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Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Obama Dept. of Justice inserts itself into Supreme Court DNA case.

When you are arrested in the United States, you are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.  You are also guaranteed to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures; a warrant to search a person or a place may only be issued if a probable cause reason is given under oath or affirmation for a specific search involving a specific suspected crime.  This is the basic premise of the 4th amendment, which reads:  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Here in Maryland, a case arose regarding this very issue as it pertains to DNA collection upon arrest.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last week.  The case involves a man arrested for assault.  The police collected his DNA immediately after his arrest and the DNA results connected him to an old unsolved rape case; he was then prosecuted and convicted of the rape based on this DNA evidence.  The Md. court of appeals agreed that taking DNA samples from arrested persons in order to randomly check it against other cases violates the Constitution, but the state has appealed the decision of its own court.

As in an earlier case where the Supreme Court decided that it is “reasonable” that anyone being detained for anything, even minor traffic charges or jay-walking, can be strip-searched by the police, the Obama Dept. of Justice weighed in on this case and has taken the side of unrestricted police powers.  It seems that Obama would rather be remembered for being to the right, rather than in the right.  They had no real reason to be involved in this case, but sent a lawyer to give an oral presentation to the Court and file an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief.  Thus, we have a record of how Obama and Holder feel about the issue.  Allowing the collection of DNA samples from people who are arrested (but not found guilty of any crime yet) brings a whole new interpretation to “reasonable” search and seizure and tosses out altogether the need for warrants “based on probable cause”.

The following article does a good job of looking at this matter vis a vis the 4th amendment:

Last week the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case Maryland v. King, in which the State of Maryland has appealed a decision of its own appellate court that a Maryland law permitting police to take DNA samples from arrested persons violates the prohibition in the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Alonzo Jay King, Jr. was arrested on a felony assault charge. Maryland police took a DNA sample swabbed from his cheek. The results connected him to an unsolved “cold case,” for which he was later prosecuted and convicted. King was not suspected of that crime at the time the DNA sample was taken.

The basic rule under the Fourth Amendment is that a search or seizure must seek evidence of a particular crime, and a judge must issue a warrant finding that there is probable cause to believe that the search will locate such evidence. Blanket DNA sampling of arrestees plainly violates this dual mandate.

Maryland nevertheless argued that persons arrested for more serious offenses should lose their right to privacy in their personal DNA information, despite the fact they have not been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent under the Constitution. It asked the court to carve out an exception to the Fourth Amendment by balancing the general interest of law enforcement in solving crimes against what it termed a “minimal invasion” of individual privacy rights.

Under Maryland’s tortured logic the houses of arrestees could be routinely searched for evidence of unspecified crimes. But the Constitution bars such searches and seizures even though they might turn up evidence of crime.

During the argument Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and even arch reactionary Antonin Scalia, seemed to indicate the obvious, that Maryland law could not pass muster under the Fourth Amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that under Maryland’s theory people pulled over for mere traffic violations could be subjected to taking DNA.

However, several justices—Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and even the ostensibly “liberal” Justice Stephen Breyer—appeared sympathetic to Maryland’s crime-fighting pitch, evincing scant concern for privacy protections. Alito gushed: “I think this is perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that this Court has heard in decades. So this is what is at stake: Lots of murders, lots of rapes that can be—that can be solved using this new technology that involves a very minimal intrusion on personal privacy.” Alito also referred to DNA as nothing more than the “fingerprint of the 21st century.”

The notion that the government taking DNA samples from arrestees is a “very minimal intrusion” on personal privacy was debunked in “friend of the court” briefs filed by scientists and researchers. A brief from the Electronic Privacy Information Center aptly captured the gravity of the issue: “The collection of a DNA sample from an individual raises a profound and far-reaching privacy concern. Genetic traits can identify family members and reveal predispositions to disease and mental illness. DNA is a robust descriptor of an individual’s entire physiological identity. DNA testing can also result in ‘social stigma, discrimination in employment, barriers to health insurance, and other problems’… Even after analyzing a sample … the government does not destroy it … (government entities) retain entire DNA samples even after the … analysis is complete.”

Any claim that the government can be trusted to use the samples for identification only, despite the fact that it maintains a vast, enduring database of all DNA samples taken, is ludicrous. The government has been doing all it can to spy and collect data on the population at large, as it erects the scaffolding of a police state.

Although the US was not party to the case in the Maryland court, Obama’s Justice Department nevertheless filed a friend of the court brief and sent a lawyer to orally argue, asking the Supreme Court to uphold the Maryland law. It cited other Supreme Court decisions in an attempt to establish that arrestees lose a number of rights compared to the population at large.

One recent decision cited was Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, where the Supreme Court ruled patently invasive jail strip searches do not require reasonable suspicion that the detainee has contraband on his person. In that case the court held that strip searches of Albert Florence, who was wrongly arrested for failing to pay a traffic fine that he had, in fact, already paid, did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

If the Supreme Court upholds the Maryland DNA law in this case, its decision will be one more instance of an accelerating judicial onslaught on fundamental democratic rights.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/03/09/dnac-m06.html

Chief Justice Roberts has already said that it is likely the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Maryland in the DNA case.

[…]The Supreme Court allowed the Maryland law to remain in effect in July while appeals from the state were filed, and Chief Justice John Roberts signaled at the time his tentative support for the measure.

“Collecting DNA from individuals arrested for violent felonies provides a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes and thereby helping to remove violent offenders from the general population,” Roberts wrote.

“Crimes for which DNA evidence is implicated tend to be serious, and serious crimes cause serious injuries. That Maryland may not employ a duly enacted statute to help prevent these injuries constitutes irreparable harm.”

Roberts said at the time there was a “fair prospect” the Supreme Court would ultimately find in favor of the state on the search and seizure questions.

Roberts said the state appeals decision would resonate beyond Maryland because DNA samples taken on the state level “may otherwise be eligible” for the FBI’s database. “The decision,” Roberts said “renders the database less effective for other states and the federal government.”

The Maryland law is set to expire at the end of 2013. A Supreme Court ruling is expected by June.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/09/justice/court-dna

Further reading:

Also on the DNA case:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/us/supreme-court-hears-arguments-on-dna-sampling.html?_r=0

On the strip-search case:  http://www.npr.org/2012/04/02/149866209/high-court-supports-strip-searches-for-minor-offenders

Obama DoJ supported Court’s decision in strip-search case:  http://www.salon.com/2012/04/03/the_obama_doj_and_strip_searches/

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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in civil rights

 

How…efficient.

How to save money on trials and bypass the self-incrimination laws at the same time.  And also bypass “judgment via a jury of your peers” and the need for the prosecution to “prove their case” “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  This may also be skirting on the edge of torture, but who knows what “torture” is?  In any case, we do not “torture”.  That’s our “policy” and we swear it’s the “truth”.  But, hey, there’s “due process” and there’s “judicial process”, according to our US Attorney General, Eric Holder – I’m not sure which this represents.  Maybe there’s a third process out there being invented as we speak.

On the other hand, if this is allowable, there are a few humans (I use the term in jest – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, and a significant number of those currently in office, are not humans as the word is commonly understood) whom we maybe ought to get up there in front of this new process.

Seriously, WTF?  Think about the ramifications of this, without regard to the particular defendant in this case.

Aurora cinema shooting: Judge approves ‘truth serum’ interrogation

James Holmes, the student accused of the ‘Batman’ movie massacre in a Colorado cinema, could be given a truth serum as part of a narcoanalytic interview to determine whether he is insane, as a judge enters a not guilty plea on his behalf.

James Holmes, 25, a former neuroscience PhD student, is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others during a shooting rampage during a ‘Batman’ movie premiere at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, last July.

Holmes faces a total of 166 different counts relating to the shootings.

His defense team had initially said he was not ready to enter a plea, so the judge entered a not guilty plea on is behalf. Judge William Blair Sylvester said Holmes could change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity later, if he chooses to.

His defense lawyers had indicated that he may plead not guilty by reason of insanity. If he does enter an insanity plea, the judge has ruled that he may have to undergo an interview under the influence of drugs –dubbed a ‘truth serum’ – in order to evaluate his mental state.

The process is designed to lower a patient’s inhibition, and is decades old. Judge Sylvester has also ruled that he may be given a lie detector test. […]

http://rt.com/usa/cinema-shooting-insanity-guns-154/

Update:  Turns out the Supreme Court already ruled on this issue, back in 1963, although after 9/11 they indicated they might have to defer a bit to the politicians vis a vis this sort of thing with respect to terrorism.   Holmes, of course, is not a “terrorist”; if guilty, he is a mass murderer.  And that is what his trial is for.

“[…] Numerous decisions of this Court have established the standards governing the admissibility of confessions into evidence. If an individual’s ‘will was overborne’ 2 or if his confession was not ‘the product of a rational intellect and a free will,’ 3 his confession is inadmissible because coerced. These standards are applicable whether a confession is the product of physical intimidation or psychological pressure and, of course, are equally applicable to a drug-induced statement. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a confession would be less the product of a free intellect, less voluntary, than when brought  about by a drug having the effect of a ‘truth serum.’ […]  –  MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN TOWNSEND v. SAIN, 372 U.S. 293 (1963)
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=372&invol=293

“[…] In 1963 the Supreme Court ruled that a confession produced under the influence of truth serum was unconstitutionally coerced, and therefore inadmissible. After that, the use of such drugs fell rapidly from popularity in the U.S.. But truth serums may not be gone for good, as the Supreme Court asserted shortly after 9/11 that terrorism may require ‘heightened deference to the judgments of the political branches with respect to matters of national security.’ […]” – http://www.damninteresting.com/the-truth-about-truth-serum/

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Lebensraum.

“Lebensraum (German for ‘habitat’ or literally ‘living room’) was an important component of Nazi ideology in Germany. The Nazis supported territorial expansionism to gain Lebensraum (‘living space’) as being a law of nature for all healthy and vigorous peoples of superior races to displace people of inferior races…” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebensraum

It seems to me that the biggest problem we have is that we are invading lands and destroying other cultures willy-nilly based on the old Nazi idea of lebensraum.  “Living space”; the idea that one nation has the inherent right, based upon its own assessment of itself as superior, to take what it wants so it can expand forever.  The cultures that are thus decimated are deemed inferior, although their land and its resources are very valuable.  Hitler came up with his lebensraum agenda after studying American Manifest Destiny, which he thought was a most excellent and worthy endeavor for a superior race.  This perfectly defines what the US foreign policy still is.  We have never let go the idea of Manifest Destiny; having been founded and having prospered for all of our white generations with this ideal, we do not find it shocking or repugnant, or even noteworthy.   It is basically our entire cultural heritage.  We do not openly discuss it or refer to it as Manifest Destiny any more, but it is there, the tune that hums as the background music of all our “endeavors”.  As I have mentioned repeatedly in my posts, the US government no longer bothers to hide the goal of global hegemony, but merely assumes the stupid fucktards in the US will see it as a fine policy because “USA – number one”.  Little do we understand that aside from the few manning the drones and carrying the weapons onto the killing fields, we are entirely expendable.  Obama is completely open about the whole thing, as I have pointed out when I remark on his speeches, his Strategic Guidance, his drone killings, the State Dept goals under his watch, his invasions of various lands, the NDAA, etc.  The only new aspect is that Manifest Destiny as practiced by the US is now turning inward to consume its land of origin at the behest of the big corporations and the wealthiest amongst us.  Congress is entirely complicit in this and will sacrifice the people they work for and whose interests they swear to protect (i.e., the American people as a whole).   Even this is not really new, though, but only new as it concerns the USA, which is not very old in terms of civilizations, after all.  You see the pattern over and over when you look at the history of humans – the powerful bully and consume the weak, find out too late that for one reason or another they overstepped themselves, and that particular empire fails and falls.  One might have hoped we would have evolved beyond this tired exercise by now, but never underestimate the ability of the powerful to delude themselves into thinking that this time, the story will turn out differently.  This time, however, we have climate change to deal with and levels of toxins in the food, water and air never before seen – the wealthy have the mistaken notion that somehow they will be able to buy their way out of those problems as well (after they have gotten rid of the peasants).  It’s not that they don’t believe in man-made climate change – they do – they just don’t want you to take it seriously so that you will be less of an impediment while they capture what is left of the resources for themselves.  We are losing time to deal with these issues while they plunder the earth, of course, and in the end, they will not be able to survive themselves on a planet where all the fresh water has been used up or poisoned and where there is no food with nutritional value left.  Being rich and/or powerful does not necessarily translate into being smart and seems an insurmountable obstacle to having morals and ethics.

Whatever excuses we use now to pursue Manifest Destiny, or lebensraum, are mere fig leaves to hide the ugly truth – we are using military force to take other countries’ shit for the benefit of big US corporations.  We did not invade Iraq to “bring them democracy” or even to “get rid of an evil tyrant” (poor old Saddam must have been in complete disbelief when he realized his old playground buddies really were going to hang him); we wanted the oil fields for Exxon.  We thought we had a right to them.  We fucking destroyed the country for that reason alone.  (That it hasn’t worked out so well for Exxon is another story.)  And now that we have killed millions, dumped depleted uranium all over the place, and destroyed their infrastructure, we leave them to figure out their civil war – which we fomented – on their own.

In an extremely unsavory flash from the past, the German business community (the equivalent of our Business Roundtable) has recently come out and baldly stated that Germany, the US and NATO should quit making up stupid and increasingly unbelievable reasons for taking over foreign countries and just come right out and say that these powerful countries are using their militaries to benefit the corporations, which needed the resources of the weaker countries and knew how to utilize them to best advantage.  (Best advantage for the corporations, naturally, not best advantage for humankind or the citizens of the countries thus plundered.)  When we in the US hear about “American interests” in a speech, that is what the politicians are talking about.  American business interests.  We have never given up the intentions behind our Manifest Destiny doctrine, just as Germans have not ended – but merely bided their time – on lebensraum.

On to an article about modern-day German lebensraum.  You will note immediately, as did I, that they might as well be talking about the US rather than Germany.  As a corollary, you may consider how coordinated (flawlessly coordinated, one might say) German and American foreign policy goals are.  Almost as though the global elite and global corporations were, in fact, global.

German industry, government planning for resource wars
By Peter Schwarz 
20 February 2013

A year ago, leading German industrial companies launched the Resource Alliance (Rohstoffallianz) for the purpose of securing the supply of selected raw materials for its shareholders and corporate members. To achieve this goal, it is calling for the use of military assets.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, the manager of the Resource Alliance, Dierk Paskert, called for “a strategically oriented foreign economic and security policy” to ensure the supply of raw materials for German business.

Although this policy should be guided by the “objective of free and transparent commodity markets,” Paskert said, “it would be naive to take this for granted in the near future.” Developments had moved in “exactly the opposite direction, unfortunately.” Therefore, Paskert concluded, “we [Germany], together with our partners in the EU and NATO, must take on more responsibility in foreign economic and security matters.”

“Taking responsibility in security matters” is a euphemism for military operations. This is indicated by the reference to NATO, a military alliance.

Paskert is calling for resource wars.

In response to a direct question posed by the business daily Handelsblatt—“Will we see resource wars?”—Paskert answered in the affirmative, citing historical precedent. “History shows,” he said, “that many conflicts have their origin in the fight for resources… The supply of raw materials is the basis for added value and the well-being of a country, and therefore has geo-political significance.” Handelsblatt openly presented the central issue. In a lengthy editorial on the Paskert interview, it wrote that industry would like to see “more government—and military—involvement in securing raw materials.” The editorial was published under the revealing headline “Expedition Raw Materials: Germany’s new course.”

In political circles, Handelsblatt explained, this demand by industry is finding a hearing. For the government, “the control of raw materials is a ‘strategic issue’ for German foreign policy.” One can imagine “that existing raw material partnerships are not sufficient. ‘Security and military instruments’ are also required.”

According to Handelsblatt, the chancellor wants to appoint a coordinator who will “better dovetail the interests of strategic industries with defence and security technology, contributing to the securing of raw material supplies.” Strategic partners of Germany, such as Saudi Arabia, should be supported with weapons technology before Germany is forced in a crisis to send its own soldiers. And the armed forces should be “better prepared for their new role as guardians of strategic interests.” Handelsblatt cited the 2011 Defence Policy Guidelines, which declare that the “security of and access to natural resources” is the “most important security and military policy interest.”

[Teri’s note: the close mirroring of this language in Obama’s Strategic Guidance paper cannot be missed.  See: http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/02/the-2012-defense-strategic-guidance/]

[…]  In official propaganda, the military missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and elsewhere were justified on humanitarian grounds or as part of the “war on terror.” The government and big business now believe, however, that the time has come to bring public opinion into line with the real aims of such operations.

In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung on January 31, German Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière declared that in order to convey the need for direct military interventions in the future, a different sort of justification would have to be found. “International military operations have to be explained realistically,” he declared, “and the justifications should not sound too pathetic.” […]

http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/20/germ-f20.html

We take no interest in the cultural mores of other societies.  We assume our way (i.e., Halliburton’s, Exxon’s, Monsanto’s, Bechtel’s way) is the best way and seek to impose it on other countries so that the corporations may find ever increasing profits.  It is interesting to me, if not to our politicians, that the idea of free market capitalism – which we do not actually practice here – has to be forced on other countries at the point of a gun.  If it were such a goddamned swell idea, why do we have to impose it at gunpoint?  We see an island nation spear-fishing in the ocean and catching only what the people need to eat that day, and we say, “Oh, how backwards you are.  You could catch tons of fish our way, sell the extra, and make buttloads of money.”  And the islanders respond, “Why would we overfish and thus eventually starve ourselves just for some cash?”  And so we invade them and “teach” them how to harvest the oceans.  (Did you know, BTW, that the ocean’s food fish are depleted by 85%?  Overfishing.)

Obama has bought the “corporations know best” idea whole hog.  His new curriculum for public schools is one thought up by the Bill Gates foundation.  As though, merely by being rich, Bill fucking Gates is an expert on education.  Obama’s nominee for his new Budget Director is currently the head of the Walmart Foundation.  A fucking Walmart executive as budget director.  Hell, Obama invaded and destroyed Libya for the oil fields and to prevent Ghaddafi’s African nationalized bank from reaching its final goal (which was to pay off the IMF debt various African nations suffered under).  We and the other nations involved confiscated that money and now pretend that it was Ghaddafi’s personal money that he “looted from the Libyan people” – a bald lie.

The State Department has been taken over by the people who use it for US lebensraum.  It is no longer an agency for diplomacy.  Here’s the modern State Dept. at work:

On February 22, Egypt Independent leaked a shipping document and memo that revealed the Jamestown, Pa.-based tear gas manufacturer CSI plans to send a massive amount of canisters — 140,000 for around $2.5 million — to the Egyptian police. On Monday, Patrick Ventrell, deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department, which signed off on the “direct commercial sale” as it’s known, fumbled for words at a press conference:

“Well, clearly, we continue, as I said at the very top of this, that — continue to work on human rights training in all aspects of our training with Egyptian security forces. And clearly they’re going through a complicated democratic transition. And the importance of professionalism, of institutionalizing best practices in the use of crowd control, of allowing the free expression of democratic principles but in the context of providing safety and security for Egyptians — this is something that continues to be worked on.”  […]

http://www.nationofchange.org/140000-reasons-protest-egypt-and-us-1362232215

Tear gas is banned for use by the military through the chemical weapons ban, which the US signed.  I suppose the State Dept. doesn’t feel too squeamish about authorizing this sale, however, since Egypt is not a signatory of the ban and because this teargas is for use by the Egyptian police force.  Turns out that the ban does not extend to police forces, which is why local police forces in the US are allowed to use the shit all the time.

Our new Secretary of State, John Kerry, managed to threaten Iran already – Iran, whose “problem” is that it has too much oil and wants to keep it nationalized to benefit its own people – and talked about overthrowing Syria’s Assad on the very day he took his new office.  While failing to mention that even Panetta admitted that the “rebels” in Syria and Libya were al Qaeda (how “ironic” that we are on the same side as al Qaeda, Panetta said).  And no-one notices that al Qaeda seems to magically appear in every country we want to take over.

This government – specifically this Congress, this administration, this Pentagon and this Supreme Court – is now given over to the idea of lebensraum practiced on its own people.  Instead of serving the American people, they now openly serve the American corporations.  They allow the poisoning of our land, our air and our water so that the corporations can make a profit.  The recent “sequester” was designed to harm the poorest among us, while leaving untouched the richest.  You might have noticed that the Pentagon, which had complete discretion on how it would structure its share of the cuts, decided to cut only civilian jobs and income, rather than touching subsidies to weapons manufacturers or wasteful spending on overseas military bases, extraneous military hardware, etc.

On the non-military discretionary side, we have cuts to welfare, education, and regulatory agencies rather than cutting subsidies to big ag, big pharma, big oil (the oil industry profited more than $100 billion last year, making it the most lucrative industry on the planet), and Wall Street.  Shit, even the “fiscal cliff” deal managed to add an estimated $4 tt to the deficit over the next ten years (through extra subsidies to big companies) while taxing the least of us more than the wealthy.  Amazing.

Some of the sequester cuts:

Health care
$20 million cut from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs
$10 million cut from the World Trade Center Health Program Fund
$168 million cut from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
$75 million cut from the Aging and Disability Services Programs

Housing
$199 million cut from public housing
$96 million cut from Homeless Assistance Grants
$17 million cut from Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS
$19 million cut from Housing for the Elderly
$175 million cut from Low Income Home Energy Assistance

Disaster and Emergency
$928 million cut from FEMA’s disaster relief money
$6 million cut from Emergency Food and Shelter
$70 million cut from the Agricultural Disaster Relief Fund at USDA
$61 million cut from the Hazardous Substance Superfund at EPA 
$125 million cut from the Wildland Fire Management
$53 million cut from Salaries and Expenses at the Food Safety and Inspection Service

Obamacare
$13 million cut from the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program (Co-ops)
$57 million cut from the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control
$51 million cut from the Prevention and Public Health Fund
$27 million cut from the State Grants and Demonstrations
$44 million cut from the Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants program

Education
$633 million cut from the Department of Education’s Special Education programs
$184 million cut from Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research
$71 million cut from administration at the Office of Federal Student Aid
$116 million cut from Higher Education
$86 million cut from Student Financial Assistance
[…]
Security
$79 million cut from Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance
$604 million cut from National Nuclear Security Administration
$232 million cut from the Federal Aviation Administration
$394 million cut from Defense Environmental Cleanup

Republicans, who  refused to raise any additional revenue to avoid the budget cuts, have described the reductions as “modest” a “ homerun” and something that “ needs to happen” in order to “ get this economy rolling again.”
The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that the nation’s deficits have  shrunk by trillions of dollars, and the debt is close to being stabilized as a percentage of the economy. Meanwhile, budget cuts have already reduced spending by $1.5 trillion and even with the revenue included in the fiscal cliff deal, the ratio of cuts to revenue stands at an unbalanced  3 to 1.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/32-dumbest-and-most-devastating-sequester-cut

Student loan origination fees are forecast to rise by 7.9% and Pell Grants will be cut. Student loan debt currently exceeds credit card debt, and this debt crisis will deepen.  Hey, look at the list of “dumbest cuts” again – notice how many cuts are aimed at regulatory agencies.  This is also a big deregulation plan.  And the cuts to Obamacare completely gut the state exchanges which were supposed to be implemented in 2014 – the states cannot afford the exchanges on their own, so anyone thrown to the public exchanges will for sure be getting nothing in the way of healthcare, as the sequester manages to vastly cut the federal contribution to same.  The rich and wealthy, Wall St and the big corporations, have seceded from the union.  Congress apparently has, as well.  They do not give one fuck about the USA.

We are giving up our own land and money to the Exxons and JP Morgans, and are so stupid we think we are “sharing a sacrifice” in order to “reduce a deficit” – a deficit which is 50% lower now than it was in ’09 and a “debt” that we are paying back at the lowest interest rate in decades.  We will next give up our social security for the cause, even though the social security funds do not, by law, affect the budget or the deficit one way or the other.  They are taking it for the taking of it – it has nothing to do with our debt.  The thing is, Congress gave themselves the ability to do a little accounting flim-flam some time ago, where they can use money in the SS fund for other purposes and replace the cash with treasury bonds.  They do not want to put the cash back into the fund.  Hence the drive to cut SS benefits.  Obama, who once in an ’08 candidates’ debate mentioned raising the cap on the SS limit as a way to strengthen the fund forever, now insists on “chained CPI” benefit cuts.  It’s all a ludicrous charade: social security does not affect the budget or the deficit.

Since June of ’09, 742,000 state, local and federal jobs have been eliminated.  Half of those jobs have been in public education.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates another 750,000 jobs will be lost through the sequester.

But Wall Street is happy.  Corporations are sitting on roughly $1.8 tt, which they are using to pay out bonuses, dividends, and to buy back their own stock.  What we have is a few companies making flash trades with each other, swapping stocks back and forth and pretending they have an economy.  They are aided in this by the actions of the Federal Reserve, which is tossing about $85 bb/month into the financial market, money which does not go into the hands of the public at all.  Corporate profits have set records for three years in a row, while the percentage of national income that went to wages to workers is at its lowest level in five decades.  I don’t know what it will take before the average person in the US figures out that the DOW is not the economy.  Iceland understood immediately the larceny the big financial institutes were trying to pull, broke up their biggest banks and blocked the rest of the global cartel from doing business in their country.  They did the work of restructuring their economy (without the looters) and are now recovering nicely.

In contrast, Eric Holder now takes the side of the big banks and feels he cannot do anything about the whole situation.

In testimony on Wed, March 6, he said about the big banks, “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them … I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”  The administration has no intention of bringing charges against any of the major banks which wrecked our economy, stole our homes and pensions and cost us millions of jobs through systemic fraud.

There is a “new” foreclosure settlement, set to start in April. [See: http://m.usatoday.com/article/news/1954871?preferredArticleViewMode=single ]

The math and accounting is ridiculously stilted to allow the banks to take massive overstatement credits compared to the actual miniscule level of homeowner assistance.

1. The whole program would average less than a $1,000 refund per each actual illegally completed foreclosure – sorry about the criminal fraud by which we took your house – here’s a grand, go buy a tent.

2. The accounting employed for the equally penurious portion of the so called settlement target (slap on the wrist is too strong a term) that is aimed at encouraging new loan modifications is unbelievable but true: if the bank modifies the principal balance of a loan, they get credit not for the amount of the reduction but for the original full loan amount (they knock $15k off of a $1mm loan and can claim a modification credit not of $15,000 but $1,000,000).

And the linked article above (which I chose because it is the only one I could find that even begins to actually cover the math) doesn’t even come close to fully conveying what an obscene insult this whole charade is to the aggrieved class of millions of fucked over Americans whose lives have been fucked up, to say nothing of the 200 some million more whose home equity value has been wiped out but who haven’t “realized” a loss because they’re still in the home. They have no relief coming at all.

And this is why the war on terror extends to the “homeland” – this is Manifest Destiny as practiced against the citizens themselves.  Eventually, perhaps, some of the natives will get restless.  Last week, Holder tried to assure us that the president would not kill us with drones.

“…The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001….” – Eric Holder letter to Rand Paul, March 5, 2013.

Interesting that he chose as his examples of “catastrophic attacks” two incidents which [purportedly] did not involve Americans attacking their own country.  Later, he clarified his answer to Rand Paul this way:

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? The answer to that question is no.” – Eric Holder in second letter to Rand Paul.

And everyone takes that to mean Obama won’t use drones on American soil against Americans?  And who, pray tell, decides what “engaged in combat” means?  Why, the same people who get to decide what an “enemy combatant” is (answer: anyone they kill), where the “battleground” is (answer: everywhere on earth), how long the “war” will go on (answer: there is no end to the war)  and who the “terrorists” are (answer: anyone near, communicating with, remotely affiliated with, interviewing, donating to, etc. any group anywhere that is in any way, no matter how many steps removed, known to have ties to any group whatsoever designated as terrorists at any time in history.  Interpretations of same are subject to arbitrary change depending on which country we are currently invading and the desired designations of “terrorists” as expressed by US business interests.  Thus, PETA is a “terrorist” group while in the current situation in Syria, al Qaeda is not).  This response also begs the question of killing us through methods other than weaponized drones, but the question was focused on only the one weapon, after all.  The Dept. of Homeland Security has recently purchased armored tanks, for example, to add to the other options available.  [See: http://www.prisonplanet.com/obama-dhs-purchases-2700-light-armored-tanks-to-go-with-their-1-6-billion-bullet-stockpile.html ]

And of course, they retain the right to detain indefinitely whomsoever they choose, within and without the US, and to kill anyone overseas that they want to.  There will be no explanation given as to why the 16-year-old, Abdul al-Awlaki, was assassinated.  Or why the thousands of other non-Americans, including hundreds of little children, were blown away at the whim of one man and his Disposition Matrix team.

Obama is bragging  about his secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (albeit without releasing any details on the plan) and the major media outlets seem to have blocked all information about it from the general public, despite the fact that it will end the sovereignty of nations and give rule over to corporate interests.  Our top trade negotiator, Ron Kirk, recently stepped down, by the way – I can only presume that he did not want his name to be the last one on this final nail in our coffin.  Maybe he’ll go back to being a lobbyist for the energy companies.

I just don’t see how this ends well.  They have us pitted against each other and we seem to be completely oblivious to the real purpose of the austerity measures being enacted.  If you want further information, and can tolerate more bumming out, use the links below on a variety of topics.

Further reading:

Followup article on Germany’s modern lebensraum: http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/21/pers-f21.html

and:
“[…]Last week, the financial daily Handelsblatt published an article headlined “Expedition raw materials: Germany’s new course”, which laid out German imperialism’s new doctrine. The article states that German industry and government agree that the “securing of raw materials” is a “strategic theme for German foreign policy”. Securing them must also involve the use of “instruments of security and military policy”, the paper wrote. Handelsblatt placed the arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, in this context. “In the view of Chancellor Angela Merkel, German interests are already being secured through arms exports to strategically important regions such as the oil state of Saudi Arabia”, it wrote. […] According to the ‘Merkel doctrine’, Germany’s ‘strategic partners’ should be supported not only politically but also by force of arms—before being compelled in a crisis to send one’s own soldiers.[…]” http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/25/germ-f25.html

On the relatively few companies that hold the bulk of global wealth: “[…]The study is the first to look at all 43,060 transnational corporations and the web of ownership between them – and created a ‘map’ of 1,318 companies at the heart of the global economy.  The study found that 147 companies formed a ‘super entity’ within this, controlling 40 per cent of its  wealth. All own part or all of one another. Most are banks – the top 20 includes Barclays and Goldman Sachs.[…]” – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2051008/Does-super-corporation-run-global-economy.html#ixzz2N3ctzkbZ

On Hanford leaks – this article tries to downplay the problem, as they have been told to do, but the amount of really bad shit – and the fact that it is really bad shit – entering the water system cannot be futzed with.  I like that they put in the cost estimate for cleaning it up by the end of the century, by which point, everyone is dead.  Certainly around Wash. state, if not the planet, from these and other like issues.  http://rt.com/usa/washington-radiation-leak-nuclear-635/

DHS purchases armored tanks: http://www.prisonplanet.com/obama-dhs-purchases-2700-light-armored-tanks-to-go-with-their-1-6-billion-bullet-stockpile.html

On TPP:  http://www.nationofchange.org/us-stalling-could-force-acceptance-onerous-tpp-1362587780
and:  http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/11/andrew-marshall-on-the-tpp/

On Ron Kirk stepping down:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/22/us-usa-trade-kirk-idUSBRE90L0XR20130122
and: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/ron-kirk-to-step-down-as-trade-representative-86587.html

On Walmart’s Burwell as Budget Director:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/03/07-0

On climate change and Washington indifference: http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1721/1/
and: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175616/

On decline in fish stocks:  http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120920-are-we-running-out-of-fish

Legal use of tear gas for police forces but not military: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/02/why_isnt_tear_gas_illegal.html

On sale of teargas to Egypt:  http://www.nationofchange.org/140000-reasons-protest-egypt-and-us-1362232215

Brennan, torture guy and drone killer as head of CIA.  How odd; Brennan asked to be sworn in on a defunct draft copy of the Constitution that does not include the Bill of Rights.
http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/03/cia-head-sworn-in-on-draft-constitution-without-bill-of-rights.html

Jack Lew, Citigroup, Treasury Sec.  http://teri.nicedriving.org/2013/02/jack-lew-answers-questions-kind-of/

On War on Terror: Obama White House explores ways to make WoT permanent:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/03/07-8

On fracking proponent Moniz as Secretary of Energy: http://www.nationofchange.org/ernest-moniz-nominated-secretary-energy-1362674316

Resource Curse: Why the Economic Boom That Fracking Promises Will Be a Bust For Most People (Hard Times, USA)
http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/resource-curse-why-economic-boom-fracking-promises-will-be-bust-most-people-hard

On the corporations hoarding cash and making money simply selling shares to each other: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/03/09/econ-m09.html

On the “new” foreclosure settlement, set to start in April:
http://m.usatoday.com/article/news/1954871?preferredArticleViewMode=single

On the Bill Gates curriculum: http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/12/the-bill-gates-curriculum-making-little-worker-bees/

On Blackwater  (now called Acadami) forces being used in Greece to guard the government and aid police against citizens.  (This is a government that was forced upon the people to impose austerity measures.):  http://www.salem-news.com/articles/february252013/greece-coup.php

 

Austerity begins in earnest for America.

Well, that sure was easy.  American sheep are so fat and slow; not at all like those feisty Greek or Spanish sheep.   And plenty more where this came from.

Dig in, boys – the feast is just starting.

 

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in austerity