Friday, January 30, 2015

Dave Mustaine: Fans Don’t Want Chris Broderick + Shawn Drover in Megadeth

Daniel Boczarski, Getty Images










by Chad Childers January 30, 2015 11:42 AM

Megadeth have quite a bit on their plate at the moment as the band seeks to replace two members and turn around a new album within the next year. Frontman Dave Mustaine sat down with Full Metal Jackie for Dean TV at NAMM and dished on some of what’s to come for the band. 

Mustaine spoke in depth about what fans of the band are looking for and how certain lineups have and have not been embraced, stating that really from ‘Rust in Peace’ forward, the fans have not always fully accepted the new players. “Playing in a band together with another person, that’s as close as you’ll get to them without having sex with them. I mean you can’t get any closer to a band member. After that James Lomenzo, James McaDonough, Glen Drover, Shawn Drover, Chris Broderick — all those guys, the fans don’t want those guys in Megadeth.” 

As for the continual lineup changes, the rocker adds, “The reason that guys have been asked to leave or quit is because they decided to turn one direction and the other three wheels are going in a different direction.”

Shawn Drover es.listvote.com
As for new music, the frontman says, “I’m going in the studio March 2 no matter what. It’s set right now, I told the label I’m not making another radio song ever, cause you know that’s what record companies want. It was the bane of Megadeth’s existence. When ‘Countdown’ came out, we had so many radio songs — from ‘Countdown’ to ‘Youthanasia’ to ‘Cryptic’ to ‘Risk’ and down and down and down, it was more radio, radio, radio. I love all those songs, but it’s not what Megadeth fans want to hear. They want to hear ‘The Conjuring,’ ‘Set the World Afire,’ stuff like ‘Devil’s Island,’ ‘Holy Wars’ and ‘Prisoners’ and I get it, I wrote those songs. I can do that in my sleep. But when you’re having someone say, ‘This is what you have to do,’ you know, you listen or you don’t.” 

Mustaine also dished on what’s inspiring him at the moment, adding, “There’s music that I have saved from around ‘Peace Sells’ era, ‘So Far So Good’ era and I listen to it and I’m thinking, ‘How the f— did I play that?’ So I have to put it into a machine and listen and slow it down and scoop out all the noise in the background so I can hear what I was doing cause it’s mind blowing riffing. That is what is exciting for me right now.” 

So there you have it Megadeth fans. Check out more of what Mustaine had to say in the Dean TV interview with Full Metal Jackie posted below. 

http://loudwire.com/megadeth-dave-mustaine-lineup-changes-new-album-inspirations/ 
  https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1422579428&x-yt-cl=85114404&v=2VsgbfndciI

'Good to still see Dave Kicking Ass!!!'

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jury Convicts Former CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling of Leaking to Journalist & Violating Espionage Act

by Kevin Gosztola
Firedoglake.com January 26, 2015


Courtroom sketch of Jeffrey Sterling by Debra Van Poolen. (Credit: www.debvanpoolen.com/)

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been convicted by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, of charges brought against him because the government argued he leaked classified information about a top secret CIA operation in Iran to New York Times reporter James Risen.

Sterling’s case was the first case involving an alleged leak to the press to proceed to a full trial in thirty years. The last case involved Samuel L. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan for leaking photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat.

Notably, Morison’s case was one of the first cases where the Justice Department used the Espionage Act to criminalize a leak. (Morison was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.)
He was initially charged with committing ten felonies, seven of which fall under the Espionage Act. The other charges were mail fraud and obstruction of justice. The mail fraud charge was dismissed by the judge last week before deliberation.

As the Associated Press reported, “On the third day of deliberations, the jurors told the judge that they could not reach a unanimous verdict.” However, hours later, the jury returned with “guilty verdicts” after the judge had “urged them to keep talking.”

Jesselyn Radack, a Justice Department whistleblower, attorney and director of the Government Accountability Project’s National Security and Human Rights Division, reacted, “It is a new low in the war in whistleblowers and government hypocrisy that CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in a purely circumstantial case of ‘leaking.’ It shows how far an embarrassed government will go to punish those who dare to commit the truth.”

There were very few communications between Risen and Sterling presented in court. No emails presented showed the two had ever had communications about classified information or “Operation Merlin,” the top secret CIA operation the government alleged he exposed.
Questions about whether the crimes alleged even occurred in Virginia were raised throughout the trial, since Sterling had been living in O’Fallon, Missouri.

Prosecutors presented documents from 1987 about calling into the CIA from rotary phones, which had been found in Sterling’s home in Missouri, and claimed the retroactively classified documents had been moved from Virginia.

The government also called an FBI investigating officer’s hairdresser to testify about how she had read Risen’s book, State of War, containing the alleged leak from Sterling. Essentially, prosecutors wanted the jury to believe Sterling had conspired to have books with his leak sold in Virginia.
Journalist Marcy Wheeler reported that the issue of venue was one the jury asked Judge Leonie Brinkema about. They wanted to know if obstruction of justice could have taken place in Missouri and if the document at issue in one of the counts could have been stored in his residence. The government had to prove for each offense that the offenses had been committed in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Altogether, these are the offenses that Sterling was convicted of committing, according to Wheeler:
One: Unauthorized disclosure of national defense information — by getting James Risen to publish a book about Merlin and Operation Merlin
Two: Unauthorized disclosure of national defense information — by sharing a letter Merlin sent to the Iranians with James Risen
Three: Unlawful retention of national defense information — by willfully retaining the letter Merlin sent to the Iranians
Four: Unauthorized disclosure of national defense information — by giving Risen the information on Merlin and Operation Merlin
Five: Unauthorized disclosure of national defense information — by giving Risen the letter Merlin sent to the Iranians
Six: Unauthorized disclosure of national defense information — by attempting to get Risen to publish an article on Merlin and Operation Merlin
Seven: Unauthorized disclosure of national defense information — by attempting to get Risen to writen a NYT story on the letter Merlin sent to the Iranians
Nine: Unauthorized conveyance of government property — by conveying classified information worth over $1,000 about Merlin and Operation Merlin to the public
Ten: Obstruction of justice — by deleting a March 10, 2003 email to James Risen with a link to a CNN article on Iran’s nukes sometime between April and July 2006, possibly after being subpoenaed in this case in June 2006 (Sterling was in Missouri at this point)
Sterling will remain free on bond until his sentencing, which is scheduled for April 24. His defense plans to “seek to have the verdict thrown out” and, if that does not happen, they will appeal.
Operation Merlin involved a Russian asset providing flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran. It was an operation that Sterling himself is known to have blown the whistle on internally when he met with two Senate intelligence committee staffers in March 2003.

The defense’s story during the trial was that the leak had probably come from someone on the Senate intelligence committee. The committee apparently refused to cooperate with an investigation into the leak.

Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department has convicted four individuals of violating the Espionage Act by leaking to the press. Former FBI linguist Shamai Leibowitz, former State Department employee Stephen Kim and former FBI agent Donald Sachtleben pled guilty and were sentenced to prison. US military whistleblower Chelsea Manning was convicted after a military trial of several Espionage Act violations.

It has prosecuted more cases accusing government employees of Espionage Act violations than all previous presidents combined. Many of the individuals pursued were involved in acts of whistleblowing before they became targets of a criminal investigation.

Sterling, an African-American, brought a racial claim against the CIA before he was accused of leaking. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court in 2005, however, the government successfully had the case thrown out by invoking the “state secrets” privilege.

His own performance reviews were considered “state secrets.” Stunningly, Wheeler reported that in the trial the government was using these exact same performance reviews to convict Sterling and the jury was not permitted to know about this fact.

The government used Sterling’s loss in his lawsuit against the CIA to argue that he disclosed “Operation Merlin” in revenge.

What will likely be most remembered about Sterling’s case is how the government relentlessly pursued Risen for about seven years before buckling under pressure and deciding they would not force him to testify against his alleged source.

Collateral damage was done to journalism in the process of the government’s leak prosecution. The government collected records from Risen’s personal and professional communications, which significantly impacted his ability to do his job as a reporter.

The prosecution of Sterling once more solidified the government’s ability to wield the Espionage Act as a sledgehammer to come down hard on government employees, who dare to challenge the government’s intelligence or “national security” programs by disclosing information to the press.

----------------------

The government's case was flimsy. "The government used Sterling’s loss in his lawsuit against the CIA to argue that he disclosed “Operation Merlin” in revenge." is as bad as if Sterling accused the government of prosecuting him in revenge for suing the CIA for wrongful dismissal.

The photo above was copied from The Invisible Man: Jeffrey Sterling, CIA Whistleblower —an excellent article in its own right.

James Risen on Democracy Now January 7, 2015:

10 Prison Security Techniques Being Implemented on the American People

by Marlon Brock
From Police State USA
February 11, 2014

Americans are not typically aware of how their federal and state prison systems work. What we think we know, we learned from watching television. When I took my first walk through at FCI (Federal Correctional Institution) El Reno Oklahoma as a new employee, I was surprised at how non-Hollywood real prison life is. Frankly, all I knew about prison life was what I saw on television or at the movies. Not even close.

As I got closer to retiring from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP), it began to dawn on me that the security practices we used in the prison system were being implemented outside those walls. “Free worlders” is prison slang for the non-incarcerated who reside in the “free world.”  In this article I am going to compare a number of practices used in federal prisons to those being used today in the “free world.”

You might find that our country may be one giant correctional institution.

Cameras & Movement Tracking

(Source: Joern Haufe / Getty Images)
(Source: Joern Haufe / Getty Images)

In federal prisons, cameras are everywhere. The reason, of course, is to help maintain security and keep track of prisoners. Inmates know that if they break any rules or policies, they can be readily identified if the event occurred in view of a camera. The cameras remind the inmates that they do not have any freedom or privacy, and that they live under total control.
Unfortunately, the “free world” is now subject to the widespread use of video surveillance and movement tracking.  This goes beyond cameras, which have become virtually ubiquitous now.  The federal government has been handing out grants to create sophisticated surveillance grids in cities across the country.

These surveillance grids frequently include license plate readers — some with the ability to log 1,200 license plates per hour, logging timestamps and location data — giving the government a way to track people and analyze their movement patterns.  Some cities post license plate readers to log every single vehicle that enters or leaves its boundaries.   Many cities have turned their police cars into roving data collectors by outfitting them with mobile license plate scanners.   A man from California discovered that he had been photographed 112 times over the course of a couple years — from just one police cruiser mounted with a license plate scanner!  The local databases of movement data are integrated with the federal government through its fusion centers located all over the country.
The government also has the ability to use facial-recognition software in conjunction with its surveillance grid to instantly identify individuals by comparing their photograph to biometric databases created using BMV photographs.  Facial recognition cameras can be set up to accurately identify a person against a database of millions of images in less than one second.  The government can then potentially log their locations and using the data for any purpose it wants.

As the usage of these technologies grows, the “authorities” will practically know where you are at any time.  The British have the greatest level of electronic surveillance in the world.  Their movements are said to be recorded 3,000 times a week.   The United States is not that far behind.  In some ways, with the numerous NSA spying programs, the USA leads the world in destroying personal privacy.  Today’s youngest generation will grow up never knowing what privacy is.

 

Drug Testing

(Source: Maritime Med)
(Source: Maritime Med)

The federal prison inmate drug abuse monitoring program has been going on for decades since the capability was invented.  At any time, a prisoner can be tested for intoxicants using urine, sweat, saliva, and hair samples taken by force.  After years of perfecting the process on inmates, it was introduced to the American public.

On September 15, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12564, establishing the goal of a Drug-Free Federal Workplace. Additionally, in 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) finalized a new rule that allows federal agencies to use sweat, saliva and hair in federal drug testing programs that only tested urine.  Since then, many private businesses and corporations had to begin testing their employees in order to keep or obtain federal contracts. Under federal guidelines for employee testing, if a person takes medicine that was not prescribed to him, he has committed a federal drug abuse offense and may be fired.  Children in public schools are also subjected to involuntary random drug testing.

The inmates were the guinea pigs for a program now being regularly employed on Americans.  This process conditions Americans to be accustomed to regularly submitting bodily fluid samples to the government, lessening their resistance to data collection and intrusion in other areas.

 

Metal Detection & Weapon Confiscation


In prison, detection and confiscation of weapons is a necessity.  Prisoners cannot be allowed the freedom to possess objects that could potentially be used to cause harm to others.  The security of the facility relies on the prisoners remaining disarmed.

With that said, not even prisons can be guaranteed to be weapon free.  Inmates are clever, and can fashion any piece of metal into a makeshift weapon.  They are also prolific smugglers.  To mitigate this risk, prisoners and visitors are put through metal detector checkpoints to keep them disarmed.  Any metallic contraband is confiscated.

Treating prisoners this way is one thing.  In a prison setting, security trumps liberty.  The liberties of the inmates have been curtailed through due process on an individual basis.  But these prison tactics have crept out into the “free world.”  Now, virtually all government buildings use metal detectors to screen incoming visitors and even their own personnel.  This establishes a climate of fear of weapons and a false sense of security among those within such “weapon free zones.”  If a prison can’t proclaim to be weapon free, how can any place outside of prison make such arrogant and naive claims?

 

Crowd Control

(Source: Nigel Parry)
(Source: Nigel Parry)

Helmets, face shields, batons, knee guards, tear gas, wedge formations, line formations, half steps, full steps, pinning tactics — all of these phrases are associated with prison crowd control. As I look at today’s police and how they attempt crowd control it reminds me of my days in federal prison as the Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) leader. The HNT worked closely with the Special Operations and Response Team (SORT) on both monthly local training and annual training at Fort Gruber in Muskogee Oklahoma. SORT membership is selective and highly practiced.  The teams must be familiar with hand signals and verbal commands, as well as certain maneuvers that are often referred to as “stomp and drag.”  These tactics are designed to help quell disturbances — the FBOP word for “riot” — by forcing inmates in the direction that SORT wants them to move.  This training takes place monthly for SORT members and annually for the rest of the FBOP staff.

The next time you see police engaged in crowd control on television you are watching what was perfected by prisons official through years of practice and real life action.  I participated in five disturbances.  After observing law enforcement agencies dress up in intimidating riot suits and mimic the behavior of SORT, it is clear that police are using prison tactics to intimidate and control civilian protesters.

 

Checkpoints & Random Pat Searches


In federal prison, all inmates are subject to an immediate pat search by any staff member, anywhere, at any time. If the inmate refuses, he or she is “arrested,” which entails being cuffed and escorted to administrative segregation — otherwise known as the jail within the jail.  The pat search is used to detect contraband.   All inmates returning from industrial work programs in medium and low security institutions are pat searched and metal detected before being allowed to return to their dorm.  Additionally, inmates in medium and low security institutions are pat searched when they leave food service or the “chow hall.”  In high and maximum security institutions, inmates are pat searched every time they move.  Movement in these institutions is highly controlled.

Compare this to police roadblocks and checkpoints used to perform warrantless searches for contraband.  When a person is stopped by city, county, or state police, they are visually inspected, asked questions concerning their activities, and may be asked to submit to a vehicle or personal search.  At federal roadblocks, a subject can be directed to a secondary search area at the discretion of the observing officer.  There, the person can be searched for contraband regardless of any objections, just like in a federal prison. There are dozens of federal roadblocks on roads in the southwestern United States, many of them permanent and located up to 100 miles away from the border.
It isn’t just drivers being put through such intrusion.  There is also the matter of “stop and frisk” searches which are taking place in several areas of the country.  These intrusive stops involve the stopping of a pedestrian for any reason, followed by being subjected to a police officer’s questioning and a warrantless search of their pockets, purses, bags, and property — just like a prisoner.

 

Mail Surveillance

(Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
(Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Every piece of mail sent to an inmate in federal prison is opened, searched, and may be read depending on the dictates from the institutions intelligence office.  In medium and high security institutions, all mail is delivered to the unit officer unsealed so that it can be read before being delivered to the mail room.  Inmate mail  is controlled and may be copied if it is determined that there is possible criminal activity being discussed either blatantly or in code.  If something is detected it may be rejected and returned to the inmate if it violates policy.   Two examples of “rejected correspondence” are an inmate’s attempt to conduct unapproved business, or writing another inmate without permission.

Recent revelations have made it clear that Americans’ mail is being surveilled as well. The New York Times reported on how the United States Postal Service uses a “Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program” to create a permanent record of who is corresponding with each other via snail mail.  The program — secretly established in 2001 and not revealed for over a decade — assists the government in implementing blanket surveillance of every single resident of the United States.  Each piece of physical mail is photographed and stored in a database.  Law enforcement has unfettered access to this data without even the requirement of obtaining a warrant.  About 160 billion pieces of mail end up being recorded per year.

 

Telephone Monitoring

Is the NSA listening to your phone calls?

Is the NSA listening to your phone calls?

For decades the FBOP has possessed the capability to monitor outgoing telephone calls. However, their system required staff to sit and listen to the calls which took staff away from direct supervision of inmates. In the early 2000s, a new system was put in place that allowed any and every phone in an institution to be immediately monitored and the call recorded.

Just like in a federal prison, the NSA has the capability to track and monitor anyone’s phone conversations without recourse.  The agency can monitor text messages.  They can collect locations, times, and a log of every phone number that has been dialed by any phone in the United States.  The government can set up fake base stations to intercept phone calls.  They can hack the applications on a person’s smart phone and spy on their usage.  The NSA can even crack cellphone encryption.
Unlike the inmates who have no choice in the matter of telephone monitoring, the American people have been told about the spying but have decided not to do anything about it.

 

Lockdowns

National Guard soldiers lock down city streets in Boston. April 2013.  (Source: Jesse Costa / WBUR)
National Guard soldiers lock down city streets in Boston. April 2013. (Source: Jesse Costa / WBUR)

When a correctional institution has its daily operations disturbed, often times it results in a lockdown. Lockdowns usually occur after a disturbance, weather concerns, inmate escapes, rumors of a disturbance about to occur, rumored escape attempts, and institution wide searches are some reasons to lockdown.

The most notable “free world” lockdown in recent memory occurred in Boston, Massachusetts. This lockdown mirrors a federal prison lockdown that is called when the entire institution is to be searched. That is exactly what occurred in Boston. In April 2013 the Boston suburb of Watertown was locked down to the point where no one could enter or leave the town, while 9,000 law enforcement personnel and military took part in searching just about every backpack, vehicle, and home that they could get away with.

Some of the searches were voluntary, but many were not.  As SWAT teams performed systematic house-to-house searches, videos were captured of families being ripped from their home without a warrant so the police could help themselves to the inside of their homes.  What resulted had the look of prisoners being removed from their cells by a SORT unit.  Watch for yourself:
The Watertown lockdown was practice for future declarations of martial law. Those tactics had been used and perfected in our prison systems for years. Now the “free world” is getting the prison treatment with little objection from the public.  The lockdown was not necessary and served mostly to measure the public’s reaction and to establish a sense of fear and intimidation. I think it worked.

 

Snitching

Homeland Security propaganda poster. (Source: DHS.gov)
Homeland Security propaganda poster. (Source: DHS.gov)

The last thing I want to mention is what I call the “Moscow Law.” While growing up during the cold war, I was taught that in the USSR, people were expected to watch their neighbors, strangers, and even family and friends, and report any suspicious activity to the local police. We in America have that law. Read it below. Did you know it exists?
 Title 18 U.S.C. § 4:  Misprision of felony: Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
In prison, there are “snitches” everywhere.  Believe me, they are not just the inmates, they are also staff.  Programs like Infragard are attempting to do the same thing in the “free world” as it is in the imprisoned world.  Once these programs get started, they are almost impossible to stop.  What are we paying our law enforcement to do?  Protect us or detect us?  You decide.

Policy and program statements from the Bureau of Prisons are available at: http://www.bop.gov/

Monday, January 26, 2015

Killing Ragheads for Jesus

by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com

“American Sniper” lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is left of our now-anemic open society.

The movie opens with a father and his young son hunting a deer. The boy shoots the animal, drops his rifle and runs to see his kill.

“Get back here,” his father yells. “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy answers.

 “That was a helluva shot, son,” the father says. “You got a gift. You gonna make a fine hunter some day.”

The camera cuts to a church interior where a congregation of white Christians—blacks appear in this film as often as in a Woody Allen movie—are listening to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians. The film’s title character, based on Chris Kyle, who would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, will, it appears from the sermon, be called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers. The scene shifts to the Kyle family dining room table as the father intones in a Texas twang: “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators.”
The camera cuts to a schoolyard bully beating a smaller boy.

“They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.”

The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.

“I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”

There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe trouble for their country. “American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a record-breaking $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom of the United States’ dark malaise.

“The movie never asks the seminal question as to why the people of Iraq are fighting back against us in the very first place,” said Mikey Weinstein, whom I reached by phone in New Mexico. Weinstein, who worked in the Reagan White House and is a former Air Force officer, is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which challenges the growing Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military. “It made me physically ill with its twisted, totally one-sided distortions of wartime combat ethics and justice woven into the fabric of Chris Kyle’s personal and primal justification mantra of ‘God-Country-Family.’ It is nothing less than an odious homage, indeed a literal horrific hagiography to wholesale slaughter.”

Weinstein noted that the embrace of extreme right-wing Christian chauvinism, or Dominionism, which calls for the creation of a theocratic “Christian” America, is especially acute among elite units such as the SEALs and the Army Special Forces.

The evildoers don’t take long to make an appearance in the film. This happens when television—the only way the movie’s characters get news—announces the 1998 truck bombings of the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in which hundreds of people were killed. Chris, now grown, and his brother, aspiring rodeo riders, watch the news reports with outrage. Ted Koppel talks on the screen about a “war” against the United States.

“Look what they did to us,” Chris whispers.

He heads down to the recruiter to sign up to be a Navy SEAL. We get the usual boot camp scenes of green recruits subjected to punishing ordeals to make them become real men. In a bar scene, an aspiring SEAL has painted a target on his back and comrades throw darts into his skin. What little individuality these recruits have—and they don’t appear to have much—is sucked out of them until they are part of the military mass. They are unquestioningly obedient to authority, which means, of course, they are sheep.

We get a love story too. Chris meets Taya in a bar. They do shots. The movie slips, as it often does, into clich├ęd dialogue.

She tells him Navy SEALs are “arrogant, self-centered pricks who think you can lie and cheat and do whatever the fuck you want. I’d never date a SEAL.”

“Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks. “I’d lay down my life for my country.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s the greatest country on earth and I’d do everything I can to protect it,” he says.

She drinks too much. She vomits. He is gallant. He helps her home. They fall in love. Taya is later shown watching television. She yells to Chris in the next room.

“Oh, my God, Chris,” she says.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“No!” she yells.

Then we hear the television announcer: “You see the first plane coming in at what looks like the east side. …”

Chris and Taya watch in horror. Ominous music fills the movie’s soundtrack. The evildoers have asked for it. Kyle will go to Iraq to extract vengeance. He will go to fight in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a country that columnist Thomas Friedman once said we attacked “because we could.” The historical record and the reality of the Middle East don’t matter. Muslims are Muslims. And Muslims are evildoers or, as Kyle calls them, “savages.” Evildoers have to be eradicated.

Chris and Taya marry. He wears his gold Navy SEAL trident on the white shirt under his tuxedo at the wedding. His SEAL comrades are at the ceremony. 

“Just got the call, boys—it’s on,” an officer says at the wedding reception.

The Navy SEALs cheer. They drink. And then we switch to Fallujah. It is Tour One. Kyle, now a sniper, is told Fallujah is “the new Wild West.” This may be the only accurate analogy in the film, given the genocide we carried out against Native Americans. He hears about an enemy sniper who can do “head shots from 500 yards out. They call him Mustafa. He was in the Olympics.”

Kyle’s first kill is a boy who is handed an anti-tank grenade by a young woman in a black chador. The woman, who expresses no emotion over the boy’s death, picks up the grenade after the boy is shot and moves toward U.S. Marines on patrol. Kyle kills her too. And here we have the template for the film and Kyle’s best-selling autobiography, “American Sniper.” Mothers and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child. They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid of human qualities.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls,” Kyle says nonchalantly after shooting the child and the woman. He is resting on his cot with a big Texas flag behind him on the wall. “Mother gives him a grenade, sends him out there to kill Marines.”

Enter The Butcher—a fictional Iraqi character created for the film. Here we get the most evil of the evildoers. He is dressed in a long black leather jacket and dispatches his victims with an electric drill. He mutilates children—we see a child’s arm he amputated. A local sheik offers to betray The Butcher for $100,000. The Butcher kills the sheik. He murders the sheik’s small son in front of his mother with his electric drill. The Butcher shouts: “You talk to them, you die with them.”
Kyle moves on to Tour Two after time at home with Taya, whose chief role in the film is to complain through tears and expletives about her husband being away. Kyle says before he leaves: “They’re savages. Babe, they’re fuckin’ savages.”

He and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”

“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to fuck with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherfucker.
The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated by violence. He is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but he notes that to be confirmed a kill had to be witnessed, “so if I shot someone in the stomach and he managed to crawl around where we couldn’t see him before he bled out he didn’t count.”

Kyle insisted that every person he shot deserved to die. His inability to be self-reflective allowed him to deny the fact that during the U.S. occupation many, many innocent Iraqis were killed, including some shot by snipers. Snipers are used primarily to sow terror and fear among enemy combatants. And in his denial of reality, something former slaveholders and former Nazis perfected to an art after overseeing their own atrocities, Kyle was able to cling to childish myth rather than examine the darkness of his own soul and his contribution to the war crimes we carried out in Iraq. He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family, his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and sentimentality is not accidental. 

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel,” James Baldwin reminded us. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” He labels Iraqis “fanatics” and writes “they hated us because we weren’t Muslims.” He claims “the fanatics we fought valued nothing but their twisted interpretation of religion.”

“I never once fought for the Iraqis,” he wrote of our Iraqi allies. “I could give a flying fuck about them.”

He killed an Iraqi teenager he claimed was an insurgent. He watched as the boy’s mother found his body, tore her clothes and wept. He was unmoved.

He wrote: “If you loved them [the sons], you should have kept them away from the war. You should have kept them from joining the insurgency. You let them try and kill us—what did you think would happen to them?

“People back home [in the U.S.], people who haven’t been in war, at least not that war, sometimes don’t seem to understand how the troops in Iraq acted,” he went on. “They’re surprised—shocked—to discover we often joked about death, about things we saw.”

He was investigated by the Army for killing an unarmed civilian. According to his memoir, Kyle, who viewed all Iraqis as the enemy, told an Army colonel: “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” The investigation went nowhere.

Kyle was given the nickname “Legend.” He got a tattoo of a Crusader cross on his arm. “I wanted everyone to know I was a Christian. I had it put in red, for blood. I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” he wrote. “I always will.” Following a day of sniping, after killing perhaps as many as six people, he would go back to his barracks to spent his time smoking Cuban Romeo y Julieta No. 3 cigars and “playing video games, watching porn and working out.” On leave, something omitted in the movie, he was frequently arrested for drunken bar fights. He dismissed politicians, hated the press and disdained superior officers, exalting only the comradeship of warriors. His memoir glorifies white, “Christian” supremacy and war. It is an angry tirade directed against anyone who questions the military’s elite, professional killers.

“For some reason, a lot of people back home—not all people—didn’t accept that we were at war,” he wrote. “They didn’t accept that war means death, violent death, most times. A lot of people, not just politicians, wanted to impose ridiculous fantasies on us, hold us to some standard of behavior that no human being could maintain.”

The enemy sniper Mustafa, portrayed in the film as if he was a serial killer, fatally wounds Kyle’s comrade Ryan “Biggles” Job.  In the movie Kyle returns to Iraq—his fourth tour—to extract revenge for Biggles’ death. This final tour, at least in the film, centered on the killing of The Butcher and the enemy sniper, also a fictional character. As it focuses on the dramatic duel between hero Kyle and villain Mustafa the movie becomes ridiculously cartoonish.

Kyle gets Mustafa in his sights and pulls the trigger. The bullet is shown leaving the rifle in slow motion. “Do it for Biggles,” someone says. The enemy sniper’s head turns into a puff of blood.
“Biggles would be proud of you,” a soldier says. “You did it, man.”

His final tour over, Kyle leaves the Navy. As a civilian he struggles with the demons of war and becomes, at least in the film, a model father and husband and works with veterans who were maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He trades his combat boots for cowboy boots.

The real-life Kyle, as the film was in production, was shot dead at a shooting range near Dallas on Feb. 2, 2013, along with a friend, Chad Littlefield. A former Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, who had been suffering from PTSD and severe psychological episodes, allegedly killed the two men and then stole Kyle’s pickup truck. Routh will go on trial next month. The film ends with scenes of Kyle’s funeral procession—thousands lined the roads waving flags—and the memorial service at the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium. It shows fellow SEALs pounding their tridents into the top of his coffin, a custom for fallen comrades. Kyle was shot in the back and the back of his head.  Like so many people he dispatched, he never saw his killer when the fatal shots were fired.

The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood. Brutal hazing, as Kyle noted in his book, was an integral part of becoming a Navy SEAL. New SEALs would be held down and choked by senior members of the platoon until they passed out. The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders. This sentimentality, as Baldwin wrote, masks a terrifying numbness. It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman. “American Sniper” caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Forget the McDonnells. We’re ignoring bigger, more pernicious corruption right under our noses.

By Janine R. Wedel
From The Washington Post

Last week, former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison for accepting lavish vacations, sweetheart loans, and an engraved Rolex from an executive of a dietary supplement maker. His wife will be sentenced next month.
The pair seems like the poster children of corruption. But their bad behavior pales in comparison with the activities of those who practice what I call the “new corruption.” These players — some of them big names, some of them virtual unknowns — violate our health, pocketbooks, our trust. Their actions compromise our health, pocketbooks, or security and can lead to deep and lasting inequalities.
And their behavior is typically legal, making it next to impossible to hold them to account.
This new corruption is practiced by elite power brokers who assume a tangle of roles in government, business, nonprofits, and media organizations. These developments have offered up many new opportunities for private players to assume public roles, with elite power brokers taking full advantage.

They are enmeshed in the systemic unaccountability that has come to flourish over the past several decades amid privatization, deregulation, the end of the Cold War, and the digital age. These developments have offered up many new opportunities for private players to assume public roles, with elite power brokers taking full advantage. Of course, while not everyone with a jumble of roles is ethically challenged or corrupt, in today’s environment, we, the public, have an information problem. How can we know whom to trust when “experts” pronounce on crucial policy issues and present themselves as impartial, while concealing that they have a dog in the fight?
Compare the McDonnells’s shenanigans with the activities of so-called Key Opinion Leaders. These and other prominent physicians or medical researchers are paid or given perks by pharmaceutical and medical device companies to promote their products to fellow professionals (at the high end one reportedly took in upward of $7 million over five months)
ProPublica investigators dug into the Open Payments Web site, launched in September 2014, as mandated by the 2010 Physician Payment Sunshine Act. They found that between August and December 2013, pharmaceutical and medical device companies spent $3.5 billion on 546,000 physicians and 1,360 teaching hospitals. Of that $3.5 billion, $202.6 million was spent on promotional speaking engagements, $158.2 million for consulting fees, and $25.5 million for honoraria.
Our own doctors may be unaware when their own judgment has been swayed by a KOL. Bioethicist Carl Elliott of the University of Minnesota put it this way:
If a company can manage the discourse effectively, it can establish the desperate need for its drug, spin clinical-trial results to its advantage, downplay the side effects of a drug, neutralize its critics, and play up the drug’s off-label uses … Virtually all physicians are on the receiving end of this communication.
Or consider the activities of 19 top academic economists tracked by a University of Massachusetts Amherst study. These economists promoted specific financial reform proposals in the media and advised governmental bodies such as congressional committees in the run-up to and just after the 2008 financial crisis — without disclosing their links to private financial institutions.
According to the study, the “vast majority of the time, the economists did not identify these affiliations and possible conflicts of interest.” While they surely weren’t paid for these appearances in an old-fashioned quid-pro-quo way, their failure to disclose their ties to financial institutions while touting reforms that align with the interests of those institutions is a major violation of our trust. 
Consider, too, retired generals and admirals who advise military agencies or sit on advisory boards like the Air Force Studies Board, the Defense Science Board, or the Defense Business Board, soaking up insider information. Too often, these generals simultaneously serve as consultants to defense and intelligence contractors.

These officers can put the information gleaned in their government roles to use in their other roles, they can do so in a way that makes it very difficult for us to know what motivates their decision making, let alone whether they are pushing a project that may even compromise national interests.
It’s a dangerous trend. The Boston Globe amassed a database of 750 retired generals and admirals and found that, over the past several decades, these officers went mostly from actual retirement — that is, they stopped working when they retired from military service — to mostly continued “service.”

According to the Globe, “from 2004 to 2008, 80 percent of [these] retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives … That compares with less than 50 percent who followed that path a decade earlier, from 1994 to 1998.”
As Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a West Point graduate, expressed to the Globe’s Bryan Bender:
When I was an officer in the 1970s, most general officers went off to some sunny place and retired … Now the definition of success … is to move on and become successful in the business world.
These generals and admirals, like other high fliers mentioned here, no doubt believe they can police themselves. Many likely don’t consider the unaccountability inherent in their overlapping roles. And they’re mostly not bad apples. But their patterns of activity leave us, the public, without crucial information and no easy way to untangle their roles. How can we know whether they are more concerned about their own agendas, or ours?
* * *
Also concerning are the players I call “shadow lobbyists.” Shadow lobbyists are often former top government officials who advocate for wealthy clients. Some join top legal-lobby shops. But to skirt lobbyist registration rules, they spread their client list far and wide, so that they can say they don’t spend most of their time on just one client. Or they give their contacts and know-how to underlings who are registered. Other shadow lobbyists set up their own consulting groups. 
Many appear in the media as “experts,” nearly always identified by their former public service titles, even if they get paid huge sums in the service of an unrevealed client. And they’re unregulated and difficult to trace.

So prevalent have their activities become that shadow lobbyists may be giving registered ones a run for their money.  The number of registered lobbyists fell by nearly 25 percent from 2007 to 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. As Dan Auble of the center writes:
More than 46 percent of lobbyists who were active in 2011 but not in 2012 continue to work for the same employers, suggesting that many have simply avoided the reporting limits while still contributing to lobbying efforts.
The American League of Lobbyists even decided in 2103 to change its name to the more innocuous “Association of Government Relations Professionals.”

A-list public relations firms (as well as legal-lobbying firms) are also getting into the act. They take business from unsavory regimes such as Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya to burnish their images — activity that, in the past, might have been seen as treasonous.

This activity is considered so serious that anyone engaged in it in the United States is required to register with the Department of Justice as a “foreign agent.” Yet we see cases where some firms simply don’t register, and among those that do, disclosure often fails to convey the whole picture and is well after the fact.  One firm employs “all sorts of dark arts” (their words) on the Internet: editing Wikipedia entries deemed damaging; setting up third-party blogs that also appear independent; and gaming search results to ensure that positive content outweighs negative content.  Such efforts sway public perception and mold policy yet are virtually invisible even to a trained observer.
More and more, the modus operandi of these players seems to be that’s the way things are done.  Their “corruption” is elusive, hard to detect — and entirely legal.  And while they betray our trust in ways far more insidious than the McDonnells, they’ll never see the inside of a prison cell.

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I was fortunate to "discover" Janine R. Wedel on Flashpoints — a Pacifica Radio program. One can listen to listen to her here: http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/110585

Also, her books:




 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chauncey DeVega Discusses the Paris Terror Attacks and White Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism on the RT Network


Reposted from ChaunceyDeVega.com
 
Last night, I was invited to appear on The Big Picture which airs on the RT Network, Free Speech TV, and also online, to discuss the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks and Right-wing terrorism by white Christians.

I said "yes".

Why?

The American media has done the public a great disservice by limiting the frame to a discussion of terrorism by people who happen to be Muslim. Of course, politicized Islam is directly connected to the terror attacks in Paris, the United States, and other parts of the world--the wickedness of Boko Haram's rapine and savage acts in Nigeria are tragic low points that also demand more discussion by the American news media.

But, the Paris terror attacks must be understood within a broader context of geopolitics, the limits of toleration, the challenges of multiculturalism, and other related matters. Bogeymen with Korans make for good copy and TV soundbites; bogeymen with Korans are distracting images that keep us from understanding the systemic forces that urge them on.

Islamic terrorists must be eliminated with all due force. The swamp that creates radicalized religion must be drained. Its believers should be reeducated and retrained.

In all, terrorism is terrorism regardless of the ethnic or racial backgrounds of the perpetrators. To point, white Right-wing Christian domestic terrorists are the biggest threat to public safety and security in post 9-11 America. The American people are unlikely to hear that fact stated plainly and directly by the corporate "mainstream" news media.

I had an opportunity to make a small intervention and corrective in that regard on RT network's show The Big Picture. I felt obligated to take it.

There are a few moments where the editing of the guest spot makes me look like The Wizard of Oz or a gigantic negro (extra points for folks who get the reference). Those are small concerns. I think that Mike Papantonio, the guest host, did a good job and I tried my best to communicate clearly and directly.

As always, do share any thoughts, suggestions, insights, or related thoughts on the segment if you are so inclined.