Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Official Washington vs. The People

You knew it would happen.  President Obama and Harry Reid have worked out a deal to exempt Congressional employees  including members of Congress from being treated like everyone else, and having to help pay the cost of premiums under Obamacare.

Magically, Obama’s Office of Personnel Management is coming out with a determination that you, the taxpayers, can help pay the cost of your congressional employees’ health insurance premiums.  Of course, this includes the premiums that would be paid by members of Congress.

But don’t worry, you will also get to pay the increased costs of your health insurance, and private employers will have to pay massively increased premiums. In Ohio, insurance regulators have stated that insurance premiums will rise as much as 41 percent from 2013 levels in the new state exchange.

In the criminal enterprise that is Big Government, the people are nothing more than a deep pocket to be picked by their D.C. masters.  Not exactly how the textbooks teach it is supposed to work, but it is certainly what our nation’s constitutional framers feared.

The sad part is that it is not surprising that the federal government has made it a top priority to protect itself from the ravages of Obamacare, while insisting on funding the implementation of the law on the rest of us.  After all, we are the fools who voted them into office in the first place.

This is just one small example of how our federal government has devolved into a battle which pits official D.C. against the people.

Congress and Obama agreed on a bi-partisan basis that there was nothing wrong with the government snooping on emails, Facebook posts and phone calls of private U.S. citizens in spite of Fourth Amendment Constitutional protections designed to prevent search and seizure of information without probable cause.

The public wants Obamacare gone, yet attempts to take the modest step of defunding it for one year are being met with intense behind the scenes opposition from congressional leadership from both political parties.  Legislation by Rep. Tom Graves pushing defunding the soon to be imposed health law has more than 100 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives in just a few weeks, and in spite of Administration admissions that the law is not ready for implementation in just five months, official bipartisan Washington is determined to sit by and do nothing.

The people overwhelmingly support cutting foreign aid, yet no one in the House of Representatives have introduced legislation to strip the International Monetary Fund of the open ended $165 billion line of credit that they enjoy from the U.S. Treasury.  The IMF has already tapped $35 billion of the funds, but it is not too late to close the barn door and protect the remaining $130 billion of U.S. taxpayer money from being wasted through bailing out failed European states and the banks that enabled them.

After all, why shouldn’t the U.S. taxpayer borrow money from China and the Federal Reserve so the IMF can give it to failing countries that can use it to pay off their creditor banks and foreign governments like China who hold their debts?

Official Washington knows that it would be disastrous to their ability to work in harmony if Republicans drew a line in the sand against radical nominees like the EPA’s Gina McCarthy, who in one of her first public appearances after achieving confirmation vowed to continue the Agency’s onslaught against those who make the lights come on in our homes, and produce the gasoline that drives our vehicles.

Keeping the peace in Official Washington supersedes obstructing a job killing EPA from engaging in their holy war against energy producers.  The very energy producers who are at the heart of the hope of a low cost energy American economic revival that promises to revive our nation’s manufacturing sector and the good jobs it creates.

Four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya in a terrorist attack on our consulate on September 11, 2012, and almost a year later, the leadership of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives continues to resist the creation of a special committee with full subpoena powers to get to the bottom of what happened.  This reticence exists in spite of an avalanche of evidence that the Administration has been deliberately intimidating potential witnesses and covering up what happened that fateful night and the days that immediately followed it.

Perhaps what is needed is a modern day Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to do a reprise of their iconic song renaming it Four Dead in Benghazi, to get Official Washington off the dime.  This continuing failure to identify what went wrong will ensure that if our embassies and consulates come under attack in five weeks on the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11, that everyone in Official Washington will share the blame.

Four dead in Benghazi doesn’t seem to matter, but just mess with Official Washington’s ability to have taxpayers fund their health care costs, and you have the whole town up in arms.  Is there any doubt why Congress is held in such low regard by the people.

We now live in a brave, new world in America.  Reality shows reign supreme over the airwaves, but the one that plays out in Washington, D.C. reveals a new cynicism where the elites don’t even bother to hide their contempt for those they pretend to represent.

This reality show should be titled Official Washington versus the People, and it is proof of just how far we have fallen from our nation’s initial vision of government of the people, by the people and for the people.



Manning is Guilty of Aiding the American People

Exposing War Crimes Is Not a Crime

A military judge has announced a verdict in Bradley Manning’s court martial: not guilty of “aiding the enemy,” but guilty of 20 other counts, including five offenses against the Espionage Act. The sentencing hearing begins on Wednesday.

The “aiding the enemy” accusation presumed that Manning’s distribution of classified material assisted al Qaeda. Actually, the information helps Americans by exposing U.S. war criminality.

In early 2010, WikiLeaks published a video, Collateral Murder, featuring July 2007 footage procured from Manning, showing American troops firing upon a journalist and two Reuters employees in Baghdad and revealing their nonchalance about children in the crossfire. WikiLeaks later published hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables it obtained from Manning. We learned that in 2006, U.S. troops executed ten Iraqi civilians in Ishaqi, including a five-month-old, and called an airstrike to obliterate the evidence. Other material exposes al-Maliki’s corruption in Iraq, hundreds of previously unreported civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. allied forces in Afghanistan, friendly fire incidents, violent covert operations, and detainee mistreatment at Guant√°namo.

War criminality ranks among the most important types of government wrongdoing warranting transparency. We cannot debate foreign policy without knowing about its indecencies. What U.S. forces do abroad can endanger Americans at home. Some see the leaks, not the crimes, as the true scandal, but the Muslim and Arab world already know of these atrocities. The American people need to understand what U.S. occupations are like.

Running for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised unprecedented transparency and protection for government whistleblowers “willing to speak out,” hailing their “courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives.” Recently, this language was removed from his website.

Indeed, in response to the leaks, the Obama administration has detained Manning since May 2010—for almost three years before the private pled guilty to 10 charges this February. For eleven months, Manning endured a particularly cruel form of solitary confinement in a windowless 6’x12’ cell for 23 hours a day under constant surveillance, where an official asked the question “Are you OK?” every five minutes. Over 250 legal scholars protested this treatment in an open letter.

Nearly a year of draconian solitary confinement followed by two years of pre-trial detention does not satisfy due process, constitutional speedy trial guarantees, and prohibitions against cruel treatment. Some attorneys have cited the exclusion of exculpatory evidence and denial of relevant defense witnesses as indications of the “railroading” of Manning. At the last minute, the judge even assisted the prosecutor in modifying the charges. The aggressiveness has suggested a political motive to silence those who expose government wrongdoing.

As for the Espionage Act, it passed months after U.S. entry into World War I, America’s low point for civil liberties. The law could ensnare anyone who has spread along information tenuously related to national defense. Along with its sister legislation the Sedition Act, which doomed people to prison merely for criticizing the war, the Espionage Act is an embarrassing relic from a dark time.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, exposing numerous administrations of lying about their Vietnam War intentions and revealing the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia, faced non-espionage charges under the Espionage Act. A judge dismissed the charges. Ellsberg has identified Manning as his modern counterpart. He has said he’s “sure that President Obama would have sought a life sentence in” his own case, and called the president an “elected monarch.” In an interview with Scott Horton, Ellsberg reacted to the “aiding the enemy” acquittal positively, warning that if leaking information to the Internet is a capital crime, it would spell the “death knell” for investigative journalism.

Aside from Ellsberg, two other men faced Espionage Act charges before Obama—one under Reagan and another under George W. Bush.

The current administration is in its own class. In charging Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who, inspired by Manning, revealed the near unlimited nature of warrantless spying on Americans and foreigners, the Obama executive branch has now charged eight people of leaking information under the Espionage Act—more than twice the number of people so charged in earlier presidencies combined.

Obama’s crusade against leakers, as well as against, in at least one case, a journalist for normal journalistic behavior, creates an ominous chilling effect. James Goodale, the counsel for the New York Times in its Supreme Court struggle over the Pentagon Papers, predicts that “President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.”

This is the administration: Nearly unparalleled secrecy, daily scandals, a surveillance state unbound by law, unilateral presidential wars, indefinite detention, the power to kill any terrorist suspect anywhere without a hint of due process, a politicized regulatory state collecting limitless data and harassing political opponents at home, and the persecution of whistleblowers using an anachronistic law from the darkest days of American civil liberty.

The national security state and its leader demand scrutiny. In the long term, Americans should fear their own government more than foreign terrorists. The federal government is a menace not just to life but to liberty. None too soon, a poll shows more Americans worried about civil liberties violations than terrorism.



Iran’s feast of hate

Hopes that the Islamic Republic in Iran may moderate its foreign policy were dashed last week with nationwide demonstrations Friday calling for the destruction of America and the elimination of Israel.

The tone was set by Hassan Rouhani, just days before his inauguratation as president. “Israel has been a wound in the body of Islam for years,” he told reporters as he joined an anti-Israel, anti-US march in Tehran. “That wound must be eliminated.”

“The Zionist regime that occupies Jerusalem is continuing its aggressive nature,” Rouhani said. “In calling for the liberation of Jerusalem, we highlight the unity of Islam.” (Iranian state media later claimed it had misrepresented Rouhani’s remarks.)

Outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad echoed the themes set by Rouhani in a speech at the Friday prayer congregation in Tehran University.  Recalling his speech at the United Nations denying the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad repeated his claim that the Holocaust was nothing but “a fable and an historic lie.”

As a result of a merger between Zionism and capitalism, he claimed, some “2,000 Zionists” control the United States and European countries. Even the president of the United States, a country that “thinks it is the most powerful in the world,” must kowtow to Zionists.

“Don’t think that when I say Zionist I just mean some Jews who happen to be extremists,” Ahmadinejad added. “What I am talking about is the dirty capitalists who control all major economic centers, banks and media groups in the world.”

“Zionism is the animal dimension of satanic rule,” he added. “It knows nothing but plundering the world. They have seized control of the world’s pharmaceutical centers to produce microbes to kill their opponents.”

Designated “The Day of Quds” (Jerusalem), the demonstrations attracted virtually all regime officials in addition to the usual “Death to America!” rent-a-mob.

With banners bearing the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s saying “Israel Must Be Effaced from the World,” militants burned US and Israeli flags in more than 800 demonstrations, according to the official news agency IRNA.

The anti-American theme was spelled out in sermons by mullahs across the nation.

One sermon given top billing by the official media was delivered by Ayatollah Abbasqoli Akhtari, who heads the Ahl-e-Beit (People of the House) organization. Controlled by the ”Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, Ahl-e-Beit operates as a parallel government structure. It also has a network of representation in more than 50 countries, including the United States (where, claiming a religious status, it benefits from First Amendment protections).

“America is the arch-enemy of Islam,” Akhtari said. “It will not settle for anything less than the destruction of Islam. The only way to fight back is through resistance until it is brought to its knees.”

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, a Revolutionary Guard general, focused on praising the Lebanese Hezbollah as “the vanguard of Islamic resistance.” He claimed that Hezbollah, backed by Iran, represents “the best hope for liberating Jerusalem.”



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