On Friday, Federal District judge in New York, William Pauley, ruled that the NSA spying program was constitutional and could go on. If there is one thing we need to understand about the law, is that it, like everything else, is subject to interpretation and the judgement rendered depends on who’s doing the interpreting. You can read the same written law and come up with many different understandings and hence decisions.
Apparently, Mr. Pauley didn’t consider the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution that forbids the government from indiscriminate searches and seizures – that for it to be legal, the search has to have a specific cause for suspicion in a specific person and place. That includes correspondences which are supposed to be private and subject to search and seizure, only with a court issued warrant, due to a suspicion of committing a specific and named crime. Hundreds of millions of citizens obviously cannot be suspected of committing a crime, unless making breakfast and driving their kids to school and going to work and chatting on the phone is now considered a crime.
Judge Pauley, who in a more perfect society would be washing dishes and cleaning floors, instead of those who never got a chance at getting education, repeats the claims of the Government verbatim, just like a four year old. He says the NSA Director, Keith Alexander, “was crystal clear” when he said “We’re not doing it”, when asked if they were mining data from collected phone calls. It’s like asking a suspect who’s brought in front of a judge if he did it and when he says “no, I didn’t”, to say “well he’s crystal clear that he didn’t”. Apparently, the judge forgot that James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee (what a joke that is), back in March, that the NSA is not collecting any data at all, which turned out to be a lie, which he then put it as: “the least deceptive way” he could have answered. Get it judge? The Government does lie. See, lying to Congress is also relative as to its being a crime or not. You think they’d let me off the hook if I did it?
Our Einstein judge goes on to repeat the Government claim that the NSA’s bulk spying program has been effective in preventing terror attacks. Apparently, he was also ignorant of the fact that a panel of intelligence and legal experts, which Obama appointed only after the program was exposed by Edward Snowden, concluded in a 300 page report that the program was not effective in preventing terror attacks.
Judge Pauley also took the Government’s word at face value when he said the information collected is not used for any purpose other than to investigate terrorist activities, whereas, a general inspector’s report issued in September said that that was not the case. I suppose spying on foreign leaders, too, including the German Chancellor or Brazil’s President and many others, is to prevent terrorism and not to gain advantage for US corporations. Just yesterday, Washington Post reported that the CIA secretly helped the Colombian government locate, capture and kill at least two dozen leaders of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), using NSA data. And you think they were not monitoring the organizers of Occupy Wall Street in the US? This is the same government – in nature and in character – that was spying on Dr. Martin Luther King, the same that was spying even on John Lennon because he was singing songs for peace.
This government has an empire to maintain on behalf of the corporations that own and control it. As soon as there is a rebellion in a nation with a “friendly” government (which means either a puppet or one that cooperates with the Empire), anywhere in the world, the CIA gets active (and, in many instances, the US even openly aids the government in question in putting down the rebellion). They have global interests to protect and expand for their giant corporations. They don’t kid around. And you think they would devise this massive, sophisticated and very expensive program to just try and stop terrorist attacks, which the panel mentioned above concluded isn’t effective, anyway?
The program is indeed and exactly meant for what the Constitution tried to prevent: the coming to power of a government that represents the interests of an oligarchy that takes all lever of power by creating a police state, and through unreasonable searches and seizures and espionage on its citizens and through bought out elections, remains in power. And the longer it does this, the more it consolidates its powers and funnels the wealth to the few at the top. Tell me I’m wrong.
We on the left – and no, I don’t mean the liberal Democrats – have been pointing out that capitalism is the source of most, if not all, the ills in our society, including hunger and poverty among millions of people, lack of affordable healthcare and education, colonial wars and environmental ruin. We’ve been saying that capitalism is what causes the economic crashes, massive unemployment, people losing their homes, kids going hungry, the ever widening income and wealth inequality, eroding civil rights and what even the mainstream media now admits the “war on the poor”. But, now, we’re not alone. Pope Francis has joined those of us who point the finger at capitalism, rightly calling it the source of poverty and “tyranny”. This is not a claim made by a small minority on the left anymore.
But, let’s not let the criticism remain academic and abstract. Let’s be clear what it means. The problem is the PRIVATE OWNERSHIP of corporations, which are accountable not to the public as to what they do, how they do it and how their actions impact people’s lives and well being and the environment, which right there is undemocratic to the core, but a group of billionaire shareholders, whose only concern is to maximize profits and their already obscene wealth.
Let’s also be clear what the solution is – now that even the Pope is mentioning what the problem is: these corporations, which are gradually turning into “people” with human “rights”, especially privacy rights that are not afforded to real people, must be confiscated from these “private owners” and nationalized, sending their owners, large shareholders and CEO’s working for living like the rest of us. Only then these organizations will be accountable to the people and concerned about people’s needs, rather than a small minority of super wealthy individuals who keep pushing for wars and waging war on the poor. That’s what real democracy is, not what we have now.
What this all means – if we are to give real deference to the Pope’s words and turn them into action – is that we need a people’s movement to force the change on the rulers since they won’t allow it on their own. We must impose it on them and that will mean battling their police and military on the streets. It will mean dismantling all three branches of the current government in its present form and content, including all its intelligence, spy and military organizations and agencies. Otherwise, we can keep saying capitalism is the problem and it will remain as just empty words.
Today, the National Geographic channel was showing Kentucky Sheriff’s deputies make arrests. A deputy stopped a car and while approaching from behind, ordered the driver to show his hands. When he failed to comply, the deputy sprayed the car with bullets, shattering the window and hitting the driver multiple times. When other deputies arrived to assist him, they grabbed the bloodied man and violently pulled him out of the car and into the pavement, when they could clearly see he was severely wounded. Another case of the show involved another Sheriff’s deputy stopping and arresting a mother of three on drug related charges and despite the traumatic cries of her panicked little kids, hauled her to prison. If some day, which I’m afraid will come sooner than later, they use robots as cops, I hope the robots will have more humanity and empathy than these inhuman robocops.
The show went on and the narrator told those stories as if there was nothing wrong and the deputies were just doing what they’re supposed to, which I guess is murdering people in order to protect them. I’m often reminded of the US general who said of a Vietnam village, that “we had to destroy it in order to save it”.
There are about 400 murders of American citizens in the hands of law enforcement officers every year and that’s the official estimate of “justifiable” killings (justifiable to them, that is). That’s more than one every single day.
A few weeks ago, the windows of the car belonging to Oriana Ferrell, was smashed by New Mexico police officers while her children were inside the car. Another officer shot at the car multiple times when she decided to drive away to avoid arrest.
The police in this country are so out of control that they don’t even care if their target is a foreign diplomat with diplomatic immunity. The other day, Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul at the Indian Consulate in New York City, was arrested and strip searched, which included body cavity search. The police in the US are known to retaliate against anyone who objects to their inhumane and belittling methods by doing strip and cavity search, in order to further humiliate the arrestee and in a way to show that they will do as they please. Khobragade was charged with falsifying statements in her application for her nanny to come to America. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharaha’s office alleged that she claimed she was paying the woman $4,500, when she only paid $573. Khobragade’s arrest understandably created an uproar in India, including protests where US flags were burned.
While the police here show no regard for diplomatic immunity, which applies to all cases except those involving violent subjects who could put lives in danger, the US government insists on immunity for its own military personnel and so-called “diplomats” (rather CIA agents and private contractors), even when the individual commits rape and multiple murders, including one in India, not long ago, when a CIA agent shot and killed two innocent people. Murder and rape are protected by diplomatic immunity, but, making a false statement in a visa application for a nanny is not and the violator deserves a strip search. But, Ms. Khobragade should be glad she heard and understood the officers’ commands; otherwise, her car could have been sprayed with bullets, too. Welcome to America!
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the massacre in Newtown, New England, where 26 children and educators were shot to death by a gun man. Meanwhile, CNN spent most of its time yesterday on a new shooting at a high school in Colorado where another heavily armed high school student shot and critically injured a 17 year old girl, before killing himself.
But, there was another massacre, just two days ago, by another evil psychopath, which didn’t get nearly as much coverage as either Newtown or yesterday’s shooting in Colorado: Obama authorized a drone attack that killed 17 and injured 30 innocent people at a wedding party in Yemen. And, then, yesterday, as if nothing had happened, he walked into the Map room of the White House, lit 26 candles for the 26 people killed in Newtown, and made a statement to the media to show how much he values human life!
The US history is full of evil cold blooded mass murderers and war criminals as presidents and other top officials; so, Obama is not alone, but what makes him worse than all the others is that he, for the first time in US history, has made it official US policy to go after and assassinate anyone and any group of individuals, wherever they may be, whichever country they may be a citizen of, and whoever they may be in the company of, at the time the hellfire missile is fired. Not only does he act like judge, jury and executioner, and not only does he order the execution without any evidence or trial, but, he’s decided on his own, that his jurisdiction is the entire world. This may have been done by other presidents before, but it was never an openly admitted and official policy, and was never to this magnitude and frequency. The fact that he’s the “first black president” seems to have given him a blank check to commit all the vile acts and mass murder he wants, without any serious criticism from those who hated and protested Bush’s policies.
And what’s more, no one – no other president before him – ever came close to him in hypocrisy, lies and deceit. It’s impossible to be indifferent towards one massacre and genuinely get teary eyed about another. You either are moved and pained by children getting killed or you’re not. When Israel was bombing densely populated Gaza and massacring people indiscriminately, with no way for Gazans to defend themselves, he said coldly and with no emotion: “Israel has the right to defend itself”, and followed up with increasing US military aid to the apartheid regime. Then, when Mandela died, he said that when he was young he used to read Mandela’s speeches and was inspired by his struggle against “apartheid”. This is why I say Obama is worse than even Dick Cheney. The man would lie to get what he wanted which was war and war crimes and he didn’t care about any struggle against any apartheid, but had no pretense about who he was and what he wanted. And even if he tried to pretend, he couldn’t. Obama can and does it all the time.
To be sure, it was truly heart breaking to learn about those innocent children killed in Newtown, but, if we don’t also feel heartbroken about families blown to pieces by US drones overseas, and moreover, if we don’t get enraged and outraged that a sitting president should commit such mass murders with impunity on behalf of the Empire, it’s time to question our humanity. And if we don’t see that this man has absolutely no principle or decency and all he wants to do is continue Empire’s policies and make his billionaire bosses happy, then we should question our most basic intelligence.
Every time there is a discussion or mention of how many times the US has gone to war or has bombed other countries since WWII, some embarrassed liberal, who equates the US with himself or herself, makes a comment like: “There are worse places to live” (an actual reaction to a FB post I saw today), or along the lines of “We’re not the only country that’s done bad things”, or “others are no better”, etc.
First of all, before your sense of nationalism gets offended and makes you jump to the defense of your “country”, you should ask yourself what you understand by “country”. Do you mean its lakes, mountains, rivers, forests and animals? Is it that piece of the Earth with a border around it that’s called the US? Is it its people? What exactly is country to you that you feel has been insulted? Let’s be clear about one thing: the US government is not you, nor are the corporations that own and control it and are registered here as US companies (some with headquarters overseas to avoid paying taxes).
If by “country” you understand the people living within these borders, no one is accusing them of waging wars and bombing other nations; they themselves are victims of US policies; although, many of them do vote for politicians who support and push for wars and military aggression. But, those who do vote for such politicians, are misled and misguided enough to be also voting against their own interests and are therefore hard to put the main blame on, except for their naïveté and lack of consciousness and understanding. Besides, their voting doesn’t make much of a difference in the long term and strategic calculations, objectives, plans or operations of the Empire, which represents the interests of corporations and their shareholders. Politicians are put in office, by the sheer force of money, not so much to sketch a course for the Empire, but to give the system an appearance of democracy and to sell the policies to people.
Secondly, what does the issue of wars and militarism and bombings that are done for the Empire and are used to impose the interests of the corporations on people living overseas, has to do with whether this is a good place to live or not? It may very well be a good place to live – at least for many. There may even be jobs here that people in other countries may be willing to do to survive and may want to come and do those jobs, whatever they may be. We can even go as far as making the false claim that people living here have it good, that no one goes hungry, that there is no homeless, that everyone can get or afford to get healthcare, etc. and still be faced with the fact that this government has been massacring people in other countries, for decades.
So, what exactly is the point of saying: there are worse places to live? That we should not mention the truths about US policies? But, here’s why it’s important that we do: not only does bombing other nations do absolutely no good for the American people, it’s taking away from their wages, education, healthcare, infrastructure, jobs, and the safety of their food and environment. It also pushes the government to increase its surveillance of its own people to clamp down on resistance. It also creates ill will and prevents fraternity and understanding amongst people of different nations and creates conditions for pushing the world towards major, catastrophic and unnecessary wars. So, dear liberals, you can be proud of your “country” whatever you understand it to be, and accept the fact that “your” government has been massacring people overseas for decades without giving you any of the loots.
I’m tired of those who argue that it’s only in the last forty years or so that American corporations have become too greedy and have acquired too much power, resulting in a huge income and wealth disparity and denying the “American dream” to the vast majority of people who “work hard and play by the rules”, but remain poor, or at best, struggling from paycheck to paycheck. This is what George Packer seems to argue in 434 pages of his new book, “Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America”. His publisher’s introduction says about the book: “seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers”. Apparently the “unwinding” refers to the unraveling of the “American way of life” which apparently was just fine before under the same capitalist system which was kinder and gentler before but turned ruthless and uncaring “during a single generation”. Mr. Packer argues that “leaders abandoned their posts,” with “the default force in American life, organized money” taking their place, as if those leaders had a legitimate role to play and “organized money” was not the “default force”, to begin with.
What’s even more amusing is New York Time’s critique of the book written by David Brooks who says: “When John Dos Passos wrote the “U.S.A.” trilogy [which was written in 1930’s during the Great Depression – Sako], the left had Marxism. It had a rigorous intellectual structure that provided an undergirding theory of society — how social change happens, which forces matter and which don’t, how society works and who causes it not to work. Dos Passos’ literary approach could rely on that structure, fleshing it out with story and prose”. Get it people? We had Marxism before. Now, we don’t. Marxism as a way of understanding the society and social and economic forces is no more, says Mr. Brooks of New York Times.
Going Back to Mr. Packer and his “Unwinding”, such writers forget that it took bloody and long battle by working people to achieve collective bargaining, 40 hour work week, sick leave, industrial health and safety laws, an end to child labor, etc., which helped improve their and their families’ lives. Corporations of those good old days would work people 12-16 hours a day, including underage children, in unsafe working conditions, for very low wages and with no healthcare, no sick leave or vacation. They would fire workers if they got sick or injured on the job with no laws to protect them against the company and no recourse. So, I don’t know what such authors who say corporations were more responsible before and bottom line wasn’t their only concern are talking about.
If there were unions which enabled collective bargaining and improved the lives of millions of people, it was only thanks to the struggle of the workers who battled the police on the streets for those rights and benefits, none of which were given, but had to be taken, through a long and bloody battle, and which bosses did everything they could to prevent from materializing. That included using riot police to beat, shoot, arrest and even kill protesting workers.
Furthermore, corporations have been on a dogged and determined mission to undo and dismantle workers’ unions, and succeeding to a great extent, reducing union membership from over 40%, four decades ago, to about 7%, today. CEO’s always considered only their bottom line and nothing else. Their allegiance has always been to the share holders, only. That’s nothing new. That’s what corporations are for. That’s what they get created for and are organized around. Expecting anything different is like expecting a tick not to suck the blood of its host animal. It wouldn’t be a tick if it didn’t do that.
Those who argue this is something new and an aberration, in effect, are trying to absolve the capitalist system which is based and predicated upon the existence of such independent and free corporations, engaged in “free enterprise”. “Free” here means they’re free to hire, fire, produce what and how they deem profitable for themselves, regardless of its effects on people’s lives, well being, food, water, air, the climate, etc., and amass astronomical wealth as a result, giving them the power to dictate their agenda and policies on the society, widening the chasm even more.
What’s needed is not admonishing the CEO’s and asking them to be more empathic, responsible or sensitive to people and their needs and well being. What’s needed is organizations that aren’t privately owned and aren’t organized around maximizing profits for a few super rich, but are owned by the people, are accountable to the people, and are organized around meeting people’s needs. Thus, they become controlled by the people and for the people, rather than controlling people and their lives which is the case now.
History is there for us to learn from. Those who wound have us forget and disregard history have an agenda and intend to deceive us. And, those who reduce the critique of the system to a soft and friendly admonishment of the corporations and their CEO’s and call for more sensitivity and empathy on their part, want us to lose sight of what’s really happening and what the real culprit is. They are thus apologists for this sick, corrupt and abusive system which keeps making the rich richer and the poor poorer and driving humanity towards ever more wars and potential annihilation. Only a systemic and fundamental overhaul of the system can put an end to it.
Not that I care about Time magazine’s Person of the Year PR charade, which they used to call Man of the Year before realizing they were excluding more than half of humanity. Nor do I have any qualms about naming Pope Francis the Person of the Year. But, the person they passed on was Edward Snowden who singlehandedly and overnight injected a healthy dose of reality and awakening into a slumbering populace and made Obama look and sound ridiculous every time he criticizes other nations’ leaders for not respecting their citizens’ rights, which he did again yesterday in Johannesburg, during the eulogy he delivered for Nelson Mandela. Nope, he’s way too shameless to stop. Besides, he won the presidency, which he did with the help of corporations, to deliver the Empire’s speeches and he will continue to do that.
But, be that as it may, Time magazine’s calling Snowden a “dark prophet” just shows where they stand. It’s ironic, to say the least, for them to call Snowden “dark” when he actually fought against darkness – the darkness of US government’s lack of transparency, the darkness of secretly and illegally spying on citizens without a cause, and the darkness of disinformation, lying and misleading committed by the government against its people. Edward Snowden gave up so much and sacrificed so much to bring knowledge and understanding to the American people and it’s quite apt for a tool of the Empire to call him “dark” since for the people for whom he gave up so much, he is the epitome of lightness.