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Category Archives: drones

The oligarchs are hosting an election.

The oligarchs and corporatocracy are hosting an election in the United States this year.  They have chosen the candidates, the issues to be discussed, the methods of voting, the perimeters of the voting districts, and dictated what the media will say about the event.  You, as a member of the “voting public”, are invited to attend the event or just watch from a distance.  It hardly matters, since it is unlikely the outcome depends upon your participation.

This week-end, the media is exclusively talking about, in exhausting and tedious interviews with “the experts”, the potential results of the Iowa caucuses; the first in our series of caucuses or primary elections (depending on the state) that will decide the nominees for the Democrat and Republican parties.  I wasn’t sure how a caucus worked as Maryland is a primary state, so I dug up some information on the subject.  Turns out it is a fairly useless procedure which actually goes on for months in caucus states, although the pundits only pay attention to the first round of the affair.  The fact that the way the public votes during this first of the series of caucuses may not be proportionally represented once the Dem. and Rep. delegates make it to the National Conventions to cast their vote for the nominee goes completely unremarked.  Everyone eligible to vote during the general election can go to the caucuses, which are held in school auditoriums, churches, or even private homes.  Well, assuming there is not a blizzard in Iowa that night, that you have a babysitter – these things take hours – that you aren’t sick and that you don’t have to work that evening. There are close to 1700 precincts in this first round of caucuses.  Usually only about 20% of the voters show up, and Iowa is not one of our more populous states in any case; these facts do not deter the “experts” from declaring that the Iowa caucuses are really, really, really important.

So how do caucuses work?  Here’s the quick and dirty.  To start with, at the initial caucus, a delegate is chosen to represent the voting outcome at the next level of caucuses/conventions.  After the precinct caucus, there are the county conventions, the district conventions, the state convention and then the DNC or RNC national convention.  Are you beginning to get how silly it is to consider the first in this series of caucuses to be the most important?  The national committees of each of the two major parties decide the caucus rules, so how they are run differs.  The Republicans have a simple process.  First they say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Because, duh, they’re Republicans, and wherever two or more Republicans are gathered, there will be a flag and everyone will pledge to it.  Close scrutiny is given as to whether all those present appear sincere during the Holy Recitation.  [Aside: I always wondered about the idea of pledging to a flag rather than just the country, but that’s just me.  It appears that we are the only country that routinely uses a pledge like this, and certainly the only country which has schoolchildren doing a pledge of any sort, with the exception of North Korea, where the kids start their day pledging allegiance to their Dear Leader.  Originally, when Americans recited the pledge, people were expected to raise their right hands toward the sky while speaking, but after Hitler rose to prominence in Germany, that started to look, rather obviously, like the Heil Hitler salute, so the gesture was changed.]  Anyway, after reciting the pledge, the caucus-goers are treated to some speeches from someone or another.  Then they have a secret ballot where everyone writes down his/her choice for the nominee.  Some places use ballots, some just scraps of paper.  The votes are tallied and reported to the RNC.  Everyone goes home, except for the chosen delegate of that precinct and some party leaders, who shoot the shit a while longer.

The Democrats have a much more complicated system.  The voters arrive and are separated into groups depending on whom they support.  Then the various factions scream campaign slogans at each other, trying to convince anyone who doesn’t support their candidate to switch sides.  They throw water balloons at each other until a gong sounds, at which point, everyone scrambles for the limited number of seats available in the middle of the room.  Well, okay, I made up the part about the water balloons and the musical chairs, but the rest is pretty much correct.  After a designated time, people have to sort themselves out according to how they have decided to vote and a count is taken.  If the guy your side supports has less than 15% of the votes, he’s out.

If your guy has been tagged out for the rest of the game, you will then be harangued to join someone else’s group.  Eventually, someone calls a welcome end to this part of the process and a final tally is taken.  There is no secret ballot here: all your neighbors can see which group you are standing with.  The number of delegates to represent each candidate are chosen in proportion to the number of voters who chose him, and the delegates go on to the next round of caucuses at the county level, etc.   The delegates can switch their votes around to some other candidate at the later levels of caucus, and some delegates to the Democratic national convention are simply assigned by the DNC, so it would appear that there is absolutely no meaning in any of this.  For all I know, bags of money are left on doorsteps to convince the delegates to switch their votes later.

At both the Dem and the Rep caucuses, ties are sometimes settled by tossing a coin.  Maybe they should just start with the coin toss from the get-go.  If you want to read more about this stuff, you can go here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_caucuses

For the rest of us, there are primary elections where people go into their polling place and cast a ballot.  A number of states don’t allow Independents to vote in the primaries, since they are used to vote for the Dem and Rep nominees.  Delegates to the Rep and Dem national conventions, where they will vote for the final candidate of each party, are supposed to be chosen in proportion with the voter’s choices, but here you run into the issue of the strange “electoral college” system we use.  No-one knows how it works.  It has appeared in past elections that the delegates can vote randomly or that their votes can be over-ridden by the national committees.  In any case, after all that hoopla, everyone goes on to the national elections to vote for a president.  At that point, you can vote for whomever you want, although there will be names on the ballot you don’t recognize because the media has never mentioned them.  You can hope the voting machines aren’t rigged at either the primary or the general election level, but chances are about equal that they are.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34607-will-the-2016-primaries-be-electronically-rigged

I mentioned that the caucuses use paper ballots or simply a head count, so you might think that those votes can’t be rigged; however, this year both parties have been given a free app from Microsoft so that party leaders can calculate the totals instantly and send them in to the press.  Thank you, Bill Fucking Gates!  You just never sleep, do ya?  Bernie Sanders, no dummy, is a mite suspicious about the motivation behind this free Gates swag offered to the process, and his team has built its own reporting system to verify the results.

The 2016 election, no matter who “wins”, will have the intended effect of shooting the hostages.  Those hostages would be us; the workers slaving away to the rules written by the oligarchs and corporate cartels and never able to catch up, the people unlucky enough to be living in  oil- and resource-rich countries (including the US – we just haven’t glommed onto the fact yet that our resources are vastly more important to the elites than we are; a truth that we will only dimly perceive and that, way too late), and those who try to protest the alarming rise of Monsanto, Exxon, Goldman Sachs, et al, and protest their enablers in the various houses of governments around the planet.  The protesters will be silenced by any means the cartels deem necessary.  These huge corporations and the bankers are in control of not only our human activities, but the natural world as well, and whomever wins the presidential election is unlikely to stand up for us.  At the congressional level, it is certain that a mere handful of “our elected representatives” gives a damn about the “voters”.  They will sell us down the river, as they have done for a long time now.  No matter which nominal candidate wins, the cartels and warmongers will be the actual winners.  This is the final Great Taking, and they will have it all – the money, the assets, the lands, the resources – and we are expendable.

The situation is far simpler than the media pundits and self-proclaimed experts would have you believe.  We are in the middle of a class war.  The rich versus all.  There is a secondary class war; that of the middle class versus the poor, which has been strategically engineered by the elites for decades.  The middle classes are narrowing and are, on the one hand, being taught to believe that the poor are the enemy and are to be despised as lazy and useless; and on the other hand, convinced that one day, they too will make it to financial success.  Liberals want to pretend the class war between the middle class and the poor doesn’t exist, or that it all about race.  Conservatives push the narrative that there is no class war at all, that we can all be rich if we just work hard enough.  We could have had a national discussion about our poverty crisis, but Obama was probably the last chance we had at seeing that happen.  And he doesn’t seem to notice, much less care about the issue.  The Democrats in Congress have agreed to all the austerity measures put to a vote, and finished off 2015 by nodding to the virtual end the food stamps for the elderly and the disabled and lowering these benefits drastically for the poor; the Republicans never wanted anyone to have food stamps or such in the first place.

The statistics on food poverty in the US are really staggering.  We currently have the highest level of food insecurity since the 1970s.  We had almost entirely eradicated hunger in our country back then.  Right now, one in six Americans is going hungry every day, while 30% of Americans are described as “food insecure” – meaning they can’t guarantee they have a way to put food on the table.

The low interest rates imposed by our economic policies (decided by a bunch of former big bank executives in cooperation with the private Fed) has resulted in zero interest income for Americans who try to save some money, and the same zero interest is realized on the skimpy retirement funds older people may have set aside.  Congress has basically done away with the annual cost of living increases given to those living on social security by using fake numbers for the rate of inflation.

Only two of the candidates, Sanders and strangely, Trump, talk about unemployment.  The real unemployment rate, if it were to be accounted for accurately, would be around 25%, not the 5% currently claimed by the Labor Department.  Wages have been stagnant for decades, and according to the last Oxfam report, “the 62 richest billionaires now own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population.”  Just wait until the TPP trade agreement and the wonders of automation, technology, and robotics strips what’s left of the jobs right out from under our feet.  As economist Michael Whitney said:

[…] Obama and the Republican-led Congress have done everything in their power to keep things just the way they are by slashing government spending to make sure the economy stays weak as possible, so inflation is suppressed, the Fed isn’t forced to raise rates, and the cheap money continues to flow to Wall Street. That’s the whole scam in a nutshell: Starve the workerbees while providing more welfare to the slobs at the big investment banks and brokerage houses.  It’s a system that policymakers have nearly perfected as a new Oxfam report shows. […]

Wealth like that, “ain’t no accident”, brother. It’s the policy.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44014.htm

Want to know how much the average person in the US earns?  The candidates won’t talk about it, but I will.

The Social Security Administration has released its data for 2014. Their chart shows actual W-2 earnings in the US as given by the IRS records based on tax returns for 2014.

The numbers are pretty abysmal. The median wage was under $29,000, meaning that half of American workers earned under that amount. The “average wage” is higher than that at $44,569, but is so skewed by the few on the highest income bracket that it is not a really meaningful number, in my opinion.  (The 134 people who earned over $50 mm last year can really alter that average; even taking that into account, 67% earned under the $44,569 “average wage” in 2014.)  In 2014:

-38 % of all American workers made less than $20,000
-51 % of all American workers made less than $30,000
-62 % of all American workers made less than $40,000
-71 % of all American workers made less than $50,000

Since the SSA and the IRS reports are based on each “wage-earner’s” tax-return total earnings rather than counting each and every W-2 turned in to the IRS as a discrete “wage”, this means that the data does not give any information on what the average job might pay and one should not make the mistake of coming to any conclusions about that. In other words, a “wage-earner” may have earned $30,000 in 2014, but might have had to work two or three jobs to earn that amount.  The SSA charts are easy to read, and there is a tool you can click on to look at charts from previous years.

https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2014

This time around, the oligarchy has trotted out some of the most repugnant, bizarre, and downright ignorant candidates to which we have ever been treated.  Their motto for 2016 is: “2016 – the year we won’t give you any lesser evils to choose from.”  But this is the end result of the capitalist system on display, and we are a capitalist country on its down trajectory; at this point, Americans will buy dog shit if it is packaged properly and advertised heavily.

None of the candidates will cut any of the Pentagon’s budget, nor will any of them consider the possibility that we ought to end the crusades against foreign nations, none of which actually threaten us and with none of whom we are legally at war.  Last year, we dropped an estimated total of over 23,000 bombs in six countries.  This breeds terrorism, for the obvious reasons.  ISIS was a creation of the US; of our policies and actions, if not a direct creation of the CIA and secret ops in conjunction with mercenaries.  Yet according to the people running for president, what we need is more bombs, more American forces killing people abroad, and more help in the fight from “allies” like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  There could be another way to fight terrorism, as one might note that in socially balanced societies, terrorism does not thrive, but we seem incapable of considering an alternative to bloodshed.  We are addicted to it now.

This has resulted in a flood of refugees and/or terrorists to the EU which did not exist prior to the destruction of law and order in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria – before the “strong men” who ruled and did not tolerate bombings and mayhem by religious zealots were murdered by the US.  Now we are bent on some ridiculous quest to further “contain the Middle East” and kill those who are determined to avenge their loved ones. As always, the innocent on both sides get fried, while the war machine enjoys the profits.

Even Sanders thinks the [illegal] drone-bombing should continue; I wonder if he will feel okay about carrying out the “Terror Tuesday” duties should he become president?  Will he be surprised to find that he is just as adept and casual at ordering the murders of strangers across the planet as Obama has been?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Sunday that if elected president he would not end the U.S.’s controversial drone program in the Middle East.

Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos ” that he would continue with the targeted killing campaign but suggested he would somehow reform the program so that drones don’t kill innocent people abroad.

“I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case,” Sanders said. […]

http://www.hngn.com/articles/124393/20150830/bernie-sanders-will-end-drone-program-elected-president.htm

We are going back in to Libya, as if we hadn’t already destroyed that once thriving country and created a failed state.  See “Pentagon prepares another war in Libya”:

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/01/29/pers-j29.html

We have never left Afghanistan and have re-entered Iraq.  We are the main drivers behind the destabilization and bloodshed in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Ukraine.  We are aiming for Russia, Iran, and China.  Oh, Jesus, forget it; I can’t even begin to list all the countries we are bombing, invading, attempting to destabilize, ruin economically, or instigate coups in now.

Why do Americans approve of drone-bombing, ignore the CIA-instigated terrorism around the globe, seemingly enjoy being at war against countries that don’t threaten us, see the warrior class as superior and deserving of accolades and perqs despite the fact that they are engaged in killing people while we are legally at war with no nation, and scream with approval when some political demagogue talks about “keeping us safe” and nuking the rest of the world into submission?  Why is the public satisfied with the selection offered us in presidential candidates in which even the nominally Democratic “front-runner” is a woman who wants to invade yet another country and do away with their elected leader and who constantly threatens a multitude of other countries?   Why do none of the “candidates” talk about reducing the Pentagon’s budget, getting rid of the Fed, overturning the Patriot Act, or – at the least, for God’s sake – dislodging the most egregiously unconstitutional clauses in the NDAA?  Why do our “Christian” ministers approve of the “war on terror”?  Why do the pundits and the politicians promote violence against everyone and why does the public apparently agree with this as though it were reasonable and of some necessity?

Because in this country we have been taught that greed and theft are virtues, that bullying is the sum total of diplomacy, that other cultures are inherently dangerous and to even examine and consider their viewpoints is subversive. We have been taught that every country on the planet is inferior to our own.  The corporate oligarchs and their courtiers in Congress love ignorance, racism, and herd mentality and have worked very hard to see that Americans are poorly educated and even more poorly informed.

But we sure got Iraq’s gold. And Libya’s. And Ukraine’s. Wanted their oil, too, but it is proving to be a little more difficult to wrest complete control over the oil fields, because we created ISIS (in the case of Iraq and Libya), who are interfering in the process (which may be on purpose to hurt the Dread Russians, under the rather abstruse economic theory that harming Russia’s economy is worth the cost of harming ours) and because we created Nuland’s Nazis Civil War (in the case of Ukraine), which has so far blocked completion of the Biden Bid for Oil Takeover of Eastern Ukraine.

Even so-called “liberal” writers add their voices to the propaganda in support of more war, although they do it a little more subtly than the conservative pundits.  This is from the “liberal media” at Salon, reprinted by the “liberal media” compiler at Alternet, in an article ostensibly about the one of the GOP debates:

 […] Oh, the candidates know that Bashar al-Assad is on one side and ISIS is on the other and that Vladimir Putin is being a dick, all of which is probably more understanding than the typical Republican voter has regarding the whole thing. But memorizing these little factoids is hardly relevant when you still think the solution to an intricate civil war that mostly isn’t about us at all is to stand around declaring how tough you are. […]

http://www.alternet.org/comments/news-amp-politics/gop-debate-scorecard-big-winner-wasnt-anyone-stage-it-was-democrats#disqus_thread

Uh-huh. Those aren’t “factoids”; they’re bullshit.  While the rest of the article about the GOP debate that night is probably true and is certainly funny, this bit is typical blase media propaganda stupidity and why I quit reading Salon, which supposedly offers the liberal viewpoint of things.  Facts:  al-Assad is on one side.  ISIS, the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the CIA, and the weapons’ manufacturers are on the other. Putin is not being a dick; Russia is the only country that is helping the legitimate government in Syria legally right now. Let’s say that again: Russia is there legally. The rest of the countries currently bombing Syria to hell and gone are not. Russia and al-Assad are trying to get the US-created and US-armed terrorists out of there.

Apparently, Sanders and O’Malley are the only two amongst the candidates who think that we should uphold the nuclear deal with Iran (which was not trying to develop nuclear weapons anyway), while even our former Sec. of State is of the opinion that we ought to show the Iranians just what dickhead liars we are and sanction them again; retroactively, mind you, since the ballistic missile test that has caused the uproar was carried out prior to our agreement with them.  The missiles tested by Iran were incapable of carrying a nuclear payload and so wouldn’t have broken the agreement no matter when it was signed at any rate.  Nonetheless, as soon as Clinton called for further sanctions, Obama signed an executive order to do just that.

US Treasury imposes new ballistic missile sanctions on Iran:

https://www.rt.com/usa/329240-us-sanctions-iran-ballistic/

Once again we have shown that we cannot keep our “agreements”, “treaties”, or “deals” for more than one second after the ink dries.  The only reason any country even “negotiates” with us any more is that they are aware that if they don’t, we will invade their country and bomb the fuck out of it.  As a nation, we have no morals, no rigorous intellect, and no diplomatic abilities.  As a nation, we are liars, thieves, and murderers, completely bereft of the normal human empathy, the ability to compromise, and the honest self-assessment required to interact in a mutually beneficial way with other societies.

How long before some other nation says, “basta!” and drops a Fat Man on our asses?

All the candidates swear undying support for Israel, none more vociferously than Clinton, as though this were some purity test they have to undergo, and sadly, many Americans see it just that way.  America is exceptional in this way: its politicians place allegiance to a foreign country above loyalty to their own, and the only promises they keep are the ones they make to that foreign country.  And sometimes that oath to serve the interests of the other country above their own nation is the tipping point to get them elected.

What this says about the political system, the politicians, and the electorate in the US is appalling and embarrassing.

So we are being offered for our viewing pleasure an assortment of motley con men and corporate stooges.  Sanders may be the exception to some extent and the fact that the media and the other candidates are busy red-baiting him and regularly try to dismiss his positions out of hand bolsters my belief in his sincerity in some measure.  As I said, however, he isn’t going to dismantle the war machine, and that is a large part of all the other problems this country has.

Then you have the narcissistic Trump, billionaire and game-show host, who has picked up on the unrest out in the flyover zones and plays to it with gusto.  It’s hard to tell what he would do if elected, since he can barely keep his proposals and ideas straight in his own head.  His speeches frequently contradict things he has said before, but it is hard for people to get through all his verbiage to pick up on that.  He’s so loquacious you’d think he was being paid by the word.  He was recently endorsed by our other great orator, Sarah Palin, who left off tending her miscreant brood to offer up this bit of gloss: “Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge.”  You just know the two of them spent their time while waiting in the green room before the great endorsement speech fighting over who was hogging the mirror.  But Trump himself is one of the rich elite who has made his jack off the capitalist system; he isn’t going to gore that ox.  On the other hand, he probably wouldn’t start a hot war with Russia, so there’s that.

There is the skeevy and very creepy Ted Cruz, who was doubtless the Grand Inquisitor in Spain during his last incarnation on this earth.  He is in a fight with the establishment Republicans and neocons, or so we are told to believe, although his ideas about carpet-bombing the Middle East and “lifting the rules of engagement” in the fight with ISIS suggest he fits right in with the PNAC crowd.  He is talking here about illegal methods of warfare and getting rid of the Geneva Conventions, but that doesn’t bother too many of the people in charge, most of whom supported the same ideas when offered by George W. Bush.  Cruz is like some crazed fundamentalist faith-healer who wants to pray the gays away and damn it all, get his chance to nuke some shit for Jesus.  He responded to the Flint, Michigan water crisis by donating bottled water… teaming up with the anti-abortion group Flint Right to Life, with instructions that the water go exclusively to crisis pregnancy centers.  These centers are anti-abortion organizations that try to manipulate women into keeping their pregnancies.  Tough shit about those already-born children and adults who have been drinking toxins in Flint for the last few years.  He, like all the Republicans, wants to cut taxes for corporations, get rid of all bank regulations, privatize everything that could possibly turn a profit for the corporate world, doesn’t support any minimum-wage increases, and has a tax plan that completely decimates the poor and middle class while ass-kissing the wealthy.  He sort of forgot to report his Goldman Sachs campaign contributions to the FEC, and his wife works there; we have yet to see if anyone cares.  Cruz appeals to a certain evangelical, but hawkish, subset of the American public.   Despite their professed “Christian” faith, if Cruz and his base were given the choice between Jesus and that other guy, they’d be screaming, “Free Barabbas!” at the top of their lungs.

Marco Rubio sometimes rattles off sound-bytes like he’s on amphetamines, but he is not saying anything we haven’t heard from the farthest right of the right-wing; he’s just saying it hysterically.  Lots of people think he is cute and endearing, but the dude is one rabid neocon.  He loves the spy programs, Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and torture, and hates the needy, the LGBT community, and Muslims.  That’s his platform.

Chris Christie ruined his own home state and now wants to have a go at the rest of the country. He calls himself the “disaster governor” with pride (I put a different twist on the title than he does, I gather) while at the same time refusing to help the victims of the two disasters that have hit New Jersey since he’s been in office.  We just had a huge blizzard here on the East Coast, and parts of NJ were inundated with flood waters along with the snow.  He happily chirped that there was no “residual damage” because the flood had receded, although it’s quite obvious that buildings that have had 5 feet of water and icebergs wash through them are going to be left with damage, if not have to be outright condemned and torn down.  Not to mention the other stuff that got majorly fucked up in the flood.  We can guess what kind of relief he’s going to offer the affected cities.  He’s said some other things on the campaign trail.  I couldn’t say for sure what, though.

Carly Fiorina is just vicious as a wolverine with rabies, and Ben Carson thinks it would be okay to bomb children on general principles.  When asked if he would order airstrikes that might kill innocent children by the thousands, he mentioned operating on kids with brain tumors and how they hated it but later on loved him, and finished his comments by saying,”and by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by 1,000 pricks.”   So in other words, Ben Carson thinks bombing civilians and children is somehow merciful because it finishes the job quickly.  The crowd applauded the twisted fuck for his bedside manner.

Jeb Bush is running and may end up being the Republican nominee if the oligarchy can finesse the situation properly.  This might not make him very happy, actually, as he seems most intent on making himself invisible.  He’s like the chubby kid who tried out for the soccer team because his daddy made him.

O’Malley has some fine ideas about the economy and doesn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about continuing the efforts to take over the world, so he will be quickly taken off the scene.  Poor guy barely made in on the scene, so eager are the Democrats to waylay one of their own.

I wrote an entire post about the war-pig Hillary Clinton, who is currently busy trying to paint Sanders as a Commie, so I’ll try not to repeat all the same stuff here.  She is so sure she will be the Democratic nominee, as are the pundits and mainstream media, that she hasn’t bothered to reciprocate to Sanders’ pledge to back the eventual nominee.  I think the media and the talking heads totally fail to understand the rancor and pure loathing felt for her at the street level.  If one reads the comment section on any article about the candidates, even articles supporting Mad Hillary, one sees the same thing over and over: people hate her.  People do not trust her.  People do not intend to vote for her even as “the lesser of two evils”; she is not seen as the lesser evil in any line-up.  To the public, she is defective and never should have made it through quality control.  Clinton is the least sincere candidate we have ever had running for office, and the people sense that.  She will sign the TPP into law given the chance, and you can be sure that she would reneg on all her promises, except the ones where she promises to bomb other countries, as quick as shit through a goose should she be elected.  She has a neocon’s view point toward the use of military power, which she and the media insist on referring to as “foreign affairs”, thus mistaking military policy with diplomacy and foreign policy, a viewpoint that made her such a bad and dangerous Sec. of State.  She felt her job in the State Dept. was to threaten other countries and to work arms deals instead of promoting civil discourse between nations.  She, in fact, gets “foreign policy guidance” from the same firm that advises Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.  (Which may help explain why all the ideas Clinton and the Republicans have for dealing with terrorist issues are similar in that they are illegal by US law, in violation of international laws, and break numerous treaties and agreements.)  The media that promotes her jabbers on about the “commander-in-chief” part of the president’s job because even they recognize in some part of their reptilian brains that Bernie Sanders’ domestic policies appeal to the voters more than hers do.  They – and she – hope that by presenting her as a hard and tough predator, she will gain some popularity with the fearful.  The constant talk about terrorism and terrorists, from all the candidates, serves to keep most of us focused away from the neglected and dismal state of things in our own country.

She may be running into trouble now.  With any luck, and with the assumption that some agencies in the US are still willing to do their jobs, she may be facing criminal charges.  God knows, she should have been jerked up short by the DoJ long before now.  I was very interested to see that one of the major legal threats to her involves the use of her position at the State Dept. to garner donations to the Clinton Foundation, and that Haiti is specifically mentioned.  I brought these things up in my last post about her.

Hillary Clinton’s Coming Legal Crisis

by Charles Lipson
January 13, 2016

The latest release of Hillary Clinton emails entails real risks for her, churning just beneath the surface of her successful primary campaign. True, Democratic voters have shown little interest, and the mainstream media only a bit more. Their focus, when they do look, is on the number of documents now considered classified, their foreign-policy revelations, and the political damage they might cause. These are vital issues, but Clinton faces a far bigger problem. She and her closest aides could be indicted criminally.

Secretary Clinton is exposed twice over. First, she used an unsecured, home-brew server to send and store reams of classified materials. Second, in her official capacity, she worked closely with major donors to the Clinton Foundation. Each poses legal risks, with potential ramifications for the Democratic frontrunner, her party, and the Obama administration.

To understand the gravity of these issues, it is important to recognize that this is not just an “email scandal.” It is an “email + server + foundation” scandal.” Secretary Clinton didn’t just send sensitive (and now-classified) emails over open lines, she stored them on private servers that didn’t meet the government’s cyber-security standards for sensitive documents. On its face, retaining classified materials in such vulnerable settings is a criminal violation. Senior intelligence officials have been charged for less – far less. Storing some 1,300 classified documents on a personal server, and doing it for years, poses a special problem because it shows the mishandling was not inadvertent. It was Clinton’s standard operating procedure.

The State Department has done everything it can to protect its former boss. When it finally received her documents, it flatly refused to comply with long-standing Freedom of Information Act requests by releasing them. It took several court orders for the agency to begin trickling out small batches with large sections blacked out. The redactions only underscore why the documents should never have been held on private, unsecured servers in the first place.

The latest document dump shows why the State Department is so skittish. One reveals the secretary of state telling a senior department official, Jake Sullivan, to strip all the security markings off one document and send it to her on an insecure connection. We don’t yet know if Sullivan actually complied, but, if he did, both he and Clinton face serious legal jeopardy.

Beside these national-security matters, the emails reveal obvious conflict-of-interest issues pertaining to the significant overlap between Clinton’s official duties and her family foundation’s operations.

Major donors to the foundation often had business before the State Department, and they sometimes received help. After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for instance, Bill Clinton was named co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, “the State Department began directing parties interested in competing for Haiti contracts to the Clinton Foundation.”

Not surprisingly, many contractors became foundation donors, or were already. The FBI now has to decide if any of this was a “pay to play” arrangement. Proving a quid pro quo is notoriously difficult, but Fox News reported Monday that public corruption is now a second track in the FBI investigation.

So far, Hillary has suffered only modest political damage from these scandals. Democratic primary voters are mostly indifferent; her main challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, says he’s tired of hearing about it; and, other than Fox News, no major media outlet has done serious investigations.

But that doesn’t mean these messy issues are dead — depending on what happens inside the Justice Department. Clinton is about to face the most serious crisis of her candidacy — a set of legal decisions by the FBI and then the Department of Justice. Those will either kill the issue or kill her chances.

The FBI reportedly has assigned some 100 agents full time to the investigation and another 50 temporarily. The bureau would not commit such massive resources unless the initial investigation raised troubling questions of potential criminality. FBI Director James Comey is monitoring the case closely and coordinating with the intelligence agencies, which have to review the documents. Comey has a reputation for integrity, and it is his call whether to refer charges to the DOJ. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would then decide whether to indict.

Whatever Lynch decides, there will be a maelstrom if FBI agents found substantial evidence of criminal wrongdoing.[…]

Regardless of the attorney general’s decision, if the FBI does recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton or any of her associates, she will face two very pointed questions from the media, the electorate, and her Republican challenger.

“Secretary Clinton, if you are elected president, do you unequivocally promise to appoint an independent counsel to investigate these charges and, if warranted, prosecute them?”
“Do you promise you will not pardon anyone before these cases are fully adjudicated?”

She won’t be able to wave these questions off and say, “The attorney general decided all that.” It will look too much like a coverup by a Democratic administration for a Democratic Party leader.

To reach the White House, Hillary Clinton has to get past the coming legal crisis, and she will have to answer those hard questions.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/01/13/hillary_clintons_coming_legal_crisis_129293.html

You should really read the whole article; I left some paragraphs speculating about the potential effects this could have on the elections out of the blockquote due to space.  Another interesting article is a brief one written by Glen Ford at blackagendareport regarding the Clintons’ interference into Haiti’s elections, and gives a bit of a rundown on their unwelcome and colonial-style relationship with Haiti.  See, “The Clintons: We Came, We Stole, Haitians Died”:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44069.htm

I fail to understand how anyone can think we still have a democracy in this country.  When you look at these candidates and take honest stock of what they are offering, how can you find any escape in some sad and outdated notion that this is a government of, by, and for the people?  Hell, the Obama trade agreements, the first of which (the TPP) is quietly coming up for a vote soon if Congress bothers to follow its own legislation, suffice to render our national sovereignty and any pretense of a government “for the people” null and void if they are passed.  I will allow some exception for Sanders in my condemnations, as I think he may actually mean at least some of what he says and is the only one who even affects to worry about how life is going for the average American.  He ought to talk more about the TPP, since it has come out that this dangerous piece of crap posing as a “trade agreement” will probably do away with the UK’s health system and could prevent universal healthcare forever in the US.  As to the rest, when any of those bought-and-paid-for bastards steps up to the podium and lies to the audience about how much he/she really, really cares about the working stiff and has our best interests at heart, I feel nothing but contempt and revulsion.  The corruption at the top of this country is so widespread and so legalized that we cannot avoid another financial catastrophe and perhaps even another world war.  These are the goals of the oligarchy so they can strip the US and the rest of the world of its remaining assets, and the dolts, criminals, grifters, and bullshit artists up there on the stage posing as “presidential material” are willing to lead us right into the pit.

No-one with enough neurons firing to keep breathing can take this election seriously.  I doubt I will bother to take a chance on the voting machines myself.  Seems pointless, unless by some weird happenstance Sanders is on the ballot.  If it comes to a race between Clinton and Trump, that might also motivate me enough to haul my ass out of the chair to go vote for Trump, just to help save us from her.

What a wretched selection we have in front of us.  Who shall we have?  Caligula or Nero?  Choices, choices.

I don’t blame those who think that perhaps it is time to join the dolphins and get the hell out of Dodge.  If only there were a way to escape to some other planet entirely.  A different country on this one may not be far enough – the Powers That Be have their clutches on all of them.

 

So this is Christmas.

This is what we traditionally think of as Christmas here in the US – a lovely video set to Josh Groban’s compelling rendition of “O, Holy Night”:

After two days of self-imposed news exile, I returned to the land of the interwebs to find that the US government officially celebrated Christmas in a distinctly different fashion than I had.

Obama took a break from the heavy lifting of doing Christmas in Hawai’i to sign into law the budget bill and the 2014 NDAA.  Signing the following year’s National Defense Authorization Act during the Christmas holiday is becoming an Obama tradition.  The NDAA is the vehicle in which Obama was given the power to assassinate anyone anywhere upon his whimsy.  (“Happy holidays from the White House – to you, your family and your spouse.  In signing this law it has come to pass that I now have the power to kill your ass.  Season’s Greetings, Barack Obama.”)

We are going to continue spending vast sums of money on the war efforts.  What war? Why, any war, all war, those past, those current and those yet to come wars.

“[…] The [NDAA] bill assures $552.1 billion in military spending, as well as $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations, namely the war in Afghanistan. […]”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/26/obama-signs-bipartisan-budget-deal-and-guantanamo-transfer-bills-into-law/

By the way, I really enjoy how the media feels compelled to place the word “bipartisan” in front of the words “budget deal” every goddamned time they mention it.  And note is taken of their reluctance to put “NDAA” or “Defense Authorization Act” in any headline.  It is always called “a defense bill” or, as Rawstory does above, the headline totally obscures the nature of the bill altogether.  The 2014 NDAA does not transfer Guantanamo detainees anywhere.

Pentagon spending, the gift that keeps on giving.

“[…] Because of its persistent inability to tally its accounts, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China’s economic output last year. […]”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/18/us-usa-pentagon-waste-specialreport-idUSBRE9AH0LQ20131118

To promote festive feelings globally on this special day, the US took action to spread the Christmas message abroad.

For instance, we killed four people via drone-strike in Pakistan.  On Christmas Day.

http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2013/12/26/while-americans-were-celebrating-christmas-obama-administration-launched-drone-strike-in-pakistan/

We sent troops into South Sudan.  Sudan/South Sudan has oil.  It also has civil strife, partly because we arranged it for them a couple of years ago.  Anywhere in the world where there is the even the potential for civil unrest, the US exploits the situation to the best of its abilities.  If the world were a comic book, the US would be Exacerbation Man, swooping in to make all bad situations worse.

[…] RT: A small contingency of US troops are already in Sudan and marines are on stand-by, is a larger American military involvement possible?

Abayomi Azikiwe: It could very well lead to a larger US and UN presence in the Republic of South Sudan. It’s a very volatile situation, we are right now analyzing reports about the possibility of the discovery of two mass graves, one in the capital Juba and the other in Bor, in the capital of Jonglei state, there also has been fighting in Unity state which are all the producing area. The US has a lot invested politically in the Republic of South Sudan and they were the main forces behind encouraging the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to break away from the Republic of Sudan in the north of the country. Therefore, they have a lot to say about developments that are going on right now in this troubled nation.

RT: Washington was one of the main champions of South Sudan’s secession. Could it have foreseen these problems that it faced just a couple of years around?

AA: I think they were more interested in weakening the Republic of Sudan. Prior to the partition Sudan was the largest geographic nation-state in Africa, it was also an emerging oil-producing state, it was producing over 500,000 oil barrels per day. 80 per cent of the oil concessions with the Republic of Sudan in Khartoum were held by the People’s Republic of China, who state-owned oil farms there. So it was a concerted move on the part of US to weaken the government in Khartoum and also to lessen the influence of the People’s Republic of China in Sudan.

RT: When it was one country Sudan was under American sanctions, so US oil giants couldn’t do business there. Has this changed?

AA: Yes, in the south the US is trying to develop mechanisms for exploring the oil. The problem is the US doesn’t have a lot of resources to invest in the oil industry inside the country. President Salva Kiir of the Republic of South Sudan went to China several months ago to try to get them to assist in a building of a pipeline where they could circumvent the flow of oil from the south into the north. However, the Chinese refused to finance such a project, although they did pledge to provide some aid. It’s a very difficult situation as far as the US is concerned because the country deteriorates into a civil war between the followers of Riek Machar, the ousted Vice President, and President Salva Kiir. This of course will damage US interest in region, and it can also spread to other countries throughout Central and East Africa. […]

http://rt.com/op-edge/foreign-involvement-in-south-sudan-782/

We are back in Iraq, baby.  Once we glom onto a country, we hang around like a fucking germ.

Two years after President Barack Obama declared that his administration had ended the catastrophic US war in Iraq “responsibly… leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant” government, the US has rushed emergency shipments of Hellfire missiles to Baghdad and appears to be preparing for a possible renewal of direct military intervention in the form of drone missile attacks. […]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/27/iraq-d27.html

And we are going under the sea – no, not to study ocean acidification or to find out why there are peculiar events occurring with the sea life all over the planet, but to weaponize the waters with drones.

http://rt.com/usa/navy’s-ocean-powered-drone-843/

We need to stop this shit.  We need to.  Our government won’t stop it until we, the people, demand an end to the killing.  The montage that accompanies this song is what the US actually does at Christmas instead of quietly celebrating the birth of the pacifist Jesus, depicted in the video with which I opened this post.  Dismally, more than four decades after they wrote this song, we still have yet to realize the hopeful and pointed message Lennon and Ono expressed in the lyrics.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”, 1971:

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” lyrics:

(Happy Xmas Kyoko

Happy Xmas Julian)

So this is Xmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

And so this is Xmas

I hope you have fun

The near and the dear one

The old and the young

A very Merry Xmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

And so this is Xmas (war is over)

For weak and for strong (if you want it)

For rich and the poor ones (war is over)

The world is so wrong (if you want it)

And so happy Xmas (war is over)

For black and for white (if you want it)

For yellow and red ones (war is over)

Let’s stop all the fight (now)

A very Merry Xmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

And so this is Xmas (war is over)

And what have we done (if you want it)

Another year over (war is over)

A new one just begun (if you want it)

And so happy Xmas (war is over)

We hope you have fun (if you want it)

The near and the dear one (war is over)

The old and the young (now)

A very Merry Xmas

And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear

War is over, if you want it

War is over now

Happy Xmas

 
11 Comments

Posted by on December 27, 2013 in drones, Iraq, Pakistan

 

Jeh Johnson to be the head of the Department of Homeland Security.

“Johnson won confirmation 78-16. He could be sworn in as early as this week in order to begin immediately tackling some departmental priorities including stiffening border security, upgrading airport protections and improving immigration enforcement operations.”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/16/jeh-johnson-confirmed-as-new-homeland-security-chief/

It’s kind of hard to imagine who would be a good person to head the agency with the Gestapo-like moniker and duties of the Department of  Homeland Security. so why should we object to Jeh?  Heck, why should we object to the DHS at all?

That the DHS, which was allocated $47 bb for its 2012 budget, cannot pass an audit is irrelevant.  We are only talking about taxpayer dollars here, not, y’know, money that needs any sort of real accounting.  Just ask the Pentagon.  KPMG, the independent auditor of the DHS, was unable to give an audit opinion of the DHS books in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, or 2009.  Their reports for ’04 and ’06, supposedly available on the DHS website, are not actually available (one gets a “404 error”).  For fiscal year 2010, KPMG couldn’t even begin an audit, as the DHS books were such a mess.  Despite that, the chief financial officer of DHS issued this message on its 2010 “report”: ” This Annual Financial Report (AFR) is our principal financial statement of accountability to the President, Congress and the American public. The AFR gives a comprehensive view of the Department’s financial activities and demonstrates the Department’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”   The message from the DHS CFO concludes “I am extremely proud of the Department’s accomplishments … we will continue to build upon our successes.”  [http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/cfo-afrfy2010.pdf]

Janet Napolitano’s (then the secretary of DHS) note on the 2010 report ended with these words; “[the DHS] is ‘continuing to be responsible stewards of taxpayer resources. The scope of our mission is broad, challenging, and vital to the security of the Nation … Thank you for your partnership and collaboration. Yours very truly, Janet Napolitano”   [http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/cfo-afrfy2010.pdf]

Full disclosure: I have never personally collaborated with the fucking DHS, but appreciate that Janet took the time to thank those who have.

Since its inception under George W. Bush, the DHS has given us such delights as the TSA and fusion centers, has been steadily militarizing our local police forces, claimed the right to (illegally) confiscate laptops and electronics at our borders, and open our personal mail.

David Rittgers (Cato Institute) wrote an article about the fusion centers in 2011, mentioning:

[…] a long line of fusion center and DHS reports labeling broad swaths of the public as a threat to national security. The North Texas Fusion System labeled Muslim lobbyists as a potential threat; a DHS analyst in Wisconsin thought both pro- and anti-abortion activists were worrisome; a Pennsylvania homeland security contractor watched environmental activists, Tea Party groups, and a Second Amendment rally; the Maryland State Police put anti-death penalty and anti-war activists in a federal terrorism database; a fusion center in Missouri thought that all third-party voters and Ron Paul supporters were a threat….”

http://www.cato.org/blog/were-all-terrorists-now

Regarding our private mail, there’s this:

‘All mail originating outside the United States Customs territory that is to be delivered inside the U.S. Customs territory is subject to Customs examination,’ says the CBP [Customs and Border Protection] Web site. That includes personal correspondence. “All mail means ‘all mail,’” said John Mohan, a CBP spokesman, emphasizing the point. […]

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/10740935/ns/us_news-security/

DHS feels it has the right to simply seize our possessions at border crossings, Bill of Rights notwithstanding, because of  “terrorists” and “child pornographers”  – and can do so based on the “hunches” of DHS employees.

WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — U.S. border agents should continue to be allowed to search a traveler’s laptop, cellphone or other electronic device and keep copies of any data on them based on no more than a hunch, according to an internal Homeland Security Department study. It contends limiting such searches would prevent the U.S. from detecting child pornographers or terrorists and expose the government to lawsuits.

The 23-page report, obtained by The Associated Press and the American Civil Liberties Union under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, provides a rare glimpse of the Obama administration’s thinking on the long-standing but controversial practice of border agents and immigration officers searching and in some cases holding for weeks or months the digital devices of anyone trying to enter the U.S.

Since his election, President Barack Obama has taken an expansive view of legal authorities in the name of national security, asserting that he can order the deaths of U.S. citizens abroad who are suspected of terrorism without involvement by courts, investigate reporters as criminals and — in this case — read and copy the contents of computers carried by U.S. travelers without a good reason to suspect wrongdoing.

Related: Obama Administration Defends ‘Daily’ Collection Of US Citizen Phone Records

The DHS study, dated December 2011, said the border searches do not violate the First or Fourth amendments, which prohibit restrictions on speech and unreasonable searches and seizures. It specifically objected to a tougher standard in a 1986 government policy that allowed for only cursory review of a traveler’s documents.

“We do not believe that this 1986 approach, or a reasonable suspicion requirement in any other form, would improve current policy,” the report said. “Officers might hesitate to search an individual’s device without the presence of articulable factors capable of being formally defended, despite having an intuition or hunch based on experience that justified a search.” It added: “An on-the-spot perusal of electronic devices following the procedures established in 1986 could well result in a delay of days or weeks.”

The Homeland Security report was prepared by its Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/06/05/dept-of-homeland-security-laptops-phones-can-be-searched-based-on-hunches/

Getting back to Jeh, the new head of the DHS, President Obama heaped profuse praise on him, no doubt in part simply because one of his nominees finally made it through the Congressional gauntlet.  Perhaps also because Jeh gave a whole lot of money to Obama’s campaigns.  Also because terrorists.

[…] “In Jeh, our dedicated homeland security professionals will have a strong leader with a deep understanding of the threats we face and a proven ability to work across agencies and complex organizations to keep America secure,” President Barack Obama said in a statement praising the bipartisan vote.

“As secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh will play a leading role in our efforts to protect the homeland against terrorist attacks, adapt to changing threats, stay prepared for natural disasters, strengthen our border security, and make our immigration system fairer.”

As the Pentagon’s top lawyer, Johnson was responsible for a prior legal review of every military operation ordered by the president or the defense secretary.

In October, when he announced his nomination, Obama said Johnson was an “absolutely critical” member of his national security team and had been at the heart of many of the policies that have kept America safe. […]

DHS is an amalgamation of 22 separate agencies with 240,000 employees, and critics have argued that the department is in disarray.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/16/jeh-johnson-confirmed-as-new-homeland-security-chief/

Jeh, you might remember, was the Obama advisor who opined that it was acceptable for the president to target Americans in drone strikes.

“… Johnson also suggested that U.S. citizens could be targeted in strikes in a February 2012 speech at Yale Law School…Johnson’s role in drone policy at the Defense Department could play into the Department of Homeland Security’s quest to build up a fleet of domestic drones, including Predator drones, with ‘nonlethal weapons’ …”  http://www.nationaljournal.com/national-security/meet-jeh-johnson-drone-lawyer-and-obama-s-homeland-security-nominee-20131017)

So, yeah, that’s who should be directing internal security policies in the US – the guy who advises the President on his illegal drone assassination program and who declared that it was acceptable for the Pres and his secret cabal to target Americans (amongst others) for drone-bombing if the secret group decided, in secret, that the person in question was a “belligerent” – the definition of which is secret, of course.  And it’s okay to kill that person (American or otherwise) without charges being brought, an arrest taking place, or an ensuing trial.

Doesn’t take too much imagination to grasp what Jeh’s DHS will look like.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 17, 2013 in civil rights, drones, security state

 

Stupid human tricks.

The first generation of humans, according to the Bible, was seriously flawed.  As Nancy Astor (1879-1964) once wagged, “In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance, he laid the blame on a woman.”

The second generation began farming and herding practices, but then one brother, in a fit of pique and jealousy, bashed the other brother over the head and killed him dead.

Thus ended the evolutionary process of the human species, for we have never moved beyond the urge to kill each other, that being our first and last response in any given situation.  This has been constant through the ages.  All the great empires took their military forces and marched out, conquering and slaying, pretty much for the hell of it from what I can see.  Surely a lack of gardening space was not the issue.  Taking but two examples from history, we see the Romans gradually overtook Britain in a series of conquests.  The Romans had ventured out from a country where they had paved the roads, mastered the arts of metallurgy and running water, had bathing spas, formal schools, and a high arts’ council; they looked at the Brits with their rough hide clothing, inferior weapons and lack of basic sanitation and decided that the British had something they just had to have.  In one of the early Roman attempts at invasion, the story is that around AD 40, Caligula planned an attack campaign.  He faced the English Channel and ordered his troops to attack the standing water.  Then he had the troops gather sea shells, referring to them as “plunder from the ocean, due to the Capitol and the Palace”.  Well, okay, Caligula was a nut, but eventually the Romans did successfully conquer Britain.

Then there was Genghis Khan in AD 1200 or so, with his hordes of Mongol warriors, out to take over all of Eurasia.  This involved a wholesale slaughter of the locals in one place after another.  He did this to expand his empire, although a lack of space for his tribe was clearly not a problem.

And so it went, throughout history, until today, with the USA as the primary empire on earth.  We have looked around at the landscape with its serious problems of climate, food shortages in various places, increasing scarcity of fresh water, pollution, etc. and decided that everlasting war is just the ticket.  The Pentagon announced to a Congressional panel the other day that the War on Terror [sic] has no end in sight. [http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-21/pentagon-admits-war-terror-will-never-end or see: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/05/decades-of-war/ ]  Never mind that the Pentagon is supposed to be under civilian control and that they are, according to our Constitution, to take orders from Congress, not the other way around.  Congress has apparently decided to ignore that little bit of writing; I did not hear cries of “treason” or “military coup” coming from Congress over the Pentagon’s message, although one or two members did seem a bit uneasy.  (Only one or two.  The rest seemed to take it all as unremarkable.)

As far as evolution goes, we have invented ways to kill other people and conquer other lands without being physically present ourselves: we now have planes dropping bombs and even unmanned planes dropping bombs.  That’s “progress”.  The motto of the Pentagon seems to be the same one that all empires have used over the millenia, to wit: “There are other humans on the planet.  Let’s go fuck up their shit.”

And like all empires, this one is finally turning on its own tribe.  Congress, abdicating its mandate to work for the people, now allows the security agencies (which they set up) free range to spy on our own citizens.  They have allowed the militarization of local police forces (with inevitable results) and sell weapons to both sides of any given conflict (most started by us, although Congress no longer votes on such things, perhaps thinking that holds them harmless when another country gets razed to the ground).  They – Congress – give the bulk of our tax monies to “war efforts” or directly to the Wall Street banks which crashed our economy in the first place, while many Americans go hungry and lack jobs.  They set loose the corporations, letting them pillage our own country for assets, money, and land.  They are so enamored of the wealthy that when Obama’s latest nominee, Penny Pritzker for Commerce Secretary, was questioned by the committees, they were tickled by the idea that she had been able to “misplace” $80 mm of income.  [ http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/17667-focus-senators-swoon-over-billionaire-pritzker ]

Monsanto is protected by Congress despite scientific research showing the dangers of GMO crops.  Fracking is allowed, in increasing areas, by both the national and local governments, although there is no longer any question that it causes earthquakes and poisons waterways.  Obama includes fracking as one of his “all of the above” energy solutions.  Ironically, most Americans do not seem to understand that they are letting the land be torn up and the water supplies poisoned for no reason.  We do not have nationalized resources here.  That, I gather, would be socialism and socialism in any form is awful.  So the oil and natural gas companies run amok, take the products, and sell them on the open market.  And, by the way, get to keep the profits for themselves.  Congress actually gives them subsidies to do this and takes no measures to make sure the companies even pay fair taxes on the profits.  It has been revealed that the oil companies have been manipulating oil prices all along.  No doubt Eric Holder and Congress will investigate and give us all refunds for the over-pricing of gasoline that has been going on.  (Or not.  Well. okay, definitely not.)

On fracking in general:

Not only can companies hide fracking chemical information behind trade secret claims, they won’t have to test individual wells’ cement casings—a critical barrier between fracking chemicals and underground aquifers. Our federal public lands provide drinking water for millions of Americans. This weak policy will put these drinking water sources at risk.As Earthjustice’s Jessica Ennis told the Washington Post and New York Times, “The Bureau of Land Management caved to the wealthy and powerful oil and gas industry and left the public to fend for itself.”

This controversial oil and gas development technique–in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the earth to force gas from underground deposits–has been linked to air and water pollution and public health problems. In its current form, the proposal fails to stem these problems.

In its latest proposal, the BLM fails to propose adequate well construction and integrity standards. A key test to ensure drinking water sources are properly isolated from the well was dropped. Now a test to ensure proper cementing will be required on only one “type well” and the data from that well used to approve others. Such a procedure invites companies to develop one model well and then to cut corners on the rest. Industry should have to demonstrate the integrity of every well.

The draft requires companies to disclose chemical constituents in fracking fluids, after fracking is complete. Disclosure should occur both before and after fracking, in order to give nearby communities time to establish baseline water quality and then test and monitor water supplies for any fracking-related water pollution. States including Wyoming already requires pre-fracking disclosure, so the BLM proposal should go at least this far.

The proposal also signals the use of FracFocus as the tool for disclosure. In its current form, FracFocus is insufficient. It’s an industry-funded database that fails to allow users to search across forms or aggregate data from multiple wells. To ensure data is complete, adequate and available, the BLM should have its own website for this information reporting, complete with the ability to search and aggregate data.

The president promised in his State of the Union that this country’s gas drilling boom would not come at the expense of public health. As it stands now, the proposed rule fails to meet that promise.  – Earthjustice Alerts action alert

On hydroflouric acid fracking, the latest iteration of assaults on our water and land:

As California lawmakers discuss 10 bills that would regulate fracking, some environmentalists are warning that the debate overshadows a more serious process that involves the use of hydrofluoric acid.

The state regulator is drawing up rules for hydraulic fracturing, lawmakers are consideration various regulatory bills, environmentalists are protesting drilling in the Monterey oil formation, and filmmakers are creating a movie about the debate. Many believe the concerns over fracking are well-founded, but some corporations plan to use a different method to extract oil or gas altogether.

“All this anti-fracking language misses the target and I am very concerned it is a diversion,” Steve Shimek of the environmental group Monterey Coastkeeper told Reuters.

Venoco, a private oil and gas production corporation, has estimated that eight out of 10 of its Monterey wells can be completed without the use of fracking  – a method which injects water, sand and chemicals into faults at high pressure to shatter rock formations and release oil or gas. Using an alternate method, chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid are pumped into the wells to melt rocks and other obstructions to extract oil.  Occidental Petroleum Corp, a California-based oil and gas production company that leads the Monterey development, in 2011 announced that most of its shale was extracted using acid jobs – not fracking. This month, the company said that only one sixth of its wells are currently being fracked. […]

Only one of the 10 legislative fracking bills addresses acid jobs, which has some environmentalists concerned. Companies are not required to report their use of acid, which allows them to pump large quantities of this substance into the ground with no regulation.

“These are super-hazardous, poisonous chemicals and we have no idea what they are doing out there with it – how deep it is going, the volumes – nothing,” Bill Allayaud of the Environmental Working Group told Reuters. “Why shouldn’t our state agency be regulating it as we hope they’ll be regulating hydraulic fracturing?”

Earlier this month, Allayaud told Environment & Energy Publishing that regulation for acid use is desperately needed because it is unknown how much of the substance is being used and where. Damon Nagami, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said techniques that replace fracking – including gravel packing, water flooding, steam flooding and acidization – remain largely excluded from the public debate.[…]

Lawmakers are trying to address environmentalists’ fracking concerns, but acidization continues to remain a little-known process with unknown environmental effects.

http://rt.com/usa/california-fracking-rules-debate-895/

 

Hydrogen fluoride gas is an acute poison that may immediately and permanently damage lungs and the corneas of the eyes. Aqueous hydrofluoric acid is a contact-poison with the potential for deep, initially painless burns and ensuing tissue death. By interfering with body calcium metabolism, the concentrated acid may also cause systemic toxicity and eventual cardiac arrest and fatality, after contact with as little as 160 cm2 (25 square inches) of skin. […]

Hydrofluoric acid is a highly corrosive liquid and is a contact poison. It should be handled with extreme care, beyond that accorded to other mineral acids. Owing to its low dissociation constant, HF as a neutral lipid-soluble molecule penetrates tissue more rapidly than typical mineral acids. Because of the ability of hydrofluoric acid to penetrate tissue, poisoning can occur readily through exposure of skin or eyes, or when inhaled or swallowed. Symptoms of exposure to hydrofluoric acid may not be immediately evident. HF interferes with nerve function, meaning that burns may not initially be painful. Accidental exposures can go unnoticed, delaying treatment and increasing the extent and seriousness of the injury.[8] […]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrofluoric_acid

 

[…] The acid grade of fluorspar is used as raw material to produce hydrofluoric acid. Worldwide production of hydrofluoric acid is estimated at more than three million metric tons. Once the ore is dug from the earth the impurities are removed to leave a fluorspar which contains minimum 97% calcium fluoride. The bi-products are collected and serve a variety of industrial purposes. Acid grade fluorspar is transported to hydrofluoric acid plants by ship, road, rail or barge… where it is reacted with sulphuric acid to form hydrogen fluoride gas.

Hydrofluoric acid is stored for use as a liquefied gas or may be diluted with water to make liquid solutions of hydrofluoric acid. Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. Fluorine forms a single bond with itself in elemental form, resulting in the diatomic F2 molecule. F2 is a supremely reactive, poisonous, pale, yellowish brown gas. Elemental fluorine is the most chemically reactive and electronegative of all the elements.

The fluoride added to drinking water is hydrofluoric acid and is man-made. In the hydrofluoric acid form; fluoride has no nutrient value at all and it is one of the most caustic of industrial chemicals. […]

http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/basicsofhealthwater_fileswater_fluoride_good_bad_ugly.htm

I offer the following links in no particular order of importance, but have divided them into subject matter.  Pick your poison, as they say.

Half of America at or near poverty:
https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#inbox/13eef06c8cc03f42
and:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/real-numbers-half-america-poverty-and-its-creeping-toward-75-0

Let’s kick poor people off food assistance:
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/31-0

And look at this amendment to the Farm Bill – passed unanimously – I guess you never pay the full price for your crimes in the US, but must be punished forever.

http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/05/24/vitter-proposes-eliminating-food-stamps-for-those-convicted-of-violent-crimes/
and:
http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/12/snap-f12.html
and:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/30/oil-prices-climb-despite-record-stockpiles/

On the manipulation of the oil markets:

http://beta.dawn.com/news/1013845/manipulated-prices-ruling-oil-market

and:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/05/17/oil-price-probe/2215241/

On latest oil prices: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/30/oil-prices-climb-despite-record-stockpiles/

On fracking in general: http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/01/bakken-keystone-xl-and-fracking/

Links on the Death Star Monsanto:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/senate-dems-fail-overturn-monsanto-protection-act-article-1.1353287  This article pretends that the fucking Monsanto-protecting Senators are all Republican even though Democrats still, last I checked, hold the majority in the Senate.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/push-overturn-monsanto-protection-act-article-1.1352178     This describes Senator Markey’s proposed amendment to overturn the Monsanto Protection Act.  (Note that Markey’s amendment was in fact overwhelmingly killed by the Democratic Majority Senate on Thursday).

http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/news/2013/04/30/(ips)-us-activists-outraged-over-so-called-monsanto-protection-act.html   Old coverage of the Monsanto Protection Act and suggests Monsanto plans to use the judicial-review-free period covered by the continuing resolution to introduce a number of new (not specified) controversial GMO products into the ecosystem.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/u-s-state-dept-helped-promote-monsanto-products-overseas-article-1.1343801  Points out the (should be rather amazing) fact that the State Department is effectively a marketing and protection racket for Monsanto.

http://truth-out.org/news/item/16565-in-europe-march-against-monsanto-is-latest-rejection-of-the-gmo-giant    An excellent Truthout/Occupy.org/Greenpeace article which discusses the reasons 8 European countries: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Poland, with Italy soon to follow, and also joined by certain regions and municipalities within numerous other countries not having a full uniform national position on GMO; that have banned Monsanto and GMO, and revealing Monsanto’s push-back and attempted hijacking of the EU from its lobbying center in Brussells, along with Monsanto’s (et.al.) attacks on governments, government officials, scientific organizations, agricultural organizations, farmers and farm communities, as well as many individual scientists and activists, and a bit of revelation on the hugely non-democratic, behind the scenes US support of Monsanto’s actions (which can be properly labeled only as terrorism).

http://grist.org/food/gut-punch-monsanto-could-be-destroying-your-microbiome/    Discusses a bit of the science and how the EPA and DOA, at least, have colluded with Monsanto to actually raise the published “allowable limits” to better reflect the actual content of indisputably deadly toxins found in (Roundup treated) GMO crops.

http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2909    A pretty much random USGS report about glyposate (Roundup) now (@2011) being common in rivers, streams, other surface waters, rainfall, and the air throughout GMO agricultural areas (the technical study was done in Mississippi), and wherein the USGS chemist and author cautions “Though glyphosate is the mostly widely used herbicide in the world, we know very little about its long term effects to the environment”.

http://www.naturalnews.com/040210_GM_corn_March_Against_Monsanto_glyphosate.html     More science, including details on the lack of minerals and vitamins and the off-the-charts, 200 times the maximum recommended exposure levels, of formaldehyde found in GMO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xow6VC851C0     Great discussion of the specifics of the law known as the Monsanto Protection Act and the laws it references and incorporates.  With regular updates at the stormcloudsgathering.com website

 

So much for the home of the brave.

Your leaders on crack.  These are the same guys who overwhelmingly voted for the 2011 and 2012 NDAA’s, which allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens, and find no issue with a President who declares he can kill Americans at his whim with no charges, arrest or trial taking place.  Oh, except that brave, brave Sir Rand, who stood up against the Obama Drone America program, right?

Description of this video clip from youtube user who uploaded  it:

Remember when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) stood up on the Senate floor for nearly 13 hours in an ideological protest of the Obama administration’s hypothetical authority to use drone technology to kill U.S. citizens on American soil? Well, now he’s saying killing a certain U.S. citizen on some specific American soil in Watertown, Massachusetts last Friday may not have been the worst thing in the world.

During an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network Monday night, Paul attempted to make a distinction between the American “sitting in a café” example he has often cited and the “imminent threat” faced by Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Friday night. “I’ve never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on,” Paul said. Though his next example offered up a disturbingly low bar for the predator drone option. “If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash,” he said, “I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”

Yes, that is exactly what he said.  So much for ideological stances and moral rectitude.  He doesn’t care if a cop or a drone kills a guy running out of a store?  Really?  Drone-bomb the fucker on the mere suspicion he stole fifty bucks?   The alternative is letting the cops kill anyone they suspect of a crime, right there on the street?  That’s your “imminent danger” and your two suggested solutions?   Although perhaps if the standard is going to be an “active crime going on”, there are quite a few banks and corporations – not to mention the entirety of Wall Street and Capital Hill – that would fit the criteria.

Frontier justice, baby.  It’s a free-for-all in the land of the free, now in free-fall.

And then there are these swell senators – hey, y’all elected these people, if election results are to be believed – baying for the chance to officially incorporate the idea of everywhereness into the War on Terror:

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), John McCain (AZ), and Kelly Ayotte (NH) lashed out at liberals and libertarians on Tuesday, claiming it was dangerous to oppose the notion the United States was a “battlefield.”

The three senators have been pushing for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant for intelligence purposes. The term enemy combatant was controversially used by the Bush administration to refer to alleged members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, making them neither criminals nor prisoners of war.

Speaking on the Senate floor, the three Republicans said the government should expand the definition of an enemy combatant to include any domestic terrorists inspired by “radical Islam.” They said Tsarnaev should be interrogated as an enemy combatant before being transferred to the civilian justice system, despite the fact he is an American citizen. […]

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/23/republican-trio-push-to-militarize-u-s-response-to-domestic-terrorism/

As we watch it all crumble in real time, let’s remember that old saw, “At least Mussolini made the trains run on time.”  (Although Snopes says that is an urban legend.  See: http://www.snopes.com/history/govern/trains.asp)  We can’t even manage that.

Some 1,200 flights were delayed Monday thanks to staffing cuts put into effect because of sequestration, the Federal Aviation Administration said today.

Air travelers throughout the country were hit with cancellations and tarmac delays as long as four hours, as the nation’s largest airports grappled with the onset of the air-traffic controllers furloughs. Another 1,400 flights were delayed for the usual reasons: “weather and other factors,” the FAA said in a statement.

“Industry-wide, the FAA plan could delay one out of every three people who fly, and the delays could be significant,” United Airlines says.

Though the furloughs had little impact when they started on Sunday, delays were building quickly Monday. Reports of late takeoffs at O’Hare, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, New York’s LaGuardia, Los Angeles International and Charlotte-Douglas International in Charlotte, N.C., were widespread. In many cases, planes left the gate, only to sit on the tarmac for extended periods of time, while many flights were cancelled. Flights into cities such as Washington and New York were delayed by more than two hours as a result of the furloughs, the FAA told the Associated Press. […]

http://articles.marketwatch.com/2013-04-23/finance/38730530_1_sequestration-cuts-furloughs-faa

See also: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/04/23/furl-a23.html

A relative trying to book a cross-country flight for next week was told that none of his connecting flights were guaranteed, as the airlines are not sure which flights will be canceled a week from now.  You are flying by the seat of your pants, so to speak, and he was warned that despite what his ticket may say, he could end up sitting in an airport for any length of time waiting to be placed on the next available flight.  (“For days? Is that what you are saying?”  “Yeah, we don’t know in advance which flights we will have to cancel.”)

Maybe if we are just willing to give up our social security and a few other assorted “goodies”, they’ll let us travel again.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 24, 2013 in civil rights, Congress, drones, economy

 

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

 

The state of our union.

I heard the news today, oh, boy.

Were you surprised the other night when you turned on the news and heard talk about Obama’s assassination program which can target and kill Americans without trial?  Not only can kill Americans, but already has.  Here you thought we had the right to hear the charges against us and the right to a trial, complete with a judge and jury.  We’ve been guaranteed those rights since the founding of this country, and Western nations have had those rights since the days of the Magna Carta.

You may not know what to make of this killing Americans thing and the drone program.  You may not even believe it – God knows, we have been subjected to such random and far-flung bullshit lately that you only listen with half an ear, knowing that quite a sizable chunk of what is presented on the news is simply untruth.  Besides, you think, we have a Constitution and a Congress sworn to uphold that constitution, and they wouldn’t allow such a thing.

The targeted assassination drone program has existed for some time, although the major news outlets have given it scant coverage until the Brennan nomination hearings.  We are told that the targets only recently included three Americans and that they are really, really bad Americans.  Presumably, no-one cares about the foreigners killed every week based upon nothing more than the suspicions of a secret cabal in the White House.  We don’t seem to care that the drone strikes abroad are actually creating more terrorists with each killing.  Hell, we don’t even seem to be cognizant any longer that the president is not sworn to keep us safe; the oath he takes is to uphold the Constitution.

Ironically, it turns out that the number one cause of injury-related deaths amongst American civilians is suicide.  The number one cause of death amongst members of the American military is suicide. In other words, we Americans are killing ourselves in greater numbers than is any terrorist group.

Bush accidentally had an American living abroad killed via drone strike, but we are assured that the fellow was traveling with a member of al-Qaeda, and not just anyone, but an al-Qaeda leader (which somehow, without explanation, makes the American’s death okay):

“[…] A fourth American-born citizen, Kamal Derwish, was killed by predator drone in Yemen in 2002. Derwish was not the primary target of the strike, but was riding in an SUV carrying an al-Qaida leader.” – http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/05/16856963-american-drone-deaths-highlight-controversy?lite

The other three Americans, all selected by Obama in his Disposition Matrix program, were “reasonable” targets.  [On Dispostion Matrix, see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/plan-for-hunting-terrorists-signals-us-intends-to-keep-adding-names-to-kill-lists/2012/10/23/4789b2ae-18b3-11e2-a55c-39408fbe6a4b_story.html  This is part one of a three part series.]  The Obama Dept of Justice wrote a memo, recently leaked, claiming the legal right to kill whomever they chose.  Ah, a memo from the legal department – now that sounds familiar.  These memos did not actually make torture legal when Bush used them as rational and they don’t make assassinations legal when Obama has them written up.  [An excellent article on the Obama DoJ memos:
http://jonathanturley.org/2013/02/05/doj-memo-obama-administration-claims-broader-authority-to-kill-americans/ ]

The assassinated American’s name you will hear most frequently is Anwar al-Awlaki.  He was killed 17 months ago, although most of us are just now learning about it, which has given the media plenty of time to consider how to paint the portrait of this man; in most of the articles of the past couple of weeks, there are almost always suggestions (just hints and a whisper) that al-Awlaki had ties to 911.  The fact is that no-one in the government, CIA, FBI, etc. ever seriously thought he had anything to do with 911 and he was radicalized some years after 911….after seeing Muslims being repeatedly harassed and accused just for being Muslim and after the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Also after he had been imprisoned in Yemen for about 18 months with the encouragement of the CIA, who, oddly if they really felt he had some involvement in 911, okay’d his release later. (He was imprisoned for being part of a tribal dispute, not for terrorism against the US or 911 or any such thing.) The powers that be want him to appear as unAmerican and foreign as possible so as to excuse the decision to assassinate him. Hell, I fully expect to hear any day now that al-Awlaki has ties to the sinking of the Lusitania and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. You might note that the media is not talking much about the other three Americans assassinated abroad by presidential fiat.

The first time they tried to kill al-Awlaki, they missed him, but the cruise missiles they were using killed over 50 other people.  (More than half of whom were women and children.)  After finally killing al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son, Abdul, was also assassinated upon Obama’s orders.  For obvious reasons, the administration declines to say much about killing the boy, although WH spokesman Robert Gibbs expressed the shocking sentiment, “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children.”  That is pretty much all the administration will say about the matter.

Despite the fact that Congress has been holding hearings on the nomination of John Brennan during which the subject of drone killings and the CIA drone program has been featured to a large extent, the White House Dept. of Justice still maintains that the CIA drone program is classified secret material and won’t confirm or deny its existence.   I think we all know it exists by now.  The whole nominating process is a study in the freakish web of secrecy we live under.  Congress set up the CIA from the beginning so that it did not have to fully reveal its activities.  Congress allows the CIA budget to remain secret from even Congress itself.  At this point, the CIA is running a military drone program (although the CIA answers to no Commander-in-Chief, I’ll remind you) and will not answer questions about it.  Brennan heads up a small group that goes over a “targeted kill list”, but can’t say too much about it because it’s secret.  He agonizes over it though, he says, so there’s that.  So now Congress wants to know more about it and complains because they are being kept in the dark.  I see.  A couple of bright bulbs in Congress suggested that there be a Disposition Matrix Court set up to hear about and make decisions on the cases being considered for the Final Solution.

A Court for Targeted Killings
No American prosecutor can imprison or execute someone except on the orders of a judge or jury. That fundamental principle applies no less to the suspected terrorists that the executive branch chooses to kill overseas, particularly in the case of American citizens.

A growing number of lawmakers and experts are beginning to recognize that some form of judicial review is necessary for these killings, usually by missiles fired from unmanned drones. Last week, at the confirmation hearing of John Brennan to be the director of the C.I.A., several senators said they were considering the establishment of a special court, similar to the one that now decides whether to approve wiretapping for intelligence gathering.[…]

A special court, which we first proposed in a 2010 editorial, would be an analogue to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that Congress set up in 1978. If the administration has evidence that a suspect is a terrorist threat to the United States, it would have to present that evidence in secret to a court before the suspect is placed on a kill list.

“Having the executive being the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner, all in one, is very contrary to the traditions and the laws of this country,” Senator Angus King Jr. of Maine said at the Brennan hearing. “If you’re planning a strike over a matter of days, weeks or months, there is an opportunity to at least go to some outside-of-the-executive-branch body, like the FISA Court, in a confidential and top-secret way, make the case that this American citizen is an enemy combatant.”

Mr. Brennan said the idea was worthy of discussion, adding that the Obama administration had “wrestled with this.” Two other senators, Dianne Feinstein of California, the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, and Ron Wyden of Oregon, also expressed interest. Even Robert Gates, a former C.I.A. director who was defense secretary under President George W. Bush and President Obama, said on CNN that such a judicial panel “would give the American people confidence” that a proper case had been made against an American citizen.[…]

Creating an even stronger court to approve targeted killings is the first step Mr. Obama can take if he is serious about bringing national security policy back under the rule of law.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/opinion/a-special-court-is-needed-to-review-targeted-killings.html?_r=0

The above editorial is fascinating for a few reasons.  First, having a secret court decide who lives and dies, without that person being present to hear the charges and allowed to defend himself is in and of itself against our fundamental principles, as is the very idea that the person would not be allowed to have a public trial by an impartial jury.  It may spread the eventual blame for each assassination around to more people, but it does not due process make.  Secondly, the FISA court has been accused of overstepping its bounds repeatedly – since its decisions are all made in secret, it has been nearly impossible to overturn any of them.  This is not a good model upon which to build a court that decides executions.  Thirdly, how does having a secretive agency (the CIA) running a secret kill program under the auspices of a secret court create “more transparency”?   And finally, how can anyone seriously suggest that there is any way to reconcile “targeted killings” and a “kill list” with “the rule of law”?   While the NYT editorial board wants to claim the right to brag about being the first to suggest this secret court, what they are talking about here is setting up a Star Chamber in the United States.  (Although even the original Star Chamber did not allow itself the power to decide life and death issues.)  To give some perspective on this loathsome idea, it was the Habeas Corpus Act of 1640 which finally abolished England’s secret Star Chamber.

What did you expect?  When Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, et al named it the “Global War on Terror”, they did not add, “Except in the United States”.  Despite our much touted exceptionalism, we are not exempted from the war on terror; it very much includes the Homeland.   To this end, the Bush administration hussled through Congress as quickly as possible after 911 the Patriot Act, much of which Congress had not bothered to read and some of which remains secret, insisted we were in a State of Emergency, continued to this day and which allows the government unknown powers, Continuity of Government plans, most of which are secret, even from Congress, expanded the reach of the FISA Court, a secretive and extralegal “court” to rubberstamp the collecting of emails and phone calls, and set up the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS).  The DHS has been allowed its own interpretation of the 4th amendment for some reason (this is the amendment giving us the right to be secure in our homes, papers, and effects and protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures).  Obama, and Pelosi as leader of the House before he was elected president, refused to go after the Bush administration for their lawlessness and have expanded on it.  The Constitution is pretty much dead.  Congress feels no need to correct this situation for us; in fact, they extend the powers of these agencies every time they get a chance.

From the DHS website: “The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector. Our duties are wide-ranging, but our goal is clear – keeping America safe.”

-In fiscal year 2011, DHS was allocated a budget of $98.8 billion and spent, net, $66.4 billion.
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection “acknowledged that the agency can, will and does open mail coming to U.S. citizens that originates from a foreign country whenever it’s deemed necessary”:
“All mail originating outside the United States Customs territory that is to be delivered inside the U.S. Customs territory is subject to Customs examination,” says the CBP Web site. That includes personal correspondence. “All mail means ‘all mail,’” said John Mohan, a CBP spokesman, emphasizing the point.
The Department declined to outline what criteria are used to determine when a piece of personal correspondence should be opened or to say how often or in what volume Customs might be opening mail.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Homeland_Security-


DHS declares the right to seize laptops, etc at border crossings:

[…] An internal review of the US Department of Homeland Security’s procedures regarding the suspicionless search-and-seizure of phones and laptops near the nation’s border has reaffirmed the agency’s ability to bypass Fourth Amendment-protected rights [.pdf].

In a two page executive summary published quietly last month to the official DHS website, the agency explains that a civil rights and civil liberties impact assessment of the office’s little-known power to collect personal electronics near international crossings has passed an auditor’s interpretation of what does and doesn’t violate the US Constitution.  [Teri’s note: Oh, good, another memo.  This one from an auditor, so it must be kind of legal and all.]

Since 2009, the DHS has been legally permitted to seize and review the contents of personal electronic devices, including mobile phones, portable computers and data discs, even without being able to cite any reasonable suspicion that those articles were involved in a crime.[…]

http://on.rt.com/sa5tz3

As further reading, if you want to indulge in a scary little bedtime story, do an internet search for the DHS program called “Operation Endgame”, and at the end of this article, I will provide links to articles about the internal militarization of our country and other assorted items of interest.

Even Nancy Pelosi, who is ostensibly a Democrat, is not sure we ought to be told when an American is targeted for death by drone:

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is not sure whether the public should be told when the federal government kills an American citizen.

“Maybe. It just depends,” she said in an interview with The Huffington Post this week, when asked whether the administration should acknowledge when it targets a U.S. citizen in a drone strike. […]

“It’s interesting how popular it is in the public,” she said, recalling that the same polling dynamic prevailed during the fight over warrantless wiretaps. “People just want to be protected. And I saw that when we were fighting them on surveillance, the domestic surveillance. People just want to be protected: ‘You go out there and do it. I’ll criticize you, but I want to be protected.'”

The Obama administration currently takes the position that it can essentially disappear U.S. citizens. It is never under any legal obligation to admit, even after the deed is done, that it has assassinated anyone.

Pelosi appeared conflicted over whether it was acceptable for the administration to simply disappear American citizens, a term that had previously been used as a verb only outside the United States.

“It depends on the situation,” she said. “Maybe it depends on the timing, because that’s right — it’s all about timing, imminence. What is it that could be in jeopardy if people know that happened at this time? I just don’t know.” […]

The American public is also not supportive of targeting people simply because they are members of al Qaeda, rather than senior commanders. A New America Foundation report found that only 2 percent of the thousands killed by drone strikes have been high-level operatives.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/nancy-pelosi-drones_n_2685891.html

 

We are not entirely sure what it is we want to be protected from.  The “terrorists”, “al Qaeda”, “those who would harm us”, etc. Yet al Qaeda is not a nation – it is a group of small activist cells very loosely connected with each other.  No-one in the US media or government explains what their goals are – in fact, al Qaeda seems to have different goals in different countries – nor can anyone adequately explain how we can possibly be “at war” with these disparate groups in some cases and on the same side as them in others. (As in Libya and Syria.)  That the terrorist groups seem to congregate in the poorest nations in the world is irrelevant to us, although one might reasonably ask what kind of danger we are protecting ourselves from when we bomb a hut in Afghanistan that has no electricity, no phone, no internet, but only a family huddled over a wood-fire trying to cook dinner.

We accept the notion that an attack on “US interests” is an attack on the nation; no-one asks what the hell a US interest is.  Obama told us what his conception of the “War on Terror” and “American interests” are within his Strategic Guidance; the US has the right to constantly force any other country on the planet into accepting our economic well-being as paramount before their own.  He calls it “projecting power”.  That other countries may resent this makes them threats to US interests; i.e., our right to make some cash off their resources.  [“Our idea of diplomatic, democratic foreign policy is summed up in documents like Obama’s Strategic Guidance (see: http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/02/the-2012-defense-strategic-guidance/), which contains wording such as this: ‘In order to credibly deter potential adversaries and to prevent them from achieving their objectives, the United States must maintain its ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged’ and this: ‘We will field nuclear forces that can under any circumstances confront an adversary with the prospect of unacceptable damage‘.  This is not diplomacy, nor is it democratic.” – http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/09/the-one-indispensable-nation/ ]  They (whomever “they” are) do not hate us for our freedoms, which we have pretty much given up in any case, they hate and/or fear us because we insist on stealing their shit, invading their sovereign territories, and killing their people with bombs.

While the media is obfuscating the economic news here at home with jargon, mumbo-jumbo, and, frankly, outright bullshit, there is an odd openness coming from the government in regards to our foreign policy.

Here are two paragraphs from a Wired article on the sentiments of our nominated AFRICOM commander:

[…] U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, most recently the day-to-day commander in Afghanistan, all but laid out a hit list to a Senate panel during his confirmation hearing to run the military’s newest regional command organization. “A major challenge is effectively countering violent extremist organizations, especially the growth of Mali as an al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb safe haven, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Shabaab in Somalia,” Rodriguez told the Senate Armed Services Committee in advanced questions on Thursday morning, as “each present a threat to western interests in Africa.”

[…]There are questions about the extent of the threat that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabab and Boko Haram actually pose to the United States. Rodriguez conceded in his advance questions that the three groups “have not specifically targeted the United States.” Instead, they’ve “carried out attacks on western interests and engaged in kidnapping,” he said, warning that they’d be an “even larger threat” if they “deepen their collaboration.” Asked by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Rodriguez said Boko Haram in Nigeria “has committed some acts that can be associated with terrorism.” Rudy Atallah, the Pentagon’s former top Africa counterterrorism officer, told Danger Room last month that “The short answer is they are regionally focused for now,” rather than threatening the United States at home.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/02/africa-rodriguez/

This is an example of how our military and State Dept. have changed in the past couple of decades.  It is certainly provable that in our history, we have used the military and State to interfere in countries simply for the purpose of gaining markets for US corporate power; the change is that now we openly admit to doing so.  It seems rather like a challenge thrown to the American public – when they outright tell us that they (we) are going around the world and beating people up so as to force them into accepting Walmarts, Exxons,  and Halliburtons in their countries, will we object?  If they stop pretending that they are “keeping democracy safe” and just say that “we want to make Mali accept our oil companies tearing up their landscape”, “make Somalia a safe haven for Bechtel”, “make Libya de-nationalize their oil fields so that Exxon can make profits there”, “threaten the EU with sanctions so they allow Monsanto to market their shit there”: is that acceptable to Americans?

Do we not see that we are using the military to force other countries to buy our capitalist system, countries which do not threaten our safety or our nation, but merely the ever-expanding profits of the big corporations?  Do we really not see that?  They are no longer covering up what they are doing – they are trying to make us complicit.  And here’s an additional thought: if the free market (which system we do not actually have) worked so well and was so great, why do the corporations need the biggest military in the world to force their way on the rest of the globe?

Obama is now considering intervention into the Syrian civil war. [http://jonathanturley.org/2013/01/28/obama-reportedly-considering-intervention-into-syrian-civil-war/#more-60022 ]  Syria is a target only because it is a pathway into Iran – that is our entire interest in the place.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama is thinking about adding an Algerian militant to his kill list, despite the fact that the Algerian military seems to be handling the problem all by themselves: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/09/obama-administration-wants-to-put-algerian-militant-on-secret-kill-list-wall-street-journal/  I can only assume that for some reason Obama finds the Algerian military response insufficient and feels the need to interfere in their internal decisions.  It’s a strange situation, as though we think we are the global terrorist-busters and feel compelled to get involved in everyone’s business. (“Got a terrorist in your neighborhood?  Who ya gonna call?”)

I want to know why we are so focused on our supposed “security” and yet ignoring the actual dangers which surround us.  We are bankrupting the country by spending huge sums on wars of choice, while completely ignoring problems that need to be addressed right here and now.  Congress has passed laws preventing us from knowing which chemicals are being dumped into our drinking water through fracking processes.  The BP Macondo well site is still leaking and we are encouraged to eat seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, although sea life there has been demonstrably poisoned by the Corexit which was dumped into it.  The FDA has not released its study on the arsenic in US rice crops, the EPA is delaying its research into bee colony collapse for several more years (until 2018), by which time there may no longer be any bees to study – and no bees, no food – the Wall Street banks have increased derivative holdings to the point where there is now over a quadrillion dollars’ worth of this junk in the system and the Fed is swapping this crap out for actual money.  None of the grifters in the big banks have gone to jail despite their crimes and wrecking of the global economy and now the banks are bigger than ever.  They are taking out entire countries and we don’t seem to be in the least aware of how this came to be or curious as to how we could stop them.  Congress declines to get involved, unless you count enabling as involvement.  Ocean fish stocks are nearing complete collapse.  Our media plays silly little games (they gave a typical New England snowstorm a name as though it were some unique event and called it the Storm of the Century, which it decidedly was not – as if the fact that it snows in the northeast in the winter were novel) but have yet to inquire as to why the electric companies, with record profits, can’t manage to maintain the lines with as much efficiency as they did 30 years ago.  Congress keeps pushing for the privatization of everything as though the idea that private, for-profit companies would somehow, through some arcane magical process heretofore unknown to man, save us money made any sense whatsoever.  The Hanford nuclear site is leaking radioactivity again, but we are assured that there is no “immediate threat”.  (No, there is not immediate threat – one does not fall over dead the day after exposure to radioactive material.  Eventually, though, of course…)  Obama mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in his State of the Union address and talked about expanding it to the Atlantic countries.  Very few of us seem interested in this trade agreement; certainly it has been barely mentioned in the press, even after Obama so openly bragged about the negotiations, albeit without revealing any details.  This is despite the fact that it makes our government and the governments of any signatory nation subservient to corporate rule.  Congress wrote a provision in the NDAA that allows for the indefinite detention of anyone anywhere on the planet including Americans – and Obama signed it.  They like this provision so much that they included it in the NDAA two years in a row and Obama signed it two years in a row.  For those fools who claim that our leaders are not really interested in detaining Americans without charges for indefinite periods of time, I must ask: then why the fuck did they write this law?  And why is Obama’s Dept. of Justice fighting so hard to keep it in place?

On the economy, a few facts are worth bringing up. The deficit as a percentage of the economy is down by almost half since 2009.  The spending cuts already enacted have hurt our economy; passing more cuts will lead to more job losses. If we had publicly financed health care, and less military spending, we would not have a deficit problem – instead, we have allowed the for-profit companies to rake in ever increasing profits.  The GDP, aka “the economy”, is actually shrinking; while corporate profit is up.  Non-bonus and non-stock-compensation wages declined in 2012 as did the overall payroll figures. The bonus and stock related income of the tiny percentage that receive such income (certainly well below 1% of the total employed population) was so dramatic that the bonus and stock compensation category alone lifted the aggregate total national payroll cost by nearly 3%, i.e. excluding Jamie and Lloyd, total national payroll cost actually declined (proving a dramatic increase in the inequality of compensation and wealth).  Both the “unemployment rate” and the “jobless rate” ticked up.  We are experiencing a negative savings rate.  Consumer debt is up, which is wrongfully attributed to evidence of consumer spending.  The statistics would only be positively correlated under different circumstances, but given the current circumstance of negative GDP growth, negative savings rate, negative wage income growth, and increasing joblessness, can only mean that households are taking on additional debt to meet basic, recurring expenses.  More than 20 million people are still in need of full-time work.  More people than when Obama first took office are living in poverty.  Fewer people have health insurance than did before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act.  The economy declined in the fourth quarter of 2012, and spending cuts and tax hikes already passed will impede 2013 growth. A new study shows that the richest Americans captured more than 100% of all recent income gains.

This is what a nation in rapid decline looks like.

We let them take it all away while they distracted us with the “keeping us safe from terrorists” and “the deficit” nonsense.  Congress is fully complicit in this.  They protect the bankers as they steal from us.  They have loaded all the regulatory agencies, including the agencies dealing with our food and environmental issues, with industry insiders.  They openly strip us of our constitutional rights while we watch dumbly.  We are just letting it all happen as though it were some sort of natural event outside our control.  As though we had no choice in the matter.

The country has gone full retard.

For God’s sake, wake up, people. We are not on the slippery slope; we are writhing around in the mud at the bottom of the ravine.

 

Outside links:

On the increased use of mercenaries – now a booming business:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/01/24-3

On the domestic use of the military:  http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/02/the-white-house-is-judge-jury-and-executioner-of-both-drone-and-cyber-attacks.html

An example of the military hardware going to local police departments: http://endthelie.com/2013/02/01/georgia-police-acquired-200-million-worth-of-military-grade-vehicles-and-weapons-through-dod/#axzz2KULMG05O

and: http//www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/02/15-5

The shit used to spy on you:  http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/02/dhs-drones/

On the fast-tracking of drone use over America:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/02/15-5

On Brennan’s refusal to rule out drone assassinations within the US and on number of domestic drone permits issued by the FAA since ’07:  http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/19/pers-f19.html

On Yale University to train U.S. Special Forces in interrogation techniques by practicing on immigrants:  http://warisacrime.org/content/yale-university-train-us-special-forces-interrogation-techniques-practicing-immigrants

On bee colony collapse:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/annie-spiegelman/bee-deviledscientists_b_1884294.html

On the new leaks at Hanford:  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/15/16977573-tank-at-hanford-nuclear-site-leaking-radioactive-liquids-washington-governor-says?lite

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership:   http://www.examiner.com/article/coloradans-against-the-trans-pacific-partnership-agreement
and: http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/06/the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp/

On the NDAA and the Obama DoJ:    http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2013/02/06/in-ndaa-lawsuit-government-claims-it-has-decade-of-experience-hasnt-detained-any-us-citizens/

and: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/02/07-1

Update on latest NDAA hearing:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsGJpTAsV8k&feature=player_embedded

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in civil rights, Congress, corporatocracy, drones, economy