Monday, June 30, 2008

Impotents Say The Darnest Things

Isn't it coincidence that those "men" out there who are actually frustrated, impotent morrons always seem to be the most vocal (if not abusive) control freaks there is - especially with regards to women?

And isn't it coincidence that such "men" (and I use the term loosely here) almost invariably belong to some fundamental religious organization or cult?

Case in point:
One reason that men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband's God-given authority, a Southern Baptist scholar said Sunday in a Texas church.

Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said women desire to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands because of sin.

"And husbands on their parts, because they're sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged--or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches," Ware said from the pulpit of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas.

Commenting on selected passages from the first three chapters of Genesis, Ware said Eve's curse in the Garden of Eden meant "her desire will be to have her way" instead of her obeying her husband, "because she's a sinner."

What that means to the man, Ware said, is: "He will have to rule, and because he's a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive--and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that--but here's the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to the leader in the relationship and just say 'OK dear,' 'Whatever you say dear,' 'Fine dear' and become a passive husband, because of sin."

Ware said God created men and women equally in God's image but for different roles.

"He has primary responsibility for the work and the labor and the toil that will provide for the family, that will sustain their family," he said. "He's the one in charge of leadership in the family, and that will become difficult, because of sin."
Now, what do you think this "manly man" really needs?


You thought it - not me.


All The Courtiers Of The Corridors Of Power

Sort of a follow up on this previous post, the following article examines the corridors of power (les couloirs du pouvoir) and all of its actors - or rather, courtiers - and their incompetent, selfish quest to either gain power or simply stand close enough to it.

And for my fellow Canadians: simply replace "Washington" with "Ottawa", "Americans" with "Canadians", and so on ...

The cancer on the body democratic just keeps on spreading, doesn't it?


The Hedonists of Power
By Chris Hedges

Washington has become Versailles. We are ruled, entertained and informed by courtiers. The popular media are courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are courtiers. Our pundits and experts are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games. We are being had.

The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year and who gave a platform to the powerful and the famous so they could spin, equivocate and lie to the nation. We were repeatedly told by these television courtiers, people like Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer, that this talk show host was one of our nation’s greatest journalists, as if sitting in a studio, putting on makeup and chatting with Dick Cheney or George W. Bush have much to do with journalism.

No journalist makes $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists. Ask Seymour Hersh and Amy Goodman how often Bush or Cheney has invited them to dinner at the White House or offered them an interview.

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, and it is the job of the journalist to do the hard, tedious reporting to shine a light on these lies. It is the job of courtiers, those on television playing the role of journalists, to feed off the scraps tossed to them by the powerful and never question the system. In the slang of the profession, these television courtiers are “throats.” These courtiers, including the late Tim Russert, never gave a voice to credible critics in the buildup to the war against Iraq. They were too busy playing their roles as red-blooded American patriots. They never fought back in their public forums against the steady erosion of our civil liberties and the trashing of our Constitution. These courtiers blindly accept the administration’s current propaganda to justify an attack on Iran. They parrot this propaganda. They dare not defy the corporate state. The corporations that employ them make them famous and rich. It is their Faustian pact. No class of courtiers, from the eunuchs behind Manchus in the 19th century to the Baghdad caliphs of the Abbasid caliphate, has ever transformed itself into a responsible elite. Courtiers are hedonists of power.

Our Versailles was busy this past week. The Democrats passed the FISA bill, which provides immunity for the telecoms that cooperated with the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance over the past six years. This bill, which when signed means we will never know the extent of the Bush White House’s violation of our civil liberties, is expected to be adopted by the Senate. Barack Obama has promised to sign it in the name of national security. The bill gives the U.S. government a license to eavesdrop on our phone calls and e-mails. It demolishes our right to privacy. It endangers the work of journalists, human rights workers, crusading lawyers and whistle-blowers who attempt to expose abuses the government seeks to hide. These private communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments as well.

Keep reading ...

False Experts On Parade

Remember the infamous Pentagon-linked experts who shilled for the Iraq war? Well, here's one more warning to ever remain skeptical of those so-called "experts" being paraded by governments and the media to sell fearmongering about "mushroom clouds", cooked intelligence and weapons of mass destruction and, consequently, stir up a frenzied support for war.

The Nuclear Expert Who Never Was
By Scott Ritter

I am a former U.N. weapons inspector. I started my work with the United Nations in September 1991, and between that date and my resignation in August 1998 I participated in over 30 inspections, 14 as chief inspector. The United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM, was the organization mandated by the Security Council with the implementation of its resolutions requiring Iraq to be disarmed of its weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities. While UNSCOM oversaw the areas of chemical and biological weapons, and ballistic missiles, it shared the nuclear file with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA. As such, UNSCOM, through a small cell of nuclear experts on loan from the various national weapons laboratories, would coordinate with the nuclear safeguards inspectors from the IAEA, organized into an “Action Team” dedicated to the Iraq nuclear disarmament problem. UNSCOM maintained political control of the process, insofar as its executive chairman was the only one authorized to approve a given inspection mission. At first, the IAEA and UNSCOM shared the technical oversight of the inspection process, but soon this was transferred completely to the IAEA’s Action Team, and UNSCOM’s nuclear staff assumed more of an advisory and liaison function.

In August 1992 I began cooperating closely with IAEA’s Action Team, traveling to Vienna, where the IAEA maintained its headquarters. The IAEA had in its possession a huge cache of documents seized from Iraq during a series of inspections in the summer of 1991, and together with other U.N. inspectors I was able to gain access to these documents for the purpose of extracting any information which might relate to UNSCOM’s non-nuclear mission. These documents proved to be very valuable in that regard, and a strong working relationship was developed. Over the coming years I frequently traveled to Vienna, where I came to know the members of the IAEA Action Team as friends and dedicated professionals. Whether poring over documents, examining bits and pieces of equipment (the IAEA kept a sample of an Iraqi nuclear centrifuge in its office) or ruminating about the difficult political situation that was Iraq over wine and cheese on a Friday afternoon, I became familiar with the core team of experts that composed the IAEA Action Team.

I bring up this history because during the entire time of my intense, somewhat intimate cooperation with the IAEA Action Team, one name that never entered into the mix was David Albright. Albright is the president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS, an institute which he himself founded), and has for some time now dominated the news as the “go-to” guy for the U.S. mainstream media when they need “expert opinion” on news pertaining to nuclear issues. Most recently, Albright could be seen commenting on a report he authored, released by ISIS on June 16, in which he comments on the alleged existence of a computer owned by Swiss-based businessmen who were involved in the A.Q. Khan nuclear black market ring. According to Albright, this computer contained sensitive design drawings of a small, sophisticated nuclear warhead which, he speculates, could fit on a missile delivery system such as that possessed by Iran.

I have no objection to an academically based think tank capable of producing sound analysis about the myriad nuclear-based threats the world faces today. But David Albright has a track record of making half-baked analyses derived from questionable sources seem mainstream. He breathes false legitimacy into these factually challenged stories by cloaking himself in a résumé which is disingenuous in the extreme. Eventually, one must begin to question the motives of Albright and ISIS. No self-respecting think tank would allow itself to be used in such an egregious manner. The fact that ISIS is a creation of Albright himself, and as such operates as a mirror image of its founder and president, only underscores the concerns raised when an individual lacking in any demonstrable foundation of expertise has installed himself into the mainstream media in a manner which corrupts the public discourse and debate by propagating factually incorrect, illogical and misleading information.

In his résumé Albright prominently advertises himself as a “former U.N. weapons inspector.” Indeed, this is the first thing that is mentioned when he describes himself to the public. Witness an Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post which he jointly authored with Jacqueline Shire in January 2008, wherein he is described as such: “David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, is president of the Institute for Science and International Security.” His erstwhile U.N. credentials appear before his actual job title. Now, this is not uncommon. I do the same thing when describing myself, noting that Scott Ritter was a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. I feel comfortable doing this, because it’s true and because my résumé is relevant to my writing. In his official ISIS biography, Albright details his “U.N. inspector” experience as such: “Albright cooperated actively with the IAEA Action Team from 1992 until 1997, focusing on analyses of Iraqi documents and past procurement activities. In June 1996, he was the first non-governmental inspector of the Iraqi nuclear program. On this inspection mission, Albright questioned members of Iraq’s former uranium enrichment programs about their statements in Iraq’s draft Full, Final, and Complete Declaration.”

Now, as I have explained previously, I cooperated actively between 1992 and 1998 with the IAEA Action team, covering the same ground that David Albright claims to have. I do not doubt his assertion that he was in contact with the IAEA during the period claimed; I just doubt the use of the word actively to describe this cooperation. Maybe Albright was part of a top-secret “shadow” inspection activity which I was unaware of. I strongly doubt this. In 1992, when Albright states he began his “active cooperation” with the IAEA, he was serving as a “Senior Staff Scientist” with the Federation of American Scientists. That same year Albright, in collaboration with Frans Berkhout of Sussex University and William Walker of the University of St. Andrews, published “World Inventory of Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium,” 1992 (SIPRI and Oxford University Press). From March 1991 until July 1992 Albright, together with Mark Hibbs, wrote a series of seven articles on the Iraqi nuclear weapons programs for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The final three articles of this series, entitled “Iraq’s Bomb: Blueprints and Artifacts,” “Iraq: It’s all over at Al Atheer” and “Iraq’s shop-till-you-drop nuclear program,” were in part based upon information provided to Albright and Hibbs by the IAEA in response to questions posed by the two authors. So far as I can tell, this is the true nature of David Albright’s “active cooperation.” Far from being a subject-matter expert brought in by the IAEA to review Iraqi documents, David Albright was simply an outsider with questions.

Keep reading ...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Life Destroyed By Authoritarian State: Proof It Can Happen

No one is safe - at all. Not even agents of the government.

The plight of activist journalist Susan Lindauer is proof enough that when an administration seeks to cover its tracks for its sheer incompetence, it will go to great lenghts in order to do so - including destroying the lives of citizens.

Yes, it can happen. It has happened.

And there's no reason to think that it won't ever happen again.

First, some background on Susan Lindauer's tragic story (emphasis added):
Susan Lindauer sent her eleventh and last letter on the Iraqi political situation to then Bush chief of staff Andrew Card on January 6, 2003, just two months before General Franks gave the command to invade on March 20, 2003. She’d sent ten other letters on Iraq to Card, her second cousin, over a two year period.

In her final letter she made a prophetic plea to head off the war. Through Lindauer’s back channel contacts at the Iraqi United Nations mission, Lindauer said that she’d gathered a great deal of information. She had good reasons to believe that the Iraqis were ready to offer huge concessions on inspectors and on other United States demands.

(...) Lindauer was arrested on March 17, 2004, fifteen months after the last letter to Andy Card and two years after the trip to Baghdad referenced in the indictment. She was charged with “conspiring to act and acting as an unregistered agent of the government of Iraq” and “forbidden financial transactions” with Iraq totaling $10,000 relating to those acts. The charges cover the period of October, 1999 through February 2004.

She denies acting as an Iraqi agent and says that she’d been recruited by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency to open a back channel for contact with Middle Eastern nations that lacked formal diplomatic ties the U.S. She asserts that CIA was overseeing her contacts with Iraq and that the U.S. government was fully informed of her activities.

(...) At her preliminary hearing, she was remanded for trial in federal court, Southern District, New York, and placed on $500,000 bail

Another 18 months passed without action until the prosecution requested that Lindauer undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The prosecution argued that she was unfit to stand trial for two reasons: she believed that she was not guilty and she was therefore unable to contribute to her defense since she didn’t understand that she might be convicted. Her failure to accept guilt by denying what the prosecution called delusions somehow proved mental incompetence.

Based on the psychiatric evaluation, (the trial judge) ordered Lindauer to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Federal Medical Center (Carswell FMC), Ft. Worth, located on the grounds of Carswell Air Force Base. Lindauer reports considerable distress at confinement and the condition of her fellow female inmates.

(...) The psychiatrists at the federal prison facility wanted to force her to take psychotropic medication, a position strongly supported by the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case.

(...) Rather than being sent back to the prison facility, she spent four months at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. Finally, on Sept. 8, 2006 she was released by order of the trial judge. He flatly denied the U.S. Attorney’s request for forced medication, noting contradictory opinions on diagnosis and poor support for the efficacy of the medication recommended by court appointed and prosecution experts.

His opinion and order implied that there was not much of case against her.
Susan Lindauer remains free on bail to this day - however, her case remains in limbo since it has yet to go to trial, mainly because prosecutors keep seeking orders for her to attend mandatory psychological counselling, still pushing for her being incompetent to stand trial.

Some traditional media outlets covered her story throughout the 4 years or so since her arrest - by of course following/stenographing the government's line concerning her case, i.e. that she is a shrill crazie who performed actions tantamount to treason (examples here, here and here).

To understand the impact of such callous and malicious prosecution on her life, read the following interview of her by journalist Michael Collins (reproduced in its entirety):
Collins: When you were indicted there was a broad range of media covering your story. After about a month, things seemed to go dark with the mainstream media. How has your story stayed alive?

Lindauer: I am shocked and disappointed that the mainstream media has failed to cover developments in this story. I hope that's going to change after this hearing, because a functional media is vital to protecting citizens from arbitrary and tyrannical government decisions. By contrast, the bloggers, have kept me alive. During my incarceration, friends like JB Fields (now deceased) smoked the blogs with outrage. He urged folks to write Judge Mukasey. To his own credit, Judge Mukasey actually called a court meeting when JB's readers sent letters and papers to the Court contradicting the official Psych evaluations. Judge Mukasey wanted to know why that documentation was available on the internet but not in his courtroom. He demanded a formal explanation from the Prosecutor and my own attorney, accounting for the discrepancies in their psych reporting. JB Fields blog - and all the other bloggers who picked it up-- saved my life and my freedom. No question.

Collins: You've been in court at least 15 times over four years regarding this case. What's different about this hearing?

Lindauer: The other meetings are called "status meetings." It's a formality to show that I'm still in the system. This is the first time I have been granted the right to call witnesses into court to authenticate my story. The Prosecutor has said that I am incompetent to stand trial because I am convinced of my innocence and cannot grasp that I might be convicted. Specifically, the Prosecution has used psychiatry to argue that my belief that I worked as an Asset for the U.S. Government constitutes delusional thinking. In a bizarre legal twist, the Prosecutor has argued that since I am delusional, I should be denied the right to call witnesses to prove that I am telling the Truth. Allegedly, my belief in the existence of witnesses is a function of my delusional belief in my innocence. Is that crazy or what? Talk about Kafkaesque!

Carswell's report was significant in one way that must be noted: Their staff testified that I suffer no depression, no bipolar disorder, no schizophrenia, no hallucinations or hearing voices. They said that I was socially interactive and my behavior was appropriate to the detention. Dr. Vas testified before Judge Mukasey, "that he looked really hard, but he couldn't find anything" after 7 months incarceration.

Collins: Of all the affronts and stress you've experienced in this open ended prosecution, what's been the most offensive element?

Lindauer: I am furious about the abuse that I have suffered. I regard this as a Soviet-style attack on my rights to dissent from the government. After my arrest, I was ordered to attend weekly psych meetings for a year, during which we discussed articles in the Washington Post-and nothing else. After Carswell, I spent another year in court-ordered psych meetings. The only point of conversation was how psychology has grievously harmed my life, depriving me of freedom, damaging my reputation, and terrorizing me by interfering with my rights to call participatory witnesses, who could straighten out the matter within minutes. Beyond that, the court quack surfed the internet looking for clothes and weekend entertainment for her daughter. Since August, 2007, I have refused to go back. I told the Court the game is over. Go to trial or drop the charges, which are ridiculous anyway. They don't have a case, and they know it.

Psychiatry was corrupt enough to help the Bush White House out of a jam, which says a lot. Forensic psychiatry is a profitable business. In my opinion they are charlatans and court prostitutes who are abusing their access to the Courts in order to get money out of the state and federal budgets. They have little or no value. For myself, I have never engaged in therapy or counseling. I would never confide personal affairs to them, or listen to anything they have to say. In a weird twist, anything I say could get reported to pre-trial services. It's not private. They were a huge waste of my time, burning the clock on my 6th Amendment rights.

Collins: How do you react to your treatment by the prosecution and their mental health experts?

Lindauer: Psychiatrists are terrified of witness testimony to the point of psychotic reaction. They're so insecure as to be deeply threatened that reality will impose limitations on their phony authority in the courtroom.

The consequence for due process of law is quite terrifying. One horrific shrink-Dr. Robert L. Goldstein, a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University-- actually testified that the depth of my belief in witness testimony confirmed the "seriousness of my mental illness." He said the Court must be patient and tolerant of my requests to call witnesses. He said it showed I was still very sick, and the Court should pity me for not understanding that these people were a figment of my imagination.

I was a prisoner in shackles at the time. I experienced a total state of shock that this corrupt quack could actual testify that my requests for due process demonstrated my incompetence to stand trial. As a "professional psychiatrist"-who had never spoken to me OR my witnesses, Goldstein nonetheless assured the Court that he would stake his professional reputation on their non-existence.

It was the most terrifying and Kafkaesque experience of my life. Truly it proves that psychiatry is out of control in the Courts. They invent and fabricate, and if the truth contradicts them, they don't even care. As Dr. Vas at Carswell put it, "we'll just tell the Court you made it up. Who do you think the Judge is going to believe? You or me? I am a doctor!"

I am firmly convinced that Congress must change the laws so that defendants can file for punitive damages against this sort of quackery. Judges should have the right to file sanctions against psychiatrists who blatantly lie to the Court-which would have to be reported to other Judges, if they testify in other cases. In the most extreme cases of outright perjury, wherein the psychiatrist verifies the truthfulness of a defendant's story and then lies about it as a so-called expert witness, then the matter should be turned over to a grand jury for indictment. I have no mercy for this garbage.

Collins: The wheels of justice grind slowly for you. It's been almost four years and there hasn't even been an evidentiary hearing. How could the process have been simplified?

Lindauer: If the Court wanted to know if my witnesses would validate my story, the Judge could very easily have set a hearing date & called everybody into Court to answer questions. Authenticity would have been established, one way or the other, within the first 15 minutes of testimony. Then the question would be answered. Finished. That's Due Process 101.

What does this say about psychology in the court-room???

In my experience, court psychology is rife with corruption and fraud. Immediately after my arrest four years ago, the psychologist referred me to himself, and then was shocked to find out that I was wholly disinterested in anything he had to say. I told him that I had no intention of changing anything about myself. In one year I intended to be exactly the same person that I was when I walked into his office.

I took a cook-book to the first meeting and forced him to listen to recitations of recipes, sans commentary. When he asked if I intended to cook any of the recipes, I assured him that I would never do such a thing. I said that I consider his insights to be as useless as a recipe that I would never bake.

He had the sense to be embarrassed. From that day on, he always had a copy of the Washington Post, and we discussed news articles and current affairs. That continued for a year. He might have enjoyed it. I didn't. I don't recall that we discussed anything except my complaints about how our court-ordered psych meetings interfered with my employment, since the bail order stopped me from working full time. I had to take a part-time job, which killed me financially. I made perfectly clear that he was wasting my time.

After almost a year of this, I told him point blank that I refused to continue. I told him that he contributed nothing to my life, except to stop me from buying groceries, paying my utilities, and forcing me to borrow money to pay my mortgage and my property taxes-- because he was so selfish as to persist in interfering with my employment, so he could make money off the court.

Collins: What happened after this period of "freedom" after your initial hearings.

Lindauer: Life got to be good again until the fateful day when i was ordered to go to Carswell.

I was told that I would be held for no more than 120 days. That's 4 months. And Judge Mukasey's clerk assured my uncle, who attended the court date, that more likely I would be home within 60 days, because the Judge expected the psych evaluation to be finished rapidly. Then it would be over. Ok, I could do that. I'm a pretty tough lady.

I went in on October 3, 2005 and waited for my release. I got tons of letters of encouragement from friends. I stayed active, walking four to six miles a day on the track, reading lots of books, working at the law library and entertaining myself with NYT crossword puzzles.

Only the prison staff on the Texas military base had other plans. They didn't want to let me go home. They actually argued for the right to detain me indefinitely, and forcibly drug me until I could be cured of claiming that I had ever worked as a U.S. asset.

I was released after 11 months. Judge Mukasey retired on the day of my release. I want to be clear that the man is my hero. Though I was detained, he issued a lengthy and well considered decision that blocked the Prosecution from forcibly drugging me. It's a decision that deserves to be considered in other cases in the future. I am profoundly grateful to Judge Mukasey. He has a great and formidable legal mind.

To this day, I am still pre-trial. I have never been convicted of a crime, nor accepted a guilty plea. All of my most fundamental rights under the precious Constitution of the United States have been revoked because a crooked psychiatrist made up a bullshit story & lied to a federal judge.

Collins: What did you do to get things moving with the court?

In August, 2007, I refused to go back to the Court-ordered meetings. Judge Loretta Preska is now hearing the case. In August I stopped attending the meetings, and told the Court that it's time to drop the charges or go to trial. If the Prosecutor wants to pretend that I'm delusional, I would gladly call witnesses for a pre-trial hearing on competency, at the earliest possible date, to smash his arguments all to hell.

In September, October and November, the Prosecutor desperately tried to get my bail revoked and get me sent back to Carswell. That motivated friends to cough up the legal fees for my new attorney. Everybody was terrified that he might prevail and the Court might actually send me back to Carswell.

I refused to let them intimidate me into backing down.

My mother would be proud if she was still alive.

Collins: What will you try to prove in court on June 17, 2008 and where do you go from there?

I am confident that my witnesses will establish that I most definitely worked as long-time asset supervised by individuals in U.S. intelligence. At that point, I hope the Justice Department would seize the opportunity to end the case before we have to go into the specifics of my work. It would be hugely embarrassing for politicians in Washington, if a trial exposes how badly the politicians have mismanaged opportunities to engage the U.S. in counter-terrorism. They are not the innocent of bystanders of intelligence failures that they pretend to be. They made serious mistakes in leadership that they have refused to acknowledge.

Assets like me are just the scapegoats for bad policy decisions.
Her life has been put on hold and essentially bulldozed over, while at the same time being smeared repeatedly by traditional media and have her sanity continuously questionned by the government so as to head off trial while keeping her in legal limbo - with the obvious goal here managing to lock her up in a mental facilty and thus put her "off the grid" for a long, long time.

Her competency hearings are still ongoing.

She wants to go to trial and put an end to this, especially since the charges against her are flimsy at best, trumped up at worse.

She is a victim of malicious political prosecution for having been right about a whole lot of things - in stark contrast to the Bush administration's demonstrated incompetence with regards to 9/11 warnings, Iraq WMDs and the impact of the Iraq war on fostering further terrorism.

Now we know what an administration can do - will do - to cover its ass.

My question is: how many other Susan Lindauers are there, out there, that we do not know of?

In the meantime, do well to remember this: if you claim to be not guilty, or refuse to plead guilty, then this shows that you are deluded and unfit to stand trial ...

More than ever - welcome to the Orwellian States of America!

(Cross-posted at DKos and The Wild, Wild Left)

Big Lies And Bombing Iran: The Media's Role

Got war? The U.S. is escalating covert operations in Iran. Not surprisingly, this is being denied. Interestingly, some 30 0000 more troops are set to be deployed in neighboring Iraq - and not necessarily to replace those troops already deployed there.

Operation Enduring Propaganda, anyone?

Then there is this:

Ball Girls, Big Lies and Bombing Iran
by Mac McKinney

The Distortion of Reality

Take a look at this video for a minute: click here. Pretty amazing, pretty fantastic, right? When I first saw it I remarked to myself that that has got to be the most amazing catch I've seen since Willie Mays' famous catch in 1954. And then later in the day, very curious about the amazingly talented ball girl, I ran across's exposure of the whole video sequence as an extremely clever, viral Gatorade commercial. The ball girl had been flung into the air by stunt men above who hoisted her up with cables, and digitized editing and speech had done the rest, even adding the ball, to create an apparently seamless, very real sports event. Ball girl, I am pained to say, is a phony. To read how the producers did it, click here. And what is the moral here? We can no longer believe our own eyes in the media.

Now what has this got to do with Iran exactly? Actually, it has something to do with the entire fabric of modern civilization, with the media, with politics, with our perception of reality, for this little video is so convincingly real to the average eye, so minutely nuanced in every little detail that it is stark proof-positive that technology has now ushered in limitless horizons for propaganda, falsehood and deception. Let us think back to Colin Powell in February 2003 giving his infamous Power Point presentation that was essentially setting up Iraq for the kill. At one point he had to revert to some 3-D animations to show those supposed mobile biological/chemical warfare labs in the desert. That software technology in and off itself wowed millions, but some of us knew then and there, because Powell was really resorting to fancy cartoons, that something was definitely not right.

Indeed, nothing was right, as it turned out. But if they had gone to the extent taken in making the Ball Girl video, with actual video footage, they would have possibly fooled everybody at that point in time. Maybe they had that capacity but thought better of it, because the White House, State Department and Pentagon still would not have found their fantasy mobile labs in the desert, and this would have exposed the fact that they had utilized cutting edge video technology to create great new levels of deceit.

But in light of the proven capabilities of media technology to now manipulate or fabricate reality, we have to start asking ourselves, what else might we have been shown in the media in the last few years that just isn't real, that is pure lies, pure propaganda, pure wizardry? What readily comes to mind is the veracity of the infamous Osama bin Laden "Confession Tape" in late 2001, in which a healthy, suddenly plump and rounder-faced bin Laden is sandwiched, chronologically, between an earlier and then later al Qaeda video showing an increasingly gaunt and sickly bin Laden.

In fact, some of us have intuited that bin Laden likely died in December of 2001, which would mean that somebody has been pulling the Ball Girl routine on the world for some seven years now, with artistic renditions of bin Laden in audio and video format. This is why I am rather convinced that bin Laden will never be captured and never be prosecuted, despite the melodramatic pledges of both Senators McCain and Obama to do so. Good luck Senators! Meanwhile, both Pro-Taliban tribal warlord Baitullah Mehsud recently and the late Benazir Bhutto, in an interview before she died, have stated that bin Laden is dead. But this kind of fly in the ointment news never reaches the mainstream media, with its ever-fleeting relationship with truth.

Regurgitating Hitler

The media's pathetic acquiescence to White House/Pentagon propaganda in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq was part and parcel of the grand Neocon strategy to capture the media and play it like a talking puppet. The Neocon strategy in turn is lifted right out of the pages of Mein Kampf, and let us never forget that. Hitler's autobiographical manifesto is actually one of the first extensive works on mass psychology and how to manipulate the masses. His propaganda principles are now time-tested and proven to work, and work well, so long as you are dealing, of course, with ignorant and authority-craving people, eager to believe whatever their rulers throw at them. That they were so effective in 2002 and 2003 during the propaganda onslaught against Saddam Hussein doesn't speak well of the sophistication of the American people or of much of the planet for that matter, for Bush had his cheerleaders in many, many countries brainwashing their citizens, particularly those that became the Coalition of the Willing.

Keep reading ...

APOV's Weekly Revue (06/29/2008)

If it's Sunday - then it's time again for APOV's Weekly Revue!

Oh, Canada!
While the Canadian traditional media/MSM tends to follow the disinformative scripted narrative of "controllers" with regards to Afghanistan, it has begun to change its tune with regards to Stephen Harper's so-called political sharpness. Perhaps because journalists and reporters now finally see the Prime Minister's opportunistic and out of place politicking for what it is, or perhaps many of them have noticed his all-too-often empty chair during sessions of Parliament (or maybe they've finally realized what a douchebag he is - but I digress) ...

Oh, U.S.A.!
As odious and destructive of liberty and privacy as the new FISA "compromise" bill is, let's not forget that FISA itself was but the prelude to the nightmare. However much Barack Obama may justify his support of the FISA compromise capitulation by submitting that national security trumps accountability for telecoms, the fact remain that he has failed completely on this vital issue - which translates into "not much change at all". So, welcome to Planet Bush - where "bipartisanship" means giving all that he wants and where the crazies rule supreme. With all that is going FUBAR, perhaps it is time to rise up to the call to (political) arms? Or have Americans become too dumb to understand fully what is happening?

On related notes to this last question: Gitmo gets a makeover as an R&R resort, care of the Pentagon Tourism Sub-Division; it is now quite mundane to speculate on - if not actually appreciate - the political usefulness of another terrorist attack in gaining electability points; many women have fallen for the "maverick" meme concerning John McSame; up is still down and wrong is still right; the myth of the free market as solution to everything still dominates; and leaders are apparently still chosen for being religious automatons whom merely do what their religion teaches them.

Oh, Environment!
Why is there an energy crisis? Because of those goddamn F&!%$#%!$ treehuggers, that's why - or so goes the meme. And never you mind the facts as to why more oil drilling won't solve the problem. Perhaps it is high time for some serious selling pitches on means to fight global warming, like carbon taxing. Then again, what's not to like about global warming?

And it is on this sarcastic note that we end the Weekly Revue for this June 29th, 2008.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

U.S.: School Education Failing?

Item: Poll - U.S. schools not properly preparing kids.

Here's one appalling example why.

The main underlying cause can be read about there.

Any questions?

Addendum: when you read crass, uninformed and utterly ignorant tripe like this in a Canadian national newspaper, you know the problem has already reached Canada for quite some time now ...

The Prime Douchebag Of Canada

I can't believe this.

I. Just. Can't. Believe. This.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a delegation of B'nai B'rith members yesterday that Canada is refusing to participate in a United Nations conference on racism because Ottawa will not be party to an anti-Semitic "anti-Western hatefest."
This is the person elected to head our government, the supposed leader of our country to represent us on the world stage?

Thank you for such a nice gift to all Canadians just a few days before Canada Day, Prime Minister Harper.

Your intellectual sloth-driven incompetence and your fatuous, shallow and petty approach to international relations are simply appalling.

You are nothing more than a little neoconservative primitive mind.

You are a genuine douchebag.

I am ashamed by you.

I am ashamed to be Canadian.

Elections, Capitalism, And Democracy

What the following article says - along with intellectual sloth, the need for instant gratification and the resulting cancer on the body democratic. Just think about all those folks out there who actually still defend Barack Obama for his ludicrous flip-flop with regards to telecom immunity. Hell, they are even inventing stories -literally- about secret plans/strategies and all on his part in order to excuse this. And then, there is also Stéphane Dion and the LPC over here in Canada ...

Triangulation and kneeling before Big Money and Big Corporation lobbyists.

Politics business as usual indeed.


Elections, Capitalism, And Democracy
By Charles Sullivan

Because so many of the people on the political left fear that John McCain will become the next president, they have allowed themselves to see the very moderate democratic candidate, Barach Obama, as a desirable alternative to the decidedly ghoulish McCain, rather than supporting a genuine progressive like Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, or Ralph Nader. They thus perceive Obama to be far more progressive than he really is. Such comparisons lead us down a dichotomous pathway that assures a continuous drift to the right.

Each election cycle the people on the left find themselves out-flanked by those on the right by allowing them to frame the debate and to define who we are. So each election we end up supporting a very moderate candidate rather than a truly progressive one. Because all of the mainstream candidates are intensively influenced by corporate lobbyists and the electoral system is owned by capital, democracy has remained as elusive as capturing the ghost of a saint with a piece of duct tape.

According to Ambrose I. Lane Sr., host of Pacifica radio’s “We Ourselves,” John McCain has the third most conservative voting record of anyone in the senate. Running an extremist from the opposite end of the political spectrum forces the democratic candidate further to the right than he or she already is. So when progressives fall into this trap, as they so often do, it is a win-win for the corporate lobbyists pulling the strings behind the curtain. They end up supporting a candidate they think can compete against extremists rather than one who actually represents their values. If you have to become like your opponent in order to defeat them, what can you honesty say has been won?

Progressives cannot gain ground by ceding their ideology to their conservative opponents in order to gain office. Without having a viable candidate coming from the far left of the Democratic Party, progressives cannot reasonably expect to push the debate back toward the political center, much less to the left of center. You can make a good case, however, that the democratic leadership under Howard Dean has no real desire to move to the left or to represent traditional progressive values. It likes the status quo just fine; a position that has served its corporate funders well.

Because it has been co-opted by corporate lobbyists—who always hedge their bets—the Democratic Party no longer houses a genuine left-wing faction that can effectively compete for votes in a way that emulates the success of the far right. Because right-wing extremism and corporate fascism are portrayed in the corporate media as reasonable centrist positions beneficial to the people—that is how they are perceived by those who receive their political education from those sources. Thus extremism packaged as democracy is widely considered to be the norm when, in fact, it is not; it is fanaticism couched as something much more benign or beneficial, even if it is a poison pill. Yet it is this extremism that undermines the interests of the nation’s working class people and keeps them subservient to corporate fascism. Voting for meaningful change is like running on a treadmill and expecting to actually go somewhere.

The problem is that capital, rather than informed citizens interested in democracy, is in control of the electoral process. Capital furthers the interest of capital, rather than the interest of the people, and this creates an irreconcilable conflict with genuine human interests. So we end up with a sociopolitical system that is not only fundamentally unjust; it is also predatory and cannibalistic. It consumes the very people who feed it and give it the appearance of legitimacy: the great unwashed working class.

Capitalism flourishes, for a short time, at least, by socializing costs and by privatizing profits and this concentrates and centralizes power into the hands of a select few. Its real purpose is not to serve people; it is to exploit them. Capitalism isn’t even a natural system; it is a purely human construct that has no basis in nature. It is a synthetic system and, as we have seen through chemistry, synthetic systems tend to become mutagens, and thus promote cancer.

Due in part to their extreme political naiveté and to delusional thinking, too many people have accepted corporate fascism as a centrist or “normal” position. Thus they have unwittingly allowed predatory and cannibalistic forces—unregulated markets—to determine the fate of the nation and its people. Neoconservatives and neoliberals, alike, have defined the free market as an unregulated market, which has become their concept of democracy. The so called free market is not under the control of human beings in any meaningful sense, and it does not respond to human needs. Like a creation of Frankenstein, it is a man-made monster that has escaped from the laboratory and is wreaking havoc across the countryside, menacing everyone and everything in its gargantuan steel-booted path.

By themselves, markets are not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly people need commerce and trade. However, it is when markets are deregulated—as required by the adherents of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics—that they turn upon people and become predatory, undemocratic, and cannibalistic. When markets are given more power and more rights than people, people will cede not only their power to them, but also their humanity. This is how markets have become all-powerful entities that have no soul or conscience and are answerable to no one: monstrosities in every sense of the word.

I would argue, however, that the object of commerce and trade should be to serve people and to benefit the whole of society, rather than to generate enormous profits for the benefit of a select few. Commerce without democracy cannot help us toward a free and democratic society; it can only undermine our every effort at genuine democratization.

Either you work for the public interest or you work for self-interest. It is this assertion that finally brings us back to our starting point—the electoral process. Because the process is under the control of capital rather than working class people, it undermines the democratic process and substitutes something else in its place. That process has led us to where we are and it can never take us back to where we started from. Nor can it ever lead us to genuine democracy or to justice. It can only bear the fruit of its own seeds; it can only provide us with more of what it has already produced.

If we the people are serious about real democratic government, we must work for it outside of the electoral process, as well as from within. We must organize a revolutionary force so powerful that it cannot be ignored or denied. We must institute effective and prolonged economic boycotts. We must organize work slow-downs, work stoppages, and general strikes in order to make corrupt government feel our pain. We must create labor unions that genuinely fight for worker’s rights while simultaneously transitioning the country away from an exploitive and self-destructive capital economy toward a people-oriented economy based upon need, rather than privatized profit subsidized by public funds. These are the means to creating a democratic workplace and bringing malignant capitalism to a grinding halt. The electoral process does not provide the tools for revolution; it subverts the process and only delays the inevitable.

Keep reading ...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Late Friday Night Ode To ... Da Blues

We've been peltered by huge electric thunder storms throughout the last week or so over here in Sherbrooke, and it looks like more of the same is on the way for the week-end and next week.

Considering everything else that is going on (and going FUBAR), we've been feelin' da blues aplenty in APOV HQ. Therefore, let's go for a triple play of some mighty fine blues guitars - just what the doctor ordered.

As opener, we have Eric Clapton/Buddy Guy & Friends - Sweet Home Chicago:

For mid-course, we have BB King/Gary Moore - The Thrill Is Gone:

For the closer, we have Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan - Stormy Monday:

Keep on singin' them blues, sisters and brothers ...

Domestic Spying: The Ever Convenient Rationale Of The Security State

I've said it before, but I'll say it yet again - because apparently it bears repeating ad nauseam until enough people out there finally wake up and do something about it:
It is a given, demonstrated fact that governmental security agencies are not seekers of truth, but seekers of guilt. Whenever they are given any powers to spy on their own citizens, they will do so - for reasons frivolous, paranoid or (apparently very rarely as shown so far) actually justified.

Anything and nothing can - and will - be held against you.

Because in the mindset of governmental security agencies, everyone is suspect, everyone is guilty. Period.
This not just about what is going on in the U.S.A. This is also very much about what is going on over here in Canada.

Take this little tidbit of news, as but one small example:
Intelligence reports obtained by National Post reveal for the first time how the Canadian government tracked "ongoing and planned protests" by First Nations and their supporters from British Columbia to the Maritimes.

The Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, based at CSIS headquarters and made up of representatives of CSIS, the RCMP, Canadian Forces and other departments, circulated lists of protestors' plans in a series of intelligence reports.
Now here's the clincher:
The Government Operations Centre was also involved. It coordinates the national response to terrorist attacks, natural disasters and anything else that threatens the safety and security of Canadians or the integrity of Canada's critical infrastructure.
As if this was not frightening in and of itself, here comes the rationale that I have come to expect, but one which apparently still escapes the grasp of far too many people out there:
According to the documents, security officials were concerned "a small minority" of demonstrators could escalate the protests "as a means of attracting attention to their cause." Sympathetic environmentalists, "social issues extremists" and criminal groups could also exploit the protests, the reports say.

(...) "In addition to these, there are also non-aboriginals who may oppose the aspirations of the aboriginals (local residents, cottagers, fishermen, etc. and also white supremacists and other extremists)," it adds. "These factors may cause instability and drive an individual protest in unpredictable ways."

(...) The reports say the right to protest "is a cornerstone of Canada's democratic society. ITAC is concerned only where there is a threat of politically motivated violence, or where protests threaten the functioning of critical infrastructure."
So - to recap: just because there may or may not be some violence during protests, whether by protestors or infiltrators or counter-protestors or extra-terrestrials or monsters from outer space, this warrants the mobilization of the terrorist monitoring apparatus of the government to spy on activist groups, especially those who are planning lawful protest events.

Let me put it in other words: because something/anything deemed potentially disruptive (even remotely or not at all) to "the safety and security of Canadians or the integrity of Canada's critical infrastructure" may or may not happen, this warrants the full use and deployment of the government's terrorism monitoring apparatus to spy on lawful citizens.

Let this reality sink in for a minute or two ... or five ... or ten.

Do you get it now?

This means that anything can and will be viewed by our security agencies within the narrow, paranoid prism of terrorism and threats to security.


From blogging to writing a dissenting letter to a newspaper editor to a journalist trying to do investigative work to gathering at a coffee shop to rant about politics to reading "suspicious" stuff (books, blogs) to organizing/participating in activist actions (letter/phone/email campaigns, peaceful protests), etc., etc., etc.

Because any such activities may or may not -immediately or at some point in time or never at all - lead to acts which may or may not "threaten the safety and security of citizens or the integrity of the country's critical infrastructure".

So just in case and to be safe, let's monitor and survey and spy away on the citizenry.

And that is the ever convenient rationale of authoritarian security states for spying on their citizens.

I repeat: no one is safe.

What is happening south of the border is also happening here. More cases in point to this effect:
  • Canada has its own no-fly list, which is shared with the U.S. (and the U.S. shares its own with Canada) - more "efficiency" in snaring "suspected terrorists", I am sure;
  • The Canadian military is keeping tabs on peace advocacy groups;
  • CSIS has been monitoring Olympics protesters (and definitely other kinds of advocacy groups), all the while doing everything it can to escape public scrutiny and accountability;
  • The RCMP has been keeping secret files on Canadians in a highly secretive database meant for criminal intelligence information - in fact, more than 60% of the data stored therein is related to innocent Canadians;
  • The RCMP has also been keeping files on Canadians in a highly secretive database meant for national security investigations - in fact, more than half of the data therein was found "inappropriate" (i.e. relating to innocent Canadians);
  • One year ago, the Harper government announced that it was planning to institute extraordinary anti-terror police powers of "investigative hearings" and "preventive arrests" as part of a series of major security initiatives, including beefing the powers of CSIS - then the matter disappeared completely from public view and consciousness, as I am left to wonder: "what's been happening since then? What has been implemented outside of proper legislation, if anything?"
  • The Harper government has unilaterally and quietly clamped down on a free database of all the requests it is answering under the Access to Information Act, using a most duplicitous excuse after being found out;
  • Some eight months ago, it was revealed that the Harper Government was conducting "behind closed doors" discussions in order to create legislation that would force telecommunications providers to cough up personal information about their clients to authorities, without the need for court ordered warrants - the revelation forced the hand of the Harper government to open said discussions to the public. Since then? I keep hearing crickets chirping through the overwhelming silence on this matter.
It appears that we Canadians are indeed riding fast down the same road to perdition with regards to our human rights, our civil liberties and our constitution, as the Americans.

All in the sacro-saint name of Security.

It sure does seem like everyone over here is sleeping at the switch on this matter.

I've written to my MP, to newspapers and news stations to ask them to look into the extent through which we are being surveyed by our security agencies and whether such activities conflict with our constitutional/privacy rights. But nothing has happened - because when you are only one, of just a few, then nothing gets done.

Now imagine if thousands and thousands of letters/emails were sent to MPs, newspapers and news stations, demanding to know what exactly has been going on with regards to domestic spying of lawful citizens.

Let us ask en masse those questions of vital importance to our privacy, civil liberties and constitutional rule of law.

We must draw the line once and for all - unless we really want to go all the way of our neighbor south of the 49th.

Either we Canadians stand up for our civil rights and therefore win against terror, or stand down in the name of Security and lose to terror.

It is as simple as that.

The Self-Renewing Global War On Terror

The following is an insightful article which illustrates well what we've come to understand: that the Global War on Terror(TM), especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with the U.S. policies of rendition, detention and torture, only serve to create the terrorists of tomorrow:


Prisons of war, furnaces of radicalism
Paul Rogers

The global detention policy of the United States and its allies is incubating the insurgents of the future.

A long-term consequence of the Iraq war is the production of a new generation of young paramilitaries with combat experience in urban environments against the world's best equipped army (see "Afghanistan in an amorphous war", 19 June 2008). Even if the conflict in Iraq does ease in the coming months, the experience of combat there will serve well an al-Qaida movement that measures its aims in decades rather than years.

The battalions of paramilitaries in Afghanistan that fought against Soviet conscripts in the 1980s war operated in a largely rural environment, in a conflict very different from its successor. Indeed, in one of the many "blowback" effects of the "war on terror", the methods and technologies that have been learned in Iraq have now been exported back to Afghanistan. The use of roadside-bombs, for example, has escalated alarmingly in the first half of 2008, demonstrating the skills of Taliban militias as they develop their guerrilla tactics.

The jail blowback

If the combat experience gained in Iraq has been one aid to the paramilitary movements, another has been the unexpected effect of the holding by the United States and its allies of large numbers of people without trial, sometimes for years on end. The overall figures are difficult to assess, although there were indications in 2007 that at least 120,000 people have been detained since 9/11. The great majority of these have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the incarcerated also include some thousands of people across the middle east and south Asia, and hundreds in Europe.

Some details surface from time to time. It is known, for example, that the United States forces in Afghanistan are building a new prison at Bagram capable of housing 600 long-term and up to 1,100 short-term prisoners (see "A world beyond control", 22 May 2008). This is in addition to, and outside the control of, the Afghan prison system. The numbers are far higher in Iraq, where the US forces are currently detaining 21,000 Iraqis - a number exceeded by thousands more held in Iraqi prisons. The American-held number represents a decrease of 4,000 from mid-2007, though US contractors are in the process of building new prisons in the country, such as one in Taji near Baghdad (see Walter Pincus, "U.S. Official Cites 'Hardening' Of Iraqi Detainees", Washington Post, 10 June 2008).

In addition, there is a constant throughput of detainees as new people are imprisoned and others are released. At present, thirty people are detained and imprisoned by US forces every day, while fifty are released. This explains the net drop in overall numbers but also means that, at current rates, about 10,000 more Iraqis experience detention in the US system each year.

US sources report that their own personnel are getting more efficient at determining which detainees are the most radical and will be kept in prison for long periods of time. They estimate that there are approximately 8,000 detainees who cannot be proved to have committed crimes under the Iraqi judicial system and cannot therefore be handed over to the Iraqi for trial. These are people, though, who are deemed to pose such serious security threats that they must be incarcerate even without judicial process.

What this means is that there are many thousands of "hard-core" detainees in the prisons who are interacting repeatedly with much greater numbers coming through the system. It has to be remembered that all of these people are being detained without trial by what is seen as a foreign occupying force. The potential for radicalisation within prison, let alone the impact on their friends and families, is therefore considerable.

In a related issue, there has been recurrent concern within the British prison system that convicted Muslim prisoners will do their best to proselytise fellow Muslim convicts in prison for non-political offences (see Jamie Doward, "Extremists train young convicts for terror plots", Observer, 15 July 2007). The chief prisons inspector, Anne Owers, drew attention to this issue in supporting the work of Muslim chaplains while highlighting a lack of training for prison officers (see Dominic Casciani, "Warning over jail radicalisation", BBC News, 14 April 2008).

The enemy effect

The worries reflected in the British reports are shared elsewhere. The most striking example comes from the most closely guarded and controversial detention centre - Guantánamo in Cuba (see David Rose, "Guantánamo: America's war on human rights", 23 September 2004). A remarkable report by one of the best informed of US journalists, Tom Lasseter of McClatchy Newspapers, gives some indication of the extent of the problem (see Tom Lasseter, "How Guantánamo became a terror training ground", Miami Herald, 17 June 2008).

He starts with an example that is worth quoting in full:

Keep reading ...

Beware Bush's Madman Theory

punditman says ...

Sure, enough, it seems that with prodding from the Israelis, Bush the Sociopath is seriously considering a bombing campaign against Iran's nuclear facilities, as reported by CBS News. This, despite the fact that there is no evidence that Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons--not from US intelligence agencies, who late last year, stated that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, and not from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Not that facts ever mattered to the Bush gang. Surprise, surprise, Dick "Darth Vader" Cheney along with his cadre of neo-con storm troopers is pushing for an Iran attack. Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is worried that this may touch off yet another mid-east war.

Duh? What was his first clue? Attacking other countries usually does cause wars. Perhaps the myriad of warnings has finally had some impact? I speak of those thoughtful and sane analysts in and out of government who predict that a bombing campaign against Iran would be the most catastrophic and dumbest thing that the US could possibly do at this historic juncture. Has a modicum of smarts and caution somehow seeped into the mind of the one person who wields Pentagon meta power? A tiny hope, perhaps?

It is a safe bet to conclude that Secretary Gates appears to have at least one foot (or maybe a big toe) in the old fashioned realist camp of international thuggery, where bluffing the other guy is akin to an old boys' poker game but the chips are big honkin' aircraft carriers, cruise missiles and strategic bombers. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proven to be a willing participant in this type of pissing match and normally these are fun things to watch and analyze, and they make for cool case studies in Poly Sci 101 courses: "de jure" versus "de facto" foreign policy--or the gap between what a nation is poised to do, even "as a matter of law" versus what it actually does in practice. (In this case, the US Congress introduced a new resolution May 22, 2008, H. Con Res. 362, that many fear is tantamount to declaring that the President should pursue a naval blockade against Iran, which would be an act of war).

There's only one problem: Leave it to this administration to actually do what they threaten to do and leave it to them to always choose precisely the worst possible course of action. A blockade of Iran leading to a unilateral attack is becoming increasingly likely.

Actually, I have always thought that this peculiar combination of stupidity and ferocity, places BushCo$ in a different category of governments altogether--as contemptible as many others have been. My logic flows thusly: in October, 1969, President Nixon came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea: the "Madman Theory." For no known tactical reason, he ordered the US Military onto full global war readiness alert and US bombers armed with nukes flew patterns near the Soviet border for three consecutive days. WTF? Most Americans didn't have a clue that this was happening, but it didn't matter. The audience was the Soviet government; Nixon's sole reason for this crazy game of chicken was to scare the beejezus out of them and make them wonder just what else he was capable of doing. According to the theory, every so often the madman needs to make "bold moves," so along those lines, Nixon then invaded neutral Cambodia in 1970 in a criminal and wasteful extension of the already criminal and wasteful war in Vietnam. It was to be a "limited" incursion although US bombings continued from 1969-1973. Nixon also went to China and opened up a dialogue, which could be considered the inverse of the Madman Theory.

Reagan's version of the Madman Theory amounted to outspending the Soviets in the largest build up of nuclear weapons ever, while huffing, bluffing and threatening Nicaragua's Sandinista government. But instead of sending in US troops and planes to invade Central America, he chose instead to dispatch a rampaging, murderous proxy army of CIA-trained "Contras" to attack Nicaragua, while funding and training the brutal Salvadoran and Guatemalan regimes to fight leftist guerillas. All very nasty stuff for the people on the ground and all very criminal in nature. In fact, the attack against Nicaragua was condemned by a World Court ruling in 1986. Make no mistake: Ray-gun was a gangster, but a "rational" gangster who actually negotiated with Gorbachev. When he did decide to attack other countries outright, he chose his targets carefully: Grenada and Libya couldn't fight back.

Not so with Iran. What keeps aware people awake at night is the fact that you can count on Bush the Madman to not only scare the crap out of everyone, but to actually bomb the crap out of everything.

I sometimes think that Bush's appalling ineptness and blinkered worldview is a form of sorcery because no one seems to be able to break the spell. It is a very odd situation that defies conventional logic; record low poll numbers somehow transmute into Bush's uncanny ability to wield military power almost at will--thanks in no small part to his willing accomplices throughout the Congress and Senate. Low approval ratings? Here's more Iraq war funds! What, everyone hates you? Bomb Iran and we Democrats will stand by you 100%, Sir! It is like there exists a kind of inverted relationship, privy only to an inner circle of alchemists, who apparently are all bonkers. Of course, the media knows its place as well.

In order to avoid starting World War Four (it's hard to keep track), cool-headed rationality is the very least we should demand; and, given the bleak landscape of possibilities it is probably the best we can hope for. Simply put, the political system of the most powerful nation on earth is broken; its citizenry lost, apparently unable to exert any meaningful influence in what is left of their democracy. A majority may despise the King, but they are far from storming the palace.

Where does this leave a world headed into the abyss? Well, there is always the Hope candidate. But from what I have seen, I have to say with expected disappointment: Obama, schmama! He will not save the day. In fact, the scuttlebutt says that despite the fact that Obama is falling all over himself to show his pro-Israel-no-matter-what stance, an Iran attack is nevertheless scheduled before Bush leaves office because the Israelis don't trust that Obama will do the deed. So they are pushing hard to make sure Iran is attacked before inauguration day next January. Even if Secretary Gates convinces Bush of the folly of such an attack, then Israel will attack Iran themselves. And though I shutter to even mouth the phrase "President McCain," we already know what he will do.

The Bush administration has boxed itself into an unnecessary collision course with Iran, and the elephant in the room is the fact that the US is beholden, as never before, to narrow Israeli interests.

Hence, I would be perfectly willing to write you off, America (sadly, of course), resigning myself to the mantra that every country gets the government it deserves, (occupations and genocides excluded). Yes, America, I would gladly do this if not for the fact that the consequences of an attack on Iran have such vast reaching potential military, political, economic, health and human consequences that it is almost unfathomable to contemplate.

But contemplate it we must. And then work to prevent it.

And, yes, hope. Hope that Bush reads Gates' memos and ignores Cheney's.

Idiot's Guide On How To Become A Cult Leader

You want it all? You want to have followers, who will devote their lives to you, slave for you, attend to your every whim, make you rich and empower you to such degrees that even your pathological, inflated ego may actually get its fill?

Then this instruction video is for you!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

No One Is Safe: The Real Low Down

Considering all the (righteous) hooplah concerning the capitulation on the FISA + "telecom immunity" + FISA "wide open", we should all be taking into account what FISA always was to begin with - an affront to the 4th Amendment of the Constitution of the U.S.A. (emphasis added):

The act was passed in 1979, in the wake of the Church Hearings and other congressional action that exposed and shut down the FBI's COINTELPRO domestic spying program. From the late 1940s through the early 1970s, the FBI was spying on tens of thousands of American citizens, with little or no oversight. What began as a search for communist inflitrators widened into surveillance on political groups, right and left, that were seen as threats. After Watergate and the end of Nixon's "imperial presidency," as it became apparent that the FBI had been used as a tool to stifle dissent, Congress put an end to COINTELPRO with a series of statutes that forbade electronic surveillance except by means of a search warrant.

But the intelligence agencies argued - persuasively - that this left a gap in terms of intelligence-gathering on foreign agents operating in the U.S. Having to go to an ordinary judge, many of whom have only minimal security vetting, and lay out specific "sources and methods" information to get an intelligence wiretap warrant, might compromise the security of those "sources and methods." In some instances, it might put the lives of informants and other assets at risk. The intelligence agencies argued that they needed another, more secure way to gain such warrants.

And thus was born FISA - the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - and the very first secret court in our nation's history. Yes, the FISA Court is a secret court. FISC judges undergo full security vetting, because they will have access to "sources and methods" material, the factual allegations constituting probable cause for a FISA warrant. The affidavits for FISA warrants are classified. The subject cannot see the affidavit, nor challenge its factual basis in court.
See how FISA and its FISC constituted an affront to the 4th Amendment to begin with? That is what some bloggers have been decrying all along since the current "telecom immunity" issue began - most notably Chris Floyd (example here) and, especially, Arthur Silber (example here).

But as if this was not bad enough, then came the "breaking of the wall of separation" between intelligence gathering and regular law enforcement (emphasis added):
And that seemed reasonable, because the original FISA specified that no information gained by means of a FISA warrant could be used in a criminal prosecution. There was a "wall of separation" between the intelligence-gathering and law enforcement sections within the FBI. The former was to investigate foreign espionage cases; the latter was to investigate crimes and gather evidence for prosecution. And because FISA warrants were not reviewable in a trial court, the two were not allowed to mix.

That ended with the USA PATRIOT Act. The consensus, after 9/11, was that the plot might have been stopped had the intelligence and law enforcement agencies been able to share information. Foreign-trained and -financed terrorists acting in the United States do seem to pose a special case, as they are not "spies," but rather are plainly "criminals." Thus the USAPA took down that "wall of separation," allowing information gained from FISA warrants (and other classified intelligence methods) to be used by law enforcement agencies and in criminal prosecutions.
And thus, after being maimed by FISA proper, the 4th Amendment was effectively killed once and for all by the USAPA. In other words (emphasis added):
Not even (a) trial judge can see the FISA affidavit. It is classified, "sources and methods" information. The prosecutor can show the judge that a FISA warrant was indeed issued, but that's as far as it goes.

Because (the defense) can't see the factual allegations underlying the FISA warrant - not even the trial judge can see that - (the defense) cannot challenge the validity of that warrant. It's not reviewable. Not at trial. Not on appeal. Not ever.

Which means they could have said anything they wanted. They could have had only the flimsiest pretext of probable cause. They could even have lied outright. You'll never know, so you can't challenge it.

Oh, and the FISC has refused fewer than five of the tens of thousands of warrant requests submitted, in the past 19 years. The FISC is, quite literally, a rubber-stamp court.

This is the "protection" offered by FISA. This is the "constitutional safeguard" so many of you are so up in arms to preserve. It is no safeguard at all.
See? It is a basic truism that one's constitutional rights exist only so long as one (or one's lawyer) can challenge their violation in court. In this respect, FISA is definitely not the last bastion of the 4th Amendment - as too many progressives out there like to claim in the context of the current issue of "telecom immunity" capitulation.

Even worse, there are those progressives who are actually supporting/defending/excusing some of the Democrats who capitulated, including Barack Obama (examples here and here), or worse - deciding to accept the lesser of two evils.

This is ludicrous, since, as Silber puts it:
(...) as odious and destructive of liberty and privacy as the new FISA "compromise" bill is, there is one perspective from which the momentous to-do about this legislation is very badly misplaced. The selective focus on FISA misses the crucial larger picture (...) if we were genuinely concerned about civil liberties and privacy, we would return to the Fourth Amendment and the procedures it requires, and the FISA regime would be abolished entirely. That's right: it would be abolished. No one wants to do that. Too radical, doncha know. That's scary talk, much scarier, it would appear, than the tyranny which daily strengthens its death grip on all our throats. Nonetheless, if you want to understand the nature and scope of the decades-long attack on individual liberty, you had better remember what FISA is.

Moreover, understand the nature of the old FISA regime, which appears to be just fine with almost everyone, Republicans, Democrats, progressives, everyone. Steny Hoyer has helpfully spelled out the near-omnipotent powers of FISA under the old scheme. Understand how comprehensive it is, and how comprehensively it destroys civil liberties.
Silber then goes on to provide but a few further examples of "sinister instruments", detailing their forceful penetration into every aspect of the lives of Americans.

And Chris Floyd to add:
Watch the layers peel away. The FISA compromise bill is abominable, without question; anyone who supports it cannot possibly be regarded as a serious believer in constitutional democracy. Yet behind this truth is another one, noted above: the FISA system itself is an abomination for a free people. And behind this comes yet another, grimmer truth: the FISA system, either old-style or the new Obama-abetted version, is just a miniscule part of the "endless array of weapons" at the disposal of the National Surveillance State (...).
In short: no one is safe.

And I submit here this further axiom - Canadians are not safe either:
The free sharing of intelligence databases between American security agencies and Canadian ones paves the way for full, unrestrained and potentially abusive domestic spying-by-proxy on both sides of the border. Why? Because Americans can spy on Canadians without warrants and Canadians can spy on Americans without warrants, being allowed to store their data into databases ... which are in turn freely shared between American and Canadian security agencies.

That's North American integration for you.
It is a given, demonstrated fact that governmental security agencies are not seekers of truth, but seekers of guilt. Whenever they are given any powers to spy on their own citizens, they will do so - for reasons frivolous, paranoid or (apparently very rarely as shown so far) actually justified.

Anything and nothing can - and will - be held against you.

Because in the mindset of governmental security agencies, everyone is suspect, everyone is guilty. Period.

And that is not taking into account the plain, typical bureaucrat, often frustrated by his/her bleak, menial job and driven by his/her petty jealousies. Such potential banality of evil is clearly illustrated by Silber:
The fact that every aspect of our lives is regulated, directed and controlled has a further result, one of the most dangerous of all: If someone in government decides to go after you, he has an endless array of weapons from which to choose. Even if you emerge from the battle with your life largely intact, anyone in government who wishes to do so can turn your life into hell for years on end, even for decades. It may all begin with some pathetic bureaucrat in a cramped, stifling cubicle. Perhaps someone cut him off in traffic that morning; perhaps he had a fight at home the night before. Perhaps he's just a rotten human being. He happens to come across your name on some document, and he thinks: "I know: I'll go after him. That could be fun." And your life is destroyed.
Once again: welcome to the Security State of North America, my friends.

Food for thought, eh?

(Cross-posted at The Wild Wild Left, Progressive Historians and The Peace Tree)