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Photos by: joanneleon. August, 2013.


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Syria War Resolution Contradicts Constitution, International Law

Michael Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He said today: “Almost the only good thing about the Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution on Syria is that the vote to pass it was not overwhelming and that three Democrats abandoned the administration. Perhaps the worst single clause in it was a reaffirmation of the illegal power Obama claims he has to bomb Syria without congressional approval: ‘the President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States.’ No such authority exists — except in self-defense — and the vague term ‘national security interests’ hardly meets that standard.

The operative clause setting forth the terms of the authorization — the basis on which military force can be employed — is open ended and vague enough to allow Obama a blank check to make war on Syria: Obviously, allowing Obama to use armed force as he ‘determines to be necessary and appropriate’ is not a limitation. That open ended grant is not helped by the claimed limitation to use such force ‘to degrade Syria’s capacity to use such force in the future” or to “deter Syria’s use of such weapons.’ Obama could decide that all-out war including the overthrow of the government of Syria is necessary to meet those objectives. He could also decide that those allies who supply Syria with weapons that have a dual use need to be stopped. Does that meaning bombing Iran and Russia if they are supplying such weapons? This is not a stretch. We have the example of the interpretation given by both Bush and Obama to the AUMF regarding the perpetrators of 9/11. Although supposedly restricted to those involved in that crime, that authorization has led to war almost anywhere the administration wants: Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia.

US Attack On Syria Violates International Law

The American Government’s Narrative that “We Must Stop Assad Because He’s Brutally Crushing a Spontaneous Popular Uprising” is False

The civil war in Syria started in March 2011. And see this.

However, the U.S. has been funding the Syrian opposition since 2006 … and arming the opposition since 2007.

So the American government’s argument that “we must stop Assad because he’s brutally crushing a spontaneous popular uprising” is false.  The U.S. started supporting the rebels 5 years before the protests started.

Toxic partisanship killed the anti-war movement

[A]s Congress now debates whether to launch yet another military campaign in the Middle East, the anti-war movement that Dr. King represented — and that so vigorously opposed the last war — is largely silent. ... So what happened to that movement? The shorter answer is: It was a victim of partisanship.

That’s the conclusion that emerges from a recent study by professors at the University of Michigan and Indiana University. Evaluating surveys of more than 5,300 anti-war protestors from 2007 to 2009, the researchers discovered that the many protestors who self-identified as Democrats “withdrew from anti-war protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success” in the 2008 presidential election.

Had there been legitimate reason to conclude that Obama’s presidency was synonymous with the anti-war cause, this withdrawal might have been understandable. But that’s not what happened — the withdrawal occurred even as Obama was escalating the war in Afghanistan and intensifying drone wars in places like Pakistan and Yemen. The researchers thus conclude that during the Bush years, many Democrats were not necessarily motivated to participate in the anti-war movement because they oppose militarism and war — they were instead “motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments.”

Brazil cancels preparations for President Rousseff US visit

Brazil has canceled preparations for the visit of President Dilma Rousseff to the United States over reports she was the target of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance, AFP reports.

A presidential spokesperson said a trip by a Brazilian delegation to prepare for the president's October 23 visit to Washington "was cancelled."

Following the spying revelations, a Brazilian official told Reuters on Wednesday that Rousseff was set to take punitive in addition to canceling the visit, which could include a halt on plans to purchase F-18 Super Hornet fighters from Chicago-based Boeing Co.

"She is completely furious," the official said.

"This is a major, major crisis .... There needs to be an apology. It needs to be public. Without that, it's basically impossible for her to go to Washington in October," the official continued.

Ex-FBI lawyer linked to surveillance abuses poised for federal judge post

A former senior FBI official implicated in surveillance abuses is poised to become a federal judge in one of the US's most important courts for terrorism cases.

Valerie Caproni, the FBI's top lawyer from 2003 to 2011, is scheduled to receive a vote on Monday in the Senate for a seat on the southern district court of New York.

Caproni has come under bipartisan criticism over the years for enabling widespread surveillance later found to be inappropriate or illegal. During her tenure as the FBI's general counsel, she clashed with Congress and even the Fisa surveillance court over the proper scope of the FBI's surveillance powers.

And Caproni faces renewed skepticism for describing surveillance conducted under the Patriot Act as more limited than it actually is, now that the Guardian has revealed and the Obama administration confirmed that the National Security Agency uses the act to collect and store the telephone records of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Obama's priorities in focus:
Key Guantánamo-related jobs at Pentagon vacant

More than 100 days after President Barack Obama pledged to create a Defense Department position to work on emptying the Guantánamo prison, the post still has not been filled and the Pentagon’s detainee policy post is under interim management. ...

The White House said Thursday evening that creation of the Pentagon position was still an administration goal, but did not explain the delay.

“There’s no change in the policy/direction on this issue from the White House,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said by email.

“We still intend to push forward on repatriating detainees in every instance possible and getting to the closure of Guantánamo, supported by the efforts of envoys at the Departments of State and Defense.”

16 Major Firms May Have Received Early Data From Thomson Reuters

Readers may recall an ugly story that broke earlier this summer, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman rebuked the news/business information firm Thomson Reuters for selling access to key economic survey data two seconds early to high-frequency algorithmic traders. The story strongly suggested that some Thomson Reuters customers were using their two-second head start (an eternity in the modern world of computerized trading) to front-run the markets. ...

It turns out that there's more to the story.

Back in June, journalist Simone Foxman at the global economic site Quartz reported that in addition to the two-second head start some Thomson Reuters customers were getting on the release of the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, other customers may have been getting their data even earlier, "nearly an hour in advance" in some cases.

Rolling Stone has since learned that a whistleblower complaint has been filed to the SEC identifying 16 of the world's biggest banks and hedge funds as the allegedly even-earlier recipients of this key economic data. The complaint alleges that this select group of customers received the data anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour ahead of the rest of the markets.

Julian Assange — coming home next year

If Victorians vote Julian Assange into the Senate this Saturday, thanks to proposed changes in the UK’s extradition laws, we may actually see him take his place in the Australian Upper House next year. ...

The reason Assange may be able to come back to Australia stems from the UK’s scrapping of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) extradition treaty.

The modifications, due to come into effect in between January and June 2014, will prevent the use of extradition for purposes other than prosecution. Remember: Julian Assange has not been formally charged with any offence — the EAW is simply for questioning.

Under the proposed new rules, according to Assange, Swedish prosecutors would have to interview him on UK soil, not Swedish. If there was no case to answer ‒ as he insists ‒ he would be free to leave the U.K.

Naomi Klein: Green Groups May Be More Damaging Than Climate Change Deniers

I think there is a very deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results. I think if we look at the track record of Kyoto, of the UN Clean Development Mechanism, the European Union’s emissions trading scheme – we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it’s disastrous. Not only are emissions up, but you have no end of scams to point to, which gives fodder to the right. The right took on cap-and-trade by saying it’s going to bankrupt us, it’s handouts to corporations, and, by the way, it’s not going to work. And they were right on all counts. Not in the bankrupting part, but they were right that this was a massive corporate giveaway, and they were right that it wasn’t going to bring us anywhere near what scientists were saying we needed to do lower emissions. So I think it’s a really important question why the green groups have been so unwilling to follow science to its logical conclusions. ...

What we know is that the environmental movement had a series of dazzling victories in the late ’60s and in the ’70s where the whole legal framework for responding to pollution and to protecting wildlife came into law. It was just victory after victory after victory. And these were what came to be called “command-and-control” pieces of legislation. It was “don’t do that.” That substance is banned or tightly regulated. It was a top-down regulatory approach. And then it came to screeching halt when Reagan was elected. And he essentially waged war on the environmental movement very openly. We started to see some of the language that is common among those deniers – to equate environmentalism with Communism and so on. As the Cold War dwindled, environmentalism became the next target, the next Communism. Now, the movement at that stage could have responded in one of the two ways. It could have fought back and defended the values it stood for at that point, and tried to resist the steamroller that was neoliberalism in its early days. Or it could have adapted itself to this new reality, and changed itself to fit the rise of corporatist government. And it did the latter. ...

We now understand it’s about corporate partnerships. It’s not, “sue the bastards;” it’s, “work through corporate partnerships with the bastards.” There is no enemy anymore.

More than that, it’s casting corporations as the solution, as the willing participants and part of this solution. That’s the model that has lasted to this day.

I go back to something even like the fight over NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Big Green groups, with very few exceptions, lined up in favor of NAFTA, despite the fact that their memberships were revolting, and sold the deal very aggressively to the public. That’s the model that has been globalized through the World Trade Organization, and that is responsible in many ways for the levels of soaring emissions. We’ve globalized an utterly untenable economic model of hyperconsumerism. It’s now successfully spreading across the world, and it’s killing us.



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Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


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Red-stained hands wave in protest at U.S. hearing on Syria

Hat tip to BigAlinWashSt:

Obama Warned on Syrian Intel

The Lies at the Heart of the Obama/Kerry Push for War—and Why They've Backfired



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