Friday, March 22, 2013

News is Scripted

The Ugly Truth Behind Obama’s Cyber-War

Net Intrusion

Last week, a top U.S. government intelligence official named James Clapper warned Congress that the threat of somebody using the Internet to attack the United States is “even more pressing than an attack by global terrorist networks”. At about the same time, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency, announced that the government is forming 13 teams to conduct an international “cyber offensive” to pre-empt or answer “Internet attacks” on this country.

This, as they say, means war.

Clapper issued his melodramatic assessment during an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. As Director of National Intelligence, he testified jointly with the heads of the CIA and FBI as part of their annual “Threat To the Nation” assessment report.

While undoubtedly important, these “threat assessment” appearances are usually a substitute for sleeping pills. The panel of Intelligence honchos parades out a list of “threats” ranked by a combination of potential harm and probability of attack. Since they began giving this report (shortly after 9/11), “Islamic fundamentalist terrorist networks” have consistently ranked number one. Hence the sleep-provoking predictability of it all.

But Clapper’s ranking of “cyber terrorism” as the number one threat would wake up Rip Van Winkle.

“Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable,” he intoned. “Destruction can be invisible, latent and progressive.” After probably provoking a skipped heartbeat in a Senator or two, he added that he didn’t think any major attack of this type was imminent or even feasible at this point.

So why use such “end of the world” rhetoric to make a unfeasible threat number one?

The answer perhaps was to be found in the House of Representatives where, on that same day, Gen. Alexander was testifying before the Armed Services Committee about, you got it, “cyber-war”.

Besides being head of the NSA, Alexander directs the United States Cyber Command. I’m not joking. Since 2010, the United States military has had a “Cyber Command”, comprised of a large network of “teams” some of whose purpose is to plan and implement what he called “an offensive strategy”.

Up to now, the Obama Adminstration’s stated policy has been to prioritize protection and defense of its own Internet and data systems and, unsurprisingly, those of U.S. corporations. Now we realize that the President has been cooking another dish on the back burner. When these military leaders talk about “offensive strategy”, they mean war and in warfare, the rules change and warriors see democracy as a stumbling block at least and a potential threat at worst.
Is there a “cyber threat”? Sure, just like there’s a “personal security threat” at your front door. You live among other humans and a few of them sometimes rob people. The Internet is a neighborhood of two billion people in constant communication. To do what it was developed to do, it has to be an open, world-wide communications system and so people can exploit that by harming your website or stealing your data if you don’t protect these things adequately. Developing protections is part of what technologists in every setting, including government services, do every day and they do it well, minimizing the incidence of an on-line hack.

That’s contemporary society. You lock the door to your house, turn on your car alarm on and protect your computer’s data. Most of the time it’s unnecessary but you do it for those rare occasions that it might be called for.

You do not, however, break into a thief’s home, kill him or her and wipe out everyone in the house. That’s what President Obama is proposing. No longer is this Administration interested in just “protection of data”; it now plans to pre-emptively attack data operations and Internet systems in other countries. The non-euphemistic term for this kind of “offensive strategy” is hacking and hacking takes two forms: data theft and disruption of service. In other words, the government plans to do what it throws people in jail for doing.

Clearly, this isn’t only about data theft or service disruption. It’s entwined with the political conflicts Washington has with other countries like China and Iran. The Internet is now another battlefield and this offensive strategy gives our government another weapon in its ceaseless war on the world.

While this weapon might sound benign, almost game-like, compared to other military adventures, it is actually a vicious and punishing strategy promising a festival of unavoidable collateral damage.

A “cyber offensive” can target just about anything in a country (like the computers running an Iranian power plant) and, depending on how the Internet systems are inter-connected, almost automatically cut service to people, schools, hospitals, security services and governments themselves. This is the digital version of nuclear warfare, horrific for its impact and its fundamental immorality.

When the announcements were made, the mainstream media flew into a frenzy of evaluation and analysis. Is this cyber threat real, commentators asked? Most of them found that, at this point, it isn’t. But that’s not the point and it isn’t the real threat.

The carefully planned and coordinated Clapper/Alexander testimony provides a pretext for the array of repressive Internet-governing laws, strategies and programs the Administration already has in place. Their purpose is a ratcheting control of the Internet by the government, a redefinition of our constitutional rights and the eviscerating of our, and the world’s, freedoms. Now, with this “cyber war” scenario, these measures can be more easily defended and made permanent.

We can group those laws and programs into three categories.

1 - ”Extreme Data Collection”

The Obama Administration is building a huge data center in Bluffdale, Utah whose role is to capture and store all data everyone in this country (and most of the world) transmits. You read that right.

“Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication,” wrote James Bamford in Wired Magazine, “including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’”

While having your entire on-line life tracked and stored in Utah is pretty creepy, the more pressing issue is how government officials plan to use this data and how they are collecting it. To mine its value, they need to order it to make searches, filtering and lists possible. You need a strategy and while Obama officials have been pretty open about what they’re building, they are closed-mouth about what they intend to do with it.

We know they are working hard on developing code-breaking technology which would allow them to read data which is super-encrypted, the last wall of privacy and protection we have. We also know that, to get this data, they have a remarkable system of surveillance that includes direct capture (capturing data from your on-line sessions), satellite surveillance and the tapping (through easily available data captures) of major information gatherers like Google and Yahoo. The fact that they plan to open this center in September, 2013 means that the intense surveillance and data gathering is in place. You are now never alone.

This is the kind of information on “the enemy” they need in a cyber-war but this information is about us and so the question pertains: who is the enemy here?

2 - “Internet Usage Restriction”

If you’re conducting a war, you can’t have people running around the battlefield trading information and distributing it because, after all, you need secrecy. But collecting and distributing information is entirely what the Internet is about.

No reasonable person expects the entire shut-down of the Internet but the curtailment of on-line expression is now happening and getting worse, re-defining the meaning of free speech and making it an embattled concept.

Under the law, for instance, any corporation or individual can claim you are violating their copyright and demand you remove offending material from a website. You can challenge and litigate that but it doesn’t really matter because, under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act your web hosting service faces huge penalties if they keep the site on-line and the copyright violation is proven. So, to avoid the legal fees and the risk, they’ll just wipe your website. This happens all the time.

If the hosting service stands strong — as some progressive providers do — the people claiming the violation will just go “upstream” to the company that provides your web hosting service’s connection to the Internet and, to avoid legal problems, that “upstream provider” will just unplug the server. Servers host many websites, sometimes in the hundreds, and other services and so not only do you lose your site but everyone else on the server has theirs taken off-line. And this happens without even going in front of a judge.

Sure, there is still robustly exercised “freedom of speech” on the Internet. But the laws are in place to curtail it and, if the government wants, it can (and will) curtail. It’s a modern-day version of benevolent dictatorship which can, as history demonstrates, become pretty darn malevolent pretty fast.

3 — “Selective Repression”

There are hundreds of criminal cases against Internet activists world-wide right now and scores in the United States. The ones most of us are most familiar with, those involving Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning, are only the tip of the frightening iceberg.

A day after the testimony before Congress, for example, federal authorities announced the case of a techie named Matthew Keys . Keys, who worked for a tv station in Los Angeles owned by the Tribune Company, is accused of leaking a username and password to an activist from the well-known hacker organization Anonymous. Authorities say the Anonymous activist used that user/password combo to satirically alter a headline on the website of the Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times.

Keys is now charged with conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer; transmitting information to damage a protected computer and attempted transmission of information to damage a protected computer. Each count carries a 10 year jail sentence, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. For giving someone who changed a headline a username and password!

Last year, we at May First/People Link were raided by the FBI which literally stole a server from one of our server installations in New York City. They were investigating terroristic emails from some lunatic to people at the University of Pittsburgh and the dozens of servers this bozo used included one of ours. We have some anonymous servers which means there are no records of who used them, no traces…no information about the person sending the email; it’s to protect whistle-blowers and others needing total anonymity.

The FBI knew this but they stole the server anyway and then, about a week later, put it back. They never informed us of any of this. We found out because one of our techies went into the server installation and found one of the servers gone and installed a hidden camera which caught the agents when they returned the machine.

If all these developments seem disturbing to you, that’s justified. These repressive and intrustive measures target the very essence and purpose of the Internet. Created as a way for people to communicate with each other world-wide, this marvel of human interaction is now being turned into a field across which countries shoot programming bombs at each other while repressing and even punishing ordinary people’s communication: dividing us, perpetuating the feeling of loneliness that’s a constant in today’s societies and crippling the struggles for change that combat the division and loneliness and depend on the Internet to do it.

The Internet’s true purpose is to bring the world’s people closer to each other. The Obama Administration is doing just the opposite. It would advisable for those of us who have consistently opposed and fought against wars of all kinds to view this “cyber war” as an equally dangerous and destructive threat.

What Isn't Being Said About Soldier Suicides

by ALYSSA ROHRICHT - CounterPunch

On March 21, 2013 at around 11 p.m., a tragedy occurred as a U.S. Marine shot and killed two co-workers at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia and then committed suicide. While this instance is a tragedy in itself, it marks an alarming trend among U.S. active-duty soldiers and veterans.

Suicides in the U.S. military have been climbing, reaching a record high in 2012 when 349 soldiers took their own lives, about one every 25 hours. By comparison, 301 U.S. soldiers died in active combat in 2012, marking the third time in four years that the number of military suicides has surpassed the number of deaths in combat of U.S. soldiers. The figures also do not include the 110 “pending” reported suicides that are still under investigation by medical examiners. In veterans, the numbers are far worse: about one veteran every 65 minutes takes his or her own life, according to a new investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs which examined suicide data from 1999 to 2010.

Since this data has been released, a new crisis line and website have been created for veterans contemplating suicide to reach out and access information on various resources for family and friends. Additionally, President Obama signed an executive order in 2012 authorizing the VA to hire and train additional staff, and according to a press release by the VA, the Veteran Crisis Line has already saved approximately 26,000 suicidal veterans thus far. But the 1,600 new clinical staff, 300 new administrative staff, and 800 new peer-to-peer specialists to work on mental health teams that the VA has hired or is in the process of hiring will only treat the symptoms of this crisis, not the cause.

That there are 26,000 veterans that need saving from suicidal thoughts and behaviors should be evidence enough that something is wrong. The cause shouldn’t be too hard to discern either. Yet coverage in the corporate mainstream media is severely lacking. An article in Forbes detailed the rise in veteran suicide, questioning why the numbers could be so high but offering no real answers as to why.

“It’s still pretty shocking that veterans make up such a high proportion of suicides in this country. Veterans affairs experts explain this by saying that veterans fall into high-risk groups for suicide, which include being male, having access to guns, and living in a rural area, but those factors don’t seem to come close to accounting for such a high rate.”

And that’s where the author’s analysis ends. Well, the author is certainly correct about one thing. That veterans have higher risk factors associated with suicide – things like maleness, gun ownership, and living in a rural area – is NOT sufficient to explain such high rates of suicide. Yet the author completely ignores all obvious answers to her pondering.

Perhaps we could examine the incredibly long and repeated deployments by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. During World War II, The Christian Science Monitor reports, the average infantryman in the South Pacific spent about 40 days in combat over four years. That’s compared to today when about 107,000 Army soldiers, or 20% of the active-duty force, have been deployed three or more times since 2001. Over 50,000 have done four or more tours. That’s four or more tours of watching your fellow soldiers die, four more tours of being under the constant stresses of war-time of fearing for your own life and the lives of those around you, and four more tours of having to take the lives of others because such is the game of war.

Or perhaps it is our strange and schizophrenic way of rallying behind the troops with our patriotic chants and our “Support our Troops” bumper stickers, yet when our troops come home, we leave them homeless, jobless, penniless, and without healthcare to nurse their physical wounds, and worse yet, their psychological ones. 

According to the 2012 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, an estimated 62,619 veterans were homeless on a single night in 2012. In another study by the Urban Institute, about one in ten veterans lack health insurance, that’s 1.3 million veterans without benefits. Of the lucky veterans that do get treatment by the VA, an estimated 30% have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In a report released by the VA in 2012, it was revealed that 247,243 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been diagnosed with the disorder. According to an article on the Daily Beast, “Troops who’ve been deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan are more than three times as likely as soldiers with no previous deployments to screen positive for PTSD and major depression, according to a 2010 study published by the American Journal for Public Health.”

Or perhaps, as we have just passed the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war, we should consider how this country has been so deeply drenched in wars throughout the world for so many years. Operation Enduring Freedom had its 11th anniversary last October, marking more than a decade of involvement in Afghanistan. It has been close to six years since the U.S. revamped its efforts to fight terror in Somalia; nine since we began our drone campaign in Pakistan. Our War on Drugs in Latin America has been waged for decades in a seemingly ever-expanding initiative and costing the United States billions upon billions of dollars. And those are just the wars most people know about. Our special operations forces work in an estimated 120 countries around the world, including throughout Central Africa, across Latin America, and in the Philippines. Our global hegemonic empire works in about 60% of the world’s nations.

With that in mind, how could anyone be surprised at our high rate of suicide among our active-duty soldiers and our veterans who are forced to fight in deployment after deployment, in wars spanning the globe meant only to increase our dominance and global sovereignty, and who come home to joblessness, homelessness, and no one to help them with their internal and external wounds. The wrong questions are being asked in this country. The question is not, how can we better help our wounded vets and soldiers combat depression and suicide? The question is: how can we cut ourselves off from our incessant need for war and conflict and global domination to stop this terrifying trend of murders and suicides. This country has an addiction to war and violence. That is the source of our problem. It is time we changed the conversation.


And even this writer talks about ignoring the obvious then ignores the obvious: in addition to long deployments, it's what these soldiers are being ordered to do - killing civilians, women and children. If you've ever seen an interview with a veteran, they will tell you openly and honestly about how hard it is to go on living after having killed a child. Most civilian deaths are collateral damage, but don't be naive and think they aren't often ordered to kill everyone in a building, regardless if civilians are present or not. The only way to support our troops is to bring them the fuck home. Nothing good has or will ever come from these empire expanding wars. We are the bad guys and that must be a terrible thing for a brave soldier to live with once his deployment is over, and he comes home and looks himself in the mirror while the things he was ordered to do, the violent images of death, blood, body parts and dead children race through his mind. And he has to live with those images in his mind for the rest of his life. I can understand how that prospect would seem unbearable. I hear too often from uninformed people that suicide is a coward's way out, and not for one minute do I believe that any of these soldier suicides were cowards. They were suffering in such horrible ways that seemed impossible ever to heal. And that is the fault of a federal government run by sociopathic corporate oligarchs who consider profit to be more important than the lives of the soldiers carrying out their "plan." -- jef

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Secretive US Senate Amendment Would Weaken Biotech Oversight

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 by Inter Press Service by Carey L Biron

Food safety advocates, environmentalists and health professionals here are engaging in a fervent last-minute campaign to highlight a controversial legislative amendment they say would gut the ability of both the judiciary and the federal government to regulate genetically modified agricultural products.

The U.S. Senate is slated to vote early this week on amendments to a massive, “must pass” bill that would fund the U.S. government’s operations beyond Mar. 27 to the end of this fiscal year. That bill – a piece of stopgap legislation known as a continuing resolution – is so important that leaders in the U.S. Senate had previously suggested that they would not include any potentially controversial amendments.

Yet late last week, reports arose that a legislative “rider” had been anonymously proposed that would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to overrule a judge’s decision to outlaw a genetically modified product. (The amendment can be found here, on page 80.)

As such, even if the courts were to rule that the USDA had illegally approved a particular genetically modified crop, the agency would be allowed to continue telling farmers to use the seed in question. Yet while this would seem to maintain at least the government’s oversight responsibilities, critics say the rider’s impact would go still farther.

“This provision also forces the hand of the USDA, forcing the agency to immediately approve any permits for deregulation of these crops,” Colin O’Neil, a researcher with the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group, told IPS. “Basically, it takes these oversight responsibilities away from the courts and government and gives them directly to the biotech companies themselves.”

In fact, almost identical language was used in an amendment proposed last year in the House of Representatives, likewise attached to a large, unrelated bill. That attempt, dubbed the “biotech rider”, failed at the time.

“Those behind these provisions have the interests of short-term profits at heart,” O’Neil continues. “We feel that based on the federal court decisions and government reports that have criticised the USDA’s approval of certain biotech products, we need to think long term about better safeguards that will adequately protect all farmers and the environment.”

This time around, critics were tipped off when Jon Tester, a Democratic senator, sounded an alarm on the floor of the Senate, strongly denouncing what he called a “corporate giveaway”.

“Its supporters are calling it the ‘farmer assurance’ provision, but all it really assures is a lack of corporate liability,” Tester stated.

“The provision says that when a judge finds that the USDA approved a crop illegally, the department must re-approve the crop and allow it to continue to be planted – regardless of what the judge says. Think about that.”

Tester is an organic farmer, described as one of the few in the U.S. Congress who continues to farm. He has now sponsored a counter-amendment that would strip away the “biotech rider”.

“These provisions are giveaways worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country and deserve no place in this bill,” he added.

“Not only does this ignore the Constitution’s idea of separation of powers, but it also lets genetically modified crops take hold across the country – even when a judge finds it violates the law … the ultimate loser will be our family farmers going about their business and feeding America the right way.”

Herbicide drift

The new rider could also harm U.S. farmers’ attempts to sell their products abroad. In January, for instance, the European Union temporarily froze the approvals process for new genetically modified foods, and dozens of other countries have similarly moved to more tightly regulate their markets.

Yet if the current legislation were to pass, the USDA would be hamstrung from preventing “contamination” of U.S. foodstocks by genetically modified products.

The continued appearance of the “biotech rider” is most likely a reaction to scepticism that has repeatedly been voiced by the federal courts over approval of genetically engineer crops, in addition to the prospect of a new, “next generation” of biotech crops.

The industry has experienced a number of setbacks, including findings that the use of genetically modified crops has increased the use of pesticides, as well as accusations that these crops pose an economic threat to organic and even conventional farmers.

Further, it has become increasingly apparent that genetically modified agricultural material does not necessarily stay on the farms where it is used. In this regard, environmentalists have expressed particular concern over genetically modified crops engineered to withstand stronger and stronger herbicides.

“‘Herbicide drift’ is one of many harms from industrial agriculture – farmers are experiencing economic loss when their crops are killed or damaged when herbicides become volatile and drift in from neighbouring farms,” the Center for Food Safety’s O’Neil says.

“We already have around 64 million acres infested with herbicide-resistant weeds in this country. Yet the next generation of these products appears to be simply moving towards genetically modified crops that are resistant to the older herbicides – what we call the ‘pesticide treadmill’.”

The federal government, he says, has been unable to make headway on the issue.

“So far, the USDA has failed to address issues like the proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds,” O’Neil says. “We now worry that herbicide drift could be the next issue that the USDA fails to adequately address.”

Amendments to the continuing resolution were to be accepted until late Tuesday, with a vote on all riders expected thereafter. Senate leaders have said a vote would be held on the full bill by the end of the week.

The Folly of Endless Growth on a Finite Planet

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 by Common Dreams
by John Atcheson

Ask any policy wonk, politician or pundit – Republican, Independent or Democrat – about the sine qua non of economic policy, and the chances are pretty good their answer will boil down to one word: growth.

No matter what their stripe, a growing economy is practically synonymous with a good economy.

Yet this flies in the face of reality. It is a disconnect, a non sequitur, an impossibility, a folly of immense proportions. Because the plain fact is, the economy can’t continuously grow in a finite world, and we are already bumping up against limits.

Right now, it takes 1.5 Earths worth of resources to maintain our current economy. By 2050, assuming only moderate growth, we’ll consume nearly 3 Earths worth.

But of course, we only have one planet.

Those extra worlds we consume represents debt – assets taken from our children. In ecologic terms, it is called “overshoot.” And living systems cannot long survive in overshoot mode.

The term overshoot comes from ecology, and a classic example of an ecological overshoot might serve to make this concept more real.

So here you go. In 1944, the US Coast Guard released 29 reindeer onto St. Mathew Island. By the summer of 1963, the population had exploded to over 6,000 animals.

Quite a success, eh?

Not really. By the end of 1963, the population plummeted to fewer than 50 scrawny, starving animals. They’d experienced an ecological overshoot.

And notwithstanding the economists and politicians advocating more and more growth, we humans are pretty close to the reindeer’s plight in 1963, and we’re taking the rest of the species with us. Fueled by increasing population and increased per capita consumption, we are perched on the edge of a global ecological abyss.

Exhibit A has to be climate change. Exhibit B has to be commodity reserves. They are two sides of why economic growth can’t be our economic polestar. Nearly four decades ago, economist Herman Daly pointed out that our macroeconomic models were all circular and self-contained, while in reality, the economy was a subset of the environment, taking resources from the natural world, using them to provide goods or services, and discarding the wastes.

Resource depletion and waste such as carbon emissions are not priced in our growth oriented market. Indeed, as Robert Repetto demonstrated, we treat resource depletion as wealth generation in national accounts such as GDP.

Commodity supplies are finite, and as Chris Martenson points out in his excellent book The Crash Course, we are rapidly depleting non-renewable resources.

On the other end of our economic growth model, wastes are accumulating at an alarming rate. Whale carcasses contain enough persistent organic chemicals that they could be considered hazardous waste. Carbon dioxide has gone from about 285 ppm atmospheric concentration at the turn of the 19th Century to 395 today, and on our current trajectory, we will reach nearly 1000 ppm by 2100.

Water is becoming increasingly scarce and increasingly privatized.

Desertification, fueled by global warming, is expanding throughout the world.

So yes, we are very much like the reindeer on St. Mathew island in the early 1960’s – growing rapidly and in imminent danger of overshoot. In fact, when it comes to climate change we’re already locked into eons of rising seas and melting ice caps.

But if growth cannot be our goal, what should it be?

There is an alternative. We can develop.

Developing means investing in reducing the throughput of resources and output of pollutants, while preserving prosperity. For example, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the US could get 80% of its energy from renewables by 2050, using technology available today. This would mean zero depletion of resources and near zero emissions for most of our energy supply.

Similarly, designing for disassembly and reuse could drastically reduce resource use and waste generation.

And retooling our economy to accomplish this would create high paying jobs. In fact, clean energy investments generate 3 times as many jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuels do.
We can avoid overshoot by 1) being poorer, 2) reducing the ecological throughput of our economy by using more efficient and cleaner technologies, or 3) by reducing population. Another way to look at this is that the better our technologies and the lower our population, the more prosperity we can sustain.

But this demands a government with strong regulatory authority and that demands an educated populace capable of critical thinking skills. Don’t hold your breath.

Iraq After Ten Years

March 18, 2013 | Paul Craig Roberts

Ten years ago today the Bush regime invaded Iraq. It is known that the justification for the invasion was a packet of lies orchestrated by the neoconservative Bush regime in order to deceive the United Nations and the American people.

The US Secretary of State at that time, General Colin Powell, has expressed his regrets that he was used by the Bush regime to deceive the United Nations with fake intelligence that the Bush and Blair regimes knew to be fake. But the despicable presstitute media has not apologized to the American people for serving the corrupt Bush regime as its Ministry of Propaganda and Lies.

It is difficult to discern which is the most despicable, the corrupt Bush regime, the presstitutes that enabled it, or the corrupt Obama regime that refuses to prosecute the Bush regime for its unambiguous war crimes, crimes against the US Constitution, crimes against US statutory law, and crimes against humanity.

In his book, Cultures Of War, the distinguished historian John W. Dower observes that the concrete acts of war unleashed by the Japanese in the 20th century and the Bush imperial presidency in the 21st century “invite comparative analysis of outright war crimes like torture and other transgressions. Imperial Japan’s black deeds have left an indelible stain on the nation’s honor and good name, and it remains to be seen how lasting the damage to America’s reputation will be. In this regard, the Bush administration’s war planners are fortunate in having been able to evade formal and serious investigation remotely comparable to what the Allied powers pursued vis-a-vis Japan and Germany after World War II.”

Dower quotes Arthur Schlesinger Jr.: “The president [Bush] has adopted a policy of ‘anticipatory self-defense’ that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor on a date which, as an earlier American president said it would, lives in infamy. Franklin D. Roosevelt was right, but today it is we Americans who live in infamy.”

Americans paid an enormous sum of money for the shame of living in infamy. Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes calculated that the Iraq war cost US taxpayers $3 trillion dollars. This estimate might turn out to be optimistic. The latest study concludes that the war could end up costing US taxpayers twice as much.

In order to pay for the profits that have flowed into the pockets of the US military-security complex and from there into political contributions, Americans are in danger of losing Social Security, Medicare, and the social cohesiveness that the social welfare system provides.

The human cost to Iraq of America’s infamy is extraordinary: 4.5 million displaced Iraqis, as many as 1 million dead civilians leaving widows and orphans, a professional class that has departed the country, an infrastructure in ruins, and social cohesion destroyed by the Sunni-Shia conflict that was ignited by Washington’s destruction of the Saddam Hussein government.

It is a sick joke that the United States government brought freedom and democracy to Iraq. What the Washington war criminals brought was the death and destruction of a country.

The US population, for the most part, seems quite at ease with the gratuitous destruction of Iraq and all that it entails: children without parents, wives without husbands, birth defects from “depleted” uranium, unsafe water, a country without hope mired in sectarian violence.

Washington’s puppet state governments in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Japan seem equally pleased with the victory–over what? What threat did the victory defeat? There was no threat.

Weapons of mass destruction was a propaganda hoax. Mushroom clouds over American cities was fantasy propaganda. How ignorant do populations have to be to fall for such totally transparent propaganda? Is there no intelligence anywhere in the Western world?

At a recent conference the neoconservatives responsible for the deaths and ruined lives of millions and for the trillions of dollars that their wars piled on US national debt were unrepentant and full of self-justification. While Washington looks abroad for evil to slay, evil is concentrated in Washington itself.

The American war criminals walk about unmolested. They are paid large sums of money to make speeches about how Americans are bringing freedom and democracy to the world by invading, bombing and murdering people. The War Crimes Tribunal has not issued arrest warrants. The US Department of State, which is still hunting for Nazi war criminals, has not kidnapped the American ones and sent them to be tried at the Hague.

The Americans who suffered are the 4,801 troops who lost their lives, the thousands of troops who lost limbs and suffer from other permanent wounds, the tens of thousands who suffer from post-traumatic stress and from the remorse of killing innocent people, the families and friends of the American troops, and the broken marriages and single-parent children from the war stress.

Other Americans have suffered on the home front. Those whose moral conscience propelled them to protest the war were beaten and abused by police, investigated and harassed by the FBI, and put on no-fly lists. Some might actually be prosecuted. The Unites States has reached the point where any citizen who has a moral conscience is an enemy of the state. The persecution of Bradley Manning demonstrates this truth.

A case could be made that the historians’ comparison of the Bush regime with Japanese war criminals doesn’t go far enough. By this October 7, Washington will have been killing people, mainly women, children, and village elders, in Afghanistan for 12 years. No one knows why America has brought such destruction to the Afghan people. First the Soviets; then the Americans. What is the difference? When Obama came into the presidency, he admitted that no one knew what the US military mission was in Afghanistan. We still don’t know. The best guess is profits for the US armaments industry, power for the Homeland Security industry, and a police state for the insouciant US population.

Washington has left Libya in ruins and internal conflict. There is no government, but it is not libertarian nirvana.

The incessant illegal drone attacks on Pakistani civilians is radicalizing elements of Pakistan and provoking civil war against the Pakistani government, which is owned by Washington and permits Washington’s murder of its citizens in exchange for Washington’s money payments to the political elites who have sold out their country to Washington.

Washington has destabilized Syria and destroyed the peace that the Assad family had imposed on the Islamic sects. Syria seems fated to be reduced to ruins and permanent violence like Libya and Iraq.

Washington is at work killing people in Yemen.

As the video released to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning shows, some US troops don’t care who they kill–journalists and civilians walking peacefully along a street, a father and his children who stop to help the wounded. As long as someone is killed, it doesn’t matter who.

Killing is winning.

The US invaded Somalia, has its French puppets militarily involved in Mali, and perhaps has Sudan in its crosshairs for drones and missiles.

Iran and Lebanon
are designated as the next victims of Washington’s aggression.

Washington protects Israeli aggression against the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon from UN censure and from embargoes. Washington has arrested and imprisoned people who have sent aid to the Palestinian children. "Gaza," declares Washington which regards itself as the only fount of truth, "is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organization." according to Washington. Thus any aid to Gaza is aid to terrorism. Aide to starving and ill Palestinian children is support of terrorism. This is the logic of an inhumane war criminal state.

What is this aggression against Muslims about?

The Soviet Union collapsed and Washington needed a new enemy to keep the US military/security complex in power and profits. The neoconservatives, who totally dominated the Bush regime and might yet dominate the Obama regime declared Muslims in the Middle East to be the enemy. Against this make-believe “enemy,” the US launched wars of aggression that are war crimes under the US imposed Nuremberg standard that was applied to the defeated WWII Germans.

Although the British and French started World War II by declaring war on Germany, it was Germans, defeated by the Red Army, who were tried by Washington as war criminals for starting a war. A number of serious historians have reached the conclusion that America’s war crimes, with the fire-bombings of the civilian populations of Dresden and Tokyo and the gratuitous nuclear attacks on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are of the same cloth as the war crimes of Hitler and the Japanese.

The difference is that the winners paint the defeated in the blackest tones and themselves in high moral tones. Honest historians know that there is not much difference between US WWII war crimes and those of the Japanese and Germans. But the US was on the winning side.

By its gratuitous murder of Muslims in seven or eight countries, Washington has ignited a Muslim response: bitter hatred of the United States. This response is termed “terrorism” by Washington and the war against terrorism serves as a source of endless profits for the military complex and for a police state to “protect” Americans from terrorism, but not from the terrorism of their own government.

The bulk of the American population is too misinformed to catch on, and the few who do
understand and are attempting to warn others will be silenced. The 21st century will be one of the worst centuries in human history. All over the Western world, liberty is dying.

The legacy of “the war on terror” is the death of liberty.

Dear White Christian America: Jesus Wasn't White

The historical Jesus would likely be subject to stop-and-frisk policies by the NYPD.

March 18, 2013 | Alternet

The History Channel miniseries The Bible is one of the most popular TV shows in recent memory. "The greatest story ever told" seems to have much life left in it.

During an age of economic uncertainty (and even more so among Christian Dominionist evangelicals who believe Barack Obama is the anti-Christ ) it makes sense that a retreat to a popularized version of the underpinnings of Christian faith, tailor-made for cable TV, has proven to be popular.

The Bible will likely draw more viewers following the controversy generated by a recent episode that offered up a vision of “Satan” whose facial features are almost identical to those of President Barack Obama.

The right-wing echo chamber is resonating with affirmation and joy at this discovery: the Christian Dominionists on the Right instinctively knew that the election of Barack Obama, the United States’ first black president, beckoned the “End Times.” (McCain’s campaign even offered up an ad in 2008 suggesting this very fact.) Now, the History Channel has validated their version of reality.

The Bible is not a "true" or "accurate" depiction of events. Like other TV shows and films, the final product is the result of the many decisions made by producers, actors, directors, writers, and editors. However, that does not mean that we should avoid asking some basic questions about the accuracy of the miniseries. For some, what follows is an uncomfortable truth.

The historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth was not "white. He was not European. Based on the scholarly consensus, the historical Jesus would be a Middle Eastern Jew of medium, if not dark, complexion. He was certainly dark enough to have spent time in the Middle East and elsewhere, and not to have had his skin tone commented upon or noted.

This Jesus would be hounded and harassed by the TSA, looked at as a de facto "suspicious" person in post-9/11 America, and be racially profiled by the national security state. The historical Jesus would likely be subject to stop-and-frisk policies by the New York police and others. If it were too late at night, and the historical Jesus was trying to get a cab--especially if he were not attired "professionally"--he would be left standing curbside because brown folks in their 20s and 30s who look like him are presumed to be criminals.

Despite the "common sense" depiction of Jesus in the (white) American popular imagination, the historical Jesus Christ is not a white surfer dude with blue eyes, long flowing hair, and tanned and toned skin.

When I was an undergraduate and forced to take a series of religious studies classes as part of a core requirement, I was exposed first-hand to how volatile such a basic observation can be to some Christians and others who identify with that faith tradition. Our professor was discussing how the Bible is a historical text that has been edited and changed to reveal the prevailing political and social norms of a given time. I asked a question about the Civil Rights Movement and how black folks tried to use the text for purposes of political inspiration and motivation in the face of great adversity.

This transitioned to a followup question where I asked, "What color was Jesus?" Having just seen the movie, Malcolm X, I was curious as to the professor's response. He looked around and plainly said that Jesus Christ was not white or European. He would likely be a medium-complected Jew with brown or darker skin.

Check and mate: thus my followup, "Could one reasonably say that Jesus the historical figure was black?"

Our masterful professor looked around in a contemplative manner and said, "Depending on who you ask, and in what context, one could say that he could be considered 'black' in a society like America where whites have been so color conscious and race obsessed." You could have heard a pin hit the floor as gasps of anger erupted from the white (and some black and brown) students in the class.

Some students actually tried to get this professor fired. He was saved by a few things. First, his research claims, historiography on the matter, and credentials were impeccable. He had tenure. And he was white. It is quite likely that a black faculty member making such a basic claim would have had far fewer protections.

In these discussions of faith, some would likely object that race doesn't matter. Who cares what color the historical Jesus is/was?

Here, the color of Jesus Christ matters while simultaneously being of little import. Thus, a paradox. If the color of Jesus Christ is unimportant, why then the objection to the question and a resistance to changing the images to be more historically accurate? Moreover, such a basic question about the lie that is white Jesus, is often deflected and redirected into one which ends with the power of the white racial frame enabling those invested in its distortion(s) of reality arguing that anyone, especially a person of color, asking such things must be a black "racist" or anti-white.

If a Christian is a true believer why would they have difficulty reconciling their faith with such a superficial thing as changing the historical lie that is white Jesus into one that is more accurate, a man of color, whose message would be unchanged? Would it really be that hard for some white Christians (and others) to kneel before a black or brown Jesus Christ? Are the psychic wages of whiteness so great as to distort a person's image of God?

These matters of race, religion and politics remain potent even in 21st-century America. See how President Obama's presidential campaign was almost destroyed by Reverend Wright and the white conservative bogeyman known as "black liberation theology."

Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo's White Jesus were iconic images that enabled European colonialism and imperialism. In these grand projects of global white power and conquest, "Christian" became synonymous with free, white and civilized. "Heathen" meant that whole populations could be subjected to extermination, enslavement and exploitation.

The current and most popular image of Jesus as created by Warner Sallman in 1941 depicts the former as a white "American." Here, American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, and rise as an Imperial power were ordained as being one with Jesus, and a blessing from God for a country whose elites imagined it to be a "shining city on the hill."

This logic is perfectly cogent: a racial project of exploitation and enslavement of non-whites by Europeans, one legitimized by a belief in the natural inferiority of people of color, the pseudo-science of the Great Chain of Being, a belief in the Curse of Ham as well as other myths, must, for reasons of practical necessity, be predicated on the existence of a "white" God.

A twisted complement to how the whiteness of Jesus has been historically naturalized in the West is how the same ahistorical image adorns many African-American churches (as well as those of Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and others) in this country and throughout the world.

Is there any greater example of the twisted nature of the color line, and the power of internalized white supremacy, than how many millions of black and brown folks kneel and pray before the image of a white god -- an image which has long been used to justify and legitimate white supremacy and racial exploitation? Black and white Christians pray to the same mythologized and historically inaccurate image of Jesus; yet, they do not pray or worship together in the same churches.

Research shows that white audiences will not watch TV shows or movies which they judge to have too many people of color as characters. A historically accurate version of the Bible, which embraced the demographic realities of the era such as HBO's epic series, Rome, would be a revelation. Unfortunately, many in the American public would be unwilling to hear such a basic truth, for it would be too upsetting for those who have internalized whiteness and white privilege even on matters of religion and faith.

National security letters deemed unconstitutional

RT - March 15, 2013

A United States federal judge has declared that the super-secret national security letters that let the government garner info on Americans without their consent are unconstitutional.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs to private businesses in order to obtain sensitive information on clients without waiting for a warrant or subpoena. Unlike those options, though, NSLs involve next to no oversight. Instead all that’s required is that a Special Agent in Charge signs off and says that the information is relevant to an investigation.

On Friday, though, US District Judge Susan Illston said she thought NSLs were illegal and ordered the government to stop issuing them.

“We are very pleased that the Court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman tells Wired. The EFF is currently representing a telecommunication company that’s fighting an NSL received back in 2011, but under Judge Illston’s ruling telecoms won’t be required to hand off intelligence to the government anymore.

“The government’s gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools. Our client looks forward to the day when it can publicly discuss its experience,” says Zimmerman.

Although NSLs are nowhere near as well-known as other types of orders used to obtain information, they are issued with relatively high frequency. Earlier this month, Google revealed that it receives anywhere from zero to 999 letters a year since 2009, but declined to give an actual figure since the Justice Department fears “releasing exact numbers might reveal information about investigations.”

If a telecom or Internet company is given an NSL, they are usually compelled to give the government account details about certain customers. Without relying on court approval, though, those requests can be issued with ease, raising concerns from many that the government is operating in secrecy to spy on Americans.

Speaking with RT last year, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said “hundreds of national security letters every day” are being issued by the US government.

“Once the FBI is able to do this snooping, to find out who Americans are communicating with and associating with, there’s no remedy that makes them whole after the fact. So there needs to be some process in place so the court has the ability ahead of time to step in,” Zimmerman told Wired last year.

After making her ruling on Friday, Judge Illston also granted a 90 day stay to ensure that the government has ample time to ask for an appeal.

US to allow spy agencies to monitor citizens' finances

RT: March 14, 2013

Washington is reportedly considering opening all US financial records to national intelligence agencies in order to prevent future crimes. Only the FBI has had unlimited access to such databases; other agencies had to file case-by-case requests.

The Obama administration is preparing legislation to enable the country’s numerous security and intelligence agencies to spy on the accounts of US citizens, Reuters has revealed. The scheme’s stated aim is to help to identify and track terrorist cells, expose money-laundering schemes, trace criminal syndicates and curb corruption.

"It's a war on money, war on corruption, on politically exposed persons, anti-money laundering, organized crime," Amit Kumar, the UN advisor on Taliban and a fellow at the Democrat-established Center for National Policy think tank told Reuters.

The plan, dated March 4, is in its early stages but appears to have no judicial obstacles, as US legislation does not prohibit the exchange of information between government bodies. However, human rights activists have already criticized the plan

The planning document obtained by Reuters that the US Treasury’s financial database, which previously was only fully accessible by the FBI, will soon be integrated with national criminal, intelligence and other databases to become accessible to “law enforcement, counter-terrorism agencies, financial regulators and the intelligence community.”

Today, the US Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) does not only collect data on clients of financial institutions, it also gathers reports of so-called ‘suspicious client activity’.

An estimated 25,000 financial institutions operating inside US territory – like banks, money transfer agencies, securities dealers and casinos – are obliged to report any activity considered suspicious, such as large (over $10,000) cash transfers, strangely account structures, computer hacking, counterfeiting and suspected money laundering.

The system is arranged so that if a bank is revealed to have not reported its clients’ suspicious activities, it risks of paying severe fines. Many banks err on the side of caution, and file reports on any activity deemed even slightly unusual: Every year, 15 million ‘suspicious activity reports’ are filed to the US Treasury, which allocates considerable resources to deal with them all.

If the Obama administration’s financial spy plan is enacted, US government agencies will have access to virtually all financial information on citizens or foreigners doing business in the US.

Currently, investigating a financial crime involves unraveling a tangle of evidence that could lead to a certain person, such as demanding a specific financial dossier from FinCEN. Once agencies like CIA, NSA or Counter Terrorism Center are allowed unrestricted access to FinCEN data, it would become possible for them to target an individual and arrest them for a crime for which they are not currently under investigation.

A US Treasury spokesperson vowed the agencies will adhere to safeguards outlined in both the Bank Secrecy Act and the US PATRIOT Act: “Law enforcement and intelligence community members with access to this information are bound by these safeguards.”

But Michael German, the senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, told Reuters that “the intelligence community simply ignores the rules” when it comes to how sensitive information is used.

German recalled Congress had refused to approve a similar plan a decade ago, but now “the guidelines were subsequently loosened… It’s in a black hole.”

‘Citizens caught up in financial crosshairs’

The new plan will do little in increasing the efficacy of “keeping America safe,” while potentially increasing, at least partially, the risk of an innocent or “wrongly-profiled” individual being caught through a misreading of banking information, Margaret Bogenrief, a founding partner of ACM Partners financial advisory firm told RT.

“The continued efforts to 'keep its citizens safe,' the US government seems be to struggling to walk that line between protection and invasion of American citizens’ privacy,” Bogenrief said. “More citizens could end up being caught up in the financial crosshairs.”

Considering that financial institution are already over-reporting on questionable activity this new plan of enforcement and power “almost guarantees an abuse, whether intentional or not,” she added.

The true unintended tragedy of this plan is that it won’t bring a significant increase in arrests of high-profile criminals, Bogenrief believes.

“Truly sophisticated criminals – whether they be members of organized crime, gangs, or terrorist groups – will already have the structures and teams in place that will assist these criminal groups in both skirting these rules and avoiding prosecution.”

The Obama administration’s financial spying plan is a shocking attack on personal freedom, independent journalist and founder of Wide Awake News, Charlie McGrath says.“Sold as an effort to stop international terror groups, the proposed measure pushes us ever closer to a complete Orwellian Police State where you are guilty without cause, evidence, or even accusation,” McGrath told RT.

25 disturbing facts about psych drugs, soldiers and suicides

Thursday, March 14, 2013
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger

(NaturalNews) We are living in an age of upside-downs, where right is wrong, fiction is truth and war is peace. Those who fight the wars are subjected to their own house of mirrors via pharmaceutical "treatments." Instead of providing U.S. soldiers and veterans with actual health care, the government throws pills at them and calls it "therapy."

Stimulants, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, sedatives and pain meds are the new "fuel" for America's front-line forces. While the idea of sending medicated soldiers into battle was unthinkable just three decades ago, today it's the status quo. And the cost in human lives has never been more tragic.

Here are 25 disturbing facts about psych drugs, soldiers and suicides. They are disturbing because everybody seems to be pretending there is no link between psychiatric drugs and soldier suicides. So soldiers and veterans keep dying while the Pentagon (and the VA) keep pretending they don't know why. (Sources are listed at the bottom of this article.)

1) 33% of the U.S. Army is on prescription medications, and nearly a quarter of those are on psychotropic drugs

2) In 2010, the Pentagon spent $280 million on psychiatric drugs. That number has since risen.

3) There are now over 8,000 suicides each year by U.S. soldiers and veterans; that's over 22 a day

4) 33% of those suicides are attributed to medication side effects

5) That means medications are killing more U.S. soldiers and veterans than Al-Qaeda

6) 500% more soldiers abuse prescription drugs than illegal street drugs

7) Under the Obama administration, the number of veterans waiting for VA care has risen from 11,000 in 2009 to 245,000 today

8) More active duty soldiers die from suicide than from combat: 349 dead last year

9) The number of prescriptions for Ritalin and Adderall written for active-duty soldiers has increased 1,000% in the last five years

10) For every active-duty service member who dies in battle, 25 veterans die by suicide

11) Only 1 percent of Americans have served in the Middle East, but veterans of combat there make up 20% of all suicides in the United States

12) The suicide rate of active-duty soldiers in the Civil War was only 9 - 15 per 100,000 soldiers. The suicide rate of active-duty U.S. soldiers in the Middle East is 23 per 100,000. And casualty rates were far higher in the Civil War, meaning the Civil War was more psychologically traumatic.

13) In the Korean War, the suicide rate among active-duty military soldiers was only 11 per 100,000

14) To date, the Pentagon has spent more than a billion dollars on psychiatric drugs, making it one of the largest customers of Big Pharma

15) In 2010, over 213,000 active-duty military personnel were taking medications considered "high risk" by the Pentagon

16) In the years since the Iraq War began, twice as many soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard have died of suicide than in combat

17) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calls military suicides an "epidemic"

18) Of all the branches of the military, the Army has the highest number of suicides each year, almost 400% more than the Marines

19) Most active-duty soldiers who take psychiatric medications consume a combination of three to five prescriptions

20) The use of prescription medications by active-duty soldiers is largely unregulated. Soldiers are given a bottle of meds and sent into combat. If they run out of meds, they are given a refill, no questions asked.

21) The mainstream media says the answer to lowing suicides of veterans is to take away their guns so that they cannot shoot themselves. This is the logical equivalent to trying to fix your car's engine by removing the "check engine" light.

22) The Pentagon is initiating new research (in 2013) to try to figure out why psychiatric medications cause soldiers to commit suicide. The research involves tracking brain activity by attaching electrodes to the skull.

23) One-third of military suicides are committed by soldiers who have never seen combat

24) In the last year, the military wrote over 54,000 prescriptions for Seroquel to soldiers, and all those prescriptions were "off label," meaning the intended use has never been approved by the FDA as safe or effective.

25) Dr. Bart Billings, a retired Army Colonel and former military psychologist, refers to psychiatric drugs as a "chemical lobotomy" for soldiers.

Conservative Mystery Date & Judge Scalia, in "Legislative Soul Search!"

Republicans: There's No Debt Crisis, We Just Want to Screw the Poor

Appearing on Sunday morning talk shows this weekend, both Republican House majority leader John Boehner and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan admitted that there is no imminent debt crisis.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Boehner said he agrees with President Obama that there is no immediate crisis concerning the country’s debt.

Boehner told ABC’s Martha Raddatz:
We do not have an immediate debt crisis. But we all know that we have one looming. And we have-- one looming-- because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They're gonna go bankrupt. Washington has responsibility-- to our seniors and our near seniors-- that we firm up these programs so that they're there for the long term. Because if we don't do it, not only will they not get benefits, we will have a debt crisis right around the corner. We have time to solve our problems. But we need to do it now.

Later, on “Face the Nation,” Paul Ryan agreed, even boasting that the United States is handling debt better than European countries and has a “resilient economy.”

Then he admitted to CBS’s Bob Schieffer:

We do not have a debt crisis right now, but we see it coming. We know it’s irrefutably happening. And the point we’re trying to make with this budget is let’s get ahead of this problem.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party continues to push through a budget that emphasizes cuts to the so-called “entitlement” programs. Ryan’s proposed budget would cut more than $4 trillion from the federal budget — bringing government spending to the lowest levels since 1948. And it’s balanced mostly on the backs of the poor, as he proposed to slash Medicare, Medicaid and other social welfare programs like food stamps. His plan would also repeal Obamacare. Overall, 66 percent of his proposed budget cuts would be cuts to those with low and middle incomes.

Admitting that there’s no immediate crisis illustrates that the GOP’s proposed monstrous cuts to social welfare programs are more an attempt to push through their ideology than save the country from collapse. As the media continues to hyperbolize the deficit, the need for compromise and the instantaneous dangers that will occur if we don’t impose austerity cuts, Republicans are happily using the spin to quickly demand these absurd cuts. But now, especially with both parties acknowledging that there’s no immediate debt crisis, we must demand an honest, smart budget from Congress.