Surveillance

French Surveillance Law Amid Terror of Own Creation

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on May 15, 2015

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Can a new surveillance law help stop terrorists the government is already tracking and simply choosing not to stop? 

May 15, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – France has announced that in the wake of the so-called "Charlie Hebdo Shooting," it will be passing a controversial new bill granting security agencies unprecedented powers to tap the communications of France's population without judicial overview.

Impossible to pass without having first provoked fear, hatred, division, and hysteria across the French population, and still facing stiff resistance from civil liberty activists, the bill's passage raises further suspicions regarding the fatal January 2015 shooting in regards to who organized the incident and who stood most to benefit.

The Guardian in its article, "France passes new surveillance law in wake of Charlie Hebdo attack," would report:

The French parliament has overwhelmingly approved sweeping new surveillance powers in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris in January that killed 17 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris. 

The new bill, which allows intelligence agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking permission from a judge, sparked protests from rights groups who claimed it would legalise highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

The Guardian would also claim that:

The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, defended the bill as “necessary and proportionate”, saying that to compare it to the mass surveillance Patriot Act introduced in the United States after the 9/11 attacks was a lie. 

He said that the previous French law on wiretapping dated back to 1991, “when there were no mobile phones or internet,” and the new bill was crucial in the face of extremist threats.

Not a Lack of Surveillance 

As seen in nearly every recent terror attack both in Europe and North America including the "Charlie Hebdo shooting" and the more recent Garland, Texas attack, the alleged suspects behind the attacks all have one thread in common – they were all already under the watch of security agencies for years, some even imprisoned one or more times for terror-related and/or other violent offenses, some even having traveled overseas to fight alongside Western-backed terrorists in Syria, Iraq, and beyond.


The Guardian itself admits that the French government alone has over 1,400 people under watch, including hundreds of terrorists who have recently returned from fighting alongside Western-backed terrorists including Al Qaeda and its regional franchise, the "Islamic State" (ISIS) in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Among these monitored potential risks were in fact the suspects behind the "Charlie Hebdo shooting."

Slate Magazine would report in their article, "The Details of Paris Suspect Cherif Kouachi’s 2008 Terrorism Conviction," that:

Kouachi was arrested in January 2005, accused of planning to join jihadists in Iraq. He was said to have fallen under the sway of Farid Benyettou, a young "self-taught preacher" who advocated violence, but had not actually yet traveled to Iraq or committed any acts of terror. Lawyers at the time said he had not received weapons training and "had begun having second thoughts," going so far as to express "relief" that he'd been apprehended.

Kourachi and his brother would be reported to have traveled to the Middle East to receive training from Al Qaeda, then to have fought in Syria in a war backed in part by France, before returning home and carrying out their grisly terror attack, all while being tracked by French intelligence.

 
If Kouachi previously could be arrested for "association with wrongdoers with the intention of committing a terrorist act," why wasn't he arrested immediately upon his return to France for having received and employed military training by a terrorist organization?

 

 

CNN would report in an article titled, "France tells U.S. Paris suspect trained with al Qaeda in Yemen," that:

Western intelligence officials are scrambling to learn more about possible travel of the two Paris terror attack suspects, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, with new information suggesting one of the brothers recently spent time in Yemen associating with al Qaeda in that country, U.S. officials briefed on the matter told CNN. Additional information from a French source close to the French security services puts one of the brothers in Syria.

To explain how terrorists well-known to France's legal system and intelligence community could simply "disappear," the Wall Street Journal in an article titled, "Overburdened French Dropped Surveillance of Brothers," would attempt to claim:

The terror attacks in Paris that have killed 17 people over three days this week represent one of the worst fears—and failures—of counterterrorist officials: a successful plot coordinated by people who had once been under surveillance but who were later dropped as a top priority. 

The U.S. provided France with intelligence showing that the gunmen in the Charlie Hebdo massacre received training in Yemen in 2011, prompting French authorities to begin monitoring the two brothers, according to U.S. officials. But that surveillance of Said and Chérif Kouachi came to an end last spring, U.S. officials said, after several years of monitoring turned up nothing suspicious.

Image: Terrorists waging the West's proxy war in Syria have been provided cash, weapons, and equipment by several European nations, chief among them, France. 
 
It is a narrative that begs to be believed – considering the brothers had already tangled with the law, already traveled to Yemen to receive training from Al Qaeda, and with evidence suggesting they were indeed still being tracked since it is now known they have recently returned from Syria. The Wall Street Journal would also claim that France depends heavily on US intelligence, contradicting US intelligence officials who have said their information came from their French counterparts.

 

 

France reportedly has over 1,000 citizens under surveillance who have recently traveled to Iraq and Syria, believed to have fought alongside terrorists France itself has been arming. In an NBC article titled, "French Intelligence Is Tracking 1,000 Who Have Been to Iraq, Syria: Expert," it is reported that:

"French intelligence is mostly focused today on more than 1,000 French citizens that traveled to Syria and Iraq since 2012," said Jean-Charles Brisard, the author of "Zarqawi: The New Face of Al-Qaeda." 

He added that one-fifth of them were being tracked around the clock. "This is a problem of resources," he added. "We cannot follow everyone." 

Brisard said the brothers had been "well known to French intelligence [for] several years now."

The problem that led up to the "Charlie Hebdo shooting" was clearly not a lack of intelligence or surveillance. French security agencies more than adequately identified the "Charlie Hebdo shooting" perpetrators as potential threats and tracked them for years beforehand. The problem was what appears to be a deliberate effort to keep these terrorists roaming freely among society. Free to join French-backed mercenary forces abroad, and free to commit heinous acts of terror at home, both serving the singular agenda of expanding Western hegemony abroad while preserving the primacy of select special interests at home.
New Surveillance is For Crushing Freedom, Not Terror 
 
As already explained in painstaking detail, had the French government been interested in actually stopping terrorism, including the flight of its own citizens to the Middle East to participate in a war the French government itself is backing, it could have done so easily. Existing laws and France's current security agencies successfully identified the impending threat that led to the "Charlie Hebdo shooting," but willfully failed to stop it – with certain factions of French intelligence having even played a potential role in executing it. 
 
Image: French planes took part in the utter devastation of Libya in 2011, leaving the nation in ruins and handing it over to Al Qaeda, whom NATO, with French assistance, provided air cover and even weapons, cash, and political backing to. 
 
Therefore, clearly the solution to stopping terrorism is in fact evicting the criminal special interests occupying power throughout the French government, and more broadly, from across the Western World. However, such an eviction will now become exponentially more difficult to execute, thanks to France's new surveillance laws that give them virtually unhindered access to their citizenry's data, granting them an unparalleled strategic advantage. 

Indeed, France's new surveillance laws will not stop terrorism at home nor quell the legions of terror they are backing, ravaging lands abroad – instead – they will ensure the uncontested expansion of terror used to coerce the French population at home while justifying and carrying out extraterritorial conquest abroad.  
 
Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smart Meters

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on April 7, 2015

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Enforcement Of Mandatory Water Restrictions Is Only Just The Beginning

Warning Signs 2 - Public DomainSmart meters are now being used by authorities to crack down on “water wasters” in the state of California, but this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what they can be used for.  Ultimately, smart meters are designed to be part of an entire “smart grid” that will enable government bureaucrats “to control everything from your dishwasher to thermostat“.   And in recent years, there has been a massive push to install smart meters in as many homes in the United States and Europe as possible.  Back in December 2007, there were only 7 million smart meters installed in this country.  Today there are more than 51 million.  On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Parliament has set a goal of having smart meters in 80 percent of all homes by the year 2020.  This is being promoted as the “green” thing to do, but could it be possible that there is more to these smart meters than meets the eye?

In Long Beach, California authorities were getting complaints that a local McDonald’s restaurant was wasting water in the middle of the night.

So what did the authorities do?

They installed a smart meter which instantly started providing incriminating evidence against McDonald’s.  The following comes from CBS Los Angeles

The Long Beach Water Department says sprinklers at a McDonald’s restaurant on Bellflower Boulevard went on for 45 minutes at a time, twice a night, for an undefined number of nights. Complaints continued to mount as water pooled and wasted. The department, however, could do little about the wasting.

That was before the smart meter.

Since its installation in February, Long Beach Water Department General Manager Kevin Wattier says he saw an immediate spike by tens of thousands of gallons, each time McDonald’s overwatered their property.

And according to NPR, other large California cities are also now looking into how they can use smart meters to enforce the new mandatory water restrictions in the state…

By next February, California cities together are supposed to cut their water use by a quarter. Sacramento, San Francisco and some Central Valley cities are also seeing whether smart meters can help.

But smart meters are capable of determining far more than whether or not we are using too much water.

Already, police all over the country are using the data provided by smart meters to identify homes that are potentially growing marijuana.  Homes that grow marijuana tend to use much more electricity than other homes, and so if your home is using a high level of energy that is a red flag for the cops.

In addition, there are a whole host of other ways that smart meters can be used as surveillance devices by law enforcement.  The following list comes from an electronics and media expert from Burbank, California named Jerry Day…

1. They individually identify electrical devices inside the home and record when they are operated causing invasion of privacy.

2. They monitor household activity and occupancy in violation of rights and domestic security.

3. They transmit wireless signals which may be intercepted by unauthorized and unknown parties. Those signals can be used to monitor behavior and occupancy and they can be used by criminals to aid criminal activity against the occupants.

4. Data about occupant’s daily habits and activities are collected, recorded and stored in permanent databases which are accessed by parties not authorized or invited to know and share that private data.

5. Those with access to the smart meter databases can review a permanent history of household activities complete with calendar and time-of-day metrics to gain a highly invasive and detailed view of the lives of the occupants.

6. Those databases may be shared with, or fall into the hands of criminals, blackmailers, law enforcement, private hackers of wireless transmissions, power company employees, and other unidentified parties who may act against the interests of the occupants under metered surveillance.

7. “Smart Meters” are, by definition, surveillance devices which violate Federal and State wiretapping laws by recording and storing databases of private and personal activities and behaviors without the consent or knowledge of those people who are monitored.

8. It is possible for example, with analysis of certain “Smart Meter” data, for unauthorized and distant parties to determine medical conditions, sexual activities, physical locations of persons within the home, vacancy patterns and personal information and habits of the occupants.

If all of that wasn’t bad enough, there are also substantial concerns about the impact that these smart meters are having on our health

According to physician and epidemiologist Sam Milham, Smart Meters, which are linked to an array of health issues, emit as much as 100 times the amount of radiation as a cell phone.

Daniel Hirsch, a senior lecturer on nuclear policy at UCSC, says the federal government purposely misleads the public by conducting biased safety studies at the behest of power companies.

A Washington DC power company stirred controversy in 2013 after they were caught lying to the public about how often their smart meters emitted radiation. Despite claims that the meters only emitted radiation once every 4 to 6 hours, an investigation by WUSA9 News revealed the frequency to be closer to 4 to 6 times every minute.

When there is that much radiation blasting through our homes on a continual basis, it is inevitable that there are going to be health problems.

According to Infowars, tens of thousands of people have already reported significant health issues that they believe are directly related to the installation of smart meters in their homes…

Tens of thousands of individuals are reporting officially, to governments and utilities, that they are experiencing illness or functional impairments following the installation of “smart” meters. Reported symptoms include headaches, sleep problems, ear ringing, focus difficulties, fatigue, heart palpitations, nausea and statistically abnormal recurrences of cancer.

Perhaps you are dealing with one of the health issues just mentioned.

If so, you might want to check to see if you have a smart meter in your home.

There has got to be a better way for the state of California to monitor water usage rather than smart meters.

And without a doubt, the state of California is facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions.  The snowpack in the Sierras is only 5 percent of the long-term historical average.  Snow levels are currently at the lowest levels ever measured for this time of the year, and the snow is melting five to 30 days earlier than normal.  For much more on the nightmare that the state is dealing with, please see my previous article entitled “How Many People Will Have To Migrate Out Of California When All The Water Disappears?

Thankfully, there is a lot of waste that can be eliminated, so a lot of water can potentially be saved.  It turns out that Californians are some of the biggest water wasters on the entire planet.  The following statistic comes from the New York Times

California’s cities consume 178 gallons per person per day, on average. That’s 40 percent more than the per capita water consumption in New York City and more than double that of parched Sydney, in Australia.

So let’s hope that Californians start banding together and begin using water more wisely, because this drought is not likely to go away any time soon.

And the truth is that what is going on in the state of California is kind of a microcosm of the water crisis that is beginning to emerge all over the globe

The move by California to require mandatory cuts in water use for the first time in its history has highlighted the world’s looming water crisis and increased the focus on the links between sustainable water and sustainable energy.

“We need a new paradigm,” says Steven Solomon, author of Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization. “The days when we could just go further into the mountains and find new sources of water are past. We need to make better use of the water we have.”

In the end, the drought in California is going to affect all of us.  A tremendous amount of our produce is grown in the state, and we will all soon be feeling the pain of the drought in our local grocery stores

As California’s multi-year drought rages on, consumers in the rest of the United States may soon be feeling the pinch at the grocery store as farmers around California reduce water and plant fewer crops.

California, sometimes called the ‘nation’s salad bowl’, is the country’s largest producer of grapes, kiwis, olives, avocados, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, tree nuts and dairy. Now in the fourth year of a massive drought ‒ and facing only a year’s worth of water remaining in the state ‒ food prices in the US and agricultural unemployment in California are set to climb as farmers do what they can to conserve water and protect their investments.

So what do you think about all of this?

The Internet of Things

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on March 1, 2015

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A Dystopian Nightmare Where Everyone And Everything Will Be Monitored On The Internet

http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Biometric-Security-Cartoon-By-Welleman.jpgCan you imagine a world where your home, your vehicles, your appliances and every single electronic device that you own is constantly connected to the Internet?  This is not some grand vision that is being planned for some day in the future.  This is something that is being systematically implemented right now.  In 2015, we already have “smart homes”, vehicles that talk to one another, refrigerators that are connected to the Internet, and televisions that spy on us.  Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and that opens up some wonderful possibilities.  But there is also a downside.  What if we rapidly reach a point where one must be connected to the Internet in order to function in society?  Will there come a day when we can’t even do basic things such as buy, sell, get a job or open a bank account without it?  And what about the potential for government abuse?  Could an “Internet of Things” create a dystopian nightmare where everyone and everything will be constantly monitored and tracked by the government?  That is something to think about.

Today, the Internet has become such an integral part of our lives that it is hard to remember how we ever survived without it.  And with each passing year, the number of devices connected to the Internet continues to grow at an exponential rate.  If you have never heard of the “Internet of Things” before, here is a little bit about it from Wikipedia

Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize wifi for remote monitoring.

But there is also a dark side to the Internet of Things.  Security is a huge issue, and when that security is compromised the consequences can be absolutely horrifying.  Just consider the following example

It is a strange series of events that link two Armenian software engineers; a Shenzen, China-based webcam company; two sets of new parents in the U.S.; and an unknown creep who likes to hack baby monitors to yell obscenities at children. “Wake up, you little ****,” the hacker screamed at the top of his digital lungs last summer when a two-year-old in Houston wouldn’t stir; she happened to be deaf. A year later, a baby monitor hacker struck again yelling obscenities at a 10-month-old in Ohio.

Both families were using an Internet-connected baby monitor made by China-based Foscam. The hacker took advantage of a weakness in the camera’s software design that U.S.-based Armenian computer engineers revealed at a security conference in Amsterdam last April.

The Internet allows us to reach into the outside world from inside our homes, but it also allows the reverse to take place as well.

Do we really want to make ourselves that vulnerable?

Sadly, we live at a time when people don’t really stop to consider the downside to our exploding technological capabilities.

In fact, there are many people that are extremely eager to connect themselves to the Internet of Things.

In Sweden, there are dozens of people that have willingly had microchips implanted under the skin.  They call themselves “bio-hackers”, and they embrace what they see as the coming merger between humanity and technology.  The following is what one of the founders of a Sweden based bio-hacking community had to say during one recent interview

“The technology is already happening,” says Hannes Sjoblad, one of the founders of BioNyfiken. “We are seeing a fast-growing community of people experimenting with chip implants, which allow users to quickly and easily perform a variety of everyday tasks, such as allowing access to buildings, unlocking personal devices without PIN codes and enabling read access to various types of stored data.

“I consider the take-off of this technology as another important interface-moment in the history of human-computer interaction, similar to the launches of the first windows desktop or the first touch screen. Identification by touch is innate for humans. PIN codes and passwords are not natural. And every additional device that we have to carry around to identify ourselves, be it a key fob or a swipe card, is just another item that clutters our lives.”

And of course this is happening in the United States as well

In America, a dedicated amateur community — the “biohackers” or “grinders” — has been experimenting with implantable technology for several years. Amal Graafstra, a 38-year-old programmer and self-styled “adventure technologist”, has been inserting various types of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips into the soft flesh between his thumbs and index fingers since 2005. The chips can be read by scanners that Graafstra has installed on the doors of his house, and also on his laptop, which gives him access with a swipe of his hand without the need for keys or passwords.

But you don’t have to have a microchip implant in order to be a part of the Internet of Things.

In fact, there are a whole host of “wearable technologies” that are currently being developed for our society.

For instance, have you heard about “OnStar for the Body” yet?  It will enable medical personnel to constantly monitor your health wherever you are…

Smart, cheaper and point-of-care sensors, such as those being developed for the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE, will further enable the ‘Digital Checkup’ from anywhere. The world of ‘Quantified Self’ and ‘Quantified Health’ will lead to a new generation of wearable technologies partnered with Artificial Intelligence that will help decipher and make this information actionable.

And this ‘actionability’ is key. We hear the term Big Data used in various contexts; when applied to health information it will likely be the smart integration of massive data sets from the ‘Internet of things’ with the small data about your activity, mood, and other information. When properly filtered, this data set can give insights on a macro level – population health – and micro – ‘OnStar for the Body‘ with a personalized ‘check engine light’ to help identify individual problems before they further develop into expensive, difficult-to-treat or fatal conditions.

If that sounded creepy to you, this next item will probably blow you away.

According to one survey, approximately one-fourth of all professionals in the 18 to 50-year-old age bracket would like to directly connect their brains to the Internet…

According to a survey by tech giant Cisco Systems, about a fourth of professionals ages 18 to 50 would leap at the chance to get a surgical brain implant that allowed them to instantly link their thoughts to the Internet.

The study was conducted on 3,700 adults working in white-collar jobs in 15 countries.

“Assuming a company invented a brain implant that made the World Wide Web instantly accessible to their thoughts, roughly one-quarter would move forward with the operation,” the study found.

In the end, they are not going to have to force most of us to get connected to the Internet of Things.

Most of us will do it eagerly.

But most people will never even stop to consider the potential for abuse.

An Internet of Things could potentially give governments all over the world the ability to continually monitor and track the activities of everyone under their power all of the time.

If you do not think that this could ever happen, perhaps you should consider the words of former CIA director David Petraeus

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation Internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing”

Are you starting to get the picture?

They plan to use the Internet of Things to spy on all of us.

But we just can’t help ourselves.  Our society has a love affair with new technology.  And some of the things that are being developed right now are beyond what most of us ever dreamed was possible.

For example, Microsoft has just released a new promotional video featuring 3D holograms, smart surfaces, next-generation wearable technologies, and “fluid mobility”…

The elaborate, highly produced video shows jaw-dropping technologies like a SCUBA mask that annotates the sea with 3D holograms, a multipart bracelet that joins together to become a communications device, and interactive, flexible displays that automatically “rehydrate” with information specific to the people using them.

This video from Microsoft was posted on YouTube, and I have shared it below…

So what do you think about all of this?

The Anti-Empire Report #125

Published February 4, 2014 | By William Blum

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

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usaworld

“Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for ‘objectivity’. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.”

– Michael Parenti

An exchange in January with Paul Farhi, Washington Post columnist, about coverage of US foreign policy:

Dear Mr. Farhi,

Now that you’ve done a study of al-Jazeera’s political bias in supporting Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, is it perhaps now time for a study of the US mass media’s bias on US foreign policy? And if you doubt the extent and depth of this bias, consider this:

There are more than 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam? Or even opposed to any two of these wars? How about one? In 1968, six years into the Vietnam war, the Boston Globe  surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading US papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out”.

Now, can you name an American daily newspaper or TV network that more or less gives any support to any US government ODE (Officially Designated Enemy)? Like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela or his successor, Nicolás Maduro; Fidel or Raúl Castro of Cuba; Bashar al-Assad of Syria; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; or Evo Morales of Bolivia? I mean that presents the ODE’s point of view in a reasonably fair manner most of the time? Or any ODE of the recent past like Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Moammar Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, or Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti?

Who in the mainstream media supports Hamas of Gaza? Or Hezbollah of Lebanon? Who in the mainstream media is outspokenly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians? And keeps his or her job?

Who in the mainstream media treats Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning as the heroes they are?

And this same mainstream media tell us that Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, et al. do not have a real opposition media.

The ideology of the American mainstream media is the belief that they don’t have any ideology; that they are instead what they call “objective”. I submit that there is something more important in journalism than objectivity. It is capturing the essence, or the truth, if you will, with the proper context and history. This can, as well, serve as “enlightenment”.

It’s been said that the political spectrum concerning US foreign policy in the America mainstream media “runs the gamut from A to B”.

Sincerely, William Blum, Washington, DC

(followed by some of my writing credentials)

Reply from Paul Farhi:

I think you’re conflating news coverage with editorial policy. They are not the same. What a newspaper advocates on its editorial page (the Vietnam example you cite) isn’t the same as what or how the story is covered in the news columns. News MAY have some advocacy in it, but it’s not supposed to, and not nearly as overt or blatant as an editorial or opinion column. Go back over all of your ODE examples and ask yourself if the news coverage was the same as the opinions about those ODEs. In most cases. I doubt it was.

Dear Mr. Farhi,

Thank you for your remarkably prompt answer.

Your point about the difference between news coverage and editorial policy is important, but the fact is, as a daily, and careful, reader of the Post for the past 20 years I can attest to the extensive bias in its foreign policy coverage in the areas I listed. Juan Ferrero in Latin America and Kathy Lally in the Mideast are but two prime examples. The bias, most commonly, is one of omission more than commission; which is to say it’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. My Anti-Empire Report contains many examples of these omissions, as well as some errors of commission.

Incidentally, since 1995 I have written dozens of letters to the Post pointing out errors in foreign-policy coverage. Not one has been printed.

Happy New Year

foreign_policy

I present here an extreme example of bias by omission, in the entire American mainstream media: In my last report I wrote of the committee appointed by the president to study NSA abuses – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – which actually came up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:

“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”

“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.”

So what do we have here? The NSA being used to steal industrial secrets; nothing to do with fighting terrorism. And the NSA stealing money and otherwise sabotaging unnamed financial systems, which may also represent gaining industrial advantage for the United States.

Long-time readers of this report may have come to the realization that I’m not an ecstatic admirer of US foreign policy. But this stuff shocks even me. It’s the gross pettiness of “The World’s Only Superpower”.

A careful search of the extensive Lexis-Nexis database failed to turn up a single American mainstream media source, print or broadcast, that mentioned this revelation. I found it only on those websites which carried my report, plus three other sites: Techdirt, Lawfare, and Crikey (First Digital Media).

For another very interesting and extreme example of bias by omission, as well as commission, very typical of US foreign policy coverage in the mainstream media: First read the January 31, page one, Washington Post article making fun of socialism in Venezuela and Cuba.

Then read the response from two Americans who have spent a lot of time in Venezuela, are fluent in Spanish, and whose opinions about the article I solicited.

I lived in Chile during the 1972-73 period under Salvadore Allende and his Socialist Party. The conservative Chilean media’s sarcastic claims at the time about shortages and socialist incompetence were identical to what we’ve been seeing for years in the United States concerning Venezuela and Cuba. The Washington Post article on Venezuela referred to above could have been lifted out of Chile’s El Mercurio, 1973.

[Note to readers: Please do not send me the usual complaints about my using the name “America(n)” to refer to “The United States”. I find it to be a meaningless issue, if not plain silly.]

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JFK, RFK, and some myths about US foreign policy

On April 30, 1964, five months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was interviewed by John B. Martin in one of a series of oral history sessions with RFK. Part of the interview appears in the book “JFK Conservative” by Ira Stoll, published three months ago. (pages 192-3)

RFK: The president … had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam.

MARTIN: What was the overwhelming reason?

RFK: Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.

MARTIN: What if it did?

RFK: Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world. Also it would affect what happened in India, of course, which in turn has an effect on the Middle East. Just as it would have, everybody felt, a very adverse effect. It would have an effect on Indonesia, hundred million population. All of those countries would be affected by the fall of Vietnam to the Communists.

MARTIN: There was never any consideration given to pulling out?

RFK: No.

MARTIN: … The president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there …

RFK: Yes.

MARTIN: … And couldn’t lose it.

RFK: Yes.

These remarks are rather instructive from several points of view:

  1. Robert Kennedy contradicts the many people who are convinced that, had he lived, JFK would have brought the US involvement in Vietnam to a fairly prompt end, instead of it continuing for ten more terrible years. The author, Stoll, quotes a few of these people. And these other statements are just as convincing as RFK’s statements presented here. And if that is not confusing enough, Stoll then quotes RFK himself in 1967 speaking unmistakably in support of the war.It appears that we’ll never know with any kind of certainty what would have happened if JFK had not been assassinated, but I still go by his Cold War record in concluding that US foreign policy would have continued along its imperial, anti-communist path. In Kennedy’s short time in office the United States unleashed many different types of hostility, from attempts to overthrow governments and suppress political movements to assassination attempts against leaders and actual military combat; with one or more of these occurring in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, British Guiana, Iraq, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Brazil.
  2. “Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world.”Ah yes, a vital part of the world. Has there ever been any part of the world, or any country, that the US has intervened in that was not vital? Vital to American interests? Vital to our national security? Of great strategic importance? Here’s President Carter in his 1980 State of the Union Address: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America”.“What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war.” – Simone Weil (1909-1943), French philosopher
  3. If the US lost Vietnam “everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.”As I once wrote:

    Thus it was that the worst of Washington’s fears had come to pass: All of Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – had fallen to the Communists. During the initial period of US involvement in Indochina in the 1950s, John Foster Dulles, Dwight Eisenhower and other American officials regularly issued doomsday pronouncements of the type known as the “Domino Theory”, warning that if Indochina should fall, other nations in Asia would topple over as well. In one instance, President Eisenhower listed no less than Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Indonesia amongst the anticipated “falling dominos”.

    Such warnings were repeated periodically over the next decade by succeeding administrations and other supporters of US policy in Indochina as a key argument in defense of such policy. The fact that these ominous predictions turned out to have no basis in reality did not deter Washington officialdom from promulgating the same dogma up until the 1990s about almost each new world “trouble-spot”, testimony to their unshakable faith in the existence and inter-workings of the International Communist Conspiracy.

Killing suicide

Suicide bombers have become an international tragedy. One can not sit in a restaurant or wait for a bus or go for a walk downtown, in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Russia or Syria and elsewhere without fearing for one’s life from a person walking innocently by or a car that just quietly parked nearby. The Pentagon has been working for years to devise a means of countering this powerful weapon.

As far as we know, they haven’t come up with anything. So I’d like to suggest a possible solution. Go to the very source. Flood selected Islamic societies with this message: “There is no heavenly reward for dying a martyr. There are no 72 beautiful virgins waiting to reward you for giving your life for jihad. No virgins at all. No sex at all.”

Using every means of communication, from Facebook to skywriting, from billboards to television, plant the seed of doubt, perhaps the very first such seed the young men have ever experienced. As some wise anonymous soul once wrote:

A person is unambivalent only with regard to those few beliefs, attitudes and characteristics which are truly universal in his experience. Thus a man might believe that the world is flat without really being aware that he did so – if everyone in his society shared the assumption. The flatness of the world would be simply a “self-evident” fact. But if he once became conscious of thinking that the world is flat, he would be capable of conceiving that it might be otherwise. He might then be spurred to invent elaborate proofs of its flatness, but he would have lost the innocence of absolute and unambivalent belief.

We have to capture the minds of these suicide bombers. At the same time we can work on our own soldiers. Making them fully conscious of their belief, their precious belief, that their government means well, that they’re fighting for freedom and democracy, and for that thing called “American exceptionalism”. It could save them from committing their own form of suicide.

Notes

  1. Boston Globe, February 18, 1968, p.2-A
  2. New York Times, April 8, 1954

 

 

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

The Anti-Empire Report #124

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

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 Paris peace conference 1919

 

Published January 9, 2014 | By William Blum

“At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!”– President Woodrow Wilson, Paris Peace Conference, 1919

The horrors reported each day from Syria and Iraq are enough to make one cry; in particular, the atrocities carried out by the al-Qaeda types: floggings; beheadings; playing soccer with the heads; cutting open dead bodies to remove organs just for mockery; suicide bombers, car bombs, the ground littered with human body parts; countless young children traumatized for life; the imposition of sharia law, including bans on music … What century are we living in? What millennium? What world?

People occasionally write to me that my unwavering antagonism toward American foreign policy is misplaced; that as awful as Washington’s Museum of Horrors is, al-Qaeda is worse and the world needs the United States to combat the awful jihadists.

“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote. “They are different from you and me.”

And let me tell you about American leaders. In power, they don’t think the way you and I do. They don’t feel the way you and I do. They have supported “awful jihadists” and their moral equivalents for decades. Let’s begin in 1979 in Afghanistan, where the Moujahedeen (“holy warriors”) were in battle against a secular, progressive government supported by the Soviet Union; a “favorite tactic” of the Moujahedeen was “to torture victims [often Russians] by first cutting off their nose, ears, and genitals, then removing one slice of skin after another”, producing “a slow, very painful death”.

With America’s massive and indispensable military backing in the 1980s, Afghanistan’s last secular government (bringing women into the 20th century) was overthrown, and out of the victorious Moujahedeen arose al Qaeda.

During this same period the United States was supporting the infamous Khmer Rouge of Cambodia; yes, the same charming lads of Pol Pot and The Killing Fields.

President Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was a leading force behind the US support of both the Moujahedeen and the Khmer Rouge. What does that tell you about that American leader? Or Jimmy Carter – an inspiration out of office, but a rather different person in the White House? Or Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama, who chose Brzezinski as one of his advisers?

Another proud example of the United States fighting the awful jihadists is Kosovo, an overwhelmingly Muslim province of Serbia. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began an armed conflict with Belgrade in the early 1990s to split Kosovo from Serbia. The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA having contact with al-Qaeda, getting arms from them, having its militants trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against Serbia. But Washington’s imperialists, more concerned about dealing a blow to Serbia, “the last communist government in Europe”, supported the KLA.

The KLA have been known for their torture and trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic). The United States has naturally been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union.

More recently the US has supported awful jihadists in Libya and Syria, with awful consequences.

It would, moreover, be difficult to name a single brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population. And in recent years as well, Washington has supported very repressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.

Not exactly the grand savior our sad old world is yearning for. (Oh, did I mention that Washington’s policies create a never-ending supply of terrorists?)

And what do American leaders think of their own record? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably speaking for the whole private club when she wrote that in the pursuit of its national security the United States no longer needed to be guided by “notions of international law and norms” or “institutions like the United Nations” because America was “on the right side of history.”

If you’ve never done anything you wouldn’t want the government to know about, you should re-examine your life choices.

“The idea is to build an antiterrorist global environment,” a senior American defense official said in 2003, “so that in 20 to 30 years, terrorism will be like slave-trading, completely discredited.”

One must wonder: When will the dropping of bombs on innocent civilians by the United States, and invading and occupying their country become completely discredited? When will the use of depleted uranium, cluster bombs, CIA torture renditions, and round-the-world, round-the-clock surveillance become things that even men like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and John Brennan will be too embarrassed to defend?

Last month, a former National Security Agency official told the Washington Post that the Agency’s workers are polishing up their résumés and asking that they be cleared – removing any material linked to classified programs – so they can be sent out to potential employers. He noted that one employee who processes the résumés said, “I’ve never seen so many résumés that people want to have cleared in my life.”

Morale is “bad overall”, said another former official. “The news – the Snowden disclosures – it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” he said. “It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.”

President Obama was recently moved to declare that he would be proposing “some self-restraint on the NSA” and “some reforms that can give people more confidence.” He also said “In some ways, the technology and the budgets and the capacity [at NSA] have outstripped the constraints. And we’ve got to rebuild those in the same way that we’re having to do on a whole series of capacities … [such as] drone operations.”

Well, dear readers and comrades, we shall see. But if you’re looking for a glimmer of hope to begin a new year, you may as well try grabbing onto these little offerings. When the American Empire crumbles, abroad and at home, as one day it must, Edward Snowden’s courageous actions may well be seen as one of the key steps along that road. I’ve long maintained that only the American people have the power to stop The Imperial Machine – the monster that eats the world’s environment, screws up its economies, and spews violence on every continent. And for that to happen the American people have to lose their deep-seated, quasi-religious belief in “American Exceptionalism”. For many, what they’ve been forced to learn the past six months has undoubtedly worn deep holes into the protective armor that has surrounded their hearts and minds since childhood.

A surprising and exhilarating example of one of these holes in the armor is the New Year’s day editorial in the New York Times that is now well known. Entitled “Edward Snowden, Whistle-blower” – itself a legitimation of his actions – its key part says: “Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”

The president has been moved to appoint a committee to study NSA abuses. This of course is a standard bureaucratic maneuver to keep critics at bay. But the committee – Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – did come up with a few unexpected recommendations in its report presented December 13, the most interesting of which perhaps are these two:

“Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry.”

“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.”

The first recommendation refers to a practice, though certainly despicable, that is something the United States has been doing, and lying about, for decades. Just this past September, James Clapper, Director of US National Intelligence, declared: “What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies.”

Clapper is the same gentleman who told Congress in March that the NSA does not intentionally collect any kind of data on millions of Americans; and, when subsequently challenged on this remark, declared: “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no’.”

The second recommendation had not been revealed before, in a Snowden document or from any other source.

“That was a strangely specific recommendation for something nobody was talking about,” observed the director of a government transparency group.

ABC News reported that “A spokesperson for the NSA declined to comment on the issue of bank account hacking, and a representative for U.S. Cyber Command did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.”

Manipulating bank records is about as petty and dishonorable as a superpower can behave, and could conceivably, eventually, lead to the end of the NSA as we’ve all come to know and love it. On the other hand, the Agency no doubt holds some very embarrassing information about anyone in a position to do them harm.

The bombing of Flight 103 – Case closed?

When the 25th anniversary of the 1988 bombing of PanAm Flight 103 occurred on December 21 I was fully expecting the usual repetitions of the false accusation against Libya and Moammar Gaddafi as being responsible for the act which took the lives of 270 people over and in Lockerbie, Scotland. But much to my surprise, mingled with such, there were a rash of comments skeptical of the official British-US version, made by various people in Scotland and elsewhere, including by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Libya.

In a joint statement the three governments said they were determined to unearth the truth behind the attack. “We want all those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism brought to justice, and to understand why it was committed”, they declared.

Remarkable. In 1991, the United States indicted a Libyan named Adelbaset al-Megrahi. He was eventually found guilty of being the sole perpetrator of the crime, kept in prison for many years, and finally released in 2009 when he had terminal cancer, allegedly for humanitarian reasons, although an acute smell of oil could be detected. And now they speak of bringing to justice “those responsible for this brutal act of terrorism”.

The 1988 crime was actually organized by Iran in retaliation for the American shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in July of the same year, which took the lives of 290 people. It was carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), a 1968 breakaway from a component of the Palestine Liberation Organization, with some help from Syria. And this version was very widely accepted in the Western world, in government and media circles. Until the US buildup to the Gulf War came along in 1990 and the support of Iran and Syria was needed. Then, suddenly, we were told that it was Libya behind the crime.

If the US and UK now wish to return to Iran, and perhaps Syria, as the culprits, they will have a lot of explaining to do about their previous lie. But these two governments always have a lot of explaining to do. They’re good at it. And the great bulk of their indoctrinated citizens, with little resistance, will accept the new/old party line, and their mainstream media will effortlessly switch back to the old/new official version, since Iran and Syria are at the top of the current list of Bad Guys. (The PFLP-GC has been quiescent for some time and may scarcely exist.)

If you’re confused by all this, I suggest that you start by reading my detailed article on the history of this case, written in 2001 but still very informative and relevant. You may be rather surprised.

The UK, US and Libyan governments have now announced that they will co-operate to reveal “the full facts” of the Lockerbie bombing. And Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI, said he believes more people will be charged. This could be very interesting.

Free books of historical value

  1. The complete set, less one volume, of the 15 Church Committee (1975-6) volumes. Lacking only Final Report, book 6: “Congressional Research Service. Supplementary Reports on Intelligence Activities.”
  2. The complete set, less one volume, of the 6 Pike Committee volumes. Lacking only volume 6: “Committee Proceedings, part II”
  3. The Rockefeller Commission Report, one volume.
  4. Hearings on FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) before Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (same as Church Committee), one volume.

Total of 21 volumes, all from 1975-1976, all in good condition. Either pick them up in Washington, DC or send me $10 for postage.

Notes

  1. Washington Post May 11, 1979; New York Times, April 13 1979
  2. William Blum, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” (2005), chapter 10
  3. RT TV (Russia Today, Moscow), May 4, 2012
  4. Associated Press, December 14, 2010
  5. Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations), January/February 2000 issue
  6. New York Times, January 17, 2003
  7. Washington Post, December 7, 2013
  8. Washington Post, December 18, 2013
  9. Washington Post, December 7, 2013
  10. “Liberty and Security in a Changing World”, p.221
  11. See Anti-Empire Report, #118, June 26, 2013, second part
  12. Statement by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper on Allegations of Economic Espionage, September 8, 2013
  13. NBC News, June 9, 2013
  14. Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, speaking to ABC News Radio, December 23, 2013
  15. ABC News Radio, December 23, 2013
  16. Reuters news agency, December 22, 2013

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

 

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a li

The Anti-Empire Report #122

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

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nsa-listening-408

Published November 7th, 2013 by William Blum on The Anti-Empire Report

National Security Agency – The only part of the government that really listens to what you have to say

The New York Times (November 2) ran a long article based on NSA documents released by Edward Snowden. One of the lines that most caught my attention concerned “Sigint” – Signals intelligence, the term used for electronic intercepts. The document stated:

“Sigint professionals must hold the moral high ground, even as terrorists or dictators seek to exploit our freedoms. Some of our adversaries will say or do anything to advance their cause; we will not.”

What, I wondered, might that mean? What would the National Security Agency – on moral principle – refuse to say or do?

 

I have on occasion asked people who reject or rationalize any and all criticism of US foreign policy: “What would the United States have to do in its foreign policy to lose your support? What, for you, would be too much?” I’ve yet to get a suitable answer to that question. I suspect it’s because the person is afraid that whatever they say I’ll point out that the United States has already done it.

The United Nations vote on the Cuba embargo – 22 years in a row

For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We haven’t heard that for a very long time. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):

Year Votes (Yes-No) No Votes
1992 59-2 US, Israel
1993 88-4 US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay
1994 101-2 US, Israel
1995 117-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1996 138-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1997 143-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1998 157-2 US, Israel
1999 155-2 US, Israel
2000 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2001 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2002 173-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2003 179-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2004 179-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2005 182-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2006 183-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2007 184-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2008 185-3 US, Israel, Palau
2009 187-3 US, Israel, Palau
2010 187-2 US, Israel
2011 186-2 US, Israel
2012 188-3 US, Israel, Palau
2013 188-2 US, Israel

Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.

Speaking before the General Assembly, October 29, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez declared: “The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion.” He added that the blockade “has been further tightened under President Obama’s administration”, some 30 US and foreign entities being hit with $2.446 billion in fines due to their interaction with Cuba.

However, the American envoy, Ronald Godard, in an appeal to other countries to oppose the resolution, said:

“The international community … cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly, impedes independent journalism and, despite positive reforms, continues to prevent some Cubans from leaving or returning to the island. The Cuban government continues its tactics of politically motivated detentions, harassment and police violence against Cuban citizens.” 1

So there you have it. That is why Cuba must be punished. One can only guess what Mr. Godard would respond if told that more than 7,000 people were arrested in the United States during the Occupy Movement’s first 8 months of protest 2 ; that their encampments were violently smashed up; that many of them were physically abused by the police.

Does Mr. Godard ever read a newspaper or the Internet, or watch television? Hardly a day passes in America without a police officer shooting to death an unarmed person?

As to “independent journalism” – what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control most of the media worth owning or controlling?

The real reason for Washington’s eternal hostility toward Cuba? The fear of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model; a fear that has been validated repeatedly over the years as Third World countries have expressed their adulation of Cuba.

How the embargo began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” 3 Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted the suffocating embargo against its everlasting enemy.

The Cold War Revisited

 

I’ve written the Introduction to a new book recently published in Russia that is sort of an updating of my book Killing Hope. 4 Here is a short excerpt:

 

The Cold War had not been a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. It had been a struggle between the United States and the Third World, which, in the decade following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, continued in Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Yugoslavia and elsewhere.

The Cold War had not been a worldwide crusade by America to halt Soviet expansion, real or imaginary. It had been a worldwide crusade by America to block political and social changes in the Third World, changes opposed by the American power elite.

The Cold War had not been a glorious and noble movement of freedom and democracy against Communist totalitarianism. It had typically been a movement by the United States in support of dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and corrupt oligarchies which were willing to follow Washington’s party line on the Left, US corporations, Israel, oil, military bases, et al. and who protected American political and economic interests in their countries in exchange for the American military and CIA keeping them in power against the wishes of their own people.

In other words, whatever the diplomats at the time thought they were doing, the Cold War revisionists have been vindicated. American policy had been about imperialism and military expansion.

Apropos the countless other myths we were all taught about the Soviet Union is this letter I recently received from one of my readers, a Russian woman, age 49, who moved to the United States eight years ago and now lives in Northern Virginia:

I can’t imagine why anybody is surprised to hear when I say I miss life in the Soviet Union: what is bad about free healthcare and education, guaranteed employment, guaranteed free housing? No rent or mortgage of any kind, only utilities, but they were subsidized too, so it was really pennies. Now, to be honest, there was a waiting list to get those apartments, so some people got them quicker, some people had to wait for years, it all depended on where you worked. And there were no homeless people, and crime was way lower. As a first grader I was taking the public transportation to go to school, which was about 1 hour away by bus (it was a big city, about the size of Washington DC, we lived on the outskirts, and my school was downtown), and it was fine, all other kids were doing it. Can you even imagine this being done now? I am not saying everything was perfect, but overall, it is a more stable and socially just system, fair to everybody, nobody was left behind. This is what I miss: peace and stability, and not being afraid of the future.

Problem is, nobody believes it, they will say that I am a brainwashed “tovarish” [comrade]. I’ve tried to argue with Americans about this before, but just gave up now. They just refuse to believe anything that contradicts what CNN has been telling them for all their lives. One lady once told me: “You just don’t know what was going on there, because you did not have freedom of speech, but we, Americans, knew everything, because we could read about all of this in our media.” I told her “I was right there! I did not need to read about this in the media, I lived that life!”, but she still was unconvinced! You will not believe what she said: “Yes, maybe, but we have more stuff!”. Seriously, having 50 kinds of cereal available in the store, and walmarts full of plastic junk is more valuable to Americans than a stable and secure life, and social justice for everybody?

Of course there are people who lived in the Soviet Union who disagree with me, and I talked to them too, but I find their reasons just as silly. I heard one Russian lady whose argument was that Stalin killed “30, no 40 million people”. First of all it’s not true (I don’t in any way defend Stalin, but I do think that lying and exaggerating about him is as wrong)*, and second of all what does this have to do with the 70s, when I was a kid? By then life was completely different. I heard other arguments, like food shortages (again, not true, it’s not like there was no food at all, there were shortages of this or that specific product, like you wouldn’t find mayo or bologna in the store some days, but everything else was there!). So, you would come back next day, or in 2-3 days, and you would find them there. Really, this is such a big deal? Or you would have to stay in line to buy some other product, (ravioli for example). But how badly do you want that ravioli really that day, can’t you have anything else instead? Just buy something else, like potatoes, where there was no line.

Was this annoying, yes, and at the time I was annoyed too, but only now I realized that I would much prefer this nuisance to my present life now, when I am constantly under stress for the fear that I can possibly lose my job (as my husband already did), and as a result, lose everything else – my house? You couldn’t possibly lose your house in Soviet Union, it was yours for life, mortgage free. Only now, living here in the US, I realized that all those soviet nuisances combined were not as important as the benefits we had – housing, education, healthcare, employment, safe streets, all sort of free after school activities (music, sports, arts, anything you want) for kids, so parents never had to worry about what we do all day till they come home in the evening.

* We’ve all heard the figures many times … 10 million … 20 million … 40 million … 60 million … died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt, and many people are still dying under Bush. Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Did the millions die from disease in an age before antibiotics? In prison? From what causes? People die in prison in the United States on a regular basis. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood? If so, how? How many were criminals executed for non-political crimes? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting. 5

Hillary: Defending the Bush regime all the way

Let’s not repeat the Barack fuckup with Hillary

Not that it really matters who the Democrats nominate for the presidency in 2016. Whoever that politically regressive and morally bankrupt party chooses will be at best an uninspired and uninspiring centrist; in European terms a center-rightist; who believes that the American Empire – despite the admittedly occasional excessive behavior – is mankind’s last great hope. The only reason I bother to comment on this question so far in advance of the election is that the forces behind Clinton have clearly already begun their campaign and I’d like to use the opportunity to try to educate the many progressives who fell in love with Obama and may be poised now to embrace Clinton. Here’s what I wrote in July 2007 during the very early days of the 2008 campaign:

Who do you think said this on June 20? a) Rudy Giuliani; b) Hillary Clinton; c) George Bush; d) Mitt Romney; or e) Barack Obama?

“The American military has done its job. Look what they accomplished. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They gave the Iraqis a chance for free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities to make the hard political decisions necessary to give the people of Iraq a better future. So the American military has succeeded. It is the Iraqi government which has failed to make the tough decisions which are important for their own people.” 6

Right, it was the woman who wants to be president because … because she wants to be president … because she thinks it would be nice to be president … no other reason, no burning cause, no heartfelt desire for basic change in American society or to make a better world … she just thinks it would be nice, even great, to be president. And keep the American Empire in business, its routine generating of horror and misery being no problem; she wouldn’t want to be known as the president that hastened the decline of the empire.

And she spoke the above words at the “Take Back America” conference; she was speaking to liberals, committed liberal Democrats and others further left. She didn’t have to cater to them with any flag-waving pro-war rhetoric; they wanted to hear anti-war rhetoric (and she of course gave them a bit of that as well out of the other side of her mouth), so we can assume that this is how she really feels, if indeed the woman feels anything. The audience, it should be noted, booed her, for the second year in a row.

Think of why you are opposed to the war. Is it not largely because of all the unspeakable suffering brought down upon the heads and souls of the poor people of Iraq by the American military? Hillary Clinton couldn’t care less about that, literally. She thinks the American military has “succeeded”. Has she ever unequivocally labeled the war “illegal” or “immoral”? I used to think that Tony Blair was a member of the right wing or conservative wing of the British Labour Party. I finally realized one day that that was an incorrect description of his ideology. Blair is a conservative, a bloody Tory. How he wound up in the Labour Party is a matter I haven’t studied. Hillary Clinton, however, I’ve long known is a conservative; going back to at least the 1980s, while the wife of the Arkansas governor, she strongly supported the death-squad torturers known as the Contras, who were the empire’s proxy army in Nicaragua. 7

Now we hear from America’s venerable conservative magazine, William Buckley’s National Review, an editorial by Bruce Bartlett, policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan; treasury official under President George H.W. Bush; a fellow at two of the leading conservative think-tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute – You get the picture? Bartlett tells his readers that it’s almost certain that the Democrats will win the White House in 2008. So what to do? Support the most conservative Democrat. He writes: “To right-wingers willing to look beneath what probably sounds to them like the same identical views of the Democratic candidates, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative.” 8

We also hear from America’s premier magazine for the corporate wealthy, Fortune, whose recent cover features a picture of Clinton and the headline: “Business Loves Hillary”. 9

Back to 2013: In October, the office of billionaire George Soros, who has long worked with US foreign policy to destabilize governments not in love with the empire, announced that “George Soros is delighted to join more than one million Americans in supporting Ready for Hillary.” 10

There’s much more evidence of Hillary Clinton’s conservative leanings, but if you need more, you’re probably still in love with Obama, who in a new book is quoted telling his aides during a comment on drone strikes that he’s “really good at killing people”. 11 Can we look forward to Hillary winning the much-discredited Nobel Peace Prize?

I’m sorry if I take away all your fun.

Notes

  1. Democracy Now!, “U.N. General Assembly Votes Overwhelmingly Against U.S. Embargo of Cuba”, October 30, 2013
  2. Huffingfton Post, May 3, 2012
  3. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba (1991), p.885
  4. Copies can be purchased by emailing kuchkovopole@mail.ru
  5. From William Blum, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire (2005), p.194
  6. Speaking at the “Take Back America” conference, organized by the Campaign for America’s Future, June 20, 2007, Washington, DC; this excerpt can be heard on Democracy Now!’s website
  7. Roger Morris, former member of the National Security Council, Partners in Power (1996), p.415
  8. National Review Online, May 1, 2007
  9. Fortune magazine, July 9, 2007
  10. Washington Post, October 25, 2013
  11. Washington Post, November 1, 2013, review of “Double Down: Game Change 2012”

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

 

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

 

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

Two Forces and Three Bears

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  October 28, 2013
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     In these climax years of industrial technocratic society, two opposing forces shape the destiny of government: the desperate effort to control everything versus the decline of the ability to carry out that effort. The result will be the loss of legitimacy and the collapse of government from the highest levels, moving downward until the real power to make anything work re-sets at a feasible and appropriate level — probably very local. This dynamic is seen very clearly in three spectacles du jour: the “national security” (spying) mess, government-sponsored accounting fraud in finance, and the ObamaCare rollout.

     As history develops, people do things for the simple reason that it seems like a good idea at the time. Computer tech made it possible for bureaucrats and military apparatchiks to invade the privacy of everybody, but in the end it only had the effect of embarrassing the perpetrators and eroding a big chunk of the US government’s legitimacy. The attempt at maximum control will eventually lead to maximum resistance and, quite possibly, some sort of political revolution, perhaps starting with the death of the two dominant political parties. When political disruption finally occurs, it will manifest quickly, as criticality thresholds are breached. It has the potential of taking this society in very undesirable directions including civil war, theocracy, and war against other peoples.

     The diminishing returns of computer technology applied to intelligence gathering are that it produces more mountains of data than any team of professionals can make sense of, and it prompts said professionals to make mischief with the information that is easiest to sort out: the financial records of ordinary citizens. Nothing will create political resistance more surely than messing with people’s money. The NSA apparatus is now a self-reinforcing monster that will strive for ever more control ineffectively, creating a debris path of ever more embarrassment and resentment. A lone true patriot like Snowden does more to oppose this monster than all the “freedom” and “liberty” spouting, flag-lapel-pin-wearing cowards in either political party.

     The pervasive accounting fraud in the attempt to prop up an unsound banking system is even closer to criticality. A society that produces tradable goods needs sound money which functions as 1) a medium of exchange, 2) a store of value 3) a unit of account for establishing prices. The combined accounting frauds in Federal Reserve policy, private banking and securities markets, and government fiscal management is destroying all these functions. The more abstracted finance gets from real productive activity, the more fragile the system becomes. We are doing nothing now except adding more complexity and abstraction to it, causing the system to become more detached from reality. In effect, we’re opting to forego an economy based on goods in favor of one based on empty promises and paper swindles. The potential and probable consequent destruction of nominal wealth would be an event that advanced technocratic society likely will not recover from — in the sense that today’s standard of living could be preserved for billions of people worldwide. That destruction would herald a new dark age, this time without any prospect of recovery via the exploitation of natural resources, which will have been depleted.

     The ObamaCare piece of the picture is a mere pathetic soap opera compared to the first two quandaries. The 2000-page law did nothing to address the core tragedy of medicine in America — namely, that it has evolved into a hideous hostage racket. You go to a hospital with a terrifying illness and you are susceptible to fleecing by the so-called “care-givers” for the promise that you may get to live. No prices for treatment are never discussed. They are presumed to be astronomical — but who cares if you end up dead, and if you do get to live, you’ll figure that out later. If you hold an insurance policy, these charges will be subject to a fake negotiation between grifting insurance companies and grifting hospitals, physicians, and drug companies. The price “settlements” are only slightly less a joke than the actual charges, and are obfuscated in documents designed to bewilder even well-educated policy-holders.

     Even if you are insured, the charges may bankrupt you. A typical one-day charge for “room and board” in a non-specialized hospital in-patient bed runs $23,000 at my local hospital. For what? Half a dozen blood-pressure checks and three bad meals? You can be sure that ever-fewer families will be able to fork over $12,000-a-year for basic coverage. The ObamaCare legislation and its laughable rollout of a useless website is just a punctuation mark at the end of the soap opera script. The result eventually will be the complete implosion of the medical racket and a return to a very primitive clinic system, with payment in chickens or cords of stove-wood. The smaller number of surviving humans will surely enjoy better health, and greater piece of mind, when this monster racket expires of inertia, bad faith, and deceit.

    These efforts to manage runaway hyper-complexity with more complexity are guaranteed to fail. Our prime task at this moment in history is managing contraction, and the means for doing that would be simplifying, not adding layers of complication larded with fraud, pretense, and mendacity.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Anti-Empire Report #121 by William Blum

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

Published  in The Anti-Empire Report, October 7, 2013 

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The War on Terrorism … or whatever.

“U.S. hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s divided rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed political opposition coalition and announced the formation of an alliance dedicated to creating an Islamist state. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group.” 1

Pity the poor American who wants to be a good citizen, wants to understand the world and his country’s role in it, wants to believe in the War on Terrorism, wants to believe that his government seeks to do good … What is he to make of all this?

For about two years, his dear American government has been supporting the same anti-government side as the jihadists in the Syrian civil war; not total, all-out support, but enough military hardware, logistics support, intelligence information, international political, diplomatic and propaganda assistance (including the crucial alleged-chemical-weapons story), to keep the jihadists in the ball game. Washington and its main Mideast allies in the conflict – Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – have not impeded the movement to Syria of jihadists coming to join the rebels, recruited from the ranks of Sunni extremist veterans of the wars in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, while Qatar and the Saudis have supplied the rebels with weapons, most likely bought in large measure from the United States, as well as lots of of what they have lots of – money.

This widespread international support has been provided despite the many atrocities carried out by the jihadists – truck and car suicide bombings (with numerous civilian casualties), planting roadside bombs à la Iraq, gruesome massacres of Christians and Kurds, grotesque beheadings and other dissections of victims’ bodies (most charming of all: a Youtube video of a rebel leader cutting out an organ from the chest of a victim and biting into it as it drips with blood). All this barbarity piled on top of a greater absurdity – these Western-backed, anti-government forces are often engaged in battle with other Western-backed, anti-government forces, non-jihadist. It has become increasingly difficult to sell this war to the American public as one of pro-democracy “moderates” locked in a good-guy-versus-bad-guy struggle with an evil dictator, although in actuality the United States has fought on the same side as al Qaeda on repeated occasions before Syria. Here’s a brief survey:

Afghanistan, 1980-early 1990s: In support of the Islamic Moujahedeen (“holy warriors”), the CIA orchestrated a war against the Afghan government and their Soviet allies, pouring in several billions of dollars of arms and extensive military training; hitting up Middle-Eastern countries for donations, notably Saudi Arabia which gave hundreds of millions of dollars in aid each year; pressuring and bribing Pakistan to rent out its country as a military staging area and sanctuary.

It worked. And out of the victorious Moujahedeen came al Qaeda.

Bosnia, 1992-5: In 2001 the Wall Street Journal declared:

It is safe to say that the birth of al-Qaeda as a force on the world stage can be traced directly back to 1992, when the Bosnian Muslim government of Alija Izetbegovic issued a passport in their Vienna embassy to Osama bin Laden. … for the past 10 years, the most senior leaders of al Qaeda have visited the Balkans, including bin Laden himself on three occasions between 1994 and 1996. The Egyptian surgeon turned terrorist leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri has operated terrorist training camps, weapons of mass destruction factories and money-laundering and drug-trading networks throughout Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Bosnia. This has gone on for a decade. 2

A few months later, The Guardian reported on “the full story of the secret alliance between the Pentagon and radical Islamist groups from the Middle East designed to assist the Bosnian Muslims – some of the same groups that the Pentagon is now fighting in “the war against terrorism”. 3

In 1994 and 1995 US/NATO forces carried out bombing campaigns over Bosnia aimed at damaging the military capability of the Serbs and enhancing that of the Bosnian Muslims. In the decade-long civil wars in the Balkans, the Serbs, regarded by Washington as the “the last communist government in Europe”, were always the main enemy.

Kosovo, 1998-99: Kosovo, overwhelmingly Muslim, was a province of Serbia, the main republic of the former Yugoslavia. In 1998, Kosovo separatists – The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) – began an armed conflict with Belgrade to split Kosovo from Serbia. The KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the US, the UK and France for years, with numerous reports of the KLA having contact with al-Qaeda, getting arms from them, having its militants trained in al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan, and even having members of al-Qaeda in KLA ranks fighting against the Serbs. 4

However, when US-NATO forces began military action against the Serbs the KLA was taken off the US terrorist list, it “received official US-NATO arms and training support” 5 , and the 1999 US-NATO bombing campaign eventually focused on driving Serbian forces from Kosovo.

In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, an independence so illegitimate and artificial that the majority of the world’s nations still have not recognized it. But the United States was the first to do so, the very next day, thus affirming the unilateral declaration of independence of a part of another country’s territory.

The KLA have been known for their trafficking in women, heroin, and human body parts (sic). The United States has naturally been pushing for Kosovo’s membership in NATO and the European Union.

Nota bene: In 1992 the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs reached agreement in Lisbon for a unified state. The continuation of a peaceful multi-ethnic Bosnia seemed assured. But the United States sabotaged the agreement. 6

Libya, 2011: The US and NATO to the rescue again. For more than six months, almost daily missile attacks against the government and forces of Muammar Gaddafi as assorted Middle East jihadists assembled in Libya and battled the government on the ground. The predictable outcome came to be – the jihadists now in control of parts of the country and fighting for the remaining parts. The wartime allies showed their gratitude to Washington by assassinating the US ambassador and three other Americans, presumably CIA, in the city of Benghazi.

Caucasus (Russia), mid-2000s to present: The National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House have for many years been the leading American “non-government” institutions tasked with destabilizing, if not overthrowing, foreign governments which refuse to be subservient to the desires of US foreign policy. Both NGOs have backed militants in the Russian Caucasus area, one that has seen more than its share of terror stretching back to the Chechnyan actions of the 1990s. 7

“Omission is the most powerful form of lie.” – George Orwell

I am asked occasionally why I am so critical of the mainstream media when I quote from them repeatedly in my writings. The answer is simple. The American media’s gravest shortcoming is much more their errors of omission than their errors of commission. It’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. So I can make good use of the facts they report, which a large, rich organization can easier provide than the alternative media.

A case in point is a New York Times article of October 5 on the Greek financial crisis and the Greeks’ claim for World War Two reparations from Germany.

“Germany may be Greece’s stern banker now, say those who are seeking reparations,” writes the Times, but Germany “should pay off its own debts to Greece. … It is not just aging victims of the Nazi occupation who are demanding a full accounting. Prime Minister Antonis Samarass government has compiled an 80-page report on reparations and a huge, never-repaid loan the nation was forced to make under Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1945. … The call for reparations has elicited an emotional outpouring in Greece, where six years of brutal recession and harsh austerity measures have left many Greeks hostile toward Germany. Rarely does a week go by without another report in the news about, as one newspaper put it in a headline, ‘What Germany Owes Us’.”

“The figure most often discussed is $220 billion, an estimate for infrastructure damage alone put forward by Manolis Glezos, a member of Parliament and a former resistance fighter who is pressing for reparations. That amount equals about half the country’s debt. … Some members of the National Council on Reparations, an advocacy group, are calling for more than $677 billion to cover stolen artifacts, damage to the economy and to the infrastructure, as well as the bank loan and individual claims.”

So there we have the morality play: The evil Germans who occupied Greece and in addition to carrying out a lot of violence and repression shamelessly exploited the Greek people economically.

Would it be appropriate for such a story, or an accompanying or follow-up story, to mention the civil war that broke out in Greece shortly after the close of the world war? On one side were the neo-fascists, many of whom had cooperated with the occupying Germans during the war, some even fighting for the Nazis. Indeed, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, acknowledged in August 1946 that there were 228 ex-members of the Nazi Security Battalions – whose main task had been to track down Greek resistance fighters and Jews – on active service in the new Greek army. 8

On the other side was the Greek left who had fought the Nazis courageously, even forcing the German army to flee the country in 1944.

So guess which side of the civil war our favorite military took? … That’s right, the United States supported the neo-fascists. After all, an important component of the Greek left was the Communist Party, although it wouldn’t have mattered at all if the Greek left had not included any Communists. Support of the left (not to be confused with liberals of course) anywhere in the world, during and since the Cold War, has been verboten in US foreign policy.

The neo-fascists won the civil war and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency, named and modeled after itself, the KYP. For the next 15 years, Greece was looked upon much as a piece of real estate to be developed according to Washington’s political and economic needs. One document should suffice to capture the beauty of Washington’s relationship to Athens – a 1947 letter from US Secretary of State George Marshall to Dwight Griswold, the head of the American Mission to Aid Greece, said:

During the course of your work you and the members of your Mission will from time to time find that certain Greek officials are not, because of incompetence, disagreement with your policies, or for some other reason, extending the type of cooperation which is necessary if the objectives of your Mission are to be achieved. You will find it necessary to effect the removal of these officials. 9

Where is the present-day Greek headline: “What The United States Owes Us”? Where is the New York Times obligation to enlighten its readers?

The latest step in the evolution of America’s Police State

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.”

So say many Americans. And many Germans as well.

But one German, Ilija Trojanow, would disagree. He has lent his name to published documents denouncing the National Security Agency (NSA), and was one of several prominent German authors who signed a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel urging her to take a firm stance against the mass online surveillance conducted by the NSA. Trojanow and the other authors had nothing to hide, which is why the letter was published for the public to read. What happened after that, however, was that Trojanow was refused permission to board a flight from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, to Miami on Monday, September 30. Without any explanation.

Trojanow, who was on his way to speak at a literary conference in Denver, told the Spiegel magazine online website that the denial of entry might be linked to his criticism of the NSA. Germany’s Foreign Ministry says it has contacted US authorities “to resolve this issue”. 10

In an article published in a German newspaper, Trojanow voiced his frustration with the incident: “It is more than ironic if an author who raises his voice against the dangers of surveillance and the secret state within a state for years, will be denied entry into the ‘land of the brave and the free’.” 11

Further irony can be found in the title of a book by Trojanow: “Attack on freedom. Obsession with security, the surveillance state and the dismantling of civil rights.”

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who oversees the NSA and other intelligence agencies, said recently that the intelligence community “is only interested in communication related to valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.” 12

It’s difficult in the extreme to see how this criterion would apply in any way to Ilija Trojanow.

The story is a poignant caveat on how fragile is Americans’ freedom to criticize their Security State. If a foreigner can be barred from boarding a flight merely for peaceful, intellectual criticism of America’s Big Brother (nay, Giant Brother), who amongst us does not need to pay careful attention to anything they say or write.

Very few Americans, however, will even be aware of this story. A thorough search of the Lexis-Nexis media database revealed a single mention in an American daily newspaper (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch), out of 1400 daily papers in the US. No mention on any broadcast media. A single one-time mention in a news agency (Associated Press), and one mention in a foreign English-language newspaper (New Zealand Herald).

Notes

  1. Washington Post, September 26, 2013
  2. Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2001
  3. The Guardian (London), April 22, 2002
  4. RT TV (Moscow), May 4, 2012
  5. Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2001
  6. New York Times, June 17, 1993, buried at the very end of the article on an inside page
  7. Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post, “Barbarians at the Gate: Terrorism, the US, and the Subversion of Russia”, August 30, 2012
  8. Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, October 16, 1946, column 887 (reference is made here to Bevin’s statement of August 10, 1946)
  9. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1947, Vol. V (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971), pp. 222-3. See William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 3 for further details of the US role in postwar Greece.
  10. Associated Press, October 2, 2013
  11. Huffington Post, “Ilija Trojanow, German Writer, Banned From US For Criticizing NSA”, October 1, 2013
  12. Washington Post, October 5, 2013

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.
 

 

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

That Was The Week That Was In Doom June 30, 2013

From the Keyboard of Surly1

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 30, 2013

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Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

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Reality is for people who can’t face drugs.~ Laurence Peter

“Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness. . .  In effect antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable.”  ― Theodore Kaczynski

With every news cycle we  move into times more absurd and cruel then we could possibly imagine. The daily headlines have outstripped the creativity of satirists and humorists. The mainstream media lies, and reminiscent of the Soviet Union of bygone days, only comedians are able to tell the truth.  Brain-eating amoebas! Plot to execute Occupy leaders abetted by FBI!  This week we learned that an activist faces 13 years in prison for wielding sidewalk chalk, banksters caught dead to rights colluding in fraud face nothing,  we connect the dots on species extinction, and we are shocked… shocked to learn that the last people that the NSA wants to surveil are terrorists.  The president of Ecuador tweaks the New World Order,  Phyllis Schafly rises from her crypt, and Fukushima continues to tick away, glowing in the dark with malevolent certainty. There is a reason the proverb has it, “many a truth is told in jest.”  So, barkeep, for my friends here antidepressants all around with a Prestone chaser. Belly up to the Diner bar for yet another round.

 

 

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California Man Faces 13 Years In Prison For Offending Bank of America With Kiddie Chalk

Yes friends, in the wake of last week’s whistleblower story about Bank of America comes this story about the wheels of justice. And no, we are not making this up. Daily Kos reports:

Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.According to the San Diego Reader, which reported on Tuesday that a judge had opted to prevent Olson’s attorney from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial,” Olson must now stand trial for on 13 counts of vandalism.

In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson will also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left using washable children’s chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the US government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after bad bets went south.

The Reader reports that Olson’s hearing had gone as poorly as his attorney might have expected, with Judge Howard Shore, who is presiding over the case, granting Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard’s motion to prohibit attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning the United States’ fundamental First Amendment rights.

You read that correctly. By order of the judge,  the defendant’s attorney may not mention that pesky free-speech-first-amendment thingy during the trial. Seriously. Can you say, “mistrial?”

The backstory was thus: apparently, Darell Freeman, Bank of America’s Vice President for Global Corporate Security, confronted Olsen and a friend as they were protesting in front of a B of A branch.

A former police officer, Freeman accused Olson and Daniels of “running a business outside of the bank,” evidently in reference to the National Bank Transfer Day activities, which was a consumer activism initiative that sought to promote Americans to switch from commercial banks, like Bank of America, to not-for-profit credit unions.

At the time, Bank of America’s debit card fees were among one of the triggers that led Occupy Wall Street members to promote the transfer day.

“It was just an empty threat,” says Olson of Freeman’s accusations. “He was trying to scare me away. To be honest, it did at first.”

Former cop Freeman repeatedly pressured the San Diego police to attack Olson’s chalk-based activism with the same legal force used to prosecute violent gang members. And, this being the America we no longer recognize from our youth, he got want he wanted.

More experiments in the laboratory of democracy.

 

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Bankers Caught On Tape, Joking About Bailout, And How They’d Never Pay It Back

Earlier this week, a story moved that went to prove everything you thought about the behavior of bankers but were unable to produce a smoking gun.

The Irish Independent, a Dublin-based newspaper, has uncovered tapes of an internal phone conversation from September 2008 between two executives at Anglo Irish Bank during its bailout deal and they sound pretty scandalous.  The Irish Independent points out that the recordings show they misled the Central Bank.

The executives from the recording have been identified as John Bowe (head of the bank’s capital markets) and Peter Fitzgerald (director of retail banking).

However, Bowe “categorically denied” that he misled the Central Bank and Fitzgerald, who wasn’t involved in discussions with regulators, said he was unaware of any intention to mislead, the report said.

In this regard, we are reminded of Bill Clinton’s repeated denials about his serial infidelities and one notorious intern. But there’s more.

Bowe tells Fitzgerald that they met with the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (IFSRA) the previous day about getting €7 billion.  They laugh how they will never be able to pay it back. 

Bowe:  “So we went down … and we basically said. In Central, yeah. And I mean, to cut a long story short we sort of said. ‘Look, what we need is seven billion euros…and we’re going to give you and we’re going to give you, what we’re going to give you is our loan collateral so we’re not giving you ECB, we’re giving you the loan clause. 

“We gave him a term sheet and we put a pro not facility together and we said that’s what we need. And that kind of sobered up everybody pretty quickly, you know.” 

Fitzgerald: “Yeah.”

Fitzgerald: “And is that €7 billion a term?”

Bowe: “This is €7 billion bridging.” 

Fitzgerald: “Yeah.”

Bowe: “So … so it is bridged until we can pay you back … which is never.” (Both laugh)

And we know you’re laughing, too.  even though these fiduciaries are intent on committing a fraud, one would assume that they had at least done the math to compute the amount of their losses that the resulting fraud with sponge up, correct? Uhhh …

Fitzgerald asks Bowe how he came up with the 7 billion figure.  Bowe responds that like then-CEO David Drumm, he picked it out of his “arse.”

Fitzgerald: “Ah we are, yeah, yeah and, em, what, how did you arrive at the seven? 

Bowe: “Just, as Drummer would say, ‘picked it out of my arse’, you know. Em … I mean, look, what we did was we basically said: ‘What is the amount we can securitize over the next six months?’ And basically say to them: ‘Look our problem is time, it’s not our ability to create the liquidity, the enemy is time here.'” 

Fitzgerald: “Yeah.” 

Bowe: “So we can rebuild, in other words, we can rebuild the liquidity off our loan book, but what we can’t do, we can’t do it now and the balance sheet’s leaking now.” 

So we will essentially torture Bradley Manning and subject him to a political show trial, and hunt Edward Snowden to the ends of the earth. We will prosecute those who reports wrongdoing though official channels to demonstrate the futility of using those channels, and to send a message to other potential whistleblowers. We will foment wars all over the earth in order to enrich a handful of arms manufacturers. And if American boys need to die in pursuit of that particular pocket of profit, so be it. But this scum, and their ilk on this side of the water, walk free, and proud knowing they’re doing “God’s work.”

As noted above, the Independent also has a media-filled story about how these two deceived the Irish government and cost Ireland sovereignty.

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Humans ARE directly to blame for a rise in the number of endangered species

Researchers from Ohio State University discovered that as human numbers rise, the number of animals and species in the same region decrease with the study predicting that 11% of animals will be endangered by 2050. Increasing numbers of animals are moving from endangered to extinct lists, like the Western Black Rhino of Africa, pictured

It might seem to be CFS, or “common fucking sense,” as re: would’ve her, to find a direct link between increase in population size and the number of life forms on planet Earth threatened with extinction. Yet in every gathering of sub-literates, whether it be the corner bar or Congress, there are those will argue otherwise. No more.  Research findings just in from Ohio State University demonstrate that there is a direct link between human activity and the extinction and endangerment of certain animals.

Researchers from Ohio State University discovered that as human numbers rise, the number of animals and species in the same region decrease with the study predicting that 11% of animals will be endangered by 2050.

Previous studies have suspected that the number of threatened species could be linked to the size, density and growth of the human population yet research from Ohio State University is the first to have confirmed the theory.

. . .

They found that changes in human population density had ‘measurable consequences’ on changes in the number of threatened species by nation.

The average nation with a growing population can expect a 3.3 per cent increase in the number of threatened mammals and birds over the 10 years and a 10.8 per cent increase by 2050, based on human population growth alone.

Another animal edging up the endangered species list towards extinction is the Philippine Tarsier. The Tarsier feeds on tiny insects and is believed to be the world’s smallest primate

The implications of the study are quite clear:  human population density is at the very heart of extinction threats to both mammals and birds. The report does not directly suggest conservation efforts, but the future conservation efforts and certainly consider the impact of human population.

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Surveillance not for terrorists

surveillanceA Bloomberg article  thankfully reminded us of the real issue at the heart of the NSA surveillance/Edward Snowden drama.  As some of us have seen, to our horror, ordinary Americans seem to not mind the government’s digital monitoring of their communications as long as it seems to be genuinely targeted terrorists. That’s really not the case. The government’s monitoring of our communications and days of our digital privacy is really targeted at ordinary, law-abiding citizens.

The infrastructure set up by the National Security Agency, however, may only be good for gathering information on the stupidest, lowest-ranking of terrorists. The Prism surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America’s largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous elements typically use.

In a January 2012 report titled “Jihadism on the Web: A Breeding Ground for Jihad in the Modern Age,” the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service drew a convincing picture of an Islamist Web underground centered around “core forums.” These websites are part of the Deep Web, or Undernet, the multitude of online resources not indexed by commonly used search engines.

The Netherlands’ security service, which couldn’t find recent data on the size of the Undernet, cited a 2003 study from the University of California at Berkeley as the “latest available scientific assessment.” The study found that just 0.2 percent of the Internet could be searched. The rest remained inscrutable and has probably grown since. In 2010, Google Inc. said it had indexed just 0.004 percent of the information on the Internet.

Websites aimed at attracting traffic do their best to get noticed, paying to tailor their content to the real or perceived requirements of search engines such as Google. Terrorists have no such ambitions. They prefer to lurk in the dark recesses of the Undernet.

 Undernet?  Really? I’m not sure most Americans, including this writer, could find the undernet if provided a map and a Chilton’s Guide.  Given the fact that no self-respecting terrorist would use the open Internet for communications of any sort, one is left to consider the implications of just why the government is hoovering up all manner of personal communications of law-abiding citizens. Perhaps it’s to create the “surveillance effect” of demoralizing an already cowed populace now used to serial fingering and probing by uniformed TSA goons?

…Monitoring phone calls is hardly the way to catch terrorists. They’re generally not dumb enough to use Verizon. Granted, Russia’s special services managed to kill Chechen separatist leader Dzhokhar Dudayev with a missile that homed in on his satellite-phone signal. That was in 1996. Modern-day terrorists are generally more aware of the available technology.

At best, the recent revelations concerning Prism and telephone surveillance might deter potential recruits to terrorist causes from using the most visible parts of the Internet. Beyond that, the government’s efforts are much more dangerous to civil liberties than they are to al-Qaeda and other organizations like it.

Surveillance societies exist to disrupt and prevent change to the status quo. Here’s a theory: having successfully prosecuted a 35 year class war to extract the  accumulated wealth of the American middle class, the elites now have a militarized police force and a state surveillance apparatus  in place to prevent social movements that will lead to change. Especially political movements, like Occupy. All the better for the 1% to keep their ill–accumulated gains off the table and  safely in their Cayman Islands accounts.

A related story:

None Dare Call it FASCISM: How the NSA has (already) privatized tyranny

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Add Michael Hastings

HuffPo moved an article last Monday about Michael Hastings’ last communications. Speculation continues about the circumstances of his death.

Hours before dying in a fiery car crash, award-winning journalist Michael Hastings sent an email to his colleagues, warning that federal authorities were interviewing his friends and that he needed to go “off the rada[r]” for a bit.

The email was sent around 1 p.m. on Monday, June 17. At 4:20 a.m. the following morning, Hastings died when his Mercedes, traveling at high speeds, smashed into a tree and caught on fire. He was 33.

Hastings sent the email to staff at BuzzFeed, where he was employed, but also blind-copied a friend, Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, on the message. Biggs, who Hastings met in 2008 when he was embedded in his unit in Afghanistan, forwarded the email to KTLA, who posted it online on Saturday.

Here’s the email, with the recipients’ names redacted.

Subject: FBI Investigation, re: NSA

Hey (redacted names) — the Feds are interviewing my “close friends and associates.” Perhaps if the authorities arrive “BuzzFeed GQ,” er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.

Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit.

All the best, and hope to see you all soon.

Michael

Rumors that the FBI was investigating Hastings began the day after his death, with a couple of mysterious WikiLeaks tweets.

In a rare move, the FBI issued a statement denying that Hastings was under investigation. The Los Angeles Police Department also said it had found no evidence of any foul play in his death.

Hastings, an accomplished war correspondent and sharp political reporter, was best known for writing a critical Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal that led to his resignation.

It’s unclear what “big story” Hastings was working on prior to his death, but it might have to do with yet another military bigwig, this time retired general David Petraeus.

The LA Times reported that Hastings was researching a story about a privacy lawsuit brought by Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who took center stage in the Petraeus cheating scandal, against the Department of Defense and the FBI. According to a person close to Kelley, the paper said, Hastings had plans to meet a representative of hers to discuss the case next week.

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Ecuador offers U.S. rights aid, waives trade benefits

 

For those of us following the Edward Snowden/NSA story with the avidity of a drama, the statements made this week by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa certainly compelled our attention.  Correa rejected trade benefits and courted the risk of sanctions, plus tolerated threats from a number of American politicians  as a result of considering asylum for Edward Snowden.

(Reuters) – Ecuador’s leftist government thumbed its nose at Washington on Thursday by renouncing U.S. trade benefits and offering to pay for human rights training in America in response to pressure over asylum for former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The angry response threatens a showdown between the two nations over Snowden, and may burnish President Rafael Correa’s credentials to be the continent’s principal challenger of U.S. power after the death of Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at a news conference.

In a cheeky jab at the U.S. spying program that Snowden unveiled through leaks to the media, the South American nation offered $23 million per year to finance human rights training.

The funding would be destined to help “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity,” Alvarado said. He said the amount was the equivalent of what Ecuador gained each year from the trade benefits.

Ironies abound.  Yet the fact that the president of a small, Latin American country can give voice to the many of us still inside the FSA who reject the Washington consensus  is a thing of beauty.  The wholly-owned corporate media simply gives no play to domestic critics of the new world order or any of its instrumentalities.

“They’ve managed to focus attention on Snowden and on the ‘wicked’ countries that ‘support’ him, making us forget the terrible things against the U.S. people and the whole world that he denounced. The world order isn’t only unjust, it’s immoral,” Correa continued, taking an aggressive new rhetorical tack on the case.

A sentiment now forgotten in most quarters within the FSA.

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Deregulation Makes Things Blow Up

Charlie Pierce of Esquire made note of the fact that, when there is no oversight and regulation, owners won’t spend any money on safety or their people in pursuit of maximum profit.

 

Meanwhile, Congress seems to be getting interested in what happened in Geismar. Today, the Senate Committee On The Environment And Public Works held a hearing into what happened in both Texas and Louisiana. The committee’s chair, Barbara Boxer of California, said that, “This should be a wakeup call for all of us, and we must take steps to ensure that such a disaster never happens again. Here’s the good news: under existing law, EPA can strengthen safety at facilities that handle dangerous chemicals.”

If only the EPA had, you know, a director right now.

Meanwhile, Kim Nibarger, an environmental specialist for the United Steelworkers minced no words about what’s really going on here. Decades of deregulation and removing the dead hand of government from American corporations have turned far too many American factories and storage facilities into mini-Bhopals in waiting.

This is Rick Perry, Governor Of Texas, including the city of West,on the EPA and environmental regulations:

“… tell the EPA that we don’t don’t need you monkeyin’ around and fiddlin’ around and gettin’ in our business on every kind of regulation that you can dream up. You’re doin’ nothin’ more than killin’ jobs. It is a cemetery for jobs at the EPA.”

This is “Bobby” Jindal, governor of Louisiana, including the city of Geismar, on government regulations:

“We believe in planting the seeds of growth in the fertile soil of your economy, where you live, where you work, invest, and dream, not in the barren concrete of Washington. If it’s worth doing, block grant it to the states.”

This is Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, including the city of Union Mills, on the same topic:

“Over several decades the proliferation of administrative rules and regulations at all levels of government has increased the complexity and expense of economic life. Reducing this regulatory burden will promote citizens’ freedom to engage in individual, family and business pursuits.”    

Yeah, that’ll work.

Self-reporting is a joke. Leaving it to the states is an open invitation to the wild kingdom, Right now, the occasional death of a worker or three is cheaper than installing sprinklers or something. When your state’s governor starts spouting off about creating a “business-friendly environment” in your state, this is what he’s talking about.

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 Schlafly: Latino voters “don’t understand” the Bill of Rights “at all”

The blogging gods are good this week…

Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly is still telling anyone who will listen that the Republican party should only pay attention to white voters (something that it is already pretty good at doing, according to recent data).

This is a popular refrain for Schlafy, even though, as Jordan Fabian at ABC News notes, this is precisely the strategy that lost Republicans the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, to say nothing of how offensive it is to suggest the GOP disregard entire segments of the voting population based on race and ethnicity.

Schlafly was a guest on a conservative California radio show when she fired off her latest proclamation about the future of the GOP, announcing that courting Latino voters is a waste of the grand ol’ party’s time because they “don’t have any Republican inclinations at all,” and are “running an illegitimacy rate that’s just about the same as the blacks are.”

As Hunter S. Thompson would undoubtedly observed, Res ipsa loquitor.

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Radiation Levels Skyrocket at Fukushima

The Accident Is NOT Contained

What better way to execute a “Great Culling” than to poison groundwater?  Washington’s Blog moved this story. Record high levels of radioactive tritium have been observed in the harbor at Fukushima.

Japan Times notes:

The density of radioactive tritium in samples of seawater from near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant doubled over 10 days to hit a record 1,100 becquerels per liter, possibly indicating contaminated groundwater is seeping into the Pacific, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

***

Tepco said late Monday it was still analyzing the water for strontium-90, which would pose a greater danger than tritium to human health if absorbed via the food chain. The level of cesium did not show any significant change between the two sample dates, according to the embattled utility.

On June 19, Tepco revealed that a groundwater sample taken from a nearby monitoring well was contaminated with both tritium and strontium-90.

***

During a news conference Monday in Tokyo, Masayuki Ono, a Tepco executive and spokesman, this time did not deny the possibility of leakage into the sea, while he said Tepco is still trying to determine the cause of the spike.

Kyoto reports:

A sample collected Friday contained around 1,100 becquerels of tritium per liter, the highest level detected in seawater since the nuclear crisis at the plant started in March 2011, the utility said Monday.

***

The latest announcement was made after Tepco detected high levels of radioactive tritium and strontium in groundwater from an observation well at the plant.

Indeed, the amount of radioactive strontium has skyrocketed over the last couple of months at Fukushima.

The New York Times writes:

Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima, said Wednesday that it had detected high levels of radioactive strontium in groundwater at the plant, raising concerns that its storage tanks are leaking contaminated water, possibly into the ocean.

***

The company has struggled to store growing amounts of contaminated runoff at the plant, but had previously denied that the site’s groundwater was highly toxic….

Xinhua reports:

Very high radioactivity levels were detected in groundwater from an observation well at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Wednesday.

***

The observation well was set up on the Pacific side of the plant’s No. 2 reactor turbine building last December to find out the reasons why radioactivity levels in seawater near the plant remained high. The company said the sampled water could be from the contaminated water that seeped into the ground.

Just a reminder that weather patterns move West to East.

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Brain-eating amoebas thrive in US lakes as global warming heats waterways

 

These deadly invaders from the deep are showing up in surprising locations

For some people, a fatal infection without any obvious treatment strikes the sufferer down. After a swim on a hot summers day, the swimmer inadvertently inhales and me big organism which travels through the nasal passage into the brain where it multiplies devours cerebral fluid and gray matter and causes death.

And if you live in the North, it’s coming to a theater near you.

These “brain-eating amoebas” — known to doctors and scientists as Naegleria fowleri, or N. fowleri — aren’t believed to kill often. In the US, researchers estimate that between three and eight people die from N. fowleri disease, commonly referred to as PAM (primary amebic meningoencephalitis) each year. But that might not be the case for long. In recent years, N. fowleri has popped up in unexpected locations, which some experts suggest is a sign that warmer waters — caused by brutal summer heat waves and rising temperatures across the country — are catalyzing their spread.

 “The climate is changing, and let me tell you, so is this,” says Travis Heggie, an associate professor at Bowling Green State University who’s tracked the amoebas for several years. “If warm weather keeps up, I think we’ll see N. fowleri popping up farther and farther north.”

That speculation seems to be reinforced by recent cases of PAM, once a health woe confined to fresh water in southern states like Texas and Arizona. In Minnesota, public health officials were stunned to see two fatalities caused by N. fowleri — both young children — in 2010 and 2012. 

 

 

And this from an earlier article:

Here’s a ghastly thing that has been making headlines lately: Naegleria fowleri, a.k.a. brain-eating amoebas. So far this summer, this microscopic mind-muncher has claimed the lives of three people in three different states: Virginia, Florida and Louisiana. According to MSNBC:

“Naegleria fowleri moves into the body through the nose and destroys brain tissue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bug causes primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a nearly always fatal disease of the central nervous system, the CDC reported. … Naegleria fowleri is usually found warm, stagnant water in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers. It can also be found in wells.”

The good news is that brain-eating amoeba infections are very rare, and there’s no sign of any sort of outbreak at this time. Nevertheless, the Naegleria fowleri is one of nature’s many ghoulish, nightmarish creepy-crawlies, ranking alongside flesh-eating bacteria, which destroys skin and muscle tissue by releasing toxins, and the human bot fly, and insect that implants its larvae into human skin. Parasite rex, indeed.

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FBI Document—“[DELETED]” Plots to Kill Occupy Leaders “If Deemed Necessary”

In a story that would strain credulity even in these credulity-straining times when the daily headlines outstrip The Onion for absurdity, comes this piece of journalism from Dave Lindorff.

 

 

 

 

 

“Would you be shocked to learn that the FBI apparently knew that some organization, perhaps even a law enforcement agency or private security outfit, had contingency plans to assassinate peaceful protestors in a major American city — and did nothing to intervene?

“Would you be surprised to learn that this intelligence comes not from a shadowy whistle-blower but from the FBI itself – specifically, from a document obtained from Houston FBI office last December, as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Washington, DC-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund?

“To repeat: this comes from the FBI itself. The question, then, is: What did the FBI do about it?”

Many will recall that the Occupy movement swept the US beginning in mid-September 2011, taking root in a number of urban areas. It was rare for a city of any note not to have a couple of bedraggled activists in residence, many of whom had visited the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park to see how Occupy was done. In October of that year the movement came to Houston. Given the prevailing, uh, local political temperature, the local powers-that-be, including law enforcement, banking and oil execs reacted even more strongly than in some other places.

The push-back took the form of violent assaults by police on Occupy activists, federal and local surveillance of people seen as organizers, infiltration by police provocateurs—and, as crazy as it sounds, some kind of plot to assassinate the “leaders” of this non-violent and leaderless movement.

Here’s what the document obtained from the Houston FBI, said:

An identified [DELETED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors (sic) in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified [DELETED] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [DELETED] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles. (Note: protests continued throughout the weekend with approximately 6000 persons in NYC. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests have spread to about half of all states in the US, over a dozen European and Asian cities, including protests in Cleveland (10/6-8/11) at Willard Park which was initially attended by hundreds of protesters.)

Occupiers Astounded—But Not Entirely

Paul Kennedy, the National Lawyers Guild attorney in Houston who represented a number of Occupy Houston activists arrested during the protests, had not heard of the sniper plot, but said, “I find it hard to believe that such information would have been known to the FBI and that we would not have been told about it.”  He then added darkly, “If it had been some right-wing group plotting such an action, something would have been done. But if it is something law enforcement was planning, then nothing would have been done. It might seem hard to believe that a law enforcement agency would do such a thing, but I wouldn’t put it past them.”

Seeking confirmation, the reporters and asked the FBI about this document—which, despite its stunning revelation and despite  press releases, was, per usual, generally ignored by mainstream and “alternative” press alike.

The FBI confirmed the authenticity of the document and that it originated in the Houston FBI office. (The plot is also referenced in a second document obtained in PCJF’s FOIA response, in this case from the FBI’s Gainesville, Fla., office, which cites the Houston FBI as the source.)  That second document actually suggests that the assassination plot, which never was activated, might still be operative should Occupy decisively re-emerge in the area. It states:

On 13 October 20111, writer sent via email an excerpt from the daily [DELETED] regarding FBI Houston’s [DELETED] to all IAs, SSRAs and SSA [DELETED] This [DELETED] identified the exploitation of the Occupy Movement by [LENGTHY DELETION] interested in developing a long-term plan to kill local Occupy leaders via sniper fire.

Remington Alessi, an Occupy Houston activist, was one of the seven defendants whose felony charge was dropped because of police entrapment. He speculates that the plot could have been the work of a police or a private security group.

Alessi, who hails from a law-enforcement family and who ran last year for sheriff of Houston’s Harris County on the Texas Green Party ticket, garnering 22,000 votes, agrees with attorney Kennedy that the plotters were not from some right-wing organization. “If it had been that, the FBI would have acted on it,” he agrees. “I believe the sniper attack was one strategy being discussed for dealing with the occupation.” He adds:

I assume I would have been one of the targets, because I led a few of the protest actions, and I hosted an Occupy show on KPFT.  I wish I could say I’m surprised that this was seriously discussed, but remember, this is the same federal government that murdered (Black Panther Party leader) Fred Hampton. We have a government that traditionally murders people who are threats. I guess being a target is sort of an honor.

This simply cannot go on.

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Quick hits

This is a number of odd bits collected throughout the week. Some of these stories received national play, and need no attention here. As for the others, after you get past 5000 words, you simply need to quit.

New hero in Texas
http://site.pfaw.org/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=52542&em_id=38761.0

Texas Abortion Bill Filibustered By State Senator Wendy Davis Is Dead
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/texas-abortion-bill_n_3501005.html

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Who they are.

Yeah____________________________________________________________________________

Renewables projected to overtake natural gas as world’s second-largest power source

http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/28/4473694/iea-says-renewable-energy-overtakes-natural-gas-nuclear-by-2016
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Mixed week for SCROTUS

http://mariopiperni.com/conservative-media/scotus-rules-jesus-weeps.php

Big Brother has ARRIVED!

Off the keyboard of Steve Lendman

Published on the Steven Lendman Blog on May 1, 2013

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Institutionalized Spying on Americans

Big Brother no longer is fiction. It hasn’t been for some time. It’s official US policy. According to ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program director Barry Steinhardt:

“Given the capabilities of today’s technology, the only thing protecting us from a full-fledged surveillance society are the legal and political institutions we have inherited as Americans.”

“Unfortunately, the September 11 attacks have led some to embrace the fallacy that weakening the Constitution will strengthen America.”

Manufactured national security threats matter more than fundamental freedoms. Domestic spying is institutionalized.

Anyone can be monitored for any reason or none at all. Privacy rights are lost. Patriot Act legislation authorized unchecked government surveillance powers.

Financial, medical and other personal information can be accessed freely. So-called “sneak and peak” searches may be conducted through “delayed notice” warrants, roving wiretaps, email tracking, and Internet and cell phone use.

The FBI, CIA, NSA, and Pentagon spy domestically. So do state and local agencies. Spies “R” us defines US policy. America is a total surveillance society. It’s unsafe to live in. Everyone is suspect unless proved otherwise.

The 2012 FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act renewed warrantless spying. It passed with little debate. On Sunday, December 30, 2012 Obama signed it into law. Doing so largely went unnoticed.

These type disturbing measures usually slip below the radar. Weekends and holiday period enactments conceal blows to freedom. Warrantless spying became law for another five years.

Phone calls, emails, and other communications may be monitored secretly without court authorization. Probable cause isn’t needed. So-called “foreign intelligence information” is sought. Virtually anything qualifies. Vague language is all-embracing.

Months after 9/11, Bush secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans lawlessly. Sweeping surveillance followed without court-approved warrants.

Doing so violates core constitutional protections. Major US telecommunications companies are involved. They have been since 9/11. Things now are worse than then.

On April 29, Russia Today (RT) headlined “Spy, or pay up: FBI-backed bill would fine US firms for refusing wiretaps.” A day earlier Washington Post article was cited.

It headlined “Panel seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap orders,” saying:

“A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Face­book and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former US officials familiar with the effort.”

At issue is alleged FBI concerns about “Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals.”

FBI spying is longstanding. So are other lawless practices. Throughout its history, the agency operated within and outside the law.

J. Edgar Hoover ran it from 1924 – 1972. He waged war on communists, anti-war, human and civil rights activists, the American Indian Movement, Black Panther Party, and other groups challenging rogue state policies.

He ordered agents to infiltrate, disrupt, sabotage, and destroy them. Anyone advocating ethnic justice and racial emancipation, as well as economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines became vulnerable.

Post-9/11, FBI abuses escalated. Intrusive surveillance tools now target ordinary Americans. Unchecked authority and other abusive practices are widespread. America’s war on terror matters most.

Disturbing tactics include greater physical surveillance, commercial database data retrieval, paid informants infiltrating groups (or targeting individuals) on false pretenses, and letting covert unidentified agents conduct “pretext” interviews for information.

Muslims are America’s target of choice. So are anti-war and social justice activists. A gloves off, no-holds barred approach is followed. Virtually anything is fair game. Innocent people are vulnerable.

The Patriot Act authorized so-called National Security Letters (NSLs). FBI agents take full advantage. They do so by demanding personal customer records from ISPs, financial institutions, credit companies, and other sources without prior court approval.

The FBI wants more. According to the Washington Post, it wants companies failing to heed wiretap orders penalized.

In February 2011, then FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni told House Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee members about a “Going Dark” problem.

She explained the agency’s inability to access comprehensive “communications and related data.” She claimed a “public safety” threat when critical information is missed.

In March 2013, current FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann addressed an American Bar Association discussion. He did so on legal challenges new technologies pose, saying:

“We don’t have the ability to go to court and say, ‘We need a court order to effectuate the intercept.’ Other countries have that. Most people assume that’s what you’re getting when you go to a court.”

Under current law, Internet communications companies can refuse to comply with court-ordered wiretaps. They can claim no practical way to do so.

Proposed legislation would change things. It would force companies to rebuild their capability to allow government monitoring.

Weissmann calls doing so a “top priority.” Proposed legislation is being drafted. It’s an extension of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

It grants federal authorities sweeping surveillance powers. Doing so lets them spy on Americans more intrusively.

CALEA originally applied only to digital telephone networks. It forced telephone companies to redesign their network architectures to make wiretapping easier.

In 2005, online communications were added. Broadband providers had to rebuild their networks accordingly.

At issue was permitting access to Internet “phone calls” through VOIP applications, as well as online “conversations” by instant messaging programs.

Law enforcement wiretapping is longstanding. Existing laws permit tapping phone or online communications regardless of what programs or protocols are used.

Industry largely cooperates. Digital age surveillance is easier than authorities claim. They want greater ease than currently permitted. Expanding CALEA is overkill. Doing so enhances police state powers.

The FBI cites its “tappability principle.” It does so to justify its demands. It claims whatever is legally searchable sometimes should be physically searchable all times.

Applied to phone and Internet communications, it would require designing phones and computers with built-in bugs. Doing so would elevate surveillance powers. Everyone could be spied on at all times. Private communications no longer would exist.

Expanding CALEA is the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps software companies are next. Enhanced legislative authority may force them to create surveillance-ready programs. Doing so may compromise innovation.

Applying phone system rules to software development and online communications assures trouble. What’s longstanding policy for one compromises innovation for the others. It also more greatly undermines freedom.

Police state powers are enhanced. Companies are forced to comply. Under draft legislation, courts could levy fines. Judicial inquiries could impose additional ones. After 90 days, unpaid amounts would double daily.

According to Center for Democracy and Technology senior counsel Greg Nojeim:

“This proposal is a non-starter that would drive innovators overseas and cost American jobs. They might as well call it the Cyber Insecurity and Anti-Employment Act.”

Former federal prosecutor Michael Sussman added:

“Today, if you’re a tech company that’s created a new and popular way to communicate, it’s only a matter of time before the FBI shows up with a court order to read or hear some conversation.”

“If the data can help solve crimes, the government will be interested.”

In 2010, after its networks were hacked, Google began emails and text messages end-to-end encryption. Facebook followed suit.

Doing so compromises FBI monitoring. Agency officials want enhanced CALEA authorization permitting it.

They claim doing so only extends current law to new technologies. It requires phone and online companies to allow wiretapping.

It’s much more than that. It elevates mass surveillance to a dangerously higher level. It’s another step toward full-blown tyranny.

On April 29, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) headlined “Feds Push for Backdoor Wiretap Capabilities.”

According to CDT Senior Staff Technologist Joe Hall:

“A wiretapping mandate is a vulnerability mandate. The unintended consequences of this proposal are profound.”

“At the very time when the nation is concerned about cybersecurity, the FBI proposal has the potential to make our communications less secure.”

“Once you build a wiretap capability into products and services, the bad guys will find a way to use it.”

CDT President Leslie Harris added:

“What the FBI is proposing sounds benign, but it comes with such onerous penalties that it would force developers to seek pre-approval from the FBI.”

“No one is going to want to face fines that double every day, so they will go to the FBI and work it out in advance, diverting resources, slowing innovation, and resulting in less secure products.”

“The sad irony,” said Hall, “is that this is likely to be ineffective. Building a communications tool today is a homework project for undergraduates.”

“So much is based on open source and can be readily customized. Criminals and other bad actors will simply use homemade communication services based offshore, making them even harder to monitor.”

Media scholar/critic/activist Robert McChesney told Progressive Radio News Hour listeners how Internet freedom has been compromised.

His important new book “Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy” explains what should concern everyone.

“The corporate media sector (did) everything in its immense power to limit (its) openness and egalitarianism…., he said.”

“….corporate and state surreptitious monitoring of Internet users” compromises fundamental freedoms.

Doing so is “inimical to much of the democratic potential of digital communication.”

Internet freedom depends on “arrest(ing) the forces that promote inequality, monopoly, hypercommercialism, corruption, depoliticization, and stagnation.”

It requires ending mass surveillance powers. It’s about restoring lost democratic principles. America’s heading the wrong way. It’s perilously close to ending freedom altogether.

Big Brother is Watching You

I am at last safely back on the Last Great Frontier following my Excellent Mexican Dental Adventure.  Still not sure I’ll survive long term here as I am a long way from being able to actually chew anything, and even getting down soups without choking is rough.  However, I think I’ve spent enough time for a while on my dental issues.  You can read more of the gory details inside the Diner.

Lots of concern last couple of days over the rapid expansion of the Police State surveillance powers as I hop around through my favorite websites.  I’ve set up the Blogger Buffet with my favorite blogs, but what I really need is an I-phone App that allows you to Remote control any computer and bring up your favorite websites.  I’m sure one already exists of course.

Anyhow, I don’t see what all the hullaballoo is about here.  Basically from its inception, all electronic communications via the internet have been subject to EZ surveillance, recording and data mining.  The fact that the NSA is building a new bigger Spy Shop to record everything that passes accross the net is nothing new, they have been doing this already for a long time.  The new facility is just designed to handle the greater traffic loads they expect in the future as the whole world gets wired up and they have to keep tabs on 1.3B chinese in addition to just the .35 B FSofA slaves.  Individually, your privacy isn’t going to be compromised by this new facility any more than it already is.  TPTB already have the power to read all your emails, check all your bank transactions and follow you around as long as you have your Phone turned on all day.

Anyhow, IMHO this is just another example of Malinvestment on the techno paradigm.  This facility isn’t going to be collecting much data once the electric grid fails.  Maybe they get another 5-10 years running the high tech Brave New World/Big Brother paradigm, but this has about as much chance of long term utility as Carz do.

As an example here, take the Greeks.  For just how much longer do you think Greek millenials are going to be scurrying around Athens texting each other on their smart phones?  Even assuming they keep the network up and running through some privatization scheme for a while, who’s going to have money to pay their cell phone bill?

All the concern over your electronic data privacy is rooted in the belief that this whole infrastructure is going to stand in perpetuity.  Really, its only been around for 20-30 years here to begin with and everybody seems to think we can’t live without it and Da Goobermint will wield it as a means of perpetual control over the population.  Poppycock!  In 30 years the Data Center in Utah will be just another rotting hulk along with all the strip malls and Instant Oil Change Jiffy Lubes.

For those of you concerned with Da Goobermint spying on what you write on the internet in the next 5 years or so and sending you to GITMO, given the number of people writing anti-Goobermint rants these days, you’ll have to go pretty far to garner any attention.  Then in all likelihood once WWIII really gets rolling, the only info you’ll be able to get off the Net is Goobermint Propaganda anyhow.  Bloggers will probably have to apply for a License to Blog and sign Agreements not to write anything except what Da Goobermint sends to you daily as acceptable topics with the politically correct spin.

Anyhow, for as long as this does last, the answer to the problem is Information Overload.  If EVERYBODY is writing anti-Goobermint Rants on a daily basis, the NSA Goobers are basically going to have to just randomly pick out examples to send to GITMO.  At the moment, I suspect my chances of winning this Lotto are less than 1:1000.  More well read Bloggers might have slightly higher odds of getting nailed.

So, don’t sweat it.  Who knows, if your Comment is read by some NSA apparatchik, it might finally be the one that gets him to wake up and smell the coffee, and a Convert will be gained inside the Belly of the Beast.  I personally do not worry abotu this surveillance, and in fact I WELCOME the fact all my prose is being Recorded for Historical purposes.  Of course, its just going to exist as a bunch of electronic bits on an NSA Hard Drive and in 50 years nobody will be able to read it again, but at least its out there somewhere after I buy my ticket to the Great Beyond.

RE

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