The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

From Chris Floyd - April 21, 2014

… Meanwhile, the beat goes on. On Monday, the Peace Prize Laureate launched his third drone strike in Yemen in as many days. (It is of course superfluous to point out that the United States is not at war with Yemen.) The latest strike followed one on Easter Sunday, when Barack Obama celebrated the Resurrection of his Lord and Saviour by killing 30 people in Yemen, by the usual courageous method of having an underling in a padded chair somewhere thousands of miles away courageously push a button while courageously viewing a video screen.

This heroic action was preceded by a strike on Saturday, in which 13 people were killed, including at least three civilians. This was purportedly a “signature strike,” a common practice in which the courageous Americans actually have no earthly idea who they are courageously killing from thousands of mile away — they just push the button because a bunch of people they are tracking seem to be “acting like” terrorists in some way or another. For all we know, all 13 people killed that day were civilians, like the 15 people on their way to a wedding whom the Peace Laurate killed last December.

In fact, we have no way of knowing if any of the dozens of people killed by the Peace Laureate during his busy Easter holiday were civilians or militants. Or what “civilian” and “militant” even mean in the context of the Peace Laureate’s never-ending violation of other nation’s sovereignty to kill people, many if not most of whom are completely unknown to him and his assassins.

We are simply told that all the shredded corpses are “al Qaeda militants.” Which of course leads to the question: Are these the same “al Qaeda militants” whom the United States is supporting in Syria, or the “al Qaeda militants” it supported in Libya, or are they some other kind of “al Qaeda” militants? If the “al Qaeda militants” in Yemen suddenly decided to aim their attacks on, say, Iran, would they suddenly become “good” or “moderate” al Qaeda militants, like we have in Syria? And are these Yemeni “al Qaeda militants” of a different stripe from the “al Qaeda militants” the West supported in, say, Bosnia, or Afghanistan?

Anyway, who cares? The point is that Obama’s peaceful, progressive expansion of the drone bombing and death squads initiated by George Bush is obviously quelling the spread of violent extremism. Whereas “al Qaeda” was once a handful of militants concentrated largely in one corner of Afghanistan, it is now a large, loose, proliferating confederation of violent extremists operating over vast swaths of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria and other countries. As both an ideological brand and physical force, “al Qaeda” is more powerful today than ever before — after 13 years of unrelenting “war on terror.” Every drone strike — and the deep, horrific, constant dread and fear instilled in the multitudes of innocent people who live under the dead eye of American drones, never knowing when and where the bolt may fall — are all incomparable recruiting tools for “al Qaeda militiants” around the world.

Every step taken in the blind, brutal “war on terror” has been counterproductive. Every step has increased terrorism, exacerbated hatred for America and the West, destabilized vast regions of the earth, destroyed all vestiges of constitutional government in the United States, militarized and corrupted Western democracies and visited unspeakable horror and suffering on millions of innocent people.

Yet it never stops. It just goes on and on, plunging the world deeper into darkness day by day, year by year. It’s done by icky conservatives like George Bush and Margaret Thatcher; it’s done by cool progressives like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. No one, none of our leaders and would-be leaders, will call it off. They don’t know how. And they don’t want to. So they will go on bombing and killing — thus making even more “militants” to bomb and kill. They will pursue this literally insane course while the world burns up around them and their own nations fall to pieces.

1 day ago

For over a decade, Americans have been told that terrorism poses a threat that cannot be addressed by the existing legal system; that a new domain of law must be constructed to handle this new threat. What has actually been created is a new domain of pseudo-law where the roles of law making, law enforcement, and judiciary, are rolled into a single political authority. Even if there has been no coup d’etat, nor extended imposition of martial law, this is nonetheless the dawning of an insidious and piecemeal form of fascism. It does not impose itself with an iron fist but grows upon us slowly, so that painlessly freedom can be lost as it is gradually forgotten. America’s willingness to be terrified by terrorism (via theamericanbear)

(via theamericanbear)

1 day ago

Everyone seems to forget that the FBI is the NSA’s primary partner in the latter’s domestic spying operations and that, in fact, the NSA’s job would be impossible without them. Whenever you see a company deny giving any data to the NSA remember: It’s because it’s not the NSA asking (or demanding) the information of them, it’s the FBI. They use the same Patriot Act authorities that the NSA does, and yet we have almost no idea what they do with it. The mentality of J Edgar Hoover’s FBI undergirds today’s surveillance state

3 days ago

Secular stagnation theory needn’t be ‘true’ to suggest a host of related results. The initial implementation of the New Deal was a political decision made to moderate capitalism to prevent its wholesale overthrow. Much is made today of the relative cooperation the New Deal received from the reigning plutocracy of the 1930s. But the level of dispossession of the Great Depression suggested a real threat of political-economic rupture and the replacement of ‘free-market’ capitalism with state socialism. The popular distinction being made these days between capitalism and neo-liberalism is academic— neo-liberalism is capitalism and New Deal capitalism is technocratic ‘management’ of capitalism in the service of residual plutocracy. The New Deal ended approximately when the threat of political overthrow did in the mid-1970s. The practical background of current economic malaise is that the existing plutocracy of bankers, CEOs and inherited wealth was fully restored from recent catastrophe through means and methods that were ‘political,’ through restoration of economic resources along the lines of division of economic power, and Western economists busied themselves explaining why doing so was necessary. When it came to the other 99.7% of the equation conclusions were quickly drawn that either (a) nothing needs to be done or (b) using duct tape and chicken wire to ‘repair’ the existing order was the best course of action. The ‘infrastructuralists’ are the duct tape and chicken wire crowd who haven’t yet resolved that current circumstance is the result of the existing order, not some accident of nature from outside of it. Economic Stagnation and the Stagnation of Economics

1 week ago

On Data Dumps, Death States and "Respectable" Dissent

… Please keep in mind that we are dealing with a state that believes it has the arbitrary, unchallengeable right to kill any of its citizens, at any time, without any judicial process whatsoever, simply at the whim of the president — or any of the innumerable agents he empowers to kill on his behalf as they see fit. This is the reality we live under — a reality reconfirmed just this week by a federal judge, who ruled that the families of American citizens murdered by their own government have no standing to challenge this action in a court of law.  And of course, this system extends its arbitrary license to kill to every human being on earth. It claims the right to kill anyone, anywhere, at the order of the president — who meets every week with his advisers to pore over hit lists, just as Stalin did with the Politburo, and decide which of the targets will live and which shall die.

Now, you may be happy with such a system policing itself with a few “reforms” which are devised and supervised by the system itself. A system which remains, at every point, completely hidden to the public that pays for it, and which at every turn, day after day, year after year, exacerbates the very extremism, violence, instability and chaos it purports to combat. (When it doesn’t just fund it and arm it outright, as it is is doing in its backing of violent, head-chopping, heart-eating extremists in Syria, for example.) You may be comforted by the thought that a small number of legislators whose careers are funded by this system — and very often directly by war profiteers and “security” profiteers — will be “overseeing” whatever “reforms” of the system eventually become law (assuming that any of them actually do).

But some people aren’t comforted by this. Some people continue to believe — or hope against hope — that we can do better than this. If such people see promising openings — like the exposure of NSA documents — falling short of the effect they could have, if they see these opportunities slowly being swallowed up in toothless “reforms” and “debates” by the very system they hope to break down and do away with, can they not question, criticize, even rail against this state of affairs, without being accused of envy, personal pique or irresponsibility? Why can’t they, like Robert Kennedy,  “dream of things that never were, and ask, why not?”

2 weeks ago

'The persons holding the jobs of the named defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,' Judge Collyer wrote. 'They cannot be held personally responsible … for conducting war.' … If it stands, the ruling suggests that courts have no role to play, before or after, in reviewing the legality of government decisions to kill citizens whom officials deem [in secret] to be terrorists … Judge Dismisses Suit Against Administration Officials Over Drone Strikes

Obama administration submits formal plan for NSA “reforms” | WSWS

The Obama administration released an official statement Thursday on its proposals to modify the US National Security Agency’s telephone-based surveillance and data collection efforts.

The “Fact Sheet” document, titled “The Administration’s Proposal for Ending the Section 215 Bulk Telephony Metadata Program,” details proposed changes to the bulk phone record surveillance, and is intended as a framework for new legislation to legitimize and further institutionalize the mass spying program.

Under the Obama proposal, the NSA would no longer engage in direct collection of telephone metadata. The government would instead submit requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Once authorized, the surveillance agencies would be allowed to gather telephone data from telecommunications on targets and anyone within “two hops” (or degrees of separation) from a target.

The document specifies that authorization from the FISC would not be required in “an emergency situation.” In other words, when the state deems it necessary, it will override even the cosmetic protections laid out in the proposed legislation. In non-emergency situations, surveillance would be based on the FISC’s determination that the numbers relate to “national security concerns.”

Once FISC approval is granted, records would have to be provided by telecommunications companies on an “ongoing and prospective” basis. Moreover, “the companies would be compelled by court order to provide technical assistance to ensure that the records can be queried and that results are transmitted to the government in a usable format and in a timely manner.”

While it does not say so explicitly, this stipulation is at least in part aimed at ensuring that telecommunications companies turn over cell phone records, which is presently not the case. It is estimated that the NSA has access to only 30 percent of all phone call records because it has not had access to cell phone records. That is, the Obama administration is seeking to cement a legislative framework which effectively extends the surveillance powers granted by the Patriot Act, under the guise of “reform.”

The reform proposals come as existing authorization of the program is set to expire. The administration has pledged to seek from the FISC a 90-day extension of the program as it presently exists, along with further extensions until some legislation has passed.

US Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger have advanced their own variant of the administration’s proposal, which would not even require the government to pass its data requests through the FISC. Instead, the court would only have authority to “expunge” data if it is determined, after the fact, to be irrelevant to any discernible “suspicious activity.”

The Rogers/Ruppersberger legislation will likely form the basis for any final bill. On Thursday, a senior administration officials said that the White House was “very pleased” with the proposals put forward by the House Intelligence Committee.

The legislation is set to be processed by the House Intelligence Committee, rather than the Judiciary Committee, to give Rogers and Ruppersberger—both with close ties to the NSA—greater control of the process. If anything is passed by Congress, it will be thoroughly vetted and pre-approved by the intelligence agencies.

The surveillance “reforms” relate to only one small patch of the sprawling complex of surveillance activities being carried out by US intelligence agencies. Currently active surveillance programs analyze reams of data from virtually every source imaginable, gathered through indiscriminate dragnet methods including tapping directly into the trans-oceanic fiber-optic cables. In effect, the entire Internet is being recorded in real time and stored for analysis and use by the repressive agencies of the state.

3 weeks ago

Camus in the Time of Drones | Jeffrey St. Clair

… Camus’ essay [“Reflections on the Guillotine”] on the barbarity of the death penalty was written in 1956, against the backdrop of the executions of hundreds of dissidents during the Soviet crackdown in Hungary, as well as the execution of Algerian revolutionaries condemned to death by French tribunals. He notes that by 1940 all executions in France and England were shielded from the public. If capital punishment was meant to deter crime, why hold the killings in secret? Why not make them a public spectacle?

Because, Camus argues, deterrence isn’t the purpose of state murder. The real objective is vengeance through the exercise of extreme state power. “Let us recognize it for what it is essentially: a revenge. A punishment that penalizes without forestalling is indeed called revenge. It is a quasi-arithmetical replay made by society to whoever breaks its primordial law.”

Public executions became a threat to the state, because the dreadful act tends to provoke revulsion in ordinary citizens, like Camus’ father, who see it clearly for what it is: a new form of murder “no less repulsive than the crime.” A form of murder that is performed, in theory, in the name of the citizens and for which they are complicit.

This kind of state-sanctioned killing, Camus reasoned, leads only to more murder, a vast panorama of murder. “Without the death penalty,” Camus writes, “Europe would not be infected by the corpses accumulated for the last twenty years on its soil.”

So what would Albert Camus, the great moralist of the 20th century, think about the latest innovation in administrative murder, Obama’s drone program, a kind of remote-control gallows, where the killers never see their victims, never hear their screams, smell their burning bodies, touch their mutilated flesh?

The conscience of the killer has been sterilized, the drone operator, fully alienated from the act he is committing, can walk out the door after his shift is over and calmly order an IPA at the local microbrew or play a round of golf under the desert sky. He is left with no blood on his hands, no savagery weighing on his conscience, no degrading images to stalk his dreams.

Drone strikes, Camus would argue, are not just meant to kill. They are programmed to terrorize. In this regard, whether the missile strikes its intended target or incinerates a goat-herder and his flock is incidental. In fact, the occasional killing of civilians may well be a desired outcome since collateral deaths intensify the fear. This is punishment by example, not for any particular crime or impending threat, but merely because of who you are, where you live, what you might believe. These new circuitries of death are meant to humiliate, subdue and dehumanize.

As more and more evidence of Obama’s secret killing operations in Pakistan and Yemen began to leak out, public squeamishness over the deaths, especially of civilians and targeted American citizens, began to mount. Uncomfortable questions were raised, even on the political right. To salvage his program, Obama announced that new guidelines would soon be imposed on his high-tech assassinations.

But Camus would be the first to warn us that such regulations should be viewed with grave suspicion, since they will likely only serve to legitimize and normalize state murder, by making lawless killing legal. …

4 weeks ago

New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is ‘the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.’ The administration wants to ‘narrow the field of national security reporting,’ Risen said, to ‘create a path for accepted reporting.’ Any one journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, ‘will be punished.’ … The administration’s aggressive prosecutions have created ‘a de facto Official Secrets Act,’ Risen said … Risen: Obama administration is this generation’s ‘greatest enemy of press freedom’ | Poynter.

4 weeks ago