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Corporatism and Fascism


Corporatism and Fascism

Billions More in Easy Money for Wall Street -- Are We Too Ignorant About Finance to Stop It?

Billions More in Easy Money for Wall Street -- Are We Too Ignorant About Finance to Stop It?
A permanent security blanket for big boys of finance will further inflame public opinion. Only the public isn't likely to know.
By William Greider, The Nation | Alternet

The sale pitch for financial-reform legislation pending in the House claims it would put an stop to "too big to fail" bailouts for the leading banks. The reality is the opposite. The federal government would instead be granted unlimited authority to spend whatever it takes to prop up the big boys when they get in trouble. Only in the next crisis, Congress won't have to be asked for the money. The financial rescues will be funded by the secretive Federal Reserve, not the Treasury, with money the Fed itself creates.

And the emergency lending could be pumped into any financial institution in trouble--not just behemoth commercial banks but investment houses like Goldman Sachs, insurance companies, hedge funds or any other pools of private capital whose failure regulators believe would threaten the system.

This sounds nutty and it is. A permanent security blanket for big boys of finance will further inflame public opinion. Only the public isn't likely to know. The crucial terms for Fed financing are set by an innocuous-sounding amendment offered by Representative Brad Miller of North Carolina. Any financial holding company designated as a "systemic risk" and subject to stricter regulatory standards "shall have the same access to the discount window lending of an appropriate Federal Reserve Bank as is available to a member bank of each Federal Reserve bank."

This last-minute amendment, if included on final passage, solves a huge problem for the Obama administration--how to pay for the next bailout if another financial calamity unfolds. Read more.

The Afghan War Through a Marine Mother's Eyes

The Afghan War Through a Marine Mother's Eyes
By Mike Barnicle | Time

Nearly everything is a sad reminder for Mélida Arredondo: the news on TV, stories in the paper, speeches of Barack Obama and others who talk about a war that seems to have lasted so long and affected so many lives, those lost as well as those left behind.

"Did your son like the Marine Corps?" I ask her.

"Yes," she replies. "He loved it."

"And why did he join?"

"Too poor to go to college," Mélida Arredondo says.

Alexander Arredondo enlisted at 17 and was killed at 20 in Najaf during his second deployment in Iraq. He died on his father's birthday, Aug. 25, 2004, when Carlos Arredondo turned 44.

"My husband almost killed himself in grief," his wife says. "The day [the Marines] came to tell us Alex was dead, he poured gasoline all over himself and all over the inside of [their] car and lit it on fire. He survived ... physically." Read more.

"What Ya Got?" Seeking Tips On Chamber of Commerce's Tim Donohue: Possible Reward Could Be $200K!

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Colleen Rowley: New Warnings to New War President

New Warnings to New War President
By Colleen Rowley, Former FBI Special Agent

Today marked another day of protests in Minneapolis in opposition to Obama's decision to escalate the war on Afghanistan/Pakistan. Instead of the "taking to the streets" in downtown Minneapolis the night after the President's announcement, today's protest was held in early afternoon so there was much better light to display people's messages on a variety of homemade signs and large banners. Numerous speakers made it clear that no one in the crowd, which appeared to mostly consist of extremely disappointed Twin Cities residents who had previously supported and/or helped elect Obama, believed the flimsy justification he put forth in his speech that 100,000 troops are necessary to deal with the 100 Al Qaeda fighters which remain in Afghanistan-Pakistan. Speaker after speaker instead detailed how tripling the troop level made no sense strategically, militarily or politically and would prove horribly counterproductive to the goal of reducing terrorism.

Was Iraqi Cabbie the Source of the Dodgy Dossier?

Was Iraqi cabbie the source of the dodgy dossier?
MP's report claims 'intelligence' on Saddam's WMDs came from back of a taxi
By Tim Shipman | Times Online

Gossip from an Iraqi taxi driver was a key source for Tony Blair's 'dodgy dossier'.

A report by a respected MP claims that the unlikely secret agent was one of MI6's top sources when it was building a case to justify the invasion.

He provided the information that Saddam Hussein could fire chemical weapons at British targets within 45 minutes.

The revelation comes as the death toll of British troops in Afghanistan reaches 100 this year alone following the shooting of a member of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment in a gun battle with the Taliban.

Senior intelligence officials have told the MP that the cabbie falsely claimed Saddam Hussein had acquired long-range missiles after listening to Iraqi commanders chatting in his taxi two years before the invasion. Read more.

Guantánamo Lawyer Calls Off Talk In Illinois After Receiving Threats Of Violence

Guantánamo Lawyer Calls Off Talk In Illinois After Receiving Threats Of Violence
By Andy Worthington | AndyWorthington.co.UK

In a disgraceful example of bullying and intimidation, Marc Falkoff, a law professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law, who has been a lawyer for 16 Guantánamo prisoners since 2004, was forced to call off a talk about Guantánamo at a college in Illinois last week after receiving threats of violence to himself and his family. In Sunday’s Northwest Herald (“Local news and video for McHenry County, Illinois), Professor Falkoff wrote a guest column explaining what he would have said had the event not been called off, which I reproduce below, as it is not only a ringing endorsement of the right to free speech, but also a concise explanation of why it remains important for those who see beyond the Bush administration’s rhetoric about Guantánamo — that it holds “the worst of the worst” — to be able to discuss the many reasons that this claim is a blatant lie.

“What I would have said about Gitmo”
By Marc Falkoff

Several months ago, I was invited to speak at McHenry County College about my experience representing Guantánamo detainees.

The event was scheduled to take place last week, but after I received a slew of threats of violence to myself and my family, it’s not going to happen.

In blog postings and expletive-filled messages left on my personal cell phone, I was called a traitor, asked how I slept at night, and told that I would burn in hell. My clients were called murderers, and my family was threatened. After consultation with the Crystal Lake Police Department, the college understandably chose to cancel my talk.

It’s a shame. A handful of people, purporting to be patriots, have silenced the community’s right to hear a different perspective on our national detention policy. So I’d like to tell you some of what I would have said about Guantánamo at MCC last week. Read more.

The Spying Industrial Complex

The Spying Industrial Complex
By emptywheel | FireDogLake

Chris Soghoian, whose post on 8 million times the government has used GPS tracking on Sprint’s customers in the last year, has apparently flushed out the spying policies of many of the nation’s telecoms. Cryptome has them posted – though (as Mary points out) Yahoo has freaked out and initiated take-down proceedings.

Yahoo isn’t happy that a detailed menu of the spying services it provides law enforcement agencies has leaked onto the web.

Shortly after Threat Level reported this week that Yahoo had blocked the FOIA release of its law enforcement and intelligence price list, someone provided a copy of the company’s spying guide to the whistleblower site Cryptome.

The 17-page guide describes Yahoo’s data retention policies and the surveillance capabilities it can provide law enforcement, with a pricing list for these services. Cryptome also published lawful data-interception guides for Cox Communications, SBC, Cingular, Nextel, GTE and other telecoms and service providers. Read more.

A New Report Questions "Suicides" At Guantanamo

A new report questions "suicides" at Guantanamo
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon

On the night of June 10, 2006, three Guantanamo detainees were found dead in their individual cells. Without any autopsy or investigation, U.S. military officials proclaimed "suicide by hanging" as the cause of each death, and immediately sought to exploit the episode as proof of the evil of the detainees. Admiral Harry Harris, the camp's commander, said it showed "they have no regard for life" and that the suicides were "not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare aimed at us here at Guantanamo"; another official anonymously said that the suicides showed the victims were "committed jihadists [who] will do anything they can to advance their cause," while another sneered that "it was a good PR move to draw attention."

Questions immediately arose about how it could be possible that three detainees kept in isolation and under constant and intense monitoring could have coordinated and then carried out group suicide without detection, particularly since the military claimed their bodies were not found for over two hours after their deaths. But from the beginning, there was a clear attempt on the part of Guantanamo officials to prevent any outside investigation of this incident. To allay the questions that quickly emerged, the military announced it would conduct a sweeping investigation and publicly release its finding, but it did not do so until more than two years later when -- in August, 2008 -- it released a heavily redacted reported purporting to confirm suicide by hanging as the cause. Two of the three dead detainees were Saudis and one was Yemeni; they had been detained for years without charges; one of them was 17 years old at the time he was detained and 22 when he died; and they had participated in several of the hunger strikes at the camp to protest the brutality, torture and abuse to which they were routinely subjected. Perversely, one of the three victims had been cleared for release earlier that month. Read more.

New Revelations About Detainee Abuse Cry Out for Transparency and Accountability for Torture

New Revelations About Detainee Abuse Cry Out for Transparency and Accountability for Torture | Press Release | December 7, 2009

Washington, DC – A cascade of events in the last two weeks all point to two critical needs: getting at the facts about torture of detainees in American custody; and implementing a process of accountability for those who ordered, designed, and authorized torture policy.

The Department of Justice must live up to President Obama’s campaign promise of transparency. Americans have a right to know what is in the five-year old Office of Professional Responsibility report about the ethical conduct of the DOJ lawyers who authored the “torture memos.” Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the Senate last month that the OPR report would be released by the end of November, but as of this morning the report has still not been made public. Releasing the OPR report is the first important step in establishing a record of what led our country to torture and restoring the rule of law.

While President Obama remains determined to look forward rather than back, troubling news from the past eight years continues to leak out. This morning, Seton Hall University released a report raising substantial questions about the reported “suicides” of three Guantanamo detainees in 2006, undermining the Department of Defense’s official account of their deaths and suggesting the need for further investigation.

Last week, DOJ came to the defense of “torture memo” author John Yoo in a lawsuit by Jose Padilla alleging he was tortured as a result of Yoo’s legal advice. In an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that didn’t need to be filed, DOJ argued on Yoo’s behalf that no government lawyer can be held accountable in court for legal advice given to the President, even when it results in torture.

“Instead of releasing the OPR report, the Obama Department of Justice has gone out of its way to shield John Yoo from civil liability, citing its own still-unreleased internal ethics report as a path to accountability,” said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron. “The latest revelations about detainee abuse at Guantanamo and Bagram are only further reasons why the Obama administration must promote transparency by releasing the OPR report and restore the rule of law by holding government officials accountable for torture.”

Jews Against Zionism

Jews Against Zionism
By Stephen Lendman

They're numerous, outspoken, and range from secular to orthodox to one group calling itself "True Torah Jews Against Zionism."

They believe that "traditional" Jews don't support Zionism, an ideology they call "contrary to Jewish law and beliefs and the teachings of the Holy Torah." They say Zionism:

  • advocates "a political and military end to the Jewish exile;"
  • fosters "pseudo-Judaism" based on secular nationalism;
  • coercively seeks "armed materialism" in place of "a Divine and Torah centered understanding;"
  • endangers all Jews worldwide;
  • wants to disassociate Jews and traditional Judaism from ideological Zionism; and
  • calls Israel a "Zionist State," not a Jewish one.

They:

  • cite their concern for "peace and safety of all people throughout the world including those living in the Zionist state" and in Occupied Palestine;
  • say from ancient times until 100 years ago, Jews and Arabs lived in peace and friendship until Zionism changed the relationship;
  • believe Zionists abandoned the Torah and traditional Judaism, demanded political sovereignty over the Holy Land, and aroused anger in the Arab world; and
  • Torah Jewry doesn't recognize or support a Zionist state; nor do they represent world Jews; even the name "Israel" is a "forgery," they believe, because the Torah forbids violence in the words of the prophet Isaiah who said:

"And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. No nation will lift its sword against any other, nor will they learn warfare anymore."

Peace Grannies Tell Toys R Us: "War Toys 'R' Not US!!!"

PEACE GRANNIES TELL TOYS "R" US: "WAR TOYS 'R' NOT US!!!"
By Joan Wile

Shoppers in the Times Square Toys "R" Us flagship store were startled on Friday, December 5, when they looked up at the giant ferris wheel in the middle of the store and saw fifteen people riding it while unfurling bright yellow banners inscripted with the words "NO MORE WAR TOYS" and "WAR IS NOT A GAME!" As the wheel slowly revolved around, the mischief makers sang over and over John Lennon's famous refrain, "All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance."

This caper was how the legendary Granny Peace Brigade launched their latest anti-war campaign, entitled "NO MORE WAR TOYS, NO MORE WARS." Fed up with the proliferation of obscenely violent war toys, the grannies created this latest protest action in an effort to get the poisonous stuff off the shelves, thereby, hopefully, decreasing the militarization of our youth.

The grandmothers think their campaign is particularly timely coming on the heels, as it did, of the President's disappointing announcement of more troops being sent to Afghanistan. "Violence begets violence," said Barbara Walker, a founding member of the Brigade. "These awful toys indoctrinate our young with the concept that war is the preferred tactic to conduct our foreign policy. Such a mind set emboldens our leaders to supplant peaceful negotiation and diplomacy with bombs and bloodshed. We are trying to eradicate the cancer at its core." Click "Read more" for larger pictures.

Anti-War Rally Set For Saturday, December 12th From 11:00 AM to 4 PM at the White House

We will tell President Obama "No You Can't!" send more US troops to Afghanistan
Anti-War Rally set for Saturday, December 12th from 11:00 am to 4 pm at the White House

Washington, DC - Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will join former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, former Sen. Mike Gravel, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly, and a host of antiwar leaders for an emergency rally in Lafayette Park this Saturday.

Join us to demand President Obama announce an immediate ceasefire in Iraq and Afghanistan to end the wars and order our troops home. The President must stop Predator drone attacks and covert operations in Pakistan, and begin immediate reconstruction and recovery in war torn regions. Too many people have suffered and died.

If the President does not meet these demands, we promise intensified opposition, with anti-war candidates prepared to defeat his war policy.

Click here for the Event Guide, including map and transportation arrangements.

Get regular updates here as a Facebook fan of End The Wars.

Click here to read the Open Letter to the President.

Download the flyer below (attachment) to post and circulate.

About Us:

We are a new coalition of antiwar organizations, peace and justice advocates, and citizens of conscience who challenge our elected leaders to end the US wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq and bring our troops home.

See our website, End US War, for more information on the protest and a complete list of speakers.

Neocons Get Warm and Fuzzy Over ‘War President’

Neocons Get Warm and Fuzzy Over ‘War President’
By Eli Clifton | Anti War.com

U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for a 30,000-troop surge and a troop withdrawal timeline beginning in 18 months has caught criticism from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

But a small group of hawkish foreign policy experts – who have lobbied the White House since August to escalate U.S. involvement in Afghanistan – are christening Obama the new "War President."

The response to Obama’s Tuesday night speech at West Point has largely been less than enthusiastic, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle finding plenty in the administration’s Afghanistan plan that fails to live up to their expectations. Republicans have hammered the White House on Obama’s decision to begin a drawdown of U.S. forces in 18 months, while Democrats largely expressed ambivalence or dismay over the administration’s willingness to commit 30,000 more soldiers to a war seen by many as unwinnable and costly at a time when the U.S. economy is barely in recovery from the global financial crisis.

The White House’s rollout of the 30,000 troop surge did little to convince an already skeptical Congress, but foreign policy hawks who have accused the president of "dithering" in making a decision on Afghanistan are praising the administration’s willingness to make the "tough" commitment to escalate the U.S. commitment in the war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, their approval of the White House’s decision to commit 30,000 troops is the culmination of a campaign led by the newly formed Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

FPI held its first event in March, titled "Afghanistan: Planning for Success," and a second event in September – "Advancing and Defending Democracy" – which focused on counterinsurgency in combating the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The newly formed group is headed up by the Weekly Standard’s editor Bill Kristol; foreign policy adviser to the McCain presidential campaign Robert Kagan; and former policy adviser in the George W. Bush administration Dan Senor. Read more.

Pentagon's War Pitch Belied by Taliban-Qaeda Conflict

Pentagon's War Pitch Belied by Taliban-Qaeda Conflict
By Gareth Porter | IPS

U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen argued in Senate Testimony Wednesday that the 30,000-troop increase is necessary to prevent the Taliban from giving new safe havens to al Qaeda terrorists.

But that argument is flatly contradicted by the evidence of fundamental conflicts between the interests of the Taliban and those of al Qaeda that has emerged in recent years, according to counterterrorism and intelligence analysts specialising in Afghanistan.

Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, "Taliban-ruled areas could in short order become once again sanctuary for al Qaeda, as well as a staging area for resurgent militant groups on the offensive in Pakistan."

Mullen made the same assertion in even more pointed terms. "[T]o argue that should they have...power the Taliban would not at least tolerate the presence of al Qaeda on Afghan soil is to ignore both the recent past and the evidence we see every day of collusion between these factions on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border," he said. "Put simply, the Taliban and al Qaeda have become symbiotic," said Gates, "each benefitting from the success and mythology of the other."

It is well known among government officials working on Afghanistan and al Qaeda, however, that serious tensions between the two organisations emerged after the attack on the "Red Mosque" in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad in July 2007. Western intelligence quickly discovered the attack was an al Qaeda operation, and that it marked the beginning of an al Qaeda campaign calling for the overthrow of the Pakistani government and military.

That created a serious conflict between al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to specialists who followed the issue closely. Read more.

U.S., NATO War In Afghanistan: Antecedents And Precedents

U.S., NATO War In Afghanistan: Antecedents And Precedents
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site

The U.S. (and Britain) began bombing the Afghan capital of Kabul on October 7, 2001 with Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships and submarines and bombs dropped from warplanes and shortly thereafter American special forces began ground operations, a task that has been conducted since by regular Army and Marine units. The bombing and the ground combat operations continue more than eight years later and both will be intensified to record levels in short order.

The combined U.S. and NATO forces would represent a staggering number, in excess of 150,000 soldiers. By way of comparison, as of September of this year there were approximately 120,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and only a small handful of other nations' personnel, those assigned to the NATO Training Mission - Iraq, remaining with them.

"Secretary Gates has made clear that the conflicts we're in should be at the very forefront of our agenda. He wants to make sure we're not giving up capabilities needed now for those needed for some unknown future conflict. He wants to make sure the Pentagon is truly on war footing....For the first time in decades, the political and economic stars are aligned for a fundamental overhaul of the way the Pentagon does business."

Over the past ten years citizens of the United States and other Western nations, and unfortunately most of the world, have become accustomed to Washington and its military allies in Europe and those appointed as armed outposts on the periphery of the "Euro-Atlantic community" engaging in armed aggression around the world.

Wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq and lower profile military operations and surrogate campaigns in nations as diverse as Colombia, Yemen, the Philippines, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Ossetia and elsewhere have become an unquestioned prerogative of the U.S. and its NATO partners. So much so that many have forgotten to consider how comparable actions have been or might be viewed if a non-Western nation attempted them.

As Obama Sends More Troops, Giant Shadow Army Of Contractors Set To Grow In Afghanistan

As Obama Sends More Troops, Giant Shadow Army Of Contractors Set To Grow In Afghanistan
by Justin Elliott | Common Dreams

With President Obama addressing the nation tonight about a new escalation in Afghanistan, a perennially underexamined topic is once again receiving short shrift: the huge force of contractors, which as of June outnumbered the size of the U.S. troop presence itself, is likely to swell.

The Administration seemingly hasn't addressed the issue, and the word "contractor" doesn't appear much in media coverage -- for example, in the Times and Post stories on the escalation today.

But David Berteau, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells TPM that as Obama increases troop levels to at least 100,000, "there will definitely be an increase in the number of contractors."

The contractors -- the majority of whom are Afghan nationals, according to a Congressional study -- do the work that makes the war possible, like serving food, driving trucks, constructing buildings, transporting fuel, and more. Between 7% and 16% of the total are Blackwater-style private security contractors, according to various estimates.

While contractors allow the U.S. to fight wars with fewer American troops -- which may be good or bad, depending on who you ask -- they also present serious transparency and security concerns. That includes goodwill-draining episodes like the May shooting of two Afghan civilians in Kabul by contractors working for Xe, formerly Blackwater. Experts are also concerned about an attack by enemies who might slip through security as a contractor at an American facility.

It's impossible to say how much taxpayer money is going to private contracts because various government entities either don't know, or don't agree on, just how many contractors are currently in Afghanistan. Read more.

The Campaign Cash Behind the Afghanistan Escalation

The Campaign Cash Behind the Afghanistan Escalation
by Sue Sturgis | Common Dreams

...a recent Gallup poll found that 60% of Democrats want the president to begin reducing troop levels in Afghanistan.

But while the president may be showing disloyalty to his political base, he's remaining faithful to the defense industry interests that so generously funded his campaign.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org database, the top recipient of defense industry money in the 2008 election cycle was Barack Obama, whose haul of $1,029,997 far surpassed Republican contender Sen. John McCain's $696,948.

During the 2008 cycle, the industry contributed a total of $23.7 million to federal candidates -- far more than the $17.4 million it invested during the 2006 cycle or the $18.1 million in the 2004 cycle.

The top five defense industry contributors during the 2008 elections were Lockheed Martin at $2.5 million, Boeing at $2.1 million, Northrop Grumman at $1.8 million, and Raytheon and General Dynamics at $1.7 million each.

And it appears their investment may be paying off: The Associated Press reports that analyst Howard A. Rubel of the global investment bank Jefferies & Co. sent out a client note today stating that the fiscal 2010 Defense Department Budget will likely boost demand for precision munitions, communications gear, helicopters, armor and surveillance systems.

Among the companies whose stock Rubel rated as "Buy"? General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. Read more.

The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan & the Limits of American Power

The War We Can’t Win
Afghanistan & the Limits of American Power
Andrew J. Bacevich | Commonweal | August 14, 2009

History deals rudely with the pretensions of those who presume to determine its course. In an American context, this describes the fate of those falling prey to the Wilsonian Conceit. Yet the damage done by that conceit outlives its perpetrators.

From time to time, in some moment of peril or anxiety, a statesman appears on the scene promising to eliminate tyranny, ensure the triumph of liberty, and achieve permanent peace. For a moment, the statesman achieves the status of prophet, one who in his own person seemingly embodies the essence of the American purpose. Then reality intrudes, exposing the promises as costly fantasies. The prophet’s followers abandon him. Mocked and reviled, he is eventually banished—perhaps to some gated community in Dallas.

Yet however brief his ascendancy, the discredited prophet leaves behind a legacy. Most obvious are the problems created and left unresolved, commitments made and left unfulfilled, debts accrued and left unpaid. Less obvious, but for that reason more important, are the changes in perception.

The prophet recasts our image of reality. Long after his departure, remnants of that image linger and retain their capacity to beguile: consider how the Wilsonian vision of the United States as crusader state called upon to redeem the world in World War I has periodically resurfaced despite Woodrow Wilson’s own manifest failure to make good on that expectation. The prophet declaims and departs. Yet traces of his testimony, however at odds with the facts, remain lodged in our consciousness.

So it is today with Afghanistan, the conflict that George W. Bush began, then ignored, and finally bequeathed to his successor. Barack Obama has embraced that conflict as “the war we must win.” Those who celebrated Bush’s militancy back in the intoxicating days when he was promising to rid the world of evil see Obama’s enthusiasm for pressing on in Afghanistan as a vindication of sorts. They are right to do so.

The misguided and mismanaged global war on terror reduced Bush’s presidency to ruin. The candidate whose run for high office derived its energy from an implicit promise to repudiate all that Bush had wrought now seems intent on salvaging something useful from that failed enterprise—even if that means putting his own presidency at risk. When it comes to Afghanistan, Obama may be singing in a different key, but to anyone with an ear for music—especially for military marches—the melody remains intact. Read more.

West Point Speech: Yes We Can...Stop This War!

West Point Speech: Yes We Can...Stop This War!
By Jack A. Smith

Following is the text of the talk given at the Dec. 1 West Point demonstration by Jack A. Smith, editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and co-chair of Peace & Social Progress Now.

During the election, at Barack Obama rallies, we frequently heard the multitudes exclaim in unison — Yes We Can! The crowds also spoke of "change we can believe in."

I was suspicious of such slogans because it was never explained what they meant. Yes we can — what? And what was the "change we can believe in"?

Although a great deal was implied by these slogans — not least that Obama would end the wars and bring the troops home — the Democratic candidate never spelled it out.

But now I think we know what both statements mean.

Oh Fa Chrissake...President Barack Obama Delivered The Best Speech George W. Bush Ever Gave In His Life

Oh Fa Chrissake...President Barack Obama delivered the best speech George W. Bush ever gave in his life.
By William Rivers Pitt | Democratic Underground

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered the best speech George W. Bush ever gave in his life. Mr. Bush, if he was watching, would have recognized virtually every facet of Obama's speech, for it was the Bush administration that hammered out the template used by Mr. Obama to deliver the news that he is doubling down on the war in Afghanistan.

Obama's eloquence was far superior to anything Mr. Bush could have ever hoped to achieve - for the first time in the 21st century, the United States has a president who can pronounce "nuclear" correctly - but at the end of the day, it was the same script all over again.

Mr. Obama's speech contained all the well-worn Bushian touchstones, one above all: sharing a stage with soldiers in uniform - and how heartbreakingly young were the faces in that room; one could hear a pin drop throughout in that roomful of children whose lives will be directly affected by the decision that was announced - as a means of political defense and to augment his martial profile. Mr. Bush pulled this sickening stunt more times than can be counted, and it burned like acid to see another president defile their service by using them as props in a bit of political theater.

It took exactly 130 words for Mr. Obama to invoke the attacks of September 11, which is just about how long it usually took Mr. Bush whenever he unleashed one of his linguistic muggings upon the populace.

Mr. Obama blessed the calamity of Iraq as a success - "We have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people," said the president - which was a favorite habit of Mr. Bush, no matter how brazen facts to the contrary happened to be.

Mr. Obama likewise blessed the recent fraud-riddled election in Afghanistan as a positive thing, despite the cancerous effect that farce of a vote has had on the confidence of the Afghan people. In this, the president echoed Mr. Bush once again, as it was often Mr. Bush's practice to fete Iraqi elections that were controlled by Iran and riven with violence as successful steps towards democracy.

Mr. Obama re-introduced the American people to the menace of weapons of mass destruction, a favorite note of Mr. Bush. Obama did not go so far as to say that Afghanistan is in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program, as Mr. Bush did during another memorable prime-time speech, but the call to dread was there all the same. The threat of "loose nukes" is indeed real enough, but it was a kick in the stomach to see the Bush Handbook on Fear put into play once again. Read more.

Sprint’s 50 Million Customers Have Been Geo-Tracked 8 Million Times–in the Last Year

Sprint’s 50 Million Customers Have Been Geo-Tracked 8 Million Times–in the Last Year
By Emptywheel | FireDogLake

Chris Soghoian caught a remarkable admission at a surveillance conference in October. Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance revealed that law enforcement has used Sprint’s geotracking function 8 million times in the thirteen months prior to his comment.

Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers.

The evidence documenting this surveillance program comes in the form of an audio recording of Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance, who described it during a panel discussion at a wiretapping and interception industry conference, held in Washington DC in October of 2009.

[snip]

[M]y major concern is the volume of requests. We have a lot of things that are automated but that’s just scratching the surface. One of the things, like with our GPS tool. We turned it on the web interface for law enforcement about one year ago last month, and we just passed 8 million requests. So there is no way on earth my team could have handled 8 million requests from law enforcement, just for GPS alone. So the tool has just really caught on fire with law enforcement. They also love that it is extremely inexpensive to operate and easy, so, just the sheer volume of requests they anticipate us automating other features, and I just don’t know how we’ll handle the millions and millions of requests that are going to come in.

Now, as he documents in extensive detail, using cell phone location to get the geolocation of someone is just one of a number of uses of legal surveillance techniques that is eluding public reporting. Read more.

Sources: Blackwater's Running A Secret War in Pakistan - So Classified, Even Administration Doesn't Know

Sources: Blackwater's Running A Secret War in Pakistan - So Classified, Even Administration Doesn't Know
By Susie Madrak | Crooks & Liars

There was a definite method to BushCo's madness: Namely, hire subcontractors to evade the laws that prevent the DoD and the CIA from taking part in torture and assassination. From The Nation:

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

Sure sounds like Cheney's still got his moles deep inside, doesn't it? Read more.

Déjà-Bush?

Déjà-Bush?
By Bob Sommer | Uncommon Hours

You couldn’t escape the déjà-Bush-all-over-again elements of Obama’s speech last night – the military setting, the audience of uniformed cadets all sitting stiffly and attentively as their Commander-in-Chief addressed them on a matter of war. Officers, generals, the Secretary of Defense, the Military Academy at West Point: Who was the real audience?

Unlike Bush, who turned soldiers into props and military bases into stage settings, Obama seemed to have a different purpose in going to West Point, one that may be even more troubling than Bush’s play-soldiering.

“As cadets,” Obama told his live audience, “you volunteered for service during this time of danger. Some of you have fought in Afghanistan. Many will deploy there. As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service.” [my emphasis]

If the right wing was worried about Obama bowing to a foreign leader (which didn’t trouble me at all), I worry about him bowing to the military. Ever since McCrystal returned from Afghanistan and demanded 40,000 troops, it seemed that the military was the decision-maker in this process. What was McCrystal doing on TV a few weeks back stoking up the public? Michael Moore was right: he should have been fired then.

Maybe eight years of Bush incessantly declaring that “the generals on the ground” would tell him what to do has finally evolved into a kind of unwritten law – a paradigm for military decision-making in the state of endless war that Bush & Co. bequeathed us. And precisely what the Founders wanted to avoid when they made a civilian leader the commander-in-chief of the military. Read more.

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