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A man of many convictions: The Shape-Shifting Secretary of State John Kerry

By Dave Lindorff

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry is a man of many convictions--many of them in open conflict with one another. 

Recall that back in 2004, while trying to unseat President George W. Bush, he famously told students at Marshall University who wanted to know his stand on the US invasion of Iraq, that he “actually did vote for” a bill funding the war “before I voted against it.”

If Obama Orders the CIA to Kill a U.S. Citizen, Amazon Will Be a Partner in Assassination

By Norman Solomon

President Obama is now considering whether to order the Central Intelligence Agency to kill a U.S. citizen in Pakistan. That’s big news this week. But hidden in plain sight is the fact that Amazon would be an accessory to the assassination.

Amazon has a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide the agency with “cloud” computing services. After final confirmation of the deal several months ago, Amazon declared: “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”

The relationship means that Amazon -- logoed with a smiley-face arrow from A to Z, selling products to millions of people every week -- is responsible for keeping the CIA’s secrets and aggregating data to help the agency do its work. Including drone strikes.

Drone attacks in Pakistan are “an entirely CIA operation,” New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti said Tuesday night in an interview on the PBS NewsHour. He added that “the Pakistani government will not allow the [U.S.] military to take over the mission because they want to still have the sort of veneer of secrecy that the CIA provides.”

The sinister implications of Amazon’s new CIA role have received scant public attention so far.

As the largest Web retailer in the world, Amazon has built its business model on the secure accumulation and analysis of massive personal data. The firm’s Amazon Web Services division gained the CIA contract amid fervent hopes that the collaboration will open up vast new vistas for the further melding of surveillance and warfare.

Notably, Amazon did not submit the low bid for the $600 million contract. The firm won the deal after persuading the CIA of its superior technical capacities in digital realms.

Amazon is now integral to the U.S. government’s foreign policy of threatening and killing.

Any presidential decision to take the life of an American citizen is a subset of a much larger grave problem. Whatever the nationality of those who hear the menacing buzz of a drone overhead, the hijacking of skies to threaten and kill those below is unconscionable. And, as presently implemented, unconstitutional.

On Feb. 11 the Times reported that the Obama administration “is debating whether to authorize a lethal strike against an American citizen living in Pakistan who some believe is actively plotting terrorist attacks.” In effect, at issue is whether the president should order a summary execution -- an assassination -- on his say-so.

The American way isn’t supposed to be that way. The “due process of law” required by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is not supposed to be whatever the president decides to do.

A free and independent press is crucial for confronting such dire trends. But structural factors of corporate power continue to undermine the potential of journalism. The Washington Post is a grim case in point.

Six months ago, Jeff Bezos -- the CEO and main stakeholder of Amazon -- bought the Post. But the newspaper’s ongoing CIA-related coverage does not inform readers that the CIA’s big contract with Amazon is adding to the personal wealth of the Post’s sole owner.

This refusal to make such conflict-of-interest disclosures is much more than journalistic evasion for the sake of appearances. It’s a marker for more consolidation of corporate mega-media power with government power. The leverage from such convergence is becoming ever-less acknowledged or conspicuous as it becomes ever-more routine and dominant.

After e-mail correspondence with me about the non-disclosure issue in early January, the executive editor of the Washington Post, Martin Baron, declined to answer questions from media outlets on the subject. On Jan. 15 -- when I delivered a RootsAction.org petition under the heading “Washington Post: Readers Deserve Full Disclosure in Coverage of CIA,” signed by 30,000 people, to the newspaper’s headquarters -- Baron declined to meet with me or designate any employee to receive the petition. Clearly the Post management wants this issue to go away.

But, as I wrote to Baron last month, it’s all too convenient -- and implausible -- for the Washington Post to claim that there would be “no direct relevance of the [Amazon-CIA] cloud services contract to coverage of such matters as CIA involvement in rendition of prisoners to regimes for torture; or in targeting for drone strikes; or in data aggregation for counterinsurgency.”

The surveillance state and the warfare state continue to converge. The Washington Post does not want us to insist on journalistic disclosure. Amazon does not want us to insist on moral accountability. President Obama does not want us to insist on basic constitutionality. It would be a shame to oblige any of them.

________________________________________

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.

Justice gets the shaft when it involves Mumia: Sen. Toomey and Philly DA Williams Slam Obama Rights Nominee for Seeking Justice

The latest from ThisCantBeHappening!:

 

Justice gets the shaft when it involves Mumia:

Sen. Toomey and Philly DA Williams Slam Obama Rights Nominee for Seeking Justice


By Dave Lindorff


Public Vengeance as a Career Tool: "American Hustle" and Prosecutorial Politics

By John Grant

“In this town, money talks and bullshit walks.”

                        -PA Rep. Ozzie Myers on his Abscam tape

Political sports scorekeeper Chris Matthews recently predicted American Hustle would become a classic film of American politics of the order of Citizen Kane. I’d add All the King’s Men and All the President’s Men.

What’s so wonderful about American Hustle is that it’s very serious at the same time it has great fun with a contemporary political system dominated by the archetype of the aggressive prosecutor. While a servant of the state, he or she ruthlessly advances a career by bringing down others. Dishonesty and the entrapping scam are major tools of the trade.

With Chris Christie, the whole smelly system has narratively come full circle. An aggressive federal prosecutor with eyes on the White House is suddenly the hunted prey of other hungry prosecutors looking for a career boost. The attorney credited with getting the goods to put away Governor Blagojevic in Illinois has been hired to go for Christie.

While American Hustle may be based on the late seventies Abscam scandal, it’s more art than journalism or history. “Some of this actually happened,” we’re told on screen up front. Like all good fiction based on reality, the art is in finding a deeper truth...

Super Bowl Friday Trash Dump: State Dept Releases KXL Final Environmental Review

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The State Department has released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed northern leg of the controversial and long-embattled TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Image credit: Kris Krug.

In a familiar "Friday trash dump" — a move many expected the Obama administration to shun — John Kerry's State Department chose to "carefully stage-manage the report's release" on Super Bowl Friday when most Americans are switching focus to football instead of political scandals. **See bottom of this post for breaking analysis**

Anticipating the report’s release, insiders who had been briefed on the review told Bloomberg News the SEIS -- not a formal decision by the State Department on the permitting of the pipeline, but rather another step in the department’s information gathering -- “will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone pipeline.”

And, indeed, the new report reads“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.”

This reiterates one of the earlier draft’s most heavily criticized conclusions that the pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands,” and thus avoids a comprehensive assessment of those climate impacts.

In June 2013, President Obama said in a speech announcing his Climate Action Plan at Georgetown University that he would only approve the permit if it was proven that “this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."  

The final environmental review is being released on the heels of damning revelations about the close ties between the Canadian pipeline builder, TransCanada and Environmental Resources Management (ERM). ERM was hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review.

State Dept's Keystone XL Contractor, ERM Group, Also OK'd Controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed Environmental Resources Management Inc. (ERM Group) — the contractor performing the U.S. State Department's environmental review for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline — gave the greenlight to Alaska's controversial Pebble Mine proposal in June 2013.

Republicans Recycle Excuses: Christie's Defense Ties Bridgegate to Racial Profiling

By Linn Washington


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Bridgegate defense of being misled by staff members resembles a defense advanced in 1999 by another once top Republican NJ official to distance himself from a his role in a contentious 1990s-era scandal that roiled the Garden State: racial profiling by NJ state troopers that targeted minorities for illegal enforcement.

Same criminal spying but with a White House blessing: Obama in NSA Speech Says Nothing Will Change

By Alfredo Lopez


This past week, the Federal government threw a one-two punch that will effectively destroy the Internet as we know it. Demonstrating, once again, his talent for obfuscation and misdirection, President Obama made a speech about reforming the NSA and controlling surveillance that actually officially recognized, sanctioned and even expanded the NSA's domestic spying and cyber-warfare.

Gangsters, warriors, thugs TAO is the NSA's Band of Technology Criminals

By Alfredo Lopez


On this website, we've speculated that one outcome of the flood of NSA-centered revelations has been to desensitize U.S. citizens and diminish outrage at what is actually revealed. We are becoming conditioned to the horror story that is the National Security Administration.

Days Before Casselton Oil Train Explosion, Obama Signed Bill Hastening Fracking Permits on ND Public Lands

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 20, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed a little-noticed bill to expedite permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on public lands in the Bakken Shale basin, located predominantly in North Dakota. And on December 26, President Obama signed the bill into law. 

Exclusive: Missouri Permit Shows Exploding ND Oil Train Contained High Levels of Volatile Chemicals

On January 2, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a major safety alert, declaring oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in the Bakken Shale may be more chemically explosive than the agency or industry previously admitted publicly

The perfect storm in Turkey - corruption, conflict, conspiracy

 
Will Summer protests return to Turkey Jordi Bernabeu Farrús
 
 

The Republic of Turkey is consumed by intense conflict, conspiracy charges, and underlying financial problems that simply won't go away.  A perfect storm is brewing. (Image: Jordi Bernabeu Farrús)

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and supporters are charged with a secret gold-for-oil deal with Iran.  The deal, in violation of trade sanctions against Iran, enriched the PM's ministers and other key supporters involved (including the PM's son), according to prosecutors.  The deal also involved misreporting billions of dollars in trade, which, in turn, resulted in Turkey overstating national income and understating its current account deficit.

A more ominous charge focuses on  Erdogan's open support of a wealthy Saudi known for funding al Qaeda and the PM's alleged support of Al Qaeda fighters engaged against the Syrian government.  Just today, we saw this headline: Turkish governor blocks police search on Syria-bound truck reportedly carrying weapons .  Erdogan is a strong supporter of the Syrian rebels, assumed recipients of the weapons. 

Warren Buffett Buys Stake in Pipeline Company on Same Day as North Dakota Oil Train Explosion

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 30, the same day a Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) oil train derailed and exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, Warren Buffett — owner of holding company giant Berkshire Hathaway, which owns BNSF — bought a major stake in pipeline logistics company Phillips Specialty Products Inc.

“Operation Enduring America”: The US in Central Asia After Afghanistan

[This is a re-posting -- with slight alterations, images and links added -- of a piece that appeared in Z Magazine, January, 2014.]

 

“As we reassure our partners that our relationships and engagement in Afghanistan will continue after the military transition in 2014, we should underscore that we have long-term strategic interests in the broader region... As the United States enters a new phase of engagement in Afghanistan, we must lay the foundation for a long-term strategy that sustains our security gains and protects U.S. interests...” --US Senator John Kerry, Chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, December, 2011.

 

…A fuller reflection on the last eleven years should include the perverse twist about how in its almost single-minded effort to promote state-building, political tolerance and good governance in Afghanistan, just next door the West [sic] has left a trail of repression, graft and unfulfilled commitments to Central Asia’s fledgling civil society. — Central Asia analyst Alexander Cooley, “Afghanistan’s Other Regional Casualty”

 



Despite the projected 2014 “drawdown” of most of its troops from Afghanistan, the US is not about to exit strategically vital and resource-rich Central Asia.

Dollarocracy: U.S. Congressmen Refuse to Address Keystone XL Southern Half Spill Concerns

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

What's the U.S. congressional response to the safety issues with the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline raised by Public Citizen's Texas office? Mostly what Simon & Garfunkel called "The Sound of Silence" in their famous song.

Keystone XL Fork in the Road: TransCanada's Houston Lateral Pipeline

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Only Barack Obama knows the fate of the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  But in the meantime, TransCanada is preparing the southern half of the line to open for commercial operations on January 22.

New "Frackademia" Report Co-Written by "Converted Climate Skeptic" Richard Muller

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The conservative UK-based Centre for Policy Studies recently published a study on the climate change impacts of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for shale gas. The skinny: it's yet another case study of "frackademia," and the co-authors have a financial stake in the upstart Chinese fracking industry.

Titled "Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking" and co-authored by Richard Muller and his daughter Elizabeth "Liz" Muller, it concludes that fracking's climate change impacts are benign, dismissing many scientific studies coming to contrary conclusions.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In an interview with DeSmogBlog, Richard Muller — a self-proclaimed "converted skeptic" on climate change — said he and Liz had originally thought of putting together this study "about two years ago."

"We quickly realized that natural gas could be a very big player," he said. "The reasons had to do with China and the goal of the paper is to get the environmentalists to recognize that they need to support responsible fracking."

The ongoing debate over fracking in the UK served as the impetus behind the Centre for Policy Studies — a non-profit co-founded by former right-wing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1974 — hosting this report on its website, according to Richard Muller.

"They asked for it because some environmentalists are currently opposing fracking in the UK, and they wanted us to share our perspective that fracking is not only essential for human health but its support can be justified for humanitarian purposes," he said. 

This isn't the first time Liz Muller has unapologetically sung the praises of fracking and promoted bringing the practice to China. In April, she penned an op-ed in The New York Times titled, "China Must Exploit Its Shale Gas." 

Two cheers for Pope Francis: About Time American Idiocy and Paranoia over Marxism Got Called Out

By Dave Lindorff


So Pope Francis, the new pope who has conservative American Catholics, particularly those in politics and the media, freaked out because he is criticizing capitalist greed, knows Marxists who are "good people,"  and isn't upset to be labeled one of them, even though he says "Marxist ideology is wrong.".

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon Buys Fracking Wells In Ohio's Utica Shale

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO and Founder Aubrey McClendon is back in the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") game in Ohio's Utica Shale in a big way, receiving a permit to frack five wells from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on November 26.

TransCanada Begins Injecting Oil Into Keystone XL Southern Half

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Keystone XL's southern half is one step closer to opening for business. TransCanada announced that "on Saturday, December 7, 2013, the company began to inject oil into the Gulf Coast Project pipeline as it moves closer to the start of commercial service."

Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A 1991 report tracked down by DeSmogBlog from the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) was created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), raising additional questions over both organizations' Internal Revenue Service (IRS) non-profit tax status. 

I Googled "Evil" And It Took Me to Google

Google may have been, until now, the Obama of hip internet monopolies.  No matter how many nations the President bombs, people still put Obama peace-sign stickers on their cars.  No matter how many radical rightwing initiatives Google funds, people still think it's a "progressive corporation" -- How could it not be? It's making progress!

Google is funding Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union, and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation.

And there's more really bad news: Google is funding ALEC, the powerful, secretive, and destructive lobbying force from which many companies concerned with their public images are fleeing. ALEC is in the news this week, holding its 40th annual meeting. Together with allies, RootsAction.org is applying as much pressure as we can.  And it might just be that the tide is turning.  Google just might have to start worrying about whether its users favor plutocratic plundering or not.

ALEC targets state legislatures around the country to roll back labor rights, environmental protection, civil rights, public health measures and more. Using big money, corporate clout and smooth lobbyists, ALEC teams up with like-minded state lawmakers to draft and enact regressive legislation.

Tens of thousands of people have heeded our request to Tell Google and other huge firms to which we'll deliver this petition not to participate in ALEC's corruption of our government:
We urge you to stop funding ALEC. With ALEC's help ...
* Tobacco companies get tax cuts.
* For-profit education companies get school privatization.
* Management gets union busting.
* Oil companies get opposition to renewable energy.
* The rich and powerful get the repeal of estate taxes.
But, in the process, democracy gets hijacked -- one state at a time.

***

You should read the thousands and thousands of comments people have submitted when they have signed this petition.  And you can, they're all publicly posted at the link above.

Some people express their great affection for Google, along with disillusionment:

"I really thought that your business was a role model as  progressive, social conscious Corporation...  I was seriously mistaking... -  - It is outrageous that you are supporting these politicians that have injured out country and our people so deeply...  and ALEC???? -  - PLEASE STOP!!!" --J. Carlo Diaz, FL      

"Really, Google. Really!? I expect more sense from you!" --Marian Pickett, LA

"As much as I like Google, I'll be damned if I'll support in any way the increase in political clout of big and secret money funneled to "money is above all" unbridled capitalism Republican organizations!  There are other choices ... and I'll be switching!!" --William Whitlock, CA

"Any company that funds an organization like Alec does not have an interest in democracy. Alec is in the business of buying votes, and votes for the most un-American causes. My respect for Google has taken a huge hit because of its support of Alec." --Kathlyn McCaughna

"I used GOOGLE to research ALEC. I am surprised and greatly disappointed that your corporation would support this horror to our democracy. Greed. Cynicism. Arrogance. Downright stupidity. Or as stated in one of your listed sources--policy areas including legislation 'opposing U.S. consumers' rights to know the origin of our food,' 'undermining workers' rights,' 'stripping environmental protections,' and 'limiting patient rights and undermining safety net programs.' (MediaMatters 12/4/13) I said 'surprised.' Perhaps not, just thoroughly disgusted.  - I love GOOGLE; other venues' ads have not swayed me. However, your support of such a vicious, predatory, manipulative organization has changed the game. --JoAnn Durfee, OR

Some explain to Google what the problem is:

"Alec is for profits at any cost to society. Make your engine work for people, not for evil." --John Kozub, TN

"Google, Facebook and Yelp are people driven and should not support corporate takeover of the internet or other arenas." --Amy Whitworth, OR

"Does Google want to be seen to be supporting ALEC? If so they are also supporting this neanderthal approach to energy production: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/alec-freerider-homeowners-assault-clean-energy  -- An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels -- casting them as 'freeriders' -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned." --E Healy, CA

"Funding the most regressive organizations puts your company right there with them: destroyers of democracy, dirty political actors. Think carefully whether this is where you want to be, and where you are going to be seen to be." --John Prehn, UT

"ALEC has caused so much evil and trouble in Wisconsin that I am sure most people don't understand, at this point in time. Please do NOT support the agenda of ALEC as it is not for the people but for the FEW!" --Joan Schneider, WI

Some get a bit angry:

"Alec sucks. When I found out the State Farm backed them, we DUMPED State Farm. And we had been with them for 20 years. Don't miss them a BIT!" --Audrey Lima, FL

"ALEC's prime mission is to destroy everything decent in this country!  Fascism simply ISN'T the same thing as Democracy!  STOP supporting this evil group!!!!" --Linda Christy, OK

"Stop SCROOGLING the very hard-working Americans who pay taxes that made you a household name. We don't need ALEC trying to shove their power-hungry, money-centered, and sexist/racist/homophobic agendas onto hard-working taxpayers. And we won't need GOOGLE either if they get in bed with corrupt ALEC and its members." --Deirdre McCullough, NC

"Google is EVIL SCUM pretending to be a progressively-minded company while funding organizations that systematically destroy the rights and well-being of everyday citizens everywhere, all to increase their already bloated bottom line.  Screw you--I don't need your search, your email, your phones, or anything else you can offer.  I NEED DEMOCRACY AND A COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY." --Ellen Read, NH

Or angry and pithy:

"Dicks." --Brad Thompson, IA

Some plead with Google:

"Please, Google, do not be a part of this right wing attempt to hijack democracy in your country!" --Sharon Fummerton, BC

"With your power you could (and should) do good instead of furthering ALEC's poisonous agenda." --Barbara Coulson, NC     

Some propose a course of action:

"I will boycott any company affiliated with ALEC" --Jim Knipe, VA

"Don't make me start using Bing." --Liz Neff, CA

Some are taking action already:

"I am already using DuckDuckGo for web searches. I'm pretty sure I can find an email service other than Gmail." --Dan Starr, IL

"Just changed my search engine." --Michael Keenan, IL

"I already changed my home page to Yahoo." --Nadia Daley

"I have stopped using Google completely due to it's support of these ultra conservative and regressive groups." --Kelley Dempsey, MD

"Until Google makes it clear that it no longer supports Alec and other anti-democratic, anti labour, and environmentally destructive causes I will conduct my searches through other engines." --Glenn Ashton

Some have a more serious solution in mind:

"Google is Getting too big and powerful, break it up!" --Stephen Rawlings, FL 

"When corporations get a fairer deal than the tax paying population, something needs to CHANGE!" --Debbie Boozer, IN

Tar Sands' Next Frontier: Shipments on the Great Lakes

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Great Lakes, drinking water source for over 40 million North Americans, could be the next target on tar sands marketers' bullseye according to a major new report out by the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes.

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