- Who’s Afraid of Bradley Manning?
- Advertisements for Drugs When They Were Legal
- When University Scientists Found Underwater Oil Plumes, the Government Said Shut Up, Don’t Tell Anyone … and Then Tried to Discredit Them
- The Fed to By More Debt
- Our Communities Depend Upon Individual Nullifiers with Courage
Posted: 11 Aug 2010 03:25 PM PDT
U.S. Secretary Robert Gates has stated that WikiLeaks has “moral culpability” for potentially deadly repercussions in Afghanistan and presumably Iraq. Gates said, “The Taliban can glean a lot about U.S. tactics and sources from the documents.”
I’m delighted that Gates has brought up the topic of morality. He, son of the Midwest, an Eagle Scout, a trusted CIA operative, and … oops. I should have stopped at Boy Scout.
We easily recognize corruption and immorality in our elected officials – we lap up stories of seat haggling by glossy-haired pols in Chicago, we thrill at the sexcapades of prosecutors and presidents. We marvel at the sheer criminality of Congressional members and their staffs, even as we shudder fearfully at its mighty collective lawlessness.
As constituents, we can look at their crimes early and often. We can check to see if they vote with or against the Constitution, be it state or federal. We can contact them and even speak to them about what we care about, and when that has no effect, we can campaign against them, put in a different criminal, or step away from electoral politics altogether. But we will not be confused as to what is lacking in our elected representatives. They have a law to follow – the Constitutions of various states and of the federal government – and these public documents guide them regardless of creed or party. With rare exceptions, elected officials will fail to follow the basic rules they swore to uphold. We are informed, and entertained.
On the other hand, civil servants, particularly at the federal level, have been given a full pass in the ethics and morality department. We have been told basically that a professional government workforce was created from the void and that it is very good. We hear this even of the CIA, an organization with which Gates is quite familiar. We hear it of the Pentagon, Gates’ current area of responsibility.
Since its inception, much has been written on the extra-legal activities of the CIA. This history exists – and is ongoing, as the more recent role of the CIA in rendition and torture is public knowledge. I’m sorry. Rendition is kidnapping people, including Americans, and holding them for years without charges, without evidence, and without legal representation – and lying about it. Torture, as you may have heard, is something the United States government does not do, even as its agents systematically drug, deprive, waterboard, psychologically abuse, physically rough up, maim, wound, rape, threaten and lie to those we have rendered.
Bob Gates, as a career government civil servant knows all of this, and far, far more. He shares responsibility for the evolution of the CIA even as he escaped the heaviest stench of Iran-Contra. A senior CIA official as the Cold War ended and a new mission needed to be found, under George Herbert Walker Bush, Gates was an indispensable servant. The demonization and manipulation of former CIA asset and Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein fit the bill, and it simply boggles the mind the decisions and actions that Bob Gates was knowledgeable of and involved in between 1986 and 1993. The Iran-Contra Independent Counsel, with a little help from grand Jury secrecy rules, predictably found that prosecution of Gates was not warranted. His role in creating storylines to sell the first Persian Gulf War, in hiding or adjusting evidence to play the world, and in managing state secrets is undeniable, and largely unexamined. He was the ultimate trusted agent – the first CIA career civil servant to ever rise to Director.
There is a heavily promoted myth that professional civil servants, whether in uniform or in dress suits, are somehow more bound to the constitution and law and ethics than are politicians, and insultingly, more ethical than the average doctor, lawyer or car mechanic. But of course, they are not. Practically speaking, why would they be? Civil servants are extraordinarily hard to get rid of. Poor performance, lack of ethics, incompetence, immorality – none of these will generally get a civil servant fired, and often, these behaviors produce promotions. Now, these tolerated behaviors may be used to remove a civil servant – but only as needed to make a point of loyalty, as in the case of Rumsfeld’s persecution of Air Force Lt General Fiscus, who had the audacity to suggest that the law must limit Rumsfeld’s desires to detain and torture.
Civil servants – including members of the military – are part of a loyalty-based crime family, led largely by the executive level and his appointees, controlled by executive sponsors, backers and funders, and loyalty is demanded no less seriously than it is demanded by the dons of any crime syndicate. In this environment, just following orders is not only an acceptable excuse, it is all that the bosses ever wish to hear.
Professional civil servants and military members know this. They embrace doublespeak, as Orwell defined it:
The small minority of civil servants and military who cannot take the doublespeak, or over time, find that it is becoming harder to take, self-eliminate. Sometimes they do so by finding another job where the doublespeak is less offensive, and sometimes they leave the institution entirely. Sometimes they self-medicate, or morally or functionally degenerate to the point where the institution is forced to isolate or expel them. Sometimes they talk it out, debate, argue and actually try to change things from within the institution. As the great Daniel Ellsberg discovered, and many before and after him, introducing ethics and honesty in a system that runs on carefully constructed lies is quite a challenge. In spite of the fact that this will predictably destroy your career, possibly your ability to get a job anywhere, and subject you to scurrilous attacks and storytelling, the only honest and workable thing to do is to try and expose the lies to the light of day.
Creating this light of day is the mission of WikiLeaks, and the basic goal of independent media everywhere. But as Daniel Ellsberg experienced, and as whistleblowers in the 21st century from Sibel Edmonds, to Joe Darby, Jim Massey, and Sam Provance, from Joe Wilson and many more who sacrificed careers to speak morally and honestly have all found that the institution is like an angry grizzly, insulted that one man or one woman has the audacity to be sane. How dare they?
The institutionalized barbarism we see in the WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” was made possible because a 22-year-old soldier could not lie. He was unable to effectively doublethink, and for some reason of upbringing, character, intelligence or basic goodness, could not bear the evilness he saw all around him – in American military behavior, in the institution’s lawlessness, in the immorality of war.
For his innocence and lack of ethical “sophistication,” Brad Manning is held in isolation, under a 24-hour suicide watch. For providing a ray of hot light on the carefully constructed lies of our government, those associated with WikiLeaks are being monitored and harassed, and even threatened by various agents of the federal government, and its allies. Bob Gates suggests that Brad Manning is a traitor and that WikiLeaks is morally culpable in sharing information with Afghans that they can use against us.
As made clear by Julian Assange and others, the Afghans – while certainly victims of Washington, DC imperialism – are not victims of our institutional doublethink. They see what we do, how we do it, and they have relatively accurate theories as to why we are doing it. And unlike our generals, Afghans and their neighbors and friends, have developed and are developing a wide variety of effective strategies to get us to go away.
Instead of keeping us safe, prosperous and free, our government demands that we stay uninformed and obedient, and keeps its professional servants in a strict and constant state of doublethink. Gates and Obama and Petraeus are nervous, with their curious doublespeaking mantra that “The leaks are deadly dangerous, but not all that serious.” Perhaps they know an open secret: Regular Americans – newly aware, sharply analytical, financially pragmatic and deeply moral – are nearing their potential to become the most fearsome enemy of American empire on the planet.
Posted: 11 Aug 2010 11:24 AM PDT
Contrary to how most people have been indoctrinated to process information, I am not posting these ads to encourage drug use. I post them to educate people on just how much things have changed. Personally, I don’t drink alcohol or use drugs, however, as a free person, I should be the one deciding what I do or do not put in my body. Look at the drug addiction and drug related crime rates per capita when these drugs were legal and compare compare them to the rates now. Making something illegal sounds good on the surface but the facts prove that the problem only gets worse.
Did we learn nothing from Al Capone and alcohol prohibition? Are we learning nothing from drug gangs on the Mexico and American border? No matter what your moral view is on drugs, you either own your body or you don’t, that is, you are either choosing to leave as a free man or as a slave.
There were three types of medicines often containing cocaine–topical anesthetics such as toothache powders, catarrh medicines for relieving head and chest congestion, and medicinal (probably also recreational) cocaine-containing wines advocated for their numerous beneficial effects.
Cocaine-containing topical anesthetics
Cocaine is an effective local anesthetic, and some of the earliest uses of cocaine was for its local anesthetic properties. Today, other compounds such as lidocaine and procaine are the medically preferred local anesthetics. These compounds do not produce the mood-elevating and euphorigenic “side effects” that can occur with cocaine.
There were many companies competing in the lucrative coca-wine market. Vin Mariani is the most recognized and perhaps the most popular at the time, but many other brands were produced in the United States and abroad.
Opiate-based formulations were probably even more widely employed than those containing cocaine. Laudanum had been in use for over two centuries, and the isolation of morphine in the early 19th century (c. 1803/1817) and the later development of heroin (c. 1898) were lauded as even more effective remedies.
Modern authors usually suggest that widespread opium use was a major health problem during the 19th century. However, the use of opiates must be kept in proper perspective with other contemporary health problems. Mortality from cholera, malaria, and dysentery was very high, and opiates provided some relief from these illnesses (Opiates remain the most effective treatment for dysentery.). Some authors have suggested that the easy availability of opiate-based medicines saved more lives than it took. As the deleterious effects of chronic opiate use became increasingly recognized during the late 19th century, several factors helped ease the need for opiates: the improvements in sanitation diminished cholera and dysentery, the drainage of swamp lands decreased malaria, and the introduction of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin; 1899) provided an alternative medicine for moderate pain relief.
Amphetamine was synthesized too late to have the widespread applications enjoyed decades earlier by cocaine and the opiates. It was, however, marketed in products commonly used to relieve head congestion and asthma. Amphetamine continued to be employed as a popular prescription diet-aid into the 1970s.
Posted: 11 Aug 2010 10:51 AM PDT
From Washington’s Blog
As I’ve previously reported, a senior EPA policy analyst says that NOAA and the EPA have been “sock puppets” for BP.
Now, university scientists have revealed the NOAA used strong-arm tactics to try to silence any information on underwater plumes. As the St. Petersburg Times reports:
A government official named “Lubchenco” strong-arming scientists to tow the party line, and a government agency “losing” samples instead of sharing results with the scientists who had taken them.
Sounds like the Soviet Union, doesn’t it?
Posted: 11 Aug 2010 08:19 AM PDT
Federal Reserve officials decided to reinvest principal payments on mortgage holdings into long-term Treasury securities, making their first attempt to bolster growth since March 2009 to keep the slowing U.S. economy from relapsing into recession.
“The pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement in Washington. “To help support the economic recovery in a context of price stability, the Committee will keep constant the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities at their current level.” The Fed retained a commitment to keep its benchmark interest rate close to zero for an “extended period.”
With growth weakening in the second quarter and company job gains in July falling short of estimates, today’s step signals that risks of a downturn have increased enough for the Fed to delay its exit from unprecedented stimulus. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told Congress last month that the Fed was “prepared to take further policy actions as needed.”
The Fed said it will “continue to roll over the Federal Reserve’s holdings of Treasury securities as they mature.” The reinvestment policy applies to agency debt and agency mortgage- backed securities held by the central bank.
The central bank left the overnight interbank lending rate target unchanged in a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it’s been since December 2008. High unemployment, low inflation and stable price expectations “are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period,” the Fed said, repeating language from every policy meeting since March 2009.
“The pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months,” the FOMC said. The Fed will “continue to monitor the economic outlook and financial developments and will employ its policy tools as necessary to promote economic recovery and price stability.”
U.S. central bankers repeated that inflation is “likely to be subdued for some time.” Prices in June rose 1.4 percent from a year earlier, the third straight month of slowing gains under the Fed’s preferred index, which excludes food and energy costs.
Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig dissented from the decision for the fifth straight meeting.
Fed policy makers, at their last meeting in June, judged that the central bank “would need to consider whether further policy stimulus might become appropriate if the outlook were to worsen appreciably,” according to minutes of the session. Records of today’s meeting will be released Aug. 31.
Bernanke said in an Aug. 2 speech that “we have a considerable way to go to achieve a full recovery in our economy.” Still, he avoided signaling that the central bank would reverse months of reductions in record stimulus and liquidity programs, including the end to $1.7 trillion in purchases of housing debt and Treasuries.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said July 29 that while he expects a continued recovery, policy makers should be ready to buy Treasuries if the economy slows further.
The Fed’s last move in favor of easier policy came in March 2009, when policy makers agreed to buy $300 billion of Treasuries and more than double planned mortgage-debt purchases to $1.45 trillion while starting a pledge to keep the benchmark rate close to zero for an “extended period.”
This year the central bank stopped buying assets, raised the rate on direct loans to banks and shut emergency-lending programs for corporations, bond dealers and money-market mutual funds. It’s also developed tools for raising rates with a near- record $2.3 trillion balance sheet.
Today’s decision defied easy prediction after a report Aug. 6 showed U.S. private employers added 71,000 jobs in July, below the 90,000 median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.5 percent. Including government workers, the U.S. lost 131,000 jobs in July, compared with the median estimate of 65,000.
The weak job market has inhibited growth in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Such expenditures rose at a 1.6 percent pace last quarter, down from a 1.9 percent rate in the previous three months that was smaller than previously estimated.
“They’re supposed to keep inflation under control, but they’re also supposed to promote full employment,” Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York, said in a Bloomberg Television interview before the announcement. “The Fed is starting to worry about hitting that full-employment goal any time in the next three or four years.”
Aeropostale Inc., a retailer to teenagers whose sales rose in July at one-seventh the pace analysts predicted, said changing consumer preferences and a “challenging” retail environment hampered spending. Sales at J.C. Penney Co., a department-store chain, fell 0.6 percent last month.
Still, Bernanke and other officials in recent weeks had maintained their outlook for a pickup in the economy over the next year. Corporate spending on equipment and software jumped at a 22 percent annual rate last quarter.
While weakness in housing and commercial real estate will restrain the recovery, and the job market’s “slow recovery” weighs on consumers, “rising demand from households and businesses should help sustain growth,” Bernanke said in a speech last week in Charleston, South Carolina.
United Parcel Service Inc., the world’s largest package- delivery company, raised its annual profit forecast last month and posted second-quarter earnings that climbed more than analysts estimated on increased demand overseas.
The S&P 500 Index has rebounded 12 percent as of yesterday from its low this year on July 1.
Investors don’t expect the Fed to raise the federal funds rate until late 2011, based on futures contracts on the Chicago Board of Trade.
The housing market has faltered since a federal tax incentive for first-time homebuyers expired in April. Sales of previously owned homes fell 5.1 percent in June from May, housing starts slid to the lowest level in eight months and the 330,000 annual pace of new-home sales was the second-lowest in data going back to 1963 after May’s 267,000 rate.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, an academic group with a committee that marks the start and end of recessions, has yet to announce a date for the end of the downturn that started in December 2007, even after four straight quarters of growth. Some panel members including Stanford University’s Robert Hall and Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard University have said it’s clear the contraction has probably ended.
Posted: 11 Aug 2010 08:14 AM PDT
If you read the July 20th Arizona Republic article “Plaintiffs poised to challenge Arizona’s immigration law,” you may have noticed that Luz Santiago, a pastor at Iglesia Pueblo de Dios in Mesa, has been confronted with a horrible dilemma by the passage of Arizona’s new immigration bill.
Frédéric Bastiat famously stated in The Law that “when law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening. Both outcomes of this decision are deeply undesirable for the people of Arizona.
These types of dilemmas are very troubling, but history does provide some guidance. Examples abound with moral lawbreakers. Martin Luther King didn’t ask the permission of racists to challenge their convictions. Gandhi never backed down to the British imperialists. John Brown would not wait to see enslaved Africans liberated any longer and acted decisively. Lysander Spooner never groveled for state sanction to become a lawyer or to start the American Letter Mail Company. Henry David Thoreau refused to pay a poll tax in protest of the travesty of the Mexican-American War, subsequently writing Civil Disobedience in prison. It was in his cell that he proclaimed, “under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” Harriet Tubman reacted to the injustice of slavery and risked her life many times to free the enslaved from bondage. The Tea Partiers of the American Revolution did not wait for the law to catch up to their sense of moral indignation; they acted on their own consciences as a small fraction of the Boston community!
Recently, Bradley Manning bravely acted out against the murderous policies of the American state. His and Wikileaks’ actions, though illegal like those of Daniel Ellsberg of a previous epoch, did a great deal to unearth the madness of the policies of the state and furthered justice.
We certainly do not judge well the “Good Germans” of World War II who were supposedly uninvolved in the Nazi terrors. “Just following orders” is contrary to most Americans’ intuitive sense of justice. If one obeys a law because the guiding principle is just then morality and our community are well-served. People who behave in this manner do our communities a great service. However, if one obeys a law for no better reason than that it is law, all one is doing is respecting power, and disappointingly, not virtue.
American culture is many things, but it is definitively not about respect for unjust authority. The entire history and culture of this place echoes a profound respect (at the very least rhetorically) for freedom and justice under the law. America has seen a strong tradition of individuals acting immediately as nullifiers to laws they deem unjust.
Regardless of whether one agrees with the thrust of Arizona’s immigration bill, SB1070, we should all agree that following laws merely because they are laws is a horribly low standard to set for our communities. I personally don’t want people who “just follow orders” as my neighbors. I want neighbors who boldly confront problems which prick their moral indignation and offend their sense of justice. Members of our community who are willing to act against their moral convictions and follow bad laws are not reliable members of a responsible community, and never could be.
Even if one does not agree with Luz Santiago’s anti-SB1070 stance, one should openly welcome her voice in a freethinking and inquisitive community and be glad that there are some who will bravely follow their moral convictions in the face of great opposition. One would be lucky to have such neighbors in any community.