Glenn Greenwald discusses the administration position that the war on terror is expect to continue for at least another ten years and, in terms of importance, why that should be teh lead story in the news instead of the Benghazi, IRS, or DOJ/AP scandals.
It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat.
He makes a good point. Attacks on the U.S. by foreign terror organizations have universally been in response to perpetual Western (especially U.S.) interference in the affairs of middle eastern countries. The U.S. then uses that as an excuse to further ramp up and broaden that interference which leads to broader foreign support for the very terrorist organizations we claim to be fighting. Contrary to the common belief that wars happen to the U.S., the real fact of the matter is that the U.S. pursues war.
…the “war on terror” cannot and will not end on its own for two reasons: (1) it is designed by its very terms to be permanent, incapable of ending, since the war itself ironically ensures that there will never come a time when people stop wanting to bring violence back to the US (the operational definition of “terrorism”), and (2) the nation’s most powerful political and economic factions reap a bonanza of benefits from its continuation. Whatever else is true, it is now beyond doubt that ending this war is the last thing on the mind of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and those who work at the highest levels of his administration. Is there any way they can make that clearer beyond declaring that it will continue for “at least” another 10-20 years?
If the past is any measure, public opposition to war is only roused by flag-draped caskets of American soldiers, the institution of the draft, and burdens that bring the actual cost of war directly to their front to in a highly visible way. Neither political party is against war. Blind patriotism is becoming just as widely embraced by the left as the right.
Another factor affecting the public reaction to the permanent war on terror is the stunning lack of understanding of (or interest in ) how U.S. military activities in the Middle East provoke a terrorist response. Furthermore, Americans think that terrorism violates the ethics of war, so it’s easy to demonize the terrorists who are simply retaliating with the only methods that make sense against an opponent that could easily crush them in a conventional conflict.
The U.S. is engaged in a global war with objectives that have never been defined against an enemy that is perpetually being redefined and with no idea what constitutes winning or losing or how to know when it’s over. If war is the health of the state, then this state has truly arrived.
From Couthouse News:
GALVESTON (CN) – Galveston police seized the wrong cell phone after Tasering and beating the hell out of a man with a heart condition, and the victim’s attorney has the video evidence the cops wanted to seize, the man claims in court.
The actual beating happened back in March, but I can’t find anything on the web about any cops being investigated for beating the shit out of someone named Jarrett Neu, so I suspect their actions wouldn’t even have raised an eyebrow in the Galveston PD if not for the video. My crystal ball tells me that not one cop will get into trouble for trying to destroy the evidence. They rarely ever do. People of Galveston, this is your tax dollars at work.
In a follow-up to the story of a bunch of Kern County sheriff’s deputies beating a man to death, it appears that video of the incident recorded by bystanders is missing. Their cell phones were confiscated by Kern County sheriff’s deputies on the morning after the incident. Apparently one video still remains intact.
17 News spoke with the people who took the video. They say they watched separate videos on both cell phones. They say if the authorities say they can’t find the video, they’re lying.
“I started videotaping right away and Paco he started videotaping also and they were hurting him really, really bad,” said Maria Melendez, who says she videotaped the confrontation, but the Sheriff’s Department says there’s no video on her cell phone.
“It clearly shows from the beginning to the end and you know a bunch of officers beating David Silva,” said Melissa Quair, whose boyfriend took the second video.
As a result of the mysterious conflict between the accounts of the cops and the witnesses, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood has asked the FBI to assist in the investigation, presumably to lend some sense of credibility to the outcome. But, the Kern County Sheriff will still lead the investigation according to Youngblood.
The Sheriff says he in the process of putting the deputies involved on paid
vacation administrative leave. Apparently beating someone to death doesn’t warrant any kind of immediate suspension of duties. Had there been no public uproar, there probably would never have been any so-called investigation.
Then there’s this little tidbit of law enforcement
The California High Patrol confirmed it has dash cam video of the incident, but said it handed it over to the Sheriff’s Department.
Or so claims a lawsuit against the Baltimore PD on behalf of Makia Smith who, while stuck in stand-still rush-hour traffic recorded video of cops beating a man. The situation degenerated from there. From the suit:
“Officer Church pulled plaintiff out of her car by her hair and beat her. Officers Pilkerton, Ulmer, and Campbell then ran to plaintiff’s car and joined Officer Church in beating plaintiff and arrested her using excessive force. At all times described herein, plaintiff’s two year old daughter witnessed her mother’s beating and arrest by the Officers, as did others.” Smith claims the cops taunted her and threatened to take her daughter away. She says they refused to call her mother to her toddler.
Given that the penalties against individual cops for this kind of abuse of power are practically nonexistent, this kind of behavior will persist. Even in the event that Smith wins a settlement, Baltimore taxpayers will be the ones to foot the bill. Cops rarely face any disciplinary action for destroying video evidence of their abuses.
Over at Reason, J.D. Tuccille posted a letter from small business owner, Michael Ortner, to his 23 employees describing all the available options for health insurance in the coming year. It turns out that it’s just like voting because it’s a choice between multiple evils.
What makes the article worth reading is that it presents a very concise list of what employers can offer their employees along with a short history of how the U.S. got to where it is in dictating healthcare as an employee benefit. What I found most interesting was the list of four defects in the current healthcare laws because it demonstrates so conclusively that the health care laws do not serve the public they purport to serve.
1) Irrespective of much we decide to spend, we lack freedom in choosing the specific plan that is right for us when we receive it as a benefit from our employer.
2) If we decide to buy health insurance directly (10% of Americans do), we are discriminated against since we do not receive the same treatment from the IRS. We have to use post tax dollars to purchase it. This is completely unjust and should be the first thing on an political leader’s agenda when it comes to solving the healthcare problem. Either everyone should pay taxes on them or noone should.
3) When we develop a treatable medical condition, we are out of luck if we leave our employer since our insurance was tied to that employer and we now have a pre-existing condition.
4) The worst of all…because most of us receive our heathcare as a benefit, we are completely separated from any real knowledge of our actual expenses. This is the major reason why our healthcare expenses are now through the roof.
This is like the income tax code in the sense that it is so abusive of most ordinary taxpayers that it’s virtually impossible for a reasonable person to think that the government has any respect at all for them at all. The reason tax laws have become so incomprehensible is that they are a vehicle for politicians to dispense favors to special interests at the expense of ordinary citizens. In other words, tax law is the face of government corruption and the very same thing is true for healthcare law. The real beneficiaries are the healthcare and insurance industries while the ordinary citizen is saddled with a narrow one-size-fits all range of options designed by bureaucrats in partnership with those beneficiaries.
What is really astonishing is how young people, the healthiest segment of society, sit idly by as the government increasingly burdens them with subsidizing healthcare for those who are less healthy. These are, of course, the people who are lower on the income ladder, but who also face the costs of starting a family, buying a home, and paying off their college loans.
For example, there is no way most 23 year old single people should be spending $500/month on health insurance. That’s a bad deal for most 23 years olds and if given the choice most should take at least half of that in cash and save it/invest it. 23 year olds are already getting stuck with higher premiums on auto insurance since they are higher risk drivers; by the same principle, they should be paying much lower premiums since they are generally less at risk health-wise.
The single short-coming people have in their political beliefs has less to do with whether they lean left or right but rather their stunning lack of skepticism about the supposition that the government has their best interests at heart. World history is the history of government officials serving their own interests to the detriment of their citizens.
Harvey Silverglate has an interesting OpEd in the Boston Globe about how the FBI goes about conducting interrogations. Basically, it has a policy against electronically recording teh questioning of suspects. Instead, it relies on one FBI agent to taking notes while another asks the questions.
Of course, if the FBI were an unscrupulous law enforcement agency, this could be seen as a convenient arrangement by which the FBI can fabricate select details if not an entire interview. Then, to top it off, if the recorded version of the interrogation is contradicted by the facts, the subject of the interrogation can be charged with making false statements punishable by up to eight years in prison.
In 2006 the FBI defended its no-electronic-recording policy in an internal memorandum, which The New York Times later made public. The memo in part attempts to defend the policy as logistically necessary, but given that virtually every cellphone today has sound recording capabilities, any “inconvenience” or “non-availability” excuse for not recording seems laughably weak. The more honest — and more terrifying — justification for non-recording given in the memo reads as follows: “. . . perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants. Initial resistance may be interpreted as involuntariness and misleading a defendant as to the quality of the evidence against him may appear to be unfair deceit.” Translated from bureaucratese: When viewed in the light of day, recorded witness statements could appear to a reasonable jury of laypersons to have been coercively or misleadingly obtained.
In short, a jury might not come to the government-preferred conclusions if they are presented with an actual recording of the interrogation instead of the government interpretation. As in all cases of police conduct, a recording vastly curtails their ability to take liberties in describing what happened or what was said at trial time. This is just one more means by which the government stacks the cards in its favor when it comes to criminal prosecution.
Recording has now become so easy and cheap, that law enforcement should be required to record, not just interrogations, but every encounter with any citizen during the course of an investigation. If they can gather trillions of electronic communications (not to mention surveillance video), then surely it is within their technical reach to record exchanges with people they are investigating when such exchanges could be used to destroy someone’s life.
We are hearing a story that the federal government has secretly been collecting communications records of journalists at the Associated Press for months. The government provided no reason for the surveillance, but there is some speculation that this is part of the Obama administration’s war on whistle blowers and other leakers of classified information. As government operations become increasingly more classified, almost any unauthorized leak to the press can be prosecuted.
When questioned about the legality of the surveillance, a spokesman for the Justice Department said that they follow “all applicable laws, federal regulations and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations.” Of course, the Justice Department has a long history of abusing it’s surveillance powers which effectively makes such pronouncements laughable. They have routinely targeted people for political reasons going back at least to the Kennedy administration with leaders of the anti-war and civil rights movements being subjected to such abuses.
Recent cases of abuse of power include the Clinton administration’s unauthorized use of hundreds of FBI security clearance files and the NSA’s massive warrantless wiretap program ordered under Bush after 9/11. Even more recently is the case of the IRS targeting right-leaning political organizations. The bottom line in every one of these cases is that no one ever suffered any repercussions from these abuses of power and that will continue to be the pattern going forward. Just as President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his criminal abuse of power, Congress granted immunity to the telecom companies that were complicit in the NSA wiretapping scandal. Regardless of which party is in power, government always protects its own if there is a way to do so. After every abuse of power (or at least those that are discovered), government officials either deny that there was abuse or they apologize and declare that it won’t happen again. But, they always have their fingers crossed.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation weighs in on the AP wiretaps:
The widespread collection of information, as well as the apparent delay in notifying AP, both appear to be yet another violation the government’s own regulations, 28 C.F.R. sec. 50.10. In 2010, the DOJ Inspector General reported on three other violation, involving the Washington Post and New York Times. The regulations require that, “wherever possible” subpoenas of records of the news media should be “directed at material information regarding a limited subject matter, should cover a reasonably limited period of time and should avoid requiring production of a large volume of unpublished material.”
If the federal government doesn’t follow its own rules with regard to wiretaps, how could anyone with a brain think they will follow their own rules with regard to targeted killinng? I keep asking myself why the public enthusiastically trusts the government when the government is so often caught lying to them. The answer is that the each of the two parties tend to trust their own guy and are mostly blind to abuses of power by the guy they help elect. So, any president can usually count on roughly half of the electorate to support whatever he does.
Glen Greenwald writes::
The ACLU last night condemned the DOJ’s acts as “press intimidation” and said it constitutes “an unacceptable abuse of power”. The Electronic Frontier Foundation denounced it as “a terrible blow against the freedom of the press and the ability of reporters to investigate and report the news”. The New York Times’ Editorial Page Editor Andy Rosenthal called the DOJ’s actions “outrageous” while Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron said they were “shocking” and “disturbing”.
The Department of Homeland Security has a fear mongering propaganda program for the public called “See something, say something“. One of the suspicious behaviors listed on their pubic awareness posters is “inappropriate” photographs. Since the term “inappropriate” can mean almost anything someone wants it to mean, the cops can use it as an excuse to harass anyone they see taking pictures without any other cause to believe a crime is in progress.
Combine that blanket harassment authorization with someone who really just doesn’t feel like being harassed and you have the perfect recipe for police abuse of power. Few things piss off the cops as much as when someone refuses to cower before their authority.
This is apparently what happened when Raymond Michael Rodden went out in the middle of the night to take photos of picturesque government buildings in downtown Phoenix. Multiple police cars started following him around, but since he wasn’t actually violating any laws, they didn’t really have any grounds to detain him. That is until he walked into an alley. From the Photography Is Not A Crime (PINAC) website:
Little did he know that Phoenix Municipal Code 36-61 states that “no person shall use an alley within the city as a thoroughfare except authorized emergency vehicles.”
“As soon as I walked into the alley, they descended upon me,” he said.
The story deteriorates from there. While anyone with a brain would know that the law is meant for vehicles, these were Phoenix cops who saw it as something they could twist into an excuse to make this guy’s life miserable. After all, the guy had it coming after disrespectfully refusing to explain himself when they confronted him. Before it was over, the cops took (and still have) his backpack, laptop, iPad, iPhone, and an external hard drive. Oh yeah, they apparently also called his boss and he was fired.
Kudos to the Phoenix PD who apparently have so effectively eliminated real crime form their city that they now have time to chase down anyone with a camera using terrorism as a pretense. Because, as everyone knows, if a guy is taking pictures, there is about a one in ten gazillion chance that he is a terrorist and, with odds like that, cops just aren’t going to take any chances.
In the end, this has nothing to do with terrorism, crime fighting, or any other legitimate police activity. This is about teaching one man a lesson in humility when he refused to be intimidated by cops with nothing better to do. And, it’s about an entire law enforcement and justice system bureaucracy standing behind those cops to shield them from any repercussions for their behavior.
Retired NYPD detective Louis Scarcella, now 61, is accused of fabricating false confessions, coaching witnesses, and rewarding witnesses for testimony in cases going back at least 20 years. One witness, drug addict Teresa Gomez, was used as a witness in several different murder trials. She was the only witness in when Alvena Jennette, 49, was convicted.
“How is it possible a detective could use a witness in that many murder trials without any red flags being raised?” Jennette asked.
Derrick Hamilton, who was paroled in 2011 after the Daily News reported Scarcella’s only witness had recanted her claim that Hamilton killed her boyfriend.
When Scarcella arrested him, the detective made a shocking admission, according to Hamilton.
“He told me, ‘I know you didn’t commit this murder, but I don’t care,’ ” he said.
Of course, this kind of thing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Cops and prosecutors are rarely unaware of the corrupt behavior of their associates, but they are rarely held accountable. Law enforcement has a culture of secrecy that permeates the profession. Finding the truth and ensuring that justice is done takes a back seat to cranking out arrests, getting convictions, and supplying the prison industrial complex with fresh warm bodies. Even judges are part of the problem.
Lawyer Ron Kuby is representing another man Scarcella helped put away, Shakaba Shakur, 48, who is 26 years into a 40-years-to-life murder sentence.
Scarcella somehow managed to get admissions — which were not witnessed, recorded or written.
“You’d think after two or three or five of these magical confessions, some judge somewhere would say, ‘Hmm . . . ’ ” Kuby said.