Thursday, January 31, 2013

Anti-Muslim Violence Increases

"I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims… Ever since 2001 when they put down the Twin Towers, I've been beating them up."
Muslim-Americans, as well as HindusSikhs and others who purportedly "look Muslim" have been humiliated,assaulted and in many cases murdered by individuals often galvanised to violence by politicians and media figures who have enthusiastically engaged in public hatemongering against the Muslim community in the country. 

Anti-Muslim Violence Increases 

The 9/11 attacks precipitated a surge in hate crimes, but even as the events themselves recede further into history, the level of hatred and violence directed at Muslim communities is paradoxically increasing. Within the past month, in New York alone, police have suspected racial hatred as being the motive behind several crimes.  
 'Hate crime' on cards for Iraqi woman killed in US

This includes a string of murders specifically targetingMiddle Eastern storekeepers in Brooklyn, the last of whom, a 78-year old Iranian immigrant named Rahmatollah Vahidipour, was shot to death while closing his boutique and whose lifeless body was then dragged to a backroom and covered over with merchandise from his store. 

Within the same week as Vahidipour's murder another Muslim man was viciously beaten by two men who preceded their attack by asking him whether he was "a Hindu or a Muslim", while another man was stabbed several times outside of a mosque in a random attack by an assailant who screamed "I'm going to kill you Muslim", while repeatedly plunging a knife into his victims' body. 

Far from being aberrations, these incidents are in line with national statistics which show anti-Muslim violence in America nearing record highs, a trend which comes in tandem with highly public campaigns against mosque construction as well as fear-mongering by politicians and media figures regarding alleged plots by Muslim-Americans to override the constitution and impose Islamic law on the country.

The US election cycle also saw Muslims used as convenient targets for politicians seeking office, with one example being incumbent Illinois House of Representatives Republican Joe Walsh who told a cheering crowd at a campaign rally that "Muslims are here trying to kill Americans everyday", before making a baseless and highly incendiary claim that radical Islam had "infiltrated" the Chicago suburbs and that Muslims there were planning an attack that would "make 9/11 look like child's play".

While working the crowd into hysterics was a convenient campaign strategy for Walsh, just days later the Muslim community experienced the consequences of his rhetoric. A man opened fire on an Illinois mosque while it was packed with hundreds of congregants for Ramadan. The next day, another mosque was hit with an acid bombthrown at a window while worshippers had gathered for night services.

Despite these attacks against Illinois Muslims in the wake of his statements, Walsh steadfastly refused to apologise for his rhetoric demonising the Muslim-Americans and instead doubled-down on his blanket accusations against them, a reflection of the mainstream acceptability of anti-Muslim rhetoric by political figures in the US today.

Indeed the use of Muslims as a punching bag by opportunistic politicians seeking a minority group to scapegoat has become a regular feature of American political life which shows no signs of abating, despite the "trickle-down" effect by which this bigotry is now manifesting itself in real violence against innocent Muslim-Americans on a regular basis.

Behind this hatemongering lies a deep cynicism, as leading anti-Muslim politicians such as Newt Gingrich who have warned of "stealth jihad" and other nefarious plots by Muslims in America were within recent years helping facilitateSharia-compliant finance programmes in the country and who maintained notably cordial relations with prominent Muslim leaders.

Political Hatemongering

With Muslim-bashing becoming politically fashionable in recent years, politicians such as Gingrich have markedly changed their tune and it has been to the detriment of Muslim-Americans, as well as to the general level of social cohesion and tolerance in the country. 

In addition to political hatemongering, the past several years have seen a highly organised and well-funded group of anti-Muslim activists who have been sponsoring campaigns targeting Muslims across the country.
Leading figures in this movement such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have led a crusade to vilify Muslims throughout the country and to exclude them from public life through campaigns of smears and hate-mongering which have cast Muslim-Americans as an insidious fifth column within the country.

Their views have gotten considerable popular attention, and thanks to a documented network of funders and media associates they have managed to bring their message to people across the United States.

In the past few months, a major controversy erupted when Geller's anti-Muslim organisation sponsored the placement of Islamophobic advertisements at major subway stations in New York as well as in other cities across the country.

Some advertisements depicted pictures of the 9/11 attacks with verses from the Quran superimposed, while others called Muslims "savages" and implored people to "fight Jihad". While the campaign has been challenged by many liberal commentators, including one infamous incident in which Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy was arrested for attempting to cover a sign with pink spray paint, they continue to run across the country and to spread a message of indiscriminate, vitriolic hatred towards Muslim-Americans in a manner unlikely to be tolerated were it to pertain to any other minority group.

While correlation does not necessarily imply causation, the question must be asked - what effect do advertisements such as these have on the psyches' of people such as Erika Menendez? Was Sunando Sen, a law-abiding, hardworking immigrant who had given his life to achieving the American dream and who was pushed to his death by a woman who "hated Muslims" a direct victim of this campaign of bigotry? That he lost his life on the same subway system which for months has played host to hateful, incendiary advertisements such as Geller's is a tragic irony but is in many ways the natural result of a national culture of anti-Muslim bigotry that has become mainstream in both politics and popular culture.

The sad, inescapable truth is that Sen will likely not be the last victim of the accelerating phenomena of violence against Muslims in the United States - the only question today is how far into the darkness America must travel before it decides to take a stand against it.

Via: "Al-Jazeera"

Iceland: "Let Banks Go Bankrupt"

Iceland Experienced Strong Economic Recovery After Complete Financial Collapse In 2008

Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar GRIMMSON was interviewed over the weekend (26./27.01.2013) at the World Economic Forum in Davos on why Iceland has enjoyed such a strong recovery after it’s complete financial collapse in 2008, while the rest of the Western world struggles with a recovery that has no clothes.
Grimsson gave a famous reply to the financial MSM reporter, stating that Iceland’s recovery was due to the following primary reason:
„… We were wise enough not to follow the traditional prevailing orthodoxies of the Western financial world in the last 30 years. We introduced currency controls, we let the banks fail, we provided support for the poor, and we didn’t introduce austerity measures like you’re seeing here in Europe. …“
When asked whether Iceland’s policy of letting the banks fail would have worked in the rest of Europe, Grimsson replied:
„… Why are the banks considered to be the holy churches of the modern economy? Why are private banks not like airlines and tele-communication companies and allowed to go bankrupt if they have been run in an irresponsible way? The theory that you have to bail-out banks is a theory that you allow bankers enjoy for their own profit their success, and then let ordinary people bear their failure through taxes and austerity. 
People in enlightened democracies are not going to accept that in the long 

Babies Learn Language From Mothers While In Womb

Image via:

Babies only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language, scientists have discovered. The study indicates that babies begin absorbing language while still in the womb, earlier than previously thought.

Sensory and brain mechanisms for hearing are developed at 30 weeks of gestational age, and the new study shows that unborn babies are listening to their mothers talk during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy and at birth can demonstrate what they've heard. 

"The mother has first dibs on influencing the child's brain," said Patricia Kuhl, co-author and co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. "The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them." 

Previously, researchers had shown that newborns are born ready to learn and begin to discriminate between language sounds within the first months of life, but there was no evidence that language learning had occurred in utero. 

"This is the first study that shows fetuses learn prenatally about the particular speech sounds of a mother's language," said Christine Moon, lead author and a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. "This study moves the measurable result of experience with speech sounds from six months of age to before birth." 

The results will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal Acta Paediatrica. 

Forty infants, about 30 hours old and an even mix of girls and boys, were studied in Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden. While still in the nursery, the babies listened to vowel sounds in their native tongue and in foreign languages. 

Their interest in the sounds was captured by how long they sucked on a pacifier that was wired into a computer measuring the babies' reaction to the sounds. Longer or shorter sucking for unfamiliar or familiar sounds is evidence for learning, because it indicates that infants can differentiate between the sounds heard in utero. 

In both countries, the babies at birth sucked longer for the foreign language than they did for their native tongue. 

The researchers say that infants are the best learners, and discovering how they soak up information could give insights on lifelong learning. "We want to know what magic they put to work in early childhood that adults cannot," Kuhl said. "We can't waste that early curiosity.

Via: "Medical Xpress"

Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945

By Isao Hashimoto

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a beautiful, undeniably scary time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project's "Trinity" test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan's nuclear tests in May of 1998. This leaves out North Korea's two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade (the legitimacy of both of which is not 100% clear).

Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Hashimoto, who began the project in 2003, says that he created it with the goal of showing"the fear and folly of nuclear weapons." It starts really slow — if you want to see real action, skip ahead to 1962 or so — but the buildup becomes overwhelming.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Financial War Against The US Economy

By Michael Hudson
Courtesy Of "Naked Capitalism"

Today’s economic warfare is not the kind waged a century ago between labor and its industrial employers. Finance has moved to capture the economy at large, industry and mining, public infrastructure (via privatization) and now even the educational system. (At over $1 trillion, U.S. student loan debt came to exceed credit-card debt in 2012.) The weapon in this financial warfare is no larger military force. The tactic is to load economies (governments, companies and families) with debt, siphon off their income as debt service and then foreclose when debtors lack the means to pay. Indebting government gives creditors a lever to pry away land, public infrastructure and other property in the public domain. Indebting companies enables creditors to seize employee pension savings. And indebting labor means that it no longer is necessary to hire strikebreakers to attack union organizers and strikers.
Workers have become so deeply indebted on their home mortgages, credit cards and other bank debt that they fear to strike or even to complain about working conditions. Losing work means missing payments on their monthly bills, enabling banks to jack up interest rates to levels that used to be deemed usurious. So debt peonage and unemployment loom on top of the wage slavery that was the main focus of class warfare a century ago. And to cap matters, credit-card bank lobbyists have rewritten the bankruptcy laws to curtail debtor rights, and the referees appointed to adjudicate disputes brought by debtors and consumers are subject to veto from the banks and businesses that are mainly responsible for inflicting injury.
The aim of financial warfare is not merely to acquire land, natural resources and key infrastructure rents as in military warfare; it is to centralize creditor control over society. In contrast to the promise of democratic reform nurturing a middle class a century ago, we are witnessing a regression to a world of special privilege in which one must inherit wealth in order to avoid debt and job dependency.
The emerging financial oligarchy seeks to shift taxes off banks and their major customers (real estate, natural resources and monopolies) onto labor. Given the need to win voter acquiescence, this aim is best achieved by rolling back everyone’s taxes. The easiest way to do this is to shrink government spending, headed by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Yet these are the programs that enjoy the strongest voter support. This fact has inspired what may be called the Big Lie of our epoch: the pretense that governments can only create money to pay the financial sector, and that the beneficiaries of social programs should be entirely responsible for paying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not the wealthy. This Big Lie is used to reverse the concept of progressive taxation, turning the tax system into a ploy of the financial sector to levy tribute on the economy at large.
Financial lobbyists quickly discovered that the easiest ploy to shift the cost of social programs onto labor is to conceal new taxes as user fees, using the proceeds to cut taxes for the elite 1%. This fiscal sleight-of-hand was the aim of the 1983 Greenspan Commission. It confused people into thinking that government budgets are like family budgets, concealing the fact that governments can finance their spending by creating their own money. They do not have to borrow, or even to tax (at least, not tax mainly the 99%).
The Greenspan tax shift played on the fact that most people see the need to save for their own retirement. The carefully crafted and well-subsidized deception at work is that Social Security requires a similar pre-funding – by raising wage withholding. The trick is to convince wage earners it is fair to tax them more to pay for government social spending, yet not also to ask the banking sector to pay similar a user fee to pre-save for the next time it itself will need bailouts to cover its losses. Also asymmetrical is the fact that nobody suggests that the government set up a fund to pay for future wars, so that future adventures such as Iraq or Afghanistan will not “run a deficit” to burden the budget. So the first deception is to treat only Social Security and medical care as user fees. The second is to aggravate matters by insisting that such fees be paid long in advance, by pre-saving.
There is no inherent need to single out any particular area of public spending as causing a budget deficit if it is not pre-funded. It is a travesty of progressive tax policy to only oblige workers whose wages are less than (at present) $105,000 to pay this FICA wage withholding, exempting higher earnings, capital gains, rental income and profits. The raison d’être for taxing the 99% for Social Security and Medicare is simply to avoid taxing wealth, by falling on low wage income at a much higher rate than that of the wealthy. This is not how the original U.S. income tax was created at its inception in 1913. During its early years only the wealthiest 1% of the population had to file a return. There were few loopholes, and capital gains were taxed at the same rate as earned income.
By not raising taxes on the wealthy or using the central bank to monetize spending on anything except bailing out the banks and subsidizing the financial sector, the government follows a pro-creditor policy. Tax favoritism for the wealthy deepens the budget deficit, forcing governments to borrow more. Paying interest on this debt diverts revenue from being spent on goods and services. This fiscal austerity shrinks markets, reducing tax revenue to the brink of default.
The government’s seashore insurance program, for instance, recently incurred a $1 trillion liability to rebuild the private beaches and homes that Hurricane Sandy washed out. Why should this insurance subsidy at below-commercial rates for the wealthy minority who live in this scenic high-risk property be treated as normal spending, but not Social Security? Why save in advance by a special wage tax to pay for these programs that benefit the general population, but not levy a similar “user fee” tax to pay for flood insurance for beachfront homes or war? And while we are at it, why not save another $13 trillion in advance to pay for the next bailout of Wall Street when debt deflation causes another crisis to drain the budget?
But on whom should we levy these taxes? To impose user fees for the beachfront reconstruction would require a tax falling mainly on the wealthy owners of such properties. Their dominant role in funding the election campaigns of the Congressmen and Senators who draw up the tax code suggests why they are able to avoid prepaying for the cost of rebuilding their seashore property. Such taxation is only for wage earners on their retirement income, not the 1% on their own vacation and retirement homes.
By not raising taxes on the wealthy or using the central bank to monetize spending on anything except bailing out the banks and subsidizing the financial sector, the government follows a pro-creditor policy. Tax favoritism for the wealthy deepens the budget deficit, forcing governments to borrow more. Paying interest on this debt diverts revenue from being spent on goods and services. This fiscal austerity shrinks markets, reducing tax revenue to the brink of default. This enables bondholders to treat the government in the same way that banks treat a bankrupt family, forcing the debtor to sell off assets – in this case the public domain as if it were the family silver, as Britain’s Prime Minister Harold MacMillan characterized Margaret Thatcher’s privatization sell-offs.
In an Orwellian doublethink twist this privatization is done in the name of free markets, despite being imposed by global financial institutions whose administrators are not democratically elected. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and EU bureaucracy treat governments like banks treat homeowners unable to pay their mortgage: by foreclosing. Greece, for example, has been told to start selling off prime tourist sites, ports, islands, offshore gas rights, water and sewer systems, roads and other property.
Sovereign governments are, in principle, free of such pressure. That is what makes them sovereign. They are not obliged to settle public debts and budget deficits by asset selloffs. They do not need to borrow more domestic currency; they can create it. This self-financing keeps the national patrimony in public hands rather than turning assets over to private buyers, or having to borrow from banks and bondholders.


My seductive succubus disguised,
a demon hid ‘neath angelic eyes,
she harbors the seed of damnation
at the meet of her succulent thighs.

I survey her in a hapless daze,
drawn to her impish, impious ways,
drowning in dreams of shameless sin
reflected in her devilish gaze.

I’ll have her; more, I know, she’ll have me
that I’ll grant her ev’ry fiendish plea,
sating her need with unending greed
as she screams sweet profanities.

My forsaken faerie, bred of fire,
seat of my most indecent desire
For her, I’ll embrace iniquitous fate,
surrendering my soul, entire.

Poem by SecretedSins
Photo: Laetitia Casta


Artist: RTPN

Teaching Robots To Deceive

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta,Georgia have developed a few robots that deceive each other. 

How? By transferring the deceptive behavioral patterns of squirrels and birds into the small mobile robots. In other words, the research team developed algorithms that allow a robot to determine if it should deceive a human or other intelligent machine and techniques to help the robot select the best deceptive strategy and reduce its chance of being discovered.

Professor Ronald Arkin, a Regents Professor at the School of Interactive Computing at GeorgiaTech, and his team reviewed biological research results from squirrels showing how they gather acorns and store them in specific locations. Then, they patrol their hidden stashes, routinely going back and forth to check on them. When another squirrel shows up, the hoarding squirrel changes its behavior and instead of checking on the true location of its hidden stash, it visits empty stash sites, trying to deceive his competition.
The team implemented the same strategy into a robotic model and it took. The deceiving robot lured the competitor robot to the false locations, delaying the discovery of the protected resources. The hider robots were able to deceive the seeker robots in 75 percent of the trials.
Why you ask? According to Professor Arkin, this type of robot could be applied to the military or search and rescue operations in the future. Incidentally, the project is funded funded by the Office of Naval Research.
“This application could be used by robots guarding ammunition or supplies on the battlefield,” said Arkin. “If an enemy were present, the robot could change its patrolling strategies to deceive humans or another intelligent machine, buying time until reinforcements are able to arrive.”

Georgia Tech Regents professor Ronald Arkin (left) & research engineer Alan Wagner look on as the black robot deceives the red robot into thinking it's hiding down the left corridor. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek)
According to the research paper, a search and rescue robot may need to deceive in order to calm or receive cooperation from a panicking victim. Robots on the battlefield with the power of deception will be able to successfully hide and mislead the enemy to keep themselves and valuable information safe.
“Most social robots will probably rarely use deception, but it’s still an important tool in the robot’s interactive arsenal because robots that recognize the need for deception have advantages in terms of outcome compared to robots that do not recognize the need for deception,” said Alan Wagner, a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute and study’s co-author.
Looking to birds, the research team also created a simulation and demo based on birds that might bluff their way to safety. A bird known as an Arabian babblers that’s in danger of being attacked will join other birds and harass their predator. This mobbing process causes such a commotion that the predator will eventually give up the attack and leave.
Arkin’s team investigated whether a simulated babbler is more likely to survive if it fakes or feigns strength when it doesn’t exist. The team’s simulations, based on biological models of dishonesty and the handicap principle, show that deception is the best strategy when the addition of deceitful agents pushes the size of the group to the minimum level required to frustrate the predator enough for it to flee.
Arkin says the reward for deceit sometimes outweighs the risk of being caught.
“In military operations, a robot that’s threatened might feign the ability to combat adversaries without actually being able to effectively protect itself,” said Arkin. “Being honest about the robot’s abilities risks capture or destruction. Deception, if used at the right time in the right way, could possibly eliminate or minimize the threat.”
Via: "Forbes"

How Stars Are Formed and Born

Courtesy Of "NatGeoTV"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Hidden Genocide

Bloodshed pitted Buddhists against minority Rohingya Muslims. Many Rohingya fled their homes, which were burned down in what they said was a deliberate attempt by the predominantly Buddhist government to drive them out of the country.

"They were shooting and we were also fighting. The fields were filled with bodies and soaked with blood," says Mohammed Islam, who fled with his family to Bangladesh.

There are 400,000 Rohingya languishing in Bangladesh. For more than three decades, waves of refugees have fled Myanmar. 

This is a story of a people fleeing the land where they were born, of a people deprived of citizenship in their homeland. It is the story of the Rohingya of western Myanmar, whose very existence as a people is denied.

Professor William Schabas, the former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, says: "When you see measures preventing births, trying to deny the identity of the people, hoping to see that they really are eventually, that they no longer exist; denying their history, denying the legitimacy of their right to live where they live, these are all warning signs that mean it's not frivolous to envisage the use of the term genocide."

State Surveillance Around The World

States around the world are demanding private data in ever-greater volumes—and getting it. They are recognizing the treasure troves of personal information created by modern communications technologies of all sorts, and pursuing ever easier, quicker, and more comprehensive access to our data. They are obtaining detailed logs of our entire lives online, and they are doing so under weaker legal standards than ever before. Several laws and proposals now afford many states warrantless snooping powers and nearly limitless data collection capabilities. These practices remain shrouded in secrecy, despite some private companies’ attempts to shine a light on the alarming measures states are taking around the world to obtain information about users.
To challenge the sweeping invasions into individuals’ personal lives, we’re calling on governments to ensure their surveillance policies and practices are consistent with international human rights standards. We’re also demanding that governments and companies become more transparent about their use of the Internet in state surveillance. 
Signs of Growing International Surveillance in 2012
  • new law in Brazil allows police and public prosecutors to demand user registration data from ISPs directly, via a simple request, with no court order, in criminal investigations involving money laundering. And, a new bill seeks to allow the Federal Police to demand registration data of Internet users in cases of crimes without the need of a court order nor judicial oversight.
  • Colombia adopted a new decree that compels ISPs to create backdoors that would make it easier for law enforcement to spy on Colombians. The law also forces ISPs and telecom providers to continuously collect and store for five years the location and subscriber information of millions of ordinary Colombian users.
  • Leaked documents revealed that the Mexican government shelled out $355 million to expand Mexican domestic surveillance equipment over the past year.
  • The Canadian government put proposed online surveillance legislation temporarily "on pause" following sustained public outrage generated by the bill. The bill introduces new police powers that would allow authorities easy access to Canadians’ online activities, including the power to force ISPs to hand over private customer data without a warrant.
  • The EU’s overarching data retention directive has become a dangerous model for other countries, despite the fact that several European Courts have declared several national data retention laws unconstitutional.
  • Romania went ahead with adopting a new data retention mandate law without any real evidence or debate over the right to privacy, despite the 2009 Constitutional Court ruling declaring the previous data retention law unconstitutional.
  • The German government is proposing a new law that would allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to extensively identify Internet users, without any court order or reasonable suspicion of a crime. This year, more details were found on German State Trojan Program to spy on and monitor Skype, Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook and other online communications.
  • The UK government is considering a bill that would extend the police’s access to individuals' email and social media traffic data. The UK ISPs will be compelled to gather the data and allow the UK police and security services to scrutinize it.
  • A Dutch proposal seeks to allow the police to break into foreign computers and search and delete data. If the location of a particular computer cannot be determined, the Dutch police would be able to break into it without ever contacting foreign authorities. AnotherDutch proposal seeks to allow the police to force a suspect to decrypt information that is under investigation in a case of terrorism or sexual abuse of children.
  • In Russia, several new legal frameworks or proposed bills enable increased state surveillance of the Internet.
  • Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies have continued to advance the false idea of the need for data retention mandates, mandatory backdoors for cloud computing services and the creation of a new crime for refusing to aid law enforcement in the decryption of communications.
  • A controversy arose in Lebanon over revelations that the country's Internal Security Forces (ISF) demanded the content of all SMS text messages sent between September 13 and November 10 of this year, as well as usernames and passwords for services like Blackberry Messenger and Facebook.
  • The Rwandan Parliament is discussing a bill that will grant sanctions the police, army and intelligence services the power to listen to and read private communications in order to protect "public security", the keyword often invoked to justify unnecessary human rights violations.
  • Pakistan adopted a Fair Trial Bill authorizing the state to intercept private communications to thwart acts of terrorism. No legal safeguards have been built in to prevent abuse of power and the word "terrorism" has been poorly defined (a word that's often invoked to justify unnecessary human rights violations).
  • RIM announced that they had provided the Indian Government with a solution to intercept messages and emails exchanged via BlackBerry handsets. The encrypted communications will now be available to Indian intelligence agencies.
  • The Indian government approved the purchase of technological equipment to kickstart the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID)—a project that seeks to link databases for ready access by intelligence agencies. The project is expected to facilitate "robust information sharing" by security and law enforcement agencies to combat terror threats.
    Moving Forward
    EFF's international team and a coalition of civil society organizations around the world have drafted a set of principles that can be used by civil society, governments and industry to evaluate whether state surveillance laws and practices are consistent with human rights. In 2013, we will continue demanding that states adopt stronger legal protections if they want to track our cell phones, or see what web sites we’ve visited, or rummage through our Hotmail, or read our private messages on Facebook, or otherwise invade our electronic privacy. EFF will keep working collaboratively with advocates, lawyers, journalists, bloggers and security experts on the ground to fight overbroad surveillance laws. Our work will involve existing legislative initiatives, international fora, and other regional venues where we can have a meaningful impact on establishing stronger legal protections against government access to people’s electronic communications and data.


    Artist: RTPN

    Manufacturing Poverty

    Courtesy Of "CounterPunch"

    On December 10, community leaders all across the country held vigils and rallies outside Congressional offices to defend the safety net and protest the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations in Washington, DC. It was part of a coordinated national campaign on International Human Rights Day, the 64th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among other provisions, the Declaration proclaims the inalienable human right to jobs, housing, health care, education, and social security.

    The “fiscal cliff” is an artificial crisis created by Congress as a ploy to dismantle the safety net programs the American people have built up and relied on for generations. In their own words, corporations want to “use the fiscal cliff as an opportunity” to push for tax cuts for themselves and benefit cuts for the rest of us.

    Although the “fiscal cliff” is allegedly about the federal budget deficit, many proposals actually under discussion show that it has nothing to do with the deficit whatsoever.

    For one, President Obama proposed a so-called “chained CPI” formula that would cut Social Security benefits, especially for the poorest and most elderly. Social Security currently runs a 2.7 trillion dollar surplus, is a separate fund that by law cannot increase the deficit, and in fact has never contributed a penny to the deficit in its entire 77-year history.

    Another proposal is a $134 billion corporate “tax repatriation holiday”. This would INCREASE the deficit and proves that the “fiscal cliff” is really designed just to raise corporate profit even if it means plunging millions of Americans into poverty.

    Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and affordable housing have been and are now fully funded and paid for through our payroll and income taxes, and are supported by an overwhelming super-majority of voters. They are the property of the American people and the inheritance we have prepared for our children and grandchildren. A “grand bargain” or any other kind of compromise that in any way diminishes or weakens these programs in order to enrich corporations is totally unacceptable.

    The idea that America has become so impoverished that it can no longer afford the most elementary necessities of its people is patently absurd. As a nation we are richer and more productive than ever. Despite declining industrial employment, our manufacturing OUTPUT is higher now than it has ever been, thanks to the technological revolution. The attacks on the safety net are deliberate efforts to artificially introduce poverty in the midst of plenty.

    The solution to the deficit is not difficult: it is to make banks and corporations pay their taxes. In the 1940s, corporations paid 50% more taxes than individuals. Today, they pay 75% LESS than individuals. There is no shortage of money. Corporations continue to reap record profits year after year, but they are paying fewer taxes.

    Jill Stein and the I have a plan that addresses the deficit, and more importantly the unemployment epidemic and the looming climate crisis. It is called the Green New Deal that would create millions of jobs providing human services and building sustainable infrastructure. What we have in America today is not a deficit problem at all but a human rights problem. The time has come for us to reject the poverty agenda of the “fiscal cliff” promoted today by both Republicans and Democrats. The time has come to provide a job, housing, health care, and education to every American.

    Flames Of Love

    I dreamed that Eden lived inside me,
    And when I breathed a garden came,
    I dreamed I knew all of Creation,
    I dreamed I knew the Creator’s name.

    I dreamed—and this dream was the finest
    That all I dreamed was real and true,
    And we would live in joy forever,
    You in me, and me in you.”

    Poem by Clive Barke
    Abstract by Haya Matorin

    Monday, January 28, 2013

    En Route To Military Rule

    By William Norman Grigg
    Courtesy Of "Lew Rockwell"

    Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.

    ~ Federalist Paper No. 8, in which Alexander Hamilton displayed an atypical ardor to defend liberty against state power.

    "We no longer have a civilian-led government."

    This ominous conclusion comes to us from Thomas A. Schweich, who held the title of deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement affairs in the Bush Regime, by way of a December 21 Washington Post op-ed column. Lamenting "the silent military coup d'etat that has been steadily gaining ground below the radar screen of most Americans and the media," Schweich describes the infusion of the military "into a striking number of aspects of civilian government" as "the most unnerving legacy of the Bush administration."

    Schweich is not an advocate of limited-government who managed to burrow deeply into the Bu'ushist Welfare/Warfare State; he is an advocate of "soft power" imperialism, the supposedly benign variety that focuses more on hectoring foreigners about their shortcomings, rather than unceremoniously bombing them into blood pudding. Oh, sure — even "soft power" imperialism involves the threat and occasional practice of bombing, but usually only amid cries of anguished reluctance following the performance of the proper multilateralist sacraments. (For useful examples, consult the Clinton-era bombing campaigns in the former Yugoslavia.)

    Schweich seems particularly miffed that the military shouldered aside the State Department's efforts to train civilian "law enforcement" personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Pentagon's habit of Bogarting all of the boodle set aside for "reconstruction" projects.

    But even though his protests have the sectarian flavor of bureaucratic in-fighting, Scweich validates his shocking announcement of the demise of civilian government with some very solid examples. For instance, the military's domination of law enforcement training in Iraq and Afghanistan have created police forces that "have been unnecessarily militarized — producing police officers who look more like militia members than ordinary beat cops. These forces now risk becoming paramilitary groups, well armed with US equipment, that could run roughshod" over civilian governments.

    While this and other "military takeovers of civilian functions" took place "a long distance from home," Schweich elaborates, the same all-devouring militarism is at work here as well.

    Witness the huge and expanding role played by the military in narcotics enforcement, including the hugely expensive "Merida Initiative" through which the Bush Regime has collaborated with Mexico's narcotics syndicates (which are, to use a common term on this side of the border, public-private partnerships) to propagate unprecedented violence and misery in that country.

    The most important example Schweich lists is the Pentagon's plan "to deploy 20,000 U.S. soldiers inside our borders by 2011, ostensibly to help state and local officials respond to terrorist attacks or other catastrophes. But that mission could easily spill over from emergency counterterrorism work into border-patrol efforts, intelligence gathering and law enforcement efforts — which would run smack into the Posse Comitatus Act…. So the generals are not only dominating our government activities abroad, at our borders and in Washington, but they also seem to intend to spread out across the heartland of America."

    While Schweich's concern and candor do him credit, his warnings are tantamount to urging that we secure the barn door long after the prize stallion has fled, been butchered, and graced a Frenchman's dinner table.
    The military "spill-over" into domestic law enforcement that he warns against began as a trickle in 1981 with passage of the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Act. That trickle is now a cascade as voluminous and consistent of any found in Niagara Falls. Once again, this is chiefly — but not entirely — due to the so-called War on Drugs.

    The eyes of the military are upon you: Active-duty military personnel collect photographs of anti-war activists during a 2002 Washington, D.C. protest against the then-impending Iraq war.
    For some time, military involvement in domestic intelligence gathering has included personal surveillance ofpolitical activists; more recently, this has expanded to the use of spy satellites to monitor political protests on behalf of militarized law enforcement bodies. While Schweich is properly alarmed by the way the Pentagon has created Iraqi and Afghan police forces that are little more than miniature armies of occupation, he apparently hasn't noticed that the same process is well underway here in the United States as well.

    In some ways, Schweich's jeremiad is a good update and companion piece to Brig. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap's prescient essay "The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012," published in the Winter 1992—93 issue of the U.S. Army War College journal Parameters.

    Written in the form of a smuggled prison letter composed by "Prisoner 222305759," condemned to death for "treason" by the American military junta of Gen. E.T. Brutus, Dunlap's essay described many trends that he feared would culminate in "a military that controls [the American] government and one that, ironically, can't fight."

    As government corruption and ineptitude grew, "The one institution of government in which people retained faith was the military," explained Dunlap's literary stand-in. The military was thus burdened with countless tasks unrelated to warfare — from law enforcement, to supplementing the work of doctors and teachers, from environmental preservation efforts to bolstering the financially stricken airline industry. (Dunlap, incidentally, extensively documents how the military was either active, or planning to become involved, in all of those missions by the early 1990s.)

    Likewise, the military's missions abroad were increasingly Operations Other Than War (OOTW), a term that came into vogue subsequent to publication of Dunlap's essay. At the same time, a cultural dissonance grew between the military and the public it was supposedly serving.

    The structural defects in this new model military were displayed to painful effect in what the author describes (by way of prediction, remember) as "the wretched performance of our forces in the Second Gulf War," particularly following Iran's intervention in 2010: "Preoccupation with humanitarian duties, narcotics interdiction, and all the rest of the peripheral missions left the military unfit to engage an authentic military opponent."

    While the military was no longer well-suited to fight and win wars (including, of course, patently unjust wars of aggression), its subtle and thoroughgoing integration into every element of domestic life made it perfectly suited to carry out a coup: "Eventually, people became acclimated to seeing uniformed military personnel patrolling their neighborhood. Now troops are an adjunct to almost all police forces in the country. In many of the areas where much of our burgeoning population of elderly Americans live — [military dictator] Brutus calls them 'National Security Zones' — the military is often the only law enforcement agency. Consequently, the military was ideally positioned in thousands of communities to support the coup."

    Very little of consequence separates the speculative world described by Dunlap from the one in which we presently live. One institutional impediment is the Posse Comitatus Act (or whatever remains of it), which was intended to prevent direct involvement of the military in domestic law enforcement.

    But this measure, which was always a tissue-paper barricade at best, is all but extinct as we near the end of the Bush era. And the ranks of military scholars are planted thickly with people devising arguments to destroy whatever may remain of the Posse Comitatus proscriptions.

    In a paper published by the US Army War College in early 2006, Lt. Col. Mark C. Weston of the U.S. Air Force Reserve points out that the Posse Comitatus Act has been perforated with "exceptions" practically since it was passed in 1878. (Just weeks after signing the act — passage of which was part of a deal that ensured his presidency — Rutherford B. Hayes deployed the Army to carry out police functions in New Mexico.)

    One of the biggest exceptions deals with what could be called the use of "civilian" police as military proxies, since the Pentagon is permitted "to provide equipment, transportation, training, supplies, and services to law enforcement officials as long as it does not directly and actively participate in law enforcement tasks," writes Weston. Which is to say that it's permissible to militarize the police, as long as troops aren't actually the ones pulling triggers and conducting arrests. This is, once again, exactly the same procedure being used to create the Afghan and Iraqi "militias" described by Thomas Schweich.

    There are six formal exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act listed in Title 32, Sec. 215.4 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Weston writes. To that list, he rather audaciously adds "One final exception worthy of discussion [namely] the concept of martial law." Referring to the Supreme Court's 1866 Ex Parte Milligan decision, Weston insists that martial law can properly be said to exist only in "the absence of order, courts, and constitution…. Martial law is the use of force by the military to maintain order by acting as the police, the court, and the legislature…. If the courts are open then [use of the term] martial law is not appropriate."

    Most domestic deployments of the military don't cross the threshold of martial law, Weston maintains, and he eagerly recommends making it easier for the military to carry out such missions by repealing the Posse Comitatus Act (or PCA). From Weston's perspective, the PCA, which was never a good idea, has long since fallen into desuetude. He insists that the Act should either be repealed outright or modified in such a fashion as to make it entirely inconsequential.

    Posse Comitatus, Weston writes, is "a significant obstacle to unified action on homeland security … an impediment to agility and adaptability of the military to national defense … [a hindrance to] national values and national purpose." Yet he prefers to "modify" the Act rather than abolish it, apparently to maintain — for now — the useful fiction that military and police powers remain separate, with civilian officials firmly in control of the former.

    In an October 2000 essay entitled "The Myth of Posse Comitatus," Major Craig T. Trebilcock, a JAG officer in the U.S. Army Reserve offers an assessment quite similar to that of Lt. Col. Weston: The PCA is useless but not harmless, and best ignored if it can't be dispensed with.

    The only value of the PCA, according to Trebilcock, is the fact that "it remains a deterrent to prevent the unauthorized deployment of troops at the local level in response to what is purely a civilian law enforcement matter." For example, it can result in administrative punishment or even criminal prosecution of "a lower-level commander who uses military forces to pursue a common felon or to conduct sobriety checkpoints off of a federal military post."

    As of December 12 — when active-duty U.S. Marines conducted a joint highway sobriety checkpoint with California Highway Patrol officers — that example can be crossed off Trebilcock's list.

    In his book An Empire Wilderness, Robert D. Kaplan describes a strategic planning session held at Ft. Leavenworth's Battle Command Training Program shortly after the April 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing (a tragedy directly facilitated by several of the Regime's three-letter agencies). One of the participants, a Marine Major named Craig Tucker, predicted that the threat of terrorism and domestic turmoil suggested that the military would have to "go domestic."

    While that prediction has been fulfilled, the process has yet to be fully consummated. On the continuum described by none other than Gen. George S. Patton — who considered domestic military deployment as the "most distasteful" form of service — we are presently somewhere between routine involvement of military personnel "in connection with Domestic Disturbances" and "Martial Law." That continuum ends with "Military Government," which differs from Martial Law in that it represents the complete abolition of civilian authority, as opposed to the enforcement of a civilian ruling elite's will through direct military force.

    God forgive us, if He can: Iraqi mourners display the lifeless body of an infant killed during a chemical weapons attack by US occupation troops. The burn marks on the child's body are the result of an attack using white phosphorous munitions. In a 1932 essay on domestic military deployments, Gen. George S. Patton — who ironically took care to avoid needless civilian casualties during World War II — recommended the use of white phosphorous to suppress insurrection.

    In administering either Martial Law or Military Government, Patton — predictably enough — prescribed the pitiless application of lethal force. He digested his doctrine of domestic military missions into what he called "The Law and the Prophets of Riot Duty," a canon that includes the following directives:
    • "Take no orders from civil officials — federal, state, or municipal."
    • "You may and should cooperate with police or state troops who may be present; but you and not they are the judge of the amount and character of this cooperation."
    • "Should some orator start haranguing the crowd and inciting them to violence, grab him even if it brings on a local, small fight. Small fights are better than big ones. Words cunningly chosen change crowds into mobs."
    • "Warn newspapers, theaters, and churches that if they encourage the mob, they are guilty of aiding them and that their leaders will be held personally accountable. Freedom of the press cannot be construed as 'license to encourage' the armed enemies of the United States of America. An armed mob resisting federal troops is an armed enemy. To aid an enemy is TREASON. This may not be the 'law,' but it is fact. When blood starts running, the law stops."
    • "If you have captured a dangerous agitator and some 'misguided' federal judge issues a writ of Habeas Corpus for him, try to see the judge to find out what he is liable to do…. There's always the danger that the man might attempt to escape. If he does, see that he at least falls out of ranks before you shoot him. To be soft hearted might mean death to your men. After all, WAR IS WAR."
    • "As in all military operations, information is vital. By the use of detectives, soldiers in civilian clothes, and friendly citizens, get all possible information about the condition within the city."
    • "The use of gas is paramount…. While tear gas is effective, it should be backed up with vomiting gas."
    • "Although white phosphorous is incendiary, it is useful in forming a screen for the attack of barricades and defended houses."
    • "If you must fire, DO A GOOD JOB. A few casualties become martyrs; a large number becomes an object lesson."
    These admonitions, remember, were issued with respect to the use of military force against American citizens by a man revered as a patriotic hero by millions (including some lately given to second thoughts) — and who, ironically enough, was almost certainly assassinated by the same State he served with such ruthlessness.

    Patton's model for a domestic counter-insurgency "war" during the last depression would probably resemble the approach used by the military in dealing with serious internal upheaval in the depression that has just begun.
    Significantly, Patton's tactics track very closely with those employed to enforce US occupation of Iraq — including the use of hideous white phosphorous munitions. That occupation is supposedly slated to end in 2011 — the same year, incidentally, when the military's 20,000-man Homeland Security force is supposed to be fully deployed.

    If the conclusion voiced by Thomas Schweich and other very credible analysts is correct — if, indeed, we are living under a de facto military junta, the nature of which will become clear as the economic collapse strips away all politically comfortable pretenses — we may soon learn, in the most painful way possible, that our military missions abroad have been carefully training the occupation force that will extinguish whatever remains of our liberty.