War of the Worldviews

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – The Ratmen
Grim Grinning Ghosts – Barenaked Ladies
The Dragon – Vangelis
The War of the Worlds Musical Version – Jeff Wayne
The Horror – RJD2
The Boogie Monster – Gnarls Barkley
Ghost Of Frankenstein – Scientist
Dracula – Gorillaz
Season of the Dead – Gein and the Graverobbers
Haunted House – Lee Oskar

There’s plenty to be frightened of in the real world this Halloween season. Both candidates, in the shameful final debate, expressed their love of drones and Israel‘s war crimes. It wasn’t a debate so much as an agreement.

An Israeli human rights organization, Gisha, sued in Israeli courts to force the release of a planning document  for ‘putting the Palestinians on a diet’ without risking the bad press of mass starvation, and the courts concurred. The document, produced by the Israeli army, appears to be a calculation of how to limit Palestinians’ calories, the Israeli military was actually plotting to keep Palestinians in Gaza (half of them children) permanently on the brink of malnutrition, what health professionals call “food insecurity”. And, it was foreseeable that sometimes they would slip into malnutrition, since not as many trucks were always let in every day as the Israeli army recommended (106 were recommended, but it was often less in the period 2007-2010).

Planning for keeping people on the edge is nearly as bad as planning actually to starve them. And at the same time, both Obama and Romney called for harsher sanctions against Iran, while misleading the American people about a nonexistent nuclear weapons program.

OOOOOH! BE AFRAID!!

Obama, on a recent Daily Show appearance, used the only halfway hard-hitting question (on extending Bush’s illegal wiretapping) to mislead once again:

“The truth is we have modified them and built a legal structure and safeguards in place that weren’t there before on a whole range issues.”

No, the truth is, there’s no indication that the still-active warrantless wiretapping program—a dragnet on millions of innocent Americans’ communications—has significantly changed from the day Obama took office. With regard to the FISA Amendments Act, the Obama Administration has actively opposed all proposed safeguards in Congress, his Administration has been even more aggressive than Bush in trying to prevent warrantless wiretapping victims from having their day in court and has continued building the massive national security infrastructure needed to support it.

The Obama administration is actively opposing any new privacy safeguards or transparency provisions, saying it is their “top priority” to renew it with no changes. He cites State Secrets Privilege, Sovereign Immunity, Secret FISA Court Opinions, and Secret Safeguards.

Via WIRED:

The Obama administration is again arguing that a lawsuit accusing the NSA of vacuuming up Americans’ electronic communications without warrants threatens national security and would expose state secrets if litigated.

“This case may be dismissed on the ground that its very subject matter constitutes a state secret,” the government said (.pdf) in a legal filing in San Francisco federal court.

Brought by the EFF, the case is now four years old and its merits have never been litigated. The civil rights group claims that the major telecoms provided the NSA a warrantless backdoor to the nation’s communication backbone. Despite the government’s protestations that talking about the program would expose national secrets, the program is well-known, well-documented, and as of 2008, partially legalized by a compliant Congress.

Just two weeks ago, the Supreme Court terminated the EFF’s case against the telcos for their participation in the program. The justices declined to review 2008 congressional legislation giving the telcos immunity from being sued for their participation. Congress adopted the law after a federal judge rejected the government’s state-secrets claim.

When Congress passed the law, the EFF targeted the gov instead, accusing it of running a massive dragnet spy operation without warrants. The allegations are based in part on a former AT&T technician who produced internal company documents suggesting that the NSA was surveilling internet traffic from a secret room at an AT&T switching center in San Francisco, and similar facilities around the country.

Via RT:

“Both parties are colluding in denying you your First and Fifth amendment rights under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, and both candidates refuse to discuss this bipartisan assault on civil liberties,” a message posted on the Stop NDAA website reads.

And the rules have been permanently set up by Obama’s overpowered executive branch, that any conservative president that may take office will find himself intrenched in a counterterrorism agenda that includes vague demographic profiling, secret kill lists, and robotic targeted execution. Democrats would rather remain blissfully ignorant of these civil and human rights abuses, and Republicans are drooling over the prospect of getting them for themselves.

Democrats “do not have the foggiest idea what is happening in the White House, and obviously does not care in the slightest, because the person doing it is part of their party.”

Or worse, that supposition that extra-constitutional national security and civil liberties policies are no longer permitted to be part of any “serious” national political discussion.

Luckily, if no one in the United States will step up, the United Nations will.

The United Nations plans to set up a special investigation unit in early 2013 to look at incidents of civilian death in U.S. drone strikes. Speaking Thursday at Harvard Law School, U.N. special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC, who monitors counter-terrorism programs, announced plans for the investigative team, which will be based in Geneva. According to the UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, “U.N. investigators have been critical ofU.S. ‘extrajudicial executions’ since they began in 2002. The new Geneva-based unit will also look at the legality of the program.”

Emmerson said in his Harvard announcement, “If the relevant states are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms … then it may in the last resort be necessary for the U.N. to act.” He noted:

[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. [U.N. consultant, professor of human rights] Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.

And activist groups like the ACLU, EFF, and Muckrock are continuing the fight against robotic death from above, requesting hundred of public records on surveillance drones.

The very concept is chilling, especially as the drones begin to decide for themselves who to spy on, profile, and kill. And though comparisons may be rife, the thought of hungry alien invaders this Halloween may just have to take a backseat to the reality of unfeeling war machines.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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