On April 18 U.S. Air Forces in Europe began the largest air exercise in the history of Bulgaria, no doubt in that of the Balkans as a whole, when 24-32 American F-16 fighter jets and 500 airmen joined Bulgarian counterparts for the opening of the almost month-long Thracian Star 2012.

Described by the Sofia News Agency as “the most large-scale military aviation drills of their type,” they include both squadrons of the U.S. 31st Fighter Wing based at the Aviano Air Base in Italy and the air forces of Bulgaria and Romania. According to the same Bulgarian news source, “Because of the large number of US F-16 fighter jets participating in the drills – two squadrons of 16 planes each – Bulgarian media have been quick to note that the Aviano Air Base has moved to Graf Ignatievo,” the Bulgarian air base from which the exercise is coordinated.

The commander of the base, Brigadier General Tsanko Stoykov, was quoted by the U.S. European Command website as stating:

“Bilateral training is important for us at Graf Ignatievo because it gives us a chance to implement new tactics and procedures and increase our combat capabilities. It also gives us a chance to improve our interoperability with our NATO allies and partners.”

The amount of F-16 Fighting Falcons and personnel accompanying them this year, “about twice the amount than any other U.S. Air Forces in Europe wing thus far” according to EUCOM, substantially surpasses the numbers in past joint U.S.-Bulgarian and U.S.-Bulgarian- Romanian air force exercises.

The first U.S.-led air combat drills in Bulgaria, Viper Javelin in 2005, included one of the fighter squadrons assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, the 510th, which returned in 2007 for Rodopi Javelin.

In the first Thracian Star exercise in 2010, the U.S. deployed the 480th Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany with sixteen F-16s and 280 support and maintenance personnel.

Thracian Star 2012 includes as many as twice the number of American warplanes and nearly twice as many airmen as its predecessor.

Thracian Star exercises are one of several regular joint U.S.-Bulgarian drills which also include Thracian Spring and Thracian Fall exercises.

The first joint air exercise, Viper Javelin 2005, occurred the year after Bulgaria joined NATO and the year before the U.S.-Bulgarian Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed, replicating a similar agreement with neighboring Romania the year before.

The pact allowed the Pentagon to station as many as 2,500 troops at four military facilities in Bulgaria: The Graf Ignatievo and Besmer air bases, the Novo Selo Training Range and the Aitos Logistics Center.

In 2009 the U.S. armed forces publication Stars and Stripes disclosed that the Pentagon was spending $110 million to “build new military bases” in Bulgaria and Romania.

The newspaper specified that Washington was allotting funds for “a $50 million military base in Romania that could house 1,600 U.S. troops, and another $60 million facility for 2,500 troops in Bulgaria.”

The locations of the bases weren’t divulged, but indications are that the U.S. has upgraded and expanded Bulgaria’s Besmer and Graf Ignativo and Romania’s Mihail Kogălniceanu airfields.

The U.S. created the Joint Task Force-East (now simply Task Force-East) for permanent deployments to Bulgaria and Romania in 2004, bringing it to full operational capability in 2008.

The task force, which has used the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment for Afghan war pre-deployment training in Bulgaria and Romania (for three months in 2009, with 30 Stryker Combat Vehicles), has operated out of the Novo Selo Training Area in the first country and the Mihail Kogălniceanu Airfield and Babadag Training Area in the second.

In 2010 the U.S. Marine Corps inaugurated the Black Sea Rotational Force, which has been conducting multilateral training exercises, including live-fire combat drills, with the militaries of Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Greece for further NATO integration and for “downrange” military operations like the war in Afghanistan.

The ongoing Thracian Star air force exercises in Bulgaria are also being used for current and future combat applications, in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Thracian Star 2010 not only provided the venue and opportunity for U.S. F-16s to practice low-altitude training and practice for advanced weapons delivery, fighter maneuvers, tactical intercepts, defensive and offensive counter-air, destruction and suppression of enemy air defenses, large force engagement and close air support, it did so by pitting U.S. combat aircraft against Bulgarian Russian-design opposite numbers – MiG-21, MiG-29 and Su-25 military aircraft – the U.S. and its NATO allies can confront in the Baltic Sea region, the South Caucasus and elsewhere. (Washington has been pressuring Bulgaria to purchase 16 F-16s and Romania as many as 48 of the aircraft to displace and replace Russian aircraft.)

According to the Bulgarian press, this year’s Thracian Star – “the most large-scale stationing of military staff and equipment from Bulgaria’s allies” – includes Bulgarian MiG-29s and Su-25s and Bulgarian and Romanian MiG-21s. Drills will include “US F-16 strikes at the Koren training ground” with Bulgarian planes supporting them against “enemy” Romanian aircraft.

In early February Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Bulgaria and stated:

“Bulgaria is a very important, productive NATO partner. There will be a series of joint military exercises between Bulgaria and the U.S.
this year. We are seeking ways to enhance the military cooperation and make a thorough review of its conditions and where it will go in the future.”

Shortly after Clinton departed, James Townsend, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for European and NATO Policy, and Major General Mark Schissler of U.S. European Command arrived in Sofia. Standart News reported that  “military cooperation between Bulgaria and the USA was discussed,” adding that “This extraordinary visit has additionally fed rumours about coming military operations in the Middle East and the formation of new coalitions of the kind existing against Iraq in 2003.”

The Bulgarian news source also said that “the situation in Syria was particularly paid attention to” and “Diplomatic sources…commented that the real reasons behind Clinton’s visit to Bulgaria are still to be unveiled.”

As many as 32 U.S. F-16s currently at the Graf Ignatievo air base could be used for an air assault against Syria. Or Iran. And in the future if a new Georgia-Russia conflict erupts in the South Caucasus.

There are precedents.

F-16s attached to the 31st Fighter Wing at the Aviano Air Base were used for missions over Bosnia in 1994 and 1995. The U.S. F-16 shot down over Bosnia in 1995 was part of the 555th Fighter Squadron, along with the 510th assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing.

In NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 the 31st Air Expeditionary Wing, the largest expeditionary wing in U.S. Air Force history, flew almost 9,000 combat sorties over Yugoslavia, with the Aviano-based 510th and 555th squadrons accounting for 2,400 of them.

The 510th (afterward nicknamed the Balkan Buzzards) dropped 136,508 pounds of ordinance over Iraq in late 2002 as part of Operation Southern Watch.

The two U.S. fighter squadrons in Bulgaria have proven what they are capable of doing. At this very moment and in the future.

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TRIALS WITHOUT CRIMES OR EVIDENCE

April 25th, 2012 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Andy Worthington is a superb reporter who has specialized in providing the facts of the US government’s illegal abuse of “detainees,” against whom no evidence exists. ( http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/ ) In an effort to create evidence, the US government has illegally resorted to torture. Torture produces false confessions, plea bargains, and false testimony against others in order to escape further torture.

For these reasons, in Anglo-American law self-incrimination secured through torture has been impermissible evidence for centuries. So also has been secret evidence withheld from the accused and his attorney. Secret evidence cannot be confronted. Secret evidence is distrusted as made-up in order to convict the innocent. The evidence is secret because it cannot stand the light of day.

The US government relies on secret evidence in its cases against alleged terrorists, claiming that national security would be threatened if the evidence were revealed. This is abject nonsense. It is an absurd claim that presenting evidence against a terrorist jeopardizes the national security of the United States.

To the contrary, not presenting evidence jeopardizes the security of each and every one of us. Once the government can convict defendants on the basis of secret evidence, even the concept of a fair trial will disappear. Fair trials are already history, but the concept lingers.

Secret evidence murders the concept of a fair trial. It murders justice and the rule of law. Secret evidence means anyone can be convicted of anything. As in Kafka’s The Trial, people will cease to know the crimes for which they are being tried and convicted.

This extraordinary development in Anglo-American law, a development demanded by the unaccountable Bush/Obama Regime, has not resulted in impeachment proceedings; nor has it caused an uproar from Congress, the federal courts, the presstitute media, law schools, constitutional scholars, and bar associations.

Having bought the government’s 9/11 conspiracy theory, Americans just want someone to pay. They don’t care who as long as someone pays. To accommodate this desire, the government has produced some “high value detainees” with Arab or Muslim names. But instead of bringing these alleged malefactors to trial and presenting evidence against them, the government has kept them in torture dungeons for years trying to create through the application of pain and psychological breakdown guilt by self-incrimination in order to create a case against them.

The government has been unsuccessful and has nothing that it can bring to a real court. So the Bush/Obama Regime created and recreated “military tribunals” to lend “national security” credence to the absolute need that non-existent evidence be kept secret.

Andy Worthington in his numerous reports does a good job in providing the history of the detainees and their treatment. He deserves our commendation and support. But what I want to do is to ask some questions, not of Worthington, but about the idea that the US is under terrorist threat.

By this September, 9/11 will be eleven years ago. Yet despite the War on Terror, the loss of Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, an expenditure of trillions of dollars on numerous wars, violations of US and international laws against torture, and so forth, no one has been held accountable. Neither the perpetrators nor those whom the perpetrators outwitted, assuming that they are different people, have been held accountable. Going on 11 years and no trials of villains or chastisement of negligent public officials. This is remarkable.

The government’s account of 9/11 implies massive failure of all US security and intelligence agencies along with those of our NATO puppets and Israel’s Mossad. The government’s official line also implies the failure of the National Security Council, NORAD and the US Air Force, Air Traffic Control, Airport Security four times in one hour on the same morning. It implies the failure of the President, the Vice President, the National Security Adviser, the Secretary of Defense.

Many on the left and also libertarians find this apparent failure of the centralized and oppressive government so hopeful that they cling to the official “government failure” explanation of 9/11. However, such massive failure is simply unbelievable. How in the world could the US have survived the cold war with the Soviets if the US government were so totally incompetent?

If we attribute superhero powers to the 19 alleged hijackers, powers in excess of V’s in V for Vendetta or James Bond’s or Captain Marvel’s, and assume that these young terrorists, primarily Saudi Arabians, outwitted Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Tony Blair, along with the CIA, FBI, MI5 and MI6, Mossad, etc., one would have expected for the President, Congress, and the media to call for heads to roll. No more humiliating affront has ever been suffered by a major power than the US suffered on 9/11. Yet, absolutely no one, not even some lowly traffic controller, was scapegoated and held accountable for what is considered to be the most extraordinarily successful terrorist attack in human history, an attack so successful that it implies total negligence across the totality of the US government and that of all its allies.

This just doesn’t smell right. Total failure and no accountability. The most expensively funded security apparatus the world has ever known defeated by a handful of Saudi Arabians. How can anyone in the CIA, FBI, NSA, NORAD, and National Security Council hold up their heads? What a disgraced bunch of jerks and incompetents. What do we need them for?

Consider the alleged hijackers. Despite allegedly being caught off guard by the 9/11 attacks, the FBI was soon able to identify the 19 hijackers despite the fact that apparently none of the alleged hijackers’ names are on the passenger lists of the airliners that they allegedly hijacked.

How did 19 passengers get on airplanes in the US without being on the passenger lists?

I do not personally know if the alleged hijackers were on the four airliners. Moreover, defenders of the official 9/11 story claim that the passenger lists released to the public were “victims lists,” not passenger lists, because the names of the hijackers were withheld and only released some four years later after 9/11 researchers had had years in which to confuse victims lists with passenger lists. This seems an odd explanation. Why encourage public misinformation for years by withholding the passenger lists and issuing victims lists in their place? It cannot have been to keep the hijackers’ names a secret as the FBI released a list of the hijackers several days after 9/11. Even more puzzling, if the hijackers’ names were on the airline passenger lists, why did it take the FBI several days to confirm the names and numbers of hijackers?

Researchers have found contradictions in the FBI’s accounts of the passenger lists with the FBI adding and subtracting names from its various lists and some names being misspelled, indicating possibly that the FBI doesn’t really know who the person is. The authenticity of the passenger lists that were finally released in 2005 is contested, and the list apparently was not presented as evidence by the FBI in the Moussaoui trial in 2006. David Ray Griffin has extensively researched the 9/11 story. In one of his books, 9/11 Ten Years Later, Griffin writes: “Although the FBI claimed that it had received flight manifests from the airlines by the morning of 9/11, the ‘manifests’ that appeared in 2005 had names that were not known to the FBI until a day or more after 9/11. These 2005 ‘manifests,’ therefore, could not have been the original manifests for the four 9/11 flights.”

The airlines themselves have not been forthcoming. We are left with the mystery of why simple and straightforward evidence, such as a list of passengers, was withheld for years and mired in secrecy and controversy.

We have the additional problem that the BBC and subsequently other news organizations established that 6 or 7 of the alleged hijackers on the FBI’s list are alive and well and have never been part of any terrorist plot.

These points are not even a beginning of the voluminous reasons that the government’s 9/11 story looks very thin.

But the American public, being throughly plugged into the Matrix, are not suspicious of the government’s thin story. Instead, they are suspicious of the facts and of those experts who are suspicious of the government’s story. Architects, engineers, scientists, first responders, pilots, and former public officials who raise objections to the official story are written off as conspiracy theorists. Why does an ignorant American public think it knows more than experts? Why do Americans believe a government that told them the intentional lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction despite the fact that the weapons inspectors reported to President Bush that Hussein had no such weapons? And now we see the same thing all over again with the alleged, but non-existent, Iranian nukes.

As Frantz Fanon wrote, the power of cognitive dissonance is extreme. It keeps people comfortable and safe from threatening information. Most Americans find the government’s lies preferable to the truth. They don’t want to be unplugged from the Matrix. The truth is too uncomfortable for emotionally and mentally weak Americans.

Worthington focuses on the harm being done to detainees. They have been abused for much of their lives. Their innocence or guilt cannot be established because the evidence is compromised by torture, self-incrimination, and coerced testimony against others. They stand convicted by the government’s accusation alone. These are real wrongs, and Worthington is correct to emphasize them.

In contrast, my focus is on the harm to America, on the harm to truth and truth’s power, on the harm to the rule of law and accountability to the people of the government and its agencies, on the harm to the moral fabric of the US government and to liberty in the United States.

As the adage goes, a fish rots from the head. As the government rots, so does the United States of America.

THE ECONOMICS OF ZERO INTEREST RATES

April 25th, 2012 by Bob Chapman

Zero interest rates certainly limits what the elitists can do in that end of the market. It is becoming more and more evident that the Fed is not making the final decisions, they are being made by JPM and Goldman Sachs, as we touched on negative rates not all that long ago. The Fed was forced into the market. We fear that negative rates are on the way unless the Fed wants to buy all the Treasury issuance, not just 61%, which they admit too. This really would force all bonds higher and yields lower. Of course, there is always the possibility of the issue of floating rate bonds. Those bonds would tend to give higher yields overall.

Europe is reentering the spotlight and it is not an auspicious entry. The EU officials still believe Spain will not need financial support. This, the 5th largest economy in the euro zone and presently has public debt of GP OF 68%. Experts believe that that number will be 120% in 2013. Their property bubble ended in 2007 and since then prices have fallen 38%. Spain borrowed $225 billion about 50% what everyone else was borrowing. This past week it did 2 and 10-year paper for about $333 trillion. The bid to cover was 3.3% (2 to 1 is normal), so there was plenty of demand for the bonds. We might add a good part of the buying came from banks that borrowed LTRO funds to do so. Rumors of recapitalization are in the works, but we do not see that happening. It would force the opening of Spain’s domestic banking to industry and foreign ownership. The banks in turn lose the subsidies and we are sure the Rothschild’s and Europe’s royalty would not like it very much.

The IMF raised $420 billion in new capital to be thrown into the pot and is looking for an additional $262 billion. At the same time Spain for the 10th time says we do not need rescue funds for their banks – we will see. It could be a difficult affair inasmuch as Holland will have a new government in the fall. Lending free funds is one thing, but borrowing to lend and creating debt to lend is another. The Dutch are going to have to go into austerity just to financially help others and that be over. Worse yet, Fitch is now going to probably lower their debt rating.

Spain’s answer looks to be two sets of books which so many banks, sovereigns and corporations used in the US and UK. One for good assets, one for bad, the latter to be written off over 50 years. Even after $200 billion or so was borrowed to purchase it was not enough for Spanish banks, 10-year bonds to keep the yield from rising to almost record levels.

We do not think Spain will be rescued. $1.5 trillion is a lot of money and even if it is, how long will it last? The world has to recognize monetization problems but the major problem is a global system that is out of control. Global credit has been expanded, unchecked and each day it worsens, particularly among banks and sovereigns.

As we wrote in 1991, the euro was going to be a disaster and essentially it has been. As we wrote long ago one interest rate cannot fit all, because of different stages of development. This caused more then 10 years of prolonged mispricing of pricing in credit and bonds. What we have as a result is a dysfunctional global monetary apparatus. Leveraged speculation is what is going on and it hasn’t stopped. Use of derivatives has gone exponential, which makes it even worse. 

This past week was not a good one for bonds, particularly that of Greece, Spain and Italy. The Europeans keep talking recovery and none has appeared as yet.

The ECB has to sort this mess out and it is impossible for them to do. There are not going to be any soft landings. Everyone is going to be touched by this disaster. China will be touched as well.

The Fed, and other central banks will continue to inject massive amounts of funds into their monetary systems. They have no choice.

We have a long way to go. These conditions could last for five years, who knows? What we do know is hyperinflation is on its way. Accumulate your gold and silver shares, coins and bullion while they are still inexpensive. You have no other choice. Go long and stay long.

The Pentagon announced on April 23 that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has begun a trip to South America, arriving in Colombia as part of a three-nation tour that will also take him to Brazil and Chile.

It is his first visit to the continent as Pentagon chief, though he has visited often in other capacities, including as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Panetta’s meetings with top government and military officials in the three nations will follow those of America’s top military officer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, to Colombia and Brazil late last month.

Panetta’s mission also occurs two weeks after U.S. and Brazilian presidents Barack Obama and Dilma Rousseff met in the White House on April 9 and agreed on the establishment of the U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation Dialogue, announcing that Defense Secretary Panetta and Brazil’s Defence Minister Celso Amorim will hold the first meeting in that format on April 24.

While on a scandal-plagued trip to Colombia on April 15 to attend the Summit of the Americas, Obama and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos signed a new U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Regional Security.

Colombia is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in Latin America, though its population is less than a quarter of Brazil’s, and the third largest in the world after Israel and Egypt.

After the passage by Congress of the Clinton administration’s Plan Colombia in 2000, the military in Bogota has received approximately $7 billion in U.S. assistance, up from $50 million in 1998 when it was already the biggest beneficiary of American military aid in Latin America.

On October 30, 2009 the Obama administration and that of then-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe agreed on the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement, which opened up three Colombian air bases, two naval bases, two army installations “and other Colombian military facilities if mutually agreed” to the Pentagon.

One of the bases obtained by the United States, the Larandia Military Fort in Florencia, is within easy striking distance of Ecuador, as the Alberto Pawells Rodriguez Air Base in Malambo is of Venezuela.

Colombia launched a deadly attack against rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) inside neighboring Ecuador in 2008, which the Ecuadorian government accused U.S. special forces personnel inside its country of having assisted. The following year the Colombian armed forces conducted an incursion inside Venezuela, seizing four border guards.

Panetta is in Colombia to coordinate a final offensive against FARC fighters, who have been battling the country’s narco-autocracy and its political minions in Bogota since 1964.

According to Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, the defense secretary is to meet with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno and General Alejandro Navas, General Commander of the Military Forces of Colombia.

On April 23 Panetta praised his military ally, stating, “Colombia, to its credit, has done a tremendous job in going after the FARC.” He failed to mention with, in addition to $7 billion dollars of Washington aid, U.S. helicopter gunships, planes, trainers and special forces troops.

Pentagon spokesman Little added, “Clearly we still have plenty to talk about in continuing to support the Colombians in their efforts against [the FARC]…”

When chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey was in Colombia on March 27-28, the Defense Department website reported that he visited Joint Task Force Vulcano, “a new interagency force aimed at defeating the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia…The strategy calls for Colombia to cut the FARC forces in half in two years.”

In Dempsey’s words, “They selected 2014 as a key moment for them, They want to accelerate their effects against the FARC.” With the Pentagon’s active connivance and assistance, which why is Dempsey was and Panetta is in the country.

Dempsey was explicit about the American role in the “final solution” of the Colombian civil war: “We’re getting ready to send some brigade commanders who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan down here to partner with their Joint Task Force commanders in a leader developmental function. The challenges they face are not unlike the challenges we’ve faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The Pentagon’s website reported the following on March 27, worth quoting in detail.

Dempsey “joined virtually the entire Colombian defense leadership to visit Joint Task Force Vulcano,” just outside the town of Tibu, only three kilometers from the Venezuela border.

“The Colombian government established the task force in December. It is the latest effort to defeat the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia…

“Dempsey arrived at the base in a Colombian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter along with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno and Gen. Alejandro Navas, commander of the Colombian Armed Forces.

“Following his comments, Dempsey discussed strategy with the minister and the chief of defense and also Army chief Maj. Gen. Sergio Mantilla Sanmiguel, Navy chief Vice Adm. Roberto Garcia Marquez and Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Tito Saul Pinilla-Pinilla.

“Before Joint Task Force Vulcano stood up, there were a small number of troops in the region. Now there are more than 10,000, [spokesman for the task force, Colombian army Captain Jose Mojica] said. The forces are composed of three mobile brigades and a geographic brigade. A fourth brigade is getting ready to deploy to the area.

“This is all part of an ambitious Colombian strategy to cut the FARC by half in two years. U.S. Embassy officials said there are about 8,000 FARC members now. Colombian officials spoke of the plan as the end game for the rebellion against the government after 48 years of intermittent war.”

Immediately before Dempsey’s visit to Colombia, U.S. Army South held talks with the Colombian armed forces in Bogota from March 19-23.

Three years ago CBS News quoted an unnamed Pentagon official stating, “The more Afghanistan can look like Colombia, the better.” The equation is now being reversed.

Other top U.S. defense and military officials have for years spoken of “coming back home” to the Western Hemisphere as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

Panetta’s and Dempsey’s visits to Colombia and their statements regarding the purpose of them leave no doubt as to where America’s new, at any rate expanded, counterinsurgency war is occurring. 

FRACKING CAUSES EARTHQUAKES.

April 25th, 2012 by John C.K. Daly

The process of hydraulic fracturing is a mining technique which uses injected fluid to propagate fractures in a rock layer to release hydrocarbon deposits that would otherwise be uncommercial. Developed in the U.S. and first used in 1947 for stimulating of oil and natural gas wells, the use of “fracking” soared in the past decade as thousands of wells have been drilled into the Marcellus Formation, also referred to as the Marcellus Shale, a deposit of marine sedimentary rock found in eastern North America.

While initial environmental protests of the technique centered around its possibility of polluting underground water aquifers as a number of known carcinogenic substances are used in the procedure, more recently research has focused on an even more ominous byproduct of the technique – the increased possibility of earthquakes. While in the U.S. the U.S. Geological Survey and the state governments are investigating the link, in Britain the Department of Energy and Climate Change on 17 April published an independent expert report recommending measures to mitigate the risks of seismic tremors from hydraulic fracturing and invited public comment on its recommendations.

The report reviewed a series of studies commissioned by Cuadrilla, whose fracking operations in Lancashire aroused public debate, and the document “confirms that minor earthquakes detected in the area of the company’s Preese Hall operations near Blackpool in April and May last year were caused by fracking.” DECC’s Chief Scientific Advisor David MacKay remarked, “If shale gas is to be part of the UK’s energy mix we need to have a good understanding of its potential environmental impacts and what can be done to mitigate those impacts. This comprehensive independent review of Cuadrilla’s evidence suggests a set of robust measures to make sure future seismic risks are minimized – not just at this location but at any other potential sites across the UK.”

The report is certain to reopen debate about the Lancashire tremors, which on 1 April and 27 May 2011 shook the Blackpool area, registering 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter Scale. On 2 November a report commissioned by Cuadrilla Resources, “The Geo-mechanical Study of Bowland Shale Seismicity,” acknowledged that hydraulic fracturing was responsible for the two tremors and possibly as many as fifty separate earth tremors overall, noting that it was “highly probable” that the hydraulic fracturing of its Preese Hall-1 well did trigger a number of “minor” seismic events.

At the time of the report’s release Cuadrilla Resources CEO Mark Miller said, “We unequivocally accept the findings of this independent report and are pleased that the report concludes that there is no threat to people or property in the local area from our operations. We are ready to put in place the early detection system that has been proposed in the report so that we can provide additional confidence and security to the local community. Cuadrilla Resources is working with the relevant local and national authorities to implement the report’s recommendations so we may safely resume our operations.”

The British Geological Survey also linked smaller quakes in the Blackpool area to fracking. BGS Dr. Brian Baptie said, “It seems quite likely that they are related,” noting, “We had a couple of instruments close to the site and they show that both events occurred near the site and at a shallow depth.”

While the DECC report confirms that Cuadrilla Resources ‘s test-fracking likely caused the 2011 two small tremors last year, it also said that Cuadrilla Resources could proceed with exploring the area if it follows a new set of expensive safety measures.

Cuadrilla Resources clearly sees the report as vindication, with Miller proclaiming, “We are pleased that the experts have come to a clear conclusion that it is safe to allow us to resume hydraulic fracturing, following the procedures outlined in the review. Many of today’s recommendations were contained in the original expert studies we published in November last year, and our supplementary information sent to DECC in January. We have already started to implement a number of the experts’ recommendations in the pursuit of best practice and look forward to the final decision by DECC ministers concerning the resumption of hydraulic fracturing following the six week period for public comment commencing on 17 April.”

And insurers in the City of London clearly believe that the DECC report validates fracking. City insurance brokerage Willis chief operating officer of global energy Neil Smith said, “Shale gas is here to stay… The issues are of a political nature and a lot are born out of ignorance of what the operations are.” Dominick Hoare of Watkins Syndicate at the Lloyd’s of London insurance market was equally bullish, saying, “With a proper assessment it’s a good risk to assume,” as was Matt Yeldham, the head of casualty at Aegis’ marine and offshore liability division, who commented, “Provided fracking is conducted in an appropriate fashion, it would appear on the whole to present a reasonable risk profile” before adding, “Underwriters are not there to cover long-term health hazard and other latent issues.”

It is precisely those “long-term health hazard and other latent issues” that should be at the top of the British government’s concerns, but Westminster has repeatedly proven that its interests more closely align with those investment bankers in the City of London than those forced to live with the consequences if the environmental nay-sayers ultimately prove correct about water pollution and “seismic events.”

The People’s Bank of China last week widened the yuan’s daily trading band from 0.5 percent to 1 percent. In the short term, the Chinese central bank will continue to intervene in currency markets to ensure that no major fluctuations damage China’s struggling export industries. Nevertheless, the measure is a step toward a more market-based exchange rate that will also internationalise the country’s currency.

US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner welcomed the move as “very significant and very promising.” The Obama administration has long pressured China to institute a more flexible yuan and further open up its financial sector. International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Christine Lagarde declared: “It’s not a baby step, it’s a very good step in the right direction.”

The Western powers recognise that the yuan reform is part of a broader agenda by the dominant factions within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime to permit global banks and corporations to restructure the country’s remaining large state enterprises, especially protected areas such as banking.

Premier Wen Jiabao had openly criticised the major state banks on April 4. “Let me be frank,” Wen declared, “Our banks earn profit too easily. Why? Because a small number of large banks have a monopoly.” He insisted: “To break the monopoly, we must allow private capital to flow into the finance sector.”

The Chinese central bank has tightly controlled the exchange rate between yuan and the US dollar since 1994 in order to maintain China’s export competitiveness. In 2007, Beijing increased the yuan’s daily trading band from 0.3 percent to 0.5 percent under pressure from Washington to revalue the currency. But the CCP regime halted any further widening of the trading band after the 2008-09 global financial crisis sent Chinese export industries into a tailspin, initially throwing 23 million internal migrant workers out of work.

Last week’s widening of the trading band came after clear signs that exports cannot continue to power China’s rapid economic expansion, as they have done for the past two decades. China’s trade surplus halved in 2011 to just $155 billion, and the current account surplus fell below 4 percent of gross domestic product—down from a peak of 10 percent in 2007.

Before 1994, China’s currency was relatively independent from the Western economies. The currency reform of that year marked a fundamental shift—pegging the yuan to the US dollar, while massively devaluing it to boost exports. The yuan-dollar peg was essential to the transformation of regions such as the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas into the world’s largest cheap labour manufacturing centres.

China’s foreign currency reserves skyrocketed from $160 billion in 2000 to more than $3 trillion in 2011—due to massive inflows of export earnings and foreign capital. Most of the dollar reserves in turn were sent back to America via the purchase of US bonds—supposedly the safest investment at the time. Apart from $1.2 trillion in US federal bills, China holds some $400 billion worth of bonds in the US government-backed housing giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

US housing price rises in turn allowed American working class households, which increasingly depended on debt because of declining real wages, to undertake the consumption spending that fuelled production in China. Almost the entire Chinese boom rested on expanding exports. Domestic consumption accounted for just 35.6 percent of China’s GDP in 2011—compared to America’s 70 percent—due to the super-exploitation of Chinese workers.

China’s depressed consumption levels led to the rapid accumulation of capital for investment, which now accounts for half its GDP—compared to the world average of 20 percent. This was viable only because US consumer spending was five times larger than China’s, even as China’s manufacturing output and fixed capital investment grew larger than those of the US.

As the 2008-09 crash demonstrated, any decline in external demand rapidly leads to a crisis of overproduction, factory closures and rising unemployment in China.

The Chinese financial system has been based on export-led production. The destruction of most state-owned enterprises in the 1990s, which used to provide housing and medical coverage for employees, forced workers to save what they could from their low wages in bank deposits. The banks set low interest rates for deposits, which were in turn crucial for the operations of the central bank. It was able to counter inflation and keep the currency stable by buying up the dollars flowing into the country from exports, and issuing bonds in yuan at low interest rates.

In effect, Chinese savings subsidised the entire trade cycle. Some economists described this process as the “export of savings” to the US.

China’s low interest rates also provided cheap credit to fuel a state-led investment boom in industries from telecoms and automobiles to metal manufacturing and infrastructure. Western corporations in these sectors formed joint-ventures and partnerships with Chinese state firms, reaping huge profits.

With the collapse of the US housing and financial bubbles in 2007-08, however, the happy “marriage” of US-China dollar recycling came to an end, and with it the “state-led” capitalist model in China.

Beijing’s stimulus packages, which unleashed trillions of dollars of cheap credit after 2008, only exacerbated the resulting crisis by triggering a speculative property boom and threatening to generate colossal bad debts for the state banks and local governments. Already afflicted by low profit margins before the crisis, Chinese manufacturing profitability dived even further. Investors sought returns from property speculation, rather than production.

In response, the Chinese regime is seeking to further integrate China’s financial and monetary system with the world’s major finance centres such as New York and London in order to attract an influx of international capital and prop up the faltering economy.

Far from resolving the current economic difficulties, China’s closer financial integration will make it ever more vulnerable to the global capitalist crisis and sudden shifts in the world markets. Beijing’s economic policy-making will become ever more subject to the dictates from the major global banks and financial institutions for a deeper assault on the living standards of China’s already exploited workers.

Gantz says the international pressure on Iran, in the form of diplomatic and economic sanctions, is beginning to bear fruit. By Amos Harel Tags: Iran IDF Benny Gantz Gaza Hezbollah

 ”If Iran goes nuclear it will have negative dimensions for the world, for the region, for the freedom of action Iran will permit itself,” Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told Haaretz in an Independence Day interview.

That freedom of action might be expressed “against us, via the force Iran will project toward its clients: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Gaza. And there’s also the potential for an existential threat. If they have a bomb, we are the only country in the world that someone calls for its destruction and also builds devices with which to bomb us. But despair not. We are a temperate state. The State of Israel is the strongest in the region and will remain so. Decisions can and must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria,” Gantz said.

Both 2012 and 2013 are seen as critical with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. At his rare public appearances Gantz has taken a cautious approach to the issue – mentioning the military option, whose development and preparation he oversees, while leaving the door open to international negotiations with Iran. His language is far from the dramatic rhetoric of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and is usually free of the Holocaust comparisons of which Israeli politicians are so fond.

Asked whether 2012 is also decisive for Iran, Gantz shies from the term. “Clearly, the more the Iranians progress the worse the situation is. This is a critical year, but not necessarily ‘go, no-go.’ The problem doesn’t necessarily stop on December 31, 2012. We’re in a period when something must happen: Either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something. We’re closer to the end of the discussions than the middle.”

Gantz says the international pressure on Iran, in the form of diplomatic and economic sanctions, is beginning to bear fruit. “I also expect that someone is building operational tools of some sort, just in case. The military option is the last chronologically but the first in terms of its credibility. If it’s not credible it has no meaning. We are preparing for it in a credible manner. That’s my job, as a military man.”

Iran, Gantz says, “is going step by step to the place where it will be able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn’t yet decided whether to go the extra mile.”

As long as its facilities are not bomb-proof, “the program is too vulnerable, in Iran’s view. If the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, he will advance it to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken. It will happen if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response. I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don’t think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. But I agree that such a capability, in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at particular moments could make different calculations, is dangerous.”

About three months ago Gantz’s U.S. counterpart, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, visited Israel as his guest. “We speak a great deal with the Americans. It’s not on the level of a discussion, where I want something concrete and he forbids it. We are partners. We and the United States have a large common alignment of interests and relations, but America looks at America and Israel [looks at] Israel. We aren’t two oceans away from the problem – we live here with our civilians, our women and our children, so we interpret the extent of the urgency differently. America says its piece openly, and what it says in the media is also said behind closed doors. It cannot be translated into lights, red or green, because no one is asking them anything in that regard.”

Critical decisions

Gantz knows that in the event of another war he will face time pressures as a result of enemy operations against the home front. The IDF will have to bring massive force to bear from the outset, employing most of the means at its disposal quickly and without hesitation or delay.

Ground operations, long-distance fire and in-depth operations as well?

“I don’t pretend to determine that now. I am preparing for full deployment of our capabilities. The political leadership will have to take courageous, painful decisions. There are a certain number of critical decisions in a war. The chief of staff makes about 10 of these in his sphere of responsibility in wartime, and the political leadership makes about half this number.”

These decisions, Gantz knows, will be made under a barrage of rockets and missiles against civilian areas.

In light of the Arab Spring, Israel’s military preparedness must now include a much greater and more varied range of arenas and possibilities.

“I don’t know what will happen in Syria, but presumably the Golan Heights won’t be as quiet as before. I cannot remove Syria from the military equation, nor Lebanon. I assume that if there are terror threats from the Golan or Lebanon I’ll have to take action. I cannot do everything by ‘stand-off’ [remote]. The enemy’s fire capabilities have developed at every distance, four or five times what they were in the Second Lebanon War and four or five times compared to the Gaza Strip before Operation Cast Lead, not to mention the new ground-to-air missile in Syria. I go to sleep with the understanding that what we did in the recent long and comprehensive exercises could happen in reality.”

The IDF is also being used as a battlefield for the cultural and political wars of outside forces. The latest skirmish followed Gantz’s dismissal of Lt. Col. Shaul Eisner, deputy commander of the IDF’s Jordan Valley brigade, for hitting a left-wing activist from Denmark in the face with a rifle. Gantz terms the political interference in the affair a disaster.

“I don’t see anyone benefiting from this story. I made my decision, and it’s behind me. I don’t understand what the right is defending, what the left is attacking. Who turned it into a political matter? Do you have to be a religious right-winger with a kippah in order to be resolute? Do you have to be a leftist in order to be principled? Where did that idiocy come from? Eisner made a professional error and a specific ethical mistake.”

The interview with Gantz took place right after additional videos of the incident were made public, showing Eisner hitting additional left-wing activists.

“I didn’t like even the first blow I saw. I will not cover for people so that others will say I backed them up. The lieutenant colonel erred and failed, and it’s done and dusted. We are an army that uses force, not violence.”

Measured, thoughtful and practical

With regard to another delicate issue, Gantz says he believes the IDF could draft more ultra-Orthodox men if an alternative to the Tal Law, recently overturned by the High Court of Justice, can be found.

“It’s for the politicians to decide. What I’m looking for is equality in service,” he says.

The end of his predecessor’s assignment was tarnished by the so-called Harpaz affair, in which Lt. Col. Boaz Harpaz allegedly forged a document in a bid to keep Yoav Galant from being appointed chief of staff. Gantz received the draft report of the State Comptroller’s Office on the affair last month. When the final version is issued Gantz will face career decisions about several figures connected to the affair, including Col. Erez Weiner, aide to former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Gantz believes it is important that the final version be issued before State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss ends his term, at the beginning of July.

“At every opportunity I say to the comptroller, please, go to it.”

As in our previous conversations, now too Gantz comes across as a measured, thoughtful and practical person. Only a few dozen steps separate him from his previous office, that of the deputy chief of staff, but the distance between them is unfathomable.

“I enjoy being here but also feel the gravity of the responsibility. I always said my favorite position was company commander in the Paratroop Brigade. As a company commander you have absolute definitions: the mission, the people. The rest we can manage. Here, I can’t pass on the responsibility to anyone else. The buck really does stop here. That’s why I say that occasionally I doze off but I never really sleep.”

Between 1980 and 2010 the share of the rural to total population in the Arab world dropped significantly from about 60 percent to around 40 percent. In absolute terms, an estimated seventy million people left the countryside to urban centres at home.1 This conservative estimate is nearly equivalent to the total number of rural-urban migrants since the beginning of the twentieth century until 1980. While this exodus was occurring, the regional rate of unemployment was rising and the share of labour in the form of wages fell to around a quarter of national income.3 By 2007, the Arab League declared that more than half the Arab population was living at less than the two-dollar per day benchmark.4 Basic food production was decreasing and food imports were rising in this high per capita food dependent and scarcest-water area globally. Around half the population in the Arab world was spending more than half of its income on purchasing food.5 When speculation reached the commodity market and basic food prices rose, scuffles before bakeries in Egypt resulted in several fatalities.[6 The agricultural sector was shrinking relative to the economy. The productive economy, in turn, was de-industrialising and retreating relative to oil and geopolitical rents.7 The deconstruction sustained by the agricultural sector, in particular, led to massive dislocation throughout the neoliberal age.  

The explanation of this phenomenon afforded by the class of neoclassical economy models are unfitting tools for understanding why and how this process could undergo unchecked for three decades. Mainstream models purport to provide an explanation of migration from the less developed rural sector in relation to modern sector productivity driven wages choice; however, in an Arab context, productivity growth was negative and the rationale for migration on the basis of individual choice between two competing sectors is irrelevant. The very idea that an individual residing in rural areas is afforded with the luxury of choice is insidiously ideological. Whatever choice was available to the individual was subsidiary to the choice that was made by the comprador/rentier class in respect to social and macro policy.

The comprador/rentier class in charge of development in the Arab world, which personified a cross border alliance of local and foreign capital, had a choice between a neoliberal pattern universalising and facilitating the usurpation of national wealth, and a strategy based on the recirculation of wealth and the redeployment of real resources for development within the national economies. It chose the former. By doing so, it set in motion a whole dynamic accelerating the disengagement of direct producers from the land. Peasants and farmers were forcibly dislocated; the choice left to any individual was that of the necessity of bare survival. The alternatives, with which the individual is afforded as a result of this macro policy context, are further narrowed by successive violent encroachments on the rights of working people to two wretched conditions: the abjection of the countryside or misery of urban squalor.  
           
Price and choice theoretic frameworks avert the study of migratory phenomenon not only by reconstructing a false reality from the summation of individual decisions, which is the common trap of the fallacy of composition, but because any reference to the development of the migratory phenomenon in real time may implicate the social class whose ends the neoclassical discipline serves. Neoclassical economics actually studies something else other than the migratory phenomenon; its subject matter is an arithmetic computation which bears no relevance to the fact that evictions and prices are socially construed. Had the neoclassical framework pursued the development of migratory phenomena in real time, it would have had to question two sacrosanct concepts: firstly, the terms of trade and power structure underlying the price system and; secondly, the social contradictions inherent in social systems. It would have had to tackle the kernel of the issue of proletarianisation, which is the creation of socialised and cheapened wage labour. The neoclassical framework analyses reality away so as not to incriminate the class in power to which it is subservient. The neoclassical object of study becomes individual choice in a world of free competition, voluntary unemployment and scarcity. Notwithstanding that goods are scarce only to those who cannot afford them, chimerical assumptions such these are elevated to the standing of science, when in actuality they either have no referents in real events or they simply do not exist.   

What has really happened is that the Arab rentier/comprador classes deliberately eroded national agriculture and instilled food dependency in the rural sectors by unconditionally opening up trade, designing macro policy that accentuates unevenness and reducing investment in agriculture (see Table 1). Dependency on food imports was rising throughout the Arab world.8 Instead of shifting resources from uncompetitive farming into areas of comparative advantage, as per the neoliberal mantra, these biased policies added to unemployment in the urban areas. The national agricultural base is no match for the protected, highly productive, and subsidized agriculture of the North. Depriving people of the independence that comes from self-sufficiency in food production is both necessary to lower wages and wear down any potential social base for the organisation of labour. In that sense, proletarianisation became inseparable from of the process of socialisation under capitalism or the destruction of forms of petty-private property. 

Table 1: The Agriculture Sector's Contribution to Employment and as a share of GDP (%)

Selected countries and years

Algeria

Egypt

Jordan

Morocco

Syria

Tunisia

West Bank

 & Gaza

Employment

1977: 31

1995: 12

1976: 47

2000: 30

1979: 11

1993: 6

1971: 58

1999: 44

1970: 50

1991: 28

1975: 39

2001: 22

1980: 23

2000: 14

Value Added

1977: 8

2000: 9

1976: 28

2000: 17

1979: 7

2000: 2

1971: 20

2000: 14

1970: 20

2000: 24*

1975: 18

2000: 12

1987: 19

2000: 8

Source: The World Bank 2004, MENA Development Report, Unlocking the Employment Potential in the Middle East and North Africa: Toward a New Social Contract.

* The decline of the Syrian agricultural sector began in 2000 with the onset of the second generation of neoliberal reforms introduced by amending law number 10 on investment and the possibility of repatriation of profits by foreign capital. 

Table2. Distribution of Rural and Urban Poverty

Percentage of the poor in

Percentage of the poor

Percentage of rural poor

Country/territory

urban areas

in rural areas

on total

Yemen

21

 40

84

Egypt

 10

 27

78

Iraq

16

 39

..

Jordan

12

 19

29

Palestine

 21

 55

67

The Sudan

27

 85

81

Syrian Arab Republic

8

 15

62

 Sources: The World Bank (2008); for Iraq, COSIT and the World Bank (2010); and, for the Sudan, IFAD and FAO (2007).

        

           
In the past three decades, most Arab countries joined the WTO. This period represents greater openness in agricultural markets and, hence, greater susceptibility to price fluctuations and import surges. An FAO commentary on the  impact of this liberal economic climate on the developing agricultural  markets maintains that ‘[as] countries reduce tariffs and bind them at low levels, they become increasingly vulnerable to external agricultural market instability and to import surges that could destroy viable, well established or nascent production activity.’9 Intraregional Arab trade is at around ten percent of trade with the rest of the world despite a Generalised Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA). A more interlocked and interdependent Arab food market provides an element to national and inter-Arab security that would shift the power platform making the base of international negotiations in favour of Arab countries. Neither the Arab comprador-class nor their international partners would support empowering working people in the Arab world with the freedom that comes from food independence. The comprador class and its cross border allies ensure that joint Arab developmental treaties are unmonitored for implementation and that all integration efforts buttressing working class  security remain ineffective.   

         
In the poorer countries of the Arab world (Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, etc.) with around forty percent of the population already suffering problems of malnutrition, the slightest decline in the level of domestic supply runs the risk of being translated into a reduction of consumption per capita. Over the past twenty years, average basic food consumption per capita declined. Notably as well for the same period, the production of basic foods per capita exhibited a downward trend, and the slack in the level of domestic supply was covered by higher imports (see Table 3).10  

Table 3. Developments in Arab Agricultural Trade,

In Millions of US dollars.

Year        Exports Imports                     

2001-5     28894      32756

2007        15129      52535

2008        18367      65278

Source: Arab organisation for Agricultural development,

 Statistical Abstract, no. 29.

For the majority of migrants, the choices were between two levels of historically-determined below decent subsistence living-standards. The historically relevant choices in respect to migration were not made by each individual at any one point in time. These important decisions were taken by the subject of history or the social class in power that decided to introduce violent and non-violent measures and policies aimed at eroding the very basis of the reproduction of rural life.  For countries developing under the onus of conflict such as Iraq, the process of expulsion from the countryside was materialised by outright military aggression, hunger, and forcible dislocation.11 Similarly in Palestine, conditions in the Gaza strip are sometimes so severe that as many as sixty percent of children can be classed as malnourished.16 Where outright occupation was not the case, trade openness treaties, dislocation-laws dispossessing farmers and macro policies allocating resources away from agriculture uprooted the peasantry en masse. Since 1980, the share of investment in agriculture from total investment fell continuously to reach a low 5 percent by 2009.13 In Syria, neoliberal policies reduced real incomes and the rolling back of egalitarian land reforms resulted in lower output and a higher farmer eviction rate.14  In addition to draconian laws de facto dispossessing farmers, in Egypt, the most populated Arab country, the decline in agriculture was drastic. Within a decade, the share of agricultural investment from total investment fell from around 10 percent to about 4 percent (see Table 4).15  The rates of malnutrition in Children in Egypt and Yemen reached 30 and 45 percent successively.16 These were the results of a concerted and premeditated policy aimed at reconstituting social value for grabbing purposes by absolute and violent means.

Table 4. Share of agricultural investment from total investment in Egypt (percentages).

2003                        9.4 

2004                        9.5 

2005                        7.6 

2006                        6.9 

2007                        5 

2008                        4 

Source: National planning institute, 2009.

In most of the developing world, the proletarianisation process gained momentum as of 1980 or the onset of the neoliberal age.17  The more easily universalised value became through pricing by the dollar on one end, the more self-particularising and repressive became the labour process of value creation, on the other. Increasingly, the remnants of the declining rural economy became the social support mechanism for the peasant who is a potential wage earner but is unlikely to ever find a decent wage paying job. The failure of the rural sector to deliver sufficient social support raised the spectre of crisis, especially as freer food imports from the North degraded the basis for local sustenance and reduced the share of the consumption bundle which is produced by local means.18  There are social forces locked into a social relationship and shaping the process of lowering the amount of food produced for immediate consumption by the farmers and, subsequently, their removal from the land. These are unequivocally the autocratic regimes and their Western allies who, as value is held in the universal form of the dollar, become one and the same. 

In the Arab world, national resources began their flight from the region pursuant to successive Arab military defeats and the adoption of a laissez-faire framework that smoothed the usurpation thereof. The conditions for surrender were cast in a structural and implicit way to guarantee the exposure of working class security and, consequently, diminution of state sovereignty. Depriving the labouring classes of security, including food security, represented a necessary component that would ensure long-term erosion of state autonomy over policy. The Arab working population through the medium of the state no longer owned its policies for development. There was more than just a commodity mode of integration with the Western world underpinning this relationship. The co-opting of the Arab bourgeoisie- its metamorphosis into a pure comprador class, by the western financial elite was by the time of the Arab Spring nearly complete and the resultant disarticulation within an Arab formation became acute to the point of explosion. 

Around a third of inhabitants in Arab cities are newly arrived rural-migrants. Most of the migrants engage in informal and poorly paid activity. In the shanty towns, where the social services of the state were cut back, a selected group of NGO’s caters to the migrants. These are for the most part civil society institutions of Islamic orientation. With the ebbing of social ideology, the migrants were subjected to the doctrine of political Islam that indicts corrupt individuals but not the context in which these individuals operate, which is capitalism. The security apparatus of Arab regimes, or the only effective state institution, was careful in its choice of malleable civil society operatives. More radical groups were constricted, while those who did not question the basis of peripheral capitalism were fully operative. In Egypt, for instance, it was Sadat who cohabitated with the more docile elements of the Moslem brothers pursuant to the bread riots of 1977 and, for some time prior to the uprising, Western compliant sections of the Moslem Brotherhood were fully functional under the auspices of American NGO’s. Political Islam eschews the notion that peripheral capitalism develops in severe crisis and that the process of disengagement and expropriation are inherent to it. The peasant property, which was forcibly expropriated and had become the property of the elite, will acquire under democratically elected political Islam a divine right and become sacrosanct. The principal policy tools that would rebalance the demand side of Arab economies, which are redistribution and land reform, have been subjected to a coup de grace by ‘divine fiat.’ A democratic process bereft of economic and social rights has delivered a post US-invasion Iraqi type democratisation. Redressing extirpation of the countryside, therefore, remains chiefly a matter of political struggle. 

Al Kadri is a Senior Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore 

NOTES

1Summary of essay presented to workshop on ‘Agriculture & Food Production in the Shadow of the Arab Oil Economy,’ Amman, Jordan, 28 Jan., 2012

2 These are very conservative estimates based on fixed coefficients of population growth and rates of rural-urban migration. These estimates do not include migration outside the Arab world. A middle range estimate would put this figure at around one hundred million. The rationale for my calculation has to do with the constancy of certain rural population characteristics. ‘In most Arab countries, there has been little change in rural fertility in the past and the prospects of its appreciable drop in the next 10 years are remote; despite a fall in infant mortality rates in rural areas, life expectancy is not projected to increase significantly in most rural populations of the region, and major declines in both fertility and mortality in Arab countries have been largely limited to urban areas; and  in the absence of reliable data, the best and perhaps the safest course for making rural population projections by age is to assume a constant rural population age structure for the period 1980-2015.’ The Demographic profile of Arab Countries Ageing Rural Population, United Nations, 2008.

3 KILM, ILO, various years.

4 Unified Arab Report, League of Arab States, 2007.

5  http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2011/05/27/000001843_20110601143246/Rendered/PDF/P126506000AWIFS000PID000Concept0Stage.pdf

6 Fifteen deaths around the bread queues were reported.  http://www.dailystaregypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=12537
 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/16/world/africa/16iht-bread.4.9271958.html?_r=1

7 Boudroua, Ahmed, Outlook for Industrialization of the Arab World, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Volume 21, Numbers 1-2, 1986 , pp. 32-43(12).

8 FAO statistics, various years. http://www.fao.org/economic/ess/countrystat/en

9 From the discussion paper ‘A special agricultural safeguard: Buttressing the market reforms of developing countries.’ FAO, Rome, 2001.

10 FAO Stats, ibid.

11 Louise Rouge, Times Staff Writer, June 16, 2005. Iraqis Endure Worse Conditions Than Under Saddam, UN Survey Finds, by Chris Shumway, The Standard, 2005-05-18; and, Daily living conditions in Iraq dismal, UN survey finds, UN news Centre.

12  UNESCWA, 2008.

13  Arab Labour Organisation, Workshop on agricultural rebirth, Damascus, 23-25 November, 2010, p.57.

14   Ababsa, M., 2006. Contre-réforme agraire et conflits fonciers en Jazîra syrienne: 2000-2005. Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée, No.115-116. La Syrie au quotidien. Cultures et pratiques du changement, Décembre 2006, pp. 211-230.

15  Bush, RC (2007), ‘Poverty and neoliberalism: persistance and reproduction in the global South,’ Pluto Press.

16  http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2009/irin081109.html .

17 http://monthlyreview.org/2011/03/01/structural-crisis-in-the-world-system  

18 According to H. Kishk (National Centre for Social Research, Cairo), less and less of the dietary intake of the peasants in Egypt was produced on the farm. As a higher share of food was to be bought at world set prices, the peasantry, forced by this measure along with other draconian laws de facto dispossessing it from ownership of farming, undertook a gradual exodus from the land.

In 2004, the UN International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s separation wall is illegal. Construction has continued and it is expected to reach 760 kms. in length. Besides annexing their land, the wall separates Palestinians from their orchards, families, hospitals, workplaces and holy sites.

On the first anniversary of the World Court ruling, Palestinians called for an international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to pressure Israel into respecting international law. Endorsed by 170 Palestinian trade unions, professional associations, political parties, women’s groups, student unions and NGO networks, the campaign is now coordinated by the BDS National Committee (BNC).

A BNC statement called “Occupy Wall Street not Palestine,” describes the BDS effort as being “deeply rooted in decades of Palestinian peaceful resistance to colonial oppression,” and as “inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid as well as the [US] civil rights movement.”

The call for a BDS campaign noted that for decades:

“Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation. Despite abundant condemnation of Israeli policies by the UN, other international bodies, and preeminent human rights organisations, the world community has failed to hold Israel accountable and enforce compliance with basic principles of law.”

Despite hundreds of UN resolutions denouncing Israel’s violations of international law, it has always received financial backing and military aid, primarily from the US. Between 2000 and 2011, the US gave Israel US$30 billion worth of the latest weapons systems and related equipment.

In response to the UN’s inability or unwillingness to stop Israel’s illegal acts, Palestinians initiated the BDS campaign calling upon “people of conscience all over the world” to “launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.”

On July 8, 2011, the BNC called for an arms embargo on Israel. Endorsed by such Nobel Peace laureates as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, its primary goal is to stop Israel’s supply of “arms and related materiel of all types, including the sale or transfer of weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, para-military police equipment, including dual-use equipment, and spare parts.”

Three days later, Israel’s Knesset responded to the BDS movement with a repressive antiboycott law to penalise Israeli individuals and groups that promote the boycott.

A Canadian Contribution

This issue of Press for Conversion! and one soon to follow are inspired by the Palestinian proposal for a military/police embargo of Israel, and by the original BDS call to:

* Boycott Israeli and international companies “that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights,” and

* Divest from “university investment portfolios and pension funds” that are “used to finance such companies.”

COAT’s research cites data from hundreds of sources to expose 64 corporations that have two things in common:

(1) they profit from links to Israeli government institutions, agencies and corporations that hide behind the euphemisms of “defence” and “homeland security,” and

(2) the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) held shares in these companies, with a market value of $1.4 billion in 2011.

The CPP also holds shares in many corporations that invest their wealth in military and so-called “security” industries that support Israeli apartheid. This is done directly, or through venture capital funds like Vertex, see pp. 50-52.

There are 16 million CPP contributors and beneficiaries who have been forced to invest their retirement savings in corporations with varying degrees of complicity in Israel’s system of apartheid, its occupation of Palestinian lands, its military/”security” industries, and its aerial bombardments of Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008-2009).

Readers are asked to examine the evidence presented here and to investigate these issues for themselves. Hopefully, this will help to initiate discussion about Israel’s occupation, the abuse of Palestinian human rights, and the unwitting complicity in these crimes that has been forced upon Canadians by their mandatory contributions to the CPP.

Taking Action

COAT’s publication of this research is the first step in a campaign that will include petitions, letter writing and lobbying efforts to urge the CPP Investment Board to divest from companies that support Israel’s illegal and discriminatory policies. This campaign will also encourage boycotts, divestment, and other grassroot efforts to draw public attention to the issues raised here. To make this effort a success, your support and assistance, is urgently requested. 

Richard Sanders, coordinator, COAT

Learn more about how you can get involved.

LIBYA: US Corporate Predators Arrive in Tripoli

April 25th, 2012 by Alexandra Valiente

A US-Libya Business Association (USLBA) delegation headed by US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez arrived in Libya yesterday at the start of a five-day visit focusing on trade and investment.

The delegation includes 37 representatives from 20 US companies and organizations which represent a range of sectors including healthcare, education administration, training, energy, construction, logistics, infrastructure, construction support, vehicles and equipment, transportation, public safety, agriculture, public relations and telecommunications.

While in Libya, the delegation will travel to Tripoli and Benghazi to meet with senior Libyan national and local government officials, including Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib. The delegation will participate in events with private business groups from Tripoli, Misrata and Benghazi to discuss national priorities in the rebuilding of the country.

They will also participate in two major trade shows for the oil and gas and infrastructure industries, which are taking place in Tripoli.

The delegation is joined by US Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz.

“We are very grateful to US Ambassador Gene Cretz and the entire US embassy team in Libya,” said USLBA Executive Director Chuck Dittrich.

“Ambassador Cretz has been a driving force in involving the US private sector in the rebuilding of Libya. Without his leadership and the dedication of his team, this delegation visit would not have been possible. We are excited to be here and look forward to a very productive week.”

American business sees Libya as an important potential economic partner. “In the short term, in addition to the energy sector, the country offers opportunities for companies in the vocational training, healthcare and infrastructure sectors, and in the long term, opportunities in tourism development, financial services and banking, construction, agriculture and the digital economy,” said Dittrich in a press statement.

“Among all of those with whom we’ve had an opportunity to meet here in Libya, we’ve found that American technology, entrepreneurship and creativity are met with a warm welcome. Long-term partnerships and collaborative new ventures, especially among emerging young business leaders in Libya are being formed, and we see vast opportunities to strengthen US-Libya economic ties now and in the future.”

Dittrich was upbeat about Libyan progress.

“While much press coverage about Libya is focused on the historic political transition to representative government now underway, it ignores the underlying fact that Libya is already in the process of building a new economy focused on the nation’s private sector,” he said.

“Among the keys to generating and sustaining private sector growth, job creation and diversifying the economy is putting in place institutions and policies focused on governance, transparency, accountability, rule of law, property rights and access to finance.”

There is, he said “an energy and a true sense of optimism that day by day, things are moving forward”.

The challenge, he believed, would be “to create government institutions that allow an independent business community to keep growing to create the jobs necessary to move from an economy that is still reliant on public subsidies”.

Companies in the delegation include A-T Solutions, BAE Systems, The Boeing Company, ConocoPhillips Libya Waha, LTD, Daniel J. Edelman, Inc., Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, FARMCO (Valmont Irrigation), Hess Corporation, Hill International, General Electric, the Institute of International Education, Marathon Oil Corporation, Motorola Solutions, NSI – Nasa Services International, Parsons, RMA Global Fleet Sales, the Sandi Group and WorkingBuildings, LLC.

Nicola Ciardelli


Oltre 1.500 bambine e bambini fra i 3 e i 14 anni (dalle materne alle medie) saranno condotti, il 27 aprile a Pisa, lungo «il cammino delle libertà», visitando luoghi fisici della città collegati a nove articoli della Costituzione. Il merito va all’Associazione Nicola Ciardelli, che da quattro anni promuove la «Giornata della Solidarietà» in ricordo del maggiore Ciardelli della Brigata Folgore, «rimasto vittima di un attentato, il 27 aprile 2006 a Nassirya, durante la missione di pace Antica Babilonia». Determinante il sostegno del Comune all’iniziativa che, dichiara il sindaco Marco Filippeschi (Pd), lancia un grande «messaggio di pace e solidarietà». Grazie alla sua amministrazione, Pisa è divenuta il laboratorio più avanzato della legge per «la promozione e diffusione della cultura della difesa attraverso la pace e la solidarietà». Passata alla Camera con intesa multipartisan (Pd, Pdl, Idv, Lega), la legge, in via di approvazione al Senato, istituisce, in particolare nelle scuole, una serie di iniziative per la «condivisione consapevole dei cittadini delle politiche di sicurezza e difesa della nazione e dell’azione delle Forze armate». Ciò che si sperimenta a Pisa. Nel percorso «Libertà e Difesa della Democrazia», ad esempio, gli alunni, scortati da simpatici parà della Folgore, saranno portati al Centro addestramento paracadutismo, dove la Giornata si aprirà con l’Alzabandiera e la S. Messa. Qui sarà loro spiegato che Ciardelli era in Iraq per una missione di pace, soprattutto per aiutare i bambini. Si eviterà di dire che l’ufficiale, alla seconda missione in Iraq come volontario, apparteneva al 185° Reggimento acquisizione obiettivi, forza speciale che, infiltrata in un territorio, segnala gli obiettivi da bombardare. E, per non impressionare i bambini, si tacerà sul fatto che nel 2004 (come riconosciuto dalla stessa Procura militare) soldati italiani spararono a Nassirya contro un’ambulanza, uccidendo una donna incinta e tre familiari. Dopo una fermata al centro universitario di Scienze per la pace, per una lezione sulla gestione nonviolenta dei conflitti e il ripudio della guerra, gli alunni saranno condotti in Prefettura, Provincia e Comune, dove si spiegherà loro che l’Italia si attiene pienamente a tali principi: quelle effettuate in Iraq, Jugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libia, non sono guerre ma operazioni umanitarie e di pace. Silenzio invece sul fatto che Pisa, «città per la pace», è stata coinvolta nelle guerre tramite la base Usa di Camp Darby, che l’anno scorso ha rifornito di bombe gli aerei Nato che attaccavano la Libia, e l’aeroporto militare, che viene ora trasformato in Hub aereo nazionale, da cui transiteranno tutte le forze e i materiali bellici per le missioni militari all’estero. Al culmine della Giornata, mentre i parà della Folgore scenderanno dal cielo sotto gli occhi ammirati dei bambini, sarà eretta «La Casa dei bambini di Nicola», rappresentazione simbolica di quella in cui, a Firenze, saranno curate (per dimostrare quanto siamo buoni) alcune delle molte piccole vittime delle «missioni di pace». La «Casa» poggerà sui nove «pilastri costituzionali» del «cammino delle libertà». Ai bambini non verrà detto, però, che manca il pilastro cardine: l’Art. 11 che ripudia la guerra come strumento di offesa alla libertà degli altri popoli.       

To the world’s military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources and long-dreamed-of sea-lanes. Rick Rozoff scrutinizes the feverish military activity taking place in the High North, under the official label of a joint Norwegian-NATO-Partnership for Peace endeavor, including preparedness drills against terrorist threats, mass demonstrations…and spies coming in from the cold!

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Cold Response 2012 military exercise in Nordland, Norway. The yearly air land and maritime exercise is organized withing NATO with a UN mandate.

The largest military exercise in the High North, inside and immediately outside the Arctic Circle, since the end of the Cold War (and perhaps even before) was completed on March 21 in northern Norway.

Except for the crash of a Norwegian military transport plane in Sweden during its course the world would have been unaware of it.

Cold Response 2012 was conducted from March 12-21 primarily in Norway but also in Sweden with the participation of 16,300 troops from fifteen nations as part of full spectrum – air, sea, infantry and special forces – maneuvers against the backdrop of the past three years’ new scramble for the Arctic.

The term High North is a translation of the Norwegian designation nordområdene which was adopted by NATO in January of 2009 for its two-day Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North in Reykjavík, Iceland attended by the bloc’s secretary general, chairman of its Military Committee and two top military commanders, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

Four of the five Arctic claimants – the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark – are members of NATO. The other, Russia, is not. In 2010 Norway became the first Arctic nation to move its military command center within the Arctic Circle, transferring the Norwegian Operational Command Headquarters from Stavanger to Bodø, a five-story complex built during the Cold War to withstand a nuclear attack. The preceding year Norway purchased 48 Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth generation multirole fighters.

Last month’s Cold Response was the largest of five such exercises held since 2006. The first was the largest military exercise ever conducted in Norway, with 10,000 troops from eleven nations. All NATO member states, at the time 26, were invited to participate.

The next, in 2007, included 8,500 military personnel. The third, in 2009, consisted of 7,000 troops from eleven nations and the fourth, in 2010, included 8,500 soldiers from fourteen nations.

This year’s Arctic drills were almost twice as large in terms of troop numbers as any preceding one.

Information on the exercise was scarce before, during and after the event; even the full roster of participating nations was not disclosed by the Norwegian military.

According to the website of the Norwegian Armed Forces, military forces from fifteen nations were involved – NATO members Norway, the U.S., Britain, France, Canada and the Netherlands – as well as Partnership for Peace affiliate Sweden, part of whose territory was employed for the exercise.

The other eight nations were not identified but the exercise was described as a joint Norwegian-NATO-Partnership for Peace undertaking. One of only a handful of English-language reports on the subject, from Finland, confirmed that nation’s participation. Finland and Sweden are for all intents the 29th and 30th members of the Alliance.

The other Partnership for Peace states involved are likely to have been, among others, former Soviet republics like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

According to the Norwegian Armed Forces, “The main purpose of this year’s winter exercise is to rehearse high intensity operations in winter conditions within NATO with a UN mandate.”

The source added: “Participants will rehearse deploying and using military reaction forces in an area of crisis where they have to handle everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats and mass demonstrations. The soldiers have to balance the use of diplomatic and military force.”

High-intensity warfare, terror threats and mass demonstrations in the Arctic…

It also described live-fire infantry, naval and air – with the participation of fighter jets and helicopters operating from several Norwegian and Swedish bases and from aircraft carriers – components of the exercise.

The ground forces included U.S. Marines. According to the Marine Corps Times, “After years of fighting in a desert environment, most Marines may not think of the North Pole often, but the area abounds with oil, gas and other minerals, making it one of the most contentious regions of the world.”

The same source quoted a national security and Arctic expert at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a New American Security with the improbable name of Will Rogers:

“The importance of why we need forces capable of operating in the Arctic is very basic power projection — to make a show to other players in the international community that we are an Arctic nation, and we are going to protect our interests in the Arctic Circle.”

Britain deployed HMS Illustrious, its last-remaining aircraft carrier, which had to return home early for repairs after being rammed by a tugboat, thereby eliciting a few paragraphs in the Daily Mail.

A Norwegian C-130 Super Hercules military transport plane crashed in Sweden, killing five soldiers. A memorial service was presided over by King Harald V, the titular commander-in-chief of the Norwegian armed forces.

The assault ship HMS Bulwark accompanied HMS Illustrious, which carried eight helicopters, and the first landed British commandos as well as American and Dutch troops, equipment and vehicles on the northern Norwegian coast.

In the words of the commanding officer of the Bulwark:

“It is not simply park the ship and offload it. In war – and therefore in training – we have to take account of the environment, enemy forces in the air, sea, and on land, coordinate people into boats and naval helicopters, all to arrive on target, in the right order, at the right time, to achieve the battle-winning effect. Few navies deliver this successfully and most aspirants look to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Fleet Air Arm, with our war-proven capability, for guidance – on the sea in the air and on the land.”

Regarding “war-proven capability(ies),” Defense Media Network quoted U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General James M. Lariviere, commanding general of 4th Marine Division, present for the occasion:

“It was an opportunity to interact with our allies. Many of them are veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anti-piracy task forces off the coast of Somalia. They all have a lot of experience working with the U.S. and our allies in various capacities…”

The U.S. uses the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway’s Fosen peninsula for Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway, the Marine Corps’ only land-based prepositioning program. According to a U.S. European Command article of last year:

“Well guarded within 671,000 sq. feet of six climate-controlled caves, $420 million worth of Marine Corps equipment and supplies lie ready for real world use. The caves, located in Norway, serve as a key strategic storage site for the Marine Corps….The Norwegian caves are strategically located to provide support to the United States Marine Corps’ operations around the globe…[T]he equipment from the climate controlled caves of Norway has seen action in places as diverse as the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.”

The Helsingin Sanomat, which reported 215 Finnish soldiers participating in the exercise, characterized Cold Response 2012 as “a major military training exercise being held in the far north of Norway [in which] armed forces from 14 nations are protecting civilians in the same way as last year in Libya, and are fighting against the local opposition just as in Afghanistan.”

The newspaper also quoted a Finnish military media and communications officer stating, ”It would be silly to rehearse a situation if it were not realistic.”

A Swedish website, which identified Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Latvia and Switzerland as having also supplied units for Cold Response, published a synopsis of the scenario for the Swedish part of the exercise provided by the Swedish Armed Forces, which included:

A “strange group of people” have settled in northern Sweden and established a state called “Gardaland” from which they have invaded “an area in Norway,” after which NATO intervenes under a United Nations mandate.

The Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands reported a potpourri of unrelated and even conflicting scenarios that leaves the door open for any pretext for military intervention:

“The Netherlands Defence organisation sent 800 military personnel to take part in the exercise, including a large maritime detachment and units from the army and air force. The Dutch units left the Norwegian training area on 21 March, after a simulated attack lasting 48 hours. The emphasis was on beating off air attacks, combating submarines and covertly landing amphibious units. The scenario also included taking terrorists into custody.”

The Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 was deployed to the Norwegian Arctic island city of Tromsø for the exercise. NATO established a Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, which at the time hosted the nation’s military command headquarters, in 2003. According to NATO’s Norfolk, Virginia-based Supreme Allied Command Transformation, the center is “the jewel in the Crown of Allied Command Transformation”.

On the opening day of this year’s Cold Response, Igor Korotchenko of Russia’s National Security Journal put the event in geopolitical perspective:

“The current military drill takes place amid NATO’s increased activities in the Arctic. Apparently, NATO is set on obtaining a share of Arctic resources and is carrying out the naval exercises to demonstrate that its geopolitical and diplomatic efforts lean on military might.”

Vladimir Yevseyev of the International Security Center of the Institute of Global Economy and International Relations, as cited by Voice of Russia, added:

“[T]he exercises are being held on the territories of Norway and Sweden, in close proximity to Russian borders. They might thus be seen as a provocation. Russia has all grounds for concern given that ships equipped with the…Aegis Combat System can be deployed in the Arctic.”

The last sentence is an allusion to the U.S.-NATO sea- and land-based interceptor missile system, which thus far is limited to Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea but could well expand into the Norwegian, Barents, Baltic and Black Seas in future.

The Western campaign for global dominance has reached the top of the world.

US and Afghan officials announced Sunday that they had reached a draft agreement committing the United States to continuing military and financial support to the puppet regime in Kabul long after the scheduled withdrawal of the bulk of US ground troops at the end of 2014.

The pledge of long-term involvement in Afghanistan flies in the face of popular sentiment in the United States, the European countries and Australia, where there is overwhelming opposition to continuing the occupation of Afghanistan and a war that has dragged on for eleven years.

Neither of the envoys who negotiated the agreement, US ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Afghan national security adviser Rangin Spanta, would release its text, or even outline its main features, ostensibly to give time for their respective governments to review and approve the drafts.

The deal will become final when signed by US President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It will not be submitted for Senate ratification, making the agreement’s longterm effect contingent on Obama’s reelection in November. In effect, it is a promissory note from Obama to Karzai to keep funding the regime in Kabul, assuming Obama remains in the White House and Karzai survives the pullout of most US and NATO ground troops.

The New York Times cited unnamed “Western diplomats in Kabul” who said the agreement was important “because it would help persuade other Western countries to continue to support Afghanistan.” The talks have been conducted under the deadline of a May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago, where Obama is expected to pressure his European counterparts to make pledges of money to offset the anticipated drawdown of their military forces in the Central Asian country.

The US is also pushing for commitments of elite special forces to conduct “counterterrorism” operations after 2014, after its biggest non-NATO ally in Afghanistan, the Australian government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, enlisted Australian SAS troops for such a mission.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the US has begun discussions on the deployment of special ops forces from other NATO countries, and has proposed to cut the size of the Afghan security forces in order to free up funds to conduct counterterrorism missions. Prior to a meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers in Brussels April 18, US defense secretary Leon Panetta met with Australian defense minister Stephen Smith.

The Journal noted Gillard’s declaration that Australia would pull out most ground troops but “was prepared to consider a limited special-forces contribution” beyond 2014. According to the newspaper, “That statement was greeted warmly by US officials,” and the Journal cited a “senior US defense official” declaring “Not only is this not a pullout, this is a symbol of commitment.”

What information has been released on the terms of the draft agreement suggests that the deal corresponds precisely to the power relationship between the two sides: the United States makes no definite commitment of either money or manpower after 2014, but Afghanistan commits itself to host and stand guard over whatever forces the US side decides to deploy. The US will have complete freedom of action for at least a decade after 2014, while the Afghan regime operates at its beck and call.

A US official told the Washington Post, “The nature, function and size of the U.S. security commitment still has to be worked out.”

Talks were stalled for months because of a series of atrocities and offenses committed by American troops in Afghanistan, including the burning of Korans at a US base, the massacre near Kandahar by an American staff sergeant in which 17 people were killed, nine of them children, and the release of photos and video of US soldiers desecrating the corpses of Afghan victims of the war.

The American media has repeatedly suggested that Karzai was adopting a hard-line position in the talks, demanding a halt to night raids by US special forces and the handover of all US-run prisons where Afghan citizens captured in the war are being held. In practice, however, Karzai accepted a fig leaf of acknowledgement of Afghan control and sovereignty, while the US occupiers will continue to do as they please.

Some press reports spoke of private assurances, not spelled out in the text, that US financial backing to the Karzai government would be at least $2 billion a year, enough to sustain capital flight from the country. Nearly half of Afghanistan’s annual income has been exported in the form of cash, taken out by government officials and those profiteering from the war—frequently their relatives—and invested in safer venues such as banks and real estate in the Persian Gulf sheikdoms.

An Associated Press account made clear what was uppermost in Karzai’s mind, reporting that he complained last week in a speech in Kabul, “They are providing us with money, there is no doubt about that. But they say they will not mention the amount in the agreement. We say: give us less, but mention it in the agreement. Give us less, but write it down.”

Perhaps the most critical issue has been postponed for later discussion: the US demand for long-term leases on military bases which will give American air and special ops units more or less permanent access to the oil-rich Central Asian region, maintaining the deployment of American military forces on all sides of beleaguered Iran: on the east, in Afghanistan, on the north in several of the former Soviet republics, on the west in Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and other Persian Gulf sheikdoms, and in the south, in the Arabian Sea.

The draft agreement was also said to be aimed at warning the Taliban and other anti-occupation guerrilla forces that the US and NATO were not pulling out abruptly in 2014, but intended to “stay the course” in propping up the Karzai regime.

A statement issued by the Taliban noted that the number one goal of the agreement was “securing routes to the Central Asian and Caspian oil fields,” as well as “establishing an army hostile to Islam that protects Western interests.”

The large vote for neo-fascist candidate Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s first round of the French presidential election has shaken the campaign, which continues towards the May 6 run-off between Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande and incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Le Pen received 17.9 percent of the vote, coming in third behind Hollande (28.6 percent) and Sarkozy (27.2 percent). She beat Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who received only 11.1 percent of the vote after having vowed to put Le Pen in fourth place.

The Le Pen vote highlights the dangers posed by the political vacuum on the left, which enables the far right to capitalize on widespread social anger over the austerity policies of both the PS and Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). As petty-bourgeois pseudo-left forces—such as the Communist Party, the New Anti-capitalist Party and Workers Struggle—work to channel popular opposition behind the PS and the trade union bureaucracy, Le Pen’s National Front (FN) is given a free hand to posture as the anti-austerity and anti-establishment party, appeal to popular hatred of the European Union and the bankers it represents, and combine phony populism with anti-immigrant racism and rabid nationalism.

The campaign of Mélenchon’s Left Front—an alliance between his Left Party and the French Communist Party (PCF)—rallied little support outside the roughly 10 percent of the population who regularly vote for the Stalinist PCF and “left” parties like the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA). It was clear, notwithstanding Mélenchon’s left rhetoric, that the Left Front was serving as a stalking horse for the PS campaign.

Both Sarkozy and Hollande referred to Le Pen’s showing in their campaign speeches yesterday. Sarkozy made an unabashed appeal to protectionist and anti-immigrant sentiment.

He said, “National borders work to protect people. If we look at the world as it is, the countries that succeed are those that respect the nation and their national identity. All you have to do is see the number of American flags in the US to understand that there, people love their country.”

He echoed his earlier campaign threat to pull France out of the Schengen border treaty if the European Union did not adopt tougher anti-immigrant measures. “If Europe does not work to protect its borders,” he declared, “France will do so unilaterally.”

Hollande, for his part, promised a “new decentralization law.” As he has pledged to cut €115 billion (US$152 billion) from the budget deficit, this can only mean slashing public services as they are transferred to overworked, underfunded regional and local administrations.

Hollande again thanked Mélenchon and Europe-Ecology-The Greens (EELV) candidate Eva Joly for “announcing, without haggling, their support for my candidacy.” Mélenchon, Joly and NPA candidate Philippe Poutou have called for a Hollande vote, either explicitly or by calling for a vote “against Sarkozy,” without placing any demands on Hollande. The Left Front, EELV and the NPA have all given the PS a blank check to carry out its right-wing policies.

Hollande then tried to place the entire blame for the rise of the far-right vote on Sarkozy. He said, “The person responsible for the rise of the far right is he who sometimes used its vocabulary. The person responsible for the rise of the far right is he who shattered in the course of five years a number of fundamental rights.”

While Sarkozy has undoubtedly appealed to neo-fascist sentiment, Hollande’s attempt to blame Le Pen’s electoral successes on Sarkozy is absurd and disingenuous. Rising support for the FN reflects the deep social crisis in France and the reactionary policies of the entire political elite, including the PS.

Le Pen’s vote was particularly high in the Northeast and along the Mediterranean coastline, where unemployment is amongst the highest in France. In these areas, the fascist candidate consistently received over 20 percent of the votes in electoral districts, in many cases finishing in second place.

In the south, she came in first in the Gard department, with over 25 percent of the vote. Gard is part of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, where the unemployment rate of 12.9 percent last year was the highest in France.

In the northern region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais she won over half a million votes. In the department of Pas de-Calais she finished second after Holland, polling over 25 percent. In Nord, she took third place with over 21 percent. Nord-Pas-de-Calais ranked second in last year’s unemployment statistics, at 12.8 percent.

As in the Mediterranean south, the region was once a stronghold of the Socialist and Communist parties. The FN’s rise began in 1983, when Socialist Party President François Mitterrand and his PS-PCF government imposed brutal austerity measures on the working class. Contrary to Hollande’s claims, it was his own party and the French bourgeois “left” that prepared the ground for the right-wing populism of the FN. It slashed social spending and destroyed most of the region’s coal, textile and steel industries. The last coal mine in Nord-Pas-de-Calais closed in 1990.

This record of austerity policies by the bourgeois “left” allows Le Pen to pose as a champion of little people. In March, she declared: “Unlike him [Jean-Luc Mélenchon], I didn’t wait 25 years for a seat as a senator before I got interested in the working class. Anyway, the voters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon are not the working class, but an electorate of ‘bobos’ [bohemian bourgeois].”

The rise of the neo-fascist vote reflects not only the social crisis facing the population, but the entire political establishment’s shift to the right. Its continual promotion of anti-Muslim racism—under the banner of the “war on terror” or “secularism” (the banning of the burqa)—allowed Marine Le Pen to rebrand the FN as part of the mainstream after she took over leadership of the party from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen last January.

A BVA poll last month found that 52 percent of Frenchmen considered the FN to be a “party like the others.” The pollsters said this response was particularly common (63 percent) among poorer layers of the population.

The most significant shift to the right was that carried out by the petty-bourgeois “left” parties—often in the guise of combating the neo-fascist parties. In 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen and conservative candidate Jacques Chirac reached the second round of the presidential elections, the PS, PCF and Revolutionary Communist League (LCR—precursor of the NPA) campaigned for a Chirac vote against Le Pen.

They opposed a call issued by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) for an active boycott of the elections to prepare an independent political struggle of the working class against the Chirac administration.

The subsequent decade saw these forces emerge as a critical support for social reaction in France and throughout Europe. They backed the trade union bureaucracy’s negotiation of pension cuts and other social attacks with Chirac and Sarkozy, just as petty-bourgeois “left” parties supported unions that were negotiating attacks on the working class in crisis-hit countries like Greece, Spain and Ireland. Nor did they issue any criticisms of toothless protests the unions called against measures they were helping to implement. They also supported Sarkozy’s anti-Muslim policies and French imperialism’s wars—against Libya last year, and Syria today.

Now they are supporting Hollande, who is preparing free-market attacks on the working class and famously assured London bankers earlier this year that he is “not dangerous.”

HOW LIBERTY WAS LOST

April 24th, 2012 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

When did things begin going wrong in America?

“From the beginning,” answer some. English colonists, themselves under the thumb of a king, exterminated American Indians and stole their lands, as did late 18th and 19th century Americans.  Over the course of three centuries the native inhabitants of America were dispossessed, just as Israelis have been driving Palestinians off their lands since 1948. 

Demonization always plays a role. The Indians were savages and the Palestinians are terrorists.  Any country that can control the explanation can get away with evil.

I agree that there is a lot of evil in every country and civilization.  In the struggle between good and evil, religion has at times been on the side of evil. However, the notion of moral progress cannot so easily be thrown out.  

Consider, for example, slavery.  In the 1800s, slavery still existed in countries that proclaimed equal rights.  Even free women did not have equal rights.  Today no Western country would openly tolerate the ownership of humans or the transfer of a woman’s property upon her marriage to her husband.  

It is true that Western governments have ownership rights in the labor of their citizens through the income tax. This remains as a mitigated form of serfdom. So far, however, no government has claimed the right of ownership over the person himself. 

Sometimes I hear from readers that my efforts are pointless, that elites are always dominant and that the only solution is to find one’s way into the small, connected clique of elites either through marriage or service to their interests. 

This might sound like cynical advice, but it is not devoid of some truth. Indeed, it is the way Washington and New York work, and increasingly the way the entire country operates. 

Washington serves powerful private interests, not the public interest. University faculties in their research increasingly serve private interests and decreasingly serve truth. In the US the media is no longer a voice and protection for the people. It is becoming increasingly impossible in America to get a good job without being connected to the system that serves the elites.

The problem I have with this “give up” attitude is that over the course of my life, and more broadly over the course of the 20th century, many positive changes occurred through reforms.  It is impossible to have reforms without good will, so even the elites who accepted reforms that limited their powers were part of the moral progress. 

Labor unions became a countervailing power to corporate management and Wall Street.

Working conditions were reformed. Civil rights were extended. People excluded by the system were brought into it. Anyone who grew up in the 20th century can add his own examples. 

Progress was slow–unduly so from a reformer’s standpoint–and mistakes were made. Nevertheless, whether done properly or improperly there was a commitment to the expansion of civil liberty.

This commitment ended suddenly on September 11, 2001. In eleven years the Bush/Obama Regime repealed 800 years of human achievements that established law as a shield of the people and, instead, converted law into a weapon in the hands of the government. Today Americans and citizens of other countries can, on the will of the US executive branch alone, be confined to torture dungeons for the duration of their lives with no due process or evidence presented to any court, or they can be shot down in the streets or exterminated by drone missiles. 

The power that the US government asserts over its subjects and also over the citizens of other countries is unlimited. Lenin described unlimited power as power “resting directly on force, not limited by anything, not restricted by any laws, nor any absolute rules.”

Washington claims that it is the indispensable government representing the exceptional people and thereby has the right to impose its will and “justice” on the rest of the world and that resistance to Washington constitutes terrorism to be exterminated by any possible means.

Thus, the American neoconservatives speak of nuking Iran for insisting on its independence from American hegemony and exercising its rights to nuclear energy under the non-proliferation treaty to which Iran is a signatory.

In other words, Washington’s will prevails over international treaties that have the force of law, treaties which Washington itself imposed on the world. According to the neoconservatives and Washington, Iran is not protected by the legal contract that Iran made with Washington when Iran signed the non-proliferation treaty.

Iran finds itself as just another 17th or 18th century American Indian tribe to be deprived of its rights and to be exterminated by the forces of evil that dominate Washington, D.C.

The vast majority of “superpower” Americans plugged into the Matrix, where they are happy with the disinformation pumped into their brains by Washington and its presstitute media, would demur rather than face my facts. 

This raises the question: how does one become unplugged and unplug others from the Matrix?  Readers have asked, and I do not have a complete answer.

It seems to happen in a number of ways. Being fired and forced to train your H-1B foreign replacement who works for lower pay, being convicted of a crime that you did not commit, having your children stolen from you by Child Protective Services because bruises from sports activities were alleged to be signs of child abuse, your home stolen from you because a mortgage based on fraud was given the force of law, laid off by “free market capitalism” as your age advanced and the premium of your employer-provided medical insurance increased, being harassed by Homeland Security on your re-entry to the US because you are a non-embedded journalist who reports truthfully on US behavior abroad.  There are many instances of Americans being jolted into reality by the “freedom and democracy” scales falling away from their eyes.

It is possible that becoming unplugged from the Matrix is a gradual lifelong experience for the few who pay attention. The longer they live, the more they notice that reality contradicts the government’s and media’s explanations. The few who can remember important stuff after watching reality shows and their favorite sports teams and fantasy movies gradually realize that there is no “new economy” to take the place of the manufacturing economy that was given away to foreign countries.  Once unemployed from their “dirty fingernail jobs,” they learn that there is no “new economy” to employ them.

Still seething from the loss of the Vietnam War and anger at war protesters, some flag-waving patriots are slowly realizing the consequences of criminalizing dissent and the exercise of First Amendment rights. “You are with us or against us” is taking on threatening instead of reassuring connotations, implying that anyone who opens his or her mouth in any dissent is thereby transformed into an “enemy of the state.”

More Americans, but far from enough, are coming to the realization that the extermination of the Branch Davidians at Waco in 1993 was a test run to confirm that the public and Congress would accept the murder of civilians who had been demonized with false charges of child abuse and gun-running. 

The next test was the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. Whose explanation would prevail: the government’s or that of experts?  Air Force General Partin, a top expert on explosives, proved conclusively in a heavily documented report given to every member of Congress that the Murruh Federal Office Building blew up from the inside out, not from the outside in from the fertilizer car bomb. But General Partin’s facts lost out to the government’s propaganda and to Congress’ avoidance of cognitive dissonance. 

Once the “national security” government learned that its pronouncements and those of the presstitute media carried more weight than the facts presented by experts, conspiracies such as Operation Northwoods could be put into play. A 9/11 became possible.

The Pentagon, CIA, and military/security complex were desperate for a new enemy to replace the “Soviet threat,” which had ceased to exist. The military/security complex and its servants in Congress were determined to replace the profits made from the cold war and to preserve and increase the powers accumulated in the Pentagon and CIA.  The only possible replacement for the Soviet threat was “Muslim terrorists.” Thus, the creation of the “al Qaeda threat” and the conflation of this new threat with secular Arab governments, such as Iraq’s and Syria’s, which were the real targets of Islamists. 

Despite the evidence provided by experts that secular Arab governments, such as Saddam Hussein’s, were allies against Islamic extremism, the US government used propaganda to link the secular Iraq government with Iraq’s enemies among Islamic revolutionaries.  

Once Washington confirmed that the American public was both too ignorant and too inattentive to pay any attention to events that would alter their lives and jeopardize their existence, every thing else followed:  the PATRIOT Act, the suspension of the Constitution and destruction of civil liberty, Homeland Security which has quickly extended its gestapo reach from airports to train stations, bus terminals and highway road blocks , the criminalization of dissent, the equating of critics of the government with supporters of terrorism, the home invasions of antiwar protesters and their arraignment before a grand jury, the prosecution of whistleblowers who reveal government crimes, the equating of journalism organizations such as WikiLeaks with spies.  The list goes on.

The collapse of truth in the US and in its puppet states is a major challenge to my view that truth and good will are powers that can prevail over evil. It is possible that my perception that moral progress has occurred in various periods of Western civilization reflects a progressive unplugging from the Matrix. What I remember as reforms might be events experienced through the rose colored glasses of the Matrix.  

But I think not. Reason is an important part of human existence.

Some are capable of it.

Imagination and creativity can escape chains.

Good can withstand evil.

The extraordinary film, The Matrix, affirmed that people could be unplugged. 

I believe that even Americans can be unplugged.  If I give up this belief, I will cease writing.

Former US President Jimmy Carter warned against a possible war with Iran Monday as he decried his nation’s involvement in unjust conflicts at a summit of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in Chicago.

Carter, a naval veteran who served as Democratic president from 1977 to 1981, said that while he is “not against conflict when necessary,” the criteria for a just war are often not met.

War is only just when it is a “last resort” after “every other possible peaceful resolution” is exhausted, when all efforts are made to protect civilians, when the purpose of the conflict is to make the situation better, not worse, when society in general agrees it is just and when the level of violence is “proportional to the injury received,” he said.

“That would obviously exclude our recent policy of preemptive war,” Carter said in a keynote address.

The United States has been “almost constantly at war” in the past 60 years — in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, El Salvador, Libya, Panama, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and many others.

“And now we are contemplating going to war again perhaps in Iran,” said the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Most of those wars fail to meet the criteria for a just war and “some of them were completely unnecessary.”

Carter said he wished the United States could be seen as a champion of peace, an environmental leader, and the world’s most generous nation when it comes to feeding the hungry and opposing human rights abuses.

“That’s not a hopeless dream,” Carter said.

“Maybe for my generation, yes, maybe for my children’s generation yes, but not for my grandchildren and students who are looking at Nobel laureates and saying what can I do to make this world more peaceful and make sure that all aspects of human rights prevail.”

Carter, who suffered from a perception of weakness that culminated in the botched 1980 operation to resolve the Iranian hostage crisis, is among 20 laureates gathered in Chicago for a world summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

I-Security Council Authorizes UN Observer Mission

At a stakeout for journalists on Saturday after the vote on Security Council Resolution 2043, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin explained that the text was carefully worded to signal all, including the opposition, to refrain from violence and to support the implementation of Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s 6 point plan. This resolution (S/2012/2043) provides the authorization for up to 300 UN observers to be sent to Syria for a period of up to 90 days. (1) The resolution states that the “mandate of the Mission shall be to monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties and support the full implementation of the Envoy’s six-point proposal.”

Differences about some of the provisions of the resolution had been resolved by changes made to the draft resolution in a 3-1/2 hour consultation held by Security Council members on Friday evening. Ambassador Churkin expressed satisfaction that the Security Council resolution he had initiated provided the basis for the resolution approved by the Security Council on Saturday in a unanimous vote of all 15 members.

II-Statements After the Vote

Statements made by several of the members of the Security Council after the vote help to shed light on the situation the UN observer mission can expect to encounter in Syria. In his statement, South African Ambassador Baso Sangqu referred to a letter to the Security Council members received earlier in the week. In that letter, the UN Secretary General reported that the Syrian government had welcomed the Advance Team of the observer mission, and that “despite some challenges, the Advance Team has enjoyed freedom of movement and has not observed major military concentrations or conflict.”

“We welcome the news,” Ambassador Sangqu said, “that the advance team has been able to visit hotspots of the conflict, including Homs and that they have observed calm and an end to major hostilities.” He noted that, “The deployment of the advance team has already proven to be a calming influence as violence has decreased during its presence. This marked decrease in violence should now be sustained.”

In his statement after the vote, Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri thanked the Russian delegation for introducing the resolution. “This is a significant step in the Council’s collective support for the efforts of the joint Special Envoy, Mr. Kofi Annan,” said Ambassador Puri.

The Indian Ambassador observed, “it is a matter of satisfaction that Mr. Annan’s efforts over the last seven weeks have resulted in an improvement in the situation in Syria. Even though there have been reports of violations, the ceasefire that came into force on 12 April has been observed by all parties in a large part of Syria.“ Ambassador Puri called for an expeditious deployment of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) which the Security Council had just authorized.

China’s Ambassador Li Baodong expressed the hope that, “the Supervision Mission will fully respect Syria’s sovereignty and dignity, act in strict accordance with the authorization of the Security Council, adhere to the principles of neutrality, objectivity and impartiality, and play an active and constructive role in pushing for a sustained cessation of violence in Syria.”

In his comments after the vote, Ambassador Churkin, expressed his view that, “The resolution establishes a clear framework of responsibilities for all parties to end the Syrian violence and for the need for cooperation with the UN observer mission and the Special Envoy.” He called upon the “external players involved in the Syrian question” to behave “responsibly” and to act in accordance with the provisions of resolutions adopted by the Security Council. In that regard, he pointed to the fact that the UN Security Council is the body which holds primary responsibility for matters of international peace and security. Other formats like the “groups of friends” that met in Tunis, Istanbul or Paris, should follow the resolutions of the Security Council and not undermine its work, he said. Similarly, he expressed the sentiment that “the Libyan model of action should remain forever in the past.”

While other delegations on the Security Council like those of Portugal, Pakistan, and Morocco pointed to the obligations of all in the Syrian conflict to honor the cease fire and cease violent acts, the US Ambassador Susan Rice focused her criticism solely on what she referred to as the “Assad regime.” And she threatened that if the Syrian government did not provide for “full freedom of movement for UN personnel” and other demands that she enumerated, the US would “pursue measures against the Syrian government.”

The text of the resolution, however, contains no provision for “full freedom of movement for UN personnel” to be provided, as Ambassador Rice demanded. To the contrary, the resolution calls on the Syrian government to ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS by ensuring that unimpeded and immediate freedom of movement and access as necessary “to fulfill its mandate.” The mandate is not open ended but is specifically written. The mandate is “to monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties and support the full implementation of the Envoy’s six-point proposal.”

After all Council members who had asked to speak had been called on, the Syrian Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari made a statement to the Council. He noted that there were statements made in the Security Council session in support of the resolution and statements contrary to it. He pointed to the fact that there was no reference in the resolution to the “Assad regime” as the US Ambassador had mischaracterized the Syrian government. Similarly, he noted the mischaracterizations of the violence in Syria. He pointed out that such mischaracterization had been critiqued in the Arab League Observer Report. (para 30 Arab League Observer Report)(2)

Examples presented in the Report provided convincing evidence that there were armed militants carrying out violent acts in Syria. Also the Arab League Observers noted in their Report that while they were in Syria, peaceful opposition protests that they observed had not been disrupted by the Syrian government. (para 71 Arab League Observer Report)

Ambassador Jaafari characterized as topsy turvey blaming crimes by armed insurgents on the Syrian government. He hoped that the UN Observer Mission would help to dispel the media misinformation about the situation on the ground in Syria, as the Arab League Observer Mission Report had done.

III-Safety Issues and Lessons from Arab League Observer Mission

During the stakeout held by the Russian Ambassador after the Security Council meeting, one journalist asked a question referring to the danger of sabotage of the UN Observer Mission as had happened with the Arab League Observer Mission. This earlier mission was discontinued just as it documented the actual existence of an armed insurgency that was responsible for substantial violence in the Syrian conflict.

The Russian Ambassador acknowledged that the UN observers going to Syria would be facing a “daunting task.” He was concerned for their safety and noted that Russian observers would be part of the UN Mission. It would be their duty to report objectively, he explained, and he hoped that the international community would support their objective reporting.

In the Security Council process of planning for this Second Observer Mission to be sent to Syria, there appears to have been little attention paid to building on the lessons described in the Arab League Observers Report. The Report of the Arab League Observers was included as Enclosure Number 4 in the document S/2012/71 (p. 11-46) distributed at the January 31, 2012 meeting of the Security Council. In the Report, problems of the insufficiency of transportation and communication equipment were particularly noted, as was the need to make available adequate “administrative and logistic support” and “media and political support to create an appropriate environment that will enable it to fulfill its mandate in the required manner.” (Para 83) (See Also Para 64, 65,68 and 69, VIII)

The Report describes the experience of the Arab League Observers, both their successes and the problems they faced. In so doing it provides a basis to predict what problems will need to be solved and what difficulties can be expected for the UN Observer Mission to Syria. Ambassador Churkin and several other members of the Security Council recognized the challenges that the UN Observer Mission will face, but the frequent distractions presented by those governments that are hopeful they can bring about regime change in Syria appear to hinder the needed consideration in the Security Council of how to build on the lessons of the Arab League Observer Mission.

IV-Netizen Comments

In an online discussion of a report on RT (Russia Today TV and streaming video) about the most recent Security Council Resolution authorizing the UN to provide for the observer mission in Syria, one netizen pointed to the problem of foreign support for the armed insurgency in Syria. (3) As part of a longer comment, this netizen criticized the UN saying:

“The UN has failed in its duties to protect Syria from outside interference by remaining silent on the continued arming/funding of the ‘opposition’ by the US/UK/Israel/Turkey and their Arab allies.” (Anon, April 22. 00:08)

Another netizen commenting on the need for accurate reporting about the role of the armed insurgents wrote:

“Let’s hope the monitors have the guts to tell the UN the role that the terrorist opposition plays in the mayhem. Unlike Ban-Ki-Moon, who blames it all on the govt. forces.” ( CON, April 21. 2012. 19:49)

A netizen comment on the irony represented by media reports which are in sharp contrast to the reality on the ground:

“Despite the UN’s ‘peace plan’ being fully rejected by both the Syrian rebels and their Western and Arab League backers who have openly pledged cash, weapons, and support for them to continue fighting in full violation of the proposed cease fire, the Western media has instead accused the Syrian government of failing to meet its obligations….” (Tony Cartalucci, April 21, 2012. 23:12)

Yet another netizen pointed to the lack of logic of much of Western reporting about the armed insurgents in Syria:

“It is absurd to try to enforce a cease fire, when only (the) Government has signed the accord. The militants did not bother. And in the meantime, all Western governments are concerned about is the “right of Syrians to protest.” Fantastic. Let them just get in the streets, so that the bombers can blow them up and blame the Government. Militants are giving interviews in (the) Western press – Der Spiegel – about their executions of civilians suspected of supporting (the) regime!… If anywhere on (the) planet such armed extremists try to take over neighborhoods, the entire force of that country will be brought to bear on them, and nobody would shed a tear if they all get blasted into oblivious. But in Syria, we glorify them? And why? I am not sure, but it seems to me that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf do not like the fact that in Syria EVERYBODY can practice openly any religion – and is safe….” (Bianca, April 22, 2012. 06:54) (4)

Responding to such comments, another netizen wrote,

“….I salute the discerning readers of this thread.” (Igor, April 22, 2012. 13:38)

Such extracts from comments of netizens discussing the UN Security Council activities demonstrate that the situation in Syria is of concern to people
around the world.

Security Council Resolution 2043, some of the statements made in the Security Council after the vote, and the Arab League Observer Mission Report paint a more accurate than usual picture of the crisis in Syria. Considered in light of sample netizen comments and other articles (5) on the Internet critiquing mainstream media coverage of this crisis, a more accurate view of the crisis emerges which will be needed if the means is to be found to resolve the conflict.

Notes

1)S/RES/2043 (2012)
“The situation in the Middle East”

http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions12.htm

The draft resolution was S/2012/245

http://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/306/08/pdf/N1230608.pdf?OpenElement

2)The Arab League Observer Report

http://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/219/03/doc/N1221903.DOC?OpenElement

“Letter dated 24 January 2012 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, Enclosure 4. League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria “Report of Head of the League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria for the period from 24 December 2011 to 18 January 2012,p. 11-22.”

Another copy of the Arab League Observer Report is online. The url is:

http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/s2012-71ArabLeagueObserverMission.pdf

3) http://rt.com/news/un-security-council-monitors-syria-635/comments/

4) “Ulrike Putz, “An Executioner for Syria’s Rebels Tells his Story,” Der Spiegel, March 29, 2012

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,824603,00.html

5) A couple of other recent articles documenting media misrepresentations of what is happening in Syria include:

http://english.al-akhbar.com/blogs/sandbox/surprise-video-changes-syria-timeline

http://www.syrianews.cc/syria-security-council-unsc-increases-observers-607.html

http://tunisianquestfortruth.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/samples-of-media-distortion-of-facts-about-syria-1-fake-pictures/ (contains some disturbing images)

A version of this article appears on the netizenblog at

http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2012/04/23/unsc-approves-90-day-observer-mission-to-syria/

One of the biggest pro-democracy rallies took place in Bahrain this week, defying claims that more than a year of US-backed brutal repression has crushed the popular movement against the unelected Al Khalifa monarchy.

Crowds of up to 200,000 marched on the outskirts of the capital, Manama, on Monday for the funeral of well-known pro-democracy activist Salah Abbas Habib [see amateur video 1]. The 36-year old was killed last Friday by regime forces during protests held against the Persian Gulf island’s staging of the Formula One Grand Prix over the weekend.

His body was found dumped on a rooftop on Saturday morning, the second day of the F1. The night before, Habib was detained along with several others, who had been protesting against the international sporting event. Witnesses confirm that his recovered body showed signs of physical assault as well as gun shot wounds.

In the week running up to the Grand Prix, large demonstrations were held daily in towns and villages across Bahrain, decrying the event going ahead amid ongoing state violence against the pro-democracy movement that began in February 2011. State security forces escalated repression against protesters with shotguns and firing even more massive amounts of tear gas than usual.

Dozens of civilians were injured and more than 60 pro-democracy activists arrested – contradicting claims by the F1 organisers and the regime that staging the race marked the “return to normalcy”.

Some 80 people from Bahrain’s mainly Shia population have been killed over the past year by Saudi-backed forces supporting the Al Khalifa monarchy. Thousands have been injured or incarcerated, including doctors and medics, teachers, journalists, lawyers and clerics.

Bahrain is the base of the US Navy Fifth Fleet. Earlier this year, Washington approved the sale of $53 million worth of military equipment to Bahrain, including armoured vehicles and teargas. The US government backed the invasion of Bahrain in March 2011 by Saudi forces, which have remained on the island to prop up the widely despised Al Khalifa dynasty.

While the Western mainstream media have largely ignored Bahrain’s uprising, the regime’s insistence on staging the F1 has backfired, bringing unwelcome international focus on the state’s brutal repression and the legitimate demands of the population for the unelected Sunni rulers to stand down.

Despite unrelenting state violence, the people have grown more defiant in their demands for the Al Khalifa monarchy to surrender power. The crowds of 200,000 at the funeral of Salah Abbas Habib represent about one-third of the indigenous population of Bahrain. In the amateur video below, the rallying call of “Yascot Hamad” – “Down, down [King] Hamad” – has now become an implacable demand of the people – a demand that becomes evermore trenchant with every martyr that falls.

The relative paucity of Western mainstream media coverage of the ongoing anti-government protests in Bahrain also points up the double standards and deception of this media with regard to Syria. No such protest movement commanding any where near a third of the population exists in Syria, yet the mainstream media has given virtually non-stop coverage to events in that country. Moreover, whereas Bahraini protests have been largely peaceful, those in Syria championed by the mainstream media are the work of foreign mercenaries armed and supported by NATO and Arab states, which have committed widespread atrocities.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent

[email protected]

NOTES:

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoJQyTJlhQk&feature=youtu.be  

Disarming Grandmothers, a 31 part web series has just been released by independent documentary filmmaker, Claire Pope.  For nearly 6 years Claire has been following the lives of veteran peace campaigners Helen John and Sylvia Boyes, who found themselves on trial for terrorism when they trespassed into a U.S Spy Base in Yorkshire.  Concerned about the Government’s frequent attempts to clamp down on legitimate protest, the Hertfordshire based filmmaker juggled various day jobs to embark on a personal journey, uncovering the bitter irony of a law which protects spying on a global scale yet makes terrorists out of peaceful protesters.

“You cannot leave a bad law unbroken;  

you have to break it until it is taken away” Helen

Disarming Grandmothers shines a light on the modern day peace movement through the eyes of two extraordinary women, who with their humour, spirit and eccentricity enchant you into their world.  Helen, a passionate Feminist, Atheist and one of the founders of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.  She has strong and often controversial views; believing in the importance of direct action to raise publicity.  Sylvia on the other hand is a Quaker who shies away from media attention and chooses to campaign on a multitude of levels, from handing out leaflets and petitions to Helen’s preferred method of choice, direct action.  Despite their personal differences, impending visits from the bailiffs for non payment of fines, arrests and jail time, the women remain defiant in their attempts to work together to bring about a more peaceful world.  There are not many grandmothers who awake at 4a.m to scout out a radar station, board US military planes and who lay down in front of nuclear truck convoys; here are two of them. 

“In times such as these, perhaps the prisons ought to be full of dissenters.” Sylvia

Disarming Grandmothers was inspired by an article about Helen and Sylvia’s ‘serious organised crime’ in The Independent.  Believing this was a story she had to tell, Claire quickly became a ‘one woman band’ using an observational style of filmmaking to capture the women’s complex lives.  Steven Keevil, a Media College Lecturer and friend from University, worked with Claire to help transform 125 hours of rushes into 31 x 3 minute bite sized episodes.  Excited by the potential of the Internet to provide opportunities for self broadcast and to attract global audiences, the pair hopes to encourage discussion, debate and to raise awareness of the peace movement.  Disarming Grandmothers launched with an opening trilogy on 12th April and with new episodes being released every Thursday over a 6 month period, there are ample opportunities for people to see a slice of protest life that they might otherwise have never known existed. 

“Here were two people putting their freedom on the line to bring about positive change, I couldn’t ignore that”.  Claire

Contact:           Claire Pope

Mob:                07793 941222

Email:              [email protected]

Website:          www.disarminggrandmothers.com

They’re not just killing men, they are killing the women and children. When we hear the official statements from the US government that no civilians have been killed, how do you explain the dead children’s bodies? Jemima Khan

Tariq Aziz – the young man who had been sitting just five feet away from her just a few days earlier, the teenager who had been so eager to help with the camera project, was dead. He was just 16. Another casualty of the US drones.
  

Tariqhighlight - Pratap Chatterjee

Tariq Aziz (ringed) was killed three days after this meeting.

He walked quietly between his two friends as he entered the conference hall in one of the best hotels in an exclusive enclave of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The carpeted room filled with chairs draped in white as if for a wedding, usually hosted business conferences. But this event was different. The smart suited-business men and laptops had been usurped by rough-hewn boys and traditionally-dressed older men from the tribal mountains a few arduous hours from the capital.

A row of elders greeted the attendees, lightly shaking hands as they gently touched their own chests in a traditional gesture. Deep-cut lines in their sun-hardened skin marked their years, full beards and elaborate head gear denoted their social standing. There was little chat as the three teenage boys filed to their seats. The men gathered had come to discuss death and destruction – the destruction of their homes and villages, the deaths of their children and friends.

Like many in the room, Tariq Aziz had travelled for eight hours by public bus to join the group. Despite his black kameez, flat-topped cap and the start of a neat beard, Aziz was clearly much younger than many of the other men gathered.

Seated just two rows directly in front was Jemima Khan, the British heiress, also dressed in a black traditional outfit edged with antique red and yellow embroidery, her thick, flowing hair left uncovered while in the hall. She tried hard not to attract attention, but her presence was so much at odds with those around her that it was difficult not to watch her reactions, not least because her former husband and now politician Imran Khan was also at the meeting.

Events a few hundred miles away, in the mountains of the north had brought this odd group together. Waziristan is an inaccessible, remote region on the border of Afghanistan. Few people other than the locals ever travel into the rugged interior. Frequent checkpoints keep journalists and foreigners out. The ubiquitous mobile phones have stopped working since the mobile network was switched off. There is no major industry and little farm-land. Most supplies are driven in by colourfully painted Bedford or Hino trucks, one of the few jobs available. People live as they have for centuries, following old traditions and tribal codes.

More than fifteen years ago, in 1996, Jemima Khan had travelled to the area, with her then husband Imran, and her father, Sir James Goldsmith, the billionaire financier. The tribesmen had regaled the visitors with stories of their fierceness. ‘One of the tribal elders came up to my father and said welcome to Waziristan. I just want to let you know that the last Englishman that came to these parts was 100 years ago, and our great grandfathers shot him,’ she recalled with a laugh. The men were warriors, violence was common, and Kalashnikov rifles carried openly, as they still are today.

But it was not the tribal fighting that concerned the men who had gathered in the Islamabad hotel. Life in Waziristan was being threatened by a far more fiercesome weapon than the automatic rifle. Unmanned planes, remotely-controlled from the Nevada desert thousands of miles away, have become an almost everyday sight in the skies above the arid lands of the north. It was the frequent attacks by these planes, or drones, operated by America, supposedly an ally, that were the focus of the gathering.

The drones had started flying, infrequently at first, over the northern mountains almost eight years ago. Initially they had hovered in the skies streaming video back to the operators – agents working for the US Central Intelligence Agency. They were gathering information about al Qaeda members allegedly hiding in the cut-off lands.

But now these unmanned planes have become an almost constant, and deadly presence.  Their deep, low dirge a terrifying symphony accompanying the villagers’ daily lives. They fly in packs, sometimes as many as a half dozen, circling the villages for hours, hovering over roads, before firing Hellfire missiles. As many as 3,000 people have been killed, though little more than a few lines ever gets reported in the Western press. This is a war fought largely out of sight of the global media, away from the connected world.

The “Jirga” – a traditional tribal meeting – last October was an attempt to raise attention to the events in this distant land. The villagers brought their evidence. They held up mangled lumps of metal – the remains of Hellfire missiles collected from roadsides and destroyed buildings. Photographs of orphaned children, bodies torn apart, vast craters left in the ground, destroyed buildings, burnt out cars were flashed up and pointed to by the men demanding that somebody be held to account.

‘What is happening right now is a crime, an injustice,’ shouted Khan Marjan, an angry tribal leader whose face was virtually buried under a large, white turban. ‘Can bombs be dropped on people like this? What would happen if this was Islamabad? And yet we are sitting quietly.’

One young teenager told how he had lost an eye and both legs, an older man his eye too, in injuries they claimed were caused by shrapnel from one of the many blasts. And Tariq Aziz told how a cousin had been killed in early 2010 by a Hellfire missile fired at him when he was on his motorcycle near his home. He showed an ID card and talked of his cousin’s innocence.

Jemima had joined the gathering to hear the stories, but also to offer help. She had spent nine years in Pakistan, married to Imran Khan and still feels very connected to the country, not least because her two sons are half Pakistani and visit the country several times a year.

She had been contacted by Clive Stafford Smith, a British-American lawyer, who cut his teeth representing death row inmates in Louisiana and Mississippi in the 1990s, but gained a global reputation after he took on the Bush administration by representing dozens of young men imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. The drone war in Waziristan is, for Stafford Smith, the next American injustice that needs taking on.

Jemima had agreed to finance a project aimed at getting digital cameras into Waziristan to record the damage and death caused by the drones, as part of a campaign to prove that innocents are dying. Tariq Aziz was eager to take part. ‘Tariq was an amateur photographer,’ Khan recalled over brunch in West London. ‘He liked football, we know that he was into photography. I suspect that one of the reasons that he came for the Jirga was that he wanted to get one of the cameras that we were providing.’

And so these two very different lives had been brought together.

After Islamabad, Jemima headed to Oman, to work on a project for Vanity Fair. In the serenely beautiful surroundings of the Omani desert she picked up an email. It had been sent by a contact in Pakistan – a lawyer working closely with families of drone victims. The subject line read simply: ‘Recent victim of drones folly’.

Tariq Aziz – the young man who had been sitting just five feet away from her just a few days earlier, the teenager who had been so eager to help with the camera project, was dead. He was just 16. Another casualty of the US drones.

Like so many teenagers in remote parts of the globe, Tariq though not legally old enough to drive, nonetheless had often taken out the family car. Around noon on October 31 he had been driving to pick up an aunt after her wedding. A slightly younger cousin, Waheed Rehman, was with him. Earlier that day, drones had been patrolling the skies for hours, but had become such a familiar sight in the area, that they were ignored. A few hundred yards from his aunt’s house one honed in and struck Aziz’s car. The two boys died instantly. Aziz’s uncle said their bodies were badly burned and mutilated, when people arrived from the village. The rescue party had held back at first, as drones frequently strike again, sometimes hitting those recovering the bodies.

For Jemima, the email far more than any of the images or stories she had heard back in Islamabad, brought home the brutal reality of the drone war. ‘They’re not just killing men, they are killing the women and children. When we hear the official statements from the US government that no civilians have been killed, how do you explain the dead children’s bodies?’

Attack of the drones

Pakistan has become the testing ground for a new kind of battle in the Global War on Terror initially launched by President George Bush across the border in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

Every day, remotely piloted Predator and Reaper drones, manufactured by the secretive General Atomics Corporation, hover over towns and villages in the northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Operated remotely by the CIA from the US, but launched from secret bases in Pakistan, they watch for “patterns of life” feeding back hundreds of hours of infra-red imagery via satellite for the spy agency to analyse.

These remotely piloted planes launch Hellfire missiles at targets, sometimes day after day, and typically in the early hours of the morning. The first reported attack was in 2004, under President Bush. This was followed by a further seven strikes that year. But it is under President Obama that the drone war has picked up. All told more than 300 strikes have been carried out in Pakistan, despite the fact that America is an ally, and now on average there is a strike every four days.

 

A year-long, continuing project by the Bureau has developed a database tracking all credibly reported strikes, and gathered information from on-the-ground researchers.

The US administration rarely acknowledges the existence of the drones in the Pakistani skies. Officially it states that: ‘It neither confirms nor denies the existence or non-existence of the programme.’ When comments are made, they are anonymous leaks to the US media always claiming that the missiles have only killed militants and emphasising how they are a vital tool in the fight against al Qaeda and its allies.

The high-tech weapons have killed many alleged high-ranking al Qaeda terrorists. Last year alone drones reportedly killed senior al Qaeda officials like Atiyah abd al-Rahman, the alleged second in command, Abu Zaid al-Iraqi, the alleged finance chief, and Ilyas Kashmiri, a legendary commander. Drones were also used to track Osama bin Laden’s movements before the May 2 Special Forces raid in which he was killed. Indeed the Bureau’s data suggests that at least two thirds of those killed are reported as militants, although only a few are ever named.

The problem is that there is a growing sentiment, especially in Pakistan, that too many civilians are also being killed. Demonstrators in the capital, and beyond, burn effigies of the drones and brandish placards imploring the Pakistan government to push the Americans out of their country. It is becoming a politically sensitive issue, which is doing nothing to help already strained relations between the two countries.

For its part, Washington, claims that only militants are killed. One of the few on the record remarks about the drone war made by a US government official was offered by President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan on June 29 2011. ‘I can say that the types of operations… that the US has been involved in, in the counter-terrorism realm, that nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.’

Even in response to the death of Tariq Aziz, an anonymous official was quoted at the end of last year in an article by ABC News saying that the car was targeted by the CIA, because ‘the two people inside it were militants.’

Could the teenager who travelled openly to Islamabad and willingly met with journalists and activists really have been a “terrorist” who threatened the US? Washington refused to comment.

At the Islamabad gathering, like most of the other young men there, Aziz displayed no anger. He had simply listened to the speeches and answered questions when he had been asked. He had been quiet and slightly intense. But, he had been says Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer working with families of drone victims, the most excited of all the attendees to get a camera and training to take back to document drone strike victims.

‘I remember he told me that he had a computer at home so he could download pictures from cameras and send it to me. When we met at the Jirga, he said, ‘remember we spoke on the phone?’ I said yes we did, and I am glad you are here and we will give you camera training and the camera to take pictures,’ Akbar recalls.

His family is adamant he was not a terrorist. His uncle, who lives with the family, explains that he spent most of his time at home, playing on the computer that his father, who worked in the United Arab Emirates as a driver, had bought him. Many of the male members of Aziz’s family – Aziz was the youngest of seven but lived with many of his extended family – work as truck drivers along the route from Karachi port to the Khyber pass, delivering goods, often to US troops in Afghanistan. The money sent home has brought the family relative riches and paid for a concrete house.

Akbar is so convinced of Aziz’s innocence, and that of his cousin, Waheed who was also killed, that he is preparing to bring a lawsuit against the US ambassador to Pakistan.

Aziz simply did not fit the profile of a terrorist, Akbar adds: ‘Militants do not travel 300 miles to the capital to be part of a Jirga and political rallies against drones. They come to Islamabad to blow themselves up. The Jirga itself was a good target.’

Akbar sent a letter to the American ambassador in December saying: ‘I am considering initiating legal proceedings against you as a co-conspirator in Tariq and Waheed’s murder – for murder is the only word that can properly be applied to the act committed by CIA agents and their accomplices.’

He is now being helped by a British legal charity Reprieve, headed by Stafford Smith. Jemima too is helping to finance the lawsuits.

Stafford Smith says that US intelligence is often wrong.

‘The only publicly available social science study of the accuracy of US government intelligence in Pakistan are the men they sent to Guantanamo where they got it overwhelmingly wrong. Over 80% of the prisoners there have been released without charge.’ Reprieve has represented roughly 10% of the 779 Guantanamo detainees and Stafford Smith visited the facility 24 times to work on these cases.

With no Western journalists in the area and no official accounts, it is difficult to ever be completely sure, or more importantly, test the claims of guilt. But research by the Bureau suggests that civilians are being killed by the drones, and that some victims, like Aziz are under 18.

After months of painstaking work the Bureau has found credible reports of 174 children killed in the strikes and between 479 and 811 civilian casualties. Under Bush between 182 and 280 civilians were reportedly killed in 52 strikes, under Obama there have been 268 incidents, with much less reports of civilian deaths.

Nonetheless Bureau research suggests that despite Washington’s claims, the strikes are still killing not only non-militants, but women and children too. Since June 2010, after Obama had ordered that the strikes should not put ‘innocent… men, women and children in danger,’ according to Brennan, the research suggests that at least 110 civilians have been killed. There are even four credible reports by news sources including the Wall Street Journal and the BBC that under 18s had been killed. In mid-August a strike in Miranshah, in North Waziristan hit a housing compound and a vehicle in the vicinity of a girls’ school. A local intelligence official was later reported as saying that two or three women and a child were among the dead.

A year earlier, in the early hours of August 23 2010, Hellfire missiles hit a compound in Danda Darpa Khel, North Waziristan, allegedly killing ten militants. Among the dead were Bismullah, his wife and two young children aged eight and ten. They left behind three young orphans, who were shocked but had survived the blast.

But the casualty numbers are just one example of the impact. Jemima was particularly struck by the stories told by the tribal elders at the Islamabad Jirga that described the terrifying reality of listening to the drones circle overhead day and night, over and over again.

‘It reminded me of what my mum would tell me of the Doodle Bugs in the (Second World) war. She was only little then and she told me how frightening the noise was. What that must do to you psychologically, knowing that most of the strikes happen at night. Lots of the men at the Jirga spoke of how their children couldn’t sleep. To be under constant surveillance by something that could actually kill you at any moment.’

‘The elders told us – ‘we are Pakistanis too. Just because we are from the tribal areas, does not mean that we are not Pakistanis. We are treated not only not like Pakistanis but not like human beings,’ says Jemima Khan.

And it is this resentment that many studying the conflict feel could ultimately be counter-productive. Increasingly concerns are being raised that the drone strikes could be turning a new generation into extremists. ‘Drone strikes do seem to be effective in a narrow military sense in killing Taliban and al Qaeda figures. The question is whether this limited tactical advantage is worth the fury that it is causing among Pakistanis and particularly among the Pashtuns, especially the opportunity it creates for extremist recruitment. In my judgement, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages,’ says Professor Anatol Lieven, Chair of International Relations and Terrorism Studies at King’s College, London, and author of “Pakistan: A Hard Country.”

Jemima is determined that this message is heard.

‘I dispute that drones are effective in counter-terrorism. I know they are meant to be accurate, and are supposed to cause less collateral damage, but I believe that they cause more terrorism in the long run. Even if you take out one terrorist, I still believe that the end result is you create more.’

‘The ideal scenario is that the campaign culminates with some kind of an awareness raising event in the US, because that is where we need to convince people that this is having the opposite effect of the one that is desired. I would like to get a documentary made that will be shown there, what we really have to focus our efforts on, is to getting the message across in America.’

Putting the dead to rest
It was late morning and a golden glow lit the surrounding hills. Dozens of men had gathered in a flat, barren plain in Waziristan. Most were dressed in simple white or cream tunics with headscarves. Two coffins lay on old metal beds.

A couple of black and white striped flags of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, which dominates the provincial political discourse, fluttered in a light breeze. Dozens of white Toyota Corolla cars, the preferred vehicle in the region, were randomly parked in and among the low scrub, together with a few pick-up trucks and a handful of motorcycles. Some of the men carried Kalashnikov rifles casually slung over their shoulders, but the majority were unarmed.

They grouped around the two coffins, which had been made roughly from MDMF. It was early November. One of the coffins was draped in a blue patterned cloth. On top a photo of a young man in a red frame edged with roses had been carefully placed. A veneer finish made the second coffin look more expensive. It was wrapped in a red patterned cloth. Rested on top was a framed picture of the young man who had joined Jemima at the Islamabad Jirga – Tariq Aziz.

A video of the funeral has been obtained by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights in Islamabad as part of a pool of evidence being gathered to prove Aziz was a civilian killed by a drone and seen by the Bureau.

The video shows the men opening Aziz’s coffin to reveal the contents to the camera. The body of Tariq Aziz is revealed – a torso in a white T-shirt and a dark blue tunic. The body has been decapitated. One of the funeral attendees gently re-tucks the bloodied clothes around the remains and covers them with a blanket before the coffin is sealed for the last time.

It is not usual to use coffins in this area, but many of the bodies recovered after drone strikes are so badly mangled and torn apart that coffins are becoming a necessity.

As the funeral gets under way a group of men raise the coffins and walk solemnly towards two freshly dug holes. They are close to an existing grave which is marked by a sign in Urdu that reads ‘Azeem Ullah, martyr son of Niaz Wali.’

After the men set down the coffins, they bow their heads as the call to prayer “Allahu-Akbar” wafts over them. Now and then, weeping can be heard, but mostly the hour-long event is surprisingly silent. There are other teenagers clearly recognisable from the Jirga, including Tariq Khan, one of the boys who sat next to Aziz. Many look deeply distraught. One man shakes his head over and over, a profound grief etched on his face.

There is no anger, no chanting, no defiance, no slogans – nothing that would suggest this was a funeral of a militant. Troubled tribesmen, heads solemnly bowed, hands tensely clasped together at their waists watch as the coffins are lowered into the graves on green ropes.

Each casket is covered by a slab of concrete and mud is used to seal the graves. Once the men are satisfied with the memorial, they step back and begin to sing one by one prayers from the Quran.

Jemima has not seen the video, but she has been told. She finds it difficult to comprehend – a boy, not much older than one of her own half-Pakistani sons, a boy who like her son loved football, shot down by a remote-controlled drone from the sky.

The attacks are never investigated. No one ever claims responsibility, no apologies are ever offered and no compensation is ever provided by either the Pakistani government or the US.

‘If this was happening in Lahore, it would be different. If there were drone strikes on one of the more cosmopolitan areas of Pakistan, it would be unthinkable. But because the tribal areas are inaccessible, they are seen as largely illiterate people from an autonomous region, and somehow they seem to be more easily forgotten.’

A version of this story was published in the Mail on Sunday.

Read the Bureau’s full investigation in US drone attacks in Pakistan and the covert war on terror being waged in Somalia and Yemen here

Bahrain: Grand Prix State Terror

April 24th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

Perhaps Bahrain April 22 was a first. Imagine a sporting event featuring state-sponsored terror and blood in the streets.

Imagine one with race drivers and event organizers mindless of raging crimes against humanity nearby.

Hollywood script writers wouldn’t touch it. Producers wouldn’t let them. The atmosphere was surreal. Attendance was sparse. A normally full grandstand was half empty. It’s a wonder anyone came.

Observers said more security forces than spectators showed up. Most teams, drivers, mechanics, engineers, and other personnel preferred to stay home. Nonetheless, they came.

Formula 1′s reputation was tarnished. Instead of pulling out, it went ahead anyway. Although favorite Sebastian Vettel took the checkered flag, no one won the contest. It was more travesty than sporting event.

The Al Khalifa monarchy’s media strategy backfired. Instead of burnishing Bahrain’s image, journalists focused more on rage against injustice, blood in the streets, police state violence, security forces and armored vehicles surrounding the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), and clouds of black smoke rising nearby.

Even though the heavily guarded venue let the race come off without incident, Bahraini protesters won on Sunday. Millions watched worldwide. Social media spread the word.

So did journalists courageous enough to explain. Even The New York Times got some of it right. It quoted activists saying they were protesting for democratic change.

It mentioned human rights leader Abdulhadi Alkhawaja’s “hunger strike for over two months.” It’s now two and a half months and counting, but how much longer can he hold on?

It also reported protest leader Salah Abbas Habib’s death by “gunshot wounds” without mentioning his name. It cited opposition groups blaming police. It explained that “antigovernment protesters have been demonstrating for democratic reforms” since other “revolts erupted across” the region last year.

The Washington Post, however, relied solely on an April 22 AP largely puff piece. It focused mostly on the event. It said “Bahrain got exactly the type of incident-free Formula One race it wanted….”

Perhaps inside, but not on bloodstained streets where the real action took place the way it’s done for months.

A London Independent article headlined, “Bahrain GP limps across finish line as lockdown wins the day,” saying:

Normalcy was nowhere in sight. Activist Alaa Shehabi said:

“There are armored vehicles at the entrance to every village. If anyone emerges now they will just be shot at. The government has sent a very strong message.”

After speaking to the Independent, Shehabi was arrested and detained. Inside the BIC, organizers and participants expressed relief at day’s end without incident. For sure, they want to leave and head home. Some may wish they hadn’t come. Who wants to race in a war zone?

London Guardian writer Ian Black headlined, “Bahrain Grand Prix fails to drown out angry protests,” saying:

Though unable to disrupt the race, protesters “claimed a moral victory against their government in their campaign to focus attention on tensions and repression in the Gulf state….”

Black explained heavy security, armored vehicles, police attacking protesters, tear gas, rubber bullets, thick black smoke clouds, curfews, and overall conditions unfit to live in let alone race.

“A Bahraini photographer reported that police had threatened to smash his camera for taking pictures of them chasing protesters.”

Black quoted Brookings Doha Centre analyst Shadi Hamid saying:

“For Bahrain’s regime, the F1 race was a massive, almost embarrassing, failure. For the opposition, it was a godsend.”

He cited real grievances gone unaddressed. He quoted independent al-Wasat Bahraini journalist, Mansoor al-Jamri, saying he’s “amazed by the (regime’s) state of denial.”

He reported an activist’s tweet, saying the “race is over but the Bahrain revolution continues.”

On April 23, the Guardian’s Josh Halliday said UK Channel 4 News journalists, including foreign affairs correspondent Johathan Miller, were “deported from Bahrain” after being arrested for filming a demonstration.

Denied visas, they came without accreditation. So did other foreign journalists. Authorities tried keeping all unwanted ones out. Some dared come anyway. Those caught were roughed up, detained, and deported.

Miller said police “aggressive and violently attacked the group’s driver.” Channel 4 aired him saying:

He and his crew “were caught filming a planned demonstration in one of the Shia villages….” Police confronted them. “(T)hey have not been particularly pleasant. They’ve been very aggressive towards me, my crew and driver and Dr Ala’a Shehabi, a prominent human rights activist.”

Authorities seized their cameras and computers, wouldn’t return them, and “initially refused permission to board a flight” home. Finally they got out.

State Terror Took the Checkered Flag on Sunday

Security forces escalated violence. Protesters, activists, and journalists were targeted. Tear gas, rubber bullets, shotguns, stun grenades, and baton beatings were used. Arrests, torture and other abuse followed. Another death was reported from tear gas inhalation. Some believe it’s toxic.

A Sanad village resident known as Sabeer was found dead in his room. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said he’s the 79th confirmed death since protests erupted in mid-February 2011.

On Sunday, at least eight Bahraini women with tickets showed up at the BIC. Unarmed, they began protesting peacefully. Police beat and arrested them.

Nazeeha Saeed, a previous torture victim, tweeted that “torturer officer Sara Al Moosa is on duty in BIC protecting the race.”

Others expressed concern about the arrested women taken to the same Naziha police station where detainees are tortured. Parents were denied permission to see their daughters.

Throughout the weekend, Manama’s Pearl Roundabout (scene of numerous protests) was surrounded and heavily protected. Protesters were heading there. It’s a symbol of freedom and democratic change.

No one was allowed near it. Security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and shotguns.

On April 21, Alkhawaja’s daughter, Zainab, was arrested for the second time. She was peacefully protesting her father’s detention and condition. She’s currently detained in jail. Her sister, Maryam, BCHR’s foreign affairs head, said:

“I can guess (she’s held) because nobody really believes in the legal system.” Police states have none. “Zainab’s mentality is you can only bring about the fall of the regime when you stop treating it like a government.” It mocks a legitimate one. So do many other regional police states.

On April 21, activist Mohammed Hassan was arrested with London Telegraph journalist Colin Freeman. He was struck with a gun barrel and beaten. He required hospitalization. Detained for about 24 hours, he’s now released.

On April 22, activists Alaa Shehabi and Ali Aali were accompanying journalists when accosted by police and arrested. Aali said they were insulted and humiliated. Shehabi is an economist, lecturer, writer, activist, and research head of BRAVO human rights organizations, as well as co-founder of Bahrain Watch.

On Saturday, Danish journalist Rasmus Tantholdt was denied entry at Manama airport for the second time in 24 hours. Two weeks ago, he managed to get in to report on Alkhawaja. On Sunday, two Japanese journalists were arrested and detained.

Police accosted German photojournalist Mazen Mahdi while covering Belad Al Qadeem village protests. He was threatened and told his camera would be broken if he didn’t leave. He explained saying, the “threat (was) made by what appear(ed) to be an officer masking his face and rank.”

On April 23, a media blackout remains in place. Journalists caught violating it are targeted. In the run-up to Sunday’s race and the day after, it didn’t work. The word got out and spread worldwide.

Millions paying attention know more about state terror than Grand Prix racing. They also understand why Bahrainis risk so much to end it. Given their courage to live free, it’s better than even money they will one day.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/ .

Iran has started to copy the captured U.S. spy drone RQ 170, the commander of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps announced on Saturday, Iranian Mehr news agency reported.

Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh who was speaking on the anniversary of the establishment of the IRGC also said experts are receiving information from the captured spy plane, and revealed what he said were “codes” gleaned from the unmanned aircraft.

“I am giving you four codes so the Americans understand just how far we have gone in penetrating the drone’s secrets,” he told state television.

“In October 2010, the aircraft was sent to California for some technical issues, where it was repaired and after flight tests, it was taken to Kandahar (in Afghanistan) in November 2010, when a series of technical problems still prevailed,” he said.

“In December 2010, it was sent to an airport near Los Angeles for repair of its equipment and sensors, and flight tests. The drone was then sent back to Kandahar,” he said.

Hajizadeh did not give further details, saying: “This aircraft is a national treasure for us, and I cannot divulge information about it.”

But he added Iran has “started producing a copy of the RQ-170 drone,” stressing it used the same US technology in stealth fighters and bombers.

For his part, the US Senator Joe Lieberman said that Tehran’s declaration about copying the US spy drone amounts to little more than “Iranian bluster.”

“There is some history here of Iranian bluster particularly now when they’re on the defensive because of our economic sanctions against them,” said the independent lawmaker, chairman of the Democrat-led Senate’s Homeland Security Committee said.

Lieberman made his remarks to the “Fox News Sunday” program after General Hajizadeh’s speech on state TV, saying that he felt “skepticism” at the claim, the first reaction from a senior US politician.

However, Tehran’s technological and military capabilities prove the opposite, and the coming days will reveal the truth.

The unmanned, bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel drone went down in Iran four months ago, and Iran’s gleeful military proudly displayed it on state television apparently intact, though with what appeared to be damage to one of
its wings.

From driftnet surveillance to data mining and link analysis, the secret state has weaponized our data, “criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial,” as Cryptohippie famously warned.

No longer the exclusive domain of intelligence agencies, a highly-profitable Surveillance-Industrial Complex emerged in the 1980s with the deployment of the NSA-GCHQ ECHELON intercept system. As investigate journalist Nicky Hager revealed in CovertAction Quarterly back in 1996:

The ECHELON system is not designed to eavesdrop on a particular individual’s e-mail or fax link. Rather, the system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and using computers to identify and extract messages of interest from the mass of unwanted ones. A chain of secret interception facilities has been established around the world to tap into all the major components of the international telecommunications networks. Some monitor communications satellites, others land-based communications networks, and others radio communications. ECHELON links together all these facilities, providing the US and its allies with the ability to intercept a large proportion of the communications on the planet.

With the exponential growth of fiber optic and wireless networks, the mass of data which can be “mined” for “actionable intelligence,” covering everything from eavesdropping on official enemies to blanket surveillance of dissidents is now part of the landscape: no more visible to the average citizen than ornamental shrubbery surrounding a strip mall.

That process will become even more ubiquitous. As James Bamford pointed out in Wired Magazine, “the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes (10 to the 24th bytes) of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes–so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)”

“It needs that capacity because, according to a recent report by Cisco, global Internet traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015,” Bamford reported, “reaching 966 exabytes per year. (A million exabytes equal a yottabyte.) … Thus, the NSA’s need for a 1-million-square-foot data storehouse. Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.”

A former top NSA official turned whistleblower, William Binney, who resigned in 2001 shortly after the agency stood-up the Bush regime’s warrantless wiretapping programs (now greatly expanded under Hope and Change™ huckster Barack Obama), “held his thumb and forefinger close together” and told Bamford, “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

Last week, Binney said on Democracy Now when queried whether there were any differences between the Bush and Obama administrations, “Actually, I think the surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.”

Add to that the Transportation Security Administration’s invasion of “travel by other means,” as Jennifer Abel pointed out in The Guardian, through the agency’s usurpation of “jurisdiction over all forms of mass transit,” and it should be clear to Americans (though it isn’t) that there is no way of escaping the secret state’s callous trampling of our rights.

Commenting, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald pointed out that the “domestic NSA-led Surveillance State which Frank Church so stridently warned about has obviously come to fruition.”

“The way to avoid its grip is simply to acquiesce to the nation’s most powerful factions, to obediently remain within the permitted boundaries of political discourse and activism.”

“Accepting that bargain,” Greenwald noted, “enables one to maintain the delusion of freedom–’he who does not move does not notice his chains,’ observed Rosa Luxemburg–but the true measure of political liberty is whether one is free to make a different choice.”

But in a militarized Empire such as ours the only “choice” is to shut up, keep your head down–or else.

‘Lower Your Shields and Surrender Your Ships’

Militarist solutions to intractable social contradictions, the oft-maligned class struggle, do not appear out of the blue. Indeed, NSA’s ECHELON system, the template for STELLAR WIND and the agency’s associated email and web search database known as PINWALE, were technological responses by Western elites to challenges posed by the “excess of democracy” decried by Samuel Huntington and his cohorts in The Crisis of Democracy, published by the Rockefeller-funded Trilateral Commission.

Social critic Andrew Gavin Marshall observed that for Huntington and the right-wing ideologues who mounted an intellectual counterattack against the democratic “excesses” of the 1960s, the “massive wave of resistance, rebellion, protest, activism and direct action by entire sectors of the general population which had for decades, if not centuries, been largely oppressed and ignored by the institutional power structure of society,” were “terrifying.”

Fast forward to today. As the global economic crisis deepens and hundreds of millions of people worldwide reject the “austerity” boondoggles of the financial sharks who brought on the crisis through massive frauds disguised as “investment opportunities,” our corporatist masters are fighting back and have turned to police state methods to prop-up their illegitimate rule.

Nor should it surprise us, as George Ciccariello-Maher pointed out in CounterPunch in the wake of last summer’s London “riots,” a mass response to police murder (coming soon to an “urban exclusion zone” near you!): “Irrational, uncontrollable, impermeable to logic and unpredictable in its movements, these undesirables have once again ruined the party for everyone, as they have done from Paris 1789 to Caracas 1989. In Fanon’s inimitable words: ‘the masses, without waiting for the chairs to be placed around the negotiating table, take matters into their own hands and start burning…’”

Call it the great fear of those lording it over the slaves down on the global plantation!

Combining attributes of Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon” and George Orwell’s ubiquitous “Big Brother,” the National Security State, as it works to stave-off its own well-deserved collapse, seeks to root out and marginalize “dangerous” individuals and ideologies thereby “inoculating” the body politic from what were euphemistically called in the halcyon days of J. Edgar’s COINTELPRO operations, “subversive elements.”

It matters little whether today’s “usual suspects” are landless peasants, displaced workers, investigative journalists, civil libertarians or innocent citizens mistakenly caught in one dragnet or another: “threats” will be “neutralized” or more pointedly, in the evocative language employed by spooks: “Terminated with extreme prejudice.”

Operating alongside tried and methods–police repression and violence–contemporary crackdowns are guided by “robust situational awareness” gleaned from the wealth of personal data stored on multiple digital devices (the spies in our pockets) and in huge databases. As Cryptohippie averred: “An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine.”

“When we produced our first Electronic Police State report,” the privacy professionals wrote, “the top ten nations were of two types:

1. Those that had the will to spy on every citizen, but lacked ability.

2. Those who had the ability, but were restrained in will.

But as they revealed in their 2010 National Rankings, “This is changing: The able have become willing and their traditional restraints have failed.” The key developments driving the global panopticon forward are the following:

• The USA has negated their Constitution’s fourth amendment in the name of protection and in the name of “wars” against terror, drugs and cyber attacks.

• The UK is aggressively building the world of 1984 in the name of stopping “anti-social” activities. Their populace seems unable or unwilling to restrain the government.

• France and the EU have given themselves over to central bureaucratic control.

As Marxist critic and Situationist troublemaker Guy Debord pointed out decades ago in The Society of the Spectacle, “the spectacle is not the inevitable consequence of some supposedly natural technological development. On the contrary, the society of the spectacle is a form that chooses its own technological content.”

Mark that well.

Rejecting the orthodoxies and received wisdom of his day, Debord argued that “The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular system chooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender ‘lonely crowds.’ With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions.”

It is again worth noting that the much-vaunted “global village” which sprung to life with the widespread deployment of the internet in the 1990s, as a profit-center for the giant telecoms and a spy machine for the secret state, was, after all, a casual by-product of the Pentagon’s quest for a wartime digital communications system.

But now that every facet of daily life has become a war theater, what are we to make of the electronic walled gardens offered for sale by Apple, Facebook and Google, replete with their multitude of proprietary apps which, like Bentham’s “panopticon,” have become prisons of our own choosing?

Ponder Debord’s rigorous theorems in this light; substitute “cell phone” or “GPS” for “automobile,” and “internet” for “television” and it becomes clear pretty quickly that unbeknownst to the militarist inventors of the “digital highway” they had stumbled upon the perfect means for enabling a global control grid.

As Debord averred: “If the spectacle, considered in the limited sense of the ‘mass media’ that are its most glaring superficial manifestation, seems to be invading society in the form of a mere technical apparatus, it should be understood that this apparatus is in no way neutral and that it has been developed in accordance with the spectacle’s internal dynamics.”

“Internal dynamics” geared only towards its own survival and reproduction come hell or high water. Endless wars on “terror,” “drugs,” “crime,” take your pick. Prison-Industrial Complexes? Genetically-engineered plagues? Ecological collapse? Step right this way! There’s an app for that and much, much more!

Indeed, “if the social needs of the age in which such technologies are developed can be met only through their mediation, if the administration of this society and all contact between people has become totally dependent on these means of instantaneous communication, it is because this ‘communication’ is essentially unilateral,” that is, “the product of the social division of labor that is both the chief instrument of class rule and the concentrated expression of all social divisions.”

Keep in mind that Debord’s seminal text was penned in 1967, long before the wet dreams of securocrats had been brought to life like Frankenstein’s monster. Once a disquieting and uncanny shape looming on some far-off, dystopian horizon, the world of smart phones and dumbed-down people is, simply put, an Americanized Borg cube where “resistance” is always “futile.”

The question is, in our fallen Republic does anyone even notice?

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

It’s a sign of the times: Hollywood heart-throbs, pop divas and TV chat show celebrities are turning on the mood music for America’s never-ending global war.

In a world of lawlessness, state terrorism, rank mendacity and war criminals masquerading as government leaders, what better than to engage the glamor of reassuring celebrities to add a certain “star appeal” to otherwise barbaric endeavours?

George Clooney, Rihanna, Oprah Winfrey are just some of the big names lending their faces and voices to a script worthy of Hollywood – only the script is coming out of the Pentagon.

Perhaps unwitting agents, these consumer-culture icons are ironically lending cover and justification to crimes and human suffering that they claim to be opposed to.

Take actor George Clooney. Last month, he caused a media stir when he was arrested for his part in a demonstration outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington protesting against Khartoum’s alleged violations in neighboring South Sudan. The day before his arrest, Clooney had a private meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House to discuss the Sudanese conflict.

Two weeks later, Obama hosts Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, the newly formed North African state which broke away from Sudan last July after decades of civil war. Media reports claimed that Obama urged South Sudan to not engage in conflict over border disputes with its northern neighbour.

Another two weeks later, South Sudan’s army dramatically escalates conflict by invading northern Sudan and seizing its vital oil installations in the district of Heglig. The attack triggered much sabre-rattling by Khartoum with President Omar Bashar all but declaring war on South Sudan. Fears of all-out war have subsided in the past few days after South Sudan’s forces withdrew across the border. This may be just the first of many renewed skirmishes to come.

There is no way, as Glen Ford, editor of Black Agenda Report, points out, that South Sudan would have embarked on such reckless aggression without prior tacit approval from Washington.

On that score, the likes of Clooney provide a crucial propaganda function. The genial screen star lends credibility to the long-running Washington narrative that the villain in the Sudanese conflict is the northern state of Omar Bashar. After all, Bashar is wanted as an alleged war criminal by the Western-controlled International Criminal Court. Clooney’s campaigning, no doubt motivated by well-meaning human concern, nevertheless adds a Hollywood dimension to the fraudulent “responsibility to protect” principle that Washington and other Western powers have been deploying as a cover for neo-imperialist intervention.

Meanwhile, pop diva Rihanna and chat show queen Oprah Winfrey have joined other celebrities in giving emotive public support to Washington’s posse of Special Forces sent to hunt down African renegade Joseph Kony. The elusive rebel commander shot to notoriety after the release of a documentary film, Kony 2012, which accuses his Lord’s Resistance Army of kidnapping, raping and murdering thousands of children in the jungles of Africa. The outpouring of public anger engendered by the film, made by a little-known charity group Invisible Children, coincided conveniently with President Obama announcing the dispatch of American Special Forces to go after Kony across four African countries: Uganda, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

Sceptics have pointed out that the modern-day bounty hunter saga of Kony and the LRA is long out of date. The height of his alleged depredations was 6-10 years ago during the LRA’s guerrilla war against Uganda state forces. In recent years, the LRA has faded into relative obscurity. To suggest that Kony and his rabble of a few hundred fighters present a threat to African state security or American vital interests is risible.

Moreover, the alleged crimes of Kony’s LRA need to be put in perspective. If the fate of kidnapped, child slaves is the genuine motive of charity groups and celebrities, then they would find much greater cause for concern in the hundreds of thousands of African children who are exploited and killed every year in the legalised mining and cocoa growing industries that operate across Central and West Africa. While the mining and chocolat companies cannot be held directly responsible for these “malpractices”, this continental-size exploitation of African children is, nonetheless, part of a profit driven economic agenda which is rarely addressed by the so-called “international community”.

An understanding of the process of impoverishment, oppression and human suffering in what is best described as “America’s Africa” is drowned out by the public hysteria whipped up by tearful celebrities, paving the emotional way for the Pentagon to dispatch its “humanitarian forces” to track down “evil monsters”.

Hysteria also conceals, conveniently, important historical facts about the causes of conflict in all of these African countries. Conveniently, because Washington’s proxy war-making is a major cause of ongoing conflicts, and yet Washington is posturing, thanks in part to homey celebrities, as a savior of the suffering.

Far more culpable of crimes against humanity than Joseph Kony is Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. For more than 25 years, Ugandan forces under Museveni have been waging scorched-earth campaigns of genocide against his own people to displace them from mineral-rich northern territories. The death toll runs into millions. Down through the genocidal years, Museveni has been backed by successive White House administrations. The notion that Obama has just sent Special Forces to Africa belies the fact that American covert operations have been active in Africa for decades.

In 1996, US Special Forces backed Uganda’s invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo unleashing a covert war that continues to haunt large swathes of Central and East Africa, with a death toll that again runs into millions.

Another advantage of the US-backed plundering by Museveni in northern Uganda was the provision of a conduit for arms and supplies to the separatists in southern Sudan in their decades-long civil war with Khartoum, which resulted in over two million dead. Humanitarian crises in Sudan from famine and war are therefore a legacy of Western intervention. Yet celebrities like George Clooney are calling for more of this kind of intervention in the guise of “humanitarianism”.

Oil-rich and strategically located, Sudan has been a long-held prize for Washington and other Western powers. When Sudan fragmented along a North-South divide last year, it can be seen as a success of Washington’s proxy war-making and a mere staging post on the way to eventual control over the entire territory. Recall that Sudan was one of the seven countries – along with Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Iran – disclosed by former US General Wesley Clark as part of a 2001 Pentagon plan for hegemony in the world’s oil-rich regions. The re-ignition of Sudanese conflict this month is consistent with a continuation of Western policy of regime change towards Sudan, north and south.

Sudan is one of the main oil producers in Africa. But in recent years, Khartoum’s antagonism with the West meant that China became the dominant partner in Sudan’s oil industry, building refineries and pipelines. Over two-thirds of Sudan’s oil exports were shipped to China in 2010.

US regime change in Sudan would kill two birds with the one stone: gaining control of Sudanese oil and dislodging global competitor China from an important foothold on the African continent.

Uganda is set to become a new African oil giant, with the recent discovery of more fields on its western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DRC is known to have vast deposits of metals and minerals.

Untold rich natural resources across the continent of Africa are the real reasons for Washington’s proxy wars that have been responsible for massive misery and poverty and ongoing conflicts that threaten to explode again into all-out wars.

Covering the ugly truth of America’s destruction in Africa are brainless, fact-less, hysterical “documentaries” about African bogeymen and humanitarian crises. Celebrity angst and voice-overs add star quality to the deception and set the scene for the yet more “humanitarian intervention”.

One thing these American celebrities need to get straight in their heads is the fact that their government is on a murderous rampage across the globe from Africa to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and beyond. Syria and Iran show the bloodlust is far from over. The psychopathic mass murders by individuals like Sgt Robert Bales are just the shadows of the criminal wars of American government.

Pleading with this same government to take up humanitarian causes in Africa is like expecting a psychopath to deliver medicine down the barrel of a gun.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent

[email protected]  

VIDEO: Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent

April 23rd, 2012 by Andrew Nikiforuk

DOCTORS SEEK DAVID KELLY DEATH INQUEST – NEW APPLICATION TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

I am one of the doctors who have been fighting for an inquest into the suspicious death of Dr David Kelly in July 2003, pointing out that due process of the law has been subverted by four successive UK governments, including the present, by their not allowing, using a variety of highly dubious tactics, the legally required inquest to take place.  
 
Because of the increasingly obvious anxiety, even desperation, of successive governments to block a formal inquest and the disingenuous reasons given for not holding an inquest, many fear that there has been a cover-up of epic proportions and many others have wondered what it is that is so important to hide that precludes an inquest taking place.  
 
There are some who suspect that Dr Kelly was murdered and of course without an inquest that possibility has not been excluded.  If he was murdered by the state, or with the knowledge of the state, and the murder has been covered up, that would constitute criminalization of the state and would fatally undermine trust, and the notion of democracy, and the delicate relationship of those who govern and those who allow themselves to be governed.  
 
In normal circumstances, in England and Wales, a coroner holds an inquest into a suspicious death.  There appears to be no intention to hold an inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.  This is a unique and unacceptable state of affairs.  At medical school we were taught that without coroners and inquests nobody is safe.  The Coroner speaks for the dead to protect the living.
 
In the context of all the above (and much more), Dr Andrew Watt and Brian Spencer lodged on Wednesday 18 April 2012 another application, to Dominic Grieve QC Attorney General, for an inquest into Dr Kelly’s death. 

According to an April 20 Press Association wire:

“A group of doctors campaigning for a fresh inquiry into the death of government scientist David Kelly have submitted a new application calling for Attorney General Dominic Grieve to ask the High Court to order an inquest, it emerged today.
 
Mr Grieve rejected calls for an inquest last June following a lengthy review of the case of Dr Kelly, whose body was found near his Oxfordshire home in 2003, shortly after he was identified as the source of a BBC report about the Government’s dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
 
The Attorney found there was no possibility that an inquest would reach a different conclusion from the Hutton Inquiry, which found in 2004 that Kelly committed suicide.
 
But the new application submitted by Dr Andrew Watt and Brian Spencer argues that Mr Grieve relied on a “misleading and inadequate assessment” of evidence that Dr Kelly’s body may have been moved in the hour after its initial discovery by volunteer searchers.
 
The first people to see the body described the weapons expert’s head and shoulders as being propped against a tree, but when photographs were taken about an hour later there was a clear gap between the body and the tree, and no adequate explanation has ever been given for the discrepancy, said the application, submitted on Wednesday.

“On the single ground of the evidence that the body was moved then it is evident ‘in the interests of justice’ that an inquest is needed,” said the application. “There are, however, many other grounds for doubt about the safety of Lord Hutton’s conclusion.”
 
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office confirmed that the application had been received and a response was expected within the next few days.”

Below that, please see the covering letter sent by Dr Watt with the hard copy of the formal legal document (Section 13 application) to the Attorney General.

And below that, please see the full text of the new Section 13 application, published for the first time on Global Research.  The reader will I am sure be rewarded by a careful reading of this meticulously researched document.
 
(Dr) Stephen Frost BSc MB ChB Specialist in Diagnostic Radiology (Stockholm, Sweden)       .      . 

 

LETTER TO ATTORNEY GENERAL
 

20th April 2012
 
Dominic Grieve QC MP
Attorney General’s Office
20 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0NF
 
Dear Mr Grieve,
 
Enclosed with this letter is hard copy of the 18 page Application dated 18th April 2012 to the UK Attorney General in terms of Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988, seeking that the Attorney General apply to the High Court to seek an Order that an inquest be held into the death of Dr. David Kelly.
 
Briefly, the document shows that the body of Dr. David Kelly was in one position at 09.15 on 18th July 2003. An hour or so later it was in a different position. The evidence indicates that the body was moved by person or persons unknown.
 
It seems to me that any rational consideration of this important matter, in all the circumstances, must lead an honest Attorney General to acknowledge that an inquest might return a different verdict.
 
Such an assessment would lead to an application to the High Court seeking an Order that an inquest be held into the suspicious death of Dr. Kelly.
 
You are aware that I have been severely critical of your handling of the Section 13 application initially lodged by Dr. Stephen Frost and colleagues.
 
I view your consideration of Dr. Frost’s Section 13 application as having been deficient and dishonest.
 
Those causes for concern were obvious to me during your statement to the House of Commons on 9th June 2011.
 
On 12th June 2011 I invited you to resign as Attorney General.
 
I again suggest that you consider your position.
 
Given the serious implications for your political and legal career it occurs to me that you may wish to “tough it out”.
 
In that eventuality, it is my considered opinion that, given what I believe to be the biased and dishonest assessment you carried out in response to Dr. Frost’s Application, it is highly questionable whether you can fairly conduct an independent review of this present Application in the manner which an honest Attorney General has a duty to do in the public interest.
 
You may also wish carefully to consider the implications for your credibility as Attorney General of your concealing the serious questions put to you by me on 13th May 2011 about the veracity of ACC Page at the Hutton Inquiry. Serious questions which you concealed from the House of Commons on 9th June 2011.
 
Mr. Brian Spencer, co-applicant, is writing to you separately to give you signed confirmation that the Application is in our joint names.
 
In the first instance, I would be grateful if you would acknowledge receipt of this letter and its attachment.
 
I look forward with interest to learning how you propose to proceed.
 
Yours sincerely

 
(Dr) Andrew Watt
 

 


 


 

Application 
 

to
 
The Attorney General
 
in terms of  Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988
 
with respect to an inquest  into the suspicious death of 
 
Dr. David Christopher Kelly CMG
 
by


Dr. Andrew Watt
BMedBiol MBChB MD(Hons) FRCP(Ed) DipPharmMed BA


and


Mr. Brian Spencer
 
18th April 2012
 
 
 
 
We formally seek that the Attorney General apply to the High Court for an Order that an inquest be held into the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly in Oxfordshire in July 2003, by virtue of Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988.
 
This Section 13 Application examines in detail only one of the multiple causes for concern regarding the suspicious death of Dr. Kelly – the evidence that a person or persons unknown moved Dr. Kelly’s body on 18th July 2003.
 
Executive Summary
 

  1. At 09.15 on 18th July 2003 the body of Dr. Kelly was found with head and shoulders against a tree.
  2. Around an hour later the head was at some distance from the tree, sufficient for an ambulanceman to stand between the tree and the head.
  3. Given the evidence indicating that Dr. Kelly had been dead for some hours one can reasonably exclude the possibility that he moved himself.
  4. We conclude that one or more third parties were present at the scene at Harrowdown Hill and moved the body.
  5. We conclude that the likely purpose of moving the body was to create a false impression of suicide in order to conceal the murder of Dr. Kelly.
  6. We conclude that the “suicide” conclusion of the Hutton Inquiry is unsafe and untrue.
  7. In the interests of justice an inquest is required into the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly.

 
Our approach to the evidence on the positions of the body
 
We consider evidence relating to the positions of the body and the implications of that evidence under these headings:
 

  1. The position of the body at 09.15 on 18th July 2003
  2. The evidence of Detective Constable Graham Coe
  3. The position of the body after 10.10 on 18th July 2003
  4. The misleading nature of the document “Annex TVP 3”
  5. Paragraph 151 of the Hutton Report
  6. Conclusions regarding movement of the body
  7. Implications
  8. Other issues of concern
  9. Legal Issues
  10. Action required of the Attorney General

 
In this document we use the terms “09.15 position” and “10.10 position” to refer to two positions of the body. We recognise that there is minor uncertainty about the exact time that the body was found (approximately 09.15) and the exact time that the paramedics first approached the body (approximately 10.10).
 
The uncertainties regarding time are of the order of a few minutes, at most. We therefore use the times 09.15 and 10.10 in this document to ease expression of the more important issue of whether the body of Dr. Kelly was moved.
 
 
1. The position of the body at 09.15 on 18th July 2003
 
The publicly available evidence is that around 09.15 on 18th July 2003 a body was found at Harrowdown Hill, Oxfordshire by two volunteer searchers, Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman.
 
According to the evidence given to the Hutton Inquiry the searchers were not accompanied by any other person.
 
Nor, we are informed, did Louise Holmes or Paul Chapman take any photographs at the scene.
 
Therefore the only evidence that exists as to the position of the body at 09.15 is the testimony of Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman.
 
We consider the evidence of Ms. Holmes and Mr. Chapman separately.
 
The evidence of Louise Holmes
 
Louise Holmes (or more specifically her dog, Brock) found the body at Harrowdown Hill at approximately 09.15 on 18th July 2003.
 
Ms. Holmes approached to a distance of some four feet from the body.
 
She stated in her Police Statement:
 
“I saw that this person was slumped against the base of the tree with his head and shoulders resting against the trunk.”
 
Similarly in her evidence to the Hutton Inquiry she stated,
 
“He was at the base of the tree with almost his head and his shoulders slumped back against the tree.”
 
Ms Holmes’ Police statement and oral testimony are consistent. The head and shoulders of the body were against the trunk of the tree.
 
Given that she viewed the body from a distance of about four feet the possibility of her confusing the position she described at 09.15 in both her written and oral evidence with the position that we later refer to as the “10.10 position” is, we suggest, essentially zero.
 
There has at no time been any suggestion put forward that Ms. Holmes’ evidence was dishonest.
 
Given the consistency of her evidence, the improbability of honest error and the absence of any suggestion of dishonesty, we  conclude that at 09.15 on 18th July 2003 Louise Holmes saw the head and shoulders of the body against the tree from a distance of some four feet.
 
The evidence of Paul Chapman
 
The second person present at Harrowdown Hill at 09.15 on 18th July 2003 when the body was discovered was the volunteer searcher Paul Chapman.
 
Mr. Chapman was considerably further from the body than Ms. Holmes. Mr. Chapman, in his oral testimony to the Hutton Inquiry, when asked how close he got to the body,  stated
 
“I probably reached about 15 to 20 metres from it.”
 
There are differences in wording in the evidence given by Mr. Chapman in his Police Statement and in his oral testimony to the Hutton Inquiry.
 
In his Police Statement Mr. Chapman stated,
 
“He was lying on his back with his feet towards me with blood covering his left arm. He was flat on the ground.”
 
In his Hutton Inquiry oral testimony Mr. Chapman stated that he saw,
 
“The body of a gentleman sitting up against a tree.”
 
and later in his oral testimony Mr. Chapman stated,
 
“He was sitting with his back up against a tree”.
 
The wording used by Mr. Chapman in his two pieces of evidence has been interpreted by some as meaning that he changed his evidence.
 
An alternative interpretation is that both forms of words Mr. Chapman used describe a single position of the body. In other words, Mr. Chapman saw a body lying flat on its back on the ground but with the head and shoulders against the tree.
 
We would point out that at no time in his evidence, as disclosed publicly, did Mr. Chapman ever say anything to the effect that the head was at some distance from the tree.
 
It, therefore, remains credible that Mr. Chapman’s evidence, when correctly understood, is wholly consistent with Ms. Holmes’ evidence viz that Dr. Kelly’s body was found at 09.15 on 18th July 2003 with the head and shoulders against the trunk of the tree.
 
Weight is added to that interpretation of Mr. Chapman’s words by the evidence of DC Graham Coe which we consider in more detail in the next section of this document. We note that in 2003 DC Coe similarly referred to the body “lying on his back” but also, in 2010, clarified that he saw the body “with his head and shoulders against a large tree”.
 
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary we conclude that the most likely interpretation of Mr. Chapman’s evidence is that he saw Dr. Kelly’s body flat on its back but with the head and shoulders against the tree.
 
We are not aware of any evidence that contradicts the evidence of Ms. Holmes and Mr. Chapman as to the position of the body at 09.15 on 18th July 2003.
 
 
2. The evidence of Detective Constable Graham Coe
 
In the preceding section we summarise the evidence of the position of the body at 09.15.
 
In this section we deal with the evidence about position of the body at approximately 09.40 on 18th July 2003 from the now retired Detective Constable Graham Coe.
 
In his written statement to Thames Valley Police DC Coe refers to the body of Dr. Kelly as,
 
“lying on his back”
 
and in his oral testimony to the Hutton Inquiry states,
 
“the body was laying on its back by a large tree, the head towards the trunk of the tree”.
 
Given that DC Coe doesn’t specify if the head and shoulders were against the trunk or if the head was at some distance from the trunk then it is unclear from his written statement and oral testimony to the Hutton Inquiry whether he saw the body in the 09.15 position or the position we will call the 10.10 position (and which is considered in detail in the next section of this document).
 
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday published on 8th August 2010 DC Coe is quoted as stating,
 
“I could see Dr Kelly’s body sideways on, with his head and shoulders against a large tree. He wasn’t dead flat along the ground.”
 
If one assumes that DC Coe is telling the truth in his 2010 statement there can be no doubt that he saw the body with the head and shoulders against the trunk of the tree.
 
He saw the body “sideways on”, removing any uncertainty about interpretation that might occur if the body had been viewed from the direction of the feet.
 
We would draw attention to how DC Coe in his written statement and Hutton testimony used terms such as “lying on his back” yet, according to his statement in 2010, he states  that he saw the body with head and shoulders against the tree.
 
As is the case with the evidence of Paul Chapman, DC Coe has at no time in his publicly available statements indicated that the head was some distance from the tree.
 
If DC Coe was telling the truth in 2010 then the body position at 09.40 on 18th July 2003 was the same position as at 09.15 i.e. with the head and shoulders against the tree.
 
3. The position of the body after 10.10 on 18th July 2003
 
From 10.10 on 18th July 2003 the evidence is that the body is in a different position from the position in which it was found at 09.15.
 
The evidence after 10.10, from both photographic and witness evidence, is that the body was at some distance from the tree.
 
The first photographs taken of the scene where the body was found were taken by PC Sawyer at approximately 10.10 on 18th July 2003 (assuming that the times on his digital camera were correct). See Thames Valley Police Freedom of Information Response RFI2011000524 for the times of the photographs (online at http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/aboutus/aboutus-depts/aboutus-depts-infman/aboutus-depts-foi/aboutus-depts-foi-disclosure-log/aboutus-depts-foi-disclosure-log-investigate/aboutus-depts-foi-disclosure-log-item.htm?id=191239 ).
 
At the time of taking those initial photographs PC Sawyer was accompanied by two ambulance staff, Vanessa Hunt and Dave Bartlett.
 
Mr. Bartlett was not asked in detail at the Hutton Inquiry about the position of the body when he was checking for signs of life. An important piece of new evidence emerged in a newspaper interview published in the Mail on Sunday on 12th September 2010.
 
Mr. Bartlett stated,
 
“He was lying flat out some distance from the tree. He definitely wasn’t leaning against it”
 
adding,
 
“When I was there the body was far enough away from the tree for someone to get behind it. I know that because I stood there when we were using the electrodes to check his heart. Later I learned that the dog team said they had found him propped up against the tree. He wasn’t when we got there. If the earlier witnesses are saying that, then the body has obviously been moved.”
 
The position of the body as being at some distance from the tree as described by Mr. Bartlett at around 10.10 is not disputed by any witness evidence to the contrary at later times on 18th July 2003. (We treat the statement of Lord Hutton at Paragraph 151 of the Hutton Report separately later in this document.)
 
After 10.10 on 18th July 2003 there was a significant distance between the head and the tree.
 
This is a different position to that observed at 09.15 and 09.40.
 
We conclude that the body was moved by person or persons unknown.
 
 
4. The misleading nature of the document Annex TVP 3
 
We briefly examine the content of the supposed “Annex TVP 3” published by the Attorney General in June 2011 (http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk/Publications/Documents/Annex%20TVP%203.pdf ) in light of its misleading and inadequate assessment of the evidence regarding the position of the body when found.
 
The document purports to be an Annex to a Thames Valley Police report. A recent Freedom of Information request has revealed it not to be a Thames Valley Police document but one drafted by Mr. Kevin McGinty of the Attorney General’s Office.
 
We here note simply that such misrepresentation of the provenance of the supposed “annex” labelled “TVP 3” is a cause for concern.
 
In the context of this Section 13 application, a crucially important inadequacy of the document is that it does not consider the time of the body positions documented by various individuals.
 
It is self-evident that a rational assessment of whether the body had been moved would compare the position of the body at an initial time point with the body position at a relevant later time point.
 
Worryingly, whether “Annex TVP 3” is a Thames Valley Police document or a document from the Attorney General’s Office it spectacularly fails to carry out such a basic analysis of the body position at different time points.
 
Mr. McGinty’s failure to consider such a basic issue demonstrates that his document is, at best, grossly inadequate to address the question at hand.
 
The structure of Mr. McGinty’s document subtly and unfairly undermines the evidence of the two volunteer searchers.
 
For example, in Comment i. on page 6 of Mr. McGinty’s document we read the following:
 
“The position of the body is consistently described by those who saw it in situ as “lying on his back”. The initial exception to this was Louise Holmes.”
 
This has the effect of unfairly devaluing Louise Holmes’ evidence that the “head and shoulders” were against the tree.
 
Mr McGinty’s document ignores, when it ought not to have done, these important factors:
 

  1. Louise Holmes was one of only two people who found the body.
  2. Louise Holmes approached to some four feet from the body. She saw it much more clearly than did Paul Chapman from a distance of 15 to 20 metres.
  3. That Paul Chapman, the only other person who saw the body at 09.15, also gave evidence consistent with the head and shoulders being against the tree.
  4. That nobody else saw the body at 09.15 (at least if the Hutton Inquiry narrative is true).
  5. At 09.40 on 18th July 2003 DC Coe also saw the body “sideways on” with the head and shoulders against the tree.
  6. Before 10.10 there is no evidence that the body was “some distance” from the tree.

 
Mr. McGinty’s document totally fails to examine the implications of the statement in 2010 by DC Coe that he saw the body “sideways on” with the head and shoulders being against the trunk of the tree.
 
This is wholly unacceptable and visibly inadequate for an analysis carried out in 2011.
 
DC Coe made his newspaper statement in 2010. Thames Valley Police seemingly failed to include that information in the report that underlies “Annex TVP 3”, despite reviewing the newspaper report in question in connection with “Annex TVP 1”. Given that Thames Valley Police were aware of the controversy about the position of the body it is remarkable that any competent Police officer could overlook the significance of DC Coe’s 2010 statement about the position of the body.
 
We conclude that Thames Valley Police chose to ignore that evidence since it raised serious doubt about the Thames Valley Police investigation in 2003 and, in addition, risked drawing attention to failures on the part of  current Chief Officers of Thames Valley Police (specifically Chief Constable Sara Thornton, Deputy Chief Constable Francis Habgood and Assistant Chief Constable Helen Ball) in connection inter alia with the formal report to Thames Valley Police that Dr. Kelly may have been murdered (URN 514 of 28th October 2010 refers).
 
Thames Valley Police also failed to resolve the controversy by the simple expedient of showing photographs taken at 10.10 (or later) on 18th July 2003 to Ms. Holmes, Mr. Chapman and DC Coe and asking “In this photograph is the body in the position at which you saw it at 09.15 (or 09.40, as applicable) on 18th July 2003?”.
 
Was the failure in 2003 and 2011 to ask such a basic question because Thames Valley Police wished to conceal that the body had been moved?
 
We conclude that the gross inadequacies of Mr. McGinty’s “annex” labelled “TVP 3” render it wholly unreliable as a fair assessment of whether or not Dr. Kelly’s body was moved.
 
 
5. Paragraph 151 of the Hutton Report
 
Lord Hutton’s Paragraph 151 raises important questions not considered by the Attorney General in his statement on 9th June 2011. Not least is that it raises questions about the veracity of Lord Hutton and, as a consequence, calls into question the integrity of the Hutton Inquiry.
 
In 2004 Lord Hutton’s Paragraph 151 statement appeared to solve a problem for those who wished to conceal the possibility of David Kelly having been murdered, in that it concealed the fact that the body had been moved after 09.15 on 18th July 2003.
 
In 2012, when we know that photographs exist showing a “significant gap” between the head and the tree, Paragraph 151 of the Hutton Report raises immensely important questions about the integrity of the Hutton Inquiry.
 
The decision of the Attorney General with respect to the Second Section 13 Application (by Dr. Stephen Frost and colleagues) makes the assumption that the body of Dr. Kelly  was in the same position throughout. And that position, as indicated on page 5 of Dr. Richard Shepherd’s report of 16th March 2011 is a position with a “significant gap” between Dr. Kelly’s head and the base of the tree. In other words the body was in what we earlier termed the 10.10 position.
 
However, there is one important discrepancy from the otherwise seemingly consistent situation with respect to body position after 10.10 on 18th July 2003.
 
In the Hutton Report, at Paragraph 151 Lord Hutton states the following:
 
“I have seen a photograph of Dr Kelly’s body in the wood which shows that most of his body was lying on the ground but that his head was slumped against the base of the tree”.
 
In 2004 Lord Hutton’s statement in Paragraph 151 might have seemed to be believable.
 
In 2012, considered with current knowledge of the background evidence, the quoted Paragraph 151 statement raises important problems for those, such as Mr. Grieve, who contend that the body wasn’t moved and that there was no cover-up.
 
First, we’ll consider the possible interpretations if a Paragraph 151 photograph should exist.
 
If a Paragraph 151 photograph exists and was taken at 10.10 or later then it is evidence that the body was in two positions after 10.10 (since, according to page 5 of Dr. Shepherd’s report of 16th March 2011, some photographs show a “significant gap” between the head and the tree). In other words, the body was moved by person or persons unknown after 10.10 on 18th July 2003.
 
If a Paragraph 151 photograph exists and was taken before 10.10 then the existence of any such photograph has been concealed. If such a photograph exists and was available to Lord Hutton  then it was available to Thames Valley Police and likely to the Attorney General. But both Thames Valley Police and the Attorney General have claimed that the body was not moved.
 
If such a photograph exists, whether before or after 10.10, showing the head against the tree and that photograph was concealed from the Public and Parliament then that is prima facie evidence, we suggest, of an intention to pervert the course of justice by Thames Valley Police, the Attorney General or both.
 
Second, we’ll consider the possible interpretations should a photograph such as that mentioned by Lord Hutton in Paragraph 151 not exist.
 
If a Paragraph 151 photograph did not exist, why might Lord Hutton have claimed to have seen such a photograph? The most credible interpretation we can identify for such a hypothetical action on the part of Lord Hutton is that he intended to conceal the fact that the body of Dr. Kelly was moved. In other words Lord Hutton’s quoted words in Paragraph 151 of his report were intended to conceal what we term the 09.15 body position, to conceal that the body had been moved and to pervert the course of justice.
 
Another interpretation if a Paragraph 151 photograph does not exist is that Lord Hutton couldn’t correctly interpret the photographic evidence. Dr. Shepherd saw one or more photographs with a “significant gap” between the head and the tree. Did Lord Hutton not see such photographs? Did he repeat the mistakes of Lord Widgery and just not bother looking at all the evidence available to him?  If Lord Hutton’s assessment of the photographic evidence was so grotesquely inadequate that he failed to observe, in other photographs, a “significant gap” between the head and the tree then it raises questions about his competence to assess the totality of the photographic evidence.
 
In passing we mention that it is our considered opinion that, on the basis of the totality of publicly available evidence, the Paragraph 151 photograph does not exist and that Lord Hutton premeditatedly lied in his report.
 
6. Conclusions regarding movement of the body
 
Only two people saw the body when it was found around 09.15 on 18th July 2003 – Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman.
 
The weight of their evidence is that at 09.15 on 18th July 2003 the body of David Kelly was slumped against a tree with the head and shoulders against the trunk of the tree.
 
Neither Thames Valley Police nor the Attorney General’s Office has presented any evidence to the contrary with respect to the body position at the 09.15 time point.
 
The statement in 2010 of the former DC Coe further strengthens the interpretation that the body was found with head and shoulders against the tree, given that it remained in the same position at 09.40 as it had been at 09.15.
 
The evidence relating to the position of the body after 10.10 on 18th July 2003 is that the body was seen and photographed at some distance from the tree. The ambulanceman Dave Bartlett, for example, stated that he stood in the gap between the head and the tree.
 
The body was found around 09.15 in one position and seen and photographed after 10.10 in another position.
 
No evidence has been presented to indicate that the body was capable of moving itself. Given the perception that Dr. Kelly was dead for some hours before his body was found, it is not credible that he moved his own body. We know of no evidence to support such a “Lazarus hypothesis”.
 
There is no credible evidence to support any hypothetical suggestion that the body moved spontaneously to the 10.10 position, at some distance from the tree.
 
The only credible conclusion, in the light of the above evidence, is that one or more third parties moved Dr. Kelly’s body at some time between 09.15 and 10.10 on 18thJuly 2003.
 
If a third party (or third parties) moved the body then we believe that the motive for so doing was to create a credible scenario (at least for the credulous) that Dr. Kelly committed suicide when, in fact, he was murdered.
 
 
7. Implications
 
The evidence, summarized earlier in this document, that Dr. Kelly’s body was moved has profound implications for the “suicide” conclusion adopted by Lord Hutton.
 
Among the implications are the following:
 

  1. If the body was in different positions at 09.15 and 10.10 then a third party (or parties) was present at Harrowdown Hill.
  2. The Thames Valley Police investigation and the Hutton Inquiry failed to identify the presence of the person or persons in question.
  3. Further, at a minimum, the suicide conclusion of the Hutton Inquiry is called seriously into question since, in significant measure, it relied on the supposed exclusion of the presence of a third party (or parties) at Harrowdown Hill.
  4. Vomit trails from Dr. Kelly’s mouth indicate that Dr. Kelly died on his back. Who then sat him up against the tree after his death? What motive for so doing can there be other than to conceal a murder by faking a supposed “suicide”?

 
In our submission Lord Hutton’s conclusion of suicide visibly lacks credibility given the evidence that we have presented.
 
8. Other issues of concern
 
This document applies its primary focus to our concerns regarding the evidence that the body was moved. We would not, however, wish the Attorney General or any other reader of this document to come to the mistaken conclusion that that is the only issue of concern regarding the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly.
 
The two lists which follow exemplify additional concerns, respectively, raised with the Attorney General in the context of the Second Section 13 Application (by Dr. Stephen Frost and others) and issues raised with the Attorney General subsequent to the Second Section 13 Application.
 
The first list contains what we believe to be demonstrable continuing concerns re the Attorney General’s consideration of the Second Section 13 Application. We ask the Attorney General now to fairly and thoroughly assess these unresolved issues as part of his consideration of this Third Application.
 
 

  1. The Attorney General (written statement of 9th June 2011 page 14) recognised that in recent case law “the test was whether it was possible (though not necessarily probable) that a different verdict would be returned”. In his letters to Dr. Shepherd and Professor Flanagan the Attorney General failed to express that test and thereby deprived those supposed independent experts of a fair opportunity to express a view about whether other interpretations of the data are possible. Given that the Attorney General failed to ask that key question of independent experts how can his consideration of the Second Section 13 Application be viewed as being fair? The question as to whether it is possible that another interpretation of the data exists should now fairly be put to genuinely independent experts in the fields of forensic pathology, toxicology, psychiatry, forensic biology and forensic engineering.
  2. The Oxfordshire Coroner correctly pointed out that Lord Hutton and a Coroner apply “different tests” with regard to a potential suicide verdict. See page 3 of the transcript of the hearing of 16th March 2004 conducted by Mr. Gardiner. If “different tests” are applied then, in the absence of a compelling argument to the contrary, it is inescapable that a different verdict might result. In other words, the Attorney General was wrong, on this ground alone, in concluding that it was not possible  that an inquest could arrive at a verdict different from the conclusion of the Hutton Inquiry.
  3. In addition, a Coroner has different verdicts available to him. The Hutton Report indicates that Lord Hutton considered the conclusions of natural causes, accident, murder or suicide. There is no indication that he considered a possibility equivalent to an “open verdict”. A Coroner not only would have such a verdict open to him but in the absence of evidence beyond reasonable doubt in favour of “suicide” or “unlawful killing” he would,  in the circumstances of this case, be required to record an “open verdict”. The Attorney General’s conclusion expressed on 9th June 2011 is visibly in error. It is possible that a Coroner could reach a different conclusion, since he has a verdict available to him which Lord Hutton did not seriously consider.
  4. In his consideration of the Second Section 13 Application (from Dr. Frost and others) Mr. Grieve unfairly applied a bias to his consideration of discrepancies in the evidence. It is, of course, correct to state that two honest witnesses may give different accounts of an event. But Mr. Grieve repeatedly failed fairly to assess discrepancies in the evidence since other explanations of discrepancies in evidence are also possible. For example, one witness may be truthful and the other dishonest. Or the two witnesses may be describing what they saw at two time points between which the scene changed – the important evidence that the body was moved is a case in point. Given such a systematically biased assessment of the discrepancies in evidence during the Attorney General’s consideration of the Second Section 13 Application we consider that the assessment of all discrepancies in the evidence must be repeated in a fair, rather than a biased, manner.
  5. Serious concerns were expressed to the Attorney General regarding the reliability of the opinion of Professor Hawton. The matter was, for example, communicated to the Attorney General on 21st February 2011 (seehttp://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/death-of-david-kelly-need-for-expert.html ). The Attorney General failed to seek expert review of the validity of such concerns. Without a fair assessment of the credibility of Professor Hawton’s evidence Mr. Grieve has no sound basis to exclude the possibility that an inquest  would reach a different verdict.
  6. The hypothesis put to the Attorney General by various correspondents in relation to the Second Section 13 Application is, in effect, that Dr. Kelly was murdered and that that murder was made to look like suicide. Mr. Grieve totally failed to ask how such a scenario can rationally be distinguished from a true suicide. Such a failure of analysis on the part of Mr. Grieve renders his conclusion of 9th June 2011 wholly unsafe. Mr. Grieve and appropriate independent experts must now, in our view, give this issue serious thought.
  7. The evidence of Mr. David Broucher is that in February 2003 Dr. Kelly commented that he expected he might be “found dead in the woods”. This matter was drawn to the attention of the Attorney General on 27th January 2011. Seehttp://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/death-of-david-kelly-insufficiency-of.html . Dr. Kelly’s comment was made in February 2003. Dr. Kelly died in July 2003. There was ample time to plan a sophisticated faked “suicide”. Dr. Shepherd was aware of faked “suicides” (seehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/broadband/tx/perfectmurder/stories/). Dr. Shepherd, knowing that suicides can be faked and supposedly acting as an independent expert, failed even to ask this important question, raising serious doubts about the validity and integrity of his report of 16th March 2011 to the Attorney General.
  8. There are unanswered technical questions about whether and how Dr. Kelly allegedly incised his own left wrist. A rigorous assessment is needed of concerns such as those which were communicated to the Attorney General on 12th April 2011 (seehttp://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/death-of-dr-david-kelly-important.html ). A detailed assessment of such questions by a forensic engineer is required. Issues such as the sharpness of the knife point, bracing positions, direction of the cuts must be considered in detail.
  9. The Attorney General claims (House of Commons Hansard 9th June 2011, Column 302,http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110609/debtext/110609-0002.htm ) that he found no evidence of a cover-up. He failed to consider that members of the Kelly family and Dr. Malcolm Warner failed to disclose Dr. Kelly’s right arm injury and its functional aftermath in oral testimony  to the Hutton Inquiry. He further failed to consider the evidence in Answer 44 of the Attorney General’s Schedule of Responses which indicates that ACC Page and Lord Hutton may have suppressed important evidence. The matter of the functionality (or lack of it) in Dr. Kelly’s right arm is pivotal in any honest consideration of a situation where a knife, supposedly held in the right hand, is used supposedly to incise the left wrist.
  10. Mr. Roy Green, forensic biologist, states in his report of 27th September 2003 that he cannot exclude the possibility that Dr. Kelly died at the hands of another. This comment should have been given more attention prior to 9th June 2011. In light of the evidence regarding the movement of the body it now requires a less cursory assessment than Mr. Grieve has hitherto given it.
  11. Dr. Alexander Allan, toxicologist, told Lord Hutton in terms that the co-proxamol tabletshad to be ingested. That is untrue. Two other possibilities exist – administration of co-proxamol by nasogastric tube and injection of paracetamol and dextropropoxyphene (the components of co-proxamol). These other possibilities require careful assessment, not least in the context of a possible faked “suicide”.
  12. To the best of our knowledge there is no direct evidence of “intent” on the part of Dr. Kelly to kill himself. In the absence of such evidence it is, at a minimum, possible that an inquest would return a verdict other than suicide.

 
The second list illustrates a range of questions and/or concerns which have, to the best of our knowledge, never been satisfactorily investigated but which did not form part of the Second Section 13 application, so far as we are aware. We ask the Attorney General now to fairly and thoroughly examine these issues in the context of this Third Section 13 Application.
 

  1. Concerns exist regarding the reliability of the evidence given to the Hutton Inquiry by Janice Kelly. The Attorney General was made aware of such concerns in his copy of an email of 12th June 2011. For example seehttp://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/death-of-david-kelly-peter-jacobsen.html. Questions regarding the evidence of Janice Kelly impact on the credibility of Professor Hawton’s evidence (mentioned in the preceding list) since Professor Hawton seems to have relied on Janice Kelly’s evidence.
  2. The Attorney General was presented on 8th June 2011 with evidence that a suicide story was being “spun” in the morning of 18th July 2003, when there was no legitimate basis for a suicide conclusion.  See http://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/death-of-david-kelly-spinning-suicide.html .We do not seek to argue that the Attorney General ought to have included consideration of that matter in his statement of 9th June 2011. We now ask him to give careful consideration as to the implications of “suicide spin” on the morning of 18th July 2011. We believe that careful examination is required of the possibility that the “suicide spin” may have originated in the highest echelons of the Blair Government.
  3. In the report by Mr. Roy Green of 27th September 2003 it is indicated that Mr. Green observed “arterial rain” at Harrowdown Hill. He appears to have assumed that the only explanation of such “arterial rain” was bleeding from a transected ulnar artery. He did not appear to consider the possibility that the supposed arterial rain at Harrowdown Hill could have been simulated. We ask that the possibility of simulation now be fully investigated. See http://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/death-of-david-kelly-simulating.htmlfor some relevant background.

 
 
9. Legal Issues
 
There is, we suggest, no serious legal barrier to the High Court granting an Order that an inquest be held into the death of Dr. David Kelly.
 
On the single ground of the evidence that the body was moved then it is evident “in the interests of justice” that an inquest is needed. There are, however, many other grounds for doubt about the safety of Lord Hutton’s conclusion, some of which we have listed in the section “Other issues of concern”.
 
We consider that in pages 11 to 14 of the Attorney General’s Written Statement of 9th June 2011 (online athttp://www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk/Publications/Documents/Attorney%20General%20Dr%20Kelly%20written%20statement%209%20June%202011.pdf ) the Attorney General misdirected himself, effectively providing a legal smokescreen whose effect is to defeat the interests of justice.
 
We consider, for example, that the Attorney General was in error on two points with regard to the possibility that the Oxfordshire Coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, had misdirected himself.
 
Mr. Gardiner stated on 16th March 2004 (page 3 of the transcript) that no public inquiry would take evidence on oath:
 
“Many of those who have written to me have pointed out that the Public Inquiry does not hear evidence on oath and has no powers to compel the attendance of witnesses or summon a jury, some also add that a Judge is not a Coroner. All that may be true, but it does apply to any Public Inquiry. I took the view that if it applies to any Public Inquiry one cannot suggest it is exceptional.”
 
He misdirected himself on that point since a public inquiry, such as the Hutton Inquiry, could have been established in 2003 under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 (since repealed) which provided for evidence being taken under oath.
 
The effect of the Oxfordshire Coroner’s misdirecting himself with regard to the possibility of taking evidence on oath in a public inquiry is that he failed to recognize an “exceptional reason” which would allow (and in the light of Section 8 of the Coroners Act 1988 arguably require) him to resume the inquest.
 
Further, by virtue of Section 8 of the Coroners Act 1988 the Oxfordshire Coroner has a legal duty to conduct an inquest into Dr. Kelly’s death.
 
No such inquest has taken place which has produced an inquisition.
 
Mr. Gardiner misdirected himself in that he failed on 16th March 2004 to consider the implications of the obligation imposed on him by Section 8 to conduct an inquest into the suspicious death of Dr. Kelly.
 
There is nothing in Section 17A of the 1988 Act which, in the exceptional circumstances of this case, removes the duty placed on the Coroner to conduct an inquest.
 
We conclude that as a result of misdirecting himself the Oxfordshire Coroner neglected to conduct an inquest which he ought to have conducted, by virtue of the existence of two“exceptional reasons” to resume an inquest. First with respect to misdirecting himself re the taking of oath in public inquiries and second by failing to consider the duty placed on him to conduct an inquest by virtue of Section 8 of the Coroners Act 1988.
 
Given that no inquest was completed then we believe that Section 13(1)(a) of the 1988 Act, at least arguably, applies. The Coroner had a duty under Section 8 to conduct an inquest. He failed to do so as a result of misdirecting himself.
 
On the foregoing grounds we believe that, in all the circumstances, the High Court could readily grant an Order for an inquest into the death of David Kelly, on the grounds expressed in Section 13(1)(a) of the 1988 Act.
 
Alternatively, the High Court could readily grant an Order in terms of Section 13(1)(b).
 
It is clear that Nicholas Gardiner opened an inquest on 21st July 2003. However, it can be argued that that “inquest” demonstrated gross “insufficiency of inquiry”, not least in the fundamental sense that no “inquisition” resulted.
 
The additional points we raise in this Application add further grounds in support of a Section 13(1)(b) application.
 
We consider that it can be cogently argued that either Section 13(1)(a) or Section 13(1)(b) of the Coroners Act 1988 applies to the circumstances of this case.
 
Section 13(1)(a) applies if the deficiencies of the inquest, started on 21st July 2003 and required by Section 8, are such as to lead the High Court to a conclusion that ipso facto “no inquest” took place when an inquest ought to have been held. Alternatively, if the Court accepts that an inquest was begun then Section 13(1)(b) applies since the inquest demonstrated gross insufficiency of inquiry not least in that no inquisition was produced.
 
The kafkasque framework implicit in pages 11 to 14 of Mr. Grieve’s written statement of 9thJune 2011 to the effect that, at the same time, neither section 13(1)(a) nor Section 13(1)(b) applies would, we anticipate, be thrown out by the High Court or on Judicial Review following this Section 13 Application.
 
We consider that the evidence that Dr. Kelly’s body was moved outweighs any arcane theoretical abstraction about how Section 13 applies in the highly unusual circumstances of this case.
 
The interests of justice must come first.
 
A proper inquest conducted by an honest Coroner is the first step towards belated justice for Dr. Kelly.
 
10. Action required of the Attorney General
 
We consider that the Attorney General has a duty, in the interests of justice, to apply to the High Court for an Order that an inquest be held into the death of Dr. David Kelly.
 
We further consider that a refusal by the Attorney General to seek an order from the High Court is irrational whether in the Wednesbury sense of the term or common usage. It is, at a minimum,possible that an inquest might return a different verdict.
 
The evidence that the body was moved (even when considered in isolation) means that, at a minimum, an honest and diligent inquest might return a verdict other than suicide.
 
It is not necessary for us in this Section 13 application to prove that such an alternative verdict of Open Verdict or Unlawful Killing would be reached by an honest and diligent inquest. It is sufficient to demonstrate that it is possible that such a different verdict might  be reached.
 
We recognize that it is potentially embarrassing for the Attorney General to seek an Order from the High Court that an inquest be held into the death of Dr. David Kelly, following his unambiguous and misguided statements to the House of Commons on 9th June 2011.
 
We further recognize that it is particularly embarrassing for the Attorney General to seek an Order from the High Court in a situation where he concealed, from Parliament and from the public on 9th June 2011, evidence suggesting that Assistant Chief Constable Michael Page had lied to the Hutton Inquiry about one aspect of forensic evidence. He was informed of those concerns on 13th May 2011. See http://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/death-of-david-kelly-unreliability-of.html .
 
On 12th June 2011 the Attorney General was invited to consider his position in view of the abject deficiencies of his consideration of the Second Section 13 Application. Seehttp://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/death-of-david-kelly-i-invite-attorney.html . We repeat that invitation to Mr. Grieve and Mr. Garnier to consider their positions.
 
In the interest of justice an honest and diligent inquest is necessary.
 
However, given the prima facie evidence of a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice viz to conceal the murder of Dr. David Kelly we consider that a public inquiry significantly more diligent and significantly more honest than the Hutton Inquiry is also required, with powers to compel witnesses to attend and to take evidence under oath.
 

O golpe da Goldman Sachs que falhou na América está quase a ter êxito na Europa – um salvamento permanente, irrevogável e incontestável para os bancos que é financiado pelos contribuintes.

Em Setembro de 2008 Henry Paulson, antigo presidente da Goldman Sachs, conseguiu extorquir do Congresso um salvamento bancário de US$700 mil milhões. Mas para ter êxito nisso ele precisou cair de joelhos e ameaçar de colapso todo o sistema financeiro global e ainda a imposição de lei marcial. E o salvamento era um caso pontual a ser efectuado só uma vez. O pedido de Paulson de um fundo de salvamento permanente –Troubled Asset Relief Program ou TARP – teve a oposição do Congresso e acabou por ser rejeitado.

Em Dezembro de 2011, o presidente do Banco Central Europeu, Mario Draghi, antigo vice-presidente da Goldman Sachs Europe, conseguiu aprovar um salvamento de 500 mil milhões de euros para bancos europeus sem pedir permissão a ninguém. E em Janeiro de 2012, um programa de financiamento permanente de resgates, chamado Mecanismo de Estabilidade Europeia (MEE), foi aprovado na calada da noite mal sendo mencionado pela imprensa. O MEE impõe uma dívida ilimitada a governos membros da UE, colocando os contribuintes no anzol para seja o que for que venha a ser exigido pelos eurocratas supervisores do MEE.

O golpe dos banqueiros triunfou na Europa aparentemente sem um combate. O MEE é encorajado pelos governos da eurozona, pelos seus credores e igualmente pelo “mercado”, porque significa que investidores continuarão a comprar dívida soberana. Tudo é sacrificado aos pedidos dos credores, porque de que outro lugar o dinheiro pode ser obtido para manter a flutuar as dividas paralisantes dos governos da eurozona?

Há uma outra alternativa à escravidão da dívida para com os bancos. Mas, em primeiro lugar, um olhar mais atento ao ventre abominável do MEE e à silenciosa tomada do BCE pelo Goldman.

O lado escuro do MEE

O MEE é um organismo de resgate permanente destinado a substituir tanto o European Financial Stability Facility como o European Financial Stabilization Mechanism, ambos temporários, assim que Estados Membros representando 90% dos compromissos de capital o houverem ratificado, o que se espera acontecer em Julho de 2012. Num vídeo do YouTube de Dezembro de 2011 intitulado “A chocante verdade do iminente colapso da UE” , apresentado originalmente em alemão, faz revelações sobre o MEE que vale a pena aqui citar extensamente. O vídeo afirma:

A UE está a planear um novo tratado chamado Mecanismo Europeu de Estabilidade, ou MEE: um tratado de dívida. … O stock de capital autorizado será de 700 mil milhões de euros. Pergunta: por que 700 mil milhões? [Provável resposta: ele simplesmente imitou os US$700 mil milhões que o Congresso dos EUA comprou em 2009].

[Artigo 9º] “… Membros do MEE por este instrumento irrevogavelmente e incondicionalmente comprometem-se a pagar a pedido qualquer chamada de capital que se lhes faça … dentro de sete dias após a recepção do pedido”. … Se o MEE precisar dinheiro, temos sete dias para pagar. … Mas o que significa “irrevogavelmente e incondicionalmente”? O que acontece se tivermos um novo parlamento que não queira transferir dinheiro para o MEE? …

[Artigo 10º] “O Conselho de Governadores pode decidir mudar o capital autorizado e emendar o Artigo 8 … correspondentemente”. Pergunta: … 700 mil milhões é só o começo? O MEE pode aumentar o fundo tanto quanto quiser, em qualquer momento que quiser? E a nós então seria exigido sob o Artigo 9 que pagássemos irrevogavelmente e incondicionalmente?

[Artigo 27, linhas 2-3]: “O MEE, sua propriedade, recursos financeiros e activos … desfrutará de imunidade em relação a toda forma de processo judicial …” Pergunta: Então o programa MEE pode processar-nos, mas nós não podemos contestá-lo em tribunal?

[Artigo 27, linha 4]: “A propriedade, recursos financeiros e activos do MEE … será imune a investigação, requisição, confisco, expropriação ou qualquer outra forma de captura, tomada ou arresto por acção executiva, judicial, administrativa ou legislativa”. Pergunta: Isto significa que nem os nossos governos nem os nossos legisladores, nem qualquer das nossas leis democráticas têm qualquer efeito sobre a organização do MEE? Isto é um tratado bastante poderoso!

[Artigo 30]: “Governadores, governadores suplentes, directores, directores suplentes, o director administrativo e os membros da equipe serão imunes a processos legais em relação a actos por eles desempenhados … e desfrutarão de inviolabilidade em relação aos seus papéis e documentos oficiais”. Pergunta: Então alguém envolvido no MEE está fora do anzol? Eles não podem ser responsabilizados por qualquer coisa? … O tratado estabelece uma nova organização intergovernamental para a qual nos é exigido transferir activos ilimitados dentro de sete dias a simples pedido, a uma organização que pode processar-nos mas é imune a todas as formas de processo e cujos administradores desfrutam da mesma imunidade. Não há revisores independentes e não existem leis a aplicar? Os governos não podem efectuar acções contra ele? Orçamentos nacionais nas mãos de uma única organização inter-governamental não eleita? Será isso o futuro da Europa? Será isso a nova UE – uma Europa destituída de democracias soberanas?

O polvo Goldman captura o BCE

Em Novembro último, sem fanfarras e mal notado pela imprensa, Mario Draghi, o antigo executivo da Goldman, substituiu Jean-Claude Trichet como governador do BCE. Draghi não perdeu tempo a fazer para os bancos o que o BCE se havia recusado a fazer para os seus governos membros – despejar dinheiro sobre eles a taxas muito baratas. O bloguista francês Simon Thorpe informa:

Em 21 de Dezembro, o BCE “emprestou” 489 mil milhões de euros a bancos europeus à taxa extremamente generosa de apenas 1% em três anos. Digo “emprestou”, mas na realidade eles apenas puseram as impressoras a funcionar. O BCE não tem esse dinheiro para emprestar. É Quantitative Easing mais uma vez.

O dinheiro foi devorado de forma virtualmente instantânea por um total de 523 bancos. É a loucura completa. O BCE espera que os bancos venham a fazer algo útil com ele – como emprestar o dinheiro aos gregos, os quais estão actualmente a pagar 18% nos mercados de títulos para obterem dinheiro. Mas não há absolutamente nenhumas condições adstritas. Se os bancos decidirem pagar bónus com o dinheiro, tudo bem. Ou podem simplesmente transferir todo o dinheiro para paraísos fiscais.

A juros de 18%, a dívida duplica em apenas quatro anos. É este oneroso fardo de juros, não a própria dívida, que está a paralisar a Grécia e outros países devedores. Thorpe propõe a solução óbvia:

Por que não emprestar o dinheiro directamente para o governo grego? Ou para o governo português, actualmente tendo de contrai empréstimos a 11,9%? Ou ao governo húngaro, actualmente a pagar 8,53%? Ou ao governo irlandês agora a pagar 8,51%? Ou ao governo italiano, o qual está a pagar 7,06%?

A objecção de reserva àquela alternativa é que o Artigo 123 do Tratado de Lisboa impede o BCE de emprestar a governos. Mas Thorpe raciocina:

O meu entendimento é que o Artigo 123 está ali para impedir governos eleitos de abusarem de Bancos Centrais ordenando-lhes que imprimam dinheiro para financiar gastos excessivos. Essa, dizem-nos, é a razão porque o BCE tem de ser independente de governos. OK. Mas o que temos agora é um milhão de vezes pior. O BCE está agora totalmente nas mãos do sector bancário. “Queremos 500 milhões de dinheiro realmente barato!!” dizem eles. OK, não há problema. Mário está aqui para acertar isso. E não é preciso consultar ninguém. No momento em que o BCE fez o anúncio, o dinheiro já havia desaparecido.

Se o BCE estivesse a trabalhar pelo menos sob a supervisão de governos eleitos teríamos alguma influência quando elegemos aqueles governos. Mas o grupo que agora tem as suas mãos encardidas nos instrumentos de poder agora está totalmente fora de controle.

A Goldman Sachs e os tecnocratas financeiros apossaram-se do navio europeu. A democracia saiu pela janela, tudo em nome da manutenção do banco central independente de “abusos” de governos. Mas o governo é o povo – ou deveria ser. Um governo eleito democraticamente representa o povo. Os europeus estão a ser ludibriados para abrir mão da sua querida democracia em favor de um perigoso banco de piratas financeiros, e o resto do mundo não fica muito atrás.

Ao invés de ratificar o draconiano tratado MEE [1] , os europeus seriam mais avisados se revertessem o artigo 123 do tratado de Lisboa. Então o BCE poderia emitir crédito directamente para os seus governos membros. Alternativamente, governos da eurozona poderia restabelecer sua soberania económica pela ressurreição dos seus bancos centrais de propriedade pública e utilizá-los para emitir o crédito do país em benefício do país, efectivamente isento de juro. Isto não é uma ideia nova mas historicamente tem sido utilizada com muito bom efeito, na Austrália por exemplo através do Commonwealth Bank of Australia e no Canadá através do Bank of Canada .

Hoje a emissão de dinheiro e crédito tornou-se direito privado de rentistas vampiros, os quais estão a utilizá-lo para extrair o sangue vital de economias. Este direito precisa ser devolvido a governos soberanos. O crédito deveria ser um serviço público (public utility), distribuído e administrado para o benefício do povo.

19/Abril/2012

[1] O parlamento português ratificou o Tratado do MEE em 13/Abril/2012, com os votos favoráveis do PS, PSD e CDS.

Ver também:

MEE, o novo ditador europeu , Rudo de Ruijter

  • MEE, um golpe de estado em 17 países , Rudo de Ruijter

  • MEE: A ilegalidade da emenda do artigo 136 , Rudo de Ruijter

  • Acção colectiva contra o Mecanismo Europeu de Estabilidade, o novo ditador europeu

  • “Ignorem os títulos. Não há aumento do fundo de resgate para 700 mil milhões de euros” , Wolfgang Münchau

  • Não ao tratado fiscal

  • Os problemas da zona euro e a dificuldade de saída , Arturo Huerta González

  • O Tratado da austeridade da UE , Yiorgos Vassalos

  • Tratado estúpido , Octávio Teixeira

    [*] Procuradora e presidente do Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org . Em Web of Debt, o mais recente dos seus onze livros, ela mostra como um cartel privado usurpou o poder de criar dinheiro e como nós o povo podemos recuperá-lo. Seus sítios web são http://WebofDebt.com e http://EllenBrown.com .

    O orginal encontra-se em http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=30403

    Este artigo foi traduzido por http://resistir.info/ 

  • Friends of the Earth International

    NEW REPORT UNCOVERS WORLD BANK FUNDED LAND GRAB IN UGANDA

    // EMBARGO: 23 APRIL AT 00.01 HOURS GMT: THIS ADVISORY, THE NEW REPORT, THE HI-RES IMAGES AND THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE USED IN THE MEDIA BEFORE 23 APRIL AT 00:01 GMT //

    WASHINGTON DC / BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) / KAMPALA (UGANDA) 23rd April 2012: Released on the eve of a World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty [1], a new report reveals widespread violations of people’s rights and environmental destruction from World Bank funded land grabs in Uganda. [2]

    The Friends of the Earth Uganda report provides first-hand accounts from communities forced to give up their livelihoods, food supply and access to water.

    The report, hi-res images and video footage are available for media preview – and under embargo until 23 April- at http://www.foei.org/media/landgrab

    The World Bank has provided millions of dollars in funding and technical support to palm oil expansion in forested islands off the coast of Lake Victoria in Kalangala, Uganda. Nearly 10,000 hectares have already been planted covering almost a quarter of the land area of the islands. [3]

    Palm oil plantations have come at the expense of local food crops and rainforests. Local people have been prevented from accessing water sources and grazing land. Despite promises of employment, locals have lost their means of livelihood and are struggling to make ends meet.

    David Kureeba from the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) / Friends of the Earth Uganda said:

    People’s rights to land are being demolished despite protection for them under the Ugandan Constitution. Small scale farming and forestry that protected unique wildlife, heritage and food of Uganda is being converted to palm oil wastelands that only profit agribusinesses. The Ugandan Government must prioritise small scale ecological farming and protect people’s land rights”

    John Muyiisha, a farmer from Kalangala, tells of how he woke up one morning to find bulldozers destroying his crops. He had been on the land for 34 years. Other community members were contracted to plant palm oil and then forced to sell their land because of debts, low income from palm oil and no food crops.

    Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty Coordinator said:

    These Ugandan testimonies show the fallacy of trying to make land grabbing work for communities or the environment. Decades of policies to privatise land and promote industrial farming from the World Bank have set the stage for a massive global land grab.

    Governments around the world need to stop land grabbing, not just try to mitigate its worst impacts. Governments must abide by their Human Rights obligations on land and drastically reducing demand for commodities such as palm oil from the West.”

    The project is a joint venture between global agrofuels giant Wilmar International and BIDICO, one of the largest oilseeds companies in Eastern Africa with funding from International Financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Ugandan Government. [4

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT

    Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Food Sovereignty programme co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth International, Tel: +44 (0)20 7566 1669 or Mobile: + 44 (0) 79 619 86956 or email: [email protected]

    David Kureeba, Friends of the Earth Uganda / National Association of Professional Environmentalists, Tel: +256-414-530181 or mobile: +256-775-349283 / +256-718-210592
    email: [email protected] / [email protected]

    NOTES TO EDITORS

    [1] The agenda of the April 24-26 Annual World Bank Conference on land and poverty is focussed on how communities can benefit from land acquisitions rather than on how they can retain access to land. http://www.landandpoverty.com/agenda/index.html

    [2] The report, photo essay and video are available for media preview – and under embargo until 23 April- at http://www.foei.org/media/landgrab

    [3] Kalangala islands cover 432.1 square kilometres or 43,210 hectares http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalangala_District

    [4] The project is funded with $120 Million from private finance, $10 Million from the International Finance Corporation and World Bank, $19.9 Million from the International Fund for Agriculture and Development and $12 Million from the Ugandan Governmen

    Niccolo’ Sarno
    Media Coordinator – Friends of the Earth International
    Email: [email protected]
    Tel: +31-20-6221369 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
    Website: http://www.foei.org/media

    THE DISAPPEARING TERRORISTS

    April 23rd, 2012 by Philip Giraldi

    “Night is here but the barbarians have not come.
    And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
    Those people were some kind of solution.”
    – Constantine Cavafy

    It hardly makes sense to have a global war on terror if there are not that many terrorists threatening to blow themselves up in Peoria. Terrorism can hardly be considered a growth industry, particularly if one assesses it based on the congressionally mandated State Department annual report on the subject. According to the report, every year terrorists become fewer and less capable.

    And one would be hard-pressed to find too many instances in the document of terrorists killing Americans or even trying to kill Americans, which may be attributable to fewer Americans being found these days in places like Iraq. It is becoming even more difficult to find groups and individuals scattered overseas that have the resources, the motivation, and the skills necessary to travel to the heart of the Great Satan and, once here, acquire explosives, evade the police, make their way to Penn Station, and blow themselves up.

    Lacking any real terrorists and recognizing that the war on terror must go on for reasons best known to bureaucrats and defense contractors, it has perhaps become an acceptable option to make some up. One of the most persistent allegations about the next-generation terrorism threat relates to Hezbollah. It is often noted among the punditry that Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any other terrorist group except al-Qaeda. Surprisingly, the bald assertion is actually true even if one might reasonably argue that Hezbollah does not really fit the definition of a terrorist group at all. Hezbollah did indeed carry out the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 17 Americans and nearly wiping out the CIA station, which was meeting in a conference room. A subsequent bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut killed 242 more Americans. Some other kidnappings and killings of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s were also attributed to Hezbollah. The bombings, killings, and abductions occurred at a time when the U.S. was using military force to restore order in Lebanon, an intervention that was pretty much directed against Hezbollah with the intention of dismantling the group as a political entity.

    Hezbollah has not killed any Americans since those acts of what some might consider self-defense, and there is no evidence whatsoever that the group has any interest in targeting the U.S. It is very much focused on furthering its own interests in Lebanon, where it is now a party of government, and in opposing Israeli military actions and U.S. covert operations designed to destroy it.

    Nevertheless, the beat goes on. Richard Armitage, the former number two at the State Department, might have been the first U.S. official to describe Hezbollah as the “A-team” of terrorists. Shortly thereafter, Armitage retired and set up his own consulting firm that tells corporate clients how to deal with the terrorist threat, so his interest in warning about the dangers posed by terrorism might not have been completely disinterested. The ubiquitous Hillary Clinton has also warned about Hezbollah, employing similar terms even though she knows better than most that Hezbollah has no interest in confronting the United States.
    And then there are the media security experts, the Judith Miller clones for whom no lie is too big as long as one can tell it with a straight face. Their line, which has been promoted assiduously since 9/11, is that Hezbollah has sleeper cells in the United States that are ready to rise up and assault the American public as soon as Iran gives the word. According to the story being promoted, Hezbollah has hundreds and possibly thousands of secret agents scattered throughout the U.S. Many of them have been here for years, and some have even been successful at setting up businesses and making money, which will, of course, be used to fund terrorism. They are only waiting for someone to come by and give them the secret handshake to stage an attack.

    The only problem with that narrative is that the FBI, which has been tapping phones and entrapping Muslims while trying to identify and undo such terror cells, has failed to find a single one in over 10 years. Even within the government, many have now come to believe that the sleeper cells are a total fiction, quite likely derived from someone’s imagination. There has been no actual evidence collected by America’s multitude of intelligence and security agencies suggesting that any such underground organization is in place, and the federal government has yet to find and arrest a single authentic Hezbollah operative at large in the United States.

    And then there is the related story of how Hezbollah is all over the place in Latin America, just waiting to cross the border into Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Indeed, some of the accounts describe how Qurans and prayer rugs have already been found in America’s Southwest, a sure sign that terrorists are crossing over with the flow of illegal immigrants seeking work. Under pressure from Congress and the White House, the CIA and the FBI have carefully checked out all the stories, and guess what? No Muslim religious or terrorist-related bric-a-brac has actually been discovered along the U.S.-Mexican border, and the CIA has been unable to develop any information suggesting that there are Hezbollah cells in target countries Mexico, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, or even perpetual irritant Venezuela, which has made the mistake of being friendly with Iran.

    One has to ask why Hezbollah, with its limited resources and capabilities, would take the time and effort to position sleeper cells or terrorist cadres in the United States or Latin America, but the answer is self-evident: it has no reason to do so. So one has to look a little further into the problem and try to figure out what the real agenda is. To be sure, on one level, Hezbollah, which has defeated the Israeli army, is a particular bete noire for both Washington and Tel Aviv. It is reflexively damned as both terrorist and a threat, outside the pale and routinely vilified.

    But the greater and more important agenda is to blacken Iran and create from whole cloth one more phony reason to go to war. It is the same reasoning that was used against Saddam Hussein — that he was “supporting international terrorism.” This cart-before-the-horse form of analysis starts with the fact that Hezbollah is an ally of Iran. The allegation that it is preparing to carry out terrorist actions inside the U.S. is taken to mean that it is really acting as a proxy for the mullahs in so doing. Tehran is therefore sponsoring a new al-Qaeda. Those who want a new war with Iran consequently argue that Tehran’s terrorist agenda must be stopped at all costs lest there be another 9/11.

    Ironically, Hezbollah is, as terrorists go, a paper tiger, while both the United States and Israel with a wink and a nod are supporting actual acts of terrorism inside Iran. So one should be asking folks like Hillary Clinton and Richard Armitage who really constitutes the “A-team” of terrorists: is it Hezbollah, or is it actually the United States and Israel?

    Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. .

    Despite proclaiming support for the six-point Syrian peace initiative proposed by joint United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, the N.A.T.O.-G.C.C. alliance continues its effort to unravel the plan at every turn.  And in doing so, the lies and ultimate limits of this imperial alliance become further unmasked.

    As the first U.N. monitors began arriving in Damascus this past week to oversee the country’s fragile ceasefire, the Orwellian deemed “Friends of Syria” rendezvoused in Paris.  Of course, the agenda for this consortium of international friends was not how best to uphold the ceasefire and secure peace, but rather how best to impose regime change.  

    As a matter of fact, as the New York Times exposed earlier this month, Western diplomats seek nothing less than the complete collapse of the so-called Annan process.  As the paper coolly stated: “In some ways, the Annan plan needs to fail—which appears most likely—to persuade Russia and China not to wield their veto on Syria resolutions as they have twice previously.” 

    Questioning the very validity of the Paris summit, then, was none other than Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.  As Lavrov warned, “When the so-called Syrian group of friends meet and somebody says ‘Now we’ll assess how Assad implements Kofi Annan’s plan’, it is a wrong attempt.  We cannot privatize (the plan) and we will not let it happen.”

    Undeterred by such notes of caution, however, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went on to declare Thursday, “We have to keep Assad off-balance by leaving all options on the table.”  The favored refrain of “all options” is of course nothing but a thinly veiled threat of military force.

    Clinton also used the meeting to announce plans for the establishment of an “accountability clearinghouse.”  This clearinghouse, Clinton stated, will “keep track of all the terrible stories of abuses and crimes against humanity that are coming out of Syria.”  Ostensibly, such evidence will eventually be used to prosecute Syrian government officials. 

    (One wonders just when the Secretary of State shall announce the establishment of a clearinghouse to track all the terrible stories of abuse and crimes against humanity that are coming out of the U.S. war on Afghanistan.  Although to be fair, such a move may be rather superfluous at this point, since such stories are now entering into the public domain at a fairly regular clip.  The latest of which seen splashed across the pages of the Los Angeles Times.)

    Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy used the latest “Friends of Syria” summit to reaffirm his call for the establishment of a “humanitarian corridor” within Syria.  Such notions, though, are not limited to a politically damaged French president.  C.N.N. reports that the discussions within the Obama administration about creating a “buffer zone” along the Syrian-Turkey border have “intensified.”  At the same time, the Washington Post editorial board claims—quite naively one must add—that such a zone “could be accomplished with a modest military force and could cause the regime to collapse.”

    The impetus for the latest push to establish a “buffer zone” was an alleged cross border attack along the Turkish border by Syrian forces earlier this month.  The severity of the purported incident even led Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to threaten to invoke Article 4 of the N.A.T.O. charter, which would see the alliance fully ensnared in the Syrian conflict.

    The reporting of the supposed Syrian incursion into Turkey, however, is highly misleading.  As Pepe Escobar writes at Asia Times Online, Turkey is actively sheltering members of the Free Syrian Army, which are then staging attacks on Syrian forces across the border.  But, those rooting for regime change simply do not trouble themselves with such matters.

    Propaganda in service of regime change

    It’s no surprise, then, that one encounters the U.S. media peddling propaganda strictly intended to discredit the Annan initiative.  For instance, an Associated Press story this past week on the U.N. observer mission in Syria went as follows: 

    Gunfire erupted Wednesday as U.N. observers drove through an anti-regime demonstration in a Damascus suburb, sending people ducking for cover and raising questions about the safety of the monitors, according to activists and amateur video posted online. 

    The videos could not be independently confirmed [emphasis added]. But the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian security forces fired at anti-regime protesters in the suburb of Arbeen, wounding eight.  

    Yet as Reuters reported, the head of the U.N. observer team, Moroccan Colonel Ahmad Himmiche, stated rather clearly, “We did not come under any fire.”

    Another favorite line of the U.S. media is that Syrian government forces have disregarded the ceasefire completely, and continue their shelling.  As the New York Times wrote Friday, “YouTube videos posted from the devastated city of Homs showed flames and intense black smoke after government shelling of a downtown residential neighborhood.”

    Such videos, uploaded by anti-government activists, are, needless to say, ripe for distortions and outright fabrications.  After all, such fabrications have already been documented by Britain’s Channel 4 News, and can be seen most recently at the Moon of Alabama.

    It is noteworthy then, that the first independently confirmed breach of the ceasefire appears to have occurred at the hands of rebel forces.  As McClatchy reported Thursday:

    Rebels here [in Qusay, Syria] fought the Syrian military Wednesday in a breach of a U.N.-sponsored cease-fire that was rare primarily because it was witnessed by an independent journalist who’d entered the country surreptitiously earlier this week.

    The fighting began in this city near the Lebanese border in the early afternoon after a group from the Free Syrian Army, the name claimed by most of the rebels who’ve taken up arms against the government of President Bashar Assad, attacked a military convoy near the city.

    The majority of Western news outlets, though, adhere to the same lax journalistic standards exhibited in the above A.P. piece.  Whatever it takes, it seems, to derail the Annan plan.

    The limits of N.A.T.O.

    All such posturing by the N.A.T.O.-G.C.C. alliance notwithstanding, Assad’s grip on power remains firm.  And as a result, that long held Western dream of a “quick” regime change in Syrian, a la Libya, has ever so slightly begun to fade.  As the A.P. notes, the Obama administration, once eager to declare Assad’s days to be numbers, now refrains from putting any time frame on his demise.  And with good cause, one might add. 

    As Hassan Illeik writes at al-Akhbar English, “These are not revolutionary times in Damascus. The regime is confident of its future and of that of the country.”  Illeik continues:

    On the external front, official confidence has also been bolstered by a variety of factors – though three are particularly important: namely, Russia, China and Iran.

    Moscow has come to play a decisive role in the Syrian regime’s handling of the crisis. It no longer comes as a surprise to hear a senior Syrian official saying: “We wanted to launch an internal dialogue some weeks ago, but our Russian friends advised us to postpone that step so as not to impede Kofi Annan’s mission.”

    Under the Annan plan, according to the official, the deployment of observers should enable the forces of law and order to reassert control and ensure security for the public. Russia, meanwhile, views Syria as a first line of defense – both of its own strategic security and of its ally Iran.

    Indeed, for as Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has previously warned, even an opposition “armed to the teeth,” would not defeat the Syrian army.

    Such warnings from Moscow aside, N.A.T.O. alarm over any potential action in Syria has been stoked primarily over its own ineptitude, as was documented in a recent alliance report on its mission in Libya.  As the New York Times reported:

    The findings undercut the idea that the intervention was a model operation and that N.A.T.O. could effectively carry out a more complicated campaign in Syria without relying disproportionately on the United States military. Even with the American help in Libya, N.A.T.O. had only about 40 percent of the aircraft needed to intercept electronic communications, a shortage that hindered the operation’s effectiveness, the report said.

    Such findings left the Times editorial board to fret that, “N.A.T.O.’s credibility is on the line. And that is a serious problem for Europe and for the United States.”  Serious indeed; for those threats of “all options being on the table” ring hollow with questions left lingering as to the will and capability of the N.A.T.O. alliance.

    All this is not to say that the N.A.T.O.-led “Friends of Syria” shall soon abandon the aspirations for Syrian regime change.  (The supply of communications equipment, arms, and cash will likely continue to flow to the armed Syrian opposition for the foreseeable future.)  Rather, it is to say that the struggle unfolding in Syria and beyond has now entered a new phase.  Unwilling and unable to quickly oust Assad with pure force, the “Friends of Syria” now appear content on seeking to slowly bleed Syria.  And in doing so, they hope to shame Russia into eventually turning on its Arab ally.  A rather desperate plan, no doubt, but put into play nonetheless. 

    Of course, rather than ousting Assad and imposing a pliant puppet in his place, the maneuvering of the N.A.T.O.-G.C.C. alliance will likely manage to merely protract the crisis.  And this shall ultimately leave the self-proclaimed international friends of the Syrian people prolonging the bloodletting…some “friends.”

    Ben Schreiner
    is a freelance writer based in Oregon.  He may be reached at [email protected] or via his website.

    Being a Jew in Palestine

    April 23rd, 2012 by Beth Miller

    The first people I told were Safa and Imad. Good friends, they lived near me in the Aida Refugee Camp and invited me for lunch every Friday. I knew they were religious Muslims. Imad had told me that Israeli soldiers had killed his brother during the second intifada. But the topic of religion and politics was on the table, and now seemed like a good time.

    I was scared. I knew I was speaking with friends, but I had a nightmarish image that they would throw the dish of rice and chicken into the air, grab the glass of sugary tea from my hand and smash it against the wall, bellowing, “Get oooouuuuuttt!”

    I took a deep breath. “I’m actually Jewish. And I’ve always felt….” Who even remembers what I said next? I finished my sentence. Safa took my glass and refilled it. Imad said that he wanted to tell me three things. First, there are many similarities between Jews and Muslims. Second, he understands the difference between a Jewish person and the Israel Defense Forces. Third, it was shameful that I hadn’t yet gone to see more of the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem.

    It’s great to be a Jew in Palestine.

    My shared taxi was waved over at the IDF checkpoint between Bethlehem and Ramallah. The soldier yanked open the door and looked inside. There was an old man in the front seat, three old men in the middle row, and in the back row myself, a businessman and a teenage boy. The soldier asked the teenager for identification and motioned for the boy to get out of the car. He was placed on a bench between another soldier and an IDF dog. The soldier told the driver to continue on. As we drove off, leaving the boy behind, I saw a third soldier, too scrawny for his uniform, walking toward the checkpoint, holding two pieces of matzo. He dropped them, and when he bent over to pick them up, his M16 fell forward, whacking him in the face.

    It’s weird to be a Jew in Palestine.

    I was at an IDF military compound. I was there because I’d been at a demonstration. In the West Bank, demonstrations are illegal. The boys next to me were detained for throwing stones. They had plastic cords binding their hands. When they cut the ties off the boy to my left, it took two men to wriggle the knife between the plastic cord and his skin. When they finally broke it off, his wrists were bruised and bleeding. I began speaking in Arabic to the woman to my right, until a soldier shouted, “Sheket!” I opened my mouth and closed it again, just barely stopping myself from finishing his sentence as I’d been taught in Hebrew school: with a singsong “b’vakasha — hey!” and then a big clap.

    It’s frustrating to be a Jew in Palestine.

    We showed our passports to the two young soldiers. Where was I from in the States? Chicago? Go Bulls! Passports back. My friends and I walked into H2 — the section of Hebron under complete control of the IDF and with the highest concentration of settlers.

    First impression: Wild West. “High Noon.” I imagined a crow cawing; a vulture circling; tumbleweed blowing down Shuhada Street, bumping up against the concrete barrier that blocks off the small part of the road on which Palestinians are permitted to walk. I felt my belt, half expecting there to be a six-shooter. Nothing. But the young settler jogging with a baby stroller and wearing a rainbow yarmulke had an M16 slung over his shoulder.

    I looked back at the soldiers. One of them was leaning against a wall, soaking in the sun. The other was moving in the direction of a young Palestinian boy.

    Farther down the street, a couple more soldiers eyed us as we walked. One made a catcall at us. We kept walking. A few more soldiers were on the next corner, standing, alert, hands on their weapons. I looked up and saw more soldiers on the rooftops, looking down. One waved. In Hebron there are some 4,000 IDF soldiers to protect 500 Israeli settlers.

    The street was lined with stores. Each storefront was welded shut. Many spray-painted with a Star of David, a menorah, or the Israeli flag. My friend pointed out that these were Palestinian shops that had been shut down by the settlers or soldiers.

    I thought about the Palestinian man I’d just met, who told us how his son was blinded when a settler threw acid in his face on his way to school. Who told us how he often had to shut down his shop when settlers hurled urine-filled bottles from above onto the Palestinian market below.

    Stars of David. Everywhere. On stores, on doors, on walls, on windows, on flags, on shirts.

    We passed a sign explaining — in Hebrew and English — that this was an area of Hebron that had been “liberated” from the Arabs.

    It feels awful to be a Jew in Palestine.

    Beth Miller is a 2010 graduate of Macalester College and has been working with a human rights organization in the West Bank for the past year and a half. She will be a candidate for a Master of Arts in human rights law at the School of Oriental and African Studies this fall.

    Turkey blocks Israel from Chicago NATO summit– report

    April 23rd, 2012 by Global Research

     

    Ankara has reportedly blocked Israel’s participation in a key NATO summit, despite objections from partners. It says Tel Aviv must first apologize for the killings of Turkish citizens in a raid on a humanitarian aid fleet in 2010.

    The objection to Israel’s presence at the event, which will take place in Chicago on May 20-21, was voiced by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu during the alliance’s meeting in Brussels last week, reports Turkish daily newspaper Hürriyet.

    “There will be no Israeli presence at the NATO meeting unless they issue a formal apology and pay compensation for the Turkish citizens their commandos killed in international waters,”
    a senior Turkish official told the newspaper.

    The unnamed official said other NATO members were pressing Turkey to revoke the veto, but Ankara refused to acquiesce. He called on Israel’s supporters in the conflict to convince Israel to do as Turkey wishes.

    The blocking is the latest in a string of Turkish moves against Israeli cooperation with NATO. Earlier it stopped Israel from opening an office at the NATO headquarters and blocked its participation in the Mediterranean Dialogue group.

    The countries have been engaged in a bitter quarrel for two years now, ever since the May 2010 commando raid on the Free Gaza fleet that resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens on board the Mavi Marmara ship. Tel Aviv refused to apologize for the killings, and in response Ankara severed virtually all ties with Tel Aviv.

    At the April 18 meeting, some members of NATO, including the United States and France, and Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, reportedly criticized Turkey for bringing a bilateral conflict into the alliance’s affairs. The confrontational position is “a violation of NATO’s values,” Hürriyet cites them as saying.

    In response, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu said that NATO’s partnership values hardly correspond to a situation in which a country NATO called a partner kills citizens of a NATO member and fails to apologize for it.

    Turkey’s membership in the alliance came under the spotlight recently, after Ankara threatened to invoke the collective security rights in response to a Syrian cross-border raid on a refugee camp.

    The idea was later aired at the meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria group, which gathered in Paris last week to discuss the possibility of putting more pressure on the Syrian government.

    Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande and incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy received the highest vote totals in Sunday’s first round of the French presidential elections, advancing to the second round to be held on May 6.

    Hollande won an estimated 28 percent of the vote, with Sarkozy following at 27 percent. Neo-fascist candidate Marine Le Pen’s score of 19 percent surpassed poll estimates, as well as the 16.8 percent score of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 elections. Two other candidates won significant scores: Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon at 11 percent—down from previous estimates of 14 to 15 percent—and the Democratic Movement’s (MoDem) François Bayrou, a right-wing “centrist” candidate, at 9 percent.

    Europe-Ecology-the Greens (EELV) candidate Eva Joly won 2 percent, New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) candidate Philippe Poutou won 1 percent and Workers Struggle (LO) candidate Nathalie Arthaud won 0.6 percent of the vote.

    Hollande is currently expected to win handily in a match-up with Sarkozy, with polls showing him winning at least 56 percent of the vote. Sarkozy emerges weakened from the vote, as the first incumbent president of France’s Fifth Republic not to win the first round of the presidential elections.

    At 80 percent. voter participation was larger than expected. This reflected broad popular hostility to Sarkozy’s policies of social austerity and war in the Middle East, and the sense that the French population faces a deep social and international crisis. This drove voters to the polls despite what was widely described as a lackluster campaign, where voters could not clearly distinguish between the candidates. Some 38 percent of voters indicated before the elections that they did not firmly support any candidate, and many voters cast ballots by default.

    Yesterday’s result sets the stage for a race between two pro-war, pro-austerity candidates preparing deep attacks on the working class and for explosive class struggles in the coming presidential term. Hollande is committed to slashing over €115 billion ($US152 billion) in budget deficits and has supported French imperialism’s wars in Libya and Syria.

    The relatively low vote for Mélenchon and the collapse of the NPA and LO vote reflect the broad popular sense that all these forces are essentially in the camp of the Socialist Party and would back the PS. The petty-bourgeois “left” is predictably throwing its full support behind the PS, despite Hollande’s deeply reactionary program.

    The first public statement following the election came from Mélenchon, a former PS minister and the candidate of the Left Front—a coalition between the French Communist Party (PCF), split-offs from the PS such as Mélenchon’s Left Party (PG) and a section of the NPA led by Christian Picquet.

    At an election rally in Paris, Mélenchon called for voters to “beat Sarkozy” on May 6, even telling his voters “not to drag your feet” on the way to the polls. He also called for his voters to participate in large numbers in a May 1 demonstration organized by the union bureaucracy, which has backed Mélenchon and Hollande in the election.

    Mélenchon’s call to “beat Sarkozy” in a two-man race is a cynical attempt to back Hollande without taking full political responsibility for Hollande’s program. However, PCF chairman Pierre Laurent told the press he was calling “without ambiguity” for a Hollande vote. Asked by BFM-TV if there were any difference between his endorsement and the position of Mélenchon, Laurent said there was not.

    Significantly, neither Mélenchon nor Laurent asked for any policy guarantees or influence over the policies of a future government, in exchange for their endorsement—effectively issuing Hollande a blank check to carry out the banks’ policies. EELV candidate Joly also called for a Hollande vote.

    The other petty-bourgeois “left” parties echoed Mélenchon’s call for a Hollande vote. On France2 television, NPA candidate Philippe Poutou said: “On May 6, the election must serve a purpose: to throw out Nicolas Sarkozy.”

    LO candidate Nathalie Arthaud issued a communiqué declaring, “Obviously no class-conscious worker can vote for Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of the rich.” She added that her voters would probably either cast a blank ballot or vote for Hollande.

    The ex-left parties’ endorsement of Hollande is a warning to the working class: as popular opposition develops to Hollande’s right-wing policies, it will face not only the hostility of the PS, but also of the Left Front and other such parties.

    In his brief speech last night, Hollande explicitly praised the role of the petty-bourgeois “left” parties in supporting his campaign. After describing the result of his campaign as “punishment” for Sarkozy’s term, he said he “saluted” Mélenchon and Joly, “who are calling clearly and without any negotiations for voters to support me in the second round.”

    Under conditions of a vacuum on the left, where the vast majority of the population considers the pseudo-left to be the political adjunct of the PS, one of the main beneficiaries of social anger is paradoxically Le Pen’s far-right National Front (FN). Marine Le Pen has worked to change the FN’s image, to hide the pro-Nazi and anti-Algerian independence views, and to pose as a party that supports social spending for French workers, even if it is violently hostile to immigrants.

    Le Pen’s campaign manager, Interior Ministry official Florian Philippot, said that Le Pen’s score made her “the leader of the opposition” to Hollande.

    Le Pen gave a brief speech, calling her vote the “beginning of a vast coming together of all the patriots of the right and of the left,” claiming that the FN had destroyed “the monopoly of the two parties of the banks.” She denounced the “ultra-free-market left” and claimed that her score made it possible to “restore purchasing power and jobs.”

    Le Pen and her appeals to social discontent underline the reactionary political role played by the union bureaucracy and the official “left” parties. To the extent that they use neo-Marxist rhetoric and occasional trade union protest marches as a cover for support for the policies of the banks, they suppress genuine popular opposition to austerity policies and leave the political field open to the neo-fascists.

    The Washington Post reported this week that the CIA is seeking to expand its use of drone strikes in Yemen.   According to the report, the CIA is currently “limited” within Yemen to using drone strikes against known individuals on a targeted kill list.  However it now is seeking permission from the National Security Council (Chaired  by President Obama) to launch drone strikes when intelligence shows what is called  the “telltale signature of al-Qaeda activity”.  These so-called ‘signature’ strikes (as opposed to ‘personality’ strikes) are based on intelligence about vehicle movements, communications, movements in and out of a particular building or compound, and patterns of behavior.

    It should be noted that in Yemen, as opposed to Pakistan, US military forces such as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are also involved in launching attacks against suspected al Qaeda targets and these forces may well already have such “permission”.

    Of course the whole idea that the US can grant itself “permission” and “authority” to attack either known individuals associated with al Qaeda or those suspected of being involved, anywhere in the world, at any time has no basis in international law as many have repeated made clear.

    This week Human Rights Watch (HRW) has again challenged the CIA’s use of drone strikes.  In a  speech at Harvard Law School on April 10, 2012. entitled “CIA and the Rule of Law” the CIA’s general counsel, Stephen Preston, said the agency would implement its authority to use force “in a manner consistent with the … basic principles” of the laws of war.  James Ross legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch said

    “When the CIA general counsel says that the agency need only act in ‘a manner consistent’ with the ‘principles’ of international law, he is saying the laws of war aren’t really law at all…  The Obama administration should make it clear that there’s no ‘CIA exception’ for its international legal obligations.”

    HRW argues that command of all US armed drone strikes should be transferred to US military forces rather than remain in the hands of the secretive and unaccountable CIA.

    Others argue that the drone strikes should cease altogether and accuse the US of participating in war crimes.  Drone protestors attempted to deliver a war crimes indictment at Hancock Air Force base this weekend on Earth Day were preemptively arrested by police two blocks from the entrance.   According to the groups press release, those arrested included an 87 year old woman in a wheelchair, parents (accompanying their children), a member of the press, and the group’s attorney Ron Van Norstrand. Cameras, camcorders and phones were confiscated by the Sheriff’s Department.   Six other people, did manage to reach the gate of the base, where they were also arrested.  The indictment can be read here.

    Meanwhile General Atomics, maker of the Reaper and Predator, have announced they have designed a significant upgrade for their drones which will enable them to expand to almost double the amount of time they can stay in the air.  The company is proposing extending the wings, adding additional fuel pods and strengthening the landing gear in order to enable the drone to stay aloft for up to 42 hours nonstop.  General Atomics says the upgrades can be done to current drone in service ‘in the field’, but as yet it is not known if this proposal will be taken up by US and British military who have armed drones in active military service.

     

    The Right of African Americans to Self-Determination
    By Francis A. Boyle
    Before the IHRAAM Conference on Civil Rights, Human Rights, & Self-Determination
    East-West University, Chicago Illinois
    April 20, 2012

    Transcript of Professor Boyle’s presentation to the IHRAAM Conference on Civil Rights, Human Rights, & Self-Determination, East-West University, Chicago Illinois, April 20, 2012

    [...]

    For the purpose of this Conference, I want to briefly discuss the nine charges that I filed against the United States government for committing international crimes against African Americans. I believe that these nine charges succinctly state the fundamental principles of international law and human rights concerning African Americans. Obviously, these nine charges of my Indictment cannot answer all the questions African Americans might have with respect to their rights under international law and human rights law. But I do submit that these nine charges provide a solid foundation for providing guidance to African Americans as to their basic rights under international law that can be used in the future in order to navigate problems and issues as they arise to confront them today.

    The Distinguished Judges composing this International Tribunal consisted of seven independent Experts on human rights drawn from all over the world. In their Verdict, Preliminary Findings, and Order of 4 October 1992, the Indigenous Peoples’ Tribunal did not accept all of the 37 charges that I filed in my Indictment against the United States government for perpetrating international crimes against Indigenous Peoples, People of Color, and Oppressed Nations. But in their own words, the exact findings of this Tribunal on African Americans were as follows:

    New Afrikans

    7. With respect to the charges brought by the New Afrikan People, the Defendant, the Federal Government of the United States of America is, by unanimous vote, guilty as charged in:

    The Defendant has perpetrated the International Crime of Slavery upon the New Afrikan People as recognized in part by the 1926 Slavery Convention and the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.

    The Defendant has perpetrated innumerable Crimes Against Humanity against the New Afrikan People as recognized by the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles.

    The Defendant has perpetrated the International Crime of Genocide against the New Afrikan People as recognized by the 1948 Genocide Convention.

    The Defendant has perpetrated the International Crime of Apartheid against the New Afrikan People as recognized by the 1973 Apartheid Convention.

    The Defendant has perpetrated a gross and consistent pattern of violations of the most fundamental human rights of the New Afrikan People as recognized by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two United Nations Human Rights Covenants of 1966.

    The Defendant has perpetrated a gross and consistent pattern of violations of the 1965 Racism Convention against the New Afrikan People. The Defendant is the paradigmatic example of an irremediably racist state in international relations today. (my emphasis added)

    The Defendant has denied and violated the international legal right of the New Afrikan People to self-determination as recognized by the United Nations Charter, the two United Nations Human Rights Covenants of 1966, customary international law, and jus cogens.

    [Let me repeat that: By unanimous vote, Ibid.]

    The Defendant has illegally refused to accord full-scope protections as Prisoners-of-War to captured New Afrikan independence fighters in violation of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 and Additional Protocol I thereto of 1977. The Defendant’s treatment of captured New Afrikan independence fighters as “common criminals” and “terrorists” constitutes a “grave breach” of the Geneva Accords and thus a serious war crime.

    ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

    11. In light of the foregoing findings, this Tribunal also, by unanimous vote, finds the Defendant guilty as charged in paragraph 37, which, as amended, reads:

    In light of the foregoing international crimes, the Defendant constitutes a Criminal Conspiracy and a Criminal Organization in accordance with the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles and the other sources of public international law specified above, and the Federal Government of the United States of America is similar to the Nazi government of World War II Germany.

    [This powerful Finding speaks for itself and requires no explanation by me.]

    ….

    13. With respect to the following charges brought by the New African People:

    a. four members of the Tribunal find the Defendant guilty as charged in paragraph 11, which, as amended, reads:

    The Defendant has illegally refused to pay reparations to the New Afrikan People for the commission of the International Crime of Slavery against Them in violation of basic norms of customary international law requiring such reparations to be paid.

    Three members of the Tribunal reserve the right to consider the documentary evidence further before making a final determination.

    [In all honesty, I do not know what more evidence these three members of the Tribunal wanted to see before they were willing to order that the United States government must pay reparations for slavery to African Americans -- with all due respect to these three Judges. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time ever that any Lawyer had argued in favor of reparations for slavery for African Americans before an International Tribunal. A 4 in favor to 0 against to 3 abstentions Verdict was not a bad outcome for the first time through, though it was disappointing to me personally—it should have been unanimous. I and others lawyers will have to learn from this experience in order to do a better job the next time around on this critical issue of obtaining Reparations for Slavery to African Americans. But in retrospect, however, I should have argued to the San Francisco Trubunal that African Americans today suffer from intergenerational post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.) in order to drive home to the Judges the direct and immediate deleterious and debilitating effects that Slavery still now afflicts upon African Americans personally and as a People with a right of self-determination. ]

    b. Three members of the Tribunal find the Defendant guilty as charged in paragraph 18, which reads:

    The Defendant has illegally refused to apply the United Nations Decolonization Resolution of 1960 to the New Afrikan People and to the Territories that they principally inhabit. Pursuant thereto, the Defendant has an absolute international legal obligation to decolonize New Afrikan Territories immediately and to transfer all powers it currently exercises there to the New Afrikan People.

    Four members of the Tribunal reserve the right to consider the documentary evidence further before making a final determination.

    Obviously, I lost this Land “Reparations” argument by 3 in favor to 0 against to 4 abstaining. The Organizers of the San Francisco Tribunal had requested me to argue for this Land “Reparations” form of relief for African Americans, and I did that to the best of my ability. I suspect it appeared to be too “radical” a proposition for a majority of Judges on the Tribunal to endorse. But I take some consolation from the fact that at least three Judges agreed with me and none dissented.

    The Tribunal concluded its Verdict with the following Order to the United States government: “Now therefore, it is ordered, adjudged and decreed that the Defendant cease and desist from the commission of the crimes it has been found guilty of herein.” Pursuant thereto, I then filed a copy of this San Francisco Verdict with its Cease and Desist Order upon the Attorney General of the United States of America in Washington, D.C.

    In return, I later received a 5 February 1993 Letter from the U.S. Department of Justice that acknowledged the receipt of the San Francisco Tribunal Verdict and its Cease and Desist Order against the United States government. This U.S. D.O.J Letter then advised me: “If you, or the Tribunal, have any evidence of the violation of federal criminal law, we ask that you provide that information to your local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

    As I saw it at the time, and still see it as of today, historically this would be analogous to the Nazi Ministry of “Justice” advising a German lawyer representing the Jews to file his Complaint of criminal law violations by the Nazi government against the Jews with the Gestapo. The F.B.I is and has always been the American Gestapo — especially for all Peoples of Color living within its imperial domain, and in particular against African Americans.[1] I also make that statement on the basis of first-hand personal experience.

    In the summer of 2004 the F.B.I. and the C.I.A/F.B.I Joint Terrorist Task Force in Springfield, Illinois put me on all of the U.S. government’s so-called “terrorist watch lists” because I refused to become an informant for them against my Arab and Muslim Clients, which would have violated their Constitutional Rights and my Ethical Obligation as an attorney. That is what the U.S. government’s “war on terrorism” is really all about: It is a War by the White Racist Judeo-Christian Financial Power Elite of America against Arabs and Muslims–many of whom are African Americans–both in this country and abroad. The Crusades all over again!

    As Special Prosecutor for the San Francisco Tribunal, it came as no surprise to me that the Judges unanimously endorsed most of my charges against the United States government with respect to African Americans. This is because the principles of international law with respect to African Americans are incontestable, and thus so glaringly obvious for the entire world to see. I most respectfully submit that African Americans should use the Tribunal’s Verdict, Preliminary Findings, and Order in order to support, promote, and defend their basic rights under international law, including and especially African Americans’ right to self-determination as found unanimously by the San Francisco Tribunal in 1992.

    In this regard, the Verdict, Preliminary Findings, and Order of this San Francisco Tribunal qualify as a “judicial decision” within the meaning of Article 38(1)(d) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Pursuant thereto, this Verdict, Preliminary Findings, and Order constitute “subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law” for international law and practice. Furthermore, the Statute of the International Court of Justice is an “integral part” of the United Nations Charter under Article 92 thereof. Hence the San Francisco Tribunal’s Verdict, Preliminary Findings, and Order can be relied upon by the International Court of Justice itself, by the International Criminal Court, by some other International Tribunal, or by any other Court in the world today, as well as by any People or State of the World Community — including and especially by African Americans. The Verdict of the San Francisco Tribunal still serves as adequate notice to the appropriate officials in the United States Federal Government that they bear personal criminal responsibility under international law and the domestic legal systems of all Peoples and States in the World Community for designing and implementing these illegal, criminal and reprehensible policies and practices against Indigenous Peoples and Peoples of Color living in North America, including and especially against African Americans.

    Obviously, in my brief presentation here today, I do not have the time to go through each and every one of these nine charges; to discuss all of the factual evidence that supported these nine charges; or to provide you with an analysis of the international legal bases for each one of these nine charges. For that type of information, I refer you to the Video and the Book on the San Francisco Tribunal as well as to its Verdict, Preliminary Findings, and Order itself. But in the discussions that follow tonight and tomorrow, I will be happy to respond to any questions you might have.

    Thank you.

    Israel and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

    Should the CPP invest in companies that profit from Israel’s military occupation, its attacks on Gaza and Lebanon, its destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards, or its construction of the illegal Separation Wall? 

    New research by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) reveals that in 2011, the CPP had about $1.5 billion worth of shares in 66 large, international companies that supply Israel with military, police, surveillance and/or prison-related products and services.  Five other large Canadian pension funds have invested an additional $3 billion in these 66 companies researched by COAT.

    If you’re among Canada’s 16 million CPP contributors and beneficiaries, shouldn’t you have a say in whether your money is invested in the production of weapons, military vehicles or other major technologies and services that support Israel’s armed forces, its police, and prisons? 

    Please join COAT’s campaign to expose and oppose CPP investments in corporations that profit from facilitating Israel’s violations of international law.

    Online PETITION   Please sign now
    After signing, please forward this message to others.  Thanks!

    Learn More   Read COAT’s report here

    Click above for the online version of COAT’s recently-published, 54-page report called:
    “Profiting from Israeli Apartheid:
    CPP Investments in Corporations Supporting Israel’s

    Military-, Police-, Surveillance-, Prison-Industrial Complex (Part 1)”

    Join the Campaign   Take Action
    Find out what else you can do to help support our boycott/divestment/education campaign.

    Spread the Word   Get copies of COAT’s report
    Get copies of our report for yourself and for friends, colleagues, journalists, politicians, and others.

    Get Group Endorsements
    Please ask organisations to endorse COAT’s campaign to “Stop CPP investments supporting Israel’s military, police and prisons.”

    Thanks!

    Yours sincerely,

    Richard Sanders
    Coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT)

    Email: [email protected]

    P.S. Part 1 of COAT’s report contains articles exposing the following companies and their military, police, surveillance and prison-related links to Israel:
    3M, Amdocs, Analog Devices, AT&T, BAE Systems, Bank Hapoalim, Bezeq, Bharat Electronics, CAE, Carlyle Group, Caterpillar, Cellcom Israel, Cemex, Cisco Systems, CRH, Daewoo Engineering & Construction, Daimler, Delek Group, Dell, Discount Investment Corp, Doosan, Eaton, Elbit Systems, EMC, Evraz Group, Fiat Industrial, Fiat, Finmeccanica, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Honeywell International, Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Heavy Industries.

    Part 2 will continue this work with articles about these companies in the CPP portfolio:
    Intel, Israel Discount Bank, ITT, Koninklijke DSM, Kubota, Leumi Le Israel, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Mitsubishi Motors, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, Motorola, Navistar International, NetApp, NICE Systems, Oracle, Parker Hannifin, Partner Communications, Paz Oil, Renault, Rockwell Collins, Rolls Royce, Siemens, Sony, Tata Motors, Texas Instruments, Toyota Motor, Tyco Electronics, Tyco International, Valero Energy, VeriSign, Verizon Communications, and VMware.

    Bahrain: Grand Prix Disgrace

    April 23rd, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

    On Sunday, April 22, Bahrain’s Grand Prix went on as scheduled. This year’s grand prize is disgrace, not glory.

    Formula 1′s governing board shamed itself by not pulling out. So did participating drivers. Agreeing to race in a virtual war zone shows nothing matters but winning and money – lots of it. Going along turns a blind eye to state terror.

    Mass street protests for justice don’t matter. Nor do brutal security force crackdowns. London Guardian writer Richard Williams said F1′s “supremo Bernie Ecclestone” has a “habit of taking the money and asking no questions.”

    Already a billionaire, his money lust is insatiable. Even with race day blood on the streets he wants more. So do participating drivers. Many are multi-millionaires. Passing up one stop on the circuit hardly matters. Sacrifice isn’t their long suit. Neither is doing the right thing.

    They turn race competition into a perversion of sport. Thanks to Ecclestone, said Williams, “a sport whose conscience was only troubled by its environmental impact now looks like a pariah.”

    Welcome to Bahrain. Witness two spectacles for the price of one – Grand Prix racing and security force viciousness on street protesters in one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships.

    One protester death was reported. Salah Abbas Habib’s body was found on a Al Shakhoura rooftop. A well-known activist leader, he was arrested the previous night with others. Reportedly they were tortured. His body showed evidence of shotgun injuries and abuse.

    Police tried to prevent journalists and others from seeing it. Photos revealed what they tried to suppress.

    Mohammed Hassan was arrested. He tried escorting journalists to protest areas. Security forces beat him badly. Now detained, he’s held incommunicado with no access to counsel or family members.

    On a March 30 TV interview, he was asked why he risked speaking publicly. He replied:

    “I don’t care anymore. My friends have been in prison. Some are still (there), and some are in hiding, and some are dead.” Whatever happens to him, he added, he accepts it. “I have no choice but to accept it.”

    After the interview, he was threatened. He was arrested and beaten. He also participated in a public debate. Expressing his views freely made him a marked man. Now he’s dead. Responsibility points one way.

    For weeks, security force violence caused many injuries. More occur daily. On April 10, Bahrain’s interior minister authorized excessive force. Dozens of casualties followed. Many were from shotgun cartridge fragments directed on faces, chests, backs, abdomens, thighs, and other upper body areas.

    For weeks ahead of race day, security forces raided towns and villages. Dozens of arrests followed. So did torture and other forms of abuse.

    Imagine turning a blind eye and agreeing to be part of this. Writer/activist Finian Cunningham quoted a racing fan saying “(a) bunch of rich people hav(e) fun while others are being killed.”

    Ancient Rome scoundrels threw victims to the lions. Thousands turned out to watch. Bahrain Grand Prix racing fans aren’t much different. Only spectacle watching matters, not raging state-sponsored violence on nearby streets.

    On April 20, Der Spiegel interviewed Abdhulhadi Alkhawaja’s daughter, Zainab. He’s a longtime courageous activist barely clinging to life in prison after 74 hunger striking days.

    Zainab said authorities are using the Grand Prix “to trick the world.” Westerners “are supposed to believe that Bahrain is a country whose people live in peace, but we suffer under a regime that does not want to hear our screaming.”

    People across the country are fed up and want democratic change, she explained. “We will not keep silent, even if the Formula One is taking place. We will protest for human rights and freedom.”

    Calling herself a Shiite and proud of it, she added that “first and foremost (she’s) a Bahraini.” Her father’s only crime was wanting democratic freedom. She was also arrested, held two days, interrogated, then released.

    She expects much worse ahead. Thousands protest daily. Brute force confronts them. They still courageously rally for justice. “People are sick and tired of living in a country where they cannot speak about what is on their mind. I am speaking out, but we are paying a high price for it.”

    Race day images showed state-sponsored violence, burning vehicles and tires, rising smoke, and rubble-filled streets. Security forces and armored vehicles surrounded the race venue. Drivers are secluded from events outside.

    Few comment other than discussing preparations, expectations, and hopes. Jenson Button told reporters:

    “You are here interviewing me as a driver and that’s exactly what I am going to talk about – motor racing. The outside issues, I’m not going to talk about.”

    Sebastian Vettel joked saying “I haven’t seen anyone throwing bombs.” He added that his job like other participants is concentrating on the sport and “nothing else.”

    Opposition Al Wefaq party senior member, Mattar Ebrahim, said “Formula One is being used by the government to mislead public opinion by saying that Bahrain is back to normal.”

    AFP reported London protests outside F1′s offices. Participants want UK drivers to pull out. Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell “appeal(ed) to Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to withdraw from the” event. “By participating (they give) respectability to the regime.”

    “Shame on you, Bernie,” he added. “There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime that is killing its own people.”

    Authorities spent millions promoting what became a spectacle of shame. Nothing going forward will change things. Damage done won’t easily be erased.

    On race day Sunday, London Independent writer David Tremayne headlined, “Money talks as F1 show goes on regardless,” saying:

    “If you closed your eyes and put everything that has happened over the past week out of your mind, it was possible to imagine that it was business” as usual.

    Why race after “almost universal condemnation from human rights activists.” Money matters more than morality.

    Independent writer James Corrigan called “Weekend at Bernie’s….beyond bad. The show must go on,” he said. It never should have been scheduled in the first place, nor in other nations ruled by despots.

    Bernie takes “the outrageous to a new level.” He needs police protection to get through it, get out, and go home. Henceforth, he’ll be remembered as the maestro of misery, oblivious to street violence outside his cloistered paddock at the Bahraini International Circuit.

    Asked by reporters to comment, he said “it’s a lot of nonsense. You guys love it. What we really need is an earthquake or something like that now so you can write about that.”

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron contemptuously avoided expressing condemnation, saying:

    The event is “a matter for Formula One. Bahrain is not Syria. There is a process of reform underway.”

    Ed Milliiband was one of 17 MPs signing a Commons motion, calling the race “an endorsement of (Al Khalifa) policies of suppression of dissent. I certainly think it is the case that, given the violence we have seen in Bahrain and given the human rights abuses, I don’t believe the Grand Prix should go ahead.”

    Alkhawaja’s daughter told the Independent:

    If drivers don’t reconsider and leave, “their children will ask them why they went to race in a country when its rulers were arresting and torturing so many people.”

    Imagine starting their engines mindless about protesters assaulted, brutalized, and perhaps shot nearby. It gives outrage, disgrace, and contempt for what’s right new meaning.

    Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].

    Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

    http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.  

    VIDEO: French Elections: Sarkozy, the Choice of Washington

    April 22nd, 2012 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

    When war-torn Somalia was also ravaged by a drought-induced famine last year, which killed tens of thousands and displaced over a million people, international media was quick to blame the Islamist Al-Shabaab for blocking humanitarian assistance from reaching its zone of control in southern Somalia.

    But according to Ken Menkhaus, professor of Political Science at Davidson College in North Carolina, the United States’ counter-terrorism laws played an equally central role in obstructing assistance from reaching famine victims in desperate need of aid.

    Speaking here in a seminar on Wednesday, organised by the Department of the Study of Religions at Helsinki University, Menkhaus said humanitarian organisations suspended food aid delivery to drought- struck areas controlled by Al-Shabaab for fear of violating the USA Patriot Act.

    Congress passed the Act in 2001 as part of its response to the Sep. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon and under it, anyone who provides material benefits, even if unwittingly, to a designated terrorist group, could face the most severe penalties.

    Given that Al-Shabaab – the Somali cell of the militant Islamist Al-Qaeda, fighting the Federal Transitional Government (FTG) in Somalia and controlling vast swathes of the south except the capital Mogadishu – is designated a terrorist organisation by the U.S., humanitarian groups were fearful that an accusation of ‘aiding terrorists’ could damage their entire organisation.

    Thus many reached the conclusion that they were too vulnerable to operate in Al-Shabaab-controlled areas.

    Though the group undoubtedly prevented assistance from reaching starving famine victims based on its claim that food aid was a Western conspiracy to drive Somali farmers out of business, Menkhaus, a specialist on the Horn of Africa, believes that was not the end of the sordid story.

    “There are plenty of western countries, including my own government, who would like to see the conversation stop right there and say it was all Al-Shabaab’s fault.” However, the other bottleneck was U.S. policy, which “de facto criminalises any transactions in southern Somalia,” he said.

    Other countries have similar laws, but since the U.S. supplies the bulk of food aid to Somalia, it has the heaviest impact on the country.

    In a twist of tragic irony, “suspension of food aid into southern Somalia was the only thing that the U.S. government and Al-Shabaab could agree on, to the detriment of (millions) of Somalis,” Menkhaus told IPS.

    In reality, the U.S. could have issued a waiver, protecting relief agencies from counter-terrorism laws; similar waivers have been issued for relief agencies in southern Lebanon and the West Bank of the occupied Palestinian territories, where Hezbollah and Hamas operate respectively.

    But in the case of Somalia, Menkhaus believes the U.S. administration did not want to give its Republican opponents any political leverage on the eve of upcoming presidential elections by appearing too “soft on terrorism”.

    Instead, the U.S. government prepared a document that purportedly gave relief agencies protection from the law but which, upon close examination by legal experts, was found to contain no such protections, leaving those humanitarian agencies vulnerable to attack under the Patriot Act.

    Recent forecasts indicate that Somalia could soon be facing another drought, which could produce yet another food crisis in the country this year. There is now an urgent need for preemptive decisions, by the U.S. government in particular, to avoid another humanitarian catastrophe, Menkhaus said.

    Al-Shabab waning?

    A Somali national working with an aid agency on the ground in the south of the country, who did not want to be identified because of concern for his safety, told IPS that Al-Shabaab is gradually losing support as increasing numbers of Somalis are beginning to resent the group’s forcible recruitment policy and suicide bombings.

    Formed in 2008 to resist the invasion of neighbouring Ethiopian forces, Al-Shabaab was once a popular movement, seen as a legitimate force to oust an invading army in the face of the FTG’s inaction. It had also brought law and order to several regions torn asunder by warring gangs of warlords.

    However, Menkhaus said that the group has been seriously weakened by multiple military defeats at the hands of the 12,000 African Union peacekeepers in the country; and its tactic of deploying suicide bombers among the civilian population is alienating much of the group’s former support base.

    Abdi-Rashid, who did not want his full identity revealed, accused Western governments of exacerbating what he described as the “politicisation of aid in Somalia”, whereby the humanitarian agenda is becomes secondary to the political agenda.

    Huge importance has been heaped on the civil war and the “security situation”, much of it with good reason: by 2008 Somalia was the most dangerous place in the world for humanitarian aid workers.

    “One-third of all humanitarian casualties occurred not in Afghanistan or in Iraq but in Somalia,” Menkhaus said.

    Still, this was no excuse to allow famine victims to perish en masse, he stressed.

    “Long term development work should still go on in spite of the conflict” to secure people’s basic human rights to tangible things like “schools and drinking wells”, Abdi-Rashid told IPS.

    If such long-term issues are ignored much longer, there will be serious consequences not only for Somalia but for the entire region.

    “These famines – the ones we had last year and the one we may have in 2012 – are producing seismic changes (including) the loss of viable livelihoods in rural southern Somalia, sending waves of people across the borders into Kenya and Ethiopia,” added Abdi-Rashid.

    The Kenyan refugee camp of Dadaab, with a population of 520,000, is now Kenya’s third largest city, and completely unsustainable.

    Meanwhile, destitute nomads and farmers who can no longer find livelihoods in rural areas are drifting into urban centres. These people, who come with no technical skills into a barren employment landscape, are forming huge slums of several hundred thousand people in villages that previous housed only a few thousand residents.

    “This is a time bomb for Somalia because not only Al-Shabaab but any armed group or criminal gang (will) find ready recruits in these sprawling urban slums,” Abdi-Rashid concluded.

    New book: The Nobel Peace Prize (Praeger, 2010)

    In his newest book, The Nobel Peace Prize (2010), Norwegian lawyer and author Fredrik S. Heffermehl, shows how far the custodians of Nobel´s prize for “the champions of peace” have moved the prize away from the testator´s actual intentions. Part I offers the first known legal analysis of the testament Nobel wrote in 1895, and in Part II an analysis of the political methods used by official Norway to stonewall the truth about the mismanagement of Nobel´s great vision of peace. The book, in part a case study of democracy and the rule of law in Norway, takes us from the inception of the prize 115 years ago to the present, including a riveting dissection of the 2009 award to US president Barack Obama. It explains how the military sector – in all nations – undermines human security and welfare, preferring to pursue narrow self-interest to solving the real security needs of the world.

    For the first time The Nobel Peace Prize provides access to the highly secretive Nobel committee room, by publishing the revealing private diaries of the longest sitting chair of the Nobel committee, Gunnar Jahn.

     What happened to the Nobel Peace Prize?

    The Nobel Peace Prize. What Nobel really wanted (Praeger, 2010), offers undisputable evidence that Nobel intended to support the “Champions of peace”, those struggling to replace militarism with an international order based on law and abolition of national military forces; the power of the law must replace the law of power. Since 1948 the parties in the Norwegian parliament have delegated the appointment of the Nobel committee to the major parties who misuse the attractive seats as a reward to their party veterans, people lacking not only insight but also loyalty to the peace ideas that Nobel wished to support.

    In fact the committee members are opposed to the idea of the prize! People who believe in security by military means have taken charge of a prize meant to support a demilitarized world order.

    The prize has long ago ceased to challenge the forces it intended to combat and instead been used to promote Norwegian policies and business interests.

    Claiming that the Norwegian parliament and the Nobel committee have violated the law for six decades, the book also becomes an illuminating case study of how elites in the advanced Scandinavian societies circumvent the basic tenets of democracy and the rule of law.

    Editor’s Note

    We bring to the attention of  our readers the response of Israeli poet Itamar Yaoz-Kost to the message of Nobel Laureate Guenter Grass, who warns the World of the dangers of a US Israeli sponsored war on Iran.

    “The Samson option” (“We Go Down, Everyone Goes”) is not an abstract concept in Israeli politics. It has been addressed by military strategists in both Israel and the US.

    While Israel’s Interior Ministry has banned Guenther Grass from entering Israel, the “We Go Down, Everything Goes” hate rhetoric against humanity in its entirety, is accepted as a concept by Tel Aviv policy makers.

    Israel is a rogue state and a threat to global security.  

    Is it not time to restore an element of sanity in the so-called “international community”.

    Michel Chossudovsky

    Poet Itamar Yaoz-Kest, a Holocaust survivor, penned a public “letter-poem” in reply to German Günter Grass’ attack.

    Israeli poet Itamar Yaoz-Kest, a Holocaust survivor, has penned a public “letter-poem” in reply to the “poem” in which German Günter Grass accused Israel of “endangering the already fragile world peace.” 

    The letter-poem was published on journalist Ze’ev Galili’s blog, in Hebrew, under the name: “The Right to Exist: a Poem-Letter to the German Author.” It addresses Grass, who has admitted to being a member of the Waffen SS during World War II, by name.

    The “letter-poem” starts thus:

    Danger,

    I want to be a danger,

    I want to be a danger to the world,

    so that after my destruction, not a single blade of grass will remain on the face of the Earth,

    or a single blade of grass for Gunther Grass’s pipe,

    upon the Earth where, since I was born, I pose a danger to the world.

    Because it is my right!

    It is my right to live or die while annihilating my annihilators, without riding again as a crying-boy in a transport train,

    Into the world-vacuum, while placing my head in the lap of a mother who is disappearing into the fresh air of the Land of Wotan,

    and  the urine tin darts dark-yellow specks onto the walls of the cabin – like gunshots that spray

    a yellowish-reddish liquid from besides the train guards, and among them – maybe – the soldier G.G., also, wearing a steel helmet.

    Later in the poem, Yaoz-Kest issues what appears to be a statement of intent along the lines of “the Samson Option”:

    And so, as the strong light of the Land of Israel enters my home, I turn on the radio and cannot help listening to the sermons of the ayatollahs of Iran and to the words of the respected Iranian minister, who shows the map of the Land of Israel with his two hands, to say: “It is so small… Within six or seven days it can be erased from the map”, or in your language: “ausradieren”. And here I am listening to the sermons of the imams in the mosques of the Land of Israel and the Arab lands as they declare “ausradieren!”, but they are always referring to me and not to you, Gunther Grass.

    And yet, there is a right reserved only to us Jews (if indeed any human on Earth has this right): to be destroyed and to take the weary and sated world with us to the non-existence, along with its wondrous libraries and heart-stirring tunes – just so, after we descend to the grave, while the ground emits radioactive rays to all four winds.

    Indeed – we have the right! It is mine, too!

    For it is the right of the Nation of Israel to finally shut the gates to the world after it leaves this place (not of its free will!), and we have the right to say, at the price of the 3,000 year old fear: “If you force us yet again to descend from the face of the Earth to the depths of the Earth – let the Earth roll toward the Nothingness.”

    The Samson Option – taking out Israel’s enemies with it, possibly causing irreparable damage to the entire world – has been floated by Israeli strategists including Ariel Sharon, as a last-ditch option if Israel faces annihilation.

    Israel’s Interior Ministry has banned Grass from entering Israel following his “letter-poem.” 

    On April 13, 2012 EnviroReporter.com tested Nori seaweed from Japan bought in a West Los Angeles store, the same one where this reporter bought the identical item eight months ago soon after the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns began in Japan. The trendy and ‘organic’ delicacy, popular with LA hipsters, was 94.7% above normal, 17.6% of that additional ionization indicative of alpha radiation which can be 60 to 1,000 times more dangerous than beta and gamma radiation.

    These tests were performed with an Inspector Alert nuclear radiation monitor, the same detector EnviroReporter.com has used in over 1,500 tests for Fukushima radiation beginning four days after the March 11, 2011 triple meltdowns at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi six-reactor complex in Japan.

    Nori seaweed is considered a delicacy and consumed upon eating sushi wrapped in it or straight out of the bag in thin green squares like the product purchased by EnviroReporter.com. This kind of seaweed can be purchased at nearly 50 Japanese and Japanese-American stores in Southern California as well as in about 900 Japanese restaurants and sushi bars throughout the Southland.

    Read complete article

    Link to source: Elevated Radiation all over the United States

    Security Council Authorizes 300 Syrian Monitors

    April 22nd, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

    On April 21, the Security Council unanimously adopted a Russian/EU resolution. It calls for deploying up to 300 unarmed military Syrian observers for three months.

    Russia pushed hard for compromise language. An initial US urged EU draft was one-sided. A provision Moscow rejected involved invoking Article 41 of the UN Charter. It states:

    “The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures.”

    “These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, severance of diplomatic relations.”

    It’s a short leap to Article 42, stating:

    “Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

    “Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”

    Explicit language is excluded, but implies war. Washington’s itching for another one.

    Resolution 2043 isn’t perfect. It falls short of full even-handedness.

    Provision 2 “(c)alls upon the Syrian government to implement visibly its commitments in their entirety, as it agreed to do in the Preliminary Understanding and as stipulated in resolution 2042 (2012), to (a) cease troop movements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, (c) complete pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, as well as to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks or temporary deployment places to facilitate a sustained cessation of violence.”

    Omitted is Assad’s obligation to protect civilians. No responsible leader would leave them defenseless. Insurgent violence continues. He justifiably vows to respond.

    Provision 3 “(c)alls upon all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately to cease all armed violence in all its forms.”

    Note the difference between provision 2 and 3 language. The former is hardline and detailed. The latter seems almost an afterthought.

    It excludes Turkey providing border area safe havens. Free Syrian Army insurgents use them to stage cross-border attacks. They return to launch new ones. Daily, the process repeats.

    Provision 8 burdens Assad with full implementation responsibility.

    It calls on him “to ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS by: facilitating the expeditious and unhindered deployment of its personnel and capabilities as required to fulfil its mandate; ensuring its full, unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access as necessary to fulfil its mandate, underlining in this regard the need for the Syrian government and the United Nations to agree rapidly on appropriate air transportation assets for UNSMIS; allowing its unobstructed communications; and allowing it to freely and privately communicate with individuals throughout Syria without retaliation against any person as a result of interaction with UNSMIS.”

    Provision 9 merely calls on “the parties to guarantee the safety of UNSMIS personnel without prejudice to its freedom,” but places “the primary responsibility” on Assad.

    He’s committed to comply with all provisions, but can’t control insurgent behavior. Only Washington, key NATO partners, and regional allies can do it. They could end violence today and provide no need for monitors. They refuse because regime change plans depend on it. With or without monitors, expect it to continue.

    It makes Provision 14 more worrisome. Like SC Resolution 2042 authorizing deployment of an advance military observer team, it mandates consideration of unspecified “further steps as appropriate.” Doing so could provide wiggle room for war.

    Therein lies the problem. On April 19, the Christian Science Monitor headlined, “Leon Panetta: US military planning for greater role in Syria conflict,” saying:

    In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, he said Pentagon officials are “reviewing and planning for a range of additional measures that may be necessary to protect the Syrian people.”

    Libya’s model is considered a potential intervention template. He suggested employing similar steps in Syria. More must be done, he stressed. “Make no mistake,” he added. (O)ne way or another, this regime ultimately will meet its end.”

    Syrian National Council (SNC) and Free Syrian Army members openly urge Western intervention. On April 21, an SNC statement said:

    “We call anew on the U.N. Security Council to act with all urgency to intervene militarily to bring an end to the crimes committed by the bloody regime against the unarmed Syrian people.”

    On April 19, Free Syrian Army leaders urged military intervention with or without UN authorization.

    On April 20, Today’s Zaman headlined, “Clinton urges tougher UN pressure on Syria,” saying:

    Among other steps, she called for implementing UN Charter’s Chapter 7: “Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression.”

    Specifically, she wants tougher sanctions, an arms embargo, and other unspecified measures on Assad. She stopped short of endorsing military intervention, but suggested it, saying:

    “We have to keep Assad off balance by leaving (all) options on the table.”

    Secretary-General Ban K-moon implied support, saying:

    “Despite the government’s agreement to cease all violence, we still see deeply troubling evidence that it continues. The past few days, in particular, have brought reports of renewed and escalating violence, including the shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by government forces and attacks by armed groups.”

    Assad gets blamed for insurgency violence. It continues daily. Monitors won’t change things. Of concern is who’ll choose them? Will they be independent or mostly pro-Western? Will their reports be even-handed or what Washington wants to hear?

    Moroccan Colonel Ahmed Himmische heads them. Morocco’s part of the Arab League anti-Assad coalition. Its monarchy replicates Bahrain’s. King Mohammed VI likely endorsed Himmische’s appointment. How much say he has over other monitors remains to be seen, but his voice will be loudest.

    Sudanese General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi headed the December/February observer team until Arab League officials suspended operations. Al-Dabi’s candor caused the pullout. He contested a Western-generated insurgency. His assessments weren’t what Washington wanted to hear.

    Himmische likely assures no repeat. Monitors may be compromised before arriving. One-sided reports may follow.

    Pressure will increase for tougher measures. Expect Western intervention to follow with or without UN authorization. Pretexts are easy to arrange. Any number of scenarios are possible. Invoking NATO Charter Articles 4 or 5 are possible.

    Article 4 calls for members to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any” is threatened.

    Article 5 considers an armed attack (real or otherwise) against one or more members, an attack against all, and calls for collective self-defense. Turkey threatened to invoke it. Hillary Clinton suggested Article 4.

    War draws closer. Monitors may be an intermediary step. Washington and key ally plans may be in place.

    Whether Russia and/or China contest remains unknown. They have vital reasons for doing so. The worst ahead is possible. As developments unfold, future articles will asses them.

    Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].

    Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

    http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.  

    The West Wants to Take the Rest of Sudan’s Oil

    April 22nd, 2012 by Glen Ford

    Less than a year ago, Sudan was split in two after decades of U.S. support for the secessionist South. Newly independent and deeply impoverished South Sudan has now seized much of what remains of the North’s oil fields. The South refuses to return to its borders, despite widespread international denunciation – a boldness that is inconceivable without the connivance of the United States.

    The campaign to chop away more territory from the African nation of Sudan is in full swing. South Sudan, which comprised one-third of the country until becoming independent, last year, seized the oil town of Heglig on the northern Sudan side of the border and is refusing international calls to withdraw. The region around Heglig contains half of Sudan’s remaining oil fields. Most of the country’s oil went to South Sudan when the country was partitioned. But the Heglig fields indisputably belong to northern Sudan, having been awarded to the Khartoum government by a Permanent Court, in 2009. Nevertheless, South Sudan refuses to return to its borders, and its generals are talking about marching all the way to Khartoum.

    The European Union describes the South Sudanese seizure of northern territory as “completely unacceptable,” and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his “grave concerns” directly to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

    But President Kiir, who wears a signature cowboy hat given to him by President Bush in 2006, shouted back at the UN chief, “I am not under your command.”

    So, who does have influence on South Sudan? That would be, overwhelmingly, the United States, which supported South Sudan’s secessionist movement for more than a generation and steamrolled African and international opinion into accepted the dismemberment of what had been the continent’s largest country. It was an especially bitter pill to swallow for that African Union, whose predecessor, the Organization of African States, in 1964 declared that national boundaries left by colonialists should be left alone. The founding statesmen of Africa feared that tampering with borders would expose the continent to foreign intrigues, as Europeans and Americans stirred up secessionist movements for their own.

    That time has fully arrived. No sooner had South Sudan declared itself independent, than President Obama devised an excuse to move U.S. Special Forces into the country – one of the poorest on Earth, if you don’t count the oil. Green Berets now operate in South Sudan and neighboring Uganda, Congo, and the Central African Republic.

    American money keeps the Sudanese army equipped and paid. And President Kiir met with Obama only two weeks ago.

    The official press release on their talks said Obama had expressed concern about the tensions between North and South, and “emphasized the importance of…reaching an agreement on oil.”

    Well, it looks like Obama and the cowboy-hatted President Kiir reached their own agreement: to seize the North’s oil fields. South Sudan is a U.S. client state that owes its independence to the U.S. and Europeans and Israel, which was deeply involved in the Sudanese civil war. It is inconceivable that South Sudan would defy the United Nations and the European Union to invade North Sudan and seize half of its oil reserves without the connivance of the United States. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, who has been calling for the head of Sudanese President al-Bashir since George Bush was in office, will pretend that she is “concerned” with the fighting between the two Sudans, and so will Obama. But U.S. client states like South Sudan don’t invade their neighbors without Washington’s blessing.
    BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].

    MALTHUS AND DARWIN: The Population Boon

    April 22nd, 2012 by Prof. Philip E. Auerswald

    As U.S. troops were massing in England for the Normandy invasion, the U.S. Congress engaged in a heated debate about how to avert mass unemployment when millions of servicemen came home at war’s end. Their concern followed precedent. Only a dozen years earlier, at the nadir of the Great Depression, World War I veterans had converged on Washington to demand early disbursement of congressionally mandated payments. The result was an ugly confrontation between the “Bonus Marchers” and U.S. Army units led by none other than the chief of staff, General Douglas MacArthur. Wishing to avoid a repetition of this disturbing scenario, Congress enacted the GI Bill, signed into law by President Roosevelt on June 22, 1944. 

    The GI Bill was a momentous piece of legislation, credited ever since its passage with creating opportunities for an entire generation. That it certainly did. But that success was largely an unanticipated by-product of a more pressing concern that never materialized. Returning veterans accepted the government’s offer of free college tuition and zero-interest home mortgages in numbers far exceeding congressional projections. But the government’s estimates pertaining to the unemployment benefits available to returning veterans turned out to be dramatically exaggerated: Only 20 percent were claimed. 

    This far better-than-expected outcome did not end concern over the potential for large-scale unemployment and impoverishment as two new putative sources of these problems soon came to the fore: The first was automation, and the second was global overpopulation. 

    Almost exactly four years after V-J Day, on August 13, 1949, an MIT professor named Norbert Wiener wrote a letter to Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers (UAW), containing a darkly prophetic message. Within a decade or two, Wiener warned, the advent of automatic automobile assembly lines would result in “disastrous” unemployment. The power of computers to control machines made such an outcome all but inevitable. As a creator of this new technology, Wiener wanted to give Reuther advance notice so that the UAW could help its members prepare for and adapt to the massive displacement of labor looming on the horizon.

    Now, if anyone in 1949 grasped the disruptive potential of computing machines, it was Norbert Wiener. A prodigy who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in mathematical philosophy at age 18, he had contributed to the development of the first modern computer, created the first automated machine and laid the groundwork for a new interdisciplinary science of information and communication that he termed “cybernetics.” His work anticipated and inspired Marshall McLuhan’s heralded studies of mass media, provided the initial impetus for the explorations by James Watson and Francis Crick that led to the discovery of the double helix, and spurred science-fiction writer William Gibson to coin the term “cyberspace” to describe a type of virtual world that Wiener himself had envisioned two decades before the creation of the first web page.

    Reuther took Wiener’s letter seriously, responding promptly by telegram: “Deeply interested in your letter. Would like to discuss it with you at earliest opportunity following conclusion of our current negotiations with Ford Motor Company. Will you be able to come to Detroit?” When the two met in March 1950, they pledged to work together to create a labor-science council to anticipate and prepare for major technological changes affecting workers. 

    At about the same time Reuther and Weiner were meeting, a brain trust was gathering in the orbit of John D. Rockefeller III to address another problem: global overpopulation. The basic concern of this group was both old and simple: Human populations keep growing, but the planet isn’t getting bigger, so sooner or later disaster will be upon us. Funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund permitted the creation of the Population Council in 1952. John D. Rockefeller III appointed Frederick Osborn to be the Council’s first president. 

    The work of the Population Council took its cue from the famed 1798 masterwork by Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus: An Essay on the Principle of Population. “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”, Malthus wrote. This slim volume has become one of the most celebrated works of political economy ever published, a distinction made a bit surprising by the fact that it was published at pretty much exactly the time when history began to prove its core thesis incorrect. Starting not long after An Essay on the Principle of Population appeared in print, global population levels and per capita income began a long and steady ascent—in tandem. Yet we have only recently begun to note the strong correlation between population growth and increased prosperity. For most of the past two centuries Malthusian fears of demographic doom have obscured the increasingly evident fact of a global demographic dividend. 

    In 1893, almost a century after the publication of Malthus’ book, Henry Adams (grandson of John Quincy Adams) proclaimed that “two more generations should saturate the world with population and should exhaust the mines.” At about that time, a new intellectual movement took shape that combined Malthusian fears with social Darwinism. Its proponents dubbed it “eugenics.” For the first half of the 20th century the eugenics movement flourished in the United Kingdom and the United States; the result was an intellectual architecture that provided justification for some of the most abhorrent acts that humans have perpetrated upon other humans—the Holocaust being primary among them. 

    The Nazi embrace of eugenics largely (though not entirely) put an end to its appeal in the United Kingdom and the United States following World War II, but core concerns about the proliferation of people in poor places found new expression in the global population control programs that came into being in the 1950s and 1960s, including ones funded by the Population Council. Frederick Osborn himself had been a founding member of the American Eugenics Society, and was the author of a 1940 book titled Preface to Eugenics. Another protagonist of the postwar population control movement was General William Henry Draper, Jr.—military leader, diplomat, and venture capital pioneer—who coined the phrase “population bomb” to refer to the dim prospects for humanity (in particular, cream-skinned humanity) in the face of a globally increasing population. The phrase lived on in the title of a hugely influential 1968 book by Paul and Ann Ehrlich, as well as several subsequent publications, most recently a spring 2010 cover essay in Foreign Affairs titled “The New Population Bomb.”  

    So what actually happened over the past two centuries since Malthus penned his famous treatise, or in the sixty years since Reuther and Wiener met to discuss the danger of mass technological unemployment? 

    With regard to the threat of global overpopulation, the facts are as I briefly summarized them above: Growth in population is minimal until the start of the 18th century, at which point a steady increase begins. Population really starts to take off, though, after World War II. In the second half of the 20th century, global population more than doubles, from roughly 2.5 billion in 1950 to almost 6 billion in 2000. And the data show that, in material terms at least, individual well-being (as measured by global per capita income) takes off at exactly the same time as population.1

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that the observed increase in population directly caused the observed increase in per capita income; nor does it mean the reverse, for that matter. It just means that the two processes—increasing population and increasing wealth on a global scale—have been strongly correlated over the past two millennia.

    Why has Malthus so far turned out to be wrong? First and foremost, there is the global historical regularity known as the “demographic transition.” If the meaning of words were more connected to the sound they produce, this technical-sounding term would rhyme with “We’re saved!” It simply means that as people get richer, they tend to have fewer children. This effect is so powerful that the fertility rate in Hong Kong today is lower today than it is in the rest of China, despite the fact that residents in relatively wealthy Hong Kong are the only ones in China excluded from that PRC’s draconian one-child policy. The same has been true pretty much everywhere else in the world. The result: The population bomb turns out to be a dud.2

    An insightful paper written in the early 1990s by a Harvard economics graduate student named Michael Kremer helps us understand why we should not be surprised to observe today that humanity has experienced a “population boon” over the centuries, rather than a bomb.3 When Kremer wrote this paper, the most accomplished theorists in the economics profession were busy trying to fix an inconsistency between newly fashionable models of economic growth and a particular feature of economic reality at the time. The issue was this: The improved approach to studying economic growth that was then making the rounds predicted that large countries should grow more rapidly than small countries, because they have more people to invent stuff. Back in the early 1990s, the world’s most populous countries, China and India, were not growing more quickly, but more slowly, than other countries, and they had been doing so for some time. That fact threw sand in the gears of this particular theory.

    Kremer’s approach to this puzzle was to situate the facts of the late 20th century in a longer historical time frame—much longer. By considering the growth of human populations since more or less the beginning of time as it relates to human society, Kremer was able to look anew at the prediction that large populations actually drive economic growth. What he found was that the slow growth of large countries such as China and India was actually an historical aberration and thus not negative evidence for the theory as such.

    Over the very long term, the evidence supports the claim that the creativity of individuals powers human productivity and the improvements in societal well-being that follow. More people imply a likelihood of more ideas; more ideas, in turn, imply more of the great ideas that ultimately propel human societies toward increased prosperity.

    In the two decades following Kremer’s more-or-less solitary stand in defense of scale effects, his position was vindicated in dramatic style as the world’s two most populous countries, China and India, transformed themselves from basket cases to growth engines. Kremer believed that the likelihood of great invention is pretty much a constant in all cultures, through all periods of time, and this assumption seems to fit the data on the long-term evolution of human society pretty well. 

    As humanity is increasingly liberated from the daily struggle for survival that was the norm for all millennia prior to the 18th century, its potential for economic growth through structured social creativity goes up. Reduced to its quantitative basics, the story of improvements in human well-being over the period of millennia is the classic S-shaped adoption curve familiar to anyone who has studied the diffusion of technology. The only difference in this case is that it’s not a transistor radio or a mobile phone being adopted but the state of being liberated from a subsistence existence, with the cognitive freedom that entails. As Bob Litan of the Kauffman Foundation put it, the generations alive today are living on the “S” of human history: the steepest part of the slope of human progress. 

    Just a few decades ago, the average person in the developing world (or Appalachia) was more likely to see his or her child die from diarrhea than to make a phone call or turn on an electric light at home. On a global scale, prosperity was as much a function of the accident of birth as it was of ability or effort. The result was a persistent rift, not between rich and poor countries, but between a global majority destined for a highly localized and materially impoverished existence, and a global minority blessed with the resources and freedom to travel without restriction in search of the best in education, career opportunities and living environment. The result was, and still is today, a world sharply divided between the globally rich and the locally poor.

    Yet after four centuries of sustained advances in science, innovation and the organization of society, the frontier of technology is finally reaching the heart of the human community. Never before have so many people had such great opportunities to connect, create, contribute, and collaborate—along the way, producing value for society and for themselves. 

    The consequence? Predictions of demographic disaster, consistently pushed back for the two centuries since Malthus, are finally reaching their expiry date. A combination of entrepreneurship, technological innovation and broad societal transformation are giving even children born in the most persistently poor places a chance to benefit from and contribute to the vitality of global markets and communities of collaborative action. 

    What about the pernicious effects of automation? If growing populations don’t doom societies, won’t the substitution of machine labor for human labor do the same? No, Norbert Wiener’s prediction of calamitous post-World War II unemployment did not come to pass. As partial explanation we can cite the brilliant 1965 book by Herbert A. Simon, in which he argued technological innovation invariably produces more and better jobs, not employment crises; at least up to that point in time, he found that general educational levels posed no barrier to the continuation of the process.4 And, looking back further, we can easily mock the anti-technological fanaticism of the early 19th-century Luddites, or recall Frédéric Bastiat’s 1845 open letter to the French Parliament in which he lampooned protectionism put forward as a means to protect employment.5 But just because Simon and Bastiat were right in their day does not mean that they are right in ours, especially as regards the ability of discrete national education systems to keep up with the accelerating demands of the postmodern job market. 

    Indeed, sixty years after Wiener wrote to Reuther, his darker visions have in some sense been borne out. Robots do now perform much of the production-line work in auto factories that UAW members once did. Employment in the auto industry is also now far below the peak levels reached in 1995. More broadly, the manufacturing workforce in the United States has atrophied—from 35 percent of non-farm employment in 1960 to 10 percent today. This was primarily due not, as is widely believed, to “offshoring” to China and other parts of the world, but rather to automation-driven increases in manufacturing productivity. (Evidence: Between 1995 and 2002, the United States lost two million manufacturing jobs; China during the same time period lost 15 million.)6

    In a twist that even Wiener did not anticipate, the world of cyberspace that he was among the first to imagine has forced workplace transformations far from the factory floor—ones more rapid and more extensive than any caused by the advent of automated production. Phenomena as distinct and seemingly disconnected as the outsourcing of back-office functions by large corporations, the collapse of the newspaper industry, and the recent proliferation of options for online education are all manifestations of the fundamental trends Wiener identified decades ago. First journalists and accountants, then X-ray technicians, artists and photographers, among many others, have undergone the disconcerting experience of watching old market structures that previously would have guaranteed lifelong livelihoods crumble before their eyes. The jury is still out on whether we can keep running faster, creating more new jobs than the forces of creative destruction can destroy old ones, even as world population pressures may strain a finite resource base.

    Yet there is ample reason to anticipate a good outcome here as well. Today, new technologies of communication and collaboration are enabling not just lone innovators but entire populations to connect and create at a scale previously unimaginable. Not only do we have more people, which is good; we have more well-connected people both within and among societies, which is even better.

    Think what you will about the fall 2011 “Occupy Wall Street” protests, but they are not comparable to the Luddites of the early 1800s who smashed mechanized looms to protest the transformations brought about by the Industrial Revolution. David Graber, a contributor to the thinking behind the Occupy Wall Street protests, put it this way: “One of the most abundant resources on earth is smart, creative, imaginative people. And yet 99.9% of the power of the human race is not being marshaled right now. . . . All we need to do is open that spigot a little bit and we could come up with endless ways to create and produce and distribute.” 

    In this generation as in generations past, people deprived of ways to realize their productive potential do become frustrated in a hurry. Graber and those who share his particular variety of dissatisfaction acknowledge, just as Wiener did before them, that putting the genie of technological change back into the bottle is neither possible nor desirable. Rather, the interesting question—in fact, the only question—for people in the United States as elsewhere is ultimately this: How do we direct the inexorable movement of technology to enhance, rather than obstruct, the ability of people everywhere to realize their productive potential?

    To suggest an answer, let’s go back to where we began, to the expected economic calamities following World War II that never took place. Back then, the United States underwent the most dramatic and sustained period of economic expansion that any nation had so far experienced, even as its population boomed. 

    What caused that economic expansion? Too often the post-World War II boom in the United States is attributed entirely to the work ethic and ingenuity of the Greatest Generation, or other characteristics of America itself. Certainly, the can-do spirit of millions of veterans returning to the workforce from the frontlines played a role, as did the need to satisfy long pent-up domestic demand. But America’s ascent to global dominance was eased considerably by the fact that every other major center of production in the world was either obliterated or incapacitated by the war—the most devastating conflict in human history. 

    The advantage that the United States suddenly held over the rest of the world in terms of physical capital was substantially bolstered by an epochal influx of top talent from every part of the planet—a massive human capital transfer that continues to pay dividends even today. This positive insurgency of ability was a key factor in building the global competitive advantage that the United States enjoyed for two generations as immigrant and home-grown talent combined with massive investments by government to turn American universities and corporations into awe-inspiring engines of innovation.7

    Daniel Chee Tsui, born in a farming village in Henan Province in 1939, came to the United States in 1958 to attend Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where he was the school’s only student of Chinese descent. He continued his studies at the University of Chicago, ultimately making fundamental discoveries relating to semiconductors, for which he was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics. Vinod Khosla, famed entrepreneur and venture capitalist, came to the United States in 1979 at age twenty after failing at his first entrepreneurial venture—a soy-milk company whose intended market was the many people in India without a refrigerator. He went on to found Sun Microsystems and become a partner in the legendary venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. (Entrepreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa—himself an immigrant to the United States—has documented that 52 percent of the founders of Silicon Valley’s start-ups were foreign-born.)

    These are specific examples, but they are not isolated ones. Many more like them (did I mention Albert Einstein?) came to the United States during the 45-year interval following World War II when educational and business opportunities in America exceeded those anywhere else in the world. But the era when we in the United States could assume top talent would flock to our shores is drawing rapidly to a close—a fact that has little to do with the United States, and a whole lot to do with everywhere else. 

    Every time the light of opportunity has started to shine anew somewhere in the world, the beacon drawing immigrants to the United States has shone, in relative terms, somewhat less brightly. Countries that in previous centuries were dominating economic and political powers—China, India and Turkey notable among them—are surging forward, regaining some of the ground they lost during eras of conflict or colonization. 

    Will the gains made elsewhere in the world come at the expense of the United States, Europe and Japan? The answer is an emphatic “that depends.” If we ignore the reasons for and sources of the coming prosperity—or, if we go even further and cut ourselves off from the major trends driving global history in our lifetimes—then the citizens of currently rich countries will become poorer. But the real poverty we experience will be that of imagination, not of circumstance.

    Americans cannot “Win the Future” by re-winning the past. Bringing routinized factory jobs back is a “win the past” strategy, because most of those jobs never really went overseas to begin with—they went to machines. Responding to competitive threats from overseas by investing narrowly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is also a “win the past” strategy because 21st-century innovation is deeply integrative and interdisciplinary. It incorporates design and an understanding of human behavior in at least equal measure with core STEM fields—and also (importantly, a hard fact) because real innovation leadership in the 21st century can only come if America continues to draw the best talent from around the world, regardless of how well we develop talent at home. Shutting our borders to immigrant talent doesn’t even qualify as a “win the past” strategy, since it’s an approach that never created prosperity, and never will.

    So what constitutes a genuine “win the future” strategy? Simple: Since we can’t beat global prosperity, let’s join it. To do so we need to repurpose our institutions to make the most of the abundant opportunities that exist in the global age of entrepreneurship. As individuals and as a nation, we need to be relentless in finding new ways to connect, create, contribute and collaborate with those building value for themselves and their communities elsewhere in the world. 

    At every stage of institutional repurposing, incumbent interests will resist. Such is the nature and function of incumbent power. Too abstract? Think about what happens in the United States anytime momentum builds to change the status quo in health care, energy, education or finance. Can you picture the ads? Do they look like reasoned public discourse or frantic pushback by threatened incumbents? Q.E.D.

    That can’t stop us. Ours is an era of enormous, indeed unprecedented, potential. Human well-being—the fundamental combination of capacities and opportunities that bounds each person’s experience of life—will likely grow more over the next quarter century than it has at any other time in human history. In comparison with the magnitude of these changes, the political discourse in the United States isn’t just polarized—it is positively, and unacceptably, Lilliputian. 

    We’re not alone in that respect. In every corner of the world, from Abu Dhabi to Zurich, just as in Washington and Wall Street, yesterday’s power-brokers can be counted on to paint opportunity as threat and dig in their heels against change. As a consequence, the work of making the most of a growing humanity’s moment will fall to those hundreds, thousands or millions of entrepreneurs and innovators who dedicate themselves to discovering pathways to progress in the decade to come, just as others did in decades past. 

    Notes

    1The usefulness of per capita income as an indicator of human well-being is a subject of longstanding debate; on the macroeconomic level, the discussion extends to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While a summary of this debate would require multiple dissertations (not a footnote), it is safe to say that for levels of income below roughly $10,000, per capita income is a fairly good proxy for well-being. For more on this topic, see the report of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, convened by the President of France and co-chaired by Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen.

    2For a further development of this concept, see Duncan Foley, “Stabilization of Human Population through Economic Increasing Returns”, Economic Letters (September 2000).

    3Kremer, “Population Growth and Technical Change, One Million B.C. to 1990”, Quarterly Journal of Economics (August 1993).

    4Simon, The Shape of Automation for Men and Management (Harper & Row, 1965).

    5The latter bears the extensive title “A petition from the manufacturers of candles, tapers, lanterns, sticks, street lamps, snuffers, and extinguishers, and from producers of tallow, oil, resin, alcohol, and generally of everything connected with lighting.”

    6See Daniel Ikenson, “Manufacturing Discord Growing Tensions Threaten the U.S.-China Economic Relationship”, Cato Institute Center for Trade Policy Studies, Working Paper no. 29, May 4, 2010. Thanks to Brink Lindsey for bringing these facts to my attention.

    7A data point to evidence this dominance: In the early 1960s, the United States Department of Defense accounted for one third of all research and development expenditures in the world.

    … But Refuses to Go After White Collar Criminals

    Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton each prosecuted financial crime more aggressively than Barack Obama.

    But that doesn’t mean that Obama is failing to prosecute. He is just aiming at a different type of target.

    The New York Times reported last year:

    In President Obama’s 26 months in office, civilian and military prosecutors have charged five people in cases involving leaking information, more than all previous presidents combined.

    Andrew Kreig notes:

    [Government Accountability Project's] Homeland Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, a well-credential ethics advisor in 2001 at the Bush Department of Justice [said] “Obama … has brought more prosecutions against whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than any previous president and all presidents combined.”

    The former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program – William Binney – confirmed to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman:

    AMY GOODMAN: [T]he number of people who have been indicted are more than all presidents combined in the past.

    WILLIAM BINNEY: Right. And I think it’s to silence what’s going on.

    And see this interview with former CIA intelligence asset Susan Lindauer.

    VIDEO: IMF “Solutions” Cannot Solve Eurozone Crisis

    April 21st, 2012 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

    CANADA: Fixing Elections Through Fraud

    April 21st, 2012 by Prof. Anthony J. Hall

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    The declining credibility of elections in many countries is creating a crisis of legitimacy severing bonds of trust that once linked citizens to the institutions that govern us. Without credible proof that those governing on our behalf really have earned our supportive consent in free and fair elections, one of humanity’s greatest innovations is rendered null and void.

    The implications of this breakdown put in doubt one of the West’s premier claims, namely that its core polities are beacons of democracy worthy of emulation. The democratic deficit arising from episodes of electoral malfeasance makes a mockery of the West’s frequent assertions that its expansionary enterprises are benign efforts to spread the benefits of governance through voter choice rather than the armed impositions of autocrats.

    As shall be established in the main body of this essay, the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 in the United States are both textbook examples of systemic fraud that ushered into power the losing candidate. Many of the tactics for cheating developed primarily on the right wing of the political spectrum in the United States are being broadly exported. The evidence is mounting, for instance, that the unfolding controversy over the conduct and outcome of the 2011 federal election in Canada involves violations of the law by operatives who seem to have moved easily between the orbit of the Republican Party in the United States and the orbit of the Conservative Party in Canada.

    The importation into Canada of Republican Party tactics for stealing votes and elections is an extension of a very old process that has seen the constitutional monarchy in the northern half of North America assimilated more and more into the political culture of the republic to the south. This process of assimilation tends to wreak havoc on Canada’s institutions of parliamentary democracy derived primarily from the Westminster Parliament in Great Britain.

    As the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party of Canada looks more and more to the right-wing of the political spectrum in the United States for models of how to win and maintain power, the integrity of Canada’s own indigenous institutions of self-governance is increasingly imperiled. The assault on the indigenous conservatism inherited from the era of the civil war in British North America has been particularly brutal. Recall that Canada emerged from the conservative side of the conflict remembered in history as the American Revolution. The protests in Boston Harbor against the taxation of East India Company tea were a liberal attack on the conservatism of the British imperial red coats who are the founding fathers of my country, the polity that would in due course become the coast-to-coast-to-coast Dominion of Canada.


    The activity of data collection and data mining in modern-day electioneering, including the most sophisticated forms of electoral cheating, tends to be organized along transnational lines. The development of digitalized electoral strategies encourages the application of hardware, software and professional expertise in ways that optimize efficiencies of scale by transcending national boundaries. The result is that the idiosyncrasies of many political cultures are denigrated not only in Canada but in many polities throughout the world where the democratic impulses of citizens are expressed through institutions rooted in the details of local history. In working through the issues that are arising from the electoral scandal in Canada, therefore, there is an opportunity to address more general sets of problem that are stripping legitimacy everywhere from procedures that are supposed to epitomize democracy in action.

    Voter Suppression and Telephone Fraud

    Among the revelations driving the political scandal presently sweeping Canada are indications that the triumphant party in the federal election of 2011 stole at least a portion of the vote by effectively disenfranchising some Canadians. Canadian law is clearly violated by voter suppression together with the fraudulent communications that often accompany it. Thus the operatives who study and apply techniques of voter suppression and related scams have ample cause to stay hidden from public view.

    As the tactics of voter suppression move from cyberspace to the tangible world, real people are robbed of their franchise. This methodology for stealing votes and elections is just one of many strategies in a big and expanding repertoire of digital cheating in the age of the Internet. Computation through the interaction of high-powered computers throws up many new means of seizing power by manoeuvring around the rules, structures and referees that not long ago could be counted on to delver relatively free and fair elections.

    As with so many other facets of human interaction, the revolution in information technology has swept aside old ways of doing things in electioneering. Some of the outcomes of this transformative surge are more retrograde than progressive. Those travelling the path to political power by engaging in digital chicanery in and around ballot boxes or voting machines often run roughshod over the very hallmarks of civil democracy once held up as the pride of the so-called West.

    Many of the contemporary techniques of voter suppression were first developed and refined by Republican Party strategists in the United States. As Ron Shaiko, a senior fellow at the Rockefeller Centre at Dartmouth University observed, “In the U.S. the people who work to suppress voter turnout are the Republicans for a simple reason. Historically, the lower the turnout, the better it is for Republicans. High turnout means Democratic wins.”[i]

    One means of suppressing votes has been to harass voters with obnoxious calls ostensibly coming from their preferred party. In an explanation that resembles similar reports of wrongdoing emanating from the Canadian election of 2011, Mark Crispin Miller outlines a Republican tactic for cheating in the US mid-term election of 2006. Miller writes, “The Bush Republicans deployed harassing robo-calls–obnoxious taped appeals, ostensibly from Democrats, that jammed your phone lines, making you so livid that, theoretically, you’d vote Republican or not at all–in at least 53 House districts nationwide”[ii]

    Republican techniques to suppress votes are but a small part of a large and growing playbook. There is a large and rich literature on this subject. Much of it demonstrates that the presidential elections of both 2000 and 2004 were stolen by George W. Bush and his supporters. After studying the evidence on the 2004 election, University of Guelph English Professor Michael Keefer agrees that Bush could not have won if the votes had been counted accurately.[iii] He estimates that about 5 million votes for the Democratic Party candidate John Kerry went missing. Keefer concludes, “Previous elections were crooked, and sometimes stolen, but since 2004 there has been no more reason to trust the official results of any election in the United States than in Guatemala or Kenya.”[iv]

    The effect of the many indications that Republican Party’s big black bag of dirty tricks has been imported into Canada has tainted the mandate of the Conservative Party whose candidates took control of a majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons during the federal election of May 2, 2011. This is a date that, I predict, will come to live in infamy in future Canadian history books. The scandal over electoral fraud and voter suppression is injecting itself into Canadian consciousness and Canadian politics just as the opposition parties are trying to regroup and renew their leadership.

    A major spur to this process was the surprisingly sudden loss by cancer of Jack Layton. Under Layton’s leadership the left-leaning New Democratic Party was brought for the first time to the status of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition based in large measure on enticing votes away from the Bloc Quebecois. The Bloc was created to promote the sovereign independence of Quebec.


    YouTube – Veterans Today -

    The robocon scandal at first seemed to involve only a small number of electoral districts. But since this report on March 2nd the numbers have gone up from thirty electoral ridings to 60 and most recently 200

    Thomas Mulcair, a very adept politician from Quebec, emerged from the contest to replace Jack Layton. Mulcair’s election was marred by what the NDP called a “massive, orchestrated attempt to thwart democracy.” Michael Geist reports that “10,000 computers were used in a distributed denial-of-service attack designed to overwhelm the online voting system and effectively render it unusable for authorized voters.”[v] The Internet voting system that was supposed to permit thousands of NDP members, some at the Toronto convention and some not, to take part in the ballot-by-ballot selection of a new leader.[vi] The episode adds to the body of evidence that the legal, administrative and regulatory facets of electioneering are not keeping up with new devices for digital cheating aimed at obstructing the right of Canadians to vote for parliamentarians and for candidates within political parties.

    The robocon scandal comes at a time when the Liberal Party has been humbled in a dramatic downward slide from the heights of Jean Chretien’s majority government to the successively diminished levels of support afforded Liberal Leaders. While Paul Martin briefly held onto a dramatically reduced mandate to govern, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff were both consigned to the opposition benches in the House of Commons. Now Bob Rae is taking his turn at the helm of the national party that has slipped to third party status from its former glory as the dominant force in Canadian politics and the Canadian government throughout much of the twentieth century. Rae moves into the dimmed limelight presently afforded the interim Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

    A former premier of Ontario, a Rhodes scholar, and an elected MP by the time he was 30, Rae moved from student politics at the University of Toronto to national politics in 1968 when he worked to help elect Pierre Elliot Trudeau as prime minister of Canada. Rae’s zigzag during his long career as a parliamentarian runs from the Liberal Party to a long stint in the New Democratic Party and back to the Liberals. This trajectory of experience puts him in a strategic position to advance the agenda of political cooperation called for by the impressive NDP leadership candidate, Nathan Cullen. The existence of three political parties in the middle and centre of the Canadian political spectrum together with the persistence of the Bloc Quebecois gives the right-wing Conservative Party the upper hand until the political forces represented in the opposition benches of Parliament can somehow consolidate their organizational and electoral effectiveness.

    Bob Rae is one of Canada’s most experienced parliamentarians. He moved from the Liberal Party to the New Democratic Party and back to the Liberal Party.

    Bob Rae made a statesman-like move in March of 2012. Responding to the Canadian public’s growing dismay over the deceptiveness of some live and automated political telephone messages delivered during the last federal election, the interim leader of the Liberal caucus in Parliament called for a Royal Commission. One of the main deceptions involved the communicating of messages wrongfully attributed to Elections Canada. As of early April Elections Canada has received almost 45,000 communications concerning fraudulent live calls and robocalls including those that sought to send non-Conservative voters to non-existent polling stations.

    The staff of Marc Mayrand, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, is investigating allegations of illegal interventions in the electoral process in about 200 of Canada’s 308 federal electoral districts.[vii] The affected ridings are situated throughout Canada’s 10 provinces and in one of Canada’s three federal territories. The chief investigator on the case has opened up 250 distinct files, some involving the consolidation of multiple overlapping complaints. Because of Canada’s first-past-the-post system of electing MPs, the Conservative Party’s majority in the House of Commons rests on a mere 6,201 votes in 14 electoral districts.[viii]

    The robocon scandal has generated a number of petitions, one of which asks the Canadian Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and another of which asks him to establish a Royal Commission on the electoral fiasco. [ix] The Council of Canadians in partnership with local residents in 7 ridings are challenging in court some of the outcomes of voting in the 2011 federal election. Invoking section 524 of the Canada Elections Act, the Federal Court of Canada has been asked to address a number of accusations including those of voter suppression through “calls that misdirected electors to the wrong poll or calls of a harassing nature intended to discourage support for a particular candidate.”

    The Council of Canadians is requesting trials to consider allegations in the following ridings:

    • Don Valley East: The Toronto riding where Conservative Joe Daniel defeated Liberal incumbent Yasmin Ratansi by 890 votes.

    • Winnipeg South Centre, where Liberal Anita Neville was defeated by Conservative Joyce Batemen by 722 votes. Neville said on the eve of the election and on election day, Liberal voters in her riding received calls directing them to the wrong polling station, and earlier in the campaign, voters received harassing calls from fake Liberal callers.

    • Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, where Conservative Kelly Block held off a challenge from New Democrat Nettie Wiebe, by 538 votes.

    • Vancouver Island North, where Conservative John Duncan, now minister of aboriginal affairs, won over New Democrat Ronna-Rae Leonard by 1,827 votes. According to the Comox Valley Record, some voters in the riding have reported receiving automated calls directing them to non-existent polling stations.

    • Yukon, where Liberal incumbent Larry Bagnell was defeated by Conservative Ryan Leef by 132 votes. The Yukon News has reported that identified opposition supporters in the riding received calls telling them their polling station had moved. Elections Canada has interviewed witnesses in the riding.

    • Nipissing-Timiskaming in northern Ontario, where Conservative Jay Aspin beat incumbent Liberal MP Anthony Rota by 18 votes. A Liberal source said Rota didn’t want to be seen as a sore loser by launching his own challenge.

    • Elmwood-Transcona in Manitoba, where Conservative Lawrence Toet defeated New Democrat incumbent Jim Maloway by 300 votes. The NDP says voters in the riding have reported receiving calls directing them to the wrong polling stations.

    If the relevant courts are persuaded that illegal or irregular interventions altered the outcome of particular votes, judges can nullify the results and call byelections in the affected ridings. Other court challenges are being mounted by defeated candidates. It remains unclear what legal proceedings, if any, will arise with respect to Guelph where 7,600 robocalls sending voters to wrong polling stations are known to have taken place.[x]

    The purpose of the Royal Commission would be to diagnose what really happened in many local situations and from a broader national perspective. It would look deeply into the festering problems infecting Canadian elections and propose possible cures for ailments seen to be undermining the health of our body politic. On his way to demanding a Royal Commission, Bob Rae responded to news that Elections Canada had been flooded with tens of thousands of communications reflecting public consternation with the conduct of the 2011 election. Rae exclaimed in the House of Commons, “This is an absolutely unprecedented situation. We’re in unchartered waters. We’ve never seen anything like this.”[xi]

    This continuing controversy concerning the practices, rules and alleged violations of existing electioneering laws in Canada has been described as the robocon scandal. The robocon scandal was originally dubbed the robocall scandal. Gradually the crimes entailed in both the commission and the cover up of voter suppression and its attending frauds are emerging as a core controversy of the robocon scandal in Canada.

    A Royal Commission on Electoral Practices

    As suggested by the rapidly changing configurations of party representation in the House of Commons, parliamentary debate addressing the subject of elections is inevitably fraught with acrimony. Such parliamentary debate is inescapably shot through with competition for political advantage. Moreover Elections Canada, the federal agency charged to oversee national elections, has itself become so deeply mired in political controversy that its capacity to combine the roles of investigator, arbiter and honest broker is increasingly circumscribed. Indeed, the setup, mandate and operations of Elections Canada may turn out to be prominent among the topics of investigation.

    The flood of political controversy engulfing Elections Canada adds strength to the case that Canada needs an appropriately-mandated, carefully-staffed and generously-resourced Royal Commission on electoral practices. A Royal Commission on electioneering would extend one of Canada’s more constructive traditions of statecraft that has seen about 50 of these exercises in nonpartisan investigation unfold since the Dominion of Canada was founded in 1867. In the second half of the twentieth century royal commissions have included those on bilingualism and biculturalism, on the status of women, on the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline, and on Aboriginal peoples.

    The activities of a Royal Commission on electoral practices would build on the work of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing sometimes referred to as the Lortie Commission.[xii] The work of the Lortie Commission took place between 1989 and 1991. In order to be successful, the new investigative enterprise would have to establish a platform that would both be, and seen to be, sufficiently nonpartisan, depoliticized and esteemed to carry out the necessary work of a careful and balanced investigation into the real or imagined maladies thought to infect electioneering in Canada.

    A Royal Commission on electoral practices in Canada would need to have the necessary capacities to assess whether or not the existing laws governing elections have been breached. But that assessment would have to be extended to proposals for positive change. The Royal Commission would be called on to determine if the existing regulatory regime of electioneering in Canada in both its broad outlines and more particular details is capable of delivering free and fair elections to Canadian citizens under present conditions. If not, what should be done to inject more equity and fairness into electoral contests?

    What should be done so that citizens can clearly see that our elections are grounded in regulations and enforcement mechanisms sufficiently robust to make the field of political contestation level enough for reasonably equitable and constructive engagements between political rivals? How can this leveling be done in ways that afford sufficient latitude for political publicity, for public access to relevant information, for open debate, for appropriate levels of privacy, for freedom of association, and for freedom from undue political harassment? What should be the appropriate balance between subsidies from government and funding from the so-called private sector in financing election campaigns in Canada?

    Among the proliferation of allegations that have come to light in the robocon scandal is that the campaign of MP Frank Valeriote, the successful Liberal candidate in Guelph Ontario, employed robocalls to criticize his Conservative Party opponent on the issue of abortion.[xiii] The calls were recorded by pro-choice proponent, Laurie McDonald. Her message did not mention a connection to Valeriote’s campaign. The calls, therefore, violated electoral rules, although not to the same degree as those live and prerecorded messages that fraudulently invoked the authority of Elections Canada to misdirect voters to non-existent polling stations.

    One result is that the Liberal Party is not exempt from alleged misdeeds of its own in the Robocon scandal. Nevertheless Bob Rae was unbending in his insistence that the time has come to institute a Royal Commission on electoral practices in Canada. The interim Liberal leader would not back down from his demand that a nonpartisan body of high judicial esteem must be extended broad powers to investigate the maelstrom of allegations and counter-allegations swirling around the federal election of 2011 as well as those of 2006 and 2008. Standing from his seat in the front benches of the House of Commons, Rae declared, “Nobody on this side has anything to fear from a Royal Commission. We ask for it. We demand it. The people of Canada require it.”[xiv]

    As one of Canada’s most experienced practitioners of parliamentary politics, Bob Rae cannot easily be dismissed when it comes to a demand as strategically central to the integrity of Canadian democracy as this one. We need a Royal Commission on electoral practices to investigate the principles, procedures, laws, officials, institutions, and technologies affecting the process of running federal elections in Canada.

    The terms of the Royal Commission’s mandate must be sufficiently broad to allow for an objective, third-party assessment of the sources of friction enflaming a host of heated interactions, including in court, between Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party and the federal agency currently charged to oversee federal elections in Canada.


    YouTube – Veterans Today -

    The author, Professor Anthony Hall took part in the National Day of Protest on March 11, 2012. From the steps of the Calgary City Hall he proposed a Royal Commission on Electoral Practices. Two days later interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae advocated such a Royal Commission in the Canadian House of Commons.

    A Declining Respect for Political People Bordering on Contempt

    Preston Manning is the founder of the Alberta-based Reform Party, the main taproot of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada. Manning’s father was a born-again preacher and premier of Alberta. Mr Manning now presides over the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

    The mounting of a Royal Commission presents the best hope to begin closing the hemorrhaging leak in public trust draining vitality from Canada’s wounded system of parliamentary democracy. The connection between the robocon scandal and the loss of public confidence in government has been noted recently by Preston Manning.

    Manning is the Alberta-based founder of the political movement that acquired control of the federal government through the long march of the Harper Conservatives to majority status in 2011 in the House of Commons. Mr. Manning was especially outspoken in responding to reports that the Conservative Party had sought to negate the votes of non-Conservatives through deceptive telephone calls wrongfully said to emanate from Elections Canada. These calls sent targeted individuals, mostly non-Conservatives disproportionately over 60 years of age, to nonexistent polling stations.[xv]

    Mr. Manning said, “I think its deplorable these voter-suppression tactics, be it by robocalls or any other form.” He added, “The Conservatives and all politicians have to worry about declining respect, its bordering on contempt for political people.” The eminence grise of the organization that seems to have replaced the Liberals as the so-called natural governing party was responding to a recent poll. It showed that only 1% of those asked had a favourable opinion of politicians whereas 58% characterized politicians as “unprincipled.”[xvi]

    The trend spotted by Manning is hardly unique to Canada. The loss of public confidence in the integrity of elections specifically and in government more generally is a broad transnational phenomenon that has been gathering force since at least the 1970s.[xvii] A large number of citizens in many countries feel betrayed by a system that they believe treats their votes as commodities to be bought and sold by conniving hucksters who lack scruples and who lack any allegiance whatsoever to the public interest and the common good.

    According to Reuters commentator Stella Dawson, the spectacle of “Western democracy in crisis”— this “government credibility problem”— stems “from the perception that the political elite is too closely tied to the financial elite.”[xviii] If one takes the view that this tie between political and financial elites involves more than mere perceptions, then the seizure of government authority by tactics such as voter suppression is just one more example of the corporatist embrace of deregulation as a Darwinian expression of survival of the fittest. Under rule of right-wing governors the cult of deregulation became the holy grail of an increasingly ubiquitous commercial religion whose high priests have been Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher.

    Changing Versions of Conservatism and the Erosion of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada

    Ever since it became clear that that US president George W. Bush only “won” the federal election of 2000 through a concerted campaign of cheating followed by improper intervention in the political process by Republican-appointed judges from the era of Reagan and Bush Sr., there is growing unease in many Western countries. The broadly felt perception is that something is amiss when it comes to the basic democratic task of running free and fair elections.[xix] Given that Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power by situating his own political career in the neo-conservative revolution implemented after 9/11 by the American government of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, any suggestion of the northward spread of electoral corruption from the United States is especially volatile in Canadian politics.

    As many see it, Stephen Harper is following Preston Manning’s lead in throwing overboard the Red Tory tradition of the indigenous Progressive Conservative Party and replacing it with the right-wing conservatism that finds its most distilled and radical expressions in the US Republican Party. Permeating the psychology of the robocon scandal is the pervasive unease of many Canadians with the apparent preference of our federal government’s current leadership for the US versions of conservatism over the more left-leaning heritage of Canadian conservatism.

    Conservative Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was the primary architect of the British North America Act of 1867 followed by the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway

    This now-orphaned Red Tory tradition of conservatism goes back to the Tory opposition directed against the whiggish secessionists in British North America who took up arms in 1776 with the hopes of transforming the Thirteen British Colonies into a United States of America.[xx] There are many in Canada who remember and resent the zeal of the long knives led by Stephen Harper in their haste to replace the Progressive Conservatives with a Canadian clone of the Republican Party. As the weird machinations of the Tea Party and its aspiring presidential acolytes attest, US conservatives can become easily confused and disoriented in a country born of a liberal revolt against the conservatism inherent in the struggle to retain the unity of British North America.

    Stephen Harper’s turn towards the conservatism of the Republican Party left behind the Red Toryism associated with, for instance, the politics of Joe Clark, David Orchard, David Crombie, Keith Martin, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Robert Stanfield, John Diefenbaker, Dalton Camp, Flora MacDonald, Robert Borden, Stephen Leacock, and John A. Macdonald.[xxi] In my estimation the real founder of the Red Tory tradition in Canada is Sir William Johnson. Johnson was in the mid-1700s the first Superintendent of the British Imperial Indian Department and a leading practitioner of the Covenant Chain of treaty alliances with the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy and related Indian nations.

    Sir William Johnson’s vision of treaty alliances with First Nations in North America gave substance to the Red Tory tradition

    It was Canada’s Red Tory Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, who renewed and deepened Canada’s integration into the British Empire with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway as facilitated by the passage in the British parliament of the British North American Act of 1867. The building of the CP Railway helped to incorporate British Columbia into the coast-to-coast imperialism of the Dominion of Canada, a constitutional monarchy wherein Her Majesty’s first minister is now Stephen Harper.

    This history of this primal split in North American political culture helps to put the symbolism entailed in the robcon scandal in its larger temporal and political context. Underneath the broadly-based condemnations of the Harper Conservatives for electoral fraud boils the anxiety of many Canadians who fear that the sovereignty of Canada is being further undermined by yet another form of creeping colonialism.

    Does the robocon scandal signify that Canada is being degraded and demeaned through an enlargement of the dirty tricks commonly associated with some of the world’s most raucous and expensive electoral arenas in the United States? The essence of this fear of being engulfed by the formal controls and informal influences of a foreign power is that Canadian ways of doing things will continue to give ground to American models of victory at any cost—- victory through whatever one can get away with, no matter how ruthless, unethical, deleterious or illegal.

    Two visions of frontier life in North America. The top image of Daniel Boone breaking through the Appalachian Mountains epitomizes the idea of the USA as a white settler state. The bottom image attending the correspondence of Sir William Johnson illustrates the Red Tory vision of America as a society of peaceful coexistence where Indigenous peoples and newcomers enjoy equitable and harmonious relations.

    A Primer on the Some of the Background Factors Influencing The Crisis of Legitimacy Engulfing Canadian Democracy

    The widespread political desire among the people of Canada to pin down accountability for alleged wrongdoing in the electoral process is well placed. Our capacity and willingness to vote for our political governors rests at the very heart of our rights and responsibilities as citizens. Our collective exercise of the franchise in elections constitutes our primary means of making sure our governors act on our behalf and with our consent. Our right and responsibility to vote emanates from sources deep in the history of popular struggle against the imposition of top-down repression. Some of the markers that this repression continues yet are to be seen in the campaign of voter suppression, part of a litany of allegations that tongue-in-cheek media reports would associate with the machinations of the phantom Conservative, Pierre Poutine of Separatist Street in Joliette Quebec.

    Elections today are permeated by a host of new forces not even contemplated by those who drafted the original statutes outlining the rules and procedures for electoral contests. Foremost among these forces is the power of interactive computation that permeates society through the Internet. The rules of electioneering in Canada cover many subjects including the act of voting, tabulating the results of voting, tabulating the amounts of money changing hands in various facets of electioneering, and arbitrating many different types of disputes when they arise.

    In Canada the primary rules for electioneering go back to the Dominion Elections Act of 1920. It is this federal legislation that created the post of Chief Electoral Officer. Reporting not to the government but rather to the House of Commons through its Speaker, the chief Crown officer in charge of federal elections was afforded a status comparable to that of a deputy minister with the same tenure as a superior court judge. In 1996 the Canada Elections Act was amended to create a register of electors. In 2000 the Canada Elections Act was modified to put in place explicit and precise spending limits on third parties such as corporations and labour unions. In 2002 the terms of reference were widened to cover nomination contests within registered parties. In 2007 another amendment established provisions for fixed election days.

    One of the major challenges to the constitutionality of the Canada Elections Act as legislated in 2000 came from Stephen Harper in his prior capacity as president of the National Citizens Coalition. In the case of Harper versus Canada the future prime minister argued that legal limits on the spending of third-party advertisers in election contests runs contrary to the guarantees of freedom of expression and association enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. [xxii]

    Interestingly the underlying issues were very similar to those brought before the US Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United versus the Federal Elections Commission. In 2004 the Supreme Court in Canada went against Harper’s contentions by overturning a decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal. The Canadian jurists maintained that spending limits were a reasonable limitation on freedom of expression whereas in the United States the country’s top judges pointed future electioneering in the opposite direction. In 2010 the US Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending in American election contests.[xxiii]

    The political contentiousness of electioneering came to the forefront of Canadian politics once again in the weeks following the federal vote of 2008. Prime Minister Harper called this election in contravention of the provisions of the federal law on fixed election dates. Harper’s own government had passed this law through Parliament in 2007. When the Parliament reconvened after the late summer election of 2008 the Harper Conservatives, once again in a minority position, proposed money bills that included a provision to do away with the existing system of public subsidies to political parties based on a formula of about two dollars for every vote obtained in the previous election. All the opposition parties quickly rallied around their shared hostility to this measure. The result was that they established a base of agreement for a vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons.

    Some believe that deep and sacrosanct traditions in the constitutional heritage of parliamentary governance were tragically violated in what happened next. The leadership of the Liberal Party and the NDP Party agreed to form a coalition in the House of Commons. With provisional support from the Bloc Quebecois the plan could have produced the basis for a fragile but viable parliamentary majority in the House of Commons sufficient to send the Harper Conservatives back to the opposition benches. Rather than accept the right and responsibility of the majority of MPs to proceed with their planned vote, Stephen Harper went to Governor-General Michaelle Jean to request Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in Canada to shut down the workings of Parliament through a device known as prorogation.

    No precedent then existed throughout the Commonwealth, the family of nations whose constitutional traditions are derived from Great Britain, for this use of prorogation to avert a non-confidence vote in Parliament. This political abuse of the institutions of the Canadian Crown offers yet another demonstration of the crisis of legitimacy in Canadian parliamentary democracy.

    The controversy begs the question of what is permissible and what is improper when the imperatives of politics clash with the core ideals of the Canadian Crown as vested in the Governor-General’s trust responsibility to safeguard the integrity of constitutional governance. What happens when the political culture of the republic to the south is made to overwhelm the governing principles of Canada, a constitutional monarchy where the Governor-General retains a small but vital number of discretionary powers mostly pertaining to the timing and circumstances of federal elections?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Governor-General Michaëlle Jean

    The reserve powers vested in the primary embodiment of the Canadian Crown are meant to hold the political contestations between politicians within the bounds of the rule of law. Like the Queen in Great Britain, the Canadian Governor-General is meant to inhabit a place of authority beyond politics, outside the daily hubbub of the partisan struggle for political advantage and leverage.

    The Governor-General is supposed to be the trustee safeguarding, for instance, the laws meant to protect endangered minorities from the political incursions of the powerful. It falls, for instance, on the Governor-General and Her Majesty the Queen to safeguard the integrity and implementation of Crown-Aboriginal treaties that were negotiated to last for as long as the waters flow and the grass grows. When, therefore, a Canadian prime minister conspires as Stephen Harper did in 2008 to entrap the Governor-General in his own web of political machinations in defiance of Canada’s constitutional heritage, he profoundly endangers the continuity of peace, order and good government.

    To add insult to injury Stephen Harper went again to the Governor-General in December of 2009 to seek and obtain a second prorogation to shut down all the business of Parliament. This second prorogation is widely seen as a tactic to block the progress of parliamentary hearings that were beginning to cast light on the transfer of prisoners by the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan to Afghan authorities for possible torture. The testimony and documentation put forward by Richard Colvin, a principled civil servant who had served in Afghanistan, was bringing to light very explicit connections linking the Prime Minister’s Office to the torture of Afghan detainees.[xxiv]

    In an article accusing Stephen Harper of being “in contempt of Parliament,” University of Ottawa Constitutional Law Professor, Errol P. Mendes, observed, “The early decision to shut down Parliament was clearly to avoid the continuing scrutiny of a House of Commons committee over the mounting evidence of willful blindness by the Harper government over the transfer of Afghan detainees to a substantial risk of torture. This is potentially a war crime and one of the most serious allegations any government has faced in the history of Canada.”[xxv]

    Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament for a second time to shut down a procedure shedding light on the Canadian Armed Forces’ involvement in torture in Afghanistan

    The constitutional crisis provoked by Stephen Harper’s two “requests” to the Governor-General to shut down Parliament through prorogation points to the internal contradictions between Canada’s adherence to, on the one hand, the parliamentary heritage of Great Britain’s unwritten constitution and, on the other, its adoption in 1982 of a written constitution including a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the Crown tradition of law Parliament is “supreme” whereas section 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 describes itself and other written instruments formulated in Great Britain as “the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect.”

    In averting in 2008 an inevitable vote of non-confidence in Parliament Stephen Harper showed contempt for the principle of parliamentary supremacy. This unwritten principle of responsible government grows not from statute but from the depths of historical struggle, including a civil war in England, whose outcome was to amalgamate the forces of Crown and Parliament. The principle of parliamentary supremacy vests political authority in elected members of the House of Commons, not in any single individual as is the case in the United States where the US president is the federal government’s chief executive.

    It is the prerogative of elected MPs to configure themselves as they see fit in order to demonstrate the capacity or incapacity of political associations of parliamentarians to enact laws through majority votes in the House of Commons. In this fashion the dominant group or groups of elected MPs are able to demonstrate to the Governor-General and ultimately to the people of Canada that they are the custodians of sufficient public confidence to exercise the levers of power in the federal government.

    When the dominant group or groups disassemble to the point where a want of confidence is demonstrated through their inability to muster majority support for the passage of laws in the House of Commons, then the Governor-General is bound to do one of two things. After a vote of non-confidence Her Majesty’s representative can call a General Election or, depending on the specific circumstances, he or she can conduct meetings on behalf of the Canadian Crown with the leadership embodying other possible configurations of party representation and organization. If the Governor-General determines that this alternative leadership seems both willing and capable of forming a viable coalition capable of passing laws through majority votes in the House of Commons, then the principal personification of the Canadian Crown has the option not to call a General Election. He or she can sanction a reconfiguration of government and party in Parliament.[xxvi]

    In 2008 especially, neither of these two courses of parliamentary tradition were adhered to. Instead Parliament was shut down while Stephen Harper raised the equivalent of an American Red Scare. Facing the prospect of losing power the imperiled prime minister presented the prospect of an illegitimate reconfiguration of party alignments in the House of Commons as a potential coup d’etat, as a dark conspiracy of “separatists and socialists.” In this tawdry fashion Harper was able to divert much public attention away from the constitutional crisis he had fomented in pressuring the Governor-General to preempt the vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons that would otherwise have taken place.

    While different in some details, the constitutional crisis of 2008 invoked memories of the King-Byng constitutional crisis of 1926.[xxvii] In the older episode Governor-General Lord Byng of Vimy refused to dissolve Parliament at the request of Prime Minister William Mackenzie King. King’s big break came after an industrial dispute in the Rockefeller-owned coal mines of Colorado led to the slaughter of workers and their family members in the Ludlow massacre of 1914.

    Along with Ivy Lee, King was hired to help John D. Rockefeller Jr. to develop and sell an agenda for taming and subverting trade unions.[xxviii] Like Harper, King sought to undermine Canada’s constitutional heritage in the British Empire in order to hasten Canada’s integration into the political economy of the informal American Empire. This empire of fortune would come to dominate global geopolitics through militarism, commerce, and cultural influences like Hollywood movies and rock and roll music during the second half of the twentieth century.[xxix]

    W. L. Mackenzie King with John D. Rockefeller. After the Ludlow Massacre of 1914, King went to work for Rockefeller to advise America’s most rich and powerful industrialist on the taming and subversion of trade unions. King would serve as Canadian Prime Minister at intervals between 1921 and 1948. King tended to want to undermine Canada’s British imperial heritage. King tended to prefer the informal empire-building of the United States as practised by his friends and associates in the Rockefeller complex of companies.

    Like King, Harper was able to make political hay by playing on dangerous prejudices. Harper’s attack on Canada’s constitutional heritage in the British Empire seemed to confirm George Grant’s prophetic prediction in Lament for a Nation. From Grant’s Red Tory perspective, the Liberal Party’s preemption in 1965 of indigenous conservatism was symbolized by the political defeat of John Diefenbaker. The political demise of Red Tory John Diefenbaker pointed to the end of Canada’s functioning as a genuinely sovereign nation. Grant’s foresight is reflected in the trajectory of assimilationist forces that motivated Brian Mulroney and now Stephen Harper to try to outdo even the pro-US continentalism epitomized by the Liberal Party politics of David Rockefeller’s Canadian adviser, W.L.M. King.[xxx]

    There were huge powers of intimidation brought to bear by Prime Minister Harper on Michaelle Jean, a former CBC broadcaster appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chretien in the days when the Liberal Party of Canada was in firm control of the national government. As Jean faced Harper’s “request” that she break with parliamentary tradition to provide the anxious prime minister with a reprieve from a vote of non-confidence, the Queen’s representative responded to the emergency by assembling a team of constitutional experts led by veteran political scientist Peter Russell.

    With the advice of this impromptu assembly of academic elders the Governor-General tried to save face by attaching conditions to her acceptance of Harper’s ultimatum that she must shut down Parliament rather than allow a non-confidence vote to go forward.[xxxi] Stephen Harper was thus granted his unconstitutional time out so that the coalition of elected MPs aligning against his Conservative Party could be made to retreat in a blaze of negative media coverage.

    Who knows what would have happened if the Governor-General had not caved. Apparently one of the options being considered in the Harper camp was to go over the head of the Governor-General directly to the Office of Queen Elizabeth.[xxxii] As a Black woman of Haitian ancestry and the wife of a well known proponent of Quebec’s independence, Jean must have been aware of her vulnerability to the kind of pit bull media attack campaigns for which the Harper Conservatives have become notorious. Much of the machinations in the in and out showdown with Elections Canada over campaign spending and accounting involved the financing of expensive US-style TV attack ads. These ads have been calculated to exploit the anti-intellectual prejudices of some Canadians in an era when the Liberal Party of Canada embraced the professorial styles of Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, and now Bob Rae.

    Would we have seen US-style attack ads directed at the Governor-General if Michaelle Jean had been strong enough to hold the embattled constitutional ground beneath the Crown of Canada by allowing the political dynamic of the federal election of 2008 to run its proper course in the House of Commons. If not, we would certainly have seen the Governor-General, a regal embodiment of Chretien-style liberalism, pilloried in the press, but especially in The National Post, a venue that follows the Fox News agenda in efforts to push political discourse towards the right-wing extremes of politics where Steven Harper seems to be most at home.


    YouTube – Veterans Today -

    Attack ads: A speciality of the Conservative Party of Canada

    The heritage of Canada’s unwritten constitution inherited from the imperial Mother Country runs heavily against the propensity of the Harper Conservatives to integrate their tactics of electioneering with the political culture of the republic to the south. The result is growing uncertainty about the respective roles of the Governor-General and Her Majesty’s prime minister in calling elections, avoiding elections, suspending the operations of Parliament, and reconfiguring party associations with the goal of winning majority support in the voting that takes place inside the Canadian House of Commons.

    While it would be beyond the mandate of a Royal Commission on electoral practices to delve into all the controversies attending prorogation, so too must the deeper constitutional context of the crisis in parliamentary democracy be taken into consideration. The Royal Commission would have to address particularly the problems created by the Canadian prime minister’s repeated failure to adhere to parliament’s adoption in 2007 of the American example of fixed election dates. This law of fixed election dates has never been implemented or enforced. In both 2008 and 2011 the prime minister of Canada ignored the 2007 law by requesting the Governor-General to call federal elections at times deemed propitious to the actual or imagined realization of political advantage for the Conservative Party.

    Many Unanswered Questions: On the Need to Bring Canada’s Electoral Law into the Era Of Micro-Niche Targeting of Political Messages

    Technological transformation ranks highly among the new forces that are changing the landscape of electioneering in Canada and throughout the world. These forces of technological reconfiguration start with powerful computers programmed to collect and mine data for deployment in both mass communications and targeted communications.

    The political mining of computer data in order to narrowcast targeted political messages to particular groups—groups such as those sent to nonexistent polling stations who were said by Elections Canada to be born primarily between 1947 and 1949— raises a host of complex issues suitable for study by a Royal Commission. This narrowcasting of communications aimed at precisely-circumscribed lists of voters typically weaves together various combinations of criteria including gender, religion, ethnicity, age, income, health and ideology as well as well as educational, vocational, and marital status.

    A strange new breed of corporate entity contains much of the of the new technology and expertise that is making so-called “micro-niche targeting” a core strategy in both raising funds and winning elections for political parties and individual candidates. The legal twilight zone surrounding many of the companies starts with the unique legal personality of their clients, the political parties whose organizational networks lie at the core of the system of responsible government in Canada’s parliamentary democracy. Commenting in “The Data Game,” a CBC documentary first aired in November of 2007, Law Professor Michael Geist described “the gray zone” inhabited by political parties. He said, “The private sector law doesn’t clearly apply nor does the government privacy law. You get this gray zone where perhaps there are no protections.”[xxxiii]

    The legal uncertainties surrounding political parties extends to the companies they hire to raise money for them as part of broader campaigns to help them win power. This realm of political entrepreneurship combines the attributes of for-profit commerce with what passes for charity work in the not-for-profit sector. Accordingly this political enterprise inhabits a particularly lucrative space where profit and philanthropy overlap. Should Canadian law treat companies that raise money for charities to help the disadvantaged the same as it treats companies that raise money to finance political parties? Should there be changes in tax laws as they pertain to those that derive private profit from public contributions to political parties? Are there loopholes that should be closed and firmed up in the tax regime surrounding the financing of Canadian elections?

    How should the new genre of political enterprise be regulated? To what laws and standards should the new generation of high-tech political corporations and their officers be required to adhere? What is the current relationship and what is the appropriate relationship between institutions of public governance, whose purpose is supposedly to advance the public interest and the common good, and those engaged in data collecting and data mining for profit? What happens when the profit-seeking officers involved in the business of transforming political parties into governments claim the right to secrecy by invoking the privacy rights attending corporate proprietorships?

    Does it happen that information derived from, for instance, police, hospitals, news gathering venues, schools, insurance companies, private investigators, Facebook, and old census files, to mention only a few of the possibilities, is collected for political purposes unbeknownst to those being so profiled. What happens when such data is injected into computers and mined in ways that provide political advantage for political parties? Should Canadian citizens be at least informed about the political data being kept on them? Should they have the capacity to give or withhold permission on what can be collected and what can’t?

    To what extent is Elections Canada or some other government agency or agencies already monitoring and regulating this kind of activity? What should the rules be and who should enforce them? What rules, if any, should govern the robotic gathering of particular veins of data derived from millions of web sites for potential deployment in electioneering?

    A Royal Commission could be instrumental in helping to lay out the nature of the issues before Canadians and the options available to us in navigating the new landscapes of electioneering in this era of pervasive digitalization in the interactive computation of information. Such a Royal Commission could help provide the interpretive frameworks and the necessary language to help citizens and their political representatives assess the potential for crimes against democracy that are likely to occur when changes in technology are exploited in ways that further the empowerment of the powerful at the expense of the disempowered.[xxxiv]

    The implications are enormous of the shift in the job of political organizing before and after the integration of computer modeling into electioneering. Before the change political parties had to work hard on the ground to develop and extend real political bases that conformed to the actual configurations of human community. These days political organizing is more likely to start with the development of computer models programmed to identify the landscape of virtual constituencies. Virtual constituencies can then be ushered into something approaching actuality through the narrowcasting of political messages specifically targeted to reach the intended lists of voters by Internet, direct mail, or telephone messages.

    Should Canadian law permit political parties to contract out the pivotal work of first identifying and then transforming virtual political constituencies into real political constituencies? What, if any, should be the safeguards against conflict of interest in an environment so fraught with opportunities for collusion between business and government, between ambitious politicians and techno-hucksters on the make?

    The questions requiring attention go on and on. Who, for instance, should own the form of political information that apparently made it possible for the Conservative Party to identify Canadians who were born between 1947 and 1949 and not likely to vote Conservative? What rules of privacy, if any, should apply to the work of companies whose business it is to collect, organize, mine and sell data that outlines in great detail the personal attributes of the full spectrum of individuals who together compose the Canadian electorate? What sorts of accounting to public officials should be required of those who sell sensitive information services to individual politicians, to political parties and to national governments?

    Who should be accountable to whom in performing actions that sometimes make the highest officials in the land beholden to those that control some of the most sensitive and instrumental archives of political intelligence? Questions such as these cannot be avoided indefinitely by officials whose responsibility it is to make sure that Canadians can exercise their franchise in fair elections free of anti-democratic machinations such as disenfranchisement of targeted groups through suppression of their votes.

    The creation of a Royal Commission could help create the base of broad consultation, deep investigation, thorough research, and wide dissemination of published findings and recommendations to form the base for informed discussion on what must be done to improve the legal and institutional framework of electioneering in Canada. This informed discussion must form the prelude to any significant alterations in the existing system.

    The Slide into Electoral Scandal

    The Royal Commission should be directed to situate its study on electioneering in Canada in a temporal framework that includes the final years of Liberal Party rule. This period gave rise to an array of relevant controversies including the so-called Sponsorship Scandal involving the hiring of advertising and PR companies to advance the electoral fortunes of the federal Liberal Party primarily in Quebec. The intensity and depth of the issues raised led the government of the day to institute a Royal Commission on the Sponsorship Scandal. Judge John Gomery led this judicial inquiry between 2004 and 2006 in ways that contributed significantly to the transformation of Canada’s political culture.

    Giuliano Zaccardelli

    The history of the relationship between elections and policing entered a strange new phase during the campaign leading to the election of January of 2006. Giuliano Zaccardelli, the Commissioner in charge of Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, inexplicably chose to intervene in the politics of the campaign through a letter he wrote to NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis. This letter mischievously announced the federal police force’s criminal investigation into the activities of the Liberal Party’s Finance Minister for allegedly leaking information on tax policy prior to tabling the federal budget.

    Giuliano Zaccardelli, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, specialized in political policing to undermine the fortunes of the Liberal Party and promote the interests of the Harper Conservatives.

    No charges were ultimately laid. But both the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party predictably made much political hay of the RCMP’s apparent bid to help prod Canadian voters to move from Liberal to Conservative leadership of the federal government.[xxxv] What, if anything, should be done to prevent future instances of this kind of intervention where police charge into political contests with purposeful or inadvertent impact on the outcome of elections? What must be done to depoliticize the functioning of police forces more generally? At what point, if any, should the infraction of electoral law become the business of the criminal justice system?

    The RCMP became ensnared in the longstanding conflict between Elections Canada and the Conservative Party revolving around competing interpretations of the so-called “in and out scandal.” In April of 2008 the RCMP conducted a forced search of the Conservative Party headquarters in the quest for records that might provide evidence in charges being mounted against the Harper Conservatives by Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer.

    In 2008 the saga of antagonism between Elections Canada and the Harper Conservatives was already well advanced. When reporting to the press on its forced entry into the Conservative Party headquarters, the RCMP made it clear that its officers were not pursuing the federal police force’s own investigation. They were acting rather on a court order to advance the investigations conducted in the name of Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand.[xxxvi] Is it even thinkable that the RCMP would lead the charge on the Harper Conservatives when the Mounties intervened politically to help point the Harper Conservatives towards the responsibilities of government in the election of 2006?

    The police raids on the Conservative Party were part of a process resulting in charges being laid in February of 2011 against the Conservative Party of Canada, its financial arm the Conservative Fund Canada, and four high-ranking Conservative Party officials, two of whom were then senators. Those charged were Senator Irving Gerstein, who was the Conservative Party’s chief fundraiser, Michael Donison, the Party’s former national party director, Susan Kehoe, a former interim executive director, and Senator Doug Finley, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s campaign director in the elections of 2006 and 2008.[xxxvii]

    Senators Doug Finely and Irving Gerstein were both charged by Elections Canada along with two other high-ranking Conservative Party operatives. The four were accused of spending and accounting infractions in the “In and Out” Scandal. Charges were dropped in November of 2011 as a result of a plea bargain negotiated with Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. The Conservative Party of Canada and the Conservative Fund Canada agreed to pay a $52, 000 fine for an infraction of Canada’s electoral laws, crimes for which which no human person was convicted. What secret deals have been covered over by this dubious plea bargain? What evidence has been suppressed?

    The charges came in response to a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal in December of 2010. This civil case began with the decision of the Conservative Fund Canada to sue the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Marc Mayrand. In his description of the ruling Mayrand provides an introduction to the technicalities underlying the larger questions of principle at play in this historic dispute over election spending.

    The strategic importance of jurisprudence on campaign financing was highlighted in 2010 in the United States by the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case of Citizens United versus the Federal Elections Commission. The effect of this most consequential decision was to produce the result sought by Stephen Harper when he initiated the case of Harper vs. Canada in 2000 as president of the National Citizens Coalition. The ruling by the US Supreme Court gave a green light to unlimited spending by corporations and other so-called third parties in American elections.

    On the judicial response in Canada to the case of the Conservative Fund Canada versus the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, a test of the provisions designed to maintain some sort of equity in campaign financing between competing political parties, Mayrand writes,

    The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the Chief Electoral Officer’s position that the Goods and Services tax rebates pursuant to the Excise Tax Act do not affect the value of election expenses under the Canadian Elections Act, whether for the purpose of spending limits or the reimbursement of expenses. [xxxviii]

    With whom, if anyone, did Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand consult in deciding to drop the charges against the four Conservative Party operatives responsible for the spending and accounting infractions in the “In and Out Scandal”?

    By 2011, therefore, the litigation concerning alleged wrongdoing in the election of 2006 pointed both ways. The Conservative Party was attempting to sue Elections Canada and Elections Canada was pressing charges on those deemed most responsible for alleged violations of law in the in and out scandal. Then in November of 2011 two white flags were raised in the form of a plea bargain. Then in early March of 2012, just as the robocon scandal was gaining traction with the public, there was a further move away from the litigious crossing of swords. In the November deal the Conservative Party and its finance arm, the Conservative Fund Canada, agreed to plead guilty to charges that accounting and spending infractions had taken place. The two political entities paid a fine of $52,000. In return, charges were dropped by Elections Canada against Conservative operatives Gerstein, Finley, Donison, and Kehoe.

    The effect of this plea bargaining was to keep sensitive evidence from being made public in court. In preparing for some sort of ultimate litigious showdown with Elections Canada the Conservative Party had sought and won a leave to appeal the whole matter to the Supreme Court of Canada. This reservation of time for a hearing before Canada’s top judges serves to mark the high importance of the issues driving the dispute between the Harper Conservatives and Elections Canada. The first Supreme Court hearing was to have taken place on May 14. Fred DeLorey, the Conservative Party spokesperson in charge of stick handling the public communications on this sensitive file, explained to reporters on March 6 that “We are agreeing to disagree and will be dropping our appeal to the Supreme Court.[xxxix]

    On the Genesis of the Ongoing Disputes Between Elections Canada and the Conservative Party

    The Royal Commission on electoral practices in Canada would have to look especially closely at the rules governing Elections Canada and the way those rules have been applied or not in the real world of electioneering. As Preston Manning recently suggested, the investigators would have to look at the successes and failures in enforcing Canada’s election laws on all political parties. It would have to look at the relationship between the regulators and the police, but especially the federal police, in achieving these objectives.

    As far as Elections Canada goes, its efforts to enforce Canadian election law have fallen disproportionately on the ruling Conservatives. Why? Is the Conservative Party more prone to violate electoral laws than the other political parties or is Elections Canada prone to bias in enforcing election law? As it currently stands it is only a mild exaggeration to describe the background of the current relationship between the chief operatives of the Conservative Party and Elections Canada as one of low-level warfare.

    The acrimony goes back to at least 2001 when Stephen Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition, an organization set up to lobby for an agenda of lower taxation, expanded privatization, and maximum deregulation of business. In this capacity Harper mounted a constitutional challenge to those provisions of the Canada Elections Act (2000) that limited funding by third parties on campaign advertising. During this same period Harper began a fund-raising letter by alleging “the jackasses at Elections Canada are out of control.”

    In his letter of condemnation Harper went on to attack an effort by Elections Canada to prohibit social networking media on the Internet from publishing information on electoral results in eastern Canada before the polls were closed in western Canada. As one of Harper’s assistants described it, the conflict between the future prime minister and Elections Canada was a “blood feud.” It was for Harper a “never ending” struggle against what Harper’s associate described as the very “epitome of bureaucratic evil.”[xl]

    A Royal Commission on electoral practices in Canada could assess the full spectrum of forces really at play in the series of disputes involving Elections Canada and the Conservative Party. How independent is Marc Mayrand, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada? How is his capacity to address the robocon scandal affected by his prior involvement as a major protagonist in the in and out scandal on electoral accounting? Is it fair, pragmatic, and wise to put the full weight of responsibility on Elections Canada to deal with this new round of controversy while the old controversies going back to the federal election of 2006 continue to fester, replicate and spread? Why should Canadians put so much confidence in Marc Mayrand, an accountant whose background and technical expertise lie in bankruptcy cases?

    Hasn’t the time arrived to bring in talent from outside the circle of acrimony that has seized the officials of Elections Canada and the Conservative Party in its grip for a number of years? Don’t we Canadians deserve an infusion of fresh perspectives from outside investigators unburdened by all the baggage weighing down Marc Mayrand and his staff? Is Mayrand capable of stepping back from details to see the larger outlines and meanings of what Peter Russell has described as “parliamentary democracy in crisis”?[xli] Some would say no. Some would say that Mayrand’s agenda for Elections Canada does not seem responsive to the growing crisis of confidence in our political institutions. In a recent report to Parliament Mayrand declared that his agency’s top priority is “to reduce the regulatory burden on political entities.”[xlii]

    How can Elections Canada credibly combine the roles of persecutor and arbiter when alleged electoral infractions are processed? Might a Royal Commission use its powers of subpoena to bring out the suppressed evidence that never made it to court because of a plea bargain in November of 2011 between Elections Canada, the Conservative Party, the Conservative Fund, and the four Conservative operatives charged with violating electoral laws? On whose behalf was Elections Canada acting when its officers agreed to the plea bargain in November of 2011?


    YouTube – Veterans Today -

    Police raid Conservative Party headquarters in 2008 to seek evidence of spending and accounting infractions in the In and Out Scandal

    Did Elections Canada attempt any consultation with the public or at least with the leadership of the opposition parties in the House of Commons before cutting a deal with the Harper Conservatives? What does it mean that the Conservative Party and Conservative Fund pled guilty to some of the charges that these political entities had violated Canadian electoral law? Doesn’t this admitted breach of the law suggest so-called political entities should be subject to more regulation—better regulation– not less regulation as advocated by Mayrand? Why should Canadians look to Elections Canada to sort out the robocon scandal when the Chief Electoral Officer in Canada is just emerging from such a secretive and unsatisfactory deal that leaves completely unresolved very fundamental questions about who should bear legal responsibility when Canada’s electoral laws are violated.

    A Royal Commission could help satisfy the Canadian public’s legitimate need and right to know how it is that the Conservative Party and its financial arm, the Conservative Fund, could accept guilt in violating electoral spending and accounting laws whereas the Conservative Party officers that ordered the wrongdoing could be exempted from legal responsibility for their actions. Doesn’t this negotiated settlement of a matter that touches so significantly on the rights and responsibilities of all Canadian citizens smack of cronyism between Ottawa insiders?

    Jim Harris condemns many individuals and interests, but especially the mainstream media, for the failure to highlight the criminality entailed in the in and out scandal and for the failure to connect the long drawn out proceedings of Elections Canada to the robocon scandal. In the Huffington Post Harris writes,

    In the end the Conservatives pled guilty and got a $52,000 fine.

    There was no appropriate consequence for the Conservatives breaking Canada’s election law. The fine is a joke. The Conservatives spent $1.3 more than allowed to by law, “won” the election, and paid a penalty of $52,000. The reward: gaining access to the levers of power and deciding how to spend the Government of Canada’s $270.5 billion budget.

    The case took five years to be resolved. By this time the Conservatives had been in power for five years and had appointed 48 Conservatives to the Senate.

    The Conservatives strategy is clear: break the law, deny any wrong doing, frustrate and stall any investigation — whether by Elections Canada or House of Commons committee — and when the final decision is about to be rendered, plea bargain and pay a fine.[xliii]

    The organization, Democracy Watch has referred to the “dangerously weak enforcement record” of Elections Canada.[xliv] Retired CBC producer Nick Filmore echoed this statement explaining, “Elections Canada has been soft on individuals and groups found guilty of violating voting laws. First, there was the disgraceful way it accepted the Conservative Party’s admission of guilt in the 2006 ‘in-and-out scandal’ in return for not pursuing criminal charges against the high-level operatives in Harper’s office.”[xlv]

    Does the negotiated settlement do justice to the seriousness of the legal infractions that took place in the very heart of our electoral system? Does the settlement take the notion of limited liability of corporate entities too far away from the principle that those who direct and facilitate infractions of the law should be held accountable for their actions? Won’t this cynical settlement confirm in the minds of Canadians that different rules apply when the law is broken by those in the upper socio-economic strata of society, by police, and by those within the inner sanctums of the ruling political party? What is to be made of the current government’s priority of getting tough on crime when government officials such as the four individuals charged with wrongdoing in the in and out scandal seem to be granted forms of protection and impunity that effectively put them above the law.

    Senator Finley’s current responsibilities include that of representing the Conservative Party of Canada in a transnational network of political allies promoting right-of-centre policies. Finley was appointed along with Tony Clement to leadership roles in the International Democratic Union. Chaired by Australia’s former Prime Minister John Howard, the IDU is a working association of over 80 right-of-centre parties operating in over 60 countries.[xlvi]

    As Robert Cleroux and others have reported, it appears the in out scandal may have been replicated in the election of 2011.[xlvii] The experience of Bertin Denis, a defeated Conservative candidate in the riding of Rimouski-Neigette-Temiscouata-Les Basques, is one of 18 similar cases in Quebec. Denis received a cheque for $55,000 from Conservative campaign headquarters. From this amount he had to submit a cheque for $15,000.01 to Responsive Marketing Group based in Toronto and Washington DC.[xlviii] This payment to RMG is part of a large flow of funds to a company that recently combined with the Calgary-based Xentel DM, an operation under many dark clouds of controversy that recently changed its name to iMarketing Solutions Group.

    Inky Mark, Garth Turner, Michael Davis, RMG, and CIMS

    In my view any Royal Commission on electoral practices in Canada will have to look long and hard especially at Responsive Marketing Group, RMG, a company that has been deeply involved in many aspects of the rise of the Harper Conservatives to the status of Canada’s governing party in firm control of federal authority in Canada.

    One of RMG’s key contributions to the success of the Conservative Party has come by way of its central role in building up the Conservative Party’s formidable consolidated political database. This database is known as CIMS, the Constituent Information Management System. An illustration of the kind of campaign targeting made possible by the CIMS system lie in the transactions that enabled the Conservative Party to hone in, according to Elections Canada, on non-Conservative voters born primarily between 1947 and 1949.[xlix] This example is but one among many millions of possible permutations and combinations that become possible with so-called micro-niche targeting.

    Inky Mark, a former Conservative MP for the Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette riding in Winnipeg, has gone on record to describe the machinations of those in control of access to the data contained in the CIMS. “If they get mad at you and don’t want you to access your own data, you’re done,” Mark said. The popular former MP added, “I figured that out right off the bat and said I don’t want to be under their control, so I just quit basically.” Mark decided in 2010 not to run in the next federal election.

    Inky Mark, a very popular parliamentarian from Winnipeg, quit as an MP when he realized that those controlling the CIMS database had centralized control over the Conservative Party of Canada

    The Canadian Press reported. “Mark says every time he or his staff would meet a constituent and get their phone number, they were expected to log the information and any pertinent details, including the individual’s political leanings and personal interests. He says the party had control over the entire, nationwide database. An MP and his staff were at the mercy of headquarters, Mark says, because they had the power to allocate and revoke database passwords.”[l]

    Garth Turner is another former Conservative MP who, like Inky Mark, is highly critical of the way his former party manipulates data, people, and money. Turner puts the CIMS system together with its creators, developers and custodians at RMG near the centre of his analysis. After leaving the Harper Conservatives Turner told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that the CIMS system put the Conservatives “streets ahead of anyone else in the country on how they collect information and centralize the management of it.”[li]

    As an example of how the CIMS system works, Turner in 2007 pointed to the CIMS as the key operational device that enabled the Conservative Party to send Jewish New Year cards in 2006 to many Jewish residents in Toronto.[lii] Much of Turner’s criticism of RMG and its founder and CEO, Michael Davis, concerns the proprietary dimensions the database that forms a key component of the Conservatives’ power base. Turner suggested that RMG might retain ownership over parts of the CIMS database. “Its part of [RMG’s] contract that they ‘own’ lists of names they assemble.”

    Turner is paraphrased to have said, “RMG has strictly-enforced contracts that make these lists their property for their own use.” Turner continued, “The Conservatives have used their money and their connections with US Republicans to develop a wide lead over their competitors in the field of data mining and voter identification. They are unwilling to discuss whether they have crossed any ethical or legal lines in terms of privacy rights or data sources and are totally guarded about their data systems, and the people behind them.”

    Turner devoted particular attention to the career of RMG’s CEO and founder, Michael Davis. Davis and RMG started the work of building up the future ruling party’s data management system in 2003 shortly after the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada amalgamated with Stephen Harper’s Alliance Party. Turner makes several references in his commentary on Davis and RMG to the Calgary-based Xentel DM Company. In 2010 Xentel DM would acquire RMG as a subsidiary. Xentel then changed its name to iMarketing Solutions Group. iMarketing’s CEO is Davis’ close associate, Michael Platz.

    In 2006 Garth Turner was suspended from the Conservative Party. In 2007 he spoke at length, criticizing the role of RMG, Michael Davis and the CIMS database in the Conservative Party’s organization

    Turner is reported to have observed,

    Davis formerly worked with fundraising consultant Craig Copland, the founder or co-founder of at least six Canadian charities that routinely spend 70 percent or more of contributions on telemarketers and other expenses, according to a recent Toronto Star investigation. These charities “exaggerate their good deeds, or outright refuse to say what they do with your money.” Copland works closely with the telemarketing corporation Xentel DM. “Copland finds Xentel new charity clients. Xentel pays him royalties for charities sent its way. He also served on Xentel’s board of directors until the Star started asking questions,” the paper reported. Davis’ RMG works in similar fashion.

    “With RMG and Xentel, they’ll guarantee money, but in effect you turn over your charitable tax number to them,” says the consultant. “They can hide it in various ways.” He says, “Davis is smart. Three years ago he severed his connection with Copland,” who is now drawing public heat.

    Davis is well known in the fund-raising profession for the work he has done for conservative causes. He has worked for anti-abortion and anti-gun control groups, and also the Ontario Conservative Party under Mike Harris, which got in trouble for reporting payments of more than half a million dollars to RMG for telephone canvassing as polling expenses….

    RMG did membership work for the Tom Long campaign for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance party, which was later discredited for selling phony memberships.

    The Toronto consultant [Garth Turner] believes RMG laid the foundation for the federal Conservatives’ voter contact machine. “I think RMG has a database of pretty well everyone in Canada that has any right-wing leanings. They raise a ton of money.”

    In the 1980s, Davis was associated with a scandal concerning the Canadian Liver Foundation. He helped increase the charity’s earnings “from $2 million to $11 or 12 million,” recalls the consultant, “but it only netted [the charity] several thousand. RMG, which was then called something else, garnered all the money, and there was a big scandal. Subsequently they changed the name of the firm.”[liii]

    The basis of Turner’s criticisms of Davis’ former colleague was confirmed and outlined in detail by the investigative work of The Toronto Star’s David Bruser. Bruser’s report on a “Charitable Empire” explained in 2007 how Xentel DM’s Craig Coupland founded or cofounded six health-related charities, including the Childhood Asthma Foundation. Coupland’s company would then “routinely spend 70 per cent or more of [the] contributions on telemarketers and other expenses.” Others peg the figure retained by RMG’s future parent company higher. Bruser writes, “Provincial and state regulators have criticized Xentel for misleading donors and sometimes keeping 80% to 90% of every dollar raised.”[liv]

    In spite of the revelations by Turner and Bruser about the dubious techniques of Davis and Coupland in deriving large private profit from charitable donations, Preston Manning was perfectly clear in 2009 in lauding RMG for its central role in the transformation of Canada’s political culture. Mr. Manning is founder of the Alberta-based Reform Party. He is generally viewed as the founding patriarch of the Conservative Party of Canada in its present incarnation.

    In April of 2009 Mr. Manning, founder of the Manning Institute for Building Democracies, presented RMG with the Manning Centre Pyramid Award for Political Technology. At the Annual Manning Networking Conference and Exhibition in Ottawa the son of a former Alberta premier honoured RMG as well as its founder and CEO, Michael Davis. Mr Manning described “RMG’s role in helping to build the conservative movement in Canada. RMG has raised more than $75 million for right of centre causes and helped to elect hundreds of right of centre politicians at the municipal, provincial and national levels.”[lv]

    RMG, Tom Flanagan and Stephen Harper

    RMG’s deep integration into the political operations of the Harper Conservatives evolved from the company’s prior role in the management of political data for the Mike Harris government in Ontario. As leader of the province’s Progressive Conservative Party, Harris was premier of Ontario from 1995 to 2002. The intermediary in the transfer of technology and expertise from the provincial to the national levels was Tom Flanagan, whom Ezra Levant credits as “the master strategist, the godfather, even of Harper.”[lvi] Some observers were less flattering when Tom Flanagan was featured in many news reports in late 2010. These reports drew attention to Flanagan’s attempt to be funny by proposing that Wikileaks impresario, Julian Assange, be assassinated.[lvii]

    In his published reflections on his own various involvements in the rise of right-wing conservatism to governing authority in Canada Flanagan explains, “Our relationship with RMG linked nicely with our development of CIMS. RMG was already familiar with a CIMS-style system because of the work they had done with the Ontario PCs, and CIMS provided a receptacle for the hundreds of thousands of records generated by RMG’s large-scale calling programs.”[lviii]

    Tom Flanagan has worked as a professor of political science at the University of Calgary since 1968. He has been involved at many stages and in many ways in the transformation of Preston Manning’s Alberta-based Reform Party into Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. In the process Flanagan became the core figure in the so-called Calgary School whose most famous alumnus is the current Prime Minister of Canada. Flanagan’s role in the project of pushing politics in Canada to the right has tended to be mercurial, as old alliances break down and new collaborations fill their place. Flanagan is presently engaged in pushing the politics of the provincial government of Alberta rightward by assisting the electioneering of the newly-created Wild Rose Party.

    Tom Flanagan and Preston Manning

    During their periods of maximum collaboration Harper and Flanagan have been described as “intellectual soul mates, philosophical soul mates.” A darker view of the relationship has pictured Flanagan as “a modern-day Rasputin manipulating a leader 16 years his junior.”[lix] Together Harper and Flanagan have co-authored a number of essays. In 2004 Marci MacDonald wrote a very rich account of Flanagan entitled “The Man Behind Stephen Harper.” In that essay MacDonald advanced the thesis that much of the output of Harper and Flanagan and the other participants in the Calgary School has been directed at “wiping out the quirky bilateral differences that are stumbling blocks to [Canada’s] seamless integration into the United States.”[lx]

    This theme of political integration along north-south axes of interaction in North America helps set the context of Flanagan’s seminal collaboration beginning in 2003 with RMG’s Michael Davis. It was Davis who was able to bring Flanagan along in updating work he had started in graduate schools “as a political technologist eager to learn the mechanics of gaining power.”[lxi]

    Flanagan grew up close to Chicago Illinois in a prosperous family where the Roman Catholic Church and the Republican Party were revered as dual points of institutional authority. Flanagan enrolled at Notre Dame University in Indiana and subsequently did his Ph.D. at Duke University and the Free University of Berlin. In 1968, two years before his doctoral thesis was complete, the young conservative was recruited to join the brand new political science department in the brand new University of Calgary.

    Flanagan was hand picked for the job by the first Chair of the Political Science Department, Colonel E. Burke Inlow. Prof. Inlow’s prior posting was as an intelligence officer at the Pentagon in Washington DC with special expertise in the history and politics of Iran and other oil-rich polities throughout the Middle East. The hiring patterns initiated by Inlow created a momentum that would make the Calgary School a key centre for the importation into Canada of the most right-wing expressions US political culture.

    Stephen Harper and Preston Manning

    Given the strategic importance to the United States of an oil-rich province that by the early 1950s was already being referred to as “Texas North,” it is hardly surprising that some of the roots of the Calgary School lead back to the Pentagon and other components of the national security apparatus of the republic to the south. A city whose political economy is dominated by the corporate satellites of many US-based oil and gas enterprises, Calgary currently hosts 80,000 to 100, 000 US citizens giving it the highest percentage of Americans in any city outside the United States.[lxii] In 1968 Tom Flanagan joined many other ambitious young Americans in the growing stream of migration from the republic in the south to the constitutional monarchy north of the border that Blackfoot, Cree and Assiniboine peoples still sometimes describe as the medicine line.

    As part of his work strategizing with Preston Manning, Stephen Harper, Michael Davis and others on the project of moving the exercise of political power in Canada to the right, Tom Flanagan developed a specialty in the history of government-Aboriginal relations in Canada. Flanagan worked up this specialty to the point where he has been repeatedly hired by the federal Justice Department as an expert witness for the federal Crown in adversarial litigation where the legal meaning of section 35 has been tested. Again and again both federal and provincial government have placed themselves in opposition to Aboriginal litigants. This record of litigious antagonism is especially problematic for the purchasers of Flanagan’s services. In case after case the federal government has deployed the full resources of the state to deny and negate rather than recognize and affirm the existence of Aboriginal and treaty rights.[lxiii]

    Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 proclaims that “The existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.” What should Canadian citizens make of this constitutional requirement to recognize and affirm the existence of Aboriginal and treaty rights when they have before them the example of a federal Justice Department that in the adversarial theatre of the courts consistently advances interpretations of section 35 whose effect is to minimize obligations adhering to the Crown or any other non-Aboriginal person or entity?

    If even Her Majesty’s own ministers, advisors, and experts fail to uphold the honour of the Crown by consistently denying and negating those Aboriginal and treaty rights that are recognized and affirmed in the Canadian constitution, why should regular citizens honour the finer spirit and intent of section 35? At the very least the record of consistent federal opposition to broad interpretations of Aboriginal and treaty rights in court represents a systemic violation of the federal government’s fiduciary obligations to First Nations.

    As a perennial expert witness for the federal Crown, Tom Flanagan has consistently worked to narrow judicial definitions of section 35 as much as possible. In this fashion Tom Flanagan has brought the Indian-fighting ethos of the American frontier to the juridical frontiers of Canadian Indian policy. Again and again Flanagan has been paid handsomely by federal authorities to deny and negate a tradition of Crown-Aboriginal treaty alliances that draws in large measure on the Indian policies of Sir William Johnson whose principles of Crown treatment of First Nations was constitutionally codified in the Royal Proclamation of 1763?

    Recognized in section 25 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 established western borders for the Thirteen Anglo-American Colonies. The Royal Proclamation also established the Crown’s requirement to obtain Indian consent for the future transfer of lands from Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal jurisdiction and proprietorship. In Canada the Royal Proclamation has been implemented at intervals, most recently in establishing the constitutional basis for the negotiations presently underway in British Columbia of about 50 Crown-Aboriginal treaties.[lxiv]

    This anti-Aboriginal entrepreneurship from a mentor, co-author, and campaign manager of Stephen Harpers is consistent with the enterprise of other academic members of the Calgary School. According to a critic, two of Flanagan’s colleagues in the U of C Political Science Department, Rainer Knopff and Ted Morton, “have built careers, and a brisk consulting businesses, taking shots at the Charter of Rights, above all its implications for the pet peeves of social conservatives: feminism, abortion, and same-sex marriage.”[lxv]

    Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II signs the Constitution Act 1982 into law on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Act includes Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Section 35 recognizing and affirming Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. The Calgary School has made a profession of taking aim at both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and at Canada’s constitutional affirmation of Aboriginal and treaty rights.

    Those officials responsible for formulating federal positions on section 35 in the adversarial environment of court have repeatedly acted on the dubious assumption that the public interest of the Canadian people is best served by putting forward arguments that deny and negate the existence of Aboriginal and treaty rights. They have paid many millions of dollars to hired guns like Flanagan and Alexander von Gernet to help counter the case that the collective rights, titles, and treaty relations of Aboriginal peoples with the Crown guarantee them a strong place and voice in Canadian federalism. In this fashion one of the Conservative Party’s primary political operatives, at least in its early years, received federal payments amounting to at least several hundreds of thousand of dollars to attack the heritage of constitutional law rooted in the Indian policies of Sir William Johnson. In my books Johnson features as one of the originating bright lights of the Red Tory tradition of indigenous conservatism in Canada.[lxvi]

    “Our Benign Dictatorship “ ranks highly among the most well received and widely disseminated of the essays co-authored by Flanagan and Stephen Harper. Published in the winter of 1997, the essay lays out a rather insightful and lively history analyzing many of the political communities that combine to form the diverse makeup of Canada’s political culture. The methodology of the paper presents an illustration of the kind of categories and subject areas that could well be applied to the development of computer models employed to organize information on citizens in ways that would apportion virtual Canadians among many different types of digitally-formed political community.

    Flanagan’s and Harper’s primary goal in the essay is to present a plan for “Forestalling a Second Liberal Century.” From their perspective in the final years of the twentieth century the key to the eventual defeat of the Liberal Party as Canada was to bring about an amalgamation of the more right-wing, Western-based and populist Reform Party with the more centrist Progressive Conservative Party. The authors predicted, “If the Reform and the Progressive Conservatives continue their war of attrition they’ll keep each other in check for a long time… The Liberals will continue to govern, even if an NDP were to cut into their majority.”

    Flanagan and Harper proclaimed that “conservative voters do not have to be content with Toryism.” The authors saw the “the Red Tory line of reasoning” as especially “fragile” and as an obstacle to defeating the Liberals. In their own words, “The central question for Canadian conservatives is this: Can Canada ever have a version of the Thatcher-Reagan phenomenon… a definite and consistent conservative philosophy, and able to govern.”[lxvii]

    In 2003 Red Tory David Orchard throws the support of his delegates to Peter MacKay. This enables MacKay to win the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. Orchard’s main condition was to have MacKay sign a legal agreement not merge the PCs with Stephen Harper’s Alliance Party

    Part of the effort to duplicate in Canada the institutional and media framework that made Reagan’s message of small government, deregulation, and privatization so effective was the proliferation of right-wing Think Tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute. This strategy for politically-directed research and communication was replicated in Canada through efforts to build up and heighten the profile of, for instance, the Fraser Institute, the Canada West Foundation, and the C.D. Howe Institute. Meanwhile much of the behind-the-scenes strategizing took place in and around an entity known as Civitas. This trajectory of right-wing activity in the conduct of goal-oriented gathering and dissemination of information would later find an extension in the data collection and data mining techniques that would make the Conservative Party’s CIMS system so formidable.

    Only months after Peter MacKay signed a contract with David Orchard stating that the PC leader would not merge the party of indigenous conservatism with Harper’s Alliance Party, Peter MacKay violated his agreement. He joined with Harper. The resulting Conservative Party of Canada was, according to Orchard, a party “conceived in betrayal and born of deception”

    As the activists in the Calgary School could plainly see, one of the keys to pushing politics rightward and to incorporating Canada into more Reaganesque models of North American conservatism was to absorb and eliminate the indigenous Progressive Conservative Party. The Harper Conservatives achieved this goal in late 2003 but in order to do so they had to contravene a very explicit legal contract signed by the PC leader Peter MacKay.

    The contract had been signed in the hours before Peter MacKay became leader of the PC Party at a national convention. Red Tory activist David Orchard threw the support of his block of delegates to MacKay on the condition that the recipient of this backing sign a contract making several promises. The first and foremost of Kay’s signed promises was to block any attempt to bring about a merger joining the Progressive Conservatives to Stephen Harper’s Alliance Party. This condition flowed naturally from the determination of Orchard and the so-called Orchardistas to defend Canadian sovereignty from US subversion. Having thus secured the backing to put him over the top in terms of delegate support, MacKay emerged from the convention as the inheritor of the party of John A. Macdonald and Joe Clark.[lxviii]

    A few months later MacKay presided over the termination of the PC Party in direct violation of his contract with David Orchard. MacKay endorsed the merger of the PCs with Harper’s Alliance Party, the successor to Preston Manning’s Reform Party. David Orchard, who had twice come second in successive runs to lead the PC Party, was rightly dismayed by the bare-faced dishonesty of MacKay and those with whom he chose to side in this high-stakes situation.

    Orchard described the new political entity that dropped the word “progressive” from its name as a “party conceived in betrayal and born of deception.”[lxix] This characterization of the attack on a tradition of indigenous Canadian conservatism that goes back at least to the Royal Proclamation of 1763 would cast David Orchard in the role of a modern-day Sir William Johnson. It would put Peter MacKay along with the likes of Stephen Harper and Tom Flanagan in the role of Daniel Boone pushing beyond the frontiers of the rule of law, beyond the Royal Proclamation line, to colonize new territories for North America’s most acquisitive trajectory of right-wing aggrandizement.

    Orchard’s view of the Conservative Party’s founding in 2003 helps, perhaps, to shed light on larger patterns of conduct entailed in the deceptiveness of voter suppression and the betrayal of Canadians through purposeful efforts to evade and subvert electoral laws.

    RackNine, Front Porch Strategies, the Republican Party, RMG, Annette Degagné and the Other T Bay Whistle Blowers

    There are many lines of investigation to be followed in getting to the bottom of the robocon scandal, a controversy that started as numerous reports of alleged wrongdoing began to surface immediately following the federal election of May 2, 2011.[lxx] One of these lines of inquiry has already led to an Edmonton-based company called RackNine. This business has been shown to lie near the still-unrevealed source in the chain of robocall intrigue that so far is traceable to the now-iconographic electoral trickster, Pierre Poutine of Separatist Street in Joliette Quebec.[lxxi]

    Another connection to the scandal runs through Front Porch Strategies of Columbus Ohio, a company that advertises, “Our passion is helping Republican candidates, elected officials, and conservative causes win by personally connecting them with voters and constituents.”[lxxii] Front Porch Strategies was hired to work on the campaigns of 14 Conservative Party candidates including that of Peterborough MP, Dean Del Mastro. Del Mastro currently works as parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Del Mastro has repeatedly ended up with egg on his face in efforts to defend the government in the House of Commons by, for instance, accusing his opponents of using US-based telemarketers when his own campaign was doing exactly that.

    Another client of Front Porch Strategies was MP Julian Fantino, the former Toronto Police Chief and former Associate Minister of Defense. Fantino has also been described as the Minister in charge of the government’s planned purchase of C-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Fantino’s campaign office formed the backdrop of a widely-published photo featuring Front Porch’s president, Mathew Park. Park was show busily working the telephones of the Fantino campaign as Front Porch personnel have previously done for, for example, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

    As illustrated by the deals with Front Porch strategies, the Harper Conservatives are well known for their ability to integrate their electioneering techniques with those of the 79 other right-wing parties allied in the International Democratic Union. All these political entities take their direction one way or another from the US Republican Party whose leadership often works in lockstep with the Likud Party of Israel. Likud is a very active IDU member.

    As quoted by The Toronto Star’s Linda Diebel, an unnamed Liberal strategist commented on the worldwide political networking of the Harper Conservatives. He or she is reported to have said, “There has been a global revolution that has transformed every aspect of politics in the last five years. The Conservatives know how to take technologies from other parties in other countries — ‘offshoring’ — and they do it better than anybody else. The problem is I don’t think Elections Canada can keep up.”[lxxiii]

    There are many strands of intertwined interactions, therefore, that deserve the attention of a Royal Commission. For me, however, there is one site that stands above all others as being the most deserving of careful scrutiny at this preliminary stage in the robocon investigation. The imperatives of this investigation demand that I return the narrative to the activities of Michael Davis and Responsive Marketing Group.

    Recall that in 2009 Davis and RMG were selected to receive the Manning Centre Pyramid Award for Political Technology. The award was given to honour the leading role of Davis and RMG in developing the Conservative Party’s formidable CIMS system. Is the CIMS system developed by RMG in any way connected to the crime of voter suppression alleged by Annette Degagné? Ms. Degagné and other RGM operators in RMG’s Thunder Bay call centre made the allegations to Elections Canada and the RCMP. Degagné also made sure her SOS went up the chain of command of RMG and its overseers in the Conservative Party. According to one of the whistle blowers, enough of a fuss was made so that the whole staff of the T Bay call centre knew what was happening.[lxxiv]

    The core offices of RMG are in Toronto and Washington. Currently RMG’s Canadian call centres are in St. John’s Newfoundland, Miramichi New Brunswick, Gatineau Quebec, and Thunder Bay Ontario. Three informants in RMG’s Thunder Bay call centre told The Toronto Star’s Tonda MacCharles that they themselves read prepared scripts in live telephone calls to assigned lists of voters on election day. The informants said that the Conservative-directed, Conservative-financed calls were delivered in the name of Elections Canada. But that was just the beginning of the alleged lies.

    Included in the messages to the recipients were the addresses of polling stations. In the course of making these calls those delivering the scripted messages realized there were consistent problems when they read out the locations of the polling stations. The RMG employees gradually realized that the locations were bogus as they had to contend with recurring complaints from the targeted recipients of the disinformation. How can the scene of this alleged cybercrime be described? Is Thunder Bay the site of the alleged crime? Or is the T Bay call centre just a window into a transnational enterprise of data collection and data mining whose owners and operators can make or break the governments of sovereign countries?

    To me Annette Degagné is real Canadian hero for responding to her own involvement in an alleged crime as she did and then telling her story publicly while allowing Toronto Star reporter Tonda MacCharles to use her real name. In this fashion Degagné has taken full responsibility for her damning testimony. MacCharles relates the incident as follows:

    Callers on behalf of the federal Conservative Party were instructed in the days before last year’s election to read scripts telling voters that Elections Canada had changed their voting locations, say telephone operators who worked for a Thunder Bay-based call centre.

    These weren’t “robocalls” as automated pre-recorded voice messages are commonly known. They were live real-time calls made into ridings across Canada, the callers say.

    In a new twist on new growing allegations of political “dirty tricks,” three former employees of RMG — Responsive Marketing Group call centre in Thunder Bay — told the Star about the scripts….

    However, one employee was so concerned that something was amiss she says she reported it to her supervisor at the RMG site, to the RCMP office in Thunder Bay and to a toll-free Elections Canada number at the time.

    Annette Desgagné, 46, said it became clear to her — after so many people complained that the “new” voting locations made no sense or were “way the hell across town” — that the live operators were, in fact, misdirecting voters.

    “We’re sending people to the wrong place,” Desgagné recalled telling her supervisor.

    She said she has no way of knowing whether in fact the poll station locations she gave listeners were wrong addresses or phony locations. But she said the “feedback” elicited by the script was so negative, “we started getting antsy.”

    She said she and a few other workers at the call centre were perplexed enough that they began telling the voters they should double-check their poll location with their local Elections Canada office, which was not part of the script.

    Desgagné, alone, said some workers shortened their script — although they weren’t supposed to — and said “… I’m calling from Elections Canada …”

    Desgagné’s recollection of the job was largely corroborated by two other women contacted Sunday by the Star. Neither wanted to be named. All worked at RMG throughout the 2011 campaign on Conservative Party voter identification and on get-out-the-vote calls.

    The Conservative Party of Canada, in response to Star queries Sunday, did not deny its calls may have misdirected voters but portrayed these as inadvertent mistakes. [lxxv]

    A reporter for The National Post, Allison Cross, also spoke to individuals who had worked at the RGM call centre in Thunder Bay on the Conservative Party campaign. Cross’s report corroborates that of MacCharles. Cross wrote,

    Staff at a Thunder Bay call centre tasked with making scripted calls claiming to be on behalf of the Conservative Party about voting locations during the 2011 federal election knew they were giving out incorrect information, say former employees.

    “We would call these (voters) and they would say ‘we went there and that’s not a real place,’” said a woman, who worked for Responsive Marketing Group Inc. as a call operator, and asked not to be named.

    “The whole call centre (noticed it was happening).”

    “We called the RCMP,” she said. “We actually also told our supervisor about it.”

    But no action was taken at the call centre and employees were told to stick to the script, the woman said.[lxxvi]

    Degagné’s account, which is entirely consistent with Allison Cross’s report, is unequivocal. To me it is the closest thing I have seen to a smoking gun in this saga of electoral politics gone terribly wrong. Its “on a scale I’ve never seen before” admitted Ian Brody, Stephen Harper’s former chief-of-staff.[lxxvii] This whistle blower Degagné informed her supervisor so the company could not subsequently claim its chain of command was unaware of the allegations made by its own employee. Moreover Degagné passed her allegation onto Elections Canada and to the RCMP. Under the Canada Elections Act, the crime of voter suppression is easily encompassed by the prohibition on “delaying or obstructing the electoral process” or “the willful endeavour to prevent an elector from voting.” This infraction of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or five years in prison or both.[lxxviii]

    The fact that the Thunder Bay detachment of the RCMP did nothing in response to the allegations made by Degagné and the other call centre operators who passed on their accusations only adds to the mounting evidence that something is drastically wrong with the leadership of the federal police force. The Mounties, it seems, have again and again shown themselves to be so thoroughly politicized and so preoccupied at times in covering up evidence of their own forays into the dark side of the law that they presently retain little credibility as a genuine agency of disinterested law enforcement. The Mounties have allowed themselves to become the political enforcers of their government paymasters.

    Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher reported that the Conservative Party immediately went into damage control mode after the reports surfaced of whistle blowing by RMG’s Thunder Bay operators. The two journalists who co-wrote some of the seminal articles that broke open the robocall scandal detailed that “the Conservative Party is reviewing tapes of every call made by the RMG before Elections Canada investigators arrive [in Thunder Bay] next week.[lxxix] The Toronto Star story emphasized the discrepancy between conflicting accounts of the Conservative Party’s response to Election Canada’s decision to send to Thunder Bay Ronald Lamothe, the lead investigator on the in and out scandal. The Star reported, “As Lamothe heads to Thunder Bay to interview former RMG call centre workers, Conservative party officials have undertaken a massive project to review audio recordings of every call made by RMG staff on the party’s behalf in the last campaign, a source said. A spokesperson for the Conservative party denied that a review of the calls was taking place.”[lxxx]

    The reference to the timing together with the official denial raises a number of significant questions. It would not be completely irrational, for instance, to wonder whether or not the real intention of the alleged Conservative Party review of the recorded RMG telephone calls was to destroy evidence; to beat Elections Canada to the damning recorded information?

    Meanwhile RMG moved aggressively to stifle further revelations. It threatened its employees with legal action, stating publicly, “Given the nature of RMG’s work — and the private and confidential nature of the information we collect on behalf of our clients, all employees are required to sign confidentiality agreements. This has always been the case at RMG, as we give our clients an undertaking that all information collected on their behalf will not be shared or otherwise disclosed.”

    RMG repeated this get-tough approach in its dealings with the press, or at least that part of the press owned by Postmedia Network. As Maher and McGregor reported, “RMG has sent legal letters to The National Post and the Internet news aggregator National Newswatch, over a story RMG believes was defamatory. It also requested corrections from the Vancouver Sun and Calgary Herald for coverage of a Canadian Press story, and sent a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen, complaining about the coverage.”[lxxxi] Interestingly the report of RMG’s attempt to freeze the story by sending around menacing lawyers’ letters made no mention of The Toronto Star.

    RMG’s legal and PR advisers are probably wise to counsel their client not to call attention to Tonda MacCharles’ stellar work in fleshing out the human story of the RMG operators at the Thunder Bay call centre. What protections, if any, are Elections Canada or some other agency providing for the T Bay whistle blowers from possible recriminations that might emanate from RMG, from the RCMP, from the Conservative Party, from the government of Canada, or from some combination of interests seeking to put a lid on the operators’ explosive evidence? A lot depends on the testimony under oath of the T Bay whistle blowers, defenders of peace, order, and good government in Canada.

    Not surprisingly Postmedia’s Network’s The National Post, the flagship of the media conglomerate started by Conrad Black and subsequently owned and operated by the Winnipeg-based family of Izzy Asper, bent quickly to the pressure. After all, The National Post was founded as a right-wing Fox-style venue that in a sense invented and then popularized the political movement led by Stephen Harper. The media venue has consistently served as a cheerleader for the preemption of indigenous Canadian conservatism by Republican Party-style conservatism imported from the United States.

    In a statement of retraction and apology The National Post declared that its article published “on March 2, 2012, referred to Responsive Marketing Group Inc. and stated that former employees of RMG have alleged that they were asked by RMG to direct voters to the wrong polling stations. That report was incorrect. No allegation has been made that RMG asked its employees to direct voters to the wrong polling stations. The National Post apologizes to Responsive Marketing Group Inc. for the error.”[lxxxii]

    RMG’s threats to sue whistle blowers and some of the media venues that published their allegations has all the classic makings of a SLAPP, a strategic lawsuit against public participation. The effectiveness of this strategy is reflected in The National Post’s publishing of two contradictory accounts of the same story within a matter of days. This kind of backtracking in the face of intimidation begs the question of why Canadians should believe anything put out by a media conglomerate that will not stand behind the reporting of its own journalists when they publish material so consequential that it holds the potential to trigger proceedings that might send members of the ruling party to jail.

    In his blog retired CBC producer Nick Filmore queries, “good investigative journalism could break this affair wide open, but will the owners of the Harper-friendly corporate media allow their journalists to go beyond normal reporting and do the hard work necessary to get to the very bottom of this dark story?” Filmore adds, “A few years ago The Globe and Mail would have led the way investigating this story. But since The Globe went upscale in 2009 to cater to a wealthier demographic under new owner David Thomson and Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse, investigative journalism has pretty well disappeared at the paper.”

    While the reporting on the robocon scandal was vigorous and unrelenting in the final days of February and the early days of March, some powerful intervening forces seem to have stifled the truth-seeking zeal that briefly lit up the otherwise glum literary landscape of recent Canadian journalism. Perhaps RMG and Postmedia Network are not the only powerful interests putting checks in the way of how this story is allowed to be reported. Why is it, for instance, that Annette Degagné and the other T Bay call centre operators have slipped off the media radar screen so completely? Are they being intimidated into silence?

    As Filmore sees it, all the ingredients are in place to break the story open if there was a genuine will on the part of those that control Canada’s most powerful media venues, including the CBC, to get to the bottom of what transpired. He writes,

    It should not be too hard to get to the bottom of this affair. As many as 50 people – perhaps even 100 – have some idea of what took place. This includes owners and managers of three robo-calling/polling companies. There are the people who prepared the detailed information concerning who should be called, the many people who operated the systems, folks working in banks, and Conservative workers and volunteers in many ridings. Then there are telephone records, billing and receipt transactions, and bank trails that media may not get hold of, but that can be accessed by the RCMP and Elections Canada.[lxxxiii]

    Jim Harris points to the seriousness of this apparent surge of electoral fraud in a contest where less than 7,000 votes apportioned among 14 ridings gave the Conservative Party its majority in the House of Commons. As Harris sees it, much of the reporting on the story has failed to explain to Canadians why the stakes are so high. Harris observes,

    This isn’t a story about “dirty tricks,” it’s about election fraud. This isn’t “stupid,” it’s illegal. This isn’t “folly,” it was a deliberate, systematic, strategic, targeted campaign to steal the election. This isn’t “voter suppression,” it’s stealing democracy.

    We should not treat this as some petty misdemeanor. This is a grave threat to our very basic freedom. This is a threat to our democracy. This is corruption.[lxxxiv]

    When Companies Contaminate the Workings of Political Parties in Canada

    Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor are generally credited with breaking the robocall story.[lxxxv] The obvious importance of their revelations led to comparisons being made between Maher and McGregor and Woodward and Bernstein who famously broke the Watergate story in the early 1970s. This comparison now needs to be reconsidered given that Maher and McGregor’s employer, Postmedia Network, seems to have succumbed to threats by reigning in its reporting on RMG and the work of RMG’s main Canadian client, the Conservative Party of Canada.

    The ire felt by the Conservative Party’s operatives is reflected in the Maher’s report that he was involuntarily expelled on March 9 from the Manning Centre’s Ottawa event billed as a conservative family reunion. Among those invited to speak at the event were Senator Mike Duffy, Tom Flanagan, Peter MacKay, Michael Coren, Tom Long, and David Wilkins. Between 2005 and 2009 Wilkins was US Ambassador to Canada.[lxxxvi]

    The National Post’s SLAPP-instigated retraction of its March 2 story adds significance to the story published by Maher and McGregor on March 1st. It is entitled “Connservative call centre company has checkered legal history in the U.S.. In this rich narrative the authors look at the integrated corporate operations of Michael Davis’ RMG and its US-based parent, Xental DM. In 2010 RMG merged with Xentel DM and subsequently changed the name of the later to iMarketing Solutions Group. [lxxxvii] This entity is headquartered in Calgary. Its stocks are traded in the Toronto Stock Exchange. The largest block of shareholders of the new company are reportedly RMG shareholders including RMG’s founder Michael Davis.

    Maher and McGregor report,

    Elections Canada records show RMG worked on 97 individual Conservative candidate campaigns in the last election, billing $1.4 million. The company is also believed to have worked on the Conservatives’ national campaign, but disclosure rules do not require the party to detail its suppliers.

    Conservative sources say that the company does millions of dollars worth of business with the party every year, working with the Constituency Information Management System (CIMS), which tracks party supporters and opponents across the country.

    Veteran Conservative organizer Doug Finley said Wednesday that he has confidence in RMG.”The Conservative Party has been extraordinarily careful to ensure we use the best in the business,” he said. “And the best in the business, in our view, is Responsive Marketing Group.”….

    Corporate filings suggest the federal election was a bonanza for the firm, giving it “a significant year over year revenue increase in its political fundraising and direct voter contact activities.”

    But the bump was balanced by what the firm politely called “increasing consumer resistance to telemarketing activities.” The company posted $24 million in revenues on the quarter ending June 2011, down slightly from the same period the year before. [lxxxviii]

    Elsewhere Maher and McGregor write that the Conservative Party does about $10 to $15 million of business every year with RMG. Echoing Inky Marks characterization of the centralized workings of the CIMS system, Maher and McGregor explain that “the local campaign managers and candidates normally had no control over the work of RMG, even though they were receiving services from it for which they were billed, sources say.”[lxxxix]

    Maher and McGregor go into considerable detail outlining many legal infractions of RGM’s parent company. In Tennessee, for instance, Xentel was fined $720,000 for legal violations in 144 individual cases. The company incurred other fines in Missouri. In Canada in 2010 the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission fined Xentel $500,000 “for misusing the charity exemption for the do-not-call list, calling people to solicit for organizations that were not registered as charities.”[xc]

    One of the most serious accusations concerns allegations of fraud through the falsification of documents by the company’s officers. Maher and McGregor report,

    Another former employee brought a suit against Xentel in 2003 alleging that she had been fired for complaining that company officials had misused a notary seal for legal documents and forged contracts with clients.

    Abby Smith cited Florida’s whistleblower protection law in her lawsuit filed in U.S District Court, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen.

    Smith said she learned that Xentel officials were “changing the terms of contracts which had previously been signed by various clients, and forging the names of clients, to make it look like the clients had actually agreed to the ‘changed’ terms,” her complaint said.

    Smith said she complained numerous times to management and eventually had a meeting with top Xentel executive Michael Platz, who until this past January was chairman of iMarketing Solutions Group, RMG’s parent company.

    Smith was fired soon after complaining about the alleged forgery, she claimed. Xentel denied Smith’s allegations and said she had been let go only for economic reasons. The case was eventually settled in mediation.

    Platz, who studied at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont., remains a director of the company.

    Maher and McGregor complete their report as follows:

    CIMS provided a receptacle for the hundreds of thousands of records generated by RMG’s large-scale calling programs.

    Davis is the merged company’s second-largest shareholder. Platz and he served as co-CEOs for a time, but Platz stepped down as co-CEO in January and now serves as a director….

    Longtime key Conservative organizer Stewart Braddick is listed on RMG’s website as director of the company’s Focused Direct Response program. Braddick is also listed as director, Focused Direct Response, for the American company Target Outreach Inc., which works for Republican campaigns. Sometime recently, though, the page that included his bio was wiped from the Target Outreach site[xci]

    The allegations against Xentel DM seem to go on and on. The complaints cover many subjects, including alleged sexual harassment, alleged drug addictions of employees, and alleged failure to accommodate disabled employees.[xcii]

    Several days before Maher’s and McGregor’s report on the unsavoury history of RMG and its corporate parent, The Toronto Star had published an article on Stewart Braddick calling him one of the political “masterminds” for RMG. Braddick worked in Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Office organizing domestic and international travel. He then worked for Gordon Campbell’s campaign in British Columbia, strategically resigning in an act that Mike Harris has described as one of political loyalty. Braddick’s resignation apparently helped to stop a revelation of impropriety from being traced higher up the chain of command. The revelation shed light on a dubious payment by the right-wing Campbell Liberals of BC for negative coverage of a political opponent.

    According to Allan Woods and Tonda MacCharles, Braddick “spent more than two decades scouting out fertile territory for right-wing politicians in Canada and the United States.” The Star’s story on Braddick makes reference to $300, 000 being paid to RMG’s American branch, Target Outreach, by the Republican National Committee.[xciii]

    RMG’s Stewart Braddick “spent more than two decades scouting out fertile territory for right-wing politicians in Canada and the United States.”

    RMG’s web site describes the company as “Canada’s largest direct-contact firm working in the political sector. We work exclusively with right-of-centre campaigns to develop fundraising and voter contact strategies that target your message to the right audience, maximize your vote-getting, and win.” RMG’s promotional statement continues, “Let us show you how our program will take you far beyond the traditional approach of simply identifying voters and executing a Get Out The Vote effort on election day.”

    RMG calls attention to its 400 full-time employees. Echoing Preston Manning’s figures, the company claims to have raised over $75 million over the last 15 years for conservative campaign funds. It has sold over a million party memberships. The company goes on to claim that, under its auspices, the Conservative Party of Canada has raised four times as much money as the Liberal Party of Canada. “The Conservatives have flourished in this new environment,” affirms RMG, “by getting hundreds of thousands of donors to give small amounts, average about $ 100 every year.”[xciv]

    “Too often,” RMG elaborates, “political campaigns throw money away on big schemes that try a scattershot approach, or try to blanket everyone with the same message and hope for the best. In today’s highly-competitive political arena, this is not the way to win. RMG works with your campaign to create effective programs that combine detailed client data with critical demographic data. We help your campaign target the right audience, get your message across, maximize your vote-getting, and win.”[xcv]

    The headquarters of RMG are on Bay Street in Toronto. The founder and CEO of RMG is Michael M Davis. Andrew B. Langhorne is Chief Operating Officer. Marianne Mulders goes by the title of President of Non-Profit and Relationship Management. Greg Kaufman is identified as Chief Knowledge Officer and Chris McCarthy is billed as Vice-President and Director of Operations.[xcvi]

    A web search on RMG and its founder suggests a desire on the part of some not to be forthcoming on the specifics of the company’s origins or the career details of its originator. There is, for instance, no Wikipedia article on Michael Davis. There are no images of him to be found on Google. Similarly there is almost no information given on the page of the International Association of Political Consultants (IAPC) devoted to Michael Davis except an E-mail address and a mention of his company, Responsive Marketing Group. The IAPC places Davis’ RMG in the United States.[xcvii] The absence of relevant information where one could reasonably expect to find it raises a number of questions that could certainly be answered by a Royal Commission on electoral practices in Canada. For now, however, the information provided by Garth Turner, Tom Flanagan and Preston Manning helps us to fill in some of the blanks and strategic silences.

    The cross-border aspects of RMG are complicated by the fact that there is an RMG headquartered in Richmond Virginia in the United States. Founded by Stuart Holt, who also founded a Evangelical Institute for spreading the Gospel through targeted digital communications, the Response Marketing Group seems to be engaged in pretty much the same business as Davis’ RGM.[xcviii]

    The Virginia based company did open a Toronto office in 1998.[xcix] I have not been able to find any direct link, however, between the two corporate entities that have such similar names and such similar functions in the field of data collection and data mining. There is plenty of reason, however, to suspect that techniques of micro-niche targeting and voter suppression are dependent on interactive hardware and software not easily containable within national boundaries. Like the Internet itself, the design, scope and application of this hardware and software is most likely transnational as are the careers of those on the cutting edge of electioneering through data collection and data mining.

    Certainly there would be plenty of reason for the 80 so-called right-of-centre parties in the International Democratic Union to hire companies or inter-related complexes of companies that act transnationally in the design and implementation of electioneering strategies. In this way the parties involved can achieve economies of scale in developing techniques, personnel, and systems for advancing very similar agendas.

    While cooperation across borders is inevitable and often desirable in this era of globalization, there can be no justification for keeping the nature of the collaboration secret from us voters whose ballots determine the nature, quality and orientation of governments in national, provincial, state, and municipal settings. A Royal Commission could determine the effects of applying transnational approaches to the digital facets of electioneering in Canada. How does this process affect the diversities encompassed in Canada’s indigenous political culture? What happens, for instance, when the hardware, software and strategies developed for the political culture of republics is deployed in systems of parliamentary democracy?

    The Politics of Power in an Era of Keynesianism for the Rich and Government Austerity for 99% of Society

    In the early hours of the political scandal it looked for a time that Conservative Party activists were prepared to make a scapegoat of Michael Sona, the communications director for the campaign of defeated CPC candidate in Guelph. Conservative Party strategists seemed ready to throw Sona under a bulldozer of political opportunism in order to stop the revelations from heading up the chain of command to the higher levels of a political organization in which the CIMS system and its RMG designers and operators form an integral part.

    Bob Rae was quick to move his gaze away from the details of what had happened in Guelph to consider the robocon scandal’s larger implications for the credibility of the Prime Minister of Canada. Rae accused the current PM of “creating a Nixonian culture.” Said Rae, “This stuff doesn’t happen unless the boss lets it happen.” He went onto to allege that Stephen Harper “has allowed to seep into his party and into his organization a culture of attack and, frankly, a culture of deception and dirty tricks, where almost anything goes.”[c]

    This culture of attack cultivated by Stephen Harper and those closest to him often moves beyond the realm of legitimate debate between political rivals to the targeting of civil servants and watchdog agencies like Elections Canada. In 2009 Haroon Siddiqui of The Toronto Star provided a tally of some of those who have been removed from office or otherwise stifled in their efforts to live up to the higher calling of their profession as civil servants. In helping his readers to “count the heads that have rolled in Ottawa,” Siddiqui provides the following list:

    Peter Tinsley, chair of the military police commission, who initiated the Afghan prison abuse probe – refused a second term.

    Paul Kennedy, chair of the Complaints Commission for the RCMP, who criticized the use of Tasers – refused a second term.

    Linda Keen, nuclear watchdog, who insisted on safety at Chalk River – fired.

    Kevin Page, parliamentary budget watchdog, who rattled the Tories with several revelations – rendered ineffective with a cut of $1 million from his $2.8 million budget.

    Marc Mayrand, chief electoral officer, who probed Tory election spending – publicly attacked.

    Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who dared criticize both the U.S. and Israel – refused support for a second term and publicly rebuked.

    Jean-Guy Fleury, chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board, who opposed the Tory politicization of appointments to the tribunal – frustrated into quitting.[ci]


    YouTube – Veterans Today -

    Richard Colvin is prominent among other top officials who have faced recriminations from the Harper Conservatives for doing their jobs. Colvin was a senior Canadian diplomat who served in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. He witnessed detainees being handed over by Canadian soldiers to the puppet government of Hamid Karzai for possible torture. At the time Colvin did everything in his power to inform his superiors of this possible infraction of international law by the Canadian government. When Colvin brought forward his explosive testimony to a parliamentary committee that had invited the civil servant to speak he was publicly chastised in the House of Commons by Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.

    Civil servant Richard Colvin (left) provided explosive testimony to a parliamentary committee in 2009 concerning the involvement of Canadian Armed Forces in the torture of detainees in Afghanistan. In order to stop the revelations PM Harper prorogued Parliament for a second time in a one-year period. Colvin’s testimony has the potential to criminalize many Canadian officials, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay (right).

    Colvin’s maltreatment by the political branch of government caused 25 former Canadian ambassadors to intervene in a letter pointing out how the effect would be to create “a climate in which officers may be more inclined to report what they believe headquarters wants to hear, rather than facts and perceptions deemed unpalatable.”[cii] It was the growing scandal gathering around Colvin’s testimony that prompted Stephen Harper to request yet another prorogation of Parliament from the Governor-General in order to help shut down a firestorm of aroused public indignation.

    Other victims of this process of politicizing the Canadian civil service are Munir Sheikh, head of Statistics Canada and Chief Superintendent Marty Cheliak, the RCMP officer in charge of the cancelled Canadian Firearms Program. Sheikh resigned after the Harper Conservatives shut down the long-form census against the explicit advice of this principled civil servant.[ciii] Is it possible the CIMS system operated by the Conservative Party and its RGM partners has reached a point where it incorporates more data on Canadians than Statistics Canada ever gathered?

    This record of recriminations raises questions about the relationship of Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, to the Harper Conservatives. Why did Mayrand avoid the fate of other government officials in watchdog positions such as those held by nuclear expert Linda Keen and human rights jurist Louise Arbour? Is it possible that part of the plea bargain worked out between Elections Canada and the Conservative Party together with its chief operatives included some kind of agreement involving Marc Mayrand’s future employment? How has it been possible for Mayrand to keep his job when so many other officials in similar shoes have been forced from office for even questioning Conservative Party policies let alone pressing charges on Conservative Party officials?

    Like Bob Rae, Stephen Harper began his political life as an admirer of Prime Minister Trudeau. Harper moved beyond his youthful infatuation with Trudeau after he moved to Edmonton in 1978, eventually getting a job through his father’s connections in the mailroom and then the computer division of the Rockefeller-based Imperial Oil Corporation.[civ] As Harper moved up in the company he resettled in Calgary where he continued his post-secondary studies. At the University of Calgary Harper moved decisively towards the right wing of the political spectrum.

    Harper was deeply influenced in his rightward turn by a single book, The Patriot Game, published in 1986 by Peter Brimelow, a researcher at the Stanford University-based Hoover Institution. The Hoover Institution’s mission is to “sustain for America the safeguards of the American way of life,” to support “the Constitution of the United States, its Bill Of Rights and its method of representative government.”[cv] Brimelow criticized a host of Canadian institutions including the entrenched status of career civil servants, Canadian content rules to protect Canadian culture, and Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Policy. The NEP put the national objectives of Canada ahead of Alberta’s oversight of the US-based oil and gas industry.[cvi]

    Young Stephen Harper kicks off his political career

    Under the influence of Brimelow’s text, Harper became convinced that the policies of PC Prime Minister Brian Mulroney were only pale reflections of the real revolution in the application of right-wing ideology then underway in Ronald Reagan’s America.[cvii] This orientation prepared Harper to join with some of his teachers at the Calgary School, Tom Flanagan prominent among them, in embracing the economics of those opposed to the ideas of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes is remembered for his advancement of mediated forms of capitalism as expressed in the policies of social welfare states.

    Like Flanagan, Harper embraced the anti-Keynesian ideology of Friedrich Hayak as popularized by the Chicago School economist, Milton Friedman. Like neoconservative stars Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dinesh D’Souza, Milton Friedman was a Fellow of the Hoover Institution.

    In 1987 Harper joined forces with Preston Manning, the son of Ernest Manning who was an evangelical radio preacher and premier of Alberta. The younger Mr. Manning extended the heritage of the trans-Atlantic Social Credit movement to found the Reform Party of Canada. The Reform Party gained ground after the PC government of Brian Mulroney divided into its Quebecois and Albertan rumps following the breakdown in 1990 of the Meech Lake initiative to amend Canada’s constitution. Harper and Flanagan joined forces to help Manning’s political ascent.[cviii] They subsequently conspired to remove first Preston Manning and then Stockwell Day from the helm of the movement aimed at outdoing even the Liberal Party of Canada in integrating Canada into continentalist matrixes of political economy.

    Flanagan was at Harper’s side during his years as Leader of the Opposition. When Harper moved into the job of prime minister, however, the new prime minister began publicly to distance himself from Flanagan whose right-wing zealotry was, according to Ted Byfield, too hard to conceal. The populist founder of the Alberta Report believed Flanagan to be incapable of compromise. “Its not in his genes,” Byfield quipped, continuing,The issue now is: how do we fool the world into thinking we’re moving to the left when we’re not?” Referring to the legitimacy of the fears of those “unnerved” by the rising power of the right, Byfield added, “Those people who said [we’re] dangerous-they’re right! People with ideas are dangerous. If Harper gets elected, he’ll make a helluva change in this country.‘’[cix]

    As prime minister, Stephen Harper was hit by the great financial debacle of 2008 and 2009. Its causes are widely attributed to the extreme excesses in the deregulation of Wall Street’s financial institutions. This deregulation applied the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman in ways that essentially extended to large banks virtual licenses to steal based on the mass marketing of derivative products that lacked sustainable value.[cx]

    In the election season in the autumn of 2008 the Harper Conservatives extended $75 billion in financial help to the Canadian chartered banks, a transfer of wealth that for the most part passed under the radar screen of most mainstream news reporting.[cxi] Then in late January of 2009 the Harper Conservatives returned back to Parliament after a period of prorogation to pass a budget that very much embraced Keynesian principles of deficit financing to promote economic stimulation.

    Generally speaking the taking on of massive debt by the Western democracies in order to hand over huge sums to the world’s largest financial institutions represents history’s most substantial transfer of wealth ever from those at the bottom and middle to those at the top of the global socio-economic pyramid. The causes of the financial debacle lie in the overzealous application of the rhetoric of deregulation as advanced by the government of the Ronald Reagan and his worldwide circle of devotees including Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan and the other technicians of the unite-the-right movement in Canada.

    The massive transfer of wealth from the future earnings of taxpayers to the big financial institutions in Canada represents the formalization of a kind of socialism for the most entitled branches of society. This application of corporatist principles epitomizes a kind of Keynesianism for those at the top to be followed by programs of government austerity to pay down the debt incurred in the bailouts. The obvious injustices and inconsistencies in this government catering to the demands of the rich at the expense of the other 99% of society helped to make 2011 a year of major transnational protest. In this protest millions of citizens demonstrated their loss of confidence in politics as usual, including in the institution of political change through the agency of ballot boxes. They demonstrated the view that that the political system as presently constituted is rigged to the disadvantage of average people everywhere.

    Conclusions

    The robocon scandal raises deep issues that put in the forefront very basic questions about the future viability of parliamentary democracy in Canada in an era when the forces of continental integration have never been so intense. Are Canadian constitutional traditions of parliamentary rule inherited from Great Britain to be retained? Or are the alleged infractions of the electioneering rules part of a larger phenomenon that is eliminating space for the survival of indigenous institutions of many kinds, including the indigenous conservatism formerly maintained by at least a faction of the now-defunct PC Party? What is to be made of the apparent desecration of a powerful symbol of Canadian sovereignty, namely the right and responsibility of citizens to exercise our franchise in national elections to determine the membership of the House of Commons?

    If Bob Rae is wrong in his allegation that Stephen Harper is almost certainly involved in the robocon scandal, then the Prime Minister of Canada should have nothing to fear from the work of a Royal Commission on electoral practices. Surely the tide of accusations still swelling up from the Canadian electorate raises such profound and important issues for the future of electioneering in Canada that the prospect of the whole episode ending in yet another sleazy plea bargain is simply intolerable. Indeed, the politics of that plea bargain, including the role played by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, require the kind of investigation that only a Royal Commission can provide.

    Bob Rae was speaking from a base of solid intellectual, legal and political foundations, therefore, when he asserted that the Canadian people require a Royal Commission to consider how to fix a broken system of electioneering that is undermining the effectiveness and very legitimacy of our parliamentary democracy. Maybe such a treatment will help to address the very understandable alienation of young Canadians who are eligible to vote but stay away from polling stations in droves. This trend of voter alienation can only increase unless we meet the crisis as well as rise to the opportunity that the robocon scandal embodies.

    ENDNOTES

    [i] Ron Shaiko cited in Linda Diebel, “Top Tory MPs Used Top U.S. Republican Firm During May Election, The Toronto Star, 3 March, 2012, at

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1140344–conservative-mps-used-top-republican-firm-during-may-election?bn=1

    [ii] Mark Crispin Miller, Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform. Introduction to the Second Edition (New York: Basic Books, 2007)

    [iii] Michael Keefer, “Evidence of Fraud in 2004 U.S. Presidential Election: A Reader,” Global Research .ca, 5 December, 2004 at

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=282

    [iv] Michael Keefer’s essay, “The Unacknowledged Scandal of Electoral Fraud,” Humanist Perspective, Issue 165, summer 2008, p. 20 of the author’s final draft

    [v] Michael Geist, “Internet Voting Carries Risk as Shown by NDP Experience, The Toronto Star, 31 March, 2012 at

    http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1154823–internet-voting-carries-risk-as-show-by-ndp-experience

    [vi] Daniel Leblanc, “Well Over 10,000 Computers Used in Attack on NDP,” The Globe and Mail, 29 March, 2012 at

    http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/well-over-10000-computers-used-in-attack-on-ndp-leadership-vote/article2382560/?service=mobile

    [vii] Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, “Fraudulent Robocalls Absolutely Outragious: Chief Electoral Officer,” The Montreal Gazette, 30 March, 2012 at

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Fraudulent+robocalls+absolutely+outrageous+Mayrand/6383004/story.html

    [viii] Leadnow, “Robocall Election Fraud, Demand a Public Inquiry and Real Consequences,” at

    http://www.leadnow.ca/robocall-fraud

    [ix] http://www.petitiononlinecanada.com/petition/petition-the-governor-general-of-canada-to-demand-a-royal-commission-into-the-robocalling-scandal/855#signnow

    [x] Srephen Maher and Glen McGregor, “Robocall Ridings Face Legal Challenge to Overturn Federal Election Result, The National Post, 27 March, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/27/activist-group-files-legal-challenge-to-overturn-election-results-in-robocall-ridings/

    [xi] Postmedia News, “Elections Canada Confirms 31,000 Complaints as Tory Robocall Counterattack Backfires,” The National Post, 2 March, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/02/tory-robocalls-counterattack-backfires-as-elections-canada-confirms-31000-complaints/

    [xii] See Jerome H. Black, “From Enumeration to the National Register of Electors: An Account and and Evaluation of the Lortie Commission, Choices, Vol. 9, no. 7, August, 2003, pp. 1-44

    [xiii] Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Robocalls: Liberals, Tories Used Hardball Tactics in Guelph Ontario, Ottawa Citizen, 12 March, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/12/pierre-poutine-remains-in-hiding-as-rae-demands-robocall-royal-commission/

    [xiv] Alison Cross, “Pierre Poutine Remains in Hiding as Rae Demands Robocall Royal Commission,” The National Post, 12 March, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/12/pierre-poutine-remains-in-hiding-as-rae-demands-robocall-royal-commission/

    [xv] Allan Woods, “Robocalls: Older Canadians Targeted by Election Day Phone Calls, Elections Canada Believes,” The Toronto Star, 9 March, 2012 at

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1143808–robocalls-older-voters-targeted-by-phony-voting-day-phone-calls-elections-canada-believes?bn=1

    [xvi] Jason Fekete, “Robocalls: Voter Scanadal Rocking Canadian Politics is Deplorable: Preston Manning,” The National Post, 9 March, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/09/robocalls-voter-scandal-rocking-canadian-politics-is-deplorable-preston-manning/

    [xvii] Joseph S. Nye, “In Government We Don’t Trust,” Foreign Policy, No. 108, Autumn, 1997, pp. 99-11

    [xviii] Stella Dawson, “Insight: West in Political Crisis Has Echoes of the 1930s,” Reuters, 1 January, 2012 at

    http://mobile.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE80007M20120101

    [xix] See Supreme Court of the United States, Bush versus Gore, 12 December, 2000 at

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-949.ZPC.html;

    David W. Moore, How to Steal an Election: The Inside Story of How George Bush’s Brother and FOX News Miscalled the 2000 Election and Changed the Course of History (New York: Nation Press, 2006); Howard Gilman, The Votes That Count: How the Courts Decided the 2000 Presidential Election (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Bruce Ackerman, ed., Bush v. Gore: The Question of Legitimacy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002)

    [xx] See George Grant, Lament for a Nation, The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism (Princeton N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1965)

    [xxi] Lawrence Martin, “Is There an Old-Style Tory in the House,” The Globe and Mail, 26 August, 2010 at

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/is-there-an-old-style-tory-in-the-house/article1685364/

    [xxii]Elections Canada, Regulation of Election Activities by ‘Third Parties:’ Overview and Statements by the Chief Electoral Officer at http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=pol&document=index&dir=thi/thiinf&lang=e

    [xxiii] Mitchell Anderson, “Stephen Harper vs. Canada: 2004 Case Could Spell Canada’s Future,” The Tyee, 17 April, 2011 at

    http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2011/04/19/HarperVsCanada/

    [xxiv] Michael Keefer, “Prime Minsister Stephen Harper and Canadian War Crimes in Afghanistan,” Global Research.ca, 24 April 2011 at

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24473

    [xxv]Errol P. Mendes, “Prorogation Redux: Harper in Contempt of Parliament,” The Toronto Star, 5 January, 2010 at

    http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/745949–prorogation-redux-harper-in-contempt-of-parliament

    [xxvi] Edward McWhinney, The Governor-General and the Prime Ministers: The Making and Unmaking of Governments (Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2005)

    [xxvii] Eugene Forsey, The Royal Power of Disallowance in the British Commonwealth (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1938)

    [xxviii] Kirk Hallihan, “W.L. Mackenzie King: Rockefeller’s ‘Other’ Public Relations Counsellor in Colorado,” Public Relations, Vol. 29, 2003, pp. 401-414

    [xxix] On King and the American Empire see Hall, The American Empire and the Fourth World (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005), pp, 492-495; On Rockeller and the Ludlow massacre see Hall, Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010)

    [xxx] See George Grant, Lament for a Nation, The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism (Princeton N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1965)

    [xxxi] Louise Elliot, “PM Gave Jean Pledges in Prorogation Crisis,” CBC News, 20 October, 2010 at

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2010/10/01/harper-jean-prorogation.html

    Peter Russell, Discretion and the Reserve Power of the Canadian Crown, Canadian Parliamentary Review, 2011, pp. 19-25; Russell, ed., Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2009)

    [xxxii] John Ibbitson, “Stephen Harper Pondered Appeal to Queen Over Prorogation,” The Globe and Mail, 30 September, 2010 at

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/stephen-harper-pondered-appeal-to-queen-over-prorogation/article1733882/

    [xxxiii] Law Professor Michael Geist on Keith Boag’s CBC’s “The National” documentary on political databases broadcast in 2008 at

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1277939542743658378

    [xxxiv] On the concept of State Crime Against Democracy see the special issue of American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 53, no. 6, February, 2010

    [xxxv] Keith Jones, “The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Inexplicable Intervention into Canada’s Election Campaign, World Socialist Web Site at

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jan2006/cana-j09.shtml

    [xxxvi] http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=abo&dir=ceo/bio&document=index&lang=e

    [xxxvii] Steven Chase, Tory Senators Face Elections Charges Over Campaign Spending,” The Globe and Mail, 25 February, 2011 at

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/tory-senators-face-elections-canada-charges-over-campaign-spending/article1920146/

    Laura Payton, “Conservative Party Fined Over Breaking Election Laws,” CBC News, 10 November, 2011, at

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/11/10/pol-conservative-election-in-and-out.html

    [xxxviii] Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 41st General Election of May 2, 2011, 1.3 Litigation at

    http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rep/off/sta_2011&document=index&lang=e

    [xxxix] Canadian Press, “Conservative Party Drops Supreme Court Appeal,” 6 March, 2012 at

    http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/03/06/conservative-party-drops-supreme-court-appeal/

    [xl] Direct quotes taken from Lawrence Martin, “A Blood Feud Beyond Ballots,” The Globe and Mail, 5 March, 2012 at

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/lawrence-martin/a-blood-feud-beyond-ballots/article2359436/

    [xli]Peter Russell, ed., Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2009)

    [xlii] Marc Mayrand, Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 41st General Election of May 2, 2011, 1.2 Political Financing, at

    http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rep/off/sta_2011&document=index&lang=e

    [xliii] Jim Harris, “Harper Conquers Canada, One Robocall at a Time, “The Huffington Post, 27 February, 2012 at

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jim-harris/robocalls-scandal_b_1305397.html?ref=canada

    [xliv] Jeff Davis, Elections Canada Falling Down in Electoral Fraud, Canada.com, 29 February, 2012 ay

    http://www.canada.com/Elections+Canada+falling+down+electoral+fraud+Democracy+Watch/6228790/story.html

    [xlv] Nick Filmore, “A Different Point of View,” 1 March, 2012 at

    http://nickfillmore.blogspot.ca/2012/03/big-robo-calling-question-will-anyone.html

    [xlvi] IDU Elect John Howard Leader at

    http://www.idu.org/news.aspx

    [xlvii] Robert Cleroux, Quebers Share in Election Scam, Orleans Star at

    http://www.orleansstar.ca/Blog-Article/b/21598/Quebeckers-share-in-election-scam

    [xlviii] Bloomberg Businessweek, Company Overview of the Responsive Marketing Group Inc. at

    http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=30745839

    [xlix] Allan Woods, “Robocalls: Older Voters Targeted by Election Day Phone Calls, Elections Canada Believes,” The Toronto Star, 9 March,2012

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1143808–robocalls-older-voters-targeted-by-phony-voting-day-phone-calls-elections-canada-believes

    [l] Canadian Press, Former Tory MP Had Misgivings About Voter ID System, 16 May, 2012 at http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/politics/story/2012/03/16/pol-inky-mark-cims-.html

    [li] Keith Boag of CBC on Voter Databases, 2008 at

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1277939542743658378

    [lii] See Ottawa Citizen, “ Many Jews Unsettled Over Harper Holiday Greetings,” 8 October, 2007 at

    http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=198690d9-d9b8-4bbc-983f-d7236a2dfc8e&p=1

    [liii] The Harper Index, Toronto, 9 November, 2007 at

    http://www.harperindex.ca/ViewArticle.cfm?Ref=00113

    [liv] David Bruser, “Charitable Empire Has High Costs,” The Toronto Star, 4 November, 2007 at

    http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/273350

    [lv] “RMG Receives Manning Centre Pyramid Award for Political Technology,” 7 April, 2007 at

    http://www.rmgsite.com/news.php#ZlGpZm

    [lvi] Ezra Levant cited in Marci MacDonald, “The Man Behind Stephen Harper,” The Walrus Magazine, October, 2004 at

    http://tape.atspace.com/t-behind.html

    [lvii] Michael Keefer, “Death Squads versus Democracy: Tom Flanagan’s ‘Joke’ Directed Against Wikileaks’ Julian Assange,” Global Research.ca, 7 December, 2010 at

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22302

    [lviii] Tom Flanagan, Harper’s Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009)

    [lix] Associates of Harper and Flangan cited in Marci MacDonald, “The Man Behind Stephen Harper”

    [lx] Ibid

    [lxi] Crawford Kilian, “Tom Flanagan’s Playbook for Ultimate Harper Victory,” The Tyee, 8 April, 2011 at

    http://thetyee.ca/Books/2011/04/08/TomFlanagan/

    [lxii] Mario Toneguzzi, “American Expats Scramble to File Taxes,” Calgary Herald, 2 February, 2012 at

    http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/crackdown+American+citizens+Calgary+scrambling/6071901/story.html

    [lxiii] See Tom Flanagan, First Nations, Second Thoughts? (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000); Flanagan, Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010)

    [lxiv] Anthony Penikett, Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2006)

    [lxv] Marci MacDonald, “The Man Behind Stephen Harper”

    [lxvi] Hall, The American Empire and the Fourth World (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005); Fintan O’toole, White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005)

    [lxvii] Tom Flanagan and Stephen Harper, “Our Benign Dictatorship,” New City, Winter 1996/97 at

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/51938443/Stephen-Harper-and-Tom-Flanagan-Our-Benign-Dictatorship-Next-City-Winter-1996-97

    [lxviii]The Orchard-MacKay Agreement at

    http://www.davidorchard.com/online/campaign-2003/orchard-mckay.html

    [lxix]David Orchard cited in Marci MacDonald, “The Man Behind Stephen Harper,” The Walrus Magazine, October, 2004 at

    http://tape.atspace.com/t-behind.html

    [lxx] See Allison@Creekside at

    http://creekside1.blogspot.ca/

    [lxxi] Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, “Robocalls Suspect Left Digital Trail That Could Lead to the Real Identity of Pierre Poutine,” The National Post, 6 March, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/06/robocalls-suspect-left-digital-trail-that-could-lead-to-real-identity-of-pierre-poutine/

    Colin Horgan, “Conservative Party’s Robocall Scandal Has Canadians Less Than Impressed,” The Guardian, 20 March, 2012 at

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/mar/20/canada-conservative-party-robocall-scandal

    [lxxii] Greg Weston, “Conservative MPs Used US-based Telemarketers,” CBC, 2 March, 2012 at

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/02/front-porch-strategies-robocalls-canada-election-telemarketers_n_1317926.html

    [lxxiii] Linda Diebel, “Top Tory MPs Used Top U.S. Republican Firm During May Election,” The Toronto Star, 3 March, 2012, at

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1140344–conservative-mps-used-top-republican-firm-during-may-election?bn=1

    [lxxiv]Allison Cross, “Call Centre Workers Speak Out, The National Post, 27 February, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/02/27/i-made-misleading-election-calls-for-the-tories-call-centre-workers-speak-out/

    [lxxv] Tonda MacCharles, “Conservative Scripts Misdirected Voters in 2011 Election, Say Call Centre Staff,” The Toronto Star, 27 February, 2012 at

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1137273–conservative-scripts-misdirected-voters-in-2011-election-say-call-centre-staff

    [lxxvi] Allison Cross, “Call Centre Workers Speak Out, The National Post, 27 February, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/02/27/i-made-misleading-election-calls-for-the-tories-call-centre-workers-speak-out/

    [lxxvii] Ian Brodie cited in Steven Chase et. al. “PM’s Ex-Aide Urges Huge Investigation,” The Globe and Mail, 17 March, 2012, p. A3

    [lxxviii] Community Team, “Should Punishment for Voter Suppression Be More Severe?” CBC News, 23 February, 2012 at

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2012/02/should-punishment-for-voter-suppression-be-more-severe.html

    See

    http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=loi/fel/cea&document=part19&lang=e#sec500

    [lxxix] Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Tories Review Tapes at Thunder Bay Call Centre as Questions Grow Over Company’s Checkered Legal History,” The National Post, 2 March, 2012 at

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/02/tories-review-tapes-at-thunder-bay-call-centre-as-questions-grow-over-companys-checkered-legal-history/

    [lxxx] The Toronto Star report and other press reports are cited in “About Those Election Call Tapes Being Reviewed,” 2 March, 2012. This report on the robocon scandal is one of many in the blog, Impolitical at

    http://impolitical.blogspot.ca/search?updated-max=2012-03-09T00:53:00-05:00

    [lxxxi] RMG cited in Stephen Maher and Greg McGregor, “Firm Linked to Voter Confusion Take an Aggressive Stance Against Bad Press,” Canada.com, 9 March, 2012 at

    http://www.canada.com/business/Firms+linked+voter+confusion+take+aggressive+stance+against+press/6273478/story.html

    [lxxxii] “Retraction and Apology,” The National Post, 3 March, 2012 at

    http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/Retraction+apology/6244843/story.html

    [lxxxiii] Nick Filmore, “A Different Point of View,” 1 March, 2012 at

    http://nickfillmore.blogspot.ca/2012/03/big-robo-calling-question-will-anyone.html

    [lxxxiv] Jim Harris, “Harper Conquers Canada, One Robocall at a Time,” The Huffington Post, 27 February, 2012 at

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jim-harris/robocalls-scandal_b_1305397.html?ref=canada

    [lxxxv] Laura Ryckewaert, “Meet the Reporters Who Broke the Robocall Story: One’s a Source Guy and the Other a Data-Geek,” The Hill Times, 5 March, 2012 ay

    http://www.hilltimes.com/news/news/2012/03/05/meet-the-reporters-who-broke-robocalls-story-one’s-a-source-guy-the-other-a/29812?page_requested=1

    [lxxxvi] “Building Democracy,” 10 March 2012 at

    http://impolitical.blogspot.ca/search?updated-max=2012-03-15T16:36:00-04:00;

    On the Manning Centre gathering see

    http://manningcentre.ca/conference/agenda.htm

    [lxxxvii] iMarketing Solutions Group, Infomart at

    http://www.fpinfomart.ca/fpsn/snap_display.php?key=fp|fpsn|2260

    [lxxxvii] Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Conservative call centre company has checkered legal history in U.S.” Canada.com, 1 March, 2012 at

    http://www.canada.com/business/Conservative+call+centre+company+checkered+legal+history/6237407/story.html

    [lxxxix] Maher and McGregor, “Firm Linked to Voter Confusion Take an Aggressive Stance Against Bad Press,” Canada.com, 9 March, 2012 at

    http://www.canada.com/business/Firms+linked+voter+confusion+take+aggressive+stance+against+press/6273601/story.html

    [xc] Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Conservative call centre company has checkered legal history in U.S.” Canada.com, 1 March, 2012 at http://www.canada.com/business/Conservative+call+centre+company+checkered+legal+history/6237407/story.html

    [xci] Ibid

    [xcii] Complaints Board, Xentel DM, “Fraud and Scam” at

    http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/xentel-dm-c184853.html;

    “Xentel DM Ripoff, Sex, Briken Promises, Lies, and Deceipt: Good Bad Ugly Toronto Ontario,” Ripoff Report at

    http://www.ripoffreport.com/telemarketing-companies/xentel-dm/xentel-dm-ripoff-sex-broken-pr-f4pd5.htm

    [xciii] Allan Woods and Tonda MacCharles, “Marketing strategist Steward Braddick plays role in Conservative party’s electoral success,” The Toronto Star, 28 February, 2012 http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1137730–marketing-strategist-stewart-braddick-plays-role-in-conservative-party-s-electoral-success

    [xciv] http://www.rmgsite.com/index.php

    [xcvi] “Company Overview of Responsive Marketing Group,” Bloomberg Businessweek, 27 March, 2012 at

    http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=30745839

    [xcvii] http://iapc.org/user/42

    [xcviii] “Company Overview of Response Marketing Group,” Bloomberg Businessweek, 27 March, 2012 at http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=764897

    [xcix] Lucy Jones, “Response Marketing Group Opens Toronto Office to Service Canada Bank,” Direct Marketing News, 11 June, 1998 at

    http://www.dmnews.com/response-marketing-group-opens-toronto-office-to-service-canada-bank-giant/article/59382/

    [c] Bob Rae cited in Potmedia News, “Stephen Harper’s ‘Nixonian’ culture to blame for illegal robocall scandal: Rae,” The National Post, 23 February 2012

    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/02/23/stephen-harper-denies-tories-knew-about-illegal-election-robocalls-linked-to-party/

    [ci]Haroon Siddiqui, “Harper Acting Like an Elected Dictator,” The Toronto Star, 20 December, 2009 at

    http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/740829–siddiqui-harper-acting-like-an-elected-dictator

    [cii] CBC News, “Ex-Diplomats Decry Government’s Attack on Colvin,” 8 December, 2009 at

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2009/12/08/colvin-ambassador-afghanistan.html

    [ciii] Cancelling and Avoiding Dissent, Unseat Harper, at

    http://www.unseatharper.ca/cancelling-dissent.php

    [civ] David Staples, Young Harper Rebelled Against Family and Headed West, Canada.com, 13 December, 2011 at

    http://www2.canada.com/story.html?id=5856397

    [cv] Mission of the Hoover Institute cited in Wikipedia at

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover_Institution

    [cvi] Peter Brimelow, The Patriot Game: Canada and the Canadian Question Revisited (Stanford California: Hoover Institution Press, 1986); See David R. Henderson’s review at

    http://www.vdare.com/articles/the-patriot-game-review-fortune-november-1987

    [cvii] William Johnson, “How Mr. Harper Was Brought Up Right,” The Globe and Mail, 16 May, 2002 at

    http://www.vdare.com/articles/immigration-cut-off-by-decades-end

    [cviii] Tom Flanagan, Waiting for the Wave: The Reform Party and Preston Manning (Toronto: Stoddart, 1995); Trevor Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995)

    [cix] Marci MacDonald, “The Man Behind Stephen Harper,” The Walrus Magazine, October, 2004 at

    http://tape.atspace.com/t-behind.html

    [cx] Hall, Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010), chapter 15

    [cxi] Michael Chossudovsky, “Canada’s $75 Billion Bank Bailout,” Global Research.ca, 25 January, 2009 at

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12007

    “Queer is an umbrella term for sexual minorities which are not heterosexual, heteronormative or gender binary”  (Wikipedia)

    The state itself is a form of oppression.

    In a modern-day context this may seem like a false statement, however it is quite true. The state oppresses and restrains us every day, keeping us back from our full potential through its laws and security apparatus that enforce the whims of the state. Yet, this is not only done on a physical and economic level, but is also done based on one’s sexuality and gender identity. Yet, to get a fuller understanding of how the state oppresses us based on sexuality or gender identity, it is first necessary to ask the question: What is the state?

    The state can be defined in many ways; however there are several definitions that are accepted such as Max Weber’s definition that the state is “a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” It can also be defined in a geographical sense using borders. However, at its heart, the state is made up of people. While these people may be of different genders or racial/ethnic groups and hold different positions in the state apparatus, they still make up the state itself. Merriam-Webster defines the state as “a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory.” This “politically organized body of people,” in a modern context, refers to what is called the federal government.

    However, we must take a deeper look at Weber’s definition. He states in his definition that the state has a “monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force.” What does that say about the state, that it needs the use of physical force in order for its creation? It says that the state itself is inherently violent and that it needs the consistent use of force in order to maintain its validity, for without the use of force, the state will no longer exist. In this, there comes the realization that the concept of the state is in many ways forced down the throats of the individual and they are forced to accept it.

    In the United States and Western nations in general, the federal government has the power to create laws and initiatives that may seem as if they are in the best interest of the public, but are in reality much more about continuing the power of the state. In order to better understand this, one must look at the state not as some faceless entity, but rather as a gang of political elites and their financiers. The entire purpose of these political elite is to further their own power. One may be familiar with this in the examples that can be seen under the Bush and Obama administrations.

    After 9/11 Bush used the tragedy as an excuse to further centralize power in the Executive Branch, but on a larger level to expand the power of the state, allowing for the state to intrude on the lives of private citizens and to begin the creation of the surveillance state that is so prevalent today. Obama furthered the power of the state when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act which allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens and argued that the President has the power to engage in extrajudicial assassinations of US citizens. Yet, while the state is biased towards expanding its own power, it must also be examined in the framework of sexuality and gender identity and how that plays into the role of oppressing others.

    The state recognizes and validates the relations of heterosexual couples by allowing them to get married and giving with them a number of benefits. [1] The state have even gone so far as to define heterosexual marriage as the legal marriage, one only need to look at the Defense Of Marriage Act (which is still in effect) to see this. This oppresses queer     people in a legalistic and psychological sense. queer    s are oppressed psychologically as not only are they viewed in a negative manner and ostracized on a regular basis and by not allowing queer marriage (this also includes polyamorous relationships), it only serves to reinforce the notion that they are underprivileged citizens and alienates them from the larger society.

    There is economic oppression in the form of wage gaps and hiring discrimination. Currently, it is legal in 29 states to fire an employee based on sexual orientation and the number increases to 34 if they are transgender. [2] While there is a law that aims to end this so far nothing has been put into place and actually the situation is getting worse. A 1995 study revealed that “between 16% and 46% of [lesbian, gay, or bisexual people surveyed] reported having experienced some form of discrimination in employment (in hiring, promotion, firing, or harassment).” [3] Today the situation has little changed. [4]

    This has a major negative impact on queers on both an individual and group level as their earnings are lower than a heterosexual person’s would be, thus contributing to them being more likely to be poor, especially if they are same sex couples. [5] In the state now enacting legislation to deal with this problem, they are, at most, engaging in oppressing queers, or, at least, acting as an accessory to their oppression.

    The state is further oppressing queers in the form of voter suppression, especially transgendered individuals.

    Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin have all passed laws requiring voters to present a government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot. But the laws impose unique barriers on transgender individuals, since many do not have an updated identification — such as a driver’s license — that lists their correct gender. [6]

    This would deter queer individuals from making attempts to end their oppression in a manner consistent with the current status quo, that of legalistic reform than actual radical change.

    Yet, this oppression by the state is not only in the West but can be seen all over in the world. In the African country of Uganda, there was originally a bill bought up in Parliament that argued that anyone who was caught engaging in homosexual activity should receive the death penalty. While this particular part of the bill was retracted, the bill still generally criminalized the “promotion” of homosexuality. In the country of Indonesia, an LGBT rights advocacy website was banned, with the government deeming it “pornographic.” [7] Even the much-touted Europe isn’t safe for all members of the queer community as 17 European countries force transgender sterilization. [8]

    Throughout the world, members of the queer community are actively under attack by the state. The state has always betrayed us and continues to be a source of oppression for the queer community. We need to realize that while it seems that the oppression may end with the passing of same sex marriage or the criminalization of discriminatory practices against queers, it will only be a first step in a battle against the state. The oppression could still take different forms, such as institutionalizing discrimination. The only way we may every truly be free is with the destruction of the state.

    Notes

    1: Nolo, Marriage and Rights Benefits,
    http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/marriage-rights-benefits-30190.html
    2: Human Rights Campaign, Pass ENDA Now End Workplace Discrimination, http://sites.hrc.org/sites/passendanow/index.asp
    3: M. V. Lee Badgett, “The Wage Effects of Sexual Orientation Discrimination,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 48 (July 1995): 728
    4: Crosby Burns, Jeff Krehely, “Gay and Transgender People Face High Rates of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment,” Center for American Progress, June 2, 2011
    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/06/workplace_discrimination.html
    5: Lauren Keiper, “Children of gay families more like to be poor: study,” Reuters, October 25,
    2011 http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/25/us-gays-families-idUSTRE79O7MC20111025
    6: Eric W. Dolan, “Voter ID laws could disenfranchise more than 25,000 transgender voters: study,” Raw Story, April 15, 2012
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/15/voter-id-laws-could-disenfranchise-more-than-25000-transgender-voters-study/
    7: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, IGLHRC Website Banned,
    http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/pressroom/pressrelease/1481.html (February 7, 2012)
    8: Nicole Pasulka, “17 European Countries Force Transgender Sterilization,” Mother Jones, February 16, 2012
    http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/02/most-european-countries-force-sterilization-transgender-people-map 

    Monsanto, the massive biotechnology company being blamed for contributing to the dwindling bee population, has bought up one of the leading bee collapse research organizations. Recently banned from Poland with one of the primary reasons being that the company’s genetically modified corn may be devastating the dying bee population, it is evident that Monsanto is under serious fire for their role in the downfall of the vital insects.

    It can be found in public company reports hosted on mainstream media that Monsanto scooped up the Beeologics firm back in September 2011. During this time the correlation between Monsanto’s GM crops and the bee decline was not explored in the mainstream, and in fact it was hardly touched upon until Polish officials addressed the serious concern amid the monumental ban. Owning a major organization that focuses heavily on the bee collapse and is recognized by the USDA for their mission statement of “restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination” could be very advantageous for Monsanto.

    In fact, Beelogics’ company information states that the primary goal of the firm is to study the very collapse disorder that is thought to be a result — at least in part — of Monsanto’s own creations. Their website states:

    While its primary goal is to control the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) infection crises, Beeologics’ mission is to become the guardian of bee health worldwide.

    What’s more, Beelogics is recognized by the USDA, the USDA-ARS, the media, and ‘leading entomologists’ worldwide. The USDA, of course, has a great relationship with Monsanto. The government agency has gone to great lengths to ensure that Monsanto’s financial gains continue to soar, going as far as to give the company special speed approval for their newest genetically engineered seed varieties. It turns out that Monsanto was not getting quick enough approval for their crops, which have been linked to severe organ damage and other significant health concerns.

    Steve Censky, chief executive officer of the American Soybean Association, states it quite plainly. It was a move to help Monsanto and other biotechnology giants squash competition and make profits. After all, who cares about public health?

    It is a concern from a competition standpoint,” Censky said in a telephone interview.

    It appears that when Monsanto cannot answer for their environmental devastation, they buy up a company that may potentially be their ‘experts’ in denying any such link between their crops and the bee decline.

    Afghan Screams Aren’t Heard

    April 21st, 2012 by Kathy Kelly

    Last weekend, in Kabul, Afghan Peace Volunteer friends huddled in the back room of their simple home. With a digital camera, glimpses and sounds of their experiences were captured, as warfare erupted three blocks away.
     
    The fighting has subdued, but the video gives us a glimpse into chronic anxieties among civilians throughout Afghanistan. Later, we learned more: Ghulam awakens suddenly, well after midnight, and begins to pace through a room of sleeping people, screaming. Ali suddenly tears up, after an evening meal, and leaves the room to sit outside. Staring at the sky and the moon, he finds solace. Yet another puzzles over what brings people to the point of loaning themselves to possibly kill or be killed, over issues so easily manipulated by politicians.

    I asked our friend, Hakim, who mentors the Afghan Peace Volunteers, if ordinary Afghans are aware that the U.S. has an estimated 400 or more Forward Operating Bases across Afghanistan and that it is planning to construct what will become the world’s largest U.S. Embassy, in Kabul. Hakim thinks young people across Kabul are well aware of this. “Do they know,” I asked, “that the U.S. Air Force has hired 60,000 – 70,000 analysts to study information collected through drone surveillance? The film footage amounts to the equivalent of 58,000 full length feature films. The Rand Corporation says that 100,000 analysts are needed to understand ‘patterns of life’ in Afghanistan.”

    Hakim’s response was quick and cutting: “Ghulam would ask the analysts a question they can’t answer with their drone surveillance, a question that has much to do with their business, ‘terror’: “You mean, you don’t understand why I screamed?”

    Two days ago, “Democracy Now” interviewed Hakim about on-going U.S. military occupation in Afghanistan.

    “If we don’t address the agreements that the U.S. and Australian governments and other governments are making for a long-term war strategy in Afghanistan,” Hakim observed, “we are heading for an increase in violence in this part of the world, in South Asia, perhaps perpetual war, more serious than the Kabul attacks.”

    Analysts could better understand patterns of life in Afghanistan by mixing with Afghans in their homes and along their streets, unarmed.

    The analysts would spend less tax-payer money but possibly obtain a genuine perspective on everyday life in Afghanistan. If they interacted with Afghan people instead of surveying them from the air, they’d be better equipped to study ‘terrorism,’ their supposed intent.

    What if U.S. analysts could feel the frustration Afghans feel as convoys of trucks bearing fuel and food for U.S. soldiers drive past squalid refugee camps where children have starved and frozen to death (250 die of starvation every day; 40 froze to death since January, 2012 ).

    Hakim again: “They would understand quickly, even through cursory study by one ‘non-analyst,’ that Afghans are just as infuriated by U.S. soldiers urinating on corpses as U.S citizens are by their own police pepper-spraying college students.

    They would understand that just as U.S. citizens can’t even imagine living under the barrel of the Mexican army, Afghan citizens, including of course those labelled ‘insurgents’, dislike foreign guns. No number of Special Ops forces staying on perpetually beyond 2014 can make Afghans like foreign guns. This is what the U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership War Agreement will do with at least 4 billion U.S. tax payer dollars a year spent just on Afghan security forces.”

    16 year old Ali understands that the agreement being readied for the NATO summit won’t accomplish foreign troop withdrawal. This creates what for some is deadly distrust. Ali knows that a long-term foreign military means that the firing and killing will continue.  “It’s tit-for-tat,” says Hakim, “U.S. soldier-for-Talib, dollars-for-rupees, and all those insensible human decisions that occasionally make Ali cry.  But, the military and militant apparatus does not have human ears. It has bombs. So, when the recent Kabul attacks were going on, as seen in the very human moments in the video clip, the Afghan youth crouching in the refuge of a room were assured and delighted to hear from Voices activists, from across the miles, calling to ask how they were.

    ‘Ah! Someone cares. Someone listens.’

    The monthly Global Days of Listening conversations which the youth have had with ordinary U.S., European, Middle Eastern and Australian citizens have helped change their lives person-to-person, overcoming the cold impersonal ‘shoosh’ of overhead rockets and under-running bloodshed.

    Every day, Ghulam studies, cooks, washes the dishes and lives, very normally. But some nights, in the stupor of nightmares, Ghulam shouts subconsciously, out of ear-range to the million-dollar intelligence spies, ‘What kind of world is this that still insists on signing war agreements?’”

    Kathy Kelly ([email protected]) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org), a campaign which has worked closely with the Afghan Peace Volunteers (www.ourjournetytosmile.com). She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

    Recently reported in Reuters’, “UN seeks Syria nod for major aid operation,” the UN is seeking to bring in “aid workers” and open offices all across Syria in order to carry out what they call a “major humanitarian operation.”

    Syria has criticized certain nations of what is clearly the “politicizing of humanitarian aid.” Fortune 500-funded US policy think-tank, Brookings Institution has openly stated that US foreign policy would best be served by taking advantage of “gaining humanitarian access” allowing the West to “add further coercive action to its efforts” to topple the Syrian government. Specifically, Brookings foresees gaining such access may lead to establishing “safe-havens and humanitarian corridors” protected by NATO military forces, in yet another example of the “mission creep” that led to regime change in Libya. Such “creep” would give proxy militant forces unassailable positions to continue their campaign of violence against the Syrian people.


    Image: Brookings Institution’s Middle East Memo #21 “Assessing Options for Regime Change (.pdf),” makes no secret that the humanitarian “responsibility to protect” is but a pretext for long-planned regime change.
    ….
    Despite the UN’s “peace plan” being fully rejected by both the Syrian rebels and their Western and Arab League backers who have openly pledged cash, weapons, and support for them to continue fighting, in full violation of the proposed ceasefire, the Western media has instead accused the Syrian government of failing to meet its obligations. As the West continues to fuel the violence, and if “humanitarian access” is approved, military intervention will be proposed to combat what will be claimed to be Syrian government “belligerence.”

    Driving the echo chamber that is the Western media, are corporate-financier funded (beginning on page 18, .pdf), Neo-Conservative led think-tanks like the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), whose representatives can be found propagandizing on Qatari government propaganda outlet Al Jazeera accusing the Syrian government of “serially violating” the terms of the UN proposed “peace deal.” Al Jazeera regular, Michael Weiss of HJS, openly admits that “diplomatic options” are merely being peddled to satisfy public opinion and that ultimately NATO will act unilaterally, outside of the UN, to militarily intervene. (video)….

    The proposed timetable for the UN’s “humanitarian operation” is at least 6 months and represents a long-term commitment to continue destabilizing and ultimately overthrowing the Syrian government at any cost, in both resources and time. To prevent NATO military intervention, Syria and its allies would have to create a tactical environment on the ground that would make any such encroachment untenable. Additionally, undermining the international institutions disingenuously portraying the Syrian conflict as “one-sided” must be accomplished – this includes faux-rights advocates Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, along with various arms and personalities inside the UN itself.

    Wall Street and London are determined to intervene in Syria with or without UN approval, illustrating again the absolute fraud that is “global governance” and international “rule of law.” When the West decides to intervene, it must be made sure that they do so openly as perpetrators of a war of aggression, as defined by the Nuremberg trials – the very precedence of the willfully abused international law now at play.  

    Al-Khalifa despots rule Bahrain repressively. Bahrainis want democratic change. In summer 2010, sporadic protests began. In mid-February last year, major ones erupted.

    They continue daily nonviolently. Courageous Bahrainis brave vicious security force attacks. Saudi troops are involved. In March 2011, they entered Bahrain guns blazing.

    They remain. They’re terrorizing Bahraini men, women, children, doctors, other medical professionals, journalists, human rights activists, and foreign observers. So do state police.

    They’re beating them, arresting them, torturing them, imprisoning them, and killing them. No matter. Let the race begin.

    On April 13, Formula One’s (F1) governing body announced Bahrain’s Grand Prix will go ahead as planned, saying:

    “Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of a Formula One World Championship event in Bahrain.”

    “Therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday, April 22.”

    In protest, Bahraini youths promised “three days of rage” from April 20 – 22. In 2011, they and human rights activists got F1′s race cancelled. It’s governing body did the right thing. This year, president/CEO Bernie Ecclestone claims all’s well. We’re coming, saying:

    “I know people who live there, and it’s all quiet and peaceful.” At age 81, perhaps senility replaced reason. Money always matters most. Bahrain’s 2010 F1 Grand Prix drew 100,000 visitors and grossed half a billion dollars.

    The Al-Khalifa monarchy wants it this year for reasons besides revenue. It’s seen as a way to improve Bahrain’s image and create an illusion of normalcy despite daily state-sponsored terror against peaceful protesters.

    Amnesty International (AI) highlighted “flawed reforms,” saying:

    “With the world’s eyes on Bahrain as it prepares to host the Grand Prix, no-one should be under any illusions that the country’s human rights crisis is over.”

    “The authorities are trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform, but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests.”

    A Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report said:

    “(A)uthorities had committed gross human rights violations with impunity, including excessive use of force against protesters, widespread torture, and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and unlawful killings.”

    Participating drivers ducked commenting on racing in a virtual war zone. Seven-time world champion, Michael Schumacher, dismissed conditions, saying: “I don’t want to mix the sport with political things. I am here for the sport.”

    Like others involved, he’s also money driven. Earnings amount to millions. From May 2010 – May 2011, Forbes magazine said he earned $34 million.

    On April 19, The New York Times headlined, “Unease Surrounds Bahrain Grand Prix,” saying:

    “It was almost business as usual for Formula One in Bahrain on Thursday, as the teams prepared their cars in their garages and the drivers met the media for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.”

    Throughout months of vicious crackdowns against nonviolent protests, The Times remained largely dismissive.

    On April 20, Reuters headlined, “Protests rage as Bahrain Grand Prix practice begins,” saying:

    Ahead of Friday’s practice session, “protests had flared in villages surrounding the capital, far from the circuit where the race will be held. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse demonstrators in clashes that have been building in the week leading to Sunday’s round of the World Championship.”

    #F1 at #Bahrain see the photo
It's biggest #Formula1 in the wold 2012 women side only
#OpBahrain
    Protests in Bahrain against the Grand Prix on Friday April 20
    According to Index of Censorship’s Kirsty Hughes:

    “The Bahraini government wants to bask in the positive international publicity it anticipates receiving through the Formula One motor race going ahead.”

    “Yet all the signs are that the government is likely to intensify its harsh clampdown on local activists before and during the Grand Prix.”

    Escalated Crackdowns Ahead of F1

    On April 18, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said:

    “….Bahraini authorities have escalated their violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters and human rights activists.”

    “Villages and houses have been attacked continuously for the past few days. Pre-dawn house raids are being conducted and dozens of protesters are either arrested or wanted for arrest.”

    “As F1 is approaching, human rights activists in Bahrain Center for human rights are being targeted with arrests and prosecution, in an effort to undermine thier work in reporting the violence against protesters during the F1.”

    On April 15, BCHR’s Sayed Yousif Al Mahafdha and two Human Rights Watch (HRW) members (Tom Malinowski and Nadim Houry) were attacked and arrested while observing a peaceful protest. They were held, harassed, interrogated, and released.

    According to Al Mahafdha, when protesters reached the main road, riot police confronted them violently. Tear gas and stun grenades were used. Al Mahafdha took shelter in a nearby home. Police stormed it. They pepper-sprayed and beat those inside.

    In recent weeks, BCHR president Nabeel Rajab was arrested several times for exposing human rights abuses, as well as expressing his views freely and participating in peaceful demonstrations. Authorities accused him and others of “participating in an illegal assembly.”

    Rajab was formally charged with violating Bahrain’s Assembly code. On May 6, his trial begins. The repressive Assembly law lets police repressively disrupt nonviolent public gatherings. Its article 11 states:

    “No one shall organize demonstrations or marches or rallies that are held or going near shopping malls.”

    Those convicted face fines, imprisonment, or both. BCHR members are repeatedly targeted. Sixteen-year old Mansoor Al Jamri assisted their human rights abuse documentation efforts. He was arrested, beaten, tortured, and detained.

    Hunger striker Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is a former BCHR president. April 21 marks his 73rd day without food. His life hangs by a thread. He could go any time. Al-Khalifa despots face a dilemma.

    They want him dead but need him alive through Sunday’s Grand Prix. They’re also concerned about creating a world-renoun martyr. They could avoid it by freeing him, but won’t.

    A Final Comment

    Commenting on Bahrain’s Grand Prix, a London Guardian editorial headlined, “Bahrain: chequered flag,” saying:

    The event “backfired before it has even begun….The race has become a magnet for protest, a magnifying glass of dissent bubbling away below the surface. ‘Don’t race over our blood,’ the slogan goes in Manama, but that is what Formula One teams propose to do today.”

    Coverup and denial can’t hide daily security force brutality. Videotape evidence documents it. So do independent media reports.

    “Britain and America make clucking noises but are just as cynical as the Bahraini royal family itself. Strategic alliances trump human rights. What is the difference between Bahrain and Syria?”

    The hypocrisy is glaring. Al Khalifa terror rages. F1 engines won’t drown it out. Washington maintains silence. Bahrain’s a valued ally. It’s home to America’s Fifth Fleet.

    In contrast, the Obama administration actively aids Syrian insurgents. Doing so violates America’s Constitution and international law.

    At issue is imperial dominance. Supporting regional despots and replacing independent regimes with client ones furthers it.

    Human rights abuses don’t matter when valued allies commit them. Regimes confronting Western-generated violence responsibly are called terrorists.

    Sunday’s F1 spectacle won’t change things. Daily repression continues whether or not it’s held. Washington’s presence supports it.

    Ending its rage to ravage humanity matters most. Imagine if Americans matched Bahraini courage. Imagine peace instead of war.

    Imagine a socially responsible nation instead of one benefitting its privileged alone. Imagine one fit to live in, not feared.

    Imagine if Americans cared enough to go all out for it. The possibilities are breathtaking.

    Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].

    Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

    http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

    COVERUP AND DENIAL: America’s Gulf Disaster Revisited

    April 21st, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

    April 20 marked the two year anniversary of BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster. Until Fukushima Daiichi’s catastrophic nuclear meltdown, it was the largest ever environmental calamity.

    It’s devastated the lives of millions of area residents. It contaminated America’s Gulf. Nothing in it’s safe to eat. The incident’s been plagued by coverup, denial, and Obama administration complicity to assure nothing slows hazardous deep water drilling.

    In 2010, as disastrous conditions unfolded, Dahr Jamail reported firsthand from the Gulf. He’s now discussing the aftermath. On April 18, he headlined, “Gulf seafood deformities alarm scientists,” saying:

    “Eyeless shrimp and fish with lesions are becoming common, with BP oil pollution believed to be the likely cause.”

    He quoted Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences Dr. Jim Cowan saying:

    “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”

    He’s not alone. Gulf fishermen, seafood processors, and other scientists report “disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.”

    “Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp – and interviewees’ fingers point towards BP’s oil pollution disaster as being the cause.”

    Jamail also cited concerns about continued Macondo well leakage. Overhead flights show large oil sheen covered areas. Evidence confirms it’s from Macondo. What began two years ago didn’t end. “Experts believe” seabed seepage is responsible.

    Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) data confirm highly toxic BP oil still contaminates the Gulf. Affected residents experience it harmful effects.

    Seepage is common wherever offshore drilling occurs. According to University of California’s Ira Leifer, “From what I’ve seen, this new oil and sheen definitely seemed larger than typical natural (Gulf) seepages….”

    BP, of course, denies it’s from Macondo. Throughout 2010, the company misreported repeatedly. Initially it said 1,000 barrels a day were leaking, then 5,000, then larger volumes still well below actual amounts. Estimates ranged up to 100,000 or more daily barrels.

    For months, company officials grossly downplayed the severity of the crisis. Coverup and denial continues. Contaminated areas are vast. America’s Gulf may never fully recover. Neither will millions of area residents.

    On April 20, the Institute for Southern Studies (ISS) headlined, “Troubled Waters: Gulf communities still reeling two years into BP disaster,” saying:

    BP claims recovery’s on the way. Hard evidence proves otherwise. A new ISS report’s titled, “Troubled Waters: Two Years After the BP Oil Disaster, a Struggling Gulf Coast Calls for National Leadership for Recovery,” saying:

    Area residents report oil still washing up on Gulf shores. Without help, affected people and communities face challenges likely too great to overcome.

    Gulfport, MS community leader Derrick Evans addressed BP’s April 2012 shareholders meeting. “The oil is not gone,” he said. “The general perception is that BP made a mess and BP did a big cleanup and everything is all fine. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

    Two years later, the reality facing Gulf residents is sobering and disturbing. Their struggle to overcome what BP wrought continues. Economic hardships persist. So do serious health problems.

    Some communities lost their way of life entirely. Others face uncertain futures. Many residents are sick and depressed. They’ve gotten precious little help. ISS produced its report cooperatively with Bridge the Gulf Project and the Gulf Coast Fund. They focused on three areas in particularly hard hit communities:

    (1) Making a living

    Thousands of fishing boats were idled. Many over-indebted fishermen shut down entirely. Local groups try helping best they can. They need federal and BP help not forthcoming.

    (2) Restoring the coast

    Every hour, Louisiana “loses a football-field sized chunk of coast land” from erosion and “energy industry activity.” Residents need federal help restoring their fragile coastline.

    (3) Protecting public health

    Residents report alarming numbers and types of illnesses. Clearly they’re toxic oil and dispersants related. Organizations like the Louisiana Environmental Action Network try to help. It’s not enough. Much more is needed.

    Overall, recovery is an unfulfilled dream. Achieving it’s barely begun. BP turns a blind eye. Washington largely does the same. The suffering of millions persists.

    The Government Accountability Project (GAP) “promote(s) government accountability….protect(s) whistleblowers, advanc(es) free speech, and empower(s) citizen activists.”

    Since 1977, it’s been “the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.” It’s also on the BP story. It’s been investigating it since last summer. Whistleblowers report disastrous health tragedies.

    Sometime this summer, GAP will release its report on how bad. Numerous ailments are known. Many thousands experience everything from skin irritation, vomiting, and rectal bleeding to kidney, liver, central nervous system and brain damage, hypertension, miscarriages, birth defects, and lesions.

    Expect an eventual epidemic of cancers and other serious diseases. Expect pathetically little federal or BP help. The oil giant’s settlement provides no healthcare. Accepting it means foregoing the right to sue.

    Pursuing legal redress means years of delays, obstruction, appeals, and other ways clever lawyers use to deny just compensation.

    BP’s legacy will linger for decades. Peoples’ lives were irreparably harmed. Environmental contamination is severe. Crude oil alone harms human health. Corexit dispersants contain hazardous carcinogens like 2-BTE (2-butoxyethanol).

    Dangers they pose depend on length and amount of exposure. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and infirm are most vulnerable. No one’s immune. Drinking toxic water or eating contaminated seafood assures any number of current and future health problems.

    Blame it on America’s rage to drill and irresponsible oil giants like BP. They do it recklessly with no regard for worker safety, environmental protection, or human health.

    The company’s known for having the industry’s worst safety and environmental record. It’s responsible for numerous willful negligence incidents. Some cause deaths and injuries. All harm human health and are environmentally destructive.

    Only profits matter, not social responsibility or legal obligations. BP’s a serial scofflaw. Regulatory laxity and political Washington complicity let it pollute freely with impunity. Once a violator, always one, and it goes way beyond BP. America’s a scofflaw’s paradise.

    On April 19, investigative journalist Greg Palast headlined, “BP Covered Up Blow-out Two Years Prior to Deadly Deepwater Horizon Spill,” saying:

    Eco-Watch.org “located an eyewitness with devastating new information” about BP covering up a Caspian Sea blowout. Rig workers back the account.

    At issue was cutting corners irresponsibly. Coverup let BP replicate its shortcut in America’s Gulf. In September 2008, BP’s first blowout occurred off Baku, Azerbaijan’s coast.

    Witnesses told Palast they were evacuated from BP’s platform as it filled with dangerous methane. They confirmed:

    “(T)here was mud (drill-pipe cement) blown out all over the platform.” The cement cap couldn’t hold high-pressure gases. They “engulfed the entire platform in methane gas.”

    Palast learned that “BP failed to notify the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) about the failure of the cement….Notification would have alerted Gulf cement contractor Halliburton that the process of adding nitrogen to cement posed unforeseen dangers.”

    Cement casing cracked apart in the Caspian. BP promoted “Blow-Out Preventers (BOPs) as a last line of defense in case of a blow-out. But if the casing shatters, the BOPs could be useless.”

    BP went to “extraordinary lengths” to conceal the first incident. Revealing would show replicating it in the Gulf was “not an unexpected accident but could be considered negligent homicide.”

    BP buys politicians. It also intimidates employees. An atmosphere of fear prevails. Speaking out ends careers. Few dare.

    EcoWatch editor Stefanie Penn Spear said BP negligence caused the “biggest oil spill in US history. It entirely turned the Gulf Coast economy upside down and threatened—and continues to threaten—the health and livelihoods of the people in the Gulf region.”

    How can something this major be concealed, asked Palest. He cites “pay-offs, threats, political muscle and the connivance of the Bush Administration’s State Department, Exxon and Chevron.” Obama officials bear equal guilt.

    New York Times contributor Abrahm Lustgarten’s op-ed calls BP’s Gulf disaster “A Stain That Won’t Wash Away,” saying:

    Accountability’s been entirely lacking. Future incidents are assured. Minor fines at most are imposed. Criminal prosecutions don’t happen. Warnings issued are toothless.

    Scofflaws are free to pollute and harm human health. One disaster follows another. Only profits matter. Recidivism is commonplace. A culture of irresponsibility assures it. So doesn’t bipartisan political complicity.

    “What the gulf spill has taught us is that no matter how bad the disaster (and the environmental impact), the potential consequences have never been large enough to dissuade BP (or giants in all industries) from placing profits ahead of prudence.”

    As long as Washington remains corporate occupied territory, nothing ahead will change. Big money runs America. What it says goes. Politicians and regulators salute and obey. It’s the American way.

    Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].

    Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

    http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/ .