Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Feckless And The Bold
Updates On Matters Of Importance

The Torture Judges
Jose Padil
The United States government continues to torture people, and US courts continue to look the other way, as Glenn Greenwald outlines in Salon. When people try to get justice for being tortured in the courts, the government routinely claims it can't be sued for torture because such a lawsuit would force the government to reveal "state secrets," and US courts always accept the government at its word. The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the Supreme Court whether, at the least, the government can be held accountable for torturing a US citizen on US soil. It's askingfor a little justice in the sad, depressing, utterly disgusting case of the US government's abuse of its power involving US citizen Jose Padilla.

Also, although our government has promised it has stopped torturing them, it continues to hold hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo, many of whom the government admits did nothing wrong.

Afghanistan: Hell Of Our Own Making 

Joe Glenton tells in The Guardian of England why he refused to go back to Afghanistan and fight in a war that's already lost. Contrary to official propaganda, he says, the Taliban operate with impunity and control large areas of the country, and are back because they have the support of the Afghan people.

Glenton also says that as the NATO effort fails, the instances of the kinds of outrageous behavior we've become accustomed to hearing about are on the rise -- soldiers filming themselves urinating on dead victims and with their victims body parts, and violence against civilians, including mass murder.

In the most egregious of these cases to come to light so far, the US military's story that Sgt. Robert Bales massacred 17 villagers in Afghanistan all by himself continues to unravel. Summaries of recent AP and AFP (Agence France Presse) articles, and of numerous US mainstream media reports put together by War Is A paint a picture in which a platoon-sized contingent left its base in the middle of the night and massacred the villagers in retaliation for a roadside bomb that had severely injured some of their fellow soldiers. That is the version given by numerous witnesses in accounts gathered by multiple sources. The US Military, which the new reports show is actively obstructing attempts by Bales' lawyer to collect evidence for his defense, denies there even was a roadside bomb.

I can tell you, from direct experience, that if a higher ranking service member, and especially a career service member, is in danger of taking the fall for something -- in this case it would potentially be for organizing or allowing the massacre of civilians -- it is entirely plausible to believe that if he can pin it on someone of lower rank, he will. That's routinely done. Recall Abu Garib prison, and the low ranking enlistees who went to jail for something Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, ordered that was then, necessarily, ordered on down the chain of command.

We Are Not All Palestinians Yet 

Since the Palestinian leadership's gamble that it could gain UN recognition for statehood was denied last summer by US diplomatic strong arming, it has run out of options for saving any remnant of land on which to form a state. Palestine has largely fallen from the headlines, replaced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's relentless campaign to mobilize support for an Israeli war on Iran (and keep Israelis' attention off their deteriorating standard of living.) That campaign includes forming alliances with conservative US legislators and the election-year blackmailing President Obama.

Some are predicting that the Palestinian people will, sooner or later, have to take matters into their own hands. A general uprising of the Palestinian people themselves, a Third Intifada, may be on its way, and indeed, inspired by long hunger strikes by two Palestinian political prisoners (one male, one female, who were among the thousands of Palestinians rotting away in Israeli jails, many of them for years without formal charges) some 1,200 Palestinian prisoners have begun a collective hunger strike.

Supporting Hunger Strikers - Mohammed Asad-APA images
But life continues to worsen day by day for the Palestinians, a situation that is intentionally neglected by the big media outlets. One of the things getting worse is the Israeli army's brutalization of Palestinian children. The Israeli army has never shied away from beating, arresting and imprisoning Palestinian children, but there's been a recent escalation of the practice, as captured here on video.

Attacking Palestinian children as they go to and from school has always been a favorite pastime of Israeli settlers, -- i.e., those rabid Zionists not content with the majority of historic Palestine they confiscated in 1948 and who are, with Israeli government complicity, stealing more Palestinian land every day -- and that continues.

Nor are things getting any better for critics of Israel. In a post about the latest college professor to come under attack by supporters of Israel, Glenn Greenwald recounts some of the academics whose careers suffered damage at the hands of the Zionist Lobby, which is one reason why New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says he and many other Jews don't want to write about Israel.

Perceptions From A Police State

I wish somebody would write down the way things are right now, so that there's a baseline, something to compare things to from now on. My conclusion is that more people aren't angry about the economic decline of the American standard of living because they haven't really noticed it. It's been going on for 30 years now. Pretty soon, there won't be many people left who can remember what it was like to grow up in the 1950s and 60s, when one person working in a family could support the family, buy a house, buy one or two cars, and take the family on a nice vacation every year, and when any child who wanted to could go to college and not end up with any debt, let alone the huge financial burden you end up with now, and when the sole wage earner retired with not only Social Security but usually with a pension, too, and could look forward to travel, puttering around in a long since paid-for home place, or even at that second home by the lake. The people who did live that seem to have forgot it.

Likewise we need a base line of our civil liberties as they stand now, becasue certain of them are slipping away. For instance, the internet as a space beyond the government's control is in continual danger. As soon as one internet censorship bill is shot down by organized protest, another is introduced in its place. Now it's CISPA, which lets private companies share personal information about your internet use and accounts, including your passwords, with each other and the government. Obama has said he will veto CISPA, but recall that he said he would veto the ghastly NDAA, too, and then went ahead and signed it.

Meanwhile, in what began as a reaction to the Occupy Wall Street protests, which were systematically dismantled, often violently, in actions coordinated by the Obama administration, the federal government is arming police forces with military equipment, and coordinating crowd control training, and is handing out permits for local agencies to operate spy drones, and armed drones, like candy -- more than 300 so far and counting.

photo credit not provided by source
 Many now are warning of the coming police state. All this while President Obama adopts, owing to, as the Daily Beast shows,  the Occupy Wall Street movement having transformed the debate in the US, a class based reelection strategy.

Which Obama is only doing, it seems to me, out of political necessity. People now know that the hopey changey thing was just so much talk. People are realizing that they, themselves endowed his devoid-of-substance, soaring-rhetoric-filled, 2008 speechifying with their own illusions. For Obama, it's get on the peoples' side or die, at least until all the votes are counted this November.

But just how intrusive, and how vast the Obama government's programs for spying on we, the US people, has become -- spying begun under President George W Bush and expanded by President Obama -- is detailed over two episodes of the Pacifica program Democracy Now, which got the first televised interview with former high-ranking National Security Agency (NSA) officer turned whistle blower William Binney. Using an internet spying program that morphed out of one originally designed by Binney, he says, the government now scoops up virtually everything -- all the emails we send and receive, our web searches, where we go on the internet, our phone calls, out text messages, everything. This is chilling stuff. Transcripts of  both the shows are available, or you can stream the shows or watch or listen or download them as podcasts.

On both shows are filmmaker Laura Poitras, who deals with topics the government finds too sensitive, like the Iraq War, and who has been detained at airports 40 times, and Jacob Applebaum, a cyber security expert who likewise is under continual government surveillance. Applebaum talks about a project he is involved in that has developed browser software anyone can use, with total anonymity, to surf the web, chat, and send and receive emails. It's at If you're using their software, anyone eavesdropping on you will know that you are signed onto the Tor Project, but that's all they'll know. Every web site you visit will show in the government's spying data base as "Tor Project." The spies won't know what you're doing on the internet, and also won't be able to collect the kind of profiling data -- from your credit card use, travel, where you go on the internet, etc. -- the government now collects that gives it the ability to identify even those people who try to avoid being identified by using aliases.

Incidentally, Barak Obama through his attorney general Eric Holder has charged more American whistle blowers with crimes under the Espionage Act -- six -- than all other presidents combined. Which is having a tremendous chilling effect on the news media's coverage of the government.

Barak Obama is a Democrat, supposedly. Recall that the whistleblower protection laws Obama is getting around by evoking the 1917 Espionage Act were enacted in the 1970s, after the Nixon administration went after the whistleblowers who exposed the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate Affair, by Democratic controlled congresses. Recall how progressive and Liberal and empowered we all felt and how we congratulated ourselves that no one would ever be able to do what Tricky Dick did again.

 The Granddaddy Whistle Blower Of Them All 

Bradley Manning, the private accused of leaking thousands of confidential files to Wikileaks, is approaching his day in military court, and crusading civil rights attorney Michael Ratner, of the the National Lawyers Guild, gives an account of pretrial machinations by the government and their future significance for an open media and free speech in this country. His Guardian piece calls it a "show trial of government secrecy."

In a review of a new book about Manning, David Swanson points out how Manning (if he is guilty as charged) has changed how we see our government, our military, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speaking of war crimes, a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur is about the begin the second phase of the war crimes trial of George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and some other Bush administration members. The sworn testimony of victims, and witnesses to those crimes, will create a court record interested parties can use to, from here on out, do morally to the Bush war criminals what Barak Obama refused to do legally.

Coma Downtown 

Finally, the all woman rock group Girl In A Coma will be in Albuquerque May 9. I just discovered them last night, while trying to find out who did a cover I'd just heard on Pacifica Radio of the great Richie Valens song Come On, Let's Go.

Girl In a Coma does a nice, enthusiastic cover of that song, which I noticed because it just happened to show up on the margin of the YouTube page that came up while I was searching, so I listened to a couple more of their songs and liked them. The three piece band bangs on their guitars and drums, not with the greatest technical virtuosity I've ever heard, but in a very melodic, an enthusiastically melodic, way. They will be performing songs from their new album, Exits & All The Rest, at the Launchpad along with warmup acts Pinata Protest and Sara Radle, about whom I know nothing. Don't miss it! Owing to my work schedule, I might, but don't you.

Note: I found many of the articles I link to here at, an excellent web site that publishes original articles and also reprints articles from sources in the media and the blogosphere, especially articles about the Middle East. With each article it reprints, Uruknet provides a link to the original article, and I have linked to that original.

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