DECEMBER 1, 2012 4:24PM

Libby’s Political Stew: Drones, Sandy, Israel, Manning

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4 Excerpts:

DRONES:

Bipartisan group in US Congress promotes drone killings

Patrick Martin

... the New York Times reported that drone strikes ordered by President Obama have killed more than 2,500 people over the past four years, and that the Obama administration was moving ahead to codify and formalize the procedure for targeting individuals and groups for deadly violence by CIA and Pentagon drone operators.

The report by the Center for Responsive Politics and Hearst newspapers examined the flow of campaign contributions from corporations engaged in building and arming drones to Democratic and Republican congressmen and senators.

snip

More than $8 million in campaign contributions from drone manufacturers and operators has flowed into the coffers of the 60 members of the House Unmanned Systems Caucus. The majority of the House members are from California, Texas, Virginia and New York, including the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard “Buck” McKeown, a California Republican, and Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat who lost a primary election and leaves Congress at the end of the year.

The Senate group of drone promoters comprises eight members, including liberal Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and is co-chaired by Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

The very existence of what the CRP/Hearst report calls the “drone caucus” is an indication of the profound degeneration of American democracy. It was not so long ago, in the 1970s, that leading Democrat Henry Jackson became notorious as the “senator from Boeing.” Now an entire caucus has been formed of promoters of weapons of mass murder. What is next: The napalm caucus? The poison gas caucus?

According to the CRP/Hearst report, the principal activity of the “drone” caucus has been to promote the use of these weapons within the United States, including passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law by President Obama on February 14, which requires the FAA to complete the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the national airspace by September 2015.

Drones have become big business for US police agencies, beginning with the federal Department of Homeland Security, which recently signed a $443 million deal with General Atomics to increase its fleet of Predator drones—capable of firing missiles as well as surveillance—from 10 to 24.

The FAA projects that 30,000 drones could be flying in US airspace within 20 years, operated by local, state and national police and security agencies, as well as private corporations.

The US buildup has sparked a global arms race in drone building and deployment. More than 50 countries operate surveillance drones, and many of these are beginning to fit their drones with weapons.

HURRICANE SANDY

One Month Since Hurricane Sandy

Philip Guelpa and Fred Mazelis

The class divide that has been growing for decades and has deepened during the so-called “recovery” from the financial crash of 2008 was on full display. While little or nothing was done to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of storm victims, the New York Stock Exchange was up and running two days after the storm. Meanwhile, residents of city housing projects in flooded areas remained without power for weeks and were forced to walk up many flights to their apartments in the dark.

The headquarters of Goldman Sachs was protected from flooding, while residents of Brooklyn’s Red Hook section, Staten Island and other areas were left to fend for themselves. Evacuation centers were crowded and unprepared to deal with the many families that needed assistance, while the wealthy stayed in high-priced hotels or one of their multiple residences.

Both the electrical utilities and the politicians charged with their regulation are guilty of criminal negligence. Scientists and planners have warned for more than a decade of exactly the sort of calamity that Sandy wrought. Numerous studies have proposed measures to prepare for such a storm, but nothing has been done.

The utility companies have placed profits over the needs of the population—cutting their work forces and imposing concessions in pay and benefits, while failing to make the necessary investments in maintaining, let alone upgrading, their antiquated facilities to deal with increasingly frequent and violent storms.

In the wake of the storm, politicians and the media have focused criticism on the utilities for the long delays in restoring power. But the political representatives of big business ignore their own responsibility. They have done absolutely nothing to call attention to climate change and develop a comprehensive plan—including flood protection and infrastructure improvements—to prepare for weather events whose frequency and destructive force have been increased by past indifference and neglect.

The hurricane was not only a natural disaster. It exposed the rottenness of the capitalist system, which cannot ensure a stable and secure environment, much less decent jobs and living standards for the vast majority of the population. Trillions of dollars have been spent to bail out the banks and finance imperialist wars, while the social crisis grows ever more desperate, with millions facing long-term unemployment and millions more losing their homes to foreclosure as well as their medical insurance and pensions.

In the wake of the elections, the ruling class, under the pretext of the “fiscal cliff,” is preparing even more brutal attacks on the working class. Both Democrats and Republicans agree on the need for sweeping cuts in social spending that will leave even fewer resources to deal with future storms
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The repeated claim that “there is no money” to meet social needs is a lie. The abundant resources of society must be taken out of the hands of the financial-corporate parasites and administered democratically for the benefit of all.

ISRAEL

Israel to expand settlements after UN vote on Palestine

Bill Van Auken

The right-wing Zionist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued the go-ahead for the construction of 3,000 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank and is putting 1,000 more on a fast track for permits. These moves are in retaliation for the United Nations General Assembly vote late Thursday night recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as a nonmember state.

According to Israeli officials cited Friday by the Jerusalem Post, the government’s action will give a green light to the long-planned expansion of construction in the area known as E-1, forming a contiguous block of Israeli construction stretching from Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Adumin, the third-largest Israeli settlement inside the occupied West Bank.

snip

The Obama administration’s reaction to Israel’s provocative and illegal action in the occupied West Bank was considerably more restrained than its condemnation the day before of the largely symbolic vote granting Palestine observer status at the UN.

Washington voted with Israel and just seven other countries—including Canada, Czechoslovakia, Panama and four South Pacific mini-states, three of them US semi-colonies—against the UN resolution, while 138 countries voted for it and 41 others abstained.

snip

The vote came 65 years to the day after the passage by the United Nations, at Washington’s instigation, of a 1947 resolution partitioning Palestine, then a British mandate. Under this plan, the territory, which was then 65 percent Arab and 35 percent Jewish, was split in two, with 56 percent of the land designated as a Jewish state and 43 percent as an Arab one.

Subsequent wars reduced the size of the Arab territory to just 22 percent of the original mandate, comprised of the divided territories of the West Bank and Gaza, which were themselves occupied by Israel in the 1967 war.

snip

The visceral hostility of the US and Israel to granting the Palestinian Authority upgraded status at the UN stems in large part from concern that this would allow it, or indeed any successor Palestinian government, to bring war crimes charges against Israel and its leaders at the International Criminal Court.

snip

What is universally recognized by the US and its allies in Western Europe is that the Israeli occupation, the Zionist settlements and the continuous military attacks on the Palestinian are all war crimes, which these powers support. They want to insure that the Israeli state can continue to act with impunity. Israel would inevitably brand any attempt to prosecute its war crimes as an act of “terrorism.”

The turn by Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to the UN is symptomatic of the dead end reached by the Palestinian national project and a tacit admission that the US-sponsored “peace process” represents a two-decade-long fraud perpetrated upon the Palestinian people.

MANNING

Bradley Manning speaks on abuse

Naomi Spencer

Manning was arrested May 26, 2010, accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military and government documents while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. Thousands of the documents revealed war crimes, corruption and diplomatic double-dealing on the part of the US government. These files were subsequently published by whistleblower organization WikiLeaks.

snip

Manning’s testimony, the first public statements he has made in more than two years, provides insight into the brutality of the US military prisons. Moreover, testimony of his guards and doctors makes clear that his mistreatment was intimately directed by the Pentagon with an eye toward destroying him psychologically. The Obama administration intends to use the Manning case as a precedent in its offensive against government whistleblowers, as well as a wedge to pursue the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

snip

For two months, he was held in atrocious conditions in a tiny cage within a tent at Camp Arifjan, an Army base in Kuwait. He was subjected to isolation, denied access to a phone to contact his family in America, and other privations. Guards woke him at 10:00 at night and ordered lights out at 2:00 in the afternoon, a pattern intended to leave him sleep-deprived and disoriented. ...

snip

After a month of such torment, he suffered a breakdown, talking to himself, bashing his head against his cell, and fashioning a noose out of bedding. “I didn’t want to die but I wanted to get out of the cage,” Manning said he told a psychiatrist.

snip

He was put on suicide watch during an “indoctrination period,” and was classified as a “maximum custody” detainee. By any measure, the treatment he received constituted torture. Amnesty International, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, and US legal scholars condemned the conditions.

Manning’s cell was a 6-by-8 foot rectangle containing a toilet, a sink and a cot.

snip

Brig officers checked on him every five minutes of the day, asking him if he was “O.K.” Manning was required to respond in the affirmative. His toilet was in full view of the guard’s observation booth. He was not allowed to have toilet paper. At night he slept with a guard’s light shining in his face. If he rolled over, he was ordered awake.

Manning was denied visits by relatives and friends and kept segregated from other prisoners. For only 20 minutes a day, he was permitted to leave his cell for “sunshine call,” wearing leg restraints and shackles. Even in his cell, he was not permitted to lean against the walls, or sit with his legs crossed. At no point between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. was he allowed to lie down. At one point, guards took away his glasses, without which he was unable to read or even see the guards clearly.

snip

In March 2011, after eight months of isolation, he appealed to one staff member to help him be removed from prevention of injury watch. ...

snip

This argument was immediately turned inside out by the brig commanders, who overrode at least 16 recommendations by staff psychiatrists to lessen Manning’s restrictions. That night, guards ordered him to strip naked. The next morning he was made to stand at parade rest, still naked, before guards for inspection. After ordering the confiscation of his underwear, officers on staff mocked him.

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Comments

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Every week brings a new atrocity by our so-called elected officials and a worsening of the basic conditions of life for the vast majority of us. The only comfort in all this is that the world's economy is balanced on a knife edge and becomes even more precarious as most of the industrialized world rapidly shrink the global monetary supply (you can't expect people to spend money when there ain't enough to go around) in the name of austerity cuts and balancing budgets. More and more I feel that only total and other economic collapse can save us now.
The general negative and brutally oppressive news these days is in peculiar contrast to previous years when US students were encouraged to move out into the world and aid people in any way they could with teaching or technical help. The contrast with the past is extraordinary. There is little wonder that the USA is rapidly becoming the most hated country in the world.
The American people are just beginning to discover what the rest of the world has known for a long, long, time. Sadly, most Americans still think that the rest of the world admires and respects them. Little do they know that most of the world likes them about as much as they like dog shit. The many, many Americans who have experienced this personally and, for decades, been reporting on how hated America and Americans really are, have been ignored.

Reporting these atrocities serves little purpose - other than to inure the people, against feeling the shame and horror they would otherwise feel, by constant repetition - and prevent them from having the proper feelings of disgust that such things are being one by THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT! IN THIER NAME!!

I wonder too, how the families of American military personnel feel as they realize that it is their children being used by the government to perpetrate such horrific actions.

I see no option, but to call for a general strike, by all citizens, against the powers that be.

But calling for such social action, and getting a response to that call, are two very different things. American's eyes are turned inward. There will be no response. As in Hitler's Germany, no one will take notice until it happens to them. By then it will be, as it was for those ill treated by the Nazis, far, far, too late.

I can hear that nasty little man, rolling around on the floors of hell, laughing his head off. He'll sup at Satan's table now!!

;-)
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Excellent reporting here ,Libby. This is truly grim business. And I feel that most Americans like to, as usual, cocoon here, not pull their fingers from covered eyes. Well, when are we going to wake up to the fact that our overly sentimental, saccharine culture invites this non response to what's really out there. We are our own worst enemy: the government is out of touch with what's right -- as much as a poorly informed electorate, preoccupied with Black Fridays and buying useless cheap crap at Walmart.
We are becoming less aware, unable to distinguish between the real and this media-fed faux culture that has abandoned us, our core values. We have devalued ourselves ... is morally bankrupt nearing us? R>>>>>>>>>>>>
What is tragic is that the powerful components active in US politics, the corporate and financial sectors are milking the country so completely that it is destroying the infrastructure, the income level of the middle and working classes, the education and medical systems, the media systems, and even those systems involved in science and technology which are the fountainhead of creative industry. These systems are international and owe no allegiance to the countries they are undermining and destroying and which, in the end, are suicidal to society. They are a virulent disease and require surgical removal, something that seems almost impossible now that they are embedded in almost every aspect of life. I have no idea how they may be removed.
Libby,

Did you notice that China supported the Palestinian resolution at the UN? It's just one of the many vile, dictatorial countries in that august body that have no business throwing stones.

I would be willing Ti-Bet that this little irony doesn't stir your indignation.
If the stones land on target it really doesn't matter who throws them.
"The repeated claim that “there is no money” to meet social needs is a lie. The abundant resources of society must be taken out of the hands of the financial-corporate parasites and administered democratically for the benefit of all."

Indeed. A lie of the greatest of proportions. In a democracy, money itself has no value. It is simply a mechanism used to deliver democracy's value. The value of democracy itself and democratic money is in the free ability and free expression of free people who simply use money as a conduit to deliver the value of our free ability. Value created by the industriousness, creativity, self-expression and the production of free people.

The myth that there is no money is created by placing the value of money over the value of democracy, individuals, self-expression, creativity, production and industriousness of a free people. A form of economic extortion and economic slavery.

There should be as much "money" as demand requires to feed, cloth, provide healthcare, rebuild from economic catastrophes such as Sandy and Katrina, etc. Not for corporate looters, oligarchs and financial predators to steal it all. That there isn't enough money needed for human expression, democracy and social needs is simply validation of the massive corruption, tyranny, evil and injustice of our nation and of democracy.

Instead we have looters, criminals, psychopaths and political whores who have stolen and are hoarding all of our money while leaving the vast majority of good and decent people of our nation to suffer without.

We need democratic money and democratic banking. F*ck Wall Street criminals and the extortionary racket they run that denies us our democratic rights.

You can mark my words - Karma is a bitch.