It’s now time to do away with the no-fly lists


The no-fly list is an instrument of state coercion that is selectively used to oppress citizens of America and in reality limit their movements among the national or international community or even force them into exile from their own country.  It is a throwback to an antiquated way of a state being heavy handed and oppressive towards its citizens in an attempt to bend them towards what government wants them to do.  Many Muslim Americans who when asked why they were not allowed to fly were told if they would become informants for the government their names would be removed from such lists.

We now have the means to know if someone is immediately a threat to the security of public transportation, not just planes, with the invention of this device, Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner.

The latest scanners acquired by the U.S. government will be able detect the most minute traces of molecular discrepancies in both individuals’ bloodstream and carry on luggage from 50 meters away……the new scanners are said to be ten million times faster and one million times more sensitive than the scanners used in airports and border patrols currently.

The company says that the Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner can ‘penetrate clothing and many other organic materials and offers spectroscopic information, especially for materials that impact safety such as explosives and pharmacological substances.’The process of scanning and downloading the information takes only picoseconds- so one-trillionth of a second- which means that security workers would be alerted to any alarming substances as you were approaching them.Because it takes such a short amount of time to use the laser technology and interpret the data, security officials will not have to discriminate among suspicious passengers and will have time to use the technology on everyone.

‘From traces of drugs or gun powder on your clothes to what you had for breakfast to the adrenaline level in your body—agents will be able to get any information they want without even touching you’, that’s how sensitive and extensive this machine is.  Now that the government is able to in real time know whether any one is a threat before boarding a plane, they should immediately abolish the no fly lists.  Even if a person is a terrorist, the government can know whether he is mission capable at the time he/she gets on the plane, i.e. whether they possess the tools necessary to take down an airplane.  Add to this really fancy wizadry, the full body scanners in use in airports around the world, and federal air marshals, those steroid pumped, accurate shooting human machines, there should no longer be any need to prevent American citizens from flying.  If the federal government is reluctant to stop using these lists to keep people off planes it could mean only one thing and that is it’s not a security instrument but rather a coercive or punitive one.

Beware False Prophets


Julian Assange at New Media Days 09 in Copenhagen.

Image via Wikipedia

Wikileaks and Julian Assange have generated a media frenzy with its release of secret documents which detail the machinations of countries, diplomacy and war and in the process angered a lot of people, especially those here in the US.  What isn’t so well known is how easily Wikileaks and Assange himself have been co-opted by the government of Israel.  Take a look.

A number of commentators, particularly in Turkey and Russia, have been wondering why the hundreds of thousands of American classified documents leaked by the website last month did not contain anything that may embarrass the Israeli government, like just about every other state referred to in the documents. The answer appears to be a secret deal struck between the WikiLeaks “heart and soul”, as Assange humbly described himself once [1], with Israeli officials, which ensured that all such documents were ‘removed’ before the rest were made public.

According to an Arabic investigative journalism website [2], Assange had received money from semi-official Israeli sources and promised them, in a “secret, video-recorded agreement,” not to publish any document that may harm Israeli security or diplomatic interests.

The sources of the Al-Haqiqa report are said to be former WikiLeaks volunteers who have left the organisation in the last few months over Assange’s “autocratic leadership” and “lack of transparency.”

In a recent interview with the German daily Die Tageszeitung, former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg said he and other WikiLeaks dissidents are planning to launch their own whistleblowers’ platform to fulfil WikiLeaks’s original aim of “limitless file sharing.” [3]

Mr Domscheit-Berg, who is about to publish a book about his days ‘Inside WikiLeaks’, accuses Assange of acting as a “king” against the will of others in the organisation by “making deals” with media organisations that are meant to create an explosive effect, which others in WikiLeaks either know little or nothing about. [4]

Furthermore, Assange’s eagerness for headline-grabbing scoops meant that WikiLeaks had not been able to ‘restructure’ itself to cope with this surge of interest, insiders add. This has meant that smaller leaks, which might be of interest to people at a local level, are now being overlooked for the sake of big stories. [5]

According to the Al-Haqiqa sources, Assange met with Israeli officials in Geneva earlier this year and struck the secret deal. The Israel government, it seems, had somehow found out or expected that the documents to be leaked contained a large number of documents about the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and 2008-9 respectively. These documents, which are said to have originated mainly from the Israeli embassies in Tel Aviv and Beirut, where removed and possibly destroyed by Assange, who is the only person who knows the password that can open these documents, the sources added.

Indeed, the published documents seem to have a ‘gap’ stretching over the period of July – September 2006, during which the 33-day Lebanon war took place. Is it possible that US diplomats and officials did not have any comments or information to exchange about this crucial event but spent their time ‘gossiping’ about every other ‘trivial’ Middle-Eastern matter?

Following the leak (and even before), Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference that Israel had “worked in advance” to limit any damage from leaks, adding that “no classified Israeli material was exposed by WikiLeaks.” [6] In an interview with the Time magazine around the same time, Assange praised Netanyahu as a hero of transparency and openness! [7]

According to another report [8], a left-leaning Lebanese newspaper had met with Assange twice and tried to negotiate a deal with him, offering “a big amount of money”, in order to get hold of documents concerning the 2006 war, particularly the minutes of a meeting held at the American embassy in Beirut on 24th July 2006, which is widely considered as a ‘war council’ meeting between American, Israeli and Lebanese parties that played a role in the war again Hizbullah and its allies. The documents the Al-Akhbar editors received, however, all date to 2008 onwards and do not contain “anything of value,” the sources confirm. This only goes to support the Israel deal allegations.

Finally, it might be worth pointing out that Assange might have done what he is alleged to have done in order protect himself and ensure that the leaked documents are published so as to expose the American hypocrisy, which he is said to be obsessed with “at the expense of more fundamental aims.”

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The Excesses of Big Government


I’ve tweeted and blogged about the racist anger and angst of Obama’s opposition which has formed around the tea bagger movement.  They’ve talked about how they are opposed to government spending and other excesses, as well they should be but it seems their anger is selective as well as counter productive and inconsistent.  Many among the progressive movement can correctly point to the fact that progressives have far more integrity about their opposition to government than the newly arrived carpet….er…make that tea baggers and two stories in this week’s news bear that out.

The first story is about the very meaning of government, and the belief that the smaller it is the more efficient it is at meeting the needs of the people; that big, burdensome bureaucracy in and of itself  only serves to enrich the pockets of those who are employed by it, offering them a comfortable lifestyle, longevity working within it while demanding very little in return for their employment is a truth embraced by progressives during the last decade but only recently by the opponents of the present administration.  Government by its very nature, becomes an instrument of regulation that limits the productivity of citizens in minutiae at their, the population’s  expense.  One would think that during times of an economic downturn the fortunes of government would also be in decline, but government never stops taxation nor does it retreat from its growth. Federal government is a very lucrative business and nowhere is that more evident than in the areas surrounding the seat of the federal government, Washington, DC where lies 6 out of the 25 wealthiest counties in all of America!  An area brimming with lobbyists who lobby government for companies looking for an edge over their competition through government favoritism and regulation, bureaucrats, employees of think tanks, who also lobby government, various and sundry cottage industry security types who’ve convinced others that  their existence is essential to the existence of this country, and media types who cover all of the machinations that go around the seat of power, the greater Washington, DC area has become a bonanza for economic growth in the country, without producing anything more than voluminous reams of paper and regulation.  This is not a recent phenomenon, but rather a steady, growing one that has taken years and many stories of fear and intimidation to produce.  During the interim we have willingly coughed up the required sums of tax dollars through cajoling or  acquiescence to officials who told us it was necessary for our survival.  These six counties have become the praetorian guard for a bloated government that has increasingly become isolated from its electorate because of  its own existence and by those who encircle government’s throne.

The second story that resembles a not too distant era is the bill proposed by John McCain and Joe Lieberman, “The Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010,” which lays bare government’s attempt to strip the US Constitution of habeas corpus and allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the U.S. based on suspected activity. In essence anyone who threatens the cocoon that government has built around itself, and including the six counties previously mentioned, can expect to be imprisoned without access to the judicial system of the United States, and thus, unable to prove or defend themselves against any suspicion or charge levied against them by the government.  But wait, such draconian measures have been in place since the Military Commissions Act passed in 2006 which in vague enough language to assuage the conscience of today’s tea baggers then, called for the removal of US citizens from civilian courts and placed them, if at all, at the mercy of military tribunals.  At the moment this bill has not been passed.  Let’s hope it never sees the light of day.  That John McCain has co-sponsored it means it’s in response to the opposition he faces in the Arizona senate primary from an opponent further to the right than he is, and so he wants to establish his credentials on the back of the US Constitution.  The tea baggers are not new to this political landscape and their faux pas opposition to this Administration is clearly transparently racist, but the direction it drives the Nation in is something for all to be concerned.

Obama Continues to disappoint


President Obama has many issues but the ones dealing with his approach to the phony war on terror, torture and armed conflicts that he is escalating continue to baffle and upset me.  Now he has petitioned the US Supreme Court to suppress release of pictures taken at Abu Ghraib which show torture and prisoner abuse.  I understand why he doesn’t want them released; it would force his hand to prosecute those who would be clearly shown violating every conceivable law in the books, our books as well as international treaties we’ve sworn to uphold and protect.  However, he can’t give that as a reason for asking they not to be released so instead he chose this:

“there are nearly 200,000 Americans who are serving in harm’s way, and I have a solemn responsibility for their safety as Commander-in-Chief. It is my judgment … that releasing these photos would inflame anti-American opinion and allow our enemies to paint United States troops with a broad, damning and inaccurate brush, thereby endangering them in theaters of war.”

Obama was forced to petition the high court after  a lower court ruled the photos should be released  ignoring the pleas by some in government that their release would imperil US personnel.  The courts have sided with those who cite the Freedom of Information Act which they say requires, or mandates the release of such pictures.

Obama’s petition to block the release is an about face from his earlier position where he called for their release.  He has decided to escalate US involvement in Afghanistan and is using that escalation as an excuse for keeping the pictures locked up but he goes on to say with a straight face,  ‘Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable. It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated.’

If abuse won’t be tolerated Mr. President, prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who carried it out as well as those who ordered it.  I assert the photos should imperil the freedom and liberty of those who are engaged in the abuse chronicled therein or who were responsible for it.  If he is worried about inflaming anti-American opinion, correct those anti-American notions by restoring the rule of law and showing the world we apply that law equally to all even when it hits close to home and involves members of American government.  If he’s worried about negative opinions of American foreign policy he should  curtail America’s wars of aggression and remove American troops from foreign lands that pose no direct threat to American personnel or American interests.  He should return them to America and de-escalate American forces that have been used as advance teams for US corporations to set up permanent bases and expand global markets at the expense of US resources.  These theaters of war are ones he has chosen to engage in when the survival or prosperity of our Republic is not at stake.  The greatest danger to our military is their deployment to these areas by the very government that wants to protect them by infringing on the rights of the society they are fighting to protect.    People who claim that photos showing abuse and or torture of prisoners under American control should be released should also proclaim  those who are responsible for their ugly content must be brought to justice.   If the Supreme Court rules against the Obama petition most likely he will used the powers of the unitary executive, finely tuned by the Bush administration, to block the release of the pictures.  Just one more example of ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’.

If you work for AIPAC spying is not illegal


Or so that’s what they want the government to think.

To be effective, organizations engaged in advocacy in the field of foreign policy need to have earlier and more detailed information about policy developments inside the government and diplomatic issues with other countries than is normally available to or needed by the wider public. ‘Agencies of the government sometimes choose to provide such additional information about policy and diplomatic issues to these outside interest groups in order to win support for what they are doing among important domestic constituencies and to send messages to select target audiences.

The meaning is clear; members of some p.a.c.s fully expect to be able to steal state secrets and not be held accountable for doing that, because their organizations have a right to this information in order to help the US government set policy!  Talk about chutzpah.

An expected move


The Israeli government has decided not to investigate the actions of its military in Gaza, despite  its earlier claims that it would.  So what else is new you ask?  Well Human Rights Watch has initiated an investigation of its own and it does confirm what was apparent to all who have eyes to see that Israel did use white phospherous against civilians during the Gaza campaign.  You can watch what HRW had to say in the video below.

Meanwhile the US continues its obsequious, servile behavior towards the Israeli government which boasts of having one of the strongest armies  in the world.  Evidently that is not enough to get the US to say to Israelis they’re on their own when it comes to Israeli military aggression, so Obama continues to pledge to defend Israel against its enemies.  Mind you Israel’s enemies are the ones it creates; most of its neighbors want peace with the Jewish state in exchange for recognition of their territorial sovereignty.  Even the Palestinians want peace, but as usual, that won’t suit the Israelis.

Avigdor Lieberman said Israel’s new government will suspend negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on so-called “final-status” issues – the borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees and the city of Jerusalem – until the Palestinians take verifiable steps to end attacks against Israelis.

With the statement, the new Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reversed the policy of its predecessor, led by Ehud Olmert, which had been quietly attempting to negotiate a final settlement of the conflict with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the past 14 months.

It’s easy to see where this is going.  The expansionist policy of military aggression of the Israeli government is headed towards the West Bank and it won’t be long, months perhaps, before the Israeli government calls for war against all of what is left of Palestine.  Of course all of this will be done with the claim that Israel is under constant threat of extinction from its potent (not!) neighbors.

UPDATE:

The National Lawyers Guild has weighed in on what happened in Gaza, saying

Israel violated international law by targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, misusing weapons, deliberately denying medical care to the wounded and attacking medical personnel, the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Gaza said today upon releasing a 37 page report containing new evidence on the facts surrounding Israel’s 22 day military offensive in Gaza. The full report can be viewed at www.nlg.org.
“Our findings join a growing chorus of voices—which include Israeli soldiers themselves—asserting that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians during the Gaza offensive,” said Radhika Sainath, one of the attorneys who initiated the seven-day fact-finding delegation to Gaza. “On a number of occasions, Israeli soldiers shot and killed young children as well as unarmed civilians holding white flags—both violations of the laws of war.”

The Delegation also uncovered evidence of Israeli soldiers using Palestinians as human shields, acts that constitute war crimes, as well as evidence that the Israeli military targeted civilian infrastructure and grossly misused weapons. Further, Israel denied the wounded access to medical care and routinely fired on emergency medical teams attempting to reach those in need of help. Paramedics and doctors reported to the Delegation that many civilians could have been saved if the Israeli army allowed Palestinian medical services access to the wounded. “On one occasion, when Israeli forces did allow Palestinian medical services to enter an area after four days, soldiers prohibited their ambulances from approaching and paramedics were forced to pile the injured on donkey carts,” reported Reem Salahi, a California-based civil rights attorney. “Medical workers were then forced to pull the carts to their ambulances two kilometers away.”

Is it any wonder that Israel has stopped its own investigation; it would incontrovertibly  point to IDF culpability in criminal acts.  I don’t know why that bothers Israeli officials; for the moment no matter what they do, or what evidence points to they are able to continue to demand and receive US aid which allows them to perpetuate these acts of violence and aggression.  With willing accomplices in the US media any investigation, including the ones mentioned in this post, would be ignored and/or not reported.  In fact conducting an investigation even if it points to Israeli guilt would be a feather in their cap….it would point to some sort of transparency.  However, the frame of mind of the Israeli government is they are not accountable to any authority, and thus no need for such an investigation on their part.  It is the height of hubris.  Let’s hope it is the pride that precedes Israel’s fall.