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Monthly Archives: January 2013

So much for the Guantanamo Bay promise.

Actions, as they say, speak louder than words.  I don’t think this article needs comment from me.  I do, however, sort of wonder what Mr. Fried’s new job has in common with his old job; instead of working to close Guantanamo Bay, he will now work on sanctioning countries which have not directly threatened us.  Seems rather a leap over to the other side of the fence, but I suppose once sanctions become a form of “diplomacy”, it all becomes part of the same “service”.  And if that doesn’t work out for him, maybe he can run the State Department’s drone program.

Office Working to Close Guantánamo Is Shuttered
By CHARLIE SAVAGE

FORT MEADE, Md. — The State Department on Monday reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and will not replace him, according to an internal personnel announcement. Mr. Fried’s office is being closed, and his former responsibilities will be “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser, the notice said.

The announcement that no senior official in President Obama’s second term will succeed Mr. Fried in working primarily on diplomatic issues pertaining to repatriating or resettling detainees appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.

Mr. Fried will become the department’s coordinator for sanctions policy and will work on issues including Iran and Syria.[…]

Mr. Fried’s special envoy post was created in 2009, shortly after Mr. Obama took office and promised to close the prison in his first year. A career diplomat, Mr. Fried traveled the world negotiating the repatriation of some 31 low-level detainees and persuading third-party countries to resettle about 40 who were cleared for release but could not be sent home because of fears of abuse.

But the outward flow of detainees slowed almost to a halt as Congress imposed restrictions on further transfers, leaving Mr. Fried with less to do. He was eventually assigned to work on resettling a group of Iranian exiles, known as the M.E.K., who were living in a refugee camp in Iraq, in addition to his Guantánamo duties.

Ian Moss, a spokesman for Mr. Fried’s office, said its dismantling did not mean that the administration had given up on closing the prison. “We remain committed to closing Guantánamo, and doing so in a responsible fashion,” Mr. Moss said. “The administration continues to express its opposition to Congressional restrictions that impede our ability to implement transfers.”

Besides barring the transfer of any detainees into the United States for prosecution or continued detention, lawmakers prohibited transferring them to other countries with troubled security conditions, like Yemen or Sudan. In the most recent defense authorization act, enacted late last year, lawmakers extended those restrictions and expanded them to cover even detainees scheduled to be repatriated under a plea deal with military prosecutors.

Mr. Obama had threatened to veto the bill, but instead he signed it while issuing a signing statement claiming that he had the constitutional power, as commander in chief, to lawfully override such statutory restrictions on the handling of wartime prisoners. Mr. Obama’s intentions were not clear, however, even to internal administration officials.[…]

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/us/politics/state-dept-closes-office-working-on-closing-guantanamo-prison.html

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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in State Dept/diplomacy

 

Inaugural Day, 2013.

I can’t add much to anything I’ve been saying over the years, because I keep saying it and saying it and it gets repetitious, so I’ll let a few others add their thoughts.

First, Peter Van Buren on today’s inaugural:  http://wemeantwell.com/blog/2013/01/21/inauguration-day-for-mr-lincoln-dr-king-and-barack/

Kitt, in a comment on a previous article:  “Obama set back hope to what feels like possibly the end of time.”

Paul Simon in 1975.  We have not learned – not one damn thing have we learned since then.

AMERICAN TUNE
(words by Paul Simon, music by JS Bach)

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken,
and many times confused.
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken,
and certainly misused.
Ah, but I’m all right, I’m all right,
I’m just weary to my bones.
Still, you don’t expect to be bright and bon vivant
so far away from home,
so far away from home.

And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered.
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease.
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered,
or driven to its knees.
Ah, but it’s all right, it’s all right,
for we’ve lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on,
I wonder what’s gone wrong.
I can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying.
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly,
and looking back down at me, smiled reassuringly.
And I dreamed I was flying.
And high up above, my eyes could clearly see
the Statue of Liberty, sailing away to sea.
And I dreamed I was flying.

Well, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower,
we come on the ship that sailed the moon.
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
and sing an American tune.
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right.
You can’t be forever blessed.
Still, tomorrow’s gonna be another working day
and I’m trying to get some rest.
That’s all, I’m trying to get some rest.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The three faces of Eve.

So, as Democrats and/or “progressives”, we shouldn’t object to Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Sec. of Defense, because although he is a Republican, he is not totally and rabidly pro-Israel and he is somewhat restrained about creating new wars just for the hell of it.  I mean “hell” literally, although to be fair to the Americans in the audience, blowing up people anywhere on the planet without charges or trial and invading foreign countries for no reason other than (illegal) resource-grab and (illegal) regime change (*) has not been nearly as much hell for US citizens as it has for people living in other countries.  That’s mainly because Americans, by and large, don’t see any connection between their own relatively minor circle of hell: the dwindling job market, their cratering social safety network, the threat to their social security and medicare, the crumbling infrastructure at home – and the monies spent on the US’ militarized takeover of the world.  And certainly we are not suffering the hell of having bombs dropped out of the sky onto our loved ones or our country completely torn up for senseless reasons, or foreign troops interfering in our local issues.  [“[…]Bush’s roughly 24,000 air strikes in seven years from 2002 to 2008 amounted to an air strike about every 3 hours, while Obama’s 20,130 in four years add up to one every 1-3/4 hours.[…]” – http://www.alternet.org/world/bomber-chief-20000-airstrikes-presidents-first-term-cause-death-and-destruction-iraq-somalia]  We’ve also never been forced to live under the sanctions of another country.  Obviously, though, if we are spending increasing amounts on drones, weapons, the CIA, and the Pentagon, we have less to spend on the needs of the people here at home, but we are so programmed to “support the warriors” that we seem utterly incapable of making that leap of logic.

(*) Why is it that when we want to drop-kick the leader of a foreign country, his government becomes a “regime” and he becomes a “tyrant” or a “despot”, no matter how we referred to that leader and his government prior to our antipathy?  Just asking.

Why, even Glenn Greenwald supported the Hagel nomination, so Hagel must be okay.  Not wholeheartedly, to be sure, but overall, his point of view is that Hagel should be supported because he is not so pro-Israel and he is not so prone to jump into new wars.

“[…] But at the very least, Hagel’s confirmation will be a much-needed declaration that some mild dissent on foreign policy orthodoxies and Israel is permitted. It will shatter AIPAC’s veto power and dilute the perception of the so-called “pro-Israel community’s” unchallengeable power. It will ensure that there is at least some diversity of viewpoints when it comes to debating endless war, belligerence v. negotiations, and MidEast policy. It will highlight the typically-suppressed differences within the GOP and the country about America’s war posture. In sum, as Matt Duss very persuasively detailed in the American Prospect, Hagel’s confirmation would bring some incremental though potentially substantial benefits.

“Given the steadfast and usually unquestioning support most liberals have given this Democratic President as he’s pursued policies of aggression and militarism, they should refrain from opposing one of the few prominent dissidents on these matters absent some very compelling reasons. So far, nothing remotely compelling has been offered. If this nomination actually happens, this will be one of Obama’s best appointments and boldest steps of his presidency. It would be ironic indeed, and more than a bit unfortunate, if liberals decide to make this nomination one of the very few times they are willing to oppose their party’s leader.[…]”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/05/hagel-liberals-gays-israel-democrats

I honestly admire Greenwald and am inclined to agree with his summation on almost every subject about which he writes.  I bet he just didn’t see the following coming when he wrote that piece on Hagel.   Within a mere week or two, we see that Hagel, in an effort to secure his own place in the sun, shows the same strength of character, moral fiber, and firmness of spine as any politician in Washington; to wit, none.

15 January, 2013:
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his support Tuesday for the nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, delivering a key vote for the Nebraska Republican’s confirmation after weeks of voicing doubt about his positions on security issues related to Israel and Iran.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat and most senior Jewish senator, made the decision after a 90-minute meeting Monday in the West Wing, a secretive huddle that Schumer and White House officials kept under wraps until the decision to announce his support Tuesday.

“Senator Hagel could not have been more forthcoming and sincere,” Schumer said Tuesday in a statement. “Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.”

Schumer informed Obama of his decision Monday after the meeting with Hagel, phoning the former senator Tuesday morning to formalize his support, according to a Senate aide familiar with the discussion.

Schumer said that his support was sewn up after Hagel — whom Obama formally nominated last week after a month of preparation — committed to several positions regarding Iran that met with Schumer’s preference.As a two-term senator, Hagel called for direct talks with the Iranian government and opposed unilateral sanctions by the United States against Iran. In a detailed statement, Schumer said Hagel left no doubt that he would support an aggressive posture toward Tehran.

“Senator Hagel rejected a strategy of containment and expressed the need to keep all options on the table in confronting that country. But he didn’t stop there,” Schumer said. “In our conversation, Senator Hagel made a crystal-clear promise that he would do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force. He said his ‘top priority’ as secretary of defense would be the planning of military contingencies related to Iran.”

Schumer said Hagel also pledged to continue supporting the delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Israel and in general supported Israel’s right to a strong “qualitative military edge,” as its leaders like to assert.

Schumer had become a key linchpin in the nomination battle, as many senior Republicans have expressed deep doubt about Hagel’s confirmation. If Schumer had opposed Hagel, then a crucial bloc of pro-Israel Democrats might have joined him and made confirmation impossible. Schumer’s announcement follows the public endorsement of Hagel by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), another prominent Jewish Democrat who is also a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

“I needed comprehensive answers,” Boxer told reporters Tuesday in a conference call, explaining that she demanded that Hagel follow up their phone discussion with a letter memorializing his answers on Israel and Iran. In his talks with Boxer and Schumer, Hagel expressed deep regret at his “Jewish lobby” remark years ago when referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“He was very devastated by it, looking back,” Boxer said.

White House officials made Schumer the first senator to formally meet with Hagel, whose views were not just a confirmation assurance, according to Schumer. “Senator Hagel realizes the situation in the Middle East has changed, with Israel in a dramatically more endangered position than it was even five years ago. His views are genuine, and reflect this new reality.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/schumer-to-back-hagel/2013/01/15/ffd46fc8-5f23-11e2-9940-6fc488f3fecd_story.html

 

His (current) views are genuine, unlike his old views, which he has summarily discarded, and the reality is that in order to move up the ladder in DC, he who can most quickly eject his belief system and absorb into the Borg is the one most likely to succeed.  Damn the ethics and full speed ahead.

A note on the title of this post for those too young to understand the reference:  “The Three Faces of Eve is a 1957 American film adaptation of a case study by Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley. It was based on the true story of Chris Costner Sizemore, also known as Eve White, a woman who suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) formerly known as multiple personality disorder. Sizemore’s identity was concealed in interviews and this film, and was not revealed to the public until 1975.” – from wikipedia on the film.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in MIC

 

It's hard out here for a sentient being.

It is difficult to keep up with the truth in these strange times in which we live.  The fact that the media prints stories that are so often full of untruth and non-fact, presented as “the news”, makes it harder.  In this peculiar and incomprehensible world, history is being rewritten even as some of us are old enough to remember the actual events being referred to, Congress claims to have done the opposite of what they really just did, and most journalists do not seem to understand the difference.  Most journalists aren’t even curious enough to find out if there is a difference.  One might look at the “fiscal cliff” deal for the latest example.  The “fiscal cliff” was, of course, just a cute phrase coined by Bernanke in an effort to make Congress take drastic measures for no real reason on a deadline imposed randomly on Congress by Congress itself.  Here’s some news for you – we jumped off the fiscal cliff in ’08 when we started giving trillions to the big banks instead of shutting them down and jailing the CEO’s for the fraud perpetrated on the world.  In the cliff deal, Congress claims to have raised taxes on the wealthiest in the country, while fighting the debt and deficit.  In truth, however, the “fiscal cliff” deal raised more revenue from the poorest (in the form of letting the social security ‘holiday’ expire) than the modest income tax increases on the wealthiest Americans garnered, and adds over 4 trillion dollars to the deficit over the next ten years.  I have the suspicion that we will hear a lot more about the corporate giveaways included in the fiscal cliff deal in the next couple of months; we will be told, as though Congress had just figured it out, that the deal increased the deficit and now, sadly, we must give up our Social Security benefits to make up for it.  One might note that we heard nothing about any of this during the fiscal cliff negotiations – not from members of Congress, the mainstream media, or the President.  We are only hearing about it now that the deal is done, and only from a few sources.

Throughout the months of November and December, a steady stream of corporate CEOs flowed in and out of the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff. Many of them, such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, would then publicly come out and talk about how modest increases of tax rates on the wealthy were reasonable in order to deal with the deficit problem. What wasn’t mentioned is what these leaders wanted, which is what’s known as “tax extenders” [3], or roughly $205B of tax breaks for corporations. With such a banal name, and boring and difficult to read line items in the bill, few political operatives have bothered to pay attention to this part of the bill. But it is critical to understanding what is going on.[…]

Most tax credits drop straight to the bottom line – it’s why companies like Enron considered its tax compliance section a “profit center”. A few hundred billion dollars of tax expenditures is a major carrot to offer. Surely, a modest hike in income taxes for people who make more than $400k in income and stupid enough not to take that money in capital gain would be worth trading off for the few hundred billion dollars in corporate pork. This is what the fiscal cliff is about – who gets the money. And by leaving out the corporate sector, nearly anyone who talks about this debate is leaving out a key negotiating partner.

So without further ado, here are eight corporate subsidies in the fiscal cliff bill that you haven’t heard of.

1) Help out NASCAR – Sec 312 extends the “seven year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complex property”, which is to say it allows anyone who builds a racetrack and associated facilities to get tax breaks on it. This one was projected to cost $43 million over two years.

2) A hundred million or so for Railroads – Sec. 306 provides tax credits to certain railroads for maintaining their tracks. It’s unclear why private businesses should be compensated for their costs of doing business. This is worth roughly $165 million a year [4].

3) Disney’s Gotta Eat – Sec. 317 is “Extension of special expensing rules for certain film and television productions”. It’s a relatively straightforward subsidy to Hollywood studios [5], and according to the Joint Tax Committee, was projected to cost $150m for 2010 and 2011.

4) Help a brother mining company out – Sec. 307 and Sec. 316 offer tax incentives for miners to buy safety equipment and train their employees on mine safety. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to bribe mining companies to not kill their workers.

5) Subsidies for Goldman Sachs Headquarters – Sec. 328 extends “tax exempt financing for  York Liberty Zone,” which was a program to provide post-9/11 recovery funds. Rather than going to small businesses affected, however, this was, according to Bloomberg [6], “little more than a subsidy for fancy Manhattan apartments and office towers for Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Corp.” Michael Bloomberg himself actually thought the program was excessive, so that’s saying something. According to David Cay Johnston’s The Fine Print, Goldman got $1.6 billion in tax free financing for its new massive headquarters through Liberty Bonds.

6) $9B Off-shore financing loophole for banks – Sec. 322 is an “Extension of the Active Financing Exception to Subpart F.” Very few tax loopholes have a trade association, but this one does. This strangely worded provision basically allows American corporations such as banks and manufactures to engage in certain lending practices and not pay taxes on income earned from it. According to this Washington Post piece [7], supporters of the bill include GE, Caterpillar, and JP Morgan. Steve Elmendorf, super-lobbyist, has been paid $80,000 in 2012 alone to lobby on the “Active Financing Working Group.”  [8]

7) Tax credits for foreign subsidiaries –  Sec. 323 is an extension of the “Look-through treatment of payments between related CFCs under foreign personal holding company income rules.” This gibberish sounding provision cost $1.5 billion from 2010 and 2011, and the US Chamber loves it. It’s a provision that allows US multinationals to not pay taxes on income earned by companies they own abroad.

8) Bonus Depreciation, R&D Tax Credit – These are well-known corporate boondoggles. The research tax credit was projected to cost $8B for 2010 and 2011, and the depreciation provisions were projected to cost about $110B for those two years, with some of that made up in later years.

Conveniently, the Joint Committee on Taxation in 2010 did an analysis of what many of these extenders cost. You can find that report here [9].
[Click on link to see footnotes and Taxation Report – Teri]

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/8-huge-corporate-handouts-fiscal-cliff-bill

Fact-checking Obama on fiscal cliff deal (ah, an exception – at least one journalist did his job):  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/01/04/fact-check-obama-fiscal-cliff/1809179/

I have a lot I would like to say about Social Security, but I will save that for another time, for it deserves a post of its own.  Suffice it to say, while Obama was talking about saving the average taxpayer $2000/year in income taxes during the discussions prior to the fiscal cliff deal, he never mentioned the expiration of the “P/R tax holiday”; with the end of that “holiday” included in the fiscal cliff deal, the take-home pay of everyone earning less than 113,000 goes down 2% (after the first 113,000 earned, the current SS withholding threshold, you are exempted from paying into the SS fund).  It is estimated that the expiration of the SS holiday will give about 1.2 tt to the revenue side of the government over ten years, while the tax increase on the wealthy might gain 400 to 600 bb.  Or maybe the wealthiest will pay less than that – they are pretty damn good at hiding their income.  In any case, we commoners will once again have to sacrifice as Congress deals with the debt ceiling.  Remember that the Republicans have already said that they are done with raising revenue – now it’s on to cutting expenditures.  That means taking out medicare, medicaid, social security, WIC, education programs, heating assistance, etc., despite these programs being hit hard repeatedly during Obama’s first term as he “negotiated” with Congress several times over raising the debt ceiling.  The idea Congress has on these issues is simple: the rich must survive in the style to which they are accustomed.  For the rest of us, the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Another example of the incurious press at work:

Protesters forced to scale down at Obama inaugural
By By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A protest group planning to stage a demonstration about unemployment at President Barack Obama’s inauguration says it’s being forced to scale down plans because it won’t have much space on Washington’s Freedom Plaza.

The ANSWER Coalition said Friday that the Presidential Inaugural Committee is taking over the plaza where protests have been held. Protesters will have a 10-yard-wide strip of sidewalk below the plaza.

ANSWER had expected to have bleachers with thousands of demonstrators. National Coordinator Brian Becker says there’s a long history of reserving Freedom Plaza as a place for dissent.

In 2009, the group shared the space with inauguration organizers.

A National Park Service spokeswoman says the protest group applied for the space first but that the inaugural committee has preference under regulations that took effect in 2008.

Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

http://tinyurl.com/aa5wuaz

We are not sure exactly which regulations are being cited here.  It can’t be the one regarding secret service events being off limits to protesters, because that one was just passed last year, not in ’08.  [http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2012/02/houses-passes-new-bill-that-would-make.html]  Not one single article I read about this reconfiguration of the “protest area” after the issuing of the permit gave the actual law in question.  Each simply repeated the claim in the original that there was such a law.  I suppose that in this day of secret laws and secret budgets, it barely matters which law they are talking about.  Hell, maybe there doesn’t even need to be a law; let’s not pass a law and say we did.

In one of those odd coincidences, the protesters seeking the right to assemble on Freedom Plaza during the inaugural are doing so on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  As a nod to the great man, the lesser man currently in the White House offers this on the White House website:

“This year, Martin Luther King Day coincides with the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. President Obama is asking Americans to honor the legacy of the civil rights leader by participating in a service project on January 19.”

Obama in other words: Don’t even think about protesting!  Take your unpaid day off and use it helping some other poor schlub who has it worse than you.  In this great country, the poor help the tired, the lame help the halt, the huddled masses huddle elsewhere, the rich help no-one cuz why the fuck should they, the government wants all your social security to spend on war, and Martin is best remembered as service coordinator.  Why, he would frown upon such divisive and unattractive activities as protesting.

Obama is calmly and coolly rewriting MLK’s biography and legacy.   He turns King into a charity, rather than an outspoken critic of the government and a tireless leader of non-violent protest and advocate of the poor and minorities.  He makes King sound a bit like a dilettante, rather than acknowledge the man’s ideas of a kind, responsible, and responsive government.

The real Martin Luther King, Jr.:

[…] In 1965 King began to publicly express doubts about the Vietnam War. In an April 4, 1967 appearance at the New York City Riverside Church—exactly one year before his death—King delivered a speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”.  He spoke strongly against the U.S.’s role in the war, arguing that the U.S. was in Vietnam “to occupy it as an American colony” and calling the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”.  He also connected the war with economic injustice, arguing that the country needed serious moral change:

“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.”

King also opposed the Vietnam War because it took money and resources that could have been spent on social welfare at home. The United States Congress was spending more and more on the military and less and less on anti-poverty programs at the same time. He summed up this aspect by saying, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”. […] [He] accused the U.S. of having killed a million Vietnamese, “mostly children”.[…]

King began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation, and more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice. He guarded his language in public to avoid being linked to communism by his enemies, but in private he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism. In one speech, he stated that “something is wrong with capitalism” and claimed, “There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” […]

In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address issues of economic justice. King traveled the country to assemble “a multiracial army of the poor” that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created an ‘economic bill of rights’ for poor Americans.  The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C., demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States.

King and the SCLC called on the government to invest in rebuilding America’s cities. He felt that Congress had shown “hostility to the poor” by spending “military funds with alacrity and generosity”. He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided “poverty funds with miserliness”.  His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism”, and argued that “reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced”.[…]

The plan to set up a shantytown in Washington, D.C. was carried out soon after the April 4 assassination [of MLK, jr.]. Criticism of King’s plan was subdued in the wake of his death, and the SCLC received an unprecedented wave of donations for the purpose of carrying it out. The campaign officially began in Memphis, on May 2, at the hotel where King was murdered.

Thousands of demonstrators arrived on the National Mall and established a camp they called “Resurrection City.” They stayed for six weeks. […]  – from wikipedia, main article on Martin Luther King, Jr.

King was assassinated just before the Poor People’s Campaign began its march; protesting for jobs and economic equality got him killed.  I know that this wikipedia article on MLK is accurate – at this point in time.  I know that because my entire family admired King, listened to his speeches, attended some of his events, and collected books written about him, some penned while he was still alive.  Goddamn it, I was alive back then.  I was one of the hundreds of thousands who heard his “I Have a Dream” speech live. I wasn’t very old, but I was there, sitting on my Daddy’s shoulders and part of the swaying crowd, chanting and crying and shouting.  I went to Resurrection City with my mother to bring food to the encamped people.  King was a visionary, a radical, a firebrand, a proponent of nonviolent civil disobedience.  It is a good thing to give to the local food bank and we should do it if we can afford to, but Martin Luther King, Jr. was not just a volunteer at the soup kitchen.  The best way to honor his memory is exactly the protest for jobs (now being cut off at the pass), planned for Inaugural Day 2013.  The protest that Obama does not want you to attend.  I assure you, however, that once someone high enough up on the food chain decrees it, the “facts” available on wikipedia will change.  When I first began researching Libya for the series I wrote about our “humanitarian intervention”, wikipedia offered a list of facts about Libyan society and the positive changes Ghaddafi had implemented in recent decades.  (Universal healthcare, free education, nationalized banking and oil, etc.)  Once we invaded Libya and assassinated Ghaddafi, wikipedia scrubbed anything that might reflect positively on Ghaddafi from its articles.  The CIA World Fact Book did the same.  As I followed the story on the Deedy/Elderts murder case, I found that the first articles written in the press had been altered without explanation or scrubbed from the internet altogether.  Apparently, the State Dept. did not like what some of the eye-witnesses were saying about one of their employees.  We are being taught that the facts don’t matter, that history can be altered – hell, we’re even setting the alterations in stone.  [see: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/24/147301301/quote-on-mlk-memorial-to-be-fixed-but-how ]

But this year’s inaugural message on the WH website is not the first time Obama has sneered at King.  In his acceptance speech upon being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama said the following, excerpted below.  Aside from the extreme irony of using the Peace Prize as a chance to promote war and America’s justification for invading other countries illegally, one must note that he used the opportunity to damn King with the faintest of praise.

[…]Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states; have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today’s wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sewn, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, and children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.

Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest – because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another – that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier’s courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.[…]

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/10/obama-nobel-peace-prize-a_n_386837.html

I was appalled by this speech when he gave it, but let’s not forget that this was the speech he gave and that these are the words he chose.  And that this was a few scant years before Obama destroyed Libya, had Ghaddafi tortured and assassinated, set up his secret assassination matrix and drone policy, before he began bombing 7 or 8 or 9 countries and called everyone thus killed “terrorists” regardless of their affiliations or age, before he killed several American citizens living abroad (one of them a child), signed the 2012 and 2013 NDAAs which allow for indefinite detention of anyone anywhere, killed some poor old man without charges or trial and dumped his body in the ocean – calling him Osama bin Laden – and then helped Hollywood write a movie about the deed.  This was before he decided to send troops into 35 African nations [http://on.rt.com/ya93ju ] and before he began sanctioning Iran just for the hell of it.

Yesterday, I caught MSNBC during the “Andrea Mitchell Reports” and was treated to a brief presentation of what we can expect to hear over and over as Congress debates over the debt ceiling and continues further down the path of austerity measures.  Andrea Mitchell is talking to Tom Brokaw here as to his opinion on what Obama should say in his inaugural speech.  Bear in mind that Mitchell is married to Alan Greenspan, whom Matt Taibbi correctly identifies as the “biggest asshole in the universe”, as it was Greenspan who was the main architect of the financial meltdown of ’08.  [Read Taibbi’s “Griftopia” if you haven’t already.]  Brokaw is on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, which tells you what you need to know about his take on things.  In this interview, there is no talk about the possibility of a financial transaction tax on Wall Street or about the criminality of the big banks which created their own black hole in the financial universe, sucking in all the money and hard assets globally.  There is no mention of the cost of the “wars” or the size of the Pentagon budget.  Not a peep about subsidies to big oil and big ag.  No talk about the huge profits and bonuses in the big corporations, much less the hiding of these monies in off-shore accounts to avoid taxation.  No, no, no, this “balanced discussion” on what is considered the leading liberal news channel, between two of our most respected “journalists” consists of this:  Obama needs to take a hard line against the greedy American people.  “Citizens need to start giving back,” Brokaw intones.  And regarding Medicare, well, says Brokaw, “It’s time to take some of the ornaments off that Christmas tree.”  5-minute video clip:

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/mitchell-reports/50509544#50509544

I see the same half-assed, lopsided presentation, sloppy reasoning and incoherent messaging coming from every source imaginable recently.  One of my senators used to direct her staff to answer queries and emails with responses that were at least on topic and cogent.  Now I receive garbled and trite crap like the following from her:

Dear [Teri]:

Thank you for contacting me about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3254).  It’s good to hear from you.

There were several concerning provisions regarding the indefinite detention of American citizens included in fiscal year 2012’s NDAA.  I believe they were unwise intrusions on the civil rights of American and did little to protect America’s national security.  That is why I voted for Senator Feinstein’s amendment to prohibit the indefinite detention of American citizens who are apprehended in the United States.  This amendment, which had bipartisan support, was included in the final NDAA bill as passed by the Senate.

Our military serves with bravery and dedication.  Over 60,000 American service members are deployed fighting in Afghanistan.  Many have made multiple deployments.  Their families are also fighting on the home front to live normal lives despite repeated absences of a spouse or parent.  Our nation owes our service members and their families an enormous debt of gratitude.  Congress has a sacred trust to provide for their needs.  I believe the fiscal year 2013 NDAA does just this while also defending the civil rights of all Americans.

Again, thanks for contacting me.  Please let me know if I can be of help to you in the future.

Sincerely,
Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator

What a disingenuous and twisted answer to my email asking her (Mikulski) to vote against the 2013 NDAA.  Pretzel logic.  She voted for it, by the way.  So did Ben Cardin, my other senator.  You might note that she does not mention that the Feinstein amendment – deemed to be so convoluted and poorly worded that it was unclear whether or not it did anything at all about protecting the rights of American citizens – was stripped from the final bill by the Senate Armed Services Committee.  What’s the point of bringing up this amendment which no longer even exists in the final version that was signed into law?  If she supported it as the way to “protect our rights” and it is no longer in the bill, how can she yet say the final bill protects our civil rights?

As to any other reason for voting aye, she offers up some warrior worship pablum, which is now extended to include the warriors’ families, who are “fighting on the home front to live normal lives”.  How about this: Let’s stop all the fighting, abroad or at home, real or rhetorical, stop worshiping the flying monkeys and their apparently feudin’ families, end the “wars”, bring the troops home, and tell them to relearn how to be human beings?

Ah.  Too late.  Too late.  They can’t unlearn what the military taught them so well, they are adored for learning it so well, they profit from learning it so well.  There is no incentive for unlearning it.  Senators like Mikulski, all unaware and ignorant of what they do, well-meaning and probably kind to animals and small children, will continue to nonetheless support the random and vicious killing of people all over the world, based on nothing but the suspicions and allegations of a very few men in charge.  All unaware and ignorant, they support teaching warriors to kill for no reason and then demand that these war-machines, these weapons that we deploy – for they are no longer fully human – be given seats at the table and that the poor and hungry at home be stripped of even the scraps thrown to them so that this warrior class can have the orts and leavings as well.  And then we are told to worship them, to admire them, to give to them happily and with gratitude.

That’s Mikulski.  Most of the other senators and congressmen do not act out of such ignorance and misguided “patriotism”.  Most of the rest blandly take their bribes from the arms merchants and oil companies and when asked to respond to questions about why we are giving up our jobs, our social security, or roads or homes to support the “warriors” and the “wars” they fight, they tell their secretaries, “Oh, fuck the constituents.  They’re idiots.  Tell ’em thanks for writing.  That’ll be all.”  Then they laugh and go to play golf with the assistant to the CEO of Ratheon or Halliburton.  Those rounds of golf, concluded with complementary promises of future earnings as lobbyists themselves, discussions of the wealth to be made from sacking this country or that one; that is the Real World to these guys.  On the greens, they don’t even have to pretend to worship the warriors, whom they view as so much hardware.  They trade some quid pro quo with Walmart – you swap out civilians for returning veterans in your employee pool and I’ll guarantee that you get special tax credits for hiring ’em.  And I’ll see to it that you don’t have to worry about their health care costs – they’re covered under the Vet Administration.  Lookie here – the stupid constituents are actually paying for the health benefits and giving up their jobs.  They’ll call both you and me patriotic.  Know what else we can do?  Ask people to drop a few bucks in the “Wounded Warrior” basket on their way out after they’ve finished shopping in your store.  That way, we can cut back on even what we give the vets from the gubment coffer and you get a nice juicy charitable donation to write off whatever’s left of your tax bill.  People are suckers for this shit.  Well, people are suckers, period.  Ha, ha, ha.  ‘Nother Seagram’s?  I can write it off, ya know.

[Walmart actually is planning to swap out some current workers for returning veterans; I did not make that up.  The CEO admitted after this linked article was written that some current workers would have to be let go to accommodate the pledge to hire 100,000 vets.  http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-74031668/ ]

Write down what you remember.  Tell your kids what you remember.  Save original internet articles in full, not just the link, which can be disappeared in a flash.  Listen to the news with an ear out for propaganda and with skepticism.  Keep printed books around – the danger of electronic reading devices like the Kindle is that the text you are reading may have been altered in some way.  How would you know if you have never read the original of what you are buying for your i-shit e-book?  (Although even some of the printed books themselves are now being altered: http://articles.courant.com/2011-01-05/news/hc-mark-twain-censored-books0106-20110105_1_mark-twain-house-twain-scholar-n-word)  Read the books your kids are using in school.  I remember a couple of years ago, my daughter brought me her American History book, updated to include events through 2007, and we both read with puzzlement the final chapter in the book.  One of George W. Bush’ greatest achievements while in office, the book read, was that he “won the war in Afghanistan”.

“Uh, yo Mom,” she said, “aren’t we still in Afghanistan?”

Yes, darlin’, we are.  Even to this day.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2013 in civil rights, Uncategorized

 

Let your life be a friction to stop the machine.

A brief and crucial history of the United States, by Paul F. Edwards and Lanny Cotler, Classwarfilms.  23 minutes.  Knowledge is power.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2Xh5eN2fXY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

 
 

Obama signs the 2013 NDAA.

Updated below.

Update 2 below.

This article reports that Obama signed the 2013 NDAA: http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/01/03-2

as does this one:

President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 on Wednesday, giving his stamp of approval to a Pentagon spending bill that will keep Guantanamo Bay open and make indefinite detention for US citizens as likely as ever.
The president inked his name to the 2013 NDAA on Wednesday evening to little fanfare, and accompanied his signature with a statement condemning a fair number of provisions contained in a bill that he nevertheless endorsed.

The NDAA, an otherwise mundane annual bill that lays out the use of funds for the Department of Defense, has come under attack during the Obama administration for the introduction of a provision last year that allows the military to detain United States citizens indefinitely without charge or trial for mere suspicions of ties to terrorism. Under the 2012 NDAA’s Sec. 1021, Pres. Obama agreed to give the military the power to arrest and hold Americans without the writ of habeas corpus, although he promised with that year’s signing statement that his administration would not abuse that privilege. […]

Although the Pres. Obama rejected the indefinite detention clause when signing the 2012 NDAA, a statement issued late Wednesday from the White House failed to touch on the military’s detainment abilities. On the other hand, Pres. Obama did voice his opposition to a number of provisions included in the latest bill, particularly ones that will essentially render his promise of closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison impossible.

Despite repeated pleas that Gitmo will be closed on his watch, Pres. Obama failed to do as much during his first term in the White House. Thanks to a provision in the 2013 NDAA, the Pentagon will be unable to use funds to transfer detainees out of that facility and to other sights, ensuring they will remain at the top-secret military prison for the time being.

“Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all. Our Constitution does not afford the president the opportunity to approve or reject statutory sections one by one,” Pres. Obama writes.

Congress, claims the president, designed sections of the new defense bill “in order to foreclose my ability to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.”

“I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and strengthening our enemies,” he says.

Elsewhere, the president claims that certain provisions in the act threaten to interview with his “constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch” of the United States.

Before the 2013 NDAA was finalized, it was reported by the White House that Pres. Obama would veto the legislation over the provisions involving Guantanamo Bay. Similarly, the White House originally said the president would veto the 2012 NDAA over the indefinite detention provisions, although he signed it regardless “with reservations” on December 31 of that year.

Since authorizing the 2012 NDAA, the president has been challenged in federal court by a team of plaintiffs who say that the indefinite detention clause is unconstitutional. US District Judge Katherine Forrest agreed that Sec. 1021 of the 2012 NDAA violated the US Constitution and granted a permanent injunction on the Obama administration from using that provision, but the White House successfully fought to appeal that decision.

Commenting on the latest signing, American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero says, “President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day.” 

“His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended,” adds Romero. “He also has jeopardized his ability to close Guantanamo during his presidency. Scores of men who have already been held for nearly 11 years without being charged with a crime–including more than 80 who have been cleared for transfer–may very well be imprisoned unfairly for yet another year. The president should use whatever discretion he has in the law to order many of the detainees transferred home, and finally step up next year to close Guantanamo and bring a definite end to indefinite detention.”

http://on.rt.com/urp94d

Thomas also says the bill is signed.  “1/2/2013: Signed by President.”   –

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.4310:

But govtrack claims that the bill is dead, since it was not signed before the end of this congressional period:

H.R. 4310 (112th): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013
Introduced:
Mar 29, 2012 (112th Congress, 2011–2013)
Sponsor:
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon [R-CA25]
Status:
Died (At President)

Status
This bill was passed by Congress on December 21, 2012 but was not enacted before the end of its Congressional session.

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4310

It was this discrepancy which first led me down a labyrinth of questioning the specific time and date of the president’s signature on the bill.  I had also, just yesterday, heard numerous remarks from members of Congress regarding the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, not voted on because of Boehner’s refusal to bring it up before the session ended.  The complaint from the out-going Congress was that now the new Congress will have to rewrite and resubmit the whole thing for Congress to vote on, since any legislation not enacted before the session ends is “dead” and irrelevant – tossed out.

The White House website shows that the NDAA bill was signed on 2 Jan. or 3 Jan., depending on which place you look on the website.  On the “Signed Legislation” page, it lists the 2013 NDAA as signed on 2 Jan.  So Govtrack (above) is incorrect, OR the pres just illegally signed a bill that had expired.  [Note on sessions of Congress:  A “term of Congress” or “a Congress” lasts for two years, and begins on January 3 of each odd-numbered year.]  Thus it is a rather big deal whether he signed this bill on the 2nd or the 3rd.  The president’s statement on the NDAA opens with the remark that “Today, I have signed into law….”; and is dated 3 Jan.  I.e., the “today” referred to is Jan 3rd. 

He signed this while in Hawaii?  [from WH website: “The President left Washington shortly after announcing that the fiscal cliff compromise measure was passed by the House on New Year’s Day. He arrived around 5:00AM on Wednesday morning. The Obama family will remain in Hawaii through Saturday January 5th.”]  So, yes, apparently he signed this while on vacation.  He is allowed to sign official papers while away from Washington.  They sometimes use what is called an autopen, which was used to sign the Fiscal Cliff BullShit Bill.  (http://dailycaller.com/2013/01/02/will-white-house-use-autopen-again-to-sign-fiscal-cliff-bill/)  Some members of Congress think the autopen is unconstitutional (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20073142-503544.html), but that is completely irrelevant in this case, since the NDAA bill itself was brought to Hawaii with him so he could sign it by hand.  So as long as he signed it before 12:07 p.m. Hawaii time on Wednesday, he would have made the Washington DC time deadline for signing legislation from this session of Congress, which officially ended at 5:07 p.m., Wed., Jan 2nd, when Congress adjourned for the last time in this session.  The official schedule for Congress:

Wednesday, Jan 02, 2013
The Senate convened at 12:00 p.m. and adjourned at 5:07 p.m.

Thursday, Jan 03, 2013
12:00 p.m.: Convene the first session of the 113th Congress.

Well, who knows after all?  Maybe there is some no-man’s land in the time-space continuum wherein a bill can become law as long as it’s signed before the next Congress convenes, even if the old Congress is officially adjourned.  This would mean he had until noon on Thursday to sign the thing and still have it be legal.  I am vainly looking for some loopholes and am wasting my time, I’m sure.  (And now I’ve wasted a few minutes of yours, too.  Sorry, dear reader.)  In the end, my obsessing over the time-stamp is meaningless.  We no longer adhere to any known “rule of law” or the “Constitution”, so who cares?  The bill is signed and Obama’s signature will be accepted as making it law, no matter when he actually signed the thing.  Or where, or what he used to sign it.

The WH press secretary released this statement:

Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 4310
On Wednesday, January 2, 2013, the President signed into law:
H.R. 4310, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013,” which authorizes fiscal year 2013 appropriations for Department of Defense programs and military construction, Department of Energy national security programs, and Department of Transportation maritime security programs; authorizes recruitment and retention bonuses, special payments, and other authorities relating to the U.S. Armed Forces; and makes other modifications to national security, foreign affairs, and other related programs.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/03/statement-press-secretary-hr-4310

Obama’s statement upon signing the bill may be read here – and you will note he has no objection to section 1021(b)(2), which deals with the indefinite detention and possible military incarceration and trials of Americans “involved” (undefined) with “terror-related activities” (undefined):  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/03/statement-president-hr-4310

As I mentioned, this statement has a different date on it than the press secretary’s does, and opens with this:
January 03, 2013

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I have signed into law H.R. 4310, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. […]”

UPDATE,  Sat., 5 Jan.

Someone told govtrack to get their shit together.  Yesterday, they were being all nit-picky and claiming that the NDAA was officially “dead” due to the fact that it wasn’t signed in time; now the status reads: “This bill was passed by Congress on December 21, 2012 but was not enacted before the end of its Congressional session. (It is possible this bill is waiting for the signature of the President.)”

This amusing anecdote is brought to you by the US government and its proud sponsor, Corrupt Is Us, and is paid for by loyal viewers like you.

UPDATE TWO, Sat., 5 Jan.

It occurs to me that it may be somewhat tedious for everyone to wade through the presidential signing statement, much less the entire 2013 NDAA, so I will outline what I consider some of the more egregious and offensive parts of both.  First and foremost, the NDAA makes into “law”, a term that with increasing frequency does not refer to anything we have recognized as constitutional or common law since our founding, the indefinite detention of any and all human beings, including Americans.  Thus, Obama and Congress have erased the most basic of rights that society has accepted since the Magna Carta.  We are now returned to pre-Enlightenment days.  Because both houses of Congress penned the bill and Obama signed it, one must assume that this was the intention.  Obama does not mention this section of the bill in his signing statement.

In no particular order, other sections of the NDAA provide for: over 600 bb for Pentagon spending.  (This is for one year.)  Add to that the funding for “security” hired by the State Dept., the drones operated by the State Dept. – the State Dept. is weaponized and uses mercenary forces although the State Dept. does not technically answer to Obama as “Commander in Chief”, the secret CIA budget – part of which is now used for the militarized operations of drone warfare, although the CIA does not answer to Obama as “Commander in Chief”, the funding for Homeland Security, subsidies given to weapons manufacturers via other Congressional bills, etc., etc., and we are spending well over a couple of trillion a year on military and/or “war on terror” funding.  (This peculiar obsession with weapons and warfare continues unabated despite the fact that the US military has so many weapons it sells or gives the excess to local police departments around the country – clearly we are not in danger of running out of hardware.  As a matter of fact, Obama’s signing statement opens with the remark that he feels he must sign it because it “renews vital national security programs, and helps ensure that the United States will continue to have the strongest military in the world”.)  It increases the already onerous sanctions on Iran for “doing” something they are not actually doing: building nuclear weapons.  Iran has not threatened to invade or bomb anyone, but they do have some seriously coveted oil resources.  Aside from the sanctions, the NDAA mandates that the US make “visible preparations” for war against them.  The NDAA bars the closing down of the prison at Guantanamo Bay or transferring the prisoners to the US for trials (or any other reason).  It instructs Obama to submit a plan for implementing a “No-fly Zone” over Syria.

Aside from what I quoted above, Obama, in his signing statement, objects to section 1028 of the NDAA : “Section 1028 fundamentally maintains the unwarranted restrictions on the executive branch’s authority to transfer detainees to a foreign country. This provision hinders the Executive’s ability to carry out its military, national security, and foreign relations activities and would, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. The executive branch must have the flexibility to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers.”  He is talking about rendition here, and he objects to any interference with the practice.

In the following, he objects to a section of the law which protects whistle-blowers who are employed by outside military contractors and who are attempting to provide information revealing Pentagon abuses, mismanagement or corruption. He is invoking the state secret privilege in advance, in other words, and insists that Congress must not be the direct recipient of whistle-blower communications.

“Certain provisions in the Act threaten to interfere with my constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch. Specifically, sections 827, 828, and 3164 could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials. As my Administration previously informed the Congress, I will interpret those sections consistent with my authority to direct the heads of executive departments to supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential. Additionally, section 1034 would require a subordinate to submit materials directly to the Congress without change, and thereby obstructs the traditional chain of command. I will implement this provision in a manner consistent with my authority as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the head of the executive branch.”

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 4, 2013 in civil rights, security state

 

In which we protect the entire Western Hemisphere from Iran. (Stop laughing.)

This amazingly paranoid law was signed by Obama on 28 Dec., 2012.   And here I thought Congress was doing nothing.  Yet they managed to enact this, an extension of the FISA law, and the 2013 NDAA all in one year.

Despite Iran’s allowing the IAEA to come in as often as they wish and the finding by the IAEA that Iran is NOT developing nukes [for latest report, see: “(1) The IAEA is confident about ‘the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran’; and (2) The IAEA can ‘conclude that all nuclear materials in Iran is in peaceful activities.’ …” – http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/NJ18Aa03.html],  Congress and Obama feel the need for protecting the entire Western Hemisphere from Iran.  As a side note, the 2013 NDAA (the legislation below is not from the 2013 NDAA) imposes more sanctions on Iran and calls the Central Bank of Iran itself a “Terrorist Organization” – a title more aptly applied to BoA, Goldman, Sachs, and JP Morgan.  (Obama has not yet signed the 2013 NDAA, although there is no doubt he will.)

We see as a threat the idea that Iran is seeking to extend diplomatic ties with some South American and Latin American countries.  They have signed ” economic and security agreements in order to create a network of diplomatic and economic relationships to lessen the blow of international sanctions and oppose Western attempts to constrict its ambitions” (see #2 below).  The gall!  Trying to avoid the worst of the impacts of our sanctions on them.  Reminds one of the Iraqis complaining that our sanctions were killing their children.  It’s rather like China making investments and strengthening economic ties to Africa.  We’ve been threatening, sanctioning and bombing other countries into submission for so long that we see any other way of conducting affairs, such as actual diplomacy or peaceful financial agreements between countries, as suspect and something to be feared.   We are terrified lest peace break out, leaving our belligerence and weapons despised and unused.

Everyone knows that Africa and the entire Western Hemisphere belong to us and have no right to make their own decisions regarding their economies and diplomatic ties.  They are mere children, after all, and we must protect them from making such disastrous choices.  One would think they had the notion that they were sovereign nations or something.  We don’t know who told them that, but we must disabuse them of that idea post haste.  Iran has furthermore “dramatically increased” “diplomatic missions to Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil. Iran has built 17 cultural centers in Latin America, and it currently maintains 11 embassies, up from 6 in 2005”  (see #7 below).  Good God!  Diplomatic missions?  Cultural Centers?  Everyone knows that diplomatic missions are secretly CIA ops and US black sites…whoops, sorry, I didn’t mean to mention that.  Forget that, erase it; this is about Iran.  It’s time to bring up the “failed attempt on the life of a Saudi Arabian ambassador” (see #11 below).  That story didn’t stick the last time we trotted it out, maybe we’ll have better luck this time by writing the story into an official law.  Plus, there is the notorious case of one (1) individual who, while not actually Persian per se, but Lebanese, was caught trying to traffic cocaine to the US from Mexico and was stopped in the nick of time by the US government shutting down the Lebanese Canadian Bank.  While the connections between Iran, Canada, Mexico and Lebanon may seem nebulous to you and the case of one individual a rather far stretch in condemning an entire country, Congress finds the evidence irrefutable.  This one fellow may have had ties to Hezbollah.  Enough said.  Persia (Iran) has not invaded any other country in several hundred years, but you never know.  We need to shore up the borders.  More than we already have.  We need more cameras and drones, damnit.

Of prime concern are “energy pipelines” (see #7b below).  This has to do with the IPI and the TAPI.  We just got India to sign up for the TAPI line, so that’s a plus; they’ll be on our side in WW3.  [See this Pepe article: http://tinyurl.com/3wyzafv which was written in ’09 – before India signed the TAPI agreement – but which contains about all the info you need on what our real interest in the ME is.]

When you read item #7d, “…to address the vital national security interests of the United States in ensuring energy supplies from the Western Hemisphere that are free from the influence of any foreign government that would attempt to manipulate or disrupt global energy markets”, you are to refrain from remarking that it is speculators on Wall Street, which is located in the USA, that manipulate energy prices and do so in a fashion that is completely arbitrary to reality.  Also, do not mention the fact that the US sanctions on Iran disrupted global markets more than any other single factor in the past several years.  Dissent in the ranks will not be permitted and believe me, we know who you are.

Here are pictures of an Iranian child and an Iranian couple, and a view of Tehran, Iran.  Click on photos to enlarge.  The portraits were taken by travel writer Rick Steves – those and the cityscape came from: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/09/where-was-this-picture-taken.html and http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/09/what-do-these-beautiful-people-have-in-common.html  You should take a look at all the photos displayed in these two links.  Even if you think we ought to blow these people and this place up just for the hell of it – especially if you think that – you should look at the entire set of photos.  Ahmadinejad (and the fabulous stories told about him) is not the sum total of Iran any more than Hillary Clinton laughing and joking about torturing and assassinating the leader of a sovereign nation is the entirety of the US.

 

Text of the new law:

H.R.3783

One Hundred Twelfth Congressof theUnited States of AmericaAT THE SECOND SESSIONBegun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday,

the third day of January, two thousand and twelve

An Act

To provide for a comprehensive strategy to counter Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.This Act may be cited as the ‘Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012’.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.Congress finds the following:

(1) The United States has vital political, economic, and security interests in the Western Hemisphere.

(2) Iran is pursuing cooperation with Latin American countries by signing economic and security agreements in order to create a network of diplomatic and economic relationships to lessen the blow of international sanctions and oppose Western attempts to constrict its ambitions.

(3) According to the Department of State, Hezbollah, with Iran as its state sponsor, is considered the ‘most technically capable terrorist group in the world’ with ‘thousands of supporters, several thousand members, and a few hundred terrorist operatives,’ and officials from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force have been working in concert with Hezbollah for many years.

(4) The IRGC’s Qods Force has a long history of supporting Hezbollah’s military, paramilitary, and terrorist activities, providing it with guidance, funding, weapons, intelligence, and logistical support, and in 2007, the Department of the Treasury placed sanctions on the IRGC and its Qods Force for their support of terrorism and proliferation activities.

(5) The IRGC’s Qods Force stations operatives in foreign embassies, charities, and religious and cultural institutions to foster relationships, often building on existing socioeconomic ties with the well established Shia Diaspora, and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America.

(6) According to the Department of Defense, the IRGC and its Qods Force played a significant role in some of the deadliest terrorist attacks of the past two decades, including the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, by generally directing or supporting the groups that actually executed the attacks.

(7) Reports of Iranian intelligence agents being implicated in Hezbollah-linked activities since the early 1990s suggest direct Iranian government support of Hezbollah activities in the Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, and in the past decade, Iran has dramatically increased its diplomatic missions to Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil. Iran has built 17 cultural centers in Latin America, and it currently maintains 11 embassies, up from 6 in 2005.

(8) Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies with a presence in Latin America have raised revenues through illicit activities, including drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music, and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region.

(9) Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela expressed their intention to assist Iran in evading sanctions by signing a statement supporting Iran’s nuclear activities and announcing at a 2010 joint press conference in Tehran their determination to ‘continue and expand their economic ties to Iran’ with confidence that ‘Iran can give a crushing response to the threats and sanctions imposed by the West and imperialism’.

(10) The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration concluded in 2008 that almost one-half of the foreign terrorist organizations in the world are linked to narcotics trade and trafficking, including Hezbollah and Hamas.

(11) In October 2011, the United States charged two men, Manssor Arbabsiar, a United States citizen holding both Iranian and United States passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s IRGC Qods Force, with conspiracy to murder a foreign official using explosives in an act of terrorism. Arbabsiar traveled to Mexico with the express intent to hire ‘someone in the narcotics business’ to carry out the assassination of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador in the United States. While in the end, he only engaged a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency informant posing as an associate of a drug trafficking cartel, Arbabsiar believed that he was working with a member of a Mexican drug trafficking organization and sought to send money to this individual in installments and not in a single transfer.

(12) In February 2011, actions by the Department of the Treasury effectively shut down the Lebanese Canadian Bank. Subsequent actions by the United States Government in connection with the investigation into Lebanese Canadian Bank resulted in the indictment in December 2011 of Ayman Joumaa, an individual of Lebanese nationality, with citizenship in Lebanon and Colombia, and with ties to Hezbollah, for trafficking cocaine to the Los Zetas drug trafficking organization in Mexico City for sale in the United States and for laundering the proceeds.

SEC. 3. STATEMENT OF POLICY.It shall be the policy of the United States to use a comprehensive government-wide strategy to counter Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere by working together with United States allies and partners in the region to mutually deter threats to United States interests by the Government of Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC’s Qods Force, and Hezbollah.

SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.In this Act:

(1) WESTERN HEMISPHERE- The term ‘Western Hemisphere’ means the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, and Central America.

(2) RELEVANT CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES- The term ‘relevant congressional committees’ means the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.

SEC. 5. REQUIREMENT OF A STRATEGY TO ADDRESS IRAN’S GROWING HOSTILE PRESENCE AND ACTIVITY IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE.(a) In General- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall conduct an assessment of the threats posed to the United States by Iran’s growing presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere and submit to the relevant congressional committees the results of the assessment and a strategy to address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere.

(b) Matters To Be Included- The strategy described in subsection (a) should include–

(1) a description of the presence, activities, and operations of Iran, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its Qods Force, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations linked to Iran that may be present in the Western Hemisphere, including information about their leaders, objectives, and areas of influence and information on their financial networks, trafficking activities, and safe havens;

(2) a description of the terrain, population, ports, foreign firms, airports, borders, media outlets, financial centers, foreign embassies, charities, religious and cultural centers, and income-generating activities in the Western Hemisphere utilized by Iran, the IRGC, its Qods Force, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations linked to Iran that may be present in the Western Hemisphere;

(3) a description of the relationship of Iran, the IRGC, its Qods Force, and Hezbollah with transnational criminal organizations linked to Iran and other terrorist organizations in the Western Hemisphere, including information on financial networks and trafficking activities;

(4) a description of the relationship of Iran, the IRGC, its Qods Force, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations linked to Iran that may be present in the Western Hemisphere with the governments in the Western Hemisphere, including military-to-military relations and diplomatic, economic, and security partnerships and agreements;

(5) a description of the Federal law enforcement capabilities, military forces, State and local government institutions, and other critical elements, such as nongovernmental organizations, in the Western Hemisphere that may organize to counter the threat posed by Iran, the IRGC, its Qods Force, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations linked to Iran that may be present in the Western Hemisphere;

(6) a description of activity by Iran, the IRGC, its Qods Force, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations linked to Iran that may be present at the United States borders with Mexico and Canada and at other international borders within the Western Hemisphere, including operations related to drug, human, and arms trafficking, human support networks, financial support, narco-tunneling, and technological advancements that incorporates–

(A) with respect to the United States borders, in coordination with the Governments of Mexico and Canada and the Secretary of Homeland Security, a plan to address resources, technology, and infrastructure to create a secure United States border and strengthen the ability of the United States and its allies to prevent operatives from Iran, the IRGC, its Qods Force, Hezbollah, or any other terrorist organization from entering the United States; and

(B) within Latin American countries, a multiagency action plan, in coordination with United States allies and partners in the region, that includes the development of strong rule-of-law institutions to provide security in such countries and a counterterrorism and counter-radicalization plan to isolate Iran, the IRGC, its Qods Force, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations linked to Iran that may be present in the Western Hemisphere from their sources of financial support and counter their facilitation of terrorist activity; and

(7) a plan–

(A) to address any efforts by foreign persons, entities, and governments in the region to assist Iran in evading United States and international sanctions;

(B) to protect United States interests and assets in the Western Hemisphere, including embassies, consulates, businesses, energy pipelines, and cultural organizations, including threats to United States allies;

(C) to support United States efforts to designate persons and entities in the Western Hemisphere for proliferation activities and terrorist activities relating to Iran, including affiliates of the IRGC, its Qods Force, and Hezbollah, under applicable law including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act; and

(D) to address the vital national security interests of the United States in ensuring energy supplies from the Western Hemisphere that are free from the influence of any foreign government that would attempt to manipulate or disrupt global energy markets.

(c) Development- In developing the strategy under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult with the heads of all appropriate United States departments and agencies, including the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, and the United States Trade Representative.

(d) Form- The strategy in this section may be submitted in classified form, but shall include an unclassified summary of policy recommendations to address the growing Iranian threat in the Western Hemisphere.

SEC. 6. SENSE OF CONGRESS.It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of State should keep the relevant congressional committees continually informed on the hostile actions of Iran in the Western Hemisphere.

SEC. 7. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the rights or protections enjoyed by United States citizens under the United States Constitution or other Federal law, or to create additional authorities for the Federal Government that are contrary to the United States Constitution and United States law.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Vice President of the United States and

President of the Senate.

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr3783/text

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Congress, Iran, MIC