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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 03/04/2012 - 03/11/2012
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"Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it."
- Noam Chomsky
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, March 10, 2012

So, who's crazy here? Must be me...

glenn, in commenting on the execrable labeling of dennis kucinich as a crazy wacko for opposing the insane policies and endless wars of our government, dares to point the finger at those who are truly certifiable...
The current President not only has seized the power to assassinate American citizens with no charges, but also to imprison people indefinitely with no charges, to bomb six different countries where no war is declared and where civilians are routinely killed, to invoke extreme, self-parodying levels of secrecy to hide what he does, and to prosecute wars even after Congress votes against their authorization. His cabinet is filled with people who, while in public life, advocated an aggressive attack on another country on the basis of weapons that did not exist, including his Vice President and Secretary of State. His financial team is filled with the very same people who implemented the Wall-Street-subservient policies that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Despite all that, it would be unhealthy in the extreme to hold your breath waiting for the Prospect or the Post to mock any of them as crazy or “wacky,” because what they advocate — as crazy as it is — fits comfortably within the approved orthodoxies of establishment Washington.

wouldn't it be lovely to see the tables turned and have everyone suddenly grasp the truth of the insane behavior that has so many of us in its thrall...?

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Morris Berman on why America failed: "They eat each other"

morris berman as interviewed by alternet on his latest book, Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline...
There is a story, probably apocryphal, of a Native American scouting expedition that came across the starving members of the Donner Party in 1847, who were snowbound in the Sierra Nevadas and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. The expedition, which had never seen white people before, observed the Donner Party from a distance, then returned to base camp to report what they had seen. The report consisted of four words: “They eat each other.” Frankly, if I could summarize the argument of Why America Failed in a single phrase, this would be it. Unless Occupy Wall Street (or some other sociopolitical movement) manages to turn things around in a fundamental way, “They ate each other” will be our epitaph.

i'm a great fan of morris berman... i first started reading his work almost 30 years ago and it exposed me to a level of thoughtful insight that i hadn't previously experienced... i'm going to have to get my hands on this, his latest...

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

AIPAC and the 2012 US Presidential election - a report from Al Jazeera

What role does AIPAC play in US elections?

(click image or here to access video clip)
The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US, is holding its biggest annual conference yet with around 13,000 delegates in Washington.

For all those bidding to become the next US president, it has become an essential campaign stop. The group has strong ties to the religious right and evangelical voters. And it is a very influential force in Washington politics.

Demonstrators from the occupy movement held a small protest outside the event urging no war on Iran and no US tax dollars for Israel.

On Sunday, Barack Obama, the US president, took to the stage and told the audience that Israel had never had a better friend in the White House. But he did not support Israeli military action against Iran's nuclear facilities - at least not yet.

"If Obama treated Israel like Reagan did, he'd be impeached. Former President Ronald Reagan's confrontations with Israel were harsh and personal, yet Republican conservatives revere him and the Jews remember him as a great friend."

- Chemi Shalev, an Israeli journalist and political analyst

Three of the four Republican candidates bidding to unseat the US president addressed the conference on the biggest day of the nomination battle so far - 'Super Tuesday'.

Rick Santorum flew in especially for the event before heading back to Ohio, while Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich appeared via satellite link.

A number of Republicans have sought to attack the US president over his administration's relationship with Israel. And the Republican presidential candidates have all tried to paint Obama as an undependable partner for Israel who is weak on Iran.

Mitt Romney said: "We've heard a lot of words from the administration. Its clear message has been to warn Israel to consider the costs of military action against Iran. I don't believe we should be issuing public warnings."

And Newt Gingrich said: "If an Israeli prime minister decides that he has to avoid the threat of a second holocaust through pre-emptive measures that I would require no advance notice to understand why I would support the right of Israel to survive in a dangerous world."

So what role do pro-Israel lobby groups, and AIPAC in particular, play in the US election and why are they courted by those competing to be the next US president? How do Barack Obama's dealings with Israel compare with those of his predecessors, including Republicans?

To discuss these issues presenter Anand Naidoo is joined by: John Mearsheimer, the co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy; Larry Greenfield from the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; and Hillary Mann Leverett, a former White House and US state department official.

the u.s. is so in bed with israel...

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Afghanistan or the United States? What must it be like to live in such a corrupt country that doesn't observe the rule of law?

glenn comments on the utter irony of today's nyt article decrying corruption in afghanistan...
It’s simply shocking to find a country which would allow its political class to be dominated by those who “have profited from the crony capitalism that has come to define its economic order” and who “nearly brought down” its banking system. What must it be like to live in such a country? But even more bewildering still is that the Afghans simply refuse to prosecute their high-levels financial criminals, even though the U.S. is providing advice and oversight! Maybe it’s unsurprising to see a country treat its powerful criminals with impunity, but not when they have the United States of America providing guidance and wise counsel. What could possibly explain this? Are they simply ignoring the important lessons we’re teaching and the shining example we’ve set?

i just finished talking on skype with an afghan-american friend and colleague who, with me and several other colleagues, have spent the past few years trying in vain to jump start an honest-to-god development program for an industry sector that would actually provide jobs, income and improved infrastructure for ordinary afghans... needless to say, we haven't been able to get it off the ground... neither afghans in government or business or our esteemed u.s. government officials give a shit for ordinary afghans...there's simply no money to be made helping ordinary folks...

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Stephen Colbert on the CIA killing of American citizens

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Glenn: The attempt to make targeted killing of American citizens seem normal should insult anyone with the most basic understanding of American law

first the aclu in response to attorney general holder's explanation yesterday for why the obama administration believes it has the authority to secretly target u.s. citizens for execution by the cia without even charging them with a crime, notifying them of the accusations, or affording them an opportunity to respond...
Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact.

Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power.

glenn's summation...
Holder’s attempt to make this all seem normal and common should insult anyone with the most basic understanding of American law. As The New York Times put it when first confirming the assassination program in April, 2010: ” The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen. . . . It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.” To date, not a single such citizen has been identified.

As always, the most important point to note for this entire debate is how perverse and warped it is that we’re even having this “debate” at all. It should be self-negating — self-marginalizing — to assert that the President, acting with no checks or transparency, can order American citizens executed far from any battlefield and without any opportunity even to know about, let alone rebut, the accusations. That this policy is being implemented and defended by the very same political party that spent the last decade so vocally and opportunistically objecting to far less extreme powers makes it all the more repellent. That fact also makes it all the more dangerous, because — as one can see — the fact that it is a Democratic President doing it, and Democratic Party officials justifying it, means that it’s much easier to normalize: very few of the Party’s followers, especially in an election year, are willing to make much of a fuss about it at all.

And thus will presidential assassination powers be entrenched as bipartisan consensus for at least a generation. That will undoubtedly be one of the most significant aspects of the Obama legacy. Let no Democrat who is now supportive or even silent be heard to object when the next Republican President exercises this power in ways that they dislike.

a stunning disregard for due process, the rule of law and the united states constitution...

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Chris Hedges: We have brought state terrorism, massive destruction, war and death to the Muslim world

hard-hitting stuff...
From a talk given by Chris Hedges on Saturday night in Washington, D.C., at the Occupy AIPAC protest, organized by CODEPINK Women for Peace and other peace, faith and solidarity groups.

The battle for justice in the Middle East is our battle. It is part of the vast, global battle against the 1 percent. It is about living rather than dying. It is about communicating rather than killing. It is about love rather than hate. It is part of the great battle against the corporate forces of death that reign over us—the fossil fuel industry, the weapons manufacturers, the security and surveillance state, the speculators on Wall Street, the oligarchic elites who assault our poor, our working men and women, our children, one in four of whom depend on food stamps to eat, the elites who are destroying our ecosystem with its trees, its air and its water and throwing into doubt our survival as a species.


We have not brought freedom, democracy and the virtues of Western civilization to the Muslim world. We have brought state terrorism, massive destruction, war and death. There is no moral distinction between a drone strike and the explosion of the improvised explosive device, between a suicide bombing and a targeted assassination. We have used the iron fist of the American military to implant our oil companies in Iraq, occupy Afghanistan and ensure that the Muslim world remains submissive and compliant. We have supported a government in Israel that has carried out egregious war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza and is daily stealing larger and larger portions of Palestinian land. We have established a network of military bases, some the size of small cities, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait, and we have secured basing rights in the Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. We have expanded our military operations to Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Egypt, Algeria and Yemen. And no one believes, except perhaps us, that we have any intention of leaving.


And since our elites have no vision it is up to us. The uprisings from Tunisia to Egypt to Greece to Occupy Wall Street to our gathering outside AIPAC’s doors in Washington are the same primal struggle for sanity, peace and justice, for a world wrenched free from the grip of those who would destroy it. And the abject fawning of our political elite, including Barack Obama, before AIPAC and its bank account is yet another window into the moral bankruptcy of our political class, another sign that the formal mechanisms of power are useless and broken. Civil disobedience is all we have left. It is our patriotic duty. We are called to make the cries of mothers, fathers and children in the squalid refugee camps in Gaza, in the suburbs of Tehran and in the bleak industrial wastelands in Ohio heard. We are called to stand up before these forces of death, the purveyors of violence, those whose hearts have grown cold with hatred. We are called to embrace and defend life with intensity and passion if we are to survive as a species, if we are to save our planet from the ravages of corporate greed and the specter of endless and futile war.

nothing i can add...

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

The insane cost and utterly dubious value of funding the American police state

i've spent quite a large amount of bits, bytes and bandwidth railing against the advance of the national security state... now, i'm railing because it's here, big-time...

stephen salisbury writing in tomdispatch...

The ubiquitous fantasy of “homeland security,” pushed hard by the federal government in the wake of 9/11, has been widely embraced by the public. It has also excited intense weapons- and techno-envy among police departments and municipalities vying for the latest in armor and spy equipment.

In such a world, deadly gadgetry is just a grant request away, so why shouldn’t the 14,000 at-risk souls in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, have a closed-circuit-digital-camera-and-monitor system (cost: $180,000, courtesy of the Homeland Security Department) identical to the one up and running in New York’s Times Square?

So much money has gone into armoring and arming local law-enforcement since 9/11 that the federal government could have rebuilt post-Katrina New Orleans five times over and had enough money left in the kitty to provide job training and housing for every one of the record 41,000-plus homeless people in New York City. It could have added in the growing population of 15,000 homeless in Philadelphia, my hometown, and still have had money to spare. Add disintegrating Detroit, Newark, and Camden to the list. Throw in some crumbling bridges and roads, too.


All told, the federal government has appropriated about $635 billion, accounting for inflation, for homeland security-related activities and equipment since the 9/11 attacks. To conclude, though, that “the police” have become increasingly militarized casts too narrow a net. The truth is that virtually the entire apparatus of government has been mobilized and militarized right down to the university campus.


Government budgets at every level now include allocations aimed at fighting an ephemeral “War on Terror” in the United States. A vast surveillance and military buildup has taken place nationwide to conduct a pseudo-war against what can be imagined, not what we actually face. The costs of this effort, started by the Bush administration and promoted faithfully by the Obama administration, have been, and continue to be, virtually incalculable. In the process, public service and the public imagination have been weaponized.

We’re not just talking money eagerly squandered. That may prove the least of it. More importantly, the fundamental values of American democracy -- particularly the right to lead an autonomous private life -- have been compromised with grim efficiency. The weaponry and tactics now routinely employed by police are visible evidence of this.


The chances of an American dying in a terrorist incident in a given year are 1 in 3.5 million. To reduce that risk, to make something minuscule even more minuscule, what has the nation spent? What has it cost us? Instead of rebuilding a ravaged American city in a timely fashion or making Americans more secure in their “underwater” homes and their disappearing jobs, we have created militarized police forces, visible evidence of police-state-style funding.

and yet we all go about our daily lives, either ignorant of what is happening around us or choosing to ignore it...

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Putting the Iranians in a position where they have to do something to keep from being totally screwed

i just had yet another b.g.o. (blinding glimpse of the obvious)... the tactics being used by the management of american airlines i described in the previous post are the very same tactics being used by the obama administration against iran...

the b.g.o. isn't recognizing that the obama administration is using tactics calculated to provoke a bellicose reaction from iran... that part is clear... the b.g.o., for me, is seeing how the two sets of tactics are connected... both are a game of plausible deniability where, when the party (usually the relatively powerless underdog - employees, the 99% or, in this case, iran) finally has had enough of being kicked and prodded and the barks and snarls turn to attempts to bite, the provocateur can say, "see, we told you"...

i saw exactly the same dynamic at play when i worked at united airlines... senior management was obsessed with the notion that front-line employees, particularly the unionized ones, were lazy, untrustworthy and generally no damn good... when people are treated a certain way over time, they tend to respond out of that set of expectations... it's called psychological reciprocity...


Several related points: (1) for those claiming that Obama has no other viable choice but to sanction and threaten Iran, recall that his own former adviser on Iran, Vali Nasr, harshly criticized the administration last month for failing to pursue a course of negotiations with Tehran; (2) The New York Times today has two Op-Eds on the sanctions regime being imposed on Iran — one pro and one con — which both make the point that the primary effect of this sanction regime is to cause serious suffering, even hunger, among the Iranian people; such “crippling” sanctions are usually advocated by the very same individuals who feign such concern for The Iranian People when it comes to railing against the abuses of their government (unnamed Israeli officials were quoted in the Israeli press today urging mass hunger as a means to force Iran to concede); (3) Noam Chomsky has a very dispassionate, excellent new article laying out some clear and basic facts about the Iran situation that are rarely aired; and (4) The Atlantic‘s Robert Wright explains why an air attack on Iran would almost certainly require ground force activity.

more glenn...
A few other related points: (1) the U.N. Security Council in 1981 harshly condemned the Israeli air attack on Iraq’s nuclear power facility as a “clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct”; that Resolution also “call[ed] upon Israel urgently to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards” (via MediaLens, which notes that “even the US didn’t abstain”); (2) former Obama Pentagon official Colin Kahl argues today that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the 1981 Israeli attack on Iraq made Iraqi proliferation more likely, not less likely; (3) a cartoon from VastLeft on Obama, Iran and sanctions; and (4) Chris Toensing of the Middle East Research Information Project has an excellent article rebutting the claim (issuing from the predictable circles) that Obama is not to blame for the sky-high tensions and possible war.


Concerns about Israel’s nuclear arsenal have long been expressed by some observers in the United States as well. Gen. Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command, described Israel’s nuclear weapons as “dangerous in the extreme.” In a U.S. Army journal, Lt. Col. Warner Farr wrote that one “purpose of Israeli nuclear weapons, not often stated, but obvious, is their `use’ on the United States”—presumably to ensure consistent U.S. support for Israeli policies.

A prime concern right now is that Israel will seek to provoke some Iranian action that will incite a U.S. attack.

One of Israel’s leading strategic analysts, Zeev Maoz, in “Defending the Holy Land,” his comprehensive analysis of Israeli security and foreign policy, concludes that “the balance sheet of Israel’s nuclear policy is decidedly negative”—harmful to the state’s security. He urges instead that Israel should seek a regional agreement to ban weapons of mass destruction: a WMD-free zone, called for by a 1974 U.N. General Assembly resolution.

Meanwhile, the West’s sanctions on Iran are having their usual effect, causing shortages of basic food supplies—not for the ruling clerics but for the population. Small wonder that the sanctions are condemned by Iran’s courageous opposition.

The sanctions against Iran may have the same effect as their predecessors against Iraq, which were condemned as “genocidal” by the respected U.N. diplomats who administered them before finally resigning in protest.

The Iraq sanctions devastated the population and strengthened Saddam Hussein, probably saving him from the fate of a rogues’ gallery of other tyrants supported by the U.S.-U.K.—tyrants who prospered virtually to the day when various internal revolts overthrew them.

There is little credible discussion of just what constitutes the Iranian threat, though we do have an authoritative answer, provided by U.S. military and intelligence. Their presentations to Congress make it clear that Iran doesn’t pose a military threat.

Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons (which is still undetermined), that would be part of its deterrent strategy.

The understanding of serious Israeli and U.S. analysts is expressed clearly by 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, who said in January, “If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons” as a deterrent.

i have the same sinking feeling of inevitability i had leading up to the start of the "shock and awe" campaign against iraq... i hope i'm wrong... otoh, such a monstrously and illegal act would only speed up the fall of the house of cards that been way too long in the coming... still, the resulting destruction and loss of life would be nightmarish in the extreme...

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