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Mining The Earth: 21 Oct 2014

By: KateCA Tuesday October 21, 2014 2:18 pm

*Everywhere.  So, Peabody Energy is going to the G20 meeting with its “Advanced Energy for Life” message, an attempt to tie coal to “benevolence, altruism and empathy for the world’s poor.”  Burson-Marsteller is reportedly doing the pr work; they did the same for the tobacco industry until 2010.  Peabody is already holding meetings and workshops in Australia, touting the new message.

*North America. Grandmothers for the environment:  Charmaine White Face (Oglala), coordinator of Defenders of the Black Hills, addressing  “dangerous abandoned uranium mines” and the grass-roots effort to clean them up;  Sharon Day (Ojibwe) holds annual water walks, this year “near the headwaters of the St. Louis River in northern Minnesota”, where sulfide poisoning from an iron mine has created a 140-mile long dead zone:  Josephine Mandamin (Anishinabe) of Thunder Bay, Ontario, who “has walked more than 10,000 miles . . . circumnavigating each of the Great Lakes.”

*CA.  Robertson’s Ready Mix owns the only mine at Banning where there’s a measure on the November 4th ballot to “approve a general tax on rock, sand and gravel mining” in Banning. Robertson’s Ready Mix is accusing the city of financially promoting the measure, which is against the law, and has sued.

*IA. The Iowa Policy Project is providing a series of presentations “on the potential impacts of frac-sand mining on communities”, working with the Winneshiek County Protectors and the Allamakee County Protectors.  Winneshiek County now has a moratorium on frac sand mining through Oct 15, 2015, and Allamakee County has imposed restrictions.

*MN.  Frac sand mining is a hot election issue in Houston County, MN this year, with the two candidates for County Commissioner in District 4 arguing over which one will issue tougher regulations governing frac sand mining, if elected.   They point to the negative impacts of frac sand mining on MN communities.

*MN.  Ray “Skip” Sandman (Ojibwe), Green candidate for MN’s 8th Congressional District (here and here), is opposed to copper sulfide mining, including Polymet Sulfide’s plans for an open-pit copper, nickel and other metals mine.  He also opposes the Enbridge pipeline extension.

*OH.  Good grief:  “About 40 percent of Ohio’s natural treasures—its state parks, forests and wildlife and nature preserves—could be undermined in the quest to remove valuable coal, oil, natural gas and other minerals . . . from 18 state forests, 24 state parks and 53 natural areas”.  A recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling also opens the door for strip mining coal, too.

*WI.  Native wild rice might have been lost if the Crandon mine (copper, zinc and other sulfides) had not been stopped by a coalition of environmentalists, Sokaogon Ojibwe and other indigenous peoples on downstream (Menominee and Mohican), leading ultimately to the 2003 purchase  of the mine and its assets for $16.5 million using Mole Lake Ojibwe-Forest County Potowatomi casino revenue.

*WI.  The Independence City Council has postponed a permit for the Superior Silica Sands  to mine frac-sand at the Guza Pit mine since they’ve discovered “that contaminated waste water from the sand washing process was going into retention ponds that lacked the proper lining.”   Independence also tried   to annex “a long-narrow strip of land to extend its boundary to a large mining site miles away . . . in connection with” Superior Silica Sands’ project.  Such annexation attempts have gotten some townships riled up, perhaps enough for court action.

*WI.  Frac sand mining’s impacts on the communities of Tunnel City in Monroe County, Blair in Trempealeau County, Pepin and Stockholm in Pepin County, and Howard in Chippewa County: for some, a bust as hills morph into piles of sand and property values decrease, while others enjoy some benefits.

*WI.  Gov. Scott Walker (R)’s administration has not only “scaled back” the environmental impact requirements for mining permits, but the ability of the public to comment on them, too.  A 29-page online petition regarding such changes is before the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board for its Oct 29th meeting.

*CanadaSecwepemc Ts’ka7 Warriors torched a bridge leading to the Ruddock Creek Mine in BC.  Imperial Metals (owner of the Mount Polley mine) is majority owner of Ruddock Creek Mine (zinc and lead).   Meanwhile, a group of Secwepemc women, youth and children interacted with an Imperial Metals employee at the mine site (Video).  The Secwepemc Ts’ka7 Warriors warned Imperial Metals:  “Leave our Lands and do not come back.”

*CanadaWolf Lake and Eagle Village First Nations wrote the Quebec government “demanding a moratorium on mining toxic rare earths in Quebec”, in particular Matamec Explorations’  Kipawa project in northwest Quebec which has “the potential for significant negative effects on aboriginal rights and title, the environment and our culture.”

*Canada.  Proposed chrome, nickel, copper and platinum mining in northern Ontario, according to the Matawa First Nations, will require diesel-based electricity generation which is “prohibitive of economic development and poses serious environmental impacts.” Residents support projects “making use of renewable-energy sources” and “a steady stream of electricity” to local communities.

*Canada.  “In all development, First Nations must be consulted and accommodated.  The time when only economic arguments justified the completion of projects is over.”  That from Mike McKenzie, Chief of the Uashat mak Mani-utenam Innu. “The times of bits of mirror for 100 beaver pelts are gone.”  Thus went the press conference about hydroelectric, forestry and mining resources in the region.

*Bolivia.  Video inside “the mountain that eats men”—and women and children, as well.

*Peru. Photographer Sean Hawkey went  into the Peruvian Sotrami mine, took photos of the miners, then processed them using “antique equipment and lights”—and silver from the Sotrami mine.  The miners were fully engaged in the project.  Click on the link; you’ll be glad you did.

*England.  Generations of Yorkshire men have worked in the Hatfield Colliery, but there’s little  prospect of future generations doing the same.  Cheaper coal is being imported “from Russia, Colombia, the USA and beyond.”

*AustraliaAustralian National University is quitting investment in fossil fuels, an action described as “democracy up against crony capitalism, science up against ideology and renewable energy against the old polluting industries.”  PM Tony Abbott reacted quickly, calling the decision “stupid”.

*Australia. The “National Day of Divestment” is underway, with claims of “more than 1,000 bank customers switching  accounts from the ‘big four’ banks.” Mining operators promise response “with characteristic vigour.”

*Kazakhstan.  They’re moving ahead with plans  to “award 50 to 100 exploration licenses” for mining primarily coal, gold and copper.   By 2017, the mining industry is expected to be worth $30 billion.  40,000 people are already employed in the coal mines.

*The Moon. They’re now discussing mining on the moon.  I distinctly remember purchasing acreage on the moon from a fellow wearing a funny hat in Sproul Plaza back in the 70s.  Now, where is that deed . . .


Mary Poppins, Elizabeth Warren & the American banking system

By: Jane Stillwater Tuesday October 21, 2014 10:39 am

When I saw the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” during one of my interminably-long plane rides back from Syria (, I liked it so much that I actually went out and bought a copy of the 1964 “Mary Poppins” Disney classic it was based on — the one with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke frolicking across the rooftops of London.

And much to my surprise, I discovered that Mary Poppins might have been one of the world’s first hippies.  Who woulda thought!  And what was even more amazing is that Mary Poppins was one of the first people to warn us about the dangers and perfidy of big bankers and big banks.

And fortunately for those of us living here in America one hundred years later, Elizabeth Warren has now become the new Mary Poppins — also warning us about the dangers and perfidy of big bankers and big banks.

If only Americans would start paying attention to Elizabeth Warren as much as they paid attention to Julie Andrews!

“Hey, Elizabeth!” I also want to shout on the rooftops like Dick VanDyke, “voters aren’t listening to you!”  Maybe if Disney studios made a movie about you too?  Then maybe voters would finally start to listen.

According to Warren, the American middle class has been absolutely decimated by the banking and credit-card lobbies.

And yet voters still keep falling for all those glossy ads and happy lies that still keep getting pro-big-bank candidates elected to the White House and Congress even though voters can clearly see that they themselves are losing their jobs, having their homes repossessed, becoming slaves to their student loans and getting ripped off bigtime by credit-card debt.  But then I guess that those syrupy ads actually do prove that “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” after all.

In the heroic country of Iceland, their well-informed voters have vigorously fought back against bankster greed and have even re-written their constitution in order to make lending-bubbles and bank fraud illegal.

But in America, the opposite happens.  Here in America our very own government, the very one that bank lobbyists have chosen for us to elect, is handing over billions of our very own hard-earned dollars to big banks just as fast as it can.  And Congress is always writing new bankruptcy laws that favor banksters over the middle class every time.  Mary Poppins would be livid, of course, but nobody else seems to even notice these days — except for Elizabeth Warren.

And even the Federal Reserve is dancing over the rooftops in glee as it too gives away our money to the banksters just as fast as it possibly can, singing “Step in Time” as gleefully hands over giant bags of taxpayers’ money to Chase, Bank of America, CitiBank and Goldman Sachs.

And the Federal Reserve’s chim chem cher-ee chummy coverups are going through the roof too.

Plus the Senate just vetoed a bill that would have given students a break from paying up to 12% interest on their college loans too.  According to Warren, “This isn’t complicated.  It’s a choice – a choice that raises a fundamental question about who the United States Senate works for.  Does it work for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists to protect tax loopholes for billionaires and profits for the big banks?  Or does it work for those who work hard, play by the rules, and are trying to build a future for themselves and their families?”

Not to mention the hidden (and not-so-hidden) fees that banks gleefully charge us customers for no reason at all.

To try to completely understand how banksters and their toadies in Congress and the Department of Justice are robbing the rest of us blind, you just gotta watch this video of Bill Moyers interviewing bank-fraud expert Thomas K. Black.  Seriously.   You really should watch this:

In this video, Black describes how Obama was elected by the banking industry and how Obama has totally paid back his debt to the banksters by handing them all “get out of jail free” cards.  Is being elected president really worth selling us Americans out to the banksters?  Apparently so.

“There’s no threat to capitalism like capitalists,” continues Black.  “They are destroying its underpinnings.  And when dishonest people gain an advantage in the marketplace, bad ethics drive good ethics out.  This is why we need the rule of law.”  Doesn’t Thomas K. Black sound just like Dick VanDyke, er, I mean Burt the Chimney Sweep here — as Black proposes that it’s high time to sweep clean our banks.

And now let’s talk about America’s ratings on the so-called “Misery Index”  Apparently America rates higher on the misery charts now than it ever has, even back in the Great Depression — and probably even as high as did Mary Poppins’s 1910 London.  Thanks a lot, banksters.

Isn’t it time that American voters finally join up with Elizabeth Warren and Mary Poppins — and tell big banks and banksters to go “fly a kite!”

PS:  Speaking of money, look how much of it is being spent in the Middle East — and not here at home where it is needed!

According to a recent blog-post at, the first official estimates of the ISIS price tag from the Pentagon showed that, “the costs of intervention between mid-June and late-August was $7.5 million per day.  At that rate, the U.S. has spent $850 million on operations against ISIS as of October 8, adding up to about $2.74 billion per year.  The Pentagon has since revised the estimate up to as high as $10 million per day, or $3.65 billion per year.  In reality, both of those numbers are quite likely to be underestimates of what’s to come.”

Looks like the US military is just as bad as the US banksters when it comes to cleaning out America’s pocketbooks — after they both have put us to sleep with false promises and false news

What we Americans really need to do these days is to once again take Mary Poppins’s advice and “Stay Awake”!

Everything Wrong With Liberalism in One Image Found on FaceBook

By: David Swanson Tuesday October 21, 2014 9:20 am

 Here’s a fairly typical image of a sort that constantly clogs up my FaceBook page. I take it to be the full and open expression of someone or some group’s honest outlook. I don’t think they’d identify themselves at the bottom as “Jesus, Republicans & Other Bullshit” if they were self-censoring.

And I certainly appreciate the cursing and the criticism of religion.

Here are my concerns:

“We’ve been at war now for over 12 years.”

No, we haven’t. The U.S. government and the U.S. military have, and it’s been for over two centuries now. This latest installment has been actively opposed by many of us and opposed in many ways in opinion polls by a majority of the U.S. population for years. It’s OK to take responsibility and blame for insufficient resistance, but not to identify with the criminals. If “we” are at war, we want “us” to win or to “redeploy responsibly,” but certainly not to face prosecution or to make restitution — as basic morality requires.

“Experts put the total cost at $4 – $6 trillion dollars.” That’s a sum of direct and indirect costs of war spending. The direct spending on the wars that is included in it is much smaller. It’s certainly right to include the indirect damage. But we should start from the right place. The Pentagon and the media, and everyone who sees or reads the media, separate war costs from routine basic military spending. The latter is spending preparing for wars and provoking wars. It is justified by the existence of the wars. The wars are fought using the weapons and bases not counted as “war spending.” That basic war preparations cost is now over $1 trillion each year. That’s over $10 trillion each decade. Then add some extra hundreds of billions in “war costs.” And then calculate the indirect damages and lost opportunities, which are enormous. The $4 – $6 trillion figure is ridiculously low, subservient to propaganda, and builds in the notion that possessing the sort of massive military that guarantees eternal wars is perfectly acceptable.

“Imagine if we had invested that in our own country and people.” The war on Iraq was not an investment in the people of Iraq. It killed a million, injured millions, made millions into refugees, and absolutely destroyed a society, leaving behind the disaster now being addressed with another war. Yes, of course, we should have invested many trillions of dollars in people’s needs rather than in mass murder. But anyone who’s really tried to figure out how to spend many trillions of dollars would know that it’s almost impossible to do. One will be obliged to let the other 95% of humanity have some of it for sheer lack of ways to spend it in the United States. And anyone who’s given any thought to global suffering would be sickened by the idea of 5% of humanity hoarding such unfathomable wealth, just as many of us are sickened by the military using it to kill — and to kill many more by taking that money away from where it’s needed than the military ever kills using weapons.

Moving away from militarism requires identifing with humanity, not a nation. “We” must begin to mean humanity. Our graphics should not push nationalism, falsify numbers to make militarism seem normal, pretend war is something new to the United States — which was born out of war and for the sake of war. Moving away from militarism requires dumping the Democratic Party along with the Republican, and along with both great mountains of bullshit. In certain of his comments, Jesus was actually closer to where we need to go than FaceBook posters are.

Karen Greenberg: Will the U.S. Go to “War” Against Ebola?

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday October 21, 2014 8:48 am

This article originally appeared at To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.


Sometimes, if you want to catch the essence of a moment, however, grim, you need to turn to humor. Recently, the New Yorker’s resident satirist Andy Borowitz produced one of his patented fake news stories that began this way: “The president of CNN Worldwide, Jeff Zucker, attempted on Wednesday to defuse the brewing controversy over his decision to change the network’s official slogan from ‘The Most Trusted Name in News’ to ‘Holy Crap, We’re All Gonna Die.’”

Can there be any question that a pandemic disease, which may, by December, be spreading at the rate of 10,000 cases per week in West Africa and, in a deeply interconnected world, can head anywhere is worthy of attention, preparation, and planning?  Can there be any question that a major global humanitarian effort to stem Ebola’s course in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea is imperative? Still, you have to wonder whether the second-by-second coverage of the two cases so far transmitted in this country, including the quarantining of a dog, isn’t just the usual media overkill.  It’s a story that, like massive storms and extreme weather, has so many upsides for a media world that feels itself up against the wall: it’s easy to write (or film); there’s no need for “balance”; it’s guaranteed to instantly glue eyeballs at a time when your audience can be elsewhere in no-seconds flat; and it breeds overreaction and the sort of hysteria that brings in yet larger audiences, the sort that Borowitz captured so well.  On the other hand, it makes reality almost impossible to grasp by denying context or perspective.  Think of Ebola as the disease version of ISIS beheading videos. 

Add into the mix an election year in which Republicans are ready to tar Democrats with any kind of prospective disaster (and Democrats eager to blame Republican cost-cutting for the imagined pandemic-to-come).  The result: a growing mood that couldn’t be uglier or less amenable to thinking clearly about the actual dangers we face and what is to be done. 

As TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg points out today, given an administration already on the ropes over its new war in the Middle East, it would be all too easy for U.S. officials, amid the usual panic, to fall back on that comfortable template of the post-9/11 years, the war on terror, when it comes to Ebola.  After all, it’s already enscribed in the DNA of a national security state that is, effectively, a shadow government.  So no one should be surprised that Washington’s first response to the Ebola crisis was to militarize it.  U.S. boots are already on the ground in West Africa and preparations are underway for a possible future call-up of the reserves and the National Guard.  In other words, in his initial move to contain Ebola, President Obama sent in the U.S. military, an organization as ill equipped to deal with a pandemic disease as it was to deal with “nation-building” in Afghanistan or Iraq.  He also called for the formation of medical “SWAT teams” to fight Ebola in this country — not perhaps your typical image for responding to a disease, but one that fits this American moment to a T.  And the Pentagon has already responded by organizing “a 30-person rapid-response team that could provide quick medical support to civilian healthcare workers if additional cases of the Ebola virus are diagnosed in the United States.”

Since we already live in the United States of Hysteria, TomDispatch sets out on a tour today of possible future front lines as Greenberg explores how, in our strange land, a disease could end up being treated as the latest terror operation against this country.  Tom

Fighting the Last War
Will the War on Terror Be the Template for the Ebola Crisis?
By Karen J. Greenberg

These days, two “wars” are in the headlines: one against the marauding Islamic State and its new caliphate of terror carved out of parts of Iraq and Syria, the other against a marauding disease and potential pandemic, Ebola, spreading across West Africa, with the first cases already reaching the United States and Europe.  Both wars seemed to come out of the blue; both were unpredicted by our vast national security apparatus; both have induced fears bordering on hysteria and, in both cases, those fears have been quickly stirred into the political stew of an American election year. 

The pundits and experts are already pontificating about the threat of 9/11-like attacks on the homeland, fretting about how they might be countered, and in the case of Ebola, raising analogies to the anthrax attacks of 2001. As the medical authorities weigh in, the precedent of 9/11 seems not far from their minds. Meanwhile, Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has tried to calm the country down while openly welcoming “new ideas” in the struggle against the disease.  Given the almost instinctive way references and comparisons to terrorism are arising, it’s hard not to worry that any new ideas will turn out to be eerily similar to those that, in the post-9/11 period, defined the war on terror.

The differences between the two “wars” may seem too obvious to belabor, since Ebola is a disease with a medical etiology and scientific remedies, while ISIS is a sentient enemy.  Nevertheless, Ebola does seem to mimic some of the characteristics experts long ago assigned to al-Qaeda and its various wannabe and successor outfits. It lurks in the shadows until it strikes. It threatens the safety of civilians across the United States.  Its root causes lie in the poverty and squalor of distant countries.  Its spread must be stopped at its region of origin — in this case, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa — just as both the Bush and Obama administrations were convinced that the fight against al-Qaeda had to be taken militarily to the backlands of the planet from Pakistan’s tribal borderlands to Yemen’s rural areas. 

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised then that, while President Obama was sending at least 1,600 military personnel (and the drones and bombers) to fight ISIS, his first response to the Ebola crisis was also to send 3,000 troops into Liberia in what the media has been calling an “Ebola surge” (a reflexive nod to the American troop “surge” in Iraq in 2007). The Obama administration’s second act: to beef up border protections for the screening of people entering the United States (a move whose efficacy has been questioned by some medical experts), just as the authorities moved swiftly in the wake of 9/11 to turn airports and borders into massive security zones. The third act was to begin to trace points of contact for those with Ebola, which, while logical and necessary, eerily mimics the way the national security state began to build a picture of terror networks, establish watch lists, and the like.

The next step under consideration for those who might have been exposed to Ebola, quarantine (that is, detention), is controversial among medical experts, but should similarly remind us of where the war on terror went after 9/11: to Guantanamo.  As if the playbook for the post-9/11 response to terrorism were indeed the playbook for Ebola, Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy, questioning Dr. Frieden, noted that, without putting policies of surveillance, containment, and quarantine in place, “we still have a risk.”

While any of these steps individually may prove sensible, the ease with which non-medical authorities seem to be falling into a familiar war on terror-style response to the disease should be examined — and quickly. If it becomes the default template for Ebola and the country ends up marching down the road to “war” against a disease, matters could be made so much worse.

So perhaps it’s time to refresh our memories about that war on terror template and offer four cautionary lessons about a road that should never be taken again, not in developing a policy against the latest non-state actors, nor in pursuit of the containment of a disease.

Lesson One: Don’t turn the “war” on Ebola into another set of programs that reflect the national security establishment’s well-developed reliance on intelligence, surveillance, and the military.  Looking, for instance, for people complaining about Ebola-like symptoms in private or searching the metadata of citizens for calls to doctors would be a fool’s errand, the equivalent of finding needles in a field full of haystacks.  

And keep in mind that, as far as we can tell, from 9/11 on, despite the overblown claims of its adherents, the surveillance system they constructed has regularly failed to work as promised. It did not, for instance, stop the Shoe Bomber, the Times Square bomber, or the Boston Marathon bombers. Nor did the intelligence authorities, despite all the money invested since 9/11, prevent the Benghazi attack or the killing of seven CIA agents by a suicide bomber believed to be an American double agent in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2009, or predict the rise of ISIS for that matter. Similarly, it is hard to imagine how the usual military might, from drones and special ops teams to those much-discussed boots on the ground, will help solve the problem of Ebola.  

In the post-9/11 era, military solutions have often prevailed, no matter the problem at hand. Yet, at the end of the day, from the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq to the air operation in Libya to the CIA’s drone campaigns across tribal backlands, just about no militarized solution has led to anything approximating victory — and the new war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is already following the same dismal pattern.  Against a virus, the U.S. military is likely to be even less successful at anything more than aiding health workers and officials in disease-ridden areas.

The tools that the national security state has relied on in its war on terror not only didn’t work then (and are highly unlikely to work when it comes to the present Middle Eastern conflict either), but applied to Ebola would undoubtedly prove catastrophic. And yet — count on it — they will also prove irresistible in the face of fear of that disease.  They are what the government knows how to do even if, in the war on terror itself, they created a vulnerability so much greater than the sum of its parts, helped foster the growth of jihadist movements globally, and eroded the sense of trust that existed between the government and the American people. 

Lesson Two: Keep public health professionals in charge of what needs to be done. All too often in the war on terror, professionals with areas of expertise were cast aside by the security establishment.  The judicial system, for instance, was left in the lurch when it came to dealing with accused al-Qaeda operatives, while the expertise of those who found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003 was ignored.

Only by trusting our medical professionals will we avoid turning the campaign against Ebola over to the influence of the security state. And only by refusing to militarize the potential crisis, as so many others were in the post-9/11 era, will we avoid the usual set of ensuing disasters.  The key thing here is to keep the Ebola struggle a primarily civilian one.  The more it is left in the hands of doctors and public health experts who know the disease and understand what it means practically to commit the government to keeping people as safe as possible from the spread of the virus, the better.

Lesson Three: Don’t cloak the response to Ebola in secrecy.  The architects of the war on terror invoked secrecy as one of the prime pillars of their new state of being.  From the beginning, the Bush administration cavalierly hid its policies under a shroud of secrecy, claiming that national security demanded that information about what the government was doing should be kept from the American people for their own “safety.”  Although Barack Obama entered the Oval Office proclaiming a “sunshine” presidency, his administration has acted ever more fiercely to keep the actions of both the White House and the national security state under wraps, including, to mention just two examples, its justifications for policies surrounding its drone assassination campaigns and the extent of its warrantless surveillance programs.

As it happened, that wall of secrecy proved endlessly breachable, as leaks came flooding out of that world.  Nonetheless, the urge to recreate such a state of secrecy elsewhere may be all too tempting.  Don’t be surprised if the war on Ebola heads into the shadows, too — and that’s the last thing the country needs or deserves when it comes to a public health crisis. To date, with medical professionals still at the forefront of those dealing publicly with Ebola, this impulse has yet to truly rise to the surface.  Under their aegis, information about the first Ebola cases to reach this country and the problems involved hasn’t disappeared behind a cloak of secrecy, but don’t count on transparency lasting if things get worse.  Yet keeping important facts about a potential pandemic under wraps is guaranteed to lead to panic and a rapid deterioration of trust between Americans and their government, a relationship already sorely tested in the war on terror years.

Realistically, secrecy and allied tools of the trade would represent a particularly inauspicious starting point for launching a counter-Ebola strategy at a time when it would be crucial for Americans to know about failures as well as successes.  Outbreaks of panic enveloped in hysteria wrapped in ignorance are no way to stop a disease from spreading.

Lesson Four: Don’t apply the “black site” approach to Ebola.  The war on terror was marked by the creation of special prisons or “black sites” beyond the reach of the U.S. justice system for the detention (in the case of Ebola think: isolation and quarantine) of terrorist suspects, places where anything went.  There can, of course, be no question that Ebola patients, once diagnosed with the disease, need to be isolated. Protective gear and isolation units are already being used in treating cases here.

The larger issue of quarantine, however, looms as potentially the first major public policy debate of the Ebola era. Keep an eye on this.  After all, quarantine-style thinking is already imprinted in the government’s way of life, thanks to the war on terror, so moving toward quarantines will seem natural to its officials. 

Quarantine is a phenomenon feared by civil libertarians and others as an overreaction that will prove ineffective when it comes to the spread of the disease.  It stands to punish individuals for their associations, however inadvertent, rather than dealing with them when they actually display signs of the disease. To many, though, it will seem like a quick-fix solution, the Ebola counterpart to Guantanamo, a facility for those who were deemed potential carriers of the disease of terrorism.

The fears a threat of massive quarantines can raise will only make things harder for health officials. So, too, will increasing calls for travel bans for those coming from West African countries, a suggestion reminiscent of sweeping police profiling policies that target groups rather than individuals. Avoiding such bans is not just a matter of preserving civil liberties, but a safety issue as well. Fears of broad quarantines and blanket travel bans could potentially lead affected individuals to become far more secretive about sharing information on the disease and far more deceptive in their travel planning.  It could, that is, spread, not halt the dissemination of Ebola. As Thomas Frieden of the CDC argues, “Right now we know who’s coming in. If we try to eliminate travel, the possibility that some will travel over land, will come from other places, and we don’t know that they’re coming in will mean that we won’t be able to do multiple things. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they leave. We won’t be able to check them for fever when they arrive. We won’t be able, as we do currently, to take a detailed history to see if they were exposed when they arrive.”  In other words, an overly aggressive reaction could actually make medical deterrence exponentially more difficult.

The United States is about to be tested by a disease in ways that could dovetail remarkably well with the war on terror.  In this context, think of Ebola as the universe’s unfair challenge to everything that war bred in our governmental system. As it happens, those things that the U.S. did, often ineffectively and counterproductively, to thwart its enemies, potential enemies, and even its own citizenry will not be an antidote to this “enemy” either. It, too, may be transnational, originate in fragile states, and affect those who come in contact with it, but it cannot be stopped by the methods of the national security state.

Countering Ebola will require a whole new set of protections and priorities, which should emerge from the medical and public health communities. The now sadly underfunded National Institutes of Health and other such organizations have been looking at possible pandemic situations for years. It is imperative that our officials heed the lessons of their research as they have failed to do many times over with their counterparts in public policy in the war on terror years. To once again invoke the powers of the state to address fantasies and fears rather than the realities of a spreading disease would be to recklessly taunt the fates.

Karen J. Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First One Hundred Days, a TomDispatch regular, and the editor-in-chief of the Morning Brief, a daily round-up of national security news. CNS Legal Fellow Kevin Garnett helped research this article.

Copyright 2014 Karen J. Greenberg

Public Says No to Silencing Prisoners’ Speech

By: David Swanson Tuesday October 21, 2014 8:29 am

I would not have guessed that people cared so much and so well about U.S. prisoners. The Governor of Pennsylvania is expected to sign into law a dangerous precedent that we all need to speak out against and put a quick stop to. In the first day since posting the following petition, over 10,000 people have signed it and added quite eloquent reasons why. It can be signed here.

We stand against the passage, in Pennsylvania, of the so-called “Revictimization Relief Act,” which affords virtually unlimited discretion to District Attorneys and the state Attorney General to silence prisoner speech, by claiming that such speech causes victims’ families “mental anguish.” Politicians are claiming a power that if granted to them will be difficult if not impossible for citizens to check.

In seeking to silence the legally protected speech of prisoners, the state also damages citizens’ right and freedom to know — in this case, to better understand an area of U.S. life physically removed from public scrutiny.

This legislation emerged following the failure of the Fraternal Order of Police and its allies to stop prisoner and radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from delivering an October 5, 2014, commencement address. This bill sacrifices the rights of all prisoners in Pennsylvania in order to silence Abu-Jamal — an unethical deployment of collective punishment by those in power.

Victim relief is not served by denying fundamental rights to those convicted, especially because prisoner freedom of speech is crucial for redressing wrongful convictions and the current crisis of harsh sentencing that is often disproportionate to alleged crimes. Our society is currently engaged in a full-scale debate on the problems of mass incarceration that could not have developed without prisoners’ voices.

Here’s a PDF of the names and comments of the first 10,000 plus people to sign this. Flipping through the first few pages, these comments jump out at me:

Lawrence       Fine     NY       This is an ill-conceived bill.

Christopher   Scerbo            ME      Democracy is never served by silence.

Robert            Post     NJ        The only proper answer to bad speech is good speech!

Ellen   Kirshbaum     NY       Why does speech frighten these corrupt politicians?  Let all prisoners SPEAK!

Jenefer           Ellingston       DC       Why is our local or national gov’t afraid of Free Speech?

Allan   Carlson           NJ        This is a FASCIST law. It represents that antithesis of the intent of the Founding Fathers who penned the U.S. Constitution.

Jesse   Reyes  NJ        This bill only makes sense if it is known, beyond all shadow of doubt, that the incarcerated person is actually “guilty.”  The Innocence Project and several other high profile cases (“The Central Park Jogger” case) has proven that far too many incarcerated people are not guilty of the crimes they were sent to prison for.  I would not want to deny anyone their rights on that basis alone.  This bill is wrong and should not be signed by anyone who actually cares about our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

Jan      Clausen          NY       This bill threatens to make Pennsylvania a poster child for the unconstitutional curtailment of the free speech rights that are known around the world as one of the great strengths of U.S. system. Pennsylvanians and all U.S. citizens need to wake up and soundly reject this ill-conceived measure that threatens the freedoms of all.

Dallas C.          GalvinNY       Censorship for the state that promotes itself as the site of the U.S. Constitution and home of Benjamin Franklin and William Penn? Deeply troubling behavior.  Rethink, then reject.  Mr. Jamal (let’s be clear about motivation here) has been able to show the corruption and disingenuousness of the D.A., the state senate, and police.  Clean up your own acts, then you need no longer fear free and unfettered speech.

David  Drukaroff       NJ        I have tried to win exoneration for a wrongfully convicted inmate for the last 25 years. People have a right to know how this inmate feels.

Chad   Sell      PA       Does anyone care about the constitution anymore?

Katharine       Rylaarsdam    MD      Public officials are servants of the law, not demigods who should be granted unlimited arbitrary power.

Edward          Costello           CA       This is outrageous.

Julimar           CastroMN      Wrongful and disproportionate convictions exist. To prevent these people from speaking is outrageous. I suspect those proposing this law care more about silencing convicts and preventing them from telling the truth regarding the system, than about the families themselves.

Robert            Belknap          NC       This is theft of rights, pure and simple.

Paul    Palla    PA       Have you heard of the Constitution?  You know, that thing that guarantees everybody FREEDOM OF SPEECH??!?

NancyNorton            NY       I used to visit prisoners in our local jail.  It is too easy to forget these people, members of our community and citizens of our county.  The right of free speech should not be abridged because a person is serving a sentence in prison or jail.  We need to remember these people and not dismiss them as a group we can ignore.

J. R.      Jarvis  WA      I believe in justice, human rights and the constitution – this ain’t it!

ralph   Calabrese       NY       Too many of our freedoms are being taken from us.

Sean    Murphy          FL        These abuses of power must be stopped and we must resist the 1% from using criminals and other hot topics to pass laws that ultimately will affect us all.

Sharyn            Diaz     OR       prisons have replaced the poorhouses in America and now you want to silence the common folk…shame on you…all of you who support just another try at control.

r.          tippens           MA      This is a law straight from Stalin’s text book.  Please…do not embarrass this democracy.

BetseyPiette  PA       Once again Corbett & Co. will waste millions of tax dollars to defend their criminal violation of citizens’ Constitutional Rights but can’t find money for public education?

Dave   JeckerTX       Being a prisoner is bad enough and their punishment is that given to them for their actions.  Words should never be silenced and that is a human right.  We have seen how governments silent individuals and groups and it leads to nothing except rebellion.  Right to speech is everyone’s human right, it is not something you can take away.

Samuel           Perry  NJ        Prisoners are on the front line of our civil liberties battles. The rights that oppressive governments first strip from prisoners are the rights the same regimes will later strip from “non-citizens” and finally “citizens” themselves. Free speech doesn’t come from Government and cannot be taken away by government. Philadelphia should know that.

DonnaFriedman       FL        So many in prison for drug use, mental illness and even falsely accused.  They should have the right to say what goes on there.

Joanne            Snyder            CA       No lessons learned about corrupt Pennsylvania judges who sentence juvenile offenders in exchange for money?  Who is paying for this?

Rev. Jake         Harrison         TX       Freedom of speechdoes not exclude inmates – and some of the most poignant voices in history were those of inmates.

Casey  Lyon    VT       Let us not forget the insightful words of Dostoyevsky: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

JG        Tentler           NY       This dangerous precedent must not be allowed to be established.It’s implications are chilling and are clearly designed to muzzle the free speech of one Political Prisoner,at the expense of every wrongly incarcerated petitioner who is stifled by it.

Carol   Stanton           NC       We must not become a gulag state.

Add your signature.

For more information:
Bring Mumia Home
Free Mumia
Text of the bill

Delay in Revenue Transfer Makes Wisconsin Budget Balance Appear Larger

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday October 21, 2014 6:48 am

A close look at Wisconsin’s annual fiscal report released last week reveals that state officials delayed a $27.5 million transfer, which made the budget balance larger than it otherwise would have been at the end of fiscal year 2013-14. However, that’s a cosmetic and deceptive improvement in the budget balance, since the payment will still be made during the current biennium. And because the Department of Administration (DOA) report buries mention of the delay in a footnote, that document presents a somewhat misleading picture of the difficulty of avoiding a budget shortfall in the current fiscal year.

According to the DOA’s fiscal report released on Oct. 15, the General Fund balance at the end of the last fiscal year was about $517 million, which was $207.5 million lower than what state lawmakers were anticipating when they passed a tax cut bill early this year. But when one accounts for a delayed transfer of $27.5 million from the General Fund to the Transportation Fund, the drop-off in the state’s fiscal health is $233 million.

Thanks to the latest round of tax cuts, net appropriations for the current fiscal year exceed the budgeted revenue level by $569 million, and lawmakers had expected that difference to reduce the net balance to only $100 million at the end of the biennium. But that was before tax collections fell $281 million short of projections in FY 2014 and before the balance at the end of that fiscal year fell by $233 million. Those developments mean that the budget could be well in the red in the second half of this biennium, necessitating a budget repair bill early next year – if spending isn’t substantially below the appropriated level and revenue doesn’t surge.

The hopes for avoiding a budget repair bill would have been buoyed if the spending numbers for 2013-14 had been far below the budgeted level, and some lawmakers contend that’s what the annual fiscal report suggests. At first blush, that report appears to indicate that net spending – including lapses and transfers – was $68 million less than budgeted in 2013-14; however, after accounting for the delayed transfer, the net drop in spending is $42.6 million. That’s a start, but doesn’t make much of a dent in the potential revenue shortfall, especially since most of the reduction in spending comes from short-term lapses.

When I first reviewed the DOA document, I missed the footnote about the delayed transfer, and I later read about it in a blog post on Jake’s Economic TA Funhouse. Jake’s blog post goes on to make the case that the newest numbers suggest that the shortfall in the current biennium could exceed $400 million. (Of course, estimates of the shortfall will change as new revenue projections become available.)

The timing of the transfer to the Transportation Fund makes no substantive difference in the state’s fiscal health, but understanding how that timing compares to the previously assumed timetable does make a significant difference in accurately gauging how actual spending and reserves compared to the budgeted levels.

Failing to clearly reveal the delay in the annual fiscal report makes the state’s fiscal picture appear to be stronger than it really is. That omission obscures the transparency of an important fiscal document.


Over Easy: The AN/ARC-5 Command Radio Set

By: cmaukonen Tuesday October 21, 2014 4:55 am

An-ARC-5 Receivers

Designed and built initially by Aircraft Radio Corporation of Boonton, NJ. Most all ARC-5 radio sets were made by Aircraft Radio Corporation as well as Stromberg-Carlson, Bendex and others. It is estimated that there were over a million units total manufactured for WWII aircraft use. The consisted of the ARC-5 receivers and transmitters and covered the frequencies of 190 KHZ to 550 KHZ,  530 KHZ-15. MHZ for radio navigation. And 1.5-3.0 MHZ, 3.0-6.0MHZ and 6.0-9.1 MHZ for communication – mostly aircraft to aircraft. All the Navy and Army Air Corp aircraft had them installed. Especially the Flying Fortresses – B17, B29 etc. But even the small er fighters had them installed. They were THE radio for aircraft communication during WWII.

They were single band units that were small and light weight. Almost completely aluminium except for certain precision parts.  Easy to tune and operate they could also be operated remotely. The receiver had 2 RF amplification stages and 2 IF amplification and could receive both AM and CW [ Continuous Wave Morse Code]. The transmitter could send both AM voice and was as CW mores code. On a good day and all tuned up the transmitter could put out up 50 Watts of CW signal. Not bad for a rig not much bigger than a lunch box.

And the receiver was fairly sensitive with smooth accurate tuning and both could be locked down so the radio man or pilot could not change frequency when set by the technicians on the ground.  Both units used the tubes of the day. Metal octal base tubes which were fairly large. The transmitter using 1625 tubes designed by RCA specifically for the purpose.

They were still in production and use into the early 1950s.

Aircraft Radio Corporation was eventually bought by Cessna Aircraft specially to make radios and other avionics for them and continued well into the 1970s.

But the little ARC-5 did not stop there. After the war was over they began to show up on the surplus electronic market and Ham Radio operators bought them up by the truck loads. There began to be articles in the various radio magazines for conversion to Ham Radio frequency bans. Books published both here and in Europe and Great Briton. How to use them as add ons and accessories to other radio equipment. How to make the transmitter crystal controlled so they would be legal for a Novice Class Ham Radio operator to use.

One of the favorite uses for the radio navigation LF receivers was as a Q5er

The low frequeney BC 453 had sharp 85kHz IF’s and was used to sharpen up many a receiver by extracting the 455 kHz signal from the HF receiver and inserting it into the Q5er’s front end.

Giving that old pre WWII commercial receiver a real boost. And the best part was that they were cheap. You could if you looked around hard enough pick up a complete AR-5 set for as little as 5 bucks. Still a lot in the 1950s for a young Ham Radio operator but much less than a new or even used commercial unit.

But times changed. In the mid 1950s the military converted from AM voice to Single Sideband Voice or SSB for short. And Hams followed suit.  The big Boatanchor separate receivers and transmitters went out of favor along with their accessories. Small transceivers were what was wanted and the ARC-5 fell out of favor.  Miniature tubes and then transistors became the rage. Small table top all in one units.

You can still find – even new in the box – ARC-5s on ebay and even swap feasts. There are those who like to collect them and restore them to their original condition. And they still have something going for them. The receiver and transmitter tuning used a worm gear coupling and drive mechanism  which gives them a nice smooth and precise tuning you could only find in very high end gear of the time.  And they are very easy to work on as all the units use the same or similar parts through out.

Here is a demo of one of these little guys.

Not bad for a 70+ year old set, eh. So what’s on your mind Firedogs ? Anything goes here.

U.S. v Tsarnaev: 8th Status Conference

By: jane24 Monday October 20, 2014 4:38 pm

Note for Regular Readers of the “Boston Bombing News”:

Today’s hearing was very brief. (All of fifteen minutes.) For this reason, my report on today’s proceedings  is equally brief and not worthy of the “BBN” prefix! pbszebra is ready to follow woodybox with something far more substantial but I have decided to post my, (short), report on today’s proceedings for anyone who would like a little more information than has been provided by the media tweets.

Status Conference:

The  8th. Status Conference in the case of US v Dzhokhar Tsarnaev took place at 10.00 am today, in Courtroom 9, at Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston with Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. presiding. Nadine Pelligrini, William Weinreb, Aloke Chakraverty and Donald Cabell were present today for the prosecution and Judy Clarke, David Bruck and William Fick for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense.

Judge O’Toole opened today’s proceedings by saying that he expected them to be brief which proved to be absolutely correct. He  went on to say that he considered a mid-month status conference in November to be a better idea than the date suggested  in the Joint Status Conference Report. (Doc 605.)
(Thanks TBMB.)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s next status conference is now scheduled for Wednesday, 12th. November at 10.00 am. The Final Pretrial Conference remains scheduled for Thursday, 18th. December at 10.oo am.

The next item for discussion was the most recent Status Report, (again, Doc.605), and, most particularly, both witness and exhibit lists. The government is expected to provide “short-lists” on both witnesses and exhibits on 12/15/14 and final lists on 12/29/14. As tweeted by Milton Valencia: “Lawyers tell judge they’re going over discovery: He responds, “to the extent you’re engaged in negotiations, I’m happy to let you do that.” Judge O’Toole remarked that should “an impasse be reached”, such would then be resolved at the 11/12 status conference.

The topic of jury selection was next on the agenda and we learned from the judge that approximately one thousand potential jurors will be summoned, with, as the judge put it, “an expected yield of ten percent.” The process of jury selection may not actually begin until 6th. January, 2015, a day after the official start of the trial.

The final matter Judge O’Toole chose to mention today was what he referred to as a “housekeeping error.” This “error” apparently concerns the defense Motion to Suppress in regards to statements Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly made to the FBI, whilst at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, a very short time after his capture/arrest. The court records show that this motion is “pending”, when in actual fact, the judge denied this motion, “without prejudice”, sometime previously. (The prosecution has indicated that they do not intend to use these alleged statements at trial, but should this change, the defense would then be permitted to readdress their motion.)

At the very end of today’s proceedings, William Fick addressed the judge to inform him of a certain article published in “Newsweek” magazine. (This article was, of course, Michele McPhee’s ” Family Matters: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev & the Women in His Life/Twisted Sisters”, although neither the title nor the writer were mentioned in court today.) For me the most telling statement of the morning was when William Fick said that this article suggested input from a “high level law enforcement source.” Judge O’Toole said that he was not aware of this article but asked the prosecution what they knew. William Weinreb acknowledged that the prosecution were aware. Barely fifteen minutes after this status conference began, it was concluded.

Additional Notes:

The first thing which became apparent upon my arrival at the courthouse today was  the particularly numerous and prominent presence of law enforcement, both outside and inside the courthouse.

Also apparent was a small group of protesters/supporters, organized, I understand, by Elena Teyer, the former mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, who was shot to death by the FBI during an interrogation, at his home, in May of 2013. This lady certainly seems to have lent the protest/show of support some credibility and if some of the comments I overheard were anything to go by, these people achieved at least some measure of that which they sought.

As far as I am aware, no victims/survivors of the bombing were in attendance today.

Although, as I have mentioned in the last paragraph of my main article, no mention was made of the title or writer of the “Newsweek” article referenced in court today, that writer was present in the courtroom today.

Lastly, it was very pleasant to sit amongst, and in a couple of cases, meet, albeit briefly, others whose thoughts on these cases may be similar to mine. Thank you.