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Turning a Wedding Into a Funeral: Obama Violated His Own Rules with Yemen Drone Strike

Source: RT America

President Barack Obama violated his own rules for the use of drone strikes in a December 2013 strike on a wedding procession in Yemen that killed 12 people, a new report from Human Rights Watch says. The US military initially claimed that the procession was actually members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, then admitted it was a wedding procession, but claimed that most of the people killed in the attack were members of the terrorist organization. But Human Rights Watch says, “The procession also may have included members of AQAP, although it is not clear who they were or what was their fate.” The group went on to say that there is no evidence that members of the caravan posed an imminent threat, and that killing them was a violation of international human rights laws. RT’s Meghan Lopez speaks with investigative journalist Ben Swann about US drone policy and whether the attack was a violation of Obama’s own stated rules.

For more on this story, watch this report from Democracy Now!:

Human Rights Watch has revealed as many as 12 civilians were killed in December when a U.S. drone targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going towards the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to HRW, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed. The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men, between the ages of 20 and 65, and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports. We speak to Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler, who wrote the report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: U.S. Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen” and Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the TheIntercept.org, a new digital magazine published by First Look Media. He is the producer and writer of the documentary film, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,” which is nominated for an Academy Award.




FCC Plan To Monitor News Coverage – A ‘Radical New Era Of Tyranny’

Source: selfownership1

The FCC has a plan in the works to place agents in U.S. newsrooms, supposedly to learn all about how editorial decisions are made. As if illegal seizures of Associated Press phone records and the shadowy tailing of the mother of a Fox News reporter weren’t menacing enough, the Obama administration is going out of its way to institute a new intrusive surveillance of the press, as if the press wasn’t supine enough. READ MORE: The FCC Plan To Police The Newsrooms




‘I am a Ukrainian’ Video Exposed As Kony-Style Scam

Source: PrisonPlanetLive

The ‘I am a Ukrainian’ video is meant to push the idea that the Ukrainian revolt is grass roots, but the video’s origins can be traced back to the U.S. State Department. The clip was produced by the team behind A Whisper to a Roar, a documentary about the “fight for democracy” all over the world, which was funded by Prince Moulay Hicham of Morocco. The “inspiration” behind the documentary was none other than Larry Diamond, a Council on Foreign Relations member. The Council on Foreign Relations is considered to be America’s “most influential foreign-policy think tank” and has deep connections with the U.S. State Department.

See the original ‘I am a Ukrainian’ video HERE.

READ THE FULL STORY with links and documentation: Exposed: Ukrainian ‘Protesters’ Backed by Kony 2012-Style Scam

 




Misremembering America’s Wars: Past, Present and Future

Nick Turse | tomdispatch.com | Feb 18, 2014

The Pentagon’s Latest “Mission Accomplished” Moment

Look to your right, and you see happy Iraqis pulling down Saddam’s statue and showering U.S. Marines with flowers and candy.  Was that exactly how it happened?  Who really remembers?  Now, you’re walking on the flight deck of what they used to call an aircraft carrier behind a flight-suit-clad President George W. Bush.  He turns and shoots you a thumbs-up under a “mission accomplished” banner.  A voice beamed into your head says that Bush proclaimed victory that day, but that for years afterward, valiant U.S. troops would have to re-win the war again and again.  Sounds a little strange, but okay. 

A few more paces down the digital road and you encounter a sullen looking woman holding a dog leash, the collar attached to a man lying nude on the floor of a prison.  Your digital tour guide explains: “An unfortunate picture was taken.  Luckily, the bad apple was punished and military honor was restored.”  Fair enough.  Soon, a digital General David Petraeus strides forward and shoots you another thumbs-up.  (It looks as if they just put a new cyber-skin over the President Bush avatar to save money.)  “He surged his way to victory and the mission was accomplished again,” you hear over strains of the National Anthem and a chorus of “hooahs.”

Past is Prologue

Admittedly, we humans are lousy at predicting the future, so don’t count on any of this coming to pass: no eye implants, no voices beamed into your head, no Amazooglebook.  None of it.  Except, maybe, that Iraq War timeline.  If the present is any guide, government-sanctioned, counterfeit history is in your future. 

Let me explain…

The Vietnam War Commemoration’s educational aspirations, however, extend beyond students.  “The goal of the History and Education effort,” according to the site, “is to provide the American public with historically accurate materials and interactive experiences that will help Americans better understand and appreciate the service of our Vietnam War veterans and the history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.”  To that end, the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration offers an interactive historical timeline

It’s an eclectic mix, but give credit where it’s due: the digital chronology does mention casualties from the oft-forgotten first U.S. attack on Vietnam (an 1845 naval shelling of the city we now know as Danang). For the next 131 years, however, mention of Vietnamese dead and wounded is, to put the matter as politely as possible, in short supply. Flawed history, though, isn’t.

History is Bunk

Take the August 2, 1964, “Gulf of Tonkin Incident.”  It was a key moment of American escalation and, by the looks of the Pentagon’s historical timeline, just what President Lyndon Johnson made it out to be when he went on television to inform the American people of “open aggression” on the part of North Vietnam.  “The USS Maddox was attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin,” reads the entry.  A later one mentions “U.S. Naval Vessels being fired upon by North Vietnamese on two separate occassions [sic].”  Case closed.  Or is it?

approved months earlier.

After reviewing the history of the incident, it seemed to me that the timeline was on distinctly shaky ground, but I decided to get a second opinion and went to the man who wrote the book on the subject, Edwin Moïse, author of Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War.  He did me not one, but two better.  He also pointed out apparent errors in the July 11, 1964, entry, “Joint Chiefs of Staff Unveiled ‘94 Target List,’” and criticized the August 4, 1964, entry, which offers nothing more than a title: “Two U.S. Aircraft Downed.” 

I think this is simply false,” he told me by email.  “I am not aware of any U.S. aircraft downed that day and I think I would know.” These planes, he suspected, were actually lost the following day while flying missions “in retaliation for the (imaginary) second Tonkin Gulf Incident on August 4th.”  The August 2nd Tonkin Gulf entry, he added, was “not quite accurate” either and was only “marginally useful” insofar as it was “close enough to the truth to allow readers to go looking for more information.”    

and author of Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam, a landmark study of American policymaking on Vietnam from 1963 to 1965.  When it came to the Commemoration’s take on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, he told me that “some context for this entry is sorely needed.”

None of this essential context can, of course, be found anywhere in the timeline.  Still, everyone makes mistakes, so I meandered through the Pentagon’s chronology looking at other key entries.

Soon, I found the one dealing with My Lai.

Why Al Qaeda is Stronger Than Ever Despite the War on Terror – Ben Swann

https://youtu.be/eoW5yksJqMM

Source: Ben Swann

Despite claims that Al Qaeda is on the run, a new report shows that Al Qaeda is actually stronger than ever. In this video, Ben Swann takes a look at why that is and what it means for America’s foreign policy.




The Five Criminals: In America The Gestapo Has Replaced The Rule Of Law

Paul Craig Roberts | Paulcraigroberts | Feb 14th 2014

RT is the best English language news source available to Americans. On January 29, RT published a photo of 5 presidential appointees lying through their teeth to Congress.
https://rt.com/usa/intel-hearing-snowden-threats-369/

(L-R) National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen, FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn testify during a hearing before Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee January 29, 2014. They testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in Washington. (Source: Bloomberg)

(L-R) National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen, FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn testify during a hearing before Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee January 29, 2014. They testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in Washington. (Source: Bloomberg)

All five of these Gestapo wannabes are in violation of their oath of office to protect the Constitution of the United States. They have relentlessly violated the Constitution, which makes these five, who are in charge of US intelligence and black operations, traitors to the United States. Yet, they have not been arrested and put on trial. Congress is content to sit there and listen to their ongoing lies time after time after time, despite the fact that these 5 have committed more and worse crimes against our country than the “terrorists” that serve as an excuse for the crimes committed by the intelligence agencies.

Remember, dear readers, it is a crime for you to lie to any federal agent even if you are not under oath or before Congress. How much more evidence do you need that you are not a citizen of the United States but a mere serf of the federal government? Will you ever wake up?

James Clapper, who has the grand title of Director Of National Intelligence, is an admitted liar to the US Congress but nevertheless remains in office. That Clapper is still in office is a good measure of the decline both in the integrity of the US government and in the integrity that Congress, media, and the public expect from the government. President Nixon was driven from office for a very small thing: Nixon lied about when he learned about a burglary with which he had nothing to do. Clapper brazenly lied to the US Congress, denying that he was spying on members of the US Congress.

Clapper is not only in violation of the Constitution, he has committed a felony, especially under the stretched interpretation of laws that is the norm for Department of Justice prosecutions. Huge numbers of Americans are in prison for offenses that are molehills compared to Clapper’s, or for that matter, any of the other five sitting there lying to Congress.

The Five Criminals told Congress that Edward Snowden, who is under the protection of the Russian government, must be made to give back the evidence of NSA spying on the entire world before some US troops or diplomats are killed by terrorists in some future war started by Washington, which routinely dismisses the victims of its war crimes as “collateral damage.”

None of the Five Criminals were able to specify how Congress could make the Russian government hand over Snowden. Rabid Republican warmongers have falsely and propagandistically accused Snowden of being “a Russian spy.” What utter dishonesty! The only reason Snowden is in Russia is that the US, in violation of international law, refuses to allow an airplane to fly from Russia with Snowden to any of the South American countries that have granted Snowden asylum. The fact that Snowden is in Russia is entirely the fault of Washington.

As I have written and said on many occasions, facts mean nothing to Washington, to the presstitute media, and to most of the American population, who prefer comforting lies to reality.

No one in the American media or most Internet sites will dare tell you that the reason the Five Criminals are again lying to Congress is to deflect Congress and an insouciant public and media from the fact that they have violated the law and their oath of office, and that the only purpose of invoking “national security” is to protect the criminal actions of the security agencies from being discovered. “National Security” is the blanket under which the crimes of government are hidden.

All that “national security” means is that “we are not going to let anyone find out that we are nothing but a gang of criminal thugs, and we are going to use the cover of national security to demonize Snowden who told on us.”

The so-called “security agencies” and their media whores have created a wartime atmosphere of fear as if the “world’s only superpower” was about to be destroyed by a handful of lightly armed fighters thousands of miles away who resist Washington’s invasions of their countries in corners of the earth that most Americans cannot find on a map. What kind of superpower is so terrified by peoples that the superpower choses to invade and murder? If the wronged people are so threatening, the superpower should stay at home and leave them alone.

Listen to this bullshit from Clapper: As a consequence of Snowden, “the nation is less safe and its people less secure.” The truth is the opposite of what Clapper states. Snowden alerted us to the fact that Clapper was shredding the US Constitution that is our greatest protection. Clapper, who should be in the dock for treason, has stolen our rights and our shield against harm and abuse from arbitrary government power. Clapper is an enemy of every American.

Listen to this bullshit from Lt. Gen, Michael Flynn, director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, who stupidly asserts that Snowden’s revelations of illegal mass spying on the US citizens and the world caused “grave damage” to “national security.”

What the general means is that it caused damage to his reputation and brought him some cause for anxiety by revealing that he was engaged in criminal activity. But the general knew how to invoke the sympathy and support of the right-wing superpatriots. He declared that the greatest cost of Snowden’s revelations is “the cost of human lives on tomorrow’s battlefield or in some place where we will put our military forces when we ask them to go into harm’s way.” He is, of course, talking about the next time that Washington criminally attacks another country in total violation of the Nuremberg standard.

[read full post here]




Constitutional Professor: ‘Framers Would be Horrified’ at Obama’s Abuse of Power

Respected liberal professor Jonathan Turley tells Megyn Kelly of FOX News that while he agrees with some of Obama’s policies, his expansion of executive power is extremely dangerous and violates constitutional checks and balances. Turley is amazed that there is no pushback from the Democrat Party.




Rand Paul Sues Obama Over NSA Spying, States Join Revolt

Activistpost | Feb 14th 2014

Today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) finally did what he had been threatening to do for months: He officially filed a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration, the National Security Agency and a host of other security officials regarding a US surveillance program that collects information on millions of American citizens.

Senator Paul announced the lawsuit to ‘defend the Fourth Amendment’ yesterday in a video on his official YouTube channel to coincide with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Today We Fight Backcampaign. (See below)

You can join Paul’s lawsuit through DefendTheFourth.com.

This is all taking place while state bills to cut off resources to the NSA are mounting and passing out of committees.  The latest bills are strategically located in Utah and Maryland, crucial stomping grounds for the agency.

This “Fourth Amendment Protection Act” campaign is led by OffNow.org and the Tenth Amendment Center.

Meanwhile, Congress remains silent and ineffectual.

More from Activistpost




Harry Reid Effectively Kills Obama’s TPP and TTIP International Trade Deals

Eric Zuesse | Opednews | Feb 12th 2014

harry-reid-obamaOne of President Barack Obama’s top priorities ever since he entered the White House has been to achieve two international trade deals, one with Europe, and the other with Asia, that will enable international corporations to override the laws in participating nations and thus to provide ultimate corporate control over regulations concerning pesticide-use, food-safety, global-warming abatement, collective bargaining, and other such matters.

On Wednesday 29 January 2014, the leader of congressional Democrats, Harry Reid — the U.S. Senate Majority Leader — came out publicly saying, “I’m against fast track.” This means that unlike the international-trade treaties that were rammed through Congress under George W. Bush, Obama’s trade deals won’t be — and that they are thus now practically dead.

Fast track trade promotion authority (TPA) enables an international-trade deal to be presented to Congress for an up-or-down vote without any amendments and without any possibility of being filibustered. TPA was first introduced in 2002; and, in order for it to be able to be imposed under the law, the Majority Leaders in both the House and the Senate must introduce the implementing bill to their respective bodies. This means that, if Harry Reid in the Senate declines to introduce TPA to the Senate, then Obama’s extremely controversial TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) are both virtually dead.

Harry Reid, in announcing his decision, said, “I think everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now,” which, translated, means: Unless and until President Obama rewrites major provisions of each of these two deals, both of them are, indeed, dead.

The question, now, therefore, is: How likely will Obama do that? The deals haven’t yet even been finalized, and the leaders of some democratic nations are demanding that Obama’s provisions for international corporations to be empowered to override democratically passed legislation in their countries be removed before they would sign it. So, Obama’s plan for international corporate control of regulations within the participating countries is now being opposed both by his own Party at home, and by the leaders of some democratic countries whose signatures would also be needed if the deals were to become law.

[read full article here]




Obama Admin. Trying To Decide Whether To Assassinate Another U.S. Citizen Overseas – Ben Swann Analysis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFcjEKVcbfk

Source: Ben Swann

It appears the Obama administration is once again considering whether or not to use a drone strike to assassinate an American citizen living overseas. The US citizen is believed to be an al-Qaeda facilitator who is actively planning attacks on Americans overseas.  In May 2013, the White House issued a policy statement titled Fact Sheet: U.S. Policy Standards and Procedures for the Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations Outside the United States and Areas of Active Hostilities, which lists the  conditions that must be met before using lethal force 0utside of the U.S.:

Lethal force will be used outside areas of active hostilities only when the following preconditions are met:

First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks. 

Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.  It is simply not the case that all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.  

Third, the following criteria must be met before lethal action may be taken:

  1. Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;
  2. Near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed;
  3. An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;
  4. An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; and
  5. An assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons.

Watch the above video to see why Ben Swann says that despite the appearance of a NEW drone strike policy… nothing has actually changed.




Ron Paul: Will No One Challenge Obama’s Executive Orders?

Video source: minnesotachris

Will No One Challenge Obama’s Executive Orders?

by Ron Paul

President Obama’s state of the union pledge to “act with or without Congress” marks a milestone in presidential usurpation of Congressional authority. Most modern presidents have used executive orders to change and even create laws without Congressional approval. However President Obama is unusually brazen, in that most Presidents do not brag about their plans to rule by executive order in state of the union speeches.

Sadly, his pledge to use his pen to implement laws and polices without the consent of Congress not only received thunderous applause from representatives of the president’s party, some representatives have even pledged to help Obama get around Congress by providing him with ideas for executive orders. The Constitution’s authors would be horrified to see legislators actively adding and abetting a president taking power away from the legislature.

Executive orders are perfectly legitimate and even necessary if, in the words of leading Constitutional Scholar Judge Andrew Napolitano, they “…. guide the executive branch on how to enforce a law or…complement and supplement what Congress has already done.” The problem is that most modern presidents have abused this power to issue orders that, as Judge Napolitano puts it, “restates federal law, or contradicts federal law, or does the opposite of what the federal law is supposed to do.”

Political opponents of the president rightly condemned Obama for disregarding the Constitution. However, it was not that long ago that many of the same politicians where labeling as “unpatriotic” or worse anyone who dared question President Bush’s assertions the he had the “inherent” authority to launch wars, spy on Americans, and even indefinitely detain American citizens.

Partisan considerations also make some members of the opposition party hesitate to reign in the president. These members are reluctant to set a precedent of “tying the president’s hands” that could be used against a future president of their own party.

The concentration of power in the office of the president is yet one more negative consequence of our interventionist foreign policy. A foreign policy based on interventionism requires a strong and energetic executive, unfettered by Constitutional niceties such as waiting for Congress to pass laws or declare war. So it simply was natural, as America abandoned the traditional foreign policy of non-interventionism, for presidents to act “without waiting for Congress.” After all, the president is “commander-in-chief” and he needs to protect “national security,” they argued. Once it became accepted practice for the president to disregard Congress in foreign affairs, it was only a matter of time before presidents would begin usurping Congressional authority in domestic matters.

It should not be surprising that some of the biggest promoters of an “energetic” executive are the neoconservatives. They are also enthusiastic promoters of the warfare state. Sadly, they have misled many constitutionalists into believing that one can consistently support unchecked presidential authority in foreign policy, but limit presidential authority in domestic matters. Until it is fully understood that virtually limitless presidential authority in foreign affairs cannot coexist with strict limits on Presidential authority in domestic matters, we will never limit the power of the Presidency.

The people must also insist that politicians stop viewing issues concerning the separation of powers through a partisan lens and instead be willing to act against any president who exceeds his constitutional limitations. Thankfully we have scholars such as Louis Fisher, who has just published an important new book on presidential power, to help us better understand the Founders’ intent with regard to separation of powers. The key to achieving this goal is to make sure the people understand that any president of any party who would exceed constitutional limitations is a threat to liberty, and any member of Congress who ignores or facilitates presidential usurpation is being derelict in his Constitutional duty.

 




WikiLeaks: US trying to ‘Criminalize Journalism’ Over Snowden Leaks

In a House Intelligence Committee hearing looking into worldwide threats to U.S. national security on Tuesday, Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) suggested that journalists brokering leaked documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden are breaking the law. Later, Rogers called investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the reporters who first broke the NSA leak story, a thief for stealing government information. Greenwald responded on Twitter, saying, “Maybe there’s something that has become pretty sick about DC political culture if the idea of prosecuting journalists is now this mainstream.” RT’s Liz Wahl talks to WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson to see if journalists reporting on leaked documents are accomplices to treason, as some US government officials have suggested, or merely participating in their First Amendment rights to freedom of the press.




Fast Track to Income Inequality

Lori Wallach | Commondreams | Feb 5th 2014

ttpCorporate interests were fiercely lobbying for President Obama to dedicate serious time in this State of the Union speech to pushing fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in order to try to overcome growing congressional and public opposition to both, but instead he made only a brief passing reference.

No doubt one explanation is that there is no upside to generating public debate: Poll after poll shows that Democrats, GOP and Independents oppose TPP and fast track. With almost no House Democratic support for fast track, a bloc of GOP “no” votes and public opposition making congressional phones ring off the hook, we can expect much of the president’s push for fast track to occur under the radar.

But also the White House had come under considerable pressure from congressional Democrats and base groups not to raise these issues, given the stark conflict with the main theme of Obama’s speech. Implementing TPP – a NAFTA-on-steroids with 11 nations – would undermine Obama’s efforts to battle income inequality.

The day after the speech, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made public his opposition to fast track, sending an important signal to Democrats that preserving Congress’ constitutional trade authority is the right thing to do even when a Democratic is in the White House. And, his statement helped solidify the sense among U.S. TPP negotiating partners that the administration’s blithe promises that fast track was easy and forthcoming may not be quite accurate.

But the major fight over fast track is in the House. Fast track is a revenue measure and thus must start in the House. The GOP leaders are seeking the needed bloc of Democratic votes to ensure passage of the Rep. Dave Camp-Sen. Max Baucus fast track bill introduced two weeks ago.

That bill went in without a single House sponsor, but the corporate and White House pressure campaign is gearing up. Their goal is to find 40-50 Democrats votes to combine with GOP support. GOP votes alone cannot pass fast track because tea party opposition to fast track is peeling away some GOP votes. Bottom line: our goal is to ensure the House GOP leadership can never count anything close to 217 votes.

letter released last week signed by a stunning array of more than 550 Democratic base organizations reiterates the perverse situation. Despite widespread early opposition to fast track from many congressional Democrats and Democratic base groups, and consensus from economists that our trade policies increase income inequality, Obama is asking for Congress to delegate fast track authority to him.

The extraordinary trade authority, which Congress has refused to grant for 15 of the past 20 years, would suspend normal congressional procedures for consideration of the controversial TPP, which Obama hopes to sign soon. Who supports TPP and fast track? The corporate lobby that worked its butt off to defeat Obama’s re-election.

“Yup, the main theme of Obama’s State of the Union address has been widely advertised to be his battle against growing American income inequality. But economists of all stripes agree that U.S. trade policy has been a majorcontributor to growing inequality.”

Meanwhile, last week’s letter was signed by a veritable who’s who of the organizations that worked their tails off to elect Obama and/or who provide his policy initiatives the support to pass: from MoveOn and CREDO to the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; United Auto Workers; Teamsters; Carpenters; United Steelworkers; American Federation of Teachers, and the Communications Workers of America to the Sierra Club, 350.org, and Greenpeace to the National Farmers Union, National Consumers League, Public Citizen and TransAfrica – and the policy shops of the Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians and numerous Catholic orders. The letter is notable for the number of signatory organizations that have not been involved in past “trade” fights.

This gets to the major policy collision that only adds to the incongruity of the political situation: The TPP would worsen income inequality. Yup, the main theme of Obama’s State of the Union address has been widely advertised to be his battle against growing American income inequality. But economists of all stripes agree that U.S. trade policy has been a major contributor to growing inequality. A study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which supports the TPP, has estimated that as much as 39 percent of the observed growth in U.S. wage inequality is attributable to trade trends – and more recent studies put the figure higher.

A surprising addition to that chorus: Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who urged his massive Facebook following to battle fast track and TPP, which he called NAFTA-on-steroids. “[T]his massive deal [TPP] would further erode the jobs and wages of working and middle-class Americans while delivering its biggest gains to corporate executives and shareholders.”

The letter, organized by the Citizens Trade Campaign, shows the political muscle behind the campaign to make sure TPP is not fast-tracked: “After decades of devastating job loss, attacks on environmental and health laws and floods of unsafe imported food under our past trade agreements, America must chart a new course on trade policy. To accomplish this, a new form of trade authority is needed that ensures Congress and the public play a much more meaningful role in determining the contents of U.S. trade agreements…”

And, it was notable that not all of the congressional GOP stood and cheered the president’s State of the Union reference to fast track. Already several dozen Republican House membershave announced their opposition to new fast track powers for Obama. A conservative grassroots campaign is gearing up against fast track and TPP.

What could unite the A-Z of the Democratic base and conservative grassroots activists? Um, could be the 20 devastating years of damage by the North American Free-Trade Agreement experienced by American workers and communities across the political spectrum. Fast Tracking NAFTA-on-steroids is a hard sell after NAFTA fueled an explosion of the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and Canada to $181 billion by 2012, resulting in a net American loss of one million jobs. And it is not news that NAFTA increased income inequality by transforming the composition of jobs available to the 63 percent of American workers without college degrees from higher wage manufacturing to low-wage service sector.

And, then there is the inconvenient mess of Obama’s only major trade deal to date, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. That deal was premised on the same NAFTA model as the TPP. In his 2011 State of the Union, Obama promised the pact would expand U.S. exports to Korea. In the pact’s first year, exports dropped 10 percent, imports soared and the U.S. trade deficit with Korea grew 37 percent, equating to a net loss of approximately 40,000 more U.S. jobs.

Will President Obama choose to mount what will need to be a massive campaign to overcome widespread opposition to fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership? And probably fail even so?

Or, will he choose to focus his efforts on reducing income inequality for millions of Americans?

It remains to be seen what his legacy will be. But one thing is clear: President Obama can’t have it both ways.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, is co-author of Whose Trade Organization?

More from Commondreams




Meet the U.S. Allies – Saudi Arabia Passes Draconian, Medieval Laws to Crush Dissent

Libertyblitzkrieg | Feb 5th 2014

25-World-mainOne of the most significant geopolitical events of 2013 was the failed push for war in Syria by the Obama Administration. It didn’t merely fail as a result of a war weary public (although that played a key role), it also failed due to the fact our clownish “leaders” were attempting to offer military support to rebels with a large al-Qaeda element. So the pathetic “sell” by the U.S. establishment was to push the nation into a conflict allied with the very terrorist group against which we are fighting the “war on terror,” and have given up so many of our civil liberties to wage. Ridiculous, yet they tried anyway. That is how stupid they think the public is.

What that failed attempt at war mongering demonstrated to anyone paying attention is that our foreign policy is a complete joke and total sham. We publicly claim to support “democracy” and “freedom” around the world, yet in reality support some of the most oppressive regimes out there.

No relationship highlights this hypocrisy as clearly as our extremely close alliance with the Saudi regime, one of the last “absolute monarchies” on the planet. Not only that, but increasing evidence points to its direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks. But it gets worse. A lot worse. The regime has just passed a series of Medieval laws to crack down on all dissent. In a nutshell: Dissent = Terrorism.

From the New York Times:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia put into effect a sweeping new counterterrorism law Sunday that human rights activists say allows the kingdom to prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent.

The law states that any act that “undermines” the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism.It also grants security services broad powers to raid homes and track phone calls and Internet activity.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s last absolute monarchies. All decisions are centered in the hands of 89-year-old King Abdullah. There is no parliament. There is little written law, and judges — implementing the country’s strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam — have broad leeway to impose verdicts and sentences.

Activists said that simply exposing corruption could be seen as a violation of the law. Some also warned that Saudi women who get behind the wheel of a car in violation of the ban on female drivers could be tried under the new anti-terror law.

Other worrying aspects, activists said, include an article that says police can raid homes and offices on suspicion of anti-government activity without prior approval from a judge or even a superior. Suspects can also be held incommunicado for 90 days, and lawyers are not required to be present during the initial interrogation.

[read full article here]




First in the nation: Arizona senate committee passes 4th Amendment Protection Act to thwart NSA spying

Activistpost | Feb 5th 2014

fourth-amendment-484x278On Monday, an Arizona state senate committee became the first legislative body in the country to pass a bill designed to thwart surveillance programs from the National Security Agency (NSA).

Senate Bill 1156 (SB1156), the Arizona 4th Amendment Protection Act, was introduced by Sen. Kelli Ward and 14 other sponsors and co-sponsors.

The bill faced its first hurdle today, with an important hearing and vote in the Senate’s Government and Environment committee, where it required passage by majority vote to move forward. After a lengthy debate with significant opposition from state agencies, SB1156 was passed by the committee with a vote of 4-2. One member was absent, not voting.

Based on model legislation drafted by the OffNow Coalition, SB1156 would ban the state from engaging in activities which help the NSA carry out their warrantless data-collection programs, or even make use of the information on a local level.

The Coalition is organized by the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC) and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), a civil liberties group advised by well-known anti-establishment figures such as Daniel Ellsberg and Naomi Wolf.

Ward said that her goal was to protect the liberty and the Constitution. Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin she said, “We cannot sacrifice liberty for security.”
The legislation bans the use of warrantless data in state courts. A Reuters report last year revealed that the NSA shares data with state and local law enforcement through a secret outfit called the Special Operation Division (SOD). The federal government also shares data mined by its agencies, including the NSA, through “fusion centers.

Reports in the Washington Post and USA Today last fall documented how “the FBI and most other investigative bodies in the federal government” are regularly using a mobile device known as a “stingray” to intercept and collect electronic data without a warrant. Local and state police “have access through sharing agreements.”

Ward suggested that this might be the most important part of the bill, a “prohibition against using data in state and local courts if that information is collected without a warrant.”

Shane Trejo of OffNow agreed. “While Arizona might not be able to physically stop the NSA and other federal agencies from collecting our data without a warrant, legislation such as this can significantly reduce the practical effect of what they are trying to do with it, namely, use it within the states for non-terror criminal cases, which is a gross violation of the 4th Amendment,” he said.

The legislation would also ban Arizona from providing material support or resources to the operation of any federal facilities engaged in the warrantless surveillance of people in Arizona. While the NSA does not operate a physical facility in the state, the prohibition of material support sends an important message to the spy agency by pulling up the welcome mat.

“We know the NSA is aggressively expanding its physical locations around the country from Utah to Texas and elsewhere,” Trejo said. “Since the NSA rarely tells us its plans in advance, it is absolutely essential to make sure that states pass this legislation to cut them off at the pass. Our plan is to box them in and do everything we can to stop them.”

A number of state agencies testified as “neutral with concerns” about the bill, generally suggesting that without changes, they would be opposed. A law enforcement spokesman, plus representatives from the departments of environmental quality, housing, revenue, public safety and health services were all concerned that they would not be able to share any information with federal agencies, rendering their programs virtually out of business.

Ward worked to allay their fears by reading a portion of SB1156 which makes clear that participation in various programs was not the target of the bill’s prohibition, but only the use in criminal proceedings of electronic data and metadata obtained without a warrant.

Ward challenged a number of department heads, asking “That information you are talking about is given to you voluntarily, correct? You’re not stealing information from the people and giving it to the federal government, are you?”

SB1156 now moves on to the Senate Rules committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before being considered by the full senate.

Source:
The Tenth Amendment Center 

The Tenth Amendment Center exists to promote and advance a return to a proper balance of power between federal and State governments envisioned by our founders, prescribed by the Constitution and explicitly declared in the Tenth Amendment. A national think tank based in Los Angeles, the Tenth Amendment Center works to preserve and protect the principle of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism.

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