Saturday, December 26, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
If nothing else the election of Barak Obama was to negate the authoritarian legacy of the previous administration and its totalitarian enactments. This past week however the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the right to declare arbitrarily nonperson hood by executive fiat and thus justify torture, loss of legal standing, and thus "disappear" in the South American sense represents a profound failure. No one is safe anymore in the eyes of the law. I post in its entirety Chris Floyd's comments which have received far too little attention:
"Written by Chris Floyd
Friday, 18 December 2009 14:18
While we were all out doing our Christmas shopping, the highest court in the land quietly put the kibosh on a few more of the remaining shards of human liberty.
It happened earlier this week, in a discreet ruling that attracted almost no notice and took little time. In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence.
Here's how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president's fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a "suspected enemy combatant" by the president or his designated minions is no longer a "person." They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever -- save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.
This extraordinary ruling occasioned none of those deep-delving "process stories" that glut the pages of the New York Times, where the minutiae of policy-making or political gaming is examined in highly-spun, microscopic detail doled out by self-interested insiders. Obviously, giving government the power to render whole classes of people "unpersons" was not an interesting subject for our media arbiters. It was news that wasn't fit to print. Likewise, the ruling provoked no thundering editorials in the Washington Post, no savvy analysis from the high commentariat -- and needless to say, no outrage whatsoever from all our fierce defenders of individual liberty on the Right.
But William Fisher noticed, and gave this report at Antiwar.com:
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal Monday to review a lower court’s dismissal of a case brought by four British former Guantanamo prisoners against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the detainees’ lawyers charged Tuesday that the country’s highest court evidently believes that "torture and religious humiliation are permissible tools for a government to use."
...Channeling their predecessors in the George W. Bush administration, Obama Justice Department lawyers argued in this case that there is no constitutional right not to be tortured or otherwise abused in a U.S. prison abroad.
The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By agreeing, the court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court, which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a statute that applies by its terms to all "persons" – did not apply to detainees at Guantanamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law.
The lower court also dismissed the detainees’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute and the Geneva Conventions, finding defendants immune on the basis that "torture is a foreseeable consequence of the military’s detention of suspected enemy combatants."
The Constitution is clear: no person can be held without due process; no person can be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And the U.S. law on torture of any kind is crystal clear: it is forbidden, categorically, even in time of "national emergency." And the instigation of torture is, under U.S. law, a capital crime. No person can be tortured, at any time, for any reason, and there are no immunities whatsoever for torture offered anywhere in the law.
And yet this is what Barack Obama -- who, we are told incessantly, is a super-brilliant Constitutional lawyer -- has been arguing in case after case since becoming president: Torturers are immune from prosecution; those who ordered torture are immune from prosecution. They can't even been sued for, in the specific case under review, subjecting uncharged, indefinitely detained captives to "beatings, sleep deprivation, forced nakedness, extreme hot and cold temperatures, death threats, interrogations at gunpoint, and threatened with unmuzzled dogs."
Again, let's be absolutely clear: Barack Obama has taken the freely chosen, public, formal stand -- in court -- that there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Nothing to answer for, nothing meriting punishment or even civil penalties. What's more, in championing the lower court ruling, Barack Obama is now on record as believing -- insisting -- that torture is an ordinary, "foreseeable consequence" of military detention of all those who are arbitrarily declared "suspected enemy combatants."
And still further: Barack Obama has now declared, openly, of his own free will, that he does not consider these captives to be "persons." They are, literally, sub-humans. And what makes them sub-humans? The fact that someone in the U.S. government has declared them to be "suspected enemy combatants." (And note: even the mere suspicion of being an "enemy combatant" can strip you of your personhood.)
This is what President Barack Obama believes -- believes so strongly that he has put the full weight of the government behind a relentless series of court actions to preserve, protect and defend these arbitrary powers. (For a glimpse at just a sliver of such cases, see here and here.)
One co-counsel on the case, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, zeroed in on the noxious quintessence of the position taken by the Court, and by our first African-American president: its chilling resemblance to the notorious Dred Scott ruling of 1857, which upheld the principle of slavery. As Fisher notes:
"Another set of claims are dismissed because Guantanamo detainees are not ‘persons’ within the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – an argument that was too close to Dred Scott v. Sanford for one of the judges on the court of appeals to swallow," he added.
The Dred Scott case was a decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1857. It ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants — whether or not they were slaves — were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States.
And now, once again, 144 years after the Civil War, we have established as the law of the land and the policy of the United States government that whole classes of people can be declared "non-persons" and have their liberty stripped away -- and their torturers and tormentors protected and coddled by authority -- at a moment's notice, with no charges, no defense, no redress, on nothing more than the suspicion that they might be an "enemy combatant," according to the arbitrary definition of the state.
Barack Obama has had the audacity to declare himself the heir and embodiment of the lifework of Martin Luther King. Can this declaration of a whole new principle of universal slavery really be what King was dreaming of? Is this the vision he saw on the other side of the mountain? Or is not the nightmarish inversion of the ideal of a better, more just, more humane world that so many have died for, in so many places, down through the centuries?"
Our country is now a James Ellroy novel set to life.Corporations are now people and people are nothing.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
December 20th is a national Russian holiday dedicated to the security apparatus of the state. Felix Derzhinski, pictured above, is generally credited with founding the Cheka which has since evolved into today's FSB and other security services.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Paul Jay and F. William Engdahl discuss some of the real motivations for the American presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is a discussion that is absent from the American scene which ignores the strategic and petro driven realities that the American public pays and pays and pays for.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sunday, December 06, 2009
You might wonder what's going on here? Russian reggae, climate change, and now a somewhat strange explanation for the recent leaked e-mail climate controversy. While the world awaits the upcoming Copenhagen climate discussions with ever decreasing expectations several interesting developments are coming out.
Environment 360 reports that scientists across the globe are reporting if anything climate change is accelerating even faster than previously predicted:
"Ahead of talks in Copenhagen, a group of leading climate scientists has issued a new report summarizing the most recent research findings from around the world and concluding that scientists have underestimated the pace and extent of global warming. The report — titled “The Copenhagen Diagnosis” — finds that in several key areas observed changes are outstripping the most recent projections by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and warns that “there is a very high probability of the warming exceeding 2 °C unless global emissions peak and start to decline rapidly” within the next decade.
The report points to dramatic declines in Arctic sea ice, recent measurements that show a large net loss of ice from both Greenland and Antarctica, and the relatively rapid rise in global sea levels — 3.4 millimeters per year — as particular reasons for concern. Sea-level rise this century, it states, “is likely to be at least twice as large” as predicted by the most recent IPCC report, issued in 2007, with an upper limit of roughly two meters.
“Sea level is rising much faster and Arctic sea ice cover shrinking more rapidly than we previously expected,” Stefan Rahmstorf, department head at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said in a press release accompanying the report. “Unfortunately, the data now show us that we have underestimated the climate crisis in the past.”
There seems to be a fundamental disconnect on the part of politicians and much of the public as to the nature of scientific enquiry as if scientific observations of objective reality can be wished or negociated away. This was well expressed in the following comment by one of the researchers:
"“I’ve been to several of these meetings,” he said. “The delegates and the leaders say very kind things about the IPCC and thank it for its excellent work. But then, from a scientist’s point of view, once the negotiations start they might as well be negotiating, say, steel tariffs. I’ve actually heard politicians say — I won’t name any names — ‘We don’t want to be constrained by the science.’” But, he added, that only makes it more essential to get the information out.
“Not politicians and not money and not public opinion, but the climate system itself imposes a time scale,” Somerville said. “And if the world chooses not to stick within that, well, Mother Nature bats last.”
Meanwhile the source of controversial e-mails has been traced to a server in Siberia according to the Independent:
"The computer hack, said a senior member of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, was not an amateur job, but a highly sophisticated, politically motivated operation. And others went further. The guiding hand behind the leaks, the allegation went, was that of the Russian secret services.
The leaked emails, which claimed to provide evidence that the unit's head, Professor Phil Jones, colluded with colleagues to manipulate data and hide "unhelpful" research from critics of climate change science, were originally posted on a server in the Siberian city of Tomsk, at a firm called Tomcity, an internet security business. "
And what was the motivation?
"Much of Russia's vast oil and gas reserves lie in difficult-to-access areas of the far North. One school of thought is that Russia, unlike most countries, would have little to fear from global warming, because these deposits would suddenly become much easier and cheaper to access.
It is this, goes the theory, that underlies the Kremlin's ambivalent attitudes towards global warming; they remain lukewarm on the science underpinning climate change, knowing full well that if global warming does change the world's climate, billions of dollars of natural resources will become accessible. Another motivating factor could be that Russia simply does not want to spend the vast sums of money that would be required to modernise and "greenify" Russia's ageing factories.
But global warming also brings with it a terrifying threat for Russia, the melting of permafrost, which covers so much of the country's territory. Cities in the Siberian north such as Yakutsk are built entirely on permafrost, and if this melts, are in danger of collapsing, along with railways and all other infrastructure.
But many in Russia's scientific community are deeply sceptical of the threat from global warming. And only 40 per cent of Russians believe climate change is a serious threat, a survey shows."
And, as the above video suggests, there is a long standing, and understandable, Russian desire for warmer climes.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
While the U.S. concentrates on its latest surge, another surge, in the Northern Caucasus is prepared by Russia to suppress an Islamic insurgency driven in part by heavy handed intervention. According to Reuters a large deployment is planned by the Russian government :
"An exiled Chechen rebel leader said Russia intends to greatly boost troop numbers in its mainly Muslim south to tighten its grip on the restive region.
The comments by grey-bearded Akhmed Zakayev, who was given political asylum in Britain in 2003, follow Georgian and Russian media reports last month saying Moscow would quadruple the size of its army in the North Caucasus in 2010.
Zakayev, quoting his contacts in the region, told Reuters an "enormous" quantity of troops would be stationed in the North Caucasus, which Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has described as the country's biggest domestic political problem.
A Kremlin spokeswoman would not comment on Zakayev's predictions of troop increases and the press service of the North Caucasus regional military also declined comment.
"They want to solve the Caucasus problem before the Olympics and tell the world they have eliminated terrorism," Zakayev, 50, said in the interview, conducted late last week. "This will also put the North Caucasus in their hands."
Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, located close to the Caucasus mountains.
Zakayev forecast the Russian government would explain a troop increase by saying there was a risk of further conflict with southern neighbour Georgia, against whom Moscow fought a brief war last year. He did not say when the surge would happen.
The mountainous Caucasus area stretches from the Black to the Caspian Seas, taking in the poor, Muslim-dominated Russian republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan and the former Soviet states of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Analysts and rights campaigners say a silent war is raging in tiny Ingushetia, with near daily violence spilling out into neighbouring Dagestan and Chechnya, where Russia has fought two separatist wars over the last 15 years.
Local leaders and analysts say widespread violence is fuelled by a potent mixture of Islamism, clan feuds and poverty.
Zakayev said the Kremlin plans curfews, roadblocks, spot searches and arbitrary detention for the entire North Caucasus."
Sounds very similar to the American struggle for pipelinestan as elucidated by our Hope We Can Believe In.