“Bully,” Lee Hirsch’s moving and troubling documentary about the misery some children inflict upon others, arrives at a moment when bullying, long tolerated as a fact of life, is being redefined as a social problem. “Just kids being kids” can no longer be an acceptable response to the kind of sustained physical and emotional abuse that damages the lives of young people whose only sin is appearing weak or weird to their peers.
And while the film focuses on the specific struggles of five families in four states, it is also about — and part of — the emergence of a movement. It documents a shift in consciousness of the kind that occurs when isolated, oppressed individuals discover that they are not alone and begin the difficult work of altering intolerable conditions widely regarded as normal.
The feeling of aloneness is one of the most painful consequences of bullying. It is also, in some ways, a cause of it, since it is almost always socially isolated children (the new kid, the fat kid, the gay kid, the strange kid) who are singled out for mistreatment. For some reason — for any number of reasons that hover unspoken around the edges of Mr. Hirsch’s inquiry — adults often fail to protect their vulnerable charges. […]
There is a little swearing in the movie, and a lot of upsetting stuff, but while some of it may shock parents, very little of it is likely to surprise their school-age children. Whose sensitivity does the association suppose it is protecting? The answer is nobody’s: That organization, like the panicked educators in the film itself, holds fast to its rigid, myopic policies to preserve its own authority. The members of the ratings board perform a useful function, but this is not the first time they’ve politicianed us.
This looks like an interesting documentary and I’m really fascinated by this transition, as I bolded above, of treating bullying as a ‘sad fact of life’ to a social problem to be addressed.
I actually used to share that view. But I absolutely think it’s the epitome of the kind of timidity on the part of American citizens that has lead us to where we are today. If we were to allow the fear that the lesser of two evils deter us from demanding real change in our system of government, we’re essentially simply reaffirming the status quo.
We really have no cause to complain about the commission of aggressive wars, about war crimes committed with impunity, about the evisceration of our Constitution, about Wall Street controlling the White House and Congress, about us being the only nation in the industrialized world that doesn’t provide basic health care to millions of our citizens, if we simply say that we’ll allow the bar to be so low that we will vote for a member of one party to keep the other very similar party out of contention.
At some point, as patriotic citizens and moral actors, we have to draw the line and it’s astounding to me how that line keeps moving for so many people; that people who say they really believe in traditional Democratic Party values will now turn a blind eye to the transformation to our republic to the point where the courts no longer are allowed to provide a check on the legal conduct by the Executive Branch because of the promiscuous assertion, first by the Bush Administration and now by the Obama Administration of the State Secrets Doctrine.
We either join together and create a grassroots movement for real change, or we’re simply going to get more of the status quo, but as we can see from recent history, it’s only going to get worse.
Through the National Mortgage Settlement, the country’s five biggest mortgage servicers must commit about $25 billion in relief to individuals and governments because they broke the law in how they managed home loans.
It will take time to figure out which individuals are eligible for help from…
The Democratic Party has joined with the Republican Party to the point where we have the greatest amount of economic disparity between the few among the financial aristocracy and the rest of this nation. It’s the greatest disparity since the 1920’s and it has joined together with Republicans in creating what’s basically a two-tiered justice system, where the criminal laws are applied, often with a vengeance for the rest of us, keeping 2.3 million people behind bars, hundreds of thousands of them for non-violent drug offenses, while major republic-destroying felonies have been committed by people within the political elite class without any accountability.
I fear for our nation. We’re seeing a radical ratcheting up of the imperial presidency to the point of tyranny. That latest and most egregious example being the passage by Congress and signing into law by President Obama, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, that allows the Executive Branch to round up people, including U.S. citizens and detain them indefinitely, even to the end of theirs lives, without trial, without legal representation, without a right of habeas corpus. All of this, of course, is absolutely subversive not only to core constitutional values, but to the proud tradition of our nation from its very founding up until the past decade.
“During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to “create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records and campaign finance filings in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.” Last week, President Obama fulfilled that promise with the rollout of Ethics.gov, which “brings records and data from across the federal government to one central location, making it easier for citizens to hold public officials accountable.”
Ethics.gov is available to the public and allows anyone to access and search the records of seven different databases:
• White House Visitor Records;
• Office of Government Ethics Travel Reports;
• Lobbying Disclosure Act Data;
• Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act Data;
• Federal Election Commission Individual Contribution Reports;
• Federal Election Commission Candidate Reports; and
• Federal Election Commission Committee Reports.
According to a White House press release, the database includes millions of White House visitor records, records for entities registered with the Federal Election Commission such as PACs, records for each candidate who has either registered with the FEC or appeared on a ballot list prepared by a state elections office, lobbying registrations, and much more.
On his Sunlight Foundation blog, John Wonderlich, who is Policy Director for the Sunlight Foundation and an advocate for open government, wrote that while Ethics.gov fulfilled the president’s pledge, “neither money and politics research nor executive branch oversight are going to be revolutionized by this search page — at least not yet.” He added that while it will not happen immediately, the site could become a primary destination for investigative journalists or ethics officials.”
“Everything that Richard Nixon did to me, for which he faced impeachment and prosecution, which led to his resignation, is now legal under the Patriot Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).”—Daniel Ellsberg
This is a quite shocking and moving read, and yet, ordinary.
I found it quite upsetting, perhaps more-so since I saw a woman being harassed on the bus the other night. I’m a bit ashamed that I didn’t step in. I think I was partially in shock, and it all probably took less than a minute - though it felt like hours. When I was leaving the bus, I seriously contemplated apologizing to the woman, on behalf of all men, to say something like “we’re not all…” But I didn’t. I didn’t want to disturb her, she seemed so absorbed in her anger and sadness.
For a long time I’ve wondered how some men can do such barbaric, sexist stuff. It’s just beyond me. I don’t understand how this still survives in modern times in modern places. I’m realizing though that it’s not enough to disdain such people. If this pains your conscience, you have to help it stop. How you do that is up to you. It could be wearing a button, talking to coworkers, stepping up for someone on the bus, or just writing a tumblr post. But we can’t just let this continue. If we want to see change, if we know things have to change, we have to be part of it.
Ronan Farrow, Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues, will hold a conversation with Nancy Lublin, CEO, DoSomething.org, on Global Youth Issues. The discussion will be moderated by Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, and will be available for on demand viewing soon on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State’s official blog.
You are invited to participate by submitting questions, some of which will be selected for response during the broadcast. Submit your questions on DipNote, and join the ongoing discussion via Twitter using the hashtag #GlobalYouth. Please submit questions via DipNote and Twitter today for consideration.
Through Conversations with America, leaders of national nongovernmental organizations have the opportunity to discuss foreign policy and global issues with senior State Department officials. These conversations aim to provide candid views of the ways in which leaders from the foreign affairs community are engaging the Department on pressing foreign policy issues.
View other Conversations with America here and by accessing the Conversations with America video podcasts on iTunes.
If I was a “youth,” I’d probably ask something like: What is being done to ensure the planet we inherit isn’t an environmental wasteland? #GlobalYouth
I honestly can’t think of a more pressing global, youth issue.
Last Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder enacted guidelines that further expand the US government’s asserted powers to collect and store private information, without a warrant, concerning individuals who are not suspected of any crime.
The guidelines constitute a further step by the Obama administration to expand and entrench unconstitutional spying operations on the American people by all levels of government that were spearheaded by the Bush administration.
In the period since September 11, 2001, the US government has secretly compiled vast databases containing private information on the American public. These databases include telephone conversations, the contents of personal emails, visited web sites, Google searches, text messages, credit card transactions, mobile phone GPS location data, travel itineraries, Facebook activity, medical records, traffic tickets, surveillance camera footage and online purchases. The vast quantities of information that are being collected and stored by the US government far exceed what was gathered by the most infamous police states of the last century.
Holder’s guidelines permit intelligence officials to secretly use these databases to profile and track Americans who have no connection to terrorism—alleged or otherwise—for up to five years. The previous guidelines, issued in 2008 by Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, were understood to limit the retention of such information to 180 days.
According to an article Friday in the New York Times, the new guidelines are expected to result in increased collection and “data mining” of information on ordinary Americans by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
The Electronic Privacy Information Center issued a brief statement denouncing the guidelines: “The change represents a dramatic expansion of government surveillance and appears to violate the Privacy Act of 1974, which limits data exchanges across federal agencies and establishes legal rights for US citizens.”
The guidelines, which are couched in military, legal and intelligence jargon, were drafted in secret and not made available for public comment before they were enacted. In addition to Holder, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew G. Olsen and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. signed the guidelines.
The new guidelines must be understood as part of a vast escalation of domestic surveillance being undertaken by the Obama administration. According to a report last week in Wired magazine, the Obama administration is constructing a secret facility of unprecedented size in Bluffdale, Utah to store and process all of the information it is presently gathering about Americans. The new data center is conceived as a central hub that will link to National Security Agency (NSA) electronic eavesdropping facilities that are already operating around the country. “The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013,” the report stated.
“Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails―parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter,’” the article reported.
Also revealed last week were Department of Homeland Security (DHS) internal manuals for agents in the department’s Media Monitoring Capability program. The manuals were ordered released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request. These manuals make clear that the agency has been closely monitoring political discussions and activity on social media sites such as Facebook. The manual identifies as “items of interest” warranting investigation any activity on social media sites concerning “policy directives, debates and implementations related to DHS.”
The escalation of domestic surveillance by the Obama administration is one aspect of the disintegration of American democracy. On December 31 of last year, Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which gives intelligence agencies and the military the power to abduct any person, anywhere in the world, including US citizens, and imprison him or her indefinitely in a facility such as the one located at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The NDAA was followed by Holder’s speech earlier this month asserting the power of the president to unilaterally assassinate US citizens without any kind of judicial process whatsoever. The pseudo-legal arguments advanced by the Obama administration in support of these measures exceed the most authoritarian presumptions of the Bush administration.
These unprecedented attacks on democratic rights, in which the entire political establishment and both Democrats and Republicans are participating, must be understood as preemptive preparations by the political establishment to meet the coming social upheavals with police state measures.
Let us consider the fundamental guiding principles for the United States of America — freedom, equal opportunity, compassion, and security.
Then let us consider how those principles have been severely undermined, and how we, the American people, can restore them so that once again our government is of, by, and for the people, rather than a tool of oppression cynically utilized for the benefit of a small, powerful, abusive, elite political and financial class, to the detriment of the vast majority of U.S. citizens, as well as billions of people around the world.
We often hear it said that the United States is the greatest nation in the world. What exactly is meant by that? And is it true? The more important question is: Can we, the American people, make this, once again, a great and proud nation - a nation that lives up to its original promise? We can achieve that - if only we will.
Who are we as a people, what do we really believe in, and just what does our nation stand for? How far have we drifted away - or, rather, bolted away - from what we once were? And how do we, once again, attain greater freedom, more equal opportunity, compassion, and security for all?
These questions have never been more vital to consider and confront. Our nation has been transformed in just a few short years - virtually unrecognizable in fundamental respects when compared to the republic that once proudly proclaimed a constitutional system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and constitutional protections of due process, restraints on war-making, and a truly balanced system of separation of powers among three co-equal branches of government.
We are at a nation-changing - even world-changing - fork in the road. We can continue on the path of becoming more totalitarian, even fascist, with an imperial presidency that continues to accrue to itself unprecedented tyrannical powers; more greedy as a nation and as a people; less capable to compete on a global stage; more empire-building and war-mongering; less equal under the law; more divided, in terms of income and wealth, between a tiny elite financial aristocracy and the rest of our citizenry; more cruel toward men, women, and children, here and abroad, who are not part of the elite political and financial classes; and less secure, as a nation and as individuals, now and in the future.
Or we can turn things around radically, becoming more free and respectful of the fundamental rights and interests of people in the U.S. and elsewhere, with restraints on executive power - and accountability for abuses of that power — as contemplated by the founders and by our Constitution; more generous and helpful as a nation and as a people; more capable of competing with other nations, their students, and their workers; more cooperative and friendly toward other nations; more committed to liberty and justice for all; more prosperous, with a strong, healthy middle class, capable of living rewarding lives through equal opportunity; kinder and more compassionate toward our own citizens, immigrants, and men, women, and children in other nations; and more secure in our homes, our communities, and our nation, presently and in the future.
Not only does the Obama administration demand the right to kill whomever it wants without having to account to anyone for its actions, choices or even claimed legal authorities, though that’s obviously bad enough (as I wrote when the ACLU lawsuit was commenced: “from a certain perspective, there’s really only one point worth making about all of this: if you think about it, it is warped beyond belief that the ACLU has to sue the U.S. Government in order to force it to disclose its claimed legal and factual bases for assassinating U.S. citizens without charges, trial or due process of any kind”). What makes it so much worse is how blatantly, insultingly false is its claim that it cannot confirm or deny the CIA drone program without damaging national security.
Numerous Obama officials — including the President himself and the CIA Director — have repeatedly boasted in public about this very program. Obama recently hailed the CIA drone program by claiming that “we are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” and added that it is “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.” Obama has told playful jokes about the same drone program. Former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also likes to tell cute little jokes about CIA Predator drones, and then proclaimed in December that the drone program has “been very effective at undermining al Qaeda and their ability to plan those kinds of attacks.” Just two weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech purporting to legally justify these same drone attacks.
So Obama officials are eager to publicly tout the supposed benefits of the CIA’s drone programs in order to generate political gain for the President: to make him look like some sort of Tough, Brave Warrior single-handedly vanquishing Al Qaeda. The President himself boasts about how tightly controlled, precise and effective the CIA drones are. Everyone in the world knows the CIA has a drone program. It is openly discussed everywhere, certainly including the multiple Muslim countries where the drones routinely create piles of corpses, and by top U.S. Government officials themselves.
But then when it comes time to test the accuracy of their public claims by requesting the most basic information about what is done and how execution targets are selected, and when it comes time to ask courts to adjudicate its legality, then suddenly National Security imperatives prevent the government even from confirming or denying the existence of the program: the very same program they’ve been publicly boasting and joking about. As the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer put it after Obama publicly defended the program: “At this point, the only consequence of pretending that it’s a secret program is that the courts don’t play a role in overseeing it” – that, and ensuring that any facts that contradict these public claims remain concealed.
This is why the U.S. Government’s fixation on secrecy — worse than ever under the Obama administration, as evidenced by its unprecedented war on whistleblowers — is so pernicious. It not only enables government officials to operate in the dark, which inevitably ensures vast (though undiscovered) abuses of power. Worse, it enables the government to aggressively propagandize the citizenry without challenge: Obama officials are free to make all sorts of claims about how great and targeted the drone program is and how it Keeps Us Safe™, while simultaneously suppressing any official evidence or information that would test those claims and/or contradict them (even as some evidence suggests these assurances are false).
Worse still, it literally removes our highest political officials from the rule of law. The sole purpose of these vast claims of secrecy around the drone program — the absurd notion that they cannot even confirm or deny its existence without harming National Security — is to block courts from reviewing the legality of what they’re doing, which is another way of saying: they have removed themselves from the rule of law.
In post-Occupy America, it’s often hard to know whether new citizen protest laws signal the end of free speech or a mere tweak of the machine. That looks to be the case with the new anti-protest bill that passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly two weeks ago and was signed into law by the president soon thereafter. On its face, the new legislation doesn’t change a whole lot. Yet the Occupy protesters are in an uproar that the bill both targets them and also signals a radical shift in free speech law. Almost nobody else seems to have noticed it at all. Who’s right?
That all depends on what you want to protest and where.
H.R. 347, benignly titled the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, passed the House 399-3. Such a lopsided vote suggests that nobody in Congress is bothered by this, on either side of the aisle. When President Obama signed it on March 8, almost nobody seems to have cared.
Simply put, the way the bill will “improve” public grounds is by moving all those unsightly protesters elsewhere. The law purports to update an old law, Section 1752 of Title 18 of the United States Code, that restricted areas around the president, vice president, or any others under the protection of the Secret Service. The original law was enacted in 1971 and amended in 2006. At first blush, the big change here is that while the old law made it a federal offense to “willfully and knowingly” enter a restricted space, now prosecutors need only show that you did it “knowingly”—that you knew the area was restricted, even if you didn’t know it was illegal to enter the space. This has been characterized in some quarters as a small technical change that hardly warrants an arched eyebrow, much less a protest.
But it’s important to understand what has changed since the original law was enacted in 1971, because it shows how much a tiny tweak to the intent requirement in a statute can impact the free speech of everyone.
For one thing, the law makes it easier for the government to criminalize protest. Period. It is a federal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison to protest anywhere the Secret Service might be guarding someone. For another, it’s almost impossible to predict what constitutes“disorderly or disruptive conduct” or what sorts of conduct authorities deem to “impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.”
President Obama’s National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order of March 16 does to the country as a whole what the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act did to the Constitution in particular — completely eviscerates any due process or judicial oversight for any action by the Government deemed in the interest of “national security.” Like the NDAA, the new Executive Order puts the government completely above the law, which, in a democracy, is never supposed to happen. The United States is essentially now under martial law without the exigencies of a national emergency.
Even as the 2012 NDAA was rooted in the Patriot Act and the various executive orders and Congressional bills that ensued to broaden executive power in the “war on terror,” so the new Executive Order is rooted in the Defense Production Act of 1950 which gave the Government powers to mobilize national resources in the event of national emergencies, except now virtually every aspect of American life falls under ultimate unchallengeable government control, to be exercised by the president and his secretaries at their discretion.
The 2012 NDAA deemed the United States a “battlefield,” as Senator Lindsey Graham put it, and gave the president and his agents the right to seize and arrest any U.S. citizen, detain them indefinitely without charge or trial, and do so only on suspicion, without any judicial oversight or due process. The new Executive Order states that the president and his secretaries have the authority to commandeer all U.S. domestic resources, including food and water, as well as seize all energy and transportation infrastructure inside the borders of the United States. The Government can also forcibly draft U.S. citizens into the military and force U.S. citizens to fulfill “labor requirements” for the purposes of “national defense.” There is not even any Congressional oversight allowed, only briefings.
In the NDAA, only the president had the authority to abrogate legitimate freedoms of U.S. citizens. What is extraordinary in the new Executive Order is that this supreme power is designated through the president to the secretaries that run the Government itself:
• The Secretary of Defense has power over all water resources; • The Secretary of Commerce has power over all material services and facilities, including construction materials; • The Secretary of Transportation has power over all forms of civilian transportation; • The Secretary of Agriculture has power over food resources and facilities, livestock plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment; • The Secretary of Health and Human Services has power over all health resources; • The Secretary of Energy has power over all forms of energy.
The Executive Order even stipulates that in the event of conflict between the secretaries in using these powers, the president will determine the resolution through his national security team.
The 2012 NDAA gave the Government the right to abrogate any due process against a U.S. citizen. The new Executive Order gives the government, through the Secretary of Labor, the right to proactively mobilize U.S. citizens for “labor” as the government deems necessary and to coordinate with the Secretary of Defense to maintain data to coordinate the nation’s work needs in relation to national defense.
What is extraordinary about the Executive Order is that, like the NDAA, this can all be done in peacetime without any national emergency to justify it. The language of the Order does not state that all these extraordinary measures will be done in the event of “national security” or a “national emergency.” They can simply be done for “purposes of national defense,” clearly a broader remit that allows the government to do what it wants, when it wants, how it wants, to whomever it wants, all without any judicial restraint or due process. As Orwell famously said in 1984, “War is peace. Peace is war.” This is now the reality on the ground in America.
Finally, the 2012 NDAA was hurried through the House and Senate almost like a covert op with minimal public attention or debate. It was then signed by the president at 9:00 PM on New Year’s Eve while virtually nobody was paying attention to much other than the approaching new year. This new Executive Order was written and signed in complete secret and then quietly released by the White House on its website without comment. All this was done under a president who studied constitutional law at Harvard.
It is hard to know what to say in the face of such egregious disregard for the integrity of what America has stood and fought for since its founding. It is hard in part because none of us thought such encroachments would ever happen here, certainly not under the watch of a “progressive” like Obama.
“I consider The Justice Party a second party. The Republican-Democratic parties have brought this country to its knees economically, and we still haven’t seen action taken for justice regarding Wall Street’s destruction of Main Street. Without the Democrats colluding with the Republicans, we would not have engaged in an illegal, aggressive war against Iraq. The Democrats and Republicans together granted retroactive immunity to the telecom companies. Then-Senator Obama promised this nation, before the primary, before he won the Democratic primary for the presidency, that he would join a filibuster against telecom company immunity. As soon as he won the nomination, he didn’t only back off on his promise to join a filibuster, he voted for the legislation. Who in this country gets Congress to grant them retroactive immunity for committing clearly felonious acts? We need real leadership, and we need it now.”—Rocky Anderson (via rockyanderson2012)
After extensive study over the years, there is absolutely no question that today we face the greatest threat ever in human history to the inhabitants of Earth. Never has there been a more crucial time of all people of good will, compassion, and care for our children and later generations to come together and demand of our elected officials to prevent irreversible, catastrophic climate disruption or demand that they get out of the way so that somebody else will take informed, responsible action.
Those who fail to take action, both in elected office and at the grassroots level, and that includes each and every one of us, are creating a far more dangerous planet for our children and grandchildren. For those who have been confused, and I know there have been a lot of people confused. Especially when we have elected officials saying the kinds of things that they have been saying here and passing the kinds of resolutions that they have been considering here. There are many people confused by this intensive campaign of misinformation.
To those who are confused, I plead: please consider the leading international scientific bodies, the scientific academies worldwide, in dozens of nations including our own national academy of science are all in agreement: we are facing a climate crisis caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas and if we continue along this path with business as usual, tragedy and untold misery will result to billions of people, including very likely our own descendants. These increases in temperature are due to human actions, the burning of fossil fuels, and will result in immense, catastrophic consequences for our Earth and its inhabitants.
In the week since I announced, we have received the support of 500 additional people. If we pick up our pace then we can be number 1 by the end of the month.
The American people deserve the opportunity to vote for a candidate who takes a strong position against the corrupting influence of money in our government, and who will be a champion for environmental, economic, and social justice for all.
All you have to do is go to the site and click “Support”.
Native Americans gathering in Cushing, OK today to protest President Obama’s words of praise for the Keystone XL pipeline were forced by local authorities to hold their event in a cage erected in Memorial Park. The protestors were stunned that their community, so long mistreated, would be insulted in such an open manner instead of being given the same freedom of speech expected by all Americans simply for taking a stance consistent with their values.
“A lot of tribal councils and Indian businesses struggle to find a balance between economic resources and our inherited responsibilities for the earth,” said Indian actor and activist Richard Ray Whitman in a statement. “How will the decisions we make now effect coming generations?”
“President Obama is an adopted member of the Crow Tribe, so his fast-tracking a project that will desecrate known sacred sites and artifacts is a real betrayal and disappointment for his Native relatives everywhere,” said Marty Cobenais of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Tar sands is devastating First Nations communities in Canada already and now they want to bring that environmental, health, and social devastation to US tribes.”
The President visited Cushing to stand with executives from TransCanada and throw his support behind a plan to build the southern half of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to move tar sands bitumen and crude oil from Cushing to the Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.
A major concern for Native Americans in Oklahoma, according to spokespeople at the event, is that Keystone XL and the Canadian tar sands mines that would supply it ignore impacts to indigenous communities and their sacred spaces.
“Natives in Canada live downstream from toxic tar sands mines,” said Earl Hatley, “and they are experiencing spikes in colon, liver, blood and rare bile-duct cancers which the Canadian government and oil companies simply ignore. And now they want to pipe these tar sands through the heart of Indian country, bulldozing grave sites and ripping out our heritage.”
“It’s time for Washington to abandon the fiction that the cartels don’t operate in the United States. The U.S. government’s narcotics-flow maps show the drug trade as fat arrows coursing their way from Colombia through Central America and Mexico — but they all stop at the U.S. border. The National Drug Intelligence Center has published a list of 235 American cities reporting a Mexican cartel “presence,” and that just skims the surface. Ignoring the cartels’ vast networks won’t make them go away. Co-responsibility also means addressing “southbound” flows — the U.S. arms and cash that are the raison d’etre of the cartels — to Mexico, Central America and beyond.
Or if we’re unwilling the match the courage that the Mexicans have shown — and if we just want the Central Americans to follow the same failed strategy — we must launch a serious dialogue here on legalizing, or at least decriminalizing, the drugs. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than no solution at all.”—End the Drug War by Fulton T. Armstrong (via caraobrien)
If everybody that follows this blog goes here, supports Rocky, and reblogs this post, he will be the other presidential candidate on the ballot. He is in second place, but with everyone’s support (not even monetary, just 5 minutes of your time) he could easily be in first place and be the alternative candidate this country and its people are looking for and are in need of.
Last Friday, March 16, President Barack Obama may have quietly placed the United States on a war preparedness footing, perhaps in anticipation of an outbreak of war between Israel, the West, and Iran. A newly-propounded Executive Order, titled “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” renews and updates the president’s power to take control of all civil energy supplies, including oil and natural gas, control and restrict all civil transportation, which is almost 97 percent dependent upon oil; and even provides the option to re-enable a draft in order to achieve both the military and non-military demands of the country, according to a simple reading of the text. The Executive Order was published on the White House website.
The timing of the Order — with little fanfare — could not be explained. Opinions among the very first bloggers on the purpose of the unexpected Executive Order run the gamut from the confused to the absurd. None focus on the obvious sudden need for such a pronouncement: oil and its potential for imminent interruption.
If Iran was struck by Israel or the West, or if Iran thought it might be struck, the Tehran regime has promised it would block the Strait of Hormuz, which would obstruct some 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil, some twenty percent of the global supply, and about 20 percent of America’s daily needs. Moreover, Tehran has promised military retaliation against any nation it feels has harmed it. The United States is at the top of the list.
Blocking the Strait of Hormuz would create an international and economic calamity of unprecedented severity. Here are the crude realities. America uses approximately 19 to 20 million barrels of oil per day, almost half of which is imported. If we lose just 1 million barrels per day, or suffer the type of damage sustained from Hurricane Katrina, our government will open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which offers a mere six- to eight-week supply of unrefined crude oil. If we lose 1.5 million barrels per day, or approximately 7.5 percent, we will ask our allies in the 28-member International Energy Agency to open their SPRs and otherwise assist. If we lose 2 million barrels per day, or 10 percent, for a protracted period, government crisis monitors say the chaos will be so catastrophic, they cannot even model it. One government oil crisis source recently told me: “We cannot put a price tag on it. If it happens, just cash in your 401(k).”
Since 2007, when the prospect of Iran blocking the Strait of Hormuz became a daily threat enunciated by Iran, our local, state, and federal governments at all levels have been criticized for having no specific plan in the event an oil interruption occurred. The National Defense Resources Preparedness executive order appears to be the first step toward developing a potentially vast, far-sweeping plan that could reach into every garage and grocery store shelf. Government experts who watch the day-to-day ebb and flow of oil stocks were surprised at the sudden move. One quipped, “If this is true, it would be such a departure in policy, I can scarcely believe it.”
The March 16 Executive Order is based on the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (50 U.S.C. App. 2061 et seq.), and Section 301 of Title 3 of the United States Code, and reads as a near-verbatim restatement of President Bill Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order 12919, and several other orders of prior presidents. No specific plan was every outlined based any of the enabling Executive Orders.
Obama’s Order sets forth as its rationale that “the United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency.” It goes on in Section 103 C to authorize the President, “in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements.” The task of advising is assigned, in Section 104 to “the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, in conjunction with the National Economic Council,” which “shall make recommendations to the President on the use of authorities under the Act.”
A Russian military unit has arrived in Syria, according to Russian news reports, a development that a United Nations Security Council source told ABC News was “a bomb” certain to have serious repercussions.
Russia, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest allies despite international condemnation of the government’s violent crackdown on the country’s uprising, has repeatedly blocked the United Nations Security Council’s attempts to halt the violence, accusing the U.S. and its allies of trying to start another war.
Now the Russian Black Sea fleet’s Iman tanker has arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea with an anti-terror squad from the Russian Marines aboard according to the Interfax news agency. The Assad government has insisted it is fighting a terrorist insurgency.
The Iman replaced another Russian ship “which had been sent to Syria for demonstrating (sic) the Russian presence in the turbulent region and possible evaluation of Russian citizens,” the Black Sea Fleet told Interfax.
RIA Novosti, a news outlet with strong ties to the Kremlin, trumpeted the news in a banner headline that appeared only on its Arabic language website. The Russian embassy to the US and to the UN had no comment, saying they have “no particular information on” the arrival of a Russian anti-terrorism squad to Syria.
Moscow has long enjoyed a cozy relationship with the Assad regime, to which it sells billions of dollars of weapons. In return Russia has maintained a Navy base at Tartus, which gives it access to the Mediterranean.
Last week Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had no plans to send troops to Syria.
“As for the question whether I consider it necessary to confront the United States in Syria and ensure our military presence there… in order to take part in military actions — no. I believe this would be against Russia’s national interests,” Lavrov told lawmakers, according to RIA Novosti.
Russia’s Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov denied reports that Russian special forces were operating inside Syria. He did say, however, that there are Russian military and technical advisors in the country.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the U.S. government had not heard of the reports of Russian troops in Syria and declined to comment.