Saturday, April 30, 2011

Better Not Tell Prince Charles

I was prevaricating about the bush whether to run with the second story at all; it did have certain appeals, a bit of insight into another culture never does any harm, and there was one paragraph in particular that evoked all kids of images, most from the archives I add.

The clincher though, was finding this first rather topical story as I wandered through the host site; the two of them making enough to make a post out of.

Time for Beatrix to hand over the crown

Queen Beatrix should step aside and make space for Crown Prince Willem-Alexander to take over the job: that’s the wish of sixty percent of the Dutch public.

Support for the Dutch monarchy is still strong. Two thirds of those questioned feel the level of political power exercised by the monarch is just right. Three out of ten would prefer the monarchy to wield no political influence whatsoever.

Queen Beatrix will turn 75 in 2013 and half of those in favour of her resigning think this would be the perfect moment to hand over the ruling role to Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima. Princess Ariane, the youngest of the royal couple’s three daughters, turned four this month and is already attending primary school.

The survey - conducted by market researcher TNS NIPO – is based on the opinions of 829 Dutch people older than 18 years. RNW

Planning the perfect Queen's Day

All over the Netherlands, people are gearing up for Queen’s Day, the one day every year that the rules are relaxed and the otherwise straight-laced Dutch let down their hair.

Village squares and city centres turn into huge open air markets. Children play musical instruments in parks and on squares to earn a bit of extra pocket money. Every inch of the pavement is marked “occupied” by hopeful one-day traders. Bewildered tourists find walking even a short distance almost impossible due to the sheer numbers of revellers dressed from head to toe in orange – the Dutch national colour......

"Orange Committees"

Across the country “Orange Committees” (clubs for royal family enthusiasts) have put hours into organising their local event. Just outside Amsterdam in my little village of Schellingwoude, preparations are almost complete.

Since January, the eleven committee members – including myself – have been busy coming up with new children’s games, painting signs, gathering props, organising food, selling advertising, writing and distributing the Queen’s Day newspaper, collecting annual contributions, recruiting volunteers....

....Looking silly is part of the fun

Then the games carrousel will begin – in keeping with our magical theme of course.

Clutching a scorecard, the kids will rush to be first in line to help Little Red Riding Hood collect provisions for grandma, but watch out - it looks like the big bad wolf got to grandma’s house first!

Then they’re off to see who can knock down one of the seven dwarfs. Children will even get the chance to throw soft balls at their parents standing behind a cut-out of the Emperor Without his Clothes.

Looking silly on Queen’s Day is part of the fun. Biting cake suspended on a string is a well-known Queen’s Day tradition, but in Schellingwoude, it will be a chance for kids to get sticky fingers as they decorate slices of sponge cake in Hans and Gretel’s Sweetie House.

And, as if that’s not enough, there is a prize for everyone in the Treasure Trove. more Radio Netherlands

h/t Maren

Your Head of State (US) Grew Up On Foodstamps, My Head of State (UK) Grew Up On The Postage Stamps

The header taken from a line of Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent of London, where he talks to Amy Goodman about the politics of the Royal Wedding, Britain's Imperial past and its associated human rights abuses, and much more.

Johann Hari: Frenzy around Britain’s Royal Wedding "Should Embarrass Us All"
April 29, 2011

Up to two billion people around the world tuned in to watch the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a story which has dominated TV news for weeks. The wedding buzz offers a chance to look at the monarchy, Britain’s domestic policy, and how its colonial legacy around the world affects foreign affairs today. While all eyes were on the wedding procession and the first kiss, Democracy Now! spoke with Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent of London, who says the royal wedding frenzy should be an embarrassment to us all.

AMY GOODMAN: Controversy has also arisen this week over the royal wedding guest list. Syrian ambassador Sami Khiyami was disinvited amidst reports of Syria’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. But the former head of Bahrain’s National Security Agency is in attendance despite allegations he oversaw the torturing of prisoners with electric shocks. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali al-Khalifa is the current Bahraini ambassador to Britain. Human rights groups have also criticized the royal family for inviting representatives from Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Burma, Morocco, Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Joining us here in New York is a British journalist who has openly criticized the wedding hoopla. Johann Hari is a columnist at The Independent of London. One of his most recent columns is titled "This Royal Frenzy Should Embarrass Us All." He’s also the presenter of the Johann Hari podcast.

Johann, welcome to Democracy Now!

JOHANN HARI: It’s great to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about your country. Talk about this royal wedding, all the attention. And most importantly, let’s discuss empire.

JOHANN HARI: Well, I’m here as a refugee from the royal wedding, in New York, so—although it seems you can’t escape it anywhere. But, you know, nobody objects to two people who love each other getting married. You know, that’s a nice thing. It’s nice for anyone to see it. You know, got no problem with that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, depending on their sexual orientation, some countries do.

JOHANN HARI: Well, that’s a good point, but the—indeed, Elton John was there, and he wouldn’t be allowed to get married. He’s not allowed to get married in Britain.

But the thing we really object to is the institution of monarchy in the family. This has turned into the celebration of the idea that my country’s head of state is selected not by voting but by squelching out of a particular aristocratic womb in a particular golden palace, which doesn’t seem to me to be a very sensible way to select these things. And it causes very serious problems. For all the other flaws of the American political system, your head of state grew up on food stamps. My head of state grew up on the postage stamps. You know, you can tell your kids in most democracies, "If you work really hard, if you appeal to enough people, you can grow up to be the symbol of our country." The fact that the symbol of our country is selected solely through the most snobbish criteria of all, bloodlines, who their parent was, has a disfiguring effect on the whole of British society. It creates a kind of snobbery that emanates out and emanates down. When you’re a British kid, you grow up seeing that people instinctively bow and grovel before someone, just because they happen to have been born in a palace. And I think that does have a deforming effect. More and twenty minute video.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Guess What? The Cops Tell Lies and Fit You Up. The Lower Echelons Kill People Tell Lies and Fit You Up

You might be astonished to hear.
Justice is impossible if we cannot trust police forces to tell the truth
by George Monbiot
12 April 2011

From Blair Peach to Ian Tomlinson, there is only one remedy for police officers found to have made false statements: sack them

'From the information I had, that is what I believed happened to me." So Simon Harwood, the police officer who pushed Ian Tomlinson to the ground at the G20 protests two years ago, told the inquest into his death. The information Harwood had led him to believe two weeks after the event that he fell to the floor, lost his baton, received a blow to the head and was involved in violent and dangerous confrontations. Last week he admitted that, though he had made these claims in a signed statement, none of it happened. So what was this information? Who gave it to him? Had he been brainwashed?

We have yet to hear John Yates's explanations for the ever-widening gulf between what he told parliament and what appears to have happened in the News of the World phone-hacking case, but they will doubtless be just as persuasive. Yates is acting deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police. He told a parliamentary committee that there was no evidence that MPs' phones had been hacked; that the Crown Prosecution Service had given the police "unequivocal" advice that the paper had committed an offence only if it picked up messages before its victims did; that the police had contacted everyone targeted by the paper; and that the police had ensured that the phone companies had warned all the suspected victims. It appears none of this is true.

A Scotland Yard briefing paper shows that "a vast number" of people had their phones hacked, including at least eight MPs. The director of public prosecutions has testified that the claims Yates made about CPS advice are false. There are plenty of victims who have not been contacted by the police, and the phone companies say that the police didn't ask them to contact their customers.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. It is hard to think of a case of alleged police misconduct which has not been surrounded by police misstatements. Harwood's claims are the latest of the untrue stories issued by the Met about the events surrounding Tomlinson's death. They claimed, for example, that officers tried to resuscitate him and called an ambulance while a screaming mob pelted them with bottles. In reality, demonstrators helped him and called an ambulance, and there was no hail of bottles.

After Jean Charles de Menezes was shot by the Met, the then commissioner (the head of the force), Sir Ian Blair, claimed that De Menezes "was challenged and refused to obey police instructions". A statement by the police claimed that his clothing and behaviour gave grounds for suspicion. An account that De Menezes' relatives believe originated with the police, and found its way into most newspapers, suggests that he was wearing a heavy jacket, that he fled from the officers when he was challenged and that he vaulted over the ticket barrier into Stockwell underground station. None of this is true. Similarly misleading stories surrounded the killings of Kevin Gately, Blair Peach, Richard O'Brien, Shiji Lapite, Roger Sylvester, Harry Stanley, Mikey Powell and other people killed by officers. The problem appears systemic and widespread: we can't trust the police to tell the truth.

The issue is not confined to killings. Here's a story that has received less attention, but involves a chain of alleged falsehoods that almost deprived an innocent man of his liberty.

In August 2008 Michael Doherty, who lives in Hillingdon, discovered a long series of messages exchanged by his 13-year-old daughter with someone who appeared as if he might be grooming her. The messages were sexually explicit. At one point the person proposed staging a kidnap and whisking her away. Doherty went to the police. He presented them with an 86-page dossier. When he wasn't satisfied with the action being taken, he phoned Hillingdon police station five times to try to speak to a senior officer to complain, and to find out why, in his view, the investigation seemed to have stalled. Then a series of remarkable things happened.

Two plainclothes officers arrived at Doherty's house at seven in the morning, when he was feeding his baby, to arrest him. Among other charges, the police claimed that he had been harassing the commander's secretary. She had produced a witness statement in which, she said, he had phoned 10 times in two days, that he was "raging", "abusive", "rude and aggressive". Doherty offered to get dressed and then present himself at the station – but the officers, after threatening to smash down the door, handcuffed him and dragged him out of the house in his dressing gown.

At the same time the police dropped the grooming investigation. They hadn't looked at his daughter's computer. A note by a detective inspector at the Hillingdon station later justified this decision by maintaining that "there is no evidence of a crime capable of proof". Doherty believes that this conclusion could not be supported without examining the computer; the police maintain that they have established that the correspondent was only 15, had met Doherty's daughter, and was who he said he was.

Doherty had proof that the calls he had made were not rude, abusive, raging or aggressive: he had recorded them. I have listened to the recordings: he remains patient and polite – remarkably controlled for someone faced with alleged police indifference to what was happening to his daughter. The police failed to pass these recordings to the Crown Prosecution Service, so off to court he went. There, though she had signed a legal witness statement, the secretary admitted that her recollection of the calls was hazy, and he was acquitted; but had he not recorded them, and meticulously documented everything else that happened, he might have been convicted.

Having failed to interest the crown prosecutors, Michael Doherty is about to launch a private prosecution for alleged perjury. It's the last hope he has of holding anyone to account.

Justice is impossible if we cannot trust police forces to tell the truth. The remedy I'm about to propose should not be difficult for any government to adopt. It offers, I think, the only chance we have of addressing what seems to be an endemic problem: anyone who works for the police and is found to have made false statements – to the prosecution, the defence, the courts, parliament, public inquiries or the media – should be sacked. No excuses, no mitigation, no delays. It sounds harsh; it's not nearly as harsh as a system in which the police malign both the living and the dead, and use the law against innocent people in order to protect themselves. Gruniad
McCann connection

h/t Steel Magnolia

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Fairytale Wedding? What Nonsense! Hear Hear Old Chap

A German's eye view of the Wedding and the Windsors

A Fairytale Wedding? What Nonsense!
A German Journalist's Royal Frustration

The wedding of William and Kate on Friday will be a joke, a hopelessly overhyped celebration of an absurdly undemocratic system, writes SPIEGEL London correspondent Marco Evers. He pities the bride for her imminent loss of freedom, and wonders why this eccentric nation continues to worship the Windsors.

The whole thing feels like an aberration of history.

It's wrong if the head of state of a country can only come from one family. It's wrong to furnish this clan with palaces, land and all manner of grants to spare its members the indignity of having to earn their keep and enable them to live in luxury. It is wrong to address the Windsors and, from next Friday the delightful Kate Middleton as well, as Your Royal Highness or even Your Majesty. It is wrong to see them as anything other than people made of flesh and blood, like you and I.

Millions of Britons know that. The Guardian newspaper wants to abolish the monarchy, as does the Independent and the Economist magazine. Many professors, film directors, writers, actors and politicians would like Britain to become a republic -- but they remain in the minority which for years has been constant at around 18 percent of the population.

Cherie Blair, the difficult wife of the former Prime Minister Tony, once refused to curtsey in front of the old Mrs. Elizabeth Windsor, but the majority of Britons enjoy doing that, and much more, for Queen and Country. The Windsors are Europe's most expensive royal family, but the people go on paying, without grumbling, at least as long as Queen Elizabeth remains alive.

The Queen Owns all the Swans, Whales and Sturgeons

But Great Britain is a strange country. It has no written constitution but a rigid class system. The lawyers wear wigs in court and there are no citizens, just subjects. By law, all swans, all whales and all sturgeons are the property of the Queen, but there's no British national football team.

And if the Queen wishes to award an honor to one of her subjects, he can proudly call himself "Officer" or even "Commander of the Order of the British Empire." What on earth do these titles actually refer to? Much in this realm seems at least as antiquated as the London Underground.

British soldiers are fighting for democracy in Afghanistan and Libya, and they fought for it in Iraq. But at home, they defend the absurdly undemocratic idea that nobody but a Windsor can be head of state. As soon as Elizabeth, 85, shuffles off her mortal coil, her son Charles, 62, already worn down by his long wait for the accession, will take the throne, even though opinion polls show the majority of Britons don't want the brooding, esoteric prince to become king.

The pomp and ceremony surrounding the marriage of William and Kate is the latest expression of British eccentricity -- but a large part of the world appears to be succumbing to it as well.

Yes, the carriages of gold and velvet look pretty, the bride's train will be a sight to behold and Westminster Abbey is quite a spectacular backdrop for the ceremony. But is it really worth all the fuss? More than 10,000 journalists are descending on London. The German networks ARD, ZDF, Sat.1, RTL, n-tv and N24 will hardly be broadcasting anything else on Friday. Everyone is pretending that this spectacle is the most important and beautiful event on earth -- but it is not.

Oddly, the British public isn't as interested in the wedding as one might think. Most Britons say they don't really care about the event. Only about a third of them plan to watch the show on TV. And, compared to previous royal nuptials, relatively few of them plan to take part in the traditional street parties. In the center of London, hotels have plenty of spare rooms even though they have been offering discount deals for the weekend.

Millions of British subjects already fled the island on budget airlines before Easter and are now populating the beaches of Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt or the Caribbean. The weather there is guaranteed to be better than in London, where heavy rain is forecast for Friday.

Britain is still mired in its worst economic crisis since World War II. Everyone should be rolling up their sleeves to haul the nation out of the doldrums. But the government declared the wedding day a public holiday, and schools, banks, offices and factories will be closed -- just because the heir to the heir to the throne is getting married. The extra holiday may lead to increased turnover in the nation's pubs, but it will end up costing the economy billions.

A Wedding Dictated by Palace Protocol

In truth, the marriage of William and Kate is a sad spectacle. Two young people aren't getting wed in the way they would like but how the palace, protocol and granny demand it.

William, 28, is accustomed to that because he was born into it. But for Kate, 29, Friday will mark the end of her freedom. For her parents, it will be a bit like the death of their daughter. She won't belong to them anymore -- she will be elevated to some form of distant, aristocratic human being, forever unavailable for that impromptu dinner with Mum and Dad.

Fairytale wedding? No way.

Some friends and relatives will be present in Westminster Abbey, but most of the guests will be strangers, and some of them will be repulsive ones at that. King Mswati, the despot of the impoverished African nation of Swaziland who has 13 wives, will be flying in with his entourage of 50 people. Arab potentates have also been invited, some of whom are currently having pro-democracy demonstrators shot at in their streets. Who would want to get married in such company?

Half the British cabinet is coming, along with opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband, who bears the grand official title "Leader of her Majesty's Loyal Opposition." Former conservative Prime Minister John Major will be present. But the last two Labour prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, have not been invited. Is that their punishment for having supported the ban on fox hunting? Why should the autocratic Sultan of Brunei get invited and not the two previous leaders of a democratically elected British government?

The whole world is waiting to admire Kate's wedding dress. The designer will be inundated with work after this. But the wearer of the dress faces a future that shouldn't really be desirable for an intelligent woman in the 21st century. Kate will have only three tasks from now on: serving her husband, looking good and bearing children, preferably boys. Apart from that, all she has to do is shut up.

It's like in the 1950s -- only much worse because she will have to continue curtseying to the Queen and other higher-ranking members of the family she has married in to.

The whole thing feels even worse than just an aberration of history. It's a joke. Spiegel

A report from Oz.

Banning the Chaser and bringing on a Republic

Just when you might have thought that things were looking a bit bleak for the Australian Republic, along comes the Chaser and heavy-handed royal censorship to remind us all why it’s so vital we become a Republic. David Donovan comments.

The royals have been in PR overdrive mode since Prince William visited Australia in early 2010. It is blatantly apparent that they see Prince William as the fresh marketable face of the royals. This is because, apart from the Queen, there is pretty much no-one else suitable to sell. The Queen, of course, is venerable, but she’s also 85 now and slowing down. Prince Harry with his partying and Nazi fancy-dress is probably out of the question. Prince Edward is just not attractive or saleable. Princess Anne, apparently prefers to spend more time with horses than humans; hardly appropriate. Prince Andrew, who is a close friend of tyrants, criminals, abusers, and receipient of Azerberjani largesse. Nope. Prince Phillip, who is a gaffe-prone racist and even older than the Queen. No chance. Or King Charles and Queen Camilla? The monarchists dread that day ever coming, though coming it rapidly is.

No, it is William and this wedding and all the preceding PR is meant to remind us, through him, about how wonderful and “normal” the Windsors are. It is an obvious myth, given the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha clan’s obscene wealth, power and by the alarming fact that William is just about the only decent and respectable one in the entire brood. Nevertheless, this has been the implausible message the Palace’s 130-odd strong PR team have been tasked with getting out into the public domain and they had, in the main, been doing a reasonable job. more

Guantanamo Bay Just Another Prison - Wikileaks - Press TV Video

Press TV presents a twenty five minute in depth report on the recent publication of the Guantanamo/Wikileaks documents. Talking heads from London, New York and Washington include Sara Flounders from New York, where, among other things, she had this to say.

'US prisons, crime against humanity'

An estimated 3,000 people are held and tortured in secret rendition prisons around the world by the US war apparatus of which 95% are reportedly innocent.

Press TV talks with Sara Flounders, Co-Director of the International Action Center from New York who provides insight on the relationship between these prisons and the US-imposed wars in the Middle East.

Press TV: Donald Rumsfeld in a public announcement some years ago said, “Until the conflict is over, even if they're innocent, we're going to keep them in Guantanamo Bay.” Looking at the question of the rights of the detained and the courts, there are some serious differences. Maybe you can share some light between the military court and the normal US law? Should the ones detained wrongfully be tried in a civilian court?

Sara Flounders: It's important to recognize that Guantanamo is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of secretly held prisons; secret rendition; extraordinary rendition -- what are described as black sites all over the world: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Poland, and Romania. You could go on and on over the number of people that the US has held and has tortured in secret prisons.

Guantanamo is the only prison where there has been an accounting, at least numerically, where we know of the terrible torture, the conditions under which were held and the overwhelming number of them for whom there was no evidence -- as a matter of fact there is every evidence of their total innocence -- people who were picked up who were shepherds, who were herders; there were young teenagers even who were held in Guantanamo. It's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the US describes as its war on terror.

It's also the tip of the iceberg in terms of the US prison system where more than two million people are held in prison and by the US' own accounting, 30,000 of them are held in total complete isolation -- that's torture -- solitary confinement, they don't hear a human voice. These controlled management units, largely Muslim prisoners, are held in these units.

When there was a world outcry on the conditions and the torture of Bradley Manning the US response was 'it wasn't out of the ordinary'. That was usual prison conditions in the US. So it's important what's exposed in Guantanamo, but we should know that Guantanamo is just an example of the secret prisons and prisons within the US. And all of them are a crime against humanity.

Press TV: What can be done? There is evidence piled on top of evidence and it keeps coming. There are two documents from Guantanamo officials that say they were aware that they had innocent men in captivity and they even put that in writing in the prison files. Isn't it time that some of these officials be questioned or prosecuted? How can these be put forward in the US to make them accountable?

Sara Flounders: In all honesty there won't be any justice on any of this until those US politicians who initiated these wars; that have laid waste to Afghanistan and to Iraq and imprisoned and destroyed so many lives -- these are the ones who should be on trial as war criminals and that is really the truth of it.

Those who are held who are known to be innocent, and the numbers are in the thousands. If you look at the figures they feel they have evidence of some charges of about 157 people and that's out of more than 3,000 that they acknowledge that they have held in secret prisons and in Guantanamo. So 95% of these people they had almost no evidence on.

That is a crime. The entire imprisonment of people as an outgrowth of the wars that the US is engaging in Afghanistan into Pakistan, in Iraq, now into Libya throughout the region and it's not only prisons, it's the use of secret drone attacks that swoop down on unsuspecting civilians in Somalia, in Sudan, in Yemen, country after country.

So those who are held without any evidence whatsoever of course should be released, but the entire prison network should be shut down along with the wars that gave lives to this. Without shutting down the wars themselves, which is a crime against the people of a whole region, there is no end to the prisons.

And this is something that President Obama found. He promised in campaign after campaign during his election run that he would close Guantanamo. He issued an executive order announcing that he would close Guantanamo and just like the wars that he promised he would end, it has continued. It's all broken promises because it's part of a system of war. watch

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chernobyl 25 Years On. Democracy Now Video

Chernobyl is still the ecological disaster area that ever it was, but it is this bit from the transcript that I keep banging on about regarding the criminal cover up and misinformation by those concerned. Those being, the National Government, the local officials of Fukushima Prefecture and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Dr. Janette Sherman, I want to thank you for being with us, specialist in internal medicine and toxicology, edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature. And Dr. Jeff Patterson, as you head off to the news conference of Physicians for Social Responsibility, could you just describe Chernobyl to us today, what is it like?

DR. JEFF PATTERSON: Well, it’s an area 30 kilometers in circumference that is totally out of bounds to humans. And no crops are grown there. Some people have moved back in. Large areas of the earth has been scraped off, trees cut down. And all of that earth has been buried in trenches. And now, as they are attempting to build the new sarcophagus, they’re finding high levels of radiation in the ground with machinery that was buried immediately in the area. There are graveyards with tanks, buses, machines, that are highly radioactive, that are just sitting out in the open air. And interestingly enough, a recent report showed that the cesium levels around Chernobyl and in this zone and other zones have not diminished in the way that they predicted that they would. And so, they don’t know whether this is coming from cesium that’s coming up through the soil, whether it’s perhaps coming from new cesium that’s being blown into the area.

But clearly, the unknowns are far greater than the knowns in all of this And this is an experiment that we’re carrying out with the unknowing and unconsenting irradiation of huge populations of people around the world. We’re now seeing, for example, in Japan, raising the bar, allowing children to be exposed to levels of radiation that previously were restricted for nuclear workers. And in my opinion, this is unconscionable. It’s like being in a ball game and in the seventh ining deciding that one team is losing, and so they say they’re going to change the rules in the middle of the game. These levels were set for a reason. And that’s because radiation is not good for you, and there is no safe level of radiation. And so, to now change the rules of the game, again, is another unconscionable part of this terrible, cruel, poisonous experiment that we won’t know the end result of for hundreds of years. Watch read.

Moving The Nuclear Goal Posts Japanese Gov

Fukushima Prefecture Unscientific Optimism

Truth Hurts, Fukushima Will be Permanently Uninhabitable, So Retract It

The Appalling Vista - The Fight Back Against Operation Ore

I have reproduced an important piece of work, The Appalling Vista - The Fight Back Against Operation Ore, here and here.

Anti-War Candidate Announces for President! Don't Talk Daft

He also wants to slash the military budget.

He's also opposed to the war on drugs, and he's never mentioned Jesus once.

Do you want to listen to Bill Hicks, before or after you read?


An Anti-War Candidate Announces for President
by: Robert Naiman
26 April 2011

Last week, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson announced his candidacy for president of the United States.

This was a historic event, because 1) Johnson wants to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 2) Johnson is a Republican. He also wants to slash the military budget.

Johnson is also opposed to the "war on drugs," which he has called "an expensive bust." Indeed, as The Hill noted:

Last year, he teamed up with singer Melissa Etheridge and actor Danny Glover for a Hollywood rally in favor of Proposition 19 - an initiative that would have legalized marijuana in California.

This suggests that Johnson can play well with others around issues of common concern.

It is tremendously important that there be at least one Republican candidate for president who is against the war in Afghanistan.

Polls show that Republican voters have turned against the war. But the majority of Republican voters who want US troops out of Afghanistan are, so far, almost totally unrepresented by Republican officials in Washington. Johnson's campaign could break through the national Republican wall, because as a candidate for president, Johnson will be able to get into the media and the national Republican Party leadership - "the party's ruling class," as The Hill put it - won't be able to silence him. Even if he doesn't get a dime from Lockheed or Raytheon, they won't be able to keep him off the stage in the early Republican debates, and that will change the discussion.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll in March found that 56 percent of Republicans think the United States should "withdraw a substantial number of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan this summer." That is, the majority of Republican voters are ahead of the Obama administration, which hasn't yet committed to a substantial withdrawal this summer.

But the high-water mark in the House so far for Republican support on any initiative against the indefinite continuation of the Afghanistan war is nine votes. That's about 5 percent of the Republicans in the House. Five percent versus 56 percent - that's a pretty big gap. The enforcement of the will of the Republican Party's "ruling class" against the will of the majority of Republican voters is a key pillar sustaining the war.

This pillar of the war must be attacked. The candidacy of Johnson is a weapon for doing so.

Of course, Johnson's candidacy faces obstacles. He is not a billionaire. He is not backed by the party establishment - no candidate against the war will be. He will not be backed by the establishment media.

On the other hand, Johnson's candidacy has a potential X weapon: Americans who typically don't vote in Republican primaries and caucuses who want to end the war.

After all, we all want to support democracy in Cairo and Madison. Why not support democracy in the Republican Party on the question of the war?

Now, some may be thinking, what does this have to do with me? I am not a "Republican."

But whether you are a "Republican" or not, you have to live with the consequences of the fact that the national Republican Party is not representing the majority of Republican voters who want to see US troops come out of Afghanistan, because this is a key buttress of the continuation of the war.

Corporations back Republicans and Democrats, as it suits their perceived interests. So do labor unions, environmentalists, women's groups and gay rights groups. Why should peace advocates be any different? What one does in November in one thing; what one does in the primary season is another. If there is no Democratic primary for president, if there is no anti-war primary for Congress where you live, why waste your anti-war vote in an uncontested primary?

Many states have open primaries: any voter can vote in any primary. In other states, you have to register with a given party in order to participate in that party's primary. New Hampshire - a critical, early state, where the Eugene McCarthy campaign showed the Lyndon Johnson administration the depth of anti-war sentiment - is in between: if you register as an "undeclared" voter, you can vote in any primary.

But even if you live in a state with a "closed primary" - check with local authorities for rules and deadlines - political parties in America are squishy things. Who's to say you're not a "Republican"? You are if you say you are. In the future, you can say something else.

Of course, many people will consider the temporary assumption of a "Republican" identity, even for a day, as a bridge too far.

But consider: if you could stop the killing in Afghanistan by temporarily assuming a "Republican" identity, would that not be morally justified?

In Jewish law, the protection of human life takes precedence over all. Therefore, voting in a Republican primary to end the war is a mitzvah.

And what would Jesus do in this situation? Wouldn't Jesus vote in a Republican primary to end the war? As the Bible says:

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves." Truthout

Hasta la vista, Baby! Telling It Like It Is

I like this fellow, he writes with certain kind of verve.

Hasta la vista, Baby!
Skynet is already here

As Christians in the US and the world over flock to church to celebrate the martyrdom of their lord and savior, American predators are noiselessly cruising the skies above yet another Arab land, holding their hellfire missiles in abeyance until they are sure, damn sure, that the wedding or parade or market convoy or whatever crawls beneath their cold techno-gaze is linked to the terrorists who will destroy our way of life. Whew! That was a mouthful. But then, piss and vinegar are notoriously hard to swallow, much less hold in one’s mouth for any length of time.

And isn’t it way past time for Americans to choke on our own bloated rhetoric, the constant, nauseating peristalsis of Orwellian bullshit that flows from the agents of the Lone Superpower war machine? In one theater after another, as Americans graze blissfully unaware on our diet of hamburgers, housewives and media hash, the empire is sowing the seeds of its own destruction and hastening its own demise.

I would be tempted to say can I get an Amen? And be done with it—it is fully justified and long overdue—if it weren’t for the fact that a dying empire, like a threatened tyrannosaur, is most dangerous on its last legs. And the lies and contradictions that are tearing the country and the global order apart always result in the greatest misery for the forlorn and forgotten, both internally and around the world.

Save the children! Bellow the righteous liberals and tools of empire, as their gadgetry murders poor black and brown kids and the Bringers of Democracy ban street protests in the streets of Baghdad. Why would the heartless air pirates of NATO and its US string pullers—as if there were any difference—why would a new assault from the air be any more precise, any less deadly to civilians than any of its predecessors, whose documented criminality looms like a radioactive cloud of depleted uranium dust over countless victims past. Does anyone seriously still believe the cant about “smart bombs” and “pinprick” strikes? It’s worse than trickle-down economics: decades of devastation later, and no one bothers to question the original premise.

We must intervene to protect human rights, scream the Progressive Internationalists, who have been chomping at the bit for The Good One they can fully support ever since their unrepentant racist hero made the world safe for democracy a century ago. Really? But there is no talk of a no-fly zone over Bahrain where the Fifth Fleet sits just offshore, or over the open air prison that is Gaza, or over the disastrous shooting gallery that is the above mentioned AfPak theater. And, naturally no such call to ban flights from the 800 or so US bases dotting the globe from whom the shooters are launched. Nobody polices the Global Police. Ever the dutiful technocrat, The Obomber epitomizes the infinitely more dangerous potential of the yes man over that of the ideologue.

Welcome to the post racial society, crow the enthusiasts of a rigged and money-drenched electoral system that feigns democracy while undermining it at every possible turn. Americans aren’t interested in genuine democracy, don’t experience it at all in virtually any aspect of our daily lives, and wouldn’t recognize it if it jumped up and bit us in our collective transfat ass.

Besides, civil rights are for silly whiners who still think "democracy" is about being able to protest in the streets. Obviously they missed the memo: It's about being able to choose your favorite brand of sneakers or your choice of which housewives to obsess over. Duh! Way to go: “we” elected a black guy! Big deal—Caligula elected a horse. Is there anything more racist than raining indiscriminate death from the skies upon brown people intent on running their own countries? Or have people actually not caught on to the dynamic George Carlin so eloquently illuminated, bless his immortal soul: “Who were the last white people—the Germans—the only white people we’ve ever bombed! And why?? Because they were trying to cut in on our action. They wanted to rule the world. Bullshit! That’s our fucking job!!” Americans can continue to ignore this at our peril, along with the sad realization that those letting loose the bombs are economic conscripts drawn in overwhelming disproportion from poor, black and brown communities at home.

Orwell and Kafka lost together in the miserable plot(s) of Inception could not have constructed such a horrific nightmare. There is no dystopia yet written that can rival the brave new world in which we are living today. The worst part is that, while drones patrol the skies, from Libya to the Mexican border to the streets of our inner cities where the two million plus inhabitants of our Prison Planet grow—the largest in the world, another American triumph—in the midst of this horror, debate rages on about how to tweak a broken system, about how best to enrich the already-haves, about the values of recycling and gluten-free beer. John Connor is not coming back, folks. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

There may be trouble ahead!

Over 15,000 U.S. servicemen to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 deadline

''My Granny Lives on Mars'' Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Update below.

Some of the information may have been obtained through torture. US officials waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times at a CIA "black site" in Thailand during his first month of captivity.

Waterboarded six times a day, nice, real nice.

A single star informer at the base won his freedom by incriminating at least 123 other prisoners there.

Guantánamo Bay files: Al-Qaida assassin 'worked for MI6' blah blah

Update: Guardian Newspaper Editor Defends Publishing WikiLeaks’ Secret Guantánamo Files Democracy Now watch. Shitty sound but still worth listening to.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Britain Demands! Has nobody an Ounce of Shame Anymore?

Jesus Christ almighty! and here's me having a go at the Yanks for their rank hypocrisy.

The boy Hague ''demands end to Syria violence'' Fuck me! you couldn't make this shit up.

UK foreign secretary demands end to Syria violence

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he "utterly condemns" the violence being used by Syrian forces against pro-democracy demonstrators.

He demanded "accountability for the deaths that have occurred" and said the UK and its partners were considering the use of "further measures" against Damascus, including sanctions.

Activists say more than 20 people were killed on Monday by government forces.

All UK citizens in Syria are being advised to leave as soon as possible.

Mr Hague said there were about 700 British nationals currently living in Syria and registered with the UK Foreign Office.

But he pointed out that some of those would have dual nationality and the government did not assume that all of them would wish to leave.
'Genuine reform'

At least 350 people have reportedly been killed since mid-March in protests calling for political reform. Many demonstrators are demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down, but those calls have been met with an intensified crackdown in recent days.

In a statement to the Commons , Mr Hague said Syria was "at a fork in the road".

"Its government can still choose to bring about the radical reform which alone can bring about peace and stability... or it can choose ever more violent repression," he said.

William Hague said sanctions may be used against the Syrian government

"If it does so, we will work with our European partners and others to take measures including sanctions that will have an impact on the regime."

The foreign secretary said that from what he had learned at a meeting with President Assad in January, he believed the popular uprising would have "come as a surprise" to the Syrian government.

Earlier, in a written statement issued by the Foreign Office, Mr Hague said the UK was "working intensively with our international partners to persuade the Syrian authorities to stop the violence".

"This includes working with our partners on the United Nations Security Council to send a strong signal to the Syrian authorities that the eyes of the international community are on Syria, and with our partners in the EU and the region on possible further measures."

Mr Hague's intervention came as the UK, France, Germany and Portugal are reported to have drawn up a draft statement condemning the violence, which is being circulated among other United Nations members.

The Foreign Office is advising against all travel to Syria and urging any British nationals in the country to leave.

It is warning those who choose to remain that they are unlikely to receive full consular support from the British Embassy in the event of the situation worsening.

The United States is also advising its citizens to leave Syria and the state department says some non-essential embassy staff and all embassy dependants will be recalled.

US officials also say the Obama administration is considering imposing sanctions on President Assad's government.

On Monday, tanks were sent into Deraa, the town at the centre of protests, and activists say troops opened fire killing more than 25 people - although that claim has not been independently verified.

Security forces also reportedly opened fire in a suburb of Damascus on Monday, and there are unconfirmed reports of further shooting in Deraa on Tuesday. BBfuckingC

Chinese Pot Calls US Kettle on Human Rights

This mighty list, and it is mighty, as mighty as it is undeniable, and this from a nation that has no less than sixty eight capital offences on its books, and in general doesn't give a fuck about anybody or anything. Some of those offences include:

China has the death penalty for 68 crimes including murder, drug trafficking, rape, re-selling VAT receipts, pimping, habitual theft, stealing or dealing in national treasures or cultural relics, publishing pornography, selling counterfeit money, economic offences such as graft, speculation and profiteering and even killing a panda. More, but open up the home page and read about Iran's human rights record if you really want to be appalled.

With the article being so comprehensive it is difficult to decide what to feature, so to avoid having to make that decision, I give you the intro, the subjects covered, and the conclusion.

Human Rights Record of United States in 2010

Editor's note: China's Information Office of the State Council, or cabinet, published a report titled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010" on Sunday. Following is the full text:

The State Department of the United States released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010 on April 8, 2011. As in previous years, the reports are full of distortions and accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China. However, the United States turned a blind eye to its own terrible human rights situation and seldom mentioned it. The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010 is prepared to urge the United States to face up to its own human rights issues.

I. On Life, Property and Personal Security

The United States reports the world's highest incidence of violent crimes, and its people's lives, properties and personal security are not duly protected.

II. On Civil and Political Rights

In the United States, the violation of citizens' civil and political rights by the government is severe.

III. On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The United States is the world's richest country, but Americans' economic, social and cultural rights protection is going from bad to worse.

IV. On Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination, deep-seated in the United States, has permeated every aspect of social life.

V. On the rights of women and children

The situation regarding the rights of women and children in the United States is bothering.

VI. On US Violations of Human Rights against Other Nations

The United States has a notorious record of international human rights violations.


The above-mentioned facts illustrate that the United States has a dismal record on its own human rights and could not be justified to pose as the world's "human rights justice". However, it released the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices year after year to accuse and blame other countries for their human rights practices. The United States ignores its own serious human rights problems, but has been keen on advocating the so-called "human rights diplomacy", to take human rights as a political instrument to defame other nations' image and seek its own strategic interests. These facts fully expose its hypocrisy by exercising double standards on human rights and its malicious design to pursue hegemony under the pretext of human rights.

We hereby advise the US government to take concrete actions to improve its own human rights conditions, check and rectify its acts in the human rights field, and stop the hegemonistic deeds of using human rights issues to interfere in other countries' internal affairs. China Daily

The Great (Taliban) Escape


How the Taliban Pulled Off a Massive Prison Break

This morning, in a major setback to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, almost 500 political prisoners--many of them Taliban fighters and commanders--escaped from the Sarposa prison in Kandahar through a tunnel in the second prison break orchestrated by the Taliban since 2008, when the group freed 1,200 prisoners in a suicide attack that killed 15 guards, according to The New York Times. An effort to recapture the escaped prisoners is underway. In the meantime, here's what we know about how the Taliban accomplished today's escape:

Prison guards discovered that prisoners in the institution's political wing were missing around 4 am, according to the Associated Press, but the Taliban claims the guards didn't discover the breach until closer to 7:30 am. In the photo above, an Afghan prison guard points to the hole that inmates used to escape through the tunnel.

The break came from without rather than within, according to the Taliban at least. Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid explained in a statement that the Taliban worked for five months to dig a 320 meter-long tunnel into the prison that snaked below security checkpoints outside the facility and the Kabul-Kandahar highway (Afghan police, according to the Times, say the tunnel is more than 1,000 meters long). The militants launched the dig from a house "within shooting distance of the prison guard towers," the AP notes, but it's not clear whether they lived in the house as the dig continued. The head of Kandahar's prisons told The Guardian that constructing the tunnel must have been extremely labor-intensive given that the Taliban had to refrain from using heavy machinery that could attract attention to its efforts.

At 11 pm on Sunday night, per the Taliban's account, three Taliban prisoners who'd been informed of the plan ahead of time went from one cell to another, rousing several inmates at a time and escorting them to the tunnel. Mohammad Abdullah, who claimed he helped organize the escape from within the prison, told the AP that he and his associates got copies of cell keys from "friends"--suggesting that some prison guards may have acted as accomplices. The escape took place between 11 pm and 3:30 am, according to the Taliban, and one escapee told the BBC that it took him around 30 minutes to walk the full tunnel. When the prisoners emerged from the underground passageway, Taliban members greeted them and whisked them to waiting vehicles, which transported them to Taliban-controlled locations. As the prisoners boarded the vehicles, Taliban fighters and suicide bombers stood by in case security forces got wind of the scheme and tried to thwart the operation.

Update: The Daily Beast's Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai have a fascinating account of their interviews with two Taliban commanders who escaped today. One fighter explains how he feared the tunnel would collapse as he moved through it, while another notes that the prison break organizers confiscated the inmates' cell phones before they entered the tunnel to prevent them from informing people about their escape prematurely. The Daily Beast also learns that the Taliban dug their tunnel using pickups, tractor-pulled trailers, and donkey carts, and that the Taliban's original plan, aborted at the last minute, was for its suicide bombers to enter the jail after all prisoners had escaped and blow themselves up once prison security noticed the breach. "The escapees sounded more committed than ever to rejoin the fight," Moreau and Yousafzai observe. Yahoo

''We’re a nation of laws'' Says Obama As He Declares Manning Guilty

This is just one of the excellent links from Glenn Greenwald's main article at Salon. Another link leads to this irony of ironies where the writer has this to say about Obama's unconstitutional remarks declaring Manning guilty. Here he is talking about a similar gaffe by Nixon in declaring Charles Manson guilty pretrial.

What I didn’t recall from that time was that John Mitchell, easily American history’s crookedest Attorney General ever, was at Nixon’s side when he made that statement in Denver. He recognized right away that there was a serious problem with Nixon’s statement: article

But for the article proper you have to go to Salon where other links abound that shouldn't be ignored. I found the five links embedded in this one paragraph alone more than interesting, for exactly the same reasons as the writer notes.

But even more fascinating is Obama's invocation of America's status as a "nation of laws" to justify why Manning must be punished. That would be a very moving homage to the sanctity of the rule of law -- if not for the fact that the person invoking it is the same one who has repeatedly engaged in the most extraordinary efforts to shield Bush officials from judicial scrutiny, investigation, and prosecution of every kind for their war crimes and surveillance felonies. Indeed, the Orwellian platitude used by Obama to justify that immunity -- Look Forward, Not Backward -- is one of the greatest expressions of presidential lawlessness since Richard Nixon told David Frost that "it's not illegal if the President does it." More Salon President Obama speaks on Manning and the rule of law

All this, and I have never mentioned the ''H'' word once.

Obama on Manning: “He Broke the Law.” So Much for that Trial?
By: Michael Whitney
April 22 2011

President Barack Obama made stunning accusations about accused Wikileaks whistleblower PFC Bradley Manning, directly asserting that Manning “broke the law.” Apparently the President of the United States of America and a self-described Constitutional scholar does not care that Manning has yet to be tried or convicted for any crime.

In a discussion yesterday with Logan Price, a Bradley Manning supporter who was part of a group of activists who sang a song during the President’s San Francisco fundraiser, President Obama flatly stated that Bradley Manning “dumped” documents and that “he broke the law.” A rough transcript follows, provided by UK Friends of Bradley Manning:

OBAMA: So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works.

And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

Q: Didn't he release evidence of war crimes?]

OBAMA: What he did was he dumped…

Q: Isn't that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?]

OBAMA: No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way. (see main article where this particular argument falls apart)

This is the President of the United States speaking about a US military soldier detained for almost a year on charges of leaking classified (but not top secret, the level of files released by Ellsberg) documents. Manning’s lawyer is considering considered (corrected: his transfer made the writ moot) filing a writ of habeus corpus for the length of time and totality of abuse suffered by Manning while in military custody.

President Obama has already made up his mind. He thinks Manning “broke the law.” It’s no wonder he considered Manning’s abuse to “meet our basic standards” when he thinks Manning is already guilty.

This is vile.

As a reminder: the Pentagon plans to hold Manning indefinitely. Might as well, since they think he’s guilty already. source FDL

Monday, April 25, 2011

Obama Failed President - Best Actor

"The President Who Became an Actor": And This Year’s Oscar Goes To… Barack Obama
by Finian Cunningham

If Ronald Reagan was known as the actor who became a president, then perhaps Barack Obama should become known as the president who became an actor.

For every facial movement evinced, every gesture of the hand, every word enunciated by the 44th president turns out to be a complete charade.

This is the guy who ran for the presidency presenting himself before the US nation, hand on heart, as the candidate who would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; end the killing of civilians in those countries; and the brutalizing of young American men. Two years on, Obama has donned the costume of US commander-in-chief with ever-frightening zeal. Far from ending the wars, Obama has not only ramped up America’s foreign wars of aggression, he has expanded them into new territories, including Pakistan, Libya and East Africa, adding countless more innocent lives to Washington’s global death toll.

This is the guy who promised to close the American gulag of Guantanamo Bay where hundreds of men have been rendered by kidnapping from various parts of the world, tortured and held without trial, not one of them convicted. Two years on, promise broken. US rendition and torture is still standard practice, a fact to which American soldier Bradley Manning can testify simply because he showed the moral courage to tell the truth about such US crimes against humanity.

This is the guy who promised with unctuous sincerity to make a new beginning in US foreign policy, to respect universal human rights. “Universal human rights begin in the lives of each and every individual,” he intoned with his by-now clichéd solemn voice and face. Two years on, US foreign policy has even less regard for human rights both abroad and at home. In Gaza, the world’s largest outdoor concentration camp besieged by the US-fuelled Israeli war machine, Obama’s rhetoric on respecting the rights of human beings stands as a grotesque mockery. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, this guy is seen as the genial peacemaker who let his mask slip to reveal an ugly warmongering face like all his other predecessors.

This is the guy who pretends to offer the best deal to the US public over the budget deficit by gallantly fending off Republican axemen. “I won’t slash you by $6 trillion, I’ll only slash you by $4 trilllion,” to paraphrase his fake logic. As if this is a benign alternative that the American people just can’t refuse. So the guy who once upon a time supposedly broke his heart over Chicago’s inner-city poor will now unleash massive austerity on many more of America’s poor and ground-down working class, by slashing $4 trillion worth of Medicaid and Medicare, public education, social welfare and jobs. Nowhere does our supposed chivalrous and cerebral hero Obama appear to be able or willing to think outside the box in which the corporate aristocracy has entombed their political vampires on Capitol Hill. How about ending the trillion-dollar wars he was supposed to end? Or re-appropriating the trillions of dollars that he lavished on the banksters? Or reversing tax breaks for the already obscenely wealthy. These alternatives would make a lot more economic sense, justice and peace than Obama’s attack on the very people who voted him in to make a change.

Above all, this is the guy who has shown that he can lie with a pious face, smile sweetly when he refers to murdering innocent people with aerial drones, and can almost bring a tear to the eye when he talks about “not being able to ignore humanitarian values in Libya” [while then proceeding to oversee the bombing of civilians in that country and in the same breath not giving a pause to murder of civilians by a US ally in Bahrain].

So at the next Oscar ceremony, a special category should be opened for Barack Obama, the acting president of the USA. He can then hang that along with his Nobel peace prize – which, come to think of it, could also be nominated for “funniest screenplay ever”. globalresearch

Finian Cunningham is a journalist and musician. He is Global Research's Middle East Correspondent.

Related: WikiLeaks Documents Reveal U.S. Knowingly Imprisoned 150 Innocent Men at Guantánamo Watch Democacy Now

Below, October 09, Michael Moore on the Sean Hannitty Show. Push it on to 4m 50s mark because I'm sure you don't want to listen to gobshite Hannity, and listen to Michael Moore until 6m 15s. And I remind you, this interview was eighteen months ago. How you feeling now Michael?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Scotish Buggery Club to Attack "Aggressive Secularism"

Yes "aggressive secularism," such a threat to world peace and human suffering. You're wasting your breath old lad, this country made up its mind on religion years ago, and the message was, you can stick your mumbo jumbo up your arse, or in your case, some little boy's arse.

Updates: BBC blah blah.

Opinion: Cardinal O’Brien: is this all that’s left of Christianity?

Older stuff: Bullets in the post Cardinal’s secular attack

Cardinal Keith O'Brien and the Lockerbie murderer: a jaw-dropping error of judgment by the leader of Scotland's Catholics

Cardinal Keith O'Brien criticises secularism

The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, will use his Easter message later to attack "aggressive secularism".

It was an issue Pope Benedict warned about on his state visit to Britain last year.

Cardinal O'Brien will say the enemies of Christianity want to "take God from the public sphere".

The cardinal has made a reputation for his robust defence of traditionalist Christian teaching.

But BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says even by Cardinal O'Brien's standards his Easter sermon constitutes a vehement and outspoken attack on secularism and what he will describe as the enemies of the Christian faith in Britain and the power they currently exert.

He will call on Christians of all denominations to resist the efforts of such people to destroy Christian heritage and culture.

In a reference to equality legislation preventing discrimination against homosexual people, Cardinal O'Brien will denounce what he claims is the way Christians have been prevented from acting in accordance with their beliefs because they refuse to endorse such lifestyles.

The Cardinal will say: "Perhaps more than ever before there is that 'aggressive secularism' and there are those who would indeed try to destroy our Christian heritage and culture and take God from the public square.

"Religion must not be taken from the public square.

"Recently, various Christians in our society were marginalised and prevented from acting in accordance with their beliefs because they were not willing to publicly endorse a particular lifestyle.

"Yes - Christians must work toward that full unity for which Christ prayed - but even at this present time Christians must be united in their common awareness of the enemies of the Christian faith in our country, of the power that they are at present exerting, and the need for us to be aware of that right to equality which so many others cry out for."

Cardinal O'Brien will remind his congregation at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh of the plea by the Pope that Christians of different denominations should rediscover their common ancestry to unite in resisting the sidelining of religion.

The Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu, are also due to deliver Easter messages on Sunday.

The Catholic archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, will speak of his hopes for peace in conflict-hit countries such as Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Ivory Coast. BBC

Pat Condell: Aggressive Atheism.

Pat Condell: Buggery Club

Nick Gisbourne: Noah's Ark. Deleted, he drones on too much.

Marching for Anzac in the 51st State

Marching for Anzac in the 51st State
By John Pilger
April 22, 2011

The street where I grew up in Sydney was a war street. There were long silences, then the smashing of glass and screams. Pete and I played Aussies-and-Japs. Pete’s father was an object of awe. He weighed barely 100 pounds and shook with malaria and was frequently demented. He would sit in a cane chair, drunk, scything the air with the sword of a Japanese soldier he said he had killed. There was a woman who flitted from room to room, always red-eyed and fearful, it seemed. She was like many mothers in the street. Wally, another mate, lived in a house that was always dark because the black-out blinds had not been taken down. His father had been “killed by the Japs”. Once, when Wally’s mother came home, she found he had got a gun, put it in his mouth and blown his head off. It was a war street.

The insidious, merciless, life-long damage of war taught many of us to recognise the difference between the empty symbolism of war and the actual meaning. “Does it matter?” mocked the poet Siegfried Sassoon at the end of an earlier slaughter, in 1918, as he grieved his younger brother’s death at Gallipoli. I grew up with that name, Gallipoli. The British assault on the Turkish Dardanelles was one of the essential crimes of imperial war, causing the death and wounding of 392,000 on all sides. The Australian and New Zealander losses were among the highest, proportionally; and 25 April, 1915 was declared not just a day of remembrance but the “birth of the Australian nation”. This was based on the belief of Edwardian militarists that true men were made in war, an absurdity about to be celebrated yet again.

Anzac Day has been appropriated by those who manipulate the cult of state violence - militarism - in order to satisfy a psychopathic deference to foreign power and to pursue its aims. And the “legend” has no room for the only war fought on Australian soil: that of the Aboriginal people against the European invaders. In a land of cenotaphs, not one stands for them.

The modern war-lovers have known no street of screams and despair. Their abuse of our memory of the fallen, and why they fell, may be common among all servitors of rapacious power, but Australia is a special case. No country is more secure in its strategic remoteness and the wealth of its resources, yet no western elite is more eager to talk war and seek imperial “protection”.

Australia’s military budget is A$32 bn a year, one of the highest in the world. Less than two months’ worth of this war-bingeing would pay for the reconstruction of the state of Queensland after the catastrophic floods, but not a cent is forthcoming. In July, the same fragile flood plains will be invaded by a joint US-Australian military force, firing laser-guided missiles, dropping bombs and blasting the environment and marine life. This is rarely reported. Rupert Murdoch controls 70 per cent of the capital city press and his world-view is widely shared in the Australian media.

In a 2009 US cable released by WikiLeaks, the then Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who is now foreign affairs minister, implores the Americans to “deploy force” against China if Beijing does not do as it is told. Another Labor leader, Kim Beazley, secretly offered Australian troops for an attack on China over Taiwan. In the 1960s, prime minister Robert Menzies lied that he had received a request from the American-created regime in Saigon requesting Australian troops. Oblivious, Australians waved farewell to a largely conscripted army, of whom almost 3000 were killed or wounded. The first Australian troops were run by the CIA in “black teams” - assassination squads. When the government in Canberra made a rare complaint to Washington that the British knew more than they about America’s war aims in Vietnam, the US national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, replied, “We have to inform the British to keep them on side. You in Australia are with us come what may.” As an Australian soldier once said to me: “We are to the Yanks what the Gurkas are to the British. We’re mercenaries in all but name.”

WikiLeaks has disclosed the American role in the Canberra “coup” in 2010 against Rudd by Julia Gillard. Lauded in US cables as a “rising star”, Gillard’s Labor Party plotters have turned out to be assets of the US embassy in Canberra. Once installed as prime minister, Gillard committed Australia to America’s war in Afghanistan war for the next 10 years - twice as long as Britain. Gillard likes to appear on TV flanked by flags. With her robotic delivery and stare, it is an unsettling tableau. On 6 April, she intoned, “We live in a free country... only because the Australian people answered the call when the decision came.” She was referring to the dispatch of Australian troops to avenge the death of a minor imperial figure, General Charles Gordon, during a popular uprising in Sudan in 1885. She omitted to say that a dozen horses of the Sydney Tramway Company also “answered the call” but expired during the long voyage.

Australia’s reputed role as America’s “deputy sheriff” (promoted to “sheriff” by George W Bush) is to police great power designs now being challenged by most of the world. Leading Australian politicians and journalists report on the Middle East having first had their flights and expenses paid by the Israeli government or its promoters. Two Green Party candidates who dared to criticise Israel’s lawlessness and the silence of its local supporters, are currently being set upon. One Murdoch retainer has accused the two Greens of advocating a “modern rendering of Kristallnacht”. Both have since received multiple death threats. Put out more flags, boys.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Obams Backs Warrantless GPS Surveillance: Starship Amerika

For a black Democrat he makes a great Republican.

Starship Amerika
23 April 2011
by: Juan Cole, Truthdig

President Barack Obama is actually siding with police who want to use GPS devices to track you without a warrant. It always disturbed me when on “Star Trek” the captain asked the ship’s computer where a crew member was and was told the person’s exact location. Even the ship’s physician and empathy counselor were not immune from these inquiries, the answers to which could after all sometimes have been embarrassing. Is America heading toward being one big star ship, where government officials can casually inquire at will into our whereabouts and private doings?

Among the many elements of the Obama administration that have disappointed civil libertarians is its interest in spying on Americans. The Bush administration had instituted massive warrantless wiretapping and gathering of telephone records, with the complicity of most telecom corporations. Those who care about the Bill of Rights had hoped that Eric Holder’s Department of Justice would take a stand for the Fourth Amendment, which should be on the endangered species list along with the golden tree frog and the St. Helena dragonet.

The administration is appealing a Washington, D.C., federal appeals court ruling that threw out the case that law enforcement had built against a suspected cocaine distributor because the officers attached a global positioning satellite tracking device to his automobile without a warrant and then followed his movements for a whole month. That they tracked the suspect for so long without bothering to involve a judge was one basis for the ruling.

Supporters of warrantless surveillance of this sort argue that a person’s movements in public are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. But GPS tracking is very precise and can follow a car everywhere—onto farms or estates and into enclosed garages on private property. If there is evidence that a crime is being committed in, say, a garage, then a warrant should be obtained from a judge. In the absence of such evidence it is unconstitutional for the government to monitor the precise location of a piece of private property being driven on or parked on private property.

It should be remembered that it is perfectly possible for the police to make a mistake or act maliciously and to monitor someone who is innocent. The ACLU charges that these practices are increasingly common. If police and other security personnel are allowed to engage in domestic surveillance of this sort without a court warrant, they can start following large numbers of innocent people and learn details of their private lives. Just this year, Tacoma, Wash., police engaged in unconstitutional surveillance of anti-war activists, using an employee at a military base, which is even more troubling. Blanket permission for law enforcement to conduct warrantless GPS tracking of activists could reveal their private peccadilloes, which in turn could be used to blackmail them.

Another egregious case is that of college student Yasir Afifi, who found an FBI tracking device on his automobile during an oil change. Afifi, from a mixed American and Egyptian heritage, has no known associations with radicals, but his father had been active in the local Muslim community until his death last year and the family sends remittances to relatives in Egypt, a pattern of behavior that may have triggered the surveillance. Disturbingly, the federal Ninth District Court of Appeals found that the FBI had a rightto put the device on Afifi’s car as it sat in his driveway. This ruling violates the principle of “curtilage,”which holds that the area immediately around a person’s house is protected from unreasonable search by the Fourth Amendment. In a fiery dissent, Judge Alex Kozinski complained that his colleagues’ decision gives “the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives.” It is not known whether the FBI, who monitored Afifi for three to six months, ever obtained a court warrant or, if so, how many months it covered.

In the Washington, D.C., appellate court decision, handed down last fall, Judge Douglas H. Ginsburgshot down the argument that GPS tracking was like tailing a suspect in public. He wrote, “We hold the whole of a person’s movements over the course of a month is not actually exposed to the public because the likelihood a stranger would observe all those movements is not just remote, it is essentially nil.”

The decision made a distinction between a brief initial evidence-gathering foray and an intensive month long act of spying: “It is one thing for a passerby to observe or even to follow someone during a single journey as he goes to the market or returns home from work. It is another thing entirely for that stranger to pick up the scent again the next day and the day after that, week in and week out, dogging his prey until he has identified all the places, people, amusements, and chores that make up that person’s hitherto private routine.”

Part of what defines public and private is a reasonable citizen’s expectations. You wouldn’t expect all your movements for a month to be public, even if they were in an automobile. It is that understandable expectation of privacy that brings the Fourth Amendment into play. Ginsburg continued, “A reasonable person does not expect anyone to monitor and retain a record of every time he drives his car, including his origin, route, destination, and each place he stops and how long he stays there; rather, he expects each of those movements to remain disconnected and anonymous.” The full court of nine judges upheld the three-judge panel’s decision to throw out the case, which was against nightclub owner Antoine Jones.

The federal rulings so far on GPS tracking have been all over the map, so to speak, and that the Fourth Amendment will meaningfully survive the almost cosmic electronic surveillance capabilities of our burgeoning national security state is not at all clear. So far many of our eminent federal judges seem perfectly content with having police officers sneak around in our driveways, with allowing them to attach tracking devices to our private property, and with permitting them then to monitor everywhere we go and everyone we visit, without a warrant, for months at a time. Judge Ginsburg and two colleagues are so far all that stand in the way of this dystopian future becoming our present reality. Unfortunately, because Obama and Holder disagree with Ginsburg, his principled arguments will prevail only if they are permitted to do so by the likes of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Welcome to Starship Amerika. truthout