Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why Almost Every Presidential Candidate Wants a Bigger Military Budget

 Pentagon building. (photo: AP)
Pentagon building. (photo: AP)

Why Almost Every Presidential Candidate Wants a Bigger Military Budget

By Paul Waldman, The American Prospect

22 May 15

  Now that we've finally (almost) clarified who would have invaded Iraq and who wouldn't have, it's time for a little perspective. Yes, it's a good thing that elite Republicans are moving toward agreeing with the rest of us that invading Iraq was a mistake, even if they base their argument on the myth of "faulty intelligence." But there's another consensus in Washington, one that says that our military should never be anything short of gargantuan, ready to start more wars whenever a future George W. Bush wants to.

At the end of last week, the House passed a defense authorization bill worth $612 billion, a number that was possible to reach only with some budgetary hocus-pocus involving classifying $89 billion of it as "emergency" spending, thereby avoiding the cuts mandated by sequestration. While the White House has objected to the way the bill moves money around, that $612 billion number is exactly what President Obama asked for. Even the guy who's supposedly trying to weaken America to the point where we can be invaded and conquered by Costa Rica wants to increase military spending.

Let's take a moment to marvel at just what a behemoth our military is. While current levels of spending are down slightly from their recent peak of more than $700 billion in 2011 (when Americans were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan), we still account for about a third of the world's military expenditures. If you happen to peruse the latest Base Structure Report (on the off-chance you haven't yet), you'll read that the Department of Defense occupies a stunning 284,458 buildings around the world, totalling over 2.2 billion square feet. It also controls 24.7 million acres of land, an area about the size of Virginia. The DoD has a presence in all 50 states, 7 U.S. territories, and 40 countries around the world—even before they impose martial law in Texas.

And with the exception of Bernie Sanders, all the presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican, want our military to be as big as it is or bigger. While Hillary Clinton hasn't yet made any campaign statements about the military budget, she's always been known as among the most hawkish of Democrats, so it would be shocking if she proposed defense cuts. Even Rand Paul supports an increase in the military budget; the only question among the other Republican candidates is who wants to increase spending the most.

What's most alarming when hearing the Republicans talk is how removed their guiding principles are from reality. "Having a military equal to any threat," said Jeb Bush in a recent speech, "makes it less likely we will have to put our men and women in uniform in harm's way. I believe that weakness invites war." That seems to make some sense, until you stop and think about it for a moment. Can you name me the war the United States had to fight because our military wasn't big enough? Iraq? Afghanistan? Panama? Grenada? Vietnam? We start wars when we want to, and nobody in this world is going to wage war on the global hegemon because they think our defense budget is so small they can defeat us bullet-for-bullet.

Or let's look at Marco Rubio, who has been selling himself as the heir to the Bush Doctrine, and recently proposed a 2016 military budget of $661 billion. As Rubio's website says (on a page entitled "Nothing matters if we aren't safe"), "The world has never been more dangerous than it is today," an assertion that is not merely false, it's downright bizarre. Is the world more dangerous than it was in 1941, when Japan attacked the United States and the Nazis were marching across Europe, in a war that ultimately killed 60 million people? Or more dangerous than in 1962, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union came within inches of launching a global nuclear war that could have literally extinguished the human species?

Of course not. So let's be honest: We build our military not to deal with threats to us, but to accommodate the myriad ways we'd like to project American power outward. Though we've referred to our military as "defense" since the Department of War was renamed in 1949, almost nothing our military does is about defending the United States from direct attack. If you joined up tomorrow, the chances that you'd be trained and deployed to stop foreign invasion would be almost nil.

You can fervently support every mission we've given the U.S. military in the last few decades and still acknowledge that fact. Yet for some reason, presidential candidates seem to believe that they can only justify the military budgets they want by telling the voters that unless we keep spending more, before you know it your kids will have to pledge allegiance to a poster of Kim Jong Un.

So how about some honesty for a change? We spend so much on our military not because that's what we need to avoid war, but because that's what we need to wage war. Whether you think any one of those wars is right or wrong, it's what we do. It's what we've done before, and it's what we're going to do again.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Saturday, May 23, 2015

NSA Planned to Hijack Google App Store to Hack Smartphones/In the Same Week, the US and UK Hide Their War Crimes by Invoking "National Security"

Published on Portside (

NSA Planned to Hijack Google App Store to Hack Smartphones

 Ryan Gallagher

 Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Intercept

 The National Security Agency and its closest allies planned to hijack data links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top-secret document reveals.

The surveillance project was launched by a joint electronic eavesdropping unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the countries in the “Five Eyes” alliance — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

The top-secret document, obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was published Wednesday by CBC News [1] in collaboration with The Intercept. The document outlines a series of tactics that the NSA and its counterparts in the Five Eyes were working on during workshops held in Australia and Canada between November 2011 and February 2012.

The main purpose of the workshops was to find new ways to exploit smartphone technology for surveillance. The agencies used the Internet spying system XKEYSCORE [2] to identify smartphone traffic flowing across Internet cables and then to track down smartphone connections to app marketplace servers operated by Samsung and Google. (Google declined to comment for this story. Samsung said it would not be commenting “at this time.”)

As part of a pilot project codenamed IRRITANT HORN, the agencies were developing a method to hack and hijack phone users’ connections to app stores so that they would be able to send malicious “implants” to targeted devices. The implants could then be used to collect data from the phones without their users noticing.

Previous disclosures [3] from the Snowden files have shown agencies in the Five Eyes alliance designed spyware for iPhones and Android smartphones, enabling them to infect targeted phones and grab emails, texts, web history, call records, videos, photos and other files stored on them. But methods used by the agencies to get the spyware onto phones in the first place have remained unclear.

The newly published document shows how the agencies wanted to “exploit” app store servers — using them to launch so-called “man-in-the-middle” attacks to infect phones with the implants. A man-in-the-middle attack is a technique in which hackers place themselves between computers as they are communicating with each other; it is a tactic sometimes used by criminal hackers to defraud people. In this instance, the method would have allowed the surveillance agencies to modify the content of data packets passing between targeted smartphones and the app servers while an app was being downloaded or updated, inserting spyware that would be covertly sent to the phones.

But the agencies wanted to do more than just use app stores as a launching pad to infect phones with spyware. They were also keen to find ways to hijack them as a way of sending “selective misinformation to the targets’ handsets” as part of so-called “effects” operations that are used to spread propaganda or confuse adversaries. Moreover, the agencies wanted to gain access to companies’ app store servers so they could secretly use them for “harvesting” information about phone users.

The project was motivated in part by concerns about the possibility of “another Arab Spring,” which was sparked in Tunisia in December 2010 and later spread to countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Western governments and intelligence agencies were largely blindsided by those events, and the document detailing IRRITANT HORN suggests the spies wanted to be prepared to launch surveillance operations in the event of more unrest.

The agencies were particularly interested in the African region, focusing on Senegal, Sudan and the Congo. But the app stores targeted were located in a range of countries, including a Google app store server located in France and other companies’ app download servers in Cuba, Morocco, Switzerland, Bahamas, the Netherlands and Russia. (At the time, the Google app store was called the “Android Market”; it is now named Google Play [4].)

Another major outcome of the secret workshops was the agencies’ discovery of privacy vulnerabilities in UC Browser, a popular app used to browse the Internet across Asia, particularly in China and India. Though UC Browser is not well-known in Western countries, its massive Asian user base, a reported half billion people [5], means it is one of the most popular mobile Internet browsers in the world.

According to the top-secret document [6], the agencies discovered that the UC Browser app was leaking a gold mine of identifying information about its users’ phones. Some of the leaking information apparently helped the agencies uncover a communication channel linked to a foreign military unit believed to be plotting “covert activities” in Western countries. The discovery was celebrated by the spies as an “opportunity where potentially none may have existed before.”

Citizen Lab [7], a human rights and technology research group based at the University of Toronto, analyzed the Android version of the UC Browser app for CBC News and said it identified “major security and privacy issues” in its English and Chinese editions. The Citizen Lab researchers have authored their own detailed technical report [8] outlining the many ways the app has been leaking data, including some users’ search queries, SIM card numbers and unique device IDs that can be used to track people.

Citizen Lab alerted UC Browser to the security gaps in mid-April; the company says it has now fixed them by rolling out an update for the app. A spokesperson for UC Browser’s parent company, Chinese e-commerce giant the Alibaba Group [9], told CBC News in a statement that it took security “very seriously and we do everything possible to protect our users.” The spokesperson added that the company had found “no evidence that any user information has been taken” — though it is not likely that surveillance of the leaking data would have been detectable.

The case strikes at the heart of a debate about whether spy agencies are putting ordinary people at risk by secretly exploiting security flaws in popular software instead of reporting them so that they can be fixed.

According to Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert, the UC Browser vulnerability not only exposed millions of the app’s users to surveillance carried out by any number of governments — but it could also have been exploited by criminal hackers to harvest personal data.

“Of course, the security agencies don’t [disclose the information],” Deibert said. “Instead, they harbor the vulnerability. They essentially weaponize it.” Taking advantage of weaknesses in apps like UC Browser “may make sense from a very narrow national security mindset,” Deibert added, “but it’s at the expense of the privacy and security of hundreds of millions of users worldwide.”

The revelations are the latest to highlight tactics adopted by the Five Eyes agencies in their efforts to hack computers and exploit software vulnerabilities for surveillance. Last year, The Intercept reported that the NSA has worked with its partners to dramatically increase the scope of its hacking attacks and use of “implants” to infect computers. In some cases, the agency was shown to have masqueraded as a Facebook server [10] in order to hack into computers.

The Intercept and CBC News contacted each of the Five Eyes agencies for comment on this story, but none would answer questions on record about any of the specific details.

A spokesperson for Canada’s Communications Security Establishment said that the agency was “mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians from a variety of threats to our national security, including terrorism,” adding that it “does not direct its foreign signals intelligence activities at Canadians or anywhere in Canada.”

British agency Government Communications Headquarters said that its work was “carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate.”

Australia’s Signals Directorate said it was “long-standing practice” not to discuss intelligence matters and would not comment further.

New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau said that it has “a foreign intelligence mandate” and that everything it does is “explicitly authorised and subject to independent oversight.”

The NSA had not responded to repeated requests for comment at time of publication.

Email the author: [11]. Follow [12] Ryan Gallagher.

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Greenwald writes: "For years, human rights groups have fought to obtain old documents, particularly a 37-year-old diplomatic cable, relating to British responsibility for Henderson's brutality in Bahrain."

An American soldier, his dog and a detainee at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, 2003. (photo: Washington Post/Getty Images)

In the Same Week, the US and UK Hide Their War Crimes by Invoking "National Security"

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

22 May 15

olonel Ian Henderson was a British official dubbed “the Butcher of Bahrain” because of atrocities he repeatedly committed during the 30 years he served as chief security official of that Middle Eastern country. His reign of terror began in 1966 when Bahrain was a British “protectorate” and continued when the post-“independence” Bahraini King retained him in the same position. In 1996, The Independent described him as “the most feared of all secret policemen” in Bahrain, and cited “consistent and compelling evidence that severe beatings and even sexual assaults have been carried out against prisoners under Henderson’s responsibility for well over a decade.”

A 2002 Guardian article reported that “during this time his men allegedly detained and tortured thousands of anti-government activists”; his official acts “included the ransacking of villages, sadistic sexual abuse and using power drills to maim prisoners”; and “on many occasions they are said to have detained children without informing their parents, only to return them months later in body bags.” Needless to say, Col. Henderson was never punished in any way: “although Scotland Yard launched an inquiry into the allegations in 2000, the investigation was dropped the following year.” He was showered with high honors from the U.K.-supported tyrants who ran Bahrain.

Prior to the massacres and rapes over which he presided in Bahrain, Henderson played a leading role in brutally suppressing the Mau Mau insurgency in another British colony, Kenya. In the wake of his Kenya atrocities, he twice won the George Medal, “the 2nd highest, to the George Cross, gallantry medal that a civilian can win.” His brutality against Kenyan insurgents fighting for independence is what led the U.K. government to put him in charge of internal security in Bahrain.

For years, human rights groups have fought to obtain old documents, particularly a 37-year-old diplomatic cable, relating to British responsibility for Henderson’s brutality in Bahrain. Ordinarily, documents more than 30 years old are disclosable, but the British government has fought every step of the way to conceal this cable.

But now, a governmental tribunal ruled largely in favor of the government and held that most of the diplomatic cable shall remain suppressed. The tribunal’s ruling was at least partially based on “secret evidence for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from a senior diplomat, Edward Oakden, who argued that Britain’s defence interests in Bahrain were of paramount importance”; specifically, “Mr Oakden implied that the release of such information could jeopardise Britain’s new military base in the country.”

The U.K. government loves to demonize others for supporting tyrants even as it snuggles up to virtually every despot in that region. Her Majesty’s Government has a particularly close relationship with Bahrain, where it is constructing a new naval base. The Kingdom is already home to the United States’ Fifth Fleet.

The tribunal’s rationale is that “full disclosure of the document would have ‘an adverse effect on relations’ with Bahrain, where the U.K. is keen to build further economic and defence ties.” In other words, disclosing these facts would make the British and/or the Bahrainis look bad, cause them embarrassment, and could make their close friendship more difficult to sustain. Therefore, the British and Bahraini populations must be denied access to the evidence of what their governments did.

This is the core mindset now prevalent in both the U.S. and U.K. for hiding their crimes from their own populations and then rest of the world: disclosure of what we did will embarrass and shame us, cause anger toward us, and thus harm our “national security.” As these governments endlessly highlight the bad acts of those who are adverse to them, they vigorously hide their own, thus propagandizing their publics into believing that only They — the Other Tribe Over There — commit such acts.

This is exactly the same mentality driving the Obama administration’s years-long effort to suppress photographs showing torture of detainees by the U.S. In 2009, Obama said he would comply with a court ruling that ordered those torture photos disclosed, but weeks after his announcement, reversed himself. Adopting the argument made by a group run by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney against disclosure of the photos, Obama insisted that to release the photos “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.” Obama went further and announced his support for a bill sponsored by Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman to amend the Freedom of Information Act — a legislative accomplishment which Rep. Louise Slaughter told me at the time had long been “sacred” to Democrats — for no reason other than to exempt those torture photos from disclosure.

In March of this year, a U.S. judge who had long sided with the Obama DOJ in this matter reversed course. In a lawsuit brought in 2004 by the ACLU, the judge ordered the release of thousands of photos showing detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq, including at Abu Ghraib. He ruled that the Obama DOJ could no longer show any national security harm that would justify ongoing suppression.

Rather than accepting the ruling and releasing the photos after hiding them for more than a decade, the U.S. Justice Department last week filed an emergency request for a stay of that ruling with the appeals court. The argument from The Most Transparent Administration Ever™:


Government document. (photo:The Intercept)

No healthy democracy can possibly function where this warped mindset prevails: we are entitled to hide anything we do that makes us look bad because making us look bad harms “national security,” and we are the ones who make that decision without challenge. As the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer said:

To allow the government to suppress any image that might provoke someone, somewhere, to violence would be to give the government sweeping power to suppress evidence of its own agents’ misconduct. Giving the government that kind of censorial power would have implications far beyond this specific context.

But even more threatening than the menace to democracy is the propagandzied public this mentality guarantees. A government that is able to hide its own atrocities on “national security” grounds will be one whose public endlessly focuses on the crimes of others while remaining blissfully unaware of one’s own nation. That is an excellent description of much of the American and British public, and as good an explanation as any why much of their public discourse consists of little more than proclamations that Our Side is Better despite the decades of brutality, aggression and militarism their own side has perpetrated.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Student Who Told Jeb Bush "Your Brother Created ISIS" Speaks Out About Incident


Yuhas writes: "Ivy Ziedrich challenged the likely presidential candidate after he blamed the militant group's formation on Barack Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq."

University of Nevada student Ivy Ziedrich challenges Jeb Bush during a town hall meeting in Reno. (photo: screengrab)
University of Nevada student Ivy Ziedrich challenges Jeb Bush during a town hall meeting in Reno. (photo: screengrab)

Student Who Told Jeb Bush "Your Brother Created ISIS" Speaks Out About Incident

By Alan Yuhas, Guardian UK

16 May 15


Ivy Ziedrich challenged the likely presidential candidate after he blamed the militant group’s formation on Barack Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq

A college student who confronted Jeb Bush about the Iraq war has spoken out about the incident, which made headlines around the world, saying of the former Florida governor’s position: “It was like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger.”

Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old University of Nevada student, addressed the likely presidential candidate after he spoke at town hall event in Reno, telling him: “Your brother created Isis.”

She questioned him amid a flock of reporters about his assertion that the jihadi group developed because Barack Obama had overseen the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

“You stated that Isis was created because we don’t have enough presence and we’ve been pulling out of the Middle East,” Ziedrich said, shifting blame instead on to the consequences of George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq. “The threat of Isis was created by the Iraqi coalition authority, which ousted the entire government of Iraq.

“It was when 30,000 individuals who are part of the Iraqi military – they were forced out. They had no employment, they had no income, yet they were left with access to all the same arms and weapons. Your brother created Isis!”

Bush patted her on the arm and asked: “Is that a question?”

“You don’t need to be pedantic to me, sir,” Ziedrich shot back. “You could just answer my question.”

“Pedantic? Wow,” Bush replied, taken aback by the rebuke.

“When we sent young men to die for the idea of American exceptionalism,” Ziedrich asked, “why are you spouting nationalist rhetoric to get us involved in more wars?”

“We respectfully disagree,” Bush answered. “We had an agreement that the president could’ve signed that would’ve kept 10,000 troops, less than what we have in Korea, and could’ve created the stability that would’ve allowed Iraq to progress. The result was the opposite occurred because the void was immediately filled.”

The likely candidate for the 2016 presidential campaign told Ziedrich: “We can rewrite history all you want, but the simple fact is we’re in a much more unstable place because America pulled back.”

Ziedrich is a political science major and member of the Young Democrats at her university, was a nationally ranked debater in high school and has campaigned against an open-carry gun law for college campuses. She told ABC News, which captured the confrontation on camera, that she did not mean to sound hostile.

“I think he’s telling the truth as he understands it,” Ziedrich said. “I see his response as a lack of perspective. We deserve more than this as voters.”

Ziedrich has emphasized that she wants more accountability from leaders and to get them to interact with a wider range of voters, tweeting that day about the ways “candidates for presidency talk at small ticketed events instead of speaking to university students and getting them involved”.

“It’s frustrating to see politicians ignore the origins of our conflicts abroad and use current foes as excuses for creating new ones,” she added.

“A Bush was trying to blame Isis on Obama’s foreign policy,” Ziedrich told the New York Times. “It was like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger.”

“I think it’s important when we have people in positions of authority, we demand a dialogue and accountability.”

Bush has struggled with his brother’s legacy in recent days, particularly with regard to the former president’s hugely unpopular war in Iraq. He first drew criticism by telling Fox News that he would have invaded Iraq even knowing what Americans know today – that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that Iraqis and Americans would pay enormous costs in lives and treasure.

After criticism from the left and the right, Bush then tried to backtrack, saying that he misheard the question as “knowing what you knew then” and that “given the power of looking back, of course anybody would’ve made different decisions”.

Finally on Thursday he said that with knowledge of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs: “I would have not gone into Iraq.”

Should Bush declare his candidacy as expected, Ziedrich’s question is probably a foreshadowing of one of the former governor’s greatest challenges: the deep disillusionment and simmering anger of many Democrats and Republicans surrounding the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which seems inextricably tied to the Bush name...

2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

A Baltimorean's reflections on the Baltimore riots

A Baltimorean's reflections on the Baltimore riots

5/20/2015 (1 day ago)
Catholic Online (

"The God of peace is never glorified by human violence," wrote the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton.


Catholic Online (

5/20/2015 (1 day ago)

Published in Living Faith

Whether it's on an individual, city, national, or international level, violence always dishonors God, and makes bad situations worse. The recent Baltimore City riots were no exception: people were injured, neighborhood stores were burned, and violence was further engrained into a city and world already steeped in violence.

But, and this is a big but: What are the reasons that led to violence? What motivated some African-Americans in Baltimore to riot? To ask and to try to answer these questions - in dialogue with the rioters - is certainly not meant to justify the violence; rather it is a necessary step on the road to ending it. 

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "A riot is the language of the unheard."

I grew up in Baltimore. And in the 1950's and 1960's when I was a kid there, Baltimore - while it certainly had significant problems like racial segregation - overall was a kinder and gentler place to live.

In those days crime was much lower, there were no gangs to speak of, drugs were far less a problem, schools were good, neighbors watched out for each other's children, and blue-collar Baltimore had lots of good manufacturing jobs - like those provided by Bethlehem Steel - that offered hard-working people of all colors a living wage.

Sadly, those days are mostly gone.

I spoke with Brendan Walsh, who with his wife Willa, co-founded Viva House - the Catholic Worker House serving homeless, poor people located in southwest Baltimore where some of the rioting occurred.

Walsh who has lived at Viva House since 1968 shared with me his reflections regarding root-causes of the rioting that occurred after the death of Freddie Gray - who died from a fatal injury that happened while in transport by Baltimore police, according to an initial investigation.

Walsh noted that many U.S. corporations have moved their operations from cities like Baltimore, to very poor countries where they can get away with the injustice of slave labor (see, and in the process have left many Americans without decent paying manufacturing jobs.

Walsh asked, "What are people to do when there are so few blue-collar jobs available that pay a living wage"?

Walsh believes that every city police officer should be required to live in the city. He said this would help police to better under the difficulties faced by many city residents, and in the process better relationships would be established.

Walsh noted there are not nearly enough drug treatment facilities. He said people need to be medically treated for drug addiction, not thrown into prison.

Many years ago I remember police districts in Baltimore ran recreational centers where kids could go to play sports, games, and do homework with police officers who offered guidance and friendship.

Back in those days numerous companies offered students summer jobs. For a couple of summers I worked for the Baltimore Gas and Electric company in their machine shop.   

We need to bring back the recreational centers and summer jobs.

Federal, state and city governments, in partnership with corporations, need to create a comprehensive, well-funded plan to rebuild our cities.

Baltimore's Catholic Archbishop William E. Lori, perhaps said it best here: "For without love, respect and personal relationships, our lives make no sense. We shouldn't expect a person whose life makes no sense to pull himself up by his bootstraps into a productive and prosperous life."

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony's column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, "Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century," has been well received by diocesan gatherings from San Clemente, Calif. to Baltimore, Md. Tony can be reached at

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

The US Government Told Me Bin Laden Read My Book. But What Is It Not Telling Us?

 Palast writes: "I already knew that Osama bin Laden read my book before the headlines this week - but I'm still angry that he gave The Best Democracy Money Can Buy only four-and-a-half stars on his Amazon review. Obviously, something in the book pissed him off, because he never friended me on Facebook."

Greg Palast. (photo: Zach D. Roberts)
Greg Palast. (photo: Zach D. Roberts)

The US Government Told Me Bin Laden Read My Book. But What Is It Not Telling Us?

By Greg Palast, Guardian UK

21 May 15


Finding out that The Best Democracy Money Can Buy was on the Bin Laden bookshelf confirms my fears about America’s war on whistleblowers knew that Osama bin Laden read my book before the headlines this week — but I’m still angry that he gave The Best Democracy Money Can Buy only four-and-a-half stars on his Amazon review. Obviously, something in the book pissed him off, because he never friended me on Facebook.

It was actually quite embarrassing to learn that Bin Laden was reading my tome — and a few by my homie Noam Chomsky. It’s embarrassing because it’s clear that Bin Laden was more well-read than our president of the time (though, in George W Bush’s defence, there’s much to be learned from My Pet Goat).

I do hope Osama made it to page 229. I talk about a guy who worked at my office, Clinton Davis. Before I left to write for the Guardian and Observer, my office was in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. Davis, a cop, was safe at ground level, but he ran upstairs to save others — and disappeared, forever. Did Bin Laden get a little laugh out of that one? At least he got to know his victim’s name.

And what did Bin Laden think of my investigation of the 9/11 attack? While working at Newsnight, a few weeks after the towers fell, a little birdie dropped off a 30-page memo marked “SECRET,” “eyes only” and “1-99I WF”, which is code for “national security document”. The document suggested that FBI agents were blocked from investigating the Bin Laden family well before 11 September 2001. Calls to the Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA and FBI insiders authenticated this bombshell of a devastating intelligence failure.

No, the evidence did not show that President Bush knew about the 9/11 attack in advance. But here was something still quite damning: we learned that the Bush family connection to the Bin Laden family business might have been a shield against government probes. Did Bin Laden, reading that, make a note to himself to thank the Bushes for their unintended protection? I assumed the FBI would deny the authenticity of the document. Instead of denying that the Bin Laden investigation had been spiked, the FBI spokesman told Newsnight these chilling words: “There are a lot of things the intelligence community knows and other people ought not to know.”

Ought not to know? What else ought we not to know? What else is government hiding from us — and when will it kill us?

The US government has charged Edward Snowden with “willful communication of classified communications and intelligence information to an unauthorised person”. CIA agent Jeffrey A Sterling has just received a three-year sentence for passing information to a reporter. This suggests that, today, Newsnight’s releasing the FBI document would land me or my informants in the slammer.

Why? Is there really a fear that terrorists will read our information? Well, in my case at least, I know Bin Laden probably did in fact read secret national security documents — in my book. Did he learn some great state secret that would allow him to escape? Obviously not. Did Bin Laden learn the secret that our leaders are incompetent and craven and that our intelligence agencies are poisoned by commercial and political interests? I suspect he knew that already.

Finding that Bin Laden read my book, with its several chapters revealing state secrets, confirms for me that the new official war on whistleblowers and reporters is not about keeping information out of the hands of terrorists, but making sure that “the public ought not to know” where the fools at the helm are leading us.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

The Left Matters: Now, More Than Ever

Published on Portside (

The Left Matters: Now, More Than Ever

Richard Eskow

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Campaign for America's Future

Some leading Democrats seem to have a love-hate relationship with the left. Sure, progressives seem to have more influence than ever in the party this year, at least rhetorically. But it doesn't look like the friction will be going away any time soon.

President Obama has been escalating his war of words with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and her allies, reigniting a burning resentment he last let slip in 2010. Hillary Clinton has adopted more progressive rhetoric, but her unwillingness to fight for specific policies has left activists frustrated.

Clearly, the left matters. Why, then, is it so difficult for progressives to get a seat at the table?

The Obama White House and the Left

While Obama seems to have targeted Warren [1] for especially intense criticism, some of his barbs were aimed at broader targets. "Every single one of the critics . (who) send out e-mails to their fundraising base that they're working to stop a secret deal, could walk over and see the text of the agreement," Obama said. ". I gotta say, it's dishonest."

Those remarks were aimed, not just at Warren, but Obama's other critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Congress. That includes Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), as well as Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

There is no need to relitigate the TPP's secrecy or the honesty of TPP critics [1]. It's a matter of tone as well as substance. The president hasn't sounded this piqued since 2010, when he dismissed progressives [2] who criticized his compromises (some would say caves) with Republicans as seeking to "have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people."

That was not long after then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs [3] sneered at "the professional left" and mischaracterized progressive positions so that he could say things like "these people ought to be drug tested." And it was the same year that Rahm Emanuel, who seemed to function as the administration's id, told a roomful of liberal activists that they were "f-ing retarded."

After the Détente

The administration's rancor toward the activist left seemed to disappear, or at least go underground, after the dustups of 2010 and 2011. The president tacked rhetorically to the left in response to the Occupy movement and in the run-up to the 2012 election. That boosted his poll numbers and is arguably responsible [4] for his reelection.

In fact, five years after Obama excoriated progressives for rejecting his overtures to the GOP, outgoing White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer [5] essentially acknowledged that Republicans never intended to work with the president and the left had been right all along. "There's never been a time when we've taken progressive action and regretted it," said Pfeiffer.

But that realization does not seem to have engendered new appreciation. The president seems unusually determined, not merely to win the TPP battle, but to knock his left-leaning adversaries out of the game altogether.

Clinton's Changes

As for Hillary Clinton, her 2008 campaign was marked by pointed criticisms of what she and her advisers described as "naiveté" - often a stalking horse for principled leftism - on the part of Obama and his supporters, as well as a deeply contemptuous series of attacks on "idealism" from aides and family friends. (I got sucker-punched in the ensuing brawl myself [6].)

Clinton's campaign is taking a decidedly different tone this time around, which is both judicious and welcome. Secretary Clinton seems to have recognized that idealism and leftist ideals are part of the essential DNA of her party - and of American politics.

Clinton has certainly embraced marriage equality, publicly "evolving" on this issue much as President Obama and former President Clinton have done. There, too, the left laid the groundwork. "I'm not evolving when it comes to gay rights," says Bernie Sanders [7]. "I was there!"

Love Is Not Enough

It is beautiful to see love honored and validated in all its forms. But "love is not all," as the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote. "It is not meat nor drink nor slumber nor a roof against the rain."

Progressive positions on economic issues - which affect "meat, drink, and a roof against the rain" for families of all social groups and orientations - seem somewhat harder for certain Dems to embrace.

Wall Street, the largest source of mainstream Democratic financial support, is comfortable with socially liberal initiatives like gay marriage. But it is largely opposed to some of the specific measures that would reduce wealth inequality and encourage economic growth, especially in the areas of taxation, stronger regulations and the criminal prosecution of banker fraud.

Los Angeles Progressive

The Populist Moment

How have the top Democrats responded to growing calls for economic populism? President Obama recently moved to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors, and has increased the hourly minimum wage he endorses. But he has not cracked down on Wall Street fraud and did not move to break up the big banks when he could have done so.

Some centrist Democrats like to say they'd govern more liberally, but the United States is a "center-right" country. There is very little truth in this.

For her part, Secretary Clinton's embrace of economic populism has so far been largely rhetorical. She has taken verbal swipes [8] at hedge funders, for example, but has thus far refused to speak up on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its potential impact on American workers. She has tweeted in support of workers [9] marching for a higher minimum wage, saying she thinks it should be raised, but she has not backed specific minimum-wage proposals or indicated what she thinks that wage should be [10].

Gratifyingly, Clinton has also spoken out against mass incarceration. That's one of the major crises of our time, one which was accelerated when President Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crimes Control Act [11]. (President Clinton has essentially acknowledged as much [12] in recent weeks.)

The Left Was Right

Which raises another point: On issue after issue, the left has been prescient in its analysis.

Welfare reform? When Bill Clinton signed the 1996 legislation, it was the left that pointed out that it wouldn't work. "I have devoted the last 30-plus years to doing whatever I could to help in reducing poverty in America," said Peter Edelman of the Department of Health and Human Services as he tendered his resignation. "I believe the recently enacted welfare bill goes in the opposite direction."

Edelman was right, and so were many others on the left. Thanks to a report from the University of Michigan's National Poverty Center, we now know that poverty increased in the United States by 130 percent between 1996 and 2013, and that "welfare reform" was the primary cause.

The invasion of Iraq? Many on the left were marginalized for opposing it, but they stood up when others - including some leading Democrats - did not.

Deregulation? When top Democrats were pushing it, it was the left that warned of fraud and future financial crises.

Gay marriage? The left's early adoption of this issue raises a thought that could make certain minds reel: Liberals may actually have a better feel for the zeitgeist than their triangulating counterparts.

Mass incarceration? When Bill Clinton was emphasizing enforcement, it was the left that warned that social measures were needed to reduce crime. (The Justice Policy Institute [13] has assembled the evidence.) Hillary Clinton repeated frightening myths [14] about youth crime, saying: "They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called `super-predators.' No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel ."

We now know [15] that the "super predator" myth is nothing more than the product of junk science, urban legend, and some unconscious biases. In fact, the left was already saying so [16] in the '90s.

The Left Is Popular

The left hasn't just been right. It has also been popular.
Credit: Liberal America

Some centrist Democrats like to say they'd govern more liberally, but the United States is a "center-right" country. There is very little truth in this. It's true that relatively few Americans describe themselves as liberal or progressive (although that number is rising [17]), but Americans hold progressive positions on many issues.

Vox said it best: "Bernie Sanders's ideas are so popular that Hillary Clinton is running on them. [18]" Polls show that, issue after issue, Americans support a leftist agenda of economic populism [19] - that is, as long as is presented to them on an issue-by-issue basis. (See [19] for more.)

The Price of Success

It's a paradoxical situation: within the Democratic Party, those who have most often been right continue to be held at arm's length by those who - at least in most cases - were so often originally wrong.

Part of it appears to be a genuine feeling of contempt, despite the left's enviable record. There seems to be a belief among some top Dems that ideological progressives are merely less sophisticated versions of themselves. They argue that liberals are "stuck in the 1960s," not considering the possibility that they remain stuck in the 1990s. "If they knew how the world really works," they seem to be saying of progressives, "they'd be more like us."

nd yet, the left has arguably shown a deeper understanding of how the world really works, one that has been tacitly accepted at times. Centrist Democrats are adopting progressive rhetoric because it works politically. They're talking about inequality because they know the left's analysis is correct.

The left's successes may, in fact, may have made it more of a threat. President Obama's resentment towards Warren, for example, is probably only exacerbated by her growing influence and credibility.

Secretary Clinton certainly can't be enjoying Warren's "wait and see [20]" posture toward her candidacy. And while she praises Warren to the skies [21], she has yet to fight for any of Warren's key initiatives - or defend her from Obama's heated attacks.

Canary in a Coal Mine

Democratic Party insiders will sometimes remind independent leftists that they are few in number, and that most Democrats are happy with their leaders. That's missing the point.

The independent left may not be an important voting bloc. But it holds the key to energizing disaffected voters across the political spectrum. They're the voters who believe that neither political party is speaking to their most deeply-felt needs: for a living wage, a secure retirement, a chance to put their kids to college and keep their family healthy.

For economic populists, those views have cohered into a "left" political perspective. For millions of other Americans, they remain little more than a vague and inchoate disaffection. They know that today's political debate isn't addressing their issues. They're sick of candidates who eat hotdogs at Iowa barbecues while telling them they know what they're feeling. They've heard a lot of rhetoric, but not much in the way of specifics.

(Speaking of specifics: As Sen. Warren said this week, this would be a good time for Hillary Clinton to "weigh in on trade [22].")

These voters want answers, and they want change. Since they're not seeing that, they have concluded that politics is pointless. So they either hunker down in predetermined party preferences or choose not to vote at all.

The activist left isn't important because of its numbers. It's important because its members are the canaries in the coalmine for an unresponsive political process. A Democratic Party that patronizes them will also fail to reach the disaffected majority.

The left shares something else with that majority: it's heard a lot of empty promises. Many (though not all) progressives will vote for the Democrats once again in 2016, even if they're dissatisfied. But it will take more than rhetoric to win millions of other alienated voters. It will take commitment - and action.

Want to know how to do that? Once again, the left can point the way.

Richard (RJ) Eskow [23] is a former executive with experience in health care, benefits, and risk management, finance, and information technology. He is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America's Future and hosts The Breakdown, which is broadcast on We Act Radio in Washington DC.

He worked for AIG and other insurance, risk management, and financial organizations. He was also a public policy and finance/economics consultant, in the US and over 20 countries. Past clients include USAID, the World Bank, the State Department, the Harvard School of International Public Health, the Government of Hungary, as well as corporations and investors. He has experience in financial and numerical analysis (of benefit plans, financial risk, corporate investments), systems design, and management.

Eskow has worked on long-range health policy and forecasting. His predictions are included in the recently-released Rough Guide To the Future in its review of "the hopes, fears, and best prediction of fifty of the world's leading futurologists."

Richard is also a freelance writer. He's a regular columnist for the science and culture blog 3 Quarks Daily and a Contributing Editor for Tricycle magazine. His reflections on blogging and spiritual principles were included in Best Buddhist Writing of 2008. He is also an (occasionally) working musician and songwriter.]


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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs