Archive for October, 2009

The Long Gaze of the State

October 31, 2009

by Alexander Cockburn

It is no accident, Thomas Wilkinson, a CounterPuncher now living in Germany, pointed out to me a while back, that the first “political” novels about the US, e.g. those of Nathaniel Hawthorne, were concerned with violations of the official sexual code imposed by the country’s founding theocrats.

The control of sex and pornography is a major part of promulgating a prudish, puritanical political culture without ever imposing an overt political censorship regime. The debates about so-called “political correctness”, whether in the race, gender, or ethnicity conflicts can only be explained by the culture of prudery which prevails in American political discourse of all sorts.

“I think it is useful and important,” Wilkinson writes, “to see the ‘sexual crimes’ mania, even its embarrassingly retroactive manifestations, as part of maintaining this rigorously prudish, puritanical political culture the surface of which was barely scratched by the Sixties. Sexual crimes stand for the violation of the established order based on supposed personal deviance and not on any actual material challenge. They have the benefit of being immensely trivial and yet due to the absolutely poor to non-existent transmission of the ‘standards’ for acceptable sexual conduct, esp. occlusion from public instruction, remain ultimately “fantasy crimes”. People can imagine the most heinous punishments for this behavior because it is impossible for them to conceive of a sex crime in the same way as bribery of public officials or assassinations performed by agencies disguised as armies or cultural aid missions. This impossibility goes back to the terror used by parents and teachers to threaten children for violations of their will by creating nonsensical consequences for trivial acts.”

With these reflections in mind, let us turn to that story of the man in Fairfax County Virginia, who got up early on Monday morning, October 19, walked naked into his own kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee? . . . .


Brought to You by the CIA: America’s Drug Crisis

October 28, 2009

by Dave Lindorff

Next time you see a junkie sprawled at the curb in the downtown of your nearest city, or read about someone who died of a heroin overdose, just imagine a big yellow sign posted next to him or her saying: “Your Federal Tax Dollars at Work.”

Kudos to the New York Times, and to reporters Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, for their lead article today reporting that Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan’s stunningly corrupt President Hamid Karzai, a leading drug lord in the world’s major opium-producing nation, has for eight years been on the CIA payroll.

Okay, the article was lacking much historical perspective (more on that later), and the dead hand of top editors was evident in the overly cautious tone (I loved the third paragraph, which stated that “The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raises significant questions about America’s war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.” Well, duh! It should be raising questions about why we are even in Afghanistan, about who should be going to jail at the CIA, and about how can the government explain this to the over 1000 soldiers and Marines who have died supposedly helping to build a new Afghanistan). But that said, the newspaper that helped cheerlead us into the pointless and criminal Iraq invasion in 2003, and that prevented journalist Risen from running his exposé of the Bush/Cheney administration’s massive warrantless National Security Agency electronic spying operation until after the 2004 presidential election, this time gave a critically important story full play, and even, appropriately, included a teaser in the same front-page story about October being the most deadly month yet for the US in Afghanistan.

What the article didn’t mention at all is that there is a clear historical pattern here. During the Vietnam War, the CIA, and its Air America airline front-company, were neck deep in the Southeast Asian heroin trade. At the time, it was Southeast Asia, not Afghanistan, that was the leading producer and exporter of opium, mostly to the US, where there was a heroin epidemic. . . .

The Single Payer Caucus and Obamacare, by Russell Mokhiber

October 25, 2009

What would Democrats do if they were serious about single payer?

The 88 members of the House who support it – The Single Payer Caucus – would get together and say – we’re not going to vote for Obamacare.

(By the way — that’s 88, down from 89 — because Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-Florida) wants to be the next Senator from Florida, and has withdrawn his support for HR 676 – the single payer bill in the House.)

Since Obama can’t pass Obamacare without the 88 members of the Single Payer Caucus –

Their opposition would put an end to the current debate.

And start another one.

And single payer would take center stage.

Even on Fox News.

The pharmaceutical and health insurance corporations would be thrown out of the room.

And we’d have a people’s debate about single payer – up or down.

No corporate meddling.

But the Democrats who say they are for a single payer health care reform are not serious about single payer.

Even the best of them – from Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) to Donna Edwards (D-Maryland)– are not serious about single payer reform.

All they want to do is to give Obama a legislative victory.

No matter how awful the legislation.

No matter it’s impact on the American people.

So, instead, they support the Weiner Charade.

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is pushing to get a vote on single payer in House.

He says Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has promised him a floor debate and vote on his single payer amendment.

But the insiders know this is a charade.

It’s a way to make single payer forces feel good – hey, we got a vote on the floor of the House.

Without getting anything accomplished.

So where does that leave single payer activists?

What to do?

Urge your member of Congress to vote against Obamacare.

And start from scratch.

Onward to single payer.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of Single Payer Action.

Why We Are Waging War in Afghanstan

October 22, 2009

by William Engdahl

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Obama Presidential agenda is how little anyone has questioned in the media or elsewhere why at all the United States Pentagon is committed to a military occupation of Afghanistan. There are two basic reasons, neither one of which can be admitted openly to the public at large.

Behind all the deceptive official debate over how many troops are needed to “win” the war in Afghanistan, whether another 30,000 is sufficient, or whether at least 200000 are needed, the real purpose of US military presence in that pivotal Central Asian country is obscured.

Even during the 2008 Presidential campaign candidate Obama argued that Afghanistan not Iraq was where the US must wage war. His reason? Because he claimed, that was where the Al Qaeda organization was holed up and that was the “real” threat to US national security. The reasons behind US involvement in Afghanistan is quite another one.

The US military is in Afghanistan for two reasons. First to restore and control the world’s largest supply of opium for the world heroin markets and to use the drugs as a geopolitical weapon against opponents, especially Russia. That control of the Afghan drug market is essential for the liquidity of the bankrupt and corrupt Wall Street financial mafia. . . .

The Next Financial Crisis Hits Wall Street, as Judges Start Nixing Foreclosures, by Pam Martens

October 22, 2009

The financial tsunami unleashed by Wall Street’s esurient alchemy of spinning toxic home mortgages into triple-A bonds, a process known as securitization, has set off its second round of financial tremors.

After leaving mortgage investors, bank shareholders, and pension fiduciaries awash in losses and a large chunk of Wall Street feeding at the public trough, the full threat of this vast securitization machine and its unseen masters who push the levers behind a tightly drawn curtain is playing out in courtrooms across America.

Three plain talking judges, in state courts in Massachusetts and Kansas, and a Federal Court in Ohio, have drilled down to the “straw man” aspect of securitization. The judges’ decisions have raised serious questions as to the legality of hundreds of thousands of foreclosures that have transpired as well as the legal standing of the subsequent purchasers of those homes, who are more and more frequently the Wall Street banks themselves. . . .

Four U.S. Presidents and Four UK Prime Ministers Charged With Genocide, By Glen Ford

October 15, 2009

Last week, the government of Spain closed one window of accountability for the most serious crimes committed by the most powerful nations on earth. Under great pressure from the United States, Spain decided to limit its own jurisdiction in cases of genocide and crimes against humanity. Under international law, such crimes fall under the universal jurisdiction [2] of any nation, whether one’s own citizens are victims or not. The logic is that crimes against humanity are offenses against every member of the human species – a crime against all.
Spain had been a venue for bringing high crimes charges against human rights violators in Guatemala, Argentina, China, Israel and elsewhere. The worlds biggest potential defendant for war crimes and crimes against humanity is the United States, whose record of direct and indirect involvement in torture and mass killings is unmatched by any other nation since at least World War Two. It was U.S. pressure that forced Spain to close off its courts from international jurisdiction cases. However, one day before the change in Spanish law, lawyers for the human rights group Brussels Tribunal [3] filed charges of crimes against humanity and genocide against four presidents of the United States and four prime ministers of Great Britain.
The charges cite 1.5 million Iraqi deaths over the course of 19 years of American and British attacks, including two full scale wars of aggression, the “most draconian sanctions regime ever designed,” and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Half a million of the dead, according to the charges, were children. So massive and systematic were the assaults on Iraq, stretching for roughly a generation, the accusers charge the U.S. and U.K. with deliberate destruction of a nation.
The bill of particulars is massive. In addition to the dead, “some 4.7 million Iraqis — one fifth of the population — have been forcibly displaced” since the invasion of 2003. Depleted uranium has led to 600 percent increases in cancer cases in some areas. The U.S. and Britain purposely dismantled the Iraqi state, through “’manhunting,’ extrajudicial assassinations, mass imprisonment and torture, of Baathists, the entire educated class of the state apparatus, religious and linguistic minorities and Arab Sunnis, resulting in the total collapse of all public services and other economic functions and promoting civil strife and systematic corruption.
On top of all this, the Americans and Brits attempted to partition Iraq and plunder its natural resources.
The defendants are George Herbert Walker Bush, William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Hussein Obama, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Anthony Blair and Gordon Brown. It is highly unlikely they will be charged in Spain, even though the advocates beat the deadline by a day. The global clearing house for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide is the International Criminal Court. But in recent years that court has prosecuted no one but Africans. The United States refuses to join the International Criminal Court, and thus claims immunity from prosecution. But no one is immune under international law, and one day there will be a reckoning.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Here Are the 2010 Nobel Prizes

October 9, 2009

courtesy of a few boston lovers of peace

2010 Nobel Prizes

Medicine: Obama, for discovering verbal anesthesia

Physics: Obama, for rediscovering Alchemy

Math: Obama, for proving that zero is a relative value

Biology: Obama, for proving there is no genetic determinant for depravity

Literature: Obama, for The Audacity of Hope – the greatest fiction ever

Economics: Obama, for creating a new statistical metric for economic recovery.

Peace: Netanyahu, the man behind Obama’s peace in the middle east

Peace Prize today, drone attacks tomorrow.


Pittsburgh Provided Real_life Test of “Non-Lethal” Weapons by John Funiciello

October 9, 2009

We’re in an era of national security that started a few decades ago and has progressed full-speed throughout the country. Now, it’s reached down into the cities and suburbs – municipal security.
Soon, it will be complete. Citizens will not be able to walk down a street or do a simple business transaction without being recorded in some way – credit card records, utility company records, retail sales records, bank video cameras, and supermarket cameras and good-customer cards, to name a few.

By now, most young persons don’t even know these systems exist and few of them notice or are concerned about the cameras in the banks or retail check-outs. They’ve been part of daily life, all of their lives.

The obsession with security has made life more like the Truman Show than we’d like to believe. Most of our activities can be – and often are – recorded somewhere.

Certainly, one aspect of our lives that is being closely watched is our expression of our rights under the Bill of Rights – the First Amendment quickly comes to mind, and our rights under that amendment were right up front in the law enforcement practice session that was the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh recently.
We have had “free speech pens” for several years. At the sites of events like political conventions, at anti-war rallies in Washington D.C. and other places, and at meetings like the recent Pittsburgh G-20, law enforcement authorities set aside chain-link-fenced areas where citizens were “allowed” to rally and protest.

But the pens were located in such places that the objects of the protest or rally (or petition, to be constitutionally correct) never had to even see the gathered protestors, let alone hear them and their complaints against the government.

The use of such pens reached their peak – so far – in the time of the second Bush Administration, when neither George W. Bush, nor Dick Cheney suffered any loud critiques of the rabble citizenry. America had been moving in that direction for many years, but the authoritarianism of that administration was epitomized by those pens, in which you could speak, but you were not allowed to be heard.

Sometimes, the gathering of citizens was too big to contain in such a manner, as at the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle several years ago. Authorities were going to make sure that such an event did not happen again.

Even though the Pittsburgh gathering of citizens was not as large, the government and all of its various law enforcement organizations were not going to take any chances. There had been much “research and development” into so-called non-lethal crowd control since Seattle and they intended to use the various instruments and methods. It would be a good training exercise, even though the crowds of protestors were small and, in some reported incidents, were not even present.

Mike Ferner, president of Veterans for Peace, a Vietnam Navy corpsman and a former Toledo city council member, described a few moments of the Pittsburgh action involving a long range acoustic device (LRAD):

Mounted in the turret of an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), I saw the LRAD in action twice in the area of 25th, Penn and Liberty Streets of Lawrenceville, an old Pittsburgh neighborhood. Blasting a shrill, piercing noise like a high-pitched police siren on steroids, it quickly swept streets and sidewalks of pedestrians, merchants and journalists and drove residents into their homes, but in neither case were any demonstrators present. The APC, oversized and sinister for a city street, together with lines of police in full riot gear looking like darkly threatening Michelin Men, made for a scene out of a movie you didn’t want to be in.

There are many other “non-lethal” devices that are available for use in combat zones and in crowd control for local police or other law enforcement. One of them can make the surface of arms or face or other parts of the body feel as if hot metal had been being applied, and it works at considerable distance.

While these may be non-lethal, there is always the danger that an individual may have a bad reaction and could have permanent damage to hearing, sight, balance, or may suffer emotional or mental distress.

Some non-lethal weapons of the past, such as tear gas, are used as if they are not capable of doing harm, but for people with respiratory problems or diseases, such an assault on the lungs can be dangerous or lethal. They are still in use, because such a response is considered rare. Besides, the authorities feel that protestors who go to the scene of a rally or speech should consider that they might be endangering their own health by attending – they’re putting at least some of the blame on the citizen.

The LRAD is said to be able to bring people to their knees and could cause instant headaches and that one is not protected by covering one’s ears. It also can cause permanent hearing damage.
As the national security state becomes more finely tuned, it will be interested in using more of these weapons, because nobody wants to deal with any more Kent States. In that case, during the Vietnam War, one of the victims was just passing by the demonstration on campus and suffered the same fate as the protestors.

In the same manner, today’s enforcers will not be able to tell the difference between those involved in a rally or protest and those who are passers-by. Even if the machine can be directed to an individual, how will the user of the weapon know the intent of the citizen?

The pain can be intense and the damage permanent. It amounts to torture and no amount of training can allow the holder of the weapon to know what is in the heart or mind of the targeted citizen, who, until recently, had a right in America to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In many ways, these weapons are punishment (without arrest, indictment, or trial) for lawful acts, things that every one in America has a constitutional right to engage in: to assemble, protest, march, demand changes in policy or law. The new weapons may not even be lawful for use in crowd control in combat zones, since the international community does not appear to have considered their use in war zones.

One thing is certain. The companies that manufacture these weapons – using the scientific research that comes from some of our finest institutions of higher learning – stand to make millions, if not billions, in selling these “systems” to everyone from the Secret Service to the town constable. You can be sure that a large percentage of the product that is sold in the coming years will be used by people who will have little training in their use. Judgment does not come in the package, either.

Considering the danger of the use of the Taser, another “non-lethal” weapon, and the fatalities and injuries that have resulted from their indiscriminate use, we can look forward to a long period of experimentation in which the American people are used as guinea pigs by authorities who are trying desperately to control them without seriously injuring or killing too many of them.

Our President Is Certifiably Insane

October 7, 2009

Afghanistan and Pakistan are not the Pentagon’s sole targets in its war on terror, says Obama adding that the US will not hesitate to attack anywhere it deems a threat.

US President Barack Obama, speaking at the Counterterrorism Center in McLean Virginia on Tuesday, pledged that the US would target al-Qaeda “wherever they take root” and do everything to wipe out safe havens, where Osama bin Laden’s network can plot against the United States.

“The United States and our partners have sent an unmistakable message: We will target al-Qaida wherever they take root,” he said, Xinhua reported.

The US president cited East Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf in addition to Afghanistan and Pakistan, as the hotbeds for terrorist activities and what he called threats against Washington.

Obama’s speech was reminiscent of his predecessor George W. Bush’s notorious ‘Bush doctrine’, which says the United States has ‘the right’ to launch preemptive strikes on countries that pose a threat to the US security.

“We will not yield in our pursuit; and we are developing the capacity and the cooperation to deny a safe haven to any who threaten America and its allies,” said Obama.

With its primary mission to synchronize the fight on terrorism, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established in 2001 on the hills of the 9/11 attacks on the US soil.

The center, a government agency under the Director of National Intelligence, coordinate and share data with US government departments and agencies and US foreign partners.

Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran?

October 7, 2009

October 06, 2009 “ABC News” — Is the U.S. stepping up preparations for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities?

The Pentagon is always making plans, but based on a little-noticed funding request recently sent to Congress, the answer to that question appears to be yes.

First, some background: Back in October 2007, ABC News reported that the Pentagon had asked Congress for $88 million in the emergency Iraq/Afghanistan war funding request to develop a gargantuan bunker-busting bomb called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). It’s a 30,000-pound bomb designed to hit targets buried 200 feet below ground. Back then, the Pentagon cited an “urgent operational need” for the new weapon.

The comptroller said the Pentagon planned to spend $19.1 million to procure four of the bombs, $28.3 million to accelerate the bomb’s “development and testing”, and $21 million to accelerate the integration of the bomb onto B-2 stealth bombers.
‘Urgent Operational Need’

The notification was tucked inside a 93-page “reprogramming” request that included a couple hundred other more mundane items.

Why now? The notification says simply, “The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON.” It further states that the request is endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).

The request was quietly approved. On Friday, McDonnell Douglas was awarded a $51.9 million contract to provide “Massive Penetrator Ordnance Integration” on B-2 aircraft.

This is not the kind of weapon that would be particularly useful in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it is ideally suited to hit deeply buried nuclear facilities such as Natanz or Qom in Iran.