TBR News August 29, 2013

Aug 29 2013

Controlling the News


             Washington, D.C. August 28, 2013: “This interesting, and accurate, appraisal of the foolish actions of our President and his friends, came in earlier today and is well worth reprinting, without comment:”


A grim “urgent action memorandum” issued today from the office of President Putin to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation has ordered a “massive military strike” against Saudi Arabia in the event that the West attacks Syria.


“According to Kremlin sources familiar with this extraordinary “war order,” Putin became “enraged” after his early August meeting with Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan who warned that if Russia did not accept the defeat of Syria, Saudi Arabia would unleash Chechen terrorists under their control to cause mass death and chaos during the Winter Olympics scheduled to be held 7-23 February 2014 in Sochi, Russia,” EU Times reported.


Lebanese newspaper As-Safir confirmed this amazing threat against Russia saying that Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord by stating, “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.”


Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on an off. “These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.”


London’s The Telegraph News Service further reported today that Saudi Arabia has secretly offered Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts, if the Kremlin backs away from the Assad government in Syria, an offer Putin replied to by saying “Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters” [Putin said referring to footage showing a Jihadist rebel eating the heart and liver of a Syrian soldier], and which Prince Bandar in turn warned that there can be “no escape from the military option” if Russia declines the olive branch.


Critical to note, and as EU Times had previously reported on in its 28 January 2013 report “Obama Plan For World War III Stuns Russia,” the Federal Security Services (FSB) confirmed the validity of the released hacked emails of the British based defence company, Britam Defence that stunningly warned the Obama regime was preparing to unleash a series of attacks against both Syria and Iran in a move Russian intelligence experts warned could very well cause World War III.


According to this FSB report, Britam Defence, one of the largest private mercenary forces in the world, was the target of a “massive hack” of its computer files by an “unknown state sponsored entity” this past January who then released a number of critical emails between its top two executives, founder Philip Doughty and his Business Development Director David Goulding.


The two most concerning emails between Doughty and Goulding, this report says, states that the Obama regime has approved a “false flag” attack in Syria using chemical weapons, and that Britam has been approved to participate in the West’s warn on Iran, and as we can read:


Email 1: Phil, We’ve got a new offer. It’s about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington. We’ll have to deliver a CW (chemical weapon) to Homs (Syria), a Soviet origin g-shell from Libya similar to those that Assad should have. They want us to deploy our Ukrainian personnel that should speak Russian and make a video record. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous. Your opinion? Kind regards David


Email 2: Phil, Please see attached details of preparatory measures concerning the Iranian issue. Participation of Britam in the operation is confirmed by the Saudis.


With the events now spiraling out of control in Syria, and London’s Independent News Service now reporting that Prince Bandar is “pushing for war,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich further warned the West today by stating, “Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa.”


Heedless of Russian warnings which have fallen on deaf ears, however, British Prime Minister David Cameron this morning recalled the British Parliament to vote on attacking Syria as the Obama regime abruptly cancelled their meeting with Russia scheduled for tomorrow on finding a path to peace for Syria, and the West begins its plans to attack the Syrian nation “within days.”


As Syria itself has warned that should it be attacked by the West there will be “global chaos,” the Western peoples themselves have not been told of the fact that on 17 May 2013, Putin ordered Russian military forces to “immediately move” from Local War to Regional War operational status and to be “fully prepared” to expand to Large-Scale War should either the US or EU enter into the Syrian Civil War, a situation they are still in at this very hour.


With Putin’s previous order, and as EU Times had reported on in its 17 May report “Russia Issues “All-Out War” Alert Over Syria,” and now combined with his new ordering of massive retaliatory strikes against Saudi Arabia, any attack on Syria is viewed by Russia as being an attack on itself.


And as EU Times had previously explained in great detail, the fight over Syria, being led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and their lap-dog Western allies, has but one single objective: To break Russia’s hold on the European Union natural gas market which a pipeline through Syria would accomplish, and as reported by London’s Financial Times News Service this past June:


“The tiny gas-rich state of Qatar has spent as much as $3bln over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, far exceeding any other government, but is now being nudged aside by Saudi Arabia as the prime source of arms to rebels.


The cost of Qatar’s intervention, its latest push to back an Arab revolt, amounts to a fraction of its international investment portfolio. But its financial support for the revolution that has turned into a vicious civil war dramatically overshadows western backing for the opposition.


Qatar [also] has proposed a gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf to Turkey in a sign the emirate is considering a further expansion of exports from the world’s biggest gasfield after it finishes an ambitious programme to more than double its capacity to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG).”


And in what is, perhaps, the most unimaginable cause to start World War III over Syria was noted by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich who said this past week, “We’re getting more new evidence that this criminal act was of a provocative nature,” he stressed. “In particular, there are reports circulating on the Internet, in particular that the materials of the incident and accusations against government troops had been posted for several hours before the so-called attack. Thus, it was a pre-planned action.”


For the West to have so sloppily engineered yet another “false flag” attack to justify a war where they posted the videos of this so-called chemical weapons attack a full day before it was said to occur is the height of arrogance and disdain, but which their sleep-walking citizens, yet again, will fall for as they have done so many times in the past.

Russian Med Fleet Redeployment ‘Not Linked’ to Syria – Navy\

August 29, 2013

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) – The redeployment of Russian Naval vessels in the Mediterranean Sea is part of a planned rotation and is not linked with the worsening situation in Syria, a Russian Naval spokesperson said Thursday.


The statement comes after media reports had suggested that the grouping of Russian vessels in the Mediterranean Sea was to be changed in direct connection with events in Syria. Admiral Viktor Chirkov, commander of the Russian Navy, told Zvezda TV channel Sunday that Russia “should have five or six vessels permanently deployed in the Mediterranean,” but did not say how many were already there.


“The vessels in the Mediterranean, like those in other parts of the world, act under plans by the Russian Naval Command and General Staff, and fulfil tasks set,” the Naval spokesperson said.


“On completion of these tasks, the vessels then either return to their bases, or are replaced by other vessels to complete the tasks set,” the spokesperson said, adding “This does not amount to a renewal of any grouping or groupings, it is a planned rotation.”


The spokesperson for the Russian Navy did not share any further details with RIA Novosti regarding the ships involved, and said Navy General Staff decides what class of vessel to send.

 Iraq Redux? Obama says ‘Trust Us’ as UN Retreats from Syria

Political battles get in the way of an immediate US/NATO attack, but the gears of war still grinding hard

August 29, 2013

by Jon Queally, staff writer

Common Dreams


            An early withdrawal of the UN investigative team that is trying to determine exactly what happened during a suspected chemical attack near Damascus last week is offering an eery reminder of events that took place before the US began its invasion of Iraq in 2003, with the fear that once international observers have gone a US/NATO attack on Syria would be greenlighted for later in the weekend or early next week.


Though speculation based on anonymous reporting from high level officials in the US and Europe indicated a US-led campaign might start as early as Thursday, indications from both the US and UK show that though the rush to attack has been slowed by political opposition, the push for war continues.


As the Guardian reports, domestic politics in the UK have slowed Prime Minister David Cameron’s hopes that approval for military action could sidestep Parliament.


Meanwhile, in a televised interview on PBS news on Wednesday night, President Obama said “no decision” has been made on attacking Syria though he spent the majority of the interview laying out his administration’s case for why the US and its NATO and Gulf state allies may soon launch such an attack.


Asked what US military action—at this point still assumed to be a volley of cruise missiles from US warships in the Mediterranean or an aerial bombing campaign—would accomplish, Obama said that it would give the government of President Bashar al-Assad “a pretty strong signal not to do it again,” meaning using chemical weapons.


Though the US has now repeatedly says it “knows” that the Assad regime was directly behind the attacks, they have offered no verifiable evidence to the public.


And some members of Congress are also trying to put the brakes on the attack, saying that even if chemical weapons are determined to have been used by Assad, the role for a US military campaign should not be a foregone conclusion.


“Even if he (Syrian President Bashar Assad) did use chemical weapons, that doesn’t give the president the authority to attack Syria” without going to Congress, said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. “Our troops aren’t being attacked, our nation isn’t being attack. He has a responsibility to consult Congress first.”


And former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix goes a step further than that, saying that the argument for a US campaign against Syria is fundamentally flawed, with or without approval from Congress. In an op-ed in the Guardian on Thursday, he writes:


In 2003 the US and the UK and an alliance of “friendly states” invaded Iraq without the authorisation of the security council. A strong body of world opinion felt that this constituted a violation and an undermining of the UN charter. A quick punitive action in Syria today without UN authorisation would be another precedent, suggesting that great military powers can intervene militarily when they feel politically impelled to do so. (They did not intervene when Iraq used chemical weapons on a large scale in the war with Iran in the 1980s.)


So, what should the world reaction be to the use of chemical weapons? Clearly, evidence available – both from UN inspectors and from member states – should be placed before and judged by the security council. Even if the council could only conclude that chemical weapons had been used – and could not agree that the Assad regime alone was responsible – there would be a good chance of unanimous world condemnation. Global indignation about the use of chemical weapons is of value to strengthen the taboo.

Obama pick for NSA review panel wanted paid, pro-government shills in chat rooms

August 23, 2013

by Andrea Peterson

Washington Post


The Obama administration is reportedly proposing Cass Sunstein as a member of a panel to review the surveillance practices of the National Security Agency (NSA), among other former White House and intelligence staffers. Sunstein was the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs until last year, when he returned to teaching at Harvard Law School.


As one of our intrepid commenters pointed out yesterday, while at Harvard in 2008, Sunstein co-authored a working paper that suggests government agents or their allies “cognitively infiltrate” conspiracy theorist groups by joining ”chat rooms, online social networks or even real-space groups” and influencing the conversation.


Sunstein’s paper defined a conspiracy theory as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role,” and acknowledges that some conspiracy theories have turned out to be true. It also specifically notes that his plan of “cognitive infiltration” should only be used against false conspiracy theories that could be harmful to the government or society.


But even the suggestion that the government should infiltrate groups that are not actively participating in criminal acts is troubling. In fact, it recalls the abuses uncovered by the Church Committee in the 1970s, when the FBI infiltrated such subversive groups as the feminist and civil rights movements. To his credit, Sunstein’s infiltration suggestion is different in nature:


By this we do not mean 1960s-style infiltration with a view to surveillance and collecting information, possibly for use in future prosecutions. Rather, we mean that government efforts might succeed in weakening or even breaking up the ideological and epistemological complexes that constitute these networks and groups.


But while it’s nice to assume that the government would limit that “cognitive infiltration” authority to false conspiracies, history suggests that it would be also used against activists trying to expose actual government misconduct.


The paper also suggests that the government “formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech.” That sounds an awful lot like the 50 Cent Party of online commentators who are paid per comment by the Chinese communist party to sway public opinion.


 A man with such a credulous view of government power might not be the best choice to review allegations of NSA privacy abuses.



Ongoing NSA work


Anti-journalism journalists, US/UK attacks on press freedom, and candidate Obama on non-authorized military attacks


August 27, 2013

by Glenn Greenwald



For the past seven-plus years, I’ve written more or less every day. That pattern has obviously changed over the last three months, during which time my posting has been more infrequent. That’s because I’ve been prioritizing my work on these NSA documents and articles, which take a fair amount of time to process, report and then write. I’m currently working on several NSA/GCHQ stories at once right now that I expect to be published shortly, so daily writing will likely not resume for a couple more weeks or so.


I’ll try to post something new here at least once every 3 days, if for no other reason than to ensure that the comment section remains open. In the meantime, here are several items worth considering:


(1) The New York Times’ David Carr has an excellent column on what drives the very odd phenomenon that the leading advocates for attacking and even criminalizing journalism come not from the government but from . . . certain journalists.


(2) In Der Spiegel, Laura Poitras has a column on the “blatant attacks on press freedoms” coming from the UK and their superiors in the US national security state.


(3) NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has a great essay on the lessons about journalism revealed by the NSA stories, concluding: “Journalism almost has to be brought closer to activism to stand a chance of prevailing in its current struggle with the state.”


(4) In 2008, President Obama, when he was a candidate for President, had this question-and-answer exchange with the Boston Globe:



“Q. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)


“OBAMA: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.


“As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.”


Given that not even the most ardent interventionists for Syria contend that the bombing is necessary for US national security, how can a military attack on Syria without Congressional approval possibly be reconciled with that position? When the same issue arose with Obama’s war in Libya in the absence of Congressional approval (indeed, after Congress expressly rejected its authorization), State Department adviser Harold Koh was forced to repudiate Obama’s own words and say he was wrong back then. Who will play that role this time? As is so often the case, there is a much starker debate between candidate Obama and President Obama than there is between the leadership of both political parties in Washington:


World learns to manage without the US

August 19, 2013

by Spengler

Asia Times


The giant sucking sound you here, I said on August 15 on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, is the implosion of America’s influence in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin’s August 17 offer of Russian military assistance to the Egyptian army after US President Barack Obama cancelled joint exercises with the Egyptians denotes a post-Cold-War low point in America’s standing. Along with Russia, Saudi Arabia and China are collaborating to contain the damage left by American blundering. They have being doing this quietly for more than a year.


The pipe-dream has popped of Egyptian democracy led by a Muslim Brotherhood weaned from its wicked past, but official Washington has not woken up. Egypt was on the verge of starvation when military pushed out Mohammed Morsi. Most of


the Egyptian poor had been living on nothing but state-subsidized bread for months, and even bread supplies were at risk. The military brought in US$12 billion of aid from the Gulf States, enough to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. That’s the reality. It’s the one thing that Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel agree about.


America’s whimsical attitude towards Egypt is not a blunder but rather a catastrophic institutional failure. President Obama has surrounded himself with a camarilla, with Susan Rice as National Security Advisor, flanked by Valerie Jarrett, the Iranian-born public housing millionaire. Compared to Obama’s team, Zbigniew Brzezinski was an intellectual colossus at Jimmy Carter’s NSC. These are amateurs, and it is anyone’s guess what they will do from one day to the next.


By default, Republican policy is defined by Senator John McCain, whom the head of Egypt’s ruling National Salvation Party dismissed as a “senile old man” after the senator’s last visit to Cairo. McCain’s belief in Egyptian democracy is echoed by a few high-profile Republican pundits, for example, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Robert Kagan, and Max Boot. Most of the Republican foreign policy community disagrees, by my informal poll. Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld blasted Obama for undermining the Egyptian military’s ability to keep order, but his statement went unreported by major media.


It doesn’t matter what the Republican experts think. Few elected Republicans will challenge McCain, because the voters are sick of hearing about Egypt and don’t trust Republicans after the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Neither party has an institutional capacity for intelligent deliberation about American interests. Among the veterans of the Reagan and Bush administrations, there are many who understand clearly what is afoot in the world, but the Republican Party is incapable of acting on their advice. That is why the institutional failure is so profound. Republican legislators live in terror of a primary challenge from isolationists like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and will defer to the Quixotesque McCain.


Other regional and world powers will do their best to contain the mess.


Russia and Saudi Arabia might be the unlikeliest of partners, but they have a profound common interest in containing jihadist radicalism in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. Both countries backed Egypt’s military unequivocally. Russia Today reported August 7 that “Saudi Arabia has reportedly offered to buy arms worth up to $15 billion from Russia, and provided a raft of economic and political concessions to the Kremlin – all in a bid to weaken Moscow’s endorsement of Syrian President Bashar Assad.”


No such thing will happen, to be sure. But the Russians and Saudis probably will collaborate to prune the Syrian opposition of fanatics who threaten the Saudi regime as well as Russian security interests in the Caucasus. Chechnyan fighters – along with jihadists from around the world – are active in Syria, which has become a petrie dish for Islamic radicalism on par with Afghanistan during the 1970s.


The Saudis, meanwhile, have installed Chinese missiles aimed at Iran. There are unverifiable reports that Saudi Arabia already has deployed nuclear weapons sourced from Pakistan. The veracity of the reports is of small relevance; if the Saudis do not have such weapons now, they will acquire them if and when Iran succeeds in building nuclear weapons. What seems clear is that Riyadh is relying not on Washington but on Beijing for the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons. China has a profound interest in Saudi security. It is the largest importer of Saudi oil. America might wean itself of dependence on imported oil some time during the next decade, but China will need the Persian Gulf for the indefinite future.


A Russian-Chinese-Saudi condominium of interests has been in preparation for more than a year. On July 30, 2012, I wrote (for the Gatestone Institute):


The fact is that the Muslim Brotherhood and its various offshoots represent a threat to everyone in the region:


The Saudi monarchy fears that the Brotherhood will overthrow it (not an idle threat, since the Brotherhood doesn’t look like a bad choice for Saudis who aren’t one of the few thousand beneficiaries of the royal family’s largesse;


The Russians fear that Islamic radicalism will get out of control in the Caucasus and perhaps elsewhere as Russia evolves into a Muslim-majority country;


The Chinese fear the Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim people who comprise half the population of China’s western Xinjiang province.



But the Obama administration (and establishment Republicans like John McCain) insist that America must support democratically elected Islamist governments. That is deeply misguided. The Muslim Brotherhood is about as democratic as the Nazi Party, which also won a plebiscite confirming Adolf Hitler as leader of Germany. Tribal countries with high illiteracy rates are not a benchmark for democratic decision-making … As long as the United States declares its support for the humbug of Muslim democracy in Egypt and Syria, the rest of the world will treat us as hapless lunatics and go about the business of securing their own interests without us.


The Turks, to be sure, will complain about the fate of their friends in the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is little they can do. The Saudis finance most of their enormous current account deficit, and the Russians provide most of their energy.


Apart from the Egyptian events, American analysts have misread the world picture thoroughly.


On the American right, the consensus view for years held that Russia would implode economically and demographically. Russia’s total fertility rate, though, has risen from a calamitously low point of less than 1.2 live births per female in 1990 to about 1.7 in 2012, midway between Europe’s 1.5 and America’s 1.9. There is insufficient evidence to evaluate the trend, but it suggests that it is misguided to write Russia off for the time being. Not long ago, I heard the Russian chess champion and democracy advocate Gary Kasparov tell a Republican audience that Russia would go bankrupt if oil fell below $80 a barrel – an arithmetically nonsensical argument, but one the audience wanted to hear. Like it or not, Russia won’t go away.


American analysts view Russia’s problems with Muslims in the Caucasus with a degree of Schadenfreude. During the 1980s the Reagan administration supported jihadists in Afghanistan against the Russians because the Soviet Union was the greater evil. Today’s Russia is no friend of the United States, to be sure, but Islamist terrorism is today’s greater evil, and the United States would be well advised to follow the Saudi example and make common cause with Russia against Islamism.


In the case of China, the consensus has been that the Chinese economy would slow sharply this year, causing political problems. China’s June trade data suggest quite the opposite: a surge in imports (including a 26% year-on-year increase in iron ore and a 20% increase in oil) indicate that China is still growing comfortably in excess of 7% a year. China’s transition from an export model driven by cheap labor to a high-value-added manufacturing and service economy remains an enormous challenge, perhaps the biggest challenge in economic history, but there is no evidence to date that China is failing. Like it or not, China will continue to set the pace for world economic growth.


America, if it chose to exercise its power and cultivate its innate capabilities, still is capable of overshadowing the contenders. But it has not chosen to do so, and the reins have slipped out of Washington’s hands. Americans will hear about important developments in the future if and when other countries choose to make them public. Readers should be warned that those of us with reasonably good track records won’t do as well in the future.


My track record in general has been good. I warned in 2003 that the George W Bush administration’s attempts to build nations in Iraq and Afghanistan would have a tragic outcome. And in early 2006, I wrote: “Like or not, the US will get chaos, and cannot do anything to forestall it.”


In February 2011, I said that we did now know whether then-beleaguered president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt “will be replaced by an Islamist, democratic, or authoritarian state. What is certain is that it will be a failed state.” And in March 2011, I added about Syria, “We do not know what kind of state will follow Basher Assad. We only know that it will be a failed state.”


In April 2011, I declared Israel to be “the winner in the Arab revolts” because “the most likely outcome [in the Arab world] is a prolonged period of instability, in which two sides that have nothing to gain from compromise and everything to lose from defeat – the dispossessed poor and the entrenched elite – fight it out in the streets. Like Yemen and Libya, Syria will prove impossible to stabilize; whether Egypt’s military can prevent a descent into similar chaos remains doubtful.”


In January 2012, I announced a “recall notice for the Turkish model”, adding, “Among all the dumb things said about the so-called Arab Spring last year, perhaps the dumbest was the idea that the new democracies of the Arab world might follow the Turkish model.”


Now the dogs of war are loose and will choose their own direction. You don’t need foreign policy analysts any more. You can hear the dogs bark if you open the window.



A Time for Creative Suffering: Martin Luther Kings Words in a Surveillance World


August 28, 2013

by Ariel Dorfman

Asia Times


So much has changed since that hot day in August 1963 when Martin Luther King delivered his famous words from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A black family lives in the White House and official segregation is a thing of the past. Napalm no longer falls on the homes and people of Vietnam and the president of that country has just visited the United States in order to seek “a new relationship.”


A health-care law has been passed that guarantees medical services to many millions who, 50 years ago, were entirely outside the system. Gays were then hiding their sexuality everywhere — the Stonewall riots were six years away — and now the Supreme Court has recognized that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits. Only the year before, Rachel Carson had published her groundbreaking ecological classic Silent Spring, then one solitary book.  Today, there is a vigorous movement in the land and across the Earth dedicated to stopping the extinction of our planet.


In 1963, nuclear destruction threatened our species every minute of the day and now, despite the proliferation of such weaponry to new nations, we do not feel that tomorrow is likely to bring 10,000 Hiroshimas raining down on humanity.


So much has changed — and yet so little.


The placards raised in last week’s commemorative march on Washington told exactly that story: calls for ending the drone wars in foreign lands; demands for jobs and equality; protests against mass incarceration, restrictions on the right to an abortion, cuts to education, assaults upon the workers of America, and the exploitation and persecution of immigrants; warnings about the state-by-state spread of voter suppression laws. And chants filling the air, rising above multiple images of Trayvon Martin, denouncing gun violence and clamoring for banks to be taxed. Challenges to us all to occupy every space available and return the country to the people.


Yes, so much has changed — and yet so little.


In my own life, as well.


Words for an Assassination Moment


I wasn’t able to attend last week’s march, but I certainly would have, if events of a personal nature hadn’t interfered. It was just a matter of getting in a car with my wife, Angélica, and driving four hours from our home in Durham, North Carolina.


Fifty years ago, that would have been impossible.  We were living in distant Chile and didn’t even know that a march on Washington was taking place. I was 21 years old at the time and, like so many of my generation, entangled in the struggle to liberate Latin America.  The speech by King that was to influence my life so deeply did not even register with me.


What I can remember with ferocious precision, however, is the place, the date, and even the hour when, five years later, I had occasion to listen for the first time to those “I have a dream” words, heard the incantations of that melodious baritone, that emotional certainty of victory. I can remember the occasion so clearly because it happened to be April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King was killed, and ever since, his dream and his death have been grievously conjoined in my mind as they still are, almost half a century later.


I recall how I was sitting with Angélica and our one-year-old child, Rodrigo, in a living room high up in the hills of Berkeley, the university town in California.  We had arrived from Chile barely a week earlier. Our hosts, an American family who generously offered us temporary lodgings while our apartment was being readied, had switched on the television.  We all solemnly watched the nightly news, probably delivered by Walter Cronkite, the famed CBS anchorman. And there it was, the murder of Martin Luther King in that Memphis hotel, and then came the first reports of riots all over America and, finally, a long excerpt from his “I have a dream” speech.


It was only then, I think, that I began to realize who Martin Luther King had been, what we had lost with his departure from this world, the legend he was becoming before my very eyes. In later years, I would often return to that speech and would, on each occasion, hew from its mountain of meanings a different rock upon which to stand and understand the world.


Beyond my amazement at King’s eloquence, my immediate reaction was not so much to be inspired as to be puzzled, close to despair. After all, the slaying of this man of peace was answered not by a pledge to persevere in his legacy, but by furious uprisings in the slums of black America.  The disenfranchised were avenging their dead leader by burning down the ghettos in which they felt themselves imprisoned and impoverished, using the fire this time to proclaim that the non-violence King had advocated was useless, that the only way to end inequity in this world was through the barrel of a gun, that the only way to make the powerful pay attention was to scare the hell out of them.


King’s assassination, therefore, savagely brought up a question that was already bedeviling me — and so many other activists — in the late sixties: What was the best method to achieve radical change? Could we picture a rebellion in the way that Martin Luther King had envisioned it, without drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred, without treating our adversaries as they had treated us? Or did the road into the palace of justice and the bright day of brotherhood inevitably lead through fields of violence?  Was violence truly the unavoidable midwife of revolution?


Martin Luther King and the Dream of a Revolutionary Chile


These were questions that, back in Chile, I would soon be forced to answer, not through cloudy theoretical musings, but while immersed in the day-to-day reality of history-in-the-making.  I’m talking about the years after 1970 when Salvador Allende was elected Chile’s president and we became the first country to try to build socialism through peaceful means. Allende’s vision of social change, elaborated over decades of struggle and thought, was similar to King’s, even though they came from very different political and cultural traditions.


Allende, for instance, was not at all religious and would not have agreed with King that physical force must be met with soul force.  He favored instead the force of social organizing. At a time when many in Latin America were still dazzled by the armed struggle proposed by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, however, it was Allende’s singular accomplishment to imagine the two quests of our era to be inextricably connected: the quest by the dispossessed of this Earth for more democracy as well as civil freedoms, and the parallel quest for social justice and economic empowerment.


Unfortunately, it was Allende’s fate to echo King’s.  Three years after King’s death in Memphis, it was Allende’s choice to die in the midst of a Washington-backed military coup against his democratic government in the presidential palace in Santiago, Chile.


Yes, on the first 9/11 — September 11, 1973 — almost 10 years to the day since King’s “I have a dream” speech, Allende chose to die defending his own dream, promising us, in his last speech, that sooner, not later, más temprano que tarde, a day would come when the free men and women of Chile would walk through las amplias alamedas, the great avenues full of trees, toward a better society.


It was in the immediate aftermath of that terrible defeat, as we watched the powerful of Chile impose upon us the terror that we had not wanted to visit upon them, it was then, as our nonviolence was met with executions and torture and disappearances, it was only then, after that military coup, that I first began to seriously commune with Martin Luther King, that his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial came back to haunt me. It was as I left Chile and headed, with wife and child, into an exile lasting many years that King’s voice and message began to filter fully, word by word, into my life.


If ever there were a situation where violence could be justified, it would have been against the military junta in Chile led by Augusto Pinochet. He and his generals had overthrown a constitutional government and were now murdering, torturing, imprisoning, and persecuting citizens whose radical sin had been to imagine a world where you would not need to massacre your opponents in order to allow the waters of justice to flow.


The Dogs of Mississippi and Valparaiso


And yet, very wisely, almost instinctively, the Chilean resistance embraced a different route: slowly, resolutely, dangerously taking over every possible inch of public space in the country, isolating the dictatorship inside and outside our nation, making Chile ungovernable through civil disobedience. It was not entirely different from the strategy that the civil rights movement had espoused in the United States; and, indeed, I never felt closer to Martin Luther King than during the 17 years it took us to free Chile of the dictatorship.


His words to the militants who thronged to Washington in 1963, demanding that they not lose faith, resonated with me, comforted my sad heart. He was speaking prophetically to me, to us, when he said, “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells.”


He was speaking to us, to me, when he thundered, “Some of you come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering.” He understood that more difficult than going to your first protest was awakening the following morning and heading for the next protest, and then the one after, engaging, that is, in the daily grind of small acts that can lead to large and lethal consequences.


The sheriffs and dogs of Alabama and Mississippi were alive and well in the streets of Santiago and Valparaiso, and so was the spirit that had encouraged defenseless men, women, and children to be mowed down, beaten, bombed, harassed, and yet continue to confront their oppressors with the only weapons available to them: the suffering of their bodies and the conviction that nothing could make them turn back.


Like the blacks in the United States, so in Chile we sang in the streets of the cities that had been stolen from us. Not spirituals, for every land has its own songs. In Chile we sang, over and over, the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the hope that a day would come when all men would be brothers.


Why were we singing? To give ourselves courage, of course, but not only that. In Chile, we sang and stood against the hoses and tear gas and truncheons, because we knew that somebody else was watching. In this, we were also following in the media-savvy footsteps of Martin Luther King.  After all, that mismatched confrontation between a police state and the people was being photographed or filmed and transmitted to other eyes. In the deep south of the United States, the audience was the majority of the American people; while in that other struggle years later in the deeper south of Chile, the daily spectacle of peaceful men and women being repressed by the agents of terror targeted national and international forces whose support Pinochet and his dependent third world dictatorship needed in order to survive.


The tactic worked because we understood, as Gandhi and King had before us, that our adversaries could be influenced and shamed by public opinion, and could in this fashion eventually be compelled to relinquish power. That is how segregation was defeated in the South; that is how the Chilean people beat Pinochet in a plebiscite in 1988 that led to democracy in 1990; that is the story of the downfall of tyrannies around the world, more than ever today, from the streets of Burma to the cities of the Arab Spring.


King in the Age of Surveillance


And what of this moment? When I return to that speech I first heard 45 years ago, the very day King died, is there still a message for me, for us, something we need to hear again as if we were listening to those words for the first time?


What would Martin Luther King say if he could return to contemplate what his country has become since his death? What if he could see how the terror and slaughter brought to bear upon New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, had turned his people into a fearful, vengeful nation, ready to stop dreaming, ready to abridge their own freedoms in order to be secure? What if he could see how that obsession with security has fed espionage services and a military-industrial complex run amok?


What would he say if he could observe how that fear was manipulated in order to justify the invasion and occupation of a foreign land against the will of its people? How would he react to the newest laws disenfranchising the very citizens he fought to bring to the voting booths? What sorrow would have gripped his heart as he watched the rich thrive and the poor be ever more neglected and despised, as he observed the growing abyss between the one percent and the rest of the country, not to speak of the power of money to intervene and intercede and decide?


What words would he have used to denounce the way the government surveillance he was under is now commonplace and pervasive, potentially targeting anyone in the United States who happens to own a phone or use email? Wouldn’t he tell those who oppose these policies and institutions inside and outside the United States to stand up and be counted, to march ahead, and not ever to wallow in the valley of despair?


That’s my belief. That he would repeat some of the words he delivered on that now-distant day in the shadow of the statue of Abraham Lincoln.  My guess is that he would once again affirm his faith in the potential of his country.  He would undoubtedly point out that his dream remained rooted in an American dream which, in spite of all the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, was still alive; that his nation still had the ability to rise up and live out the true meaning of its original creed, summed up in the words “we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”


Let us hope that his faith in us was and still is on the mark. Let us hope and pray, for his sake and ours, that his faith in his own country was not misplaced and that 50 years later his compatriots will once again listen to his fierce yet gentle voice calling on them from beyond death and beyond fear, calling on all of us, here and abroad, to stand together for freedom and justice in our time.



Gun Bill in Missouri Would Test Limits in Nullifying U.S. Law


August 28, 2013

by John Schwartz   

New York Times


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.


            The law amounts to the most far-reaching states’ rights endeavor in the country, the far edge of a growing movement known as “nullification” in which a state defies federal power.


The Missouri Republican Party thinks linking guns to nullification works well, said Matt Wills, the party’s director of communications, thanks in part to the push by President Obama for tougher gun laws. “It’s probably one of the best states’ rights issues that the country’s got going right now,” he said.


The measure was vetoed last month by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, as unconstitutional. But when the legislature gathers again on Sept. 11, it will seek to override his veto, even though most experts say the courts will strike down the measure. Nearly every Republican and a dozen Democrats appear likely to vote for the override.


Richard G. Callahan, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, is concerned. He cited a recent joint operation of federal, state and local law enforcement officials that led to 159 arrests and the seizing of 267 weapons, and noted that the measure “would have outlawed such operations, and would have made criminals out of the law enforcement officers.”


In a letter explaining his veto, Mr. Nixon said the federal government’s supremacy over the states’ “is as logically sound as it is legally well established.” He said that another provision of the measure, which makes it a crime to publish the name of any gun owner, violates the First Amendment and could make a crime out of local newspapers’ traditional publication of “photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer.”


But the votes for the measure were overwhelming. In the House, all but one of the 109 Republicans voted for the bill, joined by 11 Democrats. In the Senate, all 24 Republicans supported it, along with 2 Democrats. Overriding the governor’s veto would require 23 votes in the Senate and 109 in the House, where at least one Democrat would have to come on board.


The National Rifle Association, which has praised Mr. Nixon in the past for signing pro-gun legislation, has been silent about the new bill. Repeated calls to the organization were not returned.


Historically used by civil rights opponents, nullification has bloomed in recent years around a host of other issues, broadly including medical marijuana by liberals and the new health care law by conservatives.


State Representative T. J. McKenna, a Democrat from Festus, voted for the bill despite saying it was unconstitutional and raised a firestorm of protest against himself. “If you just Google my name, it’s all over the place about what a big coward I am,” he said with consternation, and “how big of a ‘craven’ I was. I had to look that up.”


The voters in his largely rural district have voiced overwhelming support for the bill, he said. “I can’t be Mr. Liberal, St. Louis wannabe,” he said. “What am I supposed to do? Just go against all my constituents?”


As for the veto override vote, he said, “I don’t know how I’m going to vote yet.”


State Representative Doug Funderburk, a Republican from St. Peters and the author of the bill, said he expected to have more than enough votes when the veto override came up for consideration.


Adam Winkler, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, who follows nullification efforts nationally, said that nearly two dozen states had passed medical marijuana laws in defiance of federal restrictions. Richard Cauchi, who tracks such health legislation for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said: “Since January 2011, at least 23 states have considered bills seeking to nullify the health care law; as of mid-2013 only one state, North Dakota, had a signed law. Its language states, however, that the nullification provisions ‘likely are not authorized by the United States Constitution.’ ”


What distinguishes the Missouri gun measure from the marijuana initiatives is its attempt to actually block federal enforcement by setting criminal penalties for federal agents, and prohibiting state officials from cooperating with federal efforts. That crosses the constitutional line, said Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute’s board of directors — a state cannot frustrate the federal government’s attempts to enforce its laws.


Mr. Levy, whose organization has taken a leading role in fighting for gun rights, said, “With the exception of a few really radical self-proclaimed constitutional authorities, state nullification of federal law is not on the radar scope.”


Still, other states have passed gun laws that challenge federal power; a recent wave began with a Firearms Freedom Act in Montana that exempts from federal regulations guns manufactured there that have not left the state.


Gary Marbut, a gun rights advocate in Montana who wrote the Firearms Freedom Act, said that such laws were “a vehicle to challenge commerce clause power,” the constitutional provision that has historically granted broad authority to Washington to regulate activities that have an impact on interstate commerce. His measure has served as a model that is spreading to other states. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down Montana’s law, calling it “pre-empted and invalid.”



A law passed this year in Kansas has also been compared to the Missouri law. But Kris W. Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, disagreed, saying it had been drafted “very carefully to ensure that there would be no situation where a state official would be trying to arrest a federal official.”


In Missouri, State Representative Jacob Hummel, a St. Louis Democrat and the minority floor leader, said that he was working to get Democrats who voted for the bill to vote against overriding the veto. “I think some cooler heads will prevail in the end,” he said, “but we will see.”


Taking up legislative time to vote for unconstitutional bills that are destined to end up failing in the courts is “a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Mr. Hummel said, adding that more and more, the legislature passes largely symbolic resolutions directed at Congress.


“We’re elected to serve the citizens of the state of Missouri, at the state level,” he said. “We were not elected to tell the federal government what to do — that’s why we have Congressional elections.”


The lone Republican opponent of the bill in the House, State Representative Jay Barnes, said, “Our Constitution is not some cheap Chinese buffet where we get to pick the parts we like and ignore the rest.” He added, “Two centuries of constitutional jurisprudence shows that this bill is plainly unconstitutional, and I’m not going to violate my oath of office.”


Mr. Funderburk, the bill’s author, clearly disagrees. And, he said, Missouri is only the beginning. “I’ve got five different states that want a copy” of the bill, he said.


East Coast Faces Rising Seas from Slowing Gulf Stream 

by Michael D. Lemonick



Experts on the sea level rise triggered by climate change have long known that it will proceed faster in some places than others. The mid-Atlantic coast of the U.S. is one of them, and the reason — in theory, anyway — is that global warming should slow the flow of the Gulf Stream as it moves north and then east toward northern Europe.


Now there’s a smoking gun that appears to validate the theory. A study in the February Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans ties the measured acceleration of sea level rise in this area to a simultaneous slowdown in the flow of the Gulf Stream.


“There have been several papers showing (sea level rise) acceleration,” said lead author Tal Ezer, of Old Dominion University’s Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography. “This new paper confirms the hypothesis for why it’s happening.”


Even without faster-than-average sea level rise, America’s East Coast would be at high risk. On average, scientists have projected that the oceans should rise by about 3 feet by 2100, inundating low-lying land, contaminating water supplies and undermining roads, airports, port facilities and power plants.


Add the storm surges that come with hurricanes nd other severe weather, and the danger gets even worse. A worldwide average of 8 inches of sea level rise since 1900 has already put millions of Americans at risk; 3 feet more will greatly multiply that risk; and the even higher levels that Americans could see will be a very bitter icing on top of that already unpleasant cake.


The slowing of the Gulf Steam is not the only reason the U.S. coast will see higher sea level than the world average in coming decades, Ezer said. In some places, the land itself is slowly sinking as it readjusts to the disappearance of continental ice sheets more than 10,000 years ago.


But that process can’t explain why sea level rise should actually be speeding up, as a report in the Journal of Coastal Research documented in October 2012.


Another study, which appeared in Nature Climate Change in June 2012, showed the same thing, and suggested that a Gulf Stream slowdown could be a contributing factor. Ezer’s own paper in Geophysical Research Letters in September 2012, documented the phenomenon in Chesapeake Bay, and once again, suggested the Gulf Stream’s possible role.


What makes this new study different is that it includes actual measurements of the Gulf Stream’s flow, from instruments mounted on underwater cables that stretch across the Florida Strait. It also uses satellite altimeter data to document changes in the height of the ocean from one side of the Gulf Stream to the other.


Normally, the northeasterly flow of the stream literally pulls water away from the coast.


“It keeps coastal sea level a meter or a meter and a half lower than the rest of the ocean,” Ezer said. In recent years, however, the satellites show that the midpoint of the Gulf Stream doesn’t have as high an elevation as it used to, and that the edges aren’t quite as low — again, evidence that the stream itself is starting to slow down.


Theory says this is just what should be happening. Ordinarily, the Gulf Stream brings warm surface water from the tropics up along the U.S. coast, and then across to the eastern North Atlantic, where it cools and sinks to the bottom of the sea.


The cold bottom water then flows south to the tropics, where it gradually warms, rises to the surface, and begins flowing north again. This constant flow, which meanders through all of the world’s oceans is sometimes called the global ocean conveyor belt, and the section that operates in the North Atlantic is called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.


In a warming world, two things happen to throw a monkey wrench into the conveyor belt. First, melting ice, mostly from Greenland, dilutes the surface waters where the Gulf Stream reaches its northernmost extent.


Since fresh water is less dense than salty water, the water has a more difficult time sinking to begin its journey southward. Second, the surface water is warmer than it used to be, and since warm water is less dense than cold water, this just adds to the problem.


Put the two together and you start to jam up the works, with the result that the whole conveyor belt slows down. And the water along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. begins to rise at an accelerating rate.


While scientists expect sea level to rise by about 3 feet over the next 90 years or so, in places like New York City and Norfolk, Va., it could be significantly more. New York, where sea level is already a foot higher than it was in 1900, was just reminded of what happens when higher seas are pushed ashore by a major event like Superstorm Sandy.


Add several more feet of sea level to that destructive equation, and the potential destruction is difficult to imagine.



No responses yet

Leave a Reply