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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
Number of posts: 60,364

Journal Archives

SPIEGEL Interview with Hillary Clinton: 'Surveillance on Merkel's Phone Was Absolutely Wrong'


In an interview, Hillary Clinton discusses the growing gap between the rich and poor that threatens democracy, Americans' discontent with politics, her regrets over NSA spying on Chancellor Merkel's mobile phone and her potential presidential candidacy.

SPIEGEL Interview with Hillary Clinton: 'Surveillance on Merkel's Phone Was Absolutely Wrong'
Interview Conducted By Marc Hujer and Holger Stark
July 08, 2014 – 11:34 AM


SPIEGEL: American society is polarized as never before. The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote a bestseller "Capital in the Twenty First Century" which is making a lot of noise right now. Have you had the chance to read it?

Clinton: I haven't read it yet. I've read very long essays about it and know what his principal point is. I think he makes a very strong case that we have unbalanced our economy too much towards favoring capital and away from labor. And I agree with his principal concern, which is that we have devalued labor. He talks about Europe, but it is the same thing in the United States.

SPIEGEL: Piketty argues that the growing gap between the rich and the poor is threatening democracy.

Clinton: I do agree with that. We've had this huge experiment known as America that was a diversity of populations, and we have held it together because we had a democracy that slowly over time included everybody. Even during the Great Depression people in the streets believed that they could make it and they would be better off. Now the relative wealth is much higher, but the disparity makes people believe that they're stuck. They no longer believe that things are going to get any better, no matter how hard they work. People have lost trust in each other and the political system and I think that's very threatening to democracy.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jul 8, 2014, 06:36 AM (0 replies)

WORDS OF WAR Peace of mind


WORDS OF WAR Peace of mind
By Corinne Reilly
The Virginian-Pilot
© July 6, 2014

Ron Capps is clearing his throat at the front of a classroom in Williamsburg. It's a Saturday morning.

He begins with questions: Who are you? Why are you here?

A National Guardsman says he drove all the way from Charlottesville because it turns out writing is harder than it looks. The veteran next to him says his thoughts have been especially scattered lately, and maybe it will help to see them on paper. A woman who deployed twice to Iraq explains that this was her therapist's idea.

After he lectures on narrative structure, theme, characters and endings, Capps, who grew up in Virginia Beach, tells his own story: There was Kosovo and Rwanda. Then Afghanistan and Iraq. Then Darfur. It was there, eight years ago, sitting alone in a pickup in the desert, that he nearly shot himself in the head. He'd made the decision. The pistol was in his hand. And then his wife happened to call and interrupt. He was sent back to the United States, where conventional treatment and alcohol weren't enough.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Jul 7, 2014, 09:12 AM (0 replies)

5 Most alarming Developments in Iraq


5 Most alarming Developments in Iraq
By Juan Cole | Jul. 7, 2014

1. Airstrikes killed 7 and wounded 30 in Mosul on Sunday. But it isn’t clear who was flying the planes! The US denies it was Americans, and the spokesman for the Baghdad government said he did not know anything about it. The Syrian and Iranian air forces are other possibilities. It is likely the Iraqi air force, but it is alarming that you have anonymous airstrikes in a country.

2. 2-3 Iranian military men are now reported by hard line Iranian sites to have died fighting to save the Shiite shrine in Samarra from being destroyed by the so-called “Islamic State”, a radical, violent Salafi group. Here is another such report. Iran initially denied it had boots on the ground, but there are growing reports of such (and small special ops Iranian forces previously operated in the same ways in Syria).

3. Hard line Shiite cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr said it would be positive for Iraq if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a contentious figure, steps down. But he said that the new prime minister should be from the Da’wa Party headed by al-Maliki, since it and its small allies won the most seats in parliament under the State of Law rubric. It is not clear that anyone in the Da’wa Party would oppose al-Maliki or who exactly might emerge from the party as PM. Meanwhile, Iran is said to have doubled down on al-Maliki!

4. Although the so-called “Islamic State” has destroyed several Sunni, Sufi and Shiite shrines and places of worship in the past month, probably the most significant is the tomb of medieval saint Ahmad al-Rifa`i (d. 1183 AD). The Rifa`i Sufi order claims him as its founder. Sufis practice meditation and chanting and they seek mystical union with God. There are plenty of Rifa`is in Syria and the order is popular in Egypt, and still has adherents throughout the Muslim world,from Bosnia to Gujarat. IS is not making a good reputation for itself in most of the Sunni world, where there is still respect for mystics like Rifa`i. One of its allies of convenience is the Naqshbandi Sufi order in Mosul, members of which won’t be happy about all this shrine-bashing. This gives you the flavor of how a lot of Sunnis responded:

Absolute filth! ISIS, full of Shayateen! Destroying the grave of one of the greatest Imams, Sayyid Ahmad al-Rifa`i!

— الأمين حسين (@Alzie_93) July 6, 2014
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Jul 7, 2014, 07:48 AM (2 replies)

CIA Employee 'Ruined' for Efforts to Declassify Agency Docs


Case seems to rebuff claims by those who say internal mechanisms exist for would-be whistleblowers like Edward Snowden

CIA Employee 'Ruined' for Efforts to Declassify Agency Docs
- Jon Queally, staff writer
Published on Saturday, July 5, 2014 by Common Dreams

In the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden's decision to leak numerous classified National Security Agency documents, one of the repeated critiques levied by his critics is that the former intelligence contractor should have gone through "propper channels" to voice his concerns about the agency's far-reaching—and what he judged unlawful—surveillance practices.

However, according to new reporting by the Washington Post's Greg Miller, a similarly concerned CIA agent who attempted to get information he thought the public had a right to know discovered just how difficult and perilous efforts to "work within the system" can be.

Miller's report tells the tale of Jeffrey Scudder, a veteran CIA employee, whose career faltered after he made efforts to have long-classified agency materials—"a stack of articles, hundreds of histories of long-dormant conflicts and operations"—released to the public.

As part of his effort, Scudder submitted a completely lawful Freedom of Information Act request, which set off a "harrowing sequence" of events. According to Miller, Scudder "was confronted by supervisors and accused of mishandling classified information while assembling his FOIA request. His house was raided by the FBI and his family’s computers seized." The fifty-one-year ultimately resigned after being threatened that if he did not, he risked losing portions of his pension.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Jul 7, 2014, 06:09 AM (0 replies)

Report: 9 out 10 Caught in NSA Dragnet Are 'Ordinary People'


Washington Post reveals unprecedented look at how 'voyeuristic' spy agency manages private communications it collects

Report: 9 out 10 Caught in NSA Dragnet Are 'Ordinary People'
- Jon Queally, staff writer
Published on Sunday, July 6, 2014 by Common Dreams

New reporting by the Washington Post based on materials leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals an unprecedented view of how the private information of millions of "ordinary people" are caught up in the spy agency's massive surveillance dragnet.

Though the files show how the targeting of one individual may have ultimately led to his capture by U.S. agents, "nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations," according to the Post, "were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else."

The Post's story—written in part by recent Pulitzer Prize-winner Barton Gellman—is striking for several reasons, one of which is that it shows, for the first time, that Snowden was able to access specific kinds of agency surveillance data that government officials have said he could not have accessed. Second, the leaked communications reveal the shocking level at which the private information of people who were not targets and "would not lawfully qualify as such," including untold numbers of Americans, are collected and then retained in searchable databases by the NSA.

The surveillance reports reviewed by the Post contained the "full content of roughly 160,000 individual intercepts" which came from roughly 11,400 unique accounts, including email, social media, real-time voice or video chats, stored documents, instant messages, and other forms of online communication. This graphic created by the Post breaks down the surveillance by the numbers and also shows the kinds of information the agency redacts—or "minimizes"—including the names of prominent people, corporations, IP addresses, specific web services, and others.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Jul 7, 2014, 06:06 AM (0 replies)

Close up, Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism looks a lot like George W Bush’s


Close up, Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism looks a lot like George W Bush’s
By The Conversation
Saturday, July 5, 2014 10:33 EDT
By Luca Trenta, University of Nottingham

With the world focused on ISIS and Iraq, last month US Special Forces carried out a capture operation in Libya against Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected ringleader of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power justified the raid as an action based on America’s “inherent right to self-defence” which was aimed at preventing armed attacks.

Power’s letter relies on a confusing mix of justifications, invoking both a state of “armed conflict” and the need to prevent future attacks. Significantly, the letter suggests that the Obama administration has maintained the notion of “continuing and imminent threat” that has driven the US counter-terrorism effort since Obama’s first term.

This deceptively simple notion implies that, given that the threat is always “imminent” it is up to the decision-maker to decide when and if it is “imminent” enough. So the notion of imminence is transformed from something that has a meaning in terms of timing – when imminent means “immediate” – to something that depends on a decision-maker’s assessment and priorities, that is, a policy option.

Imminence and pre-emption

This transformation did not occur in a vacuum. Back in 2002, in the now-famous National Security Strategy, the Bush administration explicitly called for a redefinition of the temporal parameters of imminence. The shadowy nature of the threat posed by terrorists (and rogue states) required states to act pre-emptively. The strategy has correctly been interpreted as one of the key steps in preparing the ground for the 2003 war against Iraq.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Jul 7, 2014, 06:03 AM (0 replies)

The god that sucked: How the Tea Party right just makes the 1 percent richer


Business won on welfare, taxes, regulation, then sat silent as the crazies took over the GOP. Now we're all screwed

The god that sucked: How the Tea Party right just makes the 1 percent richer
Thomas Frank
Sunday, Jul 6, 2014 07:30 AM EST

Time was, the only place a guy could expound the mumbo-jumbo of the free market was in the country club locker room or the pages of Reader’s Digest. Spout off about it anywhere else and you’d be taken for a Bircher or some new strain of Jehovah’s Witness. After all, in the America of 1968, when the great backlash began, the average citizen, whether housewife or hardhat or salary-man, still had an all-too-vivid recollection of the Depression. Not to mention a fairly clear understanding of what social class was all about. Pushing laissez-faire ideology back then had all the prestige and credibility of hosting a Tupperware party.

But 30-odd years of culture war have changed all that. Mention “elites” these days and nobody thinks of factory owners or gated-community dwellers. Instead they assume that what you’re mad as hell about is the liberal media, or the pro-criminal judiciary, or the tenured radicals, or the know-it-all bureaucrats.

For the guys down at the country club all these inverted forms of class war worked spectacularly well. This is not to say that the right-wing culture warriors ever outsmarted the liberal college professors or shut down the Hollywood studios or repealed rock ’n’ roll. Shout though they might, they never quite got cultural history to stop. But what they did win was far more important: political power, a free hand to turn back the clock on such non-glamorous issues as welfare, taxes, OSHA, even the bankruptcy laws, for chrissake. Assuring their millionaire clients that culture war got the deregulatory job done, they simply averted their eyes as bizarre backlash variants flowered in the burned-over districts of conservatism: Posses Comitatus, backyard Confederacies mounting mini-secessions, crusades against Darwin.

For most of the duration of the 30-year backlash, the free-market faiths of the economists and the bosses were kept discreetly in the background. To be sure, market worship was always the established church in the halls of Republican power, but in public the chant was usually States’ Rights, or Down with Big Gummint, or Watch Out for Commies, or Speak English Goddammit. All Power to the Markets has never been too persuasive as a rallying cry.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Jul 6, 2014, 08:08 AM (4 replies)

What would the Founding Fathers have thought about our libertarian crazies?


When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another…

What would the Founding Fathers have thought about our libertarian crazies?
Andrew Leonard
Saturday, Jul 5, 2014 02:00 PM EST

Say whatever nasty things you want about those slave-owning white men that got the US-of-A up and running, but there is little question that the Declaration of Independence offers a compelling rationale for the selfishness of secession. Which raises a question: If the Founding Fathers were posting on Facebook and tweeting on Twitter in 2014, how would they assess the current discontents and escapist fantasies of contemporary techno-libertarianism? The timing seems right for an investigation. The rhetoric of liberty — so essential to the creation of the United States, so beloved by both Tea Party radicals and Silicon Valley startup entrepreneurs — is a Fourth of July weekend staple.

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams… these men made a winning case for why the colonies should sever their ties to King George III. But what would they think of software engineer (and Milton Friedman grandson) Patri Friedman’s dream to create his own “startup country” afloat in international waters — a libertarian paradise that would “show what a society run by Silicon Valley would look like.” Would they approve of venture capitalist Balaji Srinivasan’s advocacy for virtual secession, his plan to “build an opt-in society, run by technology, outside the U.S.?” You can hardly go a day in Silicon Valley without hearing from a CEO restless to dissolve the political bonds that constrain his disruptive business plan. What could possibly be more American?

In pursuit of clarity on the American Dream, I reread the Declaration of Independence, for the first time in many years. And then I reread John Perry Barlow’s 18-year-old libertarian statement of founding principles for the Internet era, ” A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” And then, finally, there could be no avoiding the manifesto penned by Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley’s most prominent (and richest) despiser of all things governmental.

I confess, my working thesis when I started out was that the Founding Fathers wouldn’t be too thrilled with the selfishness of Silicon Valley. But my faith has been shaken. Yesterday’s King George has been replaced by today’s Congress, and the list of grievances is long in both cases. A great dissatisfaction with the status quo, coupled with the belief that we can do better with less onerous supervision, is as American as apple pie. Ben Franklin might cast a sour eye on how much Facebook paid for Whatsapp, but I’m not so sure he wouldn’t recognize a kindred spirit in freedom fighters of the new economy. All these guys want is independence. What could be more patriotic?
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Jul 6, 2014, 07:56 AM (2 replies)

Predatory Capitalism and the System's Denial in the Face of Truth


Predatory Capitalism and the System's Denial in the Face of Truth
Saturday, 05 July 2014 09:28
By CJ Polychroniou, Transform! | News Analysis

Contemporary capitalism is characterized by a political economy which revolves around finance capital, is based on a savage form of free market fundamentalism, and thrives on a wave of globalizing processes and global financial networks that have produced global economic oligarchies with the capacity to influence the shaping of policymaking across nations.

As a result, contemporary advanced capitalist societies are plagued by dangerous levels of income and wealth inequality, mass unemployment, rising poverty rates, social polarization, and collapsing social provisions. Furthermore, democracy and the social contract are under constant attack by the current system and there is an ongoing pressure by the corporate and financial elite to convert all public goods and services into private goods and services.

The rising inequality in advanced capitalist countries is well documented. Most recently, Thomas Piketty’s publishing sensation Capital in the Twentieth-First Century, translated into English and published by Harvard University Press, provides massive data showing a widening gap between the rich and the poor, thus questioning not only the claim that the capitalist economy works for all but also underscoring the point of how dangerous the current system is to democracy itself. Indeed, a few years ago, Larry M. Bartels’s Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, published by Princeton University Press, pointed to the same gap between the rich and poor in the United States under Republican administrations.


As actually existing capitalism has given up any pretext of being a “socially responsible” socioeconomic system and caters almost solely to the needs and interests of the rich and powerful by enforcing policies that are detrimental to the rest of society, the defenders of the status quo will get even more dangerous by denying the ugly truth about predatory capitalism. They don’t want to hear that actually existing capitalism is a system that favors passionately and defends ruthlessly the interests of the 1% over those of the rest of society. Doing so might jeopardize the goal of the elite to roll back the course of history to the detriment of the working populations so they can further enrich themselves and act like the new rulers of the world.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Jul 6, 2014, 07:03 AM (0 replies)

NSA Experts: 'National Security Has Become a State Religion'


In a SPIEGEL interview, Edward Snowden's lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, and former NSA contractor Thomas Drake discuss the reasons behind the American spying agency's obssession with collecting data.

NSA Experts: 'National Security Has Become a State Religion'
Interview Conducted By Sven Becker, Marcel Rosenbach and Jörg Schindler
July 04, 2014 – 03:41 PM


SPIEGEL: Germany's federal prosecutor has opened a formal inquiry into the surveillance of Angela Merkel's mobile phone, but he did not open an investigation into the mass surveillance of German citizens, saying that there was no evidence to do so. Mr. Drake, as a former NSA employee, what's your take on this?

Drake: It stretches the bounds of incredulity. Germany has become, after 9/11, the most important surveillance platform for the NSA abroad. The only German citizen granted protection by a statement by Barack Obama is Angela Merkel. All other Germans are obviously treated as suspects by the NSA.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Radack, do you have an explanation for the German federal prosecutor's position?

Radack: Of course. They don't want to find out the truth. Either they're complicit to some extent or they don't really care to investigate.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Jul 5, 2014, 09:05 AM (1 replies)
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