Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hot Off the Press and Off the Mark: Lara Logan Selling the Sizzle while Burning the Facts

Lara Logan, Hotness and Benghazi Gone Wild: A Sixty Minutes Scandal

by John Grant - This Can't Be Happening

Lara Logan is a formidable TV reporter who has covered wars and other stories at significant risk. She’s supremely confident and has a powerful journalistic institution supporting her.

Lara Logan, her interview with Morgan Jones (really Dylan Davies), his book and Benghazi burning 

But as a would-be ethical journalist, she seems to rely too much on her sexual allure and to be too tight with elite elements of the US military establishment.

When it comes to TV reporters, the 42-year-old Logan's persona epitomizes the pop adjective hot.

She’s a beautiful South African blonde with a come-hither sultry voice. It’s noteworthy that she’s married to a US civilian defense contractor from Texas she met covering the war in Afghanistan. They have two young kids. She made her aggressive militarist credentials clear in a 2012 speech [1] in which she unambiguously called for vengeance by US “clandestine warriors” following the Benghazi attack.

As a journalist, Logan always seems to be falling off Albert Camus’ famous ridgeline separating the two abysses of Frivolous Art and Propaganda. In her case, the Propaganda abyss she’s falling into involves her breathy, seductive adoration of male “warriors” and adventurers she is inclined to report on and interview.

The dust-up over her October 27th 60 Minutes interview with a macho warrior cum bullshit artist about his fantasy heroics in Benghazi makes her sexy style a fair issue for discussion. Her story was timed perfectly and played right into the hands of men like California Rep. Darrel Issa, Senator Lindsey Graham, Sean Hannity and other right-wing elements doing their mightiest to undermine the Obama administration.

It’s not that President Obama’s Libya actions don’t deserve fair criticism; it’s that Lara Logan’s story featuring “security officer” Dylan Davies (using the pseudonym Morgan Jones) posturing as a brave clandestine war hero turned out to be pandering, right wing militarist garbage. Even Fox News was leery of Davies and washed their hands of the man. Finally, Davies as Morgan Jones had produced a ghost-written book called The Embassy House [2] published by Threshold Editions, a right wing imprint owned by Simon and Schuster, which is owned by Lara Logan's boss, CBS, something she failed to mention in her interview.

Logan says she worked on the story for a full year. Anyone who works in the journalism business should now be shaking his or her head. For a reporter with the institutional resources and clout Logan has at her beck and call not to check such a source’s claims to see if they jived with testimony on the topic he had given to the FBI simply beggars belief and deserves much more than the 90-second on-air apology [3] she made last Sunday. That statement amounted to, “Oops! We’re really sorry.” Sixty Minutes producers say they have nothing more to say on the affair. They clearly hope it will just go away.

Sixty Minutes made its brand spurs with the on-the-street, guerrilla journalism associated with Mike Wallace, mike in hand, running after some lowlife creep fleecing the American citizenry. That was then. Nowadays it relies on its institutional heft and its high-level access power. In the post-911 world, on 60 Minutes we tend to get a lot of Pentagon puff pieces segued in with health care scandals and celebrity profiles.

It’s tough being a media consumer these days immersed in what William Arkin calls “martial life” in America. He develops this idea in his new book American Coup: How a Terrified Government Is Destroying the Constitution, in which he shows the problem is much more complicated that an ordinary “coup.” Militarism pervades everything, he says. It’s “more a product of political accretion than diabolic edict -- something akin to too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. ...[I]t is the product of ignorance -- and manufactured complexity.”

As Pogo put it, “I’ve met the enemy and the enemy is us.”

Citizens are doomed to engage with a runaway militarist machine that deals with citizens in one of two distinct modes: Secrecy or Public Relations. Large corporate-based journalistic institutions like CBS and 60 Minutes are so desperate to fill their news holes their prime concern becomes not losing access to the Pentagon’s world. Access mavens like Lara Logan rise to the top due to their capacity to churn out what amounts to entertaining Pentagon public relations.

One of the more obnoxious 60 Minutes Pentagon puff pieces ran on March 22, 2008. As an anti-war activist who takes the idea of “peace” seriously, I found it personally insulting. The story by correspondent David Martin was called “The Pentagon’s Ray Gun,” [4] and it was about an experimental, non-lethal weapon called an “active denial system.” The track-mounted “gun” could project 100,000 watts of heat as a means to break up crowds. Martin tells us this weapon will be useful in Iraq. When hit by the ray from a half-mile away, volunteers and Martin himself all fled within seconds.

So far so good. An interesting story.

Where 60 Minutes’ integrity fell into Camus’ Propaganda abyss was when the active duty military volunteers were shown marching with signs that called for WORLD PEACE, PEACE NOT WAR and HUG ME, clearly some militarist’s brilliant idea to ridicule the Iraq anti-war movement. You could see the soldier volunteers were having a hoot hollering anti-war slogans. By 2008, of course, the anti-Iraq War movement had been for years accurately and fairly characterizing the Iraq Invasion and Occupation as unnecessary, cruelly destructive and based on official delusions and lies. That view is now shared by a significant majority of Americans that crosses political lines.

I was in Baghdad in December 2003 and January 2004, and I witnessed peaceful street demonstrations critical of the US occupation. By 2008, I’d also been part of a number of massive demonstrations in Philadelphia, New York and Washington DC opposed to the war in Iraq. A very notable feature in these was connected metal railings that operated like cattle chutes and, my favorite feature, metal corrals known as “First Amendment zones.” They were, of course, always at a significant, and therefore safe, remove from the institution being protested.

I have no doubt if we demonstrators and our PEACE NOT WAR signs had become too unruly -- that is, actually effective -- active denial system ray guns would have been deployed in the United States before they were ever seen in Iraq. The R&D has certainly advanced and the ray guns are no doubt parked somewhere and included in someone’s numbered and filed contingency scenario.

Active denial ray guns are about shutting down information going upward. Lara Logan and Sixty Minutes are part of the vast machine that broadcasts controlled information in a downward direction.

In the propaganda game, subtext can be more powerful than the overt message. This was certainly the case with David Martin’s ray gun story. The overt message was, “Look, our military is so humane it doesn’t have to gun people down like the Chinese government did in Tiananmen Square.” The subtext was peace activists are the bad guys; so it’s OK to treat peace activists like the enemy. Sixty Minutes editors played right along with what amounts to a flagrantly biased anti-First Amendment message.

At the very least Martin and 60 Minutes should have commented on the insulting signage. But that would have put the story on a more objective footing, and to do so might have threatened their access on the next Pentagon story. Lara Logan’s stories suffer from the same access-obsessed, public-relations-reliant, pro-military bias.

Logan received a lot of sensational press and some undeserved salacious comments in February 2011 following a brutal 40-minute sexual assault by a mob of men in Cairo’s Tahrir Square the night Hosni Mubarak stepped down. It’s true certain sexually arrogant Muslim men feel that alluring western women are begging to be pawed and groped. I witnessed it in Turkey, where as a westerner, I was asked to accompany a British women under assault on a train. Following the Tahrir Square assault, CBS and Logan decided on-the-ground reporting in Muslim countries like Egypt is probably not the place to send Lara Logan.

Some may feel it’s out of line to emphasize Logan’s sexual allure and to suggest that she exploits her sexual charms. It insinuates that her success may not be based on hard work and intelligence alone. For me, it’s like Ronald Reagan’s charms. I think the man was brilliant in his own way. But Ronald Reagan without his aw-shucks acting charms is unimaginable. And it was Reagan’s acting charms that made him the Great Communicator able to sell what he sold to the American people. The point is, many Americans understand that the myth of American exceptionalism (anti-malaise) he sold the nation led inexorably to a major financial collapse and the bankrupting militarist runaway train we’re now riding in and holding on for dear life.

The Lara Logan affair should be up there with the Judith Miller and Curveball affairs during the Iraq Invasion, all ignoble markers of how really shamelessly pandering the Mainstream Media can be covering the military and its proponents.

Lara Logan is certainly not alone in producing biased journalism. What you’re now reading is arguably biased journalism. But, then, I’m not posing as anything other than an advocate for peace-friendly ideas and certain historical meanings. I clearly don’t have the power and resources of CBS and 60 Minutes at my beck and call.

Last year at the annual luncheon of the Better Government Association, Lara Logan very earnestly said this:

“There is a distinction between investigating something to find out what the real situation is and trying to prove something you believe is true. And those are two very different things, and the second one is a very dangerous thing.”

She clearly needs to ponder her own remarks, because what she did with would-be clandestine warrior hero Dylan Davies was exactly what she called a “very dangerous thing.” In her case, it was profoundly dangerous because so much life and death and destruction could hinge on what she's advocating. Linking up with friendly pro-military voices to propagate right-wing militarist ideas because one has access to them is not the same thing as "investigating something to find out what the real situation is."

It would be a day for rejoicing if mainstream entities like 60 Minutes could find the humility and courage needed to actually cover the runaway Pentagon leviathan as the societal leech it really is. There are, of course, excellent working models for this in reporting based on material leaked by individuals like Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Logan was publicly critical of Michael Hastings for his Rolling Stones expose of the real General Stanley McChrystal. Hasting, of course, died as he was reportedly working on a CIA story in a very mysterious fiery crash recently in Los Angeles.

Let's hope this scandal grows until 60 Minutes stops stonewalling and comes clean about such a shameful reportorial fiasco. Stonewalling is what crooked politicians do. As Finley Peter Dunne’s folksy character Mr Dooley famously put it in 1898, what journalists do is “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

The fact is Lara Logan and 60 Minutes are just too damn comfortable with the Pentagon war machine that sucks our blood and monitors our communications -- while it claims to protect us. Both institutions need to be afflicted more.

Source URL:


Iran: Keeping the World Safe for France's Nuclear Industry

Why Did France Thwart The Iran nuclear deal?


Robert Parry: France was pursuing its own economic, regional interests in thwarting the nuke deal with Iran.

Robert Parry is an American investigative journalist. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 for his work with the Associated Press. In 1995, he established Consortium News as an online ezine dedicated to investigative journalism. From 2000 to 2004, he worked for the financial wire service Bloomberg. Major subjects of Parry's articles and reports on Consortium News include the presidency of George W. Bush, the career of Army general and Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell (with Norman Solomon), the October Surprise controversy of the 1980 election, the Nicaraguan contra-cocaine investigation, the efforts to impeach President Clinton, right-wing terrorism in Latin America, the political influence of Sun Myung Moon, mainstream American media imbalance, United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as well as international stories . Parry has written several books, including Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & "Project Truth." (1999) and Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq (2004). 

Fighting for The Peace: Controversial Site C Public Hearings Few and Squeezed into Holiday Season

Stop Site C


It was recently announced that the Joint Review Panel responsible for reviewing Site C has completed reviewing responses to their information requests, and are swiftly moving on to the public hearing phase of the review. With few hearings scheduled close to the Christmas holidays, there are concerns that the public will not be able to participate.

The preliminary hearing schedule also does not outline sessions specifically for important areas of concern such as agriculture and human health and safety.

It’s important to let the federal and provincial governments know that you have serious concerns about Site C and want the project stopped. Please take two minutes to send a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other politicians.

Site C is not clean or green energy. If the dam is built it will increase B.C.’s greenhouse emissions by 150,000 tonnes a year and flood prime farmland. Site C will also destroy critical habitat for at-risk species like the grizzly bear, wolverine and caribou.

Site C dam has already been turned down – twice – by the B.C. government, which said it was too risky and too costly. Electricity from Site C is not needed to power B.C. households and businesses. Residential and commercial customers in B.C. have actually reduced their power consumption since 2008. So-called “clean energy” from Site C would be used to power dirty fossil fuel industries such as fracking and Liquid Natural Gas. Yet B.C. taxpayers will end up footing the $8 billion bill at a time when B.C. Hydro is already deeply in debt.

What You Can Do

Please help stop Site C by sending a letter now!

Your letter will be sent to the following people:

Honourable John Rustad (Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation)
Honourable Adrian Dix (Leader of the Opposition)
Mr. John Horgan (Energy and Mines critic)
Honourable Peter Kent (Federal Minister of the Environment)
Mr. Nicholas Simons (Agriculture critic)
Right Honourable Stephen Harper (Prime Minister)
Honourable Rich Coleman (Minister of Natural Gas)
Honourable Mary Polak (Minister of the Environment)
Mr. Doug Donaldson (Aboriginal Relations critic)
Honourable Christy Clark (Premier)
Mr. Robin Austin (Natural Gas critic)
Honourable Bill Bennett (Minister of Energy and Mines)
Honourable Pat Pimm (Minister of Agriculture)

Costco's Bad Taste, Bad News Connections in British Columbia

Costco's Bad News

by Steve and Susanne Hare Lawson 

Dear Costco Connection Magazine;

In your latest publication the "Costco Connection", in your moneysavers section, you have chosen to publicize a letter regarding shares in Enbridge and how a customer can pass these on to his children. This is in such bad taste considering what B.C. is going through in regards to the Enbridge pipeline controversy with the majority of the the public in B.C. and First Nations leadership and peoples opposing these oil and gas pipelines that it is with serious consideration we are thinking of cancelling our long-held membership in your organization.

There are public demonstrations planned in B.C. on Nov. 16th against Enbridge and your propaganda pushing the Enbridge company defies comprehension. 

This follows on the controversy surrounding the sale of fish farmed salmon under your Kirkland label in your stores here where thousands of people have expressed their concern at the sale and marketing of such a product.

  • The government of Norway has advised that children and pregnant women not eat farmed salmon. 

  • These fish have high levels of PCB's, consume large levels of antibiotics, and are responsible for the demise of young wild salmon and other species of coastal fish. 

  • It is well known that these farmed fish are soft and mushy, often infected with ISA, Infectious Salmon Anemia which fish farmers say is not passable to humans but it is an auto immune deficiency which hasn't had long term scientific research. Infestations of sea lice and other pathogens and diseases are rampant in these farms. 

Now with the expectant availability of genetically modified fish, the first edible mutated protein that these farms will be producing, makes the fact that your company selling such a product is in (pardon the pun) very poor taste.

Target and Overwaitea and other retailers have opted out of the sale of such a product.

We think it is high time you set some better standards for ethical, environmental and health wise investments and what you offer to the public, your membership and supporters. We have, along with my family, been members of Costco since your inception on the west coast of North America. We spend a lot of money monthly at your stores on Vancouver Island and are ready to switch to better sources.

Steve and Susanne Hare Lawson, Tofino, B.C.

EPIC Battle for Homeland Security 'Internet Kill-Switch' Info Release Succeeds (for now)

EPIC Prevails in FOIA Case About "Internet Kill Switch" 

by Electronic Privacy Information Center

In a Freedom of Information Act case brought by EPIC against the Department of Homeland Security, a federal court has ruled that the DHS may not withhold the agency's plan to deactivate wireless communications networks in a crisis.

EPIC had sought "Standard Operating Procedure 303," also known as the "internet Kill Switch," to determine whether the agency's plan could adversely impact free speech or public safety.

EPIC filed the FOIA lawsuit in 2012 after the the technique was used by police in San Francisco to shut down cell service for protesters at a BART station, who had gathered peacefully to object to police practices.

The federal court determined that the agency wrongly claimed that it could withhold SOP 303 as a "technique for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions." The phrase, the court explained, "refers only to acts by law enforcement after or during the prevention of a crime, not crime prevention techniques."

The court repeatedly emphasized that FOIA exemptions are to be read narrowly.

For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (SOP 303) and EPIC: FOIA.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (Draft Text) Revealed

Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

by Wikileaks

Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP.

The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. 

The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.

The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP. Both pacts exclude China.

Since the beginning of the TPP negotiations, the process of drafting and negotiating the treaty’s chapters has been shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy. Access to drafts of the TPP chapters is shielded from the general public. Members of the US Congress are only able to view selected portions of treaty-related documents in highly restrictive conditions and under strict supervision. It has been previously revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 ’trade advisers’ – lobbyists guarding the interests of large US corporations such as Chevron, Halliburton, Monsanto and Walmart – are granted privileged access to crucial sections of the treaty text.

The TPP negotiations are currently at a critical stage. The Obama administration is preparing to fast-track the TPP treaty in a manner that will prevent the US Congress from discussing or amending any parts of the treaty. Numerous TPP heads of state and senior government figures, including President Obama, have declared their intention to sign and ratify the TPP before the end of 2013.

WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange stated: “The US administration is aggressively pushing the TPP through the US legislative process on the sly.” 

The advanced draft of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter, published by WikiLeaks on 13 November 2013, provides the public with the fullest opportunity so far to familiarise themselves with the details and implications of the TPP.

The 95-page, 30,000-word IP Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states. The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.

The longest section of the Chapter – ’Enforcement’ – is devoted to detailing new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons. Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer, but which have no human rights safeguards.

The TPP IP Chapter states that these courts can conduct hearings with secret evidence. The IP Chapter also replicates many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions from the shelved SOPA and ACTA treaties.

The consolidated text obtained by WikiLeaks after the 26-30 August 2013 TPP meeting in Brunei – unlike any other TPP-related documents previously released to the public – contains annotations detailing each country’s positions on the issues under negotiation. Julian Assange emphasises that a “cringingly obsequious” Australia is the nation most likely to support the hardline position of US negotiators against other countries, while states including Vietnam, Chile and Malaysia are more likely to be in opposition. Numerous key Pacific Rim and nearby nations – including Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and, most significantly, Russia and China – have not been involved in the drafting of the treaty.

In the words of WikiLeaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange:

“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.

Read the full secret TPP treaty IP chapter here

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hammond Case: Ten Years for Truth-telling

Jeremy Hammond Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Cyber-Activism

by Democracy Now!

Today in a federal courtroom in Manhattan, cyber-activist Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison for hacking the private intelligence firm Stratfor. Watch a press conference with his attorneys.

SARAH KUNSTLER: We fought the good fight. We talked about Jeremy’s motivations and why he did what he did. We talked about the life that he led. And, unfortunately, we were unable to persuade the judge to give him less than the maximum in this case, which was 10 years. I think when Jeremy took this plea with a 10-year maximum, that he understood that this was—this was a very likely outcome for him.

MARGARET RATNER KUNSTLER: We have been in front of this judge on a number of appearances, and we have not found her to be particularly sympathetic to Jeremy. We don’t think that she has the beginning of an understanding of the hacker movement. And she certainly doesn’t have an understanding of the vocabulary used in chat rooms and by hacktivists online. I mean, she—it’s a very overstated vocabulary, and they use the word "kill." They don’t mean "kill." They use the word "havoc." They use the word "mayhem." But it’s—it’s the way they talk. And she used that against him to deny any social value to the actual work he did, and therefore—and really just used his words against him.

SARAH KUNSTLER: The words that the judge used a lot and that the government used a lot in their sentencing submission were "maximum mayhem." And the government and the judge felt that the idea of causing mayhem or causing destruction was incompatible with Jeremy’s stated political goals. And we disagree with that. You know, advocating for political change, struggling for political change involves being disruptive at times. It involves being destructive at times. These are some ways the—sometimes the only pathways to change.

KEVIN GOSZTOLA: The key to this case is that we see that there is no willingness by judges to distinguish between acts of hacking for civil disobedience or political purposes and acts of hacking that are malicious. So there’s no recognition of hacktivism under the law.

ROY SINGHAM: The thing that bothers me also in this case is the discrepancy in the sentencing. One of the things that was said by Aaron Swartz’s father at his funeral was that the crime that Aaron or people like Jeremy, who got financial gain out of these things, they’re getting 10 years, whereas other titans of the tech industry who abuse in certain ways public property, taking government, you know, lists of students at universities, using free resources, these people, these titans of tech industry, they are celebrated by our society as innovators, as disruptors. Why the discrepancy? No charges against these people, yet 10 years for Jeremy—this is an unacceptable outcome for the tech sector. And I say, "Shame on the rest of the tech sector for not coming to Jeremy’s defense."

Victoria Stands with No Tankers No Pipelines Saturday N16

No Tankers No Pipelines National Day of Action (Victoria)

by Wilderness Committee

This winter, the Joint Review Panel will give their recommendation on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to the federal government and Kinder Morgan is expected to submit an application for their proposed new Trans Mountain pipeline. If these proposals are approved, hundreds of tankers per year will put B.C.’s coast at risk.

British Columbians do not want tankers threatening the coast. A single oil spill would devastate marine ecosystems, coastal communities and coastal jobs.

Thousands have written and spoken out against Enbridge’s pipeline plans. More than 160 First Nations have signed the Save the Fraser River Declaration prohibiting the transport of tar sands crude through their lands and waters. Coastal First Nations have declared a ban on oil tankers in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Join us November 16th for a rally against tanker and pipeline projects in B.C.

1:00 pm at Clover Point Park
 (view map)

Let’s send a clear message to Christy Clark and Stephen Harper that we reject the expansion of tanker traffic on the B.C. coast.

All across the country, communities will be rallying for the "Defend our Climate, Defend our Communities" National Day of Action. Climate change is here and Canadians are calling on all levels of government to transition away from fossil fuel dependence and towards a green energy future.

If you would like to help organize the Victoria event please contact Galen at

Facebook event page:

If you are not going to be in Victoria, check to see for possible events in your area OR start up your own!

Related Campaigns:

Stop Tar Sands Exports - No Tar Sands Pipelines, No Tar Sands Tankers
The Climate Crisis
Save the Salish Sea

How Reuters Frames America's "Concern" Over China's Typhoon Disaster Response

Reuters "Concern-Trolls" China Over Philippine Typhoon Relief

by Peter Lee - China Matters

Reuters’ concern-trolling over the low-key Chinese response to the Philippine Haiyan supertyphoon disaster is revealing, in a relatively inadvertent way.

Yesterday it was: China's Meager Aid to the Philippines Could Dent Its Image

Today it is: No Sign of Help for Philippines from China’s Hospital Ship

The Chinese government has not been particularly forthcoming in aid to the Philippines, especially in comparison with the high profile pledges by the United States and Japan, and the dispatch of the US aircraft carrier George Washington and its strike group to provide relief.

There’s a dearth of hard data on exactly why the PRC hasn’t gone all out in opening the aid floodgates to the Philippines, with whom China is locked in an antagonistic maritime dispute. China’s activist hardliner newspaper, Global Times, did weigh in with one editorial urging the government not to snub the Philippines; for the rest, Reuters has been forced to rely on the usual suspects—pundits, Twitterers, and Weibo posts—in order to weave a narrative out of the fact that China has provided less aid than the United States and Japan.

 The story could have been as easily spun as “US, Japan Go All Out to Exploit Supertyphoon to Bolster Strategic Alliance With the Philippines,” which, indeed, is a certain part of what’s going on. Japan, in particular, is eager to use the disaster to strengthen the case for expanding the regional footprint of its Self-Defense Force (in anticipation of the day when the pacifist constitution is revised and the SDF is rebranded as a conventional—and rather large—national military).

One can almost view the Reuters articles as part of that campaign, highlighting the contrast between the US/Japanese and Chinese responses in order to gain an additional PR value for the West.

But Reuters’ framing that the Chinese regime is clumsily botching the only reasonable policy option—backing up its regional power pretensions with a high profile assumption of disaster relief responsibilities—is remarkably blinkered in a way that implies that flooding the Asian zone with more reportorial resources is simply creating an echo chamber of mutually reinforcing punditry and prejudices, and making it easier to superimpose Western preconceptions on the Asian reality: an exercise in Orientalizing that Edward Said would find quite familiar.

There are, I would aver, other forces at work in China, ones that preclude the new PRC administration of Xi Jinping from blithely laying himself down in the Procrustean bed of western liberal and U.S. great power preconceptions of how China should be responding to the Haiyan disaster at this particular moment.

I see Xi Jinping asserting tight central control and management over China’s media and public opinion space in order to consolidate his own power and, quite possibly, in anticipation of domestic rumpus attending some badly needed and long-expected economic, financial, and political reforms.

One of the relief valves permitted for Chinese public opinion is the vociferous abuse heaped on countries with whom the PRC are at odds, like the Vietnam and the Philippines. Reasserting government management of that space means not giving China’s easily riled netizens (and the occasional dissident activists who welcome any expression of on-line discontent as an opportunity to delegitimize the PRC regime) something to bitch about, reinforce their feelings of individual agency, and resist the top-down authoritarian guidance that seems to be Xi Jinping’s preferred governance model.

In my most recent article for Asia Times, Controlling the Media is Xi’s Message, I posit that the PRC regime is taking care not to get out in front of Chinese public opinion (which is pretty negative and uncharitable toward the Philippines, despite the awful Haiyan disaster) by supplying aid beyond the minimum demanded by neighborly compassion, unless it is recognized inside China as a matter of overwhelming moral and practical necessity:

"Perhaps the real reason is that Xi has his eye squarely on the domestic ball of public opinion, and does not want to be seen getting all soft and squishy, pursuing international popularity will o' the wisps when his main business is to convince the Chinese populace that the CCP has the domestic dissent/control/reform agenda well in hand.

"Those with longer memories (a characteristic of the Chinese Communist Party hierarchy) might remember how foreign aid issues got rolled up in a spate of horrific school bus accidents that claimed dozens of lives in China in the winter of 2012. Netizen scorn was heaped on the government for concurrently providing school buses to Macedonia as an aid gambit even as China's own children perished on antiquated and unsafe buses.

"More recently, the Chinese government came in for considerable criticism in the wake of Cyclone Fitow. In a few hours in October (in another one of those unprecedented calamities probably exacerbated by global warming and now recurring with such frequency that the previous instances are quickly forgotten), that storm dropped a half-meter or so of rain on northern Zhejiang province - more than the region had seen in a century - flooding 70% of a sizable city called Yuyao. There was considerable local disgruntlement at the provincial government's inability to provide prompt relief.
[… ]
"With the Fitow context (and with the current example of the admittedly lesser losses and suffering that the Haiyin super-typhoon inflicted on the Chinese mainland), it would seem logical that the Xi government would not be interested in squandering its messaging victory by expending moral, political, and economic resources on the Philippines while the local situation is far from bright, thereby inviting netizen criticism of the government in the (for China) still privileged space of protected expression reserved for outpourings of nationalist and xenophobic bile."

Also, undoubtedly Xi would prefer that the relief be reframed in terms of a regional role that China not only can but must fill, ideally at the urgent behest of the Philippines, and not just because Reuters has written a couple bitchy headlines.

The United States, as part of its pivot to Asia, is eager to identify and advertise through the Western media roles for China that the PRC finds awkward and unpleasant to fill. Disaster relief for Supertyphoon Haiyan is not the first, and will probably not be the last.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Other Whistleblower: Jeremy Hammond and Criminalizing Dissent

Hedges: Jeremy Hammond Exposed State's Plan to Criminalize Democratic Dissent


Christopher Hedges, on the sentencing of Jeremy Hammond, says there will be no free press without figures like Hammond and Manning

Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig , spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. He has written nine books, including "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle" (2009), "I Don't Believe in Atheists" (2008) and the best-selling "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" (2008). His book "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.  

British Columbia Demonstrates Again Against Enbridge Scheme

Saturday Rally in Vancouver A "Critical Moment" in Enbridge Campaign

by ForestEthics Advocacy

VANCOUVER - First Nations leaders, politicians, environmentalists, and citizens from all walks of life will gather this Saturday, Nov. 16 in Vancouver to send a loud and clear message against the Enbridge pipeline to the BC government of Christy Clark and to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“This Saturday’s ‘No Enbridge Pipeline’ rally in Vancouver comes at a critical moment,” said Ben West, ForestEthics Advocacy Tar Sands Campaign Director. 
“Christy Clark and Stephen Harper have a choice to make as the NEB decision looms in the weeks ahead: will they listen to the people of BC or not? Are they going to do this the easy way or the hard way, because we have not given consent for this pipeline and we won't let it be built. This could turn out to be our generation’s Clayoquot Sound, but it's still not too late for them to do the right thing," said West.

The rally begins at 2pm Saturday, Nov. 16 outside Science World. Thousands are expected at this family friendly event, which will feature speakers including Art Sterritt of the Coastal First Nations, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, Yinka Dene Alliance representative Jasmine Thomas, local Vancouver high school climate activist Sam Harrison, plus live music and other special guests and activities.

Interest in the rally has increased after Clark and her Alberta counterpart Alison Redford announced a new “framework agreement” last week. This “deal” comes weeks before a formal decision from the NEB’s Joint Review Panel (JRP) despite the fact that Clark’s BC government formally submitted their opposition to Enbridge during the closing arguments of the JRP hearings.

“People are very alarmed that Premier Clark seems to be flip flopping on the Enbridge pipeline -- many thought it was dead but then just around Halloween it seemed to come back like an oily zombie. We intend to stop this Enbridge monster once and for all,” said West.

There is overwhelming opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, with polls showing 80% of British Columbians opposed to crude oil tanker traffic on the BC coast. There is an "unbroken wall of opposition” of Indigenous nations, with over 160 First Nations having signed the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing tar sands exports projects through their territory.

"There is no way we will let BC's Premier flip flop on Enbridge; saying no to this proposal is as black and white as the orcas endangered by Enbridge’s reckless plans,” said West.

Volunteers have been knocking on doors, putting posters up all over the region and organizing on social media.

"We will never have the money these big oil companies do to advertise but we have people on our side to help spread the word," said West. 

People from all over BC as well as elsewhere in Canada and abroad are posting pictures of themselves -- on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram -- holding signs saying "another __________ against the Enbridge pipeline." Some signs say “another family” or “another teacher.” Others are more playful and say things like "another Movember man."

"The organizing of this campaign has highlighted the diversity and creativity of this strong and growing social movement. This isn't really a protest, this event is a celebration of the power of people over massive corporations. It's about working together to heal the wounds of past and current injustices done to First Nations people, and it's about doing the right thing for the global community in the age of climate change," said West. 

The Vancouver No Enbridge Pipeline Rally is a flagship event in the national Defend our Climate day of action happening in dozens of cities across Canada.

"We can and must do better," said West. "I think we will look back on this moment as one of the turning points in a critical social movement. People will be glad to be able to say they were there and were part of making change for the better," said West.

For Immediate Release - Thursday, November 14, 2013
For more information contact:

Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director, ForestEthics Advocacy – (604) 710-5340

Rand Paul Economic Necromancer: Exhuming Milton Back from the Grave

Rand Paul’s Zombie-nomics versus Janet Yellen

by Greg Palast - Truthout

Will Senator Rand Paul, misunderstanding the voices of the un-dead, block the appointment of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve Board?

No joke. Tea Party fave Paul told the Wall Street Journal he would have preferred Milton Friedman, the free-market fanatic, to the liberal-ish Yellen. But, as a stunned Journal reporter informed the Senator, Milton Friedman is, alas, some years dead.

Unbowed, Paul contends he is channeling Friedman from beyond the grave, invoking the Nobel Laureate economist to support the Senator’s quest against Yellen’s well-known commitment to easy money policies at the Fed.

Paul has written, “One need not be an economist or mathematician to wonder whether printing money out of thin air is a sound way to help the economy.”

You’re more than correct, Senator. If you don’t know why America is printing more dollar bills, then you definitely are NOT an economist NOR a mathematician.

As a former student of the late professor Friedman, I’m quite certain that Milty would have been thrilled by Yellen’s push to main-line more greenbacks into the US economy.

If you return to your séance, Senator, and ask Friedman’s ghost about “printing money out of thin air,” you’d find out he all but invented the idea. Or, throw away the Ouija Board and read Friedman’s A Monetary History of the United States 1867-1960, his Nobel-winning work, in which he argued convincingly that the Federal Reserve could have prevented the Great Depression had it radically pumped up the money supply.

Friedman’s — and Yellen’s — greatest fear is not inflation, but deflation, a disastrous fall in prices due to starving the economy of dollars.

Senator Paul moans that, since the market crash of 2008, the Federal Reserve has printed $3.6 trillion and dumped these dollar bills, ink still wet, into the financial system. Paul is waiting for the day when the printing of all these dollars will suddenly cause the price of a can of tuna to soar to $7,000.

But despite the Fed’s smoking-hot printing press, the price of tuna is perilously close to falling. Price inflation today stands at a teeny-weeny 1.2%.

It’s time for Senator Paul and daddy Congressman Ron Paul and their followers in gold-foil hats to admit that adding trillions to the money supply has not caused hyper-inflation. After a quarter-century of hysterical warnings from the two Pauls, the hyperinflation spaceship never landed and little green dollar men did not eat up the planet.

An Idiot’s Guide to Gold-Buggery

The Pauls have told us horror stories of the German hyper-inflation of the early 1920s when you had to schlep a wheelbarrow full of currency to buy a loaf of bread. The cure Paul père hawks, is a return to the Gold Standard, raising Zombie economic theories from the grave where Friedman buried them.

As Friedman warned, there’s something far worse than having to pay for a loaf of bread with bags of currency, and that’s having to pay for a loaf of bread with a bag of gold.

Notably, the Tea Party, not the guys in the goofy wigs on Fox TV, but the real one in Boston in 1773, was formed principally to protest King George’s re-imposing the Gold Standard on the colonies.

The colonies faced a crisis. Bricks of gold don’t have babies; and so, when an economy grows rapidly as did early America, there simply is not enough money to represent that new trade and wealth because the currency is limited by a fixed and arbitrary amount of metal.

Here’s why. When the money stock stays flat as production and workforce grows, each dollar buys more of that production. Sounds good? No way. A monstrous fall in prices and wages means workers and businesses get less for their output and can’t pay off old loans. To simplify: When a farmer borrows $100 for land and seed, then sells his corn for $50, the farmer goes bust.

The American colonies faced such ruin when gold-backed currency was insufficient to fund our massive expansion. A revolutionary leader of the time explained the insurgent solution, “Happy for us that we fell upon the Project of giving a Credit to Paper.”

Happy days ended when the British Parliament counter-attacked with the Currency Act of 1764 that, “renders our Paper Money no legal Tender.” King George, to shackle the States to the Crown’s metal-based currency, required purchasing a tax-stamp for each case of tea which had to be paid for in His Majesty’s “pounds sterling.”

So the dissidents threw the tea into the ocean.

A century and a half later, after World War I, the British Parliament did it again, re-imposing the gold standard. The US and most of the world joined Britain in the golden noose. Economies strangled and dangled. The Great Depression eased only when FDR, in one of his first acts of office, rescued the US, setting the dollar free of gold and letting fly the “Federal Reserve Note,” created out of thin air — just like America itself.

And while your beloved Friedman did not care for the government caring for people’s welfare via New Deal programs, my professor did praise FDR’s printing press for expanding the money supply.

In today’s hearing, Janet Yellen might remind the Senate of economist J.M. Keynes warning about, “Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

Senator Paul, if you are going to listen to the voices of deceased economists, at the least, listen carefully.

Forensic economist Greg Palast, author of the New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, is a Puffin Foundation Fellow for Investigative Reporting.

Greg Palast is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Winning Palestine Narrative Hard to Find

When Falsehoods Triumph: Why A Winning Palestinian Narrative is Hard to Find

by Ramzy Baroud  -

In an initially pointless exercise that lasted nearly an hour, I flipped between two Palestinian television channels, Al Aqsa TV of Hamas in Gaza and Palestine TV of Fatah in the West Bank. While both purported to represent Palestine and the Palestinians, each seemed to represent some other place and some other people. It was all very disappointing.

Hamas’ world is fixated on their hate of Fatah and other factional personal business. Fatah TV is stuck between several worlds of archaic language of phony revolutions, factional rivalry and unmatched self-adoration. The two narratives are growingly alien and will unlikely ever move beyond their immediate sense of self-gratification and utter absurdity.

It is no wonder why Palestinians are still struggling to tell the world such a simple, straightforward and truthful story. Perhaps it is now out of desperation that they expect Israel’s New Historians, internationals who make occasional visits to Palestine or an unexceptionally fair western journalist to tell it.

But what about the Palestinian themselves? This is rare because factionalism in Palestine and among Palestinians in the Diaspora is also destroying the very idea of having a common narrative through which they can tell one cohesive story, untainted by the tribal political mentality which is devouring Palestinian identity the same way Israeli bulldozers are devouring whatever remains of their land.

Even if such a narrative were to finally exist, it would likely be an uphill battle, for Israel’s official narrative, albeit a forgery, is rooted in history. On May 16, 2013, Shay Hazkani, described in a detailed Haaretz article the intricate and purposeful process through which Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion rewrote history. “Catastrophic thinking: Did Ben-Gurion try to rewrite history?” was largely based on a single file (number GL-18/17028) in the State Archives that seemed to have escaped censorship. The rest of the files were whisked away after Israel’s New Historians – Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Ilan Pappe and others – got their hands on numerous documents that violently negated Israel’s official story of its birth.

“Archived Israeli documents that reported the expulsion of Palestinians, massacres or rapes perpetrated by Israeli soldiers, along with other events considered embarrassing by the establishment, were reclassified as ‘top secret’,” Hazkani wrote in the Israeli paper. But GL-18/17028 somehow survived the official onslaught on history.

The lone document spoke of the “evolution of the Israeli version of the Palestinian Nakba þ(The Catastropheþ) of 1948.” That evolution took place under the auspices of Ben-Gurion himself between the years 1960-1964, where he assigned one scholar after another to basically fabricate history, which they surely did. Zionist leaders were at least astute enough to understand the power of collective memory, and its possible impact on international public opinion. So they tailored their own versions of history very early on as to counter future generation of Palestinians.

Salman Abu Sitta is one of Palestine’s foremost historians. The man has done more to preserve and document Palestinian historical records than any other historian alive. In an interview with Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper on August 5, 2012, Abu Sitta was, of course, fully aware of the Israeli attempts at restyling history. “The Israeli maps of the 1950s were nothing more than the British survey of Palestine maps overwritten in Hebrew,” he said. “From 1960 onwards, the survey of Israel department started to issue maps devoid of all these original Palestinian names, and replaced with Hebrew ones.”

The reference to 1960 retrospectively corroborates Hazkani’s story based on the enduring file: GL-18/17028.

Six and a half decades later that fight continues, between Israel’s attempts to erase the history of Palestine, while Palestinians, through independent efforts (no thanks to the warring factions) try to preserve their own. “The war runs along several fronts, not only militarily, but it is also a battle over the minds of people…We are not trying to obliterate any other history – we are trying to say that we will not allow you (Israel) to erase ours,” Abu Sitta explained.

Yet Israel’s effort at abolishing Palestinian history never ceased, starting with the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages and expelling their populations in 1947-48, to rewriting maps, to changing names of towns and streets, to manufacturing alternate histories, to more recently, outlawing Palestinian memory. Yes, precisely that.

In March 2011, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed what is known as the “Nakba bill”. It financially penalizes any organization or institution that perceives and commemorates Israel’s founding as a day of mourning for Palestinians. The law, officially known as “Budget Principles Law (Amendment 39) - Reducing Budgetary Support for Activities Contrary to the Principles of the State,” was as a continuation of Ben-Gurion’s project of physically erasing Palestinians, severing their rapport with their own land, and presenting a construct of history to the rest of the world - a history that was deliberately misconstrued by few individuals following official instructions.

Alas, a largely invented history that is so focused and well-funded seems to trump genuine history that is mostly distorted by the incompetence of its owners. True, there are other Abu Sitta type historians, who see Palestinians through the transparency of the collective, not the distorted prisms of individuals or factions. Their voices however are muffled and trounced by overwhelming odds – the Hamas vs. Fatah vs. the rest, the division of the national identity based on geography, politics and funds, among other factors.

The current generation of Palestinians is yet to have a fully comprehensive, well-funded, long-term national Palestinian project that spans limited group interests and geography; one that is manned by qualified, well-trained Palestinian historians, spokespersons and scholars, so that a broad and unswerving Palestinian narrative can be presented throughout the world. All such efforts remain the responsibility of single individuals and small organizations with limited means, thus with narrowed outreach. But without such a unifying platform, it will be immensely difficult for the Palestinian narrative to reach the critical mass needed to overpower the fictitious Israeli version of Palestinian history which continues to define mainstream thinking in many parts of the world, especially in the West.

The work of Israel’s New Historians has been immensely valuable, although one cannot compare the compassion of such historians as Pappe, with the harshness of Morris. The hundreds of other accounts offered by outsiders are also important, for they help in creating frames of references to which their specific audiences around the world can relate. But without a unified Palestinian narrative, massive in its magnitude, striking in its consistency, and all-inclusive in its presentation, the Israeli story, as fallacious as it is, will continue to define the mainstream understanding of history for years to come.

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

Answering Kinder Morgan: Independent Researcher Draw KM Ire

To the Attention of: Mr. Ian Anderson, President, Kinder Morgan Canada

by David Ellis

November 13, 2013

Dear Sir; in an article in the Kamloops Daily News, November 8, 2013, Mr. Andy Galarnyk, spokesman for Kinder Morgan Canada, noted:
“Mr. Ellis continues to provide misinformation to the media and the fact that he’s not an expert on pipelines continues to cause us some concern.”
I have taken a great deal of trouble to research and present qualified, well-researched data, and I have never claimed to be a trained expert on pipelines. Exactly like Mr. Galarnyk, I have simply a Master of Science
Degree, in Natural Resources Management. So I continue to learn - and to criticize, as is my right, and the right of all Canadians. And as part of this work, I will also work defend the right of all Canadians, to be critics of your pipeline, regardless of their formal education, and the "bigness" of your corporation.

Mr. Galarnyk's statement "to cause us some concern" amounts to a veiled threat. Despite the size of your corporation, you are a guest here, and no Canadian should be made to feel afraid of you. Mr. Galarnyk, and Kinder Morgan Canada, are therefore liable for slander, and guilty of bullying in the above statement to the Kamloops Daily News.

I therefore demand that you immediately remove Mr. Galarnyk from your firm, and that you provide me with a letter of apology.

David Ellis
Independent pipeline and critic

Communicated by email, to over 1000, via list serve and personal email

Philippines Get the Haiti Treatment: Militarism Precedes Relief

Let's Take Advantage of Suffering Filipinos!

by David Swanson - War Is a Crime

The same week in which a Washington Post columnist claimed that interracial marriage makes people gag, a USA Today columnist has proposed [1] using the U.S. military to aid those suffering in the Philippines -- as a backdoor means of getting the U.S. military back into a larger occupation of the Philippines.

While the Philippines' representative at the climate talks in Warsaw is fasting in protest of international inaction on the destruction of the earth's climate, and the U.S. negotiator has effectively told him to go jump in a typhoon, the discussion in the U.S. media is of the supposed military benefits of using Filipinos' suffering as an excuse to militarize their country.

The author of the USA Today column makes no mention of the U.S. military's history in the Philippines. This was, after all, the site of the first major modern U.S. war of foreign occupation, marked by long duration, and high and one-sided casualties. As in Iraq, some 4,000 U.S. troops died in the effort, but most of them from disease. The Philippines lost some 1.5 million men, women, and children out of a population of 6 to 7 million.

The USA Today columnist makes no mention of Filipinos' resistance to the U.S. military up through recent decades, or of President Obama's ongoing efforts to put more troops back into the Philippines, disaster or no disaster.

Instead, our benevolent militarist claims that budgets are tight in Washington -- which is of course always going to be the case for a government spending upwards of $1 trillion a year on militarism.

He claims that the United States "stations troops throughout the world in the hope of shaping the political environment so as to avoid sending them into combat" -- a perspective that ignores the alternative of neither sending them into combat nor stationing them abroad.

The terrorist attacks that the U.S. uses to justify its foreign wars are, according to U.S. officials [2], provoked by the over a million troops stationed in 177 countries, the drone strikes, and other such "preventive" measures.

"[D]eploying military resources for disaster relief is a remarkably effective -- and inexpensive -- investment in the future. One of the largest such deployments in history, the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and other assets following the Asian tsunami of 2004, is estimated to have cost $857 million [3]. That's roughly the price of three days' operation [3]s in Afghanistan last year."

Or of 15,500 teachers in U.S. schools, or of enormous supplies of far more edible food than an aircraft carrier full of troops and weapons.

Much of the world has long-since learned to fear U.S. Trojan horses. As I noted in War Is A Lie [4]:

"By 1961, the cops of the world were in Vietnam, but President Kennedy's representatives there thought a lot more cops were needed and knew the public and the president would be resistant to sending them. For one thing, you couldn't keep up your image as the cops of the world if you sent in a big force to prop up an unpopular regime. What to do? What to do? Ralph Stavins, coauthor of an extensive account of Vietnam War planning, recounts that General Maxwell Taylor and Walt W. Rostow, '. . . wondered how the United States could go to war while appearing to preserve the peace. While they were pondering this question, Vietnam was suddenly struck by a deluge. It was as if God had wrought a miracle. American soldiers, acting on humanitarian impulses, could be dispatched to save Vietnam not from the Viet Cong, but from the floods.'"

What a blessing! And how well it helped to prevent warfare!

Of course, today's enlightened punditry means well. The thought of Southeast Asians marrying their daughters might make some of them gag, but philanthropy is philanthropy after all, even if we'd never stand for some other country stationing its military here on the excuse that it brought some food and medicine along. Here's the USA Today:

"The goodwill the tsunami relief brought the U.S. is incalculable. Nearly a decade later, the effort may rank as one of the most concrete reasons Southeast Asian nations trust the long-term U.S. commitment to a strategy of 'Asian rebalancing' The Obama administration recognizes the value of disaster relief. As the Pentagon attempts to shift more of its weight to the Asian Pacific region while balancing a shrinking budget, this could turn out to be one of the best decisions it could make."

But good will is dependent on not dominating people militarily and economically -- yet that seems to be exactly the goal.

What's wrong with that, some might ask. The sneaky abuse of disaster relief might be thought to give aggressive war "prevention" an undeserved bad name were it not for the fact that nobody is threatening war on the United States and nobody is about to do so. Don't take my word for it. Listen to one of our top veteran warmongers, via PopularResistance [5]:

"During a recent speech in Poland, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski warned fellow elitists that a worldwide 'resistance' movement to 'external control' driven by 'populist activism' is threatening to derail the move towards a new world order. Calling the notion that the 21st century is the American century a 'shared delusion,' Brzezinski stated that American domination was no longer possible because of an accelerating social change driven by 'instant mass communications such as radio, television and the Internet,' which have been cumulatively stimulating 'a universal awakening of mass political consciousness.' The former U.S. National Security Advisor added that this 'rise in worldwide populist activism is proving inimical to external domination of the kind that prevailed in the age of colonialism and imperialism.'"

If this master warmonger recognizes that the age of colonialism and imperialism is gone, how do millions of Americans still manage to bark out the Pavlovian response "What about the next Hitler?" whenever someone proposes ending war?

The fact is that no governments are plotting to take over the United States. Old-fashioned imperialism and colonialism are as gone as 1940s clothing and music, not to mention Jim Crow, respectability for eugenics, established second-class status for women, the absence of environmentalism, children hiding under desks to protect themselves from nuclear bombs, teachers hitting children, cigarettes being good for you. The fact is that 75 years is a long, long time. In many ways we've moved on and never looked back.

When it comes to war, however, just propose to end it, and 4 out of 5 dentists, or doctors, or teachers, or gardeners, or anybody else in the United States will say "What about the next Hitler?" Well, what about the dozens of misidentified next-Hitlers of the past 70 years? What about the possibility that within our own minds we're dressing up war as disaster relief? Isn't it just possible that after generations of clearly aggressive, destructive, and criminal wars we describe militarism as a response to the second-coming of Hitler because the truth wouldn't sound as nice?

Source URL:


Freedom or Security? America's False Dichotomy

What’s More Important: Security or Freedom?

by Dave Lindorff - CounterPunch

So National Security Agency Director Keith B. Alexander, who, along with his boss, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., thinks that “if you can collect it, you should collect it,” now is asking whether it might not be such a good idea in the case of spying on the citizens of US allies like Germany, France, Spain et al.
“What’s more important?” the chief spook reportedly asked, following revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the NSA has been spying on the electronic communications and phone conversations of millions of people in European other countries around the world. “Partnering with countries may be more important than collecting on them.”

This unusual moment of reflection came before the later disclosure that the Alexander’s super spying outfit was also tapping the cell phones of the leaders of America’s major allies, including France and Germany, not to mention Brazil.

Caught with his electronic pants down, Alexander, who is also a four-star active-duty general, is suddenly acknowledging that spying might have a downside.

In this case, the downside he is acknowledging is a diplomatic one: if you spy on the people — and the leaders — of a friendly state, violating a basic trust that had been taken for granted, you risk losing that trust and losing a long-time friend. Alliances can founder over such abuses of trust.

What Alexander and his truth-challenged boss Clapper are not considering, though, is whether there is also a bigger question:
“Isn’t maintaining democratic freedoms and the trust of the American people more important than collecting every possible datum of information about them, and monitoring their every move and every communication?”

The answer, of course, is obvious, which is why Alexander and Clapper are not asking it.

People in Europe are growing increasingly incensed that the US is “hoovering up” their communications, storing them, and picking through them with mega computers that hunt for key words. But people in the US are growing increasingly angry that the NSA is doing the same thing here at home.

And just as this outrageous international electronic eavesdropping is destroying America’s image abroad and threatening long-held alliances, it is destroying American democracy, and public faith in the Bill of Rights, right here at home.

Not that Alexander and Clapper care. They don’t answer to the American people. They work for the US government, and the government these days — the president, the Congress and the Supreme Court — is clearly not “of, by and for” the people. It is of, by and for the corporations and the elite, and that oligarchic power elite, having stolen the country blind over the past several decades, is getting worried that the public is starting to wake up to, and grow restive about it.

The ruling elite wants an all-seeing NSA to keep the public in check, and to enable it to spot, and then to crush, any outbreak of rebellion, as was done so effectively to the Occupy Movement in the autumn of 2011.

It’s probably fair to say that the crushing of Occupy was the first battle of the second American revolution. Looking back someday, it will also probably be recognized as the trial run of the NSA security net.

We can’t expect much from Congress at this point. These are the same pathetic and fearful “representatives of the people” who gave a shameless standing ovation recently to the Secret Service and Capitol Police thugs who “protected them” by gunning down an unarmed and mentally disturbed young mother who had panicked, driving her car erratically in the vicinity of the White House and the Capitol building.

The people of New York City just told New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg what they thought of his paramilitary NYPD response to the Occupy Movement and his years of coddling the wealthy in that pre-eminent American metropolis, replacing him with a progressive new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who has vowed to attack the city’s huge income divide, starting with a surtax on incomes of $500,000 or more to help pay for cancelled public kindergarden programs, and who has said he wants to put a stop to the police department’s widely loathed stop-and-frisk program, which has effectively criminalized a whole generation of young blacks and latinos.

The rest of the country may be just behind New Yorkers.

A good start would be demanding the sacking of Alexander and Clapper, two men whose fascistic policies and philosophies are antithetical to freedom and democracy. That should be followed by a national campaign to oust any and all politicians who do not stand four-square for a robust defense of all the articles of the Bill of Rights.

Gen. Alexander may not be asking, “What’s more important: defending freedom or collecting information on all the nation’s citizens?” but the American people already know the answer.

It has to be defending freedom.

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

International Criminal Court Petitioned to Investigate Canadian War Crimes Commited in Afghanistan

International Court asked to investigate alleged war crimes by Canadian officials

by MWC News

Kamloops, B.C., Canada - The Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague has been asked to investigate Canada's "large-scale complicity in torture" of Afghan detainees, and Canada's "active, long-term collaboration" with the worldwide U.S. extraordinary rendition program to such places as Guantanamo Bay.

The request came in a 28-page submission to the ICC on Saturday, November 9, by independent investigative journalist John McNamer of Kamloops, B.C. Attached to the request is a digital file of 272 documents which the ICC was told contain "indisputable evidence" demonstrating that Canada has "transferred Afghan detainees over the past decade to the United States and to Afghanistan while those detainees faced a danger of illegal rendition and an extreme danger of torture, including the danger of being tortured to death."

McNamer, a decorated Vietnam veteran, told the ICC that Canadian officials since 2002 have "actively and intentionally failed to comply with Canada's specific legal obligations under the Convention against Torture and the Rome Statue and related domestic law."

"This large-scale commission of alleged war crimes is the result of plans and policies conceived of, and enacted by, responsible Canadian government and military officials with knowing and contemptuous disregard for legal obligations," the ICC is told, and that there is a "genuine unwillingness" by responsible Canadian authorities to investigate and prosecute these alleged war crimes.

McNamer said in the document the current government has abused its powers in order to cover up wrongdoing and to prevent any legitimate investigations of allegations of war crimes from proceeding.
The complaint says Parliament was shut down, or "prorogued" in 2009 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General Michaelle Jean "to prevent a Parliamentary investigation of detainee transfers from proceeding" and that there were threats of prosecution to top diplomat Richard Colvin preventing him from presenting evidence of detainee torture to the Military Police Complaints Commission in 2009.

It says that Harper in a 2009 television statement about detainee torture is quoted as saying "It's not a problem between Canadians and Afghans. We're speaking here of a problem between the government of Afghanistan and the situation in's not in our control," and that a prominent University of Ottawa law professor has publicly stated that he has seen uncensored classified documents which indicate Canada intended some prisoners to be tortured in order to gather intelligence.

The report also cites several recent international studies which show that Canada is a prime collaborator in the CIA's extraordinary rendition scheme, as well as a 2009 report to the UN General Assembly by Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinen which names Canada as a country that provided "intelligence or the initial seizure of an individual before he was transferred (to mostly unacknowledged worldwide) detention centres ... or to one of the CIA covert detention centres, often referred to as 'black sites.'"

The Rapporteur goes on to say in that report that "the active or passive participation by states in the interrogation of persons held by another state constitutes an internationally wrongful act if the state knew or ought to have known that the person was facing a real risk of torture."

The complaint to the ICC also says Canada actively engages in the use and sharing of torture-tainted information because of recent ministerial directives and federal legislation mandating such activity.

Copies of the complaint to the ICC have been forwarded by McNamer to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General Tom Johnston; Attorney General/Justice Minister Peter MacKay; RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.


Full complaint can be accessed at this website:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Through a Two-Way Glass Darkly: Spies and the Spied

Mistaking Omniscience for Omnipotence: In a World Without Privacy, There Are No Exemptions for Our Spies

by Tom Engelhardt  - TomDispatch

Given how similar they sound and how easy it is to imagine one leading to the other, confusing omniscience (having total knowledge) with omnipotence (having total power) is easy enough. It’s a reasonable supposition that, before the Snowden revelations hit, America’s spymasters had made just that mistake. If the drip-drip-drip of Snowden’s mother of all leaks -- which began in May and clearly won’t stop for months to come -- has taught us anything, however, it should be this: omniscience is not omnipotence. At least on the global political scene today, they may bear remarkably little relation to each other. In fact, at the moment Washington seems to be operating in a world in which the more you know about the secret lives of others, the less powerful you turn out to be.

Let’s begin by positing this: There’s never been anything quite like it. The slow-tease pulling back of the National Security Agency curtain to reveal the skeletal surveillance structure embedded in our planet (what cheekbones!) has been an epochal event. It’s minimally the political spectacle of 2013, and maybe 2014, too. It’s made a mockery of the 24/7 news cycle and the urge of the media to leave the last big deal for the next big deal as quickly as possible.

It’s visibly changed attitudes around the world toward the U.S. -- strikingly for the worse, even if this hasn’t fully sunk in here yet. Domestically, the inability to put the issue to sleep or tuck it away somewhere or even outlast it has left the Obama administration, Congress, and the intelligence community increasingly at one another’s throats. And somewhere in a system made for leaks, there are young techies inside a surveillance machine so viscerally appalling, so like the worst sci-fi scenarios they read while growing up, that -- no matter the penalties -- one of them, two of them, many of them are likely to become the next Edward Snowden(s).

So where to start, almost half a year into an unfolding crisis of surveillance that shows no signs of ending? If you think of this as a scorecard, then the place to begin is, of course, with the line-up, which means starting with omniscience. After all, that’s the NSA’s genuine success story -- and what kid doesn’t enjoy hearing about the (not so) little engine that could?
Tomgram: Engelhardt, A Surveillance State Scorecard

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: If you live in the Boston area, Ann Jones and Andrew Bacevich will appear together at 7 p.m. tonight to discuss their new books, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story and Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country. Sponsored by Back Pages Books at the First Parish in Waltham (50 Church Street), it’s a conversation not to miss. Click here for more information or to reserve a seat.

As many of you know, I recently went out to Santa Fe for an event organized by the Lannan Foundation. There, I introduced a talk by, and then had an on-stage conversation with, Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, which we recently featured at this site. I’ve called him our “first blowback reporter.” He’s also that rare creature, a superb extemporaneous speaker. It occurred to me that TD readers might enjoy seeing the evening and getting a little glimpse into Scahill’s world. Click here for my introduction and his talk. Click here for my onstage interview with him in which, among other things, he discusses his new media project with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Tom]


Mistaking Omniscience for Omnipotence: In a World Without Privacy, There Are No Exemptions for Our Spies

by Tom Engelhardt


Conceptually speaking, we’ve never seen anything like the National Security Agency’s urge to surveill, eavesdrop on, spy on, monitor, record, and save every communication of any sort on the planet -- to keep track of humanity, all of humanity, from its major leaders to obscure figures in the backlands of the planet. And the fact is that, within the scope of what might be technologically feasible in our era, they seem not to have missed an opportunity.

The NSA, we now know, is everywhere, gobbling up emails, phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, credit card sales, communications and transactions of every conceivable sort. The NSA and British intelligence are feeding off the fiber optic cables that carry Internet and phone activity. The agency stores records (“metadata”) of every phone call made in the United States. In various ways, legal and otherwise, its operatives long ago slipped through the conveniently ajar backdoors of media giants like Yahoo, Verizon, and Google -- and also in conjunction with British intelligence they have been secretly collecting “records” from the “clouds” or private networks of Yahoo and Google to the tune of 181 million communications in a single month, or more than two billion a year.

Meanwhile, their privately hired corporate hackers have systems that, among other things, can slip inside your computer to count and see every keystroke you make. Thanks to that mobile phone of yours (even when off), those same hackers can also locate you just about anywhere on the planet. And that’s just to begin to summarize what we know of their still developing global surveillance state.

In other words, there’s my email and your phone metadata, and his tweets and her texts, and the swept up records of billions of cell phone calls and other communications by French and Nigerians, Italians and Pakistanis, Germans and Yemenis, Egyptians and Spaniards (thank you, Spanish intelligence, for lending the NSA such a hand!), and don’t forget the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesians, and Burmese, among others (thank you, Australian intelligence, for lending the NSA such a hand!), and it would be a reasonable bet to include just about any other nationality you care to mention. Then there are the NSA listening posts at all those U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, and the reports on the way the NSA listened in on the U.N., bugged European Union offices “on both sides of the Atlantic,” accessed computers inside the Indian embassy in Washington D.C. and that country’s U.N. mission in New York, hacked into the computer network of and spied on Brazil’s largest oil company, hacked into the Brazilian president’s emails and the emails of two Mexican presidents, monitored the German Chancellor’s mobile phone, not to speak of those of dozens, possibly hundreds, of other German leaders, monitored the phone calls of at least 35 global leaders, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and -- if you’re keeping score -- that’s just a partial list of what we’ve learned so far about the NSA’s surveillance programs, knowing that, given the Snowden documents still to come, there has to be so much more.

When it comes to the “success” part of the NSA story, you could also play a little numbers game: the NSA has at least 35,000 employees, possibly as many as 55,000, and an almost $11 billion budget. With up to 70% of that budget possibly going to private contractors, we are undoubtedly talking about tens of thousands more “employees” indirectly on the agency’s payroll. The Associated Press estimates that there are 500,000 employees of private contractors “who have access to the government's most sensitive secrets.” In Bluffdale, Utah, the NSA is spending $2 billion to build what may be one of the largest data-storage facilities on the planet (with its own bizarre fireworks), capable of storing almost inconceivable yottabytes of information. And keep in mind that since 9/11, according to the New York Times, the agency has also built or expanded major data-storage facilities in Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington State.

But success, too, can have its downside and there is a small catch when it comes to the NSA's global omniscience. For everything it can, at least theoretically, see, hear, and search, there’s one obvious thing the agency’s leaders and the rest of the intelligence community have proven remarkably un-omniscient about, one thing they clearly have been incapable of taking in -- and that’s the most essential aspect of the system they are building. Whatever they may have understood about the rest of us, they understood next to nothing about themselves or the real impact of what they were doing, which is why the revelations of Edward Snowden caught them so off-guard.

Along with the giant Internet corporations, they have been involved in a process aimed at taking away the very notion of a right to privacy in our world; yet they utterly failed to grasp the basic lesson they have taught the rest of us. If we live in an era of no privacy, there are no exemptions; if, that is, it’s an age of no-privacy for us, then it’s an age of no-privacy for them, too.

The word “conspiracy” is an interesting one in this context. It comes from the Latin conspirare for "breathe the same air." In order to do that, you need to be a small group in a small room. Make yourself the largest surveillance outfit on the planet, hire tens of thousands of private contractors -- young computer geeks plunged into a situation that would have boggled the mind of George Orwell -- and organize a system of storage and electronic retrieval that puts much at an insider’s fingertips, and you’ve just kissed secrecy goodnight and put it to bed for the duration.

There was always going to be an Edward Snowden -- or rather Edward Snowdens. And no matter what the NSA and the Obama administration do, no matter what they threaten, no matter how fiercely they attack whistleblowers, or who they put away for how long, there will be more. No matter the levels of classification and the desire to throw a penumbra of secrecy over government operations of all sorts, we will eventually know.

They have constructed a system potentially riddled with what, in the Cold War days, used to be called “moles.” In this case, however, those “moles” won’t be spying for a foreign power, but for us. There is no privacy left. That fact of life has been embedded, like so much institutional DNA, in the system they have so brilliantly constructed. They will see us, but in the end, we will see them, too.


With our line-ups in place, let’s turn to the obvious question: How’s it going? How’s the game of surveillance playing out at the global level? How has success in building such a system translated into policy and power? How useful has it been to have advance info on just what the U.N. general-secretary will have to say when he visits you at the White House? How helpful is it to store endless tweets, social networking interactions, and phone calls from Egypt when it comes to controlling or influencing actors there, whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the generals?

We know that 1,477 “items” from the NSA’s PRISM program (which taps into the central servers of nine major American Internet companies) were cited in the president’s Daily Briefing in 2012 alone. With all that help, with all that advanced notice, with all that insight into the workings of the world from but one of so many NSA programs, just how has Washington been getting along?

Though we have very little information about how intelligence insiders and top administration officials assess the effectiveness of the NSA’s surveillance programs in maintaining American global power, there’s really no need for such assessments. All you have to do is look at the world.

Long before Snowden walked off with those documents, it was clear that things weren’t exactly going well. Some breakthroughs in surveillance techniques were, for instance, developed in America’s war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. intelligence outfits and spies were clearly capable of locating and listening in on insurgencies in ways never before possible. And yet, we all know what happened in Iraq and is happening in Afghanistan. In both places, omniscience visibly didn’t translate into success. And by the way, when the Arab Spring hit, how prepared was the Obama administration? Don’t even bother to answer that one.

In fact, it’s reasonable to assume that, while U.S. spymasters and operators were working at the technological frontiers of surveillance and cryptography, their model for success was distinctly antiquated. However unconsciously, they were still living with a World War II-style mindset. Back then, in an all-out military conflict between two sides, listening in on enemy communications had been at least one key to winning the war. Breaking the German Enigma codes meant knowing precisely where the enemy’s U-boats were, just as breaking Japan’s naval codes ensured victory in the Battle of Midway and elsewhere.

Unfortunately for the NSA and two administrations in Washington, our world isn’t so clear-cut any more. Breaking the codes, whatever codes, isn’t going to do the trick. You may be able to pick up every kind of communication in Pakistan or Egypt, but even if you could listen to or read them all (and the NSA doesn’t have the linguists or the time to do so), instead of simply drowning in useless data, what good would it do you?

Given how Washington has fared since September 12, 2001, the answer would undoubtedly range from not much to none at all -- and in the wake of Edward Snowden, it would have to be in the negative. Today, the NSA formula might go something like this: the more communications the agency intercepts, the more it stores, the more it officially knows, the more information it gives those it calls its “external customers” (the White House, the State Department, the CIA, and others), the less omnipotent and the more impotent Washington turns out to be.

In scorecard terms, once the Edward Snowden revelations began and the vast conspiracy to capture a world of communications was revealed, things only went from bad to worse. Here’s just a partial list of some of the casualties from Washington’s point of view:

*The first European near-revolt against American power in living memory (former French leader Charles de Gaulle aside), and a phenomenon that is still growing across that continent along with an upsurge in distaste for Washington.

*A shudder of horror in Brazil and across Latin America, emphasizing a growing distaste for the not-so-good neighbor to the North.

*China, which has its own sophisticated surveillance network and was being pounded for it by Washington, now looks like Mr. Clean.

*Russia, a country run by a former secret police agent, has in the post-Snowden era been miraculously transformed into a global peacemaker and a land that provided a haven for an important western dissident.

*The Internet giants of Silicon valley, a beacon of U.S. technological prowess, could in the end take a monstrous hit, losing billions of dollars and possibly their near monopoly status globally, thanks to the revelation that when you email, tweet, post to Facebook, or do anything else through any of them, you automatically put yourself in the hands of the NSA. Their CEOs are shuddering with worry, as well they should be.

And the list of post-Snowden fallout only seems to be growing. The NSA’s vast global security state is now visibly an edifice of negative value, yet it remains so deeply embedded in the post-9/11 American national security state that seriously paring it back, no less dismantling it, is probably inconceivable. Of course, those running that state within a state claim success by focusing only on counterterrorism operations where, they swear, 54 potential terror attacks on or in the United States have been thwarted, thanks to NSA surveillance. Based on the relatively minimal information available to us, this looks like a major case of threat and credit inflation, if not pure balderdash. More important, it doesn’t faintly cover the ambitions of a system that was meant to give Washington a jump on every foreign power, offer an economic edge in just about every situation, and enhance U.S. power globally.

A First-Place Line-Up and a Last-Place Finish

What’s perhaps most striking about all this is the inability of the Obama administration and its intelligence bureaucrats to grasp the nature of what’s happening to them. For that, they would need to skip those daily briefs from an intelligence community which, on the subject, seems blind, deaf, and dumb, and instead take a clear look at the world.

As a measuring stick for pure tone-deafness in Washington, consider that it took our secretary of state and so, implicitly, the president, five painful months to finally agree that the NSA had, in certain limited areas, “reached too far.” And even now, in response to a global uproar and changing attitudes toward the U.S. across the planet, their response has been laughably modest. According to David Sanger of the New York Times, for instance, the administration believes that there is “no workable alternative to the bulk collection of huge quantities of ‘metadata,’ including records of all telephone calls made inside the United States.”

On the bright side, however, maybe, just maybe, they can store it all for a mere three years, rather than the present five. And perhaps, just perhaps, they might consider giving up on listening in on some friendly world leaders, but only after a major rethink and reevaluation of the complete NSA surveillance system. And in Washington, this sort of response to the Snowden debacle is considered a “balanced” approach to security versus privacy.

In fact, in this country each post-9/11 disaster has led, in the end, to more and worse of the same. And that’s likely to be the result here, too, given a national security universe in which everyone assumes the value of an increasingly para-militarized, bureaucratized, heavily funded creature we continue to call “intelligence,” even though remarkably little of what would commonsensically be called intelligence is actually on view.

No one knows what a major state would be like if it radically cut back or even wiped out its intelligence services. No one knows what the planet’s sole superpower would be like if it had only one or, for the sake of competition, two major intelligence outfits rather than 17 of them, or if those agencies essentially relied on open source material. In other words, no one knows what the U.S. would be like if its intelligence agents stopped trying to collect the planet’s communications and mainly used their native intelligence to analyze the world. Based on the recent American record, however, it’s hard to imagine we could be anything but better off. Unfortunately, we’ll never find out.

In short, if the NSA’s surveillance lineup was classic New York Yankees, their season is shaping up as a last-place finish.

Here, then, is the bottom line of the scorecard for twenty-first century Washington: omniscience, maybe; omnipotence, forget it; intelligence, not a bit of it; and no end in sight.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture (now also in a Kindle edition), runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

[Note: A small bow of thanks to Adam Hochschild and John Cobb for helping spark this piece into existence.]

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Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt