Nel's New Day

January 26, 2016

A Tale of Two Occupations

 

Insurgents at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are in their fourth week of occupation since a small group of armed white people came to central Oregon with the original intent to get two ranchers, in prison for a variety of charges including arson on public lands, released. Occupiers then transferred to a goal of getting all the public land in Harney County given back to ranchers. To accomplish this end, they are keeping the public from using the refuge and rummaging through 4,000-year-old Native American artifacts. Other illegal acts are tearing down a federally-built fence and surveillance cameras while stealing federal vehicles—wrecking at least one of them.

glenn palmerThe debacle took a bizarre turn last weekend when Glenn Palmer, sheriff of nearby Grant County, said he wants the government “concede” to the occupiers by releasing the ranchers from prison and send the FBI away. That action would be just “a start,” according to Palmer. According to the Oathkeeper’s website, Palmer offered occupier leader Ammon Bundy a sanctuary in Grant County if he would leave the Refuge. Palmer has been very definite about not having spoken to Bundy personally, but he has texted him.

Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe, who has been helping Harney County Sheriff David Ward in Burns, said that Palmer “doesn’t help the cause. If anything, it hampers the effort to end this.” Wolfe, president of the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, said the state’s other sheriffs are concerned with Palmer’s conduct.

Palmer’s discussion with the occupiers started almost two weeks ago when he met in John Day with three insurgents and ten Grant County residents. John Day is 100 miles north of the refuge. After meeting privately with the sheriff, occupier Ryan Payne said, “[Sheriff Palmer] has a practical plan for helping unravel the federal government.” Palmer is a part of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a national nonprofit which interprets the constitution to severely limit federal government powers. Founder Richard Mack urges officials to overthrow county governments one by one to pursue a right-wing agenda.

Logger Tad Houpt, whose complaints about federal land management are promoted by the Koch-backed American Lands Council, has advertised a meeting in Grant County to learn about the Constitution and consider a Committee of Safety. Occupiers used the “committee” in Harney County to first establish credibility and then control the committee. Lead occupiers plan to attend the Grant County meeting. Grant County may provide fertile ground for the dissidents with residents unhappy about the slowness in restoring logging on the Malheur National Forest and plans to close forest service roads.

A community meeting in Burns regarding the occupiers scheduled for Monday, January 24, has been cancelled because of safety concerns. Harney County Judge Steve Grasty stated, “Preparations to protest and block entrance to the Senior Center have led me to determine that it’s time to take a time out.” He added that he “will not give these agitators what they want most, which is attention.”

The occupiers have voted to convene a “common law grand jury” overseen by Tea Party activist and so-called “sovereign citizen” Joaquin Mariano DeMoreta-Folch. Earlier illegal “grand juries” have resulted in government officials being kidnapped and beaten. Jury members have also filed fraudulent liens against officials’ homes and stalked or harassed them for years afterward. Typical indictment from extralegal grand juries is usually treason that carries a death penalty.

The FBI refuses to allow media to tape its “negotiations” with the occupiers, but the insurgents have taped and released them to the public. Insurgents have said they will leave only after investigations into a large number of federal agencies and the complete turnover of public lands throughout the nation to private citizens. Law enforcement have allowed armed infiltrators throughout Harney County, creating danger for all residents. Ryan Payne has voiced the opinion of the occupiers that they have the legal authority to kill police officers who, according to the occupiers, are “unlawfully trying to arrest” them.

The Paiute tribe is requesting that occupiers be blocked from free access to come and go from the refugee. Tribal chair, Charlotte Roderique, also told U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that the government that it is obligated under its treaty with the Northern Paiutes to inflict punishment for “any crime or injury…perpetrated by any white man upon the Indians.” Roderique is concerned that the insurgents will finance their occupation by selling valuable Indian artifacts, especially if they can continue to mail materials. Videos have shown the occupiers rifling through these artifacts.

Drone hobbyist Mark Cooper made this video of the refugee last Saturday.

Palmer is up for re-election in May, and former Grant County Undersheriff Todd McKinley has filed to run for sheriff. McKinley, director of Grant County Community Corrections, said that he decided to run after witnessing the “audacity of individuals who think they can dictate the course of Grant County, without the input of all.” He pointed out that the oath of office states that he “would support the Constitution and the laws of the United States and of the state of Oregon, and to honestly and faithfully perform the duties imposed upon the member under the laws of Oregon. I do not remember that there were any clauses that told me this was optional, and up to my interpretation of the Constitution and laws.”

The peaceful life of the occupiers of federal property is a huge contrast to another occupation over 40 years ago. While the occupiers can come and go from the refuge whenever they want, shopping at local stores and eating at local restaurants, Leonard Peltier, leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM), has been imprisoned since the federal government’s armed raid on Indian land at Wounded Knee in 1973. Peltier was convicted on the word of Myrtle Poor Bear who retracted her statement 16 years ago, explaining that FBI agents had abused her to get the testimony. The FBI admitted that they didn’t know who was responsible for the deaths of two FBI agents, but Peltier is not scheduled to be released from prison until 2040 when he will be 96 years old.

Beatings, deprivation of medical care, inadequate nutrition, and a disregard for his failing health are causing Peltier to die a slow isolated death. A stroke left him almost blind in one eye, he can barely walk because of untreated bone spurs, and an ever-worsening jaw condition from a prison beating causes difficulty in eating. Peltier has had a heart attack, a severely inflamed prostate condition, and diabetes. Early this month he was diagnosed with a serious abdominal aortic aneurism requiring immediate surgery, but nothing has been done about it. White insurgents, several of them at Malheur, have never been charged for pulling guns on federal officials last year on Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada.

Bill Means, veteran of the Vietnam War and the standoff at Wounded Knee, said:

“The Feds didn’t serve us coffee and pizzas. They came heavily armed, ready to do battle, and opened fire before they asked the first question. The laws are recast and enforced in order to suppress any type of minority movement to shift all the power of recognition to the white community. So that when the posse comitatus or bunch of racist ranchers take over a piece of land, they do it in the name of their country, and they become immune to the criminal laws of the United States.”

Means remembered his experience in 1973:

“We were immediately surrounded by over 7 or 8 federal jurisdictions: FBI, U.S. marshals, U.S. Border Patrol, BIA police. I’m missing a few, but you can understand the type of response we get as Indian people.”

Native American activist Morningstar, a member of the Pit River Tribe that shares a boundary with the Paiute, also commented about the people whose land has been “occupied again by armed white people,” this time white ranchers and cattlemen. They claim “sovereignty” over land that has been inhabited by these tribes for thousands of years, calling themselves the “original caretakers of the land.” She is highly concerned about the occupation of the refuge that contains sacred burial grounds of their tribes’ ancient ancestors and extensive personal records about the community and its people.

“The Paiute have 420 members enrolled, half of whom live on and near the reservation. And so they have essentially taken over the bird refuge. The main concern right now is that there are over 4,000 artifacts. There are maps within the BLM offices. These are maps that are not disclosed to the public, and so we’re hearing stories now of the militia members, Bundy’s faction, you know, going through personnel files of the staff members there, many of which include tribal members. They have access to this classified material, and to the 4,000 artifacts.”

Morningstar also mourned the damage from driving large herds of cattle over sacred Indian land:

“[The occupiers] are contaminating our springs, our waterways, our creeks. They’re inside the rivers and stream ways. We’re having to do a lot of restoration work along the creek ways because we have cattle that are just pushing the soil and dirt into the water.”

Whenever unarmed black people are killed, conservatives are fond of saying, “If you don’t comply, you die.” They become enraged when President Obama trades prisoners with Iran. Yet the current conservative position is that the lawbreakers at the refuge should be given everything they want.

January 18, 2016

MLK Day: Bundy Clueless about Civil Disobedience

MLK Day honors a man who tried to makes lives better for poor and black people through civil disobedience while Malheur occupiers use firearms to keep people from using public land. 

If Martin Luther King, Jr. had not been murdered in 1968, he might have turned 87 years of age last Friday. For 30 years, the man who espoused nonviolent civil disobedience has been remembered by a federal day in his honor, but the country has not been solidly behind King’s achievements. Ninety representatives and 22  senators, mostly Republican, still opposed this commemoration, arguing that the nation had been “misled into believing MLK was a great man.” President Ronald Reagan threatened to veto the federal holiday of Martin Luther King Day until Congress passed the bill by a veto-proof majority.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended his state’s governor, Evan Mecham, in rescinding the state holiday in 1986. Mecham told a group of black community leaders, “King doesn’t deserve a holiday. You folks don’t need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs.” Arizona started celebrating MLK Day only after NFL threatened to boycott hosting Super Bowl XXVII in 1990.

South Carolina was the last state to recognize the day as a paid holiday for all state employees. Prior to that, Southern states avoided the celebration of MLK Day by forcing employees to choose between this day or one of three Confederate holidays. Even today, three states—Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi—honor both MLK and Robert E. Lee, Confederate general on the third Monday of January.

Eight men who voted against honoring MLK are still serving in Congress: all are Republicans although Richard Shelby was a Democrat when he cast his vote in 1983. Senate: Richard Shelby (AL), Chuck Grassley (IA), John McCain (AZ), and Orrin Hatch (UT). House: Jim Sensenbrenner (WI), Hal Rogers (KY), Jim Scalise (LA), and Johnny Isakson (GA).

This is the first year that the Confederate flag has not flown over the South Carolina state capitol on MLK Day. North Carolina educator and activist Bree Newsome climbed the 30-foot flagpole in front of the statehouse and removed the flag ten days after a white man, showing white supremacy symbols including the Confederate flag on his website, killed nine black people during a prayer service in their church. This tragedy occurred in a state where the governor, Nikki Haley, said last week, “We’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.” After heated arguments last summer, the state authorized moving the flag to a museum at a cost of over $3 million.

Today, MLK Day, people were allowed to go into national parks for free—except for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Oregon. That’s because a group of armed white people occupy the refuge, asserting that the public land belongs to “we the people.” Yet their occupation keeps everyone else from being able to use land that belongs to all the people, not just the few who patrol the land with semi-automatic rifles.

Environmentalists are taking on these men. A group of almost 300 people gathered at a protest in Bend, 150 miles southeast of Malheur.  Bitterbrush Broadband and their parent group, Old Broads for Wilderness originally designed to protect the country’s public lands on behalf of the elderly and not-so-able, are joining the Audubon Society and other advocacy groups against the occupation of Malheur. According to the broads, it’s time for people to push back against the hooligans. At their rally, they explained how Malheur had been the poster child for collaboration between locals and the feds and how hypocritical and racist the militants are. A “bro,” or male broad, described how he had been turned away from the refuge by a man with a large assault rifle.

hendersonToday environmental activist Candy Henderson, 64, attended a briefing by Malheur occupiers on her way from Walla Walla to Houston for breast cancer treatment. when occupiers claimed that the U.S. must turn the land back to the people because the government has no right to purchase property, Henderson asked if Alaska should be returned to Russia or if the Louisiana Purchase was to return to France. She said that she wanted the government to keep the refuge and other federal properties:

“I want to go to Mt. Rushmore again. I want to go to the national forests and the national Parklands.”

Bundy

One of the occupiers asked if the people behind Henderson were FBI informants and yelled at a man holding a sign that read, “Ideas, not guns”:

“Do you remember what I said to you about that sign? Don’t bring a butter knife to a gun fight.”

When Newsome came down from the South Carolina flagpole on June 17, 2015, she said, “I’m prepared to be arrested.” That is an act of civil disobedience, a peaceful type of protest used by Henry David Thoreau when he refused to pay his taxes in protest of the Mexican-American War and slavery in 1846 and continued by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his attempt to improve the plight of poor and black people. King was arrested 30 times and peacefully went to jail each time.

In contrast, Malheur occupiers threaten violence to anyone who opposes them and aren’t willing to be imprisoned to highlight what they perceive to be injustices. Instead they are capitalists living off the government and donations to get attention. Occupier spokesman is Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy who owns almost $1 million worth of cattle and grazes them free on public lands in Clark County (NV) because he has refused to pay any fees since 1993.

Bundy wants to “return” the land to the “people,” meaning ranchers although the land was Northern Paiute Indigenous territory called Malheur (“misfortune” or “tragedy” in French) in the 1870s where occupiers now live. Malheur, like much of public land in the United States, is owned by “we the people” because native peoples were forced to leave them and the federal government purchased the land. Ranchers like the Bundys have broad expanses of land because the federal government privatized land after dispossessing indigenous peoples or maintained public land for their use.

The two ranchers of Harney County, imprisoned for arson and illegal activities, have received federal largess. Hammond Ranches received $295,000 in payments between 1995 and 2012 under various conservation, livestock disaster, crop disaster and other federal assistance programs. Other federal bonuses for the Hammonds:

  • A government program that protects ranchers’ and farmers’ livestock from predators, including killing five coyotes for the ranchers between 2009 and 2011.
  • Charges to the ranchers of only $1.35 for a cow and calf per month, a savings of 93 percent for the ranchers for using public rather than private lands.
  • Reimbursement of half the grazing fees to the ranchers for range betterment to benefit the ranchers.
  • A federal drought disaster relief program that provided two insurgent rancher families in Nevada $2.2 million in 2013.
  • The federal “emergency feed program” providing money for feed even with no emergency.

Removal of wild horses from public lands to make way for cattle.

Many people in Harney County suffer from poverty, but these aren’t the people who would get the land if the Bundys were successful. Occupiers want to give the land to other ranchers like these:

Treetop Ranches, controlled by Larry and Marianne Williams who complain about government overreach, owns 6000 cattle impacting 750,000 acres and 100 race horses, one of them finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby. The Williams also made millions in timber.

Roaring Springs Ranch with its manager, Stacy Davies, extols the virtues of cattle grazing and subsidized taxpayer-funded clear cutting of Western juniper. The Sanders family, timber mill barons, purchased the ranch in 1992. Its 1,011,792 acres, three-fourths leased from the government, sustains over 6,200 head of cattle and 150 horses as well as 2,500 acres of meadow hay and 1,200 acres of alfalfa. The owners of six sawmills have an agreement with the federal government that precludes an endangered-species listing while government subsidizes projects, disguised as watersheds and redband trout protections, that maintain high levels of grazing disguised as watersheds and redband trout protections. Taxpayers provided the Sanders with $300,000 over five years starting in 2007 to provide the ranch with fencing. Davies praised this “funding and expertise” as a “fantastic partnership.”

Ranchers have succeeded in exempting agreement information from Records Act requests in Oregon, and the federal Farm Bill prevents anyone from discovering who is receiving government munificence. The Roaring Springs Ranch has its own biologist to ensure that these agreements keep benefitting themselves. The result is use of federal funding to protect wildlife going to wealthy ranchers who destroy wildlife.

Bundy wants these people to get public lands purchased by taxpayers—i.e., “we the people.” He and others claim the occupiers use “civil disobedience,” but their using weapons to keep people off public land mark them as insurrectionists trying to destroy the federal government. Lack of prosecution for the Bundy family and their followers in 2014 after they pulled guns on federal agents and anyone near the Bundy ranch in Nevada has led to a geometric increase of white supremacists who are terrorizing the United States. It’s past time for the government to stop the current insurgency.

January 15, 2016

Insurgents Intimidate Oregon Residents; One Arrested

Filed under: Terrorism — trp2011 @ 9:42 PM
Tags: , ,

Thirteen days after a small group of armed militants took over federal buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Oregon, one of them finally got arrested. After a number of law enforcement agencies monitored their illegal activities, Oregon State Police on Friday arrested 62-year-old Kenneth Medenback of Crescent (OR) for driving a stolen federal vehicle into Burns to the grocery store. Medenback is facing federal charges in Medford and had been released on the condition that he would not “occupy” any federal land. The man has a long history of convictions.

Opinion about their insurgency was mixed, but the residents have become increasingly concerned by the insurgents’ intimidation, threatening and following people who live in Burns. Refuge employees have been forced to leave the area, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “is taking necessary steps to ensure employee and family safety.” Harney County Sheriff David Ward said that his deputies and own family members had been followed home, photographed, and had personal property damaged in recent months.

Members of the Pacific Patriots Network from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, carrying rifles and sidearms and clad in military attire and bulletproof vests, tried to join Bundy’s group at Malheur. Told to leave, they moved on to Burns where they harass the residents. The occupation has developed the feeling of a siege.Malheur

The insurgents’ illegal actions began with taking over a federal building and the surrounding lands. If a person “knowingly converts to his use” property of the federal government, that person could face a fine and a prison sentence of up to 10 years if the value of the property is greater than $1,000. Willful property destruction at protected sanctuaries could yield a six-month prison sentence. A separate statute says that if someone “willfully and maliciously” destroys property on certain federal lands, then he or she could face a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.

The militants promised that they wouldn’t damage any property while they squatted on the land in their attempt to get public land given to private individuals, but thus far they have

  • Used the site’s kitchens, beds, offices, museum, and other buildings.
  • Driven federal vehicles around the compound and into Burns.
  • Used federal IDs found on the premises.
  • Accessed government computers to find personal information about employees such as addresses and Social Security numbers.
  • Used a federal excavator to remove government fencing between private and public lands.
  • Built new roads with no attention to cultural artifacts, habitat, and wildlife.
  • Removed surveillance cameras near Burns.

Ammon Bundy claimed that rancher Tim Puckett asked him to take down the fence, but Puckett denied Bundy’s allegation and said that the occupiers are not allowed on his land. A federal statute prohibits the possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, with only limited exceptions for law enforcement. Violation could lead to a fine and a one-year prison sentence, and the use of the weapon in the commission of a crime can extend the sentence to five years.

The cost for the occupiers exceeds $133,400 per day amounting to over $1.8 million for just the first 13 days:

$23,400: Almost 120 refuge BLM and refuge employees now on paid administrative leave with another 50 employees also on paid leave.

$40,000: Lost tourism from a variety of outdoor recreationalists, about 119,000 annual visitors to the refuge who spend about $15 million a year.

$70,000: Security costs and school closures.

Self-described ISIS supporter and new “recruit” David Fry is using government computers to build a website for the occupiers. A big fan of Adolf Hitler, Fry said that “there has to be some point where people have to put their foot down against [government] problems” and he thinks that the insurgents are “pretty good people.” The website liberally uses videos that Fry made of himself playing video games almost a year ago.

The occupiers have decided that they will develop an alternative legal system in the area with their own judge, sheriff, and other elected officials. Partnering with self-proclaimed “Superior Court Judge” Bruce Doucette, they would declare themselves “sovereign citizens” with no mandate to follow any city, county, state, or federal laws. Doucette is a conspiracy theorist who thinks that the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing are government hoaxes and that the earth is flat. The occupiers could then use a “grand jury”—and their guns—to arrest people. Self-proclaimed “sovereign citizens” have a history of extremist violence.

Tensions have been building at the refuge.

Joe “Capt. O” Oshaugnessy left after a drunken argument with participants over bringing their wives and children to the standoff.

Brian “Booda” Cavalier left the compound because news reports revealed he had lied about serving in the military. (Since then, Cavalier has been arrested in Maricopa County, OR on an outstanding warrant.)

Blaine Cooper, sucker-punched one of his former friends, sending the man to the hospital with a concussion and serious facial injuries.

Lewis Arthur, the recipient of the injuries, said he came to remove a “radicalized” and “suicidal” veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has a tendency toward violence when he’s placed under stress. He said that Cooper attacked one of Arthur’s three-man team over an argument about removing women, children, and Ryan Payne, a U.S. Army veteran who had bragged about his sniper teams to target federal agents during the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff. Cooper said that Arthur started the fight.

John Hildinger, arrested on a Maryland firearms charge on his way to the anti-Obama “Operation American Spring” rally in 2013, described Cooper, Payne, and Cavalier as loose cannons.

Jon Ritzheimer had a temper tantrum on video after people sent “a bag of dicks”—Ritzheimer’s description—following the insurgents’ begging for a long list of items including tampons, cigarettes, and snacks.

Many members of the so-called “militia” take advantage of government financial support such as the $530,000 Small Business Administration loan that Ammon Bundy received in 2010. Ritzheimer has only his government disability check and “a wife that works.” Mark Pitcavage, researcher of far-right movements for 22 years and studier of the Harney County occupiers said, “Right-wing extremists, generally speaking, have very little money.” Daryl Johnson, a former DHS domestic terrorism analyst, said that the militants “think nothing” about spending half their money “to buy ammunition and guns.”

Occupier LaVoy Finicum said earlier this week that the group would outline their exit strategy today, but nothing has been said about it since then. They’ve also said that they would leave if the community didn’t want them. It doesn’t, but they’re still there. Residents have repeatedly told the insurgents to leave, including the call for one of the insurgents to stop talking at a community meeting this past week. The audience applauded as law enforcement ushered Pete Santilli, earlier arrested in Ohio for illegally carrying a concealed weapon, out of the building. In 2013, Santilli was investigated after he threatened to shoot Hillary Clinton “in the vagina” and described 15-year-old Ashley Presley, granddaughter of a county judge, as a political “prostitute” after she said she was afraid of the insurgents.

Malheur flockOne protester holding a sign said, “I never thought I’d have to say this, but I’m here to oppose the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge.”

So a bunch of white people, mostly men, have forced a public school of 800 to close down for a week, followed and harassed citizens of a town, illegally accessed government computers to gain personal information about federal employees, destroyed public property, blocked public land from use by U.S. residents, illegally occupied a federal facility and used its utilities, stolen federal vehicles, and broken other laws. They cost taxpayers millions of dollars as well as create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in a formerly sleepy Oregon town. These are members of the Tea Party that want to save money and throw immigrants out of the country because they “break the law.”

The insurgents’ actions are clearly domestic terrorism, but their white skin protects them from death—and possibly future imprisonment. Conservative candidates campaign by raging against ISIL while domestic terrorists—mostly white Christian men—take over the United States.

November 14, 2015

Fear, Hatred Make People Victims of Terrorism

Filed under: Terrorism — trp2011 @ 8:43 PM
Tags: , , ,

People around the world are still reeling from yesterday’s attack on Paris that killed at least 129 people in a coordinated attack on several targets including a musical performance, a soccer game, and restaurants. Juan Cole writes that a surviving radio and television professional reported that he heard the attackers say to the hostages, “It is [President Francois] Hollande’s fault, it is the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria.” They also spoke of Iraq. ISIS, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq, has already taken responsibility for the attacks. Another possibility is the Support Front (al-Jabha al-Nusra) in Syria, but it does not have territory in Iraq, and France has not specifically targeted it in the west of Syria. Cole wrote:

“When I was in France in mid-October, I was told by a former diplomat that President Hollande had decided to begin flying missions against ISIL in Raqqa, Syria, last September because French intelligence had learned that ISIL was planning to hit France. It is estimated that there are some 3,000 radical French Muslims fighting in ISIL (though remember that this number is proportionally tiny, since there are on the order of 3 million French Muslims, some 5% of the population– and the majority of them is not religious)….

“The French air force has been inflicting substantial damage on ISIL in Raqqa and its hinterlands. On Tuesday, AFP reported that France launched a fourth wave of airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria, targeting the oil infrastructure that is a source of much of ISIL’s budget.”

The attacks may be an attempt to replicate the 2004 Madrid train bombings which also aimed at “soft targets” and persuaded Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Attackers tend to perform their acts for a goal, not just from generalized anger. The “war on terror” has made little distinction between noncombatants and alleged militants with a shrug of the perpetrators toward “collateral damage,” killing hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

The GOP has reacted to the attacks by peddling more fear and hatred. The right-wing media latched onto the jihadists’ action by claiming that all Muslims are responsible for last night’s atrocities. In tonight’s Democratic presidential debate, all three candidates agreed that they would not use the term “radical Islam” because it insinuates that all 1.7 billion Muslims in the world are affiliated with these violent groups. Hillary Clinton said, “We are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism.” Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley argued a better term would be “radical jihadists.”

President Barack Obama said last February that he refuses to say “radical Islam” because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve.

“They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists. We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is “desperate” to portray itself as a group of holy warriors defending Islam. It uses to recruit and radicalize young people. He added:

“They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills in the name of Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

GOP presidential candidates called the Democrats’ positions one of “weakness.” [As you read the following comments, please note that President Obama said that he wanted his team to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the upcoming fiscal year. He did suggest 83,000 refugees, but most of these would be from other countries. The numbers over 200,000 Syrian refugees came from a right-wing parody news website. “RealNewsRightNow”–not to be confused with the respected TheRealNews.com–is not at all “real.”]

Donald Trump: “It was just reported, one [attacker was] from Syria. Our president wants to take in 250,000 from Syria.

Rick Santorum: “ISIS is a creation of a political decision by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to abandon Iraq — against all of our generals’ recommendations, against all of the policy recommendations.” [Actually, George W. Bush made the arrangements to leave—or “abandon”—Iraq.)

Carly Fiorina: “I am outraged because the murder, the mayhem, the danger, the tragedy we see unfolding in Paris, throughout the Middle East, around the world, and too often in our own homeland are the direct consequence of this administration’s policies.”

Mike Huckabee: “During the debate last week, I stated that we should not admit those claiming to be Syrian refugees and was condemned by the left for that position. I was right, and the events in Paris affirm that …. It’s time for a President who will act to protect Americans, not just talk and protect the image of Islam.”

Ted Cruz:  “I call on Congress to pass the Expatriate Terrorist Act. We should not allow jihadists to come back to America using U.S. passports to murder innocent men and women. We are at war.” “We need to immediately declare a halt to any plans to bring refugees that may have been infiltrated by ISIS to the United States.” [That to Cruz is probably all of them.] He also wants to kill more civilians: “The radical Islamism … will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties, when the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent life.”

Ben Carson: “I think America’s involvement should be trying to eliminate them, completely, destroy them. Boots on the ground would probably be important.” “If we’re going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region—if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn’t infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice.”

Jeb Bush: “This is an organized effort to destroy Western civilization [and the U.S. should] re-garner the alliances, fortify those alliances, reconnect with our counterintelligence and intelligence capabilities with our European allies, and engage in the Middle East to take out ISIS.”

Marco Rubio: “We must increase our efforts at home and abroad to improve our defenses, destroy terrorist networks, and deprive them of the space from which to operate.”

John Kasich: “You know, our thoughts and our prayers go to the people of France but that’s not enough. Action is required. Time is of the essence. Negotiation, ambivalence, or delay, are not acceptable,” he said in a speech that focused entirely on the terror attacks.”

Eschewing the hateful feedback from GOP presidential candidates, including immediately blocking the Iran agreement, President Rhouhanni of Iran sent this message to France:

“In the name of the Iranian people, who have themselves been victims of terrorism, I strongly condemn these crimes against humanity and offer my condolences to the grieving French people and government.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari declared that the extremist death cult does not “believe in ethical principles” and is “not loyal to any type of divine religions — including Islam.” Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo called for International cooperation to fight terrorism, and the leaders of Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia called the attacks “heinous” and “criminal.” They called for an end to the “plague” of terrorism.

Conservatives delight in their misrepresentation of President Obama’s statement about having “contained” Isis, but he mean that the terrorist group had not gained ground in Iraq. Donald Trump doubled down on his position, which he first stated in January after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, that gun control doesn’t prevent the violence. Yet one suicide bomber stopped by guards at the stadium location turned away before he detonated his bomb.

On Fox, people like Bill O’Reilly and Brian Kilmeade push the myth that  “all terrorists are Muslims.” Terrorists in the U.S. are usually Christians, but Fox fails to identify them as such.

People need to deny that the attacks are related to religion. Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorism has no religion. We need to repeat this over and over. If we let unreasonable hatred take over our lives, then we are the victims of the attackers.

August 21, 2015

Justice Denied

Filed under: Terrorism — trp2011 @ 9:21 PM
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On December 4, 2014, the oldest living victim of the McCarthy era paranoia that gripped America in the 1950s went to court to vacate her 64 year old conviction and restore her good name. Miriam Moskowitz and her lover, Abraham Brothman, were convicted on November 28, 1950, for conspiring to obstruct justice in the same courthouse where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg would soon be put on trial for treason for giving secretive atomic bomb information to the Soviet Union. Moskowitz was sentenced to two years in prison. Her trial judge, Irving Kaufman, also handled the trial for the Rosenbergs who were executed in 1953.

Throughout her prison term, she thought everyday about how she was going to make the prosecutors, judge, and others involved in her conviction pay for their wrong doing. At 98 years of age, almost 64 years after her conviction, Moskowitz is the only one alive to tell her story.

moskowitz 1At the age of 34, Moskowitz, a secretary, became involved with a married man, Abraham Brothman, a chemical engineer whose known associates included Harry Gold, a U.S. citizen and admitted Soviet spy. The Red Scare was front page news. The FBI began following her while they brought in and interrogated Brothman and Gold, trying to tie them together as co-conspirators involved in espionage with the Soviet Union.

Gold initially told the FBI that Moskowitz was not involved in any espionage. To escape the electric chair, however, Gold agreed to deal and described Moskowitz as a co-conspirator along with Brothman. Her conviction was solely based on the grand jury statements and FBI interviews with Harry Gold that were not available to her original attorneys for use in cross-examination.

Moskowitz believed she was innocent and refused to testify before the grand jury because it would expose her relationship with the married Brothman. At the trial, Brothman and Moskowitz were charged with conspiring to lie to the grand jury and federal agents investigating a suspected spy plot involving Gold. Later Gold was charged with espionage. Brothman and Moskowitz were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. Gold was sentenced to 30 years but served only 15 years because he testified against the Rosenbergs.

After their release from prison in 1952, Moskowitz and Brothman broke up, and her life as a convicted felon began. Hounded and harassed by the FBI, Moskowitz couldn’t keep a job because agents constantly questioned her activities and patriotism. She “found it painful to reveal [her] past” and tried for decades to maintain a “low social profile” to avoid drawing attention to herself. Finally, desperate and depressed, she contemplated suicide.

Her life finally took a turn when she got a job as a junior high school math teacher in 1970. A longtime violinist and violist, she began playing in chamber orchestras. “It was the greatest time of my life. I have never known such bliss,” Moskowitz said. She told the Los Angeles Times that she still regrets that she was never able to serve on a jury, never had any serious romances, and never had any children.

“I would have wanted that very dearly. If it had never happened, I’d have had a houseful of children. By now, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. It would have been nice.”

miriam-278In 2008, over the United States’ objection, the grand jury minutes exposing the deal and initial investigation of Gold were ordered unsealed because of their “substantial historical importance.” In the minutes, Gold claimed Moskowitz was not involved. In August, 2014, Moskowitz petitioned the court to have her felony conviction vacated because the soon-to-be Rosenberg prosecutors had withheld critical grand jury testimony relating to the only witness that would testify against her during trial—Harry Gold. According to the papers filed with the court, Moskowitz did not discover the contradictions in Gold’s damming testimony against her until 2010 when she was doing research for her 2010 book, Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice, about her case.

The petition that Moskowitz filed described how her shame of the conviction kept her from marrying and having friends. The trial and its aftermath changed the course of her life. “I was portrayed as a monster, and I did nothing wrong,” she said, “and it affected my relationships, my entire life.” Her petition read, “The Court has the opportunity to correct a miscarriage of justice from the McCarthy era, of which Ms. Moskowitz is perhaps the last living victim.”

Moskowitz explained why she wanted her conviction overturned. “I am probably the last living victim of the McCarthy era. I am a generous law-abiding citizen, and I don’t want this to be the end of how I am regarded.” In response to Moskowitz’s plea to the court to act “ before it is too late” and “correct this historical wrong by vacating the conviction,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed opposition claiming that Moskowitz had not established an error in 1950 trial, “let alone an error of the most fundamental character.”

Ignoring the idea that Gold had admitted lying to the FBI about Moskowitz’s knowledge or involvement, the government continued to rely upon Gold’s admittedly false testimony to uphold the conviction. Dismissive of the claim that the government withheld evidence from Moskowitz at trial, Bharara claimed that at the time of her trial and conviction there was no obligation by the government to disclose prior witness statements or turn over exculpatory evidence. The government’s position was that she suffers no greater disability than any other felon.

Miriam Moskowitz did not seek money from the government as a result of her conviction. She only wanted to clear her name.

“The trial was held at the height of the McCarthy period, when people were simply not rational politically,” Moskowitz said. “The prosecutor saw a golden opportunity to rack up a conviction on his credit, and he went to town.”

After hearing oral arguments on December 4, 2014, District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that Moskowitz’s lawyers could not show the newly released records that might have exonerated her. The government said her conviction was supported by the evidence. “Too bad,” Moskowitz said as she walked out of the court with a cane. “My 98-year-old life goes on, and it’s not affected.” She told a film crew, “Okay, that’s the end. You can finish your documentary now.”

Miriam Moskowitz, 98, accompanied by her nephew Ira Moskowitz, leaves federal court in New York on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 after a judge rejected her request to erase her 1950 conviction for conspiracy to obstruct justice in the run-up to the atomic spying trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. She served a two-year prison sentence. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Miriam Moskowitz, 98, accompanied by her nephew Ira Moskowitz, leaves federal court in New York on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 after a judge rejected her request to erase her 1950 conviction for conspiracy to obstruct justice in the run-up to the atomic spying trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“People need to know about this history,” Moskowitz said. “This has to open up people’s minds. This has to make them think.” Miriam Moskowitz is right. Hatred and suspicion now sweeping throughout the United States will most surely lead to more lives destroyed and justice denied unless the perpetrators are stopped.

 

June 22, 2015

Racist Media Shields Racist Killers

 

Conservative faith was front and center last week as every announced and some potential GOP presidential candidates—except Donald Trump—spoke at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Summit last week. Especially notable was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who managed to completely ignore the killing of nine black people by a white 21-year-old in the Charleston (SC) church on the previous day. To boost his B+ rating with the NRA, however, he reassured his audience that “if I am president of the United States, we will appoint justices and we will have an attorney general who will protect our second amendment rights.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did allude to the tragedy by saying that “it appears to be racially driven,” but by Friday he told an audience that Texas defines gun control as “hitting what you aim at.” The next day he said, “There’s a famous saying, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. There is a reason why the Second Amendment is right after the First.”

Another horrifying response to the white man killing nine black people because of his racist beliefs was a segment on Meet the Press that interviewed three black murderers who expressed regrets in killing someone. Host Chuck Todd described the program “color-blind” and concluded that “passing a law isn’t going to change the culture.” Fortunately, columnist Eugene Robinson was on a panel and told Todd that the video didn’t fit the discussion:

“Right now, we’re talking about a horrific crime committed by a white man, we’re talking about the search for two escaped murderers who are white men.”

The men in the video said they had no intention of killing anyone whereas the killer in Charleston carefully planned his murders of black people. Todd defensively concluded his post by saying, “Meet the Press should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job.” His continuation of the stereotype of associating blacks, and not whites, with murderers shows that he fails to understand the white culture of guns in the United States.

In a white wash of the Charleston killer, NBC ran a story of how his relatives saw him as a “sweet kid” who became “painfully shy.” Media consistently projects this image of white kids while presenting black children as thugs. To the media, a white killer is known as a “lone wolf” who lose his path while blacks are born bad or have such bad families that its natural that they would be criminals. Bill Reilly calls the problem “black people’s rejection of education.” While Freddie Gray, alleged to have an illegal switchblade, died during a rough ride to the police station, the white killer of nine people in a Charleston (SC) church was politely returned to Charleston on a private plane after cops gave him a Burger King hamburger. Vanessa Baden Kelly wrote, “I am black and I’ve come to believe we are more violent than others by watching the news [although] 83% of white murder victims are killed by white people.”

After the killer openly announced his racism, conservatives had to drop their idea that the tragedy was a “war on Christianity” and move to another spin. The Fox network blames the killings on the nation’s “cultural diversity.” Frequent Fox guest Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson said on Newsmax that President Obama is at fault because he said that racism still exists in the United States.

After the killer’s words destroyed Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) argument that the killer was prejudiced against Christianity, Graham said, “I just think he was one of these whacked out kids. I don’t think it’s anything broader than that.” About the Boston bomber of 2013, Graham had said:

“[Dzhokhar Tsarnaev], in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation.”

Both killers are U.S. citizens, but the Boston bomber is a Muslim. What a difference a religion and 3,000 miles make.

The Charleston killer reported that he was influenced by a website from the Council of Conservative Citizens that lists Black on White murders. The name states “citizens,” but Southern politicians, primarily Republican, have been involved with the group with some still in office. The CCC is a renewal of the White Citizens Councils, formed a half century ago to fight school desegregation. Now it spreads false information while funding GOP candidates such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).

Racist billboard

The killer didn’t come out of nowhere. His worldview of racism, white supremacy, and fear of blacks is popular as shown by this billboard. The words come from white supremacist Robert Whitaker’s Mantra that has inspired racial killings, including 77 people in Norway in 2011 and heavily promoted by Timothy Gallagher Murdock on White Rabbit Radio. The Charleston killer’s manifesto is greatly in alignment with the Fox network and other conservatives:

“Blacks were the real racists [in school].”

“It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right.” (Like many other white people tutored by the Fox network and other conservative media, the stalker and killer of Trayvon Martin is a hero.)

“Black people view everything through a racial lense.” (He quotes Fox and other conservatives who accuse blacks of playing the “race card.” He continues, “The … reason is the Jewish agitation of the black race.”)

“We are told to accept what is happening to us because of ancestors wrong doing, but it is all based on historical lies…”

“Segregation was not a bad thing. It was a defensive measure.” (The killer sees segregation as a way “to protect us from them…. Not only did it protect us from having to interact with them, and from being physically harmed by them, but it protected us from being brought down to their level.”

“I have read hundreds of slaves narratives from my state. And almost all of them were positive.” (The killer believes that slaves thought they were better off in slavery. Rancher Cliven Bundy, who refuses to pay the government for feeding his cattle, was supported by Fox and a number of lawmakers—at least until he stated that black people have less freedom after they are no longer slaves.)

Two subjects that conservatives cannot address in the United States are racism and guns. Following the killings in the Charleston church, President Obama called on the country to take action against mass murders. On the Fox network, Tucker Carlson indicated that the president is a hypocrite because he’s protected by armed people after he said that guns aren’t killing people and that people need guns to save lives. Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene pointed out that his comments were offensive and asked if he was comparing armed Secret Service people to the person who walks into a church and kills nine people. She asked, “Is that literally where we are as a country, to compare that [the president] shouldn’t have protection?” Carlson stuck to his opinion that he shouldn’t be exempt from disarming—a position that President Obama has never taken.

Greene replied:

“The president did not say guns are inherently bad. The president is saying we’ve had this conversation too many times and there is something we can do about it. There was something we could do about it after Newtown, there was something we could have done about it after Columbine.”

Charleston (SC) Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. (D) said yesterday on CNN’s State of the Union:

“It is insane: the number of guns, and the ease of guns in America. It just doesn’t fit with the other achievements of this country. It’s a small- really small group, well-funded–that keeps this issue from being appropriately addressed.”

If people cannot control themselves with guns, then they must be controlled to protect other people. Those who oppose any kind of gun control need to learn that they are destroying the United States.

It is a sad commentary on media in the United States when the best commentary came from the Comedy Channel. Everyone should read the words of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show the day after the killings when he stopped his comedy to talk about the tragedy of the Charleston killings.

December 9, 2014

Senate Releases CIA Torture Report

Today’s big news was the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s $50 million investigation into Bush-era CIA interrogation tactics on detainees after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The long-delayed report isn’t even the final result, but instead a redacted 525-page summary of the complete 6,300 pages. The study was first commissioned in March 2009 with Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO). GOP panel members withdrew a few months after it was commissioned. Bond failed to run for re-election in 2010. Without participating in the study, all the GOP members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have released their dissenting report without studying the CIA classified materials.

Secretary of State John Kerry surely knew how bad the results would be when he asked the committee chair, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), to “consider” the timing “because a lot is going on in the world, and he wanted to make sure that foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The factors “include our ongoing efforts against ISIL and the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world,” according to Psaki. The same conservatives who claimed that Michael Brown deserved to be shot because he should have known he was doing something wrong are now claiming that the United States should hide all its wrongdoings.

Feinstein summarized four key findings of the report on the Bush/Cheney “enhanced interrogation techniques”(EITs), the CIA euphemism for torture:

  1. The CIA’s EITs were not effective.
  2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
  3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
  4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

Beyond a condemnation of the brutal methods, banned by Obama in 2009 and repudiated by the three most recent CIA directors, the report showed that the methods also failed to find life-saving intelligence. At the same time the CIA lied about the program to White House officials, the Justice Department, and the congressional oversight committees.

Some of the report’s revelations:

The EITs killed some detainees: For example, one detainee died from suspected hypothermia after chained partially nude to a cement floor. CIA’s leadership said they had little knowledge about EITs at that detention site. The CIA inspector general admitted that there was wrongdoing, but no one was punished.

The EITs were far more brutal than previously revealed: Detainees suffered from hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia and self-mutilation. Abu Zubaydah, a high-value al Qaeda suspect, became totally unresponsive after waterboarding with “bubbles rising through his open full mouth.” Others were subjected to forced “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” even with no medical need. 

Waterboarding was used with other harsh EITs: Other practices included extended exposure to cold temperatures, slapping, and sleep deprivation of up to 180 hours—usually standing or in painful stress positions such as hands shackled above the detainees’ heads. And even worse.

EITs were not effective in obtaining information or cooperation from detainees: Seven of 39 detainees subject to these experiences produced no intelligence, and others had provided significant, accurate intelligence before, or without having been, tortured.

The CIA lied about the EITs’ effectiveness: CIA officials claimed that their “interrogation” led to Osama bin Laden, but Senate investigators reported that the information came from a detainee in foreign custody before he was tortured. While lying about the EITS’ “saving lives” from thwarted terrorist plots, the CIA rejected information that was not obtained through torture. [The CIA later lied about not hacking into congressional computers, later admitting that the agency had spied on the process of the torture study as well as destroying dozens of videotapes after the beginning of the study.]

Inexperienced contract psychologists devised the EITs: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the psychologists who had created the operation, assessments, and management of the program, had only prior experience in coping with torture. Although they had no experience as interrogators or specialized knowledge of al Qaeda, counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise, they received $80 million out of $180 million contract before President Obama shut it down in 2009. According to the report, “By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.”

Non-suspects also suffered from EITs: Of 119 known detainees, at least 26 did not meet the detention standard, including an “intellectually challenged” man who was detained to force family members to provide information. Two others were intelligence sources for foreign liaison services and were former CIA sources, and two others were considered to have al Qaeda connections because another detainee suffering the CIA’s EITs made up the information. Even after the CIA determined that they did not meet the standards of suspect, the CIA kept them in custody for months. Records were also insufficient to justify other detainees’ detentions.

One GOP member of Congress who praised the release of the report is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), possibly the only person in that legislative body who has experienced military torture. Declaring that the people of the United States have the right to know what has been done under the pretense of protecting them, he said on the floor of the Senate:

“They must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies, even those policies that are conducted in secret. They must be able to make informed judgments about whether those policies and the personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values; whether they served a greater good; or whether, as I believe, they stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.”

Speaking from personal experience, McCain said:

“The abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.

“Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.”

Jose Rodriguez, a top CIA operations officer who ran the EIT program, claimed that critical Democratic lawmakers were fully briefed about what many people call torture. He wrote, “In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, lawmakers urged us to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our soil.” Feinstein disagreed, saying that the CIA mischaracterized the EITs that she referred to on the Senate floor in March as “chilling,” ”brutal” and “un-American.” Other senators also refused Rodriguez’s claim.

Outraged, the right-wing swears that the report is wrong although they lack any information to support their beliefs. They believe that even if the information were correct, the United States should never reveal how wrong it has been in its torturing of detainees. People gave up their privacy for what they perceive as safety, and now conservatives want to bury the truth for the same reason.

A group of highly religious people who will control the Congress in less than a month need to check their moral compass. They need to question their belief that the country’s illegal and unethical actions should not have consequences.

As Kevin Drum wrote:

“[A]ll it will take for torture to become official policy yet again is (a) secrecy and (b) another horrific attack that can be exploited by whoever happens to be in power at the moment. And while there may not be a lot we can about (b), we can at least try to force the public to recognize the full nature of the brutality that we descended to after 9/11. That might lower the odds a little bit, and that’s why this report needs to be released. It’s not just because it would be the right thing to do. It’s because, in the long run, if it really does reduce the chances of America adopting a policy of mass torture again in the future, it will save American lives.”

People who expect individuals to admit their wrongdoing need to expect the same of the United States government.

December 8, 2014

House Votes for War against Russia

While the nation’s media debates whether jaywalking and selling cigarettes should be capital offenses with the police acting as judge, jury, and executioner, 411 members of the U.S. House of Representatives quietly passed a bill that, if approved by the same large percentage of the Senate, can lead the United States into war with Russia. Five Republicans and five Democrats voted against H. Res. 758 “strongly condemning the actions of the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin, which has carried out a policy of aggression against neighboring countries aimed at political and economic domination.”

This move toward war proves that the House can act quickly if it wishes: the resolution was introduced on November 18, went to committee, and passed on December 4—just 16 days from beginning to end. Yet House members have done nothing about funding anti-ISIL programs and waited to take up the budget to keep the government running until tomorrow—just two days before their lights go out and they leave town. The House wants to start wars, not pay for them.

Those who believe that resolutions are harmless should look back what happened after the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 calling for regime change. George W. Bush used this act as support for the congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq in October 2002. Equally frightening is the remarkable lack of media attention to a vote that can lead to the downfall of the entire world.

With no proof, the resolution accuses Russia of an invasion of Ukraine and condemns Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. While the U.S. was complaining about Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, the U.S. participated in the overthrow in the country’s elected government last February, shown by the $5 billion that the U.S. spent on regime change in Ukraine. The accusation in the resolution that people in east Ukraine held “fraudulent and illegal elections” follows the U.S. pattern of complaining about elections in any country when the U.S. government doesn’t get its desired results. The resolution also urges the government in Kiev to resume military operations against the eastern regions that seek independence.

According to the resolution, the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was brought down by a missile “fired by Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.” The final report regarding the crash isn’t due for release until next year, and the preliminary report does not state that a missile brought down the plane. The report also fails to blame anyone.

Another complaint in the resolution is that Russia sold arms to Assad government in Syria. The weapons were sent to fight ISIL, considered to be the U.S. enemy. At the same time, the United States inadvertently provided weapons to ISIL by supplying them to Syrian rebels.

The statement that Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia in 2008 is also untrue. The European Union determined that Georgia “started an unjustified war” against Russia, not vice versa.

 

The resolution condemns Russia for its economic sanctions, “coercive economic measures,” against Ukraine, the exact action that the U.S. took against Russia.

Another part of the resolution is a complaint of Russia’s attacks on U.S. computer networks and “illicitly acquiring information” about the U.S. government. As the Edward Snowden leaks show, the U.S. has done massive spying on the rest of the world, even taping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. In addition, other countries such as China hack into U.S. computer systems, but thus far the House has not passed any resolutions to attack that county.

 

About the accusation that Russian’s state-funded media is to “distort public opinion,” the U.S. government spends billions of dollars to finance and sponsor media such outlets Voice of America and RFE/RL, as well as to subsidize “independent” media in countless counties overseas.

 

The resolution supports Ukrainian President Poroshenko in re-starting his military assault on the independence-seeking eastern provinces, urging the “disarming of separatist and paramilitary forces in eastern Ukraine.” The House bill calls for the U.S. president to “provide the government of Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal defense articles, services, and training required to effectively defend its territory and sovereignty.” According to International Law, sending military hardware and/or personnel across and into a sovereign country with the purpose of killing is an act of war.

 

In Ukraine, the United States planned and funded a Neo-Nazi coup that led to the overthrow of a democratically-elected government. The U.S. supported openly fascist, anti-Semitic oligarchs to take over the Ukrainian government. This week Natalie Jaresko, a former U.S. State Department officer, received Ukrainian citizenship and, at the same time, became the country’s new Finance Minister. She had headed a U.S. government-funded investment project for Ukraine that involved substantial insider dealings, including $1 million-plus fees to a management company that she also controlled.

 

In its rationale for the demands in H.Res. 758, the 411 House members voting in favor of aggression against Russia have demonstrated a high level of hypocrisy.

 

  • U.S. and British intelligence have used Ukranian Neo-Nazis against the Soviet Union since the end of World War II.
  • President George H.W. Bush and German chancellor Helmut Kohl in essence defrauded Mikhail Gorbachev in expanding NATO to the Russian borders.
  • The United States destabilized Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, and other countries formed from the Soviet Union in a pattern of color revolutions. The U.S. wants access to Ukraine’s rich store of oil and gas, just as it wants the energy resources in the Middle East.

 

For the past century, the United States has created a phenomenal number of imperialist coups around the world—Latin America, the Middle East, Southern Africa, etc. The U.S. has provided support to terrorist and paramilitary organizations as well as assistance to authoritarian regimes that use terror as a tool of repression. At this time, the U.S. foreign policy is to kill thousands of innocent civilians with drones. It is impossible for this country to pretend to take the high road in such a resolution as H.R. 758. The people who voted for this resolution should be embarrassed by their actions.

 

A provision of the resolution could force NATO to wage war if the United States chooses this option. If the Senate passes H. Res. 758, the president has a green light for war on Russia without further congressional approval. Infrastructure in the United States is rapidly crumbling, and 50 million people live in poverty  partly because of the trillions of dollars spent on just the Middle East wars during the 21st century. The resolution extends that travesty to a possibility of World War III, this time with nuclear attacks, no safety provisions of the past Cold War, and no holds barred. The conservative hawks are determined to attack, a situation that could annihilate the planet before climate change has a chance to destroy all of us.

December 7, 2014

Fundamentalist Christians Move toward Theocracy, Terrorism

A definition of “Christian” differs among followers of Jesus and Christ. More progressive people who follow the beliefs of the Christian bible rankle at the thought that those who want differ in thought are also Christians, but fundamentalists Christians do self-identify themselves as Christians. Moderate and progressive Christians do not seem to be successful in defeating the move toward a theocracy in the United States. Only by casting transparencies on the beliefs and actions of fundamentalist Christians, can people understand the dangers of Christians who want to force everyone in this country to follow their specific religion.

Last week, a reader to Nels New Day wrote, “Christian is such a widely used and mis-used tag that gets thrown around, it has lost all meaning.” I agree that the meaning has disappeared, but those who refer to themselves as Christians have gained a great deal of power in the country. As long as people self-identify as Christians, I’ll continue to refer to them in this way.

Conservatives Christians will control the Congress in less than a month, and the president could be a conservative Christian in two years. These are some issues we can expect.

According to research published by the Public Religion Research Institute, almost half the people in the United States (49 percent) and fully 77 percent of white evangelical Christians think that any natural disasters come from the biblical “end times” and not climate change. One-fourth of people in the United States believe that the Earth’s temperature has not been rising at all, despite scientific proof. Only 22 percent of Republicans think that humans have any connection with possible climate change, despite over 900 peer-reviewed scientific articles supply evidence. It appears that climate denial is a religious belief.

Rick Santorum, who may be a presidential candidate—again!—once said that the idea of separation of church and state makes him want to throw up. Now he’s telling his audience that the “words ‘separation of church and state’ is [sic] not in the U.S. Constitution, but it is in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours.”

To be accurate, the U.S. Constitution does not use those exact words, but James Madison and Thomas Jefferson supported Roger Williams’ support of the concept from 1644. Madison, sometimes called “father of the constitution,” wrote, “Strongly guarded … is the separation between religion & Gov’t in the Constitution of the United States.” The USSR did copy—and ignore—some United States’ First Amendment principles such as freedom of speech and press, which might make Santorum think these are also Communist beliefs.

Bill O’Reilly is again using the mythical “War on Christmas” to improve Fox network’s ratings. According to fundamentalist Christians—and Fox supporters—anyone who tries to “diminish the celebration of Jesus’ birthday” is a “bully who tries to push other people down in order to make themselves feel better.” That’s the testimony of a therapist, Dr. Karen Ruskin, LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Counselor) who appeared on O’Reilly’s show in response to a billboard posted by a group of atheists. Ruskin and O’Reilly also claim that atheists who voice their opinion are gang-like and sadistic as well as being emotionally confused and in denial.

American-Atheist-Billboard-1024x298

Todd Starnes is another persecuted Fox pundit, this time by The Disney Channel. When their website didn’t accept an email from a 10-year-old girl, she and her mother assumed it was because she had used the word “God” in her email. Both Starnes and Elizabeth Hasselbeck, in a segment called “Looks like Disney has frozen out God,” complained about Disney. The company reported that their profanity filter lists the word “God” because many people use it in that context and would have explained if the family had contacted them.

Pope Francis has compared fundamentalist Christians to fundamentalist Muslims, and there are similar believes.  For example, the Fox network objects to women voting or being on juries, and some Christians believe that women cannot be raped by their husbands because the marriage vows give them consent to perform sexual acts anytime and in any way that they wish.

Most of the recent terrorist activity in the United States has come from radical Christians, white supremacists, and far-right militia groups:

  • Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug 2012: White supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semiautomatic weapon to murder six people with a semiautomatic weapon.
  • The Dr. George Tiller Murder, May 2009: After Tiller’s clinic was firebombed in 1986 and he was shot five times in 1993 by Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon, the doctor was shot and killed by Christian Right terrorist Scott Roeder.
  • Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 2008: Shooting people at random, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson killed two and injured seven others. He gave hatred of liberals, Democrats, and gays as the reason.
  • The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 1996: Best known for the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics that killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others, Eric Rudolph used his Christian belief to bomb a woman’s clinic in Birmingham (AL) in 1998 that killed Robert Sanderson, police officer and part-time security guard, and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.

Pastor Steven Anderson, leader of Tempe’s (AZ) Faithful Word Baptist Church, has a way to “have an AIDS-free world by Christmas“: execute all gays. He claims to get the solution from Leviticus 18:22. With no college degree, Anderson’s claim to fame is that he has memorized over 140 chapters of the Bible “word-for-word,” according to his church’s website. He also argues that “remarriage is adultery” and in favor of keeping women silent in church. Pastor Vernon Meyer with Sun Lakes United Church of Christ compared Anderson to terrorist leaders: “That’s no different than what ISIS is doing in Iraq and Syria. God tells them to go kill anybody who’s different from them.”

Some religions beliefs require parents to kill their children despite the 1944 Supreme Court ruling that “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose… [a] child… to ill health or death.” The District of Columbia and 38 states, however, provide religious exemptions on child abuse and neglect, preventing Child Protective Services from investigating and monitoring cases of religion-based medical neglect and discourage reporting. Seventeen states have religious defenses to felony crimes against children, and 15 states have religious defenses to misdemeanors.

One of these religions is Church of the First Born, with over 100 churches in 20 states. Over 30 years ago, Rita Swan founded Children’s Health Is a Legal Duty (CHILD); in 1998 she teamed up with pediatrician Seth M. Asser to investigate child fatalities associated with faith healing. Of 172 children withheld from medical care on religious grounds, 140 had a 90-percent likelihood of survival with routine medical care. At least 82 dead children were connected to the Church of the First Born.

Conservative Christian legislators believe that charities should be done through their religion and not through government. New Beginnings in Tampa (FL) is an example of what would happen with this shift of control. This program, that claims to help homeless people addicted to drugs, alcohol, or both, get clean and get back on their feet to live more productive lives free of substance abuse, uses what CEO Tom Atchison calls “work therapy.” Residents work for local businesses and events but get no income from doing this. The homeless people not only work on labor crews but also telemarketing, construction, landscaping, moving, and even grant writing. If they don’t participate in the labor program that puts money into the CEO’s pocket, they’re charged $600 a month for meals and rent.

There is evidence that the program also takes food stamps, Social Security checks, and other income from the residents, even over the $600. Part of the program’s mission is counseling to its residents, but the charity has no staff to work with residents’ mental illness and addiction problems. One contractor claims that New Beginnings has overbilled Florida for $80,000. Atchison is so pleased with the money that he is making that he’s trying millions of taxpayer money by taking control of Hillsborough County’s newest homeless shelter.

According to fundamentalist Christians, God—who is channeled through legislators—is completely in charge despite the U.S. Constitution, and he wants terrorism throughout the country to control anyone who believes in climate change, human rights, and freedom of thought.

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