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Ending Interesting Blogger

8 May

Dear readers,

It has come time to end Interesting Blogger for good. Some may cry in dismay and I understand that. But, the reason I am doing it is mainly do to the name. Its a little presumptuous to call myself “Interesting Blogger” since it presumes I’m interesting. But, I’m not going away. I’m creating a new blog, HermannView, which is wordpress-based as well, where I can write about stuff. This blog will stay up for the sake of archiving, and that’s it. I thought I’d let you know.

– Burkely, the one and only writer of Interesting Blogger

Impeaching President Obama?

14 Jan

Author’s note: This article originally was originally written sometime in 2012. While I’m not sure how much I agree with the value of impeachment now days, I still think this article is an interesting one, so I’m going to share it even if I don’t agree with everything I wrote then. The article has been fixed with the occasional grammar mistakes and such in order to make it a smoother read. I’d have to search more to find the sources for this article, so no links are included here. Enjoy!

I was looking across the internet, searching for articles and websites talking about impeachment for some reason or another. I just thought it would be an interesting topic. My search brought me to a 2007 “Impeach Bush” rally. At the rally, Pentagon whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg spoke about Bush’s impeachment, a theme which could be applied to today as well:

“People will say impeachment in unduly, partisan and polarizing, but fundamentally the obligation to restore our Constitution should not be a partisan matter. Republicans who refuse to indict, to impeach…[and] Democrats who shy away from the political risks of removing these officials and reversing the policies of suspension of habeas corpus, the torture, preventive war, [and] detention camp like Guantanamo are party members first and Americans second. Impeachment…is there to protect us from a presidential-would-be-king and officials who aspire to be powers behind the throne. It is really our duty as Americans to undertake this process…[otherwise] a fail[ure] to impeach [for] these crimes is to be fully complicit in their assault on the Constitution and that applies to every citizen, not only members of Congress.”

This speech made me think: could President Barack Obama be held to the same standard? Groups have popped up before Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 that wanted to impeach him for ideas he’s spoken of in the campaign! Public Policy Polling in December 2009 had found that 20% of Americans who were registered voters wanted to impeach the President. Others, mainly Republicans, said that if Obama raised the debt ceiling unilaterally, they would impeach him (he was given such power in the bill that passed during the “debt-ceiling crisis” and no one complained). During the Libya war, congressmember Dennis Kucinich said that the failure to consult Congress before entering the war was an impeachable offense. Another congressmember, Ron Paul, said in October 2011 that the assassination of Yemeni cleric and American citizen Anwar Al Alwaki should be the starting point for an impeachment process. The same year, The Hill reported Ralph Nader’s statement on impeachment. Nader remarked in a Democracy Now! video interview: “why don’t we say what’s on the mind of many legal experts; that the Obama administration is committing war crimes and if Bush should have been impeached [then] Obama should be impeached.”

For one, history of impeachment must be considered. One of the most famous impeachment proceedings was those against President Richard Nixon. The main charges against Nixon included the prevention, obstruction, and impediment of “the administration of justice,” repeated engagement “in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens…contravening the laws governing [the] agencies of the executive branch” and the failure to “produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas.” These charges never got to the real impeachable offenses of the Nixon administration. Howard Zinn emphasizes this in his bestseller, A People’s History of the United States, writing that:

“In the charges brought by the House Committee on Impeachment against Nixon, it seemed clear that the committee did not want to emphasize those elements in his behavior which were found in other Presidents and which might be repeated in the future. It stayed clear of Nixon’s dealings with powerful corporations; it did not mention the bombing of Cambodia. It concentrated on things peculiar to Nixon, not on fundamental policies continuous among American Presidents, at home and abroad. The word was out: get rid of Nixon, but keep the system…Nixon’s foreign policy remained. The government’s connections to corporate interests remained…Corporate influence on the White House is a permanent fact of the American system. Most of it is wise enough to stay within the law; under Nixon they took chances.”

There weren’t articles of impeachment drafted for awhile, at least not until Representative Henry B. Gonzalez proposed a resolution calling for President Reagan’s impeachment, but it never passed. Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, also had a resolution drafted for his impeachment, one of which was by Gonzalez, relating to the Persian Gulf War of 1991. The resolution, consisting of five articles, touched on a number of different points, claiming that: the equal protection clause had been violated by bringing troops composed largely of people of color to fight “a war for oil to preserve the lifestyles of the wealthy” in the Persian Gulf; the bribing of the members of the UN Security Council to support aggressive action against Iraq was illegal; Bush planned, prepared and conspired in a massive illegal war against Iraq where thousands of civilians were killed in a war that didn’t have Congressional approval; and the war violated the UN charter, Genocide Convention and Geneva Conventions. This seems like a strong case for impeachment, yet it failed in Congress. Seven years later, at the close of the Clinton administration, articles of impeachment were drafted for Bill Clinton, mainly for superfluous reasons. Such reasons included:

“[the] corrupt[ion] and manipulat[ion of] the judicial process of the United States for his personal gain and exoneration, impeding the administration of justice…engag[ing]…in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, [and] cover up…testimony related to a…civil rights action brought against him…and willfully [making]…perjurious, false, and misleading sworn statements.”

This language may seem official, but there is no or little evidence to back up these assertions, making the articles of impeachment meaningless. Even though the articles of impeachment passed the House of Representatives, they failed in the Senate.

In the past two administrations, cries for impeachment have continued, especially during the Bush administration. In June 2008, congressmember Dennis Kucinich introduced his should-be acclaimed 35 articles of impeachment. The main ideas expressed included charging President George W. Bush with:

“…creating a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture a false case for the war against Iraq… misleading the American people and members of Congress to believe [that] Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction [and] posed an imminent threat to the United States…[that] funds [were illegally spent] to secretly begin a war of aggression [in Iraq]…[an invasion of] Iraq in violation of requirements of [existing law]…invading Iraq absent a declaration of war…invading Iraq…in violation of the U.N. Charter and international criminal law [in general]…failing to provide troops [in Iraq] with body armor and vehicle armor…falsifying accounts of U.S. troop deaths and injuries…establishment of permanent military bases in Iraq…initiating a war against Iraq for control of that nation’s natural resources…creating a secret task force to develop energy and military policies…[exposing] Valarie Plame Wilson [for political reasons]…providing immunity from prosecution for criminal contractors in Iraq…reckless…waste of U.S. tax dollars in connection with Iraq contractors…illegal [indefinite] detention…[of people] without charge…secretly authorizing…torture…kidnapping people and taking them…to ‘Black sites’….imprisoning children….misleading Congress and the American people…about…Iran, and supporting…organizations with the goal of overthrowing the Iranian government…creating secret laws…violation of Posse Comitatus Act…spying on American citizens [illegally and unconstitutionally]…directing…companies to create…[a] database of…telephone numbers and emails of American citizens…announcing the intent to violate laws with signing statements, and violating those laws…failing to comply with congressional subpoenas…tampering with free and fair elections…conspiracy to violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965…misleading Congress and the American people in an attempt to destroy Medicare…failure to plan for…Hurricane Katrina….misleading Congress and the American people…[on] climate change…ignored and failed to respond to…warnings of planned terrorist attacks…prior to 9/11 [in the U.S.]…obstruction of investigation into [9/11]…[and] endangering the health of 9/11 first responders.”

Only a month later these charges had gone down to one: impeachment for the buildup and engagement in the war against Iraq. But the articles of impeachment didn’t stop there. Peace activist David Swanson proposed his own articles of impeachment against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. For Bush, these articles included: threat of military force against Iran; lying to enter the illegal Iraq war; continuing to torture citizens and non citizens, the latter being defended indefinitely; failing to prosecute those in the U.S. military that violate treaties; unlawful surveillance; using “signing statements” to make certain parts of laws null and void; targeting those who opposed his administration; firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons; and not protecting the city of New Orleans. For Cheney these articles included: threat of military force against Iran; lying to enter the illegal Iraq war; continuing to torture citizens and non citizens, the latter being defended indefinitely; supporting the theory of the “unitary executive” which would place the President above the rule of law; enacting retribution against whistleblowers; and having a close relationship with Halliburton, which distorts American foreign policy. One website went even further than trying to impeach Cheney and Bush. It proposed that Bush, Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales be impeached for

“violations and subversions of the Constitution…in an attempt to carry out with impunity crimes against peace and humanity…war crimes and deprivations of the civil rights of the people of the United States and other nations by assuming powers of an imperial executive unaccountable to [the] law.”

Now, onto the current present, Barack H. Obama. Many of the cries of impeachment have stemmed from his healthcare law, the absurd controversy over his birth certificate, and even the moratorium after the BP oil spill. Veterans for Peace had a convention in September 2011 where they said something interesting. They declared that Obama should be impeached for war crimes, following the ideas set for the push to impeach Bush and Cheney, writing that:

“Obama…committed a criminal act by ordering the U.S. military to war in Libya without…obtaining the consent of the U.S. Congress…the U.S. government is currently engaged in illegal wars in…Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and…Obama pledging to increase the number of military personnel and tax dollars spent on these wars…the U.S. military used and continues to use depleted uranium munitions, cluster bombs and white phosphorous…in violation of U.S. laws and international laws and treaties…large numbers of babies suffer from illness[s] and deformit[ies]..caused by the U.S. military’s massive and widespread use of toxic and radioactive materials…millions and millions of Afghani, Pakistani, Yemeni, Somali, and Libyan civilians have been maimed, poisoned, displaced…and killed [as]…a direct result of…illegal acts of war by the United States…illegal, immoral and counterproductive torture and brutalization…continue at Guantanamo…and in particular, the torture of Bradley Manning at Quantico…Obama…[has] fail[ed]…to order the Department of Justice to…investigat[e]…war crimes committed by the Bush Administration…Obama [is] in violation of U.S. Constitution, U.S. federal laws, the United Nations Charter, the Hague Convention, the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Nuremberg Tribunal Charter…[we] call on the U.S. House of Representatives to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Barack H. Obama.”

That call was not answered. One resolution by Representative Walter Jones called on Obama’s impeachment for engaging in a war that was not authorized by Congress. Months later, a libertarian lawyer said the same, said that Obama was “claiming authority in the future to commence war unilaterally to advance whatever he ordains is in the national interest.” Since then, no articles of impeachment have been proposed. So, I am proposing my own articles of impeachment.


At this time, Obama’s impeachment must be pursued because, to reprint the words of John Nichols at a 2007 “Impeach Bush” rally, “We have the time, we have the duty. We have the duty to be as courageous as those who exposed the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Vietnam war.” Herein are the articles for impeachment for Barack H. Obama for his high crimes and misdemeanors (the proposed crimes are in italics):

Article I. Legality of the Libya war

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has conspired his constitutional authority to wage war in that he has subverted the Constitution, its guarantee of a republican form of government, and the constitutional separation of powers by: undermining the rightful authority of Congress to declare war as noted in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution. He did so unilaterally, without authorization or approval by Congress, initiating and continuing a war against the Republic of Libya from March 14, 2011 to October 31, 2011, along with other coalition allies. He claimed the authority to commence war unilaterally to advance whatever he ordains is in the national interest. He has, at least been, partially responsible for the death of 1,108 civilians and the wounding of at least 4,500 more. He also spent over $1.1 billion dollars on the Libya war without the authorization of Congress and such funds were additionally added to the national debt. Barack Hussein Obama has conducted a war for oil and interfered in the ability of the Libyan people to determine their destiny. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article II. Libyan war, UN Charter, and the War Powers Act

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has committed the United States to the war in Libya without Congressional consent and contrary to the United Nations charter and international law. From March 2011 to October 2011, as explained in Article I, Barack Hussein Obama unilaterally engaged in a war with the Republic of Libya even though: all members of the United Nations are required to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered” (Article 2, Section 2 of the UN Charter); all members of the United Nations are required to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state” (Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter); the engagement of war was not an “individual or collective self defense” from “an armed attack” as specified in Article 51 of the UN Charter. A war between Libya and the United States was additionally in violation of the War Powers Act, also called the War Powers Resolution, as Barack Hussein Obama has failed to receive approval for a use of U.S. military force abroad. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article III. Unfair treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has subverted the Constitution, by allowing the “cruel and unusual punishment” of Private First-class (Pfc) Bradley Manning. He did so by detaining Pfc. Manning without charge and keeping him in solitary confinement for the first ten months of his incarceration. He has also denied Pfc. Manning meaningful exercise, social interaction, and sunlight, along with allowing Pfc. Manning to be considered a suicide risk three times despite the “protests of his prison psychologist,” according to Courthouse News. These conditions are not only illegal under US military law, but violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial, and the principle set out in Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Barack Hussein Obama has also declared Pfc. Manning guilty before a trial, violating the principle set out in the Sixth Amendment guaranteeing a fair trial, the principles set out in Articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article IV. Obstructing justice by not investigating Bush administration officials

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice by failing to order the Department of Justice to initiate investigations into numerous and blatant U.S. war crimes committed by the Bush administration, for which it is manifestly accountable under the law. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article V. Torture at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has allowed torture and brutalization at the hands of the U.S. military’s immediate reaction force at Guantanamo Bay’s detention camp. He has not closed the detention camp in Guantanamo by repeated demands to do so. He has, through the allowing of torture at the detention camp in Guantanamo has violated the principles set out in Articles 5, 9, 10, and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through the arbitrary detention of detainees allowing those detainees charged to be tried in military courts, housing detainees if they are guilty, and allowing torture. He has also committed what Article 8 of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court defines as war crimes through the allowing of detainee torture and brutalization at Guantanamo Bay detention center by engaging in: “grave breaches if the Geneva Conventions of…1949,” “torture or inhuman treatment,” and “willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body of health.” In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article VI. Terrorism and covert drone strikes

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has authorized covert drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He has, according to an October 16, 2011 article by Nick Turse of Tom Dispatch, maintained a “secret empire of drone bases” consisting of at least sixty bases in the countries of Seychelles, Djibouti, Iraq, France, UAE, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, numerous places across the continental United States, Guam, possibly Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. He did unilaterally and without the prior authorization of Congress. His actions constitute a violation of: Article I of the North Atlantic treaty which stipulates that “the parties [of this treaty] undertake…to settle and international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force”; and Article I of the Convention of the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, also called Hague I (1899) by not engaging in the “best efforts to insure the pacific settlement of international differences” as military actions were employed against people who the government considered to be Al-Qaeda members. Through the authorization of 269 separate drone strikes in Pakistan, where up to 3,000 people were killed and about 1,200 injured, the additional 15 separate drone strikes in Yemen where more than 87 people were killed according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Barack Hussein Obama has violated the principle set out in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by engaging in crimes against humanity through murder and extermination of these civilians. He has, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally, and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct designed to cover up and conceal the existence and scope of unlawful covert drone strikes on targets in sovereign nations in violation of the United Nations Charter. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article VII. Violation of Fifth and Sixth Amendments and separation of powers

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has violated Fifth and Sixth Amendments and the constitutional principle of the separation of powers by signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 which allowed the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens associated with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or the ambiguously worded “associated forces.” Barack Hussein Obama has violated the rights of citizens by allowing the arbitrary and indefinite detention of them inside and outside the United States without due process or charges, in violation of the guarantees of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article VIII. Violation of the First Amendment

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has violated the First Amendment and the constitutional principle of the separation of powers by signing the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, which made it a crime to trespass on White House property, any other federal property protected by the Secret Service, or “a building or grounds…designated as a special event of national significance” punishable with one and ten year prison terms. The law expanded “the government’s ability to lock up protesters” according to Danny Shaw of OpenCongress, meaning that the law violated the First Amendment. Barack Hussein Obama has violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and assembly on White House and federal property protected by the Secret Service and the principles set out in Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article IX. Surveillance, illegal spying on American citizens and creating an unconstitutional database of emails, telephone calls, and other information

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has, both acting through his agents and subordinates, knowingly violated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and the Foreign Intelligence Act of 1987 (FISA) by authorizing warrantless electronic surveillance of American citizens. This is despite the fact he is aware that the FISA law required a court order for a wiretap. He also repeatedly ordered the NSA to place wiretaps on American citizens without requesting a warrant. He has also violated the Stored Communications Act of 1986 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by creating a large database containing information related to the private telephone calls and other messages sent by American citizens. Barack Hussein Obama has also requested that telecommunications companies release consumer phone records to the government illegally. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article X. Obstructing justice by not prosecuting financial executives and other officials who caused the Great Recession

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice by failing to order the Department of Justice to initiate prosecutions against financial executives and other officials who committed numerous and blatant crimes against the American public, for which they are manifestably accountable under the law. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article XI. Issuing signing statements

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has used signing statement to claim the right to violate acts of Congress even as he signed them into law. The Constitution does not authorize the President to circumvent enacted law or declare that he can disobey all or part of certain laws. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article XII. Threatening Iran with military and covert action

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has violated the UN Charter (Article 2, paragraph 4) by threatening the use of force against the Republic of Iran, endangering its territorial integrity and political independence. His threat of force again Iran was that the United States would use “all necessary measures” to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. This threat is based on a faulty premise because National Intelligence estimates, intelligence communities in Israel and the United States have proved that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon. Even so, Barack Hussein Obama has insisted that Iran has the capability to construct a nuclear weapon. He has also allowed covert action in Iran in violation of Article 2, Paragraph 4 of the UN Charter. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article XIII. BP oil spill

In his conduct while President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. He has failed to take reasonable steps to prevent another oil spill in territorial waters of the United States or anywhere else within United States territory after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In all of this, Barack Hussein Obama has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Barack Hussein Obama, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

The deception of Sen. Warren’s “populism”

19 Dec

Over five months ago, I wrote a critique of US Senator Elizabeth Warren, continuing my long line of critiques of her views. [1] This article continues that critique by starting with a speech, that Lambert Strether says “That’s the stuff to give the troops!“, in opposition to a provision repealing elements of financial “reform” passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2010. By now, Obama has supported this provision by signing the bill which included this provision, a bill that prevented another government shutdown but gave huge subsidies to big banks and big oil companies along with more money for the war machine and cutting money to the IRS which already can’t collect tens of billions (if not in the hundreds) of dollars in taxes.

Here some excerpts from Senator Warren’s speech about Citigroup, which criticizes them for their influence in Washington [2]:

“…Today, I’m coming to the floor not to talk about Democrats or Republicans, but about a third group that also wields tremendous power in Washington: Citigroup. Mr. President, in recent years, many Wall Street institutions have exerted extraordinary influence in Washington’s corridors of power, but Citigroup has risen above the others. Its grip over economic policymaking in the executive branch is unprecedented…That’s a lot of powerful people, all from one bank. But they aren’t Citigroup’s only source of power. Over the years, the company has spent millions of dollars on lobbying Congress and funding the political campaigns of its friends in the House and the Senate. Citigroup has also spent millions trying to influence the political process in ways that are far more subtle—and hidden from public view…Citigroup has a lot of money, it spends a lot of money, and it uses that money to grow and consolidate a lot of power. And it pays off. Consider a couple facts…Washington already works really well for the billionaires and big corporations and the lawyers and lobbyists. But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citi bet big on derivatives and lost? What about the families who are living paycheck to paycheck and saw their tax dollars go to bail Citi out just six years ago? We were sent here to fight for those families, and it’s time – it’s past time – for Washington to start working for them.”

This sentiment is no doubt correct in that Citigroup does have a lot of power in Washington. As Dick Durbin admitted years ago, “the banks…the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill…frankly own the place.” But, Warren’s description of Citigroup is interesting, for one because her description of a “group that also wields tremendous power in Washington,” has exerted “extraordinary influence in Washington’s corridors of power,” has a “grip over economic policymaking in the executive branch,” has spent “millions of dollars on lobbying Congress and funding the political campaigns of its friends in the House and the Senate” and has “spent millions trying to influence the political process in ways that are…hidden from public view” sounds like the Israeli imperial lobby.

An article in The New Yorker earlier this year, regardless of its problematic framing of the Israeli imperial lobby which excluded groups like J Street, framing them as “good,” describes AIPAC in a similar way as Warren described Citigroup. It is important to remember that AIPAC does NOT have the same amount of influence as Citigroup nor is it as powerful, but this comparison is still a good one. Here’s some major quotes from the New Yorker article about AIPAC:

The influence of AIPAC no doubt helped them, like Citigroup’s money, “grow and consolidate a lot of power.”But, how has Warren been pro-Israel? Well,  she already has her first foreign trip planned as a trip to Israel where she met with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom who has trying “to undermine any American deal with Iran” an she ran away “from a reporter at Netroots [in] July…when he sought to ask her about all the civilians dying,” as noted by Mondoweiss. That’s not all. In late August, Warren responded to a constituent who criticized her support for the Iron Dome program. In her response, she declared that “[W]hen Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” which that Ben Rosenfeld called “pure Washington sophistry,” saying that her idea of defending Israel was “massively bombing Palestinian civilian infrastructure with the certain knowledge that thousands of innocents would suffer,” and challenging Warren to stand near one of the places under  Israeli bombardment and proclaim the same thing.

A further article in Mondoweiss elaborated her full views on the Gaza war, n which she said that killing civilians is the last thing that Israel wants and much more:

“I think the vote [for the Iron Dome] was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world…

when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.”

With “progressive” politicians like Bernie Sanders, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, and others, giving support to the inhumane and likely genocidal bombing of Gaza this summer, it is no doubt that people came out and criticized them for their support for “Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity,” support which some have said means that they are “elbow deep in the blood of Gazan children.” Still, some could say that there has been some progress, since Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both didn’t sign an AIPAC letter which warns Palestinian delegates to not make “negative” moves in the UN, and that Gaza should be demilitarized.

Still, her support for the causes of the Israeli imperial lobby is not all that is problematic. It is best to reprint a section of the speech excerpted earlier in this article:

“Washington already works really well for the billionaires and big corporations and the lawyers and lobbyists. But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citi bet big on derivatives and lost? What about the families who are living paycheck to paycheck and saw their tax dollars go to bail Citi out just six years ago? We were sent here to fight for those families, and it’s time – it’s past time – for Washington to start working for them.”

Many Americans would likely agree with these views as they are not really that controversial. But, it is important to ask: will Elizabeth Warren really help Washington work for struggling families that are homeless or have two jobs rather than “billionaires….big corporations…lawyers and lobbyists”? In my view, the answer is no. As Yves Smith put it in November 2011, Warren is “not the Great Progressive Hope” since she “came to a strongly liberal view on a comparatively narrow set of issues…based on intensive research” but that “she does not have that depth of expertise on many…other topics she opines on” and that she has “surrounded herself with mainstream Democratic advisors.” Smith also warned that Warren would be “more centrist than most of her enthusiasts anticipate.” In another article Smith expanded, on Warren’s views, saying that Warren isn’t a “dogmatic leftie” at all:

“Her position, which sounds dogmatic leftie to those lacking historical perspective, would have been dead center circa the early to mid 1980s, a Javits/Rockefeller Republican or a pretty tame Democrat of that era. But she has arrived at her views not out of ideology but out of pragmatism and rock solid knowledge of the terrain…And well advised or not, Warren may not be as liberal as her fans like to believe. But even if she fails to be the Great Liberal Hope, she is an influential counterweight on the most pressing battleground, that of the rearchitecting of our political and economic structures to assure and extend rent extraction by the top 1% (indeed, the top 0.1%).”

This view seems to echo to some degree, if not completely, those that say, convincingly, that Barack Obama and many other Democrats are now ‘Rockefeller Republicans,’ or moderate Republicans. Perhaps Warren has made strong public statements by opposing Wall Streeters like Treasury nominee Antonio Weiss from getting into power and attacking the neoliberal think thank, Third Way. However, there is something that rightly makes one question how serious her populist creed of attacking Wall Street’s abuses goes: her investments in American big business. This was pointed out in a Mother Jones article last year that strangely turns her investment portfolio into something positive declaring that “Now you, too, can invest like a populist defender of the public interest” while also saying that:

Here’s a list of Warren’s biggest investments…$250,000-$500,000 in a variable annuity that invests mostly in common stocks of a diversified set of companies, such as Apple, Exxon, PepsiCo, and Wells Fargo…$100,000-$250,000 in a variable annuity that invests in stocks of foreign and domestic companies, with a focus on companies that are “shareholder-oriented.” Some examples: Nestle, BNP Paribas, Royal Dutch Shell, Johnson & Johnson, and Toyota…$100,000-$250,000 in a mutual fund that invests in various types of real estate around the country. $50,000-$100,000 in a mutual fund that invests in US companies like Visa, Goldman Sachs, NewsCorp, Monsanto, and eBay…$1,000-$15,000 in a variable annuity that invests in the same things, as well as corporate bonds, including those of GE, Comcast, and AT&T.”

This isn’t all. Warren’s plan for the CFPB (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau), an organization originally thought of by consumer advocate Ralph Nader and then defeated thanks to pressure by the business community in the 1970s, was wholly pro-business. This was noted in a short, but important New Yorker article in 2011, saying that the CFPB would restore confidence in the financial industry:

“Warren may also be the most hated person in Washington. The banking lobby sees her as its nemesis, congressional Republicans are openly hostile to her, and conservatives decry her as the exemplary “totalitarian liberal.”…Warren is far from the anti-capitalist radical that her critics (and some of her supporters) suppose. Indeed, an empowered C.F.P.B. could actually be a boon to business. The core principle of Warren’s work is also a cornerstone of economic theory: well-informed consumers make for vigorous competition and efficient markets. That idea is embodied in the design of the new agency, which focuses on improving the information that consumers get from banks and other financial institutions, so that they can do the kind of comparison shopping that makes the markets for other consumer products work so well. As things stand, many Americans are ill informed about financial products. The typical mortgage or credit-card agreement features page after page of legalese—what bankers call “mice type”—in which the numbers that really matter are obscured by a welter of irrelevant data. There’s plenty of misinformation, too: surveys find that a sizable percentage of mortgage borrowers believe that their lenders are legally obliged to offer them the best possible rate. Since borrowers are often unaware of how much they’re actually paying and why, the market for financial products doesn’t work as well as most markets do. And the consequences of this are not trivial. The housing bubble was a collective frenzy, but it was made much worse by the fact that millions of borrowers were making poorly informed decisions about the debt they were taking on. If people had known more, they might well have borrowed less…History suggests that business doesn’t always know what’s good for it. And, at a time when Americans profoundly distrust the financial industry, a Warren-led C.F.P.B. could turn out to be the friend that the banks never knew they needed.”

Recently, all of this has become even more relevant since many have been pushing for Elizabeth Warren to run for President. One writer, the senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, Andrew Levine wrote that Elizabeth Warren is simply “a conventional Democrat” with a populist vaneer, noting that she has not

“had a bad word to say about the Obama administration’s latest uptick in bellicosity: its plans to revive America’s lost war in Iraq and to expand it into Syria, and its decision to spread yet more murder and mayhem in Afghanistan. Neither has she objected to Obama’s not-so-secret wars in other historically Muslim regions of Asia and Africa, or to his efforts to restart a Cold War with Russia. Though the evidence is sparse, all the signs suggest that Warren is a “liberal interventionist” in the Susan Rice…That would put her in the same moral and intellectual space as Hillary Clinton. On the domestic scene, it is different…Warren, to her credit, has spoken out against the banksters and corporate moguls who have done, and are still doing, so much harm to so many people. Hillary Clinton is their best friend forever. One can only wonder, though, how long it will be before Warren too cozies up to Wall Street.”

If Warren does end up cozing up to Wall Street, then it would put to rest those that call her a “splendid radical,” a powerful voice “for progressive reform” or a person who has a “comprehensive knowledge of how Wall Street firms like Citigroup maintain their stranglehold on the levers of power in Washington.”

Considering that this doesn’t happen, which is definitely possible, then it still doesn’t change the fact that Warren is not a “credible peace candidate.” Readers may wonder why this is the case. Well, for one, some say that is a “well-spoken politician who knows what she has to do to further her career” which includes “dancing to the tunes her financers play…and…doing nothing to annoy or displease the nation’s major power brokers.” But, this doesn’t include the specifics. Instead, it is best to focus on her support for economic sanctions against Iran, her support for Obama’s “kill list” (a.k.a. his drone program), and her views on Israel (described earlier). While she has been Senator, Warren has, like Bernie Sanders engaged in “quiet support” of the bombing of Iraq (and Syria) saying that going after ISIS should be a number 1 priority even as she declares that “we can’t be dragged into another Middle East war.”

Then there are those who say that Warren isn’t that progressive and that she serves as a guise to make the Democratic Party look good. I think there is  merit to these claims. Asher Platts wrote that “Elizabeth Warren isn’t actually that progressive,” arguing that even if Warren “were to win support of publicly elected delegates,” the DNC has super-delegates which wouldn’t support her. Platts also asked people to “stop making demands on a power structure that is incapable of delivering them” and to join the Green Party, “run for office and take power away from those who want it for themselves, and help build a truly democratic society where power is shared by the people.” Elizabeth Schulte made an interesting and different argument. She wrote that Warren’s “tough talk sounds good to a lot of people,” but that “all the good speeches in the world can’t make up for the actual record of the party Warren belongs to,” noting that like “other liberal figures before her, Warren’s main impact is to put a populist façade on a Democratic Party that stands for preserving corporate power.” Schute also notes that Warren in numerous votes in the Senate “took the side of business over working people, including a vote to repeal a core element of the Obama administration’s health care law…[and voting] with Republicans in support of repealing or reducing the estate tax.”  Schute’s article ended with a stinging rebuke of Warren:

“She isn’t a challenger; she’s a conciliator. She doesn’t want to raise expectations, but lower them. She won’t bring progressive issues to the Democratic Party table–her role is to tell us to be happy for the scraps we’re offered.”

Lance Selfa and Guy Miller made similar arguments to Schute. Selfa wrote that politicians like de Blasio and Warren haven’t “made any noise about pursuing a “progressive agenda” outside the Democratic Party,” so they can be “relied on as loyal soldiers in the end,” meaning that they serve an important role in Democratic Party politics. Selfa argued that Jesse Jackson in the 1980s and Dennis Kucinich in the 2000s had similar roles to Warren, while also asking: if this is all that the “liberal resurgence” amounts to, can we really speak of a liberal resurgence at all? Guy Miller made a similar argument, and he imagined how Warren would thank her supporters in a presidential campaign for their “tireless, valiant effort,” and she would say that its “time to get behind Hillary,” meaning that the “country can get back to business as usual.”

Beyond these arguments, what I’ve written so far does question Warren declaring a constitutional amendment would “reverse the damage inflicted on our country” by Citizens United that there are “times when action is required to defend our great democracy against those who would see it perverted into one more rigged game where the rich and the powerful always win.” Warren’s progressivism is questionable considering what this article has already discussed. But, is even more in question when one reads Warren’s speech to the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce in October 2013 (bolded is my emphasis)

 “Massachusetts is one of the best places in the country to live…perhaps more than anything, what drives the Massachusetts economy–and the American economy–is innovation. Innovation makes us soar. .And government-supported research is a critical first step in generating that innovation…Government provides patient capital, the kind that can wait for long-term results. That’s why government support for basic research is essential…NIH also drives economic growth in the United States. Studies have shown that increasing public investment in basic biomedical research directly increases the number of new drugs on the market. Breakthroughs in research create jobs and profits, which in turn generate more tax revenues for the government…Up-front support for biomedical research can also directly reduce government spending by lowering health care costs…Federal investments in medical research are not keeping pace with the innovative capacity of our researchers…there is more at stake than just economics and global competitiveness…We are running out of time. If we continue on our current path, we will soon lose a whole generation of young scientists—lose them to other countries, or lose them to science altogether. I feel the urgency of this moment. We need solutions and we need them now…We need to reduce our deficits, and that means making smart choices on spending. Right now, our country spends billions in the wrong places. Every year, we give away billions of federal dollars to giant oil and gas companies. Every year, we give away billions of dollars in subsidies to giant agribusinesses. Every year, we give away billions of dollars in tax shelters for wealthy individuals. We need to align our spending with high value investments, and we need to align our spending with our values. That means investing in innovation…For more than two hundred years Americans have defined ourselves in part by our inventiveness–by our search for knowledge, our willingness to experiment, and our commitment to discovery…even if the battle is uphill, I intend to fight for big investments in research and innovation. I hope you will be part of this fight.”

This speech from what I  understand sounds deeply neoliberal and buys into the ideas of deficit hawks who claim that the US government doesn’t “have enough money” despite the fact huge amounts of money are spent on the war machine, subsidizing mega-corporations and financing foreign dictatorships. This is very dangerous, and question the perception of her as a fighter for Main Street that is working to combat the horrible influence of Wall Street. There are a number of other positions she has which are problematic. One is her view of the recently released and heavily redacted Senate torture report as “deeply troubling,” tweeting that “transparency is the first step toward accountability — we must always live up to our moral values.” Considering that the torture was illegal, in violation of domestic and international law, and was completely inhumane and completely outrageous, her statement is absurd as it almost understates the torture practiced by the United States since 9/11. Then there’s her article opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline, in which she writes that “we have an obligation wherever possible to focus our investments on the clean technologies of the future — not the dirty fuels of the past — and to minimize the environmental impact of all our energy infrastructure projects. We can do better — and we should.” While there is no doubt that opposing the pipeline is good, just focusing on mere “investments” on clean technologies, which some say include nuclear power, hydro power and natural gas, is too limited and ignores the importance of having a renewable energy economy.

This isn’t all. In the past Warren has said that John Kerry was “her friend,” and that when US airplane lands anywhere in the world, she’ll be proud that Kerry is representing the US. This fits with her seeming endorsement of American exceptionalism. I could go on and on. [4] It seems obvious to me that Warren, despite branding herself as a populist, is part of the Democratic establishment. This was proven recently when Warren tweeted that Harry Reid asked her “to join the caucus leadership as Strategic Policy Advisor.” In the end, maybe its best to adopt James Weinstein’s definition of liberalism, which is rejected by liberals, which means “stabilizing the system in the interests of big business.” [5]

Notes
[1] See here, here, here, here, and here.
[2] The speech has also been archived here.
[3] This speech has also been archived here.
[4] See a tweet about why Warren refused to endorse OWS and said they were lawbreakers, an article asking why Warren isn’t taking student debt head on and Warren seeming to be concerned about cybersecurity.
[5] For this quote, see Chapter 13 of Zinn’s A People’s History which can be read here, or on page 352 of the 2003 edition of the book.

Questioning Snowden’s reformism

11 Nov

Edward Snowden (middle) interviewed by the editor of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel (right) and contributing editor to The Nation, Stephen F. Cohen (left).

As I promised in my previous article for this blog, this article will focus on Edward Snowden’s recent interview for The Nation which can be read here. Specifically, this article will question Snowden’s emphasis on reformism as a solution to countering government surveillance and focus on a number of other issues he brought up in the interview.

Moving beyond Snowden has to say about the US-government-imposed exile in Russia, he first told The Nation about his concern about the “bigger picture”:

“…that the post-World War II, post-Cold War directions of societies were either broadly authoritarian or [broadly] liberal or libertarian. The authoritarian one believed that an individual’s rights were basically provided by governments and were provided by states. The other society–ours–tended to believe that a large portion of our rights were inherent and couldn’t be abrogated by governments, even as this seemed necessary.”

Snowden then went on to ask a number of open-ended questions about societies becoming more “liberal” or “authoritarian.” While what Snowden says sounds nice, I don’t necessarily agree with the underlying narrative. Rather than labeling societies “liberal,” “authoritarian,” or “libertarian,” its probably better to recognize the the recognition of individual rights was a struggle by people from numerous social movements over the years against governments and corporations. Its not like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or the Civil Rights Act of 1963 came out of nowhere. They came as a result of struggle and determined effort.

Not long after Snowden makes this point about different types of societies, he deems the United States as a “representative democracy”:

“We [the United States] are a representative democracy. But how did we get there? We got there through direct action. And that’s enshrined in our Constitution and our values.”

Firstly, I’ve always cringed at the term “representative democracy” as I feel it is completely inaccurate since the United States is a representative republic, not a democracy. Secondly, and more importantly, this type of analysis misses the fact that some people engaged in direct action, especially the disenfranchised and disempowered, to fight in the revolution and engage in social movements that created the original fabric of the United States as we know it today, during the Revolutionary War. However, there were others that did not participate, and those people are mainly the wealthy elite despite the fact that some of them were in the Continental Army structure. Beyond the Revolutionary War, those in the poor and middle classes were those who continued to create the social fabric of the United States, the rich lording over them, but not engaging in direct action per say. To say that the creation of a representative republic was enshrined in the Constitution is correct, but it misses the historical context.

This quote leads to Snowden’s argument about the “right of revolution” and civil disobedience:

“We [as Americans] have the right to revolution. Revolution does not always have to be [about] weapons and warfare; its also about the principles that we hold to be representative of the kind of world we want to live in. A given order may at any given time fail to represent those values, even work against those values. I think that’s the dynamic we’re seeing today. We have these traditional political parties that are less and less responsive to the needs to ordinary people, so people are in search of their own values. If the government or the parties won’t address our needs, we will. It’s about direct action, even civil disobedience…They [the state] put us in “free speech zones”; they say that you can only do it at this time, and in this way, and [that] you can’t interrupt the functioning of the government. They limit the impact that civil disobedience can achieve. We have to remember that civil disobedience must be disobedience if it’s to be effective. If we simply follow the rules that a state imposes upon us when that state is acting contrary to the public interest, we not actually improving anything. We’re not changing anything.”

This all sounds nice and great, despite it being couched in traditional conservatism, perhaps, but what is Snowden’s example of this working?…it turns out to be an unexpected answer: Occupy Wall Street, saying it was the last time that civil disobedience brought about “change”:

“I believe strongly that Occupy Wall Street had such limits because local authorities were able to enforce…an image of what proper civil disobedience is…the individuals who were loader, more disruptive and, in many ways, more effective at drawing attention to their concerns were immediately castigated by [the] authorities. They were cordoned off, pepper sprayed, thrown in jail…[Occupy] had an impact on consciousness [but] it was not effective in realizing change…but getting inequality out there into the consciousness was important.”

Firstly, I think its great that Occupy was used an example of civil disobedience, but I feel it is false to say it was the last time that civil disobedience brought about “change.” To give one pertinent example, think about the eco-activists working to stop pipelines across the US. Were they not successful? Are they not an example of civil disobedience working? Lest us remember what someone told me in response to my article about the climate march about civil disobedience, specifically in reference to arrests and blockades

“From personal experience, I can tell you that arrests and blockades are merely tactics, not a strategy. There has to be an overall strategy that hits the bosses in the pocketbooks and threatens a political shift. The latter is much harder to organize, require much more time and effort. It requires a lot more people, and we have to find them. Where better to find them when 400,000 show up in the same place at the same time?”

Anyway, there is no need to address Snowden’s declaration that the internet is the equivalent of “electronic telepathy,” that a “deep state” exists, or even that the revelations about surveillance are fundamentally about “liberty.” Firstly there is Snowden’s idea of “noble” self-sacrifice:

“…I’ve said this from the beginning: it’s not about me. I don’t care if I get clemency. I don’t care what happens to me. I don’t care if I end up in jail or Guantanamo or whatever, kicked out of a plane with two gunshots in the face. I did what I did because I believe it is the right thing to do, and I will continue to do that.”

While I think its wonderful that someone would engage in such self-sacrifice, it seems that engaging in this sacrifice shows that he has a level of privilege. Some people have such a poor state of affairs, especially people of color in the United States (and worldwide), that self-sacrifice for them might not be worth it since it may hurt their family’s future or their future. Snowden, is not one of those people who has such a poor state of affairs, despite the US-government-imposed exile in Russia.

What Snowden says about social movements and political action is very pessimistic and disturbing in a number of ways, as he says that now is not the time for revolution. First he says the following, which is almost a bit elitist (see the bolded part)

“…I said there are two tracks of reform…the political and the technical. I don’t believe the political will to be successful…The issue is too abstract for average people who have too many things going on in their lives. And we do not live in a revolutionary time. People are not prepared to contest power. We have system of education that is really a sort of euphemism for indoctrination. It’s not designed to create critical thinkers. We have a media that goes along with government intended to provoke a certain emotional response.”

Later in the interview, he outlines a non-confrontational way of confronting “great powers” and saying (again) that people are not ready for revolution:

“I don’t want to directly confront great powers [mega-corporations?], which we cannot defeat on their own terms. They have more money, more clout, more airtime. We cannot be effective without a mass movement, and the American people are too comfortable to adapt to a mass movement…As tensions increase, people will become more willing to engage in protest. But that moment is not now.”

What type of revolution does Snowden really want? Well, it seems that he supports encryption, saying it is a civic responsibility and duty, but more importantly, the idea of “technical reform,” but he admits that these reforms have to be uniform everywhere:

“Of course I want to see political reform in the United States. But we could pass the best surveillance reforms, the best privacy protections in the world, in the United States, and it would have zero impact internationally…But if someone creates a reformed system today–technical standards must be identical around the world for them to function together.”

This is also reflected in his statement that we wants the system “changed,” not overthrown:

“Sometimes misunderstood is that I didn’t stand up to overthrow the system. What I wanted to do was give society the information it needed to decide if it wanted to change the system.”

Once again, how does “society” get to decide it wants to “change” the system if they aren’t in the policy-making apparatus. As for overthrow, well, in a sense, society can decide that, but it is usually only a small part of society that makes such an overthrow possible.

On a completely different topic, Snowden interestingly argues that calling someone a whistleblower or hero “otherizes” them:

“As for labeling someone a whistleblower, I think it does to them–it does to all of us–a disservice, because it “otherizes” us. Using the language of heroism, calling Daniel Ellsburg a hero, and calling other people who made great sacrifices heroes–even though what they have done is heroic–is to distinguish them from the civic duty they performed, and excuses the rest of us from the same civic duty to speak out when we see something wrong…We have to speak out or we are party to that bad action.”

Near the end of the article, Snowden laughs at the idea that he is a celebrity. Here’s the exchange from the interview:

The Nation: Speaking of films, we understand that in addition to Laura Poitras’s documentary Citizenfour, a couple of others will be made about you.

Snowden: Anything to get people talking about the issues is great. I’m not a movie guy. I don’t know all this stuff that comes with celebrity. I don’t know who the actors will be and stuff like that. But anybody who wants to talk about the issues—that’s great.

The Nation: You already are a celebrity.

Snowden: People say that, but I’ve only had to sign autographs for “civ-libs” types. And I autograph court orders.

The Nation: Maybe, but you need a strategy of how you’re going to use your celebrity, for better or worse. You own it. You can’t get rid of it.

Snowden: [laughs] Well, that’s kind of damning!

The Nation: And you don’t know what lies ahead. Fortune sometimes turns very suddenly, 
unexpectedly.

Snowden: Then let’s hope the surprises are good ones.

Finally, in the last paragraph of the interview, Snowden expands on his “personal politics,” further explaining his “personal philosophy,” showing that he is not a radical for sure (bolding is my emphasis):

“As for my personal politics, some people seem to think I’m some kind of archlibertarian, a hyper-conservative. But when it comes to social policies, I believe women have the right to make their own choices, and inequality is a really important issue. As a technologist, I see the trends, and I see that automation inevitably is going to mean fewer and fewer jobs. And if we do not find a way to provide a basic income for people who have no work, or no meaningful work, we’re going to have social unrest that could get people killed. When we have increasing production—year after year after year—some of that needs to be reinvested in society. It doesn’t need to be consistently concentrated in these venture-capital funds and things like that. I’m not a communist, a socialist or a radical. But these issues have to be 
addressed.”

His views on economic policies such as than increasing employment, reinvesting production, reducing inequality seem to make him as a moderate who wants the system preserved, worrying about social unrest. I don’t know why, but this reminds me a bit of Aristotle really wanting to preserve the existing system.

I know that this article did not cover a good amount of the interview, but hopefully this article shows that Snowden is clearly a reformist, which provides more room to question what he believes and stands for. That is all.

Are GMOs really safe?

9 Nov

Editors note: I wrote this post up earlier this year and never got around the publishing it, but I think now that it is time. Hopefully, it provides some good resources on the subject of GMOs.

Apparently, there are people online who think that GMOs are safe. But, you know the internet, you can’t trust everything you read. One redditor has insinuated a ‘conspiracy’ by those who are ‘anti-GMO,’ saying that is a spread of ‘propaganda’ which another redditor explained claimed was fueled by “manipulation” of information that adds fuel to the fire for “Pro-GM debaters” who fight “back against what they see as propaganda and poor information polluting reddit.” On Facebook, one user named Jeremy Rawley has tried to ‘correct’ those who are critical of GMOs with some ominous picture [link dead] from scientific ‘centers of authority’ saying they ‘support’ GMOs along with going across the internet to ‘correct’ people. [1] On twitter, I ran into such a person who was a university student, and they said I was spreading ‘anti-gmo propaganda,’ which is a bit absurd. On Wikipedia, this pro-GMO sentiment has spread as well, with one page in particular claiming that “while there is concern among the public that eating genetically modified food may be harmful, there is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from these crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food…No reports of ill effects have been documented in the human population from genetically modified food” which was later repeated in the article later on, despite a request for comment on these claims which was denied, and a long intensive page on this, where a Wikipedia user investigated the issue thoroughly. In this article, I hope to set the record straight on these issues without making wild or outrageous claims.[2]

To be clear, I’m not a scientist, but rather just a concerned citizen who is skeptical of Monsanto, a company that was one of the creators of DDT and Agent Orange.

Is there a scientific consensus on GMOs?[3]

First, this post by HistoryDay01 explains this topic in depth, now onto other sources:

“Although compositional changes can be detected readily in food, and the power of profiling techniques is rapidly increasing our ability to identify compositional differences between GE food products and their conventional counterparts, methods for determining the biological relevance of these changes and predicting unintended adverse health effects are understudied. As discussed in this report, further advances in analytical technologies and their interpretation are needed to address these limitations.”- Page 177 of the National Research Council report, “Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects.”

” Much experience has been gained in the safety assessment of the first generation of foods derived through modern biotechnology, and those countries that have conducted assessments are confident that those GM foods they have approved are as safe as other foods. Nevertheless, some have raised concerns about the adequacy of existing test methods. For example, more standardised procedures to establish substantial equivalence are needed, as well as improved methods to assess the allergenicity of proteins new to the diet (together with their digestibility and toxicity) taking regional differences in diet into account. In this respect the Task Force has recognised the need for capacity-building to assess the safety of novel foods as a priority activity. This is the reason why work continues internationally on the development of Consensus Documents on individual crop species. Food and feed safety assessors should address these issues. In this context it is important to note that the concept of substantial equivalence is beingaddressed in a number of international fora and will need to be kept under review.”- Page 4 of the OECD report titled ‘REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE FOR THE SAFETY OF NOVEL FOODS AND FEEDS‘, while on page 27 of this same report, which is item 127, says “However, there is still no consensus on resistant proteins [which are genetically modified] being a significantly different risk if none of the other toxicity tests yields adverse results.”

The response of the Center for Responsible Genetics, which does NOT take an anti-GMO or pro-GMO position, to a pro-GMO statement by the AAAS: “The Council for Responsible Genetics is in fundamental disagreement with the recent statement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in which it offered assurances that genetically modified foods (GMOS) are safe and that therefore labeling of foods containing GM ingredients is unnecessary. The AAAS leadership did not reach this decision, a response to Proposition 37 in California, by a vote of its membership. We are deeply concerned that a scientific body such as the AAAS would take such an action without giving a complete review of the science behind its statement. As scientists, they should know that citing a few studies in favor of their position can no longer be considered a compelling argument. Indeed, the AAAS Board did not conduct a thorough analysis of the literature, nor did they include studies that could cast doubt upon their conclusions. The truth is we do not know conclusively what the long-term effects of growing and consuming GM crops will be. There have been very few systematic and independent animal studies testing the safety of GM crops. Since 1992 the FDA policy considers the insertion of foreign genes into the plant genomes of crops as the equivalent of hybrid crops-crosses within the same species-and therefore exempt from the regulations on food additives. Yet we know enough to have valid concerns.The plant genome is not like a Lego set; it is more like an ecosystem. You simply cannot predict the safety of gene inserts unless you do the testing. Most GM food studies have been generated by industry and it is the industry itself with sole access to so much of the data. There is little funding of independent studies on the effects of GM foods, and those few scientists who have engaged in such studies and reported concerns are discounted. Their concerns cannot be resolved without serious and independent scientific study.  We are particularly concerned that at a time when conflicts of interest have become a major concern in science that the AAAS Board would not openly divulge that some in the AAAS leadership appear to have longstanding ties to the biotech industry. Since these ties have not been transparently disclosed, it is unclear whether there could also be ties to industrial concerns that might influence decision making of the AAAS leadership. Surely any reader of their position is entitled to such facts in considering their position. We advocate for full disclosure of all such ties by AAAS leaders. The fact that no deaths have been attributed to GM crops does not mean they are safe. We do not see deaths associated with bisphenol A (BPA) and yet there are hundreds of studies pointing to risks. Risks that consumers have carefully considered when choosing whether or not to buy products containing BPA. The Council for Responsible Genetics has supported GM food labeling for three decades. It is an integral part of our Genetic Bill of Rights. We further support an active move toward a comprehensive and independent risk assessment for GM foods; not the untenable default state that GMOS are safe. The public interest is not served when industry supported studies and government cooperation with industry are cited as proof of product safety. Before we reach any conclusions with regard to GM foods, they must be studied. That’s a basic scientific principle that the AAAS Board appears to have circumvented with their statement. In the meantime, consumers have the right to know which foods have GM ingredients before they choose what to feed themselves and their families.

The World Health Organization, on a page pro-GMO advocates cite all the time since it says GMO foods on the market are safe possibly not recognizing those tests could have been corrupted by corporate power, says “Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods…On issues such as labeling and traceability of GM foods as a way to address consumer concerns, there is no consensus to date” and much more”

“The period around the turn of the twenty-first century was punctuated by the release of a succession of weighty reports by major international organisations and august scientific institutions, which encouraged the development and commercialisation of genetically modified (GM, transgenic) crops to improve developing-country agriculture (FAO 2004; IFAD 2001; IFPRI 1999; Nuffield Council on Bioethics 1999; Royal Society of London et al. 2000; UNDP 2001). Although they were sprinkled with qualifications about careful safety assessment and socio-economic factors, these documents nevertheless appeared to represent an emerging scientific and policy consensus that GM crop technology would be ‘pro-poor’. That optimistic consensus depended on a number of key, unacknowledged and often questionable assumptions about the ways in which the technology would be developed and its likely impacts on poverty, hunger and the livelihoods of the poor (Levidow 2001; Scoones 2002a, 2007).”- Donald Glover, as noted here

“We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist. The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue.”- As noted by European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility in a response to claims about ‘scientific consensus’ on GMOs which was also mentioned in an article on EcoWatch, Food Processing (which noted than over 200 scientists had signed this statement), and this article in the GMO Journal.

“As a medical research scientist, I disagree that there is any such consensus, and there is no evidence that any genetically modified product is safe. There is no required safety testing, no epidemiological study relating consumption to health.”- DAVID SCHUBERT, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies as noted in a letter to the New York Times

“Jairam Ramesh said he had taken note of “tremendous opposition” from state governments within India, broad public resistance and the lack of a scientific consensus. “This would be the first GM vegetable crop anywhere in the world so I have been very sensitive and I have arrived at this decision which is responsible to science and responsible to society,” he said tonight.”- From an article in The Guardian

Are GMOs safe to eat?

On page 11 of the same report I cited earlier by the National Research Council says that their research indicates “a potential for adverse reactions to novel substances or increased levels of naturally occurring compounds in GM food.”

A report that was cited in favor of GMOs (it is really pro-GMO in general as it makes out GMOs to be super-wonderful) says on page 6 that “there is little documented evidence that GM crops are potentially toxic” but they later say on page 7 that “tests are not performed to formally assess any risk posed by inhalation of pollens and dusts” (not for ‘conventional foods’ either, which throws the first claim into question, then there’s page 10 which says: “it is difficult to evaluate the effect of GM crops, or probably more importantly the regime required to grow them, on surrounding wildlife, particularly when considering long-term effects.”

Even a FAO report [4]which says there is a ‘scientific consensus’ on GMOs, which is false, says in the paragraph RIGHT AFTER that: “The lack of evidence of negative effects, however, does not mean that new transgenic foods are without riskScientists acknowledge that not enough is known about the long-term effects of transgenic (and most traditional) foods. It will be difficult to detect long-term effects because of many confounding factors such as the underlying genetic variability in foods and problems in assessing the impacts of whole foods. Furthermore, newer, more complex genetically transformed foods may be more difficult to assess and may increase the possibility of unintended effects. New profiling or “fingerprinting” tools may be useful in testing whole foods for unintended changes in composition (ICSU)…The main food safety concerns associated with transgenic products and foods derived from them relate to the possibility of increased allergens, toxins or other harmful compounds; horizontal gene transfer particularly of antibiotic-resistant genes; and other unintended effects.”

The hazards of GMOs to biodiversity and human and animal health are now acknowledged by sources within the UK and US Governments. Particularly serious consequences are associated with the potential for horizontal gene transfer. These include the spread of antibiotic resistance marker genes that would render infectious diseases untreatable, the generation of new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases, and harmful mutations which may lead to cancer” and so on as noted in a letter signed by 828 scientists from 84 countries
“However, several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill’s Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility…Specificity of the association of GM foods and specific disease processes is also supported. Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation...Also, because of the mounting data, it is biologically plausible for Genetically Modified Foods to cause adverse health effects in humans…Therefore, because GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit, the AAEM believes that it is imperative to adopt the precautionary principle…GM foods have not been properly tested for human consumption, and because there is ample evidence of probable harm.”- American Academy of Environmental Medicine as noted here

“Although the WHO declares that the GM products that are currently on the international market have all gone through risk assessment by national authorities, the risk assessment of GM foods in general, and crops in particular for human nutrition and health, has not been systematically performed as indicated in the scientific literature…Evaluations for each GM crop or trait have been conducted using different feeding periods, animal models, and parameters. The most common result is that GM and conventional sources induce similar nutritional performance and growth in animals. However, adverse microscopic and molecular effects of some GM foods in different organs or tissues have been reported to a certain extent”- In an article titled ‘A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants’ by José L. Domingo and Jordi Giné Bordonaba in Environment International

“With our current state of knowledge, however, there is no way of predicting either the modifications or their biological effect [of GMOs]…Therefore, a toxin that is harmless to humans when made in bacteria could be modified by plant cells in many ways, some of which might be harmful. My second concern is the potential for the introduction of a foreign gene to either evoke the synthesis of toxic, carcinogenic, teratogenic, or allergenic compounds, or downregulate the synthesis of a beneficial plant molecule…Third, the introduction of genes for all or part of a new enzymatic pathway into plants could lead to the synthesis of unexpected or even totally novel products through an interaction with endogenous pathways. Some of these products could be toxic…Given that GM plants will sometimes produce different amounts of proteins, and perhaps totally new proteins, as compared with the parental species, what are the possible results? A worst-case scenario would be that an introduced bacterial toxin is modified to make it toxic to humans. Prompt toxicity might be rapidly detected once the product entered the marketplace if it caused a unique disease, and if the food were labeled for traceability, as were the GM batches of tryptophan. However, cancer or other common diseases with delayed onset would take decades to detect, and might never be traced to their cause.”- David Schubert, a professor at the Salk Institute, as noted here

“Burgeoning growth of the organic food sector demonstrates that some consumers make choices based on sustainability, including potential health effects on farmworkers and the environment due to intense chemical use…Importantly, despite their widespread use, the human and wildlife toxicity of herbicides has not been well studied. Evidence suggests that at least some may induce detrimental health effects even at low exposure levels. Importantly, recent molecular studies suggest that glyphosate-based herbicides can impair retinoic acid signaling, producing teratogenic effects. Thus, the finding of human effects consistent with impaired retinoic signaling in agricultural areas with heavy RoundUp use raises concern about the potential health effects of heavy herbicide usage. Although these studies do not prove that RoundUp/glyphosate creates unwarranted human risks, they raise significant concerns. Labeling GMO products would allow consumers to make choices based on these concerns.”- Patricia Hunt of Washington State University and 20 other scientists in Environmental Health News

“Consequently, changing the context in which a gene operates can change the way the gene works. And changing how even one gene works can have a ‘butterfly effect’ on the entire organism. Critically, epigenetics and epigenetic inheritance explain that these unintended consequences can be passed on to future generations and may not manifest themselves until triggered by external environmental factors. In the context of GM foods, a genetic modification changes the biochemical cross-talk between genes, creating genetic material that has never existed before in nature. This novel genetic material can create unintended health risks, as seen with the case of the GM peas that contained a novel and unexpected allergenic protein and primed test mice to react to other allergens.6 The bottom line is that the scientific acceptance of the existence of the networked gene establishes that the FDA’s presumption that GM plant food is bioequivalent to traditional plant food is no longer scientifically supportable and that a new system for GM plant food regulation is required…Putting this new understanding of the highly contextual nature of genes together with epigenetic studies which demonstrate the myriad ways that the environment can activate or silence certain genes (allowing for billions of possible outcomes), it is easy to see how the new model of gene function challenges the simplistic assumption engendered by the Central Dogma which underlies the FDA’s regulatory scheme. In fact, the hybrid mRNA discovery and the case of the GM peas do more than just challenge the presumption of bioequivalence; they provides direct evidence that the transferred genes and the products of their expression are not bioequivalent to their counter parts in the original organism. The ENCODE project demonstrated that eighty percent of the products of expression of a transferred gene are new. These mRNA hybrids, the product of the coupling of junk DNA from the donee, and the transferred gene from the donor, have never before existed in nature. Thus, the FDA can no longer claim that the donor product and the donee product are bioequivalent. Because they are not bioequivalent, the FDA will be hard pressed to continue in its position that common experience with the donor product can be used as proxy, or indirect, evidence that the donee product is equally safe.“- as noted by Katherine Van Tassel in the Boston University Journal of Science & Technology Law

The recent 106 page report  titled ‘Agriculture at the Crossroads‘ (this is a synthesis report, read about the ‘International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development’ here) says, in an argument that seems to be balanced possibly toward GMOs, on page 51: “Other products of modern biotechnology, for example GMOs made from plants that are part of the human food supply but developed for animal feed or to produce pharmaceuticals that would be unsafe as food, might threaten human health [Global Chapters 3, 6]. Moreover, the larger the scale of bio/nanotechnology or product distribution, the more challenging containment of harm can become [Global Chapter 6].” Now, going to ‘Global Chapter 3′

Golden Rice

http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/imaginary-organisms/

Industry dominate reports on GMOs?

“A major conflict is imminent in science. On the one side are scientists, universities and corporations who have invested nearly 25 years and tens of billions of dollars in the genetic engineering of organisms (transgenics), mostly bacteria and plants, for food, pharmaceutical, and industrial uses. On the other side is a flood of evidence that food plant transgenics – not bacterial or pharmaceutical plant transgenics – is fatally flawed and has been resting on a theoretical foundation that has crumbled away as the science of genetics reinvents itself. Adding to this side is a worldwide grass-roots movement opposed to genetically engineered foods.”- Don Lotter writing in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

“The assumption is that a global scientific consensus has formed around the value of patent-protected transgenic crops, analogous to the general agreement around human-induced climate change. Yet that is clearly false…Thus, whereas the IPCC revealed broad agreement among the global scientific community around climate change, the IAASTD—arguably the “IPCC of agriculture”—showed deep ambivalence among scientists over transgenic crops. The real question becomes: How can serious publications like Seed claim that skepticism toward GMOs reflects a “scientific flip-flop”? To be sure, the illusion of a broad consensus holds sway in the United States, and the IAASTD has clearly failed to correct it. The US media greeted its release with near-complete silence—in stark contrast to its reception in the European media…Ultimately, scientific responses to the advent of climate change and the rise of GMOs make a poor comparison. The consensus around climate change developed in spite of a multi-decade campaign by some of the globe’s most powerful and lucrative industries—the petroleum and coal giants—to protect markets worth hundreds of billions of dollars. The consensus around GMOs—or at least the specter of one—arose through the lobbying and support of an industry desperate to protect its own multibillion-dollar investments. I predict this bought-and-paid-for consensus will prove short-lived.”- Tom Philpott of Grist.org, who makes some good points

“Any scientist working at those institutions with agreements is now free to experiment. The catch is that the companies require the universities to sign a further legal agreement, showing that they understand they can’t let researchers pirate the seeds or plant them after the experiment is over…Want to guess where Monsanto stands in this? Monsanto has a blanket agreement allowing research at all universities in the United States. And actually, when Shields et al. made their complaint, Monsanto claimed it already had many of these agreements in place allowing independent research…There was one problem still, he said: Scientists can’t work with seeds before they come on the market. That hampers his ability to make recommendations about which seeds work best under different conditions, or to test for unwanted effects.”- Nathanael Johnson over at Grist.

“Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers…For a decade their user agreements have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research. Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects. Research on genetically modified seeds is still published, of course. But only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal. In a number of cases, experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering…Although we appreciate the need to protect the intellectual property rights that have spurred the investments into research and development that have led to agritech’s successes, we also believe food safety and environmental protection depend on making plant products available to regular scientific scrutiny. Agricultural technology companies should therefore immediately remove the restriction on research from their end-user agreements.”- The Scientific American editors

“It’s no secret that the seed industry has the power to shape the information available on biotech crops, referred to variously as genetically engineered or genetically modified (GM) crops. Commercial entities developed nearly all of the crops on the US market, and their ownership of the proprietary technology allows them to decide who studies the crops and how…Company control starts with a simple grower’s contract. Anyone wishing to buy transgenic seeds has to sign what’s called a technology stewardship agreement that says, among many things, that the buyer cannot conduct research on the seed, nor give it to someone else for research. This means scientists can’t simply buy seeds for their studies, and farmers can’t slip them some on the side. Instead, scientists must get permission from the seed companies or risk a lawsuit…Seed companies can refuse a research request for any reason, and they get fairly inventive…How often these kinds of rejections are happening is unclear. Some may be isolated instances; others result from company policies…The idea of having to get permission from companies to do studies is a deterrent in itself…Requesting permission from the companies can be daunting. The requester usually has to describe in detail the design of the experiment—information scientists may not want to divulge. Some researchers object to revealing their hypotheses because it provides companies with a head start in preparing a rebuttal. Once the company and the scientist agree on the design, they must negotiate the terms of the research agreement. Negotiations tend to break down when companies want to limit or control publication of the study…Most major seed companies seem to have made an effort to enable scientists to do such agronomic research…The companies say they have to keep tabs on public sector research because they want to make sure the studies are done with good stewardship practices and in accordance with regulations.”- Emily Waltz in Nature Biotechnology magazine

This relates to safety, and also corporate control: “Biotech companies have successfully claimed GRAS status for all of their new GM proteins (and by extension, the GM crops that contain them). FDA has yet to revoke an industry GRAS determination and require food additive testing of any transgenic crop… FDA never sees the methodological details of the company’s research, which is essential to identify unintentional mistakes, errors in data interpretation, or intentional deception…Contrary to popular belief, then, FDA has not formally approved a single GM crop as safe for human consumption. Instead, at the end of the consultation, FDA merely issues a short note summarizing the review process and a letter that conveys the crop developer’s assurances that the GM crop is substantially equivalent to its conventional counterpart. Under this voluntary system, FDA cannot fulfill its role of reviewing GM foods for the presence of toxins or allergens, alterations in nutritional content, or unintended effects of genetic engineering.” as noted in a summary by William Freese, with the full report here.

Governments on board with GMOs and corrupt the science?

“When those with a vested interest attempt to sow unreasonable doubt around inconvenient results, or when governments exploit political opportunities by picking and choosing from scientific evidence, they jeopardize public confidence in scientific methods and institutions, and also put their own citizenry at risk. Safety testing, science-based regulation, and the scientific process itself, depend crucially on widespread trust in a body of scientists devoted to the public interest and professional integrity” as noted in Independent Science News.

“We specifically argue that the current approach to declare statistically significant differences between genetically modified organisms and its parents as ‘biologically irrelevant’ based on additional reference controls lacks scientific rigor and legal justification in the European Union (EU) system”- part of a paper published by Environmental Studies Europe which was by Hartmut Meyer and Angelika Hilbeck about the Serlani study

“Beginning in the 1980s, the US regulatory response to biotechnology moved toward guidelines, which documents a departure from the command control regulations of the 1970s. This was a response to a pro-market, anti-regulatory shift in the political culture of government. As part of this shift, a new ideology of ‘junk science’ created a false dichotomy between ‘good science’ and ‘bad science’ to derail any attempts to use the weight of circumstantial evidence and precautionary approaches to regulate biotechnology. No new laws were passed in the United States for genetically modified organisms. Instead, laws passed to regulate chemicals were stretched to apply to GMOs. This resulted in some unusual adaptations oflanguage, such as designating a ubiquitous non-GM soil organism (Pseudomonas) a pesticide. This microbe, which resides on the leaf surfaces of plants, possesses a protein that can act as an ice-nucleating particle for super-cooled water when the temperature reaches a few degrees below freezing. When the gene that codes for this protein is excised (‘ice minus’), it no longer can serve as a nucleating site for frost formation. If the natural organism (‘ice plus’) facilitates ice formation below freezing temperatures thereby causing damage to the plant then it can be designated a pest; its GM variant (‘ice minus’) can then be thought of as a pesticide since it protects the plant from frost damage.”- Sheldon Krimsky as noted in Science as Culture

Also see these articles in The Atlantic and CounterPunch.

Then there’s this in the New York Times in 2007:

“The $73.5 billion global biotech business may soon have to grapple with a discovery that calls into question the scientific principles on which it was founded. Last month, a consortium of scientists published findings that challenge the traditional view of how genes function. The exhaustive four-year effort was organized by the United States National Human Genome Research Institute and carried out by 35 groups from 80 organizations around the world. To their surprise, researchers found that the human genome might not be a “tidy collection of independent genes” after all, with each sequence of DNA linked to a single function, such as a predisposition to diabetes or heart disease. Instead, genes appear to operate in a complex network, and interact and overlap with one another and with other components in ways not yet fully understood. According to the institute, these findings will challenge scientists “to rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do.”…While no one has yet challenged the legal basis for gene patents, the biotech industry itself has long since acknowledged the science behind the question…Even more important than patent laws are safety issues raised by the consortium’s findings. Evidence of a networked genome shatters the scientific basis for virtually every official risk assessment of today’s commercial biotech products, from genetically engineered crops to pharmaceuticals.”

That is all.

[1] It would not be surprising if more users were not doing this as well

[2] As to be clear, Pamela Ronald’s article in Genetics is not reliable, as explained here.

[3] Numerous people have claimed this, even a scientists WHO SUPPORTS GMO LABELING Ramez Nadaam has argued this point, which is absurdist. Also there are reports like this one which claim to be impartial…but for a study that supposedly shows scientific consensus, and an article about it on the site of a conservative news source says “overall, the scientific literature was heavily in favor of GM agriculture.” This report says itself that it is an overview of data on GMOs in the past ten years, but GMOs were originally introduced in the 1990s, which is not included in this analysis. Anyway, since one has to pay for the report, I can’t read it, but the abstract says in a sort of pro-GMO fashion:

The technology to produce genetically engineered (GE) plants is celebrating its 30th anniversary and one of the major achievements has been the development of GE crops. The safety of GE crops is crucial for their adoption and has been the object of intense research work often ignored in the public debate. We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety during the last 10 years, built a classified and manageable list of scientific papers, and analyzed the distribution and composition of the published literature. We selected original research papers, reviews, relevant opinions and reports addressing all the major issues that emerged in the debate on GE crops, trying to catch the scientific consensus that has matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide. The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of GE crops; however, the debate is still intense. An improvement in the efficacy of scientific communication could have a significant impact on the future of agricultural GE. Our collection of scientific records is available to researchers, communicators and teachers at all levels to help create an informed, balanced public perception on the important issue of GE use in agriculture.
So, even this is saying that there is still a debate on this issue and it doesn’t assert that there is a consensus on GMOs. Anyway, at least this isn’t as bad as the statement by Consumer Freedom. Oh boy. The same with this propaganda by General Mills.

[4] Consumers International has said that this FAO report is bias in and of itself TOWARD GMOs even though it does say there are some concerns expressed.

Criticizing Glenn Greenwald

29 Oct

Before I pen an article about the surveillance apparatus, I think its time to challenge and critique Glenn Greenwald, just as I did for Snowden’s push for reform.

I start back in 2010, with the Citizens United decision, which Greenwald supported. I even made a graphic (a bit exaggerated mind you) about this last year:

tumblr_mm19xow3D71qcts6yo1_1280This graphic comes from an article I wrote which focuses on “fake socialists,” people like Bernie Sanders, Lawrence O’Donnell and others. At the time I wrote that while Greenwald “never comes out says he loves Citizens United, he supports its underlying reasoning” and that it is ok that money is considered (political) speech. I said and still believe that this is troubling, describing that Greenwald is a homosexual, politically independent, “not ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ while criticizing the two-party system…not voting at all, advocating for drug decriminalization, opposing capital punishment” and much more. Noam Chomsky, as indicated by the graphic said in an interview with Truthout that “…there are some civil libertarians like Glenn Greenwald who more or less supported it on free speech grounds. I don’t agree with it, but I can see the argument.”

Here are some highlights of what Greenwald wrote about Citizens United, titled ‘What the Supreme Court got right: It’s best for the government to stay out of the business of restricting political advocacy‘. Saying right now, I don’t agree with his position at all. I feel that money is not political speech. I thought I’d turn it into some pictures, as it might be easier to understand rather than just having a bunch of quoted sections.

1. Greenwald says that 1st amendment is relevant in this case

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2. Greenwald says that even if the court ruling has bad outcomes…who cares! (what?)

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3. Greenwald: Only the Constitution is something the Sup court should consider, no consideration if the actions produce good results… huh?

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4. Greenwald: Even if restricting speech has good results, then it shouldn’t be done

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5. Greenwald says that I don’t see how Citizens United could make things that much worse, the system is already messed up as it exists

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6.  So, corporate money strengthens incumbents but not the two parties…huh? That’s not true, both are strengthened by corporate money.

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7. If something magically violates the Constitution it should be removed…but who decides if it is “sufficiently repugnant”?

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8. Free speech “burdened by campaign finance laws” is under-stated? Greenwald thinks so.

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9. Greenwald is a free speech absolutist…so would he support the Hobby Lobby decision?

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10. Greenwald says that campaign laws are ineffective and that small non-profits are hurt by them

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11. Campaign finance laws are like gun control laws…what?

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12. Are current efforts really restricting “political speech”?

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13. Public financing is the answer?…really?

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14. If Citizens United leads to public financing then it will have a “positive outcome”…what??

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15. Political speech restrictions suppress some views?

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16. Hmm. Is it really “constitutionally mandated”? and what is “political advocacy”?

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17. He opposes corporate personhood…

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Rather than continuing on and quoting more from this article, I think its best to continue on, and move to other views that Greenwald has. What you think about what Greenwald writes in regards to Citizens United is up to you. I do think a comment by Randy Shields, about Greenwald supporting a decision that overturned a law banning videos showing kittens being crushed to death for sexual satisification, is appropriate here:

“The inspiration for this piece was a tweet of Salon’s Glenn Greenwald where he defended the court’s decision. Screw you, Glenn Greenwald, and your lofty liberal white bread apologetics, which don’t mean shit in the real world of “crush” videos and capitalism.”

Greenwald’s view is not surprising since he has gone to conferences of the CATO Institute and Socialism conferences, as noted on his twitter:

This isn’t the only critique of Greenwald. Socialist Worker writer Kolponashokti-r Doinyo was critical of Greenwald standing beside two conservatives and not challenging them:

“…Glenn Greenwald took part in a college speaking tour sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF) and Young Americans for Liberty (a mouthpiece for Republican presidential contender Ron Paul) in early February…The idea behind the coming together of a libertarian (Hornberger), a conservative (Fein) and a liberal (Greenwald) was for this diverse set of speakers to speak out against the NDAA…All three panelists shared the belief that there are certain core principles which citizens should fight for irrespective of their professed political and ideological beliefs…The libertarian analysis put forth by Hornberger posits that the problem with breaching civil liberties and the core problem of the NDAA is ultimately that this represents big government…while words like “empire” and “imperialism” were thrown around to describe the U.S., there was no connection made between U.S. imperialism and the economics of capitalism…While Greenwald’s critique of Barack Obama for undermining civil liberties was correct, his decision to choose a platform provided by right-wing libertarians should be a matter of concern to people on the left. At the forum, he never raised any points of political difference that he might have with the libertarians, giving the impression that civil liberties issues trump all other political and social questions. In fact, he went so far as to say that the only person challenging the narrow political spectrum of the two-party system currently is Ron Paul, effectively showing support for him before the Republican primaries…For someone like Greenwald to speak on a platform provided by a right-wing libertarian organization connected to Ron Paul–and to speak highly of Paul without even hinting at political differences–while solely concentrating on the question of civil liberties does not reflect the political perspicacity that followers of his blog at Salon.com might expect.”

There are a number other critiques out there. Chris Floyd notes that Greenwald fits in with Ominyar’s reformism, unlike Douglas Valentine who says he’ll give Greenwald and others a “free pass” for working with a multi-billionaire (bolded is my emphasis)

“I’m sure the writers hired by Omidyar’s quarter of a billion dollars will produce work of value, dig up some useful facts. So does the Times, so does the now oligarch-owned Washington Post, so do Murdoch’s papers on occasion. But I don’t think Omidyar’s enterprise has been set up to challenge the status quo or pose the “threat” to the system that its hero-worshippers are looking for. Indeed, even Greenwald calls only for “reforms” of the system, for “real oversight” of the National Security State by legislators — the same legislators bought, sold, cowed and dominated by Big Money. I honestly don’t think that the powers-that-be feel threatened by an enterprise set up by one of their number that confines itself to calls for “reform” from “within” — especially when its sole owner continues to cooperate with the Koch Brothers, hard-right ideologues like Hernando de Soto and indeed with the National Security State itself in subversive adventures overseas. Omidyar’s goals are limited: to protect the privacy of the individual from government. This is a noble, worthy aim. But based on his own actions, he is perfectly content for that privacy-protected individual to advance a punishing neo-liberal agenda on the rest of the world, and at home, in collusion with the National Security State if need be. Whether Greenwald, Scahill, Taibbi, Wheeler and the rest are equally content with this agenda is something we will find out in the months to come.”

Bill Blunden had his own unique criticism, which is relevant here. He wrote that encryption is nice, but not the answer:

“…Glenn, does this mean that addressing mass surveillance, and the mass subversion which enables it, will entail tackling the related problem of corporate state capture? Or, as Sheldon Wolin refers to it, the specter of inverted totalitarianism?…Glenn mentioned that the average person may feel powerless against the government, but they could turn to strong cryptography as a way to regain privacy. He also acknowledged that while hi-tech companies don’t care one jot about your privacy they do, however, care about their bottom lines. By seeking out other companies that offer more secure services the public could apply market pressure which would send hoards of angry hi-tech executives to the White House…Encryption may be a good thing, but it’s hardly a panacea. Specifically, mass subversion trumps strong cryptography every time…Finally, I don’t think society should have to rely on hi-tech billionaires to support our interests in the halls of Washington. Corporate pressure is not the solution. Corporate pressure is the problem…the fossil fuel industry, the defense industry with its appendages in hi-tech, and the plutocrats of Wall Street are largely directing the U.S. government. Our elected leaders are their proxies. The NSA’s surveillance machine is but a small part of a much large private sector data aggregation machine. Both systems exist to further the aims of the economic elite.”

 

 

Ken Klippenson of White Rose Reader had a unique critique, writing:

“It’s also puzzling that one of the journalists whom Snowden contacted about the leak, Glenn Greenwald, did not advise Snowden to forgo Hong Kong in favor of Latin America. Greenwald is a former civil rights litigator turned journalist who writes helpfully and knowledgeably about civil liberties: he can’t plausibly claim ignorance about the fact that Hong Kong typically cooperates with U.S. extradition requests. Having by his own account corresponded with Snowden “since February”, this would’ve given Greenwald plenty of time to research the likelihood that Hong Kong would grant Snowden political asylum. Greenwald even notes that he was “working with” Snowden “long before anyone spoke to Bart Gellman,” the only other journalist with whom Snowden corresponded. So Greenwald was not short on time to research potential safe havens for Snowden. Snowden even informed Greenwald of his intentions to flee the country: as Greenwald recalled, “He sort of said, ‘My plan is, at some point, go somewhere far away, and I want you to come there and interview me.’” Then would’ve been a good time to exercise some journalistic ethics and see to it that his source would be going to a safe place. Having failed that, he complied with Snowden’s request to publish his name. Now Snowden is in a country that’s likely to extradite him, and he can’t fly somewhere else because the world knows who and where he is.”

There are other critiques as well, like those that criticize him for misstating the charges against Chelsea Manning, and Israel Shamir’s articles (see here and here) about The Guardian, Snowden, and him getting to Moscow.

There is probably more to criticize, but this is all I am going to write for now. Further critique is for another day.

Reset the Net, Snowden, and more

28 Oct
Person playing as Snowden in the YouTube video, 'NSA Blurred Lines'

Person playing as Snowden in the YouTube video, ‘NSA Blurred Lines’

Over a month ago, I challenged and critiqued of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s call for surveillance reform. I wrote that while I am glad he had revealed, “the extent of the massive surveillance state run by elements of the U.S. government, there is definitely an area for critique and criticism,” that whistleblowers “hold very reformist thoughts” and that “the system…could afford getting ride of “bulk data collection” by the NSA, since the surveillance apparatus at-large would NOT be dismantled. Still, those who benefit from such collection don’t want it to go away.” This post is meant as an extension of that critique to Reset the Net and mass surveillance in general.

Reset the Net is an anti-surveillance “campaign” created after the revelations of government surveillance. Snowden made it seem that the campaign would be opposing all types of surveillance, government and corporate, saying that we need to take our privacy “back”[1]:

“Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same…[encryption is] the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance…don’t ask for your privacy. Take it back.”

In the same article, Tiffiniy Cheng, spokesperson for Fight for the Future, which coordinated Reset the Net basically undermined the idea that all types of surveillance, corporate and by the state, would be opposed:

“Now, they’ve got a rebellion on their hands as tech companies and internet users work together to directly intervene in mass surveillance and block the NSA and its kind from the web.”

I’m not sure how something is a “rebellion” if corporations and internet users are working together. That sounds more like a way for the companies to reassure customers and their users that they care about privacy. As Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith said,

“It’s of course important for companies to do the things under our own control, and what we have under our own control is our own technology practices. I don’t know that anyone believes that will be sufficient to allay everyone’s concerns. There is a need for reform of government practices, but those will take longer.”

This makes me concerned about this campaign. There is another problem: the campaign’s main goal is to push for “mass adoption of encryption is a tool to fight mass surveillance” even though, as Bill Blunden notes, “strong encryption doesn’t translate into cyber security…if the minions of the Deep State want your data they’ll get it” and he argues that “to seek refuge in strong encryption is to escape into denial. Bolstering security and protecting our civil liberties will require the public to mobilize and generate the political impetus to take on the Deep State.” Despite this, the EFF, the Tor Project, ACLU of Massachusetts (and likely the whole organization) Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism, Natasha Leonard of Vice and New Inquiry, Glenn Greenwald (I would believe so) [2] and many others who care about government surveillance support this campaign.

Using their website, I found who supports Reset the Net:

who supports reset the net

According to their list of supporters, which compromises of fifty-six non-profit, public and private organizations, thirteen are for-profit companies (approx. 23%), twenty are non profits (including the three orgs. that back Democrats) (approx. 36 %), three are political parties, and four are mostly alternative media. The rest, sixteen organizations, are considered other, as I could not figure how I should categorize them. Think what you want about these supporters, but this doesn’t look too good to me.

I’m not the only one that critiques this campaign. Ashlin Lee and Peta Cook of the University of Tasmania wrote that Reset the Net falls short:

“A year on from Edward Snowden’s revelations around state sponsored mass surveillance programs, some of the major players in the online and technological world (including Google, Mozilla, Twitter and Reddit) have launched the Reset the Net campaign. The program aims to increase people’s awareness and uptake of privacy and security tools so they can better resist surveillance, particularly that conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). While the campaign is laudable in its efforts to raise the issue of surveillance, there are some glaring oversights present…Encryption makes any collected data more difficult (but not impossible) for authorities to interpret and act upon…While these are positive achievements, they merely address some of the more visible consequences and implications of surveillance, and fail to address what are perhaps the most worrying aspects of contemporary surveillance...The Reset the Net project acts to reinforce the idea that surveillance is primarily conducted by state authorities, with the NSA as the primary antagonist for this story…But the reality is that the NSA is only one actor in the surveillance dramaGoogle is just one of many private companies conducting surveillance today, with supermarkets, insurance companies and many Fortune 1000 companies all monitoring customers on a daily basis. This leads to the next issue with Reset the Net, and most counter-surveillance activities today: they don’t address the incredible amounts of data already circulating in surveillance databases. Surveillance today is not just about seeing into the lives of the present – it’s about cataloguing and using the past (and present) to understand the future…The focus on internet surveillance ignores that surveillance is not just on the internet, but everywhere…From smartphones to drones, there are many possibilities for invasive surveillance today…Internet surveillance is only one aspect of contemporary surveillance. The Reset the Net project paradoxically represents a small positive step in resisting and counteracting warrantless and illegal surveillance, while ignoring the bigger picture.”

Yasha Levine had a similar critique on PandoDaily, which often shills for the tech industry (but didn’t in this article), writing that Reset the Net avoids Google’s snooping:

“The virtual direct action campaign [Reset the Net] was organized by Fight for the Future, a group that organized the online anti-SOPA initiative back in 2012…See, despite all its highfalutin’ rhetoric, Reset the Net is deeply flawed. The reason: the campaign is not against online surveillance, just government surveillance. It has nothing to say or critique about the massive for-profit dragnet operations run by telecoms and Silicon Valley megacorps that target every woman, man and child in the United States and beyond. Reset the Net doesn’t mention private sector surveillance at all, acting instead as if it simply does not exist…how can these companies — which themselves stay in business by spying on us on line — help to defeat surveillance? By offering encryption apps — even if the encryption is only between our computers and smartphones, and their football field-sized server farms.To Reset the Net, Silicon Valley is our friend…Silicon Valley runs on surveillance…Google runs the largest private surveillance operation in the history of mankind…And if that wasn’t enough surveillance for you, then there’s the uncomfortable ties between Google and the US military-surveillance complex…Over the years, Google’s worked to enhance the surveillance capabilities of the biggest intel agencies in the world…Reset the Net is outraged by our government’s capability to wantonly vacuum up our personal info, and yet it unconditionally trusts powerful Surveillance Valley megacorps when they do the same thing on an even greater scale as a normal part of doing business.”

An article along the same lines was by Bill Blunden, who argued that Reset the Net doesn’t care about corporate spying:

“…Another subtle manipulation that’s being employed is to frame the narrative so that focus is placed entirely on government surveillance. This is the same caveat that haunts surveillance reform efforts like “Reset the Net”…In contrast to the inflated fanfare about disrupting terrorist plots…the global surveillance apparatus is essentially being driven by powerful corporate interests….This is the elephant standing in the corner that no one…wants to talk about. Roughly 70 percent of the intelligence budget…goes to the private sector…most of what we think of as government surveillance actually transpires in the private sector…The NSA is a mere appendage of a much larger private sector data aggregation panopticon that rakes in $200 billion every year…Google has extensive long-standing connections with the defense industry…Google has exerted a lot of effort into creating the impression of revolt. But Google hasn’t switched sides….More susceptible members of the audience who believe this storyline will continue to use Google services. This will reinforce the bottom line and subsequently reassure investors. Google will do what it’s always done: follow its fiduciary responsibility to generate profits. The public be damned!”

In the second part of PBS’s Frontline documentary, United States of Secrets, brought up this topic as well, talking about how corporations were integral to the surveillance apparatus:

TIM WU, Author, The Master Switch: There was shock and disbelief and horror. A lot of people I know, Silicon Valley-type people, just felt, “It can’t be right. It’s not possible. Google, Facebook, these guys are collaborating. It’s not just what they would do.”

NARRATOR: The big Internet companies had different priorities. At the same time the government was expanding its intelligence gathering, the companies were trying to find out as much as possible about their users, amassing huge data troves. The NSA was watching.

CHRIS HOOFNAGLE, UC Berkeley Law School: These companies are in a very difficult spot because the types of activities they engage in is very similar to surveillance. It is surveillance, just for advertising, rather than for law enforcement. The private sector is where the whole game is.

CHRIS HOOFNAGLE: My friends at the FBI say that they love Facebook. They love it. It is a fantastic tool to see who one communicates and associates with, what they’re interested in, et cetera.

NARRATOR: Today, all the big Internet companies use advanced tracking technology, and the NSA has carefully studied their methods. For them, commercial tracking is an opportunity.

JULIA ANGWIN: The NSA sees all this data that’s flowing to these advertisers, and they’re thinking, “Look at all this data about people’s behavior that’s just flying out there to hundreds of different parties, and oftentimes not encrypted.” And so they can just snatch it.

ASHKAN SOLTANI: Because Google’s using a tracking cookie, the NSA can sit back and see all that stuff go by. They can monitor all of that activity, all those cookies, and use it in order to track your browsing history or inject malware into your computer. And if they sent you malware, it would take over your computer and essentially let them access all your data, all your keystrokes, all your passwords, et cetera.

BARTON GELLMAN: So where we are now is in a place where we’re living behind one-way mirrors. Corporate America and law enforcement and national security state know so much about us, and we know so little about them. We know so little about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it. And we can’t actually hold our government accountable because we truly don’t know what it’s doing.

The same topic came up in a Q & A session about Silicon Valley, the NSA and more which was one of the online components of the documentary:

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai: “That definitely plays a role in all this. We rely so much on these tech companies — Google, Facebook and company — that we basically create a few one stop shops for the NSA to go get our data.”

Martin Smith: “The fundamental problem is that in exchange for free services, our personal data is mined for advertising purposes. The government therefore gets easy access.”

Ashkan Soltani: “…the incentives aren’t really there for companies to invest in security. Most companies compete on new features and extra storage, not on the security of their cloud services. As a result, the NSA (and foreign governments too) can take advantage of weaknesses in companies’ services in order to collect data on billions of users…as long as cloud providers insist on having access to the raw (cleartext) data, then that data is available to the government under a law known as the ‘3rd party doctrine’.”

There is one final webpage on the documentary’s site that I feel is worth sharing. It is about National Security Letters or NSLs that the US government uses to compel certain private companies and individuals to give them information, and prohibits those companies and individuals from speaking about these these letters. There seems to be one exception to this:

“Ten years later, Nick Merrill still can’t discuss the details of the data request that came hand delivered to him from the FBI. If he could, Merrill says, people would be shocked by the implications for their online privacy…The request came by way of a National Security Letter, or NSL. The letters are not well known, but since 9/11 they’ve helped to dramatically expand the government’s ability to collect information about Americans directly from phone companies and Internet providers. Any FBI office can issue an NSL, without a court’s review and with a gag order…Merrill was not even sure he could discuss the letter with his attorney, but unconvinced the order was legal, he chose to challenge it on constitutional grounds. The decision set Merrill apart.”

For those Reset the Net supporters who know the underlying truth that corporations are integral to surveillance system, and still support the campaign are being foolish. There is no doubt that the interests of those against government surveillance will overlap with the companies that want to act like they care about privacy (they don’t).  I understand why ordinary people are participating in this campaign as many are pissed off and for good reason, but I will not be signing any petitions, or participating in any actions by Reset the Net or others following their example. Some seem to think that working with the companies is a good idea and I disagree. Even though these companies have a good amount of clout, that doesn’t mean that people should be working with them. This effort, Reset the Net, is no rebellion, rather it is an anti-NSA surveillance effort serving as a front for corporations that participate (and profit from) government mass surveillance. As Eli Pariser wrote, powerful cloud giants, like Google and Amazon, have “a vested interest in keeping the government entities happy.” [3] This effort is in a sense a way of keeping the government entities happy, as it distracts from the corporate-state nexis on surveillance, but in another sense it is also about defending their bottom line, their profit margins, protecting their consumer base.

One must ask if Reset the Net is even a social movement. Noel Sturgeon, a feminist scholar and political scientist, defines a social movements as

“contestants in hegemonic power relations, through which change is produced by numerous kinds of “action” including…the deployment of symbolic resources, shifts in identity reconstruction, and the production of popular and scholarly knowledge–as well as direct action, civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, lobbying, and offer more traditionally recognized forms of political action.” [4]

There is no way that Reset the Net fits these characteristics of a social movement. It does not deploy symbolic resources, it does not shift construction of identity and it does not product popular and scholarly knowledge.What are social movements are efforts such as fighting the Keystone XL pipeline (on the ground), AIDS activism in the 1980s and 1990s, and the fights for feminism, gay liberation and black liberation, among many others.

While this article does not hint at what should be done or an explanation of the corporate-state nexis on surveillance, there will be a further article on this topic in the future, along with another article looking into groups like the EFF and Fight the Future. That is all.

Notes

[1] In a post on the Reset the Net tumblr blog, he showed that this was not the case, with the full quote which was partially used in The Guardian article:

“Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. That’s why I’m asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government. …We have the technology, and adopting encryption is the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance. That’s why I am excited for Reset the Net — it will mark the moment when we turn political expression into practical action, and protect ourselves on a large scale.”

[2] According to an article in Firedoglake by Kevin Gosztola summarizing Glenn Greenwald’s speech to the Socialism 2013 Conference, he “…expanded the discussion into how private companies are working in concert with the federal government. He characterized this coopeation as “a full-scale merger between the federal government and industry” where the two are “equally important parts” of the surveillance state,” however from this account it seems he focused a lot on government surveillance and very little on corporate surveillance which is tied into government surveillance. What was his solution? Subverting the “radical transparency” of the surveillance state, groups like Anonymous, organizations like WikiLeaks, wanting “holes to be blown in the wall of secrecy” and endorsing “the use of technology that protects the identity of users.” The last endorsement sounds a lot like Reset the Net.

[3] Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. 146. The Penguin Press: New York, 2007. One of the best examples of keeping these entities them happy is Google and the CIA both investing in a company called Recorded Future, “which focuses on using data collection to predict future real world events.”

[4] The quote used here was reprinted in Karen J. Warren’s Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters, but originally comes from Strugeon’s book, Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Action.

Questioning the US Institute of Peace: does it really care about peace?

26 Sep

At the end of July, Little Sis, a project of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), published a short article criticizing Stephen Hadley. They write that Hadley has “made a career of promoting, overseeing, and profiting from war,” as he was already responsible as a White House official during the Bush Administration “for inserting faulty intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities…in Bush’s State of the Union in 2003.” They also noted that Hadley has, since he left public office, “co-founded an international consulting firm and joined the board of weapons manufacturer Raytheon” and more importantly, he serves as the chair of the US Institute of Peace (USIP)’s board of directors, while also authoring Washington Post op-eds about the crisis’s in Syria, Gaza, and Ukraine when he could personally profit from them. GAP then writes that the agenda of the USIP can then “be described as Orwellian” since he chairs the organization which was interestingly enough established during the Reagan era in 1984. Still, I’d argue that one can’t negatively portray an institution like the USIP just by looking at one person. So, this article will continue the analysis of GAP to question the federally-funded institution itself: does it really serve the interests of peace?

It is important to look further into the USIP, starting with those that run it. There were a number of specifics not noted in the article by GAP was that Hadley was formerly the director of the Bessmer Group up to 2009, which “operates as a bank holding company for Bessemer Trust.” The trust says that it has one goal and one goal only: “preserving and enhancing our clients’ wealth” through a use of credit investments, currencies, hedge funds and more. The international consulting firm mentioned in passing in GAP’s article, at which Hadley is a principal, is called the RiceHadleyGates Team. This firm also includes former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and a former “Special Assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs” at the State Department named Anja Manuel. This firm is assisting a Silicon Valley-based company where British war criminal and former Prime Minister Tony Blair is a “special adviser” and advises, according to The New York , “companies about doing business in emerging markets like the Middle East, China, Brazil, India and Turkey.” Hadley also sits on the international advisory council member of APCO worldwide, another consulting firm. Finally, he is a member of the Atlantic Council which is, in the words of Allen Ruff, an “elite foreign policy NGO” that is dedicated to moving forward the “national interest” of the US and continuing “Cold War supremacy within the ‘Atlantic community’ and beyond.” Then, he is a member of Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group as well, which includes has people such as NYPD Commissioner Bill “broken windows” Bratton and Michael Chertoff, among others.

Some of the other board members make one question the institution as well. John Kerry, a corporatist Senator and now Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, who formerly served on Chevron’s board of directors and is now Secretary of Defense, serve as board members. One board member, J. Robinson West, was even the chairman and founder of PFC Energy which advised big oil companies, helped lease off the outer continental shelf for oil drilling during the Reagan years and is currently a member of the National Petroleum Council which focuses on advising, informing and recommending measures to the Energy Secretary on “any matter relating to oil and natural gas, or to the oil and gas industries” which is “submitted to it or approved by the Secretary.” Other board members make one lift their eyebrow, including: a member of the board of directors of the right-wing legal organization called the Center for Individual Rights; the director of the Atlantic Council; the president of the National Defense University; a senior fellow at the libertarian Hoover Institution; and the president of Quality Care Consultants. Some board members seem to not be corporate or tied to the foreign policy and military establishments like one who heads a civil and human rights group and another that is the former executive director of the National Council on Independent Living. In the past, Harriet Zimmermann, who was a member of AIPAC and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was even a member of the USIP’s board. If this isn’t enough, USIP has eight-six experts working at places ranging from the centrist Brookings institution to the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Institution has an interesting history. It was spurred by grassroots pressure initially and then it came to engage in projects that some may be disturbed by and goes against the ideas those who pushed for it, peace activists, in the first place. After all, David Petraeus called them “a great asset in developing stronger unity of effort between civilian and military elements of government” in Afghanistan. They helped convene the Iraq Study Group in 2006, which came out with a final report that urged an immediate pull-out from Iraq and a surge in Afghanistan. So much for peace as this suggestion means that war would decline in one country and increased in another. To echoe what Howard Beale said in Network about the “truth” from television, “this is mass madness you maniacs!” Then, there was the Genocide Prevention Task Force, convened by USIP and other groups, which was co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline “the price was worth it” Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen who has played a big role in US military actions in Kosovo and Iraq in the 1990s. The 174-page report from this task force, which had thirty-five recommendations for lawmakers and other public officials, echoed the ideas of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), stating in part that: “states have a basic responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide and mass atrocities…As an element of this expression of resolve, the United States should also reaffirm its support for the principle of the “responsibil­ity to protect.” What this report did not note is that R2P has been used to justify the interventions in the Ivory Coast and Libya in 2011 along with one in the Central African Republic in 2013. Binoy Kampmark wrote in 2008 that this report, which was from a task force chaired “by key players in the Clinton administration,” pairs well with “interventionist rhetoric Obama has, at times, articulated” and through his foreign policy advisers, while the “priorities given to genocide prevention may yet again be minimized.”

USIP had other initiatives such as one that purportedly was aimed at preventing electoral violence in the two Sudans, where the US has an oil interest and is competing with China, but had no similar program in another other region of the world. Then there is the publication of something called “The Iran Primer” which claims to offer a “comprehensive but concise overview of Iran’s politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and nuclear program” which is edited by Robin B. Wright who is a scholar who works at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a group where the Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley is the chair of its board of Trustees, which is filled with a number of business-friendly folks. A number of others write for the publication, including a director of a part of the Brookings Institution and a Carnegie Endowment’s policy analyst.

Sara Diamond in the July/August 1990 issue of Z Magazine brought another critique to the USIP: that is it close with the intelligence establishment. Diamond writes that the Institute has become “a stomping ground for professional war-makers” and has become “a funding conduit and clearinghouse for research on problems inherent to U.S. strategies of ‘low intensity conflict.’ She later writes that the USIP’s board in 1984 looked like a bunch of “right-wing ideologues from academia and the Pentagon” since, as she concludes, by law, “the USIP is an arm of the U.S. intelligence apparatus…[and] intersects heavily with the intelligence establishment.” That isn’t all. Diamond writes that the Institute has a congressionally approved board of directors, its first president worked with the State Department to disseminate anti-Contra propaganda and at the time, of the article’s writing, three of the board members presided over the seemingly defunct “U.S. Global Strategy Council which was a “shadowy clique of military intelligence strategists headed by former CIA deputy director Ray Cline.” Furthermore, Diamond noted that most of the USIP’s grant projects “through early 1990 reveals undeniable favoritism toward researchers committed to Cold War paradigms.” And the article continues on.

The problems with USIP don’t stop here. According to an archived page on USIP’s website, former fellows of the institution include Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute, Ray Jennings and Albert Cevallos of USAID, Richard Joseph of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Dana Priest of the Washington Post, and the failed Vice Presidential candidate Bill Richardson. Lest us forget that the US government’s official position on Syria was “sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace to negotiate disputes among selected elements of the Syrian Opposition,” according to Professor Richard Rubenstein in CounterPunch. On the problems with USIP, Associate Professor Thomas N. Nagy added that “Dr. Waromonger” Daniel Pipes who is a premier warmonger, an obvious Islamaphobe, a supporter of the Vietnam War, a strong supporter of Israel who opposes a Palestinian state, and advocate of U.S. military attack on Iran to stop its nuclear program, was nominated to the board of USIP by President George W. Bush. This nomination was blocked by rightly angry Democratic senators, but Bush used his authority to appoint Pipes through a recess appointment (he served for two years) while Pipes was endorsed by the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, a number of senators and other small groups.

While one cannot deny that USIP engages in good work from time to time, it is clear that this federal institution is mired by connections the foreign policy and military establishments, the intelligence community and the corporate sector. These connections make clear that USIP is not promoting peace. After all, that isn’t their mission; rather it is, according to their website, a push to “increase the nation’s capacity to manage international conflict without violence.” This weak statement doesn’t even say, or even allude, that wars should be ended or scaling down of violence worldwide. If USIP doesn’t start demanding real peace, which would require a push to cut war spending worldwide, especially in the US, and rethinking war economies, then it may be time to question if it is really needed anymore.

What are global energy markets anyway?

26 Aug

 

Obama june 19
 
Words politicians, especially people such as presidents say can sometimes be deceptive and have a hidden meaning that viewers may not understand. On June 19th, at the beginning of this summer, President Obama said that not only are “humanitarian reasons” and the destabilization of the region not supposed “national security interests,” but that the U.S. government is “committed to protecting, obviously issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important.” At the time, I kept wondering…what does this term “global energy markets” really mean?
 
I looked into it further and found administration officials had mentioned it far back as 2009:

2009 U.S.-EU Summit Declaration [November 3, 2009]: “The Energy Council will study diversification of energy sources, such as through increased use of liquefied natural gas (LNG), solar power, wind power and biofuels, and the use of nuclear power. It will discuss how to effectively promote global energy security on the basis of transparent, stable and non-discriminatory global energy markets and diversified energy sources. Diverse supplies and sources, as well as enhanced energy efficiency and transparent markets, are the surest route to energy security. The Council will foster energy policy cooperation, bilaterally and with third countries, aimed at improving energy security, enhancing energy efficiency, and deepening research, development, demonstration and deployment of sustainable and clean energy technologies.”

Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in March 2011: “And let me just flag a couple areas where we think there’s particular potential.  One is in the area of energy, broadly defined.  Brazil is going to become a major player in the global energy markets with its recent discovery of offshore oil.  It’s already a partner and a leader in the renewables area, and we have a deep relationship with them on biofuels, on wind, on solar, on a number of other issues.”

Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in June 2012:  “Let me just add one more thing.  We will be talking more about energy this afternoon, but the G8 leaders agreed to a statement on global energy markets, and we’ll be making this available to you right after this briefing, but let me just read it to you: “There have been increasing disruptions in the supply of oil to the global market over the past several months, which poses substantial risk to global economic growth.  In response, major producers have increased their output while drawing prudently on excess capacity.  Looking ahead to the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales and the expected increased demand over the coming months, we are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied.” And obviously that’s a — it’s a key statement, it’s an unusual statement.”

Obama at G8 summit in May 2012: “Leaders agreed to join a new U.S.-led coalition to address climate change, in part by reducing short-lived pollutants.  And in the face of increasing disruptions in the supply of oil, we agreed that we must closely monitor global energy markets.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL in June 2012: “we deliberately set about implementing these sanctions in a way that would have the maximum impact on Iran. And so that of course includes working to get major oil importers of Iranian oil to take steps to reduce or in some instances to stop their import of Iranian oil. That’s both something that allows us to broaden the impact in terms of the number of countries that are again taking action to reduce imports from Iran. But also it allows us to phase in these sanctions in a way that has minimal impact on global energy markets because we don’t want to — we want to take steps to ensure that the — they’re phased in a way that doesn’t drive up the price of oil, which would again ultimately end up benefiting the Iranians, because as more of their oil is taken off the market, they would of course have revenue from the oil that they do continue to sell.”

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future: “We are working with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others to ensure that our international institutions and processes reflect changes in global energy markets.”

Former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon: “Global energy markets are part of a deeply interdependent world economy.  The United States continues to have an enduring interest in stable supplies of energy and the free flow of commerce everywhere.”

Fact sheet on U.S.-China relations: “Vice President Joe Biden discussed with President Xi and senior Chinese officials ways to strengthen U.S.-China cooperation to benefit the citizens of both of our countries and address global challenges.  They decided to expand U.S.-China cooperation in addressing climate change, enhancing transparency and resilience in global energy markets, and ensuring safe and well-regulated bilateral trade in food and pharmaceuticals.”

Joint fact sheet on US-China relations: “Building on the climate accord announced by the two Presidents at Sunnylands, and the S&ED in July 2013, the United States and China affirm the importance of deepening cooperation to address climate change, reduce local air pollution, transition to a low carbon energy economy, and strengthen the resilience of global energy markets.”

 

 I looked into other websites to find if there was an answer to what global energy markets are all about. BP, the multinational oil company, or “Beyond Business“, writes about global energy markets, yet they don’t really define it, they just declare: “Energy is a topic that is hotly debated around the world—in the halls of government and corporate boardrooms; on the TV and around kitchen tables. It is often said that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts!” Chatham House does a better job at defining the term itself. They write on their description of an event about global energy markets, that “Global energy markets are changing. Demand for energy resources is increasingly led by growth economies in Asia, unconventional oil and gas production continues to rewrite market forecasts and new production frontiers are emerging.” So, this makes it seem that the term applies to energy markets for oil & natural gas in places such as Asia. This is confirmed by the fact that OPEC wants to be part of the discussion for these said markets, specifically in regards to oil and a Financial Post article about US oil producers. The International Energy Agency notes that such markets would also include those for coal and maybe alternative energies like wind & solar and maybe biofuels as well. Overall, the term global energy markets seem to apply to ALL fossil fuels and definitely renewables. Still, there is no one site that defines the term “global energy markets.”
 
Investopedia on their website writes that “the energy market influences almost everything that we do.” PJM adds that “energy markets are used to coordinate the continuous buying, selling, and delivery of electricity” and Adam Jones of The Energy Collective write that in energy markets, “electricity is like any other commodity, bought wholesale and resold to consumers at retail prices.” In this way, every single type of energy under the Sun can be sold and bought on the market. That is the definition of a global energy market.
 
I end with a speech with by the CEO of one of the most evil corporations in the world, ExxonMobil, professing that they need to drill more and screw up the world more (until the earth becomes a fiery hell of course):
“North America’s new supplies of natural gas are coming at a time when the energy industry’s technologies are opening new opportunities for the global transport of natural gas to the rest of the world…We must embrace the free flow of energy, capital, and human talent across oceans and borders.We will strengthen energy security for all nations.  And we will build new bridges of trade and progress between countries and continents.”

 

 

Does Elizabeth Warren really care about the average American?

5 Aug

The title of this article may be a shock to those supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren. There is no doubt that she has engaged in some good initiatives like pushing for: transparency on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling out the too-big-to-fail banks, speaking out on student loan debt, and so on. But, one should not put that much trust in her. As I have written about on this blog numerous times and elsewhere, it is important to be critical of Elizabeth Warren, who I consider a capitalist reformer and not being as populist as it may seem from the surface. [1]

Recently, conservative media have been up and arms, saying that Warren is a hypocrite for supporting the Export-Import Bank, which has been nicknamed the ‘Boeing Bank’ or the ‘corporate welfare bank.’ Here is a sampling of the headlines from those media sites:

Elizabeth Warren’s, ahem, ‘Crony Capitalism.’ | RedState

Crony Corporatist: Elizabeth Warren and the Export-Import Bank| Lew Rockwell

Elizabeth Warren, Hypocrite, Supports Ex-Im Bank | againstcronycapitalism.org

Oh, look, phony populist Elizabeth Warren backs the Export-Import Bank’s brand of corporate welfare | unitedliberty.org

Elizabeth Warren Is Overrated: Why the progressive favorite is a downer| The Federalist

Elizabeth Warren, Hypocrite, Supports Ex-Im Bank| Reason.com

Elizabeth Warren Backs Corporate Welfare Bank| Town Hall

Now, what did Warren really say? What is the real story? Well, the quotes from Warren comes from an exchange reported on by Bloomberg News. Here’s that story, with bolded emphasis from me:

Every so often, the political spectrum in Washington bends to the point that erstwhile opponents find themselves walking in lockstep.

Last year, one of the House’s most outspoken Democrats, Arizona’s Raul Grijalva, agreed with Tea Party favorite Justin Amash on an amendment that would have restricted the National Security Agency’s spying powers. Tea Party groups and peaceniks both opposed U.S. intervention in Syria.

This week, Democrats such as Colorado’s Jared Polis teamed with Kentucky’s Thomas Massie and fellow libertarians to approve a House amendment that would let U.S. banks accept cash from marijuana businesses in states where pot is legal.

Could the dynamic repeat itself on the question of whether to renew the U.S. Export-Import Bank? Heritage Action of America thinks so.

The Tea Party-aligned group sent a letter today to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat known for taking populist stands against corporate America, inviting her to speak about  ending the lender “and the political favoritism it engenders.”

“We, like you, are frustrated with a political economy that benefits well-connected elites at the expense of all Americans,” Heritage Action Chief Executive Officer Michael Needham wrote. “Your presence will send a clear signal that you are going to fight the most pressing example of corporate welfare and cronyism pending before Congress right now.”

Alas, it doesn’t sound like the former Harvard law professor will be lecturing to Heritage audiences any time soon.

“Senator Warren believes that the Export-Import Bank helps create American jobs and spur economic growth, but recognizes that there is room for improvement in the bank’s operations,” Warren spokesman Lacey Rose tells us in an e-mail. “She looks forward to reviewing re-authorization legislation if and when it is introduced.”

This means that she supports the Export-Import Bank. While the Washington Examiner is a conservative publication, a recent article by one of their writers, Timothy B. Carney, makes a good point about her support of this bank:

“Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren loves to shoot barbs at Wall Street. She also enjoys forcing taxpayers to absorb Wall Street’s risks while the banks pocket the profits…The Export-Import Bank puts taxpayer money behind the loans Citibank and Goldman Sachs make to foreign companies and foreign governments buying U.S. goods. President Obama is a huge champion of Ex-Im. Wall Street LOVES Ex-Im. Conservative Republicans oppose Ex-Im. Elizabeth Warren apparently sides with Wall Street. At Ex-Im’s annual conference, one Wall Streeter described Ex-Im’s loan guarantees to me as “free money.” Is Elizabeth Warren really fine with free money to Wall Street?

Apparently according to her campaign rhetoric, Warren is not fine with free money to Wall Street, but seemingly she picks and chooses her battles with Wall Street, which is troubling. The letter that Heritage Action, part of the Heritage Foundation, they posted it on their website and it seems to channel conservative populism. After Warren responded, they had a response that seems to attack crony capitalism and other top Democrats for supporting the bank (important parts are bolded):

“…Warren’s response is not quite what you would expect from someone who claims to be working “on the side of American families.” Especially when the corporate-welfare machine she is in support of “guarantees ‘free money,’ allowing [banks] to be more aggressive in financing exports because taxpayers serve as the backstop if a deal fails.” Warren is not the first on the so-called populist left to support the Export-Import Bank. Others [sic]  liberal leaders in favor of reauthorization include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senator Chuck Schumer. In response to her decision, Heritage Action has made sure that all of the followers of the self proclaimed “enemy of greedy corporations” see her position when it comes to actually fighting against corporate welfare…The expiration of the Export-Import Bank’s charter is approaching quickly.  What can you do? Share this page with your friends and neighbors an spread the message about ending the Export-Import Bank and the culture of cronyism in Washington.”

They even created an ad criticizing for her support of the bank. Now, her support of this bank is only one issue of many. Recently, a reporter tried to ask Warren her view on Israel’s invasion of Gaza and she literally ran away:

Later on, she did not even let out peep (and neither did other ‘progressives’ like Bernie Sanders) when $225 million in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome system was approved by unanimous consent (also see here). Hence, there is no record of a vote.This is not very surprising considering, in the words of Jeff Klein, she was persuaded to sponsor Senate Res. 65, which mandated “a new round of sanctions against Iran and promising to support Israel if it should choose to launch a unilateral war” in May 2013, joining the “unanimous vote in favor of the bill.” Furthermore, Kelin wrote that her vote, she he possible rationalized pragmatically means that her senate seat “is worth the price of a vote for AIPAC.”

This isn’t all. She has also been ok with a number of corporate-friendly nominations of the Obama administration, as she voted for:

      1. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who previously was the president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, was president of the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and was an aide to neoliberal Treasury Secretary Robert Robin for two years, for Secretary of Health and Human Services (see here)
      2. Sharon Y. Bowen, who was previously a partner at the corporate law firm, Latham & Wilkins, with her practice including “corporate, finance and securities transactions for large global corporations and financial institutions” for the commissioner of the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] (see here)
      3. Stanley Fischer, who worked at the World Bank from 1988 to 1990 and the IMF from 1994 to 2001, after which he served as the Vice Chairman of Citigroup (2002-2005) for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (see here)
      4. Robert A. “Bob” McDonald, was was a former CEO of Proctor & Gamble, for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, replacing Eric Shiniski who had worked for Honeywell International before he was Secretary (see here)
      5. Wanda Felton, who formerly worked for investment firms and was a director at Credit Suisse First Boston, to be First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (see here)
      6. Catherine Ann Novelli, who was formerly a partner for Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP “where she assisted Fortune 100 clients on issues involving international trade and investment,” to be the United States Alternate Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (see here)
      7. Richard Stengel, who wrote for Time magazine and was its managing editor for years, to be an Under Secretary of State (see here)
      8. Max Baucus, a corporate-friendly senator who pushed through Obamacare, supported fast track, had a high business-friendly voting record as ranked by the US Chamber of Commerce, voted for the Iraq war, opposed single-payer healthcare, and voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001, to be ambassador to China (see here)
      9. Mel Watt, a corporate-friendly senator as I noted here, to be the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (see here)

She could have or could have not voted for Maria Contreras-Sweet for SBA Administrator, who formerly served on Well Point, which defrauded black Florida voters in 2000, and the board of Blue Cross Blue Shield in California because it was a voice vote.Warren just happened to not vote for Janet Yellen, who has a pro-business record supporting business-friendly measures like Quantitative Easing and supports continuing to fork over tax dollars to the big banks, for chairman of the Federal Reserve. If that’s not enough, Warren also voted for a bill which imposed sanctions on Russia, or any person that is complicit in violence or corruption in Ukraine, and guaranteed economic assistance to Ukraine. For more, read the bill itself. Then there was Warren’s vote for Jeh Johnson (for Secretary of the DHS) who was not only a big donor to Obama in the past, but “an unapologetic supporter and enabler of President Obama’s policy of drone warfare,” saying that its fine if US citizens are targeted by drone strikes. Oh yeah, and Johnson was outspoken in saying that Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning should be criminally prosecuted.

The positions of Warren don’t get any better. While she, along with Tom Coburn, have a “bipartisan proposal…to increase transparency around settlements reached by federal enforcement agencies,” there is nothing I can find of her rejecting the recent settlement and calling for prosecutions of those responsible. In March 2013, in the news section of Warren’s website was an article talking about an event “attended by about 200 Massachusetts small businesses at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center” which featured “25 government agencies and prime contractors – including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation…Raytheon, BAE Systems and Booz Allen Hamilton” so that businesses “had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with agency representatives and contractors to learn about possible contracts in the region.” To me, this sounds like she supports the production of “some jobs” by the military-industrial-complex, the permanent war economy, not even questioning this at all. Warren seemed to promote this in the month preceeding it as noted here, here, and here. The biggest news I found was a national security speech she made in February of this year. In that speech, as reprinted in the Huffington Post, part of which I’ll quote below (I bolded a number of important parts):

…It’s been thirteen years since the events of September 11, 2001…For thirteen years, we have lived through the repercussions of that terrible day. Now, the first chapter in our nation’s post-9/11 history is coming to an end. We are out of Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan is underway. We are ending two wars, but this does not mean that we will withdraw from the world beyond our shores, or pretend that there are no threats to our safety and security. As we start a new chapter, we still live in an unstable and unpredictable world: a world with terrorists plotting to cause catastrophic destruction, a world with dictators and tyrants, a world with threats in cyberspace and from new technologies. We know that we must remain vigilant and engaged abroad, taking steps to defend our allies and to protect our people. But as these two wars come to an end, we also have an opportunity to think about what we can learn from the last decade of conflict. There are many questions worth asking about how to make sure our actions advance our national interests…Today, I want to focus on a related question about how we advance our national interests – a question that is discussed less often than many of the others, but one that I think deserves our attention. How should we think about civilian casualties and their effect on our strategic decisions?…

Civilian casualties are an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of war, and modern conflict has made it more difficult to know who is innocent. We can’t always distinguish between civilians and combatants..Seriously addressing the issue of civilian casualties is essential to upholding our values at home and advancing our interests overseas. Our military is the most professional and honorable fighting force in the world, and I know first-hand how creative and tough our armed forces are...We take pride in the way that our servicemembers conduct themselves, but some people assume that when the shooting starts, military law, domestic law, and international law are left behind. The reality is the opposite. Law is an integral part of American warfare. Our soldiers learn basic legal principles as part of their training.

Military lawyers are embedded into our fighting units, working alongside commanders to evaluate the legality of even the most sensitive decisions. We follow the law because our national values – and our national interests – demand it…the laws of war require us to consider not just expediency, but also humanity…General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of our armed forces in Afghanistan, described this lesson a few years ago…McChrystal describes this dynamic with insurgents, but the same dynamic is at work with the collateral deaths of innocent civilians – and the same dynamic can apply during all kinds of military operations – Special Forces missions, counterterrorism operations, and efforts to train security forces. Over the past decade, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, military commanders increasingly tried to address this problem… The military increased its efforts to educate and train our soldiers and Marines on civilian protection. And leaders in the military started tracking the number of civilian casualties, so they could learn from the statistics and identify ways to lower civilian casualty rates…

As the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan progressed, our military leaders increasingly took seriously the costs of civilian casualties in military engagements, and they learned how important it is to prevent civilian casualties. But now it is time for the next question: when our country considers military interventions abroad – and especially when leaders publicly debate the costs and benefits of using force – do we factor in this same lesson? Do we fully consider the costs of civilian casualties?…Many policymakers in Washington seem hesitant to…acknowledge the reality that military commanders deal with every day, the reality that civilian casualties affect U.S. interests abroad. And when we debate the costs and benefits of intervention – when we discuss potential military action around the world – the talk about collateral damage and civilian casualties too often seems quiet. The failure to make civilian casualties a full and robust part of our national conversation over the use of force is dangerous…Our decision-making suffers – and our ability to effectively advance our interests suffers – when we do not grapple fully and honestly with all of the costs and benefits, all the risks, all the intended and unintended consequences of military action.

When our country considers military intervention, we must be hard-headed and clear-eyed…Unintended consequences can have a profound impact. Whatever our righteous intentions, the world does not hold us blameless when civilians die…We must begin by establishing training programs that directly address civilian casualties. The military has begun to put together educational and training materials based on experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq…Next, we need to improve our efforts to track civilian casualties during any military engagement…While secrecy – particularly as it relates to operational plans – is necessary in some cases, tracking casualties and making those data publicly available will help us make the best decisions here at home and demonstrate to the world that America takes civilian casualties seriously…Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people. In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy. We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people, and through the example we provide to our Afghan partners…Our military leaders recognize that our moral values need not conflict with our strategy. As we reflect on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as we prepare for the future use of military force, we must remember this as well.

We are a great country, a country rooted in the values of liberty and justice, compassion and community. We cannot turn a blind eye to the rest of the world – pretending that dangerous dictators pose no threat to us or that atrocities committed outside our borders don’t matter. But when we consider whether using force is in our national interest, we also should not – we cannot – turn a blind eye to the impact of unintended civilian casualties. The decision to use military force is one of the most important any country can make. If we openly consider all the costs and benefits, all the intended and unintended consequences, we will make better decisions – decisions that will live up to our nation’s core values, advance our national interests, and preserve our role as a moral leader in the world.”

Clearly, Warren is showing that she supports the imperialistic, militaristic foreign policy, echoing what Obama says. However, I commend her on considering the “intended and unintended consequences of military action” (esp. with civilian casualties) with the latter constituting a word she strangely does not use, but is used by many critiquing the American empire: blowback. At the same time, it disturbing that he argument is nationalistic and almost uber-patriotic as she holds up the US as a paragon of virtue (it is not) and she defends the military as professional (and other BS), not recognizing they are one thing, and one thing only: an army of trained, cold-blooded killers. This does not mean that no one in the army has a conscience, but rather that such a conscience, that makes one question their actions, is suppressed by the internal mechanizations of the military itself.

There is one more aspect I’ll cover in this article, and that is Warren’s bill titled Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act introduced in 2013, with a companion bill in the House of Representatives introduced by Rep. John F. Tierney. Ellen Brown, in a June 2013 article for CounterPunch writes about the bill, noting that:

“…Students are considered risky investments because they don’t own valuable assets against which the debt can be collected. But this argument overlooks the fact that these young trainees are assets themselves. They represent an investment in “human capital” that can pay for itself many times over, if properly supported and developed.  This was demonstrated in the 1940s with the G.I. Bill, which provided free technical training and educational support for nearly 16 million returning servicemen, along with government-subsidized loans and unemployment benefits…Investing in our young people has worked before and can work again; and if Congress orders the Fed to fund this investment in our collective futures by “quantitative easing,” it need cost the taxpayers nothing at all. The Japanese have finally seen the light and are using their QE tool as economic stimulus rather than just to keep their banks afloat. We need to do the same.”

Still, I find it worrisome that Warren’s bill is based around the idea of Quantitative Easing, a program, that helps big banks. Additionally, the proposal seems to help students but not get them out of their horrible predicament, only making their horrible predicament just a little bit better. I think its also worth remembering that she falsely and absurdly said that the Tea Party are anarchists (they aren’t) in a October 2013 post (which was seemingly a senate speech) titled ‘We are not a country of anarchists':

If you watch the anarchist tirades coming from extremist Republicans in the House, you’d think they believe that the government that governs best is a government that doesn’t exist at all. But behind all the slogans of the Tea Party – and all the thinly veiled calls for anarchy in Washington – is a reality: The American people don’t want a future without government…In fact, whenever the anarchists make any headway in their quest and cause damage to our government, the opposite happens…Government is real, and it has three basic functions:Provide for the national defense. [and] Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent. [and] Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed. These things did not appear by magic. In each instance, we made a choice as a people to come together…We are alive, we are healthier, we are stronger because of government. Alive, healthier, stronger because of what we did together. We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues…We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation. The political minority in the House that condemns government and begged for this shutdown has its day. But like all the reckless and extremist factions that have come before it, its day will pass – and the government will get back to the work we have chosen to do together.

Now, while it is worthy to condemn the shutdown, to connect anarchism with the Tea Party is utterly absurd. As wrote a great critique of this use of the term  ‘anarchist’ (also by Harry Reid) in a wonderful Washington Post opinion piece:

“Real anarchist communities operate according to radically democratic principles. They theorize, and even organize, with egalitarian political and social visions in mind. Unlike tea party obstinacy, anarchism promotes cooperative forms of decision-making—not only in political life, but in social and economic institutions as well. Co-op book and grocery stores, community gardens, employee-owned businesses, land trusts and cooperative housing projects, as well as grassroots relief efforts like Occupy Sandy, are just a few examples of anarchist praxis at work in our society. Anarchism is not lawless, but it does involve a critique of the state. Anarchists encourage us to place a burden of proof on existing authority structures, and push us to limit, or even dismantle, the power of institutions, regulations and individuals whose authority proves to be illegitimate. The tea party is trying to diffuse the power of centralized government, but, paradoxically, they’re using big corporate heads and political figures within centralized government to get there…Despite their anti-authoritarianism, some of today’s anarchists concede that states can serve socially important functions like ensuring sound infrastructure, basic consumer protections and comprehensive social welfare (though they believe such services are better executed with decentralized communities)…So if the tea party is not anarchist, what is? It’s closer to what we’ve seen with pro-democracy movements around the world...Anarchists believe, ultimately, in the power of people, not the people in power. The truth is, our top political and economic institutions are not really structured as representative bodies. The idea of representation is being used today to legitimize the vast decision-making powers of a ruling elite, of which tea party politicians are a part, who exercise an inordinate level of influence in our political and social system…If anarchists had indeed taken over Congress, then the American people might be invited to collectively decide our fate, rather than entrust it to representatives of a powerful few…Anarchism seeks to diffuse power based on hubris, superiority and the conceited pursuit of wealth, and re-root it in democratic principles and egalitarian ethics. Given our current situation, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.

A post on Daily Kos had a different but interesting critique, arguing that “anarchism and conservatism are fundamentally at odds with each other,” while Nathan Goodman of the Center for a Stateless Society writes that “…the “shutdown” has kept intact most of the state violence that anarchists oppose, including militarism, police violence, crony capitalist patent monopolies, mass incarceration, mass surveillance and deportations…State regulations, in contrast, are often used by big business as a way to restrict competition, consolidate power, and dodge accountability. This is a pervasive problem called regulatory capture.”

This isn’t all. There is the fact that Warren ran as a hawkish politician, against another hawkish politician Scott Brown, by advocating for Iranian sanctions,  leaving Afghanistan only once ‘the puppet government is secured,” continuing drone strikes and “clandestine wars” to continue the war on terror, continuing to fund Israel with US tax money which allows it  “to continue its slaughter of Gazans and others.” Oh, and let not forget the thousands of dollars she has in checking and savings accounts at Bank of America, or her thousands of dollars in TIAA-CREF funds, as according to her financial disclosures in early 2014. If that’s not enough, she already received $38,575 from Google, $19,500 from National Amusements (owns Viacom), $18,400 from Microsoft Corp, $18,000 from Goldman Sachs, $17,700 from Bain Capital, $16,000 from Time Warner, $14,825 from IBM, and $13,050 from Walt Disney Co., and $12,575 from Rayethon in individual contributions in 2014 alone. I know that individual contributions on their own does not indicate a company supports a certain candidate, rather only certain people in that company. Looking at her contributors during her whole legislative career shows a number of universities and liberal political groups have given her money. For her PAC money, she’d received $22,000 in 2013-2014 and most of it is either labor groups or single-issue groups. But there are some business groups as well, centering around Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, the National Assn of Realtors and Camp, Dresser & McKee.  There is more to Warren’s record, more than one could pick away, but I’m done for now since this is all I can say at this time.

Notes

[1] See my articles ‘The truth about Elizabeth Warren‘ , ‘An update about the capitalist reformer Elizabeth Warren‘, ‘Elizabeth Warren is not a savior’, ‘Elizabeth Warren is a fraud‘, part of this article and a following one I wrote responding to comments,

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