Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Advocates Of War With Iran Take Some Heavy Media Hits

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

Advocates of a hot war with Iran have just taken some heavy hits from a Harvard professor of international relations and two prominent journalists.

Harvard’s Professor Stephen Walt has savaged an article in the forthcoming “Foreign Affairs” magazine(Jan.-Feb.)  by Matthew Kroenig titled, “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option.” Kroenig is an Assistant Professor of Government at Georgetown University who wrote:

“The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.”

Calling this “a remarkably poor piece of advocacy,” Harvard’s Walt writes that Kroenig “makes the case for war by assuming everything will go south if the U.S. does not attack and that everything will go swimmingly if it does. This is not fair-minded ‘analysis’; it is simply a brief for war designed to reach a predetermined conclusion,” Walt writes of the “Foreign Affairs” piece.

“He (Kroenig) is openly calling for preventive war against Iran, even though the United States has no authorization from the U.N. Security Council, it is not clear that Iran is actively developing nuclear weapons, and Iran has not attacked us or any of our allies---ever,”  Walt writes. 

“He is therefore openly calling for his country to violate international law. He is calmly advocating a course of action will inevitably kill a significant number of people, including civilians...and Kroenig is willing to have their deaths on his conscience on the basis of a series of unsupported assertions, almost all of them subject to serious doubt.”

Writing in UK’s “The Guardian” newspaper December 7th, journalist Seumas Milne points out that Iran is a peaceful nation that “has invaded no one in 200 years” while “the US. and Israel have attacked 10 countries or territories between them in the past decade.” What’s more, Milne adds, “Britain exploited, occupied and overthrew governments in Iran for over a century. So who threatens who exactly?”

He goes on to write, “For months the evidence has been growing that a US-Israeli stealth war against Iran has already begun, backed by Britain and France. Covert support for armed opposition groups has spread into a campaign of assassinations of Iranian scientists, cyber warfare, attacks on military and missile installations, and the killing of an Iranian general, among others.”

Milne also called it an “extraordinary admission” that British defense officials said if the U.S. planned to attack Iran, as they believed it might, America would receive “UK military help,” including sea and air support. “The British military establishment fully expects to take part in an unprovoked US attack on Iran---just as it did against Iraq eight years ago,” he said.

(This admission shouldn’t be that astonishing as the U.S. and U.K. are inextricably tied together militarily and in a number of  other significant ways and appear to be bent on advancing the imperial goals of the old British Empire. A superficial difference today is that the Empire’s capital has moved from London to Washington. In reality, from their joint intelligence operations to their collaborating oil companies to their defense contractors, etc., US/UK operate as One. Maybe the long-time partners should rebrand themselves the United States of England?)

Meanwhile, American journalist Patrick J. Buchanan pointed out that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “dropped some jolting news” when he told CBS, “If we get intelligence they (Iranians) are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapons, then we will take whatever steps necessary to deal with it.”

In his column of December 22, Buchanan charged, “Panetta is raising the specter of preemptive war,” adding, “This is no minor matter. For not only have Panetta and Barack Obama talked about ‘all options on the table’ regarding Iran---i.e., we do not rule out military strikes---so, too, have the GOP presidential candidates, save Rep. Ron Paul.”  

Responding to Pentagon Press Secretary George Little’s statement, “We have no indication that the Iranians have made a decision to develop a nuclear weapons,” Buchanan wrote it “coincides with the consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, in December, 2007.”

Or, to put it another way, in the blunt words of “The Guardian’s” Milne, “The case against Iran is...spectacularly flimsy.”   #

Iraq War: Reaffirmation or the End of US Exceptionalism?

In the United States, the most significant event of 2011 hands down should have been the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Iraq. But for most Americans, the end of this illegal and immoral war and occupation hardly registers a ripple.

The reason: the continued belief in American exceptionalism.

In the United States, only U.S. casualties matter. According to the Iraq Coalition Count, almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers perished during the war and slightly more than 32,000 U.S. soldiers were officially listed as wounded. No U.S. agency officially keeps track of Iraqi numbers.

US launched 'Shock & Awe' attack on the Iraqi people, March 22, 2003.Not counting “enemy” casualties seems to be the ultimate form of dehumanization (The non-governmental Iraq Body Count group officially lists between 104,308 – 113,962 Iraqi documented deaths). That’s the point of a war; dehumanize and demonize the enemy. No need to count them because they are not worthy of being identified or even acknowledged.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

FTC submits FDCPA report to the Congress- Will the students be safe now?

Contributed by Rick Murphy

S. Paul note:  For so long in this nation's history, we Americans have been told that we needed to become educated in order to compete in a market-based economy.  Little did we realize that an entire student loan-shark scheme was to develop from this push to profit from our desire for self improvement.  Congress has backed the measures of governmental loans and corporate favors for the likes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only to put the screws to those of us who wanted better from this life.  When all is said and done and the piece of paper hangs on our walls collecting dust, this education has only served to put us further into debt while the few profit from another example of this, our American, capitalistic nightmare.

With the spurring personal debt level in the US and the consumers defaulting on their loan obligations, the debt collectors are having their gala time disturbing the consumers, debtors and the defaulted student borrowers and asking them for recuperation of the money that they owe to the debtors. However, the deceptive practices of the debt collectors are getting on the nerves of the debtors and this is the most prominent reason behind the increasing complaints against the debt collectors with the Federal Trade Commission.

 When the students are unable to repay their debt through professional services, they start defaulting on the obligations and their accounts are being henceforth turned down to the collection agencies. But after the FTC submitted its FDCPA report to the Congress, can the students be safer and protected?

Sound Precaution To Ban Gas “Fracking” Until Scientific Evidence Says It's Safe

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

ExxonMobil Chairman/CEO Rex Tillerson sounded very confident when he told a congressional hearing last year that extracting natural gas by the “hydraulically fractured” process has not led to even one “reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated.”

But drinking water supplies in Pavillion, Wyo., and Dimock, Pa., are suspected of contamination from such drilling and a study by Duke University researchers showed that methane can leak into drinking water near active fracking sites.

The oil companies are backing up their story with an effective ad campaign. Example: ExxonMobil's ad in the Sept. 19th “New Yorker” claims existing gas buried deep beneath our water supplies could “meet our needs for over 100 years.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Four Occupations of Planet Earth: How the Occupied Became the Occupiers

by Tom Engelhardt

On the streets of Moscow in the tens of thousands, the protesters chanted: “We exist!”  Taking into account the comments of statesmen, scientists, politicians, military officials, bankers, artists, all the important and attended to figures on this planet, nothing caught the year more strikingly than those two words shouted by massed Russian demonstrators.

“We exist!”  Think of it as a simple statement of fact, an implicit demand to be taken seriously (or else), and undoubtedly an expression of wonder, verging on a question: “We exist?”

And who could blame them for shouting it?  Or for the wonder?  How miraculous it was.  Yet another country long immersed in a kind of popular silence suddenly finds voice, and the demonstrators promptly declare themselves not about to leave the stage when the day -- and the demonstration -- ends.  Who guessed beforehand that perhaps 50,000 Muscovites would turn out to protest a rigged electoral process in a suddenly restive country, along with crowds in St. Petersburg, Tomsk, and elsewhere from the south to Siberia?

Defense Authorization Act Will Destroy Bill Of Rights

Contributed by Sherwood Ross 

The grim face of totalitarianism is emerging in the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA) now before Congress.

This bill is the last mile post on America’s sad, well-traveled road to the butcher shop of dictatorship. We have been headed that way for some time and, with a little help from Congress, we’ll arrive there shortly, putting an ugly end to the American experiment. The Senate December 1st passed the bill by a vote of 93-7.

In the name of “defense,” NDAA underwrites $662-billion for continued U.S. aggression in our many foreign wars while, on the domestic front, it incinerates the last surviving shreds of the Bill of Rights. According to the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU), it authorizes presidents “to order the military to pick up and imprison people, including U.S. citizens, without charging them or putting them on trial.”  (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) So much for Amendment VI to our Constitution that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Creep of Fascism As Evidenced By Recent Legal Decision Against Blogger

Listen to the radio talk this article was written for Breaking Taboo on  THIS LINK to tune in

Federal Judge, Marco Hernandez has recently decided that a blogger is not a journalist.  This decision came upon reflection of the Shield Law which protects journalists from having to reveal their sources. The Judge cites that a blogger if not “affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system”, does not deserve any protections under the law.  In other words, if a writer is not working in a corporate structured media outlet, they are not entitled to any protection under the law.
Kevin Padrick, the “Defamed Attorney” in response to Crystal Cox 'Blogger-Isn't-Journalist' story, stated the following, “The real threat here is not defining media too narrowly, but defining it too broadly."  He argues that media is worth less when more people can self-identify as media. But doesn’t a broad definition result in more empowerment? More voices and diversity?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Is a Blogger a Journalist?

by John C. Dvorak

The case of Crystal Cox, a self-professed "investigative blogger" from Oregon, should outrage the public. The woman was investigating targeted companies that she believed to be acting unethically and found herself at the wrong end of a lawsuit.

The evidence she had unearthed concerning a Pacific Northwest finance group she was after and the sources she used seemed, in the end, immaterial to the outcome of the lawsuit against her. I won't get into the details of Cox's case since my concern is the definition of journalist, but you can read more here." The judge, recent Obama appointee Marco Hernandez, asserted that as a blogger with no other credentials, she was not a journalist and was entitled to no protection.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Extremist Groups

The following is the introduction for Extremist Groups available to read on e-Notes

Political ideologies can be visualized as points on a straight line, with liberals to the left of center and conservatives to the right. Located near the center of the line are political moderates. At the far points at either end are the extremists, both liberal and conservative.

Liberals and conservatives differ primarily in their view of the proper role of government in the lives of citizens. While liberals tend to favor the federal government taking an active role in correcting social inequities, regulating business activities, and protecting the environment, conservatives tend to mistrust federal interference in these affairs. Conservatives believe that, to the extent that any regulation is necessary, these functions are best performed by state and local governments. Moreover, by definition, conservatives tend to be wary of change in society while liberals tend to favor change.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Current War on Voting Rights in America

New American Media

Ninety-seven-year-old Emma Lee Green balances an armload of old books and yellowing papers around the stacks of musty files in her San Bernardino attic. She remembers well the days of Jim Crow, poll taxes and literacy tests that barred many African-American citizens from the voting booth.

Americans set their clocks back one hour last Sunday. But a wave of new voting restrictions could turn back the clock to the days poll taxes and literacy tests meant to stop African-Americans from voting.
She witnessed first-hand the valiant struggle to ensure that all American citizens could raise their voices on Election Day.

Like she has done for nearly 65 years, last week Emma went to the polls to vote in the local elections.

But one year from now, mill ions of Black Americans like Emma could find themselves shut out of that essential democratic right.

This year, thirty-four state legislatures introduced bills requiring photo identification in order to vote. This rash of legislation classifies several previously accepted IDs as unacceptable, and will affect roughly 21 million Americans if they are passed.

What is Fascism? Some General Ideological Features

by Matthew N. Lyons

I am skeptical of efforts to produce a "definition" of fascism. As a dynamic historical current, fascism has taken many different forms, and has evolved dramatically in some ways. To understand what fascism has encompassed as a movement and a system of rule, we have to look at its historical context and development--as a form of counter-revolutionary politics that first arose in early twentieth-century Europe in response to rapid social upheaval, the devastation of World War I, and the Bolshevik Revolution. The following paragraphs are intented as an initial, open-ended sketch.

Fascism is a form of extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates the nation or the race as an organic community transcending all other loyalties. It emphasizes a myth of national or racial rebirth after a period of decline or destruction. To this end, fascism calls for a "spiritual revolution" against signs of moral decay such as individualism and materialism, and seeks to purge "alien" forces and groups that threaten the organic community. Fascism tends to celebrate masculinity, youth, mystical unity, and the regenerative power of violence. Often, but not always, it promotes racial superiority doctrines, ethnic persecution, imperialist expansion, and genocide. At the same time, fascists may embrace a form of internationalism based on either racial or ideological solidarity across national boundaries. Usually fascism espouses open male supremacy, though sometimes it may also promote female solidarity and new opportunities for women of the privileged nation or race.

Fascism's approach to politics is both populist--in that it seeks to activate "the people" as a whole against perceived oppressors or enemies--and elitist--in that it treats the people's will as embodied in a select group, or often one supreme leader, from whom authority proceeds downward. Fascism seeks to organize a cadre-led mass movement in a drive to seize state power. It seeks to forcibly subordinate all spheres of society to its ideological vision of organic community, usually through a totalitarian state. Both as a movement and a regime, fascism uses mass organizations as a system of integration and control, and uses organized violence to suppress opposition, although the scale of violence varies widely.

Fascism is hostile to Marxism, liberalism, and conservatism, yet it borrows concepts and practices from all three. Fascism rejects the principles of class struggle and workers' internationalism as threats to national or racial unity, yet it often exploits real grievances against capitalists and landowners through ethnic scapegoating or radical-sounding conspiracy theories. Fascism rejects the liberal doctrines of individual autonomy and rights, political pluralism, and representative government, yet it advocates broad popular participation in politics and may use parliamentary channels in its drive to power. Its vision of a "new order" clashes with the conservative attachment to tradition-based institutions and hierarchies, yet fascism often romanticizes the past as inspiration for national rebirth.

Fascism has a complex relationship with established elites and the non-fascist right. It is never a mere puppet of the ruling class, but an autonomous movement with its own social base. In practice, fascism defends capitalism against instability and the left, but also pursues an agenda that sometimes clashes with capitalist interests in significant ways. There has been much cooperation, competition, and interaction between fascism and other sections of the right, producing various hybrid movements and regimes.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gov. Buddy Roemer Speaks Out Against The System of Greed In Washington

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — Buddy Roemer — as long a long shot for the American presidency as you’ll find — was talking about the country’s condition the other day when he stumbled upon a metaphor he liked.

“The powerful among us are doing quite well,” he said. “It might be like a plantation mentality, where those in the big house are doing pretty well, and they don’t see a necessity to have irrigation put in. They don’t see a necessity to rotate crops. They don’t see a necessity to fertilize over the winter.”

If you can’t remember a Republican presidential candidate besides this one comparing the wealthy to slave owners and railing against inequality, it is because they generally don’t. And you may not have heard from Mr. Roemer himself. An ex-governor of Louisiana and an ex-congressman, he is excluded from nationally televised debates in the United States, owing to a mere percentage point or so of support in polls.

Lurking in the shadows of a volatile Republican race, Mr. Roemer has styled himself as that least likely of political creatures: a Republican Southerner who endorses and seeks the votes of both the leftist Occupy movement, which he has visited, and the rightist Tea Party movement — even if neither endorses him in turn.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Learning Too Late of Perils in Gas Well Leases


After Scott Ely and his father talked with salesmen from an energy company about signing the lease allowing gas drilling on their land in northeastern Pennsylvania, he said he felt certain it required the company to leave the property as good as new.

So Mr. Ely said he was surprised several years later when the drilling company, Cabot Oil and Gas, informed them that rather than draining and hauling away the toxic drilling sludge stored in large waste ponds on the property, it would leave the waste, cover it with dirt and seed the area with grass. He knew that waste pond liners can leak, seeping contaminated waste. 

“I guess our terms should have been clearer” about requiring the company to remove the waste pits after drilling, said Mr. Ely, of Dimock, Pa., who sued Cabot after his drinking water from a separate property was contaminated. “We learned that the hard way.”

Americans have signed millions of leases allowing companies to drill for oil and natural gas on their land in recent years. But some of these landowners — often in rural areas, and eager for quick payouts — are finding out too late what is, and what is not, in the fine print.

Tax Breaks and Heart Ache in America

by S. Paul Forrest
originally posted at Daily Censored

‎"Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time, what I think right."
~Henry David Thoreau

America today is more and more resembling the times facing our original colonies in the years preceding the 1773 Boston Tea Party, an uprising which inevitably led to our declaring independence from England and served as one of the beginning moments of our great Nation’s birth.  As the past few years become more scrutinized and the future viewed with increasing consternation, it is becoming all too clear that we as a Nation are closing in on times contrary to our founding principles. 

With the increasing attempt to tax We the People and control our commerce by imposing more and more regulation on business and individuals, our nation is creeping closer to a full circle, historical conundrum.  The breaking point, whereby the People will act as they did not so long ago against the same intolerable restrictions that faced our original founders so long ago, is yet to be determined.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Amid The Architecture Of Declining Capitalism: Memes, Death Genes And Real Estate Schemes

by Phil Rockstroh

The recent pepper spraying "incident" at the University of California at Davis represents more than an opportunity to create a cleverly photoshopped, viral meme. The act is part and parcel of a larger collective mindset--a proclivity towards authoritarian overreaction now deeply internalized in daily life in the U.S.

To cite only a few examples, by means such as, "zero tolerance" policies in public school systems, to "no knock" warrants, to snooping on and control over employees private lives by corporate employers, to the war on the Bill of Rights that is the so-called war on drugs, to the brutal suppression of constitutionally granted rights to free assembly and free expression by militarized police forces, to the unconstitutional killing of both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals abroad by predator drone attacks--daily existence within the nation has become more repressive, less inclined to the acceptance of the moments of creativity and uncertainty inherent to freedom. In fits and starts, by law and deed, the U.S. has moved closer in the direction of a panopticon-prone, brutality-leveling, waking authoritarian nightmare than a democratic republic devoted to erring in the direction of the ideals of justice and liberty.

Granted, such ideals will never exist in pure form. Still, by the same token, the sane neither shill for utopia nor become adapted to tyranny.

Child Labor Booming in Iraq

by Rachelle Kliger

Iraqi Children Left Homeless After U.S. Invasions
-Isn't it wonderful that the U.S. helped the people of Iraq?
Child labor is becoming a growing problem among impoverished Iraqi refugees in Syria.

A growing number of Iraqi refugee children in Syria have joined the illegal child labor market to help their families make ends meet, United Nations officials have warned.

Syria has taken in a huge number of Iraqi refugees since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Barred from legal employment in the country, aid workers say the refugees are running out of options to make money.

"There are more and more Iraqi families sliding into poverty," Farah Dakhlallah, a public information officer for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Syria told The Media Line. "They are barred from legal employment in Syria so a lot more children are being sent to work."

Dakhlallah said the statistics were sorely lacking but anecdotal evidence and indirect data suggests the number of child workers is rising.

U.S. Expanding Drone Bases To Assassinate “Suspects”

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

Forecasting a future of robotic warfare in which perverted science is put at the service of its Empire, the U.S. has built 60 bases around the world for its unmanned, remotely controlled killer drone warplanes. And more bases are under construction.

“Run by the military, the Central Intelligence Agency, and their proxies, these bases...are the backbone of a new robotic way of war,” writes Nick Turse, an investigative journalist for AlterNet and TomDispatch.

The bases “are also the latest development in a long-evolving saga of American power projection abroad---in this case, remote-controlled strikes anywhere on the planet with a minimal foreign ‘footprint’ and little accountability,” Turse points out.

He notes that there may be even more than 60 bases since the Pentagon has dropped a “cloak of secrecy” over its operations. With the recent murder of American citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi in Yemen, the drones are now assassinating suspects in no fewer than six countries, Turse says.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post also reports the Obama Pentagon is building a constellation of secret drone bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen.