Wednesday, March 25, 2015

(Iraqi Forces Exposed?)  Obama Makes George W. Bush and Nixon Look Good  (Omidyar Nixes Journos)   Tommy Boggs Remembered and Apprised  (NSA Ruled by Whom?) Jeb Bush and Florida's Medicaid Meltdown

You may like to watch "Before Snowden:  Behind the Curtain" tonight, Wednesday, 9:30 DST on Free Speech TV (FSTV). "Confronting Misogyny:  Earth at Risk," which is on before it is also excellent.
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ISIS/ISIL, who some report was invented in order to create confusion and cause more wars in lands close to Iraq, is now reported as abandoning war sites, whereby the U.S.-funded Iraqi forces immediately attack and burn the homes of innocents.

From our friend at Wolves in the City we learn:

Iraq Security Forces Liberate Villagers From ISIS Then Burn Homes 'To the Ground'

Iraq security forces burn Sunni villagers homes 'to the ground' after liberating town from Isis - Middle East - World - "The Independent"

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says it found evidence that militias ransacked properties belonging to civilians living in the predominately Sunni villages around the town who had fled the fighting before burning their homes and businesses to the ground.   Its 31-page report referenced field visits, analysis of satellite imagery, interviews with victims and photos of the “campaign of destruction” allegedly carried out by government forces after the militant group was driven out.

If you understand how the privatization of prisons has been brought to US by the same forces of greed that have brought our constantly increasing, never-ending wars against the rest of the world (who carelessly live over our resources), then read our friend at Lawyers, Guns and Money below for further outraged comprehension.

Grassroots History

[ 8 ] March 23, 2015 | Erik Loomis

This is an incredible story of inmates at an Indiana prison doing grassroots research on the history of their own prison with assistance from a historian-volunteer. Not surprising, the findings suggest terrible violence against prisoners and rank hypocrisy by the “reformers” who founded the prison. There’s really no way to excerpt this article effectively. But it is truly incredible and inspiring research.

This research is also very difficult to accomplish because the prisoners have almost no resources thanks to the state of Indiana defunding all non-vocational education. If you are a historian and have time to help these people, you can contact the lead historian on the project here.

Finally, I will at least note the most fun, if one of many disturbing, parts of the history, which tells of one of the prison doctor’s experiments on the inmates, this time on one masturbating too often.

The solution:

“We applied muriate of cocaine to the clitoris, and I can assure you the effect was wonderful, the vagina at once behaved as well as the most virtuous vagina in the United States.”

So there’s that.

Jeb Bush and Florida's Medicaid Meltdown

Too many plans, too much administration and plenty of patient confusion, along with too little spending, have made Florida's Medicaid program a mess. "Continuity of care goes to hell," he said. The numbers back him up: In 2013, almost half the children covered by Florida's Medicaid program didn't get the recommended number of doctor visits in their first 15 months, putting Florida in the bottom quarter of Medicaid plans nationwide.

Please stop by and ASAP for some real journalism.

As noted on this blog all the time, responsible journalists are being run off the field and replaced by blonde cheerleaders (and non-blonde ones too - just as long as they aren't very well educated but are excellent script readers, no offense meant to real cheerleaders). The essay below deals with many reasons why this has come to be.

Virginian-Pilot Editor Resigns After a Long Career, Staff Cuts, and a Crisis

Pierre Omidyar is a billionaire, naive billionaire it might seem, who thought he had made the money from his heavy-duty IQ and not luck, so why not found some journalistic ventures that would expose the corruption that was ongoing throughout the rest of the society (and be able to pose as a smart and sensitive hero to peons?). Other than for Glenn Greenwald's efforts, his little plan has pretty much been dealt the kiss of death by someone(s). Wonder who wasn't impressed by this billionaire's money?

“Lockheed is one of the largest defense contractors in the world; its tentacles stretch into every aspect of U.S. national security and intelligence. The company is akin to a privatized wing of the U.S. national security state — more than 80 percent of its total revenue comes from the U.S. government.”

Note how this description subtly creates the impression that the ultimate culprit with regard to mass surveillance is the government. Lockheed is merely a “wing” of an overarching “national security state”. All roads lead to U.S. intelligence, it’s all about the state.

Yet close examination of the history of the CIA yields a different picture. Contractors like Lockheed Martin aren’t a subordinate extension of the national security state. Quite the opposite. It’s probably more accurate to conclude that intelligence agencies, like the NSA, represent a public sector appendage of a much larger corporate power structure whose nexus resides in profound sources of wealth and influence outside of the government. A Deep State, if you will, that’s fundamentally driving what goes on in Washington.

In the absence of mass public outcry private capital sets the rules. It’s been this way since Ferdinand Lundberg wrote America’s Sixty Families back in 1937. Or perhaps Mr. Scahill hasn’t glimpsed politicians on both sides of the aisle trotting out in front of billionaires to audition for public office?

Hence there is a recurring theme in L’affaire Snowden that arises from the Intercept’s coverage of mass surveillance. Focus is maintained almost exclusively on the government without acknowledging the central role that corporations play. According to the Intercept’s worldview hi-tech companies are but helpless pawns being coerced and assailed by runaway security services rather than willing symbiotic accomplices that directly benefit from the global panopticon.

Honestly, doesn’t Ed Snowden have more information on Booz Allen?

When a doctor is faced with a serious medical condition the diagnosis typically informs the subsequent course of treatment. So it is with mass surveillance. Only in the case of mass surveillance the diagnosis is being shaped by certain actors to fit a preconceived solution. The agenda of the far right is clear. Nothing short of corporate feudalism. Libertarian political operator Grover Norquist boldly spelled it out: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

A messaging scheme which depicts the government as the chief villain is a godsend for people who are itching for reasons to demolish the state. Techno libertarians rejoice and present the public with their version of salvation. “Crypto everywhere” roar CEOs across Silicon Valley. How predictably shallow and self-serving. Their counter-surveillance talking points provide them with something new to sell us. It also absolves them of responsibility while redirecting the public’s attention away from more far-reaching systemic measures.

In light of this it’s hard not to notice the various twists of fate in L’affaire Snowden. Classified documents gradually trickled into the public record thanks to a whistle-blower who donated money to Ron Paul and exhibited some decidedly right-wing inclinations online. A copy of the classified documents were provided to a journalist who wrote a policy whitepaper for the CATO Institute (formerly known as the Charles Koch Foundation). Then out of the woodwork appears a kindly libertarian billionaire who dazzles the said journalist with fame and fortune, “a dream opportunity that was impossible to decline.”

The product of coincidence? To an extent. But what’s undeniable is that a member of the financial elite, a man who has clocked over a dozen visits to the Obama White House, deliberately leveraged his assets to inject himself into the unfolding course of events. Once more the narrative about mass surveillance that his news organization conveys tends to cast corporations as champions against mass surveillance while omitting to acknowledge how they stand to benefit from the global panopticon. It appears that elements within the ruling class would have us believe that the Deep State will solve the very problem that it intentionally created.
- The Intercept, Mass Surveillance and the State
The Guerrilla Tactics of The Racket, and How It Almost Upended Journalism
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Tommy Boggs was a lobbyist for the American Banker Association for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that directly led to the financial catastrophe of 2007-?. Having lost retirement money when MCI WorldCom (formerly MCI - represented by Patton Boggs) went under after being exposed for fraudulent financial accounting, leading "to more than $100 million in investor losses," Boggs' death at last leads to some accounting for the largely unreported-on life he had led as a Democratic progressive (and you won't believe whom he represented internationally - picture the slaughter of the Mayan peasantry in Guatemala as a Reagan-enabler in the 80's, Baby Doc's doc and Saudi-redacted 9/11 report pages).
- How Washington Mourned Tommy Boggs, Friend to the Worst People in the World

“He Makes George W. Bush and Nixon Look Good”: Why Obama’s Attack on Privacy Is So Historic

Pioneering columnist Robert Scheer tells "Salon" just how bad our privacy nightmare has really gotten

I think I used my thumbprint about 10 times already this morning just trying to make my iPhone 6 Plus work. If any government anywhere in the world had required you to give your thumbprint every time you did anything it would be considered the most invasive totalitarian society. We’ve accepted as normal a degree of intrusion that would have been astounding any time in history, and we do it because we’re thinking in terms of consumer sovereignty as a main expression of our freedom; we want the convenience of picking that restaurant or what-have-you.

How have "WikiLeaks" and the Snowden leaks changed our views of what you call our “sovereignty”?

It seemed to me what the Snowden leaks taught us was first of all that there was a great deal of connection between the private sector and the government, even to the degree of private sector, lead companies claim they didn’t know. They claim that a lot of this that was done without their knowledge or approval. The illusion that we had, that we could choose what we want to turn over about our behavior — not only what books we buy, but how far we read into a book, who we have dinner with, whatever — we assume that was in something called the private sector.

The significance of the Snowden leaks, it seems to me, is something we already knew:  the degree to which this data we are turning over — ostensibly to private corporations who have an incentive to protect consumers — all the data’s been cut off at the knees by government intrusion. And not just our own government, which many people may think is benign and always well-intentioned, although the Founders warned us never to think of our government as well-intentioned and they put in these protections like the Fourth Amendment precisely to guard against their own power, power of Madison or Washington or what-have-you.

If you accept this view of a benign government it’s very clear that this data gets to be mined by any government in the world. It represents an assault on privacy that is a totalitarian assault in terms of its scope, and so that’s really what the book centers on.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist on this?

It’s not necessarily a pessimistic book. When it is revealed that the companies we trust are in fact not in a position to act as truly multinational corporations and protect your customers, but rather are subservient to the power and the whims of American intelligence agencies, it threatens their business model. I was asked by Google to join the 3 million people who have already signed up asking for tougher regulation of the NSA, because Google, however complicit it was in all this, and it was, now recognizes that this threatens their business model, as it does Facebook’s and everyone else. So I think that’s a reason for optimism.

How do you respond to people who are complacent, who are content with things being this way? What about the argument that more or less says the horse has already got out of the barn?

Well, it’s a convenient argument to be made for those who want the horse to be out of the barn, but the fact of the matter is that they resist . . . any . . . serious restraints because they know the horse can be put back in the barn. The argument against opt-in when they did the reversal of Glass-Steagall was, you’re taking the profit out of the merger. Yes! It will be more costly. Yes, it will be less profitable. Yes, you will have to query us to learn how we use our data. Doesn’t mean you’re going to destroy all profit. But it’s precisely because you know that the horse can be put back in the barn that you’re resisting these kinds of measures.

It doesn’t have to be impenetrable text that skilled lawyers can barely understand. Your consent agreement can be understandable, and it should actually be a bit alarming. Are you giving permission for this data to be sold to anybody in the world who wants to look at it? No, I don’t, and I’ll find my restaurant another way. I’ll find out what time the movie is starting another way.

James Risen recently described the Obama administration as one of the gravest threats to freedom of the press that the country’s ever experienced. Would you agree with Risen on that? Will history look back on this element of the current president’s record uncharitably?

Certainly on the question of surveillance. On healthcare I think Obama has done some good things, but I think the record on civil liberties and transparency is abysmal. He’s probably the worst president that we’ve had in our history — he makes George W. Bush and Nixon look good by comparison. I supported Obama. I gave money; I contributed more than I could afford; I thought this guy was going to be great. I thought he was going to be great because of the very sensible things that he said about banking and Wall Street, and about torture and national security, so I drank the Kool-Aid. I’m not going to pretend otherwise.

Plenty of people can find my columns celebrating this guy, and I just sit there scratching my head about Holder and Obama, about what happened to these guys. I think they made a compromise that Democrats have often made:  be tough on national security and then you get to do your progressive domestic stuff. That’s usually the cop-out. It’s a very dangerous cop-out because the fact is national security is the ballgame. It’s what determined the degree of our civil liberty, it determines our allocation of resources – it’s the ballgame. And you can’t make that compromise, you open the door to absolute madness.

I think Risen has played a truly heroic role in defending the press, so I applaud him.

Do you think Obama and Holder have a chance to redeem themselves?

I think the problem is it’s going to get worse. I try to argue in this book that we have a national security intelligence apparatus now that is much more frightening than the one Eisenhower warned us about, and the main reason that they are so frightening is that they have a monopoly on information.

And how do you respond to those who say that these policies may make us uncomfortable but that they’re a necessary response to legitimate security threats?

That’s the other thing that drives me nuts about all this, the assessment of the danger we face. I’ve traveled most of the world and I’ve interviewed a lot of people, and they all could make a case for repressing freedom. I never interviewed anyone of power anywhere in the world who did not have their arguments lined up for doing bad stuff. They’ve all been victimized, they all have enemies, they all have dangers.

We have a relatively minor threat to our freedom, after all we are the strongest economy, the strongest military, the biggest power that has ever existed in the world and yet it’s argued that we don’t know what we face. Well, what do the Israelis or Palestinians face, for that matter? What do the Chechnyans face from Russia? You look at any part of the world, and there’s a history of grievances, of fear, of concern about the enemy, about the potential attacks.

We have always told people that freedom is something that will protect you, that will save you, because you will fight in the right struggles, and you will do it in the right way, and you’ll have your people with you. And then after 9/11, we abandoned all that. We said, no we’re under attack, freedom is a luxury we can’t afford, and that is the most dangerous argument anywhere in the world.

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American Patriotism Is for Suckers:  Dwight Eisenhower, George W. Bush and the End of Manifest Destiny

Ike famously warned us about our military-industrial complex. Sixty years later, his nightmare is coming true
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“We Just Agreed We Would Disagree”:  Jeb Bush & the Catholic Church’s “Culture of Life” Hypocrisy

Bush says his Catholic faith is central to his politics - unless it means aiding the poor, helping the sick or ...

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