Friday, May 24, 2013

Keep telling yourself you're free

It's been a while since I've posted here, in part because I've been too busy getting on with everyday life, but also because it's just too depressing to confront the direction things are heading in this country. To that end, sometimes I feel like I'm stuck in my own Hotel California -- "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." The dream of leaving keeps me going, so I can't let it die.

And if there's anything good about the way things are going, it's that they've rekindled my desire to get out, for the sake of my family as well as myself. I don't want my child growing up in a country that treats her like a suspect for speaking out against her government.

If you listen to our president, he'd tell you there's nothing to worry about. During his commencement speech at Ohio State University, Obama had this to say:
Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.
Without a trace of visible irony, he spoke these words at an event that prohibited attendees from possessing a long list of items, including umbrellas and any type of liquid, including water, as he subjected his audience to an "airport-like security screening."

Keep telling yourself you're free.

Keep telling yourself Obama is protecting you from tyranny. You know -- the guy who has done so much in the name of tolerance, liberty, and free expression lately:
  • The guy on whose watch the IRS began targeting Tea Party groups -- and who now appears to be intimidating people into silence when asked to testify on what happened, in just the latest example of this administration's unprecedented war on whistleblowers. The IRS apparently went as far as asking for reading lists and printouts of Facebook posts.
  • The guy whose Justice Department secretly monitored the phone conversations of dozens of Associated Press reporters, on both their work and personal lines -- presumably to find out who leaked the news of a foiled terrorist plot involving a CIA operation in Yemen. As Chris Hedges says of Obama's attack on whistleblowers and its chilling effect on journalism and freedom of the press: "Talk to any investigative journalist who must investigate the government, and they will tell you that there is a deep freeze. People are terrified of speaking, because they're terrified of going to jail."
  • The guy whose investigators have also targeted Fox News for a leak it didn't like involving a report of further potential nuclear tests in North Korea. The former State Department advisor who gave the news to Fox faces prison time on charges of espionage. As Glenn Greenwald points out, this administration "has prosecuted more government leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined -- in fact, double the number of all such prior prosecutions."
  • The guy whose administration revised its talking points on the Benghazi debacle a dozen times and then warned those coming forward with sensitive information that their careers will be over if they share what they know.
  • The guy who said that if Congress didn't give him new gun restrictions in light of the Sandy Hook shooting, he'd just enact new restrictions by executive order. Why even have a Congress in that case?
  • The guy who signed the Monsanto Protection Act into law, effectively protecting the Frankenfood giant from any kind of federal liability involving its GMO seeds. (This from the guy who campaigned on the promise of pushing for GMO labeling.)
  • The guy whose attorney general denied asylum for an evangelical Christian family from Germany who fled their home country after being fined and faced having their children taken away for homeschooling them. Once upon a time, people being persecuted for their religious beliefs flocked to America for the right to live their lives as their consciences directed them. Not under this administration, which wants to deport the family. The parents face jail time and the loss of their children if forced to return to Germany, but that doesn't matter to Obama and his cronies. If the case makes it to the Supreme Court and the administration wins, it could undermine families' right to homeschool here in the United States. The teachers' unions would just love that.
Elsewhere in America, the entire city of Boston falls under martial law in the search one 19-year-old who (allegedly) detonated a homemade bomb, and the people of Boston cheer it.

Homes were entered without warrants, and there were reports of guns being seized from private citizens and arrest threats being made against people who dared step outside within the epicenter of the search. According to one person, officials asked for permission to search his house, but "he didn't feel like he had much of a choice as the police team had guns pointed at his face."

How "voluntary" does this home search look, as the people inside are led out at gunpoint, hands over their heads, as helicopters buzz overhead and militarized police bark orders at them?

Need any more proof that the Fourth Amendment is effectively dead in this country? And for that you can thank the Patriot Act and NDAA -- and the enemies of liberty in Washington who keep passing these bills, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, who argued against reading the Boston suspect his Miranda rights after he was captured, so that he could be treated as an enemy combatant under NDAA. Keep in mind that the suspect is an American citizen. No matter what he's done, according to the Constitution, he retains the right to due process, even as NDAA and the Patriot Act try to undermine those rights. If you start making exceptions for bad people, there's nothing to stop the government from making exceptions for anyone they choose.

Graham also thought it would have been nifty to have some drones flying around Boston to find the suspect. Of course, despite his desire to turn America into a 24/7 police state, and despite the massive presence of paramilitary forces all over Boston, it took a private citizen walking into his back yard to find the guy. Hilarious. Police State Fail.

There's quite a bit of discussion about whether the entire incident in Boston was a government-orchestrated false flag operation, intended to desensitize people even more than they already have been to military operations on American soil, and to scare them into handing over more of their liberties. A similar discussion arose over the Sandy Hook incident, including the apparent presence of online memorials before the incident occurred, the sighting of a girl in a photo with Obama after she was said to have been killed, and video evidence of a bereaved father smiling and chatting with those around him but then turning on the waterworks as soon as he stepped to the podium to face the cameras. Whether the incidents were staged or not, though, the end result was the same: Americans cowered in fear and demanded to have more of their freedoms taken away in exchange for the promise of safety from the government.

Does the insanity end there? Oh, heavens, no.
  • In California, police beat a man to death and then confiscated the phones of the bystanders who were shooting video of the incident.
  • Also in California, Child Protective Services assaulted the father of a child to gain entry to his house and kidnap an infant from his mother's arms -- all because the parents left a hospital without checking their child out to get a second opinion.
  • Watchdog group is suing the FBI after discovering that it's been under surveillance for years, under the pretense of being a "threat to national security" and a potential agent "of a foreign power."
  • An 18-year-old boy is being held without bail and faces 20 years in prison as a terrorist -- for writing a provocative rap song and posting it online.
  • Libertarian activist Adam Kokesh was arrested at a pro-marijuana rally in Philadelphia. Officers are seen walking right past marijuana smokers and approaching Kokesh, who was not smoking. The original charge appeared to be resisting arrest, which is of course ludicrous: How do you arrest someone for resisting arrest, if you had no other reason to approach the person in the first place? Now the charge has been logged as assaulting a federal officer, which, as video from the event shows, is also ludicrous. Kokesh didn't put up a fight as he was dragged away by his abductors.

    No doubt the order to arrest him came from higher up, as Kokesh is planning an armed march on Washington in July. As if this would stop the march from going on.
  • Buried in a new immigration bill is the establishment of a massive new database "containing names, ages, Social Security numbers, and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver's license or other state-issued photo ID."
  • And perhaps most disturbingly of all, the Pentagon has decreed that the military can descend on the streets of any American city at the president's whim, in the event of "civil disturbances." In other words, the scenes of martial law in Boston could become commonplace. Welcome to Police State USA.
In light of the Obama administration's intimidation of journalists, it was quite a shock to hear one brave reporter step forward and ask Obama's press secretary, point-blank, whether our air strikes that kill Afghan citizens qualify under our own rules as terrorism. After the Boston incident was labeled an act of terrorism, it is indeed hard to tell the difference between one and the other. In Boston, among the dead was an 8-year-old boy. Truly tragic. Yet a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan snuffed out the lives of 11 children in April.  

Apparently, whether you commit an act of terrorism depends on whether it's you or someone else doing the killing. As Pepe Escobar writes:
What's the difference between an alleged -- never conclusively proven -- Chechen-American principally responsible for the Boston bombing and a little Pashtun girl killed by a U.S. drone in Waziristan?

The difference is that the Chechen-American is a terrorist, and the Pashtun girl is not even acknowledged by the Pentagon (and even if she was, she'd go down as "collateral damage").

[ ... ]

When the U.S. -- or "the West" -- kills or "target-assassinates" Muslim civilians, that's never terrorism.

When Muslims supported by "the West" kill other Muslim civilians -- as in Syria -- they are not terrorists; they are Reaganesque "freedom fighters."

When Muslims kill Western soldiers ... they're terrorists.

When Muslims happen to come from regime-changeable Iran and Syria's government, not to mention Hezbollah, they are by definition terrorists.

And when Muslims are lingering in Guantanamo just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time when the U.S. invaded a Muslim country, they remain terrorists -- the umpteenth Obama promise to close Guantanamo notwithstanding.
But the reality is ...
The Bush administration's "Shock and Awe" over Baghdad 10 years ago was Western terrorism inflicted on Iraq's civilian population.

The "Drone Wars" are Western terrorism inflicted on civilian populations from Yemen to Pakistan's tribal areas.

The sanctions packages imposed for years on Iraq and later on Iran are slow-motion Western terrorism inflicted on civilian populations to "prepare" them for regime change. 
Meanwhile "the West" simply won't quit its ability to fabricate more blowbacks.
Obama wiped away nonexistent tears from the outside corner of his eye (last I checked, the tear ducts are on the inside corners) when he took to the podium to exploit the deaths of the children at Sandy Hook to push for gun-control legislation.

But our Nobel Peace Prize winner has no tears for these Afghan children, who were killed by his bombs in the April air strike.

Imagine for a moment one of those children is yours. Then maybe you, unlike our government, can understand why blowback is real. The alleged Boston bomber is claimed to have said that his attack was in retaliation for America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pepe Escobar reports on a new film from journalist Jeremy Scahill in which a Pashtun peasant, looking over the death and destruction around him, says, "If the Americans do this again, we are ready to shed our blood fighting them." 

We bring these problems on ourselves, and we never learn. The answer just continues to be kill, kill, kill, perpetuating a cycle that has no end in sight.

I applaud the bravery of the reporter who challenged the Obama administration on its definition of terrorism. And I also applaud Medea Benjamin of Code Pink for confronting Obama himself during his speech this week offering platitudes and empty promises on the so-called war on terror. But given this administration's track record, especially when it comes to journalists exposing the truth, you have to wonder whether the reporter will ever be heard from again -- and how soon it will be before Medea Benjamin is harassed and threatened into silence.

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