Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday’s News And Views Aggregation…Complete. War Crimes Prosecutor Seeks Arrest of Gadhafi

Monday’s News And Views Aggregation…Complete. War Crimes Prosecutor Seeks Arrest of Gadhafi

You may have missed this due to the deluge of news about the ongoing Fukushima nuclear incident, flooding in the United States, and of course the killing of Osama bin Laden. But WikiLeaks has been busy creating another splash, this time in Japan.
Much like the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel have done with their Afghanistan and Iraq war logs, the Asahi Shimbun has started publishing translations and analyses of US embassy cables that pertain to Japan. The Asahi received approximately 7,000 cables from WikiLeaks in January, some of which are being made publicly available online here.

To be sure, there have been no groundbreaking revelations in these leaks—so far. But assuming that the information in these leaks is genuine, there was one bit of information that I thought was still particularly noteworthy.
A cable from December 2008 appears to show the Japanese government’s efforts to intentionally inflate two numbers regarding the planned relocation to Guam of the controversial US air base in Futenma.  
First, an estimate for construction costs totalling a billion dollars for a road, which the United States ‘would not consider…an absolute prerequisite for the completion of the relocation,’ was added to the total cost of the Guam relocation ‘as a way to increase the overall cost estimate…and thereby reduce the share of total costs borne by Japan.’ (08TOKYO3457).

As the Asahi points out, the cost burden for Japan under this arrangement would be reduced from two-thirds to less than 60 percent by increasing the total cost of relocation from $9.2 billion to $10.2 billion.

Second, the numbers of US Marines and their dependents to be transferred from Okinawa to Guam through this relocation process was also apparently exaggerated. The cable states that the transfer of 8,000 marines and 9,000 dependents ‘were deliberately maximized to optimize political value in Japan, but the two sides knew that these numbers differed significantly from actual Marines and dependents assigned to units in Okinawa (my emphasis added).’ (08TOKYO3457).

The goal of this chicanery was most likely to render these numbers more palatable to the Japanese public in order to push ahead with the relocation. However, this seems at best an unnecessary—and at worst self-defeating—manipulation by the Japanese government for three reasons.
First, whether this legerdemain had the effect of significantly increasing the support for the relocation is highly doubtful. A lower overall cost burden is better than a higher one, of course. But regardless of whether it is two-thirds or 60 percent, the majority of the costs would still be borne by Japan. The same logic can be applied to the number of relocated personnel as well, and one wonders how much better 8,000 really sounds to the Japanese public than 6,000 or 5,000.
Perhaps more importantly, though, knowingly deceiving the public through numbers that simply aren’t true ultimately hurts the government’s credibility. Although this revelation pales in comparison with the disclosure of secret nuclear weapons agreements between Japan and the United States during the 1960s, it nevertheless reinforces the already existing weariness of the public towards the secret dealings of government.
Above all, bloating the numbers in order to mislead the public fosters what I think has been a crucial flaw in Japan’s public discourse—a serious lack of public debate on national security. The issue of national security has been deemed off-limits in public discourse for the last several decades, partly owing to the strong antimilitaristic sentiment still alive among the Japanese public. This has been slowly changing following the changes in the external environment, but the issue of national security is still rarely debated in a public forum, much less made a serious issue in political campaigns.
The Japanese government should disclose accurate information regarding the costs that the public would be bearing for the relocation. Only then can we, the public, take the next step toward discussing critical issues of national security. Are the costs incurred for relocation cost-efficient in terms of securing Japan from external threats? What exactly are these threats, and how serious are they for the people of Japan? Is strengthening bilateral ties between Japan and the United States the most cost-efficient way to deal with these threats, or are different approaches such as strengthening other bilateral ties or fostering multilateralism better?
Secrecy may have been an important aspect of diplomatic negotiations for centuries, but it’s hard to justify this particular sleight of hand. The Japanese public is smart enough to process accurate details and come up with the answers to the questions regarding national security themselves—there’s no need to withhold information to ‘nudge’ us in the ‘right’ direction. Continuing to do so would only rekindle criticism that Japanese bureaucrats are paternalistic and elitist, which would be yet another distraction from the profoundly important issues facing this country.
Akira Igata is a doctoral student at Keio University and a research fellow at the Research Institute for Peace and Security.

Gingrich Slams Ryan Plan as 'Right Wing Social Engineering'
Sunday, 15 May 2011 07:31
Surprising many conservatives, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stirred a lively debate Sunday by slamming Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to reform Medicare on NBC's "Meet the Press."

In what one popular conservative website described as Gingrich "tacking left," the now-declared presidential candidate dismissed a plan popular among many conservatives as "radical change" that he suggested was dangerous for Republicans to embrace heading into an election year.

The House budget chairman's plan is designed to move to a system where seniors receive vouchers to buy private insurance. It has been endorsed by the majority of House Republicans.

But Gingrich said it was "too big a jump. I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options."

"I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change," he continued.

"I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," Gingrich said. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."

Gingrich has instead called for a system that would preserve the current Medicare program alongside a voluntary, privatized version. But nothing he has said came close to the blast he unleashed on his own party's top priority in Congress.

"There are specific things you can do," Gingrich explained to NBC's David Gregroy. " At the Center for Health Transformation, which I helped found, we published a book called "Stop Paying the Crooks." We thought that was a clear enough, simple enough idea, even for Washington. We--between Medicare and Medicaid, we pay between $70 billion and $120 billion a year to crooks.

And IBM has agreed to help solve it, American Express has agreed to help solve it, Visa's agreed to help solve it. You can't get anybody in this town to look at it. That's, that's almost $1 trillion over a decade. 

So there are things you can do to improve Medicare."

Ryan, meanwhile, defended it during an appearance on the CNN program "State of the Union."

"We have got to reform this program for the next generation if we're going to save it for the next generation and that's what we're proposing to do," the Wisconsin Republican said.

Ryan's spokesman Conor Sweeney took issue with Gingrich calling the plan "radical", saying the Ryan budget "remains the only serious proposal put forward on either end on Pennsylvania Avenue that saves Medicare."

"The solutions offered by Chairman Ryan and House Republicans make no changes to Medicare for those in and near retirement, while offering a strengthened, personalized program that future generations can count on when they retire," Sweeney told National Review Online's Robert Costa.

"Far from claims of radicalism, the gradual, common-sense Medicare reforms ensure that no senior will be forced to reorganize their lives because of government's mistakes. The most 'radical' course of action on Medicare is continue to cling to the unsustainable status quo," Sweeney said.

Gingrich Backs Obama-Style Individual Mandate Requiring Health Insurance

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that he strongly supports a federal mandate requiring citizens to buy health insurance – a position that has been rejected by many Republicans, including several who likely will be running against him for the Republican presidential nomination.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gingrich told host David Gregory that he continues to advocate for a plan he first called for in the early 1990s as a congressman, which requires every uninsured citizen to purchase or acquire health insurance.

Gregory played a clip of Gingrich speaking during an appearance on "Meet the Press" in October 1993:
"I am for people, individuals — exactly like automobile insurance -- individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance. And I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals, on a sliding scale, a government subsidy so we insure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.”

Gregory asked Gingrich if he would criticize GOP presidential rival Mitt Romney, whose "Romneycare" health program enacted during his time as governor in Massachusetts mandated that all uninsured purchase health insurance.
Gingrich replied he would not make it an issue in the campaign and said he agreed with key aspects of Romneycare.

"I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay — help pay for health care," Gingrich said, adding, "I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond ..."

Gingrich also admitted that his proposal is a "variation" of the individual mandate, a key component of the health care legislation President Obama signed into law in 2010.
The position staked out by Gingrich appears to be at odds with leading conservative critics of Obama's reform, who argue that the law requiring citizens to purchase a private insurance policy is not constitutional.

The Obama administration is currently facing three lawsuits arguing that the federal mandate is unconstitutional, including one filed by a coalition of 26 states.

The issue is on track for a Supreme Court decision in the summer of 2012, which would make it a likely hot-button topic heading into the elections.

Gingrich's position quickly came under fire from several conservative blogs on Sunday.

“He tried to distinguish his mandate from the Obama mandate, but with little success,” the American Federalist Journal wrote on Sunday.

“Sandbagging your fellow Republicans in Congress and offering tacit support for a key (unconstitutional) component of Obamacare is a very strange way to begin a run in a Republican primary. Not a strong start.”

The Wall Street Journal called Gingrich’s description of an ideal healthcare plan with mandates a “pretty good description of what the Democratic Congress passed into law last year."

The Journal continued: "Beginning in 2014, most Americans who don't have insurance will be required to pay a fee, with many, depending on income, getting subsidies to help buy coverage through state-based exchanges.”

The conservative website Red State said Gingrich's position “won’t exactly endear him to the Tea Party crowd or the reform minded movement sweeping the GOP.”

Palestinians Break Syrian Border On Day Of Protests
In a historic, coordinated protest at the Lebanese, Syrian, West Bank, and Gazan borders with Israel, Palestinian refugees crossing border, many killed.

At Legal Deadline, U.S. Seeks Ways to Continue War in Libya 13 May 2011 President Obama and his legal advisers are deliberating about how the United States military may lawfully continue participating in NATO's bombing campaign in Libya after next week, when the air war will reach a legal deadline for terminating combat operations that have not been authorized by Congress. Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a president must terminate such operations 60 days after he has formally notified lawmakers about the introduction of armed forces into actual or imminent hostilities. The Libya campaign will reach that mark on May 20.

White House: Libya 'mission' to go on until Gadhafi stops 13 May 2011 The U.S. and NATO will continue military operations in Libya as long as Moammar Gadhafi keeps attacking his people Exxon Mobil doesn't have the oil, the White House said Friday as top U.S. officials met in Washington with leaders of the 'Libyan' opposition. The meetings come as a deadline nears on the 60-day window President Barack Obama has to keep the U.S. military involved in the Libya campaign without congressional approval. While lawmakers do not appear likely to enforce the limits outlined in the War Powers Resolution, U.S. officials said they are looking for ways to keep U.S. action in Libya in compliance.

'Libya rebels' seek funds in White House meeting 12 May 2011 'Libyan rebels' will meet senior White House officials in Washington Friday, seeking both cash and diplomatic legitimacy in their war to topple Muammar Gaddafi. The head of the rebel National Transitional Council's executive bureau, Mahmoud Jebril, will meet President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, and other senior officials, the White House said in a statement. Jebril, a U.S.-educated technocrat [LOL] who has become the public face of the rebel council, made a plea for Washington to free some $180 million in frozen Gaddafi funds to fund the rebels fighting to end his rule.

NATO airstrikes kill 16 civilians in Libya 13 May 2011 NATO warplanes have dropped bombs on a civilian center in the key Libyan city of Brega, killing at least 16 people and wounding 40 others. Libyan state television announced on Friday that the air raid targeted a guest house in the city. Residents say most of the victims were Muslim clerics who had gathered there for a religious ceremony.

Iraq dossier drawn up to make case for war - intelligence officer --Newly released evidence to Chilcot inquiry directly contradicts Blair government's claims about dossier 12 May 2011 A top military intelligence official has said the discredited dossier on Iraq's weapons programme was drawn up "to make the case for war", flatly contradicting persistent claims to the contrary by the Blair government, and in particular by Alastair Campbell, the former prime minister's chief spin doctor. In hitherto secret evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, Major General Michael Laurie said: "We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care."

7/7 bombers 'were innocent patsies' 10 May 2011 A man sent a DVD to bereaved families from the July 7 attacks claiming the four London suicide bombers were "innocent patsies", a court has been told. One of the packages included a letter to John Hyman telling him his daughter Miriam did not die in the Tavistock Square bus blast but was murdered by the security services at Canary Wharf in London, Southwark Crown Court was told. Annabel Darlow, prosecuting, told the jury: "The video which you will watch as part of the evidence in this case was one which stated that the bombings which took place in London on July 7 2005 were in fact the product of a government conspiracy."

CIA has created own Taliban to wreak terror havoc on Pakistan, claims Pak paper 12 May 2011 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives have infiltrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda networks, and have created their own Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) force in order to destabilise Pakistan, a Pakistani newspaper has claimed... According to sources, the CIA's operations, which were suspended in Balochistan, Punjab, Islamabad and other areas of the country after the Raymond Allen Davis (RAD) incident, have also been restored. Responding to a query, the sources said that the CIA operatives have infiltrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda networks, and have created their own TTP force, the paper said.

 This force has been recruited, trained and equipped by these CIA operatives to target the Pakistan Army personnel, armed forces' installations, markets, hospitals, schools and public places to destabilise Pakistan, the paper added. The paper quoted the sources, as claiming that the Soviet Intelligence Agency had already disclosed that CIA contractor Raymond Davis and his network had provided Al-Qaeda operatives with chemical, nuclear and biological weapons, so that US installations may be targeted and Pakistan be blamed, and pressed to do more in areas such as conducting operations in North Waziristan.

Explosions kill 80 in NW Pakistan 13 May 2011 At least 80 people have been killed and 140 others injured in twin blasts at a military training center in Pakistan's northwestern city of Charsadda. The explosions took place at about 6:10 a.m. local time Friday morning at the Frontier Constabulary training site, AFP reported. The police chief of the northwestern Charsadda district, Nisar Khan Marwat, said the attacks occurred when newly-trained cadets, wearing civilian clothes, were getting into buses to go on a 10-day leave after the end of their training course.

Dozens of NATO trucks burn in Pakistan 13 May 2011 A powerful blast in Pakistan's troubled northwestern tribal belt has set two dozen NATO vehicles, heading for US-led foreign forces in neighboring Afghanistan, ablaze. The Friday explosion took place near the Torkham border crossing in the Khyber tribal region. Several fuel tankers were completely destroyed in the explosion. Pakistani authorities say the cause of the blasts is unknown.

Girl, 12, Killed in NATO Raid on Wrong Afghan Home 13 May 2011 A raid in Kabul by NATO troops singled out the wrong house, and 12-year-old Nelofar was killed along with her uncle, who was the target of the raid, because he was incorrectly believed to be a local Taliban leader. It was the third time in the past 18 months that raids had caused civilian casualties in Surkhrod District, which is just outside Jalalabad, the largest city in eastern Afghanistan.

Ireland arrests 'Taliban Terry' over threats to kill Obama 13 May 2011 Police have arrested Ireland's most notorious Muslim convert after he openly declared in a newspaper interview that he wanted U.S. President Barack Obama killed when he arrives. Khalid Kelly, real name Terry Kelly and known by Dubliners as 'Taliban Terry', was arrested at his home in Ireland's capital on suspicion of threatening to kill the U.S. leader. He can be held and questioned for up to three days before being arrested but it is thought he will be released without charge.

U.S. Bombs Kirtland Air Force Building in 'Search of Security Clues' 12 May 2011 A building at Kirtland Air Force base in New Mexico recently was the target of a bombing, to 'help the government' test precautions against real attacks on embassies overseas. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is charged with protecting United States embassies overseas, gave Fox News exclusive access to the bombing of the building to test the capability of new retrofits and technology it used to construct this mock embassy. It has taken years of research and development to get to this point, where they will place their work in the line of an improvised explosive device (IED) designed to mimic a car bomb.

Senate Bill Gives Feds Power to Order Blacklisting of Websites 12 May 2011 Senate antipiracy legislation introduced Thursday would dramatically increase the government's legal power to disrupt and shutter websites "dedicated to infringing activities." A major feature of the Protect IP Act, introduced by 11 senators of all stripes, would grant the government the authority to bring lawsuits against these websites, and obtain court orders requiring search engines like Google to stop displaying links to them.

Nuclear meltdown at Fukushima plant 12 May 2011 One of the reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant did suffer a nuclear meltdown, Japanese officials admitted for the first time today, describing a pool of molten fuel at the bottom of the reactor's containment vessel. Engineers from the Tokyo Electric Power company (Tepco) entered the No.1 reactor at the end of last week for the first time and saw the top five feet or so of the core's 13ft-long fuel rods had been exposed to the air and melted down. Now the company is worried that the molten pool of radioactive fuel may have burned a hole through the bottom of the containment vessel, causing water to leak.

Fukushima reactor has a hole, leading to leakage --Water leaking from No. 1 reactor, complicating shutdown --Uncertain where radioactive water leaking -utility --Melted, collapsed fuel being cooled by water pumps 12 May 2011 One of the reactors at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has a hole in its main vessel following a meltdown of fuel rods, leading to a leakage of radioactive water, its operator said on Thursday. The disclosure by Tokyo Electric Power Co is the latest indication that the disaster was worse than previously disclosed, making it more difficult to stabilize the plant. The battle to bring Fukushima under control has been complicated by repeated leaks of radioactive water, threatening both the Pacific Ocean and nearby groundwater.

Problems cited with nuclear backup power --Report comes as panel deems US sites safe 13 May 2011 Nuclear plant emergency generators like those that failed in Japan following the March earthquake and tsunami also failed during tests at the Seabrook Station in New Hampshire and 32 other US plants in the past eight years, according to a report by US Representative Edward J. Markey's office. The report was issued yesterday by the Malden Democrat's office as a federal task force vouched for the safety of the nation's nuclear plants in the aftermath of the Japanese crisis, triggered in part by the failure of backup generators at one plant.

Ron Paul launches 2012 presidential run in "spirit of liberty" 13 May 2011 Ron Paul, the Texas congressman whose libertarian-infused beliefs have put him at odds with Republican orthodoxy, launched his third presidential campaign in New Hampshire Friday, telling an Exeter town hall audience that "the people have awoken." "The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building," he said. "Our time has come." Paul said that the federal government should not be an "intervener," either in personal liberty or foreign policy.

'Put your pants on and leave': Senate report reveals sordid details of top Republican's affair with aide's wife --Case referred to Justice Department and Federal Election Committee at end of 22-month probe 14 May 2011 Sordid details emerged today about the affair conducted between disgraced Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign and his mistress Cynthia Hampton following a 22-month probe. Ensign faces possible criminal charges in the wake of the scathing report which was released today by the Senate. His case has now been referred to the Justice Department and Federal Election Committee. The married father-of-three was forced to resign after it emerged he was having an extra-marital affair with his aide and best friend's wife. In the wake of the affair it is alleged that he also helped Cynthia Hampton's husband Doug find a lobbying job and gave them $96,000 as a 'gift'.

Governor signs Arizona-style immigration bill into law --New Georgia law will now empower police to check status, require employer verifications 13 May 2011 Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Friday signed one of the nation's toughest immigration enforcement measures into law amid threats of court challenges and economic boycotts targeting Georgia. Partly patterned after a stringent law Arizona enacted last year, Georgia's House Bill 87 empowers police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects.

The town that faces being wiped off the map: Flood waters engulf every single home in Mississippi community 13 May 2011 With the Mississippi River 10ft out of its banks and heading towards a crest (peak) of 48ft on the Memphis gauge, county planners and emergency management officials fear that flood waters will enter nearly all the now-abandoned homes on the unprotected side of the levee. On the bloated Mississippi River, the town of Tunica Cutoff, sits an hour's drive south of Memphis - recent flood waters have done significant damage to the town's housing and has left residents wondering if they'll have a community to return to when the water recedes. CBS News reports that there are about 300 homes in the small town, and they have all been flooded.

Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown Confirmed
Grudgingly the truth comes out but still most of it concealed.
The EPA will test for radiation in milk once every three months. This is inadequate. We need a comprehensive program for testing food for radiation levels.
The Detainee Security Act eliminates any process under which prisoners captured by the US military can establish their innocence. If you're caught by the military, then you're guilty; it's as simple as that. if the bill is passed, Guantanamo Bay will stay open forever and prisoners will continue to be deprived of due process.
One expected to see fear, tension, and people hiding in homes, ubiquitous police and partially hidden and disguised security personnel in the shadows, watching from behind tinted glassed cars, curtained windows and from roof tops. I expected to see military vehicles, empty streets after dusk, reticence to discuss politics, tense faces on the streets.
Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson noted Thursday in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee that this year's oil prices don't make any economic sense, though that's not quite how he put it. He said that current fundamentals and production costs would dictate oil in the range of $60 to $70 a barrel. That's at least $43 cheaper than this year's highs of $113 a barrel reached on April 29 and May 2
By paul craig roberts
Creating the bin Laden Reality
The government has created another reality for us proles. We won again. Us white hats got the black hat, just like in the western movie. Fantasy is better than fact, and us good guys are on a roll. It makes everybody happy, even those who have lost their jobs, their houses, their pensions.
Torture is not simply illegal, immoral and ineffective. It is also counter-productive. Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified before Congress that the two most effective recruiting tools for those who would do harm to our soldiers in Iraq were Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. When people see the U.S. government torturing detainees from their countries, they resent us even more.
Since 9/11 the U.S. military and national security agencies in the U.S. have been mobilized to pursue a phantom enemy, vastly inflated in Western imagination so much so that every Muslim activist or religiously observant is transformed and looked at as a potential terrorist or a threat.
In mid-march Americans read the increasingly panic-stricken reports of meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant in Japan and asked: "Can it happen here?' They already know the answer. As the late great environmentalist, David Brower, used to put it, "Nuclear plants are incredibly complex technological devices for locating earthquake faults.' Along much of America's West Coast runs the Ring of Fire, which stretches all around the Pacific plate from Australia, north past Japan, to Russia, Alaska, and down the coast to Chile. Some 90 per cent of the world's earthquakes happen around the Ring.
The Dude in the film The Big Lebowski is a character for these crazy times noted for the militarization and financialization of every facet of Americans life. The Dude is a beloved member of the peace movement who makes us peace activists laugh at ourselves with love.
In Libya for the past 42 years of autocratic rule by Gaddafi, books in the socio-political sphere had to either be about him or his imposed philosophy extolled in his "Green Book", while everything else was subject to censorship. Now all that is changing in the liberated areas of Libya, especially Benghazi.
Whistleblowers are a lot like submariners- we are a silent service. I would have been toast without it. Somehow, I bluffed my way into Devine's office as a desperate hail Mary,and he gave me the early survival guide. It told me exactly what to do, and how to survive. I walked out of his office and totallly turned the situation around, and achieved a victory.So,I can attest that his book saved at least one POC-whistleblower.
By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
Our Kind of Traitor
In Our Kind of Traitor, LeCarre pulls no punches in describing the takeover of British and US intelligence by a corrupt criminal element, supported by even more corrupt corporate and government sponsors.
Late lamented comic Bill Hicks took on the corporatocracy in a way that makes the current crop of "progressive" comics like Bill Maher and John Stewart seem pathetic.
Charsadda blasts signal that the Taliban will be the 'new' al-Qaeda for the Af-Pak region, while the "real' al-Qaeda will shift focus to West Asia particularly Yemen and possibly Iraq. It raises the question: When will Washington learn to look beyond the immediate? Accepting half-hearted support and duplicity neither serves American interests nor does crying "foul' enhance its global stature
By Bob Patterson
UCB Law School holds gaduation ceremonies for class of 2011
Need permission to torture? Who ya gonna call?
They did it for the oil. They did it for the dominance. And they are doing their damnedest to keep doing it. Anyone who supports and champions the elites who seek to perpetuate this abominable gorging on innocent blood -- including cool, progressive Peace Laureates -- is knowingly making themselves morally complicit in this ongoing atrocity.
They weren't murderers or anything; they had merely stolen more money than most people can rationally conceive of, from their own customers, in a few blinks of an eye. But then they went one step further. They came to Washington, took an oath before Congress, and lied about it.
When three of the planned "Trump" buildings encountered financial trouble, it became clear that Mr. Trump had essentially rented his name to the developments and had no responsibility for their outcomes, according to buyers. In each case, he yanked his name off the projects, which were never completed. The buyers lost millions of dollars in deposits even as Mr. Trump pocketed hefty license fees.
Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl will announce his retirement today. Kohl is the sixth Democratic-aligned Senator to step aside in advance of the 2012 election. Two Republicans aren't running for reelection next year. Russ Feingold -- are you listening?
Like all of the Arab Awakening demos that have takern place in recent months, this one is totally nmon-violent. But instead of using people to motivate the crows, it's using cars. Read and see how.

Chomsky's Follies

The professor's pronouncements about Osama Bin Laden are stupid and ignorant.

Anybody visiting the Middle East in the last decade has had the experience: meeting the hoarse and aggressive person who first denies that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center and then proceeds to describe the attack as a justified vengeance for decades of American imperialism. This cognitive dissonance—to give it a polite designation—does not always take that precise form. Sometimes the same person who hails the bravery of al-Qaida's martyrs also believes that the Jews planned the "operation." As far as I know, only leading British "Truther" David Shayler, a former intelligence agent who also announced his own divinity, has denied that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, took place at all. (It was apparently by means of ahologram that the widespread delusion was created on television.) In his recent articlefor Guernica magazine, however, professor Noam Chomsky decides to leave that central question open. We have no more reason to credit Osama Bin Laden's claim of responsibility, he states, than we would have to believe Chomsky's own claim to have won the Boston Marathon.

I can't immediately decide whether or not this is an improvement on what Chomsky wrote at the time. Ten years ago, apparently sharing the consensus that 9/11 was indeed the work of al-Qaida, he wrote that it was no worse an atrocity than President Clinton's earlier use of cruise missiles against Sudan in retaliation for the bomb attacks on the centers of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. (I haven't been back to check on whether he conceded that those embassy bombings were also al-Qaida's work to begin with.) He is still arguing loudly for moral equivalence, maintaining that the Abbottabad, Pakistan, strike would justify a contingency whereby "Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic." (Indeed, equivalence might be a weak word here, since he maintains that, "uncontroversially, [Bush's] crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's.")

So the main new element is the one of intriguing mystery. The Twin Towers came down, but it's still anyone's guess who did it. Since "April 2002, [when] the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it 'believed' that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan," no evidence has been adduced. "Nothing serious," as Chomsky puts it, "has been provided since."

Chomsky still enjoys some reputation both as a scholar and a public intellectual. And in the face of bombardments of official propaganda, he prides himself in a signature phrase on his stern insistence on "turning to the facts." So is one to assume that he has pored through the completed findings of the 9/11 Commission? Viewed any of the videos in which the 9/11 hijackers are seen in the company of Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri?

Read the transcripts of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker"? Followed the journalistic investigations of Lawrence Wright, Peter Bergen, or John Burns, to name only some of the more salient? Acquainted himself with the proceedings of associated and ancillary investigations into the bombing of the USS Cole or indeed the first attempt to bring down the Twin Towers in the 1990s?

With the paranoid anti-war "left," you never quite know where the emphasis is going to fall next. At the Telluride Film Festival in 2002, I found myself debating Michael Moore, who, a whole year after the attacks, maintained that Bin Laden was "innocent until proved guilty" (and hadn't been proven guilty). Except that he had, at least according to Moore one day after the attacks, when he wrote that: "WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden! Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!" So, innocent unless tainted by association with Langley, Va., which did seem to have some heartland flying schools under surveillance before 2001 but which seemed sluggish on the uptake regarding them.

 For quite some time, in fact, the whole anti-Bush "narrative" involved something rather like collusion with the evil Bin Laden crime family, possibly based on mutual interests in the oil industry. So guilty was Bin Laden, in fact, that he was allowed to prepare for a new Pearl Harbor on American soil by a spineless Republican administration that had ignored daily briefings on the mounting threat. Gore Vidal was able to utter many croaking and suggestive lines to this effect, hinting at a high-level betrayal of the republic.

And then came those who, impatient with mere innuendo, directly accused the administration of rocketing its own Pentagon and bringing about a "controlled demolition" of the World Trade Center. This grand scenario seemed to have a few loose planes left over, since the ones that hit the towers were only a grace note to the more ruthless pre-existing sabotage and the ones in Virginia and Pennsylvania, complete with passengers and crews and hijackers, somehow just went missing.

It's no criticism of Chomsky to say that his analysis is inconsistent with that of other individuals and factions who essentially think that 9/11 was a hoax. However, it is remarkable that he should write as if the mass of evidence against Bin Laden has never been presented or could not have been brought before a court. This form of 9/11 denial doesn't trouble to conceal an unstated but self-evident premise, which is that the United States richly deserved the assault on its citizens and its civil society. After all, as Chomsky phrases it so tellingly, our habit of "naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk … [is] as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes 'Jew' and 'Gypsy.' " Perhaps this is not so true in the case of Tomahawk, which actually is the name of a weapon, but the point is at least as good as any other he makes.

In short, we do not know who organized the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or any other related assaults, though it would be a credulous fool who swallowed the (unsupported) word of Osama Bin Laden that his group was the one responsible. An attempt to kidnap or murder an ex-president of the United States (and presumably, by extension, the sitting one) would be as legally justified as the hit on Abbottabad. And America is an incarnation of the Third Reich that doesn't even conceal its genocidal methods and aspirations. This is the sum total of what has been learned, by the guru of the left, in the last decade.

In case you hadn’t noticed, they are -- no kidding around -- absolutely the niftiest non-humans on Earth.  I’m speaking about the special operations force of Navy SEALs that took out Osama bin Laden.  They and their special ops colleagues are “supermen” ( ABC News), “X-men” (Jon Stewart), “America’s Jedi Knights” (the New York Times), and that’s just to pick the odd example in a sea of churning hyperbole.  For the last week, while the bin Laden operation swallowed almost 69% of all news space according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, they have been the most reported upon Xtra Special Soldiers anywhere, possibly of all time -- from the “ square-jawed admiral from Texas” who commanded them right down to the dog (oops... “possible war hero”) they reportedly took along.

In an era when U.S. troops have become little short of American idols, seldom have the media gone quite so nuts as over those SEALs and the other military and CIA “teams” that make up our counterterrorism forces.  You couldn’t pay for this sort of publicity.  It would, in fact, hardly be an exaggeration to say that all of American society has, for the last 10 days, been “embedded” with them. But here’s the strange thing (or perhaps I mean the strangest thing of all): if you read most of the over-the-top press about America’s special ops troops, you probably think that they are tiny crews of elite forces divided into even tinier teams trained to dispel global darkness and take out the bin Ladens of the world.

No such thing. Almost a year ago, the Washington Post reported that there were at least 13,000 U.S. special operations troops deployed overseas in (no, this is not a typo) 75 countries, a significant expansion of these forces in the Obama era.  Since thousands of them remain in the U.S. at any moment, Washington may now have up to 20,000 special operations troops on hand and the odds are that there will be even more after the bin Laden publicity blitz has had a chance to work its charms.  In the latest Pentagon budget, the Obama administration had already asked for $10.5 billion to pay for special forces, a tripling of their budget since 2001 -- and that figure is sure to rise in the years to come, as media slavering turns into congressional slavering.

Keep in mind that this growing set of secret forces cocooned inside the U.S. military, along with the missile-armed pilotless drones fighting the CIA’s semi-secret war in Pakistan (which also got a modest publicity boost from the bin Laden operation), add up to the newly dominant form of American conflict: presidential war fought on the sly and beyond any serious kind of accountability to the American people.  In return for ponying up the necessary dough, for instance, Congress is now practically begging just to be updated on the executive’s counter terror operations four times a year.

As TomDispatch regular and retired Lieutenant Colonel William Astore makes clear, “remote war” on the imperial peripheries of the planet is a direct danger to this country, to us, and it’s growing by the day.  Tom

The killing of Osama bin Laden, “a testament to the greatness of our country” according toPresident Obama, should not be allowed to obscure a central reality of our post-9/11 world.  Our conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya remain instances of undeclared war, a fact that contributes to their remoteness from our American world.  They are remote geographically, but also remote from our day-to-day interests and, unless you are in the military or have a loved one who serves, remote from our collective consciousness (not to speak of our consciences).
And this remoteness is no accident.  Our wars and their impact are kept in remarkable isolation from what passes for public affairs in this country, leaving most Americans with little knowledge and even less say about whether they should be, and how they are, waged.

Speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Chomsky analyzes the U.S. response to the uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. May 11, 2011  

Speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of the national media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky analyzes the U.S. response to the popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. "Across the [Middle East], an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests," Chomsky says. "The reason is very simple... Plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out."
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the 25th anniversary of FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the media watch group in New York, which just celebrated the 25 years of the reports they’ve come out, documenting media bias and censorship, and scrutinized media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.
One of those who addressed the hundreds of people who gathered to celebrate FAIR was the world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky. This is some of what he had to say.
NOAM CHOMSKY: The U.S. and its allies will do anything they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. The reason is very simple. Across the region, an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests. In fact, opposition to U.S. policy is so high that a considerable majority think the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. In Egypt, the most important country, that’s 80 percent. Similar figures elsewhere. There are some in the region who regard Iran as a threat—about 10 percent. Well, plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out. So that’s obviously an intolerable result.
In the case of WikiLeaks, there was an interesting aside on this. The revelations from WikiLeaks that got the most publicity—headlines, euphoric commentary and so on—were that the Arabs support U.S. policy on Iran. They were quoting comments of Arab dictators. Yes, they claim to support U.S. policy on Iran. There was no mention of the Arab—of the Arab population, because it doesn’t matter. If the dictators support us, and the population is under control, then what’s the problem? This is like imperialism. What’s the problem if it works? As long as they can control their populations, fine. They can have campaigns of hatred; our friendly dictators will keep them under control. That’s the reaction not just of the diplomatic service in the State Department or of the media who reported this, but also of the general intellectual community. There is no comment on this. In fact, coverage of these polls is precisely zero in the United States, literally. There’s a few comments in England, but very little. It just doesn’t matter what the population thinks, as long as they’re under control.
Well, from these observations, you can conclude pretty quickly, pretty easily, what policies are going to be. You can almost spell them out. So in the case of an oil-rich country with a reliable, obedient dictator, they’re given free rein. Saudi Arabia is the most important. There were—it’s the most repressive, extremist, strongest center of Islamic fundamentalism, missionaries who spread ultra-radical Islamism from jihadis and so on. But they’re obedient, they’re reliable, so they can do what they like. There was a planned protest in Saudi Arabia. The police presence was so overwhelming and intimidating that literally nobody even was willing to show up in the streets of Riyadh. But that was fine. The same in Kuwait. There was a small demonstration, very quickly crushed, no comment.
Actually, the most interesting case in many respects is Bahrain. Bahrain is quite important for two reasons. One reason, which has been reported, is that it’s the home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, major military force in the region. Another more fundamental reason is that Bahrain is about 70 percent Shiite, and it’s right across the causeway from eastern Saudi Arabia, which also is majority Shiite and happens to be where most of Saudi oil is. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the main energy resource, has been since the '40s. By curious accident of history and geography, the world's major energy resources are located pretty much in Shiite regions. They’re a minority in the Middle East, but they happen to be where the oil is, right around the northern part of the Gulf. That’s eastern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and southwestern Iran. And there’s been a concern among planners for a long time that there might be a move towards some sort of tacit alliance in these Shiite regions moving towards independence and controlling the bulk of the world’s oil. That’s obviously intolerable.
So, going back to Bahrain, there was an uprising, tent city in the central square, like Tahrir Square. The Saudi-led military forces invaded Bahrain, giving the security forces there the opportunity to crush it violently, destroyed the tent city, even destroyed the Pearl, which is the symbol of Bahrain; invaded the major hospital complex, threw out the patients and the doctors; been regularly, every day, arresting human rights activists, torturing them, occasionally a sort of a pat on the wrist, but nothing much. That’s very much the Carothers principle. If actions correspond to our strategic and economic objectives, that’s OK. We can have elegant rhetoric, but what matters is facts.
Well, that’s the oil-rich obedient dictators. What about Egypt, most important country, but not a center of—major center of oil production? Well, in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries of that category, there is a game plan, which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it. But when you have a favored dictator—for those of you who might think of going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it—when there’s a favored dictator and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible, full support as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him—like, say, maybe the army turns against him, business class turns against him—then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old regime, maybe with new names. And that’s done over and over again. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always tried—Somoza, Nicaragua; Shah in Iran; Marcos in the Philippines; Duvalier in Haiti; Chun in South Korea; Mobutu in the Congo; Ceausescu is one of Western favorites in Romania; Suharto in Indonesia. It’s completely routine. And that’s exactly what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia. OK, we support them right to the end—Mubarak in Egypt, right to the end, keep supporting him. Doesn’t work any longer, send him off to Sharm el-Sheikh, pull out the rhetoric, try to restore the old regime. That’s, in fact, what the conflict is about right now. As Amy said, we don’t know where it’s going to turn now, but that’s what’s going on.
Well, there’s another category. The other category is an oil-rich dictator who’s not reliable, who’s a loose cannon. That’s Libya. And there, there’s a different policy: try to get a more reliable dictator. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Of course, describe it as a humanitarian intervention. That’s another near historical universal. You check history, virtually every resort to force, by whoever it is, is accompanied by the most noble rhetoric. It’s all completely humanitarian. That includes Hitler taking over Czechoslovakia, the Japanese fascists rampaging in northeast China. In fact, it’s Mussolini in Ethiopia. There’s hardly any exceptions. So you produce that, and the media and commentators present—pretend they don’t notice that it has no—carries no information, because it’s reflexive.
And then—but in this case, they could also add something else, which has been repeated over and over again, namely, the U.S. and its allies were intervening in response to a request by the Arab League. And, of course, we have to recognize the importance of that. Incidentally, the response from the Arab League was tepid and was pretty soon rescinded, because they didn’t like what we were doing. But put that aside. At the very same time, the Arab League produced—issued another request. Here’s a headline from a newspaper: "Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone." Actually, I’m quoting from the London Financial Times. That wasn’t reported in the United States. Well, to be precise, it was reported in theWashington Times, but basically blocked in the U.S., like the polls, like the polls of Arab public opinion, not the right kind of news. So, "Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone," that’s inconsistent with U.S. policy, so that, we don’t have to honor and observe, and that disappeared.
Now, there are some polls that are reported. So here’s one from theNew York Times a couple days ago. I’ll quote it. It said, "The poll found that a majority of Egyptians want to annul the 1979 peace treaty with Israel that has been a cornerstone of Egyptian foreign policy and the region’s stability." Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s been a cornerstone of the region’s instability, and that’s exactly why the Egyptian population wants to abandon it. The agreement essentially eliminated Egypt from the Israel-Arab conflict. That means eliminated the only deterrent to Israeli military action. And it freed up Israel to expand its operations—illegal operations—in the Occupied Territories and to attack its northern neighbor, to attack Lebanon.
Shortly after, Israel attacked Lebanon, killed 20,000 people, destroyed southern Lebanon, tried to impose a client regime, didn’t quite make it. And that was understood. So the immediate reaction to the peace treaty in Israel was that there are things about it we don’t like—we’re going to have to abandon our settlements in the Sinai, in the Egyptian Sinai. But it has a good side, too, because now the only deterrent is gone; we can use force and violence to achieve our other goals. And that’s exactly what happened. And that’s exactly why the Egyptian population is opposed to it. They understand that, as does everyone in the region.
On the other hand, the Times wasn’t lying when they said that it led to the region’s stability. And the reason is because of the meaning of the word "stability" as a technical meaning. Stability is—it’s kind of like democracy. Stability means conformity to our interests. So, for example, when Iran tries to expand its influence in Afghanistan and Iraq, neighboring countries, that’s called "destabilizing." It’s part of the threat of Iran. It’s destabilizing the region. On the other hand, when the U.S. invades those countries, occupies them, half destroys them, that’s to achieve stability. And that is very common, even to the point where it’s possible to write—former editor of Foreign Affairs—that when the U.S. overthrew the democratic government in Chile and instituted a vicious dictatorship, that was because the U.S. had to destabilize Chile to achieve stability.
 That’s in one sentence, and nobody noticed it, because that’s correct, if you understand the meaning of the word "stability." Yeah, you overthrow a parliamentary government, you install a dictatorship, you invade a country and kill 20,000 people, you invade Iraq and kill hundreds of thousands of people—that’s all bringing about stability. Instability is when anyone gets in the way.
AMY GOODMAN: World-renowned political dissident and linguist, Noam Chomsky, speaking at the 25th anniversary of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

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