“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” - George W. Bush

Sunday, June 30, 2013

On the previous post, Rufus noted statistics showing the US ranking 27 worldwide in median wealth. Now we find out that the number of people that finance US elections would not come close to filling a football stadium.


How 31,385 people fund national elections

THE FIX By Chris Cillizza, Published: June 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm


Everyone knows that a relatively small number of wealthy people donate the lion’s share of money to political campaigns.  But, you probably never suspected just how small that group actually is.
Thanks to the amazing Sunlight Foundation, we now know that just 31,385 people — one tenth of one percent of the overall U.S. population — are responsible for nearly 30 percent of the $6 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) contributed to federal campaigns and committees in the 2012 election.

While the numbers are mind-boggling, one of the charts that Sunlight built to visualize them is even more telling.

It shows that the 31,385 people who qualify as the one percent of the one percent of political donors wouldn’t even come close to filling a football stadium. And, their seats would cost a minimum of $12,950, the smallest contribution amount of any of the one-tenth-of-one-percenters.

Those numbers are even more remarkable when you consider that while they do include donations to super PACs, they do not include donations to non-profit groups like Americans for Prosperity or Crossroads GPS that are heavily involved in campaigns.


Who are these one percent of the one percenters? Writes Sunlight’s Lee Drutman:

“The nation’s biggest campaign donors have little in common with average Americans. They hail predominantly from big cities, such as New York and Washington. They work for blue-chip corporations, such as Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. One in five works in the finance, insurance and real estate sector. One in 10 works in law or lobbying. The median contribution from this group of elite donors? $26,584. That’s a little more than half the median family income in the United States.”

The full Sunlight report is fascinating and chock full of great charts that illustrate the one percent of the one percent. Check it out.

US new allies in Syria decapitate supporters of the legal Syrian government under Assad

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shawn Custis, 42, was apprehended less than an hour after authorities released his name, according to Anthony Ambrose, Chief of Detectives for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. The suspect was arrested by the FBI Violent Fugitive Task Force and Prosecutor"s detectives in New York City shortly before 6 p.m. in Manhattan. He is being transported to an undisclosed police location in New Jersey, Ambrose said. Custis is charged with first-degree attempted murder, due to the severity of the beating, as well as robbery, burglary and endangering the welfare of a child. "It was a horrific and brutal crime and detectives and the FBI did a really good job cooperating together to bring this individual to justice," Ambrose said. Authorities today identified Custis as the man captured on film mercilessly beating a woman in front of her child. Authorities are looking for 42-year-old Shawn Custis, charged in the home invasion robbery and beating of a Millburn mother caught on the family's nanny camera. Essex County Prosecutor's Office Custis is a career criminal with 12 felony convictions and a long record dating back to the early 90s. He was most recently jailed in connection with a string of burglaries across New Jersey in March 2011. He served 10 months in jail and was released in December, according to court records.



HAT TIP: Dougo

Glenn Greenwald burns it down: A scathing attack on the US Security State, The contemptible US Media, David Gregory. This is a barn burner.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fast Times in Palestine - Pamela J. Olsen






Oklahoma’s Pamela Olson Describes The Hidden Realities Of Life In The Palestinian Territories


Listen


Listen to Pamela Olsons conversation with Suzette Grillot and Joshua Landis.


When Pamela Olson traveled to the occupied West Bank on a whim in 2003, she only expected to stay for a week. She stayed for two years, though, and served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Mustafa Barghouthi's 2005 presidential campaign – unlikely posts for a self-described “physics major, ex-bartender, volunteer from Oklahoma.”
“Of course I was intimidated,” Olson says. “I was worried because this was the first conflict zone I had ever been in, but just immediately I was made to feel so welcome.”
Olson describes her experience living in the occupied Palestinian Territories in her memoir Fast Times in Palestine. As she says in an interview with Huffington Post contributor Danielle Tumminio, she wrote the book to give a full and honest account of life there:
When I tried to describe the things I had seen in Israel and Palestine, people in the U.S. tended to assume I was exaggerating, because it didn't match at all with what they were used to hearing on the news. I decided to write something that started from zero and told an engaging story, so that people would "hear me out" while I painted the full picture. I hope it can help spark a more honest discussion here in the U.S. about the part we play in this conflict.
Olson says that her first encounter with Palestinians in the West Bank was nothing like she expected.
“People were so kind,” Olson says. “They asked me where I was from, and I said Oklahoma. And they said ‘Oh, Oklahoma! It's a dangerous place.’ And I was like, ‘What have you heard about us?’ And they said, ‘Wasn't there a bombing?’ And I was like, ‘Well, yeah, there was one bombing almost 10 years ago.’ Like, I don't know. We're in occupied Palestine and this guy's worried about Oklahoma being dangerous? It struck me as really bizarre, but, you know, if you knew nothing about a place except whatever building blew up, then that colors your perception of that place. So it was very humbling in that sense and also in the sense that at first I was hesitant to tell people that I was American because I had been told that they hate you for whatever reason. And everyone was like, ‘No, no, no, we understand. We don't like your government, but you're an individual. You're coming here to see for yourself. We really appreciate this.’"
Olson argues that by focusing exclusively on violence in the region, the U.S. media has skewed the public’s perception of Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories. She says the narrative broadcast by the U.S. media teaches that:
“Israelis are pretty much like us, you know, they look white and they speak English and this and that. And the Palestinians are sort of not like us. They're sort of angry, and they're bearded and they're strange and they don't speak our language – you think of the West Bank or the Palestinian areas as being just these demolished, rubble-strewn wastelands, and just full of angry, strange people.”
This is not what Olson experienced. During her time in the West Bank, Olson participated in the olive harvest, celebrated Ramadan, made friends with Palestinians and Israelis, and immersed herself in the local media industry. She quickly started to see inconsistencies in stories focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“There would often be something like, oh, ‘a Palestinian attack shattered a six-month lull in the violence.’ And that would be like the headline in the U.S.,” Olson says. “And then you look at the past six months, and you'd see that 300 Palestinians were killed and zero Israelis were killed. So, a ‘lull in the violence’ in the U.S. media just means no Israelis were killed.”
Olson says that often the media simply gets stories about the Palestinian Territories wrong.
“We'd be in Palestine watching something happen, and then we'd go home, turn on CNN, and watch the coverage of that thing and be like ‘What are they talking about? This has nothing to do with what we just witnessed,’" Olson says.
Olson says most Palestinians don't have much hope for any talks brokered by the U.S.
“The thrust of every peace process before has been talk, talk, talk, expand the settlements, nothing happens, blame the Palestinians – they’ve already have seen this movie, and they're not really hopeful about a different ending this time,” Olson says.
Hope, Olson says, comes from recognizing the humanity – and reality – of both sides.
“That is helping, little by little, to change American public opinion,” Olson says. “You know, I hope my book can also help, or at least allow people to engage with the conflict from a more realistic perspective, as opposed to the narrative we get here.”
INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS
On challenges to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
That's another element of the common American narrative, that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It's actually much more complicated than that. The Palestinians since 1988, the Palestinian Authority, has recognized Israel as a state. And the entire Arab World, in fact, in 2002 agreed to recognize Israel in exchange for peace based on international law, based on 1967 borders, based on a shared Jerusalem for a capital, you know, Israeli west Jerusalem and Palestinian east Jerusalem, and acknowledging the rights of Palestinian refugees. These aren't based on particular Palestinian prejudices; these are based on international law. And so far, actually, in fact, it's Israel who's rejected that formulation of it because, essentially, for now, for them, the occupation is... I mean, they're able to, with relatively little cost, maintain these cities they've built in the West Bank illegally, illegal settlements, and extract water from the West Bank,  and use it for however they like, and sell part of it back to the Palestinians for an inflated price. And because the U.S. holds veto power in the U.N. and is allied with Israel, we essentially allow them to get away with these violations of international law. So as long as there's no cost to them for maintaining the occupation, they're probably going to maintain it. And as long as the U.S. has this policy of Israel right or wrong, I don't see anything good happening in that region as far as moves toward peace.
On the situation of the Palestinians
The reality, I found, is Palestinians don't really have an army, and they've lived on the land for many centuries before there was a state called Israel. And you can argue about the founding of the state of Israel, but the fact was 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes and land and in the West Bank and Gaza four million people now live under total military occupation where they don't have rights to vote in Israel although Israel controls their lives. And they don't have access to a civilian court system. The Israeli military court has jurisdiction over them, and it has something like a 99 percent conviction rate.
On media coverage at the beginning of the Iraq War
By the time I got to Amman, Jordan it was the fall of 2003, and the Iraq war was six months old. And, you know, I had been told from the news back home that the Iraq War is more or less under control, it's fine, it's going to be over soon, whatever. And I stayed in a hotel where journalists were staying, and foreign aid workers, and they were saying "No, it's not fine. It's bloody chaos. It's getting worse. It's going to be years and years. It's probably heading toward civil war." Of course, it turned out they were right, but at the time I didn't know who to believe.
On deciding to travel to the Palestinian Territories
Then I met a couple of guys who were doing work in the West Bank. And we became friends, we traveled together a little bit, and they told their stories from the West Bank, and this was also kind of a bad year for the Second Intifada. And their stories were similarly just totally opposite-world from what you hear, what sort of the basic understanding of Israel/Palestine is in the U.S. And more or less just to call their bluff, I followed them in and went to the West Bank with them. And sure enough, everything they had said had actually been toned down for my consumption. It was actually much more extreme than what they were saying.
FULL TRANSCRIPT
SUZETTE GRILLOT, HOST: Pamela Olson, welcome to World Views.
OLSON: Thanks very much.
GRILLOT: So, tell us about what took you to Palestine. You wrote a book about it, and we'll get into the book. But what even took you there to begin with?
OLSON: So, it started... so I studied physics in college, and I loved physics, I still do. But I started to realize that even physics is actually political, because, you know, who's applying for the grants, who's giving the grants, what are the policies that are putting this technology versus that technology in place in the U.S. because I was interested in alternative energy. So I started studying politics as well, and then I studied abroad in Moscow for a semester, and I just found that learning a Russian phrase in the morning and using it in the afternoon and, you know, learning about the conflict in Chechnya from Chechen refugees and mothers of soldiers and then, later, when I took the train across Siberia, from the soldiers themselves was a lot more engaging to me than sitting in a dimly-lit basement laboratory watching numbers tick on a machine. So, when I graduated I started thinking about how I could do more of this travel and learning languages and the things I really loved doing. And it happened to be right after 9/11 and right as the Iraq War was getting started in 2003. At the time, I was dating a Lebanese guy, and the way he talked about Lebanon was like it was Club Med or something, like "the beaches are beautiful and the women are gorgeous and the food is amazing and the mountains and this and that." And then on the news you hear, "Oh, it's a vast desert full of caves and Kalashnikovs and misogynistic bearded maniacs who want to kill you for your freedom." So there was a little bit of a cognitive dissonance going on and I wanted to check it out for myself. So I ended up meeting a friend in Egypt, and we just did touristy things in Egypt for a few weeks, and that was plenty adventurous enough for me. And then he left, and then by the time I got to Amman, Jordan it was the fall of 2003, and the Iraq war was six months old. And, you know, I had been told from the news back home that the Iraq War is more or less under control, it's fine, it's going to be over soon, whatever. And I stayed in a hotel where journalists were staying, and foreign aid workers, and they were saying "No, it's not fine. It's bloody chaos. It's getting worse. It's going to be years and years. It's probably heading toward civil war." Of course, it turned out they were right, but at the time I didn't know who to believe. And I thought about visiting Baghdad and seeing it for myself, and then I got talked out of it. Some journalists were like, "Look, kid, you're not ready for what you would see in Baghdad right now." Then I met a couple of guys who were doing work in the West Bank. And we became friends, we traveled together a little bit, and they told their stories from the West Bank, and this was also kind of a bad year for the Second Intifada. And their stories were similarly just totally opposite-world from what you hear, what sort of the basic understanding of Israel/Palestine is in the U.S. And more or less just to call their bluff, I followed them in and went to the West Bank with them. And sure enough, everything they had said had actually been toned down for my consumption. It was actually much more extreme than what they were saying.
GRILLOT: And you decided to stay. So you end up in the West Bank, you know, just kind of on a whim, it sounds like. But you decided to stay. Why?
OLSON: You know, of course I was intimidated. I was worried because this was the first conflict zone I had ever been in, but just immediately I was made to feel so welcome. And people were so kind. They asked me where I was from, and I said Oklahoma. And they said "Oh, Oklahoma! It's a dangerous place." And I was like, "What have you heard about us?" And they said, "Wasn't there a bombing?" And I was like, "Well, yeah, there was one bombing almost 10 years ago." Like, I don't know. We're in occupied Palestine and this guy's worried about Oklahoma being dangerous? It struck me as really bizarre, but also as, you know, if you knew nothing about a place except whatever building blew up, then that colors your perception of that place. So it was very humbling in that sense and also in the sense that at first I was hesitant to tell people that I was American because I had been told that they hate you for whatever reason. And everyone was like, "No, no, no, we understand. We don't like your government, but you're an individual. You're coming here to see for yourself. We really appreciate this." And just in a million ways people were so welcoming. I met a guy who spoke Russian, a Palestinian guy who spoke Russian, and, of course, I had studied in Russia. So we had our own secret language together, and we started having a little, I guess, flirtation at first and then it kind of went from there. And also, the olive harvest was right around this time, and that was such an incredibly fun experience. The kids running around, and the olives all falling from the trees and onto the tarps, and it's like this olive rain. And you know at the end of it you're going to get an RC Cola bottle full of very fresh, ripe olive oil. And it was Ramadan. It was like the perfect storm. Like the perfect time to be there. And, you know, during Ramadan you think it's going to be "Oh, everyone's fasting and depressed and this and that." But in fact it's like, in my case, it's kind of like watching music videos all day and then feasting and partying all night. And every night I had at least five invitations to different people's homes. So I got to know the whole village, and people were so kind. And so all of that together, plus the complete insanity of the situation and trying to understand it, really sort of hooked me and pulled me in.
LANDIS: So, I have to ask, what's the difference between the narratives, or between the reality that you saw and the narrative that you imagined, that you had learned, in the United States?
OLSON: Sure. So, the narrative you learn in the U.S. is, basically, there's a country called Israel, and then there're these people called the Palestinians, and they both sort of want the same land, and they both sort of have sort of armies, and they both have casualties. And Israelis are pretty much like us, you know, they look white and they speak English and this and that. And the Palestinians are sort of not like us. They're sort of angry, and they're bearded and they're strange and they don't speak our language and all this kind of stuff. And also you think of the West Bank, or the Palestinian areas, as being just these demolished, rubble-strewn wastelands, and just full of, like, angry strange people. But the reality, I found, is Palestinians don't really have an army, and they've lived on the land for many centuries before there was a state called Israel. And you can argue about the founding of the state of Israel, but the fact was 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes and land and in the West Bank and Gaza four million people now live under total military occupation where they don't have rights to vote in Israel although Israel controls their lives. And they don't have access to a civilian court system. The Israeli military court has jurisdiction over them, and it has something like a 99 percent conviction rate. And then the systematic violence against Palestinians. There would often be something like, "Oh, a Palestinian attack shattered a six-month lull in the violence." And that would be like the headline in the U.S. And sort of maybe "14 Israelis were killed in an attack by Palestinians." And then you look at the past six months, and you'd see that 300 Palestinians were killed and zero Israelis were killed. So, a "lull in the violence" in the U.S. media just means no Israelis were killed. It doesn't mean no Palestinians were killed. But the Palestinians, the everyday brutality against them, it doesn't make headlines as much as the spectacular few, relatively few, attacks by the Palestinians.
LANDIS: But haven't Palestinians been given many opportunities for peace, for compromise? They reject them each time. What choice has there been for a real solution?
OLSON: That's another element of the common American narrative, that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It's actually much more complicated than that. The Palestinians since 1988, the Palestinian Authority, has recognized Israel as a state. And the entire Arab World, in fact, in 2002 agreed to recognize Israel in exchange for peace based on international law, based on 1967 borders, based on a shared Jerusalem for a capital, you know, Israeli west Jerusalem and Palestinian east Jerusalem, and acknowledging the rights of Palestinian refugees. These aren't based on particular Palestinian prejudices; these are based on international law. And so far, actually, in fact, it's Israel who's rejected that formulation of it because, essentially, for now, for them, the occupation is... I mean, they're able to, with relatively little cost, maintain these cities they've built in the West Bank illegally, illegal settlements, and extract water from the West Bank,  and use it for however they like, and sell part of it back to the Palestinians for an inflated price. And because the U.S. holds veto power in the U.N. and is allied with Israel, we essentially allow them to get away with these violations of international law. So as long as there's no cost to them for maintaining the occupation, they're probably going to maintain it. And as long as the U.S. has this policy of Israel right or wrong, I don't see anything good happening in that region as far as moves toward peace.
GRILLOT: So your book Fast Times in Palestine. What do you mean by "fast times"?
OLSON: You know, when I first stumbled into the West Bank, as I mentioned, it was this perfect storm of all these things going on: all these things I'm learning, all these people I'm meeting, it was very overwhelming. I liken it to a machine gun barrage of things that I'm learning and seeing and impressions and that kind of thing. And then I moved to Ramallah, the big city, to volunteer with a progressive political leader. And just as I'm getting settled into that whole thing, because there's a big learning curve of course, then I was offered a job as head writer and editor of the Palestine Monitor. And I was like, "Are you sure you have the right number? You know, I'm a physics major, ex-bartender, volunteer from Oklahoma. I'm not sure you want me to be running an entire news organization." But they're like, "Oh, you'll figure it out." So, I kind of spent three months just cramming all this knowledge into my head about how to be a journalist, and about all of these terminologies, and the trends, and learning how to report on each death. Every morning I woke up, and it was like "Who had died the night before?" And just when I was kind of getting into the groove with that, then Yasser Arafat died and my boss decides to run for president of the Palestinian Authority. And because all of the other foreigners would be going to England or Spain or Australia for the Christmas holidays, I was the only native English speaker left. So kind of by default I became his foreign press coordinator. So that was the most intense two month of my life, that sort of presidential campaign when I'm doing my full-time job and doing the full-time job of being his foreign press coordinator. And when that finally died down, I don't know, it was like different people came to visit, and my parents came for a visit. I had to show them around, and then I needed a new visa, and it was just like... it was really probably the most intense year and half that I hope to have in my life.
GRILLOT: So it's about the intensity of the situation. It's not only personally, but politically, socially, in every respect in this part of the world, it's so intense, right?
OLSON: It is, definitely.
GRILLOT: So what's going to get them out of this situation? What is going to help them reduce that intensity?
OLSON: I don't see very much hope, and most Palestinians don't see much hope, from the so-called peace process that the U.S. is supposedly trying to resurrect. The thrust of every peace process before has been talk, talk, talk, expand the settlements, nothing happens, blame the Palestinians. Like, that's how it always tends to go. So they kind of already have seen this movie, and they're not really hopeful about a different ending this time. What can they do? I mean, for one thing there's a massive movement of non-violent resistance in Palestine that just recently was featured in the New York Times Magazine, finally, after years of being ignored. It's finally starting to be recognized and mentioned in main-stream U.S. news sources. And the article is called "Will the Third Intifada Start Here?" and it's online and well-worth the read. So, definitely that is helping, little by little, to change American public opinion. You know, I hope my book can also help, or at least allow people to engage with the conflict from a more realistic perspective, as opposed to the narrative we get here. It's not very realistic. It's not very closely aligned with actual reality. We would actually very often... We'd be in Palestine watching something happen, and then we'd go home, turn on CNN, and watch the coverage of that thing and be like "What are they talking about? This has nothing to do with what we just witnessed." Or they missed the point, or they missed the larger story and just focused on one small thing. So I'm hoping that, at least in this one arena where there's still a democracy of ideas more and more because of blogs and Palestinian writers and movies like Five Broken Cameras and hopefully books like mine, that at least in that sense we can start changing American public opinion and maybe eventually have an impact on U.S. foreign policy.
LANDIS: You've been taking your book across the country. What's the reception been like? What do your parents think of all this? What do Oklahomans think about when you bring this talk to Oklahoma?
OLSON: Well, this is my first day speaking in Oklahoma, and so far it's been great here, but it's probably sort of a self-selected crowd. All over the country so far, it has been surprisingly receptive. I was kind of waiting for some sort of backlash or dissension, but so far it's been, again, probably self-selected crowds, but still. People have been very respectful, very open. As for my parents, they actually came and visited me in Israel/Palestine. And, spoiler alert, we had a wonderful time. But they were also very shocked by a lot of things they saw.
LANDIS: They weren't frightened to go there?
OLSON: They were, but I had to essentially emotionally blackmail them and say like "If you love me, you'll come and see what my life is like over here." I think they were more afraid of that.
GRILLOT: Alright. So, very quickly, are you headed back?
OLSON: Not anytime soon. I usually go back about every two years, but I'm getting married this year and then there's going to be a move next year, and so I'm not sure exactly when it's going to happen next. But it's always, it's like a second home and I always miss it.
LANDIS: Congratulations on your marriage.
OLSON: Thank you.
GRILLOT: Well, thank you so much, Pamela Olson, for joining us on World Views.
OLSON: My pleasure, thanks so much.
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KGOU transcripts are created on a rush deadline by our staff, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of KGOU's programming is the audio.


A LONGER INTERVIEW WITH PAMELA OLSEN EXPOSING THE LIES AND THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING IN PALESTINE



Retired US general, James Cartwright, is the target of a Justice Department investigation into the leaking of secret information about the Stuxnet virus attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010, NBC News reported on Thursday, citing unidentified legal sources.




HERE IS BACKGROUND FROM AN IRANIAN REPORT OF THE MALICIOUS US CYBER ASSAULT ON IRAN:




Thursday, June 27, 2013

How the Israelis smuggled nuclear triggers out of the US from a front company where Bibi Netanyahu worked. The same Netanyahu that wants the US to attack Iran for their nuclear ambitions. The US Government isn’t talking. They are too busy trying to find Edward Snowden, “Enemy of the State.”

Which is more dangerous to personal liberty in a free society: a renegade who tells an inconvenient truth about government law-breaking, or government officials who lie about what the renegade revealed? That’s the core issue in the great public debate this summer, as Americans come to the realization that their government has concocted a system of laws violative of the natural law, profoundly repugnant to the Constitution and shrouded in secrecy.- Andrew Napolitano



Daniel Ellsberg on the NSA Leaks:




Spying's the Real Story, Not Edward Snowden

The NSA presents a grave threat to liberty, but the pundits just talk about the Snowden sideshow.
Gene Healy | June 25, 2013 REASON
I promised myself to stay away from Orwell metaphors for the duration of the latest surveillance-state controversy. But the punditocracy's recent "two-minutes hate" against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has me backsliding already.
Judging by the vicious -- and irrelevant -- attacks on Snowden's character, all too many leading pundits and journalists love nothing more than a ritual ragegasm against an alleged enemy of the state.
The Washington Post's Richard Cohen calls Snowden a "cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood"; he's a "total slacker" with "all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger" jeers Politico's Roger Simon. Snowden's "a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison" offers The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin; Fox News's Ralph Peters raises the stakes: a "narcissistic traitor" who belongs on death row.
Some want to shoot the messenger, others want to give him a medal: both Michael Moore and Glenn Beck call Snowden a "hero."
So which is it: #TeamEdward or #TeamNSA? What's a fangirl to do?
That's a question best left to the teeny boppers. The content of the message is far more important than the character of the messenger.
Here, the most disturbing aspect of the Snowden revelations is the NSA's comprehensive, multiyear call-records database, with communication and phone-location information on millions of Americans. Especially if combined with metadata on emails, website visits and financial transactions that the agency is also amassing, that information is a potential treasure trove for political abuse -- it can be used to ferret out the sort of information governments have historically used to blackmail and neutralize political opponents: who's leaking, who's organizing, who's having an affair. The potential abuse of that information represents a grave threat to American liberty and privacy regardless of Snowden's character and motivations.
In an post last week, Buzzfeed's Ben Smith makes the key point: "You Don't Have to Like Edward Snowden." Snowden, Smith argues, is "a source," and the information sources convey is far more important than their "moral status" or the "fate of [their] eternal soul[s]."
Smith mentions Mark Felt, the FBI honcho who served as Woodward and Bernstein's "Deep Throat" during their investigation of the Watergate burglary and cover-up. Felt, it turned out, was simply settling scores in a bureaucratic power struggle. He had no scruples against criminal violations of privacy -- in 1980 he was convicted of conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of Americans through warrantless break-ins as part of the FBI's COINTELPRO program.
It was important for Americans to know that their president was a crook. That Mark Felt was also a crook is neither here nor there. As Smith puts it, "who cares?"
In The Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart insists that Edward Snowden was no Daniel Ellsberg, the "badass" combat veteran and defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers and stood trial for it.
Again, who cares? It was important for Americans to know what that classified report revealed: that our government lied its way into the Vietnam War and lied more to keep us in it.
The government has been lying to us here as well -- and rather brazenly. In March, Senator Ron Wyden asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Clapper answered, "No sir. ... Not wittingly." He later defended that answer as the "least untruthful" one he could give. ("Yes," would have fit the bill better, one would think).
The debate over the content of Edward Snowden's character is a sideshow. But how we respond to what he's exposed will reveal something about our national character.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

AIPAC Illustrates Current Threats Facing Israel With Bombing Photo—From 1997









AIPAC Illustrates Current Threats Facing Israel With Bombing Photo—From 1997


Last week, friends forwarded me a mailing they had recently received from AIPAC. Included with the letter touting AIPAC’s accomplishments and the expected call for donations was a map-style fold-out insert, headlined with the ominous message: “Israel Faces Increasing Threats.” Under that headline, taking up more than half the page, is a photo of an Israeli policewoman shepherding to safety an Israeli woman who clearly has been the victim of a bombing attack.


For all of us who worry about people in Israel, this is one of those iconic, hit-you-in-the gut pictures. It brings to mind the awful attacks that Israel saw so many of in the 1990s and early years of the 2000s.

A little research confirms that this reaction is right on target, given that the photo is from a suicide bombing that took place in 1997. Yes, 1997. Which begs the question: why use a 16-year-old photo to illustrate a headline referring to current threats facing Israel?








israeli-policewoman-cropped-openz
This photo, from the AIPAC mailing, shows an Israeli policewoman escorting a shocked woman away from the site of an explosion in Jerusalem, Israel, in 1997. (Bryan Mcburney / AP)

Given that suicide bombings in Israel have, thankfully, been rare for some time now, with the last one taking place more than five years ago, the most innocent explanation is that someone in AIPAC’s design department reasoned, “suicide bombings happen in Israel all the time, so what’s the difference how old the photo is?” If that’s what happened, then AIPAC needs to do a better job educating its own staff. The less innocent explanation is that someone at AIPAC thought to themselves, “American Jews respond viscerally to images of innocent Israelis wounded in terrorist attacks, so we’re going to put this specific image front and center, even if doing so actively misleads American Jews about the situation inside Israel.”

The precipitous drop in terror attacks in Israel is a rare good-news story out of Israel that, regrettably, has largely been overlooked by the media. This in part no doubt reflects the fact that tragedy and bloodshed, not their absence, sell papers. It may also reflect the cynicism of those who want to exploit fear and sow hardline political sentiment inside the American Jewish community—whether in order to promote hawkish political positions or to raise funds.

None of which is to suggest that there have not been terror attacks against Israelis more recently than 1997, both in Israel and the West Bank. Suicide bombings in Israel were a horrific fact of life into the early 2000s, at which point Israel’s “separation barrier”—which for the most part prevents Palestinians in the West Bank from accessing Israel—turned the tide. Since then there have continued to beattacks against Israelis, including settlers in the West Bank and Israeli tourists in Europe. And of course, Israelis living near Gaza still live with the very real fear of rocket fire.

In truth, the title of AIPAC’s publication is absolutely correct—Israel indeed faces increasing threats. However, the photo on the cover and the material contained in the publication are misleading. AIPAC wants American Jews to believe that Palestinian suicide terror is a defining reality in Israel today—despite evidence to the contrary. Its broader message is that the region is in flux, the sky is falling, and the faceless, homogeneous Arab and Muslim hordes are at the gates, wanting only to kill Jews and destroy Israel. This message stands in stark contrast to the one offered only last week by Meir Dagan, the former head of Israel’s Mossad, who argued that the current regional flux presents a “unique opportunity for Israel to seek different alliances.

The AIPAC message stands in contrast, too, to the reality articulated by every living former leader of the Shin Bet in the recent movie, The Gatekeepers. All of these men—whose entire professional lives were devoted to Israel’s security—today sound nothing like AIPAC and a lot like Peace Now in describing the high costs to Israel of maintaining the occupation and the imperative of achieving peace and a two-state solution. For them, the greatest potential threat to Israel comes not from outside forces but from within, and stems from the failure of Israeli leaders to truly pursue peace. Anyone who doubts the validity of this outlook—despite its unimpeachable sources—need only note that even as the incidence of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis is falling, attacks by Israeli extremists—often referred to as Price Tag attacks—is rising dramatically. These attacks have targeted Palestinians, the IDF, and Israeli peace activists. They have been aimed at Palestinian private property, mosques, and churches. Increasingly, they have spread across the Green Line to targets inside Israel proper.

In short, the real threats to Israel’s security and its future—its very viability as a prosperous, democratic nation with a real Jewish character and at home in the community of nations—stem not from external enemies but from Israeli policies that are antithetical to peace and the two-state solution, including an unwillingness to confront Israel's home-grown extremists. AIPAC should stop the worn out fear-mongering tactics and start focusing on these very real, increasing threats, for Israel’s sake.

HERE COMES THE US CONGA LINE:


Monday, June 24, 2013

In the Snowden affair, paybacks are a bitch.


DOES ANYONE ELSE THINK IT'S IRONIC THAT THE US GOVERNMENT HAS CHARGED EDWARD SNOWDEN WITH SPYING?


Top Senate Republican sounded the alarm ahead of a major test vote on Monday that could clear the way for passage of a sweeping immigration overhaul, saying the chamber was about to vote on a bill "no one has read." Lawmakers have since begun voting and should wrap up shortly after 6 p.m. ET.

RT has a reporter on the flight from Moscow to Havana. The plane is sitting on the tarmac, but Snowden is not yet on the plane. The Obama Administration is trying to cajole the Russians to turn him over to the US.




Why the Washington Elite Hates Edward Snowden

Hacks and flacks go on the attack
by Justin Raimondo, June 21, 2013

On a visit to Washington a couple of months ago, I was surprised to discover Politico has a dead-tree edition: there it was at the local Starbucks alongside the Washington Post and the New York Times, right next to the double-chocolate scones. As assorted government workers, policy wonks, and aspiring demagogues waited patiently in line for their morning double-nonfat-non-gluten cappuccinos, they leafed through their (free) copies with all the eagerness of the racetrack crowd perusing the Daily Racing Form. Future anthropologists who want to understand the political culture of Washington, D.C., circa 2013, will find a treasure trove in yellowing issues of Politico, the daily Washington news/gossip sheet that has displaced the ancient Roll Call and The Hill as the Imperial City’s chronicler of what’s hot and what’s not. Founded in 2007 by two Washington Post reporters, Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris, Politico has the editorial (i.e. neoconish) feel of the WaPo, combined with the in-group snarkiness of a local gossip sheet.
Every in-group has its internal rules and regulations, its assumptions about what is right and good and what is beyond the pale – and regarding this last, what is clear is that disrespecting or in any way denigrating the wit and wisdom – never mind the authority – of our Wise Rulers is first on the list of Politico‘s Don’ts. Washington is all about secrets, and access to power: to reveal the former is to surrender the latter, and in Washington that is unthinkable. So instead of investigating the abuses of power, our "journalists" spend their days sucking up to Power, as is underscored in this Politico piece, entitled "The Leaker Who Won’t Stop Talking."
The title is a command: Snowden must stop talking. This is what every good little government worker, every supporter of the Regime, thinks about the Snowden affair. He should just shut up. After all, who are we to question the government if they want to "collect" all our phone calls and emails? They know stuff we don’t: it’s for Our Own Good.
It’s only natural for Politico to reflect the attitudes of its readers, who live and work primarily in the Washington, D.C. area. It makes perfect sense for the paper to view Snowden through a crudely political, non-ideological lens, that is, in terms of "image" and public relations packaging. So it’s only logical they would run around town asking public relations shills for this or that politician or special interest group how Snowden is handling his public relations imagery, and such a story – appearing in this venue – could have but one opening line, to wit:
"Edward Snowden is milking it.
"The briefly anonymous leaker has leaped into the public spotlight — and now he’s risking overexposure in a big way. Public relations pros and image makers say Snowden’s repeated interviews and growing number of claims are making him look like someone who’s exploiting his sudden worldwide fame for personal glory, and that threatens to undermine the very privacy crusade for which he said he’s willing to give his life."
This has been the strategy of the Regime all during the blizzard of revelations coming out of Snowden’s cache of secrets and Glenn Greenwald’s formidable pen: focus on the messengers in hopes of obscuring the message. That’s the whole point of this "story," the narrative they’re trying to sell to the American people: Google the word "narcissist" along with Snowden’s name and you’ll come up with the Washingnton elite’s theme song of the week. But even taken on its own terms, this non-argument makes little sense: how does elaborating on the revelations and answering questions that have arisen "undermine the very privacy crusade for which he said he’s willing to give his life"? Leave it to the "experts" to explain:
"’If I was advising him, the first thing I’d say is shut the hell up ’cause you’re not helping your cause,’ Jim Manley, a senior director at the D.C. public affairs firm Quinn Gillespie & Associates, told POLITICO. ‘I think he’s doing a pretty poor job," continued Manley, a former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. ‘I don’t think his Q&A [Monday with The Guardian] made him any more sympathetic than he had been in the past. I think he is coming off as — leaving aside some of the issues he’s raising, which are fascinating — he’s coming across as petulant and arrogant and more than a little bit full of himself.’"
If you want to get an unprejudiced, unbiased, totally objective look at Snowden and his handling of the Datagate scandal, then who else are you going to ask but someone who has been a spokesman for none other than Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid (who cites polls on surveillance saying there’s enough congressional oversight)? And what other PR firm will you go to but Quinn-Gillespie, the quintessential "bipartisan" flack shop co-founded by GOP bigwig Ed Gillespie, formerly White House counselor and part of George W. Bush’s inner circle?
Next up is Eric Dezenhall, a self-described "crisis management expert" who "quipped" to Politico: "It’s almost as if he’s writing a screenplay at the same time he’s blowing the whistle." Pretty clever, eh? This Dezenhall fellow is another Oscar Wilde! Or, at least, that’s what passes for a "quip" in Politico‘s world. Dezenhall continues:
"I’ve noticed this trend of people generally saying out of one side of their mouth, ‘it’s not about me,’ but using ‘it’s not about me’ as a device for further making it about them. Well, if it’s not about you, why the hell are you doing interviews? To me, there’s something very packaged about him. I think that that’s intentional. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have points to make, but a lot of what I’m seeing at this stage in my career, 30 years, there’s a more cinematic quality to whistleblowers than there used to be."
Yes, that’s what I want to know, too: why is Snowden doing interviews instead of cringing before the almighty power and majesty of the American Leviathan? And of course Dezenhall is correct in noting that anybody who agrees to be interviewed about anything is only thinking about promoting their grimey little careers and garnering enough attention to satisfy their insatiable egos – it’s never about the message they’re trying to get across. At least that’s a fact in Washington, D.C. – and, ergo, it’s true everywhere.
This line of "thought" is to be expected from a typical Washington insider, whose summation of the Iraq war was: "We want to win wars, but we don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings." Here‘s Dezenhall spinning the Bush years as Not All That Bad and the Iraq war as "not a meaningless struggle." And here he is hating on Cindy Sheehan, advising President Bush not to meet with her, and opining to Fox News that:
"One of the things that the American media doesn’t get picked up enough is the assumption that the whole objective of wartime communications is making Americans happy about the war. That is less than one half of it. Most of it is letting your adversary know, ‘We’re coming for you.’"
Who cares what the American people think? Only the Washington elite matters. That’s what Politico‘s favored "experts" believe. As in real estate, so in politics – it’s all about location, location, location.
Yet another Politico "expert," Marina Ein of Ein Communications, "told Politico that Snowden’s high-profile commentary looks like it’s just for show." Ein opines:
"He obviously was looking to create a situation where he could instantaneously be famous, and he certainly has done that. I think he’s accomplished exactly what he wants to accomplish — another version of Julian Assange syndrome, it’s leaking for fame."
Yes, but of course: that’s why Assange set up Wikileaks, risked retribution from Washington, became the target of a worldwide smear campaign, and finally had to take refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy – fame! Ditto in Snowden’s case. It takes a really high level of expertise to come up with such a brilliant scenario – about the same level of expertise it takes to be Gary Condit’s chief spokesperson during the Chandra Levy affair. That was the last time we heard from Ms. Ein, until she jumped ship on her client as his political career went down the tubes – but not before she slimed the slain Levy’s sexual history, according to two reporters, as consisting of a series of "one-night stands." (She denies it).
Ein is no better at damage control over the Snowden affair than she was during the Condit/Levy affair. If you want your damage controlled, I wouldn’t go to Ein Communications – would you? But then again, you probably aren’t a Washington insider, not if you’re reading this.
If you’re a couple of Politico reporters, however, and you’re scouting around for a quotable opinion, your first impulse is to latch on to the nearest political hack – or politico – and they did just that, citing former McCain campaign manager Rick Wilson as evidence that "Snowden has muddied any broader message about privacy and government transparency through his extended time in the spotlight." Says Wilson:
"He’s committed a bunch of unforced errors. When he became the story, it diminished what the stated mission is. When he turned it into a narrative about him, it’s more difficult for him to be sympathetic and effective at achieving his stated mission."
This is typical Republican-neocon methodology: invert the facts, and attribute your crimes to your enemies – who are, preferably, the victims. It isn’t Snowden but rather his enemies who turned a story about ubiquitous government spying on Americans into a "narrative" about a twenty-something "narcissist" with a hot girlfriend. Notice how neatly the line Davis is pushing complements the strenuous efforts of Obama cultist Bob Cesca and the staff of Mother Jones magazine to trivialize and downplay the extent of the spying and its implications for the future of American democracy.
The effort to smear Snowden as a "spy for China," or a "Russian agent," and obscure the shocking truth about America’s emerging police state is a bipartisan affair, as the above demonstrates. Washington elites hate whistleblowers, unless it’s one of their own doing the whistle-blowing on behalf of a purely partisan agenda. And they surely believe those folks "out in the cornfields" – as they invariably put it – need to be watched 24/7. It’s only when one of their own – say, a member of the Washington press corps – gets their emails read that they can manage to muster any outrage.
The mainstream media, the two political parties, and the entire Washington Establishment are lined up against a lone truthteller without resources, without sanctuary, and with only his voice to fight back. Of course they want him to stop talking. Their big problem, however, is that he isn’t shutting up. Even if they arrest him tomorrow, the secrets he gleaned are already out there – and there’s more to come.
All over the world, people are rising up in rebellion – and it doesn’t take much. The Arab Spring was set off when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in protest against police harassment. In Britain, it was the death of a black man at the hands of the police. In Turkey, the catalyst was government plans to demolish a park. It started in Brazil when the government raised bus fares. None of these precipitating issues, in themselves, were the real cause of the violent upsurges in these disparate regions: they were just the last straw, the culmination of a series of outrages that tipped the scales toward revolution.
One wonders: what will it take in America? We awake one morning to discover the IRS is targeting opponents of the President, and the next to the news that the National Security Agency is scooping up our phone calls and intercepting our online content – just in case they need it for future reference. All of this was preceded, of course, by two losing wars, one of which we were lied into and both of which we were tricked into. Not to mention the Great Recession of 2008, and the popping of the Greenspan Bubble, which enriched the crony capitalists who hang around Washington and impoverished homeowners and the middle class out in the cornfields.
Just as a side note, albeit a telling one, I’ll point out that among Rick Davis’s many PR triumphs, none remotely approaches the great coup pulled off by the "Homeowners Alliance," a front group for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the two biggest catalysts of the real estate bubble – which was created and managed by Davis. For the job of shilling for these two now nearly defunct "private-public" partnerships, whose debts cost the taxpayers trillions, Davis was paid $30,000-plus a month over the course of five years. The Homeowners Alliance disbanded when it became clear that not even the best PR firm in the world could cover up the damage done to the economy by these two wards of the federal government.
Why bring this up? After all, what does Davis’s career as a defender of the two biggest factors leading to the real estate bust have to do with his denigration of Snowden? The answer is: plenty. Davis, and the rest of the Washington bigshots cited in the Politico piece, are all from the same milieu: they are denizens of the political class, whose geographic base is the Washington area (with an important outpost in metropolitan New York). As the power and reach of government grows, crony capitalism has displaced good old fashioned American entrepreneurship as the quickest way to riches – and these folks, the smart folks, are enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of the country. Now they sit around in their gorgeously renovated Georgetown condos, wondering why the peons in flyover country are up in arms – after all, what’s the problem? Times are good for them, as government expands and their pathetic little careers take off. Who cares if the government is reading our emails when you’ve just landed another fat PR contract from some rich sleazeball?
It’s all about class – the government class versus the rest of us. The former may be outnumbered, but they have the resources – and the loudest and most vigorous advocates – while the majority is voiceless. Except now they aren’t: one man, a 29-year-old former spook and apparent libertarian, has stepped forward to give voice to the heretofore silent majority and rescue our liberties from the warlords of Washington. One man had the courage to speak truth to power and act on his principles: in some dictionaries, that’s called "narcissism." In mine, it’s called bravery.
Americans must send a message to Snowden, one that will also be immediately noted and understood by our nervous rulers: Ed, we’ve got your back!
That’s why it’s so vitally important for you to sign the White House petition to pardon Snowden. It’s the least we can do for a man who sacrificed everything so that Americans might wake up and restore the Constitution. The petition, started by an anonymous person from Rochester, New York, with the initials "P.M.", immediately took off, with over 50,000 signatures in the first 48 hours, but it is now stuck at around 85,000 – with until July 9th to reach a total of 100,000, and thus earn an official White House response. Topping 100,000 – even after they raised the threshold from 60,000 – would score a huge public relations coup for the cause of civil liberties and force the White House to acknowledge the popularity of Snowden’s cause.
The success of the petition will also have a cascading effect on legislation – such as Sen. Rand Paul’s "Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013" – designed to rein in Big Brother.
Please sign the petition now – every signature counts!