6. Followups

May-25-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Two on the ongoing conversion of North America into totalitarian fiefdoms of the corpocracy, an interesting observation by Juan Cole on the ongoing Egyptian election, and Naomi Wolf on the terror industry, and how we know it’s run to augment government power, not to maximize our safety. 

* Federal Cuts Target ‘Living Laboratory’ In Northern Ontario Lakes Ottawa Citizen

Now all federal funding is being cut — about $600,000 from DFO for the basic station and $1.2 million in salaries for the scientists. Universities also support the station when they send biologists there to study, but this won’t be enough to keep it open. All ELA staff have received “affected” letters. Reaction from Canadian and U.S. biologists has been mostly shock, as no one else in the world does work like this and many of them use ELA facilities or data.

“ELA is just one example underway, albeit a major one,” said Jeremy Kerr, a University of Ottawa biologist who runs the Canadian Facility for Ecoinformatics Research Biology. “This is barely even Round One yet. I think they mean to eliminate the government’s capacity to measure anything that might stand in the way of unfettered resource extraction, while demonizing any who dare to speak out. How did we get to this position? It is amazing to have descended so far, so fast, and with barely a whimper. And now scientists have lost access to the primary sources of scientific equipment and facilities operation (in the Experimental Lakes). Everything about this is wrong, wrong, wrong.”

* Congress Wants the Department of Defense to Propagandize Americans Juan Cole Informed Comment

Two congressmen are attempting to insert a provision in the National Defense Authorization act that would allow the Department of Defense to subject the US domestic public to propaganda. The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.

Nothing speaks more urgently to the creeping fascism of American politics than the assertion by our representatives, who apparently have never read a book on Germany in the 1930s-1940s or on the Soviet Union in the Stalin period, that forbidding DoD and the State Department from subjecting us to government propaganda “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” And mind you, they want to use our own money to wash our brains! (Editor’s note: See JFK’s quote of the week, below)

* Are Egyptians Voting Ideologically? Juan Cole Informed Comment

The Muslim world, and especially the Arab world, has been depicted by some Western historians and social scientists as exceptionally impervious to democratic ideals and practices. Much of this Muslim or Arab exceptionalism derives from twentieth-century attempts to justify Western imperialism (rule over the Muslims for their own good by Europeans). Some of it is also rooted in apologetics for the Israel project, which is opposed by most Arabs and Muslims; if there is something wrong with the latter, then their complaints about the displacement and denationalization of the Palestinians can be dismissed…

There is something else going on. Most likely it has to do with the way the peasants of Egypt and Algeria made the transition to urban modernity, and likewise the Chinese. Some of the lack of democracy even derives from Western intervention against it (colonial regimes were poor teachers of democratic habits, and parliamentary regimes were overthrown by the West via coups from time to time, rather setting things back).

As for why Egyptians vote as they do, like any electorate they are complicated and even individual voters could go either way often. Egyptians did not give a majority to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis because a majority of them is pious (and 24% of Egyptians are definitely not hard line fundamentalists of the Salafi sort!) My interviewing suggests that in the parliamentary elections they wanted parties that a) were not connected to the corrupt and hated Hosni Mubarak and b) would be honest and transparent and avoid stealing from them or dunning them constantly for bribes. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis fit those bills. In contrast, a lot of the left had its roots in Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser’s progressive thought, and they were initially tainted with the brush of the longstanding military regime (Nasser was a leader of the Young Officers who made the 1952 coup, to which the current military junta is the heir).

* The Spectacle Of Terror And Its Vested Interests Naomi Wolf  The Guardian

You know we have “terror theater” in the US because nations such as Israel, which are genuinely focussed on deterring terrorism, downplay risk and threats rather than trumpeting them, as DHS does. If the threat is real, they don’t reveal all the details of the latest “planned attack” to the news media – because they are busy investigating real planned attacks, rather than doing corporate PR and product placement. Instead of TSA groping, aviation security, from Britain to Israel, to Spain to Norway, uses much less invasive and more acute security processes, such as face-to-face, in-line interviewing. They do not sell commercial products that subvert recall surety issues, such as the various costly and vastly lucrative new “Global Entry Trusted Traveller Network”, an apparent government program that is not transparent or accountable. You can sign up for for a fee of $100 a year, after an interview. No TSA representative I interviewed knows who owns the initiative, which they said was private, not a government program; nor could they tell me where the money really goes.

Actual terrorism-fighting nations would never devolve such security concerns to private contractors or sell easier travel access for cash – because it is both dangerous and absurd to do so. In fact, what the FBI and CIA and the Pentagon are up against is that people – including Americans – are waking up to the fact that there would be no enemy if we weren’t manufacturing new terrorists by taking out civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan. An end to foreign wars (which are already costing us thousands of casualties a year) would be a much more effective counter-terror strategy than this hyped, synthetic threat to justify a corporate surveillance-and-security product gold rush. Instead, we are treated to a spectacle orchestrated by alarmist officials who keep holding frightening press conferences promoting the threat of dazed, poor, drugged-out “lone wolves”. The true, Orwellian agenda is to support a vast new crony-capitalist industry that uses terror theater to turn open democracies into surveillance societies.



May 4th, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 17

May-04-2012 | Comments Off

No Tikkunista next week, due to travel plans. Back on May 18th, insh’Allah.

 

1. How’s that Global War on Terror Thing Working Out for Ya?

Bird’s Eye: The US has been waging war on terror for twelve years now. Originally framed as a hunt for Osama and Al-Qaida, the goals seemed to have …uh…diffused. Andrew Bacevitch breaks the war into three parts (Rumsfeld, Petraeus, and Michael Vickers) and examines the characteristics of each part. Glenn Greenwald looks at how the nature of the war has escalated since bin Laden’s death. And Schneier, whose log on security is always a treat, looks at the costs in money and lives of the farce through which we go when we travel via US airports.

* Scoring the Global War on Terror   NationofChange

With the United States now well into the second decade of what the Pentagon has styled an “era of persistent conflict,” the war formerly known as the global war on terrorism (unofficial acronym WFKATGWOT) appears increasingly fragmented and diffuse.  Without achieving victory, yet unwilling to acknowledge failure, the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq.  It is trying to leave Afghanistan, where events seem equally unlikely to yield a happy outcome. 

…Viewed close-up, the “war” appears to have lost form and shape.  Yet by taking a couple of steps back, important patterns begin to appear.  What follows is a preliminary attempt to score the WFKATGWOT, dividing the conflict into a bout of three rounds.  Although there may be several additional rounds still to come, here’s what we’ve suffered through thus far.

So what tentative judgments can we offer regarding the ongoing WFKATGWOT?  Operationally, a war launched by the conventionally minded has progressively fallen under the purview of those who inhabit what Dick Cheney once called “the dark side,” with implications that few seem willing to explore.  Strategically, a war informed at the outset by utopian expectations continues today with no concretely stated expectations whatsoever, the forward momentum of events displacing serious consideration of purpose.  Politically, a war that once occupied center stage in national politics has now slipped to the periphery, the American people moving on to other concerns and entertainments, with legal and moral questions raised by the war left dangling in midair…..

Round 3. The Vickers Era: Assassination.  Unlike Donald Rumsfeld or David Petraeus, Michael Vickers has not achieved celebrity status.  Yet more than anyone else in or out of uniform, Vickers, who carries the title Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, deserves recognition as the emblematic figure of the WFKATGWOT’s round three….The Vickers approach means acting aggressively to eliminate would-be killers wherever they might be found, employing whatever means are necessary.  Vickers “tends to think like a gangster,” one admirer comments. “He can understand trends then change the rules of the game so they are advantageous for your side.” Round three of the WFKATGWOT is all about bending, breaking, and reinventing rules in ways thought to be advantageous to the United States.  Much as COIN supplanted “shock and awe,” a broad-gauged program of targeted assassination has now displaced COIN as the prevailing expression of the American way of war

* Since Bin Ladin’s Death Glenn Greenwald Salon

In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s summary execution one year ago, many predicted that the War on Terror would finally begin to recede. Here’s what has happened since then:

*With large bipartisan majorities, Congress renewed the once-controversial Patriot Act without a single reform, and it was signed into law by President Obama; Harry Reid accused those urging reforms of putting the country at risk of a Terrorist attack.

* For the first time, perhaps ever, a U.S. citizen was assassinated by the CIA, on orders from the President, without a shred of due process and far from any battlefield; two weeks later, his 16-year-old American son was also killed by his own government; the U.S. Attorney General then gave a speech claiming the President has the power to target U.S. citizens for death based on unproven, secret accusations of Terrorism.

* With large bipartisan majorities, Congress enacted, and the President signed, a new law codifying presidential powers of worldwide indefinite detention and an expanded statutory defintion of the War on Terror.

* Construction neared completion for a sprawling new site in Utah for the National Security Agency to enable massive domestic surveillance and to achieve “the realization of the ‘total information awareness’ program created during the first term of the Bush administration.”

* President Obama authorized the use of “signature” drone strikes in Yemen, whereby the CIA can target people for death “even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known.”

* Harms of Post-9/11 Airline Security  Schneier on Security

[Previously] I made two basic arguments about post-9/11 airport security. One, we are not doing the right things: the focus on airports at the expense of the broader threat is not making us safer. And two, the things we are doing are wrong: the specific security measures put in place since 9/11 do not work. Kip Hawley doesn’t argue with the specifics of my criticisms, but instead provides anecdotes and asks us to trust that airport security—and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in particular—knows what it’s doing.

He wants us to trust that a 400-ml bottle of liquid is dangerous, but transferring it to four 100-ml bottles magically makes it safe. He wants us to trust that the butter knives given to first-class passengers are nevertheless too dangerous to be taken through a security checkpoint. He wants us to trust the no-fly list: 21,000 people so dangerous they’re not allowed to fly, yet so innocent they can’t be arrested. He wants us to trust that the deployment of expensive full-body scanners has nothing to do with the fact that the former secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, lobbies for one of the companies that makes them. He wants us to trust that there’s a reason to confiscate a cupcake (Las Vegas), a 3-inch plastic toy gun (London Gatwick), a purse with an embroidered gun on it (Norfolk, VA), a T-shirt with a picture of a gun on it (London Heathrow) and a plastic light saber that’s really a flashlight with a long cone on top (Dallas/Fort Worth).

The humiliation, the dehumanisation and the privacy violations are also harms. That Mr Hawley dismisses these as mere “costs in convenience” demonstrates how out-of-touch the TSA is from the people it claims to be protecting. Additionally, there’s actual physical harm: the radiation from full-body scanners still not publicly tested for safety; and the mental harm suffered by both abuse survivors and children: the things screeners tell them as they touch their bodies are uncomfortably similar to what child molesters say.

In 2004, the average extra waiting time due to TSA procedures was 19.5 minutes per person. That’s a total economic loss—in –America—of $10 billion per year, more than the TSA’s entire budget. The increased automobile deaths due to people deciding to drive instead of fly is 500 per year. Both of these numbers are for America only, and by themselves demonstrate that post-9/11 airport security has done more harm than good.



2. Voices From the Other Side of the Media

Apr-20-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: What’s the other side? The one the main stream media don’t carry. Mehanna’s speech is hugely moving, utterly cogent, depressingly convincing, essential reading. Barghouti, the Palestinian leader is also convincing on why “apartheid” is the right word. I don’t know of any other to describe this system of rule. I’ve been enjoying Cenk Uygur’s rants… and I haven’t seen that the supreme head of Iran ruled officially that the use of nuclear weapons is forbidden. Curious how all our papers and radio and TV missed that, isn’t it?

* Sentencing Statement By American Tarek Mehanna, Convicted Of Helping Al Qaeda Salon

In one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech seen in quite some time, Tarek Mehanna, an American Muslim, was convicted this week in a federal court in Boston and then sentenced yesterday to 17 years in prison. He was found guilty of supporting Al Qaeda (by virtue of translating Terrorists’ documents into English and expressing “sympathetic views” to the group) as well as conspiring to “murder” U.S. soldiers in Iraq (i.e., to wage war against an invading army perpetrating an aggressive attack on a Muslim nation)…. I urge everyone to read something quite amazing: Mehanna’s incredibly eloquent, thoughtful statement at his sentencing hearing, before being given a 17-year prison term.

In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and maim” in those countries – because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a ”terrorist,” yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure wouldn’t be pointing at me.

The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with ”killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.

* Mustafa Barghouti to J Street: I know you don’t like the word apartheid, but what do you call a system that gives a settler 50 times more water than a Palestinian? via Mondoweiss

On March 26, at the J Street conference in Washington, D.C., Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti described apartheid in Palestine to a largely-Jewish audience. As he spoke, you could have heard a pin drop in a room jammed with 500 people hearing about the one-state option. His comments have resonated in the weeks since.

Some people might not like the word apartheid, when we say that we live in a system of apartheid and segregation, and I understand why you wouldn’t like it. Because there is nothing to be proud about having a system of apartheid and segregation in the 21st century. But as Menachem [Klein] said, we actually live in that system. It’s one regime.

What is apartheid? Apartheid is a system where you have two laws, two different laws, for two people living in the same area. If you don’t like the word apartheid, give me an alternative to a situation where a Palestinian citizen is allowed to use no more than 50 cubic meters of water per capital year, while an Israeli illegal settler from the West Bank is allowed to use 2400. How would you classify a situation where the Israeli gdp per capita is about $30,000 while a Palestinian’s gdp per capita is less than $1400?

Yet we are obliged to pay the same prices for products as Israelis do. More than that: We are obliged to pay double the price for electricity and water that Israelis do though they make 30 times more than we do.

* Khamenei’s Fatwa against Nukes (Cenk Uygur Rant) via  Informed Comment

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks on the progressive network Current TV gives us an insightful rant on Big TV News’ lack of interest in Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s fatwa declaring making, stockpiling and using nuclear weapons a sin. He points out that you almost never hear about this fatwa on television news, and performs a thought experiment. How often would a fatwa to the opposite effect have been mentioned?



3. Stratfor & Wikileaks

Mar-02-2012 | Comments (1)

Bird’s Eye: Wikileaks this week released 5 million documents from Stratfor, a right-wing research firm. Some chaff, but also some amazing stories. The first one is just mind-blowing.

* No Honour among Thieves Arms Merchants Ynet

WikiLeaks has released an e-mail exchange between employees of Stratfor, the US-based global intelligence company, which reveals Israel and Russia made a deal to swap access codes for defense and surveillance equipment.

According to the leaked document, Israel gave Russia the “data link codes” for unmanned aerial vehicles that the Jewish state sold to Georgia, and in return, Russia gave Israel the codes for Tor-M1 missile defense systems that Russia sold Iran. 

* Top 5 Stratfor Revelations Juan Cole Informed Comment

Wikileaks is publishing internal memos of the Stratfor security analysis firm. A few tidbits have emerged in these very early days, to wit:

1. Up to 12 Pakistani active-duty and retired officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency knew that Usama Bin Laden was in Abbottabad and were in regular contact with him. The Pakistani chief of staff is denying the report.

2. Dow Chemicals hired Stratfor to spy on activists in Agra who continue to protest over the Bhopal environmental disaster that blinded many workers and destroyed their health. I.e., Stratfor was not just doing analysis but was involved in private intelligence operations against civil society groups that had a right to protest.

3. Stratfor Vice President Fred Burton, a former State Department official involved in counter-terrorism, lamented that in the old days the US would simply have assassinated Venezuelan leftist leader Hugo Chavez and Bolivian leftist leader Evo Morales. 

* Wikileaks’ Stratfor Dump Lifts Lid On Intelligence-Industrial Complex  Pratap Chatterjee Guardian

What price bad intelligence? …The most striking revelation from the latest disclosure is not simply the military-industrial complex that conspires to spy on citizens, activists and trouble-causers, but the extremely low quality of the information available to the highest bidder. Clients of the company include Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, as well as US government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Marines.

Analysts working on the Middle East for the company appeared to be very poorly informed, with no more experience than a semester of studying abroad, according to journalists who have studied the documents. “They used Google translate to read al-Akbar news articles,” says an incredulous Jamal Ghosn, associate editor of that newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon. “This is a guaranteed way for good intelligence to be lost in translation.”

Mike Bonnano of the Yes Men, a group of international pranksters who impersonate corporate executives and government leaders to highlight environmental and social abuses, was astonished to discover that his group was being tracked by Stratfor, which was apparently making money selling a list of his public-speaking engagements.



« Newer PostsOlder Posts »




Categories


Blog Roll

Al Jazeera
altmuslim
Bernard Avishai
boingboing
Broadsides: Antonia Zerbisias
China Matters
Haaretz
Informed Comment
Lawrence of Cyberia
Mondoweiss
Rabble.ca: Canadian leftish voices
Reddit
Stephen Walt Foreign Policiy
The Big Picture
The Guardian
Tikkun Daily Blog
Tikun Olam

Tags

  • 2010
  • 4chan
  • 9/11
  • 99%
  • acrobats. world cup
  • ADD
  • ADHD
  • Advertisements
  • advertising
  • advice
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • ageing
  • Al Jazeera
  • Amy Chua
  • anarchism
  • animals
  • animation
  • Anonymous
  • antibiotics
  • apocalypse
  • apple
  • April Fool
  • archeology
  • Archie
  • architecture
  • Assange
  • assassins creed
  • astro-turfing
  • Aswan
  • Atwood
  • Australia
  • Australia Flood
  • Balance
  • balloons
  • Banksy
  • Bar Mitzvah
  • BDS
  • Beatles
  • birds
  • black bloc
  • Bodies
  • books
  • BP
  • BP Oil
  • brains
  • Brazil
  • Breivik
  • British election
  • Burning Man
  • busyness
  • Calgary
  • Canada
  • Canadian Election
  • cancer
  • Cancun
  • capitalism
  • Carnival
  • censorship
  • Census
  • Chernobyl
  • children
  • china
  • Chinese Parents
  • Christmas
  • circus
  • climate change
  • coal
  • coffee
  • color
  • colour
  • community
  • conspiracies
  • copyright
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Crazy
  • Creativity
  • crime
  • Crows
  • Dalai Lama
  • danger
  • Data
  • Decisions
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Dogs
  • Doonesbury
  • drones
  • Drugs
  • earthquake
  • economics
  • Education
  • Egypt
  • energy
  • english defence league
  • EU
  • Expo 2010
  • facebook
  • family
  • fashion
  • Feminism
  • festivals
  • film
  • First Nations
  • fish
  • Flotilla
  • Flowers
  • fonts
  • fracking
  • France
  • frugality
  • ftw
  • fukushima
  • G20
  • G8
  • Gaudi
  • Gay
  • gay marriage
  • Gay Pride Day
  • Gaza
  • Gaza flotilla
  • Gene Sharp
  • gene-splicing
  • gifs
  • Goldstone
  • Good News
  • Google
  • Google Art
  • graffiti
  • grafitti
  • ground zero mosque
  • Halloween
  • Harper
  • Healing
  • Hell
  • homeopathy
  • Horses
  • Huck Finn
  • Humpback Whales
  • ice cream
  • iceland satellite
  • Immigrants
  • immigration
  • incest
  • Indonesia
  • inside job
  • instant karma
  • Iran
  • Iroquois
  • Isaiah Mustafa
  • Islamophobia
  • Israel
  • J-Street
  • Jack Layton
  • Japan
  • Jon Stewart
  • Jstreet
  • Kashmir
  • Keynes
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • language
  • Lerner
  • Lesbian
  • Libya
  • Lions
  • logic
  • London Riots
  • Loughner
  • Lunar Eclipse
  • M.C. Escher
  • madness
  • maps
  • Marxism
  • Mary Oliver
  • McChrystal
  • medicine
  • migration
  • money
  • Monsanto
  • Mormons
  • mountain top removal
  • Music
  • Muslim Brotherhood
  • mutants
  • NDP
  • niqab
  • NiqaBitch
  • Noam Chomsky
  • Norway
  • Obama
  • ocean
  • Oil
  • oil sands
  • Oil spill
  • Old Spice
  • Olympics
  • one state
  • optical illusions
  • ows
  • pain
  • Pakistan
  • Pakistani Floods
  • Palestine
  • parallel state
  • Pelicans
  • penguins
  • Philanthropy
  • photography
  • photos
  • pirates
  • placebo
  • Poetry
  • police
  • pornography
  • prisons
  • Prom
  • Proposition 8
  • protest
  • Psychiatry
  • psychosis
  • Pussy Riot
  • quantum physics
  • Quebec students
  • Quiz
  • Quizzes
  • racism
  • rainbows
  • rap
  • Reddit
  • Roma
  • Romney
  • Rowling
  • Rush
  • Russia
  • Russian Fires
  • Sarah Palin
  • satire
  • Scanners
  • schools
  • SCOTUS
  • sculpture
  • Security
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Snow
  • Socialism
  • sound
  • south park
  • sport hockey Python
  • Sports
  • Statistics
  • stats
  • Steve Jobs
  • strikes
  • stupid
  • subway
  • summer
  • surfing
  • surveillance
  • Syria
  • tar sands
  • tattoos
  • Tea Party
  • Teachers
  • tectonic plates
  • TED talks
  • terrorism
  • Thailand
  • The Kinks
  • Tiger Mom
  • Tokyo
  • Toronto
  • Torture
  • trains
  • travel
  • Trees
  • TSA scanners
  • Tsunami
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • TV
  • ubb
  • UK
  • UK riots
  • unicorns
  • Unions
  • United Nations
  • vaccine
  • Valentine's Day
  • video games
  • volcano
  • Wall Street Protest
  • water
  • weapons
  • weather
  • wikileaks
  • wikipedia
  • winter
  • Winter Solstice
  • Winter Sports
  • Wisconsin
  • words
  • World Cup
  • yoga
  • youth