Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Triumph of 21st Century:  Corruption at the Top?  (The Exceptionally Banal Country)  This Couldn't Be True - Inglorious Goobers: Progressives Line Up to Defend Clintons (Corrupt Cops Have Better Bill of Rights Than Citizens)


The World Reached a Scary Emissions Milestone in March — and It’s Only Going to Get Worse

North Carolina Finds Water Contamination in 93 Percent of Tested Homes Near Coal Ash Ponds

Dukeville residents have been grappling with contamination concerns for more than a year, since hearing of the dangers of the Dan River spill in 2014. Many residents there claim the community has an unprecedented rate of brain cancer and tumors — one family even compiled a list of all the neighbors they knew of who had died from cancer, been diagnosed, or had a tumor, and imposed them on a map of the town.
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The White (People's) Media claims, and has claimed since February 2014, that there are Russian tanks and troops in Ukraine. Putin has pointed out that if this indeed was the case, Kiev and Western Ukraine would have fallen to the Russian invasion early last year. Kiev has been unable to defeat the small breakaway republics in eastern and southern Ukraine and would stand no chance against the Russian military.
Recently a brave news organization made fun of the White Media’s claim that Russian tanks have been pouring into Ukraine for 14 months. The parody pictured Ukraine at a standstill. All traffic on all roads and residential streets is blocked by Russian tanks. All parking places, including sidewalks and people’s front and rear gardens have tanks piled upon tanks. The entire country is immobilized in gridlock.
Although a few have fun making fun of the gullible people who believe the White Media, the situation is nevertheless serious as it concerns life on planet Earth.
There is little sign that Washington and its vassals care about life on Earth.

Looking at the actions of the European League recently, some say they are following the U.S. lead to enfamy (perverting finalmente the uplifting message contained in the historic words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor).

And total destruction.

Insanity Grips The Western World

April 27, 2015
Paul Craig Roberts
Just as Karl Marx claimed that History had chosen the proletariat, neoconservatives claim that History has chosen America. Just as the Nazis proclaimed “Deutschland uber alles,” neoconservatives proclaim “America uber alles.” In September 2013 President Obama actually stood before the United Nations and declared, “I believe America is exceptional.”
Germany’s political leaders and those in Great Britain, France, and throughout Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan also believe that America is exceptional, which means better than they are. That’s why these countries are Washington’s vassals. They accept their inferiority to the Exceptional Country — the USA — and follow its leadership.
It is unlikely that the Chinese think that a handful of White People are exceptional in anything except their diminutive numbers. The populations of Asia, Africa, and South America dwarf those that comprise Washington’s Empire.
Neither do the Russians believe that the US is exceptional. Putin’s response to Obama’s claim of American superiority was: “God created us equal.” Putin added: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
If all countries are exceptional, the word loses its meaning. If America is exceptional, it means others are inferior for lacking this designation. Inferiors have less rights and can be bullied into submission or bombed into oblivion.

The Exceptional Country is above all the others and, therefore, doesn’t have to be concerned about how it treats them. Obviously, Americans and their vassals think America is exceptional as the millions of people murdered, maimed, and dislocated by Washington’s wars in eight countries in the 21st century has not resulted in condemnation of Washington. Merkel, Hollande, Cameron and the puppets in Canada, Australia, and Japan still suck up, holding tight to Washington.
Instead, Russia and Iran, countries that, unlike the US, are not militarily aggressive, are portrayed in the White People’s Media as threats and are condemned.

Read the entire essay here.

And weep.

Speaking of weeping.

I feel like Snow White surely must have felt.

Is it possible that the wicked Queen's magic mirror has been reflecting lies instead of truth? Or was that the story's double meaning all along?

Inglorious Goobers:  Progressives Line Up to Defend Corrupt Clintons


It's amusing to see how our staunch progressives - who believe so deeply in a level playing field and fair play, who railed so vociferously against crony capitalism back in Bush-Time - are now twisting themselves in knots to dismiss the stories about that long-festering font of corruption, the Clinton Foundation.

Suddenly, what was once evil and corrosive - peddling elite insider influence for private profit - is just old hat, no big deal, business as usual. Indeed, Digby, the very avatar of "anguished support" (Tarzie's deeply apt description of our progressives' blind self-tethering to a party whose leaders - like the Clintons, like Obama - are so servile to Big Money and war profiteering that they make Dick Nixon look like Diogenes), points us to an "excellent piece" by the ever-overexcited Charles Pierce, esquire (sorry, I mean Charles Pierce of "Esquire"), which sounds this very theme.

Pierce, wearing his prodigious classical learning lightly, informs us that "every politician since Cato" has engaged in the multimillion-dollar crony fluffing and policy twisting that the Clintons have been practicing for years.

This kind of thing - say, taking more than $100 million in "donations" from an uranium magnate who then reaps gargantuan profits when the Clinton-headed State Department greenlights the sale that makes said magnate richer and gives Russia (led by a man that Hillary ignorantly likens to Hitler) control of one-fifth of America's uranium production capacity - is just "business as usual," says Pierce. "

Every politician" does this, every single one of them - and has done since the high and palmy days of Rome. You may agree or disagree with Professor Pierce - but no one can deny that this is a deeply informed, richly nuanced piece of analysis.

Pierce, renowned in progressive circles for his sharp-edged acumen, here plays the naif - Goober Pyle Goes to Washington. He scratches his head like a simple, honest feller befuddled by the silver-tongued talk of fancy-pants nabobs, and says that, as far he can tell, the detailed stories in the "New York Times" and "Washington Post" are just peddling a nebulous conspiracy theory, something about how President Hillary would be beholden to foreign donors or that the couple were pocketing Foundation cash or something.

This is not, of course, the import of the stories, which lies in their fresh confirmation and amplification of the Clintons' particularly successful example of elite influence-peddling.

But a simple shrug of the shoulders blows this straw man away, and Pierce is off to the races in his time machine, reliving the false accusations that assailed the Clintons back in Starr-Time.

And of course, many of the allegations assiduously peddled by partisan operators and the respectable press in those days were false, or petty, or pointless. And yes, the Clintons beat the rap (except for Bill's law license), and ended up with Bill as the most popular politician in America (a rank he still holds, incidentally) and Hillary in the US Senate.

But all of this was a sideshow. The learned Theban of Esquire somehow omits some salient facts from his magical history tour. For even as right-wing agents were needling Clinton about failed land deals and Oval Office canoodling, Clinton was overseeing the deaths of up to half a million innocent children (and many more innocent adults) through the draconian sanctions he imposed on Iraq.

This, even though Clinton and US intelligence knew in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction. As I noted back in 2005, confirmation of this fact came from "from none other than the man in charge of the Iraqi WMD program, Saddam's defecting son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. Kamel's wealth of information on the destruction of Iraq's WMD 'was so extensive it was almost embarassing,' said UN interrogators."

This was not secret, by the way; it was reported in "Time Magazine" and other venues. And it was later confirmed independently by UN inspectors in 1998, who had verified the destruction of 95 percent of Iraq's WMD arsenal before they were stopped from finishing the job by Bill Clinton's four-day bombing assault on the country.

Clinton justified the attack - which killed dozens, perhaps hundreds of civilians - by pointing to Iraqi "interference" in the almost completed inspections. The Iraqis were being quarrelsome, because they believed America had planted spies among the supposedly neutral inspectors.

Clinton sternly denied such lies, and ordered the attack. (Conveniently, it occurred during his impeachment hearings.) However, just one year later, guess what:  the UN admitted that, er, America had planted spies among the supposed neutral inspectors:  "UNSCOM had directly facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United States in violation of its mandate."

Oh well. Bombing raids under false pretenses and the senseless death of half a million children due to sanctions based on "causes" known to be false - I guess that's just "business as usual" too, eh Charles?

As for Hillary's later vote to OK a whole war based on false pretenses (which, once again, saw the arms inspectors pulled out before they could confirm, again, the fact that Iraq had no WMD) - well, hell, "every politician" since the dawn of time has done the same, ain't they, Goob?

But none of this matters to our progressives. Nor does Hillary's bloodthirsty record as Secretary of State, her vital role in the vast War Machine, ever pushing for more aggressive responses, for overturning governments (as in Honduras), for arming dictators (like her "close family friend," Hosni Mubarak), for targeted assassinations and drone attacks, for allying with extremists to reduce whole nations to chaos (Libya).

Who can forget that moment when the mask slipped and Hillary revealed the true, brutal nature of our bipartisan ruling elite - her gleeful exultation after Muammar Gaddafi was sodomized and killed: "We came, we saw, he died!"

No, what matters is that Republican "ratfuckers" trumped up charges against the Clintons 20 years ago. (Charges that related only to personal and financial behaviour; the Republicans didn't care about the bombing and killing; they would've liked more of it.) The sleaziness of the Clintons' enemies absolves them of all blame, apparently. Any evidence of their corruption - financial, legal or moral - no matter what the source, is, ipso facto, nothing more than the noxious fumes of conspiracy.

As with Obama, there seems to be no crime or morally corrupt practice they will not countenance if it is committed by the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party.

As Tarzie points out, they will "anguish" over their support - both Digby and Pierce preceded their Clinton apologias with stern posts criticizing the drone attack that killed two al Qaeda hostages, and two other Americans said to be al Qaeda members. Digby took issue with the "targeted assassination" program and Pierce pointed out that the drone campaign only creates more enemies for America.

But the fact that Hillary Clinton will certainly continue these polices - and will probably intensify them - doesn't stop the progressive duo from taking up the cudgels for her when someone questions her ethical and financial probity.

The values and moral principles that underlie their attacks on the various depredations of the Terror War that Obama has expanded suddenly disappear at the first scent of partisan warfare. Their "ultimate concern" (to use Paul Tillich's term) is the political victory of the Democratic Party - no matter what crimes and horrors its leaders perpetrate. However anguished their support, nothing will ever induce them to withdraw it.

There will be much, much more in this vein as the long, degrading freak show of the presidential campaign drags on.

What our progressives once despised, they will soon defend. (As with Obamacare, which was originally - and rightly - scorned by progressives like Digby as an egregious sell-out to corporate interests and a death-blow to hopes for genuine health care reform, only to become a precious jewel to be adamantly defended against all attacks.)

That thousands are dying, that extremism is spreading, that chaos is accelerating, that inequality is growing, that millions of people are suffering horribly from the deliberate choices of their champions does not, in the end, override their tribal instincts.

And in this way, they help our rapacious elite insider to keep rat-f*cking us all.

(Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including "The Nation," "Counterpunch," "Columbia Journalism Review," the "Christian Science Monitor," "Il Manifesto," the "Moscow Times" and many others. He is the author of Empire Burlesque:  High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium, and is co-founder and editor of the "Empire Burlesque" political blog.)

If you've been confused at the amount of taxpayer money paid out to citizens to ameliorate the violence inflicted on them by the local police, the following will get your thinking straight.

We owe it to the cops to pay off their victims.

It's their Bill of Rights.

Or Wrongs.

Now we see where the idea of union protections for average workers disappeared to. They aren't "right" for the workers anymore, but they are very "right" for the police. (Seems like it's time for everyone to apply to be a cop, or just get accustomed to the selective treatment of official thugs who are readying this country for the onslaught of full-scale fascism.)

In a Cop Culture, the Bill of Rights Doesn’t Amount to Much

By John W. Whitehead

May 05, 2015
Police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be held financially accountable for their actions. — Law professor Joanna C. Schwartz (paraphrased)
“In a democratic society,” observed Oakland police chief Sean Whent, “people have a say in how they are policed.”

Unfortunately, if you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is never held accountable for violating your rights and his oath of office to serve and protect, never forced to make amends, never told that what he did was wrong, and never made to change his modus operandi, then you don’t live in a constitutional republic.

You live in a police state.

It doesn’t even matter that “crime is at historic lows and most cities are safer than they have been in generations, for residents and officers alike,” as the "New York Times" reports.

What matters is whether you’re going to make it through a police confrontation alive and with your health and freedoms intact. For a growing number of Americans, those confrontations do not end well.

As David O. Brown, the Dallas chief of police, noted:  “Sometimes it seems like our young officers want to get into an athletic event with people they want to arrest. They have a ‘don’t retreat’ mentality. They feel like they’re warriors and they can’t back down when someone is running from them, no matter how minor the underlying crime is.”

Making matters worse, in the cop culture that is America today, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much. Unless, that is, it’s the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR), which protects police officers from being subjected to the kinds of debilitating indignities heaped upon the average citizen.

Most Americans, oblivious about their own rights, aren’t even aware that police officers have their own Bill of Rights. Yet at the same time that our own protections against government abuses have been reduced to little more than historic window dressing, 14 states have already adopted LEOBoRs — written by police unions and being considered by many more states and Congress — which provides police officers accused of a crime with special due process rights and privileges not afforded to the average citizen.

In other words, the LEOBoR protects police officers from being treated as we are treated during criminal investigations: questioned unmercifully for hours on end, harassed, harangued, browbeaten, denied food, water and bathroom breaks, subjected to hostile interrogations, and left in the dark about our accusers and any charges and evidence against us.

Not only are officers given a 10-day “cooling-off period during which they cannot be forced to make any statements about the incident, but when they are questioned, it must be “for a reasonable length of time, at a reasonable hour, by only one or two investigators (who must be fellow policemen), and with plenty of breaks for food and water.”

According to investigative journalist Eli Hager, the most common rights afforded police officers accused of wrongdoing are as follows:

  • If a department decides to pursue a complaint against an officer, the department must notify the officer and his union.
  • The officer must be informed of the complainants, and their testimony against him, before he is questioned.
  • During questioning, investigators may not harass, threaten, or promise rewards to the officer, as interrogators not infrequently do to civilian suspects.
  • Bathroom breaks are assured during questioning.
  • In Maryland, the officer may appeal his case to a “hearing board,” whose decision is binding, before a final decision has been made by his superiors about his discipline. The hearing board consists of three of the suspected offender’s fellow officers.
  • In some jurisdictions, the officer may not be disciplined if more than a certain number of days (often 100) have passed since his alleged misconduct, which limits the time for investigation.
  • Even if the officer is suspended, the department must continue to pay salary and benefits, as well as the cost of the officer’s attorney.
It’s a pretty sweet deal if you can get it, I suppose:  protection from the courts, immunity from wrongdoing, paid leave while you’re under investigation, and the assurance that you won’t have to spend a dime of your own money in your defense. And yet these LEOBoR epitomize everything that is wrong with America today.

Once in a while, the system appears to work on the side of justice, and police officers engaged in wrongdoing are actually charged for abusing their authority and using excessive force against American citizens.

Yet even in these instances, it’s still the American taxpayer who foots the bill.

For example, Baltimore taxpayers have paid roughly $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits stemming from police abuses, with an additional $5.8 million going towards legal fees.

If the six Baltimore police officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray are convicted, you can rest assured it will be the Baltimore taxpayers who feel the pinch.

New York taxpayers have shelled out almost $1,130 per year per police officer (there are 34,500 officers in the NYPD) to address charges of misconduct. That translates to $38 million every year just to clean up after these so-called public servants.

Over a 10-year-period, Oakland, Calif., taxpayers were made to cough up more than $57 million (curiously enough, the same amount as the city’s deficit back in 2011) in order to settle accounts with alleged victims of police abuse.

Chicago taxpayers were asked to pay out nearly $33 million on one day alone to victims of police misconduct, with one person slated to receive $22.5 million, potentially the largest single amount settled on any one victim.

The City has paid more than half a billion dollars to victims over the course of a decade. The Chicago City Council actually had to borrow $100 million just to pay off lawsuits arising over police misconduct in 2013. The city’s payout for 2014 was estimated to be in the same ballpark, especially with cases pending such as the one involving the man who was reportedly sodomized by a police officer’s gun in order to force him to “cooperate.”

Over 78% of the funds paid out by Denver taxpayers over the course of a decade arose as a result of alleged abuse or excessive use of force by the Denver police and sheriff departments.

Meanwhile, taxpayers in Ferguson, Missouri, are being asked to pay $40 million in compensation — more than the city’s entire budget — for police officers treating them “‘as if they were war combatants,’ using tactics like beating, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and stun grenades, while the plaintiffs were peacefully protesting, sitting in a McDonalds, and in one case walking down the street to visit relatives.”

That’s just a small sampling of the most egregious payouts, but just about every community — large and small — feels the pinch when it comes to compensating victims who have been subjected to deadly or excessive force by police.

The ones who rarely ever feel the pinch are the officers accused or convicted of wrongdoing, “even if they are disciplined or terminated by their department, criminally prosecuted, or even imprisoned.”

Indeed, a study published in the "NYU Law Review" reveals that 99.8% of the monies paid in settlements and judgments in police misconduct cases never come out of the officers’ own pockets, even when state laws require them to be held liable.

Moreover, these officers rarely ever have to pay for their own legal defense.

For instance, law professor Joanna C. Schwartz references a case in which three Denver police officers chased and then beat a 16-year-old boy, stomping “on the boy’s back while using a fence for leverage, breaking his ribs and causing him to suffer kidney damage and a lacerated liver.” The cost to Denver taxpayers to settle the lawsuit:  $885,000.

The amount the officers contributed: 0.

Kathryn Johnston, 92 years old, was shot and killed during a SWAT team raid that went awry. Attempting to cover their backs, the officers falsely claimed Johnston’s home was the site of a cocaine sale and went so far as to plant marijuana in the house to support their claim. The cost to Atlanta taxpayers to settle the lawsuit:  $4.9 million. The amount the officers contributed: 0.

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, a police officer was convicted of raping a woman in his police car, in addition to sexually assaulting four other women and girls, physically abusing two additional women, and kidnapping or falsely imprisoning five men and boys. The cost to the Albuquerque taxpayers to settle the lawsuit:  $1,000,000. The amount the officer contributed: 0.

Human Rights Watch notes that taxpayers actually pay three times for officers who repeatedly commit abuses:  “once to cover their salaries while they commit abuses; next to pay settlements or civil jury awards against officers; and a third time through payments into police ‘defense’ funds provided by the cities.”

Still, the number of times a police officer is actually held accountable for wrongdoing while on the job is miniscule compared to the number of times cops are allowed to walk away with little more than a slap on the wrist.

A large part of the problem can be chalked up to influential police unions and laws providing for qualified immunity, not to mention these Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights laws, which allow officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing.

Another part of the problem is rampant cronyism among government bureaucrats: those deciding whether a police officer should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence:  city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

Most of all, what we’re dealing with is systemic corruption that protects wrongdoing and recasts it in a noble light. However, there is nothing noble about government agents who kick, punch, shoot and kill defenseless individuals. There is nothing just about police officers rendered largely immune from prosecution for wrongdoing. There is nothing democratic about the word of a government agent being given greater weight in court than that of the average citizen. And no good can come about when the average citizen has no real means of defense against a system that is weighted in favor of government bureaucrats.

So if you want a recipe for disaster, this is it:  Take police cadets, train them in the ways of war, dress and equip them for battle, teach them to see the people they serve not as human beings but as suspects and enemies, and then indoctrinate them into believing that their main priority is to make it home alive at any cost. While you’re at it, spend more time drilling them on how to use a gun (58 hours) and employ defensive tactics (49 hours) than on how to calm a situation before resorting to force (8 hours).

Then, once they’re hyped up on their own authority and the power of the badge and their gun, throw in a few court rulings suggesting that security takes precedence over individual rights, set it against a backdrop of endless wars and militarized law enforcement, and then add to the mix a populace distracted by entertainment, out of touch with the workings of their government, and more inclined to let a few sorry souls suffer injustice than challenge the status quo or appear unpatriotic.

That’s not to discount the many honorable police officers working thankless jobs across the country in order to serve and protect their fellow citizens, but there can be no denying that, as journalist Michael Daly acknowledges, there is a troublesome “cop culture that tends to dehumanize or at least objectify suspected lawbreakers of whatever race.

The instant you are deemed a candidate for arrest, you become not so much a person as a ‘perp.’”

Older cops are equally troubled by this shift in how police are being trained to view Americans — as things, not people. Daly had a veteran police officer join him to review the video footage of 43-year-old Eric Garner crying out and struggling to breathe as cops held him in a chokehold. (In yet another example of how the legal system and the police protect their own, no police officers were charged for Garner’s death.)

Daly describes the veteran officer’s reaction to the footage, which as Daly points out, “constitutes a moral indictment not so much of what the police did but of what the police did not do”:

“I don’t see anyone in that video saying, ‘Look, we got to ease up,’” says the veteran officer. “Where’s the human side of you in that you’ve got a guy saying, ‘I can’t breathe?’” The veteran officer goes on, “Somebody needs to say, ‘Stop it!’ That’s what’s missing here was a voice of reason. The only voice we’re hearing is of Eric Garner.”

The veteran officer believes Garner might have survived had anybody heeded his pleas. “He could have had a chance,” says the officer, who is black. “But you got to believe he’s a human being first. A human being saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’”
As I point out in my new book Battlefield America:  The War on the American People, when all is said and done, the various problems we’re facing today — militarized police, police shootings of unarmed people, the electronic concentration camp being erected around us, SWAT team raids, etc. — can be attributed to the fact that our government and its agents have ceased to see us as humans first.

Then again, perhaps we are just as much to blame for this sorry state of affairs. After all, if we want to be treated like human beings — with dignity and worth — then we need to start treating those around us in the same manner. As Martin Luther King, Jr. warned in a speech given exactly one year to the day before he was killed:  “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Dr. King, Jr.

And his powerful (elite upsetting) words . . . now continually popping up where the "exceptional" media won't be reporting from.

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