Thursday, July 31, 2008

... And We're Back!

That's right. It took a while longer than expected, but we're now all settled in the brand new APOV HQ - complete with internet connection (finally!).

The place still smells of fresh paint and "newly" constructed stuff, and there is much buying/installing/unpacking/assembling left to do in order to fill the place and make it a definite "home sweet home", but we are all set to go to resume regular blogging of at least one post a day.

As they say: "shields raised, weapons at maximum ... engage!"

;-)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Signing Off For A couple Of Days ...

APOV is moving in shiny brand new headquarters. Lots of packing and such to do over the next two days, then actually moving in this coming Monday (to this effect, there won't be a Weekly Revue on this Sunday - my apologies). Hopefully, the new H.Q. will be up and running, and have internet, no later than Tuesday (crossing my fingers).

See you folks back then ;-)

Late Friday Night Ode To ... Teh Weekend!

'Nuff said! To set you off on a grand and glorious weekend, we at APOV offer you a quartet of "blasts from the past".

First off, we have Saga - The Flyer:



Followed by Loverboy - Workin' for the weekend:



Then we have none other than Heart - Barracuda (if only because I just can't get tired of this song and because teh ladies can rock too):



And to close things off properly, we have Rick Derringer (& Winter Brothers) - Rock'n Roll Hoochie Coo:



Triple Bonus Track!!! Speaking of teh ladies can rock too ... how about some Lee Aaron for good measure? Don't thank me - the pleasure's all mine ;-)





Party on, dudes and dudettes!

(But remember not to drink and drive - much appreciated)

Emulatin' Them Bushies ...

... in each way and every way - that's what our Harper and his Harpies keep on doing. Bush wastes one trillion dollars in surplus? Then Harper *must* waste surplusses too!

So don't forget come elections time, folks: the Conservatives stand for "spend, spend and spend some more"!

(More here, here, here, here, here and here)

Depraved Justification For Torture

Once again, I hate it when I'm being proven right - as the following article shows. However, allow me to add this: torturing in "good faith" is like killing "with care" ...

Torture Memo Shields Interrogators
Government Memo Says Even Brutal Actions OK if Done in 'Good Faith'
By Spencer Ackerman

One of the most important building blocks in the Bush administration's apparatus of torture became public today.

An Aug. 1, 2002 memorandum from the Justice Dept.'s Office of Legal Counsel to the Central Intelligence Agency instructed the agency's interrogators on specific interrogation techniques for use on Al Qaeda detainees in its custody. Most of the 17-page memo is blacked out and unreadable. But at least one of those techniques is waterboarding, the process of pouring water into the mouth and nostrils of a detainee under restraint until drowning occurs.


"This is a critical piece of the story," said Jameel Jaffer, head of the national security project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained the memorandum under a Freedom of Information Act filing. "This is the most explicit statement out there that the CIA waterboarded prisoners becaused the Justice Dept. authorized them to do so."

Herman Schwartz, professor of law at American University, said the legal advice on display in the memorandum amounted to "out-and-out-fraud."

Today, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, who has been adjudicating the ACLU's extensive declassification lawsuit against the U.S. government for the past four years, ordered the memorandum released. Signed by Jay Bybee, then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the memorandum is heavily influenced by the legal theories of Bybee's then-subordinate, John Yoo. Torture-watchers have long referred to the memo, which congressional inquiries identified years ago, as "Yoo-Bybee II."

That's because Yoo-Bybee I, written around the same time as this document, contended that it would only be illegal for interrogators to inflict pain upon detainees equivalent to "organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death." Anything short of that standard, that memo argued, was legal under the Federal Torture Statute. This newly declassified memo was an attempt at practicality: given the legal standard laid out in the first memo, Yoo-Bybee II advised the CIA on specific interrogation techniques that were now permissible.

"You have asked this Office's views on whether certain proposed conduct would violate the prohibition against torture," Bybee wrote to the CIA on Aug. 1, 2002. While that "proposed conduct" is all redacted from view, another document declassified today -- a CIA memo from 2004 back to the Office of Legal Counsel -- refers to a "classified 2002 DoJ opinion" that "interrogation techniques including the waterboard" are legal.

It is impossible to know for sure what exactly the memorandum says, thanks to its heavy redactions. But it appears that the Yoo-Bybee II memo explains how CIA interrogators can evade prosecution for torturing detainees. "To validate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering," it reads at one point. "Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture. ... We have further found that if a defendant acts with the good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent."


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Iran, Israel, And The Risk Of War

Iran: will this war happen or not? Read the following article and you decide:

Iran, Israel, and the risk of war
Paul Rogers

The cautious optimism over Washington's hesitant dialogue with Tehran is counterbalanced by growing unease that Israel is intent on a military option.


The prospect of war over Iran's nuclear plans seemed to recede in mid-July 2008 after a marked change in United States attitudes to the country. This was signalled by the decision to hold direct talks with the Islamic Republic for the first time since the revolution of 1979 and the subsequent hostage crisis that did so much to embitter relations between the two countries. The outcome of the discussions held in Paris on 19 July was disappointing to western hopes of concessions from Iran over its uranium-enrichment plans, but the fact of the meeting has been hailed as a positive step that diminishes what had seemed to be the escalating risk of armed confrontation.

Between this hope and a stony reality, however, falls a shadow. For even if the momentum in Washington has moved away from the planning for a military strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities, the option of an attack by Israel is very much alive. In the complex strategic calculations of the three main state actors, therefore, the mild and provisional rapprochement between the US and Iran is only one counter that in itself does not eliminate the possibility of war (see "Israel, the United States and Iran: the tipping-point", 13 March 2008).

A static momentum

The shift in Washington's approach to Iran seems to have been the result of pressure from two branches of government: the state department, where influential policy-makers have sought to revive a diplomatic path over Iran; and the defence department, where there has been real concern over the possible consequences of a military confrontation. This has been voiced by a number of senior military commanders, most recently Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the joint chiefs-of-staff (see "Top US admiral says strike on Iran means turmoil", Reuters, 20 July 2008). Mullen has conveyed a pithy scepticism about the fallout of war with Iran ("This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable") with a sharp awareness of the limits imposed by the US's own military overstretch ("Right now I'm fighting two wars and I don't need a third one"). At the same time, he is emphatic that Iran has to be "deterred" in its ostensible ambition of achieving a nuclear-weapon capacity (see "U.S. admiral calls for global pressure on Iran", Xinhua, 21 July 2008)

This element of ambiguity was reflected too at the 19 July meeting (which included representatives from China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany). Although the US was represented by under-secretary of state William Burns, the highest ranking US official to be in dialogue with Iran for many years, the sense of a process almost immediately stalled was palpable. The secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was critical of the Iranian delegation immediately after the meeting (see Matthew Lee, "U.S. says Iran not serious at nuclear talks", Baltimore Sun, 21 July 2008). Members of other delegations that took part were scornful of Iran's preparation and input, including the paper distributed at the meeting which outlined Tehran's core positions (see Elaine Sciolino, "Iran offers 2 pages and no ground in nuclear talks", International Herald Tribune, 22 July 2008).

A vengeful disillusion

The Paris dialogue may nonetheless have confirmed that the balance within the George W Bush administration has moved away from planning for war with Iran. This would be a cruel disappointment to those inside (vice-president Dick Cheney and his team) and outside (neo-conservative and other hawkish voices) the administration who have long sought to match action against Iran to the "axis of evil" rhetoric.

Indeed, the reaction of the analysts who have promoted a hardline agenda on Iran to Washington's change of approach is instructive. For many, it has evidently been a bad dream which has confirmed their sourness towards Condoleezza Rice and the state department but also introduced a new note of disillusioned disgust against the George W Bush administration as a whole.

The hardliners' unsettled mood is compounded by Barack Obama's lead in the opinion polls, amid a more general positive coverage of the Democratic candidate's campaign reflected in the blanket coverage of his overseas tour to Afghanistan, the Middle East and western Europe (see Dan Balz, "Obama Going Abroad With World Watching", Washington Post, 19 July 2008).

In addition, the agreement of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki with Obama's call for a major US troop withdrawal from Iraq is a serious embarrassment for the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has been making much of Obama's inexperience in foreign affairs (see Jim Lobe, "McCain knee-capped by Maliki", Asia Times, 23 July 2008). The widespread frustration of Republicans and conservatives at the Obama summer festival is reinforced by the apparent media sidelining of the campaign of the Republican candidate, John McCain (see Linda Feldmann, "McCain camp cries foul", Christian Science Monitor, 24 July 2008).

Yet the neocon focus on Iran remains central, with a rising sense of aggravation that Iran has been rewarded with serious diplomatic attention from Washington even though it has made no effort (and has expressed no intention) to cease its uranium-enrichment activities. Such a cessation had long been a pre-requisite for any change in the US's attitude; its abandonment opens the administration to that toxic charge: appeasement, only one step from betrayal.


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U.S.-Dictated Canadian Energy Policy?

More than ever, it looks like Harper and his Harpies serve the U.S., not Us. Subservience to the U.S.A. indeed. Another case in point: the following article submitted for your consideration.

Canadian energy policy "Made in USA"
The window may be closing on what's left of Canadian decision-making power over our own energy.
by Linda McQuaig

When Americans want something that lies in another country, the consequences for that other country can be severe.

Even if they don't actually invade, they put a lot of pressure on lesser countries to behave as they want.


Canada, for instance, hasn't been invaded by the United States since 1812, but Ottawa has proved highly co-operative with Washington's desire to have access to our oil. We are America's Number 1 supplier.

Pressure for Canadian acquiescence in servicing America's apparently bottomless energy appetite is only going to get more intense, as fresh panic sweeps across America over skyrocketing oil prices and supply insecurity. Oddly, the Bush administration continues to flirt with the idea of making oil supplies even more insecure by launching a military strike against Iran.

All this turns the spotlight ever more on Canada as America's energy dream, nestled conveniently on top of the homeland, far from the roiling waters of the Persian Gulf.

Typical was a commentary on CNN's American Morning last week in which business correspondent Ali Velshi gushed about how Alberta's oil sands have more oil than Saudi Arabia, and most of it goes to the US. Velshi said that if daily oil-sands production were to rise from 1.5 million barrels to 4 or 5 million barrels, that would amount to "about a third of all the oil that the US imports."

He noted that this Canadian treasure trove of oil could service US needs for the next 70 years, possibly the next 150.

As American audiences are increasingly titillated by the idea that the oil sands could solve their energy dilemma, the window may be closing on what's left of Canadian decision-making power over our own energy.

Noticeably absent from the CNN report was any mention of the fact that the oil sands produce extraordinarily large greenhouse gas emissions, and plans to triple current output would be environmentally disastrous.

The future of the oil sands is one of the most important and contentious issues facing Canada, pitting concerns over global warming and the need to meet our international Kyoto obligations against the desire to make huge profits selling oil and to accommodate American interests.

There's an acute need for some sort of coherent national policy to deal with all this, to avert the looming environmental disaster while minimizing regional divisions and tensions with the United States.

Canada's policy vacuum only encourages the Americans to assume they can count on Canadian acquiescence to their energy dreams.


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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iran Saber-Rattling: Method To The Madness

Following up on here, here and here, I offer the following article for your perusal:

Why They Want To Attack Iran
Method In The Madness
By Ed Kinane

These days we’re on needles and pins. We keep our fingers crossed. We hope the US won’t attack Iran. There are good reasons to believe it won’t. Elsewhere I’ve argued the folly of doing so.

Cheney and Bush, no doubt, have heard such reasons and yet still itch to attack. They’ve got the aircraft carriers and Cruise missiles in place. They keep poking Iran hoping to get an overreaction. They keep saber-rattling.


Why, we all wonder, would they replay the same -- or even greater – debacle as in Iraq? Many readers may be too humane to fathom what goes on in those men’s minds. Sociopaths are hard to understand. Nonetheless we must try.

Who knows? Part of Cheney and Bush’s crusade may be theological. Isn’t it god-like to unleash the Predators? Isn’t it god-like to threaten and surge, kill and explode? Islamic Iraq and Islamic Afghanistan may seem to those men like latter-day Sodoms and Gomorrahs. Having smote them, let Islamic Iran be next.

Besides, having failed to force Iraq and Afghanistan to submit, they may well crave another chance. They certainly seek to shore up their faltered administration. They’ve seen how a new war distracts from scandals in high places. And how it distracts from policy disasters, both domestic and international. A new war puffs up otherwise plummeting presidential and vice presidential polls. Our cowed and co-opted Congress rolls over during war. War pumps up executive power.

But for much of the power structure backing Cheney and Bush, it’s economics that rule. The anti-Iran orchestra has all the might and momentum of the Imperium. The US – with its proxies and puppets, its air, land and sea forces, its Delta and Special forces -- now occupies not only Iraq but much of the Middle East.

The threatened attack is bigger than Cheney and Bush. The US is engaged in a bi-partisan, multi-administration, region-wide resource war. The US oiligarchy covets the region’s (including Iran’s) vast energy reserves. [See Michael T. Klare’s, “Blood and Oil” (2004)]. Reinforcing that imperial thieving are other, subsidiary greeds, other hungers for power.


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More On Enabling Tyranny

As a follow up on here and on this older post, I submit to you the following article for your perusal and consideration - no one is safe while we keep losing ourselves indeed (h/t):

Gitmo ‘Justice’ for US Citizens?
By Robert Parry

A conservative-dominated U.S. Appeals Court has opened the door for President George W. Bush or a successor to throw American citizens - as well as non-citizens - into a legal black hole by designating them “enemy combatants,” even if they have engaged in no violent act and are living on U.S. soil.


The federal Appeals Court in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 5-4 on July 15 that Bush had the right, while prosecuting the “war on terror,” to hold Qatari citizen (and Peoria, Illinois, resident) Ali al-Marri indefinitely as an “enemy combatant.”

But some of the court’s more liberal judges expressed alarm, saying the legal reasoning that denied al-Marri meaningful due process not only trampled on American legal traditions but could be used to lock up U.S. citizens as well.

“For over two centuries of growth and struggle, peace and war, the Constitution has secured our freedom through the guarantee that, in the United States, no one will be deprived of liberty without due process of law,” wrote Judge Diana Motz, a Bill Clinton appointee, who dissented against the court’s approval of sweeping presidential powers.

Motz noted that al-Marri has been imprisoned for more than five years, “without acknowledgement of the protection afforded by the Constitution, solely because the Executive believes that his indefinite military detention - or even the indefinite military detention of a similarly situated American citizen - is proper.”

Al-Marri’s lawyers plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the case underscores one of the biggest issues at stake in the November elections: whether Republican John McCain will get to fulfill his promise to appoint more Supreme Court judges like Samuel Alito and John Roberts, who have embraced Bush’s vision of an all-powerful President.

Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court has a slim 5-4 majority in favor of limiting Bush’s authority to deny basic constitutional rights to people designated “enemy combatants,” but the replacement of one member of the majority with another Alito or Roberts would tip the balance and effectively permit the rewriting of the U.S. Constitution.

Though the July 15 ruling was convoluted and did call for a federal District Court to afford al-Marri some more rights, the Appeals Court decision effectively upheld Bush’s assertion of nearly unlimited power to have people detained as “enemy combatants.”

The ruling suggested that even American citizens - if they are deemed “enemy combatants” - could be subjected to Bush’s military commissions, where truncated legal rights make proving a person’s guilt much easier than in civilian courts.

Stunned Realization

Previously, the New York Times editorial page and some liberal legal experts had criticized Bush’s high-handed approach toward non-citizens, but had assured Americans that the military commissions would not apply to them.

But at Consortiumnews.com, we noted that language buried in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 seemed to cover - indeed even target - U.S. citizens. [See “Who Is ‘Any Person’ in Tribunal Law?” or our book, Neck Deep.]

For instance, one section dealing with penalties stated that “any person is punishable as a principal under this chapter who commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission,” according to the law.

Another clause stated that “any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States … shall be punished as a military commission … may direct.”

Presumably, Osama bin Laden has no “allegiance or duty to the United States.” Such a phrase seems aimed at American citizens.

But it took the Appeals Court ruling - and the blunt language from Judge Motz about denying constitutional rights to U.S. citizens - to catch the New York Times’ attention.

In a July 20 editorial, the Times wrote that the Appeals Court’s “decision gives the President sweeping power to deprive anyone - citizens as well as non-citizens - of their freedom. …

“The implications are breathtaking. The designation ‘enemy combatant,’ which should apply only to people captured on a battlefield, can now be applied to people detained inside the United States. Even though Mr. Marri is not an American citizen, the court’s reasoning appears to apply equally to citizens.”


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Democracy And Deference

I prefer to diagnose the problem as the intellectual sloth-driven spreading cancer on the body democratic, but the following article puts its finger on part of the problem we have these days with our failing democracies (especially with regards to the U.S.A., the U.K. and yes - Canada):

Democracy And Deference
By Mark Slouka

I blame my parents, which is trite but traditional. Six years after stepping onto the troubled shore of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s America they had a son and promptly began to fill his head with nonsense. In America, they taught me, talent and hard work were all; allegiance was automatically owed to no one; respect had to be earned. In America, the president worked for us, and knew it, and the house we allowed him to live in for a time—that great white outie of the Republic—was known as The People’s House. Would that I had been suckled by wolves.


Turn on the TV to almost any program with an office in it, and you’ll find a depressingly accurate representation of the “boss culture,” a culture based on an a priori notion of—a devout belief in—inequality. The boss will scowl or humiliate you…because he can, because he’s the boss. And you’ll keep your mouth shut and look contrite, even if you’ve done nothing wrong . . . because, well, because he’s the boss. Because he’s above you. Because he makes more money than you. Because—admit it—he’s more than you.

This is the paradigm—the relational model that shapes so much of our public life. Its primary components are intimidation and fear. It is essentially authoritarian. If not principally about the abuse of power, it rests, nonetheless, on a generally accepted notion of power’s privileges.11. Of its inherent rights. The Rights of Man? Please.
The average man has the right to get rich so that he too can sit behind a desk wearing an absurd haircut, yelling, “You’re fired!” or refuse to take any more questions; so that he too—when the great day comes—can pour boiling oil on the plebes at the base of the castle wall, each and every one of whom accepts his right to do so, and aspires to the honor.

You say I’m tilting at human nature? That the race of man loves a lord—and always has? That power (and what good is power if it can’t be abused a little, no?) has always been one of the time-honored perks of success, and that, of all the lies told, the one about all men being created equal is the most patently absurd? Perhaps. But surely one could argue that the American democratic experiment was at least in part an attempt to challenge this “reality,” to establish a political and legal culture from which would emerge, organically, a new sensibility: independent, unburdened by the protocols of class, skeptical of inherited truths. Willing to be disobedient. To moon the lord.

Alas, if that was the plan, it went sideways a long time ago. In today’s America, the majority is nothing if not impressed by power and fame (its legitimacy is irrelevant), nothing if not obedient. As for mooning the lord, the ass to the glass these days is more likely to be the lord’s, and our own posture toward it, well, something short of heroic. Worse yet, should someone decide to take offense, and suggest that it is not the lord’s place to act thusly, he will be set upon by the puckering multitude who will punish him for his impertinence.

At a White House reception a couple of years ago, President George Bush asked Senator-elect Jim Webb how things were going for his son, a Marine serving in Iraq. “I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” Webb replied. “I didn’t ask you that,” the president shot back. “I asked you how your boy was doing.”

Webb, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, had not only risked his own life in the service of his country but now had a child in harm’s way, serving in an ill-conceived and criminally mismanaged war sold to the nation under false pretenses by the man standing in front of him. One might expect this second man to be nice. To show a modicum of respect. Should he fall short of this, one could at least take comfort in the certainty that the American people would hold him accountable for his rudeness and presumption.

Which is precisely what many of them did—they held Jim Webb accountable. “I’m surprised and offended by Jim Webb,” declared Stephen Hess, a professor at George Washington University, in a New York Times article entitled “A Breach of Manners Sets a Tough Town Atwitter.” Admitting that the president had perhaps been “a little snippy,” Professor Hess went on to extol the democratic virtues of decorum and protocol, interrupting himself only long enough to recall a steel executive named Clarence Randall who, having once addressed Harry S Truman as “Mr. Truman” instead of “Mr. President,” remained haunted by it for decades.

Hess wasn’t the only one to be shocked by Webb’s behavior. Letitia Baldrige, the “doyenne of Washington manners,” termed the whole thing “a sad exchange.” Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners, made the point that “even discussions of war and life and death did not justify suspending the rules,” then declined to comment on l’affaire Webb-Bush, saying, “It would be rude of me to declare an individual rude.”

But it was left to Kate Zernike, the author of the Times article, to place the cherry atop this shameful confection in the form of a seemingly offhand parenthetical: “(On criticizing the president in his own house, Ms. Baldrige quotes the French: ça ne se fait pas—‘it is not done.’)”

To which one might reply, in the parlance of my native town: Why the fuck not? Répétez après moi: It ain’t the man’s house. We’re letting him borrow it for a time. And he should behave accordingly—that is, as one cognizant of the honor bestowed upon him—or risk being evicted by the people in favor of a more suitable tenant.

But let’s not kid ourselves. The outrage over the Webb-Bush exchange was not really about decorum. It was about daring to stand up to the boss. Rudeness? Stop. This is America. We’re rude to one another more or less continually. We make mincemeat of one another on television, fiberoptically flame one another to a crisp, blog ourselves bloody. No, rudeness, as deplorable as it is, is not the point here, particularly as Webb, judged by any reasonable standard, wasn’t rude at all.

But wait—maybe rudeness is the point after all. Maybe rudeness, in our democratically challenged age, has morphed into a synonym for insubordination. If true, this explains a great deal. It suggests that in America today, only something done to those above us can qualify as rudeness. Done to those below it’s something quite different—a right.

Which brings us to the case of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose dueling careers as soldier and statesman fought it out before the U.N. Security Council on that memorable day as the nation prepared for war. The soldier, not surprisingly, dispatched the statesman, to our ongoing grief and Powell’s everlasting shame.

In a nutshell—or shell casing, perhaps—it came down to this: despite his doubts about the “intelligence” he had been provided, despite the fact that he spent days “trimming the garbage” from Vice President Cheney’s “evidence” of Iraq’s weapons programs and its ties to Al Qaeda, Powell went ahead and shilled for the liars anyway. Why did he not threaten to expose the whole thing publicly? Because, as he has said, to do so would have betrayed the ethic of the loyal soldier he believed himself to be.

What kind of culture defines “maturity” as the time when young men and women sacrifice principle to prudence, when they pledge allegiance to the boss in the name of self-promotion and “realism”? What kind of culture defines adulthood as the moment when the self goes underground? One answer might be a military one. The problem is that while unthinking loyalty to one’s commanding officer may be necessary in war, it is disastrous outside of it. Why? Because loyalty, by definition, qualifies individualism, discouraging the expression of individual opinion, recasting honesty as a type of betrayal. Because loyalty to power, rather than to what one believes to be true or right, is fatally undemocratic, and can lead to the most horrendous abuses. Powell’s excuse—that he did not want to betray the ethic of the loyal soldier—was precisely the one used by the defendants at Nuremberg, and if you say that the analogy is a reckless one, that Colin Powell is no Rudolf Hess but a generally decent man—an A student, a team player, a loyal employee, a good soldier—I’ll agree, and say only this: God save us from men and women like him, for they will do almost anything in the name of “loyalty.” Something to consider, perhaps, as the nation contemplates electing to the presidency John McCain, a member of our warrior class for whom loyalty constitutes the highest possible virtue.

What we require most in America today are bad soldiers: stubborn, independent-minded men and women, reluctant to give orders and loath to receive them, loyal not to authority, nor to any specific company or team, but to the ideals of open debate, equality, honesty, and fairness.


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The *Real* "Axis Of Evil" Of Our Times

Remember that old "Axis of Evil" thingie concocted by Bush and Co.? Here's a refresher (emphasis added):


Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens -- leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections -- then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.
Well, we all know what happened to Iraq.

We also know what is "going on" with Iran and North Korea.

In this respect, something caught my eye the other day:
A New Openness to Talks With That ‘Axis of Evil’

When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets her North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui-chun, in Singapore this week, it will be the first high-level meeting between Washington and the North since 2004, when Ms. Rice’s predecessor, Colin L. Powell, met with his North Korean counterpart. It will be the third meeting since Madeleine K. Albright visited North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, during the waning months of the Clinton administration.

After a weekend in which the Bush administration sent a top State Department official to a meeting in Geneva with an Iranian official, the North Korea meeting may well amount to last rites for the “axis of evil,” the one that President Bush said in 2002 was “arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

The Bush administration began long ago to step down from its vow not to talk to America’s foes. But its recent concessions to Iran and North Korea — and to Iraq, another charter member of the axis — have further muddled the old message.

Mr. Bush has now agreed, in principle, to the idea of a timetable for troop withdrawals from Iraq, something he has long derided as dangerous.

The State Department sent Under Secretary of State William J. Burns to talk to Iranian and European officials in Geneva, despite having said it would enter such talks only if Tehran suspended its enrichment of uranium, which Iran has not done.

And now, Ms. Rice will meet with Mr. Pak to finalize a phase in a denuclearization agreement less than two years after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon.
Now here comes the clincher (emphasis added):
The White House maintained on Monday that nothing had changed. When pressed by a reporter on whether Mr. Bush still believed that North Korea and Iran were part of an axis of evil, Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, said they were.

“I think that until they give up their nuclear weapons programs completely and verifiably, I think that we would keep them in the same category,” Ms. Perino said.
I will spare you another diatribe concerning incompetence, its eight principles and how the Bush administration constitutes a paragon of said principles of incompetence.

No - what I want to do here is express how I am tired-to-the-point-of-irritating-annoyance of that intellectual sloth-driven infantile, asinine, unserious, silly and outright ridiculous term "Axis of Evil".

Especially when I have to endure still hearing/reading about it some six years after being uttered for the first time by the oh-so "knowledgeable" and "competent" George W. Bush.

Let's read another part of that infamous "Axis of Evil" speech of his:
(...) America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the power of the state; respect for women; private property; free speech; equal justice; and religious tolerance.
And some six years later, what do we have, again? Ah, yes:
The increasing erosion of the constitution, civil rights and democracy as they are being gradually subjugated by an Authoritarian Security Surveillance State;

Bloating no-fly lists and terrorist watch-lists with millions of names in them;

The continuing inhumane and barbaric renditions, "enhanced interrogations" and indefinite detentions - of children, teenagers and adults alike;

The continuing standing of Military Commissions, which are nothing more than politically-driven, rigged, kangaroo courts;

The seemingly unending wars of choice and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq - both based on lies to justify a vengeance operation for 9/11 and the securing of foreign oil resources;

The ever mounting toll of civilian deaths, displaced refugees and soldier casualties.
It has become obvious by now (other examples here, here and here) that Bush is either utterly self-deluded about his regime and thus actually believes what he is saying, or he knows quite well that he is spewing pure, unadulterated bullshit.

Either way, I will herein indulge to rewrite that part of Bush's speech reproduced at the top of the present post and concerning the definition of the "Axis of Evil", in order to give it true and sincere meaning - thusly:
Our ultimate goal is to eradicate practices that cause pain, fear and horror from being enacted upon the dignity, rights and freedoms of human beings as the weapons of authoritarianism and tyranny. Some of these practices have been abundantly used since September the 11th. But we know their true nature. Extraordinary rendition is a practice of calculated terror, callousness and violence, while spitting on the basic rights of any free human being to be secure in his/her own person, to be given due process of being presented a legal court-approved arrest warrant, to remain silent, and to be allowed/provided proper legal representation.

Indefinite detention aggressively tramples on habeas corpus, while again repressing due process, proper legal representation and the right of any free human being to have his/her day in court to face his/her accusers before a jury of peers.

Torture continues to flaunt its barbaric disregard toward modern, civilized and democratic societies, and to impose terror, compliance and subservience. The practice of torture has had for sole and unique goal to inflict pain, and induce despair, and debase human dignity for throughout history. This is a practice that has already been used, with the specious pretense of obtaining information or elicit confessions, upon hundreds and thousands of human beings in the last eight years alone -- leaving the bodies of men, teenagers and children alike horribly scarred and traumatised, or dead. This is a practice that is forbidden by international laws and conventions -- then used nevertheless by being justified through mendacious, wrongful and shameful legalese gymnastics by fear-driven, weak leaders and callous -- if not sadistic -- acolytes. This is an inhuman practice that has nothing to do with the civilized world.

Practices like these, and those who perpetrate them, constitute an axis of evil, aiming to destroy the grace and dignity of Humanity. By seeking harm upon human rights and freedoms, these practices pose a grave and definite danger. They provide powerful tools to tyrants/despots and their like-minded authoritarian accomplices, giving them the means to impose or spread their brutal domination over free human beings. The insidious lure of these practices could unravel the democratic values of our allies, or drive our Republic into abandoning its Constitution and Bill of Rights. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.
Much more serious and meaningful, no?

So there you have it - the real "Axis of Evil" of our times.

Now that's something I will not tire of hearing/reading (and writing) about until that beautiful and glorious day when such axis will be eradicated once and for all.

Oh, and for those wonks out there who are wondering "well, what about 'Beyond the Axis of Evil'?", my answer, keeping in line with my real Axis of Evil speech, would be: Warrantless Domestic Spying - Military Commissions - Wars of Choice.

I think I'm done here for now.


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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Domestic Spying In Canada: It Happened And It Is Still Happening

I'll say it again: no one is safe and gratuitous, warrantless domestic spying is happening in Canada as well. Still not sure about this? Then I give you three "blasts from the past" articles for good measure.

**********

First, from May 1999 (links and emphasis added):

Canada a key snooper in huge spy network
Report says alliance is able to intercept nearly any message
by Jim Bronskill

Canada belongs to a global spy network capable of snooping on virtually every type of communication, from long-distance phone calls to Internet e-mail, says a newly published study.


The detailed report, prepared for the European Parliament, warns that the electronic intelligence agencies of the world's major English-speaking countries increasingly use the information they collect to gain an upper hand on economic rivals.

It concludes the surveillance web controlled by the UKUSA alliance -- Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand -- has evolved into a highly advanced network that automatically sifts through the vast bulk of the messages that traverse the globe daily.

"Comprehensive systems exist to access, intercept and process every important form of communications, with few exceptions", says the report, by Edinburgh-based researcher Duncan Campbell, a longtime observer of the intelligence world.

Canada is represented in the alliance by the Communications Security Establishment, an ultra-secret wing of the Defence Department with headquarters in an Ottawa office building.

The report, Interception Capabilities 2000, was approved as a working document by the Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel of the European Parliament at a meeting in Strasbourg, France, earlier this month.

Mr. Campbell's study raises thorny questions about the scope of global spy operations and their potential to violate privacy.

It is the latest in a string of books and articles in recent years to shine a light on the inner workings of the shadowy UKUSA alliance.

Citing numerous sources, Mr. Campbell reveals new information about the ECHELON computer system that helps Canada's CSE and its alliance partners process the mountains of data collected by monitoring satellites, microwave radio relays, undersea cables and the Internet.

The heightened scrutiny is a welcome development, said Wayne Madsen, a senior fellow with the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"I think everyone should be asking questions about their intelligence agencies", he said. "Why do they exist, and what are they doing? The more people that ask questions the better."

The UKUSA partnership emerged out of co-operation between members during the Second World War, when signals intelligence, or SIGINT in spy parlance, proved instrumental in helping the Allies triumph.

For decades the alliance's primary purpose was to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its East Bloc allies. But the Cold War's end has seen a shift towards collection of information about terrorism, organized crime and, on a more controversial note, an increasing flow of data on economic dealings and scientific developments.

(Read the rest here)

**********

Then - from December 2005 (links and emphasis added):

Canada also allows spying on citizens
Andrew Mitrovica

In the so-called war on terror, it's disturbingly clear that the ends justify the means.

It is also evident that for George Bush and the cadre of intelligence "experts" north and south of the border, civil liberties, human rights and the rule of law are minor irritants that can be dismissed with an arbitrary wave of the hand.

More evidence of this emerged this past week when The New York Times revealed that days after Sept. 11, 2001, Bush secretly ordered his spy services to eavesdrop on an untold number of Americans without a court order.

News of the possibly illegal domestic espionage authorized by the president has unleashed a firestorm of criticism. There will undoubtedly be Congressional hearings and a possible criminal investigation into the type of spying reminiscent of Richard Nixon's notorious dirty tricks.

Bush and his supporters remain, of course, unrepentant, insisting that the ends do indeed justify the means. Others rightly argue that an imperial president must not be permitted to unilaterally subvert the rule of law in the pursuit of villains or terrorists. To countenance this would effectively grant unlimited and unchecked powers to the executive branch.

The vigorous and necessary debate presently being waged in the United States over the extent to which intelligence services may exercise their extraordinary resources and powers is not, regrettably, mirrored in Canada.

There was pathetically little attention paid among Members of Parliament, civil libertarians and journalists when the federal government moved unilaterally four years ago to lift the ban on the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) — our little-known cyberspace spy service — to intercept the e-mail and cellphone traffic of persons living in Canada.

Without so much as a scintilla of debate in the House of Commons, Ottawa granted an immensely powerful and largely unaccountable spy service the authority to spy on cyber communications in Canada without a court order.

The failure of our politicians to offer up even a whiff of protest to this draconian step is as shameful as Bush's ill-conceived actions.

To be sure, the usual cabal of academics and media-anointed intelligence experts has trotted out the shopworn excuses to defend this affront to Canadians' civil liberties and human rights in the malleable name of national security.

Our secret services, they say, were being unnecessarily "handcuffed" by outdated laws that prevent our intrepid spies from keeping tabs on terrorists lurking in our midst.

This is drivel. Our spy services don't require new powers and money to do their job. What they are in desperate need of is reform and effective oversight.

(Read the rest here)

**********

And last, but not least - also from December 2005 (links, emphasis added):

Ottawa can eavesdrop on Canadians under law
By Estanislao Oziewicz

Canada's anti-terrorism law opened the door to secret eavesdropping on Canadians and others inside Canada, the same kind of activity that is causing a furor in the United States, intelligence and legal experts say.

U.S. President George W. Bush is under fire after revelations that he authorized the National Security Agency to monitor international telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans and others to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants usually required for domestic spying.

Both Republican and Democratic party legislators say Mr. Bush may have violated the 1978 U.S. law that makes it illegal to spy on U.S. citizens without court approval and have called on Congress to investigate.

In Canada, the Criminal Code maintained an absolute prohibition against intercepting "private communications," meaning any communication that originated or terminated in Canada, without specific court-ordered warrants.

But that all changed after the Anti-Terrorism Act was proclaimed four years ago in the wake of 9/11. The omnibus anti-terrorism legislation now allows the clandestine Canadian Security Establishment to intercept private communications when directing its activities against "foreign entities" located abroad.

The CSE does not need to go to a court to get such authorization. All it needs to do is get permission from the Minister of Defence.

(Read the rest here)

**********

And if you think that because the Anti-Terrorism Act remains to be renewed/extended means that any and all warrantless domestic spying has stopped, then you really are a lost fool.

If only because you forget the ever convenient rationale used by police/security agencies to spy "at large" on their citizens (recent examples here, here and here) - the very stuff of security surveillance states.

How else would we get this in Canada?

No two ways about it.


(Cross-posted at ACR)

Further Evidence That Iraq War Is Only About The Oil

We've known for quite some time and suspected as much from its very beginning. But as each month passes, further evidence is unearthed, confirming that the Iraq war was indeed first and foremost about securing the oil resources of this country. To this effect, I offer the following article for your perusal:


Eager to Tap Iraq's Oil, Industry Execs Suggested Military Intervention
By Jason Leopold

Two years before the invasion of Iraq, oil executives and foreign policy advisers told the Bush administration that the United States would remain “a prisoner of its energy dilemma” as long as Saddam Hussein was in power.

That April 2001 report, “Strategic Policy Challenges for the 21st Century,” was prepared by the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy and the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations at the request of Vice President Dick Cheney.

In retrospect, it appears that the report helped focus administration thinking on why it made geopolitical sense to oust Hussein, whose country sat on the world’s second largest oil reserves.

“Iraq remains a de-stabilizing influence to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East,” the report said.

“Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets. Therefore the U.S. should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments.”

The advisory committee that helped prepare the report included Luis Giusti, a Shell Corp. non-executive director; John Manzoni, regional president of British Petroleum; and David O'Reilly, chief executive of ChevronTexaco.

Those companies now stand to earn tens of billions of dollars in no-bid contracts in a U.S.-brokered deal that was recently announced to drill Iraq’s untapped oil fields.

James Baker, the namesake for the public policy institute, was a prominent oil industry lawyer who also served as Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush and was counsel to the Bush/Cheney campaign during the Florida recount in 2000.

Ken Lay, then chairman of the energy-trading Enron Corp., also made recommendations that were included in the Baker report.

At the time of the report, Cheney was leading an energy task force made up of powerful industry executives who assisted him in drafting a comprehensive “National Energy Policy” for President George W. Bush.

A Focus on Oil

It was believed then that Cheney’s secretive task force was focusing on ways to reduce environmental regulations and fend off the Kyoto protocol on global warming.

But Bush’s first Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, later described a White House interest in invading Iraq and controlling its vast oil reserves, dating back to the first days of the Bush presidency.

In Ron Suskind’s 2004 book, The Price of Loyalty, O’Neill said an invasion of Iraq was on the agenda at the first National Security Council. There was even a map for a post-war occupation, marking out how Iraq’s oil fields would be carved up.

O’Neill said even at that early date, the message from Bush was “find a way to do this,” according to O’Neill, a critic of the Iraq invasion who was forced out of his job in December 2002.

The New Yorker ’s Jane Mayer later made another discovery: a secret NSC document dated Feb. 3, 2001 – only two weeks after Bush took office – instructing NSC officials to cooperate with Cheney’s task force, which was “melding” two previously unrelated areas of policy: “the review of operational policies towards rogue states” and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.” [The New Yorker, Feb. 16, 2004]

By March 2001, Cheney’s task force had prepared a set of documents with a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and a list titled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts,” according to information released in July 2003 under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch.

A Commerce Department spokesman issued a brief statement when those documents were released stating that Cheney’s energy task force "evaluated regions of the world that are vital to global energy supply."

There has long been speculation that a key reason why Cheney fought so hard to keep his task force documents secret was that they may have included information about the administration’s plans toward Iraq.

‘Conspiracy Theory’

However, both before and after the invasion, much of the U.S. political press treated the notion that oil was a motive for invading Iraq in March 2003 as a laughable conspiracy theory.

Generally, business news outlets were much more frank about the real-politick importance of Iraq’s oil fields.

For instance, Ray Rodon, a former executive at Halliburton, the oil-service giant that Cheney once headed, said he was dispatched to Iraq in October 2002 to assess the country’s oil infrastructure and map out plans for operating Iraq’s oil industry, according to an April 14, 2003 story in Fortune magazine.

“From behind the obsidian mirrors of his wraparound sunglasses, Ray Rodon surveys the vast desert landscape of southern Iraq's Rumailah oilfield,” Fortune’s story said. “A project manager with Halliburton's engineering and construction division, Kellogg Brown & Root, Rodon has spent months preparing for the daunting task of repairing Iraq's oil industry.”

“Working first at headquarters in Houston and then out of a hotel room in Kuwait City, he has studied the intricacies of the Iraqi national oil company, even reviewing the firm's organizational charts so that Halliburton and the Army can ascertain which Iraqis are reliable technocrats and which are Saddam loyalists.”

At about the same time as Rodon’s trip to Iraq – October 2002 – Oil and Gas International, an industry publication, reported that the State Department and the Pentagon had put together pre-war planning groups that focused heavily on protecting Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

The next month, November 2002, the Department of Defense recommended that the Army Corps of Engineers award a contract to Kellogg, Brown & Root to extinguish Iraqi oil well fires.

The contract also called for “assessing the condition of oil-related infrastructure; cleaning up oil spills or other environmental damage at oil facilities; engineering design and repair or reconstruction of damaged infrastructure; assisting in making facilities operational; distribution of petroleum products; and assisting the Iraqis in resuming Iraqi oil company operations.”

In January 2003, as President Bush was presenting the looming war with Iraq as necessary to protect Americans, the Wall Street Journal reported that oil industry executives met with Cheney's staff to plan the post-war revival of Iraq's oil industry.

“Facing a possible war with Iraq, U.S. oil companies are starting to prepare for the day when they may get a chance to work in one of the world's most oil-rich countries,” the Journal reported on Jan. 16, 2003.

“Executives of U.S. oil companies are conferring with officials from the White House, the Department of Defense and the State Department to figure out how best to jump-start Iraq's oil industry following a war, industry officials say.

“The Bush administration is eager to secure Iraq's oil fields and rehabilitate them, industry officials say. They say Mr. Cheney's staff hosted an informational meeting with industry executives in October [2002], with Exxon Mobil Corp., ChevronTexaco Corp., ConocoPhillips and Halliburton among the companies represented.

“Both the Bush administration and the companies say such a meeting never took place. Since then, industry officials say, the Bush administration has sought input, formally and informally, from executives and industry experts on how best to overhaul Iraq's oil sector.”


Keep reading ...

MSM Caught In The Act Of Willfully Distorting Truth

For those of you out there who still think that MSM/traditional media news can be trusted to show the truth of things, then I offer you this:
CBS violates its own Standards and Practice by altering transcript and video of McCain interview

As C&L and many others have reported last night, CBS news had a huge scoop Tuesday night on John McCain, because he falsely claimed that the surge was responsible for the “Sunni Awakening in Anbar.” That is FALSE. The Sunnis changed positions before the surge was ever discussed so—McCain once again makes a major mistake on the one issue his campaign is running on—The Iraq war.

However, CBS probably violated its own rules (Standards and Practice) by altering the video of Katie Couric’s interview with McCain that left out his major blunder on this issue and then broadcast it on our airwaves. CBS should not paste together separate answers from different questions to make it appear like an answer was fluid. It was completely taken out of context. I understand that a fair amount of editing has to be done, but what they did failed to meet the legitimacy test.

Here’s what happened. ON CBS Nightly News, Katie Couric started off the segment with question #3 of her interview from their website version of the McCain interview:

Couric QUESTION #3: Senator McCain, Sen. Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?

They then edited out his major gaffe on “the surge” and inserted his partial answer to question #1 and then spliced in a partial answer to question # 3 to make it appear to be a consistent response.



(read the whole piece here)


MSM/traditional media accomplices in spreading, disseminating, and manufacturing, lies and propaganda while seeking to hide the truth?

Naaah ...

Never.

And that is why the surge in Iraq is working, has worked, and why the U.S. is succeeding - succeeding - succeeding - in Iraq.

This is also why the MSM is sooooo biased in favor of Barack Obama as well.

(Words fail me - I got nothing more to say here ... you make the call now)

Consequences, Consequences, Consequences

So, what do you think happens when you break international laws and treaties, proudly do not recognize international courts, commit grave war crimes and crimes against basic human rights? You are branded a rogue nation, right?

And of course, rogue nations have to "stick" together, right?

Case in point (via C&L):


Indicted For War Crimes, Sudan Cites U.S. As Example Why It Needn’t Comply

Last week, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed charges for the first time against a sitting head of state, charging President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan with three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. Fareed Zakaria had Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations on his CNN show, GPS, to discuss the charges, which he called “a joke” and cited the U.S.’ 2002 withdrawal from the ICC treaty as an example of why Sudan does not recognize the court’s authority and will not cooperate with it:

ZAKARIA: Will your government mount a defense in the International Criminal Court?

MOHAMAD: We have no relation with the International Criminal Court. We don’t recognize its authority. We are not going to cooperate with it.

ZAKARIA: But of course, you know that other governments that did not recognize the Criminal Court were still forced to extradite their leaders. I’m thinking of Yugoslavia.

MOHAMAD: No. I don’t care about them. As far as we are concerned, we are not members. We have been told these days repeatedly that the ICC is an independent body. And so, OK, if it’s an independent body, I am not a U.N. organ. We have full right to be part of it or not. And we choose not to be part of it, like the United States. …(full transcript)

Complicating the ICC’s ability to pursue war crimes charges, as referenced in the interview by Sudan’s UN ambassador, is President Bush’s “unsigning” of the International Criminal Court treaty in 2002. Though President Bush has publicly denounced the killings in Sudan as genocide, the administration has soft-pedaled sanctions against the Sudanese government to preserve its extensive intelligence collaboration with Sudan, once a safe haven for bin Laden that has become a crossroads for Islamic militants making their way to Iraq and Pakistan.

And that is not taking into account the following:
So the obvious question is: will the deciders (at the very least) behind the Afghanistan and Iraq wars be ever brought to justice?

After all, it is the deciders who send the troops to war, who establish the rules of engagement, as well as of the treatment of captives (civilian or otherwise).

Unfortunately, the answer to the question is not bloody likely:



For indeed - the Bush administration (to the man and woman) signed on to implement torture of detainees.

And both the House and Senate ended up supporting it all.

And, indirectly, all of this was likewise supported by the American people who elected those political cowards, calculators and outright incompetents - from 2000 through 2006.

Through it all - the wars, the reports of torture and other war crimes, the revelations of the lies and illegalities from the Bush administration - the elected representatives of the U.S.A. and, by proxy, the American people, not only did nothing to impeach this administration but instead passed the necessary laws to essentially provide retroactive protection from prosecution to this same administration.

That is, in essence, what history will record and what the rest of the world will remember.

Now, if you think that any member of the Bush administration will be instead prosecuted by another country (or even The Hague International Court) for their war crimes, I say to you "guess again" (emphasis mine):
August 2003:

U.S. President George Bush signed into law the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, which is intended to intimidate countries that ratify the treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague. This provision is dubbed the "Hague invasion clause".
In other words: the U.S.A. has already threatened officially to go to war in order to prevent any American from being prosecuted for war crimes in another country - even an allied one.
Like I said - rogue Nations have to stick together.

It is after all dictated by the Eight Principles of Incompetence (especially the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Principles) ...

"Ambassadors of liberty, of America's love for freedom and its regard for human rights and human dignity" my ass.


(Cross-posted at The Wild Wild Left and NION)

More Case Of Abusive, Paranoid-Driven Security State Domestic Spying

Once again, looks like I am not too far off the grid on the ever convenient rationale of security states to spy needlessly on its citizens - and those of you out there who still think that domestic spying is only about catching them evil terrorists or evil criminals should do yourselves a huge favor by waking the fuck up and stare down the ugly, reality in the face. Case in point, the following article which describes a personal experience:

I was Spied on by the Maryland Police
Targeting Anti-Death Penalty and Anti-War Activists
By Mike Stark

When I received a voice mail last Wednesday from the Maryland ACLU, I assumed it was about the fight against Maryland's death penalty. Executions in Maryland have been shut down since 2006, and the state's General Assembly has authorized a commission to make recommendations on the future of capital punishment. The commission's plans are the topic of constant conversation among abolitionists.

It turns out the ACLU call was about the death penalty, but not exactly in the form I was expecting.


When I called back, ACLU staff attorney David Rocah explained that my name had appeared repeatedly in a 46-page report documenting a clandestine surveillance and undercover investigation conducted by the Maryland State Police for more than a year, from March 2005 to May 2006.

The report was released to the ACLU after it sued the Maryland state police for refusing to disclose information-gathering activities aimed at peace activists. "Detailed intelligence reports logged by at least two agents in the police department's Homeland Security and Intelligence Division reveal close monitoring of the movements as the Iraq war and capital punishment were heatedly debated in 2005 and 2006," the Washington Post reported.

"Organizational meetings, public forums, prison vigils, rallies outside the State House in Annapolis and e-mail group lists were infiltrated by police posing as peace activists and death penalty opponents, the records show. The surveillance continued even though the logs contained no reports of illegal activity and consistently indicated that the activists were not planning violent protests."

The infiltration of the CEDP was carried out during the one-term reign of former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who ended the moratorium on executions that had been imposed by his predecessor when the flaws in the death penalty system became impossible to overlook.

The surveillance began after the first execution overseen by Ehrlich--of Steven Oken in 2004--and continued during the CEDP's campaigns to save Wesley Baker, who was put to death in December 2005, and Vernon Evans, who won a last-minute stay of execution in February 2006.


* * *


HEARING THE news, I thought it was a bad joke. Undercover cops investigating public meetings of civil and human rights activists against the death penalty? Police infiltration of discussions held at the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee hall?

My first reading of the surveillance report reinforced thiis response. It was full of factual errors, botched names and mistaken identities and associations. According to the report, the "national socialists" (i.e., Nazis) were organizing against racial bias in Maryland's death penalty. Not just wrong, but a dumb kind of wrong.

The report ludicrously described one well-respected activist and ardent pacifist, Max Obuszewski, as a "terrorist." As for me, they couldn't figure out if I was an anarchist or socialist.

Their confusion on this last point is at least somewhat understandable since we have people from a wide variety of political and religious affiliations who come together to oppose capital punishment. But in the event the Maryland police are still wondering, in the proud tradition of anti-death penalty attorney Clarence Darrow, I'm a socialist.

The report does get one thing right. Nowhere in the 46 single-spaced pages is a single illegal activity conducted by anti-death penalty activists (observed or imagined) described. Not a single statement, note, e-mail or comment made publicly or illegally obtained through surveillance can be construed as illegal, improper or even rude. Instead, the list of events documented in the report--distributing fliers, petitioning--are about as scandalous as the minutes of a local Rotary club.

I've read enough history to know something of the long and sordid story of these kinds of spy operations in the U.S. I've also attended events in support of imprisoned activists, such as Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Maryland's own Eddie Conway, who have paid a terrible price when paranoid policing takes hold.

The surveillance of the CEDP and antiwar activists seems ludicrous by comparison, especially with the ineptitude of the Maryland cops shining through on every page.

But this kind of inanity is dangerous--to the lives and livelihoods of the people who are subjected to it, and to the constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech, assembly and petition of grievances of everyone.

And it's there that the joke stops. Because sending cops into activist meetings on college campuses, community centers and Quaker meeting halls to write down lists of names and the activities of the participants can only be described as one thing: state repression.

Any state-organized act designed to prevent or disrupt the efforts of ordinary people to effect change must be vigorously opposed and organized against, to stop similar acts from occurring again. The current governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley, has assured the public that the surveillance has stopped. This is a first step, but until the laws are changed and the responsible parties publicly brought to account for treading on our liberties, it's not enough.


Keep reading ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Death Of "Free Internet"?

Another interesting article submitted for your perusal. It is not fully clear whether this is a hoax or not. Nevertheless, should what this article describes turns out to be factually correct and such an occurrence actually happens, then we will be living in a "total information control" environment owned by corporations playing accomplices to government in exchange for tax breaks, perks and/or bail outs if need be - complete with their bottom line-minded control of news on radio and tv. Could this constitute "fair warning"? Read on and you decide:

Death of Free Internet is Imminent
Canada Will Become Test Case
By Kevin Parkinson

In the last 15 years or so, as a society we have had access to more information than ever before in modern history because of the Internet. There are approximately 1 billion Internet users in the world B and any one of these users can theoretically communicate in real time with any other on the planet. The Internet has been the greatest technological achievement of the 20th century by far, and has been recognized as such by the global community.


The free transfer of information, uncensored, unlimited and untainted, still seems to be a dream when you think about it. Whatever field that is mentioned- education, commerce, government, news, entertainment, politics and countless other areas- have been radically affected by the introduction of the Internet. And mostly, it's good news, except when poor judgements are made and people are taken advantage of. Scrutiny and oversight are needed, especially where children are involved.

However, when there are potential profits open to a corporation, the needs of society don't count. Take the recent case in Canada with the behemoths, Telus and Rogers rolling out a charge for text messaging without any warning to the public. It was an arrogant and risky move for the telecommunications giants because it backfired. People actually used Internet technology to deliver a loud and clear message to these companies and that was to scrap the extra charge. The people used the power of the Internet against the big boys and the little guys won.

However, the issue of text messaging is just a tiny blip on the radar screens of Telus and another company, Bell Canada, the two largest Internet Service Providers (ISP'S) in Canada. Our country is being used as a test case to drastically change the delivery of Internet service forever. The change will be so radical that it has the potential to send us back to the horse and buggy days of information sharing and access.

In the upcoming weeks watch for a report in Time Magazine that will attempt to smooth over the rough edges of a diabolical plot by Bell Canada and Telus, to begin charging per site fees on most Internet sites. The plan is to convert the Internet into a cable-like system, where customers sign up for specific web sites, and then pay to visit sites beyond a cutoff point.

From my browsing (on the currently free Internet) I have discovered that the 'demise' of the free Internet is slated for 2010 in Canada, and two years later around the world. Canada is seen a good choice to implement such shameful and sinister changes, since Canadians are viewed as being laissez fair, politically uninformed and an easy target. The corporate marauders will iron out the wrinkles in Canada and then spring the new, castrated version of the Internet on the rest of the world, probably with little fanfare, except for some dire warnings about the 'evil' of the Internet (free) and the CEO's spouting about 'safety and security'. These buzzwords usually work pretty well.

What will the Internet look like in Canada in 2010? I suspect that the ISP's will provide a "package" program as companies like Cogeco currently do. Customers will pay for a series of websites as they do now for their television stations. Television stations will be available on-line as part of these packages, which will make the networks happy since they have lost much of the younger market which are surfing and chatting on their computers in the evening. However, as is the case with cable television now, if you choose something that is not part of the package, you know what happens. You pay extra.

And this is where the Internet (free) as we know it will suffer almost immediate, economic strangulation. Thousands and thousands of Internet sites will not be part of the package so users will have to pay extra to visit those sites! In just an hour or two it is possible to easily visit 20-30 sites or more while looking for information. Just imagine how high these costs will be.


Keep reading ...