The judicial system’s new “crack” cocaine fix


crack vs powderRemember how the punishment for possessing or dealing in crack was substantially higher than for cocaine, even though “crack” was nothing more than cocaine on steroids?  That disparity was eliminated when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 because quite frankly is disproportionately negatively impacted minorities.  The Act was unanimously approved by both Houses of Congress meaning it faced no serious opposition from Republicans.

As usual, the criminal justice system has found other ways to exacerbate racial divisions in enforcement and punishment and have filled the gap with “suspended license” offenses.  Like all bad policy it has not yielded the intended results of increased revenue for the “State” simply because it was not well thought out and unfair public policy.  Basically what happens is suspended licensestates “suspend” a person’s drivers license if they are unable to pay court costs for appearances before the judicial system for any offense meaning the only way a driver can retrieve or if they don’t have one get a license is by paying all past due court costs. Of course it doesn’t matter if you have to drive to get to work or not, and in the case of  places with large rural populations like Tennessee where public transportation is sparse in some areas, tough! Such poorly planned law means a person commits the other illegal act of driving with a suspended license and when caught only increases their debt and criminal record…..if they’re lucky enough to survive the encounter with police when ticketed for such an offense.   The NYT piece goes on to say

Going through the legal system, even for people charged with nonviolent misdemeanors, can be expensive, with fines, public defender fees, probation fees and other costs running into hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Many people cannot pay.

As a result, some states have begun suspending driver’s licenses for unsatisfied debts stemming from any criminal case, from misdemeanors like marijuana possession to felonies in which court costs can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars……..Most states also suspend licenses for failure to pay traffic fines, another policy that critics say creates a quicksand of debt.

Though the law was projected to raise more than $20 million a year, it has not come close, according to state agencies. Revenue from litigation taxes, the primary court fee collected by the state, has remained flat and even declined a bit in 2014, and license reinstatement fees have increased far less than was anticipated.

But since suspensions under the law began in mid-2012, almost 90,000 licenses have been suspended. Over the same period, 170,000 Tennessee licenses were suspended for unpaid traffic tickets. In both categories, more than 40 percent of the suspended drivers were black, compared with 16 percent of state residents.

Bad policy often gives bad results that are of no benefit to the state or its citizens.  This trend in the justice system is another example of bad policy.  Fix this America!!

 

Netanyahu is in town


CongressInvited by the US congress to speak and influence American policy no less, Netanyahu is enjoying the right to free speech and possibly usurp American foreign policy but his own country is not broadcasting the speech Americans will hear without a FIVE minute delay and after removing all references to campaigning in order to “keep the address from influencing the upcoming election”. (That also happens to be one of the reasons why Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu during this visit; it appears Obama is more Israeli than Bibi) But that’s hardly the reason why Netanyahu is receiving resistancenetanyahu from his own country towards his speech and visit here….it probably has more to do with the fact even his own citizens can’t stomach the lies he’s telling to a very gullible US congress and Main Stream Media.

When the Israeli prime minister argues that his speech will stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, he is not only misleading Israel, he is strengthening Iran,  Amnon Reshef, former head of the army’s armored corps, said at a news conference Sunday.

Boo yoow anyone??

 

Terror in Chapel Hill, NC


From left 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19
From left 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19

The lives of three Muslims living in Chapel Hill were taken early last week by someone it was claimed was angry about parking spaces in the community the victims and the killer shared but in reality has turned into a debate whether the murder was religiously motivated.  Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha his wife and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were each shot, some reports have said, execution style in the head in their residence by Craig Stephen Hicks also of Chapel Hill.

46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks
46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks

Shortly after killing the three, Hicks turned himself into Chapel Hill police and no other person has been sought in connection with this crime.  Hicks had been known for causing problems with his neighbors but was also a self avowed atheist, some would have you believe vehemently so, who disliked all religions and made his displeasure known on his Facebook page. In one of his posts he said,  ‘I hate Islam just as much as christianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do’ giving one the impression he was tolerant of Muslims and Christians but it was that hatred of Islam that drove him to kill Barakat and the two Abu-Salha sisters.   A lot of anger has risen in Muslim communities across America about the absence of the term “terrorist” to describe Hicks’ actions.  In a time when violence by so-called Muslims, who some would say are marginally Muslim at best, are quickly and universally called terrorists and have their actions condemned as such, Muslims decried the reticence of media to do the same for this crime.  the 3's silhouetteIt appears, regardless of the label given Hicks or his crime, people of all faiths and colors expressed their sorrow and revulsion for the murders while the district attorney charged Hicks with three counts of 1st degree murder which is a capital offense in the state of North Carolina.  Whether the office will seek the death penalty remains to be seen, but it is applicable for the charge.  However, there is still that nagging issue of whether Hicks was motivated by hate in the killings; the families of the victims have insisted as have others in the Muslim community that the victims’ death were racially motivated and the FBI has said it’s conducting an investigation to determine if that’s the case.  parking
The larger American community however, seems to take umbrage at the notion that Hicks was inspired by hate, instead clinging to the narrative put forth by the police the night of the killing that it was a neighborly dispute over parking spaces that drove Hicks over the edge.  At a time when news about Islam is overwhelmingly negative and spoken of in terms of violence and terrorism by Muslims against others most Americans cannot conceive of themselves as terrorists. Even at the beginning of Obama’s first term in office when Homeland Security talked about the threat of homegrown terrorism unrelated to Islam there was so much opposition to the notion such an idea existed that the Department was forced to

“step(ped) back for the past two years from conducting its own intelligence and analysis of home-grown extremism, according to current and former department officials, even though law enforcement and civil rights experts have warned of rising extremist threats.

The department has cut the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups, the officials and others said.

The decision to reduce the department’s role was provoked by conservative criticism”

It is entirely likely it is the same sentiment that causes many people including those in the media and law enforcement not to label this act as terrorism but a look at the facts may reveal otherwise.

Hicks stated on his Facebook account he “hated Islam”; indeed some of his posts seem to be imaginary conversations he is having with his victims:

Of course I want religion to go away. I don’t deny your right to believe whatever you’d like; but I have the right to point out its ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people

When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I

Hicks’ adult daughter “disowned” him because of, as she put it, his disrespect for people of other faiths. The victims were aware of Hicks’ complaints in the community and made sure to avoid the parking spaces he contested even to the point of sending detailed maps and instructions to friends visiting them of where they could park and where not to.  The towing company responsible for the compound refused to take Hicks’ calls any more because he was so persistent and annoying and finally on the day of the murders the disputed parking places were empty, there were no cars parked there to cause Hicks to loose it and kill.

shahadaClearly the victims were Muslims, the two sisters wore clothing indicative of their faith and thus much more easy to discern as opposed to others who may or may not be of a particular religious persuasion; they were easy targets for him.  The couple, in their brief life together, had complained to family and friends of Hicks’ intimidating behavior, flashing his handgun at them whenever he spoke to them about parking in the complex. And speaking of handguns, and while they are a part of the American fabric, Hicks had his fair share and didn’t mind letting people know.  Neighbors were aware he carried a gun and the victims clearly felt threatened by him. Indeed, some might say Hicks fit the profile of the type Homeland Security mentioned in their analysis of homespun terrorism that raised so much ire among the Right. While some may say this act of cold blooded murder was done by the neighborhood curmudgeon over parking spaces the motivation behind it was far more sinister and hate filled than that.  Hicks’ neighbors, perhaps ALL of them living in the complex did everything they could to ameliorate his concerns until those concerns became excessive, vengeful, murderous and focused on the three Muslim victims.

However something must be said about who were these three young people so brutally slain by Hicks. They were all model citizens of this country AND Muslim. They excelled in their academic careers, the husband Deah was studying at UNC’s School of Dentistry soon to be joined there by his wife and the sister Razan Abu-Salha was a student at NC State.  That university has gone on to establish a scholarship in their name because

“Deah, Yusor and Razan exemplified the best of N.C. State and will forever serve as role models for our student body, (NCSU Chancelor Randy) Woodson said in a statement. Each was not only an outstanding student, but individually and as a family lived their lives bringing joy to others, helping those in need and making the world a better place.

They did that….making a world a better place….by feeding the homeless in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina and were involved in building an interfaith Habitat for Humanity home in Wake County. At the time of his death, Deah Barakat was trying to raise $20,000 through a YouCaring.com website (nando.com/xk) to pay for a trip to Turkey to provide dental care for Syrian refugees a dangerous proposition in today’s times.  They were fully engaged in American society as Americans and as Muslims and they were the best this country has to offer but were killed because of the hatred Hicks had towards Muslims who he felt started something with him.  Let’s not let media off the hook.  Today’s America is full of venomous hatred that permeates the ‘net and airwaves.  Every breath one takes they inhale America’s dislike for Muslims and Islam. Even the President of the United States gets called on the carpet for not quickly enough using the word “terrorist” to describe any act of violence against Americans that may happen at the hands of brown skinned people with funny sounding names.  Hicks’ antennae were acutely tuned to this atmosphere; he was conditioned to act the only way America knows how, with violent rage.  Media refuses to call him on it because he doesn’t fit the profile just like homespun extremism is not a narrative we are willing to entertain as a Nation.  As a result three of our brightest are dead. Hear what Yusor AbuSalha had to say about her short life as she talks to her former teacher here.  America is less a country because these three bright, intelligent people are no longer with us.

John Boehner’s outrageous plan to help a foreign leader undermine Obama


When I first saw this headline, I tweeted how some members of America’s body politic love all of these foreign leaders rather than their own President and as they stand compared to Obama, these leaders, Putin and Netanyahu  are losers in the arena of policy vis-a-vis American interests.  That hasn’t stopped Speaker of the House, Joh n Boehner from doing an end round and bringing Netanyahu to town to upstage the American President.  America, love it or move to Israel…

Vox

House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress in February, on the topic of Iran. On the surface, this might seem innocent enough. Israel is a close American ally. Surely he should be welcome in Congress, particularly to discuss an issue that concerns his country.

On the surface, Netanyahu’s speech will be about opposing Obama’s nuclear talks with Iran and supporting Republican-led sanctions meant to blow up those talks.

But there’s more than meets the eye here. Netanyahu is playing a game with US domestic politics to try to undermine and pressure Obama — and thus steer US foreign policy. Boehner wants to help him out. By reaching out to Netanyahu directly and setting up a visit without the knowledge of the White House, he is undermining not just Obama’s policies but his very leadership of US foreign policy. The fact that Netanyahu is once again meddling in American politics, and that a US political party is siding with a foreign country over their own president, is extremely unusual, and a major break with the way that foreign relations usually work.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama in the White House in March 2014 (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty)

Throughout Obama’s tenure, he has clashed with Netanyahu. That is no secret, and it’s nothing new for American and Israeli leaders to disagree, sometimes very publicly. But Netanyahu, beginning in May 2011, adopted a new strategy to try to deal with this: using domestic American politics as a way to try to push around Obama.

During a trip that month to Washington, Netanyahu publicly lectured Obama at a press conference and then gave a speech to Congress slamming the president. That speech, also hosted by Republicans, received many standing ovations for Netanyahu’s finger-wagging criticism of Obama.

At first it appeared that Netanyahu was merely trying to steer Obama’s foreign policy in a direction that he, Netanyahu, preferred. Obama wanted Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, for example; Obama has also sought, in his second term, to reach a nuclear deal with Iran that Netanyahu earnestly believes is a bad idea.

Netanyahu’s first responsibility is to Israel’s national interests, not to Obama, so it makes sense that he would push for policies that he thinks are good for Israel.

But in 2011 Netanyahu started going a step further, and appeared to be working to actively remove Obama from power. During the 2012 election cycle, Netanyahu and his government were increasingly critical of Obama and supportive of Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for whom he at times appeared to be actively campaigning. Netanyahu’s criticisms of Obama were so pointed that some of Obama’s opponents cut a campaign ad out of them. It became a joke within Israel that Netanyahu saw himself not as the leader of a sovereign country, but as the Republican senator from Israel.

But trying to unseat a foreign leader is not a joke, especially when that foreign leader is funding your military and guaranteeing your nation’s security.

Netanyahu’s government ramped down this strategy after Obama won; he even gave Obama the world’s most awkward congratulations speech. But throughout Obama’s second term he has once again gradually escalated from trying to influence Obama to actively undermining both the president and his party. The new Israeli ambassador to the US for months would not even bother to meet with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, yet held many meetings with Republican fundraiser Sheldon Adelson. Israel’s foreign policy, in other words, was more focused on undermining the American leadership than working with it.

The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)
The Jerusalem skyline (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty)

Republicans, aware that Americans are supportive of Israel, have urged on Netanyahu’s anti-Obama campaign since it began in 2011. Inviting him to speak to Congress that year was shrewd domestic politics, and it will be shrewd legislative politics next month when Netanyahu publicly supports the GOP’s sanctions efforts.

This makes sense within the narrow scope of domestic politics — if you can use something to convince voters your party and its policies are a better choice than your opponents, you use it, even if that something is a foreign head of state. But members of Congress are purportedly supposed to put their country before their party, and siding with a foreign leader over your own president doesn’t seem to do that. Neither does cheering a foreign leader when he lambasts the president of the United States.

More to the point, it was a really significant breach when some conservatives supported Netanyahu’s implicit lobbying on behalf of the Romney campaign. If a foreign country wants to unseat your president, that is generally considered an outrageous breach. But Netanyahu has been invited in, and with the 2016 presidential elections ramping up it appears likely he will be invited in once more to implicitly run against the Democrats.

This speaks, in a very real sense, to just how extreme political polarization has become in Washington.

This sort of practice is bad for America’s ability to conduct foreign policy

To be very clear, this is not just a breach of protocol: it’s a very real problem for American foreign policy. The Supreme Court has codified into law the idea that only the president is allowed to make foreign policy, and not Congress, because if there are two branches of government setting foreign policy then America effectively has two foreign policies.

The idea is that the US government needs to be a single unified entity on the world stage in order to conduct effective foreign policy. Letting the president and Congress independently set their own foreign policies would lead to chaos. It would be extremely confusing for foreign leaders, and foreign publics, who don’t always understand how domestic American politics work, and could very easily misread which of the two branches is actually setting the agenda. (This confusion, by the way, is exactly what some Republicans are hoping to create in Iran with new sanctions.)

This could also allow a foreign country to play those two branches off of each other. That’s in part what Netanyahu is attempting to do here, and it’s working. The Obama administration did not even find out about Netanyahu’s planned visit to Washington until Boehner announced it. The Republicans are attempting to run a foreign policy that’s separate from the actual, official US foreign policy.

One more anti-Obama speech from Netanyahu on the floor of Congress is not going to break US foreign policy, of course. But it’s troubling that Republicans are willing to breach such an important principle for some pretty modest short-term gains.

The “specialness” of Israel


Israel claimed Hamas used the civilians of Gaza as human shields for their rocket attacks when it fact it turns out Israeli forces used Palestinians in that way.  Here is the story and eye witness accounts of what happened.

The article below describes how US officials have enabled the Israeli regime to commit and get away with war crimes and are as accountable as the very Israelis who are responsible for the Gaza massacre.  Unfortunately, American administrations are quick to hurl accusations of illegality towards members of the international community but are almost never willing to prosecute its own for illegal acts. In the case of Israel, even when there is compelling evidence that crimes were committed such an acknowledgment is never forthcoming from an American administration.  The ramifications of that are severe for America…..making it as much a pariah state as the one it enables.

 

Who Broke the Ceasefire?


By Max Blumenthal, Allison Deger

A beleaguered looking President Barack Obama appeared before the Washington press corps Friday to lash into Hamas for supposedly violating the 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire that his Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations had labored so tirelessly to secure.

“I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third minutes after a cease-fire was announced,” Obama said.

But evidence supporting Obama’s claim of Hamas responsibility has been difficult to come by. Indeed, even the Israeli Army news desk was unable to provide AlterNet with a clear narrative or substantial evidence regarding the incident in question. Moreover, accounts published in Arabic by Hamas’s military wing along with details provided by the PLO indicate that the killing of two soldiers and disappearance of another actually occurred before the cease-fire went into effect — when Israel was assaulting Rafah.

“Today at 9:30, terrorists executed an attack from which two soldiers were killed and an additional is now missing and therefore he is suspected to have been abducted,” an Israeli army spokesperson told AlterNet. The army spokesperson went on to state that Hamas and the army “exchanged shelling,” yet they were unable to provide details on the source of the Palestinian fire. “They used several forms of fire simultaneously,” was all the spokesperson could divulge.

“I cannot confirm at the moment as we are still looking into it, but it may have been live bullets and a suicide belt,” which killed the soldiers, the army spokesperson said.

When asked why the army did not have a solid account of the events that broke the promised 72-hour cease-fire, the army spokesperson maintained, “There were terrorists and they attacked the soldiers, two soldiers didn’t just drop dead.”

Tweets from Gaza contradict official US-Israeli claims

The PLO and Palestinian Authority both insisted to AlterNet that Hamas fighters engaged Israeli soldiers inside Gaza well before the cease-fire took effect – and during an Israeli assault on Rafah leading up to the 8am cease-fire.

“They aborted the cease-fire from the beginning,” said Nabil Shaath from the PLO’s Central Committee.

A veteran negotiator, Shaath has become the de facto liaison between the PLO and Hamas. He confirmed to AlterNet that PA President Mahmoud Abbas received a briefing from Hamas this morning on the incident near Rafah. Shaath’s account reflects details provided directly by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.

According to Shaath, at 6am Hamas fighters engaged Israeli forces in Rafah. He maintained that it was then — almost two hours before the cease-fire went into effect — that the two Israeli soldiers were killed and the other went missing.

Shaath’s account was supported by dispatches published before the cease-fire went into effect by the official Twitter account of Hamas’s Qassam Brigades military wing. In a tweet published at 7:34 a.m. on August 1, the Qassam Brigades stated, “At 7 a.m. a group [of Hamas fighters] clashed with [Israeli] forces east of Rafah and caused many injuries and death to them.”

In a separate tweet published at 6:22 a.m. on the say day, the Qassam Brigades declared, “At 6:30 a.m., a group of the Qassam infiltrated behind enemy lines at east Rafah and bombed a house that the enemy had taken as a stronghold with a Tandem missile after the enemies bombed the whole area.”

The following day, Qassam Brigades reiterated its description of the incident in an official statement: “The clashes began at 7.00am, before the proposed truce was in effect, while the enemy launched its attack on civilians at 10 a.m, blatantly violating the truce in aims of finding a missing soldier.”

Qassam Brigades added that it had “no knowledge regarding the soldier missing in action [Lt. Hadar Goldin] or his location or the circumstances of his disappearance” — a departure from previous instances when it trumpeted claims that it had captured Israeli troops. Despite the denial, Obama vehemently demanded that Hamas unconditionally release Goldin.

The cease-fire was first violated at 8:30 a.m., according to Shaath, when the Israeli army destroyed 19 buildings in an operation to demolish tunnels. “Destroying tunnels is destroying houses,” Shaath said, noting that the cease-fire allowed hostile Israeli forces to continue to operate inside the Gaza Strip, making violence almost inevitable. “We do not accept a cease-fire that allows the invader to attack and murder,” he declared.

Conflicting claims and evidence ignored

In announcing the brief cease-fire, Kerry said its terms authorized Israeli forces to carry out“defensive” operations against tunnels. He seemed unaware of the ramifications of such an agreement, or what Israel’s attacks on tunnels actually entailed. A glimpse at Human Rights Watch’s bracing report on the Israeli army’s brutal assault on Rafah in 2004, “Razing Rafah,” which it conducted under the auspices of anti-tunnel operations, would have offered a glimpse of what was to come. (American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer during the 2003 attack on Rafah).

Following the incident in Rafah that left two Israeli soldiers dead and one presumed missing, Kerry immediately declared that Hamas had committed an “outrageous violation of the cease-fire.” White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest echoed Kerry by accusing Hamas of “a barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement.”

But sources offer starkly conflicting accounts of the incident in question. The Israeli army claimed to AlterNet that Lt. Hadar Goldin went missing at 9:30 a.m., an hour and a half after the cease-fire was declared. Yet Obama claimed that the attack occurred “minutes after the cease-fire began.” For their part, Qassam reported engaging and killing Israeli soldiers well before 8 a.m.

So when did the incident actually occur? And why was Obama’s information so dramatically different from details the Israeli army was furnishing journalists with?

More importantly, why was the Obama administration so quick to jump to conclusions?

Framing Hamas, driving the death toll

Perhaps the answer was credulousness or sheer laziness, with its diplomatic corps and intelligence services neglecting to examine sensitive details from sources on the ground. But the more likely explanation is that Washington has sought to frame Hamas as the aggressor to enable Israel to intensify military operations disproportionately directed against a besieged civilian population.

Since violence escalated in mid-July, the Obama administration has demonstrated a disturbing pattern of legitimizing suspect Israeli claims about Hamas’s malevolence and bad faith. In each case, the administration provided political cover for disproportionate Israeli violence, deepening the damage to civilian life in the West Bank and Gaza. And in each case, Washington’s claims were ultimately discredited — but only after Israel had ratcheted the violence up to a frightening new stage.

The first case of irresponsible enabling by the Obama administration occurred in the immediate wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank on June 12. It was on June 15, before evidence was made public about the kidnapping suspects’ identities, that Kerry pointed the finger at Hamas, suggesting that the organization’s leadership had authorized the crime. His words helped justify Operation Brother’s Keeper, an army rampage through the West Bank in which thousands of Palestinian homes were raided, over 500 were arrested without charges, and 6 civilians were killed.

A month later, Israeli Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld finally admitted what was widely known and had been extensively documented: Hamas leadership had no role in or advance knowledge of the kidnappings. But by then, the damage to the West Bank had already been done. Kerry has yet to retract his demonstrably false and damaging claim.

The next case of Obama administration enabling came on July 15 as the military regime of Egypt – a ferocious antagonist of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas – introduced a cease-fire proposal developed in intimate collaboration with Israel that would not have lifted the 8-year-long siege of Gaza. Hamas had not been consulted on the proposal or even briefed on its details, exposing it as a hollow document conceived as a ruse to frame the Palestinian faction as rejectionists. Kerry brought the Israeli-Egyptian scheme to its fulfillment when he launched into an indignant condemnation of Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian proposal, accusing the group of “purposely playing politics.”

Kerry’s statement was a political boon to Netanyahu, providing the Prime Minister with all the cover he sought to initiate and expand ground invasion of Gaza. Hamas’s refusal to accept the proposal “gives Israel full legitimacy to expand the operation to protect our people,” Netanyahu declared on July 15.

Human catastrophe with no end in sight

Some thousand civilian deaths later, with morgues filled with the bodies of children and the UN no longer able to care for the 25% of the Gaza Strip forced to flee from sectors of the Gaza Strip that resemble post-apocalyptic moonscapes, the Obama administration was at it again. As before, they blamed Hamas without the benefit of anything remotely resembling substantial evidence.

In turn, Washington provided political legitimacy to military operations aimed at an occupied and vulnerable civilian population with nowhere to flee, allowing the killing to continue unabated. Following the collapse of the cease-fire, Israel bombarded Rafah with US-supplied F-16’s and tank artillery, decimating the center of the city and killing over 70. At the time of publication, the death toll is rapidly rising.

Meanwhile, the talks scheduled to take place in Egypt over the next 72 hours seem to have fallen into shambles.

Obama has described the scenes of human misery pouring out of the Gaza Strip as “heartbreaking.” If only he and his administration had demanded evidence before enabling Israeli aggression, he might have been able to forgo the empty displays of hand-wringing. More importantly, hundreds of innocent lives might have been spared from a marauding army operating behind a shroud of impunity.

Why Israel Lies


Chris Hedges

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.

I saw small boys baited and killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis. The soldiers swore at the boys in Arabic over the loudspeakers of their armored jeep. The boys, about 10 years old, then threw stones at an Israeli vehicle and the soldiers opened fire, killing some, wounding others. I was present more than once as Israeli troops drew out and then shot Palestinian children in this way. Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire. I was in Gaza when F-16 attack jets dropped 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs on overcrowded hovels in Gaza City. I saw the corpses of the victims, including children. This became a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory. I have watched Israel demolish homes and entire apartment blocks to create wide buffer zones between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza. I have interviewed the destitute and homeless families, some camped out in crude shelters erected in the rubble. The destruction becomes the demolition of the homes of terrorists. I have stood in the remains of schools—Israel struck two United Nations schools this past week, causing at least 10 fatalities at one in Rafah on Sunday and at least 19 at one in the Jebaliya refugee camp Wednesday—as well as medical clinics and mosques. I have heard Israel claim that errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians caused these and other deaths, or that the bombed spots were being used as arms depots or launching sites. I, along with every other reporter I know who has worked in Gaza, have never seen any evidence that Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”

There is a perverted logic to Israel’s repeated use of the Big Lie—Große Lüge—the lie favored by tyrants from Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin to Saddam Hussein. The Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.

By painting a picture of an army that never attacks civilians, that indeed goes out of its way to protect them, the Big Lie says Israelis are civilized and humane, and their Palestinian opponents are inhuman monsters. The Big Lie serves the idea that the slaughter in Gaza is a clash of civilizations, a war between democracy, decency and honor on one side and Islamic barbarism on the other. And in the uncommon cases when news of atrocities penetrates to the wider public, Israel blames the destruction and casualties on Hamas.

George Orwell in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” called this form of propaganda doublethink. Doublethink uses “logic against logic” and “repudiate[s] morality while laying claim to it.” The Big Lie does not allow for the nuances and contradictions that can plague conscience. It is a state-orchestrated response to the dilemma of cognitive dissonance. The Big Lie permits no gray zones. The world is black and white, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous. The Big Lie allows believers to take comfort—a comfort they are desperately seeking—in their own moral superiority at the very moment they have abrogated all morality.

The Big Lie, as the father of American public relations, Edward Bernays, wrote, is limited only by the propagandist’s capacity to fathom and harness the undercurrents of individual and mass psychology. And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government. The Big Lie always finds fertile soil in what Bernays called the “logic-proof compartment of dogmatic adherence.” All effective propaganda, Bernays wrote, targets and builds upon these irrational “psychological habits.”

This is the world Franz Kafka envisioned, a world where the irrational becomes rational. It is one where, as Gustave Le Bon noted in “The Crowd: A Study of the Public Mind,” those who supply the masses with the illusions they crave become their master, and “whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” This irrationality explains why the reaction of Israeli supporters to those who have the courage to speak the truth—Uri Avnery, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Cook, Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Henry Siegman and Philip Weiss—is so rabid. That so many of these voices are Jewish, and therefore have more credibility than non-Jews who are among Israel’s cheerleaders, only ratchets up the level of hate.

But the Big Lie is also consciously designed to send a chilling message to Gaza’s Palestinians, who have lost large numbers of their dwellings, clinics, mosques, and power, water and sewage facilities, along with schools and hospitals, who have suffered some 1,650 deaths since this assault began—most of the victims women and children—and who have seen 400,000 people displaced from their homes. The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.

The Israel Defense Forces website is replete with this black propaganda. “Hamas exploits the IDF’s sensitivity towards protecting civilian structures, particularly holy sites, by hiding command centers, weapons caches and tunnel entrances in mosques,” the IDF site reads. “In Hamas’ world, hospitals are command centers, ambulances are transport vehicles, and medics are human shields,” the site insists.

“… [Israeli] officers are tasked with an enormous responsibility: to protect Palestinian civilians on the ground, no matter how difficult that may be,” the site assures its viewers. And the IDF site provides this quote from a drone operator identified as Lt. Or. “I have personally seen rockets fired at Israel from hospitals and schools, but we couldn’t strike back because of civilians nearby. In one instance, we acquired a target but we saw that there were children in the area. We waited around, and when they didn’t leave we were forced to abort a strike on an important target.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in a Big Lie of his own, said last month at a conference of Christians United for Israel that the Israeli army should be given the “Nobel Peace Prize …  a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”

The Big Lie destroys any possibility of history and therefore any hope for a dialogue between antagonistic parties that can be grounded in truth and reality. While, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, the ancient and modern sophists sought to win an argument at the expense of the truth, those who wield the Big Lie “want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.” The old sophists, she said, “destroyed the dignity of human thought.” Those who resort to the Big Lie “destroy the dignity of human action.” The result, Arendt warned, is that “history itself is destroyed, and its comprehensibility.” And when facts no longer matter, when there is no shared history grounded in the truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be no useful exchange of information. The Big Lie, used like a bludgeon by Israel, as perhaps it is designed to be, ultimately reduces all problems in the world to the brutish language of violence. And when oppressed people are addressed only through violence they will answer only through violence.

GAZA…..again


It should come as no surprise the Israeli government is on another blood lust for Palestinian land and souls.  Gaza, the open air prison that rivals Guantanamo Bay is being relentlessly bombarded because of Hamas rockets fired on Israel.

Israelis look at a crater caused by a rocket outside a shop in Ashdod, on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Wednesday, July 9, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israelis look at a crater caused by a rocket outside a shop in Ashdod, on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Wednesday, July 9, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Since this latest “provocation” by Hamas a total of ONE Israeli has been killed and that AFTER the Israeli retaliatory strikes whereas scores of Palestinians have been killed or murdered.  Numbers are irrelevant and there are no equivalences…..you don’t slaughter innocents in retaliation…unless you’re the Israeli government.

What’s newsworthy and drawn me to post is the latest attempt at a cease fire advocated by Hamas.  Here are the “terms

First – Opening all the crossing with the Gaza Strip.

Second – Opening Rafah crossing, the link between Gaza and Egypt, on a permanent basis, 24 hours per day with international guarantees it will not be closed.

Third – A maritime corridor to Gaza.

Fourth – Allowing residents of the Gaza Strip to pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Fifth – Israel will release the prisoners who were freed as part of the “Shalit” deal, and Israel will abide by the previous agreement reached by prisoners and the Israel Prison Service with Egyptian mediation in 2012.

 

Hold your breath if you think Israel will accede to these conditions; they are too busy trying to acquire the land they want Palestinians to leave with threats of military invasion of Gaza if they don’t go.

Gaza after an Israeli strike on July 8, 2014
Gaza after an Israeli strike on July 8, 2014

And if you’re counting on the Americans to broker peace there forget that one too.  Obama’s shameless pandering to the Israelis was no more evident than at the “iftar” meal he held for Muslims at the White House earlier this week, where the Israeli ambassador to America was also present.  There Obama asserted there is  justification on the part of Israel for its slaughter because of the destruction being rained down upon it by Hamas rockets. Hardly…The Israeli Ambassador, Ron Dermer, was delighted by Obama’s stand, tweeting,

.@WhiteHouse for Iftar dinner. Appreciate strong statement there by President Obama about Israel’s right to defend itself.

— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer) July 15, 2014

As in your face as one can get; being invited to a party being held for someone else and then humiliating them the honorees, but that’s Israel.  That’s what they’ve been doing and allowed to do for decades. It was bad enough to get get Tariq Ramadan to write

It was supposed to be an evening where the American President showed respect to a religious community, to the millions of American Muslims who have been fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan.

It was supposed to be a political expression of respect. It ended up being a political instrumentalisation of (voluntarily) trapped Muslim leaders listening to President Obama justify the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians, declaring Israel has the right to defend itself. One wonders what is the relationship between the Iftar celebration and Israel ? What is the US administration’s implicit-explicit intention in putting the Muslim leaders in such an embarrassing situation? To test their loyalty or rather their capacity to compromise or betray? They obviously remained silent.

The Israeli ambassador, Mr. Ron Dermer, also invited (why?), was actually the first to speak. One must remember what he said about Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims : Palestinians have “a cultural tendency towards belligerency” that is “deeply embedded in the culture of the Arab world and its foremost religion”. This is the man who was invited to celebrate Iftar with the Muslims meanwhile his Government is destroying Gaza. From the White House he tweeted, triumphantly : “@WhiteHouse for Iftar dinner. Appreciate strong statement there by President Obama about Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Obviously Muslim leaders didn’t tweet. It was enough of an honor for them to be invited to the White House and to have met the President. An honor, truly, dear Muslim leaders? Ordinary Muslims (and proponents of justice and dignity from other religions) in the US and around the world, as well as Palestinians, might think differently.

That just about sums it up.

 

 

More Bergdahl news


I should have included this in a previous post but just saw it.  Seems there’s more to the Bergdahl story than meets the eye.  Daily Kos points out several inconsistencies that when brought to light should permanently mute the strings of discord currently being played by the #DemonicGOP.

Bergdahl had left his base without permissions on at least one prior occasion, and had come back! This is according to a report in the Army Times. In fact, his fellow soldiers failed to report it at the time. (The 35 page classified Army report (as reported to the New York Times) that was compiled 2 months after Bergdahl disappeared, concluded that he had left his unit twice, not once. And the Army blamed lax security practices and a lack of discipline. Moreover, the supposed letter he left confessing to everything was not mentioned in the report at all.)

According to the now famous article by Michael Hastings about Bergdahl, his unit was basically a bunch of undisciplined fuck ups who went out on patrol without helmets, lost weapons, totally lacked morale and respect for military authority, etc. At least two commanders were actually demoted! So, you have to take with a grain of salt the accusations being made against Bergdahl by these people. Especially now that we know they failed to report Bergdahl left the base without permission on a prior occasion, and are still telling the media that he is a “deserter” when they know damn well that’s not true.

The New York Times has also reported that it is almost impossible to attribute the losses the unit suffered to Bergdahl, or looking for Bergdahl. Given the lack of unit discipline, etc. One wonders whether Bergdahl is being scapegoated by these people, who were drummed up by GOP political operatives.

Bergdahl’s apparent heroism while in captivity has been almost completely ignored and glossed over. The Daily Beast originally reported that Bergdahl lulled his captors into believing he was sympathetic to them, and when they let their guard down he escaped for 3 days. When they finally found him in a hand-dug trench he covered with leaves, he was nearly naked an exhausted. Yet, it took 5 Taliban to subdue him as he fought back trying to avoid being recaptured.

 

Remember this?


Not only did Reagan deal with terrorists as president, as revealed in
the Iran-Contra scandal, the preponderance of evidence now supports the charge that his campaign negotiated with Iranian hostage-takers while he was running for president in 1980, to delay the release of hostages before the election, which could have helped Carter win reelection — what was known as “The October Surprise.” Given that Reagan wasn’t president then, but was negotiating to thwart a president’s attempt to get hostages released, this is not simply questionable behavior, it is arguably an act of treason. Democrats’ reluctance to vigorously investigate Reagan’s misdeeds — the exact opposite of GOP attitudes toward Clinton and Obama — has left much of the true story still shrouded in mystery, but what we do know is damning enough in itself, and still cries out for a truly thorough investigation.

First of all, there’s no doubt that Reagan himself set the precedent of Iran-TIMEdealing with terrorists — and encouraging more hostage-taking. He and his administration convinced themselves they were dealing with “moderates” in Iran. But they also famously sent Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to hang out with Saddam Hussein, and collaborated with Osama bin Laden in building up the most extreme mujahideen elements fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan — the very forces that eventually gave birth to the Taliban. When his own hand-picked “Tower Commission” confirmed the basic facts of the Iran-contra scandal, Reagan went on national TV and said, “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” (emphasis mine)

So goes an article which goes into detail about Ronald Reagan’s romp with terrorism and negotiations and how he failed at it miserably.  The problem for America is Reagan is a right wing ‘god’ who cannot be blamed for anything he did or was done while he was in office no matter how terrible the results were for the American people….and too many of us won’t call him on it.  Oh sure….a few articles like the one sourced above come out but even it claims

….

As we watch the current manufacture of “scandal” surrounding the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, it’s illuminating to contrast this with the way in which multiple very real interconnected scandals under Ronald Reagan were both isolated from one another and then minimized, never receiving the sort of thorough investigation that Republicans are now demanding every time that President Obama so much as coughs.

I’m glad those in opposition to the #DemonicGOP haven’t resorted to the tactics of such a forlorn ex-political party….truth stands out clear from error.  There’s no need to mislead people in order to gain their loyalty but whenever anyone says Obama negotiated with terrorists remind them he did a better job of it than Ronald Reagan who started the practice.

What is offensive about this picture?


snorestop-hed-2013Evidently some in America don’t like the imagery of an American soldier hugging a niqaabi clad woman in this snorestop advertisement that’s appearing in California.  Too many of us are still in the business of deciding for others who they can and cannot mate with.  Perhaps that is the discontent many have with Obama; the thought that a white woman would actually have sex with an African man and produce a child that would be as competitive in the western world as any  white child is too fearful a thought for some.

America is too culturally diverse today to have such limitations placed on people and their choices. There are Americans embracing Islam and Muslim women/men are marrying them and many of them are in the US military. Neither act, accepting a religious belief and being American or in the service of your country  is mutually exclusive unless you’re a bigot who believes in really antiquated notions of racial superiority being diluted with co-mingling.

Meet the players behind the picture

Don’t think for one minute these people are serious about their jobs


113th CongressBecause they aren’t!!  I’m not being facetious, I’m serious.  The Republican controlled House, the Party currently running and ruining the show in Washington is NOT serious about governance, compromise, bipartisanship, ANYTHING except collecting their paycheck.  The party dedicated to reducing the budget, cutting entitlements, waste, fraud and everything else is one of the biggest loafers, welfare recipients to drain the government coffers and they do so by merely showing up for work and doing absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Remember this?  It was a year ago we brought you the work calendar for the House of Representatives which showed members of that body working a total of 126 days for all of 2013.  That’s a little over 4 months out of the year! Four!  Luckily they were scheduled to work two weeks in September and two weeks before the debt extension deadline but the week of the deadline date itself they were scheduled to be off!! They’ve gone and done one better for 2014.  Next year they’ve lopped off 13 days from their work schedule and will only work 113 days next year.  That’s less than 4 months out of the year. Take a look for yourself house-schedule-2014Last year I wrote

They (members of the House) are scheduled to work for only 126 days for a yearly salary of $174000. That’s almost half the number of days the average American works for a whole lot more money.  In other words, they work half as long as we do and get paid more…..and that’s if you’re just a normal member of Congress.  Cantor gets $19,000 more or $193,000 and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner gets $223,000 yearly….all to obfuscate and obstruct Obama’s legislative agenda to the detriment of the country.

Jed Lewison, writing for Daily Kos put up an interesting graphic comparing the congressional work schedule with that of the average American and the comparison is stark.  If you think there’s anyone in Congress who is a champion of your rights and values, unless you’re a crook, thief or Wall Street banker you should disinvest yourself of that notion right now.  Like anyone else who gets away with murder, or robbery, members of Congress are quite content to do as little as possible for as much as they can get! workcalendaranimated3second

Myth debunked


The number of people employed by the federal government has shrunk under the Obama administration.

It was the summer of 1966. Lyndon Johnson was in the White House and the Great Society was roaring. In August, the federal government had 2,721,000 employees.

Now it is the fall of 2013. There are complaints from Washington about a bloated federal government. Another Democrat, Barack Obama, is president.

In September, before the government shutdown, the government had 2,723,000 employees, according to the latest job report, on a seasonally adjusted basis. That is the lowest figure since 1966. Until now, the lowest figure for the current century had been 2,724,000 federal employees in October 2004, when George W. Bush was seeking a second term in the White House.

Now, the federal government employs exactly 2 percent of the people with jobs in this country. In 1966, the figure was more than twice that, 4.3 percent.

All these figures, by the way, are for civilian jobs. Members of the armed forces are not counted. If they were included, the contrast would be even sharper. In 1966 the Vietnam War was going on, and around 2.6 million people were on active duty. This year the figure is around 1.4 million.

 

More Louie Gohmert-this guy is really funny!


This congressman is from Texas……… a state that also safely houses Ted Cruz the Canadian born Texas senator who denounced his Canadian citizenship with an eye on the 2016 presidential elections in order to appease those in the #DemonicGOP who claim Obama is not American because his father was African… and also the home state of Rick Perry THE Executioner for all of America’s 50 states.

Louie Gohmert, however, is a different breed altogether…he occupies his own “zone” that keeps getting more and more exclusive with Gohmert turning out to be its only occupant

When Rep. Louie Gohmert floats conspiracy theories, Americans across the political spectrum tend to roll their eyes and ignore him. But one of his more feverish conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama’s ostensible ties to the Muslim Brotherhood could be fueling dangerous anti-American sentiments in Egypt and potentially complicating U.S. foreign policy in the region, experts say.

For months, the five-term Republican congressman from Texas has been claiming that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are steering U.S. foreign policy and emboldening terrorists.

“This administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America,” Gohmert told the conspiracy-friendly World Net Daily radio back in April, in just one example of such claims…….

….in Egypt, where the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government was recently ousted by the country’s military after the people turned against it…(a)nti-American conspiracy theories are rampant there, for a variety of reasons related and unrelated to U.S. foreign policy, and hearing it from a United States congressman lends credibility to the theory that the U.S. is teaming up with the Muslim Brotherhood — and even Al-Qaeda — to destroy Egypt.

“I guarantee you nobody in Egypt really knows who Louie Gohmert is or what he’s about. So they could very well point to this and say ‘Look! He’s a member of Congress. This must be serious. There must be something to it,’” said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It doesn’t help in a political environment where everyone is already angry at us to be fueling conspiracy theories against us. In that way it enables an overall level of hostility toward the U.S.”…….

….The New York Times reported that the U.S.-Brotherhood conspiracy theory has become “widespread” in Egypt, even to the point of being seen by some as common knowledge. Billboards and posters in Egypt tie President Obama to the Brotherhood and accuse him of supporting terrorism against Egypt. And segments of the pro-military Egyptian media have beenplaying a YouTube clip of Gohmert speaking on the House floor, spliced with ominous background music, likening the Obama administration’s aid to Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi’s government with assisting terrorists….

Exporting idiocy that can endanger American interests is usually called “treason”….a word we heard to stifle dissent for Bush’s expeditions in the Middle East but Tea Party members like Gohmert feel  no hesitancy in promoting ideas that if not considered seditious on American soil have at least been used to foment a military coup in Egypt.

The Muhammad Morsi dilemma


MorsiII

The Morsi government was doomed to fail before it even began.  No matter what his government did, the Mubarak loyalists and the Army conspired very early on to depose him at a time and method convenient to them.  Nothing could have been done to avert that outcome.  There are international forces that benefited from the military coup and the Obama administration played both sides against the middle as is usually the case for America, but the origin of this coup was the banks of the Nile and it was propagated  by Egyptians  and perhaps financed with a little help from their friends in the Middle East and beyond.

Before the overthrow could be accomplished, Morsi first had to be properly dehumanized and linked with the most infamous criminals known to man and with the Egyptian propaganda machine in full swing it was an easy task

Mr Kholy (Egypt’s ambassador to Britain)  compared the one-year rule of Mr Morsi to the Islamist takeover of the Iranian state after the 1979 revolution and said that, like Nazism, the Muslim Brotherhood ideology sought to dominate Egyptian society.

“Morsi was elected president and held office for one year but in that time he tried to make everything Muslim Brotherhood controlled. Egyptian culture over 5,000 years is a mix of religions and civilisations in which the Islamic religion is one ingredient of the Egyptian character,” he said. “The Muslim Brotherhood are like a Nazi group that demand that everything changes and people (sic) everything to their way.”

…and with code words like Nazi, it was on for the military coup and over for the Morsi government.  After using terms meant to denigrate the Morsi government, machinations were put in place to ensure the public was on board as well with manufactured crisis designed to turn Egyptians against the government they voted into office

Throughout the month of June the media onslaught on Morsi’s government not only continued to blame it for all the ills afflicting Egyptian society, but also intensified as three particular problems were highlighted: the deterioration in security, frequent power outages that lasted hours and affected not only residential but also industrial areas, and shortages of fuel, causing hours long lines at gas stations.

gasEgypt has 2480 gas stations, with about 400 stations run by the government. The other two thousand stations are owned privately by business tycoons who were given these licenses during the Mubarak era because they were close to the regime and considered very loyal. Morsi’s government asserted that each station received its share and that there was no reason for the shortages. In fact, a few days before he was deposed Morsi warned gas station owners he’d revoke their licences if they refused to provide their customers with fuel. Khalid Al-Shami, a youth activist who was with the opposition until the military coup, exposed the plot when he announced in public that the handful of owners of the privately-run gas stations conspired to create the manufactured fuel shortage crisis in order to build public discontent against Morsi. The best evidence that the problem of fuel shortage was manufactured is that it evaporated overnight. Since the moment Morsi was deposed there has been no fuel shortage.

As for the security deterioration and electricity cuts, the conspiracy was deeper. The police which refused to electricity problemsprotect entire neighborhoods during Morsi’s rule has returned back in full force. Criminals and thugs who terrorized people in the streets are back under control by the same Mubarak-era security apparatus, except for the areas where Morsi’s supporters demonstrate. Electricity outages that lasted for hours every day in almost every neighborhood have disappeared overnight. The mystery of solving these two intractable problems were uncovered this week. Out of the thirty-five member cabinet chosen by the military, eight were retained including the Interior Minister in charge of the police and the Minister of Electricity. One would assume that the first ministers to be sacked by the post-coup government would be those whom the public complained about their incompetence. The opposition who called for dismissing these ministers were now hailing them and cheering their retention. In short, many public officials who professed loyalty to the hapless president were actually undermining his rule all along, while the opposition accused him of packing the government with MB loyalists.

Egyptian opposition even borrowed a page from the American Tea Party movement with rhetoric that was as far fetched as any used by American #DemonicGOPers  designed to incite animus against the Morsi government in ways that manufactured crisis could never accomplish.  At a time when our Tea Party and its strategy is becoming more and more apparent and on the wane in America, it seems to have found a home in Egypt and her conspiracists.  In ways that probably would make FoxNews blush, Egyptian Tea Party/military loyalists spout theories that come from the far reaches of the universe yet have no basis in reality

Readers of Egypt’s main state-run newspaper this week were treated to a startling expose. Splashed atop al Ahram’s front page was trumpeted how security forces smashed a plot by the Muslim Brotherhood, the United States and Palestinian Islamists to foment the secession of northern Egypt.

“A new conspiracy to shake stability,” the red-ink headline screamed of the scheme allegedly overseen by U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson and Khairat al-Shater, a millionaire businessman who is among dozens of Brotherhood leaders swept into jail in recent weeks.

Media commentaries span the comedic to the preposterous. A radio host griped that a more than 2-week-old nationwide curfew is forcing husbands to spend more time cooped up at night with their wives, while a former Supreme Court justice asserted on state-run television that President Barack Obama’s brother is a Brotherhood member. Obama and the MB

An article in the pro-army Al Youm Al Sabaa newspaper alleged that Shater, the Brotherhood’s chief political strategist, ran an arms smuggling racket with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who enraged many Egyptians when he tried to broker a deal between Morsi and the army.

Television channels loop slick anti-Brotherhood video mash-ups. They contrast shots of long-bearded Morsi protesters firing guns or contorting their faces as they screech abuses with scenes of unarmed, flag-waving anti-Morsi protesters, police funerals and troops on maneuvers. Patriotic soundtracks hail Egypt’s ancient history and the military’s martial prowess.  (against unarmed civilians but certainly not against the Israeli army.)

People like  Mr. Naguib Sawiris who took his  inspiration from American politicians and media pundits in exemplary fasion managed a media blitz nothing short of incendiary and blatantly fallacious….

On July 26, a cable news host leaned across his desk, stared into the camera and let his audience in on what he believed was the Obama administration’s deepest, darkest secret. “The issue is not whether Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or not,” he declared. “The issue is that it is a fact that Obama used the help of the Muslim Brotherhood in his administration.”

Reading from notes in a tone of total omniscience, the host began to name names. He cited six figures, all Muslim American activists or intellectuals, accusing them of operating a Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cell inside the White House. They were Mazen Asbahi, Arif Ali Khan, Eboo Patel, Salam Marayati, and Mohamed Elibiary.

“Write these names down,” the host told his audience, “look them up during the break and when I come back let me know if what I say is right or wrong.”

Though he sounded like Glenn Beck or any other Tea Party-style Islamophobe, the host was not American and did not even speak English. He was Yousef El-Hosseini, a popular and famously reactionary personality on the private Egyptian cable network, ONTV. Founded by Egypt’s wealthiest man, Naguib Sawiris, a key financial backer of the forces behind the overthrow of the country’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, ONTV has emerged as one of the country’s central instruments for spreading pro-military propaganda.

 With such proclamations, news to the contrary was effectively stifled in ways that only happen under military dictatorships ushered in by military coups. How could you not support a takeover that was inspired by threats of foreign intervention in your country’s domestic affairs?   Opponents of the military coup and voices of opposition were silenced and persecuted and published dissent to the military’s actions was not tolerated.

Journalists have been killed, arrested and attacked since the Egyptian army began a campaign of repression in the country. On Sunday, the pattern of harassment continued, as three employees of Al Jazeera English were deported.

“Since 3 July, a total of five journalists have been killed, 80 journalists have been arbitrarily detained (with seven still held) and at least 40 news providers have been physically attacked by the police or by pro-Morsi or pro-army demonstrators,” RWB wrote. It called the killings “without precedent in the country’s contemporary history.”

Next Morsi’s opponents, some of them officials in the Morsi government had to manufacture economic and political crisis to make it seem  Egypt was on the verge of immediate demise …..

The streets seethe with protests and government ministers are on the run or in jail, but since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, life has somehow gotten better for many people across Egypt: Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street.

The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.

And as the interim government struggles to unite a divided nation, the Muslim Brotherhood and Mr. Morsi’s supporters say the sudden turnaround proves that their opponents conspired to make Mr. Morsi fail. Not only did police officers seem to disappear, but the state agencies responsible for providing electricity and ensuring gas supplies failed so fundamentally that gas lines and rolling blackouts fed widespread anger and frustration.

Working behind the scenes, members of the old establishment, some of them close to Mr. Mubarak and the country’s top generals, also helped finance, advise and organize those determined to topple the Islamist leadership, including Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire and an outspoken foe of the Brotherhood….

MB HQThere can be no doubt that what took place in Egypt was a military coup, despite America’s reluctance to call it that.  I’ve read words such as naive to describe Morsi’s attitude to those who opposed him but realizing the political intransigence he faced and the extent to which the tentacles of the Mubarak regime reached in Egyptian society (notice how quickly Mubarak was released from prison after the military took power) Morsi’s slow and steady approach, along with missteps that ANYONE doing what he had to do would make, made it all but impossible for him to succeed.  To say he was set up to fail, that his election took place only to be overturned is precisely what his detractors, opponents wanted to happen and it was brilliantly executed.  A democratically elected government, replacing a 30 year dictatorship was overthrown by a military coup to the applause of all but those in the ruling party that Morsi represented and it was done with many of the same tactics employed by American political opposition that the American government which supported the Egyptian coup is fighting.  In other words, Obama has given his blessings to the military coup, despite what the Egyptian military said in an attempt to justify their actions…knowing full well Egyptian opposition was made up of people and tactics that are stalling his (Obama’s) government and the economic recovery he so desperately needs. If you say politics makes strange bedfellows, you only need to look at Egyptian/Middle Eastern politics to come to that realization.  Obama worked with the Egyptian forces that are his opponents back home in America for the illegal overthrow of an elected government.  He, Obama, now faces those same forces of obstructionism while he tries to make a case to attack a country that has always been an opponent of American interests in the Middle East and a new found opponent of Egypt.  It is bizarre, unsettling  and counterproductive to American interests, and worst of all typical of how things are done in that part of the world.  Go figure…..

Gitmo News and more..


Perhaps you’ve seen the video of Mos Def being force fed to simulate what happens to those prisoners in Guantanamo Bay who are undergoing the same procedure.  If you haven’t, here it is in all it’s gory glory.

What’s significant about the video is the fact that many of those who are  not eating are those who have been cleared for release, some of them many years earlier but who still languish in Gitmo Bay for unknown, unexplained reasons.  One such person is Shaker Aamer

English: A photograph of Shaker Aamer cropped ...
English: A photograph of Shaker Aamer cropped from File:Abdul Shaker with Children.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a desperate message from Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, told one of his lawyers by phone, “The administration is getting ever more angry and doing everything they can to break our hunger strike. Honestly, I wish I was dead.”

Shaker, who was cleared for release from the prison under President Bush in 2007 and under President Obama in 2009, was speaking to Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, and his words were reported in the Observer, which also noted his claims that “the US authorities are systematically making the regime more hardline to try to defuse the strike, which now involves almost two-thirds of the detainees.”

 

If you want bios on those who have been cleared for release, you can read about them here. America is not proving itself to be a shining beacon of freedom and liberty with the continued imprisonment of innocent men; rather it is showing itself to be the opposite even under the guide and stewardship of the Nation’s first African-American president who campaigned on a theme of “Change”.  Those in Gitmo Bay are still waiting for the change and their release.

 

GOP double speak can make your head spin


When I first read that John McCain, along with Lindsey Graham who had been sent by President Obama to Egypt saidHead-Spinning

We have said we share the democratic aspirations and criticism of the Morsi government that led millions of Egyptians into the streets…

We’ve also said that the circumstances of [Morsi’s] removal was a coup. This was a transition of power not by the ballot box.

I wanted to jump for joy because that is exactly what I had been thinking.  It took Juan Cole’s column to bring me back down to earth and remind who just who these two political charlatans US senators John McCain and Lindsey Grahamare

McCain and Graham are urging the interim Egyptian government to engage in dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood. But in winter of 2011 just after the fall of Mubarak, this is what McCain said:

” SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?

McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government. “

McCain insisted that there was in fact a military coup in Egypt on July 3, and called for political prisoners (the former Muslim Brotherhood elected government) to be released. But McCain supported the military coup of 1999 by Gen. Pervez Musharraf against the elected government of Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif.

Graham doesn’t like people to win elections if he doesn’t like them. When the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, won the Palestine Authority elections in early 2006, Graham rejected their legitimacy…

Graham and McCain are urging the Egyptian authorities to talk to the Muslim Brotherhood and find a compromise, to engage in “inclusive dialogue.” But from Obamacare to Benghazi they have been relentless in their refusal to talk to President Obama in good faith on a whole range of issues….

Calling what happened in Egypt a coup does do is make it possible for these members of a very demented and demonic party to make life difficult for the President by attempting to cut off aid to Egypt because of the “coup” and further weaken that country as well as the US president all the while strengthening the hand of America’s client state and everyone in Washington who wants to be reelected favorite country, Israel.  In order to accomplish those two goals, McCain and Graham will say and do ANYTHING, no matter how outrageous it is or how stupid it makes them look.

Disturbing


A letter from prisoner 329 at Guantanamo Bay

This is my call to the outside world from behind these rusty bars, in this monstrous cell. Does the world know what is happening in this prison?

Despite the long years we the prisoners have spent in this place from 2002 to 2013, the American government does not seem interested in solving the problem. The past few months have been among the harshest lived by the prisoners here. During the Bush years, solutions seemed possible. Under Obama, it seems like there is no will to solve the problem.

I once lived communally with the other prisoners in Camp Six. Now we are all in solitary confinement here, with only two hours of recreation a day. Some prisoners are too weak and sick to ever leave their cells as a result of the hunger strike and the U.S. military’s reaction to it.

The military here has used brute force against the hunger strikers. They have beaten us and used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas against us. They have confiscated everything from our cells, from toothbrushes to blankets and books. They have confined us to cold, windowless cells, beyond the reach of the sun’s rays or a fresh breeze. Sometimes, we don’t even know if it’s day or night out.

It isn’t unusual for prison guards here to search prisoners’ genital parts and their rectum ten times in a single day.

According to Vallely captives were only restra...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daily, I am forced into a restraint chair, my arms, legs and chest tied down tight. Big guards grab my head with both hands. I feel like my skull is being crushed. Then, so-called nurses violently push a thick tube down my nostril. Blood rushes out of my nose and mouth. The nurses turn on the feeding solution full throttle. I cannot begin to describe the pain that causes.

Recently, a nurse brutally yanked out the force-feeding tube, threw it on my shoulder, and left the cell, leaving me tied down to the chair. Later, the nurse returned to the cell, took the tube off my shoulder and began to reinsert it into my nose. I asked him to cleanse and purify the tube first but he refused.

When I later tried to complain to another nurse about the incident, the other nurse threatened to force the feeding tube up my rear, not down my nose, if I didn’t suspend my hunger strike.

And when I tried taking the matter to a senior medical officer, he told me that they would strap me to a bed and make me urinate through a catheter forced into my penis if I kept up my peaceful protest.

I used to think I was the only one coping with severe joint pain, a weakened memory, having a hard time concentrating, and feeling constantly distracted as a result of all this. But I’ve since discovered that many hunger strikers struggle with the same symptoms. Without realizing it, some of the hunger strikers even speak to themselves out loud when they’re alone.

But we also know that there are peaceful protests in solidarity with our plight in many countries. Even in America itself, there are protests demanding that the U.S. government close this prison that has hurt America’s reputation. And international criticism mounts daily.

We the hunger strikers continue to demand our rights. President Obama can begin by releasing those of us who have been cleared for release years ago, followed by the prisoners who have not been charged with any crime after eleven years in captivity.

Despite the difficulties, the hard conditions, and the challenges created by the U.S. government, those of us on hunger strike will continue protesting until our demands for justice are met.

 

This letter was written by a man held at Gitmo since 2002, but who has been cleared for release since 2010, yet he still languishes in prison.  

The Genie was released years ago


…and there’s no way it will be put back in the bottle.  The genie I’m referring to here is government surveillance on American citizens.  Ever since government has felt threatened by its citizens there has been surveillance of the same; it’s a natural reaction.  You can choose for yourself when you think that “fear” manifested itself in illegal spying on Americans.  I tend to think it started

English: J. Edgar Hoover, head of the U.S. Fed...

around the time J.Edgar Hoover surreptitiously gathered information on people who participated in the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, but the federal government has made it its raison d’etre to know any and everything about any and everyone it felt imperiled government’s existence, no matter how big or small, real or imagined the threat.

The events of 911 changed all of that however, so that now government no longer cares if you know of its spying on you and the extent to which it does so; it claims for itself complete and unfettered access to all information generated over any medium, whether you like it or not.  Obama is only the most recent figure to sign on to this idea that the federal government has this right and joins a long line of presidents who’ve embraced the concept of total government access to information.  The Snowden revelations are equally not new.  People have clamored for quite some time that this kind of spying was going on on the part of government.  Below is the story, as told by USA Today of three who made similar claims a decade or more ago. It’s alleged that the spying going on is on such a scale that even the President doesn’t know its full extent and that despite the possibility spying can be done with proper constitutional safeguards people in charge of this are not at all concerned with people’s right to privacy or other rights and privileges  we expect as citizens; rather the aim of such spy programs is solely determined by those in charge and in power without any proper oversight by any branch of government.  It’s a sobering article you must read in its entirety.

3 NSA veterans speak out on whistle-blower: We told you so

NSA whistle-blowers, from left, Thomas Drake, J. Kirk Wiebe and William Binney. (Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)
NSA whistle-blowers, from left, Thomas Drake, J. Kirk Wiebe and William Binney.
(Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)

When a National Security Agency contractor revealed top-secret details this month on the government’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records, one select group of intelligence veterans breathed a sigh of relief.

Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials who paved the way.

For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens. They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data-collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media.

To the intelligence community, the trio are villains who compromised what the government classifies as some of its most secret, crucial and successful initiatives. They have been investigated as criminals and forced to give up careers, reputations and friendships built over a lifetime.

Today, they feel vindicated.

They say the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former NSA contractor who worked as a systems administrator, proves their claims of sweeping government surveillance of millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing. They say those revelations only hint at the programs’ reach.

On Friday, USA TODAY brought Drake, Binney and Wiebe together for the first time since the story broke to discuss the NSA revelations. With their lawyer, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, they weighed their implications and their repercussions. They disputed the administration’s claim of the impact of the disclosures on national security — and President Obama’s argument that Congress and the courts are providing effective oversight.

And they have warnings for Snowden on what he should expect next.

Q: Did Edward Snowden do the right thing in going public?

William Binney: We tried to stay for the better part of seven years inside the government trying to get the government to recognize the unconstitutional, illegal activity that they were doing and openly admit that and devise certain ways that would be constitutionally and legally acceptable to achieve the ends they were really after. And that just failed totally because no one in Congress or — we couldn’t get anybody in the courts, and certainly the Department of Justice and inspector general’s office didn’t pay any attention to it. And all of the efforts we made just produced no change whatsoever. All it did was continue to get worse and expand.

Q: So Snowden did the right thing?

Binney: Yes, I think he did.

Q: You three wouldn’t criticize him for going public from the start?

J. Kirk Wiebe: Correct.

Binney: In fact, I think he saw and read about what our experience was, and that was part of his decision-making.

Wiebe: We failed, yes.

Jesselyn Radack: Not only did they go through multiple and all the proper internal channels and they failed, but more than that, it was turned against them. … The inspector general was the one who gave their names to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act. And they were all targets of a federal criminal investigation, and Tom ended up being prosecuted — and it was for blowing the whistle.

Q: There’s a question being debated whether Snowden is a hero or a traitor.

Binney: Certainly he performed a really great public service to begin with by exposing these programs and making the government in a sense publicly accountable for what they’re doing. At least now they are going to have some kind of open discussion like that.

But now he is starting to talk about things like the government hacking into China and all this kind of thing. He is going a little bit too far. I don’t think he had access to that program. But somebody talked to him about it, and so he said, from what I have read, anyway, he said that somebody, a reliable source, told him that the U.S. government is hacking into all these countries. But that’s not a public service, and now he is going a little beyond public service.

So he is transitioning from whistle-blower to a traitor.

Thomas Drake: He’s an American who has been exposed to some incredible information regarding the deepest secrets of the United States government. And we are seeing the initial outlines and contours of a very systemic, very broad, a Leviathan surveillance state and much of it is in violation of the fundamental basis for our own country — in fact, the very reason we even had our own American Revolution. And the Fourth Amendment for all intents and purposes was revoked after 9/11. …

He is by all definitions a classic whistle-blower and by all definitions he exposed information in the public interest. We’re now finally having the debate that we’ve never had since 9/11.

Radack: “Hero or traitor?” was the original question. I don’t like these labels, and they are putting people into categories of two extremes, villain or saint. … By law, he fits the legal definition of a whistle-blower. He is someone who exposed broad waste, abuse and in his case illegality. … And he also said he was making the disclosures for the public good and because he wanted to have a debate.

Q: James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said Snowden’s disclosures caused “huge, grave damage” to the United States. Do you agree?

Wiebe: No, I do not. I do not. You know, I’ve asked people: Do you generally believe there’s government authorities collecting information about you on the Net or your phone? “Oh, of course.” No one is surprised.

There’s very little specificity in the slides that he made available (describing the PRISM surveillance program). There is far more specificity in the FISA court order that is bothersome.

Q: Did foreign governments, terrorist organizations, get information they didn’t have already?

The National Security Agency's data center in Bluffdale, Utah. Former NSA employees interviewed by USA TODAY offered insight on the recent leak of documents by Edward Snowden.(Photo: Rick Bowmer, AP)
The National Security Agency’s data center in Bluffdale, Utah. Former NSA employees interviewed by USA TODAY offered insight on the recent leak of documents by Edward Snowden.(Photo: Rick Bowmer, AP)

Binney: Ever since … 1997-1998 … those terrorists have known that we’ve been monitoring all of these communications all along. So they have already adjusted to the fact that we are doing that. So the fact that it is published in the U.S. news that we’re doing that, has no effect on them whatsoever. They have already adjusted to that.

Radack: This comes up every time there’s a leak. … In Tom’s case, Tom was accused of literally the blood of soldiers would be on his hands because he created damage. I think the exact words were, “When the NSA goes dark, soldiers die.” And that had nothing to do with Tom’s disclosure at all, but it was part of the fear mongering that generally goes with why we should keep these things secret.

Q: What did you learn from the document — the Verizon warrant issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — that Snowden leaked?

Drake: It’s an extraordinary order. I mean, it’s the first time we’ve publicly seen an actual, secret, surveillance-court order. I don’t really want to call it “foreign intelligence” (court) anymore, because I think it’s just become a surveillance court, OK? And we are all foreigners now. By virtue of that order, every single phone record that Verizon has is turned over each and every day to NSA.

There is no probable cause. There is no indication of any kind of counterterrorism investigation or operation. It’s simply: “Give us the data.” …

There’s really two other factors here in the order that you could get at. One is that the FBI requesting the data. And two, the order directs Verizon to pass all that data to NSA, not the FBI.

Binney: What it is really saying is the NSA becomes a processing service for the FBI to use to interrogate information directly. … The implications are that everybody’s privacy is violated, and it can retroactively analyze the activity of anybody in the country back almost 12 years.

Now, the other point that is important about that is the serial number of the order: 13-dash-80. That means it’s the 80th order of the court in 2013. … Those orders are issued every quarter, and this is the second quarter, so you have to divide 80 by two and you get 40.

If you make the assumption that all those orders have to deal with companies and the turnover of material by those companies to the government, then there are at least 40 companies involved in that transfer of information. However, if Verizon, which is Order No. 80, and the first quarter got order No. 1 — then there can be as many as 79 companies involved.

So somewhere between 40 and 79 is the number of companies, Internet and telecom companies, that are participating in this data transfer in the NSA.

Radack: I consider this to be an unlawful order. While I am glad that we finally have something tangible to look at, this order came from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They have no jurisdiction to authorize domestic-to-domestic surveillance.

Binney: Not surprised, but it’s documentation that can’t be refuted.

Wiebe: It’s formal proof of our suspicions.

Q: Even given the senior positions that you all were in, you had never actually seen one of these?

Drake: They’re incredibly secret. It’s a very close hold. … It’s a secret court with a secret appeals court. They are just not widely distributed, even in the government.

Q: What was your first reaction when you saw it?

Binney: Mine was that it’s documentary evidence of what we have been saying all along, so they couldn’t deny it.

Drake: For me, it was material evidence of an institutional crime that we now claim is criminal.

Binney: Which is still criminal.

Wiebe: It’s criminal.

Q: Thomas Drake, you worked as a contractor for the NSA for about a decade before you went on staff there. Were you surprised that a 29-year-old contractor based in Hawaii was able to get access to the sort of information that he released?

Drake: It has nothing to do with being 29. It’s just that we are in the Internet age and this is the digital age. So, so much of what we do both in private and in public goes across the Internet. Whether it’s the public Internet or whether it’s the dark side of the Internet today, it’s all affected the same in terms of technology. …

One of the critical roles in the systems is the system administrator. Someone has to maintain it. Someone has to keep it running. Someone has to maintain the contracts.

Binney: Part of his job as the system administrator, he was to maintain the system. Keep the databases running. Keep the communications working. Keep the programs that were interrogating them operating. So that meant he was like a super-user. He could go on the network or go into any file or any system and change it or add to it or whatever, just to make sure — because he would be responsible to get it back up and running if, in fact, it failed.

So that meant he had access to go in and put anything. That’s why he said, I think, “I can even target the president or a judge.” If he knew their phone numbers or attributes, he could insert them into the target list which would be distributed worldwide. And then it would be collected, yeah, that’s right. As a super-user, he could do that.

Q: As he said, he could tap the president’s phone?

Binney: As a super-user and manager of data in the data system, yes, they could go in and change anything.

Q: At a Senate hearing in March, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, if there was mass data collection of Americans. He said “no.” Was that a lie?

Drake: This is incredible dissembling. We’re talking about the oversight committee, unable to get a straight answer because if the straight answer was given it would reveal the perfidy that’s actually going on inside the secret side of the government.

Q: What should Clapper have said?

Binney: He should have said, “I can’t comment in an open forum.”

Wiebe:Yeah, that’s right.

Q: Does Congress provide effective oversight for these programs?

Radack: Congress has been a rubber stamp, basically, and the judicial branch has been basically shut down from hearing these lawsuits because every time they do they are told that the people who are challenging these programs either have no standing or (are covered by) the state secrets privilege, and the government says that they can’t go forward. So the idea that we have robust checks and balances on this is a myth.

Binney: But the way it’s set up now, it’s a joke. I mean, it can’t work the way it is because they have no real way of seeing into what these agencies are doing. They are totally dependent on the agencies briefing them on programs, telling them what they are doing. And as long as the agencies tell them, they will know. If they don’t tell them, they don’t know. And that’s what’s been going on here.

And the only way they really could correct that is to create billets on these committees and integrate people in these agencies so they can go around every day and watch what is happening and then feed back the truth as to what’s going on, instead of the story that they get from the NSA or other agencies. …

Even take the FISA court, for example. The judges signed that order. I mean, I am sure they (the FBI) swore on an affidavit to the judge, “These are the reasons why,” but the judge has no foundation to challenge anything that they present to him. What information does the judge have to make a decision against them? I mean, he has absolutely nothing. So that’s really not an oversight.

Radack: The proof is in the pudding. Last year alone, in 2012, they approved 1,856 applications and they denied none. And that is typical from everything that has happened in previous years. … I know the government has been asserting that all of this is kosher and legitimate because the FISA court signed off on it. The FISA court is a secret court — operates in secret. There is only one side and has rarely disapproved anything.

Q: Do you think President Obama fully knows and understands what the NSA is doing?

Binney: No. I mean, it’s obvious. I mean, the Congress doesn’t either. I mean, they are all being told what I call techno-babble … and they (lawmakers) don’t really don’t understand what the NSA does and how it operates. Even when they get briefings, they still don’t understand.

Radack: Even for people in the know, I feel like Congress is being misled.

Binney: Bamboozled.

Radack: I call it perjury.

Q: What should Edward Snowden expect now?

Binney: Well, first of all, I think he should expect to be treated just like Bradley Manning (an Army private now being court-martialed for leaking documents to WikiLeaks). The U.S. government gets ahold of him, that’s exactly the way he will be treated.

Q: He’ll be prosecuted?

Binney: First tortured, then maybe even rendered and tortured and then incarcerated and then tried and incarcerated or even executed.

Wiebe: Now there is another possibility, that a few of the good people on Capitol Hill — the ones who say the threat is much greater than what we thought it was — will step forward and say give this man an honest day’s hearing. You know what I mean. Let’s get him up here. Ask him to verify, because if he is right — and all pointers are that he was — all he did was point to law-breaking. What is the crime of that?

Drake: But see, I am Exhibit No. 1. …You know, I was charged with 10 felony counts. I was facing 35 years in prison. This is how far the state will go to punish you out of retaliation and reprisal and retribution. … My life has been changed. It’s been turned inside, upside down. I lived on the blunt end of the surveillance bubble. … When you are faced essentially with the rest of your life in prison, you really begin to understand and appreciate more so than I ever have — in terms of four times I took the oath to support the Constitution — what those rights and freedoms really mean. …

Believe me, they are going to put everything they have got to get him. I think there really is a risk. There is a risk he will eventually be pulled off the street.

Q: What do you mean?

Drake: Well, fear of rendition. There is going to be a team sent in.

Radack: We have already unleashed the full force of the entire executive branch against him and are now doing a worldwide manhunt to bring him in — something more akin to what we would do for Osama bin Laden. And I know for a fact, if we do get him, he would definitely face Espionage Act charges, as other people have who have exposed information of government wrongdoing. And I heard a number of people in Congress (say) he would also be charged with treason.

These are obviously the most serious offenses that can be leveled against an American. And the people who so far have faced them and have never intended to harm the U.S. or benefit the foreign nations have always wanted to go public. And they face severe consequences as a defector. That’s why I understand why he is seeking asylum. I think he has a valid fear.

Wiebe: We are going to find out what kind of country we are, what have we become, what do we want to be.

Q: What would you say to him?

Binney: I would tell him to steer away from anything that isn’t a public service — like talking about the ability of the U.S. government to hack into other countries or other people is not a public service. So that’s kind of compromising capabilities and sources and methods, basically. That’s getting away from the public service that he did initially. And those would be the acts that people would charge him with as clearly treason.

Drake: Well, I feel extraordinary kinship with him, given what I experienced at the hands of the government. And I would just tell him to ensure that he’s got a support network that I hope is there for him and that he’s got the lawyers necessary across the world who will defend him to the maximum extent possible and that he has a support-structure network in place. I will tell you, when you exit the surveillance-state system, it’s a pretty lonely place — because it had its own form of security and your job and family and your social network. And all of a sudden, you are on the outside now in a significant way, and you have that laser beam of the surveillance state turning itself inside out to find and learn everything they can about you.

Wiebe: I think your savior in all of this is being able to honestly relate to the principles embedded in the Constitution that are guiding your behavior. That’s where really — rubber meets the road, at that point.

Radack: I would thank him for taking such a huge personal risk and giving up so much of his life and possibly facing the loss of his life or spending it in jail. Thank him for doing that to try to help our country save it from itself in terms of exposing dark, illegal, unethical, unconstitutional conduct that is being done against millions and millions of people.

Drake: I actually salute him. I will say it right here. I actually salute him, given my experience over many, many years both inside and outside the system. Remember, I saw what he saw. I want to re-emphasize that. What he did was a magnificent act of civil disobedience. He’s exposing the inner workings of the surveillance state. And it’s in the public interest. It truly is.

Wiebe: Well, I don’t want anyone to think that he had an alternative. No one should (think that). There is no path for intelligence-community whistle-blowers who know wrong is being done. There is none. It’s a toss of the coin, and the odds are you are going to be hammered.

Q: Is there a way to collect this data that is consistent with the Fourth Amendment, the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure?

Binney: Two basic principles you have to use. … One is what I call the two-degree principle. If you have a terrorist talking to somebody in the United States — that’s the first degree away from the terrorist. And that could apply to any country in the world. And then the second degree would be who that person in the United States talked to. So that becomes your zone of suspicion.

And the other one (principle) is you watch all the jihadi sites on the Web and who’s visiting those jihadi sites, who has an interest in the philosophy being expressed there. And then you add those to your zone of suspicion.

Everybody else is innocent — I mean, you know, of terrorism, anyway.

Wiebe: Until they’re somehow connected to this activity.

Binney: You pull in all the contents involving (that) zone of suspicion and you throw all the rest of it away. You can keep the attributes of all the communicants in the other parts of the world, the rest of the 7 billion people, right? And you can then encrypt it so that nobody can interrogate that base randomly.

That’s the way of preventing this kind of random access by a contractor or by the FBI or any other DHS (Department of Homeland Security) or any other department of government. They couldn’t go in and find anybody. You couldn’t target your next-door neighbor. If you went in with his attributes, they’re encrypted. … So unless they are in the zone of suspicion, you won’t see any content on anybody and you won’t see any attributes in the clear. …

It’s all within our capabilities.

Drake: It’s been within our capabilities for well over 12 years.

Wiebe: Bill and I worked on a government contract for a contractor not too far from here. And when we showed him the concept of how this privacy mechanism that Bill just described to you — the two degrees, the encryption and hiding of identities of innocent people — he said, “Nobody cares about that.” I said, “What do you mean?”

This man was in a position to know a lot of government people in the contracting and buying of capabilities. He said. “Nobody cares about that.”

Lawyer Jesselyn Radack, left, with whistle-blowers J. Kirk Wiebe, standing; William Binney, center; and Thomas Drake.(Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)
Lawyer Jesselyn Radack, left, with whistle-blowers J. Kirk Wiebe, standing; William Binney, center; and Thomas Drake.(Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)

Drake: This (kind of surveillance) is all unnecessary. It is important to note that the very best of American ingenuity and inventiveness, creativity, had solved the major challenge problem the NSA faced: How do you make sense of vast amounts of data, provide the information you need to protect the nation, while also protecting the fundamental rights that are enshrined in the Constitution?

The government in secret decided — willfully and deliberately — that that was no longer necessary after 9/11. So they said, you know what, hey, for the sake of security we are going to draw that line way, way over. And if it means eroding the liberties and freedoms of Americans and others, hey, so be it because that’s what’s most important. But this was done without the knowledge of the American people.

Q: Would it make a difference if contractors weren’t used?

Wiebe: I don’t think so. They are human beings. You know, look at what’s going on with the IRS and the Tea Party. You know, there (are) human beings involved. We are all human beings — contractors, NSA government employees. We are all human beings. We undergo clearance checks, background investigations that are extensive and we are all colors, ages and religions. I mean this is part of the American fabric.

Binney: But when it comes to these data, the massive data information collecting on U.S. citizens and everything in the world they can, I guess the real problem comes with trust. That’s really the issue. The government is asking for us to trust them.

It’s not just the trust that you have to have in the government. It’s the trust you have to have in the government employees, (that) they won’t go in the database — they can see if their wife is cheating with the neighbor or something like that. You have to have all the trust of all the contractors who are parts of a contracting company who are looking at maybe other competitive bids or other competitors outside their — in their same area of business. And they might want to use that data for industrial intelligence gathering and use that against other companies in other countries even. So they can even go into a base and do some industrial espionage. So there is a lot of trust all around and the government, most importantly, the government has no way to check anything that those people are doing.

Q: So Snowden’s ability to access information wasn’t an exception?

Binney: And they didn’t know he was doing (it). … That’s the point, right? …They should be doing that automatically with code, so the instant when anyone goes into that base with a query that they are not supposed to be doing, they should be flagged immediately and denied access. And that could be done with code.

But the government is not doing that. So that’s the greatest threat in this whole affair.

Wiebe: And the polygraph that is typically given to all people, government employees and contractors, never asks about integrity. Did you give an honest day’s work for your pay? Do you feel like you are doing important and proper work? Those things never come up. It’s always, “Do you have any association with a terrorist?” Well, everybody can pass those kinds of questions. But, unfortunately, we have a society that is quite willing to cheat.

Muslim citizenship in tornado ravaged areas of America


US Muslims Aid Tornado Victims torn

This title caught my eye and upon reading it I was amused and perplexed at the same time.  Why, I asked my self, would Muslims venture into a state that has shown its hostility towards them with rhetoric meant to demean them by singling Muslims as a religious group out to be legislated against in their anti-sharia ballot initiative of 2010 only to follow that up with House Bill 1060 which even some Oklahomans see as something that will only inflame passions and whip up hysteria against Muslims.  With that backdrop, Muslims offering to help fellow American citizens is something strange or unusual to say that least. Read on

While Muslim teams have been deployed to help those in need, US Muslim leaders have appealed to the sizable minority to join efforts to aid victims of a devastating tornado in Oklahoma that wiped whole blocks of homes and killed scores.

“Our hearts go out to the victims’ families, and especially to the parents of little children who lost their young lives in this natural disaster,” Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), told OnIslam.net.

We stand by the citizens of Moore in their effort to rebuild their lives.

At least 24 people have been killed after a massive tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.

Trapping victims beneath the rubble, the deadly storm destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, wiped out two schools and a hospital and left at least 237 people injured, including many children.

Emergency workers have pulled more than 100 survivors from the rubble of homes, schools and a hospital.

ISNA has called on Americans to offer aid to those in need of emergency assistance and to make generous contribution to relief efforts through national relief organizations.

……….

Muslim relief agencies have activated disaster response teams to help in the relief efforts for Oklahoma victims.

Islamic Relief’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is on the ground and helping those devastated by the tragedy.

Islamic Relief is working closely with the American Red Cross and local authorities to ensure aid reaches those affected in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)’s Relief has also activated its disaster response team which is set for immediate deployment in the area.

“We are saddened at the loss of so many lives including many children caused by this tornado,” said ICNA President Naeem Baig.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who have lost their loved ones in Oklahoma today.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), … chapter in Oklahoma is teaming up with the Islamic Society of Tulsa and the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City to collect items to prepare disaster relief kits for the victims of the storms.

Awad said the home of CAIR’s Oklahoma chapter board chair, Saad Mohammed, was destroyed while his family sought shelter from the tornado in a closet. No one in the family was injured.

“CAIR-Oklahoma will coordinate with disaster officials to help facilitate the Muslim community’s role in the recovery effort,” said the chapter’s Executive Director Adam Soltani.

Now compare that response on the part of America’s political outcasts to this

Humanist groups and atheists across the U.S. have banded together to help a fellow atheist who survived the massive tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma earlier this week.

At the fund-raising website Indiegogo, atheists have set up a relief fund for Vitsun, (Rebecca Vitsmun) who lost her house in the storm and most of her possessions.

“Let’s show the world that you dont need to believe in a god to have human compassion nor does all charity fall under the banner of religion,” says the site. “Let’s get this courageous woman and her family back in their own home.”

The site has already passed its goal of $50,000 by nearly $700 at press time, with 60 days in the fund-raiser still to go.

Imagine, I tweeted, what would be the outcry of Islamophobes if a news report spoke of how Muslims were targeting their relief efforts to just Muslims in the face of a widespread, devastating natural disaster that affected all Americans.  Cries of discrimination and self imposed racial/religious isolation and an unwillingness to integrate in American society would ring out from every nook and cranny of the American landscape.  I dont’ know how many people in Oklahoma were helped by Islamic organizations after the tornados of May, 2013 but that one act of unity and resolve gave more to Oklahoma than Oklahoma gave them.