“According to the most recent SIGIR report, the Department of State has 1,235 U.S. government civilian employees and 13,772 contractors (5,737 of whom were providing security services) on the payroll in Iraq.”—Peter Van Buren
In the nine years that [Bill] Stringer has been the top [Bureau of Land Management] official in Vernal, [Utah], the field office has approved an average of 555 new oil and gas wells a year, nearly three times the number in the previous decade. Agency records show that his office, where employees often shuttle between business and government, rarely issues drilling-related fines for environmental or safety violations and has pushed to ease rules about well sites near sensitive wildlife habitats.
The agency in Utah also sided with business executives to kill a proposed agency study of the effect of thousands of oil and gas wells on area air quality. Mr. Stringer then helped push for an industry-controlled study instead, documents show, despite protests from Environmental Protection Agency officials.
“Achieved our goal of diverting B.L.M.,” industry lobbyists wrote, praising Mr. Stringer. The study, released in 2009, turned out to be way off the mark, predicting no “unacceptable effects on human health.” By early 2010, air monitors near Vernal registered ozone levels among the worst in the United States, rivaling those of Los Angeles.
Local officials who view drilling as an economic boon frequently turn to Mr. Stringer as an ally when they run into roadblocks from Washington.
“Bill tries to find reasonable approaches to solve issues we encounter,” said Mike McKee, a Uintah County commissioner. “And that, to me, means Bill is a great guy.”
In recent months, the Obama administration has approved several long-delayed drilling projects near Vernal, including one that has brought threats of lawsuits from environmentalists and unusual praise from the industry. In an election year, with jobs a crucial issue and increasing energy independence a campaign talking point, President Obama and top officials are playing down their efforts to rein in the industry, instead sounding themes similar to Mr. Stringer’s about approving more projects and expediting procedures.
“If you hear anybody on TV saying that somehow we’re somehow against drilling for oil, then you’ll know that they either don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re not telling you the truth,” Mr. Obama said in March, touring leased federal land in New Mexico. “We’re drilling all over the place.”
In a profile piece in the New York Times on Monday, interviews with military operators of US drones operating in the skies over Afghanistan and Pakistan reveal a class of pilots who remotely control the targeted killings of human beings thousands of miles away.
“I see mothers with children, I see fathers with children, I see fathers with mothers, I see kids playing soccer,” says Colonel Brenton, one of the pilots profiled who works out of a dark control room in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York.
But, when it comes to engaging the target and after stipulating this means that the children and mothers away from the fire zone — for example, “out at the market” — he says: “I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy. I have a duty, and I execute the duty.”
“[No operators] acknowledged the kind of personal feelings for Afghans that would keep them awake at night after seeing the bloodshed left by missiles and bombs.”
Citing a study conducted by the US military last year investigating the stresses on drone pilots, the Times reports that “of a dozen pilots, sensor operators and supporting intelligence analysts recently interviewed from three American military bases, none acknowledged the kind of personal feelings for Afghans that would keep them awake at night after seeing the bloodshed left by missiles and bombs.”
But, it said, “all spoke of a certain intimacy with Afghan family life that traditional pilots never see from 20,000 feet, and that even ground troops seldom experience.”
The profile, which recognizes the expansive nature of the US drone program, sharpens the reality that along with the proliferation of pilotless aerial warfare, the US military is training more and more remotely-located pilots it can ask to target “militants” by day and return safely home to their familes at night.
As is clear, the opposite is likely true of their Afghan counterparts, who — after reading reports like this — may only find fear, if not some sense of solace, when their children and families leave for “the market.”
U.S. auditors have concluded that more than $200 million was wasted by the State Department on a training program for Iraqi police that Baghdad says is neither needed nor wanted.
The Police Development Program— which was drawn up to be the single largest State Department program in the world — was envisioned as a five-year, multibillion-dollar push to train security forces after the U.S. military left last December. A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), released Monday, found that the American Embassy in Baghdad never got a written commitment from Iraq to participate. Now, facing what the report called Baghdad’s “disinterest” in the project, the embassy is gutting what was supposed to be the centerpiece of ongoing U.S. training efforts in Iraq.
According to the report, the embassy plans to turn over the $108 million Baghdad Police College Annex to Iraqis by the end of the year and will stop training at a $98 million site at the U.S. consulate in the southern city of Basra. Additionally, the number of advisers has been cut by nearly 90 percent — from 350 to 36.
SIGIR auditors noted that it “has clearly been difficult” for American diplomats to secure a solid commitment from Iraq’s government to participate in the training program. Still, the report concluded, “the decision to embark on a major program absent Iraqi buy-in has been costly” and resulted in “a de facto waste.”
In its last on-the-record comments about the failed police program, the State Department stated “We have no intention to cancel our police training program in Iraq… As you know, we are absolutely committed to supporting Iraqi self-reliance… And in this case, they are asking us to continue the advisory and training program but to downsize it.”
All told, SIGIR said the United States spent about $8 billion to train and equip Iraqi police since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
“A revolutionary age is an age of action; ours is the age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere. In the present age a rebellion is, of all things, the most unthinkable. Such an expression of strength would seem ridiculous to the calculating intelligence of our times. On the other hand a political virtuoso might bring off a feat almost as remarkable. He might write a manifesto suggesting a general assembly at which people should decide upon a rebellion, and it would be so carefully worded that even the censor would let it pass. At the meeting itself he would be able to create the impression that his audience had rebelled, after which they would all go quietly home—having spent a very pleasant evening.”—Søren Kierkegaard, Present Age (via humanformat)
“You may not know the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, but its members represent the nation’s largest food makers — those with the most at stake in the battle over GMO labeling; for example, soft drink and snack giant PepsiCo, cereal makers Kellogg and General Mills, and of course, biotech behemoth Monsanto. According to state filing reports, so far GMA has spent $375,000 on its efforts to oppose the labeling measure, with its members adding additional out-of-state lobbying power in the tens of thousands of dollars. Never mind polling demonstrating that a whopping 90 percent of Californians think they deserve the right to know what they are eating. GMA also won’t bother to mention the more than 40 other nations (including the European Union, Brazil, and China) that already require food makers to disclose GMOs.”—
While the Colorado shooting captured the attention of the entire country, in the days immediately afterward Chicago was rocked by a wave of shootings that barely registered in the national consciousness. Any given night may see reports of multiple casualties from violence in the city, and the week directly after the Colorado massacre was no different. On June 24, six people were shot in a single incident in Marquette Park in the city’s southwest side, and on July 26 five people were killed in one 12-hour span. The victims included Michael Haynes, an aspiring Division 1 college basketball player who was shot while trying to break up a fight near his home, and Baker Farhat a gas station clerk and father of three who was gunned down execution style as he worked the night shift at a Marathon station. After insisting that a colleague go home so he could open his Ramadan fast with his family, Farhat was killed by two armed robbers while working at the station alone. “He gave them the money, and he just said, ‘OK, fine, I gave you the money,’” said co-worker Taser Uddin, “and they still shot him.” None of these mass outbursts of violence became national news on anything close to the scale of Colorado, and conspicuously absent were the gun control advocates and others who had used that incident as a rallying point for their policies.
Whereas the theater shooting was relatively unique, mass shootings in Chicago are far from aberrations and any given weekend in the city can see reports of casualty figures that seem more appropriate to Kandahar than a Midwestern American city. Recent examples include a June weekend in which 46 people were shot and eight killed (immediately after a previous weekend in which the figures were 39 shot, seven killed), and the 53 people shot and 10 killed over the past Memorial Day weekend. It is difficult to fathom the level of sheer carnage that must exist to claim the lives of so many people in such a relatively short amount of time, especially given that this violence overwhelmingly occurs in specific corridors (six districts, specifically, which make up the “Murder Corridor”) of the south and west sides of the city. For all its shocking statistics on shootings and murders, Chicago is also home to some of the wealthiest and safest urban areas in the country, which exist just a short drive from neighborhoods that have been turned into charnel houses as a result of gang warfare. That such violence is so geographically concentrated has thus made it easy for many to ignore the issue or shunt it down their list of policy priorities, but for those who live in these neighborhoods it has only served to intensify their misery and sense of alienation. In recognition of the scale of violence and militarization of their once-quiet residential neighborhoods many Chicago residents have come to refer to the city as “Chi-raq,” and indeed much of the military-grade firepower being used to take lives in the South Side would not be considered alien to the streets of Baghdad.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced new U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry as well as banks in China and Iraq, warning that Tehran faces “growing consequences” for refusing to answer international questions about its nuclear program.
Obama said China’s Bank of Kunlun and the Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq “facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars” for Iranian banks already under sanctions.
"By cutting off these financial institutions from the United States, today’s action makes it clear that we will expose any financial institution, no matter where they are located, that allows the increasingly desperate Iranian regime to retain access to the international financial system," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.
"Since taking office, we have presented the Iranian government with a clear choice: come in line with your international obligations and rejoin the community of nations, or face growing consequences."
The sanctions announced Tuesday are aimed at crippling sales of Iranian petrochemical products as well as crude oil. There was no immediate response from the Iranian government or from the companies cited in Obama’s order.
“Sadly, we have an entire profession — the public relations profession — whose sole purpose is to pollute public dialogue with slogans and phrases that score well with focus groups while simultaneously being completely devoid of content. Public figures are drilled to stick to limited talking points, and never genuinely engage with ideas or others. You can see this phenomenon in play in any speech, press release, or other communication coming from almost any organization or politician. You can also see it in the presidential debates, a quadrennial spectacle so awful that it can only properly be described as a mind-numbing show of talking point call and response.”—Matt Bruenig
… Noting that the United States should “do everything we can” to prevent the Islamic republic from getting a nuclear capability, [Romney advisor Dan] Senor then went further.
“And if Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” he said.
That would represent a real departure from the last two American presidents’ policy of seeking to dissuade Israel from taking matters into its own hands, a dangerous move that could set the Middle East ablaze.
Was the former Massachusetts governor signaling a new approach? Evidently not. Given an opportunity to repeat Senor’s comments, Romney declined — and his campaign also issued a clarification: “Gov. Romney believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. Gov. Romney recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it.”
If that sounds an awful lot like Barack Obama’s position, it’s because it is Obama’s position. As he put it in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this year, “(U)ltimately, the Israeli prime minister and the defense minister and others in the government have to make their decisions about what they think is best for Israel’s security, and I don’t presume to tell them what is best for them.”
Romney argues that Iranian leaders don’t take Obama’s refrain that “all options are on the table” seriously, a situation he apparently believes would change if Americans elected a new president. Maybe so — Iran did blanch at first in the face of military threat when the United States forcibly ousted Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and withdrew its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz when confronted by stern warnings from top U.S. defense officials.
But Obama’s rhetoric has been, if more carefully calibrated, just as firm as Romney’s. In that same interview with Goldberg, the president pointedly mentioned the military option, and said, “As president of the United States, I don’t bluff.” [++]
BAGHDAD (AP) — A double bombing struck at an upscale neighborhood Iraq’s capital Tuesday, killing at least 21 even though police stopped three attackers storming a counterterror unit, as the government strained to control al-Qaida-based chaos gripping the country.
The bloody explosions came on the same day that Iraq’s government discussed security issues with Iran, a measure of Tehran’s growing influence.
Two cars parked in the mostly-Shiite shopping district of Karradah exploded during the afternoon rush hour. Most of the dead were store owners and passers-by, although the blasts hit near two police headquarters and a security checkpoint, killing six policemen.
The bombs sent plumes of black smoke over the neighborhood, located across the Tigris River from the Green Zone, and the sounds of gunshots could be heard from blocks away.
The violence brought the July death toll to 245 people killed in shootings and bombings, approaching the carnage in January, when 255 people were killed following the U.S. pullout.
“One does not need to delve too deeply into the idea of discourse ethics to realize that the present state of dialogue in American politics is antithetical to what would be required for a government by discussion — that is, a democracy. What kind of discussion is it when the most prominent and loudest voices are rattling off slogans and platitudes with the specific intent to avoid substantive ideas and positions? It is not a discussion at all. These ‘discussions’ do not mimic discourse or reasoning; instead, they mimic corporate branding and advertisement.”—Matt Bruenig, The American Dream and other attacks on deliberative democracy
Mitt Romney, a privileged white man worth a quarter of a billion dollars who has sheltered his money from taxes in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, and who never misses a square meal, stooped to a new obscene low in blaming the victim on Monday by slamming the Palestinians for not being richer. Palestinian politician Saeb Erekat characterized Romney’s remarks as “racist,” but even that was charitable. Evil, is more like it.
“House and Senate leaders have reached a deal to keep federal agencies running into next year, sources say, a move that would avoid a partisan government shutdown fight before the November elections. The agreement in principle by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would keep agencies operating for six months once the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, sources say. Funding would be consistent with the $1.047 trillion level set forth in the 2011 Budget Control Act, above the $1.028 trillion called for by Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget proposal.”—
Our courageous congresscritters kick the “Bush Tax Cut” can past the election:
If Congress agrees to pass a continuing resolution, it would eliminate one looming issue in the pile of unfinished business in the “fiscal cliff” facing lawmakers, including whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all income groups and whether to roll back $109 billion in domestic and defense spending cuts set to take place next year.
Remember when, in the wake of the 9/11 attack, the Patriot Act was controversial, held up as the symbolic face of Bush/Cheney radicalism and widely lamented as a threat to core American liberties and restraints on federal surveillance and detention powers? Yet now, the Patriot Act is quietly renewed every four years by overwhelming majorities in both parties (despite substantial evidence of serious abuse), and almost nobody is bothered by it any longer. That’s how extremist powers become normalized: they just become such a fixture in our political culture that we are trained to take them for granted, to view the warped as normal. Here are several examples from the last couple of days illustrating that same dynamic; none seems overwhelmingly significant on its own, but that’s the point:
Look, I respect the vice president. He and I had strong disagreements as to whether we should torture people or not. I don’t think we should have.
Isn’t it amazing that the first sentence there (“I respect the vice president”) can precede the next one (“He and I had strong disagreements as to whether we should torture people or not”) without any notice or controversy? I realize insincere expressions of respect are rote ritualism among American political elites, but still, McCain’s statement amounts to this pronouncement: Dick Cheney authorized torture — he is a torturer — and I respect him. How can that be an acceptable sentiment to express? Of course, it’s even more notable that political officials whom everyone knows authorized torture are walking around free, respected and prosperous, completely shielded from all criminal accountability. “Torture” has been permanently transformed from an unspeakable taboo into a garden-variety political controversy, where it shall long remain. [more examples]
“The U.S. [economic] situation … is much like that of Britain under Labour party leadership in recent years: centrist or even left-wing rhetoric on social policies, but neoliberal financial policy favoring the banks.”—Michael Hudson
The Senate Intelligence Committee just passed the language that–DiFi promised–would address the issue [of oversight for Obama’s “Kill List” program]. And it still leaves the Administration leeway to do what it has been doing for two years–withholding the actual memo from the committees that oversee it.
That’s because the legislation passed as part of the Intelligence Authorization allows the government to withhold opinions from people not read into covert programs.
(a) REQUIREMENT TO PROVIDE.—Except as provided in subsections (c) and (d), not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, shall provide to the congressional intelligence committees a copy of every classified opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice that was provided to an element of the intelligence community on or after September 11, 2001.
(c) EXCEPTION FOR COVERT ACTION.—If the President determines that it is essential to limit access to a covert action finding under section 503(c)(2) of the National Security Act (50 U.S.C. 413b(c)(2)), the President may limit access to information concerning such finding that is subject to disclosure under subsection (a) or (b) to those members of Congress who have been granted access to the relevant finding under such section 503(c)(2).
(d) EXCEPTION FOR INFORMATION SUBJECT TO EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE.—If the President determines that a particular opinion subject to disclosure under subsection (a) or listing subject to disclosure under subsection (b) is subject to an executive privilege that protects against such disclosure, the Attorney General shall not be required to disclose such opinion or listing, if the Attorney General notifies the congressional intelligence committees, in writing, of the legal justification for such assertion of executive privilege prior to the date by which the opinion or listing is required to be disclosed.
This is, frankly, an outrage both specifically and generally.
First, nothing in this language guarantees the committees will get the memos in question. That’s because the Administration has long been withholding the information even from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee based on claims that it is too secret to share with those who oversee intelligence and the Constitution.
Furthermore, both the Bush and Obama Administrations have fairly routinely withheld OLC memos–particularly drafts–on the basis they’re deliberative and have nothing to do with the basis on which the Administration makes the final decision. The language on Executive Privilege here codifies that practice. Further, in the case of targeted killing, the government went out of its way to get ACLU to agree not to ask for the drafts of their opinions on targeted killing. And remember, before they finalized the memo we think was ostensibly used to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, they had already tried to kill him, at a time when FBI, at least, didn’t have evidence showing he was operational. The authorization they used for the earlier kill attempt–if it exists–almost certainly looks nothing like the authorization described in the government’s recent transparency theater.
And then there’s this: the 6 months it allows the government to sit on this. That gets the Administration beyond the election, but also beyond the time when, if Obama loses, he’ll leave office. So if there’s anything really embarrassing, he can use late Administration game playing to clean it up.
This is disgusting. Really, really pathetic, even for the serially pathetic Senate Intelligence Committee. [++]
The term “neoliberalism” misrepresents and even inverts the classical liberal idea of free markets. It is a weaponization of economic theory, kidnapping the original liberal ethic that sought to defend against special privilege and unearned income. To classical economists, a free market meant one free of unearned income, defined as land rent, natural resource rent, monopoly rent and rent-extracting privilege. But to neoliberals a free market is one free from taxes or regulation of such rentier income, and indeed gives it tax favoritism over wages and profits.
Neoliberalism and neo-conservatism are complementary doctrines of power and autocracy combined with deregulation and dismantling of democratic law. The aim is to replace government power as used to protect the people with an oligarchic power to oppress the people.
Today, the neoliberal aim is to cripple government power, enabling a free-for-all for the financial sector. Protecting civil freedoms are also heavily signposted, but the high price of legal representation is a barrier for most. A doctrine primarily of the financial sector, the aim is to un-tax banks and financial institutions and their major customers: real estate and monopolies.
Neoliberalism is a doctrine of central planning, which is to be shifted from governments to the more highly centralized financial centers. This requires disabling public power to regulate and tax banking and finance. As a transition, ideological deregulators such as Alan Greenspan and Tim Geithner have been appointed to the key regulatory positions in the United States.
The result is a doctrine of financial war not only against labor but also against industry and government. Gaining the financial power to indebt economies at increasing speed, the banking and financial sector is siphoning resources away from the real economy. Its business plan is not based on employing labor to expand output, but simply to transfer as much of the existing flow of revenue as possible into its own hands, by capitalizing all such revenue into interest payments, on loans collateralized and pledged to creditors.
The effect is no more democratic than the Roman democracy, which arranged voting by “centuries” headed by the largest landowners – essentially an acre-per-vote, to make an analogy. In the U.S. case, votes are bought not by land as such, but by dollars – mainly from the financial sector. In the end, to be sure, most dollars come from rent extraction.
The result must be economic polarization, above all between creditors and debtors as in Rome. So the end stage of neoliberalism threatens a Dark Age of poverty/immiseration – most characteristically, one of debt peonage. [read more]
“The February 20th Movement was undoubtedly a formidable force in opposition to the regime and its supporters. They successfully brought a much-needed debate to the public sphere, inciting response from all sides of the political spectrum, including the monarchy itself. But aside from the movement, other voices exist in other forms and through other media. In addition to the protests in the Rif, Taza, and Chlihate, many other protests throughout the country, unaffiliated with the movement, expressed their dissent in the public sphere. When Amina Filali committed suicide, the young Moroccan girl who was forced to marry her rapist, Moroccans protested against the law that allowed for the marriage in front of parliament. Unemployed graduates, who have been regularly demanding jobs well before the February 20th Movement planned its first demonstration, protested on a daily basis and some resorted to self-immolations. Highlighting those voices as distinct and unique should not incite divisions, but rather encourage attention to nuances. Moreover, preserving pluralism in an environment where the regime imposes identities is a necessary step towards democratization.”—
First, the United States – like Canada, England and China – have central banks that do what central banks outside of Europe were created to do: finance the budget deficit directly.
I have found that it is hard to explain to continental Europe just how different the English-speaking countries are in this respect. There is a prejudice here that central bank financing of a domestic spending deficit by government is inflationary. This is nonsense, as demonstrated by recent U.S. experience: the largest money creation in American history has gone hand in hand with debt deflation.
It is the commercial banks that have created the Bubble Economy’s inflation, from North America to Europe. They have recklessly lent mortgage credit and other credit far beyond the ability of domestic economies to pay. A real central bank can create credit on its electronic keyboards just as easily as commercial banks can do. But central banks do not create credit for speculative purposes. They do not make junk mortgages based on “liars’ loans” (the liars are the banks, not the borrowers), based on fictitious evaluations by crooked appraisers, and sold fraudulently to investment banks to package and sell to gullible Europeans, pension funds and other customers.
In short, there is no need for the present austerity. If Europe acted like the United States, it could bail out the banks.
But would this be a good thing? My second point is that there are good reasons not to fund a dysfunctional debt overhead, financial and tax system. It is preferable to change these systems.
In the United States, Paul Krugman has urged the Federal Reserve to simply lend banks an amount equal to their bad loans and negative equity (debts in excess of the market price of assets). He urges a “Keynesian” program of spending to re-inflate the economy back to bubble levels. This is the liberal answer: to throw money at the problem, without seeking structural reform.
The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) disagreed last week in its annual report. It said – and I believe that it is right – that monetary policy alone cannot solve an insolvency problem. And that is what Europe has now: not merely illiquidity for government bonds and corporate debt, but insolvency when it comes to the ability to pay.
In such circumstances, the BIS explains, it is necessary to write down the debt to the amount that can be paid – and to undertake structural reforms to prevent the Bubble Economy from recurring. [++]
"More oversight, though, is not enough, [Chris Anders, legislative counsel for the ACLU] says—regular Americans should know what kind of conduct could lead to them being blown up by a deadly flying robot."
Congress is finally standing up to President Barack Obama on targeted killing. Almost a year after three American citizens were killed in US drone strikes, legislators are pushing the administration to explain why it believes it’s legal to kill American terror suspects overseas.
Congress is considering two measures that would compel the Obama administration to show members of Congress what Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) calls Obama’s “license to kill”: internal memos outlining the legal justification for killing Americans overseas without charge or trial. Legislators have been asking administration officials to release the documents for nearly a year, raising the issue multiple times in hearings and letters. But the new proposals, including one from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) first flagged by blogger Marcy Wheeler and another in a separate intelligence bill, aren’t requests—they would mandate disclosure. That shift shows both Republicans and Democrats are growing impatient with the lack of transparency on targeted killings.
After radical American-born clericAnwar al-Awlaki, alleged American Al Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, were killed by drone strikes in Yemen in September and October of last year, Republican and Democratic members of Congress sent letters asking the Obama administration to explain the legal justification for targeted killing of American citizens. “We got a license to kill Americans, and we don’t know the legal basis for the license to kill Americans…because our letters haven’t been answered,” Grassley complained during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week.
Cornyn’s amendment would require the Obama administration to provide the Office of Legal Counsel memo justifying the killing program to legislators on several congressional committees. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted to shelve Cornyn’s proposal, but that doesn’t mean the effort is dead. Cornyn could propose his amendment again later this year, and there’s also a section of a separate intelligence bill that would compel the administration to share all of the Justice Department’s legal opinions on intelligence matters with the congressional intelligence committees—unless the White House invokes executive privilege.
“We’re not mere supplicants to the executive branch, we are a coequal branch of government,” Cornyn said during discussion of his amendment in the Senate committee hearing last week. “So it is insufficient to say pretty please, Mr. President, pretty please, Mr. Attorney General, will you please tell us the legal authority by which you claim the authority to kill American citizens abroad?” (Cornyn also noted that just because he wants to see the memo doesn’t mean he’d necessarily disagree with its contents.)
Neither Cornyn’s proposal nor the intelligence bill would require the administration have to share the OLC memo with the media or the public, even in redacted form.
(AGI) Sanaa - Eight people have been killed in the battle between government forces and tribal militia in front of the Yemen interior ministry in Sanaa. Tribal leaders faithful to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to assault the seat of the interior ministry. Medical sources have confirmed the above. According to medical sources there are a number of injured people…
“Imagine for a moment that almost once a week for the last six months somebody somewhere in this country had burst, well-armed, into a movie theater showing a superhero film and fired into the audience. That would get your attention, wouldn’t it? James Holmes times 21? It would dominate the news. We would certainly be consulting experts, trying to make sense of the pattern, groping for explanations. And what if the same thing had also happened almost once every two weeks in 2011? Imagine the shock, imagine the reaction here.
Well, the equivalent has happened in Afghanistan (minus, of course, the superhero movies). It even has a name: green-on-blue violence. In 2012 — and twice last week — Afghan soldiers, policemen, or security guards, largely in units being trained or mentored by the U.S. or its NATO allies, have turned their guns on those mentors, the people who are funding, supporting, and teaching them, and pulled the trigger.”
“The vital human resource of water is being privatized and marketed all over the country. In Pennsylvania and California, the American Water Company took over towns and raised rates by 70% or more. In Atlanta, United Water Services demanded more money from the city while prompting federal complaints about water quality. Shell owns groundwater rights in Colorado, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens is buying up the water in drought-stricken Texas, and water in Alaska is being pumped into tankers and sold in the Middle East.”—Privatization: The Big Joke That Isn’t Funny
First the garbage from Mr. Newt (Grima) Gingrich (brace yourself, this is bile):
The underlying driving force behind this desperate desire to stop unpleasant questions is the elite’s fear that an honest discussion of radical Islamism will spin out of control. They fear if Americans fully understood how serious radical Islamists are, they would demand a more confrontational strategy.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned last week, “The West is asleep on this issue.” Islamist extremists, Blair asserted in an interview with The Telegraph, seek “supremacy, not coexistence” … .
Therefore, whose advice we rely on becomes central to national security. Asking who the advisers are, what their prejudices are and what advice they give is a legitimate — indeed, essential — part of any serious national security system.
It was this question that the National Security Five focused on. They were right to do so and it weakens national security for them to be attacked for simply asking basic questions… .
Isn’t it legitimate to ask: Who advised Clinton to launch a counterterrorism initiative that excluded Israel?
Isn’t it also legitimate to ask: Who advised Otero to give a major speech on terrorism and ignore the attacks on Israel and Israelis? …
Isn’t it legitimate to ask: Who advised the Obama administration to erase Jerusalem from Israel?
Isn’t it fair to ask: Who went back and forged public documents and who told them to do it? … .
Isn’t it appropriate to ask: Who were the Muslim chaplains approved by this extremist? How did he get chosen to be in such a key position? What system of checking for extremism broke down so badly, or is so biased, that it allowed members and allies of radical Islamist organizations to play key roles in the U.S. government?
Framed as a defense of Bachmann and the “National Security Five,” as well as a warning about the Islamic menace, all of this implies — with zero basis, relying on nothing but gross innuendo masquerading as innocent questions (“isn’t it fair to ask?”) — that there are unknown, disloyal Muslims lurking behind State Department policy, plotting to promote Islamic radicals and undermine America and Israel, and that one of them is likely Huma Abedin, the person singled out by Bachmann.
I’m all in favor of having Op-Ed pages publish diverse views (let me know when Politico publishes an Op-Ed on how endless killing of innocent Muslims by America’s foreign policy motivates the sort of radicalism about which Gingirch warns). But for a minimally ethical media outlet, even Op-Eds have to meet basic standards of responsibility and evidentiary support with regard to the claims it asserts. Newt Gingirch’s bigoted, McCarthyite screed — calling for an investigation into unknown, unseen Muslim forces that have infiltrated the U.S. Government — falls as far below those standards as one can get. Politico not only published it, and is not only heavily promoting it on its front page, but devoted more space to it than almost any other single Politico article or Op-Ed is ever given. We find, yet again, that Islamophobia is by far the most acceptable form of overtly expressed bigotry in mainstream American precincts.
“…Every president I worked for, at some point in his presidency, would get so pissed off at the Israelis that he couldn’t speak. It didn’t matter whether it was Jimmy Carter or Gerry Ford or Ronald Reagan or George Bush. Something would happen and they would just absolutely go screw themselves right into the ceiling they were so angry and they’d sort of rant and rave around the Oval Office. I think it was their frustration about knowing that there was so little they could do about it because of domestic politics and everything else that was so frustrating to them.”—
“In addition to Franco’s work with RTA, his administration has also allowed Monsanto an expanded presence in Paraguay. Such a move will worsen the existing crisis in the countryside, an area ravaged by soy plantations and pesticides, and where just 2% of landowners control 80% of the land. In the lead-up to the coup, Lugo and his administration resisted the use of Monsanto’s GMO cotton seeds in the country. Yet just after taking power, the Franco administration threw government critics of the plan out of office, and moved ahead to approve the use of the controversial seeds in the country.”—Paraguay’s Bitter Harvest: Monsanto and Rio Tinto Reap Benefits From Coup Government
So, I’ll ask the question, did they also invest in the coup?
[If Greece exits the EU, the] period of transition [to a new currency] will cause enormous economic disruption and pain, but once the new currency is in place, Greece’s economy can return to a healthy growth path. In the case of Argentina, another country that defaulted and broke the supposedly unbreakable tie of its currency with the dollar, the transition period was less than six months. It defaulted in December 2001 and was on a robust growth path by the summer of 2002. It had regained all the ground lost due to the financial crisis by the summer of 2003 and continued to have solid growth until the worldwide economic crisis in 2008.
There are reasons why Greece’s economy can be expected to perform either better or worse than Argentina’s did a decade ago. We will only know for sure if it actually does go the default route, but even if it took a year to get back on a healthy growth path, Greece is still likely to look quite good to Spain and Italy. Both countries could easily face a decade of recession or stagnation on the troika’s path.
As long as no country takes the euro exit route, politicians can get away with telling their constituents that there is no alternative. They must accept the austerity prescribed by the troika no matter how painful it is. Once Greece leaves the euro, this is no longer a plausible claim. And if the Greek economy turns around and grows at a healthy pace, then the troika’s path is likely to prove unacceptable to the people of Spain and Italy.
This is the situation that Germany must fear. However many times Greece misses its targets, the troika is likely to come back and move the goalposts again. They don’t want anyone in the eurozone to recognise that there is an alternative to permanent austerity and they will make whatever concessions are necessary to ensure that neither Greece nor anyone else ever discovers the truth.
“Most intelligent people are aware that natural resources are finite, including the environment’s ability to absorb the wastes or pollution from productive activities (see for example, Jared Diamond, Collapse, 2005). But few economists are aware, because economists assume that man-made capital is a perfect substitute for nature’s capital. This assumption implies that there are no finite environmental limits to infinite economic growth. Lost in such a make-believe world, economists neglect the full cost of production and cannot tell if the value of the increases in GDP are greater or less than the full cost of producing it. Economists have almost universally confused jobs offshoring with free trade. Economists have even managed to produce “studies” purporting to show that a domestic economy is benefitted by being turned into the GDP of some other country. Economists have managed to make this statement even while its absurdity is obvious to what remains of the US manufacturing, industrial, and professional skilled (software engineers, for example) workforce and to the cities and states whose tax bases have been devastated by the movement offshore of US jobs. The few economists who have the intelligence to recognize that jobs offshoring is the antithesis of free trade are dismissed as “protectionists.” Economists are so dogmatic about free trade that they have even constructed a folk myth that the rise of the US economy was based on free trade. As Michael Hudson, an economist able to think outside the box has proven, there is not a scrap of evidence in behalf of this folk myth (see America’s Protectionist Takeoff 1815-1914).”
At first glance, the current Iraqi political crisis looks like just one more predictable bump in the long road from dictatorship to democracy. Every two years or so, the political class experiences a prolonged stalemate; just as regularly, it is overcome. So, one might think, it will be this time around. But look closer and the picture changes. The tug of war over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s second term suggests something far worse: that a badly conceived, deeply flawed political process has turned into a chronic crisis that could bring down the existing political structure. To avoid this outcome, both Maliki and his opponents need to make painful compromises: the prime minister should implement the power-sharing deal negotiated in 2010 and pledge to step down at the end of his term; in turn, his rivals should call off efforts to unseat him and instead use their parliamentary strength to build strong state institutions, such as an independent electoral commission, and ensure free and fair elections in two years’ time.
The present stalemate has its immediate roots in the Erbil accord between key political actors, which led to the second Maliki government. Key elements of the power-sharing agreement, which political leaders reached in a rush in November 2010 as impatience with the absence of a government grew, were never carried out. Instead, the prime minister’s critics accuse him of violating the constitution, steadily amassing power at the expense of other government branches – parliament, the judiciary as well as independent commissions and agencies – and bringing security forces under his direct personal control. They also criticise him for reneging on crucial aspects of the understanding, notably by failing to fairly apportion sensitive security positions.
When, in December 2011, the judiciary issued an arrest warrant against Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi – a vocal Maliki critic – whatever good-will remained collapsed. Several of the prime minister’s partners boycotted the government, arguing that he increasingly was veering toward indefinite, autocratic rule. While they returned to the council of ministers after a few weeks, Maliki’s opponents – which include a broad array of Sunnis, Kurds, but also Shiites – have since vowed to unseat him through a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
The prime minister’s detractors have a case. A master at navigating the grey areas of law and constitution, he has steadily concentrated authority since 2006. But they also have a fair share of responsibility, having signally failed to marshal their parliamentary strength to pass legislation that would keep Maliki’s growing power in check. Arguably, had they devoted their energies to the hard work of confronting him through institutions, they would not have found themselves compelled to seek a no-confidence vote as a last resort to block his apparent path toward autocratic rule. If, as is undeniable, Maliki has added to his powers during his six-year tenure, there can be no question that a large part of his success derives from his rivals’ incapacity to thwart him via institutional means. [read more]