"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

As U.S./E.U. Sanctions Rise, China Steps Deeper Into Iran

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Oldspeak: ” ‘Who can blame Iran for being so ferocious with China behind its back?’ China imports a large percentage of it’s oil from Iran, it then turns around and uses that oil for energy to produce most of the sweatshop produced cheaply made goods that dominate U.S. store shelves.  What happens if and when the U.S. decides to fuck with China’s energy? My guess is nothin good.”

From Antoaneta Becker @ ipsnews.net:

The European Union’s new sanctions against Iran appear to open a new space for eager Chinese companies to expand their investments in a country viewed as a rogue player by much of the western world.

With China recently coming to light as Iran’s largest trade partner, some Chinese analysts predict a wealth of new geopolitical and business opportunities with Iran. But officialdom may still waver at the idea of Beijing seen as a “free-rider”.

An energy-thirsty China has signed agreements with Iran worth tens of billions of dollars to allow it privileged access to Iran’s oil and gas sector. Courting the partnership of Iran, which possesses the world’s fourth largest reserves of oil and second largest of gas, has been a long and arduous process, and Beijing would loathe to jeopardise it.

In recently published memoirs China’s long-time ambassador to Tehran Hua Liming admitted that his diplomacy in Iran after China became an oil importer in the early 1990s had been entirely dictated by energy politics. Last year Iran accounted for 11 percent of China’s oil imports, ranking third among China’s main oil suppliers after Angola and Saudi Arabia.

Spurred by its energy needs, China has undertaken a range of investment projects in Iran, gradually filling in the void left over by Western firms forced out by international sanctions. With more than 100 Chinese companies present in Iran, it has built Tehran’s subway, power stations, ferrous metals smelting factories and petrochemical plants.

As bilateral trade reached 21.2 billion dollars in 2009, China surfaced as Iran’s most important trade partner. On paper the European Union still ranks as Iran’s largest trading partner, but if Chinese goods imported in Iran via the United Arab Emirates are considered, China has already overtaken the EU.

This has led some to believe that Iran’s defiant attitude towards the west derives somewhat from a newfound confidence that China is now supplanting Tehran’s traditional trade partners. “Who can blame Iran for being so ferocious with China behind its back?” says an opinion piece on one of China’s largest Internet portals China.com.

With international pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear programme mounting in the last few years, western companies began reducing their dealings with Tehran further, and Iran turned more to China for investment in its oil and gas sectors, says Dr. Harsh V. Pant, professor in the Department of Defence studies at King’s College, London.

The new round of sanctions agreed by the European Union means that “China will remain Iran’s most significant major power supporter, and there will be little incentive for Tehran to negotiate in good faith,” Dr. Pant tells IPS.

The sanctions target the oil and gas industries — the backbone of Iran’s economy, as well as foreign trade and financial services. They ban new EU investments in the energy sector and the export to Iran of key equipment and technology for refining and for the exploration and production of natural gas.

The EU foreign ministers announced the new restrictions a month after the U.S. imposed its own strengthened sanctions on Iran. Last month the UN Security Council passed a fourth round of international sanctions over Iran’s clandestine nuclear programme. China, a UN Security Council member, inconspicuously lent its support.

“Even though China does not want to be seen as ganging up with the West and hopes to maintain a strategic partnership with Tehran, it does not want to complicate relations with Washington either,” says Jonathan Holslag, research fellow with the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China studies.

Holslag believes Beijing has given “subtle but clear signals that it wants Iran to cooperate with the UN.” He points to Beijing’s decision to slow down investment in the Yadavaran oil field and delay the disbursement of loans. When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Shanghai Expo, Chinese leaders reportedly refused to meet him.

With China called upon to become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system, Beijing has walked a fine line, trying to work in concert with the international community to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, while preserving its vital interests in Iran. Beijing supports non-proliferation efforts as part of its broader campaign to gain a higher international profile.

Attempting to water down previous UN sanctions has not only been for the purpose of protecting China’s energy supplies, argues Holslag. He believes the Chinese elite finds the sanctions counterproductive as they are “the grist for the mill of Iranian hardliners” and fuel “nuclear nationalism”.

On Sunday China’s top diplomat called for fresh nuclear talks and more diplomatic effort to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme. “China continues on the path of negotiations” regarding Tehran’s nuclear energy programme, foreign minister Yang Jiechi said in Vienna.

A recent piece in the Chinese newspaper Global Times claimed that Beijing had secured tacit agreement from western powers that in any follow-on sanctions adopted by the U.S. and the European Union, China’s interests in Iranian energy and trade would be protected.

But “the new EU sanctions mean that the Iranian energy sector will continue to face major constraints in reaching its full potential,” says Dr. Pant. “And therefore China will find it difficult to exploit the sector fully.”

In his memoirs ex-ambassador Hua Liming recounts the difficulties China and Iran faced with securing the flow of Iranian high sulphur crude oil to China in mid-1990s. Although Iran now exports around 27 million metric tonnes of crude to China every year, the lack of knowhow and technology still impede the progress of several Chinese oil exploration and development projects in Iran.

Google’s Wi-Spying And Intelligence Ties To CIA, NSA Prompt Call For Congressional Hearing

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Oldspeak:” Big Brother is watching you. Google is a key intelligence asset. It has supplied the core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secured online CIA system and has shared a close relationship with both the CIA, NSA, and government national security officials.”

From Infowars:

More information has emerged about Google’s relationship with the government and spook agencies (see PR Newswire below). The revelations should come as no surprise.

In 2006, Robert David Steele, a 20-year Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer and a former clandestine services case officer with the CIA, told the Alex Jones Show that the CIA helped bankroll Google at its inception. “I think Google took money from the CIA when it was poor and it was starting up and unfortunately our system right now floods money into spying and other illegal and largely unethical activities, and it doesn’t fund what I call the open source world,” said Steele, citing “trusted individuals” as his sources.

Google is a key intelligence asset. It has supplied the core search technology forIntellipedia, a highly-secured online CIA system and has shared a close relationship with both the CIA, NSA, and government national security officials.

In February, it was reported that Google and the NSA have forged a partnership after Google purportedly suffered a cyberattack in December. “This is not the first time the NSA has been tapped to help a U.S. corporation with cyber security, but the purported partnership would certainly be unique since Google’s servers house such a vast collection of user data including search histories, email, and personal documents,” reports PC World.

“Google’s connection with the CIA and its venture capital firm extends to sharing at least one key member of personnel. In 2004, the Director of Technology Assessment at In-Q-Tel, Rob Painter, moved from his old job directly serving the CIA to become ‘Senior Federal Manager’ at Google.,” writes Eric Sommer.

In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the CIA, also had a hand in creating the wildly popular social network Facebook. “The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel,” writes Matt Greenop.

Thus it should not be shocking that Google executives are holding meetings with U.S. national security officials for undisclosed reasons, according to the Washington Post, itself a prized CIA asset under the venerable Operation Mockingbird media asset program.

Google insists its vacuuming up of WiFi network data as it gathered images for its Streetview program was a mistake, even though information “published Jan. 28 shows that the data collection program was a very deliberate effort to assemble as much information as possible about U.S. residential and business WiFi networks,” according to the press release below.

SANTA MONICA, Calif., July 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Citing new information about Google’s classified government contracts and the Internet giant’s admitted Wi-Spying activity, Consumer Watchdog today said it is more imperative than ever for the Energy and Commerce Committee to conduct hearings into possible privacy violations by Google.

In a letter to Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Joe Barton, the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group’s John M. Simpson wrote:

“Based on today’s Washington Post, it appears that Google holds classified U.S. government contracts to supply search and geospatial information to the U.S. government. In addition, White House records show that Google executives have been holding meetings with U.S. national security officials for undisclosed reasons. Finally, it also appears that Google’s widely criticized efforts to collect wireless network data on American citizens were not inadvertent, contrary to the company’s claims.”

“As history has repeatedly shown, alliances between the U.S. intelligence community and giant corporations that collect data on American citizens can be a toxic combination where the U.S. Constitution is concerned,”  the letter said.

In a June 9 letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee, Google director for public policy Pablo Chavez asserted that Google “mistakenly included code in our software that collected samples of ‘payload data’” from private WiFi networks. But review of a patent application from Google covering the gathering of WiFi data published Jan. 28 shows that the data collection program was a very deliberate effort to assemble as much information as possible about U.S. residential and business WiFi networks.

The letter continued:

“…what the patent does show is that Google’s recent claims about how the Street View program was designed are not accurate, and that the company always intended to collect and store the ‘packets’ of wireless data that contain so-called payload information.

“The patent makes repeated reference to ‘capturing’ packets, including paragraph [0055], which states that the system will enable geolocations so long as the equipment being used ‘is able to capture and properly decode a packet…’

“This raises serious questions about whether Google has engaged in a reckless effort to amass private data without giving any thought to the possible misuse of that information, and whether it can be trusted to safeguard the information it collects from the prying eyes of the U.S. government.”

Read the patent here: http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/US20100020776.pdf

Read the letter here: http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/LtrWaxman071910.pdf

In addition, White House visitor logs show that Alan Davidson, Google’s Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, has had at least three meetings with officials of the National Security Council since the beginning of last year. One of the meetings was with White House senior director for Russian affairs Mike McFaul, while another was with Middle East advisor Daniel Shapiro.

It has also been widely reported that Google has been working in “partnership” with the National Security Agency, the very same government body that illegally intercepted the private communications of millions of Americans during the Bush administration.

WikiLeaks Controversy Hovers, But U.S. Congress Passes 60 Billion Dollar War Funding Bill

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 12:36 pm

A young girl watches a US soldier on security watch beside an irrigation canal during a military operation, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Wednesday, July 28. The leaked WikiLeaks documents barely made a dent in Congress’s decision to continue funding a surge of US forces into Afghanistan. The measure passed the House 308 to 114. Rodrigo Abd/AP

Oldspeak: ” ‘We grow up in a controlled society, where we are told that when one person kills another person, that is murder, but when the government kills a hundred thousand, that is patriotism.’ -Howard Zinn. More of your tax dollars flowing to the Taliban.  The madness continues unabated. ‘War is a drug.’ -Chris Hedges”

From Gail Russell Chaddock @ The Christian Science Monitor:

In the end, the leaked WikiLeaks documents barely made a dent in Congress’s decision to continue funding a surge of US forces into Afghanistan. The measure passed the House 308 to 114, with 148 Democrats and 160 Republicans voting in favor.

The margin surprised leaders in both parties, who had expected more fallout from Sunday’s release of some 92,000 classified documents that amplified the difficulties of the nine-year war in Afghanistan.

House Republican leader John Boehner urged his caucus to back the war funding bill, despite the controversy over the leaked documents, which could have given the minority party cover to vote no. “We could have played politics with this vote and forced Democrats to come up with the votes. But our leadership told us to play it straight. We did the right thing,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas, after the vote Tuesday.

With antiwar sentiment running high in the House Democratic Caucus, majority leader Steny Hoyer urged his colleagues to take up doubts on the war in a separate debate at another time. The need for funds was too urgent to risk defeating the war-funding bill, he said.

“I think the president of the United States made a mission that is a doable mission,” he told reporters in a briefing on Tuesday. “Now, we may want to reconsider that in a new Congress. But the fact is those troops are there now, and the money, as we have been told by the Pentagon, will be depleted as of the 7th of August.”

Still, the vote was wrenching for antiwar Democrats. Rep. David Obey (D) of Wisconsin, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, had added $10 billion to help prevent teacher layoffs as a sweetener to other Democrats with doubts about the war. But the Senate voted to strip most of the additional domestic spending. On Tuesday, Representative Obey told House members that he was bringing the war-funding bill to the floor with reluctance.

”I have a double, and conflicting, obligation. As chairman, I have the obligation to bring this supplemental before the House to allow the institution to work its will,” he said on the floor Tuesday. “But I also have the obligation to my conscience to indicate – by my individual vote – my profound skepticism that this action will accomplish much more than to serve as a recruiting incentive for those who most want to do us ill.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not whip this vote, calling it a vote of conscience and the most difficult vote she has taken to the floor since becoming speaker in 2007.

On July 1, 162 House members, including Speaker Pelosi, voted to support the McGovern-Obey-Jones amendment to the House version of the bill, calling for a timetable and plan for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

“In light of [the WikiLeaks documents released after that], in light of all the questions that have been raised, it seems to me that it is inappropriate for us to vote yes for a blank check for this administration to do what it wants on Afghanistan,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D) of Massachusetts, a sponsor of the amendment, during Tuesday’s floor debate.

Twelve Republicans and 102 Democrats voted against the war-funding measure.

Also on Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly rejected a privileged resolution (not requiring leadership to take to the floor) introduced by Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio and Ron Paul (R) of Texas to direct President Obama to remove US forces from Pakistan. The sponsors cited the WikiLeaks report as evidence that the US presence in Afghanistan is counterproductive and that Pakistan is an unreliable ally. The vote failed 38 to 372.

“The Democrats realize that Afghanistan is now President Obama’s war, and it will take a lot for them to be critical of the war or take any kind of action that threatens the funding,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “But as we learn more about these [WikiLeaks] documents and the war, it is going to get more difficult for Democrats to contain this information.”

From Brain Faler @ Bloomberg News:

The U.S. Congress sent to President Barack Obama a $60 billion war-funding bill amid attacks on his Afghanistan policies newly provoked by leaked reports suggesting that Pakistan secretly aided aiding Taliban forces.

The House voted 308-114 yesterday to forward the measure to Obama for his signature. It cleared the Senate last week after lawmakers in that chamber deleted $23 billion in unrelated spending.

House Democratic leaders who had sought that additional money said they wouldn’t delay the long-stalled war funds any longer with the Pentagon warning of impending personnel furloughs.

“The reality is that time has run out,” said Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks, a Washington Democrat. “We’ve got to do it now.”

Representative James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat opposed to the war, said lawmakers should have held up the funding “until we get some questions answered, until there is a full airing of all the stuff” raised by the leaked documents.

“It is a mistake to give this administration yet another blank check for this war,” McGovern said.

Republican Help

House Democratic leaders had to rely on Republicans to help produce a majority behind the bill amid the growing opposition within their own ranks to Obama’s war policies. The bill wassupported by 148 Democrats and 160 Republicans; 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted against it.

The vote amounted to a surrender by House Democrats in their bid for approval of the unrelated spending, including $10 billion in aid to state governments to prevent thousands of teacher layoffs.

Senate Republicans insisted that those provisions be dropped. The White House also threatened to veto the plan because House Democrats wanted to finance it partly by cutting money for the Department of Education, including funds for a state grant program that is one of the agency’s priorities.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, called the bill “true to form,” saying, “virtually everything we’ve attempted to do this year to address the economic crisis and emergencies on the domestic side of the ledger have fallen by the wayside.”

Obey’s Opposition

Obey said he wouldn’t vote for the stripped-down bill because he doesn’t support the administration’s war policies. “I cannot look my constituents in the eye and say that this operation will hurt our enemies more than us,” he said.

Obama said yesterday the leaked war documents “don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan — indeed, they point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review of our policy last fall.”

The measure sent to Obama, requested by the Pentagon in February, includes $33 billion for the president’s plan announced last year to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

Another $13 billion would pay for a Veterans Affairs decision to expand the number of ailments presumed to be linked to use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Lawmakers said they expected more than 86,000 veterans or their survivors to be eligible for compensation.

The measure also would provide $5 billion for disaster assistance.

Republican Complaints

Republicans complained the bill was identical to one passed by the Senate two months ago. “The delay in passing this legislation was caused by one thing and only one thing — the House Democrat majority’s continuing and unwavering appetite for spending,” said RepresentativeJerry Lewis of California, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates had warned lawmakers he might have to begin furloughing employees next month if the money wasn’t approved.

A series of attempts by war critics to attach provisions to the legislation targeting Obama’s Afghanistan policies failed following his threat to veto any legislation that would undermine his role as commander in chief.

The amendment that came closest to passing would have required the administration to submit a report explaining how it intends to end U.S. involvement in the Afghan conflict. The administration has said it plans to begin bringing troops home in July 2011, depending on conditions in Afghanistan. It hasn’t specified when the withdrawal would be complete.

The amendment won the support of most House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, though with 162 votes it fell well short of the majority in the 435-member chamber needed for approval.

Afghan war costs will top those in Iraq this year for the first time since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Costs this year will total more than those in all but two years of former President George W. Bush’s administration. The measure will bring total war expenses to $1.1 trillion.

The bill is H.R. 4899.

840,000 Gallon Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Could Reach Lake Michigan By Sunday

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 11:15 am

John Corcoran, center, and Cam Meyers, right, watch from the 15 Mile Road bridge as oil flows in the Kalamazoo River Tuesday, July 27, 2010, in Marshall, Mich. Crews were working Tuesday to contain and clean up more than 800,000 gallons of oil that poured into a creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan, coating birds and fish. (AP Photo/The Kalamazoo Gazette, Jonathon Gruenke)

Oldspeak:“At what point does it become obvious that the primary energy source of our civilization is killing us and everything around us? When will we get serious about transitioning to the myriad of clean and abundant alternatives (Solar, Geothermal, Wind, Wave, etc…) Probably when it’s too late. :-|

From Chris Zoladz @ The Detroit Free Press:

Battle Creek, MI area residents are being warned to stay away from the Kalamazoo River because of a major oil spill.

An estimated 840,000 gallons of oil leaked into a creek Monday that feeds into the river. Area media were reporting that odor from the spill hung heavy over Battle Creek this morning.

“It is unknown at this time how far the spill has traveled and exactly what areas have been affected. It is assumed due to the current level of the Kalamazoo River and the speed of the current that the entire Emmett Township area and beyond has been affected,” according to an advisory issued today by the Emmett Township Public Safety Department.

Wayne Hoepner, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, said oil from the spill could reach Lake Michigan as early as Sunday, although numerous variables could affect the flow rate. The NWS has been getting reports of oil on the eastern edge of Battle Creek. Hoepner said the oil is likely to reach Comstock, a township in Kalamazoo County, tomorrow.

Calls to Chicago-based Enbridge Liquids Pipelines were not immediately returned today. A message on a company hotline set up for the spill said “we regret any inconvenience this has caused to the community.”

The oil leaked Monday from a 30-inch pipeline that carries about 8 million gallons of oil per day from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. The oil spilled into Talmadge Creek, which flows northwest into the Kalamazoo River. The site is in Calhoun County’s Marshall Township, about 60 miles southeast of Grand Rapids. Authorities evacuated two homes near the leak.

According to the Battle Creek Enquirer, an impromptu animal rescue of wildlife affected by the Marshall-area oil spill will begin at noon today. Organizers said in a posting on Facebook that volunteers should gather at Squaw Creek, scene of the spill, at noon. They said volunteers should bring fish nets, leather gloves, large tubs, Dawn dish soap and watering cans for rinsing off the animals.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., issued a statement today indicating he is “deeply concerned about the effects of the oil spill near Marshall, including the environmental impact and the disruption to residents and businesses. It is also deeply worrisome that the oil from the spill has made its way into the Kalamazoo River.”

Levin said his office has been in contact with federal agencies “to make sure that those carrying out the cleanup have all the resources they need to complete the cleanup job as quickly as possible.” While the focus now is on limiting damage and clean-up, Levin said it is “vitally important” that the company responsible for the spill bear the costs of clean-up and compensate anyone suffering financial damages related to the spill.

From  David Runk @ The Associated Press:

Southern Michigan residents are learning that devastating oil spills aren’t limited to the Gulf Coast.

Crews were working Wednesday to contain and clean up an estimated 877,000 gallons of oil that coated birds and fish as it poured into a creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, one of the state’s major waterways.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm toured the area by helicopter Tuesday night and said she wasn’t satisfied with the response to the spill. The leak in the 30-inch pipeline, which was built in 1969 and carries about 8 million gallons of oil daily from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario, was detected early Monday.

“There needs to be a lot more done,” Granholm said. “There are not enough resources on the river right now.”

Granholm declared a state of disaster in Calhoun County and potentially affected areas along the river, which eventually bisects the city of Kalamazoo and meanders to Saugatuck, where it empties into Lake Michigan. Officials don’t believe oil will spread past a dam upstream of Kalamazoo. The cause of the spill is under investigation.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.’s affiliate Enbridge Energy Partners LP of Houston initially estimated that about 819,000 gallons of oil spilled into Talmadge Creek before the company stopped the flow.

But state officials were told during a company briefing Tuesday that an estimated 877,000 gallons spilled, said Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

As of late Tuesday, oil was reported in at least 16 miles of the Kalamazoo River downstream of the spill. Company officials said the spill appeared to be contained and oil wouldn’t likely drift much more downstream.

Enbridge crews and contractors are using oil skimmers and absorbent booms to minimize its environmental impact.

“This is our responsibility,” Enbridge’s president and chief executive Patrick D. Daniel said Tuesday evening in Battle Creek. “This is our mess. We’re going to clean it up.”

Many area residents were surprised to learn that a pipeline was so close to the Great Lakes river.

“I just can’t believe they allowed that to happen, and they’re not equipped to handle it,” said Owen Smith, 53, of Galesburg. Smith lives near the river and stopped at several points far upstream on Tuesday to see what might be headed his way.

The air was pungent with the smell of oil, but health officials said they so far were satisfied with the results from air quality tests. Groundwater testing was expected to begin soon.

Still, health officials warned residents to stay away from the river, saying it should be closed to fishing and other recreational activities, and irrigation. No injuries or illnesses have been reported, but a few households near the spill had been evacuated.

Enbridge said it had about 200 employees and contractors working on the spill, and a center was being set up to help ducks, geese and other wildlife coated with oil.

Local, state and federal agencies also were involved, and the National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation.

U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Mich., said he discussed the spill with President Barack Obama. Schauer called the spill a “public health crisis,” and said he plans to hold hearings to examine the response.

Obama has pledged a swift response to requests for assistance, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said.

The river already faced major pollution issues. An 80-mile segment of the river and five miles of a tributary, Portage Creek, were placed on the federal Superfund list of high-priority hazardous waste sites in 1990. The Kalamazoo site also includes four landfills and several defunct paper mills.

Lady Gaga: Pop Star For A Country And An Empire In Decline

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2010 at 10:05 am

Oldspeak:“People in their twenties now have grown up on war. People Lady Gaga’s age (she’s 24). We have made monsters out of others in order to kill them without fear. Gaga makes herself a monster to try to show us ourselves. Gaga often plays as well with the idea of wounds, of injury, of disability. She shows up to award show performances splashed in fake blood, puts herself in a wheelchair in the “Paparazzi” video, then crutches. She reminds us that American culture is drenched in blood, and couples those images with constant references to her own fame.”

From Sarah Jaffe @ Alter Net:

“If there are zeitgeist moments for products, movie stars, and even politicians, then such moments can exist for weaponry as well. The robotic drone is the Lady Gaga of this Pentagon moment.

So wrote Tom Engelhardt, in an essay titled “America Detached from War,” and he couldn’t have picked a more perfect metaphor. Gaga is sexy, ubiquitous, and oh so of-the-moment. She exists on a line between monstrous and beautiful, making us ask questions about progress, about agency, about control, about men and women, about Americans and the world. She is both a perfect embodiment of American cultural dominance and subverting what that means at every turn.

Gaga-analysis could fill a library at this point. It is impossible to ignore her. She demands in a voice somewhere between a howl and a snarl at the Grammys “I wanna be a star!” and she makes philosophers (like Nancy Bauer, in a New York Times piece) as well as pop critics talk about her.

The Predator drone is the latest and sexiest symbol of American dominance through military technology; Gaga is the latest and sexiest symbol of cultural hegemony. The media is full of both of them, breathlessly discussing the capabilities of the unmanned drones, a giant leap forward in our technology, a way to detach us even further from the reality of war, to spend a day at war and then go home to the family at night. And of course picking over the latest Lady Gaga video — a cultural event that has turned YouTube into the site of the new Fireside Chat. Instead of talking about the news, millions of Americans talk about the new Gaga video.

Meanwhile, Predator drones kill civilians in countries that millions of Americans probably couldn’t find on a map. Wars continue, dead bodies pile up. The living bodies of women are contested territory abroad and at home. And the body of a 24-year-old white woman who regularly calls herself a monster is one of the few things we come together to discuss. America dominates the world; Gaga dominates our pop culture universe.

We have made monsters out of others in order to kill them without fear. Gaga makes herself a monster to try to show us ourselves.

So Succsexy

Follow the pattern — the hemlines, the headlines/Action distraction,faster than fashion… War as we knew it was obsolete/Nothing could beat denial

So sang Canadian indie pop group Metric in the run-up to the Iraq war. Iraq was our Lady Gaga back then, with all the hype about new technology and American sex appeal splashed all over the headlines, the TV. We heard about smart bombs and “shock and awe.” It was broadcast as entertainment as much as news.

When when the news flash came announcing the beginning of the Iraq invasion I was trapped in my house on the third day of a blizzard and had succumbed to watchingAmerican Idol. The broadcast broke right from a pop song to bring me footage of explosions in the sky over Baghdad.

Fast-forward more than 7 years later, and we’ve reached a saturation point –Iraq doesn’t even get day-to-day coverage in the corporate media. It has faded into the background, just another facet of our lives. People in their twenties now have grown up on war. People Lady Gaga’s age (she’s 24).

Empire Down

There’s always been something deeply problematic about the way war is sold, about pitching the idea of heroism to young men (and now to women too). The Iraq war was sold like it was a pop star, something sexy to look up to, and snuck into video games and YouTube videos, and the mainstream media mostly didn’t question. We saw stronger, fiercer critiques of war from our pop music than we did from the people we were supposed to look to for guidance.

The selling of war has informed our pop culture as much as any previous stars have. Where fame was something that happened to stars before, Lady Gaga launched a full-on assault on the culture and scrambled her way to the top, planted a designer six-inch heel and raised her flag. More so even than Madonna, she has learned her technique from America itself. As much as sexiness, violence and a sense of unease and even voyeurism saturate her music and her videos.

Tom Ewing at popular music criticism site Pitchfork wrote of Gaga entering her “imperial phase,” a line he took from the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant. Something about the phrase is so right, as he notes: “It holds a mix of world-conquering swagger and inevitable obsolescence. What do we know about emperors? That they end up naked: The phase always ends.”

Command and self-definition are two of Ewing’s requirements for the pop imperial phase. These are obvious: like any nation’s imperialism, they require not only the ability to get there but having a concept that can be packaged and exported. The U.S. didn’t create an empire by invading each time; we have imposed our idea of America on the world, as often through selling and spreading pop culture as through selling weapons and dropping bombs. Gaga is not only a metaphor for American imperialism, she is part of it.

But the third requirement Ewing lists is the most interesting. He says, “Stars have to get through this barrier — they need a kind of permission to become imperial.” But a few sentences later he notes that Gaga “grabbed this permission,” calling into question his own definition of the word — if it’s something you can grab, after all, what kind of permission is it?

Does it mean, perhaps, that Gaga, or the U.S. had to make themselves palatable, package themselves well so that you want to take them home and love them, even want to be loved by them? The popular YouTube video of the former Stefani Germanotta, before she became Lady Gaga, performing on a piano, her hair long and brown, singing her heart out, still an NYU student, is compelling but ultimately forgettable — making herself blonde and pretty as well as covered in glitter and couture is part of the persona. The package is all-important, the right colors and shine.

The U.S. cannot drop its veneer, its own belief in its benevolence, or the whole charade falls apart. We are perhaps more dangerous now under Obama, with a sheen of multiculturalism, change, democracy, than we were under Bush, who provoked the world’s hatred by not caring what they wanted. He imposed American empire; Obama looks for permission.

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

Lady Gaga is almost unavoidable in the world of mass pop culture. Just type one L into YouTube search, as I did while writing this article, and “Lady Gaga” is the first suggested response. In part because she is the first true Internet-age pop star, the first one who has mastered the use of YouTube instead of MTV to release videos-as-cultural-events, in part because of her aforementioned “imperial phase.” On the other hand, you have to get as far as I-R-A before “Iraq war” is even a suggested option in Google. More people want to learn about inspirational quotes or the band Iron Maiden, it seems, than the war.

Gaga is the monster. She’s embraced the term, loves it. Re-releasing her album The Fame as The Fame Monster, adding tracks and self-awareness at the same time, she knows that her appeal lies in subversion as much as anything else, that she attracts and repels simultaneously. That she is blonde and thin and scantily clad — American as blonde-apple-pie — but also consciously twists and misshapes her body, slathers on makeup and impossible shoes, adds oversized eyes and a protruding spine. She’s a female-to-female drag queen, playing with the artifice of Western femininity, showing it for the performance it is, showing the ugliness just below the surface.

The third-wave feminist line “fuck your fascist beauty standards” comes to mind; in her most recent “Alejandro” video she is consciously playing with fascist beauty imagery. Gaga’s soldiers are perfectly sculpted mostly-naked boys, Aryan, white, uniform, dressed in black. She’s made whiteness itself into an army (in a song where she fetishizes a Spanish-named boy with the crude line “hot like Mexico”), while she makes a weapon out of her body, strapping machine guns to her breasts as she dances surrounded by her leatherclad soldierboys, while she simulates violent sex with herself in the top position, the “male” position.

In her video for the song “Telephone” she also plays with the rumor that she’s a hermaphrodite or a transgender woman, even while reasserting (through the mouths of two prison guards whose bodies hardly fit gender norms themselves) her femininity?one guard to another “I told you she didn’t have a dick” — she is replanting the idea in people’s heads that behind that blurred-out box over her genitals there might be something threatening. And her rendition of a “cell block tango” inverts prison stereotypes, all white women, tattooed and studded and snarling.

The real-life Gaga has embraced the gay community, not only in her ambiguous sexuality in her videos and her toying with rumors about her biological sex, but literally, speaking at the National Equality March and thanking the gay community even when appearing on The Today Show. Gaga is not only America’s dominant cover girl pop star, but she chooses to align herself with a marginalized community over and over again. While even Obama, elected with the gay community’s support, quietly disappoints, Gaga reminds over and over that this marginalized community is part of America too.

While sexuality is always present in her videos, Gaga often plays as well with the idea of wounds, of injury, of disability. She shows up to award show performances splashed in fake blood, puts herself in a wheelchair in the “Paparazzi” video, then crutches. While we see bloodless warfare on the nightly news and photographs of actual dead soldiers arecause for controversy, Gaga’s fake blood gets the media talking. She features burned-out bodies (the video for “Bad Romance”) or diners full of poisoned corpses(“Telephone”); she makes a cool 911 call at the end of “Paparazzi” and informs the operator “I just killed my boyfriend. Indiscriminate murder is one of Gaga’s themes. She reminds us that American culture is drenched in blood, and couples those images with constant references to her own fame.

She seems to ask with each outrageously violent image: since she is famous, can she do whatever she wants?

Gunshots By Computer

It seems our favorite pastime has become our most fair future Technology has failed us, gunshots by computer

“Gunshots by computer,” Saul Williams’ line, is the best single phrase to sum up the new horrors of warfare, the new age of drone-dominance. Not only are most of us detached from the consequences of war, now even those who fight it are detached from it.

We’ve had a cultural obsession with machines growing beyond our control for years, from the Terminator movies to The Matrix. We fear creating monsters in the machine, but we don’t stop moving forward with technology that we can’t quite control: we don’t seem to be able to see the connection between those fears and the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, say, or our ongoing deficit spending to finance wars. It’s not the machines that are growing too human; it’s that we are dehumanizing ourselves.

Ann Powers noted that part of Gaga’s appeal is that “She’s tapped into one of the primary obsessions of our age — the changing nature of the self in relation to technology, the ever-expanding media sphere, and that sense of always being in character and publicly visible that Gaga calls ‘the fame’ — and made it her own obsession, the subject of her songs and the basis of her persona.”

Of course Powers probably intends reference more to communication technology, to our on-demand lifestyles, than she does to warfare. Yet Gaga has embraced artifice, created a pretty pop persona, then makes herself threatening with false eyes and a protruding spine, commits murder, makes her very body a weapon. In the “Alejandro” video she takes Madonna’s “bullet” bra to a whole new level with actual guns on her breasts. She is conducting pop dominance as warfare, though disguised in nonsense words and club beats.

She makes herself into a weapon while America pulls itself further away from the scene of the killing. If we can operate drones in Pakistan, a country where we haven’t declared war, from an office in South Dakota — if we can wiretap people at home without warrants — where is the battlefield? Where is the home front? Where are we? What are our limits? If we enter Lady Gaga’s cultural universe, we might wonder if we have any.

James Parker, at the Atlantic traces Gaga’s trail of destruction through pop: “She’s finishing it off, each of her productions gleefully laying waste to another area of possibility.” She is, he says, the Last Pop Star. She’s on top for now, the appropriate star for a country and an empire in decline. When she is gone, what will be left?

Despite Profits, US Corporations Won’t Hire American Workers

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘Big American companies may never rehire large numbers of workers. And they won’t even begin to think about hiring until they know American consumers will buy their products. The problem is, American consumers won’t start buying against until they know they have reliable paychecks.’ Most corporations only allegiance is to there share holders. Profit is Paramount.”

From Robert Reich @ Robert Reich.org:

Second-quarter earnings reports are coming in, and they’re making Wall Street smile. Corporate profits are up. And big American companies are sitting on a gigantic pile of money. The 500 largest non-financial firms held almost a trillion dollars in the second quarter, and that money pile is growing larger this quarter. Profits that plummeted in the recession have bounced back. Big businesses have recovered almost 90 percent of what they lost.

So with all this money and profit, they’ll start hiring again, right? Wrong – for three reasons.

First, lots of their profits are coming from their overseas operations. So that’s where they’re investing and expanding production.

GM now sells more cars in China than it does in the US, but makes most of them there. The company now employs 32,000 hourly workers in China. But only 52,000 GM hourly workers remain in the United States – down from 468,000 in 1970.

GM isn’t just hiring low-tech assembly workers in China. Last week the firm broke ground there on a $250 million advanced technology center to develop batteries and other alternative energy sources.

You and I and other American taxpayers still own over 60 percent of GM. We bought GM to save GM jobs, remember?

GM officials say no American taxpayer money is being used to expand in China. But money is fungible. Because of our generosity, GM can now use the dollars it doesn’t have to spend in the United States meeting its American payrolls and repaying its creditors, for new investments in China.

Second, big U.S. businesses are investing their cash in labor-saving technologies. This boosts their productivity, but not their payrolls.

Last Friday, for example, Ford reported a $2.6 billion second-quarter profit. The firm is already more than two-thirds the way to equaling its record 1999 profits. But due to labor-saving technologies, Ford now has half as many employees as it did a decade ago.

Wall Street analysts are happy with Ford’s “commitment to keeping capacity in check,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Ford shares rose 5.2 percent Friday. “Keeping capacity in check” is the Street’s way of saying “no new hiring.” In fact, the Street is advising investors to sell the stocks of companies that talk openly of expanding capacity.

Finally, corporations are using their pile of money to pay dividends to their shareholders and buy back their own stock – thereby pushing up share prices.

Last Friday, GE announced it would raise its dividend by 20 percent and reinstate its share-buyback plan. It’s GE’s first dividend increase since the company cut its dividend in early 2009. As a result, GE shares are up more than 5% in the past few days.

Bottom line: Higher corporate profits no longer lead to higher employment. We’re witnessing a great decoupling of company profits from jobs.

The next supply-side economist who tells you companies need more incentive (i.e. lower taxes) before they’ll hire is living on another planet.

U.S. Supreme Court Under Roberts Is Most Conservative In Decades

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 at 10:05 am

Analysts believe that the Roberts court is unlikely to be swayed from its conservative trend by new members.

Oldspeak:” The Citizens United ruling is the tip of the iceberg. Civil rights, reproductive rights, affirmative action, progressive laws will all be rolled back or overturned in the coming years. Sotomayor and Kagan will have a negligible impact on the courts’ ideological slant to the right.”

From Adam Liptak @ The New York Times:

When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and his colleagues on the Supreme Court left for their summer break at the end of June, they marked a milestone: the Roberts court had just completed its fifth term.

In those five years, the court not only moved to the right but also became the most conservative one in living memory, based on an analysis of four sets of political science data.

And for all the public debate about the confirmation of Elena Kagan or the addition last year of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, there is no reason to think they will make a difference in the court’s ideological balance. Indeed, the data show that only one recent replacement altered its direction, that of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006, pulling the court to the right.

There is no similar switch on the horizon. That means that Chief Justice Roberts, 55, is settling in for what is likely to be a very long tenure at the head of a court that seems to be entering a period of stability.

If the Roberts court continues on the course suggested by its first five years, it is likely to allow a greater role for religion in public life, to permit more participation by unions and corporations in elections and to elaborate further on the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Abortion rights are likely to be curtailed, as are affirmative action and protections for people accused of crimes.

The recent shift to the right is modest. And the court’s decisions have hardly been uniformly conservative. The justices have, for instance, limited the use of the death penalty and rejected broad claims of executive power in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism.

But scholars who look at overall trends rather than individual decisions say that widely accepted political science data tell an unmistakable story about a notably conservative court.

Almost all judicial decisions, they say, can be assigned an ideological value. Those favoring, say, prosecutors and employers are said to be conservative, while those favoring criminal defendants and people claiming discrimination are said to be liberal.

Analyses of databases coding Supreme Court decisions and justices’ votes along these lines, one going back to 1953 and another to 1937, show that the Roberts court has staked out territory to the right of the two conservative courts that immediately preceded it by four distinct measures:

¶In its first five years, the Roberts court issued conservative decisions 58 percent of the time. And in the term ending a year ago, the rate rose to 65 percent, the highest number in any year since at least 1953.

The courts led by Chief Justices Warren E. Burger, from 1969 to 1986, and William H. Rehnquist, from 1986 to 2005, issued conservative decisions at an almost indistinguishable rate — 55 percent of the time.

That was a sharp break from the court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, from 1953 to 1969, in what liberals consider the Supreme Court’s golden age and conservatives portray as the height of inappropriate judicial meddling. That court issued conservative decisions 34 percent of the time.

¶Four of the six most conservative justices of the 44 who have sat on the court since 1937 are serving now: Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Antonin Scalia and, most conservative of all, Clarence Thomas. (The other two were Chief Justices Burger and Rehnquist.) Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the swing justice on the current court, is in the top 10.

¶The Roberts court is finding laws unconstitutional and reversing precedent — two measures of activism — no more often than earlier courts. But the ideological direction of the court’s activism has undergone a marked change toward conservative results.

¶Until she retired in 2006, Justice O’Connor was very often the court’s swing vote, and in her later years she had drifted to the center-left. These days, Justice Kennedy has assumed that crucial role at the court’s center, moving the court to the right.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in June, had his own way of tallying the court’s direction. In an interview in his chambers in April, he said that every one of the 11 justices who had joined the court since 1975, including himself, was more conservative than his or her predecessor, with the possible exceptions of Justices Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The numbers largely bear this out, though Chief Justice Roberts is slightly more liberal than his predecessor, Chief Justice Rehnquist, at least if all of Chief Justice Rehnquist’s 33 years on the court, 14 of them as an associate justice, are considered. (In later years, some of his views softened.)

But Justice Stevens did not consider the question difficult. Asked if the replacement of Chief Justice Rehnquist by Chief Justice Roberts had moved the court to the right, he did not hesitate.

“Oh, yes,” Justice Stevens said.

The Most Significant Change

“Gosh,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said at a law school forum in January a few days after the Supreme Court undid one of her major achievements by reversing a decision on campaign spending limits. “I step away for a couple of years and there’s no telling what’s going to happen.”

When Justice O’Connor announced her retirement in 2005, the membership of the Rehnquist court had been stable for 11 years, the second-longest stretch without a new justice in American history.

Since then, the pace of change has been dizzying, and several justices have said they found it disorienting. But in an analysis of the court’s direction, some changes matter much more than others. Chief Justice Rehnquist died soon after Justice O’Connor announced that she was stepping down. He was replaced by Chief Justice Roberts, his former law clerk. Justice David H. Souter retired in 2009 and was succeeded by Justice Sotomayor. Justice Stevens followed Justice Souter this year, and he is likely to be succeeded by Elena Kagan.

But not one of those three replacements seems likely to affect the fundamental ideological alignment of the court. Chief Justice Rehnquist, a conservative, was replaced by a conservative. Justices Souter and Stevens, both liberals, have been or are likely to be succeeded by liberals.

Justices’ views can shift over time. Even if they do not, a justice’s place in the court’s ideological spectrum can move as new justices arrive. And chief justices may be able to affect the overall direction of the court, notably by using the power to determine who writes the opinion for the court when they are in the majority. Chief Justice Roberts is certainly widely viewed as a canny tactician.

But only one change — Justice Alito’s replacement of Justice O’Connor — really mattered. That move defines the Roberts court. “That’s a real switch in terms of ideology and a switch in terms of outlook,” said Lee Epstein, who teaches law and political science at Northwestern University and is a leading curator and analyst of empirical data about the Supreme Court.

The point is not that Justice Alito has turned out to be exceptionally conservative, though he has: he is the third-most conservative justice to serve on the court since 1937, behind only Justice Thomas and Chief Justice Rehnquist. It is that he replaced the more liberal justice who was at the ideological center of the court.

Though Chief Justice Roberts gets all the attention, Justice Alito may thus be the lasting triumph of the administration of President George W. Bush. He thrust Justice Kennedy to the court’s center and has reshaped the future of American law.

It is easy to forget that Justice Alito was Mr. Bush’s second choice. Had his first nominee, the apparently less conservative Harriet E. Miers, not withdrawn after a rebellion from Mr. Bush’s conservative base, the nature of the Roberts court might have been entirely different.

By the end of her almost quarter-century on the court, Justice O’Connor was without question the justice who controlled the result in ideologically divided cases.

“On virtually all conceptual and empirical definitions, O’Connor is the court’s center — the median, the key, the critical and the swing justice,” Andrew D. Martin and two colleagues wrote in a study published in 2005 in The North Carolina Law Review shortly before Justice O’Connor’s retirement.

With Justice Alito joining the court’s more conservative wing, Justice Kennedy has now unambiguously taken on the role of the justice at the center of the court, and the ideological daylight between him and Justice O’Connor is a measure of the Roberts court’s shift to the right.

Justice O’Connor, for her part, does not name names but has expressed misgivings about the direction of the court.

“If you think you’ve been helpful, and then it’s dismantled, you think, ‘Oh, dear,’ ” she said at William & Mary Law School in October in her usual crisp and no-nonsense fashion. “But life goes on. It’s not always positive.”

Justice O’Connor was one of the authors of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that, among other things, upheld restrictions on campaign spending by businesses and unions. It was reversed on that point in the Citizens United decision.

Asked at the law school forum in January how she felt about the later decision, she responded obliquely. But there was no mistaking her meaning.

“If you want my legal opinion” about Citizens United, Justice O’Connor said, “you can go read” McConnell.

The Court Without O’Connor

The shift resulting from Justice O’Connor’s departure was more than ideological. She brought with her qualities that are no longer represented on the court. She was raised and educated in the West, and she served in all three branches of Arizona’s government, including as a government lawyer, majority leader of the State Senate, an elected trial judge and an appeals court judge.

Those experiences informed Justice O’Connor’s sensitivity to states’ rights and her frequent deference to political judgments. Her rulings were often pragmatic and narrow, and her critics said she engaged in split-the-difference jurisprudence.

Justice Alito’s background is more limited than Justice O’Connor’s — he worked in the Justice Department and then as a federal appeals court judge — and his rulings are often more muscular.

Since they never sat on the court together, trying to say how Justice O’Connor would have voted in the cases heard by Justice Alito generally involves extrapolation and speculation. In some, though, it seems plain that she would have voted differently from him.

Just weeks before she left the court, for instance, Justice O’Connor heard arguments in Hudson v. Michigan, a case about whether evidence should be suppressed because it was found after Detroit police officers stormed a home without announcing themselves.

“Is there no policy protecting the homeowner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?” Justice O’Connor asked a government lawyer. David A. Moran, a lawyer for the defendant, Booker T. Hudson, said the questioning left him confident that he had Justice O’Connor’s crucial vote.

Three months later, the court called for reargument, signaling a 4-to-4 deadlock after Justice O’Connor’s departure. When the 5-to-4 decision was announced in June, the court not only ruled that violations of the knock-and-announce rule do not require the suppression of evidence, but also called into question the exclusionary rule itself.

The shift had taken place. Justice Alito was in the majority.

“My 5-4 loss in Hudson v. Michigan,” Mr. Moran wrote in 2006 in Cato Supreme Court Review, “signals the end of the Fourth Amendment” — protecting against unreasonable searches — “as we know it.”

The departure of Justice O’Connor very likely affected the outcomes in two other contentious areas: abortion and race.

In 2000, the court struck down a Nebraska law banning an abortion procedure by a vote of 5 to 4, with Justice O’Connor in the majority. Seven years later, the court upheld a similar federal law, the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, by the same vote.

“The key to the case was not in the difference in wording between the federal law and the Nebraska act,” Erwin Chemerinsky wrote in 2007 in The Green Bag, a law journal. “It was Justice Alito having replaced Justice O’Connor.”

In 2003, Justice O’Connor wrote the majority opinion in a 5-to-4 decision allowing public universities to take account of race in admissions decisions. And a month before her retirement in 2006, the court refused to hear a case challenging the use of race to achieve integration in public schools.

Almost as soon as she left, the court reversed course. A 2007 decision limited the use of race for such a purpose, also on a 5-to-4 vote.

There were, to be sure, issues on which Justice Kennedy was to the left of Justice O’Connor. In a 5-to-4 decision in 2005 overturning the juvenile death penalty, Justice Kennedy was in the majority and Justice O’Connor was not.

But changing swing justices in 2006 had an unmistakable effect across a broad range of cases. “O’Connor at the end was quite a bit more liberal than Kennedy is now,” Professor Epstein said.

The numbers bear this out.

The Rehnquist court had trended left in its later years, issuing conservative rulings less than half the time in its last two years in divided cases, a phenomenon not seen since 1981. The first term of the Roberts court was a sharp jolt to the right. It issued conservative rulings in 71 percent of divided cases, the highest rate in any year since the beginning of the Warren court in 1953.

Judging by the Numbers

Chief Justice Roberts has not served nearly as long as his three most recent predecessors. The court he leads has been in flux. But five years of data are now available, and they point almost uniformly in one direction: to the right.

Scholars quarrel about some of the methodological choices made by political scientists who assign a conservative or liberal label to Supreme Court decisions and the votes of individual justices. But most of those arguments are at the margins, and the measures are generally accepted in the political science literature.

The leading database, created by Harold J. Spaeth with the support of the National Science Foundation about 20 years ago, has served as the basis for a great deal of empirical research on the contemporary Supreme Court and its members. In the database, votes favoring criminal defendants, unions, people claiming discrimination or violation of their civil rights are, for instance, said to be liberal. Decisions striking down economic regulations and favoring prosecutors, employers and the government are said to be conservative.

About 1 percent of cases have no ideological valence, as in a boundary dispute between two states. And some concern multiple issues or contain ideological cross-currents.

But while it is easy to identify the occasional case for which ideological coding makes no sense, the vast majority fit pretty well. They also tend to align with the votes of the justices usually said to be liberal or conservative.

Still, such coding is a blunt instrument. It does not take account of the precedential and other constraints that are in play or how much a decision moves the law in a conservative or liberal direction. The mix of cases has changed over time. And the database treats every decision, monumental or trivial, as a single unit.

“It’s crazy to count each case as one,” said Frank B. Cross, a law and business professor at the University of Texas. “But the problem of counting each case as one is reduced by the fact that the less-important ones tend to be unanimous.”

Some judges find the entire enterprise offensive.

“Supreme Court justices do not acknowledge that any of their decisions are influenced by ideology rather than by neutral legal analysis,” William M. Landes, an economist at the University of Chicago, and Richard A. Posner, a federal appeals court judge, wrote last year in The Journal of Legal Analysis. But if that were true, they continued, knowing the political party of the president who appointed a given justice would tell you nothing about how the justice was likely to vote in ideologically charged cases.

In fact, the correlation between the political party of appointing presidents and the ideological direction of the rulings of the judges they appoint is quite strong.

Here, too, there are exceptions. Justices Stevens and Souter were appointed by Republican presidents and ended up voting with the court’s liberal wing. But they are gone. If Ms. Kagan wins Senate confirmation, all of the justices on the court may be expected to align themselves across the ideological spectrum in sync with the party of the president who appointed them.

The proposition that the Roberts court is to the right of even the quite conservative courts that preceded it thus seems fairly well established. But it is subject to qualifications.

First, the rightward shift is modest.

Second, the data do not take popular attitudes into account. While the court is quite conservative by historical standards, it is less so by contemporary ones. Public opinion polls suggest that about 30 percent of Americans think the current court is too liberal, and almost half think it is about right.

On given legal issues, too, the court’s decisions are often closely aligned with or more liberal than public opinion, according to studies collected in 2008 in “Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy” (Oxford University Press).

The public is largely in sync with the court, for instance, in its attitude toward abortion — in favor of a right to abortion but sympathetic to many restrictions on that right.

“Solid majorities want the court to uphold Roe v. Wade and are in favor of abortion rights in the abstract,” one of the studies concluded. “However, equally substantial majorities favor procedural and other restrictions, including waiting periods, parental consent, spousal notification and bans on ‘partial birth’ abortion.”

Similarly, the public is roughly aligned with the court in questioning affirmative action plans that use numerical standards or preferences while approving those that allow race to be considered in less definitive ways.

The Roberts court has not yet decided a major religion case, but the public has not always approved of earlier rulings in this area. For instance, another study in the 2008 book found that “public opinion has remained solidly against the court’s landmark decisions declaring school prayer unconstitutional.”

In some ways, the Roberts court is more cautious than earlier ones. The Rehnquist court struck down about 120 laws, or about six a year, according to an analysis by Professor Epstein. The Roberts court, which on average hears fewer cases than the Rehnquist court did, has struck down fewer laws — 15 in its first five years, or three a year.

It is the ideological direction of the decisions that has changed. When the Rehnquist court struck down laws, it reached a liberal result more than 70 percent of the time. The Roberts court has tilted strongly in the opposite direction, reaching a conservative result 60 percent of the time.

The Rehnquist court overruled 45 precedents over 19 years. Sixty percent of those decisions reached a conservative result. The Roberts court overruled eight precedents in its first five years, a slightly lower annual rate. All but one reached a conservative result.

The New Pentagon Papers: WikiLeaks Releases 90,000+ Secret Military Documents Painting Devastating Picture of Afghanistan War

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Taliban militants drove through Musa Qala, a southern Afghan town, in a Ford pickup truck, that very kind of vehicle the United States had provided the Afghan Army and police force.

Oldspeak:“HOOOO-LEEEEY SHIT. What a clusterfucking SNAFU this “war” is.  Thank christ for WikiLeaks, If we had to rely on corporate media solely, shit like this would never come to light. Thousands of civilians dead, TALBAN using U.S. equipment against the U.S. Army, U.S. Mercenaries running wild, Pakistan supporting  the insurgency. It don’t get no betta! WOW. WOWOWOWOWOW.”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Related Story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/26/world/asia/26isi.html

It’s one of the biggest leaks in US military history. More than 90,000 internal records of US military actions in Afghanistan over the past six years have been published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The documents provide a devastating portrait of the war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, how a secret black ops special forces unit hunts down targets for assassination or detention without trial, how Taliban attacks have soared, and how Pakistan is fueling the insurgency. We host a roundtable discussion with independent British journalist Stephen Grey; Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg; former State Department official in Afghanistan, Matthew Hoh; independent journalist Rick Rowley; and investigative historian Gareth Porter.

Guests:

Stephen Grey, independent journalist based in London. He has been reporting from Afghanistan for the past few years. He is author of Operation Snakebite: The Explosive True Story of an Afghan Desert Siege. He recently interviewed Julian Assange for Channel 4.

Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower.

Rick Rowley, independent journalist with Big Noise Films He just returned from a six-week trip to Afghanistan, where he was embedded with a Marine division in Marjah.

Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps captain in Iraq and former State Department official in Afghanistan. He is the first-known US official to resign in protest over the Afghan war.

Gareth Porter, investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s one the biggest leaks in US military history. More than 90,000 internal records from US military actions in Afghanistan over the past six years have been published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The documents provide a devastating portrait of the war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, how a secret black ops special forces unit hunts down targets for assassination or detention without trial, how Taliban attacks have soared, and how Pakistan is fueling the insurgency. WikiLeaks made the files available this week to the New York TimesThe Guardian of London and the German weeklyDer Spiegel, who agreed simultaneously to publish their reports on Sunday.

The documents, most of them classified as secret, give a blow-by-blow account of the war in Afghanistan between January 2004 and December of 2009. The findings include detailed reports on 144 attacks on civilians by coalition forces, ranging from the shootings of individuals to massive air strikes, resulting in hundreds of casualties; how a secret black ops special forces unit named Task Force 373 hunts down targets for assassination or detention without trial. The so-called “kill or capture” list of senior Taliban and al-Qaeda figures includes more than 2,000 names and is known as JPEL, the Joint Prioritized Effects List. The files also reveal how coalition forces are increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

The records reveal there has a been a steep rise in Taliban attacks on coalition troops and that the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles. In addition, the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation on their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

And the files reveal NATO commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fueling the insurgency. According to the New York Times, the records suggest Pakistan allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, spoke about the files in an interview with independent journalist Stephen Grey for Channel 4 in Britain.

    JULIAN ASSANGE: We have released 91,000 reports about Afghanistan from the United States military. The reports cover the period from 2004 to 2010 in minute detail. They cover essentially all US military operations, with the exclusion of some special forces operations and the CIA. It covers each civilian kill, each military kill that has been internally reported, where it happened, and when it happened. It is the most comprehensive history of a war to have ever been published during the course of a war.

    STEPHEN GREY: And how significant is that?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent disclosure made during the course of a war, during the time where it might have some effect. The nearest equivalent is perhaps the Pentagon Papers released by Daniel Ellsberg in the ’70s. That was about 10,000 pages. But already that was about four years old by the time it was released.

    STEPHEN GREY: And how many pages in your report?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: There’s about 200,000 pages in this material. Pentagon Papers was about 10,000 pages.

    STEPHEN GREY: What can you tell us about the source of this material? How do you know it’s—how do you know it’s true?

    JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, we know from looking at, you know, the material, correlating with the public record, speaking to confidential military sources, that this material is true and accurate. As to the specific source, obviously we can’t comment.

AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The White House has condemned the publication of the files by WikiLeaks. In a statement, National Security Adviser Jim Jones said, quote, “We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations, which puts the lives of the US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security.” Jones went on to say, quote, “The documents posted by Wikileaks reportedly cover a period of time from January 2004 to December 2009. On December 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years,” he said.

Well, today we’re spending the hour on this unprecedented release of documents during the war with a roundtable of guests. Here in our New York studio we’re joined by Rick Rowley, independent journalist with Big Noise Films, just returned from a six-week trip to Afghanistan, where he was embedded with a Marine division in Marjah. Joining us from Washington, DC, is Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps captain in Iraq and former State Department official in Afghanistan, the highest-level US official to resign in protest over the Afghan war. Also in DC, Gareth Porter, investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy.

But first we go to London to speak to independent journalist Stephen Grey, who has spent the past few years reporting from Afghanistan and recently interviewed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about this massive leak. He’s author of Operation Snakebite: The Explosive True Story of an Afghan Desert Siege. And we’ll go to Daniel Ellsberg in Mexico, perhaps the country’s most famous whistleblower, who leaked the secret history of the Vietnam War that many are comparing this massive document leak to, 92,000 documents.

Stephen Grey, let’s go to you first. You spent a good deal of this weekend with Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is responsible for this leak. First, talk about its significance and what he understood he was doing when he released these documents.

STEPHEN GREY: Well, I think this is part of, you know, WikiLeaks’s strategy. I mean, it’s been a—it’s a snowball that started with fairly minor disclosures into something that is, you know, absolutely game changing. I mean, I think that this leak is phenomenal. It’s almost an act of sort of cyber war journalism. I mean, this has completely compromised the US military’s secret system. It’s called SIPRNet. It’ll probably cost them a billion dollars, I think, to fix it. And this is only the beginning. I mean, if what we’re hearing is true, there are thousands and thousands of more documents to come out here. But, you know, the actual contents are also really significant. I’ve been spending the weekend as well looking through, as far as you can in a short period of time, these 90,000 documents, you know, looking at mentions of these task forces. They’re special forces task forces. I actually wrote about this Task Force 373 before.

But it’s really the extent of it. I mean, you know, I’m sure some of the other people you’ve got on today have also seen firsthand, you know, incidents like death of civilians. But it’s really in the totality of it all that it becomes shocking. It’s the fact that you’ve got absolutely everything here. OK, not the most secret stuff, but it gives an absolutely compelling portrait. I think it will take months, if not years, to really analyze it. It is—you know, the papers this morning, particularly The Guardian in London, I think have done a very good job pulling together some of its conclusions. But, you know, it is incredible to see the raw detail there, and I think it will pull together an actually—an incredible picture of war.

AMY GOODMAN: As we are broadcasting this show today, the news conference is going on in London that Julian Assange is holding, revealing all of this. I wanted to turn to Daniel Ellsberg in Mexico. You’re hearing of this release. Your response?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: I’m very impressed by the release. It is the first release in thirty-nine years or forty years, since I first gave the Pentagon Papers to the Senate, of the scale of the Pentagon Papers, and not the first as it should have been. I would—how many times in those years should there have been the release of thousands of pages showing our being lied into war in Iraq, as in Vietnam, and the nature of the war in Afghanistan? I hope there will be—I hope this will inspire, despite the charges brought against Manning under the UC, under the Universal Code of Military Justice, which is not civilian law, it’s not First Amendment law. It’s the military law, so he’s in deep water here, as I think he expected. But nevertheless, I hope people will not be deterred from realizing that they have the responsibility that, according to the reports we’ve had of what Manning said in chat logs to the informant, Adrian Lamo, that realize that there is great deception going on, that there is, in Manning’s reported words, horrific material, almost criminal, as he put it, which deserve to be in the public domain, that they will consider doing what’s been done here, and that is risking their own career and their clearance and even their liberty, maybe for life, in order to save many lives. So, whoever did this—and Manning is charged with it—it remains to be seen whether the government can prove a case against him in the particular charges, but in terms of what he’s reported to have said to Lamo, I admire very much the spirit in which he did this. He said that he felt the public needed to know this and that he was prepared to go to prison, even for life—he said that—or even to be executed. That’s the first person I’ve heard in forty years who is in the same state of mind that I was forty years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Grey, just to clarify, Dan Ellsberg is talking about Private First Class Bradley Manning, who was in Iraq, had—says he released these documents. He has now been arrested by the military. What did Julian Assange say about Bradley Manning? And this came out in his conversations with Lamo, another blogger online.

STEPHEN GREY: Yeah, I mean, like Daniel Ellsberg, he has, you know, praised what Bradley Manning has said about what he’s doing, but he has not confirmed that he’s the source. I mean, it’s one of the beauties, if you like, of this technology that Julian Assange and his colleagues at WikiLeaks have developed, is that it actually protects the source. So what Julian Assange told me was that he himself does not know who the source is. What they do is verify documents, not sources themselves. So they’re not able to actually verify that that was him. But, I mean, what was striking to me was that Bradley Manning said in his so-called confessions to this informer that he had released 265,000 documents to WikiLeaks. Now, they’ve published 95,000; they say they’ve held back 15,000. Add that up, I think there’s 110,000. So less than half of what he’s handed over has actually been published yet. So there’s—you know, if he indeed is the leak—and I suppose you can—it looks pretty likely—then there’s a lot more to come.

AMY GOODMAN: He’s been charged with passing on fifty State Department cables. We’re talking about the largest document release in US history, outside of Dan Ellsberg, the—actually, including Dan Ellsberg, in the course of a war. Ninety-two thousand pages are being released by WikiLeaks, the website, Julian Assange holding a news conference now in London. Daniel Ellsberg is on the phone with us from Mexico. Stephen Grey, who spent much of the weekend with Julian Assange, is on with us from London. We’ll be joined by others when we come back. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, he released the Pentagon Papers. WikiLeaks is being compared to that. It’s the largest release of secret documents in history. More than 92,000 records, that’s more than 200,000 pages, have now been released online. Rick Rowley is with us, just back from Afghanistan, with Big Noise Films. Gareth Porter is with us in Washington, DC. Stephen Grey, in London, just interviewed Julian Assange for Channel 4. And Matthew Hoh, highest-level government official to quit his position in Afghanistan because of the war there, also a Marine Corps captain.

Matthew Hoh, I want to go to you. You worked with Task Force 373.

MATTHEW HOH: Loosely. It’s a very integrated—with these special forces operations, I hope people aren’t getting the idea that, at least of last year, they’re off by themselves running amok. It’s a fairly well-integrated operation that spans political efforts, as well. I’ll give you an example. As a political officer, you would review the target lists to make sure you weren’t—we weren’t killing or going after anyone who was actually working with us. A lot of times what happens—the point was made that we kill the wrong people. Well, you know, sometimes we get the right guy, but he’s actually just somebody who’s been turned in by someone who’s got a grudge against him.

One of the things I hope people see from these documents is how complex the nature of war is, how difficult war actually is. And so, the question has to be asked, Is it worth it? What we’re asking our young men and women to do, is it worth putting them through this? And what benefit is it to the United States?

But the other point about the special operations raids, these capture-kill missions, if this worked, if this was a viable method, we would have won this thing back in ’04 or ’05, you know? And the other point, too, about Dan’s—Dan Ellsberg’s excellent point about the strength of the Taliban, I’m in complete agreement. If you actually go back and look at comments made by General Barno, who was the commanding general of American forces in ’04 and ’05, back then he was saying there were only 2,000 Taliban. Last summer they said it was 40,000. And I concur with Dan Ellsberg. We’ve sent 30,000 more troops into southern Afganistan, and that probably has exponentially increased the strength of the Taliban, because we see the Taliban get their support because of resistance to foreign occupation and resistance to a corrupt and unrepresentative government.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Grey, the newspapers that WikiLeaks worked with in releasing this—and it’s still all just being digested. It’s less than twenty-four hours ago. By the way, Eric Schmitt, the reporter for the New York Times, said they’ve been working with the White House now for weeks and carefully going through and redacting names and other sources that might be compromised, said the White House was fully aware of what’s in these documents. And he actually said Julian Assange has agreed to hold back a number of documents to go through that kind of redacting process before they’re released. But Stephen Grey, The Guardian write, “In many cases, the unit has set out to seize”—talking about Task Force 373—”seize targets for internment, but in others it has simply killed them without attempting to capture. The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed civilian men, women and children and even Afghan police officers who have strayed into its path.”

STEPHEN GREY: Well, that’s right. And I’ve been looking through those same documents. I mean, they do show a lot of people are captured; it’s not just a kill operation. But on the other hand, they are systematically using methods that don’t allow you to capture. For example, there was one missile strike that they used to try and take out one person they were supposedly trying to capture, and, you know, it killed a bunch of children instead. And they tried to—you see them trying to prevent that information being released to anyone other than themselves. And it is quite shocking.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to Gareth Porter in Washington, DC. Talk more about the significance, what you think is most important to highlight here, as we go through these hundreds of thousands of pages of top-secret documents, classified documents.

GARETH PORTER: Well, again, I mean, there are very few things here that have not, in some fashion, been reported by the news media over the last—particularly over the last year or so. But there is one set of documents, in particular, that I thought were particularly insightful in terms of revealing the basic nature of the society and of the Afghan government that the United States is supporting, and that is a set of documents that show, for example, a police commander, a district police commander, who had raped a sixteen-year-old girl and who was confronted with a civilian complaining about this rape. He ordered his bodyguard, according to this report, to shoot the civilian. The bodyguard refused to do so, and then the police commander simply killed his own bodyguard in order to basically deal with the situation. This sort of laid bare the basic structure that the United States has stumbled into, or, perhaps I should say, has allowed itself to take control of, and—or tried to take control of, and I think what it shows is that this is a war that not only cannot be won, but in which the United States is on the wrong side.

And I just want to make one more point about the releases, and that is that I think that the real story here, the most important story, is WikiLeaks itself. I think what we have here is a new institution that is undoubtedly the most important antiwar institution that has been created so far and that I have no doubt is frightening the US military and intelligence establishment, as well as the Obama administration, very strongly. And I think that’s for very good reason. I think they understand that this represents a potentially powerful weapon for the future against war crimes as well as other illegal actions by the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m going to give, for the last few seconds, Daniel Ellsberg the last word, as we come full circle from Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, that you had released at tremendous risk to yourself, to WikiLeaks right now and this unprecedented release of top-secret documents.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, this is the closest that I’ve come to what I’ve been calling for for years, and that is for people to do not what I did, which is to wait years, until bombs were falling and until more countries have been invaded or escalation, before revealing documents to Congress and the public through the press. And now, of course, we have a way of doing that, thanks to WikiLeaks, that does bypass the press, even if they are reluctant to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: OK.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Daniel Ellsberg, for joining us. Thank you to Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films; Gareth Porter in Washington, DC; Stephen Grey in London, author of Operation Snakebite. And Matthew Hoh, thanks so much for joining us.

U.S. Strike On Iran Likelier Than Ever, Former CIA Chief Says

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Oldspeak:“Anyone with half a brain knows that the quickest way to bankrupt the U.S., open it up to terrorist attacks worldwide, and start a never-ending shitstorm in the Middle East is to pick a fight with Iran, that the U.S. can’t even afford to finish. Can’t the U.S. Gov’t just come out and say it’s implementing phase 3 of “The Wolfowitz Doctrine” in the middle east and stop with all this bullshit about Iran being a threat to the region? IT’S AN OIL GRAB, PLAIN AS DAY!”

From The Associated Press & Haaretz:

A former CIA director says military action against Iran now seems more likely because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program.

Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, said that during his tenure “a strike was way down the list of options.” But he tells CNN’s State of the Union that such action now “seems inexorable.”

“In my personal thinking,” Hayden said, “I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes.”

Hayden said that the likelihood of a U.S. strike on Iran has rises in face of Tehran’s defiance to halt its contentions nuclear program, saying “We engage. They continue to move forward.”

“We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward,” he added.

The former CIA chief predicted Iran, in defiance of the international community, planned to “get itself to that step right below a nuclear weapon, that permanent breakout stage, so the needle isn’t quite in the red for the international community.”

Hayden said that reaching even that level would be “as destabilizing to the region as actually having a weapon.”

The United States, the United Nations and the European Union have imposed new restrictions on Iran over its nuclear enrichment activities, which the West fears could lead it to make a bomb.

The fourth round of U.N. sanctions calls for measures against new Iranian banks abroad if a link to the nuclear or missile programs is suspected and for vigilance on transactions with any Iranian bank, including the central bank.

On Saturday, several key Iranian officials estimated that the United States and Israel would not dare attempt a military strike of Iran’s nuclear sites, adding that they were confident that Iranian forces would easily repel such an attempt.

The United States, which has ships in the Persian Gulf, has not ruled out a military strike to thwart what it suspects is an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Iran denies its atomic program is aimed at making weapons.

Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted an aide to the country’ Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday as saying that Israel and the United States would never strike Iran, saying that “both the U.S. and Zionist regime face internal problems and they know that we make many troubles for them if they attack Iranian territory.”

Yahya Rahim Safav told ISNA that Iran’s armed forces were “fully prepared and enemies are aware of that, they do not have the power to take a political decision on the issue, because they know they can start the war but are not able to finish it.”

“Wwe need to be fully vigilant of these attacks, the enemy knows that it will regret if launches a land strike against Iran.” Safavi said.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted the commander of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad-Ali Ja’fari as saying that the United States would not dare to attack Iran as it is fully aware of Iran’s defense power and its nation’s determination.

Ja’fari also said, according to the IRNA report, that he considered his forces’ preparedness as being at their “highest level,” adding that recent sanctions imposed on Iran in view of its contentious nuclear program would have no impact on Iran’s potency.

Also Saturday, a former naval chief in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said his country has set aside 100 military vessels to confront each U.S. warship that poses a threat.
General Morteza Saffari is quoted by the conservative weekly Panjereh Saturday as saying that troops aboard U.S. warships “are morsels for Iran to target in the event of any American threat against Iran.”

In 2008, Iran put its most powerful military force, the Revolutionary Guard, in charge of defending the country’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, a vital oil route.
Speaking with the semi-official Fars news agency, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said that the increased U.S. pressure on Iran were prompted by Washington’s desire to advance its “propaganda campaign “and gain control of the region.

Fars quotes Vahidi as saying that a military strike on Iran was unlikely, adding that Israel too was “uttering such remarks in a bid to reduce the growing international pressures through psychological warfare,” Vahidi told Fars.

“We, too, advise them not to seek trouble and tension in the region through spoiling the atmosphere,” Vahidi said.

BP’s Scheme to Swindle the “Small People”

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 11:41 am

Clint Guidry, the Louisiana shrimp harvester representative on the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force created by executive order of Gov. Bobby Jindal, has called BP "liars" and "killers.

Oldspeak:“Gulf Coast fishermen who have no livelihoods because of BP’s criminal negligence, and are now cleaning up BPs mess, are having the meager wages they’re being paid to do so deducted from compensation BP owes them for destroying their lives. Unbelievable the balls on these people.”

From Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

Gulf Coast fishermen and others with lost income claims against BP are outraged by a recent announcement that the $20 billion government-administered claim fund will subtract money they earn by working on the cleanup effort from any future damage claims against BP. This move, according to lawyers in Louisiana working on behalf of Louisiana fishermen and others affected by the BP oil disaster, contradicts an earlier BP statement in which the company promised it would do no such thing.

Kenneth Feinberg, who was appointed by President Obama as the independent administrator of the Gulf Claims Facility for the $20 billion BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster compensation fund, said yesterday that the wages earned by people working on BP’s cleanup will be deducted from their claims against the company.

He said the fund is designed to compensate fishermen and others for their lost income, and if BP is already paying someone to help skim oil and perform other cleanup work, those wages will be subtracted from the amount they’re eligible to claim from the fund.

Attorney Stephen Herman, one of two interim liaison counsel for cases pending in the eastern district of Louisiana before Judge Carl J. Barbier, told Truthout he has spoken with Feinberg and that this recent announcement contradicts an earlier statement made by BP, in which the company clearly said it would not do this.

A letter dated May 2, 2010, from Herman’s firm, Herman, Herman, Katz & Cotlar LLP, in New Orleans, sent to Murray Greene in BP’s Legal Department, asked Greene to confirm in writing that BP agreed to destroy voluntary waiver and release forms issued to response workers at a meeting in Venice, Louisiana, and stated:

“Lastly, we inquired as to BP’s position with respect to any future claim of credit or set-off due to payments made to individuals who are assisting BP in mitigating its exposure to individuals and others for the unprecedented environmental and human losses as a result of this incident. It is our position that since my clients are effectively helping BP minimize its own future exposure as well as attempting to preserve the wetlands and the environment that BP ought not to seek any offset or reduction of claims as a result of any payments made to these individuals who courageously take on the dirty work of cleaning up BP’s mess.”

The next day, May 3, A.T. Chenault, a lawyer representing BP, responded in writing via letter stating, “We have no personal knowledge of the presentation of a Voluntary Waiver and Release to numerous people from Plaquemines Parish in Venice, Louisiana. However, it is the position of BP that any such documents will be rescinded and not binding on anyone signing same.”

Chenault’s letter concluded with a statement that directly contradicts Feinberg’s recent announcement.

“Lastly, we confirm that BP will not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have,” wrote Cheault, who is with the firm Fowler, Rodriguez, Valdes-Fauli.

Today, during a speech at the Economics Club in Washington, Feinberg appeared to be attempting to dissuade claimants from filing lawsuits against BP.

“You’re crazy to do so, though,” Feiberg said. “Because under this program, you will receive, if you’re eligible, compensation without having to go to court for years, without the uncertainty of going to court, since I’ll be much more generous than any court will be. And at the same time, you won’t need to pay lawyers and costs.”

Do you like this? Please click here now to support Truthout’s work.

The move is being seen by many as an attempt by Feinberg to sell the compensation fund to victims, so as to prevent more lawsuits against BP.

Herman told Truthout that he believes Feinberg has said things that “are not consistent,” and that Feinberg “may not have been familiar” with the aforementioned agreement by BP to “not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have.”

Herman, who has already met with Feinberg on several occasions, said he expects to meet up with Feinberg’s law partner, Michael Rozen, “very soon.”

Attorney Robert Wiygul in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, represents many fishermen involved in BP’s oil response program, and told Truthout he “finds it very troubling” that BP and Feingold appear to be trying to position themselves to avoid future compensation claims from fishermen, as opposed to handling it on a year-to-year basis.

Clint Guidry is a Louisiana fisherman, and is on the board of directors of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. He is also the shrimp harvester representative on the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force created by executive order of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Guidry told Truthout that he believes Feinberg is “trying to limit BP’s liability,” adding that “every time Feinberg announces something he changes what he said before.”

According to Guidry, Feinberg first proposed a partial claim settlement that would provide settlement checks for up to three years. This would have allowed fishermen to determine if there were “holes in the ecosystem.”

If the oil disaster kills off enough shrimp, for example, there would be no shrimping season next year, and no way for shrimpers to earn a living.

“But now his new plan is to do away with that by having folks take a settlement,” Guidry added. “There’s not much of his program I like. It appears he is protecting BP.”

On May 24, in Galliano, Louisiana, Guidry testified to a delegation of US senators, congressmen and various Obama administration departments and agencies. He said:

“BP committed fraud in furnishing oil-spill-response data required to obtain a permit to enable them to drill the MC 252 location. The reality is they were not prepared to handle or control a blowout and resulting oil spill of this magnitude. Simply put, they lied.

“BP, in their haste to cut corners and save money in the completion process on the well location at MC 252, exhibited willful neglect in their duties to complete the well safely, which led to the blowout and explosion that killed 11 people. Eleven souls that will never come back. Eleven families with mothers and fathers and wives and children. Children who will never see their fathers again.

“This neglect and loss of life constitutes negligent homicide and all involved should be arrested and charged as such.”

Guidry told Truthout he believes, “There has been a BP cover-up from day one,” and “the US government, OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], the Coast Guard, NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health], all of them are in on it.”

Guidry is very concerned about the health of the fishermen he represents, of which there are approximately 600, who are working on the oil response for BP.

“These people are putting their health at risk by working for them, and now look at how they are being treated,” Gui

This morning, Herman sent this letter to Rozen and Feinberg:

“Dear Mr. Rozen and Mr. Feinberg,

“It was reported in the local media last night that BP (presumably thru the Claims Facility) was going to take a credit or offset for payments to fishermen and others engaged in the Vessels of Opportunity and/or other clean-up/remediation efforts against what is owed to them for lost profits and/or diminished earning capacity.

“Please note that BP very early on agreed not to do this. (See Letter from BP Counsel A.T. Chenault to my partner Jim Klick dated May 3, 2010.)”

Herman also provided Truthout with an email he sent to persons concerned with BP’s and Feinberg’s recent moves, in which he expressed concern with the procedures of the Claims Facility. While Herman stated that Feinberg and Rozen “have attempted to answer some of these questions, (with perhaps some inconsistency), no one — it seems — has ever seen a document signed off on by BP.”

Herman asked, “What, specifically, has BP committed to do? What, specifically, has BP given Mr. Feinberg (as an “independent” agent or administrator) the authority to agree to on behalf of BP? The attached letter was sent to BP’s local counsel here in New Orleans on July 3rd. We have still not received a formal response, and, to my knowledge, no one (including Mr. Feinberg) has seen a formal written document (other than a White House Press Release) that purports to be authored by, signed by, agreed to or otherwise binding on BP. So, it would seem to be time to start asking BP (and/or the administration) : Where is BP? Or, perhaps stated another way: Where’s the beef?”

On June 1, BP Board Chairman Henric Svanberg stated, “[President Obama] is frustrated because he cares about the small people, and we care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care, but that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people.”

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