RINF Alternative News
US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry issued bellicose statements directed against Russia on Tuesday, one week after a right-wing putsch backed by the US and the European powers brought down the Ukrainian government.
Responding to Russian actions in Crimea, Kerry—on a visit to Kiev, Ukraine’s capital—said Moscow was lying. “Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for Russia to invade further,” he said. If Russia does not de-escalate, “then our partners will have absolutely no choice but to join us” in measures to isolate Russia politically and economically.
Kerry added that Russia’s moves were a “brazen act of aggression.”
From Washington, Obama declared that Russia was “seeking to exert force on a neighbouring country.” He added, “There is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law.”
Earlier, the Pentagon announced that it was suspending “all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia.”
In Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first public statement on the Ukraine crisis, he said there is no need yet to send troops into Ukraine. He ordered Russian troops holding military exercises near the Ukrainian border back to their bases, commenting: “We aren’t going to fight the Ukrainian people. The use of the military is an extreme case.”
However, Putin said that if Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine asked for Russia’s help, or if there were signs of anarchy, “we reserve the right to use all means.” He denied that Russian armed forces were directly engaged in Crimea, saying the uniformed troops without national insignia were “local self-defence forces.”
Kerry’s official remit in Kiev was to meet with interim President Olexander Turchynov, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and others figures put in power by an alliance of oligarchs and fascists backed by the US. He brought an offer of $1 billion to avert a financial implosion of Ukraine and to stabilise European markets, which fell heavily on Monday before recovering yesterday.
This is itself a poisoned chalice, with US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew stating that US money would “supplement IMF support in order to… cushion the impact of needed reforms on vulnerable Ukrainians.” In short the US and European powers want to begin imposing savage austerity measures (including cuts in subsidies to basic necessities) and privatisations, without provoking an immediate social explosion that would cut across efforts to portray Ukraine as “united” against Russia.
Behind the scenes, talks will have been about precisely how to isolate and destabilise Russia.
Kerry and Obama have spent the past days consolidating a strategic alliance of imperialist and regional powers against Moscow—insisting above all that the European powers, led by Germany, take a hard line on Ukraine and on economic sanctions. In addition, Washington has repeatedly met with the leaders of Georgia and Moldova, encouraging both to make a high profile stand against Russia to encourage others to do the same.
On February 26, Kerry spoke to the US-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission, announcing additional US assistance “to help support Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic vision,” while denouncing Russia’s continued military presence in the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Kerry said the US continues “to object to Russia’s occupation, militarisation and borderisation of Georgian territory.”
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, after meeting with Obama at the White House, called on NATO to speed up its approval of Georgia’s membership. Georgia has sought NATO membership for years, but this has in the past been opposed by Germany and France for fear of angering Russia. Garibashvili stressed that Georgia attached “critical importance to our strategic partnership with the United States.”
The day before Kerry travelled to Ukraine, he met with Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, promising to give $7.5 million to the country of 3.5 million people to help facilitate closer links with the European Union. Moldova borders Ukraine and is seeking membership in the EU. “I regret to say Russia, in some of the challenges that we are seeing right now in Ukraine, has put pressure on Moldova,” Kerry declared.
Obama “re-affirmed the United States’ strong support for Moldovan sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” the White House said in a statement, prompting Leanca to cite how Moldova had to suffer Russian backing for the separatist Moldovan region of Transnistria.
“The United States also supports the professionalization of Moldova’s military,” the statement continued. “US assistance enhances Moldova’s capabilities to become a force provider for peacekeeping and stability operations and to promote regional security.”
Stung by criticism of Obama’s supposed indecisiveness from Republican sources, Peter Beinart, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, gave a concise summary of a US policy of encircling and encroaching on Russia in The Atlantic .
Noting how the push against Russia began with German reunification, he continued, “In 1995, NATO went to war against Serbia, and then sent peacekeepers to Bosnia to enforce the peace agreement that followed. This new, Eastern-European mission paved the way for further expansion. By 1997, it was clear Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic would enter the alliance.
“In 2004, NATO admitted another seven former Soviet bloc countries, three of which—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—had been part of the USSR. In 2009, Croatia and Albania joined the club. Six former Soviet republics—Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan—now link their militaries to NATO’s via the ‘Partnership for Peace’ program. All five former Soviet republics in Central Asia—Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan—provide NATO countries with some basing, transit, refueling, or overflight rights for use in the Afghan war.”
“From Putin’s perspective,” he concludes, “the United States hardly looks in retreat. To the contrary, the post-Cold War period has brought one long march by America and its allies closer and closer to the border of Russia itself.”
On Tuesday, Poland secured a meeting of NATO’s North Atlantic Council on the basis that it felt threatened by Moscow’s moves in the region. NATO pledged that it would review “the measures to be taken to safeguard the security interests of the Allies.”
Though it is difficult to predict precisely how events will unfold in the Ukraine over the coming days, the trajectory of developments is clear. The US is making a political, economic and military push against Russia that has brought Ukraine to the brink of civil war and which threatens a far broader conflict.
Reprinted with permission from World Socialist Web Site.
Richard Gale & Gary Null
RINF Alternative News
Is it only me or is there something fundamentally flawed with the people who are running our government? This includes the thousands of policymakers, opinion leaders, oligarchs, autocrats and technocrats, the hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats and their loyal underlings, including millions within the corporatocracy who facilitate the maintenance of power. Does it bother you that the Wall Street banks and major corporations, many of our academic and religious institutions as well as our medical, military and intelligence gathering complexes, have their needs met at the expense of everyone else?
They control our government. We don’t. Instead, we fear our government. They tell us, “Trust us. We know what to do and how to fix all of our crises.” Okay, we trust you. They say we are for peace, democracy and freedom but everywhere we look, they are colonizing and militarizing foreign countries with over 960 military bases with a budget of 1.6 trillion going to numerous corporations to keep American imperialism afloat. At the same time, there have been massive home foreclosures, repossessions, for-profit prisons stuffed to the brim with inmates for minor crimes, and the now reappearance of debtor prisons in 27 states. We are graduating students who are functionally illiterate.
They say trust us, unemployment has decreased to 6.7 percent. And we say that the real number is 24 percent due to the millions who no longer receive compensation and have stopped looking for work.
They say lower taxes. We say why don’t you pay what you owe instead of getting accountants to fudge the numbers in order to pay no taxes? They say that the economy is booming and the stock market is reaching record numbers. We say is that because you are loaning to small businesses? Is that because you are helping new companies to jumpstart manufacturing again in the US, or is it because you can go to the fed to be bailed out at zero interest?
They say trust us, we need more law and order. And yet, private banks and corporations have been fined tens of billions of dollars for engaging in criminal activity repeatedly and never go to jail. On the other hand the average person gets caught jaywalking and can be thrown into the slammer.
They say they are uncertain whether or not global warming is real. And we say we have had 120,000 extreme weather events globally in the past year and the scientific consensus around the world is that global warming is very real and a global threat to humanity’s future.
They say they believe in protecting our rights for our freedom of speech, but then our government monitors anyone who is critical of Washington policy and major corporations. They say we need Obamacare. We say there is nothing in Obamacare to prevent disease nor any provisions to enhance a person’s survival if they have a disease. The US is the sickest developed nation in the world and the pharmaceutical giants and insurance companies are perfectly happy to keep it that way.
They say we should not have rules that limit globalization nor hinder free market casino capitalism. And we say look at NAFTA, the outsourcing of jobs overseas, which collapsed American industry, and the ghettoization of America‘s cities like Detroit, Compton and Camden. They say we should not give welfare to the lazy and nothing should be socialized. We say major corporations reap 200-300 billion a year in corporate welfare. When they succeed, citizens don’t share in the profits. When they fail, we are forced to pay for their ineptitude.
They encourage us to watch television and shop because it is good for people and the economy. And we say our life is more substantial than a reality show. And why is there no honest effort by the media to know what it means to be a person suffering today. They say, we are doing everything for your benefit; however, when whistleblowers come forward they are immediately demonized and prosecuted.
We are bothered by this and much more, because behind all the corruption, lies and deception there is no viable solution to the nation’s increasing economic disparity and the rise in unemployment, poverty and depression.
Our education policy makers welcome us to their institutions. They convince us they will help our children master the art of critical thinking so they will be more empowered to live authentic, constructive and meaningful lives. Yet to the contrary, their expertise has been limited solely to teaching children how to take exams and behave as programmed robots. Many of our educational leaders refuse to join protests over the takeover of schools by immoral business privatizers, which goes to show academia is nothing more than a handmaiden of the corporate industrial complex.
Our leaders tell us that they want the nation to be energy independent and this can be done safely and efficiently while also addressing the increasing challenges of climate change and global warming. And we trust them. But to the contrary their cards have been stacked to abet the fossil fuel moguls and hydrofrackers who without remorse contaminate and destroy the environment while depleting precious water resources upon which communities depend. And then, even in the aftermath of Fukushima, we are told believe that nuclear power is a clean, safe and green alternative.
We constantly hear from our politicians that the US is the greatest democracy in the world and they are fully devoted to keep it as a “shining light on a hill.” But then, as we have learned from Edward Snowden and other courageous whistleblowers, none of the politicians trust the American people. Otherwise there would be no incentive or reason to conduct massive covert spying and surveillance on every aspect of our lives. As well as militarize the police to assure that demonstrators are dealt with the needs of Big Business and Big Government
They tell us we have medical freedom of choice. But if we don’t want to treat our children who suffer from cancer with their toxic chemotherapy drugs and radiation, they take the children away. And where is the choice in declining a vaccine when state governments mandate vaccination in our school systems?
After they tell us we have a Bill of Rights and our Constitutional rights are protected, they then turn around and take away habeas corpus which allows them to search and seize anything they want. In addition, they can harass and arrest those who they fear.
The media repeatedly claims it is fair and balanced, yet all of their guests and so-called experts are corporate propagandists whether from think tanks, foundations or academia.
They tell us we are the wealthiest and most financially stable country in the world. The nation has a $15 trillion GDP. However, against that there are exponential amounts of debt including $17 trillion to the federal debt, $6 trillion for state debt, $25 trillion for corporate debt, $10-15 trillion for personal debt, about a trillion each for credit card and student loan debt as well as unfunded liabilities at over $128 trillion. So our real total debt is over $193 trillion. In effect, the US is worse off than Greece or Spain. In fact, the US is virtually bankrupt as the most indebted nation on the planet
We were repeatedly being told that an Obama presidency would be the most open, transparent administration in presidential history. However, everything in this White House has been the exact opposite, with more documents being classified secret than any other administration. Increasingly the administration has stripped away government from the people and handed it over to a corporate oligarchy.
Is the problem, therefore, we the people? Are we at fault for having been seduced by those in power to sell us blank bill of goods, drugs, products and policies that are more harmful than beneficial? Are we at fault for having deceived ourselves to believe that their illusion is the truth? Or is the elite, the best and brightest in Wall Street, Washington and the top stories of the multinational corporate networks, the real obstacle to a promising future for all? Are the oligarchic elite, including corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans in all branches of government, not in fact a special breed of psychopath with no moral compass, striving solely to maintain their power, control and wealth? In this article we explore this phenomena with two leading experts on the psychopathic nature of our CEOs, business leaders and politicians who rule America from their residences on Psycho Street.
Several decades ago, finding an individual with strong psychopathic characteristics serving in an executive function at a major Wall Street bank or multinational corporation would have been almost unheard of. During the Great Generation following the Second World War, most people’s entire careers were often with a single company or firm. They climbed through the ranks based upon seniority and time spent at the firm. Because corporations and banks were more stable then, it was therefore incumbent that business leaders be psychological stable as well.
Today that has all changed. Given the dramatic deviations within high finance and large corporations, the business culture and ethics have degenerated and given way to a landscape of classical psychological derangement. The advent of radical deregulation, the rise of our present free market and the neoliberal capitalist paradigm has made way for a new dominant economic system that is fundamentally amoral, as Jerry Mander has elaborated upon in The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System. Within an amoral system we would expect to find chairmen, CEOs and executives who are also amoral and callous about the financial decisions and policies they make and that consequently have a profound deleterious impact on the lives of others.
Several studies investigating the psychopathic nature of our private industrial and financial systems and the executives leading these institutions have shed light on the underlying causes of our national economic woes during the past five presidential administrations. Percentage estimates of high level corporate executives who can be clinically diagnosed as psychopathic vary. Psychopathology for the general population is approximately one percent. However, among the wealthy and power elites, estimates range between four percent (Dr. Robert Hare, an expert in criminal psychology at the University of British Columbia) to ten percent (Sherri DeCoveny, a former investment banker now researching psychological disturbances in the finance community). Welsh journalist Jon Ronson, author of the bestseller The Psychopath Test, claims the percentage is even higher. Psychologist Clive Boddy at the Nottingham University has devoted his research to studying corporate psychopaths. In his bookCorporate Psychopaths As Organizational Destroyers, Boddy argues that it was the psychopathic behavior of the financial elite that brought about the economic collapse in 2008. His research also indicates that those with the most psychopathic tendencies are promoted fastest through the corporate ranks. And it is well known that the risks for crime and illegal activity is far greater among psychopaths than the general population.
Investigations into many companies, such as Enron, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, AIG, JP Morgan, Freddie and Fannie, MF Global, HSBC Bank and others have uncovered widespread, systemic crime. In a survey of 500 senior executives in the US and UK, 26 percent observed firsthand wrongdoing in the workplace, and one in four believed it was necessary for professionals in the financial sector to engage in unethical and illegal conduct in order to be successful. Sixteen percent stated they would commit insider trading if they were certain they could get away with it, and 30 percent said that the pressures to maximize on compensation plans were an incentive to break the law. These statistics provide evidence to just how deeply ingrained psychopathic qualities have become institutionalized in our financial industry. They validate the former Goldman Sachs employee, Greg Smith, who has written and spoken publicly about the disturbing psychological characteristics among his colleagues. And wasn’t it Goldman Sachs’ Chairman Lloyd Blankfein who rhetorically asked an interviewer with the London Times, “Is it possible to have too much ambition? Is it possible to be too successful?” Blankfein has publicly stated he doesn’t believe there are or should be caps on either personal ambition or compensation and reward for personal ambition.
So when a study conducted by Vanderbilt University finds that psychopaths frequently have an abnormality in their neurochemical dopamine levels, which contributes to a narcissistic drive for personal reward at any cost and to engage willingly in risky behavior that benefits themselves while injuring others, we can better understand why unlawful conduct is commonplace among high powered traders, fund managers and their executive bosses
Dr. Christopher Bayer is a psychoanalyst who has earned the title of the Wall Street Psychologist after thirty years counseling and treating financial executives, CEOs, venture capitalists, hedge fund execs, traders, Wall Street lawyers and their families in Manhattan. He is intimately aware of the self-destructive and devastating psychological damage being caused by those deeply immersed in high finance culture, and is blunt about the epidemic of psychopathic personalities running throughout America‘s corporations and firms. During a conversation with Dr. Bayer, he noted that psychopaths lack the capacity to experience empathy. “They don’t experience guilt. They don’t experience anxiety. They are driven, hyper vigilant and on Wall Street most of it is about power and control.” He estimates that among his Wall Street clients, this is the norm. “It’s about seduction. Show me the money. It’s the opiate of western culture and this is what I glean from my patients.”
“The people I work with basically say to me, “Let them catch us if they can. We have enough money to legally draw out for ten or twenty years anything the government does to us.’ It’s a war of attrition, and the Bernie Madoff caper is a good example.”
“The 2008 subprime crisis, based on the people I work with, was totally predictable. John Paulson made 15 billion dollars because of that crisis. Totally predictable and it’s all self-serving. The issue of sustainability, righteousness and virtue is not considered.”
The Vice President of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, Jim Corey, collected data on personality traits common to specific professions, primarily looking at superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness and lying, lack of remorse, and manipulation of others. These are common traits of psychopathic killers, but Corey also found them common among many politicians. The problem that arises is whether or not the entire system within which private corporate industries and our federal government function and progress is now programmed to be psychopathic. Has corporate culture now de-evolved to such a degree where psychopathology has been legalized and above the law?
RINF Alternative News
I mean the title of this article in two ways: first, the Shabak is at war with Palestinians using social media in order to express their nationalist political views. Second, the Israeli far-right is using Facebook as a potent means to advance its own genocidal views against Palestinians. If that sounds like a double standard…well, welcome to Israel, the land of hypocrisy and double standards.
For example, last week the Shabak hauled a Palestinian in for interrogationbecause he called Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, the “mayor of Occupation.”Haaretz notes that four months ago, the police arrested 13 young East Jerusalem bloggers who complained about the “politics of Occupation” and damage to Al Aqsa Mosque. Their lawyer pointed out that charges were filed against eight of them, but none of the charges involved anything they’d posted. All charges were dredged up in the subsequent interrogation and applied post facto.
Another Palestinian social media activist was jailed on charges that his Twitter and Facebook postings supported a “terror organization.” His detention was extended by the court with the claim that his alleged crimes were “serious” and if he was released he would likely endanger the public peace and security and damage the investigation. All this due to a tweet!! Who’d have thought they could be so subversive as to threaten an entire nation?
After his release, his lawyer discovered that the posts the police grilled him about were anywhere from a year to two years old. Which raises the question: if they were so dangerous why hadn’t the police investigated them at the time they were published? Did they become dangerous only after the police discovered them? One of the gravest charges raised by the police was his publication of a song by the Lebanese singer, Julia Boutrous, which speaks of the Palestinian longing for homeland. Apparently, only Jews can long for their homeland as they do when they sing the HaTikva. Another aspect of the questioning involved the victim’s call to protest against the Prawer Plan. Apparently, Palestinians are not allowed to have opinions freely granted to hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who opposed this travesty perpetrated against Israeli Bedouin. The coup de grace is that the police deemed this man so dangerous that they conducted the investigation in secret and allowed his attorney to have no contact with him.
As for Israeli right-wing social media activists: they may treat the web as the Devil’s Playground. It’s a veritable online refuge of hate. In a separate article,Haaretz notes (Hebrew) two of the worst examples of such hatemongering are the Facebook pages for “Revenge of the Jews” and “Death to Terrorists”(61,000 likes). The first is replete with pictures of beaten up Palestinians with blood pouring from their head wounds as they lay in hospital beds after throwing stones or trying to seduce Jewish girls. The crimes are assumed and guilt is certain. There is no such thing as “allegedly” when Palestinians are concerned.
There are multiple trophy photos of price tag attacks showing damage caused to Palestinian cars and property likely by the photographers themselves. There’s a picture of a Molotov cocktail thrown by a pogromist at a Palestinian home which caused fire damage. There is a photo of a brutal attack by Jews on a Sudanese refugees assaulted after a protest in which the refugees demanded their rights. There are paeans to the holy memory of homicidal maniacs like Baruch Goldstein (“How happy we are and how good our portion [in life] to have had a Baruch such as this!”).
The forte of Death to Terrorists seems to be celebrating the murder of Palestinian “terrorists.” They’re accompanied by the jovial statement: “Can you ‘like’ [Israeli] killers [of terrorists]?” There are photos of those who’ve been executed by Israel security forces, and huzzahs all around for the brave boys of Tzahal who save us from these ruthless killers. The moral is “the only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian.” There’s a photo of two proud settler extremists violating security regulations by infiltrating the Temple Mount. They each have huge smiles on their faces in the knowledge that they are fomenting tension and conflict with the Waqf which administers the site.
Some members are willing to go far afield to satisfy their Muslim-hatred. One posts a Hebrew article about the Uighur attack on a Chinese railway station in which 29 were killed:
Muslims savagely slaughtered (as only they know how) 29 residents on a train. Suspicion: Muslim terror.
Never mind that Islam has nothing to do with Uighur grievances against Chinese authorities. That’s far too much nuance for these haters to grasp.
Let’s call this what it is: Jewish terrorism flagrantly flouting Israeli law by promoting and inciting hate and violence against Palestinians. But don’t be surprised. The Israeli state is complicit in this terrorism not only by not combating it; but also through its own enabling behavior. All a settler has to do is see his fellow settlers serving in the Border Police executing an unarmed Palestinian inside his home to know that their own genocidal views are ratified by the State itself. They know either they can get away with murder (literally) or that if they’re arrested they receive nothing more than a pat on the back and encouragement to go out there and commit more mayhem and mischief. The Israeli police and security services aren’t being incompetent or lax in not combatting this patently illegal activity. Many of the members of these groups are the very same police and security personnel who are supposed to uphold laws against racial and religious incitement. They are the foxes inside the hen house, even running it!
Richard Silverstein has been writing Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, since February 2003. It focuses on exposing the excesses of the Israeli national security state. He also created the Israel Palestine Forum, a discussion forum for progressives about the I-P conflict. Visit Richard’s website.
RINF Alternative News
If “generals always fight the last war,” longtime critics of U.S. foreign policy too often fight past interventions, as many of my progressive colleagues are now doing with the escalating conflict in Ukraine. As one who wrote extensively on American and European promotion of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004 and Georgia’s war with Russia in 2008, I suffer from the same syndrome.
(For my earlier symptoms, see “Uncle Santa and Ukraine’s Orange-Colored Elves,” “How Uncle Santa Diddles Democrats from Ukraine to Venezuela,” “Big Bad Russkies and Nasty Neocons,” and “Russian Jerks Meet Western Knee-Jerks.”)
It’s hard to blame us. Incriminating footprints in Ukraine look all too familiar, from Secretary of State John Kerry’s complete lack of credibility on international law to phony democrats like the National Endowment of Democracy, conservative warmongers like John McCain, and neocon interventionists like Robert Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, who recently immortalized herself by declaring “f*ck the E.U.”
We have so much to say on how Washington helped create the current mess. But, gotcha gets us nowhere. The question is how do we clean up the mess and defuse the crisis.
The beginning of wisdom is to move beyond the neocons. As toxic as they remain, Washington will only make the situation in the Ukraine worse unless progressives can help inoculate President Obama and his fellow Democrats against any lingering desire to bring Ukraine (and Georgia) into the NATO alliance. Nothing was more certain to bring thousands of Russian ground forces into the Crimea — and to keep them there — than the idea that Washington wants to have NATO troops right on the Russian border and in spitting distance of the country’s historic Black Sea naval base in the Crimean port of Sebastopol.
Many neocons know this and have systematically tried to promote a new Cold War. How better to guarantee new procurement contracts for their longtime allies in the military-industrial complex? How more timely to sidetrack Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s proposal to cut back Pentagon spending?
It’s unlikely that Obama was playing the same game, not with his dependence on the Russians to curb chemical weapons in Syria and reach a nuclear agreement with Iran. But how could the president and his national security team have failed to realize the provocation of covertly promoting regime change in the Ukraine and helping bring to power a new government that proclaims its desire to join NATO? What the hell were they thinking? Were they thinking at all?
Congenital nay-sayers will insist with their inbred certainty that this could never happen. I suggest they look at Zbigniew Brzezinski’s recent article in the Financial Times and his March 2nd appearance on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS. Formerly National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, the Polish-born Brzezinski is a vintage Cold Warrior who urged arming the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan, even though he expected it to provoke a Russian invasion, which it did. Unreformed, he is now urging NATO to deploy forces in Central Europe, including U.S. airborne units.
But even this bear-baiting hardass understands the need to give Putin “options to avoid conflict,” and the top of his list remains what he calls a “Finland Option,” which is a guarantee that Ukraine not participate in any military alliance. If Zbig can see the logic, so can Barack.
The second step is to shush all the talk of punishing the Russians for responding to our provocation. Yes, Putin can be a real thug, but the need is to cut back the confrontation and work with him diplomatically to eliminate an extremely dangerous situation. The more Obama and the Democrats try to look McCain tough, the more likely the situation on the ground will get worse, from the movement of Russian troops into the rest of Eastern Ukraine and an open civil war to a new Cold War that — as AIPAC and the neocons want — will sink any hope of cooperation on Syria and Iran.
The Europeans are beginning to understand this and look unlikely to back Obama and Kerry in their call for economic sanctions. “f*ck Who?” This lack of support alone should cool Washington’s ardor to look tough.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, “Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.”
Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party militants
Based on the release of a controversial leaked telephone conversation, we are now in a position to confirm that the Kiev Maidan Independence Square February 20 sniper shootings directed against innocent civilians were ordered by opposition leaders integrated by Neo-Nazi elements.
Acknowledged in a leaked telephone conversation between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet, the Maidan opposition rather than president Yanukovych was behind the sniper killings on February 20.
These shooting were directed against both opposition protesters and police.
The telephone file was apparently uploaded by officers of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) loyal to president Viktor Yanukovych indicating that the power structures of the coalition government are fragile, to say the least.
Below is the excerpt of the transcript of the leaked telephone conversation (emphasis added):
Urmas Paet: “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition,”
Catherine Ashton: “I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh,”
According to RT: The telephone call “took place after Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet visited Kiev on February 25 at the peak of clashes between the pro-EU protesters and security forces in the Ukrainian capital. Paet also recalled his conversation with a doctor who treated those shot by snipers in Kiev. She said that both protesters and police were shot at by the same people.”
Urmas Paet “And second, what was quite disturbing, this same Olga [Bogomolets] told as well that all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides,” the Estonian FM stressed.
Catherine Ashton; “Well, yeah…that’s, that’s terrible.”
Urmas Paet: So that she then also showed me some photos she said that as a medical doctor she can say that it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened,”
While the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton does not have “blood on her hands”, she has had frequent meetings with Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party, who in all likelihood was involved in the sniper killings.
“Well, yeah…that’s, that’s terrible.” says Catherine Ashton. But what is the followup? Will the matter be debated by the EU Commission or will it be hushed up?
(Catherine Ashton center with Svoboda Leader Oleh Tyahnybok, left)
The February 20th Sniper Killings: What Happened?
Acknowledged by media reports, more than twenty opposition Maidan protesters were killed by professional snipers on February 20. This was not a spontaneous event resulting from clashes between protesters and riot police, nor was it marked by an exchange of gunfire between the police and the Neo-Nazi militia.
The sniper killings had the hallmarks of a carefully planned operation. They happened within ‘the space of a few hours”. They were carefully timed. The killings coincided with the meetings of President Viktor Yanukovych with a high level EU delegation.
In a bitter irony, these targeted killings were used as a pretext to topple the government and issue an arrest warrant directed against president Yanukovych on charges of “mass murder” of Maidan protesters.
Now confirmed by the leaked telephone conversation, the purpose of the sniper killings was to provide a pretext for “regime change”.
RINF Alternative News
In an ironic turn, the congressional authorities who have staunchly defended the National Security Agency’s widespread spying operations are now crying foul after having been spied on by another branch of U.S. intelligence.
News reporting on Tuesday revealed that the Inspector General’s office, the agency tasked with CIA oversight, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate claims that the spy agency monitored computers used by Senate aides preparing what is believed to be a “searing indictment” on the CIA‘s secret detention and interrogation program.
In what McClatchy news characterized as an “unprecedented breakdown in relations between the CIA and its congressional overseers,” members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are saying the alleged CIA spying violates provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.
In response to the news, Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, and independent journalist Glenn Greenwald noted the irony of the investigation:
Lawmakers who sanctioned unlawful #NSA spying were target of unlawful #CIA spying. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/us/new-inquiry-into-cia-employees-amid-clashes-over-interrogation-program.html?hp&_r=0 … #torture #SSCI
Ironic: Senate Intel Comm – which endorses vast NSA spying on ordinary citizens – gets angry when they’re spied on http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/us/new-inquiry-into-cia-employees-amid-clashes-over-interrogation-program.html?hp&_r=0 …
Chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—who hasopenly supported the NSA‘s spy program—acknowledged the internal review Tuesday, saying, “There is an I.G. investigation.” Without providing any details on the dispute, spy allegations or torture report, she added, “Our oversight role will prevail.”
Intelligence Committee member Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)—who has previously gone against the grain in asking for more transparency regarding NSA surveillance—issued a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote. “It is essential that the committee be able to do its oversight work – consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers – without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”
The Udall letter also calls for the President to “declassify as much as possible” of the 6,300-page report “for the American people.”
The report remains classified nearly 15 months after the Senate panel completed the document and turned it over to the CIA for vetting.
“It is my belief that the declassification of the Committee Study is of paramount importance and that decisions about what should or should not be declassified regarding this issue should not be delegated to the CIA, but directly handled by the White House,” Udall continued.
According to members of the committee, the report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques, which many believe constitute torture, such as waterboarding. It also demonstrates that the interrogation techniques did not provide the intelligence that led the CIA to the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams.
RINF Alternative News
There may be something to the claim that all people want to be free. But it is a demonstrable fact that freedom has been under attack, usually successfully, for thousands of years.
The Federal Communications Commission’s recent plan to have a “study” of how editorial decisions are made in the media, placing FCC bureaucrats in editorial offices across the country, was one of the boldest assaults on freedom of the press. Fortunately, there was enough backlash to force the FCC to back off.
With all the sweeping powers available to government, displeasing FCC bureaucrats in editorial offices could have brought on armies of “safety” inspectors from OSHA, audits from the Internal Revenue Service and many other harassments from many other government agencies.
Such tactics have become especially common in this administration, which has the morals of thugs and the agenda of totalitarians. They may not be consciously aiming at creating a totalitarian state, but shameless use of government power to crush those who get in their way can produce totalitarian end results.
The prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza for contributing $20,000 to a political candidate, supposedly in violation of the many campaign finance laws, is a classic case of selective prosecution.
Thugs who stationed themselves outside a polling place in Philadelphia to intimidate white voters were given a pass, and others accused of campaign finance violations were charged with misdemeanors, but Dinesh D’Souza has been charged with felonies that carry penalties of years in federal prison.
All of this is over a campaign contribution that is chicken feed, compared to what can be raised inside of an hour at a political fundraising breakfast or lunch.
Could this singling out of D’Souza for prosecution have something to do with the fact that he made a documentary movie with devastating exposures of Barack Obama’s ideologies and policies? That movie, incidentally, is titled “2016: Obama’s America,” and every American should get a copy of it on a DVD. It will be the best $10 investment you are ever likely to make.
It doesn’t matter what rights you have under the Constitution of the United States, if the government can punish you for exercising those rights.
And it doesn’t matter what limits the Constitution puts on government officials’ power, if they can exceed those limits without any adverse consequences.
In other words, the Constitution cannot protect you, if you don’t protect the Constitution with your votes against anyone who violates it. Those government officials who want more power are not going to stop unless they get stopped.
As long as millions of Americans vote on the basis of who gives them free stuff, look for their freedom — and all our freedom — to be eroded away, bit by bit. Our children and grandchildren may yet come to see the Constitution as just some quaint words from the past that people once took seriously.
The arrogance of arbitrary power is not confined to the federal government. An egregious case in Massachusetts involves a teenage girl from Connecticut named Justina Pelletier, who was being treated for a rare disease by doctors at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
When her parents brought this 15-year-old girl to an emergency room in Boston, the doctors there decided that her problem was not medical but psychological. When the parents objected, and sought to take her back to the doctors who had been treating her at Tufts University, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families charged the parents with “medical child abuse,” and were granted legal custody of the teenager.
Once given arbitrary power over Justina, the DCF bureaucrats kept her all but isolated from her parents for more than a year. To add insult to injury, a judge issued a gag order, forbidding the parents from discussing the case publicly.
Only after Megyn Kelly on the Fox News Channel brought this case to national attention did the Massachusetts bureaucrats back off and turn the teenager’s medical care back to the doctors at Tufts University. Whether her parents will get to see their daughter freely again is still up in the air.
Arbitrary power is ugly and vicious, regardless of what pious rhetoric goes with it. Freedom is not free. You have to fight for it or lose it. But is our generation up to fighting for it?
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His Web site is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page.
When my partner Billy Agan first told me the story, he called them “Google Goggles.”
“Matt Hunt keeps coming in to Telegraph wearing those Google Goggles and he won’t take them off. It’s like if someone came in holding a camera at eye level — I’d tell them to put that away, too. But he won’t do it.”
“I would normally avoid someone with them, but I’m at work, he’s staring right at me, and I can’t go anywhere.” Billy has worked in Oakland bars and restaurants since 2009.
“I saw other people getting creeped out by it. And because he was a regular, I thought I could tell him to take them off while he was in there. I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal.”
On three occasions before requiring Hunt to leave, Billy had asked him directly. I once witnessed this: Hunt walked in donning Glass, Billy asked that he remove it, Hunt laughed, walked behind the bar, and poured himself a beer. Matt ran Telegraph’s social media accounts in exchange for free food and drink, and took the same liberties afforded to actual employees.
Billy just sighed. Matt later told me, “I thought he was joking.”
A few days later, Billy had had enough. He tells it this way: Matt walked up to the bar to order a beer on a busy Friday night. Billy demanded he remove the Glass or leave. Billy yelled. He stood on top of a box and yelled some more. Matt ignored him until Billy grabbed him by the arm and delivered him to restaurant security, who escorted him out.
Later Matt said that Billy, as staff and not owner, had no right to ask him to remove the Glass or leave, and that while, yes, he was ejected for wearing Glass, Billy assaulted him and called him a “faggot.” Witnesses don’t support the claim, and the police report Matt filed against Billy later that night is essentially blank, but he maintains his version of events.
“I didn’t use any slurs,” says Billy. “I called him an ‘asshole.’”
Two witnesses do recall Matt telling Billy, though, just before he was escorted out: “I’d be jealous too if I couldn’t afford one.”
Over the last year, much has been written about the changes coming to the Bay Area through an influx of new money and influence from a once-again burgeoning technology sector. Symbols of a new, disruptive, tech-driven wealth have come in the unlikely form of, among other things, luxury buses and head-mounted computers.
It would be fair to say that lately, urban techies and their attendant trappings have come under attack. When PR writer Sarah Slocum’s Google Glass sparked an altercation in San Francisco bar Molotov’s last week, her supporters and detractors fell along familiar and well-worn battle lines: “Cyborgs” vs. “Luddites;” “techies” vs. the rest of us.
Slocum went so far as to call the incident a “hate crime” against her. She didn’t start this fire, but Slocum reveled in the resulting attention, and despite claiming not to use her Glass to film unsuspecting bar patrons and staff, then revealed a video of her doing exactly that.
But despite recent tensions, these relations are not strictly new. This has always been a tale of two cities, of with and without. Someone has always felt entitled, someone has always feltaggrieved. And one form or another of an intellectual, “creative” class has always thought its labor and cause a higher kind than that of others.
In the days after Billy asked Matt to leave the bar, he fretted over the potential loss of his job. Matt had taken the restaurant’s social accounts hostage, and Billy’s boss was receiving hate mail.
“I had to dance with the devil to get my accounts back. I told him whatever he wanted to hear — that I’d fire Billy, that I’d do whatever,” Telegraph owner John Mardikian tells me. “I tell my employees that if someone or something is making them uncomfortable, they should do what they feel is appropriate. I didn’t have an issue with Google Glass before, but I wasn’t there. I investigated this myself. I wasn’t going to fire Billy just because Matt was embarrassed.”
Tech still thinks it’s the scrappy rebel when it’s looking more like the ruling class: A white man with a $1,500 face computer trying to cost a brown man his minimum wage job.
When Google Glass first became available last spring, the publicity was positive, but the public reaction was mixed. Some said that even despite its apparent usability or its creepy spy capacity, it just looked too aggressively goofy for the broader public to embrace.
“To be fair, there’s every possibility that Google Glass will change society just as deeply and profoundly as did the Segway, a technologically nifty machine that now serves primarily to identify its owner as a complete dork with far too much money,” Chris Clarke wrote at KCET last year.
Google readily admits that Glass is in a beta stage. While users aren’t trading in their hardware regularly, there are monthly software updates, and the company hopes that a new prescription eyeglass interface will make the technology look more, well, normal.
And if they’re not hoping, they’re politicking. Last week Reuters revealed that Google had hired lobbyists to fight distracted driving legislation in several states that are attempting to ban Glass on the road.
“While Glass is currently in the hands of a small group of Explorers, we find that when people try it for themselves they better understand the underlying principle that it’s not meant to distract but rather connect people more with the world around them,” Google told Reuters.
To say nothing of their alleged incompetence behind the wheel, Glass “Explorers” have undoubtedly become connected to one another. The devices are still rare, and can’t be readily bought (though purchase codes now go for as low as $25 on Craigslist); that exclusivity binds the Explorers together into an exclusive community. Explorers not only use the devices, but develop software and hardware improvements for them, solving one anothers problems. But this specialness also promotes the idea that each user is an ambassador for the product, the kind of relationship one wouldn’t usually expect — or perhaps want — with the manufacturer of one’s consumer technology.
To this end, Google recently released suggested “do’s and don’ts” aimed at, well, connecting those Explorers a little more to the world around them, a world that is still largely bereft of face computers projecting an augmented experience of reality.
Dear Honorable Members of the Oakland City Council,
The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California writes in regard to Item 14 on the March 4, 2014 Agenda of the City Council, pertaining to the Oakland Domain Awareness Center. Once again, we urge you not to approve the resolution proposed by staff. We reiterate our previously expressed grave concerns about the DAC and its enormous potential for abuse.
In this letter, we address three further points:
First, while we urge you not to grant the DAC any further approvals at this time, numerous City Council members at the last Council meeting expressed interest in a Port-only approach. The proposed resolution fails to implement that approach.
Second, the City Council expressly instructed staff to provide additional information about the component systems of the DAC so that the Council could decide which systems are and are not Port related. Yet the staff report (filed February 27, 2014) once again fails to provide the Council with the basic factual information it needs to engage in oversight. This omission allows staff to usurp what is fundamentally the Council’s policy-making prerogative of deciding what systems to include in the DAC. Unfortunately, rather than providing a balanced or complete factual account, the staff report omits essential factual and legal issues.
Third, both the public and members of the City Council have expressed reservations about the potential for federal access to information collected and retained by the DAC. The staff report suggests that any such concerns are unfounded because “information sharing would be limited unless there is a written agreement for information sharing.” (Staff Report at page 14.) The staff reports entirely fails to mention that the federal government under the Patriot Act can obtain a wide array of information without such niceties as a voluntary information sharing agreement.
The resolution does not reflect the views of City Councilmembers
Numerous City Councilmembers expressed the view at the last City Council meeting that the DAC should include only those systems that are related to the Port. The proposed resolution does not reflect that perspective.
A new City Council resolution is necessary to implement a Port-only approach because Resolution 84593, enacted last summer, authorized the inclusion of various City-based surveillance systems (such as Automated Licensed Plate Readers and City-owned cameras). If the City Council wishes to authorize a Port-only system, new resolution language is required to make clear that the previously authorized City-based systems are now not authorized for inclusion.
In addition, a new City Council resolution should specify the systems and capabilities that are authorized for inclusion and that no additional systems or capabilities may be added without express City Council authorization. The determination whether a particular system or capability is or is not Port-related reflects a policy choice. That choice should be made by the Council, not staff.
Missing key facts interfere with meaningful oversight by the Council
Despite the Council’s express instruction to staff to provide information on the component systems already included in Phase 1 and slated for inclusion in Phase 2, the staff report continues to provide insufficient information for the City Council to make an informed decision about what systems to include in the DAC. The descriptions of each component systems leaves open many unanswered questions. For example:
Shot spotter (Phase 1). The staff report’s description states that Shot Spotter “detects gunfire in the City and quickly locates the incident on a map.” (Staff Report at page 3.) It does not explain how Shot Spotter does so. While the staff report fails to explain this, Shot Spotter’s website states that it detects gunshots through “[w]ide-area acoustic surveillance,” which consists of “the deployment of multiple collaborative acoustic sensors through a coverage area to create a robust, redundant coverage array stretch from a single square mile up to 20 or more square miles.”What type of information is recorded through this “wide-area acoustic surveillance”? How does wide-area acoustic surveillance (as distinct from the location of gun shots) help further Port security and why should it be included in the DAC? The staff report states that “seeing the entire picture is critical to responder safety and effective response” (page 3), but this “justification” would also justify including cameras in schools and other systems that the City Council has decided to exclude from the DAC.
Traffic cameras (Phase 1). The staff report states that “Traffic cameras are focused on important traffic areas in the City.” (Staff Report at page 4.) But what information do traffic cameras capture and record? Do they capture a wide swath of information that sweeps up pedestrians? Do they record information at sufficient resolution to capture the images of individuals in vehicles, record license plates, and other information that would allow identification of individuals? How does each of these capabilities further Port security?
Police and Fire CAD Data (Phase 2). TheStaff Report states that the “[s]ystem … tracks incidents/dispatches and includes all incident records and details.” (Staff Report at page 6.) This sentence provides so little information that it is difficult to understand what the system is. What is an “incident”? How does the system “track” it? And what is included in the universe of “all incident records and details”? How does access to each type of information tracked by the CAD system further Port security? The staff report states that access to this information would allow “EOC staff to keep updated on specific incidents without tying up dispatcher’s time” but this rationale is so broad (keeping EOC staff “updated”) as to justify collection of all kinds of information, including information that the City Council has already decided should not be included in the DAC (such as surveillance feeds from Oakland schools).
Police and Fire Records Management System (Phase 2). The Staff Report states that the Records Management System “tracks and includes case records for OPD and OFD.” (Staff Report at page 6.) Again, this sentence provides so little information that it is entirely unclear what this system is and how it differs from the CAD system. What is a “case record” within this system? Does it include all arrest records, including records of arrests that did not lead to charge or conviction? How does this system “track” such records? How does access to each type of record tracked by the RMS system (such as records of arrests that did not lead to charge or conviction) further Port security? Does DAC access to OPD arrest records comport with state law restrictions on access to criminal history information? To the extent that the RMS includes all of OPD’s arrest reports, access to this information would amount to access to comprehensive criminal history information – in effect, a “rap sheet” – about thousands of individuals, including information about arrests that did not lead to charge or conviction. State law places strict limitations on the distribution of protected rap sheet information. See Penal Code §13300; International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 21 v. Superior Court, 42 Cal.4th 319, 339 (2007) (“Penal Code section 13300 . . . generally prohibits a local criminal justice agency, including a court, from distributing information that relates a person’s criminal history”); Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 06-203, 12 (2006) (prosecutor may not produce in response to Public Record Act request the criminal history of an individual in the county, including all arrests and case dispositions, because the information is protected rap sheet information pursuant to Penal Code §§13300-13305). Depending on who would have access to this information through the DAC, inclusion of the RMS within the DAC may violate state law provisions governing rap sheet information.
Various News Feeds & Alerts (Phase 2). The Staff Report states that alerts “may come in via email, web feed, RSS, or other means.” (Staff Report at page 8, emphasis added.) What “other means” would feed into this system? Would it include social media feeds? National Public Radio recently aired a story about new investigative tools that monitor social media feeds.See Martin Kaste, “As Police Monitor Social Media, Legal Lines Become Blurred,” NPR (Feb. 28, 2014).As Vernon Keenan, the director the Georgia Bureau of Investigation stated, “For law enforcement to be there and to take photographs of all the participants [of a political protest] — monitoring — is not against the law, but it’s not acceptable.” Id. As a result, “Keenan requires his agents to get permission from a supervisor before they scan social media. They have to explain what they’re monitoring and why.” Id. Law enforcement monitoring of social media, especially through sophisticated new technology, raises cutting edge legal and public policy questions that need to be aired thoroughly. In December 2012, the San Francisco District Attorney issued a subpoena to Twitter seeking “tweets” of several individuals who had been arrested at a political protest. After the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an amicus brief urging the court to quash the subpoena, the District Attorney – in a tacit acknowledgment of the complex legal issues implicated by the subpoena – voluntarily withdrew the subpoena.SeeXeni Jardin, “SF District Attorney withdraws subpoenas seeking Twitter users’ account data,” BoingBoing (Jan. 2, 2013).
The City Council should not inadvertently authorize the DAC to include social media monitoring without first examining and debating the issues, and allow the public to present all perspectives. If the City Council is inclined to include this system in the DAC, it should expressly clarify that only the feeds listed in the Staff Report (US Coast Guard notifications, State Warning Center, Homeland Security Information Alerts, Cal Fire Alerts, FEMA News releases, and California Dept. of Fish and Game) are included and that all other email and web feeds, including social media, are excluded.
The Staff Report also states that “[t]hese feeds will allow creation of automatic alerts of events that meet thresholds. Alerts can signal EOC staff to execute pre-written action plans specific to the event. The pre-written action plans will be embedded into the system.” (Staff Report at page 8.)What kinds of “thresholds” will the automatic alerts trigger? What are the “pre-written action plans” that will be executed?
Federal access to DAC data under the Patriot Act
Various City Councilmembers and the public have repeatedly expressed concerns about the DAC in light of the Snowden revelations of pervasive NSA spying. The Staff Report suggests that concerns about federal access to information aggregated by the DAC are unfounded because “information sharing would be limited unless there is a written agreement for sharing information collected and stored by the DAC” and “information received in the DAC is considered third party information and the City of Oakland cannot provide the information unless it is the owner of the video and data.” (Staff Report at 14). It is unclear why the City of Oakland would not be considered the “owner” of video or data from, for example, City Shot Spotter, City traffic cameras, or records of the City police and fire departments, all either already included in Phase 1 or slated for inclusion in Phase 2. More significantly, the Staff Report fails to acknowledge that the federal government can demand information without any information sharing agreement, a warrant, or a subpoena. Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act (codified at 50 U.S.C. §1861), the FBI can obtain secret court orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court compelling third parties to produce “any tangible thing” that is “relevant” to foreign intelligence or terrorism investigations. Section 215 includes a “gag order” provision, such that the recipient of an order is generally prohibited from disclosing it. See 50 U.S.C. §1861(d). Unfortunately, involvement of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court provides little assurance that the government will not use Section 215 to engage in dragnet and intrusive sweeps for information. The government has relied on Section 215 in obtaining metadata of all domestic telephone calls from Verizon, as revealed by Edward Snowden last summer.See Glenn Greenwald, “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily,” The Guardian (June 5, 2013).While the ACLU is currently challenging the constitutionality of Section 215, the statute currently remains in force.
For the foregoing reasons, we urge you not to approve the proposed resolution.
Linda Lye is a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.
RINF Alternative News
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, D.C., this week was even more of a disaster for him than might have been expected.
It did not help that the Crimea crisis had broken out, which rather cast a bad light on one country militarily occupying parts of another. Most observers in Europe and even some in the US could see the hypocrisy of the US denouncing Russian troops in Crimea but supporting Israeli troops in Hebron.
Netanyahu’s government has doubled housing starts for Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in the West Bank in the past year, while pretending to negotiate peace with the Palestine Liberation Organization (there is no such process with the Hamas government in Gaza).
He came to Washington to blame the Palestinians for his bad faith, and to demand that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state (which is sort of like Obama demanding that Israel recognize the US as a White Christian state). Netanyahu said that this demand (the Jewishness of Israel) is similar to the Palestinian quest for a Palestinian state. But a Palestinian state is envisaged as being pluralistic– it would not be Islamic but for Muslims, Christians, Druze and (in the view of Saeb Erekat) even possibly any Jews willing to take Palestinian citizenship. The category “Palestinian” is not analogous to what Netanyahu means by “Jewish”– it is far less narrow, less religiously and racially exclusive.
This demand is just smokescreen for Netanyahu’s obstruction of the peace process. He is demanding that Palestinians recognize the official marginalization of the growing Palestinian-Israeli population of Israel (now 20% of the population and heading toward 30% over the next 15 years) (if Israel is a “Jewish” state, then Palestinian-Israelis are what, chopped liver? Will it be all right for Avigdor Lieberman to ethnically cleanse them then?)
Obama, who has been ambushed repeatedly by Netanyahu during their joint press conferences, this time ambushed Netanyahu instead, with an interview with the fanatically pro-Israel former Israeli prison guard at a notorious prison camp for Palestinians, Jeffrey Goldberg. Obama said,
“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices . . . Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”
Obama’s phrase “manage this” the referent is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which has been going on since 1967 and has now taken on an illegal character (you’re not allowed in military occupation to flood your population into the occupied territory, nor to systematically confiscate property from the occupied population, nor to target civilians among them for punitive policies).
By pretending to be involved in a ‘peace process’ since the early 1990s (a process Netanyahu opposed and which he boasted privately in Hebrew of having destroyed), the Israeli Right has maintained to the world that its policies in the West Bank are somehow temporary (a whole new generation of Palestinians was born and has lived under the boot since 1993).
Obama is trying to tell Netanyahu that we can see him, and he isn’t invisible any more. He is telling him that the world is deciding that the Israelis intend to keep the Palestinians stateless and to constrain their lives with checkpoints and arbitrary arrest and property theft virtually forever. And this policy is no more acceptable than a revival of plantation slavery for African-Americans in the Old South would be. Stateless people like the Palestinians have many resemblances to slaves– both lack the right to have rights.
The members of the European Union, and the Union itself, are trying as hard as they can to signal to Netanyahu that permanent Occupation is not an option and will attract sanctions. Over a third of Israeli trade is with Europe and it deeply depends on EU countries for technology transfers.
Netanyahu and most Israelis on the Right just cannot see the future. They cannot see what they are doing to the Palestinians (Netanyahu thinks the latter would be satisfied with statelessness and indignity if only their economy improved). They cannot see how unacceptable is their economic siege of the Palestinians in Gaza, illegally targeting non-combatants, and warping children’s lives. They think people who complain about these policies just don’t like Jews, using their grievances about anti-Semitism in old Christian Europe to hide from themselves that they have themselves now become a colonial power, that they are dominant, and that pretending to be downtrodden victims of prejudice under these circumstances is absurd.
The Zionist Right, living in its fantasy land, responds to criticisms of Israeli policy with Nixon-style ‘enemies lists’ intended to promote aggressive harassment of critics on US campuses. I’m proud to say that I am among those so targeted. These essentially fascist tactics have helped cow the mainstream US media into pussy-footing around subjects like Netanyahu and the Likud Party’s Iron Wall policies.
Obama’s words were more candid than those of any sitting president since the 1970s. But even he did not advert to the Gaza siege (in which the US is complicit), and which has caused widespread anemia and some stunting among Palestinian children.
Goldberg speculated that Obama was issuing a veiled threat when he warned that the US cannot protect Israel from growing sanctions if Netanyahu continues down his present path. I don’t think so. Obama could just have Samantha Powers decline to veto UN Security Council sanctions on Israel any time he liked. He won’t do it, because the Israel lobbies would cause trouble for him with Congress if he did.
What Obama was more likely saying was that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to respond to Israeli colonialism against the Palestinians is unfolding in other venues where the US government doesn’t have a veto. The US cannot force the European Union states to disregard EU law. It cannot forestall lawsuits by Palestinian concerns in Europe against European companies involved in helping occupy them. Moreover, now that Palestine is a non-member observer state at the UN (as a result of a UN general assembly vote that the US could not prevent), it could take Israel to the International Criminal Court over criminal Israel actions in the Occupied territories. Obama was simply observing that as the scales fall from the world’s eyes, Israel will be subject to sanctions, and the US government cannot do anything about it.
Netanyahu and his right wing political coalition are in denial. They are addicted to occupation. Obama tried to stage an intervention. But addicts are not easy to persuade.
RINF Alternative News
The story of Joliet is familiar enough. With its industries gone, a city turns to the casino as a last ditch salvation, but cannot reverse its decline. The details of this disintegration, though, can be interesting. Take two recent crimes. In one, four people, two men and two women, invited two male friends over for some partying, which in America nearly always involves alcohol and/or drugs and the promise of sex, but the two guests ended up being strangled to death, with their corpses serving as an uneven mattress for some macabre screwing. Yes, you read that right, two of their killers ended up fornicating on top of the cadavers, though, to be fair, the revelers were sensitive enough to place a dirty sheet between the live and dead bodies. Done, they tried to saw up their victims, but without the right tools, the process turned tiresome and messy, so one of the women went out to get a chainsaw or two, and that’s how the story leaked, oozed and splattered. When cops came, they discovered the dead dudes in one room, while in the adjacent one, three ensouled and sentient beings, fastidiously and exactly made in the image of God, no less, were playing video games.
The perpetrators are all white, and the victims black, but they had also been friends before the incident. One of the white women had a child with a black man, and a black victim had a white fiancé. It’s not clear, then, to what degree race was a factor. Another question to ask is why didn’t this bizarre double murder and abuse of corpse case make more of a splash nationally? Granted, we live in a culture where the media can suppress (or inflate) anything, where a Honey Boo Boo’s fart resonates much more loudly than the bomb that killed Michael Hastings, and information flow rests in the hands of a remarkably homogeneous group that also dominates our feeble protest zone, but one would think more people would know about such an iconic crime that illustrates all too perfectly our remarkable degeneracy and blood splattered ennui. Mentally and spiritually voided, let’s kill even our buddies, not to rob them, but just for the hell of it, then why not, let’s fuck for a while on top of Eric and Terrance, then dismember them, and when that doesn’t quite work, let’s play some cool video games for an eternity. Also, when a crime is committed by a group, be it four, ten or an army, it is even more of an indictment of the culture.
Extremely violent, always farcical but draped in a thin coat of kitsch, that’s who we have become in 2014. The other day, John Kerry, liberal darling and anti-war activist, delivered this straight faced howler, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text,” and Kerry wasn’t talking about the vicious American attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, but Russia’s bloodless entry into the Crimea.
The second recent Joliet crime of note also involves a corpse, but no murder. A homeless couple checked into a Joliet motel to stay warm and to, well, party. They gulped so much vodka, she died, but that didn’t stop the boyfriend from continuing. Why stop, he reasoned, when there was still money left on her debit card, so he whooped it up for two more days lying next to his serene and, finally, easygoing girlfriend, and only called an ambulance when there was no more cash left to withdraw. To avoid any penalty or unpleasantness from management, he did beat the noon checkout time by over by an hour, and though the putrefaction had admittedly befouled the sheet a bit, it wasn’t like it had been that clean anyway. Hell, he wouldn’t be surprised if they kept it as is for the next guest. Now, the theme of living next to a deceased loved one is as old as the earth, and turns up in folklore, literature and the movies. Just think of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” or Hitchcock’s Psycho, for example. The judge was not impressed by Derek Tanke’s cultural awareness or performance art skills, however, and so slapped him with a 1 ½ year prison sentence.
Already in Chicago for two college readings, I decided to visit Joliet also. I had thought about staying at the Bel-Aire, since it was likely super cheap, but there was no information about it online. Further, the logistics for my week-long trip were already complicated and taxing enough, what with four nights of sleeping on a Greyhound bus, so I decided to play it safe and book a room at the Harrah’s Casino Hotel. At check in, I wouldn’t yield my debit card since I knew it had less money on it than a corpse’s, so the unsmiling clerk said a cash deposit would do, but I firmly refused this also, “Don’t worry, I won’t order any room service or porn!” Stiffly, he gave me my key. All other Harrah’s employees were as chirpy as could be, however, for each had apparently been well instructed to shout out greetings to every guest. At only $53, my room turned out to be quite palatial, at least by my gutter standards. There was even an upholstered couch. Smiling, I peeled the layers of clothes from my filthy carcass. Such a deal, but Joliet in the dead of winter is hardly a vacation destination.
I’ve written a story about haunted hotel rooms, and before I fell asleep that night, I also thought about the corpse in the Bel-Aire, across the Des Plaines River. Composed primarily of a bed and bathroom, each hotel room is so intimate yet so public, and in each, so many tragedies and farces have occurred. Opening an eye, I half expected to see a drunken ghost standing by the bed. Come, you can lie down next to me, and though I have nothing for you to drink tonight, I’ll buy you a beer first thing in the morning.
In any small American city or town, the most beautiful and dignified buildings are invariably the oldest, built before World War II, at least, before car culture and the growth of the suburbs gutted every small downtown. The ugliest buildings are from the 70s, when Modernism’s worst concepts have been disseminated to even the most provincial of outposts. Postmodernism is a jokey attempt to reverse this blunder, but its very mixed success doesn’t reach small and depressed, post-industrial places like Joliet, for which the Rialto Theater, built in 1926, remains the undisputed architectural gem. It’s appalling to think that it was almost torn down in the 70s.
Done with ogling the ornate façade of the Rialto, I ducked into the Route 66 Diner, nearby. Inside I saw a black cop sitting at a table, and two other people who appeared to be office workers. Settling down at the counter, I noticed a large poster of badass Johnny Cash, with “I walk the line” beneath his name. Built in 1926, Route 66 was one of this country’s very first highways, and the song “Get Your Kicks on Route 66,” first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946, is another romance of the open road, that most American of traditions. Like Cash’s hit, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” it ticks off places along the way, not so much to be seen as to be counted.
I’ve been everywhere, man. Crossed the deserts bare, man. I’ve breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel I’ve had my share, man. I’ve been everywhere. I’ve been to Dull Knife, Big Hole, Milk Creek, Tampico, Matamoros, Manila, Okinawa, Mogadishu, Baghdad, Kandahar, Tripoli and Kiev. I’m a killer!
The Joliet sex on corpses crew are Juggalos, by the way. That is, they’re fans of the Insane Clown Posse, a group whose music veers from revenge fantasies to kitsch, and whose stage tactics employ elements of the carnival. Your average Juggalo is white and of the lowest class. Working for minimum wage at, say, Jack in the Box, he must grin and sweat for more than four hours to pay for a single ICP baseball cap, and a full day’s work won’t even bag him an ICP hoodie, and yet he is impassioned about this music, and will spend his scarce cash to declare his allegiance to it, to show that he is indeed a Juggalo, for the ICP expresses not just his anger and frustration, but also his softer side, that is, his sodium citrate, whey and annato-infused American cheesiness.
Dark tendencies have long existed in American music, with Mamie Smith already belting in 1920, “I’m gonna do like a Chinaman, go and get some hop / Get myself a gun, and shoot myself a cop,” and Cash himself kicked open a mental door with his “But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” Now, though, with the Insane Clown Posse, M.O.P., Gravediggaz, Natural Born Killaz and so many more, we’re entering a new psychotic territory, and gleefully too, even as the corpses pile up.
My breakfast consisted of two eggs, over easy, plus two link sausages, home fries and wheat toasts. The waitress, a Mexican lady, kept my coffee cup full with frequent refills. “More, hon?” she would ask. Soon, a man sat next to me, so I struck up a conversation. After I told him I was visiting from Philly, he filled me in on Joliet, “Yes, the steel mills are long gone, and Caterpillar has cut back too. It’s all these free trade agreements, you see, starting with NAFTA. We do have a new trucking hub that keeps some people employed, but over all, it’s not looking too good.”
“So there’s no recovery?”
“Of course, there’s no recovery,” he laughed.
“Everywhere I go, I hear the same story, and yet the media keep telling us we’re well into a recovery.”
“It’s their job to lie. There’s no recovery. I used to have five employees working for me. I had to let them all go.”
“What kind of business are you in?”
“I make these rip saw machines. They cut up lumber real fast,” and he took out his cell phone to show me a photo of a large, box-like contraption.
“So now it’s just you working?”
“Yes, I’m a one-man factory. I’m trying to build my business back up. Hopefully, I can sell it in three years to a young person.”
“No, I’ll just go work for my brother. He has a machine shop.”
“You haven’t thought about moving away?”
“No, I’m too much of a Joliet person. I was born here. Even in college, I stayed at home. And my wife’s also from Joliet. She’s not doing too well. She’s in a nursing home.”
“Hmmm. Do you have kids?”
“I have no kids, and you know something, that’s a good thing, too, because I wouldn’t want to be a young person in this economy.”
“Isn’t that right, Anna?” He shouted to the waitress. “It’s not easy to be young nowadays, right?”
“What are you talking about?” She smiled. “I’m not young.”
Returning to me, he continued, “Anna is a great person. She has a good kid. He likes to box.”
“There’s a boxing gym here?”
“Yes, we have a really good boxing gym. It’s run by this fellow from Ghana.”
“This town must have changed so much from when you were a kid.”
“Yes, it used to be mostly farmland around here. Most of my relatives were farmers. Some of them still are.”
“How are they doing?”
“They’re doing OK, I guess. It’s not easy, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“OK, how do I explain this. In the past, farming required a lot of labor, but with the improved mechanized processes, you don’t need as much manpower. With these new machines, you don’t have to go over a piece of land as many times,” and here he paused to give me time to digest, and I did appreciate his effort at making his explanation as simple as possible. “With these new machines and techniques, they only need a fraction of the people they used to, and they also save on fuel.”
“Maybe soon,” I exclaimed. “they’ll have all of these machines run by themselves. Then they can fire all the workers!”
“I’m sure they’re working on it.”
All this time, my new friend had managed to talk and chew at the same time, unlike my monomaniac and uncoordinated self. Seeing that my food had barely been touched, he said, “I should let you eat. That food is going cold!”
We each turned to our portion. Every now and then, though, he would say something to the cashier or the waitress, who both knew him well. When he recounted that he had recently gotten a speeding ticket, only the second in his lifetime, with the first going back to 1974, Anna blurted, “1974! I don’t born yet!” Interesting, I thought, since up to this point, her English had been very convincing, but nearly all her phrases had been lifted directly from the common diner catechism.
Catechism?! WTF! Did I just make a mistake there? You decide. In any case, as also a foreign-born mofo, I know all too well the innumerable linguistic trap, pot hole, sink hole or wrong turn that can, at any moment, sabotage my social carriage.
Before I left the diner, something curious happened. A rather shabbily dressed old man said to the cashier as he was paying for his coffee, “Can I have an application.”
“For a job, just in case you’re hiring.”
“No, no, we’re not hiring.”
“I just figured I’d ask,” and he meekly walked out.
Turning to me, the still baffled cashier said, “He lives in the Plaza Hotel right next door. He comes in here all the time.”
Leaving the diner, I decided to get away from downtown, so I crossed the river, but my progress was slow, thanks to the abundant snow on the sidewalks. After trudging for nearly a mile, I found O’Charley’s and marched right in for an open-ended pit stop. It was still morning, so I half expected to find a few old men nursing cheap beers, but instead encountered a handful of neatly dressed customers, including a businessman on an early lunch break. There was a clock with the map of Ireland, but the time was neither local nor Irish. I pointed this out to the bartender, Marianne.
“Yeah, I know. There’s something wrong with the battery.”
After stating that I was only visiting, I asked Marianne if there is a large Irish community in Joliet. “No, not really,” she answered. “We’re, like, the only Irish bar here, and I’m not even Irish. I just work here.”
“It seems like a very pleasant place,” and from what I had seen, it was.
“Yeah, but we’re getting more crimes, though. We have gangs here. There are black and Mexican gangs. They mostly just shoot their own kinds, but sometimes we get hit in the cross fire, and sometimes they also rob us.”
“In this neighborhood, too?”
“Yeah, in this neighborhood! It’s not safe to walk around here after dark.”
O’Charley’s was pleasant enough, but a little later, I would really get comfortable in a place called Vela’s. A cheap bar and Mexican restaurant, it’s run by a native son, Dan Gutierrez. Rotund, bespectacled, with a salt and pepper mustache and in a gray, long sleeved sweat shirt, Dan appeared as a Santa Claus chillaxing at home, during the offseason. Also born in Joliet, Dan’s dad opened a market there in 1953, “We used to go to the Haymarket in Chicago to pick up stuff to sell. Some of the farmers would bring their produce to the market in horse and buggies!”
From his dad, Dan learnt how to run a business, but his work experience has extended way beyond that. He’s been employed as an electrical inspector of natural gas pipelines, and in factories making shingles, caustic soda, sucrose and aspartame. “Hey, isn’t that that evil shit that will give you cancer?”
“Not unless you drink a million gallons of it!”
“But many people do!”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. When I was working, that aspartame dust was always in the air, and we all breathed it in.”
Currently, Dan’s day job is as a Senior Pipe Designer and Project Manager for AMS Mechanical Systems.
“Isn’t it enough just to run this bar?” I asked.
“No way,” Dan laughed. “It’s almost four, right, and you see how empty it is.”
“But it will fill up soon with the after work crowd?”
“Yes, people will trickle in, but it’s not enough. Plus, I need my day job for the health insurance. They like me there. I keep my own hours.”
“I walked all over town today and didn’t see too many bars. I would think a cheap neighborhood joint like this would pack them in.”
“Yes, but people are drinking less. I’ve noticed it. And you know what else? More of them are paying with credit cards instead of cash.”
“So they’re out drinking even when they can’t afford to drink?”
“Yes, I think so. Like my ma said, ‘People will always find a way to drink.’ Some of them come in here and try to sell me their Link cards.”
“That’s the food stamps?”
“Yes, that’s the food stamps. They would try to sell me their Link cards for half price, but I won’t buy it, since I don’t want them to drink away the money they should spend on their kids for food!”
“You know, Dan, I’ve talked to many bartenders and they all tell me that people are drinking less, and even putting less money into the jukebox,” and Vela’s had been silent for a while, with the last song being “Pistoleros Famosos,” Los Cadetes de Linares’ celebration of Mexican outlaws, “En los pueblitos de norte / Siempre ha corrido la sangre…” Yes, Mexicans also often sing of blood and shootings, but these ballads are so sweetly sung, they don’t quite incite.
OK, OK, back to Joliet. Dan also refuses to sell lottery tickets, but there are two gambling machines in Vela’s, Mega Winner and Hot New Game. When a woman of at least 50 marched in, Dan greeted her, “Good evening, young lady!”
“You know what I want.”
After he gave her the tall yellow can, she asked, “How much is it?”
“Thank you, darling!”
“Thank you, baby.”
She then went over to one of the gambling machines and grimly got down to business. I said to Dan, “It’s funny that she expects you to remember what she wants, but then pretends to not know how much it costs.”
“She always does that.”
“How often does she come in here?”
“Not that often, maybe only twice a month. She always comes around this time, and she always sits at the machine. She’ll spend about a hundred bucks before she leaves.”
“Wow, that’s ridiculous! And she doesn’t look like she can afford it. What does she do, do you know?”
“She clean houses.”
I laughed, shook my head, “If she doesn’t waste that money, she can drink and eat better.”
“Or buy clothes for her kids, take them out to dinner, but if she wants to throw her money away, that’s her choice! You can’t win with those machines,” Dan smiled. “It involves no skill whatsoever. It takes your money, but once in a while, it will give you back a little, but when someone does win, it makes these loud noises. At night, I have to turn up the volume on these machines so everyone can hear the winning sounds!”
“These gamblers are like kids, man. They like cartoon figures and happy noises!”
“But they’re very serious about it.” Dan smiled. “If you go to the casino and see one of these old people at a slot machine, you better not sit next to him, because he might be playing three machines at the same time. Grandpa will get pissed off if you sit next to him!”
Dan is likely a grandpa himself, I thought, but one never sees oneself as old, or at least nowhere nearly as old as how is seen by everyone else. “I stayed in the casino hotel last night,” I said. “I don’t think it’s doing too well.”
“No, it’s not, and it’s not doing much for the city either. Before it opened, they said that it would bring business to the city, but the people who go there, stay there. They don’t come out to the bars and restaurants in the rest of Joliet.”
“There was nothing in my room about Joliet, no guide book, no restaurant guide. Nothing!”
“Yes, of course, they want you to keep your money inside Harrah’s.”
“So this casino hires a few people, but it also rips off a bunch of locals who lose their money gambling!”
“Yeah, well, the city also gets tax revenues, but I know of people here who’ve lost their houses gambling.”
“You know, they’ll give you credit if you run out of cash, so you may have to sell your house to pay off your debts.”
By this time, more people have arrived, mostly for the pool tournament that night. As should be clear by now, Dan is very resourceful, and though he certainly knows how to make money, he also cares enough to give back some. Once a year, Dan stages an eating contest. For 35 bucks, each contestant gets a five-pound burrito, and from the photo he showed me, it looks like a murdered homunculus wrapped in an old sheet. The first pig who can stuff all this into his maw wins $100, and once, a young man managed to do so in an astounding 16 minutes. Dan sells around 40 of these a year, with $15 from each going to a charity. Of course, Dan also makes a bundle from all those who crowd in to gawk at this messy spectacle.
Leaving Vela’s, I walked to the train station and on the way, passed a mural ofBill Sudakis. Playing eight years in the Majors, Sudakis managed to bat just .234, but did hit 14, 14 and 15 home runs in three separate seasons. If he’s remembered at all these days by anybody, it’s for a hotel brawl with a Yankee teammate. Early in his career, Sudakis was switched from third base to catcher, a decision which may have wrecked his knees, so he was probably misused and ruined, but that’s just life, kid. Suck it!
Not every town can produce a hall-of-famer, so Joliet’s baseball hero is merely Bill Sudakis, but even there he’s barely seen, for his likeness is shoved under an overpass, behind some columns and, to make matters worse, someone has drawn a huge phallus jutting from his crotch, so there Bill stands, erect yet forgotten, showing cracks and peeling, like Joliet itself, like so many other wrecked and neglected places in this insane clown posse nation.
Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.Read other articles by Linh.
It seems the more the public learns about the Barrett Brown case the more confusion and anger there is at the misuse of the justice system. Which is likely why prosecutors successfully sought a gag order against Brown – the more people learn the less they support the government’s case.
The government is pressing charges that carry up to 100 years in prison against Brown mostly for the “crime” of doing journalism. Which seems to be a pattern as the Obama Administration targets reportersalong with whistleblowers. Only journalism that flatters the powerful is legal, journalism that brings truth to power is suspect. Leaks of classified information are fine if they are approved, treason if unapproved. Brown’s journalism was not only not state approved, it embarrassed the powerful and now he’s in jail.
The majority of the time Brown faces is for sharing one hyperlink. In a chat room, he posted a link to the customer database of Stratfor Global Intelligence hacked by Anonymous. That’s it.
Links are important; they are the fabric of the World Wide Web. In 2011, a State Dept. diplomat lost his top-secret clearance because he linked to WikiLeaks. (It’s worth mentioning that Quentin Tarantino is now suing Gawker for sharing a link to a leaked script.) Brown’s case could establish a chilling precedent in the U.S., one where technology reporters are even more afraid of linking to data dumps released by hackers than they already are.
It’s information warfare against journalism, against the public. The state now wants to make sharing unapproved information a crime. Which is to say the stakes in the Barrett Brown case could not be higher.
Yet, as of now, the corporate/mainstream media are essentially ignoring the case. Instead of shining a spotlight on such an open attack against a free press there is a practical blackout of information. Passing references to the case appear in elite media as if the case is irrelevant to the future of journalism, just some exotic happening in fly-over country that involves a nobody.
Brown is a controversial figure, and the group Anonymous more controversial still, but if the precedent being set by this case stands all journalists – including mainstream ones – will be subject to more restrictive rules on sharing information online. They will need lawyers to use the internet, they will have to constantly consider the possibility of indictment if they send a tweet. It will paralyze reporting in the digital realm – a realm only expanding as time goes by.
By remaining silent the American media is turning its back on the future.
Parliamentarians have launched a scathing attack on plans laid out by the Home Secretary that would allow her to render people stateless.
In January, May inserted a last-minute clause into the Immigration Bill that would expand her current powers to remove the citizenship of terrorism suspects. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, which includes both peers and MPs, today released its second report on the Immigration Bill, including strong criticism of the proposed measures.
The report questioned the timing of Theresa May’s amendment on statelessness and said that the new power ran a ‘very great risk of breaching the UK’s obligations’ to other nations if Britons were to be made stateless while overseas.
May inserted the clause into the Immigration Bill allowing her to strip the UK citizenship of British nationals who hold no other nationality a matter of hours before it reached its parliamentary report stage on January 30.
But her intention to do so appeared in the press several months previously, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled the Home Office had illegally revoked the UK citizenship of an Iraqi-born man, Hilal al-Jedda, because he held no other nationality.
‘We note that the possibility of introducing a power such as this was being publicly floated by the Home Secretary in media interviews… as long ago as November last year,’ the committee found. ‘[The clause] was not preceded by any consultation and the Government has not explained the urgency which requires it to be added to the Bill at such a late stage in the Commons.’
Mounting deaths of Iraqis offer somber reminder of what US intervention has brought
RINF Alternative News
According to a statement issued Saturday by the United Nations mission to Iraq, 703 Iraqis were killed in February, and 564 of those were civilians. There were also 1,381 Iraqis injured last month. Those figures follow a month in which 733 Iraqis were killed, including 618 civilians. The figures for both months leave off deaths in Anbar province, because the UN stated it could not validate those numbers.
2013 also marked a somber record for Iraq—the highest number of civilian casualties since 2008.
“The political, social and religious leaders of Iraq have an urgent responsibility to come together in the face of the terrorist threat that the country is facing,” Nickolay Mladenov, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, stated Monday.
Yet Raed Jarrar, an Arab-American blogger and political analyst, explained to Common Dreams that “what is causing violence and casualties in Iraq today has little to do with terrorism. It’s caused by corruption, sectarian politics, and other legacies of the U.S. occupation in Iraq.”
“What started last year as a legitimate nonviolent movement was crushed by Iraqi government tanks in late December,” Jarrar continued. “It has since turned into an armed uprising against the Iraqi government. The U.S. continues to interfere in Iraq by sending weapons and providing political support to its allies in the country.”
The motion-activated surveillance camera outside Jesper Jurcenoks’ home in the Oakland hills takes some 12,000 pictures a day.
Every car, motorcycle, delivery truck, police car, bicyclist, pedestrian and deer that enters his isolated street off Skyline Boulevard gets photographed. Four times a second. Day and night. When they arrive and when they leave, time-stamped and stored on a server for 60 days.
The two cameras, one at each entrance of Jurcenoks’ looping street, form a virtual wall around the neighborhood, he said.
For years, Oakland residents have built fences or installed security cameras on their homes because they were fed up with burglaries and auto break-ins. Some neighborhoods hired private security guards to patrol their streets. Now they’re becoming more aggressive in their efforts to fight back.
In growing numbers, residents are forming neighborhood groups and spending thousands of dollars on cameras that can monitor the perimeter of entire blocks.
They don’t merely want to protect their homes. They want to catch anyone intent on criminal behavior.
“We will not a let a criminal enter or leave our neighborhood undetected,” Jurcenoks said. “We’re not saying we can stop the crime. We want to make sure we have a photograph.”
Trying to avoid abuse
Seven areas across the city have signed up for a neighborhood-wide surveillance system, and dozens more are interested, said Jurcenoks, the founder of Neighborhood Guard, a nonprofit that helps owners set up and install such systems. He installed his neighborhood’s system in 2012, costing the neighborhood association $2,000 for each camera, a $1,500 one-time fee and $100 a year to continue using the service. He said the two cameras cover 88 homes. Smaller neighborhoods pay less money.
“The trick is that you’re not putting one on every house,” said Jurcenoks, who puts them at the street entrances to neighborhoods. Although no one in the neighborhoods has picked a fight about a lack of privacy, digital snooping or even the potential for neighborhood gossip, those using the security cameras say the issue is of constant concern, and they’re careful to avoid abuse.
“Most people are ambivalent” about the surveillance, said Jean Thompson, 51, whose Glenview neighborhood installed surveillance cameras a month ago. “But we’re so creeped out by what is going on (in terms of crime) that we feel we don’t have a choice.”
It is legal to photograph public spaces, like roads or intersections. But these images live on an online server accessible to anyone with the proper log-in, which means there is the potential for neighbors to see who visits a husband while his wife is away on vacation, or check who doesn’t clean up their dog doo.
Individual communities decide for themselves who has access to tens of thousands of pictures, how long they’re stored online, and under what circumstances they can be released to the police.
RINF Alternative News
I’ve been writing for many years about US-NATO efforts to militarily surround Russia.
The oil-i-garchy wants to get a hold of the natural gas (the world’s largest supply) that sits on Russian territory. It also wants full control of the Arctic region now that climate change will make it possible to drill for oil there. Russia has a huge northern coastal border with the Arctic and thus stands in the way of western oil control.
Already the war drums are sounding after Russia moved more troops into Crimea to protect its Navy base and the large pro-Russian population in the region. [map: pro-Russian vs. pro-European regions]
Writing yesterday in Foreign Policy Admiral James Stavridis (Ret) called for NATO to immediately increase” all intelligence-gathering functions through satellite, Predator unmanned vehicles, and especially cyber” and to sail “NATO maritime forces into the Black Sea and setting up contingency plans for their use.” This is full-blown war talk – with Russia. Admiral Stavridis was Supreme Allied Commander at NATO from 2009 to 2013. He is currently dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
The Russians know that they are being set up. Reporting for Asia Times, Pepe Escobar wrote,
” Even before neo-con Victoria ‘fuck the EU’ Nuland’s intercept, [Russian intelligence] had already identified the wider mechanics of the CIA-style coup – including Turkish intelligence financing Tatars in Crimea… And what will the Tatars in Crimea do? Stage a jihad? Wait: the “West” will surely try to FINANCE THIS JIHAD.”
It’s Syria all over again, this time right on the Russian border.
Except this time the US-NATO are messing with a country that has the capability to fight back. This is how world wars get started. The Russians are not going to idly sit by and watch US-NATO set up a right-wing fascist state right on their border. Hitler tried that during WW II and at least 20 million died defending the Soviet Union. Ever since then the Russian people have been ‘sensitive’ about defending their immediate borders.
The decision adopted on March 1, by the Federation Council, upper house of the Russian parliament, which allows Putin to send troops to Crimea, an autonomy within neighboring Ukraine, aims to protect life and security, Irina Yarovaya, chair of the Security and Anti-Corruption Committee in the State Duma (lower house of parliament), said.
“Terrorism is the most dangerous crime around the world. But it is fascism and terrorism that have proclaimed their power in Ukraine and pose a real threat to the life and security of Russian citizens living in Ukraine and undoubtedly to the brotherly people of Ukraine,” she said.
“We have repeatedly warned the international community and the US against interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine,” she said, adding “some European and US politicians bear direct responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine, for the bloodshed and for the coup.”
She believes that Obama’s latest statement on Russia “has fully exposed the US policy of brutal interference in the sovereign rights of other countries and aggressive imposition of its interests.”
Of course the Obama administration is saying that Russia is violating international law by moving more troops into Crimea. Obama is threatening Russia with “severe consequences”. And now you can be sure that NATO is indeed preparing ‘contingency plans’.
The open question is how will the American people react to all of this. They rightly opposed Obama’s desired cruise missile attack on Syria. Will they be as wise about planting the cancerous NATO flag on Crimean soil?
Clearly Putin and Russia have been thoroughly demonized in the passive minds of most American citizens. But will they shake the cobwebs from their brains and see the absurdity and sheer recklessness of US-NATO saber rattling on the doorstep of Mother Russia?
Now is the time for all peaceful people to speak out. Before the real shooting starts.
RINF Alternative News
International law is suddenly very popular in Washington. President Obama responded to Russian military intervention in the Crimea by accusing Russia of a “breach of international law.” Secretary of State John Kerry followed up by declaring that Russia is “in direct, overt violation of international law.”
Unfortunately, during the last five years, no world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama. He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt, helping to further normalize a might-makes-right approach to global affairs that is the antithesis of international law.
Fifty years ago, another former law professor, Sen. Wayne Morse, condemned such arrogance of power. “I don’t know why we think, just because we’re mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right,” Morse said on national TV in 1964. “And that’s the American policy in Southeast Asia — just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it.”
Today, Uncle Sam continues to preen as the globe’s big sheriff on the side of international law even while functioning as the world’s biggest outlaw. Rather than striving for an evenhanded assessment of how “international law” has become so much coin of the hypocrisy realm, mainline U.S. media are now transfixed with Kremlin villainy.
On Sunday night, the top of the New York Times home page reported: “Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has pursued his strategy with subterfuge, propaganda and brazen military threat, taking aim as much at the United States and Europe as Ukraine itself.” That was news coverage.
Following close behind, a Times editorial appeared in print Monday morning, headlined “Russia’s Aggression,” condemning “Putin’s cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea.” The liberal newspaper’s editorial board said that the United States and the European Union “must make clear to him that he has stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior.”
Such demands are righteous — but lack integrity and credibility when the same standards are not applied to President Obama, whose continuation of the Bush “war on terror” under revamped rhetoric has bypassed international law as well as “civilized behavior.”
In these circumstances, major U.S. media coverage rarely extends to delving into deviational irony or spotlighting White House hypocrisy. Yet it’s not as if large media outlets have entirely excluded key information and tough criticism.
For instance, last October the McClatchy news service reported that “the Obama administration violated international law with top-secret targeted-killing operations that claimed dozens of civilian lives in Yemen and Pakistan,” according to reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Last week, just before Obama leapt to high dudgeon with condemnation of Putin for his “breach of international law,” the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece that provided illuminating context for such presidential righteousness.
“Despite the president’s insistence on placing limits on war, and on the defense budget, his brand of warfare has helped lay the basis for a permanent state of global warfare via ‘low footprint’ drone campaigns and special forces operations aimed at an ever-morphing enemy usually identified as some form of Al Qaeda,” wrote Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s law school.
Greenberg went on to indicate the scope of the U.S. government’s ongoing contempt for international law: “According to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the Obama administration has killed 4,700 individuals in numerous countries, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Obama has successfully embedded the process of drone killings into the executive branch in such a way that any future president will inherit it, along with the White House ‘kill list’ and its ‘terror Tuesday’ meetings. Unbounded global war is now part of what it means to be president.”
But especially in times of crisis, as with the current Ukraine situation, such inconvenient contradictions go out the mass-media window. What remains is an Orwellian baseline, melding conformist ideology and nationalism into red-white-and-blue doublethink.
Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org. He also writes for consortiumnews.com.
RINF Alternative News
Much has been said about the current problems in Ukraine. But most of it has not been publicized by the western media. It hasn’t been broadcast in the West because the news organs of the EU & the United States need to self-censor and toe the party line; that The Russian Bear, that supposed monolithic totalitarian beast, is breaking out of its cage and will cause mayhem and destruction throughout the ‘Free World’.
That is the mindset of imperialist, hegemonic powers. They neither respect nor appreciate the alternative views of other cultures, other people, who have had thriving civilizations for hundreds, even thousands of years. So they set about their subterfuge with a fable that they merely want to bring “Freedom and Democracy” …. to those who never asked for it. And since those ‘barbarians’ never asked for such gifts, then all the more reason to see them as in desperate need of salvation and enlightenment.
The Americans pride themselves in having a professional, pragmatic attitude to politics and world affairs. To this end, they have scores of think-tanks and high flying academic advisors. Is it haughty obduracy or calculated mischief that leads those ‘learned’ advisors to mislead their government departments whom they are supposed to inform? Or is the US government so immersed in blind ambition that it has actually received fair counsel, but chooses repeatedly to ignore it?
And what role does the mass media play in all this? Does it have no responsibility to reveal what is going on behind the scenes? Is it no longer the fourth pillar of democracy? Has it been for many years simply a slave to the manipulations of despotic government and vested interests? A mere mouthpiece of propaganda?
Prelude to the present
Russia as a nation has existed for some 1,200 years , since about 850 AD. It was at that time that there was mention of the “Rus” people and the “Kievan” State. In other words, Russians have a strong emotional bond to the Ukraine area, which they see as a major part of their origins, their identity.
A reference to their early history is that of the “Kievan Rus”. Their first capital was actually Kiev, from 850 AD to 1250 AD . For about 400 years the main administrative and national centre of Russia was Kiev. It is only later, in 1328, that Moscow became the capital. 
Since the Middle Ages Ukraine has been a part of Russia. It was part of the Soviet Union until 1990, and even now has almost 20% ethnic Russians. The two nations have strong cultural bonds, in religion, music, arts, literature and language. Both nations speak variants of the Slavic language group. Ukrainian contains fully 84% Belarusian and 62% Russian words.  The two, in form and structure, may even be considered as dialects of one another, the divergence starting only 500 years ago.
During the Second World War, Russia had over 20 million military and civilians killed and many more injured and dispossessed. The Russians have painful memories of what it means to confront Nazism. The regime that has now been installed by western powers tolerates Nazism and fascism. This is clearly seen in the tearing down of the memorial statue to the Russian fallen’s sacrifice in wresting Ukraine from German and Ukrainian fascists during WW2. , and with rebellion leaders giving Nazi salutes and using the fascist Ukrainian flag from that war period.  & .
The bonds with the Crimea are even closer. It was totally Russian until 1954, when Khrushchev gifted it to Ukraine in order to balance the still remaining fascist elements of Ukraine, and its current Russian population is some 60%.
And now we have the admitted US funding, to the tune of 5 Billion dollars, to cause rebellion and insurgency for the past two decades, plus further amounts shunted in from European countries and private interests . The result of which is what we now see; a duly elected government ousted by violent insurrection, with such things as Molotov cocktails and firearms, until finally the Ukrainian government agreed to have early elections in May. But even that agreement was broken by the violent protesters, with President Yanukovich forced to flee under assassination threats on him and his family. 
Walking in the other man’s shoes
The strategy of propaganda entails telling the lie, the whole lie, and nothing but the lie, and saying it often enough that people are gulled into submission. The propagandist doesn’t care if some people, such as the informed readers of Global Research, know that in strategic matters the mass media is scattering hefty doses of deceit. It is enough that most of the people are fooled most of the time. Those who have investigated the facts, and know the truth of any issue can simply be ignored, or branded as conspiracy theorists and ridiculed as tin-foil hatters. If push comes to shove they can even be disgraced, arrested and dealt with however the administration wants.
One current lie is that Russia is back to her old tricks of expansionism. But the fact is that it is the United States that runs several hundred military bases around the world, and has a dozen airfields from which it launches predator drones for criminal summary execution of those it does not like…. including entire families, weddings, and funeral processions. It is the United States and NATO who are in perpetual war with one country after another, or even concurrently.
As to this Ukraine crisis. When the Soviet Union was dissolved, there was a tacit agreement that NATO would not infringe close to the Russian border. But since then, over the past 25 years, not only has NATO (a.k.a, the United States) breached that understanding, it has invited the old Warsaw Pact countries to become members. It has even placed, or tries to place, missiles right up against Russia, pretending all the while that they are defences against Iran!
Is it any wonder that the Russians realise that they’re treated as fools? That they see an encroaching tide of hegemony threatening to drown them, even to the extent that their 20 million who perished, did so in vain? That they will lose unhindered access to the open seas? That first strike missiles are being placed within a few hundred kilometres of Moscow and other major cities, so that the possibility of reprisal (MAD; Mutually Assured Destruction) is removed? Isn’t it curious that the western media does not mention anything about the close bonds between the peoples of that entire area, including Russia, Ukraine, and the Crimea?
That is why the Russian government, not just President Putin, but the Russian parliament, has reacted so urgently and justifiably, to this latest threat to their very existence. Their history has taught them full well what happens to the conquered and dispossessed. They know full well that America and NATO do not run a charity shop, and that once there is no more viable opposition to the powers that deem themselves to be the “Masters of the Universe”, then the amiable mask will come off, and their constant threat of, “All options are on the table” will be actualised. And the vanquished will be treated as superfluous disposable encumbrances, without fear of legal retribution. With historians instructed to sanitize their books with excuses, such as; “it was regrettable but unavoidable, and a necessary measure”.
Organic farmer: ‘All the big boys care about is their bottom line. They have to be held accountable if their [GMO seed] contaminates my crop!’
RINF Alternative News
“The risks and effects of GMO contamination have unfairly burdened organic and non-GMO farmers with extra work, longer hours and financial insecurity,” according to research done by watchdog group Food & Water Watch in conjunction with the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM).
However, according to Food & Water Watch, USDA policy recommendations have been based on protocols written by the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21)—which is “heavily weighted with biotech proponents”—without proper data on the the cost and other impacts of coexistence on organic and non-GMO growers.
“If USDA really wanted to know if contamination was happening, all they had to do was ask organic grain producers who take great pains to keep their crops from being contaminated,”said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Now USDA can no longer claim ignorance about this problem.”
As quoted in a summary of the survey of 1,500 farmers across 17 primarily Midwestern states, the findings include:
- Nearly half of respondents are skeptical that GMO and non-GMO crop production can coexist.
- Over two-thirds do not think good stewardship alone is enough to protect organic and non-GMO farmers from contamination.
- Five out of six responding farmers are concerned about GMO contamination impacting their farm, with 60 percent saying they are extremely concerned.
- One out of three responding farmers have dealt with GMO contamination on their farm. Of those contaminated farmers, over half have been rejected by their buyers for that reason. They reported a median cost of a rejected semi load (approximately 1,000 bushels) of $4,500.
As one farmer wrote in response: “Monsanto and allies are spending millions buying votes to vote against GMO labeling in the stores! They should pay for insurance for GMO contamination on organic land. All the big boys care about is their bottom line. They have to be held accountable if their [GMO seed] contaminates my crop!”
Contamination can occur through one of two ways: Gene flow is a result of cross-pollination, which is driven by wind or pollinators’ dispersal of GMO seeds; and the co-mingling of GMO seeds can occur through handling, transport, storage or processing.
“Instead of an extended discussion of coexistence,” the report notes, “the USDA must recognize the harm that is already being done to organic and non-GMO farmers and prioritize ways to prevent contamination.”
Other recommendations from the researchers include: placing the burden of responsibility on biotech and seed companies holding GMO seed patents for “all losses associated with GMO contamination,” including paying into a compensation fund for farmers impacted by contamination; and creating and enforcing mandatory stewardship requirements for GMO crop production.
RINF Alternative News
Beware the Russian stock index fell by 12% today. Also, the central bank raised interest rates as the Ruble fell to a new low. These are very negative signals for the international financial indexes.
Markets also fell in Europe. Germany’s DAX sank 3 percent, to 9,424. Britain‘s FTSE 100 dropped 1.4 percent, to 6,720. At the same time, the price of gold gained $31.20, or 2.4 percent, to $1,352.60. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.62 percent from 2.65 percent late Friday.
The US stock market is also down, as of mid-day trading by 200 points today, March 3, 2014. In fact, many investors have been waiting for something to trigger a sell-off.
In reality, the Big Money moved to gold at the end of last week when it moved up $30. The financial Elite buy gold in times of increasing tension and international conflict. The global Power-Elite always uses the threat of — or actual outbreak of war — to reshuffle the monopoly money, clear the board and start the (same) game over, though it appears like a new one.
The pretext is here for a 2008-style collapse of the financial markets including the US Stock Market. Since we all have short memories these days, let us bring to mind the 2007-’08 era for a moment. Tensions mounted between Georgia and Russia throughout the summer coming to a head, in a brief war in August, 2008.
Predictably, oil prices rose $2.62 today, or 2.5 percent, to $104.64 a barrel following warnings by Washington and other governments that Russia, a major oil exporter, might be hit with sanctions after it seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. At least that is the spin that the western corporate-media puts on the situation.
In fact, the US and Europe need a pretext, any plausible reason, to distract their disgruntled populations away from stagnant economies; and the growing awareness that too few people have too much power and money. (Isn’t that the goal of Monopoly?)
The captains of the NWO, that financed the coup in Kiev, are not turning the screws on Russia financially. But since we have a global economy, which they actually created; but what goes around, comes around. The entire world will feel jolts, ripples and potentially a lot more, as long as the conflict in the Ukraine goes on.
Watch for major currency realignments, sharp stock losses, a gold surge and moves by the FED like we see with the Russian Central Bank. Keep your fingers crossed for a quick resolution to the Ukraine situation as happened in 2008 with Georgia.