Did Congress approve America's longest war?

By Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway

President Obama's state of the union was quickly followed by a second one in Afghanistan. President Karzai finally convened the newly-elected parliament with a Kennedyesque "Ask not what Afghanistan can do for you, ask what you can do for Afghanistan." He had been resisting American pressure to open parliament for months, preferring to rule by presidential decree. His capitulation marks a big success for the Obama administration.

Yet the administration's enthusiasm for checks-and-balances stops at the Afghan border. When President Obama dropped a word about Afghanistan in his own address, he spoke as if Congress were merely a passive bystander. He repeated his early decision to begin withdrawal this coming July, but failed even to mention that the troops' final departure would be delayed until 2014, and that Vice President Biden has suggested that we would be continuing to provide support, of an unspecified kind, long afterwards – all without involving Congress .

Obama is not Bush. He doesn't assert that the constitution gives him the unilateral power to make war and peace. Nevertheless, we have been so traumatised by the Bush years that we haven't seriously probed the basis of Obama's continuing assertion of unilateral power. Make no mistake: Obama is not simply winding up a war he did not start; he has expanded it – bringing in more troops than ever before.

Meanwhile, Congress is nowhere to be found. . . . READ THE REST AT THE GUARDIAN

Guantánamo Prisoners Organize Peaceful Sit In to Protest Indefinite Imprisonment and Conditions

January 27, 2011, New York– Marking the ninth anniversary of the U.S. military prison camp’s opening, most of the remaining prisoners in Camps 5 and 6 at Guantánamo have joined together to peacefully protest their indefinite imprisonment with a sit-in and signs. This action also comes as the Arab world is witnessing a string of popular uprisings demanding greater freedom, which the men at the base say they have been following. Among the prisoners are men whose detention has been ruled unlawful by U.S. federal judges as well as men deemed eligible for release by the previous and current U.S. administrations.

MAINE COMPASS: Freedom from want is every Maine resident’s right

From the Kennebec Journal

Maine’s new governor is beginning the work of coping with an $700 million shortfall in funding for existing programs.

It is not a task to be envied, and making grandiose claims such as refusing all federal funding won’t make the task of facing up to reality any easier. If federal funds are not available to maintain and repair roads, or plow them, for example, economic consequences will be felt by all Mainers who rely on trucks bringing food and medicine up Interstate 95.

Once upon a time, we thought Norman Rockwell accurately represented the freedoms we cherish in his famous paintings. His picture of a grandmother putting a roast turkey on the table for her assembled family was titled “Freedom from Want.”

We once thought this an essential freedom, the foundation of a secure social order.

Obama Gets Asked a Good Question - Amazing

From NoCureForThat

Thursday, during a live video streaming event from the White House, I got to ask President Obama a fair question, but one that is never asked of him in the mainstream media: “How is your PREVENTATIVE war policy different than the Bush doctrine, and can you refute the assessment of MLK that the US government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world?” - DT

Oh Goodie, $2 Billion More for the Military -- That Was Fast

UPDATE: Of course it turns out to be more than that.

Afghan troop proposal may cost $2 billion more: U.S. aide
By Missy Ryan
WASHINGTON | Fri Jan 28, 2011 7:18am EST

(Reuters) - A proposal to quickly build up Afghanistan's military, key to a planned drawdown of U.S. troops, would cost the United States as much as an extra $2 billion a year, a U.S. congressional aide said.

Washington and its allies are struggling to balance mounting budget pressures at home with the need to stand up a capable local fighting force in Afghanistan that can take over more security responsibilities as foreign forces withdraw.

Political Prisoner Ahmad Sa'adat Update

Political Prisoner Ahmad Sa'adat Update - by Stephen Lendman

A previous article discussed his background, activism and status in detail, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/07/ahmad-saadat-palestinian-prisoner-...

Extensive information on him can be found on:

http://www.freeahmadsaadat.org/

As General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), he was sentenced in 2002 to 30 years in prison "for a range of 'security related' political offenses," including his prominence in a prohibited organization.

For over 40 years, Israel targeted him relentlessly, subjecting him to numerous arrests, torture, false imprisonments, and isolation for opposing occupation and wanting Palestine liberated.

Chicago's Mayoral Election: Rahm Emanuel's Eligibility At Issue

Chicago's Mayoral Race: Rahm Emanuel's Eligibility At Issue - by Stephen Lendman

On February 22, Chicago's mayoral primary will be held. If no candidate gets over 50% of the vote, an April 5 runoff will be held, the winner's term running from May 16, 2011 - May 18, 2015. Democrats dominate city politics. The last Republican mayor ("Big Bill" Thompson) left office in 1931. The Great Depression ended their rule when Anton Cermak took over, built a strong constituency among African Americans, and consigned Republicans to small pockets on the city's far northwest side and suburban areas post-war.

Richard J. Daley and his son Richard M. (current incumbent leaving office after six terms) ran Chicago like Republicans for over 43 of the last 55 years. If elected, so will Emanuel as a previous article explained, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/09/from-hizzhonor-to-dishonor.html

His Background

Minnesota and Chicago FBI Victims Get Worldwide Support in 50 Cities

Protest actions in 50 cities on January 25, same day as news released that FBI is duped in embarrassing "counter-terrorism" lecture hoax

If you check out these two Uptake (citizen-journalist) films of protests in Minneapolis and Chicago, you might note that even though the actual weather in the Midwest is opposite of other hot spots in the world, there are some similarities in the political climate when authorities try to make dissent a crime.

Hundreds demonstrate outside Minneapolis and Chicago Federal Courthouses

EPA vs. military: Rep. Hurt should look closely at costs

By David Swanson | Charlottesville
Published: January 26, 2011, DailyProgress

Congressman Robert Hurt is outraged because the cost of the Environmental Protection Agency “has gone wild” (“New job, fresh focus,” The Daily Progress, Jan. 22).

We spend $10 billion per year protecting an environment in serious danger of collapse. In contrast, we spend $700 billion per year on a military that could be cut by 85 percent and still be the largest in the world.

I’m confused: Is the congressman representing a district on some other planet?

Help The Egyptian People

Thanks for standing firm with the brave people of Egypt.

Sometimes we see things in the media and wonder how we can really help. Right now, the Egyptian government is periodically blocking Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, which are critical tools for organizing protests. But with all of our help, Egyptians and others in the region can jump their government's firewall and anonymoulsy access these online communications platforms which are currently being blocked or throttled. There are several ways that you can help them to do this:
 

Creech 14 Found Guilty, Sentenced to Time Served

This just in from Las Vegas, Nevada via Dan Gregor and Leslie Klusmire: In a 20-page written decision, Judge William Jansen found fourteen people guilty of trespass as charged, ruling that their defense did not meet the legal requirement of immanence for acquittal based on necessity.

The Creech 14 were arrested during an April 2009 demonstration at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, protesting the remote piloting of armed killer drones from Creech in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All were sentenced to time served.

The Creech 14 are Fr. John Dear; Dennis DuVall; Renee Espeland; Judy Homanich; Kathy Kelly; Fr. Steve Kelly; Mariah Klusmire; Brad Lyttle; Libby Pappalardo; Sr. Megan Rice; Brian Terrell; Eve Tetaz; Fr. Louie Vitale; and Fr. Jerry Zawada.

More information and updates as they come in (and background) at:
The Nevada Desert Experience website -
http://www.nevadadesertexperience.org/involved/Creech14updates.htm

PFC Bradley Manning Is Not Being Treated Like Every Other Detainee

Despite the assertion of Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, PFC Bradley Manning is not being treated like every other detainee at the Quantico brig. Morrell stated during today’s Pentagon briefing that PFC Manning’s “confinement is not in the least different from the manner in which anyone else at the brig is being held.” This statement is patently false.

PFC Manning is being treated differently. He is the only detainee being held in Maximum (MAX) custody and under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch. Every other detainee is being held in Medium Detention In (MDI) and without POI watch restrictions. What is the difference?

READ THE REST FROM DAVID COOMBS

Why I may run for Congress

By Norman Solomon, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Across the country, alarm is rising as corporate power escalates at the intersection of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

One of the most inspiring political leaders in recent decades, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), famously declared: "I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Today we need progressives in Congress who will represent the progressive wing of the Progressive Caucus.

That's the largest caucus on Capitol Hill — but having 80 members on the roster won't do much good if many cave under pressure.

For 18 years, the North Bay has been represented in Congress by Rep. Lynn Woolsey. Her strong antiwar voice and very progressive voting record have endeared her to a lot of constituents. Now she's publicly saying that she may choose to retire instead of seeking reelection.

America's Dire State of the Union

America's Dire State of the Union - by Stephen Lendman

Like last year, Obama's address was empty rhetoric, signaling business as usual with a twist - more than ever embracing reactionary extremism, promising harder than ever hard times on Main Street.

Last year, an earlier article discussed his first State of the Union address, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/01/obamas-outreach-to-americans-empty...

Results again this time were predicable. Democrats loved it. Time magazine called the Republican response "frosty," saying "Stand-up comics call it a tough crowd."

Released prior to the address, Rep. Paul Ryan's response stressed "work(ing) with the President to restrain federal spending," saying "(o)ur debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis."

Mass Street Protests in Egypt

Mass Street Protests in Egypt - by Stephen Lendman

An August 2009 Council on Foreign Relations Steven Cook report headlined, "Political Instability in Egypt," saying:

Facing possible instability, (m)ost analysts believe that the current Egyptian regime will muddle through its myriad challenges and endure indefinitely (with) enough coercive power to ensure" it.

It's also "entering a period of political transition. President Hosni Mubarak is (81) and reportedly" ill. His (46 year old) son Gamal "is evidently being groomed to succeed him." However, the "process could prove difficult."

"Thus, while Egypt on the surface appears stable, the potential for growing political volatility and abrupt discontinuities (ahead) should not be summarily dismissed."

Cook suggested two possible scenarios:

-- contested succession resulting in military intervention; or

-- "an Islamist push for political power."

Code Pink Wins the Future

By David Swanson

The future will be here in April and Code Pink: Women for Peace has already won it (thus answering President Obama's State of the Union call to "win the future"). The color coded threat warnings our government has been bombarding us with since shortly after September 11, 2001, will be gone. The fear-mongering tactic that Code Pink was named in mockery of will have been mocked right out of existence.

To listen to the corporate media, Code Pink cannot be taken seriously because decorum and politeness are universal values of a much higher order than peace or justice. (Code Pink has been known to disrupt a formal event or two, in addition to all its other work advocating for peace.) But that sort of snobbish mockery has nothing on Code Pink's power to afflict the comfortable in the process of comforting the afflicted. Code Pink has gone from being ignored, to being laughed at, to being attacked, to being agreed with on matters of war and peace by two-thirds of the country.

It is something else entirely that cannot be taken seriously -- and increasingly has not been taken seriously: the moronic and insulting color coded threat level warnings. Announcing that they will cease to exist is effectively to remind us that they once did. These meaningless warnings are announced incessantly but have faded into the background along with advertisements and campaign promises: nobody notices. (And of course it's hard to notice while you're being scared by the new techniques of pat-downs and porno-scans.) The Code Yellow and Code Orange propaganda aids to the terrorists are scheduled to be phased out over the next 90 days, but their involuntary phasing out began almost 9 years ago when what was at first a small group of Americans had the presence of mind to make fun of them rather than obediently calibrating fear levels as instructed.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is scheduled to announce the demise of the already dead and rotting colored threats on Thursday in what she is calling the "first annual State of America's Homeland Security address." I sincerely hope that Code Pink holds a first annual state of the fatherland's insecurity dress contest or something of the sort. Because, the fear mongering is not going to end, and whatever the color codes are replaced with could be subtler but more effective; and therefore Code Pink cannot end either -- even if its name has served its purpose.

What did the FBI and MPD "catch" us doing?

From the Mid South Peace and Justice Center

On Tuesday, January 25, three agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited our offices. Soon afterward we found our building surrounded by marked patrol cars and unmarked black SUV's from the tactical unit of the Memphis Police Department. They came to intimidate us for holding a meeting marking six months since the FBI raided the homes and offices of peace activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. Almost two dozen people gathered to fill out Freedom of Information act requests for the FBI and MPD so that they could know the extent to which they had been under surveillance by these agencies. You can watch a video of the incident here.



The following is an account from Brad Watkins, the Organizing Coordinator at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center (MSPJC):

3 FBI agents came to the offices of the MSPJC at approximately 2:00pm. As we share space in First Congregational Church and as our offices were open, we believe they thought we were the church offices...at first. They claimed that they were there to alert us to anti-war activists planning a PROTEST outside our building.I informed them that we were a pro-peace organization and having an indoors meeting as was stated in our press release, not a protest. The agents left immediately upon hearing this.

From 4:00-5:30pm we were under intense surveillance by the Memphis Police Department, 2 cruisers and 6 tactical squad SUV's were positioned at various locations around our building. Our office contacted the Union precinct and were told that the tactical unit (aka swat team) was stationed at our location in order to "keep the peace at a demonstration they had been alerted to." The "demonstration" that they were referring to was a public meeting organized so that people could fill out Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI and MPD to determine if they had been under surveillance. We informed the Memphis Police Department officers at Union station and tactical unit command that this was a peaceful meeting and there was no need for their presence, and that in fact their presence seemed by all involved to be a tactic of intimidation. They refused to remove their officers and so for more than an hour and a half an entire tactical unit sat watching the buildings at First Congregational Church.

We have been told that the order to station the tactical unit at our offices was made by Chief Martello of the Special Operations Unit. Chief Martello informed us that he made the decision based on a report he had recieved from Union precinct. Union precinct claims that this report came from a call from a "concerned citizen." We suspect that there may be more to this. At the minimum what we witnessed last night were the tactics of fear and intimidation being used by those sworn to protect us. The fact is that these tactics were directed against a peaceful group of citizens meeting to excercise their right to know how much the FBI and MPD were spying on them. And at that very moment those two agencies were right outside our doors watching.

That did they "catch" us doing? As a member of the church posted on Facebook this morning....

"What did the FBI catch us doing today? Well . . . there were parents picking up their children from the daycare; there were folks coming for a U of M faculty recital in the sanctuary; there were hungry people coming for a snack and some warm clothes; there were folks coming to their counseling appointments; there were church folks coming for their Bible study class to look at Isaiah chapter 53; there were parents bringing their children in for music lessons; there were travelers coming to check into the hostel; there were church members gathering to pray in their Circle of Trust; and there was a small group of young, beautiful, cheerful, hopeful peace activists (one was nursing her 4-week old baby girl) lawfully filling out "Freedom of Information" forms. It was snowing outside - they "caught" a beautiful day at First Congo!"
 

Today we filed 20 Freedom of Information Act request forms with the FBI and tommorrow we will file more with the MPD. We are asking that you call the offices of Memphis Mayor AC Wharton at (901) 576-6000 and ask him to investigate these actions and provide assurances that this sort of activity does not happen again.

Please also consider making a donation to help us continue this important work. We will continue to keep you up to date with all that is happening with this issue and the bulk of our work to educate, organize, and mobilize grassroots community leaders to lead campaigns of racial, economic, social, and environmental justice.

The Killer Robot Caucus

By Nathan Hodge, Wall St Journal

Members of Congress love their drones, but they want to give all robots their due.

In a news release today, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif.) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) announced the official rebranding of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus, which they co-chair.

The new name? The “Unmanned Systems Caucus,” of course.

Over the past decade, the military has seen a revolution in the use of unmanned aircraft like the Predator, which are at the sharp end of the campaign against al Qaeda.

Law enforcement agencies are also starting to catch on as well: The Miami-Dade police department recently acquired the T-Hawk, a beer-keg shaped drone that the military has experimented with in places like Iraq.

Report: CIA Drones Killed Over 2,000, Mostly Civilians in Pakistan Since 2006

Three Quarters of Deaths in Two Years Since President Obama Took Office

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com

A new report from the Conflict Monitoring Centre (CMC) has reported that 2,043 Pakistanis have been slain in CIA drone strikes in the past 5 years, with the vast majority of them innocent civilians.

The report notes that the attacks target Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas where “people usually carry guns and ammunition as a tradition. US drones will identify anyone carrying a gun as a militant and subsequently he will be killed.” Pakistan’s government, which has only a nominal presence in the region, traditionally brands anyone killed by the US a “suspect.”

And while 2,043 is a lot of people to kill in the past five years, over 75% of them were actually killed in the past two years since President Obama took office. 2009 saw over 700 people killed in the CIA drone strikes, and the report shows 929 more killed in 2010.

READ THE REST

Blackwater deaths suit tossed after six years

By Mike Baker, WaPo

RALEIGH, N.C. - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that blamed the security company formerly known as Blackwater for the deaths of four contractors killed in a 2004 ambush on the restive streets of Iraq.

U.S. District Judge James C. Fox said court-ordered arbitration fell apart because neither side was paying the costs of that process, so he decided to end the case nearly seven years after the killings.

READ THE REST.

Marines change commander at facility where WikiLeaks suspect held

By Chris Lawrence at CNN

Washington (CNN) -- The Marines have changed the commander in charge of the detention facilities at Quantico, Virginia, days after the attorney for WikiLeaks suspect Private First Class Bradley Manning filed a complaint that he is being unfairly treated in detention.

Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes replaced Commander James Averhart on Monday, said Quantico spokesman Lt. Brian Villiard said.

The change in command was ordered back in October and is not related to the concerns raised by Manning's lawyer, said Villiard. But Manning's lawyer is holding out hope that the new commander will move his client to a less restrictive incarceration status.

"We are hopeful that she will do a complete review of PFC Manning," custody situation, Manning's lawyer David Coombs told CNN. Manning's current situation "is unwarranted and unnecessary while he awaits trial."

Deutch Unveils Legislation to Prevent Corporations from Being Granted Individual Privacy Rights

(Washington, DC) As the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a major case over whether Americans’ personal privacy rights should be extended to corporations, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-19) has introduced legislation to ensure that corporate activities are not shrouded in secrecy and potentially immune from basic oversight. This month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T, a case that could revoke public access to documents related to investigations of corporate wrongdoing currently protected by the Freedom of Information Act.

Four in Five Americans Support a Constitutional Amendment

From http://freespeechforpeople.org

New Survey Finds Four in Five Americans Support a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn the Supreme Court’s Decision in Citizens United

January 20, 2011 - On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a new public opinion survey finds that seventy-nine percent of Americans sharply disapprove of the decision and support a constitutional amendment to reverse the Court’s ruling. The study, conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of Free Speech for People, confirmed previous polls that found wide-ranging and strong disapproval for the decision
but is the most comprehensive to date to measure public support for enacting a constitutional amendment.

In the 111th Congress, Members, including Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD4) introduced amendment bills seeking to overturn the Citizens
United decision.

Blair's sister-in-law: Tony and War Crimes

Blair sister-in-law urges war crimes trial

January 26, 2011 - TONY Blair's sister-in-law Lauren Booth, a rights campaigner and Muslim convert, said the former British leader should be tried for war crimes over the invasion of Iraq.

Booth, the half-sister of Blair's barrister wife Cherie, is in Malaysia for lectures organised by Viva Palestina, a British-based organisation associated with controversial politician George Galloway.

Asked whether Blair should be arrested and sent to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for war crimes, Booth replied: "Absolutely. He misled the British people and took Britain to war on a lie."

The State of the Union: Not a Time for Saccharin and Gimmicks

By Kevin Zeese

Members of the corporate political duopoly switched seats and sat next to each other making it even harder to tell the corporate welfare party from the crony capitalist party. Sadly, the spokespersons for both failed to learn the lessons of history and as a result the American economy will continue to falter with U.S. militarism continuing to expand.

Listening to the saccharin rhetoric of President Obama one would think the nation’s economy was flourishing and the military was winning wars. The truth, that the economy is still in collapse and the military is stuck in war quagmires all piling up record debt, was hard to see through his veil of words.

A Military Family Response to SOTU

Sarah Fuhro, Member of Military Families Speak Out, www.MFSO.org

As a member of a family with a son in the military, I had my sense of reality twisted around last night by President Obama. When he finally got around to the two wars which eat up billions of our tax dollars and, which have killed and maimed thousands of our young men and women, he spoke as if they are just another wonderful American program for progress and peace. He mentioned 100,000 troops returned from Iraq, but forgot to mention the 50,000 who remain. He mentioned civilians who ‘will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,’ but did not mention that they can only move about the country in a military convoy.

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