Oct 052016
 

By James Petras99GetSmart

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“What Russia is sponsoring and doing [in Syria] is not counter-terrorism it is barbarism” – Samantha Power, US Representative to the United Nations

Introduction

The US representative to the United Nations, Ambassador ‘Ranting Sam’ Samantha Power, accused the Russian and Syrian governments of ‘barbarism’, claiming Moscow or Damascus had attacked an unarmed United Nations humanitarian convoy delivering aid to civilians in Aleppo. No evidence was presented. Rants and threats do not require facts or proof; they only require vehement emotional ejaculations and compliant mass propaganda organs.

‘Barbarians’, to be clear, evoke images of leaders and groups, which abjure all civilized norms and laws. They only respond to armed force.

In the present context Power’s charges of barbarism against Russia and Syria was used to justify the US aerial bombardment of a Syrian army outpost, which killed and maimed almost 200 government troops engaged in combating ISIS terrorists and jihadi invaders.

In other words, accusing Syrian soldiers of ‘barbarism’ was Ambassador Power’s cynical way of dehumanizing the young victims of an earlier and deliberate US war crime.

Let’s analyze the appropriate context for the use and abuse of the language of ‘barbarism’ – and its rightful application.

Barbarism: The Deed

Over the past decade and a half, the US and its allies have invaded, occupied, killed, wounded and dispossessed over ten million people, in countries from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Military and civilian officials have systematically destroyed entire economies, fostered ethno-religious wars, undermined ancient community and family ties and placed corrupt political puppets in power.

Promoted by the US, torture, arbitrary arrest and incarceration have become the norm creating lawless and chaotic societies, which had once been productive and stable. The shredding of  social structures has provokes massive population flight, with millions of desperate refugees fleeing invasions, wars and total society breakdown. The result of these deliberate imperial policy decisions has been emptied cities and neighborhoods, broken families, destroyed lives and futures for many millions of young Arabs and Muslims.

As the human toll mounts and Western Europe is flooded with the results of US aggressive wars, the imperialists have sharpened their shrill rhetoric, labeling all of their adversaries and critics as ‘accomplices in war crimes’, and ‘barbarians’.

The greater and more sustained the policy of wanton imperial pillage, the more intense the frustration of its leaders over its ultimate failures, and the greater the recourse of its ‘diplomats’ to vituperative language.

Barbarism in Search of Barbarians

The barbarism underlying the US and EU imperial wars of conquest in the Middle East is unmatched. The principal adversaries to US aggression, Russia, China and Iran, have not invaded any sovereign countries, nor have they provoked the desperate flight of millions of refugees. Russia was invited to aid its Syrian government ally confronting an invasion of terrorist mercenaries who are intent on dividing the country. Crimea peacefully re-joined Russia via elections. Moscow rejected playing any military role in support of Western wars against Iraq, Yemen and Libya. None of this rose to the level of US-EU barbarism.

In Asia, the West has invaded and devastated Viet Nam, the Philippines and Afghanistan. Japan, now a US ally, had invaded China, Korea and Southeast Asia. China for its part has not engaged in any imperial war of conquest for centuries.

Iran has not invaded any country in modern times. On the contrary, Iraq invaded Tehran in the 1980’s with US support and waged a decade-long war which caused millions of casualties.

In truth, if waging wars, staging invasions, destroying whole societies and causing millions of deaths are the measure of barbarism, then the US, Europe and Japan have been clearly barbaric.

To claim otherwise and follow the ranting script of Ambassador Samantha Power is to enter into a tunnel of hallucinations where the language of liberal values embellishes truly barbarian acts.

The entire language of politics has been perverted and converted into an artifice of self-delusion. Terrorist militias are re-packaged as ‘rebels’ and ‘moderates’, spreading barbarism from the imperial Western center to the periphery. The deliberate spread of terrorism is itself a barbaric deed, which degrades the status of Western powers.

Conclusion

In ancient Greece, the barbarians were those outside of the empire who did not speak the language of civilization. They were savage invaders seeking to pillage the wealth and culture of the empire. Today the barbarians emerge from inside the empire and spread outward. The imperial leaders have engaged in serial wars of destruction and pillage, even as their own societies and economies wallow in ignorance, misery, debt, addiction and criminality. Imperial barbarians devastate whole cultures, erasing the great historical legacy of ancient civilizations like Iraq and Syria, while imposing their culture of morons, drugs and electronic gadgets, which has already infantilized its own population.

The empire of barbarians is infested with moneychangers and corrupt speculators. They have debased the entire legal system and legislative bodies. The public space has become a private latrine for the elite, closed to any real public discourse and debate.

Electoral spectacles, rather than reasoned debates, undermine republican principles. Imperial conquerors, enmeshed in a military metaphysic, cannot reconstruct a devastated society into a productive colony, nor can they learn or benefit from the best and brightest among its captives, as Rome did with Greece, because it has sown such destruction and salted the very soil under the feet of its conquered peoples.

The barbarian-imperial world order is constantly at war with ‘others’ and can never assimilate and learn from the precious human treasures it has so wantonly destroyed. It rules by terror abroad and deceit at home. As so crudely displayed by the imperial rants of Ambassador Samantha Power, its oratory at international forums reflect the hysteria of mediocre functionaries: mindless barbarians raving among themselves in marbled echo chambers.

In the end, the imperial barbarians will be besieged by their own fleeing vassals and puppets. When they finally confront their own decay and internal dissolution they have to decide whether to engage in a last global conflagration or dismantle the imperial barbaric order and choose justice, law and civilization.

Oct 152013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan

Pvt. Utku Kali

Pvt. Utku Kali

The most common trend of surveillance states in the recent years is to chase after whistleblowers and attempt to limit citizens’ information sources that do not put forward the government version of events. Secret information, however, has lured the attention of millions of people at all times. In the last few years, the names of Julian Assange, Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, and Edward Snowden have become more popular among ordinary civilians and people from all over the world have found courage in their deeds in revealing government secrets. The secrecy of private and personal information is one thing, yet it is a completely different thing when someone reveals information proving the wrongdoings of a government.

One name that has come to be associated with such deeds is Utku Kali from Turkey. Utku is a young soldier from the Turkish Armed Forces who happened to be the guard on duty at the expected time of release of secret intelligence documents concerning the deadliest terrorist attacks in the history of the Turkish Republic. On May 11th 2013,  Reyhanli – a Turkish town near the Syrian border – was the target of a major explosion which left over 50 dead. Just 11 days after the explosion, on May 22nd, a hacker group, RedHack, which defines itself as Socialist-Marxist, uploaded a folder on the cloud sharing platform DropBox containing leaked documents regarding the Reyhanli attacks.

The Reyhanli attacks met with utter anger from many people in Turkey, and almost in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the anti-terror protests turned into anti-government protests and a ban was declared on broadcasts regarding the attacks. The suspicions of the locals, combined with the listlessness of government officials (no government official changed their schedule or visited the town, whereas opposition members paid visits and expressed condolences), triggered further protests towards the end of May which eventually became incorporated into the Gezi Park protests, which started on May 29th.

On the day the documents were uploaded, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, was very quick to declare that the individuals responsible had been caught and that justice would be served. However the leaked documents suggested that other sources were involved in the attacks, and moreover that state officials were aware of information concerning the date and place of the attacks. But a day after the whistleblowing occurred, Minister of Interior Muammer Guler stated that the real issue is that a leak took place in this situation and that a soldier thought to be connected to the leak was under arrest. On the same day, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Do not take these documents seriously and do not publish them, for this would serve the interests of those who want to diminish Turkish interests.”

The arrested soldier in question was called Utku Kali. He has been made the scapegoat of the deadliest terrorist attack and a possible secret plan to drag Turkey into the Syrian civil war. While RedHack uploaded several other files regarding the detention of two soldiers and the arrest of one, Utku, and stated that they were still receiving further files from their informants, he was still under arrest. Two days after his arrest, Utku was put on trial at a Military Court and faced up to 25 years in prison on charges of “releasing the pre-explosion secret intelligence of unknown explosions.”

Utku was subject to maltreatment, even physical and psychological torture; all this brought him to the point of a nervous crisis and he was transferred from Erzurum Maresal Fevzi Cakmak Hospital to Istanbul Erenkoy Psychiatric Hospital. Utku’s sister and lawyer Ceren Kali says that he was declared “healthy” only two weeks after his treatment began in Erzurum. Upon his arrival to Sivas Military Prison, health examiners found that his suicidal tendencies still continued and ordered that he again be taken to a mental facility. Yet after eight days, this did not happen. Continuation of intensive maltreatment practice over eight amounts to torture. Ceren Kali says that Utku was strip-searched time after time, causing further psychological stress and humiliation, every time he had visitors in military prison. When he was being examined by medical professionals, doctor-patient confidentiality was breached and he never had privacy during his physical and psychological examinations and evaluations.

When Utku had a nervous crisis on the way back from the hospital, according to a sergeant, Utku swore at Turkish Armed Forces, his commanders, and the military structure in general. For this, another case was opened against him based on the infamous Article 301, “denigration of Turkishness.” He was put in absolute isolation when he was expecting to be declared innocent and released, and other people declared him an enemy of the state and harassed him, threw their lighters at him, and shouted “traitor.” Currently all his letters are being censored and his access to media organs (newspapers in prison) is being obstructed so that he can not see the news pieces in solidarity with him.

As RedHack continues to receive secret documents from their informants in the Turkish military, Utku’s case reveals further injustice each day. Even before the case has been taken into court, too many people have declared Utku guilty and caused irreversible damage to his psychological health. At the moment, Private Kali is a survivor of suicide attempts, nervous crises, deteriorated health conditions and months of imprisonment. Yet, thousands of people in Turkey, as well as many academics and journalists stand in solidarity with Utku as his trial, to be held on October 21st, 2013, approaches.

As a last note, it might be appropriate to remind you of the meaning of the name “Utku”:

“Grand victory achieved through tough struggles and hard labor”

#UtkuKali

Freedom For Utku KaliPetition Site

Freedom For Utku KaliPetition Site

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://radicaldemocrat.blog.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

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RedHack Statement;

Turkish government is persistently telling lies to the people of Turkey. They clearly knew about the plans of Al-Qaeda to bomb Turkey. They clearly let this happen to use it in their own advantage in order to wage war on Syria with the backing of NATO and US. PM Erdogan was in USA shortly after the bombings. He chose to go to US instead of visiting Reyhanli. Sadly 51 innocent people lost their lives because of the hypocrisy of Prime Minister Erdogan and his government officials along with incompetent intelligence services failed to foil the attacks. Check http://redhack.tumblr.com/post/51069851247/turkish-intelligence-services-was-aware-of-the-bombs

This government has always tried to cover up their crimes with avoiding direct responsibilities of their incompetence. They distract the minds by avoiding talking about the real issue. This is what they have done in this case as well by arresting innocent soldiers. They are innocent. Arrest of them doesn’t change the fact that Turkish government turned a blind eye to possibilities of stopping bombs that exploded in Reyhanli.

AKP spokesperson says “This is not an issue of hacking”. We have never claimed it was a hack. He is learning the terms we guess.

These soldiers are currently being tortured and interrogated in city of Sivas. The arrests and detentions of these soldiers is the acceptance by the Turkish government that they were responsible to the Reyhanli bombings.

Arresting the real people who have exposed these documents doesn’t hide the truth about the dirty politics of AKP government that resulted in crime against it’s own people. This government have the bloods of 51 people killed in Reyhanli on their hands.

We will carry on our activities despite the scaremongering tactics of the government and soon or later people of Turkey will get rid of fascist regime that they have been suffering for long time.

Questions to ask to fascist Turkish state and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government;

Although government knew about these bombs in advance including registration numbers of the vehicles used and other information, why it wasn’t stopped?

If those officers are the persons that leaked us information, how is that we knew before the government that a witch hunts was launched among the military that they would sacrifice ‘innocent’ officers?

Is it a crime to reveal the truths that you have been hiding from the public which resulted in civilian deaths?

By allowing this attack to take place doesn’t the Turkish Government commit a crime?

Prime Minister Erdogan says this issue of bombs in Reyhanli are investigated by intelligence services and media should wait until the results are published. If this is the case why has he blamed Syrian regime for the bombing on the first day? Why he didn’t wait until the investigations to be concluded?

FACT: HE IS A LIAR. THESE DOCUMENTS WE HAVE PUBLISHED HAVE REVEALED THE TRUE FACE OF FASCIST AKP GOVERNMENT. THEY ARE THE CULPRITS OF THE BOMBS KILLED INNOCENT PEOPLE IN REYHANLI.

Until Justice Prevails Hack Will Replace It!

Hacking For The People!

Apr 302013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* THE MANIFESTO OF THE MEDITERRANEAN MEETING IN TUNISIA

Source: CADTM

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We, the representatives of progressive political parties from the Mediterranean region, gathered in Tunis from March 23 to 24, 2013, at the call of the Popular Front, and adopted the following resolution.

1. – For more than a quarter of a century, neoliberal capitalist globalization has extended its dominance over the entire planet. The processes launched have accelerated the commodization of the world in favour of a minority and have confiscated peoples´ citizenship and nations´ sovereignty. They are exacerbating economic insecurity and social inequality in the North and South and further widening the gap between the rich countries and the so-called poor countries.

Peoples of the South are subjected to a particularly devastating regime of structural adjustment policies and free trade policies which impedes a fair development, destroys the environment and deprives them of their sovereignty, thus weakening them even more and exacerbating their dependence on dominant economic areas of the North.

The fate of humanity is now decided by a handful of transnational corporations and by the international financial institutions over which people have no control.

Since 2008, in the midst of a crisis of the world capitalist system, structural adjustment policies have been extended to the countries of the northern Mediterranean, the so-called contemptuously PIGS.

In Tunisia, these policies have been imposed since 1986 by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In 1995, these were reinforced by the Association Agreement imposed by the European Union and its Member States. The political dictatorship has ensured the application of such policies.

At present, the various neoliberal capitalist globalization actors intend to carry on with these policies, trying to take advantage of the revolutionary crisis, by strengthening and expanding their scope. Thus they seek to block the path that leads to the development of aspirations and the desire for radical change massively expressed by the masses, particularly youth, during the revolutionary uprising of December- January 2011.

2. – The removal of the dictator has disarmed the local neoliberal capitalist order without reversing it have led to some progress. The social system which is the historical product of imperialist domination and, more recently, of the restructuring of the neoliberal capitalist world, is still standing. But the revolutionary crisis that initiated the insurgency remains active. The victory of the democratic, social and national revolution in Tunisia, as in other countries in the region, still remains a possibility.

3. – The Tunisian revolution marked the beginning of the Arab revolution. To date, four dictators, whose average time in power exceeded 30 years, have been eliminated. These political changes are, without a doubt, the most important occurrence that has taken place in the Arab region and Maghreb in decades. This is clearly a turning point in the history of Tunisia and the Arab region.

This is, in the proper sense of the term, a “historic” moment. In fact, for the first time in their history, the peoples of the Arab region, who have not stopped fighting, are standing up today against their direct oppressors, bursting onto the political scene to take hold of their destiny in their own hands.

4. – The debt -odious, illegitimate- used under the dictatorship as a tool for political submission and as a mechanism for the transfer of income from labour to local but above all to world capital, currently serves the counter-revolution to maintain the neo-colonial economy and imperialist domination in Tunisia. Furthermore, in Egypt, Morocco, Greece, Cyprus, the Spanish State and in many other countries of the Mediterranean basin, debt continues to serve the interests of a minority against the interests of the vast majority. It is everywhere, it is the pretext for the implementation of austerity policies imposed by international financial institutions and the capitalistic states that violate human rights.

5. – Everywhere, both in the North and the South, the same logics of profit, domination and destruction of the planet operate and continue to be imposed on the peoples and on nature. The Tunisian revolution, the Arab revolution, the heroic struggles of all peoples of the world against a neoliberal capitalist order, such as in Greece, Portugal, Catalonia, Basque country or the Spanish state, are the political founding acts of a new world order; one based on solidarity, that is democratic, feminist peaceful that ensures popular sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples and environmentally friendly- for which all our respective political parties are fighting.

6. – But standing in opposition of this popular will for a radical shift are the ruling classes, the transnationals and global finance institutions. They form a united front to counter-attack and to implement even more antisocial and undemocratic policies in order to break through this liberating popular impulse and momentum, and thus continue to make the costs of the global capitalist system crisis fall on the same shoulders, those of the working people and the planet.

7. – We, the representatives of progressive political parties from the Mediterranean region in the world, are convinced that we must unite our efforts and our actions, both regionally and internationally, to support and contribute to the struggles of the people and of the exploited and oppressed classes, in the region and worldwide, who yearn for freedom, dignity and social justice. We support the revolutionary struggle of the Syrian people to achieve freedom, democracy, social justice, equality and national dignity. We condemn any foreign intervention that goes against the achievement of these objectives.
In order to work together in this direction, we the progressive political parties from the Mediterranean region, that participated in this meeting in Tunisia against debt, austerity policies and imperialist domination, advocate for a free, democratic, social, solidarity-based and environmentally friendly Mediterranean region. We therefore commit to:

  • Support the process of mobilization and struggle of social movements, trade unions and social organizations for a citizen audit
  • Promote motions for non-payment of illegitimate debt and the external debt relief in the institutions in which we participate.
  • Incorporate in our political programs the NON payment of the illegitimate debt and the promotion of citizen audit and the support of the struggle for the sovereignty of peoples and self-determination.
  • Advance on the development of a network of mutual support between the nations to assist those who decided not to pay the illegitimate debt
  • Establish a permanent communication network for the exchange of information and experiences.
  • Develop a concrete cooperation aiming at developing tools for the struggle and mobilization necessary to achieve our goals.
  • Organize the next meeting in the Spanish State.

The progressive political parties in the Mediterranean region and other parts of the world that participated in the Tunisian Mediterranean Meeting welcomed the World Social Forum that was held in Tunis from March 26 to 30, and that allowed to advance towards the realization of the objectives enshrined in the Charter of Porto Alegre.

Finally, we strongly condemn the killing of Chokri Belaid, Secretary General of the Unified Democratic Patriotic Party and leader of the Popular Front, which we refer to as a political crime. We demand the truth to be told about all those involved in this heinous crime. […]

READ @ http://cadtm.org/The-Manifesto-of-the-Mediterranean

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* SCIENTIST CONFIRM! “AUSTERITY IS TOO BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH”

Source: KeepTalkingGreece

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Scientists confirm what we already know: that recession-driven austerity measures are not just bad for your wealth, they are also harming your health. It’s not only that your pockets are robbed causing sleepless nights, depression and heart attacks. The austerity cuts that primarily target the health sector boost infectious diseases as medicine and treatment become prohibitively expensive.

British scientists examined the impact of austerity to health issues and thus on the example of Greece and Great Britain.

The after-effects of the financial crisis is driving a wave of suicide, depression and infectious diseases as medicine and treatment become prohibitively expensive across Europe and North America, according to new research by academics.

After examining a decade of studies , Oxford University political economist David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist at Stanford University, have concluded austerity is seriously bad for health.

More than 10,000 suicides and up to a million cases of depression have been diagnosed during what they call the “Great Recession” and the austerity that followed it , the pair conclude in a book due to be published this week.

They cite examples in Greece, which has seen the rate of the Aids-causing HIV virus increase by 200pc as the health budget have been cut. The more than 50pc youth unemployment rate has also seen drug abuse on the increase, hastening the spread of the virus.

Greece also experienced its first malaria outbreak in decades following budget cuts to mosquito-spraying programmes.

In Britain, the academics claim 10,000 families have been pushed into homelessness by the austerity budget, and in the US 5m people no longer have access to healthcare since the recession.

“Politicians need to take into account the serious – and in some cases profound – health consequences of economic choices,” said Mr Stuckler, a senior researcher at Oxford University and co-author The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills.

“The harms we have found include HIV and malaria outbreaks, shortages of essential medicines, lost healthcare access, and an avoidable epidemic of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide,” he said in a statement. “Austerity is having a devastating effect.”

Previous studies by Mr Stuckler published in journals such as The Lancet and the British Medical Journal have linked rising suicide rates in some parts of Europe to austerity measures, and found HIV epidemics to be spreading amid cutbacks in services to vulnerable people.

But he and Mr Basu said negative public health effects are not inevitable, even during the worst economic disasters. (full story Telegraph)

 Greeks get really sick

Also Greek scientists have collected data on the impact of the austerity cuts on the people’s health. According to Christodoulos Stefanadis, cardiology professor at the University of Athens with experience at the country’s public hospitals:

Cardiovascular incidents increased by 20% in the last two years.

Increased is also the number of patients with high blood pressure.

One in six patients with cholesterol does not follow the prescribed treatment due to financial inability to come up with the self-participation  percentage on prescribed medicine.

Unemployment, stress at work and depression are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases equal to risk factors like smoking, lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits. […]

READ @ http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2013/04/29/scientists-confirm-austerity-is-too-bad-for-your-health/

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* CIA’s ‘BAGS OF CASH’ FUELED AFGHAN CORRUPTION, BOUGHT LITTLE INFLUENCE

By Jason Ditz, Anti-War

A Decade Later, CIA Still Throwing Money at Karzai

afghan

If you’re a top Afghan official money comes awfully easy. For Afghan President Hamid Karzai, you don’t even have to ask for it or leave your office, and people will show up with plastic shopping bags full of cash for you.

The “sacks of cash” phenomenon was unveiled in 2010, when officials revealed that Iran was showing up with $1 million in cash a few times a year for Karzai. The US was and is doing it too. The CIA has notoriously been showing up all the time with “ghost money” aimed at buying influence.

“It came in secret, and it left in secret,” noted Karzai’s former chief of staff. Over a decade later, the cash is still coming and going, but what influence if any was ever actually bought is unclear at best.

Officials are critical of the policy, saying that tens of millions of US dollars with no paperwork were actually a big part of how Afghanistan became one of the most corrupt nations in human history. Though there is of course no way of tracking all this money, US officials believe that large amounts were used to bribe politicians and warlords.

This is how all political business gets done in Afghanistan to this day, and despite officials insisting that the money is incredibly counterproductive, the CIA bags are still showing up regularly. […]

READ @ http://news.antiwar.com/2013/04/28/cias-bags-of-cash-fueled-afghan-corruption-bought-little-influence/

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* THE GUANTANAMO MEMOIRS OF MOHAMEDOU OULD SLAHI

By Larry Siems, Slate

130411_FOR_slahi01.jpg.CROP.article250-medium

Mohamedou Ould Slahi began to tell his story in 2005. Over the course of several months, the Guantánamo prisoner handwrote his memoir, recounting what he calls his “endless world tour” of detention and interrogation. He wrote in English, a language he mastered in prison. His handwriting is relaxed but neat, his narrative, even riddled with redactions, vivid and captivating. In telling his story he tried, as he wrote, “to be as fair as possible to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” He finished his 466-page draft in early 2006. For the next six years, the U.S. government held the manuscript as a classified secret.

When his pro bono attorneys were allowed to hand me a disk labeled “Unclassified Version” last year, Slahi had been a Guantánamo detainee for more than a decade. I sat down to start reading his manuscript nearly 10 years to the day from the book’s opening scene:

“[Redacted] July 2002, 22:00. The American team takes over. The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied.”

We’re in the middle of the action. Slahi’s life in captivity had begun eight months earlier, on Nov. 20, 2001, when Slahi, then 30, was summoned by Mauritanian police for questioning. He had just returned home from work; he was in the shower when police arrived. He dressed, grabbed his car keys—he went voluntarily, driving himself to the police station—and told his mother not to worry, he would be home soon. […]

READ @ http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2013/04/mohamedou_ould_slahi_s_guant_namo_memoirs_how_the_united_states_kept_a_gitmo.html

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* UNDERCOVER AT THE TAR SANDS

By Jerry Cleveland, Rolling Stone

20130419-tar-x600-1366394718

Editor’s Note: In recent months, many climate activists have focused their efforts on Canada’s tar sands and the companies set on extracting fossil fuels from them. With the debate raging louder than ever, Rolling Stone is in contact with one of the workers helping to build a pipeline to bring oil from the tar sands to the U.S. Read on for that anonymous correspondent’s first dispatch from one of the world’s most controversial jobs.

There’s something in the air in Fort McMurray, Alberta – and it’s not just fumes from the massive oil sands processing plants north of town. Spend enough time here, and you’ll pick up the pungent scents of machismo and money.

This is the heart of Canada’s controversial tar sands operation. If all goes as planned, this region will soon be sending its bitumen – the sticky, black petroleum byproduct colloquially known as “tar” – down the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Obama has yet to give the contentious project the green light, but work in the oil sands shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.

The region has 80,000 permanent residents, and hosts about 40,000 temporary workers at any given time – welders, pipefitters, heavy equipment operators, technicians, engineers and other hired hands who pass through Fort McMurray as the work ebbs and flows. I joined them this winter when, after hearing stories about Fort Mac for years, I signed on to help build a massive pipeline (not the Keystone XL). I was eager to see the tar sands for myself, experience life in Fort Mac firsthand – and, let’s be honest, I wanted to make some oil money, too.  I’m writing this story anonymously to protect my friends, my colleagues and myself.

The Fossil Fuel Resistance

Much of the work here relies on ice roads and freezing temperatures, so when spring comes, the work ends. The obvious irony is that the carbon economy itself is very likely contributing to the early springs, late winters and wacky weather that keeps interrupting our work.

Few in northern Alberta seemed to notice when thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest the Keystone project in February. Instead, everyone was talking about the southern extension project coming up later this year, and the 14,000 jobs it would bring.

The recent rupture of an Exxon pipeline in Arkansas, spilling tens of thousands of Canadian crude, made some noise here. But most chalked it up to “bad timing” –folks are quick to point out that the pipeline in question was installed in the 1940s, and my foreman assured us that Exxon would “make sure everyone is taken care of.” The prevailing logic seems to be that if you throw enough money at a problem, it’ll go away. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/undercover-at-the-tar-sands-20130426

Dec 232012
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* THE LIBOR SWINDLE: SYSTEMATIC FINANCIAL RIGGING OF THE BENCHMARK GLOBAL INTEREST RATE

By Andre Damon, World Socialist Website

libor-ju-blog

The latest sweetheart settlement with a major international bank, in this case involving criminal activities that financial regulators describe as “epic,” has once again lifted the lid on the cesspool of corruption otherwise known as the world financial system.

UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, admitted this week to systematically rigging the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), the benchmark global interest rate to which hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial contracts are tied. It did so to increase its profits and conceal its financial problems.

UBS’s actions defrauded hundreds of millions of people who pay interest on mortgages, credit cards, student loans and car loans, as well as institutional investors such as pension funds and state and local governments, and countless millions of retirees who rely for income on fixed investments. The term grand larceny does not begin to describe the scale of this plunder.

UBS has become, following the settlement with Barclays last June, the second bank to admit to being part of an international Libor-rigging operation and pay a modest fine in exchange for being let off without any serious repercussions. In both cases, no senior officials were charged and the banks themselves did not have to plead guilty to any crime. […]

[…] The bank regulatory agencies, loaded with former bank executives, facilitate the criminal activities of the banks rather than stopping or preventing them.

The global financial aristocracy can defraud, steal and plunder with impunity, knowing it will be protected by a thoroughly bribed political system that it dominates. The day-to-day functioning of the capitalist financial system has assumed the form of a criminal conspiracy against the people.

This is not a system that can be reformed. Its rampant criminality is not the result of “bad apples.” Illegality and corruption are intrinsic to the system itself. […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-libor-swindle-systematic-financial-rigging-of-the-benchmark-global-interest-rate/5316616

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* THE LIE THAT PROSECUTING BANK FRAUD WILL DESTABILIZE THE ECONOMY IS WHAT IS REALLY DESTROYING THE ECONOMY

Source: Washington’s Blog


Scales+of+Justicejpeg_phixr

The Departments of Justice and Treasury are pretending that criminally prosecuting criminal banksters will destabilize the economy.

The exact opposite is true.

Failing to prosecute criminal fraud has been destabilizing the economy since at least 2007 … and will cause huge crashes in the future.

After all, the main driver of economic growth is a strong rule of law.

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t recover:

The legal system is supposed to be the codification of our norms and beliefs, things that we need to make our system work. If the legal system is seen as exploitative, then confidence in our whole system starts eroding. And that’s really the problem that’s going on.

***

I think we ought to go do what we did in the S&L [crisis] and actually put many of these guys in prison. Absolutely. These are not just white-collar crimes or little accidents. There were victims. That’s the point. There were victims all over the world.

***

Economists focus on the whole notion of incentives. People have an incentive sometimes to behave badly, because they can make more money if they can cheat. If our economic system is going to work then we have to make sure that what they gain when they cheat is offset by a system of penalties. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/12/the-pretense-that-prosecuting-bank-fraud-will-destablize-the-economy-is-itself-what-is-actually-destablizing-the-economy.html

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* TORTURE, TORTURE EVERYWHERE

By Andy Worthington, Global Research

Euro-MPs-condemn-UK-role-in-CIA-torture-600x336

For those of us who have been arguing for years that senior officials and lawyers in the Bush administration must be held accountable for the torture program they introduced and used in their “war on terror,” last week was a very interesting week indeed. There were developments in Strasbourg, in London, and in Washington, D.C., that all pointed towards the impossibility of the torturers’ being able to escape accountability forever.

That may be wishful thinking, given the concerted efforts by officials in the United States and elsewhere to avoid having to answer for their crimes, and the ways in which, through legal arguments and backroom deals, they have suppressed all attempts to hold them accountable. However, despite that, it seems that maintaining absolute silence is impossible: last week one breakthrough took place when, unanimously, a 17-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Khaled El-Masri, a German used-car salesman of Lebanese origin. His is one of the most notorious cases of mistaken identity in the whole of the “war on terror.” See the summary here.

According to the Guardians account, the court stated that “CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on” and “found Macedonia guilty of torturing, abusing, and secretly imprisoning [him].” It also noted, “It is the first time the court has described CIA treatment meted out to terror suspects as torture.” […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/torture-torture-everywhere/5316671

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* KAYAPO DAMNED: BRAZIL GOVERNMENT OKs HYDRO PLANT, CONDEMNS 40,000 LIVES

By Andrew Beato, Inentious

brazil-550x342

Brazilian president Dilma Roussef has given approval to build a hydroelectric plant – the third largest in the world – at Belo Monte on the Xingu River in Brazil‘s northern Amazonian region.

The region is currently home to huge local communities, totalling 40,000 people, the majority of whom will be flooded out when water levels eventually eradicate 400,000 hectares of ancient forest and towns.

Despite this, and despite significant protest from the tribal communities in Western courts – no mean feat, mind you – approval was passed without the slightest resounding outcry from the world.

It pisses me off that globally we care more about stopping Internet Copyright laws like SOPA and Protect-IP than the lives of 40,000 human beings‘ homes in the name of business profits.

The Amazon region should belong to the world, as the Internet does, and the world should get pissed off at things threatening it just as if your local government signed papers that meant they could build a highway through your house whenever they felt like.

What’s about to happen to the Kayapo community will be more devastating than the 2011 Queensland Floods. […]

READ @ http://intentious.com/2012/02/17/kayapo-damned-brazil-government-oks-hydro-plant-condemns-40000-lives/

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* GREECE: POLICE RAID VILLA AMALIAS: UPDATES

Source: From the Greek Street

22-300x224At approximately 07:00 GMT+2 on December 20th, riot police raided the anarchist squat Villa Amalias in Athens. Eight people were detained inside the building — later on, they were all arrested and charged with felonies on ludicrous evidence. The building has been sealed off and is guarded 24/7 by riot police since. Sunday Dec 23 has been named a day of solidarity with those arrested in Villa and with the squat; follow all updates via our Villa Amalias raid tag; organise actions of solidarity where you live.

Ī Vílla Amalías katálīpsī tha meínei! Villa Amalias will remain a squat! […]

READ @ http://blog.occupiedlondon.org/2012/12/22/police-raid-villa-amalias-updates/

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* MASS REVOLT IN SLOVENIA

Source: anarkismo

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The spark ignited revolt against the political-economic elite and the whole capitalist system

Slovenia is being shaken by the first massive revolt in two decades and the first that is predominantly oriented against political establishment, austerity measures and is in some cities already gaining anti-capitalist character.

In less than three weeks there have been 35 protests in 18 cities, where more then 70.000 people participated altogether. Protests often turn into clashes with police that is violently breaking up the demonstrations. 284 people were arrested, some released, some not. Many people have been injured.

It all started in the middle of November with people protesting against the corrupt mayor of second largest city in Slovenia, Maribor (he already resigned). They came up with the sort of slogan “He is finished” (Gotof je) that has later been alternated to address more or less every politician in the country. Protests spread throughout the country in only few days. They are becoming more and more the channel for the people to express the anger over the general conditions of the society: of having no jobs, security, rights, future.

Protests are decentralized, anti-authoritarian and non-hierarchical. People who never hit the streets before are participating in it. They are happening in villages and towns that never saw a single protest before. People are creating new alliances, becoming comrades in struggle and are determined to continue for as long as it takes. We do not know how long we will manage to stay on the streets. But one thing is for sure. People experienced the process of emancipation and gained voice that has been violently taken from them in the past. And this is something no one can take from them.

Below you can find the statement by the groups of Federation for anarchist organizing (FAO). […]

READ @ http://www.anarkismo.net/article/24479

Apr 122012
 

 

* SEYMOUR HERSH ON BUSH TRAINING TERRORISTS IN NEVADA

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office. The MEK has been listed as a foreign terrorist groups since 1997 and is linked to a number of attacks, spanning from the murders of six U.S. citizens in the 1970s to the recent wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists. Hersh also discusses the role of Israeli intelligence and notes the Obama administration knew about the training, “because they have access to what was going on in the previous administration in this area in terms of the MEK, in terms of operations inside Iran.” His new report for The New Yorker blog, “Our Men in Iran?,” comes as nuclear talks are set to resume this week between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. […]

PART 1

PART 2 

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Htdeuztss4A#!

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* PERVERTS IN POWER: THE TORTURE-LOVERS WHO RULE US

By Chris Floyd, Information Clearing House

[…] Just when Fatima Bouchar thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Americans forced her to lie on a stretcher and began wrapping tape around her feet. They moved upwards, she says, along her legs, winding the tape around and around, binding her to the stretcher. They taped her stomach, her arms and then her chest. She was bound tight, unable to move.

Bouchar says there were three Americans: two tall, thin men and an equally tall woman. Mostly they were silent. She never saw their faces: they dressed in black and always wore black balaclavas. Bouchar was terrified. They didn’t stop at her chest – she says they also wound the tape around her head, covering her eyes. Then they put a hood and earmuffs on her. She was unable to move, to hear or to see. “My left eye was closed when the tape was applied,” she says, speaking about her ordeal for the first time. “But my right eye was open, and it stayed open throughout the journey. It was agony.” The journey would last around 17 hours. …

Belhaj says he was blindfolded, hooded, forced to wear ear defenders, and hung from hooks in his cell wall for what seemed to be hours. He says he was severely beaten. The ear defenders were removed only for him to be blasted with loud music, he says, or when he was interrogated by his US captors.

Bouchar says that when she was dragged away from her husband she feared he was going to be killed. “I thought: ‘This is it.’ I thought I would never see my husband again … They took me into a cell, and they chained my left wrist to the wall and both my ankles to the floor. I could sit down but I couldn’t move. There was a camera in the room, and every time I tried to move they rushed in. But there was no real communication. I wasn’t questioned.” Bouchar found it difficult to comprehend how she could be treated in this way: she was four-and-a-half months pregnant. “They knew I was pregnant,” she says. “It was obvious.” She says she was given water while chained up, but no food whatsoever. She was chained to the wall for five days. At the end of this period she was taped to the stretcher and put aboard the aircraft, unaware of where she was going or whether her husband was on board. At one point the aircraft landed, remained on the ground for a short period and then took off again. Only when it landed a second time did she hear a man grunting with pain, and realise her husband was nearby.

[…]

As we noted here recently, these torture-renditions are by no means at an end. They thrive under the leadership of Barack Obama and David Cameron just as vigoously as they dd under Bush and Blair. […]

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31057.htm

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* WELLS FARGO’S PRISON CASH COW

By Charles Davis, Salon

Wells Fargo is one of the top five largest banks in America, a faict that on its own is damning enough, basic human decency not exactly being conducive to success in the financial industry. Despite, or rather because of, its role as one of the leading sub-prime mortgage lenders prior to the 2008 crash in the housing market, the bank was handed $37 billion from the U.S. government, a transfer of wealth from the foreclosed upon have-nots to the haves doing the foreclosing – people like chairman and CEO John Stumpf, whose compensation actually rose after his company’s de facto bankruptcy to a cool $18 million last year.

As Wells Fargo has grown over the years, using its bailout funds to gobble up rival Wachovia and expand to the East Coast, so has the U.S. prison population. By 2008, one in 100 American adults were either in jail or in prison – and one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34, many simply for non-violent offenses, justice not so much blind as bigoted. Overall, more than 2.3 million people are currently behind bars, up 50 percent in the last 15 years, the land of the free now accounting for a full quarter of the world’s prisoners.

These developments are not unrelated. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/04/11/wells_fargos_prison_cash_cow/singleton/

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* VIDEO: TEEN IS TIED DOWN, SHOCKED BY TEACHERS AT “SCHOOL” FOR AUTISTIC KIDS

By Clara Jeffery, MotherJones

In 2007, we ran a devastating exposé of the Judge Rotenberg Center, a “school” that took mentally and psychologically troubled kids from across the country and treated them by hooking them up to electrodes and shocking them whenever they misbehaved or displayed symptoms of their disorders, like autism. Reports from former students and staff were horrific, and Jennifer Gonnerman’s extensive reporting helped launch or fortify state and local investigations into the school, and its founder Matthew Israel. Yet despite the investigations and ongoing lawsuits, the school managed to stay open.

Last month the school was targeted by Anonymous, which released a video condemning the “torture” of its students. But the video that may truly take down Rotenberg for good is below. Just yesterday this footage of a Rotenberg student being restrained and shocked for hours was played in a Massachusetts courtroom: […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/04/video-child-being-shocked-rotenberg-school-autism

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* UNCOMPROMISING PHOTOS EXPOSE JUVENILE DETENTION IN AMERICA

By Pete Brook, Wired

On any given night in the U.S., there are approximately 60,500 youth confined in juvenile correctional facilities or other residential programs. Photographer Richard Ross has spent the past five years criss-crossing the country photographing the architecture, cells, classrooms and inhabitants of these detention sites.

The resulting photo-survey, Juvenile-In-Justice, documents 350 facilities in over 30 states. It’s more than a peek into unseen worlds — it is a call to action and care.

“I grew up in a world where you solve problems, you don’t destroy a population,” says Ross. “To me it is an affront when I see the way some of these kids are dealt with.”

The U.S. locks up children at more than six times the rate of all other developed nations. The over 60,000 average daily juvenile lockups, a figure estimated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), are also disproportionately young people of color. With an average cost of $80,000 per year to lock up a child, the U.S. spends more than $5 billion annually on youth detention. […]

READ and PHOTOS @ http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2012/04/photog-hopes-to-effect-policy-with-survey-of-juvenile-lock-ups/

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* OBAMA’S JOBS ACT COULDN’T SUCK WORSE

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

[…] The “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act” (in addition to everything else, the Act has an annoying, redundant title) will very nearly legalize fraud in the stock market.

In fact, one could say this law is not just a sweeping piece of deregulation that will have an increase in securities fraud as an accidental, ancillary consequence. No, this law actually appears to have been specifically written to encourage fraud in the stock markets.

Ostensibly, the law makes it easier for startup companies (particularly tech companies, whose lobbyists were a driving force behind its passage) to attract capital by, among other things, exempting them from independent accounting requirements for up to five years after they first begin selling shares in the stock market.

The law also rolls back rules designed to prevent bank analysts from talking up a stock just to win business, a practice that was so pervasive in the tech-boom years as to be almost industry standard.

Even worse, the JOBS Act, incredibly, will allow executives to give “pre-prospectus” presentations to investors using PowerPoint and other tools in which they will not be held liable for misrepresentations. These firms will still be obligated to submit prospectuses before their IPOs, and they’ll still be held liable for what’s in those. But it’ll be up to the investor to check and make sure that the prospectus matches the “pre-presentation.” […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-obamas-jobs-act-couldnt-suck-worse-20120409

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* POVERTY – THE MOST EXTREME FORM OF VIOLENCE IN HUMAN HISTORY

Source: youtube

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

Dec 242011
 

 

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

By Frank Lesser, Washington Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marley disappeared to rethink his strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marley started heading for the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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* THE INTELLECTUAL COWARDICE OF BRADLEY MANNING’S CRITICS

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

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

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

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

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

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

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* TORTURED

By Kathryn Sikkink, UTNE Reader

Illustration: Zina Saunders @ www.zinasaunders.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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* OBAMA AGAIN UNCONSTITUTIONALLY CLAIMS UNCONSTITUTIONAL POWERS IN A SIGNING STATEMENT

By David Swanson, War Is A Crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“BARACK OBAMA”

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

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

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

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

By Wayne Madsen, Strategic Culture Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sayer Ji, OpEdNews

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

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

Why Is Groundwater Contamination An Important Finding?

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

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

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

Who Is Responsible For The Groundwater Contamination? 

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

Is Monsanto’s Herbicide A New Agent Orange?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Washington’s Blog

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

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

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

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

NHK reports:

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Dec 222011
 

 

* LOCAL POLICE STOCKPILE HIGH-TECH, COMBAT-READY GEAR

By Andrew Becker, Center for Investigative Reporting

If terrorists ever target Fargo, N.D., the local police will be ready.

In recent years, they have bought bomb-detection robots, digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers in foreign wars. For local siege situations requiring real firepower, police there can use a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. Until that day, however, the menacing truck is mostly used for training runs and appearances at the annual Fargo picnic, where it’s been displayed near a children’s bounce house.

“Most people are so fascinated by it, because nothing happens here,” said Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.”

Fargo, like thousands of other communities in every state, has been on a gear-buying spree with the aid of more than $34 billion in federal government grants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

The federal grant spending, awarded with little oversight from Washington, has fueled a rapid, broad transformation of police operations in Fargo and in departments across the country. More than ever before, police rely on quasi-military tactics and equipment, the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

No one can say exactly what has been purchased in total across the country or how it’s being used, because the federal government doesn’t keep close track. State and local governments don’t maintain uniform records. But a review of records from 41 states obtained through open-government requests, and interviews with more than two-dozen current and former police officials and terrorism experts, shows police departments around the U.S. have transformed into small army-like forces.

Since Occupy Wall Street and similar protests broke out this fall, confusion about how to respond has landed some police departments in national headlines for electing to use intimidating riot gear, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators. Observers have decried these aggressive tactics as more evidence that police are overly militarized. Among them is former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, who today regrets his “militaristic” answer in 1999 to the infamous “Battle in Seattle” protests.

Many police, including beat cops, now routinely carry assault rifles. Combined with body armor and other apparel, many officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The list of equipment bought with the federal grants reads like a defense contractor catalog. High-tech gear fills the garages, locker rooms and patrol cars in departments across the country.

Although local officials say they have become more cautious about spending in recent years, police departments around the country are continually expanding the equipment and tactics of their jobs, despite, in many cases, the lack of an apparent need.

The share of federal grants for Fargo and the county it anchors is more than $8 million, a considerable sum for terrorism defense given its remote location and status as one of the safest areas in America. Fargo has averaged fewer than two homicides a year since 2005, and there have been no prosecutions of international terrorism in the state for at least a decade, if ever.

North Dakota’s biggest city is a humble place set on plains so flat that locals like to say you can watch your dog run away for two weeks. Yet all patrol officers in Fargo now carry an assault rifle in their squad car.

Fargo police Lt. Ross Renner, who commands a regional SWAT team, said the world is a dangerous place, and the city wants to be ready for anything.

With that in mind, Renner pushed for military-style assault rifles to become standard issue in department patrol cars.

“It’s foolish to not be cognizant of the threats out there, whether it’s New York, Los Angeles or Fargo. Our residents have the right to be protected,” Renner said. “We don’t have every-day threats here when it comes to terrorism, but we are asked to be prepared.”

Other communities also have ramped up as well. In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone. In Garland County, Ark., known for its pleasant hot springs, a local law enforcement agency acquired four handheld bulletproof protective shields costing $600 each. In East Baton Rouge, La., it was $400 ballistic helmets. In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests. And for police in Des Moines, Iowa, it was two $180,000 bomb robots.

Homeland security and law enforcement officials say the expenditures and modern training have helped save civilian and police lives. Do the armored vehicles and combat dress produce a sort of “shock and awe” effect? Lt. Jeremy Clark of the West Hartford Police Department in Connecticut hopes so. He said it can persuade suspects to give up sooner.

“The only time I hear the complaint of ‘God, you guys look scary’ is if the incident turns out to be nothing,” said Clark, who organizes an annual SWAT competition.

But the gear also can be used for heavy-handed – even excessive – tactics. In one case, dozens of officers in combat-style gear raided a rave in Utah as a police helicopter buzzed overhead. An online video shows the battle-ready team wearing masks and brandishing rifles as they holler for the music to be shut off and pin partygoers to the ground.

Arizona tactical officers this year sprayed the home of ex-Marine Jose Guerena with gunfire as the man stood in a hallway with a rifle that he did not shoot [PDF]. He was hit 22 times and died. Police had targeted the man’s older brother in a narcotics-trafficking probe, but nothing illegal was found in the younger Guerena’s home, and no related arrests had been made months after the raid.

Police say greater firepower and more protective equipment became increasingly necessary not only as everyday criminals obtained deadlier weapons, but also in response to 9/11 and other terrorist attacks. They point to a 1997 Los Angeles-area shootout with heavily armed bank robbers and the bloody 2008 shooting and bombing attack in Mumbai, India, which left 164 people dead and 300 wounded.

Every community in the country has some explanation for why it needs more money, not less, to protect against every conceivable threat. It could be a shooting rampage at an amusement park, a weapon of mass destruction hidden at a manufacturing plant, a nuclear device detonated at a major coastal port. Nothing short of absolute security seems acceptable.

“The argument for up-armoring is always based on the least likely of terrorist scenarios,” said Mark Randol, a former terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service. “Anyone can get a gun and shoot up stuff. No amount of SWAT equipment can stop that.”

Law enforcement leaders nonetheless bristle at the word “militarization,” even if the defense community itself acknowledges a convergence of the two.

“I don’t see us as militarizing police; I see us as keeping abreast with society,” said former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, now chairman of Kroll Inc., the security consulting firm. […]

READ @ http://americaswarwithin.org/articles/2011/12/21/local-police-stockpile-high-tech-combat-ready-gear

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* OCCUPY PROTESTERS INDICTED ON FELONY CHARGES IN HOUSTON

By Miranda Leitsinger, msnbc.com

Cody Duty / AP Occupy Houston protesters lay in the exit ramp at the Port of Houston Authority on Dec. 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Occupy protesters were indicted on felony charges by a grand jury in Houston on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office says, in connection with their demonstration at the local port as part of a national day of action by the movement.

The decision comes nearly a week after a judge initially dismissed the charges, saying the protesters could not be charged with possessing or using a “criminal instrument” – a felony in Texas – for their use of PVC pipe.

The protesters — three from Austin, four from Houston — put their arms through the pipe and used latches on it to connect together, making their arrest more difficult but not preventing it, said one of their attorneys, Daphne Silverman, of the National Lawyer’s Guild in Houston. Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, confirmed the indictment.

“They are feeling, ‘wow,’ is the word. … They’re in a lot of shock. They were very happy with the justice’s decision last week, they believed in her, they believed in the justice system,” Silverman said. “These people … are not criminals. These folks are out there attempting to make the country better for all of us.”

Silverman, who noted that she believed the law had been wrongly applied by the prosecutor, said it’s likely the protesters will be back in court in January to talk about the next step, such as negotiations or to go to trial. If convicted, they face up to two years in jail.

READ @ http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/20/9587551-occupy-protesters-indicted-on-felony-charges-in-houston?mid=55

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* DO PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTORS HAVE IMPUNITY TO TORTURE?

By Laura Raymond, Firedoglake

Unbelievably, in 2011 this question has not yet been settled in the courts of the United States. Human rights attorneys are headed back to court in the coming month to argue that, yes, victims of war crimes and torture by contractors should have a path to justice. Attorneys from my organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with co-counsel, are representing Iraqi civilians who were horribly tortured in Abu Ghraib and other detention centers in Iraq in seeking to hold accountable two private contractors for their violations of international, federal and state law. By the military’s own internal investigations, private military contractors from the U.S.-based corporations L-3 Services and CACI International were involved in the war crimes and acts of torture that took place, which included rape, being forced to watch family members and others be raped, severe beatings, being hung in stress positions, being pulled across the floor by genitals, mock executions, and other incidents, many of which were documented by photographs. The cases, Al Shimari v. CACI and Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla and L-3 aim to secure a day in court for the plaintiffs, none of whom were ever charged with any crimes.

The Department of Justice has thus far failed to prosecute any of the contractors involved, so the only path currently available for any accountability is through these human rights lawsuits. However, after years of litigation, the allegations of torture by contractors in these cases have still never been seriously examined, much less ruled on, by the courts. None of the plaintiffs in any of these cases has yet to have his or her day in court to tell their account of what they suffered. The reason is because the private military contractors have raised numerous legal defenses– many of which the plaintiffs’ lawyers have argued are plainly inapplicable to private corporations–which have kept the cases from moving into the discovery phase, where the nature of the contractors obligations, actions and oversight, as well as what happened to the plaintiffs would be the examined in detail. So far, CACI and Titan/L-3 have focused the courts on any question but whether the plaintiffs were tortured. As CCR and co-counsel summarize the question in their brief in Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla and L-3:

Are corporate defendants entitled to categorical “law of war” immunity for their alleged torture and war crimes when such a proposed immunity runs counter to settled understandings of the law of war and centuries of Supreme Court precedent, and would give for-profit contractors more protection from suit than genuine members of the U.S. Armed Forces?

This week, CCR and co-counsel filed briefs that argue the cases must go forward. Additionally, yesterday a number of other human rights organizations along with a group of retired high-ranking military officers are filing supporting amicus briefs to add their voices to the chorus of concern over contractor impunity. The military officers’ brief argues that, “given that employees of civilian contractors indisputably are not subject to the military chain of command, and therefore cannot be disciplined or held accountable by the military, it makes little sense to extend to them such absolute tort law immunity for their misconduct.” […]

READ @ http://my.firedoglake.com/lauraraymond/2011/12/21/do-private-military-contractors-have-impunity-to-torture/

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* THE DEFINING ISSUE: NOT GOVERNMENT’S SIZE, BUT WHO IT’S FOR

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog

The defining political issue of 2012 won’t be the government’s size. It will be who government is for.

Americans have never much liked government. After all, the nation was conceived in a revolution against government.

But the surge of cynicism now engulfing America isn’t about government’s size. The cynicism comes from a growing perception that government isn’t working for average people. It’s for big business, Wall Street, and the very rich instead.

In a recent Pew Foundation poll, 77 percent of respondents said too much power is in the hands of a few rich people and corporations.

That’s understandable. To take a few examples:

Wall Street got bailed out but homeowners caught in the fierce downdraft caused by the Street’s excesses have got almost nothing.

Big agribusiness continues to rake in hundreds of billions in price supports and ethanol subsidies. Big pharma gets extended patent protection that drives up everyone’s drug prices. Big oil gets its own federal subsidy. But small businesses on the Main Streets of America are barely making it.

American Airlines uses bankruptcy to ward off debtors and renegotiate labor contracts. Donald Trump’s businesses go bankrupt without impinging on Trump’s own personal fortune. But the law won’t allow you to use personal bankruptcy to renegotiate your home mortgage. […]

READhttp://robertreich.org/post/14480589454

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* CHOMSKY TO OCCUPY: MOVE TO THE NEXT STAGE

By Lance Tapley, The Boston Phoenix

[…] Chomsky’s speech was entitled “Arab Spring, American Winter.” In it, he presented the Occupy movement as the first popular reaction to a “vicious class war” waged against working people for over 30 years in the United States, just as the Arab Spring uprisings this year in the Middle East and North Africa were reactions to decades or centuries of repression by wealthy elites supported by the United States and other Western powers.

Greeted with a standing ovation, on top of his game at 83, he stood, in jeans and sweater, talking and answering questions for two hours in his always-even voice.

Riffing from one topic to another, Chomsky — who, an emeritus professor at MIT, also is known as the father of modern linguistics — demonstrated an encyclopedic knowledge of American foreign policy and history, citing stunningly revealing official documents chronicling our country’s economic and military predations abroad.

He compared the rule of international elites over Middle Eastern, African, Latin American, and Asian countries to the rule of the rich 1 percent — it is often the rule of one-tenth of one percent, he suggested — in the United States.

Quoting Adam Smith, the 18th-century father of capitalist theory, Chomsky delved into the roots of the neoliberal soak-the-poor philosophy dominant worldwide. “We’re essentially living in a nightmare” that the classical economists predicted, he said.

This nightmare’s concentration of wealth “accelerates” political-campaign-money competition, he said, driving politicians into the arms of wealthy interests. One result: “The Democrats are now what used to be called moderate Republicans.” […]

READ @ http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/131298-chomsky-to-occupy-move-to-the-next-stage/

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* THIS BASTARDIZED LIBERTARIANISM MAKES ‘FREEDOM’ AN INSTRUMENT OF OPPRESSION

It’s the disguise used by those who wish to exploit without restraint, denying the need for the state to protect the 99%

By George Monibot, Common Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom: who could object? Yet this word is now used to justify a thousand forms of exploitation. Throughout the right-wing press and blogosphere, among thinktanks and governments, the word excuses every assault on the lives of the poor, every form of inequality and intrusion to which the 1% subject us. How did libertarianism, once a noble impulse, become synonymous with injustice?

In the name of freedom – freedom from regulation – the banks were permitted to wreck the economy. In the name of freedom, taxes for the super-rich are cut. In the name of freedom, companies lobby to drop the minimum wage and raise working hours. In the same cause, US insurers lobby Congress to thwart effective public healthcare; the government rips up our planning laws; big business trashes the biosphere. This is the freedom of the powerful to exploit the weak, the rich to exploit the poor.

Right-wing libertarianism recognizes few legitimate constraints on the power to act, regardless of the impact on the lives of others. In the UK it is forcefully promoted by groups like the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the Adam Smith Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, and Policy Exchange. Their concept of freedom looks to me like nothing but a justification for greed.

So why have we been been so slow to challenge this concept of liberty? I believe that one of the reasons is as follows. The great political conflict of our age – between neocons and the millionaires and corporations they support on one side, and social justice campaigners and environmentalists on the other – has been mischaracterized as a clash between negative and positive freedoms. These freedoms were most clearly defined by Isaiah Berlin in his essay of 1958, Two Concepts of Liberty. It is a work of beauty: reading it is like listening to a gloriously crafted piece of music. I will try not to mangle it too badly.

Put briefly and crudely, negative freedom is the freedom to be or to act without interference from other people. Positive freedom is freedom from inhibition: it’s the power gained by transcending social or psychological constraints. Berlin explained how positive freedom had been abused by tyrannies, particularly by the Soviet Union. It portrayed its brutal governance as the empowerment of the people, who could achieve a higher freedom by subordinating themselves to a collective single will.

Rightwing libertarians claim that greens and social justice campaigners are closet communists trying to resurrect Soviet conceptions of positive freedom. In reality, the battle mostly consists of a clash between negative freedoms.

As Berlin noted: “No man’s activity is so completely private as never to obstruct the lives of others in any way. ‘Freedom for the pike is death for the minnows’.” So, he argued, some people’s freedom must sometimes be curtailed “to secure the freedom of others”. In other words, your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. The negative freedom not to have our noses punched is the freedom that green and social justice campaigns, exemplified by the Occupy movement, exist to defend.

Berlin also shows that freedom can intrude on other values, such as justice, equality or human happiness. “If the liberty of myself or my class or nation depends on the misery of a number of other human beings, the system which promotes this is unjust and immoral.” It follows that the state should impose legal restraints on freedoms that interfere with other people’s freedoms – or on freedoms which conflict with justice and humanity.

These conflicts of negative freedom were summarized in one of the greatest poems of the 19th century, which could be seen as the founding document of British environmentalism. In The Fallen Elm, John Clare describes the felling of the tree he loved, presumably by his landlord, that grew beside his home. “Self-interest saw thee stand in freedom’s ways / So thy old shadow must a tyrant be. / Thou’st heard the knave, abusing those in power, / Bawl freedom loud and then oppress the free.”

The landlord was exercising his freedom to cut the tree down. In doing so, he was intruding on Clare’s freedom to delight in the tree, whose existence enhanced his life. The landlord justifies this destruction by characterizing the tree as an impediment to freedom – his freedom, which he conflates with the general liberty of humankind. Without the involvement of the state (which today might take the form of a tree preservation order) the powerful man could trample the pleasures of the powerless man. Clare then compares the felling of the tree with further intrusions on his liberty. “Such was thy ruin, music-making elm; / The right of freedom was to injure thine: / As thou wert served, so would they overwhelm / In freedom’s name the little that is mine.”

But right-wing libertarians do not recognize this conflict. They speak, like Clare’s landlord, as if the same freedom affects everybody in the same way. They assert their freedom to pollute, exploit, even – among the gun nuts – to kill, as if these were fundamental human rights. They characterize any attempt to restrain them as tyranny. They refuse to see that there is a clash between the freedom of the pike and the freedom of the minnow. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/20-5#.TvCu4tED_ZY.facebook

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* A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM AMERICA’S RICH

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

It seems America’s bankers are tired of all the abuse. They’ve decided to speak out.

True, they’re doing it from behind the ropeline, in front of friendly crowds at industry conferences and country clubs, meaning they don’t have to look the rest of America in the eye when they call us all imbeciles and complain that they shouldn’t have to apologize for being so successful.

But while they haven’t yet deigned to talk to protesting America face to face, they are willing to scribble out some complaints on notes and send them downstairs on silver trays. Courtesy of a remarkable story by Max Abelson at Bloomberg, we now get to hear some of those choice comments.

Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, is not worried about OWS:

“Who gives a crap about some imbecile?” Marcus said. “Are you kidding me?”

Former New York gurbernatorial candidate Tom Golisano, the billionaire owner of the billing firm Paychex, offered his wisdom while his half-his-age tennis champion girlfriend hung on his arm:

“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.

Then there’s Leon Cooperman, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’s money-management unit, who said he was urged to speak out by his fellow golfers. His message was a version of Wall Street’s increasingly popular If-you-people-want-a-job, then-you’ll-shut-the-fuck-up rhetorical line:

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”

Finally, there is this from Blackstone CEO Steven Schwartzman:

Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.

“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”

There are obviously a great many things that one could say about this remarkable collection of quotes. One could even, if one wanted, simply savor them alone, without commentary, like lumps of fresh caviar, or raw oysters.

But out of Abelson’s collection of doleful woe-is-us complaints from the offended rich, the one that deserves the most attention is Schwarzman’s line about lower-income folks lacking “skin in the game.” This incredible statement gets right to the heart of why these people suck.

Why? It’s not because Schwarzman is factually wrong about lower-income people having no “skin in the game,” ignoring the fact that everyone pays sales taxes, and most everyone pays payroll taxes, and of course there are property taxes for even the lowliest subprime mortgage holders, and so on.

It’s not even because Schwarzman probably himself pays close to zero in income tax – as a private equity chief, he doesn’t pay income tax but tax on carried interest, which carries a maximum 15% tax rate, half the rate of a New York City firefighter.

The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).

So that IPO birthday boy is now standing up and insisting, with a straight face, that America’s problem is that compared to taxpaying billionaires like himself, poor people are not invested enough in our society’s future. Apparently, we’d all be in much better shape if the poor were as motivated as Steven Schwarzman is to make America a better place.  

But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You’ve got it all riding on how well America works.

You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you’d better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.

And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.

The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.

An ordinary person who has a problem that needs fixing puts a letter in the mail to his congressman and sends it to stand in a line in some DC mailroom with thousands of others, waiting for a response.

But citizens of the stateless archipelago where people like Schwarzman live spend millions a year lobbying and donating to political campaigns so that they can jump the line. They don’t need to make sure the government is fulfilling its customer-service obligations, because they buy special access to the government, and get the special service and the metaphorical comped bottle of VIP-room Cristal afforded to select customers.

Want to lower the capital reserve requirements for investment banks? Then-Goldman CEO Hank Paulson takes a meeting with SEC chief Bill Donaldson, and gets it done. Want to kill an attempt to erase the carried interest tax break? Guys like Schwarzman, and Apollo’s Leon Black, and Carlyle’s David Rubenstein, they just show up in Washington at Max Baucus’s doorstep, and they get it killed.

Some of these people take that VIP-room idea a step further. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon – the man the New York Times once called “Obama’s favorite banker” – had an excellent method of guaranteeing that the Federal Reserve system’s doors would always be open to him. What he did was, he served as the Chairman of the Board of the New York Fed. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/a-christmas-message-from-americas-rich-20111222

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* VARIOUS MATTERS

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

There are several relatively brief items worth noting today:

(1) There are two new must-read articles on one of the worst legacies of the Obama presidency thus far: the failure to prosecute Wall Street executives for the criminal behavior that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. The first is from Jeff Connaughton, the former chief of staff to former Democratic Sen. Ted Kaufman, who chaired Senate oversight hearings on financial fraud prosecutions; Connaughton documents what he calls the “misleading” statements and multiple actions of President Obama designed to shield those executives from accountability. The second is from Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi who, commenting on Connaughton’s piece, writes that “what makes Obama’s statements so dangerous is that they suggest an ongoing strategy of covering up the Wall Street crimewave.”

(2) A New York Times article yesterday examined the sometimes severe psychological stress experienced by the long-distance, remote-controlled operators of America’s drones. In one sense, that story angle is perverse: whatever stress these drone pilots experience is a tiny fraction of that continuously suffered by those who live with the falling bombs and missiles launched by these drones near their homes and children. But the articles makes one interesting point: while long working hours are the principal cause of the stress (necessitated by America’s massive increase in drone usage under President Obama), one source of stress for at least a small portion of these pilots is having to confront the images of the “collateral damage” they cause — meaning the innocent human life they extinguish with their joysticks and video game buttons:

In one surprising finding that challenged some of the survey’s initial suppositions, the authors found limited stress related to a unique aspect of the operators’ jobs: watching hours of close-up video of people killed in drone strikes. After a strike, operators assess the damage, and unlike fighter pilots who fly thousands of feet above their targets, drone operators can see in vivid detail what they have destroyed. . . .

Both Dr. Chappelle and Colonel McDonald said that 4 percent or less of operators were at high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, the severe anxiety disorder that can include flashbacks, nightmares, anger, hypervigilance or avoidance of people, places or situations. In those cases, the authors suggested, the operators had seen close-up video of what the military calls collateral damage, casualties of women, children or other civilians. “Collateral damage is unnerving or unsettling to these guys,” Colonel McDonald said.

The doctors conducting the study were actually surprised that the psychological injuries from seeing this was as limited as it is. Still, at least some of these drone pilots have enough of a conscience to be seriously disturbed by the horrific results of these strikes. If only the general citizenry — who are typically kept blissfully unaware of the human devastation their government is causing — were as affected.

Along those lines, CNN.com, to its credit, today has a stomach-turning story of a 4-year-girl Pakistani girl who was severely burned by an American drone strike back in 2009, when she was a year old, complete with horrifying videos of her injuries:

She has eyelashes but no eyebrows. She has all her fingers but is missing four nails. Her skin is so taut now that she can no longer frown.

But she can still smile.

Her face tells a story of suffering. . . .Shakira, believed burned in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, will undergo reconstructive surgery in January. . .

In 2009, [Hashmat] Effendi was on a medical mission with Texas-based House of Charity in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The region’s natural beauty was once compared to Switzerland’s, but by then it was a Taliban-infested area rife with violence.

One of the doctors found three little girls left in a trash bin. They’d suffered horrific injuries.

“Who are they?” the doctor asked.

Nobody knew.

Where were their parents? Where were they from?

Shakira, 4, is believed to have been burned in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in 2009.

All anyone could say is that there had been a U.S. drone attack.

The doctor, who was traveling with House of Charity, took them back with him. They were in grave condition. Two of the girls died, but the littlest one had a chance of making it if she were treated right away.

She was only a year old, Effendi guessed, but small for her age. She was skinny. Dirty. Very bloody. She had fresh burns all over her face, her scalp and on her arms.

This repeats itself over and over. And yet, it could hardly be less controversial in the country responsible for these attacks, largely because there is no partisan gain to be had from caring about it (merely to mention the irony that the GOP candidate currently leading most Iowa polls is the only major candidate from either party who opposes all of this is to trigger all sorts of recriminations; apparently, the ongoing slaughter of innocent men, women and children is far too insignificant an issue even to make the agenda of discussion). In fact, literally every time I even raise the horrors of the Obama drone program and the secrecy and lawlessness under which it’s conducted, I’m bombarded with arguments that drones are not an important issue or, from the most pathological Obama apologists, even fun drone humor designed to mock concerns about these attacks (such frivolity follows in the footsteps of their leader himself and his top aides). Contrary to the outright lie told by John Brennan, the President’s top counter-terrorism adviser, the fact is that the U.S. is continuously blowing up, burning, and killing innocent people, including numerous children, in the Muslim world. The program under which that is done is shrouded in almost complete secrecy. And it not only continues, but does so with little controversy.

(3) In response to the criticism I voiced a couple of weeks ago of NPR’s largely one-sided news story on domestic drones (criticism apparently expressed as well by numerous NPR listeners), that outlet’s Ombudsman defended the coverage but said “the complaints raise good—even intriguing—points for a second story that focuses exclusively on the privacy concerns surrounding potential police use of drones here at home.” Yesterday, the generally excellent Tom Ashbrook devoted a full hour on his NPR On Point Show to the proliferation of drones, featuring an ACLU staff attorney specializing in privacy issues.  TPM’s Jillian Rayfield also has a good article on the growth of domestic drones and the unique dangers they pose.

(4) In Salon, Jordan Michael Smith compiles substantial evidence to argue that “the media consensus on Israel is collapsing.” Few developments are as imperative: The Australian reports today how the U.S., yet again, is alienating itself from the world consensus, and angering even close allies, by standing alone once again to shield Israel from even the mildest rebuke for the most egregious misconduct. To be sure, the smear campaigns are as concerted as ever toward those who question this bipartisan Israel orthodoxy — Time‘s Joe Klein this week responded to some of those smears aimed at him for doing so: see his Point 7 and the update – but, as Smith documents, they are increasingly ineffective.

(5) In The New Yorker, George Packer, who vocally supported the attack on Iraq but criticized it when it starting failing, writes about Christopher Hitchens, who never deviated from full-throated support. Most of what Packer writes is, as one would expect, little more than the now-trite reminiscing about Hitchens we’ve heard from his thousands of media friends which Neal Pollack parodied so brilliantly here, but Packer’s concluding paragraph struck me as something worth highlighting:

Iraq led Hitchens to some of his worst indulgences—the propaganda trip to Iraq in Wolfowitz’s entourage, the pose of Byronic heroism. But perhaps the war and the enemies it made him helped give Hitchens the courage of his last years and months—the atheist in the foxhole. Hitchens was one of the very few people who could slash and burn you in print, then meet for drinks and talk in the true warmth of friendship, discussing a writer we both admired, garrulous to the very last. It was a sign of his essential decency that he didn’t make it personal.

Is it really “a sign of decency” to refuse to view any political ideas as not merely wrong in some abstract intellectual sense, but as a reflection of the person’s character? Obviously, there are many political disagreements — most — which can and should be conducted in perfectly good faith without the need for personal animus. Conversely, though, aren’t there some political views so repellent and sociopathic that “a sign of essential decency” is to make it personal, rather than refusing to do so? This line of thought strikes me as anything but essentially decent:

Sure, he was and remained a fervent, unrepentant public cheerleader for an aggressive, baseless attack on another country that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and displaced millions more, and sure, he was very eager to fuel an Endless War that resulted in the deaths of countless innocent men, women and children that he himself never fought in, but I’m not going to hold any of that against him. I’ll argue with him as part of entertaining, invigorating political debate, but then will be happy to go out for drinks with him — he’s a really fun guy — and will proudly call him my friend.

In what sense does “decency” compel — or even permit — that line of thought? Packer, as he usually does, is simply giving voice to the standard mindset of Washington’s political and media class. As Charles Davis put it to me by email a couple of days ago when discussing David Corn’s expressed admiration for Hitchens — the irony that the Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones, of all places, waxed so effusive about one of the nation’s leading war zealots:

That’s Washington. Issues of war and peace — life and death — are just something you argue about from 9 to 5, and only when the cameras are on. Disagreeing on the wisdom of invading and occupying other nations is like disagreeing on whether the minimum wage should be $9.50 or $9.25: nothing serious enough to end a relationship over (see: Lake, Eli). And what’s a few hundred thousand dead brown people between friends?

The bottomless willingness of political and media elites to forgive each other of their sins, insulate personal relationships from everything else, and subordinate all other considerations to loyalty to their shared membership in those circles is not “a sign of essential decency.” It’s one of the leading causes of Washington’s rot.

(6) Physics Professor, noted atheist, and author Mano Singham has an interesting review of With Liberty and Justice for Some. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2011/12/22/various_matters_15/singleton

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* THE GLOBALIZATION OF WAR: “MILITARY ROADMAP TO WWIII

ONLINE INTERACTIVE E-READER

By Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham, Global Research

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest.

The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the world simultaneously.

The concept of the “Long War” has characterized US military doctrine since the end of World War II. The broader objective of global military dominance in support of an imperial project was first formulated under the Truman administration in the late 1940s at the outset of the Cold War.

In September 1990, some five weeks after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, US President and Commander in Chief George Herbert Walker Bush delivered a historical address to a joint session of the US Congress and the Senate in which he proclaimed a New World Order emerging from the rubble of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union.

Bush Senior had envisaged a world of “peaceful international co-operation”, one which was no longer locked into the confrontation between competing super powers, under the shadow of the doctrine of  “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) which had characterized the Cold War era.

Bush declared emphatically at the outset of what became known as “the post-Cold War era” that:

“a new partnership of nations has begun, and we stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times… a new world order can emerge: A new era freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony.”

Of course, speeches by American presidents are often occasions for cynical platitudes and contradictions that should not be taken at face value. After all, President Bush was holding forth on international law and justice only months after his country had invaded Panama in December 1989 causing the deaths of several thousand citizens – committing crimes comparable to what Saddam Hussein would be accused of and supposedly held to account for. Also in 1991, the US and its NATO allies went on to unleash, under a “humanitarian” mantle, a protracted war against Yugoslavia, leading to the destruction, fragmentation and impoverishment of an entire country.

Nevertheless, it is instructive to use Bush Senior’s slanted vision of a “New World Order” as a reference point for how dramatically the world has changed in the intervening 20 years of the so-called post-Cold War era, and in particular how unilaterally degenerate the contemporary international conduct of the US has become under the Clinton, G. W. Bush Junior and Obama administrations.

Bush Senior’s “promise” of world peace has opened up, in the wake of the Cold War, an age of continuous warfare accompanied by a process of economic dislocation, social devastation and environmental degradation.

In a bitter irony, this concept of peaceful international co-operation and partnership was used as a pretext to unleash The Gulf War, which consisted in  “defending the sovereignty” of Kuwait and “upholding international law” following the Iraqi 1990 invasion.

Global Warfare

We are dealing with a global military agenda, namely “Global Warfare”. Far from a world of peaceful cooperation, we are living in a dystopian world of permanent wars – wars that are being waged in flagrant contravention of international law and against public opinion and interest.

Far from a “new era more secure in the quest for peace” we may see a world more akin to George Orwell’s 1984, dominated by perpetual conflict, insecurity, authoritarian surveillance, doublethink and public mind control.

A problem for many citizens is that “doublethink and mind control” have become so deeply embedded and disseminated by the mass media, including the so-called quality free press, such as The New York Times and The Guardian.

The Post 9/11 Era: America’s Doctrine of Pre-emptive Warfare

Allegedly sponsored by Al Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon played a central role in molding public opinion.  One of the main objectives of war propaganda is to “fabricate an enemy”. The “outside enemy” personified by Osama bin Laden is “threatening America”.

Pre-emptive war directed against “Islamic terrorists” is required to defend the Homeland. Realities are turned upside down: America is under attack.

In the wake of 9/11, the creation of this “outside enemy” served to obfuscate the real economic and strategic objectives behind the American-led wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Waged on the grounds of self-defense, the pre-emptive war is upheld as a “just war” with a humanitarian mandate.

From the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in the early 1980s, the US intelligence apparatus has supported the formation of the “Islamic brigades”. Propaganda purports to erase the history of Al Qaeda, drown the truth and “kill the evidence” on how this “outside enemy” was fabricated and transformed into “Enemy Number One”.

The US intelligence apparatus has created it own terrorist organizations. And at the same time, it creates its own terrorist warnings concerning the terrorist organizations which it has itself created. Meanwhile, a cohesive multibillion dollar counterterrorism program “to go after” these terrorist organizations has been put in place.

Instead of “war” or “state terrorism”, we are told of “humanitarian intervention” directed against “terrorists”.

Instead of “offence”, we are told of “defense” or “protection”.

Instead of “mass murder” we are told of “collateral damage”.

A good versus evil dichotomy prevails. The perpetrators of war are presented as the victims. Public opinion is misled: “We must fight against evil in all its forms as a means to preserving the Western way of life.”

Breaking the “Big Lie” which presents war as a humanitarian undertaking, means breaking a criminal project of global destruction, in which the quest for profit is the overriding force. This profit-driven military agenda destroys human values and transforms people into unconscious zombies. […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28254

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* NURSES SAY PRIVATE EQUITY FIRM STARVING MASSACHUSETTS HOSPITALS

By Mark Brenner and Mischa Gaus, Labor Notes

Nurses sang sour carols today to the private equity firm they say is starving Massachusetts hospitals and pitting workers against each other.

Massachusetts nurses came to the headquarters of Cerberus Capital in Manhattan because Cerberus is the money behind Steward Health Systems, which took over the troubled Catholic hospital system Caritas last year and now is squeezing patients and workers for ultra-profits.

Hundreds of fellow members of National Nurses United, the Massachusetts nurses’ national union, sang and chanted outside Cerberus this afternoon.

Realizing that private equity firms specialize in stripping troubled businesses down and flipping them to new owners, the Massachusetts Nurses Association had insisted during the takeover on guarantees that practices and specialties could not be phased out.

Hospital workers did take concessions, but MNA secured a multi-employer pension plan and set the stage for negotiating with the chain collectively across four of its hospitals rather than one by one.

Now Steward is challenging MNA’s pension plan, closing down units, and threatening to shutter whole hospitals in order to get nurses to open up their contracts.

“Their whole pitch was to keep the community hospitals alive,” said Linda Tasker, a telemetry nurse at Merrimack Valley Hospital. “But they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, and picking out the hospitals that will make the most money.”

Steward is also laying off many staff nurses—especially those at the top of the seniority list and pay scale.

Victoria Webster and Lynne Blanchard were two of 13 nurses fired in May at Carney hospital’s psychiatric unit in Dorchester. They say the firings, which included 19 mental health counselors, came after they blew the whistle on patient violence and poor staffing at the facility. Steward hired a crop of inexperienced new nurses, they say.

Cerberus, with reported holdings of about $20 billion, has a checkered history in health care: One of its companies held a contract at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where abysmal conditions for wounded veterans came to light in 2007. A Congressional oversight committee said the decision to privatize support services to the Cerberus outfit “led to a precipitous drop in support personnel.”

READ @ http://labornotes.org/print/2011/12/nurses-say-private-equity-starving-massachusetts-hospitals

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* EUROPEANS LEAVE EN MASSE AMIDST CRISIS

By PressTV

Tens of thousands of Europeans are migrating from their homelands, many heading to the southern hemisphere, as the continent sinks deeper into financial crisis.

While official statistics shows that Portugal, Greece and Ireland had the largest stream of immigrants leaving their country’s this year, evidence points to the same happening in Spain and Italy.

In 2010, 1.21 million Greeks have emigrated, according to the World Bank, equaling 10.8 percent of the population.

The top destinations for the Greek were Germany, Australia, Canada, Albania, Turkey, UK, Cyprus, and Belgium.

This year, 2,500 Greek citizens have moved to Australia and another 40,000 have “expressed interest” in moving south.

In Ireland, where 14.5 percent of the population is jobless, in the 12 months to April this year, 40,200 Irish passport-holders left, up from 27,700 the previous year.

According to the Ireland’s central statistics office, the number will increase to 50,000 by the end of year, many heading for Australia and the US.

Meanwhile, Portugal’s foreign ministry reports that at least 10,000 people have left for oil-rich Angola this year. The Portuguese are also heading to other former colonies, such as Mozambique and Brazil.

According to Brazilian government figures, the number of foreigners legally living in Brazil rose to 1.47 million in June, which 330,000 of them are Portuguese.

Since its formation, the European Union has been a haven for those seeking refuge from war, persecution and poverty in other parts of the world.

The worsening debt crisis, however, has forced European governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have made life much harder for ordinary citizens, creating a new stream of immigrants leaving the continent.

The debt crisis has also sparked several incidents of social unrest, with strikes in Greece against austerity measures turning bloody and a violent protest in Rome injuring more than 100 people.

Europe plunged into a financial crisis in early 2010. Insolvency now threatens heavily debt-ridden countries such as Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain

READ @ http://www.presstv.ir/detail/217012.html

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* GUNDERSEN: GOVERNMENT DUMPING RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL INTO TOKYO BAY — CONTAMINATING SEAWEED FOUND IN AREA (VIDEO)

By ENENEWS ADMIN

Transcript Summary at 26:00 in

  • The Japanese can’t dump the radioactive waste in the ocean because they signed a convention that prohibits dumping at sea
  • What they’re doing to get around all of this is they are dumping from dump trucks into Tokyo Bay… not at sea
  • Using it as landfill
  • So eventually all this radioactive material is not being monitored
  • It is certainly not being retained in any kind of geologic fashion
  • But in fact is getting dumped in Tokyo Bay

Perhaps this is related to today’s report from EX-SKF: Radioactive Nori in Tokyo Bay, Dec. 22, 2011:

  • The Fisheries Agency publishes the result of the survey of radioactive materials (iodine, cesium only) in marine products including seaweeds. In the latest result published on December 21 for the items reported since October, radioactive cesium has been found in dried “nori” in:
  • Kanagawa Prefecture – 1 sample, at 11 becquerels/kg
  • Chiba Prefecture – 6 samples, 11, 27, 25, 16.5, 5.6, 17.7 becquerels/kg respectively […]
  • I’ve never seen the news of radioactive cesium detection in nori in the mainstream media at all. Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have known about it. I’m curious to know how radioactive cesium traveled from Fukushima to Tokyo Bay. The government has claimed that the Kuroshio Current would prevent the spread of radioactive materials south of Ibaraki.
  • Judging by the reaction to my Japanese tweet, there are many others like me who didn’t know about the detection. […]

READ @ http://enenews.com/gundersen-govt-dumping-radioactive-material-into-tokyo-bay-radioactive-seaweed-found-in-area-video