Kill For Peace

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British Parliament Votes Against Military Intervention In Syria

From Huffington Post:


LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote endorsing military action against Syria by 13 votes Thursday, a stunning defeat that will almost guarantee that Britain plays no direct role in any U.S. attack on Bashar Assad’s government.

A grim-faced Cameron conceded after the vote that “the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action.”

The prime minister said that while he still believed in a “tough response” to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime, he would respect the will of Parliament.

Responding to the vote, the White House said that a decision on a possible military strike against Syria will be guided by America’s best interests, suggesting the U.S. may act alone if other nations won’t help.

The defeat was as dramatic as it was unexpected. At the start of the week, Cameron had seemed poised to join Washington in possible military action against Assad. The suspected chemical weapons attacks took place Aug. 21 in suburbs east and west of Damascus. The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has said the strikes killed 355 people.

Gruesome images of sickened men, women and children writhing on the floor drew outrage from across the world, and Cameron recalled Parliament from its summer break for an emergency vote, which was widely seen as a prelude to international action.

“The video footage illustrates some of the most sickening human suffering imaginable,” Cameron told lawmakers before the vote, arguing that the most dangerous thing to do was to “stand back and do nothing.”

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Alan Grayson On Syria Strike: ‘Nobody Wants This Except The Military-Industrial Complex’

From Huffington Post:


WASHINGTON — Citing his responsibility to represent the views of his constituents, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said Thursday that he can’t support an attack on Syria that his voters strongly oppose.

“One thing that is perfectly clear to me in my district, and I think is true in many other districts from speaking to other members, is that there is no desire, no desire on the part of people to be the world’s policeman,” Grayson said on SiriusXM’s “The Agenda with Ari Rabin-Havt,” which aired Thursday morning. “For us to pick up this gauntlet even on the basis of unequivocal evidence of chemical warfare by the Syrian army, deliberately against its own people — even if there were unequivocal evidence of that — that’s just not what people in my district want.”

That doesn’t mean that opposition is universal, Grayson allowed. “I did notice, for what it’s worth, that the manufacturer of the missiles that would be used has had an incredible run in their stock value in the last 60 days. Raytheon stock is up 20 percent in the past 60 days as the likelihood of the use of their missiles against Syria becomes more likely. So I understand that there is a certain element of our society that does benefit from this, but they’re not the people who vote for me, or by the way the people who contribute to my campaign,” he said. “Nobody wants this except the military-industrial complex.”

Raytheon stock has in fact surged over the past two months, though it’s been slightly shy of 20 percent.

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The Soul of Our Nation: War

From Common Dreams:

by Bruce Gagnon

This is how it works.

The US has been providing Egypt with nearly $2 billion a year in “aid” since 1979.  Most of this is military aid.  That “aid” is then used to buy weapons from American corporations.  So in reality most of US foreign aid becomes more welfare programs for the military industrial complex.

Because of current civil war conditions in Egypt the Obama team is having to hold off on providing more aid to that embattled nation.  A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 51% of respondents said it’s better to cut off military assistance to Egypt, while 26% backed continued aid.

The “aid” now on temporary hold would include: F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin; M1A1 tanks from General Dynamics; and Apache attack helicopters made by Boeing Co.

CBS News reported on August 20: “The billion dollars in aid Congress approved for Egypt does not go directly to Cairo, it goes to places such as Archbald, Pennsylvania. The General Dynamics factory there makes parts for the M1A1 tank. General Dynamics is filling an order for 125 tank kits for the Egyptian Army.  One-hundred-thirty people work at the Archbald facility.”

You can imagine the workers at the Archbald facility want this “aid” to continue.  Archbald Mayor Ed Fairbrother says the jobs are “extremely important” to the community. “They are some of the best jobs we have in the community,” he says. “Those are the kinds of jobs that sustain communities and families.”

There are 44 companies in Pennsylvania involved in production of the M1A1. The interesting thing is that Egypt does not need the tanks and many of the “kits” are still in crates after being delivered to their military.

American communities have become addicted to war spending and military production. As most traditional manufacturing industry has moved overseas seeking cheaper labor the best jobs in most parts of the nation are building weapons.  It’s thus no coincidence that the #1 industrial export product of our nation is weapons.  And what is our global marketing strategy for that product line? Hello Syria!

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War Criminal Obama and Peace Hypocrite. – Clare Daly – Irish Socialist

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Feds Won’t Interfere With Marijuana Legalization in Colorado and Washington

From Alternet:

This unprecedented decision steers federal priority away from the longstanding, reactionary U.S. war on drugs.

By April M. Short
August 29, 2013

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made a historic move today when he informed the governors of Colorado and Washington that the federal government would not interfere with their states’ laws allowing for the legal use of marijuana.

For years federal agents have stormed and raided marijuana dispensaries in states like California where medical use has been legal for decades, but this unprecedented decision steers federal priority away from the longstanding, reactionary U.S. war on drugs.

In last November’s election Colorado and Washington voters chose to legalize marijuana use for adults in their states. The legalization of pot blatantly contradicts the federal government’s classification of marijuana as an illegal Schedule I substance “considered the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence.”

In response to the states’ ballot results, President Obama told ABC News’s Barbara Walters in December that his administration had “bigger fish to fry” and would not prioritize recreational pot smokers in states where it is legal. The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy ” had remained silent” about the Colorado and Washington marijuana initiatives until today “despite repeated requests for guidance from state officials.”

Holder’s announcement means the Department of Justice will not sue the states over their regulation and implementation of their marijuana ballot initiatives. In addition to Holder’s news, Deputy Attorney General James C ole released a memo addressed to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states. The memo reads:

“The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests. A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice.”

As the Huffington Post reported, Cole’s memo also outlines “eight priorities for federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws. According to the guidance, DOJ will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:

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Queery: Kye Allums

From The Washington Blade:

on August 28, 2013

When Kye Allums told his fellow players on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University during his sophomore year that he wanted them to start using male pronouns and his new name it took a little time for them to get it.

“They laughed at first,” the 23-year-old St. Paul, Minn., native says. “They were like, ‘Yeah, you woke up, now you’re a boy, whatever,’ but when they knew I was serious, they didn’t understand it at all, but they started seeing how it was affecting me. I was smiling then. In the end, they started to switch because they could see using the appropriate name made me happy and in the end they wanted to support me.”

Allums says the issue of being male on a women’s team “didn’t bother me at all.”

After graduating, Allums ( parlayed his career into trans advocacy work — mostly visiting college campuses where he spreads his belief that “I am enough — what I say, what I feel, that is enough. You shouldn’t have to tweak yourself to make somebody else happy.” He splits his time between New York and Washington when he’s not traveling (which he says was about 93 percent of the time in the last year). He just got back from London and Scotland where he worked on a documentary about the experiences of trans people around the world. He hopes to finish it with a trip to the United Arab Emirates and Thailand in December.

Allums is single — one of the downsides of constant travel, he says. He enjoys writing, shopping for shoes, Netflix and traveling in his down time.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I’ve always known who I was. However, I didn’t always have the vocabulary to describe myself. When I was 14, I came out to my friends as a gay female. The hardest person to tell was my best friend at the time. In the end I never told her. I let someone else (who loved to spread other people’s business) tell her for me. When I was 18, I found out what being a trans man meant. Then I came out to myself. Honestly I’d say coming out to myself was harder than coming out to anyone. I had these negative views of trans people and what I thought it meant and I hated that I fit under that “label.” Little did I know that being trans is simply customizing my identity to what I want it to be. Not my parents, friends or society. Me. I get to be who I choose to be and I love everything about that. Oh yeah, and I recently came out as a gay man!

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Rumble: Doesn’t Chelsea Manning Deserve Her Rights?

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Getting Hormones and Surgery for Transgender Prisoners

From The Atlantic:

The Army’s blanket denial of hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery to Chelsea Manning may not be the final word on the matter.

Aug 23 2013

Yesterday, one day after the whistleblower formerly known as Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking thousands of classified documents, Manning announced that she has embraced her true gender identity and would like to live out the rest of her sentence—and the rest of her life—as Chelsea Manning, a woman. So how does the criminal justice system care for the health and well-being of transgender prisoners?

Access to transition-related healthcare services, such as hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery, has been a major concern for transgender prisoners and advocates. Before 2010, it was the policy of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to provide hormones at whatever level was maintained prior to the incarceration. After a 2010 lawsuit, however, the bureau reformed those regulations to include transgender women who did not begin hormone therapy until after their incarceration—and today, for the most part, transgender prisoners are able to access necessary hormone therapy. When Pfc. Manning mentioned in her statement that she would like to begin hormone therapy “as soon as possible,” the Army quickly released a statement saying that it “does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder.”

“It seems odd that the Army would make a determination on Manning’s healthcare needs before they’ve even had an assessment,” says Masen Davis, the Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. “Manning has the right to access necessary medical care while she is in prison, which may include estrogen. That should be determined by a doctor and the patient, not by bias.”

Although transgender inmates are not currently able to receive sex reassignment surgery while incarcerated, in 2012 a U.S. District Judge ordered Massachusetts prison officials to provide sex reassignment surgery to Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman serving life in prison for murder, on the basis that the surgery would meet Kosilek’s “serious medical need.” The Massachusetts Department of Correction is currently appealing the decision, but according to Jennifer Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project for the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the decision opens the door to the possibility that transgender inmates might be able to access sex reassignment surgery.

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Transgender People Being Murdered At A Rate Almost 50 Percent Higher Than Lesbians And Gays

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by David Badash
on August 26, 2013

Transgender people were murdered last month at a rate that is almost 50 percent higher than the murders of lesbian and gay people. From Canada to the United States to Central and South America, in the month of July alone, 23 transgender people and 16 gay men and lesbian women — a total of 39 people — were murdered, according to a study from the Organization of American States. The OAS represents all 35 countries of the American continent. In just the U.S., an estimated .3 percent of the total population openly identify as transgender, and 3.5 percent of American adults openly identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, with bisexual people making up 1.8 percent of that 3.5 percent, according to the Williams Institute.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS issued a warning earlier this month, “reiterat[ing] its deep concern on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex persons (LGTBI), and against persons perceived as such in the Americas.” The group “urges OAS Member States to adopt urgent measures to prevent this violence and discrimination. In particular, the Commission is concerned about the high levels of violence and discrimination faced by gay, lesbian and trans youth in the region.”

The IACHR added it “was informed that, during the month of July 2013, 23 murders were committed against trans persons and trans women or those perceived as such in Brazil (9), Colombia (2), Honduras (4), Jamaica (1), Mexico (2), Paraguay (1), Peru (2), the United States (1), and Venezuela (1). It is reported that most of these victims were less than 35 years of age, a majority of them being under 25.”

The report adds, “the majority of these victims were shot, most of them multiple times.”

Additionally, the IACHR was informed of 13 cases of murders of gay men of all ages in Brazil (8), Honduras (1), Mexico (1), Peru (2), and Venezuela (1), the vast majority of which were beaten to death. It also received information on the murders of three Brazilian lesbian women, two of them less than 25 years of age.

The report does not specify numbers for bisexual people.

In all likelihood, these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.

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Chelsea Manning Considered Gender Transition Long Before Announcement

From Huffington Post:


NEW YORK — Chelsea Manning’s announcement about her gender transition last Thursday seemed to catch many casual observers by surprise. The former Army intelligence analyst and WikiLeaks source arrested in May 2010 wanted to be known as a woman, not as Bradley.

“I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible,” the 25-year-old Manning wrote. The day before the announcement, a military court gave Manning a 35-year sentence for leaking 700,000 files to WikiLeaks.

To many LGBT advocates, Manning’s declaration came as a relief. They had struggled for years over how to handle the numerous signs suggesting Manning’s desire to transition. Now, The Huffington Post has obtained another data point in Manning’s long, mostly private transition to transgender woman: an email Manning sent to a leading “don’t ask, don’t tell” researcher asking for advice on military service for transgender people.

That email, with the subject line “Questions,” arrived in researcher Nathaniel Frank’s inbox on April 28, 2010.

“I’m doing a little research, and I have a few questions regarding Transgender people and the U.S. Military,” Manning wrote. “What laws / policies bar servicemembers from seeking name changes, birth certificate changes, and hormone replacement therapy, etc? … What changes would be required for these policies to feasibly allow a soldier to transition in the military?”

That email came four days after Manning sent the non-commissioned officer in charge of discipline in her Army intelligence unit an anguished email titled “My problem” with an image of herself in a woman’s wig and makeup attached.

The email also came just days before a dramatic late-night counseling session on May 8, 2010, in which Manning made a “revelation” about her gender identity to her Army psychologist, Capt. Michael Worsley. Manning was in fact in the process of being administratively separated from the Army because of Worsley’s diagnosis of gender identity disorder (a condition now known as gender dysphoria), which Worsley felt could only be effectively treated outside of the Army.

Transgender people are not allowed to publicly serve in the military, and the Army does not provide soldiers with hormone therapy. Manning’s lawyer introduced the “My problem” email, as well as Worsley’s testimony, during the sentencing phase of the trial to show the judge overseeing the case that Manning was under extreme stress when she made her leaks. The testimony suggested that Manning’s judgment about the consequences of her actions had been affected by the stress.

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Senator Leahy Calls For Federal Marijuana Hearing; Invites Attorney General Holder

From Toke Signals:

On August 26, 2013

Hearing To Address Differences Between Federal and State Cannabis Laws

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced on Monday that he will address discrepancies between federal and state marijuana laws in an upcoming hearing on September 10. Leahy has invited Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify.

“It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal,” Sen. Leahy said. “I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government.”

Twenty states now allow medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington recently became the first two states to approve the legal regulation of marijuana for non-medicinal purposes.

Last December, in a letter to U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, Senator Leahy asked how the federal government intends to deal with states like Colorado and Washington. In the letter, Senator Leahy also suggested that federal legislation could be introduced to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana, at least in states that have legalized it. He also sought assurances that state employees would not be prosecuted for implementing state laws.

There are several bipartisan bills in the U.S. House that would reform federal marijuana laws, but so far none in the Senate.

“Two states have made marijuana legal for adult use and are establishing regulated systems of production and distribution,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Twenty states plus our nation’s capital have made it legal for medical use. By failing to recognize the decisions of voters and legislators in those states, current federal law is undermining their ability to implement and enforce those laws.

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Misogynistic GOP’s gross new talking point Lie: Feces

From Salon:

The right claims abortion rights protesters brought excrement-filled jars into the Texas Capitol. Here’s the truth

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

There was a minor, kind of disgusting subplot in the high-profile fight over Texas’ strict new antiabortion law that made Wendy Davis a star: Pro-choice activists were accused of bringing jars of feces and urine into the state Capitol.

The Texas Department of Public safety said that it had confiscated “one jar suspected to contain urine [and] 18 jars suspected to contain feces,” which naturally provoked the kind of schadenfreudish condemnation from the anti-choice right that can only be achieved when your political opponents are caught doing something distasteful.

Conservative blogs and tweeters assumed protesters were going to use the jars as scatological bombs against pro-life lawmakers and naturally flipped out. National Review called it “typically charming,” Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman said it was “Texas Democrats [sic] idea of ‘civility,’” while WND even claimed some activists were wearing diapers to resupply their ammunition.

Well, as it turns out, there was no poop in poop-gate. The AP reports today:

Texas Department of Public Safety documents show troopers seized no jars of urine or feces from Capitol visitors the day of debate of controversial abortion bill. That’s counter to a DPS statement issued the night of the July 12 debate and filibuster by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis.

The Texas DPS came under scrutiny for the statement, with pro-choice protesters saying they most certainly had not brought jars filled with toilet matter into the Capitol. DPS initially stood by the statement, but refused to release additional information.

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See Also:

Slate: Remember How Pro-Choicers Brought Jars of Feces to the Texas Statehouse? Turns Out That Probably Didn’t Happen.

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The Personal Life of Bayard Rustin

From Out Magazine:

By Robert Drayton

The partner of the gay Civil Rights activist and organizer of the March on Washington’s shares his side of the story

This week, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This march pressured the federal government to pass the Civil Rights Act, promoting equality in a country that had espoused freedom and equality for all since its inception, and yet had continuously come short of that mark.

Our country moves closer to its goal this year with Supreme Court rulings striking down DOMA and Prop 8. In addition, the Obama Administration has announced that it will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award offered by our government, to Bayard Rustin, who was a key organizer of that 1963 march. Because he was gay, Rustin was usually not accorded the recognition given to others in the Civil Rights Movement.

With the White House announcement of the recipients 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 8, more Americans are learning about Bayard Rustin, a pacifist, civil rights leader, and a top aide to Martin Luther King, Jr., who rallied over 200,000 people to march on Washington—without the aid of computers or the Internet. But there’s one chapter of Rustin’s life story that still remains an enigma—his personal life.

Last week, Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner for the last 10 years of his life, spoke about his relationship with Bayard and his feelings about the medal. “I think it’s wonderful. Certainly well deserved,” Naegle says, sitting in the Manhattan apartment he shared with Rustin. “In Bayard’s case, it recognizes him as someone who was working to expand our democratic freedoms and increase our civil liberties and our individual freedoms. There were times that he got it from both the right and the left, but this establishes him as someone who made an important contribution to the growth of the country while not pandering to either extreme.”

Bayard’s refusal to create a political image that would cater to a particular party often got him into trouble. “He wouldn’t have been particularly comfortable being the type of political person who has to run and get votes and take positions and not veer from them,” Naegle explains. “He was always very much the individual.”

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Big, Glitzy Marches Are Not Movements

From The Boston Review:

In 1963 and today, the real work happens elsewhere.

August 28, 2013

Anyone paying attention to the events leading up to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington should know by now that this historic gathering rallied under the banner of “jobs and freedom.” It has become common knowledge that economic justice was at the heart of the march’s agenda, and the main forces behind the event had roots in socialist movements—Bayard Rustin and veteran black labor leader A. Philip Randolph, who threatened a similar march two decades earlier after a black woman activist proposed the idea at a Civil Rights conference in 1940.  Thanks to the penetrating scholarship of William P. Jones’s March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights, Gary Younge’s The Speech: The Story Behind Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, Dream, and Michael Honey’s eye-opening collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, forgotten speeches on labor, All Labor Has Dignity, among many other books and films, we have finally begun to crack a half century of myth portraying the march as a moment of Civil Rights triumph culminating in Dr. King’s optimistic and iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  While King’s speech remains the focus of every commemoration, A. Philip Randolph’s opening remarks are now getting some attention.  Echoing Karl Marx’s oft-quoted line in Capital, that “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded,” he presciently warned,

This civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights for our white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not. . . . [W]e have no future in a society in which six million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty.  Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them. Yes, we want a Fair Employment Practice Act, but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers black and white?

Less obvious, but equally important, was the incredibly violent context for the march.  The peaceful, orderly character of the gathering continues to elicit commentary from both defenders and detractors of the march—the latter repeating Malcolm X’s point that 250,000 bodies descending on the nation’s capitol should have disrupted business-as-usual, waging a massive civil disobedience campaign in order to force the federal government’s hand.  But looking back fifty years later, we are reminded that opponents of the march, including the Kennedy administration, used the fear of black violence to scare potential white marchers and to justify possible military action against the demonstration.  The fact that D.C. area liquor stores were closed as a precaution against uncontrollable drunken Negroes rioting in the streets was an affront to black activists who spent months, if not years, confronting state and vigilante violence simply for demanding basic Constitutional rights.  The irony was not lost on movement folks who had only months earlier faced Bull Connor’s dogs, water hoses, batons, bullets, and jail cells in Birmingham, suffered near fatal attacks in Mississippi for attempting to register voters, or attended the funerals of Herbert Lee or Medgar Evers.  March organizers had every reason to be worried about violence, for they were dealing with palpable threats of terrorist attacks on buses carrying marchers and confrontations with American Nazis and Klansman showing up on the mall.  And yet, as much as Bayard Rustin, Randolph, King, and others emphasized the peaceful nature of the gathering, they quietly placed the question of racist violence on display by deliberately choosing August 28 to march—the eighth anniversary of the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi.

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War on Syria: Twenty Pounds of Stupid in a Ten-Pound Bag

From Truth Out:

By William Rivers Pitt
Tuesday, 27 August 2013

I’m just going to throw this out on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up: instead of attacking Syria, how about we don’t attack Syria?

Crazy, I know; this is America, after all, and our presidents like nothing more than to flip a few cruise missiles at other countries, combined with a few bombing sorties for good measure, because it’s a hell of a lot easier than actual statecraft. Besides, it looks good on television, and all those meanies in Congress can’t accuse the Commander in Chief of not doing anything. Oh, also, cruise missiles and bombs cost a lot, so if we pull the trigger on Syria, someone will get paid handsomely.

What ho, this we call “diplomacy,” right? Flatten a few buildings, blow some children sideways out of their kitchens during breakfast, take a victory lap on the Sunday morning talk shows…what could possibly go wrong?

Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Once again, it is weapons of mass destruction at the crux of the matter. Unlike our Iraq debacle, however, there seems to be a fairly impressive body of evidence to suggest that chemical weapons were used in Syria. Doctors Without Borders seems pretty convinced it happened, despite the fact that the use of such weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, given the fickle nature of chemical weapons and how closely concentrated his own forces were near the area of the attack. A rogue military commander, perhaps? The rebels themselves?

The answer to whether or not a chemical attack took place will soon be forthcoming, as UN inspectors have arrived at the scene to investigate after being greeted with sniper fire. If it is established that the Syrian government did this, enormous pressure will be brought to bear on President Obama to “punish” the Assad regime with a military attack of some kind.

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How an Insular Beltway Elite Makes Wars of Choice More Likely

From The Atlantic:

The pressure on President Obama to intervene in Syria is hyped — and the pressure to stay out of the conflict is unjustly ignored.

Aug 28 2013

Intervention in Syria is extremely, undeniably unpopular.

“Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria’s government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed,” Lesley Wroughton of Reuters reported August 24. “About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria’s civil war, while just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act.” And if there were proof that Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons? Even then, just one in four Americans favors intervention.

The citizenry wants us to stay out of this conflict. And there is no legislative majority pushing for intervention. A declaration of war against Syria would almost certainly fail in Congress. Yet the consensus in the press is that President Obama faces tremendous pressure to intervene. In fact, the same Reuters reporter, Lesley Wroughton, co-bylined another piece last week that began:

With his international credibility seen increasingly on the line, President Barack Obama on Thursday faced growing calls at home and abroad for forceful action against the Syrian government over accusations it carried out a massive new deadly chemical weapons attack …

If allegations of a large-scale chemical attack are verified — Syria’s government has denied them — Obama will surely face calls to move more aggressively, possibly even with military force, in retaliation for repeated violations of U.S. “red lines.” Obama’s failure to confront Assad with the serious consequences he has long threatened would likely reinforce a global perception of a president preoccupied with domestic matters and unwilling to act decisively in the volatile Middle East, a picture already set by his mixed response to the crisis in Egypt.

Where is this pressure coming from? Strangely, that question doesn’t even occur to a lot of news organizations. Take this CBS story. The very first sentence says, “The Obama administration faced new pressure Thursday to take action on Syria.” New pressure from whom? The story proceeds as if it doesn’t matter. How can readers judge how much weight the pressure should carry? Pressure from hundreds of thousands of citizens in the streets confers a certain degree of legitimacy. So does pressure from a just-passed House bill urging a certain course of action, or even unanimous pressure from all of the experts on a given subject.

What I’d like is if news accounts on pressure to intervene in Syria made it clear that the “growing calls … for forceful action” aren’t coming from the people, or Congressional majorities, or an expert consensus. The pressure is being applied by a tiny, insular elite that mostly lives in Washington, D.C., and isn’t bothered by the idea of committing America to military action that most Americans oppose. Nor are they bothered by the president launching a war of choice without Congressional approval, even though Obama declared as a candidate that such a step would be illegal. Some of them haven’t even thought through the implications of the pressure they’re applying.

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UK protesters urge the West not to get involved in Syria

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Our Banks Own Airports, Control Power Plants and Much More—How Can We Stop Them from Controlling the Lifelines of the Economy?

From Alternet:

Aren’t there rules against that? And where are the banks getting the money?

By Ellen Brown
August 26, 2013

Giant bank holding companies now own airports, toll roads, and ports; control power plants; and store and hoard vast quantities of commodities of all sorts. They are systematically buying up or gaining control of the essential lifelines of the economy. How have they pulled this off, and where have they gotten the money?

In a  letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dated June 27, 2013, US Representative Alan Grayson and three co-signers expressed concern about the expansion of large banks into what have traditionally been non-financial commercial spheres. Specifically:

[W]e are concerned about how large banks have recently expanded their businesses into such fields as electric power production, oil refining and distribution, owning and operating of public assets such as ports and airports, and even uranium mining.

After listing some disturbing examples, they observed:

According to legal scholar Saule Omarova, over the past five years, there has been a “quiet transformation of U.S. financial holding companies.” These financial services companies have become global merchants that seek to extract rent from any commercial or financial business activity within their reach.  They have used legal authority in Graham-Leach-Bliley to subvert the “foundational principle of separation of banking from commerce”. . . .

It seems like there is a significant macro-economic risk in having a massive entity like, say JP Morgan, both issuing credit cards and mortgages, managing municipal bond offerings, selling gasoline and electric power, running large oil tankers, trading derivatives, and owning and operating airports, in multiple countries.

A “macro” risk indeed – not just to our economy but to our democracy and our individual and national sovereignty. Giant banks are buying up our country’s infrastructure – the power and supply chains that are vital to the economy. Aren’t there rules against that? And where are the banks getting the money?

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Keystone XL Decision Delayed Again? Inspector General Pushes Report on ERM Scandals to January

From Desmog Blog:

Brendan DeMelle
Fri, 2013-08-23

Did the Obama administration’s decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline just get delayed again? Quite possibly, since the State Department Inspector General announced today that it has delayed until January the release of its review of the scandals surrounding Environmental Resources Management, Inc., the contractor chosen by TransCanada to perform State’s Keystone XL environmental review.

Although the State Department was evasive about whether the IG’s announcement signals a delay in the administration’s decision, it would seem odd for President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to decide on the fate of the KXL export pipeline without waiting for the results of this critical report.

Bloomberg News and The Hill broke the news about the delay, and all signs point to the fact that State’s “inquiry” has morphed into a thorough conflicts-of-interest investigation into ERM’s financial ties to TransCanada and other scandals. 

Ever since the March 2013 release of the State Department’s environmental impact statement, critics have pointed to ERM Group’s historical ties to Big Tobacco, its green-lighting of controversial projects in Peru and the Caspian Sea, and its declaration that a tar sands refinery in Delaware made the air “cleaner,” among many other industry-friendly rulings.

Worst of all, perhaps – and potentially in violation of federal law – ERM Group lied on its State Department contract, claiming it had no business ties to TransCanada and the tar sands industry. The facts showed otherwise.

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