Nov 302011



By Eleanor Goldberg, HuffPo

Unemployed for two years and still recovering from a war injury, Dottie Guy has just about blown through her life savings. While the Iraq veteran qualifies for disability payments, she has no idea when the agency will set a date for her hearing.

“I have no income right now and it’s scary,” Guy, 29, told the Huffington Post.

The former military policewoman is just one of about 2,000 disgruntled veterans who say they’ve risked their lives and well-being only to come home to a country that profits from their sacrifices. Iraq Veterans Against The War issued a statement Monday saying that they feel betrayed by the nation’s leaders and will continue to join the Occupy Wall Street protests to broadcast their grievances.

“The VA services are abysmal,” Guy said. “But yet the corporations who are making all this money from these wars are living high off the hog.”

Veterans have found a natural sounding board in the Occupy movement. Faced with surging unemployment and a need for better health services, this vulnerable community has leveraged the protests to help galvanize, educate and empower veterans.

IVAW said that its membership has increased about 10 percent since Marine Corps veteran Scott Olsen was seriously injured at Occupy Oakland in October.

“Most veterans, when they get out, have found that the promises that were made to us were not followed through on,” said Scott Kimball, secretary of the IVAW board of directors.

Kimball said he’s been involved with the Occupy movement in Illinois since it began and helped organize the Veterans marches around the country that occurred on Nov. 2.

The wealth discrepancy between returning troops and corporations profiting from the war is a prime concern among veterans who have joined the Occupy movement. Guy has been among the 12.1 percent of veterans without jobs since 2009. Kimball, who served as an infantryman in Iraq from 2003 to 2007, went back to school after finding minimal employment opportunities. […]




By Kathleen Wallace Peine, Dissident Voice

This week Congress is expected to vote on a bill advanced by John McCain and Carl Levin, a Republican and Democrat who united to bring us the foundation needed to propel us fully into a militarized nightmare state similar to what we have been exporting these last few years. It is the Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act.

In case you haven’t heard the details (which is likely if you have spent much time watching traditional news), the bill essentially labels every spot on this earth as a battlefield, including the United States. It’s a telling moment when they concede, or, in fact, advance a never ending war, and its present under each rock, according to these lawmakers. It’s certainly the stuff of 1984 (we’ve always been at war with Eastasia). From this notion springs the advancement of military tribunals dealing with all citizens of the globe (once again, Americans included) without the bother of transparency. Detention and disappearance could be the order of the day.

The secretive nature and broad sweeps have already been used on those they deem foreign enemy combatants around the world. As if by fascist playbook, this sort of thing is trial ballooned on “the other” and then brought home for the enjoyment of those who didn’t complain the first time around.

An enormous issue with the militarization and deviation from open aired civilian courts is the very secretive nature of it all. If an individual has truly done a harm that merits intervention, then the light of day should shine on the accusations and stand on their own merits. That tired excuse that the information in these trials needs to be hidden is simply a ploy to avoid oversight and scrutiny. The stories have circulated about local warlords turning in neighbors (who get sent to Gitmo) often for decidedly illegitimate reasons. And then just enough scary terror bogymen really are in residence there to allow the average citizen to go back to sleep, avoiding the uncomfortable realization that some there did nothing wrong, except perhaps be in the wrong place at the wrong time or have enemies with the ear of Uncle Sam. It would be mindless to think it would go down in any other manner here. We aren’t that exceptional, I’m sorry to say.

Not to mention that this further advancement of the Military Industrial Complex must be making those entities who profit off of all of this salivate. As resources dwindle, the decision seems to have been made by the few to loot all that is available, consequences be damned.

At a time when Walmarts around the country have to add extra staff to handle the huge influx at midnight when food stamp cards get recharged….is this really the largest threat to the average American right now?. Of course not. Who is really destroying our nation?

The lumbering corporate facilitators in Congress who let our people languish as they advance Military Industrial Complex hardcore porn legislation such as this.

I have trouble believing that all of the legislators are truly evil. Rancid little snowflakes, all of them, to be sure, some evil, but some merely venal and ignorant — all hideous in their own unique manner. We will find no assistance from this pool of infamy.

This bill is flying under the radar; few seem to know about it. But, of course, that’s understandable; a new woman has popped up to talk about an inappropriate affair with Herman Cain. And if she hadn’t materialized, some damn baby would have to go missing or a hooker’s ipad with Congressional fetish requests would have to be unearthed at a booth in Chili’s – as they debate legislation that would allow the foundations for a new class of “disappeared” to occur in this nation.

If you still have any lingering thoughts that a Democrat (Crip) or a Republican (Blood) might save you, then this should serve as your final wake up call. If the teams truly believed their rhetoric, an abomination like this would have never been advanced — the fear of the other party occupying the Commander in Chief throne would be too frightening to ponder for the opposite party. Sure, they say this is for Al-Queda, but that’s what they always say. It only morphs into the others, such as political dissidents down the road. […]




By Josiah Ryan, The Hill

The Senate rejected an amendment on Tuesday that would have removed a provision from the pending Defense spending bill to toughen U.S. policy towards suspected terrorists captured on the battlefield or on the home front.

The amendment, defeated 37-61, would have struck a section of the spending bill that authorizes the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to detain people suspected of terrorism and instead would have implemented a timeline to allow further hearings and opportunities for the military to make recommendations on how detainee policy ought to change.

Prior to the vote, the amendment’s author, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), argued that military and law enforcement professionals ought to be given a louder voice in the deliberation over a policy that could so drastically affect the execution of their duties.

“We are ignoring the advice and the input of the director of the FBI, the director of the intelligence community, the attorney general of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the White House,” said Udall.

“My amendment would take out these provisions, and give us in the Congress an opportunity to take a hard look at the needs of our counterterrorism professionals, and respond in a measured way that reflects the input of those who are actually fighting our enemies,” Udall had said on the Senate floor. “The secretary of Defense is warning us that we may be making mistakes that will hurt our capacity to fight terrorism at home and abroad.”

Udall also said he feared the provision could apply to U.S. citizens, which he said would be an “unprecedented threat to our constitutional liberties.” […]




By Matt Stoller, Business Insider


And what happens when this kind of fraud goes unprosecuted? It continues, even today. The same banks that ran the corrupt home mortgage securitization chain are now committing rampant fraud in the foreclosure crisis. Here’s New Orleans Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Magner discussing problems at Lender Processing Services, the company that handles 80 percent of foreclosures on behalf of large banks (emphasis added):

In Jones v. Wells Fargo, this Court discovered that a highly automated software package owned by LPS and identified as MSP administered loans for servicers and note holders but was programed to apply payments contrary to the terms of the notes and mortgages. 

The bad behavior is so rampant that banks think nothing of a contractor programming fraud into the software. This is shocking behavior and has led to untold numbers of foreclosures, as well as the theft of huge sums of money from mortgage-backed securities investors.

Here’s how the fraud works: Mortgage loan notes are very clear on the schedule of how payments are to be applied. First, the money goes to interest, then principal, then all other fees. That means that investors get paid first and servicers, who collect late fees for themselves, get paid either when they collect the late fee from the debtor or from the liquidation of the foreclosure. And fees are supposed to be capitalized into the overall mortgage amount. If you are late one month, it isn’t supposed to push you into being late on all subsequent months.

The software, however, prioritizes servicer fees above the contractually required interest and principal to investors. This isn’t a one-off; it’s programmed. It’s the very definition of a conspiracy! Who knows how many people paid late and then were pushed into a spiral of fees that led into a foreclosure? It’s the perfect crime, and many of the victims had paid every single mortgage payment.

A lack of criminal prosecutions means that unethical business practices like this one drive out ethical business practices. After all, why should a bank hire an ethical default servicer that charges a high price for its product when it can pay nothing to one that simply extracts from investors and homeowners?

The joke that is the U.S. Attorney network has become very old and very stale. And unfortunately, because of Attorney General Eric Holder, that joke is on us. […]




By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

[…] Cohen observes, quite rightly, that President Obama — who repeatedly vowed to usher in The Most Transparent Administration Ever — has taken U.S. foreign policy almost completely underground and draped it in sweeping, anti-democratic secrecy:

The Obama administration has a doctrine. It’s called the doctrine of silence. A radical shift from President Bush’s war on terror, it has never been set out to the American people. There has seldom been so big a change in approach to U.S. strategic policy with so little explanation. . . . President Obama has gone undercover.

So finally, after a long search, we have discovered a “change” from Bush’s foreign policy: whereas Bush fought his wars out in the open and with Congressional approval, Obama fights them covertly and with no public discussion, debate or accountability: he’s “undercover.” Cohen lists the numerous covert wars the Obama administration is fighting — meaning wars fought without a whiff of public debate or even acknowledgement — including in Iran, Pakistan, and Yemen (he could have added Somalia). Referring to the numerous murders of Iran’s nuclear scientists (and sometimes wounding of their wives), Terrorist explosions routinely taking place in that country, and cyber attacks on their facilities, Cohen points out that it “would take tremendous naïveté to believe these events are not the result of a covert American-Israel” effort. He then notes that such fighting of covert wars is not only anti-democratic but of very dubious legality:

The U.S. government says precious little about these new ways of fighting enemies. . . . The American case for legality rests on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force act . . . But killing an American citizen raises particular constitutional concerns; just how legal the drone attacks are remains a vexed question. And Iran had no part in 9/11.

In general, it’s hard to resist the impression of a tilt toward the extrajudicial in U.S. foreign policy — a kind of “Likudization” of the approach to dealing with enemies. Israel has never hesitated to kill foes with blood on their hands wherever they are.

This is a development about which no American can feel entirely comfortable. . . .[T]hese legally borderline, undercover options — cyberwar, drone killings, executions and strange explosions at military bases — invite repayment in kind, undermine the American commitment to the rule of law, and make allies uneasy.

And, of course, the one war of Obama’s which — over his objections — was subject to a Congressional debate (in Libya) ended with Congress rejecting its authorization. But he just went ahead and prosecuted it anyway.

So that’s a rather potent indictment of the Obama administration from Cohen: fighting numerous covert, possibly illegal wars around the world. Richard Nixon’s covert bombing of Cambodia was one of the most scandalous aspects of his presidency, with newspapers widely condemning it; Reagan’s covert mining of the harbors of Nicaragua produced similar outrage even from his own party. From the perspective of accountability, the magnitude of the secrecy behind which these current wars are fought makes Cambodia and Nicaragua look like child’s play. As Cohen points out, Obama is waging covert wars in multiple countries shrouded in complete secrecy: Obama officials refuse even to confirm that there is such a thing as a CIA drone program, let alone explain their legal basis for what they do.

So Cohen, as a journalist, must be furious about this systematic lack of accountability, transparency and democracy. After all, journalists — as they tirelessly tell everyone — are steadfastly devoted to those values; transparency for political officials is their North Star. Surely, nobody who would devote themselves to this profession would celebrate a President who drenches his entire foreign policy in secrecy — beyond any mechanism for democratic accountability — and who fights numerous covert wars without even any clear legal basis for doing so? So naive and wrong one would be for assuming that:

I approve of the shift even as it makes me uneasy. . . .You have to figure that one day somebody sitting in Tehran or Islamabad or Sana is going to wake up and say: “Hey, this guy Obama, he went to war in our country but just forgot to mention the fact. Should we perhaps go to war in his?” . . . .

Why do I approve of all this? Because the alternative — the immense cost in blood and treasure and reputation of the Bush administration’s war on terror — was so appalling. In just the same way, the results of a conventional bombing war against Iran would be appalling, whether undertaken by Israel, the United States or a combination of the two.

Political choices often have to be made between two unappealing options. Obama has done just that. He has gone covert — and made the right call.

In other words, it’s simply a given that war with all of these Muslim countries, including Iran, is necessary and inevitable — despite the fact that none is attacking the U.S. or threatening to do so. Warring against all these countries is America’s imperial responsibility and exceptionalist right. The only question, then, is whether the wars will be fought (a) democratically, legally and out in the open, or (b) in secret, with no legal basis or democratic accountability. Cohen, the journalist, chooses (b).

As usual, American journalists are the leading proponents not of transparency but of secrecy, not of  accountability but of covert decision-making in the dark, not of the rule of law but the rule of political leaders. As Cohen’s Washington Post namesake put it: “it is often best to keep the lights off.” That, with some exceptions, is the motto not only of The Washington Post but of American establishment journalism generally. That’s what NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen meant when he said that the reason we got WikiLeaks is because “the watchdog press died.” With some exceptions — some of this we have learned about from whistleblowers leaking to reporters, who then publish it – the American media does not merely fail to fulfill its ostensible function of bringing transparency to government; far beyond that, it takes the lead in justifying and protecting extreme government secrecy. Watching a New York Times columnist stand up and cheer for multiple covert, legally dubious wars and an underground foreign policy highlights that as well as anything one can recall. […]




By Kim Zetter, Wired

The civilian lawyer for Bradley Manning, the Army private who allegedly leaked tens of thousands of classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks, is seeking to question the severity of the leak by requesting the government’s own internal damage assessments that reportedly contradict statements that Manning irreparably damaged national security.

Manning’s defense attorney, David E. Coombs, is attempting to get evidence from the government to defend Manning in his upcoming pre-trial hearing on Dec. 16, but says the government is stonewalling him.

“The defense has repeatedly requested the below discovery in this case, but the government has consistently responded with a blanket denial of the defense request,” Coombs wrote in the partially redacted filing.

The evidence Coombs seeks includes copies of internal reports conducted by task forces assessing the damage from and the classification levels of the 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and 500,000 classified Iraq and Afghanistan war field reports allegedly leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks.

Published information about the various reports put them at odds with each other, Coombs notes. One assessment conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that all of the information allegedly leaked was dated, represented low-level opinions, or was already commonly known due to previous public disclosures, while an official at another government office indicated that the leaks had caused damage to national security.

Coombs wants to use the DIA report, along with another unpublished one apparently commissioned by the White House, to ban witnesses from describing the leaks as more damaging than these official reports found them to be.

Manning is charged with 22 violations, which could get him up to life in prison if convicted.

The filing also sheds light on other likely avenues Coombs will use to mitigate or challenge the charges against Manning, including questioning the actions of President Barack Obama and Manning’s betrayer, Adrian Lamo.

For instance, Coombs seeks “known evidence tending to diminish credibility of any government witness including, but not limited to, prior convictions under Military Rule of Evidence (M.R.E.) 609, evidence of other character, conduct, or bias bearing on witness credibility under M.R.E. 608. Specifically, the defense requests the name and contact information for any law enforcement agent working with —.”

The name is blacked out in the document, but could be an indication that the defense will seek to discredit Lamo, a former hacker and prosecution witness who turned Manning in to authorities after Manning allegedly confessed to Lamo in chat logs that he leaked thousands of government documents to WikiLeaks. […]




By James Bell, The Guardian UK

[…] The open letter from European parliamentarians, which follows another signed by several hundred US legal scholars, questioned the charges against Manning and warned that his pre-trial treatment may harm the UN’s work elsewhere, “particularly its mandate to investigate allegations of torture and human rights abuses”.

“In order to uphold the rights guaranteed to Bradley Manning under international human rights law and the US constitution, it is imperative that the United Nations special rapporteur be allowed to properly investigate evidence of rights abuses. PFC Manning has a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. People accused of crimes must not be subjected to any form of punishment before being brought to trial,” they wrote.

“We certainly do not understand why an alleged whistleblower is being threatened with the death penalty, or the possibility of life in prison. We also question whether Bradley Manning’s right to due process has been upheld, as he has now spent over 17 months in pre-trial confinement.”

Five MEPs from the UK signed the open letter in support of Manning, who holds dual US and UK citizenships. They were Labour MEPs Richard Howitt and Derek Vaughan, Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor, and Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans.

Manning will attend an Article 32 hearing, the US military equivalent of a pre-trial hearing, on 16 December. This is expected to last five days. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, has indicated he wishes to call 50 witnesses at the hearing, but military authorities are considered unlikely to grant such a request.

The Article 32 hearing then makes a recommendation to a general as to whether to proceed to a full trial.




By James Petras, Dissident Voice

We live in a time of dynamic, regressive, regime changes. A period in which major political transformations and the dramatic roll back of a half century of socio-economic legislation are accelerated by a prolonged and deepening economic crises and a world-wide financier led offensive. This essay explores major ongoing regime changes that have a profound impact on governance, the class structures, economic institutions, political freedom and national sovereignty. We delineate a two-stage process of political regression. The first stage involves the transition from a decaying democracy to an oligarchical democracy; the second stage currently unfolding in Europe involves the transition from oligarchical democracy to colonial-technocratic dictatorship. We will identify the specific features of each regime focusing on the specific conditions and socio-economic forces behind each “transition”. We will proceed to clarify the key concepts, their operative meaning: specifically the nature and dynamics of “decaying democracies” (DD), oligarchical democracies (OD), and “colonial technocratic dictatorship” (CTD).

The second half of the essay will detail the politics of CTD, the regime which has moved furthest from the notion of a sovereign representative democracy. We will clarify the differences and similarities between traditional military-civilian and fascist dictatorships and the up-to-date CTD, focusing on the ideology of apolitical expertise and technocratic rule as a preliminary to an exploration of the profoundly colonial hierarchical chain of decision making.

The penultimate section will highlight the reason why the imperial ruling classes and their national collaborators have overturned the pre-existing “democratic” oligarchical ruling formulas of “indirect rule” in favor of a naked power grab. The turn to direct colonial rule (a coup by any other name) was consumated by the major financial ruling classes of Europe and the US.

We will evaluate the socio-economic impact of rule by imperial appointed colonial technocrats, the reason for rule by fiat and force over the previous process of persuasion, manipulation and co-optation.

In the concluding section we will evaluate the polarization of the class struggle in a time of colonial dictatorship, in the context of hollowed out electoral institutions and radical regressive social policies. The essay will address the twin issues of struggle for political freedom and social justice in the face of fiat rule by emerging technocratic colonial rulers.

What is at stake goes beyond the current regime changes to identifying the most basic institutional configurations which will define the life chances, personal and political freedoms of future generations, for decades to come. […]




By Consortium News


We live in truly sobering times – a time in which liberty is under significant and persistent duress. Jesselyn and I are two whistleblowers yoked together by the tragedy of 9/11. As government employees, we became embroiled in two of this era’s most controversial programs in their infancy: torture and warrantless wiretapping as prime evidence of the government’s abject abuse of power and bypassing of the law.

As a Justice Department ethics attorney, Jesselyn advised that the FBI not interrogate John Walker Lindh, an American, without counsel. The FBI ignored this advice, and the interrogation formed the basis of a criminal prosecution in which Radack’s conclusion that the FBI committed an ethics violation “disappeared” from Justice files and was withheld from the court.

While a senior official at the National Security Agency, I found out about the use of electronic eavesdropping on Americans and turning this country into the equivalent of a foreign nation for the purposes of blanket surveillance and data mining – blatantly disregarding a 23-year legal regime that was the exclusive means for the conduct of such electronic collection and surveillance, which carried criminal sanctions when violated.

I also discovered that NSA had withheld critical and crucial intelligence prior to 9/11 and after 9/11, as well as data and information that was available but was undiscovered – and if shared could have made a decisive difference alone in preventing the 9/11 attacks from ever happening.

I also learned about a massively expensive and failing surveillance program under development called TRAILBLAZER that largely served as nothing more than a funding vehicle to enrich government contractors and keep government program managers in charge — when a cheap, highly effective, and operational alternative called THINTHREAD was available in-house, that fully protected Americans’ privacy rights under the law, while also providing superior intelligence to the Nation.

These secret programs, which deliberately bypassed the Constitution and existing laws, were born during the first few critical weeks and months following 9/11, as the result of willful decisions made by the highest levels of our government.

Such shortcuts and end-runs were not necessary, as lawful alternatives existed that would have vastly improved our intelligence capability with the best of American ingenuity and innovation, as well as time-honored, non-coercive interrogation techniques.

Jesselyn and I both raised our concerns through internal channels – including our bosses and Inspector Generals. In my case, I also spoke directly with the NSA Office of the General Counsel, and became a material witness for two 9/11 congressional investigations.

I also became a material witness for a multi-year Department of Defense Inspector General audit of TRAILBLAZER and THINTHREAD at NSA based on a September 2002 Hotline Complaint that attempted to expose massive fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement at NSA and the NSA’s use of a data-collection program that was far more costly, far more threatening to American citizens’ privacy rights and far less effective in supporting critical intelligence requirements than the readily available alternative — namely THINTHREAD.

This complaint was signed by my former NSA colleagues — Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loomis, and Bill Binney as well as Diane Roark, the former professional staffer from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who had oversight accountability for NSA, and had all retired by this time from government service. I was the unnamed senior official in this complaint – working directly at NSA.

The throwing out of THINTHREAD was due to multi-billion dollar “buy versus make” money interests and political connections, all surrounding personal gain and institutional  self-interest. The throwing out of THINTHREAD was also due to blatant ignorance and disregard for policy under the Federal Acquisition Regulations and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Either way, same result – critical breakthrough information technology, security, and defense innovation and ingenuity, the very best of who we are as Americans – was denied to the American people and precluded from use in providing for the common defense under the Constitution (as were a number of other programs) – with an incalculable loss of intelligence.

It is part of the great historical tragedy of what could have been – including the disruption, even the prevention, of 9-11. THINTHREAD had a laudatory purpose — find terrorists, modernize a very outdated signals intelligence system from end to end and thus protecting the US, its soldiers and allies – while doing it all legally. […]




by digby, Hullabaloo


A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 43% of Likely U.S. Voters agree with the former House speaker and think the protesters should take baths and get jobs. But an identical number (43%) disagree, and 14% more are undecided.

 Who says this country is polarized?





In 2011, the world continued to experience instability due to the enduring economic crisis. Economic uncertainty helped provoke social and political unrest of varying degrees in many urban areas. Protests and strikes in numerous North American and Western European cities have been largely peaceful. But violence – and, in places, civil war – have broken out in other regions, endangering the safety of both locals and expatriates.The events of the “Arab Spring” of 2011, when citizens took to the streets to demand regime change in many North African and Middle Eastern countries, have lasted long past spring. Uncertainty continues in Tripoli, Libya, following the death of the country’s former leader, Muammar Qaddafi. And Cairo is still experiencing waves of violence through the fall of 2011, as the government clashes with protesters.

Some of this region’s cities, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and Muscat, Oman, rank quite high in personal safety, mainly due to their internal stability and low crime levels.

Even generally calmer regions have suffered civil disorder. Large protests, some of which were violent, broke out several times this year in Santiago, Chile, in support of higher government involvement and subsidies for education. The threat of economic collapse and resulting austerity measures in Greece brought on repeated violent clashes between street protesters and police in Athens, Greece.

These significant challenges to the security of expatriates and local residents in many locations led Mercer to choose personal safety as the special topic of its 2011 rankings.

Those cities and countries that have escaped the brunt of social unrest and economic downturn have been able to continue investing in urban infrastructure and other provisions for comfortable and enjoyable daily living to improve the quality of living for their residents. If economic and political instability remain a global factor, cities in parts of Asia-Pacific and Western Europe, as well as in Canada, will continue to benefit from their relative stability and wealth of public services and recreational provisions, becoming more attractive destinations for expatriate employees.


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