Monday, August 27, 2012

Obama Admininstration Backs Shell in Supreme Court Case by Puck Lo The Obama administration is backing Shell Oil after abruptly changing sides in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that could make it even more difficult for survivors of human rights abuses overseas to sue multinational corporations in federal courts. The case will be heard on October 1. Lawyers at EarthRights International, a Washington-based human rights law nonprofit, say they suspect that a new legal submission - which was signed only by the U.S. Justice Department - reflects tensions inside the government on how to deal with multinational corporations do business in the U.S. Significantly, neither the State nor the Commerce Department signed on to the brief, despite their key roles in the case. "It was shocking," Jonathan Kaufman EarthRights legal policy coordinator commented to Reuters. "The brief was largely unexpected, based on what they had filed previously, and pretty breathtaking." At issue is the Alien Torts Claim Act (ATCA) - an 18th century U.S. law originally designed to combat piracy on the high seas - that has been used during the last 30 years as a vehicle to bring international law violations cases to U.S. federal courts. read more here:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obama's 'Midnight' Deal Will Stretch Afghan War to 2024

One thing crystal clear in secretive US-Afghan 'strategic partnership agreement': War not even close to ending - Common Dreams staff President Obama's secret trip to Afghanistan, shrouded in secrecy for security reasons, culminated in a midnight meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the signing of a 'strategic partnership agreement', the full details of which have not been made available to either the American or Afghan public. "If ever there was an image to convey the limits of the UK-US success in Afghanistan, it was the way that Barack Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of the liberating, Taliban-scattering forces was forced to skulk into Kabul last night under the cover of darkness," writes the Telegraph's Peter Foster. "After landing at Bagram Airbase just after 10pm local time, there was a low-level, cover-of-darkness helicopter insertion to the Presidential Palace where the ten-page deal (which contains no specifics on funding or troop levels) was signed around midnight." The agreement, broadly understood, codifies the ongoing conditions under which the US government agrees to operate in Afghanistan and will guide policies on the management of military bases, authority over detainees, the execution of night raids and other security operations, and will set conditions for troop levels and residual US forces that will remain in Afghanistan even after a 'withdrawal' commences in 2014. The agreement also deals with ongoing financial support for the Afghan government and military into the future.

Monday, March 19, 2012

KONY 2012: State Propaganda for a New Generation. An Orchestrated Campaign to Justify US Military Intervention in Africa

The overnight viral sensation KONY 2012 brought worldwide awareness to the African war criminal Joseph Kony. Beneath this commendable cause, lies however an elaborate agenda that is presented in the video in a very manipulative way. We’ll look at the agenda behind KONY 2012 and how it uses reverse psychology to not only justify a military operation in Africa, but to actually have people demand it.

KONY 2012 is a viral sensation that swept the entire world in less than 24 hours. Its main subject is the African rebel leader Joseph Kony, his war crimes and the clearly defined “movement” to stop him. Countless celebrities have endorsed the movement, news sources have reported it and social media is buzzing with it. While the problem of guerrilla warfare and child soldiers has plagued Africa for decades, and several documentaries have already been produced regarding the issue, this particular 29-minute video made managed to obtain mass exposure and support.

KONY 2012 is less of a documentary than it is a highly efficient infomercial that is tailor-made for the Facebook generation, using state-of-the-art marketing techniques to make its point. Young people like “underground movements” and want to feel like they are changing the world. KONY 2012 taps into these needs to bring about something that is not “hip” or “underground” at all: A military operation in Uganda. Not only that, it urges the participants of the movement to order stuff, to wear bracelets that are associated with an online profile and to record their actions in social media. This makes KONY 2012 the first artificially created movement that is fully track-able, monitor-able and quantifiable by those who engendered it. In other words, what appears to be a movement “from the people” is actually a new way for the elite to advance its agenda.

A Propaganda Experiment

The video begins with an interesting statement: “The next 27 minutes are an experiment. But in order for it to work, you have to pay attention”. It is an experiment as it tests a new, groundbreaking way to get an agenda accepted by the Facebook generation. In the past, when the government needed to justify the invasion of a country, the President would sit in front of the camera and tell the public why war should be declared in this area of the world. In the case of KONY, the military agenda is disguised as grassroots activism, where the US army entering Uganda would be perceived as a “victory of the people”, effectively reversing the communications model.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

HR 347 'Trespass Bill' Criminalizes Protest

As I write this op-ed, I primp for the mirror -- looking for the most flattering pose -- for my mug shot. Now, don't get the wrong impression; I haven't been arrested and charged with a federal felony -- yet. Nor is the preparation done in anticipation of a guest stint on "America's Next Top Model" -- but as a common sense reaction to Obama's predictable signing of the latest assault on the Bill of Rights -- namely -- H.R. 347 (and it's companion senate bill S. 1794); aka the "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011." Sounding more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds landscaping -- this bill, better known to those in the DC beltway as the 'Trespass Bill' -- potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S. a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The legislators responsible for bringing this legislative excrement to life are Representative Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) leading the Senate version.

H. R. 347 makes protest of any type potentially a federal offense with anywhere from a year to 10 years in federal prison, providing it occurs in the presence of elites brandishing Secret Service protection, or during an officially defined 'National Special Security Event' (NSSE). NSSEs , ( an invention of Bill Clinton) are events which have been deemed worthy of Secret Service protection, which previously received no such treatment. Justified through part of 'Presidential Decision Directive 62 in 1998; Bill Clinton created an additional class of special events explicitly under the authority of the U.S. Secret Service.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Are Americans in Line for Gitmo?

December 3, 2011

Exclusive: Though the 9/11 attacks occurred more than a decade ago, Congress continues to exploit them to pass evermore draconian laws on “terrorism,” with the Senate now empowering the military to arrest people on U.S. soil and hold them without trial, a serious threat to American liberties, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Ambiguous but alarming new wording, which is tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and was just passed by the Senate, is reminiscent of the “extraordinary measures” introduced by the Nazis after they took power in 1933.

And the relative lack of reaction so far calls to mind the oddly calm indifference with which most Germans watched the erosion of the rights that had been guaranteed by their own Constitution. As one German writer observed, “With sheepish submissiveness we watched it unfold, as if from a box at the theater.”

The writer was Sebastian Haffner (real name Raimond Pretzel), a young German lawyer worried at what he saw in 1933 in Berlin, but helpless to stop it since, as he put it, the German people “collectively and limply collapsed, yielded and capitulated.”

“The result of this millionfold nervous breakdown,” wrote Haffner at the time, “is the unified nation, ready for anything, that is today the nightmare of the rest of the world.” Not a happy analogy.

The Senate bill, in effect, revokes an 1878 law known as the Posse Comitatus Act, which banned the Army from domestic law enforcement after the military had been used —and often abused — in that role during Reconstruction. Ever since then, that law has been taken very seriously — until now. Military officers have had their careers brought to an abrupt halt by involving federal military assets in purely civilian criminal matters.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Anwar al-Awlaki's Extrajudicial Murder

The law on the use of lethal force by executive order is specific. This assassination broke it – that creates a terrifying precedent

by Michael Ratner

Is this the world we want? Where the president of the United States can place an American citizen, or anyone else for that matter, living outside a war zone on a targeted assassination list, and then have him murdered by drone strike. [ AP)] Anwar al-Awlaki in 2008; the radical Islamic cleric has reportedly been killed in Yemen by a US drone strike. (Photograph: AP)

This was the very result we at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU feared when we brought a case in US federal court on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki's father, hoping to prevent this targeted killing. We lost the case on procedural grounds, but the judge considered the implications of the practice as raising "serious questions", asking:

"Can the executive order the assassination of a US citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organisation?"

Yes, Anwar al-Awlaki was a radical Muslim cleric. Yes, his language and speeches were incendiary. He may even have engaged in plots against the United States – but we do not know that because he was never indicted for a crime.

This profile should not have made him a target for a killing without due process and without any effort to capture, arrest and try him. The US government knew his location for purposes of a drone strike, so why was no effort made to arrest him in Yemen, a country that apparently was allied in the US efforts to track him down?

There are – or were – laws about the circumstances in which deadly force can be used, including against those who are bent on causing harm to the United States. Outside of a war zone, as Awlaki was, lethal force can only be employed in the narrowest and most extraordinary circumstances: when there is a concrete, specific and imminent threat of an attack; and even then, deadly force must be a last resort.

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Obama: A Disaster for Civil Liberties

By Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times
01 October 11

He may prove the most disastrous president in our history in terms of civil liberties.

ith the 2012 presidential election before us, the country is again caught up in debating national security issues, our ongoing wars and the threat of terrorism. There is one related subject, however, that is rarely mentioned: civil liberties.

Protecting individual rights and liberties - apart from the right to be tax-free - seems barely relevant to candidates or voters. One man is primarily responsible for the disappearance of civil liberties from the national debate, and he is Barack Obama. While many are reluctant to admit it, Obama has proved a disaster not just for specific civil liberties but the civil liberties cause in the United States.

Civil libertarians have long had a dysfunctional relationship with the Democratic Party, which treats them as a captive voting bloc with nowhere else to turn in elections. Not even this history, however, prepared civil libertarians for Obama. After the George W. Bush years, they were ready to fight to regain ground lost after September 11. Historically, this country has tended to correct periods of heightened police powers with a pendulum swing back toward greater individual rights. Many were questioning the extreme measures taken by the Bush administration, especially after the disclosure of abuses and illegalities. Candidate Obama capitalized on this swing and portrayed himself as the champion of civil liberties.

However, President Obama not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them. The earliest, and most startling, move came quickly. Soon after his election, various military and political figures reported that Obama reportedly promised Bush officials in private that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture. In his first year, Obama made good on that promise, announcing that no CIA employee would be prosecuted for torture. Later, his administration refused to prosecute any of the Bush officials responsible for ordering or justifying the program and embraced the "just following orders" defense for other officials, the very defense rejected by the United States at the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

None Dare Call It Privatization

Dispatch from a high-powered conference spelling out a new strategy for raiding the commons
by Tom Tresser

At the Hyatt Lodge Hotel on the McDonald’s corporate campus in Oak Brook, Illinois, June 24, the other wingtip dropped.It happened at a conference called “It’s Not Privatization: Implementing Partnerships in Illinois”, organized by The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce with assistance from the Metropolitan Planning Council .

The conference revealed the corporate sector’s designs on the commons in Illinois, and how they intended to duck the increasingly unpopular label of privatization.

In recent years Chicago has become an epicenter of privatization.

In 2005 Mayor Daley assigned the Skyway Bridge connecting the city to Indiana to a consortium owned by Spanish and Australian companies. That deal got the city $1.83 billion for a 99 year lease. One analysis of the deal shows that the new owners stand to reap between $5 to $15 billion, depending on the traffic volume and how high they jack up the tolls.

In 2009 Mayor Daly gave our parking meters to a group of investors led by MorganStanley, which included the oil-rich sheikdom of Abu Dhabi. Chicago got $1.15 billion for a 75 year lease. The investors will earn in the vicinity of $11.6 billion over the life of the deal. Parking rates have skyrocketed, meters appeared in places that never been been metered before and the hours for paid parking were extended.

In each case, all the major planning bodies, civic watchdog groups and various park and public watchdogs were silent. Many supported these privatization schemes.

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