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Interview by Christina Vasilaki of SYRIZA’s radio stoKokkino
 with Eric Toussaint of the CADTM

By: GREYDOG Tuesday January 27, 2015 7:09 am

Posted by SnakeArbusto, 99GetSmart

The Troika imposes policies that are destroying social rights in Greece

“An audit committee of the Greek debt could show that 80% of the debt required by the troika is illegal,” said Mr. Toussaint on an interview with Christina Vasilaki, stoKokkino`s correspondent in Brussels.

Éric Toussaint, Senior Lecturer at the University of Liège, is president of CADTM Belgium (Committee for the Abolition of Third-World Debt), and a member of the Scientific Committee of ATTAC France.

“An audit committee of the Greek debt could show that 80% of the debt required by the troika is illegal,” said Mr. Toussaint making reference to Article 7, paragraph 9 of the European Regulation on countries in program adaptation, according to which:

“A Member State subject to a macroeconomic adjustment programme shall carry out a comprehensive audit of its public finances in order, inter alia, to assess the reasons that led to the building up of excessive levels of debt as well as to track any possible irregularity”.

Radio interview transcribed by SnakeArbusto:

CV Which is the EU Regulation that Syriza’s demand for an audit of debt could be based on?

ET In May 2013 the European Parliament and the European Commission adopted a Regulation requiring all countries who sign a Memorandum of Agreement–as in the present case of Greece,  Ireland, Portugal, and Cyprus. Article 7 of this Regulation says that governments will carry out a comprehensive audit of the debt contracted by the country and to identify possible irregularities. So, Paragraph 9 of this Article of the Regulation allows a government headed by SYRIZA to create, immediately, such a commission in implementation of the Regulation.

CV What can be revealed by this audit?

ET For me it’s very clear that the debt contracted by Greece with the Troika, which represents 80% of the Greek debt now, is clearly illegitimate because the Troika has imposed policies on Greece which have destroyed part of the economy of Greece and destroyed the social rights and the economic rights of the population.

CV Do you believe that it’s necessary to write off part of the Greek debt? And what would be the result for access to the international markets in the long term?

ET As you know we have had more than 600 restructurings of debt since 1950. A lot of countries have suspended payment of the debt, and in the case of Greece, if Greece succeeds in imposing a large cancellation of its debt, which is totally possible, I think there is no real problem, after several years, (for Greece) to go back to the market if Greece needs it. But also you could imagine some alternative way of financing Greek development – fiscal reform (), reducing the taxes paid by the poor and increasing the taxes paid by the richest 1% of the population and big private enterprises could allow the government to raise sufficient money to not be obliged to go to the market and contract new debt.

CV Could the extension of the maturity of the loan and the reduction of the interest rates be an alternative solution?

ET Greece needs a real cancellation of a big part of its debt. And for the other part of the debt which will not be cancelled, abolished, a reduction of the interest rates and an extension of the maturity of payment is necessary, I suppose, too. But it’s not an alternative to the cancellation. It’s complementary to cancellation. You need both things.

Radio Interview @ http://cadtm.org/The-Troika-impose-to-Greece

 

The Estate Liquidation Scam/How to Protect Your Assets

By: perris Tuesday January 27, 2015 6:25 am

Our parents estate was embezzled by an “estate liquidator” after my father’s death a few years ago.

Mom and Dad were accomplished and well known antique dealers in the NY area. Mom had a keen eye with a sense for art and craftsmanship that proved invaluable. They purchased items that had little or unknown value at that time, but most would increase in collectability exponentially by the end of their lives.

The embezzler used a common scam that’s being run throughout the country. The scam targets those vulnerable who’ve just lost a loved one, or the elderly who have to liquidate assets for emergencies and/or important expenses.

The con begins with the predator forming an “estate liquidation” corporation. They work hard creating a false reputation for services by posting good reviews themselves. In addition, many times after just a few consignments at reputable auction houses and antique stores, they may even get these businesses vouching for their credibility.

Once that reputation is established they go to work.

The scam exploits a loophole in the law called “the right of possession”. This “right of possession” means that if you give someone your property for ANY reason, (i.e. to polish your jewelry, get an appraisal, etc), they can do whatever they want with those possessions! They do not have to provide you with any information about your property’s whereabouts or pay you for your property!

They can sell the items without reporting the sale or remitting proceeds to you. They can claim anything happened to the items, since they now have “the right of possession”. By not returning your items or paying you for them it will not be considered theft (a crime). It becomes civil issue, as a breach of contract.

When it happens to you/your family, there is little recourse. You can sue (which I did); and although you’ll probably win, these predators dissolve their corporation claiming “no assets”. They simply re-emerge after your suit, as a new corporate entity. Voila!, They have happily acquired a family’s life long collections, with no reason to pay for it. They have “converted” your property to their property using fraud and deception -and they’ve done it LEGALLY (by using legal loop holes)!

That’s right, this form of theft is actually technically LEGAL! (Unless there is a pattern that can be proven; however proving a pattern can be difficult, time consuming and costly).

This con is being run all around the country with nearly identical scripts. It’s as if this is a cottage industry where these con men/women share ideas and legal concepts with each other for converting assets.

Our lawyer advised us NOT to sue. He told us that although we would probably win, it could easily cost us over $20,000 for this legal pursuit and most likely get nothing back for our trouble and time. Our attorney predicted the predator would simply declare insolvency, and walk away from any judgment Scott free.

Although our lawyer advised against the law suit, I DID pursue this predator, vigorously, in spite of the futility. I wanted to prove fraud and “pierce the corporate veil”.

Our lawyer also correctly advised me these types of con men hide their personal assets too and are often referred to as “financial ghosts”. I was advised that “it won’t help even if you do “pierce the veil” (another costly and time consuming process) as most likely, there will not be personal assets to attach in the con man’s name busines(s).

My family decided that in honor of our parents lifelong passion and their often times back breaking labor, we could not allow this man to steal their decades of hard work. We WOULD pursue this man, not only suing him (in spite of the futility), to at least begin establishing a paper trail, a record of fraud. But also, to do everything in our power, and do our best to have him criminally investigated and hopefully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We wanted to begin setting an official court record that might eventually facilitate prosecution for when he targets new victims. We prayed he would eventually be brought to the bar of justice under all criminal fraud statutes.

The plan went well, even better than I thought we could accomplish at first. We not only prevailed in Civil Court, but in the process this predator (in trying to cover his tracks) dug his own grave. He unwittingly provided me with information which helped us track his previous corporate entities for well over a decade. We in fact discovered OVER 40 PREVIOUS LAW SUITS. MILLIONS of his victims assets converted to his own property.

We were dumbfounded and AGHAST this had not been prosecuted before us. His court record existed, is long, consistent and clear.

I’ll talk about just ONE of these victims;

An elderly women that was selling her long held art and antique collections so she could enter assisted living, entrusted this very same con man (who embezzled our parents estate) with almost her entire life’s resources. He left her almost penniless, and no longer able to pay for her care. The courts document he took her for nearly 800k in property. And this ‘man’ simply claimed to “have no assets”. He dissolved the corporation she hired him under, then re-emerged, going on to target dozens of other victims. Among these new victims, was my family, and I lost our parents lifelong legacy. All of this is documented in public court records.

With my personal court win and these previous law suits in hand, I enlisted the help of a former federal prosecutor, someone who had SUCCESSFULLY tried a very similar case a few years prior in another state.

He put together a “memorandum” which he said the DA would find impossible to refuse.

And now, after almost 2 years of constant contact from my family (pleading with them to stop this predator, to no avail) the DA in Nassau county NY FINALLY agreed there should be “an investigation”.

Here comes the part that’s mind boggling;

Believe it or not, even with this paper trail of serial embezzlement, they STILL might not prosecute this predator. Yes, even with this paper trail, DOZENS of previous victims and an ongoing scheme amassing millions of dollars in assets, they may not prosecute!

I have devoted this part of my life to seeking justice for my parents lifelong work. I will not rest until this man and his con is finally legally stopped, and he can no longer victimize families and people who are at their most vulnerable and fragile times of their lives.

HOPEFULLY I can also initiate legislation that will put this common con game to an end.

That’s the story. It is ongoing, with hills and valleys of both successes and disappointments. This story won’t be over as far as I am concerned until I this man brought to justice and prosecuted.

How you can Guard Against This Con;
Disclaimer;
I am NOT a lawyer, I am not giving legal advice. I cannot give legal advice. I can only speak from my own experience about what has worked for not only us, but for the many we have helped who have also been this man’s victims.

The following are suggestions I believe will help guard against the con.

Even if you follow the suggestions below, you STILL might become a victim, this is NOT inoculation, These suggestions MAY help if you or someone you know is faced with a similar situation.

1) The very first thing to understand is that you CANNOT trust an internet reputation. Internet reputations can and are gamed all the time. Nor can you trust recommendations provided by the predator (even though this is an obvious statement, they rely on your trust and this method of recommendation is used successfully).

2) Do NOT trust a BBB rating as they do NOT report negative issues which have been adjudicated in court EVEN IF THE COMPANY LOST EVERY COURT CASE the Better Business Bureau might STILL give the company an A+ rating and they may even claim, in spite of court documentation, that “there are no unresolved claims”.

3) When the company uses a term like “we have been in business for over 25 years”, check their corporate records If they exaggerated established dates even a little, find someone else.

4) Their “Insurance” Is NOT insurance for you!!
When they say they are “licensed, bonded and insured” CHECK THE LICENSE. Make sure it is in the industry, and that it is a long standing license.

Disregard any existing insurance policy the company might present that does not name you specifically as preferably “the insured”, at the least “additionally insured”. Even if their document is authentic, insurance that has their name as the insured means it is for THEIR loss not for yours. You need them to take out an insurance policy with YOU as either insured or additionally insured.

Speak with the insurance company personally

These con men can easily create a false insurance policy

DO NOT ACCEPT A CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE (even with your name on it); it is a worthless piece of paper that gives you NO protection or guarantees.

You need to contact the insurance company personally, and get IN WRITING have them authenticate the fact that YOU will be compensated EVEN IF THE COMPANY YOU ARE HIRING AND IS PAYING FOR THE INSURANCE CAUSES THE LOSS DELIBERATELY!

THE COMPANY MUST BE BONDED

This is probably the most important safeguard. You MUST have that bond in hand. You MUST contact the bond company and make sure YOU will get compensation if the contractor causes loss, even if he causes loss on purpose, and you MUST get in writing that YOU will be informed IN WRITING if the bond or insurance is going to be cancelled for any reason, at least 30 days before it is cancelled.

The bond and or insurance should probably be around 5 times the value you believe your property is worth (which is usually a value placed by the con man). I thought my parent’s store was worth a few hundred thousand (based on the con man’s appraisal) when in fact it was worth millions.

Maintain your own homeowners insurance

In the event something similar happens to you, there is a good chance your own personal insurance company will entertain the claim, check with them, you might need to get a rider and appraisals for your valuables, the appraiser should come to your home and should not be too expensive.

The Legislative FIX
I expect to create a web page and make this a permanent public document, and I will begin my campaign getting protective legislation enacted.

The legislative fix is so simple it’s laughable. The only legislation that needs to be passed is “if you are handling other peoples assets without sufficient bond, and there is loss, it is a criminal matter”

Perris

How Torture Wins In the US Marketplace of Ideas

By: spocko Monday January 26, 2015 10:57 pm

Over two thirds of Christians support the torture of terrorist suspects.

Washtington Post Poll, January 3, 2015

How did this happen? How did actions considered morally repugnant and war crimes in World War II, become acceptable now? And by Christians, goddamnit! Who made this happen, who let this happen, who helped it happen? And finally, is there a way to change this opinion?

My friend Dr. Rebecca Gordon, goes into detail on some of these questions in her book Mainstreaming Torture, but recently I saw a TV show and heard a radio program that illustrated how some of it happened. It took a mix of secrecy, rhetorical tricks and proactive marketing to make torture become acceptable in the US.

First I watched a tv series set in 1962 in a slightly different America. Here’s the opening scene:

Fade in: Two men are watching a color newsreel in an elegant theatre. The title reads, “A New Day in America.” We see images of smiling workers in factories, farms and office settings. The announcer says, “Everyone has a job, everyone knows the part they play keeping our country strong.” he adds, “but our greatest days lie ahead.”

In the seats a note is handed off. As one of the men leaves he is silhouetted by the American flag flying on the screen. As the flag unfurls you see the stars have been replaced by a white swastika on a blue background. The announcer ends with, “Sieg Heil.” 

This is the opening scene from the new Amazon TV series “The Man in the High Castle.” (The first episode is free.)

In this alternative history, based on the Phillip K. Dick book, the Nazi’s won World War II, the US is split between the Japanese in the west and the Nazi’s in the east.

In this timeline Hitler wasn’t defeated. The Nuremberg Trials never happened. The atrocities committed by one group of humans on another were never revealed, condemned or punished.

 Additionally, the ideas behind the justification and need for torture weren’t discredited, nor were the people who suggested them. This also means the people who provided the intellectual, legal, moral or religious foundation for torture, genocide and other war crimes were not repudiated.

 Imagine a United States in which the people who provided the justification for torture weren’t discredited, shunned or marginalized by their various communities.

In the show it’s fifteen years after World War II. What do people normally do after a war? They go on with their lives. Some go back to academia, others to law firms or into government positions as “senior advisers.”

 Christian religious leaders go back to their churches to give Sunday sermons about the Bible and the New Testament. 

 People write books, become pundits and experts in their field. They talk to the media, go on talk shows to plug their latest books and go on the speaking circuit to explain how they won the war.

In this alt-US, do they allow some dissension, or do they attack, smear and jail people who try to reveal the whole story

 We often hear this question, “How could Germans gone along with the atrocities that were happening?” Lots of answers.

  • They didn’t know.
  • They knew but were afraid to speak up because of the fear of their own safety.
  • They knew, but were told these actions were necessary for safety and success.
  • They agreed with the actions.
  • They were angry at the people whom they believed hurt them and their country and wanted to hurt them back.
  • They rejected previously agreed upon legal, practical, moral and religious views about torture and accepted new definitions, rationals and priorities that were provided to them for justification of torture and other war crimes.

Who’s Selling Torture In the Marketplace Of Ideas?

Which leads me to the radio program I heard,  Does Mass Phone Data Collection Violate The 4th Amendment? It was a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared with John Yoo arguing that mass phone data colletion does NOT violate the 4th Amendment.

Yoo is introduced  as “controversial” by ABC correspondent John Donvan. Yoo makes a few jokes about Berkeley liberals, the audience laughs and claps and it’s off to the races.

The intro reminded me of a guest on the Tonight Show offering up a funny story before he sets up the clip from his latest fish-out-of water buddy film. 

Here’s the video link to the intro. Here’s the transcription link to the debate.

Spoiler Alert! Yoo’s side lost. The audience’s minds were changed.

PRE-DEBATE POLL RESULTS

46% FOR | 17% AGAINST | 37% UNDECIDED

POST-DEBATE POLL RESULTS

66% FOR | 28% AGAINST | 6% UNDECIDED

After watching the debate I thought about all the people who promoted and are still promoting Yoo and his ideas vs those who challenged them. Conservatives love to talk about winning in the “Marketplace of Ideas.” I laugh when I hear this. It reminds me of the sales people I knew who would half jokingly say, “All I want is an unfair advantage.”

The pro-torture forces look for venues where they have an unfair advantage like one sided “debates” where they control the microphone or use strawmen instead of guests.

They want to talk to people and venues they can control via fear and rhetoric. For example, Dick Cheney on Meet the Press talking to Chuck Todd about torture.  Todd wasn’t going to really push Cheney, he might be seen to have an option, or worse, risk Cheney not coming on the show again.

 (BTW, listen to this great clip from the Jimmy Dore Show where Todd admits if he “barks” at guests they won’t come back on the show. Audio clip, starts at 24:45 )

If Todd and the rest of the corporate media aren’t going to challenge these ideas can we get them to book an anti-Dick Cheney to go on shows and challenge him?

When only the sellers of torture are being bought by the media as public the best guests and leading experts, we get an United States like in The Man in the High Castle. We have won the war but lost the values that we believed made us special.

Is this our flag?
american flag in the breeze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or is it really this flag? What are our current values? 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Next, what will it take to change this opinion? Who will do it? Will anyone pay for doing it in the marketplace of ideas? Or should we just accept Dick Cheney’s reality has won and move on?? What are our current values?

*American Flag, by Eric Lynch via Creative Commons license

*Flag from screen grab of The Man in The High Castle via Amazon Production’s 

Chris Hedges: Killing Ragheads for Jesus: On Watching ‘American Sniper’

By: CTuttle Monday January 26, 2015 7:00 pm

Actor Bradley Cooper (r) playing U.S. Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle in the film ‘American Sniper.’ (Photo: Public domain)

“American Sniper” lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is left of our now-anemic open society.

The movie opens with a father and his young son hunting a deer. The boy shoots the animal, drops his rifle and runs to see his kill.

“Get back here,” his father yells. “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy answers.

“That was a helluva shot, son,” the father says. “You got a gift. You gonna make a fine hunter some day.”

The camera cuts to a church interior where a congregation of white Christians—blacks appear in this film as often as in a Woody Allen movie—are listening to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians. The film’s title character, based on Chris Kyle, who would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, will, it appears from the sermon, be called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers. The scene shifts to the Kyle family dining room table as the father intones in a Texas twang: “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators.”

The camera cuts to a schoolyard bully beating a smaller boy.

“They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.”

The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.

“I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”

There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe trouble for their country. “American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a record-breaking $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom of the United States’ dark malaise.

“The movie never asks the seminal question as to why the people of Iraq are fighting back against us in the very first place,” said Mikey Weinstein, whom I reached by phone in New Mexico. Weinstein, who worked in the Reagan White House and is a former Air Force officer, is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which challenges the growing Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military. “It made me physically ill with its twisted, totally one-sided distortions of wartime combat ethics and justice woven into the fabric of Chris Kyle’s personal and primal justification mantra of ‘God-Country-Family.’ It is nothing less than an odious homage, indeed a literal horrific hagiography to wholesale slaughter.”

Weinstein noted that the embrace of extreme right-wing Christian chauvinism, or Dominionism, which calls for the creation of a theocratic “Christian” America, is especially acute among elite units such as the SEALs and the Army Special Forces.

The evildoers don’t take long to make an appearance in the film. This happens when television—the only way the movie’s characters get news—announces the 1998 truck bombings of the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in which hundreds of people were killed. Chris, now grown, and his brother, aspiring rodeo riders, watch the news reports with outrage. Ted Koppel talks on the screen about a “war” against the United States.

“Look what they did to us,” Chris whispers.

He heads down to the recruiter to sign up to be a Navy SEAL. We get the usual boot camp scenes of green recruits subjected to punishing ordeals to make them become real men. In a bar scene, an aspiring SEAL has painted a target on his back and comrades throw darts into his skin. What little individuality these recruits have—and they don’t appear to have much—is sucked out of them until they are part of the military mass. They are unquestioningly obedient to authority, which means, of course, they are sheep.

We get a love story too. Chris meets Taya in a bar. They do shots. The movie slips, as it often does, into clichéd dialogue.

She tells him Navy SEALs are “arrogant, self-centered pricks who think you can lie and cheat and do whatever the fuck you want. I’d never date a SEAL.”

“Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks. “I’d lay down my life for my country.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s the greatest country on earth and I’d do everything I can to protect it,” he says.

She drinks too much. She vomits. He is gallant. He helps her home. They fall in love. Taya is later shown watching television. She yells to Chris in the next room.

“Oh, my God, Chris,” she says.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“No!” she yells.

Then we hear the television announcer: “You see the first plane coming in at what looks like the east side. …”

Chris and Taya watch in horror. Ominous music fills the movie’s soundtrack. The evildoers have asked for it. Kyle will go to Iraq to extract vengeance. He will go to fight in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a country that columnist Thomas Friedman once said we attacked “because we could.” The historical record and the reality of the Middle East don’t matter. Muslims are Muslims. And Muslims are evildoers or, as Kyle calls them, “savages.” Evildoers have to be eradicated.

Chris and Taya marry. He wears his gold Navy SEAL trident on the white shirt under his tuxedo at the wedding. His SEAL comrades are at the ceremony.

“Just got the call, boys—it’s on,” an officer says at the wedding reception.

The Navy SEALs cheer. They drink. And then we switch to Fallujah. It is Tour One. Kyle, now a sniper, is told Fallujah is “the new Wild West.” This may be the only accurate analogy in the film, given the genocide we carried out against Native Americans. He hears about an enemy sniper who can do “head shots from 500 yards out. They call him Mustafa. He was in the Olympics.”

Kyle’s first kill is a boy who is handed an anti-tank grenade by a young woman in a black chador. The woman, who expresses no emotion over the boy’s death, picks up the grenade after the boy is shot and moves toward U.S. Marines on patrol. Kyle kills her too. And here we have the template for the film and Kyle’s best-selling autobiography, “American Sniper.” Mothers and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child. They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid of human qualities.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls,” Kyle says nonchalantly after shooting the child and the woman. He is resting on his cot with a big Texas flag behind him on the wall. “Mother gives him a grenade, sends him out there to kill Marines.”

Enter The Butcher—a fictional Iraqi character created for the film. Here we get the most evil of the evildoers. He is dressed in a long black leather jacket and dispatches his victims with an electric drill. He mutilates children—we see an arm he cut from a child. A local sheik offers to betray The Butcher for $100,000. The Butcher kills the sheik. He murders the sheik’s small son in front of his mother with his electric drill. The Butcher shouts: “You talk to them, you die with them.”

Kyle moves on to Tour Two after time at home with Taya, whose chief role in the film is to complain through tears and expletives about her husband being away. Kyle says before he leaves: “They’re savages. Babe, they’re fuckin’ savages.”

He and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”

“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to fuck with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherfucker.”

The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated by violence. He is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but he notes that to be confirmed a kill had to be witnessed, “so if I shot someone in the stomach and he managed to crawl around where we couldn’t see him before he bled out he didn’t count.”

Kyle insisted that every person he shot deserved to die. His inability to be self-reflective allowed him to deny the fact that during the U.S. occupation many, many innocent Iraqis were killed, including some shot by snipers. Snipers are used primarily to sow terror and fear among enemy combatants. And in his denial of reality, something former slaveholders and former Nazis perfected to an art after overseeing their own atrocities, Kyle was able to cling to childish myth rather than examine the darkness of his own soul and his contribution to the war crimes we carried out in Iraq. He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family, his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and sentimentality is not accidental.

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel,” James Baldwin reminded us. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” He labels Iraqis “fanatics” and writes “they hated us because we weren’t Muslims.” He claims “the fanatics we fought valued nothing but their twisted interpretation of religion.”

“I never once fought for the Iraqis,” he wrote of our Iraqi allies. “I could give a flying fuck about them.”

He killed an Iraqi teenager he claimed was an insurgent. He watched as the boy’s mother found his body, tore her clothes and wept. He was unmoved.

He wrote: “If you loved them [the sons], you should have kept them away from the war. You should have kept them from joining the insurgency. You let them try and kill us—what did you think would happen to them?”

“People back home [in the U.S.], people who haven’t been in war, at least not that war, sometimes don’t seem to understand how the troops in Iraq acted,” he went on. “They’re surprised—shocked—to discover we often joked about death, about things we saw.”

He was investigated by the Army for killing an unarmed civilian. According to his memoir, Kyle, who viewed all Iraqis as the enemy, told an Army colonel: “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” The investigation went nowhere.

Kyle was given the nickname “Legend.” He got a tattoo of a Crusader cross on his arm. “I wanted everyone to know I was a Christian. I had it put in red, for blood. I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” he wrote. “I always will.” Following a day of sniping, after killing perhaps as many as six people, he would go back to his barracks to spent his time smoking Cuban Romeo y Julieta No. 3 cigars and “playing video games, watching porn and working out.” On leave, something omitted in the movie, he was frequently arrested for drunken bar fights. He dismissed politicians, hated the press and disdained superior officers, exalting only the comradeship of warriors. His memoir glorifies white, “Christian” supremacy and war. It is an angry tirade directed against anyone who questions the military’s elite, professional killers.

“For some reason, a lot of people back home—not all people—didn’t accept that we were at war,” he wrote. “They didn’t accept that war means death, violent death, most times. A lot of people, not just politicians, wanted to impose ridiculous fantasies on us, hold us to some standard of behavior that no human being could maintain.”

The enemy sniper Mustafa, portrayed in the film as if he was a serial killer, fatally wounds Kyle’s comrade Ryan “Biggles” Job. In the movie Kyle returns to Iraq—his fourth tour—to extract revenge for Biggles’ death. This final tour, at least in the film, centered on the killing of The Butcher and the enemy sniper, also a fictional character. As it focuses on the dramatic duel between hero Kyle and villain Mustafa the movie becomes ridiculously cartoonish.

Kyle gets Mustafa in his sights and pulls the trigger. The bullet is shown leaving the rifle in slow motion. “Do it for Biggles,” someone says. The enemy sniper’s head turns into a puff of blood.

“Biggles would be proud of you,” a soldier says. “You did it, man.”

His final tour over, Kyle leaves the Navy. As a civilian he struggles with the demons of war and becomes, at least in the film, a model father and husband and works with veterans who were maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He trades his combat boots for cowboy boots.

The real-life Kyle, as the film was in production, was shot dead at a shooting range near Dallas on Feb. 2, 2013, along with a friend, Chad Littlefield. A former Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, who had been suffering from PTSD and severe psychological episodes, allegedly killed the two men and then stole Kyle’s pickup truck. Routh will go on trial next month. The film ends with scenes of Kyle’s funeral procession—thousands lined the roads waving flags—and the memorial service at the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium. It shows fellow SEALs pounding their tridents into the top of his coffin, a custom for fallen comrades. Kyle was shot in the back and the back of his head. Like so many people he dispatched, he never saw his killer when the fatal shots were fired.

The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood. Brutal hazing, as Kyle noted in his book, was an integral part of becoming a Navy SEAL. New SEALs would be held down and choked by senior members of the platoon until they passed out. The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders. This sentimentality, as Baldwin wrote, masks a terrifying numbness. It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman. “American Sniper” caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.

© 2015 TruthDig

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Boston Bombing News: the embarassing Mr. O’Toole – part II

By: woodybox Monday January 26, 2015 9:26 am

When the courtroom for the Tsarnaev trial opened last Friday, the media crowd was expecting an indignant judge telling off the defense for their last – the third – motion for change of venue. The day before O’Toole had chided the motion, calling it “improper” because it allegedly revealed the identity of jurors and thereby damaging the process.

Michael Hayes:

expecting a bit of fire from Judge O’Toole, who’s angry re: yesterday’s defense motion

Alysha Palumbo:

The judge has not yet ruled on the defense motion to change the venue, but he did issue a scathing order on it last night

Mike Hayes:

Day 9 of Tsarnaev jury selection. Should start with an awkward conversation about confidential juror responses made public by the defense.

But minutes before the session started, a response filing of the defense already circulated: a motion to strike the word “improper”. The paper is a well reasoned and determined denial of any wrongdoing, especially when it comes to the revealing of IDs. The crowd was surprised.

Jim Armstrong:

Minutes ago, Tsarnaev’s defense team responded, asking judge to strike the word “improper”  from his filing, saying they did nothing wrong.

Mike Hayes:

Tsarnaev’s lawyers file a response to the judge’s criticism of their Change of Venue motion, calling it “unwarranted”;

J. M. Lawrence:

Tsarnaev defense fires back at Judge’s finding, say no damage done revealing anonymous quotes from juror questionnaires.Judge said improper

No wigging from the judge – the filings were not even mentioned at the session. The defense lawyers were very careful in formulating the motion. It exercises pressure on the judge, if he likes it or not. The answers of the potential jurors show that the necessity of a change of venue in order to constitute a neutral jury is obvious in the Tsarnaev case. David Bruck left no doubt that a refusal to move the trial out of Boston will lead to an appeal.

What’s up with judge O’Toole? Independent observers like E.F. Beall, James Henry or Harvey Silverglate have expressed deep discomfort with his onesided rulings. About a year ago, David Frank predicted a myriad of appeals and judicial complications if O’Toole would stick to his tight time schedule. But he did. The two months shift from November 2014 to January 2015 was little more than a cosmetic operation.

O’Toole’s next job is to pick a jury. Given his past behavior it is almost certain that the prosecution has his ear again in this important matter and the defense is impelled to fruitless gesticulations. This doesn’t bode well for the composition of the jury and will probably deliver more fodder for appeal.

So in all probability the trial will start in Boston with two or three weeks delay. O’Toole’s hope might be to go over the case details as quickly as possible. But he was probably not told by the prosecutors how weak their case actually is. If the cases collapses – because things turn out to be different and more awkward than written down in the indictment – this will also be a heavy blowback for Mr. O’Toole personally. His former decisions will be scrutinized and he has good chances to become the most prominent judge in recent history. But not in a way he will like.

 

Many thanks to pbszebra for preserving the tweets

Miller and Schivone, Bringing the Battlefield to the Border

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday January 26, 2015 8:52 am

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

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: For those of you fascinated by America’s borderlands, note that for another week you can get a signed, personalized copy of Todd Miller’s book Border Patrol Nation in return for a $100 contribution to this site, as you can my book Shadow Government, Maya Schenwar’s new book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, and other offerings. Just check out our donation page for the details. Tom]

Predator drones, tested out in this country’s distant war zones, have played an increasingly prominent role in the up-armoring of the U.S.-Mexican border. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched its first Predator in 2004, but only really ramped up drone use in March 2013.  There have been approximately 10,000 Predator flights along that border since. The agency had plans to expand its ten-Predator fleet — nine after a $12 million maritime drone crashed off the California coast, as those robotic planes are wont to do — to 24. It was going to dispatch some of them to the Canadian border as well. (You never know, after all, what dark forces might descend on us from the chilly north.) The CBP even got into the chummy habit of encouraging interagency drone-addiction by loaning its Predators out to the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the U.S. Forest Service, among other places. You might say that the CBP was distinctly high on drones.

Only one problem: the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general recently audited the use of drones on the border and issued a scathing report, calling them “dubious achievers” and essentially declaring them an enormous waste of money, time, and personnel.  At $12,255 a flight hour (when not simply grounded), military-grade drones turned out to cost way more than the CBP estimated or reported, flew far less often, and helped find a mere 2% of the immigrants crossing the border without papers.  As Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post reported, “Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of border-crossing apprehensions were attributed to drone detection.”  The inspector general suggested that the CBP should, among other things, shelve its plans to expand its drone fleet (at the cost of a mere $443 million).

Based on such a report from the IG — the CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security — you might assume that it would be curtains for the drone program.  But if you’re a betting kind of guy in twenty-first-century Washington, you’re not going to put your money on any self-respecting part of the national security state giving up, or even cutting back, on its high-tech toys.  Drones, after all, are sexy as hell and what self-respecting government official wouldn’t want a machine onto which you could attach even more seductively high-tech devices like Vader (think deep, breathy voice, though the acronym stands for “Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar”), a set of sensors that can detect motion on the ground. So CBP has instead struck back, accusing the inspector general of cherry-picking his data and misconstruing more or less everything.

Meanwhile, the drones continue to fly and the CBP, as Todd Miller who covers the militarization of America’s borders for TomDispatch has long noted, remains gaga for high-tech border toys of just about any sort. Today, Miller and Gabriel Schivone suggest that, whatever waste and extravagance may be involved, our already heavily technologized borders and the increasingly robot-filled skies over them are just at the beginning of an era of border-closing high-tech extravaganzas.  When it comes to visions of how to shut down the world, it’s evidently time to call in the real experts, the Israelis, who live in a country without fully demarcated borders, and yet have had a remarkable amount of experience building high-tech wallsTom

Gaza in Arizona
How Israeli High-Tech Firms Will Up-Armor the U.S.-Mexican Border
By Todd Miller and Gabriel M. Schivone

It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country’s border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”

Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology — the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.

Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.

Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped U.S. Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities filled with U.S. factories and the dead of that country’s drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book The Militarization of the U.S. Mexico Border, terms a state of “low-intensity warfare.”

The Border Surge

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration reform. Addressing the American people, he referred to bipartisan immigration legislation passed by the Senate in June 2013 that would, among other things, further up-armor the same landscape in what’s been termed — in language adopted from recent U.S. war zones — a “border surge.” The president bemoaned the fact that the bill had been stalled in the House of Representatives, hailing it as a “compromise” that “reflected common sense.” It would, he pointed out, “have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship.”

In the wake of his announcement, including executive actions that would protect five to six million of those immigrants from future deportation, the national debate was quickly framed as a conflict between Republicans and Democrats. Missed in this partisan war of words was one thing: the initial executive action that Obama announced involved a further militarization of the border supported by both parties.

“First,” the president said, “we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over.” Without further elaboration, he then moved on to other matters.

If, however, the United States follows the “common sense” of the border-surge bill, the result could add more than $40 billion dollars worth of agents, advanced technologies, walls, and other barriers to an already unparalleled border enforcement apparatus. And a crucial signal would be sent to the private sector that, as the trade magazine Homeland Security Today puts it, another “treasure trove” of profit is on the way for a border control market already, according to the latest forecasts, in an “unprecedented boom period.”

Like the Gaza Strip for the Israelis, the U.S. borderlands, dubbed a “constitution-free zone” by the ACLU, are becoming a vast open-air laboratory for tech companies. There, almost any form of surveillance and “security” can be developed, tested, and showcased, as if in a militarized shopping mall, for other nations across the planet to consider. In this fashion, border security is becoming a global industry and few corporate complexes can be more pleased by this than the one that has developed in Elkabetz’s Israel.

The Palestine-Mexico Border

Consider the IDF brigadier general’s presence in El Paso two years ago an omen. After all, in February 2014, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency in charge of policing our borders, contracted with Israel’s giant private military manufacturer Elbit Systems to build a “virtual wall,” a technological barrier set back from the actual international divide in the Arizona desert. That company, whose U.S.-traded stock shot up by 6% during Israel’s massive military operation against Gaza in the summer of 2014, will bring the same databank of technology used in Israel’s borderlands — Gaza and the West Bank — to Southern Arizona through its subsidiary Elbit Systems of America.

With approximately 12,000 employees and, as it boasts, “10+ years securing the world’s most challenging borders,” Elbit produces an arsenal of “homeland security systems.” These include surveillance land vehicles, mini-unmanned aerial systems, and “smart fences,” highly fortified steel barriers that have the ability to sense a person’s touch or movement. In its role as lead system integrator for Israel’s border technology plan, the company has already installed smart fences in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

In Arizona, with up to a billion dollars potentially at its disposal, CBP has tasked Elbit with creating a “wall” of “integrated fixed towers” containing the latest in cameras, radar, motion sensors, and control rooms. Construction will start in the rugged, desert canyons around Nogales. Once a DHS evaluation deems that part of the project effective, the rest will be built to monitor the full length of the state’s borderlands with Mexico. Keep in mind, however, that these towers are only one part of a broader operation, the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan. At this stage, it’s essentially a blueprint for an unprecedented infrastructure of high-tech border fortifications that has attracted the attention of many companies. 

This is not the first time Israeli companies have been involved in a U.S. border build-up. In fact, in 2004, Elbit’s Hermes drones were the first unmanned aerial vehicles to take to the skies to patrol the southern border. In 2007, according to Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, the Golan Group, an Israeli consulting company made up of former IDF Special Forces officers, provided an intensive eight-day course for special DHS immigration agents covering “everything from hand-to-hand combat to target practice to ‘getting proactive with their SUV.’” The Israeli company NICE Systems even supplied Arizona’s Joe Arpaio,“America’s toughest sheriff,” with a surveillance system to watch one of his jails.

As such border cooperation intensified, journalist Jimmy Johnson coined the apt phrase “Palestine-Mexico border” to catch what was happening. In 2012, Arizona state legislators, sensing the potential economic benefit of this growing collaboration, declared their desert state and Israel to be natural “trade partners,” adding that it was “a relationship we seek to enhance.”

In this way, the doors were opened to a new world order in which the United States and Israel are to become partners in the “laboratory” that is the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Its testing grounds are to be in Arizona. There, largely through a program known as Global Advantage, American academic and corporate knowhow and Mexican low-wage manufacturing are to fuse with Israel’s border and homeland security companies.

The Border: Open for Business

No one may frame the budding romance between Israel’s high-tech companies and Arizona better than Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “If you go to Israel and you come to Southern Arizona and close your eyes and spin yourself a few times,” he says, “you might not be able to tell the difference.”

Global Advantage is a business project based on a partnership between the University of Arizona’s Tech Parks Arizona and the Offshore Group, a business advisory and housing firm which offers “nearshore solutions for manufacturers of any size” just across the border in Mexico. Tech Parks Arizona has the lawyers, accountants, and scholars, as well as the technical knowhow, to help any foreign company land softly and set up shop in the state. It will aid that company in addressing legal issues, achieving regulatory compliance, and even finding qualified employees — and through a program it’s called the Israel Business Initiative, Global Advantage has identified its target country.

Think of it as the perfect example of a post-NAFTA world in which companies dedicated to stopping border crossers are ever freer to cross the same borders themselves. In the spirit of free trade that created the NAFTA treaty, the latest border fortification programs are designed to eliminate borders when it comes to letting high-tech companies from across the seas set up in the United States and make use of Mexico’s manufacturing base to create their products. While Israel and Arizona may be separated by thousands of miles, Rothschild assured TomDispatch that in “economics, there are no borders.”

Of course, what the mayor appreciates, above all, is the way new border technology could bring money and jobs into an area with a nearly 23% poverty rate. How those jobs might be created matters far less to him. According to Molly Gilbert, the director of community engagement for the Tech Parks Arizona, “It’s really about development, and we want to create technology jobs in our borderlands.”

So consider it anything but an irony that, in this developing global set of boundary-busting partnerships, the factories that will produce the border fortresses designed by Elbit and other Israeli and U.S. high-tech firms will mainly be located in Mexico. Ill-paid Mexican blue-collar workers will, then, manufacture the very components of a future surveillance regime, which may well help locate, detain, arrest, incarcerate, and expel some of them if they try to cross into the United States.

Think of Global Advantage as a multinational assembly line, a place where homeland security meets NAFTA. Right now there are reportedly 10 to 20 Israeli companies in active discussion about joining the program. Bruce Wright, the CEO of Tech Parks Arizona, tells TomDispatch that his organization has a “nondisclosure” agreement with any companies that sign on and so cannot reveal their names.

Though cautious about officially claiming success for Global Advantage’s Israel Business Initiative, Wright brims with optimism about his organization’s cross-national planning. As he talks in a conference room located on the 1,345-acre park on the southern outskirts of Tucson, it’s apparent that he’s buoyed by predictions that the Homeland Security market will grow from a $51 billion annual business in 2012 to $81 billion in the United States alone by 2020, and $544 billion worldwide by 2018.

Wright knows as well that submarkets for border-related products like video surveillance, non-lethal weaponry, and people-screening technologies are all advancing rapidly and that the U.S. market for drones is poised to create 70,000 new jobs by 2016. Partially fueling this growth is what the Associated Press calls an “unheralded shift” to drone surveillance on the U.S. southern divide. More than 10,000 drone flights have been launched into border air space since March 2013, with plans for many more, especially after the Border Patrol doubles its fleet.

When Wright speaks, it’s clear he knows that his park sits atop a twenty-first-century gold mine. As he sees it, Southern Arizona, aided by his tech park, will become the perfect laboratory for the first cluster of border security companies in North America. He’s not only thinking about the 57 southern Arizona companies already identified as working in border security and management, but similar companies nationwide and across the globe, especially in Israel.

In fact, Wright’s aim is to follow Israel’s lead, as it is now the number-one place for such groupings. In his case, the Mexican border would simply replace that country’s highly marketed Palestinian testing grounds. The 18,000 linear feet that surround the tech park’s solar panel farm would, for example, be a perfect spot to test out motion sensors. Companies could also deploy, evaluate, and test their products “in the field,” as he likes to say — that is, where real people are crossing real borders — just as Elbit Systems did before CBP gave it the contract.

“If we’re going to be in bed with the border on a day-to-day basis, with all of its problems and issues, and there’s a solution to it,” Wright said in a 2012 interview, “why shouldn’t we be the place where the issue is solved and we get the commercial benefit from it?”

From the Battlefield to the Border

When Naomi Weiner, project coordinator for the Israel Business Initiative, returned from a trip to that country with University of Arizona researchers in tow, she couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the possibilities for collaboration. She arrived back in November, just a day before Obama announced his new executive actions — a promising declaration for those, like her, in the business of bolstering border defenses.

“We’ve chosen areas where Israel is very strong and Southern Arizona is very strong,” Weiner explained to TomDispatch, pointing to the surveillance industry “synergy” between the two places. For example, one firm her team met with in Israel was Brightway Vision, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems. If it decides to set up shop in Arizona, it could use tech park expertise to further develop and refine its thermal imaging cameras and goggles, while exploring ways to repurpose those military products for border surveillance applications. The Offshore Group would then manufacture the cameras and goggles in Mexico.

Arizona, as Weiner puts it, possesses the “complete package” for such Israeli companies. “We’re sitting right on the border, close to Fort Huachuca,” a nearby military base where, among other things, technicians control the drones surveilling the borderlands. “We have the relationship with Customs and Border Protection, so there’s a lot going on here. And we’re also the Center of Excellence on Homeland Security.”

Weiner is referring to the fact that, in 2008, DHS designated the University of Arizona the lead school for the Center of Excellence on Border Security and Immigration. Thanks to that, it has since received millions of dollars in federal grants. Focusing on research and development of border-policing technologies, the center is a place where, among other things, engineers are studying locust wings in order to create miniature drones equipped with cameras that can get into the tiniest of spaces near ground level, while large drones like the Predator B continue to buzz over the borderlands at 30,000 feet (despite the fact that a recent audit by the inspector general of homeland security found them a waste of money).

Although the Arizona-Israeli romance is still in the courtship stage, excitement about its possibilities is growing. Officials from Tech Parks Arizona see Global Advantage as the perfect way to strengthen the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.” There is no other place in the world with a higher concentration of homeland security tech companies than Israel. Six hundred tech start-ups are launched in Tel Aviv alone every year. During the Gaza offensive last summer, Bloomberg reported that investment in such companies had “actually accelerated.” However, despite the periodic military operations in Gaza and the incessant build-up of the Israeli homeland security regime, there are serious limitations to the local market.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy is painfully aware of this. Its officials know that the growth of the Israeli economy is “largely fueled by a steady increase in exports and foreign investment.” The government coddles, cultivates, and supports these start-up tech companies until their products are market-ready. Among them have been innovations like the “skunk,” a liquid with a putrid odor meant to stop unruly crowds in their tracks. The ministry has also been successful in taking such products to market across the globe. In the decade following 9/11, sales of Israeli “security exports” rose from $2 billion to $7 billion annually.

Israeli companies have sold surveillance drones to Latin American countries like Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, and massive security systems to India and Brazil, where an electro-optic surveillance system will be deployed along the country’s borders with Paraguay and Bolivia. They have also been involved in preparations for policing the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The products of Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries are now in use from the Americas and Europe to Australia. Meanwhile, that mammoth security firm is ever more involved in finding “civilian applications” for its war technologies. It is also ever more dedicated to bringing the battlefield to the world’s borderlands, including southern Arizona.

As geographer Joseph Nevins notes, although there are many differences between the political situations of the U.S. and Israel, both Israel-Palestine and Arizona share a focus on keeping out “those deemed permanent outsiders,” whether Palestinians, undocumented Latin Americans, or indigenous people.

Mohyeddin Abdulaziz has seen this “special relationship” from both sides, as a Palestinian refugee whose home and village Israeli military forces destroyed in 1967 and as a long-time resident of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. A founding member of the Southern Arizona BDS Network, whose goal is to pressure U.S. divestment from Israeli companies, Abdulaziz opposes any program like Global Advantage that will contribute to the further militarization of the border, especially when it also sanitizes Israel’s “violations of human rights and international law.”

Such violations matter little, of course, when there is money to be made, as Brigadier General Elkabetz indicated at that 2012 border technology conference. Given the direction that both the U.S. and Israel are taking when it comes to their borderlands, the deals being brokered at the University of Arizona look increasingly like matches made in heaven (or perhaps hell).  As a result, there is truth packed into journalist Dan Cohen’s comment that “Arizona is the Israel of the United States.”

Todd Miller, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security. He has written on border and immigration issues for the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, and NACLA Report on the Americas and its blog Border Wars, among other places. You can follow him on twitter @memomiller and view more of his work at toddwmiller.wordpress.com.

Gabriel M. Schivone, a writer from Tucson, has worked as a humanitarian volunteer in the Mexico-U.S. borderlands for more than six years. He blogs at Electronic Intifada and Huffington Post’s “Latino Voices.” His articles have appeared in the Arizona Daily Star, the Arizona Republic, StudentNation, the Guardian, and McClatchy Newspapers, among other publications. You can follow him on Twitter @GSchivone.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Todd Miller and Gabriel M. Schivone

Wisconsin Faces $283 Million Deficit at the End of this Fiscal Year

By: WI Budget Project Monday January 26, 2015 6:53 am

The Very Bad Fiscal News for this Year Offsets Improved Revenue Estimates for the Next Biennium

New budget figures from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) indicate that Wisconsin is on track to have a $283 million deficit at the end of the fiscal year. That hole is $153 million deeper than what the Department of Administration (DOA) had indicated in November.

Of course, the Fiscal Bureau isn’t predicting that the state will actually finish the fiscal year with a substantial deficit; they are sizing up the amount of red ink that Governor Scott Walker’s administration and state legislators have to eliminate in order to meet the constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget.

On many occasions in 2014, we expressed concerns that state lawmakers were going to have to make painful budget cuts before the end of fiscal year 2014-15 because the tax cuts enacted early last year were based on overly optimistic revenue estimates and because the state was planning to draw down almost all of the anticipated balance. Unfortunately, our fears have proven to be correct, and substantial cuts are now needed to get the budget for this fiscal year out of the red.

Over the last two months, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) suggested that revenue estimates for the current fiscal year were looking up and would help close the deficit projected in November. Based on those assurances, I was a little more optimistic in a blog post I wrote just a few days ago. However, the new figures from the nonpartisan Fiscal Bureau show slower rather than faster revenue growth, with the projected tax revenue for this fiscal year dropping by $173.5 million relative to the estimates in the November 20th report from DOA. (A DOR letter sent today to the DOA Secretary projects somewhat higher revenue collections this year than the new LFB estimate, but less than what DOR was suggesting earlier this week, when the department continued to indicate that 2014-15 revenue would exceed the November estimate.)

Not all of the fiscal news in the new LFB document is bad. Compared to the DOA numbers released in November, the LFB projects almost $111 million more tax revenue in 2015-16 than DOA had estimated, and nearly $66 million more in 2016-17. Although that positive news for the 2015-17 biennium offsets the very worrisome increase in the deficit for the current fiscal year, it’s very disappointing that the latest changes in projections for fiscal years 2015 through 2017 are essentially a wash. The cumulative shortfall is essentially the same as it appeared to be two months ago, when the DOA figures showed a $2.2 billion gap between projected revenue and the agency budget requests for 2015-17 (on top of a $183 million shortfall in 2014-15).

Circling back to the $283 million deficit now anticipated by the LFB for the end of this fiscal year, a couple of technical points should be kept in mind. First, that figure assumes that the state will completely eliminate the $65 million reserve lawmakers are supposed to maintain at the end of each fiscal year. Rebuilding that minimum reserve means the “net balance” is -$348 million. On the other hand, those figures don’t include tribal gaming revenues that the Forest County Potawatomi withheld while the Governor was considering a Kenosha casino proposed by the Menominee. Now that the Kenosha casino has been rejected, the Governor expects the Potawatomi to make those payments, which would lessen this year’s shortfall.

The bottom line is that Wisconsin lawmakers have to find ways to close a total budget shortfall of roughly $2.3 billion between now and the end of the 2015-17 biennium. Granted, not all of the agency requests have to be approved, but it’s a mistake to think that all of the proposed increases in spending can be dismissed without any pain. Many of the requested increases are needed to maintain entitlement programs, such as Medicaid, and others are needed simply to adjust costs for inflation.

The next five months are going to be very difficult for Wisconsin lawmakers who don’t relish making substantial budget cuts.

From www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org.

ACM: The Black & White of the Civil Rights Movement Then and Now: Is It About Justice or “Just Us?” by Geminijen

By: Anti-Capitalist Meetup Sunday January 25, 2015 2:30 pm

Finally saw the movie Selma last week, right after the MLK Day march. Found it to be an exhilarating fictionalized rendition of one of the more important moments in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It is, above all else, a reminder that this struggle is primarily of, by and for black folks. And yet, most of the press, even prior to the movie opening, was about how it was historically inaccurate and, more importantly to these critics, misrepresented and denigrated (I chose my words carefully here) the role of Lyndon Baines Johnson who was president at the time of the struggle.

In Politico’s “What Selma Gets Wrong,” (12/22/14), LBJ Presidential Library director Mark Updegrove charged that the fictional film’s depiction of the epic voting-rights battle in the Alabama town portrayed the relationship between [Martin Luther] King and President Lyndon Baines Johnson as “contentious.” This served, Updegrove scolded, to “bastardize one of the most hallowed chapters in the civil rights movement by suggesting that the president himself stood in the way of progress.” Johnson adviser Joseph Califano struck next in the Washington Post (12/26/14)suggesting that in fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea.” Califano asks of the filmmakers: Did “they” [quotes are mine] feel no obligation to check the facts? You even had Post columnist Richard Cohen (1/5/15) lamenting that Selma is a lie that tarnishes Johnson’s legacy to exalt King’s.

Without getting too much into the details of the controversy and who gets to determine “facts”, the accusation here is that the black female director Ava Devernay (and by implication the black community)was willing to distort the history of the white role in the civil rights movement to promote black biases of black importance in the struggle. In other words, the black community doesn’t care about accuracy, about truth and “justice,” but only about “just us” (i.e.the black community promoting its own importance in history).

There is, in fact, evidence to support DeVernay’s representation of LBJ and I would submit that it is the white supremist myth of white people bringing justice to the poor downtrodden blacks that is the bias that DuVernay is challenging and has caused all the criticism of the film. That the “us” in “just us” is really white folks angered that it is the myth of white moral superiority that is being challenged and that DeVarnay’s film provides a healthy corrective.

It is important to note why the fight about Selma The Movie is so important now. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner highlight the increase in police violence in low income non-white communities or perhaps it has just increased the exposure of police brutality due to the new technologies of cell phones and social media. Either way, it has increased racial tensions. At the same time, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 combined with efforts to roll back voting rights with new voter suppression laws in many states, has also contributed to increased awareness of racial inequality. In volatile times, society and the dominant culture are especially interested in how they can control the “story” to maintain the status quo.

While there are many documentaries which present an excellent and accurate record of the civil rights struggle (notably in my mind, “Eyes on the Prize”) this is more about how popular cultural representations shape a society’s perspective. I would venture to say that most Americans’ deepest emotional beliefs about their identity and place in history and the world are formed at least in part, if not wholly, through the cultural representations around them rather than through academic research and factual reasoning. In this context it appears that most white Americans still believe that white people are innately superior to black people by virtue of our role in helping black people escape their oppression and poverty (the cause of which is conveniently vague –oh yeah, there was slavery, but I wasn’t alive then so its not my fault, besides we were the good guys in WW!! saving the Jews from the Nazis–which gets two weeks in most American high school curricula while slavery gets one day).

Of course these days popular and social media far outweigh what you learn in school as the social arbiters so I would like to take a moment here to put Selma in the context of the factual history vs. the other fictionalized media accounts of racial struggle and racial advancement in the last few years.
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Even before it was released on Christmas Day, Selma was under attack. And I admit the historian in me felt that, since the film so closely mirrors actual events there should be some effort to be factually honest and the quotes from the Johnson library did disturb me. But the facts offered by the film’s critics do far more to distort the reality of King’s relationship with Johnson than the fictional film does.

The sometimes bitter tactical divisions between LBJ and King are not an invention of the filmmakers. Here’s an account by Bruce Hartford in The Selma Voting Rights Struggle; March to Montgomery, which notes that the attempt to lead a voting-rights march from Selma to the capital in Montgomery was happening at the same time Johnson was first sending ground troops to Vietnam:

Behind the scenes, President Johnson pressures Dr. King to cancel the Tuesday march…. …news stories and images of Marines wading ashore to “defend democracy” in Vietnam clash with images of real-life American democracy in action on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Johnson [was] furious, and wants no risk of any repeat violence on Tuesday that might compete with his public relations strategy, or continue to give the lie to his “freedom” rhetoric.

If Johnson was actually the architect of the Selma strategy, as Califano asserts, you might wonder why civil rights activists were staging sit-ins at the Justice Department and the White House to protest the Johnson administration’s failure to protect marchers. These sit-ins were not invented by the filmmakers, nor was the anger LBJ expressed in response to them. Here’s Johnson afterwards telling his aide Bill Moyers what should be said to King–not from the movie script, but from a tape made by the White House recording system:

I would take a much tougher line than we’re going to with him. I think that it’s absolutely disgraceful that they would get in the Justice Department building and have to be hauled out of there. And I don’t care if we never serve another hour. They’re going to respect the law while they do. He better get to behaving himself or all of them are going to be put in jail … I think that we really ought to be firm on it myself. I just think it’s outrageous what’s on TV. I’ve been watching it here, and looks like that man’s in charge of the country and taking it over. I just don’t think we can afford to have that kind of character running. And I’d remind him what he had said and take a very firm line with him.”


Threatening to throw Martin Luther King in jail–that’s rather “contentious,” wouldn’t you say? The words of someone who is “at odds” with King?

The part of the film that seems to have most riled Johnson’s defenders is the film’s suggestion–not directly stated, but implied–that Johnson authorized FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to use secret tape recordings of sexual encounters against the civil rights leader. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Nick Kotz quotes from a memo written to Hoover by one of his top aides, Cartha DeLoach, who had just delivered a summary of a particularly incriminating tape to Johnson’s chief assistant, Walter Jenkins. DeLoach said Jenkins told him he would pass on the material to the president, adding:
Jenkins was of the opinion that the FBI could perform a good service to the country if this tape was released to the press.

Finally, the larger picture of LBJ promoted in his legacy touts him as the follower of FDR, and I respect his War on Poverty programs which were instrumental in reducing the economic gap between white and black families more than any other policy before or since that time. But this should not permit us to ignore the historical reality of a politician who had to survive as a Senator in segregationist Texas. Whatever Johnson’s feelings and long term intent, it is a fact that for 20 years –from 1939 to 1955 — Johnson voted a straight 100% segregationist ticket.

The thing about the attacks on the film Selma is that they distort the relationship between King and Johnson as it is actually portrayed in the film. In fact, the movie presents him as a complicated figure who under prodding accomplishes something great. (The speech he gives in support of the Voting Rights Act near the end of the film is an emotional high point.) But he’s not the moral center of the film – that’s King. And the portrayal of King is also not that of a sainted hero, but of an organizer with strategies for using direct action such as public marches to expose state violence against black people. It also shows how this strategy is viewed as superficial by the grassroots activists in the younger Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and alludes to the conflict between King and Malcolm X. Duvernay also uses these dynamics to pose larger ongoing historical questions of strategies of struggle in the black community such as whether political (W.E.B. DuBois) or economic strategies (Booker T. Washington) should be given priority.

In USA Today (1/7/15), Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund wrote a response to the complainers:

Any effort to hijack the attention this film richly deserves because of its portrayal of LBJ reflects everything that has been wrong with most civil rights films from Mississippi Burning to The Help – films that concern themselves principally with the heroism of white people in a movement that was created, driven and shaped by black people.

The most notable one “Mississippi Burning” (1988)is an almost pure fiction set around the Civil Rights struggle, To this day, “Mississippi Burning” is still cited as one of those movies made by white Hollywood liberals to make white liberals the heroes of the Civil Rights movement while relegating his black characters to little more than noble victims.While it only won one Oscar for Cinematography, it was nominated in numerous categories including best, actor, best director and best film.

But let’s look at other more recent films. In 2012, Lincoln a movie notable for portraying how President Lincoln and the all white Congress passed the 13th Amendment ending slavery (how could it be otherwise since blacks couldn’t vote?). Lincoln took top honors at the Academy Awards with 12 nominations. A year earlier we had The Help (2011) where Jessica Chastain (white southern woman) received an Oscar as Best supporting Actress for her role “helping” the “help” in her town get their due recognition and respect. To give credit where it is due, two of the black actresses – Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis received Oscars as well.

Going back to the 2009 Oscars, we had a double feature — the year where everyone – black and white got Oscars. For her leading role in The Blindside, Sandra Bullock received an Oscar for her chirpy portrayal of an NRA gun toting white Republican Mom who both saves a young black football player from the ghetto and his crack addled Mom and helps him become an NFL star. At the same awards ceremony the black actress Monique received a supporting actress award for her role in Precious as a vicious self indulgent Welfare Mom who let’s her boyfriend sexually abuse her daughter. The Blind Side is based on a true story – Hollywoodized version. Precious was, in fact, a serious and controversial film. But in both cases it is interesting to see what stereotypes America rewards for which community. What is a poor young African American girl or boy to do when looking for role models?

We can easily go back through the films that were recognized in recent years and see the white hand-print. Somehow it still seems as if the black community is offered the Caliban roles of the “primitive” with a white Prospero sitting up high and pulling the strings (i.e., In Monster’s Ball, the role for which Hallie Berry won best actress and established her rise to fame, her character ends up being “saved” by the white guy who executed her husband who was on death row. Even in (1996) Ghosts of Mississippi, the story of Medgar Evers is told from the point of view of the white star Alex Baldwin who “helps” Whoopi Goldberg (who did win an Oscar) get justice for the murder of her husband, Medgar Evers.

While my memory may be a little faulty and we can argue statistics of who got awards, who was the lead character and what kind of role they played … you get the general picture. The winner gets to tell the story and sets the cultural representations and in the United States that is still predominantly both the liberal and conservative white supremist community. And in the white community’s vision I would suggest that the black community either doesn’t exist at all (Lincoln) or is the benign helping hand trying to end the horrors the black community faces.

At this point it is important to note that — when it comes to Selma, the Oscar Academy only gave the film only one – one — nomination as best movie. No nominations – none – for actors or directors or other technical categories. You might wonder why this is important. Outside of the fact that the Oscar Awards (as one of the biggest TV watching communal experiences next to the Super Bowl and probably surpassing the President’s State of the Union address) is still the major determinant in whether or not a film gets distributed or actors get more roles.

Not only does lack of Academy support for Selma have a negative financial impact on individuals in the multi-billion film dollar business, but some folks have suggested that the academy has specifically set out to punish Selma and the black community for daring to suggest that it is actually black folks, not white, who are in charge of ending black oppression. This is not an unreasonably assumption since the Oscars still represent the main cultural arbiter of the dominant culture in the film industry.

White society is threatened whenever any group or cultural representation messes with this long standing myth of the beneficent (and morally, intellectually and emotionally superior) white person taking pity on poor ignorant black folk. As long as we stick to the basic biological superiority we don’t have to look at real causes of who is responsible for racial oppression and how it is used to prop up all types of class, race and gender oppression.

Thus young black women are the main group stuck in minimum wage jobs because they are less intelligent and not hard workers (which also justifies not paying them more) not because for hundreds of years slavery and segregation kept them out of jobs that allowed for wealth accumulation and which were available to white people. Even white women, if you consider that white women were often able to have some access to accumulated wealth through their husbands (if they were willing to put up with subjugation under marriage). Black men, on the other hand, again due to the history of slavery and segregation, could not offer the same potential resources to black women.


Send McDonald’s a message: Racist harassment like this is NOT ok. End it – and pay the fired workers back pay and damages NOW

I was fired from McDonald’s because I don’t “fit the profile.”

What profile? Well, my boss never said. But she did say:

“There are too many black people in the store.”

And she did say: “We need to get the ghetto out of the store.”

And: “It’s dark in here and needs more lightening.”

If one can keep the myth of benign white superiority alive one does not have to consider how the institution of slavery divided the working class both before and after the civil war, resulting in two types of workers and the exclusion of people of color from unions for many years. It just seems natural that unions which are made up of white middle class workers with good jobs and benefits are due to whites’ superior work ethic and skills while most nonwhite workers are relegated to the category of the poor and are not even called workers, even if they work 60 hour weeks with no sick days in the informal economy.

If you have a young black man shot down in the street by a white or even nonwhite cop who represents the white supremist power establishment and the cop’s guilt depends on whether you believe the intent of the cop was to murder the young man, who are you going to believe? Because, if there is no other physical evidence (and sometimes even if there is), in a federal civil rights case of a criminal nature, that is the standard you have to meet – to prove the officer’s intent was to murder the young man because of his race, not just the effect of his actions. Will you believe the cop representing the moral superiority of the white power structure or the young man who has been labeled as a morally inferior thug? If Michael Brown were white he would probably be perceived as a young man with no record who probably played football in high school and was headed off to college in the fall. A young man who was sowing his wild oats ripping off a couple of cigars and maybe, at worst, had poor judgment in how he reacted to the actions of a police officer. But certainly not a life threatening figure. And that is how we end up with a black Attorney General (one of the success stories of the civil rights movement) failing to bring charges, even at the Federal civil rights level, against the officer for the murder of Michael Brown.

So why is it so important to idealize LBJ at the expense of the black community? Why is it so important to keep alive the myth that beneficent whites are necessary to help lift black people out of racial oppression? (hint: Without the myth we might notice that without the white community maybe black people in the United States would never would have been enslaved in the first place).