Madison a Foretaste of Things to Come: The Next Big Occupation Could be Boomers Taking Over the Capitol Building

The dramatic and inspiring occupation of the Wisconsin Statehouse in Madison by angry public workers and their supporters over the past few weeks is an exciting preview of what we can expect to see in the halls of Congress before long, as right-wing forces, funded by corporate lobbies and corporate-funded think-tanks push hard for cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare.

The drive to undermine these two critically important social programs is moving into high gear as the 79-million Baby Boomers this year start to reach eligibility, even as their other assets–their homes and their investment portfolios–are still shriveled by the Wall Street heist known as the “fiscal crisis” and Great Recession.

For years, the right has been gravely warning of the supposedly looming “bankruptcy” of Social Security and the even more imminent “bankruptcy” of Medicare, as though these twin disasters for the elderly were an actuarial imperative. In fact, both programs are political creations, whose problems have political causes and political solutions.

Social Security is starting to draw down the huge reserves it had built up, not because of an increase in retirees (the bulge in retirees hasn’t hit yet), but because the share of national income that is subject to the Social Security FICA tax has fallen, from 90% back in the 1980s to just 84% now, as the wealthy have appropriated an increasingly large share of the total national income. If more of the income of the rich were slapped with the FICA tax, to bring the total share of income subject to FICA back to 90%, there would be plenty of money to pay promised benefits into the foreseeable future. The same can be said of Medicare. More taxes on the rich would ensure the funding of that program too.

There is no inherent reason why only the first $106,000 of a person’s income should be subject to the FICA tax. It could be the first $200,000, or the first $500,000, and if it were the latter, we could be talking about improving benefits for retirees, or lowering the retirement age, not just preserving current levels. Benefits could be better still if investment income were no longer exempted from a FICA tax (and the Medicare tax).

But here’s the big point: Corporate America, and its political lackeys in the Republican and Democratic Parties, know that they are about to confront a dramatically more powerful protagonist in their campaign to kill Social Security and Medicare: the Boomer Retirees.
Next time, angry Boomer retirees occupying the Capital Rotunda in DC?Next time, angry Boomer retirees occupying the Capital Rotunda in DC?

Davis Arrest Throws US Undercover Campaign in Pakistan into Disarray

The ongoing case of Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor facing murder charges in Lahore for the execution-style slaying of two apparent agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, is apparently leading to a roll-back of America’s espionage and Special Operations activities in Pakistan.

A few days ago, Pakistan’s Interior Department, which is reportedly conducting a careful review of the hundreds of private US contractors who flooded into Pakistan over the last two years, many with “diplomatic passports,” and many others, like Davis, linked to shady “security” firms, arrested an American security contractor named Aaron DeHaven, a Virginia native who claims to work for a company called Catalyst Services LLC.

The Catalyst Services LLC website describes the company, with offices in Afghanistan, Dubai, the US and Pakistan, as having experience in “logistics, operations, security and finance,” and as having a staff led by “individuals who have been involved in some of the most significant events of the last 20 years,” including “the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US effort in Somalia, and the Global War on Terror.”

DeHaven is being held on a 14-day remand, charged with overstaying his visa and with living in an unauthorized area.

Meanwhile, the English-language Express Tribune in Pakistan reports that according to ISI sources, 30 “suspected US operatives” in Pakistan have “suspended” their operations in the country, while 12 have fled the country.

The paper quotes the Pakistan Foreign Office as saying that 851 Americans claiming diplomatic immunity are currently in Pakistan, 297 of whom are “not working in any diplomatic capacity.” The paper says that the country’s Interior Department claims that 414 of the total are “non-diplomats.” The majority of these American operatives, the paper says, are located in Islamabad (where the US is building a huge fortress-like embassy reminiscent of the one in Baghdad), with the others in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Most are suspected of being involved in covert missions that report to the US Joint Special Operations Command, with many suspected of being active-duty Special Forces personnel from the Army’s Delta Force. (The website of the JSOC says its responsibility is “synchronizing Department of Defense plans against global terrorist networks and, as directed, conducting global operations.”)
Aaron DeHaven, a US "security" contractor arrested and held by Pakistani authoritiesAaron DeHaven, a US "security" contractor arrested and held by Pakistani authorities

Pakistani and Indian Newspapers Say US CIA Contractor Raymond Davis is a Terrorist

Pakistani and Indian newspapers are reporting that Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor in jail in Lahore facing murder charges for the execution-slayings of two young men believed to by Pakistani intelligence operatives, was actually involved in organizing terrorist activities in Pakistan.

As the Express Tribune, an English-language daily that is linked to the International Herald Tribune, reported on Feb. 22:

“The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab,” a senior official in the Punjab Police claimed.

“His close ties with the TTP [the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan] were revealed during the investigations,” he added. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” Call records of the cellphones recovered from Davis have established his links with 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, sources said.

The article goes on to explain a motive for why the US, which on the one hand has been openly pressing Pakistan to move militarily against Taliban forces in the border regions abutting Afghanistan, would have a contract agent actively encouraging terrorist acts within Pakistan, saying:

Davis was also said to be working on a plan to give credence to the American notion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe. For this purpose, he was setting up a group of the Taliban which would do his bidding.

According to a report in the Economic Times of India, a review by police investigators of calls placed by Davis on some of the cell phones found on his person and in his rented Honda Civic after the shooting showed calls to 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the banned Pakistani Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an group identified as terrorist organization by both the US and Pakistan, which has been blamed for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and for the brutal slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. (You’d think this would be a big story for the Wall Street Journal, especially on the editorial page, but so far, there has been no mention of it in Murdoch’s rag.)
CIA man Raymond Davis keeps some pretty nasty company in Pakistan.CIA man Raymond Davis keeps some pretty nasty company in Pakistan.

US Caught in The Big Lie: ThisCantBeHappening! was Correct in Exposing Raymond Davis as a Spy

Talk about getting caught in a Big Lie.

So desperate has been the US effort to get the US government killer Raymond Davis sprung from police custody in Lahore, Pakistan following his execution-style slaughter of two Pakistani intelligence operatives in broad daylight in a crowded commercial area, that the government trotted out President Obama to declare that Pakistan was violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by holding “our diplomat,” whom he insisted had only been defending himself, and should in any case be entitled to absolute immunity.

Now both the Guardian newspaper in the UK over the weekend, and the Associated Press today are reporting that sources in both the Pakistani and American governments are confirming that Davis works for the CIA. The AP is even reporting that he is a “CIA security contractor,” which is something less and a little more amorphous than a CIA employee, and that means he has no claim on diplomatic immunity whatever, and that raises the added question of who he actually is and who he actually works for. But more on that later.

The Guardian noted in its article that Davis’s wife had provided phone numbers for information about him to a local TV station and that those numbers turned out to be the CIA. Meanwhile, Agence France Press reported over the weekend that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), a loose-tongued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also apparently inadvertently slipped up and disclosed on the Senate floor that Davis is an “agent”, saying, “We can’t throw this agent over.”

America’s and the President’s reputations lie in tatters as a result of the handling of this bloody incident. Not only did the US dispatch to Islamabad members of Congress, including the oleaginous Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), as well as the reprehensible Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to press for Davis’s release, threatening the withholding of aid to Pakistan (our ostensible ally in the Afghanistan War!). It provided a patently false document to the Pakistani Foreign Office claiming Davis to be an employee of the US Embassy in Islamabad (which would have meant he’d have immunity from arrest and detention), when he was actually working out of the Lahore Consulate, where he would not be entitled to any immunity for his actions). It also tried to exchange his regular passport for a diplomatic one a day after his arrest, again retroactively trying to get him immunity from prosecution for his murderous acts.

Furthermore, the US government, according to the Guardian, induced major US news organizations to hide what they knew about Davis’s real role from the American public. The paper reported that several US news organizations had also learned on their own that Davis is a spy, but then voluntarily withhheld the information from the American public “at the request of the Obama administration,” which preferred to stick to the fictional story line that Pakistan is holding an American “diplomat” in “violation of the Vienna Convention” on diplomatic immunity. In fact, on Feb. 15, when the president lectured Pakistan about releasing “our diplomat” Davis, saying “We’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is, if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution,” not only did he know he was lying, but so did some major news organizations which ran his statement but didn’t tell readers the truth: Davis was no diplomat, but was a spook, or a contractor for a spook agency.

Update Even late today, when the NY Times finally says it got “permission” from the government to publish what it knew–that Davis “worked with” the CIA, it still fudged the issue of its allowing President Obama to lie at his press conference. “Without describing Mr. Davis’s mission or intelligence affiliation, President Obama last week made a public plea for his release,” the self-described “paper of record” wrote. But that’s not what Obama did. He simply lied and called Davis a “diplomat” and demanded his release, claiming he had immunity, and the Times knowingly let him get away with that lie.
This Dept. of Defense Contractor ID found on Davis belies his "diplomat" claim, but also raises questions about whether he's really CIA, or something elseThis Dept. of Defense Contractor ID found on Davis belies his "diplomat" claim, but also raises questions about whether he’s really CIA, or something else

Readers of ThisCantBeHappening! will not be surprised about any of this however.

Diplomatic and Consular Immunity: One Rule for Foreign Consulates in US, Another for US Consulates Abroad

President Obama, before he was a President or a Senator, was a constitutional law professor. He should know the law.

And yet in the increasingly dangerous show-down over Pakistan’s arrest and detention of Lahore consular contract “security official” Raymond Davis, who is charged with two counts of murder for the shooting deaths of two young Pakistanis on January 27, the president has grossly misstated what international law is with respect to the immunity from prosecution of diplomatic and consular officials.

As the president put it on a few days ago at a press conference, “With respect to Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future. If our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution. We respect it with respect to diplomats who are here. We expect Pakistan, that’s a signatory should recognize Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention.”

The first problem is that Davis isn’t a “diplomat.” At best he’s a consulate employee. Furthermore, whoever wrote the president his lines or gave him his background briefing sure didn’t read the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963! Nor did he or she read a document issued last August by the US State Department titled: Diplomatic and Consular Immunity; Guidance for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities (Dept. of State Pub. 10524)
US State Dept. has one rule on immunity for consular officials here, another for our guys overseasUS State Dept. has one rule on immunity for consular officials here, another for our guys overseas

Tyrants Beware: The People of Egypt Have Done It! They Have Driven Mubarak Out!

Breaking News! After 18 days of huge protests, Egypt’s dictator of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, has been driven from power by the uprising of the Egyptian people, who refused to accept his attempt last night to hang on to power.

Mubarak ousted by People Power!Mubarak ousted by People Power!

There is still much to know, but the 20-second announcement on state television at 6 pm Egyptian time informed the country that Hosni Mubarak had been driven from the Presidency of Egypt. It appears that his handpicked successor, the blood-drenched Interior Ministry head Omar Suleiman, who had been “vice president” for a few days, and who made the announcement, has also been pushed out–he said in flat tones on state television that the Army would henceforth be running the country’s affairs.

The reality is that it was the demonstrators and strikers who made this happen, but technically the ousting of Mubarak was a military coup, and It remains to be seen if the army will now to hold power and keep the ruling elite in power, or whether it will hand things over to civilians from the incredible people’s movement that has accomplished this astonishing feat.

One thing’s for sure: it would be hard to push the millions of Egyptians whose peaceful but unflinching protests achieved this revolution back into the shadows and margins of society and economic life where they have lived for half a century.

As one man told an Al Jazeera reporter: “The Egyptian People now know that they can do this. We have just witnessed the rebirth of a great nation!”

US Terror Campaign in Pakistan? What was Raymond Davis Shooting for in Lahore?

The mystery surrounding Raymond A. Davis, the American former Special Forces operative jailed in Lahore, Pakistan for the murder of two young motorcyclists, and his funky “security” company, Hyperion-Protective Consultants LLC, in the US continues to grow.

When Davis was arrested in the immediate aftermath of the double slaying in a busy business section of Lahore, after he had fatally shot two men in the back, claiming that he feared they might be threatening to rob him, police found business cards on him for a security company called Hyperion-Protective Consultants LLC, which listed as its address 5100 North Lane, Orlando, Florida.

A website for the company gave the same address, and listed the manager as a Gerald Richardson.

An investigation into the company done for Counterpunch Magazine that was published on Tuesday, disclosed that the address was actually for a vacant storefront in a run-down and almost completely empty strip mall in Orlando called North Lane Plaza. The 5100 shop was completely empty and barren, save for an empty Coke glass on a vacant counter.

Now Tom Johnson, executive of a property company called IB Green, owner of the strip mall property, says that the 5100 address was rented by a man named Gerald Richardson, who used it to sell clothing. “We made him move out in December 2009 for nonpayment of rent,” he says. Johnson recalls that at one point when Richardson was leasing the space for his clothing store, he told him, “Oh, I have another company called Hyperion which might get mail there.”

Hyperion-Protective Consultants LLC, as reported in the Counterpunch article, is not registered with the Florida Secretary of State’s office, although it still lists the vacant 5100 North Lane, Orlando address as its headquarters on the company website, which also provides an email address for Richardson, who is described as the company’s “manager and chief researcher.” (Efforts to reach Richardson via his email and by leaving a message on the one functioning number listed on the website have gone unanswered.)

But there are other mysteries here, too, regarding Davis (whose name does not appear on the Hyperion-Protective website), and regarding Hyperion.
Just a security guy? Guns, shells, clips, multiple cell phones and batteries all found in Davis's possession by policeJust a security guy? Guns, shells, clips, multiple cell phones and batteries all found in Davis's possession by police

America: Standing in the Way of Democracy

It is pathetic and even laughable to hear American leaders, and the leaders of the other Western democracies in Europe, cautioning that Egypt’s revolution needs to move slowly, as they call for a “transition” government that would be gently guided to elections by the very man, Omar Suleiman, who for years has headed the dreaded Mukhabarat, the Egyptian secret police, all under the protective umbrella of the Egyptian military.

What is this nonsense?

Did America’s revolutionary government have a slow transition to democracy? Did America’s revolutionaries sign the Declaration of Independence and then hand over the reins of government to a general from the British Army to oversee things as they prepared for elections? No. They immediately set up a democratic system, even in the midst of a bitter war for independence. Did the African National Congress turn to a general from the South African military to run a transition government in South Africa when they finally ousted the Apartheid regime in that country? No, they held an election, and went on to rule as the elected majority. When the People Power revolution in the Philippines toppled the Marcos dictatorship after a generation of autocratic and brutal martial law law, did the people turn to the country’s military and ask it to run the country for a transition year to democracy? No, of course not! They held a snap election and elected the widow, Corazon Aquino, wife of the martyred democracy activist Benigno Aquino.

Democracies don’t need “transitions” run by military rulers and hold-over tyrants. These are tactics designed to subvert, delay and even prevent true popular rule.
Tom Paine would be in Egypt's Liberation SquareTom Paine would be in Egypt's Liberation Square