June 25, 2013

Why I'm NOT Excited About "The President's Climate Action Plan" of June 2013

By Erika Wolf, Green Party of Wisconsin

**DISCLAIMER** By using my powers of quotation and sarcastic wit, here is a brief look at the President’s 21-page “Climate Action Plan”. I focus on highlighting only the new initiatives, statements or directives and leaving out sections relating to community/agency preparedness for climate change and severe weather events. I do this, a) to focus my critique on what is supposedly Mr. Obama’s new and exciting position on climate change (which it isn’t) and also, b) to focus on the administration’s expression of its understanding and analysis of what is to be done to mitigate the ongoing human impacts on climate change as opposed to how it will lead federal and more local agencies/communities to deal with changing weather patterns. I see emergency planning, funding, and training as a basic function of government and is therefore not worth discussing when we’re talking about the President’s position on human impacts on climate change and how to interrupt the crisis point at which we’ve arrived.

And now, on with the show...

So the biggest excitement, it seems, comes from these 2 Presidential Memorandums -- one directing the EPA to draft updated carbon emissions standards for existing and new power plants. The other directs federal agencies to streamline the process for energy transmission projects with the goal of making updating the energy grid possible. If you ask me, those are just requests from the President that other people get their butts in gear to do work that he asked them to do 5 years ago when he was elected. If these two memos are in fact the first time he’s given these directives to these agencies which have been reporting directly to him for 5 years, it’s too little too late, IMHO.

But wait, there’s more...

Much of the plan just puts into practice things which any thinking person would have expected the richest country in the world to already have in place, such as:

Quandrennial Energy Review: "This first-ever review will focus on infrastructure challenges, and will identify the threats, risks, and opportunities for U.S. energy and climate security, enabling the federal government to translate policy goals into a set of analytically based, clearly articulated, sequenced and integrated actions, and proposed investments over a four-year planning horizon." Well it’s dumb that never happened.

"...develop a comprehensive, interagency methane strategy"
Seriously? THIS is a new directive?!
And goals which may actually make a dent: "the Administration is establishing a new goal: The federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020." Meeting this goal is definitely an improvement if it involves cutting energy use and also transitioning to renewables rather than just increasing overall consumption so that renewables are a larger percentage of overall consumption.

Information sharing with the public:
“...launching a Climate Data Initiative to leverage extensive federal climate-relevant data to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate-change preparedness."
It’s unfortunate this info-sharing is designed to help some people make money, but it’s pretty alright if those are regular people and not the 1%.

In fact, there many other components which make it clear that the Obama administration will rely on profits as the vehicle driving a transition to renewables, as opposed to the global climate emergency which is a threat to all life on the planet:
There’s money for landlords and insurance companies:
"Federal Housing Administration will convene representatives of the lending community and other key stakeholders for a mortgage roundtable in July to identify options for factoring energy efficiency into the mortgage underwriting and appraisal process upon sale or refinancing of new or existing homes."
And money for anyone who already has a pile of money:
"in order to increase access to capital markets for investments in energy efficiency, the Administration will initiate a partnership with the private sector to work towards a standardized contract to finance federal investments in energy efficiency."

And a plan to regulate this on the international level with yet another free trade agreement:
"...launch negotiations at the World Trade Organization towards global free trade in environmental goods, including clean energy technologies such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal."
Also included in these priorities are “negotiations towards achieving free trade in environmental services."

As far as extraction and the consumption of energy, Obama is still our DRILL BABY DRILL president. On natural gas, the President’s plan has it ALL WRONG.

"...when it comes to the oil and gas sector, investments to build and upgrade gas pipelines will not only put more Americans to work, but also reduce emissions and enhance economic productivity. For example, as part of the Administration’s effort to improve federal permitting for infrastructure projects, the interagency Bakken Federal Executive Group is working with industry, as well as state and tribal agencies, to advance the production of oil and gas in the Bakken while helping to reduce venting and flaring."

"...encourage the development of a global market for gas. The Obama Administration is partnering with states and private companies to exchange lessons learned with our international partners on responsible development of natural gas resources."
I was hoping to make it through this plan without having to read the dirty “clean coal” myth, but clearly Mr. Obama is still buying that corporate line hook, line, and sinker:
“President calls for an end to U.S. government support for public financing of new coal plants overseas, except for(a)the most efficient coal technology available in the world’s poorest countries in cases where no other economically feasible alternative exists, or(b)facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies. As part of this new commitment, we will work actively to secure the agreement of other countries and the multilateral development banks to adopt similar policies as soon as possible.”

"advance the development and deployment of clean coal technologies."

And excited about the increased risk of radiation exposure, anyone?!

“The United States will continue to promote the safe and secure use of nuclear power worldwide through a variety of bilateral and multilateral engagements."

It’s wild to see how other countries are factored into this plan. Painting the US as a leader and a negotiator for preservation of the planet and interrupting climate change is inconsistent with how we run our economy, how we live our lives, and what our culture considers appropriate behavior.

For example, take
"...the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, which brings together governments, the private sector, and civil society to reduce tropical deforestation related to key agricultural commodities."
So the US (and other imperialist countries) ravage the world and force other countries into desperate poverty and starvation. Now that it’s politically inconvenient to be seen as connected to this environmental degradation, we’re now going to essentially blame them for the practice of deforestation and goad people to stop farming because it’s hurting the earth. Riiiiiight...

The Obama administration is definitely playing a game of do-what-I-say-not-what-I-do on the international level, working to negotiate agreements that involve emerging nations regulate and cut consumption across the board while only making commitments which apply to the federal government’s consumption in the United States. These commitments, while they are the most powerful proclamations and directives in the Plan, are the ones with the least clarity on how they’ll be implemented or whether they are even within the power of the President to deliver.
"President Obama is calling for the elimination of U.S. fossil fuel tax subsidies in his Fiscal Year(FY) 2014 budget." Is is possible that this will happen, considering he and most of the decision makers at the table are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry?

Is this gonna be another loophole for the 1% to pay their way outta accountability? Looks like it: “...the Environmental Protection Agency will use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program to encourage private sector investment in low-emissions technology by identifying and approving climate-friendly chemicals while prohibiting certain uses of the most harmful chemical alternatives.”

“In addition, the President has directed his Administration to purchase cleaner alternatives to HFCs whenever feasible and transition overtime to equipment that uses safer and more sustainable alternatives." ‘Wherever possible’ seems like it’s open to discretion and a loose interpretation of ‘cleaner.’
To be brief in summation, the President's plan doesn't actually do much to TAKE ACTION on the climate. It's a recommitment to planning and strategizing, to helping the rich continue to be rich by moving their money from coal to natural gas and/or renewable technologies, and to bluffing his way into a "leadership" position internationally without tackling the problems caused by the United States. While I can hope that this plan is less than satisfactory because the Administration is being politically cautious (though I don't know why it would have any reason to be), it really doesn't address what I see as the most pressing practices escalating climate change.

A plan which addresses the following few criteria would be a START towards a REAL climate action plan:
An end to all extreme energy, specifically fracking, tar sands, mountaintop removal, and deepwater drilling.
Closing all loopholes for polluters to pay their way out of accountability for intentionally violating human and civil rights, as well as knowingly causing massive environmental "accidents". These people deserve civil and criminal charges with personal and financial consequences.

Public divestment of all fossil fuels, including a real end to all fossil fuel subsidies made by the US globally.
Defense of the right to food, shelter, water, and air for all people globally, and especially living in the US. This means taking immediate action which not only open access to foreclosed-yet-vacant homes and unused public land and private lots but also demands preventative and enforcement action be taken to protect all natural spaces and block private and public interests alike from further development impacts on or pollution of natural resources.
Banning inherently toxic processes like nuclear power and reliance on unstable and unstudied chemicals to maintain our energy grid, food system, waste management, water treatment, transportation system, reclamation/remediation processes, and building construction.

Increased public scrutiny to the point of directly democratic, intergenerational structures which involve communities directly affected by existing and new projects which pose an environmental or health risk of any kind.

You can read Obama's plan to use Capitalism to save the planet from Capitalism here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/image/president27sclimateactionplan.pdf

June 19, 2013

[interview] Bandit the Anti-Fracking Bear

Artist LMNOP is being told that her art is illegal, and the US Forest Service is telling her to stop. But it turns out the reason might well be because the US Forest service is leasing land for fracking.

Get your own Anti-Fracking shirt from LMNOP here: https://www.wepay.com/stores/lmnop-art-store

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[interview] PE Nolan of Worldwide Hippies

I spoke with PE Nolan of RoundTree7, and Worldwide Hippies while I was in NYC for Left Forum.

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[interview] Sevgim Deniz: Occupy Gezi

Sevgim Deniz Egilmez, USM BA Psychology NYU MS. Global Affairs International Law.
Professional interpreter and research/program manager. Sevgim has lived in the US (Mars Hill, ME) for 15 years, originally from Istanbul.

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Why are they protesting in Brazil?

It's the same fight, worldwide. We're told it's about a $0.20 hike in bus fares.
It's not about bus fares.

In Turkey, we're told that it's about the destruction of a Park. It's not about the destruction of a park.

These events just provide the flash points, the points around which people are organizing.

Check out this video made just before the protests in Brazil started:

June 17, 2013

In Defense of Privacy

Think you have "nothing to hide"? Think again.

Despite the barrage of news coverage since the recent revelation of a widespread government surveillance program, as well as the outrage of political pundits on both the left and the right, most Americans responded to the wiretapping allegations with a collective shrug. In fact, if recent polls are any indication, most Americans are not merely ambivalent about being spied on by the government--many actually support it.

A Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll finds over half of Americans (56 percent), consider the NSA's "Prism" program, "an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism." Likewise, 62 percent consider "investigating terrorist threats" more imperative than upholding personal privacy, according to the Pew poll.

These findings come on the heels of a similar survey conducted shortly after last month's Boston Marathon bombing that found 78 percent of Americans support the increased use of surveillance cameras in public spaces.

While the fact that Americans, post-9/11, are all too eager to swap civil liberties for security (or, at least, the pretense of security) is not, in of itself, terribly surprising or even revelatory, this New Normal attitude is, nonetheless, worrisome. Americans' default response to government wiretapping is something like this: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide." (This statement is usually accompanied by a reminder that there are "people in the world who hate us and want to do us harm.") I find this oft-repeated sentiment particularly frustrating--not to mention altogether shortsighted.

The "I-have-nothing-to-hide" retort has become so common it now "pervades discussions about privacy" according to Daniel J. Solove in a 2011 article for The Chronicle of Higher Education ("Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide'," 05/15/2011). As Solove explains, "In its most compelling form, it is an argument that the privacy interest is generally minimal, thus making the contest with security concerns a foreordained victory for security."

In other words, claiming you have "nothing to hide," (so bring on the magnifying-glass!), is similar to the all too common accusation that critics of Israel are "Anti-Semitic." Both default retorts promptly shut down any substantive conversation on the issue.

(Solove, in his article, then offers some potential rebuttals to the "nothing to hide" claim. My personal favorite is, "...So why do you have curtains in your house?" Here's one of my own: "Nothing to hide? Then let me look at your Internet browsing history.")

Obviously whether or not one has anything to hide is not really the point. Kafka's ill-fated protagonist "K" from The Trial thought he had "nothing to hide"--that he was an otherwise law-abiding citizen. That does not stop the police from showing up, without warning, to his house and arresting him without telling him why. Indeed, the nature of K's crime or the charges against him are never revealed.

The truth is, no matter how Americans may respond to the Prism program, we all appreciate a certain degree of privacy, anonymity and seclusion. Even Americans who shrug at the government's intrusion into their phone calls often will paradoxically express concern for lack of privacy in an entirely different setting.

A recent conversation I had with a family friend is a perfect illustration of this sort of inconsistent thinking. She fed me the "nothing to hide/people want to kill us" line about the surveillance program, yet later in the conversation, informed me she never conducts online transactions because she considers the practice "unsafe." Why she believes her personal information is any safer in the hands of government officials than Internet thieves is unclear. She also does not use Facebook due to similiar privacy concerns. Again, she offers no explanation for her disconnect in logic.

The cultural erosion of privacy does not mean we, as citizens, get to pick and choose where, when and in which sorts of settings we may retain some level of privacy. Once we willingly abdicate our privacy in one civic arena, it is only a matter of time before we lose it from all others as well. It is a domino effect. As Benjamin Franklin observed, "Those who would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Furthermore, it is only within the realm of privacy, when we can securely indulge in our private thoughts, opinions, and creative tendencies, that we are truly free to be individuals. Artists, dissidents, rebels and philosophers all know the value of privacy. They understand how difficult it is to maintain a sense of individuality when one is constantly being watched. This is especially true at work and school--institutions where we are under constant surveillance and supervision. These institutions, whether by accident or design, generally do not encourage creative or radical ideas, beliefs or actions. Quite the reverse: They snuff them out.

This is precisely why the totalitarian Party depicted in George Orwell's 1984 utilizes mass surveillance, ubiquitous telescreens and the Thought Police to keep its citizens constantly monitored and in line. It is why Winston Smith must seek out an unlit corner of his room, out of the view of the telescreen, in order to write in his journal--a criminal act in Orwell's dystopia. When Winston is captured and tortured in the ironically named Ministry of Love--"The place where there is no darkness"--O' Brien tells him, "We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back."

Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.
In the end, it is not merely Winston's body that is shattered during his brutal treatment--it is his identity; his very sense of self. Without a sense of identity any sort of rebellion, dissent, or creativity is impossible. And that capacity to resist is precisely what we all risk losing if we passively allow the surveillance state to continue.

You may believe you have nothing to hide. But you have everything to lose.

June 16, 2013

Let the Turkish Government know what you think

Here's a list of Turkish Government Officials here in the USA:

http://vasington.be.mfa.gov.tr/ContactInfo.aspx COMMENTS: http://vasington.be.mfa.gov.tr/Comments.aspx
Nam k Tan, Ambassador
Ambassador's Message
Ambassador's Biography

Address: 2525 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008

Telephone: +1 202 612 67 00 +1 202 612 67 01

Fax: +1 202 612 67 44

E-mail: embassy.washingtondc@mfa.gov.tr

[] Facebook Profile http://www.facebook.com/turkishembassy

[] Twitter Address http://www.twitter.com/turki

Working Hours: Monday - Friday 09:00 -18:00

Office of the Press Counsellor

Phone (202) 612.6807

Fax (202) 319.1087

E-mail trpressoffice@verizon.net

Turkish Consulates

* Honorary Consulate General of Turkey in Georgia / Atlanta

Phone +1 (404) 848-9600

Fax +1 404 848 9600

E-mail mdiamond@honturkishconsulga.org

Address Chairperson, The American Turkish Friendship Council 1266 West Paces Ferry Rd. NW Suite 257 Atlanta, GA 30327

Honorary Consulate General of Turkey in Baltimore

Phone +1 (410) 889-0697

Fax +1 (410) 889-0697

E-mail czkiratli@bcpl.net

Address 313 Wendover Road, Baltimore, MD 21218

Turkish Consulate in Boston

Phone +1 857 250 47 00

Fax +1 857 250 4748

E-mail consulate.boston@mfa.gov.tr

Address 31 Saint James Avenue,Suite #840, Boston, MA 02116

Honorary Consulate General of Turkey in Detroit

Phone +1 (248) 701-1050

Fax +1 (248) 626-8279

E-mail nurten@turkishconsulategeneral.us

Address P.O. Box 986, Farmington, MI 48332-0986

Honorary Consulate General of Turkey in Flowood, MS

Phone +1 (601) 936-3666 x128

Fax +1 (601) 939-5685

E-mail ejones@mmiemail.com

Address 1000 Red Fern Place, Flowood, MS 39232

Turkish Consulate in Houston


+1 713-622 58 49

+1 713-622 03 24

+1 713-622 32 05

+1 713-622 32 76

Fax +1 713-623 66 39

E-mail consulate.houston@mfa.gov.tr

Address 1990 Post Oak Boulevard, Suite 1300, Houston, Texas 77056-3813 U.S.A

Honorary Consulate General of Turkey in Kansas

Phone +1 (816) 415-8325

Fax +1 (816) 415-8325

E-mail emruert@kc.rr.com

Address 812 N. Woodridge Lane, Liberty. MO 64068

Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles


+1 (323) 655-8832

+1 (323) 655-8039

+1 (323) 655-8056

+1 (323) 655-8329

Fax +1 (323) 655-8681

E-mail consulate.losangeles@mfa.gov.tr

Address 6300 Wilshire Blvd.,Suite 2010, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Turkish Consulate in New York

Phone +1 (646) 430-6560 / +1 (646) 430-6590 (Konsolosluk Ça r Merkezine 1-888-566-76-56 numaral telefondan 7 gün 24 saat ula labilmektedir) Acil Sa l k konular için: Prof.Dr.Adnan Çinal E-mail:acinal@gmail.com

Fax +1 (212) 983-1293

E-mail consulate.newyork@mfa.gov.tr

Address 825 3rd Avenue, 28th Floor, New York, NY 10022

Honorary Consulate General of Turkey in San Francisco

Phone +1 (707) 939-1437

Fax +1 (707) 939-1433

E-mail bonnie@kaslan.com

Address 1281 Oak Creek Drive, Suite A, Sonoma, CA 95476

Honorary Consulate General of Turkey in Seattle

Phone +1 (206) 662-8234

Fax +1 (425) 739-6722

E-mail john.gokcen@boeing.com

Address 12328 NE 97th Street, Kirkland, WA 98033

Turkish Consulate in Chicago

Phone +1 312 263 06 44 +1 312 263 12 95

Fax +1 312 263 14 49

E-mail consulate.chicago@mfa.gov.tr

Address 455 N. Cityfront Plaza Dr., (NBC Tower), Suite:2900, Chicago, IL 60611 - USA

Max Keiser Report: Up the Creek + Lee Camp

Juice News #19 - Whistleblower

This is so badass.

June 15, 2013

Josh Fox on RealTime with Bill Mahr: Gasland II

"The first film was about people lighting their water on fire.
The second film is about the oil and coal industry lighting out democracy on fire."

#OccupyGezi brought back our rusted hope...

...and our subsided dreams."

June 13, 2013

Over 30,000 Sign Thank-You Note to Edward Snowden

By David Swanson

Already over 30,000 people have signed a thank-you note to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden at SupportEdwardSnowden.org-- a website set up by RootsAction.org.
The note reads: "We thank Edward Snowden for his principled and courageous actions as a whistleblower, informing the public about vast surveillance by the National Security Agency that undermines our civil liberties."
A few of the thousands of comments added read as follows:
"Your courage and integrity give hope to a hardened cynic. I will do what I can to raise awareness and campaign for change, and for your personal safety and liberty. Thank you."
"If only we had more people with your courage and convictions. You have helped restore my faith in humanity."
"What you've done will inspire kindred spirits around the world to take moral action despite the risks."
"Your character and courage are inspirational.  I only hope that if put in the same position I would do the right thing, as you have.  Thank you for your lesson in being a human."
"'In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.' --George Orwell.  Thank you."
"Thank you for your courageous actions in the defence of democracy, liberty and justice. You have demonstrated the highest form of loyalty and for that you have my respect and admiration. Good luck."
"They are trying to make a criminal out of the person who exposed the crime!"
"Just think how this world would be if everyone did the right thing!  Thank you Edward."
"Your courage is so rare -- thank you for this brave action to defend the 4th amendment.  Wishing you well."
"Thanks for calling attention to the Police State that we have become."
"Thank you, Edward.  We can no longer say, as did people in Nazi Germany, that they didn't know what was going on."
"Thank you for stepping up for freedom. I am proud to join with the people of the world in applauding your conscience."
"Thank you for your honesty, incredible sacrifice, and clarity. We will not allow the government or the media call this anything less than a courageous move and wake up call to resuscitate Democracy."
"I can't thank you enough for this act of  courage and personal sacrifice.  You give me hope that the forces of oppression can eventually be overcome."
"Your bravery and your actions are more than commendable. I stand with you. Keep your spirit up in the challenges ahead. Thank you for standing up for Democracy and your fellow citizens. Well done. You are a true hero."
"Bravery for principle is very contagious, thank you!"
"Thank You Edward. 'The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.' - -Albert Einstein"
"You and Bradley Manning are my heroes. I am proud of you."
"Thank you for stepping forward and putting your life at risk to save our precious liberties.  Thank you for believing in the bill of rights.  Thank you for doing what is right even when our government prohibits it.  Thank you for your efforts to stop the decline into the novel '1984'."
"Finally someone with guts."
"Bravo, Edward! You are an inspiration to all freedom-loving people!"
"Thank you for your courageous actions. I hope this will be contagious and result in many more stepping out to join you in exposing the terrible state of freedom here."
"Thank you for letting me know just how far towards fascism my supposedly democratic country has slid, all in the name of 'keeping me safe'. I salute your courage."
"Thank you Edward. We're with you all the way."
The note will be delivered to Snowden with all signatures and comments that anyone adds at SupportEdwardSnowden.org


David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works forhttp://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

NSA Whistleblowing a Strong Tradition

By David Swanson

On July 1, 2007, David Swanson posted the following report on a then-new NSA whistleblower, a story later repeatedly "broken" by ABC News,Democracy Now!James Bamford, and others.  Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and NSA whistleblowers whose names we've learned are part of a rich and, I hope, growing tradition:

New NSA Whistleblower Speaks

By davidswanson - Posted on 01 July 2007
By David Swanson
A former member of U.S. military intelligence has decided to reveal what she knows about warrantless spying on Americans and about the fixing of intelligence in the leadup to the invasion of Iraq.
Adrienne Kinne describes an incident just prior to the invasion of Iraq in which a fax came into her office at Fort Gordon in Georgia that purported to provide information on the location of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The fax came from the Iraqi National Congress, a group opposed to Saddam Hussein and favoring an invasion. The fax contained types of information that required that it be translated and transmitted to President Bush within 15 minutes. But Kinne had been eavesdropping on two nongovernmental aid workers driving in Iraq who were panicked and trying to find safety before the bombs dropped. She focused on trying to protect them, and was reprimanded for the delay in translating the fax. She then challenged her officer in charge, Warrant Officer John Berry, on the credibility of the fax, and he told her that it was not her place or his to challenge such things. None of the other 20 or so people in the unit questioned anything, Kinne said.
Kinne dates this incident to the period just before the official invasion of Iraq or possibly just after. She says that because the US engaged in so much bombing prior to the official invasion, she cannot recall for sure.
Prior to September 11, 2001, Kinne says, it was unacceptable to listen in on or collect information on Americans. The practice was barred by United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18. Kinne recalls an incident in 1997 in which an American's name was mentioned, and she and her colleagues deleted every related record because they took very seriously the ban on collecting information on Americans. Kinne was serving from 1994-1998 on active duty as an Arabic linguist for military intelligence at Fort Gordon in Georgia, sending reports to and collaborating with the NSA. She served at the same station after 9-11 when she was activated as a reservist.
Kinne says that post-9-11 she and others routinely collected information on people even after identifying them as aid workers for non-governmental organizations. A common rationale was that the phones of such organizations could conceivably be seized by terrorists. She recalled one case in which she was listening to an American talk to his British colleague in an international aid organization. The Brit expressed concern about the American military eavesdropping, and the American replied that they couldn't possibly be doing that because of USSID 18. Kinne recalls that her colleagues got quite excited and behaved as if the American had divulged secrets by mentioning that directive. They continued eavesdropping on the man although they were unclear at that point whether they were permitted to spy on Americans.
Shortly after this incident, however, in mid-2002, they were given a waiver to spy on Americans. This waiver was communicated to Kinne and her colleagues orally, and she assumed that it had come from the President or someone very high up. The waiver, she says, also permitted spying on Canadian, French, German, Australian, and British citizens without probable cause.
Many of the people, including Americans, whom Kinne spied on were journalists. These included journalists staying at a hotel in Baghdad that later showed up on a list of targets. Again, Kinne says, she expressed concerns to her officer in charge, letting him know that the military should be informed or the journalists should be warned to move to another location. Kinne says Berry brushed her off. He was, she says, "completely behind the invasion of Iraq. He told us repeatedly that we needed to bomb those barbarians back to kingdom come."
Berry was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer. Kinne left, went back to school, and took a job at the Veterans Administration helping some of the victims of the fixing of intelligence that she had witnessed. And early this year she joined a tour of Vermont with activists Cindy Sheehan, John Nichols, Dan DeWalt, and veterans of the war, a tour promoting the passage of impeachment resolutions in Vermont towns, a tour that helped effect the passage of those resolutions in over 40 towns up and down the state. Kinne found the experience "life-changing", and she's now decided to tell everything she knows, and to encourage others still in the government to speak out and release documentation.
"I wish that I had said something back then, but I don't think people would have listened," Kinne said.
Kinne, who now works for the VA at White River Junction, Vermont, said that she has written to Senator Patrick Leahy, who has not replied to her. Kinne has become active in Iraq Veterans Against the War. She said that the news of the current escalation of the war also helped move her to act. "That's the only reason why I am choosing to break whatever rules I may have just broken by telling you about it," Kinne said. "Because I think that this all needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. And the only way it's going to stop is if people start speaking out."

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works forhttp://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.  

Stealing Maine: Capitalism, Public Space, and the Environment

Tuesday, June 18th, 6pm
The Meg Perry Center
644 Congress Street, Portland
Free and Open to the Public

     Across the world, and most recently in the ferocious battle erupting over Taksim Square in Turkey, people are fighting back against corporate theft of public land and natural resources. And here in Maine we are witnessing the same struggle to preserve public space--from the fight to save Congress Square, to artists struggling to maintain their right to sell artwork on public sidewalks--and to stop the raiding and degradation of the environment--from the towns trying to prevent Nestle from bottling and selling Maine's water resources, to activists trying to stop the Tar Sands pipeline. These struggles have been some of the most important and galvanizing in the state. In this panel we will hear from activists involved in these struggles, and discuss the links between the economics of capitalism and these issues. 

Abbeth Russell, Protecting Portland's Creative Community
Nickie Sekera, Community Water Justice in Fryeburg
Owen Thomas, International Socialist Organization
Asher Platts, Chair of the Maine Green Party
Hollie Seeliger, Portland Green Party, and Portland School Board member

Sponsored by the Southern Maine Anti-Capitalist Network

How broke do we have to be to cut military budget?

Source: www.robcouteau.com 
by Lisa Savage and Janet Weil

The omnibus military spending bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)  rolled out of the House Armed Services Committee pulling a trailer load of amendments and barreling down an increasingly potholed road. In the same week as news broke of massive school closings in Chicago and Philadelphia for lack of funding, only two members of the committee, California representatives Jackie Speier and John Garamendi, had the presence of mind to vote “no” on $637.5 billion more for drones, nukes, and missile “defense” in FY2014. 

The NDAA will now make its way through a House of Representatives packed with liberals and conservatives who take massive campaign contributions from military contracting firms. Democrats will take their lead from President Obama, who proposed the $1.15 trillion annual budget that includes a whopping 56.5% military share of the discretionary spending pie.

Source: NationalPriorities.org
Despite the crisis of sequestration and claims that the U.S. is too broke to adequately fund food stamps, Head Start, or "Meals-on-wheels" for the elderly, the NDAA contains $85.8 billion for the war in Afghanistan plus another $7.7 billion for the Afghan Security Forces. These funding levels are $52.2 billion over what sequestration would supposedly require -- an additional $1 billion a week.

The House Armed Services Committee also passed a "Sense of Congress" endorsement of a continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 as well as ongoing funding for the Afghan Security forces. Thus the U.S. “withdraws” from Afghanistan.

Why does Congress keep voting for military spending when the U.S. is supposedly so broke?

Here’s how it works in one state: Maine. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle applauded the Navy's contract to General Dynamics / Bath Iron Works to build four of nine new destroyer ships that will cost taxpayers $6 billion. Jobs are scarce, and military contracting is ever presented as a viable jobs program. Republican Senator Susan Collins celebrated the destroyer ship contract, too, and also says she wants Maine to host a missile "defense" base because of the jobs it would generate. Meanwhile Maine's Attorney General, Democrat Janet Mills, supports building a drone testing site because drones are “an economic driver.” Military spending is a bi-partisan affair.

It is almost as if they have never seen the landmark study by economists at the University of Massachusetts, “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending,” demonstrating that investing in any other sector produces more jobs than investing in building weapon systems. Funding education, manufacturing energy efficient home components  or light rail systems – even just giving taxpayers a rebate in cash to spend – generates up to twice as many full-time, full-benefit jobs as building weapons does. It is almost as if members of Congress have stopped listening to the people, who consistently prioritize spending on education and health care, and fixing roads and bridges, over spending on weapons and wars.

In every state in the union the people suffer from high unemployment, budget cuts to essential services, and representatives who keep the pork barrels rolling by voting yes on NDAA each year. As military spending has continued to gobble up more than half the federal spending pie every year of the Obama administration, economic conditions have continued to deteriorate for the majority of people in the U.S.

source: CNN "Report: 1 in 50 children face homelessness"
According to the U.S Census, 13 percent of people in the U.S. now live in poverty. Children fare even worse: 1 in 6 live below the federal poverty line. Not just inner cities but also suburbs now sow extreme income inequality. People of color are suffering disproportionately from food insecurity and foreclosures. Job growth following the financial crisis of 2008 occurred almost entirely in sectors where workers do not make a living wage, and economic migration to the U.S. has slowed. Entire generations are struggling with historically high levels of debt for education. 

How broke do we have to be before Congress really reduces military spending? It's past time to bring our war dollars home and put them to work meeting people's needs. 

Austerity is no basis for true security.

Co-author Janet Weil is a CODEPINKer and retired adult education teacher who lives in California and tweets from @wardollarshome.

June 12, 2013

Matt Taibbi, journalist for Rolling Stone, spoke at the 2nd Annual Conference for Public Banking in San Rafael, CA on June 2, 2013.

June 11, 2013

Birgitta Jónsdóttir speaking at the Public Banking Institute convention

Activist and Icelandic Parliament member Birgitta Jónsdóttir speaking at the Public Banking Conference in San Rafael, CA on June 2, 2013

June 10, 2013

Bradley Manning: Where is the Outrage?

By Adam Marletta
Pfc. Bradley Manning's trial began in Fort Meade, MD last week. But, outside of Democracy Now! and the progressive blogosphere, citizens are unlikely to hear or read anything about it. The little coverage the corporate media has granted Manning's trial has been far too brief to offer audiences any substantive understanding of his "crime."

Here's how CBS Evening News' Scott Pelley addressed the first day of the alleged WikiLeaks source's court-martial trial (6/03/13):

"U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning went on trial today in a military court for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks. Manning has admitted that he did it and pleaded guilty to some charges, but the military is trying him on more serious charges, which include aiding the enemy. He could face life in prison."

That three sentence summary was the entire report. As FAIR's (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) Peter Hart pointed out, the report was "shorter than Pelley's interview with former Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and about the same length as a report on a solar-powered plane" ("Bradley Manning on TV Network News," FAIR Blog, 06/04/2013). Other networks have presented similarly skimpy coverage--if they offer any at all.

And yet the response from liberals over Manning's plight has been a collective shrug. The 25-year-old Manning, who valiantly stood up to the U.S. Imperial Project, could spend the rest of his life in prison for his act of defiance and progressives do not seem to really care. How can this be...?

First, let's review what we know.

Manning has been held for three years now without trial in conditions that many legal experts have called torture. The military-trial that began last week appears, by all accounts, to resemble a closed-door, Kangaroo Court-style tribunal rather than any sort of a fair, unbiased hearing where Manning is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution is arguing Manning's leaking of thousands of troves of classified military cables (the largest leak in U.S. history) directly aided "the enemy," or al-Qaeda.

There is, to be clear, not one shred of evidence Manning's leak harmed or endangered anybody. As Norman Solomon points out in a recent Op-Ed ("Bradley Manning is Guilty of 'Aiding the Enemy'--if the Enemy is Democracy," Common Dreams, 6/05/2013):
"...the Pentagon has admitted that none [no soldiers] died as a result of Manning's leaks in 2010. But many of his fellow soldiers lost their limbs or their lives in U.S. warfare made possible by the kind of lies that the U.S. government is now prosecuting Bradley Manning for exposing."
Yet where is the groundswell of support to free Manning? Among liberals it is virtually absent. In fact, many progressives have been downright hostile toward Manning, as well as Julian Assange.

Alyssa Rosenberg of the liberal Center for American Progress, in a particularly juvenile blog post that comprises all of two paragraphs, dismisses Manning as someone with "pretty serious emotional problems," who "turned out not to be a particularly effective whistleblower" ("Bradley Manning and the Drama of Instant Messaging," 01/02/2012). She then adds there "will almost certainly be a live-action movie about WikiLeaks and Manning's relationship with the organization..."

Seriously, how old is Rosenberg? Fifteen? The aforementioned CBS News report had more substance than this drivel--and it was shorter.

It is no accident that Rosenberg makes no reference to the content of the military cables, not to mention the monstrous atrocities they depict U.S. military personnel engaging in. This is part of the pattern to discredit Manning: Shoot the messenger; ignore the message. Or as Chris Hedges explains in a recent piece for Truthdig, when it comes to Assange and Bradley Manning, "The personal sin is excoriated" ("'We Steal Secrets': State Agitprop," 06/02/2013).

The vast structural sin Assange and Manning fought is ignored. The primacy of personal piety over justice is the inversion of morality. It is the sickness of our age. David Petraeus is hounded out of the CIA not because he oversaw death squads that killed thousands of innocents in Iraq or because the CIA tortures detainees, but because he had an extramarital affair. The power elite can draw up kill lists, torture people, wage endless war and carry out massive fiscal fraud on Wall Street as long as they don't get caught sleeping with their administrative assistants. Assange can lay bare the crimes they commit, but his act of truth-telling is canceled out by alleged sexual misconduct.
This is the case in nearly every news article one reads about Manning. Reporters inevitably focus on Manning's alleged sexual frustration. (Manning is gay, a fact that has been widely used by his detractors to discredit him.) It is the equivalent of making a statement--as my conservative aunt frequently does--like, "I don't like Michael Moore because he is fat." Moore is indeed overweight, but what this physical characteristic has to do with the content of his films is difficult to ascertain. But it makes for a convenient method of easily dismissing an individual whom one disagrees with ideologically without actually engaging in any sort of philosophical counterargument.

The LGBT community has, likewise, abandoned Bradley Manning. One would think Manning's plight would offer the LGBT community an ideal cause to rally behind. Instead, the various gay-rights advocacy organizations remain exclusively, almost at times obsessively, focused on same-sex marriage. (Gay marriage is no doubt a worthy civil rights imperative and one that I, for the record, wholeheartedly support. I have in recent years however, become increasingly concerned marriage--an inherently conservative institution, mind you--has become the be-all-end-all raison d'etre for the entire gay-rights movement.)

Gay rights advocate, Andy Thayer, agrees. In an essay for Counterpunch.org ("Bradley Manning and the Appalling Silence of Gay, Inc.," Feb. 22-24, 2013), Thayer blames the various LGBT NGOs' ties to the Democratic Party for their inaction on Manning. "It's political cowardice," Thayer writes of "Gay Inc's" passive acceptance of Manning's plight. "A failure to take on 'difficult' political subjects, particularly when doing so might bite the (Democratic Party) hands that feed them."

He continues:

At the end of the day, Gay Inc. sees its source of jobs in Democratic administrations, its executive directorships with six-figure salaries, its charity balls and other celebrity-driven hoopla as more important than gay rights. And when individual LGBTs like Bradley Manning through their own courage expose the human rights fakery of Democratic politicians, they can twist in the wind.
I contacted Equality Maine's Portland office for comment on this article, but the group did not get back to me. Their silence, and the silence of the rest of the LGBT progressive community, speaks volumes.

Yet, I think what really accounts for this betrayal is, at the end of the day, Manning and WikiLeaks are both too radical for contemporary, mainstream liberals. Manning did not merely expose war crimes--he exposed President Obama's war crimes. And the "anti-war" liberal community--which so desperately wants to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that Obama is some sort of champion of peace--is unwilling to challenge those war crimes. Indeed, given that close to 80 percent of liberals support the use of predator drones and 53-67 percent of democrats prefer to keep Guantanamo Bay Prison open, it seems many liberals support the president's policies.

As Salon writer, Charles Davis pointed out in a piece from last year ("The Liberal Betrayal of Bradley Manning," 04/10/2012), what Manning did was "fundamentally radical, not reformist."

He didn't settle for working within a system specifically designed to thwart the exposure of wrongdoing, through a chain of command that callously ignores concern for non-American life. Having access to evidence of grotesque crimes no one around him seemed to care about, he engaged in direct action, exposing them for the benefit of the world and those paying for them, the U.S. taxpayer.
As a result, Manning and Assange are left abandoned as sacrificial lambs, while the real criminals--the Wall Street speculators, the weapons manufacturers, the perverted military industrial complex, and the warmongering politicians--walk around free and unassailable.

NSA Whistleblower Ed Snowden; In His Own Words

via Upworthy

DISCLOSURE: I don't own a tin-foil hat. I even give our government the benefit of the doubt when it comes to incompetence. I presume that when someone screws up, it's not usually an evil secret conspiracy, but rather some clown in an office thinking he'll get to move up the ladder if he does something that shows incredibly poor judgment and character. However, reporter Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian published a disturbing and eye-opening interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden telling us things so beyond the pale that there is no excuse. 
It's bone-chilling. Watch it. Then share it. This needs to reach every person in this country to make sure it's dismantled as soon as humanly possible. Before Edward is.

June 8, 2013

Somebody jumped in front of a train today at City Hall Station.

Equally tragic, according to a business suit guy, was that his socks were wet and now that somebody jumped in front of a train, he had to walk in the rain again.

by Asher Platts

Why do people commit suicide? According to Psychology Today the number one reason is depression. Financial troubles, and unemployment are just a few of the leading causes of depression and sucide.

Why am I hung up on this?

Leaving Left Forum's Plenary Session at Pace University, I was going to take the 4/5/6 to the lower east village to try to catch the end of a comedy show. I was playing phone tag trying to get the address for the venue, and then decide whether it was worth it to go out there,or to meet up at another party out in Brooklyn, and then suddenly, City Hall station was filled with firefighters and EMTs. At first, I didn't know if one of the trains had caught fire, but as soon as a firefighter came down with a single backboard, I knew what had happened-- somebody fell in front of a train and was hit.

I can't find anything about the incident on twitter or in the news yet, so I don't know if they survived or not.

Having just left the Plenary Session where Jill Stein, Christian Parenti, and Immanuel Wallerstein talked about Capitalism, Eco-Socialism, and so on, this talk was creating a prism I viewed these events immediately afterwards through.

It soon became apparent that the trains weren't going anywhere, and I left to find another station and hop the A train to Brooklyn. As I was walking around City Hall, a middle-aged man in a business suit complained to me, "I can't beleive this. I'm walking all day in this rain, and some asshole jumps in front of a train, and now I've got to walk in this fucking rain again. I'm taking a cab."

And that's how I found out that the fall in front of the train was not accidental.

This man wasn't concerned with the fact that a person just tried to kill themselves, wasn't concerned why, didn't care what sort of financial, personal, or other troubles had led them to jump in front of a train.

Jill Stein and Christian Parenti both talked about the way that economics and environmentalism are inextricably linked. That our ecological system, and our economic system are continually shaping one another.

It occurred to me standing in the deluge of rain outside the entrance to City Hall station, that our economic system and other seemingly untouchable aspects of humanity are also engaged in a process of shaping one another. Philosophers, artists, musicians, all can espouse ideas that shape the way people act, and thusly effect our economy; the relationship also goes the other way, and capitalism reaches it's dark claws through the mirror and shapes our values, our ethics, and empathy in its own sociopathic image. So much of what makes Capitalism possible is that our success within it often depends on us unlearning empathy, to avoid acting on our immediate instinct to help others. To unlearn compassion.

We are okay with driving cars that burn gas which requires that indiginous people get cancer via Tar Sand extraction releasing toxics into the water table. We are okay with African children getting their arms cut off with machetes when they refused to work as slaves in rare earth mineral mines, or when Chinese workers are paid part of their paycheck in rice, or made to work 100 hours of overtime per month so that we can have computers and cell phones. We either don't know, or we do know, but we teach ourselves to not care. And if we sell Cell Phones or Computers for a living, if we work for an engineering firm that is consulting with Exxon to build tar sands pipelines, we especially don't care.

It was apparent that this man had long unlearned the skills of empathy and compassion. Despite the fact that somebody who is a sister or a brother, a son or a daughter, may have just lost their life, this man was concerned only about his socks getting wet.

And why did this person decide to end their life? Was it financial trouble? Unemployment? Homelessness? I imagine that this business man works in the nearby financial district. Was he somehow responsible for the woes of this anonymous suicide? Capitalism creates the sort of world where businessmen who profit by causing financial trouble, unemployment, and homelessness for others, and when confronted with the consequences of their actions, care only about their wet socks.

I didn't mind the rain pouring down in NYC tonight, but tonight's events, left me feeling downright gloomy.

June 3, 2013

Why I Won't Donate to Greenpeace


By Adam Marletta

While walking down Congress Street a few days ago, I was solicited by a Greenpeace volunteer. They were in Portland signing up new members and seeking donations. I chatted with the young woman for a few minutes, but declined to make a donation as, quite frankly, I have been rather short of funds lately.

But, truth be told, I likely would not have contributed anything even if I had the money to do so. The thing is... I kind of hate Greenpeace—and the Sierra Club, and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), and Environment Maine along with most of the other prominent environmental groups.

Obviously, I wholeheartedly support these groups’ mission of environmental protection. But, like so many “progressive” nonprofits (MoveOn, The Center for American Progress, 350.org, Equality Maine, to name a few), most of the major environmental organizations have become little more than front-groups for the Democratic Party.
Additionally, some of the primary funders of these organizations call their commitment to green energy solutions into question. The “Big Enviros,” like corporate grant-dependent, NPR (“This edition of Living on Earth is brought to you by a generous grant from the Chevron Corporation!”), have essentially allowed themselves to be co-opted by Big Business and the fossil fuel industries.

(Before going further, a bit of clarification is in order. Greenpeace and the Green Party are two entirely separate and highly disparate organizations. I point this out because people constantly confuse the two.)

For starters, all of the major environmental orgs endorsed Barack Obama for re-election last fall. In fact, many of them did so as early as April 2012.

Contrary to N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s claims, Obama is hardly the environmental champion the media often make him out to be. Indeed, Obama’s environmental record has been abysmal. He has taken no action on climate change. The only feasible climate change legislation Congress seems capable of passing is a dreaded, watered-down cap-and-trade bill which essentially lets the “free-market” decide how much CO2 corporations are permitted to pump into the atmosphere.

Obama continues to tout an “all of the above” energy approach which, as of this year’s State of the Union Address, still includes something called “clean coal.” Such a thing does not exist. And while environmentalists may have won a temporary victory in managing to stall the authorization of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Counterpunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair says the pipeline’s construction is “already a fait accompli” (“The Silent Death of the American Left,” 5/24-26/2013).

And need I remind readers that shortly after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in Japan, the president called for more nuclear power plants here in the U.S.?

I think simple partisanship is what this is really about. Back in January, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein was prohibited from speaking during a massive--allegedly “non-partisan”-- anti-tar sands rally in Portland. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Mayor Michael Brennan—both Democrats—spoke at length, however. (Pingree, incidentally, flew in on a helicopter, gave her scripted speech, then was promptly spirited away. Stein, on the other hand, actually took part in the march and received no such VIP treatment. Kinda demonstrates which party is really serious about climate change and which is just looking to score political points.)

Simply put, it is completely hypocritical for the Big Enviros to claim they care about global warming, fracking, tar sands, renewable energy and the like, and then vote for a corporate, Wall Street-funded Democrat who spent his first year in office pushing for an obscenely destructive pipeline to transport some of the dirtiest, most corrosive unrefined oil on the planet across half the country.

Then there is the curious issue of who is funding these environmental groups.

Turns out the Sierra Club has, up until recently, received an estimated $25 million from the natural gas industry. The news broke last year that from 2007-2010 Sierra Club executive director, Michael Brune, clandestinely accepted the money from Chesapeake Energy, a major supporter of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

The revelation led to a number of progressives publicly withdrawing their support of the organization, most notably author and environmental activist, Sandra Steingraber. In an open letter published in Orion Magazine (“Breaking Up with the Sierra Club,” 03/26/2012), Steingraber informed the Sierra Club, “I’m through with you.” She announced she was relinquishing her title of “the new Rachel Carson,” bestowed on her by Sierra, and erased the Club’s jacket-endorsement that had adorned her 1997 book, Living Downstream.

Steingraber defended her disassociation with the group as such:

The Sierra Club had taken money, gobs of it, from an industry that we in the grassroots have been in the fight of our lives to oppose. The largest, most venerable environmental organization in the United States secretly aligned with the very company that seeks to occupy our land, turn it inside out, blow it apart, fill it with poison. All for the goal of extracting a powerful heat-trapping gas, methane, that plays a significant role in climate change.

She added, “It was as if, on the eve of D-Day, the anti-Fascist partisans had discovered that Churchill was actually in cahoots with the Axis forces.”

Harsh words, to be certain.

Again, I support the Enviros’ overall goals of environmental advocacy. Unfortunately, the myopic, partisan viewpoints of their managing boards as well as their members have rendered them virtually impotent. Why bother getting arrested with Bill McKibben and friends outside the White House lawn, when you are ultimately going to support its occupant come Election Day—regardless of any action he does or does not take? At what point do these “designer protests” as St. Clair calls them, become little more than empty publicity stunts?

When it comes to global warming, we can no longer afford to waste time on such symbolic measures. The environmental movement needs to get real serious, real fast. Anyone who doubts me need only scan the front-page headline of a recent issue of The Nation: “It’s Not Warming,” it says underneath a picture of earth, “It’s Dying.”

Last November, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson were the only candidates running on any serious environmental platform. Any self-described environmentalist who could not bring himself to vote for either of them may as well just pack it up and prepare for the environmental Apocalypse.

So, please stop asking me for money, Greenpeace and Friends. What little I have will go exclusively to the Green Party where it can actually do some good.