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The BLS

By Laura Leigh

You learn many interesting things traveling on public lands following the wild horse issue in the American West.

You learn that after standing in sub-zero temperatures, attempting to document winter roundups, that returning to the relative warmth of your parked vehicle can make your glasses crack. You learn that chemical toe warmers are good as wrist, neck and “slip into your coveralls attach to your underwear” warmers as well. You learn that rattlesnakes don’t always rattle.

You learn the maneuvers the federal government will attempt to hide their actions when “managing” America’s wild herds: Maneuvers that range from lying about facility contracts to a roadblock on a remote dirt road operated by armed men who stop three woman from seeing the wild horses being captured.

On June 19, 1971 both houses of Congress passed the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro, act without a single dissenting vote. That act read:
 

Solidarity and Resistance: My Cuba Years (1987-920

Ron Ridenour

Part III: My Cuba Years (1987-92)

(This article is Part II of journalist Ridenour’s political autobiography, "Solidarity and Resistance: 50 Years With Che.")

Grethe Porsgaard and I fell in love, in 1979. She was from Denmark and vacationing in Los Angeles. I traveled to her homeland, in 1980, where we married. At my behest, we made a go of it in her country. A major factor in that decision was that my former wife had taken our children, whose upbringing we had been sharing, from me, and had turned them against me. It would have been a negative way to begin a new love life living close to that madness. Although Grethe and I ended our marriage after several years, we remain friends.

Israel and the Roots of Disaster

By John Grant

Two veteran friends of mine will be on one of the ships planning to leave Athens next week to challenge the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza. The Israeli government, after attacking a previous flotilla in May 2010 and killing nine people, has said it will use violence if necessary to prevent the ships from entering what any reasonable person by now should agree are Palestinian waters.

This confrontation should not be necessary. The Israeli military occupation over Palestinian life should have been eased and sovereign rights established for Palestinians long ago. The crisis of Palestinian status has reached the level of a disaster, and like the creation of Israel itself it is more than a Jewish problem: It is a world problem.

Journalism with a Smerc: Gullibility and Fiction at the Philadelphia Inquirer

By Dave Lindorff

Let me state from the outset: I have no problem with soldiers who inflate their war stories, any more than I am bothered by anybody who likes to spice up the tale of a youthful exploit.

It’s different though, when exaggerations are exploited for personal gain, like what Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal did with campaigned on the outrageous claim that he was a Vietnam War combat veteran when he really wasn’t.

My grandfather, William Lindorff, earned a Silver Star in World War I, where he was an ambulance driver on the front lines in France. My father, a Marine in World War II, says that his dad never once talked about that medal. Now, I’d say that’s a real hero.

A Pakistani Perspective: Is US Threat to Block Pakistan ‘Aid’ a Blessing In Disguise?

By Yasmeen Ali

“Pakistan must do more.”

That statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become a laugh line in Pakistani drawing rooms.

The 9/11 attacks resulted in 2,996 deaths -- 246 on the planes,2606 in towers and on ground, 126 at the Pentagon. The attacks justified an invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraq War and also attacks on the America’s “ally in war on terror,” Pakistan.

The US has come a long way since. The policy of extrajudicial killings survived the Bush/Cheney era and has intensified from an estimated 45 attacks under Bush to 200 under Obama.

Few of those killed in these attacks have been militants. Most have been civilians. Indeed, according to the New American Foundation, only 2% of deaths have been of militants. But hey, that’s ok. That’s why the term “collateral damage” was coined, right?

The FBI Loosens Up

By John Grant

Some years ago, I was photographing a constitutional law professor for a magazine article on his book, and while I composed my shots I employed the usual half-minded topical banter to keep things on course. The professor was pretty progressive and knew I was a veteran antiwar activist. I was muttering something about constitutional rights.

In the lens, I noticed him chuckling at something, so I pulled my eye away from the camera and looked at him. He was grinning now.

“John, you know they abrogated the Constitution long ago,” he said, his tone a bit patronizing but also mixed with camaraderie and humor.

“Oh, yeh!” I said. “I forgot about that.” We both laughed, and I went on with the shoot.
I couldn’t help thinking about that conversation as I read the story in The New York Times about the new powers being given to individual FBI agents to snoop on citizens they subjectively deem dangerous.

Tell Federal Judge Filipe Restrepo He Needs to Go Back and Study His Constitution

By Dave Lindorff

Federal Judge Filipe Restrepo, a man with a solid history as a defender of civil liberties and civil rights, and a defense attorney by training and private practice experience, seems sadly to have gotten a bit thin-skinned after donning the robes of a federal judge.

As my colleague Linn Washington wrote earlier this week, the judge lost it when Hampton Coleman had the effrontery to write a 28-word letter to Restrepo questioning the judge’s integrity and his commitment to “blind justice,” and warning that “we the people” would be “watching and listening very carefully” to the judge.

Israel and the Delusion of Separateness

John Grant

“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

This 1954 quote from Albert Einstein hangs on the wall in my house. It seems to me truth distilled down to its most humble and indisputable essence. The more I read it, the more fundamental and inescapable its wisdom seems.

Here Come da Judge: US Marshals Mangle Free Speech Rights with Unusual Crackdown

By Linn Washington Jr.

Hampton Coleman, a military veteran, felt secure in his constitutional free speech rights until a few weeks ago when three U.S. Marshals showed up at his Delaware home issuing demands Coleman considered threats.

Those U.S. Marshals, two male and one female from Philadelphia, came to Coleman’s home last month accusing him of sending a threatening letter to a federal magistrate judge.

“Why would I put my name and address on a letter containing a threat? I’m not crazy,” Coleman said during a recent interview.

Those Marshals warned Coleman to not send any more letters to U.S. Magistrate L. Felipe Restrepo.

Coleman claims the Marshals service is overreacting to his three-sentence, 28-word letter voicing concern about bias he felt Restrepo had exhibited in a race discrimination case handled by that judge, who ordinarily has a reputation for fairness.

Coleman attended an April 2011 hearing in that case.

Here Come da Judge: US Marshals Mangle Free Speech Rights with Unusual Crackdown

By Linn Washington Jr.

Hampton Coleman, a military veteran, felt secure in his constitutional free speech rights until a few weeks ago when three U.S. Marshals showed up at his Delaware home issuing demands Coleman considered threats.

Those U.S. Marshals, two male and one female from Philadelphia, came to Coleman’s home last month accusing him of sending a threatening letter to a federal magistrate judge.

“Why would I put my name and address on a letter containing a threat? I’m not crazy,” Coleman said during a recent interview.

Those Marshals warned Coleman to not send any more letters to U.S. Magistrate L. Felipe Restrepo.

Coleman claims the Marshals service is overreacting to his three-sentence, 28-word letter voicing concern about bias he felt Restrepo had exhibited in a race discrimination case handled by that judge, who ordinarily has a reputation for fairness.

Coleman attended an April 2011 hearing in that case.

Double-Dip Recession: It Can't Happen...But It's Happening

By Dave Lindorff

It was just as recently as a year ago that the authorities in politics, business and academe were stating boldly and confidently that the nation's economy was on the mend, and that there was no chance of a backslide into recession again.

Take Lakshman Achuthan and Anirvan Banerji who are, respectively, co-founder and chief operating officer and co-founder and chief research officer of ECRI, the Economic Cycle Research Institute.

"The good news is that the much-feared double-dip recession is not going to happen," they said on CNN on Oct. 28, last year. "After completing an exhaustive review of key drivers of the business cycle, ranging from credit to inventories and measures of labor market conditions, we can forecast with confidence that the economy will avoid a double dip."

Scottish Court to Rule on Whether Anti-Israel Protesters are 'Anti-Semitic'

By Ken Ferguson

Cupar, Scotland--This county town of Fife, is not exactly a news hot spot. Probably the last big story here was the landing of Italian
balloonist Vincenzo Lunardi nearby in 1785 at the end of a 43-mile flight from
Edinburgh.

However the small town’s sleepy Sheriff court is about to host a key
legal case involving a US student from New York and two anti Israeli
protestors who have been charged with racism.

For the information of US readers, in Scotland the Sheriff isn’t some John Wayne figure with the star on his chest, but is rather the bewigged judge presiding over the local court.

This case centers on an incident at nearby St. Andrews University, where
two students are facing racially aggravated conduct charges after
allegedly making comments and gestures critical of the State of Israel
and its flag.

Press reports are already in danger of prejudging the case, with

It's the Military, Stupid!: Don't Blame America's Debt Crisis on Social Security and Medicare

By Dave Lindorff

Amid all the nonsense and gobbledegook that has been written about banking industry and about the economic slump during the last four years of the global financial crisis, New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson has stood out both for the clarity of her analysis, and for her willingness to go after the guilty parties in the political and especially the banking system, naming names and calling it as she sees it.

So it was kind of disappointing--even shocking--to read her latest article reporting on a new “study” by Peterson Institute for International Economics Senior Fellow Joseph Gagnon, warning about the nation’s growing debt crisis.

The Peterson Institute, founded by Wall Street tycoon Peter Peterson, has long been gunning for the Social Security and Medicare systems, which he, and the rest of the Wall Street gang, see as unfairly competing with Wall Street for the assets of the public, and as destructive of the “free market.”

A Jarring Disconnect: If Joblessness and Hopelessness Undermine Democracy in the Middle East, What About Here at Home?

By Dave Lindorff

In his latest speeches on the Middle East, President Obama, both at the State Department and at the G8 meeting in France, has pledged billions of dollars in economic aid to Middle Eastern countries, drawing a direct connection between the unrest and demonstrations that brought down the dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and the joblessness and hopelessness felt by the young people in those two countries.

His adviser on international economics, David Lipton, has been more specific, saying that, “We believe that these two pillars go hand in hand. Without economic modernization, it will be hard for governments trying to democratize to show people that democracy delivers.”

Unemployment in Egypt among young men and women is about 30%. In Tunisia, it is over 40%. The White House claims that with figures like that, the future for democracy in those countries is tenuous.

Too Big to Do Time?: Fed Wrist-slap for Wachovia Bank Makes a Farce of the Drug War

By Linn Washington, Jr.

The U.S. government won convictions against 23,506 drug traffickers nationwide during 2010, sending 96 percent of the offenders to prison, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics.

Yet one of the biggest entities busted by the feds for involvement in drug trafficking last year received just a wrist-slap deal from federal prosecutors with nobody getting prison time.

During 2010, the U.S. government also won convictions against 806 persons involved in smaller-time drug-related money laundering, sending nearly 77 percent of those offenders to prison.

Yet when it came to a case involving billions of dollars in illegal drug profits, the federal government gave the same unusual wrist-slap to the same entity caught giving greed-blinded assistance to Mexican drug cartels by laundering billions of dollars in illegal profits for them.

Veterans Courts Hit the Beach in Philadelphia

By John Grant

John Fleming is a 58-year-old African American born and raised in Philadelphia who served in the Army from 1969 to 1972 maintaining nuclear weapons in silos in Germany.

It was 10:45 AM on Friday outside Courtroom 1006 in Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center. Fleming had been “caught with an illegal substance” and he was there for Veterans Court. Instead of taking his chances in the regular court system in Philadelphia, he had volunteered to participate in Philadelphia’s Veterans Court.

He was pacing in the hall. He had been told to be there at 10 AM for court that would not begin until 11 AM. Earlier there had been some kind of misunderstanding and he had to come back. He was impatient.

Will Sri Lanka's Tamils Get Some Measure of Justice from the United Nations?

By Ron Ridenour

Forty-seven governments on the Untied Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) will discuss and decide, beginning at its May 30th session, what to do about an unusually candid and truthful report in the world of international politics.

The Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka was delivered to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 31 concerning both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the last phases of the 26-year old civil war that ended May 19, 2009, and the consequences for approximately 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and, by extension, for the 2.7 million Sri Lankan Tamils, who were the losers in the war. Some 13% of the Sri Lanka’s 21 million people are Tamil.

Obama Officials Refuse to Investigate New Evidence in National Guard 1970 Kent State Shootings

By Linn Washington, Jr.

Three days after President Barack Obama visited Ground Zero in New York City on May 5th with his message of "justice being done" with the slaying of terrorist Osama bin Laden, disturbing news broke about this administration's blocking of a quest for justice in the infamous May 1970 killing of four Kent State students.

Those four students fell in a barrage of gunfire on May 4, 1970 by Ohio National Guardsmen who opened fire during a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War on Kent State’s campus. That lethal fusillade of 67 shots during a 13-second period also wounded nine others, some seriously.

That blocking action by Obama officials includes an apparent unwillingness to investigate new evidence providing damning insights about that shooting orgy forty years ago, which heightened criticism about U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam and about the abuse of domestic political dissidents.

Two Pakistani Views on the Current Crisis in Post-Osama Assassination US-Pakistan Relations

Beware of Americans...Bearing Gifts

By Shaukat Qadir

I am sure everyone knows this but merely to ensure we are on the same grid, a policy has one or more aims to be achieved in a specified period and spells out how the said aims will be achieved. While I have no intention of fleshing out a policy in this article, I will merely seek to emphasise the need for one and suggest what it should be aiming at. Pakistan has been without any policy since Ayub Khan’s decline in 1964!

Let us start by looking at what every ordinary citizen of any country, including Pakistan, wants. First and foremost is security: Not just security of life and limb or security from neighbouring enemies, but also food security, water security, job security, economic security, energy security etc. The list is long, and he/she wants to live in peace, so as to have the right to ‘pursue happiness’.

Is the UK headed for a Break-Up?

By Ken Ferguson

The stunning victory in last week’s elections by the pro-independence
Scottish National Party was a result which was supposed to be
impossible.

Scotland, after all, ceased to be an independent country in 1707, when it was
forcibly joined with England to form Great Britain.

The union took place against a background of popular riots put down by
troops and has been controversial, to a greater or lesser degree, ever
since.

In 1999, following years of agitation and its endorsement in a
Scotland-wide referendum, the Scottish Parliament reconvened with
powers over a wide range of domestic matters such a health, education,
planning, etc.

The new parliament was designed with an electoral system designed so that it
would supposed be impossible for any one party to win a majority -- the explicit intention being to prevent the SNP from using it a stepping stone
to independence.

Cuban SEALS for Florida?

By Victor Grossman

Berlin -- The debate continues: Was the killing of Osama bin Laden justified? Perhaps a rather useless debate since he is now most certainly dead. But despite their distance in time and space some flashbacks insist on recurring, right next to terrible images of those two planes and the two huge buildings collapsing in New York ten years ago. (No, make that three buildings!)

I for example still think about that Cuban plane which exploded on October 6th 1976 in the Caribbean, killing the 5 crew members and all 73 passengers, including the entire champion fencing team of Cuba, many of whom were still teenagers. All four men directly responsible for this horror had ties to the CIA which, it was later revealed, knew of the bombing in advance.

The Dude Abides For You and Me

By John Grant

I know when night has gone
That a new world's born at dawn.

I'll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

"Tumbling Tumbleweeds"
-- Sons Of The Pioneers

_______________________

We live in frustrating times for anyone politically opposed to the relentless militarization and financialization of virtually every facet of life in America.

The idealism of the Sixties and Seventies was overwhelmed first by Reaganism, then by the tsunami of post-911 fear and, finally, by the momentum of two, now three, on-going foreign wars. We live in an enforced condition of permanent war and unfettered piracy.

Bill Hicks and the Place of Corporate Comedy

By Charles M. Young

I have three comedians on my iPod: Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Bill Hicks. All of them evolved as much into prophets as comedians, and all of them died younger than they should have from maladies that probably had something to do with the stress of being a live performer on the road in corporate America.

Hicks died the youngest, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 32 in 1994. Perhaps his pancreas had had enough of his drinking, which started later than usual at the age of 21 but got excessive quickly. Or maybe it was road food from all that driving to comedy clubs around the country. He looked puffy by his mid-20s. If Hicks came back from the dead, he could do a good routine about government agents slipping some carcinogen (white sugar?) into his food because his routines had come too close to the truth.

Numbers Racket: Why the Democratic Party is a Corporate Lickspittle and Cannot Be the People’s Party

By Dave Lindorff

A new Gallup Poll conducted for USA Today earlier this week reports that a majority of Americans (52%) say that they would prefer a third party instead of the two parties, Republican and Democrat, that have dominated American politics for nearly centuries.

The poll shows that one third of Democrats say there’s a need for a new political party, while 52% of Republicans say the same thing. Meanwhile, 68% of independents say they have no use for either Democrats or Republicans and would prefer another option (no surprise there--that’s why they are not registered with either of the two major parties).

Obama's Terror War Misses Domestic Targets

By Linn Washington, Jr.

In the wake of the Obama Administration’s ballyhooed elimination of Osama bin Laden, thousands of government workers across the United States wonder when their president will provide them the ‘comfort of closure’ through his attacking a terrorism they confront daily.

This terrorism ravishing government employees working in entities from mega-federal agencies to small municipalities fits the classic dictionary definition of terrorism: using force or threats to demoralize, intimidate and subjugate.

This terrorism is a tyranny predating the birth of al Qaeda: institutional racism and its related deprivations like vicious retaliation against anyone objecting to unlawful institutional inequities.

Interestingly, a raging battlefield in the institutional racism wars is the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Rights, where numerous organizations have blasted that office’s director for his failures to enforce civil rights.

Bin Laden Back Story: Destroying the Monster We Created

By James Ridgeway

Back in the 1980s, before the Cold War gave way to the War on Terror, American money and supplies helped Osama Bin Laden create Al Qaeda and build it into one of the world’s most successful terrorist organizations. And without the close alliances between Al Qaeda and our “allies” Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the attack on the World Trade Towers could not have been carried out. What follows are the bare bones of what we know of this world as it existed in the days before September 11, 2001. (Some of the early material in this account first appeared in my book The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11.)

A Troubled Nation Feeds on Bin Ladin's Corpse

By John Grant

Supplying an army at a distance drains the public coffers and impoverishes the common people.
--Sun-Tzu, The Art of War

With the killing of Osama bin Laden by a 79-member JSOC hunter/killer team inside Pakistan, the nation has entered yet another of those moments when a news media that professes independence has become an unashamed cheerleader for militarism.

No one can deny the JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) Seal Team executed its killing mission with great competence and aplomb. They were also lucky that the bin Laden entourage had apparently become so confident of its safety that it was a bit lackadaisical.

'Fog of War' My Ass: White House and CIA Caught in a Lie about Osama Bin Laden Assassination

By Dave Lindorff

In the end they couldn't get away with it.

As I noted back on Monday in my first article on the Sunday Navy SEAL raid into Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden, President Obama himself spilled the beans in his initial midnight statement, when he said, “After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”

After that perhaps unintentionally honest account of an execution, the lies began, with White House chief counter-terrorism advisor (great title huh?) John O. Brennan fabulating that Bin Laden had "engaged in a firefight" with the SEALs who "entered the area of the house he was in," and adding, "Whether or not he got off any rounds, I frankly don't know." Then there were the lies that Bin Laden had shamefully used his wife as a "human shield," that he had been armed with an assault rifle, etc.

Questions about the Obama Osama Drama

By Yasmeen Ali 

Lahore, Pakistan -- I am incredulous!

I’ll say one thing: this US Special Forces operation deserves a standing ovation for immaculate execution. Except that some details do get confusing.  

Maybe I’m just slow, but truly, viewing the still pictures of the compound where Osama was shot to death that are being aired on local TV here, I am left spell-bound by many odd contradictions.

First, the wall that encircled the compound, which was blasted through to allow entry to the US attackers, showed a humble charpoy next to a water geyser and a few odd household items stacked right next to the opening. Not a hair out of place, so to speak. It was all a little too orderly for my lawyerly taste. Wouldn’t something have been damaged or knocked over at least?

What were They Thinking? Suspicions will Inevitably Grow about the Extermination of Osama bin Laden

By Dave Lindorff

According to the brief announcement made by President Barack Obama last night, the operation in Pakistan by US Navy SEAL special forces was a well-planned hit job.

“They took care to avoid civilian casualties,” the president said of the top-secret night-time raid by helicopter on a highly secure compound near a military base in Abbottadad, a city only about an hour’s drive drive from, Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city. He added, “After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”

Not for long though. After “double-tapping” bin Laden--that is a military term for the illegal process of executing a wounded person--or insuring that a person is truly dead--that involves firing not one but two bullets into the head--his body was taken out of Pakistan by the departing SEAL raiding party, and reportedly buried (dumped) at sea.

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