Friday, 22 May 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Feb 09

The UK Nuclear Nightmare - An Awakening

By James McCluskey, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

At last the Armageddon nightmare which is the existence of nuclear arsenals is exploding into the UK's political consciousness. At last the magical word "deterrent" which is supposed to automatically kill dissent it being examined and unmasked as the delusion by which the paranoid silence that still small voice. The voice which says it is a crime against humanity to prepare to incinerate a large part of the world's population and risk triggering a global nuclear war.

It started with the Scottish Independence movement and now the abhorrence of these vile instruments of genocide is manifesting in Wales. In England, the reckless imperial posture in the Westminster bubble has not yet been overthrown. Both Conservatives and Labour want a like-for-like replacement when the existing nuclear fleet ends its working life in the late 2020s, while the Liberal Democrats want to downsize to three submarines! But more and more of the public have other ideas. They want a world ban as has been achieved for the other weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological.

The leak trial of CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling never got near a smoking gun, but the entire circumstantial case was a smokescreen. Prosecutors were hell-bent on torching the defendant to vindicate Operation Merlin, nine years after a book by James Risen reported that it “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.”

That bestselling book, State of War, seemed to leave an indelible stain on Operation Merlin while soiling the CIA’s image as a reasonably competent outfit. The prosecution of Sterling was a cleansing service for the Central Intelligence Agency, which joined with the Justice Department to depict the author and the whistleblower as scurrilous mud-throwers.

Feb 09

Hypermasculinity and World-Ending Weapons

By Winslow Myers, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Escalating tensions in Ukraine raise the concern that the “firebreak” between conventional and the tactical nuclear weapons potentially available to all parties in the conflict could be breached, with unforeseen consequences.

Loren Thompson spelled out in Forbes Magazine how the Ukraine crisis could go nuclear: through faulty intelligence, through the opposed parties sending mixed signals to each other, through looming defeat for either side, or through command breakdown on the battlefield.

Alexandria, VA – Today, four Iraqi victims tortured at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison urged a federal district court to reject attempts by private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) to have their lawsuit for the contractor’s role in their torture dismissed. Attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) argued the case on behalf of their clients.

US military investigators determined that in 2004 CACI’s employees participated in “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  The district court’s 2013 dismissal of the case was overturned in June by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that torture survivors could sue a US corporation involved in torture and other war crimes in US courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).  CACI now argues that the question of whether it can be held accountable for its established role in the torture is a “political question” unreviewable by the courts.  The district court rejected CACI’s initial effort to have the case dismissed as a political question in 2009.

According to the old joke, an 800-pound gorilla sleeps anywhere it wants to. When it comes to the expansion of Too Big To Fail institutions in this country, we now have more than one 800-pound gorilla in the room, and all of them have been gaining weight rapidly since 2007. Far from being tamed in their appetites and slimmed down in their corpulence by remedial legislation, these institutions have been engaged in a financial binge of almost breathless proportions.

To learn more about the five largest financial institutions and their effect on the US Financial System checkout the infographic below created by New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Mary O’Callaghan, an 18-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, will stand trial in mid February of this year for the July 2012 death of 33-year old Aleasia Thomas. Charged with Abuse Under Color of Authority, O’Callaghan possibly faces a maximum of one year in county jail and/or a fine of $10,000 if convicted.

Thomas left her two small children at the 77th Street Division of the Los Angeles Police Department around 2 a.m. the morning of July 22, 2012. The children reportedly had a note with them that said their grandmother should be called.

Last night, members of The Chicago Light Brigade, Project NIA, and Chicago Torture Justice Memorials gathered with friends and allies outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house to demand reparations for acts of torture committed by former police Commander Jon Burge and his “midnight crew.” An ordinance that would provide $20 million in compensation to Burge’s victims has the support of the majority of the city council, but as a matter of political convenience, the measure has been left to languish in the Finance Committee.

Listening to Garett Reppenhagen describe how he felt the first time he shot someone is like listening to an addict talk about their first time injecting heroin. “I leveled my M-4, put him in my iron sights, and took three shots. One of them hit him center mass and he went down in the middle of the road. I had this instant sense of satisfaction, overwhelming excitement and pride. It was really kind of an ecstatic feeling that I had.”

I had just seen the film American Sniper, the revisionist history popcorn propaganda piece of myth making and nationalistic war porn being sold to us by Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, and screenwriter Jason Hall an apolitical character study.  I wanted to talk with an actual American Sniper, and Garett was generous enough to pick up the phone.

Washington, DC – A large and ideologically diverse coalition of civic organizations called upon (PDF) Congress today to approve the “Strengthen House Floor Integrity Resolution,” sponsored by US Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), that would end a special privilege enjoyed by former lawmakers who are now registered lobbyists: access to the US House floor during ceremonial events.

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, approved by Congress in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, applied a ban on access to the House floor for lobbyists to members-turned-lobbyists as well. However, an exemption in both House and Senate rules allows members-turned-lobbyists to access the floor during “ceremonial” events, such as the State of the Union address. At this year’s State of the Union address, at least one former member-turned-lobbyist was prominently featured on national television visiting with colleagues and networking throughout the floor of the House.

Feb 06

The Boehner-Netanyahu Cabal

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Part I - The Historical Precedent

In the spring of 1793, France, then at war with Great Britain, sent a new ambassador to the United States. His name was Edmond Charles Genet (aka Citizen Genet). His instructions were to undermine the neutral position President George Washington had taken in the conflict. To this end Genet, who had the backing of anti-British elements within the American population, went about subverting peace by commissioning American ships to act as privateers against British commercial vessels. He also tried to provoke hostilities between Americans living along the western borders and the Spaniards (then allies of Great Britain) in Florida and Louisiana. This meddling in the internal affairs of the United States was quickly recognized as dangerous, and Washington demanded that France recall Genet.

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Feb 09

The UK Nuclear Nightmare - An Awakening

By James McCluskey, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

At last the Armageddon nightmare which is the existence of nuclear arsenals is exploding into the UK's political consciousness. At last the magical word "deterrent" which is supposed to automatically kill dissent it being examined and unmasked as the delusion by which the paranoid silence that still small voice. The voice which says it is a crime against humanity to prepare to incinerate a large part of the world's population and risk triggering a global nuclear war.

It started with the Scottish Independence movement and now the abhorrence of these vile instruments of genocide is manifesting in Wales. In England, the reckless imperial posture in the Westminster bubble has not yet been overthrown. Both Conservatives and Labour want a like-for-like replacement when the existing nuclear fleet ends its working life in the late 2020s, while the Liberal Democrats want to downsize to three submarines! But more and more of the public have other ideas. They want a world ban as has been achieved for the other weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological.

The leak trial of CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling never got near a smoking gun, but the entire circumstantial case was a smokescreen. Prosecutors were hell-bent on torching the defendant to vindicate Operation Merlin, nine years after a book by James Risen reported that it “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.”

That bestselling book, State of War, seemed to leave an indelible stain on Operation Merlin while soiling the CIA’s image as a reasonably competent outfit. The prosecution of Sterling was a cleansing service for the Central Intelligence Agency, which joined with the Justice Department to depict the author and the whistleblower as scurrilous mud-throwers.

Feb 09

Hypermasculinity and World-Ending Weapons

By Winslow Myers, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Escalating tensions in Ukraine raise the concern that the “firebreak” between conventional and the tactical nuclear weapons potentially available to all parties in the conflict could be breached, with unforeseen consequences.

Loren Thompson spelled out in Forbes Magazine how the Ukraine crisis could go nuclear: through faulty intelligence, through the opposed parties sending mixed signals to each other, through looming defeat for either side, or through command breakdown on the battlefield.

Alexandria, VA – Today, four Iraqi victims tortured at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison urged a federal district court to reject attempts by private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. (CACI) to have their lawsuit for the contractor’s role in their torture dismissed. Attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) argued the case on behalf of their clients.

US military investigators determined that in 2004 CACI’s employees participated in “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  The district court’s 2013 dismissal of the case was overturned in June by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that torture survivors could sue a US corporation involved in torture and other war crimes in US courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).  CACI now argues that the question of whether it can be held accountable for its established role in the torture is a “political question” unreviewable by the courts.  The district court rejected CACI’s initial effort to have the case dismissed as a political question in 2009.

According to the old joke, an 800-pound gorilla sleeps anywhere it wants to. When it comes to the expansion of Too Big To Fail institutions in this country, we now have more than one 800-pound gorilla in the room, and all of them have been gaining weight rapidly since 2007. Far from being tamed in their appetites and slimmed down in their corpulence by remedial legislation, these institutions have been engaged in a financial binge of almost breathless proportions.

To learn more about the five largest financial institutions and their effect on the US Financial System checkout the infographic below created by New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Mary O’Callaghan, an 18-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, will stand trial in mid February of this year for the July 2012 death of 33-year old Aleasia Thomas. Charged with Abuse Under Color of Authority, O’Callaghan possibly faces a maximum of one year in county jail and/or a fine of $10,000 if convicted.

Thomas left her two small children at the 77th Street Division of the Los Angeles Police Department around 2 a.m. the morning of July 22, 2012. The children reportedly had a note with them that said their grandmother should be called.

Last night, members of The Chicago Light Brigade, Project NIA, and Chicago Torture Justice Memorials gathered with friends and allies outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house to demand reparations for acts of torture committed by former police Commander Jon Burge and his “midnight crew.” An ordinance that would provide $20 million in compensation to Burge’s victims has the support of the majority of the city council, but as a matter of political convenience, the measure has been left to languish in the Finance Committee.

Listening to Garett Reppenhagen describe how he felt the first time he shot someone is like listening to an addict talk about their first time injecting heroin. “I leveled my M-4, put him in my iron sights, and took three shots. One of them hit him center mass and he went down in the middle of the road. I had this instant sense of satisfaction, overwhelming excitement and pride. It was really kind of an ecstatic feeling that I had.”

I had just seen the film American Sniper, the revisionist history popcorn propaganda piece of myth making and nationalistic war porn being sold to us by Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, and screenwriter Jason Hall an apolitical character study.  I wanted to talk with an actual American Sniper, and Garett was generous enough to pick up the phone.

Washington, DC – A large and ideologically diverse coalition of civic organizations called upon (PDF) Congress today to approve the “Strengthen House Floor Integrity Resolution,” sponsored by US Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), that would end a special privilege enjoyed by former lawmakers who are now registered lobbyists: access to the US House floor during ceremonial events.

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, approved by Congress in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, applied a ban on access to the House floor for lobbyists to members-turned-lobbyists as well. However, an exemption in both House and Senate rules allows members-turned-lobbyists to access the floor during “ceremonial” events, such as the State of the Union address. At this year’s State of the Union address, at least one former member-turned-lobbyist was prominently featured on national television visiting with colleagues and networking throughout the floor of the House.

Feb 06

The Boehner-Netanyahu Cabal

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Part I - The Historical Precedent

In the spring of 1793, France, then at war with Great Britain, sent a new ambassador to the United States. His name was Edmond Charles Genet (aka Citizen Genet). His instructions were to undermine the neutral position President George Washington had taken in the conflict. To this end Genet, who had the backing of anti-British elements within the American population, went about subverting peace by commissioning American ships to act as privateers against British commercial vessels. He also tried to provoke hostilities between Americans living along the western borders and the Spaniards (then allies of Great Britain) in Florida and Louisiana. This meddling in the internal affairs of the United States was quickly recognized as dangerous, and Washington demanded that France recall Genet.