Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31, 2013: XKeyscore revealed to the public (Snowden document)

It was one year ago that the Guardian revealed the XKeyscore program which was used to create an enormous database of emails, online chats, and browsing histories.  The information that was collected was made freely available to NSA analysts, who could browse it at will, without having to appeal for a warrant. The significance of that revelation was contained in the fact that this information was gathered on American citizens, who are, by right, "secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions."  (cite)

The NSA boasted in its own training materials that XKeyscore is its "widest-reaching system for developing intelligence from the internet" and covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet."

The Guardian UK, July 31, 2013: 

XKeyscore was one of the most important top secret programs that Edward Snowden revealed to the American public and the program he was referring to when he said, "I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email." 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Obamacare extended the life of Medicare for 13 years

The annual report from the Medicare program’s Boards of Trustees, released earlier this week, projects that the program's Trust Fund will last four more years, to 2030, which means that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has added 13 years to the life of the Medicare system!

The report was not prepared for, or under the direction of, the White House.

Under the Social Security Act, a board of trustees reports annually to Congress on the status and long-term financial prospects of both Social Security and Medicare. The reports are prepared by professional actuaries and are signed by three cabinet secretaries, the commissioner of Social Security, and two publicly appointed trustees—one Republican, one Democrat.

Unmitigated gall and unadulterated hypocrisy

Having grown up during the "Cold War", it astonishes me that people younger than myself, with the benefits of objectivity and hindsight, are no better educated than they are.

Don't fall for the same tired propaganda.

Monday, the Obama administration accused Russia of conducting tests in violation of a 1987 nuclear missile treaty:

That is pure propaganda.

Don't forget, it was the United States (under George W. Bush) which unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty on December 13, 2001, in order to begin building new ABM bases right on Russia’s borders. "Missile defense shield," my ass; that was a clear act of aggression and provocation.  This, after the Soviet Union collapsed and had voluntarily stood down, militarily.

As Robert Parry put it, "As nuclear-armed America hurtles into a completely avoidable crash with nuclear-armed Russia over Ukraine, you can now see the dangers of 'information warfare' when facts give way to propaganda and the press fails to act as an impartial arbiter." 

And can you believe the astonishing hypocrisy of Army General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he told the Aspen Security Forum last Thursday (July 24) that Russia's involvement in Ukraine (for which there has been no proof yet) was the first time since 1939 that a country made a conscious decision to use its military force inside another sovereign nation to achieve its own objectives.  Excuse me?  Have we forgotten Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Syria?? 

These are General Dempsey’s exact words: "You've got a Russian government that has made a conscious decision to use its military force inside another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives. It's the first time since 1939 or so that that's been the case. They clearly are on a path to assert themselves differently not just in Eastern Europe, but Europe in the main, and towards the United States."

Well, pot meet kettle.

Just when I thought American hypocrisy couldn't get any worse.  Or its propaganda.

Friday, July 25, 2014

200 years ago: The Battle of Lundy's Lane

The Battle of Lundy's Lane (also known as the Battle of Niagara Falls) was a battle of the Anglo-American War of 1812, which took place on 25 July 1814, in present-day Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and it is considered the deadliest battle ever fought on Canadian soil.

Three weeks earlier, the third and final major invasion of Canada by American forces in the War of 1812 began in the early morning of July 3, 1814.  That morning, a large American force crossed the Niagara River (the boundary between Canada and the US) from Buffalo, New York, and surrounded and captured Fort Erie. The Americans, numbering about 2,500, began pushing north (downriver) along the Niagara River, and after advancing only 20 miles, they encountered 3,500 British soldiers, Canadian militia and native warriors on the highest point of land at the Niagara Falls.  The battle, which was about a mile and a half from the falls, began just after 7pm and was over by midnight.  The Americans, having suffered so many casualties, were badly outnumbered and retreated the next day, to the safety of Ft. Erie.  Historian Richard V. Barbuto says, "On 26 July, Brown's plan to advance on Burlington Heights was irretrievably shattered.  Drummond had secured the forts at the northern end of the Niagara, and he had blunted an American advance. Although there was still a lot of fight in both forces, the balance of combat power on the Niagara Peninsula had swung from the invaders to the defenders".

The British won a strategic victory at Lundy's Lane, and stopped the American invasion, which was intended to capture British territory in order to secure more favorable terms in treaty negotiations that were underway in Europe.

In respect to the effect of the battle on the outcome of the War of 1812, the British won a strategic victory, since the Americans on the Niagara had suffered so many casualties that they were now badly outnumbered, and were forced to retire to Fort Erie.

The Americans held Fort Erie, which was besieged by the British, until the onset of winter.  On November 5, 1814, the fort was abandoned and destroyed; the Americans crossed the Niagara back into New York, and the Niagara Campaign of 1814 was over.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

State of Michigan attacks organic co-operative

While people in Detroit are living in third world conditions, where the city has been shutting off water supplies to homes of people who can't pay their utility bills ... but the state of Michigan decided that a more important problem was an organic farm close to Detroit that has been signing co-operative contracts, in which the co-op members share in the production of their farm.  Michigan says that the co-op contracts are invalid, therefore the family that owns the farm (Joe and Brenda Golimbieski) and the owner of the My Family Co-op (Jenny Samuelson) are guilty of "selling food without a license."  Oh, my goodness, what a horrible thing!
So all that food had to be destroyed.

According to a post on the Hill High Dairy page on Facebook, the agents from the MDA stood over the family, watching as the food was destroyed.
100 dozen eggs. Each egg had to be broken. 248 gallons dumped in a sprayer that had to be witnessed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture being dumped and sprayed on the field. 

It's not an isolated incident ... all across the US and Canada, independent farmers are being targeted like this ... farmers even being charged with a crime for saving their own seed for replanting.  It affect everyone.  Just like farmers aren't free to produce what they want, the way they want it, consumers (and everyone is a farm consumer) aren't free to choose what they buy and eat.

I read about this on The Organic Prepper, which is an excellent source for information on growing your own.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why the US cannot support democracy in Israel

In most Arab countries, the US simply cannot support democratic elections. They won't permit open honest democratic elections.  The best example is, of course, the country of Israel.  There are about 1.8 million Arabs inside the State of Israel; another 3 to 4 million Arabs live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  The population of Israel and the Palestinian Territories is between 9.8–10.8 million.  In other words, if all the people of Israel were given the right to vote, Arabs would have at least as much political power as Israeli Jews.  In fact, Jews may be in the minority in Israel and the Territories. [ source ]

What remains of Palestine, therefore, is really a concentration camp [map below] in which 3-4 million people are denied the right of self-determination. Gaza is a concentration camp.  

Democracy is not an option in Israel. Israel wants to eliminate the Palestinian "state within a state" and make it a part of the state of Israel, but cannot allow the people who live there the right to vote.  If they abolish Palestine and form a single state, they can't allow democratic elections because Arabs outnumber Jews ... so any new state can be either a Jewish state, or it can be a democratic state, but it cannot be both. 

Which places the US in the very awkward and contradictory position of pretending to support democracy while supporting a government that works to prevent democracy in Israel.  The US can't support Israel's plan to annex the Palestinians' lands and oppress the people there and rule them dictatorially (allowing them no vote and no voice), essentially confining them to concentration camps, and also support democracy.  The US position is, therefore, one of hypocrisy.

Likewise in every other Arab state that's trying to move itself toward democracy and national self-determination (Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq).  The US cannot support true democracy in these countries, either.  The US position is one of publicly supporting democracy in Arab countries while working behind the scenes to subvert it.

The people of the Arab world are hungry for democracy and national self-determination; they will not be kind to those who act to suppress their aspirations.  


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tom Engelhardt: These two great centers of power are draining the US

Tom Engelhardt wondered recently, why the United States, an empire which possesses an unchallengeable might, everywhere in the world, seems completely incapable of enacting its foreign policies abroad, or using its wealth and power to solve its problems at home.  While the corporate/military/security state rises; the nation falls deeper into decline and, ultimately, poverty.

This is essentially the result of corporatism; which subordinates individual rights/freedoms to the exigencies and the dictates of the corporate state. That is the future of the United States.  America has not always existed as a corporate/military state.  Not even close.
"At this moment, Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia."
– George Orwell
Is your memory under control?

Two great power centers have been engorging themselves in twenty-first-century America: there was an ever-expanding national security state, ever less accountable to anyone, ever less overseen by anyone, ever more deeply enveloped in secrecy, ever more able to see others and less transparent itself, ever more empowered by a secret court system and a body of secret law whose judgments no one else could be privy to; and there was an increasingly militarized corporate state, ever less accountable to anyone, ever less overseen by outside forces, ever more sure that the law was its possession.  These two power centers are now triumphant in our world.  They command the landscape against what may be less effective opposition than at any moment in our history.

The more successful those two sectors become, the less the U.S. seems capable of wielding its power effectively in any traditional sense, domestically or abroad.  The power centers remain, but in some still-hard-to-grasp way, the power to accomplish anything seems to be draining from a country that was once the great can-do nation on the planet.

Recent history is clear: that military has proven incapable of winning its wars against minor (and minority) insurgencies globally, just as Washington, for all its firepower, military and economic, has had a remarkably difficult time imposing its desires just about anywhere on the planet.  Though it may still look like a superpower and though the power of its national security state may still be growing, Washington seems to have lost the ability to translate that power into anything resembling success.

Today, the U.S. looks less like a functioning and effective empire than an imperial basket case, unable to bring its massive power to bear effectively from Germany to Syria, Iraq to Afghanistan, Libya to the South China Sea, the Crimea to Africa.  And stranger yet, this remains true even though it has no imperial competitors to challenge it.  Russia is a rickety energy state, capable of achieving its version of imperial success only along its own borders, and China, clearly the rising economic power on the planet, though flexing its military muscles locally in disputed oil-rich waters, visibly has no wish to challenge the U.S. military anywhere far from home.
Tom Engelhardt, July 13, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Edward Snowden asks for an extension to his political asylum

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has filed an official petition to extend his asylum in Russia for another year.

I believe one of the best moves Snowden could make right now is to demand a public trial, held according to American law, giving him a right to offer a full defense.

Not only would that make international headlines for months; which is exactly what the US doesn't want more of, publicity, but the evidence that would be presented at trial would be far more harmful to his accusers than it would be to Snowden.

The truths revealed by Edward Snowden hurt no honest person.

Those who do love liberty, truth, and a legal system that protects human rights from being trampled by despots, would welcome a public trial of Edward Snowden. Bring it!