March 27, 2012
By Gregory Patin
“Fascism is alive and well in the US. Here is a lengthy article describing 14 examples of how it’s now common in America.” –KTRN
In the spring of 2003, ex-corporate executive and political scientist Lawrence W. Britt published an essay in Free Inquiry magazine entitled “Fascism Anyone?” In his work, Britt examined the traits of the two governments that formed the original historical model for fascism, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and five other protofascist regimes that imitated that model, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. He identified 14 characteristics that were common to all of them.
These traits have since been widely accepted as the 14 defining characteristics of fascism.
Nearly three generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, all of these regimes have been overthrown, but fascism’s principles can still be found in many nations. History tends to repeat itself because many leaders and nations fail to learn from history, or they draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm in the world today.
In the U.S., leaders, teachers, media and citizens proudly claim that America is a democratic society with certain freedoms and rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution, Bill of Rights and rule of law. But is that really the case?
A close look at the 14 characteristics of fascism in light of what has changed in America in the past few years may raise some questions as to whether or not Americans truly live in a democratic society.
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.
Drive down any street in suburban or small-town America and witness the amount of flags flying, flag stickers on mailboxes, ribbon stickers on vehicles and patriotic tee shirts. Then-Senator Obama was criticized during his 2007 campaign for not wearing the ubiquitous flag lapel pin that many politicians wear. Nearly everyone has heard catchy slogans such as “Freedom isn’t Free,” “God Bless America” and “Support the Troops.” Borderline xenophobia is exemplified when french fries were renamed “freedom fries” in D.C. cafeterias. The fear of “illegals” taking scarce jobs has been written into legislation in states such as Arizona, where failure to carry immigration documents is a crime. Your papers, please?
This characteristic may be the most innocuous one of the 14. Americans have always had a strong sense of patriotic nationalism and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But patriotic symbolism and nationalistic legislation have been taken to a new level in the years since the first Gulf war when the first yellow ribbons were placed on trees.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.
The world is in crisis and the government thinks the only response is to strip you of your rights one by one. Kevin really knows what’s going on and he’s here to tell you. Plus, KT gives pointers on his tried-and-true investment strategy.
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February 15, 2012
By Paul Craig Roberts
Is Obama a hypocrite or merely insouciant? Or is he an idiot?
According to news reports Obama’s White House meeting on Valentine’s day with China’s Vice President, Xi Jinping, provided an opportunity for Obama to raise “a sensitive human rights issue with the Chinese leader-in-waiting.” The brave and forthright Obama didn’t let etiquette or decorum get in his way. Afterwards, Obama declared that Washington would “continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of realizing the aspirations and rights of all people.”
Think about that for a minute. Washington is now in the second decade of murdering Muslim men, women, and children in six countries. Washington is so concerned with human rights that it drops bombs on schools, hospitals, weddings and funerals, all in order to uphold the human rights of Muslim people. You see, bombing liberates Muslim women from having to wear the burka and from male domination.
One hundred thousand, or one million, dead Iraqis, four million displaced Iraqis, a country with destroyed infrastructure, and entire cities, such as Fallujah, bombed and burnt with white phosphorus into cinders is the proper way to show concern for human rights.
Ditto for Afghanistan. And Libya.
In Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia Washington’s drones bring human rights to the people.
Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and secret CIA prison sites are other places to which Washington brings human rights. Obama, who has the power to murder American citizens without due process of law, is too powerless to close Guantanamo Prison.
January 30, 2012
By Brandon Turbeville
In a world where national sovereignty is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, announcements that the United Nations will be taking the lead on any variety of topics is no longer shocking. Indeed, there is a real push across the world to view the United Nations as the ultimate authority on virtually every issue, from human rights to nutritional content in food.
Through decades of propagandizing, the United Nations has developed an undeserved reputation for humanitarianism and democracy. As a result, the vast majority see the United Nations as a benevolent organization which they can call on to defend human rights in their home countries. Unfortunately, national sovereignty rarely enters into the equation anymore, as the average citizen tends to look straight to the United Nations to address their concerns, bypassing their own governments.
As case in point, a recent report by AFP, entitled, “Experts urge U.N. to address mental health,” discusses how a recent article in PLoS Medicine, a reputable medical journal, has called for the United Nations General Assembly to develop a plan to tackle mental, neurological, and substance-abuse disorders (MNS).
The article was authored by Vikram Patel of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Judith Bass from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the United States, among other contributors. They write, “The time has come for recognition at the highest levels of global development, namely the U.N. General Assembly, of the urgent need for a global strategy to address the global burden of MNS disorders.”
They also state that investment is needed in three different, but key, areas – “expanding knowledge about mental health disorders, better access to evidence-based programs of care and treatment, and protection of human rights.”
Although the further understanding of mental health disorders and their treatment is a laudable goal, it is also one in which both the Psychiatric/Psychological complex and the United Nations have a horrible track record.
Indeed, even within individual national boundaries, the Psychiatric/Psychological complex has vastly more authority that it needs or deserves. When one multiplies that oppressive authority with the global jurisdiction of the United Nations, as well as the U.N’s tendency to introduce tyrannical guidelines in its own right, we can see a clear recipe for disaster.
January 9, 2012
“And we wonder why people in the middle east hate America?” –KTRN
The US military has been accused of abuse and torture at its notorious detention center in Afghanistan. Investigators say most detainees at Bagram prison are being held without charge or firm evidence of guilt.
Inmates of the US-run prison outside Bagram Air Base north of Kabul complained of freezing cold, humiliating strip searches and being deprived of light, according to Gul Rahman Qazi, who led an investigation ordered by President Hamid Karzai.
President Karzai ordered the investigative commission to be set up on January 5, after demanding that the US transfer full control over its military prisons to local authorities within a month. “Foreign troops are not allowed to run prisons in Afghanistan, which is sovereign and has its own constitution,” Karzai said on Thursday.
According to President Karzai, the Bagram prisoners are subject to Guantanamo-like conditions with ”many cases of violations of the Afghan constitution and other applicable laws of the conventions on human rights.”
There are legal cases against only 300 of about 3,000 detainees at Bagram, US prison officials admitted during the probe. All the rest – most of them of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operators – are being held without trial, as they were captured using US intelligence that was not admissible in an Afghan court.
Another investigator, Sayed Noorullah, said the prisoners had the right to be released if there is no evidence of their guilt. He added that Bagram must be transferred to Afghan control “as soon as possible.”
Officially, the detention facility is run by the US and Afghanistan jointly, but local authorities currently control only a small portion of the prison.
The US embassy in Kabul stated that the allegations of abuse in Bagram would be examined. “We take seriously and investigate all allegations of detainee abuse,” said US embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall, as cited by Reuters.
As the US occupation of Afghanistan passes the 10-year mark, Washington is working on a plan to remove US forces from the country completely within the next two years. And with President Karzai’s ultimatum, the White House will have to either hand its Bagram prisoners over to the Afghan authorities or push forward with a transfer to another facility.
Human rights lawyers often refer to the prison at Bagram as “the other Guantanamo” or “Guantanamo’s evil twin”. If it is handed over to the Afghan authorities, the inmates may have a better chance of justice than their companions in misfortune in Guantanamo Bay.
Last year marked a decade since US authorities began detaining enemy combatants and other prisoners at the infamous Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. President Obama came to power on an election promise to close the prison, but more than three years later, it still holds many alleged terrorists who have not been offered trials.
January 27th, 2011
By: Alex Wagner
Two days after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Chinese President Hu Jintao a “dictator” on a Nevada talk show, the two men met face to face in the Capitol on Thursday morning.
On the heels of Hu’s joint press conference with President Obama yesterday — where the tense subject of human rights dominated the discussion — journalists covering the congressional meeting were told by staff that the two men would not take questions during a photo opportunity, and that reporters were expected to adhere to journalistic standards and codes of ethics, or risk being ejected from the room. (Presumably, this meant no questions about sensitive subjects including Reid’s dictator comment and the fate of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobao.)
Nonetheless, one reporter did manage to ask what business Reid “expected to get done with a man he had called a dictator.” Neither Hu nor Reid responded. Joining the two men in a private meeting following the photo op were Chinese officials including Foreign Affairs advisors Dai Bingguo, Cui Tankai and Yang Jeichi, as well as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Richard Lugar (D-Ind.) and U.S. Ambassador to China John Huntsman.
As part of his swing through Washington — which has been accorded the full pomp and circumstance of a state visit — Hu traveled to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with congressional leaders a day after the White House feted him with a state dinner.
House Speaker John Boehner, like Reid, did not attend the dinner — his office said Boehner would instead discuss matters privately with Hu Thursday morning. (A spokesman for Reid said the Nevada Democrat could not make the dinner because he was traveling Wednesday.)
From outside indicators, Hu had a fruitful meeting with House leaders, including Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), which ran overtime and caused a delay in the Chinese president’s meeting with Senate leaders. Among the subjects discussed, according to Boehner’s office, were economic ties between the U.S. and China, North Korean aggression, intellectual property violations, and “human rights” issues, including China’s one-child policy. Pelosi’s office noted that she broached the subject of Liu Xiaobao’s detention and climate change with the Chinese leader.
In his comments Tuesday, Reid said that Hu “is a dictator. He can do a lot of things through the form of government they have.”
Reid quickly realized his word choice was problematic, saying: “Maybe I shouldn’t have said ‘dictator,’ but they have a different type of government than we have and that is an understatement.”
October 7th, 2010
By: Tara Lohan
Coca-Cola spends $2.8 billion a year in advertising to make sure its soda is seen as the most iconic American drink — a beverage enjoyed around the world, virtual peace-building in a bottle. The company has spent 124 years polishing its image, but it took author Michael Blanding only 300 pages to tarnish that gleam. In his new book, The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink, Blanding details the sordid history of the company, from patent medicine experiment to multinational behemoth.
The book opens with a page- and stomach-turning description of the murder of Isidro Gil, a union worker posted at the front gate of a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Carepa, Colombia. As Blanding describes later in the book, Coca-Cola has been accused of being complicit in the deaths of union members in South America who were killed by paramilitaries. Some people may find this shocking. “Finding the Coca-Cola Company accused of murder is like finding out Santa Claus is accused of being a pedophile,” Blanding writes in the introduction. But throughout the book he details the accusations against Coca-Cola on the human rights front, explaining why Coke is reviled elsewhere in the world. In India and Mexico the company is facing blowback for allegations that its bottling plants have drained local aquifers and polluted water sources; in Turkey there are more charges of anti-union activity; and in the U.S. and Europe people are fed up with Coke’s advertising to children, especially in schools, and are concerned about the link between soft drinks and obesity.
Blanding recently spoke to AlterNet by phone to tell us what he uncovered in years of investigating claims against the mighty soft-drink giant.
October 6th, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Three Namibian women have filed a lawsuit against the country’s government, claiming they were sterilized at state-run hospitals without their informed consent after being diagnosed with HIV.
“HIV-positive women are holding the health system accountable for the wrongs done to them,” said Veronica Kalambi of the Women’s Health Network.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Legal Assistance Center, which says it has collected evidence of 15 such forced sterilizations since 2008. The three women are seeking one million Namibian dollars (U.S. $130,000) in damages.
“We want a health system based on human rights which promotes equality for all,” said Amon Ngavetene of the Legal Assistance Center.
According to Ngavetene, women in Namibia who are diagnosed with HIV are often urged by their doctors to undergo sterilization operations. The women are not always given a clear explanation of the risks and consequences of the procedure, nor of the alternatives available (such as drugs) to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. In addition, doctors do not always take into account pre-existing conditions that might make the sterilization more dangerous.
All these problems are exacerbated by communication barriers in a country with 11 indigenous languages.
Hundreds of people marched in support of the women in the Namibian capital of Windhoek, as well as in South Africa, Zambia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Supporters also held sit-ins at two of the hospitals accused of performing the procedures.
According to protest organizer Vicky Noa, women deserve “peace of mind that if you have HIV you can still go to the hospital and be treated with dignity and equality.”
“If we were scared that we might be sterilized, we will not use the hospital services as much,” she said. “We do not want to be denied the right to motherhood.”
According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS, one in five Namibians, or 200,000 people, have been diagnosed as HIV positive.
September 1, 2010
by Simon Johnson & Patrick Lannin
A top Swedish prosecutor said on Wednesday she was reopening an investigation into rape allegations against Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks published more than 70,000 secret military files on Afghanistan in July in what U.S. officials have called one of the biggest security breaches in U.S. military history.
Assange has denied the charges, which a lower official had withdrawn two weeks ago, and said he has been warned by Australian intelligence that he could face a campaign to discredit him after leaking the documents.
Neither Assange nor his lawyer could be immediately reached for comment.
Director of Public Prosecutions Marianne Ny said she decided to reopen the investigation after further review of the case.
“There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed. Considering information available at present, my judgment is that the classification of the crime is rape,” Ny said in a statement on the Prosecution Authority’s website.
“More investigations are necessary before a final decision can be made,” she added. She also said a preliminary investigation into charges of molestation would be expanded to sexual coercion and sexual molestation.
“The case has a high priority,” she told Reuters. She declined to say whether Assange had already been questioned or give further information.
Allegations of rape and molestation were brought against Assange, an Australian citizen, two weeks ago.
The more serious charge was dropped almost immediately, though prosecutors continued to look into the molestation charge.
WikiLeaks says it is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, journalists and the general public.
It promotes the leaking of information to fight government and corporate corruption. Earlier this year, it leaked a classified video showing a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists.
Assange has been building a base in Sweden in order to benefit from its strict journalist protection laws.
Though he has given few interviews recently, a website, www.wikileaks.org, and a Twitter feed, www.twitter.com/wikileaks, occasionally release material.
The Twitter feed said on Tuesday that Assange had applied for a Swedish residency permit as part of efforts to boost legal protection for WikiLeaks.
August 20th, 2010
The New York Times
By: Edward N. Luttwack
Barack Obama has emerged as a classic example of charismatic leadership — a figure upon whom others project their own hopes and desires. The resulting emotional intensity adds greatly to the more conventional strengths of the well-organized Obama campaign, and it has certainly sufficed to overcome the formidable initial advantages of Senator Hillary Clinton.
One danger of such charisma, however, is that it can evoke unrealistic hopes of what a candidate could actually accomplish in office regardless of his own personal abilities. Case in point is the oft-made claim that an Obama presidency would be welcomed by the Muslim world.
This idea often goes hand in hand with the altogether more plausible argument that Mr. Obama’s election would raise America’s esteem in Africa — indeed, he already arouses much enthusiasm in his father’s native Kenya and to a degree elsewhere on the continent.
But it is a mistake to conflate his African identity with his Muslim heritage. Senator Obama is half African by birth and Africans can understandably identify with him. In Islam, however, there is no such thing as a half-Muslim. Like all monotheistic religions, Islam is an exclusive faith.
As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant.
Of course, as most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is to him.
His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it is “irtidad” or “ridda,” usually translated from the Arabic as “apostasy,” but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder (which the victim’s family may choose to forgive).
With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shiite schools prescribe execution for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings. (Some may point to cases in which lesser punishments were ordered — as with some Egyptian intellectuals who have been punished for writings that were construed as apostasy — but those were really instances of supposed heresy, not explicitly declared apostasy as in Senator Obama’s case.)
It is true that the criminal codes in most Muslim countries do not mandate execution for apostasy (although a law doing exactly that is pending before Iran’s Parliament and in two Malaysian states). But as a practical matter, in very few Islamic countries do the governments have sufficient authority to resist demands for the punishment of apostates at the hands of religious authorities.
For example, in Iran in 1994 the intervention of Pope John Paul II and others won a Christian convert a last-minute reprieve, but the man was abducted and killed shortly after his release. Likewise, in 2006 in Afghanistan, a Christian convert had to be declared insane to prevent his execution, and he was still forced to flee to Italy.
Because no government is likely to allow the prosecution of a President Obama — not even those of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the only two countries where Islamic religious courts dominate over secular law — another provision of Muslim law is perhaps more relevant: it prohibits punishment for any Muslim who kills any apostate, and effectively prohibits interference with such a killing.
At the very least, that would complicate the security planning of state visits by President Obama to Muslim countries, because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards. More broadly, most citizens of the Islamic world would be horrified by the fact of Senator Obama’s conversion to Christianity once it became widely known — as it would, no doubt, should he win the White House. This would compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to cooperate with the United States in the fight against terrorism, as well as American efforts to export democracy and human rights abroad.
That an Obama presidency would cause such complications in our dealings with the Islamic world is not likely to be a major factor with American voters, and the implication is not that it should be. But of all the well-meaning desires projected on Senator Obama, the hope that he would decisively improve relations with the world’s Muslims is the least realistic.