Posts Tagged ‘obama’

Brandon Raub, the 26-year-old Marine and Iraq war veteran who is currently being indefinitely detained because of inflammatory posts made on his Facebook page, faces yet another hurdle following a psychiatric “evaluation” on Monday.

Raub is being held against his will and without charges at John Randolph Psychiatric Hospital in Hopewell, Virginia, following an arrest (though some have challenged the technical accuracy of this word) by numerous FBI agents and the Chesterfield County Police Department on the 16th of August.

He was lead away in handcuffs without being read his rights, and it was only following his detainment that his mother received a call from FBI Agent Sherry Grainger, who informed her of the following:

“We have taken your son. He has been arrested by the Chesterfield County Police Dept because he assaulted an officer and resisted arrest. He has been arrested and taken to the Chesterfield Police Department.”

As was reported previously, the CCPD initially told  a different story, claiming that the arrest was spearheaded by the FBI, with Chesterfield officers only assisting the agents involved. Additionally, CCPD claims that Raub has not been charged with either resisting arrest or assaulting an officer, directly contradicting the claims of Agent Grainger.

Some have observed that one of the more disturbing aspects of this case is that neither the FBI, nor the CCPD, nor the Secret Service which assisted with Raub’s initial interview after he was taken into custody, seem to want to take responsibility for his detention. The Richmond spokesperson for the FBI stated unequivically:

“When we left we had not arrested him, we had not placed our hands on him, we did not detain him and we did not charge him.”

Brian Leary, Secret Service representative, released the following statement:

“The Secret Service assisted the FBI with the interview. He was not arrested by the Secret Service. The Secret Service will continue to monitor the situation. We have no further comment at this time.”

And the CCPD also effectively washed their hands of the matter, writing that:

“Raub was evaluated by a Chesterfield mental health official, who determined that he should be held under a temporary [detention] order and transported to John Randolph Medical Center for additional evaluation.

Raub was not arrested and he faces no criminal charges in Chesterfield.”

On Monday, Raub was forced to undergo a psychological “evaluation” at the psychiatric hospital where he is currently being held. According to his mother, the evaluation “was 15 minutes long, and basically the evaluator said that he was not ready to go back into society and he needed additional psychiatric treatment.” The evaluation resulted in Raub being sentenced to a minimum of 30 days in the mental hospital, despite the fact that no charges have been brought against him.

According to Russia Today, the government is utilizing state legislation (Virginia State Code §37.2-808) which states that authorities may indefinitely detain a person without charges in a mental institution upon obtaining a recommendation from a medic.

The Rutherford Insitute, a civil rights watchdog group, has begun to assemble a defense on behalf of Raub. A statement posted on their website from the executive director of the Institute, John Whitehead, reads as follows:

“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights [to freedom of speech], but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon.”

Rutherford Institute lawyers decried the government’s decision to hold Raub without charges for the next month, saying that “government officials again pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the sole reason for their concern and for his continued incarceration.”

Raub himself, during a telephone interview with the Times-Dispatch, had the following to say:

“I really love America, and I think that idea that you can be detained and sent somewhere without due process and a lawyer … is crazy.”

A former Marine and veteran of two wars, Brandon Raub was arrested late Thursday evening at his house in Virginia for inflammatory comments that he made on Facebook.

The arrest was made by numerous FBI agents in conjunction with the Chesterfield County Police Department. Raub was not read his rights, according to numerous witnesses, and was initially taken to an undisclosed location. It has since emerged that he is being held indefinitely and without charges at John Randolph Psychiatric Hospital in Hopewell, Virginia.

His mother, Kathleen Thomas, was reportedly contacted by FBI agent Sherry Grainger, who informed her of the following:

“We have taken your son. He has been arrested by the Chesterfield County Police Dept because he assaulted an officer and resisted arrest. He has been arrested and taken to the Chesterfield Police Department.”

However, upon contacting the CCPD, Thomas was told that her son was arrested by the FBI, and that “[the arrest] was an FBI matter and [CCPD officers] were just there to assist them.” Additionally, the CCPD states that Raub has not been charged with either resisting arrest or assaulting an officer.

Agent Grainger went on to tell Thomas that the comments which appeared on Raub’s Facebook page had been deemed “terrorist in nature.” Thomas then asked the agent whether or not free speech still exists in the United States of America, to which Grainger responded: “Yes, we still have freedom of speech.”

Brandon Raub had been outspokenly critical of the US government’s official story surrounding the events of 9/11, and was a vocal advocate of what some have referred to as “the Ron Paul Revolution.”

His Facebook comments included references to the coming of a new American revolution, a 9/11 cover-up, and the necessity of honest government. Some examples of his more recent posts follow:

Courage. Loyalty. And Honor. [August 16th]

The Revolution will come for me. Men will be at my door soon to pick me up to lead it. 😉 [August 14th]

Do you know why the American people will win the civil war that is coming? Because we are Americans. [August 12th]

Whether or not one agrees with the sentiments expressed by Brandon Raub, his defenders are quick to point out that what he has said on Facebook is not illegal, nor do his comments justify his indefinite detention without charges at a mental hospital.

His mother reports that Raub is due to see a judge on Monday, but as of now still has no idea why he’s been arrested or held against his will.

Civil rights activists are concerned that this arrest may be a sign of things to come under the government’s seemingly limitless power to detain American citizens without charges, as specified by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law on New Year’s Eve 2011 by President Obama.

The Obama administration has been engaged in a fierce courtroom battle over the legislation since a May 2012 injunction against the “indefinite detention” provision was issued in federal court.

The injunction was issued after a lawsuit was brought against the federal government on behalf of such notable plaintiffs as Noam Chomsky and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, which argued that the NDAA was unconstitutional.

Judge Katherine Forrest agreed, saying that indefinite detention “failed to pass Constitutional muster” and issued an injunction barring the administration from arresting and indefinitely detaining American citizens without charges or trial. Judge Forrest stated:

“In the face of what could be indeterminate military detention, due process requires more. An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an [anti-American] force without even being aware that he or she was doing so.”

The White House, however, is challenging the injunction and demanding that their power to indefinitely detain anyone they deem a “terrorist” be restored.

Worse, the Obama administration is refusing to disclose whether or not the government has abided by the federal injunction. Journalist Tangerine Bolen, a plaintiff in the suit filed against the NDAA, stated in an op-ed that:

“Obama’s attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA’s section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the US government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest’s injunction. In other words, they were telling a US federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama’s government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them.”

So despite a federal injunction prohibiting the Obama administration from acting upon the “indefinite detention” provision, could the arrest of Brandon Raub and others like him be the first sign of things to come in the new United States? And more importantly, what is our role now, as active and informed citizens of a democracy apparently under siege?

A professional treasure hunter in California is actively seeking the remains of Osama Bin Laden, allegedly dumped from a U.S. Naval vessel after the raid that took the life of the terrorist leader last May.

Bill Warren, an adventurer and expert on shipwrecks, wants to recover the body of the infamous Bin Laden in order to subject it to DNA tests and prove or disprove the official government story of Osama’s death.

According to Gizmodo, Warren doesn’t buy the Obama administration’s narrative of the events of the night of May 1st, 2011, and hopes to come closer to truth by recovering the body (whomever it belonged to) that the Navy threw from a ship on that fateful night:

Warren—who claims he has discovered more than 200 shipwrecks during his career as a treasure-hunter—says that bin Laden’s body is still at that same location, deep under water. His thought is that, since the Navy weighted down the bag, the body hasn’t moved from where it was dropped. He is now trying to rent Russian deep diving equipment to locate his payload, and to conduct DNA tests once he finds him…Warren says he is doing this because he doesn’t “believe the Obama administration” and he wants to have proof that it is really his body.

Numerous individuals expressed disbelief and incredulity in the aftermath of the assassination of Al-Qaeda’s number one, just a little over a year ago today. Pakistanis are still reeling from the perceived violation of their national sovereignty, with many openly doubting the official version of events provided by the White House.

Tasvir Hussein, a resident of the Abbottabad neighborhood where Bin Laden was supposedly found, expressed his outrage:

“I’m not very sure whether Osama was here or not because the way his so-called dead body was dropped in the sea, what was the reason? Why did they have to do that? Why couldn’t they have produced evidence?”

Hussein´s views echo those of thousands of average Americans who doubt the veracity of the government’s story. Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group, was just denied a request that its members had submitted in District Court for the release of the photos of Osama Bin Laden’s body.

The presiding judge who denied the request issue the following statement with his ruling:

“A picture may be worth a thousand words. Yet, in this case, verbal descriptions of the death and burial of Osama Bin Laden will have to suffice, for this court will not order the release of anything more.”

President Obama agreed, saying in an interview on 60 Minutes that “we do not tout our trophies”.

Of course, it can be argued that this is not consistent with the government’s attitude following the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq or the brutal killing of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, with pictures of the latter appearing on the front page of multiple national newspapers.

Treasure hunter Warren, for his part, is determined to locate Bin Laden’s supposed body, his only fear being that Obama administration might attempt to kill him or sink his boat before he can accomplish his mission.

With Obama’s recent murder of American citizens, his signing of the NDAA, and the destruction of civil liberties under his administration increasing at a breakneck pace, Warren can hardly be blamed for being concerned.

The only reason you’d continue to support a man like Barack Obama in 2012 is that you haven’t been paying any attention to his policy choices over the last 3 years.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating voting for Mitt Romney. The man is a well-oiled political robot, and the generally negative response he’s received from pillars of his own party illustrates that clearly enough. For the life of me, I’m not sure how anyone on either side of the political spectrum could possibly be enthused about the current election cycle.

But this article is for all those in my generation who continue to believe in the empty promises of the Obama administration, despite all evidence to the contrary. This is an easy-to-use fact sheet on why Barack Obama does not deserve your vote in 2012.

Obama’s administration has upheld the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, further stripped the American people of their civil liberties, overstepped its Constitutional bounds, gotten into bed with the bankers and the nation’s wealthiest citizens at the expense of the average working man, and has broken innumerable campaign promises, governing in direct opposition to the once-hopeful slogan of “Change We Can Believe In”.

What follows is a short list of five reasons to not vote for Barack Obama.

#1: Passage of the NDAA

On December 31st, 2011, while everyone was busy ringing in the New Year, Barack Obama quietly signed into law a piece of legislation far more draconian than anything offered up by the Bush administration. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which outlined the budget for U.S. defense expenditures at home and abroad, includes a notable section (1021) under the heading of “Counterterrorism” which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of aiding and abetting terrorist activities, without trial.

Section 1021 reads as follows:

Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force…includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

“Covered persons” is subsequently defined as “any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of [terrorist] enemy forces.” A “belligerent act” is never defined, and neither is it stipulated that an individual must be found guilty in a court of law in order to be treated as a supporter of terrorism. Suspicion alone is enough.

The Section continues, stating that “disposition under the law of war” is to be interpreted as referring to “detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities…” This effectively nullifies the Writ of Habeas Corpus, which is applied to all citizens in the Constitution of the United States, and guarantees them a fair and free trial in civilian court. And, of course, the “end of hostilities” is open to debate as well. The “war on terror” is a war declared on an abstract concept, not a nation state or even a particular organization of people, so how and when can it possibly end?

For his part, in the signing statement, President Obama assures us that his “Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens”, and that the government “will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law”.

But very few of us will be satisfied with hoping that our government will not choose to exercise the power it’s been newly invested with. It’s a dangerous gamble.

And more to the point, as Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) made clear on the floor of the Senate, it turns out that the Obama administration insisted that the controversial provision be included and that no exemption be made for U.S. citizens. In fact, numerous proposed amendments specifying that the American people be exempt from indefinite detention were defeated, apparently under pressure from the White House. Why insist on it if you don’t plan on utilizing it?

In its defense, the Obama administration has pointed to subsection (e) of Section 1021, which reads:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.

But this is, as critics have pointed out, simply “meaningless rhetoric” designed to assuage our fear without actually guaranteeing our rights. The folks over at The Tenth Amendment Center, a civil liberties watchdog group, have this to say about it:

This provision is sometimes touted as protecting citizens because it preserves existing Supreme Court decisions. The problem is that, as yet, there are no Supreme Court decisions that squarely provide the full measure of habeas corpus protection to citizens or legal aliens accused within our borders. This is true because neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has had the audacity to round up U.S. citizens without our borders and hold them indefinitely without trial.

Johnathan Turley of The Guardian describes this bill as a “Mayan moment” for civil libertarians. “2012,” he says, “is when the nation embraced authoritarian powers with little more than a pause between rounds of drinks.”

#2: Extension of the PATRIOT Act Without Revision

The PATRIOT Act, considered by most civil liberties groups to constitute a gross invasion of privacy, came up for a one year renewal in early 2011. Barack Obama  had campaigned on the notion that legislation like the PATRIOT Act ought to be revised to include regulatory oversight, in order to avoid any possible abuse of power.

Obama’s official campaign statement regarding the war on terror, entitled “Barack Obama: The War We Need To Win”, stated that: “As president, Barack Obama would revisit the PATRIOT Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision.”

But in the run-up to renewal, the Obama administration dramatically reversed its stance on the bill. Not only did Barack Obama fully support the Act, sans revision, he issued an official statement requesting that it be extended for not one year, but three! The statement made clear that the President “would strongly prefer enactment of reauthorizing legislation that would extend these authorities until December 2013.”

The Act’s renewal was successful, and specific provisions again came up for re-authorization in the middle of 2011. Obama unconditionally supported their renewal, as well, and as Politifact reports: “By reauthorizing the Patriot Act, President Obama guaranteed (barring any judicial action) that the law will live on in its current form until June 1, 2015.”

And this, of course, is not the extent of Obama’s trampling on the freedoms of the American public. The recent passage of CISPA, a draconian piece of legislation aimed at imposing government control on the internet, or the Executive Order entitled “National Defense Resource Preparedness”, which allows the Executive branch to seize control of the nation’s industries, transportation and energy, as well as to utilize the military domestically however the President sees fit; all of this represents a systemic pattern, not a handful of isolated incidents.

#3: Murder of American Citizens Overseas

On September 30th, 2011, Barack Obama ordered the targeted killing of American and Yemeni Muslim Imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was suspected (but never tried or found guilty) of being a top-ranking member of Al-Qaeda, working for the organization as one of its most influential recruiters.

Several weeks later on October 14th,  his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was also murdered in a CIA drone strike, while on his way to a barbecue. Abdulrahman was a full American citizen, born in Denver, Colorado.

Al-Awlaki and his son were just two names on the government’s targeted killing list, which was started during the Bush administration and has been continued and added to during Obama’s tenure in office.

The targeted killing of American citizens, depriving them of the due-process guaranteed to them under the Constitution is more than cause for concern. It represents a fundamental violation of our most basic right as members of American society. The administration’s justification for the murder of al-Awlaki is that there was no other way to eliminate the threat he posed to the country.

Of course, critics have pointed out that this would in no way be considered an acceptable argument in the context of domestic criminal behavior. Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh, for example, could not have been killed in an air strike without due process simply because arresting them was difficult.

Meanwhile, Eric Holder (who has advocated the suspension of Miranda rights for any American citizen suspected of aiding and abetting terrorist organizations) stated unequivocally that the murder of American citizens falls within the purview of the President, and that it’s legally justified under the following three circumstances:

First, [if] the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, [if] capture is not feasible; and third, [if] the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

Which puts our fates squarely in the hands of the Executive branch and its “thorough and careful review” (the details of which are not disclosed to the general public), rather than in the hands of a jury of our peers. Again, we’re asked to simply trust that the government won’t overstep its bounds. And were trust enough, we never would have needed to depart from the monarchy.

This is Orwellian reasoning, and were it coming from the mouths of the well-known players of the Bush administration (say Rumsfeld or Ashcroft), the left would quickly condemn it. As it stands, however, there’s been relatively little public outcry over this flagrant violation of Constitutionally guaranteed rights outlined in the 5th Amendment, which states clearly that the government cannot deprive citizens of life or liberty without due process, regardless of suspected criminal activity.

#4: Extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the 1%

On December 17th, 2010, President Obama signed a bill extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans for another two years.

The tax cuts amounted to 858 billion dollars of lost revenue between 2010 and 2012. That’s 858 billion of revenue lost during a time when we’re actively pushing to cut the salaries of teachers, to layoff firefighters and police officers, and to bust up public sector unions in order to scrimp and save a few pennies here and there.

The Obama administration, for its part, defends itself by stating that if they hadn’t extended the tax cuts, all legislative efforts favored by Democrats would have been blocked by the Republicans in the Senate.

However, as we’ll see below, Obama’s relationship with big business, big banking, and the wealthiest individuals in the country is far from reluctant.

So when Obama says (as he did just a few nights ago, while “slow-jamming” the news with Jimmy Fallon) that those on the right want to pay back the national debt only as long as it doesn’t include taxing billionaires, remember that it was Obama who put his signature to a bill that cost the country nearly 900 billion dollars for the sake of easing the burden on the nation’s wealthiest.

#5: In Bed With the Bankers

Obama, during the 2008 election cycle, received $1,013,091 from Goldman Sachs, $808,799 from J.P. Morgan, $736,771 from Citigroup, $624,618 from Time Warner, and multiple millions of dollars from various other moneyed interests in the financial sector.

Compare that to McCain’s donor list, which features the same corporate players, but about half of the amount of money donated from each company.

Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel (now Mayor of Chicago), earned millions of dollars in investment banking after leaving the Clinton White House in 1999, much of it working in collusion with Goldman Sachs.

Then there’s the revolving door between Goldman and the Obama administration. More than a few prominent members of Obama’s team have enjoyed a long and profitable relationship with the banking giant. McClatchy reports:

Several former Goldman executives hold senior positions in the Obama administration, including Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Mark Patterson, a former Goldman lobbyist who is chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and Robert Hormats, the undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs.

Meanwhile, allegations surfaced long ago that Goldman used its influence with the Obama administration to address charges of fraud leveled against them by the Securities and Exchange Commission. During their bout of legal troubles with the SEC, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein visited the White House on at least four separate occasions to meet with President Obama. Their topics of conversation remain a mystery, of course.

And Obama’s collusion with the banking system goes further than that. In 2010, Obama began actively pursuing negotiations with five of the largest banking organizations in the country, stating that he would drop all investigations into their mortgage-related crimes (which caused the 2008 financial crisis) in exchange for a one-time payoff of roughly 20 billion dollars to the American people.

The deal was struck in February of this year, and the banks agreed to a 26 billion dollar settlement in exchange for immunity. The New York Times reports:

After months of painstaking talks, government authorities and five of the nation’s biggest banks have agreed to a $26 billion settlement that could provide relief to nearly two million current and former American homeowners harmed by the bursting of the housing bubble, state and federal officials said.

Reuters continues:

In exchange, the banks would get immunity from civil lawsuits by the states, as well as similar guarantees by the Justice Department and Department of Housing and Urban Development, which have participated in the talks. State and federal officials declined to say if any form of immunity from criminal prosecution also is under discussion.

The deal comes on the heels of new revelations that the banks continue to engage in all of the risky and potentially illegal practices which brought about the 2008 collapse. According to Reuters:

…major banks and other loan servicers have continued to file questionable documents in foreclosure cases. These include false mortgage assignments, and promissory notes with suspect or missing “endorsements,” which prove ownership. The Reuters report also showed continued “robo-signing,” in which lenders’ employees or outside contractors churn out reams of documents without fully understanding their content.

Critics contend that this deal amounts to bankers buying their way out of jail. Which of course it does. This from Politicalvelcraft.org:

[Iowa Attorney General Tom] Miller has repeatedly lied, on behalf of Obama, that the banks would be granted only limited immunity from their crimes, despite multiple leaks from within his group to the London’s Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, insisting that in fact, the banks will be given a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for everything.

Obama, beholden as he is to the banking system and big business, is no friend to the average, American worker. His record over the last three years speaks for itself.

(BONUS!) #6: Warmonger in Chief

Yeah, I know I said “Top Five”, but this is too important to ignore.

In March of 2011, the Obama administration began airstrikes in support of rebel forces, aimed at ousting Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from power in Libya.

We have spent upwards of 1 billion dollars in Libya, though that’s not what’s gotten politicians from both sides of the aisle riled up. President Obama, who campaigned on the rule of law, and portrayed himself as the anti-Bush, the candidate who would respect Congressional authority and reign in the Executive branch, never sought Congressional approval for military action in Libya.

Under the War Powers Act of 1973, the President has 60 days from the beginning of any conflict to obtain official Congressional authorization for the use of military force. Obama, in a move which ruffled the feathers of many of the members of his own party, simply refused to comply. His administration stated flatly that the rules don’t apply to Libya:

“We’re not engaged in sustained fighting. There’s been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don’t have troops on the ground. We don’t risk casualties to those troops. None of the factors, frankly, speaking more broadly, has risked the sort of escalation that Congress was concerned would impinge on its war-making power.”

And further:

The president said he welcomed “Congressional action in support of the mission,” which “would underline the U.S. commitment.” But the administration argues this “support” is not required. It says the action in Libya is not war but, euphemistically, a “limited kinetic action.”

But many – Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike – feel differently. Jules Lobel, professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, stated that the Obama administration is “definitely supporting hostilities in a context where they could be fired upon. They are involved in a war, and the fact that they are in a support role, that I don’t think is dispositive in the War Powers Resolution debate.”

Obama’s unilateral action in Libya caused Representative Walter Jones (R) of North Carolina to introduce a resolution in the House that calls for the impeachment of President Obama should he fail to obtain authorization for the use of military force from Congress in the future.

Meanwhile, Obama is ratcheting up the rhetoric in the march to war with Iran. A story released several weeks ago in the Jerusalem Post asserted that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has issued a final warning to the Iranians: the upcoming round of diplomatic negotiations in April represent the last chance to avoid military conflict. An unidentified Russian diplomatic source is quoted as saying:

“The invasion [of Iran] will happen before the year’s end. The Israelis are, in effect, blackmailing Obama: either he supports the war, or he risks losing the support [of the Jewish lobby].”

Speaking at joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this morning, President Obama seemed to deliver the same message to the world, saying that the “window for diplomacy is shrinking”:

“Tehran must understand that it cannot escape or evade the choice before it. Meet your international obligations or face the consequences.”

And in Syria, reports have been coming in for some time (unreported, for the most part, by the mainstream media) that U.S. Special Forces are already on the ground and actively seeking the destabilization of the Assad regime.

An email from Reva Bhalla, Director of Analysis for the Texas-based “intelligence provider” Stratfor Corporation, described a plan being formulated by NATO and the United States to commit terrorist attacks in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The email, released as part of the Wikileaks Stratfor dump, includes details of a joint strategic meeting which took place at the Pentagon on December 6, 2011, and included at least one representative from both the UK and France.

Bhalla was informed by those present that, media reports to the contrary, US Special Forces commandos were already on the ground in Syria, attempting to “commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces [Assad’s support base], elicit collapse from within.”

The email records that:

After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces.

It’s troubling, to say the least, picturing the President ordering unilateral military force with the Nobel Peace Prize dangling around his neck.

So what happened to the era of law and order Obama was supposed to usher in? What change did this President bring? How much hope do you have for the future after reading the above? Obama has followed in the footsteps of his murderous, Constitution-shredding predecessor.

Spread this around to those who should read it. Don’t cast your vote for yet another madman on a power trip.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protecting Act, or CISPA, has been passed by the House of Representatives, with a vote of 248-162.

The bill, which would allow private companies to share confidential, personal information about their customers with government agencies, ostensibly to guarantee network security, has drawn fire from numerous civil liberties groups.

Aaron Schwartz, an activist who advocates internet freedom, describes the bill as “like a Patriot Act for the Internet. It sort of lets the government run roughshod over privacy protections and share personal data about you, take it from Facebook and Internet providers and use it without the normal privacy protections that are in the law.”

The bill has been supported by corporate giants like Facebook and Google, both of which have been accused of working hand in hand with government intelligence agencies.

According to Schwartz: “Big corporations are supporting the bill, especially big corporations that make money off of violating people’s privacy. So it’s not a big surprise they’re in favor. But we’re seeing that the same way grassroots efforts were able to stop SOPA…And now, even the White House is coming out against this bill with strong language, much stronger than they used against SOPA.”

But the Obama administration’s sole objection to the bill seems to be that it doesn’t go far enough in coercing online entities to cooperate with the government. According to a CBS News report, the White House believes that “the bill fails to protect privacy and gives a pass to companies that do not secure networks critical to the nation’s security.”

In other words, whereas CISPA allows corporations to share previously confidential information with the government, the Obama administration would prefer legislation that forces companies to divulge personal information about their customers upon demand.

Legislation of that sort is already being prepared in the Senate, under Joe Lieberman (I-CT)and Susan Collins (R-ME), which would empower the White House to actively “determine security standards for companies with networks deemed critical to the nation’s cyber security.”

SOPA and ACTA, the government’s previous attempt at policing the internet, were shelved on January 20th of this year. And CISPA is even worse, according to Schwartz:

“…because it does allow the government to shut down websites for ‘national security’ reasons. It does have all the censorship problems the previous bill did. But it also goes much further and allows them to spy on people using the Internet, to get their personal data and e-mails. It’s an incredibly broad and dangerous bill.”

And SOPA was shut down in large part because of fierce corporate opposition. Wikipedia, Google and a host of other online companies loudly opposed both bills, which subsequently goaded the American people into action.

Not so with CISPA. One wonders if public opinion alone, unsupported by corporate money and lobbyists, will be enough to turn the tide and defeat this Orwellian piece of legislation.

by Ian Driscoll

Bolivia has made incredible strides under President Evo Morales, successfully combating illiteracy, child mortality rates, unemployment and poverty. But in the United States, Morales is continually portrayed as a dangerous dictator, bent on subverting the interests of the United States in the region. This article asks two questions: What are the reasons behind this negative portrayal, and what may lie ahead for the South American democracy?

Evo Morales

Evo Morales, the first Aymara President of Bolivia, was elected to office in 2006. He handily defeated a 2008 referendum recall with two thirds of the vote, and in 2009 won reelection to the Presidency with 64% of the popular vote, representing a strong mandate from the people.

Born into an impoverished household in 1959, he and his family were subsistence farmers, scratching out a living on a small piece of land and residing in an adobe home with dirt floors and a straw roof. He was one of seven siblings, though only he and two others would survive childhood.

His first taste of political activism came in the early 80s, after joining the coca grower’s union (not to be confused with cocaine, a very different, chemically constituted refinement of specific varieties of the coca plant). He rose through the ranks, and was eventually elected to the position of General Secretary in the early 90s.

He joined the MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo or Movement for Socialism) political party in the late 90s, continuing as an advocate for the rights of coca growers and indigenous campesinos. He was elected to Congress in 1997, but kicked out by the majority for supporting armed opposition to the “innumerable amount of abuses and assassinations” committed by government troops under a recently passed coca eradication plan. The plan, widely viewed as initiated by the United States (which, since the early 90s, has funded Bolivian eradication measures to the tune of roughly 150M per year), was intensely unpopular among the farmers which Evo represented. Morales responded to his expulsion by submitting an official complaint to the Bolivian Constitutional Tribunal, and declared:

“I was the congressman with the highest proportion of votes for his area and ‘obeying an order from the US’ they voted to expel me from Congress. It is only recently that the constitutional court finally declared the whole farce illegal, and now they are having to pay compensation for what they did.”

In 2005, Morales was elected to the Presidency with 54% of the popular vote, taking office in 2006. And in 2008 he fared even better, receiving a record majority of 64% of the vote, while his main opponent received an underwhelming 27%.

As a man favored by the people, who has made incredible headway in confronting some of Bolivia’s most systemic problems, and clearly commands the respect of the vast majority of the Bolivian population, why is Morales demonized in the American media?

Some have suggested that it’s his success.

Economic and Social Achievements

Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of people living in “moderate poverty” declined by almost 12%, decreasing from 60% to 49.6%. The percentage of Bolivians living in extreme poverty also declined, from 38% to 25%. Unemployment fell from 8.4% to 4%, as well, and it’s economy has increased at an average rate of 4.5% every year since Morales took office.

Additionally, internal consumption of “electricity, purified water and domestic gas” has increased by 7% thanks to income redistribution, expanding access to basic services.

Bolivia was declared free of illiteracy under Morales as well. UNESCO standards dictate that a county is free of illiteracy if 96% of its population over the age of 15 can read and write. After taking office in 2006, Morales launched an ambitious, 30 month literacy program that was designed by Cuba (designated illiteracy free in 1961, two years after Castro took office), and paid for by Venezuela (free of illiteracy in 2005, under Hugo Chavez). The United States, on the other hand, may have much lower literacy rates than previously believed. A study released in 2003 entitled the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, suggests that literacy rates in the U.S. range anywhere from 65-85%.

According the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), Bolivia has also used the highest percentage of its GNP of all countries in Latin America for the advancement of the poor, “transferring resources to its most vulnerable population”.

And all of this has been achieved while the western world has suffered through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

So why would any of this make Morales unpopular in North America? Well, the results aren’t the problem, really. It’s the method that worries Uncle Sam.

Bolivia has achieved all of the success noted above by ignoring what’s known as the Washington Consensus, an unwritten list of economic commandments that America has imposed upon its neighbors since the Regan administration. This is known, in other parts of the world, as neoliberalism.

Without embarking on a thorough study of the Washington Consensus (or, neoliberalism), the main tenets of the economic dogma are as follows:

  • The rule of the market — freedom for capital, goods and services, where the market is self-regulating allowing the “trickle down” notion of wealth distribution. It also includes the deunionizing of labor forces and removals of any impediments to capital mobility, such as regulations. The freedom is from the state, or government.
  • Reducing public expenditure for social services, such as health and education, by the government
  • Deregulation, to allow market forces to act as a self-regulating mechanism
  • Privatization of public enterprise (things from water to even the internet)
  • Changing perceptions of public and community good to individualism and individual responsibility.

Deregulation, the breakdown of labor laws, the focus on the individual rather than the community, all these things are familiar to the American reader, and at least some have argued that they were directly responsible for the world economic collapse which began in late 2007.

For years, Bolivia was pressured by international monetary organizations like the World Bank and the IMF to privatize its natural resources. This culminated in the 2001 sale of the Cochabamba region’s water supply to a private, U.S. corporation called Bechtel, which promptly declared it illegal for the Bolivian poor to collect rain water in buckets on their roofs, claiming ownership of even the water which fell from the sky. Riots ensued, and Bechtel was eventually forced out.

Bolivia under Morales, on the other hand, embarked on a program diametrically opposed to the basic beliefs embodied in the Washington Consensus:

Evo Morales’s government did the opposite of what the Washington Consensus recommends: it nationalised hydrocarbons, electricity, telecommunications and mining; renegotiated the presence of direct foreign investment in the country; implemented an expansive fiscal policy and closed borders to the free importation of economically strategic products. The state took 34% of the economy under its control.

Morales has made clear that he’s interested in creating a new economic system, one based upon community and mutual respect, not just for one’s fellow human beings, but for the planet upon which we all live. Morales has stated:

“We don’t believe in the linear, cumulative conception of progress and of an unlimited development at the cost of other people and of nature. To live well is to think not only in terms of per capita income, but of cultural identity, community, harmony among ourselves and with Mother Earth.”

To that end, he went so far as to pass the world’s first piece of legislation granting nature rights equal to those of human beings. The Law of Mother Earth, as it is called, granted to nature 11 hard and fast rights, including: “the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.” The U.N. General Assembly named Morales “World Hero of Mother Earth” in recognition of the historic law, but the United States and its corporate interests aren’t happy:

…there is a great deal of opposition from powerful sectors, particularly mining and agro-industrial enterprises, to any ecological laws that would threaten profits. The main organization of soya producers, which claimed that the law “will make the productive sector inviable,” is one of many powerful groups who have already come out against the law.

And the threat to profits isn’t all that the U.S. is upset about. The defiance of the Washington Consensus clearly indicates a radical shift away from America dominated domestic policy.

And this isn’t an isolated case. In recent years, there has arisen a wave of leftist leaders openly hostile to the economic demands of Washington D.C. and its international banking arms. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, the Kirchners of Argentina, Lula in Brazil, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, and of course the omnipresent Fidel Castro who is widely recognized as the grandfather of the entire movement. These leaders represent a united front against what they perceive as a kind of economic colonialism advanced by the United States of America for the last 70 years.

But Washington isn’t sitting on its hands. In the last decade, there have been numerous coup and assassination attempts directed at several of the leaders listed above, many of which are directly linked to CIA activity and corporate interests in the region.

Assassination Attempts

The most recent and widely publicized attempt at assassinating Evo Morales came in 2009, when three men were shot dead by Bolivian police at a hotel in Santa Cruz.

Morales, who had gone to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez, had ordered their arrest prior to departing. The police had entered the hotel at which the men were staying at around 4 in the morning. A firefight ensued, and along with the bodies of the three men in question, a large cache of weapons and high explosive devices were recovered.

President Morales publicly speculated as to whether or not the U.S. Embassy in La Paz may have been behind the assassination plot, calling on President Obama to repudiate the actions of the would-be assassins. Obama, for his part, said that he was “unfamiliar with the incident but assured Morales that his administration was not involved.”

However, facts that emerged in the years following the attempted assassination seem to indicate that the CIA, at the very least, had direct and detailed knowledge of the plot to kill Morales, and may have even been actively working with the plotters.

The three men who were killed during the firefight in April of 2009 were all foreigners, one of them an Irishman named Michael Dwyer with a background in private security, who had traveled to Bolivia under the pretense of a “security training program”.

The other two men were named as Eduardo Rosza Flores (Hungarian-Bolivian head of a paramilitary organization and ringleader of the plot), as well as Magyarosi Arpak (Romanian).

Dwyer worked at a Shell Oil compound in County Mayo, Ireland, and Rosza and Dwyer had a mutual friend (commander of a Romanian paramilitary group, the Szekler Legion) who was still employed by Shell’s security services at the time of the 2009 shooting. Both worked specifically for the IRMS (Integrated Risk Management Service), the internal security component of Shell Oil Company, known for employing violent thugs and criminals to protect Shell’s global interests. IRMS was created by the “US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to protect Queen Beatrix’s holdings in Iraq after her company was given the rights to Iraq’s vast oil and gas fields in what is described as a ‘no bid contract’ by the Bush Administration.”

Additionally, in 2011, a cable made public in a Wikileaks dump and written by John S. Creamer, Charge D’ Affaires at the US Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia revealed that Marcelo Soza, the Bolivian prosecutor in charge of investigating the plot to assassinate Morales, had found evidence of email correspondence between Rosza and a CIA operative who had since died. The body of the cable reads as follows:

Marcelo Soza, the prosecutor in charge of investigating the April 2009 Rozsa case, announced February 5 that a review of Rozsa’s computer hard drive had uncovered evidence of email communication between Rozsa and an alleged ex-CIA employee (a U.S. citizen named Belovays). According to Soza, Belovays had been active in the Balkans wars, where he supposedly met Rozsa and became his mentor. An internet search on Belovays suggested that he has since died, Soza reported (Rozsa and two others were killed in a police raid; another two suspects are in custody). Soza claimed that Rozsa’s computer files show that Rozsa was in constant contact with Belovays — who, Soza said, is assumed to have been in Bolivia at some point — and kept him informed of his group’s activities and plans.

It’s worth noting that in 2008, Morales had expelled the U.S. Ambassador, Philip Goldberg, from Bolivia, accusing him of “conspiring against democracy” and encouraging civil unrest.

Morales had also, upon being inaugurated in 2006, declared that his government would nationalize the oil companies in his country, including Royal Dutch Shell:

Morales ordered the nationalization of Bolivia’s oil and gas industry in a surprise decree on May 1, 2006. After six months of tense negotiations, the foreign companies were allowed to remain in the country but agreed to sell a controlling interest in their Bolivian operations to the state.

The forced government buyout of Shell Oil has led many to speculate that perhaps the IRMS was actively involved in the assassination attempt of 2009, and some have even gone so far as to suggest that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was aware of the plot.

Regardless of specifics, the involvement of Shell Oil in some capacity, as well as the CIA, seems beyond doubt. And the use and control  of Bolivia’s national resources is sure to take center stage in the years to come.

The Coming War

President Obama just recently filed a trade complaint with the WTO regarding China’s restrictions on exportation of their rare earth minerals. Rare earth minerals (chief amongst which is lithium) are so named because they’re rarely found in pure form within the earth. They’re used to manufacture most of the technological devices we’ve become so reliant upon: “cell phones, solar cells, tablet computers, TVs, hybrid cars and wind turbines”.

China is currently producing about 95% of the world’s rare minerals, though they own only an estimated 30% of the world’s reserves:

China has only about 30 percent of the world’s known rare-earths deposits. But other countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, stopped mining more than a decade ago, because the price of the Chinese-produced rare earths was cheaper.

This is because the extraction process entails incredibly costly and toxic procedures, which the United States and other western countries prefer to leave to China. However, as China tightens its grip on the market, the western world will be forced to resume mining, preferably externalizing the more detrimental aspects of extraction.

Recently, it was discovered that Afghanistan (which we’re already conveniently occupying), possesses some of the largest rare earth reserves in existence, totaling one million tons of rare earth minerals.

Some have speculated that it may be for this reason rather than any other that we’ve continued to occupy Afghanistan after leaving Iraq, despite the disproportionately small number of al-Qaeda fighters estimated to still exist in the country (about 100 at last estimate). And Christopher Ecclestone, mining strategist at Hallgarten & Company, has stated:

“I think there is a school of thought that if the US can find enough stuff in Afghanistan that we should stay. And frankly there are plenty of rare earths around in the world.”

Enter Bolivia. It is slowly coming to the world’s attention that Bolivia, the small, impoverished country in the middle of South America, possesses over half the world’s lithium reserves in its vast salt flats.

Lithium, one of the most sought after rare earth minerals, is used to power laptop computers, mobile phones, and increasingly, the electric car:

Mitsubishi, which plans to release its own electric car soon, estimates that the demand for lithium will outstrip supply in less than 10 years unless new sources are found.

And they have ended up in Bolivia.

“The demand for lithium won’t double but increase by five times,” according to Eichi Maeyama Mitsubishi’s general manager in La Paz.

“We will need more lithium sources – and 50% of the world’s reserves of lithium exist in Bolivia, in the Salar de Uyuni,” he adds, pointing out that without new production, the price of lithium will rise prohibitively.

Corporations fear that Bolivia will use their highly prized lithium reserves to their own advantage, and under Morales the chances of the country ceding control to U.S. (or any foreign) companies are slim.

Couple that with the fact that Bolivian oil reserves are the second largest on the continent (after Venezuela, proven oil reserves of which are the largest in the world), and there’s more than enough reason for western intervention in Bolivia.

In fact, under President Obama, the Special Operations budget (money funding clandestine military activities the world over) has increased by roughly 4.5B dollars:

Obama just requested an increase of 5.7% for the budget of Special Operations 2011. He asked for $ 6.3 billion, plus U.S. $ 3.5 billion extra for the contingency clandestine operations. For 2011, the total defense budget reaches U.S. $ 872 billion, U.S. with $75 billion to the intelligence community. There is money to spare.

And it’s recently emerged that Obama has deployed Special Forces troops to numerous regions around the world, focusing intently on South America:

The Venezuelan-American journalist, Eva Golinger, points out in a recent article, that the researcher Jeremy Scahill discovered that the administration of Barack Obama has sent teams of elite special forces under the Joint Special Operations Command, to Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, and also to Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador and Peru…The U.S. plans to destabilize governments that exist in several places. They are already prepared. Washington only waits for the moment to activate them. Golinger’s article refers to a top Pentagon military man who said that Obama is allowing many of the actions, strategies and operations that were not permitted during George W. Bush.

The U.S. history of military intervention in South America has generally favored covert operations to direct war, so it’s disconcerting to note that under the Obama administration, “irregular warfare” has been greatly expanded:

One senior military official told The Washington Post that the Obama administration has given the green light for “things that the previous administration did not.” Special operations commanders, the paper reports, have more direct access to the White House than they did under Bush. “We have a lot more access,” a military official told the paper. “They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.”

And further:

“…we reserve the right to unilaterally act against al Qaeda and its affiliates anywhere in the world that they operate,” said one special forces source. The current mindset in the White House, he said, is that “the Pentagon is already empowered to do these things, so let JSOC off the leash. And that’s what this White House has done.” He added: “JSOC has been more empowered more under this administration than any other in recent history. No question…The world is the battlefield, we’ve returned to that,” he adds, referring to the Obama administration’s strategy. “We were moving away from it for a little bit, but…[i]t’s embraced by this administration.”

If the United States is successful in its bid for control of oil within the Middle East, one can be certain that the next region of the world scheduled for “clean up” is South America. Venezuela and Bolivia under Chavez and Morales are already being maligned as havens for terrorist groups, presumably as an excuse for military intervention to feed to the American people.

Should the global balance of power not shift prior to end of the inevitable war between Iran and the United States, should the prevailing paradigm remain one of “might means right”, then South America, and Bolivia specifically, will violently collide with American imperialism once again, as it did throughout the 20th century.

 

Folks.

Enough with the assassination talk. Obama didn’t kill Andrew Breitbart. This type of baseless shit just distracts us from all of the other broken promises, civil rights abuses and executive overreaches that mark Obama’s first term.

Andrew Breitbart had issues. Lots of ’em. Watch the video above if you don’t believe me. That kind of rage (whether chemically induced or not…though my guess is substances were involved there) has to go somewhere. In this particular case it went to his heart. I fail to see the mystery.

Meanwhile, today I heard from a fairly reputable source that Breitbart did a lot of coke. A LOT of coke. According to a Republican who used to work with him in his Drudge days, he was the kind of addict that skipped lunch and went straight to lines on a mirror in the bathroom. This has been commented on before. So now we’ve got a man strung out on cocaine, with serious rage issues and a long history of heart problems, walking by himself in the middle of the night.

What could go wrong?

But now everyone from Alex Jones to Michael Savage to Eric Muller is alleging that Breitbart was murdered. Struck down in his strung-out, rageaholic, palpitating prime. Must we rewrite everyone’s life post-mortem?

And the reason they say Obama had him whacked? Breitbart was going to release some stupid video of the President in his college years endorsing a controversial professor at a rally (it was released anyway). Well holy shit. This type of thing is only sensational to those who are already convinced that Obama is the antichrist. Nothing murder worthy here. Hell, the ACORN stunt was bigger than this.

There’s plenty to pick apart with this President. We don’t need to invent issues. Let’s devote some of this outrage to the extension of the PATRIOT Act sans revision, the signing of the NDAA, the (real, verified, and boasted about) murder of American citizens overseas, the war in Libya, the impending war in Iran, the war in Afghanistan.

Breitbart’s dead. I’m not sure it counts as much of a loss to the world in general, but his family must be hurting. Let’s leave it the hell alone and move on to some issues of substance.