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US Air Strikes Kill 36 Civilians in Syrian Village
by Jason Ditz
US warplanes attacked the Syrian village of al-Khan today, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, killing at least 36 people, all of them civilians. Over a dozen other civilians are missing, and the toll is likely to rise.
Though al-Khan is an ISIS-held village, the Syrian Observatory pointed out that ISIS doesn’t actually have any forces in the village itself, instead having its forces on the outskirts. The strikes, however, hit the center of the village, which was why everyone hit was civilian.
The US offered no comments on the attack itself, but did say they intend to conduct a “credibility assessment” to decide whether the civilian deaths are worth looking into. Of the massive civilian toll in the US air war, Centcom has admitted to virtually none of the killings, indeed refusing to investigate most of the reports on the ground as they didn’t trust the sources.
This was the second scandal related to a US attack on Syria in less than 24-hours, as a previous US strike hit an air base in Deir Ezzor Province, killing at least three Syrian troops and wounding 13 others. The Pentagon has since claimed they think Russia actually launched the strike.
Saudi TV Claims Iran Captured US Ship with 34 Americans Onboard, Pentagon Denies
This morning, Saudi-owned TV news network Al-Arabiya reported that Iran had seized a US cargo ship traveling through the Strait of Hormuz and detained 34 Americans found onboard. Said the report, “Iran has fired at a US cargo ship and has directed it to Bandar Abbas port on the southern coast of Iran… Up to 34 American sailors are believed to be onboard the ship.”
However, the report was immediately contradicted by US officials at the Pentagon. According to Reuters, a Pentagon spokesperson said that the ship in question, the MV Maersk Tigris, bore a flag representing the Republic of the Marshall Islands and that no US citizens were onboard the vessel. Iranian officials have yet to comment on the incident. Politico pointed out the fact that the Marshall Islands vessel is being monitored by US maritime patrol aircraft and that US officials have dispatched the destroyer USS Farragut to the nearest possible location to the incident. A Pentagon official told The Boston Herald that the US has “certain obligations” to protect ships from the Marshall Islands, but that it is not yet known how those obligations might relate to this still-developing story.
A 2003 BBC profile on Al-Arabiya noted that, “Al-Arabiya was launched… with an investment of $300m by the Saudi-controlled pan-Arab satellite TV pioneer MBC, Lebanon’s Hariri Group, and other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. It was set up as an all-news channel to compete directly with Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV.”
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been tempestuous lately, as Sunni superpower Saudi Arabia and Shia-majority Iran have been locking horns in what has been referred to as a proxy war in neighboring Yemen, with Saudi Arabia intervening directly and Iran allegedly funding a local uprising of Houthi rebels.
Though Saudi Arabia is a US ally, former US Senator Bob Graham (R-FL) and current US Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) recently told BenSwann.com‘s Joshua Cook in two different exclusive interviews that there are 28 classified pages from the 9/11 report that contain evidence potentially implicating a US ally, implied to be Saudi Arabia, in funding the 9/11 attacks. Saudi Arabia recently denied allegations that it participated in funding the 9/11 attacks in response to a recently-filed lawsuit by 9/11 victims’ families.
US Sanctions May Save Venezuelan Govt
External Enemy Could Serve as Unifier Amid Economic Struggles
by Jason Ditz, March 11, 2015
Earlier this year, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro looked to be in a bad way. Falling oil price had crushed the nation’s economy, and he was facing soaring inflation and chronic shortages.
Earlier this week, President Obama tried to cut out what’s left of Venezuela’s support by declaring them a “threat to national security,” with an eye on imposing a new round of economic sanctions.
For Maduro, the timing couldn’t be better, as it has brought the attention off the economy, and turned it instead onto foreign relations. It has given Maduro a new lease on life, railing against American “imperialism.”
While that doesn’t fix the economy, the imposing of US sanctions will give the government a convenient excuse, and an external enemy to rally their own supporters against.
Cuban Prisoner Swap Scandal: Feds Paid Reporters to Publish Propaganda Against Cuban Five
President Obama took historic steps recently to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba, bringing an end to leftover tensions from the Cold War and ending hostilities with a nation that once served as Russia’s potential launch pad for attacks on US soil. In so doing, he negotiated a prisoner swap, trading the three still-incarcerated members of a Cuban intelligence cell called the “Cuban Five” for two Americans, US Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross and Central Intelligence Agency spy Rolando “Rollie” Sarraff Trujillo, who had been incarcerated in Cuba. However, one story that the mainstream media outlets missed regarding the Cuban Five unfolded a few years ago beneath the headlines.
Russia Today noted back in 2010 that a group called the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five obtained evidence via a Freedom of Information Act request which the group says shows that, in the period leading up to the trial that convicted the Cuban Five, the US government paid reporters to produce propaganda condemning the accused spies. The above-embedded video by Russia Today, which dates back to 2010, prior to Obama’s Cuban relations reset, features an interview with National Committee to Free the Cuban Five coordinator Gloria La Riva in which she explains in great detail the government’s effort to systematically smear defendants in a criminal trial.
Cuban Five supporters claim that the group of five Cuban intelligence agents, Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González, were not in the United States to spy on the government, but were instead investigating a terrorist ring, in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that had taken hold among Cuban refugee camps in Miami and launched a series of bombings in Havana. Notorious terrorist and sometimes-CIA-operative Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro radical, was accused by the Cuban government of masterminding the attacks. Opponents of the Cuban Five believe that the group attempted to spy on the US military and that one of them in particular, Gerardo Hernández, had provided intelligence to the Cuban government that led to the downing of two planes that killed four American pilots back in 1996.
Gloria La Riva said that, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the Cuban Five in 1998, US officials secretly paid journalists working in Miami, where the alleged spies were set to stand trial, to saturate the market with media condemning the group, allegedly in an effort to influence potential jurors. She claimed that the payments were issued through two obscure US agencies, the Broadcasting Board of Governors for Radio and TV Martí and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. Manipulating public opinion by disseminating state-sponsored propaganda to influence a criminal trial violates US law.
Cuban Five member René González, who had the lightest punishment of the group, was released in 2011 after finishing his sentence. A second member, Fernando González, was released in February of 2014, also at the end of his prison term. The three remaining members, who were released in President Obama’s prison swap, had been sentenced to spend life in prison, with Gerardo Hernández having been sentenced to two life terms.
US Major General Assassinated in Attack on Camp Qargha in Afghanistan
According to Fox News, earlier today, an as-yet unidentified man acquired an Afghan army uniform and launched an attack on the Marshal Fahim National Defense University at Camp Qargha, an officers academy for Afghan troops located near Kabul, Afghanistan. A two star US Major General was reportedly shot and killed at close range, and fifteen other NATO International Security Assistance Force soldiers were wounded.
ABC News spoke with a US official who estimated that around half of the wounded NATO troops were Americans. Fox News cited another comment by a US official, reported on by the Associated Press, that put the number of Americans wounded at around a dozen. Additionally, Afghan and German troops, including a German Brigadier General, were among those injured. The number of fatalities could rise, as many of the wounded were hit at very close range.
Both US and Afghan officials have indicated that the gunman, who was not believed to be an Afghan soldier, disguised himself in an Afghan army uniform as a way to sneak onto the base. After launching his assault, the attacker was shot and killed. The US Major General who was killed in the attack is the highest ranking American officer to be killed in action since the Vietnam War.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai responded by condeming the attack on Camp Qargha, calling it “cowardly” and “an act by the enemies who don’t want to see Afghanistan have strong institutions.” Karzai also said, “The soldiers were visiting the military academy to help with the buildup of Afghan security forces.”
The attack follows a controversial Monday night battle when a NATO helicopter launched a counterattack in an area from which a missile was reportedly fired, allegedly killing four civilians. 200 Afghans gathered today in Herat, carrying bodies of the fallen, to protest civilian casualties, which have risen in Afghanistan by 17% this year according to a July report by the United Nations. Around the same time that the attack was taking place at Camp Qargha, an Afghan police guard attacked NATO troops and was killed near the governor’s office in eastern Pakia province. It is not yet known whether the two attacks were connected in any way.
Despite the two incidents today, insider attacks by Afghan forces on US troops have dropped significantly this year as the US prepares to withdraw from the conflict. Attacks against civilian foreign aid workers have increased, along with Afghan civilian casualties and attacks on Afghan security forces.
In a statement cited by ABC News, the ISAF Joint Command said of today’s attack on Camp Qargha, “We are in the process of assessing the situation. More information will be released as we sort out the facts.”
Chelsea Manning Criticizes U.S./Iraq Situation and Media Coverage
Chelsea Manning, the soldier previously known as Bradley Manning, spoke out for the first time since being sentenced to 35 years in prison on espionage charges. After delivering 700,000 secret documents to the website WikiLeaks, the former military intelligence analyst’s actions are referred to as the “largest-scale leak in US history.”
Manning addressed the current affairs in Iraq, by saying, “As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of how the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan.”
While President Obama claimed to be “looking at all the options,” regarding US interference in Iraq, he has also been under scrutiny for the failure of Iraq’s security forces. After spending billions of US dollars on training and equipping Iraq’s security forces in 2010, the United States tried to paint a positive picture of the status of affairs.
However, Manning wrote, “Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality. Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed.”
“I understand that my actions violated the law,” Manning wrote, in regards to speaking out for the first time since his sentence. “However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved.”
Manning also went on to criticize the media coverage in Iraq, writing that he was shocked by the amount of troubling details that “flew under the American media’s radar.”
“The current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance,” said Manning.
US Sends 36 F-16s to Iraq, Trains Iraqi Pilots
In 2003, a US-led invasion all but obliterated Iraq’s air force. After living under US occupation for 8 years, leading to the rise of Al Qaeda affiliated groups in the region, the Middle Eastern nation has plunged into political chaos that may escalate into a civil war. In August of 2013, the US government agreed to send $2.6 billion to Iraq for the provision of an air defense system and contracted with Lockheed Martin Corp to provide the war-torn nation with F-16s. President Obama has also accelerated shipments of surveillance drones to the Iraqi government.
Reuters is reporting that the first of those 36 F-16s are officially ready to ship and will soon be on their way to Iraq. The US government will present the fighter jets to Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily at a ceremony tomorrow at a Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas. Iraqi fighter pilots have received F-16 flight training from the US Air Force in Tuscon. In an article by the 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs division of the Air National Guard, the Iraqi Air Force Chief was quoted as saying, “They (IqAF pilots) will return to our country – then transfer that American experience of training to the next generation of Iraqi air force pilots.”
Meanwhile, Iraq has also forged military contracts with Russia, and US defense contractors have begun to shift their focus from providing weapons for US military engagements to providing munitions like F-16s to foreign nations overseas.
The US government has often provided military weaponry and training to governments and rebel groups in unstable regions, sometimes leading to catastrophic results, such as when the CIA-trained terrorist Osama bin Laden turned against the US and launched the devastating 9/11 attacks, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Americans. As Iraq descends into a possible civil war, questions are being raised as to whether or not these weapons will remain in the hands of the US-backed government or whether a future political crisis might lead them to be used against Americans.
The US has also provided Iraq with 100 Hellfire missiles, assault rifles, and 11 million rounds of ammunition. In related news, PBS Frontline has just launched a new documentary in which Al Nusra affiliated Syrian rebels describe the training that they allegedly received at the hands of the US government. In January of 2013, the US government sent F-16s to Egypt, just months before a July coup in which the Egyptian military ousted then-President Mohamed Morsi.
As US tax dollars are being used to fund a weapons build-up in the Middle East, the nation faces an unprecedented debt crisis. On the other hand, Lockheed Martin Corp’s stocks are, quite predictably, on the rise.
BREAKING: U.S. Military Sends Fighter Jets To Assist NATO Among Ukraine Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 5, 2014– Today Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel alluded to ensuing American intervention after Russia’s Putin moved to occupy regions of Ukraine last week.
Defense officials later confirmed that the U.S. will send six F-15s and one KC-135 to “augment the mission” in Baltic countries. The move is an attempt to bolster American military presence in the region.
The U.S. military currently provides four F-15s to what’s known as the Baltic Air Policing rotation, which oversees the highly disputed territory. According to the official, additional aircraft will be sent from a base in Britain to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania.
“This action comes at the request of our Baltic Allies and further demonstrates our commitment to NATO security,” the official said.
At a press conference in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry described this decision and others as “concrete steps to reassure our NATO allies” with regards to the Russian insurgency.
America takes huge hit in freedom of press rankings this year
In total, 45 countries now place higher when it comes to freedom of the press than America does.
According to the World Press Freedom Index, America slipped 13 spots on the index in a single year.
The index is compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Researchers use the following variables when scoring countries.
-Media independence and pluralism: Measures the degree to which the media are able to function independently of the authorities.
-Environment and self-censorship: Analyses the environment in which journalists work.
-Legislative framework: Analyses the quality of the legislative framework and measures its effectiveness.
-Transparency: Measures the transparency of the institutions and procedures that affect the production of news and information.
-Infrastructure: Measures the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway top the Index in first, second, and third places respectively.
Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea round out the bottom of the list.
Rand Paul is Right: Civil Rights Aren’t Simple Rights
Something recently happened in England that warrants revisiting Rachel Maddow’s (in?)famous 2010 interview with Rand Paul concerning the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In April of this year, Rachel Maddow also revisited that interview, following Rand’s visit to Howard University, during which he answers a question from a student with the sentence: “I do question some of the ramifactions and extensions, and I have never come out in opposition to the Civil Rights Act … I have never questioned the Civil Rights Act”.
Rachel shows a clip of Rand’s giving that answer and then repeats, out of context, “I have never questioned the Civil Rights Act”. The context is important because it includes his explicit qualification that he does question the ramifications of the act beyond race.
Nevertheless, Rachel accuses Rand of “flat-out lying”, and to prove her point, she runs another interview that Rand had given in 2010 with the Louisville Courier Journal News paper, which went as follows.
LCJ: “Would you have voted for the Civil Rights of 1964?”
RP: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains. I am all in favor of that.”
RP: [Laughs] “You had to ask me the “but”. I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners – I abhor racism; I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant – but at the same time I do believe in private ownership.”
Cutting back to Rachel in the studio, “That is Rand Paul, questioning the Civil Rights Act”.
She accuses Rand of having a sketchy record on racial discrimination and civil rights law, and of being condescending in thinking he can get away with his lie. She even displays this headline in the New Yorker: “Rand Paul, at Howard University, Pretends He Favored the Civil Rights Act”, to reinforce visually the idea that Rand is a) dishonest and b) disfavors the Civil Rights Act.
That was itself dishonest, and as someone who likes Maddow (and even has a signed copy of her book on my shelf), I am disappointed that Rachel didn’t think so. In her interview with Rand from 2010, Rand was clear:
“There are ten different titles to the Civil Rights Act and nine out of ten deal with public institutions and I am absolutely in favor of [them]. One deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to modify that. But the other thing about legislation – and this is why it is a little hard to say where you are sometimes – is that when you support nine out of ten things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote for it or against it?”
They are not the words of a man who disfavors the Civil Rights Act, or is trying to be dishonest about his views of it. They are the words of a man who favors nine tenths of it and, because of his concern for civil rights, is worried about the gutting of one principle critical to everyone’s enjoyment of liberty – private property – to help extend the reach of another (anti-discrimination).
… Which brings me to the recent event in England that raises serious questions for Americans, and I think puts Rand’s interview in an altogether more positive light.
In the U.K., an elderly Christian couple, Mr and Mrs Bull, who used to run a guesthouse, refused to offer rooms to unmarried couples – whether gay or straight. Some time ago, a gay couple, who fell afoul of their “no unwed couples” policy, sued them for discrimination. Britain’s Supreme Court agreed with the offended party and fined the hoteliers thousands of pounds, which, along with the legal fees, and the elimination of their right to rent their rooms to whomever they wish, caused them to sell their business.
As a non-religionist, I completely disagree with the guesthouse-owners view of sexuality and, dare I say, love. But I am very disturbed by the use of law to punish them for following their conscience with their own property in a way that neither did, nor intended to do, active harm to anyone.
This incident raises a complicated moral and societal question about which well-meaning and intelligent people can disagree. To find answers to such questions, I often ask simply, “What would Love do?”. And I have to say that if I were denied entry to this business (as I would be if I were with a partner as I am not married), I would probably pity this couple for their views, and I might even tell them so, but Love would require me to respect where they are on their spiritual journey, and know that they were not seeking to hurt me. I wouldn’t feel that I had a right to use the force of the state against them, nor would I want to.
As I read this sad tale, Rand’s interview with Rachel Maddow came immediately to mind. For what happened to Mr and Mrs Bull is the very consequence of the concession of the principle of private property that Rand was so concerned about.
Just as Mr and Mrs. Bull had a right to discriminate (but a moral obligation not to do so), any group of aggrieved customers – such as gay people or unmarried persons who are sexually active – have all the right in the world to publicize this couple’s views in a bid to persuade others not to frequent their establishment (easier today than it has ever been). In this way, no one has to act out of force or violate the one right that exists almost exclusively to facilitate the exercise of all other fundamental (natural) rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – which is the right to earn and deploy property to your benefit as long as doing so harms no one else.
In the case of Mr and Mrs Bull, the force of a British law that is equivalent to the one tenth of the Civil Rights Act about which Rand Paul is rightfully concerned, was used to deprive someone of something as punishment for an act that was not intended to harm, was in line with sincerely held religious belief, and materially deprived no one of anything.
Logically, Mr and Mrs Bull can only have committed a crime if the couple they turned away had an actual right to be served by them. Yet, the Bulls are not compelled to offer their service to anyone. So how can it be that party A’s (the Bulls) making a free choice to transact with party B (a married couple) creates a new right for party C (unmarried couple)? What kind of right would that be? It is not a simple question.
To get to its answer, Rachel had pressed Rand on this altogether more concrete question.
“Do you believe that private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, gays or any other minority group?”
The most important thing about this question is that it is utterly different from the following one.
“Do you believe that private business people should serve black people, gays or any other minority group?”
Those two questions are very different indeed; they rest on very different moral and even metaphysical principles and both consistently can, and perhaps, should, be answered with a “yes”.
It is far from obvious, for example, that we should use law to punish a person who follows his conscience and does not harm another individual (such as Mr. Bull), but not a person who goes against his conscience and betrays another, such as by telling a lie to cover adultery. Typically, we make the leap from “an action is wrong” to “an action should be punishable by law” only in the very rare cases that an individual is in fact harmed or put at great risk of harm (murder, robbery, intention to do either, reckless driving, etc.).
In contrast, anti-discrimination laws in the private sphere almost uniquely work by the threat of harm (or in Mr and Mrs Bull’s case, doing actual harm) against individuals who have neither done, nor intended to do, active harm against anyone else. This is extremely serious because it is exactly by prohibiting the state from harming those who have not done harm to others that discrimination against any group in the public sphere is prevented. In other words, anti-discriminatory laws in the private sphere are always in danger of undermining the very principle they purport to defend. Typically, that doesn’t matter practically in the short-run, but it can do huge harm in the long-term.
What, after all, was the evil of slavery, from which modern discrimination in large part follows so darkly? It was not the evil of slavers’ refusing to let their slaves buy services, analogous to the refusal of Mr and Mrs Bull to offer a room for their unmarried but sexually active clients. Rather, it was the legally sanctioned, complete abuse of the property rights of the slaves by the slavers – the refusal to let them earn property in exchange for their labor, the refusal to let them keep property with which they could have bought themselves out of their slavery, the refusal to allow them to decide what to do with anything they did in any loose sense own, and even, (by the definition of property favored by many who understand its importance to providing all individuals the means of defending their liberty against any impingement,) the denial of the slaves’ exclusive property in their own beings and bodies.
This is extremely important. Property rights matter because property is the only secure means by which people can exercise their liberty over time and defend it when it is under attack.
Understanding why the two questions above can both be answered affirmatively is critical not only to understanding Freedom, but also to our ability as a nation to preserve it. We might even go a step further and say that it is the difference between those two questions that defines Freedom.
That Rand Paul cares about all of that is a credit to him. The story of Mr and Mrs Bull does not in itself prove that either Rand or Rachel is right on that one tenth of the Civil Rights Act that deals with private institutions, but it does (as sure as slavery is evil) prove that intelligent people can disagree about it. And it proves beyond doubt that impugning the intent of a politician who has sufficient integrity and, frankly, courage, to grapple so publicly with the fundamental principles of liberty is not only unfair to him, but also a disservice to us all.
Reports: Saudi Prince using U.S. to topple Assad to consolidate own power
According to reports in Mint Press News made by veteran Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak, the chemical attack came from Syrian rebel arms by Prince Bandar, not the Assad regime.
Gavlak writes, “The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was ‘a judgment … already clear to the world.’”
Gavlak’s report states that the U.S. is not interested in differing opinion, despite evidence that points to Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar.
The report continues, “However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.”
“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”
“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.”
Prince Bandar is said to have close ties to Washington, serving as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador. According to a report in the UK’s The Independent, Prince Bandar has re-emerged as a pivotal figure in the struggle by America and its allies to tilt the battlefield balance against the regime in Syria.
According to the Independent, it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that first alerted Western allies to the alleged use of sarin gas by the Syrian regime in February.
According to the report, “It is a long-term Saudi goal that in the past several days has been subsumed by the more immediate crisis over the purported use of chemical weapons by Damascus … That message is being delivered to President Barack Obama by the current Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, who is a Bandar protégé.”
This situation continues to become eerily similar to President George W. Bush’s intel on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In fact, according to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, on January 11, 2002, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers met in Cheney’s office with Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States to discuss plans to attack Iraq.
The Washington Post reported that Bandar, who helped arrange Saudi cooperation with the U.S. military, feared Saudi interests would be damaged if Bush did not follow through on attacking Hussein, thus Bandar became another advocate for war.
“Months of applying pressure on the White House and Congress over Syria have slowly born fruit. The CIA is believed to have been working with Prince Bandar directly since last year in training rebels at base in Jordan close to the Syrian border,” the Independent reported.
The Saudis are “indispensable partners on Syria” and have considerable influence on American thinking, a senior US official told The Wall Street Journal yesterday. He added: “No one wants to do anything alone.”
And right now, Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to justify intervening in Syria on the basis of crimes against humanity. But it makes you wonder: Whose crimes?
Is Saudi Arabia using an attack on Syria by the west as a way to advance its own agenda?
Exclusive: NSA Using Copyright Claims To Crush Free Speech?
Update: Dan McCall tells BenSwann.com that it is no longer just the NSA that is claiming trademark infringement. He has now had any of his shirts with DHS parodies also removed from the Zazzle marketplace. DHS is also claiming the that parodies infringe on their trademark. McCall is talking with attorneys and may take the issue to court.
Ben Swann Truth in Media
NSA Using Copyright Claims To Crush Free Speech?
Can a government agency block criticism by claiming copyright infringement? Sounds a bit ridiculous but it is happening. The NSA is effectively stopping one small business owner from criticism, claiming that by using its name he has infringed on their copyright.
Can they do that?
The first step toward truth is to be informed.
This is a story I had a hard time believing until I looked into it for myself. Here is the backstory.
Dan McCall is the owner of a company that makes snarky t-shirts. The company is called Liberty Maniacs. Liberty Maniacs carry a number of t-shirts dealing with lack of privacy and the growing police state. They sell on a site called www.Zazzle.com
None of it has been a problem—until Liberty Maniacs released a shirt called “The NSA.”
The image looks like the NSA logo but has a motto that is clearly a pun—“Peeping while you are sleeping”—followed by the phrase “The NSA, the only part of government that actually listens.”
Shortly after the shirt went online, www.Zazzle.com pulled the shirt from its website, sending this message: “Thank you for publishing products on Zazzle.
Unfortunately, it appears that your product, The NSA, contains content that is in conflict with one or more of our acceptable content guidelines. We will be removing this product from the Zazzle Marketplace shortly.
“Policy Notes: Design contains an image or text that may infringe on intellectual property rights. We have been contacted by the intellectual property right holder and we will be removing your product from Zazzle’s Marketplace due to infringement claims.”
Dan McCall, the owner of Liberty Maniacs spoke with me via Skype and says there were multiple items dealing with the NSA that were pulled down from Zazzle.
“In terms of shirts, two, and then maybe four or five bumper stickers. Basically anything remotely relating to the NSA was taken down. So I’m not sure if that was subsequently a blanket policy that Zazzle themselves put up because they don’t want to deal with the hassle and they didn’t want to spend time interpreting each thing knowing they would run into problems or if they were plugged into NSA legal and they were watching things as they go,” says McCall.
So to be clear, McCall was using the NSA logo, the NSA claimed copyright infringement and Zazzle.com pulled the content down.
In fairness, what McCall was doing does use the official logo of a government agency. Can anyone just use that logo? Actually, yes. According to both the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the American Bar Association, “parody is recognized as a type of fair use, like other commentary and criticism, and courts recognize that a parody must often take recognizable elements from the work it comments upon.
Courts do distinguish parody from satire. Parody copies from the object it mocks…”
You can’t claim copyright infringement if your logo or image is used as part of a parody. So the next question, is this logo a parody?
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, a parody “is the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works. Like other forms of comment or criticism, parody can provide social benefit, by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one.”
“According to the [U.S. Supreme] Court, a parody is the ‘use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works.’ Id. at 580. Like other forms of comment or criticism, parody can provide social benefit, ‘by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one.’ Id.” –Juli Wilson Marshall, Nicholas J. Siciliano, Latham & Watkins LLP
McCall says, “I tried to visually take the most obvious direction at pointing at them that I could. It was their logo. I just tried to adulterate it a little bit and put a few jabs in there and that will be it. So it wasn’t a huge design coup and it did the job basically.”
Now, what might be the most interesting twist in this entire story is that while the NSA is claiming copyright infringement against McCall for his parody, the NSA itself is facing accusations of true copyright infringement.
Take a look at this image. This is the official NSA logo for the Prism program. Prism is, of course, the program that deals with NSA spying via email and phone records.
According to reports from England, the Prism image used here is being used without permission.
Adam Hart Davis is a well-known BBC presenter and the image belongs to him. Here is the Davis pic. As you can see, the NSA image is just Davis’ picture flipped upside down. Adam’s son, Damon, who wrote about this in the Register Newspaper, claims that the image is free for use, but a donation is requested and, at minimum, use of the image requires a link to his photo gallery and acknowledgement, none of which he has received from the NSA.
What you need to know is that because the work put out by Liberty Maniacs is clearly a parody, it is not copyright infringement. That is the easiest part of this story.
But the bigger issue here is the issue of free speech. It is a first amendment issue. McCall sees it that way as well.
“First amendment issues affect everybody and it specifically affects everybody who is expressing themselves—any artist, whether on the right or on the left or in the middle or whatever side. If you are not allowed to express yourself artistically or in many other ways, we have taken a turn for the worse,” says McCall.
Bottom line, there is no gray area here. But the NSA is a very powerful government agency. They don’t need a gray area or even to be right to get companies like Zazzle.com to cooperate.
This is why Internet piracy bills like SOPA and PIPA and CISPA are so dangerous. If those bills become law, all the feds have to do is claim copyright infringement to shut down an entire site. They don’t have to be right.
Dan McCall’s story is just a taste of what happens when government agencies decide they will enforce laws but not be subject to them.
And that is Reality Check.
Crowd Erupts In Thunderous Applause When Presented with Resolution to Replace Lindsey Graham
On Aug. 5, 2013, in Greenville, S.C. a resolution supporting the replacement of Senator Lindsey Graham was presented at the county GOP executive committee meeting which resulted in spontaneous applause. More than 200 republican leaders attended.
According to the TimesExaminer.com, the resolution lists 29 actions by Sen. Graham that the resolution states are “fundamentally inconsistent with the principles of the South Carolina Republican Party.” The actions include voting with Democrats to appoint radicals Elena Kagan and Sandra Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, and consistently supporting amnesty for illegal aliens.
One republican attending the meeting said, “it is the responsibility of all republicans to defend the platform, and speak out, and then take action to replace any republican who consistently votes contrary their party platform.”
On Tuesday, South Carolina state senator and Tea Party favorite Lee Bright launched his campaign website sending a warning shot across the bow for Lindsey Graham. This makes Bright the third candidate seeking to replace Sen. Graham.
The campaign website states, “As a South Carolina state senator, Lee Bright has earned the reputation for being the most conservative leader in the legislature. His impeccable voting record reveals a strong belief in Second Amendment freedoms, pro-life values, the advancement of civil liberties and fiscal responsibility.”
“It’s time to take this proven track record to the U.S. Senate so South Carolina can lead the charge against the Washington establishment,” the site declares.
Last Sunday, Graham said on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, “I am going to keep being a social and fiscal conservative that focuses on our national security, takes care of our interests at home, like the Port of Charleston, working with my state officials, and be a conservative like Ronald Reagan who will sit down with a Tip O’Neill to solve America’s problems … I will continue to be Lindsey Graham a solid fiscal and social conservative who wants to solve problems I think that’s the future of the Republican Party.”
A well known liberty activist, Chris Lawton who presented the resolution told Full Disclosure, “We are the largest republican county in SC (13% of the entire state) and we fired the first shot in the retirement of Lindsey Graham tonight. We anticipate other County Executive Committees across the state to join this movement to bring our senator home to pasture.”
Is Rep. Justin Amash the Next Ron Paul?
For decades, Congressman Ron Paul was the nation’s most vocal advocate of libertarian ideologies of less government and more individual liberties. From his position in the U.S. House of Representatives, he argued for smaller government and less intervention in all aspects of life. He developed a small, but intense, following. His followers have shown both the power of grassroots involvement and rocked the Republican Party establishment from their dogmatic slumber. Congressman Ron Paul became the benchmark for ideological conviction in the U.S. Legislature, and the question since his retirement has been, “Who will be the next Ron Paul?” There are very few contenders. One is the stand-out Rep. Justin Amash.
At the Western Conservative Summit last week, Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, complained that there are too many libertarian-types in Washington “in both parties.” Really? Who? Anybody with truly constitutional conservative and libertarian-leaning ideas knows you could count principled small-government types in D.C. on one hand. Democrats reliably toe party line on the vast majority of government-expanding, freedom-limiting issues from Obamacare to amnesty, while most Republicans race to the sell-out line, embracing “moderate” views which are little more than “Democrat-Lite.”
The liberty movement is young and growing. It encompasses the new energy in the GOP and establishment-types feel increasingly threatened as true conservatives continue to gain more political power and influence.
Recently on The Laura Ingraham Show, Newt Gingrich responded to Christie’s comment and said, “I consistently have been on the side of having the courage that Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have, and I think it’s sad to watch the establishment grow hysterical, but frankly they’re hysterical because they have no answers.”
So when Christie complains that there are too many libertarian-types, the accusation falls flat. How did he come to that conclusion? The answer, of course, is that like so many people, he defined the term “libertarian” according to one issue, NSA spying.
There is a distinct split between those who prioritize liberty and those who prioritize security. Hawks like Chris Christie wish to preserve American lives at any cost, while others see freedom as important for both practical and ideological reasons. As Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty for a little temporary security deserve neither.”
The prioritization of privacy is certainly a popular issue right now. Most Americans do not want their government to spy on their phone conversations, text messages, and emails (unless you are Sen. Lindsey Graham, of course). But elected officials feel a bit more pressure to increase security, because if anything happens, calls for change and increased security (as we saw in the wake of the Boston bombing) will be loud and inevitable, and lead to far less levelheaded “solutions” to perceived problems. Regardless, at this point representatives willing to draft legislation against spying programs will immediately turn heads in a positive way.
Last week, Rep. Justin Amash , libertarian-Republican for Michigan’s 3rd District teamed up with Rep. John Conyers, liberal-Democrat to offer a bi-partisan amendment to force government domestic spies to first identify their targets and produce evidence of their terror-related activities before they could get warrants to spy on Americans.
Washington politicos were shocked that it almost passed.
Who is Rep. Justin Amash?
In 2010, Rep. Justin Amash stepped up to replace retiring Republican Vern Ehlers and won his primary campaign with endorsements from FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, iCaucus and Ron Paul. He was one of three Republican Representatives – along with Ron Paul – to refuse to endorse Mitt Romney in 2012, and instead endorsed Paul, while saying he would “support” the Republican nominee against Obama.
Amash supports a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, saying “the parties should negotiate a just and mutually acceptable agreement that is not imposed by the U.S. or any other outside power.”
On abortion, Amash states that life begins at conception. He has earned favorable rankings for pro-life votes by various organizations like the National Right to Life Committee and Campaign for Working Families. Regarding gay marriage, he opposed DOMA and argues that “marriage is a private, religious institution that should not be defined or redefined by the federal government.” He consistently gets high-overall scores from groups like the American Conservative Union and Americans for Prosperity.
In contrast to Ted Cruz, who is seen standing for principle and refusing to retreat regardless of what the establishment thinks, much more of Amash’s popularity has come from a direct opposition to the Party. This image was only enhanced when John Boehner kicked him and three other representatives off of their committees in December 2012.
In short, yes, Amash has a legitimate claim to the title of “the new Ron Paul.” His ideas align with Paul’s, as do his political actions, and he has connections with the former Congressman who also notes the similarity. Ron Paul spent 30 years promoting libertarian ideology, but never had any true “political” success (as traditionally defined) by his own admission.
Paul’s most important success, however, was to attract young people to the liberty movement; he replaced Ayn Rand as its central voice. Libertarian ideas have begun to take root in society and now it’s time to work toward tangible political gains.
Ron Paul’s own son has taken a distinctly different path from his father while holding the same ideals, and Rand, like Ted Cruz, has had tremendous success which will likely increase. Meanwhile, Amash’s following and influence has become more intense as the war on libertarian-leaning Republicans continues to increase to new levels in the GOP.
The question is will libertarian-leaning Republicans win new seats in the mid-term elections, gaining key positions of power? That is the true test. It’s one thing to make headlines with provocative rhetoric and captivating quotes. It’s another to actually gain political clout and power. Only time will tell if this movement will achieve its goal of less government and more freedom.
Sen. Tim Scott Flip Flops on Rand Paul’s Amendment
Apparently Sen. Tim Scott voted for the Rand amendment before he voted against it.
Last Thursday, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) spoke to a large crowd at a Tea Party meeting in Greenville, S.C.
Sen. Tim Scott assured the audience that he would stand with Sen. Rand Paul regarding foreign aid to Egypt, but just a few days later he ended up voting against the amendment standing with Sen. Lindsey Graham and the Democrats.
TheGreenvillePost.com’s Joshua Cook asked both Sen. Scott and Congressman Duncan why the U.S. continues to give $50 billion taxpayer in foreign aid to counties who hate us.
Sen. Scott said,
“There was an opportunity in the Senate to make a decision on our foreign aid to Egypt. A classic example, the Rand Paul amendment back about two months ago to not provide more resources to a country in the form of F16s and tanks, I voted not to give that money because we ought to question what we get in return for our investments, but we ought to analyze how to make America safer by our foreign investments, and Egypt is the classic example. As we move forward if we find ourselves in the position where Egypt’s military action becomes defined as a coup, we will be in a stronger position to cut off that aid because we certainly cannot fund coups. So until we get to that point, myself, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and others take a strong stand on questioning what do we get on the return on investment for the money that we are giving out in this world.”
Artie Brito, a local Liberty activist asked Sen. Scott,
“Does the Constitution allow the federal government to give money to other countries? Where is that found in the Constitution?”
“You cannot find it is the answer to your question,” said Sen. Scott. “The enumerated powers are pretty clear about us giving money out—period.”
According to Townhall.com, Rand Paul stated that the 86 senators who opposed his amendment to freeze $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt voted “against the rule of law” on Wednesday. Paul’s amendment to the transportation spending bill would have halted aid to the country until elections were held and redirected the money to domestic bridge repairs instead.
So why did Sen. Scott vote against Sen. Rand Paul’s Amendment?
Chris Lawton, founder of the Greenville Tea Party, wonders what changed his mind. He told theGreenvillePost.com,
“I would really like to know what changed so dramatically in Sen. Tim Scott’s answer to the Greenville Tea Party on July 25 to his vote against Senator Rand Paul’s amendment on S 1243 on July 31 that would have caused this apparent reversal.”
Sen. Tim Scott is a favorite among Conservatives in South Carolina, and they are disappointed to see him clearly flip flop on this issue. They demand answers.
We called Sen. Scott’s DC office this morning and have not received a response as of this publication.
Ben Swann & Dan Johnson on Storm Clouds Gathering
Ben Swann and Dan Johnson from People Against The NDAA interviewed on Storm Clouds Gathering. In this interview Dan announces the official P.A.N.D.A. endorsement of the Truth In Media project. Thank you Dan for your support and all the great work you are doing spreading the truth about the NDAA.
Government Sponsored Racism
*views of guest contributors are their own*
Should a white person be given preference to college admissions because he is white? Of course not. That’s racist. So why are admission preferences given to any specific race?
In the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court ruled that race could play a role in admissions policies of universities that receive federal money (even if only in the form of aid to students). This “positive discrimination”, known as affirmative action, attempts to compensate for historical racial discrimination by giving minority applicants a “leg up”. But these policies are currently being challenged by a case before the Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas. This new case asks that the Court overrule Grutter, which would end government-imposed affirmative action at American universities.
Affirmative action is a form of racism. These policies, intended to benefit minority students in the United States, only feed into the same racist machine that they are supposed to counteract. Well-intentioned affirmative action measures are inherently racist by giving benefits based on skin color, not merit. Such policies are divisive rather than uniting, and lead to perpetual victimhood. Affirmative action was needed in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but now these policies unnecessarily treat today’s minorities as victims.
If a college wishes to promote diversity on its campus through affirmative action policies, fine. Private organizations and companies (including colleges) should have the freedom to adopt whatever admissions policies they want. Racial, sexual orientation, and religious diversity only enriches the educational experience on campus. But government-forced “positive discrimination” is racist and counterproductive.
Affirmative action often hurts its beneficiaries more than it helps, by placing minority students in programs above their abilities. Scholars euphemistically coined the term “mismatch” to refer to this outcome. Mismatch suggests that students who get into a top school with the help of affirmative action would be better served attending a less competitive school, where they could gain admission through their own merit and achievements. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who admits to benefitting from affirmative action himself, saw firsthand how racially-based admittance policies negatively impacted black students. He said, “I watched the operation of such affirmative action policies when I was in college, and I watched the destruction of many kids as a result.”
According to Thomas J. Espenshade, a Princeton University sociology professor, a black student with a virtually identical application to a white student receives the equivalent of a 310-point bump in SAT scores. This generous advantage potentially hurts the black student by placing him in a program where he is more likely to struggle or fail out. It is therefore no surprise that significantly fewer minorities end up graduating than whites. This stands true at private colleges, but the problem is especially pronounced at public universities. At the University of Wisconsin, for example, 81 percent of white students graduated compared to only 56 percent of blacks.
Placing minorities into programs they are not qualified for may be a contributing factor to their high unemployment rate. The black jobless rate, for example, is about twice that of whites. A student who struggles in an academic program that he is not qualified for is less likely to succeed in the job market. For instance, an unprepared student who is placed in a rigorous engineering program may retain less of the essential knowledge to be successful in that field.
Does the mismatch theory suggest that minority students should be prevented from attending elite universities? Absolutely not. Rather, it asserts that students of any race (minority or not) do not necessarily benefit from attending a top school if they are not academically on par with their peers.
There is also unspoken resentment among some in the white community who may assume that minority students were accepted because of affirmative action policies, not merit. Eliminating these policies would dispel such racist assumptions.
There are undoubtedly countless bright, promising minority students across the country who would be assets to elite universities. To argue that minority students need a “leg up” to gain admission is offensive, and suggests that these young people cannot succeed on their own. Fisher v. University of Texas may result in the elimination of government-imposed affirmative action in universities altogether. This would be a significant step towards a truly equal society, where individuals are judged on merit, not race. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
What the Media Isn’t Telling You About Syrian Civil War
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Rebel Child honors Bin Laden, promises slaughter of Shiites