The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

State and local law enforcement agencies are relying on a wide range of databases of facial imagery, including driver’s licenses and Facebook, to identify suspects. The F.B.I. is developing what it calls its “next generation identification” project to combine its automated fingerprint identification system with facial imagery and other biometric data. … The State Department has what several outside experts say could be the largest facial imagery database in the federal government, storing hundreds of millions of photographs of American passport holders and foreign visa applicants. And the Department of Homeland Security is funding pilot projects at police departments around the country to match suspects against faces in a crowd. … The N.S.A., though, is unique in its ability to match images with huge troves of private communications. N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images | NYTimes.com

Ukraine: the Waiting Game | Pepe Escobar

Everything one needs to know about mediocre political elites allegedly representing the “values” of Western civilization has been laid bare by their reaction to the referendums in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The referendums may have been a last-minute affair; organized in a rush; in the middle of a de facto civil war; and on top of it at gunpoint – supplied by the Kiev NATO neo-liberal neo-fascist junta, which even managed to kill some voters in Mariupol. An imperfect process? Yes. But absolutely perfect in terms of graphically depicting a mass movement in favor of self-rule and political independence from Kiev.

This was direct democracy in action; no wonder the US State Department hated it with a vengeance.

Turnout was huge. The landslide victory for independence was out of the question. Same for transparency; a public vote, in glass ballot boxes, with monitoring provided by Western journalists – mostly from major German media but also from the Kyodo News Agency or the Washington Post.

What should come after the Donetsk People’s Republic proclaimed itself a sovereign state, and asked Moscow to consider its accession into Russia, is not secession, nor outright civil war, but a negotiation.

That’s clear by the Kremlin’s measured official reaction: “Moscow respects the will of the people in Donetsk and Lugansk and hopes that the practical realization of the outcome of the referendums will be carried out in a civilized manner.”

The cautious tone is also reflected by the Kremlin urging the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to help broker the negotiation.

Yet once again, there’s concrete proof that the NATO neo-liberal neo-fascist junta does not want to negotiate anything. Farcical “acting” President Oleksandr Turchynov labeled the exercise in direct democracy a “farce, which terrorists call the referendum”; and Washington and Brussels branded it “illegal”.

And all this after the Odessa massacre; after the deployment of neo-nazi paramilitaries disguised as a “National Guard” (the goons US corporate media calls “Ukrainian nationalists”); dozens of CIA and FBI agents on the ground; plus 300 of the inevitable Academi – former Blackwater – mercenaries. What else to expect when the current Ukrainian Secretary for National Security is neo-nazi Andriy Parubiy, the previous commander of the Maidan’s “self-defense forces” and a cheerleader of World War II nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

Banderastan – with its remix of 1980s Central American-style death squads – doesn’t do referendums; they’d rather burn to death ethnic Russian civilian “insects” who dare to occupy buildings.

So this is the key message of the referendums. We reject the Kiev NATO neo-liberal neo-fascist junta. It’s an illegal “government” of putschists. We are not “pro-Russian” separatists. We don’t want to secede. What we want is a unified, federal and civilized Ukraine, with strong autonomous provinces.

… The Empire of Chaos wants – what else – chaos. Crucially, the Empire of Chaos now blatantly supports the deployment of an “army against their own population”; this was strictly verboten – punishable by NATO bombs or NATO-enabled jihad – in Libya and Syria, but now is just the new normal in Ukraine. [continue]

A federal judge late Friday ordered the Obama administration to halt the force-feeding of a Guantanamo prisoner and to preserve more than 100 videos that show the captive being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed.

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler’s unprecedented ruling also temporarily barred military officials at the detention facility from subjecting the prisoner, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, to so-called forced cell extractions “for the purposes of” tube-feedings until May 21, the date of the next hearing in the case.

Dhiab has been cleared for release or transfer out of Guantanamo since 2009. His attorneys have been waging a lengthy legal battle to permanently end his force-feeding.

'This is a major crack in Guantanamo’s years-long effort to oppress prisoners and to exercise total control over information about the prison,' said Cori Crider, one of Dhiab’s attorneys who works for UK-based charity Reprieve.

'Dhiab is cleared for release and should have been returned to his family years ago,' Crider added. 'He is on hunger strike because he feels he has no other option left. I am glad Judge Kessler has taken this seriously, and we look forward to our full day in court to expose the appalling way Dhiab and others have been treated.'

Judge orders government to stop force-feeding Guantanamo prisoner

This current epic of finance capitalism will either be resolved in disorderly or catastrophic fashion but it will come to an end. By design it is too deeply embedded in broad political economy for orderly resolution to be a high probability. The economic mainstream that wants to stay relevant should ‘fess up to its role in current circumstance and admit that it knows little to nothing of what to do about it. What is wholly evident in retrospect is that the powers that be took what it wanted from the liberal economic mainstream with no intention of assuaging the economic dislocations that antique-revival trade policies were sure to produce. Nonsense about the problem being a failure to predict the financial crisis of 2008 requires dissociating it from those of the early 1990s and early 2000s and the associated economic dislocations broadly considered. The common link is finance. At this point in history empty blather about income ‘inequality’ that fails to address the role of finance looks a lot like determined misdirection. Economics, Finance and Crisis

3 months ago

Mad Men: The Lunatic Fringe That Leads the West

… The behavior exhibited by Western leaders, especially since the launching of the Terror War — and especially in the Anglo-American alliance — would be regarded as criminally insane by any dispassionate diagnosis. This is seen in large matters — such as the hundreds of thousands of innocent people slaughtered in their criminal aggression in Iraq — and in small matters. For example, a story in the Guardian this week related how the courageous statesfolk in the U.S. Senate once again kowtowed to their masters in the National Security apparat, and removed a very mild requirement that the United States government issue an annual report telling us how many civilians it killed with its drone-assassination programs the previous year. No dice, said the security archons — and the Senate said, OK, boss!

But in the course of the story, the Guardian recalled how top Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been a staunch supporter of the remote-control assassination program, noting that “during a February 2013 confirmation hearing for CIA Director John Brennan, Feinstein stated that the CIA’s targeting procedures kills only “single digits” of civilians annually. Try to imagine an ordinary human being standing up in court to defend a serial killer by saying that he only kills single digits of people annually. Is that so wrong? Or hell, imagine your co-worker turning to you in the office and saying, “I ain’t such a bad person, you know; I probably don’t kill more than six or seven innocent people a year.” Try to imagine what kind of mindset believes that as long you hold your murder rate of innocent people to “single digits,” then that’s OK. What would you say if someone talked to you in that way? You would say, quite rightly, that they were insane. Criminally insane, and very dangerous.

Yet this is precisely the kind of madness  that our leaders, across the political spectrum, exhibit day in, day out, year after year. …

3 months ago

Guidelines for the formation of a leftist stance on Syria | As'ad AbuKhalil

It has become trendy among the Western left to meet with the right over Syria. There is actually no debate on Syria in Western countries. In fact, debate is highly discouraged. Debate is seen as a political sin. Only one point of view is permitted on Syria; you may search American newspapers over a three-year period to find no trace whatsoever of any critique of the Syrian “revolution”.

Not only are those who support the Syrian regime forbidden from speaking (and supporters of the Syrian regime do exist despite the protests of Western correspondents in Beirut who rely on Free Syrian Army media—and Saudi and Qatari media—for their clues and information on the Syrian conflict), but those who are critical of both sides of the conflict are not allowed to speak either. Haytham Al-Manna` for example was not allowed to speak on Syria in Western media and his participation in Geneva was not permitted by Saudi Arabia and the US governments.

How do Western leftists justify their support for the Syrian rebels? By simple tricks:

1) To invoke anecdotes: “I met a Syrian leftist woman who so impressed me and she is really famous in the revolution” 2) By calling the armed groups “revolutionaries” and by conflating their action with the civil movement that started back in 2011 and largely died down from a combination of repression and Saudi/Qatari/Turkish/Syrian rebel hijacking 3) By citing the authority of the US government and Western governments to legitimize the stance of the left 4) By invoking the authority of Western human rights organizations who rarely deviate from the policies and wars of the US empire 5) By reminding the audience that Iran and Russia are not leftist (and the US is?)

As a contribution to the debate on this subject, I wish to offer a few guidelines on the subject, taking into consideration that in reality there are no leftists who support Bashar Al-Assad, unless you count individual leftists in Lebanon as evidence:

1) There is not a single leftist Syrian rebel group. Not one. 2) There is not a single leftist demand or request or slogan by either the Syrian armed groups or by the Syrian exile opposition. 3) There are no Syrian leftist intellectuals in the “revolution”: those who are identified as “leftists” in the Syrian “revolution” are in fact former leftists. And remember that some of the most vocal right-wingers in the Lebanese March 14 movement are themselves former leftists-turned sectarian right-wingers. 4) The sponsors of the Syrian rebels and of the Syrian exile opposition are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the US. Those can’t count as leftist regimes. 5) The Syrian regime is not a leftist regime; Hafidh Al-Assad coup in 1970 was launched against the leftist leadership of Salah Jadid. 6) Bashar Al-Assad did not lead Syria in a leftist direction: in fact, he took the country further to the right, especially in economic policy. 7) Ahmad Al-Jarba was selected by Saudi regime and the US to lead the Syrian National Coalition for his tribal and polygamous credentials and not for any leftist credentials. 8) There is no Syrian “revolution”: there is no serious academic or other justification for the invocation of the word “revolution”. The word is bandied about very much in the Ba`thist tradition as a mere word used to rationalize and legitimize political activities that don’t belong to revolutionary activity. 9) Having the support of Western leftists does not make an event or a movement in a developing country leftist. 10) There isn’t a single leftist current in Islamist and Jihadi groups and movements. 11) Neither the Russian camp nor the American camp is leftist, but you can always bet that the US leads a more rightist and reactionary camp than any other country in the world. 12) March 14 is a reactionary movement in Lebanon and its rhetoric and sponsors are the same as those of the March 14 of Syria (i.e. Syrian rebels and the Syrian exile opposition). 13) Arab leftists (throughout the Arab world) are far more opposed to the Syrian rebels than to the other side (with the exception of Trotskyists). 14) Hizbullah is not a leftist political party. It never was a leftist political party and never will be given its ideology and rhetoric, although it sometimes borrows from the political rhetoric of Third World leftism. 15) The support that Bashar Al-Assad receives from some leftist regimes (like in Venezuela) does not make him a leftist.

Lastly, one last question: is Prince Bandar considered a leftist? Or is he a neo-leftist?

From Chris Floyd - April 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 months ago

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

(via theamericanbear)

4 months ago