* LEON PANETTA IS FULL OF SHIT
By Barry Eisler, Information Clearing House
In a letter to Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, Panetta warned that after possible cuts in the military budget, “we would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.”
Which would be pretty damn bad… if we wound up having to go to war with America’s 1940 army, 1915 navy, or some historical version of America’s Air Force. If we’re lucky, though, and don’t have to go to war with past incarnations of our military, Panetta’s comparison is logically nearly irrelevant. In fact, even the most massive cuts currently under consideration would return American military spending only to 2007 levels. So as long as we don’t have to go to war with our 2007 military, we should be okay.
If Panetta had been interested in logical relevance, though, he wouldn’t have referred to the past at all. He would have focused on the present, and in the present, we spend more on our military than the rest of the world spends combined. And we spend more than five times more on our military than the second biggest military spender, which is China (numbers 3 and 4 are France and the UK, American allies).
But Panetta doesn’t want you to know these numbers. If you did, you might laugh at him when he describes military cuts as meaning “doomsday” for America.
That’s right. According to Panetta, returning to 2007 military spending levels, and still spending about as much as the rest of the world combined — means doomsday for America. […]
* POLICE ARREST 62 AS ‘OCCUPY’ PROTESTERS TARGET LOBBYISTS
By Agence France-Presse
WASHINGTON — Police arrested 62 protesters Wednesday as supporters of Occupy Wall Street targeted lobbyists who promote the interests of corporate America in Washington’s corridors of power.
Undeterred by steady rain, more than 1,000 marchers — many of them labor-union activists — shut down several blocks of K Street, epicenter of the US capital’s influential and lucrative lobbying industry, around midday.
Police, including a trio on horseback, intervened when several dozen protesters sat or lay down on the wet pavement at 14th and K streets and refused to budge when threatened with arrest for obstruction.
“This really speaks well of America,” one of the rain-soaked protesters, Kelly Caldwell of Portland, Oregon, yelled sarcastically as police officers in long yellow coats put him in handcuffs and dragged him into a waiting van.
Sixty-two people were arrested, a spokesman for Washington’s Metropolitan Police told AFP. One was charged with assaulting a police officer, and all the others with obstructing a public thoroughfare.
In the evening, about 50 protesters marched on the White House to condemn the National Defense Authorization Act, now before Congress, which critics say would give US soldiers the power to hold civilians indefinitely without charge.
Wednesday’s shutdown of K Street came a day after demonstrators backed by labor unions and civic groups occupied Congressional and Senate offices on Capitol Hill as part of a three-day Take Back the Capitol action.
Washington is home to two separate open-ended protest encampments, both near the White House, inspired by Occupy Wall Street and condemning social inequality and corporate influence on US politics.
Joining them this week has been a self-styled People’s Camp on the National Mall, made up of about 15 tents — in clear view of the Capitol — erected by protesters from different corners of the United States. […]
* U.S. ARMING EGYPTIAN MILITARY CRACKDOWN
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
When the Center for American Progress’ Think Progress blog recently compiled all of the inspiring foreign policy successes of our nation’s strong and resolute Commander-in-Chief, they listed — alongside the assassination of a U.S. citizen without due process and increased deference to Israel — what they hailed as the President’s having “supported democratic transition in Egypt.” President Obama apparently deserves credit for this notwithstanding the fact that his administration supported President Mubarak up to the very last minute; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in 2009, proclaimed: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family”; and Obama, once Mubarak’s fall became inevitable, tried to engineer the empowerment of Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s long-time trusted lieutenant most responsible for its torture, brutality and domestic repression. If that’s supporting democracy in Egypt, I would hate to see what opposition entails.
Over the past several weeks, the Egyptian government has used brutal and indiscriminate violence against citizen protesters. On November 21, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Military police used rubber bullets, truncheons and tear gas in a failed attempt to expel protesters from” Tahrir Square and that “at least eight people were killed . . . and 192 people were injured.” The same day, The New York Times reported that “the Health Ministry said at least 23 people had died, and several doctors treating patients at a field clinic and nearby hospital said several had been killed by live ammunition, contrary to denials by the Interior Ministry.” That day, White House spokesman Jay Carney issued a bizarrely neutral statement which called for “restraint on all sides” — a statement that triggered predictable and justifiable anger among Egyptians:
The US attempt to reposition itself as a supporter of democracy and human rights in the Middle East is being undermined by a growing Egyptian perception that Washington will back Egypt’s military junta unreservedly despite its increasing repressiveness.
That perception was reinforced yesterday, when a White House statement on the clashes between protesters and security forces appeared to place the blame equally on both sides for violence that has killed at least 29 protesters since Saturday. . . .
That call for restraint on “all sides,” in the face of days of excessive use of force by police and soldiers, was met with incredulity in Cairo. Security forces have shot not only tear gas and rubber bullets, but bird shot and live ammunition at protesters throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. “Should we stop dying? Is that how we should show restraint?” scoffed protester Salma Ahmed as heavy gunfire echoed through Tahrir Square.
That’s standard fare for the U.S.: when a government it dislikes uses violence against its own citizens, it vehemently denounces that government and depicts itself as the guardians of democracy and protest rights; but when an allied government does exactly the same thing, it simply calls for “restraint on all sides” — as though the protesters being killed by U.S.-backed regimes are on equal moral footing with the regimes doing the killing — or, at best, condemns the deaths while refusing to blame the government. In the case of Egypt, all of this is part and parcel with the Obama administration’s conspicuous support for the regime despite ongoing abuses; as the Christian Science Monitor explained two weeks ago:
In recent months, Egypt’s military rulers have become increasingly repressive – torturing with impunity, jailing bloggers, sending more than 12,000 civilians to military tribunals, and using excessive force against protesters, killing dozens. Yet as the abuses have stacked up, the US has mostly refrained from public criticism of Egypt’s military, whose $1.3 billion in US aid could come under review if critics in Congress prevail. Washington’s relative silence has created the appearance that the US has returned to its Mubarak-era policy of turning a blind eye to its ally’s abuses to preserve the relationship.
Unsurprisingly in light of these facts, the actual Egyptian people don’t share CAP’s view that President Obama deserves credit for supporting their transition to democracy, as multiple polls over the last 18 months show that the U.S. is viewed even more unfavorably in that country than it was during the Bush years. That’s particularly disappointing given that Obama’s April, 2009 speech in Cairo was one of the more impressive things he’s done: standing in the middle of the Muslim world, in front of President Mubarak, and eloquently arguing for the imperatives of democratic reform. But Egyptians obviously have come to realize, as many Americans have as well, that President’s Obama’s pretty, pretty speeches are often not backed up — or are even aggressively negated — by his subsequent actions. […]
* THE MILITARIZATION OF AMERICAN POLICE – AND SHREDDING OF OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS – STARTED AT LEAST 30 YEARS AGO
By Washington’s Blog
Police Being Militarized Nationwide
Journalists from across the spectrum have documented the militarization of police forces in the United States, including, CNN, Huffington Post, the Cato Institute, Forbes, the New York Times, Daily Kos, Esquire, The Atlantic, Salon and many others.
Many police departments laugh at and harass Americans who exercise their right to free speech:
Indeed – especially since police brutality against protesters has been so blatant in recent months, while no top bank executives have been prosecuted – many Americans believe that the police are protecting the bankers whose fraud brought down the economy instead of the American people:
Some are comparing police brutality towards the Occupy protesters to that used by Israeli forces against Palestinian protesters. Indeed, numerous heads of U.S. police departments have traveled to Israel for “anti-terrorism training”, and received training from Israeli anti-terrorism experts visiting the U.S. See this, this, this, this, this. […]
* THE REAL HISTORY OF ‘CORPORATE PERSONHOOD’: MEET THE MAN TO BLAME FOR CORPORATIONS HAVING MORE RIGHTS THAN YOU
By Jeffrey Clements, AlterNet
|In 1971, Lewis Powell, a mild-mannered, courtly, and shrewd corporate lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, soon to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court, wrote a memorandum to his client, the United States Chamber of Commerce. He outlined a critique and a plan that changed America.
Lewis Powell, like the Citizens United dissenter Justice John Paul Stevens, was a decorated World War II veteran who returned to his hometown to build a most respected corporate law practice. By all accounts, Powell was a gentleman — reserved, polite, and gracious — and a distinguished lawyer and public servant. Commentators and law professors cite Powell’s “qualities of temperament and character” and his “modest” and “restrained” approach to judging. At his funeral in 1998, Sandra Day O’Connor, who had joined the Supreme Court in 1987, said, “For those who seek a model of human kindness, decency, exemplary behavior, and integrity, there will never be a better man.” Even the rare critic will cite Lewis Powell’s decency and kindness.
Much about these accounts must be true, but none tells the whole story of Lewis Powell. All of them, and even the principal Powell biography, omit the details of how he used his gifts to advance a radical corporate agenda. It is impossible to square this corporatist part of Powell’s life and legacy with any conclusion of “modest” or “restrained” judging.
Powell titled his 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” He explained, “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack.” In response, corporations must organize and fund a drive to achieve political power through “united action.” Powell emphasized the need for a sustained, multiyear corporate campaign to use an “activist-minded Supreme Court” to shape “social, economic and political change” to the advantage of corporations. […]
* WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN THE RUSSIAN ELECTIONS
By Israel Shamir, Counterpunch
Moscow is unusually warm: the temperature refuses to dip below zero degrees Centigrade, the freezing point. Instead, it is wet and dark. The sun gets up late and goes to sleep early. To make matters worse, President Medvedev decided to keep Russia on daylight savings time throughout winter. To offset this stupid decision, Christmas illumination was turned on a month before the usual time, in order to cheer up the voters. Now it lights the way for the armoured vans of the riot police sent in to pacify the cheery electorate.
The parliamentary elections were deemed in advance as a futile and vain exercise of no practical importance. “It does not matter how you vote, what matters is how they count”, pundits said. But the results were quite impressive and they point to great changes ahead. The Russians have said to communism: “Come back, all is forgiven.” They effectively voted to restore the Soviet Union, in one form or another. Perhaps this vote will not be acted upon, but now we know – the people are disappointed with capitalism, with the low place of post-Soviet Russia in the world and with the marriage of big business and government.
If communists proved the fallacy of their ideas in 70 years, the capitalists needed only twenty years to achieve this same result, joked Maxim Kantor, a prominent modern Russian painter, writer and thinker. The twentieth anniversary of the restoration of capitalism that Russia commemorated this year was not a cause for celebration but rather for sad second thoughts. The Russians loudly regretted the course taken by their country in 1991; the failed coup of August 1991, this last ditch attempt to preserve communism, has been reassessed in a positive light, while the brave Harvard boys of yesteryear who initiated the reforms are seen as criminals. Yeltsin and Gorbachev are out, Stalin is in. […]
* COMMITTEE ON ETHICS: IN THE MATTER OF REP. NEWT GINGRICH
House Report 105-1