Saturday, July 13, 2013

Eating Meat? An Interview with Lee Hall

Is There Anything Truly Sustainable or Humane About Eating Meat? An Interview with Animal Rights Activist Lee Hall

by Joshua Frank - CounterPunch

Natural food sections in our grocery stores are chock full of them. The ethical foodies seek them out. They’re intended to inform the consumer about where our food comes from and how it’s produced: “Sustainable,” “organic,” “free-range,” “local” products — we’ve all seen the terms and we hope they genuinely convey what they imply.

But what do they really mean? What’s the truth behind the label? Can meat ever really be sustainable? Is purchasing local a good thing for the environment? Not always, says activist, author and educator Lee Hall, who serves as legal affairs VP for Friends of Animals.

Hall is also an active supporter of, a group that seeks to expose the facts behind our misleading food labels and farming practices.

I spoke with Hall, a CounterPunch writer and contributing editor, whose latest book on animal-rights theory and advocacy, On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal-Rights Philosophy Down to Earth is out now.

Joshua Frank: As someone who frequently shops at farmer’s markets and natural food stores, I have noticed a rapidly growing trend toward so-called ethical eating. People are becoming aware of the dark side of industrialized farming, and as a result more and more animal products are being labeled with terms like “cage free,” “humane certified” and “organic.”

Lee Hall: You’re right; this trend is growing fast and the advertising hype that’s driven by enterprises such as Whole Foods have a lot to do with it, as does the reality that global warming really is upon us. Climate disruption is the most frightening thing since the bomb (and that’s not gone). People are looking for pacifiers. People want to be able to say they’ve grasped the inconvenient truth but they still want peace of mind. If they’ve got money, they’ll pay a bit more these days for that.

JF: But you’ve argued that these are simply marketing terms that do not necessarily mean what they convey to consumers. Can you explain why? What’s the reality behind these terms?

LH: First, they’re usually just marketing ploys. There’s no legally binding definition for cage-free eggs, for example. These items are bought by people who want to believe the birds were treated OK. That’s well-meaning. But think about what’s going on. Packing a mass of birds into a shed isn’t much better than jamming them into a cage. Cannibalism increases in shed situations where so-called cage-free chickens lay eggs, as does bone breakage. Recall that birds who are purpose-bred to lay eggs do that a lot. So they’re always short of calcium; it leaves their bodies and goes into the shells. That means osteoporosis is common in commercial birds. I don’t mean to be a party pooper here; I assure you there are great vegan recipes for just about anything you’re making with eggs now.

I know some people will say: Oh, but my eggs, my ham — it really does come from a good farm; look at their Web site and all the greenery! Well, you must have a lot of money to eat that way all the time. But even if the animal farms you support are spacious, think about the ramifications. More space for agribusiness concerns, less free animals in wild spaces. Just like suburban development, farms take up a lot of land. Why would we as a society continue to think this is a good trend?

JF: What about grass-fed cattle? Michael Pollan and others have touted the alleged environmental and ethical benefits of eating free-range beef as opposed to cows raised in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). Isn’t this method of raising animals qualitatively better?

LH: To my mind, Michael Pollan’s arguments are clever, but ultimately unconvincing. Eight years ago, Pollan wanted to be assured that eating the flesh of cattle could be done without barbarism. This was no easy feat. To prove the thesis of compassionate carnivorism, this contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine actually bought a calf. Pollan chronicled the growth of the little Black Angus steer from a nursing baby up until the end of it all. The animal was killed a few weeks after turning one year of age.

Do you remember the name Pollan referred to that calf by? Number 534. Compassionate, isn’t? Now we’re supposed to believe that there’s no ecological barbarism in eating these animals either — if it’s done on pastures, not in factories. Balderdash. As the human population continues to rise, as biofuels compete with agricultural land, as energy and water become concentrated in fewer hands, mass production will be the norm. Only a select few will have the opportunity to eat that grass-fed flesh Pollan’s touting.

And what happens to the wolves, coyotes, bobcats, and other animals who once roamed the land made over to farm sprawl?

If you really want to tread lightly on the earth and its conscious life, the answer is to stop breeding these poor beings only to betray them and stop annihilating wildlands for malls — and the farms too. There’s a great saying ascribed to Confucius: “The way out is via the door.”

JF: I’ve always been skeptical of the free-range cattle notion. Spending a considerable amount of time hiking around the rural West, I have seen many grass-fed cattle roaming our public lands and shitting in and around some of the state’s remaining wild rivers. A study by UC Davis Medical Center recently confirmed that free-roaming livestock are polluting rivers in the Sierras with their waste.

LH: That study is on to something: water on public lands and wilderness areas are dirtiest where cattle graze. And what a word from an ethical point of view. Livestock. Live today, stock tomorrow. It’s really a bane, this notion that conscious life can and should be a commodity. Imagine if we dared to challenge that. Environmental advocacy would be revolutionized overnight.

This is what the locavores aren’t talking about. Cows aren’t part of the natural biocommunity. As commercial cows became widespread, their free-living ancestors, the aurochs, went extinct in the seventeenth century, when a poacher shot the last one in Poland. Free-range? Not really. The ones we see today are purpose-bred animals, imposed on the land.

JF: Since you bring up the locavore movement, I’m reminded of Prof. James McWilliams at Texas State University who has argued that “If you want to make a statement, ride your bike to the farmer’s market. If you want to reduce greenhouse gases, become a vegetarian.” Why do you think the broader environmental movement has yet to fully embrace vegetarianism as one way to challenge climate change?

LH: Much of what we call the environmental movement relies on donations. So there’s a hydraulic pull to behave as though laws and lawmakers should fix things. That’s convenient. Potential donors aren’t challenged to make personal changes.

At the same time, the moneyed donors non-profits hope to attract will find comfort in promotions of “humane, sustainable, all-natural meat” and the like. Rarely do environmental groups ask potential supporters to begin with the personal, essential paradigm shift that a full vegetarian commitment involves.

What underlies this hesitance? Well, imagine the Catholic authorities’ initial resistance to the Copernican revolution. People had to leave their comfort zone to grasp the reality the universe does not revolve around the human being. Galileo got the picture, and wound up under house arrest.

Suggest that humans are part of the biocommunity rather than in charge of it? Say the universe does not revolve around us? Humanity is not quite ready to accept that reality — although everything from the climate to the extinction rate is telling us the time has come to do so.

JF: In 2006 the UN Dept. of Food and Agriculture reported that the world’s cattle industry was responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions, by CO2 equivalence, than all the vehicles on the road. Even if big environmental groups aren’t addressing this very serious problem, why do you think popular climate activists, such as Al Gore and Bill McKibben, aren’t talking about this issue in any substantive manner?

LH: Al Gore, pressed on this issue, has said, “Cutting back is a responsible alternative” but Gore is not a vegetarian. Likewise Bill McKibben — who, in the March/April 2010 issue of Orion, criticized factory farming, but gave grass-fed beef a pass. If they haven’t seen fit to personally get beyond animal agribusiness, they aren’t prepared to take vegetarianism seriously in their public commentaries.

Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, assistant professors in geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, observed in 2006 that a fully vegetarian diet is the most energy-efficient. Fish and red meat virtually tied as the least efficient. And while the average person on our landmass puts out four tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent a year, each person who goes vegan cuts that by some 1.5 tons. How’s that for direct action?

Professor Eshel, once a cattle farmer in Israel, became a proponent of vegan-organic farming. What I’ve seen Eshel say to interviewers that I’ve not yet seen from Gore or McKibben is the understanding that animals have thoughts, and their death is a dreadful sight. That understanding — a queasy response to violent human privilege — is a vital characteristic of people who undergo a personal paradigm shift.

There’s some genuine transformation going on, with knowledge-sharing in and between communities; it’s happening, for example, through the vegan-organic movement. We need to look for people who show our population what to strive for, not what we can settle for.

JF: Let’s talk a bit more about some of the locavores. In Portland, Oregon, for example, the movement is so substantial that even Oprah’s magazine has lauded a local chef and former vegetarian for her “sustainable” food practices. Of course, her menu is loaded with meat, including foie-gras of all things.

Hip Portland is even home to the so-called “Ethical Butcher,” a former vegan, whose love for the environment and animals has caused him to give up his plant-based diet and embrace “humane” animal slaughtering. How should environmentalists and animal rights activists challenge this aspect of the locavore movement that seems so dominant these days?

LH: First the PR agents need to assure us that whatever they’re marketing — sausages, aircraft, bottled water — is ecologically benign. Also known as greenwash.

Then they want to assure us that animals are happy to be farmed and eaten. Also known as hogwash. So there are two faulty claims that environmentalists and animal advocates, together, can and should challenge: that animal agribusiness can be kind and that it can be green.

It was an uncle’s “idyllic” farm that impelled Vegan Society founder Donald Watson to organize a movement. As a child visiting the farm, Donald was always greeted by a pair of pigs — until the day one was killed. Donald couldn’t forget the screams, and henceforth regarded the farm as Death Row. The folks at have gathered some intriguing samples of “happy meat” PR, coupled with counterpoints offered by people in the know.

And no matter how they’re grown or how far their bodies are transported, the cows, lambs, pigs, and birds raised as food on any local farm are potent emitters of methane — regardless, too, of where their feed came from. And their manure produces nitrous oxide, which has nearly 300 times the immediate warming effect of C02.

A comprehensive study, funded by Britain’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, was conducted earlier this decade and released by Adrian Williams of Cranfield University. It showed that free-range chickens, used for eggs or flesh, have a 15-20 percent greater impact on global warming than factory-caged birds. That’s because “sustainable” chickens take longer to raise, and eat more feed. Not that I’m endorsing high-volume farming. I’ve found it’s quite easy, once you make the initial adjustment, to cook without ever selecting animal products at all.

Joshua Frank, Managing Editor of CounterPunch, is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, and of Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format. He can be reached at

Brazilian Spring: Unions Join Social Movement

Brazil's Major Unions Join Movement for First Time, Strike in 150 Cities


After a month with plenty of demonstrations, when more than a million people reached the streets to protest and obtained important political and social achievements, such as the investment of a full 100 percent of oil revenue in education and health, today was the first day that workers paralyzed the country and joined the demonstrations. 

Brazilian workers strike across the country in "Day of Social Struggle' demanding specific reforms.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pennsylvania Rising: The Fight Against Fracking

‘Putting People over Profits’: The Fight Against Fracking

by Walter Brasch

Pennsylvanians want to put a moratorium on fracking.

And it’s not just a few thousand, but a majority of the state’s residents.

Pennsylvania lies in the heart of the Marcellus Shale, possibly the most productive shale for gas in the country.

A joint University of Michigan/Muhlenberg College study reveals that only 49 percent of Pennsylvanians support shale gas extraction and 58 percent of all Pennsylvanians want the state to order “time out” until the health and environmental effects of fracking can be fully analyzed. That same study revealed that 60 percent of Pennsylvanians believe fracking poses a major risk to ground water resources, only 28 percent disagree; 12 percent have no opinion.

Petitions with more than 100,000 signatures requesting a moratorium were delivered to Gov. Tom Corbett in April. As is typical for the man who willingly accepted more than $1.8 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, it didn’t matter.

High-volume hydraulic horizontal fracturing, better known as fracking, requires per well three to nine million gallons of fresh water, about 10,000 tons of silica sand, and about 100,000 gallons of a lubricant mixture that the drilling companies won’t reveal the contents. However, a U.S. House of Representatives study suggests that of about 750 chemicals that could be used in that solution—every well and every company uses a different mixture—about 650 are toxic or known carcinogens. That mixture is forced into the earth, past the aquifers that provide drinking water, and then is brought up and placed into plastic-liner storage bins, where it is eventually loaded into trucks that travel throughout Pennsylvania, occasionally leaking onto the roads, and usually into Ohio, where millions of gallons of the fluids are forced back into the earth. Scientific evidence now links those deep injection wells to earthquakes. Scientists have also shown health and environmental effects from fracking, and that methane, an explosive greenhouse gas extracted from the earth, has added to the problems of climate change.

In June, the Democratic State Central Committee approved a resolution to establish a moratorium.

 So, if almost three-fifths of all residents want fracking to stop, who’s opposing the moratorium?

Just about anyone in a political leadership position. They tend to be the ones who from their own houses can’t see drilling rigs, well pads, frack pits, and frack trucks that block access roads. They tend to be the ones who have deliberately twisted the facts and now squawk about how fracking the earth has helped create jobs and improve the economy, while ignoring the problems already proven that affect their constituents’ health, environment, and food supply.

The Democrats’ resolution had begun in February. Sue Lyons, an attorney, had proposed the resolution. However, the Rules Committee of the Democratic Party Central Committee did not allow it to go forward, questioning its legality. To make sure the resolution was not in the best interest of Pennsylvania, the party even contacted the Department of Environmental Protection, the same DEP that has policies that block full transparency, that has a policy to “educate” rather than penalize gas companies that violate state pollution standards, and for two years had been run by a political crony of Gov. Corbett. The DEP agreed with what passes as Democratic leadership—the resolution was out of order.

Enter Karen Feridun, Patti Rose, and Berks Gas Truth. With a massive grassroots campaign, in less than two months they convinced the delegates to the Central Committee not only to get the resolution out of committee but also onto the floor for the vote.

Before the delegates, Feridun argued that contrary to politician and industry claims, no one can say that fracking is safe because the chemicals are protected from disclosure under an exception to the Safe Water Drinking Act, the exception having been pushed through during the Bush–Cheney administration. The Michigan/Muhlenberg poll reveals that 91 percent of all Pennsylvanians believe fracking companies should disclose all chemicals used in the process. Feridun argued that frack waste is so radioactive that landfills won’t accept it, and that fracking has led to massive fish kills. But, most important, fracking has led to health problems, and even the DEP has had to acknowledge there have been at least 160 identified cases of contaminated water wells because of nearby fracking.

The Democratic leadership, somewhat parroting the Republicans, didn’t accept that democracy prevailed in the state central committee. Vice-chair Penny Gerber, who lives in Montgomery County, which is exempt from fracking, called fracking “a thriving industry.” Gerber is an associate at a PR firm whose clients include large energy companies.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg the resolution was “ill-advised,” and then used the same arguments spewed forth by Tom Corbett and the Republican leaders by claiming that fracking improved the economy and “helped create wealth in the poorest areas of Pennsylvania,” avoiding any references to the detrimental effects that Feridun so eloquently brought forth.

What Rendell didn’t say, although it isn’t any secret, is that he is a special counsel to one of the nation’s largest law firms that represents Big Energy. Among his chores was to intervene on behalf of Range Resources, one of the nation’s largest drilling companies, to get the Environmental Protection Agency to drop a water contamination suit.

Also opposing the will of the delegates are at least two of the three Democratic candidates for governor. One is an unabashed supporter of fracking—he was the DEP head under Rendell, who opened the gates to fracking Pennsylvania; the other is a member of Congress, but who represents a district in the affluent Southeast Pennsylvania that has already received the state’s official blessings to be part of a six-year moratorium on shale drilling.

The day the petitions were delivered to Tom Corbett in April, State Sen. Jim Ferlo (Pittsburgh) proposed legislation to call for a moratorium. Co-sponsors are Sens. Lisa Boscola (Lehigh/Northampton), Andrew Dinniman (West Chester), Shirley Kitchen (Philadelphia), Daylin Leach (Montgomery/Delaware counties), Judy Schwank (D-Berks), and Christine Tartaglione (Philadelphia)

Let’s hope they can convince the Republican-controlled legislature to—as Karen Feridun says—“put people over profits.”

Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and author. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, a look at the health, environmental, and agricultural effects of high-volume horizontal fracturing. The book is available at, your local bookstore, or

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.
Latest Books: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution
Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster

Crime Against Humanity: Solitary Confinement in the United States

A Hunger Strike Against Solitary Confinement: Shane Bauer on Inhuman Prisons from California to Iran

by DemocracyNow!

More than 12,000 prisoners in California have entered their fifth day of a hunger strike in a push to end long-term solitary confinement, which they call a form of "indefinite state-sanctioned torture." 

Other demands include ending harsh group punishment, redefining gang activity, improving food quality, and increasing access to healthcare and education services. In addition to refusing meals, more than a thousand prisoners are also missing classes and prison work programs. 

This is the third large-scale hunger strike in the past two years. The current fast began at Pelican Bay State Prison and has now spread to two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons. Corrections officials have reportedly responded by threatening to search prisoners’ cells, subject them to mental health evaluations, and deny them access to visitors and mail.

"While the solitary confinement is at the core of it, it’s kind of about a lot of other issues," says Shane Bauer, a reporter who investigated the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons for Mother Jones magazine last year. 

"It’s become a much more widespread hunger strike. Each prison has its own demands. There are demands you see for rise in wages, from 13 cents an hour to $1 an hour, demand for the return of educational classes, and really the demands for the return of a lot of services that have been cut in recent years." Bauer began investigating solitary confinement in the United States shortly after being released from 26 months in an Iranian prison. 

Guest: Shane Bauer, award-winning investigative journalist. He was one of the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran after being apprehended on the Iraqi border in 2009. He spent 26 months in Tehran’s Evin Prison, four in solitary. He related his experience to the situation of prisoners in California in his Mother Jones magazine report last year titled "Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons."

Echelon 2.0: Evolution of a Surveillance State

ECHELON Today: The Evolution of an NSA Black Program

by Tom Burghardt - Antifascist Calling…

People are shocked by the scope of secret state spying on their private communications, especially in light of documentary evidence leaked to media outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

While the public is rightly angered by the illegal, unconstitutional nature of NSA programs which seize and store data for retrospective harvesting by intelligence and law enforcement officials, including the content of phone calls, emails, geolocational information, bank records, credit card purchases, travel itineraries, even medical records--in secret, and with little in the way of effective oversight--the historical context of how, and why, this vast spying apparatus came to be is often given short shrift.

Revelations about NSA spying didn't begin June 5, 2013 however, the day when The Guardian published a top secret FISA Court Order to Verizon, ordering the firm turn over the telephone records on millions of its customers "on an ongoing daily basis."

Before PRISM there was ECHELON: the top secret surveillance program whose all-encompassing "dictionaries" (high-speed computers powered by complex algorithms) ingest and sort key words and text scooped-up by a global network of satellites, from undersea cables and land-based microwave towers.

Past as Prologue

Confronted by a dizzying array of code-named programs, the casual observer will assume the spymasters running these intrusive operations are all-knowing mandarins with their fingers on the pulse of global events.

Yet, if disastrous US policies from Afghanistan and Iraq to the ongoing capitalist economic meltdown tell us anything, it is that the American superpower, in President Nixon's immortal words, really is "a pitiful, helpless giant."

In fact, the same programs used to surveil the population at large have also been turned inward by the National Security State against itself and targets military and political elites who long thought themselves immune from such close attention.

Coupled with Snowden's disclosures, those of former NSA officer Russell Tice (first reported here and here), revealed that the agency--far in excess of the dirt collected by FBI spymaster J. Edgar Hoover in his "secret and confidential" black files--has compiled dossiers on their alleged controllers, for political leverage and probably for blackmail purposes to boot.

While Tice's allegations certainly raised eyebrows and posed fundamental questions about who is really in charge of American policy--elected officials or unaccountable securocrats with deep ties to private security corporations--despite being deep-sixed by US media, they confirm previous reporting about the agency.

When investigative journalist Duncan Campbell first blew the lid off NSA's ECHELON program, his 1988 piece for New Statesman revealed that a whistleblower, Margaret Newsham, a software designer employed by Lockheed at the giant agency listening post at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, England, stepped forward and told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in closed session, that NSA was using its formidable intercept capabilities "to locate the telephone or other messages of target individuals."

Campbell's reporting was followed in 1996 by New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager's groundbreaking book, Secret Power, the first detailed account of NSA's global surveillance system. A summary of Hager's findings can be found in the 1997 piece that appeared in CovertAction Quarterly.

As Campbell was preparing that 1988 article, a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer alleged that arch-conservative US Senator Strom Thurman was one target of agency phone intercepts, raising fears in political circles that "NSA has restored domestic, electronic, surveillance programmes," said to have been dialed-back in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Ironically enough, congressional efforts to mitigate abuses by the intelligence agencies exposed by the Church and Pike Committees in the 1970s, resulted in the 1978 creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. However, as The New York Times reported July 7, that court "in more than a dozen classified rulings . . . has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans," a "parallel Supreme Court" whose rulings are beyond legal challenge.

In an 88-page report on ECHELON published in 2000 by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) Newsham said that when she worked on the development of SILKWORTH at the secret US base, described as "a system for processing information relayed from signals intelligence satellites," she told Campbell and other reporters, including CBS News' 60 Minutes, that "she witnessed and overheard" one of Thurman's intercepted phone calls.

Like Thomas Drake, the senior NSA official prosecuted by the Obama administration under the 1917 Espionage Act, for information he provided The Baltimore Sun over widespread waste, fraud and abuse in the agency's failed Trailblazer program, Newsham had testified before Congress and filed a lawsuit against Lockheed over charges of sexual harassment, "corruption and mis-spending on other US government 'black' projects."

A year earlier, in a 1999 on the record interview with the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, Newsham spoke to journalists Bo Elkjaer and Kenan Seeberg, telling them of her "constant fear" that "certain elements" within the US secret state would "try to silence her"; a point not lost on Edward Snowden today.

"As a result," the newspaper reported, "she sleeps with a loaded pistol under her mattress, and her best friend is Mr. Gunther--a 120-pound German shepherd that was trained to be a guard and attack dog by a good friend in the Nevada State Police."

"To me," the whistleblower said, "there are only two issues at stake here: right or wrong. And the longer I worked on the clandestine surveillance projects, the more I could see that they were not only illegal, but also unconstitutional."
"Even then," between 1974 and 1984 when she worked on ECHELON, it "was very big and sophisticated."

"As early as 1979 we could track a specific person and zoom in on his phone conversation while he was communicating," Newsham averred. "Since our satellites could in 1984 film a postage stamp lying on the ground, it is almost impossible to imagine how all-encompassing the system must be today."

When queried about "which part of the system is named Echelon," Newsham told the reporters: "The computer network itself. The software programs are known as SILKWORTH and SIRE, and one of the most important surveillance satellites is named VORTEX. It intercepts things like phone conversations."

Despite evidence presented in her congressional testimony about these illegal operations, "no substantive investigation took place, and no report was made to Congress," Campbell later wrote.

"Since then," the British journalist averred, "investigators have subpoenaed other witnesses and asked them to provide the complete plans and manuals of the ECHELON system and related projects. The plans and blueprints are said to show that targeting of US political figures would not occur by accident, but was designed into the system from the start." (emphasis added)

This would explain why members of Congress, the federal Judiciary and the Executive Branch itself, as Tice alleges, tread lightly when it comes to crossing NSA. However, as information continues to emerge about these privacy-killing programs it should also be clear that the agency's prime targets are not "terrorists," judges or politicians, but the American people themselves.

In fact, as Snowden stated in a powerful message published by WikiLeaks: "In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised--and it should be."

How did we get here? Is there a direct line from Cold War-era programs which targeted the Soviet Union and their allies, and which now, in the age of capitalist globalization, the epoch of planet-wide theft and plunder, now targets the entire world's population?

ECHELON's Roots: The UKUSA Agreement

Lost in the historical mists surrounding the origins of the Cold War, the close collaboration amongst Britain and the United States as they waged war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, by war's end had morphed into a permanent intelligence-military alliance which predated the founding of NATO. With the defeat of the Axis powers, a new global division of labor was in the offing led by the undisputed superpower which emerged from the conflagration, the United States.

Self-appointed administrator over Europe's old colonial holdings across Africa, Asia and the Middle East (the US already viewed Latin America as its private export dumping ground and source for raw materials), the US used its unparalleled position to benefit the giant multinational American firms grown larger and more profitable than ever as a result of wartime economic mobilization managed by the state.

By 1946, the permanent war economy which later came to be known as the Military-Industrial Complex, a semi-command economy directed by corporate executives, based on military, but also on emerging high-tech industries bolstered by taxpayer-based government investments, was already firmly entrenched and formed the political-economic base on which the so-called "American Century" was constructed.

While resource extraction and export market domination remained the primary goal of successive US administrations (best summarized by the slogan, "the business of government is business"), advances in technology in general and telecommunications in particular, meant that the system's overlords required an intelligence apparatus that was always "on" as it "captured" the flood of electronic signals coursing across the planet.

The secret British and US agencies responsible for cracking German, Japanese and Russian codes during the war found themselves in a quandary. Should they declare victory and go home or train their sights on the new (old) adversary--their former ally, the Soviet Union--but also on home grown and indigenous communist and socialist movements more generally?

In opting for the latter, the UK-US wartime partnership evolved into a broad agreement to share signals and communications intelligence (SIGINT and COMINT), a set-up which persists today.

In 1946, Britain and the United States signed the United Kingdom-United States of America Agreement (UKUSA), a multilateral treaty to share signals intelligence amongst the two nations and Britain's Commonwealth partners, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Known as the "Five Eyes" agreement, the treaty was such a closely-guarded secret that Australia's Prime Minister was kept in the dark until 1973!

In 2010, the British National Archives released previously classified Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) files that provide an important historical overview of the agreement. Also in 2010, the National Security Agency followed suit and published formerly classified files from their archives. Accompanying NSA's release was a 1955 amended version of the treaty.

It's secretive nature is clearly spelled out: "It will be contrary to this Agreement to reveal its existence to any third party unless otherwise agreed by the two parties."

In 2005, 2009 and 2013, The National Security Archive published a series of previously classified documents obtained from NSA under the Freedom of Information Act that revealed agency thinking on a range of subjects, from global surveillance to cyberwar.

What we have learned from these sources and reporting by Duncan Campbell and Nicky Hager, are that the five agencies feeding the surveillance behemoth, America's NSA, Britain's GCHQ, Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Australia's Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), are subdivided into first and second tier partners, with the US, as befitting a hyperpower, forming the "1st party" and the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand forming "2nd party" partners.

Under terms of UKUSA, intelligence "products" are defined as "01. Collection of traffic. 02. Acquisition of communications documents and equipment. 03. Traffic analysis. 04. Cryptanalysis. 05. Decryption and translation. 06. Acquisition of information regarding communications organizations, procedures, practices and equipment."

"Such exchange," NSA informed us, "will be unrestricted on all work undertaken except when specifically excluded from the agreement at the request of either party and with the agreement of the other."

"It is the intention of each party," we're told, "to limit such exceptions to the absolute minimum and to exercise no restrictions other than those reported and mutually agreed upon."

This certainly leaves wide latitude for mischief as we learned with the Snowden disclosures.

Amid serious charges that "Five Eyes" were illegally seizing industrial and trade secrets from "3rd party" European partners such as France and Germany, detailed in the European Parliament's 2001 ECHELON report, it should be clear by now that since its launch in 1968 when satellite communications became a practical reality, ECHELON has evolved into a global surveillance complex under US control.

The Global Surveillance System Today

The echoes of those earlier secret programs reverberate in today's headlines.

Last month, The Guardian reported that the "collection of traffic" cited in UKUSA has been expanded to GCHQ's "ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months."

Then on July 6, The Washington Post disclosed that NSA has tapped directly into those fiber optic cables, as AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein described to Wired Magazine in 2006, and now scoops-up petabyte scale communications flowing through the US internet backbone. The agency was able to accomplish this due to the existence of "an internal corporate cell of American citizens with government clearances."

"Among their jobs documents show, was ensuring that surveillance requests got fulfilled quickly and confidentially."

Following up on July 10, the Post published a new PRISM slide from the 41-slide deck provided to the paper by Edward Snowden.

The slide revealed that "two types of collection" now occur. One is the PRISM program that collects information from technology firms such as Google, Apple and Microsoft. The second source is "a separate category labeled 'Upstream,' described as accessing 'communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past'."

Recently, Der Spiegel, reported that NSA averred the agency "does NOT target its 2nd party partners, nor request that 2nd parties do anything that is inherently illegal for NSA to do." This is an outright falsehood exposed by former Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE) officer Mike Frost.

In a 1997 CovertAction Quarterly exposé, Frost recounted how "CSE operated alone or joined with NSA or GCHQ to: intercept communications in other countries from the confines of Canadian embassies around the world with the knowledge of the ambassador; aid politicians, political parties, or factions in an allied country to gain partisan advantage; spy on its allies; spy on its own citizens; and perform 'favors' that helped its allies evade domestic laws against spying."

"Throughout it all," Frost insisted, "I was trained and controlled by US intelligence which told us what to do and how to do it."

Everyone else, Der Spiegel reports, is fair game. "For all other countries, including the group of around 30 nations that are considered to be 3rd party partners, however, this protection does not apply. 'We can, and often do, target the signals of most 3rd party foreign partners,' the NSA boasts in an internal presentation."

It should also be clear that targeting isn't strictly limited to the governments and economic institutions of "3rd party foreign partners," but extends to the private communications of their citizens. Der Spiegel, citing documents supplied by Snowden, reported that the agency "gathered metadata from some 15 million telephone conversations and 10 million Internet datasets." The newsmagazine noted that "the Americans are collecting from up to half a billion communications a month in Germany," describing the surveillance as "a complete structural acquisition of data."

Despite hypocritical protests by European governments, on the contrary, Snowden disclosed that those "3rd party" partners are joined at the hip with their "Five Eyes" cousins.

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, Snowden was asked if "German authorities or German politicians [are] involved in the NSA surveillance system?"

"Yes, of course. We're in bed together with the Germans the same as with most other Western countries. For example, we tip them off when someone we want is flying through their airports (that we for example, have learned from the cell phone of a suspected hacker's girlfriend in a totally unrelated third country--and they hand them over to us. They don't ask to justify how we know something, and vice versa, to insulate their political leaders from the backlash of knowing how grievously they're violating global privacy."

Disclosing new information on how UKUSA functions today, Snowden told the German newsmagazine: "In some cases, the so-called Five Eye Partners go beyond what NSA itself does. For instance, the UK's General [sic] Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has a system called TEMPORA."

"TEMPORA," the whistleblower averred, "is the signals intelligence community's first 'full-take' Internet buffer that doesn't care about content type and pays only marginal attention to the Human Rights Act. It snarfs everything, in a rolling buffer to allow retroactive investigation without missing a single bit."

"Right now," Snowden said, "the buffer can hold three days of traffic, but that's being improved. Three days may not sound like much, but remember that that's not metadata. 'Full-take' means it doesn't miss anything, and ingests the entirety of each circuit's capacity. If you send a single ICMP packet and it routes through the UK, we get it. If you download something and the CDN (Content Delivery Network) happens to serve from the UK, we get it. If your sick daughter's medical records get processed at a London call center . . . well, you get the idea."

We do; and thanks to Edward Snowden we now know that everyone is a target.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano's Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Israel's Chainsaw Massacres: Killing Peace One Olive Grove at a Time

Settlers Cut 1150 Olive Trees Near Nablus

by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies

Ghassan Daghlas in charge of Israeli Settlements File at the Palestinian Authority in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, has reported that a number of extremist Israeli settlers cut on Thursday [July 10 2013] 1150 Palestinian Olive trees east of the Nablus District.

Daghlas told the Radio Bethlehem 2000 that the settlers attacked Palestinian orchards that belong to villagers of Awarta, and used chainsaws to cut approximately 1150 trees.

Daghlas added that the villagers found their trees cut after the army allowed them to enter their lands isolated behind the Annexation Wall. The orchards are close to the Itamar illegal Israeli settlement.

He said that the residents heard sounds of chainsaws, over the last several days, but did not know what was happening, especially since they have no access to their lands without a permit from the Israeli military.

The attacked orchards belong to 25 families in the town, and are their main sources of livelihood.

The recent attack is one of dozens of similar attacks against the residents and their orchards, as extremist settlers repeatedly cut and uprooted Palestinian orchards and lands, and repeatedly torched Palestinian crops and farmlands.

Idle Speculation: Is Naomi Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Is Naomi Wolf working for the NSA?

by Dave Lindorff -  CounterPunch

I hate to do this, but I feel obligated to share, as the story unfolds, my creeping concern that the writer Naomi Wolf is not whom she purports to be, and that her motive in writing an article on her public Facebook page speculating about whether National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden might actually be still working for the NSA, could be to support the government’s effort to destroy him.

After all, with Snowden under vicious attack by both the government and the corporate media, being wrongly accused of treason, or portrayed as a drop-out slacker, a narcissist, a loser hoping to gain fame and even a “cross-dressing” weirdo, what defender of liberty would pile on with publication of a work of absolutely fact-free speculation as to whether he might also be a kind of “double agent” put out there by the NSA in order to discourage real potential whistleblowers from even considering leaking information about government spying on Americans.

Because that is exactly what Wolf has done on her website (the first clause at the opening of this article is a direct quote from the lead in Wolf’s Facebook piece, but with her name substituted for Snowden’s).

What basis does she offer for her wild-eyed speculation that Snowden is perhaps “not who he purports to be”?

Well, first of all she notes darkly that US spy agencies “create false identities, build fake companies, influence real media with fake stories, create distractions or demonizations in the local news that advance US policies, bug (technologically) and harass the opposition, disrupt and infiltrate the meetings and communications of factions that the US does not wish to see in power.” This, she says, touting her own now rather dated 2007 book The End of America, is “something you can’t not see if you spend time around people who are senior in both the political establishment and the intelligence and state department establishments. You also can’t avoid seeing it if you interview principled defectors from those systems, as I have done…”

Then, after having assuring us of how well-connected she is, she raises what she calls “red flags” about Snowden:

“I was concerned about the way Snowden conveys his message. He is not struggling for words, or thinking hard, as even bright, articulate whistleblowers under stress will do. Rather he appears to be transmitting whole paragraphs smoothly, without stumbling. To me this reads as someone who has learned his talking points — again the way that political campaigns train surrogates to transmit talking points.”
“He keeps saying things like, ‘If you are a journalist and they think you are the transmission point of this info, they will certainly kill you.’ Or: ‘I fully expect to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.’ He also keeps stressing what he will lose: his $200,000 salary, his girlfriend, his house in Hawaii. These are the kinds of messages that the police state would LIKE journalists to take away.” In case we miss the point, she adds, implying rather strongly that she is concluding Snowden is a fake, “A real whistleblower also does not put out potential legal penalties as options, and almost always by this point has a lawyer by his/her side who would PROHIBIT him/her from saying, ‘come get me under the Espionage Act.’ Finally in my experience, real whistleblowers are completely focused on their act of public service and trying to manage the jeopardy to themselves and their loved ones; they don’t tend ever to call attention to their own self-sacrifice.”
“It is actually in the Police State’s interest to let everyone know that everything you write or say everywhere is being surveilled, and that awful things happen to people who challenge this. Which is why I am not surprised that now he is on UK no-fly lists – I assume the end of this story is that we will all have a lesson in terrible things that happen to whistleblowers.” She adds, in a further indictment of Snowden, “That could be because he is a real guy who gets in trouble; but it would be as useful to the police state if he is a fake guy who gets in ‘trouble.’”

She says he talks about the beautiful “pole-dancer” girlfriend he abandoned (actually he did that for her safety, Naomi), implying his repetition process might be so that the media have a justification to keep showing her sexy photo (as though our prurient media needs a justification to do such a thing).

The media keep saying he is in a “safe house” in Hong Kong, which according to Wolf cannot exist in the former British colony, now a part of China, “Unless you are with the one organization that can still get off the surveillance grid, because that org created it.”

He’s not surrounded by an army of attorneys the way Wikileaks’ Julian Assange was when he traveled (and by the way, I recall that for a long time, after Wikileaks ran the Bradley Manning documents, including the horrific “Collateral Damage” war crime video, there were conspiracy theorists out there claiming baselessly that he was actually probably a Mossad asset — this on the basis that he had not been sufficiently leaking damaging information about Israel’s actions against Palestinians).

That’s it, folks! All sheer wild speculation about Snowden, with not even one shred of actual evidence against him to suggest he’s anything but what he says he is: a young man who was hired to do some really dirty work spying on Americans en masse, who decided that what was happening was the creation of a totalitarian system, and who had the courage of, instead of walking away from it, putting his life in jeopardy by publicly blowing the whistle.

I have nothing against trying to uncover conspiracies, particularly those orchestrated by a government like our own which we know has manufactured from whole cloth faked evidence to justify a war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, even to the point of torturing captives to get them to make up tales that would justify that fake evidence. But when someone with Wolf’s reputation on the left sinks to this level of baseless and libelous accusations against a brave person who is under attack by that government, it cannot be allowed to pass.

Of course, I don’t really think that Wolf is acting as an agent for the government (I could only speculate about that, and I won’t). And if she were just thinking these idle thoughts, and maybe raising them in a playful discussion at home with a few friends over dinner, I would see nothing wrong in the exercise. But as a highly media-savvy public person, she’s publishing them intentionally where they will be widely circulated: on her publicly accessible Facebook page. I have to conclude she has allowed her instinct for self-promotion and grandstanding in this case to let her do something truly treacherous and unconscionable: baselessly defaming and attacking the credibility of a brave whistleblower who is under official under attack.

As a long-time investigative reporter, I also dispute Wolf’s self-serving claim that her own experience in dealing with whistleblowers shows them to be uniformly disorganized and inarticulate. In my experience, some are very disorganized and hard to follow because of their focus on the trees in their personal forest, but some whistleblowers are intensely organized and know exactly what they want to tell you as a journalist. They are also apt, organized or not, contrary to what Wolf says, to highlight the danger they are in, and that they may be putting the reporter in. Sometimes this may be simply to make sure you are interested and recognize the seriousness of what they have to say, and sometimes it is out of genuine fear for themselves and concern for the journalist’s safety, and perhaps also to make sure you fully understand what you’re getting into and that you will not cave and reveal their identity the moment you are put under pressure yourself.

Wolf, who always makes a point of mentioning she’s a Yale grad and a Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford, should take care in assuming that someone with only a high school diploma speaking in whole sentences or paragraphs is probably reciting “talking points” from a script. Her assumption reeks of class-based stereotyping. I have met car mechanics, who besides working miracles on my old cars, can speak in multiple paragraphs about politics, often with more wisdom and insight than most of the ivy-league pundits on the tube.

As for Wolf’s claim of there being “no safe houses” in Hong Kong, I just have to laugh. Having lived in Hong Kong for five years, I can assure her that there are myriad urban warrens all over Hong Kong where one could hide for decades undetected, as well as vast stretches of tropical wilderness in the New Territories where people can become lost for days, even with professional rescue teams looking for them. Wolf should stick to things she has actual knowledge about, instead of trashing good people on the basis of ignorant speculation and pretend savvy.

Unless and until someone comes up with a single hard fact seriously suggesting that Snowden is a fake, this kind of fantasizing should halt. Wolf should apologize for her self-aggrandizing tripe and make a generous donation from her book sales to the Snowden defense fund — unless of course she has evidence that the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is an NSA or CIA front group.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Mandela Freed, but the Economic Apartheid Prison Remained

Mandela’s Greatness May Be Assured -- But Not His Legacy

by John Pilger

When I reported from South Africa in the 1960s, the Nazi admirer Johannes Vorster occupied the prime minister’s residence in Cape Town. Thirty years later, as I waited at the gates, it was as if the guards had not changed. White Afrikaners checked my ID with the confidence of men in secure work. One carried a copy of Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. “It’s very eenspirational,” he said.

Mandela had just had his afternoon nap and looked sleepy; his shoelaces were untied. Wearing a bright gold shirt, he meandered into the room. “Welcome back,” said the first president of a democratic South Africa, beaming. “You must understand that to have been banned from my country is a great honour.” The sheer grace and charm of the man made you feel good. He chuckled about his elevation to sainthood. “That’s not the job I applied for,” he said drily.

Still, he was well used to deferential interviews and I was ticked off several times – “you completely forgot what I said” and “I have already explained that matter to you”. In brooking no criticism of the African National Congress (ANC), he revealed something of why millions of South Africans will mourn his passing but not his “legacy”.

I had asked him why the pledges he and the ANC had given on his release from prison in 1990 had not been kept. The liberation government, Mandela had promised, would take over the apartheid economy, including the banks – and “a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable”. Once in power, the party’s official policy to end the impoverishment of most South Africans, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), was abandoned, with one of his ministers boasting that the ANC’s politics were Thatcherite.
“You can put any label on it if you like,” he replied. “…but, for this country, privatisation is the fundamental policy.”

“That’s the opposite of what you said in 1994.”

“You have to appreciate that every process incorporates a change.”

Few ordinary South Africans were aware that this “process” had begun in high secrecy more than two years before Mandela’s release when the ANC in exile had, in effect, done a deal with prominent members of the Afrikaaner elite at meetings in a stately home, Mells Park House, near Bath. The prime movers were the corporations that had underpinned apartheid.

Around the same time, Mandela was conducting his own secret negotiations. In 1982, he had been moved from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, where he could receive and entertain people. The apartheid regime’s aim was to split the ANC between the “moderates” they could “do business with” (Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Oliver Tambo) and those in the frontline townships who led the United Democratic Front (UDF). On 5 July, 1989, Mandela was spirited out of prison to meet P.W. Botha, the white minority president known as the Groot Krokodil (Big Crocodile). Mandela was delighted that Botha poured the tea.

With democratic elections in 1994, racial apartheid was ended, and economic apartheid had a new face. During the 1980s, the Botha regime had offered black businessmen generous loans, allowing them set up companies outside the Bantustans. A new black bourgeoisie emerged quickly, along with a rampant cronyism. ANC chieftains moved into mansions in “golf and country estates”. As disparities between white and black narrowed, they widened between black and black.

The familiar refrain that the new wealth would “trickle down” and “create jobs” was lost in dodgy merger deals and “restructuring” that cost jobs. For foreign companies, a black face on the board often ensured that nothing had changed. In 2001, George Soros told the Davos Economic Forum, “South Africa is in the hands of international capital.”

In the townships, people felt little change and were subjected to apartheid-era evictions; some expressed nostalgia for the “order” of the old regime. The post-apartheid achievements in de-segregating daily life in South Africa, including schools, were undercut by the extremes and corruption of a “neoliberalism” to which the ANC devoted itself. This led directly to state crimes such as the massacre of 34 miners at Marikana in 2012, which evoked the infamous Sharpeville massacre more than half a century earlier. Both had been protests about injustice.

Mandela, too, fostered crony relationships with wealthy whites from the corporate world, including those who had profited from apartheid. He saw this as part of “reconciliation”. Perhaps he and his beloved ANC had been in struggle and exile for so long they were willing to accept and collude with the forces that had been the people’s enemy. There were those who genuinely wanted radical change, including a few in the South African Communist Party, but it was the powerful influence of mission Christianity that may have left the most indelible mark. White liberals at home and abroad warmed to this, often ignoring or welcoming Mandela’s reluctance to spell out a coherent vision, as Amilcar Cabral and Pandit Nehru had done.

Ironically, Mandela seemed to change in retirement, alerting the world to the post 9/11 dangers of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. His description of Blair as “Bush’s foreign minister” was mischievously timed; Thabo Mbeki, his successor, was about to arrive in London to meet Blair. I wonder what he would make of the recent “pilgrimage” to his cell on Robben Island by Barack Obama, the unrelenting jailer of Guantanamo.

Mandela seemed unfailingly gracious. When my interview with him was over, he patted me on the arm as if to say I was forgiven for contradicting him. We walked to his silver Mercedes, which consumed his small grey head among a bevy of white men with huge arms and wires in their ears. One of them gave an order in Afrikaans and he was gone.

John Pilger’s film, Apartheid Did Not Die, can be viewed on

Scapegoating Journalists: The Case of Barrett Brown

Jailed Journalist Barrett Brown Faces 105 Years For Reporting on Hacked Private Intelligence Firms

by Democracy Now 

Journalist Barrett Brown spent his 300th day behind bars this week on a range of charges filed after he used information obtained by the hacker group Anonymous to report on the operations of private intelligence firms. Brown faces 17 charges ranging from threatening an FBI agent to credit card fraud for posting a link online to a document that contained stolen credit card data.

But according to his supporters, Brown is being unfairly targeted for daring to investigate the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors.

Using information Anonymous took from the firm HBGary Federal, Brown helped discover a secret plan to tarnish the reputations of WikiLeaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Brown similarly analyzed and wrote about the millions of internal company emails from Stratfor Global Intelligence that were leaked in 2011.

We speak to Peter Ludlow, professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, whose article "The Strange Case of Barrett Brown" recently appeared in The Nation. 

"Considering that the person who carried out the actual Stratfor hack had several priors and is facing a maximum of 10 years, the inescapable conclusion is that the problem is not with the hack itself but with Brown’s journalism," Ludlow argues. 

He adds that the case against Brown could suggest criminality "to even link to something or share a link with someone."

Aid Progress or Performance Aid in Haiti?

Performing Progress in Haiti, Aloral

by Mark Schuller - Haitian Times

After I return from a trip to Haiti, I am often asked, “How are things in Haiti now?” Last week I returned to Haiti, and on this trip, it’s particularly difficult to respond.

Camp Karade, tucked away in hills of Port-au-Prince / Mark Schuller

Particularly when you get off the plane, there are signs of progress. The airport has been renovated. The roads around Port-au-Prince are being repaired.

For those in bright t-shirts on their way to the provinces, travel times have been considerably reduced. Stopping en route in a guarded, air conditioned restaurant or supermarket offers the appearance of relative affluence with customers stopping to inspect shelves full of packaged imported food. If one has the funds, a private vehicle and the inclination to go to a night club or restaurant in the affluent Pétion-ville, the trip home is safer, since large parts of Route de Delmas — a main thoroughfare — that now has solar lighting.

Many new light posts are adorned with pink posters alternating in French and Creole celebrating Haitian President Michel Martelly’s two years in office. One in particular asks “who has done better in the past 25 years?”

Before his career in politics, Martelly was a performer, known as “Sweet Micky,” (in)famous for his ribald lyrics and stage antics, including dropping his pants.

Now, as head of state, he is performing progress (as noted anthropologist and artist Gina Athena Ulysse puts it), most recently to new Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro last Tuesday. Port-au-Prince was all decked out: the route from the airport was adorned with Venezuelan flags and signs saying Bienvenidos y muchas gracias. These new signs sit next to ubiquitous banners that begin with pouvwa pèp la (the power of the people) has accomplished this or that thing: increasing the number of children in school, “helping poor for the first time,” repairing the airport, etc. often punctuated with the phrase tèt kale, Martelly’s slogan, a play on words noting his bald head but also meaning no bull.

The performance appears to be working, with positive reviews from official development agencies, NGOs, foreign governments, mission groups, many in the Diaspora, middle class and even some within Haiti’s poor majority, like my neighbor who has a job as a driver for the government.

Mark Schuller is assistant professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership Development at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti. He is the author of Killing with Kindness: Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs and co-editor of three volumes, including Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake.

[For complete article, please see Haitian Times here.]

Obama Plan to Target Leakers Leaked

Obama's Plan to Crackdown On Whistleblowers Leaked To McClatchy


Jonathan Landay: Experts say Obama Admin. "Insider Threat Program" unlikely to stop leaks and may hurt legitimate whistleblowers.

Jonathan S. Landay is McClatchy Newspapers' national security and intelligence correspondent. He has written about foreign affairs and U.S. defense, intelligence and foreign policies for 15 years. In 2005, he was part of a team that won a National Headliners Award for How the Bush Administration Went to War in Iraq. He also won a 2005 Award of Distinction from the Medill School of Journalism for Iraqi exiles fed exaggerated tips to news media.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pea Seeks Princess

We Are the Pea

by James Howard Kunstler - Clusterfuck Nation

The political air lies thick and heavy upon us, like the subtropical wedge of atmospheric sludge that has bogged down the northeast USA for weeks of soupy gray days when there is nothing to do but wonder when things will become unstuck. If the world is an organism, something is wrong with its blood. That blood is money, which allows the “developed” nations to run their advanced techno-industrial economies. Only the “money” is not exactly what we suppose it is, that is, colored paper coupons representing claims on future work or tangible collateral. The “money” is a matrix of counterparty entanglements so abstruse and impenetrable that all the vicars of Christendom (plus the mullahs of Islam, the monks of Mahayana, and the Op-Ed flunkies at The New York Times) would not avail to describe its metaphysical substance. Rather, a cosmic shell game is being played and we are the pea.

Unlike other commentators, I don’t see this as a conspiracy of one-percenters, Rothschilds, Bilderbergers, and United Nations intriguers. Rather, it is just a sticky pass in world history. Things have gone a certain way for us for a long time, and now they can’t, and the inertia from all those decades of doing and being what we were persists in the illusion of motion, like the sound of a truck that still rings in your ears after it has passed by. So we, the pea, sit in the dark under our cosmic walnut shell, waiting to see what happens next.

When the Great Bernanke spoke not long ago, an ominous rattling was heard throughout the banking system as of things shaking loose. Even if nobody quite understood exactly what money was anymore, an intimation wafted on the still, muggy air that there was liable to be less of it, at least in the form that The Wall Street Journal pretended to understand — a particular digital carry-trade between the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Markets puked at Bernanke’s mild utterances as though he was Thor flinging a thunderous hammer at them. The gold market, already punch-drunk, went reeling into the roadside weeds, covered indecorously in its own vomit — leading many to suppose that gold would soon be as precious as sheetrock. Then, the Great Bernanke, via subordinates, tapered his tapering talk and a nervous, tentative, march forward resumed into the summer pea soup of events. Here we are, waiting, waiting in the murk, for the sound of shoes dropping.

If you listen carefully enough, you can hear a few things in motion distantly. The mobs roistering in surprising places — Sweden, Turkey, Brazil — ought to unnerve even the quants immersed in their charts and auguries. Something wicked this way emanates from Japan. It has the outline of a political death-wish and is being played out with the sharp instruments of capital. The Japanese, I suspect, have at least had enough of uncertainty and have elected to move toward resolution, whatever that may hold. One thing it will mean is that the hands of bankers elsewhere around the world will be forced by what Japan does. Interest rates, for example, do not exist in exquisite isolation but only in relation to other things, most particularly that money earlier alluded to, of which nobody knows the value. The answer to that may lie in the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma known as derivatives.

My own guess is that we’ll discover the value of gold is not equivalent to its weight in sheetrock. The third quarter of 2013 might go down in history as the great moment of price re-discovery in a world that thought — for a while — that the price of things can be whatever you say it is. Historians of the future, squatting in the plastic and silicon midden-heaps of bygone technocracy, may note that FASB Rule 157 provoked a four-year psychotic episode of worldwide accounting fraud in which anything could mean anything. That only goes on so long until civilizations shudder and fall. The pea under the walnut shell can’t see much outside, but it can certainly feel the earth tremble.

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published two novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic and A Christmas Orphan.  

Pustule of the Body Politic

Pustule of the Body Politic: Me, You, and George

by C. L. Cook 

[circa 2005] - It's tempting to discount George W. Bush and those around him as something alien to humanity, some sort of ghoulish life-force vampires whose joy and sustenance is the misery inflicted on the rest of the race; but, that would be a misunderestimation of their true constitution.

You've likely heard the phrase, generally uttered by pachouli scented Sixties types as they huddle about steaming pots of herbal tea: "Everything is connected!"

Beyond the obvious, it's an observation whose simplicity conveys the answer to the question millions have asked these last terrible years: "How on Earth did George Bush become the leader of the planet's most powerful nation?"

The cynics in the crowd may cite the criminal machinations of the Republican party apparatus that employed goons like John Bolton to intimidate voting poll workers; the mobilized racist law enforcement officers sent to intercept and harrass Black voters; stacked state bureaucracies with anti-democratic apparatchiks, happy to obstruct the will of the majority; and a crooked judiciary more interested in its own interests than the public's. And, of course those cynics are correct on all points. But, there's another dimension to Dubya's ascension, one more than the mere corruption and venality he represents, one that has more to do with you and me.

The thin veneer of civility so effectively stripped away by the recent disaster in New Orleans can't honestly be said to reveal anything we all don't already know, at some level at least; our system, the economy, the privilege of race and class, the barbarous measures required to sustain the status quo, is nothing new. Images of the suffering of the underclass, whether at home, or wherever our virulent influence is exacted may shock, but they certainly don't surprise.

That we who aren't suffering can watch images of misery, and then go about our daily business supporting the system that promises its continuity without losing a lot of sleep over it attests to a societal disease, a political pandemic far greater than George W. Bush, or any of the serial killer manifestations of that illness preceding him in the White House. George, and this war, not even His war, is merely the latest symptom of our collective sickness; a poison pustule, boiling to the surface of the body politic, a manifestation of our disregard for all, save narrow self-interest.

That this pimple needs be lanced is beyond dispute, but if we are content to remove the zit without addressing the infection that created it, we run the risk of further sceptic eruptions; eruptions that will prove increasingly toxic, and perhaps fatal to the organism we all, in turn, feed and are fed by.

Yes, we are all indeed connected: I am you, and you are me, and we are all together. And George is where he is now because we failed to practice preventative medicine.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor to PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Meeting Comey: Prospective New #1 at the FBI and Washington's Revolving Merry Go-Round

Wilkerson: Nominated FBI Director Is Model of Revolving Door


James Comey will likely be confirmed as the new FBI Director, and his career working for Lockheed Martin and a hedge fund is just another example of the American status quo.

Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army soldier and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on US national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled "National Security Decision Making." 

Accelerating the Cleansing of Palestine

Treatment of Palestinians is Apartheid by Any Other Name

by Jonathan Cook

Were it not for the razor wire, giant concrete blocks, steel gates, watchtower and standard-issue surly teenage soldier, it would be impossible to tell at what point the barren uplands of Israel’s eastern Negev give way to the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank.

The military checkpoint of Shani vaguely marks the formal demarcation between Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, but in practical terms the distinction is meaningless. On either side of the Green Line, Israel is in charge.

In recent weeks it has been intensifying a campaign to evict Palestinian farming communities summarily from their ancestral lands to replace them with Jewish newcomers.

Israeli human rights lawyers, tired of the international community’s formulaic criticisms, say it is time to be more forthright. They call these “ethnic cleansing” zones – intended to drive off Palestinians irrespective of the provisions of international law and whether or not the Palestinians in question hold Israeli citizenship.

In the occupied South Hebron Hills, a dozen traditional communities – long ago denied by Israel the right to enjoy modern amenities such as electricity and running water – are struggling to remain in the cave-homes that sheltered them for centuries.

Israel has reclassified much of their land as a military firing range and demands that they leave for their own safety. An appeal to the Israeli courts, the latest instalment in a 14-year saga to avoid eviction, is due in the next few days.

Israel’s concern for the villagers’ welfare might sound more convincing were it not encouraging Jews to live close by in illegal settlements.

Palestinians in other parts of the occupied territories coveted by Israel – such as villages next to Jerusalem and those in the fertile Jordan Valley, the territorial backbone of any future Palestinian state – are being squeezed too. Firing ranges, closed military zones and national parks are the pretexts for Israel to appropriate the farmland these rural communities need to survive.

As a result, Palestinian life is withering in the nearly two-thirds of the West Bank Israel was temporarily entrusted with – the so-called Area C – under the Oslo Accords. Endlessly harassed Palestinians have sought sanctuary in West Bank cities under Palestinian Authority control. Today the remnants in Area C, a population of about 100,000, are outnumbered three to one by Jewish settlers.

A discomfited European Union, normally mealy-mouthed on Israel’s occupation, has started to describe this as “forced transfer”. The term may sound ominous and reproving, but human rights groups say that, from a legal perspective, the terminology obscures rather than illuminates what is taking place.

“Forced transfer”, observes Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre for Israel’s minority of 1.5 million Palestinian citizens, usually describes uncoordinated and unofficial incidents of population displacement, often as an outcome of war.

Bishara and others argue that Israel is carrying out a systematic and intentional policy to drive Palestinians off their land to replace them with Jewish communities. This, they say, should be identified as “ethnic cleansing”, a term first given legal and moral weight in the Balkans conflict in the early 1990s.

As evidence, the lawyers point to recent developments inside Israel. The treatment of tens of thousands of Bedouin in the Negev, all of them Israeli citizens, is virtually identical to that of Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills.

The Bedouin too have faced a prolonged campaign to push them off their ancestral lands and into a series of “townships”, forcibly urbanising them in the country’s most deprived communities. In the disconcerting language of Israeli bureaucracy, the Bedouin need to be “concentrated”.

Israel has increased the pressure – as in the West Bank – by denying these Bedouin all public services, and demolishing any concrete homes they build. As with Palestinians under occupation, the Bedouin have found their communities reclassified as firing ranges, military zones or national forests.

The village of al-Araqib, near Beersheva, for example, has been demolished more than 50 times in recent years as Israel plants on its land – with a suitably sinister irony – the Ambassadors’ Forest, commemorating the help provided to Israel by the international community’s diplomatic corps.

Waiting in the wings are developers ready to build on the Bedouin’s land 10 new towns for Jews only. The rest of the territory is being eaten up by Jewish ranches, given swathes of land to create vineyards, offer camel rides and, in one case, provide a pet cemetery.

But, as in the West Bank, the Bedouin are refusing to budge, and pressing their historic land claims in the Israeli courts. Rather than wait for a verdict it may not like, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is rewriting the Bedouin’s citizenship rights.

The Prawer plan, which passed its first reading in parliament last month, will force 40,000 Bedouin off their land – the largest expulsions inside Israel for decades. Unlike Jewish citizens, they will have no say over where they live; they will be forcibly assigned to a township.

For the first time, Israeli citizens – the Bedouin – are to be deprived of any recourse to the courts as they are harried from their homes. Instead Israel will resort to administrative procedures more familiar from the occupied territories.

The policy is clear: Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line are to be treated like sheep, fenced into ever-smaller areas, while Jews will have unrestrained access to a Greater Israel envisioned by Mr Netanyahu.

The international community has long criticised Israel for the “discrimination” its Palestinian citizens face and for the “oppression” of Palestinians under occupation. This terminology needs overhauling too, say the human rights lawyers.

A system that treats one ethnic group as less human than another already has a legal name: it is called apartheid.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He won this year’s Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.

ElBaradei and Egypt's Moral Crisis

ElBaradei’s Democracy: How Egypt’s ‘Revolution’ Betrayed Itself

by Ramzy Baroud -

The revolution is dead. Long live the revolution,” wrote Eric Walberg, a Middle East political expert and author, shortly after the Egyptian military overthrew the country’s democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.

But more accurately, the revolution was killed in an agonizingly slow death, and the murders were too many to count.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a liberal elitist with a dismal track record in service of western powers during his glamorous career as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a stark example of the moral and political crisis that has befallen Egypt since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

ElBaradei played a most detrimental role in this sad saga, from his uneventful return to Egypt during the Jan. 2011 revolution – being casted as the sensible, western-educated liberator – to the ousting of the only democratically-elected president this popular Arab country has ever seen. His double-speak was a testament not only to his opportunistic nature as a politician and the head of the Dostour Party, but to the entire political philosophy of the National Salvation Front, the opposition umbrella group for which he served as a coordinator.

The soft-spoken man, who rarely objected to the unfair pressure imposed on Iraq during his services as the head of the UN nuclear watch dog, was miraculously transformed into a fierce politician with persisting demands and expectations. His party, like the rest of Egypt’s opposition, had performed poorly in every democratic election and referendum held since the ouster of Mubarak. Democracy proved him irrelevant. But after every failure he and the opposition managed to emerge even louder thanks to a huge media apparatus that operated around the clock in a collective, undying commitment in rearranging the country’s political scene in their favor, regardless of what the majority of Egyptians thought.

Soon after General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced a military coup on July 04, in what was a clearly well-organized conspiracy involving the army, much of the media, the opposition and disaffected Mubarak-era judges, silencing the Muslim Brotherhood and their own media were paramount. The level of organization in which the coup conspirators operated left no doubt that the military was most insincere when two days earlier they had given the quarreling political parties 48 hours to resolve their disputes or else.

But of course there was no room for compromise as far as ElBaradei’s opposition was concerned, and the army knew that well. On June 30, one year since Morsi had taken office following transparent, albeit protracted elections, the opposition organized with the sinister goal of removing the president at any cost. Some called on the army, which has proven to be extremely devious and untrustworthy, to lead the ‘democratic’ transition. ElBaradei even invited supporters of the former regime to join his crusade to oust the Brotherhood. The idea was simple: to gather as many people in the streets as possible, claiming a second revolution and calling on the military to intervene to save Egypt from Morsi and his supposed disregard of the will of the people. The military, with a repulsive show of orchestrated benevolence, came to the rescue, in the name of the people and democracy. They arrested the president, shut down Islamic TV stations, killed many and rounded up hundreds of people affiliated with the ruling party. Fireworks ensued, ElBaradei and his men gloated, for Egypt had supposedly been saved.

Except it was not.

“Mubarak-era media owners and key members of Egypt’s liberal and secular opposition have teamed up to create arguably one of the most effective propaganda campaigns in recent political history, to demonize Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood,” wrote Mohamad Elmasry of the American University in Cairo.

Much of the media in Egypt never truly shifted allegiances. It remained as dirty and corrupt as it was during the Mubarak regime. It was there to serve the interest of the powerful business and political elites. But, due to the changing political reality – three democratic elections and two referendums, all won by Islamic party supporters – it was impossible for them to operate using the same language. They too jumped on the revolution bandwagon using the same frame of references as if they were at the forefront of the fight for freedom, equality and democracy.

Egypt’s reactionary forces, not only in the media, but also the pro-Mubarak judges, the self-serving military, etc, managed to survive the political upheaval not for being particularly clever. They simply had too much room to regroup and maneuver since the desperate opposition, ElBaradie and company, put all of their focus on discounting Morsi, undermining the Muslim Brotherhood, and undercutting the democratic process that brought them to power. In their desperation and search for power, they lost sight of the revolution and its original goals, disowned democracy, but more importantly endangered the future of Egypt itself.

What took place in Egypt, starting with the orchestrated ‘revolution’ on June 30, from the army’s ultimatum, to the military coup, to the shameless reinvention of the old order – accompanied with repopulating the prisons and sending tanks to face unarmed civilians - was not only disheartening to the majority of Egyptians, but was a huge shock to many people around the world as well. Egypt, which once inspired the world, is now back to square one.

Since the onset of the so called Arab Spring, an intense debate of numerous dimensions has ensued. One of its aspects was concerned with the role of religion in a healthy democracy. Egypt, of course, was in the heart of that debate, and every time Egyptians went to the ballot box they seemed to concur with the fact that they wished to see some sort of marriage between Islam and democracy. It was hardly an easy question, and until now there have been no convincing answers. But, as in any healthy democracy, it was the people who were to have the final say. The fact that the choice of a poor peasant from a distant Egyptian village didn’t match ElBaradei’s elitist sensibility is of no consequence whatsoever.

It is unfortunate, but hardly surprising, that many of the idealists who took to Tahrir Square in Jan. 2011 and spoke of equal rights for all, couldn’t bear the outcome of that equality. Some complained that decades of marginalization under Mubarak didn't qualify Egypt’s poor, uneducated and illiterate to make decisions pertaining to political representation and democratic constitution. And in a sad turn of events, these very forces were openly involved in toppling the democratically-elected president and his party, as they happily celebrated the return to oppression as a glorious day of freedom. ElBaradie may now return to center stage, lecturing Egypt’s poor on what true democracy is all about – and why, in some way, the majority doesn’t matter at all.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press).