Tag Archives: terrorism

Perpetual War Without End

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

As we enter another year of drone strikes, cyber-warfare, espionage, pre-emptive strikes, funding of coups, instigation, and still those combat boots on the ground, many Americans are shaking the daze of election-year, fiscal debt lies, and popular culture distractions from their minds. Just how long are we going to be embedded in the Middle East? Why does it seem we are moving on to parasitically do the same in Africa? Are these theaters of war par for the course? Have we been witnessing a new Vietnam? Fed up citizens everywhere are sick of the deaths of civilians, the war crimes, the cover-ups, the secrecy, the lies.

Glenn Greenwald, one of the few tirelessly crusading journalists left, rounds up the talking head hypocrisies and obstinate thinking of our leaders and policies associated with the War on Terror. Like the War on Drugs, this ideological jihad has no specific end date; it can’t possibly by definition. The declared national security objectives make it theoretically and practically impossible. The reality is, of course, that they are accelerating. So if the parade of conflicts (IraqAfghanistan,YemenEastasiaEurasiaEastasiaEurasia) is as infinite as the human penchant for bloodletting and violence, then can it even be called a war? And if it isn’t a war, what is it, and what the hell are we doing to our fellow humans with our death from above?

Excerpts from Glenn Greenwald’s column at The Guardian:

The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecyrepression and release-restrictions at the camp;minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.

Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent? About all of this, the ACLU’s Executive Director, Anthony Romero, provided the answer on Thursday: “President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before inauguration day. His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as the illegal military commissions, will be extended.”

There’s a good reason US officials are assuming the “War on Terror” will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs…

There’s no question that this “war” will continue indefinitely. There is no question that US actions are the cause of that, the gasoline that fuels the fire. The only question – and it’s becoming less of a question for me all the time – is whether this endless war is the intended result of US actions or just an unwanted miscalculation.

It’s increasingly hard to make the case that it’s the latter. The US has long known, and its own studies have emphatically concluded, that “terrorism” is motivated not by a “hatred of our freedoms” but by US policy and aggression in the Muslim world. This causal connection is not news to the US government. Despite this – or, more accurately, because of it – they continue with these policies.

They act ignorant of blowback precisely because they are counting on it to maintain the status quo of the ongoing conflict. Either that, or they’re hoping that once all their tactics are fully “normalized”, they can toss any contradictory information down the memory tube. Read or subscribe to Glenn Greenwald’s daring coverage here.

Smart Guns Don’t Kill People

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

Technologist and New York Times columnist Nick Bilton explores the development of ‘smart guns‘ designed only to work with the owner’s grip or palmprint. These biometric devices are not entirely new, but are still unable to make it into the marketplace. Smart gun tech may have appeased the most idealogical contenders of either side of the debate on Sandy Hook and other gun massacres: they would not have prevented the killers from being able to use any of the firearms in question, but allowed the original owners to keep them without any infringement of their rights.

Nick Bilton via the NYT’s Bits Blog:

For example, the iGun, made by Mossberg Group, cannot be fired unless its owner is wearing a ring with a chip that activates the gun.

But you would be hard pressed to find this technology on many weapons sold in stores. “The gun industry has no interest in making smart-guns. There is no incentive for them,” said Robert J. Spitzer, a professor of political science at SUNY Cortland and the author of four books on gun policy. “There is also no appetite by the government to press ahead with any kind of regulation requiring smart-guns. These safety options exist today.”

But gun advocates are staunchly against these technologies, partly because so many guns are bought not in gun shops, but in private sales. “Many guns are bought and sold on the secondary market without background checks, and that kind of sale would be inhibited with fingerprinting-safety technologies in guns,” he said.

I called several major gun makers and the National Rifle Association. No one thinks a smart-gun will stop a determined killer. But I thought Smith & Wesson and Remington, for instance, would want to discuss how technology might help reduce accidental shootings, which killed 600 people and injured more than 14,000 in the United States in 2010. The gunmakers did not respond, and neither did the N.R.A.

A Wired magazine article from 2002 gives a glimpse of the N.R.A.’s thinking. “Mere mention of ‘smart-gun’ technology elicited sneers and snickers faster than a speeding bullet,” the magazine wrote. It quoted the N.R.A.’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, as saying, “Tragic victims couldn’t have been saved by trigger locks or magazine bans or ‘smart-gun’ technology, or some new government commission running our firearms companies.”

TriggerSmart, an Irish company, has patented a childproof smart-gun. One feature is a “safe zone” that can be installed in schools and acts as a force field, disabling any TriggerSmart gun that enters a designated area. Robert McNamara, the company’s founder, has been trying to persuade gun makers to adopt the technology. He isn’t having much luck. “One gun manufacturer told us if we put this technology in one particular gun and some kid gets shot with another gun, then they will have to put them in all guns,” he said.

“We believe we could have helped prevent the Newtown massacre.”

You’ll notice how quickly the NRA equates reasonable proposals like smart gun technology with outright bans and government seizure. The impediments reveal the true, insidious nature of despicable groups like the NRA, who don’t care about human beings unless they have a large pocketbook. They don’t lobby for gun owners, but for large gun manufacturers; gun owners are the window dressing, support for them is incidental, tertiary, and superficial.

This is not the sole solution in a)the rampant problem with hundreds of thousands of unregistered guns, b)the irresponsibility of gun policy in this country, which can be well-regulated without violation of rights, or c)search of a problem, depending on your stance. Obviously ‘smart guns’ would not do anything about illegal guns or second sale or heirloom firearms, which account for a large percentage of sales and crime. This is the problem with most of the proposed legislation and ‘fixes’ from the left; they disproportionately affect responsible gun owners and not criminal use of guns.

Wayne LaPierre, no better than Diane Feinstein, used the tragedy as a pulpit to distract towards everything else besides his own moneyed lobby. It was the culture. It was vidyuh games (thanks, Jack Thompson). It wasHollywood. It was Jon Stewart. It was *as always* the atheists and gays. It was those damn mentally infirm. Hold! For a moment, my heart skipped a beat, would the NRA take an official and humanitarian position on our crumbling mental health care infrastructure? Would they promise millions in direly needed aid to prevent tragedies wrought by unfortunately afflicted people (and not their guns)? No, of course, the NRA’s position is that the mentally unfit should be registered, locked down, locked up, controlled, banned, pushed, filed,stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. So the people themselves can be infringed upon and violated, but a material possession like guns cannot? Riiiight.

They are unforgivable hypocrites at best, and monstrous profiteers at worst; they have done their part to arm the mentally illAnd in 2007, the NRA fought to allow suspected terrorists of having guns.

My eyes began to glaze over and drool formed around the zombified corners of my mouths as gun advocates praised ideas like putting more guns in schools, more armed guards in our police state children’s vicinity, arm the teachers and principals, FUCK IT, ARM THE KIDS THEMSELVES! None of this makes any goddamned sense, of course, when we look at instances of armed people (including cops) who make shootings even worse by playing hero and spraying more bullets in our combat zones public spaces, often getting themselves and others injured or killed.

And while I don’t believe that there is any NWO scheme to take the guns out of our cold dead hands, I do think that Democrats view it as an easy P.R. win. Another insincere and empty gesture, fully knowing that the final legislation will be watered down, ineffective, meaningless and probably contain a few provisions for special interests and corporations. It might even contain a payout for the NRA, if they play their cards right. Whatever bill is passed will expire or be struck down a few years later, and the whole dance can begin again. The whole hysteria, you’ll notice, is great for gun sales.

Neither LaPierre, Feinstein, nor any other mainstream pundit is proposing any combination of rational and evidence-based approaches to guns or mental health. Even Obama’s statements about making mental health care more easily accessible were lacking any resolution, detail or conviction. They are all knee-jerk reactions based on ideological bias and false, dystopic views of how the world really works.

As FactCheck.org points out, it is a complicated issue with seemingly contradictory statistics and no clear answers. There is academic disagreement and dubious causation for what is happening in America, where gun manufacturing and sales are up, but violent crime and crimes committed with guns are down. However, “non-fatal gun injuries from assaults increased last year for the third straight year“, so there are other factors. We don’t know if there are more gun owners, or more of the same people buying more guns. And still the maniacal massacres continue. Include suicides in the number of gun deaths, and the whole story changes. Gun deaths may outstrip falling rates of automobile deaths by 2015.

I’m not an advocate for any sort of ban at this point, but conflating handguns to assault rifles is like apples to oranges. Or comparing guns to fists and hammers. Or small businesses to multinational corporations. Or fracking done in the 50′s to fracking done today. Ad nauseam. It’s absurd. Guns still account for over double all other murder weapons in the US combined.

I’m sure to ruffle feathers on both sides of the aisle whenever I talk about guns, but I just don’t see the problem with treating them like automobiles. Responsible people register them, irresponsible people don’t. If you want to keep it in your garage and not use it, don’t register it and don’t take it out. If you want to take it out and not pay a hefty fine or punishment, then register it. They only get banned when they get used irresponsibly.

So guns don’t kill people. Smart guns don’t kill people. Sane and insane people use guns to kill lots of people (more people than other weapons can in a single shot), including themselves. And those in power each have vested interests in not being reasonable.

Perhaps the best coverage of the shootings in 2012 was summed up in The Onion’s headline: Fuck Everything.

Rapid Increase in US Electronic Surveillance

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

The United States government has revealed information about the Justice Department’s use of warrantless internet and telephone surveillance of American citizens (known as “pen register” and “trap and trace” records). And even though they are legally required to do so, the documents were not released until the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit with a Freedom of Information Act claim:

Via Ars TechnicaRTWIRED’s Threat Level:

Pen registers obtain, in real time, non-content information of outbound telephone and internet communications, such as phone numbers dialed, and the sender and recipient (and sometimes subject line) of an e-mail message. A trap-and-trace acquires the same information, but for inbound communications to a target. These terms originally referred to hardware devices law enforcement could attach to the phone network to capture information about (but not the contents of) phone calls.

Today’s telephone networks have the ability to capture this information without any special equipment. And the government has expanded the concept to include other forms of communication such as email.

The legal standard for conducting this kind of non-content surveillance is less stringent than the rules for conducting a wiretap. To get a wiretap order, the government must convince a judge that it is essential to an investigation, but judges are required to sign off on pen register orders when the authorities say the information is relevant to an investigation. No probable-cause warrant is needed to obtain the data.

“Because these surveillance powers are not used to capture telephone conversations or the bodies of emails, they are classified as ‘non-content’ surveillance tools, as opposed to tools that collect ‘content,’ like wiretaps,” Naomi Gilens of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project explains. “This means that the legal standard that law enforcement agencies must meet before using pen registers is lower than it is for wiretaps and other content-collecting technology.”

The statistics uncovered by the ACLU show a striking increase in the frequency of government surveillance. Here is the number of orders issued by the government over the last 12 years:

Statistics: The American Civil Liberties Union

In 2001, the DoJ issued only 5,683 reported “original orders.” (.pdf) Fast forward to 2011, the latest year for which data is available, the number skyrocketed to 37,616 — a more than sixfold increase. Though these can be used to track e-mail, the vast majority are used to get information on mobile phone users’ phone calls and texts.

Consider that last year mobile carriers responded to a staggering 1.3 million law enforcement requests — which come from federal, state and local police, as well as from administrative offices – for subscriber information, including text messages and phone location data. That’s according to data provided to Congress that was released in July. The nation’s major phone providers said they were working around the clock and charging millions in fees to keep up with ever-growing demands.

Not surprisingly, the number of people affected by such orders has jumped as well – consider the below chart on the number of people who the DoJ got information about using trap-and-traces and pen registers.

Statistics: The American Civil Liberties Union

As the Naomi Gilens points out, “more people were subjected to pen register and trap and trace surveillance in the past two years than in the entire previous decade.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in ongoing litigation, claims that the National Security Agency, with the help of the nation’s telecoms, is hijacking all electronic communications.

The new statistics also show a large spike in Internet surveillance:

Statistics: The American Civil Liberties Union

While the growth rate for Internet surveillance is high, such surveillance still accounts for a tiny fraction of pen register and trap-and-trace orders overall. In 2011, only about 800 of each type of order was issued for Internet traffic, compared to almost 20,000 of each type of order for telephones.

While it’s useful for the public to have these statistics, they give just one small piece of the overall surveillance puzzle. For example, these statistics likely don’t include cell phone location tracking by law enforcement. They also omit government access to emails stored by third party providers. And they entirely exclude the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program under the FISA Amendment Act. While hard numbers are hard to obtain, what little evidence we do have suggests that all of these forms of surveillance have been increasing.

Why is the government spying on us so much more than it did just a decade ago? The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were surely one motivating factor. But it can hardly explain the sharp increase in the last two years. Another important factor is likely just supply and demand. As information technology in general has gotten cheaper and more powerful, the technology to capture and store large amounts of intercepted data has also gotten cheaper. So economic constraints that limited the amount of data the government could collect in the past has become less and less of a constraint.

Dangerous Yahoos

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – The Marimba Belles
Planet of Lost Souls – Thomas Dolby
Transparencias – M.I.A.
Vassarlean – Charles Mingus
The Insidious Revenge Of Ultima Thule Part One – Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic
Rhubarb – Aphex Twin
Ladino Song – Oi Va Voi
Ravendhi – Cirque Du Soleil
Mamelukki & Musta Leski – Alamaailman Vasarat
Pull Jabal Pull – JJ Johnson
Memory Band – Rotary Connection
Shapes Of Things – David Bowie
Mars, The Bringer of War – Isao Tomita
Kula Bocca Says So – The Residents
Glue – 5uu’s
Expectativa – Asfalto
The Fish [Shindleria Praematurus] – Yes
C’est La Vie Qui Les A Menés Là! – Magma
Cryogenese Les Portes Du Futur – Art Zoyd
Awake – Mungal with Nitin Sahwney
Sound Music – DJ Babu
My God – Jethro Tull

Despite all the ridiculous fearmongering and conspiracymongering, our government continues to prove itself to be remedial and stunted in so many ways.

The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it…. (and is) announcing additional personnel changes today.

Either way, it seems that Romney and Obama are no different on the severe issues. Either way we end up with the same old game.

Via the blackagendareport.com:

1. 40 year war on drugs must continue, and even mention of the prison state is unthinkable

2. No minimum wage increases for you, no right to form a union, no right to negotiate or strike if you already have a union, and no enforcement or reform of existing labor laws.

3. No Medicare For All. Forget about it eliminating the Medicare age requirement so that all Americans would qualify.

4. Immigrants must be jailed and deported in record numbers.

5. FCC should not and must not regulate telecoms to ensure that poor and rural communities have access to internet, or to guarantee network neutrality.

6. Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere

7. US Presidents can kidnap citizens of their own or any nation on earth from anyplace on the planet for torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial or murder them and neighboring family and bystanders at will.

8. Africa should be militarized, destabilized, plundered and where necessary, invaded by proxy armies like those of Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi or Kenya, or directly by Western air and ground forces, as in Libya.

9. Palestinians should be occupied, Iran should be starved and threatened from all sides, Black and brown babies and their parents, relatives and neighbors should be bombed with drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia

The “militants” targeted by the United States are often just military-aged men who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obama’s kill list–his program of extrajudicial killings, directed at American citizens suspected of terrorism—is an affront to the values of the Constitution, and a huge blemish on his record. The same goes for his failure to prosecute Bush-era tortue abuses, as well as his zeal for whistleblower prosecutions. And it’s certainly not helping our image in the region.

10. Banksters and Wall Street speculators deserve their bailouts and protection from criminal liability, but underwater and foreclosed homeowners deserve nothing.

11.  Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. (because NAFTA was so great)

12. Climate change treaties and negotiations that might lead to them should be avoided at all costs.

13. Medicare, Medicaid and social security are “entitlements” that need to be cut to relieve what they call “the deficit.”

14. any sort of WPA-style program to put millions of people back to work.

In fact, despite his promises to the contrary, Obama’s administration has been one of the least transparent in history, with 19 out of 20 cabinet-level agencies failing to follow the requirements of the FOIA. And those drone strikes can be a mere mistaken identity or accidental button-pushing away.

“I remember cuing up a US Predator strike before deciding the computer screen wasn’t depicting a Taliban insurgent burying an improvised explosive device in the road; rather, a child playing in the dirt.” –James Jeffrey 

The National Constitution Center has found that one-third of the United States actually “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about the future of their privacy given the very real possibility of rampant drone use in the US in the coming years.

These drones, btw, are one of the main reasons we’re so disliked in the middle east, despite any claims that it was some shoddy video, and regardless of Romney’s crass politicizing. As always, these issues are more complicated than that, (free speech included).

We now know that a concerted terrorist attack was at work, not just some street riots, and not some simplistic, xenophobic, bigoted, jingoist rhetoric generalizing the people in the region:

“WHY DO THEY HATE US?” “WHY ARE THEY SO EASILY OFFENDED”

There are many real reasons, from our decades of bad foreign policy, equation with Israel’s racist neoconservative regime, Drone strikes, economic inequity, wars, Global food prices… Not to mention the anti-Islam ads by our own moronic politicians, and the ghastly actions of a few servicemen.

Israeli leaders keep pushing for war, Obama threatens the Iranian president, Romney lusts even harder for bombs over the middle east, and racist campaigns to dehumanize Palestinians have come to America.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” – Pamela Geller, American Freedom Defense Initiative (hate group)

Oh, and if you try to cover or take down those racist sentiments, you’re arrested for vandalism.

The elections are a joke, with both candidates running further right than the electorate, and the liar Romney now more unpopular than Bush.

It’s no wonder the GOP has to resort to conspiracy theory, dangerous assertionsthe blame game, and outright lies to explain why they’re losing, and why they’re so unpopular.

Fact: when you use ‘unskewed’ numbers to look at NET job growth in America, Obama has created more jobs. Americans are feeling better about the state of the U.S. economy, and may not even be focusing on those monthly jobs reports as much as Fox News wants them to.

Let’s face it, whether the Republicans win or lose, they’re still losers. And most of the politicians, no matter their party affiliation, are fiscal and moral hypocrites.

Americans hold our system of government up as a model for other nations, but we show contempt for it at home.

A shadowy money explosion controls all of this theatre, with a sort of short-sighted conspiracy that doesn’t account for the dangerous and catastrophic complexities of real geopolitics. Most of the money is going to the most austere conservatives and greedy corpofascists, and the rest can just take over our democracy on the state and local levels. Income inequality in the United States is worse today than it was back in 1774. And the thinking that engineers this system is dogmatic and self-interested.

Can the ideology of capitalism bend to a stronger ideology of justice and love? -Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winner

These money-grubbers will steal our election if we’re not vigilant.

They will mobilize against the people if we do not stand up and block them.

Spying on Muslims and Fabricating the Results, Targeting Activists (NYPD has been targeting anybody who tries to hold them accountable), Police Brutality, Constant Intrusion and Surveillance (Domain Awareness System, (DAS) created by the NYPD in partnership with Microsoft),  Numbers Game of their Quotas (against minorities for minor offenses, tickets, small amounts of drug), Cover-Ups (The Blue Shield of Silence), botched or destroyed various pieces of evidence throughout investigations…

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ‘private army’ has been increasingly unleashed to beat, arrest, imprison, and broadly suppress OWS, targeted arrests of specific organizers as well as random street ‘snatch and release’ intimidation tactics.

They’re dangerous, and they’re mad. Somebody please stop them.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Schrödinger’s Drone: The Assassination Program That Both Does and Doesn’t Exist

This article originally appeared on Disinfo.com

Despite his many ’08 campaign promises and pronouncements after being inaugurated, Barack Obama’s may be the least transparent presidency in modern history, decreasing the fulfillment of FOIA requests each year, and prosecuting record numbers of whistle-blowers. Some of his past statements now seem laughably naïve (either for him or for us):

“For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over.”

~Barack Obama, January 21, 2009

Nowhere has this hypocrisy been more *ahem* clear, than with the administration’s ramped up drone program, which it alternately attributes and denies is being coordinated between the military and the CIA. The drone strikes which eyewitness and press reports have shown to take place (even at funeral processions and against those trying to give aid to drone strike victims) are veiled behind contradictory official reports, classifications, outright denials, and obfuscatory language. No accurate assessment of civilian deaths can be made, as the administration refuses to acknowledge any real numbers, and furthermore designates any drone strike victims as ex post facto militant combatants.

President Obama recently lied through his teeth to CNN, claiming that the preference was always capture and that strikes required a ‘strict, tight criteria’, while of course, sidestepping any accountability and offering no verifiable numbers or details. Glenn Greenwald and other journalists have done a stellar job of doggedly following these secret military maneuvers, including Eric Holder’s dismissal of due process, which can now be fulfilled by secret “internal deliberations by the executive branch”.

At the same time, government officials love to tout the successes of their drone strikes, such as the assassinations of Anwar al-Awlaki last year, and Abu Yahya al-Libi last June (which may have been a major factor in Al Qaeda’s revenge killings against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi this week). They want to have their cake, but also claim that the cake is a lie. Apparently, the drone program exists in a superposition of possible rest states. Probably shouldn’t trust unnamed sources, anyway.

ProPublica has recently collated the reporting of the secret drone war in a nifty, easy-to-use visual timeline.

Administration officials—often unnamed—frequently seem to celebrate drone strikes that kill suspected militants. But the administration has also worked against disclosures of less positive aspects of the CIA’s program, including how many civilians have been killed. We’ve laid out four years of statements by current and former officials discussing the CIA’s drone program, both on and off the record. (Most of these stories also include a “no comment” from the CIA or the White House.)Highlighted in red are the CIA’s legal stances refusing to even acknowledge the program in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

ProPublica‘s ongoing project is now available online for your perusal.

Related: How the Gov’t Talks About a Drone Program it Won’t Acknowledge Exists

Outmoded Cogs

All those outmoded pieces of the political machine stand in the way between our current miserable lot and real progress. That’s right, brand them for it! Make the reactionaries wear their conservative moniker for the shame that it is!

PLAYLIST
Peer Gynt Suite ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’
The Supernatural Anaesthetist – Genesis
Symphonic Fantasia No.1 & 2 – Akira Ifukube
Evil Devolution – Ayreon
Loving – Astor Piazzolla, Kronos Quartet
Fight Outta You – Ben Harper
The Needle Has Landed – Neko Case
Butcher’s Boy – Damien Jurado
Miracula Eternitatis – Cirque Du Soleil
Wander – The Album Leaf
Spanish Castles in Space – The Orb
Boredom – Procol Harum
Music for a Found Harmonium – Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Gentler We – Clogs
Magnificat – Manuel Cardoso
Kentucky Moonshiner – Dave Van Ronk
Yesterday Is Here – Tom Waits

Archaic thinking, smirking opportunistic politicians, violent religious extremists, right-wing mainstream media, forcing teachers to strike, and the digital disruption of your privacy threaten us daily. Sadly, the show is only weekly, and we do what we can.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Tropical Paradise

The stress and anger from the fast-paced world of current events and electoral mudslinging are getting to you, and since we can’t stop those, let us find our exotic escape. A quiet beach on a remote island, with sweet drinks and soft jungle sounds on a moonlit night, relax and melt into your adirondack chair, under your tiki hut near your cabana, and dream that this is how humbly the other half lives. Better yet, dream of the indigenous fauna.

Our problems will still be here when we get back.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-08-18: Tropical Paradise by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – The Mysterions
007 (Shanty Town) – Desmond Dekker
Ebb Tide – Al Caiola & His Islanders
Jungle Madness – Martin Denny
Tiare Anani – Webley Edwards
Chuncho (the Forest Creatures) – Yma Sumac
Island In The Sun – Harry Belafonte
Mucha Muchacha – Esquivel
Bongo Lesson – Jack Costanza
Lambada Timbales – Tito Puente
Corcovado (Quiet Nights) – Sergio Mendes, Cannonball Adderley
Brazil – Django Reinhardt
Agua De Beber – Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
Irene – Caetano Veloso
The Warmth Of The Sun – Beach Boys
Double Naught Spy – Deke Dickerson
The Cannibal Village – Michael Land
Tropicando – Les Baxter
Exotic Guitars – Safari Ways
Pastime Paradise – Ray Barretto
Waves Within – Santana
War – Bob Marley
No Dub Island – Scientist
James Bond Theme – The Skatalites
SPY – Seatbelts
Spygame – Parov Stelar
Jungle Fresh – Gorillaz
Bongo Bong – Manu Chao
Vacation Island – Kid Koala
Manha De Carnaval – Louiz Bonfa
Mana Ma’ohi – Matato’a
Son Of A Son Of A Sailor – Jimmy Buffett

Now, it has officially been eight attacks on houses of worship in eleven days in this country, with distrust, bigotry and racism stirred up by the likes of Islamophobes Michele Bachmann and Peter King. And even demagoguery in the areas where violence would later occur against Muslims:

Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., sowed the seeds of mistrust and suspicion by alleging that “radical Islam” had made a home in the suburbs of Chicago; that ”It’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin. It’s here”; and that radical Muslims are “trying to kill Americans every week.” Walsh’s warnings were met with applause.

According to FBI data, hate crimes against Muslims might be rising. The rate of anti-Muslim crimes fell from nearly 500 in 2001 to 107 in 2009. But in 2010 (the latest year for which the FBI has data) the total number of hate crimes jumped 50 percent to 160.

As we discussed last week, our intelligence agencies tasked to protect us have a massive blind spot in the area of homegrown terrorism, but they had been warned.

Daryl Johnson, architect of the infamous 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism, made headlines last year, when he accused Homeland Security of ignoring the growing threat of right-wing violence due to political pressure. Johnson said DHS employed just one analyst to monitor all non-Islamic extremism, down from eight prior to the report’s release. In stark contrast, the department has at least two dozen personnel assigned to analyzing the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism.

DHS continues to turn a blind eye, says Johnson.

“Right around the time I went public last year, they hired a brand-new person with no experience and no law enforcement connections,” shortly thereafter the new hire was transferred to a different unit, again leaving just one analyst on the beat. A year later, Johnson says, “absolutely nothing has changed.” another former DHS analyst, there have been, at most, two DHS analyst on the non-Islamic extremism beat since he left the agency in 2010. During his time at DHS, he recalls a “3-to-1 ratio” of analysts assessing Islamic extremism versus those covering non-Islamic threats. According to the former analyst, “very few products have been released in the past several years [on right-wing extremism]. A couple, but not much at all.”

What’s worse is that other law enforcement groups rely on DHS threat assessments, and within the halls of power these groups are seen as inconsequential to nonexistent, while Muslims are seen as suspicious to radical. Ignorance has led to our agencies being led by a sham terror expert industry, exaggerating one threat and ignoring others.

Read John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart’s The Terrorism Delusion: America’s Overwrought Response to September 11, in the latest issue of International Security.

Mueller and Stewart analyze 50 cases of supposed “Islamic terrorist plots” against the United States, and show how virtually all of the perpetrators were (in their words) “incompetent, ineffective, unintelligent, idiotic, ignorant, unorganized, misguided, muddled, amateurish, dopey, unrealistic, moronic, irrational and foolish.” They quote former Glenn Carle, former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats saying “we must see jihadists for the small, lethal, disjointed and miserable opponents that they are,” noting further that al Qaeda’s “capabilities are far inferior to its desires.”

Expenditures on domestic homeland security (i.e., not counting the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan) have increased by more than $1 trillion since 9/11, even though the annual risk of dying in a domestic terrorist attack is about 1 in 3.5 million. Using conservative assumptions and conventional risk-assessment methodology, they estimate that for these expenditures to be cost-effective “they would have had to deter, prevent, foil or protect against 333 very large attacks that would otherwise have been successful every year.” Much of that money ends up going to private contractors.

These are the types of government spending and overreach that policymakers will never criticize Obama for. CIA-perfected torture is normalized as concept with impunity here in the states (by calling it “enhanced interrogation techniques”), and captives are sent face rendition abroad.

President Obama has closed the CIA’s “black sites,” its secret prisons where American agents once dirtied their hands with waterboarding and wall slamming. But via rendition — the sending of terrorist suspects to the prisons of countries that torture — and related policies, his administration has outsourced human rights abuse to Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere. In this way, he has avoided the political stigma of torture, while tacitly tolerating such abuses and harvesting whatever intelligence can be gained from them.

But pundits and politicians would rather focus on the ECONOMY, stupid.

When it comes to fiscal issues, Mitt Romney wants voters to know he’s disgusted by reckless government spending spree under President Obama the past three years, while at the same time also contending that Obama’s government hasn’t stepped in enough to help Americans.

Paul Ryan also slammed President Obama on Thursday for failing to rescue an auto factory in his Wisconsin district — one that closed in 2008, under President George W. Bush. Oopsie! Ryan also got caught misrepresenting his actions when it comes to his handling of Obama’s stimulus package. In an interview this week with WCPO, an ABC affiliate in Cincinnati, Ryan said, “No, I never asked for stimulus … I opposed the stimulus because it doesn’t work, it didn’t work” but it turns out that’s not true. In 2009 and 2010 Ryan sent at least five letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grants in the millions for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies.

And while avoiding the big deal over his own taxes, Romney attacked the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center’s finding that fulfilling his budget promises would require asking 95 percent of Americans to pay more in taxes. “They made garbage assumptions and they reached a garbage conclusion,” he said. He then used Simpson-Bowles to defend his vague formula, but the commission’s co-chair, Erskine Bowles, has repeatedly said it’s not mathematically possible to meet Romney’s goals without asking the middle class to pay more in taxes.

“The Romney plan, by sticking to revenue-neutrality and leaving in place tax breaks, would raise taxes on the middle class and do nothing to shrink the deficit,” Bowles wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week.

The Tax Policy Center responded to a number of Romney’s criticisms, claiming that none of the complaints affected the conclusions, which the group said were based on running simple numbers around Romney’s previously stated goal of revenue-neutral tax reform that would lower income tax rates while eliminating tax deductions, starting with those that benefit the wealthiest Americans.

“[I]t remains true — as we showed in our paper — that a reform proposal that meets the five goals stated above would have to raise burdens on middle-class households,” they wrote.

Surely many other scandals will come out concerning Romney’s moneyed storied past, but this week it was Joe Biden who was in the news for his “gaffes”

“Romney wants to let the — he said the first 100 days — he’s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street,” Biden said at an event in Danville, Va. “They gonna put y’all back in chains.”

Of course, the Republicans lashed out at his racial rhetoric, despite having been all-too-willing to play that card themselves in the past:

“They will put you in chains called ‘Obamacare,’ and you will never break away,” ~Sen. Rick Santorum

“[Obama] does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He’d rather you be his slave.” ~Florida Rep. Allen West

But the point still stands, that there are (some) wealthy elites who would reinstate the feudal state, the gilded age, and even serfdom. But what can we do?

Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America, proposes we turn the banks into public utilities. Via Alternet:

The simple truth is our giant banking system is metastasizing throughout our economy. It’s sucking away our wealth. And it’s out of control. We’ve seen our bankers commit every kind of financial crime imaginable. They trade on insider information. They manipulate markets. They rig bets. They fix prices. They sell securities that are designed to fail so that they can bet against them. They launder money for rogue nations. They create too-big-to-fail banks that gamble with impunity knowing that we will bail them out again and again. And they collectively crashed the economy causing 8 million workers to lose their jobs.

No bank CEO can effectively manage the empires they now preside over. No regulator can keep up with the financial games that are played right under their noses. It’s just not possible. Too-big-to-fail also means too-big-to-control. Banks are the predators and we are the prey. We need to end too-big-to-fail, instead of proposing reforms that are too little, too late.

He counters every criticism of his proposal, arguing that it isn’t necessary socialism (about as much as the police force is), that public trusts are more effective, and that losing the “best” Wall Street talent by drastically lowering salaries will be a good thing.

It’s all just in time, too, since privatization is ruining America:

  1. We spend lifetimes developing community assets, then give them away to a corporation for lifetimes to come.
  2. Private systems of health care, schools and prisons are failing us.
  3. Facts about privatization are hidden from the public.
  4. Privatizers have suggested that teachers and union members, public schools, are communists.
  5. Privatization often creates an “incentive to fail” for no-bid contractors.

And, amid journalist harassmentarrests, and criminalizing dissent, private contractors have now dedicated massive, nationwide surveillance networks to watching us.

Via RT:

In a 2005 interview with The Entrepreneur Center, Richard “Hollis” Helms, co-founder of TrapWire developers Abraxas, says the system “can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas… The beauty of it is that we can protect an infinite number of facilities just as efficiently as we can one and we push information out to local law authorities automatically.”

Essentially, siphoning private surveillance camera footage to intelligence agents.  intelligence caught by TrapWire was being fed directly to these high-profile customers, including the NYPD (who lied in denying it), the Pentagon, the Secret Service and the White House. Stratfor, for its part, is keeping quiet about the revealing emails, and won’t comment enough to deny them. Mainstream media (*cough* NYTimes *cough*) whitewashes the facts behind the scandal, and all of this could be for good and more than just classified reasons. This could all be very illegal.

US v. Jones, the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, could mean that using Trapwire to track people is illegal without a search warrant, and would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment

“Regardless of the technology, the government should need a warrant for persistent tracking of individuals” ~The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Well, the government thinks it needs a lot of things, but warrants don’t seem to be among them.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-08-18: Tropical Paradise by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net