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The Ominous Republican Hold on Congress
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Politics
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 07 January 2015
The Ominous Republican Hold on Congress
by Sheldon Richman
 
As we face the new year, the biggest concern for peace lovers is Republican control of the U.S. Senate. While Republican votes don’t reach the key number 60, members of the GOP will still be in a strong position to push their belligerent global agenda.
 
I don’t mean to overstate the danger. After all, the Democrats were hardly better. But those who abhor war will awaken each day knowing that hawkish Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and their ilk are in control.
 
Peacemongers haven’t had much to cheer about during the Obama years. Barack Obama has gone back to war in Iraq and is conducting airstrikes in Syria, while leaving thousands of military personnel in Afghanistan, continuing murder by drone war in several countries, and maintaining the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
 
Yet there have been a few glimmers of hope. Obama has pursued negotiations with Iran over its never-was and still-is-not nuclear-weapons program. The Iranian regime would like to return to the world economy by freeing itself from harsh U.S.-led sanctions, so it is bending over backward to assure the world that it wants no nuclear weapons. (The Supreme Leader years ago issued a fatwa against them.)
 
But the Obama administration, under pressure from Israel’s supporters in the United States, seems determined to push Iran further than it could possibly go regarding its ability to enrich uranium for civilian purposes. Moreover, Obama is at best ambiguous about whether all sanctions against Iran would ever be lifted, and the Republican Congress can be expected to obstruct any efforts in that direction. These two factors have turned optimists about the negotiations into pessimists.
 
If Obama blows this chance to normalize relations with Iran, which includes a large educated middle class friendly to America, it will be a tragedy of immense proportions. There is no way to justify the cruel consequences that U.S. sanctions have inflicted on the Iranian people. If a foreign power were doing this to Americans, the war cries would be deafening.
 
The American-Israeli-Saudi opponents of U.S.-Iranian reconciliation should be ashamed of themselves. Their cynical political concerns deserve no consideration whatever. If the regimes in Israel and Saudi Arabia fear they will be less important in a Middle East that does not feature a U.S.-Iranian cold war, let them get over it. Peace trumps petty politics. And if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes that without his bête noir, Iran, his systematic abuse of the Palestinians might get closer American scrutiny, all I can say is: let’s hope so. Republicans of course will back Netanyahu.
 
The congressional Republicans can also be expected to block Obama’s proposal to normalize relations with Cuba. Republicans like to portray themselves as advocates of strictly limited government, but somehow those limits include the power to reform the Cuban government. How can that be? If they believe this is a matter of national security, as Ted Cruz says, then it shows how ridiculous his party is. How exactly does Cuba pose a threat to the American people — if indeed that’s what “national security” is supposed to mean.
 
Finally, the Republicans undoubtedly will try to stop Obama from deferring the deportations of some five million people who are in this country without government permission. Here again the Republicans show their lack of intellectual integrity. Why should anyone need government permission to be here? Aren’t rights possessed by all people, not just Americans? U.S. immigration controls condemn millions of people to a grinding poverty that no American could imagine. Perpetuation of that cruelty is simply unconscionable.
 
Obama’s stopgap approach to immigration is hardly ideal. Remember, he’s only deferred deportation, and he hasn’t done it for everyone who faces the threat. But it’s progress. Because of his executive order, millions of families will not be broken up by the U.S. government. That is something to celebrate, not obstruct.
 
The national-security state is rotten to the core, having inflicted incalculable death and misery on many foreign populations. Much hard work has to be done to free the world of this monster. In the near term, fortunately, some good things can be done at the margin — if the new Republican majority doesn’t get in the way.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
Getting Away with Torture
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Getting Away with Torture
by Sheldon Richman
 
Now we have it straight from the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein:
Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured. I also believe that the conditions of confinement and the use of authorized and unauthorized interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman, and degrading. I believe the evidence of this is overwhelming and incontrovertible.
She should have added “sadistic.” Your tax money went to employ sadists. Perhaps this is nothing new.
 
Feinstein writes this in introducing the recently declassified, but heavily redacted 525-page executive summary of the committee’s 6,000-page report on the CIA’s post-9/11 use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT). It portrays a dishonest and brutal agency determined to use whatever methods it wished regardless of legality.
 
In her introduction, Feinstein put the CIA’s actions into context:
I can understand the CIA's impulse to consider the use of every possible tool to gather intelligence and remove terrorists from the battlefield, and CIA was encouraged by political leaders and the public to do whatever it could to prevent another attack....
 
Nevertheless, such pressure, fear, and expectation of further terrorist plots do not justify, temper, or excuse improper actions taken by individuals or organizations in the name of national security.
Amen. No excuse for torture is acceptable. Apologists for the CIA, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, may use all the convoluted arguments they can muster to claim that EITs do not constitute torture. But they cannot change the facts. Any government unfriendly to the American empire that had used these techniques would have been condemned by the U.S. government as barbaric.
 
What will happen now? In a word, nothing. Yes, we will have some fresh window dressing: the CIA has already been removed from doing detention and interrogation. But the CIA has been far from the only problem. The entire national-security state and the global empire it supports are the problems. The U.S. military detained and tortured more people than the CIA did, and despite appearances, President Obama has not ruled that out for the future.
 
As Jeffrey Kaye reported in the Guardian,
The United States Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation has been sold to the American public and the world as a replacement for the brutal torture tactics used by the CIA and the Department of Defense during the Bush/Cheney administration.
 
On 22 January 2009, President Obama released an executive order stating that any individual held by any US government agency “shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3.”
 
But a close reading of Department of Defense documents and investigations by numerous human rights agencies have shown that the current Army Field Manual itself uses techniques that are abusive and can even amount to torture.…
 
Labeled Appendix M, and propounding an additional, special “technique” called “Separation,” human rights and legal group have recognized that Appendix M includes numerous abusive techniques, including use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.
Aside from some PR stunts, the government will observe standard operating procedure. What we know for certain is that no one will be prosecuted. Top officials in the George W. Bush administration, and operatives all along the chain of command, broke American and international law. The U.S. government is a party to antitorture treaties, under which suspected transgressors are to be prosecuted. So Obama is flouting the law by not pressing for legal action, and torture victims have been denied redress in court.
 
Moreover, the U.S. government never joined the International Criminal Court, so it obviously will not cooperate in any effort to bring American torturers to justice.
 
About the only hint of consequences for the torturers is that henceforth they will be afraid to travel to Europe, where they might be charged with crimes against humanity under the “universal jurisdiction” doctrine. It’s small comfort that torturers will be deprived of the ability to vacation abroad.
 
Regular Americans are held accountable for their actions. Why are not government officials?
 
As long as the American people overlook government's criminal acts, the state will continue to commit crimes.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
Leave Us All Alone! We Canít Breathe!
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Crime, Law Enforcement and the Judiciary
Written by Jacob G. Hornberger   
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Leave Us All Alone! We Can’t Breathe!
by Jacob G. Hornberger
 
The last words out of the mouth of strangling victim Eric Garner are actually a metaphor for how libertarians feel about the entire welfare-warfare state under which modern-day Americans have been born and raised.
 
Don’t his words express precisely how we libertarians feel? Leave us alone, we say to the state. Get out of our faces. Get out of our lives. You’re suffocating us. You’re killing us — literally, spiritually, financially, and economically.
 
Thomas Jefferson described this phenomenon in the Declaration of Independence: The king’s government was sending “swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
 
There is hardly any part of our lives that government officials aren’t involved in. They just won’t leave us alone. Drug laws. Economic regulations. Income taxation. IRS audits. Asset forfeitures. Home raids. Secret surveillance. Draft registration. Permits and licenses. Minimum-wage laws. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Terrorist blowback from an interventionist foreign policy. Checkpoints. Perpetual crises and chaos.
 
It never stops.
 
The direct cause of Eric Garner’s death was obviously the chokehold that the cops put on his neck, which prevented him from breathing.
 
But let’s face it: The real cause of death was his selling of individual untaxed cigarettes, in violation of law. That’s what the cops were arresting him for when they killed him.
 
Oh sure, they call it “resisting arrest.” That’s what they always call it. But the truth is that they killed him for selling individual untaxed cigarettes in violation of the law.
 
Under libertarian principles — indeed, under the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, which Americans celebrate every Fourth of July — a person has the fundamental, natural, God-given right to sell whatever he wants to sell without governmental interference, including booze, tobacco, marijuana, fatty foods, or whatever.
 
My hunch is that deep down Eric Garner understood that. My hunch is that that’s why he was saying, “Stop harassing me. Leave me alone!”
 
In the 1950s, cops killed a man in Utah named John Singer. He wasn’t selling cigarettes. He was refusing to send his children to public (i.e., government) schools, which at that time was against the law.
 
When the cops came to arrest John Singer for refusing to comply with some judge’s order, they shot him dead. They said it was because he was “resisting arrest.” The truth was that they killed him for refusing to send his children into the state’s schooling system.
 
Eric Garner had six children, whom he was obviously trying to support. He was doing that by selling cigarettes. I wonder how much money he earned doing that. Despite his anguished plea — Stop harassing me! — Just leave me alone! — the cops simply couldn’t do that. They obviously felt compelled to continue going after him. The law is the law.
 
The death of Eric Garner — indeed the death of so many other Americans at the hands of the cops, especially in the war on drugs — is the culmination of the welfare-warfare state way of life and what it has done to America. The federal government is killing people overseas as part of its perpetual “war on terrorism.” The cops are killing people here. All with impunity. Killing has become an integral part of America’s governmental culture.
 
We are the serfs. The government is the master. The cops kill people because they can. The CIA kills and tortures people because it can. We all know that nothing will happen to any of them.
 
Is the solution better soldiers and better cops? Better training? More secrecy? More efficient chokeholds?
 
No, the solution is to dismantle all the destructive policies both here and abroad that serve as the justification for soldiers and law-enforcement personnel to harass people, eat out their substance, abuse them, torture them, and kill them. The solution is to dismantle the entire welfare-state, warfare-state way of life that is alien to our heritage of liberty. When that happens, we won’t need so many soldiers or cops.
 
In other words, go away. Just leave us alone. You’re suffocating us. You’re killing us.
 
Jacob G. Hornberger is president and founder of The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
I Love Loosies and the People Who Sell Them
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Economics and Financial Services
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
I Love Loosies and the People Who Sell Them
by Sheldon Richman
 
The cops who ganged up on Eric Garner, got him into a chokehold, and mashed his face into the sidewalk didn’t intend to kill him. They intended only to show him who’s boss on the streets of Staten Island — and show him in a way he would never forget.
 
As a Facebook friend of mine put it, instead they showed him in a way he will never remember.
 
This pretty much explains the cops’ reckless disregard for Garner’s life that day, and it is what makes the grand-jury sham especially appalling.
 
This was about power. Yes, to an extent the fatal confrontation was about race — although it’s no great feat to imagine something similar happening to a low-income white guy. It was also about class. An obviously affluent and likely well-connected person probably need not fear being accosted on the street by the police.
 
Let’s remember what the police say Garner was doing: selling cigarettes that had not been subjected to the high taxes imposed in New York City and State: $5.95 in all. (The feds add another buck.) Thus, a pack costs at least $14. As a result, entrepreneurial cigarette smuggling from low-tax states is big business. Whenever the tax goes up, so does the smuggling.
 
In fact, smuggling used to be an honorable American profession. In colonial times and into the early national period, the entrepreneurial smuggler who served consumers by defying the customs agents was celebrated. It was the government agent who risked being tarred and feathered, then rode out of town on a rail. Had Eric Garner been set upon by Red Coats on colonial New England streets, many people might have come to his defense. Today the best we can hope for is that someone will video the confrontation with a cell phone.
 
The fact is that Eric Garner was a threat to no one. He was just a guy trying to make a few bucks by selling loose cigarettes — loosies — to low-income smokers harmed by the state’s and city’s tax collectors.
 
Well, let’s amend that. Garner, like other practitioners of his trade, was indeed a threat — to the politicians who need that revenue to play their destructive games and to assure they remain in power. Come to think of it, in the eyes of those politicians, threatening the steady flow of taxpayer money is about as serious a crime as anyone can commit. Without that money they would be nothing.
 
That’s why New York City officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of those phony men-of-the-people, have ordered the police to crack down on sellers of loosies.
 
The city’s accomplices in this highway robbery of smokers are the licensed retailers. The police provide the protection racket that shields the retailers’ cigarette business from free competition.
 
To great fanfare de Blasio announced a program to prevent a recurrence of the confrontation that killed Eric Garner. The police will get new training, blah, blah, blah.
 
Sorry, Mr. Mayor, but that won’t do it. Some truly radical things need to be done — such as eliminating the top-down, militarist model of policing, and moving to a decentralized system of community governance. But something significant can be done in the meantime: halt police confrontations with nonviolent persons suspected of committing victimless so-called crimes. These are acts that in themselves violate no one’s rights, such as selling or possessing drugs and guns, taking bets, and participating in other prohibited but peaceful, consensual activities.
 
This won’t guarantee there will be no more Eric Garners, because police have long harassed, beaten, and killed people using low-tech weapons and without the cover of victimless-crime laws. But it would help. If fewer people are harassed on the street, fewer people will become fed up and resist — if we must stretch the word resist to describe what Eric Garner did that fateful day.
 
Low-income minority neighborhoods experience what the rest of us can usually grasp only abstractly: the police force is an occupying army. Its ostensible purpose is to protect innocent life and property, but what it does day to day is monitor everyone with a suspicion that the sovereign’s decrees are not being respected.
 
This has got to change.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
Landrith survives, urges others to heal
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About Me/Website - Press and Government Mentions
Written by Austin Koeller   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014

 

http://unkantelope.com/wordpress_antelope/2014/12/10/landrith-survives-urges-others-to-heal-veteran-finds-his-voice-survives-18-years-after-burying-terror-of-rape/ 

 

By Austin Koeller
News/Feature Editor, The Antelope 

Guest speaker, James Landrith, shares his testimony of his unforunate experience of over coming and accepting being a part of the rape survivor community.

Guest speaker, James Landrith, shares his testimony of his unforunate experience of over coming and accepting being a part of the rape survivor community.

It was 18 years before he finally saw a therapist and took charge of his own healing. Like other rape victims who survive the terror of rape, the victim at first didn’t know how he could talk about it.

After a night of drinking, 19-year old James Landrith lies down, terrified of what is to come. The pregnant female friend of a friend is on top of him. As Landrith tries to get up from under her, she accuses him of trying to hurt her baby.

“Don’t be forceful,” she says.

“I was disoriented,” Landrith said. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. At that point, I lay back, and I started to dissociate.”

When he wakes up, he realizes he had been raped — by his friend’s female friend.

On Thursday, Dec. 4, Landrith told his story to students and members of the Kearney community in Copeland Hall. The “Against His Will” presentation was sponsored by the UNK Women’s Center and the UNK Interfraternity Council as part of National Male Sexual Assault Week.

“I’m a father, son, brother, Marine Corps and Gulf War veteran, an Internet publisher, commentary writer and human resources professional,” Landrith said as he introduced himself to the crowd. “I’m also a rape survivor.”

In 1990, 19-year-old Landrith was stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in the Marine Corps.

One Friday night, he decided to meet up with a friend and a female friend of his friend to “listen to music and relax.” After being ditched by his friend, Landrith agrees to take his friend’s friend home at the end of the night. The plan, he said, was to drop her off at the end of the night and then go back to the base. However, the night did not go according to plan.

“As the night went on, she bought me a couple drinks,” Landrith said. “The last couple drinks left me a little disoriented. I didn’t really know what was going on.”

Since he was too drowsy to drive home and the club was in on a lot next to a motel, Landrith and his friend’s female friend got a room with double beds for the night.

He said, “She gave me a glass of water, said to go ahead and drink it and that I would feel better,” Landrith said.

He then fell asleep quickly. When dawn approached, he looked up and realized that he was lying in bed with the woman on top of him. As the events unfolded, he later realized that he had been raped by his friend’s female friend.

“I didn’t know how to talk about what happened to me,” Landrith said. “I didn’t know how to classify it. I knew that men weren’t supposed to talk about it; men weren’t supposed to think about it.”

Landrith said that he had to bury the rape, put it in the back of his head, and pretend that it didn’t happen. He kept this buried for 18 years.

In 2008, he decided to be let out the truth of what happened him.

“I was having trouble sleeping; every time I saw a pregnant woman it bothered me,” Landrith said.

After having a conversation with a co-worker, he finally came to realize and admit that he had been raped.

Following that conversation, Landrith went to see a therapist.

“I didn’t know how I was going to be treated when I walked in,” he said. “The first thing I did was I got assigned. I sat down in her chair, and it felt like the world was ending. I didn’t know what was going on. She said I was having a panic attack.”

For 13 weeks, Landrith was in therapy, learning how to breathe and to cope with what had happened to him.

“It felt like a Band-Aid had been ripped off,” Landrith said of talking about the incident for the first time while in therapy. “Everything was fresh again. I never focused on it. I never thought about it, I never dug into it to deal with it.”

Upon going through therapy and as a result of his experiences, Landrith decided to focus on sexual violence issues and help other survivors.

He is currently an active member of the speaker’s bureau for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), is a speaker and trainer for the Survivor’s Caucus of the Virginia Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and serves as section moderator at Pandora’s Aquarium, one of the largest online mixed gender communities for rape survivors.

To survivors of rape and sexual assault Landrith said: “Your journey is your own. You call it what you want to call it. You decide to get help when you want to get help. You have to be in charge of your own healing or it’s not going to work.”

If you are a student who has survived rape or sexual assault and are seeking help, the UNK Women’s Center is a free, confidential resource. The UNK Women’s Center is located in the Memorial Student Affairs building. They can be reached by calling (308) 865-8279.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 31 January 2015 )
 
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