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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
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German parliament cuts ties with Verizon in wake of spying scandal


German parliament cuts ties with Verizon in wake of spying scandal
By Reuters
Friday, June 27, 2014 14:42 EDT

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s lower house of parliament has joined the government in cutting ties with U.S. telecoms firm Verizon Communications Inc , in reaction to a scandal last year over U.S. government spying and allegations firms were handing over data.


The Bundestag lower house of parliament plans to end its contract with Verizon “as soon as possible,” a government spokesperson told reporters on Friday. It had been due to run until the end of the year.

A day earlier the German Interior Ministry said the federal government would not renew its contract with the firm. The government needed a very high level of security, it said, and the NSA row had revealed ties between foreign intelligence agencies and companies.

Revelations of U.S. spying have prompted Germany to overhaul its internal communications and secure government networks. The decision to cut ties with Verizon are the first actions as a result. The government does not use U.S. firms for any other IT services, a spokesman said.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Jun 28, 2014, 06:05 AM (1 replies)

Editorial: Japan must step up on TPP or be eased out


Barack Obama meets with John Key.

Editorial: Japan must step up on TPP or be eased out
5:00 AM Wednesday Jun 25, 2014

In large measure, John Key achieved the main objective of his visit to the White House. President Barack Obama recommitted the United States to the Trans Pacific Partnership as a comprehensive deal incorporating the elimination of all tariffs and imposed a November deadline. This signified that New Zealand's notion of a gold-standard deal still holds sway. The deadline, for its part, while far from the first, indicated the Americans were not content for the negotiations to drift. However, neither part of the President's statement addressed the steps that must be taken to reinvigorate proceedings. Therein lies the answer to what becomes of the TPP.

Allowing Japan to enter the negotiations appears increasingly to have been a mistake. While its economic clout would add much, its long history of protectionism runs counter to the ambitions enunciated by New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and Chile three years ago when they began what evolved into the TPP talks. Whatever the lip-service paid by Japan to the ideal of free trade, there was always the likelihood that bad habits would resurface in the nitty-gritty of negotiations.

As much became evident in April when it signed a low-grade free trade pact with Australia. Rather than the reduction of all tariffs to zero within 10 years, as espoused by the TPP's initiators, there was, for example, a cut in the tariff in fresh beef to 23.5 per cent after 15 years. Australia might have been happy with what it considered a foot in the door, but the implications for the TPP were alarming. The pact showed the Japanese that at least one of the other prospective TPP signatories was willing to condone its protectionist instinct. That, in turn, made it easier for it to resist the higher ambitions of others.

President Obama discovered as much on a visit to Tokyo soon after the signing of the bilateral pact. In no meaningful way was he able to use his country's leverage to break through Japan's reluctance to open market access in what it considers its sacred agricultural sectors - rice, wheat, beef, pork, sugar and dairy products.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 09:11 AM (1 replies)



By Bill Shunas
Spring 2014

In today's USA, what does it mean to be a veteran, and what role do veterans play? Being a veteran of a recent war is in many ways a lot different than back in the Vietnam days. Of course there are similarities with all wars. There are after effects such as limitations on care for vets, limited jobs for vets, and PTSD. However today everyone in the whole US of A knows when it comes to veterans that something special is happening here, and they usually show respect and give a vet some space if not the opportunity needed.

This reception is similar to World War II and before when veterans were shown respect and treated as heroes. However there are some differences between present day vets and World War II. For one, nowadays the GI Bill is much weaker. It is also different in a good way in that recognition of PTSD and traumatic brain injury is common among vets, is a problem and can be helped. WWII vets had to deal with any of these problems by themselves.

Unlike now or WWII, Vietnam vets didn't return to a welcome. The best we could hope for was to be ignored. Maybe this was because we were fighting against a concept (anti-communism) rather than against an enemy which was taking territory from other countries and sending civilians to death camps. Maybe it was because we lost our war. Or grew our hair long. Or dissed the establishment. Or smoked dope. Or disobeyed.

When I returned from Vietnam, I soon headed for my favorite bar. There I was greeted by old friends and acquaintances I hadn't seen for about a year. Some said they were glad to see me back. Some said they were glad that I served unlike those who went to Canada or pulled strings to get a draft deferment. After about 20 or 30 minutes the talk returned to the NBA playoffs and the beginning of the baseball season. I no longer felt like a returning veteran, nor did I want or expect to feel so. I only wanted to slip back into my life.

Many had different, less welcome experiences. Due to what was experienced in Vietnam many needed emotional as well as material support and didn't get it. Then again, many of you had similar experiences as I. Maybe you started school on the GI Bill and never told anyone you were a vet. Many at school heard other students disparaging vets. You stayed quiet and wondered. Did we have any say in that debacle? (VVAW members on campus and other vets in the peace movement helped change some of the backward sentiment about soldiers/veterans.)

Much has been said about Vietnam vets not being welcomed home. Back in about 1975 the Chicago Chapter of VVAW had a rally to honor Vietnam vets. There wasn't much of a turnout. Vietnam vets just didn't connect to being a veteran in the way that Iraq and Afghanistan vets do today. A few years later Vietnam vets were discovered. Cities started to have welcome home parades, and maybe this kicked off the period of changing attitudes toward vets leading up to the situation today.

Today veterans are chic. Rick Morrissey, sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times began his last year's Veterans Day article by writing, "I can't recall the last time I attended a sporting event without seeing some sort of tribute to military members." Everybody supports us now. Or exploits us.

There used to often be movies or TV programs about a Vietnam vet doing drugs or going off and having a shoot-em-up. More accurate movies like Coming Home or Born on the Fourth of July were less common. Now on the TV series or in the movies the vet is outstanding. The only exception is when he works as a military contractor for Blackwater or some other mercenary outfit. If PTSD causes the hero to do something stupid or tragic — well — that is to be understood, and he'll (most often he) receive TLC from the leading lady.

Vets obviously play political roles. In the collective mind of the civilian population before Vietnam there used to be assumptions that equated being a veteran with being a patriot. This transferred into being a supporter of the military and a supporter of any war started by our government. In the aftermath of Vietnam that had changed or was not talked about as much. That was because half the Vietnam vets (or maybe the more visible) had long hair and questioned war.

When Vietnam vets started getting thanks for our service there was another change. We now fit into the old formula. Vietnam vet equals good. All vets are good. Good vet equals patriot. Patriots support the military. Supporting the military means supporting the current (and next) war. Vets are thanked as having defended our freedom and risking the ultimate sacrifice in order that we civilians may enjoy our way of life because of the wars fought. Unstated is any doubt that the sacrifices have anything to do with the freedoms enjoyed in the homeland.

A large portion of civilians buy into the vet equals patriot idea to the point where speaking out against a war such as the Gulf War in the early nineties meant that you were denigrating heroes. I remember an anti-war demonstration back then. Off to the side were a handful of people waving flags and shouting support for our soldiers. This was apples versus oranges, but the perception was that not supporting the war meant you were somehow against the soldier.

Over time things got better and you could say what you wanted as long as you saluted our soldiers. But it still needs work. Sometimes people who consider themselves to be patriots oppose (a) war but stay quiet because they are afraid that speaking out is unpatriotic. It is sometimes hard to speak out against the loud voices of the self-righteous.

So we have reached the glorious situation where the nation wants to do all it can to support and help recently returned vets. PTSD and TBI are considered to be things that need to be dealt with. Everyone knows that these folks made great sacrifices and are deserving. One problem. We are in a prolonged economic slump. There is less money to do the things that veterans need to be done. So, yes, the nation feels for vets, but the budget doesn't include what's needed. And if things don't get cut, neither do they expand to the extent needed.

One thing that can be done for the future veterans of war is to create fewer of us. The way that's done is to have fewer and shorter wars. In the meantime we are here as a social and political force with social needs. We are not always understood, but we are usually honored. We need to make as the accepted wisdom the slogan "Honor the Warrior, Not the War."
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 09:05 AM (0 replies)

J Randy Forbes: China. There, I said it


Republican J Randy Forbes (R-VA) is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and co-chair of the Congressional China Caucus.

China. There, I said it
By J Randy Forbes
Jun 27, '14

In June 2012 I wrote in the article "China. There, I said it" about an effort to generate a conversation about how the United States was publicly discussing the competitive elements of its relationship with the People's Republic of China (PRC). At the time, I felt like there was an unnecessarily tight muzzle on our civilian and military leadership that prevented the US from having a frank and honest conversation about the subject.

If Congress is going to be asked to marshal the resources to sustain its enduring interests in the Asia-Pacific region - including a balance of military power that favors the US and its allies - I contended that the administration and specifically the Pentagon would only be successful if they were comfortable publicly making the case why these investments were required.

Two years on, I have observed occasional improvements in the discourse. Between President Obama's strong position on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands before his recent trip to Asia, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's forceful speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, or Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel's stern testimony on maritime disputes in the region, the statements and testimony from administration officials and the president himself in the past two years have taken on a new level of seriousness toward China.

However, in military and security terms we still struggle to communicate how the defense budget is being built to manage the security competition with China. For instance, our military's capabilities for anti-surface and anti-air warfare, counter-mine operations, missile defense, long-range strike, and base resiliency are increasingly discussed in public briefings and strategy documents. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to justify these missions as an end in themselves rather than explain why they have taken on a newfound importance. Classified briefings will continue to be used to translate this information to the Congressional defense committees, but if the Pentagon aims to justify its budget to Congress as a whole and avoid further rounds of sequestration cuts, for instance, it will need to move beyond discussing missions and programs to identify the actual risks associated with failing to counter China's emerging military capabilities.


Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 08:16 AM (0 replies)

Fear and loathing at Hotel Babylon


Fear and loathing at Hotel Babylon
By Pepe Escobar
Jun 27, '14

So now a huge Hardcore Sunnistan stretches all the way from the suburbs of Aleppo to Tikrit and from Mosul to the Jordanian/Iraqi border - the same one that dissolved in 2003 when Shock and Awe turned into Mission (Un)Accomplished.

In an eerie echo of Dick Cheney's army's footprints reverberating in the sands of Anbar province, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and their coalition of the willing (jihadis, Islamists, Ba'athists and tribal sheikhs) now pose as the "liberators" of Iraqi Sunnis from the clutches of an "evil" Shi'ite majority government in Baghdad.


From a Sunni perspective, it's down with Iraq's Counter-terrorism law; down with de-Ba'athification (with the ascent of neo-Ba'athist Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia - JRTN, led by former Saddam honcho Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri); down with the Interior Ministry in Baghdad going after Sunni politicians; down with protests being crushed.

At the same time, it's the return of the US-sponsored Sahwa (Sons of Iraq) - who fiercely fought al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007, the mother of ISIS - and the return of assorted Shi'ite militias (Muqtada al-Sadr not only repelled the new wave of US "military advisers" - that's how it started in Vietnam - but also warned that his own badass Men in Black will "shake the ground" fighting ISIS.) The mid-2000s are the new normal; it's gonna be militia hell all over again.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 08:01 AM (0 replies)

FAA insists on Regulating Delivery Drones


FAA insists on Regulating Delivery Drones
By contributors | Jun. 27, 2014
Via Gas2

The FAA doesn’t think much of Jeff Bezos’ idea to deliver packages to Amazon.com customers using drones. Yesterday the agency issued a proposed ruling that defines such deliveries as part of a “business purpose” and not a recreational or hobby activity. Well, d’uh! TechCrunch reports that the agency said in a footnote to its proposed rule:

If an individual offers free shipping in association with a purchase or other offer, FAA would construe the shipping to be in furtherance of a business purpose, and thus, the operation would not fall within the statutory requirement of recreation or hobby purpose.

Amazon, of course, vows to fight the FAA on this. It is already moving forward with its drone delivery plans via a wholly owned subsidiary called Prime Air. The idea is that customers would place an order online, the nearest Amazon warehouse would load the merchandise aboard a Prime Air drone and within minutes it would be winging its way directly to the customer’s front door. Delivery times measured in hours rather than days should be possible if Bezos’ vision ever becomes reality.

Which may be never. The FAA has authorized test facilities in six states – Alaska, Virginia, New York, Texas, Nevada, and North Dakota – to explore how drones can be integrated into civilian air space currently occupied by commercial and private aircraft, police and fire aircraft, emergency medical flights, news and traffic reporters and others. The idea of itty bitty drones like those depicted in the movie Minority Report flitting around in between all those regular aircraft makes some people more than a little queasy. They worry about mid air collisions between conventional aircraft and pint size drones that are difficult to see. As the government gains experience from the test facilities, it plans to put together a nationwide drone policy by 2020.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 07:52 AM (2 replies)

Unconstitutional: Top 4 Ways the US Gov’t has Shredded the 4th Amendment


Unconstitutional: Top 4 Ways the US Gov’t has Shredded the 4th Amendment
By Juan Cole | Jun. 27, 2014
By Peter Van Buren

Here’s a bit of history from another America: the Bill of Rights was designed to protect the people from their government. If the First Amendment’s right to speak out publicly was the people’s wall of security, then the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy was its buttress. It was once thought that the government should neither be able to stop citizens from speaking nor peer into their lives. Think of that as the essence of the Constitutional era that ended when those towers came down on September 11, 2001. Consider how privacy worked before 9/11 and how it works now in Post-Constitutional America.

The Fourth Amendment

A response to British King George’s excessive invasions of privacy in colonial America, the Fourth Amendment pulls no punches: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In Post-Constitutional America, the government might as well have taken scissors to the original copy of the Constitution stored in the National Archives, then crumpled up the Fourth Amendment and tossed it in the garbage can. The NSA revelations of Edward Snowden are, in that sense, not just a shock to the conscience but to the Fourth Amendment itself: our government spies on us. All of us. Without suspicion. Without warrants. Without probable cause. Without restraint. This would qualify as “unreasonable” in our old constitutional world, but no more.

Here, then, are four ways that, in the name of American “security” and according to our government, the Fourth Amendment no longer really applies to our lives.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 07:47 AM (3 replies)

Patrick signs Mass. minimum wage hike: $9/hr on Jan. 1. $11 by 2017


Patrick signs Mass. minimum wage hike: $9/hr on Jan. 1. $11 by 2017

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a law raising the state’s $8 per hour minimum wage to $11 per hour — a high among U.S. states — by 2017.

Patrick told a Statehouse ceremony on Thursday that the new law would provide some relief to low-income workers, while noting it would still not be a “livable wage” for many Massachusetts residents.

The first increase in the minimum wage, to $9 an hour, will take effect on Jan. 1.

Activists had gathered some 350,000 signatures around the state to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot had the law not been passed.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 07:38 AM (4 replies)

Mass. SWAT teams claim they’re private companies and don’t have to tell you anything


Mass. SWAT teams claim they’re private companies and don’t have to tell you anything
By Travis Gettys
Thursday, June 26, 2014 14:56 EDT

After the ACLU sent open records requests as part of its investigative report on police militarization, SWAT teams in Massachusetts claimed they were exempt because they were private corporations.

Some SWAT teams in the state operate as law enforcement councils, or LECs, which are funded by several police departments and overseen by an executive board largely made up of local police chiefs.

Member police departments pay annual membership dues to the LECs, which share technology and oversee crime scene investigators or other specialists.


“Let’s be clear,” wrote Radley Balko for The Washington Post. “These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure, and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.”

Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 06:36 AM (26 replies)

What Orwell might have said about today’s Big Brothers


Who’s watching who?

What Orwell might have said about today’s Big Brothers
25 June 2014, 11.57am BST

So it’s Day 21 in Channel 5’s Big Brother household. It would also have been George Orwell’s 111th birthday. And this month marks 65 years since his landmark novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was first published. With all that in mind, I’m taking a moment to think about what Orwell means to us in 2014.

“Big Brother is watching you” wherever you are in Orwell’s dystopian world. The novel’s anti-hero, Winston Smith, has to huddle in the alcove of his living room to avoid the gaze of the “telescreen” which monitors him and every other citizen day and night. Constant surveillance is the cornerstone of Big Brother’s power. Each resident lives like an inmate of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, caught up, as Michel Foucault would say, in “a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power”.

Since the Big Brother reality TV game show first took the Netherlands by storm in 1999, it seems we’ve become increasingly used to watching inmates ourselves. Back in 2000, when Big Brother first aired in the UK, it attracted some 10 million viewers. Research suggests that watching reality television fulfils some of our basic desires for vicarious experience and self-importance. It offers us a gratifying illusion – one that Orwell would probably warn against buying into if his novels are anything to go by.


Whether it’s capitalism, imperialism or totalitarianism, Orwell’s novels impress upon us that those who refuse to become slaves to the dominant ideology face alienation, defeat, incarceration, even destruction. John Flory of Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days (1934), is a timber merchant in Burma sickened by imperial values. But his attempt to finally bring himself to stand up against his compatriots’ racism in support of his Indian friend only leads to his suicide.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 06:33 AM (0 replies)
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