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If You Like the Surveillance State, You'll Love E-Verify

From massive NSA spying, to IRS targeting of the administration's political opponents, to collection and sharing of our health care information as part of Obamacare, it seems every day we learn of another assault on our privacy. Sadly, this week the Senate took another significant, if little-noticed, step toward creating an authoritarian surveillance state. Buried in the immigration bill is a national identification system called mandatory E-Verify.

The Senate did not spend much time discussing E-Verify, and what little discussion took place was mostly bipartisan praise for its effectiveness as a tool for preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining employment. It is a tragedy that mandatory E-Verify is not receiving more attention, as it will impact nearly every American’s privacy and liberty.


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Will Egypt Implode Tomorrow?

The Egypt experiment is falling apart. The crisis point may be reached as early as tomorrow, June 30th, when massive demonstrations are expected to rock the rule of Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi. It has been a slow-motion disintegration from the begining, however.

US-backed liberal Egyptians took to Tahrir Square in 2011, trained by the State Department to mobilize masses through social media to overthrow Mubarak rule. Their success resulted in their being shunted aside in favor of the real power in Egypt, post-Mubarak: the Muslim Brotherhood and the military.

Since then, contrary to US government predictions, democracy and freedom has not broken out bringing with it economic prosperity and social harmony. History teaches us that revolutions are not as simplistic and binary (bad out, good in) as their supporters would like us to believe. The Egyptian economy, dependent on tourism, has been in free-fall since the unrest, leading to deep layers of resentment in those who were told that overthrowing Mubarak would bring economic growth.


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Obama's Wild Neo Con Dream

Syriarebels

It is now clear that the preliminary meeting at Geneva this week of Russia, the United States and the United Nations for setting a date for the Geneva-2 conference on Syria ended inconclusively. The meeting couldn’t agree when the Geneva-2 should be held or who would be invited. A UN statement said that Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry will meet next week and further talks are expected to follow.

The United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi who chaired the meeting urged the US and Russia to "contain this situation that is getting out of hand, not only in Syria but also in the region". But he ruled out the possibility of holding the Geneva – 2 in July. Other diplomatic sources have doubted if the conference could be held "earlier than August or September".

The sticking point is apparently the failure to agree on potential participants at the conference. However, that is only an alibi – although, it is partly true to the extent that there is no unified Syrian opposition despite the robust efforts by the US and its allies to cobble together one and Russia is insisting on Iran’s participation.


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Why Is No One Listening to the US Government?

Hong Kong Protest
photo: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML

The US government is in panic mode over the apparently successful escape of NSA leaker Ed Snowden from Hong Kong. US government officials are swinging wildly at any target in sight while howling at the disintegrating illusion of US omnipotence. The rest of the world will not do what they demand. They will not hand over Edward Snowden. The injustice!

White House Spokesman Jay Carney screams at China: "We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship."

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia that “[t]here would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King fumed: "We can’t allow Russia to do this without diplomatic consequences. The opportunity will come over the next several months or year, when Russia will need us with something involving trade involving diplomacy, involving finance, where the U.S. will basically say no, and we will make it difficult for Putin. He should know now not to expect any favors."


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The Death of Daniel Somers

I am reading the heartbreaking suicide note of Daniel Somers, a US combat veteran who spent several years fighting in Iraq. Mr. Somers was only 30 years old when he took his own life, after being tormented by the horrific memories of what he experienced in Iraq. 

He wrote: “The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from.”

Many who shout the loudest that we must “support the troops” urge sending them off to unwinnable and undeclared wars in which there is no legitimate US interest. The US military has been abused by those who see military force as a first resort rather than the last resort and only in self-defense. This abuse has resulted in a generation of American veterans facing a life sentence in the prison of tortured and deeply damaged minds as well as broken bodies.


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What We Have Learned From Afghanistan

Last week the Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar with the US government’s blessing. They raised the Taliban flag at the opening ceremony and referred to Afghanistan as the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan"—the name they used when they were in charge before the US attack in 2001.

The US had meant for the Taliban office in Doha to be only a venue for a new round of talks on an end to the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban opening looked very much like a government in exile. The Karzai government was annoyed that the US and the Taliban had scheduled talks without even notifying Kabul. Karzai’s government felt as irrelevant to negotiations on post-war Afghanistan as they soon will be on the ground. It seemed strangely like Paris in 1968, where the US met with North Vietnamese representatives to negotiate a way out of that war, which claimed nearly 60,000 Americans and many times that number of Vietnamese lives.


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Nobody is Listening to Our Phone Calls?

Today we learned from the Guardian newspaper that Federal judges and Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on an NSA request to make use of information it “inadvertently” collected on Americans without a warrant. According to the paper, the NSA was given permission to retain our intercepted information for a broad and vaguely defined variety of reasons, including “if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity.” That could cover almost anything.
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Obama Chooses Intensified but Strategically Useless Violence over Serious Diplomacy in Syria

Syriarebels

Last week, Hillary Mann Leverett told Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, see here, that the Obama administration’s recent decision to begin providing direct military aid to Syrian rebels is “a signal to the rest of the world, particularly to…those who are looking to deal with Syria politically, in a negotiated way, that the United States is not serious about that.  The United States is much more serious about ensuring a continued quagmire in Syria, to keep both the Assad government and the rebels essentially fighting each other so that they’re not looking at the United States or Israel in the region”—and, of course, to weaken Iran. 

The Obama administration’s lack of seriousness about a political resolution to the Syrian conflict was plain for the world to see at the G8 summit that concluded yesterday in Northern Ireland.  To be sure, attendees agreed on a vaguely-worded seven-point plan to address the conflict, including creation of a “transitional governing body” for Syria.  They also called for convening a Syria peace conference “as soon as possible.”   


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A Tipping Point in Syria Conflict

Syria Child
photo: FreedomHouse

The Guardian newspaper featured on Friday an infinitely sad picture of a Syrian young boy, hardly nine or ten years old, crossing a street holding an old rifle with bayonet. He apparently belongs to the ‘Martyrs of Maaret al-Nuan’ battalion holding control of the southern town of Maaret al-Numan.

Child soldiers in a cradle of the Islamic culture and civilization and in one of the most modern societies in the Arab world – this would have been unthinkable.

The western powers have succeeded in destroying yet another citadel of the Muslim Middle East, which could be even more tragic than the destruction of Iraq.

The decision by the United States President Barack Obama to provide military support to the Syrian rebels after claiming it believes there is concrete evidence of nerve gas attacks by government forces is simply appalling. The reports quoting US officials mention that the weapons might include small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired remote-propelled grenades and other missiles. According to the Associated Press, the Central Intelligence Agency is expected to handle the training of the Syrian rebels on using the arms the White House has agreed to supply.


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