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Media Theatrics and the Syria Chemical Weapons Saga

Last August, Barack Obama told reporters at the White House: ‘We have been very clear to the Assad regime… that a red line for us is we...

Online group vows anti-Gitmo protest bid

Activist group Anonymous has announced a major global protest effort on the ground and online to mark the 100th day of the hunger strike...

Should We Kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?

Should We Kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Email   Print   Share Posted on May 7, 2013 AP By Bill Blum According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, more...

Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?

Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government? 2013 05 06 By Glenn Greenwald | TheGuardian A former FBI counterterrorism agent claims on...

Mainstream Media ‘Created Climate For Savile’s Satanic Abuse’

A psychotherapist who worked with five of Jimmy Savile's abuse victims has spoken about about the level of Satanic ritual abuse carried out by the deceased BBC presenter and other pedophiles in the UK.

UK Biometric Data Stored Without Consent

The director of GeneWatch UK, a non-profit group which investigates how genetic technologies will impact our society, has warned that the secretary of state for health wants to introduce a national DNA and genetic 'all-in-one' database.

Using (and Reforming) the System

Using (and Reforming) the System

Posted on Mar 28, 2013
Capitol Hill
Flickr / wallyg

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

WASHINGTON—If you are tired of seeing the debate on guns dominated by the National Rifle Association and yearn for sensible weapons laws, you have to love New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. When most politicians were caving in or falling silent, there was Bloomberg, wielding his fortune to keep hope alive that we could move against the violence that blights our nation.

But imagine that you also believe the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was a disaster for representative government because a narrow majority broke with long precedent and tore down the barriers to corporate money in politics. The decision also encouraged the super rich to drop any inhibitions about using their wealth to push their own political agendas.

When it comes to policy, I fall into both of these camps—pro-Bloomberg on guns, but anti-Citizens United. And so I have been pondering the issue of consistency or, as some would see it, hypocrisy.

Put aside that the hypocrisy question is rarely raised against those who defend unlimited contributions except when the big bucks are wielded against them. Can I be grateful for what Bloomberg is doing and still loathe Citizens United? I say: yes.

Are opponents of Citizens United and the new super PAC world required to disown those who use their wealth to fight for causes we believe in? I say: no.

To begin with, even before Citizens United, the regulations on “issue advertising”—most of what Bloomberg is doing now—were quite permissive for activities outside the period shortly before elections. The Supreme Court’s 1976 Buckley decision had already given wealthy individuals such as Bloomberg a great deal of leeway.

And unlike those who donate large amounts anonymously, Bloomberg is entirely open about what he’s up to. He is simply offsetting the political might of the arms manufacturers.

Supporters of universal background checks along with bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines simply cannot be asked to repudiate the help they need to face down the power of the gun lobby.

To put it in an unvarnished way, I’m glad some members of Congress will have to think about whether enraging Bloomberg is more dangerous than angering the NRA. And his advertising serves to remind politicians inclined to yield to the gun lobby that their constituents support universal background checks by margins of around 9-to-1.

The Supreme Court has stuck us with an unsavory choice. If the only moneyed people giving to politics are pushing for policies that favor the wealthy, we really will become an oligarchy. For now, their pile of dough needs to be answered by progressive rich people who think oligarchy is a bad idea.

But playing the game as it’s now set up should not blind anyone to how flawed its rules are. Politics should not be reduced to a contest between liberal rich people and conservative rich people. A donor derby tilts politics away from the interests and concerns of the vast majority of Americans who aren’t wealthy and can’t write checks of a size that gets their phone calls returned automatically. A Citizens United world makes government less responsive, less representative and more open to corruption.

That’s why many who welcome the continued political engagement of President Obama’s campaign organization are nonetheless concerned about its dependence on big-dollar givers. This creates a troubling model that other politicians are certain to follow. It would be far better if Obama concentrated primarily on building off the pioneering work his campaigns did in rallying small donors.

This points to the larger danger for those who tout their tough-mindedness about using the current system for progressive purposes while still claiming to be reformers: Politicians are growing so comfortable with the status quo that they have largely given up on trying to change it.

Two who haven’t are Reps. David Price, D-N.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., sponsors of the Empowering Citizens Act. It would provide a 5-to-1 match from public funds for contributions of $250 or less, thus establishing strong incentives for politicians to rely on smaller donors while offering the rest of us a fighting chance against the billionaires. Harnessed to new technologies, this approach could vastly expand the number of citizens who are regular contributors. Until Citizens United is overturned, as it should be, the best way out of our dilemma is to democratize the money game.

So, yes, let’s cheer for Mike Bloomberg. But let’s also insist on creating a system in which we will no longer need his money.

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)washpost.com.
   
© 2013, Washington Post Writers Group


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Brazil doctor faces murder charges after allegedly killing patients to open hospital beds

Published time: March 28, 2013 03:45
AFP Photo / ROodrigo Felix Leal

A Brazilian doctor may become famous for one of the world’s most sinister cases of serial killings, if prosecutors can show the evidence. She was arrested with three other doctors and a nurse - and charged with killing patients to free up hospital beds.

Prosecutors believe 56-year-old doctor Virginia Soares de Souza and her team routinely administered muscle relaxants and reduced patients’ oxygen supply while they were on life support, causing them to die of asphyxia.

The motive behind the chilling practice behind the seven counts of first-degree murder was evidently to free up beds in the intensive care unit at the Evangelical Hospital in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Opening such space would have required no more than a phone call by de Souza to her team.

Highlighting the severity and potential fallout from the case, President Dilma Rousseff’s administration is directly intervening in the matter, and plans to reorganize the hospital. Brazil’s Ministry of Health has warned that, beyond the 20 cases its investigation team has already looked into, there are 300 more within a total of 1,700 hospital records over the last seven years that may prove to be connected.

The head of the ministry’s investigation team, Dr. Mario Lobato, has made a disturbing concession to a local news network regarding the 300 pending records:

They all have the same modus operandi, the same relationship between the drug and the death, and the timing,” The Guardian quotes him as saying.

Meanwhile, police are under fire for having failed to act sooner, waiting almost a year after launching an undercover investigation following anonymous tip-offs.

If more cases can be proved by evidence available to the investigation team, de Souza’s case could rival or even surpass that of Harold Shipman, currently the world’s worst known serial killer. Shipman was convicted in 2004 over the killing of 15 patients, and was suspected of up to 260 additional deaths carried out over a period of decades.

A Curitiba judge ordered de Souza and her alleged co-conspirators released last week, though prosecutors are currently seeking to have her returned to custody.

Byting back: UK govt to share hack data with businesses to fight cyber-crime

Published time: March 27, 2013 10:39
AFP Photo/Fred Dufour

The UK is opening a cyber-crime center to fight the “astonishing” number of hack attacks on Britain. The initiative follows an EU plan that forces companies to disclose hacked data, potentially damaging reputations and share prices.

The new initiative will combine information from government communications headquarters GCHQ, MI5, the police and various businesses. The idea behind the body is to orchestrate quicker responses to cyber-attacks that hit UK companies.

The so-called Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership will share information between governments and businesses to gather a more complete picture of the attacks being carried out on computer systems in the UK.

Currently, 160 companies are involved in the initiative, from the fields of finance, defense, energy, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals.

UK companies have previously voiced concerns over releasing data on cyber-attacks, fearing that such information would damage their credibility and share prices if it were disseminated publically.  

“The government is understandably wary about divulging information to outsiders about cyber threats which has been derived from secret sources and agencies,” cyber-security expert Nigel Inkster told the Financial Times.

However, the UK government has insisted that the statistics paint a clear picture of the growing threat and the need to act. Last year, MI5 head Jonathan Evans called the cyber-threat to Britain “astonishing,” and said that one anonymous

UK company had lost over $1 billion in an act of intellectual property theft.

And the year previous, cyber-security specialist BAE Systems Detica estimated that British companies lost around $40 billion a year in revenues through hacking attacks.

At first glance, it appears the UK is following a recent EU draft bill that seeks to force companies to declare when they fall victim to a cyber-attack. However, the UK initiative differs by giving businesses the choice of whether to participate.

David Garfield, managing director of cyber security at BAE Systems Detica, told the Financial Times that the EU measure could end up being counterproductive: “The real effect of a system of compulsory disclosure might ultimately be to encourage companies to turn a blind eye to attacks, pretending they have not seen them.”

The European Commission’s ‘Open, Safe and Secure Cyberspace’ plan would be a massive operation involving 42,000 companies dealing with banking, transport, energy, health, the Internet and public administrations. 

The companies would be required to immediately inform EU authorities in the event of a hack attack, “to share early warnings on risks and incidents through a secure infrastructure, cooperate and organize regular peer reviews.”

UK officials have voiced concerns over the bill, saying they would be uncomfortable with a law making it mandatory for companies to disclose data on attacks.

Syria: The Failure of Our So-Called International Community

The massacre in Syria rages on and yet we stand idle. We must realise that, to millions of Syrians trapped in the country, the virtual absence of humanitarian relief is nearly as arbitrary and cruel as the war itself.Civilians flee from fighting after Syrian army tanks enter the northwestern city of Idlib, Syria. (Photograph: Anonymous/AP)

Bombs, even ballistic missiles, are tearing homes apart and more than 70,000 people have been killed. Weapons, not blankets, are pouring into the country. The BBC asks a child if he misses playing with his friends and he replies, "they are all dead." God is weeping.

Where are the shelters and the food? More than a million Syrians are leaving the country and their lives behind. Half of them are children.

Across the border, the refugee camps, where help exists, are swelling in size and struggling to cope. Families are opening up their homes to those fleeing the conflict, in wonderful acts of kindness – but this is a huge burden to them. We cannot, and should not, rely on such generosity.

Help must be made available inside the country to all who need it. It is shameful that the few brave organisations who can provide relief must often do so in hiding, or, if not, are severely impeded anyway.

The stories they tell are heartbreaking: water tanks are riddled with bullet holes, neighbourhoods are starved, hospitals are deliberately shelled. These groups ask for nothing more than to aid Syrians on the right scale, in the open and in safety.

What on earth will it take for this to finally happen? For two years, our so-called international community has allowed complex power plays to take priority over the terrible suffering of Syrians. It is so uncaring and cynical. If your loved ones were trapped there, would you not be moved to act? Would you care for politics rather than safety in the face of such carnage?

In the absence of a political solution, there is simply no excuse for the lack of concerted, neutral humanitarian efforts to reach the millions who are suffering everywhere in the country. Surely it is in the interest of anyone who cares for the future of Syria to keep families safe and children unscathed?

As my fellow Elders, Martti Ahtisaari and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, wrote last week, no-one with the power to change the situation, no human being, can in good conscience refuse to heed this call. But we must be making this call a lot louder than we have done so far. It is a moral failure not to do so.

How many more harrowing scenes of exhausted families crossing the border into Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey must we bear witness to? For how long must we hear their tales of grief and devastation before the ambulances are allowed to enter?

Ultimately it falls to the Syrian authorities to give their blessing if the UN is to organise humanitarian access for medicine, food and blankets to reach all parts of Syria. But our efforts to achieve even this, and fulfil our deepest moral obligation to Syrians, have been half-hearted at best.

As Elders we wish our colleague Lakhdar Brahimi strength as he faces an unconscionable situation as the UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria. We pray he can help reach a breakthrough in the crisis very soon.

But until then we must really knock some heads together. For each second that passes without care for the people trapped in the crossfire, we undermine our own moral standards. We act as if their lives have less value than ours, as if we have written them off already. We abandon our brothers and sisters in their greatest hour of need.

CIA Boosting Covert Arms Shipments to Syria: NYT Report

Confirming reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is aiding Syrian rebels in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, new evidence has surfaced that several nations, including Turkey, have been working with the CIA over the past year to dramatically increase military aid to Syrian rebels, the New York Times reports Monday.

Free Syrian Army rebels fighting against Assad militias on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Maraat al-Numan, Idlib, Syria (FreedomHouse via Flickr / Creative Commons License) Referring to air traffic data, interviews with anonymous U.S. officials, and rebel commanders, the Times reports that the CIA has been helping coordinate massive arms shipments to groups within the Free Syrian Army, which have included more than than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at the Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

"A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment," Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told the Times.

Fast paced weapons transfers reportedly began over a year ago, in early 2012.

"The intensity and frequency of these flights," were "suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation," Griffiths added.

In a more overt show of support for Syrian rebels, over the weekend Secretary of State John Kerry pledged an additional 60 million dollars in direct aid to the rebels, marking the first time Washington will directly supply rebel forces, Inter Press Service reports.

“Who are those good rebels we want to arm?” asked Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “The interventionists seem to take for granted that we know them well. The fact is, the interventionists themselves and the U.S. government don’t know squat about Syria and know even less squat about these rebels.”

Gelb continues:

There is one path to sensible strategy and to staying out of trouble. It is for America’s leaders in Congress, the media, and, above all, the administration to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam and get themselves to satisfactorily ask and reasonably answer the tough questions before we selflessly, inadvertently, and foolishly find ourselves in another war.

_____________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Central African Rep. rebels seize capital, announce president deposed

Published time: March 24, 2013 14:51
Rebels of the SELEKA coalition in the Central African Republic patrol on a road 12kms from the city of Damar, on January 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou)

Central African Republic President François Bozize has fled the country after armed rebels seized the capital, Bangui, threatening to oust him from power. Six South African soldiers died as a result of overnight clashes with fighters.

It remains unknown to where President Bozize fled. Some speculation suggests he crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo early Sunday, Reuters reported citing an anonymous source said to be a presidential advisor.

The Seleka rebel coalition, whose members have long opposed Bozize, took the city late Saturday and fought their way to the strategically important city center in Bangui.

The group that began its offensive in December, seizing about one-third of the country, accuse the president of breaking a January peace agreement. Fighters sought to send home South African forces that were helping to boost the country's military and integrating 2,000 rebel fighters into Central African Republic's armed forces.

The conflict between the two sides deteriorated more than a week ago, with the rebels again taking control of two towns and threatening to advance on the capital.

On the eve of the invasion witnesses in the capital said people tried to flee the city as the rebels were approaching. Schools and banks closed early following reports of the advance.

As hundreds of armed rebels took Bangui, they cut power to much of the city. Residents in one area of the capital where fighting erupted Saturday said the rebels were dressed in civilian clothes, according to Reuters.

In the northern suburbs, Seleka rebels managed to took control of the neighborhood around Bozize's private residence. However, there they were told Bozize was in the presidential palace in the town center.

As rebel columns pushed towards the presidential palace, they clashed with government forces deployed to repel the insurgents.

"For us, there is no other solution than the departure of François Bozize," AP quoted, Eric Massi, a rebel spokesman, who spoke by phone from Paris on Saturday.

Government troops, however, retained control of the city center, home to the presidential palace. France had bolstered its 250-strong troop contingent in the country by an extra 150 personnel, sending the added firepower to help defend the city’s major airport. If forced to evacuate the 1,200 French civilians in the country, the airport would likely prove an invaluable lifeline.

Government spokesman Crepin Mboli-Goumba said the government was still in control of the capital. "President Bozize is still in power," Reuters reports, quoting the state representative. "Bangui has still not fallen."

The recent violence is the latest in the series of rebels’ unrest and coups since the Central African Republic, a nation of 4.5 million people, became independent from France in 1960.

UK police and armed forces to face cuts of ‘more than £1.6 billion’

Published time: March 23, 2013 09:34
AFP Photo/Justin Tallis

The UK Ministry of Defence and Home Office will face further budgetary cuts, according to UK’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. He declares any public outrage will be ignored. The move foreshadows additional defense layoffs.

The slashes to the departments’ finances are due in 2015-16, and follow three years of existing cuts. The news emerged in the fallout from Wednesday’s budget statement, which planned 11.5 billion pounds (US$17.5 billion) of further broad-scale cuts for 2015-16; on Saturday, Alexander told the Telegraph that the MoD and HO would share the weight.

An independent auditor warned that the MoD could lose more than 1.6 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) from its 32-billion-pound ($48.7 billion) budget for 2015-16, according to the newspaper. These reductions would almost certainly lead to an accompanying fresh round of lay-offs.

Alexander, a Liberal Democrat MP also warned that no amount of public outrage at the further cuts would influence the measures.

“It has no effect on the decisions I will make, or the view that I will take on the right balance. The idea that having a great public campaign will influence the outcome, that’s just wrong,”
he said.

Earlier this month, UK Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond cautioned that “any further reduction in the defense budget would fall on the level of activity that we were able to carry out.”

 British Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander (AFP Photo/Carl Court)

Tensions have flared as Conservative politicians, who currently head the ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrat party, have voiced their support for continuing to slash Britain’s welfare budget, citing small falls in unemployment, instead of continuing to target the defense budget.

The group has come to be known as the ‘National Union of Ministers’, and is led by Home Secretary Theresa May. They demand that ‘ring-fenced’ spending be ended, which immunizes some departments from further cuts. These protected departments include the NHS and Department for International Development (DFID).

Alexander reiterated that the NHS, schools and international development would be ring-fenced when asked whether the Home Office and Ministry of Defence would be protected from further cuts, adding:  


“We will work through the details, but every department, including the ones you mention, will have to make savings.”
On the same day, it was announced that a supposed ‘cost-cutting’ NHS scheme to remotely monitor housebound patients will cost three times as much as expected.  

An anonymous Conservative source told the newspaper in February that there was

“a real concern that the Lib Dems want to protect the benefits culture at the expense of our troops.” This January, British PM David Cameron was forced to admit that military spending would not rise until after 2016, despite previous assertions that no more cuts would be made to MoD.

AFP Photo/Leon Neal

In February, Cameron announced that he would be “very open” to the idea of diverting billions of pounds from the foreign aid budget (Department for International Development) to the military.

A decision to increase the DFID budget to 12 billion pounds by the next election stirred uproar amongst opponents of cuts to other departments’ services. However, this diversion of funding has induced criticism, with head of policy at major UK-based charity Oxfam, Mark Lawson, saying Britain's aid money should go to

“schools, not soldiers.” Following Wednesday’s budget, Fitch global ratings agency said that the UK faced the

“heightened probability of a downgrade” towards the close of April. Moody’s downgraded the UK around a month ago, making it the first of the three major agencies to do so, in the process stripping the country of its AAA rating.

Glenn Greenwald: Meet the Journalist Rotting in Prison for Crossing the FBI

Prosecutorial abuse is becoming the preeminent weapon used by the US government to destroy online activism and journalism.

March 22, 2013  |  

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Aaron's Swartz's suicide in January triggered waves of indignation,  and rightly so. He faced multiple felony counts and years in prison for what were, at worst, trivial transgressions of law. But his prosecution revealed the  excess of both anti-hacking criminal statutes, particularly  the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and the fixation of federal prosecutors on severely punishing all forms of activism that challenge the power of the government and related entities to control the flow of information on the internet. Part of what drove the intense reaction to Swartz's death was how sympathetic of a figure he was, but as  noted by Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor in the DOJ's computer crimes unit and now a law professor at GWU, what was done to Swartz is anything but unusual, and the reaction to his death will be meaningful only if channeled to protest other similar cases of prosecutorial abuse:

"I think it's important to realize that what happened in the Swartz case happens in lots and lots of federal criminal cases. . . . What's unusual about the Swartz case is that it involved a highly charismatic defendant with very powerful friends in a position to object to these common practices. That's not to excuse what happened, but rather to direct the energy that is angry about what happened. If you want to end these tactics, don't just complain about the Swartz case. Don't just complain when the defendant happens to be a brilliant guy who went to Stanford and hangs out with Larry Lessig. Instead, complain that this is business as usual in federal criminal cases around the country - mostly with defendants who no one has ever heard of and who get locked up for years without anyone else much caring."

Prosecutorial abuse is a drastically under-discussed problem in general, but it poses unique political dangers when used to punish and deter online activism. But it's becoming the preeminent weapon used by the US government to destroy such activism.

Just this week alone, a US federal judge sentenced hactivist Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer to 3 1/2 years in prison for exploiting a flaw in AT&T's security system that allowed him entrance without any  hacking, an act about which Slate's Justin Peters  wrote: "it's not clear that Auernheimer committed any actual crime", while Jeff Blagdon at the Verge  added: "he cracked no codes, stole no passwords, or in any way 'broke into' AT&T's customer database - something company representatives confirmed during testimony." But he had a long record of disruptive and sometimes even quite ugly (though legal) online antagonism, so he had to be severely punished with years in prison. Also this week, the  DOJ indicted the deputy social media editor at Reuters, Matthew Keys, on three felony counts which carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison for allegedly providing some user names and passwords that allowed  Anonymous unauthorized access into the computer system of the Los Angeles Times, where they altered a few stories and caused very minimal damage. As  Peters wrote about that case, "the charges under the CFAA seem outrageously severe" and, about Keys' federal prosecutors, observed: "apparently, they didn't take away any lessons from the Aaron Swartz case."

But the  pending federal prosecution of 31-year-old Barrett Brown poses all new troubling risks. That's because Brown - who has been imprisoned since September on a 17-count indictment that could result in many years in prison - is a serious journalist who has spent the last several years doggedly investigating the shadowy and highly secretive underworld of private intelligence and defense contractors, who work hand-in-hand with the agencies of the Surveillance and National Security State in all sorts of ways that remain completely unknown to the public. It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism.

No evidence to support chemical weapons use in Syria – US official

Published time: March 22, 2013 03:11
Man is brought to a hospital in the Khan al-Assal region in the northern Aleppo province, as Syria's government accused rebel forces of using chemical weapons for the first time on March 19, 2013 (AFP Photo / SANA)

A US official has revealed that there may have been no chemical weapons used in a deadly incident occurring Tuesday in Syria’s Aleppo. Meanwhile the UN has launched a full-scale investigation into the disputed attack.

"Our growing sense is that weaponized chemical weapons were not used," claimed the US official, speaking anonymously on Thursday.  A European security official has taken the same stance, saying that the death toll in the event of a chemical attack would be much higher than presently recorded. He added that there was no evidence to support the allegation, despite prior accusations by a multitude of Western officials.

The Syrian government and rebel forced have been accusing each other of using chemical agents after a recent rocket attack near the province of Aleppo claimed 26 lives.

While Barack Obama reiterated his stance regarding President Bashar Assad, saying that he would be held accountable if found to have carried out the attack, UN chief Ban Ki-moon promised a probe as soon as possible. "I have decided to conduct a United Nations investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria," Ban Ki-moon told reporters, specifying that the investigation will focus on the Aleppo attack, "the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government."

The UN investigators will cooperate with experts with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The incident will be investigated as a single case, which goes against France and the UK’s initial request to investigate another supposed attack, allegedly in Damascus.

Moscow has expressed hope that the US and France are not going to hamper the UN investigation into the Aleppo chemical attack in Syria. “I expressed hope that their initiatives are not attempts to postpone, hamper or prevent the investigation into what happened on March 19, because this issue needs urgent attention,” Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin stated.

Churkin’s US counterpart, Susan Rice, supported the probe in a statement on Thursday. "As the U.N. proceeds with these efforts, we will also continue to work closely with our partners to obtain further information regarding any and all credible allegations of the potential or actual use of chemical weapons in Syria," said Rice.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain and the Democrat Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, continued with the anti-Assad rhetoric, saying in a letter to President Obama that “the potential use of chemical weapons only makes the case for greater action more compelling and urgent."

Men Who Kick Down Doors: Tyrants at Home and Abroad

Picture this.  A man, armored in tattoos, bursts into a living room not his own.  He confronts an enemy.  He barks orders.  He throws that enemy into a chair. Then against a wall.  He plants himself in the middle of the room, feet widespread, fists clenched, muscles straining, face contorted in a scream of rage.  The tendons in his neck are taut with the intensity of his terrifying performance.  He chases the enemy to the next room, stopping escape with a quick grab and thrust and body block that pins the enemy, bent back, against a counter. He shouts more orders: his enemy can go with him to the basement for a “private talk,” or be beaten to a pulp right here. Then he wraps his fingers around the neck of his enemy and begins to choke her.

No, that invader isn’t an American soldier leading a night raid on an Afghan village, nor is the enemy an anonymous Afghan householder.  This combat warrior is just a guy in Ohio named Shane. He’s doing what so many men find exhilarating: disciplining his girlfriend with a heavy dose of the violence we render harmless by calling it “domestic.”

It’s easy to figure out from a few basic facts that Shane is a skilled predator.  Why else does a 31-year-old man lavish attention on a pretty 19-year-old with two children (ages four and two, the latter an equally pretty and potentially targeted little female)?  And what more vulnerable girlfriend could he find than this one, named Maggie: a neglected young woman, still a teenager, who for two years had been raising her kids on her own while her husband fought a war in Afghanistan?  That war had broken the family apart, leaving Maggie with no financial support and more alone than ever.

But the way Shane assaulted Maggie, he might just as well have been a night-raiding soldier terrorizing an Afghan civilian family in pursuit of some dangerous Talib, real or imagined.  For all we know, Maggie’s estranged husband/soldier might have acted in the same way in some Afghan living room and not only been paid but also honored for it.  The basic behavior is quite alike: an overwhelming display of superior force. The tactics: shock and awe.  The goal: to control the behavior, the very life, of the designated target.  The mind set: a sense of entitlement when it comes to determining the fate of a subhuman creature.  The dark side: the fear and brutal rage of a scared loser who inflicts his miserable self on others.

As for that designated enemy, just as American exceptionalism asserts the superiority of the United States over all other countries and cultures on Earth, and even over the laws that govern international relations, misogyny -- which seems to inform so much in the United States these days, from military boot camp to the Oscars to full frontal political assaults on a woman’s right to control her own body -- assures even the most pathetic guys like Shane of their innate superiority over some “thing” usually addressed with multiple obscenities.

Since 9/11, the further militarization of our already militarized culture has reached new levels.  Official America, as embodied in our political system and national security state, now seems to be thoroughly masculine, paranoid, quarrelsome, secretive, greedy, aggressive, and violent.  Readers familiar with “domestic violence” will recognize those traits as equally descriptive of the average American wife beater: scared but angry and aggressive, and feeling absolutely entitled to control something, whether it’s just a woman, or a small wretched country like Afghanistan.

Connecting the Dots

It was John Stuart Mill, writing in the nineteenth century, who connected the dots between “domestic” and international violence.  But he didn’t use our absurdly gender-neutral, pale gray term “domestic violence.”  He called it “wife torture” or  “atrocity,” and he recognized that torture and atrocity are much the same, no matter where they take place -- whether today in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, or a bedroom or basement in Ohio.  Arguing in 1869 against the subjection of women, Mill wrote that the Englishman’s habit of household tyranny and “wife torture” established the pattern and practice for his foreign policy.  The tyrant at home becomes the tyrant at war.  Home is the training ground for the big games played overseas.

Mill believed that, in early times, strong men had used force to enslave women and the majority of their fellow men.  By the nineteenth century, however, the “law of the strongest” seemed to him to have been “abandoned” -- in England at least -- “as the regulating principle of the world’s affairs.”  Slavery had been renounced.  Only in the household did it continue to be practiced, though wives were no longer openly enslaved but merely “subjected” to their husbands.  This subjection, Mill said, was the last vestige of the archaic “law of the strongest,” and must inevitably fade away as reasonable men recognized its barbarity and injustice.  Of his own time, he wrote that “nobody professes” the law of the strongest, and “as regards most of the relations between human beings, nobody is permitted to practice it.”

Well, even a feminist may not be right about everything.  Times often change for the worse, and rarely has the law of the strongest been more popular than it is in the United States today. Routinely now we hear congressmen declare that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world because it is the greatest military power in history, just as presidents now regularly insist that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”  Never mind that it rarely wins a war.  Few here question that primitive standard -- the law of the strongest -- as the measure of this America’s dwindling “civilization.”

The War Against Women

Mill, however, was right about the larger point: that tyranny at home is the model for tyranny abroad.  What he perhaps didn’t see was the perfect reciprocity of the relationship that perpetuates the law of the strongest both in the home and far away.

When tyranny and violence are practiced on a grand scale in foreign lands, the practice also intensifies at home.  As American militarism went into overdrive after 9/11, it validated violence against women here, where Republicans held up reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (first passed in 1994), and celebrities who publicly assaulted their girlfriends faced no consequences other than a deluge of sympathetic girl-fan tweets.

America’s invasions abroad also validated violence within the U.S. military itself.  An estimated 19,000 women soldiers were sexually assaulted in 2011; and an unknown number have been murdered by fellow soldiers who were, in many cases, their husbands or boyfriends.  A great deal of violence against women in the military, from rape to murder, has been documented, only to be casually covered up by the chain of command.

Violence against civilian women here at home, on the other hand, may not be reported or tallied at all, so the full extent of it escapes notice. Men prefer to maintain the historical fiction that violence in the home is a private matter, properly and legally concealed behind a “curtain.” In this way is male impunity and tyranny maintained. 

Women cling to a fiction of our own: that we are much more “equal” than we are.  Instead of confronting male violence, we still prefer to lay the blame for it on individual women and girls who fall victim to it -- as if they had volunteered. But then, how to explain the dissonant fact that at least one of every three female American soldiers is sexually assaulted by a male “superior”? Surely that’s not what American women had in mind when they signed up for the Marines or for Air Force flight training.  In fact, lots of teenage girls volunteer for the military precisely to escape violence and sexual abuse in their childhood homes or streets.

Don’t get me wrong, military men are neither alone nor out of the ordinary in terrorizing women.  The broader American war against women has intensified on many fronts here at home, right along with our wars abroad. Those foreign wars have killed uncounted thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, which could make the private battles of domestic warriors like Shane here in the U.S. seem puny by comparison.  But it would be a mistake to underestimate the firepower of the Shanes of our American world. The statistics tell us that a legal handgun has been the most popular means of dispatching a wife, but when it comes to girlfriends, guys really get off onbeating them to death.

 Some 3,073 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. Between that day and June 6, 2012, 6,488 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for America’s war on terror at home and abroad to 9,561.  During the same period, 11,766 women were murdered in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends, both military and civilian.  The greater number of women killed here at home is a measure of the scope and the furious intensity of the war against women, a war that threatens to continue long after the misconceived war on terror is history.

Getting the Picture

Think about Shane, standing there in a nondescript living room in Ohio screaming his head off like a little child who wants what he wants when he wants it.  Reportedly, he was trying to be a good guy and make a career as a singer in a Christian rock band.  But like the combat soldier in a foreign war who is modeled after him, he uses violence to hold his life together and accomplish his mission.

We know about Shane only because there happened to be a photographer on the scene.  Sara Naomi Lewkowicz had chosen to document the story of Shane and his girlfriend Maggie out of sympathy for his situation as an ex-con, recently released from prison yet not free of the stigma attached to a man who had done time. Then, one night, there he was in the living room throwing Maggie around, and Lewkowicz did what any good combat photographer would do as a witness to history: she kept shooting. That action alone was a kind of intervention and may have saved Maggie’s life.

In the midst of the violence, Lewkowicz also dared to snatch from Shane’s pocket her own cell phone, which he had borrowed earlier.  It’s unclear whether she passed the phone to someone else or made the 911 call herself. The police arrested Shane, and a smart policewoman told Maggie: “You know, he’s not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you.”

Maggie did the right thing.  She gave the police a statement.  Shane is back in prison.  And Lewkowicz’s remarkable photographs were posted online on February 27th at Time magazine’s website feature Lightbox under the heading  “Photographer As Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence.”

The photos are remarkable because the photographer is very good and the subject of her attention is so rarely caught on camera.  Unlike warfare covered in Iraq and Afghanistan by embedded combat photographers, wife torture takes place mostly behind closed doors, unannounced and unrecorded.  The first photographs of wife torture to appear in the U.S. were Donna Ferrato’s now iconic images of violence against women at home.

Like Lewkowicz, Ferrato came upon wife torture by chance; she was documenting a marriage in 1980 when the happy husband chose to beat up his wife. Yet so reluctant were photo editors to pull aside the curtain of domestic privacy that even after Ferrato became a Life photographer in 1984, pursuing the same subject, nobody, including Life, wanted to publish the shocking images she produced.

In 1986, six years after she witnessed that first assault, some of her photographs of violence against women in the home were published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and brought her the 1987 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award “for outstanding coverage of the problems of the disadvantaged.”  In 1991, Aperture, the publisher of distinguished photography books, brought out Ferrato’s eye-opening body of work as Living with the Enemy (for which I wrote an introduction). Since then, the photos have been widely reproduced.Time used a Ferrato image on its cover in 1994, when the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson briefly drew attention to what the magazine called “the epidemic of domestic abuse” and Lightbox featured a small retrospective of her domestic violence work on June 27, 2012.

Ferrato herself started a foundation, offering her work to women’s groups across the country to exhibit at fundraisers for local shelters and services.  Those photo exhibitions also helped raise consciousness across America and certainly contributed to smarter, less misogynistic police procedures of the kind that put Shane back in jail.

Ferrato’s photos were incontrovertible evidence of the violence in our homes, rarely acknowledged and never before so plainly seen.  Yet until February 27th, when with Ferrato’s help, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz’s photos were posted on Lightbox only two months after they were taken, Ferrato’s photos were all we had.  We needed more.  So there was every reason for Lewkowicz’s work to be greeted with acclaim by photographers and women everywhere.

Instead, in more than 1,700 comments posted at Lightbox, photographer Lewkowicz was mainly castigated for things like not dropping her camera and taking care to get Maggie’s  distraught two-year-old daughter out of the room or singlehandedly stopping the assault.  (Need it be said that stopping combat is not the job of combat photographers?) 

Maggie, the victim of this felonious assault, was also mercilessly denounced: for going out with Shane in the first place, for failing to foresee his violence, for “cheating” on her already estranged husband fighting in Afghanistan, and inexplicably for being a “perpetrator.”  Reviewing the commentary for theColumbia Journalism Review, Jina Moore concluded, “[T]here’s one thing all the critics seem to agree on: The only adult in the house not responsible for the violence is the man committing it.”

They Only Stop When They Kill You

Viewers of these photographs -- photos that accurately reflect the daily violence so many women face -- seem to find it easy to ignore, or even praise, the raging man behind it all.  So, too, do so many find it convenient to ignore the violence that America’s warriors abroad inflict under orders on a mass scale upon women and children in war zones.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had the effect of displacing millions from their homes within the country or driving them into exile in foreign lands. Rates of rape and atrocity were staggering, as I learned firsthand when in 2008-2009 I spent time in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon talking with Iraqi refugees. In addition, those women who remain in Iraq now live under the rule of conservative Islamists, heavily influenced by Iran. Under the former secular regime, Iraqi women were considered the most advanced in the Arab world; today, they say they have been set back a century.

In Afghanistan, too, while Americans take credit for putting women back in the workplace and girls in school, untold thousands of women and children have been displaced internally, many to makeshift camps on the outskirts of Kabul where 17 children froze to death last January. The U.N. reported 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries as a result of the war in 2012, the majority of them women and children.  In a country without a state capable of counting bodies, these are undoubtedly significant undercounts. A U.N. official said, “It is the tragic reality that most Afghan women and girls were killed or injured while engaging in their everyday activities.” Thousands of women in Afghan cities have been forced into survival sex, as were Iraqi women who fled as refugees to Beirut and particularly Damascus.

That’s what male violence is meant to do to women.  The enemy.  War itself is a kind of screaming tattooed man, standing in the middle of a room -- or another country -- asserting the law of the strongest. It’s like a reset button on history that almost invariably ensures women will find themselves subjected to men in ever more terrible ways.  It’s one more thing that, to a certain kind of man, makes going to war, like good old-fashioned wife torture, so exciting and so much fun.

Men Who Kick Down Doors and the War Against Women

Picture this.  A man, armored in tattoos, bursts into a living room not his own.  He confronts an enemy.  He barks orders.  He throws that enemy into a chair. Then against a wall.  He plants himself in the middle of the room, feet widespread, fists clenched, muscles straining, face contorted in a scream of rage.  The tendons in his neck are taut with the intensity of his terrifying performance.  He chases the enemy to the next room, stopping escape with a quick grab and thrust and body block that pins the enemy, bent back, against a counter. He shouts more orders: his enemy can go with him to the basement for a “private talk,” or be beaten to a pulp right here. Then he wraps his fingers around the neck of his enemy and begins to choke her.A US Marine kicks in a locked door during a search of the village of Khabargho, Afghanistan in this photo from 2004. (Source: Wikimedia commons)

No, that invader isn’t an American soldier leading a night raid on an Afghan village, nor is the enemy an anonymous Afghan householder.  This combat warrior is just a guy in Ohio named Shane. He’s doing what so many men find exhilarating: disciplining his girlfriend with a heavy dose of the violence we render harmless by calling it “domestic.”

It’s easy to figure out from a few basic facts that Shane is a skilled predator.  Why else does a 31-year-old man lavish attention on a pretty 19-year-old with two children (ages four and two, the latter an equally pretty and potentially targeted little female)?  And what more vulnerable girlfriend could he find than this one, named Maggie: a neglected young woman, still a teenager, who for two years had been raising her kids on her own while her husband fought a war in Afghanistan?  That war had broken the family apart, leaving Maggie with no financial support and more alone than ever.

But the way Shane assaulted Maggie, he might just as well have been a night-raiding soldier terrorizing an Afghan civilian family in pursuit of some dangerous Talib, real or imagined.  For all we know, Maggie’s estranged husband/soldier might have acted in the same way in some Afghan living room and not only been paid but also honored for it.  The basic behavior is quite alike: an overwhelming display of superior force. The tactics: shock and awe.  The goal: to control the behavior, the very life, of the designated target.  The mind set: a sense of entitlement when it comes to determining the fate of a subhuman creature.  The dark side: the fear and brutal rage of a scared loser who inflicts his miserable self on others.

As for that designated enemy, just as American exceptionalism asserts the superiority of the United States over all other countries and cultures on Earth, and even over the laws that govern international relations, misogyny -- which seems to inform so much in the United States these days, from military boot camp to the Oscars to full frontal political assaults on a woman’s right to control her own body -- assures even the most pathetic guys like Shane of their innate superiority over some “thing” usually addressed with multiple obscenities.

When tyranny and violence are practiced on a grand scale in foreign lands, the practice also intensifies at home.

Since 9/11, the further militarization of our already militarized culture has reached new levels.  Official America, as embodied in our political system and national security state, now seems to be thoroughly masculine, paranoid, quarrelsome, secretive, greedy, aggressive, and violent.  Readers familiar with “domestic violence” will recognize those traits as equally descriptive of the average American wife beater: scared but angry and aggressive, and feeling absolutely entitled to control something, whether it’s just a woman, or a small wretched country like Afghanistan.

Connecting the Dots

It was John Stuart Mill, writing in the nineteenth century, who connected the dots between “domestic” and international violence.  But he didn’t use our absurdly gender-neutral, pale gray term “domestic violence.”  He called it “wife torture” or  “atrocity,” and he recognized that torture and atrocity are much the same, no matter where they take place -- whether today in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, or a bedroom or basement in Ohio.  Arguing in 1869 against the subjection of women, Mill wrote that the Englishman’s habit of household tyranny and “wife torture” established the pattern and practice for his foreign policy.  The tyrant at home becomes the tyrant at war.  Home is the training ground for the big games played overseas.

Mill believed that, in early times, strong men had used force to enslave women and the majority of their fellow men.  By the nineteenth century, however, the “law of the strongest” seemed to him to have been “abandoned” -- in England at least -- “as the regulating principle of the world’s affairs.”  Slavery had been renounced.  Only in the household did it continue to be practiced, though wives were no longer openly enslaved but merely “subjected” to their husbands.  This subjection, Mill said, was the last vestige of the archaic “law of the strongest,” and must inevitably fade away as reasonable men recognized its barbarity and injustice.  Of his own time, he wrote that “nobody professes” the law of the strongest, and “as regards most of the relations between human beings, nobody is permitted to practice it.”

Well, even a feminist may not be right about everything.  Times often change for the worse, and rarely has the law of the strongest been more popular than it is in the United States today. Routinely now we hear congressmen declare that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world because it is the greatest military power in history, just as presidents now regularly insist that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”  Never mind that it rarely wins a war.  Few here question that primitive standard -- the law of the strongest -- as the measure of this America’s dwindling “civilization.”

The War Against Women

Mill, however, was right about the larger point: that tyranny at home is the model for tyranny abroad.  What he perhaps didn’t see was the perfect reciprocity of the relationship that perpetuates the law of the strongest both in the home and far away.

When tyranny and violence are practiced on a grand scale in foreign lands, the practice also intensifies at home.  As American militarism went into overdrive after 9/11, it validated violence against women here, where Republicans held up reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (first passed in 1994), and celebrities who publicly assaulted their girlfriends faced no consequences other than a deluge of sympathetic girl-fan tweets.

America’s invasions abroad also validated violence within the U.S. military itself.  An estimated 19,000 women soldiers were sexually assaulted in 2011; and an unknown number have been murdered by fellow soldiers who were, in many cases, their husbands or boyfriends.  A great deal of violence against women in the military, from rape to murder, has been documented, only to be casually covered up by the chain of command.

Violence against civilian women here at home, on the other hand, may not be reported or tallied at all, so the full extent of it escapes notice. Men prefer to maintain the historical fiction that violence in the home is a private matter, properly and legally concealed behind a “curtain.” In this way is male impunity and tyranny maintained. 

Women cling to a fiction of our own: that we are much more “equal” than we are.  Instead of confronting male violence, we still prefer to lay the blame for it on individual women and girls who fall victim to it -- as if they had volunteered. But then, how to explain the dissonant fact that at least one of every three female American soldiers is sexually assaulted by a male “superior”? Surely that’s not what American women had in mind when they signed up for the Marines or for Air Force flight training.  In fact, lots of teenage girls volunteer for the military precisely to escape violence and sexual abuse in their childhood homes or streets.

Don’t get me wrong, military men are neither alone nor out of the ordinary in terrorizing women.  The broader American war against women has intensified on many fronts here at home, right along with our wars abroad. Those foreign wars have killed uncounted thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, which could make the private battles of domestic warriors like Shane here in the U.S. seem puny by comparison.  But it would be a mistake to underestimate the firepower of the Shanes of our American world. The statistics tell us that a legal handgun has been the most popular means of dispatching a wife, but when it comes to girlfriends, guys really get off on beating them to death.

Some 3,073 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. Between that day and June 6, 2012, 6,488 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for America’s war on terror at home and abroad to 9,561.  During the same period, 11,766 women were murdered in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends, both military and civilian.  The greater number of women killed here at home is a measure of the scope and the furious intensity of the war against women, a war that threatens to continue long after the misconceived war on terror is history.

Getting the Picture

Think about Shane, standing there in a nondescript living room in Ohio screaming his head off like a little child who wants what he wants when he wants it.  Reportedly, he was trying to be a good guy and make a career as a singer in a Christian rock band.  But like the combat soldier in a foreign war who is modeled after him, he uses violence to hold his life together and accomplish his mission.

We know about Shane only because there happened to be a photographer on the scene.  Sara Naomi Lewkowicz had chosen to document the story of Shane and his girlfriend Maggie out of sympathy for his situation as an ex-con, recently released from prison yet not free of the stigma attached to a man who had done time. Then, one night, there he was in the living room throwing Maggie around, and Lewkowicz did what any good combat photographer would do as a witness to history: she kept shooting. That action alone was a kind of intervention and may have saved Maggie’s life.

In the midst of the violence, Lewkowicz also dared to snatch from Shane’s pocket her own cell phone, which he had borrowed earlier.  It’s unclear whether she passed the phone to someone else or made the 911 call herself. The police arrested Shane, and a smart policewoman told Maggie: “You know, he’s not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you.”

Maggie did the right thing.  She gave the police a statement.  Shane is back in prison.  And Lewkowicz’s remarkable photographs were posted online on February 27th at Time magazine’s website feature Lightbox under the heading  “Photographer As Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence.”

The photos are remarkable because the photographer is very good and the subject of her attention is so rarely caught on camera.  Unlike warfare covered in Iraq and Afghanistan by embedded combat photographers, wife torture takes place mostly behind closed doors, unannounced and unrecorded.  The first photographs of wife torture to appear in the U.S. were Donna Ferrato’s now iconic images of violence against women at home.

Like Lewkowicz, Ferrato came upon wife torture by chance; she was documenting a marriage in 1980 when the happy husband chose to beat up his wife. Yet so reluctant were photo editors to pull aside the curtain of domestic privacy that even after Ferrato became a Life photographer in 1984, pursuing the same subject, nobody, including Life, wanted to publish the shocking images she produced.

In 1986, six years after she witnessed that first assault, some of her photographs of violence against women in the home were published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and brought her the 1987 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award “for outstanding coverage of the problems of the disadvantaged.”  In 1991, Aperture, the publisher of distinguished photography books, brought out Ferrato’s eye-opening body of work as Living with the Enemy (for which I wrote an introduction). Since then, the photos have been widely reproduced. Time used a Ferrato image on its cover in 1994, when the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson briefly drew attention to what the magazine called “the epidemic of domestic abuse” and Lightbox featured a small retrospective of her domestic violence work on June 27, 2012.

Ferrato herself started a foundation, offering her work to women’s groups across the country to exhibit at fundraisers for local shelters and services.  Those photo exhibitions also helped raise consciousness across America and certainly contributed to smarter, less misogynistic police procedures of the kind that put Shane back in jail.

Ferrato’s photos were incontrovertible evidence of the violence in our homes, rarely acknowledged and never before so plainly seen.  Yet until February 27th, when with Ferrato’s help, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz’s photos were posted on Lightbox only two months after they were taken, Ferrato’s photos were all we had.  We needed more.  So there was every reason for Lewkowicz’s work to be greeted with acclaim by photographers and women everywhere.

Instead, in more than 1,700 comments posted at Lightbox, photographer Lewkowicz was mainly castigated for things like not dropping her camera and taking care to get Maggie’s  distraught two-year-old daughter out of the room or singlehandedly stopping the assault.  (Need it be said that stopping combat is not the job of combat photographers?) When Maggie refused, Shane began grabbing her by the face and neck, choking her. "You can either get beat up here, or we can go talk alone," he said. "Your choice." (Photo: Sara Naomi Lewkowicz)

Maggie, the victim of this felonious assault, was also mercilessly denounced: for going out with Shane in the first place, for failing to foresee his violence, for “cheating” on her already estranged husband fighting in Afghanistan, and inexplicably for being a “perpetrator.”  Reviewing the commentary for the Columbia Journalism Review, Jina Moore concluded, “[T]here’s one thing all the critics seem to agree on: The only adult in the house not responsible for the violence is the man committing it.”

They Only Stop When They Kill You

Viewers of these photographs -- photos that accurately reflect the daily violence so many women face -- seem to find it easy to ignore, or even praise, the raging man behind it all.  So, too, do so many find it convenient to ignore the violence that America’s warriors abroad inflict under orders on a mass scale upon women and children in war zones.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had the effect of displacing millions from their homes within the country or driving them into exile in foreign lands. Rates of rape and atrocity were staggering, as I learned firsthand when in 2008-2009 I spent time in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon talking with Iraqi refugees. In addition, those women who remain in Iraq now live under the rule of conservative Islamists, heavily influenced by Iran. Under the former secular regime, Iraqi women were considered the most advanced in the Arab world; today, they say they have been set back a century.

In Afghanistan, too, while Americans take credit for putting women back in the workplace and girls in school, untold thousands of women and children have been displaced internally, many to makeshift camps on the outskirts of Kabul where 17 children froze to death last January. The U.N. reported 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries as a result of the war in 2012, the majority of them women and children.  In a country without a state capable of counting bodies, these are undoubtedly significant undercounts. A U.N. official said, “It is the tragic reality that most Afghan women and girls were killed or injured while engaging in their everyday activities.” Thousands of women in Afghan cities have been forced into survival sex, as were Iraqi women who fled as refugees to Beirut and particularly Damascus.

That’s what male violence is meant to do to women.  The enemy.  War itself is a kind of screaming tattooed man, standing in the middle of a room -- or another country -- asserting the law of the strongest. It’s like a reset button on history that almost invariably ensures women will find themselves subjected to men in ever more terrible ways.  It’s one more thing that, to a certain kind of man, makes going to war, like good old-fashioned wife torture, so exciting and so much fun.

© 2013 Ann Jones

Ann Jones

Ann Jones, writer and photographer, is the author of seven previous books, including War Is Not Over When It's Over, Kabul in Winter, Women Who Kill, and Next Time She'll Be Dead. Since 2001, Jones has worked with women in conflict and post-conflict zones, principally Afghanistan, and reported on their concerns. An authority on violence against women, she has served as a gender adviser to the United Nations. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times and The Nation. For more information, visit her website.

Police State Raids Family’s Home: “The Fight Has Officially Been Brought To My Front...

Mac Slavo
March 20th, 2013
SHTFplan.com

Read by 24,212 people

When certified firearms instructor Shawn Moore posted a photo of his 11 year-old son on Facebook the last thing he expected was a SWAT style raid on his home. The picture showed his son, a licensed hunter, holding his new birthday gift, a .22 caliber rifle.

jerseygun2

While Moore’s son proudly displaying his semi-automatic personal defense rifle was completely legal, an anonymous tipster contacted New Jersey’s Department of Children and Family Services and declared that the Moore family was neglecting and abusing their child, an unfounded accusation that led to the mobilization of local police who were apparently not at all concerned with the unconstitutionality of their actions which violated numerous protections of the Moore family including their right to bear arms, their right to be secure in their homes, their right to speak freely, and their right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Of critical importance is that the police who raided the Moore home never even saw the photo.

“It was all hear say. Just a phone call saying someone saw a pic of a child holding a gun,” reports Moore.

Shawn Moore recounted the incident at the Delaware Open Carry forums:

The fight has officially been brought to my front door.

Last night I was out with a buddy of mine. I got a text from my wife that the cops and DYFS [Division of Youth and Family Services] are at the house and they wanna check out my guns and needed me to open my safe.

I’m instantly on my way. I get in contact with [attorney] Evan Nappen on the way. I explain the situation.

I walk in my house and hand the phone to the first cop I see. Then direct all of them outside. DYFS got a call because of a pic of my son holding a gun.

They wanted to look around and check all my guns out, make sure they were all registered.

Obviously that didn’t go well because I refused.

I had Nappen on speaker phone the entire time so they had to deal with both of us. They kept trying to pressure me to open my safe. They had no warrant, no charges, nothing.

I didn’t budge.

I was told I was being “unreasonable” and that I was acting suspicious because I wouldn’t open my safe. Told me they were gonna get a search warrant. Told em go ahead.

Nappen (my lawyer) asked me for the DYFS workers name. She wouldn’t give it. I asked for credentials and she wouldn’t show them. I tried to take a pic of her and she turned around real fast and walked away.

After a while of them threatening to take my kids, get warrants and intimidation they left. Empty handed and seeing nothing.

People it can happen that fast.

Police and Family Services overstepped their bounds when they illegally entered this man’s home, demanded he open his gun safe, and threatened to take away his children because of an anonymous tip based on absolutely zero evidence. 

This is the world in which we now find ourselves, where an American exercising his right to bear arms is considered suspicious simply because he refuses to give up his Constitutionally protected rights.

If you resist in any form or fashion you are immediately considered a criminal or terrorist.

The government and its storm troopers will continue to act brazenly, violating the rights of Americans until they are held accountable. As citizens, we are left with no other choice than to resist the tyranny and fight back, just as Shawn Moore did when they came for his guns AND his children. We can do this by understanding the laws of the land, and by documenting every interaction with officials of the government, who will stop at nothing to pursue their agenda and stroke their own egos.

They will come to each of our front doors, and when they do, we must resist. We must fight back with every tool our Founding Fathers afforded us.

Author: Mac Slavo
Views: Read by 24,212 people
Date: March 20th, 2013
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

Steubenville Rape Trial: Blogger Who Exposed Case Speaks Out After Ohio Teens Found Guilty

Two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, have been found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party last August. On Sunday, the teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found delinquent in the sexual assault of the girl who witnesses testified was too drunk to move or speak. The case sparked a national controversy following the emergence of images and social media postings from the night of the assault. We’re joined by Alexandria Goddard, a crime blogger who first exposed crucial evidence in the case by taking screen shots of incriminating social media posts, photographs and videos, before they could be deleted. The hacker group Anonymous picked up on Goddard’s posts and released shocking video from the night of the assault. We also speak to Marc Randazza, a First Amendment lawyer who represented Goddard when she was unsuccessfully sued for defamation. "I’m convinced that if Ms. Goddard hadn’t started blogging about this and Anonymous hadn’t taken up the standard, that this case would have been swept under the rug," Randazza says.

Transcript

Amy Goodman: We begin our show in Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school football players have been found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party last August. On Sunday, the teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, were found delinquent in the sexual assault of the girl who witnesses testified was too drunk to move or speak. Mays, who was a high school quarterback, was also found delinquent on a second charge: taking and distributing a picture of the girl. Both young men had insisted that any sex that occurred between them and the girl was consensual. After the ruling, they broke down into tears, apologized to the victim, and were sent to a juvenile detention facility. They were also required to register as juvenile sex offenders.

Ohio state Attorney General Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator, said he plans to convene a grand jury to determine if other crimes had been committed.

Attorney General Mike Dewine: As I've indicated, we've been involved in an extensive investigation, trying to determine, trying to learn if any other individuals committed any crimes. While we have interviewed almost 60 individuals, 16 people refused to talk to our investigators. I have reached the conclusion that this investigation must—cannot be completed, this investigation simply cannot be completed, that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury.

Amy Goodman: Although the attack occurred in the summer, it only gained national attention after the cyber-activist group Anonymous obtained and published a shocking video from the night of the assault. The now-notorious 12-minute video shows a former classmate of the young men mocking the victim, laughingly referring to her as dead, and continuously joking about sexual assault.

Steubenville Teen 1: Is it really rape? Because you don't know if she wanted to or not. She might have wanted to. That might have been her final wish.

Steubenville Teen 2: No, y'all think she's dead?

Steubenville Teen 1: She's dead.

Amy Goodman: Along with the video, an Instagram photo also went viral. The now-infamous photo shows the two Steubenville high school football players holding their 16-year-old victim over a basement floor, one by her arms, one by her legs. State forensic analysts reportedly sifted through more than 396,000 text messages and 940 video clips recovered from cellphones as part of the investigation.

The Steubenville story has made national and international headlines, largely thanks to a local crime blogger. Before many of the partygoers could delete incriminating social media posts, the blogger, Alexandria Goddard, made copies and publicized them on her website, Prinniefied.com. She was sued for defamation, but the charges have since been dropped. Many Steubenville locals criticized Goddard for bringing negative public attention to the football team; others have praised her for holding sexual perpetrators accountable.

Well, for more, we're joined right now by Alexandria Goddard. And in Las Vegas, Nevada, we're joined by her First Amendment lawyer, Marc Randazza.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! First, Alexandria, your reaction to Friday—to the verdict that came down yesterday?

Alexandra Goddard: I'm glad that the victim had her day in court and that justice was served and, you know, hope that the grand jury that's going to convene will hold others accountable who might be found accountable.

Amy Goodman: Let's talk about that grand jury. Talk about Attorney General Mike DeWine and what he said yesterday.

Alexandra Goddard: He stated that the investigation can't be completed until they convene a grand jury to determine if other charges can be brought forward.

Amy Goodman: And why has this taken so long? Can you go back to August, Alexandria, and just give us a timeline? Explain what happened and when you came to know and make public what you knew.

Alexandra Goddard: I came to know about it on August 22nd, the date that the two were arrested. The incident occurred on August 11th. And I believe in October, November, sometime, they had the probable cause hearing. And, I mean, it's a juvenile matter. And the trial was yesterday. But I came to know of it on August 22nd.

Amy Goodman: And explain what actually took place. Go back to Steubenville, where you are from, and talk about what happened.

Alexandra Goddard: There were various end-of-the-summer parties, and the victim was alleged to have been at three different locations, and the rape occurred at the last location. All of these kids were tweeting about the state of her sobriety and taking pictures, sending them back and forth. But that's what happened. I mean, there were just several parties, and she was at various parties that evening with the two that were convicted yesterday.

Amy Goodman: I want to ask you about the role of cyber-activists in exposing what happened. In January, we spoke to, well, he called himself "X," a member of the hacktivist group Anonymous, using a pseudonym.

"X": I think it's apparent to anybody who can stomach watching it for the entire 12 minutes. I, myself, here at our location—we've been working night and day on this operation, and I've watched it at least a dozen times, and it makes me sick each time we watch it. I think it speaks for itself.

Amy Goodman: He's talking, of course, about this video. However, special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter claimed the actions of the cyber-activist group Anonymous put more pressure on the rape victim.

Marianne Hemmeter: No matter how you cut this case, she was the center of the storm. And it wasn't just Steubenville or Ohio; it became international. She's a 16-year-old girl. She didn't want to go forward on charges. She knew something bad had happened. But she was piecing it together like everybody else. And here is a girl who's 16 who's going to have to testify to the most intimate details of her life, some of which might be embarrassing. And to have not just a local stage, but an international stage, was unbelievably pressure-filled for her—and other witnesses. You know, we had pretty good working relationships with some of the witnesses that you heard from, but once Anonymous hit, there was a chilling effect.

Amy Goodman: That was special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter standing next to Ohio's attorney general, Mike DeWine. Alexandria, your response?

Alexandra Goddard: You know, those—the kids put it on the Internet, and the Internet is an international audience. You know, I believe that Anonymous did bring attention to the case, and—you know, but it's also empowered others to speak out and demand that justice be meted out.

Amy Goodman: On Sunday, CNN covered the news of the guilty verdict in the Steubenville case in a way that raised some eyebrows. Correspondent Poppy Harlow lamented that the "promising" lives of the rapists had been ruined.

Poppy Harlow: Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened, as these two young men, that had such promising futures—star football players, very good students—literally watched as they believed their life fell apart. One of—one of the young men, Ma'lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to him, "My life is over. No one is going to want me now." Very serious crime here, both found guilty of raping this 16-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August.

Amy Goodman: CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow. Alexandria Goddard, your response?

Alexandra Goddard: My father told me when I was a child, if you do the crime, you do the time. We all know the difference between right and wrong and are responsible for our decisions. And, you know, when—again, if you break the law, you get punished for it. We all know that.

Amy Goodman: Can you talk about the role of the football team in Steubenville, where you come from, how important is it, and who these two young men were in the community?

Alexandra Goddard: I don't have knowledge of them personally in the community. I haven't lived in the area for some years. The football team is very revered in the town. I mean, they're very proud of their football team. But it's—you know, it's not just Steubenville that loves their football team. That whole Ohio Valley area, you know, their high school football is important to them.

Amy Goodman: And what happened around the larger issue of other people taking pictures, not intervening, but photographing, videoing, using their cellphones to—you know, to film what was taking place rather than stopping it, going to this issue of the attorney general, Mike DeWine, saying they're going to convene a grand jury?

Alexandra Goddard: Well, you have a number of children who were taking photographs, retweeting them. And rather than stand up and say, "Stop it," they were passing around the information and, you know, humiliating and revictimizing this girl through the use of social media.

Amy Goodman: I want to talk to you about the lawsuit brought against you, Alexandria, which also brings in your lawyer, Marc Randazza, the lawsuit about you making public these images that you got on Facebook. Can you talk about what you found and how—why you were sued?

Alexandra Goddard: There were no images from Facebook. Anything that was posted on my website was for public viewing. All Twitter accounts were open. Nothing was private. The lawsuit itself was not because pictures were posted. It was because anonymous commenters on my blog basically dared to have an opinion about some members—you know, some of the people who were involved in the events of that night. And so, the family of the ex-boyfriend sued me and 25 commenters for defamation of character.

Amy Goodman: And you were named in the suit, though it was later dropped. Marc Randazza, can you talk about this First Amendment issue?

Marc Randazza: Yeah, the lawsuit was filed as a classic SLAPP suit. The point of it was to shut Alexandria up and to shut up the commenters. I think you've touched on the fact that this was a—the people involved in this enjoy a position of privilege in the community, and they are not used to having their misdeeds laid bare. And Alexandria really picked up the ball when the local mainstream media dropped it and stuffed the story, essentially. And in order to keep that story stuffed, that's why I'm convinced that the lawsuit itself was filed, because it wasn't just against her—and, frankly, against her for comments that she made—but they sued her as well for allowing comments by other people, which there's very clear federal law that renders her immune for those—for liability for those comments.

Amy Goodman: Talk about who Cody Saltsman was—is, Marc Randazza.

Marc Randazza: Well, he was the plaintiff in the case. But, you know, he is—he pretty wisely decided to drop the case, after we began to put up some kind of a fight, along with my local counsels, Mr. Nye and Mr. [Haren]. And the fact is that he actually seemed to have some level of contrition for bringing the case. So, you know, I don't want to get too much into him, because he seems to have done the right thing.

Amy Goodman: And, Alexandria Goddard, your reaction to them dropping the case?

Alexandra Goddard: Oh, you know, I was elated. No one wants to be sued. Lawsuits take up very precious time, and I would rather be out doing things I enjoy than battling a defamation suit.

Amy Goodman: And, Marc, the issue of other people now—it's many months later, but the attorney general talking about convening a grand jury to go after others. Many years ago, there was the New Bedford rape case in a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the call of the community to not only go after the actual perpetrator, of the men—the people who had raped the woman in the bar, but all those who had been egging them on and who were there and didn't try to stop it or call anyone to stop it.

Marc Randazza: And so, what's your question?

Amy Goodman: The question around the issue of a convening of a grand jury now, many months later, but talking about widening the targets of people who should be prosecuted.

Marc Randazza: Well, look, that's—you know, that's not the case I'm involved in. I'm not the criminal lawyer here; I'm the First Amendment lawyer here. But I think that the grand jury being convened is a direct result of all of the sunlight put on this case. I'm convinced that if Ms. Goddard hadn't started blogging about this and Anonymous hadn't taken up the standard, that this case would have been swept under the rug. And I think that not only were—not only would perhaps justice not have been brought yesterday, but I think we also might have found that the limited amount of justice that was brought would have been brought only upon the heads of the two boys who were sentenced yesterday. If there is wider responsibility, well, then the investigation needs to continue. And I'm glad that it is.

Amy Goodman: In January, we spoke to Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. She said the Steubenville case has forced America to take a hard look at its views on rape.

Monika Johnson Hostler: What we are calling for is not just how this is handled in Steubenville, Ohio, but really asking America to take a hard look at ourselves in how we are—handle sexual violence and rape in our country. I think we've been able to point our fingers and turn our heads to rapes that have happened in other countries and not held ourselves accountable as Americans to say that we absolutely still have a culture of rape, where women and girls are still degraded and dehumanized, and rape is in the fabric of this country. And unfortunately, I would think, centuries later, that we would be further along in terms of our response, but yet we still see Americans blaming victims. So, in terms of our overall response, we're calling for America to take a hard look at itself and really think about the culture that we're raising our kids in and the things that we are allowing to happen by not acknowledging, as a community, as a society, the importance of supporting the rape victim.

Amy Goodman: That was Monika Johnson Hostler, president of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Alexandria Goddard, as we wrap up, your response to what she said? And also, given what you went through with the lawsuit, though it was dropped, the kind of chilling effect you think that has for future people like you to get involved in the way that you did as a blogger?

Alexandra Goddard: I think everyone—you know, we have a responsibility to be involved in our community. And, you know, if you see what you perceive to be injustice, you shouldn't sit by and do nothing about it. You should stand up and, you know, protect your right to free speech, but, you know—and what you believe in. That's what our country is founded on.

Amy Goodman: And will you continue to follow this case, Alexandria?

Alexandra Goddard: Yes, I will.

Amy Goodman: Alexandria Goddard, Steubenville-based blogger. Marc Randazza, lawyer who represented Alexandria when she was sued for defamation after documenting the rape case. That suit was ultimately dropped.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, it's the 10th anniversary of the bombing of Iraq. We'll be back in a minute.

Israel to Urge Joint US Airstrikes against Syria

An anonymous Israeli official has told the Guardian that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to use time during President Obama's upcoming Israel visit to gain U.S. support for possible military strikes against Syria.

Israeli, US national flags at the residence of Israel's President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit, March 18, 2013. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun) According to the reporting, Israel would like the U.S. to engage in airstrikes—or at least support strikes by Israeli forces—if it suspects that the Syrians were passing weapons to its Hezbollah allies in neighboring Lebanon.

Reportedly, Israeli officials are willing to hit Syrian missile installations or convoys "even if [such actions] risk provoking a cross-border conflict with Hezbollah."

Adding to a long list of demands coming from Israel—including support for military intervention in Iran—Israel cited unsubstantiated claims of Syrian anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles along the border and rumors that Syria is transferring missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon, as reasons for the U.S. and Israel to engage militarily with the war-torn country.

"What I hear over and over again from Israeli generals is that another war with Hezbollah is inevitable," a U.S. diplomat stated.

The Guardian adds:

Netanyahu's office concedes that it is more likely to succeed in securing US support over Syrian missiles than to persuade Obama to share the Israeli prime minister's position on Iran. There have been many exchanges between the Israeli and US governments in the run-up to the Obama visit attempting to narrow the gap between their Iran policies.

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Big Brother Knows How You’re Feeling

A company that develops crowd control weapons for the military and law enforcement personnel have now created an advanced 'Minority Report' style facial - and emotion - recognition system.

Steubenville Teens Pronounced Guilty of Sexual Assault

A judge announced Sunday that two Steubenville, Ohio high school football players have been found guilty of sexual assault in a highly-publicized trial that drew questions of a community's complicity in this criminal act.

Protesters, many wearing Guy Fawkes masks, rallied outside the Jefferson County Courthouse demanding a more thorough investigation into the alleged rape of a teenage girl by two members of the Steubenville High School football team. (Photo: Lake Fong/Post-Gazette) 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond were pronounced guilty of sexually assaulting a female while she was severely intoxicated and unconscious. Both defendants received delinquent verdicts, the guilty equivalent for juveniles, on all three charges against them.

The teens will serve their sentence at a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21.

The Associated Press reports that "evidence introduced at the trial included graphic text messages sent by numerous students after the night of the party, including by the accuser, containing provocative descriptions of sex acts and obscene language."

Ahead of the case, they write, the community was "roiled" amid allegations that more students should have been charged for their complicity in the attack for allowing it to take place, particularly three other boys—two of them members of Steubenville High's celebrated Big Red team—who "saw something happening that night and didn't try to stop it but instead recorded it."

In January, the New York Times reported that many members of the community, including the football coach, had been defensive of the charges and wary of assigning blame for the alleged rape because, Nation blogger Alison Killkenny writes, "the community assigns something like a God-like status to football players."

The case gained national attention after video and photo footage from the night of the incident went viral including a video of another Steubenville teen who witnessed the attack joking and bragging about the incident, which was leaked by a 'hacktivist' group Anonymous who wanted to draw attention to the scandal and alleged 'cover-up' by local officials.

Ohio's attorney general plans to announce later Sunday whether additional charges will be brought in the case, including against the three other boys, the Associated Press reports.

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Police behind nearly 900 deaths in Egyptian revolution – inquiry

Published time: March 15, 2013 01:20
Egyptian demonstrators clash with Egyptian police in central Cairo during a protest to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and calling for reforms on January 25, 2011. (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)

A high-level inquiry into the deaths of nearly 900 demonstrators during Egypt’s 2011 uprising concluded that the police were responsible for most of the killings and used rooftop snipers to shoot into crowds in Cairo’s Tahir Square.

A fact-finding commission into the 2011 popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak's government initially concluded that 846 people were killed during the revolution.

Current Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi ordered a report on the fact-finding commission's findings after he was elected. The report was then submitted to Morsi and to Egypt’s top prosecutor late last year.

The 16-member panel behind the report included human rights activists, lawyers, judges and a representative from the military prosecutor’s office.

It includes authoritative and in-depth accounts of the killings, and concludes that lethal force could only have been authorized by Mubarak's security chief and with the former president’s full knowledge.

Extensive details are cited, including police logs documenting the issuance of weapons and ammunition along with the officers who received them.

“The use of firearms can only be authorized by the interior minister, who must in turn inform the political leadership (Mubarak). And if the police continue to use firearms for more than one day, then the political leadership must be informed,” an author of the report who wished to remain anonymous told the National Post, a Canadian newspaper.

An Egyptian woman holds the widespread picture of a woman who was stripped and beaten by military police during clashes last week as Egyptians gather for a protest in downtown Cairo. (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)

One of the report’s authors, lawyer and human rights activist Mohsen Bahnasy, said he was planning to submit parts of it to the prosecution in Mubarak’s trial, as well as to other courts trying policemen accused of killing protesters.

The report is sure to strike a nerve in Egypt, where only last week three demonstrators were killed and 65 more injured in a protest over the verdict in a case regarding a riot at the Port Said Stadium that saw more than 70 killed. 

That verdict came after a week of anti-police brutality demonstrations in Port Said and across Egypt that led police themselves to take to the streets in a rare protest.

Egyptian riot police detain a man during clashes on Omar Makram street, off Tahrir Square, on November 28, 2012 in Cairo. (AFP Photo / Mahmoud Khaled)

Connecting The Dots: Corporate Influence On Government

This report is just the tip of the iceberg that demonstrates how relationships between big business and politicians influence government decision making.

Cops Shoot and Kill 16-Year-Old Kid in New York

Eyewitness says Gray was “running for his life” when he was shot dead.

March 11, 2013  |  

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On Saturday night, two undercover police officers shot and killed 16-year-old Kimani Gray. According to the police account, the officers approached Gray when he “ adjusted his waistband in what the police describe as a suspicious manner.” When the police asked him to “show his hands,” they claim Gray turned around and pointed a gun at the officers, who fired 11 rounds. The weapon police say belonged to Gray was not fired.

Although there is no confirmed evidence of wrongdoing by the officers, whose names have not be released, several witnesses cast doubts on the official version of the incident:

1. Eyewitness says Gray was “running for his life” when he was shot dead. “‘He was running for his life, telling the cops, ‘Stop,’ said witness Camille Johnson. ‘They really are, seriously, walking around, shooting little kids.’” [Pix11,  3/10/13]

2. Eyewitness says Gray was adjusting his belt, not shooting his gun, when the shooting began. “Mr. Gray’s sister, Mahnefah Gray, 19, said that a witness to the shooting told her that her brother had been fixing his belt when he was shot.” [New York Times,  3/10/13]

3. Eyewitness says, after he was shot, Gray said “please don’t let me die.” One of the officers responded “Stay down or, we’ll shoot you again.” [New York Times,  3/10/13]

4. Friends says “Kimani had just returned from a baby shower, and was shot only minutes after he was dropped off on East 52nd Street.” [NY1,  3/10/13]

5. Gray’s sister and others say he did not own a gun. “Mr. Gray’s sister, Mahnefah Gray, 19, said that a witness to the shooting told her that her brother had been fixing his belt when he was shot. She, among others who knew Mr. Gray, said they had never known him to have a gun.” Gray’s cousin, Malik Vernon, also “insisted he didn’t own a gun.” [New York Times,  3/10/13; New York Post,  3/11/13]

NY1 does quote an anonymous source saying Gray was “ holding the gun for a friend.” The police were quick to note that Gray had “ four prior arrests.”

Harvard Caught Snooping Through Employee Emails

Following a cheating scandal, administrators broke into deans' email accounts.

Photo Credit: Flikr / Harvard

March 11, 2013  |  

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Harvard University is embroiled in another scandal following revelations of a student cheating ring that made national headlines last August. But this time around, it’s Harvard administrators taking heat for searching the university email accounts of 16 resident deans without permission last fall, according to a report from the Boston Globe.

Anonymous officials told the Globe that administrators looked through deans’ emails six months ago to find a media leak of confidential messages related to last year’s cheating scandal. They succeeded, and the dean in question reportedly did not face punishment.

The scandal raises questions about whether resident deans, who are not professors, but teach nonetheless, should be afforded the same privacy protections offered to Harvard faculty. Even though they weren’t the victims of spying, Harvard professors still expressed feelings of betrayal, disgust and a new distrust of university administrators.

“This is disgraceful,” wrote history lecturer Timothy McCarthy in a Facebook post, “Even more so than the original cheating scandal, because it involves adults who should know better — really smart, powerful adults, with complete job security.”

Harvard Computer Science professor and former Harvard College dean Harry Lewis questioned the logic of not simply asking resident deans before snooping through their email accounts, asking in a blog post, ““Why not tell people you are reading their email? Would it not be the honorable thing to do? What is to be gained by not doing that?” Dr. Lewis continued, saying he will refrain from using his university email for personal purposes, in light of the spying scandal:

“I used to favor Harvard email over gmail because I thought it protected me better. I figured, if someone issues a subpoena for my email, I would rather have Harvard's lawyers think about whether to comply than to know for certain that Google would comply. My assumption about the relative risks has now flipped.”

Former Harvard teaching fellow Richard Bradley, who has written extensively about Harvard affairs, says administrators blatantly violated university policy and that someone, specifically naming Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smith, should get the boot.

“This is, I think, one of the lowest points in Harvard’s recent history—maybe Harvard’s history, period,” wrote Bradley, “It’s an invasion of privacy, a betrayal of trust, and a violation of the academic values for which the university should be advocating.”

h/t The Harvard Crimson

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

Shadow Lives: How the War on Terror in England Became a War on Women...

Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war.  In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.

In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata.  I stayed in Great Britain.  There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam.  Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.

I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.  Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.

In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework.  Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.

Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods — but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.

In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.

In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well.  The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges.  When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo.  We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.

Was My Husband Tortured?

In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.

Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years.  Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.

In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system.  (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.

The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.

At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.

All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them.  It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.

The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents — Arabs — who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.

Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful.  The pressure on them was overwhelming.  Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.

Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.

Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population.  This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society — often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors — were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.

So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.

A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions

Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out.  As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.

One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time — but almost no one took any interest.

And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from a team of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.

An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals.  First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.

The effect on the listed families was draconian.  Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives — often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands — suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.

In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it “totally unacceptable” that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a “basic expense” license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.

In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the “meanness and squalor” of a regime that “monitored who had what for lunch.” More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”

Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list.  Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.

Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.

“Each Time It’s Worse”

Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me.  He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.

When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.

In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine.  What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:

“People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don’t feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel.”

The boy added this:

“There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard.  I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible… for my family.”

These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West.  They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:

“Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.  I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.”

Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.

Shadow Lives: How the War on Terror in England Became a War on Women...

Once, as a reporter, I covered wars, conflicts, civil wars, and even a genocide in places like Vietnam, Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, keeping away from official briefings and listening to the people who were living the war.  In the years since the Bush administration launched its Global War on Terror, I’ve done the same thing without ever leaving home.

In the last decade, I didn’t travel to distant refugee camps in Pakistan or destroyed villages in Afghanistan, nor did I spend time in besieged cities like Iraq’s Fallujah or Libya’s Misrata.  I stayed in Great Britain.  There, my government, in close conjunction with Washington, was pursuing its own version of what, whether anyone cared to say it or not, was essentially a war against Islam.  Somehow, by a series of chance events, I found myself inside it, spending time with families transformed into enemies.

I hadn’t planned to write about the war on terror, but driven by curiosity about lives most of us never see and a few lucky coincidences, I stumbled into a world of Muslim women in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.  Some of them were British, others from Arab and African countries, but their husbands or sons had been swept up in Washington’s war. Some were in Guantanamo, some were among the dozen Muslim foreigners who did not know each other, and who were surprised to find themselves imprisoned together in Britain on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda. Later, some of these families would find themselves under house arrest.

In the process, I came to know women and children who were living in almost complete isolation and with the stigma of a supposed link to terrorism. They had few friends, and were cut off from the wider world. Those with a husband under house arrest were allowed no visitors who had not been vetted for “security,” nor could they have computers, even for their children to do their homework.  Other lonely women had husbands or sons who had sometimes spent a decade or more in prison without charges in the United Kingdom, and were fighting deportation or extradition.

Gradually, they came to accept me into their isolated lives and talked to me about their children, their mothers, their childhoods -- but seldom, at first, about the grim situations of their husbands, which seemed too intimate, too raw, too frightening, too unknowable to be put into words.

In the early years, it was a steep learning curve for me, spending time in homes where faith was the primary reality, Allah was constantly invoked, English was a second language, and privacy and reticence were givens. Facebook culture had not come to most of these families. The reticence faded over the years, especially when the children were not there, or in the face of the kind of desolation that came from a failed court appeal to lift the restrictions on their lives, an unexpected police raid on the house, a husband’s suicide attempt, or the coming of a new torture report from Washington’s then-expanding global gulag of black sites and, of course, Guantanamo.

In these years, I met some of their husbands and sons as well.  The first was a British man from Birmingham, Moazzam Begg. He had been held for three years in Washington’s notorious offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, only to be released without charges.  When he came home, through his lawyer, he asked me to help write his memoir, the first to come out of Guantanamo.  We worked long months on Enemy Combatant. It was hard for him to relive his nightmare days and nights in American custody in Kandahar and in the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then those limbo years in Cuba. It was even harder for him to visit the women whose absent husbands he had known in prison and who, unlike him, were still there.

Was My Husband Tortured?

In these homes he visited, there was always one great unspoken question: Was my husband or son tortured? It was the single question no one could bear to ask a survivor of that nightmare, even for reassurance. When working on his book, I deliberately left the chapter on his experiences in American hands in Bagram prison for last, as I sensed how difficult it would be for both of us to speak about the worst of the torture I knew he had experienced.

Through Moazzam, I met other men who had been swept up in the post-9/11 dragnet for Muslims in Great Britain, refugees who sought him out as an Arabic speaker and a British citizen to help them negotiate Britain’s newly hostile atmosphere in the post-9/11 years.  Soon, I began to visit some of their wives, too.

In time, I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death unless he was given refugee documents to leave Britain, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I found myself deep inside a world of civilian women who were being warred upon (after a fashion) in my own country, which was how I came upon a locked-down hospital ward with a man determined to starve himself to death, children who cried in terror in response to a knock on the door, wives faced with a husband changed beyond words by prison.

I was halfway through working on Moazzam’s book when London was struck by our 9/11, which we call 7/7. The July 7, 2005, suicide bombings, in three parts of the London underground and a bus, killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700. The four bombers were all young British men between 18 and 30, two of them married with children, and one of them a mentor at a primary school. In video statements left behind they described themselves as “soldiers” whose aim was to force the British government to pull its troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Just three weeks later, there were four more coordinated bomb attacks on the London subway system.  (All failed to detonate.) The four men responsible, longterm British residents originally from the Horn of Africa, were captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this way, the whole country was traumatised in 2005, and that particularly includes the various strands of the Muslim community in Great Britain.

The British security services quickly returned to a post-9/11 stance on overdrive. The same MI5 intelligence agents who had interrogated Moazzam while he was in U.S. custody asked to meet him again to get his thoughts on who might be behind the attacks. However, three years in U.S. custody and five months at home occupied with his family and his book had not made him a likely source of information on current strains of thought in the British Muslim community.

At the same time, the dozen foreign Muslim refugees detained in the aftermath of 9/11 and held without trial for two years before being released on the orders of the House of Lords were rearrested. In the summer of 2005, the government prepared to deport them to countries they had originally fled as refugees.

All of them had been made anonymous by court order and in legal documents were referred to as Mr. G, Mr. U, and so on. This was no doubt intended to safeguard their privacy, but in a sense it also condemned them.  It made them faceless, inhuman, and their families experienced it just that way. “They even took my husband’s name away, why?” one wife asked me.

The women I was meeting in these years were mostly from this small group, as well as the relatives of a handful of British residents -- Arabs -- who were not initially returned from Guantanamo with the nine British citizens that the Americans finally released without charges in 2004 and 2005.

Perhaps no one in the country was, in the end, more terrorised than them, thanks to the various terror plots by British nationals that followed. And they were right to be fearful.  The pressure on them was overwhelming.  Some of them simply gave up and went home voluntarily because they could not bear house arrest, though they risked being sent to prison in their native lands; others went through years of house arrest and court appeals against deportation, all of which continues to this day.

Among the plots that unnerved them were one in 2006 against transatlantic aircraft, for which a total of 12 Britons were jailed for life in 2009, and the 2007 attempt to blow up a London nightclub and Glasgow International Airport, in which one bomber died and the second was jailed for 32 years. In the post-9/11 decade, 237 people were convicted of terror-related offences in Britain.

Though all of this was going on, much of it remained remote from the world of the refugee women I came to know who, in the larger world, were mainly preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, with Palestinian developments, filled their TV screens tuned only to Arabic stations.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares, but for anyone in their company there was no mistaking them: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another, with several small children, turned back from a prison visit, despite a long journey, because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

These women did not tend to dwell on their own private nightmares: a wife prevented from taking her baby into the hospital to visit her hunger-striking husband and get him to eat before he starved to death; another turned back from a prison visit because her husband was being punished that day; children whose toys were taken in a police raid and never given back; midnight visits from a private security company to check on a man already electronically tagged.

Here was the texture of a hidden war of continual harassment against a largely helpless population.  This was how some of the most vulnerable people in British society -- often already traumatised refugees and torture survivors -- were made permanent scapegoats for our post-9/11, and then post-7/7 fears.

So powerful is the stigma of “terrorism” today that, in the name of “our security,” whether in Great Britain or the United States, just about anything now goes, and ever fewer people ask questions about what that “anything” might actually be. Here in London, repeated attempts to get influential religious or political figures simply to visit one of these officially locked-down families and see these lives for themselves have failed. In the present political climate, such a personal, fact-finding visit proved to be anything but a priority for such people.

A Legal System of Secret Evidence, House Arrest, and Financial Sanctions

Against this captive population, in such an anything-goes atmosphere, all sorts of experimental perversions of the legal system were tried out.  As a result, the British system of post-9/11 justice contains many features which should frighten us all but are completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom.

Key aspects for the families I have been concerned with include the use of secret evidence in cases involving deportation, bail conditions, and imprisonment without trial. In addition, most of their cases have been heard in a special court known as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission or SIAC, which is housed in an anonymous basement set of rooms in central London.

One of SIAC’s innovative features is the use of “special advocates,” senior barristers who have security clearance to see secret evidence on behalf of their clients, but without being allowed to disclose it or discuss it, even with the client or his or her own lawyer. The resignation on principle of a highly respected barrister, Ian Macdonald, as a special advocate in November 2004 exposed this process to the public for the first time -- but almost no one took any interest.

And a sense of the injustice in this arcane system was never sufficiently sparked by such voices, which found little echo in the media. Nor was there a wide audience for reports from a team of top psychiatrists about the devastating psychological impact on the men and their families of indefinite detention without trial, and of a house-arrest system framed by “control orders” that allow the government to place restrictions of almost any sort on the lives of those it designates.

An even less noted aspect of the anti-terror legal system brought into existence after 9/11 was the financial sanctions that could freeze the assets of designated individuals.  First ordered by the United Nations, the financial-sanctions regime was consolidated here through a European Union list of designated people. The few lawyers who specialized in this area were scathing about the draconian measures involved and the utter lack of transparency when it came to which governments had put which names on which list.

The effect on the listed families was draconian.  Marriages collapsed under the strain. The listed men were barred from working and only allowed £10 a week for personal expenses. Their wives -- often from conservative cultures where all dealings with the outside world had been left to husbands -- suddenly were the families’ faces to the world, responsible for everything from shopping to accounting monthly to the government’s Home Office for every item the family purchased, right down to a bottle of milk or a pencil for a child. It was humiliating for the men, who lost their family role overnight, and exhausting and frustrating for the women, while in some cases the rest of their families shunned them because of the taint of alleged terrorism. Almost no one except specialist lawyers even knew that such financial sanctions existed in Britain.

In the country’s High Court, the first judicial challenge to the financial-sanctions regime was brought in 2008 by five British Muslim men known only as G, K, A, M, and Q. In response, Justice Andrew Collins said he found it "totally unacceptable" that, to take an especially absurd example, a man should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them. The man in question had waited three months for a "basic expense" license permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.

In a related case before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Justice Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the "meanness and squalor" of a regime that "monitored who had what for lunch." More recently, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court endorsed the comments of Lord Justice Stephen Sedley who described those subject to the regime as being akin to “prisoners of the state.”

Among senior lawyers concerned about this hidden world of punishment was Ben Emmerson, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism. He devoted one of his official U.N. reports to the financial sanctions issue. His recommendations included significantly more transparency from governments who put people on such a list, the explicit exclusion of evidence obtained by torture, and the obligation of governments to give reasons when they refuse to remove individuals from the list.  Of course, no one who mattered was paying the slightest attention.

Against ideological governments obsessed by terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic and a culture numbed by violent anti-terrorist tales like “24” and Zero Dark Thirty, such complicated and technical initiatives on behalf of individuals who have been given the tag, implicitly if not explicitly, of “terrorist” stand little chance of getting attention.

"Each Time It's Worse"

Nearly a decade ago, at the New York opening night of Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, the play Gillian Slovo and I wrote using only the words of the relatives of prisoners in that jail, their lawyers, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an elderly man approached Moazzam Begg’s father and me.  He introduced himself as a former foreign policy adviser to President John Kennedy. “It could never have happened in our time,” he said.

When the Global War on Terror was still relatively new, it was common for audiences to react similarly and with shock to a play in which fathers and brothers describe their bewilderment over the way their relation had disappeared into the legal black hole of Guantanamo Bay. In the years since, we have become numb to the destruction of lives, livelihoods, futures, childhoods, legal systems, and trust by Washington’s and London’s never-ending war on terror.

In that time, I have seen children grow from toddlers to teenagers locked inside this particular war machine.  What they say today should startle us out of such numbness. Here, for instance, are the words of two teenagers, a girl and a boy whose fathers had been imprisoned or under house arrest in Britain for 10 years and whose lives in those same years were filled with indignities and humiliations:

"People seem to think that we get used to things being how they are for us, so we don't feel the injustices so much now. They are quite wrong: it was painful the first time, more painful the second, even more so the third. In fact, each time it’s worse, if you can believe that. There isn’t a limit on how much pain you can feel."

The boy added this:

"There is never one day when I feel safe. It can be the authorities, it can be ordinary people, they can do something bad for us. Only like now when we are all in the house together can I stop worrying about my mum and my sisters, and even me, what might happen to us. On the tube [subway], in class at university, people look at my beard.  I see them looking and I know they are thinking bad things about me. I would like to be a normal guy who no one looks at. You know, other boys, some of my friends, they cut corners, things like driving without a current license, everyone does it. But I can’t, I can’t ever, ever, take even a small risk. I have to always be cautious, be responsible... for my family."

These children have been brought up by women who, against all odds, have often preserved their dignity and kept at least a modicum of joy in their families’ lives, and so, however despised, however unnoticed, however locked away, made themselves an inspiration to others. They are not victims to be pitied, but women our societies should embrace.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s response to recent proposals that Washington establish a secret court to oversee the targeting of terrorist suspects for death-by-drone and President Obama’s expanding executive power to kill, speak for the world beyond the West.  They offer a different perspective on the war on terror that Washington and Great Britain continue to pursue with no end in sight:

"Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the nineteenth century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.  I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity."

© 2013 Victoria Brittain

Victoria Brittain

Victoria Brittain, journalist and former editor at the Guardian, has authored or co-authored two plays and four books, including Enemy Combatant with Moazzam Begg. Her latest book, Shadow Lives: The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2013) has just been published.

We Must Not Fail Wikileaks Whistleblower Bradley Manning

As I sat in court last Thursday at Fort Meade, watching Bradley Manning take responsibility as the Wikileaks whistleblower, two things struck me: (1) his thorough intelligence fueled by intellectual curiosity and (2) his empathy for other people when so many in war had lost their humanity.

This was the second time I had heard Manning testify. The first was his testimony about the abusive pre-trial incarceration he suffered for one year while being held in a cage in Kuwait and in solitary confinement in the Quantico Brig.  I’ve now seen him testify for a total of 15 hours.

Bradley Manning, sketched by Clark Stoeckley of the Bradley Manning Support Netowrk

Bradley Manning testifying, sketched by Clark Stoeckley of the Bradley Manning Support Network

His testimony leads me to wonder: what would have happened to Bradley Manning if we had a decent educational system that included affordable, preferably free, college education so that young people weren’t driven to the military for economic reasons? What could Bradley Manning have given the country if he had been able to pursue his interests and natural talents? Would Manning have joined the military if the country was honest about how the US Empire operates around the world?

But, that was not to be.  The country failed Bradley Manning.

I hope we do not fail him again.

Bradley Manning reading his plea statement in court, sketched by Clark Stoeckley of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Bradley Manning reading his plea statement in court, sketched by Clark Stoeckley of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Manning made it clear last Thursday that he leaked the documents to Wikileaks because he saw serious problems in US foreign policy. Problems which are as serious as they can be: war crimes, criminal behavior at the highest levels up to Secretary of State Clinton, unethical behavior and bullying of other nations.

Manning’s sole purpose was to “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general.”* He hoped the debate “might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment every day.”

Regarding the collateral murder video which showed civilians, including two Reuters journalists being massacred, he said “I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”

When discussing the State Department cables Manning saw that the US was not behaving the way the “de facto leader of the free world” should act as the cables “documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity.” Again, he hoped for a change in policy as the “cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy” that would avoid conflict and save lives.

In some of these statements you get a hint of Manning’s empathy for fellow human beings. The incident that really showed it was his comments on David Frankel’s book “The Good Soldier,” where Frankel describes a seriously injured Iraqi civilian on the ground at the end of the Collateral Murder video. He lifts two fingers toward the soldier, a well-known sign of friendship, as he asks for help. The US soldier responds lifting his middle finger as the Iraqi died. Manning puts himself in the place of the Iraqi thinking his final act was an act of friendship only to be returned by a crude obscenity of unfriendliness. Manning acknowledges that this “burdens me emotionally.”

Manning was clear that he was solely responsible for his actions saying “The decisions that I made to send documents and information to the WLO [Wikileaks Organization] and website were my own decisions, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”  He described his conversations with an anonymous person at Wikileaks but made it quite clear there was no espionage conspiracy between Manning and Julian Assange.  His statement made it much more difficult for the US to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act.

There is no question that Manning will spend years in jail.  The ten charges he pled guilty to last week each carry two years for a total potential of 20 years incarceration. The government has announced it will still prosecute the espionage and aiding the enemy charges which could lead to a life sentence. This is an abuse of government power.  They may be able to prove their case, but that does not mean he is truly guilty of those crimes, if convicted it will be another example of laws written to favor the prosecution; another example of injustice in today’s United States.

Judge Denise Lind. Sketch by Clark Stoeckley, Bradley Manning Support Network.

Judge Denise Lind. Sketch by Clark Stoeckley, Bradley Manning Support Network.

Judge Denise Lind has beautiful judicial decorum in court and shows she is on top of the details of the proceedings and the law.  She is an impressive judicial figure but so far when there have been disputes between Manning and the government she has tended to split the difference, always giving a little more to the government. She has served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for 25 years, four as a judge.  She is a product of a system that does not blow the whistle, does not go outside the chain of command and views following orders as a way of life. She will do what she thinks is just when she considers Manning’s case, but I doubt it will seem like justice to those of us who support Manning.

How can we avoid failing Bradley Manning? Ongoing support through the Bradley Manning Support Network continues to be essential but more than that, we need to do what we can to disseminate the information he leaked and work to create a national debate on a foreign policy that is seriously off-track.

This will be a long term effort, and as we pursue that work, we should never forget the young man who put his life and liberty on the line to give the world a glimpse of US foreign policy, a person who was failed by a country that talks about its concern for the young but does not do enough for them. Now, it is our job to pick up the materials Bradley has provided and work to create the better world we urgently need and he sought in his own patriotic way.

* All quotations are taken from the transcript of Manning’s testimony prepared by Alexa O’Brien as the court has not release his written statement to the public.

Kevin Zeese is an attorney who serves on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network. He also serves a co-director of It’s Our Economy. His twitter is @KBZeese.

How I Got Sober and Converted to Atheism

Four years ago I scaled a Pacific Northwest peak and felt rush in the great spiritual wind of... no-God. Despite pushback from fellow AA-ers, I've remained happily sober ever since.

March 4, 2013  |  

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I stood on a mountaintop and looked out over the sea. A thousand feet below me, eagles soared on thermals. Wind blew through my hair and I felt dizzy. I fell to my knees and cried. I didn't realize it at the time, but this “white-light” experience was the moment I realized there was no God—I had been struck atheist.

To be accurate and appropriately less dramatic, my atheist conversion was far from immediate. It was a process that began when I got sober about five years earlier. 

I finally stopped drinking and drugging at age 30, in the summer of 2004, after about 15 years of relatively high-functioning abuse. I took to 12-step recovery like a fish to water and was especially drawn to Alcoholics Anonymous’ message of a spiritual solution.

I was perfectly comfortable with spirituality. I had been exposed from an early age to a hodge-podge of spiritual ideas by Goldwater Republican parents who baptized me Episcopalian but referenced Joseph Campbell and the Buddha in casual conversation and sent me to an astrologer in lieu of a child psychologist. 

Not that I had an entirely rosy view of religion—far from it. I was raised in the Bible Belt and had plenty of run-ins with all manner of unpleasant kooks throughout my life. My parents also saw fit to send me to a Catholic school for my primary education, where I experienced first-hand how religion could be used to repress individuality and creativity, and it filled me with loathing and terror. At least I can times stuff and write good in cursive. 

But instead of turning me off entirely to religion, these negative experiences instilled in me the idea that there was a right way and wrong way to do spirituality. And that was an idea I was willing to go to the mat for. 

In my drinking days, I was known to get in passionate religious conversations with anyone unlucky enough to sit next to me at the bar, beseeching “GOD IS LOVE!” through a haze of whiskey and cheap cocaine as my quarry gingerly backed away. 

By the time I’d reached my bottom in the winter of 2003–2004, I’d become intrigued by the Christian writings of C.S. Lewis and would often put myself to sleep reading The Screwtape Letters or Mere Christianity with one eye closed to correct for double vision. I listened to Louvin Brothers songs of loss and redemption late at night and felt a hair’s-breadth away from divine intervention. 

I made it to my first AA meetings in the spring of 2004, and at that point I had no problem whatsoever reading the word “God” in the literature. I remember thinking I understood my relationship with God so well that I didn’t need a second or third step. I pitied people who had problems with “the God thing.” Not that I couldn’t relate to their disdain for religion in general—but, I thought, “Can’t they just get over it?” The goalposts seemed so wide! 

After a couple years in AA, a man who is a well-known Buddhist teacher became my sponsor. He spoke of a faith in AA born of experience as opposed to the blind faith demanded in most religions. As he explained it, first we hear the experience of those who got sober before us, and then, through our own practice, we develop a faith in the fellowship, the steps, and ultimately ourselves. He encouraged investigation. He taught me the healing power of the 11th Step, and told me that when I prayed it wasn’t important that God hear my prayers, so long as I did. These ideas felt powerful and practical and attractive, and they heavily inform my thinking about recovery and spirituality to this day. 

Fox Blames Minorities For Obesity In NYC Firefighter Recruits

Fox host Alisyn Camerota made a deliberate point of linking firefighter flunkies to race when she reported that “as many as 30” New York City firefighter recruits are too obese for the job. Without bothering to point out that obesity rates among firefighters are causing concerns all over the country or that women are also part of the FDNY recruitment efforts, Camerota highlighted increased minority recruitment as the only factor to consider:

Well, they sued for the right to become New York City firefighters but now they’re flunking out. As many as 30 trainees have already dropped out because they’re too overweight to meet the physical demands of the job. And more are expected to go. The first recruited class since 2008 was formed after a judge ordered the department to become more racially diverse. But now veteran firefighters are fuming, saying the candidates are oversized and underperforming and need to be cut breaks to pass their tests.

Do you think anyone in the Fox audience failed to connect the dots?

Apparently, this “news” was based on a similar report from sister company NY Post that also linked the problem to minorities. However, the Post pointed out what Camerota didn’t: the class was not made up of applicants from the general population:

FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano excluded applicants from the general population for this Academy class, limiting the pool to medics, whose ranks include a higher percentage of minorities than is found in firehouses.

…But they were rated only on a written exam. In years past, applicants had to score high on both a written and a physical test.

… The department’s own EMS Academy head, Lt. David Russell, admitted in a 2011 report that even when FDNY recruits from EMS got extra help, “the overall fitness of these recruits is still poor.”

In other words, it's quite likely that the population of medics, whose work, as the article also pointed out, is mostly sedentary, has a lower fitness rate than the general population. But Camerota misleadingly gave the impression that the same people who sued (a black fraternal firefighters organization) are the same people now flunking out.

By the way, those “fuming” “veteran firefighters” Camerota cited in her report seem to be anonymous ranters on a bulletin board not associated with the FDNY. The Post also wrote that “Veteran firefighters are fuming over the quality of the new recruits” and backed that up with comments from a few posters on a site called FDNY Rant.

Was 2012 the Best Year for Documentaries?

Was 2012 the Best Year for Documentaries?

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IRS Should Bar Dark Money Groups From Funding Political Ads, Lawsuit Says

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A former Illinois congressional candidate and a government watchdog organization have teamed up to sue the Internal Revenue Service, claiming the agency should bar dark money groups from funding political ads.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday by David Gill, his campaign committee and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, is the first to challenge how the IRS regulates political spending by social welfare nonprofits, campaign-finance experts say.

As ProPublica has reported, these nonprofits, often called dark money groups because they don't have to identify their donors, have increasingly become major players in politics since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in early 2010.

Gill, an emergency room doctor who has advocated for health-care reform, including a single-payer plan, was the Democratic candidate for the 13th district in Illinois last year. After a tight race, Gill ended up losing to the Republican candidate by 1,002 votes — a loss the lawsuit blames "largely, if not exclusively," on spending by the American Action Network, a social welfare nonprofit.

It's impossible to say for certain why Gill lost. He had lost three earlier races for a congressional seat.

But the American Action Network, launched in 2010 by former Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, played a role. It reported spending almost $1.5 million on three TV commercials and Internet ads opposing Gill, mainly in the weeks right before the election. That was more than any other outside group spent on the race, and more than Gill's principal campaign committee spent on the entire election, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Though Gill had never held public office, the American Action Network ads described him as who supported sending jobs to China, channeling money to the failed green-energy company Solyndra, and making a mess out of health care and Medicare.

Gill said he ran into people every day who said they weren't voting for him because of claims he would destroy Medicare.

"I think that certainly the money put forward — they saw that they could have an impact here," Gill said of the American Action Network. "They wanted to put their money where it could make a difference between victory and defeat."

Dan Conston, spokesman for the American Action Network, described CREW as a "left-wing front group" in an email. He said Gill was a "failed candidate with an extreme ideology, looking to blame anyone but himself for losing his fourth-straight congressional election."

Nonprofits like the American Action Network have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into political ads in the last two election cycles. Like super PACs, these groups can accept unlimited donations. But super PACs must identify their donors, allowing voters to see who is behind their messages.

The Gill lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, alleges the IRS failed to properly regulate the American Action Network, citing seemingly contradictory definitions the agency has applied to such groups for years.

The statute governing social welfare nonprofits says they should be operated "exclusively" for promoting social welfare. But the IRS paved the way for political spending by these groups by interpreting "exclusively" as meaning the groups had to only be "primarily" engaged in promoting the public good. Some groups have taken this to mean they can spend up to 49 percent of their money on election ads.

The lawsuit claims the IRS' interpretation of the law "is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law," and asks for an injunction prohibiting the agency from using it.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, blamed the IRS for sitting on its hands as social welfare nonprofits have been formed specifically to run negative ads paid for by anonymous donors.

"Now the IRS can explain its deplorable inaction in federal court," she said.

The IRS didn't respond to requests for comment Tuesday. It typically doesn't comment on issues related to individual taxpayers.

The American Action Network has been one of the more controversial dark money groups active in politics. Conston said the American Action Network's primary focus was on non-electoral activities and called the dispute over the group's election spending a "tired long-since settled argument."

In filings to the IRS, the group said it spent $25.7 million in its 2010 tax year. In separate filings to the Federal Election Commission, it reported spending about $19.4 million over the same period on political ads, or about 76 percent of the total expenditures reported to the IRS.

If the group stays on its current schedule, American Action Network won't file its taxes covering the 2012 election until May 2014.

Obama’s Aggressive Asia Pivot

It involves advancing America's military footprint. Doing so aggressively is planned. China's growing economic might and military strength are targeted. So is checking Russia at the same time.

There’s Such a Thing as “Human Nature,” Right?

Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics—and hoping to change the way human behavior and culture is understood.

February 26, 2013  |  

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This article first appeared at Pacific Standard

In the Summer of 1995, a young graduate student in anthropology at UCLA named  Joe Henrich traveled to Peru to carry out some fieldwork among the Machiguenga, an indigenous people who live north of Machu Picchu in the Amazon basin. The Machiguenga had traditionally been horticulturalists who lived in single-family, thatch-roofed houses in small hamlets composed of clusters of extended families. For sustenance, they relied on local game and produce from small-scale farming. They shared with their kin but rarely traded with outside groups.

While the setting was fairly typical for an anthropologist, Henrich’s research was not. Rather than practice traditional ethnography, he decided to run a behavioral experiment that had been developed by economists. Henrich used a “game”—along the lines of  the famous prisoner’s dilemma—to see whether isolated cultures shared with the West the same basic instinct for fairness. In doing so, Henrich expected to confirm one of the foundational assumptions underlying such experiments, and indeed underpinning the entire fields of economics and psychology: that humans all share the same cognitive machinery—the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring.

The test that Henrich introduced to the Machiguenga was called the ultimatum game. The rules are simple: in each game there are two players who remain anonymous to each other. The first player is given an amount of money, say $100, and told that he has to offer some of the cash, in an amount of his choosing, to the other subject. The second player can accept or refuse the split. But there’s a hitch: players know that if the recipient refuses the offer, both leave empty-handed. North Americans, who are the most common subjects for such experiments, usually offer a 50-50 split when on the giving end. When on the receiving end, they show an eagerness to punish the other player for uneven splits at their own expense. In short, Americans show the tendency to be equitable with strangers—and to punish those who are not.

Among the Machiguenga, word quickly spread of the young, square-jawed visitor from America giving away money. The stakes Henrich used in the game with the Machiguenga were not insubstantial—roughly equivalent to the few days’ wages they sometimes earned from episodic work with logging or oil companies. So Henrich had no problem finding volunteers. What he had great difficulty with, however, was explaining the rules, as the game struck the Machiguenga as deeply odd.

When he began to run the game it became immediately clear that Machiguengan behavior was dramatically different from that of the average North American. To begin with, the offers from the first player were much lower. In addition, when on the receiving end of the game, the Machiguenga rarely refused even the lowest possible amount. “It just seemed ridiculous to the Machiguenga that you would reject an offer of free money,” says Henrich. “They just didn’t understand why anyone would sacrifice money to punish someone who had the good luck of getting to play the other role in the game.”

Henrich had thought he would be adding a small branch to an established tree of knowledge. It turned out he was sawing at the very trunk. He began to wonder: What other certainties about “human nature” in social science research would need to be reconsidered when tested across diverse populations?The potential implications of the unexpected results were quickly apparent to Henrich. He knew that a vast amount of scholarly literature in the social sciences—particularly in economics and psychology—relied on the ultimatum game and similar experiments. At the heart of most of that research was the implicit assumption that the results revealed evolved psychological traits common to all humans, never mind that the test subjects were nearly always from the industrialized West. Henrich realized that if the Machiguenga results stood up, and if similar differences could be measured across other populations, this assumption of universality would have to be challenged.

Can Lord Rennard And Danny Alexander Both Be Right?

Lord Rennard has said he received "no complaint or allegation" about his behaviour during his time as Lib Dem chief executive, despite the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, insisting he put allegations of sexual harassment to him in "strong terms".

The Lib Dem by-election guru has issued a further denial in which he says he "refutes these allegations" made against him.

A key part of the statement, delivered by a spokesperson, is the claim Lord Rennard was never received a complaint.

"He would reiterate that in 27 years of working for the Liberal Democrats he received no complaint or allegation about his behaviour."

However this appears to flatly contradict a statement made by Alexander who said he warned Lord Rennard his behaviour had been "unacceptable".

"As I said yesterday, I did not know about these specific allegations until the Channel 4 broadcast.


"When indirect and anonymous concerns about Chris Rennard’s conduct came to the attention of Nick Clegg’s office, in late 2008, we acted immediately. As Nick’s Chief of Staff, I put these concerns to Chris Rennard in strong terms and warned him that any such behaviour was wholly unacceptable. Chris Rennard categorically denied that he had behaved inappropriately as he continues to do. Chris Rennard subsequently resigned as Chief Executive on health grounds.

"As these concerns were received indirectly and anonymously, as those involved understandably wanted to maintain privacy, there was a limit to how we could take this matter forward following Chris Rennard’s resignation. The party has rightly set up inquiries into these matters and I will participate fully in those processes."

Can Lord Rennard and Danny Alexander both be right? On surface it seems like Lord Rennard's denial is another confusing statement in a long line of confusing statements.

Related on HuffPost:

Revealed: The US Plot Against Hugo Chavez

WikiLeaks has published secret documents that reveal a US agenda to topple Venezuela president Hugo Chavez. The 40,000 documents contain emails sent between July 2004 and December 2011 from private intelligence company, Stratfor.

At least 19 tourists dead in Egypt hot air balloon crash

February 26, 2013 07:19 At least 18 foreign tourists, some French, Chinese and Japanese, died in a hot air balloon crash near the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor, a popular tourist site, an Egyptian security official reported. The balloon crashed...

Moral Victory for 9/11 Truth Protester‏

Rooke argued that the BBC's coverage of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York has been so distorted that it amounts to giving aid and comfort to the unidentified terrorists who must have aided in the demolition of three World Trade Centre buildings in 2001.

Lord Rennard Sex Claims: Police To Investigate

Scotland Yard has announced it will investigate whether "criminal activity has taken place" following allegations against ex-Lib Dem chief executive Lord Rennard.

Several women have accused the peer of inappropriately touching and propositioning female party workers, which he strenuously denies.

The news of police involvement comes as pressure continues to mount on Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, with party president Tim Farron admitting it "screwed up" its response to the allegations.

After initial denials that he was aware of complaints made by a number of women about Lord Rennard, Mr Clegg confirmed on Sunday his office had heard "indirect and non-specific concerns" as far back as 2008 and had taken action at the time.

Speaking on Monday, he said: "Until last week, no very specific allegations were put to me.

"We acted on general concerns which had been expressed sometime ago but, of course, now that those general concerns have evolved into specific allegations, we can act and we will."

He added: "I have got nothing to hide, the party has nothing to hide ... I totally understand people have got lots and lots of questions but I hope I have given a full, frank, honest account.

"I happen to know some of these women very well. One of them worked for me. I spoke to her just last night. She never, ever said anything about this until now."

Responding to the police investigation, the party's deputy leader Simon Hughes told Sky News: "We don't want there to be any no-go areas. If there are things that are criminal they need to be pursued."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "The Metropolitan Police Special Investigations Command has been approached by officials in the Liberal Democrat Party and is working with them to ascertain whether or not criminal activity has taken place."

The Lib Dems earlier announced that criminal lawyer Alistair Webster QC will lead a formal internal investigation into allegations against Lord Rennard under the party's disciplinary rules.

Mr Webster will lead a panel of four other people, including three women.

The women claim they reported Lord Rennard's alleged behaviour to senior party officials at the time, but no further action was taken.

There are now new reports that Mr Clegg's chief of staff Jonny Oates was contacted about detailed allegations back in 2010.

The Telegraph published on its website an exchange of emails in which it listed five allegations and gave dates and locations for the alleged inappropriate acts.

It also said the paper knew the identities of the women concerned and suggested that MPs Jo Swinson and Danny Alexander had been involved in investigations into Lord Rennard's alleged conduct.

Lord Rennard - a key adviser to a succession of Lib Dem leaders before standing down on health grounds in 2009 - has said he is "deeply shocked" by the allegations, which he "strongly disputes" and regards as a "total distortion" of his character.

In a statement on Friday, he said: "I absolutely deny any suggestion of improper touching, nor did I invite a woman to join me in my room.

"I am disappointed and angry that anonymous accusations from several years ago are once again being made public in this manner in a clear attempt to damage my reputation."

Clegg Only Aware Of ‘Indirect And Non-Specific Concerns’

Nick Clegg has said he was only aware of "indirect and non-specific concerns" relating to the sexual misconduct allegations against Lord Rennard.

Despite the issue being raised in 2008, he insists he only knew the full extent of the claims last week.

The former Lib Dem chairman has been accused of sexual impropriety by two women in a report that was aired on Channel 4 news on Thursday.

Rennard has strenuously denied the accusations.

Clegg had been under pressure to admit whether or not he was aware of the claims after the The Mail On Sunday reported one of the women who had made allegations wrote on Facebook back in 2009: "I just don't know how nick can know and not do anything.. :-( makes me very sad."

In a statement made on Sunday evening, Clegg said: "The allegations made on Channel 4 concerning Lord Rennard last Thursday were extremely serious and distressing to the women involved. It is critical they are investigated thoroughly and dealt with properly and they will be.

"But I would like to make one thing crystal clear. I did not know about these allegations until Channel 4 informed the party of them shortly before they were broadcast. I have today spoken to one of the women in the broadcast who I respect and admire and who confirmed that she had never raised the issue with me.

"I am angry and outraged at the suggestion that I would not have acted if these allegations had been put to me. Indeed, when indirect and non-specific concerns about Chris Rennard’s conduct reached my office in 2008, we acted to deal with them."

When these concerns were put to Rennard by Clegg's then chief of staff, Danny Alexander, he "categorically denied" them.

The deputy PM then went on t explain why no further action was taken.

He said: "As my office only received concerns indirectly and anonymously, as those involved understandably wanted to maintain their privacy, there was a limit to how we could take this matter forward following Chris Rennard’s resignation.

"It is incorrect to state that there was any other separate inquiry by my office or anybody in it."

The Liberal Democrat's handling of the situation has been heavily criticised.

In response Clegg said: "In particular the suggestion that a complaint was made but was not dealt with as a formal complaint.

"I am therefore determined that we carry out a thorough investigation into our procedures and how we applied them at the time to ensure we have a full and clear picture of what happened and the lessons that we need to learn.

"This review will be independently chaired."

"But in the meantime, I will not stand by and allow my party to be subject to a show trial of innuendo, half-truths and slurs.

"The important thing is that we respect the women who have come forward and do everything to get to the truth. That is what will now happen.

On sunday morning, business secretary Vince Cable denied that he or Clegg knew anything about the situation.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Cable said: "The whole purpose of setting up a proper inquiry is to establish exactly who said what to whom, and whether these allegations were properly pursued at the time."

When asked if he was aware of complaints against the peer before the Channel 4 News report he replied: "Absolutely not."

He added: "Nick Clegg has also said he was not aware of these allegations until they appeared on TV last week. But they are serious, and we take them very seriously.

"It is obviously wrong if there are women there who have made complaints and felt they haven't been dealt with properly."

Lord Rennard - a key party strategist and adviser to a succession of Lib Dem leaders before standing down due to ill health in 2009 - has said he is "deeply shocked" by the allegations, which he "strongly disputes" and regards as a "total distortion" of his character.

Senior Lib Dems: Sexual Harassment Allegations Will Be Taken Seriously

Senior Liberal Democrats have pledged to act following what they say are "very serious allegations" against one of the leading figures in the party. Two separate investigations are underway after a Channel 4 News report made allegations of sexual hara...

The Moral Decoding of 9-11: Beyond the U.S. Criminal State, The Grand Plan for...

911

We are bring to the consideration of our readers this incisive and carefully formulated analysis by Canada’s renowned philosopher Professor John McMurtry. 

The complete text published by the Journal of 9/11 Studies can be downloaded in pdf

*          *          *

I was sceptical of the 9-11 event from the first time I saw it on television. It was on every major network within minutes. All the guilty partieswere declared before any evidencewas shown.The first questions of any criminal investigation were erased.  Who had the most compelling motives for the event? Who had the means to turn two central iconic buildings in New York into a pile of steel and a cloud of dust in seconds?[i]

Other questions soon arose in the aftermath. Why was all the evidence at the crime scenes removed or confiscated?

Who was behind the continuous false information and non-stop repetition of “foreign/Arab terrorists”when no proof of guilt existed? Who was blocking all independent inquiry?

Even 11 years on these questions are still not answered.

But those immediately named guilty without any forensic proof certainly fitted the need for a plausible Enemy now that the “threat of the Soviet Union” and “communist world rule” were dead.  How else could the billion-dollar-a-day military be justified with no peace dividend amidst a corporately hollowed-out U.S. economy entering its long-term slide?While all the media and most of the people asserted the official 9-11 conspiracy theory as given fact, not all did.

A Bay Street broker with whom I was improbably discussing the event in Cuba had no problem recognising the value meaning. When I asked what he thought about the official conspiracy theory, he was frank:

“You can call it what you want, but America needs a war to pull the people together and expand into new resource rich areas. That what it has always done from Mexico on. And that is what it needs now”.  When I wondered why none in the know said so, he smirked: “It would be impolite”, adding, “It affects the entire future prosperity of America and the West”. And all the deaths? “It had to be done –far less than it could have been”. The 19 Arabs with box-cutters reducing the World Trade Center buildings to powder in a few seconds?He shrugged.

Thus everyone since 9-11 is prohibited nail-clippers on planes to confirm the absurd – including 15 of the 19alleged hijackers being from Saudi Arabia and several apparently still alive after crashing the planes into the buildings.[ii]As for the diabolical mastermind Osama bin Laden, he is never linked by credible evidence to the crime and never claims responsibility for the strike since the videos of him are fakes. “Ground Zero” is a double entendre. All doubts are erased apriori.

Decoding the U.S. Theater of Wars and the Moral Driver Behind

One already knew that suspension of belief is the first act of fiction, and that instant culture rules the U.S. One already knew that monster technical events are America’s stock in trade. And one already knew the long history of false U.S. pretexts for war – so well established that a young strategic thinker a decade after 9-11 advises the right-wing Washington Policy Institute on how to create a crisis by deadly planned incident to make war on Iran – “it is the traditional way of getting into war for what is best in America’s interests”.[iii]

One further knew from past research that the U.S.’s strategic leadership since 1945 had been Nazi-based in information and connections and the dominant Central-European figures articulating it ever after across Democrat and Republican lineshave a common cause. For over 40 years, Henry Kissinger as Republican and Zbigniew Brzezinski as Democrat have been protégés of David Rockefeller, selected as Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg Group leaders, and capable of any mass-homicidal plan to advance “U.S. interests”. The banker-and-oil imperial line through David Rockefeller as paradigm case goes back to the Nazi period to John Foster Dulles (an in-law) and his brother Allen Dulles (OSS and then CIA Director), who Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg called “traitors” for their support of the Nazi regime.  The Rockefeller Foundation funded and developed German eugenics programs in the pre-war years, Standard Oil supplied oil in collaboration with I.G. Farben, and so on.[iv]

The supreme moral goal and strategic methods governing U.S. covert-state performance have not only have been very similar in moral principle, but have deeply connected Rockefeller protégés Kissinger and Brzezinski, and more deeply still the theoretical godfather of U.S. covert state policy, Leo Strauss, who was funded out of Germany by David Rockefeller from the start.

The inner logic of covert and not-so-covert U.S. corporate world rule since 1945unified under Wall Street financial management and transnational corporate treaties for unhindered control of commodities and money capital flows across all borders is undeniable if seldom tracked. This architecture of the grand plan for a New World Order is evident in both strategic policy and global political and armed action over decades that have seen the objectives increasingly fulfilled with constructed deadly crises as pretexts for war the standard technique.[v]Behind them as first post-Nazi historical turn lies the 1947 National Security Act (NSA) which created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)and explicitly licensesdestruction of life, truth and other societies as institutional methods.

The CIA is charged with designing, planning and executing “propaganda, economic war, direct preventive action, sabotage, anti-sabotage, destruction, subversion against hostile States, assistance to clandestine liberation movements, guerrilla murders, assistance to indigenous groups opposed to the enemy countries of the free world”. The linkage back to Nazi methods and world-rule goal as the highest moral objective is not just one of corresponding ultimate principles and strategic policy formation. It relied on Nazi SS intelligence sources and means from the beginning of the covert terror state.[vi]

There is no heinous means that is not assumed as the highest morality by this long-standing covert institutional formation linking to the presidential office.It is an explicitly secret system involving at least the Defense Department and the CIA, the former with many more operatives and offices.

The Special Activities Division (SAD) to carry out NSA criminal operations, for example, also confers the highest honors awarded in recognition of distinguished valor and excellence – as did the earlier SS prototype in Germany. What people find difficult to recognise is that these actions, whether by the SAD or other system operations,are conceived as the highest duty, however life-system destructive and mass murderous they are. All participants are super patriots in their own view, as were the Nazis. Contradiction between declared and actual values, however, is a central mode of the covert system. For example, what can be considered a high duty in the perpetual U.S.“war on drugs”, the most morally obligatory commitment of the U.S. state,is at the same time a war against and with other drug operations to transport illegal hard drugs into the U.S. itself.[vii]

We might see here a parallel between foreign mass murder and domestic mass murder in 9-11, with both regarded as high patriotism in this supreme morality. In the background of America’s Reichstag Fire and likewise disclosing the unlimited geo-strategic action that can be operationalized as necessary and good, the post-1945 U.S. control of international sea-lanes made the covert U.S. state the world’s dominant narcotics controller so as to fund secret criminal war actions from South-East Asia to Latin America, entailing the addiction of its own peoples.[viii]This woeful method has been long known by experts, but came to be public knowledge in the Reagan-state funding of the death-squad Contras of Nicaragua as “the moral equal of our Founding Fathers” (a tribute he is said to have given later to the drug-running warlords and jihadists of Afghanistan).

These moral contradictions seem insane, but this is so only if one does not comprehend the underlying supreme morality of which they are all expressions.

Even U.S.-sponsored death squads torturing and killing tens of thousands of poor people across Latin America before 2000 and their return as direct covert U.S.-state method from Iraq to Syria after 9-11 – called “the Salvador option”[ix] – is regarded as necessary and obligatory to “defend the Free World and our way of life”. They entail ever more total U.S. world rule and self-maximizing position by strategic deduction from the supreme morality’s first premises.

The covert nature of the mass-murderous operationalization is never from moral embarrassment. It is solely to ensure effectiveness of execution against “soft” and “uninformed” public opinion, to terrorize people in situ from continued resistance, and to annihilate its leadership and community agency all the way down. Throughout the deciding moments of execution of the underlying supreme value program, global corporate money demand multiplication is always the ultimate value driver -as may be tested by seeking any covert U.S. action or overt war which is not so regulated beneath saturating propaganda of lawful intentions of peace and freedom.

These lines of underlying moral institution, policy, strategic plan, and massive life destruction at every level are indisputable facts of the covert and official faces of the U.S. state, but are typically not connected to the September 11, 2001 attack. Since most people cannot believe their own government or the “leader of the free world” could execute such a sabotage action as “9-11” in which thousands of American themselves died, these behavioral reminders forge the unifying meaning.

Worse still occurred in the last “war”before 9-11. In the background providing graphic example of how the covert U.S. state apparatus is structured to attack and murder U.S. citizens themselves to strategically maximize implementation of its supreme value program of transnational corporate money sequences over all barriers, there is the now known Operation Northwoods. Very familiar to the 9-11 truth movement, but unpublicized since its release under freedom of information laws, this Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff plan proposed that the CIA and other operatives covert operatives “undertake a range of atrocities” to be blamed on Cuba to provide pretext for invasion.

“Innocent civilians were to be shot on American streets; boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba were to be sunk on the high seas; a wave of violent terrorism was to be launched in Washington DC, Miami and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did commit; planes would be hijacked”.[x]

All would be blamed on Castro the Communist in place of bin Laden the Islamicist, and invasion of desired resistant territory would be achieved as a triumph of American freedom and interests over its enemies.

 Operation Northwoods was not, however, okayed by President Kennedy – perhaps another reason for his assassination and replacement by more pliant presidents to represent “America’s interests” in accord with the supreme morality. Underneath the stolen election of George Bush Jr.in contrast – whose family made its money, in part, by serving the covert financial requirements of the Nazi regime before and during the 1939-45 War – was a domestic and foreign administration which would push further than any in the past to advance “U.S. interests”to full-spectrum world rule. Its project included reversing the Roosevelt New Deal and the social state within the U.S. itself – “an anomaly” as Bush Jr. expressed the historical perspective and ethic at work.

This plan was more explicit in the published Project for the New American Century formed from 1997 on. It even supplied the need for a 9-11 event in its 2000 version, the year that Bush Jr. was elected and the year before 9-11. To indicate the “non-partisan” nature of the planning, Democrat National security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski had already hinted at the usefulness of a 9-11-style domestic attack to move policy forward in his 1998 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives.[xi]

The Moral Compass of 9-11

As a moral philosopher with social value systems as my primary object of analysis, my first thoughts in understanding “9-11” were of the system motives,known methods, and objective interests driving the event which could coherently explain it.Whatever the immediate hold of the official conspiracy theory on the public mind,a rational explanation is required which is consistent with the suppressed facts and the organising geo-strategic plan on both sides of the event.

For over a decade before 9-11, there were three U.S.-propelled global trends that almost never come into the understanding of 9-11 itself. 9-11 truth seekers themselves have focused on the foreground technics and the transparent motive for oil. But these are undergirded by deeper sea-shifts of geopolitical and economic wars of seizure and destruction by other name against which the world’s people were rising. To compel books of analysis into one unifying frame, transnational corporate-rights treaties from NAFTA to the Maastracht Treaty to the WTO overrode all other rights across borders;the private “financialization”stripping of social sectors and welfare states had advanced across the world; and the totalizing movement of the system across all former “cold war” and cultural borders was “the new world order” in formation. Together these vast shifts towards transnational money-sequence rule of all reversed centuries of democratic evolution. And every step of the supreme value program was life blind at every step of its global operationalization.[xii]

Yet states and cultures were so sweepingly re-set into unaccountable transnational corporate and bank rule that few recognised the absolutist value program being imposed on the world.  Fewer still recognised all was unfolding according to plan.

What has been least appreciated about the long-term strategic plan unfolding on both sides of what was immediately called “9-11” – CallEmergency!–is that supreme banker and global money director David Rockefeller had summarized “the plan” to fellow money-party elites across borders at the Bildersberg meeting in Baden Baden Germany in June 1991 -exactly at the same time that the Soviet Union and its resistant barriers fell.[xiii] Bear in mind that Rockefeller among other initiatives appointed both Kissinger and Brzezinski for the lead in both the supranational Bilderberg and Trilateral strategic bodies of which he was the lead patron, not to mention financed the unemployed academic Leo Strauss out of Germany to be the godfather  “philosopher” of the “new world order”. Rockefeller speaks very precisely to his fellow “elite of the elite” of the Western world where only Americans and Europe are invited and reportage excluded:

“A supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries”, Rockefeller said.[xiv]

Observe the foundational new concepts in place of responsible government and democratic accountability. They are now consigned to “past centuries”. A “supranational sovereignty”has replaced them and is morally“preferable”. Rockefeller is not exaggerating. By 1991 a “supranational sovereignty” had already developed in the form of transnational treaties conferring override rights of “profit opportunity” on transnational corporations and private bank rule of government finances across borders – procedurally trumping any elected legislatures and their laws which are inconsistent with their thousands of treaty articles, even when the system eventually leads to world depression as now.[xv] The source of the legitimacy of governments, ultimate sovereignty, has now passed as preferable to “an intellectual elite and bankers”: more exactly, academic strategy servants and transnational money sequences overriding all human and planetary life requirements a-priori by the supreme moral goal.

Ask which function of the world’s people and means of life is not now in debt to Wall Street and the private global banking system it leads. Ask which means of life from food and water to autos and pension cheques is not thus ultimately controlled, or which commodity is not under oligopolist corporate sway. The “surely preferable” objective was already achieved by 1991 or in advanced global institutional motion. Now supreme over all else so that all else is now accountable to it, and it is not accountable to anything above it, “the plan”seemed all but accomplished by Rockefeller’s own considered words.

But what if people resist the new world rule with no life coordinate or constraint at any level of its execution? We may recall that during the death-squad rule of the Argentina generals at this time in which civilians were murdered and tortured in the thousands, National Security Adviser Kissinger congratulated the junta on their “very good results – - The quicker you succeed the better.”Kissinger also heartily approved of the earlier massacres and torture in Chile.

The resistance was in this way pre-empted long before the Soviet Union fell, and after 1990 had no block in the Middle East and Central Asia either. “The plan” has been very long term. Kissinger the geo-executer was originally appointed to high office by Rockefeller (to lead the Council on Foreign Relations back in 1954), and – to give a sense of the long-range trajectory of the plan design –was,incredibly,the U.S. administration’s first choice for an “independent 9-11 Commission”. The obviously not-independent Kissinger was still not a problem for “the free press” and official discourse. But when he was required to disclose his business connections, he withdrew to stay covert in his ongoing backroom capacities and enrichment.

The 9-11 sacrifice is better understood within the deep-structural context of the unfolding plan. Thus David Rockefeller gave special thanks to media like “the New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion” in co-operating with the plan. Rockefeller was again precise:

This plan for the world would have been impossible for us to develop if we had been subjected to the light of publicity during those years. [xvi]

The plan’s next decisive steps were in fact already in motion as Rockefeller expressed gratitude for the media black-out. A new strategic manifesto from the Pentagon was in preparation entitled “Defense Planning Guidance on Post-Cold- War Strategy,” completed on February 18, 1992.[xvii]Prepared under the supervision of Paul Wolfowitz, then the Pentagon’s Undersecretary for Policy, it was disclosed in March of 1992 by the New York Times.After the first invasion of Iraq, it became known as the Project for the New American Century, publicly released from 1997 to 2000 prior to 9-11.

Again we may note the long arc of planning control, crisis and war as required. Item 6 of the strategic plan defined the agenda in general terms: “In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant power in the region and preserve U.S. and western access to the region’s oil.”

Oil-rich Iraq had in fact been invaded – not only to privatize its peerlessly high-quality surface oilfields but to destroy its region-leading socialist infrastructure.Iraq became accessible for invasion as the arms-bankrupted Soviet Union was in collapse. We may observe that the covertly genocidal destruction of Iraq bridged Republican and Democrat administrations over three changes of government – disclosing how the covert state operates as a moral constant across party fronts.

The actions confirm and express the one supreme moral goal identified above. They bridge from Saddam himself as CIA-payroll killer and war proxy against Iran to recapture lost Iran oilfields dating from 1980 to 1988 to the fall of the USSR in 1991 as the axis of the long-term strategic plan of global turnaround to “America’s century” still to come before and after 9-11.But between 1990 and 2003 Saddam was transmuted from former ally to aggressor against Kuwait in an invasion given an official green light from the U.S. government, to “mushroom cloud”threat with invented “weapons of mass destruction”.

In fact, National Security Adviser Wolfowitz explained after the invasion found nothing of the kind: “[We had] virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil.”

Observe how the invasion is conceived as obligatory for a reason that expresses the supreme value goal. Observe that it occurs less than two years after 9-11, which gave the open-cheque justification for the bombing and occupation which allowed the expropriation of Iraq’s society’s oil resources.

The problem was not the evil Saddam or the “weapons of mass destruction”, the standard reverse projection.[xviii]The problem was the Iraqi people themselves and their developed oil-funded social life infrastructure between the supreme oil-fields and their U.S. corporate control and privatization. 9-11 was,thus, first the justification for invading Afghanistan – to clear the way for pipelines into the former Soviet republics from the Caspian Sea region– pipelines that prompted the U.S. representative to predictively warn the Taliban:“Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.”[xix]9-11 was then the necessary basis of justification for the bombing of Baghdad for the unifying supreme objective.

In fact,seldom published in the corporate media keeping the glare of publicity away from the supreme moral objective, the publicly owned and managed oil revenues of Iraq had been invested since the 1950’s in Iraq’s advanced social infrastructure, leading the Middle East with free higher education, high health standards, and near universal livelihood security. The world’s oldest civilisation was robust in organisational capacities long before the CIA-asset Saddam was installed.

Despite his murdering his way to the top in this function, even Saddam could not destroy the system because socialist government had been achieved decades earlier by a powerful oil-workers’ union base and a population glad to have all education free, an efficient low-cost foods delivery system, and the most advanced public healthcare system in the Middle East. So there was not only the “sea of oil” as a motive to assert U.S. control in the new “supranational sovereignty” of the world. Just as important in this ultimate moral cause, what the U.S. covert state always seeks to destroy by any means, isa successful social infrastructure without private big oil, bankers and transnational corporations free to control it towards higher profit opportunities.

Unravelling the Supreme Moral Doctrine behind the U.S. Covert State

The genocide of Iraq, as the long-opposing “evil empire” was in free-fall, is the most important strategic anchoring prior to “9-11”. Covert strategic policy to forward the supreme goal is by now self-evident, but the inner moral logic is assumed not penetrated.  The most influential of Rockefeller’s protégés in this regard is the “philosopher king” of the U.S. covert state, Leo Strauss. While he never worked in a philosophy department or has any training in logic, his concept of “natural right” fits exactly to the “supranational sovereignty” of private money-sequence rule of the world – what “the intellectual elite” Rockefeller refers to invoke as “moral anchor”, “right” and “justice”.

The moral thought system is not unlike that of Mein Kampf without the racist rant, camouflaged everywhere in practice by the method of big lies – “noble lies” as Strauss exalts them.[xx] The innermost value driver is a perpetual war of dispossession of the weaker for the private transnational money-capital multiplication of the rich.

Nothing in this doctrine is too mendacious, greed-crazed and murderous if it fulfills the plan of this limitless private-capital rule as ultimate moral ground and compass. In Strauss’s canonical teaching of U.S. national security advisers and intellectual following, the ruling moral absolute is expressed by the core master idea behind the “supranational sovereignty” of an “intellectual elite and bankers”:

“limitless capital accumulation – — the highest right and moral duty”.[xxi]

This is the ethical absolute of the covert U.S. state and its strategic decision structure. And there is no internal limit within this moral universe to life means seizure from poorer societies and resource looting for the supreme goal.  It is the natural and absolute Good.

To justify its meaning, the Straussian canon adopts a potted reading of Western moral and political philosophy from Plato through Hobbes, Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx and Weber. This impresses American political operatives of the faith, but Strauss is a failed philosopher turned down by Paul Tillich for his post-doctoral Habilitation and only saved from academic ruin in Germany by Rockefeller grant money. While not taken seriously as philosophy anywhere else, it is worth decoding its talmudic involution for the borrowed ideas that drive its covert state disciples and neo-fascist public “intellectuals” in America.

The ultimately organising idea is to commend all forms of conquering and limitlessly expanding private capital as “natural right and law” with genocidal subjugations justified in glowing moral terms. For example, “noble lies” is the moral category for limitless mendacity. One may wonder how educated people can be so bent out of moral shape. So I now concisely provide what cannot be found elsewhere: the inner logic of the supreme doctrine as perversions of great thinkers.

Its framework of meaning and value helps us to understand why the 9-11 event could easily follow for the managers of the covert U.S. state and its Straussian planners as not at all anomalous or evil within their moral logic. 9-11 follows as a maximally rational and unique tool to achieve the objectives in fact achieved by 9-11, and the geo-strategic cabal behind it is servilely linked from the beginning to the dominant private transnational corporate and banking interests exemplified by David Rockefeller.

To understand this brutal moral universe and its connection to 9-11, the 9-11 wars and a globalizing police state, we need to understand the deformations of its basic organising ideas. Plato’s idea of “the noble lie” means, in fact, a myth or parable to communicate an underlying truth about the triadic human soul of reason, spirit and appetite which, Plato argues, should be reflected in the construction of the ideal state (in which the rulers are communist in their common property to keep them uncorrupted and true).

But through the prism of U.S. global money-party rule a la Strauss this idea becomes the principle of lying to the public to keep the vulgar herd – the people themselves – ignorant and obedient. The philosophies of Hobbes and Hegel are also grist for this mill. Hobbes argues that “man is moved by a restless desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death”, but this brute desire in the “State of Nature” is tamed by “the covenant of peace” ordered by the internal sovereign as absolute.

Via Strauss and the U.S. covert state this becomes right is might and the ultimate “natural right” is limitless private capital power and empire with no end of totalization across the peoples and lands of the world. Hegel too suits a fascist-capitalist reading since he argues “the State is the march of God  through the world”, and war itself is history’s test of which State is a higher realisation of “the absolute Idea”. But Hegel still envisaged a “universal state”to supersede the competitive private-property division of capitalism in the “universalization of right and law on earth”.

Once again U.S. private money-capital power with no bound, the supreme moral goal in the Rockefeller-Strauss doctrine, is opposite to the classical philosophy it invokes. Once more dialectical development of reason to more coherently inclusive conception and life is reversed into one-way private money capital sequences maximized to rule the world with the U.S. military as its instrument of force and terror.

However it conceals its meaning, all positions come down to this underlying value code – as may be tested on whatever transnational money-sequence demand, right or war is launched next. 9-11 construction in such a moral world does not violate this value code. It expresses it in self-maximizing strategic turn to achieve the ultimate goal.

Friedrich Nietzsche may provide the best fodder for the doctrine when he advises that “life is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of what is alien and weaker, imposing of one’s own forms, and at its mildest exploitation” in his superman vision of “beyond good and evil”. For philosophical Nietzscheans, this is code for the inner meaning of the angst of artistic creation. But this meaning is predictably lost on the U.S. covert-state school seeking the “supranational sovereignty” of “limitless capital accumulation” as the supreme good with the “intellectual elite” as servants to it. Karl Marx’s link of capitalism’s success to productive force development is the ultimate equivocation upon which this ruling doctrine depends – making no distinction between productive capital providing life goods and unproductive money sequencing hollowing out the world by money-capital multiplication. Marx, it must be acknowledged, did not made the distinction himself since this mutation of capital came a century after his death.[xxii]

Finally Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism does not ground this doctrine of “limitless capital accumulation as the highest right and duty” with the state to serve it, as Strauss again torturously suggests. In fact, Weber deplores any such perversion of public authority. His capitalist model is a young Benjamin Franklin speaking of money saved and invested as like having “a breeding sow”, not a transnational money-sequence juggernaut of eco-genocidal expansion.  Revealingly, Benjamin Franklin and “the protestant ethic” in general were most concerned about non-waste, which Strauss explicitly excludes from the meaning of “limitless capital accumulation”. For Leo Strauss and his U.S. “national security” disciples, the capitalist may waste as much as he wants by “natural right”.

Further, in complete inversion of source, the greed worship of the U.S. state, its patrons and its academy disciples reverses the model of the “spirit of capitalism” exemplified by Benjamin Franklin in proprietary claim on knowledge and inventions. He,in fact,refused to patent his famous Franklin Stove because he believed that no innovation or new knowledge from which other people could benefit should be denied them – just as he himself had benefitted from the community of knowledge and science as the distinguishing feature of being a civilised human being.

In short, it is important to recognise how twisted the covertly ruling doctrine is. No element of it is life coherent or true to the classical thinkers in which it costumes itself. In the end, only the transnational U.S. money party has any place in its rights and obligations, and any sacrifice of other life to its supreme goal is legitimate – linking back to the Nazi-U.S. corporate axis that nearly destroyed the civilised world once before.[xxiii]

Money-Capital Power UeberAlles: How Economic Rationality Leads the Plan

The U.S. culture of money-sequence “rationality” is the underlying intellectual and moral disorder which leads to “limitless money capital accumulation” as the supreme moral goal. In formal terms, the equation of rationality to atomic self-maximization is assumed a-prioriacross domains. With globalizing Wall-Street-led “financialization”, this “rationality” becomes equated to private money-sequence multiplication across all borders as theultimate Good. This is the innermost mutation of value logic and goal, the moral DNA, from which the cancerous world system develops on both sides of 9-11.[xxiv]

This first principle itself is,in fact,built into formal economics, decision and game theory, and strategic science, as I explain step by step in “Behind Global System Collapse: The Life-Blind Structure of Economic Rationality.”[xxv] It is axiomatic but unexamined, life-blindly absolutist but not recognised as morally problematic. To make a long story short, competitive self-maximization in the market is assumed to produce “the best of possible worlds” by mathematical proof. “Pareto efficiency” is believed to demonstrate this by private money exchanges between self-maximizing atoms apriori stripped of all life properties, relations, society, conditions of choice, and all natural and civil life support systems. Pareto himself recognised outside this formula what has since been covered up.

Not only is the formula consistent with most having remaining impoverished by the “optimum” of “no-one worse off”, what none who cite “Pareto efficiency” as a standard academic mantra ever acknowledge or even recognise. Pareto himself is in no doubt of the implication. As the fascist party he belongs to rules Italy and Rockefeller creates the Council of Foreign Relations, he asserts with approval: “Very moral civilized peoplehave destroyed and continue to destroy, without the least scruple, savage or barbarian peoples”.[xxvi]We glimpse here at the roots the supreme morality built into “economic science” itself.

Yet, as demonstrated in “Behind Global System Collapse”, even the most liberal canons of America, including John Rawls’ classic A Theory of Justice, are grounded in the same meta principle.[xxvii] Rationality and value are equated to self-maximizing gain with no limit within game-theoretic interactions as the sole limiting framework of “limitless money capital acquisition”. The generic equation defines, indeed, the dominant intellectual and economic mind-set of America and the global system in action since 1980. The cabal internal to U.S. national security strategic planning follows the moral logic to its most radical conclusions with no constraints by life or law.

The one absolute moral meaning is the spread of U.S. economic, military and political power as good for all, or, more exactly in Straussian language, limitless private transnational money-capital expansion as the highest right and moral duty. Only what is consistent with or serves this supreme morality, it follows, deserves to exist. This is the alpha and omega of the covert doctrine and state, and careful reading can find no disconfirmation beneath the rhetoric of “noble lies”.

The Iraq Paradigm:  Genocide Strategy From 1990 On

The Iraq line of the geostrategic plan from 1990 to 2001 and after is a paradigmatic articulation of the covertly ruling moral logic. It launches into the theatre of war as direct war attack when U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, is instructed to green-light Saddam’s already known plan to invade Kuwait in 1990: “The US. has no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait”, she advises. To formalize the lie as official and traditional, she reports: “Secretary Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America”.[xxviii]

The dispute was, in fact, over Kuwait’s drawing out oil from reserves underlying Iraq as enabled by the colonial split of the oil-rich Kuwait province from Iraq – the classic divide-and-rule policy holding also in the division of oil-rich Kurdistan among four manufactured states. Saddam had good reason to trust the U.S., not only by the long-term official promise of neutrality but as blood-mix ally when he waged a U.S.-supported war of aggression against Iran – which still remains the target. Note the big lie to provoke the supreme crime of war has remained without any glare of publicity that might derail the plan.

When Saddam did exactly as planned by invading Kuwait, Bush Sr. raved about the Nazi-like aggression against a weaker country in the reverse projection that always defines the covert U.S. state before, through and after 9-11. So in the same name of “preventing aggression” U.S. “defense” forces invaded Iraq to destroy any life capacity it had to defend itself – always the strategy since the defeat in Vietnam. The genocide began by the massacre of many tens of thousands of fleeing soldiers. Recall the weeping young woman, the Kuwait ambassador’s daughter, planted next to baby incubators falsely claiming the monster Saddam had murdered the babies. This reverse projection was soon to be made real thousands of times over inside the victim society of Iraq.

Reverse projection of evil is the meta law of U.S. psy-ops propaganda in the deadly conflicts and wars it covertly starts. This is the supreme moral program in action as “noble lies”. In this case, the air-bombing after surrender continued from U.S. and “special ally” Britain as “sanctions of Iraq” to “prevent aggression” – again the reverse projection. In fact the bombs continually fell on the water and electricity infrastructures of the defenceless people and against all lines of repair to restore either – “the line in the sand against Iraq aggression”. We might bear in mind that Wolfowitz was Undersecretary of Defense under Secretary Cheney at this time, their positions not unlike those at the time of 9-11.

Air-bombing, as Bertrand Russell long ago pointed out, is inherently fascist in erasing the killed and maimed from sight while ensuring impunity for the bombers of defenceless people.  But all such mass murder is only collateral damage to the supreme moral goal as “natural right and law”.  The air bombing of Iraq’s water and electricity supplies dressed in one big lie after another continued in slow mass-murderous destruction of the people and their social life infrastructures years on end.

Denis Halliday, United Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the mission finally called it “genocide” (Wikipedia calls it “the Persian Gulf War”) when he resigned in 1998 to protest against “the crimes against humanity”. But no-one knew until the U.S. Department of Defense Intelligence got out that the first sweep of Iraq was planned down to the mass killing of the infants and children. September 11 in 2001 is better understood in this wider context of strategic planning by the covert U.S. terror state. For years the non-stop bombing of the people’s central life-water support system deliberately engineered mass dying from diseases of children in the hundreds of thousands.

What was predicted by Harvard Medical School researchers from the continuous civilian infrastructure bombing by the U.S. military – the deaths of over 500,000 children- was verified by the counts scientifically taken at the risk of researchers as the bombing continued month after month with NATO support.[xxix]

Full-spectrum corporate money-sequencing through Iraq under the Comprehensive Privatization Program would only be enabled by “9-11”down the road. But first the bases of advanced social life organization needed to be destroyed. The later-leaked U.S. Defense Intelligence document entitled “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities” expresses the moral DNA at work. I cite the key lines of U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reports because they reveal the character of the supreme moral goal and its strategic planning.“With no domestic sources of water treatment replacement or chemicals like chlorine”and “laden with biological pollutants and bacteria”, the leaked Defense Intelligence Agency report says (italics added), “epidemics of such diseases as cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid” will “probably take six months before the [drinking and sewage water] system is fully degraded”.

The document continues, Conditions are favorable for communicable disease outbreaks [by the one-way air bombing] with the “most likely diseases during next sixty-ninety days of diarrheal diseases (particularly children) acute respiratory diseases (colds and influenza); typhoid; hepatitis (particularly children); measles, diphtheria, and pertussis (particularly children); meningitis including meningococcal (particularly children), cholera”. “Medical Problems in Iraq”, dated March 15, 1991, reports that the “water is less than 5 percent of the original supply – - diarrhea is four times above normal levels – - Conditions in Baghdad remain favorable for disease outbreaks”. The fifth document in June reports “almost all medicines in critically short supply” and “Gastroenteritis killing children – - in the south, 80 percent of the deaths are children”.[xxx]

In short, no limit to covert U.S. planning of indiscriminate mass murder for the supreme goal exists. The number who died in 9-11 suddenly pales in comparison. In all cases, it lets “those inimical to U.S. interests” know that there is no limit to how far the covert terror state will go for the supreme moral code not yet decoded. Combined with wars of aggression before and after 9-11, raining fire and explosions on civilians from the air so that no defense or escape can be made, saturating the fields of public meaning with big lies civilly dangerous to unmask, and bringing vast enrichment and new powers to transnational corporate conglomerates and their past and present CEO’s of the acting U.S. state – all become clear in their ultimate meaning once decoded. As the Democrat U.S. Secretary of State responded to the question of the 500,000 killed children, “we think the price was worth it”. No price is too much to pay for fulfilment of the transcendent project of the global U.S. state and its private capital rule as “the Free World”. “Those inimical to our interests” are those who oppose or are in the way of it, and thus “hate our freedom”.

The  Strategic Logic of Value through 9-11

By 2000 it was very clear to the U.S. strategic planners that the opening up of the Middle East and Central Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union had to be further pursued before it was too late.The great regret for the planning personnel of the coming Bush Jr. administration such as Paul Wolfowitz was that Iraq had not been taken over on the first invasion. The need for “full spectrum dominance” across the Middle East and Central Asia was thus the essential argument of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), with the prescription that no other “regional power”was able to contest this dominance.

The PNAC more explicitly recognised the strategic necessity for what Zbigniew Brzezinski had already called for in 1998 in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives – namely,“the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat” to ensure public support for “the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power”. The now once untouchable Central Asia, formerly of the USSR, was thus targeted as essential not only for its vast oil reserves, but to complete rule of the “first truly global power”.

The Project for the New American Century was more explicit than Brzezinski in 2000, the year before 9-11. As former Defence Minister of Canada, Paul Hellyer, lucidly puts it in a recent address (italics added): “The authors of this American ‘Mein Kampf’ [the PNAC] for conquest recognized the difficulty of persuading sophisticated Americans to accept such a gigantic change in policy. So they wrote the following (subsequently removed from the record):  ‘Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary changes, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.’”[xxxi]

Excepting the Vietnam War ending in military defeat – but vastly enriched armaments and connected private bank and corporate interests – the hitherto favoured strategic-plan mode had been local death squads along with pervasive American media propaganda against the victims as “communists” and “sponsored by the USSR”. But once there was no remotely equal opponent in mass-kill capacities and transnational trade treaties now bound governments within corporate-rights law as overriding domestic laws and policies, anything became permissible. The plan for the “supranational sovereignty” of “limitless capital accumulation” in “full-spectrum power”required only 9-11 to derail world-wide peace, environmental and anti-corporate globalization movements growing into uncontrollable civilian capacity across borders and continents.

People were waking up to the one-way destruction of life systems at all levels. Iraq was not alone in the genocidal clearance of formersocialist infrastructures uniting peoples across ethnic lines. A far more democratic Yugoslavia was set up and destroyed by financial means in the same year by the 1991 U.S. Foreign Operations Appropriations Law after the 1980’s multiplication of public interest rates to over 20percent primedevoured social life support structures across the world.

This was the unseen financialization base of a global war against public and worker economic and political powers that was reaping a cumulative global civilian reaction of opposition to “the plan”. 9-11 ensured against the fightback of financially dispossessed peoples with the signature reverse operation – diversion to an external “terrorist threat” that stood in the way of more sweeping transnational corporate wars on more peoples being dispossessed. Civil war in Yugoslavia long targeted by Reagan’s secret National Security Directive 133 as early as 1984 was predicted and occurred after the underlying employment and welfare structure of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia collapsed under deliberate financial destabilization. (The villain of the piece, Slobodan Milosevic, was himself a major banker).

In oil-rich Somalia, two-thirds of its territory had been leased out to four transnational oil companies by 1993 – a condition of lost grounds of life for Somalians behind the primeval civil war ever since. These are merely expressions of the underlying logic of value and the plan for its supranational rule beneath the lights of publicity as “discretion”. The examples are myriad from Latin America to South-East Asia to sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle East to Israel and Canada today. But a descriptive law of the supreme moral goal holds across all diverse instances of its expression.

Strategic planning for the destruction of social life infrastructures of peoples for private money capital gain without limit is the ultimate value program throughout from the U.S. to China.

The people of the U.S. are not exempt from their own system of covert state rule, although democratic heroism here joins with the larger world against it. This is the ultimate moral struggle on earth today. The moral politics of the disorder are the enforcement of the descriptive law.  This is the ruling meta program, and it is carcinogenic by its nature. The supreme motive force it multiplies by is privately self-maximizing money possession (individual and corporate)seeking to be limitlessly more.More = Better. Less = Militant Demand for More.

The “9-11” event is the epicentre of the supreme moral objective seated in Wall Street. Itis best understood as an ultimate strategic maximizer of theitalicizedformula. Exactly expressed, its ultimatelyregulating axiology is private money inputs through all life to maximally more private money outputs in ad infinitum progression: Money àLife as Meansà More Money or, formally, $àLasMà$1,2,3,4— N.

At the highest level of anchoring moral meaning, this private money-demand rule seeks to beabsolute and total across borders with no quarter. “Full spectrum dominance” is its military method. Yet what distinguishes it from theNazirule it connects with as prior transnational corporate partner in war making is that in the U.S. private money demand multiplication at the top is the only organising value meaning. 97% of its money command is produced by private bank notes of others’ debt to the private bank system centred in Wall Street. Yet despite this very narrow centre of control,almost no global territory or field of life is outside its rule and strategic plan.

The “Trans-Pacific Partnership” is but its latest expression – focusing on private knowledge-patent money sequencing to rule out generic pharmaceuticals and other life-and-death knowledge commons from which higher profits cannot be made. The one underlying common principle throughout all phases is transnational corporate and bank money sequencing to more. Its converse is to overrideall life requirements at all levels, and strategically planned crises and wars are the advancing lines of control and enforcement.

What is not recognized through all the genocidal wars,ecocidal results, collapsing social life support systems and falling wages, however,is that this ruling value sequence rationally leads to9-11” as maximal strategic payoff progression.“Absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event”, the Project for the New American Century declared before 9-11,

“ – - the U.S risks the loss of a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity”.

Decoded, this meant in theory and practice more transnational private money sequence progression to ever more control over all still-uncontrolled assets for more and richer returns without limit of take or life destruction. But these are unspeakable lines of value meaning, and that is likely why, for example, Wikipedia keeps altering the entry of my name with conspiracy theory attributions and smears to ensure that such deep-structural diagnosis does not gain currency. That is how this system works, and analysis will provide more variations of this gagging method on 9-11 ahead.

The strategic necessity of the 9-11 event for “global security order”can even be asserted by the principal architects of the administration under which it happened, and those who observe this can be dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”. Reverse projection is, as always, the essential psychological operation. The documented but shouted-down logistics included V-P Cheney having control of the air-de

Burger King Twitter Feed Closed Over Hacking

The official Twitter account of the global fast food chain Burger King has been suspended after it was attacked by hackers. The company's Twitter picture was changed to a McDonald's logo just after 5pm UK time. A message was then posted on the Twitter...

‘No constitution, no normal laws’: Wife fights for Palestinian husband captured by Israel

A desperate Ukrainian wife of a Palestinian engineer, abducted by Israel and jailed without trial two years ago, has been forced to conduct her own investigation. Her husband has been detained in awful conditions, and denied medical assistance.

Veronika, a Ukrainian citizen and mother of six, has said that neither she nor her kids are going to leave the Gaza Strip as a sign of protest after her husband was kidnapped and held prisoner in Israel. What may look like a Hail Mary pass for some is actually the last resort for her as a wife and mother – after the whole world abandoned her, she went one-on-one against blatant abuse from the government.

Her husband, Dirar Mousa Abu Sisi, technical director of a power plant in Gaza,was kidnapped by Israel’s special services two years ago in Ukraine, where he went in the hope of obtaining Ukrainian citizenship, and was secretly extradited from the country in a coffin. For two year, he has been tortured in an Israeli prison without charge.

Ukraine, however, claims he never left its territory.Europe, the US, Muslim countries, the revolutionary forces of the Islamic revival, the UN and international human rights organizations have all been silent on the incident.

In their modest apartment in the Jabalia refugee camp, we are met by Veronika, whose head is covered with a veil. This beautiful, confident woman apparently feels ill at ease: It’s the first time she has received Russian journalists in Gaza; Ukrainian journalists said that her story is still taboo.

She tries to keep her cool: Her voice only melts when she speaks to her mother-in-law, whom she calls ‘Mummy.’Her parents-in-law have moved here from Jordan to live with her.Veronika was born into a military family in Leningrad. Later, her parents had to move to Ukraine. Shortly afterwards, the USSR collapsed.

The six children of engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, and his mother, father and wife, in their apartment at the Jebaliya refugee camp in Gaza. (RT photo)
The six children of engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, and his mother, father and wife, in their apartment at the Jebaliya refugee camp in Gaza. (RT photo)

Engineer’s wife… turned prisoner’s wife

Veronika and Dirar got married in 1998, when he was a student in Kharkov – where they first met. Veronika was 19; she had a degree in music, and no idea whatsoever of the Palestinian conflict. Dirar is 43 years old now, and Veronika is 34.

In 2000, the US company that owned the power plant offered her husband a job as assistant operator.

“We tried looking for a job in Ukraine – but there was none we could find,” she said. “We looked for a job in Jordan – but my husband was told that his Ukrainian degree was not recognized by Jordanian employers. When he received a job offer from Gaza, we hopped on a plane immediately and went there – at that time, the airport was still working.” The vacancy matched his qualification, and they thought Gaza was a wonderful place to go to. Shortly after that, the American company went bankrupt and the power plant was sold to another business based in Abu Dhabi.

“My husband is a top-notch engineer. He knows the plant through and through,” Veronika explained.In 2003, Dirar was promoted to technical director of the power plant, the only one in Gaza. It now meets about 25 percent of the electricity demand in the Strip. Over the last seven years, it has been the Strip’s main power supplier, making electricity available for eight hours a day.

But in 2006, the plant was bombed, and later in the winter of that year, Hamas won the elections in the Gaza Strip and formed the majority government. In response, Israel imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, and made Egypt join in as well. If it weren’t for Dirar, Israel could have succeeded in suffocating the Gaza Strip with this blockade.

“Dirar successfully restructured the power plant in Gaza,” Veronika explained. “He made changes so that it could use fuel supplies from Egypt instead of fuel that previously came from Israel. This made electricity cheaper for Gaza – and hurt Israel’s interests.” Veronika believes that this innovation introduced by her husband led to Israel holding a grudge against him.

“We had a home,” she said. “We had a good life. It may sound cynical but we lived as if there were no war, no siege, no trouble. Two weeks before the Gaza War in 2008 we had our youngest son Usama.” As his mother speaks, Usama is following her every word.

Veronica and her younger son Osama. (RT photo)
Veronica and her younger son Osama. (RT photo)

Dirar was born in Jordan, and Jordan doesn’t grant citizenship to Palestinians,” Veronika recalled. “All he has is papers confirming his refugee status. I made all the arrangements for Dirar to be granted Ukrainian citizenship. I spent six months arranging all the formalities for it to happen. On January 27, 2011, Dirar and I went to Kharkov with our youngest son, leaving our five other children in Gaza. My husband went to pick up the passport on the due date, the 18th, and waited till the office closed, but they never gave it to him. Dirar sent me with Usama back to Gaza, while he decided to stay for a few days in order to meet his brother in Kiev. He had not seen him for 16 years.”

The next day, Dirar’s brother, who had flown in to Kiev from Canada, called her to tell her that they never met. Dirar was also not answering his phone. Veronika left her children with her husband’s family, crossed the tunnel to Egypt, and from there returned to Ukraine. While on her way, she received a very strange text message from her husband: “Salam. I need to lie low. We’re going to Umrah. Will call.”

“This wasn’t like him, not his choice of words, not his style. Until I got that text I was still hopeful that he was either kidnapped for ransom or held by the Ukrainian security services. After it, I had no doubt it was Israel’s doing,” Veronika explained.

Since then, Veronika has been paying for a near-endless amount of legal help, but all she has managed to win so far was one telephone call from her husband from prison. “My phone rang and someone who sounded like Dirar told me that he wants to speak with me in Arabic. We never spoke Arabic with each other. I replied in Russian and the call was disconnected,” she said.

She received some information from Oubad Bilal, who was also a prisoner at the same detention facility. He said that their captors tortured Dirar, and kept him in a tiny cell 1-by-1.5 meter cell. They tried to scare him by threatening to kill his wife and children, and played recordings of women crying and shouting to break him emotionally. Veronika decided then that she shouldn’t try to get a permit to visit her husband in prison, as that would likely only give his torturers a way to use her to break him.

Who was Israel after?

“I don’t believe any of charges laid against him. First they were demanding him to tell them where [Gilad] Shalit was. Then they accused him of being involved with missiles, and after that of training militants in a mosque which is totally bizarre and ridiculous. And yet why is it they never launch the trial?” Veronika said.

Veronika and her family are sure that Israeli special services were after someone who’d prove to be important enough to swap for Shalit; now, they just don’t know what to do about Dirar. “They were tracking him from the very border. They knew he was bound for Ukraine. They were in cahoots with the Ukrainian special services,” Veronika said.

Several suspicious episodes surfaced after Dirar left Gaza, but the family didn’t take them seriously at the time. In Egypt, he was questioned by special services, but it didn’t seem to be out of ordinary – all Palestinians, even cancer patients, had to be questioned during the Mubarak regime. He was also detained a few times for up to 10 hours by police in Jordan where he visited his family. This didn’t alert anyone either, as Jordanian authorities are generally very suspicious of all Palestinians, despite the fact that they account for 80 percent of the population.

When Dirar told the Jordanian special services that he would like to rejoin his family in Gaza, they denied him the permission. This, again, was a routine hazard. Kharkov’s authorities didn’t issue him a passport, despite the prior arrangements. But Dirar thought it was merely yet another bureaucratic hurdle, and took a train to Kiev to see his brother, thinking he’d pick up his Ukrainian passport on the way back in a few days.

While fighting for her husband’s release, Veronica started painting her family. (RT photo)
While fighting for her husband’s release, Veronica started painting her family. (RT photo)

Does Ukraine allow kidnapping on its territory?

Veronika holds the Ukrainian authorities responsible for participating in – and covering up – her husband’s kidnapping. She stressed that no one in the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has asked what her husband looks like, or what personal possessions he had on him. She saw an official sign a missing persons report she filed, as well as a paper that said all borders would be closed should Israel attempt to transport him out of the country; that paper has disappeared without a trace.

She was astounded when the SBU denied a request by telling her there were no security cameras at the station where her husband was pulled off his train. Wasting no time, Veronika found the train’s conductor. He affirmed that her husband was on that train and described the kidnappers, but denied all his statements later on. His superior turned out to be “on vacation” when Veronika and her lawyer came to see him.

“They keep saying he hasn’t left Ukraine. Israeli television has shown that Israel has him, and three days before the exchange Netanyahu said they had my husband. Shalit’s father called me and via teleconference asked me to exchange his son for my husband, and Ukrainian authorities still have no idea who took my husband and how,” Veronika said

Before her husband’s kidnapping, she was reasonably positive towards Israel, and favored freeing Shalit. But she couldn’t believe that Israelis hadn’t condemned the kidnappings of Palestinians all over the world. She made a public statement saying that neither she nor her children, all citizens of Ukraine, would leave the Gaza Strip while her husband was being held captive. In response, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that Ukrainian citizens can remain in the territory of another state for up to nine months.

The crime of being Dirar

“My husband has a cropped beard – they consider it evidence. He was a handsome, educated, stately man, and he held an important position – that’s all the evidence they have,” Veronika said.

“He’s in prison in Ashkelon,” he said. “He isn’t allowed to read books or newspapers. For eight months he was trying to get a TV and a fridge. Before he was arrested he weighed 98kg, he was very handsome. Now he looks like a shriveled old man – he weighs 61kg, he has a heart condition, asthma, problems with kidneys and digestive system, his eyesight is falling rapidly. No doctors are allowed to tend to him, and the only medicine he gets is aspirin.” Veronika’s voice doesn’t catch, but her cheeks flush an angry crimson. At one point, Dirar decided to go on a hunger strike, and was force-fed.

“Out of all the possible medical tests, they did only one, to find out whether he was lactose-intolerant. That’s all. In Israel people spend 10, 20, 30 years in jail without being convicted. There’s no constitution there and no normal laws. And my homeland, Ukraine, does Israel’s bidding,” Veronika said. 

The Red Cross has managed to pass a couple of her husband’s letters on to her. He is allowed to write only in Arabic, but he managed to smuggle one note in Ukrainian, telling Veronika how much he loves her – the note had heart-shaped emoticons in it. Dirar never receives any of her letters.

Veronika said that only ignorant people would believe the accusations against her husband regarding his involvement in developing missiles. Her husband is an electrical engineer, and he finished his post-graduate program at the Kharkov National Academy of Municipal Economy. “The Academy of Municipal Economy doesn’t teach anything about missiles or bombs, and no field commander would need Ukrainian citizenship,” she explained.

An anonymous member of Hamas told me that no commander, whatever his rank, travels to another country without a security escort. The visits are always planned beforehand, and the commanders are never left unprotected. Dirar was just working at the plant, but had no connection to Hamas. And the technical side of the power plant’s processes can’t be important enough for Israel to kidnap him, as plant continues to work just fine without him. The Hamas source is sure that the Israeli special service was desperate to find someone they could exchange for Shalit, but failed, which is why there has been no progress in Dirar’s case for more than a year now.

Even in Israel, some say that the special service kidnapped the wrong man, but they don’t know how to resolve the situation, so they are continuing to lie. “They’re kings today, but they can become lackeys tomorrow. They will get what they deserve,” Veronika said.

For 12 years, Veronika was a happy wife and mother, unconcerned with politics. Now she knows all the laws and declarations. She learned how to be an Iron Lady, both a mother- and father-figure for her kids. She learned how to drive a car, and to talk to lawyers and journalists.

“Dirar is still an employee at the plant, but without pay. We’re living on our savings, but we’ll be running out of them soon. And my mom died while all this was happening,” she said. Veronika learned to draw to relieve her pain: She draws her kids and Dirar. She is waiting for him in Gaza, though two years ago they were thinking about moving to Ukraine, when he applied for that ill-fated citizenship.

­Nadezhda Kevorkova, RT

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The “Labia Pride” Movement Is on the March

Rebelling against the porn aesthetic, women are taking to the Internet to sing the praises of "endowed" women.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Salon.com

February 17, 2013  |  

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Underneath a self-portrait snapped of the ruffly pink flesh in-between her legs, a woman writes, “I am 23 and so embarrassed of my labia that I still have never shown it to anyone — to a guy or even a doctor!” It’s a post submitted by an anonymous reader on the Tumblr “Large Labia Project.” The blog is filled with similar photos accompanied by tales of vulval shame. One woman writes of distress over the fact that her labia are lopsided. Another worries that she’s lost lovers in the past because “they all thought my vagina was weird.” There are concerns about taste and smell, too, but mostly vulva shape and size.

It’s just one of several new sites calling on women to bare all — to benefit womankind.

These crotch shots are not meant to titillate — although some male readers pop in to proclaim that they navigate the site with one hand. Instead, the idea is that submitting a photo can help a woman get over her body shame — particularly because of positive feedback from site moderators and readers, who often offer “you go, girl” cheerleading. (Although, some posters find it devastating when their photo doesn’t get as many “likes” as others.) The greater aim is to publicly catalog normal genital diversity — the kind you won’t find in mainstream porn — so that women no longer judge their nethers by an unrealistic standard.

This isn’t exactly a new concept. Sex educator Betty Dodson has been holding Bodysex Groups for women, which include some “genital show and tell,” for over 25 years; she also drew up  detailed sketches of a rainbow’s array of vulvas as a means of decreasing “genital shame.” But the explosion of online porn — which often promotes a “neat and tight” aesthetic — has made the work of Dodson and her ilk that much harder. Porn is commonly fingered as a culprit on these sites: “I thought I was a freak of nature cause all the women in the porn industry didn’t have the same pussy or lips like mine,” writes one woman on Large Labia Project.

Emma, the 24-year-old Australian behind the blog, tells me in an email that she was inspired in large part by concerns about the influence of porn. “A whole generation of young women who have grown up with ready access to the Internet are learning about their bodies and sexuality through this medium,” she says. “Often the first and only way girls get to have a good look at other girls’ naked genitals is through pornography.” But porn, she says, “is giving a false view of what real women look like,” so when girls and women compare themselves to what they see on-screen, they often “feel that there’s something wrong.”

Molly, a 40-year-old mother of two, was inspired to create the  Pussy Pride Project “after reading about the increasing number of woman who were turning to surgery to change the look of their genitals.” Indeed, “vaginal rejuvenation” procedures are on the rise, of which labiaplasty, in which the labia is surgically trimmed,  is the most popular. It should be noted that some women have such procedures for non-cosmetic reasons — say, to address severe discomfort while riding a bike, but such cases don’t account for the popularity of these surgeries. A recent article in Guernica  reported on a California urogynecologist who claimed that his “most requested surgical procedure is the Barbie: a procedure that excises the entire labia minora,” which “results in a ‘clamshell’ aesthetic.”

Labiaplasty is a common call-to-arms: The site  “Courageous Cunts” features an image of scalpel hovering over a woman’s nether region with a “no” sign over it. The site’s description explains, “We got quite angry about the growing propaganda to surgically ‘improve’ the female genitalia …. BE PROUD OF YOUR LABIA AND LET THE WORLD KNOW!”

Big Corporations Put Up Seed Funding for GOP Dark Money Group

Big Corporations Put Up Seed Funding for GOP Dark Money Group

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Posted on Feb 17, 2013
Flickr/TomaBw

By Justin Elliott, ProPublica

This report originally ran on ProPublica.

Some of the nation’s biggest corporations donated more than a million dollars to launch a Republican nonprofit that went on to play a key role in recent political fights.

Like the nonprofit groups that poured money into last year’s elections, the decade-old State Government Leadership Foundation has been able to keep the identities of its funders secret. Until now.

A records request by ProPublica to the IRS turned up a list of the original funders of the group: Exxon, Pfizer, Time Warner, and other corporations put up at least 85 percent of the $1.3 million the foundation raised in the first year and a half of its existence, starting in 2003.

The donor list is stamped “not for public disclosure,” and was submitted to the IRS as part of the foundation’s application for recognition of tax-exempt status. If approved, such applications are public records.

The foundation and other similar nonprofits are allowed to take anonymous and unlimited donations from individuals or corporations. That’s because they are classified as “social welfare” nonprofits, which are supposed to benefit the community at large, and not just one group or political party.

Last year, we reported how the State Government Leadership Foundation paid for Republican redistricting consultants to draw new congressional district maps in North Carolina. The resulting gerrymander helped flip the state’s congressional delegation to Republicans.

In recent years, the foundation has also funded TV ads targeting Democrats during the 2011 Wisconsin showdown over collective bargaining rights; attacking President Obama in Virginia over his energy policy; and accusing teachers unions of “destroying our children’s future.”

The foundation also gave $1.25 million in 2011 to the Indiana Opportunity Fund, a state-level nonprofit that ran anti-union ads featuring Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. (That group was founded by attorney Jim Bopp, who has long fought against campaign finance regulation.)

The foundation’s single-biggest early donor was the now-defunct mortgage lender Ameriquest, which gave more than $260,000. (We contacted a number of the companies on the list; they did not respond to requests for comment.) Corporate trade associations including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Edison Electric Institute, and the American Tort Reform Association also pitched in, each giving between $50,000 and $100,000.

The foundation’s affiliated organization, the Republican State Leadership Committee, focuses on winning state-level elections for the GOP and also gets corporate money, including from tobacco and insurance giants.  As an explicitly political organization, the committee has to disclose its donors.

By contrast, the recent funders of the foundation, which took in $2.5 million in 2011 including a single donation of $1 million, are still secret.

The foundation applied for IRS recognition as a social welfare group in late 2003 but was initially rejected. The IRS concluded the foundation was “a partisan organization” that “operated primarily for the benefit of a select group” – the GOP. Social welfare groups, the IRS’ rejection letter noted, must promote the “general welfare of the whole community” — not a particular group.

The foundation’s lawyers from the firm Arent Fox fired back in an appeal, arguing that the foundation was not a partisan outfit.

The foundation, according to the 2005 appeal, “was created to promote public debate” about issues including pharmaceuticals, securities regulation, and asbestos litigation.

“It may be useful to describe what the SGLF is not,” the appeal says. “The SGLF:

• Is not affiliated with the Republican Party in any way;

• Does not meet with or coordinate its activities with the Republican Party;

• Does not make contributions to, or accept contributions from, the Republican Party;

• Does not participate in political campaigns, elections or publish electioneering messages on behalf of any candidate or party;

• Does not invite Representatives of the Republican Party to speak at its events, and

• Does not participate in the Republican Party platform, does not recruit or train Republican candidates, does not fundraise for Republican candidates, and does not coordinate its issue selection or policy positions with the Republican Party.

In 2007, more than three years after the foundation’s application, the IRS ultimately recognized it as a tax-exempt social welfare group.

But the group’s protestations that it has nothing to do with the GOP seems at odds with its recent activities. Besides running ads attacking Democrats, the foundation was involved in redistricting in several states to, as the foundation put it in a letter to Republican legislators, draw “legislative lines that we will have to defend in 2012 and beyond.”

Foundation spokesperson Jill Bader told ProPublica that since its creation the foundation’s “activities have evolved in some ways from those that were originally contemplated and conducted by the organization.”

Bader continued: “SGLF’s present activities are in strict compliance with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code and all future SGLF activities will be in strict compliance as well.”


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N. Korea tested engine for 5,000km-range rocket — report

Pyongyang tested an engine for its modernized long-range missile just a day before its third nuclear test on February 12, Yonhap news agency reported. Both of North Korea's missile launch sites are also being upgraded, Seoul has claimed.

­An engine firing test for the KN-08 missile took place at the Dongchang-ri launch site in North Pyongan province last Monday, Yonhap reported. The new engine will extend the range of the KN-08 to 5,000 kilometers.

"If the North decides the test successful, it is expected to operationally deploy the new long-range rocket," an anonymous South Korean government source told Yonhap.

In March 2012, North Korea deployed six mobile ballistic missile complexes to celebrate the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, and showcased the arms in a military parade.

At the time, the US roundly criticized China for allegedly exporting the missile transporters to Pyongyang. The White House accused Beijing of delivering to North Korea in 2011 the “largest self-propelled overload special off-road transporter in China,” in defiance of a UN ban on such military sales; China denied the allegations.

The latest test-fire of the KN-08’s upgraded engine was carried out openly, Yonhap news agency’s source said, as North Koreans are well aware that their moves are being closely monitored by US spy satellites.

“The engine test right before its third nuclear test would be intended to intensify its threat to the US and its allies [South Korea and Japan],” Yonhap’s source explained.

North Korea's third nuclear test sparked immediate condemnation from the UN and the international community. Pyongyang reportedly responded by informing its primary ally China that it may stage two more nuclear tests before the end of this year.

A 100,000-person rally was held in Pyongyang to express support for the country’s leadership over the nuclear test.

The US, the first country that (LINK TO RT ARTICLE NEEDED) discovered that North Korea is modernizing its launch pads, accused Tehran of providing technical aid to North Korea.

“A new flame trench covering to protect large rockets from exhaust gases is similar to the covering used at a new launch pad at the Semnan Launch Complex in Iran,” explained the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore, in a report dedicated to North Korea’s missile program.

The US-Korea Institute predicted that by 2016, North Korea may be able to build rockets with three to four times the range of the Unha-3 that Pyongyang tested in December, which successfully delivered the first North Korean satellite, Kwangmyongsong-3, into orbit.

“If North Korea continues to waste its budget on developing military weapons, it will become difficult to maintain its regime,” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak warned, according to Yonhap.

Australia launches probe into ‘Prisoner X’ suicide, demands answers from Israel

The headstone of Ben Zygier is photographed in the Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemetery, in Melbourne on February 14, 2013.(AFP Photo / Martin Philbey)

The headstone of Ben Zygier is photographed in the Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemetery, in Melbourne on February 14, 2013.(AFP Photo / Martin Philbey)

Australia is seeking answers from Israel concerning the death of ‘Prisoner X,’ an Australian national who committed suicide in Israeli prison, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said as the ministry prepared to file a formal report on the case.

"We have asked the Israeli government for a contribution to that report," Carr told the press on Sunday.
Australia wants to give Israel the opportunity to submit an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the prisoner's death, the minister said.

"I need to know what the contact was between Australian agencies and those of Israel, and I need to see what the Israelis want to tell Australia," he explained. "The key is to get all the information."

Australian foreign office chief Peter Varghese is preparing the report, which will "canvass all the consular contact between Australia and between Israel,” Carr said. Israeli authorities are reportedly also preparing to release their inquiry into the prisoner's death.

The Australian-Israeli national known as ‘Prisoner X’ was identified by media earlier this week as 34-year-old Ben Zygier. In June 2010, the man committed suicide while being held in a high-security Tel Aviv prison.

The incident raised many questions, as well as speculation. Zygnier was reportedly in prison for 'grave crimes,' but there has been no official comment on the nature of those crimes. He was also rumored to be a Mossad agent.

Israeli officials claimed that Zygier was treated fairly while in prison. But Zygier's lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said his client had been under intense emotional pressure while in custody, which could have led to his suicide.

"His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail time and be ostracized from his family and the Jewish community,”  Feldman told Israel’s Channel 10.

Australian authorities first asserted that they were absolutely unaware of the Zygier's case, but later admitted that months prior to his death they learned that Israel had detained an Australian-Israeli citizen on national security grounds.

An anonymous Israeli official told The Australian that Canberra knew about Zygier's case “long before” he died.

The Australian media also reported that the Israeli Security Agency informed Australian authorities immediately after Zygier's arrest in February 2010.

Israel’s Prisoner X

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Bio

Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Researching the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, some of his research topics include the international aid to the Palestinians and to Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. His work also includes giving lectures and presentations on the economy of the occupation. His first book: Political Economy of Israel's Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation, has been published by Pluto Press.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Hever Report with Shir Hever. He now joins us from Germany.

Shir's an economist who studies Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for the Alternative Information Center.Thanks for joining us again.SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Hi, Paul.JAY: So Prisoner X is in the news. What is that all about?HEVER: This is a very big scandal. Israel has imprisoned and actually made a person disappear. And what we see here: a person who is perhaps associated with the Israeli Mossad, perhaps not, that in 2010 was incarcerated, and he was not convicted in any crime. Nevertheless, he was disappeared from the media. It was completely illegal to write about his arrest and about the fact that he was in a very special cell in the Israeli prison. And he committed suicide—or so it is reported. There are severe doubts whether he was in a position that he could commit suicide. And only three years later, or two years later, we hear about this person, Ben Zygier or Ben Alon or Ben Allen (he had three different names, apparently), who was an Australian citizen but also an Israeli citizen, served in the Israeli army, and for some reason the Israeli secret police decided that they wanted this person to be completely erased. This sort of disappearance reminds us of maybe the junta regime in Argentina and other sort of totalitarian governments which allow themselves to make people disappear. And I think it's also worthy of mention that he was Jewish. And although this of course doesn't mean that he has any better rights or more than any other human being, but within the context of Israel that's interesting because it has happened before several times that Israel made Palestinians or Arab people disappear and have arrested them without giving any kind of information. But here we have a case of a Jewish citizen that has been arrested. I think—that has been made to disappear more than arrested.JAY: Now, my understanding is—now, there was a journalist (I'm not sure he was Australian or Israeli; I think Australian) that uncovered that supposedly this fellow was in Mossad and was part of a Mossad unit that was operating in Europe. I mean, is—the Guardian piece is about they seem to be taking that as correct information.HEVER: The only source, as far as I can tell, that Zygier was in the Mossad is based on testimonies of his friends, who said that he told them that he was in the Mossad. I can imagine that they're probably not lying. Maybe he said so. But it doesn't necessarily mean that he was a member of Mossad.But I think if this was really a case—let's speculate for a second—if this was really the case that he was a Mossad agent that was going to sell sensitive information or already sold sensitive information to an enemy state, then he would not have been made to disappear. Then, of course, there would be a public trial, and he would be branded as a traitor also in order to deter other spies from turning to the outside.JAY: But isn't part of the problem for the Israelis that he would have been conducting this spying with an Australian passport?HEVER: This is a very big issue. And what we've seen with the assassination of Mabhouh in Dubai that Israeli assassins (of course, we're not certain that they were Israeli—Israel never confirmed; but it's extremely likely that they were) have been using Australian passports, as well as passports from other countries, the U.K. and so on, and this could, of course, harm the relations between Israel and Australia. The interesting thing is that the Australian government, which originally to a story that was reported in the Australian television said that they haven't heard from Israel that an Australian citizen has been imprisoned, now have changed their story and now say that yes, they have been informed already in 2010 about his imprisonment. So at least from the point of view of the Australian government, it's quite clear that either they agreed to this, or Israel put a lot of pressure and made them to agree to this. By making Ben Zygier disappear, I don't think Israel is in any way protecting its relations with the Australian government. What I think is much more likely is that the sort of secret that Ben Zygier was about to reveal is a secret that embarrasses the Israeli government very much, a secret that doesn't expose Israel's Mossad operations in terms of its operative ability, but more likely he was talking about something moral or ethical that has bugged him, that bothered him on a personal level. And then, if that would have come out, that he wanted to tell this kind of information not for personal profit but because of a troubled conscience, this could have caused serious damage to the Israeli government. And this is something that makes more sense why they wanted to make him disappear. Netanyahu actually tried to convene an emergency conference of all the major editors of the major media channels in Israel to convince them to suppress the story. At the same time, the Israeli court issued a gag order making it illegal not only to say that there is a prisoner kept anonymously in the Israeli prisons, or that there was and he committed suicide; but even to report that there is a gag order, even that was illegal. And also, the military censor, which is usually in Israel a passive kind of institution that only accepts for review articles before they are published, has actually taken an active position and demanded that certain articles would be removed or would not be published in advance.JAY: And his family, which I think is mostly in Australia, I think—does he still have some family in Israel? But they haven't said a word about any of this, have they?HEVER: Now, according to the more recent reports, they have been informed of his death as early as 2010, and they reacted very badly, very hard, to hear of his death. And I think it's understandable on a personal level that they wouldn't want to be involved. I think if they would want to accuse the Israeli government of mishandling the case, abusing the rights of their family member, they also run a certain risk of being ostracized by the pro-Zionist community, like, for example, we've seen with Justice Goldstone and his report, the Goldstone Report, which criticized Israel's attack against Gaza in 2008-2009. Later, Goldstone was ostracized by the Zionist community in South Africa and suffered personal attacks because of his position.JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Shir. We'll keep following this to see if there's any new breaks in the story.Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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Chuck Todd Shamelessly Compares Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz

As Susie already noted here, Elizabeth Warren's first chance to ask questions as a member of the Senate Banking Committee and to take some of these SEC chairs to task for not prosecuting anyone on Wall Street for their behavior, apparently hurt some...

Truthdigger of the Week: Elizabeth Warren

Truthdigger of the Week: Elizabeth Warren

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Posted on Feb 16, 2013
AP/Michael Dwyer

Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

By Alexander Reed Kelly

If banking industry lobbyists hadn’t helped block Elizabeth Warren’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2011, she wouldn’t have become a senator who exposed and shamed regulators for failing to prosecute the banks responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.

After assuming office just a month and a half ago, Warren joined the chamber’s Democrat-dominated Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Newcomers to the Senate are traditionally expected to remain quiet, leaving it to senior members to lead hearings and investigations. But the resignation of fellow Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry last month left Warren as the senior representative of her state, giving her the leverage to do just what she wanted.

At her first hearing on banking regulation Thursday, Warren interrogated officials whose job it is to oversee and regulate the nation’s finance industry. She had a simple question for them: When was the last time you took a Wall Street bank to trial?

Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, was the first to attempt an answer. “We do not have to bring people to trial,” Curry mumbled. “The primary motive for our enforcement actions,” he said, “is really to identify the problem and then demand a solution to it on an ongoing basis.”

This mushy, technocratic language is the means by which officials wiggle their way out of answering tough, straightforward questions. To much of the public, the speaker appears serious and genuinely concerned because the common person doesn’t understand what the official said. The effect is magnified if the official drones on.

Warren cut Curry off after 20 seconds. For the benefit of the public, she translated the term “consent order,” which he had used in his answer, into “settlement.” A greater percentage of listeners understand that a “settlement” is an agreement to forgo prosecution and accept payment without the accused party admitting wrongdoing. It is pointedly not a trial, which was the subject of her question. She asked it again.

Curry stammered and trailed off: “Well ... we’ve actually had, uh, fairly, uh, fair number of, uh, consent orders. Uh, we do not have to bring the people to, uh, the, uh trial, or, and it. ... ”

Warren broke in again. “Well I appreciate that you don’t have to bring them to trial,” she said. “My question is when did you bring them to trial?”

“We have not had to do it,” Curry explained, “as a practical matter to achieve our supervisory goals.”

Very slick. “What supervisory goals?” a listener might ask. “Whatever those goals are, are they sufficient for the maintenance of law, order and public well-being?” The public doesn’t get to ask, and because time in a hearing is limited, the questioner has to decide whether the respondent’s statement was sufficient to reveal the absurdity of his or her position.

In this instance, the responses Curry and his fellow regulators gave were adequate. It was clear they failed to prosecute any of the banks responsible for bringing on the financial crisis. Meanwhile, government attorneys around the country continue to aggressively prosecute average Americans for comparatively harmless offenses.

“You know, I just want to note on this,” Warren observed. “There are district attorneys and U.S. attorneys who are out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds. And taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that too big to fail has become too big for trial. That just seems wrong to me.”

Wall Street executives threw a fit over Warren’s inquiry. An anonymous executive who wrote in to Politico’s Morning Money said comments Warren made regarding discrepancies in the book and trading values of banks were “just plain wrong.”

“While Senator Warren had every right to ask pointed questions at today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing,” the “top executive” said, “someone ought to remind the Senator that the campaign is over and she should act accordingly if she wants to be taken seriously.”

Elites hate populists. Genuine public defenders like Warren break the convention of unquestioning respect for authority and hierarchy that enables so many elites to misbehave, and that has so corroded American democracy. For defying a corrupt tradition to benefit the public, we honor Elizabeth Warren as our Truthdigger of the Week.

See Warren in action below.

Senator Elizabeth Warren:

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Is This Where The Secret JP Morgan London Gold Vault Is Located?

In a world defined by "financial innovation", where $1 of hard collateral can spawn over $1000 in repoed and rehypothecated liabilities (and assets), where "shadow banking" is far more important than traditional bank liabilities (and to this date remains completely misunderstood), and where every month the central and commercial banks force create over $100 billion in credit money (which end consumers refuse to absorb and which therefore ends up in the stock market), the concept of a "hard asset" is an increasingly redundant anachronism. Yet while the Federal Reserve has emerged as the bastion of the New Normal's financial innovation front in which the concept of money is backed by absolutely nothing other than the Dollar's increasingly fleeting reserve status, when it comes to the definition of "Old Normal" money - gold - it still is the domain of the first and original central bank: London.

At first blush, most would not associate London with the hard asset mecca of the world: in fact, when it comes to some of the most spectacular hyper-levered "New Normal" cataclysms in recent years: AIG, Lehman, MF Global, JPMorgan's London Whale, all of them originated in London. Yet for the most part these events occurred precisely because of the mindboggling leverage already employed by the London financial system. Recall that the UK has some 600% in financial debt/GDP - an unprecedented amount compared to any other developed world nation. Yet, paradoxically, the fact that there is so much financial leverage implies that there must be an abundance of hard assets at the bottom of the London Exter Pyramid. After all, financial counterparties, especially in this day and age, may be insolvent but they are not idiots, and all will demand at least some paper representation that there is a trace of hard collateral at the bottom of the latest financial Frankenstein CDO, SPV, CLO, CPDO, RMBS or [insert any other modern financial "asset" acronym]. And keep in mind we are talking private sector gold: Gordon Brown's epic blunder of dumping the sovereign UK gold at rock bottom prices hardly needs a mention.

Which is why in order to spawn such a gargantuan amount of financial debt, London, which for centuries was the financial capital of the world and which sequestered the bulk of the world's real, tangible wealth until the ascendancy of the US in the 20th century, London's commercial vaults, are literally full of gold (as much as it may pale in comparison with the total notional amount of liabilities it has created).

After all it is the London Billion Market Association. Not New York, Zurich or Singapore.

Why is London such an integral part of the gold financial world? We'll let none other than JPMorgan explain:

The characteristics of the London market uniquely support the use of gold as collateral by ensuring:

  • Quality and liquidity: “London Good Delivery” sets the standard for gold quality. Rigorous specifications as to size and purity ensure that each London ood Delivery gold bar meets pre-set standards with little to no variation between one bar and the next. This consistency ensures that counterparties will receive gold of an expected quality (99.5% fine), which allows the metal to be easily transferred between members of the London Bullion Market. Ultimately, this facilitates trading and market liquidity—both desirable attributes for collateral.
  • Flexibility: The London gold market uses both unallocated and allocated gold. In layman’s terms, allocated gold specifically identifies each gold bar with a specific owner. Allocated gold is essentially held in separate accounts; it cannot be pooled with gold from others to satisfy obligations. In contrast, unallocated gold is held in a general pool by the bullion dealer and the customer has a general entitlement to the metal, but not to a specific gold bar. The LMBA states that unallocated gold “is the most convenient, cheapest and most commonly used method of holding the metal.”

    In practical terms, unallocated gold is comparable to putting dollars, pounds or euros into the bank. Once deposited, the money becomes fungible—you can withdraw the same amount of money you put in, but you will not receive back the same exact bills that you deposited. The use of unallocated gold allows for amounts smaller than a gold bar to be used as collateral between counterparties—a significant benefit to a collateral program given that a London Good Delivery bar weighs 438.9 ounces, and gold is currently trading for over US$1,700 per ounce.

  • Transparency: Readily available price information promotes market transparency and aids in daily mark-to-market and margin calculations. Gold is priced by the market twice daily (morning and afternoon) and widely reported by both the financial press and data vendors. Use of a predictable daily price fix point allows counterparties to mitigate their daily exposure and set haircuts to manage ongoing price fluctuations. The afternoon U.S. Dollar London old Fix is viewed by market participants as the appropriate way to mark gold given daily price fluctuations and increasing values.
  • Ease of transfer: The London Bullion Market clears daily using paper transfers that evidence the unallocated gold held between members. This allows them to simply and efficiently settle mutual trades and transfers to/from third parties while mitigating the costs and risks associated with physical movement of bullion. The use of paper transfers and unallocated gold facilitate easy transfers between counterparties when needed.

And speaking of JP Morgan, incidentally the subject of this post, what do we know about their London-based gold vault services? Once again, in their words:

J.P. Morgan recently integrated its gold vaulting service in London with its tri-party collateral agency service.

  • J.P. Morgan operates one of the two largest commercial gold vaults in London (one of only six in the City) and is a member of the London gold clearing system.
  • J.P. Morgan is also one of the few truly global providers of collateral management services. As collateral agent, J.P. Morgan works with two parties that have an established collateralized lending or financing arrangement.

Who is the other largest commercial gold vault in London? Why HSBC of course: the bank which has recently been embroiled in virtually every scandal involving global money laundering, also happens to be the custodian for such massive (supposedly) physical gold repositories as those of the SPDR Gold GLD ETF. The HSBC gold vault is also known as "Gold's secret hiding place" as CNBC penned it, when Bob Pisani was allowed to take a look deep inside the vault's bowels but only after he was theatrically blindfolded (a visit which we commented on at the time).

Yet Pisani's blindfold, while theatrical, was premeditated: the number of people who know where the HSBC vault is located is a handful, because the last thing commercial gold vaults, and certainly their customers, would want to deal with is a Simon Gruber-type Die Hard 2-style goldjacking.

Amusingly it was none other than the Bundesbank who in November invoked the ghost of the fictional New York Fed gold heist when a member of its executive board told NY Fed's Bill Dudley that  "you can be assured that we are confident that our gold is in safe hands with you. The days in which Hollywood Germans such as Gerd Fröbe, better known as Goldfinger, and East German terrorist Simon Gruber, masterminded gold heists in US vaults are long gone. Nobody can seriously imagine scenarios like these, which are reminiscent of a James Bond movie with Goldfinger playing the role of a US Fed accounting clerk." This happened two months before the Bundesbank diametrically (and embarrassingly) flip-flopped and decided to, all pinky swears to the contrary, begin repatriating its gold from the New York Fed (and Paris) after all. But not London (at least not yet). It also perhaps means that the days of Simon Gruber may not be "long gone", especially if the whereabouts of vaults containing billions worth of gold bullion were known to the public.

And just like the SPDR would want nothing less than to have the address of the HSBC gold vault made public (the same goes for HSBC of course), so those other ETF providers who use JPM's London gold vault as a custodian, such as Blackrock's iShares IAU ETF, or ETF Securities, would want nothing less than to have the location of JPM's vault exposed.

Needless to say, the actual addresses of "LBMA Vault" provided by the LBMA in its Annex 2 for "The Good Delivery Rules for Gold and Silver Bars" lists the headquarters office of the vaulting firm, and certainly not the actual address, because it would have been somewhat disingenuous to blindfold Pisani just to deliver him toe 8 Canada Square, or the HSBC head office in London, the address provided by the LBMA as vaulting address of HSBC. And certainly the address given for the JPM vault at 125 London Wall, aka Alban Gate, which was the firm's headquarters until its move to 25 Bank Street in 2012, is the last place even one bar of gold would be found.

Which is why we were quite stunned to find, in the deep recesses of the internet (and hosted by the Indonesian stock exchange of all place), a trade ticket from May 26, 2011, issued by the Perth Mint of Australia to Avocet Gold Mining (a West African gold miner), in which the Mint confirms its purchase of 2,126 ounces of gold at a price of $1,526 for a total transaction price of $3.246 million.

What is notable about the trade ticket is the additional information provided for the account clearer, in this case, none other than JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, London, as well as the number of the Gold Account held by said clearer: "No. 01380" but what is by far the most interesting, is that the actual physical address of the JPMorgan facility is provided: 60 Victoria Embankment, London.

Ladies and gentlemen: we may just have uncovered the actual location of the ultra-secretive JPMorgan gold vault in the city of London.

Where is 60 Victoria Embankment, London? See below:

The building's southern/river face is the glorious facade of the City of London School which occupied this location from 1879 until 1986 (and which is currently situated just east of here along the Blackfriars Underpass, next to the Millennium Bridge).

As the map above shows, it is a rather sizable building, located just off the Thames river and steps away from the Blackfriars Bridge, whose official designation until recently was Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York, Ltd, a remnant from the firm's merger with Guaranty Trust Company in 1959 (recall that JPM was called Morgan Guaranty Trust until 1989).

A cursory media search about the otherwise very nondescript looking building at 60 Victoria reveals that it had been fully leased by JP Morgan as long ago as 1991. What is more interesting, is that the property had previously been bundled as part of a high-profile commercial mortgage-backed securities, or CMBS, deal called White Tower 2006-3. The deal consolidated properties formerly owned by one-time London real estate mogul, Simon Halabi, one of the financial crisis most notable falls from Grace, who had an estimated net worth of $4.3 billion in 2007, and in April 2010 was declared bankrupt, and whose current whereabouts have since been unknown.

White Tower 2006-3, most infamous for being the first CMBS deal to be placed in liquidation after the start of the currency crisis, held a variety of properties near and dear to JPMorgan's heart, first and foremost 60 Victoria Embankment, the 420,000 sq ft of office buildings fully let to JP Morgan Chase; but notably Alban Gate, the 382,000 sq ft office property located on London Wall
in the heart of the City and fully let to JP Morgan Chase. The latter also was JPM's UK headquarters until last year.

What happened next is interesting: in July 2010 Carlyle bought the bulk of the "White Tower" asset portfolio from the defunct CMBS, paying some £173 million for the 60 Victoria Embankment location. Three very short months later, none other than long-time 60 Victoria resident JPMorgan bought the very same building from Carlyle for a whopping £350 million: a transaction which doubled Carlyle's money in an unprecedented three months! At the time the now former CEO of JPM's investment bank Jes Staley (and who currently works for BlueMountain - the same fund that made a killing by squeezing none other than JPMorgan's London Whale traders), said, "These properties are long-term investments and represent our continued commitment to London as one of the world's most important financial centres." Frank Bisignano, chief administrative officer, added: "These properties are among the most attractive pieces of real estate in London. These buildings ensure that our employees will have the necessary technology, infrastructure and amenities to take our businesses forward." Curiously, JPM showed zero love for its Alban Gate location, which it promptly departed to go to its new Canary Wharf HQ, and Carlyle was forced to pull the sale of this property a year later as it did not get enough satisfactory bids.

A pressing question remains: why did JPM, a long-time tenant of 60 Victoria not submit its own bid for the location it knew it would end up purchasing outright in a few months from Carlyle anyway? Why overpay by £177 million in exchange for merely having one more middleman do a three-month transaction? We hope to find out.

Yet what is very clear is that there was something of far greater value to JPM at the 60 Victoria location than at its old headquarters.

What that "thing" may be, and what is the missing puzzle piece in this story, comes from a very peculiar article written nearly four years ago in an Abu Dhabi/Arab Emirates website titled TheNational, titled "Mystery gold cargo linked to Saad, Gosaibi feud", which described just that - the fate of a series of very peculiar gold shipments, the key of which once again involved the two main abovementioned players: Perth Mint and 60 Victoria Embankment.

We repost the entire story below, while highlighting the key parts:

The Qantas freighter QF71 that took off from Perth Airport on November 3 last year bound for London would not have attracted any special attention, despite the fact that it was carrying 1.2 tonnes of gold bullion, then worth about US$28 million (Dh102.8m).

Perth, in Western Australia, is home to Australia's Gold Corporation Mint, where bullion is processed and turned into standard 12.5kg bricks. From there, the ingots are shipped daily around the globe to vaults in America, Europe and Asia, evidence of the world's apparently insatiable appetite for the precious metal. But what made this shipment unusual was that it was the first of 15 such cargoes, of varying quantities and values, which over the next seven months were eventually unloaded mainly in London. Smaller amounts were also delivered to Dubai and Zurich.

The total value of the bullion exported in these operations approached $430m at current market prices, and it weighed 10.4 tonnes. The other distinguishing factor was the identity of the recipients, or "consignees" as they are known. According to documentation seen by The National, they were all companies associated with the al Gosaibi family of Saudi Arabia. The al Gosaibis have since fallen out spectacularly with their partner, Maan al Sanea of Saad Group, in the biggest corporate scandal to hit the Middle East, leaving about 120 banks worldwide with debts estimated at up to $22 billion and a decreasing likelihood of getting their money back.

In a global hunt for assets to offset their losses, the banks have looked into every corner of the Al Gosaibi trading empire and the Saad Group controlled by Mr al Sanea. A small army of lawyers, forensic accountants and corporate investigators has been hired to track down assets over which the banks believe they have claim. They have turned up property, financial investments, relatively small amounts of cash and other baubles of the wealthy, such as aircraft leases. There was even a private zoo. But the most curious discovery so far is the Gosaibi gold.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the shipments is that although there are detailed and specific records of them having taken place, neither party in the al Gosaibi-al Sanea confrontation seems to lay any claim to their ownership. Each side denies it was responsible for the shipments. Despite being regularly ranked among the world's billionaires, neither the family's controlling partnership, Ahmad Hamad Al Gosaibi and Brothers, nor Mr Al Sanea's Saad Group has any previous known involvement in the bullion business.

The first shipment took place just as the world appeared on the verge of financial meltdown last November. They continued until May, when the crisis in the two Saudi families exploded into the public domain after they failed to make repayments on loans associated with their banking businesses in Bahrain. The shipments reached a peak in late February and early March, just as tensions within the al Gosaibi family intensified after the death of Sulaiman, the family patriarch and chairman, on February 22.

One shipping document shows that, the following day, "a shipment of 21,500 fine ounces of large 12.5kg gold bars, minimum 99.5 per cent purity" was sent from AGR Matthey, a well known Australian bullion dealer, from Perth Airport via Singapore to London's Heathrow. From there, the bullion was moved to the vaults of Standard Bank of South Africa, located in the London offices of JPMorgan Chase at 60 Victoria Embankment, Blackfriars, London.

The shipment was marked "London good delivery", meaning it met the internationally recognised standards for bullion delivery and could be deposited alongside bullion of the same quality. The Standard Bank account in which it was deposited was in the name of Al Gosaibi Trading Services, one of the companies owned by the al Gosaibi family. But financing such a transaction - the gold was worth about $20m - is a complicated process.

The usual procedure is for the consignee to arrange a letter of credit with the supplier, which is then guaranteed by a bank. In this case, the letter of credit bears the reference number "Awal 157". Awal is the Bahraini bank owned by Mr al Sanea, but which is now in the administration of the Bahrain Central Bank. Ten of the 15 shipping documents bear the Awal reference, while the rest have reference to "TIBC", The International Banking Corporation, the al Gosaibis' Bahraini bank which is similarly in administration.

It is common practice in the trade finance business for those letters of credit to be separately financed by a third party, such as an international bank. This is what happened with the Gosaibi gold. The amounts paid for the bullion were drawn down from lending facilities with these global banks but those borrowings have not been repaid, banking sources say. International banks, so far frozen out of the settlement process in Saudi Arabia or offered derisory amounts by the feuding families, are keen to track down the location and ownership of this bullion, to seize and offset against debts owed them. While most of the bullion ended up in London, two shipments went to other locations.

Also on February 23, some 629kg of "London good delivery" were shipped from Perth on Singapore Airlines flight SQ226/SQ490 to Dubai International Airport. The shipment was delivered to the Brinks Global Services facilities at the Dubai Airport Free Zone, marked for the attention of: "Malcolm Clingham, for account of Al Gosaibi Trading Services Ltd." Again, the financing reference was "Awal 158". Attempts to reach Mr Clingham were unsuccessful. An employee of Brinks in Dubai said he left the company about four months ago.

The other non-London shipment took place on April 29, when 689kg of gold left Perth on Singapore Airlines flight SQ226/SQ346 to Zurich in Switzerland. The shipment was marked for delivery to: "UBS AG Zurich, for account Standard Bank PLC." Although no named consignee account was mentioned on the shipping document, the financing reference was "TIBC 438". The final shipment to arrive in London took place on May 6, when 722kg was placed on a Delta Airlines flight DL94 in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the US. This was marked for the Al Gosaibi Trading Services account at Standard Bank at the JPMorgan Chase building in London. The financing reference was "Awal 177".

So while there is plenty of evidence that the gold shipments took place, there is huge uncertainty about who initiated them, who owns the bullion, and even where the gold is now. The company named as the bullion account holder, Al Gosaibi Trading Services (ATS), is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bahrain-based Al Gosaibi Investment Holdings (AIH), based in Bahrain which is in turn owned by three family members. But the management control of ATS and AIH is in dispute.

In a legal filing in New York, John D Potter, a former general manager of Al Gosaibi Investment Holdings, declared that: "Mr al Sanea exercised complete control over the operations and activities of AIH, to the exclusion or virtual exclusion of the other directors and the shareholders." Lawyers for Mr al Sanea, the London firm of Harbottle & Lewis, declined to comment on the gold shipments. But sources close to the Kuwait-born financier have denied he was involved in the transactions.

Creditor banks, which asked to remain anonymous, have told The National that their inquiries to Standard Bank in London have not so far produced any positive indication of ownership of the bullion, or even confirmation that it is still in Standard's vaults. Through its South African head office, a spokesman for Standard Bank said: "Our executives in London are adamant they cannot comment - not even off the record - as this would be a breach of client confidentiality."

Whoever ends up owning the gold from Perth will at least have made some money out of the Saudi confrontation, which has affected the kingdom's economy and stock market, and ravaged the balance sheets of regional and international banks. The gold price has risen by nearly 50 per cent over the past year. The shipment last November, worth some $28m when QF71 took off from Perth, is now valued at $42m - wherever it might be.

Courtesy of TheNational, we now know that one of the key features of the building at 60 Victoria is that it houses at least the vault of the Standard Bank of South Africa: in other words, somewhere deep underground, there is, indeed, a major gold vault. We also know, that after leasing this location for nearly two decades, JPMorgan decided to take the plunge and bought it outright in 2010, in a transaction that as shown above was a scramble to park cash and to procure the property for sale. In other words, JPM now has sole custodial possession of all the vaulting services offered under its 60 Victoria Embankment address.

So is this where the legendary JPMorgan London vault is located? Certainly nothing short of Blythe Masters admitting on live TV that yes, this is where one of the two largest commercial gold vaults in the UK is located, and as JPM admitted previously, only one of only six commercial vaults in all of London, there will be speculation and one can't be certain.

However, a quick cursory virtual trip around this building using Google's Street View feature shows that this building, barricaded on every side by a dense forest of bollards, is as protected from outside interest (especially of the automotive kind) as any modern day fortress.

The building's entrance on John Carpenter street, just north of Victoria's embankment - bollards everywhere:

The building's reinforced back/delivery entrance: corner of Kingscote and Tudor: barriers, a reinforced gate with a screen on top of it, and even more bollards which surround the entire building and prevent the parking of any cars in proximity to the building:

And finally, not one, but two rows of bollards, cordoning off a 60 foot area in the street on both sides. South view:

And north view:

Needless to say, no car, or any other potential threat, can enter that ~60 foot space from either side.

Is that where, dozens of feet underground, the world's most secretive commercial gold vault is located? Just below what was once the main campus of the City of London School for boys.

h/t Ro

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Zapatistas Break Silence to Slam Mexico Elite

After years of silence, secluded in their base communities in Mexico's impoverished south, indigenous Zapatista rebels have re-emerged with a series of public statements in recent weeks, attempting to reignite passions for their demands of "land, liberty, work and peace".

On January 1, 2013, Subcommandante Marcos released a communique slamming the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its legacy of "theft". The PRI, a party which ruled Mexico for 71 straight years prior to 2000, regained power in December. (Photo: AFP) In December, 40,000 Zapatista supporters marched through villages in Chiapas, re-asserting their presence. In January and February, Subcomandate Marcos - the Zapatistas' pipe-smoking, non-indigenous spokesman and an international media darling - issued a series of communiques slamming the government of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which assumed power in December.

"Our pains won't be lessened by opening ourselves up to those that hurt all over the world," Marcos wrote in late January, rallying supporters. "We will resist. We will struggle. Maybe we'll die. But one, ten, one hundred times, we'll always win."

The group first made international headlines on January 1, 1994, when they captured six towns in Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state and one of the country's poorest regions.

The Rand Corporation, a research group with links to the US military, said Chiapas is "characterised by tremendous age-old gaps between the wealthy and impoverished - kept wide by privileged landowners who ran feudal fiefdoms with private armies".

"The Zapatistas are hoping... that people will create the conditions of autonomy and self-sufficiency in their local areas; they want supporters to bring the ideas of the revolution home."

For nearly two decades, the Zapatistas have attempted to build a system of autonomous governance, emphasising indigenous dignity and collective agriculture. Indigenous members of the group could not be reached by Al Jazeera for comment, due in part to a lack of easy phone access.

'Community building'

The group had been quiet in recent years before the December rally and subsequent communiques. "They have been busy, building up their base as a social movement at the community level, even if they hadn't been in the media," Mark Berger, visiting professor of defence analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School, told Al Jazeera. There are between 100,000 and 200,000 people living in communities which support the Zapatistas, he said.

In recent communiques, Marcos has described Mexico's government as a "zombie state" controlled by the elite, a statement which likely resonates among some sectors of the population in a country plagued by pervasive inequality and corruption. 

Previous attempts to unify Mexico's social movements, from independent trade unionists, to feminists, students, punks and other indigenous people, have been met with mixed results. The "Other Campaign", the last major outreach drive launched by the Zapatistas in 2006, was largely unsuccessful in building a national movement.

"The Other Campaign was very critical of electoral politics and it marked a fracture among the Mexican left," Alán Arias Marín, a political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Al Jazeera. "Locally [in Chiapas] the movement still has support."

Return of the PRI

Meanwhile, though, Mexico has been consumed with other problems, especially drug-related violence. For the last 12 years, Mexico had been governed by the conservative National Action Party (PAN), led by Vicente Fox and later Felipe Calderon. The PAN had little interest in dealing with the Zapatistas or the broader issues faced by indigenous Mexicans. Today, the PAN is out of office in a development that could change dynamics for the Zapatistas.

The PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 uninterrupted years before 2000, was in power when the Zapatistas first rebelled. The return of what Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa called the "perfect dictatorship" in an election last year marred by allegations of fraud could benefit the Zapatistas as they seek to rebuild alliances with social movements outside of Chiapas and reinvigorate their national presence.

"The same people who poured into the Zocalo [Mexico City's main square] to stop the government from imposing a strict military response to the rebellion [in 1994] are still there," Richard Stahler-Sholk, an author of the book Latin American Social Movements in the Twenty-First Century, told Al Jazeera. "The Mexican government has unleashed militarisation on the country, with the encouragement of the US government, in response to drug violence."

More than 70,000 people have died in drug-related mayhem since 2006 and the US has pledged more than $1.4bn in military aid to Mexico under the auspicies of fighting criminal cartels. 

With carnage raging in parts of Mexico, activists calling for a new approach to the "War on Drugs", and an increasingly powerful student movement confronting the PRI, the Zapatistas have plenty of possible allies.

"I think there is a possibility that the Zapatistas and the student movement could well gain a lot more traction under a PRI-dominated political system," Berger said.

Pena Nieto could become a lightning rod for protests, reacquainting the Zapatistas with their historic foe, the PRI. During his tenure as governor of Mexico State, Nieto oversaw the violent police crackdown against demonstrators in the city of San Salvador Atenco in 2006. Two demonstrators were killed and a group of women say they were sexually terrorised by security forces as they protested the extension of an airport.

The student movement #yosoy132 formed after a group of undergraduates questioned Nieto about the attacks during his presidential campaign in 2012. Angered by reports of electoral fraud and the PRI's history of corruption, many students have been challenging the government.

'Net war'

Mexico's youth are not alone in opposing the status quo. 

"What began as a violent insurgency in an isolated region mutated into a nonviolent though no less disruptive social netwar that engaged the attention of activists from far and wide," the Rand Corporation noted in an analysis of the Zapatistas and the internet. 

In mid-January, Anonymous, the diffuse internet activist movement, apparently launched a cyber-attack crashing the website of Mexico's defence ministry, claiming to be in solidarity with the Zapatistas.

According to some analysts, the Zapatistas - and their early use of the internet to draw support - were the precursor of a new type of diffuse social movement such as Occupy Wall Street, #yosoy132, and anti-globalisation protests.

But the tangible benefits of internet activism and the outside support it garners can be fleeting. "The Zapatistas were trendy, and numerous international initiatives supported them," Marín, the professor in Mexico City, said. But with the onset of the US-led war in Iraq, most NGOs started to have different concerns, he said, describing non-government organisations as "very fussy".

In recent communiques, Marcos said the Zapatistas would reappraise their relationships with various foreign and domestic partners. Aid groups, particularly some charities, have been criticised by the masked revolutionaries.

Revolutionary ideas

If the drug war and the thousands of corpses left in its wake helped push the Zapatistas off the international agenda, the return of the PRI might make it easier for them to reclaim a place in national debates.

In the past, the PRI was widely believed to broker deals between the cartels to ensure stability. "The government will stop trying to go to war with organised crime so much," Berger predicted of the new PRI administration. "That will allow more attention to other forms of politics."

It remains unclear if the Zapatistas will be able to capitalise on these potential changes, but their re-emergence in the public eye is being met with interest across Mexico and beyond.

"Recent communications are specifically directed at re-activating their national and international base," said one long-time supporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity from Chiapas due to security concerns. "The Zapatistas are hoping, I think, that people will create the conditions of autonomy and self-sufficiency in their local areas; they want supporters to bring the ideas of the revolution home."

© 2013 Al-Jazeera

Are Iranian Magnets the New Aluminum Tubes?

In the run up to the Iraq War, the New York Times  (9/8/02) famously reported on an Iraqi scheme to procure special aluminum tubes that could only have one purpose:  Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein was attempting to "buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes," and the "diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for Iraq's nuclear program." The claims were false–Iraq, as it turned out, had no nuclear program–but still hugely influential.

Yesterday, on the front page of the Washington Post (2/14/13), reporter Joby Warrick has the scoop on what Iran is evidently up to:

Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.

 Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets–which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions–from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said.

 Warrick explains that this "has fueled Western concerns that Iran is planning a major expansion in its nuclear capacity that would allow it to make atomic weapons quickly if it chooses to do so." That point was underscored by an anonymous source–identified as "a European diplomat with access to sensitive intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter."

We are told that the magnets are "made of an unusual alloy known as barium strontium ferrite" and that, like the Iraq tubes,  they would seem to have only one purpose:

The specific dimensions spelled out in the order form match precisely–to a fraction of a millimeter–those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1, a machine that spins at supersonic speeds to purify uranium gas into an enriched form that can be used in nuclear power plants.

So there are some striking similarities, a little over a decade apart.That's not to say, of course, that yesterday's propaganda is today's propaganda; but perhaps some scrutiny is in order.

For starters, we know that Iran seeks to enrich more uranium for what is thus far known to be a peaceful atomic energy program. That they would attempt to purchase parts for those centrifuges might not be surprising; they are banned from doing so.

FireShot Screen Capture #352 - 'Untitled document - Google Drive' - docs_google_com_document_d_1igjB5Q7EIQOZVQbd_IjbRmtLUMWmm1ys73oO3slbUeU_editAnd some of Iran's enriched uranium stockpile,  as Warrick's report acknowledges, has been converted into a metal form that would be difficult, if not impossible, to use for a nuclear weapon. So the real issue is not that Iran is enriching uranium, or wishes to enrich more of it; the question is what they intend to do with it. And so far all evidence suggests that they're doing what they say they're doing.

On a more technical level: Are these magnets only useful for uranium enrichment? The Post tells readers that these magnets are made of an "unusual alloy" and that the "specific dimensions spelled out in the order form match precisely–to a fraction of a millimeter" those of magnets needed for a specific centrifuge.

But a post at the Moon of Alabama blog (2/14/13) raises some interesting questions.  It argues that the magnets in question could have many industrial uses, and that the any such components would need to be precise–within a "fraction of a millimeter" sounds close enough, but in this kind of mechanical engineering close might not cut it. The document obtained by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) that is the basis of this piece is posted on their website, but the technical details are redacted.

This is important not because it proves the Post is wrong; the point is that recent history tells us that often things are not what they appear to be. With respect to Iran, there was a flood of stories in November 2011–most prominent among them one by the Post's Warrick– that claimed Iran was conducting research on explosives that could only be connected to a nuclear weapons program. But skeptics and experts looked at the intelligence and concluded that the research in question could very easily be part of an industrial nanodiamonds program.

It's worth noting that back in 2002 there was one newspaper that poured cold water on the Iraq tubes story. It was the Washington Post. The reporter? The same Joby Warrick who wrote this story about Iranian magnets. And whose expertise did he rely on? David Albright of ISIS–the very same person pushing the Iran story now.

© 2013 FAIR

Peter Hart

Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly" (Seven Stories Press, 2003).

Are Iranian Magnets the New Aluminum Tubes?

In the run up to the Iraq War, the New York Times  (9/8/02) famously reported on an Iraqi scheme to procure special aluminum tubes that could only have one purpose:  Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein was attempting to "buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes," and the "diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for Iraq's nuclear program." The claims were false–Iraq, as it turned out, had no nuclear program–but still hugely influential.

Yesterday, on the front page of the Washington Post (2/14/13), reporter Joby Warrick has the scoop on what Iran is evidently up to:

Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.

 Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets–which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions–from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said.

 Warrick explains that this "has fueled Western concerns that Iran is planning a major expansion in its nuclear capacity that would allow it to make atomic weapons quickly if it chooses to do so." That point was underscored by an anonymous source–identified as "a European diplomat with access to sensitive intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter."

We are told that the magnets are "made of an unusual alloy known as barium strontium ferrite" and that, like the Iraq tubes,  they would seem to have only one purpose:

The specific dimensions spelled out in the order form match precisely–to a fraction of a millimeter–those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1, a machine that spins at supersonic speeds to purify uranium gas into an enriched form that can be used in nuclear power plants.

So there are some striking similarities, a little over a decade apart.That's not to say, of course, that yesterday's propaganda is today's propaganda; but perhaps some scrutiny is in order.

For starters, we know that Iran seeks to enrich more uranium for what is thus far known to be a peaceful atomic energy program. That they would attempt to purchase parts for those centrifuges might not be surprising; they are banned from doing so.

FireShot Screen Capture #352 - 'Untitled document - Google Drive' - docs_google_com_document_d_1igjB5Q7EIQOZVQbd_IjbRmtLUMWmm1ys73oO3slbUeU_editAnd some of Iran's enriched uranium stockpile,  as Warrick's report acknowledges, has been converted into a metal form that would be difficult, if not impossible, to use for a nuclear weapon. So the real issue is not that Iran is enriching uranium, or wishes to enrich more of it; the question is what they intend to do with it. And so far all evidence suggests that they're doing what they say they're doing.

On a more technical level: Are these magnets only useful for uranium enrichment? The Post tells readers that these magnets are made of an "unusual alloy" and that the "specific dimensions spelled out in the order form match precisely–to a fraction of a millimeter" those of magnets needed for a specific centrifuge.

But a post at the Moon of Alabama blog (2/14/13) raises some interesting questions.  It argues that the magnets in question could have many industrial uses, and that the any such components would need to be precise–within a "fraction of a millimeter" sounds close enough, but in this kind of mechanical engineering close might not cut it. The document obtained by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) that is the basis of this piece is posted on their website, but the technical details are redacted.

This is important not because it proves the Post is wrong; the point is that recent history tells us that often things are not what they appear to be. With respect to Iran, there was a flood of stories in November 2011–most prominent among them one by the Post's Warrick– that claimed Iran was conducting research on explosives that could only be connected to a nuclear weapons program. But skeptics and experts looked at the intelligence and concluded that the research in question could very easily be part of an industrial nanodiamonds program.

It's worth noting that back in 2002 there was one newspaper that poured cold water on the Iraq tubes story. It was the Washington Post. The reporter? The same Joby Warrick who wrote this story about Iranian magnets. And whose expertise did he rely on? David Albright of ISIS–the very same person pushing the Iran story now.

© 2013 FAIR

Peter Hart

Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly" (Seven Stories Press, 2003).

Big Corporations Put Up Seed Funding for Republican Dark Money Group


Just a sample of the State Government Leadership Foundation's work.

By Justin Elliott, ProPublica

Some of the nation's biggest corporations donated more than a million dollars to launch a Republican nonprofit that went on to play a key role in recent political fights.

Like the nonprofit groups that poured money into last year's elections, the decade-old State Government Leadership Foundation has been able to keep the identities of its funders secret. Until now.

A records request by ProPublica to the IRS turned up a list of the original funders of the group: Exxon, Pfizer, Time Warner, and other corporations put up at least 85 percent of the $1.3 million the foundation raised in the first year and a half of its existence, starting in 2003.

The donor list is stamped "not for public disclosure," and was submitted to the IRS as part of the foundation's application for recognition of tax-exempt status. If approved, such applications are public records.

The foundation and other similar nonprofits are allowed to take anonymous and unlimited donations from individuals or corporations. That's because they are classified as "social welfare" nonprofits, which are supposed to benefit the community at large, and not just one group or political party.

Last year, we reported how the State Government Leadership Foundation paid for Republican redistricting consultants to draw new congressional district maps in North Carolina. The resulting gerrymander helped flip the state's congressional delegation to Republicans.

In recent years, the foundation has also funded TV ads targeting Democrats during the 2011 Wisconsin showdown over collective bargaining rights; attacking President Obama in Virginia over his energy policy; and accusing teachers unions of "destroying our children's future."

The foundation also gave $1.25 million in 2011 to the Indiana Opportunity Fund, a state-level nonprofit that ran anti-union ads featuring Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. (That group was founded by attorney Jim Bopp, who has long fought against campaign finance regulation.)

The foundation's single-biggest early donor was the now-defunct mortgage lender Ameriquest, which gave more than $260,000. (We contacted a number of the companies on the list; they did not respond to requests for comment.) Corporate trade associations including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Edison Electric Institute, and the American Tort Reform Association also pitched in, each giving between $50,000 and $100,000.

The foundation's affiliated organization, the Republican State Leadership Committee, focuses on winning state-level elections for the GOP and also gets corporate money, including from tobacco and insurance giants.  As an explicitly political organization, the committee has to disclose its donors.

By contrast, the recent funders of the foundation, which took in $2.5 million in 2011 including a single donation of $1 million, are still secret.

The foundation applied for IRS recognition as a social welfare group in late 2003 but was initially rejected. The IRS concluded the foundation was "a partisan organization" that "operated primarily for the benefit of a select group" – the GOP. Social welfare groups, the IRS' rejection letter noted, must promote the "general welfare of the whole community" — not a particular group.

The foundation's lawyers from the firm Arent Fox fired back in an appeal, arguing that the foundation was not a partisan outfit.

The foundation, according to the 2005 appeal, "was created to promote public debate" about issues including pharmaceuticals, securities regulation, and asbestos litigation.

"It may be useful to describe what the SGLF is not," the appeal says. "The SGLF:

• Is not affiliated with the Republican Party in any way;

• Does not meet with or coordinate its activities with the Republican Party;

• Does not make contributions to, or accept contributions from, the Republican Party;

• Does not participate in political campaigns, elections or publish electioneering messages on behalf of any candidate or party;

• Does not invite Representatives of the Republican Party to speak at its events, and

• Does not participate in the Republican Party platform, does not recruit or train Republican candidates, does not fundraise for Republican candidates, and does not coordinate its issue selection or policy positions with the Republican Party.

In 2007, more than three years after the foundation's application, the IRS ultimately recognized it as a tax-exempt social welfare group.

But the group's protestations that it has nothing to do with the GOP seems at odds with its recent activities. Besides running ads attacking Democrats, the foundation was involved in redistricting in several states to, as the foundation put it in a letter to Republican legislators, draw "legislative lines that we will have to defend in 2012 and beyond."

Foundation spokesperson Jill Bader told ProPublica that since its creation the foundation's "activities have evolved in some ways from those that were originally contemplated and conducted by the organization."

Bader continued: "SGLF's present activities are in strict compliance with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code and all future SGLF activities will be in strict compliance as well."

REVEALED: Donors Trust is the Secret ATM Machine for Climate Deniers

WASHINGTON - February 15 - A new Greenpeace analysis released today shows that Donors Trust, a shadowy funding vehicle, has laundered $146 million in climate denial funding from 2002 to 2011. Yesterday’s article in the Guardian referenced part of the Greenpeace analysis. Today’s report is now up to date with the latest available funding from 2011. As climate denial funding from traceable Big Oil sources like Exxon and the Koch brothers is declining, the anonymous money funneled through Donors Trust is skyrocketing.

This interesting coincidence is illustrated in the graph from the Greenpeace report:Big Oil funding of climate denial declines... "Anonymous" funding through Donors Trust skyrockets. Interesting.

In addition to today’s Greenpeace analysis, yesterday a Center for Public Integrity report detailed the efforts of Donors Trust to set up conservative media megaphones in state capitals. Today, the Guardian reported that these ideological media outlets have been instrumental in anti-climate fights at the state level. These include state and regional attacks against wind power, solar power, and carbon pollution reduction programs.

The key findings of the Greenpeace analysis on Donors Trust:

  • Donors Trust and its associated organization, Donors Capital Fund, have funded 102 climate-denial organizations since 2002.
  • From 2002 to 2011, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund have provided $146 million to climate denial groups.
  • In 2010, a dozen climate denial groups received between 30% to 70% of their funding from Donors Trust, including the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, as well as Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)
  • Additional climate denial organizations that have received major funding in recent years by Donors Trust include the Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute and the James Partnership (Cornwall Alliance).

Wait, so what is Donors Trust, exactly? It’s a shadowy funding operation for anti-government extremists and climate deniers. The mission of Donors Trust is to provide ultra-conservative funders a way to support their controversial pet-causes without leaving fingerprints on the grants.

But don’t take our word for it – here’s an excerpt from the Donors Trust FAQ webpage:

Who is behind this untraceable money? It’s impossible to track all of the big-pockets hiding behind Donors Trust. One notable individual is Charles Koch, the secretive oil billionaire who was discovered to have funneled $8 million through Donors Trust from two of his foundations. And that’s only the amount that we can track – we don’t know the full extent of the Koch’s account with Donors Trust.

As posted yesterday on our blog and detailed in another great Guardian article, several climate denial organizations rely on Donors Trust for a large share of their budgets. The Heartland Institute, creator of the famously reviled “Unabomber billboard” and coordinators of the annual Denial-palooza conference, relies heavily on a single anonymous donor that sends money through Donors Trust. According to internal Heartland plans leaked to the public, this Anonymous Donor has been responsible for up to 60% of the organization’s annual revenue, with the majority of fund earmarked to “global warming programs.” Even though the leaked documents prove this money is specific for climate projects, the Donors Trust tax forms only disclose the funding’s purpose as “general operations.”

The deep dependence on Donors Trust by climate deniers goes far beyond the Heartland Institute. Marc Morano’s organization, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, has received between 40% and 46% of its budget through Donors Trust in recent years. Morano was named 2012 “Climate Misinformer of the Year,” often found as a talking head on Fox News or CNN denying that human activity is affecting the climate. In response to the President’s 2013 State of the Union address, Morano published a point by point rebuttal to the section on climate change.

CFACT is among over a dozen organizations that get 30% to 70% of their total budgets from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. Other noteworthy groups include Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Cornwall Alliance (James Partnership), and the State Policy Network.

Independent campaigning organization that uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Rand Paul Asks Serious Questions about Targeted Killings

The Politico went to some effort, it seems, to dismiss Rand Paul’s concerns about the drone program (as well as his threat to hold John Brennan’s nomination if and when it gets out of the Senate Intelligence Committee).

But Paul’s two letters on the subject are actually far more serious than those mocking them make out (the first one also brings the tally of congressional requests for the targeted killing memos to 19).

For example, Paul is one of the few people asking any questions about non-US citizens.

Do you believe that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil? What about the use of lethal force against a non-U.S. person on U.S. soil?

He also asks how the National Security Act and Posse Comitatus might play into a domestic strike.

Do you believe that the prohibition on CIA participation in domestic law enforcement, first established by the National Security Act of 1947, would apply to the use of lethal force, especially lethal force directed at an individual on a targeting list, if a U.S. citizen on a targeting list was found to be operating on U.S. soil? What if the individual on the targeting list was a non-U.S. person but found to be operating on U.S. soil? Do you consider such an operation to be domestic law enforcement, or would it only be subject to the president’s wartime powers?

[...] Do you believe that the Posse Comitatus Act, or any other prohibition on the use of the military in domestic law enforcement, would prohibit the use of military hardware and/or personnel in pursuing terrorism suspects—especially those on a targeting list—found to be operating on U.S. soil? If not, would you support the use of such assets in pursuit of either U.S. citizen or non-U.S. persons on U.S. soil suspected of terrorist activity?

And (here in his first letter to Brennan) Paul asks the seemingly unspeakable question: how 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki came to be killed by a US drone.

What role did you play in approving the drone strike that led to the death of the underage, U.S. citizen son of Anwar al-Awlaki? Unlike his father, he had not renounced his U.S. citizenship. Was the younger al-Awlaki the intended target of the U.S. drone strike which took his life? Further, do you reject the subsequent claim, apparently originating from anonymous U.S. government sources, that the young man had actually been a “military age male” of 20 years or more of age, something that was later proven false by the release of his birth certificate?

Paul even asks a question limited largely to Yemen experts — whether or expanding campaign there is really about counterinsurgency rather than counterterrorism.

Is the U.S. drone strike strategy exclusively focused on targeting al Qaeda, or is it also conducting counterinsurgency operations against militants seeking to further undermine their government, such as in Yemen?

Finally, Paul slips this question in, which has nothing to do with targeted killings, but has everything to do with Brennan’s seeming disinterest in the privacy of the American people.

Do you support the Attorney General’s 2012 guidance to the NCTC that it may deliberately collect, store, and “continually assess” massive amounts of data on all U.S. citizens for potential correlations to terrorism, even if the U.S. citizens targeted have no known ties to terrorism?

Now, to Politico this may be a big game. But Paul is asking a lot of questions that no one else in DC is asking (note: he may have more leeway to ask such questions than, say, Ron Wyden, who has presumably been read into some of these answers).

Which is, I guess, how the Village now defines wacko: those people who asks the questions they’re too afraid to ask.

NRA Working to Elect Pro-Gun Judges and Prosecutors

WASHINGTON - February 14 - Today, as the gun control debate continues on the national stage, the Center for American Progress released “NRA Working to Elect Pro-Gun Judges and Prosecutors,” which traces the millions of dollars that the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, or LEAA, has spent in state races—with the help of the National Rifle Association—to elect candidates that grant broad rights to gun owners and curtail the rights of criminal defendants. This analysis also details the LEAA’s NRA-funded efforts to keep cities and counties from adopting gun-control reforms to keep their communities safer.

Founded and heavily funded by the National Rifle Association, the LEAA operates at the state and local level opposing common-sense gun reforms such as background checks, bans on assault weapons, and measures to keep guns out of the hands of people on the federal government’s “Terrorist Watchlist.” While the LEAA’s refusal to disclose the source of its funding makes it difficult to ascertain the full extent to which the NRA has supported the organization, the NRA’s tax documents reveal that it gave at least $2 million to the organization between 2000 and 2010. Previous media reports indicate that the NRA donated $500,000 annually to the organization from 1995 to 2002, which would total more than $5 million.

By funding the LEAA, the NRA has helped purchase ads supporting pro-gun candidates for state supreme courts and state attorneys general. The judges and prosecutors elected with the aid of LEAA funding have carried out their duties in accord with the values of the LEAA and the NRA. Some examples include:

  • Former Republican Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore was elected with the aid of the LEAA, and his campaigns have also received $11,000 directly from the NRA and its employees. Upon taking office in 2002, Kilgore moved to limit the reach of the “Uniform Machine Gun Act,” which prohibits “aggressive” use of a machine gun. Kilgore also issued a ruling that the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation had no power to ban concealed handguns in state parks.
  • Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan was elected in 2010 after the LEAA ran ads attacking his opponent. In 2011 he granted gun owners in his state the right to use silencers if licensed by the federal government. The press release from Schuette’s office on the topic quoted an NRA spokesperson describing silencers as “useful safety devices.”
  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also a Republican, was first elected in 2002, after the LEAA ran ads attacking his opponent. In November 2012 he issued an opinion stating that employers could not enact policies that prohibited employees from keeping concealed weapons in their vehicles.
  • The Mississippi Supreme Court—with three judges elected after millions in ads paid for by the LEAA—ruled in September 2012 that a local Wal-Mart store was not liable for knowingly selling ammunition to a “straw purchaser” later used in a murder.

Since the LEAA was launched with NRA funding in 1991, restrictions on political spending by corporations and independent spending groups have been struck down by federal courts in cases such as Citizens United. The NRA has been a vocal opponent of proposed legislation to shed some light on the opaque funding of independent spenders. Without more effective disclosure rules, elections for judicial and prosecutorial offices can expect more attack ads from anonymous donors intent on shaping our state justice systems.

Read the full analysis here.

Related resources:

To speak with CAP experts on this topic, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or [email protected].

The Center for American Progress is a think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action. We combine bold policy ideas with a modern communications platform to help shape the national debate, expose the hollowness of conservative governing philosophy, and challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter.

NRA Working to Elect Pro-Gun Judges and Prosecutors

WASHINGTON - February 14 - Today, as the gun control debate continues on the national stage, the Center for American Progress released “NRA Working to Elect Pro-Gun Judges and Prosecutors,” which traces the millions of dollars that the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, or LEAA, has spent in state races—with the help of the National Rifle Association—to elect candidates that grant broad rights to gun owners and curtail the rights of criminal defendants. This analysis also details the LEAA’s NRA-funded efforts to keep cities and counties from adopting gun-control reforms to keep their communities safer.

Founded and heavily funded by the National Rifle Association, the LEAA operates at the state and local level opposing common-sense gun reforms such as background checks, bans on assault weapons, and measures to keep guns out of the hands of people on the federal government’s “Terrorist Watchlist.” While the LEAA’s refusal to disclose the source of its funding makes it difficult to ascertain the full extent to which the NRA has supported the organization, the NRA’s tax documents reveal that it gave at least $2 million to the organization between 2000 and 2010. Previous media reports indicate that the NRA donated $500,000 annually to the organization from 1995 to 2002, which would total more than $5 million.

By funding the LEAA, the NRA has helped purchase ads supporting pro-gun candidates for state supreme courts and state attorneys general. The judges and prosecutors elected with the aid of LEAA funding have carried out their duties in accord with the values of the LEAA and the NRA. Some examples include:

  • Former Republican Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore was elected with the aid of the LEAA, and his campaigns have also received $11,000 directly from the NRA and its employees. Upon taking office in 2002, Kilgore moved to limit the reach of the “Uniform Machine Gun Act,” which prohibits “aggressive” use of a machine gun. Kilgore also issued a ruling that the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation had no power to ban concealed handguns in state parks.
  • Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan was elected in 2010 after the LEAA ran ads attacking his opponent. In 2011 he granted gun owners in his state the right to use silencers if licensed by the federal government. The press release from Schuette’s office on the topic quoted an NRA spokesperson describing silencers as “useful safety devices.”
  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also a Republican, was first elected in 2002, after the LEAA ran ads attacking his opponent. In November 2012 he issued an opinion stating that employers could not enact policies that prohibited employees from keeping concealed weapons in their vehicles.
  • The Mississippi Supreme Court—with three judges elected after millions in ads paid for by the LEAA—ruled in September 2012 that a local Wal-Mart store was not liable for knowingly selling ammunition to a “straw purchaser” later used in a murder.

Since the LEAA was launched with NRA funding in 1991, restrictions on political spending by corporations and independent spending groups have been struck down by federal courts in cases such as Citizens United. The NRA has been a vocal opponent of proposed legislation to shed some light on the opaque funding of independent spenders. Without more effective disclosure rules, elections for judicial and prosecutorial offices can expect more attack ads from anonymous donors intent on shaping our state justice systems.

Read the full analysis here.

Related resources:

To speak with CAP experts on this topic, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or [email protected].

The Center for American Progress is a think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action. We combine bold policy ideas with a modern communications platform to help shape the national debate, expose the hollowness of conservative governing philosophy, and challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter.

Deaths, lies and the NHS: Shocking new healthcare scandals emerge in UK

A British health manager warned the boss of the NHS four years ago that his hospital was a threat to patients’ safety. A nationwide investigation into avoidable hospital deaths has found that such warnings from doctors were often silenced or ignored.

­Gary Walker, the former chief of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, was silenced in 2010 under a £500,000 ‘super gag’ agreement; he is now risking legal action by the NHS by speaking out. Walker reportedly received the payment last year; his former employer now faces a major investigation over its unusually high death rates, in the midst of the Stafford inquiry fallout.

Walker said that the chief of the NHS chief was “not interested in patient safety,” and called on him to resign to end the “culture of fear” he had created in the NHS, Britain’s Daily Mail reported.

Walker spoke to the BBC in an exclusive interview for its ‘Today’ show on Radio 4, in which he explained that his hands had been tied: “I was in danger of losing my house – I have children to support. And one thing you must remember that if you're attacking the very top of the NHS the sanctions are pretty dramatic.”

On Tuesday, shortly after learning of his plans to appear on national radio, the NHS wrote a letter to Walker reminding that, “If you have provided an interview or should this interview proceed you will be in clear breach of the agreement and as a result the Trust would be entitled to recover from you the payments made under the agreement.”

The letter reiterated that he was legally obliged not to inform anyone, besides family, of the terms of the gag agreement. The letter was released by the Lincolnshire Independents, a minor British political party, alongside other correspondences. The party said it was “shocked at the documents we have uncovered.”

Walker was fired in 2010, allegedly for using profanity during meetings. He and his supporters claimed that he was forced out for whistleblowing.

Leaked Letters reveal systemic neglect

New leaked letters have shown that doctor concerns over the Lincolnshire hospital were constantly ignored, despite that medical staff often challenged management about policies that threatened patient safety. The number of ‘excess’ deaths at Lincolnshire Hospital stood at 677 between 2009 and 2012, according to David Bowles, the former chair of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust. Bowles said he quit over such dangerous target-setting.

In one letter, a doctor described a complex 10-hour medical procedure as a “major operation with major risks attached.” The patient’s operation was then postponed, because there were no Intensive Care Unit beds available at Lincolnshire Hospital in central England.

Another letter outlined the serious threat to the public caused by excessive targets, as well as intimidation from above: “I must make you aware of my concerns about the balance between patient safety and targets and inform you that in my view the current bullish and sometimes ruthless pressure from above on the management team in my Directorate is unfair and unacceptable,” a clinical director told Paul Richardson, NHS Trust Chair of United Lincolnshire Hospitals.

One more anonymous doctor begins, “I am writing in the immediate aftermath of today’s tragic death of an otherwise well patient,” adding that ward staffing levels were inadequate for postoperative care, and that the “enormous pressure” exerted by target requirements resulted in ad-hoc arrangements for short notice surgery.

Lincolnshire Hospital is one of nine others that over the last week were slated to be investigated for unusually high death rates in the wake of the Stafford inquiry results. The Stafford inquiry was part of a long-term investigation into the hospital’s filthy wards, unnecessary deaths and understaffing.

Stafford Inquiry

The revelation comes shortly after inquiries into some 1,000 ‘avoidable’ UK hospital deaths in Stafford, central England, which concluded earlier this month that “corporate self-interest and cost-control” were to blame for the wider-scale NHS problems that allowed the deaths to happen.

Inquiry head Robert Francis, QC, urged for greater protection for NHS whistleblowers, as it emerged that many who try to speak out against hospital management are silenced. Many complaints were voiced about standards of patient care at the central England hospital, but they either went ignored or were given no adequate response, despite the approximately 1,000 deaths.

Harrowing accounts of poor standards of care and hygiene and patients dying in undignified circumstances plagued the institution; further reports emerged of patient neglect and the failure to supply basic provisions.

One patient’s relative reported that health and safety rules prevented drinks from being left out at night, leading thirsty patients to drink water out of a flower vase. Relatives of two other patients reported that their family members had been dropped.  

Others fell victim to deadly infections rampant in the filthy wards, such as the superbugs C. dificile and MRSA. One relative said that her mother was so badly infected with C. dificile that she had to be buried in a sealed body bag.


Whistleblowers silenced

There have been serious attempts to discredit, bully, or fire NHS whistleblowers, which resulted in a media scandal last August.

Kay Sheldon, a board member of a UK healthcare watchdog, raised concerns that poor leadership and performance were a threat to public safety. She was diagnosed as possibly suffering from schizophrenia by an external assessor in a clear attempt to discredit her.

Many whistleblowers fear reprisal, as it there is a high possibility that they could be fired by those they raise concerns about. And in September, Labour MP Katy Clarke pointed out that lawyers representing the NHS were all too often silenced using gagging clauses when settling employment cases.



“I warned [David Nicholson, NHS boss] that Lincolnshire was going to become the next Mid Staffordshire. He didn’t investigate those concerns, and now look what’s happened,” Walker said.

“We cannot allow the disgraceful culture highlighted in the Mid-Staffordshire report to put Lincolnshire patients at risk,” said Chris Brewis, an independent politician on the Health Scrutiny Committee at Lincolnshire County Council.

As If Teachers Don’t Have It Hard Enough, They Deal With Guns, Too

In case you just thought teachers were under fire from those who want to break their unions and kill their jobs by handing them to charter schools, guess again. Every day, teachers get to walk into their classrooms and wonder whether or not one of their students is angry enough to do something like this:

A Poway student sent a threatening email over the weekend to a Twin Peaks Middle School administrator stating he planned to shoot a teacher and 23 fellow students at the school on Monday morning.

Detectives from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department investigated the alleged shooting threat Saturday and found numerous rifles and handguns in the 12-year-old student's home.

According to officials, the email threat -- which was sent to a school administrator Friday night -- made reference to 3,000 rounds of ammunition as well as numerous firearms in the planned shooting at the Poway middle school located at 14640 Tierra Bonita Rd.

NBC 7 spoke exclusively with the teacher referenced in the email. She wishes to remain anonymous to protect her safety.

"I kept asking myself, `Why me?' Literally wracking my brain trying to figure out who it is," she said.

Twin Peaks Middle School has been in the news recently for bullying incidents. It's not clear there's any relationship, but it sounds like there are some unresolved and long-standing bullying issues going on at the school.

10News reported this last Friday:

Cell phone video obtained by 10News shows a fight between two eighth graders from a Poway middle school.

Family members of one of the boys said their son was being bullied and criticized Twin Peaks Middle School of not doing enough. They claimed that their son's classmate beat and threatened him.

The video shows one boy trying to fend another, and he was on the receiving end of a flurry of punches and kicks. The fight happened last October and off-campus.

A third boy captured the incident on his cell phone and posted it on Facebook.

The father of the victim told 10News that his son's life was threatened.

“Starin' him down; told him he's gonna kill him; kill our whole family," Jerrod Christian told 10News what happened to his son.

He said he reported the incident to the San Diego Sheriff's Department and school officials, but little was done.

That's the environment teachers are expected to enter on a daily basis to make sure these kids achieve whatever success they're expected to achieve on standardized tests. As for the claim that the guns in the home of that middle schooler were locked up and there was no access to the key, we know how easily that changes, don't we?

Marco Rubio and the Republican Ibogaine Problem

Senator Marco Rubio was apparently high last night.

Yes, there was another Republican response to the State of the Union. And it was, yet again, a disaster.

After watching the President address Congress for more than an hour without taking a water break, the nation learned Tuesday night that Marco Rubio can't give a five-minute speech without awkwardly lunging off camera to wet his lips.

Most in the Republican Party cringed at the moment, muttering to themselves, "Oh no, not again."

And right away, the media jumped on the often-repeated meme that the Republican response to the State of the Union is a curse against any politician who offers it.

But I'm here to tell you that, in fact, there's a very real explanation – rooted in science – for why Republicans can't seem to get a State of the Union response right. It's highly likely it's because the politicians the Republican Party chooses each year to give the Republicans' response to the State of the Union are all using a drug known as ibogaine.

Ibogaine is a psychoactive drug extracted from the iboga plant that induces wild hallucinations. In 1972, noted Doctor of Journalism Hunter S. Thompson was on the campaign trail reporting on the race for the Democratic nomination for President for Rolling Stone magazine when he suggested that one of the candidates, Edmund Muskie, was acting erratically because he was using ibogaine.

Thompson described the drug as "an exotic brand of speed ... [that] nobody in the press corps had ever heard of." He added, "It is entirely conceivable—given the known effects of ibogaine—that Muskie's brain was almost paralyzed by hallucinations...He looked out at that crowd and saw Gila monsters instead of people . . . his mind snapped completely when he felt something large and apparently vicious clawing at his legs."

Thompson claimed he was "simply reporting on rumors" he heard on the campaign trail regarding Muskie and the ibogaine addiction. (He later admitted that he was also the one who started those rumors.)

And, in the great tradition of the late Hunter S. Thompson, I think it's entirely possible the Republican Party is full of ibogaine users.

How else can you explain their behavior?

Remember Bobby Jindal – the Republican picked to respond to President Obama's State of the Union in 2009? Go back and watch the tape, watch Jindal's eyes and inflection, and you tell me that guy isn't on ibogaine.

And then there was Michelle Bachmann giving the "Tea Party" response in 2011. Was she really just "looking at the wrong camera?" Or, was she distracted by a pack of Gila monsters clawing toward her just off camera?

Heck, Michele Bachmann looked to be on so much ibogaine after the 2010 midterm elections that Chris Matthews had to ask her if she was "

"No, Chris, I'm not hypnotized. I just feel like I'm talking to a giant squid in a suit."

But, here's where everything really falls into place.

One well known side effect of ibogaine use is "dry mouth."

Check out Paul Ryan, during the vice-presidential debate; he took a water break 22 different times. What's behind the sudden onset of dry mouth you ask? Ibogaine, obviously.

And then there's what happened last night. Remember all the sweat dripping from Marco Rubio's brow? Well, you'd be drenched in sweaty fear, too, if the camera was slowly morphing into a blood-thirsty spider. Between that and the dry mouth, Rubio couldn't take it anymore and had to dive off camera.

So, yet, another Republican politician, another bout of dry mouth, and another erratic response to the State of the Union.

And don't forget about Rand Paul's "Tea Party" response last night. If anyone doubts that Rand is addicted to ibogaine like the rest of his Party, I have two words for you: Aqua Buddha.

I know the drug warriors out there are calling for the Republican Party to drug-test their future State of the Union responders, just like they want to drug-test welfare recipients. But, instead, we should be doing the compassionate thing. We should realize that Republicans don't live in a "reality-based" or "fact-based" world because of ibogane. And we need to expand Obamacare to cover treatment programs for Senators, so these helpless Republicans can stop embarrassing themselves on national TV.

So, don't worry, Republicans. All those crazy things - people riding dinosaurs cause the world is only 6000 years old, global warming being a hoax, John Boehner looking like a giant carrot wearing a suit - all those things are just the result of your ibogaine use. Even the really crazy things, like Reaganomics, transvaginal probes, and Wayne LaPierre, will go away when you get some help for your medical condition.

We're here for you, working to help you with your problem. Colorado and Washington state have already thrown you a lifeline, legislating a much less destructive alternative, that might even put you in touch with mother Earth and help you see the errors of your ways. And there's always the Ibogaine Anonymous group that meets on Thursdays in the basement of the Reagan Republican building just down the street from the Capitol.

As President Obama said so many times, there IS hope! So don't give into those Gila monsters chewing on your legs - they're no more real than the Welfare Queen Reagan hallucinated or the illegal voters you're working so hard to stop. Chill out and get some help...

Obama and the Illusory State of the Empire

obama

Barack Obama would never be so crass as to use a State of the Union (SOTU) address to announce an “axis of evil”.

No. Double O Bama, equipped with his exclusive license to kill (list), is way slicker. As much as he self-confidently pitched a blueprint for a “smart” – not bigger – US government, he kept his foreign policy cards very close to his chest.

Few eyebrows were raised on the promise that “by the end of next year our war in Afghanistan will be over”; it won’t be, of course, because Washington will fight to the finish to keep sizeable counterinsurgency boots on the ground – ostensibly to fight, in Obama’s words, those evil “remnants of al-Qaeda”.

Obama promised to “help” Libya, Yemen and Somalia, not to mention Mali. He promised to “engage” Russia. He promised to seduce Asia with the Trans-Pacific Partnership – essentially a collection of corporate-friendly free-trade agreements. On the Middle East, he promised to “stand” with those who want freedom; that presumably does not include people from Bahrain.

As this was Capitol Hill, he could not help but include the token “preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons”; putting more “pressure” on Syria – whose “regime kills its own people”; and to remain “steadfast” with Israel.

North Korea was mentioned. Always knowing what to expect from the horse’s mouth, the foreign ministry in Pyongyang even issued a preemptive attack, stressing that this week’s nuclear test was just a “first response” to US threats; “second and third measures of greater intensity” would be unleashed if Washington continued to be hostile.

Obama didn’t even bother to answer criticism of his shadow wars, the Drone Empire and the legal justification for unleashing target practice on US citizens; he mentioned, in passing, that all these operations would be conducted in a “transparent” way. Is that all there is? Oh no, there’s way more.

Double O’s game

Since 9/11, Washington’s strategy during the George W Bush years – penned by the neo-cons – read like a modified return to land war. But then, after the Iraq quagmire, came a late strategic adjustment, which could be defined as the Petraeus vs Rumsfeld match. The Petraeus “victory” myth, based on his Mesopotamian surge, in fact provided Obama with an opening for leaving Iraq with the illusion of a relative success (a myth comprehensively bought and sold by US corporate media).

Then came the Lisbon summit in late 2010, which was set up to turn the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into a clone of the UN Security Council in a purely Western format, capable of deploying autonomous military interventions – preemption included – all over the world. This was nothing less than classic Bush-Obama continuum.

NATO’s Lisbon summit seemed to have enthroned a Neoliberal Paradise vision of the complex relations between war and the economy; between the military and police operations; and between perennial military hardware upgrading and the political design of preemptive global intervention. Everything, once again, under Obama’s supervision.

The war in Afghanistan, for its part, was quite useful to promote NATO as much as NATO was useful to promote the war in Afghanistan – even if NATO did not succeed in becoming the Security Council of the global American Empire, always bent on dominating, or circumventing, the UN.

Whatever mission NATO is involved in, command and control is always Washington’s. Only the Pentagon is able to come up with the logistics for a transcontinental, global military operation. Libya 2011 is another prime example. At the start, the French and the Brits were coordinating with the Americans. But then Stuttgart-based AFRICOM took over the command and control of Libyan skies. Everything NATO did afterwards in Libya, the virtual commander in chief was Barack Obama.

So Obama owns Libya. As much as Obama owns the Benghazi blowback in Libya.

Libya seemed to announce the arrival of NATO as a coalition assembly line on a global scale, capable of organizing wars all across the world by creating the appearance of a political and military consensus, unified by an all-American doctrine of global order pompously titled “NATO’s strategic concept”.

Libya may have been “won” by the NATO-AFRICOM combo. But then came the Syria red line, duly imposed by Russia and China. And in Mali – which is blowback from Libya – NATO is not even part of the picture; the French may believe they will secure all the gold and uranium they need in the Sahel – but it’s AFRICOM who stands to benefit in the long term, boosting its military surge against Chinese interests in Africa.

What is certain is that throughout this convoluted process Obama has been totally embedded in the logic of what sterling French geopolitical analyst Alain Joxe described as “war neoliberalism”, inherited from the Bush years; one may see it as a champagne definition of the Pentagon’s long, or infinite, war.

Double O’s legacy

Obama’s legacy may be in the process of being forged. We might call it Shadow War Forever – coupled with the noxious permanence of Guantanamo. The Pentagon for its part will never abandon its “full spectrum” dream of military hegemony, ideally controlling the future of the world in all those shades of grey zones between Russia and China, the lands of Islam and India, and Africa and Asia.

Were lessons learned? Of course not. Double O Bama may have hardly read Nick Turse’s exceptional book Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, where he painstakingly documents how the Pentagon produced “a veritable system of suffering”. Similar analysis of the long war on Iraq might only be published by 2040.

Obama can afford to be self-confident because the Drone Empire is safe. [1] Most Americans seem to absent-mindedly endorse it – as long as “the terrorists” are alien, not US citizens. And in the minor netherworlds of the global war on terror (GWOT), myriad profiteers gleefully dwell.

A former Navy SEAL and a former Green Beret have published a book this week, Benghazi: the Definitive Report, where they actually admit Benghazi was blowback for the shadow war conducted by John Brennan, later rewarded by Obama as the new head of the CIA.

The book claims that Petraeus was done in by an internal CIA coup, with senior officers forcing the FBI to launch an investigation of his affair with foxy biographer Paula Broadwell. The motive: these CIA insiders were furious because Petraeus turned the agency into a paramilitary force. Yet that’s exactly what Brennan will keep on doing: Drone Empire, shadow wars, kill list, it’s all there. Petraeus-Brennan is also classic continuum.

Then there’s Esquire milking for all it’s worth the story of an anonymous former SEAL Team 6 member, the man who shot Geronimo, aka Osama bin Laden. [2] This is familiar territory, the hagiography of a Great American Killer, whose “three shots changed history”, now abandoned by a couldn’t-care-less government machinery but certainly not by those who can get profitable kicks from his saga way beyond the technically proficient torture-enabling flick – and Oscar contender – Zero Dark Thirty.

Meanwhile, this is what’s happening in the real world. China has surpassed the US and is now the biggest trading nation in the world – and counting. [3] This is just the first step towards the establishment of the yuan as a globally traded currency; then will come the yuan as the new global reserve currency, connected to the end of the primacy of the petrodollar… Well, we all know the drill.

So that would lead us to reflect on the real political role of the US in the Obama era. Defeated (by Iraqi nationalism) – and in retreat – in Iraq. Defeated (by Pashtun nationalism) – and in retreat – in Afghanistan. Forever cozy with the medieval House of Saud – “secret” drone bases included (something that was widely known as early as July 2011). [4] “Pivoting” to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, and pivoting to a whole bunch of African latitudes; all that to try to “contain” China.

Thus the question Obama would never dare to ask in a SOTU address (much less in a SOTE – State of the Empire – address). Does the US remain a global imperial power? Or are the Pentagon’s – and the shadow CIA’s – armies nothing more than mercenaries of a global neoliberal system the US still entertains the illusion of controlling?

Notes

1. Poll: 45% approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, CBS News, February 12, 2013.
2. The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed, Esquire, February 11, 2013.
3. China Eclipses U.S. as Biggest Trading Nation, Bloomberg News, February 10, 2013.
4. Secret drone bases mark latest shift in US attacks on al-Qaeda, The Times, July 26, 2011.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  He may be reached at [email protected]

The Hubris of the Drones

Protesters march against drone warfare during President Obama's inauguration, January 21, 2013.Protesters march against drone warfare during President Obama's inauguration, January 21, 2013. (Photo: World Can't Wait)Last week, The New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing in war remains bad policy even today. This time, it’s done not by young GIs in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones that hover and attack by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged and grieving families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do — a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men — friend and foe — were incinerated by an American drone attack. The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, “such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.”

Our blind faith in technology combined with a false sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. Reuters correspondent David Rohde recently wrote:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.”

Rohde has firsthand knowledge of what a drone strike can do. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 and held for seven months. During his captivity, a drone struck nearby. “It was so close that shrapnel and mud showered down into the courtyard,” he told the BBC last year. “Just the force and size of the explosion amazed me. It comes with no warning and tremendous force… There’s sense that your sovereignty is being violated… It’s a serious military action. It is not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

“It’s a serious military action… not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

A special report from the Council on Foreign Relations last month, “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies,” quotes “a former senior military official” saying, “Drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America.” The report notes that, “The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable… without any meaningful checks — imposed by domestic or international political pressure — or sustained oversight from other branches of government, U.S. drone strikes create a moral hazard because of the negligible risks from such strikes and the unprecedented disconnect between American officials and personnel and the actual effects on the ground.”

Negligible? Such hubris brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama’s cold-blooded use of drones and his indifference to so-called “collateral damage,” grossly referred to by some in the military as “bug splat,” and otherwise known as innocent bystanders.

Yet the ease with which drones are employed and the lower risk to our own forces makes the unmanned aircraft increasingly appealing to the military and the CIA. We’re using drones more and more; some 350 strikes since President Obama took office, seven times the number that were authorized by George W. Bush. And there’s a whole new generation of the weapons on the way — deadlier and with greater endurance.

According to the CFR report, “Of the estimated three thousand people killed by drones… the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders. Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots.”

By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam, the deaths caused by drones are hardly a bleep on the consciousness of official Washington. But we have to wonder if each innocent killed — a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation; a student who picked up the wrong hitchhikers; that tribal elder arguing against fanatics — doesn’t give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.

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Posted on Feb 12, 2013

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Report: Realistic Urban Training is DHS and DOD “Conducting Desensitizing Exercises”

Just a couple years ago we reported that the U.S. military was involved in war gaming scenarios that included training for such things as large scale economic collapse and civil unrest. Photos from the training exercises showed simulated situations that included protesters holding up “We Need Food Now” signs. It was a clear sign that the government is preparing for just such an event, and that they were training military personnel to respond in the capacity of a domestic police force.

The warnings we and others issued were ignored by most of the population and dismissed by many as nothing more than conspiracy theory and fear mongering.

A few years on, the military continues to step up exercises focused on urban deployment and as recently as last month held live exercises in heavily populated US metropolitan areas.

Residents of Miami and Houston were treated to troop mobilizations, machine gun fire, and gunships flying over their cities. After concerned callers reported the activities to local news stations, the media quickly moved to calm fears of a terrorist attack or invasion. They smiled while they did it and shrugged off the unprecedented displays as just your average, everyday military exercise.

Except, of course, the US military, up until recently, has never openly trained in U.S. cities, and especially not in scores of cities with training spread over such a short period of time.

Which begs the question, why are the military and local law enforcement holding realistic urban training exercises on the streets of America when they could do it at any of the hundreds of training facilities around the world?

Via: The Daily CruxBurning Platform

I was once stationed at Camp Lejuene, NC.  As a Navy Corpsman, I helped care for Marines.  I tell you this because inevitably there will be those that assume I hold some anti-military motive.

At no time during my time there were “realistic urban training” exercises conducted in towns and cities.  This is a recent development.

The training has been coordinated with local, county and state agencies and officials, including the Ridgeland police and fire departments, according to a Marine Corps news release.

Although there is no danger, Farao said residents should stay away if they see training under way or uniformed personnel.

Realistic Urban Training is happening all over the U.S.  

In Miami, Florida on January 26, 2013, Army Backhawk helicopters swooped through the city at night, firing door-guns and chasing make-believe bad guys like something out of an action movie.  The fired blanks echoed off of the buildings, scaring many residents into taking cover.  The local news reported excitedly about the exercise, stating it was only a drill and for residents not to be concerned. However, there was no journalistic follow up asking hard questions.  Such as, who authorized an exercise without informing the public?  Why conduct this type of training in a populated U.S. city and put citizens at risk?  Isn’t this a violation of Posse Comitatus?  No hard follow up questions were asked, and to my knowledge, have not been since.

Not even when the same exercise occurred in Houston, Texas on January 29, 2013.   The U.S. Army along with other agencies took over the Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston on Monday. Alarmed residents called police and complained about gunshots and helicopters.  No details were provided about the training.  Watch the KTRK-TV Houston report and hear how alarmed residents responded after hearing gunshots and seeing military helicopters flying over their homes.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Michael Noggle, an Army spokesman based at Fort Bragg, N.C., “We were invited by the city of Galveston to conduct joint training exercises to enhance the effectiveness of both services in order to better protect the residents of Galveston.”

He went on to say in an email that “The purpose of the realistic urban training is to give our Special Operators an opportunity to hone their skills in a controlled, but unfamiliar, realistic urban environment that cannot be replicated with the bare-boned facades found on military installation ranges.”

I’ve highlighted a few examples, but there are more.  In a search I came upon these others.  Los Angeles, CA,  Plainville and Worchester, Massachusetts.  As reported in the other stories, residents were unaware of the drills until helicopters swooped over their neighborhoods. And here’s more: Minneapolis, MN, and this in East Saint Louis, MO.  There are many more, but these links provide a foundation for further research.

I spoke with a high-ranking, military source in DHS.

Preferring to remain unnamed for obvious reasons, he told me, “DHS and DOD are conducting desensitizing exercises all across the U.S.,” he paused, then added, “we’re being prepared for mass civil unrest in major U.S. cities.  DOD will be expected to help – when we’re requested.”

I asked if there was a timeline for expecting civil unrest in our cities and why should we expect it to begin with.

I was told that there were many reasons, but that the continued devaluation of our currency, the predicted history-setting prices for gasoline this summer and the continued gun control debate are forming a perfect storm of civil discontent.  When this storm hits, it will most assuredly produce mass casualties.  When does DHS expect this to happen? 

This summer.

From a high-ranking source deep within DHS, who has strong DOD ties, we are being told that joint DOD-local law enforcement exercises are to desensitize us to military occupation.  When asked if there was any concern about violating Posse Comitatus, he stated “no concern at all,” and added, “That’s been a non-issue for a long time.”

Source: The Allegiant

We are hearing similar reports from DHS, DOD, and law enforcement sources known by numerous investigators and reporters in alternative media. Many of the sources have requested to remain anonymous, prompting skeptics to call it bunk. However, it’s hard to believe that there is nothing to this. Furthermore, if you were privy to details that your government was about to implement a massive police state and past whistle blowers were imprisoned and had their lives destroyed, would you be willing to share your name and put your family in harm’s way?

As noted by Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones in a recent report at Infowars.com, there is a strong possibility that whatever the US government is preparing for has been orchestrated by the elite, who hope to benefit in the form of money, resources and power, something we’ve seen throughout history:

Every indication clearly suggests that authorities in the United States are preparing for widespread civil unrest. This trend has not emerged by accident – it is part of a tried and tested method used by the banking elite to seize control of nations, strip them of their assets, and absorb them into the new world order.

 There is a crucial economic imperative as to why the elite is seeking to engineer and exploit social unrest.

One of the final steps of the process, the “IMF riot,” detailed how the elite would plan for mass civil unrest ahead of time that would have the effect of scaring off investors and causing government bankruptcies.

“This economic arson has its bright side – for foreigners, who can then pick off remaining assets at fire sale prices,” writes Palast, adding, “A pattern emerges. There are lots of losers but the clear winners seem to be the western banks and US Treasury.”

In other words, the banking elite creates the very economic environment – soaring interest rates, spiraling food prices, poverty, lower standards of living – that precipitates civil unrest – and then like a vulture swoops down to devour what remains of the country’s assets on the cheap.

We have already seen this process unfold in places like Bolivia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Greece and Argentina. Next on the chopping block are Spain, Italy, Britain and France – all of which have seen widespread riots over the last two years.

Given the clear economic motive for stirring unrest in the United States, we’d expect to see preparations for domestic disorder in numerous different guises – and indeed the signs are everywhere. 

Full Infowars Report

Most Americans cannot possibly fathom an America where the economy has collapsed, the dollar is valueless, and food is so expensive that it can’t be had by the majority of the populace.

They can’t imagine any situation that would require the deployment of military soldiers into their towns and cities.

They are clueless to the existence of the National Defense Authorization Act which legalizes the indefinite detention of terror suspects. They think the Patriot Act is legislation that applies only to Al Queda. They don’t know, nor do they care, that President Obama has signed numerous Executive Orders designed for continuity of government operations and martial law.

None of them realize that the President himself is now creating kill lists and justifications for why American citizens can be targeted by military drone strikes without charge or trial.

For these people, with their heads buried in the sand, America today is the same as it has always been.

When their idealistic paradigm of stable 9-5 employment, ample retirement funds, weekend barbecues, and Constitutional protections comes to end, what do you think they are going to do?

What will they do should stock markets melt down, the US dollar crashes or the economy collapses to Great Depression levels?

They will panic. They will riot in the streets. They will turn violent. Their whole world will be turned upside down and devolve into violence and bloodshed.

The government knows this. Homeland security knows this. The military knows this. Any student of history knows this.

We are now being desensitized to the response should it ever come to pass.

The Hubris of the Drones

Last week, The New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing in war remains bad policy even today. This time, it’s done not by young GIs in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones that hover and attack by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged and grieving families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-i-Islami listen to their leaders during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks, April 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do — a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men — friend and foe — were incinerated by an American drone attack. The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, “such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.”

Our blind faith in technology combined with a false sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. Reuters correspondent David Rohde recently wrote:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.”

Rohde has firsthand knowledge of what a drone strike can do. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 and held for seven months. During his captivity, a drone struck nearby. “It was so close that shrapnel and mud showered down into the courtyard,” he told the BBC last year. “Just the force and size of the explosion amazed me. It comes with no warning and tremendous force… There’s sense that your sovereignty is being violated… It’s a serious military action. It is not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

“It’s a serious military action… not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

A special report from the Council on Foreign Relations last month, “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies,” quotes “a former senior military official” saying, “Drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America.” The report notes that, “The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable… without any meaningful checks — imposed by domestic or international political pressure — or sustained oversight from other branches of government, U.S. drone strikes create a moral hazard because of the negligible risks from such strikes and the unprecedented disconnect between American officials and personnel and the actual effects on the ground.”

Negligible? Such hubris brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama’s cold-blooded use of drones and his indifference to so-called “collateral damage,” grossly referred to by some in the military as “bug splat,” and otherwise known as innocent bystanders.

Yet the ease with which drones are employed and the lower risk to our own forces makes the unmanned aircraft increasingly appealing to the military and the CIA. We’re using drones more and more; some 350 strikes since President Obama took office, seven times the number that were authorized by George W. Bush. And there’s a whole new generation of the weapons on the way — deadlier and with greater endurance.

According to the CFR report, “Of the estimated three thousand people killed by drones… the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders. Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots.”

By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam, the deaths caused by drones are hardly a bleep on the consciousness of official Washington. But we have to wonder if each innocent killed — a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation; a student who picked up the wrong hitchhikers; that tribal elder arguing against fanatics — doesn’t give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.

Bill Moyers

Journalist Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America’s strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal. Over the past three decades he has become an icon of American journalism and is the author of many books, including Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, Moyers on Democracy, and Bill Moyers: On Faith & Reason. He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon B. Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards and is the author of three best-selling books.

Michael Winship

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America-East, is senior writer for Bill Moyers' new weekend show Moyers & Company.

The Hubris of the Drones

Last week, The New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing in war remains bad policy even today. This time, it’s done not by young GIs in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones that hover and attack by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged and grieving families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-i-Islami listen to their leaders during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks, April 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do — a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men — friend and foe — were incinerated by an American drone attack. The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, “such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.”

Our blind faith in technology combined with a false sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. Reuters correspondent David Rohde recently wrote:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.”

Rohde has firsthand knowledge of what a drone strike can do. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 and held for seven months. During his captivity, a drone struck nearby. “It was so close that shrapnel and mud showered down into the courtyard,” he told the BBC last year. “Just the force and size of the explosion amazed me. It comes with no warning and tremendous force… There’s sense that your sovereignty is being violated… It’s a serious military action. It is not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

“It’s a serious military action… not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

A special report from the Council on Foreign Relations last month, “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies,” quotes “a former senior military official” saying, “Drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America.” The report notes that, “The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable… without any meaningful checks — imposed by domestic or international political pressure — or sustained oversight from other branches of government, U.S. drone strikes create a moral hazard because of the negligible risks from such strikes and the unprecedented disconnect between American officials and personnel and the actual effects on the ground.”

Negligible? Such hubris brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama’s cold-blooded use of drones and his indifference to so-called “collateral damage,” grossly referred to by some in the military as “bug splat,” and otherwise known as innocent bystanders.

Yet the ease with which drones are employed and the lower risk to our own forces makes the unmanned aircraft increasingly appealing to the military and the CIA. We’re using drones more and more; some 350 strikes since President Obama took office, seven times the number that were authorized by George W. Bush. And there’s a whole new generation of the weapons on the way — deadlier and with greater endurance.

According to the CFR report, “Of the estimated three thousand people killed by drones… the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders. Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots.”

By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam, the deaths caused by drones are hardly a bleep on the consciousness of official Washington. But we have to wonder if each innocent killed — a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation; a student who picked up the wrong hitchhikers; that tribal elder arguing against fanatics — doesn’t give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.

Bill Moyers

Journalist Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America’s strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal. Over the past three decades he has become an icon of American journalism and is the author of many books, including Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, Moyers on Democracy, and Bill Moyers: On Faith & Reason. He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon B. Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards and is the author of three best-selling books.

Michael Winship

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America-East, is senior writer for Bill Moyers' new weekend show Moyers & Company.

Clashes Erupt as Egyptians Commemorate Mubarak’s Ousting

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Transcript

It was the day Egyptians celebrated the ousting of their former dictator. Two years after Mubarak was finally forced from office by an 18 day revolt, jubilation was replaced by anti-government anger.

Tens of thousands hit the streets on February 11th outraged against the continued oppression that initially sparked the revolution. Throughout the day in Egypt's capitol Cairo, dozens of marches headed toward Tahrir square. Although smaller in size compared to previous demonstrations, resentment thundered through streets. CHANTS - Still demanding bread, freedom and social justice, protesters colored the marches with symbols of their oppression and struggle. Many condemned their government for selling out the reovlution to appease the demands of foreign powers. SOT - Qatar, US, Israel CHANTS - bread, freedom, social justiceSOT - we just want breadOn the legendary Mohammed Mahmoud street, Egypt's rowdy youth returned to the location of their fiercest battles against state security forces. Their chants haven't changed. SOT - down with the interior ministryWhat has changed is the latest target of their upheaval. At first they chanted against Mubarak, then the military council that followed him, and now their newly elected president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. The reasons they despise Morsi are also the same as the reason they despised Mubarak and the Military generals, but for young people, the notorious state security forces, specifically the police, remain their main enemy. SOT - we are going to Gika's houseBRIDGE - this is the important Mohammed Mahmoud street holds. There, Gika's father addressed the masses outside their family home. SOT - addressing the crowdSOT - Abu Saleh on day of departure As some marches entered tahrir, others headed toward the presidential palace. bridge: peaceful protests during the day usually turn to night clashesWhile protests raged in the streets, other forms of resistance were taking place behind closed doors. bridge: SOT - Instructor talking to girlsSOT - the day of departure is… the revolution was good because.. but also At the palace, as expected, clashes erupted, when again young people tried to storm and burn down the presidential palace. Their attempts again were met with police brutality as security forces unleashed endless rounds of tear gas into the defiant crowds. bridge: This is a typical scene now, you can see people are really pissed off, they can gas them back but they keep returningSOT - why am I here? womanSOT - why here? man NATSOT - why don't you come and face us like real men!!!The chase between demonstrators and the police has become routine. Seemingly immune to the tear gas after two years of it, its common to see scenes like this: === canister throws =====some of the canisters land on this nearby school, lighting its courtyard on fire. Although it seems like a game and has become their latest pastime, these protesters assert clashing with the police is resisting their violent order. Some are detained, beaten and dragged away. NASOT - in the backdrop of the chaos, the youth evoke the memory of their slain comradeSOT - GIKA!!!! The names of the dead are often heard echoing over the clashes. SOT - GIKA!! MINA DANIEL!The most hardened fighters were mainly young, many of them concealed by their black masks, symbols of the anonymous and now infamous black bloc. SOT - the black bloc is not an organizationThe black bloc declare they are anti-media. our scheduled interviews with some of their members was ignored. SOT - black bloc dudeOne of them finally speaks with us but not before he is pulled away by his comrade. The back and forth goes on late into the night and eventually the crowds wear thin and a tense calm returns.


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Navy SEAL who killed bin Laden breaks his silence

The Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden broke his silence, recounting the night he shot the Al-Qaeda leader three times and the financial anxiety he now faces as an unemployed civilian. The commando kept his identity secret in the Esquire magazine in...

Manufactured Media: Spanish Public Television under Political Pressure

brainwash

The Council of Europe recently released a report that warns that political pressure is being put on Spanish public television broadcasting (Televisión Española, TVE). The report draws attention to similar situations of politics pushing broadcasting in Hungary, Romania, Italy, Serbia and Ukraine. 

It is not the first time that the Council of Europe – an international organization which includes 47 countries around the world and promotes democratic values – criticizes the way that Spanish public television presents the news. The last time  was during the 2004 legislation when the Partido Popular (Popular Party) – the right-wing Spanish party – was governing the state.

Nowadays, to become the president of the public television, the candidate needs the approval of the majority of the Members of the Spanish Parliament.  That was an amendment put in place by the Popular Party in 2012, before then it was necessary to gain the approval of two thirds of the Chamber. Leopoldo Gonzalez Echenique is the current president of TVE, however, he does not have the approval of the official opposition part (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, the left-wing party).

In the report, the broadcasting firm referred to is TVE News. Its current director,Julio Somoano, wrote, interestingly enough, a thesis in 2005 called Estrategia de comunicación para el triunfo del Partido Popular en las próximas elecciones (Communication strategy for the victory of the Popular Party in the next elections).

This seems like far too many coincidences for a public television network that should be an impartial and apolitical media meant to represent all the Spaniards. But the truth is that the Council of Europe is not the first one to denounce this, TVE has received an increasing number of the complaints sent by the anonymous citizens. Some of the more notable situations of misinformation were when this television network did not report on the different rallies against the social cutbacks on the 15th of September 2012. Another example of blatant misinformation was when they decided to ignore the 1,5 million people rally in the streets of Barcelona claiming for the independence of Catalonia and slot them in the fifth position (on 11th of September 2012).

Spain is in a state of extreme economic crisis, extreme social crisis, extreme corruption and, now, the international organisms are alerted by possible political influence in the public media –  you tell me where the good news is.

Cameron Condemns MEPs For ‘Secret’ EU Budget Vote

David Cameron has challenged Ed Miliband over whether Labour MEPs will vote against a cut in the EU Budget, amid fears the European Parliament may veto the deal. Last week European leaders agreed to cut the EU's budget for the next seven years to 908b...

Nothing Self-Made About Me

Nothing Self-Made About Me

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Posted on Feb 10, 2013

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

I disagreed with former President George W. Bush on many things. But on one issue, I admired him greatly: He was wise enough to marry a teacher and a librarian. I’m unabashedly biased about this, since my late mom was also a teacher and a librarian.

I have been thinking a good deal about her because she would have turned 100 on Friday. She died in 1995, and my sister and I have spoken often about the extraordinary social changes she came to terms with and was part of.

In talking about history, we break the story up into discrete chunks: the Depression, World War II, the 1960s and the like. But lives aren’t broken up; we live them continuously. Thinking now as a parent myself, I cannot imagine how I would have dealt with children of my own had I been a father in the 1960s. How strange those years must have seemed to adults like my mom. How spoiled did my generation look to those who had lived through depression and war? It was not illogical to ask, as many did: “What are these kids complaining about?”

In retrospect, I have been struck by how sensible my mom was through the social chaos, even though those were especially jarring times in our household. My dad, her husband of 29 years, passed away suddenly in the totemic year of 1968. Yet his death almost certainly made my sister and me less likely to rebel, and my mom cut us a bit of slack. The three of us were determined not to let the cultural hurricanes of the 1960s pull us apart.

My mother—her name, from her Quebec forebears, was Lucienne—was the sort of faithful Catholic who believed history was destined to leave us in a good place. So she was not the sort to close herself off to what she could learn from what was going on around her.

She was totally dedicated to being a parent because she fought so hard to become one. She lost four kids in childbirth or shortly thereafter. It took courage for her to keep trying so she could bring my sister and me into this world. (We never had the problem of feeling unwanted.) Family values defined her.

But as the first member of her family to go to college—and at a time when few women got the chance—she had an instinctive understanding of what feminism was about. She did not like the Vietnam War, so she sympathized with protests against it, though the movement’s most radical elements didn’t speak to her. She still honored my dad’s Army service in World War II. As I have written before, she was an early supporter of the gay rights cause, partly because her dear godson was gay and she could not abide bigotry against him, one of the most openhearted people she knew.

And she was squarely against government cutbacks when it came to schools or libraries. When federal funds were slashed in the early 1980s, she helped save the storefront branch library she presided over in my hometown of Fall River, Mass. She didn’t really need the job—she worked full time until she was 75 for very little, considering what she gave up in Social Security benefits. But she knew the literary haven she ran on Pleasant Street was the place where many low-income children first came in contact with books. One of the joys of her life was to foster love affairs between kids and reading.

My mom was no reflexive liberal. She started out a conservative and still held to most of her old-fashioned values even as her political views moved leftward. She was a public-employee union member but got impatient when the union blocked reforms she thought would improve services. (She complained to the union business agent about this.)

And she was very old school on matters of personal responsibility—in education, marriage, parenting, friendship and civic duty. When she died at age 82, she was serving on the board of our local community college. She loved the place for the opportunities it gave students from modest backgrounds who were willing to work hard.

Because of her and my dad, I always bridle when people declare themselves “self-made.” Such people may exist (socially if not biologically), but I’m skeptical, and would never make that claim for myself. We can never pretend that we were wise enough to have chosen great parents.


E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)washpost.com.
   
© 2013, Washington Post Writers Group

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Google Moves to Destroy Online Anonymity … Unintentionally Helping Authoritarian Governments

Google Inc: "Don't Be Evil"

Governments Move to Destroy Online Anonymity

Some of the world’s leading social critics and political critics have used pen names.

As Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge points out (edited slightly for readability):

Though often maligned (typically by those frustrated by an inability to engage in ad hominem attacks), anonymous speech has a long and storied history in the United States. Used by the likes of Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens) to criticize common ignorance, and perhaps most famously by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay (aka publius) to write the Federalist Papers, we think ourselves in good company in using one or another nom de plume.

Particularly in light of an emerging trend against vocalizing public dissent in the United States, we believe in the critical importance of anonymity and its role in dissident speech.

Like the Economist magazine, we also believe that keeping authorship anonymous moves the focus of discussion to the content of speech and away from the speaker – as it should be. We believe not only that you should be comfortable with anonymous speech in such an environment, but that you should be suspicious of any speech that isn’t.

But governments – especially authoritarian governments – hate anonymity.

A soon-to-be-released book by Google executive Eric Schmidt -  called “The New Digital Age” – describes the desire of authoritarian governments to destroy anonymity.  The Wall Street Journal provides an excerpt:

Some governments will consider it too risky to have thousands of anonymous, untraceable and unverified citizens — “hidden people”; they’ll want to know who is associated with each online account, and will require verification at a state level, in order to exert control over the virtual world.

Last December, China started requiring all web users to register using their real names.

But the U.S. is quickly moving in the same direction.  As Gene Howington reported last year:

Do you have a right to anonymous political free speech?

According to the Supreme Court, you do. According to the Department of Homeland Security, you don’t. They’ve hired General Dynamics to track U.S. citizens exercising this critical civil right.

The history of anonymous political free speech in America dates back to our founding. The seminal essays found in “The Federalist Papers” were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay under the nom de plume of “Publius” although this was not confirmed until a list of authorship complied by Hamilton was posthumously released to the public. As previously discussed on this blog, the right to anonymous political free speech has been addressed by the Supreme Court. Most notably in the cases of Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960) and McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995). In Talley, Justice Hugo Black writing for the majority said that, “Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all.” In McIntyre, Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the majority said that, “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. [… ] an author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.” That seems clear enough in defining that citizens do have a Constitutionally protected right to anonymous political free speech.

The full DHS policy statement regarding its activities can be viewed in the DHS Privacy Compliance Review of the NOC Media Monitoring Initiative (November 15, 2011), but rt.com’s summary spells out the basics:

“Under the National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative that came out of DHS headquarters in November, Washington has the written permission to retain data on users of social media and online networking platforms.

Specifically, the DHS announced the NCO and its Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) can collect personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s own definition of personal identifiable information, or PII, such data could consist of any intellect “that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to that individual.” Previously established guidelines within the administration say that data could only be collected under authorization set forth by written code, but the new provisions in the NOC’s write-up means that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.

Also included in the roster of those subjected to the spying are government officials, domestic or not, who make public statements, private sector employees that do the same and “persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest,” which to itself opens up the possibilities even wider.

The department says that they will only scour publically-made info available while retaining data, but it doesn’t help but raise suspicion as to why the government is going out of their way to spend time, money and resources on watching over those that helped bring news to the masses.” – rt.com

This question about the right to anonymous political free speech is also asked over the background of the Electronic Privacy Information Center filing a FOIA request against the DHS to find out the details of the agency’s social network monitoring program.

***

As part of recent disclosures related to the EPIC suit, it is revealed that the DHS has hired and instructed General Dynamics to monitor political dissent and the dissenters. The range of websites listed as being monitored is quite impressive. Notably, jonathanturley.org is not on this list [Howington's essay is a guest blog on constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley's website], but equally of note is that this list is by the DHS’ own admission “representative” and not “comprehensive”.

***

Some of the more high profile and highly trafficked sites being monitored include the comments sections of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report, Wired, and ABC News. In addition, social networking sites Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are being monitored. For the first time, the public not only has an idea who the DHS is pursuing with their surveillance and where, but what they are looking for as well. General Dynamics contract requires them to “[identify] media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government, DHS, or prevent, protect, respond government activities.” The DHS also instructed General Dynamics to generate “reports on DHS, Components, and other Federal Agencies: positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc. as well as organizations outside the DHS.” In other words, the DHS wants to know who you are if you say anything critical about the government.

Anybody thinking of the name “Goebbels” at this point is not out of line.

Indeed, valuing online privacy could even get you labeled as a potential terrorist.

Google Moving to Help Destroy Anonymity

Google’s motto is “Do No Evil“.   And Google notes in a patent application:

When users reveal their identities on the internet, it leaves them more vulnerable to stalking, identity theft and harassment.

So you might assume that Google is fighting to protect anonymity on the web.

But Schmidt’s new book reveals that Google will support the destruction of anonymity (via Wall Street Journal):

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

Search Engine Journal explains:

[Passages from Schmidt's book] confirm what many industry writers have been passionately clattering away about for months now.  Google+ is an identity verification network.  As the network continues to grow, content associated with a verified identity will rise to the top of Google search rankings.

(Google+ is now the world’s second most popular social network.)

In other words, Schmidt acknowledges (in the first quote above) that authoritarians want to destroy anonymity … and Google will help them do so.

We are not saying that Google likes authoritarians. (Potential ties between Google and the government are beyond the scope of this essay.)   However, Google will do business with anyone … and will cowtow to authoritarians they happen to do business with.

Google is doing this to make money.  Remember, Google gathers information across all of its platforms, and personalizes search engine results based upon what you’ve looked for in past searches.

After all, Google is primary an advertising company … not a search company. See this, this, this and this.

As the Daily Mail reported last year:

A former Google executive has lambasted his ex-employer … claiming that the search company has been turned into an ‘ad company’ obsessed with harvesting people’s private information.

James Whittaker, a current Partner Development Manager at Microsoft and ex-Engineering Director at Google, posted the 1328-word attack on Google on his Microsoft blog this week.

‘Perhaps Google is right,’ writes Whittaker, ‘Perhaps the future lies in learning as much about people’s personal lives as possible.

‘The Google I was passionate about was a technology company. The Google I left was an advertising company.’

***

The move comes in the wake of Google’s controversial new ‘privacy policy’, which allowed the search giant to ‘pool’ information from 60 separate services including Gmail, Google Search and Android phones, to create ‘personalised’ advertising.

The bottom line is that anonymity reduces Google’s ability to monetize personal information and sell it to its advertisers.  So Google is on a campaign to destroy anonymity … and unintentionally helping tyrants in the process.

As INeedHits laments:

We knew a day would come when privacy was a thing of the past, but Schmidt clearly spells out that day is sooner than we had expected.

Google Moves to Destroy Online Anonymity … Helping Authoritarian Governments In the Process

Governments Move to Destroy Online Anonymity

Gene Howington reported last year:

The history of anonymous political free speech in America dates back to our founding. The seminal essays found in “The Federalist Papers” were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay under the nom de plume of “Publius” although this was not confirmed until a list of authorship complied by Hamilton was posthumously released to the public. As previously discussed on this blog, the right to anonymous political free speech has been addressed by the Supreme Court. Most notably in the cases of Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960) and McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995). In Talley, Justice Hugo Black writing for the majority said that, “Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all.” In McIntyre, Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the majority said that, “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. [… ] an author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.” That seems clear enough in defining that citizens do have a Constitutionally protected right to anonymous political free speech.

Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge points out (with slight editing):

Though often maligned (typically by those frustrated by an inability to engage in ad hominem attacks), anonymous speech has a long and storied history in the United States. Used by the likes of Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens) to criticize common ignorance, and perhaps most famously by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay (aka publius) to write the Federalist Papers, we think ourselves in good company in using one or another nom de plume.

Particularly in light of an emerging trend against vocalizing public dissent in the United States, we believe in the critical importance of anonymity and its role in dissident speech.

Like the Economist magazine, we also believe that keeping authorship anonymous moves the focus of discussion to the content of speech and away from the speaker – as it should be. We believe not only that you should be comfortable with anonymous speech in such an environment, but that you should be suspicious of any speech that isn’t.

But governments – especially authoritarian governments – hate anonymity.

A soon-to-be-released book by Google executive Eric Schmidt -  called “The New Digital Age” – describes the desire of authoritarian governments to destroy anonymity.  The Wall Street Journal provides an excerpt:

Some governments will consider it too risky to have thousands of anonymous, untraceable and unverified citizens — “hidden people”; they’ll want to know who is associated with each online account, and will require verification at a state level, in order to exert control over the virtual world.

Last December, China started requiring all web users to register using their real names.

But the U.S. is quickly moving in the same direction.  Gene Howington explains:

Do you have a right to anonymous political free speech?

According to the Supreme Court, you do. According to the Department of Homeland Security, you don’t. They’ve hired General Dynamics to track U.S. citizens exercising this critical civil right.

***

The full DHS policy statement regarding its activities can be viewed in the DHS Privacy Compliance Review of the NOC Media Monitoring Initiative (November 15, 2011), but rt.com’s summary spells out the basics:

“Under the National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative that came out of DHS headquarters in November, Washington has the written permission to retain data on users of social media and online networking platforms.

Specifically, the DHS announced the NCO and its Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) can collect personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s own definition of personal identifiable information, or PII, such data could consist of any intellect “that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to that individual.” Previously established guidelines within the administration say that data could only be collected under authorization set forth by written code, but the new provisions in the NOC’s write-up means that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.

Also included in the roster of those subjected to the spying are government officials, domestic or not, who make public statements, private sector employees that do the same and “persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest,” which to itself opens up the possibilities even wider.

The department says that they will only scour publically-made info available while retaining data, but it doesn’t help but raise suspicion as to why the government is going out of their way to spend time, money and resources on watching over those that helped bring news to the masses.” – rt.com

This question about the right to anonymous political free speech is also asked over the background of the Electronic Privacy Information Center filing a FOIA request against the DHS to find out the details of the agency’s social network monitoring program.

***

As part of recent disclosures related to the EPIC suit, it is revealed that the DHS has hired and instructed General Dynamics to monitor political dissent and the dissenters. The range of websites listed as being monitored is quite impressive. Notably, jonathanturley.org is not on this list [Howington's essay is a guest blog on constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley's website], but equally of note is that this list is by the DHS’ own admission “representative” and not “comprehensive”.

***

Some of the more high profile and highly trafficked sites being monitored include the comments sections of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report, Wired, and ABC News. In addition, social networking sites Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are being monitored. For the first time, the public not only has an idea who the DHS is pursuing with their surveillance and where, but what they are looking for as well. General Dynamics contract requires them to “[identify] media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government, DHS, or prevent, protect, respond government activities.” The DHS also instructed General Dynamics to generate “reports on DHS, Components, and other Federal Agencies: positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc. as well as organizations outside the DHS.” In other words, the DHS wants to know who you are if you say anything critical about the government.

Anybody thinking of the name “Goebbels” at this point is not out of line.

Indeed, valuing online privacy could even get you labeled as a potential terrorist.

Google Moving to Help Destroy Anonymity

Google’s motto is “Do No Evil“.   And Google notes in a patent application:

When users reveal their identities on the internet, it leaves them more vulnerable to stalking, identity theft and harassment.

So you might assume that Google is fighting to protect anonymity on the web.

But Schmidt’s new book reveals that Google will support the destruction of anonymity (via Wall Street Journal):

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

Search Engine Journal explains:

[Passages from Schmidt's book] confirm what many industry writers have been passionately clattering away about for months now.  Google+ is an identity verification network.  As the network continues to grow, content associated with a verified identity will rise to the top of Google search rankings.

(Google+ is now the world’s second most popular social network.)

In other words, Schmidt acknowledges (in the first quote above) that authoritarians want to destroy anonymity … and Google will help them do so.

We are not saying that Google likes authoritarians. True, there are potential ties between Google and the government.  For example, the head of DARPA now works for Google, and Internet powerhouse Vint Cerf has worked at both institutions.  Wired reports:

Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel [the CIA's investment arm] backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

And a former high-level CIA officer alleges that the CIA funded Google with seed money.

However, the focus of this essay is on Google’s profit motive.  Specifically, Google will do business with anyone … and will cowtow to authoritarians they happen to do business with.

Google is doing this to make money.  Remember, Google gathers information across all of its platforms, and personalizes search engine results based upon what you’ve looked for in past searches.

After all, Google is primary an advertising company … not a search company. See this, this, this and this.

As the Daily Mail reported last year:

A former Google executive has lambasted his ex-employer … claiming that the search company has been turned into an ‘ad company’ obsessed with harvesting people’s private information.

James Whittaker, a current Partner Development Manager at Microsoft and ex-Engineering Director at Google, posted the 1328-word attack on Google on his Microsoft blog this week.

‘Perhaps Google is right,’ writes Whittaker, ‘Perhaps the future lies in learning as much about people’s personal lives as possible.

‘The Google I was passionate about was a technology company. The Google I left was an advertising company.’

***

The move comes in the wake of Google’s controversial new ‘privacy policy’, which allowed the search giant to ‘pool’ information from 60 separate services including Gmail, Google Search and Android phones, to create ‘personalised’ advertising.

The bottom line is that anonymity reduces Google’s ability to monetize personal information and sell it to its advertisers.  So Google is on a campaign to destroy anonymity … and unintentionally helping tyrants in the process.

As INeedHits laments:

We knew a day would come when privacy was a thing of the past, but Schmidt clearly spells out that day is sooner than we had expected.

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European Union Leaders Agree Historic Budget Cut, But MEPs May Veto Deal

European leaders have agreed a cut in the EU budget after German chancellor Angela Merkel sided with David Cameron's demand that Brussels tighten its belt, however the European Parliament may veto the deal.

When the 27-way summit finally got under way, the opening bid presented to the leaders for agreement amounted to a budget proposal of 913 billion euros (£778 billion) for 2014-2020.

On Friday afternoon, after all night negotiations, leaders finally agreed 908bn euro budget - a cut of five billion euros.

Speaking after an agreement was reached, the prime minister said he had done a "good deal" for Britain and had worked with other European leaders to secure the cut.

"We wanted to cut this credit card," he said. "On any fair way of looking at it, that is exactly what we have done."

"We worked hard with the Dutch, Danes, Swedes and Angela [Merkel] to make sure Europe's taxpayers got a good deal," he said.

It has also been reported that Merkel sided with Cameron against French President Francois Hollande on the budget. "We had some debates and discussions," the prime minister acknowledged.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy announced the deal had been done with a Tweet.


Herman Van Rompuy
Deal done! #euco has agreed on #MFF for the rest of the decade. Worth waiting for.

The settlement will allow Cameron to claim that his basic demands that Europe at least nods towards the austerity being endured by national treasuries have been met.

In October Labour joined with eurosceptic Tories in a Commons vote to demand the prime minister argue for a real-terms cut in the EU's long-term budget during the negotiations.

Tory Douglas Carswell, one of the more eurosceptic MPs and not a huge fan of the prime minister, welcomed the deal by declaring "three hearty cheers" to Cameron.

"Under pressure from the taxpayer, MPs instructed ministers not to hand over extra amounts of money. And ministers appear to have responded by securing a deal that does precisely that," he said.

And Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless, who led the rebellion in the Commons over the budget, offered his congratulations in a video message posted on You Tube.

"His [Cameron's] diplomats, his permanent representative in Brussels, the Liberal Democrats all said the best we could hope for was a freeze," he said.

"By passing my amendment, Parliament voted to strengthen that negotiating mandate and demand a cut. With Parliament behind him, the Prime Minister has delivered at the EU council today."

However even though the overall budget for the next seven years may come down, the UK's contribution could actually increase.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage dismissed the deal: "Shaving a few pence off our daily contribution is inconsequential; the question now is why are we paying anything at all?"


Nigel Farage

Clearly a huge victory for David Cameron: looks like he's managed to increase the UK contributions!

Even if the terms are endorsed at the summit, the deal must run the gauntlet of the European Parliament, which now looks likely to call a secret ballot.

Parliament President Martin Schulz confirmed last night that he intended deploying the rarely used procedure.

If so, by allowing MEPs to vote anonymously, the move will effectively stop EU leaders galvanising their own members of the Parliament to support the budget deal.

European Parliament officials said it looked certain the bid to call a secret ballot would be backed, as required, by one fifth of MEPs, with a secret vote held within three months.

Jean Lambert MEP: Why Cuts in the EU Budget Are Just Another Austerity Measure That Will Hit the Poorest Hardest

However, Tory MEP Martin Callanan condemned the idea as a "highly cynical and unaccountable act" on one of the Parliament's most important ever votes.

Callanan, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, said others had to be able to see how their representatives voted on their behalf.

"If MEPs want to reject an agreement made by their own prime ministers then they should have the courage of their convictions and not try to cower behind a procedural technicality.

"The European Parliament must be accountable to its voters which it cannot be if MEPs connive to hide their voting record on an issue that they should be judged on at the ballot box. This is not some small vote; it is one of the most important decisions of the entire legislature."

He added: "This kind of behaviour brings the EU and politicians into disrepute. My group will argue for a roll call vote on any deal reached so that all MEPs can stand on the doorsteps in their constituencies and explain why they cannot support their prime minister."

Related on HuffPost:

American Foreign Policy — Have our War Lovers Learned Anything?

Over the past four decades, of all the reasons people over a certain age have given for their becoming radicalized against US foreign policy, the Vietnam War has easily been the one most often cited. And I myself am the best example of this that you could find. I sometimes think that if the war lovers who run the United States had known of this in advance they might have had serious second thoughts about starting that great historical folly and war crime.

At other times, however, I have the thought that our dear war lovers have had 40 years to take this lesson to heart, and during this time what did they do? They did Salvador and Nicaragua, and Angola and Grenada. They did Panama and Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan and Iraq. And in 2012 American President Barack Obama saw fit to declare that the Vietnam War was “one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history”. 1

So, have they learned nothing? When it comes to following international law, is the United States like a failed state? The Somalia of international law? Well, if they were perfectly frank, the war lovers would insist that the purpose of all these interventions, and many others like them, was to keep the atheists out of power – the non-believers in America’s god-given right to rule the world – or to at least make life as difficult as possible for them. And thus the interventions were successful; nothing to apologize for; even the Vietnam War achieved its purpose of preventing that country from becoming a good development option for Asia, a socialist alternative to the capitalist model; precisely the same reason for Washington’s endless hostility toward Cuba in Latin America; and Cuba has indeed inspired numerous atheists and their alternatives for a better world.

If they were even more honest, the war lovers might quote George Kennan, the legendary State Department strategist, who wrote prophetically during the Cold War: “Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” 2

But after all these years, after decades of American militarism – though not a day passes without some government official or media acolyte expressing his admiration and gratitude for “our brave boys” – cracks in the American edifice can be seen. Some of the war lovers, and their TV groupies would have us believe that they have actually learned something. One of the first was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in February 2011: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”

And here’s former Secretary of State George Shultz speaking before the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations last month (January 29): “Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be the template for how we go about” dealing with threats of terrorism.

A few days earlier the very establishment and conservative Economist magazine declared: “The best-intentioned foreign intervention is bound to bog its armies down in endless wars fighting invisible enemies to help ungrateful locals.”

However, none of these people are in power. And does history offer any example of a highly militaristic power – without extreme coercion – seeing the error of its ways? One of my readers, who prefers to remain anonymous, wrote to me recently:

It is my opinion that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age at the end of WWII. Something similar is the only cure for the same pathology that now is embedded into the very social fabric of the USA. The USA is a full-blown pathological society now. There is no other cure. No amount of articles on the Internet pointing out the hypocrisies or war crimes will do it.

So, while the United States is busy building bases and anti-missile sites in Europe, Asia and Africa, deploying space-based and other hi-tech weapons systems, trying to surround Russia, China, Iran and any other atheist that threatens American world hegemony, and firing drone missiles all over the Middle East I’m busy playing games on the Internet. What can I say? In theory at least, there is another force besides the terrible bombing mentioned above that can stop the American empire, and that is the American people. I’ll continue trying to educate them. Too bad I won’t live long enough to see the glorious transformation.

Afghanistan: Manufacturing the American Legacy

“A decade ago, playing music could get you maimed in Afghanistan. Today, a youth ensemble is traveling to the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. And it even includes girls.”

Thus reads the sub-heading of a Washington Post story of February 3 about an orchestra of 48 Afghan young people who attended music school in a country where the Taliban have tried to silence both women and music. “The Afghan Youth Orchestra is more than a development project,” the article informs us. For “the school’s many international donors, it serves as a powerful symbol of successful reconstruction in Afghanistan. And by performing in Washington and New York, the seats of U.S. political and financial power, the orchestra hopes to showcase what a decade of investment has achieved.”

“The U.S. State Department, the World Bank, the Carnegie Corporation and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education have invested heavily in the tour. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul awarded nearly $350,000 footing most of the estimated $500,000 cost. For international donors, the tour symbolizes progress in a country crippled by war.”

The State Department’s director of communications and public diplomacy for Afghanistan and Pakistan declares: “We wanted Americans to understand the difference their tax dollars have made in building a better future for young people, which translates into reduced threats from extremists in the region.”

“There’s a lot of weariness in the U.S. and cynicism about Afghanistan,” said William Harvey, an American violinist who teaches at the school, where 35 of 141 students are girls. “What are we doing there? What can be achieved? These concerts answer those questions in the strongest way possible: Cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community has made it safe for young girls and boys to learn music.”

There can be no question that for the sad country of Afghanistan all this is welcome news. There can also be little doubt that a beleaguered and defensive US foreign policy establishment will seek to squeeze out as much favorable publicity as possible from these events. On the issue of the severe oppression of women and girls in Afghanistan, defenders of the US occupation of that desperate land would have you believe that the United States is the last great hope of those poor females. However, you will not be reminded that in the 1980s the United States played an indispensable role in the overthrow of a secular and relatively progressive Afghan government, one which endeavored to grant women much more freedom than they’ll ever have under the current Karzai-US government, more probably than ever again. Here are some excerpts from a 1986 US Army manual on Afghanistan discussing the policies of this government concerning women:

“provisions of complete freedom of choice of marriage partner, and fixation of the minimum age at marriage at 16 for women and 18 for men”
“abolished forced marriages”
“bring [women] out of seclusion, and initiate social programs”
“extensive literacy programs, especially for women”
“putting girls and boys in the same classroom”;
“concerned with changing gender roles and giving women a more active role in politics”. 3

The US-led overthrow of this government paved the way for the coming to power of Islamic fundamentalist forces, which led directly to the awful Taliban. And why did the United States in its infinite wisdom choose to do such a thing? Because the Afghan government was allied with the Soviet Union and Washington wanted to draw the Russians into a hopeless military quagmire – “We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War”, said Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser. 4

The women of Afghanistan will never know how the campaign to raise them to the status of full human beings would have turned out, but this, some might argue, is but a small price to pay for a marvelous Cold War victory.
Guantánamo Bay

People on the left never tire of calling for the closing of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The fact that President Obama made the closing a promise of his 2008 campaign and repeated it again in the White House, while the prison still remains in operation, is seen as a serious betrayal. But each time I read about this I’m struck by the same thought: The horror of Guantánamo is not its being open, not its mere existence. Its horror lies in its being the site of more than 10 years of terrible abuse of human beings. If the prison is closed and all its inmates are moved to another prison, and the abuses continue, what would have been accomplished? How would the cause of human rights be benefitted? I think that activists should focus on the abuses, regardless of the location.
The War on Terror – They’re really getting serious about it now

For disseminating classified materials that exposed war crimes, Julian Assange is now honored as an official terrorist as only America can honor. We Shall Never Forget 9/11, Vol. II: The True Faces of Evil – Terror, a graphic coloring novel for children, which comes with several pages of perforated, detachable “terrorist trading cards”. Published by Really Big Coloring Books Inc. in St. Louis, the cards include Assange, Timothy McVeigh, Jared Lee Loughner, Ted Kaczynski, Maj. Nidal Hasan, Bill Ayers, and others. 5
Superpower – the film

Starring Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Michel Chossudovksy, Karen Kwiatowski (Pentagon “defector”), William Blum, Sergei Khrushchev (son of Nikita), Kathy Kelly, and many others: https://vimeo.com/55141496 (enter password when prompted: barbarasteegmuller) – 2 hours long.
New Book and talk

The eagerly awaited (I can name at least three people) new book by William Blum is here at last. “America’s Deadliest Export – Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else” is made up of essays which are a combination of new and old; combined, updated, expanded; many first appeared in one form or another in the Anti-Empire Report, or on my website, at various times during the past ten years or so.

As mentioned in the book, activists like myself are sometimes scoffed at for saying the same old things to the same old people; just spinning our wheels, we’re told, “preaching to the choir” or “preaching to the converted”. But long experience as speaker, writer and activist in the area of foreign policy tells me it just ain’t so. From the questions and comments I regularly get from my audiences, via email and in person, I can plainly see that there are numerous significant information gaps and misconceptions in the choir’s thinking, often leaving them unable to see through the newest government lie or propaganda trick; they’re unknowing or forgetful of what happened in the past that illuminates the present; or knowing the facts but unable to apply them at the appropriate moment; vulnerable to being led astray by the next person who offers a specious argument that opposes what they currently believe, or think they believe; and, perhaps worst of all, many of them suffer pathetically from an over-abundance of conspiracy thinking, often carrying a justified suspicion or idea to a ridiculous level; virtually nothing is taken at face value.

The choir needs to be frequently reminded and enlightened to be better able to influence others, to be better activists.

To order a signed copy directly from me you can go to my website: http://killinghope.org.

I’ll be speaking about the new book at Politics and Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, in Washington, DC, Saturday, March 2 at 1 pm.
26

Notes

May 28, 2012, speaking at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington ↩
George Kennan, Wikipedia entry ↩
US Department of the Army, Afghanistan, A Country Study (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 223, 232 (Library of Congress Call Number DS351.5 .A34 1986) ↩
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wikipedia entry ↩
View the press release; see the cards ↩

America’s WMD Pretext to Wage War on Iraq — Ten Years after Colin Powell

POWELL2

Global Research News Hour Episode 14

“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more … Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world.”

-Secretary of State Colin Powell before the UN Security Council on Iraq’s WMD threat

February 5, 2003

Weapons of Mass Delusion

It was a presentation designed to garner international support for a military intervention into Iraq. Colin Powell, retired  Four Star General and US Secretary of State spoke in front of a UN Security Council Plenary session to detail the evidence of Saddam Hussein refusing to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The resolution, passed unanimously the previous November, called for Iraq to fully cooperate with weapons inspectors and disarm or face “serious consequences.”

Powell’s dossier included the testimonies of anonymous defectors, satellite images, schematics of mobile labs for biological weapons agents, intercepted phone conversations and a prop vial supposedly containing Anthrax powder.

The UN, in the end, was not sufficiently persuaded by Powell’s presentation to authorize the use of force to oust the Iraqi strong man by force, but his performance was convincing enough to garner popular support within the United States for the war. The US under then President George W Bush and the United Kingdom under then Prime Minister Tony Blair led a so-called “coalition of the willing” to “free the Iraqi people” from a brutal dictator.

“Operation Iraqi Freedom” has proven to be disastrous to the reputations of the former American and British Heads of State. Much more significantly, it has devastated the civilian population of Iraq with a death toll conservatively estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

On the tenth anniversary of Powell’s infamous speech, we examine the evidence of the Iraq War as a war crime with distinguished University of Illinois Professor of International Law Francis Boyle.

Abandoning the Battlefield

“I will never apologize for deserting the American army. I deserted an injustice and leaving was the right thing to do. I owe one apology and one apology only, and that is to the people of Iraq.”

-Joshua Key, from his 2007 book The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq

Like far too many Americans, Joshua Key from Guthrie, Oklahoma joined the US Army in 2002, principally to be able to make enough of an income to support his young wife and children.

At first, Joshua accepted at face value the Bush Administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein was threatening America with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Having served in Iraq during the first nine months of the war, Key’s perspective on the war changed and out of conscience, he deserted as soon as he returned to the US.

He eventually made his way to Canada, and like dozens of other deserters, sought sanctuary there.

The Canadian government did not officially support the war in Iraq, nevertheless, the current Conservative government of Stephen Harper has a jaded view of these soldiers who they see as “bogus refugee claimants.” Several have already been returned to the United States to face lengthy prison sentences and dishonorable discharge.

Key co-wrote with Lawrence Hill his memoir The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq.

Key joins us in the last half hour to discuss his journey and the obstacles faced by US War resisters and deserters in Canada.

TO consult the GLOBAL RESEARCH Interactive Reader on the Iraq War, click here.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Length (59:32)


Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

The Global Research News Hour hosted by Michael Welch airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

Billionaire Tax Avoider Penny Pritzker For Commerce Slot?

Penny Pritzker, union buster.

Penny Pritzker, sub-prime lender who drove Superior Bank into the ground.

Penny Pritzker, Chicago Board of Ed members who thinks your children only deserve enough education to make them a member of the workforce.

Penny Pritzker, billionaire tax dodger.

Penny Pritzker, potential Secretary of Commerce nominee? Is this a joke?

Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker has emerged as a leading candidate to serve in the administration of President Obama, for whom she has long been a campaign supporter and top fund raiser.

A senior administration official cautioned that no announcement is imminent and that Obama has made no decision. But Pritzker is under consideration to serve as Commerce secretary or perhaps in another senior position involving relations between Obama and business leaders, according to officials close to the process who spoke anonymously to comment on internal deliberations.

Pritzker is a member of the Chicago family behind the Hyatt Hotels Corp. She has been a prominent Obama friend and supporter since his early days in politics and ran his 2008 campaign fundraising operation.

[...] Forbes’ annual list of the world’s billionaires last March put Pritzker at No. 719 and said her hotels and investments were worth $1.8 billion.

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’60s Icon Paul Krassner Reveals His Early History

Publishing a satirical magazine led Krassner to run an underground abortion referral service.

February 6, 2013  |  

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When abortion was illegal, women had no choice but to seek out back-alley butchers for what should have been a medical procedure in a sterile environment. If there was a botched surgery and the victim went to a hospital, the police were called and they wouldn’t allow the doctor to provide a painkiller until the patient gave them the information they sought.

In 1962, there was an article in Look magazine that stated, “There is no such thing as a 'good' abortionist. All of them are in business strictly for money.” But in an issue of my magazine, The Realist, I published an anonymous interview with Dr. Robert Spencer, a truly humane abortionist, promising that I would go to prison sooner than reveal his identify.

Spencer had served as an Army doctor in World War I, then became a pathologist at a hospital in Ashland, Pennsylvania. He went down into the shafts after a mine accident, and aided miners to obtain Workmen’s Compensation for lung disease. At a time when 5,000 women were killed each year by criminal abortionists who charged as much as $1,500, Spencer's reputation had spread by word-of-mouth, and he was known as the "Saint." Patients came to his clinic in Ashland from around the country.

I took the five-hour bus trip from New York to Ashland with my gigantic Webcor tape recorder. Dr. Spencer was the cheerful personification of an old-fashioned physician. He wore a red beret and used folksy expressions like “by golly.” He had been performing abortions for 40 years. He started out charging $5, and never more than $100. He rarely used the word "pregnant." Rather, he would say, “She was that way, and she came to me for help.”

Ashland was a small town, and Dr. Spencer's work was not merely tolerated; the community depended on it -- the hotel, the restaurant, the dress shop -- all thrived on the extra business that came from his out-of-town patients. However, he built facilities at his clinic for African-American patients who weren't allowed to obtain overnight lodgings elsewhere. The walls of his office were decorated with those little wooden signs that tourists like to buy. A sign on the ceiling over his operating table said "Keep Calm."

Here’s an excerpt from our dialogue:

Q. Do you have any idea how many actual abortions you’re performed during all these years?

A. To be accurate, it’s 27,006

Q. Have medical people come to you, who would otherwise shun you?

A. Oh, yes, I’ve had medical people who bring me their wives, and I’ve had quite a few medical people send me patients.

Q. But they wouldn’t perform the operation themselves?

A. No, they’d never perform it, and just exactly what their attitude would be, I don’t really know. Some of them, I presume, were absolutely against it, because I’ve had ministers, and they’d bring me their daughters or their nieces.

Q. Have police come to you for professional services?

A. Oh, yes, I’ve had police in here, too. I’ve helped them out. I’ve helped a hell of a lot police out. I’ve helped a lot of FBI men out. They would be here, and they had me a little bit scared--I didn’t know whether they were just in to get me or not.

Q. What would you say is the most significant lesson you’ve learned in all your years as a practicing abortion doctor?

A. You’ve got to be careful. That’s the most important thing. And you’ve got to be cocksure that everything’s removed. And even the uterus speaks to you and tells you. I could be blind. You see, this is an operation no eye sees. You go by the sense of feel and touch. The voice of the uterus. But the only thing I can see is hypocrisy, hypocrisy. Everywhere I look is hypocrisy, Because the politicians--and I’ve had politicians in here--they still keep those laws in existence, but yet, if some friend of theirs is in trouble….

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‘Gay marriage weakens UK PM’s stand’

British Prime Minister and Tory leader David Cameron has weakened his position within his party by pushing through gay marriage bill, Conservatives MPs warned.

UK lawmakers approved same sex marriage bill in the House of Commons last night, tearing the Conservative party in half with 136 Tory MPs voting against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, compared with just 127 backing it, and 35 abstaining.

British MPs warned that Cameron’s defending gay marriage despite oppositions from most of his Tory Party members could jeopardize his position as the party’s leader.

“I think it weakens his position, and given the task that he's got on his hands at the moment... that's not good news,” said Sir Roger Gale, a Conservative MP who opposed the proposed legislation.

“Cameron is not under immediate threat but there is no leadership and no narrative. Kids are running Downing Street,” the quoted an anonymous backbencher as a saying.

Most Conservatives hope they could water down the legislation at later stages the bill has to pass through committee in the Commons and a vote in the House of Lords.

MOS/MOL/HE

Naming the Dead: New Investigation into Victims of US Drone Strikes

dronefiring

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is launching an ambitious new investigation, which will seek to identify as many as possible of those killed in US covert drone strikes in Pakistan, whether civilian or militant.

The Bureau is raising some of the money for this project through a crowd-funding appeal.

As part of our ongoing monitoring and reporting of CIA and Pentagon drone strikes, the Bureau has already recorded the names of hundreds of people killed in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

At the end of January 2013, the Bureau was able to identify by name 213 people killed by drones in Pakistan who were reported to be middle- or senior-ranking militants.

A further 331 civilians have also now been named, 87 of them children.

But this is a small proportion of the minimum 2,629 people who appear to have so far died in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau’s work suggests 475 of them were likely to have been civilians.

‘At the momNaming the Dead new version4ent we know the names of fewer than 20% of those killed in Pakistan’s tribal areas. At least 2,000 deaths still remain publicly anonymous,’ said Chris Woods, who leads the Bureau’s covert drone war team.

‘Our aim will be to identify by name many hundreds more of those killed. A significant number of those identities will be known by local communities, by US and Pakistani officials, and by militant groups. We hope to convince them to share that information.’

Related story – Analysis: Why we must name all drone attack victims

Pakistani tribesmen offer funeral prayer -GettyImages

A February 15 2009 drone strike killed at least 26. Few have so far been named. (Getty Images)

The project has already secured substantial funding from a UK foundation – but it still needs more funds.

Today the US-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, a crowd-funding organisation aimed at raising money for public interest journalism, announced it is backing the Bureau’s Naming the Dead project. The Bureau’s new investigation will be one of four recipients of Freedom of the Press Foundation’s latest campaign.

Crowd-funding is an established way of supporting journalism in the US and it is increasingly being used in the UK as a way of funding projects, which established organisations ignore or will not fund.

Using the reach of the web, many people (the crowd) are able to give small amounts of money to back a cause or project in which they believe.

‘In the face of official secrecy, having the full facts about who is killed is essential  for an informed debate about  the effectiveness and ethics of the drone campaign,’  said Christopher Hird, managing editor of the Bureau. ‘And it is exciting to be able to give all of our supporters worldwide the chance to be part of  our first venture in this democratic form of funding.’

A challenging task

Government officials, media organisations and even militant groups are often quick to identify senior militants such as Yahya al-Libi and Ilyas Kashmiri when they are killed.

Yet little is said of the hundreds more alleged militants and civilians among at least 2,629 deaths in Pakistan drone strikes.

Sth Wana letter Jan 2009Both the US and Pakistani governments are likely to keep detailed records. A recent case at the Peshawar High Court heard that officials in the tribal agencies had prepared a confidential report which ‘included details of each and every drone attack and the number, names and ages of the people killed’.

Anonymous US intelligence officials have also revealed details of CIA video surveillance on particular strikes. And the ‘Terror Tuesday’ process – in which hundreds of named alleged militants have been selected by US agencies for targeted killing – has been widely reported.

Photographs and other documents also occasionally surface. When a civilian family was killed in the first drone strike of Barack Obama’s presidency, local officials issued formal paperwork (see right) that was later obtained by the campaign group Center for Civilians in Conflict.

ID cards, family photographs and eyewitness testimony of attacks can all provide useful corroborating evidence. The graves of militants killed in drone strikes can also name them as ‘martyrs’ and give details of the strikes in which they died.

Drawing on information from a wide array of sources, the Bureau’s team will seek to build a detailed understanding of those killed.

Focus on Pakistan

While the Bureau will seek to extend the project to Yemen and Somalia in the near future, the initial focus will be on the nation where most US covert drone strikes have taken place.

Researchers based in Pakistan and the UK will seek to build up biographical information for all of those killed, whether civilian or militant – their name, age, gender, tribe, and village, for example. Where possible, photographs, witness statements and official documentation will also be published.

The team will seek assistance from the Pakistan and US governments in identifying those killed. And researchers will also call on Taliban factions and other militant groups to release information on the many hundreds of fighters killed in more than 360 US drone strikes since 2004.

Waves of Anti-Greed Movements in the United States

I was doing some research for the ‘origins’ section of the Occupy Wall Street page on Wikipedia which I have had free rein on for a while now. Doing that research gave me an idea.

Chilling legal memo from Obama DOJ justifies assassination of US citizens

The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/ AP)process, far from any battlefield. The Obama administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice. In September 2011, it killed US citizen Anwar Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen, along with US citizen Samir Khan, and then, in circumstances that are still unexplained, two weeks later killed Awlaki's 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman with a separate drone strike in Yemen.

Since then, senior Obama officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and John Brennan, Obama's top terrorism adviser and his current nominee to lead the CIA, have explicitly argued that the president is and should be vested with this power. Meanwhile, a Washington Post article from October reported that the administration is formally institutionalizing this president's power to decide who dies under the Orwellian title "disposition matrix".

When the New York Times back in April, 2010 first confirmed the existence of Obama's hit list, it made clear just what an extremist power this is, noting: "It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing." The NYT quoted a Bush intelligence official as saying "he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president". When the existence of Obama's hit list was first reported several months earlier by the Washington Post's Dana Priest, she wrote that the "list includes three Americans".

What has made these actions all the more radical is the absolute secrecy with which Obama has draped all of this. Not only is the entire process carried out solely within the Executive branch - with no checks or oversight of any kind - but there is zero transparency and zero accountability. The president's underlings compile their proposed lists of who should be executed, and the president - at a charming weekly event dubbed by White House aides as "Terror Tuesday" - then chooses from "baseball cards" and decrees in total secrecy who should die. The power of accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner are all consolidated in this one man, and those powers are exercised in the dark.

In fact, The Most Transparent Administration Ever™ has been so fixated on secrecy that they have refused even to disclose the legal memoranda prepared by Obama lawyers setting forth their legal rationale for why the president has this power. During the Bush years, when Bush refused to disclose the memoranda from his Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that legally authorized torture, rendition, warrantless eavesdropping and the like, leading Democratic lawyers such as Dawn Johnsen (Obama's first choice to lead the OLC) vehemently denounced this practice as a grave threat, warning that "the Bush Administration's excessive reliance on 'secret law' threatens the effective functioning of American democracy" and "the withholding from Congress and the public of legal interpretations by the [OLC] upsets the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government."

But when it comes to Obama's assassination power, this is exactly what his administration has done. It has repeatedly refused to disclose the principal legal memoranda prepared by Obama OLC lawyers that justified his kill list. It is, right now, vigorously resisting lawsuits from the New York Times and the ACLU to obtain that OLC memorandum. In sum, Obama not only claims he has the power to order US citizens killed with no transparency, but that even the documents explaining the legal rationale for this power are to be concealed. He's maintaining secret law on the most extremist power he can assert.

Last night, NBC News' Michael Isikoff released a 16-page "white paper" prepared by the Obama DOJ that purports to justify Obama's power to target even Americans for assassination without due process (the memo is embedded in full below). This is not the primary OLC memo justifying Obama's kill list - that is still concealed - but it appears to track the reasoning of that memo as anonymously described to the New York Times in October 2011.

This new memo is entitled: "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa'ida or An Associated Force". It claims its conclusion is "reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a US citizen". Yet it is every bit as chilling as the Bush OLC torture memos in how its clinical, legalistic tone completely sanitizes the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.

I've written many times at length about why the Obama assassination program is such an extreme and radical threat - see here for one of the most comprehensive discussions, with documentation of how completely all of this violates Obama and Holder's statements before obtaining power - and won't repeat those arguments here. Instead, there are numerous points that should be emphasized about the fundamentally misleading nature of this new memo:

1. Equating government accusations with guilt

The core distortion of the War on Terror under both Bush and Obama is the Orwellian practice of equating government accusations of terrorism with proof of guilt. One constantly hears US government defenders referring to "terrorists" when what they actually mean is: those accused by the government of terrorism. This entire memo is grounded in this deceit.

Time and again, it emphasizes that the authorized assassinations are carried out "against a senior operational leader of al-Qaida or its associated forces who poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States." Undoubtedly fearing that this document would one day be public, Obama lawyers made certain to incorporate this deceit into the title itself: "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida or An Associated Force."

This ensures that huge numbers of citizens - those who spend little time thinking about such things and/or authoritarians who assume all government claims are true - will instinctively justify what is being done here on the ground that we must kill the Terrorists or joining al-Qaida means you should be killed. That's the "reasoning" process that has driven the War on Terror since it commenced: if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such - with indefinite imprisonment or death.

But of course, when this memo refers to "a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida", what it actually means is this: someone whom the President - in total secrecy and with no due process - has accused of being that. Indeed, the memo itself makes this clear, as it baldly states that presidential assassinations are justified when "an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US".

This is the crucial point: the memo isn't justifying the due-process-free execution of senior al-Qaida leaders who pose an imminent threat to the US. It is justifying the due-process-free execution of people secretly accused by the president and his underlings, with no due process, of being that. The distinction between (a) government accusations and (b) proof of guilt is central to every free society, by definition, yet this memo - and those who defend Obama's assassination power - willfully ignore it.

Those who justify all of this by arguing that Obama can and should kill al-Qaida leaders who are trying to kill Americans are engaged in supreme question-begging. Without any due process, transparency or oversight, there is no way to know who is a "senior al-Qaida leader" and who is posing an "imminent threat" to Americans. All that can be known is who Obama, in total secrecy, accuses of this.

(Indeed, membership in al-Qaida is not even required to be assassinated, as one can be a member of a group deemed to be an "associated force" of al-Qaida, whatever that might mean: a formulation so broad and ill-defined that, as Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller argues, it means the memo "authorizes the use of lethal force against individuals whose targeting is, without more, prohibited by international law".)

The definition of an extreme authoritarian is one who is willing blindly to assume that government accusations are true without any evidence presented or opportunity to contest those accusations. This memo - and the entire theory justifying Obama's kill list - centrally relies on this authoritarian conflation of government accusations and valid proof of guilt.

They are not the same and never have been. Political leaders who decree guilt in secret and with no oversight inevitably succumb to error and/or abuse of power. Such unchecked accusatory decrees are inherently untrustworthy (indeed, Yemen experts have vehemently contested the claim that Awlaki himself was a senior al-Qaida leader posing an imminent threat to the US). That's why due process is guaranteed in the Constitution and why judicial review of government accusations has been a staple of western justice since the Magna Carta: because leaders can't be trusted to decree guilt and punish citizens without evidence and an adversarial process. That is the age-old basic right on which this memo, and the Obama presidency, is waging war.

2. Creating a ceiling, not a floor

The most vital fact to note about this memorandum is that it is not purporting to impose requirements on the president's power to assassinate US citizens. When it concludes that the president has the authority to assassinate "a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida" who "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US" where capture is "infeasible", it is not concluding that assassinations are permissible only in those circumstances. To the contrary, the memo expressly makes clear that presidential assassinations may be permitted even when none of those circumstances prevail: "This paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation lawful." Instead, as the last line of the memo states: "it concludes only that the stated conditions would be sufficient to make lawful a lethal operation" - not that such conditions are necessary to find these assassinations legal. The memo explicitly leaves open the possibility that presidential assassinations of US citizens may be permissible even when the target is not a senior al-Qaida leader posing an imminent threat and/or when capture is feasible.

Critically, the rationale of the memo - that the US is engaged in a global war against al-Qaida and "associated forces" - can be easily used to justify presidential assassinations of US citizens in circumstances far beyond the ones described in this memo. If you believe the president has the power to execute US citizens based on the accusation that the citizen has joined al-Qaida, what possible limiting principle can you cite as to why that shouldn't apply to a low-level al-Qaida member, including ones found in places where capture may be feasible (including US soil)? The purported limitations on this power set forth in this memo, aside from being incredibly vague, can be easily discarded once the central theory of presidential power is embraced.

3. Relies on the core Bush/Cheney theory of a global battlefield

The primary theory embraced by the Bush administration to justify its War on Terror policies was that the "battlefield" is no longer confined to identifiable geographical areas, but instead, the entire globe is now one big, unlimited "battlefield". That theory is both radical and dangerous because a president's powers are basically omnipotent on a "battlefield". There, state power is shielded from law, from courts, from constitutional guarantees, from all forms of accountability: anyone on a battlefield can be killed or imprisoned without charges. Thus, to posit the world as a battlefield is, by definition, to create an imperial, omnipotent presidency. That is the radical theory that unleashed all the rest of the controversial and lawless Bush/Cheney policies.

This "world-is-a-battlefield" theory was once highly controversial among Democrats. John Kerry famously denounced it when running for president, arguing instead that the effort against terrorism is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world".

But this global-war theory is exactly what lies at heart of the Obama approach to Terrorism generally and this memo specifically. It is impossible to defend Obama's assassination powers without embracing it (which is why key Obama officials have consistently done so). That's because these assassinations are taking place in countries far from any war zone, such as Yemen and Somalia. You can't defend the application of "war powers" in these countries without embracing the once-very-controversial Bush/Cheney view that the whole is now a "battlefield" and the president's war powers thus exist without geographic limits.

This new memo makes clear that this Bush/Cheney worldview is at the heart of the Obama presidency. The president, it claims, "retains authority to use force against al-Qaida and associated forces outside the area of active hostilities". In other words: there are, subject to the entirely optional "feasibility of capture" element, no geographic limits to the president's authority to kill anyone he wants. This power applies not only to war zones, but everywhere in the world that he claims a member of al-Qaida is found. This memo embraces and institutionalizes the core Bush/Cheney theory that justified the entire panoply of policies Democrats back then pretended to find so objectionable.

4. Expanding the concept of "imminence" beyond recognition

The memo claims that the president's assassination power applies to a senior al-Qaida member who "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States". That is designed to convince citizens to accept this power by leading them to believe it's similar to common and familiar domestic uses of lethal force on US soil: if, for instance, an armed criminal is in the process of robbing a bank or is about to shoot hostages, then the "imminence" of the threat he poses justifies the use of lethal force against him by the police.

But this rhetorical tactic is totally misleading. The memo is authorizing assassinations against citizens in circumstances far beyond this understanding of "imminence". Indeed, the memo expressly states that it is inventing "a broader concept of imminence" than is typically used in domestic law. Specifically, the president's assassination power "does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack . . . will take place in the immediate future". The US routinely assassinates its targets not when they are engaged in or plotting attacks but when they are at home, with family members, riding in a car, at work, at funerals, rescuing other drone victims, etc.

Many of the early objections to this new memo have focused on this warped and incredibly broad definition of "imminence". The ACLU's Jameel Jaffer told Isikoff that the memo "redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning". Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller called Jaffer's objection "an understatement", noting that the memo's understanding of "imminence" is "wildly overbroad" under international law.

Crucially, Heller points out what I noted above: once you accept the memo's reasoning - that the US is engaged in a global war, that the world is a battlefield, and the president has the power to assassinate any member of al-Qaida or associated forces - then there is no way coherent way to limit this power to places where capture is infeasible or to persons posing an "imminent" threat. The legal framework adopted by the memo means the president can kill anyone he claims is a member of al-Qaida regardless of where they are found or what they are doing.

The only reason to add these limitations of "imminence" and "feasibility of capture" is, as Heller said, purely political: to make the theories more politically palatable. But the definitions for these terms are so vague and broad that they provide no real limits on the president's assassination power. As the ACLU's Jaffer says: "This is a chilling document" because "it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen" and the purported limits "are elastic and vaguely defined, and it's easy to see how they could be manipulated."

5. Converting Obama underlings into objective courts

This memo is not a judicial opinion. It was not written by anyone independent of the president. To the contrary, it was written by life-long partisan lackeys: lawyers whose careerist interests depend upon staying in the good graces of Obama and the Democrats, almost certainly Marty Lederman and David Barron. Treating this document as though it confers any authority on Obama is like treating the statements of one's lawyer as a judicial finding or jury verdict.

Indeed, recall the primary excuse used to shield Bush officials from prosecution for their crimes of torture and illegal eavesdropping: namely, they got Bush-appointed lawyers in the DOJ to say that their conduct was legal, and therefore, it should be treated as such. This tactic - getting partisan lawyers and underlings of the president to say that the president's conduct is legal - was appropriately treated with scorn when invoked by Bush officials to justify their radical programs. As Digby wrote about Bush officials who pointed to the OLC memos it got its lawyers to issue about torture and eavesdropping, such a practice amounts to:

"validating the idea that obscure Justice Department officials can be granted the authority to essentially immunize officials at all levels of the government, from the president down to the lowest field officer, by issuing a secret memo. This is a very important new development in western jurisprudence and one that surely requires more study and consideration. If Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan had known about this, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble."

Life-long Democratic Party lawyers are not going to oppose the terrorism policies of the president who appointed them. A president can always find underlings and political appointees to endorse whatever he wants to do. That's all this memo is: the by-product of obsequious lawyers telling their Party's leader that he is (of course) free to do exactly that which he wants to do, in exactly the same way that Bush got John Yoo to tell him that torture was not torture, and that even it if were, it was legal.

That's why courts, not the president's partisan lawyers, should be making these determinations. But when the ACLU tried to obtain a judicial determination as to whether Obama is actually authorized to assassinate US citizens, the Obama DOJ went to extreme lengths to block the court from ruling on that question. They didn't want independent judges to determine the law. They wanted their own lawyers to do so.

That's all this memo is: Obama-loyal appointees telling their leader that he has the authority to do what he wants. But in the warped world of US politics, this - secret memos from partisan lackeys - has replaced judicial review as the means to determine the legality of the president's conduct.

6. Making a mockery of "due process"

The core freedom most under attack by the War on Terror is the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. It provides that "no person shall be . . . deprived of life . . . without due process of law". Like putting people in cages for life on island prisons with no trial, claiming that the president has the right to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield without any charges or trial is the supreme evisceration of this right.

The memo pays lip service to the right it is destroying: "Under the traditional due process balancing analysis . . . . we recognize that there is no private interest more weighty than a person's interest in his life." But it nonetheless argues that a "balancing test" is necessary to determine the extent of the process that is due before the president can deprive someone of their life, and further argues that, as the New York Times put it when this theory was first unveiled: "while the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch."

Stephen Colbert perfectly mocked this theory when Eric Holder first unveiled it to defend the president's assassination program. At the time, Holder actually said: "due process and judicial process are not one and the same." Colbert interpreted that claim as follows:

"Trial by jury, trial by fire, rock, paper scissors, who cares? Due process just means that there is a process that you do. The current process is apparently, first the president meets with his advisers and decides who he can kill. Then he kills them."

It is fitting indeed that the memo expressly embraces two core Bush/Cheney theories to justify this view of what "due process" requires. First, it cites the Bush DOJ's core view, as enunciated by John Yoo, that courts have no role to play in what the president does in the War on Terror because judicial review constitutes "judicial encroachment" on the "judgments by the President and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force". And then it cites the Bush DOJ's mostly successful arguments in the 2004 Hamdi case that the president has the authority even to imprison US citizens without trial provided that he accuses them of being a terrorist.

The reason this is so fitting is because, as I've detailed many times, it was these same early Bush/Cheney theories that made me want to begin writing about politics, all driven by my perception that the US government was becoming extremist and dangerous. During the early Bush years, the very idea that the US government asserted the power to imprison US citizens without charges and due process (or to eavesdrop on them) was so radical that, at the time, I could hardly believe they were being asserted out in the open.

Yet here we are almost a full decade later. And we have the current president asserting the power not merely to imprison or eavesdrop on US citizens without charges or trial, but to order them executed - and to do so in total secrecy, with no checks or oversight. If you believe the president has the power to order US citizens executed far from any battlefield with no charges or trial, then it's truly hard to conceive of any asserted power you would find objectionable.

DOJ White Paper

Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Q... by

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald

Chilling Legal Memo From Obama DOJ Justifies Assassination of US Citizens

The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/ AP)process, far from any battlefield. The Obama administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice. In September 2011, it killed US citizen Anwar Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen, along with US citizen Samir Khan, and then, in circumstances that are still unexplained, two weeks later killed Awlaki's 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman with a separate drone strike in Yemen.

Since then, senior Obama officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and John Brennan, Obama's top terrorism adviser and his current nominee to lead the CIA, have explicitly argued that the president is and should be vested with this power. Meanwhile, a Washington Post article from October reported that the administration is formally institutionalizing this president's power to decide who dies under the Orwellian title "disposition matrix".

When the New York Times back in April, 2010 first confirmed the existence of Obama's hit list, it made clear just what an extremist power this is, noting: "It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing." The NYT quoted a Bush intelligence official as saying "he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president". When the existence of Obama's hit list was first reported several months earlier by the Washington Post's Dana Priest, she wrote that the "list includes three Americans".

What has made these actions all the more radical is the absolute secrecy with which Obama has draped all of this. Not only is the entire process carried out solely within the Executive branch - with no checks or oversight of any kind - but there is zero transparency and zero accountability. The president's underlings compile their proposed lists of who should be executed, and the president - at a charming weekly event dubbed by White House aides as "Terror Tuesday" - then chooses from "baseball cards" and decrees in total secrecy who should die. The power of accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner are all consolidated in this one man, and those powers are exercised in the dark.

In fact, The Most Transparent Administration Ever™ has been so fixated on secrecy that they have refused even to disclose the legal memoranda prepared by Obama lawyers setting forth their legal rationale for why the president has this power. During the Bush years, when Bush refused to disclose the memoranda from his Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that legally authorized torture, rendition, warrantless eavesdropping and the like, leading Democratic lawyers such as Dawn Johnsen (Obama's first choice to lead the OLC) vehemently denounced this practice as a grave threat, warning that "the Bush Administration's excessive reliance on 'secret law' threatens the effective functioning of American democracy" and "the withholding from Congress and the public of legal interpretations by the [OLC] upsets the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government."

But when it comes to Obama's assassination power, this is exactly what his administration has done. It has repeatedly refused to disclose the principal legal memoranda prepared by Obama OLC lawyers that justified his kill list. It is, right now, vigorously resisting lawsuits from the New York Times and the ACLU to obtain that OLC memorandum. In sum, Obama not only claims he has the power to order US citizens killed with no transparency, but that even the documents explaining the legal rationale for this power are to be concealed. He's maintaining secret law on the most extremist power he can assert.

Last night, NBC News' Michael Isikoff released a 16-page "white paper" prepared by the Obama DOJ that purports to justify Obama's power to target even Americans for assassination without due process (the memo is embedded in full below). This is not the primary OLC memo justifying Obama's kill list - that is still concealed - but it appears to track the reasoning of that memo as anonymously described to the New York Times in October 2011.

This new memo is entitled: "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa'ida or An Associated Force". It claims its conclusion is "reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a US citizen". Yet it is every bit as chilling as the Bush OLC torture memos in how its clinical, legalistic tone completely sanitizes the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.

I've written many times at length about why the Obama assassination program is such an extreme and radical threat - see here for one of the most comprehensive discussions, with documentation of how completely all of this violates Obama and Holder's statements before obtaining power - and won't repeat those arguments here. Instead, there are numerous points that should be emphasized about the fundamentally misleading nature of this new memo:

1. Equating government accusations with guilt

The core distortion of the War on Terror under both Bush and Obama is the Orwellian practice of equating government accusations of terrorism with proof of guilt. One constantly hears US government defenders referring to "terrorists" when what they actually mean is: those accused by the government of terrorism. This entire memo is grounded in this deceit.

Time and again, it emphasizes that the authorized assassinations are carried out "against a senior operational leader of al-Qaida or its associated forces who poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States." Undoubtedly fearing that this document would one day be public, Obama lawyers made certain to incorporate this deceit into the title itself: "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida or An Associated Force."

This ensures that huge numbers of citizens - those who spend little time thinking about such things and/or authoritarians who assume all government claims are true - will instinctively justify what is being done here on the ground that we must kill the Terrorists or joining al-Qaida means you should be killed. That's the "reasoning" process that has driven the War on Terror since it commenced: if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such - with indefinite imprisonment or death.

But of course, when this memo refers to "a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida", what it actually means is this: someone whom the President - in total secrecy and with no due process - has accused of being that. Indeed, the memo itself makes this clear, as it baldly states that presidential assassinations are justified when "an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US".

This is the crucial point: the memo isn't justifying the due-process-free execution of senior al-Qaida leaders who pose an imminent threat to the US. It is justifying the due-process-free execution of people secretly accused by the president and his underlings, with no due process, of being that. The distinction between (a) government accusations and (b) proof of guilt is central to every free society, by definition, yet this memo - and those who defend Obama's assassination power - willfully ignore it.

Those who justify all of this by arguing that Obama can and should kill al-Qaida leaders who are trying to kill Americans are engaged in supreme question-begging. Without any due process, transparency or oversight, there is no way to know who is a "senior al-Qaida leader" and who is posing an "imminent threat" to Americans. All that can be known is who Obama, in total secrecy, accuses of this.

(Indeed, membership in al-Qaida is not even required to be assassinated, as one can be a member of a group deemed to be an "associated force" of al-Qaida, whatever that might mean: a formulation so broad and ill-defined that, as Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller argues, it means the memo "authorizes the use of lethal force against individuals whose targeting is, without more, prohibited by international law".)

The definition of an extreme authoritarian is one who is willing blindly to assume that government accusations are true without any evidence presented or opportunity to contest those accusations. This memo - and the entire theory justifying Obama's kill list - centrally relies on this authoritarian conflation of government accusations and valid proof of guilt.

They are not the same and never have been. Political leaders who decree guilt in secret and with no oversight inevitably succumb to error and/or abuse of power. Such unchecked accusatory decrees are inherently untrustworthy (indeed, Yemen experts have vehemently contested the claim that Awlaki himself was a senior al-Qaida leader posing an imminent threat to the US). That's why due process is guaranteed in the Constitution and why judicial review of government accusations has been a staple of western justice since the Magna Carta: because leaders can't be trusted to decree guilt and punish citizens without evidence and an adversarial process. That is the age-old basic right on which this memo, and the Obama presidency, is waging war.

2. Creating a ceiling, not a floor

The most vital fact to note about this memorandum is that it is not purporting to impose requirements on the president's power to assassinate US citizens. When it concludes that the president has the authority to assassinate "a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida" who "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US" where capture is "infeasible", it is not concluding that assassinations are permissible only in those circumstances. To the contrary, the memo expressly makes clear that presidential assassinations may be permitted even when none of those circumstances prevail: "This paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation lawful." Instead, as the last line of the memo states: "it concludes only that the stated conditions would be sufficient to make lawful a lethal operation" - not that such conditions are necessary to find these assassinations legal. The memo explicitly leaves open the possibility that presidential assassinations of US citizens may be permissible even when the target is not a senior al-Qaida leader posing an imminent threat and/or when capture is feasible.

Critically, the rationale of the memo - that the US is engaged in a global war against al-Qaida and "associated forces" - can be easily used to justify presidential assassinations of US citizens in circumstances far beyond the ones described in this memo. If you believe the president has the power to execute US citizens based on the accusation that the citizen has joined al-Qaida, what possible limiting principle can you cite as to why that shouldn't apply to a low-level al-Qaida member, including ones found in places where capture may be feasible (including US soil)? The purported limitations on this power set forth in this memo, aside from being incredibly vague, can be easily discarded once the central theory of presidential power is embraced.

3. Relies on the core Bush/Cheney theory of a global battlefield

The primary theory embraced by the Bush administration to justify its War on Terror policies was that the "battlefield" is no longer confined to identifiable geographical areas, but instead, the entire globe is now one big, unlimited "battlefield". That theory is both radical and dangerous because a president's powers are basically omnipotent on a "battlefield". There, state power is shielded from law, from courts, from constitutional guarantees, from all forms of accountability: anyone on a battlefield can be killed or imprisoned without charges. Thus, to posit the world as a battlefield is, by definition, to create an imperial, omnipotent presidency. That is the radical theory that unleashed all the rest of the controversial and lawless Bush/Cheney policies.

This "world-is-a-battlefield" theory was once highly controversial among Democrats. John Kerry famously denounced it when running for president, arguing instead that the effort against terrorism is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world".

But this global-war theory is exactly what lies at heart of the Obama approach to Terrorism generally and this memo specifically. It is impossible to defend Obama's assassination powers without embracing it (which is why key Obama officials have consistently done so). That's because these assassinations are taking place in countries far from any war zone, such as Yemen and Somalia. You can't defend the application of "war powers" in these countries without embracing the once-very-controversial Bush/Cheney view that the whole is now a "battlefield" and the president's war powers thus exist without geographic limits.

This new memo makes clear that this Bush/Cheney worldview is at the heart of the Obama presidency. The president, it claims, "retains authority to use force against al-Qaida and associated forces outside the area of active hostilities". In other words: there are, subject to the entirely optional "feasibility of capture" element, no geographic limits to the president's authority to kill anyone he wants. This power applies not only to war zones, but everywhere in the world that he claims a member of al-Qaida is found. This memo embraces and institutionalizes the core Bush/Cheney theory that justified the entire panoply of policies Democrats back then pretended to find so objectionable.

4. Expanding the concept of "imminence" beyond recognition

The memo claims that the president's assassination power applies to a senior al-Qaida member who "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States". That is designed to convince citizens to accept this power by leading them to believe it's similar to common and familiar domestic uses of lethal force on US soil: if, for instance, an armed criminal is in the process of robbing a bank or is about to shoot hostages, then the "imminence" of the threat he poses justifies the use of lethal force against him by the police.

But this rhetorical tactic is totally misleading. The memo is authorizing assassinations against citizens in circumstances far beyond this understanding of "imminence". Indeed, the memo expressly states that it is inventing "a broader concept of imminence" than is typically used in domestic law. Specifically, the president's assassination power "does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack . . . will take place in the immediate future". The US routinely assassinates its targets not when they are engaged in or plotting attacks but when they are at home, with family members, riding in a car, at work, at funerals, rescuing other drone victims, etc.

Many of the early objections to this new memo have focused on this warped and incredibly broad definition of "imminence". The ACLU's Jameel Jaffer told Isikoff that the memo "redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning". Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller called Jaffer's objection "an understatement", noting that the memo's understanding of "imminence" is "wildly overbroad" under international law.

Crucially, Heller points out what I noted above: once you accept the memo's reasoning - that the US is engaged in a global war, that the world is a battlefield, and the president has the power to assassinate any member of al-Qaida or associated forces - then there is no way coherent way to limit this power to places where capture is infeasible or to persons posing an "imminent" threat. The legal framework adopted by the memo means the president can kill anyone he claims is a member of al-Qaida regardless of where they are found or what they are doing.

The only reason to add these limitations of "imminence" and "feasibility of capture" is, as Heller said, purely political: to make the theories more politically palatable. But the definitions for these terms are so vague and broad that they provide no real limits on the president's assassination power. As the ACLU's Jaffer says: "This is a chilling document" because "it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen" and the purported limits "are elastic and vaguely defined, and it's easy to see how they could be manipulated."

5. Converting Obama underlings into objective courts

This memo is not a judicial opinion. It was not written by anyone independent of the president. To the contrary, it was written by life-long partisan lackeys: lawyers whose careerist interests depend upon staying in the good graces of Obama and the Democrats, almost certainly Marty Lederman and David Barron. Treating this document as though it confers any authority on Obama is like treating the statements of one's lawyer as a judicial finding or jury verdict.

Indeed, recall the primary excuse used to shield Bush officials from prosecution for their crimes of torture and illegal eavesdropping: namely, they got Bush-appointed lawyers in the DOJ to say that their conduct was legal, and therefore, it should be treated as such. This tactic - getting partisan lawyers and underlings of the president to say that the president's conduct is legal - was appropriately treated with scorn when invoked by Bush officials to justify their radical programs. As Digby wrote about Bush officials who pointed to the OLC memos it got its lawyers to issue about torture and eavesdropping, such a practice amounts to:

"validating the idea that obscure Justice Department officials can be granted the authority to essentially immunize officials at all levels of the government, from the president down to the lowest field officer, by issuing a secret memo. This is a very important new development in western jurisprudence and one that surely requires more study and consideration. If Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan had known about this, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble."

Life-long Democratic Party lawyers are not going to oppose the terrorism policies of the president who appointed them. A president can always find underlings and political appointees to endorse whatever he wants to do. That's all this memo is: the by-product of obsequious lawyers telling their Party's leader that he is (of course) free to do exactly that which he wants to do, in exactly the same way that Bush got John Yoo to tell him that torture was not torture, and that even it if were, it was legal.

That's why courts, not the president's partisan lawyers, should be making these determinations. But when the ACLU tried to obtain a judicial determination as to whether Obama is actually authorized to assassinate US citizens, the Obama DOJ went to extreme lengths to block the court from ruling on that question. They didn't want independent judges to determine the law. They wanted their own lawyers to do so.

That's all this memo is: Obama-loyal appointees telling their leader that he has the authority to do what he wants. But in the warped world of US politics, this - secret memos from partisan lackeys - has replaced judicial review as the means to determine the legality of the president's conduct.

6. Making a mockery of "due process"

The core freedom most under attack by the War on Terror is the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. It provides that "no person shall be . . . deprived of life . . . without due process of law". Like putting people in cages for life on island prisons with no trial, claiming that the president has the right to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield without any charges or trial is the supreme evisceration of this right.

The memo pays lip service to the right it is destroying: "Under the traditional due process balancing analysis . . . . we recognize that there is no private interest more weighty than a person's interest in his life." But it nonetheless argues that a "balancing test" is necessary to determine the extent of the process that is due before the president can deprive someone of their life, and further argues that, as the New York Times put it when this theory was first unveiled: "while the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch."

Stephen Colbert perfectly mocked this theory when Eric Holder first unveiled it to defend the president's assassination program. At the time, Holder actually said: "due process and judicial process are not one and the same." Colbert interpreted that claim as follows:

"Trial by jury, trial by fire, rock, paper scissors, who cares? Due process just means that there is a process that you do. The current process is apparently, first the president meets with his advisers and decides who he can kill. Then he kills them."

It is fitting indeed that the memo expressly embraces two core Bush/Cheney theories to justify this view of what "due process" requires. First, it cites the Bush DOJ's core view, as enunciated by John Yoo, that courts have no role to play in what the president does in the War on Terror because judicial review constitutes "judicial encroachment" on the "judgments by the President and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force". And then it cites the Bush DOJ's mostly successful arguments in the 2004 Hamdi case that the president has the authority even to imprison US citizens without trial provided that he accuses them of being a terrorist.

The reason this is so fitting is because, as I've detailed many times, it was these same early Bush/Cheney theories that made me want to begin writing about politics, all driven by my perception that the US government was becoming extremist and dangerous. During the early Bush years, the very idea that the US government asserted the power to imprison US citizens without charges and due process (or to eavesdrop on them) was so radical that, at the time, I could hardly believe they were being asserted out in the open.

Yet here we are almost a full decade later. And we have the current president asserting the power not merely to imprison or eavesdrop on US citizens without charges or trial, but to order them executed - and to do so in total secrecy, with no checks or oversight. If you believe the president has the power to order US citizens executed far from any battlefield with no charges or trial, then it's truly hard to conceive of any asserted power you would find objectionable.

DOJ White Paper

Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Q... by

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald

Richard III’s Remains Found Six Feet Under British Parking Lot

Richard III’s Remains Found Six Feet Under British Parking Lot

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Posted on Feb 4, 2013
Wikimedia Commons

It’s hardly the kind of vaunted resting place various other British royals have enjoyed after serving their earthly tenures, but the earth beneath a municipal parking lot in Leicester, England, is where the remains of Britain’s legendary King Richard III were recently discovered.

The bones of the contentious 15th century figure, whom William Shakespeare described as a physically “deformed, unfinish’d” and generally nasty piece of work, were discovered in September by a team from the University of Leicester and subsequently identified.

Meanwhile, a mock-up of what the maligned monarch might have looked like has been made since the archeological breakthrough—check it out here.

The New York Times:

The geneticist Turi King told a news conference held by the University of Leicester research team that DNA samples taken from two modern-day descendants of Richard III’s family matched those from the bones found at the site. One of the descendants, Michael Ibsen, is the son of a 16th-generation niece of King Richard’s. The second wished to remain anonymous, the researchers said.

The skeleton, moreover, had a gaping hole in the skull consistent with contemporary accounts of the battlefield blow that killed the monarch more than 500 years ago.

Before the DNA findings came in, Mr. Taylor and other team members said, the university team had assembled a mounting catalog of evidence that pointed conclusively at the remains being those of the king. These included confirmation that the body was that of a man in his late 20s or early 30s, and that his high-protein diet had been rich in meat and fish, characteristic of a privileged life in the 15th century.

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—Posted by Kasia Anderson.

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Suppressing 9/11 Truth in the Mainstream Media, Demonizing the Messenger

911truth

Global Research News Hour Episode 13

 “It’s easy to take an issue like the 9/11 truth movement and demonize it…that happened in the election of 2008. Even though at the time it was a rising tide and growing numbers of people… had actually rejected the official explanation and were actively looking at the evidence hoping to find out what really happened, even though that was happening, the Conservatives in that election chose to demonize those folks, and I guess I appeared to be one of them because I was willing to talk about it with respect.

-Lesley Hughes

During the Canadian federal election of 2008, Lesley Hughes, overnight, went from the Liberal Party’s star candidate to a political liability.

An article Hughes wrote in 2002 entitled “Get the Truth” offered readers a contrarian viewpoint on the war in Afghanistan as retaliation for 9/11.

The anonymous blogger Black Rod, unearthed the article, conflated it into an anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theory, and circulated it throughout the on-line community and the mainstream press.

Liberal leader Stephan Dion, under pressure from B’Nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress, and his political opponents, not to mention uncomfortable media scrutiny, removed the candidacy of Ms. Hughes without ever confronting her about it directly.

Hughes, humiliated, dropped off the media radar screen and spent the subsequent few months licking her wounds. She finally found herself a lawyer and launched a defamation suit against the above-named groups, as well as Conservative candidate Peter Kent, the entities she saw as most responsible for this disastrous blow to her reputation.

In December of last year, at the end of a four year ordeal, Hughes was finally cleared of all charges of anti-Semitism.

Who is Lesley Hughes?

Hughes is much more than the “earnest middle-aged mother and community activist” described by National Post columnist and author Jonathan Kay in his 9/11 Truth hit-piece “Among the Truthers.”

Lesley Hughes is a Winnipeg-based broadcast and print journalist.

In the province of Manitoba, she became a house-hold name as co-host of the popular morning program Information Radio, a CBC show she helmed for more than ten years.

Her prowess as an interviewer earned her the distinction of sitting in briefly for CBC icon Peter Gzowski on the nationally broadcast Morningside, earning her praise from executive producer Patsey Pehleman for being “fresh and different.”

Over the course of a career that has spanned more than three decades, Lesley has interviewed a multitude of global movers and shakers, including former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, humanitarian Mother Theresa, South African President Nelson Mandela, dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky, French President Francois Mitterand, and playwright Tennessee Williams to name just a few.

She has since contributed articles to major newspapers. She covered the 1992 Earth Summit from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for the Globe and Mail. She reported from the World Poverty Summit in Copenhagen, and the Information Summit in Geneva. She has authored book reviews for the Winnipeg Free Press. She continues to write the back column for the distinguished Canadian organ of progressive political thought known as Canadian Dimension Magazine.

Hughes has had her work carried by Radio Denmark, Radio Antilles and the Grenadian Voice.

Hughes has been a media trainer, instructing students at the University of Winnipeg. She was designated as the University of Manitoba’s Outstanding Alumnus for Distinguished Achievement, named one of Canada’s top three columnists for a weekly community newspaper by the Canadian Community Newspaper Association, and honoured Manitoba’s Woman of the Year in Communications and Best Interviewer (Radio) by Winnipeg ACTRA among other accolades.

The recent court ruling has affirmed what informed people, supporters and detractors alike, know all too well. Lesley Hughes has not an anti-Semitic bone in her body!

Lesley Hughes, regardless of what one might think of her politics, is an inspirational, compassionate, hard-working, brilliant and breath-takingly decent human being. It is a sad commentary on the times we live in that she could be brought down from her well-earned pedestal in Canadian life, simply for…well…doing her job as a journalist.

In this exclusive interview for the Global Research News Hour, Lesley Hughes from the living room of her Winnipeg home explains how she was affected personally and professionally by the allegations, her take on the corrosive effect of anonymous blogging on journalism, and about how attacks on 9/11 skeptics signals a new kind of McCarthyism.

She also introduces her upcoming memoir, “Hit and Run: My Brilliant Life in Canadian Politics.”

Also featured in this one hour programme is an interview with Richard Sanders of the Coalition Opposed to the Arms Trade, (coat.ncf.ca) about how Canadian Pension Plan investments are aiding and abetting Israeli War Crimes. We also hear an assessment of the recent Israeli elections by Chicago based writer and broadcaster Stephen Lendman.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Length (59:39)
Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

The Global Research News Hour hosted by Michael Welch airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

Obama’s Flip-Flops on Money in Politics: A Brief History

Obama’s Flip-Flops on Money in Politics: A Brief History

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Posted on Feb 4, 2013
The White House/Pete Souza

By Justin Elliott, ProPublica

This piece first appeared on ProPublica.

When President Obama told supporters that he would morph his campaign into a new nonprofit that would accept unlimited corporate donations, the announcement set off a familiar round of griping from campaign finance reformers.

The creation this month of Organizing for Action, which will promote the president’s second-term agenda, appears to be the fourth reversal by Obama on major money-in-politics issues since 2008.

“No big bank or corporation will donate million-dollar checks to OFA without the expectation that it will impact which issues they engage on, and that’s very troubling,” said Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

The Washington Post noted that in reorganizing his campaign as a tax-exempt social welfare group, the president is embracing a structure that has been criticized for allowing anonymous money into politics.

Conservatives who’ve been attacked by the Obama camp for their reliance on such “dark money” groups called out the president’s “brazen hypocrisy.” Neither the White House nor Organizing for America responded to requests for comment.

Here’s a brief history of Obama’s other shifts on money-in-politics issues going back to 2008:

In November 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama pledged to take part in the presidential public financing system for the general election, calling himself “a longtime advocate for public financing of campaigns.” Under the system, created in the wake of Watergate, a candidate receives taxpayer money ($84 million in 2008) and cannot accept most private donations or spend beyond the amount of the government grant.

Less than a year later, in June 2008, Obama reversed himself and announced he was opting out of the system. He maintained he still supported the system in principle but said it should be reformed.

Obama became the first candidate to decline general election public financing since the creation of the system and went on to raise a then-record $745 million for the cycle. He outspent John McCain, who did accept public money, by four-to-one. Obama’s 2008 decision generally takes at least some of the blame from campaign finance observers for killing the system.

Neither Obama nor Mitt Romney accepted public financing in the 2012 race. The Obama campaign raised $782 million for the cycle.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 2010 Citizens United decision, opening the way for the creation of super PACs financed with unlimited corporate or individual money, Obama became the ruling’s biggest critic.

“Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said in his State of the Union address a few days after the decision. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.”

That criticism turned into a pledge not to use the new funding vehicles. In July 2011, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told the Washington Post: “Neither the president nor his campaign staff or aides will fundraise for super PACs. Our campaign will continue to lead the way when it comes to transparency and reform.”

Seven months later, the campaign reversed itself and embraced a super PAC founded by former White House aides called Priorities USA Action. “[O]ur campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands,” wrote campaign manager Jim Messina in a blog post.

With the blessing of the campaign, top Obama aides, such as then-Chief of Staff Jack Lew and confidantes like Rahm Emanuel, were dispatched to solicit super PAC donations from Democratic millionaires and billionaires. Priorities USA ultimately spent more than $60 million to help re-elect the president.

  • Inaugural festivities funding

After Obama’s victory in 2008, his inaugural committee abided by what it called “an unprecedented set of limitations on fundraising as part of President-elect Obama’s pledge to put the country on a new path.” That meant taking no corporate money and no individual contributions in excess of $50,000 to pay for the myriad parties and balls that end up costing tens of millions of dollars.

The second time around, Obama reversed the policy. The inaugural committee organizing this month’s inaugural festivities accepted corporate money and imposed no limits on giving. A spokesperson cited the need to “meet the fund-raising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history.”

  • Unlimited special interest spending

Just a few months ago, the Obama campaign sent me a memo on the president’s campaign finance record, highlighting his repeated denunciations of special interest money in politics.

“That’s one of the reasons I ran for President: because I believe so strongly that the voices of ordinary Americans were being drowned out by the clamor of a privileged few in Washington,” he said in May 2010, decrying the way Citizens United “gives corporations and other special interests the power to spend unlimited amounts of money — literally millions of dollars — to affect elections throughout our country.”

In 2012, the Obama campaign specifically called out social welfare, or 501(c)(4),  groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars of anonymous money on political ads.

That’s why campaign finance reformers are so angry: Organizing for Action is a 501(c)(4) that will advocate for the president’s second-term agenda.

The group has said that despite its status, it will voluntarily disclose donors. But it’s not clear whether that will involve full, prompt disclosure of who is giving and how much, or simply providing a list of names at some point.

A spokeswoman for the new group told NBC this week the disclosure issue is “still being worked out.”

Unnamed Democratic officials have told media outlets that the group will take corporate money (though not donations from registered lobbyists). Indeed, at a meeting this month at the Newseum in Washington, Obama campaign aides pitched top Democratic donors, reported Politico, which obtained a ticket to the event.

The meeting was sponsored by a trade association founded by Fortune 100 companies, including UnitedHealthcare, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Duke Energy.

Social welfare groups are formed to promote the common good and may be involved in politics. Under IRS rules, they are not supposed to be primarily engaged in campaigns.

It’s unclear whether Organizing for Action will get involved in electoral politics as other such nonprofits have in recent years. The group’s spokeswoman told NBC it will run “issue” ads to support Obama’s agenda — but that’s a category of political advocacy that has been open to wide interpretation.

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Hacker in chief: Obama given right to launch ‘preemptive’ cyberattacks

A secret review has concluded that US President Obama has the authority to launch a preemptive cyber attack on any country on the basis that they are considered a ‘cyber threat’ – even if there is no concrete evidence of this threat.

It may not be long before the US conducts crippling attacks on foreign soil with little more than a mouse click, thereby sparing itself the effort of sending its military oversees or declaring war.

The Obama administration is currently drawing up a set of rules about how the US military can defend against or conduct cyberattacks, the New York Times reports. The Obama administration is also allowing intelligence agencies to declare potential threats. But even if these threats are nothing more than a suspicion without evidence, the military now has the authority to attack foreign nations, regardless of whether or not the US is involved in a conflict with them.

This would not only spare the US from sending its own troops overseas, but it would also allow the administration to make decisions without the deliberation that usually occurs before sending Americans into a conflict zone. And if the administration conducts an attack based on false premises, it would be saved the embarrassment that occurred when President George W. Bush sent thousands of US troops into a war with Iraq that lasted nearly 9 years, based on the false premise that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was a security threat.

With no overseas deployments necessary to conduct a cyberattack, the administration would have nothing to lose by anonymously targeting and destroying infrastructure based on its own suspicions of a threat. The administration’s new rules would also allow the military to operate domestically, the thought of which has always made many people uncomfortable.  The White House in October signed a presidential policy directive that aims to “finalize new rules of engagement that would guide commanders when and how the military can go outside government networks to prevent a cyberattack that could cause significant destruction or casualties.”

 A senior administration official told the Times that the US has so far kept its cyber capabilities restrained and that the new rules could allow the administration to exercise its full potential.

“There are levels of cyberwarfare that are far more aggressive than anything that has been used or recommended to be done,” the official said.

The administration has already used computer worms to cripple other countries’ infrastructure, including a series of attacks against Iran’s nuclear power plants, one of which took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges of the Natanz plant. The attack was controlled from inside the Pentagon, which now has a new Cyber Command and a growing budget that would allow it to conduct more extensive cyberattacks. 

The Pentagon’s foundation of such an office demonstrates the administration’s preparation for cyberwarfare, in which both the US and terrorists can strike each other by taking down power grids, financial systems and communications networks. The Cyber Command office is experiencing a growing budget, while the Department of Defense is preparing for spending cuts and is slashing budgets for other Pentagon departments, indicating the importance of its work to the administration.

The rules have been in development for nearly two years, but they were leaked to the Times at a convenient moment for the administration: The New York Times, Bloomberg L.P., the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post all claim that their computers have been penetrated by Chinese hackers and had been targeted for years. The computer security company Mandiant also alleged that Chinese hackers had stolen contacts, information and files from more than 30 US newspaper journalists and executives, many of which had written about Chinese leaders and political and legal issues in China.

But the Chinese Ministry of National Defense has denied that its people had anything to do with the suspected attacks, stating that “Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security.” The ministry also expressed anger about the accusations, stating that “to accuse the Chinese military of launching cyberattacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless.”

We have seen over the last years an increase in not only the hacking attempts on government institutions but also nongovernmental ones,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Thursday, emphasizing that the Chinese “are not the only people who are hacking us.”

The administration has also recently announced that an unnamed American power station was crippled for weeks by cyberattacks, without releasing details about the location of the plant. With little proof about the alleged cyberattacks and the suspected threats, the White House now reserves the right to make major cyberwarfare decisions, despite Congress’ long-standing disapproval.

“The [National Security Administration’s] cyber security operations have been kept very, very secret, and because of that it has been impossible for the public to react to them,” said Electronic Privacy Information Center attorney Arnie Stepanovich in November. “[That makes it] very difficult, we believe, for Congress to legislate in this area.”

The Obama administration has long pushed for Congress to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which would grant the government greater access to the Internet and cybersecurity information from the private sector. US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, claims it is necessary to prevent a “cyber 9/11” attack that would knock out water, electricity and gas, causing destruction similar to that left behind by Hurricane Sandy.

But privacy advocates have long expressed concern that this measure would give the government access to Americans’ personal e-mails, online chat conversations, and other personal information that only private companies and servers might have access too, prompting Congress to reject the measure.

Alongside privacy concerns, the Obama administration’s increasing access to cybersecurity information and cyberwarfare capabilities provides the president with an unknown amount of power to conduct anonymous attacks on foreign infrastructure.

While using this technology to attack military objects, such as anti-aircraft or missile defense radars in war zones, would not surprise anyone, the US now also reserves the right to attack other countries with which it has not declared war.

With the US ranking first in  a 2012 study that drew up a “Cyber Power Index”, other nations whose conduct conflicts with US wishes could become more vulnerable than ever – especially since International Law allows countries to defend themselves against foreign threats, and these “threats” can now be concluded based on vague intelligence analysis of a 'potential' cyber attack.

Obama Granted Sweeping Power in ‘Secret’ Cyber-Wars

U.S. President Barack Obama has been granted sweeping powers to order preemptive cyber-strikes on any given country, anonymous officials involved in a "secret legal review" of U.S. cyber warfare rules, told the New York Times Monday.

(Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images) Speaking to the Times, the unnamed officials said quickly advancing tactics of cyber-warfare can be unleashed exclusively via the direct orders of the President—should the administration suspect signs of a major digital attack. If the president approves a strike, the government will be able to “attack adversaries by injecting them with destructive code—even if there is no declared war,” the Times reports.

The administration has been working to hash out the nation's first written rules on how and when the military and several government agencies can initiate acts of cyber-warfare; however, the rules will remain classified.

"What we know about the legal questions Obama has grappled with is all secret. The development of 'cyber-security' policy or cyber warfare policies indicate a further expansion of the body of secret law under Obama," Kevin Gosztola writes at FireDogLake.

What we do know, as the anonymous officials told the Times, is that under the new cyber-warfare rules, which utilize an increasingly loose interpretation of preemptive war, President Obama can initiative cyber-warfare on countries that we are not officially at war with—much like the highly controversial drones strikes, or targeted assassinations, that Obama has approved in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia in recent years.

"The rules will be highly classified, just as those governing drone strikes have been closely held," the Times reports. "John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser and his nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, played a central role in developing the administration’s policies regarding both drones and cyber-warfare..."

"There is no indication that any group of members in Congress or judicial body will have to approve of a preemptive strike before it is carried out," writes Gosztola. "As has become typical, the president wants to be able to conduct war without needing authorization."

“There are levels of cyber-warfare that are far more aggressive than anything that has been used or recommended to be done,” one official told the Times.

The New York Times writes:

Mr. Obama is known to have approved the use of cyber-weapons only once, early in his presidency, when he ordered an escalating series of cyber-attacks against Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities. The operation was code-named Olympic Games, and while it began inside the Pentagon under President George W. Bush, it was quickly taken over by the National Security Agency, the largest of the intelligence agencies, under the president’s authority to conduct covert action. [...]

The attacks on Iran illustrated that a nation’s infrastructure can be destroyed without bombing it or sending in saboteurs. [...]

While many potential targets are military, a country’s power grids, financial systems and communications networks can also be crippled. [...]

One senior American official said that officials quickly determined that the cyber-weapons were so powerful that — like nuclear weapons — they should be unleashed only on the direct orders of the commander in chief.

Gosztola adds:

...like with the drone program, President Barack Obama is presiding over the creation and development of a power that previous presidents never imagined having. The national security state is effectively appointing him and all future presidents the proverbial judge, jury and executioner when it comes to cyber warfare. [...]

The policy will expand the imperial presidency and the public and civil society organizations, which have a distinct interest in knowing what the government is doing, will be kept in the dark on what is legal and illegal in cyber operations. The Congress will barely make any effort to defend its right to provide oversight of this new power. And any future details on this power will mostly come from selective leaks provided by officials, who do not think they will face repercussions for talking to the press. The policy itself, the rules for cyber war, will remain concealed.

Breaking the Chains of Debt Peonage

Paying bills(Image: Paying Bills via Shutterstock)Chris Hedges gave this talk Saturday night in Brooklyn at the People’s Recovery Summit.

The corporate state has made it clear there will be no more Occupy encampments. The corporate state is seeking through the persistent harassment of activists and the passage of draconian laws such as Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act—and we will be in court next Wednesday to fight the Obama administration’s appeal of the Southern District Court of New York’s ruling declaring Section 1021 unconstitutional—to shut down all legitimate dissent. The corporate state is counting, most importantly, on its system of debt peonage to keep citizens—especially the 30 million people who make up the working poor—from joining our revolt.

Workers who are unable to meet their debts, who are victimized by constantly rising interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent on credit cards, are far more likely to remain submissive and compliant. Debt peonage is and always has been a form of political control. Native Americans, forced by the U.S. government onto tribal agencies, were required to buy their goods, usually on credit, at agency stores. Coal miners in southern West Virginia and Kentucky were paid in scrip by the coal companies and kept in perpetual debt servitude by the company store. African-Americans in the cotton fields in the South were forced to borrow during the agricultural season from their white landlords for their seed and farm equipment, creating a life of perpetual debt. It soon becomes impossible to escape the mounting interest rates that necessitate new borrowing.

Debt peonage is a familiar form of political control. And today it is used by banks and corporate financiers to enslave not only individuals but also cities, municipalities, states and the federal government. As the economist Michael Hudson points out, the steady rise in interest rates, coupled with declining public revenues, has become a way to extract the last bits of capital from citizens as well as government. Once individuals, or states or federal agencies, cannot pay their bills—and for many Americans this often means medical bills—assets are sold to corporations or seized. Public land, property and infrastructure, along with pension plans, are privatized. Individuals are pushed out of their homes and into financial and personal distress.

Debt peonage is a fundamental tool for control. This debt peonage must be broken if we are going to build a mass movement to paralyze systems of corporate power. And the most effective weapon we have to liberate ourselves as well as the 30 million Americans who make up the working poor is a sustained movement to raise the minimum wage nationally to at least $11 an hour. Most of these 30 million low-wage workers are women and people of color. They and their families struggle at a subsistence level and play one lender off another to survive. By raising their wages we raise not only the quality of their lives but we increase their capacity for personal and political power. We break one of the most important shackles used by the corporate state to prevent organized resistance.

Ralph Nader, whom I spoke with on Thursday, has been pushing activists to mobilize around raising the minimum wage. Nader, who knows more about corporate power and has been fighting it longer than any other American, has singled out, I believe, the key to building a broad-based national movement. There is among these underpaid 30 million workers—and some of them are with us tonight—a mounting despair at being unable to meet even the basic requirements to maintain a family. Nader points out that Walmart’s 1 million workers, like most of the 30 million low-wage workers, are making less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than workers made in 1968, although these Walmart workers do the work required of two Walmart workers 40 years ago.

If the federal minimum wage from 1968 were adjusted for inflation it would be $10.50. Instead, although costs and prices have risen sharply, the federal minimum wage remains stuck at $7.25 an hour. It is the lowest of the major industrial countries. Meanwhile, Mike Duke, the CEO of Walmart, makes $11,000 an hour. And he is not alone. These corporate chiefs make this much money because they have been able to keep in place a system by which workers are effectively disempowered, forced to work for substandard wages and denied the possibility through unions or the formal electoral systems of power to defend workers’ rights. This is why corporations lavish these CEOs with obscene salaries. These CEOs are the masters of plantations. And the moment workers rise up and demand justice is the moment the staggering inequality of wealth begins to be reversed.

Being a member of the working poor, as Barbara Ehrenreich chronicles in her important book “Nickel and Dimed,” is “a state of emergency.” It is “acute distress.” It is a daily and weekly lurching from crisis to crisis. The stress, the suffering, the humiliation and the job insecurity means that workers are reduced to doing little more than eating, sleeping—never enough—and working. And, most importantly, they are kept in a constant state of fear. Ehrenreich writes:

When someone works for less pay than she can live on—when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently—then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The “working poor,” as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.

It is time to halt the sacrifice of the working poor. It is time to empower the 30 million low-wage workers—two-thirds of which are employed by large corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s—to fight back.

Joe Sacco and I spent the last two years in the poorest pockets of the United States, our nation’s sacrifice zones, for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We saw in Pine Ridge, S.D., Camden, N.J.—the poorest and the most dangerous city in the nation—the coalfields of southern West Virginia and the produce fields of Immokalee, Fla., how this brutal system of corporate exploitation works. In these sacrifice zones no one has legal protection. All institutions, from the press to the political class to the judiciary, are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. And what has been done to those in these sacrifice zones, those places corporations devastated first, is now being done to all of us.

There are no impediments within the electoral process or the formal structures of power to prevent predatory capitalism. We are all being forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace. The human cost, the attendant problems of drug and alcohol abuse, the neglect of children, the early deaths—in Pine Ridge the average life expectancy of a male is 48, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti—is justified by the need to make greater and greater profit. And these costs are now being felt across the nation. The phrase “the consent of the governed” has become a cruel joke. We use a language to describe our systems of governance that no longer correspond to reality. The disconnect between illusion and reality makes us one of the most self-deluded populations on the planet.

The Weimarization of the American working class, and increasingly the middle class, is by design. It is part of a corporate reconfiguration of the national and global economy into a form of neofeudalism. It is about creating a world of masters and serfs, of empowered oligarchic elites and broken disempowered masses. And it is not only our wealth that is taken from us. It is our liberty. The so-called self-regulating market, as the economist Karl Polanyi wrote in “The Great Transformation,” always ends with mafia capitalism and a mafia political system. This system of self-regulation, Polanyi wrote, always leads to “the demolition of society.”

And this is what is happening—the demolition of our society and the demolition of the ecosystem that sustains the human species. In theological terms these corporate forces, driven by the lust for ceaseless expansion and exploitation, are systems of death. They know no limits. They will not stop on their own. And unless we stop them we are as a nation and finally as a species doomed. Polanyi understood the destructive power of unregulated corporate capitalism unleashed upon human society and the ecosystem. He wrote: “In disposing of a man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to the tag.”

Polanyi wrote of a society that surrendered to the dictates of the market. “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. Finally, the market administration of purchasing power would periodically liquidate business enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous to business as floods and droughts in primitive society. Undoubtedly, labor, land, and money markets are essential to a market economy. But no society could stand the effects of such a system of crude fictions even for the shortest stretch of time unless its human and natural substance as well as its business organizations was protected against the ravages of this satanic mill.

The global and national economy because of this “satanic mill” continues to deteriorate, and yet, curiously, stock market levels are close to their highs in 2007 before the global financial meltdown. This is because these corporations have been able to suppress wages, slash social programs and bilk the government for staggering sums of money. The Federal Reserve purchases about $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bills every month. This means that the Fed is printing endless streams of money to buy up government debt and toxic assets from the banks.  The Federal Reserve now owns assets, much of them worthless, of $3.01 trillion. This is triple what it was in 2008.

And while corporations such as Citibank and General Electric loot the Treasury they exact more pounds of flesh in the name of austerity. General Electric, as Nader points out, is a net job exporter. Over the past decade, as Citizens for Tax Justice has documented, GE’s effective federal income tax rate on its $81.2 billion in pretax U.S. profits has been at most 1.8 percent. Because of the way General Electric’s accountants play with tax liabilities the company actually receives money from the Treasury. They have several billion dollars paid to them from the federal government into company bank accounts—and these are not tax refunds. The company, as Nader argues, is a net drain on the Treasury and a net drain on jobs. It violates a host of environmental and criminal laws. And yet Jeffery Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, was appointed to be the chairman of Obama’s Jobs Council. Immelt’s only major contribution to the jobs initiative was to get rid of 37,000 of his employees since 2001. Jim McNerney, president and CEO of Boeing, who also sat on the Jobs Council, has cut over 14,000 jobs since 2008, according to Public Campaign. The only jobs the CEOs on the Jobs Council were concerned with were the ones these CEOs eradicated. The Jobs Council, which Obama disbanded this week, is a microcosm of what is happening within the corridors of power. Corporations increasingly terminate jobs here to hire grossly underpaid workers in India or China while at the same time stealing as much as fast as they can on the way out the door.

As Michael Hudson has pointed out, financialization has created a new kind of class war. The old class warfare took place between workers and bosses. Workers organized to fight for fair wages, better work hours and safety conditions in the workplace as well as adequate pensions and medical benefits. But with a country of debtors and a government that must also borrow to continue operating, Hudson says, we have changed the way class warfare works. Finance, he points out, controls state and federal policy as well as the lives of ordinary workers. It is able to dictate working conditions. The financiers, who insist that cuts be made so governments can repay loans, impose draconian austerity and long-term unemployment to, as Hudson told a Greek newspaper, “drive down wages to a degree that could not occur in the company-by-company clash between industrial employers and their workers.”

The former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying before Congress, was quite open about the role of debt peonage in keeping workers passive. Greenspan pointed out that since 1980 labor productivity has increased by about 83 percent. Yet real wages have stagnated. Greenspan said this was because workers were too burdened with mortgage debts, college loans, auto payments and credit-card debt to risk losing a job. Household debt in the United States is around $13 trillion. This is only $2 trillion less than the country’s total yearly economic output. Greenspan was right. Miss a payment on your credit card and your interest rates jumps to 30 percent. Fail to pay your mortgage and you lose your home. Miss your health insurance payments, which have been spiraling upwards, and if you are seriously ill you go into bankruptcy, as 1 million Americans who get sick do every year. Trash your credit rating and your fragile financial edifice, built on managing debt, collapses. Since most Americans feel, on some level, as Hudson points out, that they are a step or two away from being homeless, they are deeply averse to challenging corporate power. It is not worth the risk. And the corporate state knows it. Absolute power, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, depends on fear and passivity.

The only way to break this fear and passivity is to organize workers to break the cycle of mounting debt. And the first step to achieving independence from debt—the primary form of political control by the corporate state—is to raise the minimum wage. There are other solutions—forgiving mortgage and student debt, instituting universal health care, establishing a nationwide jobs program to rebuild the country’s Third World infrastructure, and green energy—but none of this will happen until we are able to mount a sustained mass movement that discredits the corporate state. This mass movement will arise, as Nader says, when we mobilize around the minimum wage.

The lowest-grade worker at the General Electric plant that makes high-tech health care devices outside Paterson in Totowa [New Jersey]—a pay grade known as the D 04—was just raised to $14,555 a year. That is under $8 an hour. The plant’s highest-paid hourly employee, known as D 16, earns $22,000. Immelt makes over $11 million a year. This vast disparity in income, and this wage abuse, is played out in every corporation in the country. No one in Washington intends to challenge it.

Only 11.3 percent of workers in this country belong to unions. This is the lowest percentage in 80 years. And nearly all these unions, and especially the AFL-CIO, have been emasculated by corporate power.

Nader is right when he warns that we are not going to be assisted in this effort by established unions. Union leaders are bought off. They are comfortable. They are pulling down at least five times what rank-and-file workers make. Nader says we have to mount protests not only outside the doors of Walmarts and General Electric plants, not only outside congressional offices, but outside the doors of the AFL-CIO. There is no established institution inside or outside government that will help us. They are all broken or complicit. But there are the 30 million working poor who, if we organize to break the system of debt peonage that holds them hostage, may be willing to rise up. We are bound with many chains and shackles. We will have to break them one at a time. But once we rise up, once we are able to threaten the corporate systems that keep us supine through fear, we will unleash a torrent of energy and passion that will confirm the worst nightmares of our corporate overlords.

Breaking the Chains of Debt Peonage

Chris Hedges gave this talk Saturday night in Brooklyn at the People’s Recovery Summit.

(Photo: watchingfrogsboil via flickr)The corporate state has made it clear there will be no more Occupy encampments. The corporate state is seeking through the persistent harassment of activists and the passage of draconian laws such as Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act—and we will be in court next Wednesday to fight the Obama administration’s appeal of the Southern District Court of New York’s ruling declaring Section 1021 unconstitutional—to shut down all legitimate dissent. The corporate state is counting, most importantly, on its system of debt peonage to keep citizens—especially the 30 million people who make up the working poor—from joining our revolt.

Workers who are unable to meet their debts, who are victimized by constantly rising interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent on credit cards, are far more likely to remain submissive and compliant. Debt peonage is and always has been a form of political control. Native Americans, forced by the U.S. government onto tribal agencies, were required to buy their goods, usually on credit, at agency stores. Coal miners in southern West Virginia and Kentucky were paid in scrip by the coal companies and kept in perpetual debt servitude by the company store. African-Americans in the cotton fields in the South were forced to borrow during the agricultural season from their white landlords for their seed and farm equipment, creating a life of perpetual debt. It soon becomes impossible to escape the mounting interest rates that necessitate new borrowing.

Debt peonage is a familiar form of political control. And today it is used by banks and corporate financiers to enslave not only individuals but also cities, municipalities, states and the federal government. As the economist Michael Hudson points out, the steady rise in interest rates, coupled with declining public revenues, has become a way to extract the last bits of capital from citizens as well as government. Once individuals, or states or federal agencies, cannot pay their bills—and for many Americans this often means medical bills—assets are sold to corporations or seized. Public land, property and infrastructure, along with pension plans, are privatized. Individuals are pushed out of their homes and into financial and personal distress.

Debt peonage is a fundamental tool for control. This debt peonage must be broken if we are going to build a mass movement to paralyze systems of corporate power. And the most effective weapon we have to liberate ourselves as well as the 30 million Americans who make up the working poor is a sustained movement to raise the minimum wage nationally to at least $11 an hour. Most of these 30 million low-wage workers are women and people of color. They and their families struggle at a subsistence level and play one lender off another to survive. By raising their wages we raise not only the quality of their lives but we increase their capacity for personal and political power. We break one of the most important shackles used by the corporate state to prevent organized resistance.Ralph Nader, whom I spoke with on Thursday, has been pushing activists to mobilize around raising the minimum wage. Nader, who knows more about corporate power and has been fighting it longer than any other American, has singled out, I believe, the key to building a broad-based national movement. There is among these underpaid 30 million workers—and some of them are with us tonight—a mounting despair at being unable to meet even the basic requirements to maintain a family. Nader points out that Walmart’s 1 million workers, like most of the 30 million low-wage workers, are making less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than workers made in 1968, although these Walmart workers do the work required of two Walmart workers 40 years ago.

If the federal minimum wage from 1968 were adjusted for inflation it would be $10.50. Instead, although costs and prices have risen sharply, the federal minimum wage remains stuck at $7.25 an hour. It is the lowest of the major industrial countries. Meanwhile, Mike Duke, the CEO of Walmart, makes $11,000 an hour. And he is not alone. These corporate chiefs make this much money because they have been able to keep in place a system by which workers are effectively disempowered, forced to work for substandard wages and denied the possibility through unions or the formal electoral systems of power to defend workers’ rights. This is why corporations lavish these CEOs with obscene salaries. These CEOs are the masters of plantations. And the moment workers rise up and demand justice is the moment the staggering inequality of wealth begins to be reversed.

Being a member of the working poor, as Barbara Ehrenreich chronicles in her important book “Nickel and Dimed,” is “a state of emergency.” It is “acute distress.” It is a daily and weekly lurching from crisis to crisis. The stress, the suffering, the humiliation and the job insecurity means that workers are reduced to doing little more than eating, sleeping—never enough—and working. And, most importantly, they are kept in a constant state of fear. Ehrenreich writes:

When someone works for less pay than she can live on—when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently—then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The “working poor,” as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.

It is time to halt the sacrifice of the working poor. It is time to empower the 30 million low-wage workers—two-thirds of which are employed by large corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s—to fight back.

Joe Sacco and I spent the last two years in the poorest pockets of the United States, our nation’s sacrifice zones, for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We saw in Pine Ridge, S.D., Camden, N.J.—the poorest and the most dangerous city in the nation—the coalfields of southern West Virginia and the produce fields of Immokalee, Fla., how this brutal system of corporate exploitation works. In these sacrifice zones no one has legal protection. All institutions, from the press to the political class to the judiciary, are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. And what has been done to those in these sacrifice zones, those places corporations devastated first, is now being done to all of us.

There are no impediments within the electoral process or the formal structures of power to prevent predatory capitalism. We are all being forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace. The human cost, the attendant problems of drug and alcohol abuse, the neglect of children, the early deaths—in Pine Ridge the average life expectancy of a male is 48, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti—is justified by the need to make greater and greater profit. And these costs are now being felt across the nation. The phrase “the consent of the governed” has become a cruel joke. We use a language to describe our systems of governance that no longer correspond to reality. The disconnect between illusion and reality makes us one of the most self-deluded populations on the planet.

The Weimarization of the American working class, and increasingly the middle class, is by design. It is part of a corporate reconfiguration of the national and global economy into a form of neofeudalism. It is about creating a world of masters and serfs, of empowered oligarchic elites and broken disempowered masses. And it is not only our wealth that is taken from us. It is our liberty. The so-called self-regulating market, as the economist Karl Polanyi wrote in “The Great Transformation,” always ends with mafia capitalism and a mafia political system. This system of self-regulation, Polanyi wrote, always leads to “the demolition of society.”

And this is what is happening—the demolition of our society and the demolition of the ecosystem that sustains the human species. In theological terms these corporate forces, driven by the lust for ceaseless expansion and exploitation, are systems of death. They know no limits. They will not stop on their own. And unless we stop them we are as a nation and finally as a species doomed. Polanyi understood the destructive power of unregulated corporate capitalism unleashed upon human society and the ecosystem. He wrote: “In disposing of a man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to the tag.”

Polanyi wrote of a society that surrendered to the dictates of the market. “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. Finally, the market administration of purchasing power would periodically liquidate business enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous to business as floods and droughts in primitive society. Undoubtedly, labor, land, and money markets are essential to a market economy. But no society could stand the effects of such a system of crude fictions even for the shortest stretch of time unless its human and natural substance as well as its business organizations was protected against the ravages of this satanic mill.

The global and national economy because of this “satanic mill” continues to deteriorate, and yet, curiously, stock market levels are close to their highs in 2007 before the global financial meltdown. This is because these corporations have been able to suppress wages, slash social programs and bilk the government for staggering sums of money. The Federal Reserve purchases about $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bills every month. This means that the Fed is printing endless streams of money to buy up government debt and toxic assets from the banks.  The Federal Reserve now owns assets, much of them worthless, of $3.01 trillion. This is triple what it was in 2008.

And while corporations such as Citibank and General Electric loot the Treasury they exact more pounds of flesh in the name of austeri