in strategic positions, reaffirms his policy of confrontation with Iran and escalates tensions with Russia, China and Venezuela. Obama embraces a new wave of military dictatorships, starting, but not ending, with Egypt.

In the face of diminishing support at home and abroad and the declining credibility of  his crude “terror” threats, one wonders if the ever-active clandestine apparatus would actually stage its own real-life bloody act of terror, a secret state supported ‘false-flag’ bombing, to convince an increasingly disenchanted and skeptical public? Such would be a desperate act for the State, but these are desperate times facing a failed Administration, pursuing losing wars in which the Masters of Defeat can now only rely on the Masters of Deceit.

The Obama regime is infested with the “toxic politics of terrorism” and this addiction has driven him to persecute, torture and imprison truth seekers, whistle blowers and true patriots who strive (and will continue to strive) to awaken the sleeping giant, in hopes that the people of America will arise again.

Reposted with permission from the author, James Petras.

NOTES:

[1] BBC News 8/16/13; Al Jazeera 9/16/13

[2] La Jornada (Mexico City) 8/16/13, p. 22;FINANCIAL TIMES 8/10-11/13”T he exact threat to US missions has yet to be made public..”

[3] Financial Times 8/8/13, p. 2  and Financial Times 8/10-11 2013 p 2; McClatchy Washington Bureau 8/5/13

[4] Information Clearing House Web Page

[5] Financial Times 8/8/13, p. 2.

[6] Financial Times, 8/8/13, p. 2.

Jul 302013
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

hypocrisy

 

It’s not easy being a flag-waving American nationalist. In addition to having to deal with the usual disillusion, anger, and scorn from around the world incited by Washington’s endless bombings and endless wars, the nationalist is assaulted by whistle blowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who have disclosed a steady stream of human-rights and civil-liberties scandals, atrocities, embarrassing lies, and embarrassing truths. Believers in “American exceptionalism” and “noble intentions” have been hard pressed to keep the rhetorical flag waving by the dawn’s early light and the twilight’s last gleaming.

That may explain the Washington Post story (July 20) headlined “U.S. asylum-seekers unhappy in Russia”, about Edward Snowden and his plan to perhaps seek asylum in Moscow. The article recounted the allegedly miserable times experienced in the Soviet Union by American expatriates and defectors like Lee Harvey Oswald, the two NSA employees of 1960 – William Martin and Bernon Mitchell – and several others. The Post’s propaganda equation apparently is: Dissatisfaction with life in Russia by an American equals a point in favor of the United States: “misplaced hopes of a glorious life in the worker’s paradise” … Oswald “was given work in an electronics factory in dreary Minsk, where the bright future eluded him” … reads the Post’s Cold War-clichéd rendition. Not much for anyone to get terribly excited about, but a defensive American nationalist is hard pressed these days to find much better.

At the same time TeamUSA scores points by publicizing present-day Russian violations of human rights and civil liberties, just as if the Cold War were still raging. “We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. 1

“Campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption” … hmmm … Did someone say “Edward Snowden”? Is round-the-clock surveillance of the citizenry not an example of corruption? Does the White House have no sense of shame? Or embarrassment? At all?

I long for a modern version of the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 at which Carney – or much better, Barack Obama himself – is spewing one lie and one sickening defense of his imperialist destruction after another. And the committee counsel (in the famous words of Joseph Welch) is finally moved to declare: “Sir, you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” The Congressional gallery burst into applause and this incident is widely marked as the beginning of the end of the McCarthy sickness.

US politicians and media personalities have criticized Snowden for fleeing abroad to release the classified documents he possessed. Why didn’t he remain in the US to defend his actions and face his punishment like a real man? they ask. Yes, the young man should have voluntarily subjected himself to solitary confinement, other tortures, life in prison, and possible execution if he wished to be taken seriously. Quel coward!

Why didn’t Snowden air his concerns through the proper NSA channels rather than leaking the documents, as a respectable whistleblower would do? This is the question James Bamford, generally regarded as America’s leading writer on the NSA, endeavored to answer, as follows:

I’ve interviewed many NSA whistleblowers, and the common denominator is that they felt ignored when attempting to bring illegal or unethical operations to the attention of higher-ranking officials. For example, William Binney and several other senior NSA staffers protested the agency’s domestic collection programs up the chain of command, and even attempted to bring the operations to the attention of the attorney general, but they were ignored. Only then did Binney speak publicly to me for an article in Wired magazine. In a Q&A on the Guardian Web Snowden cited Binney as an example of “how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it.”

And even when whistleblowers bring their concerns to the news media, the NSA usually denies that the activity is taking place. The agency denied Binney’s charges that it was obtaining all consumer metadata from Verizon and had access to virtually all Internet traffic. It was only when Snowden leaked the documents revealing the phone-log program and showing how PRISM works that the agency was forced to come clean. 2

“Every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs and national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said recently. “All I know is that it is not unusual for lots of nations.” 3

Well, Mr. K, anti-semitism is not unusual; it can be found in every country. Why, then, does the world so strongly condemn Nazi Germany? Obviously, it’s a matter of degree, is it not? The magnitude of the US invasion of privacy puts it into a league all by itself.

Kerry goes out of his way to downplay the significance of what Snowden revealed. He’d have the world believe that it’s all just routine stuff amongst nations … “Move along, nothing to see here.” Yet the man is almost maniacal about punishing Snowden. On July 12, just hours after Venezuela agreed to provide Snowden with political asylum, Kerry personally called Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua and reportedly threatened to ground any Venezuelan aircraft in America’s or any NATO country’s airspace if there is the slightest suspicion that Snowden is using the flight to get to Caracas. Closing all NATO member countries’ airspace to Venezuelan flights means avoiding 26 countries in Europe and two in North America. Under this scenario, Snowden would have to fly across the Pacific from Russia’s Far East instead of crossing the Atlantic.

The Secretary of State also promised to intensify the ongoing process of revoking US entry visas to Venezuelan officials and businessmen associated with the deceased President Hugo Chávez. Washington will also begin prosecuting prominent Venezuelan politicians on allegations of drug trafficking, money laundering and other criminal actions and Kerry specifically mentioned some names in his conversation with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister.

Kerry added that Washington is well aware of Venezuela’s dependence on the US when it comes to refined oil products. Despite being one of the world’s largest oil producers, Venezuela requires more petrol and oil products than it can produce, buying well over a million barrels of refined oil products from the United States every month. Kerry bluntly warned that fuel supplies would be halted if President Maduro continues to reach out to the fugitive NSA contractor. 4

Wow. Heavy. Unlimited power in the hands of psychopaths. My own country truly scares me.

And what country brags about its alleged freedoms more than the United States? And its alleged democracy? Its alleged civil rights and human rights? Its alleged “exceptionalism”? Its alleged everything? Given that, why should not the United States be held to the very highest of standards?

American hypocrisy in its foreign policy is manifested on a routine, virtually continual, basis. Here is President Obama speaking recently in South Africa about Nelson Mandela: “The struggle here against apartheid, for freedom; [Mandela’s] moral courage; this country’s historic transition to a free and democratic nation has been a personal inspiration to me. It has been an inspiration to the world – and it continues to be.” 5

How touching. But no mention – never any mention by any American leader – that the United States was directly responsible for sending Nelson Mandela to prison for 28 years. 6

And demanding Snowden’s extradition while, according to the Russian Interior Ministry, “Law agencies asked the US on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to.” Amongst the individuals requested are militant Islamic insurgents from Chechnya, given asylum in the United States. 7

Ecuador has had a similar experience with the US in asking for the extradition of several individuals accused of involvement in a coup attempt against President Rafael Correa. The most blatant example of this double standard is that of Luis Posada Carriles who masterminded the blowing up of a Cuban airline in 1976, killing 73 civilians. He has lived as a free man in Florida for many years even though his extradition has been requested by Venezuela. He’s but one of hundreds of anti-Castro and other Latin American terrorists who’ve been given haven in the United States over the years despite their being wanted in their home countries.

American officials can spout “American exceptionalism” every other day and commit crimes against humanity on intervening days. Year after year, decade after decade. But I think we can derive some satisfaction, and perhaps even hope, in that US foreign policy officials, as morally damaged as they must be, are not all so stupid that they don’t know they’re swimming in a sea of hypocrisy. Presented here are two examples:

In 2004 it was reported that “The State Department plans to delay the release of a human rights report that was due out today, partly because of sensitivities over the prison abuse scandal in Iraq, U.S. officials said. One official … said the release of the report, which describes actions taken by the U.S. government to encourage respect for human rights by other nations, could ‘make us look hypocritical’.” 8

And an example from 2007: Chester Crocker, a member of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, and formerly Assistant Secretary of State, noted that “we have to be able to cope with the argument that the U.S. is inconsistent and hypocritical in its promotion of democracy around the world. That may be true.” 9

In these cases the government officials appear to be somewhat self-conscious about the prevailing hypocrisy. Other foreign policy notables seem to be rather proud.

Robert Kagan, author and long-time intellectual architect of an interventionism that seeks to impose a neo-conservative agenda upon the world, by any means necessary, has declared that the United States must refuse to abide by certain international conventions, like the international criminal court and the Kyoto accord on global warming. The US, he says, “must support arms control, but not always for itself. It must live by a double standard.” 10

And then we have Robert Cooper, a senior British diplomat who was an advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair during the Iraq war. Cooper wrote:

The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. 11

His expression, “every state for itself”, can be better understood as any state not willing to accede to the agenda of the American Empire and the school bully’s best friend in London.

So there we have it. The double standard is in. The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is out.

The imperial mafia, and their court intellectuals like Kagan and Cooper, have a difficult time selling their world vision on the basis of legal, moral, ethical or fairness standards. Thus it is that they simply decide that they’re not bound by such standards.

Hating America

Here is Alan Dershowitz, prominent American lawyer, jurist, political commentator and fervent Zionist and supporter of the empire, speaking about journalist Glenn Greenwald and the latter’s involvement with Edward Snowden: “Look, Greenwald’s a total phony. He is anti-American, he loves tyrannical regimes, and he did this because he hates America. This had nothing to do with publicizing information. He never would’ve written this article if they had published material about one of his favorite countries.” 12

“Anti-American” … “hates America” … What do they mean, those expressions that are an integral part of American political history? Greenwald hates baseball and hot dogs? … Hates American films and music? … Hates all the buildings in the United States? Every law? … No, like most “anti-Americans”, Glenn Greenwald hates American foreign policy. He hates all the horrors and all the lies used to cover up all the horrors. So which Americans is he anti?

Dershowitz undoubtedly thinks that Snowden is anti-American as well. But listen to the young man being interviewed:

“America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing.”

The interviewer is Glenn Greenwald. 13

Is there any other “democratic” country in the world which regularly, or even occasionally, employs such terminology? Anti-German? Anti-British? Anti-Mexican? It may be that only a totalitarian mentality can conceive of and use the term “anti-American”.

“God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.” – John LeCarré, London Times, January 15, 2003

Notes

  • White House Press Briefing, July 18, 2013 ↩
  • Washington Post, June 23, 2013 ↩
  • Reuters news agency, July 2, 2013 ↩
  • RT television (Russia Today), July 19, 2013, citing a Spanish ABC media outlet ↩
  • White House press release, June 29, 2013 ↩
  • William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 23 ↩
  • Reuters, July 22, 2013 ↩
  • Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2004 ↩
  • Washington Post, April 17, 2007 ↩
  • Hoover Institute, Stanford University, Policy Review, June 1, 2002 ↩
  • The Observer (UK), April 7, 2002 ↩
  • “Piers Morgan Live”, CNN, June 24, 2013 ↩
  • Video of Glen Greenwald interviewing Edward Snowden (at 2:05 mark) ↩

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

Mar 122013
 

By William Blum, 99GetSmart

Hugo Chávez

xlarge

I once wrote about Chilean president Salvador Allende:

Washington knows no heresy in the Third World but genuine independence. In the case of Salvador Allende independence came clothed in an especially provocative costume – a Marxist constitutionally elected who continued to honor the constitution. This would not do. It shook the very foundation stones upon which the anti-communist tower is built: the doctrine, painstakingly cultivated for decades, that “communists” can take power only through force and deception, that they can retain that power only through terrorizing and brainwashing the population. There could be only one thing worse than a Marxist in power – an elected Marxist in power.

There was no one in the entire universe that those who own and run “United States, Inc.” wanted to see dead more than Hugo Chávez. He was worse than Allende. Worse than Fidel Castro. Worse than any world leader not in the American camp because he spoke out in the most forceful terms about US imperialism and its cruelty. Repeatedly. Constantly. Saying things that heads of state are not supposed to say. At the United Nations, on a shockingly personal level about George W. Bush. All over Latin America, as he organized the region into anti-US-Empire blocs.

Long-term readers of this report know that I’m not much of a knee-reflex conspiracy theorist. But when someone like Chávez dies at the young age of 58 I have to wonder about the circumstances. Unremitting cancer, intractable respiratory infections, massive heart attack, one after the other … It is well known that during the Cold War, the CIA worked diligently to develop substances that could kill without leaving a trace. I would like to see the Venezuelan government pursue every avenue of investigation in having an autopsy performed.

Back in December 2011, Chávez, already under treatment for cancer, wondered out loud: “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented the technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?” The Venezuelan president was speaking one day after Argentina’s leftist president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was after three other prominent leftist Latin America leaders had been diagnosed with cancer: Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff; Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo; and the former Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“Evo take care of yourself. Correa, be careful. We just don’t know,” Chávez said, referring to Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, both leading leftists.

Chávez said he had received words of warning from Fidel Castro, himself the target of hundreds of failed and often bizarre CIA assassination plots. “Fidel always told me: ‘Chávez take care. These people have developed technology. You are very careless. Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat … a little needle and they inject you with I don’t know what.” 1

When Vice President Nicolas Maduro suggested possible American involvement in Chávez’s death, the US State Department called the allegation absurd. 2

Several progressive US organizations have filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA, asking for “any information regarding or plans to poison or otherwise assassinate the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who has just died.”

I personally believe that Hugo Chávez was murdered by the United States. If his illness and death were NOT induced, the CIA – which has attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders, many successfully 3 – was not doing its job.

When Fidel Castro became ill several years ago, the American mainstream media was unrelenting in its conjecture about whether the Cuban socialist system could survive his death. The same speculation exists now in regard to Venezuela. The Yankee mind can’t believe that large masses of people can turn away from capitalism when shown a good alternative. It could only be the result of a dictator manipulating the public; all resting on one man whose death would mark finis to the process.

It’s the end of the world … again

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) recent convention in Washington produced the usual Doomsday talk concerning Iran’s imminent possession of nuclear weapons and with calls to bomb that country before they nuked Israel and/or the United States. So once again I have to remind everyone that these people – Israeli and American officials – are not really worried about an Iranian attack. Here are some of their many prior statements:

In 2007, in a closed discussion, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that in her opinion “Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel.” She “also criticized the exaggerated use that [Israeli] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears.” 4

2009: “A senior Israeli official in Washington”, reported the Washington Post (March 5), asserted that “Iran would be unlikely to use its missiles in an attack [against Israel] because of the certainty of retaliation.”

In 2010 the Sunday Times of London (January 10) reported that Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam, war hero, pillar of the Israeli defense establishment, and former director-general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, “believes it will probably take Iran seven years to make nuclear weapons.”

January 2012: US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a television audience: “Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No, but we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability.” 5

Later that month we could read in the New York Times (January 15) that “three leading Israeli security experts – the Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, a former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff, Dan Halutz – all recently declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel.”

Then, a few days afterward, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in an interview with Israeli Army Radio (January 18), had this exchange:

Question: Is it Israel’s judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?

Barak: People ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now … in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case.

In an April 20, 2012 CNN interview Barak repeated this sentiment: “It’s true that probably [Iranian leader] Khamenei has not given orders to start building a [nuclear] weapon.” 6

And on several other occasions, Barak has stated: “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel.” 7

Lastly, we have the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in a January 2012 report to Congress: “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” … There are “certain things [the Iranians] have not done” that would be necessary to build a warhead. 8

So why, then, do Israeli and American leaders, at most other times, maintain the Doomsday rhetoric? Partly for AIPAC to continue getting large donations. For Israel to get massive amounts of US aid. For Israeli leaders to win elections. To protect Israel’s treasured status as the Middle East’s sole nuclear power.

Listen to Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at America’s most prominent neo-con think tank, American Enterprise Institute:

The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, “See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.” … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem. 9

Osama bin Laden, Bradley Manning, & William Blum

Bradley Manning has the charge of “Aiding the enemy” hanging over his head. This could lead to a sentence of life in prison. As far as can be deduced, the government believes that the documents and videos that Manning gave to Wikileaks, which Wikileaks then widely distributed to international media, aided the enemy because it put US foreign policy in a very bad light.

Manning’s attorneys have asked the prosecution more than once for specific examples of how “the enemy” (whoever that may refer to in a world full of people bitterly angry at the United States because of any of many terrible acts carried out by the US government) has been “aided” by the Wikileaks disclosures. Just how has the enemy made use of the released material to harm the United States? The government has not provided any such examples, probably because what really bothers Washington officials is the embarrassment they have experienced before the world resulting from the documents and videos; which indeed are highly embarrassing even to genuine war criminals; filled with violations of international law, atrocities, multiple lies to everyone, revelations of gross hypocrisy, and much more.

So our splendid officials are considering putting Bradley Manning in prison forever simply because they’re embarrassed. Hard to find much fault with that.

But now the prosecutors have announced that a Navy Seal involved in the killing of Osama bin Laden is going to testify at the court martial that bin Laden possessed articles about the Wikileaks documents that Manning leaked. Well, there must be a hundred million other people in the world who have similar material on their computers. The question remains: What use did the enemy make of that?

The Iraqi government made use of the material, inducing them to refuse immunity to US troops for crimes committed in Iraq, such as the cold-blooded murders revealed by the Wilileaks videos; this in turn led the US to announce that it was ending its military engagement in Iraq. However, Manning was indicted in May 2010, well before the Iraqi decision to end the immunity.

In January, 2006 bin Laden, in an audio tape, declared: “If Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book ‘Rogue State’ [by William Blum], which states in its introduction … ” He then went on to quote the opening of a paragraph I wrote (which appears actually in the Foreword of the British edition only, that was later translated to Arabic), which in full reads:

“If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize – very publicly and very sincerely – to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions – including the awful bombings – have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but – oddly enough – a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.

“That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.”

Thus, Osama bin Laden was clearly making use of what I wrote, and the whole world heard it. And I was thus clearly “aiding the enemy”. But I was not prosecuted.

The United States would like to prove a direct use and benefit by “the enemy” of the material released by Wikileaks; but so far it appears that only possession might be proven. In my case the use, and presumed propaganda benefit, were demonstrated. The fact that I wrote the material, as opposed to “stealing” it, is irrelevant to the issue of aiding the enemy. I knew, or should have known, that my criticisms of US foreign policy could be used by the foes of those policies. Indeed, that’s why I write what I do. To provide ammunition to anti-war and other activists.

The Department of Justice and Socialism

For many years when I’ve been asked to explain just what I mean by “socialism” I’ve usually replied simply: “Putting people before profits”. There are a thousand-and-one details that would have to be considered in a transformation from a capitalist society to a socialist society, but rather than going into all that it’s much simpler to leave it with just that motto, which expresses the essence of my socialist society. In any event, in that glorious future world things will evolve in ways that could not be wholly predicted. The structure could take any one of many forms, but the essence must remain the same if it’s going to be called socialist.

Thus was I both surprised and amused in reading a news article about the current trial in New Orleans which is attempting to determine, amongst other things, the extent of blame of various companies, particularly BP, involved in the 2010 historic accident which took the lives of 11 workers and dumped an estimated 172 million gallons of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The US Justice Department attorney declared in his opening statement: “The evidence will show that BP put profits before people, profits before safety and profits before the environment.” 10

Well, imagine that. The Justice Department certainly captured the essence of corporate behavior. The attorney chose such words because he knew that the sentiments expressed would appeal to the average American sitting on a jury. The members of the jury would understand that BP had blatantly ignored and violated certain cherished ideals like people, safety and the environment. Prosecuting the corporation would sound fair and just to them.

Yet, when someone like me expresses such sentiments – and I have used the exact same words on occasion – I run the risk of being written off as an “extremist”, a “radical”, and other bad-for-you labels; not long ago it was “commie”.

The irony runs even deeper. If a corporation flagrantly ignores putting profits before everything else, stockholders can sue the executives.

This just in! The real reason the Pope resigned!

He’s losing his mind.

In January, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with Pope Benedict XVI to receive his blessing. Afterward, Panetta said the pontiff told him, “Thank you for helping to keep the world safe.” 11

The precious art of assassinating legally

Obama hopeium addicts can soon be expected to call for support of the president’s increasing use of drones for assassination on the ground of their being good for the environment. My White House agent informs me that Obama is going to announce that all American drones will soon be composed 85% of recyclable material and will be solar-powered. And each drone missile will have the following painted on its side: “He was a bad guy. Just take our word for it!”

Notes

  1. The Guardian (London), December 29, 2011 
  2. Huffington Post, March 7, 2013 
  3. http://killinghope.org/bblum6/assass.htm 
  4. Haaretz.com (Israel), October 25, 2007; print edition October 26 
  5. “Face the Nation”, CBS, January 8, 2012 
  6. Washington Post, August 1, 2012 
  7. Iran Media Fact Check“Does Israel Consider Iran an ‘Existential Threat’?” 
  8. The Guardian (London), January 31, 2012 
  9. Political Correction“American Enterprise Institute Admits The Problem With Iran Is Not That It Would Use Nukes” 
  10. Associated Press, February 26, 2013 
  11. Washington Post, January 17, 2013 

 

Aug 202012
 

 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* STRIKING SOUTH AFRICAN MINERS FACE ULTIMATUM FROM COMPANY

Source: londonmediaclub

Lonmin is threatening to sack its striking staff unless they go back to work on Monday despite the deaths of 34 miners shot by the South African police last week.

The London-listed platinum miner said it would stick to an ultimatum issued before Thursday and the worst incident of police violence since the end of apartheid at its Marikana mine.

“The final ultimatum provides RDOs [rock drill operators] with a last opportunity to return to work or face possible dismissal,” the company said in a statement on Sunday. “Employees could therefore be dismissed if they fail to heed the final ultimatum.”

The company issued the ultimatum to striking workers last week and extended the deadline to Monday after the police opened fire on protesters on Thursday.

Workers at the mine, near Johannesburg, said threatening them with dismissal just three days after the deaths insulted the memories of their fallen colleagues.

“Expecting us to go back is like an insult. Many of our friends and colleagues are dead, then they expect us to resume work. Never,” miner Zachariah Mbewu told South Africa’s Mail & Guardian. “Some are in prison and hospitals. Tomorrow we are going back to the mountain [protest site], not underground, unless management gives us what we want.” […]

READ @ http://www.londonmediaclub.org/striking-south-african-miners-face-ultimatum-from-company.html

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* GREECE MUST CUT EXTRA EURO 2.5BN IN NEXT TWO YEARS

Source: EUbusiness

Greece’s creditors say it must cut 14 billion euros ($17 billion) from its budget in the next two years, 2.5 billion euros more than they originally demanded, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

The amount was revised upward as a result of the most recent audit mission by the country’s so-called troika of bailout lenders, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, Der Spiegel said.

Troika auditors visited Athens recently and are expected to return in September, when they have said they will remain for the entire month.

Based on that audit, the EU and IMF will decide whether to release Greece’s next loan disbursement of 31.5 billion euros. […]

READ @ http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/finance-public-debt.i1f

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* 350 GREEK TRAGEDIES IN ATHENS IN JUNE ALONE

Source: Automatic Earth

[…] Money has no value in and of itself; it derives that value from the world it rolls in. Take away that world, and you take away the value.

Yes, financial markets are doing relatively well, and if they don’t, central banks will throw more of your cash at the banks. The problem is that they don’t throw that cash at the people. Many of whom could really do with some. According to the present paradigm, banks are more important than people, and people, if I understand it well, can only be saved if banks are saved first (with the people’s money). This paradigm is the sort of insanity only economists and bankers can come up with. The life of a person, whether rich or poor, is infinitely more important than the life of a bank. No contest. You would think.

What got me started on all of this is a great – great in its sadness – little tale from today’s Spiegel, by Barbara Hardinghaus and Julia Amalia Heyer, on what happens with real people. Either we deal with issues such as this, or we don’t. And if we don’t, the issues will deal with us. Down the line, whatever happens to others happens to us too. We are after all social animals, that’s not something we can alter at will. But we still try hard, don’t we? […]

READ @ http://theautomaticearth.com/Finance/350-greek-tragedies-in-athens-in-june-alone.html

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* GRAFFITI: CRUCIAL TO THE CAPITAL’S AESTHETIC, OR JUST PLAIN VANDALISM

By Constantine Blintzios, ekathimerini

For decades, the decrepit walls of downtown Athens have been sprayed, splattered and scrawled upon at the hands of its youth. Its mottled demeanor, whose motifs range from childish obscenities and soccer team slogans to spectacularly elaborate and expressive pieces of work, has become ingrained within the minds of those who visit and is today seen as part of the city. As a place of both intense beauty and at the same time supreme ugliness, Athens’s imbalance and visual dissonance are what make it the perfect tableau upon which graffiti artists thrive.

Its anarchic connotations are rooted in the fact that all graffiti art is fundamentally illegal. There are occasions, so-called ”legals,” whereby a space or wall will be donated to an artist; this is however generally frowned upon by the majority of graffiti crews and the community in general as they consider the risk factor of ”bombing,” or illegal graffiti, an imperative aspect of their projects. When asked whether the total legalization of graffiti would better the artists and ”writers” and generally broaden the appreciation of the practice, well-respected artist OPEK stated: ”I don’t believe that the writers would improve if it was legalized. I also don’t care whether the public would appreciate it more just because it’s legal. I respect the members of the public that approve of it even though it’s illegal.” […]

READ @ http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite4_1_17/08/2012_457262

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* TWENTY-FIVE RULES OF DISINFORMATION

Source: whale

1. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.  Regardless of what you know, don’t discuss it — especially if you are a public figure, news anchor,  etc. If it’s not reported, it didn’t happen,  and you never have to deal with the issues.

2. Become incredulous and indignant.  Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus  on side issues which can be used show the topic  as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the  ‘How dare you!’ gambit.

3. Create rumor mongers.  Avoid discussing issues by describing all charges, regardless of venue or evidence, as mere rumors and wild accusations. Other derogatory terms mutually exclusive of truth may work as well. This method which works especially well with a silent press, because the only way the public  can learn of the facts are through such ‘arguable rumors’. If you can associate the material with the Internet, use this fact to certify it a ‘wild rumor’ from a ‘bunch of kids on the Internet’ which can have no basis in fact. […]

READ @ http://www.whale.to/m/disin.html#Twenty-Five_Rules_of_Disinformation__

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* ROVE’S HAND SEEN IN JULIAN ASSANGE PROSECUTION, SOURCES ALLEGE

By David Edwards, TheRawStory

Former Bush political strategist Karl Rove may be connected to a Swedish effort to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, sources for several legal experts suggest.

Rove is a longtime adviser to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who recently tapped the Republican operative to aid his 2010 reelection campaign.

Speaking to Legal Schnauzer’s Robert Shuler, an unnamed source suggested that Rove is likely “playing a leading role in the effort to prosecute” Assange. The founder of the secrets website was arrested Dec. 7 in London after Sweden issued a warrant for alleged sex crimes.

After Assange’s release on bail, Guardian obtained and published leaked details of the allegations against him. A WikiLeaks source told The Australian that the leaked police reports were “a selective smear through the disclosure of material.”

And there’s no coincidence that the charges against Assange originate in Sweden, Shuler’s source said. […]

READ @ http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/20/rove-connection-prosecution-julian-assange/

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* THE MOST DISTURBING THINK ABOUT THE CASE AGAINST BRADLEY MANNING

No Mercy in Sight for the Iraq War Whistle-Blower

By Jake Blumgart, TheStranger

[…] On a muggy morning a month ago, the shriveled pool of reporters consisted of representatives from Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, Courthouse News, and a French wire service, along with me, an independent correspondent representing The Stranger. The driver of the WikiLeaks truck, which rolls around the country covered in garish messages in favor of Manning and WikiLeaks, was there, too, smiling impishly and acting as an unofficial courtroom artist. Also in attendance was Firedoglake blogger Kevin Gosztola, who has stuck with the process throughout and cowritten a book (with the Nation’s Greg Mitchell) about Manning’s case, Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning.

These few remaining reporters made light of the low attendance. “Still no one from the New York Times,” someone snorted derisively. Another reporter noted that there wasn’t even a representative from the Guardian, a progressive British paper that has taken a particular interest in the case. Manning’s case has struggled to maintain sustained public interest since day one. Even the Obama administration’s tacit condoning of Manning’s unconstitutional punishments gained little attention until blogger Glenn Greenwald began writing about it. Even then, debate and concern were largely relegated to activist groups and politically inclined journalists. Unlike, say, the crappy economy or health-care reform, issues of civil liberties or foreign policy lack the blatantly obvious implications for the wider population. In that light, it isn’t particularly surprising that the pretrial hearings have been reduced, in most media, to a nonstory.

Inside the courtroom, hulking guards idled around the exits. When Manning entered the chambers, a new batch of burly guards materialized throughout the courtroom, establishing a wall of muscle between the gallery and the prisoner. Manning’s escorts towered above him, emphasizing the prisoner’s slight build (he is five foot two and very slender). […]

READ @ http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-most-disturbing-thing-about-the-case-against-bradley-manning/Content?oid=14460991

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* NATO PROTESTER FROM L.A. ORDERED TO ANKLE BRACELET HOUSE ARREST IN CHICAGO

By Kali Katt, examiner.com

After 15 days in jail, 31 year old Danny L. Johnson, Chicago NATO protestor and member of Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy Walk USA, was released the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 14 from Cook County jail on an ankle bracelet home arrest e-monitoring program. Activists in Chicago and around the country helped post his bail Monday, Aug. 13, and establish a Chicago address for Johnson to be released to. Johnson returned to Chicago Monday, July 30 to turn himself in after learning that dropped charges acquired when was arrested in Chicago for protesting the NATO Summit earlier in the year, were reinstated by Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez through a grand jury indictment. On June 29 a bench warrant was issued for Johnson’s arrest on two felony counts of battery on an officer -although original dropped charges were one felony count of battery on an officer and one misdemeanor count of obstruction of traffic.

Some are saying the charges were re-filed by Alvarez under pressure from Mayor Rahn Emanuel, and, according to local Chicago activists Adesina, as part of a “political agenda to use every avenue available to criminalize NATO protestors.” […]

READ @ http://www.examiner.com/article/nato-protestor-from-la-ordered-to-ankle-bracelet-house-arrest-chicago

Jun 012012
 

 

* A REMINDER ABOUT WIKILEAKS 

As the risk intensifies that Assange may be prosecuted for his journalism, it is vital to remember what’s at stake

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

“Just in time to spoil the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Obama Justice Department is trying to do what Richard Nixon couldn’t: indict a media organization. . . . Charging Julian Assange with ‘conspiracy to commit espionage’ would effectively be setting a precedent with a charge that more accurately could be characterized as ‘conspiracy to commit journalism‘” — James Goodale, General Counsel of The New York Times during its Pentagon Papers fight with the Nixon administration, writing in The Daily Beast, June 12, 2011.

* * * * *

When, many years ago, I first read about the Nixon administration’s infamous break-in to the office of Daniel Ellberg’s psychiatrist as a means to discredit the Pentagon Papers leak, I was baffled by the motivation. The Pentagon Papers revealed systematic lying on the part of the U.S. Government to the American public about the Vietnam War. Why, I wondered with a not insubstantial amount of naïveté, would public revelations about Ellsberg’s personality and psyche have any impact on how those leaks were perceived?

But the answer to that is obvious, as Nixon well knew: by demonizing Ellsberg personally, even those inclined to defend the leak would be reluctant to be associated with him. If Ellsberg became associated in the public mind not with his noble exposure of government lies but rather with “strange” psychological drives or bizarre sexual fantasies — the sort of thing one is supposed to reveal to one’s psychoanalyst — then he would become a figure of derision, an embarrassment, and nobody would want anything to do with him for fear of having his foibles reflect negatively on them. You smear the messenger, and the message is smeared along with him — or, just as good, the message is forgotten and the messenger is abandoned to whatever punishments are doled out.

This has been exactly the strategy used to ward off support for Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Bradley Manning, with one difference: leaving aside Joe Biden, who denounced Assange as a “high-tech terrorist,” this time the role of Nixonian henchmen is played by establishment-defending or Obama-loyal media figures rather than the administration itself. The New York Times — led by John Burns and Bill Keller — has continuously obsessed on Assange’s alleged personality flaws while all but ignoring the vital disclosures about the U.S. Government for which he is partially responsible (Keller, the son of a Chevron CEO, wrote an article infamously complaining that Assange’s socks were “filthy” and that he “smelled”). […]

READ http://www.salon.com/2012/05/31/a_reminder_about_wikileaks/singleton/

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* WITH GLOBAL SPOTLIGHT ON ASSANGE CASE, BRADLEY MANNING MARKS 2 YEARS BEHIND BARS

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

This week marks two years since U.S. Army private Bradley Manning was detained on allegations of leaking classified documents to the online whistleblower WikiLeaks. Manning faces up to life imprisonment in a military trial set to begin in September. “It’s important to remember that what Bradley Manning is alleged to have done … was an act of incredible mobility, bringing immense amounts of transparency to the U.S. government and its war actions, ones that are usually shrouded in complete secrecy,” says Salon.com blogger and constitutional law attorney Glenn Greenwald who has been following the case closely.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOKTkRoui2Q&feature=player_embedded

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* NUMBER OF THE DAY: $3 MILLION – WHAT CHICAGO PAID TO DEFENDED CPD REPEATERS AGAINST ALLEGED ILLEGAL SEARCHES

By Yana Kunichoff, The Chicago Reporter

In a list of police misconduct, such as extended detention, malicious prosecution, false arrest and excessive force, illegal search may be among one of the lighter offenses. But it’s still an expensive one.

The city paid more than $3 million in settlements for 51 illegal searches by repeaters – the 1 percent of the Chicago Police Department who have two or more misconduct lawsuits against them. The exact cost between January 2009 and November 2011: a whopping $3.3 million.

The 4th Amendment of the Constitution protects citizens from illegal searches, and a 1961 Supreme Court decision ruled that evidence found in an illegal search and seizure cannot be used in a case. But police departments in cities including New York and Chicago continue to deal with claims of illegal searches, often of minority communities. […]

READ @ http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-muckrakers/2012/05/number-of-the-day-3-million-what-chicago-paid-to-defended-cpd-repeaters-against-alleged-illegal-searches/

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QUEBEC STUDENT MOVEMENT GROWS WITH POPULAR SUPPORT

Source: The Real News

People from Montreal’s communities bang pots and pans to show support as students broaden demands.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDf5Du7zV_k&feature=player_embedded

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* GREXIT? SPEXIT? LET’S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF

By Edward Hugh, Foreign Policy

One thing we’ve learned as the euro crisis has unfolded is that the enthusiasm of experts in London and New York for offering advice to the struggling countries on Europe’s periphery is matched only by their passion for awkward neologisms. The world was just getting used to “Grexit” (Get it? A Greekexit from the euro!) when “Spexit” began to rear its ugly head in the financial press.

Naturally, the events of recent days have brought Spain back to the forefront of the debt crisis, generating insecurity about the reliability of the official fiscal deficit numbers, the validity of central bank statistics, and new numbers showing capital flight reaching alarming levels. Only this week, Spain announced that the central bank governor, Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordoñez, will be leaving early as part of a government effort to restore its credibility. Some are now anticipating that Spain’s exit from the eurozone will come before Greece’s departure.

I would hope that those clamoring for these countries to go their own way are at least better intentioned than they are informed, since normally they exhibit a singular lack of understanding about how political systems in southern and eastern Europe actually work. […]

READhttp://experts.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/31/grexit_spexit_let_s_call_the_whole_thing_off

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* GREECE, SERBIA DEFY NEW WORLD ORDER

By Pyotr Iskenderov, Strategic Culture

It became clear when the dust settled after the recent elections in Greece and in Serbia that two epicenters of resistance to aggressive globalism continue to exist in Europe. The US and the EU with all their might neither succeeded in coercing the new cohort of Greek politicians into a deal that would establish a government ready to bow to the EU and the IMF nor managed to help Boris Tadic, long believed to be the front-runner, regain presidency in Serbia. In fact, the impression is that we have just witnessed a domino effect, with the determination demonstrated by the Greeks, especially by the leaders of the rising new nationalist and patriotic movements, causing Serbs to look for alternatives to the scenarios prescribed to their country by the West. Originally, Tadic polled a share of the vote 16% bigger than what forecasters gave to his nationalist rival T. Nikolic, but the advantage melted down hours ahead of the runoff, and the latter convincingly defeated the former. At the moment, there are serious reasons to take a closer look at the social and political dynamics which unravels in Greece regardless of the preferences expressed by the Brussels bureaucracy and the financial elites.

The May 6 snap elections in Greece highlighted an unprecedented decline of public support for the traditional heavyweights of the Greek political scene – the right New Democracy and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) which only won 18.85% and 13.18% of the vote. In other words, this year the two combined got less than a third of the total, in contrast to the 2009 elections in which the figure was 77%. The second-largest share of the vote – 16.76% – was claimed by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).

For a few days following the ballots count, there seemed to be absolute confidence in European capitals that the Greek parties would eventually negotiate a coalition and the arrangement imposed on Greece in late 2011 by the EU and the IMF – financial infusions for consent to a crippling austerity package – would not be called into question. European parliament speaker Martin Schulz bluntly dictated that “the negotiations to form a government in Athens should have as a target the honoring of the country’s obligations towards the European Union” [1]. German diplomacy chief Guido Westerwelle made an even stronger statement: “we expect the formation of prudence government in Greece, with a clear European orientation”. When it became clear that the first round of attempts to put together a government coalition in Greece failed, he added that the agreements between the EU and Greece must remain untouched and that this would not be a subject for further discussions [2].  […]

READ @ http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2012/06/01/greece-serbia-defy-new-world-order.html

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* MIKE SHEDLOCK ON THE SPEXIT, THE GREXIT AND RUNNING FRO THE EUROZONE EXIT

Source: RT News

Welcome to Capital Account. A slew of bad news out of Europe, as Irish voters today attempt to exercise their sovereignty and cast their ballots in a referendum on Europe’s fiscal consolidation treaty. Meanwhile, European central banker Mario Draghi made it clear he’s fed up with national sovereignty. The ECB says europe needs new tools to fight bank runs and Draghi says the lesson from Spain’s Bankia was that the supervision of eurozone banks should rest with a central authority, not national regulators. Isn’t that what we have in the US now with the Federal Reserve? How’s that working out?

And speaking of Spain, will we see a SPEXIT before a GREXIT? Mike Mish Shedlock is here to talk about why that could be the case. Mish says that the sooner Spain sees the light and gets out of the Euro that is strangling it, the better off Spain will be. The same goes for Greece, and possibly a slew of other nations in the Eurozone.

And last but not least, back in the US, GDP was revised downwards from 2.2 to 1.9 percent. At the same time, borrowing costs for the United States are at 60-year lows for the 10-year government bond. So what gives? Are the Hyperinflationists right, or is the market proving the Deflationists’ argument? Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s attempt to build an industry of battery-makers for electric cars is sputtering. Subsidized firms are struggling; they don’t have many customers. They are operating way below capacity. This is according to the Wall Street Journal. So what was the problem? Government grants were linked to production calendars and not to market demand. So is this a great example of what happens when government picks winners and losers? Or is there a role for Uncle Sam in alternative energy?

VIDEOhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=K-pAlzPmiNM

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* BANK OF AMERICA REACHES A NEW LOW IN SCUMBAGGERY

By Justin Rosario, Addicting Info

It’s like a bank heist in reverse, Via Mother Jones:

Bank of America, which last fall announced plans to lay off 30,000 workers, is about to go on a hiring spree—overseas.

America’s second-largest bank is relocating its business-support operations to the Philippines, according to a high-ranking Filipino government official recently quoted in the Filipino press. The move, which includes a portion of the bank’s customer service unit, comes less than three years after Bank of America received a $45 billion federal bailout.

BoA continues to spit in the face of the country that kept its bloated ass afloat when it got in over its head. Will it lower its fees now that it’s saving all that money by utilizing dirt cheap labor?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Of course not! It’ll just go to pad the bonuses of the CEO and other executives! […]

READ @ http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/05/30/bank/

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* KILLINGS, CANCER, CORRUPTION AND AZERBAIJAN: EUROVISION IN THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF BP?

By Greg Palast

Will “Beyond Petroleum” oil giant BP pick the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest today in Baku, Azerbaijan? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised.

When I was arrested by the military police of Azerbaijan during my investigation of BP for Channel 4′s Dispatches in 2010, one of the cops who surrounded our crew in the desert told us, with great pride:

“BP drives this country.”

Indeed it does.

In 1992, the newly independent former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan elected a kindly Muslim Professor, Abulfaz Elchibey, as President.

But the voters had made an error: Elchibey refused to give BP an exclusive contract to drill the nation’s massive Caspian Sea fields as the company wished. In 1993, with the assistance and, reportedly, guns provided by MI6, Elchibey was overthrown by the nation’s former Soviet KGB boss, Heydar Aliyev.

Within three months, Aliyev handed BP a sweetheart deal, called “The Contract of the Century”, to take Azerbaijan’s Caspian oil.

The way to the no-bid deal for BP was “greased”, to use the term applied by former BP operative Leslie Abrahams, with several million dollars in illicit payments and weekends with lap dancers in London for Azeri officials. I asked Abrahams, who was ordered by BP to provide military intelligence to MI6, whether he understood that he was paying “bribes on behalf of BP and the British government” – he replied, “absolutely, yes”.

When asked, BP would not directly deny paying bribes.

The company told us, tantalisingly, that:

“While there were some facts in [Abrahams] account that were accurate, we do not recognise most of it and regarded it as fantasy.”

Since BP has taken control of Azerbaijan’s oil, the nation has become fabulously wealthy – at least for those close to the Aliyev family and BP.

And they eat well. The daughters of the new President, Ilham Aliyev (son of Heydar), picked up the tab for dinner in London for a half dozen of their friends. It came to £300,000 (excluding tip and VAT).

According to Robert Ebel, the CIA’s former oil intelligence chief, the whereabouts of $140 million in BP and other oil industry payments are “totally unknown”.

This week, Eurovision Song Contest viewers will be treated to the images of the ancient city of Baku where the Silk Road streets are filled with Maseratis and Bentleys. The Bentley dealership, and much of the capital, is owned by Azerbaijan’s First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, the “Sexiest Muslim Woman in the World”.

That’s official, the vote was taken by Esquire Magazine. (She’s actually the twelfth “Sexiest Woman in the World”, but the other eleven, infidels all, can be ignored here.)
(Photo above with husband Ilham).

I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve the title: her fashion model face has been created at great expense by “so much plastic surgery”, according to the US State Department Manning/WikiLeaks cables, that Lady Mehriban “appears unable to show a full range of facial expression.”

But when I left the Old City and its Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana stores and headed off to Sangachal, the town where BP’s terminal operates, I found a nation heading full speed into the 14th century…

Baku, once the world’s leading manufacturer of oil drilling equipment, is now one of the world’s leading centers of oil-toxin cancers. Walking along the main street of Sangachal, the aptly nicknamed, “Terminal Town”, was like doing the rounds in a cancer ward.

The local shoemaker, Elmar Mamonov – who hasn’t sold a shoe in two years – told me:

“This one’s daughter has breast cancer; there, Rasul had a brain tumor. Cancers we had never seen. His funeral was last week.”

Azlan, afraid to give his last name, paid to have a cancerous lung cut out, because employer BP wouldn’t pay. He says the oil company fired him after he could not keep up with his work.

And there was Shala Tageva, a schoolteacher, who has ovarian cancer. She needs treatment soon, but how to pay for it, Mamonov can’t imagine. Shala is Mamonov’s wife.

Suddenly, Mamonov stopped himself.

“If I am arrested, you will help me, yes?”

Sorry, sir, not in the Islamic Republic of BP.

Oil, their main industry, has seen employment drop about 90 per cent according to journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Her father, the former oil production minister, was fired by Aliyev when the minister suggested bribery was behind the destruction of the industry, bribes which allegedly allowed BP to avoid “local content” laws that would have saved those jobs.

Throughout the nation, we heard the same refrain: nostalgia for the old days of freedom and prosperity under Soviet rule; under BP rule, the people’s health, income and freedoms have decayed rapidly, as pollution has turned their Caspian fisheries into a dead, chemical toilet.

But Azeris are well entertained. The massive expenditure for the Eurovision Song Contest follows the government’s spending of $1 million for an Elton John concert during a depression.

Today, only one in seven dollars of GDP is paid in salaries (versus four of five dollars in the US and UK). Where have the billions gone? No one dare look for it, nor the source of the First Lady’s wealth. The last journalist who asked about the funds, Elmar Huseynov, was gunned down in his home. A journalist who questioned what happened to Huseynov was jailed. No third journalist is investigating what happened to the first two.

Azerbaijan is, nominally, a democracy. Indeed, the First Lady won a convincing election to Parliament (as did every other candidate supporting her husband’s regime – there was not a single member of the opposition elected). But it doesn’t, in the end, matter who is voted in, as long as “BP drives”.

Within hours of our arrest, my crew and I were released by the Deputy Chief of the Security Ministry: Imprisoning a Channel 4 reporter would have been an embarrassment for BP. But our witnesses to BP’s horrific drilling practices didn’t do so well. One made it out of the country, but others disappeared.

When you watch the Euro-warblers compete this Saturday, just remember that in Azerbaijan, the winners are already chosen: BP and the family of the Sexiest Muslim Woman in the World. And that’s not a pretty sight.

——–

Re-prints permitted with credit to Greg Palast.

Here’s a clip from my interactive book

Greg Palast’s book on BP, “Vultures’ Picnic: A Tale of Oil, High-Finance and Investigative Reporting”, will be released in Britain on June 26th; click here for tickets and details of the launch event at ULU (the University of London Union) on June 26th..

You can read Vultures’ Picnic, “Chapter 1: Goldfinger,” or download it, at no charge: click here.

READ / PHOTOS @ http://www.gregpalast.com/killings-cancer-corruption-and-azerbaijan-eurovision-in-the-islamic-republic-of-bp/

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* DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT UNCONSTITUTIONAL, FEDERAL APPEALS COURT DECLARES

By Robert Barnes, Washington Post

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it denies equal rights for legally married same-sex couples, making it likely that the Supreme Court will consider the politically divisive issue for the first time in its next term.

The unanimous decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston was a big win for President Obama, who recently said he supported states allowing gay men and lesbians to marry.

His administration last year said it would no longer defend the 1996 law, which limits federal recognition of marriage to those between a man and a woman. The law thus denies a host of federal benefits, such as filing joint tax returns or receiving survivor benefits, to same-sex couples who were married in states that allow such unions. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/defense-of-marriage-act-unconstitutional-federal-appeals-court-declares/2012/05/31/gJQAHDxO4U_story.html

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* THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT’S CRUSADE AGAINST GAYS IS FAR SCARIER THAN YOU THINK

The money available to the Christian right is solidifying institutions — from right-wing universities to media outlets — that propagate a culture of hate.

By Chris Hedges, AlterNet

The sentencing of Dharun Ravi for the hateful abuse that may have driven his gay roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, to commit suicide, or Barack Obama’s public acceptance of gay marriage, prevents many of us from seeing that life for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people is getting worse—much worse.

No one understands this better than the gay activist and pastor Mel White. White, along with his husband and partner of 30 years, Gary Nixon, founded Soulforce, an organization committed to using nonviolent resistance to end religion-based oppression. White and hundreds of Soulforce volunteers protest outside megachurches that preach hatred and bigotry in the name of religion. White travels to communities where young gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people have committed suicide. He holds memorial services for them in front of the church doors. He accuses the pastors of these churches of murder. His books “Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America” and “Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tell Us to Deny Gay Equality,” are two of the most important works that examine the innate cruelty and proto-fascism of the Christian right. White, more than perhaps any other preacher in the country, has pulled young men and women back from the brink of despair, from succumbing to the tragic fate of Tyler Clementi. And White is scared.

“What kind of environment creates a Dharun Ravi who would carry out that kind of bullying, as well as a kid like Tyler who would become a victim of that kind of bullying?” White asked when I reached him by phone at his home in Long Beach, Calif. “It is society. At its heart it is the church. The churches should be convicted, not just Ravi. He’s just an extension of the hatred that people feel about this threat, this gay threat. Pope Benedict XVI should be on trial. Richard Land from the Southern Baptists should be on trial. Religious leaders, Protestant and Catholic, should be on trial. They made this happen, but too few Americans make the connection.” […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/155633

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* WTF: SOFA, CISPA, FISA

Source: RT

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was under debate on Thursday. US lawmakers discussed whether or not the bill’s overseas surveillance power should be renewed. FISA is one of several pieces of legislation that are targeting Internet freedoms for Americans and it gives the government the power to monitor phone calls, emails and other forms of electronic communication. Rob Beschizza, managing editor for BoingBoing.com, gives us his take on Internet freedom.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfvCspbLBco

May 282012
 

 

* COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN THE WAR ON PROTESTERS: NEIGHBORS OF THE NATO3 CUFFED, HELD AT GUNPOINT

In this exclusive, neighbors of activists accused of “terrorism” give their stories of aggressive, seemingly incompetent and extralegal harassment by the Chicago Police.

By Sam Jewler, AlterNet

Whether or not they are guilty of illegal activity, the original three activists facing terrorism charges in Chicago and their six apartment-mates are not the only people who were raided and harassed the night of Wednesday, May 16, in the days leading up to the NATO protests. In this exclusive, three neighbors of the accused activists give their stories of aggressive, politically reactionary, seemingly incompetent and extralegal harassment by the Chicago Police Department.

In the apartment across the hall from the arrested activists, around 11:30 that night, Ben (not his real name) was coming out of his bathroom when his door crashed in and 25 to 30 armed police burst into his living room. One of them approached him, pointing a gun at his face and yelling at him to get down. When he didn’t get down quickly enough, the man shoved him to the ground and cuffed him.

“I thought I was being robbed,” Ben said. “They were wearing dark clothes, and I thought if they weren’t police, I was being robbed, and if they were, I didn’t know why this was happening.”

His apartment mate Olli woke up to two guns in his face, and was, he said, “rolled over and cuffed immediately” while other officers started going through the belongings in his room. They brought him into the living room and sat him on the ground next to Ben.

“That’s when the interrogation and harassment started,” Olli said. “It went on for a while, at least an hour and a half of them hurling insults and questions, really leading questions. The whole experience was really terrifying but it was also kind of hilarious, just the notions they have about whoever they were after.” […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/story/155591/collateral_damage_in_the_war_on_protesters:_neighbors_of_the_nato3_cuffed,_held_at_gunpoint

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* THE NATO / UN ARMY

By William F. Jasper, Information Clearing House

Pretending to have achieved some kind of victory in Afghanistan, President Obama and the NATO leaders have pushed ahead on the globalist agenda to transform NATO more fully into the global military arm of the United Nations.

“We’re now unified behind a plan to responsibly wind down the war in Afghanistan,” declared President Obama, at the conclusion of the May 20-21 NATO Summit in Chicago.

But don’t pop the champagne corks just yet; America’s longest war, now over a decade in duration, is not ending any time soon. What does “responsibly wind down the war” mean? According to President Obama and the other NATO leaders, it means NATO “combat troops” will have left Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Which is another way of spinning the grim fact that they intend to keep NATO forces (primarily U.S. forces) fighting in Afghanistan for another two-and-a-half years. And after 2014, an unspecified number of NATO/US forces will remain for “training” purposes for an indefinite period.

The Afghanistan War, which has already cost half a trillion dollars (and over 12,000 American casualties), has succeeded in establishing Hamid Karzai and his clan in a ruling regime that is universally recognized as thoroughly corrupt and anti-American. It is also a regime without popular support that is sure to collapse after our withdrawal — if not before. And when the country breaks down into a bloody civil war? Well, in order to prevent that, President Obama says someone must come up with $4.1 billion per year to finance the equipping and training of the Afghan army and police force. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31428.htm

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* THE AUTHORITARIAN MIND

Yet another Afghan family (and a bakery in Pakistan) is extinguished by an airstrike: unleash the justifications

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

[…]  Also yesterday:

An American drone fired two missiles at a bakery in northwest Pakistan Saturday, killing four suspected militants, officials said, as the U.S. pushed ahead with its drone campaign despite Pakistani demands to stop. This was the third such strike in the country in less than a week. . . .

The officials said the victims were buying goods from a bakery when the missiles hit. Residents were still removing the debris, officials said. All of the dead were foreigners, but the officials did not have any information on their identities or nationalities.

All of this is so widely tolerated, even cheered, among large factions of the American citizenry due to three premises:

(1) I have absolutely no idea who my government is continuously bombing to death by drone, but I assume they deserve it;

(2) when my government extinguishes the lives of entire families, including small children, as it often does, I know it’s all for a just and important cause even if I can’t identify it; and,

(3) we have to stop the Terrorists, because they keep killing innocent civilians.

That’s the Authoritarian Mind, and it appears everywhere the Imperial Mind does.

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/the_authoritarian_mind_2/singleton/

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* WAR PIGS – THE FALL OF THE GLOBAL EMPIRE

By Washington’s Blog

[…] As the world spends $1.7 trillion per year on new methods of killing, millions die the old fashioned way.

  • 13 million people per year die from starvation in the world.
  • The FAO says that 925 million people worldwide are undernourished.
  • For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years.
  • One child dies every 5 seconds as a result of hunger – 700 every hour – 16 000 each day – 6 million each year – 60% of all child deaths (2002-2008 estimates)
  • What kind of a civilized society allocates 44% of the taxes taken from its people to war? Only 2.5% of your taxes go to science, energy, and environment. Only 2.2% of your taxes go to education and jobs. You produce the results that you would expect from your investments. A full 13% of our population doesn’t have a high school diploma (20% of African Americans & 43% of Latinos) and only 30% have a college degree. How do we expect to lead the world in technology and research with these figures? We do lead the world in government issued student loan debt with $1 trillion and rising. […]

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* BRADLEY MANNING DEFENSE TEAM SAYS US MILITARY IS WITHHOLDING KEY EVIDENCE

Military’s delay in searching through files and handing them over is denying Manning a fair trial, defence attorney argues

By Ed Pilkington, Guardian NY

Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being behind the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, is being denied a fair trial because the army is withholding from him crucial information that might prove his innocence or reduce his sentence, his defence team is arguing.

With Manning’s court-martial approaching in September, his legal team has released details of what they claim is a shocking lack of diligence on the part of the military prosecutors in affording him his basic constitutional rights.

The stakes are high, with Manning facing possible life imprisonment for a raft of charges that include “aiding the enemy”.

Manning’s main civilian lawyer, David Coombs, has filed a motion with the military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, that sets out a catalogue of delays and inconsistencies in the army’s handling of the case.

In particular, he claims the government has failed to disclose key evidence that could help Manning defend himself against the charges. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/27/bradley-manning-military-withholding-evidence

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* FUKUSHIMA: A DISASTER NIGHTMARE RAPIDLY SPIRALING OUT OF CONTROL

Source: The Extinction Protocol

According to the simulation of Disaster Prevention Research Institute Kyoto University, cesium will be accumulated in Tokyo bay for the following 3 years and it will reach 4,000 Bq/Kg at some spots in March of 2014. This is the same level of cesium measured at 16 km from Fukushima plants this January. They estimate cesium level will decrease to spread around after April of 2014, but the peak may come sooner than March of 2014 depending of the precipitation. Also, in North Tokyo bay, where is estimated to be the most contaminated, the average contamination of sea ground soil will be 300 ~ 500 Bq/kg. According to Fukushima Diary, a TEPCO worker at the distressed plant said: “If another major aftershock hits Fukushima, they can’t even get close to the reactors and the risk is not only SFP4, it would be all the reactors. I tweeted this before but in case of another major aftershock or Tsunami, it won’t be only reactor4. I think all the reactors will be in crisis. TEPCO says they have prepared multiple coolant means, but if the radiation level goes too high, we cannot even get close. Also even if the reactor buildings remain safe, roads won’t be safe to approach the reactors. Actually 311 caused a lot of cracks on the ground; there were a lot of places where you cannot drive by car. Even pumper trucks or fire trucks cannot drive maybe. Above all, now we don’t have enough human resource or engineers to settle down reactor4 in addition to other reactors.” –Fukushima Dairy […]

NUCLEAR DISASTER SPREADS TO HOUSES, FOOD

READ and VIDEO @ http://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/fukushima-a-disaster-nightmare-rapidly-spiraling-out-of-control/?year=2012&monthnum=05&day=27&like=1&_wpnonce=74a73495fe

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* FUKUSHIMA FOREVER

By Dr. Mark Sircus, Truth Theory

[…] Now he is weighing in with the threat from the spent-fuel pool in reactor building No. 4 in focus saying, “People don’t realize that the Fukushima reactor is on a knife’s edge; it’s near the tipping point. A small earthquake, another pipe break, another explosion could tip it over and we could have a disaster much worse, many times worse than Chernobyl. It’s like a sleeping dragon.”

Kaku explains that just in the last few weeks it has been reported to some degree that Units 2, 3 and 4 have been shown to be in a very dire situation. Unit 2 is completely liquefied, something that’s never been seen in the history of nuclear power; a 100% liquefaction of a uranium core. Unit 4, on the other hand, has an even worse problem as it’s a spent-fuel pond that is totally uncovered because of a hydrogen explosion that took place last year.

The issue of planetary contamination is more important than the economic crisis the media is covering, which threatens to go into its own kind of meltdown. Economies grow and collapse as civilizations rise and fall. There have always been the good times when life is sweet and the bad times when human savages must have their wars or when Nature decides to have her way with us or when the elite bankers’ monetary games run through their cycles.

What are our chances of this nuclear nightmare going away?

Things are so bad at Fukushima that, “Humans cannot come close to certain parts of the reactor site and even robots get fried. They’re delicate machinery; their micro-circuitry cannot withstand the intense bombardment of radiation,” reports Kaku. […]

[…] Fukushima radiation has taken over our planet. – Leuren Moret

Radioactive iodine, cesium, strontium, plutonium, uranium, and a host of other fission products have been coming directly from Japan to the west coast for 13 months with no sign that it will stop. […]

[…] Michio Kaku sums up the Fukushima situation saying:

In regards to Unit 3, we found where we thought there was 33 ft. of water above the core. We put a TV camera in Units 2 and 3. We have TV pictures of the core; Unit 2 is completely liquefied, Unit 3 does not have 33 ft. of water on top of it, it has two feet of water. Two feet of water, not 33, meaning that the core is completely or partially covered, meaning it could liquefy. So between Units 2, which is completely liquefied, Units 3, which is totally exposed, and Unit 4, which has 1,500 spent-fuel rods that, in principle, are exposed to the outside environment, we have a catastrophe in the making. […]

READ @ http://truththeory.com/2012/05/24/fukushima-forever/

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* FORMER FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI WORKER: ‘ I BELIEVE THE COUNTRY WILL BE EVACUATED IN NO. 4 FUEL POOL COLLAPSES’ – ‘SHOULD BE HUNDREDS OR THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WORKING FURIOUSLY EVERY DAY’

Source: enenews

[…] There are several reasons why I believe the country will be evacuated if the #4 SFP collapses. The amount of radioactive material in the fuel pool dwarfs the total amount at Chernobyl by a factor of 5 to 10. Chernobyl’s core was still mostly contained in a building (although heavily damaged), and most of the radioactive material melted downward and became lava like. If #4 SFP collapses it will be lying on the completely open ground, probably going critical on and off in portions of the pile for years. The dose rate from this pile will make dropping sand or anything from the air much more lethal than anything at Chernobyl. And probably impossible. The entire site at Fukushima will be uninhabitable and unworkable because of the dose rate coming from this pile of fuel. That means there will be no control of the other fuel pools, and we could lose control of them.

Nuclear experts will soft sell the ramifications because that is how the industry works. When the experts “have concerns” about the situation at #4 that means they are pooping their pants. My experience at Fukushima was 30 years ago. I worked in the industry for about 15 years as a health physics technician. I was also referred to as a “nuclear gypsy” because I traveled from plant to plant working outages. That meant I was always in the middle of the hottest jobs in the heart of the plant. The engineers will talk about this part or that part of a plant, but I have been all those places wearing full gear. […]

READ @ http://enenews.com/former-fukushima-daiichi-worker-i-believe-the-country-will-be-evacuated-if-the-no-4-spent-fuel-pool-collapses-should-be-hundreds-or-thousands-of-people-working-furiously-every-day

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* BP COVER UP

Source: The Real News

Greg Palast: US corporate media ignoring evidence of BP foreknowledge of problems that led to Gulf disaster

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sgCG7H6U1E

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* LET’S SAY GERMANY ENFORCES MORE AUSTERITY ON GREECE: THEN WHAT?

By Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism

Everyone’s holding their breath until mid-June, when the Greek elections take place.  In the meantime, the Eurozone is heading into a deep recession and Germany is bickering with, well, everyone.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard gives us the dynamic.

Another month of EU stasis is unlikely to prove a winning formula. The eurozone’s manufacturing and service surveys for May were the worst in 35 months. “Truly dismal,” said Howard Archer from IHS Global Insight.

“The Greek exit effect is starting to take its toll on an already brittle eurozone economy,” said Nicholas Spiro, from Spiro Sovereign Strategy. The danger is no longer what will happen if Euroland unravels, but “what is happening”. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/05/lets-say-germany-enforces-more-austerity-on-greece-then-what.html

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* ASSAULTING AUSTERITY

Souce: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=U7fCsEER7t8

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* SPAIN WEIGHS BANKIA DEBT ISSUE

By Miles Johnson, FT 

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/90b3aaae-a818-11e1-b8a9-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1wAFjOPj4

Spain is considering directly injecting its own government debt into BFA-Bankia to help fund the stricken lender’s €19bn nationalisation, in an attempt to sidestep borrowing money directly from the bond markets.

The plan, viewed as highly unorthodox by analysts, involves Madrid issuing Spanish government guaranteed debt to Bankia in return for equity, with the bank then able to deposit the bonds with European Central Bank as collateral for cash.

On Friday Bankia, Spain’s third-biggest lender by assets, announced that the state would invest €19bn in what will be the country’s largest ever bailout, with the government expected to control about 90 per cent of its shares. […]

READ @ http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/90b3aaae-a818-11e1-b8a9-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1wAFR3Zx3

Dec 232011
 

 

* ONE YEAR AFTER FBI SUBPOENA, CIVIL LIBERTIES PROTECTIONS IN US FRIGHTENINGLY ERODED EVEN FURTHER

By maureen, Electronic Intifada

A year ago yesterday, I got the dreaded house call from the FBI. I was at home working when two agents rang my buzzer and asked to speak with me.

I had been expecting such a visit; on 24 September 2010 the FBI raided the homes of prominent anti-war and international solidarity organizers I have worked with over the years in Chicago, as well as the homes of activists in the Twin Cities and the office of the Anti War Committee there. In the weeks that followed, more Palestine solidarity organizers and Palestinian Americans in Chicago were delivered subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago as part of an investigation into violations of the laws banning material support for foreign terrorist organizations.

I declined to speak with the two agents who visited me; they then gave me a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury on 25 January 2011. I spent last Christmas and New Year convinced that I would soon be in federal prison for civil contempt of court. Even though it meant we risked being jailed, all 23 of us who have been subpoenaed as part of this grand jury fishing expedition have refused to testify. We have asserted that our first amendment rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, protecting free speech and freedom of association, are being trampled on.

A first amendment issue

The grand jury — essentially a secret court in which you’re not allowed to have a lawyer, and there is not even a judge presiding over the proceedings — has been long abused as a tool of inquisition into domestic political movements. Indeed, no specific crime has been identified related to our case.

The FBI’s operations manual for the September raids, discovered last April to have been accidentally left amongst a raided activist’s files, make it clear that they wanted to question activists about associational information — who activists know and work with in the US, Colombia and Palestine, and how activists organize and what they believe. They wanted people to name everyone they know who has ever traveled to the Middle East or South America.

It is also obvious the FBI put up the LA County Sheriff to raid the home of veteran Chicano liberation activist Carlos Montes last May; he faces trumped-up technical firearms violation charges and serious prison time. The FBI was on hand during the raid to question Montes about his political associations (an organizer of the 2008 Republican National Convention protests, he was named in the search warrant used to raid the Anti War Committee office) and took material from his home related to his long history of political organizing. They even took a kuffiyeh — the traditional checkered Palestinian scarf — only one example of many demonstrating how federal agents so arbitrarily confiscated property from activists’ homes.

And while the threat of indictments looms, I am not spending Christmas and new year’s in federal prison for civil contempt of court. This is, I believe, thanks to the vocal protest that countless people around the US and around the world have made in support of the 24 of us and in support of civil liberties. This is a huge victory. But at the same time, civil liberties and constitutional protections have further eroded even in the last year. More protest must be shown before the situation gets even worse. […]

READ @ http://electronicintifada.net/blog/maureen/one-year-after-fbi-subpoena-civil-liberties-protections-us-frighteningly-eroded-even

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* IT’S TIME TO FREE BRADLEY MANNING

By The Young Turks

http://current.com/shows/the-young-turks/videos/its-time-to-free-bradley-manning

Nineteen months after U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was first arrested, the first pre-trial hearings have finally begun. Manning faces 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy” and the unauthorized release of half a million reports and cables — even though, according to the American government, no one has been proved hurt by Wikileaks publishing the cables, and none were classified as top secret. “He did our soldiers a world of good,” Cenk says. “Time served is plenty enough time. Scooter Libby served no time and he betrayed a CIA agent. That caused real harm. Dick Cheney — no time. Karl Rove — no time. It’s time to free Bradley Manning.”

READ AND VIDEO @ http://mydd.com/users/theyoungturks/posts/its-time-to-free-bradley-manning

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* 99% PLAN NEW TAX WAR ON SUPER RICH IN 2012

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

[…] War rises from a black hole in the souls of our enraged youth

Listen to Kalle and White describing the energy driving OWS movement. It comes from deep within the collective soul of a new generation of young Americans who have been disenfranchised by clueless politicians who are trapped deep inside a corrupt two-party political system no longer capable of changing. And our youth are enraged. Listen:

“This primal cry for democracy sprang from young people who could no longer ignore the angst in their gut — the premonition that their future does not compute, that their entire lives will be lived in the apocalyptic shadow of climate-change tipping points, species die-offs, a deadening commercialized culture, a political system perverted by money, precarious employment, a struggle to pay off crippling student loans, and no chance of ever owning a home or living in comfort like their parents. Glimpsing this black hole of ecological, political, financial and spiritual crisis, the youth and the millions of Americans who joined them instinctively knew that unless they stood up and fought nonviolently for a different kind of future, they would have no future at all.”

Yes, America’s youth are the voice of the 99%, Americans inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions. American youth are fueling “the greatest social-justice movement to emerge in the United States since the civil rights era.”

But never lose sight of the real war here. Yes, there’s a war between the richest 1% of Americans who have seen their income grow 265% the past generation while the incomes of the other 99% have stagnated or fallen. Yes, the wealth gap is bigger now than it was in 1929 just before the market crashed.

Super Rich vs. America’s future

But to truly understand how this class war is predicting what lies ahead, know that class war is not just between the Super Rich and the 99%. It is more a generational war between America’s youth and a wealthy entrenched establishment. The young helped elect the president. Expected “change we can believe in.” Unfortunately it got worse, and they’re mad as hell.

Investors especially better watch out: This pent-up energy in America’s youth is building to a critical mass (as happened in Europe and the Arab world, and now in China and Russia), and it will explode across the economic and political landscape in 2012.

In the final analysis, however, you sense that in spite of their accelerating rage against the establishment, America’s youth, our next great generation, also had a sudden epiphany and learned a crucial lesson. Oh yes. Because their enemies didn’t just give them a great gift, but also inadvertently trained them in using a more aggressive special-ops, guerilla, quick-strike strategy. Listen and you’ll see what they learned in one night raid against them:

“Why can’t the American power elite engage with the nation’s young? Instead, they stayed aloof, ignored us and wished us away,” then “attacked us in Zuccotti Park in the dead of the night. Bloomberg’s raid was carried out with military precision. The surprise attack began at 1 a.m. with a media blackout. The encampment was surrounded by riot police, credentialed mainstream journalists who tried to enter were pushed back or arrested, and the airspace was closed to news helicopters. What happened next was a blur of tear gas; a bulldozer; confiscation or destruction of everything in the park, including 5,000 books; upward of 150 arrests; and the deployment of a Long Range Acoustic Device, the infamous ‘sound cannon’ best known for its military use in Iraq. … This kind of military mind-set and violent response to nonviolent protesters makes no sense. It did not work in the Middle East, and it’s not going to work in America either. This is the bottom line: You cannot attack your young and get away with it.”

Repeat that “bottom line: You cannot attack your young and get away with it” And yet, that’s exactly what Wall Street, America’s Super Rich, their lobbyists, and all their bought politicians are doing: “Attacking our young.” Attacking our next generation. Attacking America’s future.

Our leaders are ideologically blind to the need to invest and invest big in jobs before this accelerating rage reaches a critical mass and ignites, triggering another American Revolution and the Second Great Depression.

READ @ http://www.marketwatch.com/Story/story/print?guid=901AE114-2A5C-11E1-B371-002128040CF6

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* UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD, TOOTHLESS WATCHDOGS

By Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture 

“Why there hasn’t been more robust prosecution is a mystery.

-Raymond Brescia, visiting professor, Yale Law School

Reuters has an outrageous article detailing the absurdity of the lack of prosecution of financial crimes in modern America. It is a shocking to watch the United States, a nation that once followed the Rule of Law, slip into a banana republic.

“Four years after the banking system nearly collapsed from reckless mortgage lending, federal prosecutors have stayed on the sidelines, even as judges around the country are pointing fingers at possible wrongdoing.

The federal government, as has been widely noted, has pressed few criminal cases against major lenders or senior executives for the events that led to the meltdown of 2007. Finding hard evidence has proved difficult, the Justice Department has said.

The government also hasn’t brought any prosecutions for dubious foreclosure practices deployed since 2007 by big banks and other mortgage-servicing companies.

But this part of the financial system, a Reuters examination shows, is filled with potential leads.

Foreclosure-related case files in just one New York federal bankruptcy court, for example, hold at least a dozen mortgage documents known as promissory notes bearing evidence of recently forged signatures and illegal alterations, according to a judge’s rulings and records reviewed by Reuters. Similarly altered notes have appeared in courts around the country.

And it gets much worse.

• Despite laws against it, banks have foreclosed on active-duty U.S. soldiers who are legally eligible to have foreclosures halted. Attorneys representing service members estimate banks have foreclosed on up to 30,000 ACTIVE military personnel, mostly while they were in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• There has been — literally — “tens of thousands of fraudulent documents filed in tens of thousands of cases.” Sworn affidavits have been filed containing false information. This is easily prosecuted perjury.

• The size and scope of the fraud on the U.S. court system is unprecedented in U.S. history

• NY State court judge Arthur Schack, ruled in 2010 that pleadings by the Baum Law — who handle 40% of NY foreclosures — were “so incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous that they should have been authorized by the late Rod Serling, creator of the famous science-fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.“  There has been no fraud prosecution to date.

• Banks have routinely filed falsified mortgage promissory notes — in some cases, six different documents have been filed, all claimed to be the original. At the least 5 must be forgeries — an easy felony to prosecute.

Read the entire article if you want to be outraged and send your blood pressure skyrocketing. […]

READ @ http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/12/unprecedented-fraud-toothless-watchdogs/

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* REP. JOHN YARMUTH: “MONEY IS SPEECH” WAS TRAGIC FOR THIS COUNTRY

By msnbc

[…] Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) has proposed a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United along with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).  His proposed amendment declares that spending on elections does not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment.  It would also give Congress the authority to create a public financing system as the sole source of funding for federal elections and designates a national holiday for the purpose of voting.

“Corporate money equals influence, not free speech,” Rep. Yarmuth said on The Dylan Ratigan Show. “The last thing Congress needs is more corporate candidates who don’t answer to the American people. Until we get big money out of politics, we will never be able to responsibly address the major issues facing American families – and that starts by ensuring our elections and elected officials cannot be bought by the well-off and well-connected.”

[…]

Yarmuth said that this is at the heart of the Citizens United decision:

It doesn’t really matter whether corporations are considered people or not if you consider campaign expenditures as free speech. Because then it doesn’t matter who has access to that right. When you deal with just the corporate side of it, you’re still allowing people like the Koch brothers on the right, or even George Soros on the left, to spend millions and millions of dollars in an anonymous way to influence the system. So you need to get at the core of it and “say money spent on elections is not speech.” Therefore the Congress can regulate how much you can spend, if you can spend anything, and who can spend it. If you don’t get at that fundamental question, Congress really can’t regulate.

The second part of his amendment states that “Congress shall have the power to enact a mandatory public financing system to provide funds to qualified candidates in elections for Federal office, which shall be the sole source of funds raised or spent with respect to Federal elections.”

But why not just mandating that Congress must do this?  As Rep. Yarmuth explained, “we would have liked to have done it that way. most of the advice that we got that it would be — that you really can’t tell the Congress to enact a certain policy.”

Section three states “Congress shall set forth a legal public holiday for the purposes of voting in regularly scheduled general elections for Federal office.”  Rep. Yarmuth explained, “we need to have a national commitment to voting and to get out the vote, to make it easier for people to do it. The idea that people have to negotiate work and child care and all of these other logistical things to cast a vote for the most important thing they’ll do as a citizen is nonsense. ”

Rep. Yarmuth said that the Founding Fathers never could have anticipated the millions that would be spent in elections.  ”They wanted the right of the individual to go to the town square and say whatever he or she wanted to say. Everybody still has that right. This whole idea of money is speech is something that be fabricated by those who want to buy influence on the system. And people like my senator, Mitch McConnell, have been pounding this home for 25 years now, and he finally got it institutionalized in a Supreme Court decision. It was very, very tragic for the country,” said Rep. Yarmuth. […]

READ AND VIDEO @ http://www.dylanratigan.com/2011/12/21/rep-john-yarmuth-money-is-speech-was-tragic-for-this-country/

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* PRIVATIZING MONEY

By Alan Grayson, Daily Kos

Yesterday, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it will hand out $645,000,000,000 in three-year loans to European banks. Which the ECB printed out of thin air, like Monopoly money! The interest rate will be one percent per year.

The ECB will not be lending this money to the Government of Greece, even though that government is running a budget deficit of just under 10% of GDP – and the Greek GDP dropped by 5% this year.  The Government of Greece is now paying 37% per year on its ten-year bonds, when it can borrow anything at all.

The ECB will not be lending this money to the people of Spain, even though official unemployment in Spain is now at 23%.  Spain’s Economy Minister said recently that “Spain faces its deepest recession in half a century.”  Tough luck; their Christmas tree has nothing under it.

And when the European banks get this $645 billion, to whom will the banks be lending?  Anybody, or nobody.  No strings attached.  They can borrow from the ECB at 1%, lend it back to the German Government at 2%, lock in that profit, and take the next three years off.

I just have one question.

Why?

The world continues to face the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Unemployment throughout Europe is over ten percent.  Entire national governments are on the verge of going broke.  Why would anyone think that THE THING THAT WE HAVE TO DO RIGHT NOW is to hand out $645 billion in more funny money to the banks?  In Europe or anywhere else?

The ECB is a public institution.  How can it possibly justify yet another bailout for selfish private interests, while the public is sent straight to hell?

If a Martian were to land in Paris today, and just read the headlines of the newspapers today, he could reach only one conclusion.  That there has been a coup in Europe, the banks are now in charge, and they’re grabbing everything that they can get their hands on.

Mark my words:  at some point, people are just not going to take it anymore.

Courage,

Alan Grayson

READ @ http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/22/1048077/-Privatizing-Money?via=siderec

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* IN PORTUGAL, ALL-OUT PRIVATIZATION GETS UNDERWAY

 By Mario Querioz, Common Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

A demonstrator holds a banner reading “Do not steal the future” in front of the Finance Ministry during a protest against the government’s austerity measures in Lisbon December 15, 2011. Besides selling off the state’s remaining shares in EDP, a company that brings in major profits, the government must privatise the highly lucrative national airport authority – Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA) – and is to complete the sale of Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP) – the national airline – by the end of 2012. (REUTERS/Rafael Marchante)

The most far-reaching programme of privatisation of state enterprises in the history of Portugal kicked off Thursday with the sale of almost all of the state’s shares in the Energias de Portugal (EDP) utility to China’s Three Gorges Corp.

The Chinese company paid 3.5 billion dollars for a 21 percent stake, beating out Germany’s E.ON and Brazil’s Eletrobras and Cemeg, and making it the largest shareholder. The state was left with less than four percent of the shares in the power company.

Three Gorges’ victory in the bidding for EDP will open Portugal’s doors to Chinese financial institutions, making more credit available in Portugal, as the giant Chinese corporation promised Lisbon.

The privatisation of public enterprises is one of the conditions Portugal agreed to under the 110 billion dollar bailout agreed in May.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has thus begun to sell off state assets under the austerity programme agreed with the “troika” of international creditors: the EU, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Besides the massive privatisation plan, the bailout package signed by the government of then socialist prime minister José Socrates and the right, which took power a month later, was conditional on austerity measures like a more flexible labour market making it cheaper and easier to fire workers, major spending cuts, a freeze on wages and pensions, tax hikes, cuts in unemployment benefits and income tax benefits and deductions, and an increase in the value-added tax.

Besides selling off the state’s remaining shares in EDP, a company that brings in major profits, the government must privatise the highly lucrative national airport authority – Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA) – and is to complete the sale of Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP) – the national airline – by the end of 2012. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/12/23-0

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* “NUCLEAR CAN BE SAFE OR IT CAN BE CHEAP … BUT IT CAN’T BE BOTH”

By Washington’s Blog

Nuclear Power Is Unsafe Because the Operators are Pinching Pennies and Cutting Corners

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen was said in a recent interview that nuclear power can be made safe, but not at a competitive price:

[Interviewer] With air transport, it’s incredibly safe. Could nuclear power ever reach that level of safety?

[Gundersen] I have a friend who says that nuclear can be safe or it can be cheap, but it can’t be both.

***

It boils down to money. If you want to make nuclear safe, it gets to the point where it’s so costly you don’t want to build the power plant anyway … especially now with plummeting renewable costs.

So can you make a nuclear reactor safe? Yes. Can it also at the same time compete with renewables, which are, of course, higher [priced] than natural gas? And the answer is no.

Wall Street is demanding federal loan guarantees for this and of course we already subsidized Price-Anderson insurance. So Wall Street won’t spend the money to build it, and won’t insure it.

Gundersen is right.

As I noted in April:

Apologists for the nuclear power industry pretend there are no better alternatives, so we just have to suck it up and suffer through the Japanese nuclear crisis.

But this is wholly illogical. The truth is that we can store spent fuel rods in dry cask storage, which is much safer than the spent fuel rod pools used in Fukushima and many American reactors.

As the Nation pointed out:

Short of closing plants, there is a fairly reliable solution to the problem of spent fuel rods. It is called “dry cask storage.”

***

But there is a problem with dry cask storage: it costs money….

We could build a new, safer generation of nuclear power plants which have inherently safer designs, such as low-temperature reactors and thorium reactors.

But the owners of the nuclear plants can make more money with the ridiculous designs and cost-cutting measures used at Fukushima and elsewhere.

As the Christian Science Monitor notes:

*** Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev, who as director of the Soviet Spetsatom clean-up agency helped in the efforts 25 years ago to clean up Chernobyl … said the sequence of events at Japan’s Fukushima I suggested that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), may have put profit before safety. The fire that broke out Tuesday in reactor No. 4s fuel storage pond may have been caused by a desire to conserve space and money, he suggested.

“The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin,” Andreev told Reuters….

And this is not limited to Tepco. 

***

The nuclear accident was largely caused because of Tepco’s penny-pinching, just as the Gulf oil spill was caused by the fact that BP cut every corner in the book ( see this, this, this, this, and this). […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/nuclear-can-be-safe-or-it-can-be-cheap-but-it-cant-be-both.html

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* IRAN AND SYRIA IN IMPERIAL CROSSHAIRS

By Iftekhar A. Khan, Information Clearing House

[…] While the western powers are proceeding against Syria overtly, they’re moving against Iran covertly. Unfortunately, the 22-member Arab League is playing a leading role in the hostilities orchestrated by the West against the two Muslim states. When the Saudi King said Assad’s removal was in Saudi Arabia’s interest, the Arab League quickly revoked Syria’s membership and asked Assad to step down. How can the Arab League, consisting of repressive monarchies and dynastic emirates, pronounce one of its member countries in the region tyrannical? SNC and Free Syrian Army are set up under Turkey tutelage. Henceforth Turkey will likely play a dominant role of a proxy in the imperial plan of regime-change in Syria. Turkey has a bit of identity problem. It has always aspired to be recognised as a modern westernised state part of Europe but the Europeans have been reluctant to accept it.

Saudi Arabia not only wants an end to Assad’s rule in Syria, it equally detests President Ahmadinjad’s government in Iran. The imperial powers are successfully using the sectarian card by playing upon religious prejudices of one sect against the other. If Saudi Arabia didn’t consider Iran its archrival, why would it buy 60 billion dollars worth of US military hardware? To add to the suspicion between the two, a treacherous plot to kill Saudi Ambassador in the US was hatched in which an Iranian citizen, a used car dealer, was to hire Mexican hit men to assassinate the Saudi envoy in Washington. The plot was so incredulous that not even the American public, which is generally considered gullible, bought it.

However, it’s confounding why the Muslim rulers allow the West to use them against their own kin. Is there any precedent of Christian nations aggressing against each other at present? None. Why does Saudi Arabia want to isolate Iran and bring down President Ahmedinejad’s government, while undercurrents of public discontent run deep in the kingdom itself? If the CIA has so far failed to instigate an uprising in Iran, despite having poured in millions, why should Saudi Arabia abet in the same against a brother Muslim country is for the House of Saud to answer.

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30053.htm

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* ONE NATION UNDER THE DRONE: THE RISING NUMBER OF UAVs IN AMERICAN SKIES

By Jillian Rayfield, TPMMuckraker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A secret air show in Houston. An unmanned blimp in Utah. A sovereign citizen arrested in North Dakota.

Each of these is just one small part of the bigger story of the proliferation of unmanned aircraft use within the U.S., and each is likely to become smaller still if the FAA goes through with plans to loosen regulations governing domestic use of drones.

News reports about Predator attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are common if not always complete, but what’s gotten much less attention is the increase in unarmed drones that are buzzing around within the U.S. itself. Primarily, unarmed Predator B drones are only used by government agents to patrol the borders for illegal immigrants, but there are a (very large) handful of other agencies and companies that use smaller, unarmed drones for a slew of other purposes. And that number is only expected to grow.

The FAA says that as of September 13, 2011, there were 285 active Certificates of Authorization (COA) for 85 different users, covering 82 different unmanned unarmed aircraft types.

Though the exact breakdown of the organizations who have authorization is unclear — and the FAA would not elaborate for “privacy” and “security” reasons — in January the Washington Post reported that as of December 1, 2010, 35% of the permissions were held by the Department of Defense, 11% by NASA, and 5% by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI and law enforcement agencies also hold some, as do manufacturers and even academic institutions.

Between pressure from trade groups (like the drone manufacturers group the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), proposed legislation from Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to expand the number of drone testing sites in the U.S., and petitioning from states like Oklahoma for an approved 80-mile air corridor reserved exclusively for drone development and testing, there is great potential for drone use to expand within the U.S. in the next few years.

Les Dorr, a spokesman for the FAA, says that there are currently two types of authorizations — one for public operations, as in state and local governments, and one for private entities. In each case, the application process involves telling the FAA what type and where and when aircraft will be flown, so the agency can determine if it can ensure the safety of other aircraft. Dorr said that next month the FAA hopes to propose new, looser rules for use of small unarmed Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) because “that’s where the demand is.”

He told TPM that they’re hoping to publish the new regulations in January, which will be followed by a comment period for industry and other interested parties. That usually lasts 60 days, at which point the FAA will take the comments into consideration when drafting the final language of the rule.

So who would use these small drones?

Kevin Lauscher, a Grant Assistance Specialist for the Canada-based manufacturers of the Draganfly drones, couldn’t say how many they’ve sold in the U.S. so far. But he said that aside from law enforcement agencies, they’ve sold drones to companies in real estate, manufacturing, academic institutions and even resorts. He described how some construction companies use drones for safety reasons, in place of a person on top of a crane or scaffolding.

But, the FAA said in a press release in October, though “interest is growing in civil (non-government) uses” for drones, “one of the most promising potential uses for sUAS is in law enforcement.”

“The FAA is working with urban police departments in major metropolitan areas and national public safety organizations on test programs involving unmanned aircraft,” the release says, also noting that members of law enforcement agencies participated in the committee that is drafting the new sUAS rule.

So far, there is a handful of law enforcement agencies that already have authorization to use drones, like sheriff’s departments in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland and Lane County, Oregon and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Police in Arlington, Texas have a drone they acquired to help with security during the February, 2011 Superbowl. The Mayor of Ogden, Utah is working to get an “unmanned blimp” that would fly over the city and serve as “a deterrent to crime.”

But there are some cases that are particularly concerning for civil liberties advocates. In North Dakota, a family of “sovereign citizens” was arrested with the help of a Predator B drone, borrowed from border patrol agents by the local sheriff in an effort to avoid a standoff over missing cows. In the first reported case of a drone being used to aid in the arrest of a U.S. citizen, the drone was able to detect when the family was carrying weapons so officials could move in without fear of a firefight.

There’s also the Houston Police Department, which scrapped a plan to bring on a drone shortly after KPRC-TV filmed local officials participating in a secret air show for drones, about 70 miles outside of the city. The police chief mentioned in a press conference that the drones could be used for issuing traffic tickets, and the backlash was such that the Mayor put the kibosh on the program. But, according to KPRC-TV, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office near Houston still used $300,000 in federal grant money from the DHS to buy a ShadowHawk unmanned helicopter. […]

READ @ http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/12/one_nation_under_the_drone.php?ref=fpa

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* CZECHS BID FAREWELL TO VACLAV HAVEL

By Karel Janicek, Independent UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Czechs and world leaders paid emotional tribute to Vaclav Havel today at a pomp-filled funeral ceremony, ending a week of public grief and nostalgia over the death of the dissident playwright who led the 1989 revolution that toppled four decades of communist rule.

Bells tolled from churches while a wailing siren brought the country to a standstill in a minute of silence for the nation’s first democratically-elected president after the nonviolent “Velvet Revolution.”

Havel’s wife Dagmar, family members, friends and leaders from dozens of countries gathered Friday at the towering, gothic St. Vitus Cathedral which overlooks Prague. Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and  were among some 1,000 mourners who bowed their heads in front of the coffin draped in the Czech colours.

In a message read at the funeral by the Vatican’s former diplomatic representative in Prague, Pope Benedict XVI praised Havel. “Remembering how courageously Mr Havel defended human rights at a time when these were systematically denied to the people of your country, and paying tribute to his visionary leadership in forging a new democratic polity after the fall of the previous regime, I give thanks to God for the freedom that the people of the Czech Republic now enjoy,” he said.

At the end of the ceremony, Havel’s coffin was to be carried through the cathedral’s Golden Gate to Prague’s Strasnice crematorium for a private family funeral. The urn with Havel’s ashes will be buried at his family’s plot at the city’s Vinohrady cemetery alongside his first wife, Olga, who died in 1996.

Havel, whose final term in office ended in 2003, died Sunday morning in his sleep at his weekend home in the country’s north. The 75-year-old former chain-smoker had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his time in prison.

Since his death, Czechs have gathered spontaneously to lay flowers and light candles at key historic sites such as the monument to the 1989 Velvet Revolution in downtown Prague, and at Wenceslas Square, where Havel once spoke before hundreds of thousands of people to express outrage at the repressive communist regime.

Similar scenes of remembrance played out across the country — in a show of emotion not seen since the 1937 funeral of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s first president after the nation was founded in 1918.

“Europe owes Vaclav Havel a profound debt,” Cameron said before departing from London. “Havel led the Czech people out of tyranny … and he helped bring freedom and democracy to our entire continent.”

Czechs packed a nearby courtyard at Prague Castle and an adjacent square to watch the funeral ceremony on giant screens.

“He was our star, he gave us democracy,” said Iva Buckova, 51, who had travelled from the western city of Plzen. “He led us through revolution. We came to see him for the last time.”  […]

READ @ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/a/europe/czechs-bid-farewell-to-vaclav-havel-6280952.html

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* HAVEL’S MORAL AUTHORITY “IS A THING OF THE PAST”

By Renat Kuenzi, swissinfo.ch

Former Czech dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel, whose funeral takes place on Friday, was held in high regard around the world for his courage and moral strength.

Author Helena Kanyar-Becker, who came to Switzerland in 1969 after the repression of the Prague Spring, is among those who admired Havel. But she says his moral authority had begun to diminish during his years as president.

Havel, who played a key role in the democracy movement in communist Czechoslovakia, was elected president at the end of 1989, following the Velvet Revolution. After the breakup of Czechoslovakia, he served as president of the Czech Republic until 2003.

Havel died on December 18 at the age of 75.

swissinfo.ch: You met Vaclav Havel when you were a young student in Prague. What impression did he make on you?

Helena Kanyar-Becker: In the 1960s I regularly visited the Theatre on the Balustrade [in Prague], which was a mecca for us young students. I saw all Vaclav Havel’s plays there. Including “The Garden Party”, an absurd play about functionaries that had a huge impact. I don’t remember how many times I saw it.

swissinfo.ch: Describe the atmosphere at these productions.

H.K-B.: It was a very intimate atmosphere. Just getting hold of a ticket required creativity. The foyer was always full of young people smoking, and Havel stood on the stairs, also smoking, and waved to us. His wife Olga, a beautiful, slim woman, was in charge of the cloakroom. She also smoked constantly.

The theatre, which had about 250 seats was always packed, and there was a real understanding between the actors and the public. We laughed a lot.

“The Garden Party” wasn’t just absurd and full of humour, it was also philosophical. Hugo, the conforming ‘hero’, delivers the line: ‘Conformity is the healthy philosophy of the middle classes, without which there is no future.’ Havel was taking a swipe at people who conform. It was exactly what we wanted to hear and see.

swissinfo.ch: After the performances, did you go to a restaurant to discuss the pieces with Havel?

H.K-B.: No, there was a kind of divide between Havel and us. We only ever saw him smiling and smoking. We didn’t dare address him; we were too young. He was a kind of saint to us, who we really admired… […]

READ @ http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/culture/Havel_s_moral_authority_is_a_thing_of_the_past.html?cid=31817664

Dec 202011
 

 

* WHY IS IT SO EASY TO SAVE THE BANKS — BUT SO HARD TO SAVE THE BIOSPHERE?

Agreements to bail out banks happen in days – but despite some good progress at Durban, we still don’t have a legally binding deal to bail out the planet

By George Monibot, Guardian UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The US and other nations began talking seriously about tackling climate change in 1988 – yet we still don’t have a legally binding global agreement. Photograph: Corbis

[…] That said, the outcome at Durban, after some superhuman feats of traction, was better than most environmentalists expected. After Copenhagen and Cancún, it seemed implausible that rich and poor nations would ever agree that they would one day strike a legally binding treaty, but they have. That doesn’t mean that the outcome was good: even if everything happens as planned, we are still likely to end up with more than 2C of warming, which threatens great harm to many of the world’s people and places.

The clearest account of the negotiations and the outcome of the Durban meeting that I have read so far has been written by Mark Lynas, who attended as an adviser to the president of the Maldives. The byzantine complexity he documents is the result of 20 years of foot-dragging and obstruction. When powerful countries want to do something, they do it swiftly and simply. When they don’t, their agreements with other nations turn into a cat’s cradle.

Here are some of the key points:

• The most important negotiations boiled down to a battle between two groups: the European Union, least developed countries (LDCs) and small island states on one side, which pressed for steeper, faster cuts, and the US, Brazil, South Africa, India and China on the other side, seeking to resist that pressure.

• The first group (EU + LDCs) succeeded in one respect: the other nations agreed to work towards a legally binding deal “applicable to all parties”. In other words, unlike the Kyoto protocol, which governs only the greenhouse gas emissions of a group of rich nations, this will apply to everyone. (It doesn’t necessarily mean that all nations will have to reduce their emissions however).

• The first group failed in its attempt to get this done quickly. The poorest nations wanted a legally binding outcome by the end of next year. But the US-China group held out for 2020, and got it. Unless this changes, it makes limiting the global temperature rise to 2C or less much harder – perhaps impossible.

• The Kyoto protocol, though it will remain in force until either 2017 or 2020, is now a dead letter. In fact, Lynas suggests, unless the loopholes it contains are closed it could be worse than useless, as they could undermine the voluntary commitments that its signatory nations have made.

• The countries agreed to create a green climate fund to help developing nations limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of global warming. But, with three exceptions – South Korea, Germany and Denmark – they didn’t agree to put any money into it. The fund is supposed to receive $100bn a year: a lot of money, until you compare it to what the banks got.

• Between now and 2020, all we have to rely on are countries’ voluntary commitments. According to a UN study, these fall short of the cuts required to prevent more than 2C of global warming – by some 6bn tonnes of carbon dioxide.

• But as the Durban agreement conceded, 2C is still too high. It raised the possibility of pledging to keep the rise to no more than 1.5C. This would require a much faster programme of cuts than it envisages. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/dec/16/durban-banks-climate-change

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* BRADLEY MANNING FACES LIFE SENTENCE, WHILE CRIMINALS WIKILEAKS EXPOSED HAVE SUFFERED NO CONSEQUENCES — GLENN GREENWALD

By Democracy Now!

We speak with constitutional lawyer and Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald about the military pretrial hearing now underway for alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has been accused of releasing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks. Greenwald comments on the possible strategy being put forth by Manning’s defense. “All the Manning [tribunal] hearings have been shrouded in secrecy,” Greenwald says, noting there may be more transparency in Guantánamo detainee hearings than there has been for the Manning tribunal. “Presumably, his lawyer believes that one of the best ways that they have to keep him out of prison for the next six decades is to argue that he had diminished capacity by virtue of emotional distress over the gender struggles that he had over his sexual orientation being in a military that had a policy of banning those who were openly gay. And so, part of this emotional distress that they’re raising is designed to say that he should be excused from his actions because they were not the byproduct of full choice,” says Greenwald, who is openly gay and has been writing extensively about this aspect of Manning’s case. “He is—and I don’t blame him at all—trying to do whatever he can to avoid having his life destroyed, either being killed by the state or locked up in a cage for the rest of his life.” [includes rush transcript] […]

VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT @ http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/19/bradley_manning_faces_life_sentence_while

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* NYPD CONTINUES IT’S RAMPAGE ON ACTIVISTS, JOURNALISTS — EVEN FELLOW OFFICERS

By Carlos Miller

New York City police officers have apparently become so fed-up with Occupy Wall Street protesters that they are not only arresting activists, photographers and journalists as they have been doing.

They are now attacking fellow cops.

The latest melee took place Saturday, the three-month anniversary of the movement, as hundreds of activists attempted to scale or crawl under a fence to an Episcopal churched-owned lot where they had intended to create an encampment.

NYPD officers arrested about 50 people who had entered the property, attacking several reporters and at least one plainclothes cop in the process.

Ryan Devereaux of Democracy Now – who winded up with a cop’s fist on his throat – reported seeing a senior police officer throw a younger plainclothes cop to the ground, apparently not recognizing him.

The younger officer said he was hurt, according to Devereaux’s tweet.

I saw a senior officer throw a younger plainclothes cop to the ground, not recognizing him. The younger cop said he was hurt.

Devereaux also tweeted the following about himself:

I was just manhandled by massive police officer. I was standing on the sidewalk. He was pushing his fist into my throat.

I repeatedly said I was trying to get back and he wouldn’t let me go. Eventually he pulled me away to arrest me. I kept telling I was press.

My neck is red, my press pass was ripped. I was doing nothing but standing on the sidewalk doing my job.

Devereaux also tweeted that a Democracy Now cameraman was viciously punched by the cop in the photo below as well as struck with batons.

My colleague, a credentialed cameraman, was punched in the kidney three times.

For the second time today my credentialed cameraman was struck by the police. This time with batons. […]

READ AND PHOTOS @ http://www.pixiq.com/article/nypd-continues-its-rampage

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* WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME: SIX QUESTIONS FOR GLENN GREENWALD

By Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine

In the wake of September 11, Glenn Greenwald emerged as the nation’s premier chronicler of the war that U.S. officials waged on the nation’s civil liberties under the pretext of battling terrorists. Persistent and technically skilled, he played a key role in unmasking shameless betrayals by government attorneys of their oath to uphold the law—exposing those who enabled the torture of prisoners, the introduction of a massive warrantless surveillance system, and the merciless war against loyal Americans who attempted to blow the whistle on such abuses. I put six questions to Greenwald about his new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, which examines the emerging doctrine of impunity for politically powerful elites in the United States:

1. You start your account of the doctrine of elite immunity in the United States with Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon. How did this one decision, among the numerous incidents you describe, provide a point of rupture in the nation’s rule-of-law tradition?

American history is suffused with violations of equality before the law. The country was steeped in such violations at its founding. But even when this principle was being violated, its supremacy was also being affirmed: resoundingly and unanimously in the case of the founders. That the rule of law—not the rule of men—would reign supreme was one of the few real points of agreement among all the founders. Arguably it was the primary one.

There’s an obvious element of hypocrisy in this fact; espousing a principle that one simultaneously breaches in action is hypocrisy’s defining attribute. But there’s also a more positive side: the country’s vigorous embrace of the principle of equality before law enshrined it as aspiration. It became the guiding precept for how “progress” was understood, for how the union would be perfected.

And the most significant episodes of progress over the next two centuries—the emancipation of slaves, the ending of Jim Crow, the enfranchisement and liberation of women, vastly improved treatment for Native Americans and gay Americans—were animated by this ideal. That happened because “blind justice”—equality before law—was orthodoxy in American political culture. The principle was sacrosanct even when it was imperfectly applied.

The Ford pardon of Nixon changed that, radically and permanently. When President Ford went on national television to explain to an angry, skeptical citizenry why the most powerful political actor would be fully immunized for the felonies he got caught committing, Ford expressly rejected the rule of law. He paid lip service to its core principle—the “law is no respecter of persons”—but then tacked on a newly concocted amendment designed to gut that principle: “but the law is a respecter of reality.”

In other words, if—in the judgment of political leaders—it’s sufficiently disruptive, divisive, or distracting to hold powerful political officials accountable under the law on equal terms with ordinary Americans, then they should be exempt and the rule of law suspended, all in the name of political harmony, of “moving on.” But of course, it will always be divisive and distracting, by definition, to prosecute the most powerful political leaders, so Ford’s rationale, predictably, created a template for elite immunity.

The rationale for Ford’s pardon of Nixon was subsequently legitimized, and it created a precedent for shielding the most powerful elites from the consequences of their lawbreaking. The arguments Ford offered are the same ones now hauled out over and over whenever it is time to argue why the most powerful among us should not be held accountable: It’s not just for the good of the immunized criminal, but in the common good, to Look Forward, Not Backward. This direct assault on the rule of law was pioneered by the pardon of Richard Nixon. […]

READ @ http://www.harpers.org/archive/2011/12/hbc-90008356

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* DEMOCRATS: HERE’S HOW TO FORCE PRESIDENT OBAMA TO DEBATE ENDLESS WAR, INDEFINITE DETENTION, SOPA AND OTHER ASSAULTS ON OUR FREEDOM, AND THE OUT-OF-CONTROL FEDERAL RESERVE

By Washington’s Blog

Banks Got Bailed Out … We Got Sold Out

We voted for Obama because we wanted change.

We voted for Obama because he promised to end Bush’s perpetual wars, clean up the mess which Bush’s financial tzars made, and restore the freedom and liberty which Bush attacked.

Instead, Obama:

  • Has appointed the very Wall Street insiders who helped cause the financial crisis to top posts. See this, this, this and this.

As I pointed out in September, Americans overwhelmingly want:

  • The Federal Reserve to be reined in if not abolished
  • The never-ending, open-ended, goalpost-moving wars to stop and the troops to be brought home
  • Our liberties to be restored, and the martial law indefinite detention idiocy to be reversed

As I pointed out in October:

And as I wrote last month, Obama was heckled by Occupy protesters for allowing police brutality and mass arrests of the peaceful protesters, and because:

Banks got bailed out. We got sold out. […]

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* OBAMA ADMIN GIVES UP PRETENSE OF COMPETITIVE MARKETS FOR ACA HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGES

By Scarecrow, Firedoglake

The notion that the health insurance exchanges required by the Affordable Care Act would reduce health care costs using “competition” between concentrated health insurers was always one or more unbridgeable chasms away from a plausible theory.

But the myths of competitive markets are so deeply ingrained in our political discourse it was inevitable that a nominal Democratic President not constrained by conceptual coherence and a corrupt Congress would try to sell us the conceit as the only politically feasible model for health care reform.  The economists — not to mention international experience — told us it was gibberish, but nobody cared.

Now, however, the Obama Administration has given up even the pretense of a competitive model for the state-administered private insurance exchanges.  From Saturday’s New York Times (i.e, a Friday night news dump):

In a major surprise on the politically charged new health care law, the Obama administration said Friday that it would not define a single uniform set of “essential health benefits” that must be provided by insurers for tens of millions of Americans. Instead, it will allow each state to specify the benefits within broad categories.

The first thing you note is that this move is one more step towards Mitt Romney, who argues that RomneyCare might be fine for Massachusetts, but each state should be free to decide for itself how best to provide health coverage — or not.  The White House political geniuses who have managed to position their guy as only barely beating or even with the most embarrassing and offensive array of GOP clowns in memory apparently think moving towards Mitt’s incoherent position will leave one less reason to vote against Mr. Obama; others might conclude it’s one less reason to vote for him.

But let’s return to the unproven theory that “competition” between private health insurers will produce better quality and/or lower prices for insurance and hence more affordable quality health care.  Even economists like Paul Krugman who supported the overall ACA package because, among other reasons, it promised through other means to cover tens of millions of the currently uninsured, warned us that private health insurance does not lend itself to the competitive model, but no one — including Democrats — paid attention to that point. […]

READ @ http://my.firedoglake.com/scarecrow/2011/12/17/obama-admin-gives-up-pretense-of-competitive-market-for-aca-health-insurance-exchange/

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* HIGHLY TOXIC MERCURY PRESENT IN PROCESSED FOODS, YET FDA DOES NOTHING

By Anthony Gucciardi, Blacklisted News

Why has the FDA ignored the fact that mercury, an element that is highly toxic in all forms, was found in a large number of brand-name processed foods?

Specifically, the mercury content was found to be contained in high-fructose corn syrup, which also reportedly contains genetically modified ingredients.

Instead of addressing this major public health concern, the FDA is focusing their time on crushing beneficial supplements through ridiculous NDI regulations that threaten the entire infrastructure of the nutraceuticals industry.

Researchers from two U.S. studies reported that about half of tested samples of high-fructose corn syrup contained mercury. Mercury was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products which listed high-fructose corn syrup as the first-or-second-highest labeled ingredient.

Following the report, organizations like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy called on the FDA for immediate action:

‘Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,”’the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement.

Americans Consumed Over 37 Pounds of Mercury-Laden HFCS in 2008 […]

READ @ http://www.blacklistednews.com/Highly_Toxic_Mercury_Present_in_Processed_Foods%2C_Yet_FDA_Does_Nothing/17061/0/38/38/Y/M.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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* OWS, WITHOUT A SPACE TO OCCUPY, FACES ORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGES

By J.A. Myerson, The Nation

The evening is rainy and quite warm, which is disconcerting since it is almost December. A hundred or so people gather on the east side of what we may safely call Zuccotti Park, for their General Assembly.Nothing about the park feels like Liberty Plaza anymore. Every inch of the perimeter, for instance, is lined with metal barricades, just inside which stand private security guards, husky and rude, dressed in all black, apart from their yellow vests. A massive Christmas tree has been set up in the park and barricaded off. Besides the few protesters, that’s who’s here. The guards and their barricades.There’s no kitchen, no library, no medical tent, no media center. There is no drum circle, no sign-painting station, no welcome table on Broadway, no altar around the meditation tree in the northwest corner. There are only about a hundred people, deliberating democratic minutiae, trying to get through a too-big agenda, packed with yesterday’s unattended business.This would be hard enough to do without the people who keep loudly interrupting the meeting. But every meeting I’ve recently attended—and from what I gather, every recent meeting I have not—has been brought to a grinding halt, the basic ability to debate and consent to proposals crippled by a determined few who will not to let things proceed until their issues are addressed. This is the reason for the backed-up business. The people shouting about their needs over the debate.It’s clear that the primary issue afflicting Occupy right now is the lack of an occupation. In the month since the New York Police Department violently forced the occupiers out of Zuccotti, the people whose residence was Liberty Plaza Park have nowhere to go. Some of them had previously been homeless. Others left their homes to join the movement. But deprived of the food station, the medical tent, the things that once fulfilled their needs for basic survival, they have rapidly lost faith in Occupy Wall Street’s much-vaunted democratic process to provide the supportive community that once existed here.

The Occupy activists have tried to help find shelter for those left homeless by the eviction, sending out urgent bulletins almost nightly to arrange accommodations. Some have been sleeping at a shelter in Far Rockaway, some in churches in Harlem and on the Upper West Side. As with national numbers on the homeless, it is difficult to tell exactly how many occupiers need housing, but it is surely in the hundreds. These include not just experienced urban survivalists like Ghengis Khalid Muhammed, or GKM, who works with the support organization Picture the Homeless, which helps people find food stamps and soup kitchens, but also people who have no idea how to live on the streets and who are freezing, starving and unable to get MetroCards to travel to places where shelter may or may not be available. Lauren, of Occupy’s Housing Committee, tells me that two pregnant women have so far been turned away from churches.

The activist core of the occupation—the people who met over the summer in Tompkins Square Park, who set up and continue to participate in working groups and who spend their days in meetings—sees this as an Empire Strikes Back moment, taking the opportunity to plan actions and events for the winter. In the atrium at 60 Wall Street and in the Occupied Office at 50 Broadway, they are planning important things, chiefly the continuation of the Occupy Our Homes foreclosure resistance project that kicked off last week. They have their eye on the Jedi’s return. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153495

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* A SIGN OCCUPY WALL STREET IS HAVING POLITICAL IMPACT

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

For those saying that Occupy Wall Street hasn’t had a concrete effect, take a look at this. It’s not much, but it’s a little something. The leaders of the House Financial Services Committee announced yesterday that they will be holding hearings on the SEC’s practice of concluding settlements with Wall Street defendants without forcing the accused to admit to wrongdoing.

This whole thing seems to be the creature of ranking Republican Spencer Bachus. From his site:

“The SEC’s practice of using ‘no-contest settlements’ has raised concerns about accountability and transparency, and I’m pleased the Committee will examine these concerns in a bipartisan manner,” said Chairman Bachus.

If they actually do something about this, then it’ll be time to give them a pat on the back. But in the meantime, we can expect to see a lot of things like this in an election year marked by an absence of a real galvanizing message coming from either party. With OWS and populist anger generally filling that messaging void, there are going to be a lot of politicians who will look to capitalize by doing things like, for instance, beating up on the SEC in a few days of well-publicized but ineffectual hearings.

Spencer Bachus to positioning himself as a champion of Wall Steeet reform is, of course, hilarious. Not only was he one of the leaders of the opposition to even the very mild Dodd-Frank reform, he went out of his way to stall changes to the rules governing derivative trades that would have prevented abuses like JP Morgan Chase’s rape of Jefferson County, Alabama. This was particularly egregious because Bachus, who was the House’s third-biggest recipient of Wall Street money and a heavy beneficiary of donations from Chase, happened to be Jefferson County’s congressman.

So this guy is no enemy of the banks. What yesterday’s move does show, however, is that politicians are listening to the specific complaints of OWS. A year ago, we would never have even seen hearings like this coming from the likes of Bachus and Barney Frank, who also supported them move. But now, everybody is trying to find a way to ride the wave. It’s too early to celebrate any of this, but it can’t be a bad thing. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/a-sign-occupy-wall-street-is-having-a-political-impact-20111219

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* IMAGE OF UNKNOWN WOMAN BEATEN BY EGYPT’S MILITARY ECHOES AROUND WORLD

By Ahdaf Soueif, AlterNet

 

 

 

 

 

 

[…] Until 25 January. The Revolution happened and with it came the Age of Chivalry. One of the most noted aspects of behaviour in the streets and squares of the 18 days of the Egyptian Revolution was the total absence of harassment. Women were suddenly free; free to walk alone, to talk to strangers, to cover or uncover, to smoke to laugh to cry to sleep. And the job of every single male present was to facilitate, to protect, to help. The Ethics of the Square, we called it.

Now our revolution is in an endgame struggle with the old regime and the military.The young woman is part of this.Since Friday the military has openly engaged with civilian protesters in the heart of the capital. The protesters have been peacefully conducting a sit-in in Ministries’ Street to signal their rejection of the military’s appointment of Kamal Ganzouri as prime minister.Ganzouri announced that no violence would be used to break up the Cabinet Office sit-in. Moments later the military took on the protesters. For a week Military Police and paratroopers had kidnapped activists from the streets, driven them off in unmarked vehicles, interrogated them and beaten them. On Friday they kidnapped Aboudi – one of the “Ultras” of the Ahli Football Club. They gave him back with his face so beaten and burned that you couldn’t see features – and started the street war that’s been raging round Ministries’ Street for the last three days.The protesters have thrown rocks at the military. The military has shot protesters, and thrown rocks, Molotov cocktails, china embossed with official parliament insignia, chairs, cupboards, filing-cabinets, glass panes and fireworks. They’ve dragged people into parliament and into the Cabinet Office and beaten and electrocuted them – my two nieces were beaten like this.

They beat up a newly elected young member of parliament, jeering: “Let parliament protect you, you son of … “. They took a distinguished older lady who’s become known for giving food to the protesters and slapped her repeatedly about the face till she had to beg and apologise. They killed 10 people, injured more than 200, and they dragged the unconscious young woman in the blue jeans – with her upper half stripped – through the streets.

The message is: everything you rose up against is here, is worse. Don’t put your hopes in the revolution or parliament. We are the regime and we’re back.

What they are not taking into account is that everybody’s grown up – the weapon of shame can no longer be used against women. When they subjected young women to virginity tests one of them got up and sued them. Every young woman they’ve brutalized recently has given video testimony and is totally committed to continuing the struggle against them.

The young woman in the blue jeans has chosen so far to retain her privacy. But her image has already become icon. As the tortured face of Khaled Said broke any credibility the ministry of the interior might have had, so the young woman in the blue jeans has destroyed the military’s reputation.

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153492

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* GREECE IN CHAOS

“They are stealing our lives”

By NOËLLE BURGI, CounterPunch

“Who knows what tomorrow will bring?” people ask in Athens, Salonika and right across Greece. There’s a sense of collective imprisonment, individual uncertainty and impending catastrophe. Yet Greece has had a turbulent history, and the Greeks have always seen themselves as a gifted people, sturdy and accustomed to adversity. “There have always been difficult times, and we always made it through. But now, all hope has been taken from us,” said a small business owner.

While the austerity measures are piling up, an avalanche of laws, decrees and edicts is sweeping aside the social, economic and administrative frameworks. Yesterday’s reality is crumbling. As for tomorrow — who knows?

Greek citizens are subject to a Kafkaesque bureaucracy, with its incomprehensible, fluctuating regulations. Addressing colleagues, a civic employee in the Cyclades said: “People want to conform to the law, but we don’t know what to tell them, [the authorities] haven’t given us any details.” A man had to pay € 200 and present 13 papers and proofs of identity to renew his driving license. Salary cuts among public employees have disrupted the public sector. “When you call the police to alert them to a situation, they reply, ‘it’s your problem, you deal with it’,” said a retired engineer officer from the merchant navy. Tensions are rising. Reports show a big increase in domestic violence, theft and murder (1).

Salaries are falling (by 35-40% in some sectors) while new taxes are invented, some backdated to the beginning of the calendar year. Net incomes have fallen drastically, in many cases by 50% or more. Since the summer, a solidarity tax (1-2% of annual income) and an energy tax (calculated on the consumption of petrol and natural gas) have been levied. Further novelties include the lowering of the tax threshold from € 5,000 to € 2,000, and a property tax of € 0.5 to € 20 per square metre levied as part of electricity bills, payable in two or three instalments (failure to pay results in power cuts and penalties).

Since the start of November, pensioners and public and private employees cannot anticipate their monthly earnings. Many workers go without pay altogether. The state is reducing its workforce drastically as part of its restructuring programme. Between now and 2015, 120,000 public employees over the age of 53 have been earmarked for “semi-retirement”, the precursor to full mandatory retirement after 33 years of service, during which employees are obliged to stay at home, and only receive 60% of their basic salaries. Once fully retired, many public employees will be reduced to living on very little. A group of ex-railwaymen, aged 50 and above, said they used to earn between € 1,800 and € 2,000 a month, a relatively comfortable salary in Greece. They have now been posted to jobs as museum guards as part of a “voluntary transition” package (2) and their basic monthly income fluctuates between € 1,100 and € 1,300; semi-retirees are restricted to € 600. All are barred from taking on extra paid work to supplement their income — the penalty, immediate loss of revenue, is enforced.

’Insurance payments have stopped’

The loss of income is tearing society apart. Bills are not paid, consumption is down, stores are closing and unemployment rising. In May the official unemployment rate was 16.6% (10 points higher than in 2008) and 40% among the young. The actual rate is likely to be much higher. The social, economic and political crisis has shaken the national health service. Hospital and public health care centre budgets have been cut by 40% on average. More patients are admitted to the emergency room, others go to Doctors of the World health centres, and many choose to do without medical care altogether. People report being denied access to crucial medicine. One journalist said her father suffers from Parkinson’s disease: “His medication costs € 500 a month. The pharmacy told us it will stop supplying him, because insurance payments have stopped.” […]

READ @ http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/19/greece-in-chaos/

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* NOT VERY WELL AND ALL ALONE: THE UK AND THE EU: IRREVERSIBLE DECLINE AND DEEPENING CRISIS

By Michael Faulkner, TPJ Magazine

[…] December 10.  The two days that have elapsed since the preceding paragraphs were written have served to render them no more than a preface to the main story.

There is a famous cartoon by David Low which appeared in the Evening Standard on June 18 1940. It depicts a lone British Tommy standing, fist raised and defiant, on the storm-swept channel coast facing darkening clouds from the European continent and approaching Luftwaffe bombers. It carries the caption “VERY WELL, ALONE”. The cartoon appeared just a month after Churchill had replaced Chamberlain as prime minister and ten days after the evacuation from Dunkirk. A week later France capitulated to the Germans and the whole of western Europe lay under the Nazi jackboot. Britain stood alone.

This is the spirit that the Europhobic Tory press and the triumphant gaggle of Tory backbenchers now invoke following David Cameron’s return from Brussels. They seek to present his cheap and specious claim to have defended Britain’s vital interests by vetoing the EU-wide treaty intended to prevent the collapse of the euro, as an act of Churchillian grit and courage in the face of overwhelming adversity. But this is definitely not Britain’s finest hour. In fact it is more like the shabbiest act by a British prime minister in living memory. While still in opposition, Cameron de-coupled the Tory party from the centre-right grouping of EU conservatives, to join up with the most right-wing ultra-nationalists in Eastern Europe. This was to reinforce his Eurosceptic credentials with his own backbenchers. Far from recalling Churchill in 1940, Cameron’s trumpeted defense of Britain’s vital interests is reminiscent of Chamberlain’s return from Munich in 1938, claiming that he had defended Britain’s interests by securing “peace in our time”. He also received a rapturous reception in the House of Commons from an adoring Tory party. But, just as then, the euphoria will not last long once the dust has settled.

The likelihood now is that Cameron will have isolated Britain from the rest of the EU, not just the 17 members of the Eurozone but also the nine that remain outside. They have refused to follow him in vetoing the proposed revision of the Lisbon treaty and seem likely to sign up to whatever procedures may now follow to consolidate tighter fiscal union amongst the seventeen. To have used the veto to protect the City of London from a financial transaction tax in the name of defending Britain’s vital interests, hardly accords with the coalition government’s supposed commitment to tighter regulation of banks. It will be interesting to see whether the Lib. Dems in the cabinet will insist that the government accepts the report by the  Independent Commission on Banking recommending that high street banks be ringfenced from investment banks. But it is doubtful whether Cameron’s action to “protect the City” will succeed. The Association of British Insurers, which lobbied hard against a financial transaction tax, believes that the British veto might not prevent the passage of EU legislation that could still “damage the financial services industry in Britain.”

Cameron went to Brussels determined to veto the proposed treaty revision come what may. He knew that to have acceded to it would have meant a full-scale backbench revolt which would have made it virtually impossible to resist the demand for a referendum. This would have torn the coalition apart.  But whatever satisfaction he may draw from the cheers of his Europhobic supporters is likely to be short-lived. The Europhobes hope and expect that this is the first act in a drama that will end with Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. They also think (and hope) that the present crisis in the EU will end with the collapse of the euro and the break-up of the union. Such an outcome can no longer be dismissed as fanciful. But to imagine that having jumped ship the UK can stand by and watch the European enterprise sink beneath the waves (or to use Tory grandee Michael Heseltine’s metaphor, to imagine that the UK can drift off into the Atlantic) is naïve in the extreme. If the EU breaks up, the UK, whether inside or out, will be irreparably damaged. Notwithstanding the delusions of the little Englander Europhobes, the whole of Europe, including the UK, is sliding into a deep recession. The ruling classes of Europe will, as always, seek to resolve their crisis at the expense of the working people who were not responsible for causing it.

There is little to indicate that the measures contemplated by the EU leaders are likely to be any more effective in dealing with the crisis than those already undertaken. The present disputes reflect conflicts of interest between the ruling classes of the strongest European powers. Germany has the most powerful economy in Europe and as the dominant force in the EU is determined to impose fiscal discipline on its recalcitrant southern subordinates. But the Germans are determined to resist allowing the European Central bank to be used to prop up defaulting and potentially defaulting countries of the “southern periphery”. So far, there is no indication of how, short of allowing the ECB to undertake “quantitative easing” (printing money) on a large scale (which would be in the teeth of German opposition) the European Financial Stability Fund will be able to accumulate the 2 – 3 trillion euros said to be necessary to meet such eventualities. Given that there seems to be no workable solution in sight, all the “crisis summits” appear to be doomed to failure. So, the collapse of the eurozone , and possibly the EU itself, cannot be ruled out.

Whatever happens in coming weeks and months, one thing is certain: the 1% will continue to try to shift the burden of their crisis onto the 99%. Whether they succeed will depend upon how effectively resistance develops. Every effort must be made, everywhere, to ensure that it does.

READ @ http://tpjmagazine.us/20111218faulkner

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* HAVEL THE DISSIDENT: A LEGACY WORHT CLAIMING

By Richar RJ Eskow

Václav Havel, playwright and former Czech president speaks at the Forum for Creative Europe.

On a warm evening in 1991, a colleague and I found an out-of-the-way café in the old part of Prague. Two men with blank expressions stood outside. The interior was dim and close, with room for only eight or nine tables. The place was almost empty. Just a sleepy waitress, a bartender polishing glasses, and a single patron who sat alone drinking wine and chain-smoking cigarettes.

The President of Czechoslovakia wasn’t reviewing official papers. He was reading a book, a startlingly un-Presidential act to our American eyes. My companion, a neoconservative State Department official, already admired him for defying and defeating a Communist state. He’d impressed me by bringing a writer’s sensibility and an affinity for true underground culture to his role as head of state.

Václav Havel even tried to appoint Frank Zappa as his Minister of Culture. “We’re not rock musicians,” Zappa told a reporter back in the sixties. “We’re electronic social workers.” The State Department wouldn’t let Zappa assume the post, but Havel had made his point to the Czech public by offering this apparatchik’s position to the composer of songs like “What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?” (“Some say your nose, some say your toes, but I think it’s your mind.”)

We never spoke to Havel that night. It didn’t seem polite to offer anything more than the curt nod of acknowledgement any café patron gives another at that hour. But Havel spoke to us, to all of us. And on the occasion of his death, the real lessons of his life’s work are in danger of being lost.

Today we’re told that the Occupy movement is too idealistic, too naïve. Naïve? Try Havel’s words if you want naïve: “May truth and love triumph over lies and hatred.”

Think of that as the Velvet Revolution’s “one demand.”

Portrait of the President as a Young Freak

As millions of people know, the underground playwright Havel first made his political mark in Charter 77. That group was formed to defend the Plastic People of the Universe, a banned and imprisoned rock band working in the Zappa mold of musical dissonance and cultural dissidence.

The Occupy movement is not on the cultural fringe, despite what its detractors say. But Havel’s movement began as a Yippie-like creature of the underworld. Charter 77 rarely had more than a thousand members. It was a strange blend of political idealism and the hippie subculture where people proudly labeled themselves “freaks” to the conventional world. Despite its later alignment with economically conservative forces, it was more Allen Ginsburg than Alan Greenspan.

And it was created to defend the Plastic People of the Universe, whose grating music makes Occupy’s drum circles seem like a children’s choir serenading the bored residents of a home for aging veterans.

Words

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – what wonderful words! And how terrifying their meaning can be! Freedom in the shirt unbuttoned before execution. Equality in the constant speed of the guillotine’s fall on different necks. Fraternity in some dubious paradise …

Havel addressed the liberal democratic West on words in the 1970s, noting that the suppression of speech can give language enormous power:

I … live in a country where a writers’ congress speech is capable of shaking the system … a manifesto served as one of the pretexts for the invasion of our country one night by five foreign armies … a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.

When a system has become inflexible and is in danger of collapsing, what it fears most is words. Think about that the next time you see a phalanx of cops tear down a tent city on television.

Havel had been burned by language, too:

The same word can at one moment radiate great hope, at another it can emit lethal rays … true at one moment and false the next, at one moment illuminating, at another, deceptive. On one occasion it can open up glorious horizons, on another, it can lay down the tracks to an entire archipelago of concentration camps.

And as we approach an election year that will be filled with the rhetoric of freedom, this observation still resonates:

The same word can at one time be the cornerstone of peace, while at another time machine-gun fire resounds in its every syllable.

Control

In 1975 Havel had the presumption to write directly to Czechoslovakian head of state Gustáv Husák with a few suggestions. There’s more than a passing resemblance between the fear-driven Communist society Havel condemned in that letter and the financial anxiety many Americans endure today:

The technique of existential pressure is … universal. There is no one in our country who is not, in a broad sense, existentially vulnerable. Everyone has something to lose and so everyone has reason to be afraid. The range of things one can lose is broad, extending from the manifold privileges of the ruling caste… down to the mere possibility of living in that limited degree of legal certainty available to other citizens.

Today, one out of two Americans lives in financial insecurity. Even many upper-middle-class citizens live from month to month, just one layoff notice away from medical bankruptcy or home foreclosure.

“Everyone has something to lose,” observed Havel.

Havel’s description of his 20th Century Communist society echoes our own:

The more completely one abandons any hope of general reform, any interest in suprapersonal goals and values, or any chance of exercising influence in an ‘outward’ direction, the more one’s energy is diverted in the direction of least resistance, that is, ‘inwards.'”

People today are preoccupied far more with themselves … They fill their homes with all kinds of appliances and pretty things, they try to improve their accommodations, they try to make life pleasant for themselves, building cottages, looking after their cars, taking more interest in food and clothing and domestic comfort …They turn their main attention to the material aspects of their private lives.

Havel concluded that “Despair leads to apathy, apathy to conformity, and conformity to routine (political) performance – which is then quoted as evidence of ‘mass political involvement.'”

Ambition

Havel understood the psychology of greed and power, too. From his letter to Husák:

If it is fear which lies behind people’s defensive attempts to preserve what they have, it becomes increasingly apparent that the chief impulses for their aggressive efforts to win what they do not yet possess are selfishness and careerism.

It is not surprising that so many public and influential positions are occupied more than ever before by notorious careerists, opportunists, charlatans, and men of dubious record.

From Prague to Washington, from Moscow to lower Manhattan, the opportunities change. But human nature never does:

Seldom in recent times has a social system offered scope so openly and so brazenly to people willing to support anything as long as it brings them some advantage; to unprincipled and spineless men, prepared to do anything in their craving for power and personal gain; to born lackeys, ready for any humiliation and willing at all times to sacrifice their neighbors’ and their own honor for a chance to ingratiate themselves with those in power.

Technocracy

It’s a historical irony that those who claim they’ll govern with the most efficiency usually wind up governing with the least effectiveness. Today corporate-funded politicians from both parties argue that the country should be led by “technocrats’ who’ll govern without messy “ideologies.”

That’s a false premise Havel knew well. He called it the “process by which power becomes anonymous and depersonalized, reduced to a mere technology of rule and manipulation.”

Washington’s technocratic “bipartisans” dream of a world where, in Havel’s words, the “professional ruler is (seen as) the ‘innocent’ tool of an ‘innocent’ anonymous power … legitimized by science, cybernetics, ideology, law, abstraction, and objectivity – that is, by everything except personal responsibility to human beings as persons and neighbors.” Havel’s Prague is our Beltway:

States grow ever more machinelike; people are transformed into statistical choruses of voters, producers, consumers, patients, tourists, or soldiers, (where) in politics good and evil, categories of the natural world and therefore obsolete remnants of the past, lose all absolute meaning (and where) the sole method of politics is quantifiable success.

Havel condemned a system of state-orchestrated political theater, and the self-perpetuating failures of imagination which mistook the indifferent and pro forma participation of its citizens for genuine democracy. And he saw its universal nature:

(It) has a thousand masks, variants, and expressions. Essentially, though, it is the same universal trend … the essential trait of all modern civilization, growing directly from its spiritual structure, rooted in it by a thousand tangled tendrils and inseparable even in thought from its technological nature, its mass characteristics, and its consumer orientation.

“The contemporary concept of ‘normal’ behavior is,” Havel wrote, “deeply pessimistic.”

Responsibility

“I favor ‘antipolitical politics,'” said Havel, “politics not as the technology of power and manipulation, of cybernetic rule over humans or as the art of the utilitarian, but politics as one of the ways of seeking and achieving meaningful lives, of protecting them and serving them.”

I favor politics as practical morality, as service to the truth, as essentially human and humanly measured care for our fellow humans.

None of us–as an individual–can save the world as a whole, but . . . each of us must behave as though it were in his power to do so.

Decades later he said this to the leaders of Western countries:

Today, more than ever before in the history of mankind, everything is interrelated … Because of this, the future of the United States or the European Union is being decided in suffering Sarajevo or Mostar, in the plundered Brazilian rain forests, in the wretched poverty of Bangladesh or Somalia.

Havel had glaring faults. American neocons offered him small favors during his final rise to power. He reciprocated, consciously or unconsciously, by aiding their destructive military ventures and adopting their foolish economic policies. He succumbed to the politics of personality, both his own and those of the leaders who courted him. But it would be a shame if that’s all the world remembered.

Havel seemed unhappy in the role of leader. It’s possible than he lost sight of his deepest insights, his truest gifts. It was the outsider Havel, the dreamer of the impossible, the surrealist and absurdist, we should remember. That’s the Havel who can and should inspire dissidents everywhere.

“Is the human word truly powerful enough to change the world and influence history?” he once asked. With his life and his words, Václav Havel gave us his answer. He showed us the power in each individual and the responsibility that accompanies that power.

At his best, and above all else, Havel was a dissident outsider who realized his power and used it. Now it’s our turn. […]

READ @ http://crooksandliars.com/richard-rj-eskow/havel-dissident-legacy-worth-clai

Dec 192011
 

 

* MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

By Brad Friedman

It seems perversely appropriate that we’d be able to watch the very last U.S. military convoy exit Iraq today, as seen above, courtesy of a U.S. Air Force Predator drone hovering overhead. The video documents what is purported to be the last truck crossing the border into Kuwait as the robotic camera zooms in on the gates at the border crossing as guards close them, bringing the undeclared war to a quiet and ignominious close…of sorts…

It required the service of more than 1 million U.S. troops, the deaths of some 4,474 of them (the last of whom was 23 year-old Army Spec. David E. Hickman, killed last month), debilitating and often permanent physical injuries to more than 33,000 of them, the mental scars to God-only-knows how many hundreds of thousands of them, the deaths of a minimum of 104,000, though as much as over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians, all at a cost of nearly $1 trillion at a minimum, though as much as $3 trillion.

But the evil dictator, whose evil dictating the U.S. had helped support and finance and facilitate for much of his reign, was permanently removed from power. So there’s that.

Today, after nearly a full decade in support of that absurd purported mission, the last of all but 150 U.S. troops have finally left Iraq, with the rest — and several thousand “private” contractors — left behind to guard our embassy and other remaining “U.S. assets”.

Yes, it’s true that candidate Obama had promised to end the Iraq War, even as President Obama fought to keep it going against the preference of the Iraqis, and even as, with that battle lost, he’s now more than happy to take credit for it finally being “over” nonetheless.

As Marcy Wheeler notes, it’s not really over, as evidenced by the U.S. Senate’s recent rejection of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) motion to officially declare as much by Congressional fiat. The undeclared and second-longest “war” in U.S. history will rage on in the hearts of those who’d never had the courage to officially declare it in the first place.

But home the troops are coming, as scheduled, in time for Christmas. And for those men and women and their families, this particular leg of this particular self-inflicted long national nightmare — one of an ongoing too-many — is finally coming to a long overdue end.

And for now, at least if the calls to make the same-but-even-worse mistake all over again by attacking Iran — as echoed by virtually all of the GOP Presidential candidates (save for Ron Paul) at last Thursday’s debate — is any indication, we will not have learned a single lesson from any of it. […]

READ @ http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8996

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* ALL ”REASONS” FOR WAR ON IRAN ARE “EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES” OBVIOUS LIES

By Carl Herman, Washington’s Blog

The US and Israel lie for war with Iran in two key areas of propaganda that you are responsible to understand if you want a US government operating UNDER the law:

  1. Iran’s president never physically threatened Israel.
  2. All of Iran’s nuclear material is fully accounted for peaceful and legal use for energy and medicine.

The US completely lied for its unlawful attack and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. We now know from our own government’s disclosure of the evidence that all “reasons” for war were known lies.

Our soldiers, government employees, and citizens who operate under good faith have been duped with the above “Big Lies” that are easily proven but difficult to embrace from cognitive dissonance.

When the facts are so clear, the obvious conclusion any rational citizen must make is that the US has planned and is considering a false flag attack to use a dirty or nuclear bomb, blame Iran, and finalize their Middle East tyrannical policy of domination.

The solution is to arrest and prosecute the obvious criminals in areas of war policy and corporate media that lie in provable commission and omission to continue US CRIMINAL wars.

US war laws explained, why Afghanistan and Iraq wars are unlawful, how to end them

Are US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well-intended mistakes? What we now know from the evidence

Open proposal for US revolution: end unlawful wars, criminal economics (4-part series)

Occupy This: US History exposes the 1%’s crimes then and now (6-part series)

[…]

READ AND VIDEO @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/

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* ENGINEERING CONSENT FOR ATTACK ON IRAN — U.S. COURT CLAMIS IRANIAN 9/11 LINK

By RT, Information Clearing House

A US court has won a default judgement that Iranian officials, including its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, provided help to the 9/11 hijackers behind the worst terror attack on American soil. The lawsuit was filed by the families of the atrocity’s victims. There was no Iranian representation in court. RT talks to Michel Chossudovsky, Director of the Center for Research on Globalization.

IRAN ACCUSED OF 9/11 ROLE

By Fox “FAUX” News

May 20, 2011 “Fox News” — NEW YORK: Two defectors from Iran’s intelligence service have testified that Iranian officials knew in advance about the attacks of September 11, 2001, says a US court filing that seeks damages for Iran’s ”direct support for, and sponsorship of, the most deadly act of terrorism in American history”.

[…]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30022.htm

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* PANGALOS’ RECEPTION IN BERLIN

By When the Crisis hit the Fan

This  is how the vice-president of the Greek government, Theodoros Pangalos, was received in Berlin by local Greek activists (of the Real Democracy movement). The banner stated support for the 400 strikers of Hellenic Halyvourgia steel industry. They’ve been on strike for about two months, one of the biggest labor actions for decades. The strike has been greatly underreported in the Greek media, causing concern and suspicion.

READ @ http://whenthecrisishitthefan.com/

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* POLITICS OVER PRINCIPLE

By Andrew Rosenthal, NYTimes

The trauma of Sept. 11, 2001, gave rise to a dangerous myth that, to be safe, America had to give up basic rights and restructure its legal system. The United States was now in a perpetual state of war, the argument went, and the criminal approach to fighting terrorism — and the due process that goes along with it — wasn’t tough enough.

President George W. Bush used this insidious formula to claim that his office had the inherent power to detain anyone he chose, for as long as he chose, without a trial; to authorize the torture of prisoners; and to spy on Americans without a warrant. President Obama came into office pledging his dedication to the rule of law and to reversing the Bush-era policies. He has fallen far short.

Mr. Obama refused to entertain any investigation of the abuses of power under his predecessor, and he has been far too willing to adopt Mr. Bush’s extravagant claims of national secrets to prevent any courthouse accountability for those abuses. This week, he is poised to sign into law terrible new measures that will make indefinite detention and military trials a permanent part of American law. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/opinion/politics-over-principle.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

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* OBAMA’S “TWISTED VERSION OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM” LAID BARE

By Jason Leopold, Truthout

President Barack Obama would like the world to know that the US can do whatever it damn well pleases, thank you very much.

Obama also wants the whole, wide world to get this through its thick skull: only rogue governments that implement a policy of rendition, torture, indefinite detention and extrajudicial assassination are guilty of human rights abuses and should be held accountable.

That’s the clear-cut message Obama articulated late last Friday when he issued a proclamation commemorating the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“All people should live free from the threat of extrajudicial killing, torture, oppression and discrimination, regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability,” Obama’s proclamation states.

Apparently, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president doesn’t believe the indefinite detention of detainees at Guantanamo, especially those who have already been cleared for release; or the administration’s refusal to allow prisoners detained and tortured by the US government in Afghanistan, rises to the level of human rights abuses as outlined in his stunningly hypocritical proclamation. Nor does the former constitutional law professor believe that the extrajudicial killing of Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and propagandist Samir Kahn, US citizens accused of aiding terrorists who were assassinated without due process by a drone strike Obama personally authorized, is a noteworthy human rights issue.

Obama’s proclamation also contained another embarrassing contradiction: it declared the week of December 10th as Human Rights Week, the same week Congress debated and is set to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a controversial piece of legislation that would give the president the power to indefinitely imprison without charge or trial or a court hearing anyone suspected of terrorist activity in the US.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama’s senior advisers would recommend to the president that he should not veto the bill, as Obama had promised to do, because Congress made minor changes Monday to the provisions in the legislation related to the treatment of terrorism suspects with which the administration is now satisfied.

When the US voted in favor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it promised to uphold several ideals, including one that said, “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.”

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said if Obama signs the bill, he will “go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.” […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/obamas-twisted-version-american-exceptionalism-laid-bare/1323961572

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* AN INDIE FILM TAKES UP BRADLEY MANNING’S PLIGHT

By Bob Calhoun, Salon

As the army private’s hearing begins, this harrowing short imagines his detention

Director Kyle Broom wanted to take “Prevention of Injury (POI)” through the film festival circuit just like every other independent filmmaker, but this 20-minute film has the burden of being about something. The film’s main character is doesn’t have a name. He’s referred to in the credits only as “The Detainee.” Actor Jordan Butcher doesn’t look much like Bradley Manning, but this hardly matters. Butcher pretty much is Bradley Manning here. He’s locked in a white-walled cell in near solitary confinement where being “administratively upgraded” to suicide prevention status brings with it the tortures of restraint and sleep deprivation. Amnesty International has condemned the real Private Manning’s treatment as harsh and punitive. In this film, you get a glimpse of what it must be like. After a few screenings at various Occupy sites, Broom and producer Alexandra Spector posted their film on Vimeo to get as wide an audience as possible before Manning’s Article 32 hearing (a kind of military code preliminary hearing) set for Friday.

Watch the film while you can. This whole country might soon become one giant sequestered jury.

VIDEO @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30028.htm

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* SUPPORTERS GIVE BRADLEY MANNING A HERO’S TRIBUTE OUTSIDE FORT MEADE

By John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening

Pasted Graphic.tiff

(Photo: John Grant)

Ft. Meade — Saturday, December 17th was Bradley Manning’s 24th birthday, and at least 300 supporters gathered outside Fort Meade, Maryland, where the military was in its second day of a preliminary hearing process that’s expected to take about a week. Manning worked in military intelligence and is alleged to have released military secrets to WikiLeaks, which released the material publicly.

After collecting at the main gate, Manning supporters set off for a two-mile march to a gate nearer the military hearing site. The group was quite spirited and, despite Anne Arundel County Police efforts to keep marchers on the sidewalk, insisted on taking up a lane of the street. The police wisely did not attempt to stop them and there were no problems. […]

READ @ http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/959

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* WHY IS THE NYPD AFTER ME?

By Nicholas K. Peart, NYTimes

WHEN I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.

One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister’s house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!”

I was stunned. And I was scared. Then I was on the ground — with a gun pointed at me. I couldn’t see what was happening but I could feel a policeman’s hand reach into my pocket and remove my wallet. Apparently he looked through and found the ID I kept there. “Happy Birthday,” he said sarcastically. The officers questioned my cousin and friend, asked what they were doing in town, and then said goodnight and left us on the sidewalk.

Less than two years later, in the spring of 2008, N.Y.P.D. officers stopped and frisked me, again. And for no apparent reason. This time I was leaving my grandmother’s home in Flatbush, Brooklyn; a squad car passed me as I walked down East 49th Street to the bus stop. The car backed up. Three officers jumped out. Not again. The officers ordered me to stand, hands against a garage door, fished my wallet out of my pocket and looked at my ID. Then they let me go.

I was stopped again in September of 2010. This time I was just walking home from the gym. It was the same routine: I was stopped, frisked, searched, ID’d and let go.

These experiences changed the way I felt about the police. After the third incident I worried when police cars drove by; I was afraid I would be stopped and searched or that something worse would happen. I dress better if I go downtown. I don’t hang out with friends outside my neighborhood in Harlem as much as I used to. Essentially, I incorporated into my daily life the sense that I might find myself up against a wall or on the ground with an officer’s gun at my head. For a black man in his 20s like me, it’s just a fact of life in New York.

Here are a few other facts: last year, the N.Y.P.D. recorded more than 600,000 stops; 84 percent of those stopped were blacks or Latinos. Police are far more likely to use force when stopping blacks or Latinos than whites. In half the stops police cite the vague “furtive movements” as the reason for the stop. Maybe black and brown people just look more furtive, whatever that means. These stops are part of a larger, more widespread problem — a racially discriminatory system of stop-and-frisk in the N.Y.P.D. The police use the excuse that they’re fighting crime to continue the practice, but no one has ever actually proved that it reduces crime or makes the city safer. Those of us who live in the neighborhoods where stop-and-frisks are a basic fact of daily life don’t feel safer as a result. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/opinion/sunday/young-black-and-frisked-by-the-nypd.html?_r=1

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* NORTH KOREAN LEADER KIM JONG II IS DEAD

By Evan Ramstad, Wall St. Journal

Kim Jong Il, the dictator who used fear and isolation to maintain power in North Korea and his nuclear weapons to menace his neighbors and threaten the U.S., has died, North Korean state television reported early Monday.

His death opens a new and potentially dangerous period of transition and instability for North Korea and northeast Asia. Mr. Kim in September 2010 tapped the youngest of his three sons, Kim Jong Eun, to succeed him, and North Korean state television on Monday said the younger Mr. Kim will lead the country.

Mr. Kim, who was 69 or 70 years old, according to varying accounts, died during a train ride on Saturday, a weeping television announcer said. He was believed to have been in ill health since suffering a stroke in 2008, and North Korean media said he experienced an “advanced acute myorcardial infarction,” or heart attack. […]

READ @ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703864204576321193199255166.html

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* THE 14 BIGGEST LIES OF 2011

By David J. Rothkopf, Foreign Policy

I live in Washington where lying is an art form. Actually, that suggests an artist’s intent and here in D.C., lying is more reflexive, like breathing or taking cash from fat cats.

But when you live in a place like this — if you can call it living — where somehow we have managed to train moral mice to produce the shit of bulls, you really get an appreciation for a fine lie. Some stand out for their subtlety — they almost feel true. (President Obama wants to get special interests out of American politics.) Some are noteworthy because of their audacity (Newt Gingrich brought down communism.) Some capture our attention because of the ability of their authors to deliver them with a straight face (Mitt Romney says he has deeply held political convictions).

But every year there are a select few lies offered here and out on the world stage that stand out. They are the big lies that have defined our times.

Let me offer a few examples from just the world of U.S. foreign policy and then, if you have more suggestions, please, send them in. Someday soon we plan to build a Museum of Lying right out on the Mall so there is finally a monument that captures the essence of this festering swamp.

1. “This next summit of European leaders will be decisive …”

We’ve heard this one every few weeks for months now. And every time our supposedly sophisticated financial markets fall for it again. It’s like Lucy with Charlie Brown’s football. When will we learn?

2. “The war in Iraq is finally over after 9 years.”

Much celebration today due to this “fact.” Seems pretty straightforward. But of course, we’ve been militarily engaged one way or another with Iraq since the early 1990s. This is just the end of one of a series of wars in the region. My bet is it’s not the last one.

3. “America’s mission in Iraq was a success.”

See previous lie. The place is divided, undemocratic, heavily influenced by Iran, corrupt, and our invasion cost $1 trillion, thousands of U.S. lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and our national reputation. Look in the dictionary next to fiasco. There’s a little picture of a dude in a flight jacket standing on a carrier deck in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner.

4. “We are winning in Afghanistan.”

Latest version of this howler came just today from Secretary of Defense Panetta in Afghanistan. If winning were narrowly defined as beating al Qaeda, it’d be true. But, if we leave and the place is more dangerous, the Taliban is back in charge, we’re associated with corruption and departure, we’ve strengthened the region’s extremists and the threat of instability in nuclear Pakistan is now actually higher than it was when we went in, it’s hard to see how we can call it “winning” unless by “we” we mean Charlie Sheen.

5. Tie: “Pakistan is America’s ally” and “Afghanistan is America’s partner.”

I know, I know, you say “it’s a lie,” I say, “it’s diplomacy,” potato, potahto. But there is actually no credible definition by which the government of Pakistan could be called an ally of the U.S. unless you are willing to overlook all their enemy-like behavior. Same re: our pal Karzai in Kabul. He’s only a partner in the sense that he’s got his hand in our pocket, even as he is talks smack about us to the world.

6. “America is unthreatened by China’s growth.”

Secretary Clinton was the latest to utter this little prayer. And I’m sure she meant it. And it should be true. But it’s not.

7. “We believe diplomatic pressure may stop Iran’s nuclear program.”

If we believed that would we be waging a secret war there? Which brings us to another lie, “America will never attack Iran.” This is a lie — because we already have.

8. Tie: “Republicans are the problem” and “Democrats are the problem.”

This is the great lie of American politics. It’s not the parties that are the problems. It’s not even the parade of snake oil salesmen and the idle rich who make up our political leadership class. It’s the money. The system is so resolutely corrupt that recent scandals have only resulted in more money flowing into the system and past reforms being undone.

9. “Cutting the taxes of millionaires helps creates U.S. jobs.”

This one wins in the audacity category. It is said with a straight face without one shred of evidence to support it. You know why there’s not one shred of evidence, right? ‘Cause it’s an idiotic, insupportable idea.

10. “The U.S. might default on its debt.”

Wasn’t close to happening. Will never happen. This is still the country that owns the printing presses that produces what is unchallenged as the world’s reserve currency. No president or congress of either party would ever let it happen. The “scare” in August was half hysterical, half fabrication and, in keeping with the way we do math here in D.C., half about trying to jolt the inert denizens of the U.S. Capitol into actually doing something to fix the U.S. deficit.

11. “The Obama administration is committed to serious financial services reform.”

Ha. Dodd-Frank was a palliative. Creating oversight responsibilities without funding the overseers is kabuki theater. Virtually all the serious threats to the financial system that caused 2008 remain. (Even if U.S. banks have made some progress on the capital requirements side, that’s offset by the fact they’re connected to even more reckless eurobanks. And there are more “too big to fail” financial institutions today than there were before the crisis. Derivatives? Only a bigger problem than before. Global regulation? Not an inch of progress.)

12. “Only 9 percent of Americans approve of Congress.”

This can’t possibly be true. There can’t possibly be that many.

13. “The operation in Libya will be over in a matter of days or weeks.”

The operation was a success. But this was wrong and then wrong and then wrong again for months.

14. “I love Israel.”

[…]

READ @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/12/16/the_big_lies_of_2011

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* DEAL TO AVERT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN CUTS PELL GRANTS FOR UP TO 100,000 STUDENTS

By Pat Garofalo, Think Progress

Congressional leaders last night agreed to a $1 trillion bill to fund the government, averting a shutdown that would have started at midnight tonight. The bill reportedly dropped many of the unrelated policy riders that House Republicans had tried to insert into it.

However, the bill does include a cut to the Pell Grant program that could affect up to 100,000 low-income students. Republicans have been pushing for months to slash the Pell Grant program — which provides low-income students with money for higher education — and to limit it’s eligibility requirements. Though the maximum grant will be preserved under the spending deal, students on the edges of eligibility will be out of luck next year:

The bill, HR 3671, draws from ideas put forward in Republican and Democratic spending plans earlier this year: it would preserve the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550, but change the program’s eligibility criteria, making as many as 100,000 of its 9 million recipients ineligible. The grants could be used for a total of 12 semesters, not 18, as in the past — a change that would affect an estimated 62,000 beneficiaries and take effect July 1, 2012. Higher education lobbyists said the limit would apply to any semesters a student was enrolled, rather than only those in which he or she attended full-time, as they had originally thought.

The maximum amount families could earn and automatically contribute nothing toward an undergraduate education would decrease from $30,000 to $23,000.

The plan also retroactively limits the number of semesters that a student can use grants, meaning some students a semester or two away from graduation could see their grants dry up. The Institute for College Access and Success said that these changes “would disproportionately affect black students and transfer students.” The education reform organization Education Trust also criticized the cuts, saying that they “will hit some of America’s most disadvantaged college students the hardest.”

At the same time that Republicans so adamantly opposed a surtax on income in excess of $1 million that Democrats ultimately dropped it from the negotiations, it’s disheartening that one of the few things the two parties could agree on was cutting a program that is key to America’s education competitiveness. […]

READ @ http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/12/16/390751/spending-deal-cuts-pell-grants/

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* TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SUSTAIN THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT

By Walter Moseley and co-edited by Rae Gomes, The Nation

Angela Davis has noted that one of the failures in our collective memory of the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham is that we have forgotten the names and activist leanings of the four girls—Carole, Denise, Addie Mae and Cynthia—who are often merely reported to be four black girls who died in the bombings. In fact, the burgeoning activists were preparing to give a presentation about civil rights at the church’s annual Youth Day program. Rosa Parks, before she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, had just finished a course on nonviolent action. To neglect the activist background and intention of these women is to believe falsely that historic moments like the civil rights movement “just happen.” In fact, years of organizing and strategizing bring about their birth. Travis Holloway, a poet, political philosopher and activist at Occupy Wall Street, believes this movement has the potential to go beyond mere words and slogans (though, he writes in a recent piece, these help), and like the civil rights movement, to effect real change. Along with suggestions from a wide range of activists, here are “Ten Things” to keep the Occupy movement going and build a foundation for long-term change.

1. We are the 99 percent. A movement of the 99 percent must be inclusive in its makeup and its goals. “The issues of the bottom of the 99 percent have to move to the top of the agenda,” writes Elias Holtz. Be sure that the movement involves those of all backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious and cultural affiliations and work towards representing the movement through women and people of color. Engage community leaders and ask them what are the most pressing issues they’re facing and fight alongside them. Read organizer Paulina Gonzalez’s experience at Occupy LA.

2. Whose streets? Our streets! Crackdowns on encampments means the movement shifts from holding a space to major public events, actions on the street, and horizontal, online organizing forums. Join a working group according to your interest and stay updated on major days of action.

3. Imagine all the people. Rallies aren’t the only form of protest. Be creative and don’t forget to surprise. If your opponent is counting on noisy drum circles or big signs, try a silent march or vigil (like the  students at UC Davis) or looking like your opponent by walking the streets in business suits. For ideas and inspiration, read Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. Some ideas include boycotts, mock awards, mock elections, mock funerals, prayer and worship (as a symbolic public act), silence, teach-ins, refusal of public support, etc. Get more creative action ideas from the YesLab.

4. This is what democracy looks like. The value of top-down organization is no longer self-evident—not only in government, given the lack of trust in political representatives, but also in our everyday jobs and institutions. Consider adopting a horizontal decision-making structure. Here are the principles of  workplace democracy and some people who practice it.

5. Occupy the future. Set major, future events now to define the agenda and the permanence of the movement, then use the winter to network in order to better mobilize in the spring. Community organizations, churches and labor have real connections with the community and add support and energy to existing movements. Go to OrganizingUpgrade for ideas on how to build and maintain connections. And don’t let Facebook leave out your grandma.

6. Occupy your life. Everyone has an opportunity to act out the ideals and goals of the Occupiers in his/her everyday life. We may not be able to leave jobs that are inconsistent with our values, but reflecting on our own feelings and opinions can make us stronger and influence others. Check out Occupy Yourself for the holiday season and beyond. Read this article and  watch this video to rethink your allegiance to popular brands.

7. Boycott the 1 percent. Take on a corporation or person that in their actions embody the worst of greed Whoarethe1percent. If you are in a non-union workplace, consider the benefits of worker solidarity when confronting unfair wages or work conditions. Many union organizers are willing and prepared to help you form a union with your fellow workers.

8. Study. Winter is a time to learn more about economic inequality and real strategies for resistance. Schedule a teach-in at an Cccupy event or consider attending one (schedule of NYC teach-ins here). Read “There Are Realistic Alternatives” for a crash course on nonviolent resistance and browse the OWS Library.

9. Nonviolent resistance is five parts organizing, four parts media and one part action. One of the major challenges and successes of organizing is to get media to report on an event. Designate a media person whose sole goal is to pitch to reporters, build relationships, update them on actions, and report back to members. Just keep reiterating the main themes of the movement. You may feel like a broken record, but few things are more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Go to Pitching to news outlets for more suggestions.

10. Occupy education.  Occupy the DOE was a great way the movement showed it could shift from the streets to strategic action by protesting the lack in the structures that instruct. Identify student loan corporations and colleges with the most atrocious tuition hikes. If you are a public university student, connect and collaborate with other schools within your network to protest tuition hikes that most state schools are undergoing. Go to Occupy Student Debt Campaign to learn more.

A Couple More Things:

11. Exit Strategy Always have one. Be imaginative enough to see possible outcomes of the movement and always have a plan for anything that arises.

12. Occupy “Other Things.” Think we missed out on a fundamental piece of advice or suggested action? Think we were utterly wrong about one of them? Send your suggestions, corrections and slams to nationtenthings@gmail.com. […]

READ @ http://www.thenation.com/article/165117/ten-things-you-can-do-sustain-occupy-movement?mid=554

Dec 162011
 

 

* THREE MYTHS ABOUT THE DETENTION BILL

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon 

Condemnation of President Obama is intense, and growing, as a result of his announced intent to sign into law the indefinite detention bill embedded in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). These denunciations come not only from the nation’s leading civil liberties and human rights groups, but also from the pro-Obama New York Times Editorial Page, which today has a scathing Editorial describing Obama’s stance as “a complete political cave-in, one that reinforces the impression of a fumbling presidency” and lamenting that “the bill has so many other objectionable aspects that we can’t go into them all,” as well as from vocal Obama supporters such as Andrew Sullivan, who wrote yesterday that this episode is “another sign that his campaign pledge to be vigilant about civil liberties in the war on terror was a lie.” In damage control mode, White-House-allied groups are now trying to ride to the rescue with attacks on the ACLU and dismissive belittling of the bill’s dangers.

For that reason, it is very worthwhile to briefly examine — and debunk — the three principal myths being spread by supporters of this bill, and to do so very simply: by citing the relevant provisions of the bill, as well as the relevant passages of the original 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), so that everyone can judge for themselves what this bill actually includes (this is all above and beyond the evidence I assembled in writing about this bill yesterday):

Myth # 1: This bill does not codify indefinite detention

[…]

Myth #2: The bill does not expand the scope of the War on Terror as defined by the 2001 AUMF

[…]

Myth #3: U.S. citizens are exempted from this new bill

[…]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2011/12/16/three_myths_about_the_detention_bill/singleton/

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* ANONYMOUS ATTACKING CREATORS OF INDEFINITE DETENTION BILL

By RT

With President Obama read to sign away the freedoms of Americans by inking his name to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, opponents are already going after the lawmakers that made the legislation possible.

The act, abbreviated as NDAA FY2012, managed to make its way through Congress with overwhelming support in recent days, despite legislation that allows for Americans to be detained indefinitely and tortured by authorities for the mere suspicion of committing “a belligerent act.” The Obama administration originally decreed that they would veto the bill, only for the White House to announce a change of heart on Wednesday this week.

With the passing of the act almost certain at this point, hackers aligned to the massive collective Anonymous are taking a stab at staking out the politicians that helped put the bill in the president’s hands.

On Wednesday, Internet hacktivists gathered on the Web to find a way to take on the lawmakers, who have allowed for this detrimental legislation to make it all the way to the Oval Office desk. Upon discussion of routes to take to show their opposition to the overwhelming number of politicians who voted in favor of NDAA, Anonymous members agreed to begin with Senator Robert J Portman, a Republican lawmaker from the state of Ohio.

By Thursday morning, an Anonymous operative released personal information pertaining to the lawmaker, and revealed that not only was Sen. Portman among the politicians to vote “aye” on the legislation, but it has also been revealed that the senator had good reason to do so.

According to a OpenCongress.org, Sen. Portman received $272,853 from special interest groups that have shown support for NDAA.

“Robert J. Portman, we plan to make an example of you,” writes an Anonymous operative. The hacktivist has also released personal data including the senator’s home address, phone number and social networking accounts in an attempt to further an infiltration from the Internet to show the opposition to the bill that colossally impacts the constitutional rights of Americans.

According to the information posted by the operative, the nearly $300,000 in special interest monies lobbied at Portman could have helped him purchase around $1.7 million in real estate in Ohio.

The next lawmaker to receive anywhere near as much as Sen. Portman is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada and third-ranked official in Congress, who pulled in more than $100,000 less than his Ohio counterpart with $172,635.

Among the supporters of NDAA are California-based manufacturer Surefire, L.L.C., who won a $23 million contract from the Department of Defense three months ago. Also contributing to the cause (and the lawmakers who voted ‘yes’) are Honeywell (who secured a $93 million deal with the Pentagon last May and a $24 million contract this year) and Bluewater Defense, a longtime DoD-ally that produces, among other garments, fire resistant combat uniforms.

When the military storms down your door for suspicion of “belligerent” acts, you can thank Bluewater and Senator Portman for the lovely flame-proof attire the soldiers will be donned in as they haul you off to Gitmo. […]

READ @ http://rt.com/usa/news/anonymous-ndaa-portman-torture-913/

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* OBAMA: A DISASTER FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

He may prove the most disastrous president in our history in terms of civil liberties.

By Jonathan Turley, LATimes

With the 2012 presidential election before us, the country is again caught up in debating national security issues, our ongoing wars and the threat of terrorism. There is one related subject, however, that is rarely mentioned: civil liberties.

Protecting individual rights and liberties — apart from the right to be tax-free — seems barely relevant to candidates or voters. One man is primarily responsible for the disappearance of civil liberties from the national debate, and he is Barack Obama. While many are reluctant to admit it, Obama has proved a disaster not just for specific civil liberties but the civil liberties cause in the United States.

Civil libertarians have long had a dysfunctional relationship with the Democratic Party, which treats them as a captive voting bloc with nowhere else to turn in elections. Not even this history, however, prepared civil libertarians for Obama. After the George W. Bush years, they were ready to fight to regain ground lost after Sept. 11. Historically, this country has tended to correct periods of heightened police powers with a pendulum swing back toward greater individual rights. Many were questioning the extreme measures taken by the Bush administration, especially after the disclosure of abuses and illegalities. Candidate Obama capitalized on this swing and portrayed himself as the champion of civil liberties.

However, President Obama not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them. The earliest, and most startling, move came quickly. Soon after his election, various military and political figures reported that Obama reportedly promised Bush officials in private that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture. In his first year, Obama made good on that promise, announcing that no CIA employee would be prosecuted for torture. Later, his administration refused to prosecute any of the Bush officials responsible for ordering or justifying the program and embraced the “just following orders” defense for other officials, the very defense rejected by the United States at the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised. He continued warrantless surveillance and military tribunals that denied defendants basic rights. He asserted the right to kill U.S. citizens he views as terrorists. His administration has fought to block dozens of public-interest lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses. […]

READ @ http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-turley-civil-liberties-20110929,0,7542436.story

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* THE SOUND OF ONE PRESIDENT CAVING

By Andrew Rosenthal, NYTimes

[…] The White House says there have been sufficient changes in the military detention provisions for the president to sign the bill. Not that I can see.

The final version still seems to require the military custody of suspected Qaeda operatives—but now the executive can make exceptions to that requirement. (The previous versions only allowed a waiver when the secretary of defense, the attorney general and the head of national intelligence all agreed.) It’s not clear to me how effective this waiver would be in practice, and it seems positively dangerous to leave this decision up to whoever might sit in the White House in future years. Remember, we got into this mess because a president thought he had the power to ignore the constitution and international law.

The bill no longer explicitly bans the use of civilian courts to prosecute Qaeda suspects, but it does authorize indefinite detention—not just for suspected members of Al Qaeda but also its allies. And who can say what that means? So among other terribly depressing consequences, the bill makes it virtually impossible to ever close Guantanamo Bay. (For more detailed information, see the Lawfare blog, which has been covering the NDAA closely, or read Charlie Savage in the Times.)

Most broadly, the bill continues the work President George W. Bush started. Mr. Bush and his supporters exploited the nation’s fear and insecurity after the Sept. 11 attacks (and Democrats’ insecurity about national security) to ram through several unnecessary bills, including the Patriot Act and a dangerous expansion of the government’s ability to spy on Americans’ international communications without judicial supervision. Now, Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress have proven that they’re equally willing to curtail civil liberties, and, in the process, further damage America’s global reputation as a defender of human rights.

I think it’s barely possible that Mr. Obama would sign a waiver of military detention when warranted. But it’s impossible to imagine a Republican successor doing that. And that’s the big point. This is supposed to be a nation of laws, not a nation of men we just really hope will make good decisions. I wish Mr. Obama saw that more clearly.

READ @ http://loyalopposition.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/the-sound-of-one-president-caving/

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* IRAQI GIRL TELLS OF U.S. ATTACK IN HADITHA

By Information Clearing House

Ten-year-old Iman Walid witnessed  the killing of seven members of her family in an attack by American marines last November. The interview with Iman was filmed exclusively for ITV News by Ali Hamdani, our Iraqi video diarist.

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13452.htm

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* WHY DO PEOPLE DEFEND UNJUST, INEPT AND CORRUPT SYSTEMS?

By ScienceDaily 

Why do we stick up for a system or institution we live in — a government, company, or marriage — even when anyone else can see it is failing miserably? Why do we resist change even when the system is corrupt or unjust? A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, illuminates the conditions under which we’re motivated to defend the status quo — a process called “system justification.”

System justification isn’t the same as acquiescence, explains Aaron C. Kay, a psychologist at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, who co-authored the paper with University of Waterloo graduate student Justin Friesen. “It’s pro-active. When someone comes to justify the status quo, they also come to see it as what should be.”

Reviewing laboratory and cross-national studies, the paper illuminates four situations that foster system justification: system threat, system dependence, system inescapability, and low personal control.

When we’re threatened we defend ourselves — and our systems. Before 9/11, for instance, President George W. Bush was sinking in the polls. But as soon as the planes hit the World Trade Center, the president’s approval ratings soared. So did support for Congress and the police. During Hurricane Katrina, America witnessed FEMA’s spectacular failure to rescue the hurricane’s victims. Yet many people blamed those victims for their fate rather than admitting the agency flunked and supporting ideas for fixing it. In times of crisis, say the authors, we want to believe the system works.

We also defend systems we rely on. In one experiment, students made to feel dependent on their university defended a school funding policy — but disapproved of the same policy if it came from the government, which they didn’t perceive as affecting them closely. However, if they felt dependent on the government, they liked the policy originating from it, but not from the school.

When we feel we can’t escape a system, we adapt. That includes feeling okay about things we might otherwise consider undesirable. The authors note one study in which participants were told that men’s salaries in their country are 20% higher than women’s. Rather than implicate an unfair system, those who felt they couldn’t emigrate chalked up the wage gap to innate differences between the sexes. “You’d think that when people are stuck with a system, they’d want to change it more,” says Kay. But in fact, the more stuck they are, the more likely are they to explain away its shortcomings. Finally, a related phenomenon: The less control people feel over their own lives, the more they endorse systems and leaders that offer a sense of order.

The research on system justification can enlighten those who are frustrated when people don’t rise up in what would seem their own best interests. Says Kay: “If you want to understand how to get social change to happen, you need to understand the conditions that make people resist change and what makes them open to acknowledging that change might be a necessity.” […]

READ @ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111212153157.htm#.Tue9mD7jfiY.gmail

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* U.S. DETERMINED TO PUNISH BRADLEY MANNING

By Marcel Rosenbach and Gregor Peter Schmitz, Spiegel Online International

For some, Bradley Manning is a hero. Others feel that the US soldier, who is accused of providing secret documents to WikiLeaks, is a traitor and a threat to American security. The military proceedings against him, which begin Friday, are likely to end in a guilty verdict.

Daniel Ellsberg knows a few things about heroes. In fact, many Americans see him as a hero. When he was working for a key think tank associated with the United States military, Ellsberg photocopied the so-called Pentagon Papers, 7,000 pages of top secret analysis and documents that revealed that American politicians knew all too well how hopeless the situation in Vietnam was. When the New York Times published the secret documents in 1971, it opened the eyes of Ellsberg’s fellow Americans once and for all to the details of a disastrous war.

But when Ellsberg, now 80 and white-haired but still energetic, talks about heroes, he is no longer thinking about the past. Today he says that Bradley Manning, the presumed source of the classified documents about American military officials and diplomats published by WikiLeaks last year, is “unreservedly a hero.” There are so many things Manning’s actions uncovered, says Ellsberg, as he begins to rattle them off. Could the Arab Spring have materialized without the WikiLeaks reports on the corruption of Arab potentates? And would anyone have been talking about war crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq without the documents on detainee abuse?

Ellsberg is convinced that like him, Private Manning, who was only 22 at the time, wrote history and, just as in Ellsberg’s case, the powerful are now intent on punishing Manning for what he did. Former US President Richard Nixon once threatened to throw Ellsberg into prison. But to the country’s highest courts, the truth was more important than government secrecy, and Ellsberg and the Times emerged unscathed. The man who had exposed the government’s secrets about Vietnam became the prototype of the whistleblower. […]

READ @ http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,803726,00.html

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* HOW WE ALL PAY FOR THE HUGE TAX PRIVILEGES GRANTED TO RELIGION — IT’S TIME TO TAX THE CHURCH

By Adam Lee, AlterNet

[…] Why don’t we consider taxing the churches?

Not all churches or all ministers are rich, but some of them are very rich indeed. And that’s no surprise, because society subsidizes them through a constellation of generous tax breaks that aren’t available to any other institution, even non-profits. For example, religious organizations can opt out of Social Security and Medicare withholding. Religious employers are exempt from unemployment taxes, and in some states, from sales tax. Religious ministers — and no other profession; the law specifies that only “ministers of the gospel” are eligible for this benefit — can receive part of their salary as a “housing allowance” on which they pay no taxes. (Compounding the absurdity, they can then turn around and double-dip, deducting their mortgage interest from their taxes, even when their mortgage is being paid with tax-free money in the first place.) And, of course, churches are exempt from property tax and from federal income tax.We’re all paying for the special privileges afforded to religion. Your taxes and mine have to be higher to make up the revenue shortfall that the government isn’t taking in because these huge, wealthy churches don’t pay their own way. By some estimates, the property tax exemption alone removes $100 billion in property from U.S. tax rolls. (And it’s not just the big churches where that exemption bites: According to authors like Sikivu Hutchinson, the proliferation of small storefront churches is a major contributor to poverty and societal dysfunction in poor communities, since these churches remove valuable commercial property from the tax base and ensure that local governments remain cash-strapped and unable to provide basic services.) Just about the only restriction that churches have to abide by in return is that they can’t endorse political candidates — and even this trivial, easily evaded prohibition is routinely and flagrantly violated by the religious right.

Combined with a near-total lack of government scrutiny, the privileges granted to religion have enabled megachurch ministers to live fantastically luxurious lifestyles. An investigation by Sen. Chuck Grassley in 2009 gave a rare public glimpse of how powerful preachers spend the cash they rake in from their flocks: jewelry, luxury clothing, cosmetic surgery, offshore bank accounts, multimillion-dollar lakefront mansions, a fleet of private jets, flights to Hawaii and Fiji, and most famously in the case of Joyce Meyer, a $23,000 marble-topped commode. Meyer’s ministry alone is estimated to have an annual take of around $124 million.

Most of these Elmer Gantry-types preach a theology called the “prosperity gospel.” The basic idea of this is that God wants to shower you with riches, but only if you first “plant a seed of faith” by giving your church as much money as you possibly can, trusting that God will repay you tenfold. (The typical ask is for 10 percent of your annual income — gross, not net; people who tithe based on their net income hate the baby Jesus.) Naturally, this idea has made some churches very, very rich, while making a large number of poor, desperate people even poorer.

One might think this scam would only work for so long before people start to realize that giving all their money away isn’t making them rich. But the pastors who preach it have a very convenient and clever rationalization: when supernatural wealth fails to materialize, they tell their followers that it must be their own fault, that they’re harboring some secret sin that’s preventing God from fulfilling his promises.

But beyond the prosperity gospel, we’re now witnessing a new and even more brazen idea spreading among the American religious right: that the poor should accept their lot without complaint, and that calling for a stronger social safety net or advocating higher taxes on the rich is committing the sin of envy. For example, here’s Watergate felon Chuck Colson, who’s found a profitable after-prison career as a born-again right-wing pundit, denouncing the poor for wanting a better life for themselves:

Despite this, many people insist on soaking the well-off because… what they want is to see their better-off neighbors knocked down a peg. That’s how envy works.

Thomas Aquinas defined envy as “sorrow for another’s good.” It is the opposite of pity. And it is one of the defining sins of our times.

(I would guess that by Colson’s standard, some of the authors of the Bible would also be committing the sin of envy with their denunciations of the rich.) […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153448

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* ELECTION INTEGRITY’S VICTORIA COLLIER SPEAKS UP

By Joan Brunwasser, OpEdNews

[…] You say that “the machines that count our votes ” are controlled by a small cartel of corporations that manufacturer them and program their software. Their owners, stockholders and key staff share, not only extensive criminal histories, but alliances with the right-wing.”  That’s a pretty important and provocative statement. Can you expand on it a little for our readers? Despite any number of investigations by Black Box Voting’s Bev Harris, Brad “Bradblog” Friedman, Marc Crispin Miller and others, this is not widely known or understood. If it’s true that our elections have, in fact, been hijacked by highly partisan individuals, why haven’t alarm bells been going off all over the place – in the press and among our politicians, leaders and the general public? 

Currently I’m compiling the best of the Election Integrity work together onto one webpage: http://www.votescam.org/the_evidence. This will narrow the field of research for people new to the issue, and show what an amazing body of evidence we have that our votes are regularly stolen through centralized computerized rigging.

So, with the caveat that people who care need to start exploring that body of evidence themselves, I will point to some highlights about the crooks who manufacture our vote counting machines.

Lynn Landes explains on her website that there is no government oversight of our elections, or the elections equipment industry:

There are no government standards or restrictions on who can sell and service voting machines and systems. Foreigners, convicted criminals, office holders, political candidates, and news media organizations can and do own these companies. . . Many voting machine companies appear to share managers, investors, and equipment which raises questions of conflict-of-interest and monopolistic practices.

The two biggest corporations, Diebold and ES&S, were originally owned by two Russian brothers, Todd and Bob Urosevich. They took over other manufacturers until they were the major election equipment suppliers. In 2009, Diebold was sold to ES&S. Currently, the only other company of any significance is based in Canada.

In Chapter 8 of Black Box Voting, Bev Harris delves more deeply into the right-wing, religious, military, media, and big energy connections of the ownership, key personnel, and stockholders of the manufacturers — and the charges against them of bid-rigging, anti-trust evasion, kick-backs, money laundering, bribery, embezzling, price-fixing, stock scams, defrauding the government, tax fraud, computer fraud, and cocaine trafficking.

These criminals are the people building our election equipment.   Their machines count our votes in secret, completely unobservable within their “proprietary” software. Can you imagine anything more insane?

Both Diebold and ES&S have also been caught installing uncertified software in their machines. Former Diebold bank machine auditor Stephen Spoonamore admits that Christian fundamentalists were, at one point, most of the people who programmed the Diebold and ES&S voting machines. And lest we forget, Diebold’s CEO Wally O’Dell infamously promised to “deliver” the 2004 Ohio results to George W. Bush.

And it’s not just the manufacturers who are crooked — it’s also the companies that certify their machines.

Harris writes, “You would expect that a company that certifies our voting machines would not have its owners running for office. You would also expect that no one who owns the certification company would be under criminal investigation. You’d be disappointed.”

I’ll let the readers enjoy the rest of Chapter 8 themselves. I think you all get the picture. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=142880

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* SOMEONE’S POLLING NEW HAMPSHIRE TO SEE WHETHER REPUBLICAN VOTERS ARE INTERESTED IN JEB BUSH

By Susie Madrak, Crooks and Liars

I wonder who’s behind this? Via Cannonfire, some very intriguing news:

Someone has paid for a poll designed to see if there is any enthusiasm for a Jeb Bush run against Barack Obama in 2012.

Here’s more:

After all, it would be too late for Bush to enter the race, right? Everyone has been told that the field is set. And indeed, in several primary states qualifying has closed. But New Hampshire allows voters to write-in any name they choose. And most party caucuses either don’t have a ballot or have a pretty open write-in policy. Don’t forget, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. won a surprise write-in victory in New Hampshire without ever declaring himself a candidate for President in 1964.

There is still time. In fact, if Jeb was interested in seeking the party’s nomination, this might be his smoothest path to victory.

I can see why some in the GOP leadership might be intrigued by this idea. The base simply does not care for Romney. Newt probably can’t win in the general. Ron Paul is a sincere libertarian — no TARP for him, thank you — and thus will never be allowed to get near the nomination. […]

READ @ http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/someones-polling-new-hampshire-see-wh