The crazed obsession with secrecy, security, and ever-increasing intrusiveness by government policing and intelligence authorities into the lives of ordinary Americans has continued apace under the Obama administration. This madness can be illustrated by a case currently before the US Supreme Court involving the scientists who work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The case began back in the Bush/Cheney years when scientists at JPL objected vigorously to a new order that they all submit to deep background checks in order to receive new identity cards that would allow them to go to work. They were warned, when they complained about a security check that would involve looking back all the way to their college days, into not just arrest records, but student drug use, sexual histories, political activities, etc., based upon wide-ranging interviews with past employers, acquaintances, friends, family, etc., that failure to agree to the investigations would mean they could no longer come to work.
What made the whole thing ridiculous from the outset is that NASA is by law a civilian agency. It does not engage in national security activities. The scientists at JPL run the deep space probes like Viking, Cassini and the other planetary exploration programs, as well as other civilian satellite projects. Yet they were being told that even people who had worked at JPL and NASA for decades, back to the days of the Apollo Program, would be fired if they refused to submit to the new security checks.
Robert Nelson, JPL scientist and lead plaintiff against government-imposed security checks
The JPL scientists rallied against the plan and filed suit, winning at the district and appellate court levels, and many assumed that with the arrival of the Obama administration, the whole idea would be dropped.
No such luck.
Jefferson County, KS — It’s too late for Mr. Goldsmith, for former Kansas City, KS Police Detective Max Seifert and hundreds of thousands.
Bank of America and several other giant banks last week announced they are halting foreclosures across many states.
But we have already witnessed our courts turned into vast paper mills churning out foreclosures and lawsuits from credit card companies, the public servants turned into collection agencies for the easy credit vultures preying on the gullible, the desperate and the stupidly poor and greedy–and nobody’s talking about people getting back homes already stolen by those corrupt operations. Ultimately, all we’ve gotten has been a national circular firing squad, without competent leadership or investigators. The institutions once used to punish the violent, or to protect the vulnerable, instead have become a gargantuan legal hammer smashing the lives of millions into what may be years of grinding of poverty.
The Democrats keep calling me. They’re asking for money. It’s understandable, I guess. Ever since voting for Dick Gregory’s Freedom and Peace Party presidential campaign in 1968, I’ve pulled the Democratic lever and even actively campaigned for Gore, Kerry, and especially for Obama.
Not a big-time donor, I made small contributions routinely. Not a campaign organizer, I put in weekly stints at the phone bank, where I happen to be very effective. Not a media pundit, I jawboned my friends, including my highly skeptical editor, to vote for the dude.
It’s paying volunteers like me who help win elections. Yet, many of us grassroots activists share a sense of mounting despair, anger, and profound disillusionment with the present administration, adding up to a far bigger threat to Democrats than the Tea Baggers can muster. Yo! We’re your base! Labor, women, minorities, young people, and progressives – remember us?
Look what’s happening:
Incessant news media reports about Republicans retaking Capitol Hill by routing Democrats in the November general election are inaccurate according to the third highest ranking Democrat in Congress, himself a former newspaper publisher.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn concedes Democrats will lose some seats on Capitol Hill but predicts Democrats will both retain and gain enough seats to maintain their majorities in the House and the Senate.
“When you go district by district instead of using a broad Inside-the-Beltway analysis you see Democrats faring well,” said Rep Clyburn during a Monday September 20th meeting with the Editorial Board of The Philadelphia Tribune newspaper.
Three days later, Clyburn, upon emerging from an election campaign strategy meeting at the White House, said Democrats could lose as many as twenty seats in the House but will maintain control with a 234-211 seat margin over Republicans.
For months, predictions from press pundits and pollsters have painted a picture of Republicans snatching control of Capitol Hill by trouncing Democrats in November.
Rep. James Clyburn
Where many analysts see a political tsunami washing away Democrats, the political tea leaves read by Clyburn and others point to a different outcome.
At least fifty people were injured and several killed in struggles around Quito’s National Police Hospital where Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa was taken Thursday after being injured by a tear gas canister shot at him by a protesting police officer.
Insurgent police kept the president in the hospital for 12 hours until army units arrived and fought gun battles with the police elements. After some struggle inside the hospital, the army grabbed the president and swept him away to the national palace in an SUV.
For a good video of the struggle and Correa’s post kidnapping remarks, look at the Associated Press video report.
During the hectic hours Thursday, it was unclear who was with and who was against the president. From the beginning, General Ernesto Gonzalez, the top army commander, declared support for Correa, but it was not until after midnight that the army began to move against the rebel police.
If you have been feeling uneasy about having to be X-rayed by a Transportation Security Administration goon who can look under your clothes every time you fly, consider this: at least you can say no, and agree to be subjected to an old-fashioned full-body search.
No opt-out for the latest in anti-terror technology though, with reports just out in Forbes Magazine and the Christian Science Monitor that the Homeland Security Department has purchased 500 mobil X-ray vans called ZBVs that can scan cars, trucks and homes without the drivers or residents in a building even knowing that they’re being zapped.
These vans, made by a Massachusetts company called American Science & Engineering, are fitted out with what are called Z Backscatter X-ray devices, which aim a powrful X-ray beam that reportedly has the capability of penetrating 14 inches of steel.
Murder is murder, and terror is terror, you might think. But when terror is committed against an American citizen by the state of Israel the response from the US government is not protest, and it is surely not to demand justice, much less seek vengeance. It is silence.
In 1985, when terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front, in an act of piracy on the high seas in the Mediterranean, took control of the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship, and executed the Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer, shooting him in the forehead and then pushing the wheelchair-bound 69-year-old overboard, the US responded with dramatic action. To rescue the passengers, Italian negotiators had worked out a deal granting safe passage to Tunisia to the pirates, in return for the freeing of the ship and its other passengers. But President Ronald Reagan dispatched a US fighter plane to intercept the plane carrying the PLF pirates to safety, and forced it to land at a US airbase in Italy, where they were turned over to Italian authorities for prosecution.
Compare this to another more recent act of piracy, the violent assault and high-seas boarding of the Turkish cruise ship Mavi Marmara and a flotilla of smaller ships bound from Turkey to Gaza by troops from the Israeli Defense Force, who commandeered the vessels, killing eight Turkish and one young Turkish-American passenger. The US failed to condemn this latter act of piracy, and as for the American who was slain, 19-year old Furkan Dogan, there was not a word of protest.
Furkan Dogan, executed by Israeli soldiers in the raid on the Mavi Marmara, ignored by Washington and the US media
#1: I don’t know why the Left is so so jazzed about FBI raids on the anti-war movement. Shouldn’t we be thanking them for finding it? I mean, that was some serious investigative work. I’m 59 years old. I’ve been going to anti-war demonstrations most of my life. Since a few a biggies in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the peace demonstrations I’ve attended have repeatedly attracted the same 34 people, all of whom hate each other because of differing interpretations of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, and they’re surrounded in a “free speech zone” by barricades and police on horses, and they always have a terrible sound system, so that pedestrians wince and go to the other side of the street.
The FBI thinks the Freedom Road Socialist Organization is a threat to the corporate state? Where do I join?
#2: A few months ago I was wandering around Barnes and Noble and found this giant, remaindered book of New York Times front pages down through history. I was astonished to find one from 1968, the day after a big antiwar demonstration in Washington, and the Times had splashed five big stories about the demonstration across eight columns on the front page, and most of the rest of the stories concerned some tear in the social fabric.
It was astonishing. The Left? In The New York Times? All over the front page? Those were the days, my friend. Maybe the fact that The New York Times actually covered the recent FBI raids will signal the rest of corporate journalism that they can go back to scapegoating the Left instead of ignoring it. Publicity is publicity.
US-led forces in Afghanistan sure did a bang-up job this week at promoting the concept of Western “democracy.”
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the puppet intelligence agency of the Afghan government, between them, arrested and held three journalists. Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelance reporter for Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, Mohammed Nader, a staff correspondent and cameraman for Al Jazeera, and Hojatullah Mojadadi, an Afghan local radio station manager, were all held without charge for the “crime” of allegedly having developed contacts with the Taliban. Nekzada and Nader were held by US forces for three days. Mojadadi was held by Afghan authorities for six days.
The three were finally released thanks to international pressure and following demands for the release of the two NATO-held journalists made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The US military was upset with the fact that AP and Al Jazeera stringer Nekzad had developed contacts with Taliban forces. Actually, in the initial press announcement from NATO forces, they said that he was a “suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator, who participated in filming election attacks.” That is to say, he managed to get over to the “other side” in a guerrilla war, to let the outside world see what is going on in Afghanistan. Nader was accused of propagandizing for the Taliban.
The Republican right’s Pledge to America is widely being compared with Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. But for those of us with long enough memories, it more clearly harkens back a decade further, to the early days of the Reagan Administration. Now, as then, the Republican agenda has two major political thrusts.
First, the Republicans are advancing a Reaganesque program based around defense Keynesianism, an economic pump-prime through military spending. It signals a victory for the Pentagon generals who have been fighting Obama to further expand what certainly appears to be a futile war in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan–one that can go on and on indefinitely. Moreover, the Republicans want to fund an expensive missile defense system. Just as with Reagan, once this kind of spending gets going, they will be congratulating themselves on new jobs making armaments. At the same time, they can talk of shrinking the deficit by reducing or eliminating domestic programs.
That’s the nub of the pledge, with one adroit addition. This document makes no mention of reducing or eliminating Social Security. This is good politics before the election, and it’s bound to undercut the Obama administration, which has created the fiscal commission to reduce deficits, and is widely assumed to have Medicare and Social Security in its sights.