“Who lost Libya? Indeed, who lost the entire Middle East? Those are the questions lurking behind the endless stream of headlines about ‘Benghazi-gate.’ Here’s the question we should really ask, though: How did a tragic but isolated incident at a U.S. consulate, in a place few Americans had ever heard of, get blown up into a pivotal issue in a too-close-to-call presidential contest? My short answer: the enduring power of a foreign policy myth that will not die, the decades-old idea that America has an inalienable right to ‘own’ the world and control every place in it. I mean, you can’t lose what you never had.”—Ira Chernus
“While most Americans may trust Barack Obama as an individual not to abuse the broad new legal rights he has enshrined for his office, the undeniable truth is that regardless of whether he serves another four years, he will not be president indefinitely - and the expansive powers he has claimed represent an indelible legacy which will not expire when he leaves office. Even if Mitt Romney is defeated this coming November, an outcome which by most expert accounts is reasonably likely, further years and decades down the line there is no guarantee as to what type of president will come to office and what attitude they will have towards their new powers to detain and execute citizens without reference to once-sacred American values such as habeas corpus and the overarching right to due process - all of which have been unceremoniously discarded by this administration.”—Murtaza Hussain, Clearing the path for future tyranny
While the primary target of rights abuses in recent years have been religious minority communities towards whom significant percentages of Americans feel fear and antipathy, the dragnet will inevitably expand in the long-term given changing political priorities, and is already being applied to individuals and groups today whose ethno-religious background has nothing to do with the post-9/11 “War on Terror”.
… In addition to fusion centers and mandatory sentencing laws, we also have a “Secure Communities” (S.Comm) program to profile and cross-check the immigration status of anyone—ANYONE (so clearly it must be race-neutral, right? Um, that was sarcasm) who attracts the notice of law enforcement in the course of their duties: migrant women who might be in situations of domestic violence, migrants who have information about crime in someone’s neighborhood, a brown person who’s stopped for a traffic violation. Terrifying undocumented migrants into NOT reporting to the police only facilitates the break-up of communities. The destruction of trust between neighbors. The increased sense of danger among residents. To his credit, Gov. Deval Patrick tried to resist the implementation of this policy in Massachusetts, only to be strong-armed into a mandatory enforcement by ICE commissioner Janet Napolitano, who works for…a Democratic President under whose watch a more stringent policy resulted in the deportation of 1.4 million migrants in the last 3.5 years. More—MANY—more than under the combined terms of the Bush Administration. Having to compromise with Republicans was the problem, I’m told. News flash #2: ICE deportation policy is independent of Repubican wishes. It is, however, decided in conjunction with POTUS and WH.
Upshot: Latinos and dark-skinned Muslims–especially if they appear remotely suspicious–should expect to have their residences, existence, morality questioned legally. Constantly. Daily. And white people? No worries. Just go on. Get your double skinny latte and be careful not spill it on the leather seats of your Lexus SUV on your way to work. [++]
This morning, October 29, 2012, the Supreme Court denied certiorari to an appeal by Ghassan Elashi, a defendant in the Holy Land Five cases, who was convicted of providing material support for terrorism when his non-profit Islamic charity, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, sent money to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.
Leaving aside the bogus nature of such charges, the appeal in this case was grounded on the fact that, for the first time in US history, the government’s witnesses were allowed to testify anonymously and under aliases. The petitioner, Elashi, sought to have his conviction overturned on the grounds that this violated his 6th Amendment right to confront witnesses testifying against him.
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”
It is not difficult to see the importance of the right to confront and question witnesses whose testimony could change your life forever, and this Due Process right has been a fundamental feature of our criminal justice system for, like, ever. But as with all of our rights in post-9/11 America, nothing is sacred anymore.
By declining to hear this case, the Supreme Court has effectively given license to the Department of Justice (and likely to local prosecutors) to ignore the Confrontation Clause, just as it has allowed them to ignorethe4thAmendment, 5th Amendment, and parts of the 6th Amendment. Elashi will now spend the rest of his life in a cage for the crime of being a Muslim in the US and sending money overseas, and the rest of us may have just lost yet another of our Due Process rights.
More disturbing, though, is that the increased suicides are occurring at a time when, with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, U.S. combat forces are at significantly reduced numbers and, according to the DoD data, nearly one-third of the suicides in the military occurred among those who had never seen combat duty. […]
Despite the enormous increase in expenditures for psychiatric drugs and the growing number of mental health professionals recruited to care for the troops, “mental illness” remains the leading cause of hospitalization for active-duty troops. With so many resources being thrown at this life or death issue, both human and financial, why isn’t anyone getting better? More to the point, why are the troops taking their lives at record levels?
Dr. Bart Billings, Ph.D., a retired Army Colonel and former military psychologist and founder and director of the military-wide Human Assistance Rapid Response Team (HARRT) program, has no doubt that the cause of the suicides among the troops is the direct result of the use of psychiatric drugs.
“I’m 100 percent convinced,” says Dr. Billings, “I’ve seen it and talked to hundreds of these guys. These medications really interfere with the brain’s ability to normalize itself and adjust. It’s hard to make a choice on how to recover if your brain isn’t operating the way it should be.”
“It’s kind of like working with someone who is drunk,” explains Dr. Billings, “you’re not going to get very far. It would be like me spinning you around fifty times and then asking you to walk a straight line. It’s not going to happen. These medications are a chemical lobotomy.” […]
More astounding, though, is that the FDA’s approved Medication Guide for Seroquel lists “Risk of Suicidal Thoughts or Actions,” as one of Seroquel’s “serious side effects.” Anyone with four stars on the old epaulette might want to add this piece of information to the “good clue” column.
And, while suicidal thoughts and actions are at the top of the list of risks associated with Seroquel, there are others just as frightening, including, but not limited to: hallucinations, worsening mental or mood changes (e.g., aggressiveness, agitation, anxiety, depression, exaggerated feeling of well-being, hostility, irritability and panic attacks). […]
The atypical antipsychotic drugs, such as Seroquel (which has been implicated in a number of deaths of combat veterans and of late is being referred to as “Serokill”) and Risperdal, showed the most dramatic increase – a jump of more than 200 percent – with annual spending quadrupling between 2001 to 2011 from $4 million to $16 million.
It’s hardly a secret that these powerful mind-altering drugs cause the very symptoms that they are reported to treat, as the psychiatric drugs now being prescribed to soldiers long have been scrutinized for their possible serious adverse reactions and has been public record for nearly a decade.
“[T]he FBI, the CIA, the NYPD, the US DOJ have no problems doing the fallacious—the unthinkable: ascribing the most racist, most heinous motives to young men by virtue of their race, religion, or ethnic backgrounds (Black, Brown, Muslim, Bangladeshi, Pakistani—the list is endless)—through the flimsiest associations. In large part, this is because the U.S. has legitimated this way of thinking by building it into the legalized, pre-emptive, hunt for terrorists. Into legal bills such as the USA Patriot Act. NSEERS. The Military Commissions Act. FISA. H.R. 347. NDAA. No-Fly lists. TSA search policies. NYPD Surveillance Operations. All of these, while ostensibly having a different function–legalize, proceduralize, and reiterate guilt by association: If you look like a terrorist—how often have we heard that?–then there is reason to search you. Safe state. Indeed.”—Falguni Sheth
On the latest attempt to install a U.S. friendly post-Assad regime in Syria:
As part of its policy of regime change in Syria, the United States has been working on putting together a body of Syrian opposition leaders to replace the defunct Syrian National Council, and the new group will meet next week in Qatar.
“The State Department has been heavily involved in crafting the new council as part of its effort oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and build a more viable and unified opposition,” The Cable reports. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with some of these Syrian activists in September when they were quietly flown in to New York, an event that went unpublished in the press until now.
“Dozens of Syrian leaders will meet in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Nov. 3 and hope to announce the new council as the legitimate representative of all the major Syrian opposition factions on Nov. 7, one day after the U.S. presidential election,” The Cable adds.
The council is supposed to serve as a a viable interim government in the event that the Assad regime falls. But the technocrats in Washington putting this group together have very little local knowledge of the internal dynamics in Syria, and many opposition activists not included in the Doha meeting expect the effort to be another failed attempt to unify the opposition.
“Right now, the opposition groups are very vague and there’s no agreement on who’s representing who and what and where,” one opposition activist told The Cable. “Right now there is a lot of risk that this will be another failed approach that will not achieve anything.” [++]
In the coming period we will again be facing a familiar enemy that many of you have and continue to battle. International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the IMF have long had a hand in plundering the Egyptian economy and dispossessing the Egyptian people. We aim to resist these institutions and their depredations, but we know that this struggle is a global one and so we address this letter to all those working in solidarity against these bankers and cronies.
Since the revolution these IFIs have once again been eyeing the country, hoping to consolidate and expand their control. Citing “economic instability,” they want to force their program onto Egypt - an economic fix that would yet again widen the gap between rich and poor and attack the livelihoods of millions. What they call “instability” is nothing less than the grassroots uprising that opposed the status quo of political and economic hegemony of Egyptian rule.
The real problem is that we have not yet removed the IFI-trained Egyptian economists who continue to run our ministries and banks, while Egypt’s new leadership maintains a neoliberal logic of governance. The Muslim Brotherhood, the generals, the bureaucrats, and the bankers have the same intentions in mind: continued exploitation, theft and commercialization of the country’s natural and human resources. [continue]
“I’m here to connect the dots between super storm Sandy and the record heat, drought, and fire we’ve seen this year – and this Tar Sands pipeline, which will make all of these problems much worse. And I’m here to connect the dots between climate devastation and pipeline politicians – both Obama and Romney – who are competing, as we saw in the debates, for the role of Puppet In Chief for the fossil fuel industry. Both deserve that title. Obama’s record of ‘drill baby drill’ has gone beyond the harm done by George Bush. Mitt Romney promises more of the same.”—
[…] The Republican Party’s approach to convincing Obama to commit the Great Betrayal cleverly exploits three human weaknesses. First, Obama wants to be considered a “centrist.” Second, Obama yearns to be considered “bipartisan.” These first two weaknesses are forms of vanity. The siren song is “do this and you will become known as the President who acted as a statesman to cut across Party and ideological divides and make the hard choices essential to allowing America to continue to be a great nation – while ‘saving’ the safety net.”
The third weakness that the Republicans seek to exploit is fear – and the death of alternatives. The mantra of European austerity proponents is “there is no alternative.” The only choice is between austerity and collapse, and that means there is no real choice. The Republican strategy is to create a series of “moral panics.” As the name implies, this involves the creation of a special form of panic falsely premised on immorality. (Think: “Reefer Madness” or Professor Hill causing River City, Iowans to believe that the arrival of pool hall demonstrated the imminent moral collapse of their children.) The Great Betrayal can only occur if Obama succumbs to mindless (and innumerate) panic.
The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party has to lead the effort to save America from the Great Betrayal. It is essential to focus on the self-destructive nature of austerity. The irony is that a proponent of austerity has just handed us a coup. Becky Quick, co-host of one of CNBC’s business entertainment program, recently wrote a column intended to discredit Paul Krugman. Quick solicited a written statement from former President Bill Clinton to use in her attack on Krugman (who had criticized Quick and her co-host’s stream of “zombie facts” when he appeared on their program). Quick reveled in her success in obtaining ammunition from Clinton to attack Krugman, asserting that it constituted a “damning retort to Krugman” and proved the need to adopt austerity. In fact, Clinton’s statement voiced his agreement with Krugman:
[I]t’s important not to impose austerity now before a growth trend is clearly established, because as the austerity policies in the eurozone and the U.S. show, that will slow the economy, cut jobs, and increase deficits….
Clinton is a leader within the Rubin-wing of the Democratic Party that has been seeking to create the moral panic, but even he admits that “austerity now” “will slow the economy, cut jobs, and increase deficits.” The Great Betrayal of the safety net will begin if Obama is able to deliver the “grand bargain” imposing austerity that would “slow the economy, cut jobs, and increase deficits” and unravel the safety nets – the four horsemen of the economic apocalypse.
Obama is telling the media that the Great Betrayal is his first, and overarching, priority should he be re-elected. We are forewarned and we must act now to make clear that we will block the Great Betrayal and crush at the polls any member of Congress who supports it.
Do not concede the phrase “grand bargain” to the proponents of the betrayal. We should heed Camus’ warning that it is essential to call a plague by its real name if one is to resist it – and it is essential to resist the pestilence. “[W]hen you see the suffering and pain that it brings, you have to be mad, blind or a coward to resign yourself to the plague.” We must refuse to resign ourselves to being betrayed by Democratic leaders. Our actions must make it clear that we are not mad, blind, or cowards. We refuse to fall for their faux moral panics. It is our leaders who are all too often mad, blind, and cowards.
“I talked informally with a negotiator from New Zealand about balancing investor interests with the public interest. We share our approval of fundamental labor standards in America and New Zealand. But he looked at me and declared, ‘No country in the world would let the International Labor Organization tell them what their labor laws should be, would they?’ He said it so forcefully, that I immediately imagined a nest of unaccountable, faceless bureaucrats, with dubious backgrounds, writing minimum wage laws for Idaho. God no! What country would forfeit its sovereignty like that! My heart sank. Then he stopped for a moment, lowered his eyes, and said, ‘But, …. that’s exactly what we’re doing right now, for investor interests, aren’t we?’ Yes. That is exactly what he and the other negotiators were doing. They were giving authority to unaccountable tribunals to give investors the upper hand over public interest.”—We Don’t Know, Exactly, What the Trans-Pacific Partnership Is, But I’m Against It
This control is wielded through rules that state agencies have to make in order to implement laws. Under Act 21, the Governor approves the scope of proposed rules and also has the power to void or approve of the final rules. In a hearing of the Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules last year, Walker’s own Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, had this to say about the new process: “We can pass as many laws as we want, but if we can’t enforce them then they’re meaningless.”
The case against Act 21 was brought by leaders of state and local teachers’ unions against Walker, Secretary of the Department of Administration Mike Huebsch, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers last year. They argued that since the superintendent is an elected constitutional officer of the state, neither the Governor nor the DOA Secretary has the power to determine or influence rules in the Department of Public Instruction.
Superintendent Evers, technically a defendant in the case, filed a brief in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment earlier this year.
Judge Smith agreed with the plaintiffs, finding the law “unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“In an economically distressed pocket of southwest Detroit known by its ZIP code — 48217 — the weekend of September 7-9 was one of the worst, pollution-wise, residents like Theresa Shaw could remember. ‘I started smelling it on Thursday,’ said Shaw, who immediately suspected the Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery a half-mile from her house. ‘I kept the windows closed because I couldn’t breathe. On Friday, I thought, “What the heck are they doing?” My eyes were just burning, my throat was hurting, my stomach was hurting. I was having migraine headaches. The smell, it was like this burning tar, with that benzene and that sulfur. I wanted to scream.’”—
Less than two weeks after attracting international derision by arresting four young men for “insulting” the king on Twitter, the government of Bahrain is digging itself into another hole – this time by imposing a blanket ban on demonstrations.
"Many Bahrainis are fed up with the violence and lawbreaking that occurs under the heading of ‘protest’ or ‘rally’. Therefore, the government will take legal action to stop all unauthorised rallies until general peace and order returns. This is aimed at restoring national unity, repairing the social fabric and fighting extremism …
"[Whoever] calls for an illegal rally or gathering, be it an individual or an organisation, will be held accountable for the criminal acts of violence and lawbreaking that occur at the event."
This also follows a mini-lecture from Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) at the weekend in which it described freedom of expression as a “catch-phrase” used by activists who don’t understand what they are talking about.
The IAA was responding to an article by Brian Dooley of Human Rights First which began:
"The Bahraini government seems to understand freedom of expression a bit like Lance Armstrong understands clean cycling. Like Lance, it prefers to play by its own rules and attack critics rather than accept normal standards.”
Whether the ban on demonstrations will actually change much on the streets of Bahrain remains to be seen, since most protests in the kingdom are already illegal. […]
[News] of the ban on demonstrations coincided with the Guardian’s revelation that Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, is working with Bahraini government and opposition figures to train them in “negotiation and conflict resolution techniques”.
The Guardian says Powell, who now runs an NGO called InterMediate, “was asked to undertake the work when Bahrain approached the UK Foreign Office for help with implementing the recommendations of an independent report on the Gulf state’s unrest last year”.
The recruitment of Mr Powell looks like – and most probably is – a charade. The cause of Bahrain’s problems is not a lack of “conflict resolution techniques” but a lack of will to sort them out. That goes to the very top. Progress will come either when the king decides to let it happen or is removed from his throne. In the meantime, there is no real prospect of reform apart from some tinkering around the edges. [continue]
The New York Times has revealed a top Obama campaign strategist has played a major role in advising corporations lobbying the federal government on polices and regulations. Anita Dunn has emerged as one of President Obama’s top advisers while still running the consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker. SKDK’s client list includes TransCanada, the Canadian company seeking Obama’s approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline; as well as General Electric, AT&T, Time Warner, and the military contractor Pratt & Whitney. The firm also represents a number of business coalitions, including one seeking to reduce tax rates on around $1 trillion in offshore profits. An SKDK partner was reportedly able to learn of the White House’s opposition to the tax proposal in a private conversation with a top adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Despite working for top corporations lobbying the government, Dunn’s role has escaped scrutiny under ethics rules that subject consultants to less oversight than lobbyists.
It’s Halloween. And the political climate is terrifying. Democrats try to assuage their increasing anxieties over Matt Stoller’s, David Sirota’s, and even Lawrence O’Donnell’s challenge (brief as it ever was) to the Democratic voting hegemony. It’s hard to know how many liberals have noticed Margaret Kimberley’s, Bruce Dixon’s or Glen Ford’s numerous challenges. And I keep hearing the term “safe state” bandied about. Apparently, the term “safe” is a code for “blue”…or “most people are voting for Democrats, so the rest of you can do whatever you want.”
News flash: Apparently, the term “safe” is not meant to be ironic.
The “safe” state in which liberals have taken refuge induces another soul-searching moment for me. What does it mean to wake up and feel that one is in a safe state?
I don’t mean “my house has 17 locks and multiple metal gates” safe. Or “Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre are only horror movies” safe. I mean “Those who are anxious to vote for a Democrat and his party who are committed to an extensive top-secret kill list of countless names of people deemedthreatening without public evidence,” safe. What–who–is safe in a state—any state—that has already fallen in line with Fusion Centers—those regional data-gathering centers that record just about everything and anything that is traceable about you? These are the same data warehouses that have enabled the current Administration to decide whose disposition is a threat to the state. That would be the same “disposition matrix” that the Administration is so excited to use in its never-ending war on random brown people that they don’t like, especially since it justifies the use of pre-emptive policing, decreasing privacy safeguards that used to require warrants, subpoenas and evidence before persons and possessions were spied on, surveilled, searched. Of course, decreasing privacy safeguards for you and me is inversely correlated with increasing privacy and immunity for the state, to protect it from having to share its evidence—with the defense, with the courts, or the public. Not that any of that influenced last week’s findings by a Senate Investigative committee, despite its conclusion that Fusion Centers were an enormous waste of money. Apparently, the upending of privacy was not so much an issue; it was fairly low on the list of objections to the program.
Many of the same folks who rush to vote for Democrats at the national level, and accuse various folks of “racism” and white privilege are conspicuously indifferent about the fact that our liberal Massachusetts Democratic governor Deval Patrick just signed into law a MANDATORY MINIMUM Sentencing law—18 (EIGHTEEN) years after Big Dem Bill Clinton signed it into law. 18 years later, with countless stories about the increasing harassment of many black men and women for “felony” convictions for crimes like having stolen a slice of pizza, and after an increasing drug war–the good people of my “safe” state have barely noticed. As early as 2001–11 years ago–the ACLU issued a statement showing the horrific implications of mandatory sentencing:
“Restrictive sentencing guidelines and statutory mandatory minimum sentences have taken away the discretion of judges to tailor sentences to fit the individual circumstances of particular crimes and offenders. Thus the traditional requirement mandated by the Eighth Amendment that punishment maintain some proportion to the crime committed has been abandoned in the name of the ‘war on drugs.’
The result is the sentencing of many non-violent drug offenders to unjustly harsh prison terms where they crowd prisons already filled above capacity….Adding to this problem is the fact that mandatory minimums, designed with the noble intention of reducing the racial inequalities too often resulting from judicial sentencing discretion, in practice simply shifts discretion from the judge to the prosecutor. Prosecutors retain the power to plea bargain by offering defendants plea agreements that avoid the mandatory penalty. Studies have shown that this discretion results in a disparity in sentencing outcomes based largely on race and quality of defense attorney….
These harsher sentencing guidelines, and the billions of dollars poured into enforcement efforts, the incarceration of offenders, and the building of new prisons each year, have failed to curb drug use, which is still on the rise.”
Eight years later–in 2009, the American Bar Association objected to mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent offenders and pointed to some of the severe ramifications: length of sentences has increased three-fold. The US incarceration rate is 5 to 8 times higher than Europe. 25% of the world’s population was incarcerated in US prisons (this number most likely excludes prisoners in “detention centers” like immigrants and “suspected terrorists,” who haven’t been charged with any crimes). As well, people of color were disproportionately targeted under mandatory sentencing for drug laws—noting that crack was the only drug that induces it.
And yet, the outcry against the MA legislature’s passing of this bill this year—in 2012– was muted. Mostly silence even after our Democratic MA governor signed it. And yet, we’re worried that racism and misogyny only occurs under Republicans? What about the increasing state-led targeting of people of color in one of the most “liberal” states of the Union? Feeling safe? I’m betting they aren’t. [read the rest]
Not surprised. It also reminds me of how the young Pakistani Danish Qasim and his colleagues created an eye-opening short film on how US drones affect civilians in Pakistan. He was denied visa to enter USA twice. The short film entitled “The Other Side,” which “revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan” is a direct and fearless condemnation of US drone strikes.
The litigation seeks remedies for violations of the Fourth, Fifth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The complaint alleges that the defendants help to operate a school-to-prison pipeline in which the rights of children in Meridian are repeatedly and routinely violated. As a result, children in Meridian have been systematically incarcerated for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and are punished disproportionately without due process of law. The students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities. The practices that regularly violate the rights of children in Meridian include:
Children are handcuffed and arrested in school and incarcerated for days at a time without a probable cause hearing, regardless of the severity – or lack thereof – of the alleged offense or probation violation.
Children who are incarcerated prior to adjudication in the Lauderdale County system regularly wait more than 48 hours for a probable cause hearing, in violation of federal constitutional requirements.
Children make admissions to formal charges without being advised of their Miranda rights and without making an informed waiver of those rights.
Lauderdale County does not consistently afford children meaningful representation by an attorney during the juvenile justice process, including in preparation for and during detention, adjudication and disposition hearings.
“ The department is bringing this lawsuit to ensure that all children are treated fairly and receive the fullest protection of the law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “ It is in all of our best interests to ensure that children are not incarcerated for alleged minor infractions, and that police and courts meet their obligations to uphold children’s constitutional rights.”
This investigation was conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section, working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi. The Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section also has a long-standing school desegregation case against the Meridian Public School District. The district is currently working cooperatively with the department to resolve issues in that case.
How do you watch presidential debates in the US, as an Arab or as an American who cares about Palestinians? Not an easy task for sure. It has become ritualistic and formulaic. Basically, candidates sit (or stand) and compete in the art of catering to the Israeli lobby. It knows no bounds and it recognizes no limits of logic or reason. It is an exercise in which informed men and women have to surrender their brains at the door. It is a ritual that we have to endure once every four years, if you don’t count the routine Senate races.
Obama came to the debate prepared to defend his record on Israel. He extended additional aid to Israel as soon as Romney landed there for the campaign stop that all presidential candidates have to undertake. He also ordered the largest ever joint military exercise between Israel and the US. Every US president has to prove that he is far more pro-Israel than his predecessor, and all are (probably with the exception of George H.W. Bush). Obama and Romney invoked the name of Israel and they barely mentioned the names of traditional US allies like France and UK. Israel is now the foreign policy of the US in an election year. A writer in Le Monde said what no US journalist could say: that the invocation of Israel and China in the presidential campaign is about domestic policy and not foreign policy, that Israel stands for Florida while China stands for Ohio.
VIJAY PRASHAD: … Human Rights Watch has been producing a series of reports going back and evaluating the war in Libya. The most recent report came out three days before the one-year anniversary of the death of Muammar Gaddafi. It’s called Death of a Dictator. And it’s a very thorough report.
It demonstrates, basically, that the various militias, particularly the militias from the town of Misrata, captured Mr. Gaddafi after a NATO air strike disabled his convoy. He and about 200 people were trying to flee from the town of Sirte when they felt they were going to be overrun by the rebels, so a NATO air strike disabled the convoy. Mr. Gaddafi and at least 66 or 70 people were captured alive.
This is a very important thing that Human Rights Watch has identified, and I think quite authoritatively shown, that these people were captured alive. Then it turns out, as far as Human Rights Watch’s investigation is concerned, that Mr. Gaddafi, his son who was in charge of the defense of Sirte, various other regime leaders, and 66 other people were killed in custody. The 66 were killed in a hotel. Many of them had plastic hand-ties, which demonstrates that they had been, you know, captured and then shot in the head.
This is a serious, of course, violation of all custom and legal frameworks of how warfare should be conducted. You know, once you’ve captured somebody on the battlefield, once they have surrendered, it is generally treated as both legally inappropriate but also customarily the wrong thing to do, to kill your prisoners.
So this is a very serious report, and Human Rights Watch asked the Libyan government to act upon its findings.
The problem is that in May of this year, the Libyan government passed Law 38, which gave, basically, blanket amnesty to the rebels for their actions during the war, which means the Libyan government has no appetite to conduct further investigation and to start criminal proceedings against the people who, you know, are basically—have been, you know, alleged to have committed a war crime.
Now, why this is important is that the Libyan government, by not pursuing questions of justice for all people in Libya, have, I think, contributed to an atmosphere of general lawlessness. This was identified by the U.S. State Department in a cable from August of this year, before the big attack on the Benghazi consulate, where the U.S. embassy staff wrote in their cable to Washington that there are a series of lawless actions; many of them have been targeting Western targets. They say there is no conspiracy, but these are certainly organized actions. You know.
So when the attack came on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the United States has made clear they want to find out who has done it. The problem is, because there’s been such a casual attitude against, you know, creating institutions of justice, the fact that there has been no attempt to investigate war crimes over the last year or so has meant that there have been no real standards set for the various militias, the various armed groups, and they don’t seem prepared at all to submit to any kind of questioning or investigation. In fact, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia was in a hotel in Benghazi talking to various journalists, including The New York Times, and he quite cavalierly said, look, I wasn’t involved, this was just an accidental thing, etc.—total lack of seriousness about actions such as the killing of, you know, on the one side, Mr. Gaddafi, the other side, the ambassador Chris Stevens.
You know, as we talk right now, the Misratan rebels have surrounded the town of Bani Walid and are conducting an offensive against this town, threatening the civilians in this town. But this is not an action of an out-of-control militia, because they are following, you know, essentially, the Libyan government’s position. The Libyan government passed a resolution, Resolution 7, which authorized the militias to go in and subdue or pacify this town of 100,000 people, the town of Bani Walid.
There are very serious questions that remain open of justice, procedure, human rights violations. And, of course, this is a long-standing issue which, you know, is belittling or maybe highlighting the irony that a war that began on the grounds of protecting civilians, a war that began on the grounds of human rights, has now come to the point where human rights violations are being allowed by the United States government, which refused to let the Russians put forward a proposal in the UN Security Council cautioning about this action in Bani Walid. You know, the Libyan war was supposed to be a major human rights intervention. It has turned out to be a human rights disaster.
“[The] question of what instigated the uprising is less complex, and merits a detailed treatment once more information is available, though the facts are not too controversial. Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian experiences just one to two months prior, the narrative of the young kids who called for the regime’s fall on the walls of their school in Der`a constituted the first flame that ignited the heap of hay accumulating for decades. Surely, the local strongmen’s brutal response guaranteed the wider mobilization there at first, but it was bound to happen after a few such dissenting attempts. The same incident, if occurred one year prior, would have fizzled out within days, if not less. However, the regional domino effect and the continuing collective focus on the broader context gave that incident prominence while changing the calculus of individuals vis-à-vis the risk and potential success of taking to the streets en mass, especially in the more rural areas and small towns. The rest is bloody history.”—Bassam Haddad, As Syria Free-Falls … A Return to the Basics: Some Structural Causes (Part 2)
It was 5 a.m. and my husband and I were up with our 3-week-old son. Looking out at the ocean, we spotted two towering, black dorsal fins: orcas, or killer whales. Then two more. We had never seen an orca on the coast, and never heard of their coming so close to shore. In our sleep-deprived state, it felt like a miracle, as if the baby had wakened us to make sure we didn’t miss this rare visit.
The possibility that the sighting may have resulted from something less serendipitous did not occur to me until two weeks ago, when I read reports of a bizarre ocean experiment off the islands of Haida Gwaii, several hundred miles from where we spotted the orcas swimming.
There, an American entrepreneur named Russ George dumped 120 tons of iron dust off the hull of a rented fishing boat; the plan was to create an algae bloom that would sequester carbon and thereby combat climate change.
Mr. George is one of a growing number of would-be geoengineers who advocate high-risk, large-scale technical interventions that would fundamentally change the oceans and skies in order to reduce the effects of global warming. In addition to Mr. George’s scheme to fertilize the ocean with iron, other geoengineering strategies under consideration include pumping sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere to imitate the cooling effects of a major volcanic eruption and “brightening” clouds so they reflect more of the sun’s rays back to space.
The risks are huge. Ocean fertilization could trigger dead zones and toxic tides. And multiple simulations have predicted that mimicking the effects of a volcano would interfere with monsoons in Asia and Africa, potentially threatening water and food security for billions of people. [continue]
“Career day” at Tularosa New Mexico Intermediate School went terribly wrong after a 10-year-old boy says a police officer used his Taser gun to show him what cops do to people who don’t follow orders.
Officer Chris Webb of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety is being sued in court after allegedly using his Taser-brand stun gun on a school playground to send 50,000 volts of electricity into a young boy’s body, forcing the child to blackout.
According to the complaint filed on behalf of the child, “Defendant Webb asked the boy, R.D., in a group of boys, who would like to clean his patrol unit,” when the officer came to the school earlier this year. “A number of boys said that they would. R.D., joking, said that he did not want to clean the patrol unit.”
Defendant Webb, the complaint suggests, responded by pointing his Taser at R.D. and saying, ‘Let me show you what happens to people who do not listen to the police.’” The officer then allegedly fired two barbs from the device at the child’s chest, penetrating his shirt.
… In court the government argued that the indefinite detention clause is simply a “reaffirmation” of the Authorization Use Of Military Force (AUMF), which gives the president authority “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those … [who] aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such organizations or persons.” In the NDAA lawsuit, the government argued that the NDAA §1021 is simply an “affirmation” or “reaffirmation” of the AUMF.
But the NDAA adds language to the AUMF when it says “The President also has the authority to detain persons who were part of or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act, or has directly supported hostilities, in the aid of such enemy forces.”
Tangerine Bolen, an activist and plaintiff on the NDAA lawsuit, told us that the government’s reaction raised “significant red flags” that the indefinite detention clause is “a retroactive legislative fix …[that] allows them to continue to arbitrarily apply indefinite detention to whomever they wish, whenever they wish, for whatever reasons they wish without being held accountable.”
Thus a victory for the plaintiffs in the NDAA lawsuit would strike down unjustified indefinite detention powers that the government has been claiming for years.
“Our lawsuit is the lock on Pandora’s box,” Bolen said. “And Pandora’s box is the overly broad application of the AUMF… [Blocking NDAA §1021] is to suddenly and sharply delimit powers upon which President Obama has come to rely wrongfully. He never should’ve had these powers. Bush never should’ve had these powers.”
The Post notes that critics of Obama’s secret drone war argue that its legal justifications have become much weaker as “the drone campaign has expanded far beyond the core group of al-Qaeda operatives … [and] officials see an array of emerging threats beyond Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia — the three countries where almost all U.S. drone strikes have occurred.”
Bolen argues that the “irreparable harm” is that the permanent injunction would possibly be “exposing illegal activities for the last decade. It could have such a set of ripple consequences: we could see people in the Bush administration, Obama administration and security agencies be investigated for how they have applied the AUMF. Obama could finally be forced to release all the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who have been cleared for years. It’s an incredible headache for him.” [++]
Police are allowed in some circumstances to install hidden surveillance cameras on private property without obtaining a search warrant, a federal judge said yesterday.
CNET has learned that U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that it was reasonable for Drug Enforcement Administration agents to enter rural property without permission — and without a warrant — to install multiple “covert digital surveillance cameras” in hopes of uncovering evidence that 30 to 40 marijuana plans were being grown.
This is the latest case to highlight how advances in technology are causing the legal system to rethink how Americans’ privacy rights are protected by law. In January, the Supreme Court rejected warrantless GPS tracking after previously rejecting warrantless thermal imaging, but it has not yet ruled on warrantless cell phone tracking or warrantless use of surveillance cameras placed on private property without permission.
Yesterday Griesbach adopted a recommendation by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Callahan dated October 9. That recommendation said that the DEA’s warrantless surveillance did not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and requires that warrants describe the place that’s being searched.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the use of technology as a substitute for ordinary police surveillance,” Callahan wrote.
It’s a revolting spectacle: the two presidential candidates engaged in a frantic and demeaning scramble for money. By 6 November, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will each have raised more than $1bn. Other groups have already spent a further billion. Every election costs more than the one before; every election, as a result, drags the United States deeper into cronyism and corruption. Whichever candidate takes the most votes, it’s the money that wins.
Is it conceivable, for instance, that Romney, whose top five donors are all Wall Street banks, would put the financial sector back in its cage? Or that Obama, who has received $700,000 from both Microsoft and Google, would challenge their monopolistic powers? Or, in the Senate, that the leading climate change denier James Inhofe, whose biggest donors are fossil fuel companies, could change his views, even when confronted by an overwhelming weight of evidence? The US feeding frenzy shows how the safeguards and structures of a nominal democracy can remain in place while the system they define mutates into plutocracy.
Despite perpetual attempts to reform it, US campaign finance is now more corrupt and corrupting than it has been for decades. It is hard to see how it can be redeemed. If the corporate cronies and billionaires’ bootlickers who currently hold office were to vote to change the system, they’d commit political suicide. What else, apart from the money they spend, would recommend them to the American people?
“Everything we feared about communism - that we would lose our houses and savings and be forced to labor eternally for meager wages with no voice in the system - has come true under capitalism.”—Jeff Sparrow (via anticapitalist)
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed regional power Algeria on Monday to support an Africa-led military intervention in northern Mali, a senior U.S. official said.
Clinton’s one-day visit comes amid mounting international pressure on Algeria over the crisis in Mali, where a March military coup was followed by a revolt that has seen Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants, some linked to al Qaeda, seize control of the northern two-thirds of the country.
…Africa’s biggest country, and a top oil and gas exporter, Algeria shares a 2,000-km (1,250-mile) border with Mali and sees itself as the major regional power, wary of any outside interference.
It fears military action in Mali could push al Qaeda militants back into southern Algeria as well as triggering a refugee and political crisis, especially among displaced Malian Tuaregs heading north to join tribes in Algeria.
Algeria repeatedly has advocated a diplomatic solution to the Mali crisis, and ruled out intervention itself.
Although Algiers would not be able to veto an intervention operation by other countries, it would be diplomatically risky for African states backed by Western powers to intervene in Mali without its consent, especially as the conflict could drag on for many months.
There is no indication, anywhere, that the US and Europeans considered for even a second that Algeria might be right.
I can smell the mission creep on this one, just as it clung like stink on shit to Libya and still clings to any of the many dumb “plans” for an intervention in Syria. It’ll start with US and European advisors, end with air support and probably French troops on the ground.
After following this program closely for the past half-dozen years, I have stopped being surprised by how far and how quickly the United States has moved from the international norm against assassinations or “extrajudicial killings.”
… underscores the cementing of the mindset and apparent group-think among national security policymakers that the routine and indefinite killing of suspected terrorists and nearby military-age males is ethical, moral, legal, and effective (for now).
But the “for now” can soon be dropped because of
… the increasing institutionalization—“codifying and streamlining the process” as Miller describes it—of executive branch power to use lethal force without any meaningful checks and balances.
In fact, it’s a significant departure recent history. As Zenko reminds us, in 1975, a
… U.S. Senate Select Committee investigation, led by Senator Frank Church … implicated the United States in assassination plots against foreign leaders—including at least eight separate plans to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro [followed by] President Ford’s Executive Order 11905: “No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”
… opposition to assassination was widely held and endured throughout the Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations through 1999 for the following reasons.
Assassinations ran counter to well-established international norms, and were prohibited under both treaty and customary international law. … weakening the international norm against assassinations could result in retaliatory killings of American leaders, who are more vulnerable as a consequence of living in a relatively open society. [Also] the targeted killing of suspected terrorists or political leaders was generally considered an ineffective foreign policy tool. An assassination attempt that failed could be counterproductive, in that it would create more legal and diplomatic problems than it was worth. An attempt that succeeded, meanwhile, would likely do little to diminish the long-term threat from an enemy state or group.
“Finally,” he writes, “the secretive and treacherous aspect of targeted killings was considered antithetical to the moral and ethical precepts of the United States.”
Also, Zenko writes, it is
… notable that Miller does not find officials worried about the legality, congressional oversight, transparency, or precedent setting for future state and nonstate powers wielding armed drones.
In other words, their shortsightedness is disturbing.
While storms and hurricanes are normal, Frankenstorms are not. Global climate change caused by human dumping of carbon dioxide into the air causes severe weather. We can only hope to slow down the processes whereby more and more extreme weather is produced by more and more carbon dioxide. In the meantime, we have to go green as quickly as posible. Here are some good news stories in that regard:
Maryland’s largest solar power plant will produce 20 megawatts of electricity by the end of this year, bringing Maryland’s green-energy total to 100 megawatts. It had been almost nothing in 2006. Maryland has a plan to generate 20% of its energy from renewables by 2020, which is way too timid. If we are going to avoid the worst effects of climate change and the severe whether it causes, our goals have to be more ambitious.
A new wind energy farm in Nebraska is set to generate enough electricity to power 25,000 homes. The Midwest in the US is especially suited to wind power generation.
“A fire that broke out in Queens around 11 p.m. during the pounding rains and rising floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy ultimately destroyed 50 homes as nearly 200 fire fighters waded through submerged streets to rescue trapped New Yorkers. Video from the scene shows first responders in water up to their shins as homes burned all around them. Firefighters who spoke to The Associated Press said they ultimately used a small boat to ferry 25 people away from burning buildings in the borough’s Breezy Point beachfront neighborhood. The surreal scene is just one of many experienced by New Yorkers last night and Americans all along the eastern seaboard, amid one of the largest storms in history.”—Massive fire destroys 50 homes in submerged Queens neighborhood
It was just two weeks ago that the two legacy party candidates were arguing about who loves coal and oil and natural gas more in the town hall “debate”. Nor was there any discussion of climate change in any of the debates (except the 3rd party debates).
In the wake of our latest jolt from mother nature, I submit that in a rational, well-informed and engaged society (or one where science and public opinion had any effect on policy) both of these men would be disqualified from serious consideration for leadership.