Category Archives: Middle East

NSA: “EVERYONE !!”

Seems the NSA can, without a warrant, snoop on anyone within three degrees of someone that they may have some suspicion about.

…the rather startling news that came out of yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee on the NSA spying programs: NSA Director John Inglis revealed that the FISA Court permits the government to do three jumps from an initial number tied to a phone number reasonably believed to be tied to terrorism (or relevant to Iran, though that search criteria didn’t get mentioned at all in the parts of the hearing I watched).

Three degrees of separation!

Remember, some years ago, every single person in the US could be connected via six degrees — the old Kevin Bacon game. There’s some evidence that that number has become smaller — perhaps as small as 3 (I’ve seen more scientific numbers that say it is 4.5 or thereabouts).

In any case, if the US is using the excuse of terror to get three jumps deep into US person associations, then this program is even more intrusive then they’ve let on.

I imagine that would include everyone in our government, the Israeli government, the Palestinian authority, every head of state, every law enforcement officer, everyone who has ever been abroad, everyone who has ever interviewed a foreign person, everyone who knows anyone who knows anyone in:

Greenpeace,

the Quakers,

any demonstration of any kind,

anyone who has written a letter to an editor,

any person of color,

anyone who signed a petition, and

so on.

It’s basically EVERYONE. and what will they do with it? Wait til Karl Rove or one of the Cheneys gets back in power and you’ll see in short order. Or just some NSA guy who’s curious about who his ex girlfriend in dating. Or some NSA girl with a grudge against oh, well, ANYONE!

We have a constitution; that used to mean something.

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.

When basically the entire population is legally suspect, doesn’t that mean we’re doing something wrong?

 

video: Gary Oldman, in “The Professional.”

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As the Congress prepares to cut Social Security from poor old widows, while cutting taxes on millionaires, and we support the apartheid and starvation of innocents in the Middle East, it may be time to think about where this “great experiment in democracy” is going as “the greatest country in the world”:

SPIEGEL: Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation: The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair.

As an American expat living in the European Union, I’ve started to see America from a different perspective through the prism of the European media.

The European Union has a larger economy and more people than America does. Though it spends less — right around 9 percent of GNP on medical, whereas we in the U.S. spend close to between 15 to 16 percent of GNP on medical — the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population.

The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 45 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane, particularly as 2 million long-term unemployed Americans are getting ready to lose their jobless benefits as America approaches the year end fiscal cliff.
The sobering assessment of America’s unemployment rate isn’t really 7.9 percent, but close to 20 percent when we factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work.

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Yes, gasoline costs more, because easily-obtainable oil is depleted.

Get yourself a Chevy Volt; this isn’t going away.

The simple truth of the matter is this: most of the world’s easy reserves have already been depleted — except for those in war-torn countries like Iraq. Virtually all of the oil that’s left is contained in harder-to-reach, tougher reserves. These include deep-offshore oil, Arctic oil, and shale oil, along with Canadian “oil sands” — which are not composed of oil at all, but of mud, sand, and tar-like bitumen. So-called unconventional reserves of these types can be exploited, but often at a staggering price, not just in dollars but also in damage to the environment.

In the oil business, this reality was first acknowledged by the chairman and CEO of Chevron, David O’Reilly, in a 2005 letter published in many American newspapers. “One thing is clear,” he wrote, “the era of easy oil is over.” Not only were many existing oil fields in decline, he noted, but “new energy discoveries are mainly occurring in places where resources are difficult to extract, physically, economically, and even politically.”

Further evidence for this shift was provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a 2010 review of world oil prospects. In preparation for its report, the agency examined historic yields at the world’s largest producing fields — the “easy oil” on which the world still relies for the overwhelming bulk of its energy. The results were astonishing: those fields were expected to lose three-quarters of their productive capacity over the next 25 years, eliminating 52 million barrels per day from the world’s oil supplies, or about 75% of current world crude oil output. The implications were staggering: either find new oil to replace those 52 million barrels or the Age of Petroleum will soon draw to a close and the world economy would collapse.

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Romney, Santorum, Gingrich lie about Iran, would start another Bushoid war

Who's going to die or become disabled in your war, Mitt? None of these.


Juan Cole:

All [of the GOP candidates] but Paul virtually promised the US public that they would go to war with Iran if elected. As Paul pointed out, the US has no money for such a war and it would be illegal and unconstitutional for the President just to launch it.

Newt Gingrich was the first to take the Iran question. He criticized Gen. Martin Dempsey for saying that the Iranian regime is “rational actors.”

Gingrich said, “The fact is, this is a dictator, Ahmadinejad….

One problem is that Ahmadinejad is not a dictator. The presidency in the Iranian system is like the vice presidency in the United States. Ahmadinejad has lost fights with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and even with parliament over appointments. The Wikileaks cables say that a Revolutionary Guard officer even slapped him.


Gingrich continues, calling Ahmadinejad a dictator yet again, and accuses him of saying that he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth.
…. he makes a false assertion. Ahmadinejad once quoted an old speech of Ayatollah Khomeini’s from the 1980s, in which Khomeini said, “this occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” “mahv shavad” or vanish is intransitive, so transitive verb like “eliminate” is incorrect as a translation. It was not a threat to destroy Israel through military action, but a prediction that the occupation regime would collapse rather as the Soviet Union had. The occupation regime over Gaza, after all, has in fact collapsed.

Gingrich says that Ahmadinejad wants to “drive the United States” out of the Middle East. While Ahmadinejad is an anti-imperialist, he has not threatened to attack the United States, as Gingrich implied. Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has repeatedly said that Iran has a “no first strike policy” and will not be the first to initiate hostilities.

….

In fact, Gingrich cannot refute Gen. Dempsey’s assertion that Iran is a rational actor by reference to Ahmadinejad, who does not make military policy.

Gingrich also errs in not taking account of Iran’s military weakness and inability to attack or destroy Israel. Iran has no air force to speak of, whereas Israel has the best air force in the region. Iran does not have a big tank army. It is far from Israel and could not send tank columns through Turkey or Iraq or Jordan. Besides, the Israelis would just destroy the tanks. And Israel has 400 nuclear bombs, which would deter Iran from attacking it even if Iran had that capacity, which it does not.
….
Romney said, “Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah and Hamas and that they can bring into Latin America and potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here. I mean — or — or more sophisticated bombs here, this — we simply cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry.”

This is Propaganda with a capital ‘p’. Romney is appealing to an argument that stacks the cards. No nuclear country has ever given bombs to terrorist groups and there is no reason to think Iran would either. Iran does not, of course, even have such a bomb. Hizbullah and Hamas could not in fact carry a nuclear bomb (they are heavy, complicated and dangerous) around Latin America and up through Mexico to the US because Mexican authorities would detain them. Assuming there were Hamas in “Latin America,” which there mostly are not. Romney is just making sh*t up with which to scare us.

He has to do this because Iran is far away from the US, is militarily weak, and poses no threat to the American mainland. By inventing radical Muslim fundamentalist Mexicans with a nuclear bomb miraculously supplied by an Iran that doesn’t have one, Romney brings a sense of danger to an American audience.

Santorum brings up the rear arguing that US funding for anti-regime elements in Iran would have allowed the overthrow of the Khamenei government. But a few tens of millions of dollars cannot bring down a government, and open association with the United States is the kiss of death in Iranian politics.

This squalid performance by three of the leading lights of the GOP is a very troubling development. All seem reckless and willing to risk war with Iran. None seems terribly interested in the outcome. It is almost as though they were working for big munitions corporations.

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GOP, Iran, Obama and gas prices.

Juan Cole:

As prices in February hit a historic high for this time of year, presaging perhaps $5 a gallon gasoline this summer in the US, Iran is still sitting pretty. The fragile European and US economies, however, may take a hit from higher transportation costs (the US will likely see a fall in summer travel and internal tourism). The same Republicans who complain that President Obama hasn’t been hard enough on Iran are cynically planning to campaign against him on his having caused higher petroleum prices, ignoring the role of sanctions on Iran and tensions with that country in the price run-up! I hate to say it but I told you so.

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Massive military propaganda within U.S. revealed

A great piece in the NY TImes tells how the Pentagon and even Cheney himself recruited, informed, paid, and evaluated dozens of retired military officers to carpet bomb the media and the citizenry with bullshit. Oh, and by the way, it’s illegal.

Glenn Greenwald:

Having just watched more Sunday news shows than a human being should ever have to endure, it is striking — though unsurprising — that not a single one saw fit to mention this NYT story demonstrating that these news programs all fed government propaganda to their viewers. That they refuse to comment on this story and will now black it out says as much about what they really are, and what they really do, as the NYT story itself does.

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All foreign calls are being tapped. Period. All. Totally.

Attorney General Mukasey is spreading the fear, in order to scare Congress into legalizing Bush’s/telecom’s lawless surveillance. It’s clear why the Bush administration won’t bother with warrants, and it always has been. They just won’t admit it.

All phone calls coming to and from the US are being monitored en masse. It’s a total, mass, automated, all-encompassing system.

They work at the level of the massive trunk lines as they enter and leave the country, not at the level of some individual phone.  So they get ALL CALLS.

Every call. All calls. each call. your call, my call. his call, her call; Russ Feingold’s call…. tous les calls. All the time. All day, all night, weekends. 24/7/365.

That’s why they can’t bother with warrants and probable cause and suspicion and evidence and judges and rights. They have no evidence. They are just sifting through everything. Looking for particular words. Grabbing the words, guessing what thoughts might be behind the words. Policing the minds.

It’s an automated machine. Think of a huge net thrown over the entire ocean: no individual fish has any rights..the net can’t respect any rights. They are wiretapping the calls of every person in the United States, if they talk to anyone overseas. It demolishes the entire idea of freedom from unreasonable search.
And it’s not just a search issue.

In effect, every call is being censored. Think of it. Every call from every journalist in Iraq is being monitored, and so is every elected official in the US who might get any information from overseas. How can anyone talk about the Middle East without using words that would make the alarms go off? He who controls the flow of information controls the public mind.

And it operates in total secrecy. No one knows what words and phrases will trigger the alarms, or what happens next, in terms of lists and investigations, and how you are ever cleared of suspicion. We can be pretty confident that Bush’s Pioneer donor lists are a get out of jail free card, and that Democratic governors are a free fire zone, but that’s about all we can guess.

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