Friday, April 18, 2014

US GITMO Detainee Killed in Syria While Leading NATO-backed Death Squad

The Long War Journal reported in its post, “Former Guantanamo detainee killed while leading jihadist group in Syria,” that:
Ibrahim Bin Shakaran, a Moroccan who spent more than three years at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility before being released to Moroccan custody, has been killed while leading a jihadist group that fights Syrian government forces.
Bin Shakaran, who is also known as Abu Ahmad al Maghribi, Abu Ahmad al Muhajir, and Brahim Benchekroune, was “martyred, Insha’Allah, in battles for Hilltop # 45 in Latakia,” according to Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.

Bin Shakaran led a jihadist group known as Sham al Islam, which is based in Latakia and is comprised primarily of fighters from Morocco, according to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Bin Shakaran created the group “not only to recruit fighters for the Syria war, but also to establish a jihadist organization within Morocco itself.” 
Sham al Islam has been fighting alongside the al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, as well as Ahrar al Sham and the Army of the Emigrants and Supporters in an ongoing offensive in the coastal province of Latakia.
Curiously absent from The Long War Journal’s report is any mention of how Bin Shakaran made it into northern Syria in the first place. Clearly this is because it would involve mentioning Turkey, a long-standing NATO member, with NATO being the organization that invaded and occupied Afghanistan, and whom Bin Shakaran had been fighting and ultimately fled from before being captured. 

The Long War Journal also makes mention of the Kavkaz Center, calling it “a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.” Only the Kavkaz Center had been backed by the now defunct US National Endowment for Democracy-funded ”Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.” While The Long War Journal poses as a stalwart fighter of terrorism, its Western-backed counterpart, the Kavkaz Center is promoting terrorism in Russia.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FBI Visiting Gun Shops to Investigate "People talking about Big Government"

In keeping with the tradition of the FBI’s position on gun rights, it appears the Bureau is working overdrive to monitor and harass gun owners and the gun shops that sell to them.

While government surveillance of gun purchases and gun owners is nothing new, a recent visit by an FBI Counterterrorism agent to a Columbia, South Carolina gun shop has only reinforced the knowledge that the U.S. government is growing more and more concerned by the prospect of a well-armed populace – particularly one that prefers to live without constant government interference in their personal lives.

While the narrative surrounding “counterterrorism” operations used to eviscerate civil liberties after 9/11 was initially based upon the threat of Muslim fundamentalists, that narrative has clearly shifted to a focus on gun owning, law-abiding American citizens - both those who are politically active and those who are blissfully ignorant of current events.

For many, this shift of focus has been quite the surprise. Thus, when the Columbia, South Carolina gun shop in question was approached by an FBI counterterrorism agent on Monday, April 14, the individuals who spoke with him were somewhat alarmed to realize that the agent's concern was not fundamentalist Muslims but Americans who promote small government.

According to an individual who was present during the visit (this person will remain anonymous for obvious reasons), the agent pulled up in a regular vehicle in plain clothes and took a look around the shop as if he were considering a purchase before approaching the staff and announcing that he was with the FBI Counterterrorism unit.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Washington, the Great Betrayer

The US government’s attempt to utilize social media in an effort to subvert the Cuban government dramatizes how and why such efforts are not only doomed to failure, but also why they have nothing whatsoever to do with the cause of liberty. Last month, the Associated Press exposed the provenance of Zunzuneo, a Cuban version of Twitter that was covertly originated, run, and financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a US government agency that supposedly engages in "humanitarian" work around the world – but which has a long history of functioning as a key cog in Washington’s regime-change machine.

The plan was to create a platform using non-controversial non-political content – at first – to lure in a substantial audience, and gradually introduce political messages which would create "smart mobs" that would – unknowingly – do Washington’s bidding. The key word here is unknowingly – deception was the methodology of these social media "entrepreneurs," who hid the origins of the service using a series of front companies registered in the Cayman Islands. A USAID document cited by AP defined the project as aiming to "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society." In reality, however, the aim was to renegotiate the balance of power between the Cuban government and Washington, giving the latter an advantage in its efforts to manipulate the Cuban people and eventually install a regime more favorable to the US.

That, at least, was the ostensible goal. But if we look at what really happened with this "cockamamie" project – as Sen. Patrick Leahy dubbed it – even this is called into question.

The idea was to set up a text messaging system that would enable Cubans to communicate with one another cheaply. In order to disguise the source of the messages, Creative Associates, described in the AP piece as a "Washington, D.C., for-profit company that has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts," would set up "mirrors" around the world to mask the source. They went to great lengths to disguise the effort as a commercial enterprise, using phony ads to convey that impression and staying away – at least initially – from overtly political messages.

Another company, Mobile Accord, was brought on board to deal with the technical aspects of the project: they began assembling a vast database that, unknown to the thousands of Cuban subscribers, included the "political tendencies" of users as well as their basic information: age, gender, location, "receptiveness," etc.

Yet the founders of the project saw that it was just a matter of time before Zunzuneo was outed as a platform sponsored by the US government. Their solution was to set up a front company that would go "independent," with a CEO at its head who knew nothing of its origins. However, the project would still somehow retain its political character as an element in Washington’s regime-change strategy. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kafka’s Amerika: A Society At War With Itself

Society is in motion, only it’s heading backwards.

Many a thinker have wondered about the true meaning of the latin term status quo, which is short for ”in statu quo”. We use this term every day in discourse. It’s popularly understood as meaning “keeping the things the way they are presently.” The term in itself has become meaningless, because it is incomplete. That term was originally part of a longer phrase based on “in statu quo res erant ante bellum,” which translated means, “in the state in which things were before the war.” In the context of the 14th diplomatic latin language from which the term is derived, it’s referring to an end to a ‘Marshal Law’ scenario, or the withdrawal of enemy troops and the restoration of power to pre-war leadership.

In case you haven’t noticed, America, and Europe, we are presently locked into a permanent state of war, or war state. The question is, against who? As the existential enemy fades into irrelevance, the state has developed an unhealthy fixation - on its own people. 

Societies and political cultures only have two directions to take – they either mature and thrive, or fester in a state of arrested, or negative development. In America, you can count on any political party in power - whether it’s a Democratic regime, or a Republican one, to always insist that “things have never been better” in the country. The same can be said between Labour and Conservative in Great Britain. We’ve all heard that tired old line, over and over again. It seems to be built into the political machine code in our ‘mature democracies.’ Why? Because no political advisor or head of communications wants to stick their neck out in the event that a strategy of realism triggers a slump in the polls, so they opt for the politically correct option, which is, in their minds, the easy way.

Americans especially, do not like realism – and mobs will almost always rail against it – even if what they’re hearing is true. Just look at what happened to Texas Congressman Ron Paul, taunted and crucified by media, Democrats and Republican, and even by the Israel lobby (Sheldon Adelson’s gang forked out roughly $5 million to run negative ad  campaigns against Paul during the 2012 primaries), all for being a realist. Establishment gatekeepers and culture makers are now attempting to make realism ubiquitous with their own derogatory term, ‘conspiracy theory.’

Read the entire article

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Fed official: Bitcoin poses threat to central banks

Last week, David Andolfatto, St. Louis Federal Reserve Vice President and Director of Research, published an in-depth presentation on the peer-to-peer decentralized currency bitcoin. This is the first time that such a high level central banking official has studied the cryptocurrency and upon his research he has discovered that it could very well pose a threat to the system – but that’s a good thing.

The Business Insider was able to sit down with Andolfatto and talk about the presentation entitled “Bitcoin and Beyond: The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Virtual Currencies,” (PDF) his blog post and bitcoin itself.

He explained that it all began when he attempted to refute that gold is not superior to fiat money, but because bitcoin was in the news he acknowledged that the two share a similarity: there is a fixed money supply. Andolfatto blogged a little bit more and wrote about traditional theories of money.

After this, he was approached by Marcela Williams, the St. Louis Fed’s assistant vice president of strategic communications, to deliver a presentation on bitcoin.

When he first discovered the digital currency, Andolfatto deemed it “silly” and read a blog post by Keynesian economist Paul Krugman and concurred that this was an “intensive effort to mine for gold,” something that the world doesn’t need more of. He performed a little bit more research and then tergiversated.

“I shared in that opinion, but I continued to read about it, and it struck me that that analogy was incorrect — that in fact what these miners were, was mislabeled,” said Andolfatto. “They were performing a communal service, a record-keeping service which is critical to any money system. Mining was a red herring, it’s just one way to reward record keepers for their service, and that protocol could function even with constant supply.”

Read the entire article

Friday, April 04, 2014

For America, perhaps now is the time for neutrality

Among the most striking aspects of the current debate over U.S. foreign policy is the almost complete lack of perception among Americans about their country’s actual economic and military capabilities and its international influence. Whether it is Ukraine and Russia, the intensifying Islamist offensive on several continents, or the blatantly Potemkin Middle East peace talks, U.S. political leaders, academics, pundits, and most of the media speak as if today’s America is the America of 1945, 1984, or 1991, times when the United States was a nation of almost unlimited military and economic power and telling international influence.

Today, we are barely a shadow of that powerful nation. Indeed, while Washington under either party speaks as if it is the world’s voice of power and all-knowing authority, we are really the very picture of an overused, late-middle age Madam who eagerly displays her sagging wares but doesn’t seem to realize that she has lost her looks, allure, and persuasiveness, and is much more laughed at than lusted over. When an American president speaks on foreign policy, the world and Americans hear meaningless bravado, absurd prating about freedom and other universal values — quite obviously the only universal value is power — and an endless, self-righteous hectoring that orders all peoples in all countries to abandon their heathen ways and improve themselves according to Washington’s dictates.

And what sort of power is available to back-up the words of recent American presidents. Well, today, there is not much power to crow about.

–America is bankrupt with a debt of nearly $17 trillion and apparently damned to eventual economic catastrophe by an oblivious governing elite that will not control its spending and values office more than country. Our rivals and enemies rest comfortably knowing that America will keep spending and thereby keep degrading its ability to generate economic and/or military power. The absurdity of this situation is apparent in the reality that Washington could not fight a war against China unless Beijing was willing to lend us the money we need to attack her. It also clear in the decision to cut the U.S. Army — to save funds for use in building the Democratic base — to 440,000 soldiers. Knowing that, at best, only 1 of 3 soldiers is a shooter, our rivals and enemies — even if they are as stupid as Washington arrogantly claims they are — know that an army of less than 150,000 combat soldiers is not even remotely akin to a formidable deterring or war-fighting force.

–And speaking of war, we must keep in view that the United States has not won a war since that September day in 1945 when Japan surrendered. Next to the Chicago Cubs, the U.S. military has the longest losing record of any organization in North America. Our recent lost wars, of course, must be attributed to the same politicians in both parties who today are spending us into oblivion. Americans have paid their taxes to support their military, and have sent their kids to join the services. In turn, courageous men and women have given their lives or been maimed fighting often unnecessary but always losing and unconstitutional wars. In truth, these taxes and young citizens have been wasted by politicians who are eager to start wars, but do not care if they win them. Putin’s confidence in moving into Crimea, for example, was in part based on his observation of the callous and cowardly leadership and policies of the Bush and Obama administrations that produced war-losing performances by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read the entire article

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Kerry’s desperate Pollard gamble could cost him the entire Israeli-Palestinian ball game

The late American psychiatrist Robert Custer, a pioneer in the treatment of compulsive gambling, identified three stages on the way to total addiction: first winning, then losing and finally desperation, when the gambler loses his sense of proportion and commits to ever-growing wagers. Judging by his willingness to put the release of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table, there is room for concern that John Kerry may also be on a path to losing it all.

Like a gambler sinking deeper and deeper, Kerry has whipped out one of the strongest aces in the American hand, so that all the time, energy and reputation that he has invested in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process won’t go down the drain. But the potential return on his bold bid was modest from the outset: release of Israeli prisoners, a “quiet” freeze on settlements and an extension of negotiations that only a few still believe in.

But not only has Kerry failed to secure his limited goals, the prospect of Pollard’s release may have actually contributed to the breakdown of his efforts on Tuesday. When the Palestinians compared the pittance they were receiving, in their view, to the plum Pollard prize that Kerry was bestowing on Prime Minister Netanyahu, they decided to walk away in a huff. If Bibi gets Pollard, they told Kerry, we will look like fools if we don’t demand something just as big, like jailed Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti.

In America, reactions to the proposed release deteriorated throughout the day, from surprise in the morning to discomfort by noon to open opposition at sunset. “It’s a sign of weakness and desperation,” said former U.S. diplomat and peace envoy David Aaron Miller. We welcome Pollard’s release, said Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, but “it should not be intertwined with the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Senator John McCain described the administration’s linkage between the two as “disgusting” although he supports Pollard’s release; his Republican colleague Mark Kirk, a loyal friend of Israel, said Pollard should “rot in jail forever.”

Of course, opposition to Pollard’s release is not as harsh as it used to be. CIA director John Brennan is unlikely to threaten to resign, as his predecessor George Tenet did 16 years ago when President Clinton was trying to convince the same Netanyahu to sign the Wye River Memorandum. Pollard is going to be eligible for parole by November 2015 anyway, on the assumption that his health holds: “Maybe they just want to release him quickly so that he doesn’t die on them in jail,” one particularly cynical American told me on Monday.

Read the entire article

Monday, March 31, 2014

The US-EU Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). Devastating Social and Environmental Consequences

The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) between the US and EU aims to ‘protect’ investment and remove ‘unnecessary regulatory barriers’. Corporate interests are driving the agenda, the public have been sidelined and unaccountable, pro-free-trade bureaucrats are facilitating the strategy.

 There is growing concern that the negotiations could result in the opening of the floodgates for GMOs and shale gas (fracking) in Europe, the threatening of digital and labour rights and the empowering of corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regulations which they dislike.

One of the key aspects of the negotiations is that both the EU and US should recognise their respective rules and regulations, which in practice could reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator. The official language talks of ‘mutual recognition’ of standards or so-called reduction of non-tariff barriers. For the EU, that could mean accepting US standards in many areas, including food and agriculture, which are lower than the EU’s.

Even the leaders of the US Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, made it clear that any agreement must reduce EU restrictions on genetically modified crops, chlorinated chickens and hormone-treated beef.

Food lobby group Food and Drink Europe, representing the largest food companies (Unilever, Kraft, NestlĂ©, etc.), has welcomed the negotiations, with one of their key demands being the facilitation of the low level presence of unapproved GM crops.

The TAFTA negotiations are shrouded in secrecy and are closed to proper public scrutiny. They amount to little more than grubby back room deals, while striving to give the appearance of somehow being democratic, and effectively constitute part of the ongoing corporate hijack of democracy and the further restructuring of economies in favour of elite interests.