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By Dave Lindorff
A revealing page-one article in today’s New York Times (“Tap on Merkel Provides Peek a Vast Spy Net”) reports on how the NSA’s global spying program, dating back at least to early in the Bush/Cheney administration, was vacuuming up the phone conversations (and no doubt later the internet communications) of not just leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but opposition leader Merkel before her party took power in Germany.
On a damp Friday morning 11 days into the government shutdown, a “few dozen” truckers took to the Capital Beltway in a demonstration with the Twitter hashtag #T2SDA (Truckers to Shut Down America). They wanted to tell lawmakers they were angry, launch an impeachment campaign against the president, and pressure Congress to end itself.
They were on a “ride for the Constitution,” protesting big government and yet the opinion polls were clear. In fact, the numbers were stunning. One after another, they showed that Americans opposed the shutdown and were hurting because of it. At that moment, according to those polls, nearly one in three Americans said they felt personally affected not by too much government, but by too little, by the sudden freeze in critical services.
In reality, that government shutdown was partial and selective. Paychecks, for example, kept flowing to the very lawmakers who most fervently supported it, while the plush congressional gym with its heated pool, paddleball courts, and flat-screen televisions remained open. That’s because “essential” services continued, even as “nonessential” ones ceased. And it turned out that whether the services you cared about were essential or not was a matter of just who got to do the defining. In that distinction between what was necessary and what wasn’t, it was easy enough to spot the values of the people’s representatives. And what we saw was gut-wrenching. Stomach-churning.
Prioritized above all else were, of course, “national security” activities, deemed beyond essential under the banner of “protecting life and property.” Surveillance at the National Security Agency, for instance, continued, uninterrupted, though it was liberated from its obviously nonessential and, even in the best-funded of times, minimal responsibility to disclose those activities under the Freedom of Information Act. Such disclosure was judged superfluous in a shutdown era, while spying on Americans (not to speak of Brazilians, Mexicans, Europeans, Indians, and others around the planet) was deemed indispensible.
Then there was the carefully orchestrated Special Operations Forces mission in Libya to capture a terror suspect off the streets of Tripoli in broad daylight, proving that in a shutdown period, the U.S. military wasn’t about to shut off the lights. And don’t forget the nighttime landing of a Navy SEAL team in Somalia in an unsuccessful attempt to capture a different terrorist target. These activities were deemed essential to national survival, even though the chances of an American being killed in a terrorist attack are, at the moment, estimated at around one in 20 million. Remember that number, because we’ll come back to it.
Indeed, only for a brief moment did the shutdown reduce the gusher of taxpayer dollars, billions and billions of them, into the Pentagon’s coffers. After a couple days in which civilian Defense Department employees were furloughed, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that 90% of them could resume work because they “contribute to morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of service members.” This from the crew that, according to Foreign Policy, went on a jaw-dropping, morale-boosting $5 billion spending spree on the eve of the shutdown to exhaust any remaining cash from the closing fiscal year, buying spy satellites, drones, infrared cameras and, yes, a $9 million sparkling new gym for the Air Force Academy, replete with CrossFit space and a “television studio.”
Then there were the nonessential activities.
In Arkansas, for instance, federal funds for infant formula to feed 2,000 at-risk newborn babies were in jeopardy, as were 85,000 meals for needy children in that state. Nutrition for low-income kids was considered nonessential even though one in four children in this country doesn’t have consistent access to nutritious food, and medical research makes it clear that improper nutrition stunts brain architecture in the young, forever affecting their ability to learn and interact socially. Things got so bad that a Texas couple dug into their own reserves to keep the program running in six states.
If children in need were “furloughed,” so were abused women. Across the country, domestic violence shelters struggled to provide services as federal funds were cut off. Some shelters raised spare change from their communities to keep the doors open. According to estimates, as many as six million women each year are victims of domestic violence. On average in this country, three women are murdered by an intimate partner every day.
But funding for domestic violence protection: nonessential.
Funds for early childhood education, too, were shut off. Seven thousand low-income kids from 11 states were turned away. Their “head start” was obviously less than essential, even though evidence shows that early education for at-risk children is the best way to help them catch up with their wealthier peers in cognition and adds to their odds of staying out of prison in later life.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) wasn’t accepting new patients because of the shutdown. Typically 200 new patients arrive every week for experimental treatment. On average around 30 of them are children, 10 of whom have cancer.
Cancer, in fact, is the leading cause of death among children ages one to 14. But treatment for them didn’t qualify as essential. Unlike fighting terrorism -- remember the less-likely-than-being-struck-by-lightning odds of one in 20 million -- treating kids with cancer didn’t make the cut as “protecting life and property.”
A father of two young girls in the town of Eliot, Maine, said to a National Priorities Project staffer in disbelief, “If even one kid can’t get cancer treatment, isn’t that enough to end the shutdown?”
Let this be the last time we find ourselves on the wrong side of that question. Because every day we as a nation allowed our lawmakers to keep the government closed was a day in which we as a people were complicit in replying "no."
Let this be the last time that a couple dozen Tea Party truckers are the only ones angry enough to take to the streets. The vast majority of Americans, whatever their anger when faced with pollsters or TV news interviewers, took this shutdown lying down, perhaps imagining -- incorrectly -- that they were powerless.
Let this be the last time we allow ourselves such lethargy. After all, there are 243 million Americans old enough to vote, which means 243 million ways to demand a government that serves the people instead of shutting them out. Keep in mind that in the office of every member of Congress is a staffer tracking constituent calls. And what those constituents say actually matters in how legislators vote. They know that a flood of angry telephone calls from their home districts means legions of angry constituents ready to turn out in the next election and possibly turn them out of office.
Shutting Down Taxes
Americans, however, didn’t get angry enough to demand an end to the shutdown, perhaps at least in part because poisonous rhetoric had convinced many that the government was nothing more than a big, wasteful behemoth -- until, at least, it shut down on them. Think of these last weeks as a vivid lesson in reality, in the ways that every American is intimately connected to government services, whether by enjoying a safe food and water supply and Interstate highways, or through Meals on Wheels, cancer treatment, or tuition assistance for higher education, not to speak of Social Security checks and Medicare.
Deep in the politics of the shutdown lies another truth: that it was all about taxes -- about, to be more specific, the unwillingness of the Republicans to raise a penny of new tax revenue, even by closing egregious loopholes that give billions away to the richest Americans. Simply shutting down the tax break on capital gains and dividends (at $83 billion annually) would be more than enough to triple funding for Head Start, domestic violence protection, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, and cancer care at the NIH.
So let this be the last time we as a nation let our elected officials cut nutrition assistance for vulnerable children at the same moment that they protect deep tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations. And let’s call recent events in Washington just what they are: breathtaking greed paired with a callous lack of concern for the most vulnerable among us.
It’s time to create a roll of dishonor and call out the lawmakers who supported the shutdown, knowing just what was involved: Mark Meadows (North Carolina, 11th congressional district), Walter Jones (NC-3), Rodney Davis (IL-13), John Mica (FL-7), Daniel Webster (FL-10), Jim Gerlach (PA-6), Justin Amash (MI-3). And that’s just to start a list that seems never to end.
Such representatives obviously should not be reelected, but we need a long-haul strategy as well -- the unsexy yet necessary systemic set of changes that will ensure our government truly represents the people. Gerrymandered district lines must be redrawn fairly, which means that citizens in each state will have to wrest control over redistricting from biased political bodies. California has set the example. Then the big money must be pulled out of political campaigns, so that our politicians learn how to be something other than talented (and beholden) fundraisers.
Finally, we must build, person by person, an electorate that’s informed enough about how our government is supposed to work to fulfill its responsibility in this democracy: to ensure, that is, that it operates in the best interests of the broadest diversity of Americans.
Ahead will be long battles. They’ll take years. And it will be worth it if, in the end, we can give the right answer to that father who asked a question that should have been on everyone’s lips.
Mattea Kramer is research director at National Priorities Project, where Jo Comerford is executive director. They authored A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget and serve as regular commentators for media outlets across the country.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.
Copyright 2013 Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford
By John Grant
For the past week I’ve been talking with anyone I could shoehorn about the shooting death of Miriam Carey on the streets of Washington DC. As with any homicide -- and that’s how it would be classified for the autopsy -- there are differing opinions and mitigating circumstances to consider.
For instance, the mitigating circumstance most articulated by officialdom and the media to justify the killing of Miriam Carey is that the threat of terrorism is in the forefront of the minds of police officers in the nation’s capital, where 17 days earlier a random gunman had murdered 12 people at the Navy Yard.
“Excuse me for interrupting, Congressman, but I thought you might like to know that Theresa has been in the waiting room for almost two hours now, hoping to see you.”
“She’s the new aide in our Scottsville office.”
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
In a major ruling that's flown under the radar, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit - based in Denver, Colorado - decided not to grant the Sierra Club and Clean Energy Future Oklahoma a temporary injunction on the construction of the southern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline.
The Court's decision hinged on an "injury" balancing test: Would Transcanada be hurt more financially from receiving an injunction? Had it lost, it would be stuck with one until Sierra Club, et al receive a U.S. District Court decision on the legality of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant Transcanada a Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for construction of what's now called the Gulf Coast Pipeline in February 2012.
Or would ecosystems suffer even greater and potentially incalculable damage from the 485-mile, 700,000 barrels per day pipeline crossing 2,227 streams?
In a 2-1 decision, the Court sided with Transcanada, and by extension, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Court ruled, "the threatened environmental injuries were outweighed by the financial harm that the injunction would cause Transcanada."
Commenting on the case brought by Sierra Club, et al, Judge Jerome A. Holmes and Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr. - appointees of President George W. Bush and President George H.W. Bush, respectively - shot down the arguments sharply.
U.S. Appeals Court for the 10th Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes; Photo Credit: The White House
Holmes and Kelly ruled that Sierra Club, et al failed to show how the pipeline will have a significant environmental impact despite the fact it's been deemed a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet" by retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen.
Construction of Keystone XL's southern half - subject of significant grassroots activism by the Tar Sands Blockade and others - is now nearly complete. Tar sands dilbit is slated to begin to flow through it in early 2014.
NWP 12: "New Normal" for Tar Sands Pipeline Approval
After protestors succeeded initially in delaying Keystone XL, Big Oil has chosen a "new normal" stealth approval method: the non-transparent NWP 12.
This avoids the more strenuous National Environmental Protection Act permitting process overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires public hearings and public comments for major federal pipeline projects. NEPA compels the EPA to take comments into account in response throughout the Environmental Impact Statement phase, allowing robust public participation in the process.
Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes explained in an interview with DeSmogBlog that NWP 12 is for utility projects with up to a half an acre of stream or wetland impacts, and has never been used for tar sands pipelines before Keystone XL's southern half.
The southern half of the pipeline was approved via Executive Order by President Barack Obama in March 2012, directly after Obama gave a speech in front of a Cushing, OK pipeyard.
President Barack Obama speaks in Cushing, OK in March 2013; Photo Credit: White House
"The Corps is abusing the nationwide permit program. Nationwide permits were intended to permit categories of projects with truly minimal impacts, not tar sands oil pipelines crossing several states," said Hayes.
Utilizing tricky legal loopholes, Transcanada used NWP 12 to push through Keystone XL's southern half in February 2012, calling each half acre segment of Keystone XL's southern half a "single and complete project." The Army Corps of Engineers agreed despite the fact that Transcanada refers to the pipeline at-large as the "Gulf Coast Pipeline project."
"What the Corps is doing is artificially dividing up these massive pipelines, treating them as thousands of individual projects to avoid environmental review," Hayes explained. "In this case, there were 2,227 crossings of federal waterways, so the Corps has treated the Gulf Coast Pipeline as 2,227 'single and complete projects,' each of which qualifies under NWP 12."
Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes; Photo Credit: Sierra Club
Why, I asked Hayes?
"The Corps artificially treats these massive pipelines as thousands of individual projects so as to qualify under NWP 12 and avoid NEPA compliance."
NWP 12 has also been utilized by Enbridge for the Flanagan South Pipeline, a 600-mile, 600,000 barrels per day pipeline set to shuttle tar sands crude from Flanagan, IL to Cushing, OK, crossing over 2,000 streams. That pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2014, demonstrating how NWP 12 is the "new normal" way to fast-track domestic tar sands pipelines.
Dissent: Laws Violated, Economic Harm Transcanada's Fault
Perhaps the biggest irony of the Appeals Court decision is that Judges Holmes and Kelly barely grappled with the central issue of the legal challenge to begin with: using NWP 12 rather than going through the NEPA process.
"The majority opinion avoided addressing the legal questions that are central to this lawsuit - whether the Corps violated the law in permitting this pipeline - and instead it was based on how much money a delay in construction would cost TransCanada," said Hayes.
Though Judges Holmes and Kelly stayed mum about these issues, dissenting U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez - an Obama appointee - did not, pulling no punches in doing so.
U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado Judge William Martínez; Photo Credit: Judgepedia
"Given the totality of the circumstances...I believe the...Gulf Coast Pipeline required a comprehensive NEPA analysis," Martínez wrote.
"There are also no specific findings in support of the Corps' conclusion that the Gulf Coast Pipeline, as a whole, would have minimal cumulative impact. The failure to consider the cumulative effects of all of the water crossings involved in the Gulf Coast Pipeline violates the terms of NWP 12, and, therefore, the approval of the use of NWP 12 for construction of the Gulf Coast Pipeline violated the law."
Though Judges Holmes and Kelly grappled with the issue of water crossings - belittling the amount of water Keystone XL's southern half would cross over - Martínez said it's about much more than just water.
There is "real and signifcant harm caused by the actual construction of the pipeline, including the clearing of trees and vegetation, removing topsoil, filling wetlands, building access roads, and clearing an eighty-five foot construction right-of-way for the length of the pipeline," he stated.
Hayes agreed with this assessment, pointing to examples of things the Judges simply ignored in their assessment.
"[T]he court's balancing test ignored the host of environmental impacts associated with this pipeline, including the risks of tar sands oil spills," said Hayes.
"Remember that the 2010 tar sands pipeline spill in Michigan is still being cleaned up, and so far has cost over a billion dollars. It's a bit of a Catch-22 to say that this is all just about a few acres of wetlands loss, when the whole point of this lawsuit is that the Corps avoided analyzing any of the pipeline's environmental impacts as required by NEPA."
Lastly, Martínez put the onus on Transcanada for its economic decision-making.
"Transcanada chose to incur its economic harm by entering into contracts for services before the Gulf Coast Pipeline was approved, even in light of the controversial nature of the Pipeline," said Martínez (emphasis his).
U.S. District Court Decision Forthcoming, Activism Persists
Sierra Club, et al now await a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on whether Keystone XL failed the dictates of NEPA. It's a key decision, Hayes says, because "a ruling in our favor could prevent the Corps from doing this in the future."
While they await this lower court judgment, activists continue efforts to fend off these pipeline projects.
"This decision yet again demonstrates why direct action is necessary. The permitting process for Keystone XL's southern leg was illegal, yet regulators, inspectors, Obama, and the courts are failing to do what is necessary to protect the people and ecosystems threatened by this toxic pipeline," said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesman.
"If all the branches of government are so helplessly captured by industry that they will do nothing to stave off climate change, then the people must rise up and take the defense of the environment into their own hands."
President Pivot prepares to screw the old and infirm: Whatever Happened to ‘No negotiations’ with Debt Ceiling ‘Hostage Takers’
By Dave Lindorff
President Obama ran for president promising change. What his backers didn’t realize was that he wasn’t talking about changing America for the better. He was talking about changing his position whenever he found himself in a confrontation with Republicans. There’s a reason that beginning with Obama’s 2008 campaign, and on through the past five years of his presidency, we have gotten used to a presidential behavior called “pivoting.”
“Congressman, you have a noon meeting with a group of peace activists who want to talk with you about your position on Syria. And I should warn you that there are some TV vans down in the parking lot.”
You laugh, but that could be a side-effect. Consider:
The Capitol Police just murdered an unarmed mother fleeing her car on foot, declared her child "unharmed," and received the longest standing-ovation in Congress since Osama bin Laden's Muslim sea burial. Try holding your breath until Congress takes the standing ovation back, and you'll wish your were in the "Holy Land" having your house sprayed with "Skunk" artificial sewage by the Israeli military or in Old Town Alexandria tasting the air of the authentic raw sewage across the river until it's "treated" and spread on farms in the exurbs for the benefit of we the people.
Why? Because freedom.
Who would give all of this up in exchange for a reduced military costing less than $1 trillion per year? Well, maybe the dude who just cremated himself alive on the National Mall, it's hard to know. Or possibly me the next time a tourist asks me why they named it the National Mall knowing fully damn well that they'd confuse everyone who arrived expecting department stores and food courts.
This weekend, government programs aimed at slowing the starvation or other premature death of the least well off among us were closed, out of business, gone fishing. But the fucking football game between the Navy and the Air Force was an essential government service proudly played for the honor of "everyone fighting for this country" as one brainwashed midshipman put it. Did you know the top paid people in the U.S. military are all football coaches, and essential public servants?
President after president of countries 8% of us could find on a map are going to the United Nations to compare U.S. "exceptionalism" to Nazi Ubermenschen. Can you imagine the anti-American idiocy involved? But the last living prosecutor at Nuremberg, an American, has been saying the same thing. What'shis problem? And how could he dare if this weren't all hallucinatory?
President Obama was praised for his speech at the United Nations because he didn't threaten a first nuclear strike. That's the standard. Now he's getting credit for locking people up on ships outside of any system of law, because he can't have murdered them if he locked them up on ships. That's progress! If you squeeze down the passages of this psychedelic rabbit hole and peer out a window, you see a radically different world outside.
Switzerland is working on a maximum wage and a guaranteed basic income. But how many wars are they going to be able to join in after that colossal waste of funding? Their entire population is already suffering war deprivation. The Swiss can't expect the U.S. to pick up the tab for their wars while they make chocolate and don't even have the decency to spray sewage on anyone.
I once heard a likely lunatic propose that instead of paying farmers not to farm (and dumping sludge on their land) the U.S. government could pay weapons makers not to make weapons, stop giving and selling weapons to everybody else's governments, and ban U.S. troops and mercenaries from any distance greater than 500 miles from the United States. I say lunatic, because in this particular hallucination that we're all living through money multiplies itself if it's spent on killing people. A half a billion dollars for Solyndra is an outrageous waste that kills nobody and is lost forever. But a half billion dollars for two days -- give or take a speech by Congressman Cruz -- of blowing stuff up in Afghanistan is cost-free since the half billion dollars reproduces itself at the Federal Reserve which not only grows laboratory hamburgers but sells them to foreigners for national security resources misplaced beneath the wrong nations.
The winding down drawdown ending of the gradual scaling back of the wrapping up completed war on Afghanistan has eaten the wrong sort of size pill somehow. There are now almost twice as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan as when Barack Obama became president.
We're still spending over $10 million every hour (even during a government shutdown) for a war in Afghanistan that has now completed its 12th year and begins its 13th today. This spending drains rather than fueling the U.S. economy. Inflicting more war on Afghanistan has involved the killing of thousands of civilians. Experts in the U.S., British, and Afghan governments agree that this is making us less safe, not protecting us.
Why? Because Obama.
Captain Peace Prize is attempting what he failed at in Iraq: an agreement with a puppet to continue an "ended" war indefinitely. President Obama is trying to negotiate a deal with corrupt lame-duck President Hamid Karzai to keep some U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with immunity from prosecution for crimes and the right to continue attacking Afghans including with raids on their homes at night. This could mean nine major U.S. military bases remaining in Afghanistan at a huge cost in dollars, lives, safety, and environmental destruction for decades to come.
Oh, and the good, smart, humanitarian, not-Iraq war on Afghanistan is as illegal as whatever we consumed to induce this bizarre hallucination.
There's a place to scream I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore right here.
Al Jolson wrote a note to President Harding some years back now:
"The weary world is waiting for
So take away the gun
From every mother's son
And put an end to war."
And still, 86 new Adolf Hitler misidentifications later, they do not listen. Except that they listened on missiles into Syria. The two parties wanted the missiles. Raytheon's stock was through the roof. And we said no, no, and hell no, and go Dick Cheney yourselves. And the bipartisan agreement was stopped by our 90% opposition and 0.5% actively expressed outrage. And within a couple of weeks the zombie of pretended partisanship was back in the form of a shutdown dispute that, through a perfectly harmonious bipartisan agreement, didn't shut down the military or the NSA or the Navy v. Air Force football game.
Everything useful is shut down. Everything deadly is up and running. And a gang of truckers is on its way to DC to shut down the government. Make sense of any of this if you dare, and I'm willing to bet you've worn a Redskins shirt to the Holocaust museum.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
On the first day of the federal government shut-down, as hundreds of tourists were turned away from the shuttered Liberty Bell and other fabled sites within the Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia, Richard Dyost stood near the building housing the Bell and received a big laugh.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.
Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.
In 2010 in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, many people who prioritize peace over war probably voted for Democrat Tom Perriello over Republican Robert Hurt. I know many who did just that.
Here's what Congressman Hurt said on Tuesday about Syria:
"I have repeatedly stated ... that before the United States should commit any of its precious American lives or military resources to an attack on the Syrian regime, the President must articulate a compelling American national security interest that requires military action. I have attended classified briefings, and I have concluded that, at this time, the President has not demonstrated that a compelling national security interest is at stake. Because of this, I will not be able to support the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution should it come to a vote under current circumstances."
Meanwhile, former Congressman Perriello has advocated, with his colleagues at the Center for American Progress for the United States to "increase its assistance to the Syrian opposition with the goal of supporting an alternative opposition government that is better organized than at present." According to Perriello the U.S. has a "national security interest" in "preparing the groundwork for a political and economic transition to a new regime in Syria in the foreseeable future."
Perriello told The Atlantic: "Within that context, you have to look at a set of tactics. A lot of people seem to be dismissing the idea that there's any role for a surgical, strategic strike short of regime change. While I have advocated for a more aggressive posture that would potentially include regime transition, there is absolutely an argument for inflicting some cost to the regime for the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. ... And that I think you can do largely from the air without a lot of involvement on the ground. ... He knows if we intervene, his days are over, so part of what he’s doing, like a petulant child, is seeing how far he can push before we come in. Traditionally, the use of chemical and biological weapons, with very few exceptions, has been something you cannot do without invoking dramatic action. ... One of the reasons I came to the conclusion a year and a half ago that we needed to intervene is that both sides appear just strong enough not to lose." In the same interview Perriello refused to support the Constitutional requirement to take the question of war to Congress for its authorization.
Would Perriello resist a war if the president were a Republican? Would Hurt then support war? We can't know. But both have expressed their ideologies on war clearly and quite consistently thus far. Perriello voted for every war dollar that came before him while he was in Congress, including a 2009 "emergency" supplemental that included a bailout for bankers and barely passed. Perriello has written and spoken publicly hundreds of times of his support for war. Hurt has spoken and written a number of times now of his opposition.
I was part of groups of residents that met with Perriello to discuss his funding of war in Afghanistan. It was like talking to a brick wall. I was part of a group of residents who met with Hurt to discuss authorization for missile strikes or wider war in Syria. It was like talking to a human being.
Whoever the Democrats put up against Hurt in the next election might possibly be his superior on any number of issues. But check his or her position on war with a magnifying glass. Militarism swallows roughly half of federal discretionary spending every year, dwarfing any other expense. You can't be in favor of a trillion dollar military and in favor of schools or housing or anything else. The military is the main thing our government does. It matters whether we get it right, or whether we thoughtlessly get it backwards.
After decades US still has huge poison gas stash: Washington Demands Syria Destroy Chemical Weapons Lickety-Split
By Dave Lindorff
The US is demanding, in negotiations at the UN, that all Syrian chemical weapons, stocks and production facilities be eliminated by June 30 of next year. This has an element of hypocrisy, because the US itself has been incredibly slow about eliminating its own stocks of chemical weapons.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to Syria as having one of the largest chemical stockpiles in the world. But the US and Russia both still have stocks of chemicals many times as large. Syria’s neighbor Israel, which refuses to admit it has the weapons and has yet to ratify the treaty banning them, is suspected of also having a large arsenal.
By Alfredo Lopez
Last week, Verizon, the telephone giant, went to court to accuse the Federal Communications Commission of "overstepping its authority" and reverse the authority's over-step. It's a legal wrangle that, bottled and distributed, would be a safe substitute for sleeping pills.
By John Grant
The media didn’t waste time lining up US leaders to trash Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent op-ed in The New York Times. There was the expected outrage that such a “dictator” and “tyrant” had the gall to lecture the United States of America. Bill O’Reilly referred to Putin as “a criminal monster.” Charles Krauthammer kept it real and called Putin "a KGB thug.”
For a timely explanation of the crisis of the militarization of America, days after popular opposition, in a historic first, blocked a US war -- in this case against the sovereign nation of Syria -- check out this film by Lanny Cotler and Paul Edwards of Class War Films
To view the film, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net
Reuters - Lawmakers said on Wednesday the Senate could start voting on a resolution to authorize the use of military force against Syria as soon as next week if efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis fall short.
A resolution authorizing strikes against Syria had been expected to come before the full Senate for a vote this week. But it was delayed after President Barack Obama asked lawmakers to wait for the outcome of a Russia-backed diplomatic initiative under which Syria would give up its chemical weapons.
Nobel Laureate president defends unprovoked war against Syria: Obama Offers No Evidence Assad Ordered Syria Poison Gas Attack
By Dave Lindorff
In what NPR called “perhaps President Obama’s last best chance” to make his case for launching a war against Syria, the president tellingly didn’t make a single effort to present hard, compelling evidence to prove that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had been behind the alleged Sarin Aug. 21 attack on residents of a suburb of Damascus.
Not one piece of evidence.
A people’s victory over Syrian attack plan: In Historic First, American Empire is Blocked at the Starting Line
By Dave Lindorff
Let’s be clear here. The people of the US and the world have won a huge victory over a war-obsessed US government and an administration that was hell-bent on yet again launching a criminal war of aggression against a country that poses no threat to the US or its neighbors. Overwhelming public opposition in the US and the nations of Europe, as well as most of the rest of the world to a US strike on Syria have forced the US to falter and to accept the idea of a compromise deal offered by Russia.
They're drafting a bill that would declare war on Syria IF chemical weapons removal doesn't meet a deadline, and regardless of what else happens in the world in the meantime, presumably including a ceasefire or a peace settlement. Are they insane? Of course. Can we stop them? Yes we can.
It's not Russia. It's not al Qaeda. It's not Bashar al-Assad. The other super power is the people of the world -- and the people of, but not by or for, the United States.
The world's people are protesting. U.S. citizens abroad are protesting at U.S. embassies. The British Parliament said no to war for the first time since Yorktown.
The U.S. polls began with single-digit support for attacking Syria, climbed a little with the corporate media onslaught, and then started sinking again as the propaganda push shifted into self-defeating top gear.
Taking the stage after Colin Powell, the Obama-Kerry war marketing team was compelled by public pressure, foreign pressure, government-insider pressure, past public statements, and the inability of even the corporate media to keep a straight face, to take this war proposal to Congress -- and to do so while Congress members and senators were at home in their districts and states, where people were able to get in their faces.
Congress has been feeling the heat. Sure, there is greater willingness by some Republican members to oppose a war if the president is a Democrat. But there are also Democrats openly supporting the war because the president wants them to. The decisive factor has been public pressure. Senators and representatives have been turned around by their constituents, and that minority still supporting an attack on Syria openly says they're defying the people who elected them. If there is no vote in Congress, it will be because the vote would fail.
Secretary Kerry stressed on Monday that he hadn't been serious about a diplomatic solution. It was just "rhetoric." He was just pointing out the "impossibility" of Assad handing weapons over. He didn't want anyone to take it seriously. Not when we have to get a war started. Not when the clock is ticking and he has already Colin-Powelled himself in front of his old committee with his wife behind him and protesters with bloody hands filling the room and everybody snickering when he claimed al Qaeda would install a secular democracy. Not after all THAT!
How can you ask a man to be the last one to lie for a dead idea?
But warmongering senators and presidents and presidential wannabes jumped at the chance of a way out of watching Congress vote down a war, and watching Congress vote down a war because we made them do it. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee has a proposal for a diplomatic resolution. Republican Congressman Chris Smith has proposed a United Nations war crimes tribunal. (One might hope it will even look at the crimes of both sides in the Syrian war.) The always obvious, but hidden, fact that there are alternatives to bombing people is bursting out all over.
Sure, some people dislike this war because it would cost money, or because the Iraqis are ungrateful for the destruction of their country, or because Obama was born in Africa, but mostly people oppose this war for very good reasons -- and the financial cost is not really a bad reason. From right to left, people don't think the United States should be the world's vigilante. From left to right, people don't believe the justifications presented without evidence. From right to left, people understand that killing people with the right weapons to protest their being killed with the wrong weapons is little bit crazy. From left to right, people don't believe tales of short and easy wars that will pay for themselves. And, across the political spectrum, people have begun to be able to smell lies, even when those lies are wrapped in flags and uniforms.
We should give our government credit for listening -- if it listens. By no means are we out of the woods yet. If you want to be able to say you were part of the movement that prevented a U.S. war, now is the time to email and telephone and join in activities. We should not, however, fantasize that our government secretly held our position against the war it was trying to roll out, before we compelled it to hold our position.
Let them thump their chests a bit about how their threats won something out of Assad, if that allows their war fever to pass. But don't for a minute lose the significance of what the U.S. public has done to the otherwise broken U.S. government. Out of whatever combination of factors, it just may turn out that we've stopped a war. Which means that we can stop another war. Which means that we can begin to work our way out of the war machine that has eaten our economy, our civil liberties, our natural environment, and our soul.
Assad may be lying. Or Obama may lie that Assad is lying. Or this whole thing may otherwise fall apart and the push for this war be back with a full-court press on Congress. But we can stop it if we choose to do so. We can push as hard for peaceful solutions in Syria as we've pushed to prevent the bombs from falling. In fact, we can push 10 times harder.
And the warmakers will be back with another war. Have no fear of that. Seriously, have no fear of it: We are a super-power. They are a vestige of a barbaric practice that has become an anachronism even while remaining our largest public investment. They are dinosaurs. They'll come back with a "defensive war". That was their biggest failure this time; they didn't make Syria a threat. Senator Harry Reid on Monday painted Syria as Nazi Germany, but he sounded like Elmer Fudd warning of a killer rabbit.
Laughter is our most potent tool. We must mock their fear-mongering. We must laugh at their claims of power and benevolent intent. We must ask to see the list of nations that are grateful for past bombs. We must inquire whether senators who play video poker while debating war plans, or secretaries of state who promise wars that will be both tiny and significant with no impact and a decisive result, are perhaps in need of better medication.
But let's not count our doves before they hatch. Get in on this successful movement now. It's going to be one to tell your grandchildren about.
After Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that President Bashar al-Assad avoid a war by handing over any chemical weapons his government possesses, Russia quickly seconded the motion, and Assad agreed to it. Just as quickly, aparently panicked by the possible delay or prevention of missile strikes, Kerry's staff put out this statement:
"Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used. His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That's why the world faces this moment."
Could Assad be lying? Could he hope to stash away a hidden weapons stockpile? Yes, and then at least a U.S. attack would have been delayed and more time gained to work on preventing it. But that's not likely. Inspectors are very good. That's why Prsident George W. Bush wanted them pulled out of Iraq, where they had done a stellar job and the weaponry been eliminated. That could conceivably also be why President Barack Obama wanted them kept away from the site of the August 21st attack and wanted to send missiles into Syria before the inspectors reached any results.
So, to all appearances, Assad has immediately done what Kerry just declared impossible. How reliable, then, are other assertions of which Kerry professes to be certain?
Is it really an important international norm that one nation should bomb another in support of fanatical terrorists and on the stated basis that people had been killed with the wrong variety of weapon?
Is it really true that this war will be both unbelievably small and a significant blow to the Syrian government?
Kerry is trying to sell the same used car to people who want an ambulance and other people who want a tank.
It's not entirely Kerry's fault that he had to come on stage after Colin Powell's performance, but it is his fault that he's flubbed all of his lines.
If Obama withdraws his demand for Congressional authorization of war, it will not be because he and John Kerry played 12-dimensional chess and secretly hope to bring peace to the earth. It will be because they played duck-duck-goose with such incompetence that they managed to knock each other unconscious in the process.
If a war is prevented here -- and it's way too early to say that -- it will be the result of public opinion in the United States and the world, the courage of Parliament in Britain, and the glimmerings of actual representation beginning to sparkle through the muck and slime on Capitol Hill.
If celebrating Obama and Kerry's super brave and strong heroism in stumbling into a Russian barrier to their madness gives them the "credibility" to put their guns back in their pants, then by all means celebrate that fiction.
But if we get this crisis behind us, we should understand that Parliament acted against war for the first time in centuries, and the public stopped Congress for the first time ever. If President Obama doesn't ask for an authorization, it will be because it is not going to pass. Even if he didn't expect to use it right away, he would want it passed if possible.
Congress' apparent willingness to say no is the result of many factors, including the perversity of partisanship. But the primary factor is public pressure. That public pressure needs to intensify now that victory is in sight, not diminish.
And if it succeeds, Syria will still be in desperate need of a cease-fire, disarmament, a peace settlement, and actual aid (as opposed to humanitarian bombs). Let's not allow those needs to be forgotten if they depart from our television screens. Those same television screens have tried to move us into support for war and failed dramatically. We're in charge now. We run this country. They fill fluff that no one listens to into the spaces between advertisements for crap no one buys. Fill the government in on the new arrangement.
The questions include some excellent and some awful ones. Here they are:
CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS
September 6, 2013
President Barack Obama The White House
By Norman Solomon
Many senators began this week still uncommitted on whether they’ll vote for attacking Syria. Among the fence-sitters are enough “progressives” to swing the Senate’s decision one way or the other.
That decision is coming soon -- maybe as early as Wednesday -- and the Obama White House is now pulling out all the stops to counter public opinion, which remains overwhelmingly against a war resolution. The administration hopes to win big in the Senate and carry momentum into the House, where the bomb-Syria agenda faces a steeper climb.
Some Democratic senators who’ve cultivated progressive reputations nationwide -- Barbara Boxer of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota -- haven’t hesitated to dive into Obama’s war tank. Boxer, Durbin and Franken quickly signed on as carnage bottom-feeders, pledging their adamant support for the U.S. government to attack yet another country.
Other Democrats, like Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tom Udall of New Mexico, have made clear their intention to vote “no” when the war-on-Syria measure reaches the Senate floor.
But more than a dozen other senators widely viewed as liberal or progressive have held back from committing themselves on how they’ll vote. Here’s a partial list of those equivocators:
* Both Massachusetts senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey
* Both Oregon senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley
* Both Colorado senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet
* Both Washington senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell
* Ohio senator Sherrod Brown
* Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin
* Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse
* Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono
* Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar
If you live in one of those states, or anywhere else in the USA for that matter, you can send a quick email to your senators and representative to tell them “No Attack on Syria” by clicking here.
Perhaps no “undecided” stance from senators is more egregious than the one from Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, who won a hard-fought race that elevated her from the House of Representatives last year on the strength of major progressive support.
Speaking at the annual Fighting Bob Fest in Madison last weekend, Baldwin sparked an angry response to her doubletalk about Syria. A video of the encounter shows a wooden politician who badly needs reminding of her progressive roots. In a suitably confrontational mode, activists serenaded Wisconsin’s junior senator with a stirring rendition of “Which side are you on Tammy?”
The symbolism could hardly have been more apt. Senator Baldwin was behind the podium at an event named after “Fighting Bob” La Follette, the senator from Wisconsin who led opposition to U.S. entry into World War One. In a Senate speech, La Follette denounced those who “inflame the mind of our people into the frenzy of war.”
Which side are you on Tammy… and Elizabeth, Ed, Ron, Jeff, Mark, Michael, Patty, Maria, Sherrod, Sheldon, Mazie, Amy?
Senators who portray themselves as progressive are at crossroads as they decide how to vote on attacking Syria. At this historic moment, with enormous consequences, will they cave in to the presidential juggernaut?
Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org
Lee Syria Resolution to Hold Assad Regime Accountable and Resolve the Crisis through a Negotiated Political Settlement
Support Forceful Diplomacy, Not Military Force
I write to urge your support for my proposal which lays out non-military options the United States can pursue, in partnership with the international community, that is consistent with law and would hold perpetrators accountable for heinous crimes against humanity.
While I believe the Assad regime must be held accountable, I reject that it has to mean a military response to be effective. There is no military solution to this complex civil war, and while a negotiated settlement is necessary, I do not believe military action will further that goal.
Instead of pursuing military force, United States policy should focus on working with the United Nations and the international community on an enhanced diplomatic strategy to facilitate a negotiated political settlement and hold the Assad regime, and all responsible parties, accountable for human rights violations. My Resolution lays out options such as:
1) requiring the Government of Syria to allow unfettered access to humanitarian organizations;
2) pressuring all internal and external parties to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process and other negotiations and regional arrangements with the League of Arab States and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation;
3) seeking to strengthen and coordinate multilateral sanctions targeted against the assets of Assad;
4) investigating and prosecuting crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law, including appropriately-timed International Criminal Court referral;
5) working with member states of the Chemical Weapons Convention;
6) working with the international community to establish a Syrian war crimes tribunal; and
7) enabling United States courts to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law committed in Syria.
We must recognize that we do have alternatives to the use of force and we should be vigorously pursuing them. I urge you in joining me to support non-military means to hold the perpetrators accountable and bring about a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
Please direct requests to cosponsor or questions to _________________.
By Dave Lindorff
The Obama administration’s campaign for war against Syria is so flagrantly wrong, so ill-advised and so illegal, that it is making a fool of both the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry.