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Decoding the White House Strategy for Preventing Violent Extremism

By Kevin Gosztola

The White House has released its strategy for “countering violent extremism in the United States.” The strategy seeks to encourage the development and use of community approaches to addressing “all types of extremism that lead to violence, regardless of who inspires it.” It immediately makes clear that Muslim Americans have “categorically condemned terrorism” and have worked “with law enforcement to help prevent terrorists attacks” and even gone so far as to help with “programs to protect their sons and daughters from al Qaeda’s murderous ideology.”

Unequivocally made clear is the fact that the White House rejects a framework that specifically sets out a strategy, which focuses efforts and resources on Islamic extremism. It promotes the idea that all groups and individuals are susceptible to violent extremism and not all violent extremists are or have been Muslims. It concludes, “Any solution that focuses on a single, current form of violent extremism, without regard to other threats, will fail to secure” America and America’s communities. It finds government officials and the American public should not “stigmatize or blame communities because of the actions of a handful of individuals.”

Political leaders like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) might take issue with the notion that all extremism is equally threatening. During a Senate hearing, “Ten Years After 9/11: A Report from the 9/11 Commission,” Lieberman declared:

…We’ve been so frustrated that the administration continues to resist identifying the ideology; preferring instead to say that we’re in a conflict with violent extremism. Well, it is violent extremism, but it’s a particular kind of extremism. In our report on the Fort Hood attack by Hasan, we pointed out that the Defense Department has even tried at one point to characterize the threat represented by the Fort Hood attack as workplace violence. But, of course, it was lot more than that.

So you know, I guess I understand what’s going on here, which I think somebody thinks that if we use the term “Islamist extremism,” it’s offensive to Muslims. But I think it’s quite the opposite, because it’s — We’re talking about, as you said, [Thomas Kean], a very small group within a larger community, certainly here in America, people who are followers of Islam, not Islamist extremism…

Yet, this strategy clearly rejects the dogma of Lieberman. It also entirely snubs the efforts of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who in the past months has held three “Muslim radicalization” hearings. And, it is much more in line with Rep. Yvette Clarke’s (D-NY) views on extremism than King’s:

Radicalization is cross cultural, cross religious cross ethnic for us to focus on very specific communities and not putting the full gamut in perspective opens us up to the disdain of others. That then perpetuates the notion that we’re trying to combat. I really want to discourage us from stigmatizing and ostracizing communities. This is a nation of diversity and for generations Muslims have been a part of the fabric of this nation. For us to focus in and say Muslim Americans specifically are this threat when I can also talk about gang radicalization, domestic terrorism in my community. I don’t see the same type of resources being put into communities that are poor where young people are being jumped into gangs. And, I think that the lives that have been taken from that type of activity [are] just as valid. So, we need to take a look at our motives here and certainly wanting to educate the public is fine but when we become fixated on a particular group of people we take our eyes off the prize. And then we become even more vulnerable because the unexpected happens. The unexpected happens like in Norway.

The strategy provides justification that could be used by the White House to ensure King never chairs another hearing that explicitly singles out Muslims. The strategy states, “Misinformation about the threat and dynamics of radicalization to violence can harm our security by sending local stakeholders in the wrong direction and unnecessarily creating tensions with potential community partners.” King’s hearings could be considered a security threat because they do just that: create unnecessary tension and pull security policy in the wrong direction.

No Definition of “Extremism” or “Extremist”

The framework seems to be a reasonable and well-rounded approach to any current or future threat of violent extremism. However, the strategy does not define “extremism.” It doesn’t define what the White House considers to be an “extremist.” The strategy makes numerous statements that would essentially exclude certain individuals. It notes, “A particular ethnic, religious or national background does not necessarily equate to special knowledge of violent extremism.” It finds strong religious beliefs do not equal violent extremism. And, it makes clear “opposition to government policy is neither illegal nor unpatriotic and does not make someone a violent extremist.”

It may be encouraging that “extremism” or “extremist” is not defined. Defining extremism might portend curbs on individual’s free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and even rights to freedom of the press. However, “extremism” is relative. Not defining the terms gives just as much if not more leeway for law enforcement abuse.

A dictionary definition says an extremist is “a person who favors or resorts to immoderate uncompromising or fanatical methods or behavior, especially in being politically radical.” This definition could be used to describe a number of GOP political leaders. It could easily describe someone like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. But, that extremism is not violent and is not what this strategy aims to address.

When does “extremism” or an “extremist” produce a threat of violence? It might be possible to develop an answer from the coordinator of the Office of Counterterrorism at the State Department, Ambassador Dan Benjamin, who made this statement on August 5, 2010, during a news briefing:

We’ve also seen U.S. citizens rise to prominence as proponents of violent extremism. The native Californian Adam Gadahn has become an Al-Qaeda spokesman, enabling the group to increasingly target its propaganda to Western audiences. Omar Hammami, an American who grew up in Alabama, has become an important Al-Shabab voice on the Internet.

The most notable of these, however, is Yemeni American Anwar Al- Awlaki, who has catalyzed a pool of potential recruits that others had failed to reach. The most important of these, of course, was — not Americans, but the most important whom he touched, shall we say, was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and was involved in — in his attempt at detonation of an incendiary device aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

We should make no mistake about the nature of Al-Awlaki. This is not just an ideologue, but someone at the heart of a group plotting terrorist acts against Americans.

Now, what Benjamin said about Abdulmutallab is partially true. Abdulmutallab may have heard Awlaki and concluded he had to take action. But, Abdulelah Hider Sha’ea, a Yemeni freelance writer who has contributed to Al Jazeera, has a tape with Awlaki saying he did not plot to bomb the American airliner but was proud of Abdulmutallab’s effort. If he had anything to do with planning the attempted terror attack, he would have said so in his sermons.

Manufacturing a Causal Relationship Between Speech & Violence

Al-Awlaki has been targeted by drones. The US has claimed the authority to extra-judicially kill Al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim, because they are convinced his propaganda is fueling terror attacks. It is Al-Awlaki whom US officials have in mind when they speak about extremism dividing America. Thus, extremism is violent once a US government agency or department can construct a causal relationship between a person speaking radically in favor of violence or retaliation against the United States and a person or group of individuals that commit a terror attack.

James Von Brunn, a long-time and well-known white supremacist, shot a security guard at the United States Holocaust Museum on June 10, 2009. He was wounded during his attack and died while he was awaiting trial. Prior to the action, he was a celebrity among white pride groups for his “direct action” against the Federal Reserve in the 1980s.

In the neo-Nazi Vanguard News Network web forum, people left comments following the shooting like this comment: “Why he didn’t just take out a few rabbis, Jew bankers and ADL members instead of shooting up a building and shooting a guard, makes no sense. There will be more of these kinds of attacks on the kikenvermin. Let’s hope some of these guys do some planning next time and do some real damage instead of just blowing off steam like this.” At the white supremacist Stormfront web forum, people left comments like this one: “We need more people to take action. I, for one, hope the momentum keeps chugging along, regardless of the bad press.”

Further expanding this thread, in June 2010, Justine Sharrock published an article showing how “right wing extremists organize and promote violence on Facebook.” Shorrock highlighted the “American Resistance Movement, a network of militia groups” vowing to take up arms against “an increasingly tyrannical government.”

Consider whether anyone like a Muslim American could get away with doing what the above-mentioned groups do on social media. Such propaganda would instantly lead to a visit from the FBI or the Homeland Security Department shutting down the website for being a “jihadist website.” But, Homeland Security has not issued a cease-and-desist order to the owners of the two web forums. That’s because what they are engaged in is protected by the First Amendment.

How Violent Extremism is Addressed Depends on Foreign Policy

The difference in policy toward is not entirely inconsistent if one thinks the strategy for dealing with violent extremism is largely dependent on US foreign policy and whatever wars or policies the US government is perpetuating to advance so-called national interests. White jihad is not as threatening to those setting policy as Islamic jihad because none of the countries being bombed by the US are safe havens for white supremacists. If the US was constantly sending US troops on raids in a neo-Nazi stronghold in Denmark or mounting drone strikes on white supremacist safe havens in Switzerland, then white pride groups might be a serious threat.

Additionally, there are certain individuals who will always get a free pass to promote violence and those individuals are people who work for the US government. It is those who declare support for state-sponsored violence and violence the US government is unwilling to unequivocally oppose that will never be criminalized.

The most recent example of this comes from those incensed by the operations of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

“Headline: Assassinate Assange? Body: Julian Assange poses a clear and present danger to American national security … The administration must take care of the problem – effectively and permanently. ” –Jeffrey Kuhner, Washington Times columnist

“Julian Assange is a cyber terrorist in wartime, he’s guilty of sabotage, espionage, crimes against humanity — he should be killed, but we won’t do that. ” –Ralph Peters, US Army Lieutenant Colonel and author.

“This fellow Anwar al-Awlaki – a joint U.S. citizen hiding out in Yemen – is on a ‘kill list’ [for inciting terrorism against the U.S.]. Mr. Assange should be put on the same list. ” –G. Gordon Liddy, former White House Adviser and talk show host

“Julian Assange should be targeted like the Taliban.” –Sarah Palin, former US vice presidential candidate

“Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty. ” –Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

None of the individuals who are calling for murder will be criminalized or sanctioned. And that’s because their calls for violence are not necessarily in conflict with any US policy toward WikiLeaks or groups/individuals that conspire to commit espionage (which the US government considers to be the commitment of WikiLeaks).

The cast and crew of Fox News are allowed to spew violent rhetoric on air. Dick Morris can suggest “crazies” in Montana might have a case for killing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms agents. John Stossel can suggest on television that Rep. Barney Frank be hung in effigy. O’Reilly can incessantly talk about what he would do to get Tiller the baby killer (who was eventually assassinated and killed). And, Glenn Back could suggest on air that he is going to become a “progressive hunter” like Israelis were Nazi hunters, but when there is causal evidence to suggest sermonizing by TV personalities is pushing people to commit violence, Fox News’ broadcast license faces no threat of being revoked at all. Again, that’s because calling for the death of political leader, even President Obama, is not a development that will directly threaten any American foreign policy project if the monopoly of force, which the state wields, is not brought to bear against these people.

The strategy presents a decent foundation for addressing whatever extremism the nation should address. However, it is an utterly meaningless strategy if some of the poorest communities in America continue to be used by the FBI as a laboratory for launching entrapment schemes to catch so-called terrorists. It is purely prose if law enforcement continues to train agents or police to investigate and monitor not just crime but the religious practice and social behavior of entire communities. And, it is merely something officials in law enforcement can use to cover their ass and argue they are not targeting Muslims if Muslim Americans continue to have reason to believe their government is conducting surveillance on the mosques they pray in because of their religion.

Select Comments
Responses to “Decoding the White House Strategy for Preventing Violent Extremism”

Jeff Kaye August 4th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
1
It is the United States government that has long collaborated with terrorists, some of whom, in the manner of “blowback”, then turned upon their former sponsors in the U.S. or other countries, (as in Pakistan). (This is the case, for instance, with Al Qaeda.)

The U.S. has organized and/or supported terror throughout Latin America, with Cuba and Chile cases of special attention; also in Europe, as part of the Gladio network, where NATO/CIA-connected right-wing groups used bombings and assassinations (sometimes falsely attributing them to left-wing groups) to maintain a so-called strategy of tension which would facilitate state repression in those countries (Italy being the classic, but not the only case).

The U.S. government and its local allies and many state agencies have used all kinds of coercion against domestic political opponents over the years, as in the Cointelpro operation. These were often aimed against so-called “terrorists,” since “terrorist” is often an appellation to mark someone whose politics the state opposes (as was the case for decades in the way the U.S. described Nelson Mandela and the ANC).

The U.S. has devolved into a torture state, with the civilian branches of government now subservient to a militaristic clique who has no compunction about committing war crimes and other crimes against humanity, particularly torture. Barack Obama’s refusal to investigate or prosecute acts of torture, and likewise in Congress, represent ACTIONS meant to protect top personnel in the torture state apparatus (past and present).

Bottom line: the WH can put out whatever papers they want, but no one should trust what they say. That doesn’t mean that civil libertarians and all who support justice and human rights shouldn’t demand the U.S. adhere to legal and civilized norms. We should do that, and we must.

Kevin Gosztola August 4th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
2
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 1
So true. And the investigation into 23 activists, who had their homes raided by the FBI in the final months of last year, continues in the Midwest.

Thanks for this insightful comment.

greglbean August 4th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
3
I’ve often been puzzled by the presentation of religious beliefs in the media where christianity and judaism are seen as representing centre (moderate) or left-of-centre (ultra tolerant) beliefs and Islam as representing right-of-centre (extremist) beliefs.

The reality is that each of the Abrahamic religions (and many non-Abrahamic religions) have both exceptionally tolerant (far-left) sects and exceptionally intolerant (far-right) sects, and everything in between.

One of the criteria that I find useful in defining when a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim sect is intolerant is when their dictates breach the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see here). I especially look at the sect’s support for Article 18 and Article 20.2.

The UN’s UDHR has existed for almost 65 years. It is a brilliant basis for international laws on Human Rights but is non-binding. It seems to me that it’s about time the UN Member Nations made a commitment to guidelines they defined 65 years ago and made the UDHR binding.

I think it can be seen that doing so would begin a whole new era in mankind’s move to a more civil society.

65 years is too long to wait for implementation of these most basic of Human Rights, rights that have already been defined, documented and agreed by the leaders of the member nations of the UN.

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MEDIA MANURE: David Gregory’s Social Security Nonsense

Action Alert / A Dispatch from FAIR

David Gregory’s Social Security Nonsense
Misinforming viewers about deficit’s causes–and public’s solutions

What's most irritating is that insufferable idiots—or is it ignoramuses?— like Gregory are the norm, not the exception. A situation that just happens to suit the status quo admirably.—Eds

Corporate media coverage of budget deficits and debt often turns to blaming Social Security and Medicare for being the real problem. NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory is especially fond of passing off such misleading claims as facts.

In a question to Republican Sen. John Thune, Gregory put it this way (7/31/11):
Senator, what’s really ludicrous to the American people, even when the American people don’t always speak with one voice on this matter, is that Washington is not really dealing with what really drives the debt, that’s entitlement spending. It’s been going on this way and was a ticking time bomb since the ’60s, and Democrats–like you were saying, “Hey, we can’t deal with Social Security and Medicare.”

Republicans, you know, sign tax pledges, “I’m not going to raise taxes.” Well, we can’t deal with revenues. I mean, this is what’s ludicrous to the American people. And even here, if we have a deal, we’re going to solve a political problem but not the underlying fiscal problem, which is what creates our debt, senator, no?

Like many reporters, Gregory wants to criticize both parties for being inflexible. But being “balanced” should not be confused with being correct.

For starters, “the American people” have been fairly clear about what they want to happen to entitlement spending. They do not want cuts to Social Security and Medicare in order to balance the budget. In a recent CNN poll (7/18-20/11), 87 percent of respondents came out against cutting Medicare in order to reduce the deficit–a position shared by 90 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of both Republicans and independents. With Social Security, 84 percent of all respondents opposed cuts. What’s “ludicrous” is Gregory’s contention that there’s widespread support for cutting entitlements.

A recent poll by Gregory’s own network found that even when given the choice between failing to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling and making cuts to Social Security and Medicare, only 38 percent of people surveyed thought Democrats should agree to cutting those entitlement programs (NBC/Wall Street Journal, 7/14-17/11).

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence to support Gregory’s assertion that “entitlement spending” has been a “ticking time bomb since the 1960s” and is “what really drives the debt.” Social Security and Medicare have their own budgets and are supported by dedicated payroll taxes. Each has amassed massive surpluses over the past two decades, which they have loaned to the Treasury by buying U.S. government bonds. So in most of the time frame Gregory is talking about, entitlements have not contributed to the deficit at all, but rather have helped pay for it.

When the government pays back these loans–as it must, unless it borrowed trillions of dollars from working Americans under false pretenses–those payments will contribute to the deficit. But it makes no sense to think of the government paying back loans as Social Security contributing to the deficit. The government of China buys large amounts of Treasury bonds, and the U.S. government regularly pays this money back; if China uses some of this money to build highways, does that mean that Chinese highways are contributing to the U.S. deficit?

If paying off these bonds should be counted as anything besides simply interest payments, it would be the things that loans from Social Security and Medicare allowed the government to pay for–like a vast expansion of the military budget and generous reductions in tax rates for the rich (CBPP, 5/10/11).

Later in the program, Gregory returned to the same point:

To get an increase in the debt ceiling, they’re still going to leave unresolved some pretty tough questions about, are there going to be Medicare cuts, Social Security cuts. What are you going to do about the big drivers of the debt?

Such rhetoric is virtually indistinguishable from what one hears from Republican politicians–and Gregory has repeated it many times. On March 6, Gregory referred to the need to “fix budget-busting programs like Social Security and Medicare.”

On February 20, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin was on the show and pointed out that “Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit.” Gregory appealed to his Republican guest, Sen. Lindsey Graham: “Senator Graham, is that…I mean, few people believe that there’s not an arithmetic problem with Social Security.”

And on February 13, 2011 (FAIR Blog, 2/14/11), Gregory grilled Republican House Speaker John Boehner:

When it comes to leadership, when it comes to the need to, you know, have no limit on cutting, don’t you think Americans understand what the problem with Social Security is? What will it take for you to join with the White House to make real reform to deal with this piece of the budget?

Thus Gregory outflanks the Republicans leader on the right to demand deeper cuts in Social Security and Medicare–and dresses up this position, opposed by huge majorities, as something “Americans understand.”

ACTION: Tell NBC’s David Gregory to stop misinforming viewers about the main causes of the federal deficit–and the solutions the public supports.

CONTACT:
David Gregory
NBC Meet the Press
202-885-4598
Web form

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Remember Libya? Yeah, Libya, not Lydia. There’s still a war (yawn) going on…

Libya: What America’s Media Won’t Report –

By Stephen Lendman

Gaddafi: The neoimperialists badly miscalculated his popularity.

America’s media staunchly back all US imperial wars, regurgitating officials lies as truths. Moreover, they never explain their illegality or daily crimes of war and against humanity against civilians, as well as non-military related infrastructure and other sites. Meanwhile, most Americans can’t be bothered. 

Nor do they report how NATO bombing prevents targeted nations (including Libya) from providing essential public services, including enough food, medical care, electricity, fuel, and clean water.

Nonetheless, America’s led Libya war may have backfired. In Tripoli, Middle East/Central Asian analyst Mahdi Nazemroaya told Progressive Radio News Hour listeners that NATO bombing united Libyans behind Gaddafi to save their country.

Instead, American and Western media falsify reports, claiming:

— non-existent rebel gains;
— Tripoli may fall;
— the country may collapse;
— Gaddafi has little support when, in fact, mass rallies turn out in Tripoli and elsewhere for him;
— few civilians have been killed or injured when, in fact, around 1,200 or more have been killed, many thousands more injured;
— NATO only attacks military targets when, in fact, civilian ones are deliberately struck; and
— Tripoli is a ghost town, when, in fact, life goes on relatively normally in spite of daily bombings.

In other words, falsified reports suppress reality on the ground, including that NATO miscalculated. As a result, it’s losing because Libyans are united against lawless, naked aggression, refusing to let their country become another imperial trophy.

Knowing Libya’s been there before, they want none of it. Moreover, they understand Washington’s Middle East/North Africa agenda to colonize the entire region, militarize and balkanize it, control its resources, steal its wealth, and exploit its people ruthlessly. It’s why all US wars are fought, never for humanitarian reasons.

It’s the same dirty game Washington and its coalition allies repeat against all nations less than totally under their control, especially resource-rich ones. As a result, Libya was targeted for takeover, a plan that may, in fact, have backfired.

A previous article discussed NATO’s latest setback, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/07/abdul-fatah-younis-killing-war-death-or.html

Vultures over Libya. The real reason for all the hypocrisy and death is oil.

It explained the illegitimate National Transitional Council’s (NTC) disarray, evident by the assassination of its military commander, Gen. Abdul Fatah Younis. After rebel leaders admitted it (despite initially claiming his war death), The New York Times had to acknowledge what it first tried to suppress or play down, what it always does unless caught red-handed.

On July 30, London Independent writer Kim Sengupta headlined, “Rebel feud puts UK’s Libya policy in jeopardy,” saying:

Its credibility was in tatters after Younis’ assassination, revealing “a bloody internal feud.” Evidence now shows he and two aides were savagely murdered, shot at close range, perhaps tortured, and their bodies mutilated and burned, signifying how rebel Al Qaeda elements operate.

Legitimate Independent Reporting

Reporting from Tripoli, independent journalist Lizzie Phelan emailed me information to pass on to Progressive Radio Hour listeners, including that two days after Britain recognized the illegitimate TNC as Libya’s government, its military commander was assassinated.

Afterward, NTC leaders reportedly fled Benghazi in the wake of a popular uprising against them. In contrast, there’s “complete security (in Tripoli) with families enjoying days at the beach and getting ready for Ramadan (beginning August 1).”

On July 28, Gaddafi told hundreds of thousands of Tripoli residents that a battle was occurring in Benghazi. Its people are challenging TNC occupation, and when Younis’ death was announced at 2:00AM, “huge celebrations (erupted) across Tripoli with fireworks and celebratory gunfire until the early hours.”

On July 31, Phelan reported “breaking news” that Libya’s Al Fatah revolution (Gaddafi’s 1969 bloodless coup, ousting King Idris from power, establishing the Libyan Arab Republic) regained power in Benghazi.

She confirmed that Libya’s largest Warfalla tribe was marching to the rebel capital, as well as Libyan armed forces already there, adding:

Gaddafi’s “green flag is (again) flying in military barracks in Benghazi. Massive celebrations will take place in Tripoli tonight.”

Though a hopeful sign, don’t expect Washington and its NATO partners to back off gracefully. It took nearly a decade to balkanize and colonize Yugoslavia. Years more destabilization and conflict may try doing the same to Libya, whether or not it succeeds.

Aftermath of Rebel Commander’s Death

On July 30, AP reported that Younis’ son, Ashraf, broke down at his father’s funeral, “crying and screaming as they lowered the body into the ground – in a startling and risky display in a city (Benghazi) that was the first to shed Gaddafi’s rule nearly six months ago – pleaded hysterically for the return of the Libyan leader to bring stability,” saying:

“We want Muammar to come back! We want the green flag back!” referring to Libya’s national banner under him.

Notably on July 29, London Guardian writer Richard Seymour headlined, “Gaddafi is stronger than ever in Libya,” saying:

NATO’s war “has not gone well.” Efforts are under way to end it. No sign of a palace coup against Gaddafi exists. In fact, “(if his) regime is not more in control of Libya than before, then this completely undermines the simplistic view put about by the supporters of war – and unfortunately by (rebel elements) – that the situation was simply one of a hated tyrant hanging on through mercenary violence.”

From the start, of course, it was part of the Big Lie to justify war to remove him. It’s now known “that rebellious sectors started to go back to Gaddafi within weeks of the revolt taking off, meaning”  his support was stronger than reported, and now much more so.

Moreover, despite over 30 nations recognizing the illegitimate TNC, “this is pure cynicism.” In addition, Amnesty International and other independent sources disproved claims about Gaddafi committing mass killings and atrocities. “This completely demolishes the last leg of the moral case for war.”

“In fact, if there was any idea that the US could offer an alternative model of development for the populations of the Middle East, it now lies in ruins. It is more than unfortunate that Libya had to be reduced to ruins for this to become apparent.”

Although stopping short of calling for an immediate bombing halt, compare Seymour’s report to the latest July 30 New York Times one. In unabashed anti-Gaddafi mode, writer David Kirkpatrick headlined, “NATO Strikes at Libyan State TV,” saying:

On Saturday, NATO “disabled three Libyan state television transmission dishes in Tripoli with airstrikes overnight, as the alliance took steps to remove the main instrument of (Gaddafi) propaganda from the airwaves.”

Of course, The New York Times, as “the newspaper of record,” functions as the equivalent of an official US state propaganda service, reporting daily misinformation managed news, not vital truths readers need to know.

For example, it didn’t address Amnesty International’s April 23, 2009 report headlined, “No Justice for the Victims of NATO Bombings,” saying:

“Ten years on, no one has been held to account for the NATO attack on the Serbian state radio and television (RTS) building that left 16 civilians dead.” The Belgrade strike left 16 others injured.

“The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime,” Sian Jones, AI’s Balkans expert said.

NATO told AI it bombed RTS “because of its propaganda function, in order to undermine the morale of the population and the armed forces.” AI dismissed the claim as false justification of a war crime.

The same holds for bombing Libya Jamahiriya Broadcasting Corporation (LJBC), airing television and radio news, cultural and other reports, including satellite TV in Arabic, English and French throughout the Middle East and Europe.

It’s Libya’s equivalent of Britain’s government-funded and controlled BBC, charging residents a monthly fee on their television receivers, whether or not they watch it.

NATO tried but failed to silence Libya’s LJBC to assure only its own message got out, saying:

“Our intervention was necessary as TV was being used as an integral component of the regime apparatus designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them. Qaddafi’s increasing practice of inflammatory broadcasts illustrates his regime’s policy to instill hatred amongst Libyans, to mobilize its supporters against civilians and to trigger bloodshed.”

In fact, it was NATO’s latest ball-faced lie. Nonetheless, Kirkpatrick dutifully regurgitated it, the way disgraced former Times writer Judith Miller did, functioning as a Pentagon press agent in the run-up to the Iraq war.

A Final Comment

Though ground-based satellites were disabled, LJBC kept broadcasting, issuing a statement that three employees were killed, another 15 wounded. LJBC official Khalid Bazelya said:

“We are not a military target. We are not commanders in the army and we do not pose a threat to civilians. We are performing our job as journalists representing what we wholeheartedly believe is the reality of NATO aggression and the violence in Libya.”

In fact, when Gaddafi’s speeches and comments from other state officials are aired, or guests express pro-regime support, it’s no different than what appears on US TV.

Every channel (including so-called public television news and opinion shows) is littered with Democrat and Republican representatives, as well as full coverage for presidents’ speeches and many other public appearances.

It’s very much the same in other Western countries where, in fact, voices opposing imperial and corporate policies are virtually entirely shut out.

There and in America, real information on what people most need to know (including why Washington attacked Libya) is available only through alternative print and broadcast sources, mostly online.

Make them a regular habit, and what a previous article urged, saying imagine freedom from all managed and junk food news. Tune out and make it happen.

Contributing Editor Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.  Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

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Tweetios: How to tell an Obamabot

Two of our editors — Al Osorio and Brad Holhut—have rounded up the following guide (this is a work in progress):

Al Osorio
Al Osorio 26 July 00:32
*You thrilled to Cindy Sheehan’s vigil outside the Crawford ranch, but now regard her as nut – Obama ended the Iraq war and Libya’s a humanitarian intervention done the right way!

*You had ‘fat cat bankers’ t-shirts made up for your friends.

*You aren’t sure what 11 dimensional chess means, but whatever it means-if anyone can do it, Obama can!

*You changed your major to ‘community organizer’ .
Brad Holhut
Brad Holhut 25 July 23:14
From Grace Meyer’s post

You know you’re an Obamabot when…

* Vague concepts of “hope” and “change” take precedence over critical thinking and concrete facts in shaping your stance on important issues.

* You didn’t notice Obama making a record-breaking arms deal to human rights-abusing Middle Eastern dictators and autocrats because you were too busy obsessing over Bristol Palin competing on “Dancing With the Stars”.

* You tirelessly worked to mobilize masses of people to vote against the terrible injustice of Bristol Palin competing on “Dancing With the Stars”, and spent countless hours trolling every Palin-related page on Facebook with personal insults about teenage Bristol’s weight and Palin’s parenting and to scream your outrage over a television dance contest being ‘fixed’, but can’t be arsed to make a 1-minute phone call or email to demand that Obama stop his administration’s blatant and continuing violations of the Constitutional and human rights of American citizens.

* You cheered the Obama-approved revolution in Egypt, but find it difficult to muster any interest in the people now being brutalized and killed by US-allied regimes in places he tries to avoid mentioning, like Bahrain.

* You think cute political PR slogans are equivalent to policy statements.

* When presented with undeniable facts that tarnish the golden calf, you begin to squawk the magic smoke bomb words (“Racist!”, “Hater!”, “Whiner!”, “Traitor!”, etc.) to try to create a distraction while you make your escape from the intolerable truth.

* If you left off the names, it would be difficult to distinguish between your fawning personal adulation of the president and a pre-teen’s mooning over Justin Bieber.

* You were outraged over Bush’s illegal abuses of executive powers, but don’t bat an eyelash as Obama makes the exact same illegal moves.

* You championed Bradley Manning, but fell strangely silent about him when it was pointed out that his inhumane treatment is at the hands of the Obama administration with the president’s knowledge and consent.

* You post a parade of gushing opinion pieces from panty-wetting Obama groupies as “proof” of just how gosh-darned wonderful he is, while steadfastly refusing to read actual news conveying pesky facts that put the lie to just about everything he’s spouted.

* Despite his pledge that the US will be “a major customer” in Brazil’s new oil ventures, the illegal launch of Operation Oil Grab in Libyanamistan, the announcement of a massive coal mining expansion, the issuance of new deep water drilling permits even as the Gulf of Mexico continues to vomit up dead animals on its shores, continuing support for nuclear energy despite the horrific catastrophe in Japan, and the granting of sweeping exemptions from inspection and regulation for some of the nation’s worst polluters, including BP, you somehow still manage to believe that Obama is a proponent of clean energy.

* You burble about the president’s steadfast commitment to the welfare of the common people, and you’re sure that his loading his administration with numerous reciprocal back-scratchers from Monsanto, Dupont, and Goldman-Sachs will help achieve financial and environmental goals that will benefit us all. Actually, you’re not all that sure, because you really have no idea who he has appointed or the terrible impact these appointments have, nor do you care. Like a rock groupie, you don’t want to know about the guy booking the venues or the suits in the back room wrangling over record deals. Just bring on the star act, dammit!

* You confuse feel-good cries of “Yes We Can!” with actual concrete action.

(Thanks to Trixie Trix)

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THANK YOU.

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The Sheeple Chronicles: (I) Eternal Phone Scams (w. VIDEO)

Patrice Greanville, Chief Diarist

THE PHONE CRAMMING SCAM has been going on for decades.  The government knows it, the police agencies know it, the media know it (but seldom mention it; this is a rarity) and the politicians know it. And, believe it or not, even many Americans have heard about it, and not an inconsiderable number have been affected by it.

In a real democracy, this is what we might expect:

• The FBI (we’re talking easily documentable Federal crimes here) and prosecuting machinery would have been all over the place putting these filthy bastards out of business and in jail, where they richly deserve to be.  If even the NBC crew had little trouble locating some of the actual perps (in Florida, where else?) and tracing the thread all the way up to the BIG UNTOUCHABLES (the Fortune 500 enablers and accomplices who knowingly rip off their customers to the tune of hundreds of millions every year, I’m talking about companies like Verizon, ATT, and so on), it would have been extremely easy for the authorities to straighten out the mess and send a strong message to the would-be crooks across the nation (at all levels), that this kind of nonsense would not be permitted any longer.

• For good measure, state agencies would have also filed suits against the corporate criminals.

• The entire top executive class involved in these cynical defrauding operations would have been arraigned before special bunko tribunals and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (according to laws with real teeth which naturally don’t exist in America, the land of unfettered capitalism and plutocratic worship). In addition to jail time, heavy fines would have been assigned, and a prohibition from ever again holding an executive position of any kind. Banned for life, period.

• The companies involved would have been nationalized and made to operate in the public interest, with all profit streams hence accruing to the general tax fund.

• All funds illicitly obtained would have been duly returned, with punitive damages added.

Sounds Draconian? It is.  But it’s also just and the right thing to do. What else do you do when gangrene sets in?

Now, let’s contemplate what will probably happen in our sweetheart contemporary America:
• NOTHING or—

• No Congressional inquiry will be opened, and if one is, it will lead nowhere after a few well staged theatrics;

• The media will largely ignore or walk away from the story (including NBC);

• The top executives of the megacorps involved—ATT, Verizon, etc.—won’t even be mentioned in the reports, let alone dragged into the spotlight or before any criminal court, nor affected personally in their careers or pecuniarily;

• The actual third party crooks will set up business again after the media wave dissipates. Americans are well known for their microscopic memories and absence of follow-through;

• The perps, like the daData company featured in this story will probably receive slap-on-the-wrist token sentences, if prosecuted, which is far from certain. After all, we don’t want to open a can of worms that could eventually indict the whole system, from the media to Congress and even the White House for negligence and passive collaboration with these practices, nor cast into doubt the holiness of a free market.

This outcome follows inevitably from the nature of our government, which, while always a very imperfect democracy, is now a full-fledged corpocracy.

Aren’t you happy you live in the best democracy that money can buy?  Meanwhile, the only law that we all have to live by remains Caveat Emptor.  What a fine republic.

Patrice Greanville is The Greanville Post’s chief editor.

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

THE NBC REPORT

NBC senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reports that many third-party companies are burying hidden charges on phone bills — a practice called “cramming” — and major phone providers are allowing it to happen.
By Bob Sullivan

Mysterious fees and services crammed onto phone bills are a “nationwide epidemic” for U.S. consumers, but a reliable source of revenue for some of America’s biggest telecommunications companies, a year-long congressional investigation has found.

A report to be issued Wednesday by Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., will say that three firms — Verizon, AT&T, and CenturyLink/Quest — earned $650 million as their cut of cramming charges levied by third-parties since 2006.
Watch a live video stream of the U.S. Senate hearing on cramming now.

Cramming charges — such as unwanted $10-per-month voicemail or Web design services — have been frustrating phone customers for more than 15 years, thanks in part to ill-considered rules designed to enhance competition in local phone markets. Consumers often don’t spot the small monthly fees, but even when they do, getting refunds can be a nightmare: The telephone provider that sends the bills often refuses to issue refunds, instead referring consumers to the third-party firms, which are often unresponsive.  The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 15 million to 20 million consumers are crammed every year.  Rockefeller’s report says cramming could cost U.S. consumers $2 billion annually.

Congress has been unable (sic) to fix the problem for more than a decade.
“I think it’s embarrassing for the Congress … but they’re big companies.  They don’t have to make money that way,” Rockefeller told NBC News in advance of a hearing on cramming Wednesday. “I think it’s reprehensible and …  shameful behavior.  And don’t tell me they don’t know about it.  They have to know about it.”

Cramming complaints have piled into state consumer offices, the Federal Trade Commission and the FCC since at least 1995, but neither Congress nor the phone companies that collect the money have been able to slow the problem or find the companies behind it.

NBC’s Lisa Myers did, however. In an investigative report that aired Wednesday on TODAY, Myers located one company that acts as a clearinghouse for cramming; tracked down dozens of other firms that hide behind the same P.O. boxes; and  found that hundreds of firms that have “D” of “F” ratings with the Better Business Bureau. Myers also had no trouble finding consumers hit with outlandish cramming charges on their phone bills: $14.95 for ID theft monitoring; $16 a month for a fax service; $40 a month for voicemail.

“Why are they in business?  Probably because they’re scamming and cramming and making money off of innocent people,” Rockefeller said. “I’m shocked.  I’m angry.  I’m frustrated that nobody’s been able to stop it.”
The heat is getting turned up on cramming recently, however.  On Tuesday, the FCC proposed new rules that would require more obvious disclosures by third parties on phone bills.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants to go much farther, however, and is calling for an outright ban on third-party billing on phone bills.  “Simply put, these deceptive and sometimes fraudulent solicitations for products that no one wants or agreed to buy have persisted for at least 15 years and show no signs of disappearing,” she said. “It is time to put an end to third-party billing on telephone bills by banning them.”

Under current rules, providers are forced to give third-party firms the chance to market services like toll-free numbers or website hosting using the providers’ equipment and billing services through an arrangement that has its origins in the original breakup of AT&T’s telephone monopoly. But it’s too easy for third parties to attach unwanted items to consumers’ bills — previous investigations have found firms frequently trick consumers into signing up using sweepstakes entries or small checks that also serve as authorization forms. In other cases, the third-party firms simply lie about getting authorization, a scam called “phantom billing.”

While crammers collect billions of dollars, telecom firms get a percentage of each payment for passing along the charge. Rockefeller said that added up to $600 million for the three big firms in the last five years. Rockefeller’s report says Verizon, for example, collects $1 to $2 per charge.

“It’s something the phone companies do know. And they can’t not know it — because — it’s bringing in a lot of money to them,” he said. And it’s bringing them a lot of complaints. The report says more than 500,000 customers have contacted AT&T, CenturyLink/Qwest, and Verizon to complain about cramming in the past five years.

Both Verizon and CenturyLink told NBC News that they do not tolerate cramming, and that they carefully scrutinize outside companies and respond to complaints. Both declined on-camera interviews. AT&T had no comment.
Madigan said the first complaints about cramming showed up in her office in 1996. At the time, products such as prepaid calling cards, voice mail service, credit repair services, cell phone warranties, local singles matching services, Web page design, and toll-free numbers were most frequently crammed, she said. More recently, the scams have evolved to include credit repair, identity theft prevention and monitoring, business advice, online photo storage, roadside assistance, online yellow pages listings, and many other services.
They have a common denominator: Consumers pay for them, sometimes for years, but don’t want them or use them.

“These low usage rates, less than 1 percent, indicate that consumers did not knowingly sign up for them,” she said.  “In one case I brought, the vendor had billed over 9,800 Illinois consumers for credit repair services. Although the credit repair services were designed for individuals, the billed consumers include a county coroner’s office, a Steak N Shake restaurant and a public library dial-a-story telephone line.”

The deception has evolved since the arrival of the “Do Not Call” list in 2003, she said, with more consumers tricked into third-party telephone services via online Web pages.

Both Madigan and Rockefeller say that telecommunications industry groups, in response to an initial wave of complaints in the late 1990s, promised to clean up cramming through self-regulation — and failed.

“They originally came up to us and said, ‘Look, we understand this is a problem.  We don’t want to treat our consumers this way, so we want do it on a voluntary basis,” Rockefeller said. “Don’t mandate us to do it because…’ Then they made a very good case.  Stupidly — we went along with that.”
RED TAPE WRESTLING TIPS

Rockefeller says he plans to introduce legislation that would make cramming explicitly illegal, but that kind of consumer protection is still in the future.
In the meantime, the best way for consumers to protect themselves is to call their local phone company and request that it shut off third-party billing services — many will, for free.  Consumers who’ve been crammed and scammed should call their local phone company and insist on a refund; they should also file a complaint with their state attorney general’s office and the FTC. But most important: Scan those phone bills every month for surprise charges and unwanted services. They’re easy to miss.

Follow Bob Sullivan on Facebook for early notice on new columns and other info.

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