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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
Who knew Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter would emerge as one of the most vocal opponents in the Senate of the President's military escalation in Afghanistan?
But so it is. In an op-ed this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Specter not only challenges the "surge"; he also challenges fundamental premises of the war. Specter writes:
I'm opposed to sending 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan because I don't believe they are indispensable in our fight against al Qaeda.
But if al Qaeda can organize and operate out of Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, then why fight in Afghanistan, which has made a history of resisting would-be conquerors - from Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BC, to Great Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s?
What can one Senator do? Well, one Senator can introduce legislation, for starters. At this writing, there isn't a single piece of legislation before the Senate that expresses opposition to continuing the war indefinitely. This is in marked contrast to the House, where Representative McGovern's bill requiring the Pentagon to present Congress with an exit strategy from Afghanistan has more than 100 co-sponsors. That's like having 23 Senators.
But Arlen Specter is in a unique position to do much more than introduce legislation. He could turn his Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary into a referendum on the Afghanistan war, because his primary opponent, Joe Sestak, supports the war and supports the escalation: Read more.
Major television networks continue to host retired generals as military analysts without alerting viewers to their extensive ties to defense contractors and the Pentagon.
Military strategy is a frequent topic on TV in the wake of President Obama's announcement that he will send more troops to Afghanistan now -- and start bringing them out by mid-2011. But few television viewers have any idea that some of what they're hearing originates from men who are literally profiting from the war.
One of these men in particular -- NBC News military analyst and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- has appeared on MSNBC at least 10 times in the past month to criticize Obama's proposed troop-withdrawal deadline, to lavish praise upon Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, and to underscore the importance of training Afghan security forces.
But neither McCaffrey nor the MSNBC anchors ever mentioned the fact that McCaffrey sits on the board of directors of DynCorp International, a company with a lucrative government contract to train the Afghan National Security Forces. Nor did they mention that McCaffrey recently completed a report about Afghanistan that was commissioned by Petraeus and funded by the Pentagon. Read more.
Fox 'News' Fans Flood VR With Death Threats, F-Bombs, Racist Email Following Front Page Article on 'Stop The Chamber' Campaign
Those "conservative" Fox "News" fans sure do use a lot of F-words in their death threats.
We're used to various death threats by now, of course, even from Drudge's poodle, Andy "Big Government" Breitbart, but those socially "conservative", American "values"-lovin', Fox "News" viewers have really outdone themselves this time.
On Monday night, FoxNews.com featured a story on the latest announcement from VR's StopTheChamber.com campaign, concerning the offer of a $200,000 reward for insider information leading to the arrest and conviction of Tom Donohue, the CEO of the right-wing corporatist lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [Disclosure: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VelvetRevolution.us]
Apart from his work at the Chamber, Donohue has run a number of major corporations into the ground, as his tenure as CEO at each was generally plagued by improprieties, plunging stock values (coupled with soaring executive pay), scandal, various forms of illegal behavior and SEC investigations. He was found by the FEC to have made millions of dollars in illegal corporate campaign contributions in 2004 and is now facing a criminal investigation by the DoJ about that, even while he runs the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in many ways, as nothing short of a criminal racket.
Unlike many similar campaigns VR has run in the past, offering such rewards for whistleblower information about wrong-doers over the years, this one caught the attention of the folks at Fox for some reason, and they decided to splash it on the front page of their website this week with a bold graphic shouting: "HUNTED BY THE LEFT: Bounty Put on Head of Chamber Boss". For good measure, in the story itself, they used the word "Liberal" a total of four times before they even finished the second graf. (An email to the story's author, Judson Berger, explaining that VR is a non-partisan group and works with folks of many different political bents, including Republicans, led them to change their headline from the wholly misleading "Liberal Group Puts Bounty on Head of Chamber of Commerce CEO" to the slightly-less misleading "Activist Group Puts Bounty on Head..." etc.)
Anyway, while there is no bounty on anybody's "head", and no one is being "HUNTED", the StopTheChamber.com campaign does feature a reward for information leading to Donohue's arrest and conviction. Roll Call also covered [$-only] VR's announcement on Monday, though much more responsibly (in a far less inflammatory way) than Fox did.
But this story is not about that, it's about the unbelievable amount of email that was sent from, presumably, those "socially conservative" Fox "News" fans in which a good 98% of those notes contained one or more of the following: Read more.
Shell Wins Rights To Iraq's Giant Manjoon Oil Fields
By Sinan Salaheddin and Tarek El-Tablawy | Huffington Post
Iraqi officials cheered and clapped as the first oil field up for bid went to a major international consortium at the opening of the country's biggest postwar auction Friday. But from there, the chill set in.
Oil executives from around the world made deals on only two fields, both in Iraq's relatively stable south, while shunning six others in regions with sporadic violence – and where the risk outweighs the profits that the Iraqi government is offering.
Iraqi officials portrayed the day as a success because they secured deals that will ramp up production in the two giant fields. But the lack of energetic bidding highlighted Iraq's difficulties in turning its wealth of oil – the world's third largest reserves – into a financial bonanza.
Energy experts say Iraq has been tightfisted in the deals it has offered major producers. There is also a long-running feud between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds over control of petroleum reserves in the north.
Security is yet another issue, particularly in central Iraq and areas north of the capital. Read more.
Is The Military Fudging Civilian Casualties To Avoid Pentagon Oversight?
By Megan Carpentier | Air America
On Monday, the anonymous blogger Security Crank noticed something interesting: all the U.S. and NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan seemingly kill exactly 30 people every time. How can that be?
Security Crank documented no less than 12 occasions in which news reports, relying on field commanders' estimates, noted that exactly 30 suspected Taliban were killed in airstrikes and, occasionally, artillery attacks. He said:
But the much more important point remains: how could we possibly have any idea how the war is going, here or anywhere else, when the bad guys seem only to die in groups of 30? The sheer ubiquity of that number in fatality and casualty counts is astounding, to the point where I don’t even pay attention to a story anymore when they use that magic number 30. It is an indicator either of ignorance or deliberate spin… but no matter the case, whenever you see the number 30 used in reference to the Taliban, you should probably close the tab and move onto something else, because you just won’t get a good sense of what happened there.
So, why is it always 30? Do thirty casualties seem like enough to justify a military attack, or few enough to not attract too much attention to an incident?
Another blogger, Joshua Foust of the Central Asia blog Registan, seemingly stumbled upon the answer. In a tweet, he noted:
In 2003, an air strike killing 30 civilians could be launched w/o issues. 31 dead civilians and Rummy had to approve.
Foust then linked to an LA Times article from last July by Nicholas Goldberg that documented what field commanders were told. Read more.
Key Oil Auction in Iraq Today: Foreign Companies Could Produce Majority of Iraq's Oil for First Time in 35 Years
Will Bush's Oil Agenda Lock Obama Further Into War?
Today and tomorrow (12/11 & 12/12/2009) in Baghdad, the world's last great oil bonanza opens to the highest bidders. This auction will finalize an oil revolution in Iraq placing the majority of the nation's oil production in foreign hands for the first time in 30 years.
Some 44 international companies will bid on 11 groups of massive oil and gas fields, Iraq's "non-producing" and as of yet "undiscovered" fields. A prior round of bidding, for eight of Iraq's currently producing fields, completed in November.
Iraq has eighty known oil fields holding some 115 billion barrels of oil, just seventeen of which currently pump oil. There has been no meaningful oil exploration in Iraq for over twenty years and it is estimated that it's "undiscovered" fields could hold as much as an additional 285 billion barrels of oil - giving Iraq the largest oil reserves in the world.
Before the U.S. and British invasion, Iraq had a fully nationalized oil sector. But things were changing. Saddam Hussein was negotiating contracts with foreign oil companies. None of the contracts, however, could take effect while the UN sanctions remained in place. Three countries held the largest contracts: China, Russia, and France--all members of the UN Security Council and all in a position to advocate for the end of sanctions. Court proceedings revealed that lists of these contracts were reviewed by oil and energy company representatives as part of Vice President Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group (better known as the Cheney Energy Task Force). None of their companies' names were on the lists. Were Hussein to remain in power and the sanctions to be removed, these contracts - none with any U.S. or major British companies - would take effect, and the U.S. and its closest ally would be shut out.
The Cheney Energy Task Force released its final report in May 2001, arguing that Middle Eastern countries should be urged, "to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment." This has now been achieved in Iraq. The sanctions are gone, foreign investment can proceed, and the problem of U.S. and British exclusion is over.
It has taken the full six years since Saddam Hussein ouster for the oil companies to finalize contracts. Read more.
Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.
By James Risen and Mark Mazzetti | NY Times
Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.’s most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, according to former company employees and intelligence officials.
The raids against suspects occurred on an almost nightly basis during the height of the Iraqi insurgency from 2004 to 2006, with Blackwater personnel playing central roles in what company insiders called “snatch and grab” operations, the former employees and current and former intelligence officers said.
Several former Blackwater guards said that their involvement in the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred. Instead of simply providing security for C.I.A. officers, they say, Blackwater personnel at times became partners in missions to capture or kill militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, a practice that raises questions about the use of guns for hire on the battlefield.
Separately, former Blackwater employees said they helped provide security on some C.I.A. flights transporting detainees in the years after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
The secret missions illuminate a far deeper relationship between the spy agency and the private security company than government officials had acknowledged. Blackwater’s partnership with the C.I.A. has been enormously profitable for the North Carolina-based company, and became even closer after several top agency officials joined Blackwater. Read more.
Rep. Kucinich, Brian Becker, Gale Murphy, Cynthia McKinney, Chris Hedges and Others Speak at Today's "End the US Wars" Rally
Thanks to Liam Hughes for providing these videos of today's "End the US Wars" rally in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C.
Rep. Kucinich: "These Wars Are Corrupting...our Nation!"
Brian Becker: "End the Afghan War Right Now!"
Here is my sentencing statement in the Kerry case involving Ellen, Eve and myself (charges against Steve were dropped):
Good morning, Judge Liebowitz.
On May 21st, Eve Tetaz, Ellen Barfield, Steve Mihalis and I spoke during a senate foreign relations committee hearing. we provided public testimony. public witness. nothing more. nothing less. we believe it is part of our obligations as citizens to be active participants in our democracy and voice our concerns when it is necessary. Myself, I quoted Senator John Kerry's own 1971 anti-war warning to him. I wanted to remind him of who he was as a young man disillusioned with a tragic and misdirected war he had been embroiled in. I wanted to plead with John Kerry to help end this tragic and misdirected war which has now gone on twice as long as World War II for our nation. We were nonviolent, and there were no victims. We were trying to prevent the continued victimization of innocent Afghans at the hands of our own military might.
Brian Ross at ABC has aired the results of his investigation into the use of alleged mercenaries by the United States. I was interviewed on the story, though I was obviously not at liberty to discuss it before it aired yesterday. Ross found evidence that private contractors were being used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq for combat missions — a role that raises very disturbing legal and policy questions.
The ABC storyis based on four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers. The New York Times has also reported that raids against Iraqi insurgents were conducted “almost nightly” between 2004 and 2006, and “the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred.”
Congress has historically moved against the use of private contractors for such purposes. The Defense Department bars the use of private security contractors (PSCs) for combat operations. In the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress required full reporting on the use and weaponry of PSCs. Such contractors have been involved in controversial shootings such as the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle in Nisoor Square by Blackwater employees.
The debate over PSCs has been over their use in combat areas, not just their use in combat — a role restricted for our regular forces. However, even their use in combat areas is viewed as inimical by military professionals. The executive summary for the U.S. Naval Academy’s 9th Annual McCain Conference on Ethics and Military Leadership stated this position recently:
We therefore conclude that contractors should not be deployed as security guards, sentries, or even prison guards within combat areas. APSCs should be restricted to appropriate support functions and those geographic areas where the rule of law prevails. In irregular warfare (IW) environments, where civilian cooperation is crucial, this restriction is both ethically and strategically necessary. Read more.
Mercenaries? CIA Says Expanded Role for Contractors Legitimate
Blackwater, Other Firms Said to Be "Hired Guns" in Iraq, Afghanistan -- Combat Role Would Be Against U.S. Law
By Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito and Brian Ross | ABC News
The CIA and the military special forces have quietly expanded the role of private contractors, including Blackwater, to include their involvement in raids and secret paramilitary operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers tell ABC News.
American law specifically prohibits the use of private soldiers or mercenaries in combat, according to Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University.
"The United States Congress has never approved the use of private contractors for combat operations," Turley told ABC News in an interview...Read more.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (December) – After voting against H.R. 4173 – Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) issued the following statement:
“Although I am supportive of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency as well as other provisions in the bill, ultimately I do not think this bill adequately addresses the causes of the financial crisis, and I do not believe the reforms are sufficient to prevent another financial crisis from occurring.
In testimony before the Committee on Financial Services earlier in the year, Dr. Robert Johnson of the Roosevelt Institute stressed that reform of the derivatives markets is absolutely central to fixing the financial system. In fact, he went so far as to say that without strong and comprehensive derivatives reform, any effort to address the problem of systemic risk would be rendered impotent.
HR 4173 makes some progress toward regulating derivatives by establishing regulations for clearing and regulating over-the-counter derivatives; however the bill--especially in light of the House’s adoption of the Murphy amendment--contains a number of loopholes that sophisticated financial industry insiders will exploit with ease. For example, the Murphy amendment’s expansion of the exemption of derivatives users, jeopardizes the integrity of the whole reform. As Dr. Johnson said in his testimony, the challenge is to “[preserve] as much scope for deriving value from derivative instruments for end users without making the definition of end user so broad that it allows large scale financial institutions to effectively continue their unregulated OTC practices and at the same time assures that end users do not themselves, through loopholes, contribute to a weakening of the integrity of the financial system.” HR 4173 does not accomplish this.
Credit rating agencies were also at the heart of the financial crisis. It was their bogus ratings on opaque securitizations and other financial products that fueled the asset bubble, and it was the fundamental conflict of interest in their “issuer pays” business model that strengthened their position in the industry.
Unfortunately HR 4173, rather than address the fundamental conflict of interest in the “issuer pays” model, instead sidesteps the issue and gives the Securities and Exchange Commission more authority to mitigate conflicts of interest. The years leading up to the financial crisis, however, taught us some very important lessons regarding the enforcement authority of the SEC: when officials at the Agency operate with a philosophical disagreement with its mission, it does not matter what tools they have; they simply will not use them. In the interest of long-term, systemic reform, HR 4173 should have directly addressed this problem.
From Hiroshima to Gaza
By Hisae Ogawa
The first time I met and had a chance to talk to Palestinian women was back in 1975, the United Nations International Women’s Year. I was then working for the Women’s International Democrat Federation (WIDF), one of the Non-Governmental Agencies accredited by the United Nations.
WIDF’s head office was in East Berlin, the capitol of the German Democratic Republic. It had over 100 member groups all around the world and representatives that were called “secretaries” were sent from more than ten countries from Europe, Africa, Asia and America. At the time the General Secretary of WIDF was from Argentina and the President was from Australia. It was indeed an international place. But at the same time I was so disturbed to see the East Berliners suffered lack of freedom due to the wall dividing the city.
One of my co-workers was a young girl from Iraq. She was working hard trying to cover the whole issues in the Middle East. From her I learned what was happening in the Middle East.
It was through her that I got to know the Palestinian issue and made friends with Palestinian women. One day she brought some women from Palestine to the WIDF office. They were touring Europe to publicize their plight. They said Israel was doing the same things to Palestinian people as the Nazis had done to the Jewish people during the World War II.
Rep. Kucinich Rebukes Obama: "Once We Believe In The Inevitability Of War, War Becomes A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy."
Following a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today released the following statement:
“Yesterday, our president mused about the inevitability of war, war’s instrumentality in the pursuit of peace and just wars. It is important for us to reflect on his words, because once we believe in the inevitability of war, war becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once we are committed to war’s instrumentality in pursuit of peace, we begin the Orwellian journey to the semantic netherworld where War IS Peace, where the momentum of war overwhelms hopes for peace. And once we wrap doctrines perpetuating war in the arms of justice, we can easily legitimate the wholesale slaughter of innocents. The war against Iraq was based on lies. Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan are based on flawed doctrines of counter-insurgency. War is often not just; sometimes it is just war. And our ability to rethink the terms of our existence, to explore the possibility of peace without war, may well determine whether we end war, or war ends us.”
We Need A Step Program
by Missy Comley Beattie
“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”
--Chris Hedges: War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
In 1935, Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with its principles to overcome the denial that characterizes the disease of alcoholism. Since its inception, AA has proven to be salvation for countless individuals and families. Its 12-step program has translated to many areas of pathology in reaching those with other dependencies.
I can think of a huge area of pathology—this landmass in which we reside—the USA. Our drug-addicted nation has been brought to its knees by a consumption-based lifestyle and a power grab to underwrite the excesses. If this intemperance continues, we will be lost. We may be already. With this in mind, I propose a step program. However, in the interest of separation of church and state, I’m going for a non-theistic approach, one abridged, and which I slightly amended, by the American Psychological Association:
- Admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion
- Recognizing a greater power that can give strength
- Examining past errors
- Making amends for these errors
- Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior
- Helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions
I'm biting my nails waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling in 'Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission' -- here's why you should be too.
I thought that headline would get your attention. And it's true.
I'm biting my nails waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which could come down as early as Tuesday. At issue: whether corporations, as "unnatural persons," can make contributions to political campaigns.
The outcome is foregone: the five GOP appointees to the court are expected to use the case to junk federal laws that now bar corporations from stuffing campaign coffers.
Technically, there's a narrower matter before the court in this case: whether the McCain-Feingold Act may prohibit corporations from funding "independent" campaign advertisements such as the "Swift Boat" ads that smeared John Kerry. However, campaign finance reformers are steeling themselves for the court's right wing to go much further, knocking down all longstanding rules against donations by corporate treasuries.
Allowing company campaign spending will not, as progressives fear, cause an avalanche of corporate cash into politics. Sadly, that's already happened: we have been snowed under by tens of millions of dollars given through corporate PACs and "bundling" of individual contributions from corporate pay-rollers.
The court's expected decision is far, far more dangerous to U.S. democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates. Read more.
President and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States Barack Obama delivered his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance address in Oslo on December 10, which has immediately led to media discussion of an Obama Doctrine.
With obligatory references to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi (the second referred to only by his surname) but to no other American presidents than Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy - fellow peace prize recipients Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter weren't mentioned - the U.S. head of state spoke with the self-assurance of the leader of the world's first uncontested superpower and at times with the self-righteousness of a would-be prophet and clairvoyant. And, in the words of German philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel, a prophet looking backward.
Accompanied by visionary gaze and cadenced, oratorical solemnity, his comments included the assertion that "War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man." Unless this unsubstantiated claim was an allusion to the account in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible of Cain murdering his brother Abel, which would hardly constitute war in any intelligible meaning of the word (nor was Cain the first man according to that source), it is unclear where Obama acquired the conviction that war is coeval with and presumably an integral part of humanity.
Paleontologists generally trace the arrival of modern man, homo sapiens, back 200,000 years, yet the first authenticated written histories are barely 2,400 years old. How Obama and his speechwriters filled in the 197,600-year gap to prove that the practice of war is as old as mankind and implicitly inseparable from the human condition is a question an enterprising reporter might venture to ask at the next presidential press conference.
The No. 2 commanding general in Afghanistan acknowledged Wednesday that a NATO-led attack the day before in eastern Afghanistan possibly resulted in civilian deaths.
The statement that some civilians might have been killed in the attack comes amid fears among Afghan citizens that the 30,000 fresh U.S. troops being deployed to the war will result in more violence and deaths of Afghan citizens. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has ordered troops to minimize civilian casualties, which undermine Afghan support for the war against the Taliban.
Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the No. 2 man, told reporters in the capital that the attack, which involved coalition and Afghan troops, was a "confusing operation." Read more.
Despite our Founders' vision of independent powers exercising checks & balances to prevent a "tyranny of the majority," every branch of the federal government acted last month to cast its lot with torturers. But even though President Obama, Congress and the Court have united to hide evidence of high-level crime, Americans of conscience continue to resist, arguing that sweeping human rights abuses under the rug is a greater threat to national security than dealing with them openly and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
This Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in Department of Defense v. ACLU that the Defense Department could maintain secrecy over photos documenting pervasive torture. While disappointing, the decision was more or less inevitable in the wake of the Obama administration's latest reversal. Read more.
Homeland Security Embarks on Big Brother Programs to Read Our Minds and Emotions
Half-baked Homeland Security is spending millions to develop sensors capable of detecting a person's level of 'malintent' as a counterterrorism tool.
By Liliana Segura | AlterNet
In the sci-fi thriller Minority Report, Tom Cruise plays a D.C. police detective, circa 2054, in the department of "pre-crime," an experimental law enforcement unit whose mission -- to hunt down criminals before they strike -- relies on the psychic visions of mutant "pre-cogs" (short for precognition) who can see the future. It may be futuristic Hollywood fantasy, but the underlying premise -- that we can predict (if not see) a person's sinister plans before they follow through -- is already here.
This past February, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded a one-year, $2.6 million grant to the Cambridge, MA.-based Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to develop computerized sensors capable of detecting a person's level of "malintent" -- or intention to do harm. It's only the most recent of numerous contracts awarded to Draper and assorted research outfits by the U.S. government over the past few years under the auspices of a project called "Future Attribute Screening Technologies," or FAST. It's the next wave of behavior surveillance from DHS and taxpayers have paid some $20 million on it so far.
Conceived as a cutting-edge counter-terrorism tool, the FAST program will ostensibly detect subjects' bad intentions by monitoring their physiological characteristics, particularly those associated with fear and anxiety. It's part of a broader "initiative to develop innovative, non-invasive technologies to screen people at security checkpoints," according to DHS.
The "non-invasive" claim might be a bit of a stretch. A DHS report issued last December outlined some of the possible technological features of FAST, which include "a remote cardiovascular and respiratory sensor" to measure "heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia," a "remote eye tracker" that "uses a camera and processing software to track the position and gaze of the eyes (and, in some instances, the entire head)," "thermal cameras that provide detailed information on the changes in the thermal properties of the skin in the face," and "a high resolution video that allows for highly detailed images of the face and body … and an audio system for analyzing human voice for pitch change." Read more.
[Thursday Afternoon Update: The Obama administration’s surge math: In his speech on Tuesday night at West Point, the president announced a surge of 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan in the coming months. That sounded way higher than a lot of Democrats might have wanted, but still below the optimal figure -- 40,000 -- that Afghan War commander Stanley McChrystal had requested. (or, depending on how you read the various leaks and news stories of the last months, perhaps demanded). Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post now reports, however, that the President granted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the right to “increase the number by 10 percent, or 3,000 troops, without additional White House approval or announcement.” Think of it, in restaurant terms, as the equivalent of a surge tip. In addition, DeYoung adds that an unnamed “senior military official” claimed “that the final number could go as high as 35,000 to allow for additional support personnel such as engineers, medevac units and route-clearance teams, which comb roads for bombs.” So now, in surge math, we’re at 35,000 U.S. troops. Add in the expected NATO contribution of about 5,000 extra troops and -- voilà -- you have 40,000 on the button. No wonder the Afghan War commander is reportedly satisfied. Tom]
Victory at Last!
Monty Python in Afghanistan
By Tom Engelhardt
Let others deal with the details of President Obama’s Afghan speech, with the on-ramps and off-ramps, those 30,000 U.S. troops going in and just where they will be deployed, the benchmarks for what’s called “good governance” in Afghanistan, the corruption of the Karzai regime, the viability of counterinsurgency warfare, the reliability of NATO allies, and so on. Let’s just skip to the most essential point which, in a nutshell, is this: Victory at Last!
It’s been a long time coming, but finally American war commanders have effectively marshaled their forces, netcentrically outmaneuvering and outflanking the enemy. They have shocked-and-awed their opponents, won the necessary hearts-and-minds, and so, for the first time in at least two decades, stand at the heights of success, triumphant at last.
And no, I’m not talking about post-surge Iraq and certainly not about devolving Afghanistan. I’m talking about what’s happening in Washington.
A Symbolic Surrender of Civilian Authority Read more.
Despite campaign promises of increased transparency and accountability, the Obama administration has continued its predecessor's assaults on civil liberties and the rule of law. Many counter-terror policies that our country increasingly takes for granted permit the government to routinely invade the privacy of millions of law-abiding Americans, even without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and with grave consequences for our constitutional culture. And torture remains not only unpunished, but at risk of repetition since our nation has undermined the legal precedents deterring it here and around the world.
We at BORDC are disappointed by the striking absence of support for the rule of law in Washington. But together, we can change our country's course and bring America back to its founding principles.
Emergency Anti-Afghanistan Escalation Rally, Saturday, 12/12, 11 AM - 4 PM, Lafayette Square, White House
EMERGENCY ANTI-ESCALATION RALLY (Rain or Shine)
Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009 • 11am-4pm • Lafayette Square/White House, Washington DC
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.
We call for active, non-violent non-cooperation with US war policy. As we vigorously oppose a military escalation in Afghanistan, we encourage mass political mobilization and high-profile antiwar political actions across the country. As America continues to commit war crimes for the profit of the few and at the expense of the many, we engage and energize our fellow citizens to become disablers of war party mentality. We reject defeatist thinking and futile rationales by promoting effective war protest. We break cycles of hopelessness by engaging in immediate and direct actions, consistent with our commitment to non-violence. We believe our actions will produce the best methods for securing peace in our country and the world, and we direct our allegiance to that end.
Our Supporters Are Associated With:
Mr. President, War Is Not Peace
By Norman Solomon
Eloquence in Oslo cannot change the realities of war.
As President Obama neared the close of his Nobel address, he called for “the continued expansion of our moral imagination.” Yet his speech was tightly circumscribed by the policies that his oratory labored to justify.
Lofty rationales easily tell us that warfare is striving for the noble goal of peace. But the rationales scarcely intersect with actual war. The oratory sugarcoats the poisons, helping to kill hope in the name of it.
A few months ago, when I visited an Afghan office for women’s empowerment, staffers took me to a pilot project in one of Kabul’s poorest neighborhoods. There, women were learning small-scale business skills while also gaining personal strength and mutual support.
Two-dozen women, who ranged in age from early 20s to late 50s, talked with enthusiasm about the workshops. They were desperate to change their lives. When it was time to leave, I had a question: What should I tell people in the United States, if they ask what Afghan women want most of all?
After several women spoke, the translator summed up. “They all said that the first priority is peace.”
Deceptive Progressive Call for Support of Obama's War
By Bruce Gagnon | Organizing Notes | December 2, 2009
This morning I got an email from a friend who tipped me off to a conference call for "progressives" to discuss Obama's Afghanistan speech last night.
The call announcement included this: "The narrative so far is that the left is against sending more troops and the right is for it,” said Jim Arkedis, Director of the National Security Project at the Progressive Policy Institute. “But that’s not the reality of the situation. There are reasons for progressives to take heart from much of the President’s new strategy, as well as reasons to tread carefully. We want to make sure all those voices are heard.”
This made me quite interested so I dialed in. The call began with everyone in the audience on mute as the following people made opening statements. Read more - scroll down page almost to bottom.
The reason it is so easy for the U.S. to declare wars, and to continue fighting year after year after year, is because so few Americans feel the actual pain of those wars. We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we fought in World Wars I and II combined. If voters had to choose right now between instituting a draft or exiting Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two countries in a heartbeat.
I don’t think our current way of waging war, which is pretty easy-breezy for most citizens, is what the architects of America had in mind. Here’s George Washington’s view, for example: “It must be laid down as a primary position and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government owes not only a proportion of his property, but even his personal service to the defense of it.”
What we are doing is indefensible and will ultimately exact a fearful price, and there will be absolutely no way for the U.S. to avoid paying it. Read more.
The Nine Surges of Obama’s War: How to Escalate in Afghanistan
By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch.com
In his Afghan “surge” speech at West Point last week, President Obama offered Americans some specifics to back up his new “way forward in Afghanistan.” He spoke of the “additional 30,000 U.S. troops” he was sending into that country over the next six months. He brought up the “roughly $30 billion” it would cost us to get them there and support them for a year. And finally, he spoke of beginning to bring them home by July 2011. Those were striking enough numbers, even if larger and, in terms of time, longer than many in the Democratic Party would have cared for. Nonetheless, they don’t faintly cover just how fully the president has committed us to an expanding war and just how wide it is likely to become.
Despite the seeming specificity of the speech, it gave little sense of just how big and how expensive this surge will be. In fact, what is being portrayed in the media as the surge of November 2009 is but a modest part of an ongoing expansion of the U.S. war effort in many areas. Looked at another way, the media's focus on the president’s speech as the crucial moment of decision, and on those 30,000 new troops as the crucial piece of information, has distorted what’s actually underway.
In reality, the U.S. military, along with its civilian and intelligence counterparts, has been in an almost constant state of surge since the last days of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, while information on this is available, and often well reported, it’s scattered in innumerable news stories on specific aspects of the war. You have to be a media jockey to catch it all, no less put it together.
What follows, then, is my own attempt to make sense of the nine fronts on which the U.S. has been surging, and continues to do so, as 2009 ends. Think of this as an effort to widen our view of Obama’s widening war. Read more.
John Yoo is being defended in court this month by the Administration. Not the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration. As with the lawsuits over electronic surveillance and torture, the Obama administration wants the lawsuit against Yoo dismissed and is defending the right of Justice Department officials to help establish a torture program — an established war crime. I will be discussing this issue tonight on MSNBC Countdown.
The Obama Administration has filed a brief that brushes over the war crimes aspects of Yoo’s work at the Justice Department. Instead, it insists that attorneys must be free to give advice — even if it is to establish a torture program.
In its filing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department insists that there is “the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military’s detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict.” Instead it argues that the Justice Department has other means to punish lawyers like the Office of Professional Responsibility. Of course, the Bush Administration effectively blocked such investigations and Yoo is no longer with the Justice Department. The OPR has been dismissed as ineffectual, including in an ABA Journal, as the Justice Department’s “roach motel”—“the cases go in, but nothing ever comes out.” Read more.