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Topsail Island.  December, 2012.  Photo by joanneleon.

Topsail Island.  December, 2012.  Photo by joanneleon.

Beach Fossils - Clash The Truth

News and Opinion

Hat tip to joe shikspack and his Evening Blues diary last night for some of the news excerpts below.  

New Documents Reveal: DHS spying on Peaceful Demonstrations and Activists

Government documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) through its FOIA records requests reveal that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an agency created after the September 11 attacks under the rubric of combating terrorism, conducts daily monitoring of peaceful, lawful protests as a matter of policy.

Functioning as a secret political police force against people participating in lawful, peaceful free speech activity, the heavily redacted documents show that the DHS “Threat Management Division” directed Regional Intelligence Analysts to provide a “Daily Intelligence Briefing” that includes a category of reporting on “Peaceful Activist Demonstrations” along with “Domestic Terrorist Activity.” (p. 68)

The PCJF has obtained thousands of pages of documents pursuant to its Freedom of Information Act demands and made them available for public viewing. The newly obtained  documents show coordination and intelligence monitoring by the DHS, the FBI, the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies of “Occupy-type” protests.

The documents show the routine use of Fusion Centers for intelligence gathering on peaceful demonstrations as well as the use of DHS’ “Mega Centers” for collection of surveillance information on demonstrations.

Spy vs. Soldier: The CIA may lose a power it never legally had

The Obama administration may remove the CIA from armed drone operations, according to recent reports—a signal that it now believes the CIA should not be involved in what its new director, John Brennan, called "paramilitary" operations. If the administration does restrict the CIA, it will also be the first major limitation on the drone program—a program Obama has greatly expanded since taking office. It does little to explain, however, how, contrary to international law, the CIA got involved in the business of killing in the first place.

This chapter in CIA history begins in November 2002, when the agency used a drone for the first time to launch a Hellfire missile attack in Yemen, killing six men, including a 23-year-old American. Yemen was not at war with the U.S. or experiencing civil war at that time. The U.S. Air Force declined to carry out the attack because of legal concerns. The CIA had no such concerns. Thus began a long decade of killing by the CIA, with a death toll reaching 5,000 people, including 200 to 300 children.

Under the international law of armed conflict, only the members of a state's regular armed forces or associated militias meeting certain criteria may claim the "combatant's privilege" to kill in armed conflict. The combatant's privilege means those carrying out intentional killing will be not charged with a crime so long as the deaths they cause comply with the law of armed conflict. Among the important criteria that separate the CIA from lawful combatants: CIA personnel are not trained in the law of armed conflict; they are not part of a chain of command; they are not subject to a system of accountability for battlefield conduct, and they wear no uniform or insignia. Even in a place where the U.S. is engaged in armed conflict hostilities, which today is only Afghanistan (hostilities ended for the U.S. in Iraq in 2010 and Libya in 2011), the CIA is not supposed to carry out lethal operations.

The ACLU at the National Conference for Media Reform

Heading to Denver this weekend for the National Conference for Media Reform? You can catch me on Saturday morning (early! wake up anyway!) discussing electronic surveillance and what we can do about it with a really cool group of activists and experts.

"This Conversation Is Being Recorded" features me, Stanford Center for Internet and Society scholar Jonathan Mayer, Access Policy Counsel Peter Micek, and senior research fellow at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Seeta Peña Gangadharan. The conversation will be moderated by EFF’s Rainey Reitman.

I'll discuss how the surveillance state has undergone serious mission creep since 9/11. We've witnessed troubling secrecy and surveillance trickle-down, from NSA spying at the military level all the way down to state and local police spying at so-called 'fusion centers' nationwide. At every level of government, we know less and less about what officials are doing, but an ever-growing cast of shadowy characters with government paychecks knows more and more about us.

Obama’s new budget will reportedly include GOP's beloved entitlement cuts

White House sources are now telling reporters that the president is “strongly considering” including entitlement cuts in his 2014 budget, to be introduced around April 10. The budget could lay out precise cuts to Social Security and Medicare, as well as Medicaid, that the president has reportedly been offering in futile negotiations with Republicans, but that he’s never officially spelled out. ...

Including entitlement curbs would be notable, the WSJ’s Damien Parella notes, “as Republicans often have criticized the White House for offering such steps in private negotiations but never fully embracing them as part of an official budget plan.”

But if he’s now embracing them publicly, doesn’t that remove them as something to bargain over?

Worms, Pond Scum and Economists

Young people today can expect many more years of dire labor market conditions, because the remedies that could turn around their job situations have been blocked by nonsense spewing from economists. ... The failure to see the largest asset bubble in the history of the world, coupled with the failure to prescribe an effective remedy to deal with the damage, should be sufficient to earn the economics profession the contempt of right-thinking people everywhere. But there is nothing too low for this group of professionals.

We are now seeing economists joining the crusade to cut Social Security and Medicare by implicitly or explicitly claiming that these programs are somehow responsible for the dismal economic plight of the young. The argument is that we can only free up money for helping our young if we take money from the old, a group with a median income of $20,000 a year.

By contrast, the upward redistribution of income to the richest 1 percent is equal to 10 percentage points of national income, or more than $1.3 trillion a year.

How banksters scapegoat granny after stealing your money

Like Nixon to China, it takes a Democrat to put the first knife into Social Security

For the owners of the country (and their paid national managers), the real emergency associated with Social Security isn’t the day the last dollar will leave the Trust Fund. It’s the day the first dollar will leave. That’s a whole different problem, and a whole different timeline, for them. ...

The Reagan tax cuts steadily lowered the rate on the top dollars earned (keep that “top dollar” point in mind; mere mortals never saw those rates) from 70% to 50%, then to 28%. Those tax cuts, plus his massive spending, made the deficit rocket skyward. Mission accomplished; beast starving.

But how to make that deficit look smaller to the easily fooled? Simple. Grab a huge pile of cash from the middle class, invest that cash in Treasuries, and declare those Treasuries off-budget. Voilà — beast looks partially fed. …

The real goal of [the Clinton, Obama] fix is to hide the looting of the last fix. Just like the last time, the goal isn’t [fixing] Social Security itself. The last fix hid the mounting deficit in off-budget Treasuries. But soon those Trust Fund Treasuries might actually get cashed. Since the government would have to borrow to replace them, that transfers the off-budget numbers back on-budget. Oops.

Stagnant Wages and Speculation Triggered the Crisis

Inequality has risen in the United States and in many other countries quite substantially since the 1970s. So the share of income that goes to wages has fallen in the U.S. and many other countries, and real wages have declined for workers in the United States. And one of the results of this is that people have inadequate income to buy the goods and services that they normally would with declining income.

And so the link to the crisis is that corporations who depend upon sales as a motivation to invest, to create new jobs, and so forth have not had as much pressure to do that. But they have been awash with profits as wages have fallen. And so what they have done, of course, is channeled those profits into the financial sector. And so they may be paying down debt or they might be buying financial instruments for themselves.

And so we find the financial sector both less regulated and awash with what I would call bubble dollars--dollars from the housing bubble. And so what financial firms have done--that is, to lend those dollars--and when they ran out of creditworthy borrowers, they began lending to precisely those households who have been struggling as a result of the downward pressure on their wages, the downward contributions to pension funds, rising medical costs, and rising health-care costs.

So the inequality in a sense contributed to this financialization, to this flood of funds to the financial sector, who then sought to lend that money precisely back to those people who were struggling in the first place.

Celente: US has wars to fight, not eroding infrastructure to fix

Greedy Banksters and their Government Lackeys Create Eurozone Unemployment Catastrophe

Youth unemployment hit nearly 60% in Greece in February, according to new figures published on Tuesday by the Eurostat statistics agency, revealing widespread job losses across the Eurozone as austerity wreaks a "cycle of decline." ...

Overall unemployment in the Eurozone, broke previous records at 12% ...

When compared to less austerity strained countries, the country with the lowest unemployment was Austria at 4.8%. Germany's rate was 5.4% and Luxembourg's 5.5%. Overall unemployment in Greece stands at 26.2%, Spain 26.3%, and Portugal 17.5%.

Greece On The Auction Block: Country Seeks Bidders For Sale Of Its Railroad Infrastructure By Early 2014

The Greek government has been trying in recent years to sell everything short of its historic Parthenon in an attempt to climb itself out a massive debt hole.

Now, facing mounting pressure from international lenders to speed up its national yard sale, the government has announced it would begin the tender to sell the Hellenic Railways Organization, known by its Greek acronym OSE, by the end of the second quarter. ...

Greece initially unveiled plans in 2011 to privatize €15 billion ($19.3 billion) worth of state-owned assets by the end of this year and €50 billion by 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. This is peanuts compared to the €380 billion in bailout money the country has received from the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Cyprus finance minister Michael Sarris resigns as blame game begins

The Cyprus finance minister quit on Tuesday as a formal investigation began into the events leading to the country's €10bn bailout, under which savers are taking a financial hit in a first for the eurozone.

As Michael Sarris resigned he said his previous role as chairman of Laiki, the country's second largest bank which is being wound down, was likely to be subject to scrutiny.

"I believe that in order to facilitate the work of [investigators] the right thing would be to place my resignation at the disposal of the president of the republic, which I did," said Sarris, who had been finance minister for just six weeks.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues
Open thread for night owls: Exxon's tar sands name game
Tar Sand Crude Spill New Video: Lake is Contaminated
Dear Organizing For Action - We Need to Talk About Us

Beach Fossils - Gathering

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