Feb 142012



By Arthur Silber, Power of Narrative

I must begin with a reminder. In “The Face of the Killer Who Is Your President,” I excerpted an article by Nick Turse. Here are several passages from Turse’s reporting:

Somewhere on this planet an American commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you’re done… for the day. Without the knowledge of the American public, a secret force within the U.S. military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries.

While it’s well known that U.S. Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has remained deeply in the shadows.

Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command [SOCOM] spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of traveling — a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence — in about 60% of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged — provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.

SOCOM represents something new in the military. Whereas the late scholar of militarism Chalmers Johnson used to refer to the CIA as “the president’s private army,” today JSOC performs that role, acting as the chief executive’s private assassination squad, and its parent, SOCOM, functions as a new Pentagon power-elite, a secret military within the military possessing domestic power and global reach.

In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once “special” for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura. […]

READ @ http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2012/02/nightmare-without-limits.html



By gjohnsit, Daily Kos

[…]  Some are considering Romania to be the “canary in the coal mine”.

 Ban warns Eastern European politicians against ignoring the social costs of austerity measures, as citizens begin thinking about distribution of wealth, not only about corruption. He mentions the ongoing protests in the country, which have continued for the last four weeks, highlighting the protesters’ doubts over planned privatization and deregulation reforms and the emergence of a new civil society in the country. Ban sees the beginnings of what he terms a legitimate grass roots left wing movement, in favor of public ownership of national institutions.  These developments, he believes, could lead to the end of the “almost automatic endorsement of the market” and the “old post-communist settlement” in which political parties could count on an “economically liberal and elite civil society.”

We might be witnessing the beginning of the end of the neoliberal groupthink that has dominated the world for the past three decades.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on Greece, where riots have left parts of Athens in ruins, with 48 buildings set ablaze.  The Troubadour beat me to posting that the police union Poasy was threatening to arrest members of Greece’s troika of lenders.

What the Greek people are fully aware of, but the American media usually fails to mention, is that the latest austerity measures for Greece will not be the last. […]

READ @ http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/02/13/1064299/-The-push-back-is-starting-in-Europe?via=siderec



Source: Aljazeera

Greece will hold general elections in April, the government has said, hours after parliament voted through tough new austerity measures aimed at saving the country from bankruptcy.

“This government has one to one-and-a-half months left,” Pantelis Kapsis, a government spokesman, told journalists on Monday. “We will finish up in March, and elections will be held in April.”

Lucas Papademos, the Greek prime minister who formed a coalition government in November after the fall of George Papandreou’s socialist administration, had indicated that he did not intend to serve the full two years remaining of parliament’s mandate.

He said that his only aim was to negotiate the write-down of part of Athens’ debt and ensure that it qualified for a new European bailout of $171bn.

While he managed to push through the latest austerity measures, the two main parties each saw more than 20 of their MPs rebel, while the extreme-right LAOS party quit the coalition before the vote.

“The government believes that yesterday’s vote expressed our determination to go forward,” Kapsis said. “The Greek people want us to stay in the euro, and we will do whatever it takes to stay in the euro.”

Referring to European Union demands led by Germany for written pledges by party leaders to carry out the reforms demanded, Kapsis said they “must be given by Wednesday”.

Kapsis admitted that Wednesday’s meeting with European leaders to decide whether to release the new bailout “is going to be a difficult one”. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/



Source: The Daily Bell

Germany’s Carthaginian terms for Greece … The last time Germany needed a bail-out from world creditors, it secured better terms than shattered Greece last week … The austerity policy being forced on Greece by Germany and the eurozone cannot command democratic consent over time. – UK Telegraph/Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Dominant Social Theme: Greece has got to pay.

Free-Market Analysis: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard makes good points in this article on Germany’s attack on Greece, but to us it’s a kind of elite dominant social theme. The idea is to blame Germany’s leaders for intolerable austerity, and Chancelor Angela Merkel in particular. However, from our point of view, Merkel is merely working for larger powers-that-be.

It is the Anglosphere power elite that seeks to build up the EU as part of its focus on creating worldwide governance. And it is this same elite that is causing economic chaos in order to further its plans. Out of chaos … order. […]

READ @ http://www.thedailybell.com/3606/Is-Greece-a-Sacrifice-or-the-Shape-of-Things-to-Come



Source: RT

This is the full episode for “Capital Account,” with Lauren Lyster. European Union leaders met over the weekend to try to save the Eurozone, but solutions still appear transparent. Meanwhile, what could the Eurozone crisis mean for average American investors and do they have the Federal Reserve to thank for being exposed in the first place. Speaking of the Fed, is more QE on the way? We speak to James Grant, founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer and acclaimed author. Also as the US goes after Swiss banks for billions of dollars and the names of Americans with secret accounts there, is the US going after the right people to fill its dwindling coffers? And as US President Barack Obama pledges to help underwater American homeowners, some Americans are buying playhouses worth as much as 200 thousand dollars for their kids.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RmF0I2JimRE



Source: youtube.com

The Chicago Principles

• Our solidarity will be based on respect for a political diversity within the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice. As individuals and groups, we may choose to engage in a diversity of tactics and plans of
action but are committed to treating each other with respect and working towards a common goal of peace and justice.

• As we plan our actions and tactics, we will take care to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics.

• We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption, limiting our action to “free speech zones,” and violence, or attempts to divide our movement through the conscious creation of divisions regarding tactics, organization, strategies, and alliances.

• Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYP_Str434Q&feature=youtu.be



By Brother Peter Diamond, youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OynCgwmD-HM#!



By Elizabeth Drew, The New York Book of Reviews

Beneath the turbulent political spectacle that has captured so much of the nation’s attention lies a more important question than who will get the Republican nomination, or even who will win in November: Will we have a democratic election this year? Will the presidential election reflect the will of the people? Will it be seen as doing so—and if not, what happens? The combination of broadscale, coordinated efforts underway to manipulate the election and the previously banned unlimited amounts of unaccountable money from private or corporate interests involved in those efforts threatens the democratic process for picking a president. The assumptions underlying that process—that there is a right to vote, that the system for nominating and electing a president is essentially fair—are at serious risk. […]

READ @ http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/feb/23/can-we-have-democratic-election/?pagination=false



By Mike Ludwig, Truthout

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) influence weighs heavy in the Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature, where brazen attempts to crush the collective bargaining rights of public workers and change voting rules in favor of Republicans have made national headlines in recent months. Over the past year, Ohio lawmakers introduced 33 bills that are identical to or “appear to contain” elements of the ALEC’s infamous model legislation that promotes a pro-corporate agenda, according to a report released this week by watchdog groups.

At least nine of the 33 bills have passed the State Legislature, including the now-defunct Senate Bill 5, which was poised to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights until Ohioans overwhelmingly voted for a repeal in November.

“At a time when Ohioans are desperate for cooperation … seeking Democrats and Republicans to come together to create jobs to get our economy moving again, far too often we see legislation introduced that does just the opposite,” said Tim Burga, president of the Ohio ALF-CIO. “Far too often, we see the influence of ALEC on the legislation that’s introduced, legislation that is anti-worker, anti-consumer and anti-education, and it really seems like it’s on behalf of the super-wealthy and the investor class.” […]

READ @ http://www.truthout.org/ohio-lawmakers-introduced-33-bills-based-alec-model-legislation/1328711032



By Addison Zettas, US Notes

[…] Private prisons like the GEO Group and CCA get contracted to do a wide range of jobs from other corporations and government agencies. The “employees” that GEO and CCA provide are inmates from their penitentiaries who make anywhere from 23 cents to $1.15 per hour.

Of course these “workers” get no benefits, no overtime, and no paid vacations and have no bargaining rights. Companies like CCA and GEO Group profit directly off of providing cheap and, arguably, slave labor.

And, since they’re able to profit so much off of individual prisoners, the more they arrest the greater their returns.

GEO Group made over $11 million by activating 692-beds or inmates, and made $24.6 million by opening a new detention center in Laredo, Texas.

Since we know that these private prisons make money by expanding facilities and imprisoning people, it would only make sense for them to try to pass legislation that would allow them to detain more prisoners and keep them for longer periods of time.

No surprise, that is exactly what’s happening.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is  sponsored by CCA, and was the main lobbyist that argued for the controversial Arizona immigration law, SB 1070. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://usnotes.net/2012/02/11/private-prisons-a-sadistic-scam/



Source: youtube.com

The Wall Street Conspiracy explores a pernicious form of fraud called illegal naked short selling that has had an enormous impact on the 2008 collapse of the US economy.

READ @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHsxLhY-EvE&feature=youtu.be



Source: Time4theTruth

This I felt was so important that I just had to share it with all of our Avid T4TT viewers.

Is it time to act…? You decide……

Below is a Science fair project presented by a girl in a secondary school in Sussex.

In it she took filtered water and divided it into two parts.

The first part she heated to boiling in a pan on the stove, and the second part she heated to boiling in a microwave.

Then after cooling she used the water to water two identical plants to see if there would be any difference in the growth between the normal boiled water and the water boiled in a microwave. […]Pasted Graphic.tiff

READ and PHOTOS @ http://www.time4thetruth.info/2012/02/microwave-test-eye-opener.html?spref=fb



By Jill Richardson, AlterNet

It’s often said that we have bees to thank for one out of every three bites we take of food. In addition to producing honey, honeybees literally criss-cross the United States, pollinating almonds, oranges, melons, blueberries, pumpkins, apples, and more. And while carrots are a biennial root crop that are harvested long before they flower, all carrots are planted from seed, and honeybees pollinate the carrot flowers that produce the seeds. Other species of bees, both social and solitary bees, pollinate other crops. And the populations of all these species of bees are in decline.

The decline of bees has been in the headlines for several years, and theories to explain their deaths abound. But perhaps there is not just one single cause. University of California San Diego professor of biology James Nieh studies foraging, communication and health of bees. “I would say it’s a combination of four factors; pesticides, disease, parasites, and human mismanagement,” says Nieh. Bees might be weakened by having a very low level of exposure to insecticides or fungicides, making them more susceptible if they are attacked by viruses or parasites. “It’s kind of like taking a patient who is not doing so well — very weak, poor diet, exposing them to pathogens, and then throwing more things at them. It’s not surprising that honeybees are not very healthy.”

One class of pesticides, neonicotinoids in particular has received a lot of attention for harming bees. In late 2010, the EPA came under fire from beekeepers and pesticide watchdog organizations. This happened when Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald spoke out about how the EPA allowed clothianidin to be used without any proof it was safe and despite the fact that the EPA’s own scientists believed it “has the potential for toxic risk to honey bees, as well as other pollinators.”

At that time Theobald had reported losing up to 40 percent of his bees, and now, things are looking even worse. “As a business, I think it’s over,” he says. “I think my business is no longer viable. I’ll continue to keep bees as best I can and may be able to pull off a halfway decent crop for another year or two but the trendline is down and over the edge of a cliff and that’s typical of what’s going on nationally.”[…]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/154039




Source: youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxpH9wBt0fM

Dec 162011



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/




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/



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



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/



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



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



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



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



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



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