You are browsing the archive for 2014 December 11.

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These Are Lies The New York Times Wants You to Believe About Russia

December 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Patrick L. Smith, Salon

Our sanctions caused Russia's downturn. They protect Big Oil and make the world more dangerous.


You can look at the Russian economy two ways now and you should. So let’s: It is an important moment in the destruction of something and the construction of something else, and we had better be clear just what in both cases. The world we live in changes shape as we speak.

Truth No. 1: Russians are besieged. Sanctions the West has insisted on prosecuting in response to the Ukraine crisis — Washington in the lead, the Europeans reluctant followers — are hitting hard, let there be no question. Oil prices are at astonishing lows, probably if not yet provably manipulated by top operatives in the diplomatic and political spheres.

Truth No. 2: Russians are hot. With an energetic activism just as astonishing as the oil prices, Russian officials, President Putin in the very visible lead but with platoons of technocrats behind him, are forging an extensive network of South-South relationships — East-East, if you prefer — that are something very new under the sun. Some of us were banging on about South-South trade and diplomatic unity as far back as the 1970s; I have anticipated the arriving reality since the early years of this century. But I would never have predicted the pace of events as we have them before us. Stunning.

Holiday surprise: There is a Truth No. 3 and it is this: Truth No. 1, the siege of the Russian economy, is proving a significant catalyst in the advance of Truth No. 2, the creative response of a nation under ever-mounting pressure.

Timothy Snyder, the Yale professor whose nitwittery on the Ukraine crisis is simply nonpareil (and praise heaven he has gone quiet), exclaimed some months ago that Putin is threatening to undermine the entire postwar order. I replied in this space the following week, Gee, if only it were so.

Already it seems to be. But miss this not: Russia is advancing this world-historical turn with a considerable assist from its adversaries in the West, not alone. For all the pseuds who pretend to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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It Wasn't Just the Bush Years; Obama Oversees a Huge Torture Program Today

December 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, AlterNet

Torture has been an integral and systematic intelligence practice since WWII.


The grizzly details of CIA torture have finally been at least partly aired through the release this Tuesday of the executive summary to a landmark Senate intelligence committee report. The extent of the torture has been covered extensively across the media, and is horrifying. But much of the media coverage of this issue is missing the crucial bigger picture: the deliberate rehabilitation of torture under the Obama administration, and its systematic use to manufacture false intelligence to justify endless war.

Torture victims, who had been detained by the US national security apparatus entirely outside any sort of recognizable functioning system of due process, endured a litany of extreme abuses normally associated with foreign dictatorships: 180-hour sleep deprivation, forced “rectal feeding,” rectal “exams” using “excessive force,” standing for dozens of hours on broken limbs, waterboarding, being submerged in iced baths, and on and on.

Yet for the most part, it has been assumed that the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program” originated under the Bush administration after 9/11 and was a major “aberration” from normal CIA practice, as one US former military prosecutor put it in the Guardian. On BBC Newsnight yesterday, presenter Emily Maitlis asked Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser under Carter, about the problem of “rogue elements in the CIA,” and whether this was inevitable due to the need for secrecy in intelligence.

High-level sanction

Media coverage of the Senate report has largely whitewashed the extent to which torture has always been an integral and systematic intelligence practice since the second World War, continuing even today under the careful recalibration of Obama and his senior military intelligence officials. The key function of torture, largely overlooked by the pundits, is its role in manufacturing nebulous threats that legitimize the existence and expansion of the national security apparatus.

The CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was formally approved at the highest levels of the civilian administration. We have known for years that torture was officially sanctioned by at least President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Undercover Cop Pulls Gun and Threatens Oakland Police Brutality Protesters

December 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Another example of why the protests continue.


(Editor's Note: This report has been updated with new developments at 8.30 PM PST on Thursday).

A white undercover California Highway Patrol (CHP) detective pulled a gun and threatened protesters at Wednesday night’s march to end racist policing and police brutality in Oakland, California.

He was seen losing his cool and pointing the gun at protesters and a photographer before other uniformed police arrived to arrest a black protester, as can be seen on numerous videos of the incident on the Twitter feeds, #berkeleyprotest and #oaklandprotest.

The incident was photographed and posted to storify.com and #oaklandprotest, where it quickly went viral. These Twitter feeds have been documenting the ongoing East Bay protests following the two grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, in which white officers who killed unarmed black men escaped facing charges.

Late Thursday, the Los Angeles Times extensively quoted California Highway Patrol Chief Avery Browne discussing the incident, where Browne concluded that “no one has provided any evidence that the officers were inappropriate in what they did.”

Browne recounted his chronology of the event. He said the gun-pointing detective was one of several undercover cops posing as demonstrators at Wednesday's march in Oakland. He the detective said a fellow undercover officer had been “attacked” by protesters. He said the detective who pulled the gun told him, “Chief, I didn't know if I was going to make it out of this thing alive.”

That line of defense–that a police officer is entitled to use deadly force while doing his job if he fears for his life–is the standard in law that absolves police officers from facing charges for harm caused by excessive force. That was seen as the legal linchpin that allowed two grand juries to exonerate the white officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island.

The protests across the country demand, among other things, that this standard protecting police who lose control and use excessive force must be changed. They say, as the LA Times' report indicates, that police who too quickly …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Undercover Cop Pulls Guns and Threatens Oakland Police Brutality Protesters

December 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Another example of why the protests continue.


An undercover white cop pulled a gun and threatened protesters at Wednesday night’s march to end racist policing and police brutality in Oakland, California—and was seen losing his cool before other cops arrived to arrest a black protester.

The incident was photographed by protesters and immediately posted to #oaklandprotest, a twitter site that has been documenting the ongoing East Bay protests following the two grand jury decisions—in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City—where white officers who killed unarmed black men were absolved from facing charges.

The Oakland incident comes after police in nearby Berkeley rioted on Saturday night, lunging into the crowd and using smoke bombs, nightsticks and tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred protesters. That confrontation led the Berkeley police to reconsider their tactics during protests on the following nights.

But as the protest marchers crossed into other police jurisdictions, closing several interstate highways, other police agencies—such as the California Highway Patrol—said they would respond forcefully.

It is not clear which police department the undercover officer who pulled his gun in Oakland on Wednesday was from. However, journalists investigating the police tactics during 2011’s Occupy Movement protests have documented that police used undercover agents posing as protesters. And protest organizers also said that outsiders recruited by police tried to incite violence by throwing stones and other objects.

This latest development shows that police are not changing their use of excessive force as the protesters have been demanding. It is a sobering reminder of how entrenched police policies and practices are, which is one reason that the protests are continuing.

 

 

Related Stories

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Source: ALTERNET

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7 Nasty Provisions in Congress' New Budget: From Coddling Bankers to Trashing School Lunch

December 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

The GOP's big wet kiss to billionaires, boardrooms, polluters and more.


Congress is signaling what the next two years of Republican majority rule is going to be like as it finishes a massive spending bill through next fall—and it’s not a pretty sight for progressives.

The biggest eyebrow-raising moves would restore taxpayer bailouts for Wall Street investments that helped cause the 2008 global economic crash; would allow hundreds of private retirement pension plans to be cut by a third; and would allow a ten-fold increase in donations to political parties. All these proposals, if not stripped from the bill before final passage, benefit the wealthiest Americans and corporate executives.

But there’s always more in any 1,600-page bill moving through the Capitol. The bill continues restrictions on abortion rights; blocks federal agencies from limiting climate-change emissions; takes a two-faced approach to pot policy—limting new laws in Washington, D.C., but taking a hands-off approach elsewhere, and bites into Michelle Obama’s healthier school food initiative.

Congressional leaders have been giving conflicting statements about whether the bill will be passed sometime on Thursday or next week. In the meantime, here are summaries of seven of the most striking provisions, based on accounts in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico.com.

1. Taxpayer Bailouts for Wall Street Casinos. The 2010 Dodd-Frank law tried to prevent the riskiest investments from spiraling out of control by ending Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations coverage of derivative trading. Now, in language that was written by lobbyists, according to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the FDIC’s taxpayer-funded insurance of these risky gambits would return.

2. Multi-Employer Pension Plans Can Be Cut. As America faces a retirement security crisis with tens of millions of Americans relying on Social Security for 90 percent of their incomes, those people with pensions seemed like the lucky few. Not so, anymore, if this provision remains. An estimated 200 private employers across the country don’t have the promised money for pensions of 10.5 million workers. So Congress is saying, ‘just pay based on what you have,’ which, in many cases can result in cuts to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Torture Report’s Hidden Fiasco: How Mark Udall Revealed a Little-noticed Smoking Gun

December 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

Buried in the “Panetta Review” is proof that the CIA repeatedly lied to the top levels of government.


After Sen. Mark Udall lost his seat last November a number of Americans, including yours truly, tried to persuade him to release the Torture Report on his own if it looked like the Intelligence Committee was going to lose its nerve. As we all know, the Executive Summary was released yesterday and was as explosive as many of us who’ve been following this story closely have known for a long time that it would be. Many of these details were known, of course, although some of them, like “rectal feedings” are uniquely awful. (Truthfully, some of that had been hinted at before as well.) Still, it’s an official document and that does make a difference.

So Sen. Udall was spared the risk of having to go to the floor to release a classified document that, in this environment, could have easily bought him some very unpleasant legal trouble. Yes, the Senate speech and debate clause is supposed to protect him. But anyone who counts on such things should have a chat with some of the whistle-blowers and reporters who’ve been harassed and persecuted by the government these last few years. These things are hardly clear-cut.

However, despite the risk, Udall did reveal some very important classified information anyway. And for inexplicable reasons, nobody seems to have noticed. I’m talking about information contained in the classified ”Panetta Review,” which was the document the CIA was allegedly looking for when it infiltrated the computers of the Senate staffers doing the investigation.

Udall called it a smoking gun. Here’s what he said:

The Panetta Review found that the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Congress, the president, and the public on the efficacy of its coercive techniques. The Brennan Response, in contrast, continues to insist that the CIA’s interrogations produced unique intelligence that saved lives. Yet the Panetta Review identifies dozens of documents that include inaccurate information used to justify the use of torture – and indicates that the inaccuracies it identifies do not represent …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Michele Bachmann's Latest Doozy: America Is Rich Because Moses and God Wanted It to Be

December 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

In her wacky farewell speech, Bachmann compares House members to Moses, who is looking right at them.


Michele Bachmann was full of fire and brimstone in her rambling farewell speech to the House of Representatives Tuesday. In fact, it was hard to tell if she thought she was in the House of Representatives or a house of worship, two places she often seems to get confused.

“We have so much to be thankful for, so much to be grateful for,” she said. “For many people who have never had the privilege of being in this House chamber before, this is the room where the laws of our nation are formulated. Our founders meant that the House of Representatives would be the most powerful form of government. Why? Because it would be these 435 members that we eventually became, we would hold the power of the purse, we would hold the nation’s credit card, and it would be up to us to decide what we spent money on, and what we didn’t.”

“We are the lawgivers, because the people of this country have given us the privilege of the election certificate to make the laws. We must never forget that it is by the consent of the governed that we rule and we decide our laws.”

Interesting that she called them “lawgivers,” rather than the usual “lawmakers.” Wonder where she was going with that.

“And yet only one lawgiver has the distinction of not having a silhouette, but having the full face be revealed by the artist. That lawgiver is Moses. Moses is directly above the double doors that lead into the centermost part of this chamber, and in the face of Moses, his eyes look straight upon not only our nation’s motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ but Moses’ face looks full on into the face of the Speaker of the House. Daily, the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A 'Spoiled Brat'? Actually, No. Angelina Jolie Earned Her Success

December 11, 2014 in Blogs

By Jessica Valenti, The Guardian

The casual sexism behind producer Scott Rudin's hacked e-mail about Jolie.


Angelina Jolie sends young women all sorts of messages: that you can both be a mom and successful businesswoman, that it’s important to take a stand on issues you care about, and that making a healthy choice “in no way diminishes [your] femininity”. But the most irritating message young women will likely get this week about the award-winning actor is that even if you cultivate the image of a near-saint, there will still be a man waiting to cut you down.

In one of Sony Pictures’ many hacked emails, producer Scott Rudin called Jolie, an Oscar winner and recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, “a minimally talented spoiled brat”.

Rudin, the producer of such films as No Country for Old Men and The Social Network, sounded off in an exchange with Sony’s co-chairman Amy Pascal. He was irate that Jolie wanted director David Fincher to work on her version of Cleopatra, rather than direct a new Steve Jobs biopic.

“There is no movie of Cleopatra to be made (and how that is a bad thing given the insanity and rampaging ego of this woman and the cost of the movie is beyond me),” he wrote.

I don’t know Jolie, so I suppose it’s possible she’s an ego monster of epic proportions – and it’s certainly not news that Hollywood power players badmouth each other. But I find it quite irritating – and more than a little telling – that so many of the entertainment industry’s “brats”, “prima donnas” and “divas” are of the female persuasion. What? Russell Crowe isn’t a brat?

When male stars act the fool, it’s seen as part of their rakish charm. Get in bar fights, go home with 20 womenscream at co-workers – it’s all good. But a successful, widely-talented and powerful woman who dedicates her time to international humanitarian causes? She’s a …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Federal Reserve Bank Policy Can't Heal Economic Malaise

December 11, 2014 in Economics

By James A. Dorn

James A. Dorn

When Ben Bernanke was chairman of the Federal Reserve, he was fond of saying “monetary policy is not a panacea.” Yet when one looks at actual policy since the 2008 financial crisis, it is difficult not to think that people, especially market players, have come to believe that the Fed is a cure-all for economic malaise.

Indeed, the Fed has changed thinking on the use of unconventional monetary policy to stimulate economic growth. The use of quantitative easing (i.e., large-scale asset purchases, including mortgage-backed securities) and financial repression (i.e., holding benchmark rates near zero and allowing real rates to go negative) are now part of conventional wisdom of central banks trying to boost global growth.

The Fed has increased its balance sheet from less than $800 billion before the crisis to more than $4.5 trillion, and has dramatically increased the monetary base in the process. Member banks are now holding nearly $3 trillion of excess reserves at the Fed due, in part, to payment of interest on those reserves since October 2008, and also because of regulations and policy uncertainty.

It is a myth to think that monetary authorities by a stroke of a keyboard can create economic prosperity or that monetary policy can be fine-tuned with every twist and turn of the real economy.”

Those funds are not being lent out, and thus not entering the income stream. Thus, even though the Fed has been creating massive amounts of new base money, the growth rates of the monetary aggregates have not been inflationary. That situation, of course, could change as the economy heats up and confidence returns.

It is a myth to think that monetary authorities by a stroke of a keyboard can create economic prosperity or that monetary policy can be fine-tuned with every twist and turn of the real economy. Fed policy seems largely designed to prop up financial asset prices and to encourage risk-taking with the hope that newly acquired financial wealth will stimulate spending and ignite real economic growth rather than inflation.

Yet a long look at monetary history tells us that central banks cannot control real variables (e.g., employment, output, and real interest rates), except for short periods. When expectations are taken into account, and lags recognized, it becomes clear that “monetary stimulus” is not a substitute for the hard choices that need to be made to generate lasting economic growth.

Institutional changes that …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The KGB's Old Headquarters Lives On

December 11, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Red Square is one of the world’s most iconic locales. Dominated by the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and GUM Department Store, the space looks little different from Soviet times. While Lenin’s mausoleum remains, any hint of menace is gone. Indeed, even during the worst of the USSR the square was more symbolic than threatening. For the most part no one went to the Kremlin to die.

Very different, however, is Lubyanka, just a short walk up Teatralny Proezd past the Bentley and Maserati dealerships.

In the late nineteenth century 15 insurance companies congregated on Great Lubyanka Street, prospering as the great czarist despotism entered the industrial age. The Rossia agency, one of Russia’s largest, completed an office building in 1900. Excess space was turned into apartments and leased out to retailers selling everything from books to beds.

The building was profitable, but 14 years later in his worst single decision the foolish czar led his country into the abyss of World War I. In 1917 he was ousted by a moderate revolution, which in turn was overthrown by the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin. They nationalized insurance companies along with much of the rest of the economy, and switched Russia’s capital from Petrograd to Moscow. As a result, the Rossia building at No. 2 Great Lubyanka Street became the new regime’s property. And the new secret police, known as the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, or Cheka, evicted the rest of the tenants and settled in.

The building was renovated and merged with a new structure behind the original one. The most important “improvements” were made inside, however, such as increasing prison space. With further reconstruction and expansion the building took its present form. The KGB added two more buildings over the years. After all, the secret police had much to do: a dictatorship’s work is never done.

The Lubyanka continues to glower over Russia.”

The first Cheka head was Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Russian Pole born in 1877. He conducted the infamous “Red Terror,” what he called a “fight to the finish” against the Bolsheviks’ political opponents. As part of that campaign he personally approved the torture and murder of thousands. He wrote: “Kill without investigation, so that they will be afraid.” And the agency did so. Of course, not every prisoner was murdered, so the first concentration camps were established in 1918. In a testament …read more

Source: OP-EDS